Thursday, April 29, 2010

Go Ahead, Write in Your Book

autumnalmonds 600x800

Glynn gave her a book. Never expecting, I suspect, that she would write in it. Make that, draw in it.

But Karen had been wanting to make a mark in her books.. At least that's how I understand it. (Karen, tell us more about the resource that led you to this... please? :)

Anyway, it is too beautiful not to share. And it seems she is going to do more of this, and I look forward to what comes.

Illustrated InsideOut book, by Karen. Photo used with permission.

Karen explains more about her book drawings here. Thank you, Karen! :)

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Writing Theft


I stole, at the dining room table while waiting to go off to opera (the fourth and final of my kids' performances in Suor Angelica). Outside, the day was grey. It put me in a poetic mood.

Suor Angelica

I stole the moment, as Cameron suggested a writer should, and I let myself dream a monster's life.

But first I remembered an odd theory, developed after a murder case was solved by a heart-transplant patient's "memories." She remembered because, they suspect, the brain is not the only seat of memory in the body. She remembered what happened in the life of someone else— her donor.

This led me to Frankenstein, Shelley's monster man, made from the parts of various people. What memories might lie in his heart, or toe, his tongue? What life— not his — did these memories come from? And what desires might they urge?

I daydreamed my answers into a form-poem called a pantoum, which I will share. But that is not all I stole.


I stole in the kitchen.


I stole at the opera dressing-room counter.

mako grace card

I took my words, stolen by degrees, and folded memories, love, hope, into five notes to friends (also Cameron's suggestion).

yellow flowers

Who knew that writing-theft could be so heartening? It was.


He stitched me limb by limb,
from pieces he gathered at graves
fresh dug. By candlelight dim
he sorted my heart, hips that once craved.

From pieces he gathered at graves,
I grew by night—calloused toes, amber eyes.
He sorted my heart, hips that once craved,
imprisoned the voice of a man who lied.

I grew by night—calloused toes, amber eyes,
searching for child I'd lost in the Rhine.
He imprisoned the voice of a man who lied
to keep his love from shearing the line.

Searching for child I'd lost in the Rhine,
I welcomed his breath to revive my tongue,
to keep my love from shearing the line,
and speak again of lilies undone.

I welcomed his breath to revive my tongue,
taste her love on a moonless night
and speak again of lilies undone—
their fragrance mocks my soulless plight,

as I wander a world whose fear near looms,
fresh dug by candlelight dim,
while lilies fade in empty rooms,
he stitched me limb by limb.

Suor Angelica photos and photos of cards by one of my favorite card makers, Elizabeth O. Weller, by L.L. Barkat.

HighCallingBlogs Quiltwork
nAncY's hcb book club
Nancy's Just a Minute
Glynn's The Right to Write: Laying Track
Marilyn's If
ELK's flight
Ann's Imperfect Conditions
Lyla's Bad Writing and Croissants
Monica's Week 2
Erin's Dismantling the Writing Life Fairy Tale
Cassandra's Living with My Writer
Melissa's When Everything Flows
Jezamama's Out of Hiding

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Writing from Darkness

In Darkness

We are writing monster poems. Does that seem strange? I want to try my hand at it. Not easy. Here's my first and maybe I'll add more if I can find more...

Loch Ness

Sometimes on quiet mornings,
when a wooden boat carries red-haired boys,
passes over me— bottom shadow gliding—
I raise my head like a mutant swan, black,
a loon weeping, a winter-weary bird
seeking warmer air. I reach algae-eaten face,
red eyes, to stars invisible by dawn, whisper
that I understand what it is to desire
a constellation that would not assume
I prefer to live in darkness.

Sara's The Visit

LL Self-Portrait photo, by L.L. Barkat. :)

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Book Cover: Thoughts?

GIY gate red

Tell me...

GIY gate blue

do you have...

giy green

a preference?


Monday, April 19, 2010

Let Yourself Write

color moon

When I first read Bird by Bird, I wanted to be Anne Lamott. And when I read One Hundred Years of Solitude, I wanted to be Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I have wanted to be Wendell Berry, Annie Dillard, and a lot of other hilarious, lyrical, or thoughtful writers too.

Ah well. I'm just me.

In Julia Cameron's view of writing, that may be an advantage. "Let yourself write," she encourages. "Begin where you are." "Listen to what's around you."

Last I knew, Wendell Berry has never been to my neighborhood. Annie Dillard has not seen the crescent moon over this 1930's Tudor. Marquez has not walked these red oak floors, bare footed. Not a single one of these famous writers has ever taken a brush to my daughter's thick, dark hair and said, "Tomorrow, if we do nothing else, we must trim your ends. They're splitting."

So it is. If my little corner of the world is going to be shared, I have to let my self write.

And Wendell? We'll let him handle Kentucky.

Join our HCB book club discussion on The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life.

Glynn's The Right to Write, Beginnings
Louise's Automatic Response
Nancy's Let's Write
Lyla's The Art of Taking Dictation
Monica's Book Club: The Right to Write
Marilyn's Book Club
Cassandra's In the Quiet
nAncY's Ready, Set, Go
Erin's Just Writing
Eric's To Begin, and to Begin Again

Crescent Moon painting, by Sara. Used with permission.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Why Poetry?


Hearts and Minds books tells us why we can (and maybe should) read poetry. (Don't mind the pitch for InsideOut in between. :)

Moss up Close photo by Sonia B, age 10. Used with permission.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Accidental Green Life

Wild Rosemary

When the apostle Paul wrote, "Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love," it's doubtful he intended any commentary on the state of garbage disposal in Corinth. Likewise, when Richard Foster first wrote Celebration of Discipline, he wasn't particularly addressing whether suburban families should buy an SUV versus a compact car. Even so, in urging us deeper into faith, both men seamlessly promote the accidental green life...

