Tagged: Poetry

Momentum

Right. It’s been awhile, I know. :p  Boo on so many levels.

But I’ve been busy.  Busy with my heart. Busy getting back on track. Busy forgiving. Busy paying attention. Busy planning, moving, settling in, teaching, learning, loving and learning some more.  Busy letting go.  Busy accepting.  Busy making up for lost time.  Busy resting. Busy recalibrating.  Bust traveling. Oh and busy with images.  

Yup.  Been busy living.  

There’s more to it too, of course.

The silence.  

Part choice, part involuntary mutism – there’s always more to it than just the silence of someone’s soul.  Um, because it’s never really quiet in there. The total opposite actually.  And until some of the wires untangle, and not until breathing resumes to normal,  attempting to write about whatever sometimes, especially when nothing is pouring out, becomes counter productive.  

Sure, I have been documenting what I’ve been grateful for these past months. Sharing snaps and slices with people I love in my other online spaces. Traveling has made that easy. There’s something about visiting old friends in a new place (Jower in KL) and visiting old places with fresh eyes (Manila and New York City) that allow for this combustion of inspiration. Everything I see right now, I want to shoot and share. So, yeah,  I thank G everyday for photography and communities who appreciate photography. 

But writing, boy do I miss you.  There’s nothing like you and the way you enable/force us to articulate what we are thinking, feeling, learning one word after the other. I have missed you, old friend. I have been cheating on you with my new love, photography and I’m really sorry for neglecting you.  Please forgive me because here I am. Mid year. Mid July. Mid summer break.  In my favorite city on the planet, doing many of my favorite things with a lot of great people sometimes;  alone most days.  Am overwhelmed with gratitude and joy right now and I’d like to honor where I am standing right now with this momentum post and an old poem.

A brief background and an extended explanation:

I wrote this poem for and with my students (and co teacher) last school year.  I write a version each year I teach poetry actually, so there are many versions swimming around on different pieces of scratch paper, several inboxes, maybe three to four Moleskine notebooks and Pages documents.  I’ve read older versions aloud to my class before but I’ve never blogged any of the pieces.  This is the first one I’ve shared beyond the classroom.  The original post written for my kids lives here.   There’s also this writing and photography course I am taking this summer with 89 other women all over the world, who are strangers right now but hopefully won’t be for long, and I wanted to share this post with them.  We are on our second week with already two sets of photo and writing exercises.  This where I’m from poem (inspired by George Ella Lyon’s version) reminded me of the first writing exercise we had to do – stepping stones to unravel where we have been, which may also reveal where we are headed.   Here goes…

Where I’m From

39

by Ms. Pau

I am from an old house on 21 Lilac St.

from rooms with stories, secrets

and slippers in my father’s hands

occasionally hitting the exposed

surfaces of my little body.

I am from extending stolen tearful

 glances at my mother who

didn’t know what to do.

Making that first note to self:

never cry where your young

angry father

could sense you.

I am from the stone balcony that looked out

at the dusty street

and our big black steel gate

where I watched my

Yaya Shirley leave unexpectedly

after she was almost stabbed

by our other evil helper.

The road ahead

I am from abandonment that I

got to know too intimately at a very young age,

from the expectation to be

strong, silent and sure, which

meant I was being a good girl because

I understood why,

because I didn’t cry.

I am from thinking that moving houses

was never supposed

to be traumatic.

Haunting images of my parents,

partners and friends

leaving me again and again and again

from Sunday tears erupting from my core

for no good reason except the thought

of another goodbye

even years later

as a grown woman

an older me

I am from a bigger backyard, a bigger house

 a bigger gated subdivision that left

an even bigger gaping hole in my heart.

I am from this place where I learned to say the words

“I love you” second and not first;

“I am sorry” first and never second.

