the party grinch

There are few things in my day to day life more terrifying than being in a situation where a bathroom may not be easily accessible. When a flatmate has a small party/large gathering without my knowledge, I go into hyper anxiety mode. I wait for no toilet. There are two in our house, however, one is an ensuite attached to said flatmate’s bedroom, upstairs and not really accessible for myself, not for the party going public. 

That being said, other people in my house, drinking, while I’m not around to make sure nothing goes wrong, is also moderately terrifying, because I’m convinced that they will destroy/steal/whatever my many books on the lounge shelves, my huge beautiful 21st birthday present atlas on the coffee table, or our flat ‘mascot’, Cornelius the T-Rex. And, of course, there’s no way that I’ll go mingle with these unknown creatures, partly because prior interactions with flatmates’ friends in this particular home of mine, have proven them to be any combination of yuppie/blokey/bitchy/commercial-lawyery/accountanty/take your pick of adjectives that don’t really meld well with my ‘I’m a book buyer with an English degree and goals of having several novels published one day would you like to see a picture of my pink hair or listen to my Dresden Dolls CDs?’ persona.

And the boyfriend is currently gaming with a friend, so all I can hear in our room, apart from the so-called sociable noises from the other room, is their talk of Saints Row, and the sound effects of the game. So concentration of the ‘lets do some writing!’ variety is somewhat shot for the night – save for the angsty blogging variety. So, my solution, after far too long spent playing Civilization V (the first game I’ve gotten into on a reasonable level since my Sims obsession of yesteryesteryear), is to internet, and contemplate continuing reading Specials by Scott Westerfield – the third book in the ‘Uglies’ series. The writing’s not amazing, and the protagonist’s a little… dull, at times, but the concepts are intriguing, and since a teen-oriented dystopia is on my to-do list, I have the perfect excuse. 

First, of couse, I’d better hit the painkillers. Especially as it sounds as though more party-goers have arrived…

‘vampire weekend are full of it.’ or ‘a tale of oxford commas!’

Warning – the entry uses the word ‘fuck’ a lot. Primarily because Vampire Weekend use it in their song Oxford Comma.

Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?
I’ve seen those English dramas too
They’re cruel.

Dear Vampire Weekend,

I give a fuck about an Oxford comma. Or the fucking around of an Oxford comma, at least.

No love*,

Briar.

*Not to mention that with their accents they sound like they’re saying karma. At least, they sound like a citizen of various Commonwealth locales saying karma. And saying ‘fuck you’ to karma is a Bad Plan, I’m pretty sure. This furthers the feeling of ‘no love’.

Onnnn to the point. Oxford commas, or serial commas, as they are apparently also known (Wikipedia research FTW!) are a little something I’d like to not give a fuck about. In my day to day life, I don’t use them, unless, like Wikipedia suggests, usage makes sense in order to avoid ambiguity in intent. They don’t bother me, I don’t bother them.

UNTIL NOW.

So, back story, I’m queen of ‘creative clutter’ AKA I have a very messy bedroom. And I decided that this morning would be the perfect moment to do a little fixing-up of this situation. Me being me, this resulted in retrieving the haphazardly thrown/draped clothing and sticking it in a pile in front of my wardrobe, prior to sorting between washing basket and hypothetical putting-away, and then deciding it was time to sort out my books. Because tidy books are really my main concern. This, in turn, inevitably resulted in my looking through shelves I don’t normally pick things out from – on this occasion, my bottom shelf, which houses books too big for other shelves. So this includes a few textbooks, picture books that I love, art books, a book on the history of riot grrrl leant to me by Katrina-my-American-BFF, a graphic novel or two aaaand this journal called Through a Gap in the Fence which is a collection of art and words by secondary students the whole country over. In which a poem I wrote in my last year of school, called Petra, found itself published. Yay!

Yay?

