Friday, August 31, 2007


Brown girls, first generation brick

Of the four poetry books that I've been juggling this week, two are absolute and utter standouts: Galway Kinnell's Strong is Your Hold and Patricia Smith's Teahouse of the Almighty. Kinnell's eleventh book of poems is loving, melancholic and meditative. Smith's work is empathetic, smoldering and muscular.

"It Had the Beat Inevitable" is an affirmation. Smith pays homage to her influences:

It's all right what Bobby Womack taught us, what Chaka growled,
O.K. to flaunt the hard stone double dutch planted in our calves.

Forgive Smokey for sending us off to search for that white horse
and the half-white boy riding it. Go on, shove that peppermint stick

down the center of that sour pickle, dine on a sandwich of Wonder
and souse, take your stand in that black woman assembly line to

scrape the scream from chitlins. It's all right that Mama caught the
'hound up from Alabama, that Daddy rode up from Arkansas and

you're the only souvenir they got. We brown girls, first generation
brick, sparkling in Dacron and pink sweat socks, we went the only

way we could. Our weather vane, whirling in Chicago wind, was
the rusted iron torso of a stout black woman. We vanished for a while.

Gwen Brooks hissed Follow. We had no choice.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Action without action

Stephen Mitchell's English version of Tao Te Ching is fluid, modern and wonderfully accessible. Lao Tzu's 81 poems speak of the doctrine of Wu wei and offer much food for thought. Here's the ninth in the series:
Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening the knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.
Today, Coach Lisa helped us "accomplish a great task/by a series of small acts," allowing everything to fall into place. Heaven's way is yard upon yard of calmness, composure and cool:

400 pull
6 x (50 fast kick, 25 med kick)
300 pull
6 x (50 med stroke/free, 25 fast stroke)
200 IM pull
6 x (50 free fast, 25 free med)
100 pull
5 x 100 free with breaststroke pullout at every wall

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Let me bite into the azure

In the preface of Charlestown Blues, Marilyn Hacker writes, "Guy Goffette is one of the most unabashedly lyrical contemporary French poets, at a time when, for English language readers at least, contemporary French poetry is characterized, or caricatured, as abstract, more concerned with concepts than with human experience (including history) and feeling: resolutely difficult." As I am writing under deadline (for LJ), my plan of action is to appreciate the "unabashedly lyrical" and avoid the "resolutely difficult." Fortunately, my first dip into the volume has been divine. Here are a few lines from the poem entitled "Ducal Ducasse":
...Let me go
away a while in search of suns more drunk
than this makeshift Orient beneath the
market-stalls' blue awnings, let me bite in-
to the azure, and like the angel with
savage eyes, let me have my turn to drink
the heady wine of the Hesperides.
Our team has turned to drinking the "heady wine" of the open water. We raced in Coney Island one weekend and the Long Island Sound, the next. And we all have been richly rewarded for our efforts. Lake Michigan awaits!

Saturday, August 04, 2007


Raising for REFORMA

I've been nursing a dream all summer. With the Huntington 10K and Governors Island Swims behind me, my focus has now turned toward preparation for one major race: The 17th Annual Chicago Masters' Big Shoulders 5K. My purpose for swimming this challenging event is to support REFORMA's efforts to promote library services to Latinos and Spanish-speakers and specifically raise monies for the association's annual scholarship drive. As a librarian working in New York City, I understand the importance of developing robust Spanish-language and Latino-oriented collections, but also recognize how critical it is that public libraries begin to actively recruit bilingual and multicultural staff. We need skilled library staff to lead bilingual storytimes, teach Spanish-language computer classes and help us effectively address the informational and reading needs of our Spanish-speaking patrons.

In swimming the 5K, I would like to honor Yolanda Bonitch, a very special librarian who has for many years been closely associated with outreach services. Yolanda has positively impacted the lives of thousands of New York City residents and through her daily work has set a fine example for many public librarians.

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