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In this intimate collection, the beloved author of The Poisonwood Bible and more than a dozen other New York Times bestsellers, winner or finalist for the Pulitzer and countless other prizes, now trains her eye on the everyday and the metaphysical in poems that are smartly crafted, emotionally rich, and luminous.  In her second poetry collection, Barbara Kingsolver offers r In this intimate collection, the beloved author of The Poisonwood Bible and more than a dozen other New York Times bestsellers, winner or finalist for the Pulitzer and countless other prizes, now trains her eye on the everyday and the metaphysical in poems that are smartly crafted, emotionally rich, and luminous.  In her second poetry collection, Barbara Kingsolver offers reflections on the practical, the spiritual, and the wild. She begins with “how to” poems addressing everyday matters such as being hopeful, married, divorced; shearing a sheep; praying to unreliable gods; doing nothing at all; and of course, flying. Next come rafts of poems about making peace (or not) with the complicated bonds of friendship and family, and making peace (or not) with death, in the many ways it finds us. Some poems reflect on the redemptive powers of art and poetry itself; others consider where everything begins.Closing the book are poems that celebrate natural wonders—birdsong and ghost-flowers, ruthless ants, clever shellfish, coral reefs, deadly deserts, and thousand-year-old beech trees—all speaking to the daring project of belonging to an untamed world beyond ourselves. Altogether, these are poems about transcendence: finding breath and lightness in life and the everyday acts of living. It’s all terribly easy and, as the title suggests, not entirely possible. Or at least, it is never quite finished. 


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In this intimate collection, the beloved author of The Poisonwood Bible and more than a dozen other New York Times bestsellers, winner or finalist for the Pulitzer and countless other prizes, now trains her eye on the everyday and the metaphysical in poems that are smartly crafted, emotionally rich, and luminous.  In her second poetry collection, Barbara Kingsolver offers r In this intimate collection, the beloved author of The Poisonwood Bible and more than a dozen other New York Times bestsellers, winner or finalist for the Pulitzer and countless other prizes, now trains her eye on the everyday and the metaphysical in poems that are smartly crafted, emotionally rich, and luminous.  In her second poetry collection, Barbara Kingsolver offers reflections on the practical, the spiritual, and the wild. She begins with “how to” poems addressing everyday matters such as being hopeful, married, divorced; shearing a sheep; praying to unreliable gods; doing nothing at all; and of course, flying. Next come rafts of poems about making peace (or not) with the complicated bonds of friendship and family, and making peace (or not) with death, in the many ways it finds us. Some poems reflect on the redemptive powers of art and poetry itself; others consider where everything begins.Closing the book are poems that celebrate natural wonders—birdsong and ghost-flowers, ruthless ants, clever shellfish, coral reefs, deadly deserts, and thousand-year-old beech trees—all speaking to the daring project of belonging to an untamed world beyond ourselves. Altogether, these are poems about transcendence: finding breath and lightness in life and the everyday acts of living. It’s all terribly easy and, as the title suggests, not entirely possible. Or at least, it is never quite finished. 

30 review for How to Fly: In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons

  1. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    I haven’t read much poetry in a very long time, but when I became aware of this collection by Barbara Kingsolver, I thought that it might be a nice change. I’ve very much enjoyed Kingsolver’s writing over the years, having read a number of her novels, but I had no idea that she wrote poetry. I found it to be much more than just a change of pace. I found these poems to be inspiring, lovely, and relatable, humorous at times. Marriage, hope , nature , motherhood, death with moving tributes to her g I haven’t read much poetry in a very long time, but when I became aware of this collection by Barbara Kingsolver, I thought that it might be a nice change. I’ve very much enjoyed Kingsolver’s writing over the years, having read a number of her novels, but I had no idea that she wrote poetry. I found it to be much more than just a change of pace. I found these poems to be inspiring, lovely, and relatable, humorous at times. Marriage, hope , nature , motherhood, death with moving tributes to her grandfather in “This is How They Come Back to Us”, and her great grandmother in “My Great-Grandmother’s Plate “ and a very sad one about her mother’s death, sharing personal and intimate details of their relationship, are among the themes reflected. I loved the series of poems on a family trip to Italy with her mother in law . In “On the Piazza”, she brought me back to Piazza Navona, one of my favorite places in Rome, but also what it was like to be a tourist while trying to experience a place. I especially connected to “In Torricelli, Finding Her Mother’s House “ and “Into the Abruzzo”. “Here to remind me of graveyards and surprising sites of origin. A mountain that holds us to its secrets. These feral granite ranges gave the world children, the mother of my mother-in-law, her son, our family, and peonies.” I was brought back to the time I walked through the town where my grandparents were born. Reflecting on her daughters and motherhood in “Creation Stories” and “Meadowview Elementary Spelling Bee “ were touching. “Insomniac Villanelle “ - on reading and writers who bear “The chore of blunting night’s tormented edges Austen, Byron, Cather, Dickens, Emerson... Now there’s birdsong, daylight on the ledges.” There were some that I loved more than others, but not one that I didn’t like . Reading these poems was a perfect way to spend an afternoon on an overcast day. Thanks to Jenny, whose review ( https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) brought this to my attention. I received an advanced copy of this book from Harper through Edelweiss.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Poetry, lives lived, lessons learned. Some like letters, some shorter, all wonderful. How to be married, how to be divorced, have a child, even one on knitting. A short tour of Italy, when she takes her mother in law there to visit her childhood home. There are two, however, that stood out for me. How to be hopeful. Much needed, for many besides myself, I believe. I adored this line, "Sometimes you have to stand on an incline where things look possible." These last two lines in "The forests of Ant Poetry, lives lived, lessons learned. Some like letters, some shorter, all wonderful. How to be married, how to be divorced, have a child, even one on knitting. A short tour of Italy, when she takes her mother in law there to visit her childhood home. There are two, however, that stood out for me. How to be hopeful. Much needed, for many besides myself, I believe. I adored this line, "Sometimes you have to stand on an incline where things look possible." These last two lines in "The forests of Antarctica" gave me chills. "You are the world that stirs. This is the world that waits." ARC from edelweiss.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I didn't know Barbara Kingsolver wrote poetry, but I really enjoyed this collection. I'd put it up there with Mary Oliver in thematic material and think the same readers would like both. (That's high praise, I love Mary Oliver!) - nature, aging, death & dying as part of life, wisdom etc. My favorites (linking to them online if I can find them) How to Drink Water When There is Wine How to Have a Child How to Survive This (published in the NYT during high pandemic numbers in NYC) How to Do Absolutely N I didn't know Barbara Kingsolver wrote poetry, but I really enjoyed this collection. I'd put it up there with Mary Oliver in thematic material and think the same readers would like both. (That's high praise, I love Mary Oliver!) - nature, aging, death & dying as part of life, wisdom etc. My favorites (linking to them online if I can find them) How to Drink Water When There is Wine How to Have a Child How to Survive This (published in the NYT during high pandemic numbers in NYC) How to Do Absolutely Nothing How to Be Married My Mother's Last Forty Minutes "...Here begins my life as no one's bad daughter..." Forests of Antarctica "...You are the world that stirs. This is the world that waits." I had a copy from the publisher through Edelweiss. It comes out in September but I was worrying about my eARC expiring before I had a chance to review it so here we are.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Geoff

