(Entry below is an excerpt from an entry handwritten on 7/26/14)
It’s Saturday afternoon and it’s raining. So I’m glad I got my errands out of the way. Yesterday I went to a poetry reading for the first time in a long time. It was at a bookstore and was hosted by Afterword magazine. I took 3 free copies of back issues that were being offered, and also showed up hungry so I ate a lot of the cheese and crackers and pepperoni slices they were offering, along with some red wine. They didn’t seem to mind though.
I started chatting with John, the editor-in-chief, and his friend, Pat, also a contributor and part of the staff. We talked about my town and Jersey City, and this Lowe’s theater there that shows many classics like Hitchcock and Carrie and movies like that. I don’t know what John’s day job is, but Pat said he was a train conductor. They were both personable and friendly. And it made me feel comfortable to talk with them.
I told Pat how I used to write a lot of poetry, but haven’t written much lately, so I hoped that I would be inspired by coming to a poetry reading and listening to other people’s words. I told him how that usually works to inspire me and it ‘opens the mind.’ He agreed enthusiastically.
We talked how summer is so busy with friends and family events, and how John hoped people would show up to the reading. They plan to have another reading in October, to celebrate the release of the next issue. John has been publishing Afterword since 2008, which I found impressive.
The reading started late, and I found I was the only female there in attendance, with about 8 guys. Most of them read their work. They were good readers and their poems were interesting. And they even started a ‘collaborative’ poem, in which each person passed around a piece of paper with a poem (a few lines) that John had started, so that everyone could add their own couple of lines. That was fun to do and something I’ve never seen done at a reading before.
The poetry had many of the same themes- loneliness, isolation, heartbreak, some humor, human observation, anger, outrage. All in all, I was glad I attended and was exposed to different perspectives and new images. I was glad for the chance to get out of my own head for a while, and realize that everyone feels fucked-up every now and then. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.
This afternoon, the library was closed so I sat here on my couch and read the 3 issues of Afterword that I brough home from the reading. It was nice to be immersed in poetry again, in the insights of other people. Reading the issues inspired me to write a poem called ‘Adulthood’ – it’s a few pages back before this entry. It’s a fairly OK poem, nothing great but also not terrible. It feels good to be able to write anything at all.
John read our collaborative poem at the end of the reading, and said it would be published in the next issue. When giving the instructions for the collaborative poem, he said to just write ‘whatever is in your head,’ so that’s what I did. I didn’t want to think about it too much and miss out on the poetry that was being read.
John spoke about the importance of creativity, and how the whole point of the evening was to spark the creativity of those who attended. And I think the reading was successful in that mission. He talked about how we all work our day jobs, but when he gets home, he picks up his pen and expresses himself creatively. He said we should all be creative, just for ourselves, just to add interest to our lives, and make them more fun. And he was right.
He said not to worry about writing for money or publication, or fame and fortune, however great those things may be, but just for the joy of it, to be creative just for creativity’s sake. And I found that I could completely agree, and relate. Even though I usually don’t write or create as often as I’d like to, I still long to do it. To listen to myself and rediscover who I am at this stage of my life.
Yesterday I took a tour called ‘Bohemians and Beats of Greenwich Village Literary Tour.’ It started at the arch in Washington Square Park and ended at the Strand Bookstore. Along the way we saw where several writers once lived, and enjoyed some of their poetry (courtesy of the tour guide) who read them from his Ipad. He also showed us pictures of the writers we discussed.
Among them were Allen Ginsberg, Edna St. Vincent Millay (one of my favorites), Edgar Allen Poe, Jack Kerouac and Bob Dylan. We saw the once home of Edgar Allen Poe and learned about his short life, his alcoholism and madness, and were treated to a short poem of his describing that descent into madness. Watching the tour guide trying to compete with all the noise of the New York streets and battle the heat of the 89 degree day was also a bit of a spectacle.
At the start of the tour, the tour guide asked, “So, how many of you currently live in the Village?” To which I replied “I wish.” And the tour guide said, “We all wish, honey,” which I thought was pretty funny. There were people from Long Island, New Jersey and one couple from Toronto on the tour with us. So mostly it was locals.
We stopped by the favorite hangouts of Kerouac and Ginsberg, saw the location of the first cafe to use snapping instead of applause for Poetry, it was called The Gaslight. They used snapping in order not to upset the neighboring tenants with their noise. And we stopped by Cafe Wha where Jimmy Hendrix was discovered. The tour guide told an interesting story about when he got to meet Ginsberg in the 90s at a reading, and had one of his first journals signed by the famous poet.
