Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Strange Fortune III

More strange fortunes from my local Chinese restaurant. They may have a point, my setting leave quite a bit to be desired.

Monday, February 27, 2012

On Fashion: The Bumpit

When I first discovered the existence of the bumpit, I felt that elation of finding the unexpected in the everyday. This trend says to me humanity is still young. There is a sort of tribal, aboriginal quality to this fashion. The idea of making one's head appear larger is a sort of humane version of ancient Peruvians of skull-binding. Three easy steps to a larger head: simply part and tease, insert bumpit, and spray for hold. Then enjoy your larger head.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Good words: landscape features

Sand - Diminutive name for a Faroese beach. 
Bottomland - forest swampland found in floodplains.
Hoodoo - A pillar formed by erosion of surrounding rock.
Slough - a sluggish drainage channel.
Zawn - a chasm or inlet cut by waves into seaside cliffs.
Coombe - a small wooded valley.
Erg - a shifting dune seas of the Sahara.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Today's Reading: "The Rest I Will Tell to Those in Hades" - C.P. Cavafy

On this tail end of Fat Tuesday night, I'm thinking about honesty - not telling the truth instead of lying, but actually speaking instead of being silent. Ah, "what we protect here like sleepless guards" - things that won't matter down in Hades but are everything here... Perhaps you are secretive too, my dear reader, silent songbird.

The Rest I Will Tell to Those in Hades

“Indeed,” said the proconsul, closing the book,
“this line is beautiful and very true.
Sophocles wrote it in a deeply philosophic mood.
How much we’ll tell down there, how much,
and how very different we’ll appear.
What we protect here like sleepless guards,
wounds and secrets locked inside us,
protect with such great anxiety day after day,
we’ll disclose freely and clearly down there.”

“You might add,” said the sophist, half smiling,
“if they talk about things like that down there,
if they bother about them any more.”

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Poetics and Twitter

I've been writing a poem in my twitter box. It's one I've been stuck on for five months. Now, with a form - prose blocks of exactly 140 characters - I've been able to (slowly) move ahead. With the decision of shape and pattern made, word and style can be focused on. Form is the greatest gift of love - a place to be, a shelter, a home.

Here highways stitch the loamy floodplain; cotton congeals in ditches. Silent for miles, you absently trace the scar beneath your shirt.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A translation for San Valentin

I've conflated, translated, transposed, and stretched this strange vision of Federico Garcia Lorca into English for you, my dearest of readers. Una breve poema por San Valentin:

Primera Página

In March,
you'll march off to the moon,
shedding your shadow
as you go. The prairies turn
unreal. Look -
it's raining white birds! And I am lost
in your forest, shouting
open sesame.
How childish.
Open sesame.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Inferno, Canto VII - Medieval (and Modern) Views on Depression and Acedia

In the Inferno, Canto VII, Dante and Virgil encounter a bog full the wrathful and depressed. Still furious, the damned angry attack each other in secula seculorum. Beneath them, mired in the mud, sufferers of acedia lie, visible only as air bubbles. Acedia means "flight from the world." It is the sin of disengagement, torpor, listlessness - what people today call depression. Their punishment is to burble up an eternal hymn of regret and sadness:  

                                                          ...We were sad 
                      in the sweet air gladdened by the sun,
                      filled as we were with mournful sighs:
                     now we are sullen in the muck and mire.

Toward these sad souls, Dante demonstrates none of the pity that he showed for the lustful and gluttonous sinners of previous cantos. The acedious are anonymous, unseen, and quickly glossed over. Today, these sinners would be diagnosed as clinically depressed and prescribed Zoloft.


I normally try  to give a neutral view on this blog. A moderate, I despise the lowbrow political discourse on facebook (and seemingly everywhere else in the country for that matter) where people put statuses and posts up that say nothing of more substance than "hurray for our side" and "those who aren't for us are against us (and therefore evil)." But I will give a personal view here, as this is something I feel strongly about: there are many in this country, both secular and religious, who have a Dantean view of depression.

Illnesses of the mind are invisible and therefore unbelievable to some. The mind is a chemical computer that can malfunction when the homeostatis of the body is disrupted. As with any injury or disease, healing takes time and sometimes the recovery is not a full one. I would like to live in a society in which no-one consigns the depressed to the miry pit.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Where I Lived and What I Lived for - Cornwall

I should say where I visited and what I visited for. I spent two weeks in Zennor, Penzance, and St Ives - lovely seaside towns with legends, books, Cornish, castles, pasties, quays, and fog. Every time I think of the trip, I get the nursery rhyme as I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives... stuck in my head.

