Thursday, December 24, 2009

When I Were a Dragon

I realize now

that the poem I gave you

was incomplete.  I forgot to mention 

the cold and the fog 

          you see spackling out your mouth

when it comes down upon

the sky.  Clearly

I meant to include that bit but 

you know how it is you 

get on the train and think

you'll do this and that when you get there

but not here.  

                   Here is only a moment

but moments are all so

        I'm looking 

at it now and remembering.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Yep. Another poem.

Here's a poem for the England people who I know must be homesick for trains. Wendy Cope is a lovely British poet I just discovered; check out her stuff at

On a Train

The book I've been reading
rests on my knee. You sleep. 

It's beautiful out there - 
fields, little lakes and winter trees
in February sunlight,
every car park a shining mosaic. 

Long, radiant minutes,
your hand in my hand, 
still warm, still warm. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I wonder...

This morning I found myself wondering what sort of experience a young lady during Jane Austen’s time would have had reading Pride and Prejudice. She would have understood perfectly the exact meaning of Austen’s universally acknowledged truth, and I can’t help but think that the prominence of such thinking at the time regarding single men of good fortune would have made the irony nigh impossible to detect. She would have known exactly what a barouche and a high-flyer looked like, and she would have known exactly the sort of people who would own them.

She would have recognized the characters. Perhaps she knew a Mrs. Bennet (or had one of her own). She might have known a Charlotte and a Bingley and a Collins. Maybe she had a Jane Bennet, or maybe she wished that she did.

She would have hated Mr. Darcy along with Elizabeth (due to a peculiar lack of Flair and other media sources to tell her otherwise). She would have fallen in love with Mr. Wickham and applauded Elizabeth’s staunch refusal of Collins. She would have sympathized with Charlotte, while secretly knowing that she might have done the same thing in Charlotte’s situation.

She would have been blown away by Darcy’s proposal, because she would have recognized immediately exactly how different he and Elizabeth were in pedigree and what an enormous barrier that was to cross.

She would have hated Mr. Wickham for his deceit and sympathized with Elizabeth’s evolving affections toward Darcy. Kitty’s scandal would have shocked her to the bone, and perhaps she would have even slammed the book shut in horror. The sheer enormity of Darcy’s generosity would have sealed her affections permanently.

She would have marveled at Lizzy’s audacity in the face of the odious Lady Catherine, and for a moment she would have lost hope that Darcy and Elizabeth could ever be together. She would have found hope in the book’s conclusion: a deep yet uncertain hope that we in present day might not fully understand.

Like all of us, she would have admired Lizzy’s passion, Jane’s kindness, and Darcy’s generosity. She would have laughed at Mrs. Bennet’s insufferable sensibilities and grown exasperated at Mr. Bennet’s utter obliviousness. And like many of us, she would have promised herself that should a real-life Mr. Darcy every cross her path, she would not let pride or prejudice blind her from the possibilities.

I wonder if she hugged the book to her chest and just spent a few minutes letting it all sink in, or if she threw it aside immediately and reached for Miss Austen’s next novel. I wonder if she even considered the notion that, years later, the love story in her hands would be a time-honored classic—scrutinized and philosophized and criticized by every English major around the globe.

(Though, personally, I think she just squealed like a fan girl and daydreamed about Mr. Darcy. I mean, come on, ladies--haven’t we all?)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I just don't know...

I'm sitting here right now reading people's blogs and trying to catch up with people's lives.  A "To Do" list sits by its lonesome on my desktop, with things that would keep me busy for at least two weeks if I did nothing else.  Meanwhile, a little girl who just turned 8 last week lies on her back next to me.  She is mouthing the words to Defying Gravity and a word comes out accidentally every now in then in a whisper.  Her mother got her a book yesterday all about the making of Wicked, and her mind has been on nothing else since (except last night briefly for our group reading of the Chronicles of Narnia).  I can't help envying her simplicity.  Why don't I get excited about little things like that any more?  Why don't I get swept away by the amazingness of life and love and grace that is so much grander than any song from a musical?  Am I that much older and wiser that I can't justify total enthrallment with something when a to do list looms over my head?

Maybe I should add something enthralling to my to do list.  Maybe I should make myself enthralled about my to do list.  Maybe I should scrap to do lists altogether and just do things as they come up and hope I don't forget anything important.  Maybe I should just sit down and do the to do list and then let myself get enthralled about something.  Since I can't figure out what to do, I'm writing this, which isn't all that enthralling and isn't on my to do list.  There's something joyous about that, too, I think.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hello lovely English people -
7 of us went to the great state of Minnesot-ah for a conference. There were lots of nerds there. But we did here this British guy named Neil Gaiman speak and he read this beautiful poem about fairytales that I think you will all like. 

by Neil Gaiman

Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never
saw before.
Say "please" before you open the latch,
go through,
walk down the path.
A red metal imp hangs from the green-painted 
front door,
as a knocker,
do not touch it; it will bite your fingers. 
Walk through the house. Take nothing. Eat 
However, if any creature tells you that it hungers,
feed it.
If it tells you that it is dirty,
clean it. 
If it cries to you that it hurts,
if you can,
ease its pain. 

