Thursday, May 31, 2012

Book 6, 2012: Beautiful and Pointless by David Orr

Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern PoetryI just finished Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry by David Orr, and now I am sad.  It isn't often that I come across a person who cares so much about poetry but is equally as honest about the state of contemporary poetry, and that willingness to illuminate the reality of modern poetry and call it like it is was refreshing, humbling, and entertaining.  I'm not sad because of his honesty or the bleak portrait of modern poetry.  I'm sad because he was light, funny, and accessible, and now it is over, and now I must go back to actually reading contemporary poetry (ha ha ha).

Y'all know that I love poetry (really, I love poetry, not just like).  I come to poetry mostly from Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein and the simple pleasure of the way words felt in my mouth as I learned to read.  The music of poetry and the written word is unlike lyrics in that the rhythm resides solely in the words-- it cannot be buttressed by notes and chords, by percussion or strings.  That's where my love of poetry starts-- in play and in joy.  Plus, I am tone deaf, and while I will sing (badly), singing is a distinctly different kind of pleasure that involves high notes, low notes and all that fall between, while one focus of poetry is on the way the words rub up against each other, in stresses and unstressed syllables, in alliterations and rhyme. It sings without vocal range (thank God for that).

Next I find the poems I like most offer a magnified glimpse.  At something.  Anything, really.  Like a photographer, the poet zooms in and says, look what I found.  Or, listen to this experience I had once.  Or, doesn't this remind you of this other thing?  I love the metaphor.  I love the hidden truth revealed.  I love the "ah ha!" moment when I discover what the writer discovered, and I love to be on the writing end of that "ah ha!" moment, experiencing the surprise, too.  I like poems that invite me over for a cup of tea.

But I also like poems with depth and feeling, poems that struggle with questions-- big and little ones--poems that make demands, poems that are so personal they fold in on themselves and become universal.  I love poems rich in detail and rooted in scene.  I love storytelling and narrative, form and freeverse.  I even love the poems that require several run-throughs before the meaning reveals itself, if at all, poems with complex syntax that I have to cut into small pieces and digest slowly before I have any idea what's really going on besides initial awe.

So these are some of the reasons why I love poetry.  What is brilliant about Beautiful & Pointless is that Orr does not set out to defend poetry as the Art of Arts.  He shares with the reader a panoramic shot of the world of modern poetry, and he nails it, all of it-- the ego, the rubbing of elbows, the academic world, the private world, the public poet, the business of endorsements, the poem about the poem, and, most importantly, the reality that is so often forgotten in poetic circles, the fact that all of the people who actually read and value poetry could comfortably fit into one large athletic complex. 

This reality, for me, isn't discouraging.  There are plenty of niche groups in the world who are passionate about interests I have no desire to pursue (i.e., Star Trek. Basket Weaving. Hot Air Ballooning. Rowing. Etc.), and none of them are bemoaning the state of the world, the general neglect of their Art, or why collecting stamps hasn't entered the realm of popular culture. 

At the end of the century, maybe a dozen dead poets will find their work in the Norton Anthology tortured college freshman will read and be confused by.  The likelihood that I am one of those dead poets by 2100 is pretty, pretty slim (the likelihood that I AM a dead poet by 2100 is almost guaranteed, unless I live to be 118), SO, I think I will write whatever the heck I want to write, however the heck I want to write it, and I better darn well have a good time doing it, because chances are me and a handful of my closest friends and family will read the things, and then just two or three will actually care, so if I'm not having fun along the way, then why, why keep it up? 

I love poetry.

Read Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry by David Orr.  You might not walk away wanting to jump into the latest issue of Poetry Magazine or jump online to order a subscription for Rattle, but you will have a fresh perspective on the wild and crazy world of the contemporary poet, you will laugh a little-- mostly at yourself, if you are a poet.

