2nd Thursday of August (2014): A Poem By Joan McGavin

Met Joan McGavin two years ago, in Hawthornden (where she also met Jenny Lewis; and Alison Amend; and Hamish) and had many wonderful adventures which she looks back on with fondness.

Joan is expecting her first grandchild very soon. Self thought of her today while having her car washed: the Auto-Pride on Woodside Road has a great gift shop, with all manner of gift cards. Self chose one with a cheerful yellow envelope and a parade of babies on the front.

Joan is currently the Hampshire Poet of 2014 and is organizing the Winchester Poetry Festival and is mega-busy.

Her collection, Flannelgraphs, was published by Oversteps Books.

Self likes this poem in particular because she’s just finished writing a short story called “The Freeze.”

New Skills

for the globally warmer world
will include flood wading
taught by out of work
circus performers
ex-stilt walkers
acrobats and the like.

Anger management
will be increasingly called for
with levels of overcrowding
making those living
jowl by cheek
more and more likely
to go for the jugular
of their nearest neighbours.
Our tutors are tried and tested.

Tear control –
though not strictly part of our current
Adult Education provision –
is an old skill;
revision, one-day courses
will be offered
by our highly qualified staff
of tsunami victims.
Haitians.

Joan speaks so pointedly, though softly.

Stay tuned.

Poem for the First Monday of August (2014): Maiana Minahal

where is my country?

    by maiana minahal (Scroll to the bottom for a link to Maiana Minahal reading)

right now
in this country
someone wants me to answer
not here
just like last night
in this country
someone invited us to his party
with everyone else
but gave us the wrong directions
just like today
in this country
someone’s wife
hiding behind lacy white curtains
watches me and my brothers
certain that we want to break into her house

right now
someone’s crooked math
calculates how my foreign birth
proves my american roots shallow
twenty years long shallow
just like yesterday
someone’s denying eye
turned the page past my forefather’s obituary
the deceased american life
of another perpetual foreigner
just like last week
someone’s high school history book
forgets my filipino ancestors
started settling this country
in 1885
this history that
for one hundred years
for over one century
refused to see
their american births and deaths

right now
someone wants to take the words from my mouth
someone wants me to close my eyes
and stop listening

right now
i keep writing poems
my sisters and brothers and i
keep writing poems
for our brothers and sisters
for our children and grandchildren
in our country
my country
this country

The poem is from Maiana Minahal’s collection Sitting Inside Wonder (San Francisco:  Monkey Book Press, 2003).

Here’s Maiana, reading an excerpt from her poetry.  She was one of the contributors to the Filipino women’s anthology self co-edited with Virginia Cerenio, Going Home to a Landscape (Calyx Press, 2003).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Miguel Hernandez, NYRB/Poets, Poems Selected and Translated by Don Share

Received in the mail today, these treasures:

Arrived in the Mail Today: a poetry collection and PANK # 10

A poetry collection by Miguel Hernandez, translated from the Spanish by Don Share;  and PANK # 10

Self has blogged about Miguel Hernandez before, so his name should be at least passingly familiar to some readers.

A poem of his, translated by Don Share, has been taped above her desk for months.

Finally, she has his translated poetry in her hands! She reads the first poem, “A Man-Eating Knife.” Here’s how it begins:

A man-eating knife
with a sweet, murdering wing
keeps up its flight and gleams
all around my life.

A twitching metal glint
flashes quickly down,
pricks into my side,
and makes a sad nest in it.

My temples, flowery balcony
of a younger day,
are black, and my heart,
my heart is turning gray.

About the poet:  Miguel Hernandez Gilabert was born on October 30, 1910, to an impoverished family in the old Visigothic capital Orihuela, in the south of Spain.  Of seven children, Miguel was one of only four who survived.  His father raised goats and sheep, and for most of his life Miguel worked in the family business as a shepherd.

About the translator, Don Share:  Don Share is the senior editor of Poetry magazine.  His books of poetry include Squandermania, Union, and most recently, Wishbone.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Aimee Bender on Fairy Tales

These days, self’s reading is all over the map.  She’s tried so many times to finish reading Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scriptures, but despite him being such a beautiful writer, she can manage only a page a day.

Aside from that book, she’s also perusing her personal bookshelf.  The books she consults most often are lined up on the shelves in son’s room. Here’s an excerpt from one of those, Conversations With American Women Writers (University Press of New England, 2004).

It’s from an interview with Aimee Bender, author of the (magical realist?) short story collection The Girl In the Flammable Skirt.  The interviewer (Sarah Anne Johnson, one of the best) asks her about fairy tales. Self thinks about fairy tales a lot because she’s thinking of sending yet another piece to Café Irreal. And she’s also reading a book of Oscar Wilde fairy tales she picked up in Dublin.

I’ve heard you say that fairy tales present plot as metaphor.  What do you mean by that?

