poet-related

{poetry} 04 april

National Poetry Month coincides with the birthday of the inimitable Maya Angelou, born April 04, 1928. I keep quotes of hers about me, and I have long adored her poetry… “Still I Rise” is just one of my favorites and find its spiritedness an attribute of Maya Angelou’s worth celebrating. I know I among so very very many who are better for Maya Angelou being born.

‘Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

from And Still I Rise (Random House 1978)

Uncategorized

{school} a project + poets

Do you read poetry? —of anyone still living? —of anyone relatively new to the scene?

I am taking a Topics in Contemporary American Literature and its focus happens to be Poetry. We are reading 20th Century Poets and for our final paper we will have chosen one ‘younger’ poet and their work from a list the prof has provided and compare their work to one of their forerunners (the poets we are reading for class). Said list is below. I will be doing the prescribed research to find someone to read for the comparative, just the same, I’m hoping more than a few of you will recognize a name or two and recommend toward the positive or negative. 

thanks!

________________

Elizabeth Bradfield | Interpretive Work

Jericho Brown | Please

Matt Donovan | Vellum

Camille Dungy | Suck on the Marrow

James Allen Hall | Now You’re the Enemy

Sean Hill | Blood Ties and Brown Liquor

Amaud Jamaul Johnson | Red Summer

Judy Jordan | Carolina Ghost Woods

Anna Journey | If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting

Brian Turner | Here, Bullet

poet-related

{poetry} the 30th

20120207010229Today being the last day of April for the year, I suppose I will close National Poetry Month by failing to latch the door properly… Hello, my name is Leslie and I have fast become addicted to watching spoken word poetry on Youtube and TEDtalks. With apologies, you’re welcome. I will likely post the occasional video from here on out.

“A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.” ~Salman Rushdie

“To be a poet is a condition, not a profession. ” ~Robert Frost

Poetry is not an expression of the party line.  It’s that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that’s what the poet does.  ~Allen Ginsberg

Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.  ~T.S. Eliot

I don’t create poetry, I create myself, for me my poems are a way to me.  ~Edith Södergran

There is a lot of talk about the poet and of poems. Many feel alienated by its literary office clad in leather and quality ink that smells faintly of pipe tobacco; others by the thought of cats wending their way through untitled piles of sheets toward the silhouette behind lace obscured upper-story windows–locked.

I remember those first lessons of Shakespeare in school. His incredible smithing, the consistency, and yes, bask in those sonnets, but remember they are impossible to write. Junior high is such a rough lesson in manners, feel (and feel deeply) but do not touch.

I remember finding e.e. cummings. no capital letters, lines in shapes that sometimes didn’t rhyme except with itself.

My education of self and by other is a bit of a tangle, certainly clumsy and out of sequential order, but rarely without meaning. I’ve come ’round again to the formal introductions. Milton, this school term, has wooed me into a love of pre-modernist notions. He was genius within the poet’s tradition–and daring with it. His ambition, his rocking in the chair, committing lines by moonlight into the words others would write and read by daylight.

I’ve a lot to learn, but there is something I understood and still know from the earliest…it is the value to a soul that they have a means of expression. [I love the idea of programs like Project V.O.I.C.E. who help/encourage young people in finding a means.]  It is of incredible import to the soul to realize the power of words and their defining. It is of immeasurable worth to another’s soul to be moved by your expression. Poetry is a powerful resource and communicator. And if you still have any doubt how it can hold such import:

Shane Koyczan’s 2013 TEDtalk: “To This Day” … for the bullied and beautiful”

 

"review" · Children's · concenter · Illustrator · Picture book · poet-related · recommend

{illustrator} LeUyen Pham (pt 2)

Yesterday I posted a bit of what I learned about LeUyen Pham. Today I am looking at a few of the picture books she illustrated.

A Stick is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play by Marilyn Singer (Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012).

Marilyn Singer, a renowned poet, offers 18 poems involving outdoor play with games like double-dutch, hop-scotch, monkey in the middle, and swinging on the swings. What I loved was how this is not a collection of poems that excludes the urban landscape with its expanse of pavement, sidewalks, stoops, and diverse population. The poems vary, and some were more difficult for me to read aloud than others (more to do w/ my pronunciation, no doubt). My favorite poem was “Upside Down” and the book closes rather sweetly with “Stargazing.”

