delphipsmith: (dreamwithin)
I have family visiting for a couple of weeks so will be mostly AWOL for the time being, but hope to be back online more regularly later in the month. Meanwhile:

It's National Poetry Month! I invite one and all to visit my friend's blog, The Poetry Playground, where she posts a poem a day for the entire month, and loves comments on them :)
delphipsmith: (grinchmas)
Reveals are up over at [livejournal.com profile] hoggywartyxmas so I can now own up to being the author of The Spoof is in the Pudding, a wizardy riff on "The Night Before Christmas, in which Hagrid and Flitwick eat too much fruitcake with surprising results while Severus and Minerva exeunt, pursued by a waltz.

I was thrilled that my poem was one of the opening day posts for the fest, and I have been truly overwhelmed by the number of positive comments that my little rhyme received. In particular, my recipient [livejournal.com profile] mmadfan said that the poem brightened her day twice when she was feeling under the weather. I cannot imagine a higher compliment :)

[livejournal.com profile] hoggywartyxmas always has superlative offerings, and the writers and artists this year really outdid themselves. Thanks to the mods for running it yet again, and I am already looking forward to next year!
delphipsmith: (roses)
This is the most amazing -- and sensual -- pair of dancers I've seen in a very long time, if ever. Their athleticism is astonishing, and yet it doesn't detract from the beauty of their movements by turning it into a gymnastic exercise (and wow, is she bendy!). I was spellbound by their performance; it made me want to cheer and cry at the same time.


(skip to about the 1-minute mark if you don't speak Russian!)
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“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is
translated through you into action, and because there is only one of
you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it
will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
― Martha Graham
delphipsmith: (wand-waving)
The Big Reveal for [livejournal.com profile] sshg_promptfest went up a little while back, so I can now admit to being the author of "Poetic License," written to a very fun and clever prompt by [livejournal.com profile] drinkingcocoa.

Title: Poetic License (on LJ) (on AO3)
Warning(s): Pretentious swottiness.
Summary: Snape never claimed to be a poet. According to Hermione, that's just as well.
Original prompt: 1st-year genfic. Professor Snape receives a thank-you owl for the delightful logic puzzle. To show her gratitude, Hermione has rewritten his clue to make it a much better piece of verse, with earnest analyses of the flaws in his version and suggestions to help him improve as a poet.
Author's note: I'm sorry that this isn't longer, but even Hermione can only go on so long when she's got only sixteen lines to work with. I had no idea what trochaic heptameter was until she made me look it up; if there are any actual lit crit or poetry majors in the audience, I beg forgiveness for her entirely inadequate (and probably inaccurate) ripping-to-shreds of Sev's work.
delphipsmith: (snoopydance)
Mr Psmith and I are finally back home after a week-long combination business/pleasure trip to the (very soggy) midwest.

The pleasure goal was to see a bunch of family, including my brother J (recovering from a seven-year case of severe Ph.D. which resulted in the biggest diploma I've ever seen) and 8-year-old nephew P (a bundle of energy if there ever was one and a devoted fan of I Love Lucy, M*A*S*H and Star Wars, I have high hopes for him); my grandmother (95, still going to French club and playing bridge every week); and my Dad, who turned 71 on Thursday. Since J and P live only about 40 minutes from Dad he was kind enough to come pick us up, and en route to his house we stopped to see my aunt and uncle and cousin B, with whom we had a rousing political discussion about how horrible the governor of this particular state is, so much so that even his own party hates him. Then a couple of days with Dad during which we ate sushi and got to visit the aquarium in town (VERY nice!). Saturday night most of the extended family -- step-siblings, half-siblings, spouses and offspring ranging in age from babes-in-arms to last week's high school graduates -- gathered at a restaurant for dinner, after which everyone came back to the house for homemade strawberry shortcake courtesy of my sister A. Scrumptiousness and boisterousness abounded.

