I decided to try and shake up this pandemic lifestyle a little by launching a new online writers group through Meetup.com. I’ve been sitting on some creative writing projects for years now and hope the concept for this group will motivate me to finish something. And with the world going the way it is now, there’s no way we don’t have lots of available subject matter to work with. I should be writing 24/7! And I’m not. I’m busy getting too excited about a walk around the block and grocery shopping.
So this is a call for writers who also have a writing project that wants finishing. The group will run for 6 months and at the end of it we should all expect to find a final draft of something. 😀
Unlike a creative writing workshop, nobody will read their work during these online virtual meetings. We either talk about our projects — progress, lack of, obstacles, pitch practice – or we will be writing together. More details, if you click the link.
I hope this concept sounds enticing to some of you writers out there. Please join the group, let’s write, talk shop, and get to a finished product together.
War and horror – and everything underlying – happens for a species like ours. We’ve got a long history of it. Bad habits die hard they say. That’s why I say, when you see an expression of the grotesque in art, don’t be so quick to turn the eyes from it. Not always, of course. For the kind of art that ONLY wants to be shocking or gross — I’d rather spare my senses.
However, in Kim Hyesoon’s poem, When the Plug gets Unplugged, it’s not her fault if the grotesque is the inevitable result of her subject. I might get squeamish and back away from her imagery but I can still follow an honest, human voice trying to explain and share a painful reality with me.
The poem seems to be about the aftermath of a war, a battle, probably atomic. But is it that simple? Could it actually be a metaphor of any kind of traumatic loss or suffering? An ugliness or hurt that connects all of us whether we’ve been through war or not.
I’ve never experienced war. I’ve read about it. Seen documentaries that gave me nightmares. I stare at a poem like this and just wonder. Is it really that grotesque? Or just part of what we all are? It is a mess. Should I be surprised? Given our human history? That our imperfections can be that vivid? And can we accept them? In order to start cleaning up somehow. She’s asking for a flame thrower or act of God. Any better ideas?
If art is meant to be an expression of our humanity then it certainly won’t always be beautiful. If I look closely enough at this poem, put aside the repulsion, I may recognize something of my own ugliness and horror that I am turning away from and refusing to deal with.
The latest poetry video on the lywTube channel is a piece from this poem. I do invite everyone to check out the full poem on the Missing Slate journal website.
The latest poet to be featured on the lyw Youtube channel is a peace activist. Michael R. Burch has many other titles but the selected poems that have been translated into lywtube all sound this particular chord.
Ironically, I received the green light from Mr. Burch to illustrate his poems about the same time that PBS ran their Vietnam War documentary series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novak; a series that showed people from all different sides of that war who were so sure they were right at one time and not so sure at the end. It is a very well-rounded and thorough documentary guaranteed to make me shamefully thankful that I don’t know war and hate to that extreme.
The poems, like this documentary series, do not make me regret taking time for very somber subject matter. I consider it a privilege. They remind me that the world is still healing from a past that we inherited. The poet and the film-makers presented the subjects through intimate, human perspective, like meeting an injured family member who needs me to listen and care for him/her rather than some cold horror being reported on the evening news.
The first poetry video, Ali’s Song, is a poem that depicts Muhammad Ali’s stand against the draft into the Vietnam War and for equality. The second poetry video, Survivors, is a short yet powerful perspective on the definition of a survivor. The third, Something, is a poem dedicated to the children of the Holocaust and Nakba. The first poetry video is loud, rhythmical and strong. The other two are shorter but slower and quiet.
Ali’s Song … I hesitate to summarize anything about Muhammad Ali or his relationship with his country. However, that stand he made makes a great ruler to measure oneself by. Read the story (a version), ask yourself what or who you think was right? What was wrong? What would you have done? He had so many people telling him he was wrong and so many reasons to doubt his decision. And if he ever did, he didn’t show it.
I hope that I should be so ready to take as strong a stand as he did when an equally important choice is presented to me — and, that I am not wrong in my decisions. That’s just it, isn’t it? Yeah, we need more champions today, for sure, but with information being so suspect these days, how do we make sure what we do is right?
Ali’s public image as a heavyweight champion didn’t leave much room for talk about his soul and relationship with God but I think he would have really liked the references in this poem dedicated to him.
The other two poetry videos speak for themselves. They may be a lot quieter and slower than Ali and Ali’s Song but they are just as strong.
I would like to invite you to please check out these new poetry videos on the lyw channel. The text is best viewed in the highest HD setting in Youtube.
Alicia Jo Rabins is a writer, musician, composer, performer and Torah teacher. She is one of the first poets featured on the lyw Youtube channel who dips directly and deeply into religion. In these featured pieces you will find some very nice, sharp balances : the big story – fragmented; a guide to life made personal, individual and introspective; ancient echoes of the past aligned with a modern life.
The poem, Florida, especially rang this way for me. At first, it seems a simple poem about an individual and common feeling of longing, however, now I consider it a look at a society that has learned to desire shiny baubles in such a profound way.
In the second poetry video, Ancient Studies: Coliseum Ghosts, the poet seems to be reconciling ancient wisdom with modern reality. I do not know the Torah and it is clear she writes about something very specific. But what did I find in this poem? A quiet character thinking about how time stretches connects her present life to old wisdom and how well they align. Also, I easily indulged the poem to be that of a writer, like myself, trying to write worth her salt today while minding the legacy of the masters before her. It’s a fine balance to learn from your masters and also have the courage to be your own.
I invite you to please enjoy these two poetry videos on the lyw Youtube channel your way.
1. Florida – Alicia Jo Rabins
2. Ancient Studies: Coliseum Ghosts – Alicia Jo Rabins
So ima gonna tweet once a weekday for a month; see if I can’t blow out or up a decent tune about poetry.
To date, I have only used Twitter as a supplementary tool to my blog. But no longer! The bird will take centre-stage on September 4, marking the beginning of a little poetry campaign through Twitter. I’ve renamed my Twitter account to the Lit Twit in honour of the campaign. During the Lit Twit campaign, I will tweet a couple lines of poetry (classical, contemporary and obscure), ending each week with the persistent question: Why do We Read / Write Poetry? A question that is open to anybody’s answer.
Let’s face it, Twitter is pretty severe for writers. WORDY writers, if that’s what you want to call me. 140 character limit? Why bother? Was my common thought.
But you know what I’ve learned to love about this limitation? I can amplify a piece of poetry that would not have nearly the same volume within the body of a larger whole. In fact, an isolated line of poetry in the frame of a tweet becomes almost like a visual message.
