Friday, August 22, 2014

Fresh Start

A new semester! I’m in a bit of denial about that whole thing—this summer just did not feel like summer at all. I had two major work projects this summer, neither one of which is quite finished. We didn’t travel, since my husband and I are saving for a big trip to Europe next summer (we started in 2010! and we’re still worried we won’t have enough money!). We tried a staycation, but it was not fun, not relaxing, and I will NEVER do that again. In a way, I’m glad school has started, since at least now I can quit feeling cranky about how everybody else is at the beach while I’m working. But I sure wish I’d had some down time.

Still! I do love the beginning of school. Time to start fresh, buy new pens and notebooks for me and the kids, help my daughter get her dorm room situated, watch my son actually wake himself up for school this year (that is especially exciting).

I’m teaching South Carolina Studies online again this fall, and I’m looking forward very much to working with a new group of students from all over the state—and sometimes they’re out there other places in the world too. I’m going to start ramping up the funky South Carolina culture elements of the class this year, so that’ll be fun. Ernest Lee! ghost tours! that fireworks store in Rock Hill I haven’t had a chance to visit yet! and who knows what wonders my students will share with me! And after a solid week trying different things, I figured out how to work around the wonky Blackboard formatting so that I have actual space between paragraphs in my posts. I am embarrassingly excited about this. I don’t have a face-to-face class until October when my Poetry course starts, so that’s a little different, but no matter what—it’s the first week of school! new pens! new people to meet! new words to write! new things to learn! even just the awesomeness of seventh-grade vocabulary! New semester, I welcome you—and readers, I welcome you along on the journey too!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Ode to Bees"

Today’s been one of my favorite odes so far—beautiful language here.  But I went for an Easter hike with my husband and son at Congaree today, and I’m too tired to do the poem justice, so here’s a snippet and an image, and the whole poem is here.  
you enter
every sweet-scented window,
silken doors…

Edit: Clearly I will never make much of a blogger. Perhaps, though, I should be nicer to myself and just remember next year not to attempt even small new blogging projects in April when school is ending and faculty senate is blowing up. Pablo, I still love you. xoxo

Saturday, April 19, 2014

"Ode to the Bed"

"he who loves and he who dreams / came and went from bed to bed."

Friday, April 18, 2014

“Ode to a Beautiful Nude”

Just a day or two ago, the Met’s Twitter feed featured one of their paintings that had made the Guardian’s list of the top 10 male nudes in art (why is everything a top 10, or 6 things you need to know, or some easily quantifiable list?).  While Neruda is not writing about male nudes, having just seen this list, I was struck by how vexed any nude still is in our culture—all the, er, details of the featured male nudes from the Guardian’s list were delicately cropped or draped.  Neruda’s nudes are definitely nude—a lovely openness.  Of course, the first Neruda book I owned was Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon.  Come on—you gotta love that.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Barbed Wire

“Ode to Barbed Wire” sent me straight to Ron Rash’s collection, Raising the Dead.  A lovely, haunting collection.  Neruda is making more of a political commentary with his barbed wire than Rash, who seems to me to be writing about the pervasiveness and the bite of memory, the mark we make on the land.  The voice of the land speaks in both poems, though. 


Tuesday, April 15, 2014


This is not a Neruda poem! And doesn’t entirely explain my lack of follow-through on this year’s NPM project—but it does go a ways.  Of course, I don’t know how to read this since nothing is visibly broken, but take my word for it—it’s all very ouchy. 

Well, I’ll try to get back to my poems tomorrow.  And in the meantime, did I say Ouch? 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Oda al anela

Neruda had an anchor in his garden.  Just this weekend while I pruned shrubs, my husband and son cut a yellow jasmine down to a stump.  We have to dig it out later—we do yardwork in little bits, I imagine much to the dismay of our neighbors.  But we got down past the old chair that originally was the foundation for the jasmine to climb—now a pile of rotted sticks.  Neruda’s anchor must have fared better, a little more permanent, as the bindweed crept up “her freshness” while he waits for the day “carnations will flower / in her terrestrial dream.” My favorite part—

suddenly she believed
a ship’s tremor
awaited her,
sonorous chains
awaited her 

The transplanted anchor, pulled from the shipwrecked depths, dreaming herself of the ocean, Neruda dreaming it for her.  Wonder who inherited his anchor?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Odes to the Air and the Americas

Of the two, I liked “Ode to the Air” better—political poetry often puts me off a bit, though I don’t know exactly why—it’s certainly an interesting genre.  Nothing much in the Americas poem really grabbed me, but I did enjoy in “Air” the interplay between the air and the speaker, and the way the speaker complained about water and light selling themselves out.  So air refuses to be contained, instead romping all around with the narrator,
bringing down the flowers
of the apple tree
entering through windows,
I was reading when the cats came to visit to help me watch the birds, the window open; “let’s go / where a new spring / is flowering,” the narrator told the air and me and Juno and Sylvie, and we watched the birds and felt the air together.

Friday, April 4, 2014

“All that the sirens had forgot”

Today’s poem has interested me in the book itself—how it’s put together, how the poems were written, what sort of notes and critical apparatus we have here. Called “Ode to an Aged Poet,” the poem describes the subject “hurrying towards death,” and I started to wonder—is Neruda the aged poet himself? is this some sort of imagined dialogue? or is there a real aged poet? I found notes that let me know that an upcoming ode to an anchor is written about Neruda’s very own anchor (and where that anchor came from), but no word on the AP. The anchor poem brought me to the realization that the odes were arranged alphabetically too, which sort of made me sad as I imagined they’d be in the order they were written—except I should have been smart enough to know that the poor editor probably would never have been able to tell exactly how to order poems that way and alphabetical probably looked like salvation to him.

At any rate, the book jacket notes that Neruda “was in his late forties when he committed himself to writing an ode a week”—so I imagine he is not the aged poet after all. And this gives me hope, that as a poet in my late forties I might start something new—and I wonder if committing to a project like this means that he actually managed to write an ode every week without missing. My own writing is really suffering this semester since I lost my accountability partner—a woman in Texas I called at 8:30 every morning so we could tell each other what we were going to write today and whether we managed it the day before (and no, I didn’t bore her to death; she got to busy to keep up the calls). Neruda probably didn’t need an accountability partner, though I guess he probably wasn’t teaching full-time either. Then I wonder, did Neruda have a day job? And research yields my answer and more—he was a diplomat! Pablo Neruda was a pen name! So many things you can find out all from wondering about an aged poet! This post feels very random, and probably is very random—it’s been a long day in a long week, and I’m not sure anything much makes sense to me tonight. My kitty helped me read my mail and today’s poem, though, and she seems to think random is just fine for now—I’ll buy that.