Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 Book List

It's that time of year again. I could wait until the 31st to post this, but I doubt I'll finish another book before then. And if I do, I'll just ammend the list. As always, books I recommend will have an asterisk next to them. And just because something doesn't have an asterisk next to it doesn't mean I didn't like it.

My goal for this year was to read 50 books, and I'm pleased as punch to announce I surpassed my goal.

1. Illumination Night - Alice Hoffman*

2. Wizard's First Rule - Terry Goodkind

3. Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton

4. Long Day's Journey Into Night - Eugene O'Neill

5. Take the Cannoli - Sarah Vowell

6. The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson*

7. Empire Falls - Richard Russo

8. The Beans of Egypt, Maine - Carolyn Chute

9. Traveling Mercies - Anne Lamott*

10. Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie

11. Selected Stories - Andre Dubus

12. Elizabeth Bishop the Complete Poems*

13. The Early Church - Henry Chadwick

14. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald*

15. The Heart of the Matter - Graham Greene

16. Poetic Form: An Introduction - David Kaplan

17. The Mind's Eye: A Guide to Writing Poetry - Kevin Clark

18. 100 Great Poets of the English Language - Dana Gioia

19. One Art: Elizabeth Bishop Letters

20. Bless Me, Ultima - Rudolfo Anaya*

21. The Little Prince - Antoine de St. Exupery***

22. The BFG - Roald Dahl*

23. I Am Legend - Richard Matheson

24. Pride of Baghdad - Brian K. Vaughan

25. Blankets - Craig Thompson*

26. World War Z - Max Brooks*

27. The Complete Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

28. On Writing - Stephen King*

29. Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt

30. The Color Purple - Alice Walker*

31. Lord of the Flies - William Golding*

32. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain

33. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - Dave Eggers

34. Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro*

35. In Cold Blood - Truman Capote

36. Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson

37. Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett*

38. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck*

39. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain

40. The Last Unicorn - Peter S. Beagle*

41. Howl's Moving Castle - Dianna Wynne Jones*

42. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey*

43. The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison

44. Did You Say Chicks?! - Ed. Esther Friesner

45. Stardust - Neil Gaiman*

46. Push - Sapphire

47. King Rat - China Mieville

48. A Dirty Job - Christopher Moore*

49. The Complete Maus - Art Spiegelman*

50. Dog Blood - David Moody

51. Mirror Mirror - Gregory Maguire

52. Sonnets from the Portuguese - Elizabeth Barrett Browning

53. Mythology - Eith Hamilton

54. Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris*

55. Tent Number Eight - Gloyd McCoy

56. Lamb - Christopher Moore*

57. Night - Elie Wiesel

58. A Grief Observed - C.S. Lewis

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Soooooo yeah

That whole I'm-going-to-post-more-really-I-promise-I-am thing? Sorry about that.

One of my friends has pointed out the error of my ways, and I am here to rectify it.

However, it's 5:09 in the morning, and I've been up since 2:00. The reason?

When I was just about to fall asleep, I had a sudden thought. This was that thought: "Did I take my sleep aid medication? I don't remember! But that would be bad if I took a second dose. Eh, I'm really sleepy. I bet I took it."

I was wrong.

I'll make no more posting promises this semester--this fall marks the start of my journey through Capstone, and this is the busiest I've been in a long time. Capstone, other classes, work, making necklaces, submitting writing (yes, I really am submitting), and oh, talking to my wonderful boyfriend. I feel he needs a mention here.

So anyway, this friend told me that I should write a poem for/about him. Here are the fruits of my 5:00am labors.

Limerick for Nick

There once was a young man from Sweden,
who shunned the fruits of Eden,
preferring prawn crackers,
and making rice snackers—
he really liked stuff by Joss Whedon.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cough Cough

So, for those of you who are kind enough to still follow me, you might have noticed my severe lack of updating these days.

And you may or may not have noticed that I deleted about 50% of my posts on here. It's not that I don't love you or that I don't want to share my work. It's just lately I've grown paranoid. I read somewhere that most journals don't like to publish poems which have been previously posted on blogs. Not that I've submitted anything in the last two months, but still. The poems I have left up are special for one reason or another, and I will probably still continue to post more of my creative work in the future. In fact, I need to in order to keep myself accountable. I haven't been writing a lot recently. In fact, I've really not been writing at all.

I had an idea that I should finish up the novel I'm working on (a full draft of it anyway) by the end of the summer. That just isn't happening. Life really decided to get in the way. It has a funny way of doing that, you know? At least all this life has given me things to write about. Boy, has it.

Next semester marks the beginning of my senior year in college. That means Capstone. I know I will be doing a creative project. What will I be doing? I hope I can answer that question by the time proposals are due in the fall. I'm considering poetry more and more. Something in my head keeps telling me, "Work on your prooooose." But my heart bleeds in meter. I might just be jonesing for another Bishop experience, but I can't see anything wrong with that. I'd love to immerse myself in another poet mentor and just let their work wash over me.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dear God. Dear stars, dear trees, dear sky, dear peoples. Dear everything. Dear God.

How much better can thoughts on writing be than the ones freshly evoked when some piece of literature stirs you?

I've been reading The Color Purple by Alice Walker, and it resonated deep inside me.

"Dear Nettie,
I don't write to God no more, I write to you.
What happen to God? ast Shug.
Who that? I say.
She look at me serious."

I want to convey how these passages made me feel--what they made me think, but I'm not sure I can do that quite yet.

"She say, Celie, tell the truth, have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God. "

Shug and Celie are talking very seriously in this chapter--Celie's in her forties at this point and has experienced much in life. However, she still has questions and doubts. She writes to her sister Nettie, believing that Nettie's still alive out there somewhere. Shug's character develops so much through the course of this novel--if you haven't read it, you need to soon. I could probably read it through again and just focus on Shug.

"Naw, she say. God made it. Listen, God love everything you love--and a mess of stuff you don't. But more than anything else, God love admiration.
You saying God vain? I ast.
Naw, she say. Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.
What it do when it pissed off? I ast.
Oh, it make something else. People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back."

These quotations are all from the same chapter. In my copy, it starts on page 199. A groundbreaking epistolary novel, a testament to the human spirit, a shining example of strong women in literature--of strong African American women in literature. I didn't think I would love it this much.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

On Writing A Memoir of the Craft

^That is what I'm currently reading. There are a lot of things from it I'd like to share, but there are so many I think I'd break several hundred copyright laws in doing so. That being said, if you're a writer--read this book. Go out and buy it. That way you can mark it up and make personal notes to yourself. If you're someone who struggles with passive voice and the overabundance of adverbs (points to self), you need to know it. Stephen King will tell you--he's telepathic, trust me.

Another thing--"Murder your darlings" was a quote originally by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, but commonly misattributed to many other writers such as William Faulkner (by yours truly). I was informed of this on page 196 of On Writing. Oops.

One more thing--Stephen King just gave me one dollar.

I found it sandwiched between pages 212 and 213. In actuality, it's probably just the book marker from some businessman who bought a copy of this book at an airport store, hoping to alleviate some layover stress. However, I'm taking it as a personal token. The sentence this dollar was resting on is, "Get back to work on it! Hell, you're ready! You're fuckin Shakespeare!"

Please note that this is entirely out of context and not intending for me to brazenly plow my way through the manuscript. However, I'm taking it at face value anyway--this book about writing keeps telling me to write. So, I have some work to do.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sound Advice

“Read a lot of poetry—all the time—and not 20th century poetry. Read Campion, Herbert, Pope, Tennyson, Coleridge—anything at all almost that’s any good, from the past—until you find out what you really like, by yourself. Even if you try to imitate it exactly—it will come out quite different. Then the great poets of our own century—Marianne Moore, Auden, Wallace Stevens—and not just 2 or 3 poems each, in anthologies—read ALL of somebody. Then read his or her life, and letters, and so on. (And by all means read Keats’s Letters.) Then see what happens.”

This advice comes from Elizabeth Bishop in a letter she wrote to "Miss Pierson." According to the book One Art: Letters, "The identity of Miss Pierson , obviously a stranger to EB, is unknown. The editor is grateful to James Merrill, whocame into possession of this letter in Amherst at a book-signing event, where he was given a copy by a man who disappeared before explaining how he acquired it. It bears EB's full signature."

I'd like to think that mysterious man was a time traveler and that "Miss Pierson" is an error because of handwriting and that it actually said "Miss Kristin." I've been reading a lot of poetry, seemingly all the time. I tried to imitate Keats and Bishop, and it's turned out quite differently. I read ALL of bishop and then her life, her letters, and so on. However, I've not read Keats's letters yet.

All things considered, I'm pretty pleased with my progress. And I'm also very sad. I had to let Elizabeth die. Again. The last word she ever wrote was "affectionately." Polite until the end.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Reminder

I was going through the poems in the packet from my New England literature class and stumbled upon "For the Young Who Want To" by Marge Piercy. I now have it tacked to my bulletin board as a reminder of what I should do if I want to keep being me. The more I think about my future, the more I agree with the ideas in this poem. I'll post it here for you all to see.

For the Young Who Want To
by Marge Piercy

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don’t have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.’s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else’s mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you’re certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

For those of you, like me, who don't immediately know what phlogiston is, here's the definition: a nonexistent chemical that, prior to the discovery of oxygen, was thought to be released during combustion.

Also, here's an interesting blog post from Penelope Trunk Brazen Careerist about grad school:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Villanelle for Amy

Last night my friend continued his saga in poetry by attempting to compose a villanelle about a mutual friend. However, my being on the phone with him at the time and offering "helpful" suggestions was getting in the way. The whole thing ended on a fairly happy note, but the undertone resembled, "Why don't you write your own?" "Fine, I will!" Anyway, this is my version. It didn't come out the way I wanted it, and I don't think it does my friend justice. But, a draft is a draft.

Envenomed Pen

With plaintive hands she serves by day
and grasps an envenomed pen by night--
the creative token's price to pay.

She sifts and molds with a writer's cosmic clay
to free her to a steward's simple right;
with plaintive hands she serves by day.

Thankless drones take from her what they may,
leaving a weakened soul to compose in moonlight--
the creative token's price to pay.

Her fists pound out a rhythm, and they lay
opinions down to rest so that she also might--
with plaintive hands she serves by day.

Her poems find a seaweed cadence to the bay
at which her mind rests from her fight--
the creative token's price to pay.

Her world revolves, revealing golden rays,
hounded by the silver side she keeps gripped tight.
With plaintive hands she serves by day--
the creative token's price to pay.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

First Poem for Mia

I decided a while ago that I should write a poem about my adorable niece Mia, who is now teething. This is what came out. The pets in that household have no idea what's coming. She can stand on her own, and when she can walk--look out.

Lullaby for the Sentinel

Climber, curl up and dream,
close your weary, feline eyes;
around your lair, Baby prepares
a startling surprise.

Dearest Climber, sleep while you can,
just coalesce,
for soon Baby will pull up to stand
and clamp her teeth to your distress.

Peace and calm will both be yours,
Climber, don’t be blue.
Bite-free days are coming soon—
but you must rest before they do.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I Think It's Time

Edmund Spenser, I owe you an apology. I might not dig Calidore, but after giving you a few more chances, you're alright. In fact, your sonnet form is really pretty awesome. In lieu of all my protests and badmouthing, I wrote you a sonnet. Yes, it's stolen from one of yours. And yes, it mocks you by using archaic spelling. I said you're alright, OK? You're still not my favorite person. I'm working on the whole friends with dead poets thing. We might get there one day. I'm sure you'll wait.

No Hard Feelings, Eddie

See! how the steadfast bard doth depraue
   my modest verse with derisive scorne:
   and by the poem which I vnto him gaue,
   accoumpts my selfe his convict all forlorne.
The poem (quoth he) is of the conquerors borne,
   resigned them by the trampled as theyr meeds,
   and they therewith doe poetes brows adorne,
   to chant the grandeur of their exalted deedes.
But sith he will the triumph provocation needs
   let he accept me as his steadfaste thrall,
   that his famed score which my skill exceeds,
   I may in finesse of honor blaze ouer all.
Then would I decke his head with brilliant bayes,
   and heap the earth with his auspicious prayse.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Poetry Fail

Today, we were supposed to workshop the first poem I submitted in my Poetry Writing class. This was supposed to happen a couple weeks ago, but eh, extenuating circumstances. Anyway, today got very messed up very quickly. Once the chaos subsided, it was learned everyone had their critiques for me, so I accepted them and resolved to read through them later. We went through class, work shopped my second poem (I got a lot of great suggestions), and that was that.

I got home a while ago and started browsing through the first set of critiques. One stopped me in my tracks.

I haven't been posting my poems for work shopping on here because I haven't wanted anyone in my class to see them early. I'll eventually put them up, but this one definitely calls for some editing first.

But back to that critique. The poem I wrote is an emulation of the sonnet Elizabeth Bishop wrote in 1979, just before she died. In it, I philosophize about a man gazing into a mirror, then setting himself free from the temptation of vanity by breaking it. Anyway, I use several "big words" in it. One of these is the cause for concern, and yes, embarrassment. In my mind, the Latin word for mirror is speculum. And speculum therefore = mirror. I needed another word for mirror, so that is the one I chose. What I neglected to remember is that a speculum is also a gynecological instrument. You know, that scary ratchety clampy you know?

Anyway, I was breezing through this critique. The first half was full of compliments and yadda yadda. Then I got to paragraph two. Let me quote from it for you. I won't mention the name of the person who wrote the critique to spare them any shame I might accidentally bestow regarding this matter.

"Also, on my first read, I did not know what a speculum was. I Googled it and the first image that popped up was an anatomy diagram of a woman during a gynecological exam. After seeing that, I can only think of gynecologists every time I read through your poem. I'm not sure what message you were trying to get across with the use of the speculum, or if maybe it was the first piece of medical equipment that came to mind, but if that choice was unintentional, you may want to pick a different instrument, since I'm probably not the only person who didn't know what a speculum was. Other than that, I thought your poem was great."

When I read it, I burst out laughing. And then I cringed as my cheeks flushed. And then I felt like crying. I was a failure at poetry. In an attempt to write a beautiful, artistic look at the anguish people feel by being trapped by self-image, I brain farted away any chance I had at that, leaving my poem as an awkward look at women's yearly exams.

To you, wise critic of my poem, I apologize. I was most certainly not trying to think of a medical instrument, and even if I was, I wouldn't want to choose that one. I think most women who go in for yearly exams know exactly what it is, and I have no idea why my mind forgot the second meaning.

At least it's only a draft. Right?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Flow

"Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement." ~ Christopher Fry

I haven't let my poetry flow in a while. Sure, I've let it pour out of me, but then I jumble it around and prod it with a meter stick. I've been reading cummings the past couple days, and I never ceased to be amazed by that kind of writing. I decided the easiest way to capture the ease of sound and feeling he creates was to outright copy him. So I picked one of his to use as a starting form, and I let my feelings fill in the blanks. Then I got angry with myself for using a form at all in this instance of flow, so I moved the blanks, deleted them, added more, then put in some punctuation. cummings's symbolism through punctuation is grand, but that's definitely not what I'm trying to embody.

There's something really magical about the world after the first snow. I took a grand afternoon nap today, and when it started to snow outside, I heard my mother say as much. With a smile on my face, I drifted to sleep. When I awoke, there wasn't a thick quilt of snow. It's more of a loosely-crocheted thing. But it still quiets everything. I felt like if I stood at the kitchen window long enough with my ear close to the glass I would hear the heartbeat of the bird in our neighbor's tree.

After the First Snow

I thank you Father for this most marvelous
day: for the soaring spirits of falcons
and a gray ballet of sky; and for everything
which is lovely which is finite which is true.

The world, which had died, is alive today,
this the moon’s birthday; this is the budding
of life and mist and love and stars, and of the
phenomenon boundless earth.

How should any breathing gasping snoring
sighing being be lifted above the nothingness
of all human-stardust merely seeing doubt?

Now the eyes of my fingers are opened and
the ears of my hands are awake.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Seeker of Truth

I just finished up reading Wizard's First Rule, which is part of the Sword of Truth series. This poem came out of that along with some thoughts on poetry I've had lately. What does it really mean to be a poet? etc.

Seeker of Truth

Two sides to the same magic,
loneliness and positivity,
pressed against each other
with the mint of Time.

The visionary must cast
his spells in silence,
even if completely surrounded
or utterly alone.

The endless circling path
of poetry magic winds
tightly, squeezing out space
for anything else, including Therefore.

Seekers of Truth in distorted
realities must check their
revelations against the
mirror of the coin at hand.

The course may take them
far from the start, toward
edges of reason, but they need
only look down at their feet.

Truth is scrawled in the shadows.

On top of this poem, I have a couple quotes for you from poets far wiser than I.

"Poetry should... should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance." ~ John Keats

"The poem is the point at which our strength gave out." ~ Richard Rosen

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Explosions Off In the Distance

I didn't expect 2011 to feel any different, but when I woke up this morning (once I got past severe grogginess) I felt really optimistic. This year will definitely be better than 2010 for me in general, and I hope it will be better for my writing as well. I've been writing poetry off and on throughout break, so I've made writing into a new habit. That's one goal from last year I can check off my list. One other goal from last year was to read 50 books by the end of the year. I didn't quite get there, but 47 is still fairly respectable, I think. So, that goal is carried over to my list for this year. 50 books by the end of 2011. I'd love to make the goal of having the first draft of my novel complete and cohesive, but I won't set that one just yet. I don't know what God wants me to work on this year, and I need to take things as they come while trusting Him. I found a poem I wrote two years ago just after New Year's, so I'll post it here.

Folding the Map

Withering, fading wandering wrecked
grays of speckled haze of a winter day
know not more than they know for their own
appointed moment.

Mist vanishes versus vernal dreams
clearing a course for the rest of time,
which they contain no vision of.

For the suspicion of eternity is
only a suspicion, but for One
Who subsumes every solution and never
a single speculation.

Every speck of pollen holds
a glimpse of time but will never know
the ages of the oceans.