Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What I Was Doing Instead of Writing Poems

Making pancakes
Watching TV
Reading voraciously
Checking my email
Making chili
Putting off showering
Going for a run
Drinking tea
Dressing professionally
Baking cookies
Keeping on the sunny side
Being early
Living a poetic life

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Children of the Mind

Children of the Mind (The Ender Quintet, #4)Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): The grand and sweeping conclusion to the Ender Quartet, which picks up exactly where Xenocide leaves off: the buggers, piggies, and humans of Lusitania are in danger of extinction by government-ordered demolition so Wang-mu and young Peter seek to save Jane and stop the deadly fleet headed to Lusitania while Miro and young Val seek to find replacement planets for everyone. (This probably only makes sense if you've read the first three books in the series.)

First thoughts: I'm glad I didn't wait too long to finish this part of the Ender Saga. I'm not sure how many of Orson Scott Card's books I'll read, but these four (Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind) create a complete story and should be read together in a timely manner. Because the story of Xenocide was still fresh in my mind, it didn't take me long to get invested in the action of Children of the Mind.

Favorite characters: all the usual suspects: Ender, Valentine, Miro, Jane, Wang-mu, young Peter, young Val.

Favorite quotes:
"I find out what I really want by seeing what I do." -Ender, p57

"All the stories are fictions. What matters is which fiction you believe." -Valentine, p199

"That's life. It hurts, it's dirty, and it feels very, very good." -Wang-mu, p221

"Some days we'll be desperately sad and some days we'll be so happy we can hardly contain it. I can live with that." -Wang-mu, p350

"To keep the joy of childhood you would have to die as a child, or live as one, never becoming a man, never growing." -Valentine, p356

Philosophic Notions: OSC must've had a lot on his mind when he wrote Children of the Mind (which is, technically, just the second half of Xenocide, and makes more sense with that title). Each character takes a turn as a mouthpiece on the topics of what makes us human (the good, the bad, the messy, the exhilarating), how we interact as a species, foreign policy, the nature of being "alien," religion and God/god worship, and the potential of technology, among others. Besides a book with a clear plot/problem to solve, it's also a tale of humanity.

Final thoughts: a solid end to the Ender Quartet, which, in hindsight, is more about Jane than Ender. Yes, the final conclusion did feel a little deus ex machina, but I'm okay with that. Characters learned lessons (or not), story lines got their due, and there were plenty of quippy one-liners to go around.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015


She closes her hand around the two small items in her pocket:
a bottle cap with the advice “DRINK WELL, TRAVEL OFTEN”
a penny, found heads up on her walk home
(she’ll decide later if it’s lucky).
She holds them as talismans, for this week at least,
for this moment, for right now, and whispers her prayer to the universe,
asking for just a little more grace and an April just a little less cruel.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


Here's to
Using your brain, heart, and guts,
Stepping up your game,
To all the
Late nights, early mornings, and
Everything in between.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Trying Not to Try

Trying Not to Try: Ancient China, Modern Science, and the Power of SpontaneityTrying Not to Try: Ancient China, Modern Science, and the Power of Spontaneity by Edward Slingerland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): (from the subtitle) - Ancient China, Modern Science, and the Power of Spontaneity.

First Thoughts: this was less about "the Power of Spontaneity" and more about several (four, to be exact) schools of thought on how to reach a state of "wu-wei," similar to what we might call flow. Slingerland gives background on each philosophy, explains how they differ, where they possibly fall short, and in the last few chapters connects these philosophies to real world/contemporary examples of usage. He doesn't make a claim as to which is best/worst/etc, which I liked, but instead lays them all out and encourages readers to "try" them out.

Wu-What?: Wu-wei is best described as "effortless action" and is marked by an absorption of the self into something greater. Think of an athlete at peak performance or a musician fully immersed in song--or how you feel when you get sucked into a project and lose sense of time. It goes along with "de" (pronounced "duh"), or the virtue/power someone in wu-wei has, ie, others trust them, want to emulate them, and are generally awed by their actions.

Schools of Thought: These can best be defined with their chapter titles. "Try Hard Not to Try" involves learning "good" behavior and committing teachable wu-wei to memory. "Stop Trying" says there's no need to learn since the good is already in us, we just need to be natural and let it flow out of us. "Try, But Not Too Hard" takes from either end of the spectrum, recognizing good in ourselves, but admitting the need to cultivate it. "Forget About It" disengages from the good/bad dichotomy by focusing on our bodies as neither right nor wrong, just present.

The Paradox: How do we try without trying? How do we not want something we want? Are there long term payoffs only when you don't care so much? These are the problems with each philosophy. At some point we all claim things as goals/needs/wants, but in order to get what we want we need to think about it indirectly. It's like having beginner's luck at something, but as soon as you try to practice the skill or get better at it, you fail. Again, Slingerland gives no hard and fast solution to this paradox, but offers up practical application of each school of thought. We're to try each one out in different scenarios and see what works. Life is, after all, the never-ending realization that we still have a lot to learn.

