Tuesday, June 16, 2015

New Mexico

I feel a longing for New Mexico. I've never been, but I know people who went to grad school there, artists who moved there, I talked to a friend trying to get down there with her family, I just read a poetic memoir about being there, a friend who went to write mystical poetry, and the desert inside my mind wants to align with the desert there.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Radical Compassion Poetics

“Compassion is 'radical' when it moves beyond 'being nice' or giving to our favorite charity, and becomes the very foundation of all our actions, the signature of our society. As a cultural imperative, compassion lays a path to a future free of some of our society's greatest downfalls. It is the root of sustainable, positive change, and the key to meeting the challenges of violence, fear and suffering.”   --from Naropa’s Radical Compassion Symposium, 2014

As an extension of CAConrad’s PACE THE NATION Project, I want to find ways to talk about compassion as a means for change, to practice radical compassion, urge others to practice radical compassion, and seek a means for continuing dialogues.

Here is CA’s positioning: “The Occupy movement revealed two substantial certainties: Unrest is widespread and wants to become visible. Poets are part of this wherever you go.” How can I seek an expression of unrest through non-destructive means, when, like Audre Lorde said, “The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house?"

I am also thinking about Corinne Ball’s (Move On) words: “In this moment of crisis [in Baltimore], we can learn something from Ferguson: the most important voices to listen to right now are local ones. And the most important images and videos will be captured not by out-of-town professionals but by the people of Baltimore themselves.”

I want to borrow from CA’s PACE project, as well as SOMATIC exercises. CA’s approach: “A PACE (Poet Activist Community Extension) Action where we read poems on the street to our fellow citizens, the resulting conversations among the most productive and rewarding experiences where we also give away copies of the poems we read.”

So many people are empathetic and altruistic, but how can we get to compassion—which literally “to suffer with”—to ultimately lead us to act?

Even as many of the world’s religions promote compassion as one of the main keystones for practicing their respective religions, science, also, is studying compassion. According to UC Berkeley: “While cynics may dismiss compassion as touchy-feely or irrational, scientists have started to map the biological basis of compassion, suggesting its deep evolutionary purpose. This research has shown that when we feel compassion, our heart rate slows down, we secrete the ‘bonding hormone’ oxytocin, and regions of the brain linked to empathy, caregiving, and feelings of pleasure light up, which often results in our wanting to approach and care for other people.”

As someone concerned about how far down going downhill can go, I feel helpless and vulnerable. However, one of the best speeches I have ever heard was at a Take Back the Night rally. One of the speakers said, “Vulnerability is a strength. If someone puts walls up, they are detached, alone, and suffer. Vulnerability is what brings us together.”

I am seeking ways to say this, and poetry is my way, my art, and my goal to fully express compassion—alongside the need to change the current global system. It is my way of communicating to you, with hope that we can all continue compassionate ways of acting and communicating, and end what Allison Cobb speaks to, how “patriarchal racist global capitalism is a system built from death, bent on destruction. So it seems like the task before us is to find an entirely new way to be alive.”

Poetry renews language, brings us the deeper figure that makes all associations, and is close attention. I hope you can find your poems—or your own art—to help bring a new way of living.

Revision Strategies

It is natural to feel like your work is bad--that it sucks. I have yet to find a writer, poet, or artist who does not feel this way. Revision is a way to realize that everything can be changed on the page, and that discovery is found in play:

Try different line breaks with your poem

Try different stanzas

Try playing with cliche and common phrases
 I come unrepaired

Try negating or contradicting what is said before

Riff off of each previous line, borrowing a word, antonym, or image
my time at Robinson Middle School
in the middle of my parents' divorce
thankful he was diverted

Try moving lines around, like this example:
I wished for a way
but I had to return Monday
through Friday
my cracks showing
I move the third line to the last
I wished for a way
but I had to return Monday
my cracks showing
by Friday

Monday, June 8, 2015

About having fun in poetry

The Poetic Memoir class is going well!

With good [online] attendance, I will be able to teach it again.

I'm also looking forward to having more time to write next month.

How about you? How are your poems going?

I am thankful I am getting a couple of readers.

Blogs are so strange that way. That you might not know who is reading.

If it wasn't for the tracking.

With that said, I want to say thank you for reading.

We write to join a conversation.

