Category Archives: Poetry

October Poetry, Day 23

Deeper blue, thick with water,
the ocean stretches fingers out from the bay.
Back one, now two miles, down urban streets,
among skyscrapers and taco shops and
the concrete boxes where your people live in smaller boxes.

Drunken laughter, taxi horns,
a homeless woman’s cart beating the endless rythem- cha-chunk, cha-chunk,
cha-chunk.
Bus vibrations, a dogs bark, now two, the street poet’s confused
prose, the saxophonists blaze, the baseball roar, the helicopter hum.
This is your strange California jazz, and on the edge of
America we your people dance our samba,
our clumsy ballet of business and pleasure and what we do because we know
nothing else.
We extend into one in the movement of your nighttime masses,
We plie back into many, the slow release of morning.

4 am, alone.
I stand upon the cusp, looking into the gray of your morning fog,
towards a vast, rolling body I
cannot see. The body
of your voluptuous mistress,
the one that eats away at your edges but you will never ask to leave.
This fog is her checking in, are
all the children in their places? Act 10, Scene 13 is about to begin.
San Diego Saturday, take one and go.

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Filed under California Dreamin', Poetry, San Diego

100th Post, an Anniversary, and a Poem.

Big things are afoot today!

First of all, this is my 100th post on this blog! Considering that I took a good chunk of time off, hitting my 100th post just 14 months after I started is not too shabby. Thanks to all of you who have read, commented, shared, and encouraged. A blog is nothing without community, and mine is small but wonderful.

Today also marks our first anniversary of living in San Diego! I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since we rather unexpectedly packed up our lives and moved to a new city. There were some tough, lonely months in the beginning, but we have gained so much since we arrived in our new city: a wonderful home, great friends, a fantastic church home, a cute puppy, and lots of life experience that we are the better for, both individually and as a couple. San Diego is not home in the way that Ohio is home, but it is the next best thing, and I definitely look forward to what the next year has in store for us here. I feel undeservedly blessed.

Also, I feel like this blog needs some gratuitous animal pictures. Because blogs without pictures are booo-riiiing!

This is what Oscar looks like when someone takes a bath without him. He really likes baths.

And this is what Cambria looks like when she wants more food (because a half-full bowl is not good enough for our little queen), but you ignore her and blog instead.

Now, on with the show.

Today is the 15th day of Poetry Month, so as promised, I will share. Here goes nothing:

When most are just beginning to thing about running, we
are finishing the first major lap. We stop for
a drink, and they ask our advice, but their eyes
are glazed. “Run hard and don’t be selfish.” They smile
and nod, as though what we have will
be so easily attained. As though we did not battle and
bleed, as though a good marriage can be
selected and gift wrapped at any department store of choice.
We continue running, smiling our secret smile because we know that
soon they will begin, and words will be thrown that no one really
meant, and she will cry and he will
feel a little fooled by her rosy lips that tricked him here, and
the real marathon of love will begin.

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Filed under Odds and Ends, Poetry, San Diego

October Poetry, Day 10

There are so many poems inside these fingers,
but words are complicated
and a good pen is hard to come by. Someday I
shall peruse greatness, but
today the triumph is just getting the
words, a few small words,
onto paper
in order
without fear.

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October Poetry, Day 5

I have the love of ten hearts beating inside my chest- they thrum
in one accord
for you, love of my youth,
man with the strong jaw and silent lips.

(You are also beautiful, but that is beside the point.)

You don’t say much of your own inner expanse,
but I can see it when you brush the hair off my forehead, or catch my
gaze across a room, or when I find you looking at me when you should
be looking at a movie screen.

You are not a words man, preferring to use your hands and mind in silence.
But every night your arms surround
me as sleep overtakes us, and I can feel under
your ribs the thrum of ten hearts beating
in one accord for
me.

(Man of my youth and my heart and all my ten loves,
you are beautiful in your silences, and nothing of you has
ever been beside the point.)

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Filed under Love & Marriage, Poetry

October Poetry, NaNoWriMo, and Some Books I’m Excited About

I was going to be such a good blogger today. I had planned to get up early and get this blog out by East Coast lunch time. But then I slept in. And then I decided to start my day reading instead of writing to get my juices pumping. And then I hopped on WordPress, but started reading other blogs instead of writing my own. And then I ate lunch of the patio, and it was such a beautiful day I just had to take the dog for a walk…and you get the drift of how today has done for me. So here I am at East Coast dinner time, just getting started. But it’s okay, because I have some fun stuff to talk about!

