See You Later, Beautiful.

This morning I woke up to a comment that I took the wrong way from someone I have learned to trust and appreciate in this blogging community.  Lately, I’ve been in a book slump and haven’t read anything that I absolutely love.  Today, I spent the day at the NC Lit Festival, listening to artists like Karen Joy Fowler, Megan Mayhew Bergman, Kim Church, Jill McCorkle and others.

This has all led me to this moment right here.  I thought it only fitting that I do this from the toilet (although I’m not using it…we won’t go that meta).

I have decided to take a break from my blog, after four years, and getting to know so many countless, beautiful, engaging, intellectual, inspiring people through this platform and this small corner of the internet that I can call my own.  I was crying in the car just thinking about how much these last four years has meant to me and how scared I am in the next step of my writing journey.  I don’t want to be a bitter blogger who can’t find any books she loves, and becomes that critic that everyone hates, and I don’t ever want to not try to write something on my own that’s independent of this, although I am scared TO DEATH.  Literally, this might be the scariest moment of my life.  I have put all my creative energies, and really, creative dignity into this blog and it has become something that is beyond me and brings me the most pleasure.  I look forward to talking to this community every week and I hope that you all are finding the same relevance, and the same inspiration from me, and this blogging world.  In order for me to sit down and write something that isn’t a blog, I have to give this up for a while.  I’m a heartbroken a little bit, thus the tears in the car ride home and the way I avoided talking to my father downstairs and instead ran up the stairs to write this blog.

I just want you all to know that I love you.  I am still on this journey with you and this is not goodbye, but see you later because I will blog ever so often (I still owe a few publishers a review) and I still want to keep in contact with every lovely person that I’ve met through this.  I’m glad you guys have stuck it out with me for four years through my neurotic, eccentric, insecure and overly excited personality.  I am no perfect creature, but I want to go off and try to write the most perfect book that only I can write.  And let me reiterate, I am scared beyond anything I’ve ever been scared of.  I have cried off and on for about two hours now.  It may be the Port City Java jitters, or it may just be that I know how hard the next step is going to me.

I need to thank the first novel panel at NC Lit Fest for really inspiring me to take this next step.  I also need to thank all of you for all the compliments and the stories and the conversation throughout these four years.  I want to keep talking to you. I’m a great letter writer and I respond to emails eventually…..sometimes, I suck more at that.  My email is clmannes@gmail.com.  If you want to keep our conversations going, feel free to email me.

I hope I can understand why I’m doing this when I am in the writing process and I hope you can understand why I can’t blog and write something at the same time.  I’m trying to give my full dedication to some work that will be produced in the future, who knows what.   If I didn’t write this post right now, I might not have.  So, this is quick, but thank you, I love you, and see you later.


Favorite Poetry Exercises for Teenagers and Those Who Are Still Teens At Heart

Sometimes the only way to get a highschooler to like poetry is by showing them people who do it dramatically really well (slam poems) or Tupac, who put poems to music, or for that matter, any lyrical, or rap artist, arguably any musician (except maybe Ke$ha).  That’s not always the way I do it.  All I hear when I break out that first poem, because it is definitely a break, and not a nudge, or an “approach” to poetry, is squawking.  I break my students in like those good shoes you’ve had forever and your dad accidentally bleached one time in the wash.

Poetry is one of those times I like the static in my classroom, when I can actually feel the buzzing of their lips on the beats, or the clicks as they tap their pencil along each syllable because the best answer to this ADHD dilemma we have in schools, is poetry.  Memory, rhythm & blues, permeable words, the answers to life tough questions.  If I don’t open poetry with a slam poem, I open it with an exercise.  I make them write the first one.  I teach them that the stanza is the paragraph of the poem, the picket fence, the razor wire, the metal gate that they have to push open to find their way out into the next stanza.  Gosh, even explaining poetry is a metaphor.

I don’t care if they start the year saying, “I hate poems,” or “I just don’t get poems,” as long as once in that year, some line has caused a tightness in their chest, or some confusion of something they thought they held firmly in the palm of their hand, stray specks of dirt that fall out when they’ve broken it open, gather somewhere as a wet pebble in their mind. These are some of my favorite ways to sift the dirt.  I don’t need 97 poetry lovers, I need 97 unique individuals who can think for themselves, create something for themselves, or are just able to rake dirt, and plant flowers.

Here are a few of my favorite exercises, please use these at home.

Jamaica Kincaid @ Community Bookstore

1. If I know they’re going to read a poem, I give them 15 words from that poem and ask them to try to find some thematic way to structure these words together in a set number of stanzas, or lines.  If they can’t connect them together to find some theme, I just go for tone.  Then they create their own poem using that theme, tone, or a way to make the words rhythmically work (this is for my future rappers). My favorite poems to do this one with is “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid (touted as fiction in the NY Times, but we all know that’s poetry) and “Exile” by Julia Alvarez.

Here are the word lists in case anyone wants to write a poem:

“Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid list:

  1. clothesline
  2. slut
  3. bent
  4. crease
  5. flies
  6. throw
  7. away
  8. fall
  9. always
  10. behave
  11. girl
  12. sweep
  13. wash
  14. someone
  15. button

“Exile” by Julia Alvarez

  1. highway
  2. deep
  3. knew
  4. wrong
  5. curfew
  6. worried
  7. fled
  8. frantically
  9. America
  10. visitors
  11. respect
  12. father
  13. stay
  14. Ford
  15. sisters

We Heart It @ Tumblr

2.  Hanging Fire by Audre Lorde: This poem just kicks teenage poetry haters’ butts.  I might have one kid in my class every year who doesn’t connect with this poem and that’s because that kid is actively trying not to connect with life. It’s about a fourteen year old girl who just has no side.  She is a conglomeration of everything around her.  I have my students read this poem and then write one of their own versions.  What betrays you? What does no one think about you? Who defends you and who doesn’t? Who cares the most about you?  Where are you neglected and where are you praised? What is unfair and unjustified? If there’s anything that teenagers want to do, it’s argue about their own life.

