Friday, August 18, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Maya Angelou

A Brave And Startling Truth

by Maya Angelou

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Jane Hirshfield


I recently watched this documentary about the Buddha, which features many speakers but I recognized the poet Jane Hirshfield immediately, because I had recently flagged one of her poems for this feature. Kismet, I guess, especially because this poem speaks to me quite loudly today. Hirshfield has received many accolades for her poetry and she's also an essayist, a translator, and a student of Zen Buddhism who spent three years in monastic practice. I love what she says here comparing writing poems to Buddhist practice, and I'd also highly recommend her poem "On the Fifth Day," which she read at the March for Science on April 22 of this year. But for this space, here's this one:

The Weighing

by Jane Hirshfield

The heart's reasons
seen clearly,
even the hardest
will carry
its whip-marks and sadness
and must be forgiven.

As the drought-starved
eland forgives
the drought-starved lion
who finally takes her,
enters willingly then
the life she cannot refuse,
and is lion, is fed,
and does not remember the other.

So few grains of happiness
measured against all the dark
and still the scales balance.

The world asks of us
only the strength we have and we give it.
Then it asks more, and we give it.
                         

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Changing Currents




The Greek city of Chalcis (also known as Chalkida) is built on the two coasts of the straight of Evripos. As such, it’s a city of water and bridges. Perhaps the most famous is the sliding Negroponte Bridge, where tourists gather to watch the tidal phenomenon that has made Chalcis famous since ancient times. Here, the currents reverse direction every six hours. The water flows from the north Evian Gulf to the south for six hours, then becomes still for approximately eight minutes, then reverses direction. Because the currents can reach up to nine miles per hour, the churning visible from the bridge earned the nickname “mad waters” or “crazy waters.” The flow of the currents is entirely dependent on the moon and is directly connected to the duration of each lunar month.
 
There’s much to contemplate about this natural occurrence—scientifically, nautically, philosophically. Maybe you can relate to a time when you were between acts and seemed to be spinning endlessly, or stuck in a dormant lull. From all sides, the competing pulls of inspiration and obligation, as you churn in place, deciding. Or, an ominous surface as smooth as glass, too lacking in impressions to fully enjoy.
 
I’m between writing projects. Taking a break. Changing course. Attempting to appreciate the waves, the periods of calm. I read about Chalcis while doing research for a short story. Online, much information can be found. There are tourism sites touting the incredible sight of the “crazy waters.” Former visitors have posted videos and photos of the phenomenon. One website breaks down the entire lunar schedule for the changing of currents, minute by minute, hour by hour. But my favorite site about the amazing waters of Chalcis waxes philosophic about the whole thing:
 
The continuous function of the phenomenon in accordance with the laws of nature, for thousands of years, shows us that each and every day is a carrier of eternity."
 
And...
 
"Some have believed they have explained it—and remained with this illusion. Some others have comprehended its infinity and insolubility. Explanations are for mortals. The Universe never requires explanation in order to carry on its course in the infinite space."
 
And…
 
“Observing the tidal phenomenon one discovers, each and every time, that he has never been there before, even though he may have witnessed it so many times.”
 
Yep. Pretty much sums up the routine and surprise of creativity, its endless cycle of changing course, dormancy, and maelstrom. For now, I’m trying to enjoy the churning.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: James Baldwin


This week marked what would have been the 93rd birthday of the poet, novelist, essayist and social critic James Baldwin. Extensive biographical information here, including some wonderful videos about his life and times. And here you can read some of his memorable quotes.



Untitled
                                            
 by James Baldwin
 
                                            
  Lord,
              when you send the rain
              think about it, please,
              a little?
      Do
              not get carried away
              by the sound of falling water,
             the marvelous light
                on the falling water.
          I
              am beneath that water.
              It falls with great force
              and the light
Blinds
              me to the light.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Kenneth Mackenzie


The Australian poet and novelist Kenneth Ivo Brownley Langwell (Seaforth) Mackenzie was a character, and his colorful biography is well worth a read. Some excerpts: 

"at Guildford Grammar School, he took no interest in sport and studied only when he felt inclined."
"wherever Mackenzie was, 'wild comedy and wild adventures tended to break out'."
"He was strong, muscular and blonde, and immensely attractive to certain women."

Sadly, Mackenzie's life deteriorated, in large part due to a drinking problem. In his early forties, he accidently drowned in a creek while bathing.

Caesura

by Kenneth Mackenzie (1913-1955)

Sometimes at night when the heart stumbles and stops
a full second endless the endless steps
that lead me on through this time terrain
without edges and beautiful terrible
are gone never to proceed again.

