Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for October 2018

October 10, 2018

October’s meeting was a discussion of members’ personal choices in the area of poetry. The first selection was Jesus the Son of Man, by Khalil Gibran. This book is a series of poems and prose selections, written as if those who came in contact with Jesus had set down their impressions and understanding him and his actions. The selections take various points of view and describe different incidents in the life of Jesus, from his birth to his death and after. Some of the “authors” are familiar, such as Mary Magdalene, Matthew, Luke, John the Baptist, and Caiaphas, but others are not named but merely described, as “A Persian Philosopher in Damascus”, or “A Shepherd in South Lebanon”. Taken together, they present a new picture of the Jesus we know from Christianity. Book club members were intrigued by the structure and imagination of this book, and several were interested in pursuing reading it as well.

The next selection was The Negritude Poets by Ellen Conroy Kennedy. This book presents poems translated from the French and written by people escaping from colonial Africa and from America. Written in the 1920s and 30s, these poems present a powerful indictment of racial problems in the United States, as well as the legacy of colonialism in Africa. According to the presenter, they also showcase the difference in colonialism between the British and the French, especially in terms of what each country was willing to invest in its colonies and their people. This book also elicited much interest in book club members.

Next up was Moments with Mary, a collection of poems by Mary Walters. Several book club members were familiar with this author, a Baha’i who lived in Dexter. Following a request, the member presenting this book read a selection out loud to the group: To Find a Better Place.

Miles by Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe is an autobiography of the famous jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. According to the member presenting it, the book is frank about the problems Mr. Davis encountered in life, including racism, and discusses all aspects of his life, but especially his music and interactions with other musicians. Mr. Davis was a close friend of Dizzy Gillespie, and they won an award together. The book includes a discography and many pictures. Although it does not include poetry, it was presented as a discussion of one of the arts.

The next book presented was The Pocket Rumi by Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, edited by Kabir Helminski. This is a pocket edition of the renowned Sufi mystic poet who has been read for more than seven hundred years. The member presenting the book emphasized Rumi’s focus on the relationship between the individual and the beloved, which is an open-ended concept including whatever is beloved to the individual (a person, God, etc.). She was also pleased with how portable the small book is, and how it can be easily carried and referred to.

The last book presented was 101 Great American Poems by the American Poetry and Literacy Project. This book was put out by the Project in an effort to acquaint more Americans with the poetry of our history, and includes many familiar poems such as “Casey at the Bat” and “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”. It is available in several low-cost editions ($.99) to encourage purchase. The member presenting the book read the poem “Colossus” printed on the Statue of Liberty out loud to the group.

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