Why Poetry

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I read poetry

Because of lines like Stein’s

All this and not ordinary

A line just distinguishes it. And

Frank’s Hum-colored Cabs

That bring me elsewhere

Only to gasp from knowing

I have been here before.

Poetry is slow

-writing that asks for

Slow reading.

For meaning not easily teased

For brevity that strikes its heart-mark

For the now and now, this,

That you and I share

That was nothing before this.

Poetry by Scribblerbean©

As a former writer for hire, I would discharge words like cheap bullets that more or less hit their marks.  My brain ran on a loop, a Dickinsonian groove, stuck with language as habit rather than craft. Over time, dissatisfaction over crappy writing jobs morphed into illumination, as I tired of the language in my possession and my cavalier use of it. I decided it was time to relearn English, but set my bar as high as I could. Poetry, I knew, was the highest form of language. So I pursued it by going back to university, but that wasn’t enough.  Image

From September through to mid November this year, I shared a virtual classroom with about 35,000 poetry learners around the world, who ranged from teachers with advanced degrees to eager and nervous novices. Devoting myself to a fast-paced syllabus, the study of poetry shaped my mornings, infused my afternoon half-naps, kept me up until my entire household was fast asleep. But this was a class unlike any I had ever signed up for.

Offered through Coursera, Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (ModPo, lovingly) boasts of both passion and bold, cutting-edge pedagogy. Meticulously designed and taught by University of Pennsylvania’s Al Filreis, ModPo is an intimate, no-lectures-given, community-driven, tech-enabled village of multitudes brought together by a love of language. Given my unconventional academic path and my physical distance from institutions offering the rigorous training I craved, I have been thankful for the accessibility of MOOCs and online learning. But ModPo is an experience as extraordinary as Al himself, sprung from an ecosystem of webcasts, readings, and live events open to all lovers of poetry. And quite unlike my online classes with their forums and uploading of course content, one is present “in ModPo” truly and holistically. Al and his brilliant, captivating TAs are, safe to say, ever-present both on- and offline, through weekly webcasts, in near-synchronous online exchanges, and on campus, real-life/real-time meet-ups at the Kelly Writers House. Al and the ModPo team offer presence, accessibility, and enthusiasm, and immense generosity with both material and insight. ModPo gives its students more than a deep engagement with poetic texts and ideas; it cultivates an uncommon community that jumps borders. Image

Nearly two weeks after its official end, ModPo’s forums are still abuzz with students-turned-online friends. The poetry talk rages on, hearts and minds urged wide open anew to receive and make meaning of Whitman, Dickinson, O’Hara, Stein, Kerouac, Ashbery, Goldsmith.

It was the right decision to pursue poetry because there is much fulfillment in it. Whether I evolve towards poetic practice that involves writing and publishing remains to be seen, but I am hopeful with this, my renewed relationship with language. Today I am more than content chatting with newfound poetry friends around the world, and unraveling newfound favorites, like Whitman and Stein, and O’Hara, Ashbery, and Silliman. Thank you, Al; and thank you, ModPo community.

Cut & Paste

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I’ve spent the past few weeks immersed in silent dialogue with a few modernist and post-modernist poems. I tell myself it’s for fun (which it is, for the most part) but this is so I remain calm and collected in the few weeks before finals. The fun arises from stumbling on ordinary things with unexpected poetic value: fragments cobbled together with the softest of glues, found texts, other people’s status updates, song lyrics ripped out of context.

When exams are over I hope to swim in the most forgiving and warm waters of Free Time, to put aside grownup talk so I can exercise my other voice. In the meantime, as a complement to the first paragraph, here’s a bit of cut-and-paste cheekery.

bing is a Poet (and Didn’t Know It)

Morning sun ahead of holiday

Skies falling rain.

Corner of the wind up, naughty, blow hair.

It does not affect the Friday caper.

Rain on umbrella shades, tick-tock

Interweaving into notes.

Drops of rain on the ground

Moments into one small flower

Tick rain the beat

Spa system generative. Forces clouds,

Float like a cloud

That is the best suited to drain

When it rains.

 

- adapted from an advertisement in Mandarin, as translated by Bing

Awards Season

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Being in transit over the holidays meant we had no tree in our flat. I wrapped a total of three presents (small ones). It’s quiet work, waiting for the holiday spirit to visit.