3. Golden Description Chart (THANK YOU, 826 National & McSweeney’s)

#obsessed (HASHTAG OBSESSED) The Eggers version is in the link, but I make my students create a chart, and we usually do this chart within the first week because I want them to start thinking about senses, which leads to imagery.

Chart looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 10.00.24 PM

 

After the chart, I tell them to give me a golden description of their favorite place.  They have to use all the senses to describe the place and I tell them I want to feel like I’m there if I close my eyes and someone reads this to me.  Then, I actually have people close their eyes and a student reads about their favorite place.  The person with the closed eyes tells the reader what they could best feel/see/hear/smell/taste and what they had a hard time feeling/seeing/hearing/smelling/tasting.

This is the best part though, I make them then write a dialogue between the smelly old person (who has become blind in a matter of seconds) and they have to explain their favorite place to the older, blind, smelly person.  This is fun because they have to use so much creativity.  They have to give detailed descriptions to someone, while using correct characterization of themselves (and how they talk), but also how an old person might question things.  My favorite example is that one of my students has a Chief Keef poster in their room.  They had to then describe Chief Keef to the older person because the older person didn’t know who that was.  It’s very interesting to see what you get, but I think this is one of those beginning poetry stages that you have to do because imagery is a killer in poetry.

 

Image @ TaylorTailers

4. McSweeney’s Poetry Prompts That Don’t Suck aren’t half bad either…

(Trees and shit ALWAYS hooks my students).  Don’t worry, I got permission to cuss in the poetry parts of my classroom. Speaking of cussing…

5. Twitter Poems

Twitter poems are like technological found poems.  For the first time, I just have my students get on their Twitter feed and write down ten random tweets.  Then, they can only use these words in their poem.

I step it up when I want them to write a poem with a specific theme and I send them on the hunt to find tweets that will help them develop something around that theme.

I step it up again when I just ask them to write a poem that relates to the novel, short story, or informational text that we’re studying and then write me a few paragraphs on how the two live simultaneously in a one bedroom apartment.  What is their relationship, are they married and bitter, are they deeply in love but not allowed to seal the deal, are they sister and brother.  Tell me the connection. OU, KILLED ‘EM.

6. Historical Poems: For this students have to research the historical time periods and characteristics of their chosen characters before they can write a poem.  Then, they write in the voice of that person.  I had a kid once write as Ted Bundy and it might have been the creepiest thing I’ve ever read.

*Write as someone who was beheaded

*Write as a person who died on the Titanic

*Write as an Egyptian Pharaoh

*Write as a woman during the Salem Witch Trials

*Write as a founder of our country, or a dead president

*Write as a school shooter (this one makes me really sad, but it really puts their ideas of school security out there)

*Write as a soldier in a war of your choice

*Write as a Disney Princess

*Write as a gang member

*Write as a famous musician

*Write as a hippie (or a protestor of some sort)

*Write as female leader before the 20th century

*Write as someone just before they experienced Pompeii

*Write as someone from The Bible, or another famous work.

There are too many choices, seriously.  I just love the research aspect of this prompt and the fact that students get so into giving me the true voices of their characters.

Mona Lisa @ NPR

7. Paintings: In this prompt, students have to research famous paintings (or graffiti) and tell the story behind the paintings in poem form.  What is the true story of how this came to life.  I had a student write about the Mona Lisa (just for your information, Mona, was a blocked search term on google on my school’s internet) and he wrote about how everything in the painting points toward her cleavage (the river in the background, etc) and how, therefore, it must have been her lover who painted her Mona Lisa smile.  Only a junior male would come up with that one.

8. Broadsides: Students just take a line, section, or whole poem and create a visual display of the poem.  I haven’t actually done this one in my classroom, but I’ve watched a veteran teacher’s poetry cafe using broadsides and it was unbelievable.

9. Neruda Odes/Neruda Questions

For Neruda’s Odes, students will study an Ode by Neruda and see how he twists language to do how he pleases ,and then they write an Ode to something.  There’s obviously more effort done in the analyzing stage of this, but the Odes to things are always interesting.  I had a student write an Ode to his brand new oxfords at the beginning of a class, and then at the end an Ode to his dirty ass shoes.  See, poetry, makes you see the dirt.

*NOTE: When we read Odes, I have students just randomly read a line and then the next student who feels summoned to read reads the next line until the poem is finished.  If more than one student starts reading a line they continue, like a kind of chorus.  By the end, they’re all reading every line.  It’s pretty fantastic.

Sample Odes:

Neruda Questions is a little more difficult.  Neruda had a sort of series called The Book of Questions.  They’re really unanswerable questions about the human experience.  I like them because it takes my students a while to come up with a question.  I love, “Tell me, is the rose naked or is that her only dress?”  Students can come up with some really wonderful questions.  Then, some genius wrote a book called Talking to Neruda’s Questions and I showed them some of his responses to Neruda’s thoughtful questions.  So, after they’ve written questions, I have the groups switch questions and they have to answer the questions poetically.  This would be so much fun if we had poetry clubs like we have book clubs.

T.S. Eliot @ Tumblr

10. OTHER SOURCES:


Why Write in a “Preachy Tone” When You Could Just Write A Memoir?

“What, I wonder, are the social consequences of life in a country that has no use for history?” (Cole 97).

Photography by Teju Cole

Anytime we read something my students have questions.  Yesterday, they questioned me about the reason they can’t stand up and yell something in class because of the first amendment that we had just gone over.  What do Facebook comments have to do with free speech.  Why is it that the school can have a Christmas tree if the idea of the Christmas tree comes somehow from Christ and we have separation of church and state.  Sometimes I have answers, and sometimes I have to send them out into the world to discover the answers for themselves because I still don’t have them yet.  Some, I’m not sure I ever will.

