“For the few little successes I may seem to have, there are acres of misgivings and self-doubt.” ~ Sylvia Plath, from The Bell Jar

Image result for that's all folks


Thursday afternoon, sunny and beautiful, 72 degrees.

I’ve decided to do another one of those surveys that I had in my drafts folder. Don’t really know why, but it just seemed like a thing to do. So here goes . . .

If you could . . .
  1. Travel anywhere, where would it be? My dream is to take a very long vacation trip to Europe, beginning in Ireland, traveling all over the UK, and then other cities in Europe, including Prague, Venice, Rome, Amsterdam, and the South Coast of Iceland, among others.
  2. Meet anyone, who would it be? This is hard to narrow to one. The people I would most like to meet are prolific authors such as Margaret Atwood or Stephen King or J. K. Rowling so that I could talk to the about character development. I would like to meet the Dalai Lama and the Pope, not because I’m religious but because I think that the conversations would be incredible. I would also like to meet Peter Jackson, just because . . .

  3. Bring anyone dead back to life, who would it be? This one is very, very hard. Personally, I would bring back family members like my parents, if only to be kinder and more involved with them. I would bring back Caitlin, of course, but only if she could be healthy. And I would bring back Sylvia Plath and William Shakespeare, because, again, I would love to have conversations with them.

  4. Be anyone for a day, who would it be? I would like to be president for a day, or maybe a week, because so much in this country needs to be fixed.

  5. Get anything for free for the rest of your life what would it be? This one is easy: books, books, and books. And after books, makeup, just for fun. And third would be shoes/boots, even though I never leave the house.

  6. Change one thing about your living situation what would it be? I would fix our financial situation; I’m not talking about being rich or winning the lottery, but just being comfortable enough not to be worrying about finances all of the time. The stress from this situation can be paralyzing. The other thing I would want to change is the distance from my kids.

  7. Have any superpower what would it be? Not invisibility. Not flying. Not super strength. I would rather have the ability to time travel. Can you just imagine the things that you could see and do? Or I would like to be a true medium, if there is such a thing.

  8. Have one living person back in your life that is not a relative, who would it be? Mari. I miss having her in my life on a daily basis. Also, Kathleen and Rebecca.

  9. Change one thing about the world what would it be? I would fix global warming, because so many things are related to this: food production, fresh water, viability in certain parts of the world. In my mind, this is the most pressing problem facing humanity.

  10. Repair one relationship, which would you choose? My relationship with my youngest son. I would give anything to be able to know how to fix this as it is a constant, deep source of personal pain.

  11. Have your dream house, what would it look like? I would have a log house with wooden beams and lots of big windows, a large kitchen, at least two bathrooms, one of which would have a claw-footed soaking tub, four bedrooms, one big enough for a king-sized bed, a room just for my books, a wrap-around porch, a greenhouse, a writing shed, and an in-ground pool with an attached hot tub.

  12. Change one thing about your physical appearance what would it be? I would probably change my arms, which sounds weird, but I’ve always wanted to have Linda Hamilton arms from the second Terminator movie. I think that toned arms are very sexy, but even when I was working out all of the time, I couldn’t get my arms to look the way that I wanted them to look.

  13. Change one of your personality traits which would you choose? I think that I’d get rid of either my self-doubt or my tendency to obsess over things that cannot be changed. But I should probably change my body dysmorphia. See, that obsessive stuff again . . .

  14. Refine or perfect one thing that you think you are good at, what would you choose? I would like to be a more productive writer, as in actually doing something with my writing. I think that I have genuine talent as a writer, but I am not productive in the true sense.

  15. Forget one event in your life which would you choose? I would love so much not to remember a few things in my life. You might think that I would like to forget holding Caitlin as she died, but I never want to forget that or forget her short life. In contrast, I wish that I could forget the one time in my life in which something happened because I had too much to drink. That memory still comes back to haunt me, and to this day I do not like to overindulge because of that loss of control.

  16. Erase an event from history (make it so it never happened) which would you choose? Nazi Germany and all of the other historical genocides, like Rwanda, Cambodia, Armenia, Darfur, Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and many, many more. Killing people simply because they are others has been such a blight on humanity, but it keeps happening.

  17. Meet one notorious person from history, who would it be? This one is hard. I’m fascinated by psychopaths, but from a distance. Would I really want to spend a few hours with Bundy or Manson? Honestly, I don’t know.

  18. Live in any country/city, where would you choose? Ireland. It’s always been Ireland, and I have come to realize that this will never happen, and that still breaks my heart a little.

  19. Change one law in your country, which would you change? Hard to pick just one: I would make the anti-stalking laws better defined and easier to enforce; I would make marriage equality a law of the land; I would make the Equal Rights Amendment part of the Constitution, but most of all, I would protect a woman’s right to choose nationally, eliminating all of those draconian state laws. If you know anyone who has died from an illegal abortion, this will always be a hot button issue.

