Trevor Noah, on The Daily Show, closed out National Poetry Month with an interview with Kevin Young. Young described the inspirations for his new book Brown.
From James Brown to John Brown to Linda Brown (and Brown v. Board of Education), Young explains how this collection draws on history and current events.
I can’t help but think of Michael Brown and all of the brutality that has historically accompanied the color brown. It also makes me think of the brutality of pink.
My friend has breast cancer and hates pink: the twisted satin tint, the toothache-sweet shade, even the rosé ribbons furling each sunrise. She loathes peonies, camellias, the blushing magnolia in her neighbor’s pristine yard.
My friend insists the cruel incongruity of cotton candy color saturation is mockery.
- Don’t just describe the pink morning sunrise; show us the precise shade. Then, tell us about the charcoal chrome shadows of the trees and the lavish lavender clouds punctuating the sky.
My Poetry students have Instagram. CRCPoets
This afternoon I was chatting with my friend F– about Black Jesus and the Black Madonna of Częstochowa (also known as Our Lady of Częstochowa). I described the sparkling and revered four-foot-high image of the Virgin Mary and Child I visited at the Jasna Góra Monastery in Poland.
I was asking F– if she might be interested in a wooden, bejeweled, mini version as souvenir. And, she was delighted by the promise of Black Jesus and less enthusiastic about the paler version I also had to offer: a new babe in a diaper who appears to be newly plucked from the manger, in a crib with straw.
I told F– briefly of how the monastery was packed with pilgrims who’d traveled distances to be in the presence of this scintillating icon, to pray, and to be enlightened. I explained how a wall in the sanctuary displays crutches, braces, and other relics of grave injury and seems to promise cures and strength. I detailed how I dutifully carried a bouquet of yellow flowers from a woman with Parkinson’s in Dobra, how a young man in a cobalt coat placed the fragrant bunch on the altar before Mary. I shared how some say Mary is named for where she was found and for her virtues. The virtue of being Black.
Spending Christmas mass at a Catholic church in Dobra, Poland, emphasized that I am a foreigner and a sightseer. I was mostly spectating the hour-long service in pure Polish and then I drove to Częstochowa to visit with the Virgin and Child. And, I felt, as I have so often in Oaxaca, that I am a wayfarer, a church tourist.
And, this reminded me of Dean Young’s “My Process” and the other ways we might be congregants.
by Dean Young
Sometimes it’s like pushing a wheelchair
of bones through the high-tide sand.
Like giving birth to an ostrich,
an ostrich with antlers that glows.
The sense there’s something wrong and
not giving a hoot like going to church
to see what you can steal. Experimental
Read the rest of the poem at: http://poems.com/poem.php?date=17198
Here is another poem on process: http://www.blueridgejournal.com/poems/aw-isaid.htm
The writers’ conference is coming soon!
Even sooner, we are seeking submissions through the end of February for the literary journal. Submissions can be posted online at: https://cosumnesriverjournal.submittable.com/submit
And, my online Creative Writing students are blogging at:
I came across ¡Pío Peep! Rimas Tradicionales en Español (Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes) and was immediately struck by the unique adaptations of the rhymes. They are clearly not straight translations and made me wonder what makes a rhyme work in two languages and what is lost and what is found in the process of adapting–especially when rhyme is a central part of the experience.
In Spanish, “El sol es de oro” is, although concise in both languages, very different in English.
El sol es de oro
El sol es de oro
la luna es de plate
y las estrellitas
son de hoja de lata.
The sun is of gold
the moon is of silver
and the little stars
are of tin.
The English adaptation, on the other hand,
The Sun’s a Gold Medallion
The sun’s a gold medallion.
The moon’s a silver ball.
The little stars are only tin;
I love them best of all.
One that was closest in translation was unfamiliar except for the form. This one seemed to be counted on the hand as the more familiar (to me at least) “This Little Piggy” is counted on toes.
