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

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

Monday, September 15, 2014


I love this line from French poet, Francois Coppee. It translates to "I'll be the poet, and you'll be poetry". French really is the language of love, eh?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Postcard Poem Project

Now, here's a lovely idea, the Postcard Poem Project. I just joined the other day, wrote my two poems, and will mail them from China this week--one to the U.S. and one to Canada. Hopefully, they'll make it to their destinations (the Chinese postal service has a habit of losing things), and I'll receive two poems in return. How wonderful it'll be to get a handwritten poem in the mail, from someone on the other side of the globe! It'd be cool to connect, so if you're one of the people to receive a poem from me, or one of the senders, and want to stay in touch, look me up--either here or on Facebook--I'm always interested in meeting other poets and writers.

If you'd like to join the project, you can find the event page on Facebook, here:

Here's the deal, according to the event page:

Every few years, we poets who love sending and receiving snail mail engage in an enormous pen pal event called the Postcard Poem Project. Last time, in 2012, we swapped poetry and postcards between over 250 poets from 16 countries on four continents. This time, we're hoping for all seven continents. Here's how it works:

Poets who wish to participate have until Friday, September 19th, 2014 to email their address to the website. On that weekend, they will receive two randomly-picked mailing addresses; they could be from the other side of the world, or just down the street. Poets will buy (or make) two postcards, write a short poem on the back of each (preferably about the pictures on the front of each postcard), and send them to their mailing addresses before the end of September. Easy, right? Come October or November, you will hopefully receive two poems in your mailbox from two complete strangers... poems written just for you!

You probably have questions. We have answers. But first: Are you in, or out? If you're in, here's what you have to do:

Send an email to postcardpoemproject@gmail.com that includes your full mailing address, the way you would write it on a postcard yourself. It should look something like this:

Your Name
Your Street Address
The Rest Of Your Address
Your Country

(People often leave out either their name or their country. Please don't leave out your name or your country. Also, WE DID NOT KEEP ADDRESSES FROM THE LAST ROUND, so please send your address in even if you have before!) 

You will receive a reply email with all the details and an FAQ section. In the meantime, help make this project grander by passing this event on to any poets you know! Spread the word, and help spread good words in the mailboxes of the world!

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

...and balloons, and boats, and camels, and many other means of transport. That's what this summer was about--MOVEMENT. My fiance and I covered so much ground, I think we must've broken some sort of record. Check this out: Shanghai to Istanbul; Istanbul to Izmir; Izmir to Istanbul; Istanbul to Cappadocia; Cappadocia to Antalya; Antalya to Istanbul; Istanbul to Casablanca; Casablanca to Tangier; Tangier to Tarifa, Spain and back (x 2); Tangier to Chefchaouen; Chefchaouen to Fez; Fez to Marrakech; Marrakech to Essaouira; Essaouira to Casablanca; Casablanca to Istanbul; Istanbul to Shanghai; Shanghai to Tokyo; Tokyo to Kyoto; Kyoto to Osaka; Osaka to Shanghai. Whew! We did all that in less than two months! Talk about covering some ground, eh? And, all this in-and-out of Istanbul tells me something: The city's strategic location may be a factor in future employment considerations (but that's a topic for another day).

In spite of all the movement this summer (or, perhaps because of it), my creative juices were flowing, and I was able to take many incredible photos, and I also came back with a poetry notebook full of drafts. At each turn, something or other sparked my imagination, and that, I believe, is another reward of travel. Gerry and I saw and experienced some amazing things--some highlights were: Feasting on the culinary delights in Istanbul; the little mountain village of Sirince, Turkey; an anti-government protest that turned violent in Izmir; Ephesus; a sunrise cruise over Cappadocia in a hot air balloon; sailing the waters off Antalya in a schooner, plus the Umbrella Street, and the International Sand Sculpture Festival; train journeys through Morocco; wandering the medina on the trail of Beat writers in Tangier; the ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to Spain; the Blue City of Chefchaouen; the ancient leather tanneries of Fez; the wild main square of Marrakech; a camel trek down the beach of Essaouira; Tokyo's Harajuku district; a Japanese love hotel stay; the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto; and the bowing deer of Nara, Japan. The whole summer was a dream! The Flickr albums are going to take a long time to upload and organize, but I'll post the links once I finish. In the meantime, here are some photos and videos:

Charming Sirince Village, nestled in the mountains, and surrounded by vineyards, orange groves, and peach orchards. Sirince is famous for its wine--we even stayed in the "Dionysos Pension".

Taking a break at Ephesus, in my trusty red kicks.

VIDEO: Sunrise cruise over Cappadocia in a hot air balloon. Absolutely fantastic! A must do!

Deflating the balloon after the cruise.

Pretty Antalya Harbor, home of sailors, pirates, and salty dogs!