I am from Alabang Golf and Country Club,

holding hands, bad poetry read to young crushes

who thought they had found their true love

Big words and alliterative phrases

clumsily strewn together for loved ones I vowed

I would never forget

never wanted to forget

to forget me

reflection

I am from betrayal, deep sadness

and harsh secrets learned too early;

from an awkwardness in my own skin

I clung to, not knowing how else to be

from fighting for a self that he, she, and

everyone I knew thought was perfect

except my-self

I am from everything they said I couldn’t be

I am from one day realizing I had wrapped

myself voluntarily in a cocoon, so difficult

to escape and wiggle out of

feeling like I deserved to hide there, and

to prove me right I had to

break my heart

over and over and over

But I am also from the paper thin wing that

made the first finest tear

the path to redemption and forgiveness

began with

the other wing setting me free…

butterfy bound

I am from books that adorn my walls

fortified from anyone who thought I was

illiterate and not critical enough

Yes, from a thousand books

I can’t live without today

A thousand friends who have

kept me company, have helped

me escape, who constantly remind me

all to well about my own humanity.

my books live here

I am from a hundred films, movies

and pirated DVDs; characters like

Tyler Durden, Mr. Keating, and

Lara Croft, I wish

I were instead of me sometimes.

Their happy endings, misadventures

and worlds combined

leave me envious and confined

As I gaze vacantly at the laundry

spinning round and round

I am from the quest for kindness

gratitude and turning the corner

 but still not having a clue

from women’s rights and claiming feminist

and not believing in God for awhile

because according to my Masters Degree

 that made me look weak

I am from all of it boiling down to that angry little girl

who wasn’t allowed to speak

or make an appearance

All she wanted was to be heard and be herself

I call her Olivia

Aaahhh. Don’t eat me.

 I am from writing and writing and writing

during nights desperate for answers

and from days like this, where I am writing

and writing still

I am from many complicated,

complex and convoluted corners

that don’t remember everything

like I thought I did

Yellow

I am from wondering what it all means to

all of it making sense

sometimes

I am from seeing the world behind a lens

and through my pen and lined journals

from finding solace

in the sound of the pounding of keys

I am from these eternal lines and shared images

from these two always, always saving the day

loves

I am from malignant tumors

that peppered my neck and upper chest

from cancer that came out of nowhere

but taught me the most important lessons

in life

from being in remission

and from being spared

for a reason

Survivor

I am from my body image, the final frontier

 that is the total contradiction of who I am now

fissures from an old script

of a self worth defined by a society screaming

I need to be stick thin to be beautiful

tiny cracks in my psyche that need

to be filled

healed and sealed

Self acceptance

I am from metamorphosis that only happened

when I stopped trying

from being transformed by

gratitude and a love that overflows

from the ultimate well spring of life

I am from my Creator

who reminds me that I am

wretched and yet

still the best thing that’s ever

happened to Him.

I am from a God who says

I made you for a reason and has

a son who helped me understand

the words, ‘I forgive you.”

Redemption

I am from the earth and the sea and my

sun kissed skin

from beneath the shallow surface

of the ocean, watching dugongs

swim away as I listen to my heavy breathing

and celebrating a heart that’s so full

it could burst at any moment

Ennui

Hope

Constant

I am from my Kuya I was born to adore and

 a mother and a younger sister I learned to love

and a father, now older, less angry, my biggest ally

These pieces make me who I am

the best bits that make the most sense

most of the time

the very basic

definition of where I belong begins

with Mon and Maqui, Eddie and Rae

Family Gold

Baby sister

I am from my classroom

the conversations that wow me on

a daily basis

to collaboration, asking important questions

and reclaiming the power of storytellers

and storytelling

I am from always challenging myself as a teacher

and learner and from saying

I can still do so much more

Special beginnings

My classroom today

I am from spaces that we create to build a new life

three hours away from where I was born

From missing the sound of the clipping carabiner

to finding peace on the mat

I am from the inked narratives on my skin

that remind me that the pain, it always ends.

I am from love lost, love found

love that I have recently discovered

who recognized me back

as his long lost friend,

match, partner and soulmate

a challenging handful he can’t quit

We are from the shark always being included

in this disastrous adventure 

we have begun

together

Here goes…

Here we go

The big move

I am from my mistakes and

my redemption and transformation

that has already begun.

I am from where I am headed,

where goodbyes become easier

and where everyday there are

warm hellos.

I am from today, still alive

more than okay

the best I’ve ever felt

in 39 years

I wouldn’t recognize ennui

if it sat in front of me to have tea

I am from

looking out my balcony

writing these verses for the most important

people in my life right now

finally coming home to a huge party

where everyone is invited

Happy

Again, thanks for passing by.  Appreciate it.

grateful slice: summer break, time, poetry and honouring where we are from

Wait for it …

Day 1 of my summer writing workshop:  What kind of writer are you?

