This is the letter meme. Rick Jones () gave me the letter I. I
gibber about 10 things that start with said letter. If you want to
play, comment and I’ll give you one too.
1. iBook G4: The iBook is my workhorse of a laptop computer. It serves me as a freelance writer, a teacher, a poet and a photographer. Without it, I would have no computer, and I would suck.
2. Illumination: I don’t mean lamps around my house by this, but rather illustrated books. As many of my readers know, I’ve been working on a sonnet sequence (and other poems, of late) which are designed to tell the story of the whole year in two-week increments. I’ve also been trying to put together an illuminated manuscript of the whole project. That part’s not going so well, but it’s still really cool. I was inspired in this project by an amazing book called Goodbye Gutenberg, which is really beautiful and amazing.
3. In the Middle: is a book about teaching English and writing to middle school students by Margaret Atwell, which I really admire. She’s done some amazing things with her students, and I’m really impressed by the stories and techniques she uses in the classroom. I wish I could figure out how to replicate what she does.
4. Interaction is more important than existence. This is a maxim or aphorism by my friend FGL, who I respect and admire deeply. I got it one day in the forest, when I sat down with a dozen Boy Scouts last summer, and we tried to identify all the plants in a one-yard square section of ground in a field. There were twelve different species, and more than sixty individual plants. Then we really started looking, and found about forty more individual animals, mostly bugs, and a couple of signs of other species, namely a bird track (possibly two).
5. Interest, Compound: The basic principle here is that if you spend less than what you make, there is leftover money that you can then deposit in a bank. The bank will pay you interest on what you loan to them, and in theory invest that money in safe portfolios. Each week or month, the bank pays you a fee for continuing to loan them the money. That fee starts small, but builds over time, and adds to the money you put aside in savings for yourself. The miracle of compound interest means that if I put away 10% of what I make in each pay period, and don’t spend it, I will gradually acquire more money for future projects and plans. This is a slow way to build wealth, but it is also sure. I like that.
6. Index Cards are outmoded and out of fashion these days, perhaps. On the other hand, I really like my Hipster PDA, which allows me to write computer lab passes, create memos to myself, write out shopping lists and to-do lists, keep track of dates and times, and (thanks to the miracle of graph-paper index cards) even invent mini-dungeons for D&D games or graph algebraic functions with my students. A system is gradually emerging — white cards for functions eventually pulled out, green and pink for grade books, graph paper for graphs, list cards for lists, yellow cards for sports activities, blue for personal notes, and so on. There are even Post-It index cards these days, which stick to anything, but not really to each other.
7. Iliad: Rage, Goddess — Sing of rage, and the will of Zeus moving to its end, etc. How can you not love a book in which every single person who dies has a name and a patronymic?
8. Irises: Irises are the world’s most sensual looking and smelling flower I can think of. They’re sexy, they’re purple, yellow and green. They’re gothic and curvy and voluptuous and what’s not to like? They’re not long dresses and roses-romantic, they’re short skirts and high heels-sexy, and I love them.
9. Identification Books: Lately, I’ve been spending a good two hours a day in the woods, and I try to spend at least twenty minutes of that time looking at stuff. I look at plants, trees, wildflowers, weeds, birds, bugs and paw prints. Identification books are helping me figure out what I’m looking at. The more I look, the more is becoming integrated into my vocabulary, both as a poet and as a teacher: partridgeberry, sipsissewa, pipsissewa, tamarack, marsh marigold, milkweed beetle, mayfly, rue anemone, wood anemone, norway spruce, red maple, sugar maple, red oak, white oak, elm, pin oak, red-winged blackbird, thrush, grackle, red-tailed hawk, black vulture, robin (Turdus americanus), princess pine. The list is growing, particularly as things come into bloom. ID Books are helping me get there. My favorite, by the way, is the Audobon Guide to New England, which lists many of the most common plants and animals.
10. Introversion: I’m an introvert, and I don’t mind admitting it. I need some time every day when I can shut the door, and be in silence a little bit — maybe write a poem, maybe play with my computer, maybe read a book. It doesn’t need to be a lot of time, but there does need to be some. Without that time, I get cranky and off-balance, and it sucks. With that time, I’m able to be witty and generous and capable.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled alphabet.