Mainly that a fairy tale character has no internal world, so the entire plot is a reflection of their internal life.  Or at least it can be interpreted that way, to good effect.  So suddenly the plot becomes wildly meaningful.  Instead of the truth of regular life, where I don’t believe in signs and symbols in the same way, in fairy tales everything is a sign for something, and the world is this strange, blinking ordered universe of actions.

How else do fairy tales inform your writing?

I feel like somewhere along the line I ate fairy tales. I ingested and digested them, and now they’re part of my whole person.  The way they move plot, the settings, the imagery.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

More Reading From the Personal Bookshelf: VOICES OF WAR, A Library of Congress Veterans History Project

Self bought this book for The Man last year, but ended up reading it herself.  It’s made up of a lot of little remembrances, interviews with various former members of the armed forces, some of whom enlisted for reasons ranging from “I was kicked out of school and didn’t know what to do with myself” to “I was the fourth generation to serve in the United States Army.”

Here’s a memoir from Rod Hirsch, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War:

I heard the strains of Reveille.  I was very dismayed to find out that it was recorded.  I had always thought there was some guy standing out in front of the barracks, blowing Reveille on a bugle.  And that made me very disappointed.

You’re eighteen years old, you just got out of high school, and you go into a situation where you’re going to be disciplined heavily.  There’s going to be a lot expected of you, and this is something that most of us had not experienced.  And so we’re all confused, we all feel stupid, we all feel like we have left feet, we don’t do anything right.  It’s a traumatic experience.

Whoo!  What a lot of posts self has written on just one day!  She’s enjoyed herself thoroughly.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Growing Up on Park Avenue (During the Depression)

The following passage is from Diane Arbus: A Chronology, 1923 – 1971.

Self stumbled across this book in April, after attending an Arbus exhibit at the Fraenkel Art Gallery, in downtown San Francisco.

In the summer of 1929, just before the stock market crash, Arbus’s family moved into 1185 Park Avenue.

This is from a radio interview conducted by Studs Terkel in 1968, for his book Hard Times:  An Oral History of the Great Depression.

The family fortune always seemed to me humiliating.  When I had to go into that store . . . I would come on somebody’s arm or holding somebody’s hand at what must have been a fairly young age and it was like being a princess in some loathsome movie of some kind of Transylvanian obscure middle European country and the kingdom was so humiliating.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

TREMORS: New Fiction by Iranian American Writers

The week before self left for the UK, she attended a reading in Keplers in Menlo Park, featuring contributors to Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian American Writers, which was edited by Anita Amirrezvani and Persis Karim.

Self finally got around to starting it today.  The Introductions quotes various contributors’ views on their Iranian heritage.  Here are three:

Sholeh Wolpé:  “I knew I was suffocating.  I do and did understand the sudden madness that takes hold of young girls in societies where women, grossly oppressed, pour kerosene on themselves and strike a match.  It is the madness of desperation. If all doors are shut in your face, if you have not even a single unbarred window to look out from, then death seems like the only salvation . . . “

Mehdi Tavana writes “about Iranians not only because I am one, but because our history is an epic tragedy, and I am attracted by sweeping narratives.  Iran’s story is one of espionage, loss, betrayal, religious celebration, glorious celebration, bloody revolution, and tragic love that ‘dares not speak its name.’  Because I was raised in this country, I have the audacity to write stories and send them into the world and expect that people will read them.  It is self-indulgent and it is bold.  But what can I say?”

Shideh Etaat:  “I spent most of my childhood embarrassed about my culture, and now as a writer I spend most of my energy trying to understand it.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Law # 13 of Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power

Why, why, why when self has a ga-zillion things on her mind — like leaving the day after tomorrow for London, and figuring out how to use her new external hard drive, and leaving comments on a friend’s book-length short story collection, not to mention poring over those just-so-good-it-hurts Everlark stories on fanfiction.net (the one she’s most obsessed with right now involves Peeta working the Capitol as a male escort while a clue-less Katniss tends to her two children by Gale back in 12) — why, with all of these things going on, does self still feel the nead to reach up to the shelf above her Mac-Mini and pull down The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene?  What could be the reason, what could be the attraction?

Nevertheless, open the book she does, and lands on Law # 13.

Keys to Power:

In your quest for power, you will constantly find yourself in the position of asking for help from those more powerful than you.  There is an art to asking for help, an art that depends on your ability to understand the person you are dealing with and to not confuse your needs with theirs.

Most people never succeed at this, because they are completely trapped in their own wants and desires.  They start from the assumption that the people they are appealing to have a selfless interest in helping them.  They talk as if their needs mattered to these people — who probably couldn’t care less.  Sometimes they refer to larger issues: a great cause, or grand emotions such as love and gratitude.  They go for the big picture when simple, everyday realities would have much more appeal.

(This sounds almost word for word like something one of her Bacolod cousins told her last year.  What very smart relatives self doth have!)

