Poetry Wednesday – Muriel Rukeyser

[Murmurs from the earth of this land]
by Muriel Rukeyser

Murmurs from the earth of this land, from the caves and craters,
       from the bowl of darkness. Down watercourses of our
       dragon childhood, where we ran barefoot.
We stand as growing women and men. Murmurs come down
        where water has not run for sixty years.
Murmurs from the tulip tree and the catalpa, from the ax of
        the stars, from the house on fire, ringing of glass; from
        the abandoned iron-black mill.
Stars with voices crying like mountain lions over forgotten
        colors.
Blue directions and a horizon, milky around the cities where the
        murmurs are deep enough to penetrate deep rock.
Trapping the lightning-bird, trapping the red central roots.
You know the murmurs. They come from your own throat.
You are the bridges to the city and the blazing food-plant green;
The sun of plants speaks in your voice, and the infinite shells of
        accretions
A beach of dream before the smoking mirror.
You are close to that surf, and the leaves heated by noon, and
        the star-ax, the miner’s glitter walls. The crests of the sea
Are the same strength you wake with, the darkness is the eyes
        of children forming for a blaze of sight and soon, soon,
Everywhere, you own silence, who drink from the crater, the
        nebula, one another, the changes of the soul.
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This poem just feels so rich. None of the imagery in this poem is commonplace. Every line has something strange about it, something that on the first read might not strike you as odd, but upon a closer look, really stands out as being out of the ordinary. “A beach of dream,” or “our/dragon childhood” and “The sun of plants speaks in your voice.” I love the new meaning this poem gives to different words, using them in a way that is unusual, but still retaining the meaning.

 

Spain! – Salobreña & Málaga

Remember that time I went to Spain? Remember that time I wrote a post about how I went to Spain, almost 8 months later? Well here we are 10 months later and I decided to write another post! Each weekend, I went on a small trip to other towns besides Granada. I got to see a lot of southern Spain, from small beach towns to the huge and tourist-friendly Sevilla.

One thing about traveling alone, as I mentioned last time, is that people just really want to talk to you because you look lonely. Sometimes I really wanted people to talk to, and I learned a lot about people in Spain from the conversations we had. Other times, however, I really just wanted people to leave me alone. Like the time I decided to take a day trip to Salobreña. Even though it was the beginning of October, in Southern Spain that’s definitely still beach weather. The closest beach (and only a 5 euro bus ride away!) was Salobreña, so my house mom packed me a lunch and I set off. When I got to the bus station, the first bus out was sold out, so I had to wait an hour for the next one. Now, I was armed with sudoku and patience, so I wasn’t too worried. Until this gentlemanly old man sat down next to me.

First of all, we couldn’t understand each other. Southern Spain, especially among the older generation, has a pretty difficult-to-understand accent. I didn’t have too much trouble during my trip, but this man’s accent was very thick. The conversation took a turn for the weird when the man asked me why I was traveling alone.

As before, I explained to him what I was doing and where I was going (unfortunately). Then he offered to accompany me to Salobreña, because, you know, I am too female to travel alone. Okay, seriously, this man didn’t walk, he shuffled. If anyone was going to do the protecting in these mysterious when-traveling-alone-goes-wrong scenarios that these men imagine, it was me. So I politely declined. Then he offered to wait for me at the train station so he could walk me home. (WTF?) Once again I politely declined and then promptly changed seats.

Then the bus got there and, thank god, he was not waiting for me when I returned from Salobreña. Salobreña was a quaint little town, but the only thing there was the beach and some fancy houses on a hill. That was fine with me, so I stayed the afternoon and caught the bus home. It was a pretty relaxed Saturday, even with the harassment.

