Friday, January 29, 2010

Will You Take Me As I Am?

I am back in California from an incredible trip to New York. While the week kept me busy (hence the lack of posts) I did not entirely abandon my poem, sweet poem. I thought a great deal about future posts, many of which will document my past week in the Big Apple. For now, though, I am happy to remain in the state of bliss allotted by my trip and hope it lasts me through the weekend. Tonight: Swan Lake!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Old Joy and Wendy & Lucy

Two quiet and kind movies. Adventure. Accompaniment. Loneliness. Walking through the woods with your old best friend, old joy. Clinging to your dog, Lucy, your only friend. Wendy and Lucy. What it means to be with and without. It is never too late for coming of age.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ugly Duckling Presse

Half the pleasure of reading poems, is holding the book that carries them. Lately, I've been enjoying works from Ugly Duckling Presse simply for that reason. All of their books have that hand-made feel, boasting the appearance that each was carefully crafted in a book arts class or an artist's studio. Many titles are limited editions printed on vintage paper, and these gems are built with such beauty, it is clear that whoever did the pressing, cutting and sewing, took great pride in doing so. I tell you, a book from UDP is designed with hands (not just reading eyes) in mind, making it feel as good as it reads.

When the presentation of a book is as thoughtful as the words inside, one cannot help but do more than just "read" its pages. Poems are such delicate objects, it only makes sense that one must handle with care. When I feel their texture in my palm, it is like holding a vessel of inspiration. Inspiration to write poems, read new books and support small presses. When it comes to UDP, I would like to add every title to my personal library, building upwards and from within a collection already squeezed to its limit on shelves. I can see it now: their spines side by side, some stitched with soft thread of a vibrant hue and some thinly adorned with design carried over from the cover. Now, only deciding on which to we mustn't forget there are words inside everything.

I first heard of the press in October of 2008, when one of the founding editors, Matvei Yankelevich, read at CCA. Since then, I have benefited from exposure to the press because it continually motivates me to write more and more, so that one day my work might fit, gloriously, inside a book, like art. Below is a glimpse into some of their titles. Enjoy and, please, feel free to judge by the covers. I do.

All book images from the Ugly Duckling Presse library archive on their website.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti Earthquake Relief

Haiti needs our help and the Huffington Post published a good piece on what we can do right now. Click HERE.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rumored Islands

Once upon a time there was an idyllic time in a girl's life. She strolled past lakes holding books and pens, she ran skipping through fields for the Northern Lights and, in the fall, heard the crunch of leaves under her shoe. And, on the luckiest days of all, she read poetry while outside, collecting, were sheets of white snow, not yet imprinted with the hourglass of feet.

Helloooo! Back to reality. I don't know WHO that girl is but...

Okay, okay she was me and she's guilty as charged on all counts of idealizing!!! The time in question was 4 years spent in Maine attending Bates College, where she (when do I start the first person?) had the pleasure of studying with literature and poetry professor Rob Farnsworth.

Now, I...

found something most exciting on the Small Press Distribution blog: a post about Rob's forthcoming book of poetry entitled Rumored Islands. I've been waiting for this day, and am so eager and excited to read Rob's book. His poetry workshop was one of my first and I remember it so vividly: all of us young poets sitting around in a circle, critiquing poems and listening to Rob's words of wisdom. He introduced me to poets like William Carlos Williams and was the first teacher I knew to emphasize the importance of the line break.

You can read the red-starred review of Rumored Islands from 'Publishers Weekly' below or click here to follow the link:

"More than 20 years after his last book, Farnsworth (Honest Water) returns with poems of wonder and shame, loneliness and “the strange, sun-spun fabric of the world.” In carefully sculpted lines, alternately lyrical and narrative, cultured and stripped down, he offers poems that arrive unannounced and track the unexpected turns life takes, the way an unanticipated moment can become part of a story we were meant to hear. He captures the long sigh of a stoplight, thoughts from Westminster Bridge, finding someone drowned staring up from the bottom of a pond, and the complicated distances and intimacies of family life—fathers and sons, husbands and wives—with grace and muscular music. Farnsworth knows his way around a stanza and is capable of lines that both surprise and seem inevitable, whether he's “full of the melancholy/ pleasure of being far away from home” or stating that “The past should always be/ this allusive gift.” Near the end of the book comes “At Sea,” a tender, restrained and stunning poem in which, four years after his father's death, Farnsworth begins to find him. Rather than ask forgiveness—presumably for the many unnamed separations between a father and a son—the writer acknowledges, 'I recognize the things I know that you'd have loved.'"

