Friday, April 01, 2011

Weekly Quotes Part 13


The Long Goodbye

Although our culture that has become more open about everything from incest to sex addiction, grief seemed to me like the last taboo.  In our culture of display, the sadness of death is largely silent.  (13)


I fence in my terror of the abys with the pretense that information was control.  (35-36)

I identify deeply with this quote.  O'Rourke explains how, when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, she began doing her own research on the diagnosis, etc.  I understand this response.  If knowledge is power, whenever a problem arises I inevitably turn to a book.  I "jokingly" say that there isn't a situation I can't throw a book at.  I could give examples of books I've read because of a personal experience but that list would be so long it's probably best for me to just leave it to your imagination.

If the condition of grief is nearly universal, its transactions are exquisitely personal (56)


On my birthday, a friend mused out loud that my mom’s death had surely been easier to bear because I had known it was coming.  I almost bit her head off: Easier to bear compared to what—the time she died of a heart attack? Instead, I bit my tongue. (148)


This both horrified me and made me laugh.  I love O'Rourke's imagined/rhetorical question.  I also admire her ability to bite her tongue.  I don't know that I would have been so polite.


. . . I had been craving . . . a formalization of grief, one that might externalize it.  (156)


The disappearance of mourning rituals affects everyone, not just the mourner.  (157)


If children learn through exposure to new experiences, mourners unlearn through exposure to absence in new contexts.  (175)


I love the world more because it is transient.  (187)


[A]ccording to the researcher George Bonanno, the bereaved often take comfort in what is called ‘benefit finding’—a tendency to focus on the so-called silver lining inside the dark cloud.  In the midst of pain, optimism may indeed be a necessary survival tactic.  (215)


One of the grubby truths about a loss is that you don’t just mourn the dead person, you mourn the person you got to be when the lost one was alive.  (228)

Garland of Love

Is the love with which you are transforming the life of another person also transforming your life for the better?  (March 26)


There is a song from Funny Girl in which the question is asked "Are you someone better for my love?"  Of course it's easy to get caught up in trying to fix the other or make them a better person.  However, more important, is seeing how each relationship affects the self.  Who am I, in relationship to you?  Am I a better person in this relationship with you?  And these questions invite us to take responsibility for our relationship choices.


[F]orgive the person who has hurt you—even if you don’t want to, even if it seems impossible, even if what he or she did was unforgivable, even if that person was yourself.  (March 29)

It is a peculiar thing.  I forgave my first husband for the problems in our marriage, problems I could have easily foreseen if I didn't romanticize the red flags into something else, if I didn't love him through a filter of fairy-tale fantasy.  But I still felt angry and it wasn't until recently I realized why I was still holding anger.  Until my children were old enough to protect themselves from being hurt by him, I felt I needed to protect them and the only way I knew how to do this was to be angry for them.  I don't know if anger and forgiveness can coexist.  However, I know that forgiveness begins, not with forgiving the other person but with forgiving yourself.  Whenever I've felt stuck in resentment, unable to forgive someone, it is not until I dig deeply into my own choices that I can work through that block.

Younger by the Day

Do not let the way it’s supposed to be deprive you of the good of what actually is. (90)

Movie and Television Reviews


Sylvia


I don’t know why some movies are made.  I suppose that there is a voyeuristic necessity.  The truth is, we’ll never really know what happened behind closed doors in the Plath household because her husband expurgated her journals (to protect their children) and we only have his version, one that he had been reticent to share for too many obvious reasons.  It isn’t a surprise that Plath herself became a feminist icon and would have probably loathed how her myth has been formed around how she has been imagined by others.  Do any of us ever appreciate the way others see us?  There is a vulgarity in it all, from Hughes burning her last journal to the feminist cant that refuses to see any love lost between the couple.  This movie does nothing to redeem Hughes nor to define Plath as a powerful figure.  What it does is pretty much exploit an easily manipulated story.  The acting is good, although Gwyneth Paltrow never manages to sound as hard and edgy as Plath herself did.  Paltrow’s voice is simply too soft, too serene.  But her eyes convey a great deal of emotion and she manages to reflect a hollow blankness when we, as viewers, are supposed to understand that she is slipping into her own madness.  There is something curious about the airy openness of the times in America and the claustrophobic interiors of the British.  I suppose if this were a better movie I would have pondered this further rather than dismissively alluding to it here.  But this movie didn’t inspire me to think any more deeply than I have already and most of this has been inspired by what I already knew going into the film rather than being anything I drew from it directly.  Oh well.