  20. Have any job in the world, which would you choose? I have always wanted to work for a publishing company; I mean, I’ve wanted to do this since I was a teenager. I got a publishing degree and then never got a job to go with it. Why? I can only blame myself.

  21. Have anything appear in your pocket right now, what would it be? Again, hard to pick just one, and small enough to fit in a pocket is particularly hard: my Uncle’s ring that we lost years ago; a gold walnut that my mother had that I wasn’t able to find after she died; a Thai princess ring that my dad gave me, which I lost when I was young; a star sapphire that fell out of a different ring that my dad gave me—I guess it’s mostly sentimental pieces of family jewelry.

  22. Meet any individual who exists in film or print, who would it be? Yoda, from Star Wars, or Aragorn, from the Lord of the Rings book, or Tyrion from HBO’s Game of Thrones. Again, just think of the conversations that you could have, and even though Tyrion was created in Martin’s books, I love Peter Dinklage’s portrayal.

  23. Change one thing from your childhood, what would it be? I always wanted siblings, but I suppose that wasn’t really up to me. If not siblings, then I would have liked to be bi-lingual. Why did I never learn Tagalog?

  24. Get rid of one thing in society, what would it be? Social media. It’s destroying actual social interaction. It’s too easy to be cruel when you live virtually. It’s too easy to forget how to deal with people in real life if you never move away from your screens.

  25. Have a different career, what would you choose? Medicine or law, both of which I seriously considered. Or, marine biology. It never occurred to me when I was young and choosing a field that I could train in a career other than English because you can write no matter what career you have. I know that now. Hindsight.

  26. Eat only one kind of food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Dessert: pies, Tiramisu, cheesecake, pudding, but only if it didn’t affect my blood sugar. A close second would be fresh fruit.

That’s all folks.

More later. Peace.

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“. . . we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never looking inside.” ~ John Green, from Paper Towns


“I am not what you see.
I am what time and effort and interaction slowly unveil.” ~ Richelle E. Goodrich, from Slaying Dragons

Thursday afternoon, sunny and beautiful, 74 degrees.

I thought that today’s post should be a Throwback Thursday, as in, do one of those get to know me surveys. I’ve taken one that I found somewhere years ago and  made a few changes. Let me know if you like any questions/answers in particular. I’d love to know some of your responses to any of these questions if you feel like sharing.

Enjoy!