(Chiseling away at my book goal for 2012! Have you read any good poets lately?  Or good books about poetry?)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day Mulch and More

What a great weekend!  The brick patio is finished, I (re)planted a holly bush destroyed by the dog-that-no-longer-lives-here and planted some Russian sage and dianthus annuals, and then mulched the yard.  A mulched and landscaped yard is so satisfying, maybe as satisfying as harvesting vegetables from my garden.  Maybe.  Okay, a tie then.

Here's what I get to enjoy now:

When we weren't working in the yard, here's what the kids were up to:

Also, I received the proof of the cover of my new poetry book!  I was worried about this part of the process because I work with every step of production including cover design for Ashland, and my contract for this book said the design is entirely up to the publisher.  This made me a little nervous but I figured their other books are very attractive.  All worries disappeared, though, because I love the cover and couldn't have selected anything better.  The cover design prompted me to start a Facebook page for myself, the author (lol).  So, go ahead, "like" me.  Please. :)

I am daily discovering new things about Google and the web that fascinate me.  I consider myself to be a tech-savvy gal, but this whole phone-connected-to-Facebook-connected-to-blogger-connected-to-Google+-connected-to-camera-connected-to-email thing just blows me away.  Now I can upload photos directly from my phone to the blog using Google+.  This is amazing.  Before, I had to download my photos from my camera to my computer and then upload them to blogger.  Or to Facebook.  Not anymore!  And I'm still amazed that Gmail asks me whether I meant to attach something to my email if I said "attached" - and almost always I meant to attach something and forgot.  Woah.  Craziness.

It's BW's birthday today and he's at the doc, hopefully just diagnosed with seasonal allergies and prescribed a heavy-duty allergy medicine.  We're making steaks for dinner in his honor and then celebrating with some friends later on.  His birthday gift to himself was a basketball hoop in our driveway.

Time to head back to work. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May Days

The River Teeth Nonfiction Conference wrapped up nicely this weekend.  I don't think we could have asked for a better experience (save for, perhaps, the mice... I could have done without the mice incident).  For a taste of what happened, visit the River Teeth website, where I've posted a few videos from the panels and presentations.  I didn't know how to zoom in as I was operating the camera (boooo) but the audio is what people care about anyway, right?

This last week, Henry has started to nod yes and shake his head no, indiscriminately.  He has also started to point.  This is a step up in the communication department for him, even if he says yes and no to anything you ask, and it is so entertaining to ask him questions.  He understands that something is being asked of him and he ought to reply.  Such a delight, he is. 

Our patio project is progressing - we now have the paver sand tamped and started to lay down bricks, except, like last time, we forgot that the square bricks are about a third less thick than the rectangular bricks, which means we need to fill in the spots where the square bricks go with a little more paver sand.  It's a tedious process, but it's better than spending the next five years stubbing our toes on bricks that protrude from the patio.

Lydia and Elvis wrap up the school year this coming week - we are all looking forward to summer and the freedom to come and go and stay up later and sleep in (ha).  I started running again the other day and hope to work my way back up to the Ashland Balloonfest 5K.  I did two miles at a horribly slow pace, mostly because I'm still nervous about my knee and its tendency to ache afterward, but it wasn't too bad. 

The good news I have to share is that my essay, "Those Summers, These Days," which appeared in Ascent, will be listed as a notable essay in this year's Best American Essays.  Woo hoo!  I'm still beaming about this news.  I have another essay I've just started that could prove to be a real challenge, on self-image, insecurity, boys/men, daughters, and lots more.  I made a bulleted list of topics I think could fit in this essay.  Now I just need to write it.  Just.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Turning Over Earth

Lyd and Henry 2012
I am woefully behind on my 30th year goal to blog once a week.  To recap since April, poem-a-day went fairly well and generated a good chunk of material plus an essay I'm excited about, Brandon traveled a lot for work, I worked a lot for work, Henry turned one, Lydia turned six, we celebrated all over the place, soccer is almost over with no horribly embarrassing mom-fail moments, t-ball has begun, and summer hours are back. Whew!