Saturday, February 25, 2012

Accidental Sky-Dock-Tree

As go so many things in my life,
this picture went its own way . . .

I was aiming for morning--a river-scape
but my camera went all Swedish somber on me--
big dark sky (drama back-lit so that you think
there just might be something on the other side),
lonely, tiny dock-crane silhouettes,
and, fighting the potential glory behind,
one and a half blasted trees.

The rest of the pictures were color--
and fairly happy.

This one . . . is what it is.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Meta-play with tree and painting

It was March. The plum tree was blooming

and Mary's painting wanted to play outside.

At first, it was a bit shy . . . after all, it is a night

scene. It posed self-consciously. Later, it played

hide and seek.

Now, it's April. Outside the blossoms have fallen.

Inside, they bloom in the dark.

Friday, July 9, 2010

OK Miss Mary SmartyPants
. . .

Take this

portrait of my babushka heteronym

and ask yourself what is that object

tucked under her imaginary right arm

kalashnikov heat

vodka fire . . . or what

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Poem by artist Alice R. Huger Smith

From the typescript of the memoirs of my great-aunt Miss Maria H. Heyward (page 94 ff):

“I think that there is in Charleston one person who would like to spell Wappaoolah [Heyward family plantation]with all capital letters,and that is Alice R. Huger-Smith [artist of Charleston Renaissance and member of the Poetry Society]. She came to Wappaoolah from the time we were at school together at Miss Sass until our life there was over. She came every November for twelve years to be saturated with the country and to paint it. A visit to her studio is seldom made without hearing the name Wappaoolah. Her friendship and her sister Caroline’s are. . .of those inherited ones that are sometimes so strong. In the Diary [Heyward family diary] in Alice’s writing is this delightful and very true poem.”

[see the Gibbes Museum web site for a look at the art work of Miss Alice;dtype=d;keyword=alice]

Piscatorial Sport

Three lovely maids a’fishing went,
On mighty deeds their minds intent.
For Loti meant to catch a whale
And Marie hoped to fill a pail
With minnows rare—while Alice small
Was wishing she might catch at all,
And dark forebodings lined her brow,
For she had never fished till now.

They sat them on a muddy bank
And round them ranged in rank on rank
You might have viewed the biscuit white
And goober fair—a goodly sight—
For beauteous maids, however sweet,
Find vast delight in things to eat.

They sat them on this muddy slope
And ate and ate with fond wild hope
That fascinated fish would flow
In streams to see this pretty show.
First Alice with discretion great
Declared she knew not how to bait
Her hook—which showed her sense, for then
T’was done for her by Marie’s ten
Fair fingers—if you’ve tried the same
You’ll praise her sense, see why it came.

So, as I’ve mentioned once before
They sat upon this muddy shore
And ate and fished, until a roar
Of wild delight ran through the air,
And strange to say a fish lay there
Upon the roadside gleaming fair
A fair and cheering sight.
And Alice in loud accents cries
Waving her rod from side to side,
“A bite—a glorious bite!”

And then excitement reigned supreme
And saw fulfilled each heavenly dream.
And Marie followed this example,
And of her skill showed forth a sample.
But then these two grown puffed and proud
At Loti fair laughed long and loud,
And jeered at her—and asked her why
Her line lay idle—did she try?
They showed themselves a witty pair
Of humor sharp—sarcasm rare.

But wily Loti bode in peace,
Nor e’en requested them to cease
Their irritating chattering—
But sudden with great splattering
She flung into the ether blue
A monstrous trout—(This fact is true.)
She told me that without a doubt
Two yards it measured, but might shrink
When it was cooked—what do you think?

This monstrous trout, it flaps around
With such a force, it shakes the ground.
Into the stream to leap it tries
And anxious fear shines in their eyes.

And as the fish now twists and flops
In spasms round him Marie hops
And Loti—with melodious yell—
Cries, “Sit on him, and all is well.”
While little Alice, pale, yet green,
(A paradox) gazed at the scene,
And added her faint little squeak,
Which sometimes rose into a shriek.
But if I told all that occurred
In stirring phrase and glowing word,
Your brain might reel—and if t’were weak
In words to this effect you’d speak,
“Go tell that tale, my little friend,
To the Marines”—so I will end.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Memento mori come to me

Corner of back porch, July 2009 . . . self-selected end.

Faded Beauty

We should be so lucky . . . preserved in lavender decay.

Mischief and His Cheebah Cheebah

Who needs a love sonnet when a picture will do?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

LWP Academic Piece (w/ syllabus for Clouds 101)

Writing for Week 2: Academic and Anthology
ON CLOUDS, by Helen Brandenburg

Twenty-three years and . . .

I have never felt comfortable grading writing of any kind . . . unless I am checking narrow and trivial things, such as the inclusion of an appropriate and clear context clue in a sentence on a vocabulary quiz. In such cases, I take that stack of papers, tamp them into a neat pile, and have at it. No moral dilemmas—no doubts about my ability to judge the worth of the work. Also, students have no trouble either. The grade is clear and indisputable. Right as rain. Fair as fair. What I see is what they get.