    While I haven't read everything Kingsolver has written, a few of her novels are among my favorite books ever written. But this collection of her poetry, organized by general theme (lessons, a family trip to Italy, elegies) didn't do that much for me. The writing was beautiful but the poems and their themes just didn't hit for me. Maybe it was because they were organized by type and theme that what seemed interesting at first rapidly became stale? **Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley f While I haven't read everything Kingsolver has written, a few of her novels are among my favorite books ever written. But this collection of her poetry, organized by general theme (lessons, a family trip to Italy, elegies) didn't do that much for me. The writing was beautiful but the poems and their themes just didn't hit for me. Maybe it was because they were organized by type and theme that what seemed interesting at first rapidly became stale? **Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alicia Bayer

    I love any book of poems that Barbara Kinsgsolver writes. She is a poet who still knows what it is to be a poet, to say things in such a way that you think of little things in brand new ways, to use words as art and dance, to make you understand the nature of life with tiny observations that give meaning to the most insignificant things around us. There were definitely poems and sections that I liked in this book better than others, but it's the sort of book that I'd like a physical copy of to do I love any book of poems that Barbara Kinsgsolver writes. She is a poet who still knows what it is to be a poet, to say things in such a way that you think of little things in brand new ways, to use words as art and dance, to make you understand the nature of life with tiny observations that give meaning to the most insignificant things around us. There were definitely poems and sections that I liked in this book better than others, but it's the sort of book that I'd like a physical copy of to dog-ear and underline and read again and again. These are the sorts of poems you read to realize you're not alone in the universe and other people are living all the same heartbreaking, wonderful, terrible, mundane, awful, beautiful things you are. "Passing Death" was especially heartbreaking for me because it describes so well what is happening to my wonderful mother-in-law right now, whom we can't even visit because of covid-19. For her children, this gradual dying is like those tests at school that leave no one behind: death mastered in small increments. Last summer, they lost her laugh, the surprise of a marshmallow sandwich, jokes while she folded the laundry, a sheet furled around the make-believe bride. By then we knew she wouldn't see their weddings... Topics range from friendship to aging to nature to love, arranged by chapters that each have their own style and general theme. A great collection, with something for everyone (as long as you're willing to think a bit). I read a temporary digital ARC of this book for review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Linden

    I’ve read all of Kingsolver’s novels, so I thought I would try reading some of her poetry. Much of it reads more like what I’d call poetic prose. She groups the selections into seven sections, from “How to Fly” to “The Nature of Objects.” So much of poetry is personal, and it can strike a chord with someone, or not. Even though she's obviously a skilled writer, I was not one with whom this collection struck a chord. Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for this ARC. I’ve read all of Kingsolver’s novels, so I thought I would try reading some of her poetry. Much of it reads more like what I’d call poetic prose. She groups the selections into seven sections, from “How to Fly” to “The Nature of Objects.” So much of poetry is personal, and it can strike a chord with someone, or not. Even though she's obviously a skilled writer, I was not one with whom this collection struck a chord. Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for this ARC.

