Thursday, August 31, 2006

Poem for Poetry Thursday

This is a *painfully* new poem that I may scrap altogether. Constructive feedback welcome. Be gentle.


Brick

I pick up a brick from
the unfinished walkway and think
a house is a house is a house.
But the truth is
I revel in my homeowner sense
of accomplishment—
the flagpole staked on the front lawn,
our manifest destiny flapping in the breeze.

The world is full of wrecked houses
home after home,
with owners who won’t come back
or don’t know how,
astonished that this is not
the life they expected,
gardens of heavy overgrowth,
and the piercing sting of thorns.

At night, ultimately
everything comes back to me
this brick I loved and that one,
my impenetrable heart
surrounded by a chorus of tiger lilies
shaking their heads, Yes! Yes!,
in affirmation.

Every day I make the choice
not to throw a brick through my window.
Every day is a gift I accept
grudgingly.


For more great poems, visit Poetry Thursday.

Poetry Thursday: Listen Carefully

(My Poetry Thursday poem is here.)

Listen Carefully

My sister rises from our bed hours before dawn.
I smell her first cigarette and fall back asleep
until she sits on the foot of the bed to pull
on her boots. I shouldn't look, but I do,
knowing she's still naked from the waist up.
She sees me looking and smiles, musses my hair,
whispers something secret into my ear, something
I can't tell anyone because it makes no sense.
Hours later I waken in an empty room
smelling of no yesterdays. The sunlight streams
across the foot of the bed, and for a moment
I actually think it's Saturday, and I'm free.
Let me be frank about this: my older sister
is not smart. I answer all her mail for her,
and on Sundays I even make dinner because
the one cookbook confuses her, although
it claims to be the way to a man's heart.
She wants to learn the way, she wants
a husband, she tells me, but at twenty-six she's
beginning to wonder. She makes good money
doing piece work, assembling the cups that cap
the four ends of a cross of a universal joint.
I've seen her at work, her face cut with slashes
of grease while with tweezers she positions
the tiny rods faster than you or I could ever,
her eyes fixed behind goggles, her mind God
knows where, roaming over all the errors
she thinks make her life. She doesn't know why
her men aren't good to her. I've rubbed
hand cream into the bruises on her shoulders,
I've seen what they've done, I've even cried
along with her. By now I believe I know
exactly what you're thinking. Although I don't
get home until after one, we sleep
in the same bed every night, unless she's
not home. If you're thinking there's no way
we wouldn't be driven to each other, no way
we could resist, no way someone as wronged
as my beautiful sister could have a choice
about something so basic, then you're
the one who's wrong. You haven't heard a word.

~Philip Levine


Why does “Listen Carefully” resonate with me? First, I should say that Phil was my thesis adviser at NYU. So I have an affinity for all things Phil Levine. I carry some of the lines from his poems in my head anyway, so carrying any actual poem around seems like natural progression.

I love Phil’s straightforwardness in lines such as “Let me be frank about this….” If poetry has a “fourth wall,” as in stage acting where the dialogue is spoken directly to the audience, then Phil attempts to hook the reader in and truly bring him or her into to experience.

I also appreciate that Phil’s a great storyteller. He’s remarkable in the way he brings factory work into the realm of the poetic. Who knew universal joints would lend themselves so well to poetry?

But what I love most about “Listen Carefully” is that Phil Levine doesn’t have a sister. He has a brother. But you’d never know that by reading his portrayal of a brother deeply in love with his sister—in love with her the same way you love a wounded animal or small child.

Is it fair to the reader to create situations or people, even to get to a higher truth? In other words, does the poet have the right to take liberties with the facts? I don’t have the answers, and if you think I do, then you haven’t heard a word.

For more poetic truths, go to Poetry Thursday. For my poem, click here.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

No sleep 'til ... Dodge!


Dodge. If you say the word to an East Coast poet (and some West Coast and Middle America poets, too), he or she knows exactly what you’re talking about. Dodge is by far the largest poetry gathering in the United States—it is the Super Bowl of poetry events. No. Dodge is a coming together of poets and poetry lovers. No. Dodge is a religious experience.

All of the above are correct, and none of my descriptions does it justice.

For those who have never been, the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival is held at Waterloo Village in Stanhope, New Jersey, every two years. The historic grounds are distinctive and beautiful, with plenty of space for the 20,000+ people attending the four-day event.

