once more into the archives…. “The War”

Again, from either a 9th or 10th grade (so 1978 or ’79) creative writing class. The actual page has the words “picture writing” printed across the top.

The War

One day, the governments of America, Russia, China, Japan, Canada, Germany, England, France, Mexico, Switzerland, and Italy decided to have a war. They decided to have this war in the Sahara Desert, so the bombs wouldn’t destroy their lands.

The governments started drafting people. They even drafted women. They started producing weapons and shipping them to Africa. The date was set, and the troops were sent down.

But none of the people like the idea. There was no reason to go to war. None of them wanted to kill anyone just because their government said to.

When the day arrived, five hundred million people met in the middle of the desert. But none had weapons. They had refused to fight.

So instead they had picnics with the provisions. The younger men had tank races. People of all nationalities made friends with each other. They posed with their new friends for pictures, which were taken from the bombers. The bombs were re-fused, and they set off a beautiful fireworks display. This went on for two weeks.

As for the people who wanted to fight, they were loaded on a special ship, and sent into deepest space, where they could never harm anyone again. The End.

out of the archives…

This poem, from, I think, 9th grade, with original syntax and spelling unchanged:

Study Hall

    Quiet
Is the rule here.
As pages rustle
As pencils write.

    Murmers
Are launched here
Science, English, Math
Float thru the air
Can you
          catch some?

    Dreams
Are manufactured here
Happy or sad,
They come cheaply,
Half price on Friday

“deeper than dirt” by Rachel McKibbens, the best piece of writing you will read today, or maybe even this week or month

deeper than dirt
Rachel McKibbens

after the poet asked how I would bury my brother

Beyond the carrots and blind white worms, beyond
the yellowing bone orchards and corkscrew roots,
beyond the center of this churchless earth, beloved Peter,
my little sorcerer, brought up dirty & wrong, you deserve more
than to be smothered in mud. For all the gravel you were fed,
for every bruise and knot that named you, I must plant you
in a bed of blood-hot muscle, must deliver you into me,
so I may
carry you as the only mother you have ever known.

About This Poem

“Poets of witness navigate the world in such a peculiar way, seeking justice through writing; punishing and praising with language. This poem is entirely for my quiet brother who is blessed with the gift of withholding.”

–Rachel McKibbens

Poem-A-Day
Launched during National Poetry Month in 2006, Poem-A-Day features new and previously unpublished poems by contemporary poets on weekdays and classic poems on weekends. Browse the Poem-A-Day Archive.


Into the Dark & Emptying Field

Into the Dark & Emptying Field

Copyright © 2013 by Rachel McKibbens. Used with permission of the author.

“Suddenly” Sharon Olds’ poem for Ruth Stone

Too many people close to me seem to be wrestling with grief right now, the horrible weight of the loss of it. So here is Sharon Olds’ poem about the death of poet Ruth Stone, which is about the loss but even more about the love and legacy and connection of poet to poet, woman to woman, body to body.

Suddenly
by Sharon Olds

(Ruth Stone, June 8, 1915 – November 19, 2011)

And suddenly, it’s today, it’s this morning
they are putting Ruth into the earth,
her breasts going down, under the hill,
like the moon and sun going down together.
O I know, it’s not Ruth—what was Ruth
went out, slowly, but this was her form,
beautiful and powerful
as the old, gorgeous goddesses who were
terrible, too, not telling a lie

for anyone—and she’d been left here so long, among
mortals, by her mate—who could not,
one hour, bear to go on being human.
And I’ve gone a little crazy myself
with her going, which seems to go against logic,
the way she has always been there, with her wonder, and her
generousness, her breasts like two
voluptuous external hearts.
I am so glad she kept them, all
her life, and she got to be buried in them—
she 96, and they
maybe 82, each, which is
164 years
of pleasure and longing. And think of all
the poets who have suckled at her riskiness, her
risque, her body politic, her
outlaw grace! What she came into this world with,
with a mew and cry, she gave us. In her red
sweater and her red hair and her raw
melodious Virginia crackle,
she emptied herself fully out
into her songs and our song-making,
we would not have made our songs without her.
O dear one, what is this? You are not a child,
though you dwindled, you have not retraced your path,
but continued to move straight forward to where
we will follow you, radiant mother. Red Rover,
cross over.

Stephanie Vanderslice on Literary Citizenship

Yes yes yes. We aren’t in community to market to one another.

Literary Citizenship

vanderslice_stephanieOver at the Ploughshares blog, Stephanie Vanderslice talks to Tasha Golden about teaching Literary Citizenship and other “professionalization” topics in MFA programs. Good stuff!

She says:

The two central myths are one, that literary citizenship is all about self-promotion, and two, that it’s connected deeply to the “marketplace.” For example, a lot of students (and a lot of authors who clutter my Twitter feed with tweets about their own publications and nothing else) think that literary citizenship and platform-building means nothing more than promoting their own work.

In reality, it’s about completely saturating yourself in the literary culture—and then curating and promoting the work that interests you, so that other people will find it and care about it as much as you do.

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This rigid refusal to look at ourselves may well destroy us

from James Baldwin’s “Lockridge: The American Myth” (198) as quoted in Adrienne Rich’s essay collection A Human Eye (2009)

The gulf between our dream and the realities that we live with is something that we do not understand and do not wish to admit. It is almost as though we were asking that others look at what we want and turn their eyes, as we do, away from what we are. I am not, as I hope is clear, speaking of civil liberties, social equality, etc., where indeed a strenuous battle is yet carried on; I am speaking instead of a particular shallowness of mind, an intellectual and spiritual laxness…This rigid refusal to look at ourselves may well destroy us; particularly now since if we cannot understand ourselves we will not be able to understand anything.

Grown-ups and monsters

“Why do you think she’s scared of anything? She’s a grown-up, isn’t she? Grown-ups and monsters aren’t scared of things.”

“Oh, monsters are scared,” said Lettie. “That’s why they’re monsters. And as for grown-ups…” She stopped talking, rubbed her freckled nose with a finger. Then, “I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”

Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

all its foolish casual cruelty

She was the power incarnate, standing in the crackling air. She was the storm, she was the lightning, she was the adult world with all its power and all its secrets and all its foolish casual cruelty.

and THIS is why Neil Gaiman is:
1. a god (because he knows this)
2. one of the most important writers in English in our era (because he says it so perfectly and therefore makes it so apparent it can’t be un-known)