Reading Dionne Brand

from her poetry collection, Thirsty (McClelland & Stewart):

would I have had a different life
failing this embrace with broken things,
iridescent veins, ecstatic bullets, small cracks
in the brain, would I know these particular facts,
how a phrase scars a cheek, how water
dries love out, this, a thought as casual
as any second eviscerates a breath

and this, we meet in careless intervals,
in coffee bars, gas stations, in prosthetic
conversations, lotteries, untranslatable
mouths, in versions of what we may be,
a tremor of the hand in the realization
of endings, a glancing blow of tears
on skin, the keen dismissal in speed

Self met Dionne Brand in Banff, just this past April.

Life-changing encounter. Forevermore.

Writing can change people.

Another excerpt from Thirsty. By the way, it’s Sunday in Ireland:

There was a Sunday morning scent,
an early morning air, then the unarranged light
that hovers on a street before a city wakes
unrelieved to the war fumes of fuel exhaust

Stay tuned.

Poetry Monday: “There for six months”

A student wrote this years ago, shortly after the first Gulf War (You know, the “shock and awe” war). The class was Composition & Rhetoric. The assignment was for students to write an autobiographical essay. But self didn’t have the heart to grade the student down for thinking outside the box, especially after he told her it was the first poem he ever wrote.

She really liked the piece. Dear blog readers, the fact that this piece got written at all is something of a miracle.

She was reminded of it by a poem in J Journal’s current issue.

After The Hurt Locker, after Zero Dark Thirty, after American Sniper, self finds the perspective of the poem very refreshing:

There For Six Months

Underneath Pink Floyd’s alluring rhapsody
the phone was ringing,
Hey you, out there on your own,
sitting naked by the phone, would you touch me
and my older brother is telling me that
come January, he’ll be in Iraq,
serving his time of duty for six months
in the war
see also: abuse of power, see also: corpses

Meanwhile, people all around are nestled away in their cozy,
unobtrusive shells: human anti-socialism,
one thousand and one bloody bodies, our own an afterthought.
Warming cups of soup, chicken-noodle flavor,
and stacks of crackers on a folded napkin, for dipping.

Hey you, don’t help them to bury the light,
don’t give in without a fight
And my brother is telling me that if he makes it back
there’s a good chance he’ll be based in the west coast,
see also: home, see also: happiness
There’s shake and shiver undertones in his voice
when he keeps saying, Don’t worry,
they trained me how to live, but all I can wonder is
if they trained him how to die.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poetry Monday: Dionne Brand

One of the dearest people self met at the Banff Writing Studio was Canadian poet Dionne Brand. For not only was she brilliant, she would go out of her way to talk to self about her WIP, the one that got her accepted to the program. Dionne is one classy, classy lady.

Dionne is up for a Trillium Award this week. Naturally, self hopes she wins.

Here’s an excerpt from her poetry collection, Thirsty:

XI

i

you can’t satisfy people; we long for everything,
but sleep, sleep is the gift of the city
the breath of others, their mewling, their disorder,
I could hear languages in the lush smog,
runes to mercy and failure and something tender
a fragile light, no, not light, yes light,
something you can put your hand in, relinquishing

Today, self is off to Saint Bride’s, which Cassandra Clare used as the setting for the London Institute of the Shadowhunters in her trilogy The Infernal Devices. A copy of Clockwork Prince has been in self’s tote since she arrived in London. She researched how to get to St. Bride’s on the Underground, and found that the closest stop would be Blackfriars.

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER FOR THE INFERNAL DEVICES

Be still, self’s beating heart! Blackfriars Bridge was where Jem Carstairs and Tessa Gray met each year for one hour, a ritual they fainthfully maintained for the next (500+?) years.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

London After Hours, Great Russell Street: Off-Season 3

Self is finding “Off-Season” to be a very interesting Photo Challenge.

She isn’t sure that these series of shots she took last night are really “off-season” — except when viewed in one sense. But she’ll post anyway.

She took these pictures last night, when she was hunting for a cheap place to have dinner.  She was on Great Russell Street. The British Museum, and all the shops along that street, were closed. So she peered in through the iron gates and the barred windows:

The British Museum After Hours

The British Museum After Hours

A Closer Look Through the Barred Gates of the British Museum

A Closer Look Through the Barred Gates of the British Museum

Across the street is an Antiquarian Bookseller named Jarndyce (How very Dickens). When self peered through the barred windows, this caught her attention:

Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers, Directly Across from the British Museum

Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers, Directly Across from the British Museum

It was a Sunday evening. She happened to be reading (in addition to the ever-present Clockwork Prince, ha ha ha!) a copy of Dionne Brand’s poetry collection, Thirsty. And here is an excerpt from Poem II:

The city was empty, except for the three,
they seemed therefore poised, as when you are alone
anywhere all movement is arrested, light, dun,
except, their hearts, scintillant as darkness

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Books for Ireland

Mary Gaitskill: BAD BEHAVIOR

Mary Gaitskill: BAD BEHAVIOR

Cassandra Clare: THE INFERNAL DEVICES TRILOGY

Cassandra Clare: THE INFERNAL DEVICES TRILOGY

Poetry, but of course

Poetry, but of course: Dionne Brand and Tomas Transtromer

Suzanne Collins: MOCKINGJAY (Self has read this book at least half a dozen times)

Suzanne Collins: MOCKINGJAY (Self has read this book at least half a dozen times)

AFTER: NINETEEN STORIES OF APOCALYPSE AND DYSTOPIA, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Wandling

AFTER: NINETEEN STORIES OF APOCALYPSE AND DYSTOPIA, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Wandling

and, last but not least:

George Eliot’s Middlemarch

Self is bringing along the following literary magazines as well:

  • Crab Orchard Review’s West Coast and Beyond Issue
  • Witness Magazine’s Spring 2015 issue
  • Bluestem Magazine’s Spring 2015 issue

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

A Poem Written for Self

You are courageous.