Teaching literature through the historical context is one of my favorite things to do in my class.  I’m teaching Of Mice and Men through the historical context of the Great Depression with connections to immigrantion (not that Lennie and George are immigrants, but migrant workers and immigrants have great ties in my student’s knowledge of what is an immigrant today.  In their eyes, and the eyes of many southerners I would think, – immigrants living in the ride along mower state of North Carolina are picked up by farmers at Lowes Hardware, paid under the table, and can be kicked off the truck if they complain.  My students are also from a very high poverty county, they understand not planning for the future when you only have enough for today.  The American Dream themes of migrant workers and immigrants are very similar to the way my students see success and their own goals and dreams.

I’m getting off track though.

Every Day is for The Thief by Teju Cole

One of the biggest things I like to teach my students is that you can only in very few cases teach history through race.  Right now, in a school that is truly the mosaic that America is, they are very in tune to the racial barriers set before them and around them.  They simultaneously try to break these barriers and keep them up, when it’s convenient or they’re pushed.  However, history is not viewed through the lens of race.  There is no collective “white history.”  We couldn’t teach “white history” if we wanted to.  Someone would always be an outlier.  There is no collective “black history.”  There is no story that fits all the people that were born with and without pigment.

It is difficult for my students to grasp this because they want to put all their eggs  in the African American history basket.  This history is and is still not quite grasping the total history although it is getting closer to history as geographical which is how we study it today.  The label “African American History Museum” (opening in July of 2015 in Washington DC) not only furthers the barriers between our collective American history, but it eliminates the idea that people should understand and acknowledge all of their mixed histories, American, African, Dominican Republic, Mexican, Puerto Rican, European (and that’s a butt load of histories in itself), Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Native American by tribe, etc.  I understand this is how history labels us, there must be a label for every questionnaire, every time someone asks, “So, where are you from?” some sort of answer.

Teju Cole @ NY Observer

It’s a complicated spectrum, made even more complicated by Teju Cole’s new book, Every Day is for the Thief.  In his book, which is more diary travelogue of life in Nigeria then it is fictional story (in fact there’s not much story at all other than the story of escape, or the story of corruption), Cole paints a picture of Nigeria that would cause Italian trained pickpockets to avoid the place.  Now I’m no expert on Nigeria, in fact, my knowledge of Nigeria is very limited, but the unveiling in this book, even fiction, made me disappointed.

I don’t care what anyone says, when there’s a work of fiction about a specific country, people still believe there’s truth in bits of the fiction even when they’re told otherwise.  My best friend Seth stayed on the Southern coast of Africa (where I’m not sure anymore) for a summer and he lived in a house where he had to barricade his host family into their section of the house and then barricade himself in the other section so that if thieves did target that house, they would only be able to get through to the kitchen and all else was guarded by metal latch and key.

Nigeria @ Global Education Center

This is the Nigeria that Cole writes about.

Police stand guard on roundabouts looking for reasons to stop motorists and be bribed from taking them in.  Teenage purse snatchers are burned alive in the market place.  Everyone is out for that extra dollar.  Gangs both serve the government and are killed in rounds by the government.  The face of Nigeria is a smile with a Jafar (Aladdin reference) rubbing his chin hair evilly behind it.  How can they make the fastest dime.  How can they swindle and sell.  What words do they put in the subject of an email to get someone’s uncle to wire money.  How much do the corruption signs cost that will never be looked in the eye.  This Nigeria is terrifying.  The people are no better, and around every corner is a thief who is serving a higher thief until the chain of command meets a man with fat pockets at the top with no need of the starving children snatching purses in the market.  Lose a finger in the third world, burned alive in a car tire in Nigeria.

Nigerian Woman @ BBC World Service

I can tell as I write this that I was moved while reading the book, but only due to subject matter, not due to voice, plot structure, or writing style.  Cole did not let the reader in.  Everything was at a distance.  This is a book about a man that walked around a country he knew he was allowed to leave and looked at the people who were not and wrote down his observations.  I could go to a mall and write this story. I couldn’t photograph the moving black and white pictures that close out chapters, but I could people-watch in order to find the lack of sincerity in the faces of everyday American people, the same way Cole put out a book judging the country where he was raised with a facade of fiction attached by a colon to the title.

This is no redemption story for Nigeria.  If this is the truth, it baffles me that this book has been out in Africa since 2007 and is just now reaching the US.  Wouldn’t a US citizen who likes to think of Africa as a hot bet of mischief be more inclined to read a book that proves it so, rather than a literate Nigeria who is facing his country everyday with hope at a new type of freedom. If the people of Nigeria are shopping at bookstores where the collection of King James is the most sought section, why would they choose to read about the scarred face of their own country.  This is the perception of a New Yorker, sizzling with his idea of what a good museum should hold only to find the ones in his home of Lagos are bad replicas of state visitor’s centers on the way through Virginia.  That’s what this book was, the way through, in all ways.

Lagos, Nigeria @ NY TIMES

It was the way this man’s life took him through to a new world where everything glimmers (like we have no corruption in America or something).

It was the way through Nigeria in the eyes of a person who obviously is no longer attached to the people, the sights, or the ways of life.

It was the way through a market, a public transport station, a town without running water, a police barricaded roundabout.

It was the way through (and a cop out) to not writing a beautiful memoir that actually gripped the reader’s t-shirt at their chest and made them look at the non-bloody massacre that Nigeria has become. If you’re going to bash the country you were raised, do it through the truth, not through something masked as fiction and put on shelves for Americans to believe even though that dirty f-word is on the front.

