Part One “On Beyond Literature” by Lynda Barry
“We know we are made of memories, but we don’t know the extent to which we are made up of forgetfulness. We think of oblivion as an absence, an empty space, a lack. But in most cases, with the exception of neurological disease, forgetting is an activity—it’s a choice that demands the same effort as remembrance. This is equally valid for individuals and communities. If you visit Mozambique, you’ll see that people have decided to forget the war years. It is not an omission. It’s a tacit decision to forget what were cruel times, because people fear that this cruelty is not a thing of the past but can again become our present. And moreover, in rural parts of Mozambique the notion of nonlinear time is still dominant. For them, the past has not passed.”
Today, as in right now, a friend of mine is in labor delivering her first child, a baby boy. It’s a beautiful day to be surging with life. Here is to Baby Shnay whose first cry will be just as good as “hearing/ hip-hop for the first time–power/ hijacked from a lamppost–all promise.”
Grave, my wife lies back, hands cross
her chest, while the doctor searches early
for your heartbeat, peach pit, unripe
plum–pulls out the world’s worst
boom box, a Mr. Microphone, to broadcast
your mother’s lifting belly.
The whoosh and bellows of mama’s body
and beneath it: nothing. Beneath
the slow stutter of her heart: nothing.
The doctor trying again to find you, fragile
fern, snowflake. Nothing.
After, my wife will say, in fear,
impatient, she went beyond her body,
this tiny room, into the ether–
for now, we spelunk for you one last time
lost canary, miner of coal
and chalk, lungs not yet black–
I hold my wife’s feet to keep her here–
and me–trying not to dive starboard
to seek you in the dark water. And there
it is: faint, an echo, faster and further
away than mother’s, all beat box
and fuzzy feedback. You are like hearing
hip-hop for the first time–power
hijacked from a lamppost–all promise.
You couldn’t sound better, break-
dancer, my favourite song bumping
from a passing car. You’ve snuck
into the club underage and stayed!
Only later, much, will your mother
begin to believe your drumming
in the distance–my Kansas City
and Congo Square, this jazz band
vamping on inside her.
On this day in…
2010: The Choir, Luke Kennard
2009: I Come Home Wanting To Touch Everyone, Stephen Dunn
2008: Visible World, Richard Siken
2007: Anywhere Else, Maggie Dietz
2006: After Work, Richard Jones
2005: The Sheep-Child, James Dickey
Inspired by two separate discussions of words that my friends and I prefer in languages other than our native tongues, I dug up this oldie but goodie, Aardman Animation’s Not Without My Handbag. Let’s leave it that both “handbag” and “purse” leave much to be desired for me. If “handbag” were not so antiquated perhaps I would prefer it. Perhaps not. Ever since I first saw this wonderful short 20 years go I cannot help but think of it whenever I hear the word “handbag.”
Yvor Winters’ “author photo,” as sent to Poetry magazine.
I’m at the Sydney Writer’s Festival this week, and I’m so excited to see the British poet Kate Tempest read this afternoon. Here is her powerful performance of her piece, ‘Icarus’. And here is some beautiful advice she has for young poets, playwrights and performers:
“Finish things. That’s how you develop your voice. Whether it’s a poem or a short film or a painting or a piece of theatre, whatever it is, finish it. Let it go and move onto the next thing. Lots of the stuff I’ve done I think is really, really shit but it’s fine because it’s finished. You’ve got to try to be a better artist today than you were yesterday. And if you never finish anything that’s hard because you’re always trying to be the best artist that’s ever been.”
- Sheila Heti
As a poet I hold the most archaic values on earth … the fertility of the soil, the magic of animals, the power-vision in solitude, the terrifying initiation and rebirth, the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe. I try to hold both history and the wilderness in mind, that my poems may approach the true measure of things and stand against the unbalance and ignorance of our times.
Bonus: Mutt Saturday! For Elyssa.
This past winter I happened upon a job teaching creative writing at RISD. Getting to Providence from NYC in the winter was a bit of a schlepp but I loved the community and my students so much I really didn’t mind it. Today, one of my students made this wonderful typography design for my beloved canine, The Pupper. I am so thrilled and inspired.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of…