Here is a moment of enormous trouble
wen the kaleidoscope sets unalterable
and at once without meaning without motion
like a stalled aeroplane in the middle sky
ready to fall down into a waiting ocean.

Blackness rises. Am I now to die
and feel the steps no more and not see day
break out its answering smile of hail all's well
from east full round to east and hear the bird
whistle all creatures that on earth do dwell?

Not now. Old heart has stopped to think of a word
as someone in a dream by far too weird
to be unlikely feels a kiss and stops
to praise all heaven stumbling in all his senses...
and suddenly hears again the endless steps.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Jody Gladding


Jody Gladding lives in Vermont and teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Art. She has also translated almost thirty works from French. More biographical information here.

Blue Willow

by Jody Gladding

A pond will deepen toward the center like a plate
we traced its shallow rim my mother steering
my inner tube past the rushes where I looked
for Moses we said it was a trip around the world
in China we wove through curtains of willow
that tickled our necks let's do that again
and we'd double back idle there lifting
our heads to the green rain
swallows met over us later I dreamed
of flying with them we had all the time
in the world we had the world
how could those trees be weeping?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Charles Wright


Charles Wright was named United States Poet Laureate in 2014. Born in Tennessee, he's an Army veteran, a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and a winner of the National Book Award. A more comprehensive biography can be found here.


Sitting at Night on the Front Porch

by Charles Wright

I’m here, on the dark porch, restyled in my mother’s chair.
10:45 and no moon.
Below the house, car lights
Swing down, on the canyon floor, to the sea.


In this they resemble us,
Dropping like match flames through the great void
Under our feet.
In this they resemble her, burning and disappearing.


Everyone’s gone
And I’m here, sizing the dark, saving my mother’s seat.

 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Susan Mitchell

                                               
 
"Right now in America we are witnessing a paradigm shift in poetry, and while I think this is happening for all the reasons I have just mentioned, there is still another, maybe the most important reason: the poet's assertion of innerness, of mind, of psyche at a time when innerness is threatened by nearly all aspects of contemporary American lifestyle. Innerness refuses to be a sound byte on television. Innerness refuses to speak up at a huge poetry festival. Innerness demands that the reader slow down, take the time, pay attention. Innerness demands that the reader's attentiveness be equal to the attentiveness of the poet and the attentiveness of the poem." --Susan Mitchell

More about this acclaimed poet here.

The Dead

by Susan Mitchell

At night the dead come down to the river to drink.
They unburden themselves of their fears,
their worries for us. They take out the old photographs
They pat the lines in our hands and tell
our futures, which are cracked and yellow. Some
dead find their way to our houses. They go up to the
attics. They read the letters they sent us. insatiable
for signs of their love. They tell each other stories.
They make so much noise they wake us as they did
when we were children and they stayed up drinking
all night in the kitchen.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Suggestion of Color



I saw one of those quizzes on social media the other day, where you’re led through a series of seemingly innocuous questions until something is revealed about your true nature. This one had to do with color and how you see it. There was a square of a cool gray and the first question asked: What color do you see: gray, blue or green? And I immediately thought that I might have chosen gray, but now that blue and green had been suggested to me, those hues were apparent in the sample. It wasn’t green enough to be called green though, and certainly not blue enough to be blue, but now the gray was infused with these more lively tints and couldn’t really be seen as mere “gray” either. The fact that choices were offered had made me unsure of my perception.
 
It occurred to me that writing is an exercise in the offering of choices, in the suggestion of new or nuanced ways to view the world. Isn’t that what we’re doing by inhabiting a fictional world or the mind of a character, especially one who may see blue where we see gray?
 
Recently, I was inspired by an article about paint colors in a home decorating magazine. We’ve all wondered about the people who come up with the inventive names—because, certainly, there’s a quintessential human element in these names and their visceral modifiers, obscure historical references, and strange evocativeness. In fact, here’s an amusing article about what happened when a non-human tried to name paint colors. To me, color can infuse an entire setting, such as the endless green of a forest or the far-reaching blue of an ocean. It can be an intense character feature—a rancher’s dust-covered figure, a red-faced curmudgeon. It can set the mood for a story, such as all the feelings yellow brings to mind. Thinking this way inspired several stories in a collection I’m still working one; some of the stories take a color title: “Resonant Blue,” “Cadmium.”
 
Some people are born color blind, or can only see limited color. We’ve all seen the viral videos of a color blind person looking through special glasses that allow him or her to see color for the first time. How strange that must be, we think, a whole new world.
 
