Thursday, February 25, 2010


Here is a wonderful link to a poem by Taylor Mali (animated with word art) that I'll be using in my comp. class when I teach about not using vague wording. Sneaking in poetry whenever I can...

blog poetry

One of my students, reporting on poet Frank O'Hara, equated the kind of poems he writes to blogging. His poems tend to be personal, wandering, and not deeply edited. Decide for yourselves. Here's one I love:


is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, IrĂșn, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I'm with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o'clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it's in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven't gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn't pick the rider as carefully
as the horse

it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it

Here is a clip of Frank O'Hara reading it in 1966, shortly before his accidental death.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Olympics, real-time

Something fascinating comes from watching Olympic events while at the gym: you're moving, they're moving, and a you get a new perspective on just how much faster they are.

For example, Wednesday night I was about to head home when I saw that the men's 5000m qualifying relay for speed skating was about to come on. I hopped on an open treadmill, plugged in my headphones, and started walking at a pleasant, normal pace. I started maybe 45 seconds before they did and stopped maybe 20 seconds after. In the time that the three-man relay skated 5000m--more than 3 miles--guess how far I went?

One-third of a mile.

True, I wasn't racing. True, they are Olympians. True, they were on a nearly frictionless surface. Apples and oranges, I know. But suddenly I understood physically rather than just mentally what the athletics neatly framed on the gym TV meant in real life.

I am in awe.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Olympic obsession

The other day my neighbor said, "I heard there was this girl who spent the ENTIRE day at the gym, just watching the Olympics...that wasn't YOU, was it?"


I've only seen about 50 minutes of the Olympics on TV, and I almost fell of the treadmill (walking) every time someone had a jump to land. Hadn't thought about that problem...

The internet coverage, provided you can sign in with your cable provider (tricksey, precious), is fantastic. You try to watch the pairs figure skating short program, say, and you get THREE AND A HALF HOURS of it. I still might only watch a half hour, but I get to choose who I see in that half hour, darn it.

-Did you know that when the skaters come out for warm-up, the speaker introduces them? So-and-so from Germany...when they're not skating, they like to hang out with friends...

I feel like I'm there. Kind of. There is something wonderful about having that shielding blanket of commentary (with commercial breaks) taken away, when you see the athletes waiting at the start because one of the competitors needs to fix his boot; when you see contestant after contestant in rapid fire coming in 14th and 25th, who are so incredibly skilled, having their 43.402 seconds of fame; when you have to figure out what exactly they are being marked reminds me that this is a competition, one of hundreds that each person has taken part in. The highest of stakes, certainly. But seeing it all without the editing make the whole competition that much more impressive to me.

And I can do it from my couch. :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

two birds with one stone

I'm really excited about the Olympics. I really want to watch it, but we don't get NBC with our bunny ears. I was determined to get cable for the month, until I learned that it would cost $30 to set up the cable and, I'm guessing, about the same to un-set it when we cancelled service. I don't want to spend that much on TV, but I was really feeling down about missing the Olympics. Apparently, there's supposed to be a lot online?

But, here's the happy news. Matt's been wanting to join the school gym since he started grad school, and this semester he actually has time to do so. I've been wanting to work out without having it be one more thing I discipline myself to do alone (all that energy goes into writing). SO, I happily went and joined the gym as well, yesterday. I walked in, and what did I see?

TVs. Lots of them. If I only go to the gym for the next two weeks and spend the whole time walking on the treadmill, eyes fixed on NBC, it'll be worth it.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Experiencing God

In church on Sunday, the pastor mentioned Matthew Fox, a former priest who now runs a seminary in California that focuses on experiencing God over necessarily learning doctrine. It's a point you could argue back and forth for quite a while, but what I found interesting was a list of four ways that most people experience God. I've put his Latin terms in parenthesis, and I've given them my own names, because I can remember them better, all starting with the same letter. These appealed mightily to me as a poet. If nothing else during the day, I always say a prayer before I start writing...

Wonder (Via Positiva)
-and here is a way that poetry can be deeply spiritual. Or, if you're a friend
of mine, watching nature shows, or looking at images of space...anything to
slow us down, fill us with awe, reset perspective.
Wilderness (Via Negativa)
-for some, their most powerful experience of God is during the hardest times.
I think of when I've moved to a new city and been deeply lonely. God has seemed
more present, bigger...I found it easier to be grateful...
Writing/Creative Works (Via Creativa)
-okay, so this "W" reveals personal bias. Any act of creating fits in this
World Transformation (Via Transformativa)
-social justice, environmental restoration, hands-in-the-dirt, feet-on-the-
ground, hopes-held-high world transformation.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

We Are Your People

It is such a pleasure when we come across a hymn in church that is beautifully written, that verse by verse nails the idea on the head, and I find myself, as they say, agreeing in spirit. This one, entitled, "We Are Your People" was new to me, and I copied it on the spot. Written by Brian Wren (1973) and John Wilson (1980). I love the way it talks about community. This song says what I'm trying to say (and then some) in my poem "Community," which was posted in December. (Also, the meter is kind of cool, not the 4-line melody you'd expect.)

We are your people, LORD, by your grace.
You dare to make us Christ to our neighbors
of every nation and race.

Called to portray you, help us to live
closer than neighbors, open to strangers
able to clash and forgive.

Glad of tradition, help us to see
in all life's changing where you are leading,
where our best efforts should be.

Joined in community, breaking your bread,
may we discover gifts in each other,
willing to lead and be led.

LORD as we minister in different ways,
may all we're doing show that You're living,
meeting Your love with our praise.

Friday, February 5, 2010

sheep as poetry

Why didn't I think of this??? The border collie we had growing up could have written some terrific poems...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

imagine this

If you are ever in Venice, seek out Il Gazzetino. It's a hotel/trattoria on the quiet Sotoporto della Acque, about 3 blocks from the Rialto (east side) and 5 minutes' walk from San Marco. If you don't plan on going, here's an image of the place, to snack on:

We found the restaurant because we were standing in front of it, trying to figure out where our B&B (Ca'delle Acque, also recommended) was. The owner came out, showed us where it was down the street, and when no one answered the door he got out his cell phone and called. And so, an act of random kindness began our stay.

Il Gazzetino seats perhaps 20 people, so it's cozy. The walls are covered with drawings on brown paper and messages in languages from all over the world. As we waited for what was to be the best risotto I have ever tasted, the waitress brought us a little story about how the place was formed and a thick guest book for us to sign. Venice is a place for the meeting of worlds, and again the number of not just places but languages in the book amazed me. The waitress also brought us a dish with a serving of sardines. We didn't order it. They just had some and brought it to us, a little antipasti on the house. Some might say there's no outstanding reason to treat tourists nicely; you'll likely only see them once. But that just seemed to be how they rolled, and on the second night when we returned, the place about 3/4 full with Venetians, I saw them going around giving out a scoop of extra risotto for people to try. Here, on the house, a little serving for the table to share. Everything we ate there was delicious, and at the end, when we said we were done, out came little Venetian "S" shaped cookies and some kind of liquidy lemon sherbet and a shot of what I'm guessing was homemade liquor (it tasted like cognac) with raisins in the bottom. Just because. Talk about hospitality.