Thursday, September 29, 2011

On Fear

I fear failing.

I fear that if I fail at anything I will hate myself, and everyone else will hate me too. People who like me will be disappointed and lose interest in me, and everyone else will mock and despise me.

On the one hand, this can be a good motivator to-- for example-- really pay attention to the instructions at work. But on the other hand, I have many times in the past decided it was easier to just not to do the thing I might not be good at.

The problem with using fear as a crux point is that it keeps me in my comfort zone of skills I've already mastered.
In the past I've avoided all forms of sports, most social interactions, board games, fashion, television, exotic food, travel, education, new jobs, refining my art form, and charitable work because I'm afraid I'll do them poorly and everyone (including myself) will hate me for it.

When you really look at the situation, that's a horrible way to live a life, eh?

I started thinking about this because I had a philosophy quiz on Tuesday and I really did not do well. I am not saying this with false modesty. The internet ate my exams so I got to do it over again, and I think I managed to improve my grade by the fact that the second time around I used full sentences instead of fragments. It was not a good moment.

And this failure just crushed me. I was physically sick to my stomach, I seriously considered dropping the course because I clearly wasn't suited for it, and it took apple crumble and a successful poetry club meeting to get me to stop planning ways to flee the country. The emotional roller-coaster was so extreme I started thinking about it. And not only should I not entirely lose it over a quiz worth 3.75% of my mark, even if I did fail the course in one fell stroke it shouldn't entirely destroy my self worth.

So here's to breaking down the walls of that particular prison.

Poem of the day #15

Ode on Melancholy
John Keats


No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
       Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wing;
  Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss'd
       By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
  Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
       Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
           Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
  A partner in your sorrow's mysteries;
       For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
           And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul


But when the melancholy fit shall fall
   Sudden from heaven like a weepy cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
   And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut they sorrows on a poring rose,
   Or on the rainbow of the sale sand-wave,
      Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if they mistress some rich anger shows,
   Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
       And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.


She dwells with Beaty-- Beauty that must die;
   And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure night
   Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
   Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of non save him whose strenuous tongue
   Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
       And be amoung her cloudy trophies hung.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Poem of the Day #14

A Late Aubade
Richard Wilbur

You could be sitting now in a carrel
Turning some liver-spotted page,
Or rising in an elevator-cage
Towards Ladies' Apparel.

You could be planting a raucous bed
Of salvia, in rubber gloves,
Or lunching through a screed of someone's loves
With pitying head,

Or making some unhappy setter
Heel, or listening to a bleak
Lecture on Schonenbuerg's serial technique.
Isn't this better?

Think of all the time you are not
Wasting, and would not care to waste,
Such things, thank God, not being to your taste.
Think what a lot

Of time, by woman's reckoning,
You've saved, and so may spend on this,
You who had rather lie in bed and kiss
Than anything.

Its's almost noon, you say? If so,
Time flies, and I need not rehearse
The rosebuds-theme of centres of verse.
If you must go,

Wait for a while, then slip downstairs
And bring us up some chilled white wine,
And some blue cheese, and crackers, and some fine
Ruddy-skinned pears.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Poem of the Day #13

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.
Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightening they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way;
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your friend tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Poem of the Day #12

Prayer (I)
George Herbert

Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age
    God's breath in man returning to his birth,
    The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth;

Engine against th' Alimightie, sinners towre,
    Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
    The six-daise world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and feare;

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
    Exalted Manna, gladness of the best,
    Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,

Church-bels beyond the starred heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices; something understood.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Poem of the Day #11

Margaret Atwood

Love is not a profession
genteel or otherwise

sex is not dentistry
the slick filling of aches and cavities

you are not my doctor
you are not my cure,

nobody has that
power, you are merely a fellow/traveler.

Give up this medical concern,
buttoned, attentive,

permit yourself anger
and permit me mine

which needs neither
your approval nor your surprise

which does not need to be made legal
which is not against a disease

but against you,
which does not need to be understood

or washed or cauterized,
which need instead

to be said and said.
Permit me the present tense.

