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KAPOW! celebrating ten years at Powells.com
KAPOW! Decade of Reading essay contest
What was your most memorable reading experience of the last ten years?

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of Powells.com, we're asking readers worldwide to describe their most memorable reading experience of the past ten years. To get you started, a few well-known writers and Powell's employees have already taken the question for a spin. Here is one of their answers.
Selected Writings of Juan Ramon Jimenez

Selected Writings of Juan Ramon Jimenez
by Juan Ramon Jimenez

Your Price: $21.00
(New - Trade Paper)

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Into the Garden: A Wedding Anthology: Poetry and Prose on Love and Marriage

Into the Garden: A Wedding Anthology: Poetry and Prose on Love and Marriage
by Robert Hass and Stephen Mitchell

The best collection of wedding-related poetry I found. The editors also include an useful primer on wedding service scripts (in case you're writing your own), presenting standard examples from Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Zen traditions. Dave, Powells.com
List Price $15.99
Your Price: $3.50
(Used - Trade Paper)

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Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle
by Kurt Vonnegut

I was visiting a friend at college, killing time while she was at class, when I found her roommate's old copy of Cat's Cradle on the floor – my first Vonnegut experience. If you haven't read him, this is the perfect place to start. Dave, Powells.com
List Price $16.00
Your Price: $8.95
(Used - Trade Paper)

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East of Eden

East of Eden
by John Steinbeck

I can't recall ever falling into an epic novel faster. By chapter three (of fifty-five), I was hooked. One of many underlined sentences: "A thing so triumphantly illogical, so beautifully senseless as an army can't allow a question to weaken it." Dave, Powells.com
Your Price: $9.50
(Used - Trade Paper)

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Dave Weich on a Fragrance, Enormous and Alive

So you're looking for a wedding poem.

If you work at Powell's, you check out a half dozen used books and bring them home to live with you. (Employees can borrow from our Portland stores and warehouses for up to six months.) At first this just means one more pile of books you don't have time for, a new pile about weddings moving in among others about baseball, travel, and history, piles leaning against furniture and piles no longer, technically, piled, but for weeks now expanding out of the corner of your bedroom and beginning to overtake the greater body of hardwood floor: novels and histories, picture books, memoirs, and likely no shortage of reference; piles of books culled from one bookcase and not yet relocated to the next; piles to return; piles to give away; a pile leaned up against the closet door to keep the cats from getting in. (The doorknob has gone missing.)

A few days go by. Then a week. Then another. You decide to take action. The books need better placement or they don't stand a chance.

To your backpack you assign an anthology of wedding-related poetry and prose. You shelve The Knot Guide to Wedding Vows and Traditions and The New Jewish Wedding as eye-level face-outs on the heavily trafficked route between dining room table and armchair. You seed your favorite sitting spaces like any user-conscious planner would: a wedding book for the living room, one for the nightstand, a third for the front porch.

The Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez married Zenobia Camprub? Aymar in 1916. Forty years later, three days before she died, Jiménez thanked her for a lifetime's help and companionship as he accepted the Nobel Prize.

His poem appears to be untitled.

I unpetalled you, like a rose,
to see your soul,
and I didn't see it.

But everything around
—horizons of lands and of seas—,
everything, out to the infinite,
was filled with a fragrance,
enormous and alive.

Going back to the poem a third and fourth time... Revisiting its lines on the couch in the evening...

I unpetalled you, like a rose, Sorry about that, by the way,
to see your soul but really I had our best interests in mind. Chalk it up to youthful naivet?. The youngest child of an enduring first marriage, I was when you met me an impressionable student of romantic poetry,
and I didn't see it. and thus hopeless at love, fundamentally uninformed about the practical realities of desire.
But everything around We decided to move in together after just a few months. But Midwesterners we are not. Having mined as much as we could from Colorado — namely, each other —
—horizons of lands and of seas—, we packed our belongings into a storage facility, stuffed ourselves and the big dog into my truck, and roamed for six weeks between coasts, ten thousand miles, visiting minor league baseball parks on a tour of strange small towns we'd likely never set foot in again. A housebound winter followed in the empty, icy woods of Maine before we set down roots finally in Oregon.
everything, out to the infinite, Work, bills, aging, injustice, abuses of power, the fucking Yankees every year,
was filled with a fragrance, none of it stuck. Because there'd always be more time with you ahead, dinner together or a walk or another vacation to dream up. Always I could bank on the end of the day at least, when I'd crawl into bed beside you and lie there listening to your breath in the dark,
enormous and alive. thinking, If I'm lucky she'll outlive me. The world needn't bear my sight of it without her.

What makes reading memorable? Often, for me, it's not the words on the page so much as the context in which they're consumed: galloping through Vonnegut novels in the spare minutes between college classes (his fractured structures perfectly suited for frequent stops and starts) or discovering East of Eden on a summerlong escape from the northeast — more than any scene in the book, I recall the back of the van as it rolled across western states, my yellow Penguin paperback and the distant, dusty horizon.

Next month, in the field of my childhood summers, I'll recite Jiménez's poem among friends and family. Discovering him in the anthology, reading his words to my bride: that ought to lodge in my brain for a good long time.

About Dave Weich
Dave created our biweekly newsletter, PowellsBooks.news, and interviews authors for the site. He is currently at work on a book about marriage that he enigmatically insists bears a direct relation to Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods.

Still haven't had enough of Dave? Browse his staff picks page.

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