Saturday, January 23, 2010

Poetry Fridays

It's Poetry Friday. Let's go into our weekend prepared "to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life". Every Friday post a poem- yours or someone else's.

(Okay I know technically it's Saturday, but they say it takes 28 times to make something habitual--so sometime in the summer this ought to be an actual regular feature on actual Fridays.)

Let's visit a couple poems of Frank O'Hara's.

A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island

by Frank O'Hara

The Sun woke me this morning loud
and clear, saying “Hey! I've been
trying to wake you up for fifteen
minutes. Don’t be so rude, you are
only the second poet I’ve ever chosen
to speak to personally
so why
aren’t you more attentive? If I could
burn you through the window I would
to wake you up. I can't hang around
here all day.”
“Sorry, Sun, I stayed
up late last night talking to Hal.”

“When I woke up Mayakovsky he was
a lot more prompt” the Sun said
petulantly. “Most people are up
already waiting to see if I’m going
to put in an appearance.”
I tried
to apologize “I missed you yesterday.”
“That’s better” he said. “I didn’t
know you’d come out.” “You may be
wondering why I’ve come so close?”
“Yes” I said beginning to feel hot
wondering if maybe he wasn’t burning me
“Frankly I wanted to tell you
I like your poetry. I see a lot
on my rounds and you’re okay. You may
not be the greatest thing on earth, but
you’re different. Now, I’ve heard some
say you’re crazy, they being excessively
calm themselves to my mind, and other
crazy poets think that you’re a boring
reactionary. Not me.
Just keep on
like I do and pay no attention. You’ll
find that people always will complain
about the atmosphere, either too hot
or too cold too bright or too dark, days
too short or too long.
If you don’t appear
at all one day they think you’re lazy
or dead. Just keep right on, I like it.

And don’t worry about your lineage
poetic or natural. The Sun shines on
the jungle, you know, on the tundra
the sea, the ghetto. Wherever you were
I knew it and saw you moving. I was waiting
for you to get to work.

And now that you
are making your own days, so to speak,
even if no one reads you but me
you won’t be depressed. Not
everyone can look up, even at me. It
hurts their eyes.”
“Oh Sun, I’m so grateful to you!”

“Thanks and remember I’m watching. It’s
easier for me to speak to you out
here. I don’t have to slide down
between buildings to get your ear.
I know you love Manhattan, but
you ought to look up more often.
always embrace things, people earth
sky stars, as I do, freely and with
the appropriate sense of space. That
is your inclination, known in the heavens
and you should follow it to hell, if
necessary, which I doubt.
Maybe we’ll
speak again in Africa, of which I too
am specially fond. Go back to sleep now
Frank, and I may leave a tiny poem
in that brain of yours as my farewell.”

“Sun, don’t go!” I was awake
at last. “No, go I must, they’re calling
“Who are they?”
Rising he said “Some
day you’ll know. They’re calling to you
too.” Darkly he rose, and then I slept.

The Day Lady Died

by Frank O'Hara

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Bright, Bright Sunshiney Day

Yesterday was just a beautiful, fantastic, warm day. It was one of those times where I was just so glad that we homeschool so that we can take advantage when there is a freak 70 degree day in the middle of January after there's been bitter cold and tons of rain for weeks upon weeks. Especially as today it is raining buckets once again!
Yesterday afternoon, I made dinner (we eat our main meal around 3:00), and set it up downstairs for the kids to serve themselves.
I set the mussels outside with a bag for the shells. I never would have thought that kids would like mussels, but there must be an allure to a food with its own shell.
We hauled the baby swing outside for Michael, and all sat around in the warm gorgeousness.
One other, most excellent advantage of homeschooling is that your school work can move with you, so that if you are still working while there is a sort of party-picnic going on, you don't need to be left out!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY January 18, 2010

Outside my window... it is still dark, but holds the promise and smell of being Springlike today.

I am thinking... how much I love the room I am sitting in, and how pleased I am every morning when I walk downstairs and see my beloved room awaiting me.

I am thankful for... my Cleaning Club peeps and our new blog adventure together.

From the learning rooms... oldest two have been loving their Teaching Textbooks.

From the kitchen... right now--coffee!!!

