Monday, August 30, 2010

Movie Monday: Holloweyed and High

Remember how excited I got over the HOWL preview? Well, now I'm even more excited...Mary-Louise Parker admits she's a poetry geek and is super-excited about her tiny little cameo. Could this movie get any better? Oh, wait, it can...John Hamm is in it too. I love you Don...I mean, John. And to top it all off, here's the poster in all its tattered vintage paperback glory:

I'm giddy.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Five for Five

Sunday is the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and the city of New Orleans continues to rebuild. Here are five ways you can help raise awareness of the city's struggle:

Read: When the Water Came
This collaborative work by Cynthia Hogue and Rebecca Ross is a collection of photographs and poems inspired by hurricane evacuees. I featured some of the work in a previous post. Both Cynthia and Rebecca will be presenting the book at New Orleans' Garden District Bookshop on August 31st.

Watch: Treme
The HBO show which has received stellar critical reviews tells the story of a post-Katrina New Orleans and its scarred, yet determined residents. It also features some of the city's famous musicians, such as Kermit Ruffins and the Rebirth Brass Band. The New Orleans Museum of Art will screen episodes for free on August 28th and 29th.

Listen: ReDefine 8/29
Available for download through the New Orleans Musician's Relief Fund, this anthology of 11 songs features both local NOLA musicians and international acts, including Edwin McCain and REM. You can get all 11 songs for a donation of $8.29 (appropriate, no?), and all proceeds go towards the hard-working musicians of this jazz city.

Visit: New Orleans
What better way to support the rebirth of this great city than to visit it? The food, the history, the music, the lifestyle--nothing else compares. Check out the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau for the latest travel deals and upcoming events. Right now, you can even win a trip to the Crescent City. What are you waiting for?

Give: Louisiana Wetlands
The title of my book, Perpetual Care, comes from the practice of caring for and maintaining the city's cemeteries. This idea of prevention is key to the continued care and preservation of New Orleans and all communities in the Gulf Coast. To do your part, donate to America's Wetland Foundation, or, if you are in the Gulf Coast area, consider volunteering with the CWPPRA--help is needed now more than ever.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Five Dollar Friday

This post is for you locals. Now, I'm pretty sure you're all book-loving folks. Well, then you must get on down to the Delta this Saturday when the Book Keeper (the used bookstore affiliated with the Walnut Grove Public Library) is having a monster of a sale. $5 gets you as many books as you can fit into a grocery bag. You heard right...fill 'er up, and expand your library for the price of a below-average sub sandwich. Happy bargain-hunting, friends!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Workshop: Bad to the Bone

Hooray, hooray!
It's Bad Poetry Day!

What do you think of when you think "bad poetry?" Limericks? Greeting card verse? That stuff you wrote in middle school that was all moody and angsty about the end of the world and the inanity of existence? Whatever your definition of bad poetry, today is the day to write some. There are no rules when it comes to bad poetry (except, of course, that it can't be good).

Need inspiration? I've actually got a growing library of bad poetry collections, from such bards as Leonard Nimoy, Pope John Paul II, and Billy Corgan. Why not purchase one of their so-bad-it's-kind-of-good books?

Once you've got something truly heinous, why not submit to Frisky or The Amazingly Bad Poetry Journal Review? I'd love to read it too, so don't be shy.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Operation Desert Dove

The San Xavier Del Bac mission is in trouble. Those of you who have read my first book, Perpetual Care, will recognize that name as the title of one of my poems. The centuries-old building, known as the "white dove of the desert," is a victim of time and bad maintenance. Misguided restoration efforts harmed the structure more than they helped, and a foundation was formed to make sure that any more restoration was done correctly.

I visited the mission many, many years ago in Tucson, Arizona, when the new work was just getting started, and I was stricken by the clash between what had been resurrected and what was still crumbling. It was a lesson in the transiency of things, and the importance of trying to preserve what can all to easily be lost. I'm so sad to hear that the grant for completion of the restoration has been revoked (and I wonder where all that money went to). But I hope that the work will continue, one piece at a time. If you'd like to visit the mission, check their website for more information.

San Xavier Del Bac

Incense settles into plaster walls,
stains oak pews black.

Heat from the hundred candles,
each a hundred sins, stains my cheeks.

The saints, their eyes are holes,
tunnels to a flaking history.

