Perhaps typography doesn’t interest you, but my associations with letter press printers, those odd creatures who print by taking the individual letters and putting them together into rows of type, running ink over them and creating art, has led me to enjoy and respect typographic oddities. Which brings me to the interrobang. You can find the detailed history of this mark–the only new punctuation mark of the 20th century–in a book called Shady Characters. You can get a taste of it here.
Designed to express both incredulity and overwhelming confusion of the modern age, the interrobang is both an exclamation and a question mark. Here are a few samples:
I went to a poetry reading at the lovely Falkirk House, sponsored by the Marin Poetry Center to hear a reading entitled Poetry and Spirituality, featuring my friend and fellow Squaw attendee, Christina Hutchins, and a woman I hadn’t known before, Kim Rosen. Kim recited an Easter Poem that caught my imagination. Here it is:
In Impossible Darkness
Do you know how
Do you remember
inside a cocoon?
There in the thick black
of your self-spun womb,
void as the moon before waxing,
(as Christ did
for three days
in the tomb)
in impossible darkness
Kim is a great advocate of memorizing and reciting poems, I practice I find not only enriching, but useful when (for example) you are waiting without a book on a long line., or having trouble sleeping. I have a library I can recite to myself–so delicious! I plan to add Kim’s poem to my repertoire.
It’s hard to define exactly how a prose poem differs from prose. But for me, a short piece that has an edge, that stays with you, that feels more powerful than the usual snippet of prose, is a prose poem. Here are two of my favorites (I’ve already posted “A Story About the Body,” another fav):
Having lunch with my daughter yesterday, we were talking about a poetry workshop at the 92nd St. Y.
“It’s weird,” my daughter said, “Nobody seems to want to read poetry, but everyone seems to want to write it.”
This is an odd fact, and certainly rang true. The workshop last night with Mark Ford, was very good, though. Continue reading
I lost Monday this week, traveling to NY. It’s odd the way you step into a sealed tube, wait, emerge across a continent hours later. In the bookstore in the new terminal they had (surprisingly) the wonderful book of Tomas Tranströmer’s Selected Poems, edited and introduced by Robert Hass. I couldn’t resist buying a copy. Here’s a selection:
The building is closed. The sun crowds in through the windowpanes
and warms up the surfaces of desks
that are strong enough to take the load of human fate.
Talking with another poet about the discouraging series of rejections, the endless worry that one’s work is really good–how can one know? I remembered this wonderful little poem by Robert Hass, from Time and Materials.
Envy of Other People’s Poems
In one version of the legend the sirens couldn’t sing. Continue reading
Lately I have been enjoying the Saturday “Review” section of the Wall Street Journal a lot more than the NY Times “Book Review.” This is an excerpt of a Polish author, Marek Hlasko, from a review by Nathaniel Popkin. It’s from Beautiful Twentysomethings, Hlasko’s autobiography. I’m going to have to read the book:
“There are few nations who have so many chances for good literature as we, the Poles, do. We’ve got everything: misfortune, political assassinations, eternal occupation, informers, mystery, despair, drunkenness. By God, what else could you ask for? When I was in Israel, I lived with the scum of the earth, but still I never met people as desperate, detestable, and unhappy as in Poland.”
On my way home from Chico, I saw this:
Also saw lots of ducks! I suppose the plucking goes with the guided hunt. And of course, such a great phrase can’t go without its tongue twister:
I’m not the duck plucker or the duck plucker’s son but I pluck the ducks till the duck plucker comes.
Of course, it’s Tuesday. Monday slipped by again, busy with spring planting, new baby chicks, and miscellaneous garden chores–they are endless. But for today I thought I’d share two famous poets words on poetry. Philip Levine and Marianne Moore:
A Theory of Prosody
When Nellie, my old pussy
cat, was still in her prime,
she would sit behind me
as I wrote, and when the line
got too long she’d reach
one sudden black foreleg down
and paw at the moving hand, Continue reading
For those of you who follow the chicken saga, I wrote about my attempts to incubate or have my broody hen hatch some chicks. I have to report failure on both counts. Nothing in my homemade incubator hatched. I wasn’t so surprised at this, as I had some initial problems regulating the temperature. But for whatever reason, the eggs under the broody hen also failed to hatch. After 23 days, I took them out. Three had complete chicken embryos inside, but not alive. I don’t’ have any idea why, as she was a very diligent setter. I slipped seven day-old chicks from the feed store under her the night I took away the eggs, a mix of Rhode Island Red and Americana chicks.
Two of the Americanas are black, as is the mother. For whatever reason, she rejected the two black chicks. She refused to let them be, but pecked at and chased them around the cage. A self-loathing racist hen? In any case, I had to take the black chicks out and foster them inside. Continue reading