This is a collection I know will be enjoyable, thoughtful and inspiring. So excited for Rob!

Reading the SPD post about Rob (you can too, click here) really brought me back to that unique time in my life when I lived in Maine. In a place where the landscape changes so dramatically from season to season, it is hard not to be inspired by your surroundings. It was during this time when I first discovered and developed my interest in poetry. I always liked poetry, from the time that I was small, but it wasn't until college that I could do it with purpose. It began with those startling moments of awareness and observation; when I could locate and tap into the material, the ideas and the thoughts with which my mind was fully engaged. Combined with a bit of focus and accessible practice, I found a way to write a poem. I also found a way to accept writing what was an unfinished poem at times, because the process can be fleeting, can be momentary. However, I prefer 'healthy pause' over 'writer's block,' in order to become fearless. There is no fear because in those moments, when you have experienced such energy and urgency to write, you are actually driven further, even if it feels that you got nowhere. Oh yes, you went somewhere. And once you are there, you cannot go backwards. Only forwards, to continue seeking, exploring and writing. It's as simple as that.

I know this is verging on abstract, but it's all part of my interest in the practice of poetry. Such a practice, for me, is fueled by the incredible teachers and mentors I have known over the years. At Bates, Rob was there for those early days when I first found inspiration in its most genuine form. In the form of awe and spark. You know it. You can't miss it. Inspiration like this will hit you like a snowball.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I Was Floating Above the Trees

Image from the Academy of American Poets

Ooh la la. Look what movie the Academy of American Poets featured in their Best of 2009 feature. That's right! "Bright Star!" You know it! Even though it left the theater long ago and it's been snubbed in most film award nomination lists, it still lives on. For example, it was featured in the Sunday New York Times' Oscar section in the segment, 'Script Excerpts: From Their Pens to Actors' Lips.' Click here to read the excerpt and once you get to the page, scroll down a bit. It's the 3rd one after "Inglorious Basterds" and "A Serious Man" (Both haunting in different ways, those are two other movies I have seen and very much enjoyed). I know I've mentioned this a couple of times, but aside from the poetry and the art direction, another aspect of "Bright Star" that I adored is the score. And, for the record, if you're ever wondering why I linger so long on this film, just look at this picture:

There is Keats (aka Ben Whishaw) reclining on the top of a tree, spouting poetry. Is there anything better than this? Back to the music. After many sample listens on iTunes, I finally brokedown and bought the soundtrack this weekend. It's such a lovely album. Not only is the music beautiful, but it evokes every glorious moment that the film offers and immediately took me back to that afternoon in October when I went solo to see "Bright Star." Have I ever told the story about how it all came about? Please, indulge me for a minute.

Back in the day when I worked less hours, I had a free day here and there. One day I decided to go to a 4 o'clock movie at the Kabuki in Japantown (one of my favorite theaters). I had the following to pick from: "Capitalism" @ 4:15 "Whip It" @ 4:20 and "Bright Star" @ 4:15. I knew I wanted to see "Bright Star," but nothing was pulling me to go. Obviously, I had no clue. So, I picked the 4:15 Capitalism because I thought it would be super thrilling and entertaining. I bought my ticket and was ready to get angry! As I approached the auditorium, I saw that "Bright Star" was playing one theater over. I took one look at the "Capitalism" poster and one look at the "Bright Star" poster and like a moth to a flame, ticket gripped in hand, I walked into the other theater. I was unaware of what it was, but something strongly urged me to chose the other film. And there I went. And there I was held captive for a, thus far, indefinite amount of time.

Anyway, thanks for letting me share that story. It's silly really, and I did eventually see "Capitalism" a few weeks later. I just feel like sometimes you don't know what you want but...I don't know how to finish that sentence. Forgive me. So, the score. Graced upon many of the songs are poems and letters spoken from the movie. The luminous, gorgeous and heart-warming nature of the words linked to music makes you want to frolic through fields. So go do it. Frolic and swoon.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Wherever in this City

A very important poet is reading @ the Capitola Book Cafe in Santa Cruz next Tuesday night and I would like to attend. The poet, of course, is Adrienne Rich. However, Santa Cruz isn't exactly the hop-skip-and-a-jump that, say, Half Moon Bay is from San Francisco. Will I do it?

