Sunday, April 27, 2008

Poetical Economics

The Burghers of Calais by Rodin, Image via Guardian

I've been neglecting poetry these past two weeks looking for a full-time job. I'm 25, and not proud of never having had a full-time, occupational job. I've supported myself since junior year in college (three years ago) working a bunch of part-time and internship jobs. These have, in the lingo, really *helped me grow*. But somehow I've had neither the guts or the focus to settle down and really start producing--all those grown up things. Wealth, worth, connection.

This is all set into sharp relief living in New York City in a time of a staggering economy. I look at the general state of the country and am not impressed. Since when has a nation run up exorbitant debt, generated insane inflation, thrown itself at a loosing war, and come out the better for it? It has the ring of civilization set-back and empire dismantlement. This is not a reassuring time to sort out a sense of self. Fundamental issues of a healthy society seem to be at stake and I try to figure out which of my fuzzy ideals to chase.

I keep thinking of two articles. One, a USA Today piece on just how many in my age group are in a similar situation. I am not the only full-blown college grad contemplating dog-walking to support poetry-writing. We've been raised to chase passing fancies as a means of income. But on coming (reluctantly) of age, find ourselves, our parents, and our nation sunk in debt with decent jobs on the decline.

So much for doom prognosis. The next article's more optimistically oriented. It's called Youth quack--Millennials fired up over jobs, health care, and debt. I was flabbergasted at how much of it rang true for me. It's about how previously inert young voters are taking a sudden interest in the current presidential campaign, fanning the "change" rhetoric as candidates take notice of their new cohorts. But it's about much more as well, and successfully examines the contradictions of a generation simultaneously "weaned on self-esteem" and raised in the "epic uncertainty" of "the dot-com crash, terrorism, war, and climate change."

Quote: "Given all the might wonder why today's twentysomethings don't despair and disengage. There's a simple answer: They weren't raised that way." Instead, "they were the most coddled generation ever" and had the additional satisfaction of "bringing the music and media industries to their knees... providing Gen Yers with the self-confidence for a third-way, post-partisan manner of doing things." Wrapping it up: "Millennials, like many Americans, may have lost faith in the political Establishment, but they have utter faith in themselves and their wiki-inspired abilities to get things done."

This is so close to my way of viewing the world it's uncanny. To some, it may come across as an arrogant sense of "entitlement." But when all the major engines of a healthy society are out of wack, it's all I have to go by.

Anyways, as I continue to look for jobs I'm going to conflate (I think that's the word) the state of society with myself. If a shy, socially challenged, in debt, sometime poet can settle down and start conducting life properly, I'll take it as a sign that society in general is capable of the same. Meh, this sounds so pompous. But is something to start by

Old Glasses

Image via Vintage Eyeware

Old glasses that I
Wear in private
Covering my face
Like two full moons
Fragments of those
Teenage years I
Wept because of
Not being beautiful.
Now I wear contacts
Everywhere, premium
Placed on success
And happy in having
Discovered lip gloss
Except for these
Late nights up
Writing poetry when
My half-forgotten
Teenage years
Come to peer out
Of my glasses
Like two full moons.

This is one of the poems I wrote for Robert Brewer's Poetry Challenge. It is exactly the type of sappy poetry that I am always telling myself not to write. It is also the only one of my poems I've submitted so far that got reposted among the noteworthy poems. I was thrilled. Maybe I should start writing more sappy poetry.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Confidence in an Age of Debt

Image via CNN

My confidence
Has the steely power
Of tanks disappearing
Into a desert mirage.

My confidence
Has the depth of rent
Food, dress, and tax
Put on a credit card.

My confidence
Has the persistence of
A slot machine still
Blinking after all is lost.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Mornings with Honey

Image via Sampler

I am taking care of Honey, my Aunt's standard poodle for the next few days. This morning I awoke to Honey giving me a gentle lick on my foot, which was hanging over one side of the bed, then scrambling around to lick my hand, which was hanging over the other side, then dashing back to my foot, and so on. She took this very seriously. In case anyone is wondering, the technique is gentle but effective. I got up.

Central Park was an interesting spectacle this morning, as warm spring sets in. I witnessed: sleepy-eyed couples sitting on benches, holding hands and drinking coffee; a guy with a backpack and serious hiking shoes perched on a rocky hill, looking like he was about to explore virgin wilderness except he had a freshly made cheeseburger in his hand; runners of every possible size, age, and condition; and an Iranian man trying to settle a heavy ice cream stand on an incline.

I paused briefly to look at this last, as the stand (which was on wheels) kept slipping down. Without warning the guy started speaking to me in a stream of barely intelligible English, the gist of which I was to use a stick to prop the cart while he held it in place. Being an agreeable person, I cast around for a stick, and seeing only ineffectual twigs, settled on a screwdriver that was sitting on the cart. This I first attempted to stick into the hub of the wheel, accompanied by much tisk-tisking by the Iranian man. I finally propped the screwdriver up against the wheel, and it held the cart in place perfectly. The guy again broke into a stream of broken English, saying it was a great idea (the screwdriver) he never would have thought of such a thing, and that he would fix it. The last I saw of him he was searching the bushes for an appropriate twig.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Image via Dinah Bowman

Recent PAD draft:

Words are my natural
Habitat and strung in
Sequences like seaweed
Form everything I
Need to know. Water
Like the air I breathe
Coral caverns stabilizing
The great Katrinas
And little lobster-
Like creatures darting
Amidst. In this second
Creation I swim and
Little care for
The world of men.

