Which brings me to God Bless America, a collection that should be seen as part of a body of work intent on eviscerating and then forgiving our pitiful culture of excess, this social milieu in which we—our bodies bent to their “awful purposes”—run amok with the faintest grasp on reality and even less on our own motivations. We spout platitudes on the one hand, like Billy in the title story, about this “land built by opportunists,” and face painful truths on the other, as Sophie does in “Not Until You Say Yes”: “Nothing was ever done, it was always suffering some improvement. Were human beings really such factories of discontent?” Yes, we are, and Almond is a writer who is as painfully aware of the ludicrousness of our predicament as he is a believer in the possibility of our salvation.
(I want to read this book!)
The poets had set the tone for the exercise by reading a poem they had written together, which uses startling, offensive language and has in its first three lines the harshest slurs against blacks and gays. The same slurs emerged on the cards, written by students in anonymity, then read out loud by peers who picked the cards at random from a pile stacked on a desk.
Not sure what to make of this--I think you have to blame the poets/instructors for not being more aware of the situation...oh, words.
So that’s how and why, this spring, I found myself staring down a teetering stack of people’s poetic accomplishments (and hopes, and dreams), pages binder-clipped neatly together, manuscripts numbered so that each submission would remain anonymous. I learned a few things really quickly: most people front-load their manuscripts (aka, put their strongest 5-10 poems up front); many people are partial to really awful fonts (like Calibri or Arial or Gill Sans); generally, good manuscripts are not going undiscovered (as I later learned many of the manuscripts I chose had been pulled from the contest, as they had already won other contests and were slated to be published); and most importantly, I could only read about 20 manuscripts a day without slowly losing my will to live. This was not because the manuscripts were poorly written—quite the opposite was true: there were very few truly terrible manuscripts. I was sure I would be able to eliminate many right away, but that just wasn’t the case; most were at least serviceable, if not totally fine, and nearly all included at least a few compelling poems. And I had to choose between them.
-great essay by Erika Meitner on her experience as a contest screener
Lumping together artistic work according to gender was, in Bishop’s opinion, detrimental to women’s writing. In a letter to Jean Keefe, she writes: ‘undoubtedly gender does play an important role in the making of any art, but art is art, and to separate writings, paintings, musical compositions, etc., into two sexes is to emphasize values in them that are not art.’
-interesting article on Elizabeth Bishop's feminism over at Granta
It’s what Alberto Salazar, for a while the world’s dominant marathoner and now the coach of some of America’s top distance runners, describes in mythical-questing terms as the "one best way"— not the fastest, necessarily, but thebest: an injury-proof, evolution-tested way to place one foot on the ground and pick it up before the other comes down. Left, right, repeat; that’s all running really is, a movement so natural that babies learn it the first time they rise to their feet. Yet sometime between childhood and adulthood — and between the dawn of our species and today — most of us lose the knack.
Great article on barefoot/minimalist running from New York Times Magazine. I've been using my Merrell Trail Gloves since last April and have never felt better about running...
New favorite band-of-the-moment.