Sunday, May 30, 2010

From Language Log:

Creative work: metonymy

Sex and the City 2 premiered in London last night. Sarah Jessica Parker arrived in a black strapless dress from the house of her favorite British designer, and what she told her fans provided another interesting example of what Mark Liberman noted in a recent post on fashion talk:

There's only one person I could have worn tonight and that was Alexander McQueen.

Ms Parker didn't just say she was wearing Alexander McQueen; she actually used an expression quantifying over persons (only one person) as the understood object of wear (in the sense that she modified person with the relative clause I could have worn ___), and then clarified that the person was Alexander McQueen; and still the metonymic reading survived and was understood by fans and journalists alike.
From Poetry Foundation (check it out, the photos are actually pretty good):

I saw the best minds of my generation… and took pictures of them!

Allen Ginsberg once said, “I do my sketching and observing with the camera.” Now you can see the results – online highlights from the National Gallery of Art’s new exhibition, “Beat Memories,” can be viewed here.

From the introduction:
One of the most visionary writers of his generation and author of the celebrated poem Howl, Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997) was also a photographer. From 1953 until 1963 he made numerous, often exuberant portraits of himself and his friends, including the Beat writers William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso, and Jack Kerouac. Eager to capture “certain moments in eternity,” as he wrote, he kept his camera by his side when he was at home or traveling around the world. For years Ginsberg’s photographs languished among his papers. When he finally rediscovered them in the 1980s, he reprinted them, adding handwritten inscriptions (transcribed for each work in this slide show). Inspired by his earlier work, he also began to photograph again, recording longtime friends and new acquaintances.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Had a great time at the Skagit River Poetry Festival yesterday. I was not a presenter this year, so could just enjoy as audience. Such a relaxing day!

Some of the highlights for me:

La Conner itself: such a great little town, with one main street, the Swinomish Channel running by, and lovely old homes with gardens.

Running in to all sorts of poetry friends old and new. The whole town seemed to be populated by poetry people!

Alicia Ostricker saying, in response to a question about poetry as therapy: "Poetry is not therapy; it's diagnosis." I love that notion!

Molly Tenenbaum reading her poems about colors in the art museum, surrounded by paintings.

Mary Cornish's wonderful poem about Chinese footbinding.

Patrick Lane's poem "Details" about the political prisoner in South America, kept standing in a 30x30 foot cell for six weeks, memorizing the details of the wood on the cell door.

Michael Dickman reading so softly and powerfully from End of the West at Maple Hall.

Alberto Rios reading "Refugio's Hair." I have heard it many times before, but it still works.

Lunch at Kirsten's with Kathryn. Amazing heart of romaine salad, tomato bisque soup, and fresh halibut fish tacos. Wonderful light pouring in the window. Scintillating conversation.

Robert Wrigley's poem about being a conscientious objector in Vietnam, and comtemplating the piece of lettuce stuck in his commanding officer's teeth.

Susan Rich's wonderful poem about the death of her mother: "Breathe~!" -- and Lorraine Ferra's beautiful short poems, also about the death of her mother -- read at Methodist Church, the last session of the day.

A lovely drive home, until I got to around Northgate, and the traffic wound up in a knot. Arrrggghhh. I just had to remind myself to remember the poetry, and breathe.

PS: a pic just sent to me by Kelli (from her iphone). I'm sitting on the porch of the Quilt Museum, on a break between sessions, reading Elizabeth Austen's new chapbook: The Girl Who Goes Alone.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I love this poem from Alexandra Teague's new book Mortal Geography. The two parts of the poem are the exact same words, in the exact same order -- only the punctuation is different. But they tell wildly different stories about the narrator's feelings for her beloved. Apart from the technical skill (which is amazing), I admire how this poem says something about the thin line between love and hate, how it can turn on a pin.

Two Drafts Written After a Fight
by Alexandra Teague


Do I love you: yes or no?
The question: Is love a figure of speech?

I do - sometimes. Everyone wonders about our love; still,
there can be no doubt I have been true (almost always).

Happily remembering the start of our romance; it seemed
so promising ...

And is love continual happiness or not?
Is not what matters?

I cannot tell you who I want to spend my life with.
Enough about our love.


Do I love you? Yes or no - the question is, love,
a figure of speech. I do.

(Sometimes everyone wonders.)
About our love, still, there can be no doubt.

