Tuesday, December 27, 2005

'Slam On' WordWoman Patricia Smith & Other Musings

Thanks to Eduardo Corral for the head's up on Patricia Smith's new blog. Click on link to read her long reflections on slam -- within and without. It's the wonder of blogs to have this bit of history and fact and poetry. And, maybe fifty is a good age to start a blog. Worked for me.

And, while you're there, check out the other entries, in particular her poem on the day of Tookie's state murder:

"Tookie Williams II

regarding the tendencies of steel
to falter, we craft our souls with
softer shouts--bitten wood, paper
tinged with touch, muddied water
kept hard and constant with ice.
we nail together the sides of sloped
boxes which shelter dark hearts
and cool our murderer's blood. but
seasons turn, dams burst, questions
of cock and religion go unanswered.
and a soul twists, wrenches free of
what we would have it be, and hurtles
forward, as blind as a blue note.
but i will coax that mad thing home.
even as it hurtles toward my heart,
crying, slamming a thick vein shut."

~ Patricia Smith

Thanks Eduardo, too, for your intimate musings that set off a very interesting flurry of discussions on submitting poetry. I've been meaning to get in on that but for a 48-hour bout of cooking. One of the reasons I started this blog is that my old website maintained by poet/ writer, Tony Thomas, was zapped into ether by aol last year and criticism & bios were predominating on the net that were written by a 15 year old saying, among other things, that I was quoted as saying that I have a "terror of sending out poems." Huh? I recall telling a story about the first book of poetry I ever wrote, a 78 page manuscript I wrote as a project for an high school English class and had intended to submit to Quinto Sol's annual contest for high school student's. I was speaking to a Denver "failing" school, a special class for unwed mothers, etc., and I may have said that it was enough just to have written the book in the first place, that feeling of achievement and completion (Dewey's Art as Experience) that I never sent the manuscript off to the contest. Decades later, I met co-editor of the the contest, Herminio Rios who tells me that if I had sent it in I would have won, as they had no submissions that year and ended the contest soon after. I have grappled for 25 years with the concept of THE BOOK as it pertains to poetry. That, and the bare fact that I am a pigeon and thus, "pigeon-holed" everywhere I walk as a poet, everywhere I talk as a writer; I have been holding on to individual poems for years as I have wanted to release them in context of THE BOOK and, in particular, these five books, this literary pentych and whatever composition it weaves in someone else's experience of it. Not FEAR. Or lack of confidence in my writing. I release nothing (outside of the blog) unless it is as close to my standards of excellence as I can get it. And sometimes, that doesn't take long. Sometimes it does. I love what Charles has to say about it. I serve the Muse. She doesn't serve me. And I hate that the university has morphed into the corporate model and that Charles' list of what constitutes literary "success" is actually reversed and that publication of first drafts in tiny magazines or university publications are ranked higher than inclusion in major anthologies such as Norton or Heath. 'kaaaaaay.

Someday I'll start & finish my essay "On Jockeys" from the standpoint of the mule.

Meanwhile, I hope your holiday was as fine & relaxing as ours. Although, true, I did stay up cooking for days, literally. (yerba mate tea!) I was a one woman tamalada this year. I also cooked a turkey (24-hour apple cider brine with all spice & bay) with all the fixings, stayed up first night just with the gravy stock. Made 3 batches of cookies with variations: plain butter roll for Little Cups of Loving using ghiradelli chocolate this year instead of homemade strawberry jelly (I'll try apricot jam soon), cream cheese cookies which was also used for crust for a caramel apple tart, and Mexican chocolate cookies with almond extract, cocoa and lots of cinnamon made into sandwiches with ghiradelli milk chocolate chips in between hot cookies. Pozole for the morning. And, of course, frijoles, which I'm about to go refry.

I've been thinking of you, Eduardo, all the time. How fun it would be if you were here, taste-testing and testy telling in the kitchen. Thanks so much for blogging again. And, thanks for the best links, serious and silly. Can't wait for the book.

And, thinking of all my new blog buddies; and of passings, yours and mine. And, passion. As "La Chatelaine, Eileen Tabios says: "Garbage? You wanna feel alive? Try Poetry!"

Here's wishing you all alive. Poetry On! Our greatest gift.

I'm off to submit.

"but I will coax that mad thing home" ~ Patricia Smith


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