Monday, February 23, 2009

Pointless post

I keep wanting to post, but I don't know what to say, or how to say what I want to say. Which is not to say that I have anything momentous to say.

And I need to get through the Poetry Friday links. Argh!

That's all.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Poetry Friday round-up here

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is here. Welcome, PFers; please leave your links in the comments and I will update this post with your contributions throughout the day!

My offering for the week, with a complimentary rambling introduction, is Vijaya Mukhopadhyay's "Wanting to Move."

Susan has a very clever parody, "The Love Song of Wolfgang Puck (with apologies to T.S. Eliot)" by Eileen Tse.

Julie Larios has responded to some of Naomi Shihab Nye's thoughts on poetry and mystery with an original poem on the famously mysterious Sphinx.

Tanita S. Davis has a striking and wonderfully thoughtful John Updike poem, "Religious Consolation."

Susan of Black-Eyed Susan shares a poem that she says makes her smile every time she reads it: "Poetry Should Ride the Bus" by Ruth Forman. I love the picture it paints of how real and immediate poetry should be.

Tabatha's contribution is "Fair Warning" by Alden Nowlan. I honestly laughed out loud at this one. It reminds me of a certain Jack Sparrow quote.

Mary Lee shares "Sleepers Awake" by John Ashbery.

Tricia has a poem about mathematical operations: "Numbers" by Mary Cornish.

Janet has a really lovely original poem, "Falling Asleep," about bedtime and listening.

Carol shares Marge Piercy's "To Be of Use."

Stacey of Two Writing Teachers tells us about an interesting-sounding new poetry book, Well-Defined, and lets us sample a poem from it called "Incessant."

Elaine Magliaro's posted an original rhyming acrostic poem, "Shadow," at Wild Rose Reader, and in honor of her daughter's engagement, she shares Robert Burns's "A Red, Red Rose" at Wild Rose Girls. (I still remember how puzzled and amused I was as a little kid by this poem's regional spellings.)

Andrea has an audio discussion of a rhyming novel, Zorgamazoo, at her place.

Laura Salas invites you over to her place to write a fifteen words or less poem inspired by a picture she's posted, and shares two original sijo. A new form to me.

Jama's got "An Apology" by Roger McGough, a British poet who was popular in the '60s.

Kurious Kitty is celebrating the founding of the USPS with Dana Gioia's "The Letter."

The Shelf Elf describes her contribution, Wendy Cope's "The Orange," as a poem about finding and approaching beauty in small things.

The Write Sisters share a "A Teacher's Prayer" by John Hillen. I never thought before of teachers praying for snow days, but I don't know why not.

Over at her own blog, Jet has posted her poem "At Sea," continuing with her theme of "poems of love and lust."

Linda shares some thoughts on poetry as well as Jane Kenyon's bittersweet "Otherwise."

The Stenhouse Blog offers Constantine Cavafy's "The City." Dark but beautiful and true, I think.

Fiddler has "Divine Geometry," an excerpt from Dante's Divine Comedy.

Author Amok interviews the author who recently won a Caldecott Honor for a picture biography of William Carlos Williams.

Sylvia Vardell has a birthday tribute to Kenn Nesbitt and a review of his new book, My Hippo Has the Hiccups.

John Mutford reviews Sarah Holbrook and Allan Wolf's More Than Friends.

Jone has an original sijo as well as some original poetry from several fifth graders.

Kelly shares a Jack Prelutsky poem.

Cloudscome has two original sijo from Monday's Poetry Stretch.

Kelly Fineman shares "Memory," by Thomas Baily Aldrich.

Seven Impossible Things slides in with an excerpt from "A River Runs Through It" which isn't poetry but could have been a prose poem.

Jennifer Knoblock has collected some snatches from six different poets.

Nandini's in an early spring mood; head over to her place to read "Day Lilies," by Rosanna Warren.

Liz In Ink's sharing some prose-poemy excerpts from Kathi Appelt's The Underneath.

Little Willow's posted a beautiful small Emily Dickinson.

Tiela Aisha Ansari shares an original poem on "golden-fingered dawn," which reminds me of Homer's "rosy-fingered dawn."

Mike Thomson's posted a video of poet Regie Gibson reading "When They Speak Of Our Time."

Humans ramble, trees long to walk

The poem I offer today is from one of my very favorite anthologies, This Same Sky (edited by Naomi Shihab Nye). It is one of those poems that stays in my head after I read it, rolling around with my thoughts and repeating parts of itself from time to time. It also carries some very strong memories from my own life.

When I was thirteen, I fell completely in love with ballet. It was the only thing I cared about, and I thought it was the only thing I would ever want to do with my life. (I don't know how to communicate how crazy about it I was, but imagine what it would take to motivate a normal seventh-grader to do sixty minutes of ballet exercises literally every single day of a summer, with no one else's involvement or encouragement. Or go check out some of my posts from 2003 and 2004 and you'll see a bit of how I was). However, up to that point my training had been fairly poor, and was very much limiting me. Training in ballet must not only be good, but it must start early and be intensive. I cannot think of any other pursuit in which this is more necessary.

