May 8, 2024

On poetry

In middle school and high school, I fancied myself a poet.

I would carry a notebook around with me and scribble down thoughts and verses and turns of phrase that would delight me. In the evenings, after I had done my homework and had dinner and come home from the jamatkhana, I would take those scribbles and turn them into stanzas that I thought meant something, that made my heart sing.

I would read poetry collections whenever I could. For the most part, the nuance and symbolism would escape me—I read some of these when I was a pre-teen with very little life experience—but I would be enthralled by the way the lines danced on the page and the lyricism of the words. My school librarians knew of my interest, and did their best to recommend things that I would enjoy; I devoured their recommendations and kept coming back for more.

Occasionally, I would share what I wrote: in class during poetry modules, or at open mic afternoons, or even in the school newspaper. In hindsight, I realize I wasn’t very talented, but I received praise and commendation, so I kept writing. I am so grateful for the teachers and other adults in my life that encouraged me to keep going.

Looking back at those days—and on the days when I performed spoken word poetry, much after high school—I realize now that my writing wasn’t very good. I was a good mimic, and could replicate the styles and themes of the poetry in the books that I read, but I lacked the virtuosity to have a voice of my own, to really tell a story through poetry.

I don’t write anymore, but still keep a digital journal of the verses and turns of phrase that excite me. I don’t craft my own poems, but still devour poetry collections whenever I can get my hands on them. (Our local library system isn’t the best at acquiring newer ones.) I don’t fancy myself a poet anymore, but instead a lover of the form.

Some time ago, someone asked me why I share poems on my website and newsletter when poetry is so easily accessible everywhere else. One reason is because of the deep love I have for poetry, and a desire to share that love with others. Another is because certain poems give voice to things I am thinking or feeling and need to be shared. Yet another is because I think there is an urgency to poetry as a way of telling the story of our time, and that poets are the record-keepers of our era that need to be heard.

And one other reason is because I once fancied myself a poet, and this is my small way of feeling like that—through the words of others—once again.

A poem

Letter to the Person Who Carved His Initials into the Oldest Living Longleaf Pine in North America
Matthew Olzmann

_ –Southern Pines, NC_

Tell me what it’s like to live without
curiosity, without awe. To sail
on clear water, rolling your eyes
at the kelp reefs swaying
beneath you, ignoring the flicker
of mermaid scales in the mist,
looking at the world and feeling
only boredom. To stand
on the precipice of some wild valley,
the eagles circling, a herd of caribou
booming below, and to yawn
with indifference. To discover
something primordial and holy.
To have the smell of the earth
welcome you to everywhere.
To take it all in, and then,
to reach for your knife.

Mandy Brown knocks it out of the park, again:

Capitalism needed to disparage women’s talk in order to bring itself about because women’s talk–that is, talk that is liberatory, reciprocal, and mutual–is a powerful antidote to the violence, oppression, and theft that capitalism ushered in. That same disparaging force is at work today, in the forces toiling feverishly to restrict reproductive rights and to reinforce the gender binary–because the gender binary is a load-bearing pillar of capitalism. But as the edict to prohibit babble” attests, only by isolating women, by preventing them from talking, from sharing their experiences with one another, from acting in concert, can that pillar be defended.

Heat Death of the Internet: exactly what using the internet these days feels like.

What if the tools we use are actually shaping our culture, or at least influencing it? What if the structure and organization and permissions of Teams is actually reducing our willingness to communicate, rather than making it easier?” We use MS Teams in the Ontario Public Service (though my department still uses Slack, for now) and I’ve always found it alienating. Martha Edwards ruminates on why that may be.

The sur­prise of middle age, and the ter­ror of it, is how much of a per­son’s fate can boil down to one mis­judge­ment.”

I do a ton of cooking for the family these days, and on the hardest, longest days, it takes a lot to step into the kitchen:

Many people talk about the joys of cooking on the good days. It’s an idea that’s easy to love: We celebrate a birthday by baking a cake; we gather with friends and family around a holiday roast. We toast a friend’s promotion with a fancy charcuterie board. But fewer people talk about cooking on the bad days—specifically why it’s worth cooking at all when you’re having trouble finding the will to get dressed in the morning. And this is the question I’ve been trying to answer for myself lately.

This is fascinating: an old chemotherapy drug, Cyclophosphamide, has now enabled more patients than ever to get bone-marrow transplants by reducing the number of markers that need to match between donors and patients.

The full two seasons of Freakazoid! are now available on the Internet Archive. I remember loving this show when I was younger; I wonder how it holds up now.

Motown Junkies is a blog where Steve Devereux is reviewing the entire Motown singles discography in sequential order from the beginning. This is phenomenal stuff.

My media diet for the past two months.

I grew up loving Johan Cruyff (probably because my dad was such a fan) so this sticker art tribute to him made me smile.

I’ve spent a lot of times on trains in the past decade, but since I’ve only been getting electronic tickets since then, I’m jealous of these gorgeously-designed vintage Japanese train tickets:

Well designed train ticket from Japan

Famous paintings recreated using only emojis.

A deep dive into one of the few cakes I don’t actually like: How Black Forest Cake Conquered the World.

This is exactly how our cat would answer this question:

Comic strip asking a cat for its simple pleasures and the cat responding chaos and destruction and naps

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