California Summertime

Spark Camera, made by IDEO’s in-house Toy Lab, is one of my favorite apps. It lets you create short videos with multiple clips, add music for a soundtrack, and choose a filter.

The video shooting/editing apps I used in the past were usually slow and overloaded. Editing, adding, and rearranging clips almost always crashed those apps, so for a while I gave up on video apps and just put my films together in iMovie.

But then I found Spark Camera, and it is everything all those other apps were not. It is a beautiful, elegant app. The tools are simply laid out but incredibly powerful. Uploading AND downloading a video is lightning fast.

I love documenting daily life, and I am in love with making slice-of-life films in this app. Over the past few months, I’ve captured moments like my best friend’s ring sizing, meals with friends, nice days out, leisurely walks.

Here’s the latest video I made with Spark Camera: California Summertime (part 1). It’s also currently featured in the Spark Camera gallery! The song is “Daydreaming” by Groenland.

In other news, I also love reading Issue 4 of Through the Gate, which publishes fantastical poetry. It’s a short issue, and one to savor.

Friday Fiction: Poems from inkscrawl

Some of the most intense, marvelous pieces I’ve read and can’t forget are short and spare, and one of my favorite places to tap into more of that is inkscrawl, a journal of short speculative poetry.

Each poem is ten lines or less. Some of them read like a one-breath incantation. I love them so much.

Here’s a round-up of a few poems from inkscrawl. They’re small but not slight. Linger over them—I did.

“Of Sleep and Dreams and Random Things “ by Nancy Ellis Taylor, “What We Carry” by Beth Cato, “Even an Empty Life Can Hold Water” by Peg Duthie, “Desert Protocol” by Ann K. Schwader, “Sarcophagus” by N.E. Taylor, and Assorted Very Short Poems.

Persephone and Hades Poetry

Hmm, it seems lately I have inadvertently come across several poems about the Persephone and Hades myth. Which is kind of fitting, too, it being National Poetry Month and all.

So first there was “Persephone at the Farmer’s Market” by J. P. Dancing Bear. Actually I had read this poem several months ago and forgotten it, but it recently reappeared again.

Even now, I cannot lose the memory of scent.
It leads me to pomegranates, halved, lying on a table,
the globes of puckered skin are red as my own lips.
This is the season of abduction — fruit pulled
from branches and vines. The dense perfumes
of fresh jams and pies slice the slow dawn.

Then a couple days ago, I found “A Myth of Devotion” by Louise Glück, and let me just say, I love this poem. I won’t excerpt out the end, which is what made me reread the poem multiple times. Just go read the whole thing through.

When Hades decided he loved this girl
he built for her a duplicate of earth,
everything the same, down to the meadow,
but with a bed added.

After that, I found “From Persephone’s Letters to Demeter” by Nan Fry.

I’m learning new words
like pomegranate,
a word you can suck on:
pom—thick and round, a bittersweet
bulge, e—the one you slide over
to get to gran—a slow swelling,
cancer or the rose, it doesn’t matter,
then granate—a stone stopping
you hard and cold.

Finally, I (also accidentally) came across Louise Glück’s other poem, “A Myth of Innocence”. It arrives just a few poems ahead of “A Myth of Devotion” in her collection, Averno. I have got to own this book. To Read/Buy List, added!

One summer she goes into the field as usual stopping for a bit at the pool where she often looks at herself, to see if she detects any changes. She sees the same person, the horrible mantle of daughterliness still clinging to her.

I feel like I’m even forgetting a couple here and there. I was talking to Carlea recently about how Greek mythology is enjoying this pretty awesome popularity in fandom, what with tons of fan art and mixes being created and all I want to know is where was all that ten years ago and oh my god yes it’s been ten years!

What do I find so fascinating about this myth in particular? Why do I find it more interesting than, say, the Eros and Psyche myth? I mean, the original myth is about abduction, kidnap, and by some accounts, rape. Not pretty, not romantic. I do know I like a lot of the recasting and interpretations I’ve seen. I feel like there was one piece—poem, I think—where Persephone wasn’t a girl who lost something of herself. Wish I could remember which one that was.

ETA. Found another one: “Persephone, Falling” by Rita Dove.

This is how easily the pit
opens. This is how one foot sinks into the ground.

I Got This Like A Bad Habit

Last night I went to a Salvatore Scibona and Patricia Smith reading. Smith read several memorable poems. One of my favorites was “Medusa”, spoken in the voice of Medusa. I feel so, so glad I got the chance to hear that poem read. It made me shiver.

Scibona read his short story “The Kid” (a heartbreaker). Before the reading, there was a very informal Q&A session. He started off by discussing his writing process (basically, one of the three questions writers are always asked): he writes at the same time every day, six days out of the week, for at least three hours. He started this habit when he began at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop on the advice of Frank Conroy, kept it up, and over the years he’s found that he is able to write for longer and longer periods of time. Then he talked about how you had to do right by your unconscious, and it would deliver, etc.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this advice. I read somewhere that another writer said this was really the one practical advice about performing writing. As Scibona said, it’s something you can control. You can’t control whether something will happen or get done, but you can control the showing up part.

I used to have a semi-habit, which was I wrote after school and at night, like every day. That was nice. That could be why I was so productive back then, and satisfied at the time with what I was producing. That’s not the case anymore; my writing is sporadic. I still mostly write at night, but this semester it’s become a “when I have time/the urge” thing, instead of setting aside a dedicated block of time. No other real habits. Sometimes I have music on in the background, sometimes not. Sometimes it has lyrics, or is bluesy, or acoustics or live performances. I keep my desk lamp on instead of writing with the floor lamps, which are warmer but not as bright.

There is definitely a difference when there is blood going to it, versus when I’m sitting there, no flow or zone or whatever, and it’s all just forced. Maybe one of my dreams is that one day, all of it will just work. Or maybe there won’t be anything being forced. Or maybe even the forced stuff comes out good.

Next month is NaNoWriMo, which I won’t be doing, but I should be producing 50,000 words for my thesis anyway. Time to lay down a schedule. Let’s do this thing.

(Photo credit: Eleanor Hardwick)

Philip Levine’s “The Poem of Chalk”

I only own three books of poetry: If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, The Poetry of Robert Frost, and Fuel: Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. Ah, I guess I own a few of the epic poems, too: The Odyssey, The Aeneid, and Inferno…I think that’s it.

I like T. S. Eliot, Anne Sexton, Sharon Olds, Richard Siken, Pablo Neruda, Louise Glück, and stray poems here and there from writers whose work I haven’t explored. A couple weeks ago I went to a Philip Levine reading. “The Poem of Chalk” in particular stood out for me, out of everything he read. Specifically these excerpted lines, which I still remember:

He knew feldspar.
he knew calcium, oyster shells, he
knew what creatures had given
their spines to become the dust time
pressed into these perfect cones,
he knew the sadness of classrooms
in December when the light fails
early and the words on the blackboard
abandon their grammar and sense
and then even their shapes so that
each letter points in every direction
at once and means nothing at all.