Thursday, April 30, 2015

Congratulations to the poets

Thanks for maxi-reading, poetry in school meeting, on Thursday, April 23rd:

Arkady Ayvazyan
Alyssa Cooke
Aidan Bond
Chloe Coppola
Ataman Uğur
Dana Ross
Laura van Tartwijk
Ele Schickler
Ivy Le
Casey Siemon
Tessa Mackey

 And we had a terrific turn-out for the recitation that same evening: forty-three recitations were heard, and ultimately the judges (thanks, Kevin, Amy, Bart, and Ed!) decided to especially recognize these students:

Best overall: Laura van Tartwijk
first senior: Regan Butler
first junior: Alyssa Cooke
first sophomore: Dana Ross
first freshman: Mark Choi


Thanks also to Miranda Yang, Miranda Levin, and Ashley Judson for their photographs, shown at the poetry reading (photo above by Ashley Judson).

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Four poems by Ned O'Hanlan


I met the devil outside of Barstow –
he was howling at the moon.
I stopped the car and hit the horn, 
thought I’d give the old man a ride.
Well he hopped right in and with a sly toothy grin
Asked me if I wanted a drink.
He said son I know a place, it’s just up the road, and they tend to all appetites.
But I said no, I had places to go –
still I’d take him as far as he’d like. 
It wasn’t but a mile when he told me to stop,
saying something about a change of plans.
He shook my hand and said thanks for the lift – but I had something to say.
Sir, we both know nothing in this life is free –
every favor has a price,
and I believe you’re indebted to me.
I would have sold my soul for a tank of gas, 
but I suppose that I’ve got you beat.
All the devil did was rear his head and laugh
saying this road is long –
and you’ll be back. 

If were being honest

I can paint you a picture of the canals that run through the city of Amsterdam – 
where the moonlight glimmers like a crown atop darkened water. 
I can tell you all about the blends of highland whiskey,
how you’ve never tried wine until you’ve been to Tuscany. 
There is no love as there is in Paris, 
And no greener hills as there are in Ireland. 
The theater in England stands alone. 
Salzburg is awfully beautiful in the winter. 
But I could never take you there,
Or rather, 
would never take you there. 


I followed you to hell
And when I turned wrong –
You were gone. 
So I wandered in the dark
And studied the silhouettes.
Trying to piece it all together,
and understand what it meant.  

Airport Bar

From port to port –
To you I left behind,
To you I know not
and to you I return –
you are on my mind. 
And my mind wanders,
to a spec far below.
What am I then?
If not a bird headed south,
a blinking light in the night sky,
or simply a departing thought.
A weary traveler –
creating a nest in any branch 
that can bear the weight.
Only to depart once more 
and leave another piece behind

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Average Practice, by Tessa Mackey and Hildy Maxwell

“Up over-heads, out and in”
Two at a time, the rowers slide into their seat, most of the time in the least graceful way possible. Oars are extended strategically, so as not to upset the fragile set. Once past the dock, the boat flows smoothly across the water. The start of the release begins. The world disappears. The excruciating wait for this moment is over.

“Arms Only!”
Trying to keep the rest of their bodies perfectly still, the rowers start to power the boat with their long, strong arms alone. This is secretly a vile ab work out as well. The pain is welcomed by these athletes though, as they know that pain is what leads to being one second faster, the one second that will win the race. As the pick drill continues, the speed of the boat gradually increases. Finally all four are rowing together at full slide. Now the fun begins.

“Build for a ten!”
The first time all day full power is allowed to be used. The oars bend from excitement. The outcome of this is either pure bliss or a disaster. If it is good, the mood for practice is already great. On the other hand, if it is awful, all five people in the boat have to put everything into ensuring every stroke taken that practice is better.

“Ok everyone this is the plan for today…”
That is all the rowers usually remember from the coaches talking, because it is the coxswain's job to remind them of it as they are rowing. All they know is that the bulk of practice is about to begin. Most are mentally preparing themselves to go through hell during these pieces. Before they start, butterflies begin to accumulate, both from the nerves that come with rowing and the anxiety to begin.

