flirtation al fresco
relish the rustle -
crisp linen slides. Barely brushed
silken skin shivers
perhaps moth and rust
are the least of concerns, on
hills made for rolling
past orderly lines
and outside of boundaries
the wind entices
We interrupt this Poetry Month Haiku Fest for a blog repost.
I shared some truths about myself in 2011 when I posted about YA author Robison Wells, author of VARIANT. (That blog post is reposted below.) He had just shared publicly about his mental illnesses, and losing his day job because of his panic disorder causing an inability to sometimes leave a room, and I was feeling the horrible empathy of a fellow sufferer, having been frozen in myself one time too many.
I have thought of him often since then, thought of his courage in “outing” himself, thought of the raw grit it must take to be an artist trying to create while also trying to be, you know, okay with leaving the house (sometimes, it’s not okay, and that’s really all there is to it. Trust me on that one). I wanted to say something to him – but could think of nothing which didn’t sound weird or stalker-y, so when I read on Shannon Hale’s blog that a group of writers have gotten together an anthology to help support his family in their time of needing help, my immediate thought was, “I’m in.”
The anthology is SUPER COOL to fangeeks and to writers — because you just never know how different a novel is before it comes to publication. A lot of the pieces in this anthology are novels which were finished – but for which editors asked for plot changes which, in the end, created almost wholly new finished products. I’ll look forward to reading the original beginning for DISCOUNT ARMAGEDDON – the published one is weird and funny enough. Shannon Hale’s short story is totally original – but very different from her usual style of writing. This anthology gives you a little peep of the behind-the-scenes of the way author’s brains work.
And, the people involved in this project are some of my ALL-TIME favorites, and many of them will be familiar to you for speculative fiction for adults and teens: Seanan McGuire, Shannon Hale, Kierstan White, Dan Wells, Brandon Mull, Aprilynne Pike, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Lauren Oliver, Sara Zarr, Jessica Day George, and tons more. The Indiegogo Page for this book is right here. Click through. Buy an ebook. Buy a hardback book. Buy a manuscript critique from one of the authors involved. Buy something you hate getting blown up. There are all sorts of ways to be involved and helpful. There are all sorts of ways to honor the courage it takes to accept help, and to be kind.
That’s all I wanted to say. Thank you.
One fine, sunny morning in college, I got lost.
I got lost on the campus of my college, that fine, sunny morning, and as I was one of the vast hordes of Freshers running around that year, maybe it didn’t seem that unusual to anyone. That it was months into the school year – nearly May – should have been a telling point, but no one noticed.
I was climbing one of those long flights of stairs and I, mid-step, was lost.
And I couldn’t breathe. And my hands were slick, and the sky wheeled in sickening loops around me. And I wanted to get away from it – from beneath it – but it was so huge suddenly, and there was nowhere to escape it. Every surface looked pitiless and hard, every building foreign, and I just knew that awful was three millimeters from happening to me. People walked by, I guess, but I was gripping onto a light post with all of my strength, and trying to stop the world from spinning out of control. And trying to breathe.
It was a profound experience, which is laminated in memory. The flight of stairs from the gym to the building below the library – some technology hub – to the three flights of stairs near the flowering cherry trees was all I could see. Going up those stairs would have put me in line of sight to the asphalt-paved road that led to the parking lot next to the English building, and my dorm. Five hundred feet, and I would have been able to see my way to safety. But, I couldn’t move that far. I slid down to the ground gripping the light post, and hyperventilated.
Eventually, I managed to get up. I was going to ask someone if they knew where I was, when suddenly, at the entrance to the library, the landscape snapped into familiarity. I was able to inflate my compressed lungs, and stop panting, straighten up, and walk stiffly – my hair and back soaked from perspiration – to my dorm.
I remember I was so ashamed. So, so mortified. And felt really, really stupid.
Sooo, I never told anyone.
I mean, would you?
It happened again. And again. And it happened at the American Library Association Annual Convention in D.C. in 2010 where I was being honored for MARE’S WAR, and I had to walk out of a room full of authors getting ready to go on and do presentations for this Speed Dating thing. I was soaked with sweat, and trying to breathe, and thinking, “Everyone knows. Everyone here is A Cool Author who Does Stuff and Knows Stuff, and then there’s you. Everyone knows, and you are such a fraud.”
Sooo, when I read of Robison Wells, Cybil-nominated author of VARIANT, losing his day-job because of a panic attack, and being just unable to do what was required of him, I teared up immediately over his struggles. Been there, done that, have the t-shirt. It’s thin and tattered and usually rank with sweat.