The business goal was some consulting for an organization near my hometown that has a museum, library and archive and wanted a professional evaluation of what was needed to house and maintain it properly. Quite interesting stuff; took tons of photos and will be writing up a report for them over the next couple of weeks,

Both goals achieved, we got home early this afternoon to find all of our menagerie well, though the rats had emptied their water bottles and one of the cats had eaten some lily petals and barfed on the arm of the couch. Ah well, could be worse.

Since we were traveling on Sunday I indulged in a Sunday New York Times (bliss!) and found this jewel of a poem on p. 50 of the Magazine. Spending time with family made me think of summer evenings of my childhood, the warm darkness, voices calling, the streetlights coming on, and this seemed to say something about that, about how a moment can be both old and new, eternal and yet fresh: "nothing is over, only beginning somewhere else"

One of the Evenings
by James Richardson

After so many years, we know them.
This is one of the older Evenings -- its patience,
settling in, its warmth that wants nothing in return.
Once on a balcony among trees, once by a slipping river,
so many Augusts sitting out through sunset --
first a dimness in the undergrowth like smoke,
and then like someone you hadn't noticed
has been in the room a long time...

It has seen everything that can be done in the dark.
It has seen two rifles swing around
to train on each other, it has seen lovers meet and revolve,
it has seen wounds grayscale in low light.
It has come equally for those who prayed for it
and those who turned on lamp after lamp
until they could not see. It deals evenhandedly
with the one skimming downstairs as rapidly as typing,
the one washing plates too loudly,
the one who thinks there's something more important,
since it does not believe in protagonists,
since it knows anyone could be anyone else.

It has heard what they said aloud to the moon to the stars
and what they could not say,
walking alone and together. It has gotten over
I cannot live through this, it has gotten over This did not have to happen
and This is experience one day I will be glad for.
It has gotten over How even for a moment
could I have forgotten?
though it never forgets,
leaves nothing behind, does not believe in stories,
since nothing is over, only beginning somewhere else.

It could be anywhere but it is here
woth the kids who play softball endlessly not keeping score,
though it's getting late, way too late,
holding their drives in the air like invisible moons a little longer,
giving way before them so they feel like they're running faster,
It likes trees, I think, it likes summer. It seems comfortable with us,
though it is here to help us be less ourselves.
It thinks of its darkening as listening harder and harder.
delphipsmith: (George)
...I have been crazy busy, thank you for asking. Taxes, bills, "real" job, freelance work, writing, keeping up with my weekly minimal wine consumption requirement, you know. On the plus side, whopping big tax refund (which will go towards the kitchen re-do) and paying clients, w00t!

And hey, it's National Poetry Month! In honor of that, I give you a wonderful bit of Snape-ish sonnetry: He Wears His Cloak Like Moonlight Wears the Night. As some of you may know, I'm a big fan of sonnets. Like medieval miniatures, or the short story, the compressed space means that not a single line or word can be wasted; everything has to be carefully and precisely chosen. It's difficult to do well, and lovely to read the results.

Also in the exciting world of sonnets: in honor of Shakespeare's 450th birthday this year the New York Shakespeare Exchange is creating a whole slew of videos: 154 sonnets read by 154 different actors in 154 different locations in and around NYC. The project was funded by $49,255 raised on Kickstarter -- go crowdfunding!! And at the end of the project, you'll be able to buy the DVD. Since Sir Pat has been lurking about NYC with his rawther young girlfriend, I'm hoping very much that he'll be one of the 154 :)

Finally, an odd but very cool new art form: People attaching LEDs to their Roombas and setting up a camera with long-term exposure, et voila! time-lapse robot vacuum spirograph. Ah, technology...
delphipsmith: (weeping angel)
The Western black rhino was declared extinct today, and the top story on Yahoo News was Suri Cruise's new haircut.

[Edit: The link above was to an old news item, sorry, and now I can't find the correct one. Curse you, interwebz! However, in trying to find it, I did learn that they've found footprints of the Sumatran rhino someplace where they thought it was extinct, so the news isn't all bad. Still...]