You are bright.

You have so much to pursue —

Best wishes for your grand adventures ahead!

DSCN9868

CLOCKWORK ANGEL, p. 387

SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT

It was cold today in Banff. Self feels like she is coming down with a serious head cold. Never mind! She has Cassandra Clare to keep her company. Everlasting gratitude to her niece Karina for recommending The Infernal Devices trilogy. Holy holy moly. Only two words fill her vocabulary at this moment:

WILL. HERONDALE.

Cassandra Clare, you are genius.

On p. 387, it is the night of the full moon and the Clave has gone to strike the vampires led by de Quincey (who formed an uncommon attachment to Will’s neck when he was pretending to be a subjugate at the party at which Tessa Gray was channeling a vampire named Charlotte and if that is too much for you just buy the book for heaven’s sake!)

Will and Jem, a flighty girl named Jessamine, two servant girls and Tessa Gray are left alone in the Institute. Suddenly, they receive a very unexpected visit from a mundane named Mortmain (and every nerve in self’s body is screaming, Don’t you put any credence in what this shifty mundane tells you, Will Herondale!)

The following conversation ensues:

Will’s blue eyes were dark and thoughtful. “Thank you for the information,” he said, “but de Quincey will soon be no more of a threat to us, or his mechanical monsters, either.”

Mortmain’s eyes widened. “Is the Clave to move against the Magister? Tonight?”

“Goodness,” said Will. “You really do know all the terms, don’t you. It’s very disconcerting in a mundane.” He smiled pleasantly.

So blah blah blah ensues and Will and Jem decide¬† to go check out Mortmain’s story. Tessa Gray wants to accompany them but Will tells her she can’t. At which point the following conversation ensues:

She turned her gaze back to Will. “But what about Boadicea?”

For a moment she thought he’d forgotten what he’d said to her in the library. Then the glimmer of a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth, as if he’d tried to fight it and couldn’t. “You will be Boadicea someday, Tessa,” he said, “but not tonight.”

And then, chapter ends on a cliff-y!

And the next chapter begins with a quote from Robert Browning, his poem “The Lost Leader”:

Blot out his name, then, record one lost soul more
One task more declin’d, one more footpath untrod,
One more devil’s triumph and sorrow for angels

Dying, dying, dying.

Stay tuned.

Sentence & Poem of the Day (Trigger Warning: Dark Subject Matter)

“He laughed like a serial killer, but that was my best friend for you.”

Self realizes this is rather an odd choice of sentence for Mother’s Day, but it’s gold. Pure gold. And it’s from fan fiction.

The poetry excerpt is by Kevin Flynn, from his poem “Thoughts on Easter While Digging a Grave,” (Aaaargh, why? Self realizes this title is almost as dark as the sentence above) from Bluestem‘s Spring 2015 issue:

Once there were so many buffalo rumbling
on the Great Plains, they darkened the landscape
like a storm, so many that trains full of men,
armed with carbines, would fly through the West
shooting the animals dead, stopping only long
enough to load up the skins, boxcar after boxcar
of bloody fun, leaving behind pyramids of skulls
at every station.

Fully loaded, lovely, oblivious
and muscular, three neighbor boys, with skull
plates thin as a dime, and the Southern sun settled
hissing in the bog behind their eyes, have tacked
sixteen new raccoon skins to their learning barn
wall this Spring. At 4 am, with cats afuzz in the
walls, they tree a young coon one hundred feet
from our bedroom window, and shake him out
to the dogs.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sunday: Tomas Transtromer Again

In lieu of a really good cup of coffee — self too lazy to change out of her pajamas — this

(That’s the beauty of being a writer. One can indeed “live vicariously” — lol!):

ESPRESSO (an excerpt)

The black coffee they serve outdoors
among tables and chairs gaudy as insects.

Precious distillations
filled with the same strength as Yes and No.

It’s carried out from the gloomy kitchen
and looks into the sun without blinking.

In the daylight a dot of beneficent black
that quickly flows into a pale customer.

Self is the pale customer. She is so pale because she has been holed up in her room for approx. one week!

Stay tuned.

Poetry Tuesday: Two Excerpts from Tomas Transtromer

Thank you to poet Angela Narciso Torres, who introduced self to Tomas Transtromer last November in Venice Beach, California.

She has a copy of The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems, translated from the Swedish by Robin Fulton.

Here’s an excerpt from his poem “Morning Birds”:

It grows, it takes my place,
It pushes me aside.
It throws me out of the nest.
The poem is ready.

And here’s an excerpt from his poem “Song”:

The gathering of white birds grew: gulls
dressed in canvas from the sails of foundered ships
but stained by vapors from forbidden shores.

Transtromer was born in Stockholm in 1931. He spent many years working as a psychologist in Vasterlas, which has established a Transtromer Prize in his honor.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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