waxing poetic

The past two nights I have been listening to poetry readings at the SF International Poetry Festival. They were beautiful. They made me cry. They made me howl with laughter. They made me want to learn a foreign language. Most of all, they made me want to write.

"Do you write?" one poet from Italy asked me.

"I do."

"Good. Keep on writing."

"I will." Though after I said that, it left me with a strange mix of excitement and nervousness. I have been flirting with poetry for awhile now but could not quiet give myself fully to it yet. Its easier for me to write lyric essays and creative non-fiction than poetry. I wasn't sure why.

I've always thought that of all literary genres, poetry is the most fearless. And boy did I see this last night. We had poets from all over the world; one Marxist, one anarchist, a lot of activists, all speaking of their truth. This is San Francisco after all. I was in awe of their boldness and said to myself "Whew, this is precisely why you can't write poetry. You're too timid.

Then later, after everyone has read, I realized that I was wrong. One can still be fearless without writing about politics, the war in Iraq, the horrors of capitalism, the plight of the homeless people. One can still be fearless and write about the mundane, the ordinary. As long as its the truth, your honest-deep-in-the-gut truth, then you are writing fearless poetry.

I understood then that the reason why I was having a hard time with poetry was because I never allowed myself to write them in the first place. I already had this notion of how or what I should write and it paralyzed me. But hopefully, after this, not anymore. I'll keep on writing until I'll find my voice.

* * *
As someone who also left her country and family, I was particulary drawn to this poem by Cletus Nelson Nwadike. He was born in Namibia but now lives in Sweden and interestingly enough writes in Swedish:

A Stranger

I dreamed
I came home
but my mother
didn't recognize me

I tried to
explain to her
but she just went away
and didn't leave any food for me

I went and sat by myself
where everyone in the village
could look at me
but no one understood me anymore

I began to cry
and everyone in the village came
and spoke in a language
I no longer understood

(translated by Jack Hirschman)

* * *
Before I fell asleep last night, I thought:

Ah, to be drunk
on poetry
I never want to be
sober again.


I'm a mess. In a creative kind of way (aha, good excuse!). Seriously, I'm barely getting enough sleep or nutrition, I'm glued to my laptop and yet I forgot to pay one credit card bill, which I could have easily done online. I haven't been this way since college when we used to pull all-nighters trying to finish projects and term papers. Csikszentmilhayi, a famous psychologist, called this creative state as "flow", an experience of being wholly absorbed in what you’re doing that the awareness of time disappears. Its exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. And I'm not even doing a big project.

First, there's writing. Now that summer school is done, I intend to do the best that I can for my writing class. As a result, I've been scribbling furiously in my journals or typing away on my laptop. But as everyone who has ever written or tried to write knows, writing is really all about waiting patiently, waiting for that special moment when the words will just flow (that magic word again) and you don't even think about it. In the meantime, there's much trying, staring into space, and writing "shitty first drafts", as Anne Lamott calls them, which I have been doing a lot lately.

I also made a photo book, thanks to Shutterfly. I have this box of pictures and souvenirs labeled "for scrapbooking" but really, who has time to make a scrapbook these days? Enter Shutterfly, an online photo service that lets you upload your pictures and put together a journal. Its just like scrapbooking, the digital way, they have guided templates on different themes (e.g. travel, birthday, wedding) and all you have to do is drag and drop your pictures and viola - a photo book. You should try it, I had so much fun making mine. Unfortunately, I don't have the book yet so I can't scan it but just to give you guys an idea, here's how it looks like:

Lastly, there's my books. I have so many books that I haven't even read past chapter 1 or 2 and yet I keep buying more. This weekend, I told myself to make a list of all the books, sort them, and exchange/sell the ones that I don't need in a used bookstore at the Mission district. It was a good plan, in theory. What I didn't realize is that in the process of sorting them, I also came across some of my favorites and started reading excerpts here and there. Pretty soon, I was reading Jose Saramago's Blindness and stayed up all night to finish it, with the rest of the books scattered all over the place. I have yet to finish the sorting.

* * *

So all that's been keeping me busy these days. How about you, experience a state of "flow" lately? I'm tagging you, its your turn to tell your story.

house with a view

Imagine waking up every morning to a spectacular view of the city's skyline, rows of houses looking like they were carved out of those hills, the changing sky at twilight, and the winking lights at night. Oh, what I wouldn't give to have a house like this one.

