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.”

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.

Words You’ve Been Writing Without- Maggie Herring

In the midst of the really picturesque and bittersweet moments in my life, I often fail to find the words to truly express myself. Of course I could cut my sidetracked mind off and be present, but I’m an English nerd and these moments make for great material. Lately I’ve found that other languages have perfectly described the moments I replay in my head over and over again, and try to recreate on a page in just one word. Here are a few of my favorites that seem to define the difficult and charming moments in life:

(Definitions from Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders)

https://images.penguinrandomhouse.com/cover/9781607747109

Commuovere (Italian, verb):
“To be moved in a heartwarming way, usually relating to a story that moved you to tears”

Mångata (Swedish, noun):
“The road-like reflection of the moon in the water”

Gezellig (Dutch, adjective):
“Describes much more than just coziness – a positive warm emotion or feeling rather than just something physical – and connotes time spent with loved ones, togetherness”

Meraki (Greek, adjective):
“Pouring yourself wholeheartedly into something, such as cooking, and doing so with soul, creativity, and love”

Kilig (Tagalog, noun):
“The feeling of butterflies in your stomach, usually when something romantic or cute takes place”

Hiraeth (Welsh, noun):
“A homesickness for somewhere you cannot return to, the nostalgia and the grief for the lost places of your past, places that never were”

Razliubit (Russian, verb)
“To fall out of love, a bittersweet feeling”

Karelu (Tulu, noun):
“The mark left on the skin by wearing something tight”

Ubuntu (Nguni Bantu, noun):
“Essentially meaning ‘I find my worth in you, and you find your worth in me.’ Can be (very) roughly translated as human kindness”

Wabi-Sabi (Japanese, noun):
“Finding beauty in the imperfections, an acceptance of the cycle of life and death”

Tiám (Farsi, noun):
“The twinkle in your eye when you first meet someone”

Nunchi (Korean, noun):
“The subtle, often unnoticed art of listening and gauging another’s mood”

Saudade (Portuguese, noun):
“A vague, constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, a nostalgic longing for someone or something loved and then lost”

November 27- Poem of the Week

The Permanent Way
Meg Day

  Steamtown National Historic Site was created in 1986 to
            preserve the history of steam railroading in America,
            concentrating on the era 1850 through 1950.

We weren’t supposed to, so we did
what any band of boys would do
& we did it the way they did in books
none of us would admit we stole
from our brothers & kept hidden

under bedskirts in each of our rooms:
dropped our bicycles without flipping
their kickstands & scaled the fence
in silence. At the top, somebody’s overalls
snagged, then my Levi’s, & for a few deep

breaths, we all sat still—grouse in a line—
considering the dark yard before
us, how it gestured toward our defiance—
of gravity, of curfews, of what we knew
of goodness & how we hoped we could be

shaped otherwise—& dared us to jump.
And then we were among them,
stalking their muscled silhouettes as our own
herd, becoming ourselves a train
of unseen movements made singular,

never strangers to the permanent way
of traveling through the dark
of another’s shadow, indiscernible to the dirt.
Our drove of braids & late summer
lice buzz cuts pivoted in unison

when an engine sighed, throwing the moon
into the whites of our eyes & carrying it,
still steaming, across the yard to a boilerman,
her hair tied up in a blue bandana.
Somewhere, our mothers were sleeping

prayers for daughters who did not want women
to go to the moon, who did not ask
for train sets or mitts. But here—with the moon
at our feet, & the whistle smearing
the cicadas’ electric scream, & the headlamp

made of Schwinn chrome, or a cat’s eye
marble, or, depending on who
you asked, the clean round scar of a cigarette
burn on the inside of a wrist so small
even my fingers could fasten around

it—was a woman refilling the tender
in each of us. We watched her
the way we’d been told to watch
our brothers, our fathers:
in quiet reverence, hungry all the while.

And This, This is Mother- An Original Poem by Margo McManus

And This, This is Mother

Margo McManus

 

Against all odds a mother’s hands are not
Always soft, are not meant to be.

I sat on my own mother’s lap and felt
The dense cauliflower bulges against my palms, my chest as she held me,
And when I was too big to share her throne I
Took the one beside her, felt the whiplash slash of power against my
Stomach every time she
Slammed the breaks, seatbelt searing into my neck.

Sometimes the jagged scar seam scrapes along my scalp like
A fishnet over old aquarium gravel, fingers swimming the
Whirlpool tresses with ease before
Gliding across my wrist to kiss the
Blooming bruises where she
Hauls me from every edge I need saving from, a tingling admonition.

In the clasp of our grasp, humid air builds against our
Chapped edges, chipped spaces,
And feels like the passing wisp of that savage storm –
The murderous mother who birthed a family’s second chance
Amidst the angry ruin.