The images echo the energy in the poems; there is always movement. The skin tones are warm and the clothes vibrant against the colorful backdrops which project the idea of landscape onto the children themselves. They are where the action, the creativity, the relationships take place. They are unleashed upon the out-of-doors, walking on edges (in “Edges”) and running and chasing and crashing (in “Really Fast”). There is something classic in the images, old Golden Books come to mind. I’m not sure how intentional this is, but it is brings a certain nostalgia for old school outdoor play and the carefree summers running about the neighborhood (or ‘hood in “Hopscotch”) with your friends. But as the reviewer for School Library Journal points out, LeUyen Pham gives the book a modern seasoning to its nostalgia eliminating the all-white cast and putting girls on skateboards and placing jump-ropes in boys’ hands. Although, no one seems interested in demystifying the hopscotch fascination with girls.

[stick rumpus]

I noticed the lack of scrapes or band-aids, and Library School Journal questions the cleanliness and glow of the imagery in the illustrations and poetry. Monkey in the Middle can be fair, and splashing in the gutters isn’t a health hazard. The spirit of it is good though, and will no doubt be avoided by helicopter parents. I am hoping that librarians are putting this one on the end-caps and at eye-level, maybe above a nice pile of sticks.

A fantastic review by School Library Journal.

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Once Around the Sun: Poems by Bobbi Katz (Harcourt Books, 2006)

In her 12 poems dedicated to each month on the calendar, Bobbi Katz subjects seasonal objects to personification in the most delightful ways. My favorite poem, and the first, “January” wishes the “sled would stop whispering “one more time” and once—just once—pull you back up that hill! The poems and the illustrations bring people together. “Grandma tells you how each spring she falls in love with the world all over again—and you understand” (“April”). It is multi-cultural, multi-generational, mult-geographical (love the urban inclusions) experience.

*

I enjoyed how in Marilyn Singer’s A Stick is an Excellent Thing, LeUyen Pham uses a cast of characters throughout, but I also enjoy her following a boy who has a little sister and a mom and dad and a dog and a grandmother) through Once Around the Sun. The child-oriented contemplations of the months and what they mean or bring seem suited to a singular character. The choice also allows for the illustrator to adapt the mood each poem brings more readily. The little boy becomes a thread and a joy.

see the story in this textless image that accompanies “September” on the facing page? New backpack being noticed, crisp clean (new) white shirt (that won’t say that way)…

I adore the color-work, and while it has a tinge of nostalgia, Katz and Pham are creating a sentimentality all their own, and in the present.

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{from Freckleface Strawberry: Best Friends Forever}

Freckleface Strawberry was checked out so I ended up with two of the following books. LeUyen Pham told “Seven Impossible Things before Breakfast,” this about the experience:

Freckleface Strawberry (Bloomsbury Books), by Julianne Moore […] was great to do. Julie apparently was sent several artists’ work to select from, and she loved the book Big Sister, Little Sister I had done a couple years ago. She’s the sweetest person, and really let me go at it with the character. In fact, she even asked me to cover the little girl in freckles — initially, I was shy about putting too many dots on her! Contrary to popular opinion, I never saw pictures of Julie as a child. My editor and Julie were pretty adamant about the fact that the character should just come from my imagination. I was pretty surprised afterward to discover that the little girl I had drawn looks almost exactly like Julie’s daughter!”

Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully by Julianne Moore (Bloomsbury, 2009).

This is one of those rare bully stories these days where the bully isn’t actually a bully. Much of the mistaken identity is attributed to the power of the imagination—perceiving the big strong kid as a bully and the dodgeball as something that is out to seriously harm you. –but isn’t it though? We had mornings where Natalya felt the same kind of dread, hoping against all odds they would not be playing dodgeball. The book does not downplay the existence of bullies or monsters or even fear, and it doesn’t downplay the role of the imagination on a person’s life.

Freckleface Strawberry’s thought the ball would hurt, and had avoided play with Windy Pants Patrick. She also thought she could become a monster, practicing her role at the back while the game was being played. She imagined herself to be strong and fierce and agile. The power of the imagination can work for and against you.

The story has some lovely rhythmic moments. The sentences are as declarative as the expressions on Freckleface Strawberry’s face—no, her whole body. LeUyen Pham fluidly sketches a distinct personality into the character. There is this beautiful moment where Freckleface Strawberry is curled into herself a bit in dread, and in some memory of a wince—already anticipating the sting of the ball. She hadn’t left the house yet. I don’t know if the Monster is in previous books, but I adore its appearance here. Her imagination is projected into a looming shadow of a Monster behind her, echoing her movements—until at last it goes to tip-toe away, anxious, too, about Windy Pants Patrick and the dodgeball. With Moore’s dramatic tension and Pham’s ability to create dimension we arrive at the moment of truth with the same sentiment to which Freckleface Strawberry comes—“Oh!” I love learning the lessons alongside the character, and Moore plays off common misperceptions and worry well to deliver a nice turn. Pham artfully brings the inner workings to the page. It is a lovely partnership.

