Saturday, November 21, 2009

Writing poems doesn't mean he's gay

Posted 10 hours ago

Dear Robin: I've been seeing a guy for almost a year. He is really sweet and treats me well, but I have a question. He likes to write poetry and songs for me. It makes me kind of embarrassed, and my friends think it is a joke and make fun of him. Could he secretly be gay?


Dear Conflict: Just because a guy enjoys poetry and songwriting does not make him gay. Why would it embarrass you? I think it is very sweet that he cares about and trusts you enough to show that side of himself. Tell your friends to knock it off, they are probably just jealous. Do you know how many famous musicians have sat and serenaded their ladies? I can assure you, the ladies probably weren't thinking "I wonder if he's gay?" The fact that there is this assumption when a guy shows a different side of himself could be one of the reasons it doesn't happen very often. Unless there are many, MANY other things involved that would make you think this way, change your mind-set and appreciate it, rather than questioning it

Galileo's Middle Finger

[A found poem.]

Removed by some enthusiastic admirers,
three fingers a vertebra and a tooth
taken from his body in 1737.

The middle finger, from his right hand,
was kept by an Italian marquis
passed on from generation to generation
in the same family.

The relics were inside an 18th century blown-glass vase,
in turn, inside a wooden case
topped with a wooden bust of Galileo.

Had Galileo not said that the Earth revolved around the sun,
he would have gone to his tomb with all his fingers and teeth.

How to Critique Poetry

Critiquing is not about analyzing poetry, it is about helping to better a poet. However, it is important to understand the elements of poetry. So before you begin, make sure you know all the tidbits and insights on poetry. Once you have established knowledge of poetry, be sure to follow some simple rules in each of your critiques:

1. Start every critique with what you like about the poem or writing and end with reiterating the same points.
2. Balance your critiques and suggestions with positive observations.
3. Be sensitive to the writer. The point of a critique is to help improve the poet, not insult their ideas and creativity.
4. Include a disclaimer that says you recognize the poet has the right to throw your critique into the nearest dumpster. "Take these for what it's worth." is a very common way to say "This is what I have to say, but you don't have to listen."
5. Label the critiques by line number if they are line-specific. Before writing the critique:
* Read the poem several times, including once or twice out-loud.
* Find out what the poet's purpose is.
* Decide which poetic form is used. Keep it in mind when critiquing. What to critique on:
* Clich├ęs.
* Redundancy, is anything repeated one too many times? * Weak emotional venting.
* Rhetorical questions to the reader.
* Little variation between syllables or meters.
* Simple vowel rhymes.
* Originality. Be very careful with this one. Just because it's the same topic and same form doesn't mean the writing is unoriginal.
* Bad selection of words.
* Emotion, does the writing give an aesthetic experience?

[Source: Last accessed, 19 November, 2009.]

Here's a link to another article about critiques by Chanti:

One more tip:

Wisdom and insight of a Port Angeles poet, Raymond Carver.

"What can be said for a poet who lets the poems go unattended and uncared for, abandoned, or worse, un-attempted. This person doesn't deserve poems, and they shouldn't be given to him in any form. His poems, should he ever produce any more, ought to be eaten by mice."
(Paraphrased Raymond Carver, from A New Path To the Waterfall.)

Pardon me for paraphrasing. I changed some words, but not the meaning or gist of his quote.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Flash fiction, 19 Nov. - Big, Gooney Hands

Big Gooney Hands

Bill had big hands. Bill worked at the Cargill meat processing plant in Iowa. He worked the pork line. It took him a long time to get used to the pork line. He told his wife that the insides of pigs looked a lot like the insides of people. It upset him, but he got used to it after a few months.

His wife, Mimi, was a tiny thing. They sat right next to each other in his big blue, Oldsmobile. She would cuddle up next to him, her head just visible over the seat - Bill's head in contact with the roof of the Olds. They would go to the diner on Thursday nights for a steak and curly fries at Myrna's Cafe. Sometimes Bill would have two pork chops on a stick – a house specialty.

Bill's big hands were always moving at work, cutting the pork bellies open or lopping off the ears on the line. He kept his two knives razor sharp with a steel. For seven hours a day, Bill stripped meat from bone or filled blue, plastic crates with pig ears headed for Chinese markets and pet food companies.

After dinner, Bill and Mimi would go home to watch TV and play with their dog, Buster. Bill's fingers would almost touch the floor when he sat on the couch. Buster would lick the big, puffy fingers, still smelling of pork and fat.

