Poemeleon: The Blog


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Entries in Poemeleon (2)


Habitual Poet: Alice Folkart, What I Do On My Summer Vacation, A Letter-Ramble

This post is part of a series exploring where we are writing from this summer. Click to learn more.



Hi, Cati et al at Poemeleon - you asked.  I will answer.

I don't have to go anywhere - I live in Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, over the mountains from Waikiki,within an easy 15 minute walk of a lovely beach and forested beach park - sunshine and shadows - perfect.

I'm bragging.  Yes, I am.  Can't help it.  My husband and I and our large cat moved here five years ago from L.A.  My husband and I are retired. The cat isn't.  He earns his keep by stalking cockroaches, showing us how playful they can be, and then eating them.  I know that some who read about this will screw up their faces and hiss, 'ewwwwww!'  But cockroaches are a fact of life in Hawaii.  Only malihinis (newcomers) are bugged (pun intended, but not a good one) by them.  They are in the hidden cracks and crevices of the cleanest houses, the ones with the most poison bait put out for them, as well as in the dark corners of the Chinese restaurant kitchen, the public restrooms at the mall, in fact, everywhere. 


I won't poison because I don't want Mr. Katt to catch and eat a roach stuffed with poison. 


I'm writing poetry, working on a memoir (which I hide from myself so that I can say I can't find it to work on it), and writing critique, and an occasional flash piece, for the Internet Writering Workshop Practice forum.

Speaking of writing, here's what I wrote last night - spurred by a couple of very dark poems written by friends:


Getting Through the Apocalypse


When it comes,
the Apocalypse,
I'm going to stay
in my room and write.

I will close the windows,
and pull the drapes
so that I won't suffer
the sight

of the sun's demise,
lightning flashes in the skies,
or hear the drear sound
of the rabble, unwise

in its desire to avoid the fire,
to escape, to run,
to find a gun
and shoot someone, just for fun.

Satellites will blink off,
one by one, taking with them
e-mail, phone and texting,
suggesting that the end is near.

Power will go, then water,
then roving gangs will fight for food,
and it will be no good
driving to get away

because it's the last day,
no food, no gas, and you couldn't go
fast enough to escape
those horses, anyway,

the forces of the end,
coming in the night,
and that's why, come the Apocalypse
I'll stay in my room and write.

On paper, with a pen
by candle light.




Sorry about the rhyme, but I'm not to blame - it intruded itself.


Oh and the other thing I'm doing is learning Japanese.  My husband is Japanese, and we go to Japan a couple of times a year.  I've got enough pidgen Japanese to get around and be polite, but couldn't really hold a conversation.  And of course, I was illiterate, which drove me nuts.  But I found a tutor on Craig's List (what a wonderful resource).  She's a native speaker, trained at the University of Hawaii to teach Japanese to foreigners, and she's very good.  Nice person, and very good teacher.  She plunged me into the study by insisting that we do everything in Japanese characters.  Slow start as I learned the two 46-character syllabaries so that I could use the text.  Now we write notes to each other in kana.  I'm teaching myself kanji, the complex characters that Japan borrowed from China.  It's fascinating.  And I'm finding that I can read things meant for the Japanese visitors to our island - the other day I read a little hand-written sign that a fast food place was offering 'acai bowls' and that another store (Aloha wear and swimsuits) was offering a free sarong with any purchase of $50 or more.


I can't remember learning to read English, but it couldn't have been any more satisfying that this.  I'm having such fun, and my husband has developed a sort of fatherly attitude toward me and my questions.  I think he's secretly proud of me.  Keeps telling me that no one in Japan willl care if I used the language correctly, and I keep telling him that not only am I doing it for myself, and hang the Japanese, but that I also would like to understand what's going on around me, what people are saying, what the signage says. 


We're going for a few weeks in late September and I'm really looking forward to it.  I'm very lucky though to have a Japanese speaker at home.


Anything else?  Well, I didn't swim at our beach yesterday because the winds had blown in a herd of Portuguese Man O'War jellyfish.  I've been stung enough to know to stay out of the water while they're visiting.  Poor things.  They don't propel themselves, have no control over where they go, they just float, and if we get in the way of their yards-long tenticles, we suffer.  And they're practically invisible.  When they're around I swim laps in the town recreation pool - Olympic size, sometimes heated, and free to anyone, townie or not.  Isn't that nice?