Freckleface Strawberry: Best Friends Forever by Julianne Moore (Bloomsbury, 2011).

First thoughts: Could this book be any sweeter? I love it. Windy Pants Patrick is back as Freckleface Strawberry’s best friend. The other kids thought they were too different to be best friends, let alone friends. So even though it was their differences (from others) that brought them together (both being odd sizes, having nicknames, and families who love them, loving to read and eat lunch), their differences viewed differently, however, could keep them apart. Classic scenarios where boys don’t play with girls and vice versa ala “boys stink.” Each gender and height and interest and family make-up has its own place—so they really don’t have enough in common. Except they do. And it is a nice aspect to the story how they drift apart and drift back together again. While the reader/listener understands social dynamics and has probably witnessed or experienced the story themselves, we are rooting for the friendship—and likely inspired.

The story feels too real to be message-y. It is another snapshot from Freckleface Strawberry’s life and again it just resonates. I would have loved to have read these to N when she was younger. Moore and Pham offer very relevant, if not strictly entertaining work. Fortunately, Natalya isn’t too grown-up to read picture books and found Freckleface Strawberry charming and fun—and familiar.

The presentation of the book is fun and colorful, but not overwhelming—simply stated and straightforward in language and illustration; and yet the texture is there. While Pham provides more color and setting, I thought about Ian Falconer’s Olivia and how much of an impact an inked figure of a pig in a tutu could have. There is no mistaking the driving force in the text and images in either Olivia or Freckleface Strawberry.

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LeUyen Pham’s site.

{All images belong to her and their respective publishers}

poet-related

{poetry} poem in your pocket day

It is Poem in Your Pocket Day! A day where you carry a poem in your pocket to share with those around you; an opportunity to share and converse and connect with people through poetry.

I have Margarita Engle’s “Archetype” poem in my pocket. Consequently, it also fits in with the Once Upon a Time Challenge.

_

Archetype

by Margarita Engle

*

Is it true that nothing reveals more

about a person’s secret heart

than the adult memory of a favorite

childhood fairy tale?

*

I never understood all the fuss

about princesses poisoned

or rescued from dragons.

Hansel and Gretel seemed like a recitation

of the sorrowful evening news

a serial killer, the ovens, absent parents

a famine, crumbs . . .

*

Instead of magic beanstalks and man-eating giants

or wolves disguised as gentle grandmas

I chose the tale of a bird with a voice that could soothe

the melancholic spirit of an emperor

helpless despite his wealth and power.

*

Of all tales, only The Nightingale felt

like a story I knew before I was born

about Orpheus calming wild beasts with his lyre

King David’s harp easing Saul’s despair

Saint Francis with his curious flocks of birds

singing back and forth in a language of wishing

that even the wolf understood.

poet-related · Uncategorized

{poetry} cities & theatres

The daughter has been taking a Poetry for one of her Extended Learning Opportunity (ELO) classes. The quarter culminates in a Poetry Cafe where the students read some of their work aloud. Natalya has given me permission to share two of the poems.

The first is a Found Poem one of her other teachers told her how to do. She was reading Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities at the time so the lines of the poem are found in Invisible Cities.

Invisible Cities

The messenger describes,

in gardens of magnolias,

of the cities Zora, Despina and Zirma.

With pinnacles of skyscrapers,

with women chattering as they weave raffia rugs,

he tells of the half-sophornia

with the shooting galleries,

and of Leonia

whose rubbish grows,

landslide danger looms.

The mute informant

express himself only with gestures,

walks in gardens of magnolias,

not existing,

telling through dreams and memories.

–Natalya Lawren (14 Feb. 2012)

The following is an original piece she will be reading today. (note: she is still working on punctuating it)

Night’s Theatre

Night descends

like fierce owl

hunting mice and moles;

while dusk fades

like dust swept away.

And sun retreats

battle lost

to replenish troops for another day.

Silk curtains are drawn back

revealing

a silent wood upon a stage

with harps and flutes and butterflies

and they begin to play.

Trees sigh, the birds sing,

as harp and flute accompany.

Yet as midnight nears,

they tire and begin to wane,

trying to stay awake in vain.

The twilight curtains draw,

now robust red,

and as bells chime

they are thrown aside

for Puck has come to play!

Bounding across the wooden planks,

to rejoice in chaos and absurdity.

Though strong stands this theatre of stars,

eventually it must tire,

and show begins to flicker,

as the sun rallies loudly

with blaring sounds

The night’s theatre fights bravely,

but you must wake,

and deep sleep you must forsake

As dawn breaks doors

to scar starry skies

with bloodshot eyes.