It’s true.

I am a collector and I hardly throw anything away.  Not things, vintage clothing, pieces of paper with scribbles on them, memories, letters, pictures, feelings, associations and connections.  I am a big believer of documentation, of writing everything down and  have been accused of compulsive capturing.  This sentimental side, the one that also houses the pack-rat gene, has been there ever since I could speak and then became more pronounced when I learned to write.  At some point, this compulsion to take everything down and remember every single detail of what I see and experience, I attributed to being a writer.  I figured I needed to remember it all, so I could always fill in spaces and gaps in whatever story, character, poem or essay I  come up with. I thought all these things will eventually make it to my future ‘book’ somehow (on what, I still don’t know)  so remembering meant material.  There was comfort in knowing I could retrieve something, anything, from wherever I stored ‘stuff’  because it was torture to forget.

But today, I am thinking that  it’s okay, sometimes, to put the camera down. To let go of the pen or the sticky keyboard and turn the computer off.  It’s okay, sometimes, to document experiences and epiphanies in the little cracks of our consciousness instead of hurriedly and clumsily on the page.  It’s  also okay at times to wait for inspiration, for the best moment, for the mind blowing muse, the worthy snap,  before spilling our guts onto a place where people will see them.  There IS beauty in silence and power in observation and withholding.  I honor that today.

It’s all good  anyway because the silence is temporary and from whatever writing and documentation hiatus, the compulsive capturer always emerges  with a new way of seeing; one that’s not so attached, harassed or desperate.

These past few weeks have been a blur.  I tried, many times, to sit down and write but felt overwhelmed instead. So many things were happening all at the same time.  I never knew where to begin.   I didn’t know how to back track. How to recall and record.

So,I let it go.  Because  I realized not writing something down does not always mean I will forget.

Anyway, amidst the blur of loving gestures, emotional goodbyes, surprise parties and special meals with loved ones, packing and sorting through stuff I never threw away, I found myself agreeing to facilitate a summer writing workshop after a good friend and parent requested I do. People thought I was crazy to agree with everything I still needed to fix and arrange prior to moving.  But I didn’t care. It felt like a gift, actually.  A nice chance to be surrounded by Beacon kids.  I thought it would be a wonderful way to ween and manage the separation anxiety.

pack rat

True enough, this is where I find refuge these days.  Twelve brave souls decided it was worth their time to spend eight two hour sessions with me and if they only knew what a treat it has been. To share and teach something I am passionate about. Without rubrics or TSCs or report card narratives. With nothing but the intention to get them started on their own writing journey. One I hope they will keep alive and nurture even after the eight sessions are over.

young writers at work

We are right smack in the middle of the workshop and so far, things are going well. Kids are excited. They are writing and writing and reading each others’ work. They are attempting interesting writing activities and have been blogging!  I couldn’t be happier.

writing workshop snack

Sigh.

In light of encouraging the twelve to start their own blogs and write and share as often as they can, here is a poem I have been meaning to post for months but never had the guts to.  I wrote it awhile back and showed it to one person (Joey Tandem aka Mr. Lapid) who helped me refine part of my controlling metaphor and one transition.  I felt pleased once we “fixed” it but quietly placed the piece on my desktop thinking there would be a better time to share it.

I guess, now is that time.

Tell me what you think.

die, douche bag (Photo taken by Chris Ramos @ the Morrissey concert)

Untitled

by Ms. P

It crawled inside her head

and lodged itself

quietly,

comfortably

in the deepest cavities

of her cerebral cortex.

She thought she was,

at this juncture,

 impervious to the leech;

didn’t think it would

bother her

ever again.

Yet,

there it sat

curled up

knotted,

vicious and

sinister

sucking the might

of her confidence

slowly eating away

at her lobes,

without her knowledge.

Nothing prepared her

for the pain

when it dug

its jagged teeth

on the soft tissue

surrounding her decisions

her opinions,

the grey matter of

her insights and

inclinations.

It drank the life out of

everything she believed was

real and important.

