Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Monday, September 5, 2011

Free Poems on Demand at the Decatur Book Festival

A man with three daughters.  Good legs. Monsters.  Hiding.  Sambones the dog.  Red lemons.  Sandwiches.  Bacon.  Healing.  Peace.

1.  Are the above names of...

a) Next year's summer blockbuster titles
b) Poetry titles
c) Award-winning Thoroughbred horse names
d) None of the above

If you were to pass the Free Poems on Demand tent at the Decatur Book Festival you might be able to deduce the correct answer, b) Poetry titles.  On Saturday afternoon I joined a couple of other poets from Free Poems ATL to write free poems on demand for festival-goers.  Free Poems ATL is a literary performance group that launched at last year's Decatur Book Festival and writes free poems based on any topic requested.    

Some passerby were hesitant to request topics.  Four people requested a poem about love.  One elderly couple approached the table, wanting a poem about love.  Jimmy, the poet sitting next to me, responded to the women that three love poems had already been written and suggested that she choose another topic.  "Well, how about old people love!" she exclaimed, "We're recently married," she softly explained.  Another person named "poop" as a poem topic.  One young man requested a poem for himself, wanted another poem for his sister, and called his mother asking her to choose a poem topic.

On average each poem took me 12 minutes to write.  

Here is a poem I wrote about bacon:

                                                            Another poem about hiding:

And last, my favorite poem of the day about red lemons:

Monday, August 22, 2011

Table-to-Farm: A Compost Institution

One of the more recent (and I might add, increasing fascinating) tenants in my apartment-block brain, is composting.  As I learn more about composting or the transformative process of food scraps to nutrient-rich soil, I can imagine this waste reduction process taking on an environmental "coolness" factor akin to bringing canvas bags to the grocery store to eliminate the paper or plastic bags you consume each shopping trip.  Food waste is the second largest waste stream in the United States after paper, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.  (Pretty interesting considering we are suffering from a national obesity epidemic.)  Considering this disturbing fact, why is composting not more institutionalized as a common form of recycling?  We have bins for plastic, paper, and glass--but where is the bin for my banana peel and stale bread?  Farm-to-table dining is the foodie's buzz word of the year.  But what about table-to-farm?  How about a full-cycle food industry?  A girl can dream.  For now I'll add "American Wasteland: How America Throws Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It)  to my reading list.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cycle Culture

The instructions to my 2009 red Yamaha scooter documents each nut and bolt to my machine.  Literally.  The owner's manual details how to take off the side panels for a peek at the engine, outlines the air induction system, and catalogs where to get spare parts and new varnish for body touch-ups.  The maintenance schedule gives me the knowledge to offer informed guidance to my mechanics on what needs to be done at each mileage check-up.  But where are the rules about cultural cycle norms?

Beyond legalities, there are unspoken cultural nuances to scooter driving in Atlanta.  One of my favorites is the motorcycle wave.  It's akin to a secret handshake of an underground fraternity.  A quick dropped arm at a downward sloping 45 degree angle before returning to the safety of the handlebar grip.  This wave is a call to solidarity among scooter riders.  When I drive around town and pass another scooter driver we will use the wave as a friendly hello or simple recognition for the choice to be on two wheels.  Motorcyclists sometimes wave.  Their choice to wave, perhaps, depends on pride.  I find some motorcyclists to regard a scooter the way a child on a two-wheel bicycle would pitifully watch a toddler on a tricycle.  I let them silently guff.  They can't ride their machines in stiletto heels.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Don't have a good solution? Ask a better question.

"The mere formulation of a problem is often far more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.  To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science" 
     -Albert Einstein 

Have you ever found a solution to a problem you faced?  How did you discover the solution?  Was there a series of questions involved?  How did you know what to ask?  Did you ever question yourself, or others?  Do questions beget questions?  Could a question create noise?  Could a question create silence?  Should a question have inalienable rights?  Would a question have regrets for being a question?  Are questions ever envious of declarative statements?  What does a good question taste like?  For that matter, what does a bad question taste like?  Is there ever a bad question?  What makes a good question?  What makes a great question?  What makes an outstanding question?  Have you ever questioned your questioning? What if you thought in questions all day long?  

Friday, July 15, 2011


To travel is to live said H. C. Anderson.  His eternal words caught my eye and captured my heart in the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, Sweden.  After spending four engrossing hours in the small three room museum these words described my then current thoughts exactly.   I feel confident that H. C. Anderson and I would have been friends on facebook and I certainty would have followed his blog and perhaps his tweets as well.

