A few questions about this ad

nyerad

  1. Are Allison and Rob high-school sweetharts?
  2. Are Allison and Rob siblings with attachment issues?
  3. If their names are Allison and Rob O, who is D Barrett?
  4. Why does Allison look desperate to escape?

Thank you to friend Becky for brainstorming with me this morning. Rarely does a New Yorker ad spark such immediate consideration of backstory.

Weekend as ‘a small anti-seed’

Been off the work grid for a few days. Here’s what I’ve been reading.

Kay Ryan, “In Case of Complete Reversal,” in the new issue of Poetry.

Born into each seed
is a small anti-seed
useful in case of some
complete reversal…

Douglas Kearney, “Afrofuturism (Blanche says, “Meh”)“.

are we there yet?
are we we yet?
are we we there?
are there we there yet?
are we here yet there?
there, there.

Edward Thomas, “Lights Out.” Posted a link to this one last week, finding it a beautiful poem about the powerless and strangely desire-less feeling of falling asleep. Rereading after learning he wrote it while deep in WWI.

Danez Smith, “alternate names for black boys.” I was bummed this poem didn’t run in Poetry‘s Poem of the Day feed this month. Given the events of the month, how could the magazine not mention one of the best poems it’s published this year? But apparently I was just looking in the wrong place. Editors reran a link, with several follow-ups, on the magazine’s Twitter.

Eavan Boland, “The Lost Art of Letter Writing.” This one kills me. It will probably do the same to you. It will raise up every letter you haven’t sent, every story or emotion or interest or question you’ve wanted to share but failed to put into words, and dump them all over your slow mortal head.

The ratio of daylight to handwriting
Was the same as lacemaking to eyesight.

Dirt bikes across DC

Interesting night in D.C. traffic. A huge group dirt-bike and four-wheeler riders — easily more than a hundred — tore by my apartment this evening, blasting through the red on H Street, many on the sidewalk or in opposing lanes of traffic,  some popping wheelies. It was a hell of a sight. Mad Max!

Tweets followed the ride across the city:

A ton of ground in half an hour.

Many more reports in comments on Popville. Looking forward to more coverage. Mainly who covers it. Real-time coverage… not there yet.

When the fearlessness comes

One of my favorite long reads about writing is Stephen King’s On Writing. This week, The Atlantic interviews him about the book and how he teaches writing to kids. The exchange is all kinds of entertaining and reminds me of the school writing assignments I loved most: with few rules and no grades.

Lahey: You extol the benefits of writing first drafts with the door closed, but students are often so focused on giving teachers what they want and afraid of making mistakes that they become paralyzed. How can teachers encourage kids to close the door and write without fear?

King: In a class situation, this is very, very hard. That fearlessness always comes when a kid is writing for himself, and almost never when doing directed writing for the grade (unless you get one of those rare fearless kids who’s totally confident). The best thing—maybe the only thing—is to tell the student that telling the truth is the most important thing, much more important than the grammar. I would say, “The truth is always eloquent.” To which they would respond, “Mr. King, what does eloquent mean?”

Poems for returning to work

The opposite of my weekend-arrival-poetry post the other day. The morning comes a little too early. The weather a little too hot. Etc.

Rodrigo Toscano, “At a Bus Stop in El Barrio.”

Tha’ vahnahnah go-een to keel joo.

Excuse me?

Tha’ vahnahnah    …    go-een to keel joo.

I’m sorry, I don’t understand.

Alexa Selph, “Market Forecast.”

Adjectives continue
their downward spiral,
with adverbs likely to follow.

Katharine Coles, “The Same Old Riddle.”

We keep trying to kill it, split it, hack
It to itsy bits. We suspend it
On the wall where we can see it
Passing. We hang it around our necks

Michael Earl Craig, “Advice for Horsemen.”

When trying to catch a horse it helps if you look away.
Eye contact just pisses them off.

Dean Young, “Romanticism 101.”

Then I realized I hadn’t secured the boat.
Then I realized my friend had lied to me.
Then I realized my dog was gone
no matter how much I called in the rain.
All was change.

George Saunders’ short power

I knew George Saunders was a terrific writer. “The Semplica Girl Diaries” threw me for a loop, and for weeks after I was trying to find anyone else who’d read it too. Or tell others to read it — and why they should read it — without spoiling it. But I didn’t fully understand Saunders’ powers until reading his full Tenth of December collection over the holiday weekend.

Here’s just one paragraph of his story “Sticks.” The story isn’t much longer than this. Here’s the whole thing. Go read the whole, really. Few stories can get you to buy into a writer in two pages. This is one of those stories.

Every year Thanksgiving night we flocked out behind Dad as he dragged the Santa suit to the road and draped it over a kind of crucifix he’d built out of metal pole in the yard. Super Bowl week the pole was dressed in a jersey and Rod’s helmet and Rod had to clear it with Dad if he wanted to take the helmet off. On the Fourth of July the pole was Uncle Sam, on Veteran’s Day a soldier, on Halloween a ghost. The pole was Dad’s only concession to glee. We were allowed a single Crayola from the box at a time. One Christmas Eve he shrieked at Kimmie for wasting an apple slice. He hovered over us as we poured ketchup saying: good enough good enough good enough. Birthday parties consisted of cupcakes, no ice cream. The first time I brought a date over she said: what’s with your dad and that pole? and I sat there blinking.

Poem that stuck this summer

Because… so different, powerful, net-dropping, or all of the above.

James Baldwin, “Untitled.” Possible about the maturing of the civil rights movement. Or about celebrity. In either case, gently stunning. First lines: “Lord, / when you send the rain, / think about it, please, / a little?”

Caroline Bergvall’s “From ‘DRIFT.’ ” Part words and part images, the poem begins with pages of rough lines and slashes and builds to words blowing apart into their letters in what seems to be a storm at sea. Seems to be.

Ada Limon, “State Bird.” Metaphor breaks your heart.

Samiya Bashir, “Carnot Cycle.” Beautiful application of geology to life. Made me look up what in the world the Carnot Cycle was. Wikipedia:

The Carnot cycle is a theoretical thermodynamic cycle proposed by Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot in 1824…. It can be shown that it is the most efficient cycle for converting a given amount of thermal energy into work, or conversely, creating a temperature difference (e.g. refrigeration) by doing a given amount of work.

Gabrielle Calvocoressi, “Captain Lovell, ['My eyes are shaky and glimmer like the stars'].” Don’t read too quickly. Opens itself on reread, research.

My eyes are shaky and glimmer like the stars.
My head turns to the left and it moves
just like a pendulum. The kids laugh and shake
it back to me, all the ways I’m stupid,
not like them. But I know how the grass sounds
when the locusts come, like a spaceship
taking off and how it makes the air shake.

It turns out Calvocoressi is writing about her nystagmus, a condition “of involuntary eye movement, acquired in infancy or later in life, that may result in reduced or limited vision.” And Calvocoressi creates this with it.

April Bernard, “Anger.”

When, during my travels along the Gulf Coast,
the intruder returned in the night
and I did not call the cops again but stood
with a butcher knife facing the door, yelling, “Come in!”
although this time it was just the wind flapping
and banging the screen door — 

Tim Seibles, “Mosaic.” One of the longest and most enrapturing Poetry‘s published this year. “In America skin was / where you belonged, a who / you were with, a reason / someone might: how — at the / parties of hands unknown — / astonishing deaths / could meet you.”

Jane Hirshfield, “My Life Was the Size of My Life.”

My life was the size of my life.
Its rooms were room-sized,
its soul was the size of a soul.

Mary Karr, “Descending Theology: The Resurrection.”

Chasing randomness and form