  7. 5 out of 5

    vicki honeyman

    This is Barbara Kingsolver's second collection of poetry. I carried with me and read in parks, in trees, on benches, in bed, on a little boat her first collection, published in 1992, "Another America: Otra America." I read it out loud for only myself to hear. At that point Ms. Kingsolver had published four books: two novels, "Animal Dreams" and "Bean Trees," a collection of short stories, and a book about the women of the 1983 Arizona Mine Strike. I fell in love with her writing. Now, dozens of This is Barbara Kingsolver's second collection of poetry. I carried with me and read in parks, in trees, on benches, in bed, on a little boat her first collection, published in 1992, "Another America: Otra America." I read it out loud for only myself to hear. At that point Ms. Kingsolver had published four books: two novels, "Animal Dreams" and "Bean Trees," a collection of short stories, and a book about the women of the 1983 Arizona Mine Strike. I fell in love with her writing. Now, dozens of years and bestsellers later, she has written her second poetry collection, in which she reflects on the practical, the spiritual, and the wild. The collection opens with how-to poems that touch on everyday life such as marriage and divorce, shearing a sheep, doing absolutely nothing, and flying! In the middle are poems about making peace. She finishes the collection with poems honoring the natural world. As she has done throughout her accomplished writing career, Barbara Kingsolver has presented the reader with questions and answers that are ultimately about evolution and hope.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Erin (roostercalls)

    “Tiptoe past the dogs of the apocalypse asleep in the shade of your future. Pay at the window. You’ll be surprised: you can pass off hope like a bad check. You still have time, that’s the thing. To make it good.” -“How to Be Hopeful,” Barbara Kingsolver • So often poetry without teeth and claws fails to hold my interest for the duration of an entire book. I tell myself this is because poems are meant to be savored like a single piece of extra-dark chocolate after supper; a whole bag at once would only r “Tiptoe past the dogs of the apocalypse asleep in the shade of your future. Pay at the window. You’ll be surprised: you can pass off hope like a bad check. You still have time, that’s the thing. To make it good.” -“How to Be Hopeful,” Barbara Kingsolver • So often poetry without teeth and claws fails to hold my interest for the duration of an entire book. I tell myself this is because poems are meant to be savored like a single piece of extra-dark chocolate after supper; a whole bag at once would only ruin the treat. The truth is probably more about a deficit of attention. The poems in HOW TO FLY (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons) are threaded through with gentle grace. There’s no blood-letting here—just a calming touch along your spine, the cool hand at your brow when you’re under the weather. And yet my attention never strayed, one to the next. Kingsolver had me under her spell in short verses as completely as she commands the pages of a novel. • Loosely themed sections of the book travel from a series of How To’s to a family pilgrimage to Italy to a section of heart-rending epitaphs to lost loved ones and beyond. Kingsolver’s observations are capacious and wise, and never too self-serious. As soon as she sketches the state of the world in stark lines that tighten the throat, she limns them with hope and makes you laugh. And who in the world doesn’t need that right now? A little hope tinged with laughter; a lyrical hug as we trudge wearily into a new season with the same worries and woes on our backs. • Huge thanks to @harpercollins for the chance to review an early copy of this work. I highly recommend nabbing HOW TO FLY from your local library or independent bookstore today if your soul is feeling a little drained and needs a some filling up.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sharyn

    Barbara Kingsolver has visions, knows and uses words like an alchemist. This collection of poetry soars from inner musings on the natural world to tracing and illuminating personal family history from roots in Italy to Africa and rural Kentucky. The word images can be illuminating, startling, befuddling and astute. As in her prize winning fiction and non-fiction works, the breadth and depth of her experience, knowledge and curiosity is an amazement. It is not easygoing reading and at times you may Barbara Kingsolver has visions, knows and uses words like an alchemist. This collection of poetry soars from inner musings on the natural world to tracing and illuminating personal family history from roots in Italy to Africa and rural Kentucky. The word images can be illuminating, startling, befuddling and astute. As in her prize winning fiction and non-fiction works, the breadth and depth of her experience, knowledge and curiosity is an amazement. It is not easygoing reading and at times you may push yourself to slog through lines and metaphors that leave you in the dark. Then, the next line will take your breath away. Stay with her for those times are worth it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ned