Humanity, I weep for you. And yes, that's a poem, so it counts as one of my 100 Things. *sigh*
delphipsmith: (Elizabethan adder)
Mr Psmith sent me these yesterday, I don't know where he finds this stuff. Heeee...

    valentine_2

valentine
delphipsmith: (the road)
Thing 2 of the 100 Things Poems! "The Highwayman," by Alfred Noyes, has everything: true love and infinite courage, heartbreak and death, a deeply romantic tale and a lovely ghost story. I don't ever remember not knowing this poem. When I was in 8th grade my English teacher gave extra credit if you memorized poems, and this was one of them, but I'm pretty sure I knew it before that. It's best read aloud; it has wonderful rhythmic beat to it that evokes the hoofbeats of the highwayman's galloping horse. I can't come up with a word for how this poem makes me feel -- aching, haunted, sorrowful, longing, it's all of those and none of them and more -- but it's always drawn a real lump-in-the-throat response from me, more so the older I get and the more I revisit it (which is odd, you'd think it's impact would fade). Here are a few stanzas to give the the flavor; the full text is online here.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard.
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred.
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”


Loreena McKennit has done a gorgeously lush and haunting version of it, which to this day, no matter that I've heard it dozens of times, makes me tear up:

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delphipsmith: (classic quill)
First of my 100 Things (100 Poems) blog posts!

"A sonnet might look dinky, but it's somehow big enough to accommodate
love, war, death, and O.J. Simpson. You could fit the whole world in there if
you shoved hard enough."


Or so says Anne Fadiman. And I agree.

I think sonnets are amazing creations: a very strict, very small form, but within it you can say literally anything you like. Anything at all. It's like the difference between bouncing about gleefully on the dance floor and executing a perfect fiery tango without a single misstep, a combination of freedom and structure that can be so much more than the sum of its parts. Or like those medieval miniatures, where you have a very small space in which to work, but within that space you can draw monsters or birds or leaves or tessellated patterns or tiny people, or whatever you like.

At any rate, it's a sadly under-used form these days, perhaps because it takes so much work to craft a good one (it's a bit like assembling a jigsaw puzzle, where you have to keep shifting the little pieces around until they fit just right), so I was thrilled when someone wrote a beautiful one for [livejournal.com profile] deeply_horrible's "Bring Back the Bastard" fest this year. It's hard to believe that so much angst and so much history can be packed into so few lines. This is not a happy sonnet, or a love sonnet. This is a bitter and angry sonnet, in which Severus has some choice words for Dumbledore. Hope you like it as much as I did.

Title: From the Beehive
Author: primeideal

I've lived too long for faith that life is fair...
delphipsmith: (classic quill)
So at some point last year, I took up the gauntlet of the 100 Things Blogging Challenge. I picked "Things that have surprised me." Perhaps the most surprising -- or depressing, depending on your perspective -- thing was that it was damn hard coming up with things that had surprised me. I'm not sure if that's a comment on me, my life, or the world in general.

Anyway, I dropped said gauntlet spectacularly, only making it to nine, which I think was due to picking such an abstract Thing. Several other people picked much more tangible things and had better success ([livejournal.com profile] stellamoon for example went with 100 pieces of art and music that have touched her soul and I really enjoyed her posts -- Van Gogh's Willows at Sunset was particularly lovely). So I'm trying again and this time I'm going to do 100 poems. This isn't as stimulating in terms of descriptive writing -- it's pretty challenging to describe a surprise, after all -- but I hope it will be good in terms of making me think about why I like what I like, and what I think works about a piece of poetry.

If nothing else, it will give me something to talk about when I can't think of anything else to talk about, like a writing exercise. Not a bad thing.

So that's New Year's Resolution #1.

