Sunday, March 25, 2012

More poems

Another poem I wrote, inspired by our teacher pleading for us not to turn in poems we wrote in high school. I tried to make the footnotes form another poem. Not sure if it works though. Here it is:

What This is Not

This is not a poem I wrote in high school
with one syllable rhymes to words
like heart/tart
love/wove
soul/pool
references to brokeness
teddy bears with flat glass eyes
dusty teacups that will bide
an eternity.*

This is not a poem I wrote in college
after discovering patchouli and tabouli.
Responsible for a plant for the first time
I killed it with neglect and wrote
a poem comparing the dried, brittle spikes
in such phallic terms
my face turned red when we workshopped it,
the "hard, fecund root withering
to a tiny shell of itself..."**

This is not a poem I wrote in my twenties
for a spoken word contest.
I wore a scarf on my head, read
a poem about recovery.
Later, someone approached me
asked me how long I had been in remission.
I stuttered, trying to explain that for me
recovery meant no longer sleeping
with every bartender who showed
me any interest.***

This not a poem I wrote in my thirties
I didn't write poetry at all, sticking
instead to pure copy, corporate
speak about efficiencies, time
saving mechanisms, bottom lines,
trying to torque sentences
into greater meaning about the human condition.
I lived alone with cats and overdue
library books about single women with cats.

This is a poem I write in my forties
having learned to not expect
words to carry
the weight of my entire life
experience, instead
hoping to get somewhere beyond
vanity and despair
to a place of forgiveness
for the writers I have been.****

*This is from a poem I wrote in middle school…
**Ellipses added to show again the eternal nature of loss
***17 to be exact
****and others to follow

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Clown Poems

Went to a reading by Stephen Dunn  at the Kelly Writers House for class last night. He's written some amazing poems--one about a man seeing a clown waving to him from the distant treeline, and argument he had with his ex-wife about crows traveling in threes, another about being at a party and going upstairs to hang out with the dogs instead, how at a certain time of day, he's more likely to start misbehaving (4 PM), how it's just luck that he's not considered a criminal, just luck that the fire he started didn't spread or luck that a little girl didn't dart out in front of him in traffic when he was driving a little drunk, poems about desire and "this stupid body," and how on hot days in New York, everyone wants everyone, and then this line from one of the poems he read about a writing workshop where he thought he had a great idea and he read it and "the room got quiet with tolerance."

That's what I feared might happen for my workshop last night, but it went fine. We work-shopped two of my poems and people really liked the second one, which is the more playful, less emotionally resonant piece. I guess it's funny. That's one of the things I noticed about Dunn's work--that it's funny, clever, interesting. Maybe I need to write a few more poems that are a little more idea-centric. I'm glad that's over with. I feel lucky to have gone first, so that now I can relax and focus on the revisions and the other poems we have to write each week.

Here is Stephen Dunn's clown poem from the August 24, 2009 issue of The New Yorker

"If a Clown"

If a clown came out of the woods,
a standard-looking clown with oversized
polka-dot clothes, floppy shoes,
a red, bulbous nose, and you saw him
on the edge of your property,
there’d be nothing funny about that,
would there? A bear might be preferable,
especially if black and berry-driven.
And if this clown began waving his hands
with those big white gloves
that clowns wear, and you realized
he wanted your attention, had something
apparently urgent to tell you,
would you pivot and run from him,
or stay put, as my friend did, who seemed
to understand here was a clown
who didn’t know where he was,
a clown without a context?
What could be sadder, my friend thought,
than a clown in need of a context?
If then the clown said to you
that he was on his way to a kid’s
birthday party, his car had broken down,
and he needed a ride, would you give
him one? Or would the connection
between the comic and the appalling,
as it pertained to clowns, be suddenly so clear
that you’d be paralyzed by it?
And if you were the clown, and my friend
hesitated, as he did, would you make
a sad face, and with an enormous finger
wipe away an imaginary tear? How far
would you trust your art? I can tell you
it worked. Most of the guests had gone
when my friend and the clown drove up,
and the family was angry. But the clown
twisted a balloon into the shape of a bird
and gave it to the kid, who smiled,
let it rise to the ceiling. If you were the kid,
the birthday boy, what from then on
would be your relationship with disappointment?
With joy? Whom would you blame or extoll?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What Grosses You Out?