Poems tend to literally look a lot alike – a column with the right side in a waving line if you don’t justify your text. The longer and denser the poem, the more it looks like nothing more than a big column, never mind the text. And quite honestly, since I have a generational sickness of a short attention span, I am less inclined to dig in when poetry looks like that.
I chipped off a piece of a big marble column and presented that instead of the whole column it would certainly have a more unique shape and the size would be less daunting. That piece’s texture and particular veins might become more striking by this isolation. A small piece of poetry can often feel very big.
And it’s not like a haiku. I’ve cut a piece of poetry out of a larger whole. The places where I cut enhance the viewer/reader experience, especially if you stop to imagine what the rest of the column must have looked like; what the rest of the poem might have been saying.
All the living and at large poets who have granted me permission to recreate their poetry on Youtube have also granted permission to quote their work during this campaign. George Elliott Clarke, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada, included. We affectionately tweet him as GEC. I want to publicly thank him again for being so supportive. And the pieces that I struck from his larger poems, are really going to sing as tweets.
During this campaign, I’m also going to share my love for some masterful poets that until a few years ago were unknown to me.
Do you know Adunis? Aka Alī Aḥmad Saʿīd ‘Isbar? Can’t believe I stumbled upon one of his poems by accident a couple of years ago and he could have easily gone unnoticed my whole life. Today, I am a large and growing fan. It amazes me how his work can be both simple and complex at the same time. His poetry feels alive and moving. Flows like thoughts from my own head but shares, clearly, somebody else’s experience.
And Mr. Gerard Manley Hopkins? Spellbinder. That’s what I call him. Read Windhover loud and out loud and, hopefully, you get something of what I did from that poem. Can’t believe I’d never read his work until a few years ago as well.
So, some classical, some ‘obscure’ (to me anyway), some contemporary and some GEC all in a month of poetweeting.
If you are into Twitter and poetry, or think you could be, please find this campaign at #LillianYWong (aka the Lit Twit) starting September 4!
See Wern Hao is the latest, living and active poet to grant me permission to recreate two pieces of his poetry as video on Youtube. Given his penchant for quoting popular music as inspiration for his work both poetic pieces are complimented with dramatic, rock-esque music.
Promoting poetry on Youtube is still a slow build for me but these young, vital poets keep me going. While pursuing a degree in law and liberal arts, See Wern Hao is keeping his lit lit by participating in the 2017 Singapore Writers Festival and scattering his work, like seeds, over the fields of social media and online journals. He is everything that I think a young writer should be: active, available, smart, keeping busy and out of trouble. I totally made up the last part. I have no idea how much trouble he gets into. I do know that when I was in school, I spent a little too much of my time ‘doing something close to nothing, but different than the day before’ [quote from Raspberry Beret, Prince]. I also held the immature idea back then that all I needed to do to be a great writer was hone my craft — which included getting into interesting experiences to write about — and somehow and someway, publishers would find my talent like a beacon calling out to them. I was not nearly as active or in tune to my other options as Mr. Hao.
I also don’t know for a fact that See Wern Hao is all the things that I claim he is. I say it because I see it in the body of work that he has produced of himself online. I see it in his commitment to his poetry. It’s one thing to spread your work around and another to hone your craft. Two completely different things. He’s got the right balance and I can’t wait to see how his craft and career grows in years to come.
I am amazed to follow after this next generation of poets when just a few years ago I honestly believed that all our great poets were from older generations or generations gone by and poetry was a wilting art.
Please check out below the two new videos on the lyw Youtube channel … a channel exploring the online potential for shared and sharing literary works. **Videos are best seen in the highest HD setting otherwise the text looks blurry.
1. a poet is only madness … a poem by See Wern Hao
2. Home of the Professional Dreamers … a poem by See Wern Hao
Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the honour of coming to know one of Canada’s most esteemed poets, Mr. George Elliott Clarke, as GEC. Cuz that’s the name of the folder that carried all the drafts that helped produce the latest two poetry videos on the lyw Youtube channel.
Nevertheless, I always address him directly as Mr. Clarke. It was a privilege to work with his poetry in my own version of a creative universe. Lots of ways to get to know people but I doubt any compare to the layers and weaving of one’s creative work on another’s. Mr. Clarke very graciously approved and supported the idea of letting me illustrate two of his poems through video.
The first video, Everything is Free, is a gentle poem that lets space and breath build into a feeling of hope and renewal. Amazing dance photography seemed the best way to illustrate this poem. Both demonstrate clean, powerful, precise and beautiful movement even though everything is actually static — everything is actually free ;).
The 2nd video is a little more mysterious because it isolates two poetic fragments from a larger poem, from a larger series of poetry.
Both poetry videos show verses from the book, Whylah Falls, which tells the story of lovers in southwestern Nova Scotia in the 1930s, through dramatic monologues, songs, sermons, sonnets, newspaper snippets, recipes, haiku and free verse. [info c/o en.wikipedia.org]
But a small piece of poetry can sometimes feel very big, and I think the isolation of these fragments actually frees the reader’s imagination to fill in the missing gaps with their own lives, memories … recipes and songs.
When I read Each Moment is Magnificent, I interpreted it as a person who reflects on a river, metaphorical and literal, that has flowed through and around him all his life. I imagine a man lying on his back in an open field staring at the stars, while the sounds of the river flow over him like music. And the music isn’t all peace and harmony and lovey nature – it’s a strong current pulling at a resilient person.
Please check out the two latest additions to the lyw Youtube channel. I’d like to thank Mr. Clarke again, through this blog, for the pleasure of working with his poetry.
Everything is Free
Each Moment is Magnificent
I have to give props to special contributors for these videos. Carlo Cruz and Orestis Charalambous kindly donated their stunning dance photography to the first video. The use of the image of the Sissiboo (aka Sixhiboux) River was kindly donated by the Yarmouth County Museum. Thomas Hawke allowed the use of the piano image in the 2nd video. Full credit details are in the video.
Summer, somewhere is a poem with a slow build like a quiet voice speaking up in the corner of an empty room. Please check out the below link to this poetry video and give it time to build. Towards the middle it blooms into something intimate and thoughtful and emotionally intelligent.
Pieces of this long poem, by Danez Smith, are currently featured on the lyw Youtube channel, including a 2nd poem entitled, it doesn’t feel like a time to write.
I met Danez online during research for the 2015/2016 poetry campaign that launched the said Youtube channel. He is a young, active and talented poet producing as well as performing poetry live and online.
