Poem: A History Without Suffering by E.A. Markham


A couple months ago I had the opportunity to compete in a regional Poetry Out Loud competition. For those of you that don't know, Poetry Out Loud is a dramatic poetry reading competition for high-schoolers, and is sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts. I had so much fun meeting new people, while also getting to hear some pretty awesome poetry. That being said, at the competition each contestant shared three different poems, and I've decided to share one of my favorites from the ones I presented. A History Without Suffering by E.A. Markham is a powerful poem for all of us, and I love how relevant it is in our world today. Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on it, or another poem that you love. Have a great day, and keep on reading!

-The Soup Chef

A History Without Suffering

By E.A. Markham

In this poem there is no suffering.

It spans hundreds of years and records

no deaths, connecting when it can,

those moments where people are healthy

and happy, content to be alive. A Chapter,

maybe a Volume, shorn of violence

consists of an adults reading aimlessly.

This line is the length of a full life

smuggled in while no one was plotting 

against a neighbour, except in jest.

Then, after a gap, comes Nellie. She

is in a drought-fisted field 

with a hoe. This is her twelfth year

on the land, and today her back 

doesn't hurt. Catechisms of self-pity 

and of murder have declared a day's truce

in the Civil War within her. So today,

we can bring Nellie, content with herself,

with the world, into our History.

For a day. In the next generation

we find a suitable subject camping 

near the border of a divided country:

for a while no one knows how near. For these

few lines she is ours. But how about

the lovers? you ask, the freshly-washed 

body close to yours; sounds, smells, tastes;

anticipation of the young, the edited memory

of the rest of us? How about thoughts 

higher than their thinkers?... Yes, yes.

Give them half a line and a mass of footnotes:

they have their own privileged history,

like inherited income beside our husbandry.

We bring our History up to date

in a city like London: someone's just paid

the mortgage, is free of guilt

and not dying of cancer; and going 

past the news-stand, doesn't see a headline

advertising torture. This is all

recommended reading, but in small doses. 

It shows you can avoid suffering, if you try. 
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Book Review: The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket


Genre: Fiction
Ages: 8+
Rating: 8.5/10

     I may seem redundant saying this, but I genuinely feel as though this Series of Unfortunate Events gets better and better with each book I read. This 10th chapter of the Baudelaire's story explained many questions from the previous nine novels, while at the same time creating more mysteries in need of being solved. I've said it once, and I'll say it twice: if you have yet to read these books, please do so RIGHT AWAY! Readers both young and old will find something to appreciate in Snicket's satirically comical writing style.

     Surrounded by a gang of sinister villains at the top of a desolate wintry mountain, the Baudelaire orphans must once again have all their wits about them as they concoct a plan to save their skins. Just when all hope seems to be lost, the siblings confront an unlikely ally, who just might have the answers to questions that have haunted the three children ever since their parents died. What results is a trying battle of good versus evil, in which the Baudelaire's must come to terms with the moral consequences of their own actions.

Memorable Quote:
"I know that having a good vocabulary doesn't guarantee that I'm a good person, but it does mean I've read a great deal. And in my experience, well-read people are less likely to be evil."

Have you read any of the books in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events before? If so, please tell us what you thought of them, right here at Reading Soup! It's always a pleasure to hear your literary thoughts and opinions. Have an amazing day, and keep on reading!

- The Soup Chef
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Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde


Genre: Fiction
Ages: 15 and Up
Rating: 9/10

     I picked up a copy of this book without knowing what it was about. I genuinely had no idea what to expect at the outset of the novel, but by the end I found myself fascinated by the complex set of events in the story. A darkly poetic novel, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, presents a compelling message regarding sin and redemption. Riddled with paradoxes, satire, allusions, and social commentary, this book has something for all of us to relate to, or learn from, despite the fact that it was written over 100 years ago.
     Unlike my other book reviews, I will refrain from sharing what this novel is about. Personally, I feel as though not knowing any information about this book prior to reading it helped enrich my understanding of the story, while increasing my appreciation of Wilde's writing overall. I hope you all go and pick up a copy of this entrancing and powerful read, as it is a timeless literary classic that I believe we all should be acquainted with.

- The Soup Chef 

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Poem: Aristocrats: "I Think I Am Becoming A God" by Keith Douglas


Dear Readers,

In September of last year, I came across this poem while browsing the internet. I decided to save it, with the intention of sharing it on Reading Soup later on. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the author of this piece, Keith Douglas was an English poet who fought in the Western Desert campaign during World War II. Although he died during the infamous invasion of Normandy, Douglas was still well known for his war-related poetry and memoirs. This noted, Douglas' experiences in the war largely play into this piece. I hope you all appreciate this poem, and please feel free to share your thoughts. Stay healthy, and keep on reading!

- The Soup Chef

Aristocrats: "I Think I Am Becoming A God"
By Keith Douglas

The noble horse with courage in his eye,
clean in the bone, looks up at a shellburst:
away fly the images of the shires
but he puts the pipe back in his mouth.
Peter was unfortunately killed by an 88;
it took his leg away, he died in the ambulance.
I saw him crawling on the sand, he said
It's most unfair, they've shot my foot off.

How can I live among this gentle
obsolescent breed of heroes, and not weep?
Unicorns, almost,
for they are fading into two legends
in which their stupidity and chivalry
are celebrated. Each, fool and hero, will be an immortal.
These plains were their cricket pitch
and in the mountains the tremendous drop fences
brought down some of the runners. Here then
under the stones and earth they dispose themselves,
I think with their famous unconcern. 
It is not gunfire I hear, but a hunting horn.
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The Border: A Double Sonnet by Alberto Rios


Dear Readers,

This summer I was at a U2 concert. Before the show began, this poem along with several others was displayed on the main screen on stage. I thought it was quite powerful, and have finally got around to sharing it here. Please feel free to contribute your opinions on it, or tell us of any other poems that have stood out to you. Stay warm,

- The Soup Chef

The Border: A Double Sonnet 
By Alberto Rios

The border is a line that birds cannot see.
The border is a beautiful piece of paper folded carelessly in half.
The border is where flint first met steel, starting a century of fires.
The border is a belt that is too tight, holding things up but making it hard to breathe.
The border is a rusted hinge that does not bend. 
The border is the blood clot in the river's veins.
The border says stop to the wind, but the wind speaks another language, and keeps going. 
The border is a brand, the "Double-X" of barbed wire scarred into the skin of so many. 
The border has always been a welcome stopping place but is now a stop sign, always red. 
The border is a jump rope still there even after the game is finished. 
The border is a real crack in an imaginary dam.
The border used to be an actual place, but now, it is the act of a thousand imaginations.
The border, the word border, sounds like order, but in this place they do not rhyme.
The border is a handshake that becomes a squeezing contest. 

The border smells like cars at noon and wood smoke in the evening.
The border is the place between the two pages in a book where the spine is bent too far. 
The border is two men in love with the same woman. 
The border is an equation in search of an equals sign.
The border is the location of the factory where lightning and thunder are made. 
The border is "NoNo" The Clown, who can't make anyone laugh.
The border is a locked door that has been promoted.
The border is a moat but without a castle on either side. 
The border has become Checkpoint Chale.
The border is a place of plans constantly broken and repaired and broken.
The border is mighty, but even the parting of the seas created a path, not a barrier.
The border is a big, neat, clean, clear black line on a map that does not exist. 
The border is the line in new bifocals: below, small things get bigger; above, nothing changes.
The border is a skunk with a white line down its back. 

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