Friday, March 30, 2012

I contain multitudes

April is National Poetry Month!

In honor of such an auspicious event, I propose this: if you comment on this blog post with a) the title and poet of your favorite poem, or just a poem that you like a lot, and b) a sentence or two about why you like that particular poem so much, I will post the poem and your explanation sometime during April.

Any takers?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

verb pilots the plane

In honor of Adrienne Rich, 1929-2012:

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve 
Saw you walking barefoot
taking a long look
at the new moon's eyelid

later spread
sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair
asleep but not oblivious
of the unslept unsleeping

Tonight I think
no poetry
will serve

Syntax of rendition:

verb pilots the plane
adverb modifies action

verb force-feeds noun
submerges the subject
noun is choking
verb    disgraced    goes on doing

now diagram the sentence

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

the sky won't snow and the sun won't shine

Miscellany and stuff from the past few weeks:

1. This weekend, it was in the 70s. This morning, it was 36 (26 with the windchill). Should have worn my winter coat.

2. Baseball has started! And that means I'm resigned to being sore for the next month, or whenever my muscles decide that they remember what it means to field and bat.

2a. This is what I look like in baseball get-up:

3. Books: Finished The End of the Affair. Finished The Parable of the Talents. Started Sunshine. Next up is Brown Girl in the Ring.

4. Stuff I've been reading:

From Colorlines: You Got a Problem? Well, Now You Do. On Trayvon Martin)

On Kony2012: Ethan Zuckerman  and  Project Diaspora

From the LGBTQ community at Abilene Christian University: Voiceless Zine 

5. I'm going to the Mid-Atlantic Writing Centers Association (MAWCA) conference this weekend. It's in Shippensburg, PA, which is really in the middle of nowhere. Taking a student, so the drive won't be too lonely.

6.   Have had this stuck in my head for days:

Friday, March 16, 2012

though my story's seldom told

(Just a warning: I'm going to curse in this post.)

Mayor Nutter recently proposed a ban on feeding homeless people in public spaces--like the subway, or Love Park, or the Ben Franklin Parkway.

Here are some links:

Mayor Nutter wants to ban feeding homeless people in city parks

Nutter Feeds Us a Load of Crap With New Homeless Rule

If you've read any of my posts before, you'd have seen that I spent a good amount of time in college hanging out with homeless people. I also spent the year after college working with homeless women.

Here's my response to Mayor Nutter:

Fuck. That. Shit.


This is not a new thing in Philly. In the late 90s, the city passed the Sidewalk Ordinance, which banned people from loitering. Well, it banned certain people from loitering. If I, a white girl, fell asleep with a book on a bench, most likely I wouldn't have been harassed or chased out.

Project HOME reports that on any given day, there are 4,000 homeless people in Philadelphia.That number is only the number on the streets or in (emergency) shelters. It doesn't count people in low-income or substandard housing or in transitional housing. In 2005, over 14,000 people were served by the Office of Emergency Shelter and Services. That's a hell of a lot of people.

The official reason for this new policy is that the city wants feeding programs to move inside. There's speculation that the unofficial reasons are that 1) the Barnes Foundation is re-opening on the Parkway (and there's an organization that does meals right down the street in front of the Free Library) and 2) it's the beginning of tourist season.

I don't think that my being allowed to give the guy on the street a sandwich is going to solve homelessness. Far from it. I think that a concentrated effort of getting people good education, good shelter, and good jobs will--well, it won't solve the problem, but it'll help. And what has this city done toward that end in the years that I've been here? Not much that I can see. I do think that this law denies homeless people their humanity and dignity.

I had this homeless friend named Pop in college. We used to go into the Dunkin Donuts in Suburban Station. He'd get a tea, I'd get coffee, and we'd sit and talk for a while. As far as I know, Pop's still by the steps under the clothespin statue. I haven't seen him in a while, mostly because I don't go that way anymore.

Maybe I will, though, and see if he's there. Because, seriously, Mr. Nutter? Fuck you. I thought you were better than that.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

stop this day and night with me

Happy Tuesday! Have some Whitman.

From Song of Myself:

 I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil,
     this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and
     their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.

Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are
     crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.
The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the
     distillation, it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised
     and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, buzz'd whispers, love-root, silk-thread,
     crotch and vine,
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the
     passing of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and
     dark-color'd sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,
The sound of the belch'd words of my voice loos'd to the
     eddies of the wind,
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the
     fields and hill-sides,
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising
     from bed and meeting the sun.

Have you reckon'd a thousand acres much? have you reckon'd
     the earth much?
Have you practis'd so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the
     origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are
     millions of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor
     look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the
     spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things
     from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

can't see no other way

Happy International Women's Day!

An update on that book list:

The Magicians, Lev Grossman
All Soul's Rising, Madison Smartt Bell
Parable of the Talents, Octavia Butler
The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
The Cure at Troy, Seamus Heaney
The Illustrated Man, Ray Bradbury
Sunshine, Robin McKinley
Stone's Fall
, Iain Pears
The Use of Weapons, Iain Banks
The Broken Kingdoms, NK Jemisin
Brown Girl in the Ring, Nalo Hopkinson
The End of the Affair, Graham Green
White Teeth, Zadie Smith
The Turn of the Screw, Henry James (I know, I know. Bad English major)
The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides
The Rain God, Arturo Islas
George Washington Gomez, Americo Paredes
1Q84, Haruki Murakami
Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius, Sylvia Nasar
White Noise, Don DeLillo
The Farming of Bones, Edwidge Danticat 
Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami

Bold = finished
Looking at this list, I feel that it's not very impressive. Five books in two months? Yeah, Sarah. Doing real well there. But, well, White Teeth  is over 450 pages, The Magicians is over 400, Stone's Fall is 600, and Kafka on the Shore is almost 500. So...I've been reading a lot of long books. 
I think my next book will be The End of the Affair. I've actually never read any Graham Greene.
And because it's supposed to be 70 degrees today (!), have some Patty Griffin:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Moving from the window towards morning.