Worn out and weary

she wondered why

she could not hold her

heart in her hand,

the usual indicator

that she was in a safe place;

where there were no hidden agendas

or predators  lurking

 in her subconscious.

Until of course,

that very

same thought

alerted the little demon

hiding in her brain

that she finally,

 knew.

Knew

exactly

what

it

was

trying

to

do.

It uncurled and

quickly

the little bastard

slithered out

of her ear

moved on to her shoulder

on to her forearm

passed the tiny tiara

and sun tattoo

on her wrist

only to find its

way on her palm

where she

waited

until she could

close her fist

to squash

the little fiend

that tried to eat

a part of who she was

squish

die, douche bag!

Guts squirted

from the gaps

of her tight fist

She watched

the color return to her cheeks

as she unclenched

her pale yellow

hand

And you? What’s your  recent source of inspiration?

grateful slice:  my summer writing workshop and my 12 young writers

Ode Em Gee: The countdown continues

My futurama

So here I am.

One more week to go before school ends, which means my facing the inevitable. It has been real for awhile – this idea that I will leave the life I know to give my dream a real chance. 🙂 But nothing prepares you, not one bit. When that moment arrives where you have one week left before it all changes. Nobody tells you how to deal with that.

So yeah, one more week.

I haven’t been able to fully articulate what all this means; how it’s making me feel, and my goodness, what still needs to be done in terms of packing up my life in Manila to move to Singapore.  I have covered a lot of bases in terms of  contracts, legal documents and such but looking around my pack-rat apartment right now, just surveying my two gargantuan bookshelves bursting with books bought throughout the years (oh, plus my freaking classroom!!!), I have some work cut out for me.

Anyway, even if that’s top of mind (I keep thinking the month of June will be enough to sort all that out), I know I need to stay present in the here and now, to not miss a thing.  I am about to leave not just one family, but two, and I can’t say goodbye without knowing what that means.  I need to acknowledge it today that this is a very big deal. Case in point, last week. I wasn’t ready last Friday, when the school surprised everyone leaving (there are four or five of us)  with a small token and a certificate of appreciation. They asked us to go up on stage one at a time and man, it took everything from me not to weep in front of the entire school (plus some parents.) I remember watching the Middle School students get on their feet to cheer and express what they were feeling, which was also when I went momentarily deaf.  I watched the headmaster mouth words at me in slow motion, words I couldn’t hear.  All I could think of was, ‘why am I wearing shorts today and don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. Whatever you do, don’t cry.’ I smiled uncomfortably for the camera then hopped off the stage. I felt the President of the Board  give me a big bear hug on my way out.  And that did it of course. Once I hit the ground, I was weeping into my scarf.

Sigh.

I have many future entries already brewing  for this drama queen; pieces slowly piling up in my drafts folder devoted to this farewell but they have to wait.  For now, in order to stay present, I have to finish marking papers, reading students’ blog entries, assessing spiels for an Egypt fair, recording numbers and writing reports. (I am already done with all that actually, which is how I am able to finally post this entry).

I have to focus. This is part of getting it right.

Anyway, until then, here is a video, a poem by Neruda and a cover of one of my favorite Smith songs by Death Cab. Special things that have made this working Sunday special.

A lot of people have asked me why I would leave Manila and Beacon when I am  perfectly happy and content where I am.  MM, my good friend and mentor, shared this video on Facebook recently and I think it captures a lot of my why.  Not that staying in Manila, where I was born and raised, or staying in Beacon, where I learned how to become the teacher that I am today, the antithesis of #makingitcount.  I guess, it’s staying put (regardless of sentiment and attachment) when you know you have to move; perhaps that’s the first brick sealed in place that becomes the foundation of a house built on regrets.  I’ve loved and given my all to where I’ve been the past seven years.  I guess making it count means, packing my stuff and finding a new adventure some place else because it’s time.

So here’s the video and a poem by Neruda. They both have been able to capture my response to why.

