26 November 2006

Poetry is Like

UPDATE: I've added a few more links from the last few days. I've found over 50 bloggers who have done this meme. Lots of thought-provoking responses. This meme is the writing prompt at Poetry Thursday this week; click over there beginning 12/7 for additional links if you're interested in reading others' ideas about reading and writing poetry. Newer entries here have been posted at the bottom -- keep scrolling!

I thought I'd compile a link list of those who have done the Poetry Meme. It's been so much fun reading the variety of responses which have been, well, poetic. I'll try to keep this list updated as I know of those who have completed this meme.

Poetry is ....

...a good loud scream. IM-Kay, Fiber Cogitat

...the way the sky looks when a thunderstorm is moving in and the sun is still shining on the dark, dark clouds, making them look even darker and more sublime. BikeProf, The Hobgoblin of Little Minds

...loosely connected images that fit together in some shadowy half-known way. Dorothy, Of Books and Bicycles

... like a shot through the heart. Litlove, Tales from the Reading Room

... like academic classicist art. Imani, The Books of My Numberless Dreams

....relentless in a way prose is not in much the same way that vodka kicks you in the gut a lot sooner than wine does. Bloglily

...not be quite as frightening as I thought. Sharon, ExLibris

...a nut. Danielle, A Work in Progress

...miraculous....only ever itself. Stephanie, So Many Books

... pleasing to the ear. Lesley, Lesley's Book Nook unlocking inner thoughts and emotions. Camille, Dabbling Dillettante

... a religious moment. Soul Sister, Soul Sister Reading nothing else. Jenny, Light Reading

...a sugar muffin. Bryan, Bryan D Hopkins

...a widening lens on a camera. Sheila, The Sheila Variations

... a discovery. Iliana, Bookgirl's Nightstand

...lifeblood. (un)relaxeddad, Relaxed Parents

...a lock for which one needs the key. Bellezza, Dolce Bellezza a bath. kermitthefrog, Kermit's Log inexplicable as life and love. It just is.... vivacemusica, Words dry and riderless wine.... Lotus Reads

...a shining net woven of words.... Cindy, Quotidian Light

...often incomprehensible and sometimes inspiring... Bookfool, Bookfoolery & Babble prayer.... Dark Orpheus, Orpheus Sings the Guitar Electric literature what Cognac is to wine: cogent, distilled, and fierce. Robert Peake

...string theory. Sassy Monkey, SassyMonkey Reads affirmation of magic. Michael, StickPoetSuperHero

...the odd but friendly cat that keeps returning to my back door. Kelli, Book of Kells alcohol. Abby, The Rose's Petals offering of pure beauty clothed in words. Beth, Inscapes

...a revelation. JenClair, A GardenCarried in the Pocket

...a set of standards that governs much of how I do what I do. Jane Dark

...comforting. Claire, Being Me

...beautiful mathematical equations. Emily, Telecommuter Talk

...looking at really great art. Bardiac

...magic. But better. Dazey Rosie nothing else Chocolate Covered Musings unexpected Michelle, Michelle's Site a treat to yourself at the end of a hard day Verity like Dada. Dada is a peach.Kevin, Acoustics, Health & Sufism a good photograph G, Bedlam in Mommyville letting go of a handful of colorful balloons. Jenni, Chanticleer eating a beautiful gourmet meal. Heather, womenwyrds

...a gift for those with open minds. Amanda Earl

...Not like in the 1400s when there was no left or right shoes. Pearl, Humanyms intoxicant Ricki, Ricki's Rants and Rambles

....indispensable Kate, Kate's Book Blog art. The Traveler

...rather intimidating. Nat, In Spring It Is The Dawn

...a two-by-four. Marcus, A Comet is Not A Moon the ocean. Matthew, The Other Blog

25 November 2006

He was a good dog.

DIZ 10/1992 - 11/24/2006

24 November 2006

A Hell of a Good Blog...Let's Go

Since I seem to be on something of a poetry kick the last few days....I thought I'd recommend Riley Dog.

If you haven't checked out Riley Dog before, take a few minutes to do so now.
(WARNING: you might find you will spend more than just a few minutes!)

Each day Steve presents an excerpt from an original piece of writing (poetry or prose) and an original piece of artwork. Each has a link to the author and artist. The artwork and writing are not necessarily meant to go together, although, strangely, I think they often do. Perhaps that is the power of suggestion/presentation -- something of a work of art in itself.

