I don’t think Amy Pinkleberry would consider herself an epic literary citizen. She’s a woman trying to reclaim her life after it’s fallen apart. She’s trying to restore her mind from the damage done by interior voices she calls “the watchers.” But what makes Amy unique is that the key to reclaiming her life is poetry, specifically Neruda’s Memoirs, by Maureen Doallas.
In her work as a counselor at a rehabilitation center, author Laura Boggess has worked with people like Amy as well as other characters in the story. She’s currently leading a book club discussion for Tweetspeak patrons about Rick Hanson’s Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakeable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness. In Waiting for Neruda’s Memoirs, Boggess shows us how poetry can nurture that same resilient core.
There are a lot of people who find poetry to be healing (myself included). Not enough of us take it to the next level and share that with someone else so that they too become someone to whom poetry matters. We don’t become literary citizens.
Let’s define literary citizenship. It’s about fostering community among people who love the written word. There’s no hate-reading, no snarky reviews, just readers and writers growing together and expanding the reach of the literary into the everyday lives of everyday people.
In this novella, Amy proves herself to be a literary citizen more than once. She starts with one person, Justine, who accidentally receives her copy of Neruda’s Memoirs. Then she extends the literary love to Justine’s granddaughter and son-in-law. By the end of the story it’s clear that she is reaching an entire community.
Here at Tweetspeak we’ve created a list of ten ways to get you thinking about literary citizenship. It can start the way Amy Pinkleberry started, by sharing poetry (even when she didn’t really want to). From poems come friendships, and from friendship comes love. That is something not to miss.
I would as soon die as miss
morning coming up, the swelling round
of cloud before lightbursts, the press
of stars to complete a night’s worth of sky
for clearing dreams
In a way, Maureen Doallas started the literary citizenship, by writing her book of poems. Then Laura Boggess wrote a story, incorporating the poetry. Now you and I can read both. The question is what will we do next? How will we share the literary love?
Browse more Neruda’s Memoirs
“Megan Willome’s The Joy of Poetry is not a long book, but it took me longer to read than I expected, because I kept stopping to savor poems and passages, to make note of books mentioned, and to compare Willome’s journey into poetry to my own. The book is many things. An unpretentious, funny, and poignant memoir. A defense of poetry, a response to literature that has touched her life, and a manual on how to write poetry. It’s also the story of a daughter who loses her mother to cancer. The author links these things into a narrative much like that of a novel. I loved this book. As soon as I finished, I began reading it again.”
—David Lee Garrison, author of Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro