In today’s issue of Creative Sparks I thought I’d share with you several of the books I’ve been reading lately, spanning the realms from shamanism to fiction to poetry (my personal favorite).

May these inspire you to your own fertile explorations into the wide pleasures of reading (and writing! and living!).

If writing has been calling to you and/or you’re feeling stuck in your writing, I’m offering a day-long creative writing workshop, called Romancing the Muse, in Sacramento in May. This is a super fun, inspiring day that will get you fired up to write. Early registration is now open and encouraged. Click here to find out more:

I’m delighted to share the news that my poetic essay “Falling and Flying: Rediscovering Language” was published recently in The Citron Review. Click here to read it.

Read on, dear ones!

To your dreaming and being,

The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise
                                       by Martin Prechtel

RainDustPrechtelThis is a gorgeous, wise, inspired, little book on grief and praise and how we have forgotten how to do either of them well in contemporary, Western cultures. Written in Martin’s one-of-a-kind poetic style and steeped in his perspective as a shaman who lived among the indigenous Mayan people, Martin beautifully describes the gifts of grief and praise and the inseparable bond between the two, and he explains the woes and ailments that beset people and whole societies when we fail to do a good job with our grieving and praising. Highly recommended.


Of Time and the River by Thomas Wolfe

WolfeTimeRiverAt over 900 pages, this classic novel is a commitment. I read itbecause I watched Genius, which is a great, engaging film about the relationship between the author Thomas Wolfe and his editor Max Perkins. Hypnotic, exuberant, excessive, stunning prose that goes on too long and ultimately fails to have enough of a satisfying plot line, this is nonetheless a pretty remarkable novel of one young man’s journey to become a writer. It is really an epic window into America in the 1920s and/or 30s, which is marred by occasional bouts of racist descriptions. I found it rapturous until about page 500, and then it became increasingly a slog. It reminded me of the best that literature can reach for and attain, and it refreshingly breaks so many conventions of fiction. I’m both glad I read it and glad it’s over.


Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads 43 of the World’s Best Poems 

PagliaBreakBurnGiven her high standing and radical reputation as a scholar and cultural critic, I was surprised by how unexciting and unsurprising her readings of these poems are, by and large. I’m about half-way through and not all that drawn in. I loved her introduction, which was the best part of the book, and I’m enjoying the poems she chose and learning some historical tidbits and references about them. If you’re a relative novice to poetry, you would probably enjoy it more and get more out of it. I disagree with some of her interpretations, and she insists on reading sex into everything in ways that often seem absurd and totally forced (no pun intended). Nonetheless, I intend to finish it, as the selection of poems is good, and her readings of them worthwhile overall.


The Shadow of Sirius poems by W.S. Merwin


Now in his late 80s, Merwin won the Pulitzer Prize for this collection of his poems from 2008, his second Pulitzer. Merwin is one of America’s major poets and a unique voice. Although the first section in the collection didn’t speak to me as strongly, pretty soon I was taken in by these beautifully-crafted, spare poems, which impressed and touched me with their concision, craft, humanity, vision and elegance, a true master at work.