In Chekhov’s story, “Gusev,” a soldier returns from service, dying from an illness. He dies at sea and is tossed into the ocean. The men who remain on the ship watch stoically, Gusev’s body passes schools of fish and a large shark, and Chekhov’s narration then turns very inclusively omniscient:
 
“And up above just then, on the side where the sun goes down, clouds are massing; one cloud resembles a triumphal arch, another a lion, a third a pair of scissors . . . A broad green shaft comes from behind the clouds and stretches to the very middle of the sky; shortly afterwards a violet shaft lies next to it, then a golden one, then a pink one . . . The sky turns a soft lilac. Seeing this magnificent, enchanting sky, the ocean frowns at first, but soon itself takes on such a tender, joyful, passionate colors as human tongue can hardly name.”
 
Gusev’s experience, such as it is, the ultimate, unknown perception—death—is relayed with colors and strange sights. Imagine, Chekhov seems to be suggesting, imagine the unimaginable. Surely there are colors we’ve never seen, colors we’d hardly know how to describe. As writers, this is a quest we embark on joyfully, time and again, hoping to bring at least a few along with us.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Tracy K. Smith

 
Tracy K. Smith is our newest Poet Laureate of the United States. She's the author of three books of poetry and a memoir, and is the director of Princeton University's creative writing department. Here's an NPR article about her, with a link to hear her read one of her poems.
 

I Don't Miss It

by Tracy K. Smith


But sometimes I forget where I am,
Imagine myself inside that life again.

Recalcitrant mornings. Sun perhaps,
Or more likely colorless light

Filtering its way through shapeless cloud.

And when I begin to believe I haven't left,
The rest comes back. Our couch. My smoke

Climbing the walls while the hours fall.
Straining against the noise of traffic, music,

Anything alive, to catch your key in the door.
And that scamper of feeling in my chest,

As if the day, the night, wherever it is
I am by then, has been only a whir

Of something other than waiting.

We hear so much about what love feels like.
Right now, today, with the rain outside,

And leaves that want as much as I do to believe
In May, in seasons that come when called,

It's impossible not to want
To walk into the next room and let you

Run your hands down the sides of my legs,
Knowing perfectly well what they know.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Alice Oswald

 
Last night, one of the most lucrative awards in poetry was announced in Toronto. The Griffin Poetry Prize is awarded to two poets--one Canadian and one international--and this year, the prize went to Jordan Abel and Alice Oswald, who lives in Devon, England. This poem is the first in her award-winning collection, Falling Awake. News story about her win here.

A Short Story of Falling

by Alice Oswald

It is the story of the falling rain
to turn into a leaf and fall again

it is the secret of a summer shower
to steal the light and hide it in a flower

and every flower a tiny tributary
that from the ground flows green and momentary

is one of water’s wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

if only I a passerby could pass
as clear as water through a plume of grass

to find the sunlight hidden at the tip
turning to seed a kind of lifting rain drip

then I might know like water how to balance
the weight of hope against the light of patience

water which is so raw so earthy-strong
and lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

drawn under gravity towards my tongue
to cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

which is the story of the falling rain
that rises to the light and falls again

Friday, June 2, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Robley Wilson


Robley Wilson writes poems, short stories and novels and has worked as a writing teacher and editor. He lives in Florida. Here is a link to a short podcast that discusses this poem.


I Wish in the City of Your Heart

I wish in the city of your heart 
you would let me be the street 
where you walk when you are most 
yourself. I imagine the houses: 
It has been raining, but the rain 
is done and the children kept home 
have begun opening their doors. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Denis Johnson


The literary world is mourning Denis Johnson today. He was a poet, a novelist and a playwright, and winner of the National Book Award in 2007 for his novel, Tree of Smoke. Of his poetic influences, Johnson claimed "My ear for the diction and rhythms of poetry was trained by—in chronological order—Dr. Seuss, Dylan Thomas, Walt Whitman, the guitar solos of Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, and T.S. Eliot."

Johnson passed away yesterday, at the age of 67. Biographical information available here.


