Monday, July 30, 2007

The Embarrassingly Late Poetry Book Club for July -- Averno

I'll post my responses to these questions tomorrow. But here are some starter questions for the Book Club. Sorry for the major procrastination!

Discussion Questions
Overall, did you like the book? What about it did you like?

Were there specific poems that spoke to you? Which ones? Why?

Was there anything that confused you about the overall book? What was it?

Were there any individual poems that confused you?

The stated theme of the book is the Persephone & Demeter myth. Which poems best carried out that theme? Was the theme clear to you?

How would you describe the author's style? How did she use language to convey images, ideas, or voice?

Sunday, July 29, 2007


* What would Hemingway do?

This story from the LA Times is almost too tragicomic to be true.

Hemingway's home in Key West, FL is a museum to Papa, as well as home to over 40 cats, many of whom are descendants of Hemingway's original cats. The cats apparently loll about the grounds and are treated as pets. However, there is a movement to get the cats classified as animals that are performers, so that they are treated as animals in a circus or zoo. So, rather than have their freedom, they would be locked up in cages after 5 PM every day. The people leading this rally are concerned about the cat's ability to escape and possibly get run over by cars on the highway.

The caretakers of the museum would prefer to allow the cats roam free. Therefore, they are fighting this battle legally and through public support. I don't know where I stand on this issue -- 47 cats is quite a lot to live in one home. (Imagine the litter boxes!) However, I don't see the point in caging animals for their protection. If you want to support the Hemingway kitties, click here.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Chain Letter Meme

My husband, bless his heart, tagged me with this chain letter meme thing... so I've got to spread the love. Sorry to those that I afflict. :)

Start Copy-

It’s very simple. When this is passed on to you, copy the whole thing, skim the list and put a * star beside those that you like. (Check out especially the * starred ones.)

Add the next number (1. 2. 3. 4. 5., etc.) and write your own blogging tip for other bloggers. Try to make your tip general.

After that, tag 10 other people. Link love some friends!

Just think- if 10 people start this, the 10 people pass it onto another 10 people, you have 100 links already!

1. Look, read, and learn. ***

2. Be, EXCELLENT to each other. **

3. Don’t let money change ya! *

4. Always reply to your comments. *****

5. Link liberally — it keeps you and your friends afloat in the Sea of Technorati. **

6. Don’t give up - persistence is fertile. **

7. Give link credit where credit is due. *****

8. Pictures say a thousand words and can usually add to any post.***

9. Participating in ‘memes’ is a destructive habit and should be avoided at all costs. **

10. Don’t hold back.*

11. Short Fiction is the bomb!*

12. Redesign your site often. Visual boredom breeds textual complacency.

-End Copy-

I tag: Poet With a Day Job, ...deb, Jeannine, Marie, and Sasha. Have fun!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Poems from Guantanamo, Part 2

The opinion editor over at the Iowa City Press-Citizen noticed that I posted last month about the Poems from Guantanamo anthology that the University of Iowa Press published. His paper devoted an opinion page to the anthology, since they are the newspaper that covers that University of Iowa area. He was kind enough to share the links with me, which I now share with you.

Start with the editor's preface, which is quite touching, and move onto the others that are linked on the page. It's amazing to see such an interesting literary conversation around this ongoing political event.

It's Like Waking Up From a Dream...

I'm emerging from my Harry Potter Coma, so my Poetry Book Club will be a bit late this month. I'm going to try to have it up by Thursday. Sorry!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Why I Love Minneapolis, Reason #156

I love Minneapolis because of our Art Car Parade. Every year, Intermedia Arts hosts a public art parade, where artists can enter their decorated cars into a juried contest and parade. The parade travels a route mere blocks from our condo, so my husband and I went this year. This was our first year sitting through the entire parade. (Since its our neighborhood, we normally just see the cars tooling around, which reminds us that the parade is happening.)