Angel Season One


Anyone who knows me knows I’m a fan of the Whedonverse and occasionally watch the shows again.  This is not a first time for me to watch the first season and, as my grandfather said, “God willing” it won’t be my last.  It’s interesting to see how unstable this first season feels.  The show hasn’t hit its stride, is still struggling to get the right chemistry between its characters and it’s easy to see how minor characters are introduced with an eye to potentially keeping them around while leaving them easily expendable.  I may be one of the few and far between who likes Kate’s character.  By the end of the season, you can see how the writers are hitting their stride and the characters are beginning to mesh.  In some ways, it was a little surprising at the time to not see it happen immediately, given how many were part and parcel of the Buffy staff but they were intentionally trying to create a different emotional energy for this show, one that complimented the other without being reductive or redundant.


Secret of the Kells


On a whim, I chose to suggest this movie to Rob.  It took a while and, in the time it took, this movie came up on websites, in newsletters, in the most unexpected places.  When we finally sat down to watch it I almost immediately understood why.  The story is magical, told in a mythic style that is further evoked by the stylistic imagery.  There are circles, mandalas, eyes that are repeated throughout.  (Even a dome shaped fireplace that is surrounded by a semi-circle hearth.)  There are strong vertical lines that form arches in a forest and knotwork filigree that decorates backgrounds and stonework.  Sometimes drawn in clear animation lines, at other times a watercolor wash, the visual effects are stunning.  And I haven’t gotten to the music which is infused with an energy that so perfectly weaves into the story itself, I caught my breath a couple of times trying to be still enough to take it all in.  This movie is utterly enchanting and Rob and I both were thoroughly charmed by it.  Definitely one we would recommend.


Across the Hall


I confess, I am such a fan of Britanny Murphy’s that I probably am being more gracious to this film than I otherwise would be.  But I love her awkward sexiness, her smokey eyes and voice, and her funny shaped lips.  I was sad when I heard she’d died and I think it would have been interesting to see the directions her career would have gone had things been different.  The fact that she was choosing to be in a film noire movie like this while also making cute romantic movies shows she was trying to stretch her acting wings.  She does a good job and the acting all around is good. The tone is established very early in the film and there is a surreal quality lent by the seeming displacement in time.  It took me a moment to grasp when the movie is supposed to be taking place but once I had my chronological bearings in place, the flashbacks, the layering of the story as it slowly unfolds, was quite effective.   The hardest thing about making noire is not merely in establishing a tone but in developing a plot that allows for a twist, or two, or three.  Typically I am disappointed by the twist which I feel is overly contrived and convenient.  And I concede that my love of Murphy may be keeping me more biased in favor of this film, but I liked this movie from beginning to end.  Liked.  Not loved.  It’s good for what it is.  Could have been better but definitely could have been much worse.  


Bourne Ultimatum


I watched the first and second movie so it only makes sense I’d watch the third (and what I assume is the final) of the Bourne movies.  They do a better than average job of maintaining the energy of the first but the tension is lost.  You pretty much expect twists and turns but they don’t really come.  I can complain more about the jerky camera stuff but I can understand that they would continue using the same visual effect.  I’m done with it now and I liked them all for what they were.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  










New York, I Love You


I definitely enjoyed this little movie with its weaving of different stories, looking at relationships and how attraction and love manifests.  Each story sets its own tone, exploring the subtle ebbs and flows of lust and desire, touching on the tenderness that is commitment.  Every now and again, I see a movie that feels like home and this movie is like that emotionally.  I think it would have been interesting to have some darker explorations but I can understand wanting to keep the singular effect, all the more effective as it is all created with stories that piece together like a charming quilt.








Gossip


I really must like Norman Reedus because he is the reason I watched this movie.  I suffered through it, hoping it would get . . . I dunno.  Intelligent?  Interesting?  Something.  The most interesting part of it to me was the collage mural that his character was creating as the rumor started gradually spread from person to person.  But this movie felt like something from Lifetime, where women are empowered through victimization and the ending is so manipulative and contrived as to truly put the viewer to shame.  Anyone who was surprised is a fool and since I was watching it with a fever and still knew every twist and turn before it happened I think I can say that with impunity.  






