the habit of writing

I woke up at six a.m. with the intention of doing some yoga and then writing a little bit. One thing I discovered, is that I can’t wake up and do yoga. I can wake up and go for a run, or wake up and go for a bike ride; however, the need to think and plan (other than moving in a linear fashion as in the other activities) was too much for my brain to handle.

So I enjoyed the miracle of the automatic coffeepot, poured a cup, read some of the Atlantic and gradually woke up.

Eventually, though I did do some writing. What I like about poetry is that you can get a draft down in 20-30 minutes. Maybe I’ll use this again, or maybe it will just sit in a notebook like a thought, until the ink gradually spreads across the page forgotten.

The poem was about distance. The physical distance between family members, and how it can seem overwhelming to cross that distance.

It was good to get something on the page. Always is.

Commentary on poem draft

I’m not sold on this title the subjects of our study, but titles can always be changed, and you should never leave the top of the page blank.

Started on this while at lunch today. The campus is in exam frenzy. You can feel the student’s tension and nervousness. It seemed as though I were in a different world than they. I’m not studying for a test. I don’t have papers to write. My life won’t change next week with a summer vacation and either a trip back home or an internship somewhere.

The last stanza underwent the most change. I kept adding and tinkering with it. Initially it read:

The real constant being these days
which flutter fast as pages caught by the wind
will trail into a vanishing point
the memories too repetitive
to differentiate between the days.

-> But it seemed pretentious. Is that the real constant? Like I know what the real constant is? So I cut it. Changed it. Incorporated more of the previous stanza.

The subjects of our study

The Subjects of Our Study

The number of students decrease
and those whom walk through campus
wear wrinkled clothes, unkempt as energy
turns toward exam time studies
forgetting the ginkgo blossoms for lists of minerals
like Feldspar, six on the Mohs hardness scale,
qualify couplets of Keats believing
that “a thing of beauty is a joy forever”
failing to feel the humid spring air
their eyes on papers clutched against the breeze
while some mutter equations where G
is a constant for gravity
and if R is the distance between objects
as measured from their centers
then where are our own? And what pulls
one person to another other
than F, the force
of attraction between two objects?

Unable to differentiate between the days
these weeks will fall fast
like leaves caught by the wind
more permeable than Talc
beauty unshared trails
toward a vanishing point
merging multiple concepts
into one, the past
a constant for the present
the force that propels us into the future
a spray of broken promises in our wake.

Emigrating from England

A couple of years ago, my mom gave me the beginnings of an autobiography or family history that my great grandmother had written. She chronicles the family’s move from England (Leeds and London) to the United States, where they initially lived in Michigan. My great great grandfather was a pastor, and the family followed the needs of the church and communities, their lives pushing through the Midwest like a breeze across the fields. Small towns in Indiana and Illinois were home for a few years at a time, then circumstance would change and the family packed and moved again.

The way it’s written, it seems that Anne (I forget her name for now) expected whomever read it would know of her family, of these ancestors. That’s not the case. Where she grew up with three sisters and three brothers, our family has become decidedly smaller, and with that decrease in size comes a decrease in knowledge. Who is there to hold all of this information about us? We are few and have started families later. No one has had children in their early twenties. Instead, we wait. We grow up, we have children when things are more predictable and stable, when we are done being selfish and pursuing our personal goals. Now, there is my mom who has this knowledge, knows the stories of our ancestors, but how well has that passed on to us, her sons?

Perhaps in giving me these pages, she wants that history to live on, for me to say there was a great aunt named Mary Agnes, whom everyone called Birdie because when she was little she’d hold her mouth open, hungry like a little bird, and then years after they emigrated and were living in southern Illinois, Birdie came down with typhoid fever and died. They wrote Birdie on her gravestone. That’s what she liked to be called. That was her name.

When I read those words it caused me pain. I’d read about the ups and downs, but not of death. With seven children, not everyone is in the forefront of the picture. Birdie had receded for pages, and then she died, and the family stopped moving so much. There are so many cliches about home. Maybe one truth about home is that home is where you bury your dead. The family stayed in this town after Birdie’s death, even though my great great grandfather lost his position as the pastor. The town could no longer afford it. So they tried farming instead, but what do men and women from London know of farming? After a rough couple of years, they sold the animals and land, moved to East St. Louis, which was not to far from Birdie’s grave and began to settle down.

untitled poem 1

All the words you used
to want from me
no longer matter.

