For the love of prose poetry

Monday, February 28, 2011

My poem "Hat Box" is up at The Prose-Poem Project. You can check it out online or, if you like prose poetry and want to support a fantastic journal, order the print version when the Spring issue is released in April.

I actually wrote "Hat Box" several years ago when I first discovered the prose poem and the way it often fuses the surreal and the mundane. (Which my poem attempts to do.) The first writer to really introduce me to this delicious combination of violence, beauty, and truth, prose and poetry, was Joel Brouwer, and his Centuries (a collection of fifty prose poems that are each a hundred words long) remains one of my favorite poetry collections. For those of you who are unfamiliar with prose poetry, I'll leave you today with one of my favorites from Centuries.

by Joel Brouwer
Your brother has leukemia? Carve ivory. The elections were rigged? Write a villanelle. A girl shivers in streetlight, takes off her mittens, pulls a silver yo-yo from her pocket. Dogs bark behind a fence. Use oil on wood. Concentrate on pacing when choreographing your divorce; you will have to move through it forever. Two men in green fatigues tie a woman flat to a metal table. One has a rubber hose, the other a pliers. A third man arrives with sandwiches and a thermos. A body has soft and hard parts, like a piano. Music comes from where they meet.


Fact from Fiction

Saturday, February 19, 2011

And the winner is...Monita!  Okay, so Monita was the only one to guess, but she was absolutely right; number 3 was the fact in the list of fictions in the previous post.  Here are the "truths" about all five statements:

  1. I actually did see Bill Murray at CDG, but instead of sipping wine at a bar, he was waiting in line to board his flight.  (Celebs--they're just like regular people!)  Either way, I didn't talk to him, mainly because every time I see someone famous in person I imagine what it must be like to have strangers constantly asking for your autograph/picture or just wanting to talk with you, and I imagine it must get really tiresome, so I never actually talk to them, I just admire them from afar.  (And occasionally sneak a pic under the guise of photographing a friend.  *cough* Dr. Dre *cough, cough*)
  2. I actually did work on Big Fish, and the set for the town of Specter was built from scratch on this little island in the middle of a lake near Prattville, AL.  The day I went out there with Kari, another production assistant, to check in the extras, we did sneak on set so she could take some pictures (why, oh why, didn't I have my camera?!) but they hadn't started shooting yet, so I don't think that was technically against the rules.  And nothing fell on my head, and we didn't get "caught."  The set guys who were wandering around were pretty cool about us being there, actually.
  3. This is the true statement.  I did take anywhere from 19-22 hours almost every semester I was in undergrad so that I could have a light senior year, mostly because I figured I would need more time that year to look for jobs or apply to grad school and not be worried about writing my senior thesis (which I actually wrote and presented my junior year).  Instead, senior year I took fun electives like backpacking and dream psychology and advanced fiction writing, and I did an honors project--editing an anthology of short fiction--which was a lot of fun and really improved my writing.
  4. I never wanted to be a skateboarder, though I have always loved the X-Games, skateboarding, and skateboarders. (Bob Burnquist, anyone?)
  5. I did take a course to be certified in small vessel sailing, but I never filed my paperwork.  In the end, although I loved sailing and being out on the water (and I never ran into anything!), I knew sailing wasn't something I'd ever really want to do alone.  It's a lot of work, and when it comes down to it, I'm just too lazy to want to be more than a passenger or to occasionally man the jib on someone else's boat.  My sailing experience is going to come in handy with one of the characters in my new W.I.P.--but more on that later!
So there you have it!  I few fun facts about me.  I've got a few other posts in the works, so I'll hopefully be back later this weekend or early next week with interesting writing news.  Until then, I'll be grading and enjoying this fabulous spring-in-February weather!


Sharing the Love

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Over the weekend I was tagged by my lovely friends Tawnysha Greene and Monita Bell with the Memetastic Award that's making the rounds in the blogosphere.  (Don't worry, girls.  I still love you anyway.)

Here are the requirements for this award:
  1. Link back to the blogger who awarded you 
  2. Display the graphic from award creator Jillsmo 
  3. Post 5 statements, 4 of which must be lies
  4. Pass the award on to 5 other bloggers, who must also follow the rules
  5. Link the post back to "Memetastic Hop" so that Jillsmo can keep track of recipients
So here are my five statements.  See if you can guess the true one.  (Hint:  All of them contain some element of truth.  I've had a weird life.)
  1. In Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, I once saw Bill Murray drinking whiskey at a bar.  It was very Lost in Translation, but I was too shy to go up and talk to him.
  2. I worked on the film Big Fish when I was in college, and when we were shooting the Specter scene, another assistant and I sneaked on the set to take pictures.  We got caught when one of the shoes hanging on a line fell and hit me in the head.
  3. I overloaded on courses during my first three years of college (usually taking anywhere from 19 to 22 hours) so that I could goof off my senior year, when I took classes like backpacking, psychology of dreams, ceramics, and French culture.
  4. I've always wanted to be a writer, but when I was a kid I also wanted to be a professional skateboarder.  I used to watch the X-Games religiously, but I got discouraged by the scarcity of female skaters and decided to give up my skateboarding dreams.
  5. I'm a certified small craft sailor, and the first time I ever went out on my own I ran into a speedboat because I tacked too late. 
So that's my five!  Which is the truth, and which are the fictions?  Feel free to guess in the comments below.

