Monday, April 29, 2013

Leaving National Poetry Month with a Bang, Not a Whimper

April will be over soon, and with it, the end of National Poetry Month.  To paraphrase a famous poet from a different age, let's go out with a bang, not a whimper!

If you're in South Florida, especially on the southeast side of the state, Richard Blanco will be at 2 events today.  At 12:30 at the South Regional Library, which is on the South campus of Broward College, Blanco will participate in a question and answer session.

At 7, he'll do a poetry reading in the big auditorium of the South Campus of Broward College (7200 Pines Blvd. in Pembroke Pines).

If you can't get to a poetry reading, you can still have poetry to keep you company.  This week's episode of the radio show On Being featured the poet Marie Howe.  What a treat!  This link takes you to my favorite poem of the hour, in which Mary Magdalene speaks and tells us about her demons.  Those demons will be familiar to modern readers too.  Be sure to click on the player and have Howe read it to you.

The whole interview is fascinating.  Here are some bits to whet your appetite:

She talks about loving science fiction:  "I adored it. And about the robots were going to take over and the machines were going to take over. And just last week it occurred to me. Well they have. It's just different from what we expected. You know, uh, Joseph Brodsky — it's just different. And one of my teachers at Columbia was Joseph Brodsky, who's a Russian poet, wonderful, amazing poet, who was exiled from the Soviet Union for On Being a poet. And he said look, he said, you Americans, you are so naïve. You think evil is going to come into your houses wearing big black boots. It doesn't come like that. Look at the language. It begins in the language. And I was thinking the machines — what do you look at more? What face do you look into more than any other face in your life — the face of my iPhone."

"Well, that poem ["Letter to my sister"]was written to a sister who, uh, you know. in a big house different people experienced different things. And depending on where you are and the age, you know — and one of the things that I grew up understanding was that multiplicity of viewpoints and truths. But that particular poem was to my sister, a sister who I love very much, who was experiencing trauma and trying to speak to how, in our case I think, alcoholism shatters a unity. It can fragment a community so that you are now in separate shards. And as much as you want to be all in the same room, the nature of that illness fragments any unifying understanding, or even experience. So I think that's what those lines were trying to say. One sister is trying to speak to another from that fragmentation, you know, shard to shard."

She talks about a multi-week exercise she has her writing students do:  I ask my students every week to write 10 observations of the actual world. It's very hard for them.  . . . Just tell me what you saw this morning like in two lines. You know I saw a water glass on a brown tablecloth. Uh, and the light came through it in three places. No metaphor. And to resist metaphor is very difficult because you have to actually endure the thing itself, which hurts us for some reason.  . . . just noticing what's around them, which is — we don't do. And not, and again, not to compare it to anything, they're not allowed. And that's very hard for them. And then on the sixth, fifth or sixth week, I say OK, use metaphors. And they don't want to. They don't know how. Why would I? Why would I compare that to anything when it's itself?  . . . so then you think why the necessity of a metaphor? Why, why do you have to use a metaphor now, you know? Not just to do it to avoid it, but to do it to avoid it, but to do it to make it more there, you know. And it's very interesting."

This link takes you to the main page where you can hear the radio broadcast, watch the interview or read the transcript--and there are lots of extras.

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