As I revise for the present
tense, try to forget your eyes
or the way your smile spills
like a glass of wine.

I will wait
for the syllables
“I’m sorry” to dissolve on my tongue
like a communion wafer
as if forgiveness were such a simple act.

Good Day

Woke up at 5:30 and went jogging. Not writing, I know, but managed to shuffle out of bed, lace up the running shoes, start the coffee and head out for a quick jog with some friends. My knee has been bothering me a little bit again, so I’m trying to take it easy. Last year, I ended up injuring or straining my knee and it took a while for the recovery.
It’s in the 70’s this morning and should be in the 80’s for the day. Let’s hope it stays this way before the summertime heat settles in the bricks and concrete of St. Louis.

Failed Goal

So, I’m starting work on a new writing project. A novel. Crazy, I know. I’ve been sketching things out and have written some small pieces to fit into the overall frame. My goal this morning was to wake up at 5:30 a.m. and do some writing. The alarm went off (two of them in separate rooms), and I get up and set them for later. They go off again, and I repeat the action. Finally, I wake up at ten till seven, a little frustrated and mad. MWF I get up at 5:30 to go jogging, so it shouldn’t be so difficult. Next time, I guess.

Man Walks Into A Room

Just started this book, and am about 50 pages in. So far, it’s compelling and interesting. Premise is that the main character loses his memory from the last 25 years.

Review: The Scar by China Mieville

In a follow up to his acclaimed novel, Perdido Street Station, Mieville offers up a novel that falls short. For those that loved Perdido Street Station, this novel takes place in the same world where New Crobuzon exists, but follows characters aboard a floating city scrapped together from a multitude of ships. Mieville has something, which few fantasy writers do: a love for words. However, that doesn’t mean he should be free of editing or allow himself to get carried away. His books are epics spanning 600+ pages, but what in those pages is actually necessary for the story?

Some may argue that his descriptions ground the reader in the setting, and establish the overall mood (decay, grit, mistrustful, and isolation) that weigh on most characters and objects, but when this effect is achieved, do you have to continue throughout the novel? I found myself skimming the pages, because I could visualize the motley group of ships with new buildings sprouting up from their decks. I didn’t need to be shown over and over again.

Another failure of this book is that not much happens.

The rulers raise a sea creature, harness it, and travel to a reality warping stretch of ocean where there is a mutiny and they turn back. In the process the primary character realizes she’s been used repeatedly. I just saved you 623 pages of reading. Of course, I’m being a little harsh, but I wanted a lot more from this novel. Part of the problem is that I was not particularly invested in any of the characters. The primary character is someone who is reserved, cold and in control of her emotions. There is nothing to identify with or to sympathize. Who cares? Who cares what happens to her or anyone else? I’m thinking of epics with characters that are despicable whom a reader cares about. That leads me to Blood Meridian, full of deceitful killers, yet I care about them, I want to know what happens to them. There needs to be some resolution.

In this novel, not only do I not care about the characters, there is nothing that really ties it all together. Are we to find pleasure in Doul taking control of Armada, or Bellis returning home? It didn’t matter to me.

While Mieville has conceived a world that is diverse, dangerous and fantastic, it does not mean this is a well constructed novel. Even the shifts in point of view “interludes” as Mieville groups them, and letters written in the first person show this weakness. He can’t tell the story without bouncy around. It’s Bellis’ story, but not entirely. On the whole, this was a disappointment. If you read it, skim as much as possible, or even better, don’t bother.

Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

I’m giving up.

At first, I didn’t care much for the narrator’s voice, but once I hit the sections with Lola and Beli, I really missed it. Those sections just seemed boring and unnecessary though, so I ended up skipping them. When I came back to the next chapter in Oscar’s life it was better, but I found myself not caring about him, and thinking he’s as annoying as the other characters believe him to be.
Perhaps this book didn’t catch on for me because I recently read the Savage Detectives…more I’m giving up.

At first, I didn’t care much for the narrator’s voice, but once I hit the sections with Lola and Beli, I really missed it. Those sections just seemed boring and unnecessary though, so I ended up skipping them. When I came back to the next chapter in Oscar’s life it was better, but I found myself not caring about him, and thinking he’s as annoying as the other characters believe him to be.
Perhaps this book didn’t catch on for me because I recently read the Savage Detectives which is sprawling and full of numerous narrators. Anyway, not sure what all the buzz about this book is, seems like one to miss.