Any real expression of thought is an entirely different matter. Even when I have armed them and me with an air-tight rubric, I still dread putting a grade (and, in my school, that is a number) on someone else’s brain-child. The only easy paper to grade is the “no brainer”—quite literally, one produced without the use of student brains . . . the paper that ignores the prompt or the one that goes nowhere quickly.

Imagine grading a history exam essay as a graduate assistant. You are told to look for five specific points in the essay. If these points are there--early American flags, stars and stripes, Betsy Ross, Philadelphia, George Washington—then the student earns five points: check, check, check, check, check. Maybe one point off for Filadelfia.

Confession: I have never graded this way in 23 years. I agonize. I hate the process. Sure, I struggle to be fair and helpful but I still find the whole process daunting. My temperament is best suited to holistic grading (excellent, good, fair, weak, what-in-the-world-were-you-thinking). I add what I think will be helpful comments. I require revision of targeted features of each paper. However, last year, because of what I perceived to be administrative nudges, I locked myself and my students into teacher-made rubrics. Trying to support my students, I sentenced myself to prison . . . they did time in the next block.

In the best of all possible student worlds, no writing should be graded. Writing should be read. This I know. This I gut feel. A real paper would be read, commented on, and then returned . . . just the way my fellow poets do for each other.

Last week, I shared an Institute prose piece with my friend MFA Carol, who put little checks where things were working, short questions where things were dubious, a few punctuation / grammar alerts, but, best of all, one short observation that cut to the heart of the draft. She said that, in it, I promised passion but only delivered lyric remembrance. Now, that’s not the way to treat an audience. So what had I left out? The heart of the matter, of course.

And, of course, I could not immediately “fix” the paper. Why? Because writing, unlike elementary punctuation, is not simple. So why do we expect our students to rush revisions?

My method is to live with drafts, a long time if possible. . . to carry them in my head, to sleep on them (sometimes literally), and, if I’m lucky, to wake up to the solution of some nagging problem.

Driving down Interstate 526 on my way to town and the Institute has a way of clearing my mind, probably because I physically arc into space as I cross the Wando bridge in morning. The world is fresh and new; the view is long. My brain likes this. It does not like a computer lab.

Sometimes, I tell my students I want to teach Clouds 101. My room is roof top, high and flat and is furnished with trees, flowers, paths, and comfortable lawn chairs . . . here we practice the daydream. This is our lab. Its sister course is held at night, Star Gazing 201. Of course, there are also field trips in my ideal school (they are much like a Writers Marathon) . . . and a library, with high ceilings and leather chairs, where we can sit and read, with others near, but in silence. . . except for the plash of fountain. Also, cloisters for peripatetic seminars. A gymnasium, with pool and sauna. We could call this place Alexandria Prep. Looks like I need a time machine . . . and wax tablets.

All this because I hate to grade papers. I seriously doubt that Plato used red ink to write numbers on student work. What’s wrong with us anyway?

My friend Dan of AP History says our American system of education is a product of the Industrial Revolution—in particular, mass production. My daughter adds that our system is designed to teach citizens to sit in offices for eight hours. Students are units of product spit out by the Factory of Education, which totally ignores what I see as simple requirements for learning. Let me list a few:

1. Safety (a non-violent, non-threatening, yet challenging environment)
2. Real food (no sugar dispensed by machines)
3. Variety (of place, humor, mood, method, and activity)
4. Movement (are we the only culture that ignores a body’s need periodically to stretch and sleep . . . deprives children of sleep, all for the sake of what parents perceive as competition . . . that deadly combination of competitive sports and competitive academics)
5. Re-creation, in its various forms (naps, Sudoku, walks, and, yes, TV)
6. Humor (from fart to slight of mind)
7. Passion (for something, from collecting Hello Kitty pencils to fighting world hunger)
8. Some form of Love (such as friendship, compassion, camaraderie, as well as finding soul / body mates of an appropriate age)
9. Discovery (the delight of surprise)
10. Wonder without fear (the courage to follow curiosity, and the time to do so)

And, last, but not least, ungraded writing.

Bene nota: A syllabus for Clouds 101 is attached for your leisurely perusal.


England High School
Curriculum Guidelines

Department: English
Course Title: Clouds
Course Number: 101
Credit: 0.5
Course Overview
A semester course, Clouds 101 is open to all students and employees of Bishop England High School, not excluding maintenance staff or volunteer coaches. However, because its content encompasses much more than vaporish fluff, entry into this elective course of study is dependent upon the submission of an extensive application and successful completion of an interview process conducted by course instructors. Designed to hone observation, association, and discrimination skills as well as to develop the meta-cognitive capacities of its participants, this course will embolden its students to communicate—in writing, spoken word, and meditative modes, with Nature, God (i.e., higher powers of all genders, irrespective of race or creed), and all life forms (past, present, or future—large and small groups). Students will read, as their interests or moods direct them, from a long list of readings not specifically on the subject of clouds. A unit in research and library skills is also included, but no writing will be graded with letters or numbers. This course is pass, not fail.

