Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

It's Banned Books Week!

Searching for more information on it, I found this list of classic novels that have been challenged in the past. It also give information about the reasons they were considered objectionable:

Great 20th Century Novels Targeted by Censors

I really do believe that art creates a safe space in which we can discuss and analyze the ideas that speak to us, even those that make us uncomfortable and perhaps offend us. In that safe space, we can observe the world around us as it's seen by our creative peers, and, holding those thoughts and ideas up in our minds against what we know or feel to be right, we come out as strong-minded individuals, better for having examined so many possibilities.

Books. Good.

Friday, September 23, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #79

In which Your Humble Blogger ends the "My Poetry Year" project in a most fitting setting:

"The Lichens"

Green life seemed to flourish
In the grey morning air
That swaddled the graveyard,
Especially lichens,
Plant and mold matched in blooms
That spilled from the cracked stones.

The same grey morning air
Also nourished a scream
Inside a woman's chest
Until fissures appeared
In the name of her dead,
And she both laughed and cried
As she set the scream free,
Becoming pure nature.

* * *

And that's how it ends. Six syllables per line, with a first stanza that sits a bit awkwardly -- the "Especially lichens" line doesn't seem to be a good continuation of the first three lines, which land so solidly on their own, but it's necessary for the poem. Is it the best one I've written? Nope, though I still like the lines "Until fissures appeared/In the name of her dead." And I'm sure it might seem like an abrupt note to end this project on, an odd choice as the last poem to share (even if it does deal with death).

In truth, I didn't know that the poems were going to stop. But one day back in March, I had an idea that refused to be expressed as anything but a short story. Seconds after the idea occurred to me, I knew exactly how the story began. And as scared as I was -- I had been writing poetry for almost a year! -- I found myself wanting to attempt fiction once again.

I'm actually a little excited to show you all the results of that fiction binge, even though it won't be ready for about two more months. But I've had some help getting the stories into shape, which I didn't have when I did The People He Thought He Knew, and I hope that the resulting project will be a cohesive and entertaining (if short) bundle of stories. They rest comfortably in the realm of dark, modern fantasy. In fact, you might find "The Lichens" here reflected nicely in a few of them. You'll see what I mean before the end of the year. ;) (Oh, I bet I just jinxed myself by typing that.)

Anyway, that's where "My Poetry Year" brought me: back to fiction's doorstep, hah. Who knows, maybe after the next project I'll return to the reactions to these poems and whip my poetry into the shape it should be in. In the meantime, it's the last post for this project, but the first day of fall -- a good time for change, eh? Enjoy yourself out there today. And thanks for coming along.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #78

In which Your Humble Blogger shares one for all those who like to go people watching:

"Two Pots and a Kettle"

For one breathless hour
A woman at the next table
Waited for a snail
That had been sharing the glass top
To do something.

Finally, joy and laughter:
A quivering of its antennae
Suggested that it was happy
And at home next to the carnation.

"That woman is either a poet
Or a lunatic," said my friend.
And after an hour
And five minutes of saga,
We stood up and left.

* * *

I waver between being rolling my eyes at this poem and finding it mildly amusing.

Lots of writers get their ideas by going outside and talking to people. I believe I remember hearing that the comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis goes to the mall to get impressions of how people talk and gather snippets of dialogue. It makes me wonder who would be the more interesting to actually observe: the people who are out there living their lives, or the writers who are watching them live, making notes at certain moments that, for whatever reason, they find important.

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #77

In which Your Humble Blogger continues her obsession with large-scale modes of transportation -- this time incorporating boats!

"My Father, the Sailor"

What did I know about my father
Except that he would leave before
The first lonely horn could test
The stillness of morning? To me,
The horns of the commuter trains opened
Onto the same channels as the wounded wails
Of foghorns. The trains' wheels, too,
Rocked in waves. It was all high drama,
And I, good little sailor in isolation,
Would navigate my dreams of him
By the night light left as my northern star.

* * *

Total fiction, written in free verse.