My heart tries to burn
a white dove into the desert,

a place where water appears,
but I am smothered by this weight,

the dress of blue stone.
People with skin of oak

break the air into waves of dust,
waiting carefully for their chance

to stroke my wax brow,
pin their words to my chest.

Each prays for flight, for flood.
Their feet make no noise as they move.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Watch Out...

Happy Friday the 13th, friends! If you're in the mood for something a little bit spine-tingling tonight, check out my old post on favorite scary movies. Or pick up a copy of my criminally good chapbook, A Classic Game of Murder, now available on Etsy. However you decide to celebrate, just remember to stay away from abandoned summer camps, barns, cornfields, know, the kinds of places where psycho killers like to hang out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Workshop: Poetry Code

Call me obsessive, but I'm still thinking about poem codes. William Briggs, Statistician to the Stars (great title, right?), has a wonderful description of how poem codes work on his blog (though, honestly, I still don't quite get it...guess that's why I got a C- in statistics). But for this workshop, I'm thinking a little more figuratively than literally. That is, I'm thinking a poem can function as a "code" for a longer work...a novel, say, or an essay. Here's a few ways to accomplish this:

1. For a shorter work, like an essay or short story, choose a random number (n). Then pull out every nth word from the piece (or every nth word from each line, if it's long enough) and use those words in a poem.

2. For a longer, book-length work, you can add a bit of complexity. Choose two numbers (n and o). Then pull every nth word from every page that ends in o. Or stay with the single number but pull the nth word from every even or odd page, or every page that ends in a multiple of o, or some such variation. You can even go a little wild and pull every nth word and nth times two word, and nth times three word. The possibilities are endless, so just work out a system and then stick with it.

Once you have your word bank, you can use them in lots of different ways:

1. Leave them in the order they were pulled.

2. Limit yourself to only the words pulled, but change their position.

3. Add words to the word bank to write a complete poem.

It will be interesting to see if these new poems have the same "voice" of the originating work, or if they will be completely new creatures. I suspect it will depend on how many words are pulled from the source (the more pulled, the more like the source, perhaps). And will neutral readers be able to tell what the original work is from the new poem code? I wonder....

Friday, August 6, 2010

Speaking of Weddings...

Have you heard the big news? Chelsea Clinton and her new husband chose a poem to be read during their wedding ceremony. Entitled "The Life That I Have" by Leo Marks, the short piece was originally written in honor of his dead girlfriend. It was later used as a poem code during WWII by a French Intelligence officer named Violette Szabo, who was later captured and killed by the Nazis. I am shocked and dismayed that I've only now learned about the existence of poem codes.

In an article for the Telegraph, Christopher Howse suggested that Chelsea might be mocked for her choice of poem, because of its deadly history. But I agree with Howse's point that "it is really about death, but so are all the best love poems." After all, it's "till death do us part," isn't it? And I'm proud of the former first daughter for choosing a less traditional route, despite the fact that the eyes of the nation were on her. Maybe the poem's inclusion in such a high-profile ceremony will jump-start a new interest in personalized wedding readings. Forget "love is patient, love is kind..." folks. You might want to forget "The Life That I Have" too, unless you're the kind of person that names their kids Bella and Edward. Instead, get creative, do some research, and find a piece of writing that works for you. Hey, it works for Chelsea!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It's Official, Part 2

Faithful readers of this blog will remember that I have lately been involved in many weddings, as both a member of the wedding party and a writer of wedding poems. I even helped one friend with planning for the event and another with research for an appropriate, non-religious ceremony reading. Well, at the request of two friends, I took this involvement to a whole new level. After becoming certified wedding officiants, my boyfriend and I wrote and performed their entire wedding ceremony.

One final edit before we begin

I. giving the introductions

Giving the readings

I read a passage from Madeleine L'Engle's The Irrational Season and a poem by Rumi. They were chosen by the couple from a collection of secular, yet wedding-appropriate readings that I have been gathering these past few years.

The vows

The exchange of rings

We now pronounce you husband and wife!

It was an incredible undertaking, and I am glad that I. was up there with me to share in the experience. You don't think about it as an observer, or even a bridesmaid, but the act of marrying two people, of being the person through which they express their union, is pretty heavy. Thankfully, we got through it with a few laughs and more than a few tears from the mother of the bride. It was an amazing day for two awesome people, and I am happy to have played a part in it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

It's Official...

I am officially a Reverend of the Universal Life Church:

Details to follow...