flor * de * jazmín

In the month of May, after Baccalaureate festivities are over, when I walk between our little chapel and one of our academic departments, hundreds of star-jasmines blooming along the walkway are, in a word, intoxicating.

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Peace: I am blessed to walk the long way around our little campus just to mingle with jasmine-soaked wind.  I think God is in the wind: the Holy Spirit.

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Prayer: Healing for a man’s eyes,  a woman who awaits birth (sent me a sonogram), and a woman who waits for a miracle.

pomelo * rosa

A week of poet-delights!  Restoration arrived in the mail, a surprise gift from heart-of-gold poet Christina Pugh.  Then I attended a reading by Louise Glück, whose A Village Life sold out within minutes after her question & answer session ended.
A Village Life: Poems

From morning until late afternoon, I sat under a grapefruit tree reading psalms… one after another… until rust-colored hummingbirds shrieked at me in hummingbird language: “Eeeeeee!”

I wasn’t even reading aloud.

The last time I presented a threat to hummingbirds, I was using my power drill to uproot an old satellite dish my association deemed unsightly.

How do you say, “Peace. I mean no harm,” in hummingbird language?

My little English department sponsored a regional conference, where I enjoyed fellowshipping with over 90 attendees.  We hosted 25 panel sessions with approximately 75 presenters.  “Just add mini-cheesecakes, fresh fruit, and cucumber sandwiches,” I said. “Presto! Now we have instant Bloomsbury… within budget.”

So, all that’s left for the rest of the semester are registration week, two annual assessment meetings, one assessment report, one action plan for next year, a smattering of committee work with “next steps,” one year-end internal budget review, appreciations to the adjunct instructors, capstone portfolios to evaluate, papers to grade, final catalog edits, one survey monkey (pas de jokes ’bout survey zebras or survey giraffes or survey elephants, s’il vous plaît), and other quixotic miscellania.

God will carve out quiet spaces for me to review my notes for a lecture at Cal State and a reading at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, both later this month.

None of this goes forward without prayer… we are nothing without grace.

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I had fallen
asleep in the sunlit
room    the only sunny
room in the house

and I dreamed
you were talking:
Well, and don’t
you see,
your voice

rising as in clear
discovery    (Fact
is the sweetest
dream
)     your hands

in transport    to drape a large
book    an atlas
its jacket as an ocean
several pages

–from Restoration (TriQuarterly Books 2008)
by Christina Pugh

josey * foo

A new collection,  A Lily Lilies, from poet Josey Foo!  A short bio:  “Josey Foo grew up in several towns up and down the Malaysian west coast.  For the past 10 years, she has worked on the Navajo Nation.  She is of Peranakan descent.”

“A cross-genre book of poetry, photography and notes for choreography…”

The Lily Lilies
The swallow swallows, the lily lilies.
That’s all there is.
Horses horse and objects of definable shape
define each other.

Living beings, in a manner,
keep living.

 

swan * scythe

One thing I love about my little college is the library, where I’ve spent hours upstairs & downstairs browsing the faith-based collections, especially spiritual autobiographies.

A fig tree with huge elephant-ear-leaves shades our stone-and-glass edifice.

If you walk quickly alongside the tinted mirror-glass, your image vanishes into shelves and shelves of books…. this tickles me to no end!  If I had the gift of “disapparation,” I’d love to vanish into books.

Last month, I borrowed Julian of Norwich’s Book of Showings, this edition.  I taught a fragment of Julian’s text in the first phase of our British Lit Survey course this past autumn.

See Julian’s profile under “300 Women Who Changed the World.”

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Swan Scythe Press holds a dear place in my heart since it published my first chapbook almost 10 years ago.  Please submit to the annual chapbook contest.

To see Swan Scythe’s diverse & beautiful books, click here.

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Prayer: “All shall be well/ and all shall be well/
… and all manner of thing shall be well.” ~ Julian

amy * uyematsu

Los Angeles adventures continue at this week’s MLA Convention, where I’ll preside & present on the session, “Transnational Feminist Spaces.”

Our brilliant panelists are Josephine Park, author of Apparitions of Asia (Oxford U. Press) and Director of Asian American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania; erin Khuê Ninh, author of Ingratitude: The Debt-Bound Daughter (NYU Press) and a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara; see my August interview with Professor Ninh here.

Our respondent is the splendid poet Sandra Lim, author of the award-winning Lovelist Grotesque (Kore Press) and a professor at the University of Massachusetts.  Professor Lim reads on the audio poetry CD, Autumnal: A Collection of Elegies.

On a special excursion to the Huntington Library, fifty of us will go behind the scenes to learn about digital preservation &  material book culture.  Prior to university teaching, I worked part-time in archives & special collections, so book preservation – in any shape, spirit, or form – fascinates me.   Many thanks to the MLA for arranging this!

 

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On Saturday, January 22, I’ll read with Amy Uyematsu (amazing poet-mathematician!) and poets of Indivisible: Anthology of South Asian American Poetry at the Japanese National Museum in Los Angeles.  Thanks to Pireeni Sundaralingam for coordinating this event!

   

Prayer:  Heartfelt gratitude to poet-friends who share their time, love & vision freely & with marvelous grace.  This world is a brighter ‘scape!

denise * levertov

 

  

 

In Poetry as Prayer: Denise Levertov, Murray Bodo describes six ways to “pray” poems:  “Prayer involves discipline, perseverance, and a humility that comes from knowing that you cannot control God… You learn to pray by praying, and you learn to appreciate poetry by reading it” (91).

1. Be Committed.

Denise Levertov’s commitment to her art was a true vocation.  She made hard decisions throughout her life in order to protect and nourish her writing.  (92)

2. Try to Write as a Way of Prayer.

What I learned from Denise was to trust my words to take me where I would not have gone without them; to trust the first word to lead to the first line, the second line, and then on to stanza after stanza.  Prayer-words will likewise lead to silences and pauses not unlike those blank spaces on the page, those pauses at the end of lines… (95)

Denise Levertov was one of the most intellectually honest people I have ever met.  She would not say what she did not believe, simply in order to please another.  She trusted the truth, and her poems shimmer with a truthful articulation that frees her work from faddish posturing. (98)

4. Plan Well.

Without a course of action to pursue in the face of injustice, Levertov said, people only become frustrated and angry – another kind of violence. (100)

5. Believe in Memory.

The injunction, “Remember,” is one of the most frequent exhortations in the Bible, for it is in remembering the works of God that we are able to define who we are and see the world around us with God’s eye.  (102)

6. Know that Faith is a Journey.

For faith is a gift given to those who are open to receiving it.

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Prayer:  Lines from Levertov’s “Making Peace.”

“A line of peace might appear / if we restructured the sentences our lives are making…./peace, a presence, / … might pulse then, / stanza by stanza into the world, / each act of living/ one of its words….”