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Reading Time: Deadline edition

I can get books from my workplace library on loan for six months: I think I’ve mentioned before what a glorious indulgence I find this. Ahhhh, books. Anyway, the other side to that awesome deal is that, if someone places a request for a book I’ve got on loan, I’ve got two weeks to get it back to a library and into their waiting hands. Since I’m going away for a few weeks, I thought it’d be a good reason to clear off the To-Read, Library pile. I’ve churned through a fair few of them, but honestly, this was always a little optimistic. Here’s the story so far…

Easter Sunday – Peter Skrzynecki

A random grab from the shelf, this is a book of very intimate poems. Skrzynecki’s heart attack, bypass surgery and recovery triggered the introspective journey these poems chart, and that made it a helluva book to start with. Sometimes it takes me a few poems to get the hang of a poet’s voice — to let my ear settle to the new rhythms, to become familiar with their images, that sort of thing — and when those few poems are already revealing troubling introspection, it can be a little confronting. But after I clicked and came to understand Skrzynecki’s style, I reread those early poems with a much deeper appreciation. Skrzynecki writes observations of nature that still the flickering mind (especially, in Easter Sunday at least, of the New England region of north-east New South Wales) and invite reflection. The series of poems that describe his emergency, diagnosis and recovery from heart surgery are quiet and thoughtful, gentle and worried and grateful, full of the recovering voice.  The investigation of his religious beliefs is a strong ongoing theme in this introspective journey, which I guess isn’t very surprising when you think about it. But it’s food for thought and it’s food I enjoyed, uh, thinking about. A great collection with a strong voice, with evocative observations and beautiful images.

Light on Yoga – B.K.S. Iyengar

I’ve been reading this book for about a year now, and I’m glad I’ve read it. But I should emphasise it’s a resource: reading it from cover to cover is useful in the sense that I now know where to look for more details about asana, pranayama and the basic tenets underpinning yoga. I suspect my primary ongoing use will be to look up asana instructions. The book is a classic in yoga circles, and rightly so: published in 1966, there is a strong argument for its prominent role in the popularisation of yoga in the US. It opens with a detailed (but readable) explanation of the core beliefs from the yoga sutras and how a newcomer to yoga should approach these. The bulk of the book is the explanation of 200 asanas, using step-by-step instructions and black-and-white photos of an amazing yogi in the poses. The instructions are clear and straightforward, especially if you have any background in yoga and know your right from your left, and the photos very helpful. There are also difficulty rankings, and trust me, you should observe them. Some of these asanas are amazing. After the section on asana is a section on pranayama, yogic breathing exercises, and finally a yoga plan for the beginning yogi! This plan covers six years’ worth of practice, gradually becoming harder and harder and introducing more advance poses. That’s some awesome thoroughness right there. There’s also some very good indexes, matching photos to poses and listing poses as treatments to ailments, and a glossary of sanskrit terminology. Overall, a solid, thorough, clear and well-supported yoga resource.

Backbone – Harry Laing

It didn’t take me very long to figure out I really liked Laing’s poetry. There’s an earnestness and rawness that compels you to decide fairly quickly whether or not you enjoy his voice and enjoy it I did. Laing writes about the self, and the interpretation of the self through its relationship with the natural world. One series focuses on the relationship between physical trauma and the self, especially when that trauma is inflicted: a loved one. This collection finishes with a fantastic cycle that looks at climate change, bushfire, and the emotional and psychological challenges these issues present. If you identify your self with your country’s landscape, and the landscape suddenly seems brutal, fierce and destructive, where does that leave the self? Of you have always found space and succor in the beauty of the land, what happens when the land is crumbling? Laing’s poems are sincere, raw, and vivid, with a strong sense of humour and beautiful imagery. A fantastic collection, and I would like to read more of his work.

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