Poetry freshly pressed, virtually and dynamically in video, and also a poet fresh and too young to need pressing: a combination I rarely find when I look for poetry. But we’re going to change that, right? I’m on the hunt for those young, or old (<–can’t be prejudice against my own kind), living, contemporary, and activepoets who are interested in a growing, revitalized poetry market, one that isn’t niche, almost private or somebody’s sentimental hobby but one that is on the immediate pulse of our daily lives and modern zeitgeist.
I’ve copied below my favourite quotes as a sampler to the videos:
from the poem summer, somewhere by Danez Smith:
there, I knew how to swim but couldn’t.
there, men stood by shore & watched me blue. there, I was a dead fish, the river’s prince.
there, I had a face & then I didn’t. there, my mother cried over me
but I wasn’t there. I was here, by my own water, singing a song I learned somewhere
south of somewhere worse. that was when direction mattered. now, everywhere
I am is the center of everything. I must be the lord of something.
what was I before? a boy? a son? a warning? a myth? I whistled
now I’m the God of whistling. I built my Olympia downstream.
from summer, somewhere by Danez Smith:
if you press your ear to the dirt you can hear it hum, not like it’s filled
with beetles & other low gods but like a mouth rot with gospel
& other glories. listen to the dirt crescendo a boy back.
Link to poetry video of ‘summer, somewhere’ by Danez Smith:
Link to poetry video ‘It doesn’t feel like a time to write’ by Danez Smith:
[Recently, I remembered a passage from a poem entitled, ‘Open Letter to the South,’ by Langston Hughes, which I honour as an example of what I think is great about the American spirit.
Inspired by this recollection, I decided to write my own open letter to the United States of America to continue Mr. Hughes’ dialogue on hope, unity and openness. It is clear to me, throughout Hughes’ work, that he never gave up hope even though he felt often tested. This hope probably gave him his sharpest pain and yet he held on to that hope, showing so much courage and fortitude. Even in his bleakest poems, you can feel that hope keeping him writing. This passion riding on top of his craftsmanship? Of course, he’s my favourite poet. This creative letter ends with that noted passage from the poem:]
November 9th, 2016
Both you and my own city have done some things in the past few years that I don’t quite understand. Regardless of the difference in sizes, I feel as though both our societies have been seeking new answers to more than just economics and politics. This growing feeling of uncertainty has recently led me to reflect more on the things that I am certain about when it comes to you — and me.
Please allow me this moment to share with you, as you venture forward into this new chapter of your history, what this Canadian writer loves most about America. This Canadian writer loves:
The history of American art and culture.
The history of American sub-culture and the American teenager.
The legacy of Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The American fight to define freedom and individual value.
From where I live, considering how much my life has been influenced by American art and culture, I know I would not be me without you. Before I knew anything about identity or language, I was surrounded by American culture. I survived my adolescent years under your willful banner and I estimate that at least 30% of my academic and literary studies were steeped in Americano.
Let’s face it: the first teenager must have been American. Some kind of rebellious spirit has always sung out of everything grim and great moment of your last century and helped to develop an incredible range in music, art, story and sport. You have always had an unyielding need to express individuality, despite societal demands for money and guns and other such short-term and limited methods of gain and communication. A subculture isn’t necessarily a good thing but I think their existence indicates a society that is strong enough to question and validate its authority and status quo; and thus in a better position to evolve; though in an often defiant way.
America, you are a society where a voice will find the strength to rise and prevail, despite whatever odds, and actually win, many times. Lots of people fight for freedom and rights; few have been as successful as you. You pave roads literally and figuratively for physical, mental and artistic transportation in a way that no other country has.
Sometimes, you have been accused of arrogance and aggression; of being both culprit and champion for freedom and individual rights. Ironically, and rather poetically, some of your fiercest battlegrounds appear to have been against yourself, being party to the kind of oppression that inspires you to take a stand.
A few months ago, I saw a great documentary series on the Roosevelts which reminded me of two great leaders whose like this world has not seen in a very long time. Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt were two humans who accomplished many great things for more than themselves. They were not perfect and made mistakes yet their legacy reminds me that I don’t have to fear failure in pursuit of my greatest goals because I can do just as much damage and suffer just as much disappointment by settling for something easier, safer and more common. Both of these leaders had reason and opportunity to settle for more common and smaller lives. If FDR had let his disability daunt him or if Ms. Roosevelt had accepted the limitations set upon her gender, my life, I’m sure, would have suffered, if not theirs.
America, like the Roosevelts, has not been perfect yet you are a country where perfection has more freedom to seek itself. You are a country of new beginnings for new immigrants sprung from traditions that have travelled from and to almost every part of this world. Your dominant language, English, is an amalgamation of those new and old ideas and ideals. In fact, might I suggest that your cultivation technique for ideas, finding a way to bloom regardless of your circumstances, is perhaps your greatest resource and strength.
Dear America, please continue to be united as the states of America and under your banner continue to kindle the defining process for freedom and courage for all, although, personally, I would prefer your methods be through love and art rather than guns and politics. Remembering who you were when I was young, what will you be today and tomorrow?
I end this open letter with a quote from one of your greatest poets:
We did not know that we were brothers.
Now we know!
out of that brotherhood
Let power grow!
We did not know
That we were strong.
Now we see
In union lies our strength.
Let unions be
The force that breaks the time-clock,
civilian defenses is a poem about salsa-dancing as a defense against the extreme highs and lows of life; an anchor, especially for private citizens within a large, urban society.
Most times, salsa is danced for merely recreation, exercise and socialization.
When things are either too much or too little in one’s life or in one’s city or country, why in the world would one stop to dance salsa? How can salsa be a civilian defense? And against what?
If you are too passionate, too angry, too desperate or too high in whatever way, salsa can refocus you and your energy into a very specific time, place and activity. The real risk of physically turning you and your partner into a hot mess keeps you at attention.
If you are too low, too sad or too numb from whatever you are going through, salsa warms the blood, forces breath into our most held breath and gets the eyes blinking again.
Either way, salsa reconnects the body and mind to some other part of the world outside of ourselves and is a reminder, when we need that reminder, that we are vitally alive and not alone.
It is a peculiar thing that human recreations (ie. jazz, blues, baseball, boxing) have often been strengthened during difficult times in human history. It is a peculiar thing to witness humans reach for sport or the arts when they feel they have little else to reach for.
… an interesting observation that started this poem for me several years ago. Please check out the below poem, stirred up with a little colour and sound, in a little video on Youtube.
(P.S. the text displays best using the HD setting in Youtube):
*dance art painting c/o Andres Giraldo at salsaycontrol.com
The book selling industry can sometimes come up with strange categories to help consumers make novel choices.
The last category to bemuse me is called, New Adult Fiction (too old to be a teenager; too young to be … what? Like me?!?)