So I was desperate to start dancing at a professional school before I lost any more time, but I was in a bit of a sitch — basically, for a thirteen-year-old to be accepted somewhere where she can receive really good training, she needs to have already had some good training to start with, and I did not have that.

I did end up at a good ballet school, not the big-name school I had dreamed of attending, but a place where I could finally learn decent technique. But there was about a year when I was spending a ton of time and emotional energy training on my own as best I could as well as in my crappy classes, and trying to find a way into a good program. I was quite unhappy and hopeless at times, because I loved ballet so much but it seemed like I would never get even the chance to get to be any good.

I love this poem because of how beautifully it captures the feeling of a deeply felt purpose being frustrated. In my mind it is always tied to that time in my life, when I felt profoundly, in that bell-ringing-in-the-heart way, that I was meant to do something which I was prevented from doing — as this tree feels bound to walk.

Wanting To Move

Continually, a bell rings in my heart.
I was supposed to go somewhere, to some other place,
Tense from the long wait —
Where do you go, will you take me
"With you, on your horses, down the river, with the flame
of your torches?"

They burst out laughing.
"A tree wanting to move from place to place!"
Startled, I look at myself —
A tree, wanting to move from place to place, a tree
Wanting to move? Am I then —
Born here, to die here
Even die here?
Who rings the bell, then inside my heart?
Who tells me to go, inside my heart?
Who agitates me, continually, inside my heart?

-Vijaya Mukhopadhyay
trans. by the poet

Monday, February 16, 2009

At the mailbox

this is outrageous,
this is not allowed.
Today was already good:
now unnaturally so.

Immediately I am suspicious
of what the coming day might hold.
Surely there exists
some spirit charged with distributing happiness evenly,
who is now waiting to smite me on the morrow
for the crime of receiving
in one day.

I open two;
the third can succor me tomorrow.

Friday, February 13, 2009

There is no saint with my name

I am so taken with Anna Akhmatova's poetry, with her dreamy yet striking imagery, and her wistful, occasionally ironic tone. The way the narrator of this poem sees is such magic to me — the idea that a day could be so blessed because it belongs to a loved one's namesake.

8 November 1913
The sun fills my room,
Yellow dust drifts aslant.
I wake up and remember:
This is your saint's day.

That's why even the snow
Outside my window is warm,
Why I, sleepless, have slept
Like a communicant.

-Anna Akhmatova
trans. by D.M. Thomas

Poetry Friday round-up at Big A little a

Incidentally, what do you think of the words "authoress" and "poetess"?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Fable

Once upon a time there was a girl who loved ballet very much and went to many ballet classes each week with her hair in a nice netted, gelled pincushion of a bun. But, ballet did not love her, or at least not her feet, or at least ballet teachers did not love her feet. Though they were pleasingly calloused and could hold the girl up in toe shoes, they were NOT beautifully pointy, well-arched banana feet!

What sorrow.

But then several years later, this girl found some doctors who liked her feet very much, who were so interested in the lingering white impressions that their fingertips left on these feet that they wanted to have the feet around all the time. So she went to see these doctors and med students all the time to let them visit with her feet. Not as often as she had gone to ballet school, but still.

Moral: Even if it takes you a few years to find them, there are always people somewhere who will appreciate your unique traits and gifts.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Some Monday afternoon linkage

Almost all of you who took my survey (which is still open!) said that you'd like to see a feature like this, so I'm giving it a try. Some favorite stuff picked up from th'internets over the last week:

- This Icelandic photographer's latest pictures remind me of what Duong Thu Huong called "the hallucinatory whiteness" of snow in Russia. More at his flick photostream.

- Colleen at Chasing Ray: "On happy lives". Rather thought-provoking.

- The Pursuit of Harypness is a fairly new blog to me. I don't agree with its writers on all the feminist issues they cover, but where I do, it is tremendously gratifying to me to read what they have to say, because they are so fierce and articulate. "What You've Got in that Bag" is one such post.

- Heather on the Sublime. I like this post because "sublime" is something that I am familiar with feeling, but have never heard explained or even clearly defined before.

- Maureen Johnson is one of the funniest people on my RSS reader, and her Badger Diaries (click for parts one, two, three, four, and five) are hilarious even by her blog's standards.

- Lovely small stone.

- "Homeless Shelter Glossary, Volume 1". The blogger, Tim, oversees a homeless shelter and writes most insightfully about faith and social justice in practice.

- This flickr pool is so great. Even though it fills me with camera envy.

- Very interesting discussion at Anilee's blog on the plausibility of Ally Carter's protagonists knowing fourteen different languages, and a tangent into the issues of what makes something canon and telling versus showing.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

How to make three magazine covers in one day? Gain weight.