And though there are choices we can make,

the day-lit sky we must partake.

‘Til again we lay our heads to sleep

this theatre our minds shall keep

with mem’ries of fair lunar shore

and whispered dreams from faerie lore.

–Natalya Lawren (Feb.2012)

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N has been working more determinedly on her poetry. She is more consciousness in trying to achieve end rhyme and has playing with structure. [You know those rhyming games in the car and those hours with Seuss? A pleasant side-effect is a child who loves free-verse.] “Night’s Theatre” captures N in process. The first stanza is what she has been doing. As the poem progresses you can see a more conscientious narrative. And while she always revisits her diction, she began to revisit later stanzas to create greater balance and end rhyme.

N was determined to write a Shakespearean Sonnet, so we reviewed meter (which I am iffy on on the best of days), but it (and this quarter) made for a lively discussion on content, structure, and meter. She has been trying to integrate what she is learning into the voice she has been growing since birth. As for the Sonnet: she thought she had the theme and the meter and form, but she didn’t have the structuring of the content. She’ll return to it. I hope she does. I look forward to watching her continue to learn and grow.

I need to find her some mentors, some poets.

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{image: illustration by Jam San}

"review" · fiction · juvenile lit · Lit · philosophy/criticism · poet-related · recommend · series · series · Uncategorized · wondermous

{book} my name is mina

Do you ever have the urge to write an author and transcriptionally hug and kiss them because of your profound gratitude for their having been born and having written this one particular book? I usually hug the book instead. And I’ve been hugging My Name is Mina the past few days. I should really write those living authors. I should write to David Almond.

I’d heard of My Name is Mina in passing. I think it was in a manner of whispers from the “Lucky Day” shelf in Juvenile Fiction at the Library. I picked it up the other day. I’m familiar with David Almond, should be good.  On the cover in small print: “One of the best novels of the last decade.” -Nick Hornby. I flipped open the cover and read:

Mina loves the night. While everyone else is in a deep slumber, she gazes out the window, witness to the moon’s silvery light. In the stillness, she can even hear her own heart beating. This is when Mina feels that anything is possible, that her imagination is set free.

A blank notebook lies on the table. It has been there for what seems like forever. Mina has proclaimed in the past that she will use it as a journal, and one night, at last, she begins to do just that. As she writes, Mina makes discoveries both trivial and profound about herself and her world, her thoughts and her dreams.

Award-winning author David Almond re-introduces readers to the perceptive, sensitive Mina before the events of Skellig in this lyrical and fantastical work. My Name Is Mina is not only a pleasure to read, it is an intimate and enlightening look at a character whose open mind and heart have much to teach us about life, love, and the mysteries that surround us. –inside jacket copy

I flipped pages and noted the unusual form. I balanced it on top of my seven volumes of Pluto. I was taking this book home to Natalya, whom instantly came to mind. She and Mina would be friends, minus the tree part. Well, maybe Mina could have talked her into climbing one. To be perfectly candid, I would linger in hopes of an invitation myself.

Then what shall I write? I can’t just write that this happened then this happened then this happened to boring infinitum. I’ll let my journal grow just like the mind does, just like a tree or a beast does, just like life does. Why should a book tell a tale in a dull straight line?

Words should wander and meander. They should fly like owls and flicker like bats and slip like cats. They should murmur and scream and dance and sing.

Sometimes there should be no words at all.

Just silence.

Just clean white space.

Some pages will be like a sky with a single bird in it. some will be like a sky with a swirling swarm of starlings in it. My sentences will be a clutch, a collection, a pattern, a swarm, a shoal, a mosaic. They will be a circus, a menagerie, a tree, a nest. Because my mind is not in order. My mind is not straight lines. My mind is a clutter and a mess. It is my mind, but it is also very like other minds. And like all minds, like every mind that there has ever been and every mind that there will ever be, it is a place of wonder. (11-12, though technically 3-4)

I could stop here, couldn’t I. But I won’t.

I had hopes with the first entry title page: Moonlight, Wonder, Flies & Nonsense. I found poetry upon the first page of written words, and I quickly found love within a short succession of pages; 4 and 5 and 6 pages in, pages 12-14. “I was told by my teacher Mrs. Scullery that I should not write anything until I had planned what I would write. What nonsense! […] I did want to be what they called a good girl, so I did try.” There are people who say they want to be a Writer, and there are people who say that they are. And I’m not mistaking Published Author for Writer and neither should you. My Name is Mina is for Writers, for Artists, Anyone, and for Birdwatchers.

