Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Books Wish List

Just throwing it out to the universe--it wouldn't suck if the following books somehow fell into my lap:

If ever a book was written just for me, this is it: Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America's First Bohemians, by Justin Martin. Great review, here:

STFU & take my money!  Ireland's Pirate Queen: The True Story of Grace
O'Malley, by Anne Chambers.

Yes, please. Rimbaud: A Biography, by Graham Robb.

I adore Phyllis Barber. She's on the faculty at my alma mater, Vermont College of Fine Arts, and I was lucky to spend some time with her in a writing residency in Slovenia back in 2007. She's the only other person I know who's also been to Tibet (I was there in 2010). Anyway, I want to read her latest, To the Mountain: One Mormon Woman's Search for Spirit.  According to her website, this is "the story of the author's twenty-year hiatus from Mormonism and her visits with shamans in Peru and Ecuador; Tibetan Buddhist monks in North India and Tibet; a variety of Baptist congregations in Arkansas, Missouri, Utah, and South Carolina; megachurches; charismatic Christian congregations, travels with godddess worshipers in the Yucatan, and much more. The book's purpose is to demonstrate how we can not only tolerate a variety of ideas in the spiritual realm, but can learn from their wisdom." Right up my alley! You can also watch the official book trailer.

This looks interesting, too: Strange Big Moon: The Japan and India Journals: 1960 - 1964, by Joanne Kyger. According to the Goodreads synopsis: "Hungry to explore Zen and make the discoveries that would shape a lifetime of poetry, Joanne Kyger left for Japan in her twenties and returned four years later ready to carve out a substantial niche in San Francisco's Beat poetry movement. Whether she is studying under Zen teacher Ruth Fuller Sakaki or meeting with the Dalai Lama (who at 27 'lounged on a velvet couch like a gawky adolescent in red robes'), her journals are witty, amusing, and intelligent, in this fascinating look at the art of poetry and portrait of the counterculture abroad." Another, right up my alley.

Finally, a couple of shout-outs to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, by Tom Stoppard, and Grendel, by John Gardner, two books I've been trying to read for years. I'm visiting the Foreign Language Bookstore in Shanghai later this week, so let's hope I can find even ONE of the above. If not, I'll see if I can order them online and have them shipped. Anyway, that's what's on my TBR (to-be-read) List at the moment. Cheers, Lauren

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Orphanage Volunteer Program

Yesterday, some students and I began our volunteer program at the local orphanage. This is the first group of students to visit--other students will take part next time. No photos are allowed of the interior, or of the children, but I can assure you that the place is clean, spacious, and well-staffed by caring people. Anyway, our (unofficial) big brother/big sister style program, taking place once per month, introduces high school students to the resident children of the home, about 90% of whom are developmentally and/or physically disabled. Most of the children will never be adopted, and have little contact with the outside world, so my students have graciously agreed to volunteer their time. I saw the joy on the children's faces as the students played with them, fed them, and held them, and saw how deeply the visit affected my students, as well. It's emotional, though (indeed, one of the students broke down as we were leaving), but I think the program is going to be beneficial for all of us. I'd like to visit more often than once a month, but both myself and the students have many other responsibilities to consider--at least this is a good start. I hope the experience inspires my students to continue volunteering, in some capacity, throughout their lives. I'm so proud of them!

Dancing in the Park

Old-timers gather in the evenings after dinner,
at a square near the lotus pond, loudspeakers
spilling Classical music in the setting sun.

Couples form and begin twirling and dipping,
women in crisp skirts and heels, men in blazers,
the shy wallflowers with glittering eyes, waiting.

It’s Valentine’s Day, a first date, that awkward
high school dance, even the father-daughter
dance you shared at your first wedding

under a sparkling tent; but you never dance
anymore.  Now you watch.  Off to the side,
chattering grandmas are making deals, playing

matchmaker, trading photos of their marriageable
offspring like baseball cards, while divorced women
frown, lonely and ignored (this, a traditional city).

And you consider stepping to the sidelines, causing
a stir as the only foreign woman, a divorced one,
at that, but you don’t, and it grows dark.  Couples

are leaving hand in hand, soundmen joking over
cigarettes, packing up their equipment, as the
lotus blooms begin to wilt in the fading light.

