Tag: poetry

let it be absolutely winter

In February, it is too cold to meander: leisure takes a backseat to power walking through gallery openings. The wind rips through my hat but I try to find the beauty too, like the coziness of being outside looking into a window lit with warm light, watching other people drink cheap champagne and discuss art. There is a German word for this feeling, I am sure of it. The art-goers are nibbling on Chex Mix and in any other setting, the Chex Mix would be cheap but against the backdrop of nocturnal art and winter, it looks like the best damn snack in the world.

I frequent basement jazz clubs more often in the winter. Our coats strain against the random hooks scattered across the walls. This coats-on-hooks thing is uniquely wintry, something I had never experienced before in Texas. The constant scramble to make sure you have all the accessories at the end of the night: Scarf? Hat? Gloves? Multiple sweaters? I’m still not used to it. The orange-brown hue of Old Fashioned drinks illuminated by candles that blow out every few minutes from the opening door. The way the saxophone wraps itself around you like a purring animal – all of this, this can’t be replicated in the heat.

A few months ago, E. texted me that he was out buying a snow blower with his brother-in-law. I responded, “Wow, that’s New England AF.” E.’s response: “…Rose, we don’t live in New England.” (“She’s smart, I swear,” I heard him whisper later. I did deserve that.) Living most of my life in the very southern part of the country insulated me from having to know where “New England” really is, or definitively what the demarcation is. Not that if you had asked me to think about it I really would have made the mistake, but it was an honest snap retort that made us laugh later. I just think of New England as The Place Where There Is Cold Winter. And The Need For Snow Blowers.

It doesn’t ever get easier. Not this season, not these feelings, not this cold. But the light changes, yes. Or, how we see the light. Or how we use it, sometimes even to our delight.

AK asks me if I’ve been writing, and it’s hard to answer that sometimes life moves too quickly for writing. It moves at the pace of note-taking, frantic scraps. Fragments I scribble even when my fingers are freezing in the tunnels of wind. Poems I write down to think about later.

Speaking of the winter and New England, I can’t stop thinking about this:

Part of Me Wanting Everything to Live

This New England kind of love reminds me
of the potted chrysanthemum my husband
gave me. I cared for it faithfully,
turning the pot a quarter turn each day
as it sat by the window. Until the blossoms
hung with broken necks on the dry stems.
Cut off the dead parts and watched
green leaves begin, new buds open.
Thinking the chrysanthemum would not die
unless I forced it to. The new flowers
were smaller and smaller, resembling
little eyes awake and alone in the dark.
I was offended by the lessening,
by the cheap renewal. By a going on
that gradually left the important behind.
But now it’s different. I want the large
and near, and endings more final. If it must
be winter, let it be absolutely winter.

― Linda Gregg

#MeToo

bone
by Yrsa Daley-Ward

From One
who says, “Don’t cry.
You’ll like it after a while.”

and Two who tells you thank-you
after the fact and can’t look at your face.

To Three who pays for your breakfast
and a cab home
and your mother’s rent.

To Four
who says,
“But you felt so good
I didn’t know how to stop.”

To Five who says giving your body
is tough
but something you do very well.

To Six
Who smells of tobacco
and says “Come on, I can feel that
you love this.”

To those who feel bad in the morning yes,
some feel bad in the morning

and sometimes they tell you
you want it
and sometimes you think that you do.

Thank heavens you’re resetting
ever
setting and
Resetting

How else do you sew up the tears?
How else can the body survive?

Notes on writing

(a brief summary of) things I’ve learned so far today:

On writing every day: Serious runners run regularly. Writers should try to write daily to get to the story. Do what you need to get to the story (even if it means throwing away 800 words of exposition) and then commit yourself to the form you choose. Once you commit, you’ll need to make more choices within that.

On being deliberate: Poetic lyricism operating at the expense of clarity needs to be deliberate. But probably, you should be clear anyway.

On the reassurance that it’s okay that I gain a lot of inspiration from the poems I read: “Literature is a conversation between writers that crosses the boundaries of genre and time.”

On practicing fluency in multiple genres: The more genres you master, the more freedom you gain no matter what you write. (I liken this to dance: the more forms of dance you master, the more freedom you gain no matter what kind of dance you end up doing.)

On when to write myself into a poem: Poetry is a last resort — in the sense that when you realize you cannot express something in any other way, a poem will be the thing you can turn to. If we don’t have a name for a thing, a poem can help name it.

Ocean Vuong is interviewed by Yen Pham for LitHub and speaks about speaking from the point of view of someone else:

In writing poems like this, Vuong seeks “not necessarily to speak for anyone, but to offer a rendition—in a way a phantom—of what could have been . . . Every attempt to speak is also a grieving of the voice that never arrived.” Speaking for someone who never spoke is also a way of paying homage to the absurdism and surrealism of the myriad mythologies that inspire him, tales which “ignore all rational sense” because they come out of a “nonsensical” world. “I think I stand firmly as an inventor and a mythmaker.”

He also talks about winning prizes in writing:

“Competition, prizes and awards are part of a patriarchal construct that destroys love and creativity,” he recently told The Creative Independent. “If you must use that construct, you use it the way one uses public transport. Get on, then get off at your stop and find your people. Don’t live on the bus, and most importantly, don’t get trapped on it.”

Stephen Burt writes on Literary Style and the Lessons of Memoir:

Yet experiments in the genre continue, many of them, like Maggie Nelson’s breakthrough book, “The Argonauts,” from 2015, intimately connected to the drive toward new forms, and the use of fragments and white space, in contemporary poetry. These memoirs take cues from prose poems and lyrical essays, like those in Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen.” They also use the devices of poetry—interruption, compression, extended metaphor—to pay book-length attention to individual real lives, and, not coincidentally, they come from independent publishers known for their poets and poems.

postscript

I was also reminded that:

– it’s very handy to stash emergency jamón ibérico in the fridge.
– Vietnamese pho is delicious even in the summertime.
– the sky is the color of sapphire only at a very specific time of day; therefore, describing it as such should only be used when you really mean it.