Waterloo makes a wonderful church for the gospel of poetry. But it really is about the people—from my friends I go with every year, to the people I run into within the poetry community. Poets I’m looking forward to hearing include Lucille Clifton, Galway Kinnell, Robert Bly, Grace Paley, Toi Derricotte, Mark Doty, Gerald Stern, Sekou Sundiata, Elizabeth Alexander, Terrance Hayes, Natasha Trethewey, Jim Daniels, Ross Gay, and Billy Collins.

This year, I will be there September 29-October 1—my fifth year in attendance. I’m so jazzed about the event that I’m celebrating the next 30 days with a countdown (see post on the left). Also, I’m attempting to do something poetry related every day leading up to Dodge, such as writing a boatload of poems.

Most important, I WILL BE BLOGGING FROM DODGE! (Yes, I’m shouting!) I’ll have my laptop, digital camera, and cell phone ready to bring you any and all kernels that fall from the Dodge poetry table. So if you can’t go, I will bring Dodge to you!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Oh, Donald!

From, Poets & Writers magazine:

Q: What are you most looking forward to about this appointment?
A: Probably the sale of my books.

At least our newly appointed Poet Laureate Donald Hall is honest, and admits that books sales matter. Far too many established poets decline to talk about poetry as a business.

Read more of this short Q&A with Donald Hall at "Poets & Writers, Inc.

Wildflowers



It's raining and 65 degrees outside--in August! That's insane. Don't know if I'll ever get used to the New England's cooler climate. I'm posting this picture because I need a little sunshine and beauty today.

At least the words are coming back. Poetry abounds, I just need to get the words on paper.

An acquaintance of mine has been chiding me to take his jujitsu class, but I've been putting him off. Maybe I should to shake things up.

Hope it's sunny where you are today.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Monsters



I like monsters. Too bad they all don’t look like Taz. But there’s something about the physical representation of monsters that is comforting for me. So in thinking about this week’s Sunday Scribblings, I decided it would be helpful to define what a monster is.

According to Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary, a monster is:

Pronunciation: 'män(t)-st&r
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English monstre, from Anglo-French, from Latin monstrum omen, monster, from monEre to warn -- more at MIND

1 a : an animal or plant of abnormal form or structure:
I do like that as a culture, we try to make monsters less scary, almost friendly, for children.

b : one who deviates from normal or acceptable behavior or character
I'm not condoning her, but I understand the Mommy Dearest archetype. Never made the kids sit at the table for 12 hours until they finished their meal, but I understand the impulse.

2 : a threatening force
Hurricane Katrina was a monster created by Mother Nature. Just goes to show that even the most endearing images in modern folklore have their dark sides.

3 a : an animal of strange or terrifying shape b : one unusually large for its kind

I have to look no further than myself first thing in the morning. Most days, I have a healthy self-image of myself. But every once in a while, usually when I’m trying to fit into my pre-pregnancy clothing, I feel like a slow, lumbering beast.

4 : something monstrous; especially : a person of unnatural or extreme ugliness, deformity, wickedness, or cruelty
Osama Bin Laden. Saddam Hussein. Insert favorite dictator/terrorist/evildoer here. Some could even make a case for our current leadership. But I’m not going to do that here.

5 : one that is highly successful
I happen to like Gordon Gekko and his signature line: “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” While he was a ruthless character, I think he was right. Yet, the movie Wall Street and that now infamous speech influenced a whole generation of MBA students out to make a buck. Nothing worse than monsters with money.

In most cases, a monster is an entity that can be seen or heard. What’s the expression, "... the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t." Fear of failure is my monster. And even though I know what it looks like, it still scares me to death.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Freelancers of the world, unite and take over!

Even though it’s still August, I’m thinking ahead to the holidays and Christmas (yes, Christmas!). I'm looking to supplement my income with a few freelance writing/editing jobs so I can pay cash for presents and not dip into reserve credit. (Yikes!)


(Mommy, should that be an em dash?)

Now in a perfect world, a prospective employer would call me up out of the blue with a great job paying boo coo bucks. Yeah, right! Nice, but not gonna happen.

