I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You, Naomi Shihab Nye and Paul B Janeczko

Before we dig in today, I want to welcome my new followers, most of whom were brought here via last week’s post on The Accidental Athlete (featured on Freshly Pressed, a fact I’m incredibly excited and not a little confused about – I mean, does anyone actually know how they select the pieces featured?). In an unexpected whirlwind adventure, I spent most of Friday and Saturday moderating and responding to hundreds of comments and checking out as many of the blogs now following me as I could. I still can’t believe the response, and I’m more than a little nervous about living up to the hype…

At any rate, I hope you’ve all had a chance to look around. I don’t post about sports more than about once a month; running, yoga, and Zombie Apocalypse Training (I really should trademark that idea…) are huge parts of my life, and I love discussing them here when I find a worthy book on a related subject, but my literary interests are far-flung. I very much hope you’ll hang around regardless – I was moved and impressed by the range of comments on that last post, and I’m excited to have new voices joining the scene.

That being said, I was basically paralyzed on Saturday night when I realized that A) I hadn’t started reading another book on Friday morning as planned, B) I had a much larger and untested audience to appeal to, and C) I had mentally committed myself to reviewing one of the (non Kindle) books on the To-Read shelf. Ugh. It’s not that those books are bad – in fact, I’ve kept them around because I assume I’ll enjoy them…someday. But I was coming off a writer’s high – literally thousands of people had read and responded to a post I’d written about a great book, and here I was, glumly flipping through some dismal looking titles. To make matters worse, on Friday night, I went to see The Hunger Games (obviously), and although I have a few issues with both the movie and the books, I did love the series, and it was difficult to find another book that would engage me with any comparable energy.

I was starting to panic. Finally I did what (I assume) anyone would do in my position – I picked an anthology of poetry. That’s what you would do…right? Right?!

No. Obviously no sane person would pick a book that would probably have little to no appeal to sports lovers, YA addicts, or fantasy/sci-fi geeks…but what can I say? I love a challenge.

To make this even more hilarious, although I enjoy poetry and have written my fair share of it, I rarely read poetry anthologies. I endured a lot of abuse for this in college, and if anything, the disdain of my poetry-devouring classmates made me want to pick such a book up even less. So why would I do this?

Good question. Well, first of all, one of the editors is Naomi Shihab Nye , who wrote Habibi (reviewed in January). I find her delightful, and one of the great things about being a beloved author is that you have the power to convince me to read something I might otherwise ignore. Secondly, even though I’m wary of poetry, I loved the idea behind the book – the editors grouped almost 200 poems into pairs to demonstrate the different ways in which male and female poets see the same topic (excerpted from the back cover). My husband and I got married a year ago April (after being together for four), and I’ve been curious watching as our first year of marriage unfolds with all its beautiful quirks. As much as he is basically the best man in the universe (a completely unbiased perspective, of course), sometimes it feels like we’re talking about the same topic in two completely different languages. And I have to imagine we are not the only ones…

In a typical novel, I often notice the difference in tone, language use, and structure between male and female voices, and this can be further complicated when the author is of a different gender than the protagonist. This anthology offered me the chance to examine similar variations in a close comparison. I often ignored which gender I was reading to see if I could guess myself by the end of the piece, and I would say 97 percent of the time I could. There’s just no getting around the fact that men and women are fundamentally different – our bodies grow strong in different ways and at varying rates, and our brains attach to detail and big picture concepts differently.

I’m really happy about it too. As much as it can pain me to have a conversation with a male friend or family member and come away with absolutely black and white ideas of what was communicated, I find it fascinating that we can be so different and yet still connect on the plain of emotional resonance.

That being said, I don’t know if I would recommend this book to a general audience. The poems in it were lovely, and I’ve marked about twelve that I especially enjoyed, but I’ve found that people are very touchy around the subject of poetry. It seems to be much more divisive than fiction (although genre fiction often provokes some outrageous arguments); mostly, it seems to make people sulky and reminds them of whatever English teacher they hated most in high school.

If you aren’t getting a weird twitch in your shoulder blades reminding you of carefully penned poetry returned with a page full of red marks, I totally recommend giving this book a whirl (especially if you’ve just had an hours’ long conversation with your SO about buying a car and at the end of it still have no idea where s/he stands on the matter…); however, if you’re filled with rage at the mere idea that I would even mention poetry here in this sacred internet space, take a moment and post a comment about a book you love and would like me to review.

Now everyone’s happy, right? And we can move on to more important matters, like having a case of the Mondays…


Naomi Shihab Nye doesn’t have a web home, but more information can be found about her work online. Paul B Janeczko can be found at http://www.paulbjaneczko.com/

23 thoughts on “I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You, Naomi Shihab Nye and Paul B Janeczko

  1. Don’t worry about living up to anything. Write like you did before the ‘Freshly Pressed’ feature. I like discovering blogs and their writers. It also helps to know we don’t write along although it feels that way sometimes.

    1. Thank you so much! It’s hard to start writing for hundreds or thousands when before I was lucky to get a hundred hits on a post, but the people who have been coming seem so wonderful, bright, and passionate that I look forward to pushing myself to find great books to review!

  2. Sharing this post with my son and daughter-n-law who were just married last August….you may want to check out “the I-do diaries” on my blog roll. These are post written by my daughter-n-law as she and my son, Drew journey on their first year of marriage together.

