Metaphor Dice, Part 2

Yesterday was the recruiting event for my school, at which I ran a creative writing workshop for the accepted students. While none to choose to use the future is a reluctant curveball, the poems they came up with were strong. I’ve invited them to send them to me so I can set something up for them in September when they actually begin. I hope they do. When one of the students, an eighth grader mind you, ended her poem based on the metaphor death is an unruly drum with “thump, thump dead,” there was an audible gasp in the room. Truly inspiring.

As for me, I did as I promised and wrote my poem on the original metaphor: the future is a reluctant curveball. Here is the result.

Batter Up

Life happens at the speed of a fastball,

Moving inexorabley onward in the flash of an eye, but

The future is a reluctant curveball

Hurtling at us at 70 miles per hour-

Slow enough to see, maybe, but

Fast enough to miss when

It moves away from our expected trajectory.

Half of those turns bounce in the dirt

Half miss the zone altogether

Half arrive as a hitter’s pitch

Swing away at the best,

Ignore the rest,

Adjusting to the vageries of time

So that we don’t

Strike out.


Metaphor Dice, Part 1

The future is a reluctant curveball

Tomorrow I will be teaching a creative writing class to prospective students, and I can’t find my metaphor dice. Ugh. So, I went online and found a metaphor dice generator. Sorry Taylor Mali for using this imitation instead of your wonderful dice, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I will replace my own dice asap, but for tomorrow, I’ll have to use the knock off online version. It’s not as satisfying as actually rolling the dice, but it’ll do.

However, the first “roll” did generate something that stirs the metaphors of my mind with the words the future, reluctant, and curveball. I really like that image. I don’t know how well it will go over with eighth grade girls, so it’s a maybe for tomorrow’s play list, but I will definitely play with it and post my own poem with that starter tomorrow (or the next day).

How about you? What does this metaphor evoke in your own creative mind? Post your thoughts or poem in the comments (or on your own blog with a link back here.)

A Flawed Book Leads to Great Discussion

It finally came to me, luckily this morning and not in the middle of the night, what I was pondering yesterday: the Student-Faculty Book Club discussion of Dear Martin. I realized that a flawed book leads to great discussion. I’m not talking about a bad book, but rather, a good book that does not quite reach the level of great. It promises more than it delivers.

Nic Stone’s Dear Martin is such a book. It engendered lively discussion that only stopped when we ran out of time. The book serves as a place to start a discussion about race, but so much was left unexplored. And, in my opinion, too much attempted for the length of the book. In a book under 300 pages, there is institutional racism of the police, unconscious and conscious microaggressions, class struggles, interracial romance, gang violence, discrimination in the workplace, and more. It’s just too much.

The letters to Martin themselves became a problem for me. There is so much promise through the title of a young Black man struggling with the ideas of Dr. King through a steady influx of letters, but they fall off so soon that they lose their power. When things get really tough for Justyce, he abandons his letters and attempt to be like Dr. King. So, what was the point of them in the first place? We could have as easily received Justyce’s mindset through narration. But the real grappling with Dr. King wasn’t there.

Overall, I still really enjoyed the book. The length makes it consumable in one day, one sitting even. And this is a plus. The reader is immersed in Justyce’s world and caught up in his story that the many threads left hanging are nothing more than a minor nagging at the back of one’s mind. He is an engaging character; the trajectory of the story is a bit a of a surprise after the opening scene; so much happens. All this adds up to a good book.

If you just read it and don’t discuss it, perhaps you never even pick at those loose threads. But if you do, you start to realize why it’s not great, but you might also open up a much needed dialogue about race.

Write It Down

My New Year’s resolution is to write more. I know that’s a little vague, but that was purposeful. “More” is achievable. A specific number or schedule is easily missed.

So earlier this evening I was thinking about… well, I’ve forgotten already,,,, and I crafted a pithy tweet in my head. It was good. But, I spent a little too long meditating on it before picking up my phone to send it out… and… whoosh, it was gone.

So today, my writing advice is the oldest in the world: write it down. Get pen to paper or fingers to keyboard before your internal computer either hits the delete button or files it in the dark recesses of your brain waiting to reappear in the middle of some night when you’re worrying about something else.

And remember, even if you are writing The Great American Novel, it doesn’t have to be every day. Some days a pithy tweet will do.

Take It Easy

I started walking through the park today after work for the first time in quite a while. When I got to Bethesda fountain, there was a bride taking pictures of her sister? friend? and her SO with her phone. There were just the four of them. She wore a lovely off white full length sleeveless lace gown. Her husband wore a gray suit and a man bun. The female friend/sister had a floral dress and her boyfriend/husband had on dark gray trousers and a white dress shirt. I loved the tableau the four of them created, so I decided to sit down and try surreptitiously to get a pic. I failed to do so. Someone walked right in front of me just as I snapped. And then, the moment was gone. But that’s okay because I have the memory and because of them, I stopped instead of just powering through the park.

