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poetry

“Let us remember…that in the end we go to poetry for one reason, so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both.” ~Christian Wiman, Editor of Poetry Magazine.


Since starting to blog more with creative writing, I’ve been getting solicitations for different writing magazines. I checked out Poetry Magazine but it’s writers appear to be overwhelmingly white and I’d appreciate a lot more diversity if I were to actually subscribe. Still, I like this quotation.


P.S. This post generated a link to a post with a much more interesting take on/discussion of this quote and poetry, funding, purpose, etc. Just coming across BIG OTHER but am interested to check out more.

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Law 12. “Use selective honesty and generosity to disarm your victim.”
And by “victim” you mean “girl”—never “woman”
And by “victim” you mean yourself
Except if you fall in a forest
and you don’t see it
does it matter?

No.

Law 16. “Use absence to increase respect and honor.”
Don’t be too available.
Find an excuse to get off the phone.
Don’t linger. Excuse yourself to say hi to a friend—she told you to check this place out after all.
Wave at the hottest girl you can make eye contact with.
Exit.
Be caught off guard when your “victim” dances with someone else.
Was that supposed to happen?

No.

But who cares?
Girls are a dime a dozen,
except—

Law 20. “Do not commit to anyone.”

I decline
a swig from the flask
once tucked under the seat of your mid-life-crisis car.

You shoot your head back
gulping vodka
tucking the flask away
as you step on the gas.

Tracing the zigzag of LA freeways
hard
fast.

You are taking me to the Magic Castle
so I am supposed to be
grateful
giddy.

According to you
I am

cold.

I get that way at certain times with certain people and I never unfreeze.

Months later you ask me to travel the world—or some portion of it—with you.
I suspect that traveling means unfreezing.

So, again,
I decline.

“It’s hard enough to have a relationship when people aren’t playing games,” you say, your humanity rising above your ego for just a moment.

Sometimes I resent your formlessness as I struggle to follow, keep up, learn my own shape, only to unlearn it and learn it anew; to teach it to myself.

I TRUST EVERYONE
will let me down.

(imagined as a cartoon character’s word bubbles. she’s screaming the first, represented by all caps; whispering the second in a tiny font.)


This week’s writing is mainly inspired by The 48 Laws of Power. Instead of one coherent poem, I came up with a whole bunch of fragments. The “you” in each is a different person/situation. I would like to know which of the fragments are most compelling, ideas about integrating them, and spots that are unclear or confusing. In general, I also like to hear suggestions about punctuation and language choices.

I am grateful to Petit Poussin for putting the idea of an online poetry workshop out there into the Twitter-verse. Her thinking around the vision and purpose of the workshop was/is that, “writing and creating do not happen in a vacuum, and a workshop should take this into account and respond consciously. if we support each other’s work we are supporting our own work and creativity.”

I decided to participate to help with my goal of writing every day and to develop my skills and confidence with poetry. Below is my first poem as part of this workshop. Feedback is encouraged and appreciated. I’m excited to read what the other poets–Kevin Andre, Noemi Martinez, Maegan la Mamita Mala Ortiz and Phyrecracker–come up with.

Okay, so, here it goes:

Forgive me if I remove
these chartreuse-colored glasses.
The way they highlight and blunt,
distort and abstract—
I prefer to see things as they are:
The seagull breaking open a mussel,
dropping it on the cement path below,
swooping to get it;
heaps of sand piled by a tractor combing the surf;
fish guts caked on the pier’s cleaning stations.
Forgive me my over-analysis of process and grit,
my contemplation of the color of water,
the shades of the sky when overcast, sunny.
These details are my burden, my joy.
Same too with living in this body:
freckle to freckle, hair to hair.
The smile that escapes.
The words,
“Forgive me, I do not apologize for myself anymore.”


The prompt was an untitled poem by Pablo Neruda.

English translation:
Forgive me if my eyes see
no more clearly than sea foam,
please forgive that my form
grows outward without license
and never stops:
monotonous is my song,
my word is a shadow bird,
fauna of stone and sea, the grief
of a winter planet, incorruptible.
Forgive me this sequence of water,
of rock, of foam, of the tide’s
delirium: this is my loneliness:
salt in sudden leaps against the walls
of my secret being, in such a way
that I am a part
of winter,
of the same flat expanse that repeats
from bell to bell, in wave after wave,
and from a silence like a woman’s hair,
a silence of seaweed, a sunken song.

En español:
Perdón si por mis ojos no llegó
más claridad que la espuma maririai
perdòn porque mi espado
se extiende sin amparo
y no termina:
monótono es mi caneo,
mi palabra es un pájaro sombrío,
fauna de piedra y mar, el desconsuelo
de un plañera invernal, incorruptible.
Perdòn por esta sucesión del agua,
de la roca, la espuma, el desvarío
de la marea: así es mi soledad:
bruscos saltos de sal contra los muros
de mi secreto ser, de tal manera
que yo soy una parte
del invierno,
de la misma extensión que se repite
de campana en campana en tantas olas
y de un silencio como cabellera,
silencio de alga, canto sumergido.

This week I went up to San Francisco with LA CAN. The 50 or so of us on the bus met up with folks from all over the West Coast for a “House Keys Not Handcuffs” action. Despite the rain, several hundred of us marched through the streets of SF to deliver our message at the federal building. And through it all, we enjoyed the rain with a lot of help from a very spirited marching band. The next day this quote came to me in the form of a love note left on the gift exchange alter of the Evolver Long Beach “Give It Up” event/spore: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

On the way up to SF, we watched several movies, including Revolutionary Road. The movie has really stuck with me throughout the week. An excerpt from my journal writing about it: “It’s a movie about people’s reactions to nonconformity and the pressures to conform. It’s also about the label of ‘mental illness’ and what gets deemed crazy and the ways other (unhappy) people will use this label to put down others in order to feel better about themselves and their own unhappiness.” I’d love to discuss this movie more with others who have watched it.

