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Archive for August, 2009

picnic-lightningTitle: Picnic, Lightning
Author: Billy Collins (U.S. Poet Laureate)
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
Genre: Poetry
Rating: can’t rate poetry

As I mentioned before, this semester I am taking a class in which we will be assisting with the editorial process of a literary magazine, which happens to focus a good deal on poetry.  Except I don’t really do poetry (except in Latin).  I’ve never fallen in love with a poem or had the desire to write it, or anything like that.  So I complained about it a bit to my academic advisor the other day, of course more highlighting it as a “challenge” than a pain-in-the-rear.  And he leaps out of his chair, runs to a bookshelf in his office, grabs a few books off the shelf, and settles back in his chair to read me some of his favorite poetry.  When finished, he hands me one of the books and tells me to just read it.  So I did.

And guess what?  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.  (Trust me, this is fairly high praise from me!)

Billy Collins was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003, so of course he must have some merit.  His poetry isn’t all existential or lovey-dovey or anything totally out there (or rather, this book of his poetry isn’t).  I liked that many of the poems simply told a story, but in a poetical manner, with certain turns of phrase or observations that elevate it.  I loved the humor that many of the poems were infused with, especially since humor and poetry don’t usually go hand-in-hand in my mind.

Unlike a fiction or non-fiction book, I’m not really sure how to properly review poetry.  So suffice to say, I liked this collection, and appreciated the fact that every once in a while, I’d come across something that would actually make me stop and think.  And I suppose you might say that Poetry, Lightning has helped chisel away my dislike for poetry in general.  I suppose you just have to find a type of poetry that works for you.  So perhaps that is my goal for this semester.

With that being said, here is my favorite poem from this collection:

Marginalia, by Billy Collins

Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O’Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.

Other comments are more offhand, dismissive –
“Nonsense.” “Please!” “HA!!” –
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
why wrote “Don’t be a ninny”
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.

Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the page.
One scrawls “Metaphor” next to a stanza of Eliot’s.
Another notes the presence of “Irony”
fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.

Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
Hands cupped around their mouths.
“Absolutely,” they shout
to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
“Yes.” “Bull’s-eye.” “My man!”
Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points
rain down along the sidelines.

And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having written “Man vs. Nature”
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.

We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.

Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospels
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird signing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page-
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves.

And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
they say, until you have read him
enwreathed with Blake’s furious scribbling.

Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents’ living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page

A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
“Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.”

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Today was the first day of classes for my senior year of college, and boy was it exhausting – but in a totally amazing way!

First, I had a communications seminar that is applicable to my major since the professor’s interests and mines align really well.  I had this professor last semester, and he’s one of the few professors that I’ve felt comfortable chatting with right off the bat (I’m kinda shy…).  Anyway, this semester, the class is much smaller (like 8 people!) and so he’s planning on making it almost like a graduate school seminar for those of us who are thinking about grad school, which he knows I am and has been actively encouraging me towards.  So I’m really excited for this opportunity, and of course the class topics align with my interests, so I’m practically ecstatic to discuss them with others after a whole summer of solitary research!  Plus, there is going to be a lot of writing and engaging with the texts we read, which is one of my goals for this semester anyway, so it is going to be amazing!!!

Immediately after this amazing class, I had a microeconomics class, which is Econ 101 here.  I’m taking it for three reasons: 1) my father wants me to, and he pays the bills 2) it satisfies the last general education requirement I have left and 3) I have finally accepted that I should take a few business classes before I leave college and enter the ‘real world’…  Unfortunately, though the professor seems nice enough, it looks like the class might proceed slowly, seeing as how he appears given to tangents…

Finally, in the late afternoon, I had an English class with my roommate about literary editing and publishing.  About 5 minutes into this class I was so giddy it’s slightly ridiculous!  I had been unsure about this class because I had had the professor before and felt only lukewarm towards him, and still am, but this class is going to be one of the most amazing, though perhaps most challenging, classes I will ever take.  Basically, the professor is the head editor for a literary magazine that has both print and online editions, so we will be reading submissions for him, and basically using class as editorial meetings for this journal, and we will actually be able to influence what goes into the magazine, both online and off.  In addition, we will be writing either two book reviews or a longer essay or interview, which can be revised multiple times in order to potentially be published in this magazine!

