TBT poetry

When I was at Knox, I had to take an art class. After determining that I was not cut out for the standard studio art class due to my complete lack of artistic ability (I can't even color inside the lines) I decided it would be best to pursue an art credit that would still challenge me a bit while still being reasonably accomplished.

 Enter "Introduction to Poetry." Every week, we wrote a different type of poem. Every week, we workshopped the previous week's poem. It was both fun and painful at times, mostly more fun than painful. I was recently reminded of one of the poems I wrote and worked on quite extensively and have decided to share it here because I really, really liked it. Who knows, maybe in the midst of this regularly blogging thing I will post an old poem every once in a while Throw-Back-Thursday style. 

So here it is! The first of possibly, but maybe not, many! This is an ekphrastic poem based on the piece of art by Ben Shahn titled Concerto for Clarinets and Tinhorn. The image can be found here. I got to bring my love of the clarinet into my poetry with lots and lots of research into different kinds of clarinets, its history, etc., so it wound up being a lot of fun to write.


That tin does not, can not, stand up to the beauty of the clarinet.
How dare it sit there, among those real instruments?
A bad doppelganger, not worthy of standing in that line.

Altissimo. A member of the wide clarinet family, not to be lost,
but celebrated, that clarinet knows his place. He can play you
the highest note, C7, but he only does so when he knows
it to be necessary. Bringing that high-pitched note in to pierce
even the darkest of spaces. He has purpose with his pitches,
unlike that excuse for an instrument a tin horn.

Clarino. The reed is set, ready to fill the space of the hall with bright,
happy notes. Ready to blend with the rest of the clarinets,
harmonizing, five voices ascending. She can feel the breath
passing through her, fingers licking her silver keys.
And she is a clarinet, B, warm with her tones.
Not harsh, like a tin horn.

And see that clarinet? Bechet. He burns with disobedience,
He’s jazz and funk, bouncing from note to note
with such grace that you think they are all one.
But he sticks to no rules, changes rhythm and meter,
so you know where he stands. A tin horn would bend over
at the idea of playing such an fiery line.

Chalumeau. That clarinet stands tall, carefully built of wood.
The sweet, low timbre she expels through her bell sends
chills up and down your spine. It’s as if you know
that clarinet has a song for you, to smooth away
your concerns, and relax your muscles with her
soothing pitches. She doesn’t make your hair stand
on end, like that tin horn does.

Romanesca. That one, there on the end, plays Greensleeves
in perfect pitch. Sorrowful at the loss of love,
that clarinet can bring you to tears with his melody.
And the keys glide with the finger tips against that black wood,
trills and slurs, to tell its story. But a tin horn can’t tell
a story beyond its squeak for attention.

And that piece of tin thinks he can ruin this scene.
A common piece of metal that just happens to make a noise
when blown through. That screeching, pathetic excuse
for an instrument.

What is this I see? Those arms are reaching past Oehler’s formulations
for that cheap piece of metal. How can this be? It has no range,
no real musicality!

That tin horn does not belong in a concerto
of clarinets. It barely belongs in a circus.
And I will be the one to make sure
that it does not cross its boundaries.

Top ten book list

I had a friend at work today ask me for my top ten books I have ever read. I really had to think about it, because there are different ways books are my favorites, but then there are others that I look at and say, “I loved this book…hated the writing, but loved the story…story was ‘meh’ but the writing was beautiful…” etc. I figured it would be fun to post it here along with explanations of how I came to them, what they are about, or what I loved about them.

10. The Shadow of the Wind (2005) by , translated by Lucia Graves. An epic mystery set in 1945 Barcelona that I randomly picked up in an airport bookstore when I forgot my reading material and it hooked me in a way that I really didn’t expect. I’m not normally into mysteries, but this one was great. Something about how it is written just had me, which is really saying something for a book that I expected to read half of and then potentially “forget” at my mom’s house before flying home.

9. The Mouse that Roared (1955) by Leonard Wibberly. It’s a classic about a small duchy that decides it is economically sound to declare war on the United States. I found an old copy of this at a used bookstore where you filled a paper bag with books for only $5, and it tugged at the international relations major in me.