I have been true, almost always happily
remembering the start of our romance;

it seemed so promising, and is. Love,
continual happiness or not is not what matters.

I cannot tell you, who I want to spend my life with,
enough about our love.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Check out this poem from today's Poem a Day, From Nick Lantz's We Don't Know We Don't Know (formatting lost). I blogged about the book a couple months ago, and am happy to see it is getting around:

Ancient Theories by Nick Lantz

A horse hair falls into the water and grows into an eel.
Even Aristotle believed that frogs
formed from mud,
that mice sprouted like seedlings in the damp hay.

I used to believe the world spoke
in code. I lay awake
and tried to parse the flashes of the streetlight—
obscured, revealed,
obscured by the wind-sprung tree.
Stranded with you at the Ferris wheel's apogee
I learned the physics
of desire—fixed at the center,
it spins and goes nowhere.

Pliny described eight-foot lobsters
sunning themselves
on the banks of the Ganges. The cuckoo devouring
its foster mother. Bees alighting
on Plato's young lips.

In the Andes, a lake disappears overnight, sucked
through cracks in the earth.
How can I explain
the sunlight stippling your face in the early morning?

Why not believe that the eye throws its own light,
that seeing illuminates
the world?
On the moon,
astronaut David Scott drops a hammer and a falcon feather,
and we learn nothing
we didn't already know.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I liked this poem from the recent issue of Atlantic Monthly:


By Robert Morgan

There is a shade of purple in
this flower near summer’s end that makes
you proud to be alive in such
a world, and thrilled to know the gift
of sight. It seems a color sent
from memory or dream. In fields,
along old trails, at pasture edge,
the ironweed bares its vivid tint,
profoundest violet, a note
from farthest star and deepest time,
the glow of sacred royalty
and timbre of eternity
right here beside a dried-up stream.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Looks like those soldiers are hard at work, protecting our freedom. This is too funny.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Had a lovely day before Mother's Day brunch with mom and one of my sisters (and her husband and son) yesterday. Perfect weather. It finally feels like spring is here. And mom seems to be thriving in Assisted Living at the Mount.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Oddfellows and Toxic Flora

Thursday late morning. I’m sitting at my new “favorite” place: The Oddfellows Hall Café next door to the new Elliott Bay Books! Dean and I stumbled upon it the other day when we were at Elliott Bay, and had a delightful time there, having our late morning espresso and snack. It’s a nice open space, very rustic, with restored wood and tables and funky decorative art from the history of the building and the “Oddfellows” -- whoever they were. And it is packed with students, hipsters, people writing or staring into their laptops, or talking in groups, or having little business or art meetings. It’s an ideal location being next door to Elliott Bay. You can go buy a book or a magazine, and then come over to the café to read, write, hang out. Perfect!

The other day, when Dean and I were at EB, I bought the new issue of Field, and two new books of poems, Leavings, by Wendell Berry, and Toxic Flora, by Kimiko Hahn. The Hahn book is amazing. I love it. Apparently she would read the weekly Science column in the NY Times and, when inspired, write a poem in response to it. The book has several themes or areas of interest: the strange life of flowers and the bizarre ways they have evolved: “Toxic Flora,” and “On Deceit as Survival” open the book with this theme, and Hahn extends it to the human world of parents, love, sex, and and parenting. Other poems look at the animal world, particularly butterflies and other higher insects, and how they have evolved. Other poems explore Space and the Cosmos: I particularly liked the poems about Pluto, and the poem about the 11 yr old girl Venetia Burney, who won a newspaper contest to name the newly discovered planet. Other poems include meditations on her own aging, and the ways she has evolved as a person, a wife, a mother, a teacher. Two particularly touching poems are: "Demeter's Cuttings" in which her daughter calls from a date's house, saying that it is too late for a train home, and that she will have to stay the night, and Hahn imagines her daughter as Persephone trapped in the underworld, and begins her own sleepless wait up for her to come home. And "Sweetwater Cavern," in which she is a tourist, being ferried across an underground lake by a bored college student in a hoodie, and he becomes a version of Charon, and leads her to embark on a consideration of her own death. Hahn's writing is spare, complex, unafraid of scientific terms and language -- in fact she revels in them -- all while being very witty, accessible, and sensuous.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

And they say there are no gays in the military? This has got to be the gayest thing I have ever seen: some soldiers in Iraq grinding it to Lady Gaga's "Telephone."