The link above will direct you to the daily main page. Here is a post from Nov 21st. I particularly like this poem "Awaiting Burial" by Sinead Morrissey, Writer-In-Residence at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen's University in Belfast. You'll need to follow the link to read the entire poem -- nothing is published in it's entirety on RileyDog -- where you can read more of Morrissey's work. I've never read anything by Morrissey before, but I've added her to my wishlist now.

The tagline on RileyDog is "Listen: there's a hell of a good universe out there. Let's go." which is from ee cummings' poem "Pity this busy monster, manunkind". With other quotes from Czesław Milosz and Jimmy Buffett, how can you resist checking this site out?

23 November 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Writing the meme I posted today made me think of poems appropriate to the season. Only the first and last poems below are directly related to Thanksgiving; I prefer the poems about the Autumn season.

We used to have Thanksgiving Dinner with friends who now live in England. It was their family tradition to read a certain poem before dinner (I think the last poem below is that poem). I liked the tradition more than the poem. My friend now cooks a traditional turkey dinner on the Saturday following Thanksgiving for all of her ex-pat staff. I bet she still reads the poem.

The Dickinson poem about Thanksgiving, like all of her poems, vexes me!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day
~Emily Dickinson
One day is there of the series
Termed Thanksgiving day,
Celebrated part at table,
Part in memory.

Neither patriarch nor pussy,
I dissect the play;
Seems it, to my hooded thinking,
Reflex holiday.

Had there been no sharp subtraction
From the early sum,
Not an acre or a caption
Where was once a room,

Not a mention, whose small pebble
Wrinkled any bay,--
Unto such, were such assembly,
'T were Thanksgiving day.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
~Robert Frost
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold,

Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Nature XXVII, Autumn
~Emily Dickinson
The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I'll put a trinket on.

~John Charles McNeill

Cows in the stall and sheep in the fold;
Clouds in the west, deep crimson and gold;
A heron's far flight to a roost somewhere;
The twitter of killdees keen in the air;
The noise of a wagon that jolts through the gloam
On the last load home.

There are lights in the windows; a blue spire of smoke
Climbs from the grange grove of elm and oak.
The smell of the Earth, where the night pours to her
Its dewy libation, is sweeter than myrrh,
And an incense to Toil is the smell of the loam
On the last load home.

After Apple-Picking
~Robert Frost

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well

Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing dear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

When Father Carves the Duck
~By E. V. Wright
We all look on with anxious eyes
When father carves the duck,
And mother almost always sighs
When father carves the duck;

Then all of us prepare to rise,
And hold our bibs before our eyes,
And be prepared for some surprise,
When father carves the duck.

He braces up and grabs a fork
Whene'er he carves a duck,
And won't allow a soul to talk
Until he's carved the duck.

The fork is jabbed into the sides,
Across the breast the knife he slides,
While every careful person hides
From flying chips of duck.

The platter's always sure to slip
When father carves a duck,
And how it makes the dishes skip!
Potatoes fly amuck!

The squash and cabbage leap in space,
We get some gravy in our face,
And father mutters a Hindoo grace
Whene'er he carves a duck.

We then have learned to walk around
The dining room and pluck
From off the window-sills and walls
Our share of father's duck.

While father growls and blows and jaws
And swears the knife was full of flaws,
And mother laughs at him because
He couldn't carve a duck.

Poetry Meme

I've been wanting to create a meme for sometime. I could be wrong, but I think that many readers of this blog do not read poetry, or at least not with the same passion they read fiction. I also find that many of the blogs I read that discuss poetry, rarely discuss fiction. I find that I like both, read both fervently. So I thought I'd do something poetry-related, but intended as much for those who love poetry as for those who are poetry adverse.

Cam's Poetry Meme
1. The first poem I remember reading/hearing/reacting to was
2. I was forced to memorize (name of poem) in school and........
3. I read/don't read poetry because....
4. A poem I'm likely to think about when asked about a favorite poem is .......
5. I write/don't write poetry, but..............
6. My experience with reading poetry differs from my experience with reading other types of literature.....
7. I find poetry.....
8. The last time I heard poetry....
9. I think poetry is like....

My answers:
1. The first poem I remember reading/hearing/reacting to was
Ogden Nash's "The Tale of Custard the Dragon". It was in an anthology of children's poems and I loved it! I think my mother tired of reading it to me.

2. I was forced to memorize (name of poem) in school and........
Godfrey Gordon Gustavus Gore and had to recite it in front of my 8th grade English class. Everyone had to recite a poem, but the speech therapist and my English teacher insisted I recite this one. I thought the poem was funny until I had to recite it. As the new kid in the school, the last thing I needed was to recite something that emphasized my inability to say certain letters. (Follow the link & you'll understand.) What on earth were they thinking? I had wanted to recite a Shakespearean sonnet, which probably would have also caused a bit of teasing. It's amazing that I ever read another poem, verse or otherwise, again.