8. The Art of Racing in the Rain (2006) by Garth Stein. A dog’s whole life told from his perspective and how his family changed over time. I read this after my old man puppy, Zero, was put down at age 16 and it was quite possibly the absolute best thing I could have read at the time.

7. The Tripods Collection (1967-1988) by John Christopher. It’s a series of four books about a young man who refuses to be enslaved by the alien race that at age 13 “caps” people making them the dutiful little servants humans should be. My fourth grade teacher read these to us and I searched for years to find old copies of them here and there until they republished them in the early 2000’s. It’s kind of a young adult scifi from before the young adult genre existed.

6. Stardust (1999) by Neil Gaiman. Amazing fairy tale with witches and spells and stars falling from the sky. A favorite book of mine by a favorite author. Oh, and the movie is also a personal favorite (on the top ten list for movies).

5. The comics that make up the Civil War series in the Marvel Universe. Okay, technically comic books, but they put what you need to get the story line together. Ironman vs. Captain America: should super humans register with the government? I am fully on Cap’s side of the superhuman civil war in arguing that they should be free to protect their identity as well as society. Yes, the movie is coming out but oh, the comics are soooooooo good. #teamcap

4. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America (2001) by Barbara Ehrenreich. A woman reports on what it is like to live on minimum wage. The first non-fiction book on my list and one of the reasons I decided to do Americorps as well as why I decided to become a social worker. Poverty sucks, yo.

3. Orange is the New Black (2010) by Piper Kerman. The book that inspired the Netflix series is about a woman’s experience in prison years after she had completely changed her life. I wrote a whole review of it here, something I rarely do. This book is another one of the major things that inspired me to go into social work and work with the population I chose to dedicate my professional life to (youth with substance use problems and juvenile justice involvement).

2. Ella Enchanted (1997) by Gail Carson Levine. Cinderella with a curse that she must obey everything. The world is well developed; it’s a light and fun fairy tale. I loved it so much that I stole the copy I have from the middle school library when I moved at age 10. I even took this book to college with me because it seems like no matter how I am feeling (sad, angry, elated, etc) re-reading this book always ends well for me. I think I pick it up every 2-3 years or so and read it again.  

1. The Stand (1978) by Stephen King. Completely engrossing story of a super flu wiping out 95% of the population and how people come together afterwards. Just don’t read it if you have the sniffles. Summer colds are the worst.  

Honorable mentions: Almost anything by Chuck Palahniuk, The Tortall Series by Tamora Pierce, The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, and The Kronos Series by Rysa Walker. All also great, possibly even considered to be life-changing. They just got edged out a little bit in how different books have impacted me over the years. (I am still completely an HP nerd. I swear.) 

When your blog calls you out... silently...

For some reason, I decided to see what was going on with my blog. Read that as "I decided to see when I blogged last" only to find that my blog was staring me in the face and saying "YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING TO JOURNAL EVERY DAY AND THEN ABANDONED ME FOR 1.5 YEARS." Yeah, I did. I really, really did. But as I have decided to pursue a lot of new and different things lately, I have also decided to revive my blog. And I mean it this time. No, guys, I REALLY mean it. Mostly because I am in the process of editing my 2014 NaNoWriMo novel for publication and blogs are darn useful for general interest, but also because I kind of miss having an outlet. Now that I am no longer dying the slow and painful death that is grad school I think I can actually do this again. No, really. I mean it! Everyone else look away right now for the next few lines. I need to have an aside with myself in the future. Ok, self. Are we alone? Good. Consider this Past Sara putting Future Sara on check. If you look at your blog at first glance 1.5 years from now and this is what you see, you are done. Finished. Blogging is not for you. And you are a jerk. Remember that Past Sara said that. EVERYONE CAN LOOK BACK NOW. I just needed to get that off my chest. But now that I am back to blogging, you know, that last bit will never be seen again. I am so bad at holding myself accountable.