Finally, and this is the part that really made me want to jump out of my seat and dance around hysterically, we have to create our own online literary magazine!  We need to come up with the name, the site, solicit submissions from friends, family, and/or even authors we don’t know!  And by the end of it, we need to have at least one issue of our magazine published online.  And of course, it’s entirely possible to continue working on it after the class is over, especially since the first issue is always the hardest!  I! Am! So! Freaking! Excited!!!

So all in all, a fairly auspicious start to my final year in college.  I cannot wait to see what the coming weeks bring!

:insert totally inelegant squeals of excitement here:

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Title: Stone Dragon
Author: gravidy
Story URL: http://community.livejournal.com/dmhgficexchange/306299.html
Content Rating: R, more for violence than anything else, but it’s not gratuitous.
Ships: DM/HG, RW/HG (note: this is not the normal romance-type story that is found in fanfic. It is much larger than that)

Author’s Summary: Sometimes there are no right decisions. There are only actions and consequences. Hermione’s only choice now is who to betray.

Review:

This fic absolutely blew me away.  It is unlike anything I have ever read before, either in the HP fanfic world, or outside.  It is an intense vision of the world J.K. Rowling created, far darker, but just as believable and understandable.  It is so original that I am simply in awe of the author’s skill.

And that was just my initial impressions.  Just thinking about it now, I can’t believe how fantastic this fic is.

To delve a bit deeper into the plot, it takes place with Harry, Hermione, and Ron are all in their fifties.  The story in DH compliant, but it will challenge all your assumptions about the wizarding world.  Harry is dying for reasons unknown, and Hermione is determined to find a cure, leading her down dark paths, all the while struggling internally.

As I mentioned before, this fic will challenge your world view (of the HP world, that is).  Which is a hard thing, but absolutely a good thing.  I don’t want to give anything away here, but this story really makes you think about your assumptions, and why you think the way you do.  Just because something appears a certain way on the top, there are always layers of understanding.  Nothing is ever as black and white as it may seem.

Most fiction creates a world in which there are absolutes, with a hero and a villian.  And J.K. Rowling’s universe is no different.  But gravidy’s is.  There are so many layers of grey here that you may think you are going colorblind.  Which is yet another reason this is such a fantastic story.  Only in the hands of such a masterful storyteller would any of this work, and be convincing, though it certainly throws much in the face of canon.  Except it doesn’t, because it absolutely fits.  We just wish it weren’t so.

And I’m going to stop talking so I don’t give anything away.  Just go read it and hurry back to tell me what you think!

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Lessons of Me

Since returning to school, I have had a bit of time to do some self-reflections, and I am yet again amazed at how much I love being at school.  I mean, every summer (and Christmas break!) since I arrived at college has been spent with me wanting to be back at school so much, and then when I finally return, I am happier than I could ever imagine!

Some people have suggested that it’s because el boyo is here, but it really isn’t that (sorry!).

I just love learning.

I love discussing things with others, whether they be peers, or authority figures, or high schoolers.

And college is the only place that I can think of where that is truly, purely, possible.  You can have a conversation with anyone about anything, and you can actually learn something new every single day.  And it’s not just about one topic, but rather every topic you can imagine, and many that you cannot.

And the people!  Oh, the people.

I have spent the last couple of days with people that have never really met me before, and they all think me an extrovert, even though I am most definitely an introvert in the vast majority of situations.  But here at school, I am a senior, and therefore pretty much know what is going on, and I just have this fantastic confidence thing going on that I have never really seen so fully in myself before.  And it enables me to talk to people so much more than I would in any other situation.  And so I meet people, I learn things, and it is amazing!

The only slight problem is that I still am very much an introvert, and therefore am unsure of how to continue such things outside these situations.  Anyone have any suggestions?

Anyway, another slight problem is that I simply love discussing academic type things, and have approximately zero use for the celebrity gossip and other such nonsense that generally fills the silences.  And I know others want to relax and talk about other things, but this is my way of relaxing.  And I think I’ve found a few people who are sort of like that, but not really.  And so it’s hard to keep talking when they feel the academic discussions have been fully covered.

And I’m rambling again, as I tend to do when I get excited about a topic…

So I am left yet again with searching for a path to follow post-graduation that will allow me to continue to be around other intelligent, amazing people, who think that chatting about academic things is fun.  Except I don’t want to be cornered into just one area of study/interest.  Any suggestions?

