Looking for Ideas

So yes, we are still amid a global pandemic that has killed a few million people, but it’s spring, we have a sane president, I’ve had both my vaccinations and I’m feeling uncharacteristically optimistic. So I am working on a project, putting together some resources on poetry for university students and community.

So I have two questions.

1. What resources about poetry would you be interested in?

2. What common misconceptions do people have about poetry?

Let me know in the comments!

Weird Coincidence Number 37

So lately as I have been waiting impatiently for CBS to bring Person of Interest Season 5 back, or at the very least tell us when it is coming back—March? May? Honestly, CBS, you produce a kickass show and then you make the fans crazy by not giving it to us. They have all but cancelled it, making a short season and keeping it in somebody’s vault somewhere. So, to encourage them to bring it back, I have been heroically binge-watching Seasons 2-4 on Netflix, and just a few days ago, watched the episode where Finch (Michael Emerson) very precisely orders a complicated sandwich from a deli in Chinatown, which seems odd, because why would you order a pastrami sandwich (with two kinds of mustard and “enough pepperoncini to create digestion issues in even the strongest constitution” but with no mayonnaise because “if there’s even a trace, it will render the sandwich useless and we’ll have to start the whole process over again and I’m sure neither one of us want that”) from a Chinese deli?


And how do you render a sandwich useless? That is actually easier to answer, as it is meant to be a peace offering for a friendly former government assassin, Sameen Shaw (Sarah Shahi) whom the gang was forced to drug and handcuff to the bench to keep her from going off to help the gang after her cover has been blown and the Evil Artificial Intelligence could kill her if they find her. And nothing renders a peace offering useless like mayonnaise. Duh. Even I know that.


The thing about all this is that, as Wikia explains, “Finch refers to the sandwich he brings to Shaw as a ‘Beatrice Lillie.’ Beatrice Lillie was a comic actress. Her final role was in the 1967 film Thoroughly Modern Millie, where she played the house mother at a women’s rooming house who is actually the leader of a white slavery ring based in New York’s Chinatown, thus the name of the sandwich.” This isn’t a very good explanation, but that isn’t my point.


My point is that, not knowing this connection, I just watched Thoroughly Modern Millie last night and have the damn theme song stuck in my head, because of course anything Julie Andrews sings is going to be stuck in my head for life, especially if she sings it while dressed like a 1920s flapper.

Thoroughly Modern Millie

There are those
I suppose think we’re mad
Heaven knows the world is gone
To wrack and to ruin

What we think is chic, unique, and quite adorable
They think is odd and “Sodom and Gomorrable”
But the fact is everything today is thoroughly modern

Check your personality,
Everything today makes yesterday slow
Better face reality- it’s not insanity, says Vanity Fair
In fact, it’s stylish to raise your skirt and bob your hair

In the rumble seat, the world is so cozy- if the boy is kissable!
And that tango dance they wouldn’t allow?
Now is quite permissable!

Good-bye, good-goody girl, I’m changing and how?
So beat the drums cuz here comes thoroughly modern Millie now!

Everything today is thoroughly modern
Bands are gettin’ jazzier, everything today is starting to go
Cars are gettin’ snazzier
Men say it’s criminal what women’ll do
What they’re forgetting is, this is 1922!

Have you seen the way they kiss in the movies?
Isn’t it delectable?
Painting lips and pencil lining your brow
Now is quite respectable!

Good-bye, good-goody girl, I’m changing and how!
So beat the drums ‘cuz here comes
Thoroughly modern Millie now!


Someone on Facebook recently pointed out that the 20s are coming back and we should bring back the clothes and music. Well, maybe the music anyway. But watching this ridiculously (and casually) racist and sexist comedy, I think there are a whole bunch of things we will happily leave behind.

David Bowie and January’s Promise


I am not going to pretend that David Bowie changed my life, but I will say that his advice in the song “Changes” to “turn and face the strange” seems like just as good advice for the new year and the changes it is bringing us, both the expected and the unexpectable, as for anyone facing the biggest change of all, as he just did a few days ago. In the end, even small changes can feel like small deaths; we don’t know what we are stepping out into and whether the ground will hold us. We think we are going out there into the future alone, but that may not be true. Anyway, for the sake of 2016 for everybody, here’s hoping!

I still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
And every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test

(Turn and face the strange)
Don’t want to be a richer man
(Turn and face the strange)
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time


My Boys, Wilbur and Orville


So 112 years ago the Wright Brothers made the first successful airplane flight near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. A while back I wrote an oratorio about their process and I even had a composer who was working on it, but then we kept having our planned meetings go strangely awry—buses that were an hour late and the like—so I have actually never heard the music she wrote for it. Anyway, here is a taste of my attempt to capture their voices.


Finding Wind/Kitty Hawk Tango Baritone/Wilbur


When I sought for a safe place to practice

To learn the aeronautic riddles of flying,

They sent me to stand on a stretch of sandy land

In Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.


The abode of mosquitoes and buzzards,

A clime either roasting or raw,

A suitable location

Fraught with vexation:

I found it at Kitty Hawk.


I desired to make tests meticulous

In winds exceeding fifteen miles an hour,

Even quicker gales are here ubiquitous,

Enough to make a bold man cower.


The sand drives forth like an army

Over the hills and the flat.

The winds that rattle the tent

Are grand for experiments

But you’ll want to hold onto your hat!


If you desire a wind continual,

A place for vying with your flying machine,

The unbroken wind of the Kill Devil Hills

Will shrill and splinter your dreams.


I pity you, sir, for a coward,

If you dislike the picture I draw:

A land riddled with erosion

Betwixt Sound and Ocean:

Where I build my camp at Kitty Hawk?


How the Birds Rise Tenor/Orville


Consider the owl,

The predator of night,

Who glides through the darkness,

Keeping the field mouse in his sight.

And then he dives down

Without disturbing the air.

The mouse is carried aloft

And never knew the owl was there.


And I am left to ponder

Mother Nature’s wonders:

How the owl glides,

How the stars sing,

How the birds rise.


Now consider the gull,

The scavenger of day,

Who sails across the morning

And her flying is play.

How she turns on a wingtip!

How she soars without a care,

Calling out her jubilation

Carried on ascending air.


And I am left amazed

At Mother Nature’s ways:

How the gull soars,

How the sand stings,

How the birds rise.


Now with the wind I sing,

I will learn to fly

As the owl glides,

As the gull soars,

As the birds rise.

Daylight Savings Time, or, It’s Not Dark Yet, But It Soon Will Be


There is a car that parks behind the bank next to my apartment building that has a strange bumper sticker that says, “It’s not dark yet but it’s getting there.” For months I have assumed that it was a cynical (and therefore accurate) commentary on the environmental mess we are in with climate change, superstorms, sea–level rise and what-have-you. All. The. Problems. (which our overbribed politicians ignore, deny and fail to lead on, of course).

Call me pessimistic, but I don’t see it getting better anytime soon. And it really needs to. But thinking about Daylight Savings Time made me Google the phrase and I discovered that it is actually the tagline for a Bob Dylan song that I have never heard (which is dark and cynical but more about human relationships than environmental disaster, apparently). Here is the final verse:


I was born here and I’ll die here against my will
I know it looks like I’m movin’ but I’m standin’ still
Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb
I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don’t even hear the murmur of a prayer
It’s not dark yet but it’s gettin’ there.


In retrospect, I still think I was kind of right.


Dylan, Bob. “It’s Not Dark Yet But It’s Gettin’ There.”