This is what we talked about in our fiction writing class last night. I asked the participants to do a free write on two things--something that they were scared of and something that grossed them out. We were going to be discussing two pretty distressing stories ("The Shawl," by Cynthia Ozick and "First, Body," by Melanie Rae Thon) and I thought it would be good to have them start thinking about how to exorcise some of those fears/anxieties/grossness in their fiction. These are some of the things they mentioned on the gross scale: bodily fluids, snot (see "bodily fluids"),  milk (because she grew up in Poland and mile their came in these strange cartons, and was never refrigerated) and hair on plates (this from someone who waits tables and so really does have to face this ick on a regular basis). In the scared of part, people talked about:  rats (one guy has a rat problem in his kitchen. This brought on a whole slew of stories about rats. We suggested he rent a rat terrier. I volunteered Emma Carol, before realizing that she is too fat to chase rats), Christmas (too many family members), finding something unexpected during a home renovation, change, black sneakers (because of a bad date involving a guy who drove a white van and wore black sneakers), and phone calls in the middle of the night.

Speaking of fears, we're going over my poems tonight in class. I like the titles ("Giltner, Nebraska, 1974, population 198," and "Dear Man on Page 56 of the J. Crew Spring 2012 Catalogue," but am not keen on the content.

Here is a picture of a cat for you.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The List

I have this new list on my refrigerator of the things I want to try to do more often--not every day, necessarily, but more than once a year. Take my vitamin, drink more water, walk to work, exercise, write every day, and then blog three times a week, that's another goal. It's hard though--especially when at least a portion of my day is taken up by work-related social media; I don't seem to have much energy for my own stuff. And I'm not taking enough pictures, that's another problem. Once the weather gets nice, I promise I'll get out more.

Tonight, will go to Zumba again for the first time in 100 years. I told Dan I was dreading it and he said, But you're an excellent dancer. It's nice, how blind he is to my short-comings.

I terms of writing stuff---have been doing my 750 words every morning for 37 days now, all because this blogging site offers me virtual badges for certain electronic badges of unicorns and flamingos and squirrels. That's what motivates me.  Today wasn't a good writing day, mostly just wrote thoughts versus any fiction or poetry. On a related note, one trend I noticed in the fiction portion of the class I teach is this tendency to leave out the rising action of the story and for the most dramatic part of the tale to have already occurred. So, for example, you're introduced to a central character who's a down and out bum and then, through a series of flashbacks, you learn how it is that he came to be a drunk. In the present day of the story, though, nothing changes. We start a new fiction class for Philadelphia Stories on Monday--maybe this will be a good topic to lead with.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

First House on the Block

To get in step with the next big holiday, my friend Padhraig's birthday on St. Patty's Day.

Need to Stop Watching Reality Detective Shows

Bad dreams last night as several of the things I have anxiety about converged into one moment--lost a tooth, Tina discovered I have cats (in the dream, they were actually living in her house, but we hadn't told her yet), had to give a speech at a meeting and was unprepared, awkward distant acquaintance asked me to have coffee with him after work at his house and I couldn't think of an excuse on the spot.

When I finally woke up, I felt a great sense of relief that none of those things (have yet) happened. Also woke up earlier in the night because a woman was screaming and yelling outside--far enough away that I couldn't tell what she was saying or if she was in any real danger and then I thought of the show What Would You Do? which puts people in fake ethical dilemmas and then secretly videotapes to see if anyone does the right thing. I decided I would at least get up to look out the window in case I needed to identify a killer, but by then, her voice had gone down to a normal, too loud range and I still couldn't see where she was, so I went back to bed. This is the consequence of watching the 48 Hours Mystery special prior to going to sleep, where a guy is accused of beating both his parents to death with a baseball bat so he wouldn't have to pay back a loan. So, I couldn't stop thinking about what those last moments must have been for the mom, like, she gave birth to this child and raised him and he turns out to be the force that causes her death. Would she have ever imagined in her life up until that moment that he would be capable of such a thing?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Photos Where Are You?

Remember when I used to do that? Take pictures of things and put them up here? I haven't been doing the same kind of walking anymore and so am not out in the world except to go the two blocks to the subway and back, and on my lunch hour. Here are five pictures anyway of things in my office.






P.S. I signed up for the 750words.com March challenge to write every day. In writing every morning last month, I got about 40 pages of fiction, single-spaced. Not bad. Not much of it was usable, but some of it was.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

As Heard on the Trolley in the AM and Broad Street in the PM

My working life is bookend-ed each morning and evening by riding SEPTA in some form; SEPTA, who has the saddest marketing tagline: "We're Getting There..." Like, we know we kind of suck, but at least we're trying! Most days, nothing of note happens, but yesterday, I heard a woman say, while holding twO children on her lap (ages between 2-4 years old): " And so I told her, don't you talk that way in front of my f**king kids."

And then later, a kid on the Broad Street line announced, "I will recite Shakespeare for one dollar." The man next to me, this guy with a cane, took out a dollar bill and hobbled over to give it to the kid. They were too far away for me to hear what the kid said, but I thought it was totally awesome that the guy took him up on it.