  1. How many pets do you own?
    Such a subjective question. Are horses pets? Goats? Currently, 5 dogs, 2 cats, 2 goats, 2 horses, and there’s a bee that finds me fascinating.
  2. What’s your least favorite season? Favorite season?
    Probably winter, unless it snows. I love snow, but I don’t like to be cold. My favorite season is autumn. February is my worst month.
  3. Most embarrassing moment?
    That time in junior high when I snorted and snot came out of my nose. I wanted to melt into the floor. Why do I still remember that?
  4. Do you believe in reincarnation?
    Yes. I do think we’ve all lived past lives. I’m not certain that I believe in the idea that we keep coming back until we get everything right. I also don’t believe that we’ve all been kings and queens and generals. But I do think that I was a torch singer in a dark bar. Don’t ask me why because I have no explanation.
  5. What do you do to relax at the end of a stressful day?
    Take a long, hot bath with bath salts, staying until the water is cool.
  6. Are you politically active or apathetic?
    Is yelling at the television being politically active? Actually, I have big plans to volunteer in the 2020 election, so yeah, active.
  7. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
    Introvert. I don’t like people, but I love my few friends and family. When I used to go to parties, once upon a time, I would find one person to talk to until I felt comfortable enough to walk around, which didn’t always happen. The odd thing is that I used to be very friendly and chatty and had tons of friends and acquaintances. Perhaps it’s an age thing.
  8. Do you believe in ghosts?
    Yes, I do. I’ve actually had a few weird experiences, but I have no idea if they were paranormal. One in particular involved my aunt’s dog who sat staring and growling at something that I couldn’t see in the corner of the den. This went on for several minutes, and the hairs on his back were raised. Pretty freaky.
  9. What is your favorite thing to drink during the day? In the evenings?
    I try to drink a lot of flavored soda water during the day to make sure that i get my water intake. I gave up Pepsi years ago, but once in a while a really have to have some kind of cola. In the evenings, I have to have my peppermint tea, and once in a while I’ll have wine or cider.
  10. Do you play any instruments?
    I trained as a classical pianist for 14 years. At one time, I really wanted to go to the Boston Conservatory of Music. I also worked on my voice for a few years and had a secret dream of running away and trying to make it on Broadway. Neither thing happened, obviously.
  11. Which do you prefer: numbers or words?
    I love the exactness of numbers, their purity, and I can still do math in my head, but words are my life. Words are life itself. Words encompass every love, every hate, every boon and every misfortune. Without words, we are nothing but empty vessels.
  12. Are you scared of anything?
    I’m terrified of centipedes. Spiders don’t bother me, but centipedes make me shriek out loud. And snakes. How could I forget snakes. Just . . . no . . .
  13. Do you believe in aliens?
    How could I not? With the countless galaxies out there containing countless systems, it would be incredibly arrogant of us to believe that we are the only sentient beings in existence.
  14. What is something you hate?
    I hate racism, fascism, sexism. I cannot abide people who think that they are the only ones who have the right to something based on the color of their skin or their gender or their politics or their religion. There is far too much diversity in this world to be so myopic. In discounting others simply because of their beliefs or their physiology or their spirituality, we only cheat ourselves.
  15. What is something you have given a lot of thought to lately?
    The current state of our democracy. I fear what is happening to this country and its people. Xenophobia is rampant. Our current administration pays no attention to the Constitution or the laws that have ruled this country effectively since its inception. No one is above the law. No one should believe he or she is above the law. Nationalism as it is currently being touted is not synonymous with patriotism, and too few people realize that.
  16. What do you like to read?
    Depends. I love poetry and history, but I also love science fiction and fantasy. I don’t really believe in the genre Young Adult because, well, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and countless others. I’m not a big romance person, but I have read all of the Outlander books. I love mysteries, especially British ones, and I also have rekindled my love for Stephen King, who I gave up after Pet Cemetery because it scared me so much. I’ve also read most of the Walking Dead graphic novels, and I love Neil Gaiman. So I’m all over the place. What I love most is good, engaging writing of any kind. The loss of most of my library a few years ago still really pains me.
  17. Are you currently where you thought you’d be ten years ago?
    Absolutely not. I never thought that my dream of living in the mountains away from most other people would ever become a reality.
  18. Which do you prefer: pie or cake?
    Ooh, this is hard. I love sugar, chocolate, whipped cream . . . but if I had to choose, and I can’t choose Tiramisu, I’d say pie. I still really miss my other mother’s homemade apple pie. It was the best, ever, and I’ve never been able to duplicate it.
  19. Do you have any tattoos? Do you want more?
    Yes, one. I’ve been wanting a few more for several years (a tree, a bird, some words), but I could never justify the expense.
  20. What are you looking forward to?
    In the short term, walking around the property, exploring, finding new trails. In the long term, fixing up the house and doing some major landscaping. In my life, finally finishing and submitting a manuscript, for god’s sake.
  21. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
    This one is hard . . . Aside from where I am right now, I’d love to live on an island or maybe some place like Costa Rica. But I’ve also always wanted to live somewhere in the UK, like Ireland, Wales, or Scotland. That’s been a dream for as long as the mountains.
  22. Are you stronger mentally or physically?
    Um . . . neither? I mean, my physicality is fine, not incredibly strong but not incapacitated. My mind, I suppose, is strong in that I’ve survived some really horrible things, but at the same time, it is fragile. Like I said, this is a really hard one.
  23. Who are you missing right now?
    Caitlin. Brett. My mom. My other mother. My dad. Olivia. Alexis. Eamonn . . . in no particular order. I miss all of them every single second of every single day. I also miss my fluffy boy Shakes.
  24. Do you think you’re a good person?
    I hope so. I try to be. I try very hard to be the kind of person I told my children they should be: honest, honorable, kind, loving. If we cannot strive for this, then what else is there?
  25. Current favorite television show or movie?
    A tie between “The Magicians” and “Game of Thrones.” Although, I have to say that the season finale of “The Magicians” broke my heart so much that I’m still not over it. Quentin . . . Also, I still really love “The Walking Dead.” I miss “Orphan Black.” That was a great show.
  26. Favorite place to go when you are upset?
    Forest Lawn Cemetery in Norfolk. I really miss it. In the past I would drive here whenever I was upset and just drive slowly down the lanes, taking in the incredible lonely beauty.
  27. Do you have any phobias?
    I’m probably a borderline agoraphobic as I really don’t like to leave home. I’ve been this way for quite a while. It takes a lot for anyone to get me to go somewhere. But I’m definitely claustrophobic. I panic in crowds, and cannot stay in a full elevator.
  28. Do you have any hobbies?
    Aside from writing and photography, I used to make journals, collecting images and then pasting them in blank books. I really enjoyed that. This was before the big scrapbook craze, and my therapist told me that I should try to find a way to make money with my books. I told here that I didn’t think that anyone would be interested . . . Wrong again on that one. I also really love karaoke but haven’t been in years.
  29. What is your favorite genre of music?
    Hmm . . . really depends on my mood and/or the circumstance: I love classical music when I play the piano. I love listening to the blues when I’m writing. I love classic rock or reggae on road trips. I love sad country love songs when I’m depressed. I love opera on Sunday afternoon. I love soundtracks when I feel like singing.
  30. Name one thing you wish you could change about your life right now.
    I really, really wish that we could finish getting everything painted and unpacked. The disarray is really getting to me, but I hate to push because Corey has so much to take care of, and there is only so much that my back will allow. I also really wish that I could get back into my writing groove completely; I mean, into a groove in which the words just flow, and I don’t have to think about them so much. And finally, I really, really wish that I would stop selling myself short and just send out my work already. Time is slipping away, and no one is going to do it for me; are they?

