Friday, October 28, 2011
Of course, there's no chance of this type of thing happening here in America. But this makes me wonder...why do the "literary" types keep themselves so separate from politics? Poetry and politics have a long and strong tradition of co-existing in Europe and other countries. In communist controlled central Europe, for instance, poetry was a way to speak out against the government through metaphor.
Here in the good ol' US of A, however, we like our poetry and politics to stay separate.
But given the chance, would you vote for a poet-president? Maybe a Billy Collins/Yusef Komunyakaa ticket? Rita Dove for governor, perhaps? Hey, we've had actors crack the glass ceiling of government...why not give a poet the chance?
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
My favorites came from the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series of books, by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. If you're near my age, you probably grew up reading these books as I did, and found yourself simultaneously fascinated and terrified. The pictures alone can haunt your dreams, and the stories are of the classic horror/urban legend type that can be easily recalled around a campfire or underneath a blanket with a flashlight held to your face.
The challenge is to take one of these classics and reboot it. Tell it from another perspective (that of the ghost, perhaps) or change the setting. Modernize the details at will, change the cast of characters, but keep that spooky, spine-chilling atmosphere.
I’m waiting in this car
still warm from bodies’ crush
for your return.
What was that sound?
A creature’s rustle, raccoon
in the weeds? Out there,
an owl screeches
and the hazard lights blink
lighting red the windows
fogged by a last moment’s kiss—
your fingers in my hair,
a nail scraped my neck.
I sucked in one
long, wet breath. Tongued
my swollen lips
as the car rocked
with your exit, your palm's
smack against the hood—
Hey, keep it locked.
You won’t be long. I felt
the need beneath your clothes,
the way your hand
became a fist
around my waistband.
What was that sound?
The swick of a lighter’s flint, a key
searching for the lock?
Your belt, undone, the buckle
dragging past the driver’s side
as you come back to me
in the back seat, waiting,
ready. No, not long.
Thanks to my monthly poetry group for inspiring this post. This workshop is cribbed and slightly altered from this month's prompt, of which the above was my result. Happy Halloween!
Thursday, September 22, 2011
When I saw the poem up at Larabee and Liza, though, I was beyond excited. Here was another way in which the poem was being translated, this time visually. The painting, with its expanse of white space, captures that feeling of disbursement or of non-being I was trying to evoke in the poem. But it also picks up on the poem's sense of the absurd. After all, being haunted by a ghost is not exactly a "normal" experience, but it becomes truly odd when you pretend like it is. There's something about the way the ghost (or is that the person being haunted?) is waving cheerily at someone or something just beyond the edge of canvas, that feels similarly absurd to me.
In fact, Laura, the genius behind the brush, has done quite a few "translations" of other poets, and her newer work takes the idea of translation in a whole new direction, as she paints and draws directly on old book pages, turning them into new pieces of art. Check out this wonderful transformational work on her blog and her shop.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
I was reminded of a class I took on translation the final year in my MFA program. Throughout, we discussed the balance between literal translation and the transference of those less actual elements of poetry: sound, connotation, meter. What we didn't discuss, because we were all native English speakers translating into English, was what translation from English into other languages can do to a work.
In the original English, the poem attempts to transform the strange and frightening (the haunting) into the mundane...I sort of strained the ghost through a list of everyday things: old sponges, celery, a ring in the tub, etc. But in Spanish, the sound keeps that element of strange and scary throughout. Now, the ghost is not reduced by the common things. It infuses them, possesses them, haunts them.
I wonder what would happen if I now re-translated the poem back into English. Would it retain some of this residual strangeness? Would the ghost be stronger or more omnipresent? Would my word choice change to hold on to some of these elements that I love in the Spanish translation? And now, whose poem is it? Maybe the secret truth is that the poem, like the ghost it describes, is permeable. It will continue to change with each reading, each version, each new eye.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Miss Justine suggests I take
two glasses of wine—one for each hand
on the threshold of day, of season.
The spider has nested and the chestnut
drops its hollow currency to the ground
to await its fate: food, or fodder
for next year’s tree, or a darker limbo—
the squirrel’s cool, dry pantry beneath my shoes.
Miss Justine prods a toe—Good peasant feet, good for balance. For dancing? For walking the fields. To the west, corn glows
in the nuclear light of a dying sun.
In the east the full moon
breaks like an egg over the river.
Miss Justine grins. Keep steady. Now walk.
If you want to read more Tarot-rific poetry from the dancing girl writers, now is your chance. A subscription to dancing girl press will bring both chapbooks and the coveted Tarot deck to your mailbox. It promises to be gorgeous, both in pictures and words, so don't wait. Subscribe today!
