Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Banned Poetry #2

Charles Baudelaire was, if anything, a contrarian. He began his writing career as an art critic and translator of Edgar Allen Poe's works. His full-length book of poetry, Les Fleurs du mal, was first printed in 1857. Almost immediately, six poems were called out for obscenity because their subject matter included lesbianism and vampires (Twilight fans, take note). Baudelaire oversaw a second printing in 1861 which included both new work and the contested six poems, in defiance of the law which forbade their printing.

Baudelaire wrote gritty, anti-romantic poems which sought to capture the truth of his urban Parisian environment. He was the first to put a name to what he was writing: prose poems...not poetry, not exactly prose, but a murky somewhere-in-between genre which matched well with his murky, contrary lifestyle.

To experience Baudelaire for yourself, including those six banned poems, check out Fleurs du Mal, a comprehensive site dedicated to the famous book and all its incarnations. Each table of contents links to the original poem in French, as well as various translated versions. Be sure to also check out the great list of links, including Baudelaire sites in French, Czech, and Portuguese, along with a link to watercolor interpretations of his work.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Banned Poetry #1

For Banned Books Week, I'm spotlighting a handful of banned poets. It's actually kind of surprising that the majority of banned books are fiction or non-fiction. Poetry, it seems, gets a free ride most of the time. Is that because it is a "freer" art form? Or because it is less widely read? Or maybe read mostly by people who disagree with banning books? What do you think?

Today's banned poet is Allen Ginsberg. Strategically, the movie Howl has just been released (in limited areas including, of course, San Francisco). The film tells the story of the iconic Beat poem and the obscenity trial which its publication incited. The poem itself is epic--a lyric, sprawling, yet energetic stream-of-conscious piece which captures the anger and despair of a generation of young people. Here's a few ways to experience the work for yourself:

  • Read the entire poem here.
  • Get the book...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Forbidden Friday

Tomorrow begins Banned Books Week, a time when we should all be aware of, and do our best to counteract threats to free speech and intellectual freedom, both past and present. We hope that these are mostly past because we like to believe that we live in better, more enlightened times. Unfortunately, this is not always true.

Today, the Texas Board of Education will vote on a resolution seeking to ban history books which have more content about Islam than about Christianity. Those who support the resolution cite an anti-Christian bias on the part of the writers. But I like Houston Federation of Teachers member Gayle Fallon's take on the issue: "History is what it is. It just happened."

NPR's Two-Way Blog suggests in a recent post on the subject that what Texas decides can affect the textbook publishing industry, and thereby affect the nation. That might be a little too conspiracy-theory for me. But I do think that any threat to limit access to knowledge is damaging to the students who are supposed to be learning and developing skills such as critical thought and analysis. I hope that the members of the Board keep the students in mind when making their decision. And I urge you all to celebrate your own intellectual freedom this week by reading a banned book.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Workshop: Moons and Roses and Sunsets, Oh My!

Last night, as we walked the dog on the levee, the almost-full moon hung above us. When we turned around to head home, we were faced with one of those spectacular Delta sunsets that seems almost unreal. The cornfield looked like it was glowing, and we felt the need to make silly "chorus of heaven" sounds. If you've never been to the Delta before and want to know what I'm talking about, check out Marty Stanley's work.

The sunset got me thinking about this old post from Karen Weyant's blog because, well, I really wanted to write about it, but I didn't know how to keep it from becoming cheesy. I mean, a poem about a sunset? How much more McKuen can you get? But after rereading Karen's post, I was heartened. She tells the story of a list of "forbidden" things she shared with a poetry class, things like sunsets that should never go into poetry. A contrary student took one of those things--a butterfly--and wrote about it in a fresh, new way.

So here's my challenge, both for myself and for you, my stalwart reader: pick one of these "forbidden" things (or make your own list), and try to write about it in a way that is invigorating, surprising, and not a bit cheesy...
  • sunset
  • sunrise
  • butterfly
  • full moon
  • dove
  • ocean
  • rose
  • rainbow

Monday, September 20, 2010

Movie Monday: Weird Science

I mentioned our house hunt a while back. Well, it continues...and continues...and continues. Really, it's starting to freak me out. I'm having nightmares about real estate agents, and I can't seem to get the smell of cheap air freshener out of my clothes. We recently viewed a house on Corbin Lane, which I insisted on calling Corbin Dallas Lane. It seemed apt. Not only am I a science fiction fan, but this whole house-buying business makes me feel like I'm in another dimension. So, it seems appropriate to indulge in a little sci-fi viewing.

If you feel the same way, you might want to check out these fab sci-fi films:

Why it's good: Besides being the best performance by Chris Tucker to date, the movie is visually vibrant and fashion-forward (thanks to Jean Paul Gaultier). It's got it all: witty one-liners, things blowing up, and a rubberized blue diva singing electronica during a fight scene.

Why it's good: A classic haunted house story, only in space, this movie is seriously scary. It features a pre-Matrix Laurence Fishburne and a very creepy Sam Neill (the guy from Jurassic Park). That's like science fiction royalty.

Why it's good: The Governator (aka Quaid) tries to save the deformed lower-class from an evil corporation. Gotta love the final eye-popping suffocation scene...maybe if some of our legislators spent some time like that, we'd have a budget.