1: October Poetry Month: I know I may not seem it in the day-to-day ramblings of this blog, but I am a huge fan of poetry. In fact, I first came to my love of literature and writing through poetry. Well, my friend Christie created her own poetry month, wherein she writes a poem everyday during the month of October. I haven’t been focusing as much on poetry lately as I’d like, so I’ve decided to join her. I’m gearing up already; I’m reading more poetry to prepare my mind, I’m seriously contemplating which journal I want to document my month of poems in, and I’m trying to find somewhere local that sells those sever-year pens Christie mentions, because I feel I am forever in need  of a good, handy pen, and as soon as I find one I love it runs out of ink. Boo bad pens. Yay (hopefully)good poetry!

2: NaNoWriMo: I’ve thought long and hard about whether or not I’m going to take part in NaNoWriMo. In the past I was a bit too neurotic and obsessive to participate, but I’ve changed a lot in the last several years, my approach and thoughts on writing have changed, and I think I’m finally ready.  I’ve had a rather nebulous, though I think good, idea for a novel floating around in my brain for several years, but I never knew exactly where it should go or what the end game would be. In the last several months, though, a more definitive plot has started to take shape in my mind, and I’m very excited to get it going. To get myself ready for this, I’m pretty much just going to do what I already do. I typically write a minimum of 1,000 words a day everyday. The NaNoWriMo goal is 50,000 words in a month, so I just need to raise my minimum, knowing that there will be days I do more anyway. I’m also going to read the book No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, the founder of  NaNoWriMO.

So there’s that. Since I’ve never done it before, I don’t know how this blog is going to look or my reading goals are going to work for the month of November, but I do know that this is going to be Fun, with a capital F.

3: Books I’m Excited About: There are several books coming out soon that I’m very excited to read, and I though you might be too. October is going to be a good month to be a reader!

  • The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Lead the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente: You probably remember how much I raved about The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making when it came out last year. Well, this is its sequel, and it’s coming out on October 2nd!!! My excitement is nearly incontainable, as you can tell by the fact that I allowed myself three whole exclamation points. (Three is the very outer limit of the number of acceptable exclamation points, or any other punctuation [such as question marks], in my admittedly snobby opinion. If I ever exceed three, assume that I am in the most serious delirium of joy ever experienced, or am dying.) Anyway, I am pre-ordering this book tomorrow, and then the day it arrives I will probably do nothing but read it until either it’s done, or I fall asleep from the exhaustion caused by my  fits of ecstacy. (If you’re reading this, many thanks to rhymeswithchair for the heads up about this book!)
  • Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women, & Scribble Scribble: Notes on the Media by Nora Ephron:  I don’t know if I’ve ever discussed it on my blog before, but I am a great fan of Nora Ephron. When Harry Met Sally is one of my top-three all-time favorite movies, and I first discovered her witty books in our local library when I was in high school. I’m actually fairly certain I read both of these books at some point in high school, because I read everything by her I could find before moving on to Erma Bombeck, but they have long since slipped my memory as well as the printing press. But no more! Because on October 16th both of these beauties will be republished in a single volume. Again, can I say, pre-order!
  • The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling: In case you don’t already have it marked on your calendar,  J.K. Rowling’s first foray into adult fiction comes out a week from today! I know it won’t be the same as Harry Potter, but I’m hoping the world she creates here will be just as captivating. And you can be sure that this time next week I will have this hot little book in my hot little hands, as I plan to wake up early to go buy it. (Yes, I sadly really am that big of a dork.)
  • Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? By Rhoda Johnson: I read Rhoda’s freshman release, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, last year, and adored it. It was pithy but respectful, and deeply interesting to me. (You can read my review here, if you so desire.) This sequel of sorts also releases on October 2, and is Johnson’s story of falling in love again after divorce, fighting breast cancer, and her return to the church. I’m definitely excited to read more from this funny, thoughtful writer.
  • The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton: Morton fans rejoice! I loved both The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden (The Distant Hours awaits on my shelf, ready to be conquered, hmmmmm….probably tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow. That solves that question.), and I’m excited for this new historical mystery, which releases on October 16. I’m especially excited because I was under the impression that this book came out next October, not this year, so this is a great little surprise for me!

4: Animal Pictures: Because there is no better way to end a blog.

Nobody takes baby out of her corner!

Oscar says, “I’ll do anything, just love me pleeeeeeeas!”

Have there ever been two more adorable animals? I think not!

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Filed under Books, Cambria, NaNoWriMo, Oscar, Poetry, writing

What I’ve Been Reading, Part 2.

I think it’s only fair to warn you that these are mostly books that I have started but not finished yet. Some of them will be finished very soon, though, because I’m doing another week of trying to read a book every day. My writing has been slumpish this past week, and a good dose of vigorous reading usually helps me un-slump. Anyway, all that to say that my opinions may change by the end. We shall see.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynn Jones: A reader recommended this book to me several months back after a post about comfort books. I finally picked it up at my local Barnes and Noble last month, but just haven’t gotten around to really diving into it. I have dipped my toes in, though, and so far I’m intrigued. A girl who is turned into an old woman? A castle that moves about like it’s alive? If this book doesn’t absolutely tickle my brain I’ll be shocked.

