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Posts Tagged ‘what’s so funny?’

Or, to be entirely accurate (and doubly literary), fear and loathing.

I am a big fan of the whole six degrees of separation idea. I’m always charting my connections to see how far afield I can go, what unexpected people I can get to. My aunt knew Barbara Jordan, so all kinds of connections there. My mom dated Freddy Cole, so a ton more there. A crazy teacher I once hired gave me a connection to Trotsky. You get the idea.

Generally speaking, I love this game. I love the Kevin Bacon version of this game. When Fox was first becoming a Lord of the Rings fangirl, I made her a Six Degrees of LOTR book, connecting all of the trilogy’s principal cast to Bacon. This was, of course, super easy to do. The man really does connect to everyone.

But the connections to be discovered aren’t always great. I just learned that I am only three short degrees from THOTUS¹.

To be honest, I already knew I could get to that sunken place in four degrees. Shortening that path to three … well, it hurts a bit, makes me wish that sometimes the world wouldn’t be so small.

But I can’t write a chōka for THOTUS. I mean, I can, but I refuse to.

_____

Love Lost

Did I really write
a poem about old lovers?
Why yes, yes I did.
I guess it’s true: anything
can turn into art.
Of course: love is poetic,
so that makes some sense.
Poems pick at the emotion —
feelings, not the men
not the flawed and fallible
simple, human men.
I’m sure it’s better this way.
The men that I’ve loved
and the others, the lovers
they can all be spared
my ink, my rancor, my scorn —
I’ll turn aside. Write elsewhere.

__________
¹ Titular Head oThese United States

_____

A chōka is a Japanese form poem with a specific syllable count per line. The shortest form of chōka  is: 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 7. The 5- and 7-syllable lines can repeat as many times as needed. The poem’s end is signaled by the extra 7-syllable line. The final five lines can be used to summarize the body of the poem.



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Yes, all of that. For all the reasons.

First, let me say that, the moment you fix your mouth to tell me that “even Hitler” wouldn’t do some particularly heinous thing … you’ve gone down the wrong path. The very moment it occurs to you to make such a comparison, STOP. Stop, take a deep breath, try to count at least to five. Let a new thought flow into your brain, anything but a favorable reference to Hitler, a reference to the genocide he orchestrated in a way that makes it sound like the Mall of America. Maybe count all the way to ten … and remember that you, in fact, know absolutely not one whit about history, that you half-recall some names, no dates, a few terms of art. Realize that all of this means you should shut the fuck up — all the way up — that you should change course and never, ever attempt to make even the most basic of analogies ever again.

That’s first.

Second, how clear is it today and to how many people, that THOTUS¹ has no respect for anything that is in any way related to the job he has lied and cheated his way into? You tried to pretend it didn’t bother you when Kellyann curled up on the Oval Office couch with her got-damn shoes on to play with her phone before taking a pic of all those school choice advocates who’d come to see her boss. You looked down at your hands and acted as if you couldn’t see when Ivanka sat in on diplomatic meetings, when she officially took on an advisory role. You were suddenly interested in your shoes and their need for a shine when Jared was put in charge of brokering Middle East peace and a thousand other important issues for which he isn’t the least bit qualified.

But now Hitler’s been put on the table, and surely you finally have to admit that you see it. If THOTUS cared at all about the job he has shoehorned himself into, he would make some kind of effort to surround himself with staff who have the first clue about government, about the world, about history, about any damn thing that has to do with leading this country.

But THOTUS doesn’t care. At all. He has never cared. He has only ever been interested in winning, in showing the naysayers that he could walk in and take whatever the fuck he wanted. That was always the goal. What happens to the rest of us now that his aides are sitting around picking their noses and playing with their hair is not his concern.

And so, three. What now? What’s your path forward in spite of, in response to, in solidarity against? Have you found the form that resistance takes for you?

_____

Jib for the Jobber

I have only this —
anger, an uncontrolled rage,
only this belief
that we will have to survive,
have to save ourselves
step out of the inferno.
I have always rage,
questions, my fierce, ugly hope —
bulked up and ready,
pushing me forward in spite
and in spite of. Yes.
This isn’t my song,
but I have learned all the words.
I can sing all day,
long into the night. Watch me
outlast you, my voice still strong.