November 13- Poem of the Week // Hand-Me-Downs: An Original Poem by Chloe Emerson

Hand-Me-Downs

Sad poetry has never sat quite right on my tongue;
Indignation has always squeezed too tightly around my chest,
Like a hand-me-down shirt that was not stretched
To the broad dimensions of my shoulders.
I do not easily fit into these feelings of fire and ire.
This anger, how it burns down my throat, like a wildfire,
And I cannot clutch my pen with flames scorching
Bones and muscles and nerves.
The smoke in my lungs choke every shred of who I am and
Who I could be and who I will be and who I want to be.

My passion has always glided rather than marched,
Trembled softly rather than quaked the earth.
But I guess thats the key to hand-me-downs:
They carry too much of someone else.
Like a sweater inherited from another body,
This anger too lays foreign on me.
But as I wear these hand-me-downs I can feel the
Sweater threads stretching and expanding,
The anger lightening and dispersing until
The fire has been extinguished and I can tremble on.

November 6- Poem of The Week

A Woman Speaks
By Audre Lorde

Moon marked and touched by sun
my magic is unwritten
but when the sea turns back
it will leave my shape behind.
I seek no favor
untouched by blood
unrelenting as the curse of love
permanent as my errors
or my pride
I do not mix
love with pity
nor hate with scorn
and if you would know me
look into the entrails of Uranus
where the restless oceans pound.

I do not dwell
within my birth nor my divinities
who am ageless and half-grown
and still seeking
my sisters
witches in Dahomey
wear me inside their coiled cloths
as our mother did
mourning.

I have been woman
for a long time
beware my smile
I am treacherous with old magic
and the noon’s new fury
with all your wide futures
promised
I am
woman
and not white.

 

Audre Lorde, “A Woman Speaks” from The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde. Copyright © 1997 by Audre Lorde. Reprinted with the permission of Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., www.nortonpoets.com.

The Forgotten Practice of Journaling- Rachel Elston

When I was younger, I absolutely hated journals. It seemed like every Christmas, birthday, or any other big occasion I would receive a journal from my family, which promptly ended up in a drawer with the others, never to be looked at or written in. I don’t know why I had this disdain for journals. Maybe it was because I resented the fact that my parents were trying to impose them on me, or maybe I just thought the idea of cataloging my thoughts every day was ridiculous. For most of my life I avoided journaling like the plague, until this past summer when I worked at a houseboat camp. There, the director gave us no option but to journal every week during a three hour block of time, and the idea absolutely repulsed me. Ironically, after the first hour of the first week of journaling I completely lost that negative mindset I had for all of those 18 years, and really began to love it. I looked forward to those three hour periods of time all week and came to understand and appreciate the benefits of releasing my random thoughts into a vast book of blank pages. Journaling this summer helped me get through particularly tough days, and there are three big reasons why I think journaling should be incorporated into everyone’s daily routines.

1. Journaling helps you relieve stress and connect with nature.

Nowadays, it feels like everything is moving at such a fast pace and is so technologically driven that there’s never really any time to unwind or do anything that doesn’t involve watching TV, playing on your phone, etc. I never realized how I immediately pick up my laptop or phone whenever I’m bored and I rarely take a break from it. The practice of journaling gave me an excuse to go outside and actually connect with nature, which I never do. Having the opportunity to take time out of the day to write and be outside relieves so much more stress than one would expect. Simply organizing your thoughts and taking time out of your hectic day is such a good way to relieve all the stresses in your life and refocus your mind.

2. Journaling is a good way to rest without actually sleeping.

This might sound a little counterintuitive because journaling is often seen as an activity that is supposed to engage your brain and make you think. But just the act of leisurely writing what comes to your mind or drawing is relaxing in and of itself because it helps organize a discombobulated mind. Without fail, I found that I always came back to reality more focused and awake than I was after taking time to journal. This just proved to me that we don’t have to take naps in order to relax and decompress, which is why more people should utilize the practice of journaling.

3. Journaling helps decision making and reveals unique insight.

Circling back to my first point, taking time out of your day to be with your thoughts helps the process of making decisions and gaining insights on certain subjects. This sounds obvious when I put it in words, but we’re so busy in our daily lives we rarely have time to actually ponder our thoughts. We can’t draw the same conclusions as we can when we stop and consider different perspectives and ideas. Some of my greatest revelations about certain things I was struggling with came to me during that three hour period of writing.

Journaling has so many benefits that we fail to realize, like helping us maintain mental clarity and calming all our hectic thoughts we have throughout our busy days. It’s time to bring back the art of journaling, and embrace this effective way of relieving stress in our lives.