    How to Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons) on 02-09 Jan 2021 If I am honest, I do not give poetry its due. Like my taste in music, I need some kind of entrée, a relationship, to get me to the table. I realize my folly, once I get in there and begin to savor. Happenstance is a factor as well; in this case I was nearing the completion of this author’s monumental Poisonwood Bible. On a lark, whilst erranding, I dropped into the last commercial bookseller standing in my area, Barnes and Nobles, and How to Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons) on 02-09 Jan 2021 If I am honest, I do not give poetry its due. Like my taste in music, I need some kind of entrée, a relationship, to get me to the table. I realize my folly, once I get in there and begin to savor. Happenstance is a factor as well; in this case I was nearing the completion of this author’s monumental Poisonwood Bible. On a lark, whilst erranding, I dropped into the last commercial bookseller standing in my area, Barnes and Nobles, and sought out the autographed hardbacks. Here I found a lovely book with the author’s tidy signature affixed. I thought I would sneak this in at end of year to bolster numbers for the year in Goodreads, but I had already achieved my goal and was slightly ashamed of gaming the system. Unprompted, I confessed this to my adult children over the holidays, as we passed the general topic of our year in reading. Poetry for me requires a clean palate, separation from noise and distractions, so the black font on creamy page can find purchase. The body and brain pain must be on the cool side, at least tolerable, but not because benumbed. A hardwood floor is helpful, and a gas fire (no tending) flickering in the hearth. Certainly, no intoxicants on board to blur the eyes, nor strong stimulant to tempt to skittering – a little caffeine is fine for focus. This is how I come to Kingsolver, and she sings to me this morning. My wife just arrived from errands, this chilly January Saturday morning, with pomp and circumstance, so wrapping up for now – the body bleats for its own amusement and moils in metabolic machinations. Laying my little gem of a book aside for now. Past midway, now, page 74. I think poetry might be my thing, for the right person of course. Kingsolver’s mystique has me in thrall. If only I had more of the quiet winter mornings by the fire to focus, without the cacophony of pixelated words from the miniature computer never far from my person. Words fail me, when I need them, I can barely remember my own name, yet my journey through this life is always close. Poetry suits my task for small, concentrated portions of flavor and meaning. Always I would prefer small bites of carefully blended morsels, to the voluminous feeding that is so carelessly shoved in our faces, demanding continuous mastication. My senses are set that way, through experience and the magic of random genetic assorting that apparently formed in the summer of 1959. But perception, or sense, is key. I have it some areas, but not in the olfactory one. By chance I’m on a steroid to slake the ravaging allergic tendencies (immunoglobulins of a type that self associate and fire off a cascade of histamine and myriad molecules that then turn my nasal passages into swollen, unreceptive, dense masses of tissue). Last night, as I laid me down to sleep, the night light of the moon in winter bleeding through the blinds, I smelled the faint odor of old blankets for the first time in months (years?). It took me back to evenings in that little upstairs room of my grandparent’s house, of a time when my beloved grandmother would pull a quilt from deep storage to cover her grandchild. It was a revery, and if only I could slow down this rollicking life I might find that peace that passeth understanding. This morning I completed it – poetry demands keen attention, I had to slow down. And now this program is completing my thoughts for me (how annoying and frightening). Simple to sacrifice sanctity to this convenience, even as I type now. Or trick this program by writing so obtusively and originally that its predictions are usually wrong (doing better now). But I digress.... Likely I have 10 or 20 minutes on this Saturday morning by the gas-lit fire, on an overcase January morning, before the door leading to the garage bursts open and my grandson hits the hardwood floor and begins his enthusiastic and nervous jumping (oh, here he comes now....). There goes quietude and focus on the pain running down my leg, and enter joy and chaos as his innocence is celebrated. On distraction, it is still mostly the order of my days.... a world of deadlines and extreme focus and productivity in the creation of future vials of clear liquid, delivering life-saving drugs, and this year, a vaccine for this special virus which has upset the known world. My Saturdays are my solitude, when I distill my nightly diversions (reading in bed) into digestable summaries to tuck away in slender volumes before delivery to my basement study, the holders of my mysteries. Kingsolver I read back to back, the Poisonwood, now this, and it turned out to be a fine decision. Many years betwixt these widely divergent missives – the one grand and sweeping and voluminous – and this one tight, spare and of pure essense. She reminds me that poetry is delightful, if we take the care to tune our ear, and so personal. I feel I know this lady, whom I’ll never meet of course, through her work. And it is a relationship worth having, her talent is refined but, mostly, her spirit is seeking and pure. We have some kinship, both spending time in the blue grass of Kentucky and both arising from severely traumatizing religious training (me thinks). I doubt either of us regret it, since emergence from the dark cellar early in life makes the whole world a wonder today. Freedom is always relished, the dark past never that far behind. I’m not going to quote the 3 sections I marked with pencil, as is my cumbersome wont, but I will say that this slim volume of poetry enriched me and whetted my appetite for poetry (again), and not only the crude ravings of that sad misnthrope (Henry Chinaski) who can be read with pleasure in altered states. Kingsolver goes deep, gets microscopic and then, intergalactic, within a sentence or two. She connects we humans together, reminds us of what matters, and interlaced our dominion with the natural world of plants, animals and the weather than randomly swarms our globe. Now I place my beautifully autographed volume away, and return to the hot mess of chaos on our news, as our democracy absorbs the slings and arrows of human hubris and re-sorts itself in un-imaginable and un-original ways of nature. Must it be broken now that it has evolved to an unhealthy state? I hope not, I want to return to my yard and loved ones, and celebrate those lives. As the author just taught me.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I don't normally pick up poetry, but I enjoy the author's fiction so I entered into a giveaway and won. Because of COVID, delivery was understandably delayed and I forgot all about it. Then, after a really hard night, capping off a few weeks of increasingly bad news, I opened my front door one morning just to look at the sunshine and found an unexpected package on my doorstep. Out of the ether, there it was. Poetry waiting for me in a patch of sun. How to Fly, How to Survive This, How to Be Hope I don't normally pick up poetry, but I enjoy the author's fiction so I entered into a giveaway and won. Because of COVID, delivery was understandably delayed and I forgot all about it. Then, after a really hard night, capping off a few weeks of increasingly bad news, I opened my front door one morning just to look at the sunshine and found an unexpected package on my doorstep. Out of the ether, there it was. Poetry waiting for me in a patch of sun. How to Fly, How to Survive This, How to Be Hopeful. The right book, at the right time (bonus points if IT finds YOU) can help you stitch your soul back together. And if that’s not magic, I don’t know what is. Overall, the first "how to" section spoke to me louder than the rest (hence 4 instead of 5 stars). But it's a great volume to set on your nightstand and revisit from time to time. Sometimes humorous, sometimes sad, sometimes just a biologist geeking out about nature. I enjoyed it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kim Lockhart

    3.5 stars rounded up. The simplicity of much of the work is gradually disarming. Some of the poems are deeply intimate, others are ordinary, and a few stand above the rest. I was most moved by "How to be Hopeful," "Dancing with the Devil: Advice for the Female Poet," and "The Nature of Objects." Your mileage may vary. 3.5 stars rounded up. The simplicity of much of the work is gradually disarming. Some of the poems are deeply intimate, others are ordinary, and a few stand above the rest. I was most moved by "How to be Hopeful," "Dancing with the Devil: Advice for the Female Poet," and "The Nature of Objects." Your mileage may vary.