The Black Dahlia


Dear Satia, I kindly give you permission to never ever watch another Brian DePalma movie.  In fact, I think it would be a good idea to simply turn a movie off the moment you see his name involved.  Sure, you may stick around because you think the sepia tone is evocative of a potentially interesting film noire movie and yet you have to realize that if he’s attached to the movie in any way, shape, or form, you are going to finish watching the movie and feel you completely wasted a couple of hours of your life.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, should ever make you watch another Brian DePalma movie.  So next time, do us all a favor, and just walk away.






White Oleander


I read the novel by Janet Finch and really liked it.  I avoided the movie because I didn’t think I could possibly appreciate it.  I can honestly say that I liked this movie slightly better than I thought I would.  I think it was an interesting choice to have the mother be a visual artist rather than a poet.  It was a logical move on the screenwriter’s part, translating a written text to a visual one invites this sort of modification.  I don’t know that Michelle Pfeiffer did an adequate job of creating the narcissistic intensity of Inge’s character.  The young actress was good but too many changes were made to the story and, in some ways, it just withered for me.






Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 5


This is both my favorite and least favorite season of the series.  For one thing, there’s the brilliant episode “Hush” which I still think is perhaps the most frightening episode of the entire series.  It also has some typically humorous moments.  There are other shining moments but I really found Adam and the whole Initiative thing tedious.  I didn’t think Adam was big or bad enough to be the Big Bad for the season.  But Spike being more incorporated in the series makes up for the rest because his character infuses so much humor.  Oh, and let us not forget Faith’s awakening from her coma.  








Hellraiser 


I was sick.  What can I say?  I wanted to watch something that wouldn’t make me think and be damned if I thought this was a good choice.  I mean, I remembered this movie being edgy because the appearance of the Cenobites.  And the box that opens the portal to hell is so pretty.  But I forgot the blatant confluence of sex and violence.  How did I forget this?  And the idea that fetishism is somehow indicative of a more hellish personality, a perversion that is bound to be taken to extremes, is not unlike watching the freak watchers arrive at a fetish club, dressed in their designer labels and laughing at the latex and leather clad party goers.  I forgot so much and while it still has some effective visual moments, the most disgusting part of this movie has nothing to do with the Cenobites as it does with the vulgar merging of sex with violence, fetish with perversion. 


Dracula II:  The Ascension


Still sick with fever.  Only sick could I have watched this.  Any strength or less fever and I would have shut this thing off.  I just lay there, zoned out, bored bored bored.  At least the first movie in this series had some pretty moments and an interesting twist on the whole birth of Dracula concept.  But seriously, what is the point of this movie beyond milking an audience of its money before the word gets out that this movie sucks.  And not in the sexy vampire way.  I really need to stop watching crappy vampire movies, sick or not.  










Earth2


I remembered watching this on television when it first aired and that I liked it but didn’t love it.  I was sick.  It made sense to start watching it and, once I did, I was hooked.  I thought some of it was silly but most of it was interesting.  Of course, I’ve been spoiled by Joss Whedon’s vision and I kept thinking about how much he and his team could have done with this concept.  But even without them, this show is more interesting than I had remembered.  I’m not sure what the purpose was in putting two episodes, which I have to assume never aired, out of sequence so that they followed the obviously last episode, complete with annoying cliffhanger.  And you know, if this had been a Joss Whedon project, someone would have created a comic or graphic novel to let us know what the hell happens next.  Albeit, some favorite character would have to die in a shocking manner that likely splatters blood over the closest standing main character . . . 


To Paris With Love


This was a movie Rob wanted to see and I watched it because I often tease him about how he doesn’t watch movies with me even when he’s the one who chose them.  I figure if he has to suffer through my movie choices, I should suffer through his.  Suffer is the crucial word here because this movie is just dreadful.  What a waste of talent!  And no surprises whatsoever.  Tedious and dull on top of unsexy and uninspired.  Shame shame shame on all involved in this one.  Bleh.










M Butterfly


I read a book about this incident–foreign attache seduced by Chinese into betraying his country and the scandal that followed.  I even read the play, which I thought was brilliant and beautiful.  I can only imagine how powerful it would be on stage.  The way the movie concludes is different from the play that I have to wonder what the intention was in changing it. The political implications of the relationship is lost, or at best whitewashed, and the climactic moment both in the . . . well, transportation vehicle followed closely by the finale are altered and this further corrupts the brutality of the original drama.  Ironically, I think the movie lives up to many, if not all, of the accusations made in the original play.  Or lives “down” to them.  How unfortunate.




