A day late, and a bad joke too many, but for labor day... I was thinking about fictional depictions of childbirth. Not motherhood, mind you, but proper labor. I think this is something most of us mothers would rather leave out of our fiction, but I'm curious if there are brave folks out there that I'm missing.
If there are, tell me who! What are they writing about labor?
The only in-depth labor scene I can think of is at the beginning of The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields. (Irrelevant note: I tried to read this once, at eighteen, and couldn't get into it. Then about a decade passed and I moved to Bloomington, Indiana--where part of the novel is set, albeit in an earlier time--and I moved closer to mommyhood myself. The second time I finished it.)
Anyway, here's a bit from the opening of The Stone Diaries:
"What she feels is more like a shift in the floor of her chest, rising at first, and then an abrupt drop, a squeezing like an accordion held sideways... She breathes rapidly, blinking as the pain wraps a series of heavy bands around her abdomen. Down there, buried in the lapped folds of flesh, she feels herself invaded. A tidal wade, a flood."
Happy Labor Day!
One of the amazing things about poetry--and why it's good for us fiction writers, too--is how it can be about language. (Some people I know would say that all poetry ever should be "about" is, in fact, language.) As in, the point of a poem is to get you thinking about the precision of words--but also the bleeding boundaries between them. Usually this is by the stress put on each word via the poem's structure, but sometimes even chatty, narrative poems can dig into language.
I got to see Aracelis Girmay read this poem a few years ago at the Indiana University Writers Conference. She's an incredibly dynamic reader, and I wish I could give you a piece of that memory. You have to imagine a lot of quizzical expressions for the first half of the poem and an accelerating exuberance in the last bit.
Also: you are required to love the poem. Otherwise, I don't want to hear from you.
For Estefani Lora, Third Grade, Who Made Me A Card
for Estefani Lora, PS 132, Washington Heights
Elephant on an orange line, underneath a yellow
6 green, vertical lines, with color all from
The first time I peel back the 5 squares of
unfold the crooked-crease fold of art class
I am in my living room.
It is June.
Inside of the card, there is one long word,
Loisfoeribari: The scientific, Latinate way
of saying hibiscus.
Loisfoeribari: A direction, as in: Are you
North? South? East? West? Loisfoeribari?
I try, over & over, to read the word out
What is this word?
I imagine using it in sentences like,
"Man, I have to go back to the house,
I forgot my Loisfoeribari."
"There's nothing better than rain, hot
open windows with music, & a tall glass
"How are we getting to Pittsburgh?
Should we drive or take the Loisfoeribari?"
I have lived 4 minutes with this word not
what it means.
It is the end of the year. I consider writing
Estefani Lora, a letter that goes:
To The BRILLIANT Estefani Lora!
Hola, querida, I hope that you are well.
just opened the card that
you made me, and it is beautiful.
really love the way you filled the sky with
birds. I believe that
you are chula,
chulita, and super fly! Yes, the card
I only have one question
for you. What does the word
I try the word again.
I try the word in Spanish.
& then, slowly,
Lo is fo e ri bari
Lo is fo eribari
love is for everybody
love is for every every body love
love love everybody love
everybody love love
is love everybody
everybody is love
love love for love
for love is everybody
love is forevery
love is forevery body
love love love for body
love body body is love
love is body every body is love
is every love
for every love is love
for love everybody love love
love love for everybody
Aracelis Girmay is a poet and writing teacher living in New York City, This poem is from TEETH, Curbstone Press (www.curbstone.org).
Yesterday, the third official National Day on Writing, was a huge success! You definitely don't want to miss out on hearing from five writers via the National Writing Project's blogtalk radio show. Listen to the show online here. I'm there in the last section of the show, talking about how writing with my students led to two published YA novels. Other guests include writers for the New York Times and The New Yorker and a teen who uses Figment.com to share his writing. Really great stuff! Some of my favorite bits from the show include Katherine Schulten talking about "drinking the Koolaid" at the National Writing Project (I did, too!), Fernanda Santos describing what it's like to work for a world-class newspaper when writing in a second language, Dana Goodyear describing how Figment.com grew out of her experiences interviewing Japanese women writing novels on their cell phones, and teen-writer James Loveless describing his journey from closet writer to member of a vast community on Figment (apparently Figment users are called "Figgies"!).
Many partner sites are running posts with more extended reflections on why folks from different walks of life write. Mine for the National Writing Project is here. I love HEATHER WOLPERT-GAWRON's Edutopia piece on what writing has meant at different stages of her life. Here's one section that resonated with me:
When I was 35, I wrote because a fire was lit within me and I discovered the National Writing Project. I was introduced to the greatest teachers of writing. I was introduced to a room of educators who believed that they could change education by teaching students to communicate their logic, their passions, and their dreams, through their writing, regardless of one's subject matter.
Read Heather's whole essay here. You can also cruise to the bottom of this NWP page to find annotated links to heaps of essays by writers from science teachers to memoirists to novelists. Really, really good stuff.
There's also a nice recap of the #whyIwrite tweets at the fun, formidible, and f**k-where-were-you-when-I-was-a-teen site, Figment.com:·http://blog.figment.com/2011/10/20/whyiwrite/. Of course, you ought to go explore the thousands of #whyIwrite tweets for yourself--that's what hash tags are fore, after all.