Book Review: The Little Red Book of Poe-ee-tree-Words from the Heart edited by Mrs. Fields


Note: Over 10 years ago I reviewed this book for a U2 fansite. In honor of Poetry month, I decided to dust it off, make a few revisions, and publish it here at The Book Self.

U2 fans are not your typical rock and roll fans. Sure, they buy the CDs, download their music, and go to the concerts, but being a U2 fan is so much more than that. U2 fans are motivated. They are inspired to open their minds, learn new things, and get involved in causes bigger than themselves. However, they are also inspired to use own creativity. This is evident in a slim, yet powerful book of poetry and short stories called The Little Red Book of Poet-ee-tree: Words from the Heart.

The Little Red Book of Poe-ee-tree is a volume containing heartfelt prose by a collection of U2 fans throughout the globe. Their love of U2’s music and the written word lead these fans to The Heart. The Heart was an Internet poetry forum where writers cultivated their writing skills, shared their work with others, and got their creative juices flowing. Sadly, it shut down in 2003, but fortunately for the Heart community, U2 fans, and lovers of good writing, the works created for the Heart are not lost forever. They are compiled into The Little Red Book of Poe-ee-tree.

All the royalties of The Little Red Book of Poe-ee-tree went to the African Well Fund, a charity founded in 2002 by a group of U2 fans to provide a clean water sources to many African communities. The African Well Fund has built and supplied clean water and sanitation projects in Uganda, Angola and Zimbabwe. The Little Red Book of Poe-ee-tree was just one part of the African Well Fund’s comprehensive vision to help others.

The poets published in The Little Red Book of Poe-ee-tree write about love and loss, heartbreak and joy. They write with clear-eyed optimism and downcast despair. These poems take us on a journey of both the writers’ hearts and souls, and our individual interpretations to their work. Some poems a mere few lines, whereas others nearly tell a story.

Jennifer’s startling “Modern Day Warfare” uses the frightening images of mustard-gas lies and biological-warfare thoughts, along with rat-ta-tat fists to chillingly describe abuse both emotional and physical.

Kel, in the poem “Africa” describes the continent as a living, breathing human female, inhaling her warm earthy air. This poem puts a very personal face on one’s personal journey throughout the African landscape.

Mrs. F. conveys the love a mother has for her children in the poem “Earth and Angels.” Phrases like “He darts in dizzy zig zags…Listens wide-eyed, hoots at the owl” and “Head filled with fairies and music…She skips and sings” give us an intimate look at the special qualities that make our sons and daughters so special to us.

All the poems, whether short or lengthy, are very strong, and open to many interpretations. I don’t know how these poets came to their words. Sometimes a poem just comes to someone and easily flows out onto paper. Sometimes constructing a poem is like throwing a bunch of words into the air, and then constructing a poem using the scattered words. However the poems came to be in this book, they came through what Allen Ginsberg once called, “ordinary magic.”

Several short stories are also collected in The Little Red Book of Poe-ee-tree. When writing a short story, writers also face challenges. Writers need to grab the reader and tell a complete story in a short amount of words. And these stories have to be engaging, draw the reader in, and achieve a believable conclusion without seeming to be tacked on in haste.

This is expertly done in Laurie CK’s “Pennycake.” In this story, carefree memories of a 1970’s childhood are recalled with its birthday rituals and lazy summer days. The brief mentions of Noxzema, Keith Partridge, and 8-Track tapes give the reader a strong idea of a certain place in time. This story also evokes what it is like to be a child facing real life unexpected grief and a subsequent loss of faith.

The one quibble I do have with this book (and it is a minor one) is the limited amount of writers. I don’t know if this is because only a few writers were accepted or only a few writers chose to submit their work. This could also be because the Heart was a small group to begin with. If anything this book begs for a sequel.

 

Book Reviews: One Step Closer-Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God by Christian Scharen

There’s cathedrals and the alleyways in our music. I think the alleyway is usually on the way to the cathedral, where you can hear your own footsteps and you’re slightly nervous and looking over your shoulder and wondering if there’s somebody following you. And then you get there and you realize there was somebody following you: it’s God.”— Bono

Rock ‘n’ roll has long been called the “devil’s music.” But for many U2 fans, it’s also been known to uplift and awaken our spirituality. Christian Scharen, currently Vice President of Applied Research and the Center for the Study of Theological Education at Auburn (he also taught at Yale), examines how U2′s music not only makes our feet move, but also moves our hearts, minds and souls in his thought-provoking book “One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God.”

Scharen is a long-time U2 fan who knows both the band’s music and how the teachings of Biblical scripture is infused into nearly every one of U2′s songs, not only in the obvious like “40” from 1983′s War album, a song taken from Psalm 40 and refrain from Psalm 6, but less apparent songs like “Discotheque” from 1997′s Pop.

One Step Closer is divided into three parts, which Scharen calls steps. The first part is called “Singing Scripture,” in which Scharen points to the ways scripture speaks of God’s work, using various voices of scripture like psalms, prophecies, parables and the apocalypse. Scharen takes these aspects of the scriptures and shows how these elements are evident in U2′s music.

In the second part of the book, “Singing the Cross,” Scharen uses such themes as faith, hope and love and explains how these themes are evident within U2′s music. He also discusses how these themes have tension with less lofty themes that we found ourselves struggling with like despair and selfishness.

In the final section, Scharen introduces the idea “Singing the Truth,” a way to live the cross. This section takes in account on how U2 lives out their faith. Most of us aren’t unfamiliar on how the members of U2 live out their faith beyond the boundaries of their music, especially regarding Bono’s tireless work on behalf of the African continent.

