a triumphant return
long time, no see.
i am in beirut right now, back from my trip to syria and turkey with sarah (gsi sarah). my parents are here too, and they're coming back to cairo with me on the 25th.
i didn't update at all last semester. i tried a few times. the truth is, i was not very interested in anything, which made me feel uninteresting. and uninteresting people should not write blogs.
the truth is, cairo defeated and deflated me.
but now, it's time to "pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off" and get happy.
traveling was pretty awesome, but i don't feel like writing all about that right now since it is 12:36am and i am sleepy. but since i've been back in beirut i've had some time to (once again) read more random things on the internet, and i wanted to record some that i thought were especially cool.
first of all, i've read a few comments on the inaugural poem by elizabeth alexander from people who were less than impressed. i actually really liked the poem, but then again i'm not much of a poetry reader, so that's just an under-informed emotional reaction from someone who was pleased as punch to drink in any little piece of that inauguration ceremony. to me, it captured the mood of the day perfectly. it felt like a series of snapshots of a national community of ordinary people, all frozen "on the brink, on the brim, on the cusp," ready to take the next step in unison. i especially loved the last stanza. i wasn't a big fan of her reading, but then i don't think poets are really used to reading their work in front of a million and a half people, and all of america and the entire world on television, so i think i'll give her a pass. plus, turns out barack obama is a tough act to follow. here's the text, as posted in the new york times:
"Praise Song for the Day"
Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.
All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.
Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.
We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.
I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,
picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.
Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?
Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.
In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light.
and a commenter on a times articles about the poem suggested this carl sandburg one (which incidentally is from a collection called chicago poems) that i liked, too. but it has a totally different mood.
Out of your many faces
Flash memories to me
Now at the day end
Away from the sidewalks
Where your shoe soles traveled
And your voices rose and blend
To form the city's afternoon roar
Hindering an old silence.
I remember lean ones among you,
Throats in the clutch of hope
Lean ones written over with strivings,
Mouths that kiss only for love.
Records of great wishes slept with,
And prayed and toiled for.
And your throats
I read them
When you passed by.
okay, so that's great.
and THEN i saw an awesome slide show essay in slate today of photos by robert frank, who went on a road trip across america in the 1950s and published his pictures in a book called the americans. it's here.
i really like the last one. it's kind of strange though: i think if anyone else took a picture like that, with random people staring at the camera, and all crooked like that, they would just throw it out and try again for a proper shot of the view of san francisco from that hill. i mean, i have a ton of pictures sort of like that one from my trip, and i call them mistakes, not art. if i ran across a picture like this one on facebook (in color, not black and white; black and white turns EVERYTHING into artsyfartsyness), i wouldn't call it art. but i think i would wonder about those people: what they're doing there, what kind of expletives they're about to yell at the photographer, etc. so i guess that's why i like it. it's cool, unassuming, unpretentious. it feels like people-watching, but a step removed. like i'm watching people watch people, because there's a relationship, a fight there between the couple and the camera.