Penzance Quay
St. Michael's Mount
As I was going to St. Ives...
Kingdom by the Sea
Wild walk to Zennor
Zennor's mermaid chair
Subtropical gardens in Morrab Park
Graffiti in Zennor
Dive diner in Penzance

2012 in Poetry Submissions

Columbia: a Journal of Literature, Michigan Quarterly Review, Chattahoochee Review, Appalachee Review, Connecticut Review, Tin House, Agni, Chicago Quarterly, Bayou, Copper Nickel, Versal, The White Review, Dark Horse, Blue Mesa, Zone 3, Jelly Bucket, Notre Dame Review, Harper Palate, The Journal, Lousiville Review, The New South, 32 Poems, Tulane Review, Mid-American Review, Field, Circumference, Salt Hill, Asymptote, Yemasee Journal, Colorado Review, Parcel, Cutbank, Barrelhouse, Boulevard, Black Warrior, Emerson Review, Sycamore Review, Burnside Review, Rowboat, PANK, Blue Earth Review, Meridian, The Normal School, Sonora Review, Hampden-Sydney Review, Willow Springs, Natural Bridge, Phoebe, St. Ann's Review, Portland Review, Upstreet, Los Angeles Review, Crab Creek Review, Missouri Review, Salmagundi

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Leaving Faroe - five months later

On our last night in Faroe, there was a party at the school - food, føroya bjór, friends. All the girls were dressed to the nines. We danced and sang and it was lovely and very sad too. By the end of the night we were all sitting, dejected, in the hallway, not wanting to say goodbye. Our professor patted me on the shoulder and said, "Goða Matthew, this life of ours is a series of meetings and partings." A simple truth, but one well said and at the right time.

We stood on the rainswept edge of Tinganes that night, putting off saying goodbye until we were soaked through and shivering. Then bus rides, airports, metro trains, hotels, and goodbyes.

Photo by Monika Bryk
This morning I taught Emily Dickinson's "Parting." I had quoted the last lines - "parting is all we know of heaven / and all we need of hell" - to a friend while saying goodbye. I miss my Fróðskaparsetur Føroya friends again reading it today.


My life closed twice before its close;
        It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
        A third event to me,

So huge, so hopeless to conceive,
       As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
       And all we need of hell.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Today's Reading: She Put on Her Lipstick in the Dark - Stuart Dischell

I really did meet a blind girl in Paris once.
It was in the garden of a museum,
Where I saw her touching the statues.
She had brown hair and an aquamarine scarf.

It was in the garden of the museum.
I told her I was a thief disguised as a guard.
She had brown hair and an aquamarine scarf.
She told me she was a student from Grenoble.

I told her I was not a thief disguised as a guard.
We had coffee at the little commissary.
She said she had time till her train to Grenoble.
We talked about our supreme belief in art.

We had coffee at the little commissary,
Then sat on a bench near the foundry.
We talked about our supreme belief in art.
She leaned her head upon my chest.

We kissed on a bench near the foundry.
I closed my eyes when no one was watching.
She leaned her head upon my chest.
The museum was closing. It was time to part.

I really did meet a blind girl in Paris once.
I never saw her again and she never saw me.
In a garden she touched the statues.
She put on her lipstick in the dark.

I close my eyes when no one is watching.
She had brown hair and an aquamarine scarf.
The museum was closing. It was time to part.
I never saw her again and she never saw me.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Updated Psalms: Psalm 27 - Alicia Ostriker

Psalm 27

we are told to say the following
every day for a month
in preparation for the days of awe:

you are my light my help
when I'm with you I'm not afraid
I want to live in your house

the enemies that chew my heart
the enemies that break my spine
I'm not afraid of them when I’m with you

all my life I have truly trusted you
save me from the liars
let me live in your house

There are twenty-one days left until Ash Wednesday, the deadline for translating a Psalm (read details here). Today I ran across this distillation by Alicia Ostriker who calls the Book of Psalms "both attractive and repulsive emotionally and theologically." Instead of word for word, she goes for the heart of the poetry, also inserting personal experience. I like this collaborative approach to translating. It's one good way out of many to approach your translation. I hope will try your hand at it, dear reader.

Today's Listening: Grab the Sunset - Hundreds

Sigh No More