I am not a saint or a cripple,
I am not a wound; now I will see
whether I am a coward.

I dispose of my good manners,
you don't have to kiss my wrists.

This is a journey, not a war,
there is no outcome,
I renounce predictions

and asprins, I resign the future
as I would resign an expired passport:
picture and signature are gone
along with holidays and safe returns.

We're stuck here
on this side of the border
in this country of thumbed streets and stale buildings

where there is nothing spectacular
to see and the weather is ordinary

where love occurs in its pure form only
ont hé cheaper of the souvenirs

where we must walk slowly,
where we may not get anywhere

or anything, where we keep going,
fighting our ways, our way
not out but through.

from Selected Poems 1965-1975

Friday, September 23, 2011

Poem Of The Day #10

One Art
Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing father, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Poem of the Day #9

Pied Beauty
Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things--
    For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
        For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
    Landscape plotted and pieced-fold, fallow, and plough;
         And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
       With swift, slow; sweet, sour; a dazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                                      Praise him.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Poem of the Day #8

Love Calls Us to the Things of This World
Richard Wilbur

     The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
as false dawn.
                        Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.

     Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

     Now they are flying in plaice, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
                                               The soul shrinks.

     From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessèd day,
And cries,
     "Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven."

     Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world's hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,

     "Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
             keeping their difficult balance."

From Things Of This World

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Do you have anything Important to say?

Nothing-- Jonathan Toon
Last week was the first International Studies class, and clearly we had to do one of those "go around the table and say your name and something interesting about yourself" ice-breakers. I'm usually a fan of those events, because, well, you learn interesting things about your classmates! This time, though, we did things a little differently. The information we were to share was our names, and-- if we had the opportunity to put up a billboard that would be seen by millions of people-- what would be on that billboard?

By the way, this is a really effective get-to-know-people-fast activity. You go straight to what everyone thinks other people should know about, no meandering through talk about the weather and where everyone is from.

In my traditional fashion when asked questions, I fell back on things I've seen on tumblr. (Wait, you don't know that's my tradition now? It totally is. Moving with the times, I am! I'm HIP!) I thought of an image I'd seen earlier in the week and thought was mildly to moderately profound, which said "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

Photo Credit: Julian Bialowas
And then I thought about it, and that actually is something I would really like to tell other people. Not because people are mean to me, but because it was such a ground-breaking thing for me to figure out myself. I went for ages not even cluing into the fact that other people even HAD issues. (And they called me an observant child... ) But if I think of other people as persons with their own individual struggles and aspirations, they are all at once more interesting and deserving of my concern.

I think the particular blindness I was suffering from before has two base reasons. The first is that it's one of the classic markers of teenager-hood to believe that no one else has ever had it as hard as I personally (me me me me) have it. Especially if I'm especially conscious of being "weird," it is a fast and easy extrapolation to decide that all other people are not like me. So all my sufferings are more intense and unique: therefore they're important than anyone else's. And my selfishness is justified!

Yeah, there's a reason why "teenager" is also a synonym for "immature."

But moving on from my lack of developed brain, there is also the fact that much of our culture reduces anyone we don't know personally to numbers and stats. News comes in from all over the world, presenting information about events we have minimal connection with, and over time all these disasters that don't touch us have a numbing effect. We don't feel nearly as bad when we hear about some other person having been maimed in a car accident as we do when a friend is injured.

And when you think about that, it's just a depraved state of mind. When did we start not caring about other people, and how can we make it stop? (Of course, it's possible that everyone else has extreme empathy for every other person on the planet and I'm just a psychopath/still a teenager in heart, but I really hope not. Otherwise this post suddenly becomes really awkward.) So something I'd like other people to think about would be that everyone else really is fighting a hard battle. Everyone else is INTERESTING, and they have a story, and you should want to help them because they're people. Talk to them.

