I love this song and this video — which, near as I can tell, is a single fabulous take. Enjoy!
I love this song and this video — which, near as I can tell, is a single fabulous take. Enjoy!
No, no, hear me out.
I’m not a huge fan of Ed Sheeran’s work in general. I admit that I know only what gets played on the radio, and I admit also that I find some of his songs catchy and fun to sing along with in the car or exercise class.
However, I’m in no way a fan of hook-up culture, which I dislike with an intensity that one might fairly describe as rabid. This prevents me from enjoying his work too much.
This video of him singing “Wild Mountain Thyme,” though, kind of classes up his career more than a little.
(Even if one could argue that he’s still singing, at least a little, about the same old thing. But whatever.)
I was reminded of this Scottish folk song, which I rather like, yesterday during the closing conversations of the Moss Wood Retreat, an excellent writing retreat I attended last week and which I will give you more details about soon. (So stay tuned.)
In the meantime, do enjoy this.
When I was in college, my freshman year, I put the song “She’s Always a Woman” by Billy Joel on repeat on my CD player for eighteen hours straight. It was a weekend night, and I loved that song, and I was probably thinking about my boyfriend being eighteen hundred miles away at a different school and just got sentimental. Something like that. I no longer remember what truly motivated me to listen to that song nonstop for so long, but I can tell you how much it annoyed everyone in my dorm who was around that weekend. By about hour fifteen, the walls of the building were vibrating with Billy Joel’s piano and vocals.
I didn’t get tired of the song that night, either, if you can believe it. But I didn’t pull that stunt again.
Last night my daughter did. She played “Africa” by Toto on repeat on her iPod all night long. So this morning, I went searching for that video to post here, but the video is such a prime specimen of everything that was clunky and goofy about ’80’s music videos, I’m going to post this one instead. Please enjoy.
It’s Monday, and I have a really fabulous song stuck in my head. Please allow me to share it with you. Please enjoy.
Although my favorite thing to read is a novel, I also love linked collections of short stories. The forgiving nature of a series of discrete narratives doesn’t make me feel guilty when my schoolwork prevents me from reading a novel straight through.
Sometimes these collections are linked by place; there are many of these. Others are linked by characters, such as Justin Cronin’s Mary and O’Neill. By an object: Susan Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue. Some by concept: Her Infinite Variety by Pamela Rafael Berkman. Sometimes by theme: Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by Z.Z. Packer.
And sometimes a collection is linked by all of these.
Printz Award-winning Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick contains seven linked stories which travel backward in time on a remote and unusual island near the top of the world. They explore the themes of love and sacrifice in the myriad ways that love and sacrifice impress themselves on our lives, sometimes obvious and sometimes not. But the writing is never obvious, never predictable. Sedgwick’s work is often, I think, categorized as YA, but even if you don’t usually read in that category, give this one a try.
Eric and Merle are two characters who orbit each other in time, meeting each other in different ways. Sometimes in love, sometimes bound by a family relationship, sometimes tossed together by external forces, their interactions show the breadth of love and sacrifice. The writing is lush without overpowering the reader. The stories are based on an actual historical painting, Midvinterblot, but everything else in the novel comes from Sedgwick’s own imagination.
Honestly, I don’t know what else to say about this book that won’t give too much of the story away. Aside from the writing being enjoyable even down to the level of the sentence, I love the structure, how each story is illuminated by a subsequent one, how the orbit comes around in such a satisfying way, how the island itself is a character, how the names of the characters evolve, how the dragon flowers on the island and the image of the hare anchor the narrative. There is a hint of the fantastical in this book, but I wouldn’t call it fantasy; magic realism is more its purview.
This novel-in-stories accomplishes what the 1994 film Being Human tried to do but couldn’t. Midwinterblood captures two important facets of the immensity of human experience with crystalline clarity. And like a faceted prism, this story reveals a depth of possibility in every interaction, that we are part of something larger than ourselves. That love and sacrifice cannot be contained. It asks the question, is life truly this rich?
And so, it is.
I’m mired in grading finals right now, but I’ll get back to posting on this blog next month, when I’m in the swing of summer.
For now, have a photo and a caption contest. Your prize will be my undying admiration for your participation. If you’d also like to win one of my books or a handmade poetry art card, let me know.
I found this photo by accident. The best attribution I can give at the moment is that it was on Gary He’s Twitter feed. But it’s an amazing photo and just begs to be captioned, so please, have at it.
It was difficult to choose just a couple of poems to feature here from the book Shipbreaking by Robin Beth Schaer. (I posted one yesterday as well.)