As it is, I'm just grateful that I had the chance to spend my Saturday morning lounging in this sun deck, spying on hummingbirds with a pair of binoculars, chasing a cat named iPod, and eating fresh cherries and blueberries. All this after a 2-hour hike to Bernal Heights Park.

i've got mail

Click to enlarge

Isn't this Apple iCard the sweetest? And it matches the colors of my blog too! Ms. Mary is one of the paraprofessionals who works with one of the kids that I see during the school year. Can't wait to go hiking with her on Saturday!

cold summer evening

The temperature was in the low 50s when I ventured out to Duboce Park and watched as thick folds of fog slowly covered the hills and the houses in the distance. And I never thought I'd say this because I'm such a weather wuss, but somehow the cold felt just right. Perfect even.

out of sync

Photo by JucaFii

It's one of those days. I woke up from an afternoon nap and just felt so low. That's not even the right word. I just felt so out of sync. Like I've ran out of happy pills and there's nothing else to do but mope around and ponder on the unpredictability of my mood swings.

I'm giving myself a headache by squinting at my computer screen for too long. What else can I do? Its not like I can just snap my fingers and everything will be all rosy again. Sometimes I even wish that I would stop thinking too much, feeling too much. You know, just live the unexamined life. But alas, I'm not that way, and even if I want to, I could never be that way. So there.

we're all in the dance

Ah, it feels so good to have my computer up and running again. A week off of the internet was liberating in some ways, but a couple more days without it I know I would feel so out of the loop that I wouldn't even know what to do with myself. As it is, I'm barely catching up on my favorite blogs, per usual, laughing so hard over some seriously funny pieces at the McSweeney's, and just enjoying this insanely addicting world of the web.

Some days ago I saw the movie Paris, Je T'aime and fell in love with it. Eventhough I've never been to Paris, I feel like in a way I already know the city, thanks to authors like Colette and Hemingway and movies like Before Sunset, Amelie and now, of course, this one. Its actually an anthology of 18 short films set across different Parisian neighborhoods from directors the world over, each showing their unique perspective on the City of Light.

Watching the film, I was struck by its diversity and how eventhough it was set in Paris, those stories could have happened anywhere else. There was the young immigrant who had to leave her baby at a day care center only to take care of someone else's baby in a more affluent part of the city, there was the husband who was having an affair and just as he was about to leave his wife she told him of her terminal illness and so he stayed and fell in love with her all over again in the process, there were those two lonely mimes who finally found each other (in jail, no less!) and lived happily ever after, there was a young blind man who picked up the phone, listened to his girlfriend break up with him, and ended up reminiscing about their story during the entire telephone conversation. Of course, like every other anthology, there were a couple of misses, stories that didn't quiet fit in, but I think they also make the film more appealing, for just like in real life, it's messy and not picture-perfect as we want it to be.

There was one story that really touched me, that of an American tourist who had an epiphany about herself and Paris while she sitting alone in the middle of a park and everywhere around her were lovers, families, groups of people. Alexander Payne, bless his beautiful heart, directed this narrative in a way that made it both funny and so very sad at the same time. Aptly, this was the last feature of the film, with a lovely song by Feist playing towards the end:

We all go round and round
Partners are lost and found
Looking for one more chance
All I know is
We're all in the dance

And yes indeed, life is like a dance and we are all a part of it. Movies, music, the internet, and everything else really, tells us of how closely connected we all are to each other, and its so wonderful to be reminded of this again.


My laptop has been out of commission for a week now. It's so disconcerting, to say the least. Now I'm back to paper and pencil for my writing assignments and it feels so different not to have a blank computer screen in front of me, my fingers poised to type away my thoughts, or press the backspace key should I decide to change my words. Not to be able to check my e-mail or read my favorite blogs everyday is also very difficult, I feel like I'm so out of touch with everything and everyone, which is really surprising considering that I didn't even have internet connection in my apartment a year ago.

On the other hand, having so much time in my hands which I would otherwise have spent surfing the net, I was able to do so many things. For one, I've gotten more writing and more sleeping done. I've also been staying outdoors a lot, reading a book at Dolores Park or walking along the pier in The Embarcadero. It was hard at first, letting go of that compulsion to go to the nearest internet cafe, but its gotten better everyday and I could go for days without checking my e-mails now. I realized that like everything else, we could easily fall into our little routines and take away an essential part of those routines and you'll feel a huge sense of disconnect, but then it was also amazing how you'll find other things to do to fill up that void, pretty soon you'll get used to a new routine, and the cycle continues.

Its very cold here in San Francisco today, 55 degrees and grey. This is still another thing that I have to get used to, not seeing the sun intermitently on summer days. But then again, instead of whining and sulking in my little apartment, I'll take this as an opportunity to be quiet, to rest and catch up with the things that I need to do. Tommorrow I'll be in Sonoma County, with its rows of vineyards and endless supply of fresh produce, and it'll be another beautiful day.