New Year's Resolution #2 is to follow through on my promise (threat?) from years past and apply to Clarion West. (Check out this year's instructors -- doesn't Samuel R. Delany look like a cross between Albus Dumbledore and Gimli? Or is it just me?) This year, instead of keeping it a sooper sekrit, I've told a whole bunch of people that I'm going to do it, which means I have to do it or I'll look like an idiot.

I hate looking like an idiot.
delphipsmith: (weeping angel)
I thought this clip would be up on YouTube dozens of times, but there were only two! Apologies for the annoying fuzzy text over about 30 seconds near the end -- my only other option was the BBC's official clip, but they cut it short so it ends before the fade-in of the field of poppies. Which is, you know, kind of necessary for the full impact.




In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below...



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delphipsmith: (magick)
Yesterday, while wandering the wilds of the Interwebz, I stumbled across this wonderful piece by Gerald Gould. Like Magee's High Flight or Masefield's Sea Fever, the words and the rhythm inspire a kind of pleasant restlessness. (All three poems also prompt a tear in the eye and a tightness in the throat, I've never been able to pin down why; perhaps because the wish to journey forth remains unfulfilled?) I think perhaps Bilbo might have appreciated it.


Beyond the East the sunrise, beyond the West the sea,
And East and West the wanderlust that will not let me be;
It works in me like madness, dear, to bid me say good-by!
For the seas call and the stars call, and oh, the call of the sky!

I know not where the white road runs, nor what the blue hills are,
But man can have the sun for friend, and for his guide a star;
And there's no end of voyaging when once the voice is heard,
For the river calls and the road calls, and oh, the call of a bird!

Yonder the long horizon lies, and there by night and day
The old ships draw to home again, the young ships sail away;
And come I may, but go I must, and if men ask you why,
You may put the blame on the stars and the sun and the white road and the sky!
-- Gerald Gould
delphipsmith: (Sir Patrick Captain)
As a reward for having finished my story for the first week of SSIAW on Friday, Mr Psmith and I went out to hear lovely traditional Irish music on Saturday -- fiddles, penny whistles, bodhrans, tambourines, tight harmonies and singable tunes and step dancers. There was rain but it passed leaving a double rainbow, so all was well and all was well and all manner of things were well. Today I did my readings for class -- more Gargantua and Pantagruel -- and answered correspondence (for which read, not morning rooms with engraved stationery, but rather blog trolling/commenting!).

A bunch of random things of interestingness have crossed my path in the last couple of days, so I thought I'd share them.

First and foremost (and in honor of which I have created the new userpic featured in this post), Sir Patrick Stewart is on Twitter, as SirPatStew!!! This is almost (but not quite) enough to make me get a Twitter account. His first tweet? "Hi world." His second? "My brain hurts." Best so far? From Sep 4, "Scotch/Soda. Sunset. pic.twitter.com/RjSaUhmq ." I want to be the person who took this picture.

Next up, a fascinating poem by James Hall entitled Maybe Dats Your Pwoblem Too. Whether you're a superhero or just the girl next door, it's easy to get locked into one persona: "So maybe dat's youwr pwoblem too, who knows / Maybe dat's da whole pwoblem wif evwytin / Nobody can buhn der suits, dey all fwame wesistent." Who among us hasn't wanted to burn their suit and reinvent themselves from scratch? (You can also read the author's thoughts on it.)

Third and fourth are both writing-related items. (3) Yale Law professor Stephen Carter wrote a great piece, It Is to Be Hoped That Proper Grammar Can Endure which argues that precision in writing is necessary for precision in thought. He even brings in the venerable Adam Smith: "The rules of justice may be compared to the rules of grammar...Morality should be modeled on grammar...so that we may have “certain and infallible directions for acquiring it.”

(4) I stumbled across two excellent Mary Sue Litmus Tests here and here. The first one has separate sections for fan-fiction and original fiction, while the second is for original fiction only. They provide an interesting window into the various character features that have become commonly viewed as Sue-ish -- of course, each of these things individually are fine, it's just when one character features lots of them that things start to get dicey. A good reality check for my own writing!