Favorite quotes:
"We have been taught to believe that the best way to achieve our goals is to reason about them carefully and strive consciously to reach them. Unfortunately, in many areas of life this is terrible advice. Many desireable states - happiness, attractiveness, spontaneity - are best pursued indirectly, and conscious thought and effortful striving can actually interfere with their attainment." - p18

"[We are blades and] the bones and ligaments of the ox are the barriers and obstacles that we face in life. Just as Butcher Ding's blade remains razor-sharp because it never touches a bone or ligament - moving only through the gaps between - so does the wu-wei person move only through the open spaces in life, avoiding the difficulties that damage one's spirit and wear out one's body." - p21

Final Thoughts: Trying Not to Try gave me lots to take notes on and think about. I like that Slingerland doesn't water things down, and while I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone, it will definitely suit people who love non-fiction reading and learning, as well as those of us who are always "trying" to improve themselves.

Editor's Note: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Night Links 18

More poetry links for y'all:

Finding joy in suffering (a requisite Elizabeth Gilbert link).

A collection of poetry slam videos (for those who would rather watch and listen than read).

"...there’s a tendency to believe that a poem is “true”—whatever that means to the reader—instead of seeing it as framed language or storytelling."

Yesterday's poem of the day was a goodie.

Even the Obamas celebrated National Poetry Month, with a reading by Elizabeth Alexander today.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Shopping Complex

You took me to a mall for a first date--
(not the first date, just an early one)
--an outdoor, open air, sprawling mall.
While I wanted to hold hands, window shop,
be seen together,
you let got of my hand
to flip off hay bales
climb across benches and concrete planters,
not to impress me, but just because
that’s what you did.
I was just starting to see myself as
a girlfriend, your girlfriend
(I painted my nails, which I never do)
so I wondered if I should worry about
you letting go, running off.
Yesterday, three and a half years later,
you took me to another mall,
to see a “scary ass escalator”
(your actual, not joking, words).
We stood side by side on said escalator
rising, slow and steady, across the
mall’s empty interior courtyard, up to the fourth floor
(it really is long). From the top we could see
the few stores inside, shoppers who looked lost,
a lot of open spaces.
We held hands while we walked back down,
out into the cool spring air.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April Sun

Your love is like the April sun as it eases across the yard.
Slow and gentle, with a hint of a breeze
to keep things from heating up too fast.
It draws me out from winter hibernation,
asks for nothing but my presence,
and sits with me all afternoon:
a steady, comfortable warmth.
It’s only after I’m back indoors that I notice
the warmth followed me inside.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Monday the Thirteenth

Maybe today is lucky because
the car started on the first try,
all my returns were accepted,
and I got the printer to work again.

Or maybe the sun is shining on me
because it actually was,
so much so that I have the tan lines to prove it.

I should’ve known the day would
continue positively when I found
parking downtown AND at Whole Foods,
or when I got all the parts of dinner ready
for serving at the same. damn. time.

Getting a teenager to eat vegetables
was just gravy.

I’ll take a case of these Mondays any day,
no gift receipt or fancy packaging needed.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Night Survey: On the Clock Edition II

When the boss is away...the house manager works overtime. Last week was "spring break" and this week is "work all the hours" - I'm getting a head start tonight. I don't mind working overnights as a house manager/nanny, especially since I get full fridge privileges and plenty of Me Time while the kids are at school. Plus, who doesn't love getting paid to sleep? Earlier today, Jesus and I went to the Lincoln Park Zoo and Conservatory, and yesterday was spent doing laundry and cleaning my room. Here's what else is going on:

Cooking: bison and kale flatbread.
Eating: snacks snacks snacks.
Drinking: tea and water, water and tea.
Walking: through the zoo and the Lincoln Park Conservatory since today was so gorgeous!
Watching: a giraffe eat...and drool.
Reading: Trying Not To Try by Edward Slingerland. 
Realizing: being spontaneous is difficult.
Writing: a few poems, in my head.
Playing: "guess how the rest of that conversation goes" at the zoo.
Sleeping: in a guest bedroom.
Enjoying: fancy soaps!
Listening to: the water heater, the fridge, the house's creaks and moans.
Smelling: animals. And fresh air. And flowers.

Wanting: more sunshine.
Needing: more legs almost glow in the dark.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Lock In

Lock InLock In by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): In a future where 1% of the world's population suffers from Haden's syndrome, a disease that leaves people of all ages, races, and genders unable to move or speak, people are still adapting to the technologies that allow "Hadens" to interact in the physical world. Others have adapted all too well, and are figuring out ways to use the technology for economical and political gain.