  13. 4 out of 5

    C. S.

    This is the third time I’ve seen out the year with a small book of poetry, and the overall contemplative, hard scrabble but hopeful tone of Kingsolver’s How to Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons) could have been made to order. Standouts were How to Survive This, How to Be Hopeful, Thief, and Where it Begins. Now I lay me down. I’m not there yet.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Keely

    In this 2020 collection, novelist Barbara Kingsolver demonstrates her poetry chops—which are considerable. The poems are presented in seven sections, including one made up entirely of “how to” poems and another focused on a family trip to Italy to get in touch with a grandmother’s roots. However, I’d say the overarching theme of the book is connectedness—with the people around us, with the work of our hands and bodies, and with the natural world. This theme comes through most clearly in the pros In this 2020 collection, novelist Barbara Kingsolver demonstrates her poetry chops—which are considerable. The poems are presented in seven sections, including one made up entirely of “how to” poems and another focused on a family trip to Italy to get in touch with a grandmother’s roots. However, I’d say the overarching theme of the book is connectedness—with the people around us, with the work of our hands and bodies, and with the natural world. This theme comes through most clearly in the prose poem “Where It Begins,” which was my favorite. It’s just deft in its execution. Kingsolver’s precision of language and depth of knowledge and experience really shine in this one…and these qualities had already been shining pretty bright for eighty pages before I arrived at this gem. My engagement level did sag a little in the middle, but I thought the book finished on a high note. It hardly seems fair that a gifted storyteller like Kingsolver should be such a strong poet, but it’s hard to complain when she’s such a delight in both genres. I will say, I was blown away by how much Kingsolver seems to know about quilting, knitting, cooking, farm work, trees, flowers, bivalves, coral reefs…you name it. That breadth of knowledge empowers her to make some very cool connections in her poetry.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lorilin

    If everyone could stop writing depressing shit about dying that would be great.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Katie Bruell

    I didn't love every one of these poems, but some I really, really loved. Where it Begins is a masterpiece, and I loved the Italian ones and some of the How to ones, too. These weren't as clever and easy as Billy Collins, who I've been reading a lot of lately, but they were rewarding in their own way. I didn't love every one of these poems, but some I really, really loved. Where it Begins is a masterpiece, and I loved the Italian ones and some of the How to ones, too. These weren't as clever and easy as Billy Collins, who I've been reading a lot of lately, but they were rewarding in their own way.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Diana Green

    Years ago, I read several Barbara Kingsolver novels and really liked them. Pigs in Heaven and Prodigal Summer were the two that especially stayed with me. I'm pleased to discover I also enjoy her poetry. Of course not every poem in this collection resonated with me, but many did. I found the combination of descriptive language, humor, human insight, and appreciation for the natural world all worked well together. Though Mary Oliver remains my uncontested favorite poet ever, Barbara Kingsolver is Years ago, I read several Barbara Kingsolver novels and really liked them. Pigs in Heaven and Prodigal Summer were the two that especially stayed with me. I'm pleased to discover I also enjoy her poetry. Of course not every poem in this collection resonated with me, but many did. I found the combination of descriptive language, humor, human insight, and appreciation for the natural world all worked well together. Though Mary Oliver remains my uncontested favorite poet ever, Barbara Kingsolver is now high on the list.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bonny