Eddie Izzard Live From Madison Square Garden


I have to say that I like Izzard’s stream of consciousness delivery.  He sounds wonderfully conversational and as though he were flying off the cuff with occasional side-tracked moments that lead elsewhere.  You almost can’t help thinking that maybe he’s even forgetting half of the jokes he meant to tell before walking on stage because he started thinking about something else altogether and decided to talk about that instead.  Of course, I realize that this can’t be the case but that is one of the things I like about his comedic style.  Like Astaire, he makes it seem so effortless.








Paper Moon


I forgot what a fun movie this is.  I don’t know that Tatum O’Neal deserved an Oscar for her performance but there is a moment when she sends Mose to face the truth of something for himself . . . and the expression on her face is perfect, the kind of acting one doesn’t expect in a child.  I also love that the movie is filmed in black and white, an effective choice.  I was humming along with the songs throughout and chuckling at the funny moments.  I never read the novel upon which this movie is based.  Still have no desire to do so.  The movie is fun and a nice distraction for a couple of hours.








Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: The Greek Myths


Not a bad way to introduce slightly older children to the Greek mythology that informs so much of our contemporary and classical literature.  Only four stories, however, are represented and some of the imagery is a bit too intense for little children.  I wish they had explored more of the myths, perhaps shared some of the Iliad and Odysseus’ story and I really would have liked to see more of the women centered myths like Atalanta and the Amazons.  Over all, though, it was a nice idea.  I suppose I could research why there were so few episodes (only four) but I’m apparently being a little lazy.








Grave of the Fireflies


Really, with a title like that you know you’re in for a good time, right?  Is it really any wonder that Rob doesn’t eagerly sit down to watch movies with me and accuses me of watching depressing stuff?  This beautiful and heartbreaking anime is so powerful.  I love that anime dvds allow you to choose subtitles or dubbing.  I prefer to read the subtitles and hear the original actor’s voices.  The movie is emotionally devastating to watch as a young boy tries to protect his younger sister during the ravages of war.  The two cling to one another but it is the boy’s devolution in particular that is remarkably portrayed through glorious animation.






Dollhouse Season 2


After watching Earth2, I decided to return to watch the last few episodes of this show.  While I can see that this show is not as effective as Buffy/Angel/Firefly, it was still far more interesting than anything else that was on the air on Fox.  As with most of Whedon’s shows, it doesn’t really hit its stride until season 2 (although the episode that never aired, Epitaph 1, in season 1 begins to really hammer home how intelligent this show would become).  But I doubt that even if Fox had supported this show more, it would have succeeded (unlike Firefly which never had the chance) because, unlike most of Whedons’ other programs, this one lacked a sense of humor.  There are a few funny moments.  Topher, especially, is a clever character and poignant as well.  The show, over all, is darker and yet Whedon and his writers still manage to kill someone off, complete with splatter over the closest main character.  These people are emotionally brutal to the audience and I love it.  As do all the other Whedon fans.


Coming Home


I remember seeing this movie in theaters with my mother and then seeing it again years later wondering what the heck she was thinking taking me to see this movie when I was a kid.  I still don’t know.  But I wonder if this movie, along with a few other things, didn’t inform much of my attitude towards the Vietnam war.  Growing up I thought that every man in a wheelchair was a veteran who had been wounded in ‘Nam.  My mother, like so many other young men and women, protested the war vehemently.  It is in this environment I was raised—protesting a war that “we” considered unjust, as if there were such a thing as a “just” war.  Good acting and a great soundtrack with an ending that is both honest and hard.  I can see why my mother wanted to see it.  I still don’t understand why she took me along with her.


The Ugly Truth


And Rob complains about my watching depressing movies (can you blame him?) which is how we end up watching a romantic comedy.  The premise is good.  Man with misogynistic viewpoints is hired by production executives for a morning talk show forcing feminist morning show producer to deal with his sexist attitudes.  She is a lonely, single woman who takes a bet with him that he can help her manipulate another man into falling in love with her.  Not a great premise but definitely there’s some potential here for laughs.  You know how teachers often write on a report card “doesn’t live up to potential”?  That’s this movie.  The acting was adequate, I suppose.  Katherine Heigle reminds me of a friend I used to have.  Neither Rob nor I liked this one.  