Afternoons With Emily by Rose MacMurray: I’m about a fourth  of the way through this chunkster challenge book about a fictional girl who becomes close friends with the ever eccentric Emily Dickenson. I like it, but I have to be in the right mood to get into it otherwise I find myself reading the same pages over and over. I’m waiting for the perfect afternoon to curl up with some tea and really get into this promising story.

I Capture the Castle by Doddie Smith: I love going to a book store without any specific book in mind and just perusing until I find some unexpected treasure. I almost always find something fantastic, like this book which I first discovered in 2008 on just such an expedition. Doddie Smith is most famous for her classic The Hundred and One Dalmatians, but I can’t figure out why she isn’t better known for this coming of age novel, which is narrated by 17 year-old Cassandra who lives with her impoverished family in a rundown old castle. Witty, charismatic, and just the right amount of quirky, I immediately fell in love with this book. I am sorely overdue for a re-read.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett: Y’all, I’ve joined a book club! I’m fairly new to San Diego, and making friends takes time. We were lucky that Tyler joined a company full of wonderful people that we have become true friends with, but outside of that I have yet to meet many people, and almost no book-ish ones. Them I met Gina. Her husband also works for Tyler’s company, and I think she may be my long-lost twin. And she has asked me to join her book club, where I am hoping to meet many more kindred spirits. This is the book club choice for the month of September, and  also my book for today. Why on earth have I never read anything by Ann Patchett before?! I could barely force myself to put it down long enough to write this post. An official review will follow soon. (Also, book club meets for the first time this coming weekend. I will definitely let you know how it goes.)

Half Broke Horses by Sheila Walsh: I read Walsh’s dynamic debut, The Glass Castle, in a single afternoon. Her sophomore offering has sat on my shelf for a while, often passed over for newer prospects. But after reading just 30 pages yesterday, I already know that this is going to be a new favorite. Walsh’s voice is pitch perfect and her story is, thus far, captivating.

Lit by Mary Karr: May Karr may very well be the perfect writer, if not the perfect person. Her word choice, the tone she strikes, and her honesty have all turned this into one of the best memoirs I’ve read despite the sometimes difficult subject matter. And I’m not even finished yet. I plan to do a full review when I’ve completed it, so I won’t say too much more, except I will be reading much more of Mary’s work in hopes that some of her genius with the English language rubs off.

New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2 by Mary Oliver: I bought this book during a Modern Poetry class in college, but I could never get into Mary Oliver’s work, and then I discovered Denise Levertov and officially shelved this poet. But then yesterday I was looking for something to read for my book of the day, and nothing was really grabbing me. So I took Mary off the shelf again and what do you know, I feel in love. She writes a lot about nature, but her poems are so much deeper, about so much more, than just simply animals and plants. I read all 172 pages of poems yesterday. My mind in blown and my soul is opened. I think I’ve discovered a new life-long favorite.

On Writing by Stephen King: Like I mentioned before, I had a rough time in regards to writing last week, so I thought it was the perfect time to break out this highly recommended memoir/writing advice book. I’ve tried to read a few pages every day, but I’m so fascinated that I’ll probably end up reading it all in one big chunk later this week.

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi: I first read this book in a World Literature class in college. That was my favorite college course ever, and this tied with Dr. Zhivago as my favorite book from that class. Nafisi is a literature professor who used to teach in Tehran. She and seven of her most dedicated students started reading classics from the Western canon in secret, and this is the story of that experience. It is a true testament to the power of literature as well as a fascinating exploration of womanhood in the face of tyranny. Like with I Capture the Castle, I’m simply itching to read this fantastic memoir again.

So, after I finish all these up, I’ll have a few weeks worth of books that I actually own to read and then I’ll run out of books! I’m sure I don’t have to explain to you why I simply cannot EVER let that happen! So I need some suggestions. So far I plan to get:

  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
  • In the Garden of the Beasts by Erik Larson
  • Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2) by Deborah Harkness
  • What We Talk About When We Talk About Ann Frank by Nathan Englander
  • Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson
  • Where I Was From by Joan Didion
  • Love, Life, and Elephants by Daphne Sheldrick
  • Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth

I know that seems like quite a list, but if these are all as good as I anticipate, they will last we a few weeks at best.  Plus, I think my reading is getting faster. That means that in a month, I may not own any books I haven’t read. Eeek! And though I have a long to-read list, nothing else is jumping out at me. So, dear friends, give me your suggestions! What books do you love, what are you dying to read, what great new tomes would my life be incomplete without?

