Category Archives: writing

For the Confederate Dead

A while back during National Poetry Month, one of the daily poems Knopf sent out was by Kevin Young. I don’t recall which one it was, but it moved me enough to put his most recent collection of poetry on my list of books to read. I finally finished his For the Confederate Dead last night. Some of the poems were really hit or miss with me, but a few of them are so incredibly moving in their simplicity. Young can really pack a punch into the last stanzas of his poems.

Elegy for Miss Brooks (for Gwendolyn Brooks) ends with:
. . .What the devil
are we without you?
I tuck your voice, laced
tight, in these brown shoes.

I’m not too crazy about the “Americana” section as a whole, but there are some standouts. The poem titled Americana urged me to read it aloud. It speaks volumes in sparse phrases. My favorites:
America I have counted
all the china and none
is missing.
America I have . . .
seen the churches keep
like crosses burning

seen the lady who lines
your huddled shore, her hand
her back turned away.

Okay, if I could post the entire poem here, I would, because it is that amazingly good. Another poem in this section, Springtime comes to the Capitol, portrays Marion Anderson’s historical performance at the Lincoln Memorial. I love how Young uses natural imagery as description: the bouquet of microphones, her throat as clear as the sky, the “bloom that begins/all along the spine.” And his For the Confederate Dead in this “Americana” section uses my favorite lines in the collection: “In my fridge only / the milk makes sense– / expires.” Continue reading


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Filed under poetry, reading, writing

One of my favorite authors has died.

When Leah and I were very, very small, my mom used to read to us from A Wrinkle in Time. All the tesseract stuff was over my head as a 6 year old, but I loved the story of a girl and her genius brother searching for their father. I went on to read any L’Engle book I could get my hands on: Many Waters, An Acceptable Time, The Summer of the Great-Grandmother, etc.

In college, I re-read A Wrinkle in Time, and it still touched me. I actually handwrote a fan letter to Madeleine L’Engle (one of the three fan letters I’ve ever written in my life), and got a Christmas letter from her that year, with the handwritten addition: “Elizabeth – Thank you for your lovely note.”

She’s just one of those authors that I thought would always be around, even though I knew she was getting up there in years. I’m so gobsmacked. I probably won’t be very productive the rest of the afternoon at work. . .

[Madeleine L’Engle, Children’s Writer, Is Dead]


Filed under family, literature, personal, reading, writing

Don’t tell Mr. Hitchens

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Don’t tell Mr. Hitchens, originally uploaded by evso.

Seen at the Capital Plaza Target on Monday night. Check the placement of the sticker.


Filed under Austin, literature, photography, pop culture, Random, writing

Love Poem, John Frederick Nims

I freakin’ adore this poem, and have loved it since I discovered it hidden in a poetry anthology in college. I need to make more of an effort to memorize it, or at least remember the poet who wrote it. So mostly this post is an excuse to note that.

Read it here.

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Writing in my journal

Last night I couldn’t get to sleep. One of the themes from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg got stuck in my head (I watched it for the first time last night) and wouldn’t get out. I hadn’t brought my current book back to the room to read and was too tired to venture to the living room to get it. I didn’t want to blog when I was half-asleep, so I grabbed my journal (which I hadn’t written in in over a year). I just started writing a stream-of-consciousness/semi-fictional piece and ended with some questions I have no answers for. It was so cleansing, and as I had written down all the thoughts that were keeping me up, I went to sleep as soon as I turned the light off.

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Filed under film, music, personal, writing

Obama at the gym

I was at the gym working out on Saturday morning when Obama made his official announcement. I had brought a “Cooking Light” magazine to read, but ended up reading the closed captioning on the TV instead. If you missed it, I strongly recommend taking the time to read it (here it is). I think it is one of the strongest speeches I’ve heard/read in recent years, perhaps even better than his famous convention speech. I might even put it up there with Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you” speech.

My favorite quotes from it:

The genius of our founders is that they designed a system of government that can be changed. And we should take heart, because we’ve changed this country before. In the face of tyranny, a band of patriots brought an Empire to its knees. In the face of secession, we unified a nation and set the captives free. In the face of Depression, we put people back to work and lifted millions out of poverty. We welcomed immigrants to our shores, we opened railroads to the west, we landed a man on the moon, and we heard a King’s call to let justice roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what’s needed to be done. Today we are called once more – and it is time for our generation to answer that call.

For that is our unyielding faith – that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it.

For the last six years we’ve been told that our mounting debts don’t matter, we’ve been told that the anxiety Americans feel about rising health care costs and stagnant wages are an illusion, we’ve been told that climate change is a hoax, and that tough talk and an ill-conceived war can replace diplomacy, and strategy, and foresight. And when all else fails, when Katrina happens, or the death toll in Iraq mounts, we’ve been told that our crises are somebody else’s fault. We’re distracted from our real failures, and told to blame the other party, or gay people, or immigrants.

And as people have looked away in disillusionment and frustration, we know what’s filled the void. The cynics, and the lobbyists, and the special interests who’ve turned our government into a game only they can afford to play. They write the checks and you get stuck with the bills, they get the access while you get to write a letter, they think they own this government, but we’re here today to take it back. The time for that politics is over. It’s time to turn the page.
. . . [T]his campaign can’t only be about me. It must be about us – it must be about what we can do together. This campaign must be the occasion, the vehicle, of your hopes, and your dreams. It will take your time, your energy, and your advice – to push us forward when we’re doing right, and to let us know when we’re not. This campaign has to be about reclaiming the meaning of citizenship, restoring our sense of common purpose, and realizing that few obstacles can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change.

By ourselves, this change will not happen. Divided, we are bound to fail.

Like I said, it’s all good, and you should go read it. Supposedly the video is up on his site, but I can’t get it to work.

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Filed under political, Progressives, writing

Our house

A haiku for my life the past few weeks:

The cursed house has
struck Fickle pilot light
I miss hot water

I think the ghost of the day-laborer who died while working on our plumbing is haunting us. Or at least, if I really believed in ghosts, that’s what I’d suspect.

I wanted to stay in this house until I bought a new one, but this water heater situation is the last straw. I took two mornings off from work last week for the plumber and our problem is still not solved.

Yesterday afternoon I hit my head on a shelf really frickin’ hard while turning on the pilot light (for the umpteenth time) to the water heater. I went back to my bedroom and cried.

This is not good.

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Filed under house and home, personal, writing