I am wearing... my jammies, fuzzy socks and old man sweater.

I am creating... a scarf out of bamboo yarn and a meal plan for the week.

I am going... kind of stir crazy not being able to go out anywhere at night.

I am reading... Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone

I am hoping... to get to read today. It's been days since I've read, and that always spells trouble and yuck in the rest of my life.

I am hearing... nothing. Seriously- it's 7:04 am and all I hear is the clicking of the keyboard as I type. I *love* mornings.

Around the house... I gotta bust some laundry moves and hang the world map I've been trying to hang for three days.

One of my favorite things...
my fleece sheets, which I was sure were going to be waaaaay too hot, but are so soft and cozy and just right if I give up my extra blanket.

A few plans for the rest of the week: I got nothing. Momming, wifing....I guess I am trying to start to commit to exercising everyday. Holy string of infinitives, Batman!

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

Join in the Simple Woman's Daybook here:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Poetry Fridays

Okay, in a hope to get my act together and blog regularly this year, I am going to try to provide some structure. In this vein, I am creating Poetry Fridays!

It's Poetry Friday. Let's go into our weekend prepared "to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life". Every Friday post a poem- yours or someone else's.

Today we'll have some ditties written by one of my favorite poets Charles Reznikoff. These are all from the collection Jerusalem The Golden.

Meeting often, we find that we cannot meet enough,
and words are counterfeit, silence only golden,
and streets at night are beautiful.
I find the valentines are true, the hearts and arrows-
sighs and misty eyes; and the old poems-
I find them true.

You think yourself a woman,
because you have children and lovers;
but in a street
with only Orion and the Pleiades to see us,
you begin to sing, you begin to skip.

If you ask me about the plans that I made last night
of steel and granite-
I think the sun must have melted them,
or this gentle wind blown them away.

Out of the in exhaustible sea
the waves curve under the weight of their foam,
and the water rushes up to us;,
the wind blowing out of the night,
out of the endless darkness,
blowing star after atar upon the sky
out of the inexhaustible night;
wave after wave
rising out of the sea.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

As Promised- Christmas Games!

We are serious lovers of board games and card games. My challenge is always trying to find games which will be entertaining and engaging for a broad age range. I mean, there's only so much Candyland a grownup can take!! On the other hand, it's not very much fun to play a game with a non-reader or an early reader when the entire game hinges upon reading. So every year I scour the world wide web in search of new games.

Christmas Board Games

I think my favorite of this year's haul has got to be Snorta. You can tell just by the name that it's going to be funny. Each player picks an animal , makes a correlating sound, then hides the animal in a little barn in front of them. Players then play cards on the table; when two cards in a row match the players race to be the first one to make their opponent's animal sound. The concept is so simple--but it is ridiculous and fascinating how such a small piece of information can have trouble processing and coming forth from your brain.

We also belatedly jumped on the Apples to Apples bandwagon this year, but I must admit to being rather disappointed. It seems like a player can just randomly pick a winner to each round. I bought a children's edition and a small edition of the grown up version to cover a multitude of age ranges, but still something about this game leaves me flat. Maybe this was really just a game meant to be played beer (or two or three) in hand.

Target and Five Crowns are both first cousins to regular card games. They are both pretty long games, which has been nice during this much colder than average winter. Neither is difficult to learn how to play-but both are for established readers.

Rat-a-tat-Cat and Slamwich are also closely related to regular card games (Golf and Slapjack respectively), but do not require reading or more complex math skills. That said, my older kids have also really enjoyed playing these games.

Enchanted Forest is a board game which can be played by our 5 year old on up. It requires no reading, but does require the ability to remember and understand some more complex rules and instructions. Players travel through a forest collecting fairy tale treasures, such as Cinderella's glass slipper or Puss In Boots' boots, to take to the king. Treasures are hidden, requiring players to remember their locations. This game is really just a nicely repackaged variation of Memory, but is still fun. It also takes awhile to play, although it would work to just set a timer. Whoever had the most treasure cards when time is up is the winner.