Fearless


Okay.  So I went into this one with expectations that it would be one of those life affirming films where the survivors of the plane crash begin really tasting their food or embracing their dreams, etc.  Apparently, however, this is a movie about a man with a Messiah complex who drifts along after the crash, ignoring his family, trying to heal himself and the other survivors (because they have survivor’s guilt, I guess) and . . . well, Rob’s right.  I watch these damn movies and end up pissed off because they are so depressing.  This one is depressing, not life affirming.  American Beauty was more life affirming and less depressing than this movie.






Moll Flanders


I never read the novel.  So why did I bother watching this movie?  I don’t know.  I thought maybe it would inspire me to want to read it or something someday.  Instead, I suffered through a really stupid film and thought that even for a movie based on a Victorian novel it was wretched.  I did a little research and quickly discovered that the screenplay took such leaps of liberalities with the original story that the only thing the novel and movie have in common is the title.  Okay. Maybe a few other details but everything, from the sexual molestation by a priest at the beginning to the life and lifestyle she lives to her . . . well, just everything is different.  What’s the point of even suggesting this is the same story by giving it the same title?  Only someone who never read the novel could possibly enjoy this movie.  Oh wait.  I didn’t read the novel and I hated it.  


Hannah and Her Sisters


This is in my top five Woodie Allen movie favorites list.  I figured, after so many depressing and disappointing movies I should watch something I knew I would enjoy.  And I did.  I really did enjoy this movie again.  And I will enjoy it again in the future.  This movie makes me love NY all over again and fills me with homesickness.  I love the characters and the actors and the relationships.  All of it is just wonderful.  But you know, I never before noticed the African American woman who is serving dinner to the family on Thanksgiving.  How many times have I seen this and never before noticed that?  I suppose that not everyone wants to be home on Thanksgiving.  My daughter dislikes the holiday for many reasons and my son doesn’t even like most of the food served on Thanksgiving.  Of course, I realize that some people don’t even like to spend time with their families.  I just found myself pondering how I had never noticed this before and what did it mean that I noticed it now.  Not sure it means anything except that maybe I think too damn much while trying to enjoy a movie.


Interiors


I’d never seen this movie before and watching it after Hannah and Her Sisters was a really interesting choice.  You have three sisters in both movies.  One is successful and one is still trying to find herself in both.  The oldest seems to be the most successful.  They both even have an alcoholic mother.  And let’s not forget, have one husband lusting after one of his sister-in-laws.  And, of course, you have scenes filmed in Manhattan.  But the parallels pretty much end there.  This movie is bleak and sad and is blatantly inspired by Bergman’s movies.  This is not something Allen denies but seeing him try to do Bergman would be like watching Isabella Rosselini try to Ingrid Bergmen.  Why bother doing someone else’s work poorly when you can do your own so well?  I’m glad Allen left this phase behind him.


Eat Pray Love


In my ongoing commitment to being my own sadist, I masochistically watched this movie, based on a memoir I read and rather liked.  Didn’t love it.  Just liked it.  The movie, I think, is at least as good as the memoir so if you liked the memoir you’ll probably like the movie.  They take some liberties with the text and what happens on the screen is close to the original but not precisely so.  Purists will be upset.  I thought that the movie actually made Gilbert’s story seem more meaningful and less self-indulgent and self-involved.  The ending . . . well, if I hadn’t read the book, I would have found the movie’s conclusion so sickeningly predictable that I would have hated the movie altogether.  But the ending is pulled directly from the book and since I really didn’t like the way the memoir ended I guess I am the one who is being self-indulgent and self-involved when I say, “I don’t care how the story really ends; give me something interesting!”  One could argue that my first mistake was in expecting an interesting ending from a Julia Roberts movie.  Silly me.