Also, this song is where the name of my blog comes from. Dar Williams’ “After All” is an anthem of sorts for me. “And when I chose to live, there was no joy, it’s just a line I crossed. It wasn’t worth the pain my death would cost. So I was not lost or found.”

“Go ahead, push your luck …” This song also inspired one of my sisters’ tattoos!

One thing that has meant a lot to me over the last week is having relatives post pictures from when I was younger on Facebook as part of the retro/throwback phenomenon. These photos mean a lot to me because they help me remember connections to my childhood and my family members. Here’s one that my Aunt Kelly posted:

[removed 2/09/11, feeling shy at the moment]

According to the date on the back, I am about to turn three here.

As I write I am experiencing one of the things on my list of simple pleasures–hearing my cat, bell, snore. My turn soon.

to lights lit

1/11: “I sent my friend Jenni a text asking for a writing prompt. She’s a sixth grade teacher and gives her students’ prompts for their journal writing assignments. She sent me two back: ‘What’s your favorite daydream? Or, what is the hardest thing about growing up?’ Those two things interplay with each other in interesting ways–my daydreams versus growing up. The hardest thing about growing up is figuring out where to focus my energies–what will have the most impact in terms of creating a more just, humane world and creating a sustainable world.”

1/12: “I am drunk right now. Perhaps I should write a poem about vodka tonics.”

1/14: Reflecting on #14 from my list of simple pleasures: “Sharing meals with friends and loved ones … I remember going to a (what I thought was fancy at the time) Italian restaurant with the cheer team I was part of/co-captain of in high school and expressing, for the first time that I can remember, my utter satisfaction with eating–with a meal. I think I said something along the lines of ‘I love food.’ I was so content. I remember some of the other cheerleaders kind of laughing at/being amazed by this statement. It is, however, completely true.”

1/15: Tweeting from LA CAN
“There’s nothing more basic than being treated decently and having a place to live.” ~Al @LACANetwork
“Thank you, Dr. King, for passing the torch to us.” ~Deborah @LACANetwork

1/16: Poetry prompt found online: “Write a poem that starts with a one word title, two words in the first line, three in the next, and continues by adding one word per line.”

***
Dinner
It’s Christmas
Waiting for sisters
Love by my side
They arrive with smiles, hugs
I have prepared an appetizer spread
Three cheeses, sun-dried tomato and olive tapenade
Also heirloom tomatoes, crackers, two kinds of bread
I am relieved when they find something they like
Peppermint patties procured for Kate lest there is nothing else
I watch, noticing that she also likes the tangerines and strawberries
The once picky Maggie eats olive bread, fresh mozzarella, and tries tapenade
So much to grasp and this is only the beginning of the meal
Tony plays music and video records me mashing potatoes and checking Tofurky
We steam broccoli, drink chocolate port, finally sit down for dinner
We laugh at the Tofurky which Tony has expertly carved
Everything isn’t for everyone but we all have something
Then we almost can’t decide on a movie
Us each dancing around our top picks
I am nervous and generally agnostic
Sherlock Holmes is the winner
During I cringe, laugh
Afterwards we walk
To lights
Unlit
***

It’s fun to use these prompts to practice writing, even if what comes from it isn’t, well, poetry.

On tap for the holiday weekend:
Dissertation writing
An additional interview for the make/shift roundtable discussion I’ve been working on

Well, I’m doing it! I am writing my way through 2010, as resolved. Since posting on January 1st, I have written in my journal each day.

Some of the things I have written about are:
A list of things I want to do after I finish my dissertation
Associations that I have with the word “harmony”
Finishing one journal and starting another
Approaching old things with a new perspective
My thoughts on Christ
Dreams and dreaming
Exploring friendships that I’ve had over the years
A free write/poem about yesterday

And tonight found a prompt online: “List 31 simple pleasures. Every day for the next 4 weeks, write about one pleasure for 5 minutes.” I came up with a list of 48 and made myself stop there. I’m not going to write about each one for the next month as the prompt suggests, but may write on them throughout the year.

The goal for the coming week is to make some progress on my dissertation (so I can get to that list I talk about above!). I have made some significant progress on the dissertation this week though and went to LA CAN twice this week, but I need to write the dang thing!

I’m exhausted after a long week which was exacerbated by being woken up by my cat, bell, who needed to go to the vet this morning. She’s okay, but she really must stop eating things like strings and rubber bands and, in this case, ribbon from a holiday present. Before I go to bed, I’ll end with a random sampling of simple pleasures:

#8 walking or riding my bike along the ocean
#43 being inspired by amazing writers, poets, activists, organizers
#35 seeing a harvest moon
#25 eating popsicles on a hot day
#32 seeing my sisters and other loved ones happy
#11 drinking tea (even better with a friend)
#16 candlelight

Tomorrow I will be working on editing down an interview that will be featured in the next issue of make/shift.

Happy New Year!

Here’s my usual spiel on New Year’s resolutions:
I have made so many in my life that I do not make them anymore. I simply recycle resolutions of years past.

Except this year, I do have a resolution/goal: to write everyday in 2010.

What counts:
Writing for my dissertation
Creative writing—poetry, stories, blogs
Letters to friends and family
Journal entries
Maga/zine writing (for make/shift, for example)

The main criteria are that the writing must be to the end of:
1. finishing the diss
OR 2. honing my writing skills through creative/engaging work/play

Well wishes and writing prompts are encouraged/appreciated!