That's where you come in. It’s been a while since I’ve freelanced, so what’s the best way to get a freelance gig these days? What’s worked for you? Do you use a placement service or comb the want ads? What wording do you use to solicit responses on Craigslist.org? I’m just looking for a few hours of work that I can do from home when the kids are asleep.

Writers and editors, what are your strategies? Do tell.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Poem for Poetry Thursday

The slump continues. But unlike the Red Sox, I see an end in sight.

I wrote this poem in May, and it happens to fit today's prompt.


Time Map

Which letter to write
Which book to read
Which room in the house to clean
and how deeply
Which window to open to allow in the most breeze
Which cloud, which curve of the air
Which lawns have the most dandelions punctuating the grass
like ellipses, what gets said, what’s left out
Which lawns, besides ours, have no nutritional value
Which forsythia branches to clip
Which sticks to bundle for rubbish
Which ones to adorn the living room mantle
next to the wedding photo,
the crystal egg, the clock with its incessant ticking
Which neighbor will drop by with our misdelivered mail
Which neighbors won’t say hi when I stand in the front yard,
with their small lots and big fat driveways
Which ones think my grass is greener
Which Cheetos to eat as my son counts them in the bag
with his cheesy little fingers
Which happiness, too many to choose




I should also mention that a Time Map is a term used by Professional Organizer Julie Morgenstern. It’s like a budget for your time where you manage your activities on a chart. (Here’s an example of a Time Map. Scroll down the page to view it.)

For more poems, visit Poetry Thursday!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

When the Levees Broke

I finagled a free month of HBO from my cable company so I could watch When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. This four-part documentary, directed by Spike Lee, aims to be the “documentary of record” for the horrific events of August 29, 2005, and the days and weeks and months thereafter.

What can I say? It’s an amazing television event that shouldn’t be missed. Acts I and II aired last night. Tonight you can see Acts III and IV. And all four acts will be seen Tuesday, Aug. 29 (8 p.m.—midnight), the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

I wasn’t blogging a year ago, but I can only imagine what was being said in the blogosphere. Last year, I was at home with my then newborn daughter as she recovered from heart surgery, gripped to the TV watching the so-called rescue efforts in the Gulf Coast region. And all the while, I was thinking how thankful I was that I did not have this baby in New Orleans considering how much medical attention she needed in her first three weeks of life. Selfish as that may sound, not a day goes by that I don’t think about all the people—mostly black, mostly low income—who lost everything and are still displaced.

So as the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina rolls around, I find it ironic I had completely forgotten that Ella had her surgery a year ago. Maybe that’s a blessing, and a testament to how well she’s doing. My mother’s birthday was also on the same day—I barely managed to get a gift in the mail. She said something about Ella’s surgery two days after and I was taken aback. In some small way, I’m glad that I didn’t spend the anniversary of Ella’s surgery in mourning. As my husband says, “She lived, you know,” which is his code for not dwelling on what might have been.

Both events, which seem worlds apart to me, are reminders that no day is promised. But I hope that with the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I can put my anxiety into action: make a donation, see what I can do in my area, get involved, vote our current set of knuckleheads out of office, and as always, write-write-write about it.

Watch the documentary. Never forget, but always honor.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Three

A grouping of questions in threes. (Thanks, Annie, for the meme.)

THREE THINGS THAT SCARE ME:
01 failure
02 credit card debt
03 a postseason without the Boston Red Sox

THREE PEOPLE WHO MAKE ME LAUGH:
01 tim
02 big al
03 lil' al

THREE THINGS I LOVE:
01 my family and friends
02 poetry
03 going to the movies

THREE THINGS I HATE:
01 being overworked and underpaid
02 litter and the people who participate in litter
03 bad drivers

THREE THINGS I DON'T UNDERSTAND:
01 how Dubya got re-elected
02 david blaine
03 how people start smoking with all of the warnings against it

THREE THINGS ON MY DESK:
01 my computer
02 cup of tea
03 iPod

THREE THINGS I'M DOING RIGHT NOW:
01 typing this meme
02 hitting my husband up for answers to the meme
03 listening to "the best money show on radio" (that's the title of the show.)