From the back garden you will be able to see the 
wild wood. 
The deep well you walk past leads to Winter's 
there is another land at the bottom of it.
If you turn around here, 
you can walk back, safely;
you will lose no face. I will think no less of you. 

Once through the garden you will be in the 
The trees are old. Eyes peer from the under-
Beneath a twisted oak sits an old woman. She
may ask for something;
give it to her. She
will point the way to the castle. 
Inside it are three princesses. 
Do not trust the youngest. Walk on.
In the clearing beyond the castle the twelve
months sit about a fire,
warming their feet, exchanging tales. 
They may do favors for you, if you are polite.
You may pick strawberries in December's frost.
Trust the wolves, but do not tell them where
you are going. 
The river can be crossed by the ferry. The ferry-
man will take you. 
(The answer to his question is this:
If he hands the oar to his passenger, he will be free to
leave the boat.
Only tell him this from a safe distance.)

If an eagle give you a feather, keep it safe.
Remember: that giants sleep too soundly; that 
witches are often betrayed by their appetites;
dragons have one soft spot, somewhere, always;
hearts can be well-hidden,
and you betray them with your tongue.

Do not be jealous of your sister.
Know that diamonds and roses
are as uncomfortable when they tumble from
one's lips as toads and frogs:
colder, too and sharper, and they cut.

Remember your name. 
Do not lose hope - what you seek will be found.
Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped
to help you in their turn. 
Trust dreams.
Trust your heart, and trust your story.
When you come back, return the way you came.
Favors will be returned, debts will be repaid. 

Do not forget your manners.
Do not look back.
Ride the wise eagle (you shall not fall). 
Ride the silver fish (you will not drown). 
Ride the grey wolf (hold tightly to his fur).

There is a worm at the heart of the tower; that is
why it will not stand. 

When you reach the little house, the place your
journey started,
you will recognize it, although it will seem
much smaller than you remember. 
Walk up the path, and through the garden gate
you never saw before but once.
And then go home. Or make a home.
And rest

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Joining the Club

I must first confess to the participants of this blog that I always feel like a second-hand English major. Growing up, I spent hours upon hours reading Christian romance novels (where the couple would live purely and inevitably get married in the end) and failed to educate myself with even the most basic of classic literature. I still have no answer to the traditional English major question of "who's your favorite author?" Perhaps some day I'll discover my true passion. I am currently drinking a cup of tea while writing this, though, so perhaps that will return some English points to my name. ;)

While there is no particular point to this note, I would like to reveal some English-themed irony. Last fall, I submitted two papers for the Sigma Tau Delta conference. Last year, unfortunately, the conference rejected my paper. This year, however, (while in London), I received an email reporting that they accepted my nonfiction piece. A few weeks later, I got a second email that informed me that my second research paper was only accepted conditionally (and yes, I do believe it was in italics). The research paper was one that I wrote in Dr. Epley's British Lit class sophomore year and one of which I was exceedingly proud, (be proud of the fact that I wrote that without ending in a preposition...).

The humor resides in the fact that the nonfiction piece came from an situation I experienced this past summer. I wrote about it for the pure reason of posting it on Facebook. Yes, the paper I submitted with all of the beauty of a Facebook note was immediately accepted to an international conference for college English honors society. The other paper which I spent hours and hours of research on was only accepted conditionally. A bit ironic, eh?

Ah well, perhaps college is polluting all of our natural abilities and leaves us with uniformed styles. ;) I miss all of you English types in London. Y'all'd (oh yeah, I used it) better come back with a touch of british accents!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Instead of homework . . .

Hello my darling English people. You're my favorites. When we graduate, let's all get cardboard boxes in the same alley. 

Life in London sounds loverly! Eat an extra scone for me and give Jane my regards.

SO, for my very first post, I'm not going to talk about life back here in the States, and how Step-Sing is amazing but ruining my health, or how I walked barefoot in the gorgeous seventy-degree sun yesterday, or how if you ask really nicely that Starbucks people will still make you the chocolate banana shake even when they're out of banana and boy, does it taste good. 

Instead. I'm going to write about a really cool book. This book, in fact. 
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
I like this book for Lots of Reasons. Here are three:
1. It is in England. Right after WWII. Be still, my heart. 
2. It is written as a series of letters - wild, wonderful, sad, gorgeous, witty, heartwrenching letters that make me want to rendezvous with some pretty stationery at my desk for a couple of hours. 
3. As you might have guessed from the title - it revolves around books, and the people who love them. Do you have trouble disassociating your identity from your library? If so, you will like this book. 

I was going to rave more about it but I just remembered that it was due two days ago and I still haven't finished it, which I need to do NOW if I am going to get any sleep, and I need sleep to survive Step-Sing, but I MUST read this book because it is beautiful and compelling and yes, now I will shut up and go read. 

You should read it too!

Warm regards,