Novelettes and Organizing Knowledge

Image via Google

Possible theme for use in my NaNoWriMo:

I remember my dad with furrowed eyebrows talking about some 18th century Jesuit's system for organizing knowledge. It was one of my dad's (many) ideas dramatically presented at dinner-times. Forgotten by me until surprisingly triggered by this month's issue of the Harvard Business Review, speaking of Googles " mission 'to organize the worlds information and make it universally accessible and useful" (p.60). My dad could have uttered those words. I almost swear he did utter them. And years before Google. One of the themes I'd like to explore in my little projected novelette is how ideas hang around (in sometimes desolate places) before hitting the right medium for growth.

Poetry and Noveling

Image via About Shoes

I'm having so much fun with April Poem a Day that I thought I'd look into similar prods for the rest of the year. It turns out there is the wonderfully named NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. During November, while the rest of the world readies for Christmas (or whatever the rest of the world does in the 11th month) NaNoWriMoer's churn out a 175-page (50,000-word) draft of a novelette. (Only the NaNoWriMo website calls it a novel because, they say, novel is more impressive.)

Someone told me once that poets and novelists have different minds. I know I've always stood in awe of the feat of inventing characters. Also, my tendencies are all oriented towards cutting sentences apart and balancing out sounds. Not exactly the stuff of plot creation. However looking on novel-writing as some sort of amazing magic has only made me want it more. I've even got a thesis or plot as starters: "Girl goes to NYC and figures out life."

NaNoWriMoer's are forbidden from writing even one sentence of actual novel text before the clock strikes 1am on November the 1st. This leaves me 6 luxuriant months in which to do research, figure out life, sketch outlines and characters, listen for dialogue, read a ton of novels, and explore themes.

What does all this have to do with poetry? I've come up with a terrifically lame connection: Novel-writing should be a poetical pursuit. More seriously (but no less pompously) I think that attempting a novel will help me iron out some problems I have with poetry. I've always been shrinkingly ashamed of my inability to write more than 3 stanzas or so to a poem. This seems so half-hearted against volumes of Longfellow and Browning. Writing 175 pages of anything should help quench this inadequacy.

Also, the more I learn about poetry publication, the less excited I become about sending out my little limping and half-finished thoughts. If by any chance they measured up at all, the pinnacle they could attain would be to languish between the dull inexpensive covers of some journal purchased only by libraries and read only by other poets. I've been thinking I'd like to write a series of poems oriented along a single subject-matter. Two ideas are Girl in Pink Shoes (i.e. fashion) or Poems to America (with Generation Y focus). Again, exploring themes through prose and plot first would probably help.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Frida Kahlo's Deer

Image via Art is Joy

The latest poem for Robert Brewer's Poem a day challenge. I loved this prompt. Poetry and art history together--how could it get better?

I run forever free
I run forever pinned to a page
By arrows of this sorrowing
World. I never shall be
Truly great. I'm caged
Within a box of pain
And shutters of a
Women's life. However
I furrow my brow in thought
I lack the antlers, thrust
And gait of Diego de
Rivera's work. Never mind.
I put my colors
On the page and there
Create a second life.
I run forever pinned to a page
I run forever free.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


There are two things I really want out of April. One is to be hired by this gem of a company. The other is to make poetry blogging work. But it's already 7 days into April and I've been doing everything but. In the case of the company, even though it tallies perfectly into everything I'm good at and want to do, I lack the track record they're looking for. With the blog, I seem to keep weaving my way back and forth along the line that separates pompous spouting of opinion vs. having something genuine to say. In this atmosphere of indecision I wrote the following:

I am the little beast
That rises every morning
And sits by Tara's bed
And ticks off her defeats
And says: "You shan't go farther
Look what you haven't done."

I am the little mole
That crawls in Tara's heart
And digs up trenches there
And bombards her hopes
"No, he'll never look your way
No, your work won't prosper."

I am the little worm
That eats of Tara's soul
In green and cankerous words
"Your dreams weren't made to fly"
I am the first respondent
To each of Tara's plans--I'm fear.

This was written for Robert Brewer's poetry challenge, to write a poem a day for the month of April. So far, I've loved the prompts, as they always manage to take me by surprise. (The prompt for the Fear poem was to put yourself inside another person or object.) I've also loved seeing the work of other writers, and have found some really awesome poetry blogs this way. There's a lot more good poetry out there than I ever imagined.

One thing that worries me though is I seem to be writing rather watered down and simplistic stuff lately. I've been focused so long on trying to tap natural rhythms in a Robert Frost sort of way that I wonder if I'm going too far. I want to take a look at some really good hard stuff (Coleridge?) or maybe tackle some philosophy or something as anecdote to this happy daily spouting of poems.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Spring winds, Spring world

Image via National Weather Service

The first of the following poems I wrote in my early teens. The second is a reflective ditty I wrote this morning, posted in honor of April and Poetry Month!

Spring Winds
Do you hear
The wind is blowing
Wind, wind, breeze.

All around and
Softly lowing
Wind, wind, breeze.

Bring all to new beginning
Softly, round me, low and lovely
Opening to ages unknown
Wind, wind, breeze.

Spring World
Spring winds stir me
Still, even as they did
When as a child I had
Only started to know.

Yet love in my dreams
As a child is still the same
As the world ever starting
New in spring winds.