Thursday, July 27, 2017

"Foul Shots: A Clinic"

27 July 2017:

"...and the lovingly unlaunched
foul shots we’re talking about now—
the clinic having served to bring us
together—circle eccentrically
in a sky of stolid orbits
as unlike as you and I are
from the arcs those foul shots
leave behind when they go in." --William Matthews, "Foul Shots: A Clinic"

Kind of a quiet day here, one spent doing a lot of thinking about writing and not as much actual writing as I would have liked. But yes, that thinking is a part of the process. I know this. And I do feel on the verge of getting done what I want to get done by the end of the month (my continued, slightly irrational pursuit of a typed to-do list I made for the month of July). Anyway, this poem, which is a process piece that anyone who has worked at a skill can relate to, spoke to me today, so here it is, today's "listening" post.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"For Moses, After He Learned to Say the Letter S"

26 July 2017:
"You learned to pronounce the 's' in 'sky.'
The ky has gone out.
Never again will stars twinkle there like diamonds.
No longer will we gaze upon the ky in the dwindling night before bedtime.
It's all right.
Our time in the ky was short and miraculous.
Who knows what new wonders the full sky holds?" --John Darnielle, reading a poem he wrote for his son and shared on The Hilarious World of Depression

(And because I heard the poem and didn't see it, I am guessing, almost certainly incorrectly, about the line breaks.)

Listen to the whole poem, which starts at about the 7:45 mark of the episode. Lovely and moving.

And yes, I've already blogged about this podcast twice before.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"Dover Beach," again...

25 July 2017:
"Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night." --Matthew Arnold, "Dover Beach"

Just got done listening to a couple readings of "Dover Beach," because I felt a need to close my eyes and hear Arnold's words. I've blogged about this poem before, five years and five days ago, when the terrible shooting in Aurora, Colorado happened. Here I am again, finding Matthew Arnold's words running through my head, this time as I wrestle with two, very different tragedies.

The first is the disastrous and cruel vote on health care that happened just a few minutes ago. I found myself crying as the news broke. People will suffer and die. It's that simple. This pain, anger, frustration, and sadness over our current political situation sits right below my chest--I can feel it physically sometimes. What to do in the face of such cruelty and disregard for common decency, as more and more comes at us every day? Arnold's words come to mind..."Ah, love, let us be true /
To one another!"

The second tragedy is no doubt smaller in terms of scale, but it's been three years to the day since my brother died. I went into today determined to focus on the good memories. Most of the time that works just fine. But at least for the next few hours, I find myself drawn to the sadness of it all. I look back and feel all over again the sense of impotence and frustration. What could we have done differently? What would have made a difference? And that sadness and frustration is no doubt connected to a Senate that just voted to strip away health care from millions and a president who offends every value I hold true. And here's the thing: my brother had good health care. And he still died of an opioid overdose. My heart breaks for all of those who will die without access to health care, specifically for mental health and addiction. What to do? Again, Arnold's words come to mind..."Ah, love, let us be true / To one another!"

Of course, as I alluded to when I wrote about this poem in 2012, Arnold's poem comes in for some criticism for what might be read as a retreat to insular protectionism and almost nihilism. But I don't think that's the only way to read it. Because if we are true to each other and really love each other, we will do what's right. We'll take care of each other and fight back against those dark forces pushing against us. It's all we can do.

Monday, July 24, 2017


24 July 2017: "I used to wonder what on earth I was going to do with my 262 plots my mother left me. I didn't have to wonder long." --Ruth Coker Burks, in the short film you can watch here.

I first heard about Burks in this StoryCorps piece. She's a remarkable woman and a model for us all.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Homecoming King

23 July 2017: “'Hasan, you gotta be brave...Your courage to do what’s right has to be greater than the fear of getting hurt.'” --Hasan Minhaj, quoting his father's advice to him.

Minhaj's entire special is well-worth watching: funny and touching.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

David Brooks Goes to Lunch...