I think people will want to give this book to youth they find “special.” And it is true that Mina is gifted and unusual (I think mostly due to her courageousness). You get that her mother is a profound influence, a mentor and guide; she herself is a Creative thinker. If for no other reason buy this for the sake of its portrayal of a loving, truly nurturing mother. “Raise your child in the way they should go,” comes to mind. Anyway, I think people should want to give this book to any young person. It is true that many people like Mina feel alone in their wondering and meandering and musing about themselves and the world; but the book does not impart a sense of “specialness” upon Mina outside of realizing a very rich character. It would assume every young person has (at the very most) an inner life, a distinction, and a loneliness. My evidence?

Now, I’m not going to say the book assumes absolute familiarity, Mina’s mind would be her own (11), but she will not be wholly unfamiliar on some intimate level (at least I desperately hope not). Better, Mina would challenge the reader to nurture their creativity, their wondering minds. If, like Mina, you’re not going to have it nurtured in a school setting or special programs, or unlike her, at home, be determined and a bit desperate and brave and find yourself an empty journal to meander your way through.

My Name is Mina has these fantastic “Extraordinary Activities” throughout. They are connected to her stories and contemplations where they are exampled, but they are meant to engage the reader, the creative. “Go to the loo. Flush your pee away. Consider where it will go to and what it will become” (124). “(Joyous Version) Write a page of words for joy. [or] (Sad Version) Write a page of words for sadness” (133). N did this one, pausing her reading to do so: “Write a poem that repeats a word and repeats a word and repeats a word and repeats a word until it almost loses its meaning. (It can be useful to choose a word that you don’t like, or that scares or disturbs you)” (97). N’s present essay project on present, future, past tenses: yep, the concrete poem Mina wrote on page 89 and following.

Mina is funny and serious and vulnerable and strong and restless and still and shy and friendly and outrageous and poignant and… I found her a beautiful character with which to become acquainted. Rather importantly, she is not charmingly quirky, or a cute puppy to indulge and smile over. She is deadly ridiculous.

If you’ve read David Almonds 1998 debut novel and awards-winning Skellig, you’ve met Mina. While you needn’t have read Skellig to enjoy My Name is Mina, My Name is Mina is cited as a prequel. You meet Mina from before Michael (in Skellig) moves onto her street. She sees him, occasionally observes, but there is a time before she finally introduces herself to him. Those familiar with Skellig will note references, people, and remember Mina. Those unfamiliar will not feel cheated, nor will they encounter any frustrating sense of inevitability like stories often written with another story in mind. You know those that are written to offer backstory. Mina isn’t a backstory. She is her own story.

When Mina writes that “the journal will grow just like the mind does” the book does take on this characteristic. She doesn’t date entries, but uses creative (summarative) titles. She’ll allude to an ending, and then move back and forth before she reaches it. “Afterwards, Mina tried to think of ways to tell the tale. Then she thought that maybe it’d be best to write it down, which is what she did” (58). She intentionally avoids stories until she feels ready to share them, still distancing herself from their discomfort; she’ll switch from 1st- to 3rd-person for similar reasons.  “Extraordinary Activity: (third-person version) Write a story about yourself as if you’re writing about somebody else. (first-person version) Write a story about somebody else as if you’re writing about yourself” (59). Some of the world about her is captured obliquely, what we learn of her mother’s is created thus. The book is a journal of Mina’s keeping after all, her preoccupations, her confessions, her stories, her own dramatic effects. She yells, she cries, she records poems and blank pages. Mina’s mind may be a mess, as she puts it, but the book is by no means jumbled into indecipherability. It doesn’t even feel unnatural. It doesn’t even exhaust the reader with cleverness–maybe because its less “clever” and more normal. Mina resists conforming, and I’m glad for it.

My Name is Mina culminates into an ending that isn’t remotely forced, or even inevitable for that matter. We have points we are alerted to look for, progressions we would see through, and then it slips into another story: Skellig. I was compelled to turn pages by my desire to spend time with Mina and the world she inhabits in her mind’s eye; to explore ideas of creation and death and life and belonging and cages and nonsense and story; to have fun and be brave and engage in healthy doses of nonsense and sorrow and long walks.

Thank you David Almond for your gift to the world, to my daughter, and to me. Thank you for introducing us to Mina.

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recommendation…ages 10&up, human (or beast), lovers of humor, occasional irreverence, poetry you can understand, adventure, birds, nonsense, absolute sense… For those who’ve experienced a loss, a found, an inquisitive mind, an understanding adult, an equally strange friend, the principal’s office

Bart’s Bookshelf did a really excellent (and short) review, which I just found. Check it out.

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My Name is Mina by David Almond

Delacorte Press, 2010

hardcover, 300 pages.