Now for the five bloggers I love enough to inflict bestow with this award.  Don't worry, ladies; it isn't a chain letter.  If you decide not to do it, no one is going to die, you won't be cursed with seven years bad luck, and it won't rain everyday for the next two weeks.  (At least I hope not.)  Instead, at the very least, a few more people will read your words and hopefully be as inspired by you as I am.  So without further ado, here they are:
  1. Werecows:  A humorous blog on life as a college student by the awesomely talented Carolyn Kate.  When I taught junior high and high school at Edgewood, my favorite class was my seventh period creative writing students.  In the five years I have been at Auburn, my favorite class has hands-down been my Spring 2010 World Lit II class.  CK was in both of these classes.  Coincidence?  I think not. 
  2. Yucababy:  Multi-talented poet/short story writer/novelist and professor Chantel Acevedo muses on books, writing, publishing, and family.
  3. Reading Writing Rachel:  Fabulous YA author Rachel Hawkins delivers humor and insight into the writing/publishing world.  Her second novel, Demonglass, the sequel to last year's Hex Hall, will be out in two weeks.
  4. A Century of Nerve:  Superwoman, poet, and feline companion Emma Bolden blogs on writing, teaching, and life in the arctic north Kentucky.  She's also re-introducing America to poetry, one Yawp at a time, through her public poetry project
  5. American Puzzle:  Professor, scholar, and photographer Amanda Morris discusses pedagogy, politics, and rhetoric on this intelligent, thought-provoking blog.
Tomorrow I'll post again to sort the truth from the lies.  Until then, I hope you enjoy reading these other blogs as much as I do.


"The west is a knot of thundershowers"

Friday, February 4, 2011

It's been raining here all week, and while I normally enjoy the rain, I've officially had enough. With the rain came the cold, the kind of cold that seeps down into my bones and makes it near impossible to get warm, no matter how many cups of coffee or hot chocolate I drink. Despite the fact that all I've wanted to do today is curl up under my down comforter and take a nap, I made myself a vanilla macchiato, sat down at my desk, and forced myself to read and work on my prospectus instead. I read a few chapters of some important critical books this morning and wrote a solid page and a half of my prospectus, which doesn't sound like a lot, but when you consider that before this morning I had written nothing, a page and a half feels pretty good.

As a reward for actually making progress toward my three page goal for the weekend, I got to read Meena Alexander's book of poetry Quickly Changing River this afternoon. I happened upon the book when I was wandering through the stacks at the library the other day, and I decided to give Alexander's poetry a try because I loved her novel Nampally Road so much.  At barely a hundred pages, Nampally Road packs a mean punch.  Alexander's prose is lyrical and poetic and full of haunting lines and images, such as when a despotic ruler constructs a cardboard city that goes up in flames, or this recurring image she borrows from Indian philosopher Nagarjuna: "If fire is lit in water, who can extinguish it?"  These lines and images resonate all the more in the wake of what is happening in Egypt.  The fire has certainly been lit there, in a way that is both exciting and terrifying.  

Like her prose, Alexander's poetry, which moves effortlessly across time and place, has much to say about love and death and youth and memory--but especially war. In particular, these lines, although written about a different place and different circumstances, spoke to me this afternoon:

The west is a knot of thundershowers,
The east, a nest of small-scale fires.

On terraces covered with roses
Instead of honeybees, bullets swarm.

Alexander's writing is full of this sort of juxtaposition between beauty and destruction.  Her writing is elegant yet raw, never shying away from the unpleasant realities of revolution and war, never ceasing to give a voice to the disenfranchised, such as in this poem, "He Speaks: A Former Slave from Southern Sudan":

Hands were cut off, arms too,
as punishment for flight. Legs too.
For not cleaning the camels, for letting the horses loose.

Yes, I prayed to God.
God have mercy I prayed inside my soul
(the soul is a very silent place).

I had gone to sell beans my mother gave me,
eggs too, in the market in Nymlal,
a friend was with me,

twelve years old, tall as a reed.
He piped up when the raiders trapped us both,
they cut him in the throat.


A boy of seven, I saw this with my own eyes
and now I shut my eyes.
I want to see no more.

Her poetry is not always so heart-breaking--she writes just as fluidly, just as beautifully about trips to Monet's "water garden" in Giverny and Venice's "floating portals" as she does about a girl who writes with her elbows because her hands have been cut off--and her poetry is almost always hopeful, but today, in the wake of attacks against journalists, museums being looted and gardens set ablaze, and riots in Tahrir Square, it was her haunting images of violence that spoke to me.


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