Pulling up stakes

Again. Everything unsettled weeks ahead, as per usual.  Even the sunrise. I remember when Whale Boy was small and got sick with those ear infections and chest things he seemed to get so often, he would go all quiet and concentrated and pull away from everyone, as if all of his strength had to go inside to keep things moving there. It meant a relief from rambunctiousness and constant mischief, but I hated and dreaded that quiet of his. 

I guess this means that at some level I’m sick and infected.


boy think

(After a good on and off hour of whining for activity X, which I said we would get to if, and only if, everything else got done.)

Me: OK, that’s enough! If you whine at me one more time we’re not doing X today. Or ever. OK?

Whale Child (considers): OK. How about if I just grunt at you?

Separate occurrence:

Whale Boy (wanders into the kitchen and pulls out one iPod earbud temporarily): Hey. Could anyone think themselves to death, do you think? 

advocacy art

Been thinking about “advocacy art,” following a back and forth with Sefton in the comments to this post.

It seems to me that “advocacy art” is just another term for “engaged literature” (littérature engagée per coinage of Sartre, more on that in this post), but it seems to narrow the focus much more on to the artist. Trying to work out why that is.

I think of advocacy art as created by a member of the community being advocated for — so (to illustrate extremely) a female rape victim would create on behalf of abused girls and women; a discriminated-against Western Muslim for the Muslim community at large; a disenfranchised African-American for victims of racism generally, etc. 

When I think of littérature engagée, I think of broader, universally human themes — workers unite, maybe, or humans unite against the tyranny of the gods sort of thing.

I think of “transcendent” artists, not targeted, (single-issue?) “local” artists.

(And I realize that local particulars can, and often do, illustrate huge universal truths, but that seems an issue apart to me here.)

I wonder. Does belonging to an oppressed community require that one’s creative fealty be sworn to that community? What are the moral and spiritual imperatives here?

Whales? Us?!

Whale Boy’s and Whale Child’s monikers on this blog have come to their attention and they have protested. People will think we’re huge (WB). People will think we’re full of blubber (WC).

While agreeing that on a literal level Matchstick Family would on the whole be a better description of us than Whale Family, I tried to explain that this blog’s title comes off the metaphorical, not the literal, shelf. Via Hamlet and Ogden Nash.

I’m not sure I made a great impact.

Dartmoor boy

Seth Lakeman. Thanks to Rachel who drew Seth Lakeman to my attention some months ago. You have to listen to a song like Kitty Jay to really make out his cool Devon accent, but I like this song better. 

“Dartmoor”, by the way, is one of the search terms that bring the most number of stray visitors to this site, and I must say I have been surprised by the prominent place – as evidenced by the number of poems about it on this blog – that Dartmoor appears to hold in the Very Like A Whale psycho-cognitive map. Who knew?

Dartmoor, Dartmoor, Dartmoor.

snoring bear

Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman.

No complaints here – lyrical rhymed iambic dimeter with lots of anapestic substitutions, occasionally running into trimeter. A cute cozy story with charming illustrations, enhanced by a short moment of growling tension that is amicably resolved. For ages 3-7, so Whale Child is on the older end for it, but he loves it and can listen to it endlessly.


Bronzeville Boys and Girls by Gwendolyn Brooks. This is a re-issue of a collection of poem about kids in Chicago’s Bronzeville area that was originally published in 1956. The illustrations are by Faith Ringgold and the poems are about different kids living different everyday moments in the neighborhood.

As a whole, the collection was not a hit with Whale Child or with me. Although Ringgold in general does very very attractive work (check out her website at the link), these illustrations did not grab us. There was none of the wackiness that would appeal to a six-year-old (the book does say ages 7-10, so that may be part of it) and to me they were frankly somber, if not downright depressing, with a lack of movement and brightness — all the faces so impassive, if not actually sorrowful-looking — that is very interesting from an adult perpective but just did the book in as a children’s book, in my view.

The pieces themselves are in rhyming di- or tri- or tetrameter, many of them in ballad style, with some old-fashionedness both of diction and of activity described, which is to be expected, given that they were written in 1956. There was a little too much about fairly prim little girls in frocks and ribbons and white ankle-socks for Whale Child’s taste. We’ll revisit this one in a year or two and see.

Engaging the internet on the internet’s terms

Preferring cozying up to the internet to getting into a fight with it, here’s a new poetry magazine with an up-to-the-minute approach: Cold Front Magazine.  And their daily This Morning page has an a RSS feed so I can read it via Bloglines, the way I read all the blogs I follow!   (Hat tip: Deborah Ager.)

Update: All their pages have feeds. Am I the only one who is totally amazed that Poetry Daily and Verse Daily don’t have RSS feeds? Way to become quickly irrelevant in this day and age, or what.