The most interesting find this year is Sleeping Queens. This game was developed by a six year old girl. It requires no reading and is playable from ages 4-4.5 and up I'd say, if older players will help the younger players or if all are willing to give up the equation aspect of the game. Once players can do basic addition then they can play without any variations or help necessary.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Lest We Forget That This Is Not Simply a Book Blog--Happy New Year!!

Here are some pictures from our New Year's Eve. We stayed at home and had snacks, watched movies and played games. Until about 10:00pm my parents hung out with us, before leaving to go back home to Virginia the next day. Unfortunately Andrew and Bernadette went to bed before the camera came out, so there are no pictures of those two crazies. This pictures were all taken by my daughter, Lucy.

Me and Michael

Tim looking rather leprechauny.

Lucy 9 going on 19

Tell me Miss Jane doesn't belong in New York City!

Me & Michael the day!

Wishing All Of You Happy New Year!!!!

My Detachment

Let me begin by saying that Tracy Kidder is hands-down one of my very favorite living writers. He has refined the tradition of Truman Capote's nonfiction novel, creating books which are truly remarkable in their storytelling. Kidder combines an engaging and engrossing narrative style with an uncanny ability to reveal the stories behind the story. My Detachment is no exception.

Unique among Vietnam War memoirs, My Detachment features no grunts humping long distances, no coming to terms with one's mortality in the midst of a firefight, no teetering on the brink while battling a drug habit in the midst of war. Rather the story centers around Kidder's year in Vietnam as a rear echelon lieutenant who ended up in Army Intelligence after graduating from Harvard. Fearful of being drafted into the infantry after matriculating and hoping to avoid the war, Kidder joins ROTC while still in school, yet lands in Vietnam as part of radio operations pinpointing the locations of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong radios.

The main similarity of My Detachment to other books about Vietnam is Kidder's struggle to balance the juxtaposition of events real and imagined. Because of his non-combat position, however, this struggle is in many ways more poignant for it's transparency than in other depictions. The entire memoir is interlaced with passages from Mr. Kidder's unpublished novel written upon returning home entitled Ivory Fields, which features a sort of alter ego, bad ass infantry lieutenant Larry Dempsey who dies standing up for what he believes is right even though he knows that defense will cost him dearly. My Detachment is also set among the back drop of a love affair with the archetypal girl-next-door-back-at-home named Mary Ann, but in this case the relationship is lackluster and decidedly one sided on the part of young Mr. Kidder. We read along as Kidder writes awkward letters back home of lied about bravado and hinted at tragedy which doesn't exist.

This exposed blatant untruth, in my opinion, makes this a great memoir of Vietnam, since the creation of the proverbial war story is in itself, according to Tim O'Brien a sort of untruth, or half truth, or at least a manipulation of the truth. We rarely get glimpses into the emotions which serve as primary mover for the crafting of war stories, yet young Mr. Kidder's piteousness leaves the reader feeling awkward and uncomfortable as we experience the feelings of inadequacy, of wanting to make sense of things we don't understand, of hiding our cowardice, of packaging our experiences in a way to make them more palatable to those in the world.

Serving as a balance to these poignancies, are the Catch-22esque retellings of the operations of the military hierarchy: stories of classified letters being blown away by helicopter, the subsequent results and new "triple wrap" protocols stemming from losing that letter, the colonel who shouts his own name while yelling at troops on the ground from the chopper above, the ridiculousness of Mr. Kidder's Radio Research job itself, which amounts to basically getting outdated information and passing it on to his higher ups.

Filling out My Detachment is an absorbing set of characters. The most compelling of whom is Pancho, both a thorn in the side of Kidder ,as well as someone who he admires on some level. It is Pancho's approval Kidder seems most to seek. It is the loss of Pancho's approval Kidder seems to feel most keenly when Kidder has his own moment of truth. Unlike his fictional Lt. Larry Dempsey, Mr. Kidder does not meet his trial with courage and character; rather, he crumbles and is left wondering if his men heard him crying over the stress of inspection preparation. Pancho goes onto work for the CIA and turns up to see Kidder years after the war. Summing up Kidder writes, "He had wanted to have an interesting life, I wanted to be interesting”

This book was reviewed- over two days while nursing, having toddlers climb on me, and competing for computer time with a couple tweeners- as Book 1 of