Paradise Road


You really have to start wondering what the hell it is I’m thinking when I say “What will I watch next?”  From Julia Roberts being self-indulgent I move to women in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II.  Glenn Close.  Cate Blanchett.  Frances McDormand.  Others.  Some cliches.  Brassy American.  Aloof German.  And Cate.  Beautiful Cate.  Oh how I love Cate.  In this ensemble cast, she still manages to shine, which is remarkable given the surrounding talent.  The film, itself, is painted with broad strokes.  Japanese bad.  Non-Japanese good.  Even though the single German character is ambiguous, she is white and therefore accepted more easily than anyone else.  Great performances and an interesting historical context for the story but it is too simple and I am uncomfortable with it.  The fact that the movie is based on a book that has a racial slur in the title says as much as I care to say in this review.

In Honor of National Poetry Month

I read an article of the top ten poets who most influenced the article writer's life and wondered what my list would look like. I offer my top ten list here and today, in honor of National Poetry Month.


Emily Dickinson
Having been told by one professor that my work is influenced by her writing, how could I deny Dickinson a spot on the list?  I also overheard someone say that if one more whiny women read Dickinson at a reading he was going to . . . well, I forget what he said.  What I remember is that I came to the next reading and recited Wild Nights which is an incredibly erotic piece of poetry which I introduced like this: I am now going to recite a poem by one of my favorite authors.  This allowed the audience a chance to listen to the words without preconceived notions and it went over with a bang.  The guy was in the audience.  He didn’t say anything to me.  But I took a peek, as I was reciting the poem, and I didn’t see him tuning out or turned off by what he heard.  Not until I said, “That poem is by Emily Dickinson.”  I have too many fond memories of her poetry not to put her front and center.
An Honorable Mention goes to William Shakespeare.  Yes, I realize that he should be in the top ten “surely” but the truth is that his writing is so elevated and beyond my abilities to ever achieve that I cannot list him as influential in my life.  However, I fell in love with his writing and Dickinson’s at the same time, almost as a single breath, so they are irrevocably linked in my emotional mind.

Sylvia Plath
I grew up at a time when Plath became iconic, a poster child for feminism and the consequences of artistic suppression.  Now, as an adult, I suspect I would have to say that there are others who are more influential but Plath is the poet that let me know it was okay to be angry on the page, to bleed and scream and keen in verse.  Her poetry was deeply explosive for me.  (On a side note, I was once asked to do a reciting of Lady Lazarus.)  She also wrote with brutal images and suddenly poetry didn’t have to be hillsides of daffodils with fluffy clouds.  It could be seashells and concentration camps and raw, much as emotion is.  Poetry could be passionate and, although I had read passion behind the more flowery poetry traditionally read in the classroom, it was Plath that showed me what I already knew: most emotions are only pretty because we try to hide the truth of what we feel in language.
An Honorable Mention goes to Tori Amos whose songs are more poetic than most and who comes musically closer to anyone I have ever heard in achieving Plath’s brutality.  (Although it’s tempting to say that Ani DeFranco comes damn near close herself.)

Linda Pastan
Pastan’s delicate poetry invited me to write about things that are simple.  Sure Dickinson wrote about a fly buzzing and a certain slant of light but she wrote about Death stopping and hope with feathers and with all her odd capitalization and punctuation I found her voice daunting.  Pastan showed me that the simple things in life–a family, a home, the weather–could be appreciated in a universal way through a simple poem.  In my mind, she is like Astair, making it all seem so effortless and, yet, what she does on the page is pure magic and it excites me every time I read her words.
An Honorable Mention goes to William Carlos Williams who also wrote about the simple things in a simple way, reminding us all that poetry is everywhere if we have ears and hearts to hear.

Patricia Smith
I can’t even begin to describe what Smith does because she is so flagrant.  She writes persona poems that blow most anything else we call contemporary poetry out of the water.  Her recent collection on Hurricane Katrina was devastating to read.  I have every one of her books and watch for the next book to be published.  I envy anyone who is attending college and being taught by her.  I imagine she would be brutally honest but bring out the best in every one of her students.  (I adored her even before she read one of my poems and said she hoped to someday perform on a stage with me.  I mean . . . wow!  Really?  Me?  Wow.)
An Honorable Mention is given to Staceyann Chin who would have easily made this list if she had published more poetry but whose memoir still haunts me with its voice and poignance.  And I really do love performance poets.

The poets who wrote the Psalms
The poetry in the Bible, especially in the Book of Psalms, written by David and others, reminded me that poetry didn’t always have end rhymes and perfect meter.  I still choke on some of the forced syntax one reads in such poems.  It was in reading the Psalms I was reminded that before the Poetry we all think of as poetry came to be the norm, you know back in the day when free verse was scandalous and not considered poetry at all, there was poetry that didn’t have the same rules and that the rules that defined poetry are, like language, constantly changing and growing.  Of course, the imagery and familiar metaphors were also lovely to discover in a book I never read as a child nor owned until I was an adult.
An Honorable Mention goes to Sappho.  After reading Anne Carson’s luscious translation of Sappho’s texts, including the fragments that barely have more than a single thought let alone an entire sentence, inspired me to write again.  What higher praise is there for a poet than “You inspired me to write”?
        
Kobayashi Issa
My love for haiku being what it was, it wasn’t until I first read Issa’s The Spring of My Life that I discovered haibun.  This “discovery” opened my eyes to new possibilities for my own writing and how I might once again play with hiaku.  Although I still do not own a copy of his book (although I had a copy on my wish list last year and will put it on future wish list I’m sure), the impact of first reading it, of finding a very lovely translation of his poetry as well, further showed me the power of a good translation.  As challenging as it is to translate prose from one language to another, how much harder must it be to translate poetry, to create the same depth of meaning in a similar voice, using imagery that may not communicate as clearly from one culture to the next?  I can’t imagine it but what an amazing experience it was to lose myself in this man’s incredible voice.
An Honorable Mention goes to Basho, naturally, the master of haiku.  I would even concede he is the better of the two.  However, the list is supposed to reflect the poets that influenced my life and, therefore, Issa take supremacy this time and always in my heart.

TS Elliot/e e cummings
I have to put these two as a tie because they both frustrate me and excite me.  Elliot’s The Four Quartets, however, has a permanent home on my shelf and is a book I read and reread the way some people claim they read the Bible.  As for cummings, his audacity is inarguable.  He doesn’t bend the rules so much as throw them all away altogether.  Because they both hit me at pivotal turning points in my life, I can’t say which is more influential now.  I still find myself breathless when I read a leaf falls on loneliness (a poem I used in my student teaching experience) and delight when I read grasshopper.  And that I return to these two again and again and never tire, always finding something new, tells me that I either read them superficially each and every time or that they grow with me as I change through them.  But I couldn’t put one or the other as an honorable mention.  I blocked myself in trying to make a choice.

Walt Whitman
His poetry opened up the idea of poetry for me in new ways.  I appreciated contemporary poetry a lot more after reading his works and then appreciated poetry in general more.  His blatant sexuality was something I loved, how he celebrated everything, the blood and piss of living.  He wasn’t the first homosexual poet whose writing made me thrill but when I read much of modern poetry, I can’t help but read Whitman’s influence between the lines.  What he and Dickinson were doing was explosive, not just moving away from tradition but throwing it aside altogether as if tradition was of no consequence whatsoever.
An Honorable Mention goes to Robert Frost who has a style so unlike Whitman’s that they can’t really be compared but whose poetry surprises me when I make the time to read it.

Audre Lorde
I fell in love with Lorde’s work by accident, mostly because her name excited me on some level and I was curious about who this poet might be.  And then the words.  And then, much later, her journals about having breast cancer.  Lorde’s writing is fearless and fierce.  Not always an easy combination to have in poetry and not always easy for the reader to appreciate. But she made me reconsider many things about the choices I was making in my writing and in my reading.  She made me think and she made me feel.  Provocative.  Bold.  And inspiring, naturally.  For me, anyway.  She tickles the militant feminist in me, the one that I often forget is hiding deep down inside.  I don’t let her out to play nearly as often as she’d like.
An Honorable Mention goes to Maya Angelou, although I once had a professor say I write better poetry than she does and I still think he was exaggerating, and Lucille Clifton.  I like them both but I looooove Audre Lorde.  And Nikki Giovanni.  I love her too but I’m trying to make choices here.

Janice Erlbaum
This is a totally selfish choice because we have this mutual fan thing going on.  She says I inspired her to write.  I say her writing inspired me to write more.  She envies me my ability to come up with so many ideas.  I envy her for her success because she’s been published while I continue to languish in anonymity.  Plus she’s pretty and has a great figure and she’s happily married.  I mean, seriously, what’s not to hate?  But I love her and I love her writing and, although she’s moved onto other forms of writing and doesn’t do open mics any longer, I still read her poems and smile.  It helps that one of her poems was one I was often requested to perform at open mics.
An Honorable Mention goes to Greg Brown, unpublished and so talented it sometimes hurts, he actually encouraged me to the point where I took my poetry more seriously and let other people read it.  Up until then, as I told him, I was clearly performing literary masturbation by writing notebooks of verse and not letting anyone else read what I wrote.