THREE THINGS I WANT TO DO BEFORE I DIE:
01 publish a book
02 become U.S. Poet Laureate
03 have grandchildren

THREE THINGS I CAN DO:
01 sing (okay, this is debatable)
02 play tennis
03 catch a stack a quarters when placed on my elbow

THREE WAYS TO DESCRIBE MY PERSONALITY:
01 extroverted
02 quirky
03 fickle

THREE THINGS I CAN'T DO VERY WELL:
01 swim
02 work with power tools
03 addition and subtraction when the check comes at a restaurant (so sad)

THREE THINGS I THINK YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO:
01 dave ramsey
02 accident hash
03 lenny kravitz

THREE THINGS I DON'T THINK YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO:
01 Dubya
02 one side of the story
03 the wiggles

THREE OF MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE FOODS:
01 the chick-fil-a sandwich
02 shrimp scampi
03 a big, corn-fed, marbleized rib-eye steak (i am the biggest carnivore you ever want to meet.)

THREE THINGS I'D LIKE TO LEARN:
01 how to swim
02 how to roll sushi
03 how to not fall when skiing

THREE BEVERAGES I DRINK REGULARLY:
01 hot tea with lemon and six sugars (yes, six sugars. get over it.)
02 sparkling water
03 tropicana orange juice (some pulp)

THREE SHOWS I WATCHED WHEN I WAS A KID:
01 charlie's angels
02 three's company
03 star trek

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Go Red Sox

... and take the Bruins with you!!!

I AM OFFICIALLY OFF THE RED SOX BANDWAGON!!! (Yes, I'm shouting!)

Thank goodness the Sox have lost thee out of five games to the New York Yankees. Instead of watching the rest of the season, I can do those things I've put off such as talking to my family and friends, writing poems, toilet-training my 3-year old, reading a book, making plans for the future, etc.

*Really Big SIGH* *Arms thrown up in frustration*

If the Sox go on an amazing win streak and make it to the postseason, I'll see if there's space for me back on the wagon. Until then, I'm going to pop in my 2004 Red Sox World Series DVD and relive the good ol' days.

I'm too emotionally distraught for Sunday Scribblings (also, I've never owned a pet, which is this week's prompt). But I can't wait to see what everyone else is writing about.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Genius at work

Poem for Poetry Thursday

Top 5 reasons I haven't written a new poem in two weeks.

5. August is really the cruelest month
4. My kids are time vultures sapping the life out of me (Mommy loves you!)
3. Haven't had an original thought in two weeks
2. I've spent my extra time sending out and revising instead of writing
1. I'm too distracted with the upcoming Red Sox-Yankees five-game series this weekend to write a new poem

Excuses! Excuses!

Well, with any luck I'll be back on track next week with something new for Poetry Thursday.

Before I get to the poem, I wanted to point out a new link I've added to my list. For those of you who send your poems out for publication, here's a very long but excellent list of poetry publishers who accept e-mail submissions.

Okay. This poem was originally published a few years ago at Can We Have Our Ball Back.



Discipline


The next time it acts up
Hit it with a rolled up newspaper
Hit it because it wants something
Hit it until it goes away
Because it makes that incessant racket
Because it wants your attention
Because it cries
Hit it because you are annoyed beyond annoyance
Because talking is not enough
Hit it with last Sunday’s sports section
Rolled up like a nightstick
Or a Louisville Slugger
Hit it with the back of your hand
Hit it with the flat of your palm
Pop it in the mouth
On the head
On the ears so they ring
Hit it on the small of the back
Hit it again and again and again
Make it stop
Make sure it won’t do it again
Make it understand
Because it never learns a lesson
Once is not enough
Once more, for good measure
Knock the shit out of it
Knock some sense into it
Knock it into the middle of next week
Because it asked for it
Hit it because you feed it
You keep it warm
You give it a place to sleep
And it still won’t listen
Hit it because it loves you no matter what
Hit it because it can

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tigers 3, Sox 2




*sigh*

It was a great night at Fenway Park. Great seats, great company--all in all, a well-played defensive game. We just came out on the losing side.

As of now, I am still officially on the Red Sox bandwagon, but anticipate jumping off Monday afternoon after the Sox-Yankees series at Fenway. The Sox just have too many question marks in their line-up. No pop in the bats. No swerve in the curve. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez can't carry the team by themselves. (Again, the team needs you Tek!)

(Thanks for letting me indulge in baseball talk. Tomorrow, back to reality and Poetry Thursday.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Mommy, Mommy, Mommy

Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy ...

