At the August Tulsa Community College Retirees’ meeting, the Book Whisperer scored books! Don Mathieson presented a quiz on Oklahoma trivia, and I won! The first prize was How Do You Go to the Bathroom in Space? by William R. Pogue. As a bonus, Don also gave me a copy of Oklahomeland (Okla Home Land) by Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, 2017-2018 Oklahoma Poet Laureate. Of course, the prizes came with strings: write reviews.
William R. Pogue was born in Okemah, OK. He earned his BS from Oklahoma Baptist University and an MS in mathematics from Oklahoma State University. He also received an honorary doctorate from Oklahoma Baptist University. He served in the Air Force and became an astronaut as well as a teacher, public speaker, and author.
As an astronaut, he was commander of the last crew of Skylab where the members set a record of 84 days which remained unbroken for twenty years. During their time in orbit, the crew completed a number of research experiments.
How Do You Go to the Bathroom in Space? has an introduction by John Glenn. In that introduction, Glenn ends with “I urge all readers to develop an inquisitive approach to the world around you. That is the first step toward solving the challenging puzzles and intriguing mysteries of life.” That’s good advice for all.
Pogue begins the book with answers to questions about himself, airplanes, astronauts, the military, and sundry other topics related to serving in the Air Force and as an astronaut. The whole book is written in question and answer format. That format allows Pogue to cover a wide range of subjects related to his life. That format also allows readers to dip into and out of the book rather than reading it in one sitting.
The appendix covers psychological effects, information on space camps, and recommended readings and other references. For anyone interested in space exploration, the book provides useful first-hand information as well as resources for further study.
And now for something completely different (for you Monte Python fans), let’s turn to Oklahomeland (Okla Home Land) by Jeanetta Calhoun Mish. Mish is 2017 – 2018 Oklahoma Poet Laureate. She is an accomplished poet, writer, and scholar with an impressive resume. Find more about her including a schedule of events at this Web site: http://jeanettacalhounmish.com/.
Mish, obviously, is a poet; she is also an essayist, editor, speaker, and poetry workshop leader. In Oklahomeland, Mish introduces readers unfamiliar with Oklahoma to “compelling narratives and imagery [that] entice you into caring as much as she does.”
Mish has won a number of awards for her work as a poet and editor. She won the 2010 Oklahoma Book Award for Poetry, the 2010 Western Heritage Award for Poetry from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and the 2010 WILLA Award for Poetry from Women Writing the West.
Oklahome includes essays on “Who/What? Oklahomans/Writing,” “A Review of Woody Guthrie’s House of Earth,” and “Looking for (Ralph) Ellison” among others.
Perhaps the most poignant is “The Oklahoma We Call Home.” In that essay, Mish writes about leaving Oklahoma at eighteen “to travel, to live in five other states and visit many others, to stay for extended periods in continental Europe, but I never felt at home in the landscape anywhere other than Oklahoma.”
She continues in “The Oklahoma We Call Home” to tell stories of time spent with her grandfather and of using the words he taught her. For example, she writes, “I call cicadas ‘locusts,’ because that’s what Grandpa called them.” Mish describes her grandfather’s voice as “musical…a soft baritone that felt more like velvet than cotton.”
When Mish goes on to say her grandfather and other men in the family did not talk much because “the women in our family didn’t leave much conversation for the men,” readers will feel as if they are sitting on the front porch at a family gathering. Perhaps a given reader’s own family is much the same.
Near the end of “The Oklahoma We Call Home,” Mish muses, “I’ve been gone from Oklahoma for a long time – most of 15 years. I needed to come home. The land calls me. I missed the trees, the abundant wildlife, the wind – and the smell.” Mish’s writing is evocative of the place of which she writes. She covers the warts in Oklahoma as well as the beauty and the talent.
Mish is contributing editor to Sugar Mule, “”a long-standing, world-converging website for general readers”: http://sugarmule.x10.mx/index.htm. Sugar Mule offers “fiction, essays, book reviews, all types of prose and poetry.” See Sugar Mule’s Facebook page: http://www.FACEBOOK.com/sugarmule for the monthly flash fiction selection.