__________
¹ Titular Head oThese United States

_____

A chōka is a Japanese form poem with a specific syllable count per line. The shortest form of chōka  is: 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 7. The 5- and 7-syllable lines can repeat as many times as needed. The poem’s end is signaled by the extra 7-syllable line. The final five lines can be used to summarize the body of the poem.



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Are you watching? How could you not be watching? Don’t you call it up on your phone while you’re at work? Prop up your phone next to your computer monitor so you can work and glance over every once in a minute? I think everyone’s watching. Aren’t you watching?

Of course, I’m talking about the live feed of April the giraffe. April, who is going to have a baby ANY DAY NOW!! April, who has had three other babies before this one, without the benefit of a live feed. April, who has consumed an inordinate amount of my conscious time for the last couple of days.

April. Why am I glued to her YouTube channel?

But really, how can I not be? She’s beautiful. Her pregnant belly is beautiful. Little I’m-the-daddy Oliverr in the background is adorable.

Seriously, though. For her eyelashes alone I would be glued to this live feed.

Sigh.

April.

Back to work.

__________

And I Fell

It all started here
this moment. One open moment.
Started with silence
and then the call of my name,
the sound of laughter.
Your voice — a new, vast landscape —
all the mystery
of new, of magic, of you
I’ll remember. Beginning.

Oh, that one was hard … and I like it less than the last two. My head was definitely not in it. Far too much time spent watching April and Oscar. But I made it. Another chōka gets checked off the to-do list. Done and done. On to the next!



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So, we have:

Woman without her man is nothing.

And also:

Come and eat grandma!

And slowly, even the most stubborn souls begin to see the value of punctuation.

Woman: without her, man is nothing.

Come and eat, grandma!

Oh, what a different a few dots and squiggles can make.

These are famous ones, of course. I was trying to remember a really wonderful one that wound up in print a while ago, and finally found it:

And this is all silly and a good reminder that commas are life savers (I know Ray’s family and dog are grateful for them!) … but there was a story the other day that also proved that a well-placed comma can mean the difference between winning and losing a legal battle.

I’ll admit that I’m a latecomer to the Oxford comma. I was forced to use it in grade school. But I was forced to do a lot of things with my writing in grade school, and many of them I heartily disagreed with and despised. Once I had a little more freedom to write how I wanted, I began to jettison those things I didn’t care for, and the Oxford comma fell by the wayside with the other castoffs. People have argued with me about it quite a bit over the years — which maybe says something about the folks I hang with¹ — but I have remained stubbornly against. I taught English for many years, and I taught the Oxford comma … but also made it clear that a) I didn’t use it myself and b) no one’s grade would be damaged by the decision not to use it.

But then I got my current job. I got this job, and one of the first things I had to do was edit the big, serious report we were producing. And before the editing began, I was asked to put together a style guide so that all of the people who were adding writing could try to have the same set of rules in mind as they worked and so that changes I made to text would all follow clear guidelines.

Making that style guide was, I have to admit, fun for me (which most definitely says something about the kind of person I am!). I saw the guide as my chance to lay down the law, list out my writing pet peeves, make our sleek and shiny report conform to my writing style. (Oh yes, a little power is truly a dangerous thing!)

Pretty quickly in my style-guiding I ran smack into the Oxford comma. And somehow, for reasons I couldn’t explain and can’t explain now, that comma suddenly made sense. Made perfect, why-didn’t-I-ever-see-this-before sense. And I’ve been using it ever since. (Somewhere, my 6th grade teacher is pointing, laughing, and saying, “I told you so!”)



It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices

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¹ This wacky-grammarians-on-my-friend-list business did not extend to the guy who came to a party I threw years ago … who smugly diagrammed the sentences of the people who spoke to him. You may think this is a clever party trick. Trust me when I tell you that it really isn’t.

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Yes, you read that right.

I am a single woman. I live alone. And, while I love to cook, sometimes it’s just too much. With just me in the house, some nights the production of dinner-making is taking up time that could be spent … well … on just about anything else. So, that’s what I’m saying. I get her, Olivia Pope. Popcorn and wine is not a lie.

More often, for me, it’s popcorn and herbal tea. Sometimes popcorn and ginger ale. But you get the idea.

I’ve gone through many popper styles — electric, air, microwave. But the best is made on the stove.