Things I learned: Ginsberg was homosexual and his poem, Howl was almost banned for its pornographic imagery. Edna St. Vincent Millay was openly bisexual, a free spirit and very beautiful, which made everyone at that time fall in love with her. She married a rich man and he took care of her in her later years, after many years of affairs and lovers of both sexes.
She also preferred to be called “Vincent” instead of Edna. Her middle name was in honor of the people at the hospital, St. Vincent’s, in which her uncle’s life was saved just days before her birth. Edna St. Vincent Millay died of an aneurysm after falling down some stairs when she was 55 years old.
I also learned that there is a door on the side of the arch in Washington Square Park. Apparently, years back, some artists climbed in and went up to the top to drink a lot of wine and party. We learned a bit about the area and small townhouses where NYU now keeps their faculty housed. It used to be servant’s quarters for the rich who lived close to the park.
The most expensive real estate in Manhattan is close to parks (like Central Park) because it’s the best place to get the most oxygen in the congested city. And we saw the townhouse where the movie, I am Legend filmed a scene. The townhouse was used as Will Smith’s residence after some zombies chase him under the arch in the park.
Also, on our way to the bookstore at the end of the tour, the tour guide explained to us that when we see bright orange signs and traffic cones blocking parking on the street, it means that a movie will be filmed there. We passed by a sign on a pole that indicated there would be a filming of a scene tonight, and it had the name of the movie on it but I don’t remember it. I regret that because I wanted to look it up.
The signs are there in case there are cars parked and they get towed due to filming, so that the car owners know who to call to retrieve their car. There were many of those signs up all around the area of McDougal Street
The beat poets were called beat poets because they were linked to the beat of the heart, tribal beats in their words, and the symbolism of being beaten down by “The Man” for not conforming to the rest of society in the way that they chose to live. I really enjoyed the tour and though it was very interesting, well worth the price.
Last night I attended my first class for the next course on my list to get my Certificate in Editing from NYU. It’s called From Writer to Reader: An Introduction to Book Publishing. And it’s taught by Esther Margolis. She founded Newmarket Press, I believe it was back in the 60s, when it was unheard of for a woman to do something like that.
She told some amazing stories. Like being the only woman in a sales meeting of 300 once, and getting to work with the Nobel Prize-winning poet Maya Angelou. Esther worked on the publicity for one of Angelou’s first books. And she created an event (to be covered by the press) in which Angelou would speak to school children in Harlem.
Maya agreed to do so on one condition. She asked Esther, ‘What will they pay to listen to me speak?’ and Esther said, ‘Maya, these are school children in Harlem, what do you mean?’ And Maya said ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s just 10 cents or a quarter. They should pay something because they will listen differently if they have paid to hear me speak.’
And Esther said it was one of the biggest lessons she learned in her career doing publicity for book authors. Maya Angelou is a poet who’s words I fell in love with in high school, and here was this woman who had worked with her, just casually telling the story as if it were anybody.
She said Maya was extraordinary though. And how could she not be? The kids ended up paying a quarter to get into the auditorium to hear her speak, and the money raised by her appearance did not go to her either, it went to charity.
We also watched a brief video about the publishing business, which featured Nikki Giovanni, another amazing poet that I love. And I actually never even knew what she looked like. I was encouraged by the way that the authors and editors described all the different facets of working in publishing, And how someone could tailor their particular interest into a career in it.
They can start as editorial assistants and move their way up all the way to senior editor, or someone could start in administration or HR or even in the legal side in the contracts department, or production, art, or many others. I know there has to be a niche somewhere in their for me. Right now I feel like it may be editing. but I’m not absolutely certain yet.
I guess it just takes getting your feet wet to see where you most want to end up. The first homework assignment is really interesting which seems promising for the whole course.
(Review below was written on 4/12/2000)
I felt compelled to watch this movie and write a review because of the great love I’ve always had for poetry. Few films really explore, examine, and get into the heart of poetry to reveal its power, significance and beauty.
In a strict prep school, where this movie is set, career-oriented students face a burdensome education. Amongst the drudgery comes their new English teacher, Mr. Keating, and unconventional professor who challenges them constantly to open their eyes to the life that is before them.
These young men learn to strive for what they desire, go against the pack, and find out what is truly important to them. The timeless message of the “dead poets” in the film will relate to any audience- living for the present, enjoying life in youth, and not taking anything for granted.