That’s all folks!

More later. Peace.


Music by Boygenius, “Souvenir”

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

Friday evening, sunny, and 58 degrees.

No walk today. Became obsessed with trying to find something I’d seen before online but couldn’t remember the exact name or where I first saw it. So . . .  many hours later, it was already 5 p.m.

Enjoy.


Dorothy and Golden Girls forever:

So, who’s been spying on me?

I’m not ashamed to admit that I really miss “Rugrats.”  I think that I liked it more than my sons did:

And this is why I no longer allow myself to enter a T.J. Maxx:

And finally:

Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Mississippi, December 14, 1937

“Do you ever feel words have gone dry and dull in your mind? Your mind like a sponge in the dust? You squeeze it and nothing comes?” ~Virginia Woolf, from a letter to Vita Sackville-West, The letters of Virginia Woolf, Vol. 3

Frank Dicksee, “The Funeral of a Viking” (1893)

“Those words had gone deep into her eyes, deep into her nerves, deep into her brain, far into the blackness of her brain behind that white face. They had made a gash back there, a match streak of memory, a flare she would carry to the grave, an impression.” ~ John Fante, from The Road to Los Angeles

Thursday afternoon. Overcast again and rainy, 46 degrees.

I haven’t been walking on the property in weeks. It’s a mosh pit out there in the driveway. And each day that I wake up and look out the window and see nothing but clouds, my heart becomes heavy. It does rain a lot here, definitely more than in Norfolk. But it’s the clouds. They just seem to cover the ridge and cloak all of the beauty.

Anne Burgess, “The Burning Galley” (Wikimedia Commons)

Between that and trying to house train the puppy—unsuccessfully at the moment, I might add—I’m feeling a bit lost in the fog. Yes, I finally took my puppy from Dallas because it was the only way that I could get her as he is so attached to his dogs, but he had promised me one, and I had taken a shine to the runt. Her name is Maddie, for Madeleine L’Engle, and she’s black with hound ears. She won’t be nearly as big as Tillie or Bailey, both of whom act as if she’s an alien, and the cats are definitely not taken with her.

Don’t ask me why a puppy now, other than it seemed like a good idea at the time, and she’s adorable. It doesn’t take any kind of Freudian to tell me that I substitute the animals for my kids, so whatever . . .

“We walk
and walk towards meaning
and don’t arrive” ~  Mahmoud Darwish, from “How far is far?”
Dave Brockie AKA Oderus Urungus gets a viking funeral from his GWAR bandmates, by D. Randall Blythe

So it’s December 20, five days until Christmas. Corey and I are having a very small Christmas this year, which is fine. It’s not about the presents for me, ever. It’s about the pageantry: the tree, the wrappings, the centerpieces, the dishes—just the way that I can make the house look. One year Corey’s mom finally got to see our house decorated, and she commented that everywhere she looked, she saw something. That’s what I strive for when I decorate—creating an experience.

So I’m going to suck it up today and put up the tree. I know that it will be a lot of work to make it look the way that I want it to look, and no, I can’t just put on a few ornaments, so there’s no point in suggesting that approach, but thank you anyway. I know that once it’s up, I’ll feel better. So maybe I won’t have the snowmen and the Santas, and all of the rest, but at least there will be a tree.

I need that, and the only way that  I’m going to get that is if I do it. So, ‘nuf said.

“That’s all we have, finally, the words, and they had better be the right ones, with the punctuation in the right places so that they can best say what they are meant to say.” ~ Raymond Carver, from Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Other Prose

The other major thing that I need to accomplish is to write some people and send cards. I still cannot find my Christmas card box with addresses and all of the rest, but I’m hoping that Corey can find it for me. If nothing else, I’ll just send the letters. It’s important, and I really want to communicate with my sister-in-law in Germany. She has gone out of her way to write to both of us, and as usual, I have been lax in replying, so that’s a must do, maybe later today or tomorrow.

Bálför Viking Funeral Card

It’s the words, you see. I just don’t have the words to say how life is, how we’re doing. I need to lie, to say that things are good, that I’m fine, that we’re both doing well. Making pleasant conversation used to not be so hard for me. I suppose I’m making too much out of it, that it will be fine once I start, which is how things usually are, or at least I hope so.

Being a self-imposed recluse can become problematic when moving beyond the safety of my environs enters into the equation. The irony, of course, is that writing this blog is taking me out of my safety zone, but now that I’m back into it, it seems to be working, at least most of the time. Granted, some days are harder than others, but my goal is to try to write at least a little each day, to get back into the practice of using words, so that I can try to get myself going and maybe, just maybe, begin to polish my manuscript.

Who knows? Certainly not I.

