Tuesday, March 30, 2004

I've been thinking about poetry lately. Some friends and I have started a very informal writing group, which has inspired me to start writing again, and much to my surprise, I've found myself writing poetry. I say "much to my surprise" because poetry is not something I've understood or appreciated over the years. But actually trying to do something of my own has given me much more respect for those who do it well.

Part of the reason I have not understood poetry is that I have never been sure how to approach it. You can't approach it the same way you approach a novel, or an essay, or any other kind of writing. You need a certain leisure to read poetry. You can't skim it, hastily looking for the main ideas or skipping over the dull bits to get to the good stuff. Poetry must be savored and enjoyed. You have to stop thinking of what you have to do next, or what you should be doing now, or what you've left undone during the day. You have to set all that aside to really appreciate anything, whether it be poetry, good food & wine, conversation, anything. But many things do yield some pleasure even if they're only slightly and hurriedly attended to. I can talk to friends on the phone while doing other things, but I know I enjoy it more and get more out of the conversation if I just sit down and put everything else away. A great meal will taste good even if it's eaten in five minutes, but how much better would it be if one really enjoyed it. Poetry, however, (at least, I've found) will not give up anything to a hurried, careless reader. She is quite demanding and will not speak unless she knows she has your undivided attention. And not just your attention, for that can be rushed and hurried too. She won't speak unless she has you, all of you, freely and truly wanting to spend time with her, for her own sake.

Language, emotion and discipline all meet in poetry, and one must have an understanding and a love of all those things to really approach it. It's that intersection of those very different things that makes poetry both hard to approach and hard to write but all the more amazing when it's done well. In my small attempts, I've found the editing of poetry to be quite difficult. It's hard to change one thing, a word or a line, without changing the feel and tone of the poem. It's like, as a friend pointed out, one of those picture-puzzles, where you have to slide tiles around to make a picture. Pictures have alot to do with poetry; the poet sees something in a certain way and then translates that vision into words, not a flat description, but through the careful selection of words, using their sound and rhythm, tries to make the reader see what they saw.

I'll end this hopefully-coherent post with some gems I've stumbled on lately. The first it by Yeats, and it's short enough to quote here:

When You Are Old
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crown of stars.

The other is much too long to quote in its entirety here, and this link where you can find it comes courtesy of Peculiar. It's the Anglo-Saxon saga The Seafarer. It's long, but well worth it.

Not for him is the sound of the harp
nor the giving of rings
nor pleasure in woman
nor worldly glory --
nor anything at all
unless the tossing of waves;
but he always has a longing,
he who strives on the waves . . .

And now my spirit twists
out of my breast,
my spirit
out in the waterways,
over the whale's path
it soars widely
through all the corners of the world --
to me it comes back to me
eager and unsated;
the lone-flier screams,
urges onto the whale-road
the unresisting heart
across the waves of the sea.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

So for those of you who didn't believe me about red bluebonnets, here they are. Apparently, an Aggie bred them as part of a project to grow the Texas state flag out of the Texas state flower. Only problem is that bluebonnets are naturally, you guessed it, blue. Well, that's no obstacle for the dedicated Aggie, so now we have red, white, and pink bluebonnets in addition to blue. And, since maroon is a shade of red (and also since an Aggie is doing the study) we now have, you guessed it, maroon bluebonnets as well. I'm guessing that, since orange is only a few steps away from red, it will only be a matter of time before we have orange bluebonnets, which I can just see covering downtown Austin in the spring. Seriously, these horticulturists have managed to obtain colors never before seen in nature. That's pretty impressive, even for an Aggie. Congratulations, guys.

All this brings up to an interesting dilemma: to the native, loyal Texan, it would seem that the idea of creating un-blue bluebonnets would be horrifying, bordering on blasphemous. But if such a thing is done for such a noble purpose as to produce a living Texas flag, is such a desecration excusable, perhaps even laudable? But I'll leave that to other, more Texan, minds to work out for themselves.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

So, for the records, Austin is a pretty great city. No, I didn't go for SXSW (South by Southwest, a HUGE annual music festival). I was there checking out some possible future options. I was totally seduced by the place. Not only the oxygen, water and colors, but also the energy of the place. It's a very young city (obviously with the university there) and there's always something to do, if you want to do anything. I'm not myself too much into the "nightlife" scene but it's nice to be able to go get something to eat, or go somewhere to study or read in the middle of the night if you want. Here in Santa Fe, your options after 10 or so are severely limited (think Denny's and bars). And it was great walking around downtown with the smells of fresh cut grass and barbecue hanging in the air.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Made the long trek from Northen New Mexico to the lush hills and plains of central Texas. It was a relatively uneventful drive, especially considering most of it was through the back roads of Texas in the middle of the night. The problem with back country roads at night is, of course, the wildlife, so I had to keep pretty alert to look for deer. Fortunately deer (at least the ones I saw) had the sense to realize that the best way to avoid getting hit is to run away from the road, and not across it like rabbits or squirrels. I think I saw a pretty large snake slither off the road, and I startled a fawn that was resting right next to the road, I think I saw an opossum and a cat, but that was about it.

Spent the first day in TX high off the extra oxygen, the water and humidity and the green of spring in full bloom. Although it's still too early for bluebonnet season, a few early bloomers are out, much to my delight. You can tell I've lived in the desert too long when my first instinctual thought on seeing so much green grass is something like, "How do they water it all?"

Saturday, March 20, 2004

So here's a really cool word: pelf - wealth or riches, from the old French pelfre meaning booty.

Friday, March 19, 2004

So I work at a very strange restaurant/inn in Northern New Mexico. Every night I come home and tell my roommates stories about the surrealities of the evening. More on that later. So tonight I thought that everything would be more or less normal, we only had one table, a mother and two daughters from Miami. After two bottles of wine and a wonderful meal they were quite pleased with everything. As they were finishing up with dessert they invited the chef and I to join them. I missed the segue, but the next thing I know the mother is reading Stalker Chef's (more on that later) palm. Turns out she's clairvoyant, and have been "seeing things" since she was six or so. I was expecting something simple, like "You have a great life line," but no, this was on a completely different level. She told this guy some really personal stuff, and then proceeded to try to "open up" something in his head. It was all through a translator, going a mile a minute, so I think some stuff got lost in translation. Still, I decided I really needed to reset the dining room when she started stroking his hand, saying that he should feel warmth, and should smell smoke on his hand . . . yeah, I'm not making this up, folks.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

The Pumpkin King Returns!!