Monday, May 31, 2010

Remember How Much You Love Poetry: Write It!

In some cultures, poetry is taken for granted because everyone writes it.  Alas, that's not the way it is in this culture.  We seem to think only Poets Write Poetry, and Poets are mythical creatures akin to unicorns and leprechauns.

Jerry Orbach, the actor in one of my favorite television shows, Law & Order, wrote poems every day to his wife, Elaine.  I just read the book Remember How Much I Love You, which had a selection of poems, along with narrative about their lives together.  Jerry died in 2004.

I remember when Jerry died.  It was on a Tuesday, right after Christmas.  I was on the Amtrak up to Manhattan when I heard the news.  I have loved Manhattan from the first time I stepped onto the platform at Penn Station, and I loved Jerry Orbach and Law & Order because I got to see first-hand every week the city I loved.  I was so sorry when I read about his passing in the newspaper as I sat in the dining car traveling north in the weak winter sunlight.  I was truly sorry for the loss of such a talent and such a good man, and I suspected the enormously talented actor was as good with the pen as he was with a line.)

Elaine composed the book, dying soon before it was published (and, as only the consummate performer would do, after the final manuscript was in the publisher's hands).

Jerry's poems to his wife were lovely and personal, full of allusions only she would understand.  They were not always Great Poetry, but they always were great.

The book's coda by Elaine encouraged people to "put pen to paper" and write down the love they feel.

I think it's a lovely idea.  I plan to do it — and I'll share the (not-too-personal) ditties with you.

I challenge you to do the same.  Make someone's day.  Put pen to paper.  Write that poem.  Even if it's a groaner, the recipient will be thrilled.  I know I would be.  I'll be glad to share your poems, even anonymously: just send them to me and I'll do the rest.

Go be a poet.  It's easier — and a lot more fun — than you think.

Monday, May 17, 2010

May I Update You on New Year's Resolutions?

As we careen along this year, let's take a look at where my New Year's resolutions have zoomed along — or stalled.

I want to read more.
Frankly, I'm not racking up the books as I had hoped.  I've joined a book club but haven't been keeping up.  (We won't discuss The Terror.)  I've got five books going, including a few very interesting tomes, but they're not stacking up as quickly in recent weeks.

I was thinking about my reasons, a.k.a. excuses, and they sound pitiful.  I have too many books going at once, or maybe I've been shopping more than reading. Part of it is my new-found attempt at running in the morning, so I can't read until 1 am and still wake up road-ready five hours later.

Like I said, excuses.  None of them good or even convincing.  However, what I am reading is good, so I'll report more on that soon. 

I want to write more letters.
I did a great job for a while, a letter a week to Mom, then I fell off the wagon.  Poor Mom — she gets a Mother's Day card, then the postal carrier has nothing else to do for a while.  I might have to mix it up a little, maybe let pictures do the talking for me.  Does it count if I simply caption photos?

I want to listen to music more.
That's progressing nicely, with the iPod on in the background or my computer on in the background during the workday.  Right now I'm watching an Eric Clapton concert with musicians other than Mr. Clapton himself performing.  (Yep, this one is David's choice.  He's the concert DVD fan.)  I also have spent more time in the car lately, and the local pop station plays most of the time I'm in the car.  (I get my fill of NPR in the morning.)  I have picked up some good CDs lately: Essential Bruce Springsteen, anyone?

Plus, guess who's going to see Jeff Beck in a couple of weeks?

Yes, David, but who else?

Yes, PJ, my other Gee-tar Guy.  However, guess again 'cause there's another fan in the 'hood!

I want to listen to more music.
Did I mention my pop music station?  Plus, I have discovered just today the entire area of Free Zone on cable devoted to music.  I might just find some new group I like now that I have outgrown the novelty of Ke$ha (who will not suffer from this adjustment to her fan base, I am sure).

I want to run faster.
It was a hard, long winter spent in the gym.  I am grateful for that option, and for a wonderful husband who actually enables me to do such things, but it's hard to leave the comfort of the gym for the street (and I can't run on a treadmill and live).  it's even harder to hit the streets in the morning when the weather is all over the place: hot one morning, freezing the next, 40-degree swing in temperature followed by a thunderstorm, so I can't even run when it's finally warm.  (Yeah, poor me.)

The only drawback to being back on the street is the fact that I try to get it done before work on weekdays.  It requires a whole different mindset, which doesn't come naturally to me, no matter how many years I've tried to master it.  There's an art to being a morning athlete, and according to Fitness Magazine article, it's possible to evolve.  I'm sure I'll get there — right around October, when daylight saving ends and it's dark when I wake up.  (Cold, too, but despite my whining, I can live with that.)

Well, I think it's time to put down the computer and either pick up a pen or a book.

So, how are your resolutions coming along?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dead Poets Remembrance Day: Are You In?

Just when I thought it was safe to post a holiday list, They come out with another literature-related one.  ("They" always do.)

The Dead Poets Society of America is promoting its new holiday: Dead Poets Remembrance Day.  Held on October 7, the date of Edgar Allen Poe's death, the holiday remembers all of the poets who have come before us.

The society is ramping up to that bash by having Dead Poets events in nearly every state.  In Virginia, it's at the Edgar Allen Poe Museum in Richmond.  In Maryland, it's at Poe's grave.  (Do I see a trend here?)  In D.C, they leave Poe alone.  Check out the list on the link from the Dead Poets Society Web page.

A little macabre?  Sure.  But if you can't love a dead poet, who can you love?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Yes, There's an App for That

For those of you with an iPhone, consider Poem Flow, the poetry app.  It also works on the iPod Touch.

It — well, let me have the Academy of American Poets do the honors:

A veritable box of light with words and thought in fluid motion, Poem Flow is an entirely new way to experience poetry on a handheld screen. In Portrait view, each poem is presented in its traditional format; turned to Landscape, the poem literally flows over the screen.
Each day, a new poem becomes available to app subscribers, while those from previous days remain on the device, building the equivalent of an ever-expanding anthology of the best-loved poems in the English language. Historical trivia and contextual information, compiled by, are provided for each daily poem.

Now I have to go get an iPhone — but first, this poem.


Someone's taken a bite
from my laptop's glowing apple,
the damaged fruit of our disobedience,
of which we must constantly be reminded.

There's the fatal crescent,
the dark smile
of Eve, who never dreamed of a laptop,
who, in fact, didn't even have clothes,
or anything else for that matter,

which was probably the nicest thing
about the Garden, I'm thinking,
as I sit here in the café
with my expensive computer,
afraid to get up even for a minute
in order to go to the bathroom
because someone might steal it

in this fallen world she invented
with a single bite
of an apple nobody, and I mean
was going to tell her not to eat.

by George Bilgere