Archive for the ‘On Poetry’ Category

“The dust came in so thinly that it could not be seen in the air, and it settled like pollen on the chairs and tables, on the dishes.” – John Steinbeck

The sandhills can get to be a pretty dry place. When the infamous Nebraska wind kicks up, innocent topsoil can turn into thousands of tiny needles pelting you all at once. And this is 80 years after the dust bowl. Sometimes you have to count your blessings, such as “I’m glad I don’t live in Oklahoma in the middle of a dust bowl” and “I’m glad I’m not a piano player with hands burnt to a crisp”. It’s all about perspective – today I am indeed a glass-half-full kind of person!

So, you guys hear about North Korea?

Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust had moments that made my heart ache. Trying to comprehend the weight of being inadvertantly responsible for the death of your mother and newborn brother? Being a musician with nothing left but the ability to play.. and having ruined hands? I felt like Billie Jo and Mel from Laurie Anderson’s Speak carried their burdens in the same fashion, Mel’s outlet being artwork and Billie Jo’s obviously being music. The sensation I felt myself feeling above anything else, and maybe this was just my imagination.. was dryness. Not boring-dry, but like “jesus help me someone get me some water” dry. Everytime Billie Jo writes of the thin layer of dust on the food they choke down, everytime the dust creeps in while they are trying to sleep protected under blankets – I lick my lips and look over at the fridge just to make sure it’s still there.

Above: You are getting verrrry thirsty.

I’ve already mentioned this on Twitter (laaaaaame) but Out of the Dust is essentially a novel in poem structure – and that kind of messes with my brain. Poetic structure instantly throws up red flags of “prepare for hard-to-understand-hyperbolic-bullshit!”, but when it actually starts telling a story, it throws my calibration all out of whack. Let me just say thank jebus that this was easily readable – and interesting to boot! I can totally see another author taking a whirl at this technique and just tearing it to shreds (it would probably have something to do with vampires. JUST SAYING.)

Above: Unrelated to the discussion at hand, but not unrelated to being a Literature major

While we’re here, I’m going to take the time to (ashamedly) mention that this is only like Newbery book #4 for me. I know. Let he who has read all the way through Moby Dick without falling asleep once cast the first stone! No one? No takers? I thought not! Here’s an interesting tidbit about me: when I decided to be a lit major, I only knew the barebones of literary analysis. I have not read half of the books every lit major probably “HAS” to have read by this point. And you know something? (arrogance switch: engage) I’m damn good at what I do. Ask me sometime what I think of half of the “classics” we’re force-fed from high school up. I can’t divulge here, but the answer will involve lots of swear words. I can pull just as much if not more meaning out of the entire Injustice comic book than I can out of The Scarlet Letter. There’s a difference between being classic and being less-shelf-space. Out of the Dust ranks as “classic” in my book. My book of books. Meta-booking, I’ll call it.






“We must all fear evil men. But, there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.” – Monseigneur from the film “The Boondock Saints”

My friends, I don’t know if you’ve realized this, but I am not a “glass half full” kind of person. Most days, I border between “glass half empty” and “I’m going to knock this worthless glass onto the floor”. Not to say I don’t enjoy life and its pleasantries, but sometimes being a human being makes me sick to my stomach. For every life-affirming moment I witness or hear of, there are a good 32 things that ruin my faith in the human race. Nuclear war, blood for oil, incompetent leaders, and xenophobia run rampant – and we wonder why the martians haven’t landed yet to say hello.

There is little to nothing I despire more in this world than people and their ignorance. I know I sound totally in the mindset of “I’m always right and have never done wrong”, and I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but when I see a mexican teenage boy comparing being gay to “having sex with your dog”, I think it’s high-fucking-time for a zombie apocalypse. With the war over who can and cannot get married running wild, I see some great parallels between this and A Wreath for Emmett Till, an elegy (and an epic crown of sonnets) dedicated to a young teenage boy killed by the same type of blithering imbeciles who would compare being gay to screwing animals. If you don’t know who Emmett Till is or what happened to him (just as I did not before reading this book), go Wiki him. I’ll wait here.

Perhaps she’s blind because some ignorant waste of skin cut her eyes out as well.

The poems themselves are crafted beautifully. At no point does Marilyn Nelson become full of herself and run away into the regular, difficult-to-decipher zone of hyperbolic metaphors and your generic romantic language. These are your traditional sonnets – iambic pentameter and all – but they feel as though there’s an actual driving force behind them, unlike Shakespeare’s 600 million about either time, beauty, death, or love (supposedly with a man, nice tie-in, eh?). Philippe Lardy’s illustrations literally paint the perfect picture to accompany these sonnets, his images usually resonating with two different sides of the same coin. These are poems I would actually want to go back and read. Fuck the red wheelbarrow, this is poetry, and you can tell my American Lit class I said so.

How is this not included in a regular history curriculum? Out of 4 people in a discussion, only 1 had heard of Emmett in a history class, but it wasn’t even until the college level. How do we just gloss over this? Is this in the same boat as Japanese Americans in 1942 and the jews we turned away while they were fleeing from Germany? At the risk of this blog going on forever, I need to reign it in, but the fact that this kind of behavior can happen in a country where we parade up and down with the flag in one hand and the bible in the other makes me want to puke. White, idiot, racist fools get away with murder, and then ingrates like Lil Wayne (who is praised as a musical genius, for what reason I will never know) write such gem lyrics as “beat the pussy up like Emmett Till”.

I hereby renounce my status as a human being, because if this is the best we’ve got, I want no part in it. I want the world to know I hold being racist against people of any color is in the same boat as denying gay people their rights. Because it is. “Because they are different” is not, and never will be, a good reason to treat someone like less than a person, especially when you barely function as one yourself. Religion doesn’t matter,  color doesn’t matter, race doesn’t matter, gender does. not. matter. We are human beings, we are humans being, and if you can’t accept that there is more to the world than your little box, feel free to finish the human race a bit quicker.
Fuck this shit, I’m moving to Mars.