We write to explore and investigate.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Poetry-writing advice I gave to a student

Don't worry about metaphor in the first writing; you can search for something to use in the actual writing itself

Try rearranging, leaving out, playing with words and word phrases

Silence is just as important as words in a poem; the more silence in the subject, the more silence reflected in the poem

Poems are reflections and representations; avoid having "answers"

"Poems are never finished, only abandoned." --Paul Valery

Poems can have humor--the best humor in puns, as puns examine language in two or more different ways

Find an object to tie a metaphor to what you "want to say"

Forget this list

Monday, June 1, 2015

From Amy King, with permission

I was recently interviewed by Lynn Melnick's daughter (pasted below) about VIDA, that plus a recent conversation with Metta S├íma got me thinking about religion, or rather, my lack of any formal adherence to one. I guess if I had to choose, I'd say my spiritual ethos is most closely aligned to KARMA. I grew up on the Bible Belt and my experiences instilled in me a strong rejection of most formalized groups, esp in the form that purports to declare your future existence postmortem.
But I have come to realize a number of things that sit with me: we're all born into a variety of circumstances beyond our choosing (at least, that I know of). We're given what we're given and we hopefully make the most / best of it. Some of us have better or optimal resources, support, safety, awarenesses, etc. Some of us have more hardships, obstacles, lack of support, threats, etc. Many of us have a balance of both, or an imbalance of both.
Now to me, "karma" is akin to the Golden Rule or the notion that "God's watching" or "What wld Jesus do?" It's being accountable to your own consciousness / conscience and doing something with those resources that pushes the line from self preservation to self serving: which are you? It means hearing calls for help and answering or recognizing need and stepping up. Karma suggests that you'll be rewarded or are paying off some bad debts - whatever the case, you know how it feels to help others beyond yourself, and if you don't, then I guess you are an impoverished person in spiritual ways. I hope that's not too judgey. I guess that's how far I go with spiritual condemntation. Or as I tell my students after going over the rules of the classroom: But you know when you're doing wrong. You don't need to be told you're about to do something that will harm others in whatever measure; you feel it.
I guess that's the end of my pontificating. I'm writing this today because I'm feeling blessed. I complain, but I've got a lot going for me, including so much support and love beyond any measure my younger self could have imagined or envisioned. I'm one of the lucky ones. And if Karma, the tenets of it, are true: I feel like I've been rewarded for something in a past life that I have no clue about, but damn: thank the goddess I did it! And thanks to all of you, virtual and IRL, who have shown me love and helped me feel that human support! I hope I have done some of the same for you. And I will keep trying to!
1. Why do you like VIDA? I like that VIDA is made up of people who want to get a lot of different voices heard. Everyone is a volunteer at VIDA, which means they're actually invested in the work, not for self-focused reasons like making money or careers. VIDA is also tapping into a desire among a lot of people in the world who would like to see fairer publishing practices.
2. What does VIDA mean to you? VIDA gives me a chance to do activism in the literary world. There are a lot of different kinds of activism like defending clinics, helping people who need safe places or food, demanding civil rights for everyone, etc. VIDA's focus on getting everyone's voices helps indirectly do many of those things: the more voices that can be heard, the more people learn about others whose experiences aren't their own. That way, we can empathize with others and learn to care about them and want to help. And also, hearing others stories and voices helps to demystify people we might only view through the lens of stereotypes.
3. How did you find VIDA? VIDA found me! I was posting about Publisher Weekly's 100 Best Books of 2009 on my blog and complaining about how so many of the books were by white men. Cate Marvin was just starting up VIDA, and she emailed me and asked me if I wanted to help out!
4. Other thoughts? Everyone changes the world in at least some small way - the big question is: Will the change you make be good or bad?

Companion Animal by Magdalena Zurawski

Companion Animal by Magdalena Zurawski

I can't wait to get my hands on this book! What a terrific way to start over--to get to "the real" by throwing away old notions. All notions are old notions?


Poetry. LGBT Studies. "A few years ago, armed with seven books, and guided by a small dog, Magdalena Zurawski decided to start over as a poet. She was in the kind of mood where extravagant poetic language can appear dishonest, so, for the most part, she limited the contents of her poems to what was strictly necessary. But in each poem she did exactly one unnecessary thing—often the unnecessary thing was the appearance of the small dog—and that was how she reinvented poetry. Rarely has the poetic impulse been isolated with such intensity. Rarely has it cohabited so successfully with plain speech. Here are the eagerly anticipated results. Wise, forceful, honest, clean as a whistle yet with a shockingly foul mouth, and very doggy. Sometimes the nastiest parts are also the nicest parts. I find that inspiring."—Aaron Kunin