“It’s a losing battle:
my words have no chance against time.
Sometimes,
unable to catch up with imagination,
I leave the battle,
candle in hand,
in complete darkness.” ~ Jalal Barzanji, from “Trying Again to Stop Time”

I had a very disturbing dream last night, featuring someone from my past, a gay man with whom I used to be very close. I had met him at the museum, and we developed a very fast friendship, for lack of a better word. We used to do all kinds of things together. I know that he filled the gap that I had in my first marriage as far as doing things with my spouse.

Viking Funeral, Created by yoguy108

By the time this person came on the scene, my spouse and I had developed a separate set of friends and weren’t doing much of anything together. I don’t blame him. That’s just what happens when neither of you work on your marriage. Of course, there were many other factors at play that I just would rather not go into. It’s still a tender wound all of these years later, although, not quite as tender.

Anyway, in this dream, this person had photographs of me at a lake that I just couldn’t remember visiting. I was very bothered that he had proof that I’d been somewhere that I could not recall. It was disconcerting. The dream happened at my parent’s house, and in the end, both of my parents made an appearance; overall, one of those dreams that leaves you gasping when you awaken because they are so disturbing. Well, at least, that’s how I awaken from them.

“I go to meet my words and feel I bring them back to the surface, unaware that I lead them to their death.
But this is an illusion.” ~ Edmond Jabès, from The Book of Questions Vol. 1 (Trans. Rosmarie Waldrop)

So, I have plans for today, and perhaps putting them out there isn’t the best thing, especially if I have to come back tomorrow and say, “never mind.” But it’s raining, and I’m really trying to accomplish a goal that I’ve set for myself. It might seem silly, that my goal is to put up a tree and to write letters. Maybe normal people can do all of that in the span of a few hours in the morning with their first cup of coffee. And once, I would have done all of that and more by December 5.

My friend Kathleen used to give me a hard time for being so type A over Christmas. I used to vow to have my shopping done and my cards in the mail by the beginning of December. My tree was up and the house decorated by December 15 at the latest. That was another time. Another life. One in which I had boundless energy and a very different outlook on life. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t miss that version of me. Well, at least the more positive aspects of that person. Some aspects I’d just as soon convey to the ash heap of time

Viking Boat Funeral, via the Good Funeral Guide

That ash heap is very, very tall, and I am reminded of it whenever that stupid commercial comes on that shows a woman climbing a mountain of cigarettes. I understand the symbology, but it’s disgusting, nevertheless (this, of course, from someone who used to smoke occasionally). My ash heap is composed of old letters, bad poems, broken hearts, scents I can no longer recall, and many, many, many regrets.

In some ways, it reminds me of the funeral pyres in India, except that once the body burns, onlookers are left with a sense of freedom and peace that the departed has gone on to a new life. My ash heap has a slow burn, and absolutely nothing is resolved, so maybe not so much like the cleansing cremation fires of the Hindus. Maybe more like the supposed Viking funerals that happen in movies: a slow-moving vessel floating out to sea, the flaming arrows shot and hitting home, and no one really knows if the person makes it to Valhalla or just disappears into the flowing waters.

Sorry. Morbid? Then you’ll love the Lorca poem below . . .

More later. Peace. 


Music by Fever Ray, “If I Had a Heart” (still miss Ragnar)


Gacela of Dark Death

I want to sleep the sleep of apples,
far from the tumult of cemeteries.
I want to sleep the sleep of that child
who longed to cut out his heart at sea.

I don’t wish to hear that the dead lose no blood;
that the shattered mouth still begs for water.
don’t wish to know of torments granted by grass,
nor of the moon with the serpent’s mouth
that goes to work before dawn.

I want to sleep for a while,
a while, a minute, a century;
as long as all know I am not dead;
that in my lips is a golden manger;
that I’m the slight friend of the West Wind;
that I’m the immense shadow of tears.

Cover me, at dawn, with a veil
since she’ll hurl at me fistfuls of ants;
and wet my shoes with harsh water,
so her scorpion’s sting will slide by.

For I want to sleep the sleep of apples
learn a lament that will cleanse me of earth;
for I want to live with that hidden child
who longed to cut out his heart at sea.

~ Federico García Lorca

“When words stop meaning anything when truth doesn’t matter, when people can just lie with abandon, democracy can’t work.” ~ President Barack Obama, Miami (11-2-18)

Tuesday night, clear and mild 66 degrees.

I had big plans to follow the returns throughout the afternoon and into the evening. My body, however, had different plans. Spent most of the afternoon in bed, and fell asleep around 8:30.Woke up briefly and thought that I’d just post this little update quickly.

I really hope that I’m not coming down with something because Corey’s parents will be here this weekend, and we still have so much to do just to make the house look somewhat presentable. Just my luck.

Anyway, we voted this morning at the local polling place—a lot different from Norfolk. Everyone spoke to us and asked us questions about where we live, where we used to live. Everyone knew exactly where our house was. It was weird and nice at the same time. We’ve met some really nice people, and no one looked at me too oddly because of my olive skin and funny last name.