This year there were tons of creative cars, from one entirely covered in cork to another covered in fake teeth, toothpaste tubes and black and white diagrams of mouths and skulls. Our mayor was also there, riding a bike and encouraging people to shout "Peace Now." He was followed by someone in an over sized Dick Cheney suit, who was carrying a huge shotgun. The mayor kept shouting, "Look out! It's Dick Cheney carrying a gun!" Only in Minneapolis could this be considered a good PR move.

Some of my favorite entries are highlighted in this post, including the camera covered van, the guy driving his couch, the free speech car which urges viewers to Say Something, the Uncle Sam Jeep, and the car with a wind sock attached to it.

Kind of makes we want to decorate my "normal" car.

Weekly Word Count, July 16-July 22

This was an awesome writing week. I got out one poem and one haiku, so 600 words.

18794 for the year.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

#14 -- Walls


Crimson brick facades
store the day's heat, radiate
gentle waves, outwards.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hell Hath No Fury...

For this week's Poetry Thursday post, I was inspired by Patricia Smith's Hip-Hop Ghazal, which appears in the current issue of Poetry magazine. I think she really captured the flavor of the music, in a traditional form. So, I applied the ghazal form to the music I listen to, angry alternative chicks like Ani DiFranco, Regina Spektor, Tori Amos, and the like. Enjoy!

What My Song List Tells Me

Anger echoing off fret boards, thick with scorn and unsung rage,
her lyrics like my teenage diaries, torn from unsung rage.

Voices plaintive as breaking plates, echo off our earphones while
we walk for miles. Even our shoe soles are worn from unsung rage.

Every man a mystery, an anonymous stranger or
long lost daddy, leaving us roses, thorns tipped with unsung rage.

Every night is Friday night, every fight a catastrophe.
We keen alone in broken basements, dreams borne from unsung rage.

What else are we to do with this, our broken fingernails and
calloused hands? Girl, pick up your guitar, perform your unsung rage.

Outside your song tracks and flashbacks, your life is now quiet,
you once wore spite like a spiked choker – mourn your lost unsung rage.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What's Next?

Before I left for vacation, I asked for help in finding the perfect summer reading material for my vacation. Mary-LUE, from So-So Cal Cinema and Life, the Universe and Everything, suggested that I pick up Jasper Fforde. When I read her comment, I recalled one of my former student's presentations on his Thursday Next books and decided to read pick up the first two books in his Thursday Next series. I instantly fell in love.

How can I possibly describe Jasper Fforde's writing? He's a bit like Douglas Adams, in that quirky and ironic sci-fi style. Like Adams, he follows one main character as she engages in a series of mystery capers that have an element of the fantastic. But unlike Adams, he is able to create an emotionally interesting main character who grows and changes throughout the series.

The Thursday Next books(The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots and Something Rotten) follow the titular main character's adventures in a slightly futuristic 1985. (In this version of 1985, cloning and time travel are possible.) Thursday Next is a veteran of the endless Crimean War and a member of the SpecOps agency, kind of like the Secret Service. She investigates crimes against fiction. Throughout the series of books, she falls in love, realizes that she can jump inside the BookWorld and change novels for the better, and loses her loved ones to her arch nemeses.

If you are a fan of high and low literature, you should read Jasper Fforde. His books are sly, funny, and engaging. I finished the second book in the series while at the airport in Atlanta and immediately had to purchase the third from the only bookstore. (The book gods were smiling down on me that day.) I've just started the fourth book in the series, and I am already counting down the days until the release of the fifth.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Poetic Verb of the Week: Revision

Please note: I have revamped my "poetic verbs" theme. Instead of listing the verbs that I accomplish for the week as I have in the past, I will pick one verb a week and reflect on its effect on my creative and personal life. Enjoy!

I think poetry is really the search for the perfect word, the word that encapsulates all of the meanings, nuances, and innuendos and distills it into a set of phonemes and letters. In reality, language isn’t nearly that perfect. It is awkward and imperfect, a collection of “almosts,” “maybes,” and “kindas.” It never does what I want it to do and can never stretch wide or deep enough to fit all the experience and memory that I want to fit into it.