Course Content
• classification of cloud forms by association of shapes to personal or cultural memories
• the naming of clouds, ignoring all scientific nomenclature
• determination of the beginnings and endings of distinguishable forms (natural or man-made)
• appreciation of edges and the transience of things
• close study of light and shade—denotations and connotations
• practice and mastery of the pathetic fallacy
• respectful parallel play with all others engaged in and with cloud study
• acceptance of the cloud interpretations of others
• sketching and photography of clouds
• completion of a cloud journal, using several techniques including but not limited to the double-entry journal, dialoguing with God, writing letters to the World, and penning whimsical limericks
• complete rejection of the 3-point, 5-paragraph essay format

Intended Outcomes
After successfully completing this course, the student will be able to do the following:
• Stop and smell the roses
• Work both with inner self and with others
• Use words to describe a number of amorphous, subtle, but significant forms
• Write well in several genres, using effective support for statements of fact or conjecture
• Honor the perception of all selves and those of others
• Demonstrate mastery of the basic rules of English grammar and the complete rejection of some
• Hold two opposing views at once without explosive violence or psychic disintegration
• Efficiently use the resources of libraries—real, virtual, and imaginary

A Guide to Clouds: Beyond the Event Horizon. Imagination, 2007.
McCloud, Ian. Methinks It Is like a Weasel: Cloud Interpretation. Fourth Course. Polonius Press, 1993.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I clearly don't know what I'm doing . . . however . . .

Tonight I am going to try to post something . . . just to see whether I can remember how to do the deed. Tomorrow I will try again . . . only I will try to post one of the pieces I completed for the Lowcountry Writing Project Summer Instititue 2009. Right now, here is a picture from the writers marathon that kicked off the institute in late May.
That's me, Jean, and Genie at the St. Matthews Lutheran Church on Marion Square. Lunch at the tearoom.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Two Friends Blogging . . . with Macs, of course

Carol Peters, on the left (both she and her computer are faster than greased lightning)--blog teacher ("no double clicks, *#$*!").
Susan Finch Stevens, on the right (dreamer and maker of books and poems, who once read to the sound of drumbeats in the mountains)--fellow blog student ("what was that password?").

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Meet my son, Drummond.

Over the shoulder break during Drummond's
critique of marshscape. Daniel Island, 2009.
This Easter, Drummond embraces the straw hat with floral band . . . it's been waiting for five years.

Mary Tarbell painted this for me.

Louis Untermeyer, ed. (1885–1977). Modern American Poetry. 1919.

Ezra Pound. 1884–

106. In a Station of the Metro

THE apparition of these faces in the crowd;

Petals on a wet, black bough.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Afternoon Observation

Mr. Vulture just cruised by Carol's dock
at the very border of her creek.
Black glide--here and gone.
Head down, he is looking for death
Didn't notice at all the psychodelic pattern
of her porch screen

Mary Tarbell

This is my daughter Mary. She is small but cute (with a slight edge).

Rachel Zucker

I found this poem on Verse Daily.
Here is a short biography from the poet's web site.

Rachel Zucker was born in New York City in 1971. The daughter of storyteller Diane Wolkstein and novelist Benjamin Zucker, she was raised in Greenwich Village and traveled around the world with her parents on Wolkstein's folktale-collecting trips. After graduating from Yale with a B.A. in Psychology, Zucker attended the University of Iowa where she received her M.F.A in poetry. Zucker's first full-length collection is Eating in the Underworld (2003), a series of poems that follows the narrative arc of the myth of Persephone. Her second collection, The Last Clear Narrative, (2004) a cross examination of marriage and motherhood. Her third collection, The Bad Wife Handbook is a darkly comic contemplation of married life. Along with poet Arielle Greenberg, Zucker edited, Women Poets on Mentorship: Efforts and Affections, (2008) an anthology of essays by younger women poets about mentorship. Zucker is the winner of the Salt Hill Poetry Award (1999, judged by C.D. Wright) and the Barrow Street Poetry Prize (2000). In 2002 she won the Center for Book Arts Award (judged by Lynn Emanuel) for her long poem, "Annunciation" which was published as a limited edition chapbook. Her poems have appeared in many journals including: 3rd Bed, American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Colorado Review, Epoch, Fence, Iowa Review, Pleiades and Prairie Schooner as well as in the Best American Poetry 2001 anthology.
Zucker has taught at Yale, NYU and Makor. From 2005-2007 she was the poet-in-residence at Fordham University where she taught writing and literature classes to undergraduate and graduate students. She is also a certified labor doula, CD (DONA) and has attended 8 births. She has worked as a photographer, day care teacher and gem dealer. She lives in New York with her husband, Josh Goren, and their three sons. She is currently working on her fourth collection of poems, Museum of Accidents, which will be published by Wave Books in 2009, and a novel for which she has no publisher, no publication date and no clear path torward progress. She is currently co-currating Starting Today: Poems for the first 100 days.

Sarah Lindsay

I like Mound Digger by Sarah Lindsay.

Marsh without Bird

Carol's marsh--greens, blues--
no, more--yellow, brown, umber
light glint and shadow