Nigeria Guide @ National Geographic

If you’re going to teach me some history, teach it without guise, and without the informative tone of a textbook.  Tell me a story.  Make me curl up on the outside of your voice with my crossed legs and just listen.  History is after all just the story we tell ourselves, no matter what we label it or how that label defines us.  Maybe next year, I’ll get to teach history through the perspective of all the losers, and I’ll try to include Nigeria in that list since Teju Cole made it abundantly clear that this country of flaws and humanity has very few redeeming qualities.  Let me clear that I am not upset that there might be some truth about Nigeria in this book, I am upset that it was sold to me as fiction and not as truth if that’s the case. I am upset that this collection will define how Americans see Nigeria if it is all the discovery we try to make.  This truly makes me want to go interview the people myself and pass down their stories.

 


SPINE IPOETRA

Introducing: SPINE IPOETRA: a mini-series of free verse.

The Process

The Process

This process involves various books from my shelf (I’m sure my father is having a canniption just looking at this photo), one smelly cat named after Cheese, and this awful mauve carpeting that the previous owner put in and I can only reconcile by vacuuming obsessively.  I warn you: do not do this at home.  Especially, the smelly cat.

Now, without adieu, the series.  Keep in mind, this is a very professional series, meant to only be captured in some NYC gallery where they space each picture out seven feet and ask you to peer very closely at the minute details in order to get the full effect.  You are getting a sneak peek on this blog. This involves politely mumbling to the people who are already hovered around the picture so that you can squeeze through and get this fuller image.  However, this is not like a concert where you shove your way in and hope the artist falls into your open arms from some stage.  The artist, myself, is inevitably walking around holding a martini class, wearing respectable glasses without prescription, and smart shoes (loafers of some sort).  Do not worry about those stains on my pants, those came during creation.

Scene #1: Ode to Richard Wright’s Childhood

image 2

 

Black Boy/ Where Are You Going/ Where Have You Been? / Saving Fish / from Drowning / Virgin Soul

Scene #2: Water Birth

image

This Close / After / Floating in My Mother’s Palm / Becoming Me / The Lucky One

Scene #3: “The slut you are so bent on becoming” – Jamaica Kincaid

image 11

Lust & Other Stories / Hotel Of The Saints / One Secret Thing / speak / Roar Softly (and carry a great lipstick)

That one had an e.e. vibe.

Scene #4: Southern Gal

image 9

What Makes Us Southern/ Three Cups of Tea / Mississippi / The Same Sweet Girls / Unruly Women / Woman Hollering Creek / Switch Bitch

Scene #5: Adolescents 

image 7

The First Days of School / Blonde / Having a Lovely Time/ Looking Around / Writing Down The Bones / Drinking The Rain

Scene #6: Memories Before Death

image 6

Speak, Memory / bird by bird / Or Give Me Death

Scene #7: War

 

image 5

The Things They Carried / INTO THE WILD / the Language of Flowers / THE THIRD ANGEL / The Autobiography of My Mother / V.o.i.c.e.s FROM THE MOON/ A Lesson Before Dying/ Surrender

Scene #8: Catholic School Girl (For my mom and her endless lectures.  There will be no last because I will continue on this tradition). 

image 4

My Education / The Catholic Girl’s Guide to Sex / The Language of LOVE / The LAST LECTURE

Scene #9: Drowning in my own body (for my grandmother)

image 3

We, THE DROWNED / The Darlings / the grandmothers / little beauties / On Borrowed Wings

Scene #10: The Odyssey As Told By Women

image 15

Moo/ Monstress

Now it’s your turn: Create your own spine poetry for National Poetry Month and link back to my blog and I will share it at the bottom of this post.  CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES, COME ON!


Favorite Poetry Apps

Apps For THAT PHONE

Apps For THAT PHONE

I know the world is very concerned with selfies at the moment, especially group selfies because, are selfies really selfies if you have more than one person in the selfie.  (Real world question). Then, it’s not really your true self is it… because you’re faking it till you make it – with all those friends who don’t really know you read with a flashlight till 12:30 at night on school nights. Whoops.

Since we can’t seem to get away from our phones for even three seconds, or until our next Candy Crush life comes up, here are some apps that would honestly be a better use of your time.

Appoetry. I tried, really.  You can hashtag that. Maybe, Ipoetry, but then Samsung owners would be angry. Really though – Sam sung is a poem.

1. Fridge Poems

This is a free app at the app store and it’s almost brand spankin’ new.  I’m that person that pulls a dining room table chair up to the hosts fridge and moves the words around for probably the entire night.  Why do you have to talk to people, especially at parties where one fourth of the guests are sober and aggravated and the rest are trying to conduct themselves in a manner that we can’t tell their drooling a little bit from alcohol content.  Now, you don’t even have to leave your corner, wallflowers.  You can just download the Fridge Poems app and sit on those chairs that everyone puts up against the wall at their parties. They secretly want you to feel like it’s a high school gym and you’ve found a warm bleacher although that taffeta you chose to wear is still itching the back of your thighs.  You can have coffee so you’re still hyped, and you look like a cool hipster who can drink coffee at night and still celebrate with a slumber party.  Plus, with this app, you can change the color of your fridge, it never has to be cleaned, and any unholy moldy leftovers can stay stocked in the back for even longer. (Instant poetry app does the same thing, but costs $1.99.  With Instant poetry app, you can change the picture behind the poem to one of your own.  It’s almost like a broadside app. I’m just too cheap for all that).

Check me out, guys:

Fridge Poems App

Fridge Poems App

2. Notegraphy (from the creators of OMM Writer)

This isn’t necessarily a poetry app, but I use it to write my favorite quotes and then make myself look like I’m a typography designer on the side of you know, teaching with my hair on fire.  It makes quotes look really awesome. There are a ton of different designs.  If you’re sick of the old school way of highlighting, marking your page with those Post It notes that now come out of the highlighter, or you just want to carry the lines of poetry with you everywhere, this app is perfect.  You can share everything you create on Instagram.  I’m probably that annoying friend that talks about reading all the time on my Instagram and then takes hundreds of pictures of my face and outfits.  If you don’t know which friend of yours is that friend, then your that friend.