    How to Fly is a wonderful volume of poetry from Barbara Kingsolver. Don't like one poem? Just keep reading and you're sure to find one (or more) poems that speak to you. They range from the humorous "How to Knit a Sweater" to the poignant "How to have a Child" to my favorite "My Mother's Last Forty Minutes". Kingsolver's language is beautiful, and I found almost all of these poems accessible and readable. Poetry can provide solace, understanding, therapy, empathy, and ways to see the big picture How to Fly is a wonderful volume of poetry from Barbara Kingsolver. Don't like one poem? Just keep reading and you're sure to find one (or more) poems that speak to you. They range from the humorous "How to Knit a Sweater" to the poignant "How to have a Child" to my favorite "My Mother's Last Forty Minutes". Kingsolver's language is beautiful, and I found almost all of these poems accessible and readable. Poetry can provide solace, understanding, therapy, empathy, and ways to see the big picture along with the tiniest detail. How to Fly gave me all of that and more.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    I like some of the poems and really like a couple of them toward the end. Most are just okay. I don't prefer the poems toward the beginning. I really enjoy Barbara Kingsolver's fiction; her poetry, not as much. But as she says about critics in one of the poems I do like, "Why make art for people who never make anything, who live only to dismember it and send its creators to sit in the corner like children?" Being a creator is admirable. I admire Barbara Kingsolver. I like some of the poems and really like a couple of them toward the end. Most are just okay. I don't prefer the poems toward the beginning. I really enjoy Barbara Kingsolver's fiction; her poetry, not as much. But as she says about critics in one of the poems I do like, "Why make art for people who never make anything, who live only to dismember it and send its creators to sit in the corner like children?" Being a creator is admirable. I admire Barbara Kingsolver.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    How to Survive This O misery. Imperfect universe of days stretched out ahead, the string of pearls and drops of venom on the web, losses of heart, of life and limb, news of the worst: Remind me again the day will come when I look back amazed at the waste of sorry salt when I had no more than this to cry about. Now I lay me down. I’m not there yet. I try not to measure a book on poetry by one poem, or one image in one poem, or two, but when she compares maple leaves to jazz hands and aspens to having a palsy, How to Survive This O misery. Imperfect universe of days stretched out ahead, the string of pearls and drops of venom on the web, losses of heart, of life and limb, news of the worst: Remind me again the day will come when I look back amazed at the waste of sorry salt when I had no more than this to cry about. Now I lay me down. I’m not there yet. I try not to measure a book on poetry by one poem, or one image in one poem, or two, but when she compares maple leaves to jazz hands and aspens to having a palsy, I was so turned off. That is my religion you are desecrating! But. It is good to read the sacred and profane to know the world completely. Playful is good, right? Some gems do occur, and she writes as a conservationist to call attention to the need to protect the earth, or as I have learned this year so fully, to protect ourselves who are the earth. Behold your body as water and mineral worth, the selfsame water that soon (from a tree’s way of thinking, soon) will be lifted through the elevator hearts of a forest, returned to the sun in a leaf-eyed gaze. Behold your elements reassembled as pieces of sky, ascending without regret, for you’ve been lucky enough. ——————- My Mother’s Last Forty Minutes May I say that life is filled with instructions we just don’t believe we are ever going to need? The three of us sat in chairs arranged like planets around our sun. She hadn’t spoken in days, or opened her eyes, yet her gravity held us. —but for these last weeks while I spoon-fed my mother and crushed pain medicine into liquid drops on her tongue, did things too intimate to say—the bathing and changing she once did for me, that trapped her so terribly—through all these labors she seemed to be sleeping but sometimes unexpectedly gripped my hand, and did not zoom away. At some point the thunder had ceased, the storm passed over. I have no recollection of a house filled with so much light. The trees outside, so bright with rain. ———-|—————————— I read with my face planted, belly to earth, leavings of the infinite composting in my rib cage sun and rain on my back bringing up a pelt of new grass. It all starts with the weather. Comes a day when summer gives in to the slenderest freshet of chill, and just like that, you’re gone. Wild in love with the autumn proviso. Trees will light themselves ember-orange at the hemline. ———————— June brought the green beetles out to hum their heathen hallelujahs, July cicadas keened to a hard star-punctured sky ...in whitened pastures of the church of all things and as one, we prayed. There is only one god and its name is this. Now. And the equinox said let there be light on this moment of sun-warmed forest floor from this open eyeblink of sky... let there be bloodroot, birthroot, hepatica, coltsfoot, wake robin, adder’s tongue, Solomon’s seal, Jack in his pulpit, Dutchman’s breeches. On the days thereafter the petals looked down and covered their sex, rolled their seeds unto the earth, for thus their world is made. And the small leaves withered to sleep by dusk and were not seen again for the long three hundred sixty days of a wildflower night. ——————- But who could be more present than a man with the patience of sycamores, showing me the hummingbird’s nest you’ve spied so high in a tree, my mortal eye can barely make out the lichen-dabbed knot on an elbow of branch. The wonder is that such an eye, that lets not even the smallest sparrow fall from notice, beholds me also. That I might walk the currents of our days with red and golden feathers in my hair, my plain tongue laced with music. That we, the birds and I, may be text and illumination in your book of common prayer. Great Barrier The cathedral is burning. Absent flame or smoke, stained glass explodes in silence, fractal scales of angel damsel rainbow parrot. Charred beams of blackened coral lie in heaps on the sacred floor, white stones fallen from high places, spires collapsed, crushing the sainted turtle and gargoyle octopus. Something there is in my kind that cannot love a reef, a tundra, a plain stone breast of desert, ever quite enough. A tree perhaps, once recomposed as splendid furniture. A forest after the whole of it is planed to posts and beams and raised to a heaven of earnest construction in the name of Our Lady. All Paris stood on the bridges to watch her burning, believing a thing this old, this large and beautiful, must be holy and cannot be lost. And coral temples older than Charlemagne suffocate unattended, bleach and bleed from the eye, the centered heart. Lord of leaves and fishes, lead me across this great divide. Teach me how to love the sacred places, not as one devotes to One who made me in his image and is bound to love me back. I mean as a body loves its microbial skin, the worm its nape of loam, all secret otherness forgiven. Love beyond anything I will ever make of it. Forests of Antarctica From here the oldest trees will speak to one another in the oldest language, chemical breath, touch in darkness, rootlets seeking rootlets holding hands underground for succor. And I could pass among them hearing nothing. Or I could pause on the tilted light of slate-scrabbled path in a silence of moss and try to fathom their stillness: How nothing stirs their hearts. How patience is a promise a seed makes to its ground, from the day of cracking and rooting in, clinging to this escarpment since before the trial of Socrates, before the tilting up of plinths at Stonehenge. Already ringed with moss and age when Jesus walked out of Nazareth... In filtered tree fern light I confess the sins of my tribe: we worship the future, demean the past, pay no mind to the present. But a future, cut off from the promise of ever joining history, lies already dead on its altar while we chew on our restless feet.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    I've read (and mostly enjoyed) the fiction and non-fiction of Ms. Kingsolver, but this was my first time reading her poetry. (It's only her second collection in a lengthy writing career.) This collection is divided into thematic sections: 1. How to Fly (in which every poem title begins with "How to...") 2. Pellegrinaggio (poems about a trip to Italy with her Italian-American mother-in-law) 3. This Is How They Come Back to Us (poems dedicated to the deceased) 4. Walking Each Other Home (poems about r I've read (and mostly enjoyed) the fiction and non-fiction of Ms. Kingsolver, but this was my first time reading her poetry. (It's only her second collection in a lengthy writing career.) This collection is divided into thematic sections: 1. How to Fly (in which every poem title begins with "How to...") 2. Pellegrinaggio (poems about a trip to Italy with her Italian-American mother-in-law) 3. This Is How They Come Back to Us (poems dedicated to the deceased) 4. Walking Each Other Home (poems about relationships) 5. Dancing with the Devil (poems about literature) 6. Where It Begins (a dense six-page ode to knitting -- my favorite, see excerpt below) 7. The Nature of Objects (poems about nature -- my second favorite section) For me, the collection got stronger as it progressed. Save the best for last & all that? However, the poem that stuck with me the most is "My Mother's Last Forty Minutes," which addresses her relationship with her mother, intertwined with her mother's death: This might be the moment to step one last time from the bedside to mention that while we spoke kindly, mostly, my mother and I did not love one another. Ever, not even when I was a baby--as I've lately learned from letters she wrote her friend from a cold plywood house in Annapolis where I crawled up her legs and drove her nuts, where she begged my two-year-old brother to look after me, wished Dad would come home from the navy and they could zoom away from us in their aquamarine Chevrolet. When women are instructed to bear children, we don't think of such possibilities. That we are on our own here. There is no Dean's List. The blessing is that later, in better times, she had another daughter. I cherished my sister too; it's no fault of hers that lightning only strikes once. I would be the unspeakable first failure that stuck in my mother's throat, the child who would never be gentled, or allowed to touch her good things, or even allowed to take her to lunch, but could take the rap, the bad daughter. However I might hold myself to the goods of my own life, the too-many lovers, the eventual sweet husband, the daughters more necessary to me than my two eyes, none of this could alter the daughter I was. Damn. My favorite section from my favorite poem, "Where It Begins": ...You pick up sticks because Time is just asking for it, already lost before it arrives. The frightful movie your family has chosen for Friday night, for instance. They insist it will be watched, so with just the one lamp turned on at the end of the sofa you can be there too, keeping your hands busy and your eyeshades half drawn; yes, people will be murdered, cars will be wrecked, and you will come through in one piece, plus a pair of mittens. It's the same everywhere. Your river is rife with doldrums and eddies: the waiting room, the plane, the train, the lecture, the meeting. Oh, sweet mother of Christ, the meeting. The-PTA-the-town-council-the-school-board-the-bored- board, interminably haggled items of the agenda. Your feet want to run for their lives but your fingers know to dig in the bag and unsheathe their handy stays against impatience, the smooth paired oars, sturdy lifeboat of yarn. This meeting may bottom-drag and list on its keel, stranded in the Sargasso Sea of Agenda, and you alone will sail away on your thrifty raft of unwasted time. You alone, to swaddle the world in wool.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kelly K.