The next weekend, I decided to go to Málaga. Oh, Málaga, such fond memories I have of you. I really wish I had gotten to spend more time in this beautiful town, but I only had a few hours because I had to catch my bus back the same day. After getting off the bus, instead of figuring out the complicated transit system, I just walked everywhere. It was a lot of walking, but so worth it. Málaga has some incredible gardens and their city is, in my opinion, a lot better kept and cleaner than Granada. This has a lot to do with the fact that it is smaller and more of a resort town than Granada, but I still wish I had more time to explore.

I spent most of my afternoon in Málaga climbing this thing. Another thing about traveling alone, without much of a guidebook, is the complete lack of information I have about the places I took pictures of. When I show pictures to people and they ask me to tell them what things are, I usually have no idea. But here, just for you, I am going to Wikipedia this. Oh! Did you know that Málaga is one of the oldest cities in the world? Also interesting, Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas were born in Málaga. As far as I can tell, this is either Alcazaba, a Moorish fortress, or Gibralfaro Castle. They are on the same hill, and I know I eventually saw both of them, but I’m not positive which one is in the picture.

Anyway, I decided to take the scenic route. By “decided,” I mean I couldn’t find the faster, more direct route. Which was fine, but it was a work out. It’s a very steep incline that winds up the mountain, going back and forth and back and forth until you finally reach the top. At the top, there are the two fortresses. Though the old buildings were beautiful, and it meant a lot to me to be able to stand on something so very old, what I appreciated more were the stunning views of Málaga from the highest point in the city.

Did I mention the gardens? Stunning.

I never did get to go to a bull fight, and I’m not entirely sure I would like to, other than the witnessing the cultural aspect of it. But I did get this nice shot of the bull ring and the beautiful Mediterranean in the background.

After my climb up the mountain, I was exhausted and, of course, starving, so I decided to splurge a little on a meal for myself. I was on a very tight budget in Spain. Fortunately, my program included 3 meals a day, so I didn’t have to worry about food. But I still wanted to experience one or two meals outside of my house mom’s cooking. She was a great cook, but not perfect, and I just wanted to experience eating out at a restaurant. Now, don’t worry, we got our tapas on most Thursdays and Fridays, but that only put me back 5 euros or so a night. So while in Málaga, and starving, I stopped in this seafood restaurant that looked amazing. Here’s the thing about speaking a second language. It doesn’t matter how much you think you know, there’s always some gaping hole in your knowledge. Mine: the names of different sea creatures. So I walk in, sit down, grab a menu and look it over. I didn’t know what a single thing was on the menu. Not a single thing.

Fortunately, there was a friendly older couple sitting next to me at the bar and they helped me out. Sort of. Imagine someone who speaks a foreign language asks you to explain what sea bass is or mackerel or tilapia or any nondescript fish. I asked the man what merluza is. He held up his hands about a foot apart and said, “It’s a fish, this big, and it’s silver.” I don’t know too much about fish, but I’m pretty sure he just described half the ocean.

Anyway, it didn’t matter because it turns out the fish is something called hake, which I had never heard of anyway. But it was pretty delicious. It was described and being in a “salsa verde,” which was kind of exciting, because one of the things I missed most about the States was Mexican food. I thought, for sure, salsa verde was of the Mexican variety. This was not true, at all. It was a green caper sauce, which was good, but not what I imagined. So I started talking to this couple about my travels and studies and life, when this other older man, who I had not noticed, turns to me and says in the worst accent I have ever heard, “Americano?”

I responded in English, “Yes” and he struck up a conversation with me that turned very weird, very fast. He told me all about his travels and I asked him if he’d ever been to the United States. “Oh, no,” he replied, “I hate America.”

What?

Look, I get it, you don’t have to like the country I am from, but would this be acceptable for anyone from the US to say? If it were reversed and I had said to him, a British man, “Oh, no, I’ve never been to England. I hate Great Britain,” what would he have said? It was totally out of line and bizarre. But it gets weirder.