A Poem about Baseballs


by Denis Johnson (1949-2017)

for years the scenes bustled   
through him as he dreamed he was   
alive. then he felt real, and slammed

awake in the wet sheets screaming   
too fast, everything moves
too fast, and the edges of things   
are gone. four blocks away

a baseball was a dot against   
the sky, and he thought, my   
glove is too big, i will

drop the ball and it will be   
a home run. the snow falls   
too fast from the clouds,   
and night is dropped and

snatched back like a huge
joke. is that the ball, or is
it just a bird, and the ball is
somewhere else, and i will
miss it? and the edges are gone, my

hands melt into the walls, my   
hands do not end where the wall   
begins. should i move
forward, or back, or will the ball

come right to me? i know i will   
miss, because i always miss when it
takes so long. the wall has no   
surface, no edge, the wall

fades into the air and the air is   
my hand, and i am the wall. my   
arm is the syringe and thus I

become the nurse, i am you,   
nurse. if he gets
around the bases before the   
ball comes down, is it a home

run, even if i catch it? if we could   
slow down, and stop, we
would be one fused mass careening   
at too great a speed through
the emptiness. if i catch

the ball, our side will
be up, and i will have to bat,   
and i might strike out.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Georgia Douglas Johnson

 
Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880-1966) was an African-American poet, one of the earliest African-American female playwrights, and part of the Harlem Renaissance. In 2009, she was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. Her biography is here.
 
The Heart of a Woman
 
by Georgia Douglas Johnson
 
The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn,
As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on,
Afar o’er life’s turrets and vales does it roam
In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home.

The heart of a woman falls back with the night,
And enters some alien cage in its plight,
And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars
While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Thoughts on Mothering


Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I found myself remembering, amongst countless memories I’ve been blessed with since becoming a mother, this single moment: July 31, 2002, the day Geneva came home from the hospital, thirteen days after she and her brothers were born. Since the 18th, we had been shuttling back and forth to the hospital, feeding and holding them as often as we could. Geneva was a pound lighter than the boys and took longer to breathe fully on her own and eat the amounts they wanted. Teagan, a champion eater from the start (still true), had come home after ten days and Satchel at eleven. So many families visiting the NICU weren’t as lucky as we were, but those two weeks were among the hardest we’d ever had. Then, finally, she was home. I placed her in the crib between her brothers and felt an amazing calm, like a smooth ripple expanding in turbulent water. Finally, everyone was together, and home, and our family was complete.
 
There is a saying: a parent is only as happy as their unhappiest child. I think that’s true. There is a constant monitoring when you have children; you’re the barometer of their whereabouts, their health, their happiness. Even when they have grown taller than you are, you take note of what and how much they’ve eaten, and how long they slept (much to their annoyance). So having everyone home on that summer day in 2002, their six tiny feet lined up in the crib, was a relief of the most basic sort.

You wonder, when you’re pregnant the second time and having three babies (and I guess, when you’re having just one), if you’ll love them all as much as your first, precious child. Another miracle of motherhood, I suppose, is that you will, and you do, from that first moment. At least that’s how it was with me. That unconditional, unceasing love is the reason we all love our own mothers so much, because we know they have it for us. And it’s something you don’t appreciate, sometimes, until you’re a little older and maybe just the tiniest bit wiser.
 
So thanks, universe, for my four miracles and for joining their life forces to mine. Thanks, kids, for loving me through my grumbling and impatience, despite my imperfections and mistakes. I can’t imagine who I’d be without you, without all of us here, together.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Carl Sandburg


Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) was a an American poet, writer, and editor, and the recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes: two for his poetry and one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln. "Limited" is from his first collection Chicago Poems. More about Sandburg here.

Limited

by Carl Sandburg

I am riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains
     of the nation.
Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air
     go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.
(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men
     and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall
     pass to ashes.)
I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he
     answers: "Omaha."

Friday, May 5, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Jane Kenyon


The poet Jane Kenyon battled depression for most of her adult life, and her poetry often explored the inner life and the "mysteries of home life." She was New Hampshire's poet laureate when she died, too young, in 1995. Find her biography here.

Otherwise

by Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.


At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Billy Collins

 
 
Born in 1941 in New York City, the popular poet Billy Collins served two terms as Poet Laureate (2001-2003) and delivered a poem he wrote to Congress on the first anniversary of 9/11. You can read more about his writing and awards here.
 
Silence
by Billy Collins
 
   There is the sudden silence of the crowd
above a player not moving on the field,
and the silence of the orchid.

The silence of the falling vase
before it strikes the floor,
the silence of the belt when it is not striking the child.

The stillness of the cup and the water in it,
the silence of the moon
and the quiet of the day far from the roar of the sun.

The silence when I hold you to my chest,
the silence of the window above us,
and the silence when you rise and turn away.

And there is the silence of this morning
which I have broken with my pen,
a silence that had piled up all night

like snow falling in the darkness of the house—
the silence before I wrote a word
and the poorer silence now.
                         