This is a wonderful screenplay which assures us that words can change the world and compels us to constantly try to look at things in new ways. One should always provide for their future in a lucrative career, but not at the expense of individuality, expression, or the ignorance of the real beauty of life or what the heart truly desires.
The road less taken (rather than conformity) becomes the tempting ideal, and the students learn that seizing the day is the key to making their lives extraordinary. Viewers of this movie can’t help but take into serious consideration the philosophies of Mr. Keating.
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
At the writing group I went to recently, I asked the organizer there, Phil, how he begins when he writes a new poem. He said he takes walks a lot, and always has. And as he does, he comes upon a question he has asked himself- it’s a question he has asked of himself before birth, a question that has always been within him and that only he can answer. And he always carries around a piece of paper in order to write down a few words as they come to him, which he explores further later. I found that answer to be very intriguing, honest and true.
This past March at the Strand Bookstore, I attended a poetry reading featuring Dan Chelotti and Yusef Komunyakaa.
When Dan Chelotti was asked this question (how he begins a poem), he told a story about when he was a kid in school and he made it his mission to read every Stephen King novel. When he was starting one of the novels, it began with a quote from the poem, The Wasteland by T.S. Elliot. I wish I could remember which novel it was, but he said that reading that quote made such an impression on him that his new mission became dedicating himself to writing a poem every night.
When Yusef Komunyakaa was asked the same question about how poems emerge, he said an image or a phrase usually starts a poem for him. They both spoke about obsessions, and how it can be worthwhile to write “towards” them. I enjoy poetry readings that allow for discussion afterwords, and especially a Q & A session with the poets themselves.
This was the blurb for the event:
The First of Three Readings In Celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Poetry Society Chapbook Fellowship with Yusef Komunyakaa and Dan Chelotti
March 28: 7:00PM – 8:00PM
Come to the first installment in a series of three readings/discussions celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Poetry Society Chapbook Fellowship. Join us as former chapbook winner poet Dan Chelotti author of x reads alongside the distinguished Pulitzer Prize winning poet who chose him, Yusef Komunyakaa.
A friend sent me an email recently asking that I translate this poem by Pablo Neruda and change it enough to make it into my own piece, using my poetry writing style and what I thought the poem was trying to convey. Here is my translation. the original poem (my favorite by Neruda) follows:
I don’t love you as if you were a rose,
a topaz rainstorm in a fiery sky
I love you as you would love something dark
secretly, hidden between shadow and soul
I love you like the unbloomed flower that
withholds its beauty and light from all others
your love hides darkly in my body, the concentrated
fragrance that emits from the earth
I love you without knowing how or when or where
I only know how to love you this way:
directly, without pride, beyond the existence of either
you or I
so close that your hand upon my skin is my own
and sleep cannot consume me without taking you
No te amo como si fueras rosa de sal,
topacioo flecha de claveles que propagan el fuego:
te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras,
secretamente, entre la sombra y el alma.
Te amo como la planta
que no florece y llevadentro de sí,
escondida, la luz de aquellas flores,
y gracias a tu amor vive oscuro
en mi cuerpoel apretado aroma
que ascendió de la tierra.
Te amo sin saber cómo,
ni cuándo, ni de dónde,
te amo directamente sin problemas ni orgullo:
así te amo porque no sé amar de otra manera,
sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres,
tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía,
tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño.
(This was my first (and my favorite) post on this blog, a long essay that I really enjoyed writing)
There’s something about writing that only writers can understand. That need to be in a quiet, private place for hours or an entire day in order to get out everything inside that’s screaming at you to be expressed. That drive to stay locked away alone and not talk to anyone, in person or on the phone, because it interferes with your spirit trying to make sense of something you can’t yet grasp. And you want to do all you can not to lose it because you have this deep sense that it is important, it’s something that needs to be said, needs to be recorded.
And it’s so hard when your day job does not allow you enough time to express yourself in that way and you do not use your creativity to make your living. It takes a lot out of you and eventually you find yourself having one of those nights where you stay up until 2am just writing, or reading a book you’re really into but have not had the time to pick up. It ends up being really draining if you don’t devote any time at all to that creative impulse.