 

He who dies (Ode to life)
by Pablo Neruda
Slowly dies he who becomes a slave to habit,
repeating the same journey every day,
he who doesn’t change his march, he who doesn’t risk
and change the color of his clothes, he who doesn’t speak to he whom he doesn’t know.Slowly dies he who makes of the television his guru,
he who avoids a passion dies, he who prefers
black on white and dots on i’s rather than a togetherness of emotions
exactly those that make the eyes shine,
those that make the heart beat
before error and feeling.Slowly dies he who doesn’t overturn the table,
he who is unhappy in his work,
he who doesn’t risk certainty for uncertainty
to follow a dream,
he who doesn’t permit himself at least one time in his life
to flee sensible counsels.Slowly dies he who doesn’t travel, he who doesn’t read,
he who doesn’t listen to music,
he who doesn’t find grace in himself.
he who destroys his own love dies,
he who doesn’t allow himself to be helped.

He who passes his days lamenting
about his own misfortune or the incessant rain dies.
Slowly dies he who abandons a project
before beginning it,
he who doesn’t ask questions about topics he doesn’t know,
he who doesn’t answer when he is asked something that he knows.

Let’s avoid death by small doses,
remembering always that being alive requires a much larger effort
than the simple act of breathing.
Only burning patience will bring within reach a splendid happiness

taken at the MOMA by my bro, April 2010.

And here is Death Cab’s cover of  There is a Light and it Never Goes Out.  Um, warning: the video is a little creepy.  (And nope, Morrissey did not sing this during his concert last week. Boo.  Post on that later. )

Thanks for passing by.

grateful slice: time, reflection and yes, one more week

Weekly Photo Challenge: Through (and some Mary Oliver)

I miss writing.  So I promise to do it soon.  And more frequently.  Photography, it seems, has seized all of my attention the past few months and I can’t seem to unlock my gaze at the world; this life I constantly crave to document one snap at a time because it’s the fastest way to express my love and gratitude.  Love for a life peppered with extraordinary moments. Gratitude for each and every breath and step I take.   I am extremely blessed and photography has allowed me to say thank you often and quickly.

But I know I can do both. Write and shoot and continue to tell my truth bit by bit.   So, that’s the plan.  🙂

In the meantime, here are some recent snaps of my looking/passing/peering/gazing through something.  Tell me what you see…thanks for passing by.

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Bone

by Mary Oliver

1.

Understand, I am always trying to figure out 
what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape –

and so, last week,
when I found on the beach 
the ear bone
 of a pilot whale that may have died

hundreds of years ago, I thought 
maybe I was close 
to discovering something –
for the ear bone

2.

is the portion that lasts longest 
in any of us, man or whale; shaped
 like a squat spoon
 with a pink scoop where

once, in the lively swimmer’s head,
it joined its two sisters 
in the house of hearing,
it was only

two inches long –
and thought: the soul
 might be like this –
so hard, so necessary

3.

yet almost nothing.
 Beside me
 the gray sea
 was opening and shutting its wave-doors,

unfolding over and over 
its time-ridiculing roar;
I looked but I couldn’t see anything 
through its dark-knit glare;

yet don’t we all know, the golden sand 
is there at the bottom,
though our eyes have never seen it,
nor can our hands ever catch it

4.

lest we would sift it down 
into fractions, and facts –
certainties –
and what the soul is, also

I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know 
our part is not knowing,

but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on,
softly,
through the pale-pink morning light.

(from Why I Wake Early, 2004)

 Photos taken by my Nikon D90 or my iPhone4.  Snaps taken in Tagaytay and Batangas.

grateful slice:  appreciating the obvious and seeing what’s  beyond

Weekly Photo Challenge: Self-portrait (catch up)

It’s been crazy the past few months and there are many things that can explain my silence. I will, in the next few days, attempt to tell the many stories I’ve been harboring and gaining distance from to be able to tell them well, but right now I am basking  in my own silent space.  Just enjoying the utter quiet before the Eve and the solitude before the mayhem.  I am grateful for days like these.  It’s really what makes rest possible and recovery authentic. Thanks, G.

Anyway, here’s a self portrait slideshow sandwich between two great poems.   Have a Merry Christmas everyone! 🙂

S e l f – p o r t r a i t

by Edward Hirsch

I lived between my heart and my head,
like a married couple who can’t get along.

I lived between my left arm, which is swift
and sinister, and my right, which is righteous.

I lived between a laugh and a scowl,
and voted against myself, a two-party system.

My left leg dawdled or danced along,
my right cleaved to the straight and narrow.