    1. I’ll definitely check it out! Best wishes to both of them as they journey through this crazy, beautiful, evolving first year of marriage! I feel incredibly fortunate to have married my best friend and to have a husband who can laugh with me when our communications styles are, well, Mars and Venus-esque :)

  3. Oh! I’ll have to mark this book as a “to read” on Goodreads. I rarely read poetry as an adult, though I actually enjoyed it as a child/teenager/college student. There’s just so much out there, book-length-wise, to capture my attention… poetry doesn’t even enter my consciousness most of the time.

    And I agree, too, about men and women, boys and girls. After having both a boy and a girl and seeing how they (and my husband and I) think/attack problems/approach the world, I am very happy that we’re different. (But that doesn’t keep it from being confusing sometimes.)

    1. Confusing! Frustrating! Insane! Yup. Definitely have experienced all of those things! I’m especially fortunate that my husband, family, and friends support my constant probing of communication styles. I’m fascinated at how gender, culture, and disposition play a part in how we experience the world…and how it experiences us!

  4. Ok. I have decided that I am in love with your blog!!

    This is the second post I have read that seems to speak to my particular interests! In this post you mentioned you “have noticed a difference in tone, language use and structure between the male and female voices within a typical novel.”
    Here, you have hit on a topic that my husband and I have tried to explore when it comes to artistry in photography. I know you are specifically discussing writing in your post, but I think differences can apply to art in general.

    We tried conducting an experiment on our blog site some time back where we would post photos and ask our readers to determine whether a photo was taken by me or my husband. We were trying to analyze if a female perspective could be determined from a male perspective when it comes to composition, post processing, etc.

    Unfortunately, our schedules kept us from taking the experiment further than a couple of blog posts, but you have ignited my interest in the idea once more. Thanks for that!

    Also, I love your perspective! Great post. I’m a fan.


    1. This project sounds amazing! I hope you’ll revisit it. I would love to see the work you’ve done already as well. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that these ideas could be explored in visual arts in a similar way to what Nye and Janeczko have done. You’ve really given me some great food for thought; I’m so glad you’ll be following and hopefully commenting to give me some more food for thought!

    1. I appreciate you saying that. I took a risk writing about poetry; I’ve found it to be a polarizing topic in the past, but every once in a while it feels good to get out and try something new.

      Also, I want to mention that I checked out your blog and I’m looking forward to reading more – it’s both well-written and fascinating.

  5. I love poetry, I think in poetry oftentimes,
    but it seems more difficult to find poetry that one likes
    because it is often so personal and in such a small space.

    It is wonderful when it does speak to you or for you, though.

    Good for you for checking out a book that is so different from your usual,
    and I love how you tried to guess the genders of the authors (and were
    right 97% of the time!). I just may read this book and try that too, because
    of your review. Thank you!
    ~ Lily

    1. I agree that poetry really is an intensely personal experience. Sometimes I find it incredibly strange when a poem that moves me so deeply fails to register on anyone else’s radar. I’m lucky that my mother is a wonderful poet and often shares with me pieces that we both love; it helps me feel that much more connected.

  6. I stumbled upon your blog through Freshly Pressed and love it! I just had a post from my blog on their homepage as well – “Is It Running Season Yet?” – so I know how you feel. I’m also a runner, reader, writer, and love YA. :) I’m definitely going to follow your blog. You’re a great writer and, from the posts I’ve seen, tackle interesting topics as well. Great work and I’d love to talk shop anytime!

    1. Thanks! I just added your blog to my Google Reader feed (I know I should hit the follow button but I love my feed…:) )I look forward to hearing how your novel’s coming as well as getting some great book suggestions from your Monday feature!

  7. I love books way, way, WAY more than I love running, so I am happy to have found you nonetheless! I can imagine the pressure, though, of sudden influx of new readers. Not that I wouldn’t love it, but I can understand the stressful side, too. And I love that your response was poetry. No one can ever accuse you of pandering to the masses now!

    Always looking for great books and insightful people, so it looks like I’ve come to the right place.

    1. I’m so glad you’re here! I love your blog and have it on my Google reader feed – the posts about Scrabble and running especially hit home for me. I still can’t beat my mother at Scrabble, much to my chagrin…maybe someday when she’s feeble-minded…:)

  8. I Love your in depth look into the books! You actually give the readers reasons and thoughts about the characters, authors, the plot, everything! Thanks!

    1. Thank you so much! I love doing this – it gives me an excuse to read great books and chat with people who love to read as much as I do. There’s really no downside!

  9. I just started blogging and you came up on my Freshly Pressed page. I really like your reviews, they have a remarkable amount of detail! Though the Twilight book did put me off, but you probably expected that. Looking forward to reading more of you.

    By the way, I think the Freshly Pressed page operates on hits per tag in a specified time period. Just a thought. :)

    1. Ahh Twilight, the great divider! I tell my best friend, who also refuses to read them, that I will only tolerate arguments from her about their quality (and believe me, there are arguments to be made) once she’s read them herself.

      Really though, I can’t help it – some books are just fun to read (like eating way too much candy when really I should know better by now)! I am trying to be strong and read plenty of “literature” as well, but sometimes, the brain needs a break, and vampires, zombies, and elves often lure me from healthy-brain books :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s