Upgrading this classification system, for helping people to identify themselves and their preferred novels, seems a strange paradox of providing many options while narrowing them down to a few.
Many years ago, when I was a teenager, I got a job at a Coles bookstore. In this little bookstore, where I barely worked, a ‘New Adult Fiction’ section did not exist. The Young and Adult Fiction sections were purposely divided only for cautionary reasons. One was, for the most part, grossly simplified and stereotyped and the other was explicitly grossly simplified and stereotyped. Everything else in between was just fiction, unless already caught by a fan-favourite genre like Mystery, Science Fiction / Fantasy, etc. At the time, the Mystery Section had already spawned a sub-genre called Suspense. Later, I started seeing Thrillers and Psychological Thrillers. The weirdest genre I ever saw was called ChickLit. I’ve never read any of the books in this category but apparently, it raised some controversy.
The youth section, back in my youth, was called the Young Adult (YA) section. Any fiction for those younger than pre-teen went to the Children’s section. Though there were a few good novels slotted in Young Adult, like S.E.Hinton’s, The Outsiders, generally, the Young Adult section was pretty pulpy (starting us young on those pre-processed carbs).
The Adult Fiction section was very specific, too. It was on a high shelf and consisted of two rows and in plain sight of the cash register desk. I think I remember some of them having sleeves to conceal part of the book cover, too.
Today, Adult Fiction has broadened in definition, depending on where you buy books. It is no longer simply a discreet way of separating erotica from hands that may be too young. Adult fiction can also mean fiction that involves adults or adult concerns (whatever that means). New AdultFiction means fiction for ‘newly-made’ adults: people who are fresh out of school, assuming that they all went to school, and learning how to be independent.
I see how these fiction categories are trying to help readers make choices, however, to me, a good novel is a good novel. The Lord of the Rings should be in the same section as To Kill a Mocking Bird.
This opinion is, admittedly, not that practical. Some people really like wizards and they should be able to easily buy books that have wizards in them and not swim through a hundred other books that clearly have absolutely no wizards.
Categories and sub-categories, are also especially practical for large, physical bookstore. These stores are huge and it would be exhausting to browse the entire store for a book with wizards in it. E-bookstores, however, can offer key word searches to help consumers pinpoint exactly what they seek without needing to make more precise categories to help them.
Practicality aside, part of the beauty of reading a fictional story is opening ourselves up to the unknown — at least a little. The more we already know about what’s in the book, the less imagination and wonder that goes in. This strongly applies to writers as much as readers.
My favourite way to choose a book is to read the back and a few pages and see if it grabs me enough to go a little further.
Imagine you were searching for a new partner. You’re single and want companionship. You think you know what you want and you look for it. But imagine getting exactly what you want in somebody. That somebody has nothing new to offer, hasn’t any of his/her own thoughts, ideas or desires that go outside of your own expectations. This might suffice for some people but imagine the flip-side: You meet somebody who has some things that you can safely expect, and want, yet this somebody introduces you to new and wonderful ideas and experiences that you could not have imagined on your own. I think it was in the film/theatre play, Six Degrees of Separation, that suggested that people are like doors or doorways that lead you to new and strange places. Let the cover of a novel be that door. Check it out. Venture in a little. It won’t hurt (hopefully) and it may lead to a pleasant and transformative surprise.
In the case of classifying fiction towards a particular age group, maybe I’m paranoid (actually, I’m pretty sure I am), but I see a subtle risk here. The lucky books that get to fill these categories such as ‘Young Adult’ indirectly imply that these books define not only the genre but the concerns and likes of this age group and what it means to be this age group; thus it becomes creatively and socially stifling. Keeping precise categories hinders the category’s ability to grow and creates fixed expectations.
I have actually read many Children’s Fiction novels as an adult such as, the Little Prince, Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, and found these novels had a lot of secrets and wisdom that would be lost if not read as an adult. I’m glad I don’t feel the need to be a child to pick up these books. 😛
Unfortunately, the flip-side is not true. I don’t think children should venture into Adult Fiction, new, or otherwise, to be adventurous. If we really want a useful new definition for the ‘Adult’ label in bookstores, it should just be an aid to children to not be bothered, any earlier than they need to be, by what adults concerns themselves with these days.
WordPress allows me to subscribe to one artist’s journey the way traditional forms of publishing never did. I am always comparing, because I am still always amazed, at how different the literary world is from just twenty years ago.
Today, I launch two new poetry videos on the lyw YouTube channel, because a WordPress poet and artist allowed me to play with some of the work on her site which I had admired.
SB is a poet and artist on WordPress at Sabiscuit.wordpress.com. You’d think that I would be less interested in making a video of poetry that was not my own. It’s actually a very creative and engaging process to make them. The research and development of these videos open me to new ideas for my own creative writing. The David et Goliath video-poem has some bright celestial punch to it and is nicely counter-balanced by the softer and quieter video-poem, Luminous. These videos feature a writer and an artist who has a talent for working with the different shades that can happen with light.
Please check out the links to these videos at the bottom of this blog, and let’s let the work speak for itself.
This opportunity to work with another writer’s poetry is very unique to my current literary climate. Most of the real books (as in not e-books) in my personal library are of great masters whose human bodies have long since passed on or, they are writers who I could never imagine writing back to me if I had a question about their work. I will most likely never have direct contact with them. I will most likely never have access to their daily, personal thoughts as writers or human beings. My impressions of these writers remain as theories in my head. This is a good thing, in many ways. For one, eventually, I learned to answer some of those questions myself thereby truly making these writers’ novels and poetry my own — as a reader. There is a lot of value in giving myself that time to be immersed in another’s artwork.
However, this WordPress/social media thing does something for writers that I believe may be historical, at least to my creative writing world. Not only are creative writers given more power to be their own ‘companies’, make their names their brands, but we do this by showing how human and individual we are as artists. Twenty years ago self-publishing was either an act of desperation or that of a hobbyist. Writing on a day-to-day personal level, as bloggers often do, would not have been deemed professional. Bloggers would have probably been classified as self-publishing columnists back in my day. Today, social media allows writers to develop an unique kind of relationship with their readership, one that can be both social and professional. On this plane, writers present themselves as humans, just like everyone else.
Well, of course, writers arehumans, you might say. And I would tell you that it was a popular way to think, when and where I was a wee lass, that writers, as people who were trying to be true observers of life, were isolated and different from the rest of society. Either we were too brilliant or too spaced out from observation to fit well with the rest of society The fact is that we have had some amazing writers in our human history who have had the wisdom and foresight to fit the more flattering version of that persona. However, there is a more heart-warming connection to those great writers when I allow myself to observe, even in the most brilliant of them, their beautiful human flaws.
