A poem by e.e. cummings

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
by e. e. cummings

somewhere i have never travelled,glady beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look will easily unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the colors of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

Quoteables: "The Way We Learn to Look"

There's a wonderful conversation about poetry and political realities in the latest issue of Gulf Coast. The conversation begins with several poets discussing the Deep Water Horizon explosion and the soft language that was used to describe that accident:

Fred Marchant: The "innocence" of the word "spill" is a political construct or artifact. I don't yet have the exact word for what this event is, but it is more than a spill, is closer to a bleed and a wound, and is certainly representative of a deep violation of our compact with each other and our compact with life on the planet.
And then a little later, this from Patricia Smith:

Strange that I became a poet, since I was raised not to trust language or, for that matter, anything I was seeing. I was raised by a woman who was convinced that the moon landing was staged in an Arizona desert. Growing up on the west side of Chicago--the part of town everyone told you to stay away from--language was used not so much to communicate, but to keep us in our place. The "national insurance" my parents paid every week was nothing but a white, outstretched hand. Our "modern urban development" was a slum, plain and simple. I learned early that soft language almost always hid hard edges.

So I don't look at the pretty pictures, or even the murky shots of the underwater spew. I look beneath everything I hear. That's where I find the verbs and nouns that nobody wants to use.
--from "The Way We Learn to Look: A conversation with Nick Flynn, Brenda Hillman, Dorianne Laux, Fred Marchant, Laura Mullen, and Patricia Smith," Gulf Coast, Winter/Spring 2011.

Can You Help Me Get Published? from Xtranormal

Poetry: Christian Campbell

Congratulations to Carribean poet Christian Campbell who won the Aldeburgh first collection prize for poetry on Friday! I was just reading his collection, Running the Dusk. Here is a poem from that collection:


A well-loved lit classic
packed in each bag, and a Harvard
sweatshirt to match the Pakistani
passport -- Iqbal goes first, catching
a flight to France. Then me,
in a tie and soft pants, khaki hat
to keep my head tame. We chat
clipped and colonial, like our tutors,
grinning out Oxford with a nod.
At immigration I put on airs
and styles, let the maleness growl
without teeth. Hold my chest
with untouchable height. All like
a politician, a Sidney Poitier,
an old Bahamian man. I look
only ahead and walk straight-back,
like my grandfather. Speak like he spoke
to foreigners, in his best moods,
he would put on the mouths
of all the Englishmen he'd met,
playing the Queen and how
she gave him his MBE -- Pa.
There, reciting and reciting Blake,
until he fell down blank and silent
as any road in Nassau
the morning after junkanoo.

--copyright Christian Campbell 2010 from Running the Dusk (Peepal Tree Press)

My Year in Writing

In February, I wrote about my son's challenges with writing. He was not at all interested in writing or reading. His grades in these areas were not good and everyone in the house was frustrated. Amir was in fourth grade at the time. Things have changed since then. He's now in fifth grade and he received an A in reading on his first report card. He's enjoying the books that he reads for class. On December 9th, he'll represent his class in the school-wide spelling bee and if he wins that, he will represent his school at the Arizona spelling bee. My child who brought home a report card last year with Cs and a D is now on the honor roll.

One of the differences between this year and last is his teacher, Mr. Z. Mr. Z is one of those master-teachers you encounter only a couple times in your life, if you're lucky. He is compassionate, energetic, funny, smart, inspiring. And he's a man. This is only the second time that Amir has had a man as a teacher and that's not okay if you believe, as I do, that gender matters with role models. Mr. Z recommends books to Amir that a young boy on the cusp of his teen years can relate to, like Wringer by Jerry Spinelli which is about peer pressure and violence. The book that the class is reading now, Maniac Magee (also by Spinelli and a Newberry Award winner), is about a young boy who likes to read. It's also about race relations. Amir's class has discussions about race and racial stereotypes. I don't think it's a coincidence that Amir is interested in reading and writing at a time when he's reading literature that's relevant to his life.

I've talked about Ava's writing this year in a recent post. She's reading and writing up a storm. She too has an incredible teacher.

And my writing? I've been getting it in. I promised myself to focus more on my own goals this year, and I did. I grabbed moments to write whenever I could and I stopped feeling guilty about it. I learned to say, "Shut the door, I'm writing" and "Stop talking to me, can't you see I'm writing?" or "Ain't shit funny. Interrupt me one more time and see what happens." Just kidding with the last quote. I would never talk like that to my family....

Most journals now have an online submission manager and that makes submitting my work so much easier. With just a few clicks you can submit a story. I clicked a lot this year. I also invested in getting professional feedback on my manuscript from a fiction editor. I applied for grants and residencies. I placed a few stories, a poem, and essays. I'll be reading my poetry at Tempe Center for the Arts in April 2011 as part of a series moderated by Catherine Hammond. I'll be reading my essay about Obama as part of a panel at AWP in February. And I'll teach creative writing at Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Spring 2011. CGCC has a new and exciting Creative Writing program headed by Patrick Michael Finn.

So here's to the Writing Gods. May they continue to watch over us.

Friday Fun

The Yale Anthology of Rap

I have to admit that I'm dorky enough to be really excited by this anthology released last week. I relate to hip-hop through language more than beats; I remember writing down all the lyrics to Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" just so I could see the words on paper and study the narrative.

So an anthology that professes to examine the poetic tradition of rap sounds good to me.

If this review in NY Magazine is right, YAR is different from other books on hip-hop (and there are tons) because it focuses on textual analysis of lyrics and not on music or personalities. Funny how the author, after reading the anthology, concludes that Big Daddy Kane is the best rapper (poet) ever. I'm wondering how the lyrics of Biggie and Lauryn Hill will rank in the canon and hoping that I can finally understand the lyrical power of Jay-Z which is lost on me when I listen to his music.