Reading & Writing a Life

Carla Pineda's blog

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my first poetry anthology

I read  in Garrison Keillor’s “The Writer’s Almanac” that on January 29, 1845 Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” was published for the first time in the New York Evening Mirror.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak, and weary”

it begins and I am remembering the first time I read the poem myself or at least came to begin to know it.  Minnie and Grandfather gave me my first poetry anthology when I was ten or eleven.  In the front of it are written my name, address and phone number with the line “if lost please return”.  The anthology is “One Hundred and One Famous Poems”, (with a prose supplement),leather bound, ribbon marker, very grown up looking.  I knew this was a book I was to keep and treasure and I have. 

I pulled it off my bookshelf a minute ago and have it here with me now.   “The Raven” by Poe and poems  by Kimler,  Kipling, Holmes, Longfellow, Wordsworth, Fields, Milton, Browning and others line its pages.  I hear other beginning lines as I fan through the pages…

I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree”, “Listen, my children, and you shall hear”, “The gingham dog and the calico cat”, “When earth’s last picture is painted, and the tubes are twisted and dried”.

I do not have these poems memorized by a long shot but  I realize this is more than just about a memory.  It is a re/membering of my grandparents, lovers of the written word and this gift of a book of poetry to their young granddaughter who is ever so grateful for their attentiveness to nurture reading and writing that continues to this day. I think I’ll keep this book on my writing table for a bit and reweave more memories.  Anyone else have a book like this on their shelves?





Virginia Woolf

Monday the 25th was Virginia Woolf’s birthday.  I recently bought a copy of “A Room of One’s Own”  and it is on my bedside table.  I can’t believe I haven’t read it before.  It’s been on a “To Read Someday” list.  Maybe I’ll start it today.

 A “To Read Someday” List…I just realized that I have one.  I wonder what else is on the list.  I know there are books on the bookshelf I haven’t gotten around to reading and of course there are the new ones coming out all the time.  And, then there is the discovery of a new author who, once I read something they have written, I am pretty sure I’ll buy their next book.  So, I guess this list evolves as my life does.  The books shape my life in their own way and what is going in my life may direct what I am drawn to read at any given time.

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a life shaped by reading and writing

Over the years I have reflected on how reading and writing have been so central to who I am.  I grew up around books, my parents and grandparents had a bookstore when Mother was pregnant with me (if my calculations are right). Anyway, I remember the store from when I was little and roaming up and down its aisles.  Mother was an English teacher, Minnie always writing something, and bookcases lined every available wall in the houses I grew up in, as they do in my own home today.  There was no such things as a “banned book” in our house. “Read it if you must” Mother would say but then she and I would talk about it; why had I wanted to read it, did I get anything out of it”?  There was the library and the bookmobile that came down the street once every week or so.  I always checked out the maximum number of books allowed.  And, gifts from my parents and grandparents were often books…of course!

I had “diaries” when I was growing up.  They were the little books with a lock and key and thin, tight lines.  There wasn’t much room for reflection; usually only a listing of daily events.  I wrote in notebooks over the years and collected pages of quotes, questions, poetry; things that whispered or screamed to me things like “pay attention” or “what does this mean?”  Then there were times when a counselor or therapist “suggested” I write out the thoughts and feelings that were whirling around in my head and heart.  It always seemed to help.  In a previous life I worked as a counselor and found that sharing my experiences with both reading and writing often led others to find a path, a connection, or some clarity for their own journey.

And, so now I wonder how all of this has shaped me?  Why do I so fondly (hard to believe) remember my freshman English class in high school where the final was a 15 question essay test on a short story?  And, there were no right or wrong answers!  Why do I have to mark up my books with my own thoughts, reflections or questions and why do I rarely leave home without my journal?  Why are there books by the bedside table and on the floor by the couch?  And, why do I love working in a bookstore?   Because I know that my life has been profoundly shaped by reading and writing.  And, now this romp into a blog…well, I’m curious to see what new nuance, wrinkle, or wiggle comes forth.