LAW # 13 OF THE 48 LAWS OF POWER:  SELF-INTEREST IS THE LEVER THAT WILL MOVE PEOPLE.

STOP BEING LIKE THE ATHENIANS, WHO THOUGHT THEIR WONDERFUL IDEALS OF DEMOCRACY WOULD SAVE THE WORLD FROM BARBARISM. INSTEAD, BE LIKE THE SPARTANS, WHO KNEW ONLY BODIES HOTTER THAN THEIR OWN COULD RULE THE UNIVERSE.

What, what, what is self saying.

Time to go to bed.

Stay tuned.

 

The 10 Books Self Keeps Near

Self loves surveys of reading habits.

This one’s from Kepler’s Books Facebook page:

Name at least five books you’d keep near.

Self can’t possibly keep it to five.

Here are the 10 books self keeps near (on a shelf right above her MacMini):

  1. 50 Stories From Israel:  An Anthology, edited by Zisi Stavi
  2. The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene
  3. Myths and Symbols:  Philippines, by F. R. Demetrio, S.J.
  4. Drive-By Vigils, by R. Zamora Linmark
  5. National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Trees of North America
  6. Going Home to a Landscape:  Writings by Filipinas, edited by Marianne Villanueva and Virginia Cerenio
  7. Pinoy Capital:  The Filipino Nation in Daly City, by Benito M. Vergara
  8. Another Kind of Paradise:  Short Stories From the New Asia-Pacific, edited by Trevor Carolan
  9. Flannelgraphs, by Joan McGavin (Met Joan at Hawthornden, which was part of the reason self enjoyed Scotland so much)
  10. If I Write You This Poem, Will You Make It Fly, by Simeon Dumdum, Jr.

Lists are fluid; the books rotate per self’s mood.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Quote of the Second Wednesday of February 2014: Rabindranath Tagore

Thinking about poetry this morning, and about the lecture last night at USF.  Saw Melissa Dale again.

Melissa is the Executive Director of the USF Center for the Pacific Rim and also an Assistant Professor at USF.  Decades ago — in 1991, to be exact — she was self’s student assistant in the Center for East Asian Studies at Stanford.  Melissa took the picture of self that graces the back of self’s first book, Ginseng and Other Tales from Manila.  She lived on the East Coast for many years.

Eventually, Melissa and her two teen-aged daughters moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area.  Life is so mysterious.  But self rejoiced at this chance to see her again.

The poem self is reading this morning is by Rabindranath Tagore.  It’s from Rabindranath Tagore:  Selected Poems, translated by William Radice (Penguin Modern Classics edition).  She doesn’t recall buying this book, so it was probably given to her by one of her friends.

The poem contrasts a young singer with an old, and resonates so much with self.

“Broken Song”

Kasinath the new young singer fills the hall with sound:
The seven notes dance in his throat like seven tame birds.
His voice is a sharp sword thrusting and slicing everywhere,
It darts like lightning — no knowing where it will go when.

He sets deadly traps for himself, then cuts them away:
The courtiers listen in amazement, give frequent gasps of praise.
Only the old king Pratap Ray sits like wood, unmoved.
Baraj Lal is the only singer he likes, all others leave him cold.
From childhood he has spent so long listening to him sing –
Rag Kafi during holi, cloud songs during the rains,
Songs for Durga at dawn in autumn, songs to bid her farewell –
His heart swelled when he heard them and his eyes swam with tears.
And on days when friends gathered and filled the hall
There were cowherds’ songs of Krishna, in rags Bhupali and Multan.

So many nights of wedding-festivity have passed in that royal house:
Servants dressed in red, hundreds of lamps alight:
The bridegroom sitting shyly in his finery and jewels,
Young friends teasing him and whispering in his ear:
Before him, singing rag Sahana, sits Baraj Lal.
The king’s heart is full of all those days and songs.
When he hears some other singer, he feels no chord inside,
No sudden magical awakening of memories of the past.
When Pratap Ray watches Kasinath he just sees his wagging head:
Tune after tune after tune, but none with any echo in the heart.

To fully appreciate the poem, self had to turn to the Glossary in the back of the book.

Holi, self learns, is “a Hindu spring and fertility festival, characterized by the joyous throwing of coloured powders and sprinkling of coloured liquid at people.”

There were some other interesting words in the glossary, words like:

Jambu:  “Large tree that sheds its leaves in January/February, has fragrant white flowers in March-May, and purplish black astringent fruit in June/July.”

Kacu:  “The taro, a coarse herbacious plant cultivated for its tubers”

Koel:  “A bird that is frequently called ‘cuckoo’ by translators but which is actually different from either the European cuckoo or the Indian cuckoo, though it belongs in the same family.”

Makara:  “Mythical sea monster, representing the Capricorn of the Hindu zodiac, with head and forelegs of a deer, and body and tail of a fish.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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