Writers on social media, such as SB, present literature and art that is accessible, responsive and actively part of everyday life. When we think of writers like that, I think, this will go a long way to make fiction and the literary market more accessible in popular media.
These are new lit thoughts for me and I thank you for letting me share my chew on them through this blog. I’m not quite sure about them and am curious to see how they will evolve with time.
Here are those video links that I mentioned earlier. I hope you enjoy them:
Today’s video and blog concludes the poetry campaign on the lyw YouTube channel, having gone for approximately five months. It’s been a great ride into social media and the business of other poets and artists online.
In five months, I was introduced to the first young, living poet for who I would become a fan. My research dug up master poets from the past, as well as from different cultures and languages, that would have never existed for me without this campaign. I animated poems both old and obscure, strange and passionate through music and video; watching some of my own poems dance this way and that. I connected with strangers online knowing next to nothing about them other than a common interest in art and poetry.
Since the purpose of this campaign was to promote poetry appreciation, it seems ironic that I found my own appreciation was not as active as I thought. I write poetry. I certainly like my own enough. And I like the poets that helped to form my style and tastes. Most of these poets are writers who I found when I was an active student of literature; that was over 20 years ago.
With old poetry always evolving, or being discovered, and new poetry constantly being written, I can hardly say I am current.
With reflection, I think I must have assumed that today’s poetry was just like me: an older generation writer holding onto an older generation’s genre and therefore that genre must still be stuck in its past glory. Thus, I must have further assumed that the poets that I looked up to 20 years ago, made up the same master canon for great poetry today. My old canon was also limited to what was available to my North American education. Poetry is international and multi-cultural.
As this campaign’s goal was to stretch the shrinking niche market of poetry; so did my own revitalization begin. How priceless is that?
I hope that poetry explodes on the Internet. I think it is the best place for it now. At this point, it will not make anybody rich. Writers can be liberated by that fact. Poetry can be made exclusively for the craft, and certainly NOT made exclusive to a few.
However, there is a risk to poetry storming the Internet. It is the same risk that many Internet news sites and social media tools are under: too much filler content. Content for the sake of content should be an Internet sin. Readers are drowning in this stuff. Blank space is beautiful and better on the eyes and mind than some of the ‘news’ I have read online. Pinterest has become one of my favourite social media tools because it values visual content over text. This may seem contradictory for a writer of words, however, in this bombastic Information Age, less is so much better.
So poetry not only needs to take advantage of the benefits of the Internet, it can be part of its solution. Don’t let your wonderful poetry get buried under six feet of fillers. And if you have a 50 page epic poem that is itching to be read, you just need to be extra inventive in the way you present that online. There are lots of free, online tools and tutorials on how to do that. Plain text is not the way to use a platform that hosts text, images, audio and video, as well as social networking tools.
Also another idea for the dream of a Poetry Revolution online: I think copyright permissions need to be easier to request and get. Publishers need to make it easier to share their publications for non-commercial use and get more master poets (meaning: more than the usual suspects) actively read online. Let’s make them the next YouTube sensations! If kitten videos can get a million viewers then so can our best poets.
I would also love to see more living, contemporary writers have their own professional websites or web profiles that make them easier to contact. The stereotype of writers who must work in extreme isolation and loneliness has never been a healthy one; even for introverts, like me. For writers who are available online, people might be so moved by your work that they will promote your work through their own social media. Writers online make it easier to share their great work, as well as contact, for proper permission, to use their work.
Thank you for reading this blog. I hope you enjoy the last video installment to our poetry campaign on the lyw YouTube channel. The theme is simple: these are clips from poems I found during the poetry campaign that are fabulous but didn’t fit any of my other themes:
This week’s video and blog is celebrating classic epic-style poetry. Though this is not the easiest type of poetry for the modern reader, this video attempts to prove that sometimes it’s fun to get ‘lost in the translation’ be that from the ancient languages that much of this poetry comes from or due to the cultural and literary differences between that long, long time ago and our current day.
I suspect that the term, ‘lost in translation’, must have been born from the study of our ancient poets because the richness and beauty of their epic poems is often dependent on the strength of the translations.
I have found when reading some translations of the Roman poet, Virgil, that often I am compelled to shout, ‘it doesn’t always have to rhyme!’ However, I recognize that my tastes are subjective and influenced by my own culture and society. Much of the epic poetry known to the Western world is translated into Old English. It was as different a time and place, to me, as was ancient Greece and Rome. It is natural that I prefer the more direct and modern translations of our classical, epic-style poetry by the great American poet, Robert Fitzgerald.
Another impediment to epic poetry for the modern reader (who is like me) is that these publications often resemble ancient Greek or Roman columns; blocks and blocks of text, text and more text. For the TV babies out there, raised to have short attention spans, the mere sight of these poems is daunting. These stony blocks of classical verse are a huge contrast to the fluid lines and generous use of airy space found in most modern free verse poetry. For this reason, it is essential for lovers of these classic poems to bring us their favourite passages in bite-size pieces because, after all these centuries, hidden deeply within these columns of text, are lines of poetry that have not lost a drop of their original succulence; have not withered any of their heroic richness; and speak on themes that are as relevant to our current day.
It was the film, ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ that re-introduced to me Homer’s epic poem, ‘The Odyssey,’ by providing a small quote in the beginning of the film. I hadn’t read it since University and back then, it did feel like a chore. So it took the Coen brothers to revive for me this quintessential quote for the human soul’s trials through this earthly life.
“O Muse! Sing in me, and through me tell the story
Of that man skilled in all the ways of contending,
A wanderer, harried for years on end …”
*The translation appears to be a slightly tweaked version of Fitzgerald’s translation.
I should also note that epic poetry is an international genre. There have been epic poems written in many different cultures and languages. Unfortunately, I’m limited by what is available to the English language, and online.
After completing the research for this poetry video, I have concluded that our master epics need a fresh translation with every generation. The alternative solution would be for a new Homer or Dante to emerge and write a new ‘Odyssey’ or ‘Divine Comedy.’ However, it is hard to imagine a world of literature without these specific pieces somewhere inside despite having been written so long ago.
I hope you enjoy this next video installment to our poetry campaign on YouTube. This video will introduce to you some bite-size pieces of poetry from Ovid, Homer, Dante, Virgil, and (my favourite poet) Anonymous:
(Aug 6, 2016 – I’ve tweaked this video twice now to improve flow and sound quality. Hard to tell if it actually does sound better because I believe WIN 10 has messed up my audio! Everything sounds ‘tinny’.)