I used to have this old-school beauty:

This is the Wabash Valley Farms™ Original Whirley Pop™ Stovetop Popcorn Popper (they clearly needed to use the word “pop” at least one more time). I loved it. And I used it so much, I wore it out. Now I just use an old stock pot. It’s not as fun as turning the crank, but it definitely gets the job done.

It gets the job done because it’s popcorn, and it’s really not that serious … except that, maybe it is. If you fire up the Google, you will, in fact, get 47,900,000 hits for “how to make popcorn.” Really. Nearly 48 million hits. But sadly, only 3,400,000 returns for “how to make caramel popcorn.” Why so few? How are we living, people? Surely, caramel corn should play a larger role in our lives. And the results tumble down from there. Only 1,880,000 for kettle corn.

So yes, all of this is quite silly. But it’s also reminding me of popcorn balls (7,040,000 hits!), specifically, the popcorn balls my grandmother used to make. She didn’t make them often, so they were an extra especial treat. And they seemed like magic. No one else ever had them, and I never actually saw how she made them, so they just seemed to become … there’d be a big bowl of popcorn, and then <snap of fingers> there’d be popcorn balls! She was a kitchen magician.

And now I have my pick of recipes, and I might have to give them a try.

Um …

But not tonight. If I can’t work up the gumption to boil some pasta and throw on some bottled sauce, am I really going to take on the decadent extravagance of popcorn balls?! I think not.

I am more likely to go on the hunt for the Brooklyn Popcorn truck!



original-slicer-girlgriot

It’s the Slice of Life Story Challenge — posting a little bit of something every day in March!

Go check out the hundreds of slicers over at Two Writing Teachers!

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I had plans for this weekend, things I was so sure I was going to get done. Such good plans. And here it is, my long weekend on the wane, and I’ve done next to nothing. It’s shameful, actually, such complete shirking of my duties.

But at the same time, how can I be expected to get anything done from my mundane to-do list when I am so busy keeping a laser focus on Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this? Sweden! I mean, when you think about what happened the other night, about how they’re having problems like they never thought possible … how can you really, truly focus on anything the fuck-all else?

So I’ve given myself a pass, forgiven myself for my inability to pull my thoughts away from Sweden.

When people listen to THOTUS¹, how do they decide to believe him? How do they turn on the news and hear him talking about “what happened last night in Sweden,” and know they haven’t heard anything about Sweden. And they go online and there’s nothing about Sweden except the thousand articles trying to suss out what the hell THOTUS was talking about. How do folks do all of that and still decide to believe him, still decide to listen attentively when he speaks? How do folks do all of that and not come out the other end convinced that he is a pathological liar, that he makes up stories just because, makes up stories when he doesn’t need a story. He could talk only about Paris and have enough material to sway you. He could talk about Brussels and have enough. He’d have more than enough if he talked about Turkey, but he wouldn’t do that because … well … Turkey.

My point is that he doesn’t need the story. There are enough real stories already. He doesn’t need to throw another country into the mix. And yet he went in with Sweden. And not as a casual throwaway, tacking it onto the end of a list. No, he goes on a bit: “Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden! They took in large numbers, they’re having problems like they never thought possible.”

Really, just why in the all-encompassing fuck does he need to do this?

I taught basic composition classes at a community college for years. The course was prep for a very rigid test for which students would be expected to write a specific kind of essay. It was a test they had already failed at least once by the time they landed in my class. The essay prompts offered up two topics, students picked a side … and then had to have something to say about the random issue they chose.

Students would often ask me if they could just invent some “evidence,” tell a story that illustrated the point they wanted to make even if the story was constructed out of whole cloth on the spot. And I can see why making up a story feels like a good answer. You can craft the story to fit your point perfectly, and what better “proof” is there than the this-really-happened argument?

But I always warned students again storytelling. I would tell them that, if they really wanted to make up a story, they should first assess themselves: how well could they lie? Because good storytelling is about lying, as Mother Zora taught is in her folktale research. So I’d ask my students how often they told lies. Did people always believe their lies? Were they good at not caving in or getting confused and giving pieces of the story away? Were they able to lie and stay calm and focused or did the lying make them flushed and nervous or excited — not good for concentrating on getting an essay written.

