...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sonny Rollins

Saxophone Colossus (1956)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Assignment 3: Narrative Poem

When we got the car back

When we got the car back the stereo worked.
It could play an ipod and CDs, and the radio
of course. We lost the cassette deck. When the
Wherehouse and Tower began to close, I picked up
cassettes, priced 99 cents, by Billie Holiday,
Hank Williams, Bruce Springsteen, The Bangles,
Cheap Trick, the Beach Boys. A friend, as we walked  
from Tower to the Side Street Café, said,
“The Beach Boys’ Party? You crack me up.”
The café was run by a single mother
and her daughters. I found them alluring.
We met some other friends there.
I ordered eggs and toast and some sort of breakfast meat.
The hashbrowns had peppers, at that time too much
for my weak palate. I used ketchup.
I still break out Party!, its pastiche of “Little Deuce Coupe”
proof the Boys could be funny, its fake jubilation
no match for forgotten words, obvious pleasure,
and drawn-out ending of “Barbara Ann.”
I would break it out, but the cassette player…
My younger son’s dazzled by the new deck's 
ever-changing lights. He says he wishes it played tapes.
He’s a curious soul, a lover of remnants.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Proverbs 24:11-12

Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
    hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.

If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
    and will he not requite man according to his work?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The band I sometimes play in...

...has updated its soundcloud playlist. The songs are old but made with love.

Marie Howe

"The Gate"

James Baldwin

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Black Snow

I really wish I could use The Awl's tag "We're All Gonna Die" for news like this.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tavis Smiley

"I am not an optimist. I am a prisoner of hope."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Assignment 2: Scene Poem

In twelve lines or fewer, present a scene using concrete detail. Avoid action.

In the Channel

The water is like the blue of the flag, opaque 
And shifting in tone as wind confronts 
Its integrity. The sky the water lines against 
Is paler than it is above our heads, where it domes up 
Into a uniform blue, lighter still than what
We rock on in our boat. At  2 O’Clock,
A golden paddy of kelp. A white blur
The size of a stop sign circles beneath it.
The water’s not opaque after all, but translucent.
The sunfish below is joined by another, and another,
And three more besides. I ready my mask.
The engine is cut, the ocean assumes its voice.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What is it with this country and war?

Assignment Two: "Multiple Image" poem

Using "image" in a simple sense, that of words pointing to concrete referents, the students are to present two to three images, in twelve or fewer lines, and let the juxtaposition of the images do the talking. If they must offer an explicit interpretation, they can use the title for it. Here's the one I made this time:

Afternoon Homework

On the table an open book and glass
of half-drunk juice, pencil
in the crack of the book’s spine,
closed notebook next to the glass.

Color retreats from the window,
the tree’s bark it frames gray already,
street and curb and cars just past it,
visible homes, pale green leaves.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

First the bad news

--CO2 levels are rising at a faster rate than expected, and the oceans' and forests' capacity for absorbing it is shrinking.

But, hey, look! iPhone 6!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Assignment "Zero": Haiku

The first poetry assignment of the semester, hackneyed though it may be, is to have students write haiku. We look at samples in English, we talk about the form's history and variations, and, as is often the case, I participate in the assignment by making some of my own. Here's a just-before-class job:

     Last day of summer:
 The cove is full of flesh, exposed
     To sun and salt air.

I wrote this on the board, and I explained how a small change in a poem can have a large effect:

     Last day of summer:
 The cove is full of flesh, offered
     To sun and salt air.

"Offered" sounds less voyeuristic to my ear than "exposed," but "offered" also suggests interpretation. Since "[haiku] do not present subjective interpretations such as how you feel about these things," I tried again:

      Last day of summer:
 The cove is full of flesh, disclosed
     To sun and salt air.

Next, we changed the line order:

     The cove is full of
Flesh, disclosed to sun and salt air--
     Last day of summer.

The students and I agreed this is better, even if the lineation gets mucked up. Having "Last day of summer" first, followed by a colon, is too definitional, declarative of what the last day of summer is, for everyone. The point of the poem is the image; the fact that it happens on the last day of summer is incidental, even as the nod toward the time of year is essential to haiku. Still, a cove full of flesh, especially as I re-type it in this post, feels unintentionally (and comically) gruesome. Maybe something less pleased with itself:

     In the cove, swimmers
Bathe under sun and salt air--
     Last day of summer. 

Too many S's. How about this:

     In the cove, swimmers
Bathe under sun and salt air--
     Last day of July.

I like the contrast in sound of the last word, though the poem's meaning (of course) is changed. This could go on and on.  

Essential Viewing

102 Minutes that Changed America

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Words: Vexed, Beautiful

from the Merriam-Webster definition of discursive:
a :  moving from topic to topic without order :  rambling
b :  proceeding coherently from topic to topic