Finally, from io9.com comes my nominee for Dad of the Year. When his daughter wouldn't eat her lunch at school, this guy started drawing silly Avengers and other superhero cartoons and putting them in her lunchbox. My favorite is Batman :)

And that's it for Sunday!
delphipsmith: (books-n-brandy)
April is National Poetry Month, and April 26th is National Put a Poem in your Pocket Day!! Did you observe it, by carrying a poem in your pocket? I did. My three favorite poets are e e cummings, Shel Silverstein, and John Donne (because of Lord Peter Wimsey, of course), but the poem I carried today wasn't by any of them. Instead it was a a favorite from my childhood, and excellent in a sort of meta way, since it's a poem about having a poem in your pocket :)

Keep a poem in your pocket
And a picture in your head
And you’ll never feel lonely
At night when you’re in bed.

The little poem will sing to you
The little picture bring to you
A dozen dreams to dance to you
At night when you’re in bed.

So --
Keep a picture in your pocket
And a poem in your head
And you’ll never feel lonely
At night when you’re in bed!
-- Beatrice Schenk de Regniers
delphipsmith: (books-n-brandy)
It was in the 80s last week. The next few days the highs will be in the mid-40s and the lows in the 20s and 30s. Curse you, fickle spring!!

However, since it IS spring, I'd like to share one of my favorite spring poems. I discovered e e cummings ages ago, back when I was writing bad angsty woe-is-me teenage poetry (a habit I thankfully dropped, in no small part because I discovered good poets like cummings, Countee Cullen, John Donne and others). I fell in love with his work because of its creativity, its liveliness and loveliness, the way he plays with words and language. No matter the subject, there's always an undercurrent of joy; reading this one aloud you naturally fall into a cadence almost like singing.

sweet spring is your
time is my time is our
time for springtime is lovetime
and viva sweet love

(all the merry little birds are
flying in the floating in the
very spirits singing in
are winging in the blossoming)

lovers go and lovers come
awandering awondering
but any two are perfectly
alone there's nobody else alive

(such a sky and such a sun
i never knew and neither did you
and everybody never breathed
quite so many kinds of yes)

not a tree can count his leaves
each herself by opening
but shining who by thousands mean
only one amazing thing

(secretly adoring shyly
tiny winging darting floating
merry in the blossoming
always joyful selves are singing)

sweet spring is your
time is my time is our
time for springtime is lovetime
and viva sweet love
    e e cummings

Also, third and last call for free books! You don't even have to pay shipping, that's how much I want to find good homes for them. (No, none of them look like the books in the icon, and yes, you have to provide your own beverage.)
delphipsmith: (books-n-wine)
Those Across the River
Writer and poet Christopher Buehlman (whose alter ego is the hilarious Christophe the Insultor) turns in a hair-raising Southern gothic horror tale of ancient curses and undying evil as his debut novel. Something evil lurks in Megiddo Wood near the little town of Whitbrow, Georgia, dating from the days of the wealthy but sadistic Lucien Savoyard and his murder at the hands of his plantation slaves seventy years ago, shortly after the end of the Civil War.

I got a signed copy of this for Christmas and tore through it in about four hours. Literally could not put it down: I ate dinner with a fork in one hand and the book in the other. I wanted to go slower to savor the writing -- as lush as Southern kudzu and as intense as its humid heat -- but I couldn't control my desperate need to find out WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?!? The tension begins almost on the first page, and gets cranked tighter and tighter as the body count rises and the creeping horrors loom ever closer. There were plenty of twists and turns, and I'm glad I didn't know anything about it beforehand. Do yourself a favor and don't read anything with spoilers in it -- it packs more punch if you're as confused and terrified as the poor doomed residents of Whitbrow.

