The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 9

Remember that time I said I was going to write weekly and be really good about sticking to the challenge?

(Please say no)

I currently have 4 jobs and my thesis to complete, and I am feeling a like a bit of a zombie. I haven’t been doing much other than collecting data and commuting, so finding some time to write, and write for pleasure has been sparse.

I had a rare evening off, so I thought maybe if I wrote about something fun and easy then I would be able to do the academic writing tomorrow. The challenge this week is to write about one of my favourite things: BOOKS! The challenge for this week is to write about the five books that I think everyone should read.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

This work by Brazilian educator and activist Paulo Freire changed my life.  The first time I read this I was 22 and working on my MA. It was the first time I had encountered Critical Theory and the first time that I really found someone who felt the same way as I did about the power of education. Freire calls for a new relationship between teacher, student and society.

In 1962, Paulo Freire created culture circles in Northeastern Brazil to support 300 sugar-cane workers to teach each other how to read the word and their world in 45 days, which enabled them to register to vote. These Culture Circles that began with Sugar Cane workers, catalyzed thousands more. Each with the purpose of not just literacy, but conscientization, or which involves people joining with their peers to name their world by reflecting on their conditions, imagining a better world, and then taking action to create it. This approach, developed as much by Freire as the workers he educated, was so galvanizing that he was jailed and exiled by the Military Government within two years (http://www.practicingfreedom.org/pedagogy-of-the-oppressed-what-is-it-and-why-its-still-relevant/).

Critical Theory, and the idea of giving a voice to those that are traditionally marginalised in education has become a driving force in my writing, my research, and my outlook on the world.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

This is a self-help book I can get behind. Fuck is one of my favourite words and I believe that this book should be required reading for everyone when they turn 18. Mark Manson is not subtle, although he does give a fuck. Some gems include:

Think positive?

“Fuck positivity,” Manson says. “Let’s be honest; sometimes things are fucked up and we have to live with it.”

Be extraordinary?

“Not everyone can be extraordinary – there are winners and losers in society, and some if it is not fair or your fault,” Manson writes.

Seek happiness?

“The path to happiness is a path full of shit heaps and shame,” he remarks.

The Sound and the Fury

This book is not for the faint of heart. William Faulkner is one of the greatest American writers of all time (in my opinion of course) and the variety of narrative styles and the complexity of this story just make me want to read it over and over again. There is something about the stream of consciousness writing style that I love. There is something about the tragic fucked up family that I understand. There is something about writing a book in the way you want to regardless of whether people understand it that makes me want to keep writing.

“…I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire…I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.”
― William FaulknerThe Sound and the Fury

To Kill a Mockingbird

This speaks for itself.

God Went to Beauty School

Cynthia Rylant did something really interesting with this book. It is a collection of vignettes about God as a regular ordinary, everyday man.

God Went to Beauty School

Cynthia Rylant

He went there to learn how
to give a good perm
and ended up just crazy 
about nails
so He opened up His own shop.
“Nails by Jim” He called it.
He was afraid to call it
Nails by God.
He was sure people would
think He was being
disrespectful and using
His own name in vain
and nobody would tip.
He got into nails, of course,
because He’d always loved
hands--
hands were some of the best things
He’d ever done
and this way He could just
hold one in His
and admire those delicate
bones just above the knuckles,
delicate as birds’ wings, 
and after He’d done that
awhile,
He could paint all the nails 
any color He wanted,
then say,
“Beautiful,"
and mean it.

 

Bonus book: Tender Buttons

Gertrude Stein is my favourite poet. Her poems are weird, her life was full of adventure, and she gave zero fucks about convention. As Wikipedia notes: it is a book consisting of three sections titled “Objects”, “Food”, and “Rooms”. While the short book consists of multiple poems covering the everyday mundane, Stein’s experimental use of language renders the poems unorthodox and their subjects unfamiliar.” I first read this book for a poetry class I took in Merced. That was the class that taught me I could be a poet without having to worry about convention, and it is the class that strengthened my bond with some of my favourite people. The book sits on my shelf now….next to The Sound and the Fury.

It is also home to my favourite poem.

Asapagus

Asparagus. Asparagus in a lean in a lean to hot. This makes it art and it is wet wet weather wet weather wet.

It is currently snowing quite hard for Scotland, so I think I am going to pull Tender Buttons off the shelf and enjoy the cozy night in.

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The Scamp is a Caged Bird

Sympathy

BY PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR

I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—
I know what the caged bird feels!
I know why the caged bird beats his wing
 Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting—
I know why he beats his wing!
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!

The Scamp and the Journals of Sylvia Plath

One of the best parts of working in a library is stumbling across very interesting books. I often find myself getting distracted thumbing through books on art, poetry, space, and even world history. A couple of months ago, I stumbled across a collection of Sylvia Plath’s journals. They start when she was a student at Smith College, and end just before her death in 1963.

I’ve read a lot of Plath’s work, but her journals are by far the best thing she has written. She is known for her “confessional poetry”, but her journals go so much deeper than her poetry. They are honest, innocent, and show a complete decent into the horrors of depression. The early journals are full of childish insecurities about boys and school, while the later ones deal with the struggles of her marriage and the birth of her children. The last entry in the book speaks best to not only her state of mind throughout her life, but the state of her writing.

“A bad day. A bad time. State of mind most important for work. A blithe, itchy eager state where the poem itself, the story is supreme.”

I wonder what it is says about me that I am so drawn to writers and poets that are so far off the beaten path? Not many people understand the poetry of Gertrude Stein, and I feel that many people would read these journals and see nothing but sadness and melancholy.

Every now and then, though, she shows a glimmer of happiness for the world around her.

“I love people. Everybody. I love them, I think, as a stamp collector loves his collection. Every story, every incident, every bit of conversation is raw material for me. My love is not impersonal, yet not wholly subjective either. I would like to be everyone, a cripple, a dying man, a whore, and then come back to write my thoughts, my emotions, as that person. But I am not omniscient. I have to live my life, and it is the only one I’ll ever have. And you cannot regard your own life with object curiosity all the time.”

For now though, it is a nice break from the books on organizational leadership articles about content analysis and curriculum development. I don’t mind being curled up in bed reading about seemingly unimportant days in the life of a truly fascinating woman.

The Scamp and Gertrude Stein

NOTHING ELEGANT

A charm is a single charm is doubtful. If the red is rose and there is a gate surrounding it, if inside is let in and there places change then certainly something is upright. It is earnest.

Tender Buttons, 1914

Gertrude Stein saved my date and my failed attempt to woo my boyfriend.

Thank you Ms. Stein.

 

The Scamp and Poetry

I have been asked to write a poem.

In fact, I have been asked to write a “fucking sweet poem”.

I haven’t written poems in years…not since I took Writing 125 in Merced. In fact, it was in that class that I met the boy that asked for the poem.

I am not a poet. I write prose.  I can spill my guts in a post here, write amusing stories about being fired from my first job, and do all of that without breaking a sweat. Ask me to write a poem though, and suddenly the room is hot and stuffy and my homework suddenly needs to be completely finished and perfect ahead of schedule.

Unfortunately, I have finished all of the work that needs to be completed tonight. Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised. I have an amazing study group, and divide and conquer is keeping me within a manageable reading and research load.   I should have gone to bed awhile ago, but instead, I thought I would try to write the poem.

I wrote the poem….or mostly a bunch of words on a page. They don’t rhyme, there is no structure, but the are meaningful.

I only wish I was as clever as Dr. Seuss. A Seussical poem would be a “fucking sweet poem” that would be sure to earn me some points.  A sonnet might work too…..

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