    "May I say that life is filled with instructions we / just don't believe we are ever going to need?" Three and a half stars. I've always been drawn to the poetic style of Barbara Kingsolver's writing (e.g. "How to stay at this desk when the sun / is barefooting cartwheels over the grass"), so of course I was drawn to this book, her second collection of poetry. I loved large portions of it-- the "how to" poems felt prescriptive (maybe especially in times of pandemic) in the best possible way; the c "May I say that life is filled with instructions we / just don't believe we are ever going to need?" Three and a half stars. I've always been drawn to the poetic style of Barbara Kingsolver's writing (e.g. "How to stay at this desk when the sun / is barefooting cartwheels over the grass"), so of course I was drawn to this book, her second collection of poetry. I loved large portions of it-- the "how to" poems felt prescriptive (maybe especially in times of pandemic) in the best possible way; the cycle Pellegrinaggio was a favorite of mine; and the section "This Is How They Come Back to Us" and "My Mother's Last Forty Minutes" were especially beautiful even in the heartbreak. Other specific poems and phrases caught my attention. The burning of Notre Dame. Advice to female poets. I highlighted too many lovely, vibrant phrases and lines to share here-- both funny and sad, thought-provoking and whimsical. That being said, the first few sections of the book were much easier for me to get through than the last few. It's probably personal preference that my attention wandered when she turned to the natural world and stopped focusing so much on the human part of it. People who like that aspect of Kingsolver's writing might appreciate these poems more than I did. Overall, though, I'm very thankful to HarperCollins Publishers for the ARC through NetGalley, and I plan to revisit various poems.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Galen Johnson