Friday, April 21, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Vicente Huidobro

 
The Chilean poet Vicente García-Huidobro Fernandez lived from January 10, 1893 – January 2, 1948. He was a prominent figure of the literary movement called Creacionismo ("Creationism"), which proposed that poems should exist only for themselves, not for their authors or readers, or to deliver any message. More about him and this notion here

 

Arte Poética

by Vicente Huidobro
 
 
Let the verse be as a key
Opening a thousand doors.
A leaf falls; something is flying by;
Let whatever your eyes gaze upon be created,
And the soul of the hearer remain shivering.
 
        Invent new worlds and watch over your word;
        The adjective, when not a life-giver, kills.

 
We are in the cycle of nerves.
Like a memory
The muscle hangs in the museums;
Nevertheless, we have no less strength:
True vigor
Dwells in the head.
 
Why do you sing the rose, oh Poets!
Make it blossom in the poem;

 
Only for us
Live all things under the Sun.

The Poet is a little God.


 
Que el verso sea somo una llave
Que abra mil puertas.
Una hoja cae; algo pasa volando;
Cuanto miren los ojos creado sea,
Y el alma del oyente quede temblando.

  
Inventa mundos nuevos y cuida tu palabra;
El adjetivo, cuando no da vida, mata.
 
Estamos en el ciclo de los nervios.
El músculo cuelga,
Como recuerdo, en los museos;
Mas no por eso tenemos menos fuerza:
El vigor verdadero
Reside en la cabeza.
 
Por qué cantáis la rosa, ¡oh, Poetas!
Hacedla florecer en el poema;
 
Sólo para nosotros
Viven todas las cosas bajo el Sol.
 
El Poeta es un pequeño Dios.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Kaylin Haught


Someone told me about this poem, a favorite of hers. It's referenced quite frequently online, and seems to be a favorite of many. Perhaps it will become one of yours.

God Says Yes To Me

by Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don't paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I'm telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

Thursday, April 13, 2017

On Potato Eyes and Story Ideas



Do you know how to grow potatoes? Maybe you watched Matt Damon do it in The Martian. Actually, it’s not rocket science. A potato will start to grow on its own if you leave it in the cupboard too long. To grow new potatoes, you just cut an existing potato into sections, making sure each section has at least one “eye,” which is the little, sprouting nub, then you stick the sections into the ground.
 
I thought about this yesterday when I went out to bring the trash cans in. I’d been thinking about two stories recently finished. Well, finished for now. I was thinking about how I’m getting dangerously close to having enough stories for a collection, and how I should stick with this cycle (which seems to be about loss, and perception, and maybe even, colors), for at least a couple more. But I’ve never been one for brainstorming story ideas; I mostly wait until they announce themselves.
 
So I was thinking about those two stories and what I might possibly work on while I’m trying not to work on them, and I looked up to see a piece of paper stuck in a nearby bush. Also, a chips wrapper. Both were escapees from the now-mostly-empty trash cans. Immediately, I knew it was a scrap from a story draft, which I had marked up to the point of needing to print a new copy. In dramatic fashion, I thought: I’ll write a story about whatever it says.
 
And this is what was on that scrap of paper, that potato eye:
 
 
"She's never done anything for herself."
 
I knew immediately where these words came from: which story, about which character. It was quite a good scrap, I thought. First, I started thinking about potatoes and did that for a while. But then I refocused on the found fragment, which started to grow in some possible directions and suggest possible rooms, and people, and problems. And I thought that maybe it’s not such a bad approach, growing something from a piece of something else. Sometimes the universe gives you signs and they're hard to recognize and interpret. Sometimes, they’re pretty direct.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Kate Knapp Johnson



Kate Knapp Johnson, a recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts award, lives in New York and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of three poetry collections.


The Meadow
by Kate Knapp Johnson

Half the day lost, staring
at this window. I wanted to know
just one true thing

about the soul, but I left thinking
for thought, and now -
two inches of snow have fallen

over the meadow. Where did I go,
how long was I out looking
for you?, who would never leave me,
my withness, my here.
                         

Friday, March 24, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Derek Walcott



The poet Derek Walcott died last week at the age of eighty-seven. He was born on the island of St. Lucia and growing up on this isolated, former British colony had a strong influence on his life and work. When he was fourteen, a local newspaper published his first poem. Five years later, Walcott borrowed $200 to print his first poetry collection, which he handed out to people on the street. Walcott's extensive bibliography includes poetry and plays; he was also a painter. Recipient of many honors and accolades, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1992. His biography can be read here.

This poem is a favorite of many, a reminder that in order to be loved by someone, you must first love yourself.


Love After Love
by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.


And if you'd like to listen to this beautiful poem read by the beautiful actor, Tom Hiddleston, here you go:

 
 

"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka