December 13, 2012 § 1 Comment
After finishing my first semester of grad school, I’m celebrating a few good things:
1.) I’m teaching writing & rhetoric to college freshmen next semester! In preparation I created and submitted a literacy narrative – a story about a moment when composing or reading a text became significant to me – to the Digital Archives of Literacy Narratives. This is a great site with interesting, multimodal compositions, and it’s something I may have my students participate in. My earlier blog post “Twas Brillig and Shook Me to the Core” was a draft. You can listen to the final version here.
2.) I have three poems forthcoming in Columbia Poetry Review. I’m so honored as this issue features some of my favorite poets: Rae Armantrout, David Trinidad, Heather Christle, and Kirsten Kaschock.
I’m not sure I could have made it through, though, without plenty viewing of the following:
1.) We posted this in one of our first blog posts, but it still cracks me up and inspires.
2.) I love this music and this video. It makes me so happy. It will get you through your day.
November 29, 2012 § 2 Comments
I can’t help it. I’m immersed in poems. Here are all the books I’ve received in the last month from my poet friends – so much to read!
If you don’t like poetry, then start small. Take this sweet, brief poem by Robert Bly, and consider someone’s hands this weekend.
“Taking the hands of someone you love,
You see they are delicate cages . . .
Tiny birds are singing
In the secluded prairies
And in the deep valleys of the hand.”
These are the hands of people I love:
And remember that your life is your life. Know it while you have it.
November 15, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Yesterday as my class visited with the poets Maxine Scates and Jeanne Marie Beaumont, we talked about the writing process and how one knows a piece is completed:
“Every time I find an ending, it feels like a gift.”
“The poem should be telling me things I don’t know.”
“The poem, like breath, is the world passing through us.”
They saw themselves as a vehicle for the poem, often a voice for those who don’t have a voice.
Their comments – particularly Beaumont’s who openly admits and celebrates her superstitious nature – reminded of Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk a few years ago on our relationship to the creative spirit, “a divine, attendant spirit that comes to human beings from some distant, unknowable source for distant unknowable reasons.” It’s not that we are geniuses, it’s that we have a genius. Creativity does not come from us directly; we just show up to do our part.
So today I am showing up to my kitchen table, pen and paper close by, and we will see what the day brings. And here’s an invitation to you, Reader – a weekend do, if you will: Show up to your creative space and wait.
November 6, 2012 § 3 Comments
As a child I read everything in sight. Recklessly literate is the term my brother-in-law employs. I have vivid memories of the books I devoured, from the singsong cadence of Dr. Suess’s One Fish, Two Fish to the songs made up in Bedtime for Frances and the mystery series I zipped through on my own when a little older (Boxcar Children, Encylcopedia Brown, Mandie and the Mystery of (fill in the blank)).
The first time I realized words had power was different. It didn’t come from feeling out a rhythm or the repetitive structure of a series, but from my biggest fear.
We’d recorded the BBC production of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in the Looking Glass. In 1985, the design and special effects were…well…they were something.
Their interpretation of the Jabberwocky was truly monstrous. Slimy, flailing, alien, and loud. He appeared unexpectedly. He appeared with stormy backgrounds and flickering lights. He advanced slowly upon the other characters in the scene, and all Alice could do was scream and back into a corner (really, Alice? Run!).
The worse part was that Alice was the one who’d brought him to life. And she did so simply by reading a poem aloud.
Each time I watched the beginning of this film, where she opens a great big book and reads those famous words, “Twas brillig and the slithy toves / did gyre and gimble in the wabe,” I braced myself for the slow formulating of this imagined creature. These were even nonsense words, yet they worked to call forth all my imagination. The result was often me with a blanket pulled over my head, heart pounding, reassuring myself that the Jabberwocky was not real.
This is what Alice learns to tell herself as well. And by the end of the story, she manages to quell her fears and banish the beast with – not just any words – but her own words, telling the creature it does not exist, that she does not believe it, that she will not be afraid.
Years later, I continue to believe that words have power and that reading and writing and speaking release that power. It can still give way to fears and nightmarish runs of the imagination. It can also bring a rest to those fears, can bring lightness and connection, a voice. And so I read – still recklessly literate – all that comes across my path, and I send my own words out into the world.
Here’s Christopher Lee’s rather perfect reading of “The Jabberwocky,” by Lewis Carroll. Be wary of what might come next.
October 22, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I’m taking a class on the line in poetry, which is proving to be a many-faceted and opinionated topic:
Lines are “sufficiently textured (that is, troubled and troubling),” according to Scott Cairns. For Bruce Bond, “The line encourages us to slow down.”
“Maybe it’s not so much that I like breaking the line as that I like the chance to keep beginning,” writes Catherine Barnett, and John O. Espinoza says, “The line should be about energy and economy.”
“A walking line gathers me in, strives outside of me.” (Christine Hume)
“The line is equal parts diligent exactitude and explosive, ebullient destruction.” (Noah Eli Gordon)
Naturally, I start thinking these things about lines in photographs:
Energy and economy
and see things differently.
(photos from my instagram)
October 4, 2012 § 2 Comments
October brings to mind, among other things, the word haunting. Not as in scary, but as in the sort of ghostly echo that follows you after experiencing a piece of art.
Like the movement of this couple, as well as the melody of this song.
or these words from Rae Armantrout’s poem “Guess”:
is softened by curtains.
The present moment
is an exception,
is the queen bee
a hive serves,
or else an orphan.
or the work of photographer Brad Pogatetz.
What is haunting you?
September 12, 2012 § 2 Comments
I love the simplicity and joy of this poem by William Carlos Williams:
To a Poor Old Woman
munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand.
They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. they taste
good to her
You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand
a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her
August 28, 2012 § 1 Comment
I wrote a guest post over at The Well, a blog for women in the academy and professions, on why to pursue the study of poetry and writing. Read it here.
August 15, 2012 § 5 Comments
Most days, I find it hard to be creative. And so what I find encouraging in my creative pursuits is often rather heavy in itself – not the blind willfulness of the guests in SNL’s “You Can Do Anything!” sketch, but those words that remind you, “Oh yeah. This isn’t supposed to be easy.”
Recently I came across “The Real Work” by Wendell Berry.
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
I don’t want to be baffled or impeded. I really don’t. Mary Karr, in her memoir Lit, says that if she had the choice to be happy or to be a poet, she would choose to be happy. Her professor tells her not to worry – she doesn’t ever get to make that choice.
I don’t want to feel blocked, but I know that my desire to create is strongest in such moments.
I’m practicing this as I move into a new apartment. I wanted oh so much light and space as possible. My initial impression was that it was dark and cramped. But it’s not that way at all. My anxiety towards a new transition spilled into my memory, darkening it. So I started taking pictures where I saw light. I found that the light was everywhere.
June 20, 2012 § 5 Comments
I love this piece on East London’s fashion in the last 100 years. It’s so fun to hear the music and see the fashions of the last century fly by. It’s even more fun to see the styles that have stayed, returned, or never came back.
Lately I’ve felt a similar frenzied and nostalgic rush toward technology.
On one hand, I bought a new phone which prompted me to dive into the land of apps and Instagram. I even started a twitter account (another dangerous whim). Here’s my first tweet. (If you follow @abigaillzc, you can bet there will be offthefrontporch links.)
And my first instagram photo (follow @zimmeralc for more).
But as much as I’m diggin things like Voxer and AroundMe, I’m aware of how much past technology continues to influence our new habits. For example, our computer keyboards click because when they were first made with muted sound, the quiet office unnerved typists. So engineers made them click again. And the layout of the keys (the QWERTY pattern) was meant to slow down the typists so the machine could keep up with them – now our computers are more than capable, yet we continue to use the slower QWERTY layout.
So in the midst of playing around with my new toys, I also got a fresh ribbon for my typewriter, which I’ve been using to write Sylvia-Plath-style.
(Look what serious poets we both are. It’s all because of the typewriter.)
And I’m listening to classics like Otis Spain and Al Green on my record player.
Soon I will be using a lot more public transportation to get around, which – as these 100-year-old promotional infographics imply – is certainly not a new fad.
Readers, revel in the old and indulge in the new.