I totally want this t-shirt.

Also from The Academy of American Poets: Poetry and Music!

Today's poem: (I feel like this describes Philly's summers well)

This City

This apartment with no furniture,
where no one puts anything up,
where everyone schemes to get out.

This mess, to the right and the left of me,
that equation of garbage wherein matter moves its way,
the magazine sector in glanced-at demise.

This price, and that mind, and nothing to say but "violent."
Nothing but violence in the expensive mind.
Moving from the window towards morning.

These characters at the bottom, so generous
and pathetic. Those abstract things at the top,
so mean, precise and arresting.

That god-abandoned theatre with its three-legged dog.
Staying alone to learn the lesson, the lesson being

This program, these organizations, these gatherings
and awards. This sweat that drags it down.
These pagans with large teeth and good eyes.

The profit sector giving us images, the nonprofit
passing out handbills, and worried.
The mind that grabs after information.

The dance changed every week so no one masters
any one dance. Carrying around the little guns
and knives, the bars owned by a friend.

The same economy that binds them together
pulls them apart. The little thems, staring
into the canyon. The all of us.

A sense of proportion, in this dense heat,
hearing the tune of romance behind the psychotic.
The profit sector giving us images.

Elegance, learning, poverty and crime.
Those who smell power must dog these.
The untuning of cement into many moods.

In audacity, in hilarity, this city
plays an unbelievable organ.
How afternoon goes like the movies.

Friday, March 2, 2012

metaphors help eliminate what separates you and me

I am glad it's Friday. Next week is the students' spring break, which means I will get to catch up on a bunch of stuff that I haven't had a chance to do. But this week has felt like a month. Whew.

I recently finished two books, and here are some quick thoughts.

White Teeth, Zadie Smith:

I read On Beauty a couple of years ago, so I thought I'd try another Zadie Smith. White Teeth is Smith's 2000 debut novel. It won a bunch of awards, including the Whitbread, the James Tait Black award, The Guardian First Book award...and some more. Time put it on its 100 Best English Novels (1923-2005) list. People really liked this book.

The novel is primarily about the immigrant experience in the UK. It starts with Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal, long-time friends and WWII vets, and their families. Archie marries Clara, who is Jamaican and a former Jehovah's Witness. Samad goes through with a traditional arranged marriage to Alsana--they are both Bangladeshi and Muslim. Both couples have children, who are integral in the plotline. Thrown into the mix are the Chalfens, who are intellectual and, well, very British.

White Teeth is in turns hilarious--the fundamentalist Muslim group is Keepers of the Eternal and Victorious Islamic Nation, abbreviated KEVIN--and serious in that it depicts the struggles of immigrants to adjust to English life. It's populated by quirky, interesting characters who are intelligent but also blind to their own faults. Irie, Archie and Clara's daughter, is easily my favorite. She is quick and smart, but she's also very much a teenager--longing for attention and in love with Millat, Samad and Alsana's son.

I'm only capturing pieces of this book; it's rather sprawling in character development. I'll end with Zadie Smith's words from a PBS interview:
The people in White Teeth are immigrants. I'm not an immigrant, so it's a different experience. But I was around people who had that experience, who felt separated or cut in two, who had moved from one country to another, who had that sense of leading two lives. Samad thinks that way -- that somewhere in the world there is this other Samad who still lives in Bangladesh and is very good and religious and proper. But he has to deal with the real Samad. I think that's a fairly common experience. But that's a guess; I couldn't know.

Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami

This is my first Murakami. I've been told that it's different from a lot of his other novels in that its main character is a 15-year-old boy instead of a middle-aged man. Like White Teeth, it's a rather sprawling book, but in different ways.

There are two separate but interweaving strands to this book. The first plotline is told from the point of view of 15-year-old Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home under his father's curse (you will kill your father and sleep with your mother and sister; sound familiar?). From there, he ends up at a private library, where he meets Miss Saeki, the head of the library who lost her love when she was twenty and never moved on, and Oshima, a gay transgender man who takes Kafka under his wing. There's also Sakura, who may be Kafka's sister, but we never really know. After Kafka leaves home, Kafka's father, a famous artist, is murdered, and part of the plot focuses on the fact that neither Kafka nor the reader knows whether Kafka killed him or not.

Then there is Nakata, an old man who suffered an accident in his youth and woke up from a coma without his memories or the ability to read or write. He can, however, speak to cats, and makes a little money finding lost cats for their owners. As he is searching for a cat, Nakata is lured to a lair by "Johnnie Walker," a cat-snatcher, and forced to kill him. "Johnnie Walker" may or may not be Kafka's father. Like Kafka, Nakata takes a journey, picking up Hoshino, a truck driver, on the way.

I'd call this book "magical realism," but I'm not quite sure it fits. It's got talking cats, fish falling from the sky, soldiers in a forest who never age. It's got a Colonel Sanders, who is "a concept." Miss Saeki is both fifty years old and fifteen years old, and she may be Kafka's mother. But we're never sure.
And that is a recurring them of this book: we're never quite sure if anything is real.

Again, this seems an inadequate summary of this book. In his review of Kafka on the Shore in The New Yorker, John Updike calls it " a real page-turner, as well as an insistently metaphysical mind-bender." I'd agree with that.

I'm reading Edwidge Danticat's The Farming of Bones now. Also, just because, have a zinnia: