Wednesday 30 April 2008

NaPoWriMo ends

It's the last day of NaPoWriMo, and I intend to wring out of myself another poem. I have not managed a poem every day, and I doubt I've done 30 for the month, but I've certainly written at least 20 and pushed myself to write a poem more regularly. Others?

Friday 25 April 2008

Tea sugar dream (day 5 in Istanbul)

"Tea sugar dream": this is what the owner-manager of The Halik Cafe in Sultanahmet told a group of Australians was the way to say "thank you very much" in Turkish. He performed quite a lead up, showing Turkish tea in its traditional tulip glass as well as bringing over some sugar before talking about dreams, and I was following his performance wondering where he was going when finally he put all three together, "tea-sugar-dream," and I burst out laughing. One of the Australians asked me if it was true, and I told her it was pronounced "te-shek-kur ed-air-im" (teşekkür ederim). I know hardly any Turkish, but my time here has become easier since learning teşekkür ederim, lütfen (please), tamam (okay, all right), bir (one), and çay (tea).

Today I joined John Ash's class touring parts of Istanbul on foot and learning of their architecture and history. With his knowledgeable and playful running commentary, we saw the Greek Patriarchate; the oldest running church in Istanbul, St. Mary of the Mongols; a Muslim tomb (whose I don't remember); and the rather significant remains of a palace that John Freely, apparently not checking himself, reports do not exist.

I look forward to posting pictures on my return--both photos of Istanbul's sights and of its street cats (on which more anon!).

Saturday 19 April 2008

Aime Cesaire Dead at 94

An obituary appears here.

The page for his wonderful book, Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, appears here. It's also available at, but that page has no description or reviews.

Sunday 13 April 2008

NaPoWriMo Day 13

It's day 13 for another forty minutes, and I'm 15 for 13, i.e. 15 poems for 13 days. I've been glad to receive poems and comments on progress via email, but I'd prefer people posted them here so everyone can benefit.

The difficulty I've struggled with lately is between I Must Write to This Standard and I Must Write in Ambition. By ambition I mean striving for originality, maintaining absolute rigor, not settling for more than a complete and accomplished poem.

Writing that, I remember what my partner's sister said when she spent Christmas with us in 2006. I don't remember how it came up, but I said something like, "I try to do everything to the best of my ability," to which Amanda responded, "No wonder you're so tired!"

Anyway, tonight I wrote an okay piece (I Must Write to This Standard) and I was a little frustrated with myself for not going for more, though I knew I hadn't the energy for it. I think the trade-off of writing more poems is that while maybe I'll write more "good" work, I'll write less "superior" work.

Am I hard on myself? Should I settle for anything less?

Wednesday 9 April 2008

Saturday 5 April 2008

NaPoWriMo, Day Five

How are others doing? I received quite a few emails the first three days, then little the last two. Is it getting to be more of a struggle?

I wrote a good deal the first three days, yesterday I wrote something rather scrappy late, and today I think having to write another poem made me feel like I could play. So I wrote a poem that plays around with large spaces within the lines, between fragments, 2-3 fragments per line, and had fun with it. Nice.

Thursday 3 April 2008

Denver Quarterly 42.2 (2008)

Yesterday afternoon I was flipping through a British poetry journal, and after reading seven or eight poems by different poets, the question came: "Why isn't anyone even trying to be interesting?" Every poem felt calm, perfectly linear, well contained, and without any spark of originality or vigor.

That night, as a remedy, I settled in with Denver Quarterly's latest issue. I've been reading and loving DQ for at least a decade now, maybe fifteen years, and I wish I had a subscription, though I catch up with it whenever I return home, as Illinois State University's Milner Library subscribes. I picked up this issue at the AWP in New York.

I've been dipping in and out of the issue for a few days now and reached the end last night, having skipped a piece here and there when it didn't look like what I was in the mood for, to go back to later. Here are some excerpts from what I did read (mind, the spacing's often incorrect as I don't know how to do that on here).

the apostrophe she wakes into
each morning

Christina Hutchins, "Her Father's Death in Her Body"

And we each had a sister
who had been a bird crawling out

of each of our dusk-filled chests.

George Kalamaras, "From the Book of Tongues (2)"

Each person braced for the next shock, and each shock reduced to an incident to report.

Carrie Bennett, "The skin, its willingness to burn" (prose poem)

she forms her shape to mine with little effort,
twining her legs around
when my mouth attaches to her neck like a little cup.

I must have twenty arms.

Michael Kiser, "Regeneration" (and that's the end of the poem)

The drug the need was made for cannot satisfy the need. Now I realize I was made for this half-consecrated world with its one hand running a comb through the stars.

Jennifer Militello, "Dear B," [Today, the rain] (prose poem)

...they decided a window was a way of singing when they tried mixing laughter through a catastrophe of light.

Jennifer Militello, "Dear B" [I knew] (pp)

the baby is eating stars, the stars are yellow like lemons.
they taste like lemonade and move down cold.

Deborah Poe, "Calcium (Ca)"

Like the windowpane
its moment already through
not unwashed or translucent

but like the poem, just barely
changed each time
it's looked through
Will Skinker, "The Last Photograph"

Nights resemble each other
in the way mug shots do
Sandra Stone, "Animal Grief"

Memories are the opposite
of dreams, which are placeless.
Janaka Stucky, "The Opposite of Dreams"

after all
that departure
the first Native American to visit Europe stayed forever. A fire
in 1727 destroyed the parish records, which included the location
of Pocohontas' grave, by nature, a door
is a gap
but a ceiling
wouldn't be offered in pieces or things that can't be divided, one cannot

for instance, offer another
a piece of fire or survival.

Cole Swensen, "Pocahontas (1595, Powhatan Confederacy - 1616, Gravesend, England)"
(nb, the spacing on this one is much different in the original)

Some poems in the issue I wish I'd written:

Carrie Bennett, "The machines knew to be careful this time"
Cynthia Cruz, "Cinderella's Self Portrait as Shane"
Chris Dombrowski, "Midst"
Cathryn Hankla, "Conquistadors in the Colonies"
Alessandra Lynch, "Bruise"
Sandra Stone, "Animal Grief"
Janaka Stucky, "Each a Threadless Distance from Crow and Lineament"
Cole Swensen, "The Ghost Heart," "Pocahontas," and "Toward the End"
Imants Ziedonis, "It's Hard for You to Understand" and "Don't Promise Me Anything Big"

Thank you, Denver Quarterly. Unwittingly you've been good to me.

Tuesday 1 April 2008

NaPoWriMo, Day 1

Over the course of the day I've been heartened by how many people have joined the challenge. The mutual encouragement will certainly help.

I have written my poem for the day, 14 lines in couplets, and I would post it, but it's about a friend and it would be inappropriately revealing. As I've received a few poems and want to reply in kind when I can, I'm hoping to write another poem before the night's out--I'm on my third week of spring break and my workload has finally diminished a little, so this is the ideal time for me to start. How I'm going to write a poem on Friday the 11th, after teaching two long days in a row (especially exhausting with my jaw injury), with the MA workshop then a talk for the MAs on publishing that afternoon into evening, I can't yet imagine. I'm also going to Istanbul 21-28 April, so I'll only be able to check in occasionally, I expect--but I will write my poem a day, somehow.