We dismembered poetry and created some Franken-verse, as a little break today from revising work for the end of winter session at Writopia Lab. Reminding them (and myself) that cutting up the writing is still fun, startling, and rewarding.
It had not acquired one permanent wrinkle after all its ripples. —Henry David Thoreau
In poetry, circumambulating an object is the same as walking into the center of it. These two—poetry and walking near water—are my favorite ways into the deeps. And keeping a poetry notebook next to my busy life has become that necessary shortcut to serenity.
I hardly remember this—photo of a recent high school graduate and her younger sisters, visiting India in 1992. A past life, it seems.
I’ve been reading high school seniors’ writing portfolios as a volunteer juror in the Scholastic Art & Writing awards this week. I’m remembering, and happy to support those purer ideals growing into the future, just a bit more. So grateful to see these brave young writers, striving and dreaming the best they can. Check out what we do at Writopia Lab, too.
The holiday catalogues have started to arrive in my mailbox. And while I’m admiring how pretty they are as decorations for my recycling bin, I felt the need to write a little guidance on surviving this annual season of materialism. Here’s my top-20 list of reasons to make it easy on yourself — buy poetry books for everyone on your list. (My kids helped with this, so please forgive the sarcasms!)
Top 20 reasons to give poetry books as gifts
#20 – Won’t go out of fashion (because it isn’t fashionable to begin with).
#19 – They probably don’t already have it.
#18 – Everyone needs more poetry!
#17 – Shows that you think of them as extremely intelligent, emotionally sensitive, and spiritually evolved people.
#16 – Makes you seem quite intelligent, emotionally sensitive, and spiritually evolved.
#15 – Non-perishable.
#14 – Cheaper than a great bottle of wine.
#13 – Invites reading lines aloud (i.e., more fun at a party than a bottle of wine).
#12 – Re-giftable (even after they enjoy it).
#11 – Unexpected gifts are the best.
#10 – So that your friends can’t say they “don’t get” poetry, because, um, they just got it (get it?).
#9 – No one else is getting it for them. You’re the cool friend who knows that they secretly LOVE poetry.
#8 – Maybe they will give you a poetry book, too!
#7 – Easier and less potentially embarrassing than writing them a poem yourself.
#6 – Bargain! You could pay $3.75 for one lackluster poem in a greeting card, or about $0.32 per poem in an award-winning collection.
#5 – So you can skip getting them a greeting card. (That would be redundant.)
#4 – Media-rate postage is cheap, and you get a tracking number, so you know it has been delivered properly.
#3 – Easy to wrap these slim rectangles of bliss.
#2 – A very pretty gift! Poetry collections have the most beautiful covers. Just tie a ribbon around, which can serve as a lovely bookmark.
#1 – Poetry is purified love, distilled from language, breath, and deep longing. Who could imagine a more loving and sincere gift?
Also, the poets and publishers of poetry would be so grateful for your holiday patronage! (Add “good karma” to this list somewhere.) Don’t forget to buy a copy (or a bunch of copies) of my new poetry book, Kali Sutra, here or by ordering through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local bookstore. Sorry for this little bit of marketing, and thanks for reading! Happy and peaceful anti-materialism season to you!
No, I’m not dressing up as her for Halloween.
But I do have to dress in costume for my Writopia workshops next week. My son, ever the wise and creative kid, suggested I go as Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter. So I bought my first witch’s hat…
Time to tie poems into an offering—for you! Most of the poetry in this collection has been published here and there, in journals and online magazines.
Now, these are all together again as I meant to present them, and you can pre-order the collection here on my website, or wait for the release date, October 20, when it should be available on Amazon. If you order here, I can sign your copy, and slip a ribbon bookmark in the pages for you, too.
The title, Kali Sutra, refers to the fierce, demon-slaying goddess Kali, who also happens to be the goddess of poetry. Surprised? Demon-slaying and poetry-writing are absolutely the same thing. Writing often feels to me like a demanding commission, and sometimes like a terrible headache. My 12-year-old daughter made these drawings of Kali for my wall—
—a good reminder to stay awake, to write away the darkness with fierce determination and love.
This collection includes poems in several styles: lyric, narrative, persona, visual. Many of my original translations of classical Indian love poems set the scenes for my own work.
I chose to self-publish this collection partly because it is getting old— I’ve written a new manuscript, which I’m now sending to poetry contests and publishers instead of this one.
But mostly it’s because I wrote Kali Sutra out of love for lovers of poetry, whoever you are, for as many as I can reach. Also, the special puja for Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of wisdom and creativity, falls on my birthday this year, which makes me so happy. If you would like to review the book, offer a blurb for its marketing, or write fierce compliments on Amazon, I’d be even happier. Thanks!
I’m hosting the open mic at Art Cafe Nyack on October 20— I’ll have some copies with me, and maybe cake! Hope to see you there!
I made a paper-bag puppet yesterday along with the young writers at Writopia Lab’s half-day camp. It had large, bug-eyes and orange wings. When you opened its puppet-mouth, its superheroine secret “weapon” burst forth: an oval “song.” It’s Cicada-Woman!
The kids wrote dialogues with their puppets as characters—a fun way to collaborate and a good step toward playwriting. Their fresh excitement to write and share stories is something I’m grateful to see and to nurture. Check out the Writopia Lab website to find out more about this organization and what they do!
Hearing new writing, even before the ink has dried, before the coffee has turned cold, we imagine bright lights into a newly formed sky. In the free-write group that I host every Friday afternoon, I invite participants to engage with a simple writing prompt for a 15-minute composition (it usually goes a little longer). Then the glorious sharing begins. Yesterday I brought in the New York Times weekend arts section and distributed the pages for inspiration. Connecting a creative discipline with a daily phenomenon can help keep inspiration flowing, especially if self-doubt tends to undermine you, as it does me. Here’s the poem I wrote (yes, I write and share too in these groups) on American art~
The Little Peach
studied as though across
a vast page of unfamiliar
script, letters turned 90 degrees
and written over again. Turn and
turn the stone until the summer
cloud tastes sweet and drips
juice on gingham. We only
wanted to fill the trees,
again and again.