And so it goes in the house with a soon-to-be three-year-old and a newly walking one-year old. Oh my God. This past weekend was enough to frazzle my hair permanently. Why is it that kids ask the same questions over and over? Whatever the reason, it really pushes my buttons.

To his credit, Tim has been a saint. His disposition is much more suited for the toddler stage than mine. Taking care of of Ella has been so much easier than Alex, who now has his own opinion about everything. He's even learned to say no just for the sake of saying no. In other words, he's learned the power of the word. And I can't believe that I'll probably have to go through all of this again with Ella in a few months. *sigh*

As it turns out, however, Mommy gets a much needed distraction from the kids with tickets to tonight's Red Sox game against the Detroit Tigers. They hold the best record in the majors, and the Sox are jockeying for position for the wild card.

All I ask is that we don't suck tonight. Mommy needs a win. (And the team needs a win like plasma!)



This is a photo of my good friend Red Sox Catcher and Team Captain Jason Varitek. Okay, so we're not really friends but he did pose for this picture at a charity event in 2003. I was about 6 months pregnant with Alex. (Too bad he's on the DL--the team could use you right now, Tek.)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Poetry Meme

Thanks to Chief Biscuit for the meme. Of course, I had to put a poetry spin on it.


1. One poem that changed your life? Allen Ginsberg's "Howl"
Read it in my first creative writing class and thought, "You can say that in poetry?" Also, Ntozake Shange's "With No Immediate Cause" (scroll down the link to read poem)

2. One poem you've read more than once? Elizabeth Bishop's "The Moose"

3. One poem you'd want on a desert island? Walt Whitman's "Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Rocking"

4. One poem that made you laugh? e.e. cummings' "Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town"

5. One poem that made you cry? Lucille Clifton's "The Lost Baby Poem"
Before my son was born, I had a miscarriage. So this poem resonated for me. Amazing how a someone else's words can sum up how you are feeling more so than your own.

6. One poem that you wish you had written? Stephen Dunn's "The Routine Things Around the House"
I love how he handles the taboo issues in this poem.

7. One poem you wish had never been written? T.S. Elliot's "The Wasteland"
Poets are forever tagged with the line "April is the cruelest month." But I haven't read it a while. Maybe I'll give it another look-see someday.

8. One poetry book you are currently reading? Pictures That Got Small by James Brock

9. One poetry book you have been meaning to read? Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

10. One anthology you read often: Contemporary American Poetry by A. Poulin (editor)
I think it's in its 6th edition, but I'm partial to the 4th edition with its red worn cover and dog-eared pages. Although, it's called "contemporary" but features Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, and Allen Ginsberg--I always thought that was a bit of a contradiction.

So what are some of your favorite poems?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Is it to late to be poet laureate?

No one ever says, “When I grow up, I want to be U.S. Poet Laureate of the United States.” But in college, that’s exactly what I wrote in my journal.

Yeah, it would be nice to win a Pulitzer or a MacArthur. But the idea of a laureateship is always in the back of my head when I write a poem, go to a reading, or buy a new poetry book. I think to myself, “Why not?” And, “What am I waiting for?”

It feels strange to admit that I want to do more than write for myself. I want people to like my work. Next to being a successful wife and mom, being a successful poet is at the top of the list. And as much as I enjoy writing for me, I really appreciate the acknowledgement of a job well done. You’re probably reading this to yourself saying, “Duh! Isn’t that why you blog? Well, yes, it is. But I came from a generation of writers who would never admit to wanting success. Have you ever heard of a poet talk about being ambitious? Have you ever heard of a poet talk about poetry as a business? Probably not.

So for me, the pinnacle of success as a poet is a laureateship. Not that the position will bring me greater financial security. The poet laureate’s position pays a stipend of $35K, paid for by an endowment (no public monies used). I believe poets are nominated to and selected by the U.S. Library of Congress’ (LOC) laureate committee, and then the nomination is ratified eventually by the U.S. Congress. The poet laureate has to give a public reading and be instrumental in setting up the reading series. There's an office somewhere. Maybe there's an assistant ...?

(Here’s a link to the LOC’s poetry pages, with great info about the position and other poetry-related content, including Web casts. Check it out!)