My left shoulder was like a stripper on vacation,
my right stood upright as a Roman soldier.

Let’s just say that my left side was the organ
donor and leave my private parts alone,

but as for my eyes, which are two shades
of brown, well, Dionysus, meet Apollo.

Look at Eve raising her left eyebrow
while Adam puts his right foot down.

No one expected it to survive,
but divorce seemed out of the question.

I suppose my left hand and my right hand
will be clasped over my chest in the coffin

and I’ll be reconciled at last,
I’ll be whole again.


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Self-Portrait
by Adam Zagajewskitranslated by Clare Cavanagh
Between the computer, a pencil, and a typewriter
half my day passes. One day it will be half a century.
I live in strange cities and sometimes talk
with strangers about matters strange to me.
I listen to music a lot: Bach, Mahler, Chopin, Shostakovich.
I see three elements in music: weakness, power, and pain.
The fourth has no name.
I read poets, living and dead, who teach me
tenacity, faith, and pride. I try to understand
the great philosophers--but usually catch just
scraps of their precious thoughts.
I like to take long walks on Paris streets
and watch my fellow creatures, quickened by envy,
anger, desire; to trace a silver coin
passing from hand to hand as it slowly
loses its round shape (the emperor's profile is erased).
Beside me trees expressing nothing
but a green, indifferent perfection.
Black birds pace the fields,
waiting patiently like Spanish widows.
I'm no longer young, but someone else is always older.
I like deep sleep, when I cease to exist,
and fast bike rides on country roads when poplars and houses
dissolve like cumuli on sunny days.
Sometimes in museums the paintings speak to me
and irony suddenly vanishes.
I love gazing at my wife's face.
Every Sunday I call my father.
Every other week I meet with friends,
thus proving my fidelity.
My country freed itself from one evil. I wish
another liberation would follow.
Could I help in this? I don't know.
I'm truly not a child of the ocean,
as Antonio Machado wrote about himself,
but a child of air, mint and cello
and not all the ways of the high world
cross paths with the life that--so far--
belongs to me.

grateful slice: poetry and the quiet before Christmas eve

Sarah Kay Does It Again

I stumbled upon Sarah Kay, her poetry and her TED talk about the same time last year and have since shared her work with whomever I can.  She leaves the hungry young poets in my Grade 7 class speechless, and me, well, she has me inspired to always write about only what is true, with a small letter t, to me.   Here’s her newest TED talk.  Nice way to end an awesome weekend.

grateful slice: Sarah Kay and her poetry

Weekly Photo Challenge: Entrance (revised)

Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what was seen during a moment.

-Carl Sandburg

 

Philippine Normal University, Board Exam days

Main Hall entrance, KIS

Sacha @ the Met, NYC

Soho, NYC

St. Joseph's Entrance, Sagada

Enter here, Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu

The Gateway of India, the ultimate entrance, South Mumbai

The Taj, South Mumbai

Antonio's, Tagaytay

GSP: Entrance to Chinese Resto with Basti, HongKong

Man, these photos bring back such awesome memories. Thanks, G. For making it all possible. 🙂

Photos taken with a Nikon D90 and Canon Ixus:  India, HongKong, Sagada, Manila, New York City.

grateful slice:  open doors and the guessing that comes with the territory

Poetic License

Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.  Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance. 

-Carl Sandburg

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It began with Naomi Shihab Nye‘s Famous,  Dead Poets Society, and O Captain, My Captain.  These moments marked the beginnings of discovery, unraveling and unfolding. From ee cummings to Ani Di Franco, from Willliam Blake and William Shakespeare to William Carlos Williams, from Robert Frost to the Script, Coldplay and The Iliad,  I hoped a deep romance would develop between my Grade 7 students and words. It’s not an easy trek to travel from the literal to the figurative.  It’s a narrow and rocky path where they have to avoid jagged edges, bottomless ravines and bear traps because cliche’ is profanity and mixing awkward metaphors has a level in Dante’s Inferno. I recognize that it is challenging to describe a familiar feeling in a way that’s never been described before. To talk about love, loss, pain, fury, nature, identity, heritage, legacy, the future, relationships, family and forgiveness in an intimate and unique way, it can really leave one, at a loss for words. Well, I never said it was going to be a walk in the park (pardon the cliches).