Truth is, I hadn’t actually read my poem in these shiny pages. My old English teacher actually submitted it the year after I’d left school, so this is a 2008 publication, even though I graduated at the end of 2007. And the actual printing/sending me a copy took a while too – to the point where it came in the mail while I was on my student exchange in Montreal. So upon my arrival from North American shores, the appreciation of this old-ish poem in a collection of school students’ writing wasn’t paramount in my mind. And I’d kind of forgotten that it had existed, truth be told. So I flipped through, right to the back of the collection where my poem resides (being very last in a collection is kind of a good thing, I think – you don’t get lost in the middle of everything) and read through, admiring some of my work and cringing slightly at my sixteen/seventeen year old attempts at ethereal poetry. It’s still pretty decent, I feel.

Then I got to the last two lines. Read them once, then read them again, then realised what had caused my confusion.

THEY HAD PUT A GODDAMN OXFORD COMMA IN MY POEM.

Let me tell you right now, there was never any such extraneous comma in my original poem.

I wrote ‘she is Byzantine, Lenten and loveless‘ – my intended idea being that she encompassed some sort of Byzantine nature of being both Lenten and loveless. The ‘Lenten and loveless’ was in apposition to the ‘Byzantine’.

When they typed it up for publication, they wrote ‘she is Byzantine, Lenten, and loveless‘.

Which is not what I was going to at all. Which is why my face went all angry-like and I wrote an equally angry-like tweet or three about it. Punctuation in poetry is a different kettle of fish to punctuation in prose. Everything is picked for a reason, Sir/Madam Editor, and even if you’re a cheerleader for the Liberation of the Oxford Comma, don’t take it out on my poem. Please. You made me sad.

In reality, I know that editorial slip-ups occur and the like, but it still fired me up enough to warrant typing – wow – 800 or so words about it. Also in reality, I really do like the Vampire Weekend song. So, the moral of the story is – poetic punctuation is important and editors should realise this, that song isn’t REALLY about punctuation, and any publication is worth celebrating.

In case you wanted to actually read the poem in question, here ’tis.

Petra

She came in the summer.
The one when Christina turned
Sixteen, and we thought
We had grown up.
When we ate strawberries
Behind the boatshed, listening
To Siouxsie Sioux.
We called it ‘old wave’.

The sky is a petulant blue
cloudless, unforgiving
like us, and clarity
like silver tongues
and Lennon/McCartney songs
seems to exist
for a moment.

Petra, she says, without
the Hellenic splendour
we were accustomed to.
She sits beneath
an Andy Warhol print, Campbell’s Soup
but instead of pop art
she is Byzantine, Lenten and loveless
with eyes flat as unlevened bread.

(The editors in the collection also neglected to italicise ‘Campbell’s Soup‘. Jeez.)

the graveyard mission

I’m calling myself queen of the double-entendre for this moment, even though the secondary element of this was only an afterthought once I’d typed ‘the graveyard mission’ as my title. The first plan was to write something moderately interesting (theoretically) about my finally having finished reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – and the protracted period of time it took for me to do so. Hence ‘mission’.

But then my mind started a-workin’, as it does every so often, and I recalled my own graveyard mission of yesteryear, or more of an adventure, I suppose, and decided that its tale deserves telling in some way shape or form. I’ll get to that later. Probably.

Back to the Gaiman. I really do enjoy what he writes, but for whatever reason I seem to take forever to read his books. And normally I read pretty damn quickly – refer back to my day of As The Earth Turns Silver reading splendour. ButAmerican Gods, as much as I love it, took me weeks to get through. I still haven’t finished Smoke and Mirrors, and I’m a self-described short story devotee. And The Graveyard Book followed that trend. I’d heard an excerpt read by Mr Gaiman himself at the NZ International Arts Festival back in March, and this further cemented the feeling that I Had To Get Around To Reading This Book. Since it was also winning stuff left, right and centre. I got it out from the library. I read the first two or three chapters. And then I got distracted. And the return today suddenly popped up out of nowhere, and back to the library it went.

I somewhat forgot about it. I felt guilty when I saw it on the shelf at work, knowing that I had yet to actually devour this book. But eventually, I did get it out from the library again. And again, I let it loiter, instead choosing to get the other books on my plate read. Every time I picked it up, something would distract me, and so it seemed to take an obscenely long time to read – it’s a children’s book, after all (I will say here that being partially geared towards children does not an exclusively child-appropriate book make, and it’s more than recommended for kids and adults alike, particularly as the NZ Arts Fest session where Neil read from TGB was all about YA fiction and what it does or doesn’t mean). But I powered through, and finished it, and loved it. The whole coming-of-age, following-Bod-as-he-grows thing was part of the reason I enjoyed it more and more as it went along – it’s only natural to form something of a bond with a character who grows before your reading eyes, I guess.