    I'm relatively new to reading poetry, so I don't think most of my thoughts on this book are really all that interesting to others. The one exception is that I feel obliged to point out one poem that could be very offensive to some readers, and highlights the need for more diversity in publishing. The poem "My Derby Party" describes the lavish treatment of racehorses, but ends in comparing the lack of choice of the animal to being a "well-shod mansion slave." No. As Ashitha Nagesh wrote in the In I'm relatively new to reading poetry, so I don't think most of my thoughts on this book are really all that interesting to others. The one exception is that I feel obliged to point out one poem that could be very offensive to some readers, and highlights the need for more diversity in publishing. The poem "My Derby Party" describes the lavish treatment of racehorses, but ends in comparing the lack of choice of the animal to being a "well-shod mansion slave." No. As Ashitha Nagesh wrote in the Independent about humans using animals for food and cosmetics testing, "It’s not entirely wrong in itself to say that this is a form of slavery...However, there's a moral limit to how far you can take this argument. Or more specifically, where you can take it. No matter how strongly you feel about the rights of animals, it’s still so wrong to use images of other people's slavery to make your point. This isn't because it’s offensive to compare a human to a cow – the whole point of veganism is that animals are equal to humans, after all – but it's hugely offensive and insensitive to co-opt another group's history of brutal oppression." This poem just left a bad taste in myself, and very much left me thinking this is a poetry book for white women.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    This just wasn't for me. I feel like I've read some really good poetry this year and I don't know why I couldn't get into this one but it was a struggle to say the least. I chose to listen to the audiobook format of this because I figured it would be a quick 2 hour read but boy was I mistaken. The amount of times I rewound this book to figure out what was going on was astronomical. One moment I felt like she was talking about having kids... then how to cure sweat potatoes... then Italy... then he This just wasn't for me. I feel like I've read some really good poetry this year and I don't know why I couldn't get into this one but it was a struggle to say the least. I chose to listen to the audiobook format of this because I figured it would be a quick 2 hour read but boy was I mistaken. The amount of times I rewound this book to figure out what was going on was astronomical. One moment I felt like she was talking about having kids... then how to cure sweat potatoes... then Italy... then her mom... and then birds? I really have no idea because the themes were all over the place. The reader of this book was so monotone that I fell asleep to it a handful of times. What turned into a 2 hour book ended up being a week-long book and I'm salty about it. I still have no clue what I read, I should have DNF'd it when I had the chance for my own sanity.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    I enjoyed this book of poems. They are readable, relatable and mostly understandable. The book is broken into seven sections. Each has a theme, the first being a quirky sort of “how to” that pulls you straight into the book. My favorite section is the second “Pellegrinaggio” where these poems take you on the journey of her and family traveling in Italy with her mother-in-law. If you’ve never read poetry before, this book may pull you in. Thanks to HarperCollins Publishers and NetGalley for an unc I enjoyed this book of poems. They are readable, relatable and mostly understandable. The book is broken into seven sections. Each has a theme, the first being a quirky sort of “how to” that pulls you straight into the book. My favorite section is the second “Pellegrinaggio” where these poems take you on the journey of her and family traveling in Italy with her mother-in-law. If you’ve never read poetry before, this book may pull you in. Thanks to HarperCollins Publishers and NetGalley for an uncorrected electronic advance review copy of this book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nan

    Turns out Barbara Kingsolver can write some really good poetry, too. In her second collection, there are sections of how-to poems, reflections on a family trip to her mother-in-law's birthplace in Italy, eulogies for loved ones, remembrances of past life experiences, and odes to the natural world. While all those components may not have cohesive feel, it didn't bother me at all. Some of my favorites: "Love Poem, With Birds", "My Mother's Last Forty Minutes" and "How to Survive This" (written bef Turns out Barbara Kingsolver can write some really good poetry, too. In her second collection, there are sections of how-to poems, reflections on a family trip to her mother-in-law's birthplace in Italy, eulogies for loved ones, remembrances of past life experiences, and odes to the natural world. While all those components may not have cohesive feel, it didn't bother me at all. Some of my favorites: "Love Poem, With Birds", "My Mother's Last Forty Minutes" and "How to Survive This" (written before the pandemic, but seemingly tailor-made for this moment). Actual rating: 4.75

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tamara

    Very beautiful. My favorites: Creation Stories (about motherhood), Where it Begins (about seasons and circle of life through knitting metaphor), Ghost Pipes (a real plant that she uses as a metaphor to make your own way), How to Survive This (just like it sounds), and Six Women Swimming Naked in the Ocean.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

    oooh. Yes. Lovely. Some, of course, appealed to me more than others.

  29. 5 out of 5

    KatieSuzanne

    During pandemic times I've being completing my reading of all Barbara Kingsolver's works. I was delighted to see an additional title come up in my list this summer and I was not disappointed. If you are a fan of her writing you will be a fan of her poetry and maybe even more so. Two poems were so especially delightful, "Lemon Orchard Blue" and "Great Barrier" I will probably end up purchasing my own copy just to read them over again. I had listened to the audio of the poems read by the author an During pandemic times I've being completing my reading of all Barbara Kingsolver's works. I was delighted to see an additional title come up in my list this summer and I was not disappointed. If you are a fan of her writing you will be a fan of her poetry and maybe even more so. Two poems were so especially delightful, "Lemon Orchard Blue" and "Great Barrier" I will probably end up purchasing my own copy just to read them over again. I had listened to the audio of the poems read by the author and it was great.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jkrulder

    These poems haunted me - some so relevant it felt like I could have written them, some reflecting a longing I have for things to come.

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