six word stories

July 21, 2014 - One Response

It is Ernest Hemingway’s 115th birthday, and there is no better way to celebrate than to hastily write six word flash fiction. (That’s a blatant lie. There is surely a better way, and it would most likely involve alcohol, sexism, and shooting wildlife.) Hemingway supposedly won a $10 bet when he managed to write this story in just six words:

“For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”

 

Despite my lack of a $1.66 per word incentive, here are a few of my own attempts:

The match fell, still lit. Oops.

“Me or the dog?” “The dog.”

I left without telling him why.

Was it bad for you, too?

Apples and humans: both gravity-prone. 

Quit job. Smelled roses. Ignored debt.

“Happy Birthday, Ernie!” “Where’s my absinthe?”

And lastly, although it was written in the context of her full-length novel, The Passion, I quote Jeanette Winterson:

“I’m telling you stories. Trust me.”

 

summer canon

July 15, 2014 - Leave a Response

When it reaches 100ºF in the afternoon and the only activity that is both free and not sweat-inducing is taking the bus to the public library, it makes sense that one would spend most of the summer reading in the safety of air conditioned rooms. This is exactly what I have been doing. Despite my lack of recent posts, I have been writing, too, though I am hoarding away my new poems until I have made it past the usual all-my-writing-is-terrible phase of the revision process. In lieu, then, of posting anything original, I am very lazily offering up a list of the things I have read this summer so far. I would highly recommend all of them. 

by Anne Carson:  

Glass, Irony and God 
If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho
Antigonick
Autobiography of Red 

by Jeanette Winterson:

Art Objects
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? 

by Virginia Woolf:

A Room of One’s Own
Mrs. Dalloway

On my desk is also Judith Butler’s Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative, which I have been reading only a few pages at a time when I’m in the mood for theory, and I also have a daunting stack of Derrida that I checked out last week in a moment of extreme readerly optimism. I will in all likelihood read 20-30 pages of a random chapter of Writing and Difference before losing my scholarly resolve and switching back to fiction. Woolf’s Orlando and To The Lighthouse are piled underneath Derrida’s essay collections, and they look inviting. In the course of writing this post, I have also put two of Winterson’s novels, The Passion and Written on the Body, on hold through the magic that is online cataloging. Give a bibliophile a library card…  

from Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?:  

“I picked up my pile of books for shelving. The library was quiet. It was busy but it was quiet and I thought it must be like this in a monastery where you had company and sympathy but your thoughts were your own. I looked up at the enormous stained-glass window and the beautiful oak staircase. I loved that building.

The librarian was explaining the benefits of the Dewey decimal system to her junior – benefits that extended to every area of life. It was orderly, like the universe. It had logic. It was dependable. Using it allowed a kind of moral uplift, as one’s own chaos was also brought under control.

‘Whenever I am troubled,’ said the librarian, ‘I think about the Dewey decimal system.’

‘Then what happens?’ asked the junior, rather overawed.

‘Then I understand that trouble is just something that has been filed in the wrong place.’”

#gpoy

June 25, 2014 - Leave a Response

The one and only downside of being included in a print publication is that I can’t easily link to my work online. I’ve wanted to share my poems that have been published in Pages for a while, and so here they are, thanks to my realization that camera phones exist. (On that note, I recently started using instagram. So far, this has primarily involved posting pictures of Austin with artsy filters. Follow me so that I feel validated in this endeavor. As always, my handle is hctrees.)

from Belleville Park Pages 21, Late May 2014

from Belleville Park Pages 21, Late May 2014

from Belleville Park Pages 12, Late November 2013

from Belleville Park Pages 12, Late November 2013

glutton

June 20, 2014 - Leave a Response

I am binging to fill up the empty parts of me.
Oil and grain and sugar and salt
all packed in until I am solid stone.
I will sink to the bottom of the pool
and no one will look for me there.

I am building muscle, all density and heat
until I am a molten mass
hurtling through space, reckless.
I am a loose cannon, iron, wrought.
My flesh will bash through your flesh.

Was it good for you, too?
Good is a loaded word for loaded bodies.
My eyes are brimmed up with glances,
my wrists are weighted: blood and tendon and time.
Hear me out. My hands are wide enough for us both.

an origami trick

June 13, 2014 - Leave a Response

In a single omnipotent gesture, I would
fold the map of the earth onto itself,
connecting all disparate points,
the state borders lying on each other,
languishing,
all the geographic limbs –
peninsulas, archipelagos, valleys –
mingling their longitudinal longings,
latitudes drifting across
oceans, wave
by wave, from parallel to
indelible proximity,
evergreens twining roots
with palms, dawn and dusk
loosing themselves into risings,
fallings, winds
collapsing into their opposites, until
in stillness all the world
faces itself and sleeps
as a single speck,
all closeness closed,
hands clasped,
a brilliant winking spot of
singularity,
and outside of us,
nothing.

This poem is in part inspired by Sharon Olds’ “Topography,” which includes the brilliant lines, “my Kansas / burning against your Kansas your Kansas / burning against my Kansas.”  If you aren’t familiar with her work, I’d suggest starting with her 1987 collection, The Gold Cell

Pages 21

May 28, 2014 - Leave a Response

This is just a quick update to let my followers know that one of my poems is being published in the upcoming issue of Belleville Park Pages! You can pick up Pages 21 in a select group of bookstores in the US and Europe (here is the full list), or you can order it online here. As some of you might remember, I had a poem in Pages 12 last November, and I’m so excited to continue to contribute to this wonderful little publication!

And because I cannot make a post without including poetry suggestions, below is an excerpt from Anne Carson’s Glass, Irony and God. I’m currently staying in LA with a friend who works at Book Soup, a shop in West Hollywood, and because it is a universally acknowledged truth that if you enter a bookshop, you are obligated to buy something, I ended up with this collection of Carson’s poetry.

from “The Glass Essay”

Perhaps the hardest thing about losing a lover is
to watch the year repeat its days.
It is as if I could dip my hand down

into time and scoop up
blue and green lozenges of April heat
a year ago in another country.

I can feel that other day running underneath this one
like an old videotape – here we go fast around the last corner
up the hill to his house, shadows

of limes and roses blowing in the car window
and music spraying from the radio and him
singing and touching my left hand to his lips.

ten poetry suggestions

April 25, 2014 - Leave a Response

During a recent afternoon haze, I was browsing through Buzzfeed’s never-ending stream of quizzes and listicles when I came across a surprising article on poetry (surprising in that it was 1. a collection of full sentences, and 2. a reasonably thoughtful collection of full sentences). Once you get past the initial fact that “life changing” [sic] is negligently unhyphenated in the title of the piece, it’s not bad. I was especially glad to see Nabokov’s Pale Fire and Joni Mitchell’s song, “Both Sides Now,” included on their list, both of which I would highly recommend. 

And so this final week of National Poetry Month has seen me thinking about life-changing poems, trying to decide what counts as life-changing, what counts as a poem, and falling down the rabbit hole of the Poetry Foundation website. I’ve finally come up with a list of my own “life-changing” poems, and if you’re feeling particularly gluttonous, I would also suggest reading this wonderfully diverse selection recommended by various Carleton College professors.

1. “Loves” by Stephen Dunn – from Landscape at the End of the Century. When people ask me what my favorite poem is, this is usually the piece that comes to mind.

2. “She Had Some Horses” by Joy Harjo – Listen to the recording of Harjo reading this. It’s worth it.

3. “America” by Allen Ginsberg – Why should “Howl” get all the attention?

4. “i like my body” by e.e. cummings – It was incredibly hard to choose a single poem by cummings; reading 100 Selected Poems in its entirety is a worthy pursuit.

5. “Fever 103˚” by Sylvia Plath – From Ariel, another amazing poetry collection that I first read all in one sitting and instantly loved.

6. “I Don’t Miss It” by Tracy K. Smith – From Duende. I would also highly recommend Life on Mars, her Pulitzer-winning collection.

7. “Madame George” by Van Morrison – Yes, it’s a song (track 6 on Astral Weeks).

8. Antigonick by Anne Carson – This is a translation of Sophocles’ Antigone, so it is perhaps a bit of a stretch to claim that the entire play is a poem. But it is one of the best things I’ve ever read, and to call it prose does not do it justice.

9. “I Go Back to May 1937” by Sharon Olds – Olds’ work is fearless in its transparency. I can only hope that one day I will be brave enough to write as honestly as she does.

10. “The Waking” by Theodore Roethke – A villanelle that puts every villanelle I’ve written to shame.

the elk breaks up with me

April 15, 2014 - Leave a Response

Stop what you’re doing. Stop it right now. Okay. Now go read Patricia Lockwood’s hilarious essay, “Is It Work?” In addition to being an extremely talented poet, Lockwood is insanely hilarious (and also really good at twitter). But to the point: in this particular satirical essay, she argues that poetry is indeed work, even if the only sweating involved is “the weird thing that sometimes happens under your right arm because you haven’t lifted it up for 8 hours.” And she also pokes fun at several canonical poets, such as Elizabeth Bishop, who “only ever wrote one poem, a villanelle about an elk breaking up with her (“The Elk Breaks Up with Me”).” On that note, I realized that the internet needed this poem. Desperately. So I wrote it. 

(With endless apologies to Bishop, whose original poem, “One Art“, you should probably read)

The Elk Breaks Up with Me

Breaking up isn’t hard to master;
so many loves seem filled with the intent
to break that their break is no disaster.

Break a heart every day. Accept the fluster
of broken promises, the text badly sent.
Breaking up isn’t hard to master.

Then practice breaking farther, breaking faster:
engagements, marriages, who it was you meant
to call. None of these will bring disaster.

I broke my purity ring. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of friends with benefits went.
Breaking up isn’t hard to master.

I broke two romances, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some oaths I swore, two pacts, without lament.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

–Even breaking up with you (the fuzzy nose, a feature
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
breaking up’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

skeptic

March 24, 2014 - Leave a Response

I am worried about the children 

who too soon stop believing the lies they are told,

which is to say I am fearful

for my self, alive, limbs still attached,

miraculous unity, symbiosis 

of muscle and mind.

I am stitched together,

threadbare at elbows, knees,

lips and tongue;

pull me and I’ll tear

in all the necessary places.

Cut me loose, watch my self spill

across the altar of virtue and decay.

What a way to live, but tell me,

do you know another means 

of making it from one day to the next?

You, who would live,

memorize the names of the dead

and speak them again into being.

For a moment, feel the privilege

of your heat and terror

while I remind my self 

to breathe, to sleep, to breathe again.

the serious taxonomist

March 23, 2014 - Leave a Response

(A poem presented without comment on my long blogging silence because really I have no excuse. Not even writer’s block. I know, I’m terrible. I’m sorry. Please don’t hate this thing I wrote. It has been a long winter.)

When you imagine, as you do,
Vladimir Nabokov at his microscope,
poring over the genitalia of butterflies,
you wonder what makes writing good.
You suspect it involves will,
observation, and time,
not mere skill, but dedication
to crossing out phrases that don’t belong,
replacing them with ones that do.
Perhaps it is also a question
of plot, character, truthiness,
but what has that to do
with the bleary-eyed lepidopterist,
purblind from the strain of study?
He knows only how to preserve
the color of the spoken word
and the symmetry of two blue wings.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 298 other followers