Introducing Jeannine Hall Gailey

Hey everyone! My name’s Jeannine Hall Gailey, and I’m excited to be a part of this blog project. I’ve just moved from Seattle to San Deigo and started teaching a poetry seminar at National University. My first book, Becoming the Villainess, was published by Steel Toe Books in 2006. Poems from the book were featured on NPR’s the Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor, Verse Daily, and in 2007’s The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.  I’m working on two new books, one on fairy tale characters trapped in sleep, towers, and coffins and another on Japanese pop culture and folk tales. I volunteer at Crab Creek Review as a consulting editor and write poetry book reviews and essays on a regular basis. My blog is listed in the links, if you want to keep up with my goings-on, readings, etc, and you can learn more about me at Hey, this post is peppered with links!
I think it’s really important for people to have fun with poetry. To paraphrase an old evangelical saying, it’s a sin to bore people with poetry. So, to that end, I write a lot about popular culture – the culture that binds me and my x-er generation together! Let’s see, what else…I have a very supportive, poetry-loving engineer husband and two less supportive cats, do a little journalism on the side, and spent ten years as a web and technical writing manager before I became “serious” about poetry. I’m looking forward to doing more with this blog collective!

Introduction – Joanne Merriam

I’m Joanne Merriam. I’m 35, female, agnostic, an immigrant, a Red Tory, a proud Maritimer, a liberal feminist and a running dog capitalist. I write poetry and science fiction. I have a nuanced position on the Oxford comma. I’m a temp; right now I’m doing lease and title work for an oil and gas lease acquisition company. I’m from Halifax, Nova Scotia, but I’m living temporarily in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (former home of the world’s largest red cedar bucket) and officially reside in Concord, New Hampshire, where I’m returning in three months. My poetry collection The Glaze from Breaking (Stride) was released in the UK in January 2005 but is now out of print. My poems have appeared in more than two dozen periodicals and a handful of anthologies.

Hi. Hello!

“I think you think I don’t know who you are,”
she says at the window, “but I know what I know.”
– “The Puzzle House” by William Baer

Just as an aside, the Ampersand Project (and the online journal) that Peg mentions don’t exist anymore (the server they were on, and my laptop, had contemporaneous hissyfits, and rather than a painful reconstruction I just took them down), which means that a sustainable living learning center in New Mexico could take over the name (without, I’m sure, ever having heard of our use of it).

We, the Light

You will witness a love of country, not

Driven by greed but true and enduring,

For it is no unworthy reward to be famed

Writing in praise of my native land.

Observe: you will see names exalted

Of those of whom you are supreme lord,

And you can judge which is the better case,

King of the world or king of such a race.

Any guesses what poet? Or what king he is addressing? Or even what country is home to this incredible race of people?

I was ignorant of it myself before I began reading a history of Portugal. Perhaps it is unfair of me to assume you too are unfamiliar with this poem, but I am writing to praise Luiz Vaz de Camoes and his epic poem of Portugal titled “Os Lusiadas” or, in English, “The Lusiads,” referring to the people of Lusitania. (Also, I come to praise the translator, Landeg White, for his enthusiasm, extensive endnotes, and excellent rhyming couplets.)

de Camoes had an interesting life; he lived in the 16th century and published “Os Lusiadas” in 1572. (White points out that the poem was approved by the Holy Office as containing “nothing scandalous nor contrary to faith and morals.) de Camoes sailed for India as a young man, was shipwrecked in Cambodia (Cambodia!) losing all but the first three cantos of the poem, and was forced to borrow money to purchase passage back home.

I was hoping for a tour-de-force of West meets East, of lush descriptions of what India, Africa, and Cambodia looked like to a 16th-century Portuguese man. Not quite. de Camoes was writing at the end of the golden age of Portuguese naval superiority; he was interested in looking back on the great deeds of his people, such as Vasco da Gama “discovering” India in 1497, not in painting the places da Gama went.

Either way, I was surprised by the opening phrase—“Arms are my theme”—because White’s endnote says this is a reference to the “Aenead”. de Camoes’ poem is rife with Greek/Roman gods; in fact, one of the major plot points of the story is a war between Venus and Bacchus over the success of the da Gama’s fleet reaching India.

Furthermore—back to that offhand comment about the holy censor offering no censure—it is explained in great detail that Venus and Bacchus and Jupiter and Tethys and the nymphs and naiads are just expressions of the greater, Christian god. Again, my ignorance; I had no idea that these two, separate beliefs had been reconciled in this way.

At the time of its writing, I’m sure that the Greek/Roman gods lent a grandeur to the poem, made it clearly epic, but today those were the points I found most disappointing. de Camoes sings when he is describing the hardships and actions and pride of his countrymen, even, for example, the strange life and fate of Inez de Castro.