HECK YEA, TYPOGRAPHY BOSS.

HECK YEA, TYPOGRAPHY BOSS.

3. Poetry Daily

Poetry Daily is one of my favorite poetry reading apps.  I like it so much because it gives you current, contemporary poetry, not just Shakespeare or Whitman everyday.  Because of this handy dandy app, I discover new up and coming literary magazines, new up and coming poets, and just damn good poems.  It’s also really versatile.  I like narrative poetry, and really disturbing word choice, but this app forces me to branch out and read all types of poems; nature inspired, body inspired, steam of conscious, rhyming, form poetry, etc.  You can also decide if you want alerts on this app to remind you to read some freakin’ poems, people!

4. Poems By Heart (Penguin Classics)

I’m so going to ground my child with this app.  If we aren’t living in test tubes, hooked up to machines when I have children, I mean.  I know, I know, they say you shouldn’t force your child to write as punishment because then they’ll never like writing, but forcing your child to memorize poetry has to have some lovely benefits.  This way, the child can’t get off punishment until they’ve memorized a certain number of poems and performed them with gusto to their parents.  Can you tell I’ve never had children?  Right now, I just have my freshman, who I make sing “I’m a little teapot” if they come in late.  That’s the closest I can get.

Anyway, Poets By Heart is a poetry memorization tool.  It’s like learning spanish in the car sometimes.  You can listen to someone reading it in a male or female voice (that don’t sound like Brenda the GPS in your car) and then tap “Learn this.”  I think you really have to want to impress your friends with Shakespeare to get this app, but hey, I’m doing it, and I’m not crazy.

Poe Dancing

5. Poetreat

You can literally pick a rhyme scheme on this app and the app will remind you to stay within your rhyme scheme.  It’s a little fishy and has a few too many in-app purchases to make it really excellent, but it’s fun to write short little memoirs if you aren’t already addicted to the fridge app.  I like to write my first lines in Poetreat and then take it to the paper for the rest of the poem.  When I first saw this, I just really wished someone would create a Poe Dancing app where you could watch Edgar Allen Poe dance for two hours while you did your lesson plans.  Unfortunately, no one has created that yet.

Princess Porta Potty…because that’s a thing.

6. Portapoet

#hastagbadmarketingname

This is not to be confused with Porta Potty, or Porta Jon.  I know this site says there are bowel movements, but not today, friends.  This is the greeting cards of poetry apps.  You can share your short poems with friends, collaborate with other users, and save your poems within the app.  It does cost money at the app store, so you have to really read those negative reviews before you buy it.  You can read other porta poets on the app in the “browse” section so you don’t have to feel like you’re alone – on the toilet – writing poetry.  Don’t forget to wipe though, you might share something that you regret.

My favorite part, it counts your haiku for you so you’re right on the money when it comes to syllables.  Too bad your theme is not ever “all that.”

I know that these apps have some silly names, a bit are forced and some come with monetary value that you may not have, especially if you’re a poet full time.  Well, really just the traveling potty poems app.  However, ach of these apps has introduced me to new ways to study and write poetry and that’s all we need for National Poetry Month, that sweet introduction.  Then, we’re off.

For your viewing pleasure:

Poe Boy

Poe Searches

I tried teaching this once….

Last one, I promise:

Just wait for my favorite poetry memes day. Oh YES.

 

 


Poems: The Coming Together of Words Without All The Useless Bullshit

It’s NATIONAL POETRY MONTH.

This is cause for celebration.

Poetry Foundation National Poetry Month Posters

Poetry Foundation National Poetry Month Posters

In my exuberance about National Poetry Month let me just explain to you why this is a cause for a giant party, that probably involves a lot of whiskey if we’re going to invite those fiction writers that DON’T stick their heads in ovens, coat themselves in blood from tuberculosis, jump from fifth floor buildings or straight off steamships after being beaten for making homosexual advances at a male crew member (because the world is not always tolerant or accepting), or lock themselves in the car in a two-door garage and die from carbon monoxide poisoning.  Ah, poetry.  What a beautiful blooming thing.

It caused Anais Nin to allow women the opportunity to have flaws, jobs, and multiple partners.  Sylvia Plath successfully compared a man to a Nazi and put real measure behind the phrase, “Off with her head.”  Not only that, but she wrote a poem that remains forefront in my mind when I hear the name “Ariel” instead of that awful Disney movie.  Beware. Out of the ash/ I rise with my red hair/ and eat men like air.  (Sylvia Plath). Billy Collins got named America’s most well known poet, for the seven hundredth time.  Joseph Bathanti convinced locked up criminals to fashion knuckle ink.  The proper study of mankind if man. (Alexander Pope).  Poetry took Dr. Seuss from WWII cartoon artist to Mulberry Street, the Zoo, and Hopping on Pop.  The sidewalk never ended for Shel Silverstein although I didn’t want to play hopscotch anymore after I listened to his adult poetry. Tupac wrote a collection of roses growing from concrete that cause the thorns in my students to wither away. O Romeo, O Romeo, Wherefore Art Thou Romeo (Shakespeare) To this day, everyone is still confused about Shakespeare, and Hamlet doesn’t know whether to be, or not to be.  That really is the question though, isn’t it?

Without poetry, Emily Dickinson would have never gotten out of the attic.  The time has come/ the Walrus said,/ to talk of many things (Lewis Carroll). Zelda Fitzgerald might have actually saved herself from F. Scott.  Robert Frost might have taken the wrong road, and Gertrude Stein would not have any tender buttons, just cloth covered homemade buttons.  Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold (Yeats). Milton wouldn’t have journeyed to hell, so we wouldn’t have either.  What you say, a frozen hell?  Not with a bang but a whimper (Eliot). Doesn’t that just open our minds.  Anis Mojgani wouldn’t have told us to shake the dust, stopping millions of teenagers from slicing their wrists open only to watch them drip.  There would be no petals on a wet black bough. None. Just people on a subway looking forlornly at the lights that alert them to the next coming train.  I would be searching for love in all the wrong places if I didn’t know that men would turn down immortality to be with mortal women, especially ones named Penelope.  That blind seer could tell a good story.

