Archive for May 9th, 2007

At the beginning of the year we read Jimmy Santiago Baca’s memoir, A Place To Stand. It’s the story of his growing up, his parent’s break-up while he was still young, living temporarily with his beloved grandpa, then an orphanage, eventually the D-home, and finally, years in a maximum-security prison. It’s also the story of his becoming a man and a poet.

Certain images from the memoir stick with me. A young Jimmy cowering under his parents’ bed while they fight (then do they make love?). St. Anthony’s Boys Home, alone and lonely in a way even his brother can’t begin to compensate for. The prison scenes, I thought, were especially vivid. 

The way I see it, Santiago Baca wrote about little place and big Place. Little place: his grandparents’ property in Estancia, or the hardest-core cellblock called “the dungeon.” Big Place: his culture and his people, where he came from. Where he went.

This week, write about little place or big Place. Jot down the address or name of a city where you once lived and just go. What comes out? Maybe the details of a neighborhood you loved or the realization that the reason you never felt secure was because you never were. Do a fifteen-minute practice, then polish it into a short essay. Read it out loud to someone you want to know from where it was you came.

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It’s so brown, ybonesy 2007

Related to Leaving Portland From Seat 21A.

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Folks, if you look out the right side of the plane…, ybonesy 2007

-Related to Arriving Albuquerque From Seat 21A.

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It’s hard to come up with only 10 books that have had the most impact on my life. I’ve lived long enough to know there are many more than 10. But once I sat down to write, and began crawling through the recesses of childhood memory, a solid list began to form.

It reads to me like stepping stones, cairns on a map of my life:

  1. Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Walter J. Black Inc, New York, (1927)  – I used to sit and read his mysteries, rocking away and biting my fingernails. When I saw Galway Kinnell a few weeks ago, I was happy to hear that Poe was one of his favorite authors! See PoeStories.com for the latest and greatest on Poe.
  2. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse – this book had a huge impact on me, along with The Prophet which I read my first year of college. There’s a great e-book of Siddhartha online.
  3. The Prophet by Khalil Gibran – I was going through a change in consciousness at the time I started reading this book. Believe it or not, there’s an online fan site for Kahlil Gibran.
  4. Nancy Drew Mysteries by Carolyn Keene – what’s not to like about Nancy Drew? I loved the Hardy Boys series just as much, if not more. I have a few originals of each around my bookshelves and in my collections. Books like these kept my sense of wonder intact. Nancy Drew is alive and well!  Check out Nancy Drew Sleuth.
  5. Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton – first book I read by May Sarton. My favorite is Kinds of Love. I’ve read everything she’s written. May Sarton changed the way writers look at journals and their relationship to memoir.
  6. The Color Purple by Alice Walker – had a big impact. But my favorite book is Meridian. I consider Alice Walker one of my mentors. I’ve read everything by her and saw her speak at Borders a few years ago. She has an amazing quiet and calm about her. A peacefulness I want to cultivate in my own life.
  7. Illustrated Book of Bible Stories – One of my childhood mementos. It’s packed in a box somewhere. I ran across it when I moved in with Liz last December. I grew up Methodist and used to read these out loud to myself in my bedroom, marking the pages as I went. I think Aunt Cassie gave the book to me. Back then, it was tradition in our family to gift signed copies of Bibles and Bible story books.
  8. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko – I read this book when I was going to art school. It changed the way I looked at the structure of books and writing. I love the story and her style; I recently read it again.
  9. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley – first time I knew a woman could have this much chutzpah, blood, guts, all that and more. I loved this book when I read it at about age 11. I probably knew on some level right then and there that I wanted to be a writer.
  10. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut – I read a lot of books of this type in the early 70’s. So I guess for me, this Vonnegut book represents a certain genre that I was reading at the time. It was nearing the end of Vietnam, but war and peace were still at the forefront of campus politics. I remember watching Slaughterhouse-Five (the movie) in a dark college auditorium my 1st year of college. We were having sit-in’s and chanting for peace. We still are.

 -from Topic post: Ten Slam Dunks.

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

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Nat at Cloud 9000 did an exercise in one of his posts a few days back that I’ve been wanting to steal ever since. He made a list of small things that together consititute happiness. Here’s the quote that inspired him:

A multitude of small delights constitute happiness.
-Charles Baudelaire, French poet

Here is my list of small delights that constitute happiness for me today:

  • The smell of Crabtree & Evelyn body lotion on my arms. It’s fresh and clean, and it came in my hotel room in Oregon.
  • The sound of earthmovers down on the street. It reminds me that the best cities maintain their downtowns, which in turn makes them so great.
  • The sound of honking cars, reminding me I can run down to the coffee shop on the corner and get a latte without having to get into my car.
  • Em’s voice this morning when I called to say Hello; she had a mouthful of toothpaste and said, I caaaa taaaak Boooob….I laaab u.

What are the small delights that make you happy?

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