Buehlman's poetry is pretty good, too. He won the Bridport Prize for "Wanton," which I liked very much (reminiscent of "The Girl with the Hungry Eyes" or Waking the Moon) but "Bear Attacks" (written from the bear's point of view) is superb, both frightening and melancholy:

...come to the park tomorrow (on foot, please),
and armed with only a camera,
which I will not damage
so that all of them will know my face
and know that my god is greater than theirs,
who will not come when they scream for him...

View all my reviews
delphipsmith: (roses)
This man rocks. Yes Shakespeare, yes Robbie Burns, yes John Donne, yes e.e. cummings, yes Countee Cullen, you are all wordsmiths of the human condition and I love you all. But if you want it raw, unvarnished, unpolished -- if you want it straight from the gut, perfect in its imperfections -- Bukowski is your man.

Go Charles. Couldn't have said it better.

In my work, as a writer, I only photograph, in words, what I see. If I write of "sadism" it is because it exists, I didn't invent it, and if some terrible act occurs in my work it is because such things happen in our lives. I am not on the side of evil, if such a thing as evil abounds. In my writing I do not always agree with what occurs, nor do I linger in the mud for the sheer sake of it. Also, it is curious that the people who rail against my work seem to overlook the sections of it which entail joy and love and hope, and there are such sections. My days, my years, my life has seen up and downs, lights and darknesses. If I wrote only and continually of the "light" and never mentioned the other, then as an artist I would be a liar.

Censorship is the tool of those who have the need to hide actualities from themselves and from others. Their fear is only their inability to face what is real, and I can't vent any anger against them. I only feel this appalling sadness. Somewhere, in their upbringing, they were shielded against the total facts of our existence. They were only taught to look one way when many ways exist.

This is an excerpt. Thanks to Letters of Note (an awesome site, go visit them) for posting the full letter + transcript.

As a follow-up, read Bukowski's poem about the cat. If this doesn't touch you, you must be some sort of alien observer and not human at all.
delphipsmith: (Hepburn)
Huzzah, I've finally gotten Britain ready to go to war! Have finished volume 1 of Churchill's six-volume history of World War II, which takes us through the fall of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Norway. I didn't even know Norway was involved (see, this is what happens when your study of history stops in 1685). The book closes on May 10, 1940 with old Winnie finally in charge, ready to kick butt and take names. It's not so much a proper history as a paean to Glorious Britain, not to mention the underlying theme of "If they'd only listened to me things would have been so much better." Nevertheless, it's fascinating to read the story as told by someone who was in the thick of it all pretty much from the beginning.

Before I hie myself off to bed I must recommend this series of free verse in the latest issue of The Wag's Review, created by typing beginning phrases like "Men should..." into a Google search box and seeing what it suggests as completions. Then of course you can go to Google and play the game yourself, which (fair warning) turns out to be rather addictive. I tried "my boss is" and got very amusing results, two of which were "a jewish carpenter" and "an austrian painter." I suppose that sums up the full spectrum of humanity right there.
delphipsmith: (Elizabethan adder)
Went to B&N on Saturday for coffee. For me, it's the most expensive coffee on the planet, usually costing at least $30 since I can't NOT buy a book or two. Or three. This time I bought three: two that are on my to-read list and one, a YA fantasy that leaped off the shelf and thrust itself into my hands, mostly due to the title and cover (The Forest of Hands and Teeth). Yay! New goodies!! I felt almost virtuous about it, since they were running a special where some percentage of your total went to a local public library. Yay! New goodies AND supporting my local library!! Now the torment: do I stick with Purgatorio, as I promised myself? Or do I take a brief foray into something else before plunging into epic poetry once more? Julia Barrett's Presumption is calling me back to Pemberley and FitzWilliam Darcy...

Speaking of epic poetry, I intended to buy a copy of The Aeneid while there but the plethora of translations intimidated me. I knew I wanted one that's actual poetry, so could dismiss out of hand the ones written as prose novels, but beyond that I had no idea. Tried to compare two of the translations but the line numbers were all askew. Will have to research a bit. (Sadly, D. Sayers appears not to have done one!)

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