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How to write a poem

Believe it or not, I googled that today.  Just to see what I would get.  Not surprisingly, I got plenty of stuff.  (If you have a question for Google, you can bet that enough other people had it before you, and that they’ve boosted the rankings for a bunch of answers to it.) But surprisingly, some of this stuff was good -- in that serendipitous, not-exactly-what-i-need-right-now (because what I need right now is to disconnect myself from the Internet and Just Plain Write), lovely and precious way.

The number one search result for the words "How to write a poem" is of course, a wikiHow article titled "How to write a poem" (11 steps, with pictures -- whoa!).  The article itself is as lame as you’d expect (do they have "How to dance like no one is watching" and "How to enjoy a quiet afternoon" too? I am both tempted and afraid to look...) -- you start out by finding "a spark" and then you "Read and listen to poetry." (And yes, that counts as, err, *one* step...) At one point, you’re advised to use a "computer spreadsheet such as OpenOffice.org Calc, [which] is very efficient for rearranging words and checking rhythm through columns’ alignment.  Put one syllable in each cell.  You can transfer the text to a word processor for fancier printing when you’re done." Argh.

So where is that lovely and precious bit? Right at the end, someone with half a clue has embedded a video of Billy Collins (alright so maybe it was someone with way more than half a clue), called "The Use of Language in Poetry."



I love when he says, "that person loves soap."

By the way.  If you weren’t at the Roman Forum this past June to hear him read it (thank goodness for you, Carlos), then this, is "Questions About Angels."


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Belvedere, Orte]
[mercoledì 26 settembre 2012 ore 10:15:08] []

The uses of fiction

For the first week of class, we had to read Alice Munro’s "Fiction" (from Too Much Happiness: Stories, and/or from the August 2007 issue of Harper’s).  I hadn’t noticed it much back when I’d first read it -- and everything else in Too Much Happiness -- a couple of years ago.  On a second reading (for class), I could see how it was pretty interesting, the way she makes the story work.  Then, during a class discussion, Tessa talked about how it felt like a set of Russian dolls to her -- the way the stories seem to be nested inside each other, unlocking one by one through time and place.  So I read it again, and again.  And then I read some other stuff about Alice Munro and what she thinks of stories.  I liked these bits:

From the a review in the New York Times:

In the introduction to her 1996 volume of "Selected Stories," Munro reveals an endearing idiosyncrasy: "I don’t always, or even usually, read stories from beginning to end.  I start anywhere and proceed in either direction." She goes on to explain that she doesn’t read in order to find out what happens so much as to experience the world of the story, to inhabit it for a while, "wandering back and forth" in it, discovering the ways it alters her perspective.  This Alice-in-Wonderland propensity, this inclination to regard fiction as a dynamic creation and the reader as a mutable participant, may provide a key to reading Munro.  More than that, it suggests something provocative about the uses of fiction, about its moral purpose as well as its potential to have an impact on our lives.

From a review at Powell’s:

"A story is not like a road to follow," Munro originally wrote in an essay for a friend, then subsumed into the introduction to her Selected Stories, published in 1996, "...it’s more like a house.  You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows."

And, on a not-quite-related note, a review by John T Marohn:

Except for the last story, there isn’t a narrative in this collection that doesn’t open up so many of the wounds of just being alive.

So, not-quite-related to the thing she has of treating a story like a house you walk into, and explore, not-necessarily-sequentially and not-necessarily-all-of-it.

But rather to that other thing, about what good fiction can do.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Belvedere, Orte]
[giovedì 20 settembre 2012 ore 09:38:08] []

on trying

the trouble is there are too many tools.  there are too many ways in which you can write, too many templates, too many content management systems, too many open sources and too many gnu public licenses.

there are too many books -- on writing, on reading, on everything you know and on everything -- more than everything even -- you don’t.

too many moments when the cat looks perfect on the window sill, in her green collar by the green basil, with the green hillside behind her.  too many moments when the day stretches out so luxuriously you cannot stop splashing around in the feeling, and too many other moments when you realize it has passed that point, that if you haven’t started something amazing by now, then this is not the day from which something amazing will come.

too many moments when you notice a piece of lint on your shirt, a blotch on your soul, a person you have still not said sorry to.

i wish i could just write.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Belvedere, Orte]
[giovedì 13 settembre 2012 ore 09:55:08] []

Again

Last year I quoted Colum McCann.  But I didn’t quote this.

The sky would always be this shade of blue.  The towers had come down the day before.  Third Avenue on the Upper East Side was a flutter of missing faces, the posters taped to the mailboxes, plastered on windows, flapping against the light poles: "Looking for Derek Sword"; "Have You Seen This Person?"; "Matt Heard: Worked for Morgan Stanley." The streets were quieter than usual.  The ash fell, as ash will.

Everything felt honed down to the necessary, except for one woman who sat alone at an outdoor table in a restaurant on Seventy-fourth Street.  She had just ordered a piece of chocolate cake.  It arrived in front of her, and the waiter spun away.  A slice of two-layer cake.  Dark chocolate.  A nipple of cream dolloped on top.  A sprinkling of dark powder.  The woman was elegant, fiftyish, beautiful.  She touched the edge of the plate, brought it toward her.

At any other time, it would have been just a piece of cake, a collision of cocoa and flour and eggs.  But so much of what the city was about had just been levelled--not just the towers but a sense of the city itself, the desire, the greed, the appetite, the unrelenting pursuit of the present.  The woman unrolled a fork from a paper napkin, held it at her mouth, tapping the tines against her teeth.  She ran the fork, then, through the powder, addressing the cake, scribbling her intent.

Our job is to be epic and tiny, both.  Three thousand lives in New York had just disintegrated into the air.  Nobody could have known it for certain then, but hundreds of thousand of lives would hang in the balance—in Baghdad, Kabul, London, Madrid, Basra.  The ordinary shoves up against the monumental.


Go read it.  Get to the line about enmity and loss.  Get to the line about not needing anniversaries.

Go read it.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Belvedere, Orte]
[martedì 11 settembre 2012 ore 10:18:08] []

Channeling Marcus

A question: When someone says something to you out of a lack of understanding of your life, or simply out of a lack of grace and social intelligence on their part, why must you let it get to you?

A (potential) answer: Because you just cooked them a f*cking fantastic lunch, that’s why.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Belvedere, Orte]
[sabato 08 settembre 2012 ore 12:25:08] []

A very stubborn kind of flexibility

When YOU email ME, to say you’d like to meet up and when would be good, and I email you back with a (very limited, very fussy) set of days and times, and I SPECIFICALLY SAY that any of those very specific days and times would work for me, DON’T muthaf*cking email me back to say all of those are fine for you and that I should pick what works for me.  Because you know what?

I feel like that’s exactly what I JUST DID.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Belvedere, Orte]
[martedì 04 settembre 2012 ore 18:29:08] []