First thoughts: I actually didn't take any notes while reading Lock In, partially due to my own busyness these past few weeks, but mostly because I just wanted to read. It's a short story, both in actual book length and in the amount of time during which the story takes place (about a week). We get a lot of information in that time, and I feel like I got to know the characters pretty well. I'd still recommend reading the prequel (which I did after finishing the book), just for more context.

Diversity and Density: The most notable thing about the diversity of Lock In's characters is that it's never really noted; it just is. People are minorities without having to say it, and without that having to "mean" something. A character's sexuality or race is just that. Similarly, Lock In has a lot of dense ideas about diversity, equality, technology, politics, and the lucrative business of healthcare, but the novel itself isn't dense. These themes and ideas are what they are to the story, and readers get to extract their own conclusions (or await a sequel where more gets explained).

Favorite characters: the whole cast was entertaining, even the villains. I like that there weren't any characters explicitly like me, but I could still relate and I still enjoyed the story.

Recommended for: fans of crime dramas and sci-fi (aka Blade Runner + Law and Order), mystery lovers, medical researchers, and robot enthusiasts.

Final thoughts: John Scalzi is now on my to-read list. I want more people I know to read this book so I can ask them what they think about it and give them my theories for some of the creative decisions Scalzi takes. If you need a story to get you out of a reading slump, I recommend Lock In.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

North Ave

Fresh starts start on foggy days, maybe.
Or in the office of a soft-spoken man
whose hand shakes as he draws circles on a map.
There's anticipation in the mundane drive
back and forth on North Avenue.
The starts and stalls of midday traffic
mimic the rhythmic bipolarity of your moods:
when all the lights are green you're flying high,
slow turns and sluggish garbage trucks remind you of your humanness.
You circle the block in confidence
before admitting defeat in the guise of a parking garage;
when you leave again you go right, then left,
then take a different road home,
for now.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Work in Progress II

I like to start my mornings with a strong dose of rejection.
It keeps me grounded.
Then, if I can sit with it for a few hours,
watching rolling brown-yellow hills and still-dead trees turn
into squat office buildings and rows of crowded houses, even better.
It can slosh around in my gut with the morning’s coffee.
Together they can eat away at my stomach lining.
I’ll even let it occupy space in my head for a bit;
it likes to rearrange things up there and it always leaves a bit of a mess,
but it doesn’t stay long.
Before I know it, it’s hanging in a sulfurous cloud above me.
It will dissipate in a slight wind, but it clings to my shoulders as long as it can.
The one place I won’t allow it to go is my heart.
There’s no room for it there, and besides,

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Prospero's Children

Prospero's ChildrenProspero's Children by Jan Siegel
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): Fern and Will, two precocious teens, make some otherworldly discoveries while living at an inherited country home one summer. Mermaids/sea witches/Atlantis discoveries.

First thoughts: (spoilers) I realized pretty early that Fern was one of Prospero's Children, aka she has The Gift, but the story still dragged out each and every new idea and discovery. I was drawn to the world initially, but my brain would get lost and start to wander as I read because of all the (unnecessary) details.

Favorite characters: (spoilers) I liked Will more than Fern, which is maybe why I had all but quit reading by the time we actually get to Atlantis. Both of them are way more likable than any teenager should be.

Favorite quotes:
"Nothing in life is sure." Ragginbone, p152

"Wine is not for thirst." p295 (not sure of character...had started skimming/not paying full attention by this point and dialogue tags were not helpful)

Final thoughts: I don't recommend this book unless you have a super fascination with Atlantis (I don't). This was one of those books that started out with promise, but didn't really hook me. A more invested reader might have let the page-long paragraphs slide, but they just annoyed me and took me out of the story even more. I couldn't stay focused and found myself skimming ahead to find action or dialogue. Overall, a bummer of a read.

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Friday, April 3, 2015

Friday Night Links 17

Instead of writing a poem tonight, here is a collection of all the poetry-related websites I'm excited to peruse throughout the month, plus a few fun articles I've already enjoyed:

Poetry Foundation: for poetry news, daily poems, and articles on all things poetry

april is: a poem a day in April

NaPoWriMo: official site for National Poetry Writing Month, also features daily poems by bloggers, a prompt, and poetry resources

Google Poetics: proof that poetry is everywhere, even in your search bar.

Elegy for a Dead World: a video game I'd actually be interested in?

Poems about Kanye West: because of course this is a thing.

Drink a Poem: poetry, like wine, is to be enjoyed.

Happy Poetry Month!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Thoughts From a Bike

Thoughts from a bike at 6:00 am:
It's just you.
You and the unforgiving bike seat you should probably replace.
You and the seat and the wind at your face.
You, the seat, the wind, and the fleet of service trucks and street sweepers already starting their day.
You, the seat, the wind, the trucks, and now the rain beginning to fall in thick drops around you.
You. Seat. Wind. Trucks. Rain.
And then it's just you again,
riding east to meet the day.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


They asked me the ways
I want to grow.
I responded:
“In the ways I’ve been growing
for several years:
authentically and all the time.”