So that’s it for now. I’m attempting to post at least something each day until I can find my writing groove again.

More later. Peace.


In honor of the midterms and the incredible division among us, an oldie but goodie, Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

 

April is Poetry Month: Poem a Day #15

Backpost.

Tax day. Taxes have been slaying me, which hasn’t helped with the whole issue of life in general. I had planned to stop backposting these Knopf Poem-A-Day entries, but this particular one by Tracy K. Smith is too, too beautiful to forego, and I need a permanent record of sorts somewhere, at least until I can buy the book.


 

Poem-a-Day

The poet Tracy K. Smith (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her 2011 collection Life on Mars) tells a rich coming-of-age story in her new memoir and first book of prose, Ordinary Light. The youngest of five children, raised in suburban California by Alabama-born, African-American parents, Smith in this book looks back at herself as a growing girl: at her dawning understanding of her parents’ youth, so different from her own, during the Civil Rights movement; at her mother’s devout Christianity, which allows her to accept her cancer diagnosis as part of God’s plan; at the pain of losing her mother too early; at her first moments of independence at Harvard and her desire to become a writer. In this passage, we meet Smith in the college library, where she makes a connection between her mother’s faith and language, and her development as a poet.

To share the Poem-a-Day experience, pass along this link.

                   

From Ordinary Light:

My mother’s language was always the language of the soul. But it grew clearer, more telegraphic, once the cancer began to accelerate her sense that she was on her way elsewhere. So much of the time, living with such knowledge, her mind must have been tuned to the idea of what awaited her: I go to prepare a place for you. If it were not so, I would have told you. In some strange way, the return to the soul state might simply be the answer to the prayer that sits behind every prayer: Deliver me. Is there another dialect of the soul, a way it speaks in those who don’t possess the vocabulary of belief? A way it stirs and surges as if to say Here I am, something we don’t hear but that we feel and, feeling, know.

I liked to sit in the leather armchairs facing the tall windows in Lamont Library. The windows looked out onto Mass Ave. at the intersection of Quincy Street, and when I’d glance up from my page, I’d see people I knew and people I didn’t know moving back and forth along the axes of their lives. The reading room silence would obliterate all the outside traffic noises, and the daylight would baptize the pedestrians, it seemed to me, in a kind of transparent splendor, as if for the few moments they appeared in frame, they were resplendent in the inviolable promise we were all of us born into. It didn’t matter if they were in a rush or a daze, if they coughed into their fists or if smoke streamed from their mouths. Each wore, for an instant if not more, a mantle of eminent belonging, as if the moment that held them was not a mistake, as if they were not lost or alone or under a heap of insurmountable dread. Here I am, something in them seemed to be saying to the pavement, the fallen leaves, to no one in particular.

I was taking a poetry workshop, my third so far at Harvard. In it, I had discovered that sitting down with an idea and letting it unfold in words and sounds offered me not just pleasure but an indescribable comfort. I wanted to write the kind of poetry that people read and remembered, that they lived by — the kinds of lines that I carried with me from moment to moment on a given day without even having chosen to. Back out of all this now too much for us, said Robert Frost, and when I heard his words in my ears, they gave weight and purpose to my footsteps, to the breath going in and out of my lungs; they gave me terms with which to consider bits and pieces of the things I otherwise didn’t know how to acknowledge. Frost’s voice telling me to retreat (at least that’s part of what I heard in that line, hovering in space on its own, apart from the rest of the poem or even the rest of its sentence) emboldened me to admit that, yes, I was overwhelmed. My mother’s cancer overwhelmed me. Her death, waiting out there in the distance, overwhelmed me. So did the loneliness I still sometimes felt, even amid the chatter and bustle of friends and classes.

Perhaps without realizing it, I, like my mother long before she belonged to me, had been seeking something. I was searching. Not for any one thing in particular, and not as a result of a single glaring lack, but seeking — searching — nonetheless.

Poetry met my particular sense of need. Writing a poem, I sometimes felt like I was building a house from scratch, raising the walls, hanging the doors, laying out the rooms. It felt at times like backbreaking work. Other times, it seemed that what I was trying to evoke or encounter in a poem was already alive somewhere and that my job was merely to listen. The language of each of the poetry workshops I’d taken was built upon the assumption that there really was something else at play. My teachers talked about our poems as if they were sentient beings with plans and wishes of their own, wishes it was up to us to carry into language. “Your poem seems to be leading you in one direction, but you insist upon going in another.” Or, “Try and cut out all this noise so you can hear what the poem is trying to tell you.” It sounded quite nearly mystical, like we were playing at divination, but it also rang true. Wasn’t it strange that a poem, written in my vocabulary and as a result of my own thoughts or observations, could, when it was finished, manage to show me something I hadn’t already known? Sometimes, when I tried very hard to listen to what the poem I was writing was trying to tell me, I felt the way I imagined godly people felt when they were trying to discern God’s will. “Write this,” the poem would sometimes consent to say, and I’d revel in a joy to rival the saints’ that Poetry — this mysterious presence I talked about and professed belief in — might truly be real.