Poor Pablo, no odes.  Those lemons, those old, mismatched socks.  No women like cherry trees. Those odes hanging on my giant peach wall in my classroom made by students, one about their cat, gone.  Middle school love letters would be empty with just those simple boxes asking for simple check marks – no mystery, no guile, no Cummings. I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart). Dinner parties full of white people in smart dresses would have no American dreams if it weren’t for Langston Hughes.  We might not even have jazz, and holy shit, that’s a blessing. I wouldn’t be able to ask Oscar Wilde to my dinner of dead people.  Longfellow would not look cheeky down on me from his above the bookcase post, Cisneros would not teach my students how to write about their homes, themselves, their language that is different from the world because it is their own. Smith wouldn’t have snapped her fingers and TOLD BUSH about his Katrina stain. Sir Walter Raleigh might not have become interested in one of the queen’s ladies in waiting and survived to run his now ranked city instead of losing his head over a woman.  He is a poet though, after all. And Sappho. What history museum would be complete without your sculpted head.

Poetry has given so much to the world.  It is not prose, it is a whole other animal.  Poetry gives voice to the concise, the words you can fit in your pocket that can kill just as easily as the final fight scene in Moby Dick, or that time that George kills Lennie in Of Mice and Men.  People have been trying to make the claim (for years) that poetry is dead, or dying.

See these traitors here:

*Washington Post Blasphemies

*The Daily (wrinkled) Beast

*Salon fought back, thus why they have Megan Mayhew Bergman as a feature writer.

*Flavorwire bringing the spice with a list, as per usual.  They’re the magazine at the grocery store that has to call their editor to figure out which kind of turkey to buy.

It’s very much alive.  Today, I gave my students 15 words from Jamaica Kincaid’s poem, “Girl.”  They claim it’s prose, but let’s be honest here, it’s written in one very complete sentence, only a poet could do that.  The day before yesterday, I gave them 15 words from “Exile,” by Julia Alvarez.  This lead to poems about deception, the country lifestyle of clotheslines and calloused hands, NYC, and the Domincan Republic.  Through poetry, I can show my students the world at large.  How it feels to be lost and how it feels to be found again.  Because somewhere in a stanza, the paragraph of the poem, as I teach it, there is a little white picket fence that speaks only to the things that they want to plant there.  Without metaphors (from epic poems told as stories in arenas) our brains would not work.  Our whole function as people comes from making comparisons.  An apple is an apple because it isn’t an orange.  A friend is a friend because they don’t act like __________.  My heart beats, small pebbles thrown at a window.

When children are learning to read, science has proven that rhyming works the best, especially for learning disabled children.  It is the gateway to vocabulary, to phonemes, and phonics.  Unlike novels, you can collect poems, you can memorize their ticks, where it’s best to pronounce words with deliberation, and where it’s best to shout.  You can own them.  You can take them in your month and bite down.  Poems, those little monsters inside of our head, the words we write on foggy windows, the napkin stories in small diners, the inside jokes, the graffiti artist’s last words, the small print inside our tennis shoes, the beginning of rap music, the way Vietnam passes on storytelling, the coming together of words without all the useless bullshit.

Welcome to National Poetry Month at Books & Bowel Movements, it’s going to be a

a. happy union

b. complete ruin

c. production from a curly-headed human

d. something to make you loosen (your pants)

e. a magic illusion

f. a tiny nuisance

(See, what I did there).

It will be: Poetry everyday. 


Newsday Tuesday

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Favorite Tweets:

(Sorry about the non-picture tweets.  My internet sucks sometimes. Thanks, Time Warner).

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • the man who walked between the towers book literacy: My FAVORITE children’s book to share with my high schoolers.
  • ricardo nuila’s dog bites: Can someone explain to me what this means?
  • short films on petticoat discipline: Is this a weird porn search or do these actually exist as manners classes?
  • spell to make him have a bowel movement while cheating with another woman: HOLY COW.  I’m a little scared of this search.

Book News:


Meta Meta Meta Meta Meta | Metaphor For Identity

140306_DX_BlazingWorld-COVER.jpg.CROP.original-original

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

This book review should really be titled: When the world doesn’t know how to categorize something, they pull out the “meta” and the “feminist” and slide the remote into their back pockets to watch it all unfold.

This might be the weirdest book I’ve ever read.  On reading reviews, it’s been toted as the newest in “feminist literature,” and has been compared to Woolf’s A Room Of One’s Own.  On the other hand, it’s a philosophical diatribe on the underground philosophies of intellectuals hidden because of their own strokes of identity.  That’s what I think this book is about at its core.  Identity.  How we use it to function in everyday society and how we remove it to function with ourselves.  Many bloggers have claimed that this is a work of “meta-fiction” with the novel acting as a work of art that is spoken about within the text.

While I love deep thinking and all that bullshit, is this where fiction is going? I love a layered novel where it takes some critical analysis to really tap in, but I don’t want to dig to China to be able to read something that is supposed to be for pleasure.  I think there is an elite class of fiction readers that will find this book utterly breath-taking.  I was quite taken with it in the beginning, I read almost one-hundred pages in one sitting because I couldn’t sleep one night.  I was fascinated by the cutoff meandering of the novel, there were connections between characters, but then each had their own brief story in Burden’s life.  It sometimes made me wonder how those people on the public transport change your life in the blip of their turning conversation towards you and opening their jacket to pull out a harmonica. (Our free buses are a bit odd in Raleigh and my nephew likes to have deep bus conversation with the army fatigues to his right).