3. I read/don't read poetry because....
I read poetry because I like the compactness of it. I like the sound. I like how a few words, carefully selected, can evoke a response. And I marvel at anyone who can write a decent poem.

4. A poem or poet I'm likely to think about when asked about a favorite is ......

Recently, I've 'rediscovered' the poems of John Donne. I think perhaps I was too young to understand the beauty of his work when I studied it in college. "A valediction: Forbidding Mourning" is one of my favorites.

5. I write/don't write poetry, but..............
I attempt to write poetry often for the same reason I don't write poetry: it is difficult and forces me to think. I used to write stuff in my 20's that I decided was too lame to share with anyone and in a fit one day burned all of it (or at least all that I could find). I didn't start writing poetry again until this year. Posting it on the this blog was a big step for me.

6. My experience with reading poetry differs from my experience with reading other types of literature.....
I can't read an entire book of poetry. I find it is something to be sampled, savored, sort of like a good port. Dorothy yesterday had a quote on her blog about poetry books being like reference books. I think that is a apt comparison.

7. I find poetry..... the most unlikely of places. While I find a lot of published 'found' poems to be drivel, I find inspiration for poems in snippets of conversation, in the newspaper, in everyday life.

8. The last time I heard poetry....
A reading by Mary Oliver last month. I appreciate poetry readings by established authors, but find that I don't have the patience to sit through amateur or community-based poetry readings. Some of it is good, some of it really good, but I frequently feel like an outsider because I don't feel obligated to be 'encouraging' to aspiring poets. Bad me. But, I do sometimes lurk in the stacks nearby when there is a reading at the local B&N.

9. I think poetry is like....
I think poetry is like opera in terms of the response that it evokes: people usually feel strongly about it. Either they love, love, love it. Or they HATE it! I think people who don't care just haven't been exposed to good poetry (I could say that's why some people hate it too, but that isn't being fair to them, is it?) BTW: I love opera too!

I tag: Litlove, The Hobgoblin, Danielle and one of the more recent additions to my blogroll, the like-named Camille. And anyone else who wants to play. Leave a link in the comments.

21 November 2006

What's so interesting?

I don't pay that much attention to my site visit counter.

Okay, that's a lie; I do pay attention.

I check out how many hits I get every few days. I like to look at the map and see where they have come from. Two people in Argentina? Really? Where on land is the visitor whose spot on the map appears to be near the intersection of the Prime Meridian and the Equator -- which is in the Atlantic. What of interest does the person in Egypt find on my blog? (Stay tuned, I've been reading a few books about religion and politics recently and will probably have something to say about that. I'd warn any conservative right wingnuts right-wingers that they may want to stay away, although one of the books is about how we need to be conversing, not criticizing the other's view, so maybe you'll stick around for the dialog).

And, sometimes out of curiousity, I look at the search terms that have lead people to Cam's Commentary. The resulting feeling usually is either amused or discouraged. For example:

Amusing: How many people are disappointed when they type in "Nipple+Jesus" and find that it leads to this post regarding a Nick Hornby reading? The additional search terms (It varies. Fill in the blank; use your imagination) suggest that they aren't interested in Jesus, or Art, or short works of fiction by Mr. Hornby. I think Hornby's short story is a terrific commentary on modern art, btw.

Discouraging: how many people are looking for cliff notes for a class paper? Are they really teaching Jodi Piccoult that much in high school these days? Ugh. Get a clue: write your own reaction to the book after you read it!

But, it is rare that I pay any attention to referral trends. There is one very good reason for that: I don't have any trends to pay attention to. At least not until a few days ago.

I've noticed something over the last few days that has me curious: I've had a lot of people land on this post I wrote last May about Sheila Heti's book Ticknor. (8 different IP addresses, from various points in Canada yesterday, similar numbers Sat & Sun.) The referring link appears to be a forum from an MFA program at the University of British Columbia. Much to my frustration, I can't get to the forum due to restricted access.

I'm curious: what are you Canadians saying about this work? What specifically are you saying about my post? I know that Heti is Canadian and Ticknor was her first novel. Why the sudden interest in something I posted six months ago?

I'm glad you've stopped by. Leave a comment. Oh, and just thought I'd mention: I've posted some really lame stuff recently. The Ticknor post is one that I think is pretty good. Ignore the lame stuff; read the good stuff. I'm hoping after some of the current craziness in my life settles a bit I'll have time to post more of the good stuff, less of the crap.

