Friday (Writing, Reading, and New Shoes) Musings

I spent most of today reading and writing. I finished Dana Levin’s Wedding (comments to come later), read half of the Translation issue of Poetry, and started leafing through Kim Addonizio’s Ordinary Genius. I also wrote a poem and started on two others. It was a good day.

I picked up Ordinary Genius at AWP, where Addonizio seemed to be all over the place. In retrospect I think I may have seen her in the elevator. I’ve read a smattering of her poems online and in different journals. Her poems have grit and I like how she uses pop culture references. I was also given a cd of hers when I bought the book, and it’s pretty interesting. Anyway. I’m always looking for writing exercises, because unlike some poets, I don’t always sit down with a clear idea of what I want to write about. Also, I’m a teacher, so writing exercises are invaluable to my students. In the first part of the book, Addonizio gives solid, and familiar advice to first time writers. She mentions keeping a “book” (journal) and making time to write and how comittment is vital. She’s absolutely right, so it makes sense that I felt like I was being reprimanded while reading her words. I need to get back to what I was doing a few months ago, which was setting aside half an hour each day to write something. It didn’t matter if the poem failed or was complete crap. I just needed to keep the gears grinding. So beginning this week, I’m getting right back to it.

This is one of the translated poems (Dutch in this case) from the April issue of Poetry that I really liked:

Last Night

Saved two children last night.
They lay under thin black ice
one gone blue, the other grey.
I laid them out on grass
that snapped under my step
wrung their bodies warm and dry
gave them the gust of my breath.

Then I looked out at the morning
that lay lukewarm on the water
put on a tank top
arranged some grasses in a vase
fished two children out of sleep.
Hester Knibbe

Monday (First Day of Class)

I arrived at school at 7 am this morning. I was bit surprised to find that I was the only one here when I got off the elevator. I must be one of the few poor souls who volunteered to teach 8 am classes. A lot of people (students included) groan about the 8 o’clock hour, but I like it. I’m done teaching by 11 and I can spend the afternoon grading, doing paperwork, or counseling students. This also allows me to leave early enough in the day, so that I can go home and actually get things accomplished.

My classes went well this morning. There appears to be some good energy.

The First Line is the Deepest

Kim Addonizio

I have been one acquainted with the spatula,

the slotted, scuffed, Teflon-coated spatula

that lifts a solitary hamburger from pan to plate,
acquainted with the vibrator known as the Pocket Rocket

and the dildo that goes by Tex,
and I have gone out, a drunken bitch,

in order to ruin
what love I was given,

and also I have measured out
my life in little pills—Zoloft,

Restoril, Celexa,

I have. For I am a poet. And it is my job, my duty
to know wherein lies the beauty

of this degraded body,
or maybe

it’s the degradation in the beautiful body,
the ugly me

groping back to my desk to piss
on perfection, to lay my kiss

of mortal confusion
upon the mouth of infinite wisdom.

My kiss says razors and pain, my kiss says
America is charged with the madness

of God. Sundays, too,
the soldiers get up early, and put on their fatigues in the blue-

black day. Black milk. Black gold. Texas tea.
Into the valley of Halliburton rides the infantry—

Why does one month have to be the cruelest,
can’t they all be equally cruel? I have seen the best

gamers of your generation, joysticking their M1 tanks through
the sewage-filled streets. Whose

world this is I think I know.

courtesy of Poetry January 2009

I like this poem. A lot. Partly because it is clever. Partly because of the pop culture references. Partly because it is brave. Mostly because it is honest. It is a poem made out of the stuff of our current world.

This is too perfect. I like the question posed at the end of this article. I’m going to think on it.

In the face of his arrest on federal corruption charges, Mr. Blagojevich offered Rudyard Kipling’s “If.”

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

Understandably, he left out the last line of the stanza:
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.

Too bad poetry is still getting the short end of the stick:

The proportion of adults reading some kind of so-called literary work — just over half — is still not as high as it was in 1982 or 1992, and the proportion of adults reading poetry and drama continued to decline. Nevertheless the proportion of overall literary reading increased among virtually all age groups, ethnic and demographic categories since 2002. It increased most dramatically among 18-to-24-year-olds, who had previously shown the most significant declines.