Like other great Iberian epic poems, “Os Lusiadas” was written in a monorhyming stanza, meaning that all lines in the 8-line stanza rhymed with each other. White, as translator, has kept only a final rhyming couplet in the octets. I realize English is a horrid language in which to attempt extensive monorhyme but I had hoped. However, the couplets were both impressive and effectual. First, White had some excellent rhymes (Aeneas and genius); second, they were sufficient to make each stanza feel like its own bit, not too much to take in at once, in the long poem, and also offered propulsion, since no tidy end was ever the end.

Yet what man could for long avoid

The gentle web which love spins,

Between human roses and driven snow,

Gold hair and translucent alabaster?

Or who be unmoved by the pilgrim beauty

Of a face such as might be Medusa’s,

Transfiguring every heart she inspires

Not to stone but to volcanic desires?

Introduction – Peg Duthie

Howdy! I’m Peg. I also answer to Mechaieh, Pixel, Pixie, Ribbons, Marriott, “no sister of his” (*waves to any Sherlockians reading*), and a number of other monikers. My last name is pronounced “DUH-thee.”

I became acquainted with Mary and Joanne via their online journals around — oh, golly, at least five or more years ago? I started reading Mary’s journal back when it was called “Prosody and Perl” — I think I happened upon it via some sort of update-your-journal-daily-in-December challenge that another web-friend was participating in, and I remember going “Ooh! Someone else wrestling with every damned cadence and breath…” (Witnessing people care about getting the details right is one of life’s bonniest pleasures, as far as I’m concerned. Mind, it’s a fine line between devotion to craft vs. driving everyone else batshit with one’s overthinking (never mind perfection vs. paralysis), but that’s a topic for some other post some other week.) Joanne – I think there was a link to her journal from Jessie’s that I happened upon; Joanne was running a monthly collaborative project called “Ampersand” at the time, and I ended up writing poems on DNA and posts about Fra Giovanni thanks to her prompts.

There’s a meditation lurking somewhere behind those details about the joys of online friendships and creative pingpong, but that too is a post for some other time. I may also indulge in rambletations on holiday poems, “The Hound of Heaven,” Jill Essbaum’s tattoos, and other mayhem. Work and bronchitis are currently cramping both my style and schedule, though, so for now what you’ll get are quick recs and a bit of shameless self-promotion.

First, the recs:

(1) I’m the kind of perfectionist dork who often feels compelled to look up a source even for a silly fly-by comment, so I Googled Blake’s “Little lamb who made thee” earlier this morning. To my delight, one of the links that showed up was this tribute to Tygger. I haven’t paged through the entire comment-thread, but “tightwhitepants” offered a vignette that ended with this gloriousness: “For the next half an hour, the friends sat and argued about whether Eeyore’s name was iambic, trochaic, or even spondaic, until it was time for tea and everybody went home.”

(2) I’m enjoying Samuel Wharton’s poems at No Tell Motel this week. They’ve got a spooky-creepy-playful vibe that’s connecting with me. The last stanza of “Humiliation Pictures” is so good I wish I’d written it.

Shameless self-promotion:
(1) Version 3.0 of Things Japanese in Tennessee went live yesterday. This is the latest incarnation of a course I’ve helped produce for the Japan-America Society of Tennessee over the past couple of years, and it now includes a section on poetry. (This is a beta release — the official premiere will be next month in Raleigh.) I think it’s a nice bit of fun (it’s intended for ages ten and up, with features such a selection of kigo (seasonal words used in haiku) read aloud in Japanese), so I encourage you to go see (and hear) for yourself.

(2) I found out this morning that my poem “Playing Duets With Heisenberg’s Ghost” has been selected as a “Judge’s Pick” in this year’s Science Fiction Poetry Association contest, which means it’ll appear in the winners’ chapbook later this year. I confess I’d been feeling more down than usual lately over some recent rejections, so aside from the never-ever-will-get-tired-of-it thrill of someone else liking my work, it’s a welcome shot in the arm. I also probably owe Heisenberg’s ghost some sort of libation, since this is now the second poem about him I’ve managed to sell. :-)

the line is varied

Googling “vary the line” brings up this patent description: “A bite indicator is described comprising a body (10) to be mounted on a fishing rod support, a rigid arm (24) pivotably mounted relative to the body (10) and releasably connectable at point spaced from the pivot axis to the line of a fishing rod resting on the support, and means (26) for resiliently applying an adjustable torque to the arm (24) to enable an adjustable force to be applied by the arm to the fishing line.” There’s a poem in there somewhere. Or operating instructions for writing one.