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What a Ride!

As some of you may know, I moved back to school on Saturday night, ready to help out with a new pre-orientation program for freshmen, which is why I’ve been awol on the internet since then!  And it was amazing!

I had no idea what to expect, since I had never heard of the program before (I was roped in through another job I had), and basically only agreed to it because I wanted to be back at school as soon as possible.  But now I am so happy I did it, and wish (not for the first nor last time!) that I didn’t have to graduate in 8 short months…

Basically, the program has about 100 freshmen enrolled in one of 9 different classes, each taught by the students’ academic advisor.  And then we do a bunch of other fun stuff, like scavenger hunts and a cruise down the local river.  My job was to make sure the kids got to classes on time, and help out with anything they might need, since their resident assistants were still in training most of the time.

While I didn’t get to know as many of the freshmen as I would have liked, I did become really close friends with the other student assistants, as well as the two women who were running the program, not to mention the professors that were teaching the classes.

There are so many amazing people on this campus, and I’m finally getting the hang of this networking thing, so I really think I need to start over again at freshmen year, and then I’d really be able to make something out of this education!  But I guess making the best of this year will have to suffice…

Are there any lessons you feel you learned almost too late (or too late?) to actually apply them?

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Though I was blogging this time last year, I hadn’t yet wandered into the realm of Book Blogging, so this is my first year learning about Book Blogger Appreciation Week, started by the fabulous My Friend Amy!  So here are my answers to the meme questions, and I look forward to reading everyone else’s!

1)  What has been one of the highlights of blogging for you?

  • I got into blogging because I am an information junkie, and love reading anything I can get my hands on, which is why I am currently subscribed to a couple hundred blogs, and yet still on the lookout for more!  I started blogging in response to this, as a way to get my voice out there, to get myself writing about all these things that were swirling through my head, and hopefully chat about them with others.  I’m definitely still working on actually accomplishing all of that, but blogging is so rewarding simple because it allows me to speak my mind and discuss so many things that might otherwise fall to the wayside!

2)  What blogger has helped you out with your blog by answering questions, linking to you, or inspiring you?

  • No one specific jumps to mind currently since I fear I am not very good at reaching out to others for help or links or anything of the sort – though I’m working on it, I promise!  Hopefully, I’ll be able to answer this in a month or so…

3)  What one question do you have about BBAW that someone who participated last year could answer?

  • How do you keep up with all the crazyness that surrounds BBAW?  I mean, at the time of this posting, there are already 93 responses to this meme – how do you catch up?!

Though this isn’t officially part of the meme, I must say that, though BBAW is officially still a month away, I have already found some new favorite blogs and am so totally looking forward to the coming month of celebrations, if you will (and please excuse the total valley-girl-esque-ness of that sentence!)

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… instead of posting on this here blog!  We had family in town this weekend for my mom’s 50th birthday, so I’ve been a bit too busy to do anything.  Plus, I’ve leaving for school on Friday, so I’ve been busy getting all my stuff (and boy do I have stuff!) together.  So here’s a quick run-down of some interesting articles I’ve read on my blogroll this week:

  1. Book Do’s and Don’ts For the 21st Century via Book Patrol
  2. The bad bad books that read so well via The Guardian Books Blog
  3. Penguin wants to suck your blood via Quill & Quire
  4. Competing for Eyeballs: Reading in the 21st Century via Booksquare
  5. Book Bloggers: Warm Community or Backstabbing Bitches? via J. Kaye’s Book Blog

Meanwhile, I have decided to experiment with Google Chrome, a newish browser released by Google.  And I would never recommend it for bloggers, or even blog lurkers.  First, Google Reader keeps freezing – ironic, n’est pas?  The only positive part is that when the tab for Reader freezes, the other ones don’t (a big selling point for Chrome in the first place).  And then there is no easy way to subscribe to blogs.  There is no feed button in the address bar like you find in Firefox (and IE, but I haven’t used it in so long, I can’t be sure).  If a blog does happen to have a feed button in their blog itself, Chrome tries to send me to Microsoft Outlook when I click it!  Outlook!  Seriously, Google?  I expect so much more from you.

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