Anyway. That is the story of The (Literary) Graveyard Mission.

And so, a telling of The (Real Life) Graveyard Mission. In part. Since this blog isn’t ALL about the book review-ish-ness.

There’s a gigantic cemetery in Brooklyn by the name of Green-Wood, and this one time I went exploring there with two friends, let us call them K and M. It was late afternoon, and we were told as we walked through the gates that we only had half an hour before closing, to which we nodded. We went to find the Angel of Grief statue (which K and I had found once before – it’s a beautiful piece of sculpture and also happens to be on the cover of records by both Nightwish and Evanescence) and went on wandering for quite some time, whilst I wrung my hands and worried about getting locked in. The others weren’t concerned. We walked and talked (M and I collaboratively bemoaned Jodi Picoult, and talked about the merits of short story writing and the like – I’d only actually met Ms M earlier that day) and took in the beautiful surrounds and the generations marked in stone. Iced cookies from a Puerto Rican bakery were produced from K’s bag and eaten. Our phones spent the whole time switched off, disconnect being crucial to this experience. It got later, and when we saw cars heading the drive we made sure we were well away from road-sight, since it was definitely after hours by now. And we continued to wander. Just wander. Contemplative, appreciative, you know. But eventually, we were noticed by a security gentleman patrolling, who told us we had to leave, after we pleaded having gotten lost (not entirely a lie – navigating that place sans map is a mission and a half – like I already said, it’s huge, and our wandering had taken us across the whole cemetery) and proceeded to slowly follow us in his car after having told us in brusque terms which way to go.

At the gate, before unlocking it for us, we had a lecture – I guess my pink hair and K’s tattoos didn’t really endear us to him – and after saying that no, we didn’t have any relatives buried there, he told us, in all his khakied security officer glory not to come back. Does that make us kind of BAMFs? Three slightly alternative looking girlies wandering a cemetery because it was peaceful and gorgeous and we all had a lot of stuff on our minds at that point in time, I think… and we got BANNED by Mr Security Guard.

No names or anything were taken, obviously. We were in stunned silence as we walked away, before laughing our way to the subway. And that was only the tip of the iceberg for the weird excellence that was that night, since it went on to involve vegan pizza in Williamsburg, after dark Rock Band playing, and a spontaneous walk from Sunset Park to the Verazanno Bridge (some 50 blocks, shuffling down a grassy slope and running across a multilane highway – with concrete divider) to sit beside the river-turning-sea, dangling feet over the edge (this was M & I, we were more foolhardy than K and decided to climb over the fence so we could sit right over the rocks.)

One day that story will be told in more detail and more carefully chosen words. In the meantime, here’s a poem I wrote back in July last year, if you’d like to read it, inspired in part by that evening. I don’t do poetry often, but this is one that I rather like.

east and hudson

We get on well with bridges,
you and I.
We need them in our lives.
Our constant search for lights dancing between dark below
and dark above and
glowing overwhelming civilisation on either side.

We are the bridge between
two sides pulling apart, the bridge
gets a little longer every day
like a glacier slowly encroaching upon a valley.

We are the bridge across a harbour mouth
the beginning of ocean
We are land meeting sea
and man conquering the boundaries
of both.