Sometimes Mimi would bring Bill a tub of warm, sudsy water with some Epsom salts so he could soak his aching hands. They ached from handling the heavy knives and the chilled meat for so many hours, day after day.

If it were Friday, Bill would go to the little corner of the bedroom where he had his workbench. He'd put on his magnifying visor and take the little box off the shelf. Inside, the tiny figures of Bill, Mimi, Buster, and some of their friends and family. All carved from cow horn he would collect in the beef department of the company during his lunch hour. The largest of the figures, Bill, was only a half inch high. Bill's big, gooney hands were visible on the carving if you looked real close, with the visor.

Mimi was amazed at how realistic the figures were, and how they had so much detail – right down to the little mole she had on her chin, and the rabies tag that Buster had hanging from his collar. Bill made his own tools out of discarded and broken dental tools that Dr. Lange saved for him. Bill was meticulous. He kept his workbench as tidy and clean as Dr. Lange's. It was his way of having some order, control and neatness, unlike his job on the line.

No one else in the family ever saw Bill's carvings. Over the years, his collection had grown to forty figures, including Buster and the feral cat that lived under the porch. Everything fit into a box the size of a cigarette pack, lined with cotton wool, and kept on the shelf near his table.

Bill would work for a couple of hours every night before taking his bath and climbing into the bright yellow, wrought-iron bed with Mimi. She would massage his hands and sometimes rub them with olive oil that she warmed on the wood stove.

If they made love that night, Bill would talk a while, then turn on his side and tell Mimi about what he carved that night. Tonight, sleepy from his big meal and lovemaking, he told Mimi that he was having a little trouble with one of the carvings. It was the figure of Mrs. Lovette's daughter, Emma, that lived across the road. Bill had put a little too much pressure on his carving tool this time, and had broken one of the tiny arms. He was upset, but would try to mend it the next evening.

In the morning, as Bill was climbing into the cab of his pickup, he saw Emma walking to the school bus. She had a big bandage on her hand and her arm was in a sling. He asked her what had happened. She told him she was practicing her cheer-leading last night and she fell from the top of a pyramid that the other girls had formed for a new routine. Her arm was broken. It was a clean break.

Rev., 30 April, 2011

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Paper Clips

When I surrendered to the monthly task of vacuuming around the heavy wooden legs of the work table in the kitchen, I discovered a paper clip, hidden in the oriental rug. It was deep in the rug -- with the dog hairs, bits of Milk Bone, some toast crumbs and hermit spiders that love the environment I’ve sustained for them.

The paper clip was invented by a Norwegian, Johan Vaaler, in 1899. During World War II, Norwegians were prohibited from wearing any buttons with the likeness of their king on them. In protest they started wearing paper clips. This signified the binding together of the Norwegian people as a protest against the Nazis. Arrest was the consequence if you were caught wearing a paper clip.

At my home, the paper clip has many uses. Straightened out, it has opened CD trays on the computer, or cleared the orifice on a number of glue bottles or utilitarian nozzles and spouts in the household. Used alfresco, it has plucked a stubborn bit of debris from my ear when no Q-tip was handy.

Like every tool, it has its limits. I’ve never tested how many pieces of paper one clip can fasten, but during tax season, when sorting expenses, the clip is expected to hold many sheets of paper. When it fails to meet the task - big guns come out - rubber bands.

Everyone has a paper clip or two in a drawer in the kitchen or office. They come in different sizes and designs. Some are plastic, some are in the traditional, double-oval design (the “Gem”), while some are the “Owl” or “Ideal” designs. The Ideal has the advantage of not getting tangled with other paper clips, while the Owl design is smaller and has the same advantage. The Owl was so named for its eye-shaped circles. They didn’t tangle with other clips and they don’t snatch stray papers that do not belong with the stack. The variation on the Gem, or traditional clip is the Non-skid. The Non-skid is grooved so it will stop papers from slipping out from its grasp.

There are people that match some of the characteristics of the paper clip. There are those that are plain, ordinary and more common, but reliable and up to the task.

There are those that don’t tangle with others and don’t attract strays, while there are the non-skid types that hold fast to anything that they come in contact with.

All of us have something in common with the paper clip. We can be joined together in some way, while some are more easily joined than others. Some choose to live alone, while others must pack themselves together, only to be separated when called to task.

Then there are those that are twisted and bent in order to perform a specific duty that they were not originally designed for.