~ Lauren Tivey

*Note: 2013 salvaged poem from my expansion drive crash

On Chicken Foot Mountain

As I stood on a ledge
near Passing Lantern Temple,
watching an ocean of mist
undulate over the lower peaks,
two smoke dragons appeared,
unraveling their coils.  I saw
great jowls, nostrils, many-clawed
feet, tails fluttering behind.

One was the Dragon of Man,
one the Dragon of Woman,
and I could not say
if they were beautiful, for

the beasts swirled in a blur
of scale and tongue, two
snakes entangling, untangling
like warriors in combat, or

lovers in bed; their bared teeth,
grimaces, and flexing muscles
disturbed me, but I could not
turn.  Soon, a gust of wind

blew the vision away, revealing
the scrub pines, and shaken, I
returned to the monastery, to
the chanting of monks, the tinkling

of laughter rising from the nunnery
not far below. I decided that
beautiful or ugly, the dragons
were destined for something.

I knew not what.  What did it
even matter?  There should be
more important things on my mind.
All day though, they twisted there.

~ Lauren Tivey

*From the Xu Xiake Series
**Note: 2013 salvaged poem from my expansion drive crash 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Year of the Snake

It slithers in, wet and black in the night,
bringing its bombs, guns, knives, wide
eye of the lunatic fringe, encouraging

the fanatical, and that’s no joke, no
cute astrological nonsense, now, is it?
This morning rain is cold, spotting

the windows, as I sit and worry
about loved ones near and far.
In a good Snake Year, business

deals, money-making (beware
of loopholes), but a Water Snake
year is the Satanic abyss, the void

of deep space, a hungry wolf
howling in the Arctic expanse,
humming on a full moon nerve.

In the blue light of the television,
I am sending electronic messages
of support, carrying on with both

hope and dread.  When it stops raining
later today, I will go out and look at all
the flowers of this mad, gone world.

~ Lauren Tivey

*Note: Salvaged poem from my expansion drive crash. This was written last year, in 2013, which was the Year of the Snake. Currently, we are in the Year of the Horse.

The Departure

for *Hai Zi (1964 – 1989)

Have you gone into the sunflower,
young brother of Van Gogh?
Have the ravens lovingly picked
your mangled body clean?

When you laid your life on the tracks,
that whistle to the void, calling, calling,
was it for the empty plains of Tibet,
the sea waving its flags by Fujian?

Perhaps the boyhood fields, lush
Anhui, the ancestral grass?  Land
of autumn, or the stars, the moon?
:  We trace your comet in the sky.

Rumors of love’s neglect, yet I see
you upon a beach, arms flung wide,
qi of your grin, your child’s love,
charms, faults, embracing the All.

That iron bearing down—your last
train out to the cosmic hinterlands,
the psychedelic sun, where the coin
is poetry, and all the gods are young. 

~ Lauren Tivey

*Hai Zi (Zha Haisheng), a young Chinese poet who wrote of nature, love, loneliness, and death. He was from a poor family in Anhui, and went on to study law at Peking University at 15, Later, he taught Philosophy and other subjects, and devoted much time to writing poetry. He committed suicide at the age of 25, by lying on the train tracks near Shanhaiguan. He left behind about 200 poems, and though never published much in his lifetime, he has become a cult figure in modern Chinese poetry. 

**Note: This is a salvaged poem from my expansion drive crash (written last year). 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Learning to Play

Digging through my usb files the other day, I was happy to find six poems that weren't lost in the Great Expansion Drive Crash of 2013. Cool! As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'd lost ALL of my work (writing, poetry manuscript, photos, teaching materials, etc.), and didn't think I'd ever recover any--I must've had these five poems in a different place. I don't think I'll submit these anywhere, as I've started over fresh, so I'll post the poems here over the next few days. Anyway...here's the first:

Learning to Play

The pale birds of her hands flutter
over the strings of the guzheng,
sound of the lotus, a bamboo forest,

a peaceful boat on water. Her fingers,
born for porcelain teapots, calligraphy,
silk, are plucking out High Mountain

Flowing Water, are conductors of dark
storms, confident upon the bridge, as in
Three Variations of Plum Blossom, or

mellowed with reflection, as in my favorite,
Song of Fishermen on a Homebound Boat
During Sunset, before the happy home port

of its coda. She places my awkward palms
upon the rosewood, guiding the unsure
attempt;  me, attuned to electric guitars,

heavy drums, afraid of something
so delicate. I’ve no talent here. Her laughter
lifts me though, like the chiming of bells.

~ Lauren Tivey