Beautiful skies over Tangier

One of the locals, Tangier

Cafe Tingis, Burroughs' old haunt in the Petit Socco. Spent a couple of afternoons sipping coffee here, watching the world go by. I also visited the Librarie des Colonnes, an expat bookstore, and scored a copy of Naked Lunch. Found Hotel el Muniria, too, where he wrote the famous novel.

Southernmost tip of Europe, in Tarifa, Spain, taken after crossing the Strait of Gibraltar from Tangier.

Blue doors of Chefchaouen

Bohemian wanderings, Chefchaouen

VIDEO: Early morning through the streets of Chefchaouen

VIDEO: Chefchaouen waking up for the day

Light filtering through the streets of Chefchaouen

Ancient tanneries of Fez

VIDEO: Jemaa El Fnaa, main square of Marrakech. Gets downright WILD here at night, with organ grinders, snake charmers, henna artists, acrobats, musicians, even hypnotists!

Camel trek along the beach in Essaouira, a funky little town made famous by a visit from Jimi Hendrix back in the day.

VIDEO: Camel ride on a windy beach!

VIDEO: Gorgeous Essaouira Harbor

Moroccan train travel, premiere classe

Somewhere over Tunisia, waxing moon to the left

Istanbul, we meet again! 

And on to Japan. This is the insane Tokyo subway map. God help you.

Helloooooo Kitty, ha ha. Tokyo.

Pachinko parlor in Kamata.

Tokyo: Anime Capitol of the Universe

Murakamiland. Got my copy of his latest work in this Shinjuku bookstore.

Our wish, added to the sacred camphor tree at Meiji Shrine. Shinto priests will collect and pray over all the plaques--there were hundreds of thousands of them.

VIDEO: Shibuya Crossing, busiest pedestrian crossing in the world. You may remember a scene of this in the film, Lost in Translation.

Bullet train, Tokyo to Kyoto. Just like teleportation, baby!

Umbrella lights in the alleys of Pontocho, Kyoto

Fire eater in Pontocho, Kyoto

Cutenss! Pontocho, Kyoto

Sun setting through the torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. After dark, lanterns come on, adding a whole other layer of magic to the place. 

VIDEO: Fushimi Inari casts its spell. Torii gates, babbling brooks, moss-covered stones, trilling birds, and kitsune (fox messenger) statues at dusk.

Bamboo Forest, Arashiyama (just outside Kyoto).

Curious little guy! One of the bowing deer of Nara, Japan.

So sweet. The residents of Nara adore the deer, which are allowed to wander at will, into shops, restaurants, etc. They are well-cared for and well-fed.

VIDEO: The bowing deer of Nara, Japan. Native sika deer, considered to be the messengers of Shinto gods, have been frequenting this park for the last thousand years or so. They're protected, and much loved by locals and visitors alike. Somewhere along the way, they learned to bow for their food. We spent an amazing day with them!

Well, sorry for such a long post. There were so many other things that happened along the way, so many other places visited, so many new friends made (both two-legged and four-legged!), but there's no way to relay all of these experiences here. I know I'll be busy for months, editing and organizing photos, revising poems, and just processing everything. I'm so grateful for these opportunities to travel, for what my life has become, and yes, I'm still completely in love with the world. Cheers, Lauren.

Back to School

Ah, it's been a wonderful summer full of travel and adventure, but now I'm back to school for the fall semester. It's already been a couple of weeks since the term began, but it's taken a bit to get my bearings. It seems, so far, to be shaping up as a good semester. I've got a new class full of eager, bright-eyed students, my awesome second-year students, and even a new course to teach on top of my AP English classes--Public Speaking. This new class is already fun, and I look forward to getting my students prepped for all the public speaking they'll have to do in their lives.

I'm also doing another Shakespeare play this year (Hamlet. Yay! My fave!), and organizing the annual trip to Shanghai to see a live show. We'll do another poetry slam in the spring, too. One other thing I've organized this year is a monthly student visit to the local orphanage, where most of the resident kids are developmentally disabled, and few, if any, will ever be adopted. There are about 54 kids at the home. I went down there to visit a couple of weeks ago, and thought it would also be a good volunteer opportunity for my students--they'll go on a Sunday morning, read to the kids, and play with them.

I'm so happy to be working with high school students--I know it's not for everyone, but I really enjoy teenagers, and watching them grow intellectually. Anyway, here's to a great school year!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Murakami on a Sunday Afternoon

Quote from Haruki Murakami's magnum opus, 1Q84. I read this mind-blowing work last winter. Murakami's one of my favorite authors, and I was happy to buy an English translation of his latest, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage IN Japan this summer, from a bookstore in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, It was kinda cool to wander around a lot of the neighborhoods and subway stations that appear in his novels, too. Anyway, glad for the Sunday lazing time in order to get caught up on some things, including the blog!