Amazing illustrations by Jari Di Benedetto @ Tumblr

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt is not a book that you can just read for pleasure.  It’s a book that wants to constantly educate you as you read. Not only is it told from the perspective of too many voices including the journals of the main female character, Harriet Burden, but it’s almost a collection of the odd sorts in society thrown together to solve a mystery.  Harriet Burden is a NY Artist who was married to an art collector (that had a gaggle of men and women on the side even though “it has nothing to do with his love for her) and she’s never really achieved any sort of recognition for her art.  She decides to take in the fringe society to a studio hotel that she’s created and make certain men into little puppets in her game.  There are three different men, with three different art shows that are supposedly Harry’s art, but their face.  It’s this idea that women cannot get coverage in the sophisticated and prejudice art world of NYC, so Harry Burden must pull the wolves over the eyes of the high society and show her art under the veil of strange men.

The first man is Anton Tish.  He’s a waif. Completely useless as a character other than being completely unknown to himself.  Harry uses him like a dish rag to dust off the good china.  Then, there’s my personal favorite, Phineus Q. Eldridge.  She finds him in an obscure newspaper when his show is critiqued by the staff.  He performs a one man autobiographical comedy act where he plays both the white man and the black man, one side of him is woman, one man, one side black, one white, and basically blurs the lines of any sort of boundary line that this American society has created.  He’s got the most interesting voice, but unfortunately the reader doesn’t get to spend much time on his interview because we’re always being wisked away by other diaries, other questions, other answers that don’t truly need answering, when the most interesting story is a young boy who cowers under the thrown spiral of a football released from his father’s hands.

Amazing illustrations by Jari Di Benedetto @ Tumblr

Sometimes, I just wish a book could be a book.  We wouldn’t have to go through all this education mumbo jumbo, chutzpah, or shenanigans that make books “great works of literature.”

It’s clear through the many stories, and fictional (yet factual) footnotes, the author wanted to prove how educated she can be.  With a PhD on Dickens (because how uncommon is that) she goes on to write a book that takes an FBI super agent filled to the brim with literary and humanity decor to uncover the true heart of it.  I like to think I’m a pretty smart girl, but there were moments in this book when I just didn’t care enough to go on.  There was no connection to these characters and everything is kept at a safe arm’s length.  I’m sure this is going to be one of those books that is reviewed by the New York Times as avant-garde and brilliant, a sly form of new age literature for the literary feminists, but I just don’t get it.

Great literature causes great empathy.  With this book, all I had was a great headache.

The other problem with this book is that the publishers didn’t care enough to fix their ebook formatting errors before releasing the book for advanced reader’s copies.  There were numbers EVERYWHERE on the page.  They would be placed in the middle of words, in the middle of important sentences, even occasionally where another number should be and the reader is thinking she meant at the age of six, but then the next word is nineteen and we suddenly realize that was a mistaken six.  They always started over at forty and maintained pace throughout the entire novel.  Do you know how hard it is to actively try to skip over numbers that aren’t meant to be there.  I’m FUCKING disappointed in that. If your ebook isn’t legible, don’t put it on the market until it is because you have readers like me that actually want to invest some sort of body part into these novels in order to understand their value.

Image @ Tumblr

I would love to tout this book as something that inspired that fisted feminist that hangs out between my rib cage and just below my throat but other than the plot, nothing in this novel screamed feminist.  The author was obviously well-read, she wears the signature black turtleneck of someone trying to look profound, but also look like they could step into a dark bar and crouch into the fetal position on stage only to bloom into some sort of slam poet.  In these ways, this is feminist literature.  In the way that Harry is shut down until the faces of her art are young men of strangeness. Also, in the way that the final man, Rune, finds ways to squash any chance that she created the art and he was only the basket in which it came in.  He claims she has mental disturbances which we all know is the sure way to put your wife away so she can die in a mysterious fire. (Oops, too Fitzgerald for a second).  This is the claim that men have been making for centuries though, seriously? Here we have Joan of Arc burned at the stake, the Salem Witch Trials – that amusement park of hangings, Sylvia Plath sticking her head in the oven, and women who have served their lives in “rest homes” because their husbands were overburdened with the idea that women can do more than vacuum with heels on.  I understand all of this and where Hustvedt is going with her novel.  I’m just not sure the hyper intellect she put into it really works.

Other Reviews (because I’m always one of the few haterzzzz):

Catster_LetsTalk1_28

This book is getting a lot of hype.  Have you heard anything? Are you planning on reading it?  Read any good feminist literature lately – I want your recommendations so bad, I’m willing to walk into the ocean with my pockets full of rocks. (Too early, still)?

 


The Moon Is A Silent Killer

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

I hate it when someone is a better writer than me.  Or has just actually published a book, put pen to paper like a raging sword and ripped open the wounds of that lined paper to turn it into something typed in loud Times New Roman and quiet in its white space.  Marina Keegan hated this as well, hate might be a strong word, but she felt the same feelings I felt as a twenty-something trying to make it in the publishing world that taught us how to seek out mystery, relevance, and the good story.  She said, “I’m so jealous.  Unthinkable jealousies, jealousies of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel I’m reading and the Oscar winning movie I just saw. Why didn’t I think to write Dalloway?  I should have thought to chronicle a schizophrenic ballerina.  It’s inexcusable.  Everyone else is so successful, and I hate them.  There’s a German word I learned about in psychology class called schadenfreude, which means a pleasure derived from the misfortune of others” (204).   I wonder now if she’d be proud to know how very jealous I am of her.

“read to me” – sexts

Marina Keegan died in a tragic car accident days after she graduated from Yale and was headed to a cozy office job at The New York Times.  I don’t actually know if they have offices there, but one can assume that it isn’t a giant cafeteria filled with type writers instead of non-chicken chicken nuggets.  Although, that newspaper would be quite thrilling.  Her essay, “The Opposite of Loneliness” written about her feelings upon leaving Yale went viral.  And she’s right, there is no word for the opposite of loneliness.  No, one syllable stacotto thing that we could say to explain how we’re feeling when we’re vibrant in mass, vibrant next to a stranger, vibrant in a train car, vibrant walking down streets where it smells like home brewed coffee, vibrant at our parent’s kitchen table.