In more recent years, the laureates have done some really cool things for poetry in this country. Rita Dove (1993-1995) gave poetry readings to high school students. Robert Pinsky (1997-2000), a three-time laureate, expanded the position with the creation of the Favorite Poem Project. Billy Collins (2001-2003) created Poetry 180, a project to encourage reading poetry in high schools. Ted Koosler (2004-2006) created a free, weekly newspaper column called American Life in Poetry. And soon-to-be Poet Laureate Donald Hall has talked about creating a cable TV show or satellite radio program on poetry. Imagine that?

As a poet, who wouldn’t want to follow in those footsteps? Imagine all the different ways a poet laureate can reach people. Deep down, I’d like to think that my words and your words affect change. That if the right advocate is in place, everyday people will clamor to read poetry. They again will believe in the power of words. And maybe, just maybe, the right words in the right ears will make health care universal, make stem stell research legal and well-funded, and make poverty a distant memory.

Again, I say, “Why not?” And, “What am I waiting for?”

Friday, August 11, 2006

Eight Things I'm Grateful For Today

... in no particular order


  1. I'm at home--my job has summer hours with Fridays off. And while we go back to our normal schedule next week, I'm happy that I don't have to make the hour-long drive to and from work on this beautiful summer day.


  2. My mother-in-law took Alex on an adventure, so they're spending a little QT together and I have one less child to chase around the house.


  3. Ella had her one-year check-up this morning and the results are in ... she's perfect! But I knew that. What I didn't know is that she's 22.4 lbs. and 30" long. She's in the 90th percentile for height, which puts her on track to be 5' 8"! Mini-me, you complete me!

  4. She had immunization shots today. Guess I'm grateful for health-care in this country.


  5. Because Ella had shots, and a swig of Tylenol, she'll be napping for the next few hours (woo hoo!).


  6. I took the last half-hour to go through my manuscript and pick out a few poems for publication. Seventeen in all--now, that's exciting!


  7. I'm sending my work to eight different publications. It's been a huge goal of mine to send out batches of poems and now I'm able to do it. Wish me luck!


  8. Also, thought of a new writing exercise that I'll attempt over the weekend and post the results.

If anyone has suggestions on good publications, print or Web, that take emerging poets, feel free to post.

Happy Friday, y'all!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Poem for Poetry Thursday

Happy Poetry Thursday!

So this week I'm reposting a poem from April that no one saw, but I'm extremely proud of. And, it kinda sorta follows the prompt. I wanted to write a new poem for today but I have a cold, so I'm not feeling up to snuff.

As I did in April, I feel like I have to say something about the poem "Contrition." As with all of my work, please don't assume the author of the poem and the speaker in the poem are the same. I don't like disclaimers but this is one of those times I feel it necessary.

*Poetry Thursday is like a holiday for the mind. Can't wait to spend time with your blogs and your poems.*


Contrition

My son asks me how to write a poem
I tell him that I do not know how
sometimes the poem writes me.
I tell him the story about the woman
who feeds her son oatmeal, he doesn’t want it
but she doesn’t see that—or maybe she does,
jamming the spoon into his clenched mouth
until she hears it clang against his
chipped teeth. He cries, says he’s sorry.
She puts him in Time Out where
he sits facing the wall for hours,
days, years, threatens to throw him
into the middle of next week if he turns around.
He sits there until he faces her as a man. She asks,
“do you remember the color of the oatmeal bowl?”
Now you’re ready to write a poem.


Copyright 2006 January G. O'Neil

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Q. of the Day

Ella (a.k.a. "the human alarm clock") woke up at 4:50 a.m. ... how does she know I have to get up at 5:15? Wish I could get those last few minutes of sleep back. She's got a mild case of pinkeye, which has translated to me somehow as a summertime cold.

Yik.

Anyway, I'm in the midst of a poem for Poetry Thursday. In the meantime, I thought I'd post a question to "keep things whole." (Yes, that's a reference to the Mark Strand poem.)

Here's the Q. of the day:


If you're flipping channels on television, what movie(s) do you stop to watch no matter what?


My top three:

1. Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan
How can you not watch a movie with lines like, "Revenge is a dish best served cold"?

2. Poltergeist
Have you seen it lately ... it scares the bejesus of me yet I'll still watch it.

3. Sneakers
I think it's the last movie where Robert Redford looks rugged and cool, not old and holding onto his youth with both hands, as he does now. Also, awesome cast: River Phoenix, Sidney Portier, Mary McDonnell, etc.