Often, that spring, I found myself sitting in a reading room window with a book I ought to have been reading for class, but I also always had a black sketchbook into which I’d begun writing lines of my own. Sometimes, I wrote the same stanza over and over until something was unlocked and I could move forward. Once or twice, I’d stopped mid-poem, altogether stumped, and started a letter to myself in which I’d describe whatever it was I was having trouble getting into language: What does it mean to slog through the weight of the everyday, to wake to anxiety, to spend the day straining to hear what they must be saying now that you’re out of earshot, to have to put on the boots, though you’re tired, always tired, and just keep going? Sometimes all of the watching and listening and waiting finally gave way to a poem:

The Ordinary Life

To rise early, reconsider, rise again later
to papers and the news. To smoke a few if time
permits and, second-guessing the weather,

dress. Another day of what we bring to it-
matters unfinished from days before,

regret over matters we’ve finished poorly.
Just once you’d like to start out early,
free from memory and lighter for it.
Like Adam, on that first day: alone

but cheerful, no fear of the maker,
anything his for the naming; nothing
to shrink from, nothing to shirk,

no lot to carry that wasn’t by choice.
And at night, no voice to keep him awake,
no hurry to rise, no hurry not to.

 

The 39 Most Iconic Feminist Moments of 2014*

Amy Poehler feminism


“If you look up feminism in the dictionary, it just means that men and women have equal rights. And I feel like everyone here believes men and women have equal rights. But I think the reason people don’t clap is that word is so weirdly used in our culture.” ~ Aziz Ansari, on Late Show with David Letterman (October 2014)

I’ve been saving this for an end of the year post, but, well, life . . . so now it’s a beginning of the year post. I’m only listing a selection of the ones I liked the most. Enjoy.

from mic.com (*click link to see full list)

by Elizabeth Plank

In 1998, Time magazine declared feminism dead. Nearly 15 years later, it wondered if instead, perhaps feminism should be banned. Constantly on attack from all sides, feminism has spent the past few decades proving its importance and relevance over and over and over again. If there’s one thing history has taught us, it’s that the backlash against feminism will always be a measure of our success. That’s the thing with progress — it is perceived as a threat by those too weak to embrace it.Indeed, it’s clear 2014 was a historic one for feminism. Women stood up for their rights, challenged stereotypes, fought for recognition and took control of the dialogue. The following is a non-exhaustive list of some of the most iconic feminist moments this year:

1. Malala Yousafzai accepted the Nobel Peace Prize — and went straight back to chemistry class.

The Nobel Peace Prize is “not going to help in exams” Yousafzai joked to reporters after becoming the youngest person to win the award. In addition to advocating against violence, poverty and advocating for more access to education for women and girls, the 17-year-old activist has become a symbol of hope and proof that feminism really does have the power to change the world.

2. Mo’ne Davis made everyone want to “throw like a girl.”

When the 13-year-old Davis led her team to the Little League World Series, it’s safe to say she captivated the nation. Poised and confident, Davis was an instant role model for millions of little girls — and boys — and also was the first Little Leaguer to grace a Sports Illustrated cover.

3. Emma Watson stunned the U.N.

We knew Watson was destined for big things as soon as the U.N. named her as an official Goodwill Ambassador, but we had no idea how much of an impact she would have — and so soon — until she gave a speech highlighting the importance of gender equality and feminism. Although some feminists were disgruntled by a perceived lack of acknowledgment by the star of her own privilege, her public defense of feminism certainly started a conversation, sending the message that feminism is important and should be embraced by both men and women.

4. A survivor brought her mattress — and sparked a national movement.

Frustrated by what she saw as an unacceptable response from school officials to her alleged sexual assault, Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz took matters into her own hands. As part of her senior performance art project, Sulkowicz announced she would carry her mattress everywhere she went until her alleged rapist was expelled.

It didn’t take long for others to notice, eventually sparking a national day of protest culminating in 28 mattresses being dropped in front of the office of Lee Bollinger, the university president, in a dramatic show of solidarity.

5. Jennifer Lawrence beat the Internet’s worst trolls at their own game.

It’s no coincidence the 4chan celebrity nude scandal targeted almost exclusively female celebrities. Culturally, we still view women’s sexuality as inherently shameful, making the exploitation of said sexuality one of the most effective ways we have to try to put women down. Lawrence, however, is far too strong a woman to be shamed by a few cowardly trolls hiding behind the anonymous cloak of the dark net.

She told Vanity Fair that those who attempt to denigrate women for taking intimate photos are the ones who should be ashamed. “I started to write an apology, but I don’t have anything to say I’m sorry for,” she said. Amen to that.

6. Women stormed the halls of Congress.

The 2014 midterm election may have been a “shellacking” for Democrats, but it also saw victories by a new wave of women, on both sides of the political aisle, ultimately increasing the ratio of female representatives greatly. A record 100 women will serve in the 114th Congress, and that’s something we should all celebrate.

