More trumpery, and questions of “meaning”

I didn’t intend to do another “found” poem from a Trump speech, but the following passage, sent by my friend Sallie Reynolds, was irresistible. It’s one single sentence. You choose: read it first, or read the two poems below it first: by me and Winkie Ma, a high-school senior whom I mentor in a writing program. Found poetry was one of our assignments. I brought the passage to a mentoring session and each of us tackled it. Here goes, hold on to your rational mind: 

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“Found” Trump poem

This month’s assignment for my Girls Write Now mentoring program  was “found poetry.” There are several ways to “find” a poem, but our assignment was an “erasure poem,” where you take an existing text and black out lines and words. The poem is what’s left, rather like Michaelangelo and the block of marble. I was in a stream-of-consciousness sort of mood, so I  downloaded a transcript of a Trump campaign speech, and to my surprise—since I’m in no way a poet—produced something that I rather like. (WordPress doesn’t let me reproduce the line breaks nicely, so I turned it into[…]

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The Trojan Purse and the subversive woman

This ten-foot high wooden purse on wheels was part of a week-long art festival in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Happily for me the artist, Ethan Crenson, was on hand the day I came upon it, conducting dialogues with curious passersby. Why a “Trojan” purse? Was it filled with some kind of subversive material? No, Crenson told me. It was empty. The idea was that everyone could project their own feelings or ideas into it—anger at capitalism, the political system, whatever. I didn’t ask him why he’d chosen to make it a purse—probably because my own imagination immediately supplied a rationale.

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My Girls Write Now mentee in Newsweek!

Every June, Girls Write Now, where I volunteer as a writing mentor for a teenager, publishes an anthology of specially polished pieces by that year’s group of girls. This year Newsweek ran a big story on the GWN program, featuring six selections from the anthology. And one was by my own mentee, Winkie Ma! I am beyond thrilled. Her piece came out of one of GWN’s monthly genre workshops: Dystopian Flash Fiction. I had vaguely heard of flash fiction but had never met it, so to speak. I haven’t written fiction since my 20s, so a fiction workshop is a[…]

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Self-sacrificing women: free tipsheet for you

An issue that hasn’t gone away How many men would eat food they don’t like because their wife likes it? Or wear clothes they don’t like because she wants them to look a certain way? Women do these things all the time. I did them with my former husband. In my book Slaying the Mermaid: Women and the Culture of Sacrifice, which uses Andersen’s Little Mermaid as an image of the ultimate self-sacrificing woman, I investigated why so many women feel obliged to put other people’s needs first—even when they don’t want to. I discovered that the self-sacrificing impulse comes[…]

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Creativity all dried up? Try this

If ever your brain battery feels dead, this exercise will give you a recharge. I learned it in my Girls Write Now mentoring program and tried it out with Winkie Ma, my teenage mentee. Start by generating a random list of 5 words. We used a smartphone set to Swype. Squiggle a finger across the keyboard and it’ll pop out a word. We took turns doing this til we had five words. (Half the fun is inventing new swyping patterns and seeing what words you get.) You can also use a website like this one to generate your words. Or[…]

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Writing—and paying attention

This fall I became a volunteer mentor for Girls Write Now, an organization that pairs New York City public high school girls who have a passion for writing with professional women writers who pass on their craft. I find myself going back to basics, trying different writing styles and genres; it’s a little like being a baby writer again. My mentee and I began with exercises in the building blocks of writing: interviewing, note-taking, description. Last week, we did character description. We sat on a bench in a plaza outside a mall and picked out a man sitting a couple[…]

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How [high][deep][wide][fine] can awareness extend?

Into your little toe, at least. During twenty years of writing with master body therapist Yamuna Zake, I’ve learned to keep my feet healthy. Key is maintaining the space between the toes, normally squished together by shoes. I use both Yamuna’s techniques and my yoga practice. For example, before doing some standing poses I always spread my toes with my hands. As I did this recently, an exercise from a book Yamuna and I wrote (The Ultimate Body Rolling Workout) popped into my mind. Can you raise all your toes together, and then, starting with the little toe, place each[…]

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