Two parties for Poetry Monday

Sharon OldsLisa Alvarez, whose blog The Mark on the Wall often features interesting poems as well as literary events in Orange County, mentioned on Facebook that it was her son’s 11th birthday. Thinking about children’s parties reminded me of two poems by Sharon Olds, who recently won the Pulitzer Prize.  These two are from her second book, The Dead and the Living:

Rite of Passage

As the guests arrive at my son’s party
they gather in the living room–
short men, men in first grade
with smooth jaws and chins. Continue reading “Two parties for Poetry Monday”

A Narrative Poem

In the past, poems often told a story.  There are great narrative poems like the Odyssey or Beowulf, and many shorter examples up through the 1900s. But in the world of contemporary poetry, narrative is rare. Philip Levine’s work sometimes tells a story, I can think of a few poems of Ed Hirsch, and the famous poem “The Shirt,” by Robert Pinsky. You can probably think of others. But most of what we call poetry now is lyric verse, an image, an impression, a feeling, a puzzling through the complexities of daily life.

kelly2_optPerhaps this is why this extraordinary poem by Brigit Pegeen Kelley that appears just to tell a story is so powerful. I say “appears” because this may be real or may not, but in either case is enhanced by the language of the telling:

The Dragon Continue reading “A Narrative Poem”

Finding a good book

carry the oneLast week in DC, I sat down in Kramerbooks and read a short story by Carol Anshaw in the the Best American Short Stories 2012. I liked it so much, I immediately bought her novel Carry the One. I wasn’t disappointed. This writing is rich with imagery, the characters are complex, contemporary, and believable, and the moral dilemmas thought-provoking and not easily solved.  Here is the opening:

Screen Shot 2013-04-20 at 11.22.18 AM

Continue reading “Finding a good book”

Techie or Fuzzy

I was one of those insufferable children who adore school. As the youngest in my family by five years, in school I competed only with my peers. I have always been a quick study, and the rewards at school were easy and plentiful. By 9th grade, I was taking honors classes, Geometry, Biology, honors English.  I loved the spatial predictability of geometry, the way it explained the world. I was lucky to have an English teacher who introduced me to poetry I would never have found on my own and a Biology teacher who introduced me to the scientific method of exploring the world. I loved it all. Socially, I struggled. I was unavoidably a teacher’s pet and my sartorial skills had not been honed by being dressed for years in my brothers’ hand-me-downs and my mother’s occasional lightning shopping expeditions. But I had a group of friends, and I even tried out for the cheerleading team.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the same time, I was encouraged to compete in the annual science fair. Continue reading “Techie or Fuzzy”

Museums In DC

beeswax roomI had a spare day in Washington, and went a few museums.  I had read about the beeswax room, an installation by in the Phillips Collection by Wolfgang Laib and wanted to see what it would feel like to be in a small closet coated with beeswax. It was interesting, but not transformative. I thought if you were going to go to all that trouble, you might want to make it hexagonal. Continue reading “Museums In DC”

Poetry Monday on Tuesday

MillayI recently came across this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, a poet who was once all the rage–perhaps as much for her outrageously bohemian life as for her work–and is now thoroughly out of fashion. In my view she is neither as great as she was once thought to be or as overly romantic and out of date as she is now perceived. After all, for years, her candle burned at both ends for me and so many others. This poem feels very contemporary in its attempt to reconcile the wonders of a scientific world with the primitive undertow of our human selves:

This Gifted Age Continue reading “Poetry Monday on Tuesday”

Walk as One at 1

Having been part of One Billion Rising, I’m up for global demonstrations that tap into positive energy.  Here’s the next one I’m planning to participate in, on Saturday, May 4.

World Labyrinth Day, an initiative of The Labyrinth Society, is a day designated to bring people from all over the world together to walk labyrinths for the good of all.  What could be wrong with that? It is celebrated every year on the first Saturday in May.

March 2013 Labyrinth_optAccording to the announcement, “People are encouraged to have the main labyrinth walk of the day at 1 pm in every time zone to create a wave of labyrinth walking around the planet as it turns in space.  There can be great power for good manifested in this effort of unity.”

If, unlike me, you don’t have a labyrinth just outside your front door but want to join in, you can use the handy labyrinth locator to find a labyrinth near you. Or just lay a few pebbles down, and walk in a spiral.

Following the thread

Serbo CroatiaMy discovery of Vasko Popa led me to a slim book called The Golden Apple, a compilation of Serbo-Croation stories, spells, proverbs curses and riddles.  According to the editors Popa was instrumental in popularizing a plain-spoken Serbo-Croatian language that unified the various dialects, and found “great joy in bringing the little-known and under-valued beauties…into the daylight.” Here are a few of my favorites:


May you count your teeth on your hand. Continue reading “Following the thread”