The event was brought to my attention by the Poetry Flash website, which I check up on quite frequently. It is the quintessential source for literary events, from poetry readings to poetry festivals to poetry conferences. Poetry Poetry Flash! You name it, and it's on the Poetry Flash Calendar. I was first introduced to their calendar when I used to intern for them in Berkeley and I myself used to update it with events! Visit their website here for poetry happenings in your neck of the woods.

Alright, enough with my plug for their amazing-ness. While scanning the Northern California January events page, I came upon Adrienne Rich's reading in Santa Cruz. She is one of my favorite poets. I first discovered her the fall semester of year 2 in my M.F.A. program. I took a class called 'Innovative Poetics,' in which we covered prominent poetry movements of the 20th Century--from the Black Mountain Poets, to the New York School, to the Objectivists, to the Language Poets. We studied Adrienne Rich as a part of the First Wave Feminist Movement of the 60s and 70s. Her critical poem 'Diving Into the Wreck' depicts a boldness in language that can only be powered by truth. Click here to hear the poem read aloud by the poet Anne Waldman.

Discovery is one thing, but love is another. And I did not fall in love with Adrienne Rich until I read her Twenty-One Love Poems from the collection "The Dream of a Common Language." The title speaks for itself, but the poems, each in their own distinct moments, must be read word for word to fully see the side of love she presents. Love for oneself and love for another. And always from the perspective of the poet. She writes:

"What kind of beast would turn its life into words?
What atonement is this all about?
--and yet, writing words like these, I'm also living."

She rationalizes the poet's way with not a hint of force. As if, to write is to breathe. We don't beat ourselves up for inhaling and exhaling throughout the day, why must we lash out for expressing our art or for feeling our passion. I look to poets like Adrienne Rich for guidance. Maybe one day I will hear such words spoken from the poet herself. I would be oh-so-bold to venture to Santa Cruz next Tuesday night. Perhaps curling up with her book at home will be enough. After all, reading words like hers, I am also living...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Temple Beth Israel

Looks like I have a couple of people to be proud of this week!

This week, my mentor, teacher and friend, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, was picked as 'Poet's Choice' in The Washington Post. The article features her poem, Temple Beth Israel, as well as an introduction written by Gaby. The poem is published in her groundbreaking book "Apocalyptic Swing," which came out earlier this year and I highly recommend it to all of my readers! I am so excited and inspired to see Gaby acknowledged as 'Poet's Choice'; to be featured in a newspaper as well-read and circulated as The Washington Post gives me assurance that great poetry lives around us all day, everyday. Click here to read the article.

Congratulations Gaby, and thank you for always inspiring me!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sister Speak

Congratulations Heathie!

I am so proud of my sister, Heather Taylor, for her recently launched column, Chef Speak, on the Huffington Post. In this bi-monthly column, Heather will explore the diverse food culture of Los Angeles, offering incite into restaurants, their fabulous chefs and where they find their glorious food and inspiration. Her latest post features an interview with Brandon Boudet, the co-owner and executive chef of Dominick's, a cozy West Hollywood spot that hails over-the-top Spaghetti and Meatballs. I believe her post will be an excellent source for Angeleno foodies as well as those just traveling through. And, the column includes a recipe for you to make at home! In my mind, it doesn't get much better than this. Click here to link directly to Chef Speak.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Going Out With A Bang

Happy New Year everyone! From the way these first two days have gone, I reckon 2010 is going to be a great year. I have already slept 2 nights by a river, started strumming the guitar again, given myself a facial from the earth of a hot springs and eaten 2 deliciously home-slash-cottage cooked meals cooked by Liz while listening to Billie Holiday.

And, oh, how I've missed "Poem, Sweet Poem." Apologies for my absence by the way. And I didn't even say goodbye, how rude of me! Right before Christmas, I decided to take a break from the blog while I enjoyed a long holiday vacation in L.A. Now that I am now back in San Francisco, I feel blissfully and utterly recharged. I don't love the battery allusion, because while I do feel ready to see in the New Year with boundless energy, I also plan to relax more often. And how can I achieve such calm? I resolve to seek out (organically, mind you) that certain kind of pause in my day where I can be thoughtful and compassionate. One way in which I will discover such moments is through poetry. This year will be filled with reading, writing and experiencing poems, sweet poems. New poems, old poem, odd poems. I hope you will join me...