But,

the Grade 7 kids wowed me as they outdid themselves with their bodies of work.  Through their use of words and their original pieces, through free verse, the sonnet and the intimidating villanelle,  the kids dared to face who they are, reflected on the beauty that surrounds them, delved and danced with language to meaningfully articulate what’s in their young hearts and minds; what questions they are asking, the advice they want to give their future children, the idea of never ever giving up and providing an authentic voice to the fear and pain of failure and rejection.   It was a steep climb amidst a lot of prose trying to be poetry, phrases pretending desperately to pass off as verse.  But after their third poem (out of the seven they were to write for their portfolios), the kids were on a roll.

“Her beauty soothes a hostile beast,

his temper shatters a continent”

(winner couplet by A. Lilles from his poem, A Situation);

“There is no such thing as holy poop

we can say it a hundred times,

and still, we will not end up with poop that is holy

Bored isn’t a real word

there is only the inability to act

the decision to be dull

If we don’t have the daring to do something it will never be done,

it will become a ghost, and haunt you,

testing your backbone”

(an excerpt by N. Morris from her poem, Things I know to be true)

And another excerpt by S. Calubad from his poem, Revenge

“…revenge is far more rewarding than gold

Like nothing else in the world can bring.

Remember that

revenge

is not a victory or a loss but

It is worth every step of the way,

even if it is a long cold road.

And don’t listen to other people who say

revenge is not worth it

Those people don’t know what it is

Forgiveness is for the noble

Forgetting is for the weak

Hate is a coward’s form of revenge

and revenge,

revenge is a river made of sweet honey

that may only last for a second …”

Frankly, there were so many stellar pieces, I wish I could upload them all and drown myself in imagery,  alliteration,  similes and metaphors.  But of course that’s like a bazillion lines longer than the 24 Books of the Odyssey.  (Exag.)

But  really, that’s what I love about poetry.  It doesn’t choose any batch or race or age or gender or season.  So far, in the five years that I’ve taught this unit, the work the kids have produced never ceases to amaze everyone. What’s more important  though, are the conversations they start with themselves, and the world, and the page, and the themselves they find and learn to love in the process – now, that’s priceless.

To celebrate their hard work, the kids and I plan an ala Dead Poets Society Poetry Fest.  This batch’s poetry fest happened last Friday, early evening in the school auditorium.  With a lot of people’s help, we were able to create our own cave.  With twenty different types of blankets and pillows strewn on the auditorium floor, candles in glass containers and several emergency lamps wrapped in yellow cellophane, we set up a space fit for any aspiring poet to read his or her original work with pride.  Their parents were invited and like voyeurs, they sat on chairs surrounding the inner circle of hungry young poets, with little flashlights, quietly reading the poetry fest packet,  as the kids read their pieces aloud.  Guest teachers, unexpected, and some reluctant readers,  joined the inner circle on the floor and took their turn to read a verse close to their heart.  Some read about their country, others read lines about loneliness, an original written by a boyfriend, another, the best birthday poem I had ever heard written by her daughter. Neruda, a popular choice, graced our event with his words thrice.  It was awesome.

In the end, even if I had heard their poems a hundred times (during practice in class), that night it was like I was hearing them read their lines for the very first time. I cried when I heard “Eclipse” and ” Miscreation” and  laughed aloud when I heard “For People Who Don’t Have Babies” and “I Love You Like Everyday Things.” I could picture every image described in “Emotions Alive” and felt comfort as one of the kids saw the beauty of “Failure.”  I was moved by the different stories and ideas and dreams that slowly rose to the surface through the kids’ words and turn of phrase.   It was truly magical and new and awe inspiring. Once again, poetry above all, didn’t let me down.

I was really glad to have been exactly where I was at 4:30 pm, Friday the 13th of 2011.  It was exactly where I needed to be, enveloped by solemnity, surrounded by imagery and low light and the  beauty of the spoken word.  A perfect way to end a hard week. A perfect way to restore ones spirit to welcome two more.

grateful slice:  The Beacon School Grade 7 Poetry Fest and reading poetry aloud; surviving the end of another school year and report card season.

I dedicate this post to our headmaster, Mr. Patrick Ritter ( a future entry on this man very soon.) 