Monday, August 1, 2011
The Davis Poetry Book Project seeks to capture this unique city through the words of its citizens. If you are a current or former resident of Davis, consider submitting a poem or few to the project. Winning selections will be including in a print anthology. But hurry--the August 15th deadline is quickly approaching.
Friday, July 15, 2011
But, I must admit, I was a tad disappointed. Based on this (very limited) list of five (best-selling) authors, a writer needs a clean, quiet place near nature, preferably a beach or babbling brook. And, apparently, these folks also get up early and then write for hours (hours!) straight. Now, obviously, I know these are people who must write volumes in order to keep up their publishing schedule. And, these are the types of people who can afford, say, beach homes in Nantucket. But what about the rest of us? Where do the rabble write? What kind of "space" do we need?
When I really think about my writing process, I realize that most of my composing is done in my car on my way to or from work. The long drive from my little farming town to the larger city where my office is located takes me past farms, orchards, and vineyards, dilapidated barns and huge manor houses, cows, trucks, and hay-balers. I hold the lines in my head until I get to my destination, to type or write out. But by then, most of the work is done. My car is not exactly clean or quiet, and it certainly doesn't have any freshly sharpened pencils or internet connections (or plastic statues of Greek gods, although, now that I think about it, it probably should). But it works.
Friday, July 1, 2011
Kicking off my celebration, I'm indulging in a little late-afternoon reading of a new favorite blog, The Art of the Rural, who is publishing a Rural Poetry series. The series includes a favorite of mine, Lorine Niedecker, as well as new names I am overjoyed to discover. I hope you are, too. Happy Independence Day!
I knew a clean man
but he was not for me.
Now I sew green aprons
over covered seats. He
wades the muddy water fishing,
fall in, dries his last pay-check
in the sun, smooths it out
in Leaves Of Grass. He's
the one for me.
~by Lorine Niedecker
Friday, June 17, 2011
Our post-war home was built around the same time as the General Mills plant was established in town--we are close enough to the plant that we can smell when they make the cereal (it smells like kettle corn). The house was the first one to be built on our street, when the rest of the area was a cherry orchard. It was small, like all the other post-war homes in the area. When it was listed for sale, the description of the "step-saver" kitchen had us confused, until we saw it in real life:
Step saving indeed. But I fell in love with the honey colored cabinets and the original fixtures, like the avocado green sink, the linoleum floors, and even the strange faux wallpaper paneling on the walls.
We are only the second owners. The original owners added on an amazing wood paneled family room in the Fifties, including a built-in closet, shelving and storage, which has now become our bedroom. The attached half bath is small, but the warm wood makes it feel cozy.
We talk about the previous owners, Roberta and Raymond, a lot. So much of their personality has seeped into this home, that it's only natural to wonder about them, imagine what they were like. Take, for instance, this handmade, built-in shelving unit in one of the original bedrooms:
The listing described it as a double headboard system for two twin beds. The original owners had two sons, so this makes sense. The particleboard paneling is beautiful, and the shelves are solid. It took a lot of ingenuity and imagination to put this together.
The living/dining room area is about half wood paneled (you can catch a glimpse of it in the kitchen picture above). We like to joke that they only paneled the half that would be seen by neighbors from the street. Many people have suggested we paint over or remove the paneling, but I think it's going to stay. Now that we have uncovered the beautiful white oak floors beneath the brown shag carpet, we are living in a veritable wood wonderland, and loving every minute of it.
All the pictures above were taken before we moved in, and a few things have since changed. I may post some "after" pictures of the place later on, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here's to keeping things original!
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Ok, the bad puns are out of my system. But I'm still wondering if politicos just hate the idea of rappers in their hallowed halls, or if they would have found something to disparage about any other visiting poets Obama would have chosen. Consider the following gallery of rogues:
The Bard had this to say about women...
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
This guy was obviously a trespasser...
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
Encouraging juvenile delinquency...
And advocating substance abuse...shocking...
You have to be always drunk. That's all there is to it—it's the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.
So, can the pundits and talk show hosts really say that these famous poets are any better, morally, than a rapper? Especially one who has this to say about the ladies in his life:
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Alas, that didn't happen. I woke up yesterday, went to work like usual, signed in at my desktop and realized that, yikes, it was the 2nd and I hadn't picked winners! So boring old numbers went into a boring old cardboard box. So sad.
But the good news: two winners were (finally) chosen. Congratulations to Big Nine 7, who gets a copy of A Classic Game of Murder, and Sandy Longhorn, who will receive Mary Oliver's fabulous American Primitive. Thank you, everyone who stopped by and entered. I hope you visit again soon.
By the way, Sandy is now giving all proceeds of her poetry collection Blood Almanac, to tornado disaster relief. Visit her site for more information.
And if you are feeling those post-NPM-blues, consider participating in Deborah Ager's poetic recipe swap.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do."