I've alway appreciated quotations, particularly concise quips that read like a poetic mantra by which to live.  The 42 country stamps in my passport attest to the comings and goings of a self-proclaimed global citizen. But a victim of wanderlust?  Hardly.  This oft-diagnosed condition may cast an inaccurate reflection of the intentions of a well-seasoned traveller.  I'm not dealing with high school crushes anymore--I'm in wanderlove.  Love makes the world go round and so does an overnight bus to Oslo, Norway.  Perhaps, travel is like summer camp for adults: an opportunity to make new friends, learn new skills, and be in love with languid humid days.  This isn't my first trip and won't be my last as a traveling bon vivant.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

What Happens When It Rains?

When I tell people that my red Yamaha scooter is my main (and only) method of transport around the city they ask any number of questions.  Precipitation is sometimes a question they pose.

"What happens when it rains?" Their faces begin to twist in concern.

"Well..." I pause as I search for the missing correct answer that will appease their worried expressions. "...I get wet."

Staying dry while riding is something I appreciate and I do take caution to protect myself from the elements (i.e. acid rain).  I own a raincoat.  But there are times when even waterproof polyester won't cut it.  Thursday of last week was one of those times.

Just as I turned onto the busiest street in Atlanta on my way home from work, it concurrently erupted from above and in front of me.  Sheets of rain soaked me almost immediately and wind blasts threatened my balance.  In order to avoid any accident I was forced to pull over.  I stopped under an overhang and parked my bike in front of a dry cleaner's shop.  The Chinese restaurant next store called out to me, a reprieve from overburdened clouds.  Inside, I sat and ate my hot and sour soup despite the puddle of water collecting below my seat and the fact that the small enclave was a take-out only joint.

One of my spoonfuls was soon interrupted by the entrance of an exuberant man, who I soon learned owned the dry cleaner's next door and was born and raised in Jamaica.  He chatted with the waitress and took a perch near the counter as I imagined he regularly did.  I listened to his stories of motorcycling in Jamaica: the races; the hospitalized injuries; the trips along the open road.  My ear was sympathetic, knowing the pains and pleasures of traveling by bike.

The bell rang as he exited the building and I peered outside to assess the weather.  The rain was still falling but not with the ferocity it once was.  I tried to clean up the wet mess I had made to brave once again the gray and puddles and damp that lay ahead.

I made it home, ran a hot bath, and absorbed the warmth like a cold-blooded reptile.  I had gotten wet and somehow it had made all the difference.

The hot and sour soup and friendly conversation with the Jamaican owner of a dry cleaner's shop were pleasant deterrences from a normal routine and reaffirmations of why I love driving on two wheels.  Not only am I more connected to the people in my community; I hear the nuanced noises of the seasonal winds; I feel the cracked asphalt beneath me.

Sometimes it's ok to get wet.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


One four letter word could sum up thousands of fundraised dollars, hundreds of days spent planning, and 12 hours of continuous walking.  Hope is a word that the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life keeps alive for those of us who know how devastating maladaptive cell mutations can be.  Cancer is cureless but certainly not hopeless.

On Friday the 13th a handful of my colleagues and I spent the night participating in Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society's largest fundraiser.  At a local high school track, teams were camped out on the in field with the intent to have at least one person from their team walking around the track during a 12 hour period from 7 pm-7 am.  Cancer never sleeps so why should we?

Our team raised nearly $3,000 between our six members surpassing our goal of $1,000.  Between all of us, we had lost immediate family members, extended family members, and had our own stories of friends and family who had challenged cancer to a dual and won.  Close to midnight, the luminaria ceremony was held and to the light of paper bag candles all relay participants made a commemorative lap to those lost to cancer as well as cancer survivors.  We looked around us and witnessed our community in solidarity; we looked up and saw HOPE.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Decision Points

I recently presented a decision to a Vietnamese friend.  He replied with the following advice,  

"Take two sheets of paper," he started.  "Write 'yes' on one and 'no on the other."  

I suddenly felt sorry I asked and disappointed as I waited to receive the trite wisdom of creating a pro and con list.  

"Throw the two pieces of paper in the air, and catch one of them."  

He concluded,

"Then, you will know your fate."

Another Vietnamese friend offered cryptic advice, "If you give up something, you will get some things."

Sometimes Eastern wisdom is refreshing to Western intellect.