Collaborashun 101

Let’s Volt In

It became apparent to me yesterday why I was in such a weird place during Holy Week. I initially chalked it up to burn out and apathy, hell, even boredom but it turns out, it wasn’t about that at all. I will try and write about that in a bit. It’s just still so close to my face I don’t have the distance to aptly articulate what the heck is really going on inside of me.

All I know is, it’s going on. Like the redundant swirling of laundry in the washer dryer, emotions and familiar demons are swish-swashing amok and for awhile, undetected. I think I was hypnotized by all of it going round and round and round and round and round, I forgot there was an off button I could press to finally take out the laundry.

Anyway, I tried to tell Joey Tandem about what became clear to me so I could perhaps get it out there and just call it; this allowing me to choose to act and feel differently and quickly about the many things that have been bothering me these past few months. That helped a lot and I know, writing about it will give it a voice and save the day. For now though, I’d rather talk about happy things. Things that keep our hearts beating and minds soaring, even if we have grand pianos for feet. Things that remind us, it is still worth it to wake up in the morning, to reconnect with our breath, and to trust the seasons because they are there for a reason. Things that help us create and collaborate; seal friendships and align visions; Things that remind us of our humanity, who we can trust with our creations, who we can trust (full stop); and how pushing others to fly with their talent and write, paint, draw, shoot, sing, et. al, while not being able to get off the couch because of a severe case of ennui, will be the very thing that will blast your grand piano feet to pieces and help you get up and catch some sun.

A few posts ago, I celebrated a proud moment. Ishha14 and I, along with litratula.com collaborated and came up with this: LitraTula.com : The Weight of an Empty Fist. Text by Anastasia Crespo. Photo by Paula Guinto. I was really so happy to have Ishha14’s poetry out there beyond the classroom, a poetry fest and our school Literary Magazine. Not to diminish getting published that way, not at all. But there’s nothing like being acknowledged and recognized and affirmed by another great artist/poet to know that literature is meant to be read by many, shared and celebrated. That it’s worth it for Ishha14, now that’s an awesome moment to witness for any teacher. I was of course humbled by the fact that I could be part of it in whatever way and really, that was the other worth it thing I did over the Holy Week break which I forgot to mention. The simple act of asking a good friend if we could contribute to her awesome site made all the difference. When she said, “Yes, show me the stuff and see from there.” I was ecstatic. For that alone, it will forever make sense to me why I opened up a new Facebook Account after being on an FB fast for two years.

And I know I’ve said it before, I will say it again, poetry saves lives. Now, match that with photography, good friends (Joey Tandem and @dopamine_junkie), risk takers (Ishha14, Joey Tandem and @dopamine_junkie), a communal and intense love for words and images and creating and sharing, and we move from one glorious post and proud moment ,to these:

Bluesy Mood: Joey Tandem’s words

LitraTula.com : Modulus. Text by Paul Lapid. Photo by Mark Montalban.

Lock all the windows

LitraTula.com : Wary of Windows. Photo by Paula Guinto

The end is near, even for paper cranes

I am very honored to have a life surrounded by creative and talented outliers who have artistic integrity, big hearts and extraordinary minds. And having the opportunity to collaborate with some of them, an awesome 21st century treat. Joey Tandem and I are looking forward to future pieces that might make the cut — his words, my images; my verses, his rendering; my rendering…you get the picture. We also asked a few of our other students to get their stuff (and well, parents’ consent) ready so that we can send in their stellar pieces as well. I am especially excited for more of @dopamine_junkie’s words and her sharing the many stories my photos have somehow whispered to her. This is not just how art is created, this is also how friendships are formed and strengthened to last lifetimes. Thank you for this , G.

Anyway, here’s to weird seasons that wipe us out; pushing us down and allowing us to swirl and almost drown underwater where, for moment, we can’t know where the surface is and the deep blue ends; only to make us follow the bubbles upwards, making our drenched heads emerge, back to where the sun shines and the oxygen comes easy for creatures like me.

Today, I woke up feeling and thinking differently, and just like that, the reset button of happy things allowed everything to fall into place and the swirling to stop.

grateful slice: creativity and collaboration

p.s. for more cool stuff from Literatula.com. Click on this.