Because language is like this, when I write my first draft, I know I will need to revise it. While I love the rush and inspiration of the first draft, it is ultimately chaotic, uneven, and messy. I know that I will need to hone and craft. I will need to puzzle over each word, and wonder, “Is this what I really meant?” Revision is both contemplative and conflicting.

Even though I know that I have to revise my writing, I dread revision. I dread it like a trip to the dentist, like a job interview. I dread it because it is so careful, painstaking, and frustrating. I dread it because I know that I can make the language work better, but I can never make the poem work like I want it to work. The poem will always be a close approximation of life, but never life itself.

I think revision is what separates poets from the rest of the world. Most of us stumble through life, through all of our first drafts, and think, “I could have done that better, but oh well. It’s too late now.” But poets believe that experience can be tinkered with and tweaked. We may not be able to go back and redo one moment in life, but we can recreate our lives and our new daily experiences. We can try to cross out what we don’t want in our lives, excise the unnecessary, and expand what works. My friends who are writers are often reinventing their lives every couple of years, trying a new draft that works better than the last one. But, since they are writers, they also know that it can never be perfect, only closer to the clear vision we had when we started.

Sometimes I feel doomed to constantly revise my writing and my life. I am never satisfied with what I’ve created and I have to crumple it up and start over. Other days, I feel blessed that I can do this. I can see, beneath the wreckage of misused words and misunderstood choices, the beauty that is burning just below the surface.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Today is a Good Day

My husband I took a picnic to Boom Island Park, where we hiked, ate, and took pictures. We also went to 3 bookstores and spent time reading and writing on our own.

This is the first weekend in a while when we haven't had specific plans, and I think we're doing a pretty good job of it.

5 Truths

Before going on vacation a couple of weeks ago, I made this journal. I knew I had to make a new journal before I left, because the previous one was starting to show signs of its age and was almost full. Whenever I make journals, I do a haphazard collage, cobbled together out of magazine pictures. This time, I was making the journal while hanging out with a friend and I wasn't feeling too inspired. My friend found the headline "5 Truths" and said, "Try this one." Boy, was he right. (I hardly ever say that, so he must be doing a happy jig about now.)

While in Jamaica, I used the journal's title to create a writing exercise. I made lists of 5 things that were true about me. The lists seemed to encapsulate themes, all on their own. After writing a couple of lists, a poem bubbled to the surface. It was pretty magical, the way it happened so automatically.

So, if you would like to try it, all you have to do is write at the top of your journal page 5 Truths. Then, write one sentence (minimum) for each truth. Don't force it, just let the sentences create the form. If a poem doesn't occur to you after writing them down, pick one of the truths and write about that.

Here's an example, written right now.


5 Truths About Me Right Now

1. I need to take a leap of faith in my work life.
2. I'm scared to take that leap.
3. I use activity as a way to procrastinate and mask my true feelings.
4. I would like to learn how to sit still.
5. I'm not too bad, and actually quite human, after all.

Weekly Word Count, July 9-July 15

This week was a stressful week, so I didn't get any writing done. I remain at 18194 for the year. Next week will be better.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Swimming Lessons

Swimming Lessons

Last night, I felt the memory
of a gentle undertow
push me-pull me
until I fell asleep. Yesterday,
I swam in the topaz sea
remembering you, clutching me.
I arched my back, floated
on the surface like a cork
allowing the currents to guide me
while I watched a motionless
cloud streaked sky. Ripple
waves carried me, rise
and fall, rise and fall, and stained
my skin with salt. I began

to count the waves, like you taught me
knowing every seventh was the big one
On the seventh, the break line
crashed over my head, and
I tumbled, topsy-turvy
and breathless, until the water
subsided. Your hands never left
my hands and I watched,
salt stinging my open eyes
as ocean debris (kelp, shells,
bottle caps, rocks and wrappers)
ricocheted around me. I learned
this moment was inevitable
and temporary, so I waited it out.

