I have this wonderful new book, Farewell My Lovelies, sent to me by Diann Blakely. It's a beautiful book. Diann is a huge Plath fan, and I love this poem of hers. But I have always felt a little guilty that I am not totally enamored of Plath or Sexton. They make me feel somewhere between sad and suicidal, sort of like the girl depicted here.
"Nature" is what we see—
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse— the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.
I sometimes think that physics professors
don't even live in the real world.
It's like you live
in some hypothetical world.
Do you ever look out of your window
and see a hypotheses?
I love this question because I think it's the reverse. I think most of us non-physicists live in a hypothetical world, or rather a world made up of misconceptions about how things actually work. I suspect that physics professors have to spend a lot of time trying to get their students see what they are actually seeing.
I remember a drawing class in college in which the professor had us draw without looking at the page. He wanted us to learn to look, really look, and trace what we saw, as it is, not as we think it is or should appear.
To quote Einstein:
"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."
Einstein also said:
"The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility."
I am not absolutely certain what I will be reading, but I promised to read a few from The Book of Orgasms. A few years ago, I announced at a reading that there would be no more orgasms and that I meant it. The audience was really unhappy with me.
Karen Schubert and I are going on the road today. We will be giving a reading at Shawnee State University where Neil Carpathios teaches. I love Neil's poetry. He's a poet whose work I have been following for years. I am so thrilled we have been invited to read there.
Above I've posted the beginning of one of his newer poems. The rest of the poem can be read in Mayday Magazine
Do you ever read an entire novel and, years later, remember only one odd detail?
I read Carson McCuller's Reflections in a Golden Eye over summer vacation when I was in seventh grade. All I remember was this line about a corporal who wrote Shirley Temple a letter every day. I was completely interested in that letter. What did he write? What would anyone write to Shirley Temple? I even tried to compose that letter but could not myself that I done a decent job.
I thought of this for some odd reason, now that the post office is in bad shape, now that my mother has passed away, and I no longer have anyone to write letters to.
I love letters. I love writing them. I love how they create an intimate small space. I love poems that are letters, post cards, or even notes left on the refrigerator for loved ones. Even if they are letters written to the world that never writes to me.
Which brings me back to Shirley Temple who, I am sure, never wrote back to the corporal.
Funny to think-- as a girl I barely knew who Shirley Temple was. There were silly quotes I sometimes heard attributed to her, like the one above. And all of those terrible perms we girls got, thanks to her. I remember trying to figure out if it was my hair that smelled or the recently skunked dog.
I tried to draw the look the people had who were listening to Tim Seibles reading last Tuesday night in the Jones Room at Youngstown State University.
It's a strange thing, but I swear sometimes you can hear people listening.
And it was such an incredible reading. I felt transformed afterwards. I know that sounds a little hyperbolic, but I wasn't the only one who felt it. One friend turned to me and said, he makes me want to write and write and write. A man seated behind me said, I think I could change the world if I felt like this all the time.
As he writes in his poem, "Familiar," in his new and wonderful book, Fast Animal
Some are marked, some . . .
So many words, such fever: the names
of the strained inhabitants moving
around, waiting to be called--
my own life: the bending
of a man into something
else: did I change? Are you
changed? I'm sure
it happens. Yes, I believe it
I am still spinning from that reading. I am still feeling inspired and moved. But I was also reminded of my time at Vermont College when one of my friends turned to me and said this funny line -- I thought poets were like angels. And I came here to study with my angels and they turned out to be a bunch of self-promoting, gossipy, cliquey, egotistical, sexist . . . She said this after overhearing after one of her mentors informed her that there were no women poets at VC worth studying with.
It's a funny thing, but I do think of certain poets as angels. Tim Seibles, Claire Bateman, and Tom Clark are three who come to mind right away. And all in their own unique ways--
I have been thinking of Tom a lot lately. A prolific writer and a brilliant mind, I swear his heart is bigger than the world can hold. His blog Tom Clark is like a little taste of heaven. Art, poetry, essays, insights, you name it . . . He was in an accident this week, and my thoughts are with him.
A poem by Tom that I love--I especially love that beatific strawberry.
With this living hand this moment I was writing, and with the other holding to my mouth a nectarine--good god how fine--it went down soft pulpy, slushy, oozy--all its delicious embonpoint melted down my throat like a large beatified strawberry.
What I liked best to feel is the inside of a billiard ball, or the luscious spheroid of a plum.