I decided to enjoy the moment despite the overcast nature of the day. Work had been full of time sucking paperwork, mind-numbing forms. Being in the park felt rejuvenating. In between spurts of people watching, I decided to check Facebook and came across this blog post from Kim of The Holderness Family in which she advocates for being lazy sometimes. Go read it and come back. I’ll wait. 😁

I looked at my watch and realized that I’d better get a move on if I was going to make the next train. And then I thought, “why do I need to make the next train? Why not take the one after that (35 minutes later) instead?” Last (school) year, I’d gotten so used to rushing out of the city to beat the evening rush and the crush of people that accompanies it to avoid big crowds and possible Covid exposure and then getting home and “doing something.” I’d forgotten the mental health benefit of walking in the park and people watching. How good it felt today to stop for a little while. Once student papers start pouring in and after school activities ramp up, this will be harder to do, but I hope to remember this feeling and indulge in a leisurely walk and people watching every now and again nonetheless. I want to see the seasons change in the park and revel in each one. I need to remember that this is just a important as “doing something.”

I hope that between Kim’s post and mine you too are inspired to give some time to beneficial laziness.

Counterpoint: “Legacies”

Today’s poem, another new poem from an old favorite, is a counterpoint to yesterday’s poem. Instead of two people learning how to communicate, these two, grandmother and granddaughter, hold their feelings inside. They deny the love they feel for each other and the connection between them, missing, perhaps deliberately, the coded messages in our common parlance. One wishes to strengthen their bond; the other is afraid of losing it: “neither of them ever/said what they meant” (ll. 16-17). Did they understand each other anyway? Do we understand each other?

Read the poem here.

“The Telephone”

One of my students chose “The Telephone” by Robert Frost for her poetry book. It is new to me, and I love discovering new poems by old favorites. This poem is both touching and inspirational. The beauty of the flower and the (super)natural communication between the two seems both innocent and pure. We could use more of that these days. Here’s the poem in its entirety:

The Telephone

Robert Frost – 1874-1963

“When I was just as far as I could walk
From here to-day,
There was an hour
All still
When leaning with my head against a flower
I heard you talk.
Don’t say I didn’t, for I heard you say—
You spoke from that flower on the window sill—
Do you remember what it was you said?”

“First tell me what it was you thought you heard.”

“Having found the flower and driven a bee away,
I leaned my head,
And holding by the stalk,
I listened and I thought I caught the word—
What was it? Did you call me by my name?
Or did you say—
Someone said ‘Come’—I heard it as I bowed.”

“I may have thought as much, but not aloud.”

“Well, so I came.”

There is story in these few lines. Perhaps the two had had a fight or disagreement, for he had walked “just as far as [he] could walk” away from her, yet their connection did not sever. Instead, he gave himself the time to be “all still.” And then, in the stillness, he hears her; he hears her heart. And he listens to it despite the possibility that she might still be angry. He forestalls her possible protestation that she did not call him; “Don’t say I didn’t, for I heard you.” And she seems unwilling to admit she called him and to contradict him and say she didn’t. There is hesitancy and tenderness. Perhaps this couple will make it because they are learning to communicate. Perhaps one day I will write this story in its fullness…

“Icarus also flew”

I know National Poetry Month has come to an end, but I cannot help still sharing poetry as I read and grade my students annual poetry anthologies. This poem, “Failing and Flying” by Jack Gilbert is new to me, and it hooked me from its first line: “Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.” Isn’t that the truth? His fall from the sky is the focus of the myth and so many references to it. We so easily forget the moments of success before a project or passion came to an end. The focus is solely on the outcome, but our lives are made up of all the experiences that come before it.

Can we apply this same lens to the work of a writer/actor/singer/artist whose work we admire but about whose personal life/beliefs we learn some unsavory facts. Does the work, like Icarus’s flight, exist separate from its creator’s fall from grace? I don’t know. I’d like to think so, but it is so much harder when the person is living in our own time rather than in times past. We cannot excuse the prejudice to historical blindness. We also become loathe to financially support a person through the buying of his/her art if that person has made statements that are anathema to us. Yet still, the work on its own soars. Or maybe this is a reversal; the art is the outcome that soars, and the experiences of the author that sour.

Perhaps this is something we can only apply to our own experiences. Perhaps we can use this idea to separate the art and the artist. In any event, read the poem and enjoy at least your own moments of flight regardless of the quality of the landing.

Recommended, Nay Required, Reading

I do not like to get political here on my blog, though the argument can be made, as Orwell did, that all writing is political. Yet, a news alert about the Supreme Court’s leaning to strike down Roe vs. Wade impels me to recommend a couple of novels set in a United States, or subsection thereof, where that same has happened.

This 2011 novel by Hillary Jordan follows the story of Hannah, a woman convicted of murder for having had an abortion, who is not incarcerated, but rather “chromed,” that is her skin is genetically dyed red to announce her crime to all around while she tries to survive both the stigma and the emotional and mental strain her world, her actions, and her beliefs put on her. Well written and engrossing, this novel, to paraphrase This is Spinal Tap, goes to 11. I read it when it first came out, and I’m still thinking about it. If I had a class set, I’d teach it alongside The Scarlet Letter.

If you haven’t heard about The Handmaid’s Tale, well, then you’re probably not reading this blog either. I’ll admit that I haven’t watched the series, but I read the book a few years ago after hearing rave upon rave from several English teacher friends. Several claim it to be their favorite book. I’ll admit that I didn’t “LOVE” it as I’ve heard so many others speak of it, but that is because it horrified me. Which it is what it should do. The ease with which the people of Gilead accepted the total subjugation of women is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever read. Yet Atwood, like Jordan, is not didactic; they both tell stories that tell us something about ourselves, and these are things we don’t want to know, but hopefully, if we can confront the ugly in fiction, we can avoid or at least ameliorate it in real life. (For a bonus, check out my 2019 review of The Testaments, Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale.)