This year, National Poetry Month begins and ends with weekends. At the beginning of April, I featured two poems by the multi-talented Paula Billups, poems which touched me deeply. Ending this month is a weekend of poems by another person whose poetry has impacted me in a profound way. (You can read more of how and why on yesterday’s post.)
The following poem, “Natural History,” broaches the grim subject of the Anthropocene Era we have found ourselves in, while framing the debate in the real root of its sadness: our descendants and the mess we seem to be leaving them. On a weekend when half of my little family marched for the climate, I keep desperately clinging to the hope of productive tasks and resistance willpower, using what influence and abilities I have to chip away at the problem and, ideally, lead others by example.
Like parenting, like teaching, I don’t always know if my leading by example actually makes an impact, but I continue to try to do it, because the alternative feels cowardly.
To say love is why explorers trekked north
with oilskin and sextants believing mastodons
were still alive is fiction, but I would haul a sled
over tundra, hoping a herd survived, hoping you
will survive. My body opens like an umbrella
as you become an abstract of history, speeding
through evolution until you are covered
with arboreal fur. Before you have fingerprints,
or even hands, your ribs unfurl in fiddleheads.
They articulate in pairs. The world without us
is nameless. There are words for all the molten ages
before the seabed bloomed, but none for after us,
not even in Latin. Our imagination spurns
extinction, even when shown a dinosaur egg
or skies once darkened by pigeons. In the museum,
a diorama waits for the future, a camouflage
of blankness. I surrender to your small chance
of being, though you are only a faint shadow
in sonar, a muffled thrum. This love is talons
and wild valor against the baying of hounds.
Glass boxes bear sabertooth skulls, meteorites,
and tracks in volcanic ash. The revolutions
are numerous. A blue whale drifts from the ceiling,
navel wide as a dinner plate, a half-ton heart
on the floor underneath. It is doubtful hearts
will be larger in the future. I want to promise you
permanence, my constant orbit, but even continents
are revisions. I am only your diving bell in water
hemmed by shifting plates. For now, the only name
I give you is my own, though maps are drawn
for seas ten million years ahead. In Ethiopia,
a rift will open wide enough for water
to pour a new coastline and drown the valley
where the skeleton of a woman, not quite human
or ape, was found. As you take my bones
for your own, my greedy passenger, the certainty
of elements is all I have. Your inheritance
of calcium was starfish, then mountain,
then lettuce, and will be a third of what remains
when we are afterward and underwater again.
Bones will say stop before they snap. To reach
the heart, a surgeon cranks open the awning
of ribs until they gasp. My chest expands
without lathe or scalpel, only the force
of your arrival loosening the baleen corset.
To say I made you is inaccurate. You make
yourself from secret blueprints, a shapeling
clutching a manifest of your demands, the parts
salvaged from my body. The revolutions are sudden.
In-between marine, you command dark tides
and destroy me in your making. You wind
umbilical inside, as if to stay. I let the doctors
carve me open like cardboard. My body
could have been a grave. After nothing familiar,
all you know is survival, a green bank of yelping.
You practice a pantomime of instinct, crying
in my accent, grasping for branches with flung-out
arms, and rooting for my breast. Intricacies
of milk and sleep dismantle me. I empty
myself into you, hollowing by the ounce.
There are seven white rhinos when you are born.
A year later, six. I try to tally the animals
vanished in my lifetime and lose count. The frogs
in Costa Rica are gone, an ibex of the Pyrenees,
clouded leopards in Taiwan, the Caspian tiger
and Java tiger, a boa in Mauritius, and grizzly bears
last seen beside the headwaters of the Yaqui River.
Their names chant a grim litany for you to learn,
a half-formed loss. We are in a great dying.
You are going to die. No longer my throat
or temple, the most breakable part of my body
is on the outside now. A javelin anchors the air
between us. Fifty billion creatures have lived
among antlered legends and trampled mud,
but only one percent still ambles leeward.
Dream wary, I feign courage or madness.
There may be no refuge in greenwood,
but you are a stockade of light. I abide
in your clear voice in the grass. You have
only words for what you love: apple,
book, and home. You name the rest yourself:
cat a plaintive moan, spiders are wriggling
fingers, the sky is hands waved above.
But you have no word for me. The question
of who I am confounds you, as though asked
to name a reflection. Not mother or son: us.
We are a coral reef, a pod of whales, descendants
of slime, an endless expanding. Under the city,
aquifer fills with seawater, slowly drawing
the avenues down. Someday, someone
will find our ribs in a midden of oyster shells,
ship hulls, and wooden doors. Instead of a cage,
may they lash our bones together as a raft.
Credit: Robin Beth Schaer, “Natural History” from Shipbreaking, published by Anhinga Press. Copyright © 2015 by Robin Beth Schaer. Reprinted with the permission of the author.