And in closing;

Poem of the day #7

i thank You God for most this amazing day
e.e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky:and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday:this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

from Complete Poems 1904--1962

Monday, September 19, 2011

Poem of the day #6

Fire and Ice
Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Poem of the day #5

The Word
Alden Nowlan

Though I have the gift of tongues
and can move mountains,
my words are nothing
compared with yours,
though you only
look up from my arms
and whisper my name.

This is not pride
because I know
it is not
my name that you whisper
byt a sign
between us,
like the word
that was spoken
at the beginning of the world
and will be spoken again
only when the world ends.

This is not that word
but the other
that must be spoken
over and over
while the world lasts.

a lifetime!
All in one word!

The word you whisper
when you look up
from my arms
and seem to say
my name.

From Bread, Wine and Salt

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Poem of the Day #4

Ten Years and More
Miriam Waddington

When my husband
lay dying a mountain
a lake three
cities ten years
and more
lay between us:

There were our
sons my wounds
and theirs,
despair loneliness,
handfuls of un-
hammered nails
pictures never
hung all

The uneaten
meals and unslept
sleep: there was
retirement, and
worst of all
a green umbrella
he can never
take back.

I wrote him a
letter but all
I could think of
to say was do you
remember Severn
River, the red canoe
with the sail
and lee-boards?

I was really saying
for the sake of our
youth and our love
I forgave him for
and I was asking him
to forgive me too.

From Collected Poems.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Poem of the Day #3

Wanda Why Aren't You Dead
Wanda Coleman

wanda when are you gonna wear your hair down
wanda. that's a whores's name
wanda why ain't you rich
wanda you know no man in his right mind want a
         ready-made family
why don't you lose weight
wanda why are you so angry
how come your feet are so goddamn big
can't you afford to move out of this hell hole
if i were you were you were you
wanda what is it like being black
i hear you don't like black men
tell me you're ac/dc. tell me you're a nympho. tell me you're
        into chains
wanda i don't think you really mean that
you're joking. girl, you crazy
wanda what makes you so angry
wanda i think you need this
wanda you have no humor in you you too serious
wanda i didn't know i was hurting you
that was an accident
wanda i know what you're thinking
wanda i don't hink they'll take that off of you

wanda why are you so angry

i'm sorry i didn't remember that that that
that that that was so important to you

wanda you're ALWAYS on the attack

wanda wanda wanda i wonder

why ain't you dead

From Heavy Daughter Blues: Poem and Stories. 1968-1986

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Poem of the Day #2

Erin Bow

What can heal us?

Like men who have lost legs,
we cannot be restored,
but the tumbling world
makes lights of us--
the sea turns glass
to milk. A teacup handle
is a tool for divination.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Poem of the Day #1

Introduction to Poetry
Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him prove his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.





No really, things are going pretty well for me! I am basically flirting with Death financially, but I have at least until the end of the month until I start paying my line of credit with my Visa and thereby escalating to making out with Death. Hopefully before that time I can get a job. In hopes for AVOIDING keeping Death as my boyfriend, tomorrow I'm going to go harass the local burger shop and coffee shop and two grocery stores I applied at last week.

Now on the flip side of the coin, classes are a mixture of extreme fear and extreme interest. Ancient History seems like it's going to be lovely. It's focusing on the Old Testament (to no one's surprise) but I feel like I've heard those stories enough times that I actually know them fairly well. And then I can focus on the awesome surrounding history, including orgy-tastic (direct quote from teacher) fertility rites, and the rise and fall of other empires, and how different empires subdued their conquered areas-- etc. I am looking forward to that class. :D

French is challenging, again to no one's surprise, but the teacher is making a strong effort to make it both fun and comprehensible for those of us who have no language history. (Hallelujah!) Plus, any subject where I can watch a comedy and feel legitimately that it was homework-related because it was in French (I read the subtitles) is a win! I am quite determined not to do what I did with Latin and fall so far behind I am unable to catch up. Actually I should be listening to my vocab now... psh I'll finish writing this first.