So he goes on to tell me all the things he doesn’t like about the US, even though he’s never been there and only seen it on TV, and all the things he hates about USians and, finally, when I couldn’t take it anymore I said, “You know, I think if you really gave it a shot and visited, you’d be very surprised. Not everyone in the US is a loud asshole.” His response: “Well, if more Americans were like you, maybe I would like it. Also, if you showed me around, I bet I would really enjoy it.”

What? Really?

Let me explain, again, this man was at least 70. At least. He could have been my grandfather. It was beyond infuriating to me that I couldn’t have a sensible, mature conversation with anyone of the opposite sex while I was traveling alone without being hit on by people who could have raised my parents. It was a wildly inappropriate thing to say and I just got up and left, having already paid for my food. I walked to the beach to take one more picture:

After taking this picture, I turned around to see the man from the restaurant. He had followed me to the beach. It was then that I decided to head back to the bus station, all the way on the other side of the city, immediately. I got there about an hour early, cutting my trip to Málaga short, but it was okay. Think that ending was a bit anticlimactic? Don’t worry, this guy showed up again, but I’ll save that story for the next post.

Poetry Wednesday – Michael McClure

Mexico Seen From the Moving Car
by Michael McClure

THERE ARE HILLS LIKE SHARKFINS
                                  and clods of mud.
The mind drifts through
in the shape of a museum,
in the guise of a museum
dreaming dead friends:
Jim, Tom, Emmet, Bill.
—Like billboards their huge faces droop
and stretch on the walls,
on the walls of the cliffs out there,
where trees with white trunks
          makes plumes on rock ridges.
My mind is fingers holding a pen.
Trees with white trunks
             make plumes on rock ridges.
Rivers of sand are memories.
Memories make movies
             on the dust of the desert.
Hawks with pale bellies
             perch on the cactus,
their bodies are portholes
             to other dimensions.
This might go on forever.
I am a snake and a tiptoe feather
at opposite ends of the scales
as they balance themselves
against each other.
This might go on forever.
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I go back and forth on adding commentary to my Poetry Wednesday posts. After all, shouldn’t I just let the poem speak for itself? And as much as I like to read poetry and I like to speak about poetry in the abstract sense, when I am facing a poem and expected to discuss, sometimes I am at a loss for words.
I read a lot of poems for Poetry Wednesday. Rather, I read a lot of first lines of poems. Much like judging a book by its cover, I’m a relentless judger of poems by their first lines. But how could you could you read this first line and not read the rest of the poem? I couldn’t. I was rewarded, because the rest of the imagery is as unique and rewarding. This poem is at once about Mexico and the scenery and about the “dreaming dead friends,” an almost painfully sad alliteration, that, tragically, might go on forever.

This post is long, but it is eventually about blogging.

Change is good.

It’s taken me a long time to get used to that idea. I remember when my grandparents cut down the tree in their front yard and I threw a conniption. They kept telling me about how the tree was ugly (true) because it was sick (true) and how it was hurting the rest of the yard (maybe true?), but I didn’t want to hear any of it. I just wanted things to stay the same forever. But they didn’t, of course.

Is that what growing up means? Wow, this just took a real philosophical turn that I wasn’t expecting, but let’s run with it. Is growing up simply the idea that change is an insurmountable, unavoidable, necessary fact of life and well, you better get used to it? Resistance is futile! In all seriousness, though, it’s good to sit back and look at how changes have affected you, to see if everything you are doing is still exactly what you want to be doing. I only have so much free time and, frankly, I want to spend it in the best way possible.

Now, don’t worry, I know this sounds like I’m gearing up to tell you that I’m not going to blog anymore, but that’s not why I’m here. I want to keep blogging, I want to keep writing. Writing is a fundamental part of who I am, whether it is writing poetry, writing in a diary or writing blog posts. But at a certain point, I have to take a step back and really, seriously examine the writing I’m doing. Is it really the best use of my time?

I think the reality is that the answer is no. Regular Rumination has become a comfortable place, where I rarely challenge myself. I write book reviews and sometimes a personal post or two, but it’s always safe. I don’t ruffle feathers. I don’t work at Regular Rumination, like I did in the beginning. I’ve let it get stagnant.

Maybe that was what I needed for a while, but my life has changed. I will have a more organized life and schedule once I have a job. I will be able to set aside time every day to write and I want to make sure that I write every day. I read something interesting, something that really resonated with me. It was on an article called “9 Reasons Your Blog Isn’t Bringing You Clients.” Now, I don’t want my blog to bring me clients. I am not even sure why I clicked on this link, but honestly it has given me the kick start that I needed. Here’s the first reason:

1) You’re acting like an amateur instead of a professional.

Steven Pressfield, in his book The War of Art, talks about Resistance and the difference between amateurs and pros.

Amateurs write when inspired.
Pros write when inspired, but luckily, inspiration always strikes at 9am.

Well – it doesn’t, but the point he makes is that writing is about consistency. The hardest thing to do isn’t to write, but to sit down and prepare for it.

What you can do:

#1:Pick a time of the day and sit down in front of your computer for 10 minutes with all other browser windows closed. Whether you write a line or 10, don’t get up till your time’s up.
#2:Keep a draft folder of all your ideas in your wordpress dashboard, a folder on your computer and in a little notebook that you carry with you. When you’re stuck for ideas, go through them & pick.
# 3: On a day you’re feeling really inspired, stock up on writing 2-3  blog posts and schedule them for later dates.

In the world where amateur simply means that this blog does not make money, Regular Rumination will probably always be an amateur blog. But it terms of professionalism and making Regular Rumination an absolutely essential part of my daily routine, honing and practicing my writing skills, is what’s really important to me right now. There may come a day when I start to write something else and when that happens, Regular Rumination will probably become that safe place again, where I can turn to it and write a review when I feel like it.

That brings me to my next point. I don’t want Regular Rumination to be a place that is just about book reviews. I want to write personal posts, I want to write opinion pieces, I want to link you to relevant information about our community and the book community in general. This blog has to go beyond just book reviews, and I sincerely hope it will.

None of this is a criticism of how other people run their blogs. I read plenty of blogs that just write reviews and I love them. I read blogs that don’t write any reviews, that rarely talk about books, and I love those, too. I don’t want to lose site of the fact that my blog is my space. If what I need right now is to work on being a better writer and, therefore, a better blogger, then that is what I will do.

I hope you’ll begin to see these changes to Regular Rumination in the coming weeks. It’s going to take a little while for them to really start to get off the ground and running, but I hope that we’ll be the better for it. Change is good, remember?

As always, thank you for reading. I wouldn’t be the same without you.

The Watery Part of the World by Michael Parker

I checked this out from the library a few weeks before I started my internship at Algonquin (which sadly ended a few days ago) and I finally read it while I was vacationing in the Outer Banks back in May for a bit of theme reading. The Watery Part of the World is an absolutely beautiful novel about the life of Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of Vice President Aaron Burr, who went missing after a ship wreck in 1813. This novel posits that she was marooned on Yaopaun Island of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, married a man and had children there. She hires a freed slave to help them on the island. The story is told in alternating perspectives between Theodosia in 1813 and her descendants, Mary and Whaley, and Woodrow, an ageing black man who cares for the sisters, despite his family’s desire to see him move to the mainland.

There are so many reasons to love this novel. From the lush descriptions of the Outer Banks, which I relished in since I was laying on an Outer Banks beach while I was reading this, to the way Parker perfectly constructs his story, I never wanted The Watery Part of the World to end. My favorite story line was, without a doubt, Whaley. She’s such an interesting character. We get to contrast her relatively wild youth and middle age with the decrepit and isolated older woman that she is, knowing that somewhere along the way there will be something that traps her on Yaopaun Island with her sister.

It’s been a while since I read this one, so I feel like this review isn’t truly doing this novel justice, but just know that I loved it and I hope you will read it.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve read everything else