I'm trying to find out how to trap a mongoose - we have them, and I'd just like to see one up close.  I'll let him go afterward.  So I'm researching their habits and food preferences.  On some of my morning walks I've see a feral cat, pretty little black thing (we have lots of feral cats on the island - sad) hiding behind a trash can, watching a mongoose (looks sort of like a ferret - skitters low to the ground), waiting to pounce.  That cat is probably hungry enough to eat a mongoose.  But some kind ladies bring cat kibble every few days and water, so the cats stay more or less healthy and alive.


This is probably much more than you wanted.  But I had a little break in my day - have done my 4 mi morning walk and seen the sun come up and turn the whole sky gold, I mean, goldy-gold!  It was blindingly beautiful.  Then I hurried home, saw a lone frigate bird surfing the air currents at about 1,000 feet, and got back just in time for my husband to present me with my morning papaya - which was incredible.  This must be the right season.  They're so sweet.  The deal is that I wash the dishes, so I did, and then did some Japanese homework, memorization of sentence patterns - the verb comes at the end and the adjectives conjugate!!!  And then came upstairs to check e-mail - and there you were.


And this is what I have to offer.  It's not that I don't have friends, even other writers, to talk to here, it's just this was a perfect time for me.  Hope that you enjoy this ramble.  But you are in control and can always just close it.


May your summer be a delight, full of ease and pleasure and satisfaction.



Alice Folkart





Alice Folkart writes lives and writes in a suburb of Los Angeles,California.  Her fiction and poetry have appeared in a number of on-line literary journals including, Poems Niederngasse, Nights and Weekends, Ken Again, Laughter Loaf, The Taj Mahal Review (Hindi translation), Long Story Short and 7 Beats a Second.  Alice is working on revisions of her first novel and co-directs the Perfect Day for Poetry Internet poetry workshop on Blueline.




Habitual Poet: Jeff Oaks, What I Do On My Summer Vacation

This post is part of a series exploring where we are writing from this summer. Click to learn more.


I have a regular routine for my summers. I walk my dog in the morning from about 7 am to about 10 am, go to a coffeehouse and write until about 2, do some work around the house until 5, walk the dog between five pm and seven, then eat, read/watch tv/or be social until around 9, then I'm usually in bed by 10, where I usually read myself to sleep. Since I live by myself, I more or less have a writer's retreat.

I like to write in coffeehouses for a couple of reasons. At home, my "practical" mind is too loud. It wants me to clean the whole house before it thinks I deserve to write poems. So, I have to take it elsewhere, out into coffeehouses, where all its anxious nature get quieted. In coffeehouses, practical minds don't have much to do. Mine stops yelling at me and spends all its time silently judging strangers and commenting on their lives. It also can't tell me to clean anything, because it's not our house! So I'm relieved of many duties and can access other parts of my mind, parts that want to pay attention, that love metaphor and sound, that want to remember textures, experiences, names. I should add that parts of my mind also love to eavesdrop on other patrons and steal their language too.

 Plus there's good tea to drink and usually sweet things to eat, which encourages the child-mind to appear.

This summer I'm trying to work on four main projects: 1) sending around a manuscript of poems, "Little What"; 2) writing new poems for a new manuscript that's going by the working title of "The Black Dog in the Middle of the Night"; 3) writing toward a larger prose piece that deals with my mother's diagnosis of terminal cancer and my experience of trying to prepare for what that means, as well as simply articulate the process as she prepares for it; 4) re-draft an essay about men's rooms that I hope will be at least a little bit funny.

And of course I'm trying to keep up with the torrent of books my friends are publishing and recommending!

So I'm sending pictures of my three places: 1) an outside table at Tazza D'oro, my favorite coffeehouse; 2) my own backyard patio table, where I do manage to write sometimes, and where I'm writing this; and 3) a little table at a Dallas Whole Foods, where I sneak off for two hours everyday when I'm in Dallas visiting my mother, which this summer is quite a bit. In one of the pictures, you'll see my dog Andy, who acts as the title character in my new manuscript.



Jeff Oaks is the author of three chapbooks, most recently Shift (Seven Kitchens Press, 2010). He has published poems in Court Green, Bloom, Ploughshares, Seneca Review, 5 a.m., and other literary magazines. A recipient of three Pennsylvania Council of the Arts fellowships, he teaches creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh.