Monday, July 29, 2013

Quotes on poetry

“In the house of poetry nothing persists except that which was written with blood to be listened to by blood.” Pablo Neruda

“Poetry confronts in the most clear-eyed way just those emotions which consciousness wishes to slide by.” C.K. Williams

      “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me, I know that  is  poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.”  Emily Dickinson

 “We feel poetry as we feel the closeness of a woman, or as we feel a mountain or a bay. If we feel it immediately, why dilute it with other words, which no doubt will be weaker than our feelings?” Jorge Luis Borges

"Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air.” Carl Sandburg

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mysteries to be unfolded

"Human beings are not issues to be fixed; they are mysteries to be unfolded."

 I came across this quote last week. I can't remember the name of the person who wrote it, but it motivated me to write this post.
 In this technological era it is easy to forget that human beings are not like computers. The intellect is not enough to understand them. Human beings have feelings and emotions. They are not iPads and iPhones. (Paradoxically, those who belittle other people because of their weaknesses are blind to their own foibles).
 It is tempting to believe that a magic pill or something similar will "fix" their issues.
 I love listening to people. When I do, I pay attention to every word they say. I don't ask too much. I just listen with an open attitude, providing support and reassurance. That's when people dare to expose their life stories.
 That's when I encounter questions that have no answers.

Mi mind is focused on  the energy of new projects.
I hope your mind is also brimming with energy. Have a good week.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A poem of mine

   Here's a poem of mine that was published today by The Voices Project, a poetry journal.

  Yesterday my four-year-old daughter surprised me with this question: "Mum, what happens to our imagination when we die?"

Have a good week.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Use ir or lose it

 If you've been reading, writing and doing other mentally stimulating activities, give yourself a pat on the back. A study published by the Neurology journal  showed that more frequent cognitive activity across the life span has an association with slower late-life cognitive decline.
 Those that reported the most reading and writing later in life were able to slow their memory decline by 32% compared to people with average mental activity.
 Those who reported the lowest mental stimulation in their later years had a 48 % faster memory decline compared to the average.
   Keep doing it.
  Now you may be wondering what other activities you can do to keep your mind active and healthy. You can do a lot.
 Exercise. You may want to go for a walk or a swim today. Many studies have shown the impact of exercise on memory.
 Among other things, exercise increases the levels of neurotropic factor (B.D.N.F) in your bloodstream.  This chemical has an effect on the connections among neurons and sparks neurogenesis. Exercise does not need to be exhausting to be effective. Studies have shown that walking briskly is associated with larger hippocampi after doing it for a year. (The hippocampus is an area of the brain associated with emotions and long-term memory).
  Exercise can also boost your creativity. You can read my post on this.
  Even weight training has a positive impact on memory. According to a study published in the Journal of Aging Research women aged 70-80 with mild cognitive impairment improved their memory. In this six month study  the women were divided in three groups. One did supervised aerobic exercises; a second group did resistance training twice a week and the control group only focused on balance and tone.
  The volunteers had to complete a battery of tests designed to study their verbal and spatial memory before the six month period of supervised exercises and once the period was over.
  The study showed that both spatial and verbal memory improved in the aerobic and the resistance training  groups.
  Meditation  also has some benefits according to different studies, but I'd like to write on this on a future post.
 It's time to exercise.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The lives of poets of the twentieth century

Even if you are not interested in poetry you may still be entranced by the lives of the poets portrayed in these fascinating anthologies. Many of these poets did not make a living writing poetry and this “double life” makes them, in my opinion, much more interesting.   
  Such was the case of William Carlos Williams, a pediatrician who jotted down his poems between examinations and house calls, often on prescription pads. His friend Wallace Stevens also had a double life.  Wallace Stevens was as forward-thinking in insurance as he was original in poetry, but he kept his two lines separate.
   T.S. Eliot presented himself as a businessman. His most important works of poetry emerged from his intellectual struggles and the emotional crises of his private life.
  Other poets whose lives I found interesting and somewhat chaotic were Ezra Pound, Hilda Doolittle, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath and many others. This is an excellent selection of English-speaking poets of the twentieth century that kept me turning the pages. The individual introductions provide biographical details with historical background that are followed by samples of their work. Their poems piqued my curiosity to read more by them. The selection and writing of  this book was done by Joseph Parisi, former editor of Poetry Magazine.

