Tuesday, October 26, 2010

...an apple is a pome...

This is a decided prompt based on some Facebook comments that came after my post, "...an apple is a pome...". Here are the comments I received:

Jaime: "A potato is a pomme de terre..."
Nancy: "beware the bad pomme..."
Piper: "and a poem is a pomegranate. :)"

Here is my go after all the comments and ideas mixed (a quick three minute poem):

to eat, or to be eaten by the inevitable edit:
beware the poem that has eyes!
it is hungry, and can see you from any angle,
but so are you. The water pot
is already boiling and the knives
are poised to peel
away the skin and extract
its knotted vision.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Non-Sequitur Exquisite Corpse Pot Luck (October 24)

It is autumn, a long time away from the last Exquisite Corpse shindig. We've met again underneath Anita's apple tree, but with a variable cast:

Anita Lonergan
D. Shane Peterson
Craig Svonkin
Sandra Maresh
Tameca L Coleman

It's cooler now. There are no bees out doing their good work. There are greens left in the garden and apples on the tree. The tree has done well this year. The garden is tilled, readied for winter.

We have a wonderful feast, again. There's the Waldorf Salad that we almost all had a hand in. The apples and celery were cut in the car on the way to Anita's. There was a stop made to the store for walnuts and mayonnaise. At Anita's, we added the walnuts, mayonnaise, nutmeg and cinnamon and stirred them all together with a lovely old wooden spoon.

There were the sandwiches from a neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant, the Lonergan's buckwheat waffles, homemade jams from the garden, a lovely pan of greens and vegetables, and a beautiful, cocoa dusted Bundt cake. Tummies were pleased.

Despite a slight chill, and a greying sky, we decided to sit outside underneath the apple tree. We went three rounds, just as we went the time before. The first time, to warm up, we wrote with the ability to see the lines that came before. The second time, we folded the pages over, so that we were blind when we wrote our next lines. The third time, we wrote poetic bits on torn pieces of paper, scrambled them in a hat, and chose the pieces at random and read them in no particular order. The results of this activity follow:

Round 1:

We five sitting under the apple tree
contemplating life, love, & sex in the garden

A hole in the fence & grey skies
frame the circle, the squirrel in the compost,
taking chunks from the autumn harvest,
enjoying a discarded pumpkin,

The talk, the words, bees moving from
flower to flower,

none of us performing the role of bees.
The Bees do that.

Round 2:

The tree, the talk, enjoying an encounter between
diverse peoples, but similar

we are laughing, thinking, comparing life experiences.

Jets in the missing man formation. Who's not here?

The alliums are gone now, the peaches, too.
The pumpkins and the berries give way
to the greens, and the apples mulching
into the earth.

Can I live amidst the squalor?

Green of the hose, green grass, green
leaves, green house, all varied colors
by the same name.

Tapping and jet roar. Schmutz in the city.

Cover the windows. It's time. The season
has come to its next dot, resting
here until the next writer picks up the next sentence.

Schmutz dropping on his sweater, he

"Sum up air, sum up noise," Doe
says, but one can't sum up.

Round 3:

1) We are writers, the 5 of us, comparing notes, lives,
roommates, "I am best when I speak, not when I write."

2) I was gonna roll on the floor laughing.
I come from here. I ain't Chicano. I ain't shit.
No accent on the Dia De Muertos.
Kinda like the Hornada de Muertos.

3) Writing is not speaking
Is not singing or humming.
It has its own pains & pleasures,
rhythms & embarrassed pauses.

4) We're all just going to keep everyone guessing:
The hints of accents in our voices, misplaced & misinterpreted,
and the breadth of knowledge and interests
defy labeling.

5) Wrecked cars & broken sonnets litter the front yard: schmutzy.

Please stay tuned for future shindigs!

originally posted at the Exquisite (!) Corpse Pomes (!) blog: http://exquisitecorpsepomes.blogspot.com/2010/10/non-sequitur-exquisite-corpse-pot-luck.html

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Two Kinds of Decay

The first word that initially came to mind after reading Sarah Manguso's book, The Two Kinds of Decay, was "stark." The subject matter could be what brought that word to mind. Add to that, the author's treatment of her memoir as distanced, if not clinical. Her writing is very controlled. She also shirks sentimentalities effectively, despite the painful and personal nature of the material. Further, the short chapters, block paragraphs, and abundance of white space seem to form a visual context of strict form.

