Posts Tagged 'poetry'

Happy Poem In Your Pocket Day!

What was in your pockets today? Gum, chapstick, the one ring to rule them all, loose change, or…

…a poem?


I Am Officially A Paid Writer!

I suppose I can officially call myself a Professional Writer now. The top check is for the George B. Ogden prize for best essay in English prose, and the bottom check is for the Academy of American Poetry Prize.

So, if my blog entries have been lacking text lately, it’s because I’ve been channeling it elsewhere!

Poetry I’ve Been Digging Lately

…with short and snarky commentary!

John Berryman’s 77 Dream Songs

I’ve now written two extended critical papers on Berryman’s Dream Songs, and I keep wondering why I’m so attached to a suicidal, racist, sexist Confessional poet who completely infuriates me with his solipsism. But at the end of the day, what he did with race, sex, and identity in the Dream Songs is a thousand times more fascinating that Berryman’s actual [offensive] opinions.

The Complete Poetry of Frank O’Hara

Lunch Poems changed the way I thought about poetry. For my birthday this year, I received two copies of the complete poetry of Frank O’Hara. Double the queer city fun!

O’Hara is good to read: before bed, to take a study break, when you are in bed with a lover and wake up before them, if you’re queer, if you’re a hipster, when you are in love, and in cities.

Lifting Belly is a Language

I’ve been bonding a bit with Gertrude Stein lately through a class that I’m taking. In the process, I stumbled across these drawings from Love Art Lab:







History of the Orchard


At times the world seems to demand a moment of reflection: to bring your feet together and stand still, to breathe deeply the newly-crisp air.

In Virginia I was only just beginning to feel it: the peak of Harvest time, full of watermelons. But the academic calendar forced me to jump start a new season, driving north and skipping a few weeks forward into cooler weather.

So I thought (in my moment of reflection) that it would be a good time to revisit The Orchard. You know, that mental place where ripe ideas hang low on the branches, the namesake of this humble blog.

Ironically, I was sorting through poems entitled “The Orchard” when I came across a poem by Kathleen Norris, whose book of nonfiction sits just to my left, dog-eared halfway through. Her book Dakota got me through last Spring Break the same way that In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens saved me a few years ago. The poem is titled “The Monastery Orchard in Early Spring,” and ends:

Encounter with fruit is dangerous:

the pear’s womanly shape forever mocked him.

A man and a woman are talking.

Rain moves down and

branches lift up

to learn again

how to hold their fill of green

and blossom, and bear each fruit to glory,

letting it fall.

*   *   *

In one sense, the orchard resembles the garden in parallel world mythologies and fairy tales. It is enclosed; it is forbidden; it is the realm of the gods. More than the garden, though, the orchard is immortal; it is old (these are trees, after all, not daffodils).

Poor Persephone, who ate the pomegranate seeds from Hades’ orchard and was thus tied forever to the world of the dead. The Monkey King, on the other hand, stuffed himself with the Peaches of Immortality, setting off a long chain of events which ends with his elevation to Buddhahood. But Pomona, the wood nymph, tried to enclose herself in her orchard in order to keep suitors away, and was eventually forced to marry Vertumnus. Daphne too, being chased by Apollo, turned into a tree. Coincidence?

It’s a complicated place, the orchard: women running every which way, trying to find safety in trees, or running away from them. Some do find safety; others are victim to Trickster’s invasion (The Monkey King is China’s Trickster figure; Vertumnus disguises himself as an old woman to seduce Pomona, the Norse Trickster god Loki allows for the theft of the goddess Idun’s orchard, which contained the apples of immortality).

It’s a place where women, having always been the target of theft alongside the other ‘forbidden fruits,’ are beginning to climb trees.

And some are wandering into the woods, which are equally immortal but a bit more crooked than the orchard’s rows. Women are re-learning how to graft trees, which is the method for repairing fruit trees, and for making hardier breeds. Beautiful beautiful, to be grafting new trees from history.

Others are writing in the shade, resulting in something like Alice Walker’s Celie, who says, “my first step from the old white man was trees.”

Cover Art Collage

Even as I settle into the beauty that this summer promises, I’m having to plan ahead for my Honors thesis, which I’ll begin in the fall. My reading list is double the size of regular English majors, so… in lieu of actually working, I decided to procrastinate with a pretty collage!

Honors Reading Collage

I judge a book by its cover (don’t lie; so do you). Sort of the same way that I [used to] buy shampoo in the prettiest bottle. Cover art is so interesting, particularly the way that it evolves with each edition. In a Children’s Literature class that I took at Hollins University, we examined the evolution of cover art for The Great Gilly Hopkins— Gilly’s appearance ranges from childlike to adolescent, from tomboyish to very strange sort of hip femininity. I always preferred the original “face obscured by bubble gum” cover. It allowed the imagination to color in the rest.

It’s also always amusing having to read old books that are being re-designed and marketed as chic modern reads– like the Barnes and Noble “Classics” edition of Robinson Crusoe. What is that cover– a mysterious romance novel, perhaps?


Key to the Collage:

1. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
2. Complete Fiction of Nella Larson (I’m assigned Quicksand)
3. Shell Shaker by Leanne Howe
4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
5. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
6. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
7. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
8. Song of Myself by Walt Whitman
9. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Marie Borroff trans.)
10. Paradise Lost by John Milton
11. Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope
12. Way of the World by William Congreve
13. A Good Man is Hard to Find (and other stories) by Flannery O’Connor
14. The Life and Times of Michael K. by J. M. Coetzee
15. Turn of the Screw by Henry James
16. American Pastoral by Philip Roth
17. Henry V by William Shakespeare
18. Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
19. Sonata Mulattica by Rita Dove
20. Middlemarch by George Eliot
Not Included (but which I still have to read):
Poems of W.B. Yeats
Selected lyric poems by Ben Jonson
Poems of Geoffrey Chaucer
Poems of Anne Bradstreet
Poems by  Theodore Roethke
Shakespeare’s Sonnets: 29, 30, 55, 73, 116, 129, 130, 144, 146

Sisterpoet & The Act of Creativity


My little sister and I write poems together, one word at a time. Her word choices, silly and brilliant, free me up in my own poetry. I am reminded of the fun in writing: “baking poisonous toadstools into ovens..”. Sometimes we compose the most inspired phrases, and I make sure to remember them for the future: “doughy birdcalls” and “rise into the loaf of a moment.”

In the modern world, few people know how to collaborate creatively. Plagiarism rules and intellectual property laws discourage us from working with other creative minds; the creative act becomes solitary, secretive, and high-pressure. 

No fun at all.

Art adventures, literary hangovers, rural politics and other songs worth sharing.

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