“Half way!”
At this point most sane people would wonder why in the world they are doing this to themselves. Rowers are not sane people though. They thrive in adversity and have the willpower to push themselves past their limits. They are tired and are not quite sure how they are going to get through the second half of practice. As a rower looks around, she realizes all of her teammates are going through the same thing. All of them feel the same crying out from their muscles, but they must finish the workout for every other person there. They draw the strength they need to finish from each other.

“Last Minute!!!”
Instinct has taken over as your body begins to break. Your heart is pounding, almost numb from continuous strain. This minute, a tiny fraction of time, seems to last years….interminable, unbearable, yet vital to your success. Finally, as the coxswain calls last 10, you feel the release of pressure as all you have put into the season is exposed, feeling nothing but the sheer spatial awareness of your body. Nothing else in the world matters, only that minute, the final minute. The water. Your oar. All become one in the last minute.

“Way Enough”
The hardest part is over. All that is left is a light paddle back to the welcoming boathouse. Often times there is an unsaid competition between boats on the way back. No one wants to have to wait behind the other boats for dock space. Once back, the boats and oars are placed in their own places, their resting place until the next day.

 “One Two Three…Gunn!”
The team cheer officially ends practice. The rowers leave the boathouse sweaty, exhausted, sore, and hungry. As they walk away though, there is a feeling of being cleansed. They must still face the problems of their everyday life, but they are now refocused and ready to face anything.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Ms. Huck Finn. Story by Miranda Levin

Travelling down the dark roads at night always got Huck thinking about his life. Yes, Huck was rather young, but thinking about all the choices that had been made calmed him. While thinking about his life, Huck began to consider when his hunger for adventure had all started.

Since birth, Huck had been thrown into pretty dresses and forced to play with dolls. Sitting still in Sunday school was never Huck’s thing. Manners, curtsies, all of these typically girly things never worked well with Huck. She always wanted to play outside, the pretty dresses now covered in dirt, dolls kidnapped by pirates. Huck’s parents did not take it very well. This tomboy behavior forced Huck’s parents to accept that their daughter was not going to be their typical child. Hayley soon turned into Huckleberry, then shortened to Huck. The family moved away, hoping to not be recognized, a little ashamed that their daughter, who should be girly, was more of a tomboy. Huck preferred playing baseball to dress-up. However, Huck’s parents continuously tried to suppress her tomboy habits.

After running away from home, Huck became who he really wanted to be. He always wore baggy, boyish clothing, cut his hair short, and his hands grew calloused and dirty from living in the woods so often. Although the living conditions were not ideal for a young child, Huck felt that he could really be who he wanted to be here, in the middle of the woods. He was free from judgment, and no longer Hayley. Hayley would be stuck in silly outfits and going to Sunday school, spending those warm summer afternoons inside because going outside to play was not “ladylike.” Now, Huck was free to run around and play until the sun had set. Huck soon realized that it does not matter the way you are born but what you do with the character inside.

It felt so strange to be back in a dress. Jim had tightly fit the dress around Huck’s lanky body, and Huck winced as she remembered the restraint of dresses, missing the freedom of pants. As Huck walked into the old woman’s house, she repeated her backstory over and over. “My name is Sarah Williams. My name is Sarah Williams,” Huck told herself under her breath. As she walked into the house, the old woman started asking questions.

“Where ‘bouts do you live? In this neighborhood?” she asked as Huck sat down.

“No’m. In Hookersville, seven mile below. I’ve walked all the way and I’m all tired out.” Huck realized that over the time spent pretending to be a boy, she had developed an accent that did not sound very girly. Huck cleared her throat and crossed her ankles, attempting to sit up straight. The old woman attempted to have Huck take off her bonnet, but with Huck’s hair having been chopped to a boy-short length, she kept it on.

The old woman continued to go on about Tom Sawyer, Huck herself, and the six thousand dollars, except the old woman said it was ten thousand. Eventually, the topic of Huck’s “murder” came up, and the old lady asked curiously, “Who done it? We’ve heard considerable about these goings on, down in Hookersville, but we don’t know who ‘twas that killed Huck Finn.”

It was weird for Huck, hearing others talk about her as if she were dead. “Well, I reckon there’s a right smart chance of people here that’d like to know who killed him,” Huck said, lowering her voice to a dramatic whisper, “Some thinks old Finn done it himself.”