Inside,I am still
that little girl
whose hands you held
in the choppy gray Pacific,
while we counted. My tiny feet
are still planted in soupy sand.
I am still counting waves
laughing and shrieking in joy
(and fear) as you and the ocean
lifted me. You tried to teach me
to respect the wide gray water, know
that it could change
smooth or rough, depending on the weather.

You served me well:
I am you buoyant
and watchful daughter, wiser
in the ways that everything
can change as it lifts me.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Post-Colonialism on Vacation

I've traveled relatively extensively, because my mother is in the travel business and travel is valued in our family. I've been to several countries around the world, but I have never been to a country quite like Jamaica. Jamaica's history is very interesting. They were colonized by both Spain and England and used as a significant port in the slave trade. In addition to the African, indigenous, and European people who have made homes in Jamaica, Chinese and Indian people have also immigrated there.

Jamaica has only recently emerged from colonial rule, having achieved their independence from England in the 1960s. Once independent, the country struggled with violence and poverty. Now, they have emerged as a developing nation, connected to their history and their many cultures.

When I arrived in Montego Bay, the resort arranged a transfer to the small village of Whitehouse, 90 minutes away. As we drove through Montego Bay, I was immediately struck by the level of poverty in the city. We drove by tin shanties and, to me the most heartbreaking, dilapidated schools. However, as we started driving through the mountains outside of Montego Bay, I noticed that there were more comfortable buildings and structures.

This drive reminded me of how fortunate I am. I realized, in a way that I had not before, what it means to be a colonized country. The more I learned about Jamaica and their culture, the more this realization hit home. This poverty and struggle is a direct result of their centuries-long colonization by England. Even their unofficial language, patois, is a direct result of colonization and slavery. Slaves created a language that is combination of Swahili, English, Spanish, and French as a way to communicate with each other in a way that the plantation owners could not understand. After this trip, I understood post-colonial theory in a new way, having seen the results of colonialism.

I would strongly recommend a trip to Jamaica. I think it is so important to support developing countries with tourism, which is often the main industry in countries like Jamaica. Also, the country is beautiful, verdant mountains and plains, surrounded by miles of coast line and the turquoise blue sea. Finally, the people are kind, friendly, and joyful in contrast to our harried American personality.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

July Poetry Book Club Book -- Averno by Louise Gluck

After reading through all the descriptions of the books, I've decided to choose Averno by Louise Gluck for this month's Poetry Book Club book.

I'm interested in this book because it focuses on the Persephone myth, a verdant myth for feminist poets. I've read other books that explore this same myth, such as Rita Dove's amazing book Mother Love. I'm interested to see how the book compares.

As I've mentioned earlier, I'll post a conversation post on July 24, so that we may compare notes. Happy reading!

This One's For the Muggles...

I don't know about you, but July is Harry Potter Month for me. I am awaiting, on baited breath, the release of the fifth movie next weekend and of course, the final book in the series later this month. I may even try to visit the Harry Potter theme park, once it opens.

So imagine my wonder and delight as I read this New York Times editorial. The NY Times asked 4 writers to imagine their own endings for the series. My favorite re-imagining is by Damon Lindoff, a writer for the enigmatic Lost TV series.

Countdown to next movie: 3 days
Countdownto last book: 13 days
Countdown to Potter induced coma and subsequent withdrawal: Approximately 15 days

Weekly Word Count, June 25-July 8

I'm posting two weeks as one, because I was on vacation last Sunday. Between the two weeks, I wrote one regular poem and one haiku, so 600 words altogether.

18194 for the year.

I'm back!

I am back from vacation in Jamaica. While I had a wonderful time with my mom, I'm glad to be back home. If you would like to see more pictures of Jamaica, here is a link to my Flickr page.

I have a lot of things to share about what Jamaica is like, which I will add in the next couple of days. I also want to post some business stuff, like the next book for the Poetry Book Club, which I will do later today. But for now, I'm still unpacking and settling back in. Enjoy the pics!