Sunday, March 29, 2009

Poetry in the Post

The Washington Post, that is.

Take a gander at the Book Section (which you also can find in print in the Outlook section of the paper).

This week's Poet's Choice column by Michael Collier has fascinating background.

An Individual History

This was before the time of lithium and Zoloft

before mood stabilizers and anxiolytics

and almost all the psychotropic drugs, but not before thorazine,

which the suicide O'Laughlin called "handcuffs for the mind."

It was before, during, and after the time of atomic fallout,

Auschwitz, the Nakba, DDT, and you could take water cures,

find solace in quarantines, participate in shunnings,

or stand at Lourdes among the canes and crutches.

It was when the March of Time kept taking off its boots.

Fridays when families prayed the Living Rosary

to neutralize communists with prayer.

When electroshock was electrocution

and hammers recognized the purpose of a nail.

And so, if you were as crazy as my maternal grandmother was then

you might make the pilgrimage she did through the wards

of state and private institutions,

and make of your own body a nail for pounding, its head

sunk past quagmires, coups d'etat, and disappearances

and in this way find a place in history

among the detained and unparoled, an individual like her,

though hidden by an epoch of lean notation -- "Marked

Parkinsonian tremor," "Chronic paranoid type" --

a time when the animal slowed by its fate

was excited to catch a glimpse of its tail

or feel through her skin the dulled-over joy

when for a moment her hands were still.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Prepping for April: Introduction to Poetry

I'm not sure who to feel sorrier for: the student who feels obligated to not enjoy poetry or the poor poem under such intense scrutiny....

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

by Billy Collins
From The Apple That Astonished Paris. © University of Arkansas Press, 1996.
Thanks to The Writer’s Almanac.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Observation, February 2005

I put five miles on my running shoes every morning.

Now, I am reasonable: temperatures below 30ºF (okay, 25), excessive ice and lightning send me to the gym. But it’s stuffy, loud, crowded inside. I’m a road warrior. I like it outside.

A woman asked me to copy her letter to the mayor. Her reality included a wheelchair, microwave mind control, Invisible Men and pages of tiny writing pinned to her coat. She asked, “Girl, how do you stay so slim?”

I told her I run.

“Every day?”

I nodded.

Despite her reality, she understood mileage, and exclaimed, “You go, girl!”

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Getting Ready for National Poetry Month

Like a marathon, you shouldn't just dash into National Poetry Month. What you should do is train a little, read poetry from time to time.

Check out Borders Open-Door Poetry — very interesting, with contemporary poets reading their work and responding to important, silly and interesting questions.

And check out this great poem by the late Bill Holm, whose poetry I was introduced to in the fabulous book The Geography of Bliss. I'll share another of his poems, soon, but for now, enjoy this one.

Wedding Poem For Schele and Phil

A marriage is a risky business these days
Says some old and prudent voice inside.
We don’t need twenty children anymore
To keep the family line alive,
Or gather up the hay before the rain.
No law demands respectability.
Love can arrive without certificate or cash.
History and experience both make clear
That men and women do not hear
The music of the world in the same key,
Rather rolling dissonances doomed to clash.

So what is left to justify a marriage?
Maybe only the hunch that half the world
Will ever be present in any room
With just a single pair of eyes to see it.
Whatever is invisible to one
Is to the other an enormous golden lion
Calm and sleeping in the easy chair.
After many years, if things go right
Both lion and emptiness are always there;
The one never true without the other.

But the dark secret of the ones long married,
A pleasure never mentioned to the young,
Is the sweet heat made from two bodies in a bed
Curled together on a winter night,
The smell of the other always in the quilt,
The hand set quietly on the other’s flank
That carries news from another world
Light-years away from the one inside
That you always thought you inhabited alone.
The heat in that hand could melt a stone.

by Bill Holm

Sunday, March 1, 2009

More Entertaining Videos

Here are a few more videos I have found that you might find mildly entertaining.

• "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog"
Joss Whedon created an Internet-only video starring Neal Patrick Harris. Buy it on iTunes and enjoy quality music!

• Weird Al Yankovic
I've been known to sing "White and Nerdy" for days after listening to it, and "The Saga Begins" is by far one of the most superior parodies I've ever seen and heard. (It's still unsettling to see Al without glasses!)

Achmed the Dead Terrorist
David nearly made me pop my stitches this summer with the help of this guy. His performance in Jeff Dunham's Christmas special was incredible, not in the least because of Guitar Guy.

"My Humps"
Well, not my humps, but... First, watch The Black Eyed Peas version. Then enjoy this fabulous parody by Alanis Morissette, who has a great sense of humor.

"Prop 8: The Musical"
Jack Black as Jesus? With clever lyrics and an interesting cast, this video is a surprising delight.

What videos do you like to watch?