And finally, I leave you with a gratuitous animal picture. Because I just love my little furballs oh-so-much. And because they aaaaalmost like each other, and it’s starting to get cute!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Cambria, Oscar, Poetry, writing

A Poetry Detour: Heaney, Rilke, and a Touch of Shelly

First, a very happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you, my friends! Éire go Brách! I can hear the sounds of our city’s festival from here, but it’s very rainy, so we’re not venturing out. Instead, this little Irish lass is enjoying a hot mug of Irish Breakfast tea and reading some of my favorite Irish poet, Seamus Heaney.

This is how poems help up live.
They match the meshes in the sieve
Life puts us though; they take and give
Our proper measure
And prove themselves most transitive
When they give pleasure.

If you’re never read Seamus Heaney’s poetry, or his book Finders Keepers, which is something of a poetry handbook and is incredibly useful to the aspiring poet or writer, then I highly recommend you check him out. He is well worth your time.

I don’t often talk about it, but poetry is my first love. Before I’d ever picked up Fitzgerald or Austen, I discovered Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Emily Dickinson in my neighborhood library during my eight grade year. I’m sure I’d read something of them, and other poets, before, but this is when they first captured me. I devoured Emily’s entire collection in a week, kept Tennyson’s Idles of the King on my bedside table, and was soon pluming the depths of Longfellow, Keats, Shelly, and the Brownings.

Worlds on worlds are rolling ever
from creation to decay.
Like the bubbles on a river-
sparkling, bursting, born away.
-Shelly

What breathing soul would not be captivated by such lushness? *Sigh* These poets inspired me to write for myself. What I penned, however, was not even a little inspiring, but rather an angst-riddled adolescent verse that the world was kind enough to label “poetry-ish.” (Though I dobelieve every writer has to get this angst-y, teenage nonsense out of their system before they can go on to write something that wont make them nauseated when they read it in ten years.)

"Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer." -Rilke

Then, in college, I discovered the modern’s- Sandburg, Whitman, Plath, Dylan Thomas, Neruda, Milosz, Brodsky, Marianne Moore, and Denise Levertov, among others- who all made me feel the world in a newer way. I also started writing a few pieces that were passable, and I started realizing that this wasn’t just a hobby for me, it was a need. I needed to write. It was around this time I first discovered Rainer Maria Rilke, and truly, I feel in love.

I don’t think you have a choice about your poetic voice, I think it just comes up from the depths of who you are and how you see the world, and that is the voice you have. I found my voice in Denise Levertov, and I love her dearly, but if I could have chosen my voice, I would have wished to sound like Rilke. He’s so smooth and simple and reads so effortlessly. He’s one of the ones that makes poetry sound like anyone could do it, when you know in reality he sweated blood over those verses.

Rilke’s Letter’s to a Young Poet chronicles ten letters he wrote to an aspiring poet who admired Mr. Rilke greatly. I read a portion of these letters in a college Modern Poetry class, but I’d never read them in their entirety. Rilke is everything you expect from an eccentric poet- passionate, abounding in a slightly opaque wisdom, and sitting on the edge of a benevolent narcissism. He’s mesmerizing. At just 90 pages, this little treasure is well worth the afternoon it will take you to read on your own, but here are a few of the gems I collected from it:

  1. Never substitute irony for real creativity. Irony is only of real use when it springs from creativity, not when it takes it’s place. Writers who are purely ironic may last for a season, but the truly creative endure beyond. (Hipster poets, beware!)
  2. Everything is inspiration. Everything you’ve done, read, seen, said, thought, touched, tasted, or desired is all gestating in you. Poetry is an amalgamation; don’t discount anything.
  3. Poetry is hard. If you don’t feel from your inner core that it’s something you must do, it is perhaps better to find another enterprise.
  4. Poetry is hard because it is a preparation for life. The poet delves deeply and examines life so that it may be lived more fully. And what is life without love? Nothing. So if you’re not willing to take the time to learn to love well, you’re poetry will be stunted. To use Mr. Rilke’s own words, love is “the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.”
  5. If you want to write anything well, you’re going to have to get some time alone, and get it regularly. Solitude is the mother of reflection, and reflection is the mother of poetry.
  6. And, finally, this: patience will make or break you. Poetry is a marathon, not a sprint. My favorite quote from the whole book speaks to this:

“Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer….I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which I am grateful: patience is everything.”

Amen.

And after swallowing all this richness, I just had to read more of his poetry. I read the entirety of my favorite Rilke collection, Rilke’s Book of Hours. Oh Rainer, how you slay me! I have no real review except this: if you’ve never read this particular collection, do it! It is a feast for your thoughts. I’ll share here two short selections, an old favorite and a new one.

Poem I, 2:

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

Poem II, 16:

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.

Have you ever read a poet that just set your heart on fire? Let me know below, I’d love to check them out! If you’ve read Rilke before, do you love him, hate him, or fall somewhere in-between? What is your favorite Rilke poem?

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Poetry