Aquí puso la pajarita el huevo
Aquí puso la pajarita el huevo.
Éste lo agarró,
éste lo partió,
éste lo cocinó,
éste le echó la sal,
y este pícaro gordo
se lo comió.
Here the Bird Laid the Egg
Here the bird laid one round egg.
This one found it,
this one cracked it,
this one cooked it,
this one put salt on it,
and this fat rascal
gobbled it up!
from ¡Pío Peep! Rimas Tradicionales en Español (Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes)
- What is lost and found in translation? How does this rob or enrich you or a character? What happens when we try to rely on literal translation?
It is Sunday morning, and I have only a few pesos, my iPhone, and the keys to the posada in my pocket. After an hour of walking in Llano Park, I decide that I am not done strolling, and so I wander while considering a list of places I haven’t visited recently. The Textile Museum rises to the top. I have high expectations from my last few visits.
I arrive as they open; there is only one other visitor in the whole place. She is a different kind of tourist than I. She has studied and planned for what she will see; moving slowly, she carries a list and a notebook into which she scribbles furiously.
My experience is affected by her palpable judgment for my lack of preparation, for how swiftly I pass some of the (important) pieces, for how aimlessly I seem to linger over (stirring) others. I want to suggest that we, like divorced parents, try to share custody without animosity; instead, I decide to view the exhibit out of order to avoid a showdown.
Now alone in the main gallery, I want to whoop as I come across a particularly breathtaking quilt, each square of it stuns with simplicity. Though it is composed of coloring book clean images, it reminds me of a primer I had for learning penmanship that depicted flawless lines and graceful curves.
I cannot deny that I feel impotent in the presence of all of this beauty; I admit that the other visitor was right. I have neither the materials nor the skills to devour this show.
From The Art Room
for my sisters
Because we did not have threads
of turquoise, silver, and gold,
we could not sew a sun nor sky.
And our hands became balls of fire.
And our arms spread open like wings.
Read the rest at: http://www.poetryoutloud.org/poems-and-performance/poems/detail/51771
- Acting teacher F. Jo Murdoch points out: Bette Davis always had something in her hand: a cigarette, a cup of coffee, so her character’s feelings were depicted in her physical actions. Communicate emotion through physical actions, interaction with another person, or deficit as in McCallum’s piece.
I went to a writers’ conference in Minnesota in April. It rained; it snowed; it was gorgeously sunny. And, it was four non-stop days of attending workshops and lectures and learning about all of the things I don’t know. I had never heard of small poems before the workshop on small poems. As it turns out, neither had most of the other attendees. I attended a moving panel on Poverty and Poetry. The speakers said things that I have thought for a long time but have never had the words to say. They talked about social classes and leaving people behind and how no matter how much knowledge one has, others can still make her feel like an imposter.
In one session, a Minnesota rapper, POS, did a workshop where he took his own rap lyrics from Genius (rap.genius.com) and examined how various commenters had explicated his sentiments. In response to the line: “But so happy to be alive,” from the song, “Lock-Pick, Knives, Bricks and Bats,,” one commenter wrote:
Here, P.O.S. rejoices in the tremendous happiness he feels simply by being alive. This happiness remains with him despite “looking through dirty lenses,” which can be read as a metaphor for the pessimistic worldview one has when depressed.
POS laughed, saying, he was just happy to be alive. Moving on to another piece where a respondent had made meaning of his desire for a sandwich, he insisted, “I was hungry.” There was no psychic hunger or great void to fill beyond his appetite.
I was thinking about the Billy Collins piece, “Introduction to Poetry” where he describes students trying to “torture a confession” out of a poem. Who has been teaching us to read like imposters?
Mari and I joke that I cannot speak Spanish without my morning coffee. I search for words as if I am bobbing for apples as if I a senseless sometimes. Especially if I have spent the first hour or so reading in English, I feel as though I’ll never warm up to the words.
A cup of coffee is full of ideas, a mouthful.