This was written as an attempt to capture that odd chill that used to hit me on mornings when I would be outside, waiting for a bus or a train, before the sun was anywhere near up. I found those mornings to be some of the loneliest and most haunting times....

One image I do like from this poem is that of a night light serving as a navigational marker. :)

Friday, September 16, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #76

In which Your Humble Blogger falls into old habits:

"The Habits of Crows"

A few turns of the calendar's pages
Are enough to bring back that sudden start:
Spring returns behind the wings of winter.
Spring returns in the dawn's lightening feathers,
In an overcoat she sheds on your porch
Just before your move to take her inside.
And like that, you find yourself indulging
In all the habits of crows: exploring
Each known thatch of the ripening valley,
Calling to each other until you fill
The branches between open arms, laughing
With only a tilt of your head. And then,
The hours break into noon, and more habit.
You smoke your cigarette into a stump,
Yet not without hope do you finish it.
You have a familiar light everywhere
The morning touched. Spring is easy to love,
Easy to remember, and the crows here,
You realize, don't leave with the winter.
That feeling of beating wings never goes

* * *

A poem that uses a couple of images I've drawn upon before: crows and the turned pages of a calendar. However, this poem started not with either of those recycled images, but with the line "You have a familiar light everywhere the morning touched." Don't know where that came from, but it's alright. The rest of it, eh. Feels a little stiff to me.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #75

In which Your Humble Blogger says, "It's all about point of view...."


"Sometimes, everything
inside this house seems
hung crooked," she said
as the universe
tilted suddenly
and thousands of stars
spilled like dice of chance
gathered their fortune
heading for her house.

* * *

Five syllables per line. Sometimes, I think, the best way to incorporate surreal events into a piece is to describe them simply and straightforwardly, letting readers make of the events what they will. This was intended as a poem for all the days we get a little too wrapped up in our own business, to the point that we pay no attention to anything else (she says at the end of a blog post).

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #74

In which Your Humble Blogger ignores the directive that says that '80s hair metal is supposed to be fun:

"Autopsy of a Rock Legend"

I doubt this is what the women who said
They'd like to see him naked had in mind.
The coroner's handiwork will describe
In new detail what everybody knew
But no one had the stones to keep him from:
The depression of the major pathways
That allowed oxygen into his cells,
The tearing of the liver, the bursting
Of too many capillaries. That's it,
As if she found the autopsy report
Flipping through old issues of Rolling Stone.
It won't be any great revelation.
His heart wasn't made of metal; his hands
Didn't bleed with soul. He's a body now,
His '80s thunder god sex is shriveled,
And even if on teenage nights I dreamed --
But there's no music left where they've laid him
Except for what plays on the radio
In the chalk green morgue while the coroner
Hums along, dropping parts of him in pans,
Each one landing in time with the rhythm.

* * *

Ten syllables per line this time. I think the language in this one could be more evocative and fresh, though there's one line that sticks with me (bet you can guess which one). This year marked the twentieth anniversary of the death of Steve Clark, guitarist for Def Leppard, and that's what set off this poem. Twenty years. That in itself is enough to make me think about mortality, the passage of time, and all the other matters that hair metal generally avoided touching upon. And that statement right there will probably serve as the basis for another poem (or a serious revision of this one) down the road.

Friday, September 9, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #73

In which Your Humble Blogger tries to offer some kind words to parents who await with despair the day their children call them the dreaded "O" word:

"A Note to the New Parents"

You will always be old to this child.
As long as she calls you "Dad" or "Mommy,"
You will be considered an ancient.
This is not a hopeless position,
If you recall your astronomy.
Each night we are illuminated
By mature stars that gave us first light,
The light of our human infancy,
When they were well into middle age.
Think of all the majesty of that.
This tiny dreamer, made of your dust,
Will be set aglow because of you.

* * *

Last week, I shared a poem about the Kuiper belt. This week, we continue the astronomy theme by saying, "Hey, old ain't so bad. Stars are old, and we like stars." Master of comparisons, I am.