Satia Renee
This is not a case of saving the best for last, per se, but if I really were to say which poet influenced my life the most then I would obviously be remiss to not add myself to this list.  After all, I am the one who chooses to write, to revise, to share, to read, to speak, to live.
An Honorable Mention goes to my mother who, although not a poet herself, truly has a poet’s heart and taught me more about art and the appreciation of all things beautiful than practically anyone else I know.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Clicks Matter

Yesterday I received a gift card from amazon.com.  At first I thought it was for my birthday but the amount was so peculiar.  And that made me wonder if the email was a fake.  I didn't click on any of the links in the email.

Instead, I went into my amazon account through a different internet browser altogether and there it was . . . gift card for an odd amount.

Hmmmm . . .

Do you know what it was?  It was YOU!  Although I don't think anyone has actually clicked on one of my amazon links and bought something I do know that some of you have clicked on a link or two along the way.  And those clicks added up to my having money to spend.

Yay!

Being unemployed sucks for so many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I can't indulge in my whims.  I want to buy stuff but . . . should I when I am not making any income?  Probably not.  Not that I don't ever get things.  I just wait and put off and hope for bargains and such.

So naturally a windfall like this (and it isn't a huge windfall by any stretch of the imagination) is enough to have me giddy with glee.

I immediately looked around at possibilities.

Yes, this is actually the first thing that came to mind, a cd collection of the music from Lord of the Rings.  And not just the soundtrack from one of the movies but all three of the movies.

Close behind it was a Star Wars related something.

I think at this point I began scaring myself.  I mean seriously?  I get a little money and the first things I think to buy are blatantly geeky and rather embarrassing.  And I do not embarrass easily.

So I walked away.  I thought about it some more and said, "Books.  I can buy something intellectual and inspiring." That was the way to go.

  The next thing you know I'm looking at graphic novels.

Oh dear God, just strike me down now before I hurt myself.  Did I really think looking at graphic novels would be an improvement, that this would somehow prove I am not a pathetic geek after all?

Back to the drawing board.

The truth is, I actually looked at buying some food because our local supermarket doesn't carry Dreamfields lasagna pasta and it would be nice to make a lasagna for dinner.  And there's something kind of sad about being practical with money that's kind of like a gift.  Some vitamin supplements, a gift for Rob, a toy for Bibi.

That's where my head is now, again, after looking at the graphic novels.

In the meantime, keep clicking!  If I don't indulge myself a lot this time around, maybe next time I'll be self-indulgent and irresponsible.  In fact, I'll make a promise to you.  The next time I get a gift card through amazon, I'll definitely be frivolous with most of it.  So click click click.  The more you do, the more self-indulgent I can be.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Nearly Forgot

So yes, here we are, one week away from my birthday and I nearly forgot that April is not only National Poetry Month but it is also . . . are you ready for this?

International Fake Journal Month.

OooOooOoohhhhhh . . . Aaaaaaahhhhhh  . . .

Last year I had the delight in reading a wonderful fake journal written be Evi.  Inspired by Harry Potter, she created a fake journal for a Hogwart's student of her own creation.  The journal is charming and clever and I love every page of it.  Here is a video for another fake journal:



Here is a link to the official site:  LINK

So here we are again and April is full of things.  I've never participated in International Fake Journal month.  Many of the examples on the site are so pretty and I am not artistically inclined.  Rather, I have lost my artistic eye.  Still, I just love this idea.  I must because even though I didn't go out of my way to find out about it and haven't done a thing to participate in it and completely forgot about it until I was reminded . . . well, it seems I'm bound to at least enjoy it vicariously.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Not Typically a Fan

As much as I love (even adore) his music, I typically find Eddie Vedder's voice painfully annoying.  I don't know what it is.  Purely subjective.  A visceral response.  So imagine my surprise when I feel in love with this . . . and those of you who know me are probably in shock and awe that I am actually saying . . . listen to this Eddie Vedder song.  (You'll not likely hear me saying it again in this lifetime.)