So the celebrity gossip world has worked itself into quite a tizzy about a certain singer's supposed weight gain.

There are people deriding her for looking like a fatso, and then there are people saying that she looks great and curvy and blah blah blah.

The habit of watching female celebrities for any change in weight is one of the media's most obnoxious, in my opinion. I would not disagree that criticism of a woman for appearing (or being) heavier is wrong.

But here's an idea.

Maybe the fact that there's a side defending her figure isn't such a great thing either.

Maybe the fact that a column with the title "Female stars are too skinny, so give [insert name] a break" has been published is not much of a sign of progress.

How about this --

When a woman's body stops being fodder for gossip magazines and blogs, when the media is neither saying "too skinny" nor using astonishing phrases like "weight gain controversy," when a woman's weight stops being an Issue, something to either defend or decry, when stories about celebrities' weight gain or loss are no longer run because they won't sell --

When we don't just defend a star for not being as thin as her peers, but refuse to engage in discussion of a celebrity's weight because we really believe that she is more than her body or appearance --

That's when I'll believe that our society is making progress in how it views women.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A question for you

I gave this question to one of my "interviewees" from the interview meme, and now I'll ask you.

Where do you want to be?

That wording sounds funny because it's too open-ended, but that's how I mean it.

Whether you want to be in the bathtub in the next room -
Or immediately thought of a distant country -
Or have suddenly grown nostalgic for a time and place from your childhood -
Or are one of those people who thinks of emotional states as locations (e.g. "I'm in a really good place right now about this decision") -
The question's asking whatever you think it's asking.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I do not attempt to deceive

my fingers are black from ink
but only because I am messy
this denotes(please note) dedication to no art.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Haukadalur: in which Iceland begins to laugh

[At the rate I'm going, I could still be posting about Iceland by summertime. Lolz.]

So the last you heard, the intrepid American trio had just climbed back into their car after seeing the first of the Golden Circle's three sights, ├×ingvellir.

View out my window:

Hi, A.

E. Sleeping.
We and our hardy Honda Jazz survive more insanely icy roads and make it to the second stop, Haukadalur, where there are two notable geysers: Geysir (after which all other geysers take the name) and Strokkur.

We stop in for lunch at the guest center, where a journalist hears our accents and asks to interview us. She's a freelance journalist writing an article for The Washington Post about Americans who are taking advantage of the economic situation to visit Iceland. She scribbles some notes down from what we say and takes some pictures of us outside. She says she'll email us before the article goes to print, which I guess it never did. Ah well.

Sold in the guest center: Poor Icelanders think these are pecan pies. [By now you can tell I've completely overcome any camera inhibitions I once had.]

After eating our quick lunch and bidding Journalist Lady goodbye, we head up the path to see the geyser. [n.b. We all called it Geysir the whole time, but I have since learned it was actually Strokkur, the far more active of the two.]

That's A. Lots of steam everywhere (quite strange with the ice, to me) - no, that is not an eruption.

The path, I would like to add, is like an ice skating rink. All bundled up with our faces buried and our hands stuffed in our pockets, I am sure we look quite amusing sliding our feet cautiously along. When we are still a little ways away from the geyser, we hear a rumbling sound, and look up ahead to see this huge plume of water shooting up at least fifty feet into the air.

Mmhm. And here's the thing, we're still downwind of the geyser (and Icelandic wind means business). I just have time to register a massive cloud of water droplets coming at us like the sandstorm in The Mummy or something -- and wonder if it'll be warm -- before I turn and cover my head.

A. slips and takes a wicked (but amusing) fall.

[Do you see that path? DO YOU SEE THAT ICE? Friend, Iceland is icy.]

Water and steam starting to clear. He looks slightly daft, but that's how I captured an unfinished thumbs-up.

Also, the back of my jeans is completely soaked. And whatever you may hear about geysers shooting boiling water, that water was NOT warm by the time it got to me.

Meanwhile, E., who is always ahead of us, is laughing at us from the other side of the geyser. A. and I agree that we feel it is Iceland who is doing the real laughing.

I pick out an Icelandic football scarf and a bar of chocolate at the gift store, change into pair of pants the second, and we and The Jazz head for the third stop on the Golden Circle: Gullfoss, or Golden Falls.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Read in January

[Click for Goodreads page]

1. Shortcomings, by Adrian Tomine
2. Girl Culture, by Lauren Greenfield
3. An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green
4. Life Sucks, by Jessica Abel, Warren Pleece, and Gabe Soria
5. The Beforelife, by Franz Wright
6. That Was Then..., by Melody Carlson
7. A Not-So-Simple Life, by Melody Carlson
8. Boy Proof, by Cecil Castellucci
9. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, by Peter Cameron
10. Sock Monkey: The Glass Doorknob, by Tony Millionaire
11. Vegan Virgin Valentine, by Carolyn Mackler
12. Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali