It’s National Poetry Month again!
Go ahead, wax poetic, frolic with words, read your favorites out loud (while you wait at the bus stop, etc.).
The brilliant, award-winning poet (and friend), Luisa A. Igloria, recently had an amazing conversation with U.S. Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan. The topic? Poetry, of course; the “impossible pangs of the mind and heart”.
Here is the full interview via AltDaily.com: http://www.altdaily.com/features/arts/literature/a-conversation-with-kay-ryan-united-states-poet-laureate.html
You can check out Luisa’s blog at http://www.lizardmeanders.blogspot.com
- “You hear mothers say all the time that they would die for their children, but my mom never said shit like that. She didn’t have to. When it came to my brother, it was written across her face in 112-point Tupac Gothic—when you saw her watching him you knew that not only would this fucking vieja die for her son, she would probably put a knife in God’s eye if it would give my brother an extra day of life.”
“112-point Tupac Gothic” – peerless. You gotta love Junot Diaz.
My 4-year-old niece spends far too much time around boys because of the shortage of female offspring in our family (her closest cousins are my 2 boys, and 3 more boys on her mom’s side).
Chief among the kidly preoccupations is the making of costume battle things out of wood, paper, duct tape, glue, and sometimes Lego. They then gear up and play in the fort they built in our backyard. As far as I understand it, the saga involves a generations-long bloody feud between two royal families. Or at least I think it’s why they sometimes wear elaborate head-gear and capes. The dialogue is nothing short of riveting. Except that sometimes it sounds like 20 kids, instead of 3, in the backyard.
Anyway, we were out doing some shopping when this happened:
- Niece helps an old couple with their fallen bag at the grocery store.
Lady: Oh, thank you!
Niece: (in a made-up voice that sounds like a cross between a chipmunk and the possessed Linda Blair in “The Exorcist”) You’re welcome.
- Niece runs up to her cousins.
Niece: (excited) Kuya! I used my weird voice, and the people looked at me funny.
I wish I could show you a photo of the old couple post-“weird voice” treatment.
Yes, although absent here for two whole months, I am alive and well.
And to prove it to you, here is a self-portrait a la Dalek:
And a portrait of the whole family as Daleks, for good measure:
There. That should appease the blogosphere gods.
I had planned to come up with a list of excuses for not writing, but it would’ve all amounted to sheer laziness.
So here is a list of made-up reasons instead (pick one):
- I finally climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro
- Tim Burton needed my hair to star in his next movie
- I’ve been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day for the last 2 months, and have just come out of my drunken stupor
- A hitherto unknown uncle in Peru died, and left me a llama farm with express instructions that I am to herd the llamas myself
- I’ve been having a torrid affair with the ghost of Dante Alighieri, and my atrocious Italian has me spending an inordinate amount of time translating
- My hologram broke, so I actually had to go in to work myself
- The children finally gave me permission to pursue my life-long dream of becoming a Vegas Showgirl/Astronaut
Do you forgive me? I’ve missed you so. I have! I have! Don’t let the lack of a proper come-back post fool you.
I descended on the local bookstores armed with gift cards again and am now settling into the new year with lots of new reading type things:
- A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
- Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace
- The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
- Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
- Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
- The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
- Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
- Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
- Here’s Your Hat, What’s Your Hurry? by Elizabeth McCracken
- City of God by E.L. Doctorow
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
- Memento Mori by Muriel Spark
- The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt
Now it can snow all it wants; I shall be parked by the fire, happy.
STALKING THE POEM
Only one word will do. It isn’t on the tip of your tongue, but you know it’s not far. It’s the one fish that won’t swim into your net, a figure that hides in a crowd of similar figures, a domino stone in the face-down pool. Your need to find it becomes an obsession, single-minded and relentless as lust. It’s a long time before you can free yourself, let it go. “Forget it,” you say, and think that you do. When the word is sure you have forgotten it, it comes out of hiding. But it isn’t taking any chances even now and has prepared its appearance with care. It surrounds itself with new and inconspicuous friends and faces you in a showup line in which everyone looks equally innocent. Of course you know it instantly, the way Joan of Arc knew the Dauphin and Augustine knew God. You haven’t been so happy in weeks. You rush the word to your poem, which had died for lack of it, and it arises pink-cheeked as Lazarus. The two of you share the wine.
You’ve got the poem cornered. It gives up, lies down, plays dead. No more resistance. How easily you could take it into your teeth and walk off with it! But you are afraid of the sound they will make crunching the bones. You are afraid of the taste of blood, of the poem’s dark, unknown insides. So you stand above it, sniffing its fur, poking and pushing it, turning it over. Suddenly you see that its eyes are open and that they stare at you with contempt. You walk away with your tail between your legs. When you return, the poem has disappeared.
The poem is complete in your head, its long, lovely shape black against the white space in your mind. Each line is there, secure, recallable, pulled forth by the line before it and the one before that, like a melody whose second part you can sing once you have sung the first, but not before. All there, all perfectly linked. But when you pick up the pen, the shape dissolves, pales, spreads into slovenliness. You feel the poem escaping; you can’t write fast enough. By some miracle you recover all the bits and pieces, and you manage to put them in proper order. You have been saved, you think. But the poem is not the beautiful figure you held in your mind. It is gawky and gap-toothed, its arms are too long for its body, its clothes don’t fit. It looks up at you from the page accusingly. Look at the mess you’ve made, it says. See what you can do with me: last chance, don’t blow it. Filled with gratitude, you roll up your sleeves and go to work.
*from Alive Together: New and Selected Poems (1996) which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1997
Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?
Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Hugh Fennyman: How?
Philip Henslowe: I don’t know. It’s a mystery.
Viola De Lesseps: [to her Nurse] I will have poetry in my life. And adventure. And love. Love above all. No… not the artful postures of love, not playful and poetical games of love for the amusement of an evening, but love that… over-throws life. Unbiddable, ungovernable – like a riot in the heart, and nothing to be done, come ruin or rapture. Love – like there has never been in a play.
Viola de Lesseps: [as Thomas Kent] Tell me how you love her, Will.
William Shakespeare: Like a sickness and its cure together.
William Shakespeare: My story starts at sea… a perilous voyage to an unknown land… a shipwreck… the wild waters roar and heave… the brave vessel is dashed all to pieces, and all the helpless souls within her drowned… all save one… a lady… whose soul is greater than the ocean… and her spirit stronger than the sea’s embrace… not for her a watery end, but a new life beginning on a stranger shore. It will be a love story… for she will be my heroine for all time. And her name will be Viola.
I think the play Arcadia is still his best work ever, but that 1999 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay was definitely well-deserved.