December 12- Poem of The Week

Still I Rise
By Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

 

 

Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise” from And Still I Rise: A Book of Poems.  Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.  Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

Why You Should Read Short Stories – T.W. Watts

In our modern world, the written word is hardly given the sort of attention it used to have. People forget that it’s something we’ve fought and died for, something that has shaped the very nature of our society. Storytelling is a pivotal part of our culture, and while it may manifest itself in different ways here in the 21st century, it still moves, shapes, and inspires us. Stories are how we have passed on information, how we’ve entertained ourselves, and how we’ve preserved information we found worthwhile. The legacy it’s left over the years defines who we and where we’ve come from as a human race. What we learned and what we did.

I’ve had everyone from educators to everyday readers try to tell me why to read. I’ve always heard that the real reason to read good literature is to get in on some inside joke, to be able to pick up on the sly reference that’s made at a cocktail party and feel infallibly educated for it. Or just to be more intelligent, but they’re wrong. To willingly submit yourself to good literature is to humbly tip your hat to the 98 billion members of your race that have come before you and to systematically, loudly, and irrevocably decided what in the whole of human history is worth preserving and passing on. What is worth remembering. And that’s so much more important than people think.

Stories are simple enough in structure: beginning, middle, end, charter, plot, sub-plot and all the gory details. Some take over 1000 pages to get a point across. Full novels are almost lazy in how long they sometimes take to get you where they want; how many pages it takes to get their points across. An author can take volumes to express themselves and get their ideas on paper, complex or not. This is a luxury, plain and simple. It is a firm belief of mine that given enough time, anyone can write a story (whether it’s moving or worth reading is up for debate), but anyone can write a story. A short story however? A short story takes all those basic and immortal elements of a regular story and demands an almost awe-inspiring sense of brevity.

Where an epic takes a thousand pages to describe the love and life of certain characters and events, a short story must accomplish in a matter of pages. All these important elements must now be artistically condensed into a madcap collaboration, a symphony of word choice and attention to fine details. Unnecessary things like character development is thrown to the wayside and you’re asked to simply accept the world of the author as it is while he tells his tale. It’s a type of mandatory submersion unique to the art form. It demands a higher form of a personal suspension of disbelief. Accurately portraying ideas in such a confined median really separates the brilliant from the subpar, and defiantly proclaims artistic literary ability in a way nothing else ever will.

In conclusion, in the words of William Faulkner: “I’m a failed poet. Maybe every novelist wants to write poetry first, finds he can’t, and then tries the short story, which is the most demanding form after poetry. And, failing at that, only then does he take up novel writing.”

The Art of Minimalism

Question: Is minimalism really an art?

Answer: Yes, it is.

Merriam-Webster defines art as “the express or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power”.

Merriam-Webster defines minimalism as “a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity”.

The intersection of these two, the art of minimalism, lies in the emotional power invoked by spareness and simplicity.

In our world today, we are drowning in a sea of busy, while being bombarded constantly with things like texts, notifications, emails…each demanding our instant attention. We are told relentlessly that we need the next BIG thing or we’re going to miss out (got Black Friday?), the latest trend or style or we’re not worthy of the in-crowd.

Process more, consume more, do more… more, more, more. Unfortunately, we, at some point, become desensitized to it all and make it our norm. The problem?

We lose our ability to feel.

Passion, beauty, life…all gone. We’re too busy walking around like zombies, buried deep within the mind-numbing world of emotional and sensory overload.

In comes the art of minimalism to rescue us. Begging us; pleading with us to break free from the bondage of sensory overload and reclaim our ability to feel. To come alive and be moved, emotionally stirred, by simplicity.

Take the picture below (Photo by LUM3N on Unsplash)

At first glance we dismiss this picture as just a pink desk with some white objects on it. But stop… stop everything you are doing right now and look at it, not in that meaningless, “it’s unimportant kind of way”, but as you would if it were a photo of a friend, or a loved one. That’s it…keep looking at it. I’m guessing that you actually felt something. A stir, an emotion, even if you could not describe it. The grey of the pen became just a little bit crisper. The white objects: a stark contrast to the pink background, yet evoking a certain sense of balance and harmony. Now you notice the spacing of the notebook, mouse and other items. Their equal spacing further enhance the theme of unity, togetherness…purpose. Each piece skillfully placed to impact your emotional senses in a powerful way. Minimalistic art.

One more photo (Photo by Federica Giusti on Unsplash)

A bunch of lights you say? Yet, I sense you learned from the last example and brush off your initial response to find the deeper meaning and purpose. Good… The lights stand out but do not overpower. They are a focal point but not THE focal point. They are part of a larger picture, just like us. The soft glow invites us to come closer, to be more intimate. This is supported by the hues of grey and reds in the back, an open invitation to a place of warmth and comfort. We are forced to slow down, less we miss this moment of tranquility and serenity. This is a call to a more personal place to safely let our guard down and be who we truly are. Can a photo of lightbulbs really do that? Yes, it can. If we let it. Another example of the impact of the art of minimalism.

So, I pose the question again: Is minimalism really art?

Answer: You know the answer. You only need to slow down, disconnect from the overload of “more”, and the answer will be affirmed with a resounding “YES!”.

December 4- Poem of the Week

What It Looks Like To Us and the Words We Use
By Ada Limón

All these great barns out here in the outskirts,
black creosote boards knee-deep in the bluegrass.
They look so beautifully abandoned, even in use.
You say they look like arks after the sea’s
dried up, I say they look like pirate ships,
and I think of that walk in the valley where
J said, You don’t believe in God? And I said,
No. I believe in this connection we all have
to nature, to each other, to the universe.
And she said, Yeah, God. And how we stood there,
low beasts among the white oaks, Spanish moss,
and spider webs, obsidian shards stuck in our pockets,
woodpecker flurry, and I refused to call it so.
So instead, we looked up at the unruly sky,
its clouds in simple animal shapes we could name
though we knew they were really just clouds—
disorderly, and marvelous, and ours.

 

 

Poem copyright ©2012 by Ada Limón, whose most recent book of poems is Sharks in the Rivers, Milkweed Editions, 2010. Poem reprinted from Poecology, Issue 1, 2011, by permission of Ada Limón and the publisher.