Try Writing a Haiku

poetry-clip-art-1Do you remember a well-meaning teacher assigning a haiku for homework – maybe to instill a love of poetry. The products often resembled Ogden Nash poems – lots of nonsense but without his wit.

Alan Feuer’s “The 3 Lines of the Haiku Train Make 61 Stops in Manhattan” – online at Haiku Challenge in the Sunday New York Times – offers a short review of the style and samples from New Yorkers who participated in the paper’s challenge to write about the city in the three-line verse. Poets wrote about Central Park, the subway, Times Square… My favorite came from an online reader in Dallas –  Sharon Cohen wrote:

Union Square Market
Blueberries for ten dollars
New York City blues

Thinking about the city I live in now, I am working on a verse to celebrate the end of national poetry month – ocean, sun, surfers – not that easy to create three lines with 5,7,5 beat – and a punch line at the end of the 17 syllables. The New York Times offers  “a quick 101 guide on writing a haiku”:

• Only three lines.
• First line must be five syllables.
• Second line must be seven syllables.
• The third line must be five syllables.
• Punctuation and capitalization are up to you.
• It doesn’t have to rhyme.
• It must be original.

Have you tried writing one?

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The Rosie Project

9781476729084_p0_v6_s260x420When an Italian tells a joke disparaging the Italians, is it less insulting – or just insensitive and ignorant?  Although Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project is a humorous romantic tale, the underlying ridicule of someone with Asperger’s syndrome is hard to ignore.  If you can dismiss the main character’s social ineptness as the idiosyncracies of the stereotypical professor nerd, you might enjoy the ridiculous situations and laugh at the literal comments.  If you can appreciate the happy ending as hope for those who suffer being different, you might bask in the possibilities for improved relationships.  If you can forget the author’s references to autism, you might see awkward actions as charming.

Gabriel Roth in his New York Times Review – Without a Cue – notes:

“It’s cheering to read about, and root for, a romantic hero with a developmental disorder…Simsion’s debut and a best seller in his native Australia, reminds us that people who are neurologically atypical have many of the same concerns as the rest of us: companionship, ethics, alcohol…The ultimate convention of romantic comedy is that love conquers all, but to propose that it can so easily mitigate such a painful condition may be to take convention too far.”

Although I laughed at times at Don’s misadventures as he searches for the perfect mate and finds one in the imperfect Rosie, I felt uncomfortable doing so.

Making Friends at a Certain Age

“It takes courage” to confront a stranger to start a connection.  Alex Williams addressed making friends for those over forty in his New York Times essay – Friends of a Certain Age.

As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, when life felt like one big blind date, are fading. Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends…often people realize how much they have neglected to restock their pool of friends only when they encounter a big life event, like a move…

Worth rereading when everyone around you seems to have something to do that does not include you.

The sidebar by Jesse McKinley in Some Friendly Advice  offers 6 quick ways to find a friend; one is to “go it alone.”  In that spirit, I took myself to cooking demonstrations celebrating Julia Child, who will soon celebrate her 100th birthday.  People who like to eat and cook are usually friendly, and I did find new friends: Kathy, a writer from Australia, and Devra, the Coco Chanel of beautifully made ETSIS sunhats.

The best advice from the articles  – besides getting over yourself – appreciate the BFF’s you have and look for a casual friend or two – “better than total isolation.”  As the Girl Scouts sang – “one is silver, the other is gold.”

For more musings on articles, go to Read Between the Lines

Do You Believe in Magic?

Rational decisions sometimes bow to unconscious habits. If knocking on wood makes you think the action might help affect your outcome, it might. In his article for the New York Times – In Defense of Superstition – Matt Hutson suggests psychological benefits to believing in magical thinking – despite the possibility that it may not really exist. What you believe to be true may be more powerful than reality.

Hutson cites the idea that “luck is in your hands.” Knocking on wood may not really add luck to your situation, but the action may “produce an illusion of control…enhance self-confidence…improving {your} performance…{thus} indirectly affecting {your} fate.” Participants who were given lucky charms actually performed better on tests. Believing in fate – “everything happens for a reason” – makes surviving life’s inadvertent traumas easier. And, if objects have the “essence” of its previous owner, could a pen once used by Jane Austen break your writer’s block?

Hutson has a new book with more possibilities for using magical thinking to get through life – The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane. The unconscious is powerful, and what can it hurt to believe in magic? Hutson says…

on some deep level, we all do – {it} does not make you stupid, ignorant or crazy. It makes you human.”

Why not? I plan to read the book and, in the meantime, keep rubbing the Buddha’s belly, watering my bamboo plant, and looking for rainbows. Do you think Jonathan Franzen would let me sit in his “battered green office chair” for inspiration?

Pilgrimage – Annie Leibovitz

The first time I saw an exhibit of Annie Leibovitz’s photography in Washington, D.C., I felt I knew her subjects intimately.  Leibovitz’s art captures her famous targets as posed but vulnerable.  When I found her book with Susan Sontag – Women – the images amazed me for their familiarity and honesty.

Her new book – Pilgrimage – reviewed by Dominique Browning for the New York Times in her article A Pilgrim’s Progress, comes out today – with no people in it.   The book opens with shots of Emily Dickinson’s house “that Ms. Leibovitz took, casually…on a family visit.”  Even on her off days, Leibovitz takes amazing pictures.

“She took her camera to Virginia Woolf’s house, photographing the surface of her writing table, and into the garden, capturing the wide, rolling water of the River Ouse, in which Woolf drowned herself.  She photographed Dr. Freud’s sumptuously carpeted patient’s couch in London, and Darwin’s odd specimen collection.  Eleanor Roosevelt’s bedroom with its simple white coverlets, in her cozy cottage, Val-Kill, stands in contrast to a silver serving dish, its rich patina rippling with light.  Abraham Lincoln’s elegant top hat and white kid gloves…Louisa May Alcott’s house…the view from Emerson’s bedroom window…”

More than another coffee table book, Leibovitz offers…”something about integrity, staying true to a vision…”

Her ad for Sears with the Kardashian sisters – not so much…but photographers have to pay their bills too.