What I liked best to look at, when I am out walking, are the waves the wind makes in the wheat when it moves across the fields above the ground.
I interviewed Carole Stone for CavanKerry Press. She's a fascinating woman and a beautiful poet. Her parents died when she was a child, and much of her poetry is a reinvention of their lives. She talks in the interview about the nature of obsession and how it is an integral part of many poets' lives.
This is the comic I forgot to include in the series below. Flying these days is a little scary. It's especially scary when the stewardesses start doing something like pulling baggage from the cargo hold and placing it overhead in order to make weight. Or moving passengers around to balance the plane. I am told by a pilot that yes, they can feel it when the heavy passengers get up and move to the back of the plane.
Ah well. I am glad I am not flying anywhere for Easter.
And yeah, this plane looks a little odd. Planes aren't my strong suit. Drawing them or flying on them or even thinking about them.
I was on this very small airplane
from Charlotte to Richmond,
and this XL man sat in the back
until the stewardess made him move
to the middle "to balance the plane."
I was pretty nervous
when he went to the bathroom.
But the stewardess said not to worry . . .
as long as he doesn't stay in there too long.
How long would that be?
I was on this plane, waiting for take-off
when the stewardess announced
that the airplane cargo hold was over its legal weight
so they would be taking bags from below
and stuffing them into the overhead compartments
and into the front closet.
Is that safe?
I posted one of these comics before, but I thought I would post a few physics comics on Fridays. And I wanted to post all of the questions about flying together, though I am suddenly remembering one more. Ah well.
These comics come from questions folks ask professors, usually my husband. And I keep wondering about writing an expanded edition of my Dear Professor collection.
What thoughts I have of you tonight, Allen Ginsberg, for I have driven the rain-soaked streets of Youngstown, Ohio.
And in my despair, and longing for companionship, for someone to fill the ever-expanding void in my soul, I went into the neon Ulta Store, pondering your epic effusions.
What hair dyes and bleaches! What displays of shampoos and conditioners and mousses, Allen! Whole families shopping for body lotion, nail polish, and shaving creams at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the salon, getting their hair permed, babies crying! – And you, Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the shampoo bowl, massaging a blond boy’s scalp?
I saw you, Allen Ginsberg, childless, lonely old codger, poking among the eye shadows and lip liners, eyeing the male hair dressers . . . . I watched you tweeze your beard, your eyebrows, and nose hairs in the aisle.
I heard you asking questions: Who killed that woman’s hair? What price is beauty? And to the newly coiffed Don Juan, Are you my Angel?
I thought of this parody when I was shopping at the Ulta Store one night in the midst of a rain storm. The store was packed, and I saw this bearded fellow that reminded me so much of Allen Ginsberg. Suddenly I missed him. I so love his poem, "A Supermarket in California."
The rest of this poem and a few more of my poems are in Mipoesias at http://mipoesias.com/
The editor Didi Menendez is a talented portrait artist as well as editor, poet and writer.
If the link doesn't work well, try this in your search: http://mipo.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/mipoesias2.pdf
Harold. Harold and his purple crayon, those books by Crockett Johnson.
As a girl, I wanted a magic crayon to first draw the world
and then, to enter it.
An early favorite poem, because it reminded me of Harold and the Purple Crayon, Walt Whitman's "There Was a Child Went Forth."
Every time I read this poem, I think of Harold. I still love Harold.
There Was a Child Went Forth
THERE was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.
The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass, and white and red morning-glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,
And the Third-month lambs, and the sow’s pink-faint litter, and the mare’s foal, and the cow’s calf,
And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there—and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads—all became part of him . . .
So it's National Poetry Month, and I keep getting emails about all the events happening. One is the writing challenge, NAPO, to write a poem a day from prompts. If only I could write that fast. Another from Poets and Writers--is to build a better platform for marketing oneself. I am so unskilled at marketing that I can only stare at the first day's prompt: to define who I am. And now it's day 2 and I am still stuck on day 1.
I love the question, but the answers are always so unsatisfactory.
After years of philosophy and religion classes, I still have no clue . . . Two answers come to mind. One from Socrates (but of course):
I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.
And there from Bonhoeffer, whose works I loved, back when I read theology enthusiastically. I am reminded of his famous poem, "Who Am I?" The last stanza:
Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his cell in Berlin as the last days of his life and the last days of World War II ran out together.
As quoted in The Call by Os Guinness, p25.