& Bon Voyage to Michael Scott
“My philosophy is basically this. And this is something that I live by. And I always have. And I always will. Don't ever, for any reason, do anything to anyone, for any reason, ever, no matter what. No matter ... where. Or who, or who you are with, or where you are going, or ... or where you've been ... ever. For any reason, whatsoever.”
Monday, April 11, 2011
What does this mean for Flatman fans...and those of you who have been putting off ordering a copy of their Slim Volume of Contemporary Poetics? Get your copies now! This is literally your last chance to hold in your hot little hands a copy of my poem, "The Fistulated Cow." Not to mention all the other great stuff they've packed into this little collection.
So order here. Or click the picture above. Or the book icon to the right. Or forever bemoan the fact that you lost your chance. After all, do you really want to be singing (a la Annie), "This is the book I never read...these are the tears, the tears I shed"?
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
I completely missed the boat on this last year...I guess I was too busy during 2010's National Poetry Month reveling in rural-ness. But this year, I've got myself together and I am ready to participate in Kelli Russell Agodon's Big Poetry Giveaway 2011.
Click on the picture above to learn more about this event and find other participating bloggers. If you've found me via Kelli's site, welcome! I am a poet and book reviewer living in a small town in the Sacramento Delta. I am originally from Phoenix, Arizona where I learned to love succulents and sweating. Since then, I have grown to embrace all things rural and small-town: cows, gardens, even the occasional infestation.
In almost all aspects of my life, I like to get rid of things. Except books. I admit it: I am a book hoarder. I am a gollum of poetry collections (oh Ariel, my precious!). So, the most difficult part of this was deciding which of my favorites to give away. I seriously stood at my poetry bookcase for about an hour, trying to make this wrenching decision. So, after a long, dark, soul-searching struggle, here are the books I'm willing to part with:
The easy decision: A Classic Game of Murder
This is my chapbook from dancing girl press. It is a collection of poems inspired by the board game CLUE. All the rooms, weapons, and characters are in there. If you like murder mystery parties or Agatha Christie books, you'll dig this collection.
The hard decision: Mary Oliver's American Primitive
Love this book...I mean LOVE. This is the book I made all my seventh-graders read in its entirety. These poems are sexy, lush, fruitful, filled with creatures. And Oliver's language is so tight, so skillful, it reads as effortless. These are nature poems that are about so much more than nature.
If you want a chance to win either of these, leave a comment below telling me which CLUE character is your favorite. I will draw two random winners on May 1st. Happy reading!
Friday, March 18, 2011
Thanks to James Benton, in particular, for MC'ing the event. And thank you to my fellow poets--all the luck of the Irish to you in your writing. If you were unable to attend the reading, and desperately want a copy of the anthology (and who doesn't?), you can now purchase it from Amazon or Powell's Books. Bonus: it will cost you far less than a pot's worth of gold.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Original Screenplay -- NO
Even though I didn't make predictions in this category, I was extremely excited to see Trent Reznor win for his haunting score for The Social Network...maybe one of the best parts of that movie. Though, when Trent walked on stage looking more like a dad than a rock star, it made me feel so old.
Speaking of age, the two most entertaining parts of the show were completely opposite in that regard. I vote for Anne Hathaway and Kirk Douglas to host the show next year!
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
My favorite character by far was the half-Betazoid, half-human hybrid Deanna Troi. She was one of my early heroes. Beautiful, intelligent, and emotionally mature, she was everything I wanted to be when I got older. Instead, I just developed a thing for men with beards.
For those of you who found similar inspiration in Star Trek: The Next Generation, this call for submissions is for you. This month, the Make It So Anthology is accepting your TNG-themed poetry. Check the website for complete rules and requirements. Engage!
Thursday, February 17, 2011
- Include the name of the kennel
- If significant, include an ancestor's name
- Make sure the proper name is unique (no duplicates allowed)
- Decide on the call name, or everyday name (which, incidentally, shouldn't sound like common commands such as "sit" or "come")
For this workshop, you can come up with your own show dog (or show cat/pigeon/child/stuffed animal/car, etc.) name to use as the title of a poem or prose piece. Or, you can use one of these wonderfully strange and real show dog names. A few of my favorites:
- Brownwood D'Geno Rock (smooth dachsund)
- Quietcreek's Kiss and Tell (bloodhound)
- Invictus Nightmare before Xmas (rhodesian ridgeback)
- My Thai Ta Sen Halleluiah Chorus (lhasa apso)
- Liontame's 1-800-Hotstuff (chow chow)
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
To get the books, click on the links at the bottom of this post. In the meantime, enjoy my favorite Bishop poem:
I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled and barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
--the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly--
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
--It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
--if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels--until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Best Supporting Actor