Some people use many different outlets for creativity, or they just try different things until they find something that feels right and they get a satisfying feeling from it. For me it has always been writing, ever since I was a little girl. Writing has given me that feeling that nothing else has. It feels natural to me, automatic. I get an actual physical urge to write a lot- to hold a pen between my fingers and play on the page. To say all those things I can never say aloud to the faithful pages of the journal. It’s where I can be my whole self, laid out and unashamed and unabashed. I could probably spend an entire day straight just writing- given the proper desk, a comfortable place, and silence, and a good pen.
I was reading a book of sonnets on the train the other. It’s a book by Edna St. Vincent Millay, one of my favorite poets. I was completely entranced. I like reading poetry now because it puts me back in touch with my youthful self, and I remember being an adolescent and just having all that time in the world available to me to dive into it and not have to emerge. It reminds me of how I first became mesmerized by the efficient use of language, the economy of saying so much using so few lines, the power of implication and mood, and the actual formality of the terminology and word usage of the poets of history. It would transform me and have this hold on me to the point where I felt I should’ve lived in those times. Those simpler times of Shakespeare, Millay, Keats, Lord Byron, e.e. cummings- when reality must have been somehow more real, unfiltered and unencumbered by technological distractions. It’s rare to get so close to living as those poets did who were able to capture and express it such rich detail.
I wonder what kind of magic it would take to stand out as a writer in today’s world. Is anyone centuries from now going to care about all the hundreds of thousands of people out there currently keeping journals and diaries? Will those who have had a few published pieces here and there be more likely to be sought after? Or do you have to be some tortured soul like the singer Kurt Cobain who had his journals swiftly published following his suicide?
I’m sure there are people out there, countless people, capturing truth in the words they keep hidden from the rest of the world. They must have profound reflections and enlightened moments and epiphanies that should be widely read and admired and praised. Within this shallow culture, I’m sure there are hordes of people out there seeking depth- seeking their own meaning behind life. And there must be others like me who are too afraid of some of their own inner turmoil to even get it down on paper. I fear that there won’t be enough words to properly express certain emotions or emotionally charged situations. I’m still trying to work up to those exercises where you are brutally honest and spill everything out on paper, and then rip the paper up or light it on fire. It’s still too frightening to even think about writing it out for my own eyes only.
Writing is weird like that. You can be so expressive and yet still be holding back. But for someone like me it’s a necessary thing. It allows my brain to work. I have to get down somewhere the way that I experience everything in the world, needing very deeply to be heard and understood. I write and reach out in the hope that someday someone will read my words and I will be vibrantly alive to them for a moment. I’ll be a presence in the room and touch something deep within them.
All those writers that I read today were alive once. They were living, breathing human beings going through this same exact human experience of being a body on earth for a length of time. They had all the normal human traits, faults and desires and natural talents. And the desire to capture it all with pen and paper, through poetry, journals, plays, fictional works. They shared a bit of themselves and are still alive whenever someone like me in the 21st century sits on a train on her way home from work smiling to herself after having read a sonnet. That is an enviable power; an enviable way to achieve immortality.
It’s hard to be in a body and constantly be aware of the fact that one day it will die, it will no longer be. So the urge to stay relevant usually arises next. Some people satisfy the urge by having children, some by performing on stage, some by writing books, some by dedicating themselves to helping the less fortunate, some by living for God as a priest or a nun. Everyone needs their something to make them feel they will carry on. And I notice that a lot of creative people- like writers and artists, express this feeling of mortality, and where they wish to reside for eternity, and what they want to have last through time and be remembered long after they are gone. People deal with this in different ways. and I wonder sometimes if all of life is about finding the best way to deal with it.
My former meditation teacher said that everything that is created artistically- whether it be a song, or a poem, or a painting- already exists as a complete thing and it is simply channeled through a human being from the divine. The person gives it a tangible form, but it already and always exists in the divine. That’s how a lot of poets and song writers explain it as well- they’ll say the song seemed to ‘write itself’ or a particular poem just ‘came out of them’ or in the case of painters, they’ll say things like ‘something just took me over’ and the painting was completed by some unseen inner force. Organically, naturally, divinely.
But you have to be a particular kind of person to be attuned to it. An observant, sensitive person with a gift for seeing, absorbing, processing and finally expressing that divine gift.
(Entry below was hand written on 7/26/2012)
The blank page is mocking me. I have this tendency to be compelled to write even when there’s nothing to say. Or maybe there’s too much to say and I fear not being able to get everything out.
My job is wonderful right now. I get to work independently, really independently, in the privacy of my room. No one hounds me or breathes down my neck or tries to make me work faster. I have room and space to breathe, and no longer have to deal with the craziness of the city.
The only thing, if anything, that I always felt good at was writing. But as time went by, it just seemed less important. The compulsion to do it thought is still there and it is strong, so that must mean something.
It must mean that writing is something I’m supposed to do. It’s the only real thing that every came naturally to me, and for some reason, it is and always has been, so satisfying. I can’t imagine a time when I won’t be doing it.
I was reading a bit of the Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath tonight, and for a moment it boggled my mind that I was reading words she had written down in a journal in the 1950s on my digital e-book reader. Sylvia Plath would’ve loved that. Hell, anyone would love to live on like that through the power of the written word.
Plath has so many ways of describing a rainy evening. All of the poetic notions and descriptions pour out of her 18-year-old brain and onto the page, and it’s simply brilliant. Her introspection and musings are so brilliant and sharp that it makes me jealous. I wish I had that level of detail and description in my journals. She can paint a clear picture with her words, with about as much ease as it would take her to fall asleep.
When I was 16, I had this weird, mature urge to reach my 30s. I was actually longing for and looking forward to these years. As crazy as that sounds, I can understand why. Sure, the uncertainty of what are the best decisions to make can be scary, but I know what I truly wanted.
I wanted the freedom from pressure that the 30s bring: the freedom to be an individual instead of expected to fit in and have friends, the freedom from petty gossip and ignorant bitches in school, the freedom to live on my own in my own way and style without anyone imposing any rules on me. That part of being 33 is really wonderful.
I tell myself to forgo any pressure I may feel (self-imposed) to do something great. But I would like to feel special, that I accomplished something that has meaning to me. Hopefully I will find a way to get there.
(Entry below was written on August 16, 2005)
I had a doctor’s appointment this morning before work. When they weighed me I was in complete shock. I really thought I weighed more than 117 lbs, with my shoes and all my jewelry on. I guess feeling that I was heavier was all in my head.
I’m so out of it in the mornings. I think I really might need to become a regular coffee drinker. but the problem is I hate coffee. It tastes terrible and I can only have it on cold winter days, even then it’s not so great. I like hot chocolate better. With coffee you have to worry about it staining your teeth. And it never kept me awake and alert for more than an hour or so.
I keep getting these little hints of poetic images and I’m like hey! I can write a poem about that. I get all excited for a moment but I never seem to get past that point and get off and running with a poem. I think about dreams I have and consider writing about them in a poem form.
Dreams are sort of like poems anyway, fragments of images that are rich, vivid and emotional and don’t always make sense right away until you put them all together and make your own sense out of them.
Do you ever look at strangers in public and get so curious about their lives? I’m always wondering when I see people on the train what their jobs are, what kinds of food they eat, if they are happy in their current situation, or just doing what they think is expected of them like I am. I wonder if family is important to them, if they have deep friendships or relationships. I wish I could work up the nerve to start conversations with people.
This morning when I left my apartment, it was so breezy out. And I was cold because I chose to wear a button-down knee-length dress today to work. I thought, oh no, it’s already getting cold.
When the fall comes along there’s a certain smell in the air and you immediately expect to see school buses and kids running around wearing backpacks. I don’t want it to be fall yet. I’m not ready for the cold. I get cold in the summer, so winter is totally unbearable for me.
Summer weather makes me happy. And I need all the boosts to my mood I can get. Last winter was way too brutal. This summer should last until October.
The title of this post is a lyric from a April 10, a Garbage b-side.
When this movie first cam to theaters, I was the only person I knew who wanted to see it. It was only after it won the Oscar for best movie did I get to watch it when it came back to theaters. This movie is funny, romantic, touching, and really unique!
I especially enjoyed the incorporation of Shakespeare’s sonnets and the play, Romeo and Juliet. Gwyneth Paltrow gives a perfect performance in this difficult role of pretending to be a man and be in love with one at the same time.
She does justice to the rich text of Shakespeare and makes it accessible and enjoyable. She brings warmth to the character of Viola (something I’m sure Nicole Kidman would not have done as well, she was originally offered the part.)
The acting in this movie by the rest of the cast is equally wonderful. They succeed in bringing the time period to life, with the help of beautiful scenery and costumes. The screenplay is what truly makes this film so special and so wonderful. It is clever and witty, and unparalleled in the beauty of Shakespeare’s words (even in everyday speech).
Watch this movie and enjoy everything that literature and verse have to offer. The beautiful, talented cast will never bore you but only bring you joy with their chemistry and wit.