22 July 2017: “Can I also just say that the sentence ‘Insensitively I led her into a gourmet sandwich ship' is possibly the funniest single sentence that has ever appeared in The New York Times?” --Dana Stevens on this week's Slate Culture Gabfest, discussing David Brooks' unintentionally hilarious recent column.

I got a lot done today: cleaned bathrooms, organized books in my office, finalized (!) my teaching materials/syllabi for the fall, and made lots of progress on my portfolio. This also means I spent a lot of time listening to good old podcasts. The Gabfest crew's discussion of Brooks' piece was a fun highlight.

Friday, July 21, 2017

"Shattering The Blue Velvet Chair"

21 July 2017: “Well, who else is gonna do it?...When I think back to those days I think of this ferment, this activity, in people’s kitchens and living rooms…[They were women who said] ‘We’re not gonna wait. We are going to recognize ourselves and each other.’” –Joan Larkin, in the latest episode of the Poetry Off the Shelf podcast. I blogged about a previous episode here.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

"You've Got to Hide Your Love Away"

20 July 2017:

"Everywhere people stare
Each and every day
I can see them laugh at me
And I hear them say
Hey you've got to hide your love away." --John Lennon, "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" (though the version I heard today was the fans one by Eddie Vedder)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Everything is Wonderful

19 July 2017: "Forgiveness is the spine of life." --Esther to Miriam, in Everything is Wonderful, a CATF play I saw today. It's a really fine exploration of forgiveness, redemption, and community.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Double-check those figures?

18 July 2017: "Thousands." --my niece, Krista, telling me how many guests she was going to have for her birthday party in November, when she turns 5. Love that optimism!

Monday, July 17, 2017

"The Pool and the Stream"

17 July 2017: “Architecture and its details are in some way all part of biology. Perhaps they are, for instance, like some big salmon or trout. They are not born fully grown; they are not even born in the sea or water where they normally live. They are born hundreds of miles away from their home grounds, where the rivers narrow to tiny streams. Just as it takes time for a speck of fish spawn to mature into a fully-grown fish, so we need time for everything that develops and crystallizes in our world of ideas.” --Alvar Aalto, quoted in this episode of 99% Invisible

I finished listening to this one this morning on my walk. It's a fun and charming episode, connecting modern architecture, swimming pools, and skate boarding. Give it a listen.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Big Sick

16 July 2017: “I am completely overwhelmed by you." --Emily to Kumail, in The Big Sick.

Man, did I love this movie! And that line made me swoon a bit because that's what it's like when you are really into someone new, right? (And I am such a softy...) But seriously: see this movie!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Jane Austen Tea Party

15 July 2017: “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you." --Darcy to Elizabeth, Pride and Prejudice

Today my friend Carrie and I led a discussion of Jane Austen at a library fundraiser. The above passage--on lots of people's "favorites" list--came up during the discussion. To tell the truth, I was a bit nervous going into the event, not knowing what to expect. But I should have expected that the people of this cool little town would show up with their A games, and they sure did.

Friday, July 14, 2017

"If We Were Vampires"

14 July 2017:

"If we were vampires and death was a joke
We'd go out on the sidewalk and smoke
Laugh at all the lovers and their plans
I wouldn't feel the need to hold your hand
Maybe time running out is a gift
I'll work hard 'til the end of my shift
And give you every second I can find
And hope it isn't me who's left behind" --Jason Isbell, "If We Were Vampires"

Heard about this song on the latest episode of Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs (the episode is actually about Ben Folds' "The Luckiest") and the hosts' lovely personal reflections on it convinced me to have a listen. It's an absolutely sigh-worthy song even if it makes me a bit (or a lot) envious about relating to it only in an aspirational sense.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Catching up...

13 July 2017: "I gave a snake a bath." --my friend Bethany, talking about her adventures working at a pet store. That's a sentence I will never say.

Catching up with her tonight put a nice stamp on an otherwise quiet day.