Blog .:. June 2006 8 Entries

Oh, my abs

29 June 2006 Comments

During my riding lesson today, J had us doing some sitting trot during one portion of an exercise. For some background, you should know:

  1. Thanks to all the back injuries I had as an undergrad, I lost a lot of the “feel” I used to have while riding, and in order to really sit the trot, you have to be able to feel the horse’s back—what it’s doing, how it’s moving.
  2. My hips are very tight—and to sit the trot, you also need loose hips. But I’ve been having trouble moving with the horse at the walk—even when I could feel how she was moving.
  3. As a result of #1 and #2, we’ve done very little sitting trot—and the thought of sitting trot terrified me a little bit, because if you can’t feel what the horse is doing and move with it, you end up bouncing around like a sack of rocks, which isn’t good for the horse’s back—or yours. And I’m not interested in screwing up my back again.

I couldn’t really tell you how it happened, but something clicked, in the way things sometimes click. I was sitting the trot today better than I have EVER sat the trot before. When you’re really sitting it, all the horse’s movement gets absorbed in your seat/hips… I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s an incredible, incredible feeling.

However, the movement is not unlike doing those bicycle crunches—you know the ones where you take your elbow to the opposite knee? Imagine doing a very subtle variation of that—think of flexing/moving your ab muscles just a few inches up and down, up and down… for fifteen or twenty minutes.

Not to take anything away from the how amazing the sitting trot feels but… Oh. My. Poor. Abs.

Tagged: Horses, Riding, Riding - Breakthroughs, Riding - Lessons

The carnivore strikes again

26 June 2006 Comments

M: If I don’t have a meeting Tuesday, I’ll make stew or something out of that roast.

Me: You’ll make what? Wait… you mean the roast we cooked on Friday?

M: Yes.

Me: I’ve been eating it all weekend. Was I not supposed to do that?

M: I just thought it’d be too tough to eat.

Me: It’s quite good, actually. And half gone now. If you want to have any of it, I recommend staking your claim now, because the other half won’t last until Tuesday.

M: Oh. Well, that’s fine. [pause] You could have told me it turned out ok.

Me: [wiping gravy off chin] Sorry. It, um, turned out great. Have some for lunch?

Tagged: Cooking Eating & Food

Stumbling down memory lane

19 June 2006 Comments

Names changed to protect the innocent. Or, in some cases, because I have no idea who I was talking to.

Joy: Why were you and Stacy arguing last night?

Me: Because she was line dancing too slowly.

Joy: Line dancing? But you weren’t playing any music to line dance to.

Me: So?

- - - - -

Joy: Ok… but then, why were you and Kelly hitting each other?

Me: We were boxing.

Joy: But I thought you were line dancing with Stacy?

Me: I was boxing too.

Joy: Before or after the line dancing?

Me: During. It seemed like the right thing to do.

- - - - -

Joy: So should I ask what you and Jean were doing?

Me: I was teaching her to do cart wheels.

Joy: I thought you didn’t know how to do cart wheels.

Me: What’s that got to do with anything?

- - - - -

Me: (to cashier) Actually, I don’t want this sewing machine. We were just taking it for a walk. It looked lonely sitting on the shelf by itself.

- - - - -

Me: (On a tour bus) Courtney, why are there all these people on this bus?

Courtney: Because their bus broke down.

Me: But they aren’t in our tour.

Courtney: We’re just dropping them off at their hotel.

Me: Oh. (pause) Does the driver know they are on this bus?

- - - - -

Allie: There’s no way you could walk a straight line.

Me: I could. I’m not that drunk.

Allie: Fine. Walk this line (points to a line in the kitchen tile pattern)

(Pause while I stand up and stumble over to the designated line, the watching of which caused the entire kitchen to break into laughter, causing me to laugh, leaving me clinging to the counter and trying not to fall down.)

Me: But (laughing) if (laughing) I weren’t (wheezing and laughing) laughing so much (gasping for breath) I could totally (laughing) walk a straight line. Really. (laughing, wheezing, and practically falling on my arse) Stop laughing! I could walk that line (falling down) if you would just stop laughing!

- - - - -

You probably had to be there.

Tagged: You Had to Be There

Why do people do things like this?

17 June 2006 Comments

Dear Professional in Your Field and Person Who Will Decide the Fate of My Submission,

I am interested in working with you on [Project Name] and my contribution is below. I’d also like to take a moment to say that I disagree entirely with you on how such a project should be run; rather than [building a cart] and [harnessing a horse to it] you should [harness the horse] and [build a custom cart to fit it]. Clearly, it is impossible [for a horse to be hitched effectively to any old cart, which is why you must custom-build the cart instead]. Nevertheless, I am still sending you my [harnessed horse] and I hope it will [suit your cart] (even though we both know I think this is a perverse way of doing business).

If you do accept my [horse] as a part of the project, I assume you will include my little manifesto as well. I’d hate for the world to think I agreed with you on how you run this project.

I look forward to joining you on the adventure.

Sincerely,

C.