Throughout the book, Scharen gives examples of U2 songs and how they relate to different scriptures and themes found in the Bible. For songs embodying themes of faith and doubt, Scharen offers songs like “I Will Follow” from U2′s 1980 debut Boy and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” from 1987′s The Joshua Tree. In songs with themes of the saint and the sinner, Scharen mentions songs like “Bad” from 1984′s The Unforgettable Fire and “Acrobat” from 1991′s Achtung Baby. Scharen quotes lyrics from these songs to make the reader understand the themes and also asks the reader to think of other U2 songs that follow various Biblical ideas. I can imagine this inspiring U2 fans everywhere to run to their CD collections or grab their digital devices to find U2 songs that follow these themes. I also wonder if Christian U2 fans will open up their Bibles to find different scriptures that relate to U2′s music.

Though a Lutheran pastor and a professor of divinity, Scharen takes a critical look at the modern church and asks it to take a good, hard look at itself. Religious institutions have to ask themselves why so many U2 fans feel no connection to the church or religion as a whole, but find God’s word or a “higher power” in U2′s music. Scharen isn’t afraid to tell the modern church to get over “religion” to get over its obsession of piety and judgment of everyone and everything. The goal of the modern church, instead, should be to inspire, forgive, uplift and do good work in the world around us. I know as a lapsed Roman Catholic turned Unitarian Universalist full committed to my faith, I have more often felt the spirit of something greater than I at a U2 concert than I ever did in all my years of going to Mass (but service at my UU church comes pretty close.

I don’t think you have to be particularly religious or even a Christian to gain something from this book. Religion is a fascinating topic, especially in how it can relate to modern music. Furthermore, Scharen gives thorough explanations of different aspects of scripture for readers not quite up on their Bible studies. Fortunately, Scharen is respectful to those of all religious backgrounds. And though “One Step Closer” is a scholarly book, it isn’t dry and acts as a reference to both U2 fans and those looking to know the Bible more fully.

In a world where religion is often quite polarizing in these troubling times, Scharen offers U2′s music and its messages as a unifying force. In “One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God,” the secular and the sacred aren’t mutually exclusive.

Brag Book (Not Just About Me)

dancing leslie knopeJust so you know, I’ve put a couple of book reviews on hold. I was recently approached about writing a couple of articles and will be working on these for a couple of weeks. However, I will dip into my treasure chest and post some old book reviews I wrote a while back at this blog amongst a few other things. I appreciate your patience.

Also, Nora wrote a great review of the U2 concert and posted it at Ticketmaster’s website. Here it is:

“Ok. I’ve been to many U2 shows and they are the best band alive live!!! This show is not as “immediate/viseral” as their other tour shows, but it “lingers” with you. U2 evolves visually with every tour and always brings something new to the table. The wall of lights is amazing and transcends their show into part art gallery, movie, musical theater, and museum worthiness. The walkway is almost “runway” and there are parts that are almost “Oz” like, or if God wanted to speak to people, he would use U2’s wall of lights. Very trippy, digital and spiritual all into one.

U2 shows, afterwards, used to make me want to storm an embassy but this show makes me want to draw, or make videos or something fine artsy. New and interesting feeling coming from the band that I loved for the past 31 years! Always something new to think about with this band!

Favorite moment: Kickass version of Gloria!

Opening act(s): None”

And it’s been years, but I finally got Larry Mullen, Jr in bed!

Larry. Bed. Enough said.

Writer’s Block

Beautiful DayHello everyone. I hope everyone is having a good week, and I hope my fellow Americans had a fun and safe 4th of July.

Due to the holiday, I was fortunate to have a four-day week-end, which I kicked off the week-end by spending both Thursday and Friday in Chicago with my lovely friends Nora and Elaine. But I didn’t just go to Chicago to visit with my friends. Nora, Elaine and I went to see U2 at their final show at the United Center. We’ve been huge U2 fans for years now, and though we joke that U2 are total corporate rock, they are still the most amazing band to see live. I’m still kvelling.

Here is a link to U2 thanking Chicago and their fans. Awww, right back at ya, lads!

Instead of staying with my friends, we camped out at a hotel room. This is what greeted us. My fellow Criminal Minds fans will get the reference.

Rossi

What else? Well, I should have a guest review up tomorrow. I’m about to start writing review for book that is both a memoir and collection of essays. And I’m half-way through reading another book that I’m going to review once I’m done. Ah, yes, a blogger’s work is never done.

Writer’s Block

Hello everyone. Happy first day of March. Can you believe March is already here? January and February just flew by. Like anybody out there I’ve been busy with life. Tomorrow is my birthday, and I’ll be celebrating it by watching the Oscars. Though I haven’t seen a lot of movies lately, I started my writing vocation by writing movie reviews and about film in general, both professionally and personally. Plus, one of my friends and I love to text each other during awards shows, so tomorrow night I’ll be on my couch texting with one of besties about the Oscar telecast. We’re both huge U2 fans so we are positively verklempt that they’ve been nominated for best original song. I hope they win. They should considering it’s my birthday-snerk.

As for this blog, I am currently immersed in a classic and I will write a review of this book for my retro review series. And I picked up a novel at my local library that piqued my interest. I also got an email from Michael Adelberg who wrote Thinking Man’s Bully. His latest literary effort Saving the Hooker is coming out March 21st. As you know, I really liked Thinking Man’s Bully so I’m looking forward to reading Saving the Hooker. Here is a glowing review. Way to go Mr. Adelberg!