Image @ Tumblr

Whatever word that is, the opposite of loneliness, maybe one of the 96 words that Sanskrit has for love, Marina Keegan made me feel that when I read her brilliant new collection of writings, fiction and nonfiction.  I requested this one on Netgalley after reading her viral essay and I can say in a completely honest way, as you know that I am, that this book held some of the best short fiction that I have ever read.  I don’t care if she was in a creative writing workshop with a bunch of people who wrote about fast-walking zombies, or glittering vampires, these short stories edited in a college dorm room are breath-taking and stand tall next to the great writers that I’ve had the privilege of hiding in my arsenal.   There is a giveaway on Goodreads if you’re already convinced.

Image @ Tumblr

“Cold Pastoral” is my favorite story in the collection of short stories.  The book is categorized as viral essay, short fiction, and then essays that were published in the Yale Daily Newspaper.  This story is about a girl in an almost relationship, you know that sticky “talking stage” that teenagers do now, with a boy who tragically dies.  It’s actually quite ironic to Marina’s life, a lot of these stories and essays are.  It was almost as if her writing foreshadowed her own story.  The girl wasn’t even sure she wanted to date the boy, had late night wine conversations with the roommate over whether to continue the relationship.  He was just a boy in a room where she forgot sweaters occasionally. However, when he dies, she feels pressure to become the girl he needed and the girl that his parents expect her to be, the girlfriend.  I won’t give anything away, but she discovers his diary and already has discovered how “cool,” literally, his ex-girlfriend is.  This ex plays guitars in basements for shadowed bar-goers.  It shows the triviality of college hookups and those in-between relationships where the person is just waiting for the bigger/better to come along.  I felt the unsure voice of the narrator, I was the narrator.  I think a lot of college girls can relate to this story of learning to date for dating rather than learning to date for marriage.  It’s a hard step up when you’ve been told your whole life to hold out for “the one,” that boy pocked full of marriage material, and grow old swag.

Image @ Tumblr

I also really loved, “Reading Aloud,” where an old NY Met dancer finds herself reading to a blind college kid.  She reads in the nude because her husband has found old interests in his window office job and comes out of retirement to continue working.  The wife feels like this is a personal dig at the time he was spending with her and signs up for this community service through the local library.  She’s SUCH a character, the Havisham of short stories.  I could hear the whisper of her sweater leaving her shoulders, and the quick way her fingers fiddled with the buttons.  There’s something strangely alluring about silently undressing in a short story and even if Keegan didn’t type every sound on the page, I was still immediately intrigued with this woman.  Keegan writes these stories that you don’t want to believe can actually happen, but you know somewhere in some condo, or tenement building these characters are feasting on our brief images of them through the telling of their story.

I didn’t find the essays AS riveting as the short stories, but come on..that’s because they’re essays.  I actually found “I Kill For Money” and “Why We Care about Whales” to be the deepest essays of the collection.  “I Kill For Money” tells the story of a bug guy.  I think I enjoyed this so much because who would think to interview an exterminator.  He had an unmarked van, which I always find creepy because I feel like Law & Order makes this the vehicle of all pedophiles, everywhere.  And then…he was a little bit sad. I almost felt like he killed bugs to spare himself of some sort of aloneness, not loneliness because he had a wife and kids, but just this feeling of aloneness.  People were rude to him in Keegan’s presence and he was just expected to go on with his day, do his duty, and climb back into the leather seat of his white van and go on handling bug business.   It also broke my heart that he was an older man and it seemed like he almost HAD to work.  There was some odd debt crisis, or some reason he wasn’t retiring.  He repeated several jokes in the interview and seemed to be losing pieces of himself in each apartment where he poisoned bed bugs, and unclamped the squashed feet of mice.  I just wanted him to go home and take a bath.  You know it’s good writing when an essay can almost make you cry.

Artificial Creativity @ Tumblr

The “Why We Care about Whales” essay just made me think.  Why do we care about the deaths of animals more than we care about just another human death by car crash in the news.  The opening of this essay is, “When the moon gets bored, it kills whales.  Blue whales and fin whales and humpback, sperm and orca whales: centrifugal forces don’t discriminate.  With a hushed retreat, the moon pulls waters out from under fins and flippers, oscillating them backward and forward before they slip outward.  At nighttime, the moon watches its work.  Silver light traces the strips of lingering water, the jittery crabs, the lumps of tangled seaweed” (181).

Let me just say, I don’t want to look in the eyes of a whale who has been beached by the allure of the moon and watch its jaw lay open in a sandy death.  I do wonder why the death of a human this way doesn’t affect my soul as much as the death of a whale this way.  Maybe it’s that I can’t imagine this happening to a human, or it’s that the idea of animal deaths, creatures that can’t defend themselves against human stain, or now I suppose the laws of the universe, are much more sobering because who knows what they think, if they feel pain more intensely than humans, if they mourn their lost loves.  It’s too much mystery for my small mind to comprehend in bed at this moment with a tea bag and an ice pack.

I want everyone to read this book, not so that in her death, Keegan can know the fame she should have attained in this life, but because I’m so jealous of her writing, her thought-provoking themes and messages, that I need other people to feel that burning need of wanting to do that too, wanting to write like her.  I think it’s safe to say that that’s what Keegan would have wanted, people to go out and create something that will live in competition with her college creations.  To be inspired, one must inspire others.

This book comes out April 11th, 2014.  I DARE YOU to buy it.


Newsday Tuesday

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Favorite Tweets:

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • grunge poems tumblr: There’s only one this week.  I just want to know what came up when someone googled this because usually tumblr is two-line break up poems or inspirational poems set in a colorful sky.

Book News:


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