Let's see-- International Studies shows great potential to be awesome. It's a discussion-based class, and there are some strong opinions on either sides of several debates. We started out today with a discussion on whether socialism is a realistic response to an anarchistic situation, which I think was heard two streets up. And a major part of my mark will be building a website/blogging, which is clearly another win.

I haven't had the philosophy class yet, as it's in an intensive format, but I've done the reading. And the reading is scary. Many words I don't know. "Logical Positivism," for example. 'Nuff said.

And then we come to English. English is weird. Weird for my brain to process. Taking someone else's words and taking them over, running away with someone's images and using them ENTIRELY the way you want to, with almost no attention paid to what the author wanted, just your reading that is important-- that's bizarre to me. I'm committing the fallacy of intention left right and centre. :D But aside from the AUGH I"M DOING IT WRONG panic attack, I get to read lovely poems. I never liked poetry before, but I'm starting to learn how it works, and I'm making friends with it. :D (Yes, you will see more poetry here in the future.)

So that's the download of my life. Have a good life OH WAIT ONE MORE THING!

Several of the classes require journaling, blogging or otherwise regularly responding to material. So, in an attempt to make it comprehensible, I will probably cross-post it here. Be prepared for verbose blogging!


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Recapping the First week of Clarion

I suppose at this point parties interested in what I have to say on this blog and also reading calendars might have noticed that I am not longer in Clarion.

Hahahah, I said "parties."

It's funny cause it's plural. And therefore obviously a lie.

Ahem. Back to my graceful intro to this blog post!

First-Week instructor Nina doing a reading at Mysterious Galaxy. Many of my classmates are visible in the audience!

As anyone who consulted a calendar could figure out, Clarion is over. And triumphantly, I completed it! I then went on to have many adventures. In fact, as I write this I am on a train speeding across rural quebec. But I'm not to that part of the story yet.

For me Clarion started early Sunday Morning. I had arranged previously to take a cab from the airport to the campus with Becky, Brooke Wonders and Gillian. I got there in plenty of time, found a place to buy coffee, liberated a baggage cart for free-- and then realized that I had no idea what the people I was meeting looked like. My obvious next move was to make a sign, right?

It's harder than you'd think to find a piece of bristol board in an airport. They don't even sell blank PAPER. (Maybe they think it's a weapon or something.)

Fortunately, via the airport wi-fi on my phone I had handheld access to a vast database containing pictures of the people I was trying to meet. I do so love living in the future. I like living in the future less when (that afternoon) the power cable to my laptop gives up the ghost, but that can be fixed with the aid of our modern financial system-- another reason to be thankful for science and technology, really.

Once we arrived at the UCSD campus on Sunday Afternoon we were all dispatched to our separate rooms to settle in. I was rooming with the other Canadian (Mark) and an Australian (Peta), and we saw right away that the apartment, while lovely, was lacking a crucial component. As a result Peta went to Target to get a kettle and some tea while Mark and I unpacked and picked up dishes from the common room.

My lovely Clarion class! With the exception of Annie, whose plane came in late.

Throughout the whole day I was consistently surprised by just how nice everyone was. I mean, I was expecting everyone to be nice-- I'd met most of them on the internet-- and going in expecting intelligent, funny, friendly writers I was still surprised by just how darn awesome everyone was.

Also we had a tour, and fought the printers, and went to supper, and fought the printers, and went to buy sugar, and fought the printers. I am not going to talk about fighting the printers (those printers were jerks anyways) but the sugar expedition was actually an adventure.

