Hey word-nerds, I hope you all know that April is National Poetry Month. I looked for one article or post I could share with you that would sum it up, but there was too much. Instead I’ll just direct you to the Poetry Foundation where you can read as little or as much as you please about it, and browse some poetry while you’re at it.
I have a funny relationship to poetry. I like to hear it read, especially if it’s read by the author, and even more so if the author has a sultry or gritty voice. But in most cases I’d prefer a painful and unnecessary medical procedure to reading a book of poetry. There are exception of course. Mary Oliver, Laurie Ann Guerrero, Adrienne Rich, or Galway Kinnell to name a few.
Kinnell is from my homeland Vermont, and I had the pleasure of hearing him read at a local venue at a time when I was distinctly and helplessly in love.
He read, among other poems, The Perch, and it hummed in my body for days, months, years. Here’s an excerpt:
I looked to see if my friend had heard, but she was stepping about on her skis, studying the trees, smiling to herself, her lips still filled, for all we had drained them, with hundreds and thousands of kisses.
Forgive the formatting problems. My WordPress theme doesn’t like poetry and wants to put enormous spaces between lines. The entire poem, properly formatted, can be found here. And the word this week, from the same poem, is:
P.S. I apologize for not making the rounds to all your posts last week, but my computer was in the shop until a couple nights ago. Been playing mad catch up on all things since.
The article, How to be a Failure for a Month, Year, or Decade and Still be Okay, written by Christina Fitzpatrick is a witty, sometimes funny, essay on how much it sucks to be a creative type in a world of people who think 9-5 with a steady paycheck is the only sane way to live.
She laments on the unsolicited advice:
In bars, at dinner parties, even minding my own business on airplanes or among close friends — everyone wants to give me advice. Maybe you should become a schoolteacher? A paralegal? How about a nurse? A nurse in a psych ward?
And then gives advice (7 rules to be exact) on how to stay sane as a creative type whose income or job description isn’t as concrete as others would like it to be. My favorite was #6, “Avoid Shitty People“.
What kind of shitty people? The ones that say, “So are you still writing? Acting? Competitive eating?” The ones who say it with an intonation of incredulity, the ones who treat anything you’ve ever achieved as something distant, small, or lackluster. The ones who mention someone else who’s doing everything you do better at a younger age with more money to show for it. This person is shitty — far, far shittier than the dude who stole your purse or ransacked your bank account or forgot to tell you he was cheating on you. You wouldn’t hang out with the purse thief or the identity thief or the heart thief, so why are you hanging out with the good-vibes thief?
Avoid him. Keep your prized feelings in a safe. Lock your windows and doors. If he still appears, through an air vent or forgotten crawl space, inform him that you are feeling murderous. And be compelling.
Avoid shitty people. That’s pretty much my New Year’s resolution from now on. Every year. Even if I didn’t know a single shitty person, or any persons who are not shitty generally but have their weak moments, it would still be my New Year’s resolution. It’s just so good in that way that it applies to everything you can think of, and it makes you smile about things that are otherwise, well, shitty.
I pulled this week’s word from Fitzpatrick’s 6th rule:
I didn’t meet Queen Latifah.
Here’s what happened. There was supposed to be a smallish reception after the Women’s Leadership Conference where Queen Latifah would be, and the hype was that the reception would be small enough to meet her.
There was a reception, but the organizers didn’t screen anyone coming in. No badges were inspected, no check-list was checked. People just streamed in. I don’t know, maybe they were all supposed to be there, but the lack of formality was suspicious.
When the Queen entered the reception hall through a back door, there was no announcement made. Predictably a mob quickly formed around her and the organizers scrambled to assemble some order. And by order I mean they hastily put up a small rope which corralled about 1/100th of the mob into a “line”, which was really just a smaller mob funneled in at the closest proximity to QL. Everyone else was still in an unformed blob with people pushing, and cutting into the line at the end of the rope en masse.
Those people that cut the line? They got a picture or an autograph. Those of us who held the line? We saw the camera flashes and heard the squeals from a not too far, but far enough distance.