17 November 2006

Early Reading Meme

A meme from Kate's Book Blog:

1. How old were you when you learned to read and who taught you?
I think I started to read in kindergarten. Although I don't remember, I guess I learned from many people, having had stories read to me by my mother, my older sisters, my teachers. My first grade classroom was 1/2 First graders and 1/2 Third graders. Each of the younger kids was paired with a 'big' kid. I always wanted to be in the 'big kid' group and would try to move my desk to the 3rd grade reading circle. I was too bored with the simplistic primers we had. Finally, one day the teacher allowed me to move into the 3rd grade reading circle. I cherished the stories that we read in those chapter books -- so much better than any primer.

2. Did you own any books as a child? If so, what was the first one that you remember owning? If not, do you recall any of the first titles that you borrowed from the library?
One of my fondest early memories is of the day that the postman delivered the World Book Encyclopedias and the Childcraft Books series. This is remembered in my family mostly as the day that Grandma's dog bit the mailman and then ran away, but I think I barely looked up from the wonderful boxes of books long enough to notice that this was a big deal. The book I enjoyed the most was about Scientists and Inventors. I'm sure this volume is what started my like of scientific writing.

3. What is the first book that you bought with your own money?
I don't think I bought books much as a child. Going to the library was a regular weekly routine. I must have started buying books when I was in high school and worked at a mall with a book store.

4. Were you a re-reader as a child? If so, which book did you re-read most often?
I read The Witch of Blackbird Pond many times in 4th grade. One day the librarian refused to let me renew it another time. A boy in my class had the same problem with renewing Flying Tigers. We decided to checkout each other's books and then secretly trade. The plan was brilliant: we both were able to keep reading our favorite books.

In 5th grade, I liked a fantasy story about a boy who discovers an underwater race of lizard-like people following a tsunami. Sadly, I forget the name of the book, but I read it so often that it fell apart. That book kicked The Witch of Blackburn Pond off of my reading list for good and I learned that I could love more than one book. I hardly ever re-read books now.

5. What's the first adult book that captured your interest and how old were you when you read it?
I read Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men in 8th grade precisely because my teacher tried to dissuade me from reading it for a book report. I read Huck Finn a few years later as a class assignment, but my text was a copy belonging to my recently deceased grandfather. It fascinated me that he had read the same book years before. He was an avid reader and a book-lover example for me.

6. Are there children's books that you passed by as a child that you have learned to love as an adult? Which ones?
I read a lot during elementary school and high school, but I can't think of any YA books that I think I should read now. I did develop the habit, though, of trying to read the books that my son was reading in school. It isn't as easy now that he is in his last months of school. But, over the years, I have developed a better understanding of the breadth of children literature.

14 November 2006

Just how nerdy am I?

I took the Star Trek character quiz! And I can't believe I'm posting this. I'm blaming it on sleep-depreviation. I'll write about something worth reading tomorrow....

...I would have so wanted to be like Jean-Luc Picard, even if it meant shaving my head.

...I would have much rather been Beverly Crusher or Lt. Uhura over Deanna Troi in just about any sector of the galaxy!

...Would I have been most like James T Kirk if I said I made out with lots of pretty girls?

But a RED SHIRT???? I'm taking my phaser off stunned!

Your results:
You are An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Since your accomplishments are seldom noticed, and you are rarely thought of, you are expendable. That doesn't mean your job isn't important but if you were in Star Trek you would be killed off in the first episode you appeared in.
An Expendable Character (Redshirt) 85%

Jean-Luc Picard 80%
Deanna Troi 75%
Will Riker 75%
Chekov 65%
James T. Kirk (Captain) 60%
Spock 57%
Uhura 55%
Geordi LaForge 55%
Mr. Scott 55%
Beverly Crusher 55%
Mr. Sulu 45%
Data 35%
Leonard McCoy (Bones) 30%
Worf 25%

Click here to take the "Which Star Trek character am I?" quiz...

11 November 2006

Movies and Meta Fiction and Death and Taxes and Sugar Cookies.....

....and a whole lot more: that's what the delightful Stranger than Fiction is about.

If you've seen the trailer to Will Ferrell's latest movie, you know that it is about an IRS auditor who suddenly hears the voiceover narration of his dull life, an omniscient narrator heard saying "Little did he know, Harold was about to die...". I was skeptical that this would be anything more than a clever Hollywood gimmick, a setup used for the usual frat-boy comedy that Ferrell is known for. So it seemed like the perfect movie choice for a cold, rainy November afternoon -- not too heavy, kind of funny, and probably forgettable. But it wasn't the laugh-out-loud funny Ferrell antics one would expect, and it isn't so lighthearted that it is forgettable in the distance between the theatre door and your parked car.

