My poetry year

img_4126One of the things I decided to read more of during 2016 was poetry.; it hasn’t necessarily been my Everest(that’s drama) but I rarely venture into it. Some haiku,Rumi,Brodsky,Szymborska and Tranström has long been favorites but my adventures in the lyrical has been rather random.

Not that I took the academic route this year, following a curriculum or anything, I just tried to read more and assumed the rest would follow. And I will declare success; I have read more and from very different ends of the spectrum; from narrative poetry in the form of Beowulf to much hyped spoken word artist Rupi Kaur’s collection Milk and Honey.

I don’t regret any of it; I have learned, I have understood some things and I have felt even if I everything was a revelation and a love affair.

What I found out quickly is that it suits me to read a bit everyday. The Everyman’s library pocket poets as a  well as a few of the Penguin little black classics have given me easy access to very diverse poets, with the Everyman’s library ones sometimes according to a theme, thus giving me a framework of reference. Monster verse and Echoing green were the ones I liked the best of the half dozen or so that I have read.

Another book that I have returned to more then once(partly because I bought a copy and have it at hand) is Loop of Jade by Sarah Howe. I loved the images of beauty and sorrow that Howe paints with words.

The one that stands out though is Basho(I read Lips too chilled in the Penguin little black classics-series). I have long had a fascination with haiku; when it’s good I feel it. I must read more of him. Such a great voice; funny,irreverent and deeply insightful. I like my poets with a glint in their eye.

And thus we come to Byron. He turns up everywhere and he brings drama; I keep saying it because it’s true. I make a point of mentioning it every time I run across a reference to him, which is often. I finally read the mans’ work. I like the myth more, but he can be very funny and sharp even if the context of it is somewhat lost on me. His poems hasn’t aged all that well I guess; I really needed to do research as to who he was making fun of.

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My poetry year “ended” with Hatred of poetry by Ben Lerner; not a book of poetry but about poetry. Lerner writes a great essay about the impossibility of good poetry but also makes a very good argument as to why poets have to keep on trying.

For myself I vow to keep reading poetry; now that I’ve gotten into the habit I will try to keep at it. Undoubtedly is has made my life better.

-Suss

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Post-it

img_8926I’m always looking for “life hacks”. I have a thing for this type of advice book with guidelines on “how to live”. Most of them infuriate me however.( I’m slightly suspicions of 25-year olds that have always done everything “just so” and act like they have figured out life. They probably have, they are better people then me obviously but still. I guess that says more about me then them. )

Rita Konig I have a lot of love for. She is a bit bossy yes, but I think she has the advice to back it up. Another person who’s advice I listen to is Lucia van der Post.

She is a columnist for the Financial Times that’s how I came across her in the first place, then I tracked down her books.

Naturally a fair few tips go out the window because I live in a different culture so it doesn’t apply (Guy Fawkes-Night etc.) and some of her recommendations on where to shop are inapplicable most of the time as I live in Stockholm not London.

This time of year it’s suitable to browse the chapter on Christmas. She has some good ideas and what I appreciate is that this is a woman who has lived, worked and raised family. She has experience, and is willing to admit her failures. We do not have to make her mistakes. Which is the point of theses kinds of books.

Van der Post tells us about a few tricks and shortcuts in a very amiable voice. I have probably used Celebrate-the art of the special occasion(published in 2009) the most but I have nothing but good things to say about Things I wish my mother had told me. It will probably grow on me. It was originally published in 2007 but as I go through it much seems still to be relevant. Or the general idea of a thing if not the specific trend. Mostly she deals in timeless things like “how great is museum shops to shop for jewelry and accessories?”Her point in these books, as in her columns for FT, is that stylish don’t have to mean expensive. Which is an ethos I wholeheartedly agree with.

-Suss

Gift guide; On the go

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  • One of the cutest presents I have ever bought is this little “Carry on cocktail-kit” which contains a small bottle of tonic syrup and a tiny bar spoon so that your on board-cocktails can be upgraded. They also have one for an old fashioned. I bought it at NK here in Stockholm but it can also be bought here. Another option is buying a travel set of bitters which you can find here(I’ve bought one on another occasion for someone and it was a hit)
  • I have already mentioned the Hermés knotting cards which is a good gift for a traveler so that they can use their scarf in many ways. I have also talked about  travel size perfume. Obviously small books make excellent presents for someone always on the go.
  • A nice pen. I’ve become a fan of pens from Lamy as I like their colours and having a bright green (or pink) pen in the bag makes it easier to find. But no one ever has been disappointed in an engraved Parker pen.
  • Notebooks. Again; if you can get it personalized with a monogram so much the better.
  • A set of small tubes of hand cream. A classic stocking stuffer.
  • A bunch of umbrellas. In my humble experience having many umbrellas in a box by the door makes everything easier; as they break or get lost(in my case frequently)  quantity is key.
  • Jewelry rolls are a good thing; they come in the expensive shape of leather or ,if you are lucky, you can find them reasonably priced in fabric. I used to get them at a Vietnamese store here in Stockholm, or the Museum of East Asian art, but alas the store has closed and the Museum shop doesn’t carry them anymore. But have a look out. Very practical.

-Suss

Pomanders and pocket books;when time is tight

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One of the first things on my Christmas agenda is making pomanders. The simple act of putting cloves in oranges brings the smell of the coming holiday and they are like works of art laying in their bowl. It is the bare minimum and in terms of decorations it is quick, cheap and very very classy.

Another thing that’s useful when time(or in my case,space) is of the premium are “pocket books”. That’s what they are called apparently these slim volumes of which the Penguin little black classics have become the most well-known(here). The term “pocket-book” obviously comes from the fact that it fits in a pocket. It does however present a bit of problem for me as in Swedish paperbacks are referred to as “pocket-böcker”.