Yeah, I could have said Goodfellas or All the President's Men, but my picks I classify as true guilty pleasures. Also, my first job was as a concessionist at a movie theater ("Would you like butter flavoring with your popcorn?") so my love of movies runs deep.

Now it's your turn. What movie(s) do you break for no mater what?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Word Cloud


This is a Word Cloud.


What a great marketing tool. This site scans blogs for the most common words. Then it puts the words on a T-shirt for you to buy.

Thanks Mom and Apple Pie for the idea.

Sunday Scribblings: Who Else Might I Have Been?

This is a topic I think about often. I’m a firm believer in that everything I’ve every done has brought be to this point in my life. From throwing sand in a boy's face in kindergarten, to choosing a prom date, to the four cupcakes I had yesterday (*smile*)—I believe that, as singer Lauryn Hill once crooned, Everything Is Everything.

Conversely, I try not to live my life with regrets. But I do enjoy thinking about the what ifs now and then.

What if my parents had never met?
What if they had met a month earlier than later?
What if my parents had moved to North Carolina instead of Virginia?
What if my parents decided not to have sex that night?

This is the most fascinating part to me. What if another of my dad’s swimmers made to it the shore? Then I wouldn’t be me, but someone almost like me. Would my hair be longer or shorter? Would I have darker skin? Would I be a heavy drinker or have a predilection for addictions? Would I be a tolerant person? Would I love literature as I do now? Or would I be scraping together a living because I decided not to go to college?

Or what if my dad sent along an Y chromosome instead of an X? Then I’d be a boy. What kind of boy would I be?

Hmmm. I imagine I would be 5’ 10”, 160 pounds, wishing I could bulk up but not having the physical make-up for it. I would be tall and relatively fit, but would find something wrong with me. I would be the eldest child, with a younger brother and sister living in the Deep South. After many failed relationships and lots of one-night stands, I would marry a woman I found as I turned 40. We would try to start a family but it would be difficult because of our ages. We’d live in a row house we bough just outside of Washington DC. I’d be happy in my job as an public defender but I think I’d have a longing for something more, such as being an author of mystery novels. I'd call my mother often, because I’d be a mamma’s boy at heart.

I could go on and on—the possibilities are endless.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Random Thoughts from a Barnes & Noble

1. How is it that those little 2" x 2" books at the checkout counters sell? 365 Days of Gratitude. 55 Travel Tips. Living Your Dream. How much wisdom can be gained from a book smaller than my cell phone? Those authors must be rich.

2. Why can't I think of a concept for one of those tiny books? I'd make oodles of money. Scads of money. Then I could earn enough cash to support my family and my poetry, while giving my husband a golf allowance. (Tim's always said that he would be a stay-at-home dad as long as he had a golf allowance.) Now that's living a dream!

3. If I ever do publish, please please please let me never end up at in the $1 clearance bin.

4. I really have a thing for Justin Timberlake. I'm not denying it anymore.

5. How many people have fingered through the magazine I just bought?

6. If I'm not publishing my poems in print, or making money with it, does that make my poetry a vocation or a hobby?

7. I am a poetry anthology junkie but today I can't find a decent one. They are equivalent to the pu-pu platters at Chinese restaurants--they offer the best nibbles when looking for a lot of different tastes. Did settle on Word of Mouth: Poems Featured on All Things Considered.

8. Burnt my mouth on hot chocolate. Why does it have to be so damn hot?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Ella-palooza!



Dear Bella Ella,

I have been waiting a year to write this post--happy 1st birthday, Ella Rose! Seems like yesterday you were in my belly whispering your secrets. And now you are a beautiful, healthy child. God, what a difference a year makes.

I always knew we would get to this point but there was I time I wasn't sure. When you were two-weeks old, you were diagnosed with a serious heart condition called a coarctation of the aorta. Since I have posted about it before (here and here), I want to spend my time talking about good things. But please allow me this digression, and confession.