Ferrell's character, Harold Crick, tries to find answers to the sudden narration of his life, but refuses the medical diagnosis of schizophrenia and instead turns to help of a literary nature from literature professor Jules Hilbert, played by Dustin Hoffman. At the professor's urging, Harold, in his slightly compulsive way, tries to determine if his life is a comedy or a tragedy. His efforts are suggestive of both. But, by assessing his life, Harold begins to take action to do something other than his usual calculated (sometimes literally) life, especially when he begins to fall in love with the tax-protesting, socially conscious baker Ana, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Meanwhile, writer Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson) struggles with writer's block as she tries to imagine Harold's imminent death.

I don't want to give anything away, but the movie not only pokes fun at the nature of novels, but also at the little quirks of one's life. Is there only one ending to a book -- or to life? Do we actually choose our fates? Is fiction more 'real' than real life? Is there more than just death and taxes? (Hint to the last question: Sugar Cookies).

I loved how the narration gimmick worked in this movie. A movie that deals with meta-fiction may sound weird, but is it really any stranger than in written form? At least in the movie it is accessible and humorous. The movie recognizes that the viewer will understand the use of an omniscient narrator in fiction -- and then turns it on it's ear in a playful way. Is life a comedy? Is it a tragedy? How omniscient can a narrator really be? A reader understands the issues with narration while reading a novel, but can overlook the inherent problems with narrative technique during reading. In the same way, the movie-goer is both aware that the idea of a narrator intruding and directing the life of a real character is ridiculous, but is part of the plot. In the end Stranger Than Fiction is not about fiction, or writing technique, or writer's block. But it is about life and, in some ways, about how fiction can so adeptly describe the truthfulness of life.

01 November 2006

Too tough a puzzle...and a poem

I should have broken the rules and chosen another book when I did the "What am I Reading" post last week. I don't think that I would have guessed it either. I am so bad at remembering quotes.

Google would actually have given you the answer to the first poem, but I know that none of my fine readers would cheat. That poem is: "I Wander'd Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth. It is on page 123 in Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse, by .....DING!DING!DING!DING! .... Dorothy was right when she guessed Mary Oliver in the comments. This book is, as the secondary title suggests, a handbook on poetry, with an anthology of poems which demonstrate the techniques that Oliver discusses in the book. The title (since I gave a clue to it in the previous post) comes from the following quote by Alexander Pope:

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learned to dance.
I bought the Oliver book, along with two others (Why I Wake Early: New Poems, and Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems) at a reading that Mary Oliver gave at Butler University last week. It was a joy to listen to Ms. Oliver read a selection of her work. Some funny, some politically jabbing, many insightful: all gave the listener a sense of beauty and awe in life around us. Oliver's keen sense of observation of the natural world forces you to be aware not only of the world of the poem, but also of the world around you. I found it fitting, therefore, when a sudden windy storm blew through town in the middle of her reading, so loud that it could have drowned out the microphone. Oliver did not try to talk over it. Rather, she stood silently, almost reverently, and let the storm sing its own poem (a lament, I think) for a minute or so before continuing.

As I left the auditorium, the cooled air caused steam to rise from the warmer streets and lawns. As I walked the few blocks to my car, I composed a poem in my head. It seemed so perfect as I composed it. Although I tried to write it down as soon as I was in the car & had a pen, I'm sure that most of it immediately left my brain and was consumed by the foggy night. Even after I finish reading Oliver's handbook, I think it is unlikely that I'll ever master the artful dance of metrical poetry. Nevertheless, here is the less perfect form that I managed to record, still very much in stumbling, trip-on-your-own-toes, draft mode:

Leaving the Poetry Reading

The poet sings her poem
breathing metrically,
breaking just in time
for a thunderous rolling boom.
The rain came,
barreling out of the west,
pounding across the roof
shaming the perfect acoustics
into a resounding silence,
no one wanting to spoil
the wind's incantation.

After: stepping outside,
the moist air smacks my face,
no barrier preventing
mist's entry through my pores.
Fog curls up from the ground,
summer's warmth, not wanting
to give it up to the frost,
clings to the remaining blades.
The mist dampens
the harsh lights of the lot,
each drop a refraction of
ever-present, seldom-seem leaf light:
Amber air all around.

Breathe. Breathe.
Absorb. Imbue your spirit.
Nature bears
witness to the whole.