Friday, April 22, 2011

Poetry Friday: That's the Difference

I'm conflicted. It's Good Friday and my first instinct is to repost Gerard Manley Hopkins's exquisite poem, Carrion Comfort. Hopkins writes compressed agony like no one else.

Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist — slack they may be — these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruisèd bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?

 (See here for the rest of the poem and my post of three years ago.)

My other instinct is to sing loudly this darkly hilarious Lyle Lovett song:

God Will

Who keeps on trusting you
When you've been cheating

And spending your nights on the town
And who keeps on saying that he still wants you

When you're through running around
And who keeps on loving you

When you've been lying
Saying things ain't what they seem

God does
But I don't

God will
But I won't

And that's the difference
Between God and me

So who says he'll forgive you
And says that he'll miss you
And dream of your sweet memory

God does
But I don't

God will
But I won't

And that's the difference
Between God and me

I don't think that one will make it into a hymnal any time soon.

What else to do but call this a Good Poetry Friday?

The roundup today is hosted by BookAunt.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What's it like to be part of a military family?

I didn't know there was video! And there's a nice write-up on the TATAL (Teens at the Arlington Library) blog.

By the way, did you know April is the Month of the Military Child? And that this week, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched the Joining Forces initiative to support military families?

For a list of resources to help military students, please check out this post, Connecting with Students From Military Families.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Yes in every way

You know an author visit has gone well when a week later, you're still smiling.

Each year, the Arlington Library's TAB (Teen Advisory Board) invites an author to speak to the middle school kids who participate in the program. This year, I was lucky enough to be that speaker. What's more, the entire county, under the banner of All Arlington Reads, is highlighting military themed books for the month of April and the library is hosting book discussions and exhibits and speakers and film screenings. (I'll be blogging more about one of those exhibits, the Combat Paper Project, later this week.)

Here are some quick shots of my visit.

I began with a story---what happened when my daughter received a folded note from her school counselor on the morning of Sept 11.  I wondered if the students, so young when the attacks happened, would connect, but boy did they. You could've heard a pin drop.

Talking about military families

Quoting Miss Loupe's rule about not passing out before we start the improv. :)

The audience enthusiastically counted out my "ten"!

Awesome crowd.  They really had fun improvising jody calls, and SO many of them spoke up when I asked about the good and bad things about being part of a military family.

I displayed other books about military families.

The kids LOVED the LGM pictures
 (taken by my fabulous agent, Tina Wexler)

Talking about ways to say yes and how to give back
 to veterans and military families.

The kids were so polite when they came up to get their books signed. Some shook my hand. So many said thank you. Some shared that their parents were military. Plus, it was fun to hear the variety of beautiful names from all cultures.

Book signing and posing for pictures afterwards.  My hand was non-stop for a full hour. And the kids---as you can see---were totally terrific. 

Afterwards, the librarians took me out to lunch---yummy mushroom soup and a grilled veggie sandwich---and it was one more chance to talk about books and writing and kids with people who Truly Get It.  

Thank you, Friends of the Arlington Public Library, for making this day happen. It was what every author hopes for---to connect with readers in a powerful way. 

One last story---and one of the reasons I'm still smiling this week. A student, as she came forward to have her book signed, told me her favorite chapter in Operation Yes was the one called "Do Something." 

I asked why. 

"Because that's my motto, too," she said. 

Yes. Perfect. :)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Poetry Friday: Are Poetry Slams a Nuisance?

 "Poets should read in a controlled and compelling voice, one that lets the listener glide softly and gracefully under the spell of his verbal music. I do not go to poetry readings to be hollered at, hectored, harassed, bullied or read to in a stentorian style more appropriate for the amusement park."

  ---  A.S. Maulucci, from a Norwich Bulletin article titled "Slams are a Nuisance, and of No Real Use to True Poets"  (Follow the link for the full rant. Be sure to read the thoughtful reply from another poet in the comments.)

To which I say:

This is National Poetry Month. There are poetry potlucks; haiku-a-day's; online poetry bookclubs, and yes, slams. I went to one at my local high school. It veered from slapstick (a poet slamming about being an athlete dropped his pants to reveal running shorts) to fem power (Seven Strong Women) to the most amazing controlled riff on being "black enough."  I assure you that true poetry was present that night. Complete with hooting and hollering and shushing and cheering and crying.

I searched high and low for a bootlegged YouTube video that might have brought you there with me. No luck. But that's the thing about slams. You gotta be there. It's about signing up. Showing up. Not throwing up. What do you think those kids are going to remember from high school? The commutative property of addition? Or the night one of them admitted to not being able to deal with his mother's lupus?

The article I quoted from also says: "The work that gets read, recited or performed at these events tends to be trite, self indulgent, boring, narcissistic, embarrassing, obscene, boorish, coarse, uncultured, unintelligent, uncouth, or all of the above."

Of course. Add in self-pitying and you've got most of us on any given Sunday---and that's when we're trying really hard to be good.

I agree that poetry can and should be polished and lovely and intelligent, but the raw material it comes from is . . . well, raw.  That's why slams work. Because we clearly see the rawness. And ourselves.

Which brings me to my poetry selection for today: Louder Than a Bomb, a documentary about the world's largest youth poetry slam. It releases on May 18.

Poetry Friday is hosted today at Madigan Reads.