Monthly Archives: January 2012

A quote, a video and a promise

 

A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved. – Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan

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The quote: I read The Sirens of Titan over the Christmas break and haven’t gotten around to writing about it yet. But I will!

The video: I saw this man, Asia Samson, at my first official spoken-word poetry show, and I haven’t gotten around to writing about him yet. But I will!

Those are the promises.

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Behind the door

In the basement, there is a door.

It’s a simple wooden door, made of pine or maybe oak. The pattern of the wood runs backwards, from bottom to top, and there’s a little handle with a crystal knob. The door creaks, pushes forward against the doorframe and leans back, straining on its hinges. There is a gap of about an inch at the bottom of the door.

Battles rage behind the door in the basement. The rousing shouts of soldiers push against the door, flattening the pine or oak into its frame. Thousands of bodies sheathed in armor clank against each other, pressed in like prisoners. The sounds of their swords slip under the inch of open space between the door and the floor.

I press my ear to the door and listen for details—the names of the armies, the cause, the winner, the loser, but all of that is lost. All soldiers sound the same; death and victory and loss all sound the same behind the simple wooden door.

The ocean always exists behind the door. The ocean sways with the tide, pushing in and out, and the door sighs slowly like this is its favorite part. Salt water and sand seep through the inch-wide crack at the bottom of the door. I press my ear to the door because the sea sounds are soothing, except when the tide rumbles.

When the sea turns harsh, I think I can hear the distant cries of men caught on boats as small and pointless as paper hats in the vast, angry sea. Or maybe those are just the cries of the army.

Hurricanes rage behind the door. They build up in the sea and travel straight to the space behind the door, whirling and howling there. Debris bangs into the door, rain slips through the inch-long crack at the bottom and the wind sucks and spits at the door in turn. The eye passes through and the door stills, but it shakes on its hinges like it knows the war’s not over. Then the storm starts again, spitting and sucking, whirling and howling.

I fortify the door in these times, tuck towels into the inch-wide slat and stack heavy things against the simple wood so the door doesn’t suddenly blow free and unleash the hurricane.

At dawn, Eden is behind the door. Birds call into foggy mornings and rivers trickle over stones, sometimes splashing through the inch-long gap under the door. It’s always early, when it’s Eden behind the door, and the sounds are soothing in a different way than the tide. These are the sounds of the Earth at its most natural, before billions of people erected billions of monuments to themselves.

Sometimes I think I can hear the hiss of the Snake; the soft snapping sound of an apple plucked from a tree branch, and I shout No, Eve, don’t do it, you’ll be blamed and your sisters and daughters will be blamed for all the bad in the world, but then I hear the sound of teeth breaking through fruit skin and I know it’s too late.

Eden never lasts very long; just in the morning.

At night it’s Pandora’s box, the screams of sins freshly unleashed upon the world. Fear infests the space behind the door, and it makes a sound like beetles scuttling over dry sand. Greed and hate slip past their four-cornered prison and breathe behind the door, wheezing shallow breaths that bring nightmares to life. Demons shake the door on its hinges and a few slip through the inch-long crack at the bottom of the door, free to spread fear and greed and hate.

Sometimes I cling to the edges of my bed sheets and wait for the night to pass, and sometimes I lean my shoulder into the door and hold back the flood. A few times, during the very worst nights, I can hear the army fighting against the sins.

In the morning, it’s Eden again. The birds and the rivers and Eve and the apple.

In the afternoon, my mother goes down to the basement. She lays her hand on the crystal doorknob that connects to the simple wooden door made of pine or maybe oak. She turns the knob and opens the door. She steps through the door and does the washing.

In the afternoon, the space behind the door is a laundry room.

– Kelsey

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A lanky light bulb

"My father, the long-winded student with a penchant for sexual innuendo, meets Reiko Hori, a well dressed banker who forgets the choruses of her favorite songs. Twelve years later they give birth to a lanky light bulb." - Phil Kaye, Teeth

I have found the love of my life. No need to look any further, because I know who he is, what he does and how lovely his poetry sounds.

Okay, maybe that’s a tad much, but listen to this guy! His name is Phil Kaye, and he is actually quite good friends with my other favorite spoken-word poet, Sarah Kay. No relation, but the two are both Japanese American and Jewish, and they have the exact same type of loveliness. Seriously, look at these two together!

I didn't realize that combining Japanese heritage with Jewish heritage made THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE EVER.

They’re such good friends, in fact, that they sponsored Project V.O.I.C.E. together. Phil and Sarah go around the country spreading spoken-word poetry to people who may not have given it a chance yet. They also teach workshops for aspiring poets. Needless to say, I’d sell my right arm to be able to attend one of these workshops (not my left, though–I’m left-handed).

Seriously, if my obsession with Sarah Kay hasn’t prompted you to at least watch “B” or “Hiroshima” yet, you should give her a listen now. And if you trusted me then and I didn’t fail you, check out Phil. He’s just as talented, his delivery and material are wonderful, and did I mention he’s a-freaking-dorable?

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Don’t you leave him!

‘If you don’t come back, sir, then I shan’t, that’s certain,’ said Sam. ‘Don’t you leave him! they said to me. Leave him! I said. I never mean to. I am going with him, if he climbs to the Moon, and if any of those Black Riders try to stop him, they’ll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with, I said. They laughed.’

– Sam to Frodo, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

 

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Why did you betray your own heart, Cathy?

Wuthering heights

Top Withens in England is believed to be Emily Bronte's inspiration for Wuthering Heights. Photo from flickr via Creative Commons

When I was in high school, they made us read Wuthering Heights over summer break. For one, assigning a sad, epic love story to a happy-go-lucky kid during the happiest-go-luckiest holiday ever was just poor planning. Also, I have to admit, my tastes weren’t as well-developed then as they are now.

Long story short, I hated it.

I didn’t understand why on earth I was reading about a jerk who falls in love with a jerk and they go around acting like jerks and everyone is supposed to be, what? Impressed? I read halfway through, then promptly found a cliff-notes version and managed to write my paper that way.

Skip forward to my sophomore year of college. Something prompts me to check Wuthering Heights out from the library—perhaps because a lot of people in college are jerks that go around acting like jerks and I wanted a greater understanding of them.

Naturally, I loved it. Every page, every scene, every coarse, anguished conversation between Heathcliff and his true love, Cathy. Sure, it can be over the top at times, but you can just feel the passion through the ink. I even have that one, desperate speech of Heathcliff’s memorized. Really.

I also think that Wuthering Heights, though not exactly a how-to on successful relationships, gives a definition of love that feels closest to what I believe. When Catherine is describing her love for Heathcliff to Nelly, she says simply, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

So, it’s not just about two jerks. It’s about two jerks who find this impossible, perfect kind of love, only they destroy it because—well, they’re jerks. They can’t help it. Kind of sounds like the entire human race, right?

“Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!” – Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights

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January 9, 2012 · 12:22 pm

Barreling Through Writer’s Block

Photo courtesy of Drew Coffman via Creative Commons

Writer’s block! Every writer or poet, no matter how successful or talented, faces the dreaded block at one time or another. It’s like a dam builds up in your brain. You know the ideas are pooling there, waiting to be explored and expanded upon, but you just can’t find them.

No writer’s block can last forever, but when one sets on, we always feel like it will. We know on some level that the muse will return, that one day the dam will fall and the words will come flooding through. But knowing that doesn’t change the fact that it feels like an incurable illness.

Here is my list of what to do when you have writer’s block. All of them have been tested by me and have worked wonders.

Continue reading

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