“No—is that so?” the old woman asked, clearly taken aback.

Huck didn’t know what to do. She just wanted to go back home, all of a sudden a strange urge overcoming her to make her want to storm out the door. She hated pretending to not be herself, but she was already doing that. She had been pretending to not be herself by being who she actually wanted to be and not the person she intended to be. She was interrupted in her thoughts by the old woman asking, “Come, now—what’s your real name?”

“Wh-what, mum?” Huck’s voice trembled.

“What’s your real name? Is it Bill, or Tom, or Bob?—or what is it?”

She had figured Huck out. She had figured out that Huck was really a boy, or really a girl who had been pretending to be a boy for so long so that she practically was a boy. Attempting to cover it up, Huck stammered, “Please to don’t poke fun at a poor girl like me, mum. If I’m in the way, here, I’ll—”

But she was cut off, “No, you won’t. Set down and stay where you are. I ain’t going to hurt you, and I ain’t going to tell on you, nuther. You just tell me your secret, and trust me. I’ll keep it; and what’s more, I’ll help you.”

Huck breathed deep. She was safe here, about to spill everything to this stranger, but the woman continued talking:

“You see, you’re a runaway ‘prentice—that’s all.”

What? Huck’s mind stopped and words ceased to make sense. This was one of the most absolutely confusing things she had ever come across. Huck didn’t know what to do. For once in her life she felt sensitive, almost in tears, because at that moment she realized that no one would ever be able to know the truth. This was the life she had chosen, and now that her decision had been made, she needed to stick with it. A runaway child is one thing, that happens rather often down South here. Meanwhile, a runaway child who wants to be a boy but is actually a girl is completely unheard of. Huck felt as if a big, black wave of truth was crashing down on her, leaving her forever drowning in her own pool of lies, the very same pool she had started to fill on her own in order to attain her happiness.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

'E adesso sul finire del round' by Mario Luzi trans. Nicholas Benson

And now at the end of the round,
he leans on the ropes,
he goes down hard,
he, the giant, first 
precisely assailed on each flank,
his face mashed, pummeled in all his flesh:
and now here it is, leaping to action,
shuddering from its own 
sudden transformation,
the arena resounds: fixes
a single, terrible 
pupil upon him, holds him there,
the evil eye, 
to the matt,
down for the count,
without mercy counted down.
                                             And the other,
still caged, guard position relaxed,
yet chained in the mail
of battle, curtailed — while the forcefield 
of undiminished energy vibrates
all around him — and there
left alone
suspended over the black abyss,
on the verge of plunging 
into the dark trench
of sweat and spit, into the churning fire
of violence unexpressed...

he’s done. Each of them are.
Born of struggle,
struck down at its end: cruelly, at once. 

(from “Per il battesimo dei nostri frammenti” (1978-1984), in Tutte le poesie, Milano: Garzanti, 1988. pp. 516-517)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

from David Shulman's Spring, Heat, Rains

I dream, oddly, of the Greek poem inscribed on the wall of the burial cave at Beit Guvrin, south of Jerusalem:

Nothing else remains that I can do for you,
or that will pleasure you.
I am sleeping with someone else, but it is you
I love, dearest to me of all.
In the name of Aphrodite, I am happy about one thing,
that your cloak has been left to me as a pledge.
But I flee, I permit you
expanses of freedom.
Do anything you desire, do not strike the wall,
it only makes noise.
We will motion to each other, this will be
the sign between us.

A woman, apparently, speaks to her dead lover. I carry this poem with me in my wallet. Often, when I read it out loud, people refuse to believe it was written two thousand years ago. Amiel sent me the original last year; the translation is faithful, even the 'expanses of freedom.'

David Shulman, Spring, Heat, Rains. A South Indian Diary (The U of Chicago P, 2009), p. 7.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tradurre poesia è un umile servizio, da fare in punta di piedi, sapendo bene che ogni traduzione invecchia, mostra dopo alcuni anni le rughe del tempo, mentre il testo originale rimane là, nella sua intatta bellezza.

-Antonia Arslan, "Il bisogno di tradurre poesia," tradurre. pratiche teorie strumenti. numero 7 (autunno 2014).