But I came back after Christmas to find that fellow wanderer becomingmadame.wordpress.com had nominated Scribblerbean for two awards: the Beautiful Blogger Award and The Reader Appreciation Award. Mme’s sweet little note was probably one of the best presents a writer writing alone could receive: encouragement, and a quick little wink across continents that said, you’re doing ok. Merci beaucoup, Madame!

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As if that wasn’t enough, Josh Lattimer, who creates dazzling posts on fictionalmachines.com had also sent me a nomination for the One Lovely Blog Award.

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In turn, I wish to nominate Jmkhaprawannatellyouastory.wordpress.com

She produces wondrous little stories and illustrations that move me with their honesty and boldness.

Now these may just look like colorful little badges, but I haven’t been blogging for very long. Encouragement goes a long way! So for that, thank you ever so much. I resolve to write a little more everyday in emulation of bloggers I’ve admired over these past few months.

In the spirit of Oscar Fever and the Awards season, I’m passing along nominations for the Beautiful Blogger Award and Reader Appreciation Award to 15 blogs. These writers inspire me with their dedication to the craft, their brave, writerly ways, darling geekiness, and wanderlust.

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Marousia.wordpress.com

Bottledworder.wordpress.com

Jilannehoffmann.com

Ambientehotel.wordpress.com

Marcusspeh.com

Jarofsalt.com

Onthehomefrontandbeyond.wordpress.com

Tigergroves.wordpress.com

Catherinejohnson.wordpress.com

Poetrynotesandjottings.wordpress.com

Ayearinmyshoes.wordpress.com

Thirdculturekidlife.com

Gregorygcollins.com

Reddirtlattes.com

Anilbalan.com

If you wish to, here’s what you do next:

  1. Link back to the person who nominated you
  2. Post the award(s) on your page
  3. Nominate 15 other blogs
  4. Share 7 random facts about yourself.

Here are my 7 random facts:

  1. I can’t do rollercoasters or tequila.
  2. One of the seven fish in my aquarium is missing an eye.
  3. The monster under my bed was a zombie. Of this I am sure.
  4. I draw pictures with paint in my other journals.
  5. I wish I’d worked harder to do better in math class.
  6. My bedtime is 2 am.
  7. I have never been to New York City.

Thank you for letting me into your strange and beautiful corners! I look forward to your wonderful musings in 2013.

The Value of Solitude

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I’ve overturned a log in the forest and out scurried colorful little creatures that were hiding in the crevices. Not really, no. But it’s been a little like this, over the past 48 hours. Just the other day a friend of mine posted this infographic, about living with introverts.

Putting it on my own wall, I wasn’t expecting the flurry of responses. From other friends and their friends (strangers to me) came a collective sigh of relief after holding one’s breath for too long. The nervous laugh of recognition continues to ripple across my little cyber-community. I love how we’ve all come out of the woodwork, I wrote in a comment.

I am an introvert.

I’ve never announced it before, and doing so now feels strangely counter-intuitive, a paradox. But I felt such a warm sense of approval from my fellow silent observers, over the sudden claiming of a voice (usually we keep our stories to ourselves; this is why many of us are writers). It appears that I am not the only one left to drift to the edge of a crowded room in an extrovert-dominated world.

As the hours passed more friends came out to confess they too were introverts. One of them reposted my original post, which generated another round of confessions on her wall. Another (her friend, a stranger to me) then shared this, a list of common misconceptions about people like us.

So now I thought to share it here, and my amazement over how much of it rings true. Such as how we need solitude like we need air; how we are often mistaken for rude or weird.

I value my solitude and need it. When I turn down an invitation to hang out, it does not mean I’ve stopped being your friend. Believe me when I say I value you, more than I can express.

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Sometimes I disappear, as those closest to me can attest. I don’t mean to be rude, I am just desperate to recharge. Most times, I am exhausted; sometimes I’m just lost in my own head. And other times, being around too many people means I’m in danger of losing myself.

What I have also lost are a few friends, who probably took my withdrawing ways as an affront. This pains me but I have no clue how to fix it. Others (who I now suspect to be introverts too) respectfully and quietly hover just out of my periphery. I feel their warmth even though I don’t see them, and am grateful and comforted.

To those who haven’t quite figured me out, know you are one of a handful of carefully selected friends. You’re important to me so please stick around. Know that I always come back and may even invite you out for coffee, so we can talk. Thanks for waiting, and for understanding.