This month I’ve tried hard to post something else every day in addition to the usual erasure poem, both to liven up the place with a bit of variety, and to return this blog to its roots as a melange of poetry and prose, photos and links, especially with Via Negativa’s tenth birthday coming up in just a couple of weeks. I haven’t done as good a job of linking to other bloggers as I should, but let me try and make up for lost time by reviewing four sites that are among my favorites in the literary/personal genre of blogging. All four are included in the last and longest category on my links page, “Poets, writers, and other uncategorizable personal bloggers.”
Each of these four bloggers is based in Germany, and they share a certain multicultural focus. The first three could just as easily be categorized as photobloggers, were it not for the fact that some of their posts don’t contain photos, and others are more about the writing than the illustrations.
- I was not born in English
Magda Kapa is from Greece, and is a master of the epigram.
Love: the biggest truths are tunes.
Love: the unspoken leaves one broken.
Love: the saddest fates are now graves.
Love: and yet.
Last month, she reflected on the turmoil in Greece:
In the early ’80s, when we were still confident that historical awareness would prevail and have a cathartic effect on the Greek society, I interviewed as part of a school project people in my village who had been at enmity ever since the Civil War, when they’d lost family members in the fighting and atrocities between Communist and right-wing forces. I was in the first year of Gymnasium (middle school), and I remember how shocked I was to face indomitable hatred for the first time in my life. I wish I’d kept my transcripts of those interview tapes so I could reread and use them now. Unfortunately, the good years that followed lulled all of us into a sense of complacency, and I was no exception.
There’s so much I want to write about all this…. I also visited one of the most beautiful Cyclades island, Sifnos, after a long time of not having done so. It was a real homecoming for me, for body and spirit. A superb feeling.
On November 13, she posted a photo travelogue from that homecoming.
- life as a journey
Dorothee Lang is the editor of BluePrintReview, a long-running webzine that pairs poetry and prose submissions with photos. In her personal blog, she writes about “roads, moments, encounters, etc.” Currently, she’s blogging from Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands.
After all the work, this journey still feels slightly unreal. The way a shift of place changes the own view of things. The way that something that seemed so important now can wait another day. The way memories pop up, in unexpected places. Like in the island supermarket, when I picked a pot of Cup Noodles, and the memory of my first Cup Noodles flashed with it: Ireland that was. English summer school in Cork. Which also was my first trip by plane. And my first trip alone to another country.
Another memory that returned today: while driving across the island, I listened to the battered CD I brought, “The Human Condition” by Richard Ashcroft. Bought in India. Played there, on a road through Rajasthan. Which didn’t look that different, seen like that: dusty fields. A white sun above. All this road, going.
Unlike many sites (including Via Negativa these days), Parmanu actually has a helpful and descriptive About page:
This site is a growing collection of memories dating back to 2003. Its author is an Indian living in Germany.
And he follows that with a selection of links to some of his best posts, arranged by topic (Living in Germany, Visits to India, Train journeys, Visiting places, Books and movies, Rare experiments with fiction, Art and photography). As this list suggests, Parmanu is unusual among the personal bloggers I read in the care and selectivity he brings to the presentation of his material — sort of the way I fantasize about blogging, were I a different and more organized person. His travel essays are as good as any you’ll ever find. His most recent posts are about a trip to Istanbul.
We picked up, after a few days, some rhythms of the street. In the mornings, at the intersection where Mis Sokak meets Istiklal Caddesi, an elderly shoe-shine man set up his equipment and sat down to wait for customers. I saw him polishing shoes only once through that week, but he had other tricks up his sleeve. On a rainy morning when umbrella vendors sprung up here and there (offering transparent plastic umbrellas for 5 Turkish Liras), this old man went up to one of them, borrowed a few umbrellas, and stood in a corner selling them to passersby. Then there was the father-son pair that stood at different parts of the street on each day, playing the accordion and collecting money. They were a happy pair, always smiling at each other or at people walking past. P. was enchanted (charmed by father or son I still do not know), and clicked pictures sufficient to fill an album. I also had fleeting but recurrent glimpses of a budding romance between two security guards stationed a few meters apart at the entrance to a mall. The dark-haired young woman at one end appeared to send silent messages (I’d forgotten how much can be conveyed without saying a word) to the shy young man opposite her, who responded with smiles and blushes. Except one afternoon, when he looked distracted; the reason became clear when I looked to the other side: in place of the woman was a man, staring blankly at the shoppers crossing into and out of the mall.
- the rain in my purse
Sarah Sloat is an American journalist who writes kick-ass poetry in her spare time. And though she’s widely published in paper and online journals, she still shares plenty of poems on her personal blog as well, along with book reviews, amusing lists, and other evidence of a fierce intellect and sharp wit. Back on October 29, she blogged about Voices of Chernobyl: The Oral History of the Nuclear Disaster simply by compiling all the author’s parenthetical inserts from the book’s monologues, creating a kind of found poem, “Red, not orange.” It begins like this:
[Silence.] [A week later the village was evacuated.] [She starts crying.] [She is silent.] [Silent.] [Silent.] [Long silence.] [She is silent for a long time.] [She is silent.] [She becomes incomprehensible.] [She has trouble breathing.] [She is silent for a long time.] [She stands up, goes over to the window.]
[Starts crying.] [Cheers up suddenly.] [Starts crying.] [Starts crying.]
Sloat’s latest post is a more straightforward poem, “In Late November,” which contains these lines:
Seven winds delivered in one gust
on the afternoon cut short by dark.
Isn’t the lack of distinction sometimes too much?
And then the craze for being grateful.