Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I do something awful to a poem by Nancy Willard

I recently learned that the more moronic Red Sox fans refer to Mariano Rivera as "Fruit Bat". Coincidentally I started reading Nancy Willard's New and Selected Poems recently, having picked it up on the basis of reading a random page and loving the cover painting by Blake, and found a poem about a fruit bat.

The Fruit Bat

Because the air has darkened
like bruised fruit, you creep
down the bare branch

where you slept all light long,
gathered into yourself like a fig.
Little mandarin woman fleeing

under the stars on bound feet,
when your wings spring open
even you look surprised.

What are the raven's slick feathers
beside these pewter sails
raised in the foundry of your flesh,

burnished by light poured
from a wasted moon and a dipper
brimming with darkness?

This is a small, observational poem that doesn't do a lot for me. It seems a bit overwritten, as if it had aimed at haiku compactness but bulged out on a diet of adjectives. The contradiction between "creep" and "fleeing" bugged me, and anyway "creep" has a sense of body-to-the-ground that doesn't work here. Further, don't bats hang upside down, making the branch stuff nonsense? And "mandarin" is kind of random, isn't it? Then "poured ... dipper" doesn't work for me. And why is the moon "wasted"? And "burnish" means to polish by rubbing. Basically the last stanza has to grasp at significance and crumbles under the pressure.

The Fruit Bat

The air has darkened
like bruised fruit, so you sidle
down the leafless branch

where you slept all light,
gathered inward like a fig.
Wrapped in a plain shawl,

your feet to the stars,
when your warm wings spring open
you too look surprised.

The raven's feathers?
Crude beside these pewter sails
smelted in your flesh

from papaya juice
and the nectar of flowers
you see by starlight.

p.s. - probably superceded but amusing

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Monday, August 21, 2006

People care about the (perceived) outcome in Lebanon

I found this post from a Lebanonese Shia blogger amusing - it presents the most optimistic scenario I can hope for, kicked up a few dozen notches. Billmon responds as one would expect for some reason.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Don't waste your life

Somewhat to my surprise I liked this article on housepainting, esp. the following:
Beige is for the fearful. Red can cause familial disharmony and should be used only sparingly. Blues and greens feel cool, serene. Yellow is cheerful . Don't be afraid of colors. Don't waste your life painting walls beige.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Two of the best bloggers out there, Jonathan Edelstein of The Head Heeb and Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings, are matching donations to charities for reconstruction of the damage in Lebanon and Israel. Respect to them for their generosity.

(I gave some more to Mercy Corps in response, which I mention in the hope it will encourage someone to do the same.)

Monday, August 14, 2006

En garde, monde!

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Holes and Holes

The movie is excellent, with a true feeling of how hard life is, and how tragic, and how (sometimes) rewarding. The cast is great - well, the whole thing was done with craft and a good deal of inspiration.

The book is quite good - I read a few days after seeing the movie, in comparison to which it suffers. There are several interactions in the text which aren't paced to make sense or have impact - on screen they were electric. The screenplay is by the author, so I assume that he just hadn't gotten across his concept originally (though perhaps it's just a fine reworking). This would make a wonderful reading exercise (I'm thinking in particular about the negotiation over the original discovery).

There were however several points where the book's refusal of sentimentality were lost in translation, esp. in the ending, which drags out a bit in the movie, and a spot or two where the movie doesn't bother making sense.

Anyway, I recommend ignoring the for-kids categorization and renting the movie.


Poor Billmon

Here Billmon does his utmost to convince himself the new UN resolution is a total victory for Hizbullah. An acceptable outcome for Israel would surely be gall to him.

The Head Heeb provides an analysis much more informed by reason than emotion, disproving several assumptions in the above along the way. Read the comments for more detailed (and in part skeptical) discussion.

Update (13 Aug): a skeptic discusses the "Israel benefits" POV.

U^2 (14 Aug): A spectrum of viewpoints from NPR's Talk of the Nation here.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lieberman in Lamont's place

Imagine what Lieberman would be saying today if he had won yesterday and Lamont had declared he'd run as an independent.