Author Archives: bp

Changeling – Rhina P. Espaillat

 

Read by Shawna Monson
Audio from Poetry Foundation

I want to tell myself she is not you,
this sullen woman wearing Mama’s eyes
all wrong, whose every gesture rings untrue
and yet familiar. In your harsh disguise
I sometimes need to find you, sometimes fear
I will, if I look closely into her.
I want to tell myself you are not here,
trapped in this parody of what you were,
but love was never safe: it lives on danger,
finds what can’t be found by any other
power on Earth or over it. This stranger
is you, is all the you there is, my mother
whose gentler face is gone beyond recall,
and I must love you so, or not at all.

(1991)

Not Poetry: David Foster Wallace’s Syllabus

English 102 – Literary Analysis 1: Prose Fiction

UT-Austin houses the archives of author and teacher David Foster Wallace. They’ve made public some of his teaching materials from Illinois State University, including a syllabus and marked up copies of the texts he taught. The files are a bit small so it’s a little difficult to read, but I love the conversational tone of the syllabus – far more interesting than any syllabus I ever read or composed myself. There are a number of interesting lines. I’m struck by the emphasis on reading each text twice, “All reading assignments are two for one”. Perhaps my favorite: “Handwritten corrections on typed work (stuffed crossed out, added, words respelled) are not only accepted but encouraged, since they’re usually signs of sedulous proofreading. Better right than neat (as long as its readable).” If I were to go back into teaching I would have to at least try that rule out to see what results it brought.

Link courtesy of Open Culture where Josh Jones provides some of his thoughts on the materials.

Link Wednesday – @poemotw, National Book Award, Latimer, Kofi Awoonor

quillfox>> It was, in the end, inevitable. poem.oftheweek.org is joining Twitter. Follow @poemotw to keep up with updates (at least a few a year), receive interesting links, and banter about poetry in our modern life.

>> The National Book Award has announced its longlist for poetry. Check out the works here. The winner will be announced October 16.

>> Poetry Foundation has posted a fascinating article by Ruth Graham about the life of editor Ronald Lane Latimer. Latimer (born James Leippert) published Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams among many other authors. According to Graham, “he disappeared from the literary scene after just a few years, switching careers, cities, and even religions several times.” Definitely worth a read.


>> There were several articles and tributes written about the Ghanaian poet, scholar, and activist Kofi Awoonor who was among those killed during the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi on September 21-24. Here is one from the New York Times. Another from The Christian Science Monitor. A more personal recollection comes from Paula Kahumbu. An excerpt from his “Songs of Sorrow“:

Tell them their house is falling
And the trees in the fence
Have been eaten by termites
That the martels curse them.
Ask them why they idle there
While we suffer, and eat sand.
And the crow and the vulture
Hover always above our broken fences
And strangers walk over our portion.

Wanting to Die – Anne Sexton

(source: Open Culture)

Since you asked me most days I cannot remember
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by the voyage.
Then almost unnameable lust returns.

Even then I have nothing against life.
I know well that grass blades you mentioned,
The furniture you have placed under the sun.

But Suicides have specail launguage.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools,
They never ask why build.

Twice I have so simply declared myself,
Have possession of the enmy, eaten the enmy,
Have taken on his craft, his music.

In this way, hear thoughtful
Warmer than oil or water
I have rested, drooling at the mouthhole.

I do not think of my body at needle point.
Even the cornea and leftover urine were gone.
Suicides have already betrayed the body.

Still-born they don’t always die,
But dazzled, they can’t forget a drug so sweet
That even children would look on and smile.

To Trust all that life under your tongue!
That, all by itself, becomes a passion
Death’s a sad bone; bruised, you’d say

And yet after she waits for me. Year after Year.
To so delicately undo an old wound,
To empty my breath from its bad prison.

Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,
Raging at the fruit, a pumped up moon,
Leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,

Leaving the page of the book carelessly open
Something unsaid, the phone off the hook
And the love, whatever it was, an infection.

(1967)