The only response to this is obviously:

Dear C.,

To be honest, I haven’t even looked at your [horse] because it is clear you didn’t read the project rules and regulations, which clearly state why [we are looking for a horse] to [pull this cart] instead of [supplying a horse] and asking [for people to build a suitable cart]. In any event, we disagree that it is impossible to match a [horse] to [an already-built cart], since for centuries people have done just that. Given your position on [the horse and cart controversy we didn’t even know existed], we don’t feel you will mesh well into our project team, even if your [horse] is [a brilliant, flashy mover]. Which we are sure it is, but, as I said, we haven’t bothered to look at it: motivation, you see, matters in this project as much as [the horse] itself. Or you would see that if you’d read the rules and regulations. Since you couldn’t be bothered, we can’t be bothered either.

Best of luck,

Project Lead

Tagged: Bad Decisions, Writing

Back on the Line

12 June 2006 Comments

The first discussion I remember on lines in poetry was in an undergrad workshop, where we talked about the idea that each line should be a coherent unit and add something new to the poem. Although I don’t think anyone would argue the ‘add something new to the poem,’ I have had people question the idea that a line should be coherent—and by coherent, I mean that if the line is pulled from the poem, it should make sense. It can be fragmented, but it should make sense.

For example, from Adrienne Rich’s “What Kind of Times Are These?”:

and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows

I’d call that a coherent line: it’s an image that works without the context of the rest of the poem. The lines before and after build the overall image in more depth, and the rest of the poem explores the image as a whole and why the poet uses it, but as a line this one can be pulled out of the poem and has some coherency to it.

In a graduate workshop, I mentioned that idea and the reaction was something to the effect of “it’s a good ideal but impractical.” And I see the point—from the same poem, there’s the lines:

And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.

If I wanted to really break this stanza apart and re-lineate it by some sense of ideal “coherent” meaning (oh, the cheek of me, rewriting Rich’s poems), I’d do something like put “anything” up on the line before and dropping “it’s necessary” to the last line. But that change would take the emphasis off “why do I tell you,” the urgency out of trying to get people to listen (third to last line), and the bluntness out of the last line.

The poem wouldn’t benefit from a re-lineation; the lines might be more “pure” as “units” (or some such nonsense), but the tone of the poem and the emphasis of the overall meaning would suffer. The other problem, of course, is predictability: when you get hung up on making every line a coherent unit, you (or I do, anyway) tend to fall into predictable grammatical patterns. Rich’s lineation, for example, helps pull the reader forward through the lines: the break between you/anything pulls the reader over what would otherwise be a very hard stop (end of line and end of a sentence); putting “it’s necessary” up a line from “to talk about trees” actually adds to the pause—it’s necessary could be an ending in its own right and the line break gives the reader a moment to anticipate what is necessary, preparing them for the punch line, as it were, of the poem.

So, yes, I see why thinking of every line as a coherent unit is impractical—poems would become formulaic and I think you’d lose a lot of the magic that line breaks offer, in terms of adding tension and moving readers through a poem.

But I still think it’s a good test question. If a line is not coherent—if there’s a word that doesn’t quite fit, like “anything” here, or the fragment seems a little weak, like “to talk about trees” can, then it’s a chance for the writer to double check why they broke the lines how they did: what’s gained by having a line that’s extra-dependent on the rest of the poem to make sense? As long as what’s gained is at least as or more significant than what’s lost by having a dependent line, forget about coherency and go for the other effects.

Or maybe this is all obvious to everyone but me and I’m being dense. Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading so many poems lately where the lines and line breaks are so arbitrary that I’m starting to wonder if the writers are even thinking about what they are doing. You know the type of poem; it’s the apparently currently fashionable “minimalist” thing:

I bought
coffee
at a diner
smiled
laughed
hated the world

I mean, are “coffee,” “smiled,” and “laughed” really so significant that they need to be on their own line? None of them are powerful enough as an image or action to add enough to the poem that they warrant a line of their own—nor are the breaks really adding anything to the sense or tension of the poem. It’s why one-word lines are so hard to do, but people just… do them. Thoughtlessly. It annoys me. Obviously.

Anyway. To extricate myself out of this semi-ramble, semi-rant: in the most recent JuPo poem, when I focused on making the beginning of the line a significant (non- preposition/article/conjunction) word, I noticed that the lines as a whole came together more than in some of the other poems:

drank it. Told you I drank it, finished it

That packs a punch despite the fact that it has the end of one sentence in it and is only part of the next: the two sentence fragments still come together to create one tone/idea in the line. (We can debate whether it’s “good” some other time.) In an earlier poem, that type of fragment combining didn’t work so well for me:

an air mattress for the guests we never had. I kept

What an air mattress has to do with what the narrator kept isn’t clear without the context of the rest of the poem. And unlike in Rich’s poem, there’s no overriding reason to have this line as it is: it’s not adding tension or creating an unexpected turn in the poem or anything like that. It’s a weak line (irregardless of the language and imagery) because it’s not functioning as anything other than a transition.

So I think what this exercise is suggesting for me is that paying more attention to the beginning of the lines will help me write stronger lines overall (duh).

Like I said: it’s not that every line I write needs to be “coherent”—there are lots of good reasons not to write a “coherent” line—or even that I should never start a line with a preposition/article/conjunction—they aren’t weak in and of themselves, necessarily. But when I get down to revising work and I start feeling that certain lines just aren’t quite right: maybe I should focus less on the end of the line/line break and more on the start of the line.

Captain Obvious is off to bed now. I don’t know why this seems like such a revelation for me; I must have really been neglecting the beginnings of lines lately.

Tagged: Adrienne Rich, NaNoWriMo & NoPoWriMo, What Kind of Times are These by Rich, Writing

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