Anyway, today is Sunday, thank goodness and I am ready and looking forward to my first week of the New Year. Along with a new arrangement of digits after "20," two-thousand-and-ten shall begin with a new work schedule at Small Press Distribution (more hours, yay!), more bike riding and yoga (my cold and the cold will be massive inhibitors no more!), and more time spent in the kitchen, cooking and spending time with loved ones and friends (I just watched "Julie and Julia" and am happy to remain in that mode, thank you very much!).

Since I've been tardy so long, I thought I might offer a glimpse into what I've been up doing while not typing away and uploading pics. Here are some highlights from the end of 2009:

Beginning with a perfect scene: friends gathered around, enjoying cookies, Glögg, and each other. None of us knew what we had in store for later in the night (dance performances, Gaga, and finishing the impossible puzzle...)

Isn't this the scene of triumph. While decorating for my cookie exchange party, I splayed puzzle pieces out on my makeshift "game table" (how old-fashioned of me, I know!) in the hopes that someone would attempt to tackle the impossible image. Upon placing the final piece, the joy was a slighter version of touch downs at a football game (I can only imagine). We applauded, cheered and exhaled like they do in stadiums. Oog, I hope all these football references aren't flowing out with such ease because I saw "The Blind Side" while I was in L.A. Maybe so. All right, back to sports...eek does this mean the New Year will involve me talking about subjects of which I have NO CLUE???

Liz and I (plus groups of children on their holiday break) count down to the winter Olympics!

My family gives the most thoughtful gifts. Mom and Dad surprised me with 2 tickets to see the San Francisco Ballet's production of Swan Lake. I love love love the ballet! Some of my favorite poems use swans symbolically and I await the day when I might also get my swan. Symbol or not, they will be there in front of my eyes and cannot wait to be inspired.

Isn't Mommy the best cook? (a line I ripped from "It's Complicated"--yet another movie I saw AND adored while home). My mom's famous chocolate crinkle cookies filled the house on Christmas morning. They filled bellies too, as did the most glorious food imaginable. Thank you, family, for such cozy Christmas memories, xo.

Even though I gave "The Blind Side" a shout out (and now 2 mentions), I drooled over "The Young Victoria" starring Emily Blunt. Heather and I made it for a 10:45 a.m. showing and loved every minute and here's why:
A. I love a period piece. Costumes. Scenery. Accents.
B. I love a good love story. Hey, "Bright Star."
C. I love correspondence through letters and they wrote them in this one.
Totally got the creative juices flowing, flowing, and still flowing.

There I am in Runyon Canyon! Red in the face, out of breath and lurching forward in typical hiking style. To think my sis does this almost every day! It's so inspiring and got me yearning for an S.F. version. Yes, we have Bernal Hill with its 360 degree views and encompassing path, but if I want the intensity of Runyon while still going urban, my best bet is hiking up to Twin Peaks. I've done it before, I can do it again!

Oh, I just adore the Charles Burchfield exhibit at the Hammer Museum. I had never even heard of the artist until I actually saw his heart. (Okay, upon proof-reading this post, I see I wrote "Heart" instead of "art" and I will be DAMNED if I fix that typo. Anyway, back to the show!) No expectations, no preconceived notions, no hype. In a way, it's the ideal way to approach anything. This visit was special because I went with my Dad. He loved it too, especially the historical significance of Burchfield's work. The above image is one of his wallpapers. Can you imagine having that up in your bathroom? It would be happy.

Had an awesome afternoon with my sis in Venice after visiting our Grandma in Westlake. We stopped into 3 Square Cafe on Abbot Kinney for some good drinks. A beautiful sunset glowed upon our sisterly ways as we watched the beer bubbles, took pictures and forgot the time! Almost late to "The Blind Side"--and there's my 3rd reference. Yikes.

Nothing like Dim Sum after a long and strenuous hike. The place was way out there and I forget the name, but the wait was worth the Sprimp shu-mei and the fried rice.

Speaking of waits, there she is! I was so happy when Liz finally came down to LA. We had special plans for New Years (to be blogged about soon) as well as LA plans with my family. She is such a trooper. Barely off her Southwest flight, I swept her over to Joan's on 3rd for a delicious scene and then to Amir's Garden in Griffith Park for some succulents. We made pizza for dinner and then met up with friends. It's never too late in the year to pack it all in.

Oh, and I almost forgot!

I am almost finished with Lorrie Moore's "Birds of America." Another end of the year pleasure: I finally read the story everyone's been talking about, People Like That Are The Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk, which was featured in "The Best American Short Stories." It really tugged on my heart strings and confirmed, once again, how literature empowers. I'll leave the object off that sentence, as I believe it is open. As is the day...