Mark, Peta and I decided to walk out together to get sugar and milk for our tea. This was about when it really sunk in what kind of ritzy campus we were on. We went to a small late-night convenience store. And where normally mystery-meat sandwiches live in the drop-coolers, this store had fresh pastries and slices of cake. Where normal stores have a wilted banana and sponge-like apple, this one had a variety of organic fruits and vegetables so fresh they all but gave off light. They had tangy organic dried pineapple chips. And "organic" was definitely a theme in the dry goods, along with "fair trade," "rainforest alliance" "ethically sound," and all those other tags that double and triple the price of an item. We paid 8 dollars for a pound of sugar and walked out wide-eyed.

Or maybe I was just the one who was wide-eyed. I was still working with the idea that University students are creatures who live off of Kraft Dinner, Catsup and Ramen, but that does not appear to apply to California.

The Geisel library, constructed in honour of Dr. Suess.

Fortunately I didn't have much time to ponder the mysteries of California, because I needed to have tea with my flatmates and crit the stories for the next day. It had been decided to critique submission stories for the first two days of Clarion, and after that no trunk stories would be permitted. And though a mysterious process known only to our instructor Nina and the fates, a random sampling had picked that the first three stories critiqued at Clarion were written by the three writers in apartment 2. So we used tea to cut the tension and didn't talk much.

I had never been critiqued by anyone who wasn't a bosom buddy of mine, so I was just about stressed enough to eat tacks. I woke up naturally at 6:30, which only happens when I am deathly ill or someone jumps on me. And then I got into session and it all got much better. My fellow Clarionauts are all super-insightful, very clever, kind critiquers. And they're funny! In the first two hours I collected quotes such as;

"Eight-Tenths of the world's population? Reduce your fractions, boy!"

"I totally felt it when the eagle ripped out of her and stuff but I think it could have been a little more visceral."

And then there was my critique, which I will sum up with the quote;

"It’s a bit like being in a sensory deprivation tank with Oscar Wilde, really."
-James W.

I had made it to this point in my writing life without realizing that I was leaving out description. I didn't include visual description, but I didn't include any other sensory information either. And I'd left out most of the blocking, to boot. Oops?

So I decided had to work on that. :D

The next day (tuesday) I started a new story, and I was really excited about it. I was gonna do all kinds of cool things! It was gonna be excellent and no one would be able to say anything was wrong with it, because it was going to be perfect! It turns out I was really going to spent two days panicking over it and writing all of two paragraphs.

Time for a change of plans. On Wednesday evening I ditched it and started new with slightly lower expectations. This time I would only try to do tactile and visual detail, a weird synthetic telepathy and an emotional arc. Easy, right?

A sample of the reading we did every night. This was Thursday night, with my story as one of those I didn't have to read.
It turns out that knowing what you what to do with a story is not the same thing as implementing it in the text. Learning curves, I love thee. I turned it in on Thursday evening with two minutes to spare before deadline, and it was critiqued on Friday. And before this starts sounding downer, the critique session was good! I got good feedback on the story its self, and I also started learning to deal with the terror of what people say about my writing, learning to not measure by what other people say, and learning to deal with the truth about my own writing and the fact that I'm not in it to stroke my ego, there are easier ways to do that. I'm in it to write a better story, and communicate better. Augh, so many FEELINGS to deal with! *swoons*

And on the ego-stroking side, the bookseller at Mysterious Galaxy referred to "when you're back here to do your own signing." I definitely blushed and stammered. ^_^

Also on friday Jacob said the reason I didn't have a boyfriend was I didn't drink. So I punched him.

And then except for the time I socked Peta in the head at the beach it was a totally non-violent weekend. *nods* It turns out that when I am rendered legally blind by salt in the eyes and no glasses, I have a very violent startle reflex.

In closing, the Clarionauts are all excellent people, the prospect of pro writing is both more terrifying and harder than I expected, the prospect of pro writing is both richer and more rewarding than I expected, and Posideon is a pervert. He got seaweed everywhere.

Peta doing some writing outside our apartment.
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