These are a poet's tools, without a doubt. Though the style of the piece, its voice, and tone initially threw me, I appreciate the tools Manguso used a lot more now. She is consistent and uses her devices deftly and with purpose.

Manguso describes, studiously, with clarity and concision, medical procedures, characters and events from her life, her confessions, as well as the hows of living with a rare form of Guillain--Barre syndrome. The book could be a sort of polished journal in which she writes with disregard to time and instead writes in what sequence the details make sense to her. The book is a recounting, wound tightly to a couple of principles which I can very much appreciate and relate. She writes constantly from the point of observation, distance, and simply, so that nothing is missed and the reader is held close to the text until the end. In the end, the reader is not left with a hole, or depressed, and not even with apathy, but with a new way of seeing that the author herself has come to and shown quite well.

The book is poetic in a meaning-follows-form kind of way. The crisp precision of Manguso's narrative, the observant distance with which she relates her story, the segments of short chapters and blocked paragraphs which reveal a bounty of white space on the pages, and the chapter titles around which the author seems to write certain memories as if they were prompts, come to mind. I would even argue that there is a poetic turn where Manguso explains a way of seeing that has become a part of this work:

My existence shrank from an arrow of light pointing into the future forever to a speck of light that was the present moment. I got better at living in that point of light, making the world into that point. I paid close attention to it. I loved it very much.

Further, an affirmation that the author is very studied in her treatment of the material. She writes a note about how such things (memoirs) should be written:

I resisted as long as I could. A narrator must keep a safe distance from the story, but a lyric speaker must occupy the lyric moment as if it is happening. Or so it seems to me at this moment.

I believe that Sarah Manguso has done the job she has described above well. Because of this work, I have ordered her books of poems and am anxious to read them soon.

originally published for Explication. Analysis. Conversation. (http://explicanalyconvo.blogspot.com/), October 16, 2010 and crossposted at GoodReads (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/126421469).

Friday, October 15, 2010


Lately, I am reading a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh. He speaks to the issues that presently reside within my heart. Also, Thich Nhat Hanh speaks so beautifully and clearly about those things and he makes the remedy simple.

I have a lot of anger and disappointment to deal with. I figure after many, many years I should deal with these things so they can stop getting in the way of my goals and my happiness.

I have so much anger and disappointment within me it often hurts me physically. I have major heart burn and frequent headaches nearly every day which inflame when my emotions do so. It's difficult for me to not recognize the correlation between the inflaming (and literal burning) and the emotional state I am in at any given time.

Thich Nhat Hanh suggests something really beautiful. He suggests that instead of stuffing emotions we should "get in touch with our anger." We should understand it and treat it as if it was our own child. Normally, I think most of us vent. We spew our frustrations out onto a friend or an acquaintance or a stranger. We hit pillows and cry ourselves to sleep at night until we are so fatigued it seems the anger has dissipated. In the morning, when the anger returns, we have a whole new day to wait in before we can practice our anger into the pillows again. That's what Thich Nhat Hanh says we are doing. We are practicing anger and this is not healing at all, nor is it good for the person or thing towards which we are angry. We'll explode when we see them because that is what we have been practicing.

Instead of suppressing or practicing anger, Thich Nhat Hanh says that we should recognize and nurture our anger as if it is a child. We should take care of it and understand it and then transform it.

We should not fight our anger, because anger is our self, a part of our self. Anger is of an organic nature, like love. We have to take good care of our anger. And because it is an organic entity, an organic phenomenon, it is possible to transform it into another organic entity. The garbage can be transformed back into compost, into lettuce, and into cucumber.
--Thich Nhat Hanh, Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames.
originally published at Grow (http://mecacoleblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/anger.html), October 15, 2010, and crossposted at GoodReads (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/121955597).