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June 30, 2010


I know nothing about poetry.  I vaguely remember hearing the term "iambic" sometime in a high school English class.  I have books of poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Ovid, Homer, and William Shakespeare.  It's a small, haphazard collection comprised mostly of books I was given.  Sometimes I have a look at them, and they frown back at me.  If books came alive like Disney creations, they'd shake their square heads in faux sympathy, clucking bookmark tongues and muttering amongst one another, "She just doesn't get it, does she?"

I enjoy poetry the same way I enjoy art.  I examine it and think it's beautiful or raw or vibrant; or I stare and wonder what I'm meant to see.  Whether I connect with a work or not, I always feel something's missing.  There's a piece of the puzzle I wasn't given.  The flaw isn't with the artist or the work, it's in me.  I don't know enough.

For the past couple weeks I've been especially aware of my ignorance.  At the archives, I've begun working with a collection that consists largely of poetry and essays.  I've begun to fall in love the way a kid does--all feeling and no brains.  But I'm no kid.  I want more.

Poetry feels too big to be self-taught, but I'm going to learn what I can.  I've checked out a book or two on forms of poetry and another on poetry writing exercises, and if nothing else, I'm excited to learn something new.  Each day as I write, I've been adding a poetry writing exercise to my regular work.  I have no visions of being a poet, but I'm having fun working with words in a new way.

I'm hoping to get suggestions on some great resources to help me along.  Any texts or sites you'd recommend for learning about poetry?  Any poets you love?  Any advice is greatly appreciated!      

June 28, 2010

Games We Play

I've started playing pinochle with a group of co-workers on Wednesdays.  My grandpa taught me to play when I was a kid, and family holidays and Saturday afternoons used to be prime pinochle time.  Grandpa was the best partner.  He had an instinct for taking chances, and he didn't mind my occasionally reckless bidding.  With him for a partner, it seemed impossible to lose.

I haven't played in the decade since he died.  Starting over, I feel rusty.  The rules are different, and I miss Grandpa's banter.

Games and play are essential to our devolopment, our relationships, and our lives.  Look back through history, and you'll find people playing, competing, co-operating.  It seems a part of human nature.  Look back on your own life.  What games did you play?  Wtih whom?  How did playing games make you feel?  How did you feel about those with whom you played?
Today's exercise is devoted to character development.  Take a character you've been working on (or invent a new one).  Find out what games he or she likes and hates.  Is your character good at games or an utter failure?  Does he cheat?  Is she competive or uninvested in the game's outcome?  Do the answers change depending on whom the character is playing against/with or depending on the game?

If you come up with some interesting insights, feel free to post them in the comments! 

Soldiers Playing Cards, c. 1657-1658, by Pieter de Hooch

June 14, 2010

Summer Storm

During the past couple weeks, we've had our fair share of rain and storms.  It's the kind of weather I like--sullen and moody to downright dangerous. 

I went through a phase in my childhood where thunderstorms terrified me.  The summer I turned twelve, lightning strikes burned two homes in our tiny town.  One house had roof damage and fried electronics.  The other was completely destroyed.  It belonged to a family with kids my age, and one of the girls had brought her kitten to the pet show a week before.  The kitten was in the house when it burned.  I remember it as a Siamese or Himalayan--a squriming, mewling puff of white and gray fur with a pink ribbon around its neck.  I felt sick when I thought of it trapped in that burning house; when I imagined how that girl felt.

Every time it stormed that summer, I'd pack up the things most important to me in a hot pink tote bag, which I kept at my side--ready to evacuate if the lightning struck.  My mom tried to convince me the watertower in the vacant lot next door was a giant lightning rod that would keep us safe, but still I prepared for the worst.  I would keep an eye on our pets.  We had a cat and three dogs in the house at that time.  I figured the dogs would be simple enough to save, but the cat might give me problems.  Cats disappear; they don't always come when you call; they claw you to shreds when they're scared.

For a summer or two the fear lingered.  I was never a clinging, crying mess during storms.  I was simply ready, with my eyes on the sky or the weather radar; my wordly possessions (which amounted to tennis rackets and notebooks of writing) at hand; and my cat locked out of the bedrooms. 

Then, somehow, I outgrew my phobia.  My brother and I would play tennis in the rain until the thunder came too close.  He would drive out to the pasture or to the edge of town, and we would try to take lightning photos, which never turned out like we wanted.  The electricity in the air became a spark of life lived instead of something that would kill me.  I wonder if my brother knew how he was helping me.

It's clouding up here again, but today's supposed to be the last day of rain for a while.  What?  You don't suppose I gave up watching the weather altogether, do you?

Today write about a thunderstorm, and think about the storm in a new way.  How does the storm look from a robin's point of view?  From a farmer's?  A mother's?  A hunter's?  Play with the scene's setting.  What's the time of day?  Public setting or a private; beach or backwater; threatening or comforting?  If you like, post your creation in the comments.  I'd love to see what you come up with.

  photo by jpstanley

June 7, 2010

The Adventure

Saturday my team, the Weeble Wobbles, took fifth place in the all-female division of the Urban Omaha Adventure Race.  The race was a blast!  I felt like a kid--pedaling my bike for all I was worth up and down hills and around curving residential streets, splashing through puddles and splattering myself with mud, running through a farmer's market, climbing over a fence, walking with a water bottle balanced on my head.  I definitely want to do another adventure.

One of my teammates was a strong runner; the other, a strong cyclist.  I'm average (bordering on mediocre) at both, but my teammates' abilities brought out the best in me.  Here's a shot of us before the race looking fresh and ready to roll.  On the left is Sandy, I'm in the middle, and Crystal on the right.

Since it's Monday, I owe you a writing prompt.  Today write a scene involving three women of different skill levels working toward a common goal.  They could be baking a pie, trying to solve a mystery, doing a top secret special ops mission, finding their way out of the wilderness after a plane crash.  Anything!  Their adventure is in your hands.  Have fun with it.