7. A bro tried to defend catcalling on TV — and was totally shut down.

Although it’s rare to hear anyone describe a crime like harassment as a “compliment,” it’s always shocking to hear a man on television think he can get away with telling women how they should or should not feel about it. Amanda Seales did not take kindly to Steve Santagati’s suggestion that women should be thankful for the attention during a debate. From now on, every reaction to mansplaining will forever be judged against the flawless takedown that resulted.

9. Laverne Cox didn’t break barriers, she crushed them.

Laverne Cox, in addition to being an incredibly talented actress, has spent the past year helping to open doors for her transgender brothers and sisters. Some of her firsts included being the first openly transgender woman to garner an Emmy nomination for her role as Sophia Burset in Orange Is the New Black, a rare, realistic portrayal of a transgender woman in mainstream pop culture. Cox also graced the cover of Time magazine, shining a brilliant light on the talent of trans individuals and the growing strength of the transgender rights movement.

10. Taylor Swift had a feminist epiphany. 

After years of comments to the contrary, the superstar entertainer finally came out of the gender equality closet this year, confiding to the Guardian that she was a feminist all along (knew it)! Swift then set about proving her commitment to the movement, releasing a video for her single “Blank Space” that was described as a “dystopian feminist fairy tale.”

Indeed, over the span of only a couple months, Swift has been on something of a feminist tear, disproving stereotypes about feminists, calling out the music industry’s trivialization of women artists and giving thanks for the invaluable role of female friendships in her life. Oh, and can we talk about that VMA performance?

11. #YesAllWomen reached almost 2 million tweets in under four days.

Not all men assault, rape and harm women, but #YesAllWomen have to deal with the threat of being hurt every day. That was the rallying cry behind what may be the most viral feminist hashtag of all time. Born out of the tragedy that took place in Santa Barbara, California, it was an opportunity for women to speak openly  about the injustices that plague their lives. At one point, the hashtag trended more than Kim Kardashian’s wedding, proof that the conversation was long overdue and resonated with many.

Thanks to #YesAllWomen, the conversation about the shooting was seen through a gendered lens, something that the media has been reluctant to do for far too long.

13. Beyoncé danced in front of the world — and a gigantic feminist banner.Remember the bizarre spectacle that was last year’s VMAs? For all those wondering if they would ever get Robin Thicke’s gyrations out of their nightmares, Beyoncé’s 16-minute performance was quite literally a sight for sore eyes. The world’s biggest diva proved feminism wasn’t just accessible, it was cool. As Time remarked, the entire show was about women’s empowerment. From Swift’s lively performance with exclusively male backup dancers to Nicki Minaj’s assertive “Anaconda,” the performances gave many of us hope for a future music industry that respects and highlights its female talent.

15. Lupita Nyong’o forced Hollywood to take blackness seriously.After becoming only the fifth black woman to receive a best supporting actress award for her role in 12 Years a Slave, Nyong’o set off on a whirlwind awards tour, earning a Glamour Woman of the Year honor and the Essence magazine Black Woman in Hollywood Breakthrough Award. Proving that she was as brilliant as she was beautiful, Nyong’o’s speech on body image and blackness was deeply moving.

“I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful,” she told the Essence audience. “I put on the TV and only saw pale skin, I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin.” The path to self-acceptance is hard, she noted, but finally coming to terms with the idea that beauty comes in many shades has changed her life.

24. Crafty crafters did amazing things in Hobby Lobby stores.

After the Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor, effectively allowing the crafting giant to stop providing birth control in female employees’ insurance packages, clever and crafty feminists took to the aisles, expressing their frustration via pro-woman messages left in stores across the nation. The best part? Male customers also got in the fun. It’s good to know that you don’t have to be a lady to appreciate the responsibility of for-profit corporations to provide comprehensive contraceptive care.

30. The MTA took a stand against “man-spreading.”

In an encouraging move, New York transit announced in the fall it was beginning a campaign to combat the amount of space some men take up in public. The problem, sometimes known as “man-spreading,” “lava balls” or “subway sprawl,” will be tackled through awareness programs the MTA is planning to roll out in January 2015. While women may miss witty feminist Tumblrs like Your Balls Aren’t That Big, we certainly won’t miss having to deal with men’s wide-legged dominance on a daily basis.

34. Feminists finally got us talking about Bill Cosby.

Allegations against Cosby have been around for years, but for some reason (ahem, misogyny), the mainstream media took a while to actually star caring about it. But that all changed after comedian Hannibal Buress’ routine woke the not-so-sleeping giant of the feminist network.

Overnight, activists left the media no choice but to pay attention, a movement solidified after savvy Internet users hijacked a promotional chat, R. Kelly style. In the wake of this outpouring of support, even more women have come forward to tell their own stories of alleged abuse at the hands of the venerable comedian.