29 April 2011

how to make a california girl happy

sit her at a square table in the window of the town's top taqueria between shopper's corner and some salon

charge her only $2.74 for a pork tamale with a heaping sides of guacamole and lettuce, tomato and queso; number her order 1

while she loads up with three different salsas and a cup of limes, deliver the plate to her table

work the cash register, keep an eye on the aguas frescas and the soccer game on the television - the restaurant stays lively but mellow through the lunch hour

know the sensation of a tongue tickled with cinnamon in the red sauce; watch her entertain the idea of a chile relleno, someday

don't block her view of the bike lane - occasionally a beautiful stranger speeds by - or her own bicycle, newly repaired, locked to a rack outside

leave her alone for the twenty minutes while she eats, and bus her table when she gets up and leaves

vera pavlova

I’m reading contemporary Russian poet Vera Pavlova, and I love her. Her poems are matter-of-fact and simultaneously metaphysical. She gets away with the body/soul dichotomy because she also makes mention of “motorbike” and “bowl.” She pulls off ruminations on love because they are so down-to-earth:           
If only I knew from what tongue
your I love you has been translated,

if I could find the original,
consult the dictionary
to be sure the rendition is exact:
The translator is not at fault!
Number 41. And this one, number 50:
I have brushed my teeth.
This day and I are even.

This book is called If There Is Something to Desire: 100 Poems. Most of them, like the title poem, are majorly abstract. But grounded enough to read like treats. I think that’s because each one treats only a single idea. Her intentions, I think, are to articulate love and pain and the weirdness in between.

Poetry is like acupuncture: powerful even—especially—in small doses. And it can release things its recipient wasn’t previously aware of. The following poem, number 14, makes me go “ouch”:

No love? Let us make it!
Done. Next? Let us make
care, tenderness, courage,
 jealousy, glut, lies.

I love how she moves down the spectrum here from the most honorable to the most despicable of human emotions. Care and tenderness are desirable components of love; love demands courage; jealous, glut and lies can be side effects of spoiled love.

This poem makes me feel alive. I can relate to the speaker even though I don’t know who the speaker is; even though the poem doesn’t depict one specific moment, it feels immediate. Part of the reason why it sings to me is because of the listing. The punctuation (!) is also strong.            

The effect is similar to when I had a needle inserted into my solar plexus. I felt drained for the whole day afterward, because at last I let myself feel pressure, tension and pain that had long been hidden beneath surface feelings. This poem starts at the surface with No love?, moves a little deeper by proposing a solution and confirming its transpiration, (Let us make it! Done.) and then finally gets at the core of feeling by the end of the list at the end of the fourth line. The short poem triggers a visceral emotional reflex in me.

14 April 2011

spring in santa cruz

How much time to do I spend trying to balance politeness and honesty? Pretty much all of my communicating hours. It's why I like being alone, and sleeping. Regardless, I love being around people; there's nothing like them. We spend our first hours learning each other - each others' languages, histories, hand signals; if we're lucky, we eventually figure out how to talk. I like being around people enjoying themselves. It's that simple.

April means allergy season again. All the more reason to vacuum, except I really have too many other things to do. Like chat with strangers on East Cliff.

Have dinner parties with friends. Take dips in the chilly ocean at Seabright.

String words together, and put them with pictures.

Today when I got out of lecture at 7:20 p.m. there was still sun in the tops of the tallest firs and redwoods and the cherry blossoms were wavering all down the hill and I rode home through the sunset singing Smokey Robinson and Elvis Costello.

That's all.

And it's plenty.

06 April 2011

milner place

April is National Poetry month! This gives me the perfect occasion to share poems by some of my favorite poets.

This poem is by Milner Place, whom I know nothing about except that he is old and lives in England. It's called you should.

you should 
have kept 
your irons in the fire
eyes strictly on the ball
should not 
have eaten
all the grapes
nor lingered
the desert
was a sea bewitched
and all of time
through a sky 
where swam
a lonely
and frustrated sun
have talked back
to those eyes
nor laid 
your lips
those breasts
you shouldnt 
it's wiser
that you did

This is basically everything I love in poetry. It's spare, straightforward, both concrete and abstract, intuitive and free of punctuation.

03 April 2011

p-town wail

At the end of last December, I decided 2011 was to be the year of the radical. In many ways, it has been. Internationally, governments have been overthrown, new power structures have emerged; people all over the world are protesting. Closer to home, things are pretty wild, too: everybody's outraged about one cause or another. These politics look radical, but it's hard to imagine anything actually changing.

The most radical stuff I've witnessed all year, or maybe ever, is art. Unlike politics, where it can take ages for a law to pass or for the effects of taxes (or tax breaks) to trickle down (or not) to the people, art is immediate. After all, we want instant gratification. 

My friend and classmate Minea Herwitz made this video, a beat-inspired film/poem, which I think depicts our generation with uncanny accuracy. Simultaneously ironic and honest, it makes no bones about life in the hipster wonderland that is contemporary California youth. The film alternates between images of people laughing and dancing - having a good time - and its maker speaking directly into the camera. It's very beautiful, especially the beach scenes at the end.