Making poetry part of our daily exercise can be as compelling as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts. Obviously, working different muscle groups but, I swear, the same burn can be there. It can last a lot longer, too.
HIIT training workouts have become a popular fitness trend because they provide quick bursts of physical activity and adrenaline with optimal results in a short amount of time.
What are the terms that we hear with HIIT training? Fire, heat, burn. It hurts. And people like that. It seems an obvious answer to an urban lifestyle that can often numb the senses and one’s vitality.
In this modern society, the brain needs as much stimulation as the body to stay healthy. Diet and exercise help the brain but nothing like a daily dose of ‘huh?’ The most popular forms of poetry are sentimental, day calendar fillers and greeting card varieties. This might toast some bread, lightly, but it will not fire up your brain and may curdle your imagination.
Poetry isn’t easy on the brain. The good stuff never is. It’s meant to work the mind in the same way a good physical workout changes your muscles and organs in as little as a few lines of poetry. Great creative literature compels the imagination to engage; it don’t work if you don’t. Unfortunately, this kind of poetry is often met with, ‘I don’t get it — and never will.’ To that, please consider that we all can’t get to 60 burpees without starting at 10.
A great hit of poetry can stun the mind into a whole new place for at least a moment or two. It’s the same feeling one can get when running outside when one has passed being sore and annoyed.
A great hit of poetry is a beautiful image or idea to follow you for the rest of the day like a secret meditation place in your mind, reminding you of something bigger than your daily grind.
And every once in a while, you will get the best result, which is, you will meet a poem, a workout, that changes you – for better, not worse; transformation over mutation. (Hey, I admit, there is dark literature that grows nothing but fear and other nasty things – and often written with the best intentions. However, that is for another blog.)
I’ve said it before that poems make great friends, the best ones, that when you find them, will stick with you for the rest of your conscious life; always ready for you if you just open them.
There is so much of this poetry out there. I am often surprised at just how much great poetry has been written by our species. The irony is that until these poems are found and read, they remain so quiet and dormant, when in fact they are bursting with vitality and our humanity.
This next poetry video, for the lyw YouTube channel, features clips to give the mind and imagination some challenging sport. I tucked in an old poem called, A Windhover, into this video. It’s extremely dramatic. When read on its rhythm, and with feeling, it is a thrilling ride. I hope nobody comes down on me for rendering the whole poem. It’s so enchanting that it feels like spell-casting. I didn’t want to leave anything out. I think everybody should feel this poem.
Thanks for reading this blog. I hope you enjoy this video:
When studying poetry from China, I noticed three common traits in the ancient masters: hermitry, piety and drinking. What an extreme combination!
Now I’m sure these poets had more common things in common than that but either they liked to write about these subjects or people liked to write or publish these subjects about them. Or maybe I isolated these traits to flatter my own childhood mythology of the old, kung-fu sage living wild in the forest.
Nevertheless, I mean no disrespect to these fine poets and wish to loudly celebrate their virtues in this next instalment of our poetry campaign on Youtube and this blog. And, again, without disrespect, ask that we consider how these extreme traits either sculpted these poets or these poets sculpted these traits through poetry. Did the art bring them to extremes or did the extremes bring them to art? I think it’s important to note that apparently enjoying wine was not considered a bad habit in China by these poets. Their poetry suggests that it indicated a person who enjoys the raptures of life — when they are available.
Last week, this blog discussed how artists can benefit from making a study of their contemporaries as much as the masters of our crafts. This week, we’ll try the flipside and look at some of the oldest and, to this day, most revered master poets from China.
Poetry from back in that ancient day in China is shrouded in mysticism and exoticism. How can any of us be anything but ignorant when reflecting on a culture and time that is like a fantasy novel? Yet as far away as these times and these poets are from us now, through their poetry, they join us today. And they are wonderful souls to meet; hermit souls that bring us poetry devoted to nature and harmony without ignoring the restraints of the human society and court that surrounds its borders. Essentially that seems to be what hermitry gives to the writer — or the writer takes from hermitry; wild isolation wouldn’t be that interesting if it wasn’t an escape from a cultivated society.
A big difference I noticed in the way I read this ancient, Eastern poetry, compared to most of the modern Western poetry I have been featuring, is that each line of poetry needs a pause afterwards. It does not flow like water or music. It makes for pretty slow reading but I think that’s part of its charm. Please forgive me though for producing a 9 minute video, as a result.
As fantastic legends or passionate extremists or ordinary human craftsmen, this week’s poetry video, for the lyw Youtube channel, would like to introduce you to the masters: Hanshan, Po Chü-i, Tu Fu, Wang Wei and Shiwu.
Shout out to the great interpreter and translator, Red Pine, aka Bill Porter. His translations have made many important Chinese texts available in English and thus to a greater part of the Western world. As well, his translations are beautiful and show an incredible poet in himself.
Also, if curious about the biographies of these fine fellows, below is a list of my online research sources:
This Rock Wears a Wild Crown is a poem about a funny guy, royally stubborn in loyalty, steadfastness, inappropriate humour and recreational pugilism. The zen quality of rocks and the flow of time has failed to smooth any part of this demeanour.
Ironically, this poem and character can be a great yet indirect support to overly-sensitive people or anybody stuck in their own heavy moods. His inappropriate humour and proud opinions dumbfound sensitivity and disrupt both serenity and melancholy.
Despite his roughness, he is friendly. Despite his offensiveness, he intends no harm. Despite his admiration for the art of war, he is honest – relatively – more honest than you’d expect, anyway.
And despite my persistent confusion over his approach to life, I can’t help but think he is searching for the same things as me – just in a more combative way. What is that, ultimately? Love? God? Maybe. I’ll only indirectly admit that in poetry.
I’d like to invite you to meet this character in the poem, this rock wears a wild crown; the latest video installment to the lyw channel on Youtube, promoting poets and poetry through online media, as well as a selected poem from the poetry chapbook, ya helu.
Warsan Shire is a great example of a modern poet who inspires her readers to the point where they engage. At risk of infringing on copyright laws, her fans have produced their own Youtube videos, blogs and websites to honour her work. She has inspired her readers to be active and passionate about poetry.
As a result, Warsan Shire has achieved exactly what I aspire towards as a poet. She has achieved what I think poetry needs in its readership: active engagement — not just for our beloved ‘dead poets’ societies’ but also our living ones; the poets of this era and generation.