I keep them in my bag however. Since the decision to carry a significantly smaller “day bag” I have been obsessed with finding books small enough for it. And then that bag broke and I’m stuck using one that’s even smaller(I’m just gonna use the current bag until it breaks,which probably won’t take long. It’s poor quality and something that I was given. No point in donating it to charity as they probably can’t sell it  because of previously mentioned poor quality. I’m trying to make an environmentally sound choice here).

As I summerize this years reading( or starting to) I find that I’ve read a higher number of books then usual. I’ve kept a reading journal for years and as an economist  I always have a wee look at the numbers as I’m wired that way(although now I’ve switched to Goodreads which serves up stats unasked). The higher number is in part due to several of these little things. Novellix is a Swedish company that also produce pocket-books that I’ve read a few of(they have now started to bring out editions in english so worth checking out. Find them here).

In the pic I have also included one of the Penguin great ideas series because Orwell’s essays(I have all four by him in this series) was one of the things that I will remember reading most from this year. Also slim and very easy to carry around.

In short; they are small but they pack a punch. It’s worth considering smaller books if time and/or space is of the premium.

-Suss

Gift guide; On the shelf

img_9137When it comes to gifts to the bookish I will first and foremost recommend you listen to what a professional has to say. Jen V. Campbell has put up a great video on her Youtube channel; find it here. Another idea is to look at all the “best of 2016”-list that are starting to turn up and see if anything seems appropriate. Apart from that?

  • I’m always gonna say that a nice scented candle(which is in most cases an expensive one) is a good gift. For the bookish there is alway Bibliothéque from Byredo and I have blogged about others here.
  • Nice notebooks with a literary tie-in. Moleskin makes the best notebooks in general and these limited edition ones are drool-inducing. Last year there was a few with an Alice in Wonderland theme, this year it’s Harry Potter. This notebook has the words “Mischief managed” on the back!! Find them here.
  • Sending snail-mail is back in fashion(or I’ll pretend so) and everyone is going ga-ga over cards from Obvious State(here),The classic Penguin covers(here) and I cracked for the Alice in Wonderland-set from Macmillan.
  • The Proust Questionnaire(here) is a fun gift for someone; it contains a questions about things in life that friends can fill in. Proust filled in one once and that’s where they got the idea. I had something similar called “My friends” when I was a child but this is a lot nicer; this one is used by Vanity Fair in every issue to paint a portrait of a celebrity. Get to know your friends better!

-Suss

Blue is the warmest colour

15. I think of these people as my blue correspondents,whose job it is to send me blue reports from the field.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson is one of the most talked about books this year it feels like. It’s a book I recommend to almost everyone as I find it to be fairly easy read but very relevant and well-put voice in a debate about what it means to be a women, about motherhood and all the confusion that it entails. After reading it I made a point of reading more by Nelson. Bluets came highly recommended and after finding a reference to it in The Essex serpent I was more intrigued.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect but I had high hopes and I have to say, it lived up to them.

Basically Nelson has written a bunch of micro-essays,reminiscent of Jenny Ofill’s The department of speculation(which I also loved), on her love of the colour blue and manages to tell a bigger story through that. About the shades of blue, of feeling blue and of having blue bruises all over.

I was surprised how much I loved this book. At first I dipped into it and read a little bit every day but it got to me, and I finished it in one sitting. And then I wanted to read it again. And again.

It manages to be so beautiful and soothing, like there is structure in chaos. Much of the book points out that we know nothing and madness is around the corner. Somehow that is fine, I’m calmed by the honesty. Which also makes it just thought-provoking enough not to be pretentious. She makes it look so easy, the words just flow. When you get that feeling like you just loose yourself.

Boldly I will  say that this is one of the books I will remember the most from 2016. For next year I will make a point to read more of her. That goes on the TBR immediately.

-Suss

 

Deck the halls,Dress the tree

img_9118When it comes to Christmas tree decorations there are a lot of people who adhere to the principle of buying one nice ornament per year and slowly building a memorable collection. That’s good advice. If I wasn’t the impatient nitwit that I am I would have started collecting bird-themed ornaments because it would look so grand just to have a tree full of lights and different kinds of birds. As a stocking stuffer my mom has gotten a cat-style bauble every year for a few years(you would be surprised how often I come across them) but for myself it has been a wild mix of recycling and trying to stick with a theme.

This year, as stated previously, I’m gonna add these pompoms that I made for whatever reason. I do remember that instructions came from Designmom and you can find it here. A tree full of pompoms in different colours can look very cool I think, and a fun and easy project too.

For the Japanese themed Christmas I filled the tree with white origami cranes. Cranes are the only thing I can fold. I’m sure if you use a search engine of your choice a tutorial will turn up.

Last year I made these little plates using egg white and confectioners sugar; it’s a twist on a classic Swedish DIY ornament. On them I put cut outs from the Cire Trudon catalogue. It had no relevance to the theme or anything; I just thought it was nice. I also made these spheres using pages from a broken book but alas I have forgotten where I got the instructions( did I just see a similar thing somewhere and figured it out?)

I have bought a few nice things because my wantiness has gotten the better of me. In a previous flat there was no room for a tree and I just hung ornaments in the window; this star is from that year.

And these crochet napkin rings made by my mothers best friend have a special place in the tree. They had been laying unused in a drawer for decades when I got my paws on them and decided they could be used to decorate the tree. The friend sadly passed away last year and thus they  mean even more now.

Last but not least; childhood trinkets and odd earrings look great on the tree. Just a bit of elastic gold ribbon and BOOM!  A personal and stylish tree. I love my ballerina and my teapot and there is plenty more where that came from.

How do you decorate your tree?

-Suss