The night we saw symptoms, coincidentally on my mother's birthday, I brushed it off. It wasn't strange that you were spitting up ounces of milk because that's what babies do. It also seemed normal when you were crying and restless before bed. But when you just stopped crying and went limp, and when your lips turned blue and your legs felt cold, your dad and I knew something was wrong. I'm so grateful my mother, your grandmama, was there. I was never more thankful that she had worked for 20 years as a nurse in the NICU than that night. (Thanks mom. Love you!) She urged us to take you into the emergency room. If she hadn't been there, I would have put you down for the night. I'll never forgive myself for not realizing how sick you were.

Everyone from the nurses and doctors at Beverly Hospital to the amazing medical staff at Children's Hospital Boston had a part in saving your life. (Another thing to be thankful for--living in a town with the Boston Red Sox and the best pediatric medical staff in the world.) The doctors were kind and didn't talk over our heads, and there were nurses dedicated to your round-the-clock care. You came home five days later and have been my sunshine ever since.

Sometimes when I bathe you I feel under your arm and along your back to your now-healed scar, and wonder how much you remember. Do you remember the poking and the prodding? How will such an experience shape the person you are becoming?

What I can say is that at one year, Ella, you are the most open, loving, funniest child I have ever known (which is quite a complement considering your brother is near perfect). Your laugh is a special event that stops adults in mid conversation. Soon, you'll be walking, then running away from me and toward your life. But I want you to stay my Pretty Little Ella Rose just a little while longer. I want to shower you with kisses every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Happy Birthday, Ella. I love love love you. I love you from the bottom of my heart. I love you a bushel and a peck. Thank God for you, Ella Rose. Thank God for you.

So now, it's Ella-palooza weekend. Let the celebration begin!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Poem for Poetry Thursday

A Villanelle? What was I thinking? I should title this post "When Bad Poetry Happens to Good People."

I really hate writing in a form, but there are a few things at play for me this week.

1. Back from vacation, I still have that rested, superhuman feeling that I can do anything (HA!)
2. Ella, my daughter, turns one tomorrow
3. This week’s Poetry Thursday prompt is to find inspiration in a song.

The song that’s been rolling through my head is Van Hunt’s "Being a Girll," and the refrain, "She just can’t help being a girl." (Scroll down Amazon.com's Van Hunt page and listen to an audio clip.) That, along with waking up one morning and thinking about my daughter's feet, led me to the Villianelle and today's poem.


Tangerines

Seems like yesterday you were in my dream
Formed inside my body as a pearl
Last night I nibbled your feet like tangerines

Those plump sections, with meaty toes in between
Pebbly skin, your thin rind a dizzying whirl
Seems like yesterday you were in my dream

Your hand holds tight to a crumbled saltine,
What you cherish most, I try to unfurl
Last night I nibbled your feet like tangerines

I think about your soft fruit, still pristine,
Before your hair tilts up in a sexy curl
Seems like yesterday you were in my dream

I’ll wake up from this and replay the scene,
The moment you say your life is yours, let it unfurl
Last night I nibbled your feet like tangerines

You’ll grow up, grow older, my little bean
To tell me you just can’t help being a girl
Seems like yesterday you were in my dream
Last night I nibbled your feet like tangerines



For those who don’t know the Villanelle form, it is 19 lines long, but only uses two rhymes, while also repeating two lines throughout the poem. The first five stanzas are triplets, and the last stanza is a quatrain so that the rhyme scheme is as follows: aba aba aba aba aba abaa.

Confused? Two classic examples are Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night" and Elizabeth Bishop’s "One Art."

So there it is, out there for the entire world to see. And now I can move on and read your fabulous work this hot-and-humid Thursday.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Open Source: The Poetry of Franz Wright and Fanny Howe

Can't say enough good things about the radio show Open Source and its host, Christopher Lydon. Produced out of UMass Lowell and by Public Radio International, Open Source is a public dialogue of sorts, where we, the audience, can participate via the blog on current or upcoming show topics. (That's my interpretation--now sure how else to describe it.)

I love this show because often they devote a solid hour to poetry, art, and sociological and political issues. And, Chris Lydon's voice easy on the ears--no one turns a phrase quite like him.

So last week they did a show featuring poets Franz Wright and Fannie Howe. Also, a while back, they did a program on Poetry on the Web. You can listen to the audio file, download a podcast, or read the blog posts.

Whether you want to hear more pointed discussions on culture, or talk about the news abroad from different angles, Open Source is worth a listen. And if you want to hear more poetry and literature discussions, by all means tell them!

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