Archive for February 8th, 2013

Poetry Friday: Negative Space

February 8, 2013 @ 6:23 pm | Filed under:

I loved this post at Barb Riley’s Written Not With Ink about “white space” in art and poetry, “the things unfinished and things left unsaid.”

“I’ve been spending more time reading poetry lately, and finding myself drawn to the absence of explanation on the page. In an age where answers are one millisecond away by the gods of google, my soul longs to contemplate the unknown.”

The gods of google, indeed, our magic answer machine supplying the ends of questions even before we’ve finished asking them.

The post reminded me of a poem from my MFA thesis, which I’ll share here because it’s Friday, and Friday is for poems. The challenging thing, for me, about sharing poems I wrote long ago is resisting the temptation to get in there and tinker some more, but I’ll resist and present this as I wrote it at age 23.


Negative Space

Still new at this, I cannot grant my hand
The freedom Porter’s “stroke” and “glide” suggest;
I’m scared to wreck a curve with poor command
Of pencil. “Loosen up!” he barks. “It’s just
A sketch. In here there’s no such thing as ‘messed

Up’.” But that bristly frown belies
Him. I lose the body’s edge. And paper snags
My lead; now nervous dashes fleck the sides
Of my drawing’s head. Above her sausage legs
And torso jut two arms like long thin bags

Of bread, lumpy and stiff. At least—thank God—
The model’s clothed. Too much, to spoil the grace
The undraped body wears.
……………………………………..Start over. See not
The model but the shape she prints on space,

My gentle dream instructor guides. Just trace

The edge your eye perceives. Porter fades
Like graphite dust—for just a flicker,
I can see it—No—It’s lost. He strides
To easel, flashes out an arm. The figure
Rippling from his charcoal pencil lifts her

Perfect arms and twirls and sings, “Like this!
Like this!” That’s it. I’ve had enough.
I snatch up my things.
My stool rings out against the floor,
Porter’s like a grizzly in the doorway.
Something shifts—the light, my gaze—
I’ve a sudden view of him an empty white,
A pattern cut from cloth of students, tables, wall.
The blank slivers of his beard pierce the quiet air.
Astonishing and lovely is the shape he’s left behind.


This week’s Poetry Friday roundup appears at A Teaching Life.

Assorted and Sundry

February 8, 2013 @ 5:13 pm | Filed under: ,

• If you’re making fallacy-packed statements like “I can ask them to open their mouths, turn on their brains, and share their ideas with the rest of the class” and “A student who is unwilling to stand up for herself and tell me that she does not understand the difference between an adverb and a verb is also less likely to stand up for herself if she is being harassed or pressured in other areas of her life,” then no, I don’t care how many books you’ve read about introverts, you really don’t understand them AT ALL.

(Smart, thoughtful commentary on the frustrating Atlantic post here and here.)

• The Dragon Box app turns algebra into a seriously absorbing game! Big thanks to Karen Edmisten for calling it to my attention. Everyone from the 6-year-old to the 44-year-old here is hooked.


“Everywhere I turn these days the message is to be anything but ordinary. Be Epic! Be badass. Be daring and wild. If it isn’t hurting, you aren’t living. Platitudes and the anti-platitudes. Add a filter to make the picture hipper and cooler because the way it really is isn’t hip or cool enough. Make it larger than life and maybe then we can be friends. Go big or go home.

“In last night’s late hour, I felt the value of ordinary. I didn’t want my sister back so she could do amazing, inspiring things with her life. I didn’t want her back so I could join her on epic, wild adventures. I wanted her back so she could love me. So I could love her.”

Adding to the TBR pile:

“Susan Hill, Howards End Is on the Landing (1/22) — Susan Hill may be a dark, cutting novelist, telling stories full of nasty doings and the horrors that mankind can get up to — I’ve never read her novels, so it may be so. But, on the basis of this book, I highly doubt it. Hill spent a year reading only books that she already had in her (apparently large and wonderful, thoroughly English country) home, and wrote this book about the experience. There’s quite a bit about the books she loves, about writers now forgotten, about the Great Books, about the joys of re-reading, and various other booky topics. There’s also a few bits of autobiography, mostly concerned with Hill’s very early days in the literary world — her first novel was published in the early ’60s, when she was a 19-year-old college student, and I’m afraid she does talk about how nice all of those older literary gentlemen were to poor young her without seeming to realize why they were so nice — but she does stick to her topic most of the time. And she’s entertaining about it, if quite English in an old-fashioned sense: country, Anglican, serious, pull-up-your-socks kind of English. This is exactly the kind of book you’d expect from a sixtyish British female novelist writing about the books she likes to read, and, as long as that’s something you’re likely to enjoy, Howards End Is on the Landing is delightful.”

More links that caught my attention here.