Warsan Shire’s popularity on YouTube alone has garnered over 100K views from these independent videos. Her poem, ‘For women who are ‘difficult’ to love’ has generated so many different interpretations by other artists that it inspires me to think: Wouldn’t it be great, if all great poems, from living poets, were celebrated in such an unabashed way — giving pop music videos a real run for their money? And suddenly the reader becomes more involved in judging and valuing what today’s poetry market will and should be.
However, we should note that while her readers are showing love, they aren’t obtaining proper copyright permissions; a sensitive issue with the level of share on the Internet. We all need to hesitate when at risk of infringing on another artist’s intellectual property, no matter how good the intentions are. These laws are in place to protect the work of the artists as well as the publishing industry.
However, I have met lots of obstacles in producing the videos for the current poetry campaign on the lyw Youtube channel. I, too, have worried a few times if I was going too far in the liberties I was taking to show my appreciation for some poets and poetry. Copyright permissions are hard to get. Contact information for the poets or the publishers is hard to get, as well. I have done my best to adhere to the ‘fair use‘ concept used in copyright law and persisted because I believe poetry would have more love and reads, if it were more accessible, in a contemporary way.
I have a small story to illustrate a startling point. In trying to find choice material for this blog’s poetry appreciation campaign, I started digging for poems from my own dusty library. My library is a collection that comprises four years as an English Literature major, one year working in a bookstore, which gave me a huge discount on all books, and the rest found while wandering through used and new bookstores looking for random ideas to inspire me in any which way. In this collection I found an anthology of ‘world contemporary poems’. I must have bought it about 20 years ago and most likely only read about 30% of it. Just one month ago, while producing the video ‘… a small piece of poetry can sometimes march’, I found the most amazing poet in this book – an amazing poet lying dormant and unknown in my own library all this time because he was buried in a 600 page anthology. Apparently, he is also described as the greatest living poet of the Arab world. I had no idea! Again, he was buried in a 600 page anthology. I was young when I bought that book. I skimmed! How easy it is to miss the extraordinary!
And when I discovered that his poems, ‘Song for A Man in the Dark’ and ‘Elegy for the Time at Hand’ weren’t copied all over the Internet like all my other English favourites, I just wanted to shout his poems to the world. Adunis. His name is Adunis, aka Adonis or Ali Ahmad Said Esber. He’s around eighty years old now. He has no lack of controversy posted about him online but too few poems.
I wish I could show you all the great poems in my library that are not being actively celebrated online. I would love a great big, ‘show and tell’, online because there are too many poets lost in my library. I think poetry needs readers to be encouraged to be active fans. I love the passion of Warsan Shire’s fans. It gives me hope for the future of poetry. But there is that fine line:How do we protect the artists and the artist’s industry while keeping our reads bright and burning? Something to think about.
Till then, this week’s poetry appreciation video(s) are links to two videos produced for Warsan Shire on Youtube by other artists. Please enjoy this amazing poem, ‘For women who are ‘difficult’ to love’:
‘helweh, the troll’ is a poem about a character who seeks an answer to a question that is thrown upon her: ‘how do you earn a living?’ She is a mythical creature considering the human pursuit of financial security and quality of life. She is a character who finds herself in employment that does not suit her natural talents.
Written with affection and humour for somebody I know, as well as many people who I suspect have a little troll blood in them, she was a former co-worker who I shared many a coffee break and, back in that day, a smoke break. We worked many hours in the same business district and cultivated a strange balance of dedication to our work and finding time for our own personal well-being. She, unfortunately, had a shorter fuse and patience for office culture and never stayed at any job for long. Funny as hell though and as long as I work downtown, I hope she does, too, even though she would prefer something else. Office environments need people like her.
This quasi fairy tale / myth was written using the breadcrumb trail of poetry as the vehicle for narration. The poem is part of the poetry chapbook, ya helu, as well as this week’s addition to the lyw channel on Youtube, currently rolling out a poetry campaign making poets and poetry our daily treat and exercise.
When creating Helweh as my hero, I drew inspiration from Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and Dante Alighieri’s epic poem,The Divine Comedy. In this poem, Helweh’s character makes a hapless comparison between her journey and that of Dante’s epic journey through Hell and Purgatory towards Heaven.
In regards to Joseph Campbell’s, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, many years ago, I found this non-fiction book a compelling read that dissected the role of the hero in human myth and story. As well, this book left me with the hopeful idea that I am, or can be, the hero in my own life’s story – alas, a hope that I have often found disappointed ever since. Still, it’s a beautiful and passionate book for a work of non-fiction and I don’t regret this aggravated kernel of hope imbedded in my heart. I humour it sometimes and it keeps me humble. At the end of the poem, I left Helweh with a possible answer to her riddle yet it is unknown if or how she will implement it. If I, or my friend, have not lived up to the call-to-adventure, then perhaps this Helweh lass will.
As an aside, I remember having a cynical thought when I finished reading Campbell’s book, that today’s real world did not look for leadership from heroes or encourage the possibility of living heroes. It is as if the concept is left to fantasy, film and fiction; for those who wear capes and need special powers.
It was a wonderful journey writing this poem. I did not know how it would end or how I would help Helweh answer her question when I first began writing it. I guess if I wanted to make myself feel better about Joseph Campbell’s book, I could say that I did answer a very subjective call-to-myself in this poem.
Thanks for reading this blog and please visit our latest link and video to the lyw YouTube channel:
A good, solid friendship is a lot like poetry; that kind of thing that is difficult to fully appreciate until one really, and often accidentally, benefits from it, and then, it becomes worthy of headline news and daily study.
Poetry on friendship, however, is often over-loaded with too much sentiment, and like too many sweets, can hide the goodness that should be there – in fact, it can make a poem feel like it lacks substance – and that should never happen when writing about a friend. Having and being a good friend is not just sweet but essential to healthy, human success.
In this week’s poetry video on the lyw channel, we celebrate poetry that values reliable friendship — friendship that not only provides sweetness, but protein, good fatty acids, and bitter healthy greens. This video is also a great way to balance the poetry on war and strife that was discussed in the last blog on this site.
Creating a video compilation of poetry on friendship, even in fragments, was a challenge. Most of what I found on the internet was of the greeting-card variety — very generic and easy to apply. Poems on friendship, like other ‘sentimental’ poems, are the hardest poems to write well because of the over-abundance of sentiment, similes and the need to explain in prose. i.e. ‘I love you because you’re great… etc., etc., etc.’
Now I realize my ideas of what makes a great poem is not universal. As well, poetry found on-line, on any subject, is limited. However, it makes me sad that I found more great poems on the subject of war than great poems on friendship, in my biased internet research.