I am standing on a bridge
but there is no water to cross, only sky
I am a shadow on the ground and
a silver speck in the sky
the bridge was not strong enough
it broke away, I was dragged by steel wings

I would build a bridge
across the water
so we  can walk when we’re too poor to fly,
too weary to paddle
in boats constructed from flax and old clothes
and I would meet you in the middle
and we would toss pennies into the sea

wild magic

Over the last week or so, I’ve been rereading Tamora Pierce’s The Immortals quartet. They make for great bus-reading, which I do rather a lot of – given that on a day I have university, I spend close to (sometimes more than) 2 hours on buses. Which is partial excuse for the fact that I’ve nearly finished the fourth book already. I loved Pierce’s various fantastical novels in my tween/early-teen years, particularly her Tortall books (for some reason I never really bonded with any of the Circle of Magic books or characters, despite the fact that one of the characters was called Briar. Or perhaps because of that fact, since the Briar in their world was a boy. What gives?). I revisited them a couple of years back, borrowing a bevy of them from a coworker, but I only really got through the Alanna books and made myself properly read the Circle of Magic books (I did enjoy those ones more at upon my 18 year old reading rather than at 13/14, for whatever reason). I own Wild Magic, the first of the Daine books, somewhere. Magical word, somewhere. Probably it’s boxed up in the garage somewhere, bundled up with Animorphs books and a few craptastic Sabrina the Teenage Witch novelisations.

Anyway. I borrowed all four of The Immortals titles from the lovely Lola Mulot (fellow writer, book-slut and tautologist) and have devoured them. It’s been glorious. Not that my reading log of late hasn’t been enjoyable, on the contrary, but the occasional easy read, particularly of a fantastical nature, is wonderful. Not only is it basically like dragon-flavoured crack, it’s also a reminder of a genre that I’ve been tempted to write myself for quite some time. Before I ever started writing ‘legitimately’ (aka. when my creative writing flame was well and truly ignited by the esteemed Mrs Rosalind Ali of high school creative writing fame circa 2006) I was writing pages and pages of scribble, drawing maps and anatomically questionable pictures of characters from all kinds of ridiculous lands. I had drawers brimming with loose leaf paper and exercise books full of the stuff – mostly terrible Tamora Pierce inspired fantasy lands and people, but the occasional more sci-fi world, too, just to mix it up. Nobody really knew about my weird creative visions, which was perhaps for the best, but it did kind of explain why suddenly writing words that went well together seemed to fit like a glove.

Everyone knows that fantasy is always in vogue for children’s and YA fiction – or at least it has been for the last decade or so. Harry Potter, Twilight, Eragon… it’s all about finding the current creature or trait that’s going to strike a chord with voracious young readers. Although I suppose the average consumer of Stephenie Meyer’s words doesn’t necessarily come under the ‘voracious young reader’ label. Nor would they know what ‘voracious’ means. No matter. I used to prefer – as a teen fantasy creator – the thoroughly immersive foreign fantasy worlds that Pierce uses – as does Christopher Paolini in the Inheritance Cycle – though it seems that the fad of the day, at least in fantasy designed for teen consumers, is fantasy threads running through real life – à la finding that vampires live in the rainiest corners of Washington State, or that there’s a school for wizardry up somewhere in Scotland. It’s a shame, in some ways, but maybe I’ll just have to work with the trends. That, or write for a younger audience, who seem to be more willing to put faith in a hand-drawn, mentally-created map. Either way, a foray into fantasy seems only appropriate.

In the meantime, I’ll get back to Daine and Numair and the Divine Realms. And contemplate the fact that my derby-appropriate roller skates have been shipped and hopefully will be here soon. Très exciting stuff.

boxed in

I’m currently stuck inside the box. Said box is keeping me from finishing a rather crucial essay. And by finishing, I mean starting.

This is me being stuck inside the box –

The essay is on The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Which is an excellent book. But it’s worth 50% of my grade, and I suspect this is what is somewhat freaking me out. I’ve not had such a high percentage reliant on one piece of work before. Cue mild terror.

As an aside, The Appraisal went reasonably well. In the workplace I put on my hyper-upbeat face, in contrast to my cynical bitch face (what can I say, I’m a Gemini) – so that tends to help my case when my work ethic etc etc is being assessed. In a quintessentially back-country kiwi fashion, heck yes!

(I myself am a city (well, suburban) girl born and bred and know nothing of such lingo except as inserted into the ironic jargon of the modern day K Rd hipster.)

Peace out. There is trauma to be written about. And I suppose, when it’s over, and I get a possibly abominable grade, I will then have trauma to write creatively, rather than academically, about, for my own point and purpose. AKA using it as impetus for the poetry that my delightfully sixteen-year-old character Ruby will be writing over the course of her novel.