I asked them a bunch of questions … and then told them that unless they were consummate liars, making up a story was a bad idea. I had a few receipts, stories of students I’d taught who had chosen not to listen to my warning, who decided that telling a story was the right option for them. And how dramatically they crashed and burned on their way to a lousy score on the exam.

Clearly, no one has told THOTUS that telling stories isn’t going to help him pass this exam. What’s more, it’s just too easy to turn the stories on their heads and fill the empty spaces with the truth. He tells lies — and his people tell lies — that would work if we didn’t live in 2017 in a country with stable internet access and a solid corps of investigative journalists. It’s so outrageous to me, it’s actually hard to fathom what he could be thinking.

Maybe THOTUS is all muddled by what happened the other night in Sweden. Perhaps he needs a nice sauna followed by a romp in the snow. Or perhaps he just needs to admit that this job isn’t the right fit for him, that he was wrong to believe all of Vladimir’s pep talks about how he could so be president.

I understand THOTUS’ issue, though. I told my students not to make up stories unless they were spectacularly good liars. And for the most part, they were able to see themselves clearly enough to know that they weren’t good enough liars. They could think back to times when their lying was detected and the results were distressing at best. But THOTUS doesn’t have this history to evaluate. He surrounds himself with genuflecting toadies. He distorts all facts until they say what he wants to hear. When he looks back at his past, he doesn’t see times when lying tripped him up. He’s already revised those stories into examples of “so much winning!” The end result? He may actually believe he’s a good liar. So he keeps diving in and telling his team to dive in alongside him.

It’s up to us — the people for whom he works — to call out his lies and call him out as a liar. This is all part of not normalizing what we’re seeing, not letting anyone convince us that any of this is okay.

As for me, I’m annoyed to know that I spent my whole weekend worried about the state of affairs in Sweden, where Sweden is doing quite well and not in need of my worry.

My students who lied on their essays failed the writing exam. It was sad for them, but not catastrophic. THOTUS failing in his job could be cataclysmic. Do I wish he didn’t have that Pennsylvania Avenue job? Sure, but he does, and I’d like him to not get us all killed before we have the chance to vote him back to civilian life. Getting him to stop lying every time he opens his mouth might be a step in the right direction.

__________

¹ Titular Head oThese United States



griotgrind_logo

In 2017, I’m on my #GriotGrind, committed to writing an essay a week.
It’s not too late to join! Check out Vanessa Mártir’s blog to find out how!

Also? It’s Slice of Life Tuesday!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the other slicers are up to!

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My introduction on Saturday to erasure poems has spawned an obsession. At our pair session yesterday, my mentee and I — in between lots of storytelling and laughter — tried our hands at it again. And then I went home and “wrote” another. During the pair session, I used an article about Brazil from a travel magazine. My night time source text was the editor’s note in the Family Circle magazine that showed up in my mailbox.

I neglected to say what an erasure poem is when I wrote about them on Saturday. Here’s the definition we were given to work from (which I realize as I look at it now that I haven’t actually followed at all!):

Erasure poems use a source text that is already written. For example, you can take a page of a book, and that would be your source text. You would then “erase” by crossing out the words you don’t want in your poem. Poems are created with what’s left after the words are erased without adding to it or rearranging parts of it. We preserve some phrasing, but we form new images, ideas, and meanings.

That makes more sense than what I did! I only used individual words, no phrases. That surely explains why my poems make no sense. But I still like them!

Here’s the one I “found” from the travel article:

Between the summer
sprawling, isolated miles
far beyond this coastline.
A tiny village
slice of perfect peace
an adventure
a boat ride
a room.
Beyond days
colorful, turquoise footpaths,
waterfalls.
Remote home.
Protected.
Wild.

I’ll try another now that I’ve actually read the instructions properly. We’ll see what emerges.

So here’s some craziness: I go on and on (and on) about poetry, about my inability to think of myself as a poet, of how self-conscious I am about writing poetry. Then how to explain the fact that I came very close to applying for a poetry fellowship this week? I found out about it only a few hours before the deadline, and that’s the only reason I didn’t apply. I didn’t have enough time to find folks to be my references and to write my letter of intent. That’s all that held me back. Not my terror of poetry or of calling myself a poet. What was I thinking? How weird is that? I honestly don’t know what to make of my actions. What will I do next?

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