Read more of The Accidental Green Life: How Christian Piety Can Grace the Earth at Christianity Today's Kyria magazine.

(Fun... I totally forgot I'd submitted that article, and just discovered it's been published this week. :)

Wild Rosemary photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

When I Am Weak, Then I Am Weak

Names Tree

We spend too much time focused on our weaknesses.

So says author Tom Rath and the Gallup study that underpins StrengthsFinder 2.0: Discover Your Strengths.

When we focus on our weaknesses, notes Rath, we are less likely to be engaged and productive at work (might this also be true for school, church, marriage, friendship?).

Yet our culture idolizes the "underdog" (and maybe our faith does too, with an out-of-context application of "when I am weak, then I am strong"). Rath says that movies like Rudy— about a guy with no talent for football who eventually gets to play in the game— feed this view of the superiority of the underdog. But, he says, is it really worth it for Rudy to have spent thousands of hours of practice to make one play, in one game?

Better that Rudy be directed to enhance his strengths. Not so interesting as a movie, perhaps, but better.

Rath's book comes with access to an on-line test, so you can find your strengths and begin to make the best of them. I'm not sure we all need to take the test. But I wonder how this alteration in perspective might change how we manage, teach, and relate.

For instance, does everybody on the team and everybody in the schoolroom really need to be trained in everything? Or can we just admit that so-and-so would make a better singer than a mathematician and adjust our approach accordingly?

Thinking on this, I wondered if our concept of the Renaissance Man (and woman :) has also led us to try to be strong in everything, even our weaknesses, rather than strengthening our strengths. We might not get to play tuba (or football) then, but since our lives aren't the movies, maybe that would be better in the end.

Names Tree photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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Friday, April 02, 2010

On Writing an Easter Poem


On Writing an Easter Poem

I watch women,
men, girls
come to the table
with eggs— fuschia, lemon,
baby blue. They write of
redemption in thin shells,
and all I can do is open
my mouth like a teenaged
boy who's looking for
his voice and finds...
it cracks.

Eggs in Gallery photo by L.L. Barkat.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Top 10 Poetry Picks

Black bird

It's National Poetry Month. How could I pass up the chance to share my Top 10 Poetry Picks? Or (harder question), how can I narrow it to just 10? I think I can, I think I can, I think I can... :)

1. The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms. This one turned my older daughter's poetic life around. She discovered she's a better poet when she writes in form, and has tried sonnets, sestinas, villanelles and pantoums. I'm still trying to play catch-up to this 12 year old. :)

2. Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West I can always trust Maureen Doallas for the best poetry recommendations. This one offered poets I'd never read before. Some of the background stories and poems brought tears; others made me laugh out loud. Includes some Rumi poems that supposedly have never been published in any other collection.

3. The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems (English and Spanish Edition) Dramatic poetry, and often very moving. I'm trying to memorize the Spanish versions after reading the English versions on the facing pages. Being a newbie to Neruda I wasn't sure which volume to choose and was pleasantly surprised when someone in-the-know told me he thinks this is the best set of translations he's seen. Also, Kathleen Overby reminded me I must watch Il Postino again, since it's framed around the exile of Neruda.

4. Valentines is a delightful volume of love poems, some of which will make you laugh, sigh, or gasp. (I remember being surprised by the one where the owl loved the mouse and... ate him! :) Kooser wrote poems for women all over the nation, each Valentine's day, until his list exceeded 2000 and the postage got too costly. I'm glad he finally put them in a book.

5. Nine Horses: Poems is whimsical (and sometimes unexpectedly poignant). Again, I loved a mouse poem (this time the mouse wins, so to speak, when it runs through the house with a lighted match). One Sunday afternoon I read this entire volume to my kids. They loved it.

6. Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words is technically a book on writing poetry (and therefore includes fewer poems than others on this list). But it's one of my favorite poetry books, because it really can help a person write better poetry (whether a seasoned poet or newcomer).

7. The Song of the Horse: Selected Poems 1958-2008. Sam Hazo won me over when I went to hear him read. Such a lively and thoughtful man! His poems are like little conversations or stories, which makes sense, since Hazo often pulls his poetry from life-overheard.

8. Tabloid News: Poems. Leax takes a simple element — the tabloid news headlines — and turns them into surprisingly haunting poems. We find ourselves empathizing with fantastic and monstrous figures like the Louisiana Bayou creature. Also, his opening essay about our fascination with such creatures is thought provoking.

9. George Seferis: Collected Poems. Seferis pretty much made me swoon with his talk of marble and light, almonds and blossoms. (He inspired the almond poem in InsideOut: poems (I remember the scent/and how you crushed them;/brown skins/turned to dust,/scattered like spilled cinnamon).

10. The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets. Again, this is a book on writing (and reading) poetry. But it HAS to go on my Top 10 List. Kooser permits us to love poetry by debunking the myth of if-it-confuses-you-it's-probably-good-poetry. Good poetry, he argues, is accessible. Then he shows us wonderful examples and invites us to a life of poetry. I'm in. :)

(Want to make your own list of favorite poetry books? If you do, I'll link to you.)

National Poetry Month at tweetspeak

Bird photo by L.L. Barkat.

nAncY's 5 Poetry Book Recommendations
Heather's 10 Volumes
Laura's Poetry on the Move

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