Why it's good: Yes, yes, the original Terminator was classic. But in this one, Arnold's a good guy! And Eddie Furlong is crush-worthy! And Robert Patrick is made out of freakin mercury! C'mon, people!

Why it's good: Very quotable: "They mostly come at night...mostly." This is another example where the sequel is just as good as the original. And Sigourney was the perfect bad-ass female heroine for all us young girls to look up to. Game over, man.

Why it's good: Ok, the special effects haven't held up, but this movie is surprisingly funny and a pretty astute critique on modern consumer culture. Also, who wouldn't want to cheat death by becoming a human-robot hybrid?

Why it's good: Tonally spot-on, this movie is suave, stylish, and moody, just like its stars. Its examination of genetic engineering is, quite frankly, more measured and nuanced than many of the current arguments being made today.

Why it's good: Pre-television-show ridiculousness, this flick has many of the elements we sci-fi fans crave: a nerdy protagonist who gets the girl, a kick-ass portal to another dimension, and seriously creepy aliens.

Why it's good: More stylishness. More humor. More explosions. More creepy aliens. See a pattern? Plus, I've got to mention (because how can I not?) Denise Richard's fantastic bust and Casper Van Dien's cool airbrushed superman look.

Why it's good: This is an example of one of those rare instances when a relatively obscure group of people come together and create something completely original and entertaining. Seriously, who knew Vin Diesel before this?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Gaga for Poetry

Is Lady Gaga promoting Flatmancrooked's Slim Volume of Contemporary Poetics? Hmmm...

If you want to read some great new work, then get your own copy. Quick. Before Gaga gets angry.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Here's Lookin at You, Blog

It's the 2nd Anniversary of Drowning the Field, and I thought I'd celebrate with a new look.

To keep the party going, and to honor the muse, here's a tale of creation:

Creation Story of the Corner of Barrone and Gravier
originally published in Perpetual Care

She carves trees out of jade and ivory,
branches of wet hair
out of a white pillowcase--

from skyscrapers she carves this heavy air,
the face of a crowd
waiting to cross the street, clips
a radiation warning
from the last bomb-shelter
for the mouth, and for the voice--

liquid bronze poured into a crucible,
so red it hurts.

Her birds--iron filings, bronze slurry,
coins crushed and dried into mud--
when the magnet of her thumb-nail
reached to her forehead,
they rise from trees,
a sudden black graffiti--

and when the thumb-nail drops
to her stomach, they fall
between cracks in the sidewalk.

Beneath my feet their wings tremble
as they wait for the next rise.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Movie Monday: I've Been Watching...

viewing partner: Isaac
stars: ** 1/2
notes: This movie would have been so much better and made so much more sense if all the deleted scenes had not been deleted.

viewing partner: Isaac (again)
stars: **
notes: Clint Eastwood is a crochety old man who yells at the kids to stay off his lawn. What else is new?

viewing partner: Isaac (and again)
stars: * 1/2
notes: Meh. How the hell did Ricky Gervais get Jennifer Garner and Rob Lowe to do this blah movie?

viewing partner: alone
stars: ***
notes: I'm filing this in my "movies-that-started-out-as-plays-and-therefore-have-great-dialogue" file. I miss John Ritter.

viewing partner: alone (again)
stars: *** 1/2
notes: Another play-turned-movie with killer dialogue. Humid and stormy, Maggie the cat is just like a Southern summer.

Friday, September 10, 2010

It's Friday, I'm in Love


lap pools

sun rooms

orange tomatoes

flights to Sedona

quail eggs

coming home

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Slim, yet Meaty

Yep, I think that's raw meat.

Flatmancrooked's Slim Volume of Contemporary Poetics is now available for order. This local press publishes some highly innovative stuff, and markets its books in really, really cool ways. The anthology includes selections from Forrest Gander, Matthew Dickman, Eleni Sikelianos, and many others. I've got a poem in here too. It's about a cow. Read two selections from the anthology here and here. Then buy a copy.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Empire of the Ants

Ok, so I like it when ants eat wasps. But when I wake up to a deluge of ants doing their damnedest to eat my dog's 20lb. bag of food, I start to get a little ornery.

This should be no surprise. Year after year, the ants have found clever ways to attack our humble farmhouse. They seem to pass down knowledge of every chink and hole (and there are many) through which they can get in. Once, I found them jauntily marching in through the outlet in our living room. I almost sprayed RAID in there--a reflex left over from my time in New Orleans--but a little voice inside said, "maybe not such a good idea." So I sucked them up via high-powered vacuum instead. Ah, satisfying.

But the satisfaction was short-lived. This morning, there they were, traversing tile and grout by the hundreds to get at my poor dog's food bowl. "C'mon," I yelled, "I haven't even had my coffee yet!" An application of the boyfriend's environmentally-friendly RAID-alternative and another vacuuming session later, I collapsed with coffee in hand, trying to plumb the fog of my brain for an apt writing metaphor.

Ants as distractions to getting the writing done? No, not quite right. Ants as critics, gnawing away at all your hard work? Trying too hard. Ants as the crap you have to suck up with the powerful vacuum of revision? Meh.

Then I realized: the ants were just ants. They get in our house and chow down on anything slightly food-like, and we have to get rid of them before they take over our pantries and our lives, writing be damned. Sometimes we have to stop being all artistic and just take care of stuff. Sure, Rilke wouldn't approve. But Rilke probably never had to fend off an army of freakish ants.