I believe there will be one more poem that mentions stars after this one. In fact, after this, it looks like I have two weeks' worth of blog posts left. "Eeep!" says part of me, since that means that I'll have to start working in earnest on the next project. ("Oh, thank gods," says the other part that never fully warmed up to doing regular blog posts.) ("Hey, who's Ernest, and what the hell are we doing working inside him?" says a third part that should really go read some Oscar Wilde instead of prolonging this crazy conversation.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #72

In which Your Humble Blogger deals in apathy, detachment, and the end of the world as we know it. Happy Wednesday!

"The Southbound 'F' Express"

It was the moment of the Rapture, the unraveling of the world, and like many other trains, the southbound 'F' express was experiencing a delay. Most of the passengers were used to interruptions in the 'F' train's service, so few of them looked up from their newspapers out the window and saw the fissures newly formed in the earth's crust. Few removed their headphones to tremble at the horn song of triumph billowing from Heaven's doors, and few considered the smell anything more powerful than the usual fumes of humans packed closely together. Among those who did notice the Rapture, several pressed against the windows and took pictures to show their friends. The rest pushed their way to the conductor, who had collapsed in a puddle of tears beside the metal doors, and insisted that there must be something he could do to help them; there really was somewhere they were supposed to be.

* * *

Inspired by, of all things, a particularly strong smell of sulfur on the Metra one day. Despite such a pleasant association, I think I'd like to clean this poem up and keep it around; if nothing else, it helps me envision the torment that awaits the seat-mate whose personal belongings keep crowding into everyone else's space. >;)

Monday, September 5, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #71

In which Your Humble Blogger shares three short poems that avoid any deep thought whatsoever:

"The Artist at Work"

The artist at work
Is the dreamer deep in sleep.
Let her work in peace.

* * *

"The Upside of the Body's Decline"

Though sitting is painful
And breathing's a chore,
At least you're not thinking
That living's a bore.

* * *

"The Eastern Phoebe"

can develop its song perfectly
even if kept in isolation.

The letters between us
give my song hope.

* * *

Often, the longer poems I write are practically stories; they present the little slivers of fictional thought that don't quite work as prose. The short, short, really short poems? Those usually reflect my actual feelings, albeit the surface-level ones in most cases. I look at these poems and think, "Yep, that's when I wanted some sleep, and that's when my muscles were aching, and that's when I missed people, boo-hoo." Guess I don't like talking about myself in any direct way at length (she says while typing a blog entry).

The piece of information at the center of the third poem is one that I heard on a podcast earlier this year. It seems that the Eastern Phoebe is a bird that, unlike other songbirds, doesn't have to learn its species' signature songs from another phoebe. Chalk one up for the loners!

Friday, September 2, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #70

In which Your Humble Blogger incorporates an appreciation for astronomy into a casual analysis of the mess on her desk:

"The Kuiper Belt"

The Kuiper belt is a band of particles
In between the farthest fading ripples
Of planetary trails. The Kuiper belt exists
In the dust-ringed stain and aggregate of crumbs
Beneath my coffee cup. An external observer,
Using signal dishes or cascades of glass lenses,
Would notice the Kuiper belt early among sights
From our slice of the galaxy. Who knows what
The external observer would discover on my desk.
But I stare at the round-moon puddle left by my mug:
Whose house are we in? Whose sens of order
Do we, although we're small flecks of matter, disturb?
And does our scattered, inevitable presence
Inspire them toward poetry, too?

* * *

Sad to say, I can't find the original news bite that inspired this one. What it said, though, was that some data suggests that an alien being looking in on our galaxy is likely to first be able to see the Kuiper belt, the ring of icy objects and particles that surrounds our solar system. I know something about particulate matter. At the moment, I'm sitting next to a bookshelf with a months-thick layer of dust that confirms how true that is.

Funny note: As I was typing up the introductory paragraph for this blog post, I was suddenly struck by a realization of how to turn the idea behind this poem into a short story. And to think that some days I wonder why I even bother posting!

Edit: After I typed this blog post last night, I tried working on that story idea. It's... something. I think I failed in my first attempt at the execution. But that's why we edit things, yet?