Sometimes, I feel so flawed. I think, “Gah! Isn’t it enough that I’m introverted and shy? Did I have to be flat-out mental (our Ms. G‘s word), too? I don’t always have an answer for that. I’ll be honest: I don’t come off as Sunny Suzy after freaking out. It’s something I can’t control, and I really prefer to, honestly, control everything. But, I do know this: I have seen the world from the point of view of someone broken. When I am at the top of my game, and you are at the bottom of yours, I’ll know how it feels. I will understand, and be kind. I will consider the courage of Rob Wells, and when I am wrecked, I will remember, “Yes, but –” and, once the clouds of doom part, go on.
It’s a tiny gift, but one I will hold onto, and not let anyone pry from my death-gripping, sweaty hands.
For the thorn, and for the rose. For the grace of courage, and the gift of empathy, I am truly thankful.
passing out burlap
so, your reusable grocery bags make a difference, one day a year?
in place of those plastic bags
a retail hair shirt
passing out burlap
by George Herbert, (1593 – 1633)
Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
O let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.
My tender age in sorrow did beginne:
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Let me combine,
And feel this day thy victorie:
For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.
I have a bit of print-nerdery to discuss today, so I’ll get right to it:
The 17th century Welsh poet, George Herbert, was a parish priest and a thoughtful religious poet (pretty much all poetry was either religious or utter bawdy doggerel back then – all extremes). His lovely chancery-style writing with pen and ink in his own poetry journal makes me a little envious (Oh, that I could write like that), and you can clearly see the way he intended the printer to lay out the type – to give the appearance of wings, an imagery repeated in the poem itself.
This pair of poems deals in both flight and falling – with paradox. The phrases “then shall the fall further the flight in me” and “affliction shall advance the flight in me” clearly underscore the paradox. If you’re saying, “Huh?” the fall referred to as the ultimate line in the first wing is the Judeo-Christian idea of the Fall of humanity into sin in the Garden of Eden — there was and possibly is a religious theory that Adam and Eve’s screwup was A Good Thing, so that Divinity could show off to the universe Its Holy Awesome. Take that as you will.
The final line of the second poem relies on the line above it – imping a wing is a falconer’s term. To imp a feather is to graft it – to take a broken feather and attach a healthy one to a needy bird. This is perhaps best understood like a hair implant; the feather no longer exactly alive, but taking root where needed. So, if he’s imping his wing onto that holy “thine,” he’s… taking his broken wing and putting it on the whole wing, and somehow expecting that affliction to advance his flight?
If that doesn’t make sense to you, that’s okay. Paradox doesn’t always make sense, and this paradox is a theological one, in that many people believe that our connection, our grafting, to Divinity doesn’t happen to us, but that we are grafted, useless and unfixable, into a larger, stronger pair of wings, to …find flight again.
Maybe there’s no flight, without falling…
This poem was first published in 1633, the year of Herbert’s death, and is a cherished and popular Welsh poem. The typeset version pictured is from the original — when the poem was first published in 1633, and it was printed on two pages of a book, sideways, so that the lines suggest two birds flying upwards, with their wings spread out.
Herbert is using a form of poetry called carmen figuration, which was having a resurgence in the 17th century, and had previously been popular with the ancient Greeks. Which is also all kinds of cool. At least I think so.
reflect: Not as good a riddle as exploding yellow, this is the 2-4-6-8-2 syllable form of cinquain, which tells its own little story. Another little story is how my birdbaths remind me of a pair of gigantic Icelandic poppies I admired in early spring. I rather like the bottoms of them, how they create their own little bowls of dew for the sun to kiss away. My bowls of dew are a little bigger, and the goldfinch are grateful, but easily startled. I hope to get a photograph soon!
this bowl of blue
at twilight plays host to
a pair of tiny, gold sippers.
Not as good a riddle as exploding yellow, this is the 2-4-6-8-2 syllable form of cinquain, which tells its own little story. Another little story is how my birdbaths remind me of a pair of gigantic Icelandic poppies I admired in early spring. I rather like the bottoms of them, how they create their own little bowls of dew for the sun to kiss away. My bowls of dew are a little bigger, and the goldfinch are grateful, but easily startled. I hope to get a photograph soon!
“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.” – Ray Bradbury, Zen and the Art of Writing,: Essays on Creativity (1990)