And just as the line started thinning out, just when I was only about 10 people behind, the Queen pouted to the crowd that she had to go.
Let me just pause here for a moment to point out that the theme of this conference was, “Be Bold”. Apparently some women confused “bold” with “rude”.
Now I am the first woman to bristle at any woman being labeled as some kind of misbehavin’ because they go after what they want, but this wasn’t that. This was just a case of bad behavior getting rewarded.
And I was miffed about it. I wasn’t about to push and steal and cheat just so I could get an autograph. At the point that I realized this wasn’t going to be a civilized reception of grown women behaving like grown women, I would’ve dropped out of the line. But I had been carrying around a book with me all day, the book my friend wrote, and I wanted to give it to Queen Latifah. That was my task. For a moment I contemplated throwing the book at her (ha!), but didn’t want to be that woman. The woman that took out Queen Latifah’s right eye with the sharp corner of a book of poetry. That woman who got tackled by security and hauled out of a leadership conference for causing a scene.
So as Queen Latifah slipped through the back door, I slid the book back into my bag, wondering when the world might be set up to reward those people who know when is the right time to break the rules, and when doing so is just a childish act of selfishness.
For the record, on stage and in the crowd, Queen Latifah was every bit of down-to-earth, sassy, funny, sweet, and kick-ass as you would think.
Your word this week my word-nerdlings is:
Hunkering down for another major snowstorm. I could feel the outer tendrils of it this afternoon – a gray-white brooding sky, dropping temperatures, and that peculiar looming stillness that precedes storms. Though I never can tell if that stillness is imagined, something to do with anticipation.
Several years ago I and about 100 other people were caught outside in a freak storm. A downburst is how they described it after. All I know is that one minute we were all gathered in a huge party tent listening to the rumble of an approaching storm, and then suddenly there was no tent. Just quarter sized hail, screaming children and frantic adults, chaos, flying debris, and a ferocious, shrieking wind that was snapping every tree in its path.
None of us ever really got over that storm. Everyone survived, and miraculously there were few injuries, but ever since many of us have a heightened awareness about weather. There’s always some unconscious part of me sniffing the air, watching the sky – listening with animal senses for Mother Nature’s mood-shifts.
Even so I love snowstorms. Always have. So long as you properly respect snow, I count it as the least damaging or dangerous kind of weather, and when it comes down hard it’s going to softly stop the world for a tiny bit. Keep families home, and tuck everyone in.
Your word this week is:
P.S. Don’t forget, I can’t leave a comment if you use Blogger and you don’t have the Name/URL setting available for comments. I know others have the same issue so consider changing your settings if you want to hear from more of us.
Since my last post, I saw a friend debut her book of poetry, saw her read at Yale, and had dinner afterward with her, other amazing alum sisters, and some of the students who came to hear her read. Good food, wine, amazing conversations, and buckets of fun that lasted far into the night (the next morning if you want to get technical).
Then I found out I was invited to a small networking event with Queen Latifah.
I’m gonna let you sit on that for a few seconds while I scream into a pillow.
Then my amazing friends helped me come up with the funds to actually GO.
If things couldn’t get better, I was also asked to coach someone to write their book, and this will now be my second book coaching project. I’m honored to help people in this process of giving birth to their ideas.
And it all wrapped up last night with another gathering of my alum sisters, more good food, more wine, more laughter and amazing conversations.
I’m writing this all so fast that I’m not doing justice to the tremendous power that just blew through my life. Gah! It’s all coming out like high school babble over prom. I just want to get the prompt out to you. This week’s word is from (of course it HAS to be) A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying (The Andres Montoya Poetry Prize), by Laurie Ann Guerrero:
P.S. You should buy this book. It needs to be in your poetry collection. I’m in the acknowledgements, so you might even figure out who the woman is behind Velvet Verbosity. But ha! The acknowledgements are three pages long!
P.P.S. I just want to take a second to properly give respect to whatever forces aligned this last week, because it was so good I’m a little scared that next week might decide to kick my ass just to keep me humble and balanced.
P.P.P.S. I’m a day late, so YOU get an extra day for 100 word goodness. The challenge is open until Sunday!