Another great anthology I borrowed from the library is called The Poetry of Our World. This one brings together poets from all over the world (Europe, the English-speaking world, Latin America, Africa and Asia). The presentation of the poets resembles the one of the book I discussed above.
  We are invited to understand the circumstances of their lives, challenges and historical setting.
    This book, however, has an important flaw in the selection of Latin American poets. Nothing is said about Gabriela Mistral, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945. Gabriela was a poet from Chile who was ostracized in her own country for being honest and straightforward in her writing and also for being a woman.
   Other important poets that were not even mentioned are Alfonsina Storni from Argentina and Juana de Ibarbourou from Uruguay
    It dawned on me that out of the 15 poets from Latin America that are included in this anthology only one is female: Claribel Alegria. And the reason why she was included was that she had met the writer of this section in person. The writer of this section is Carolyn Forche.
   This past weekend I contacted Carolyn Forche, award winner poet and professor at Georgetown University, to ask her why they had ignored these remarkable poets. I also pointed out the bias against female poets. There is no reason to believe that these women are less talented than their male counterparts (Pablo Neruda, Cesar Vallejo, Jorge Luis Borges and others).
    Forche said that she had not made the selection herself and was unable to provide any more information. At least I sparked her curiosity. (Now she is also wondering about this bias).
    If you can read in Spanish, feel free to read the articles I wrote about Gabriela Mistral and Alfonsina Storni two years ago. If you don’t read in Spanish and are interested in them, you can google their names. (You may end up finding the reason why they were not included in this anthology).
   What I learned from this experience is that these poets who had to endure gender discrimination in their own countries during their lifetime, continue to endure it now that they are dead.
  Perhaps it's time for a discussion on elitism in literature.
  Till my next post. ( I may not post on Sunday because I will be busy working on a deadline, but I will try).

Friday, July 12, 2013

Dreams and their meaning

 Do you ever dream and wonder about the meaning of your dreams?
 I've had vivid dreams all my life and sometimes I wonder about their meaning.  In the past I noticed that some dreams revealed something. Occasionally, dreams inspire me to write a poem or a story.
  Our minds are crammed with thoughts, emotions and situations that we tend to brush aside.   Then our dreams may dredge them up from the deep waters of our unconscious.
  I just started reading a book called “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” by Carl Gustav Jung. It is an autobiography he wrote when he was eighty-three years old.  Carl Jung was always torn between science and the humanities and reading his anecdotes, insights, and personal experiences is like having a conversation with a good friend. On the first page he writes:
 "Myth is more individual and expresses life more precisely than does science. Science works with concepts of averages which are far too general to do justice to the subjective variety of an individual life.
 Thus it is that I have now undertaken, in my eighty-third year, to tell my personal myth. I can only make direct statements, only 'tell stories'. Whether or not the stories are true is not the problem. The only question is whether what I tell is my fable, my truth."
   I will write more about this book once I finish it.
  A few days ago I had a very vivid nightmare. A guest pointed out there was a squirrel hidden in my house. I looked up and I saw her. She stared down at me from a shelf, close to the ceiling, her eyes filled with sorrow and desperation. She was starving and thirsty.
  I felt compelled to rescue her, but I knew that if I approached her she would bite me. If, on the other hand, I didn't do anything, I’d endure the pain of knowing that she was suffering up there. It was heartbreaking. I could feel her pain in my own body.
  For a moment I was mad at her. What was a squirrel doing in that prison when she could be out in the woods, climbing trees and eating whatever she wanted? Yet there was no point in being mad at her in that futile situation.
   I wrestled with this dilemma: not helping her meant feeling her suffering in my own body, but rescuing her implied that I would most likely be attacked by her. I was caught up in a snare.  It was terrifying and sad.
   When I finally decided I would call a vet for advice I woke up, but the emotions attached to this dream were intense. Even after waking up I couldn't shake them off.
 What about you? Do you dream at night? Do you ever try to figure out the meaning of your dreams?
Share your experience.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The art of poetry

   "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves." Carl Jung

   Borges had a fascination for mirrors. Mirrors and labyrinths. Perhaps a mirror symbolizes something that connects human  beings. No matter how different we are, we all experience joy, pain, sadness, fear. Sometimes art can be like a mirror. It can reflect your emotions and experiences.
         The pictures I added to accompany this poem are snapshots of the upper Mississippi River (I took them myself). The only one that looks like an abstract painting --the one at the bottom of this post -- is a picture of  Wisconsin River.

The Art of Poetry

To gaze at a river made of time and water  
and remember that time is another river.
To know we stray like a river
and our faces go by like water.

To feel that waking is another dream                        
that dreams of not dreaming and that the death
we fear in our bones is the death
that every night we call a dream.                                                                                    

To see in every day and year a symbol
of all the days of man and of his years,
and to convert the outrage of the years
into a music, a sound and a symbol.

To see in death a dream, in the sunset
a golden sadness -- such is poetry,
humble and immortal, poetry,
returning, like dawn and the sunset.

Sometimes in the evening there's a face                
that looks at us from the deep of a mirror.
Art must be that sort of mirror
revealing to each of us our face.

    Jorge Luis Borges (fragment)