I added a surprise second selection for this particular Noshed in a Book post. Most of the time, before I begin reading a book, I take some time to ponder the title and what it may or may not mean in relationship to the text. Collections of poetry are no exception to this rule, and, I would have to say, heighten a stronger sense of my analytical self than prose. Then of course there’s biographical books, which often–not always–follow a restrictive naming; the reader needs to grasp the purpose of the book immediately. Oddly enough, reading Live or Die by Anne Sexton unfolded a series of poems that revealed the true meaning behind the title, but The First Biography of Joan of Arc–my surprise additional reading for this post–did not deliver on the title. Titles are important, but maybe this was a lesson for me and us all that you can’t judge a book by its title, and if you do, expect to be surprised and don’t be disappointed if you’re not. Let’s dive in!
Live or Die by Anne Sexton
A series of poems that are organized chronologically, which for better or worse focus on our delicate relationship with not just death, but life as well. My approach to poetry is one that is unpracticed because I tend to not read collection after collection, instead spreading out poetry collections over time. Also, there’s a level of apprehension I have when reading poetry. Each word is precisely chosen and I often fret about not giving due time to each poem and respecting its pacing and structure. Anne Sexton’s writing is remarkable and flows and I didn’t once feel overwhelmed by the direction or pacing of her poems. Just some of the topics Sexton touches on in this series are dreams, womanhood, death of love, death of literal life, mother and daughter confessions, and bones. Here are a few excerpts that moved me.
“Awake, I memorized dreams.
Dreams came into the ring
like third string fighters,
each one a bad bet
who might win
because there was no other.”
“I was tired of being a woman,
tired of the spoons and the pots,
tired of my mouth and my breasts,
tired of the cosmetics and the silks.
There were still men who sat at my table,
circled around the bowl I offered up.
The bowl was filled with purple grapes
and the flies hovered in for the scent
and even my father came with his white bone.
But I was tired of the gender of things.”
“Death’s a sad bone; bruised, you’d say,
and yet she waits for me, year after year,
to so delicately undo an old wound,
to empty my breath from its bad prison.”
“If I’m on fire they dance around it
and cook marshmallows.
And if I’m ice
they simply skate on me
in little ballet costumes.”
The First Biography of Joan of Arc by Daniel Rankin and Claire Quintal
A book that is by no means a page turner, but by all accounts clear and concise in its diction, this text outlines the life of Joan of Arc–know as the “Maid”–a heroine of the fifteenth century who led and structured a siege in order to take back France from England during the Hundred Years War. Only a teenager at the time of her leadership of the French Army–behind King Charles the VII–and at the time of her horrendous death–she was burned alive–Joan of Arc stands as a figure of bravery and as a trailblazing representative of the “YOLO” concept before it was ever a concept. She lived her life for a purpose and broke through many class and gender barriers to be the figure she was for the people of her time and generations after. This book, as I stated earlier, did not deliver on its title. Maybe my expectation was too simplistic, but I wanted a straightforward description of her life up front with factual information pieced in categorically after this. I feel like I have come to know more details about Joan from other sources over the years, but this book did a great job of outlining sources of materials and chronology. Here are a few quotes from the texts that may intrigue you.
“You believe, gentlemen that because I am a woman, I do not know how to conceal a secret. For your information I know every detail you have discussed. Here I give you my pledge–I WILL NEVER REVEAL PLANS WHICH ARE TO BE KEPT SECRET.”
“The Maid has made use of magic and diabolic cunning. She is a heretic.”
“For some time past it has been known to all and it is notorious that a woman who insisted on being called Joan the Maid, discarding the garb and vesture of the female sex, an act repugnant and forbidden by all law, a deed contrary to Divine Law and abhorrent to God, put on and wore men’s garments and likewise armed herself as a man.”
“As soon as her armor was made she put it on, went out into the fields of Poitiers with other armed combatants where she handled her lance as well or better than any man there. She rode spirited chargers, the capricious ones that no one else dared mount without fear.”
“Without the presence of Joan of Arc it seems certain that the courage and stamina of the soldiers marching toward Reims would have dissolved into a speedy disaster.”
As for edibles, I decided to make a piña collada smoothie. This all started a few weeks ago, on a Friday evening, in the midst of pizza making. All of a sudden I started thinking about piña colladas, and how I HAD to have one. The Mr. and I started to scour the kitchen for all of the basic ingredients and had to improvise. Let’s just say, after extra handfuls of ice and almond milk it was eventually edible. This culinary experimentation got me thinking about how I wanted to do this the right way, with or without the buzz. Although it has been noted that Anne Sexton liked Dry Martinis and taking on the town with Sylvia Plath, I can’t help but feel she too would have loved the indulgence of a tropical treat every once in awhile, especially in the summer. As for The First Biography of Joan of Arc, well, some of you may need something to liven up your day after this dry read and perhaps even have a lively discussion on women’s cultural icons with your gals. Either way, enjoy the treat!
Piña Collada Smoothie with Mango (animal-product-free, gluten-free, soy-free)
- 1 cup coconut milk (from a can)
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 heaping cup fresh or frozen pineapple
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen mango chunks
- 1/4 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
- 1/2 -3/4 cup ice cubes
- 1 full dropper of liquid stevia (or to taste)
- Cherries(frozen or fresh) and dried coconut for garnish
- Pour liquid ingredients into blender first, then add frozen fruit, vanilla extract, ice cubes and the sweetener
- Blend well until creamy
- Garnish with cherries and dried coconut
- Enjoy in your favorite glass
- Spike at will with your choice of rum, or if you’re my husband and there’s not rum around, use whiskey (don’t get me started, haha)
Poetry and history have a differing tone that’s unmistakable, but reading the voice of a strong woman followed up by reading about the voice of another strong woman, was both inspiring and empowering. When you read these books, what tasty treats come to mind and what are some of your favorite Anne Sexton poems or excerpts? Know any special factoids about Joan of Arc? I can’t wait to hear from you all. Share your #noshedinabook pics and thoughts and check out more Noshed in a Book posts. Join me in my next reading selection, The First Bad Man by Miranda July. And remember…bite responsibly!