I began crafting this video with Maya Angelou’s, ‘A Conceit,’ for its warmth balanced with strength and clarity. Then, I invoked a little T.S. Eliot, as well as a fragment from one of my favourite friendly poets, Robert Burns, even though I have difficulty understanding his Scottish English. It is easy to understand his warmth, vitality and poetic eye for what he values most in his life. He aims his poetry very specifically and with a robust heartfelt vigour. I also featured a sample from Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market poem. Although this poem doesn’t directly address friendship very often, the heroism in the poem is an act of profound love and friendship.
Thank you for reading this blog. Please click on the link to enjoy the latest video compilation on the lyw Youtube channel celebrating of poetry on friendship:
I would also like to invite poets to submit poetry celebrating a friend or friendship to this blog site, ‘a reliable friend.’ It is an old blog site that was originally created to celebrate a friend arriving at her 40th birthday and reinvented in an effort to continue building an on-line library of poetic friendship strong enough to hold any kind of front-line.
ya helu is a collection of poems that I wrote as a poetic self-portrait following the past few years since my mother passed away.
While writing, I didn’t want to be too self-centred in my approach to these poems. Instead, I tried to write about the people, ideas and activities that I gravitated towards during this time; I wrote about what I found most engaging about them as a way of painting a picture of myself. The indirect approach to self-examination is sometimes more accurate and appropriate.
The book concept was also influenced by recent studies in classical painting. Most students of this art usually attempt a self-portrait at some stage in their development. I wanted to attempt something like this in a poetic form and as a progressive stage in my development. Thus, my approach to the poems was also very visual and mostly in the third person. Unfortunately, there is nothing classical about my written form even in literary terms. I haven’t any talent for iambic pentameter. I also indulged in more humour and absurdity than would be typical of a classical self-portrait.
There’s a great scene towards the end of Virginia Woolf’s novel, Between the Acts. In this scene, actors performing a festival play turn upon the audience with pieces of reflecting objects such as tin cans, mirrors, candle-stick holders, etc., ‘Anything that’s bright enough to reflect, presumably, ourselves?’ The audience, while watching, suddenly become part of the last act of the play as characters watching themselves in fragmented pieces.
This is a lovely metaphor for how to piece together a temporary sense of identity with a limited human perspective. In ya helu, I looked at the lives and activities that drew me when I found it difficult to be drawn — from the gruelling desk, the heavy bed, the funny moods — to reflect back to me interesting pieces of myself.
Thanks for reading this blog and please accept the below invitation, welcoming one and all to check out the book as it is introduced through various social media channels:
I was recently asked to survey a Canadian-wide distributed literary journal. The survey was designed to determine how and how often I read their journal, who I was in terms of their demographic and what I liked and disliked about their journal.
My response reminded me of the various stages and avenues that I take and have taken as a writer who seems destined to always be ‘new.’ The ‘new’ part, though I am not as young as the word makes me sound, is something I have learned to appreciate. I will always be a student to my art-form.
Below is the comments section response that I left with this survey:
Thank you for allowing me to take part in your survey.
To be honest, I have not been drawn to a literary journal for a long time.
When I did buy or borrow journals it was to, as advised by the Submission Guidelines, read the journal prior to submission. Though lucky enough to be published in a few small lit journals as a wee lass, I must admit, I saved these books just to look at my own work, in print, once in a while.
If I look to enjoy new short fiction and poetry these days, I do searches on the internet and find a wealth of writers who are current, active, connected and free. Blog-sites have become interesting hubs for writers. I would rather subscribe to one artist’s journey than to a literary journal. I find the experience more personal and vital.
Another great way to connect with new short fiction and poetry, as well as the people who write them, is to join writing groups either locally or virtually, or create your own. Surprisingly, the last magazine to tickle me with their creative, non-fiction, writing skills was the CFA Magazine for Chartered Financial Analysts.
If I look for guidelines or instruction on how to improve me as an artist, I look to all art-forms and all kinds of artists to inspire and motivate me. This is always best when done live and in-person if you can get it that way.
When I think of writing my own fiction and poetry, I no longer put my hope in literary journals to publish or validate me as a writer. For me, it is more important to write to write rather than to write to publish. For that reason, wordpress.com and online self-publishing has helped me continue to write outside the shadow of my solitude and be open to other artists and the public.
Othello practises White Rum, his scale of just music, and clears the love song of muddying his morals. He sets his glass down 1ovingly, a whole chorus of molecules sloshing in harmony. He vows he will not, he will not be a dead hero, no way, suffering a beautiful sleep, trimmed with ochre, hazelnut, dressed in mahogany, smelling of last-minute honey and tears, regrets rained upon him too late in the guise of wilted, frail flowers. Instead, he will sleep right now, while he still can, up to his thighs in thighs, gnaw dried, salty smelts, ana water song with rum. Sweet Sixhiboux, run softly till I end my song.
Wearing the lineaments of ungratified desire, Selah sashays from the livingroom, watches dusk bask in the River Sixhiboux. She tells Othello to shut up because Jericho’s where she’s gonna go when she falls in love. Yep, when that someday man come out the blue to Whylah Falls, Beauty Town, to serenade her and close his wings around her, she’ll be in Jericho at last like the fortune-tel1er says. She’ll jump the broom and cross the Nile.
I stroll outside with strange music in my skull. Here’s the Sixhiboux River, tossed tinfoil, crinkling along the ground, undistracted by all the grave lovers it attracts, all those late Romantics who spout Lake Poet Wordsworth, “The world is too much with us, late and soon,” and brood upon the river’s shimmering bliss before tossing themselves within, pretending to be Percy Bysshe Shelley at Lerici. I’ve thought of the Sixhiboux in those erotic ways, dreamt it as midnight-thick, voluptuous, folding — like a million moths, furry with a dry raininess — over one. No matter where you are in Sunflower County, you can hear it pooling, milling in a rain storm, or thundering over a hapless town. Even now, I can hear its shining roar pouring over Shelley’s house, polishing the roses that nod, drunken, or spring — petalled crude — from earth. All I hear is an old song, her voice, lilting, “Lover Man.”
The first poem that I read from Nizar Qabbani was ‘A Letter from a Stupid Woman.’ At first, I thought this was a poet who had been bitter towards a lover. On the contrary, it is a beautiful and thought-provoking poem from a poet who loved women. This poem’s simple honesty is powerful and elegant and continues to have a lasting impact on me.
Late last year I made the attempt to revitalize my interest in poetry. When was the last time you asked somebody if they had a favourite poet or poem? I was jaded but I started that way. I expected people to tell me that they did not read poetry. In this way, I met Qabbani’s poetry. I was lucky to have clicked on this poem first.