POETS Day! Sylvia Plath

Photo by Megalit, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

Welcome to POET’S Day of the second week in Ordinary Time. Today we try to make anguish take wing, be a light for those in the land of gloom, and bring abundant joy by encouraging you to usher in the weekend a few hours early. Why wait until Friday evening when a slight bending of the truth can get you out of work in the middle of the afternoon? It’s POET’S Day by God’s sake. Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. Dissemble, obfuscate, and gleefully trespass the norms that preserve our hopefully durable civilization, but be as pious about it as you can this time. Be humble and thankful at this opportunity to escape the sultry bonds of employment you’ve been given. Use the time wisely. Marvel at natures grandeur in a local park. Join in fellowship at a local watering hole before happy hour even has a chance to kick off. You deserve it. No matter how you end up spending your gotten free time (remember, stealing hours from work are only “ill gotten” if you fake being sick) maybe take a moment to enjoy a little verse.


This week’s POET’S Day poet is Sylvia Plath which makes banishing anguish, bringing light and abundant joy a thing of the weekend activity rather than the poem. Sorry about the bait and switch. I won’t go into her background because I want to do something different this time and break this week’s featured poem down stanza by stanza. Plath was mentally ill. She described her manic depression in a 1958 journal “It is as if my life were magically run by two electric currents: joyous positive and despairing negative—whichever is running at the moment dominates my life, floods it.” In January of 1963 she told her doctor that she had been deeply depressed for six or seven months. In February of that year she put her head in a gas oven and died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

In the months before her death she wrote poems that would be posthumously collected along with a few of her previously published but uncollected works and titled Ariel, released in 1965. In the introduction, poet Robert Lowell wrote that these were composed at a furious pace, “often rushed out at the rate of two or three a day.” She and Lowell were among those known as “The Confessional Poets” with Elizabeth Bishop and John Berryman among others. None of them were fond of the moniker. In The Wounded Surgeon, Adam Kirsch writes that “Plath scorned the notion of poetry as ‘some kind of therapeutic public purge or excretion.’” Not that it mattered. They all were heavily autobiographical. In Ariel Plath writes of her past suicide attempts, resentments towards her father and husband, and carbon monoxide poisoning should there be any doubts that her suicide wasn’t considered long before it’s execution.

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POETS Day! Philip Larkin

The copyright on this image is owned by Bernard Sharp Edit this at Structured Data on Commons and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

The copyright on this image is owned by Bernard Sharp and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

[Ed. Note: This piece was originally posted at ordinary-times.com on 9/16/22 which was, in fact, a Friday. You can look it up.]

Happy P.O.E.T.S. Day! It’s been over a month since I posted one of these. Sorry, but life interrupts its own course sometimes. Unexplained absence due to a slack work ethic, galivanting across the countryside, or fitful bouts of Netflix bingeing aside, it’s that day again, so let’s let bygone days be bygone days and embrace the ethos of the moment to Piss off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday, and having left work behind begin the weekend early with zeal and vigor and all sorts of other things we might feel when we find ourselves freed prematurely from the surly bonds of work.

I came across this week’s poet after doing one of my occasional listings of books that I feel like I should have read at some point in my life but never got around to. From my most recent reckoning I picked out Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim. Everything I knew about it should have beckoned me earlier. The book is supposed to be hilarious and nasty (in the cruel rather that the Debbie Does Dallas sense.) I love hilarious and nasty (both senses.)

I started it last night and can attest to the nastiness. It’s like a sardonic P.G. Wodehouse tired of an “Oh Gosh!” Bertie Wooster trying to avoid an accidental engagement to be married and recreated him as Jim Dixon, a social climbing would-be lecher, given the right number of bitters, and let him loose on the unsuspecting English gentry. Imagine Wooster as Michael Knight and Jim as Garthe. I’ve only read the first eighty pages so that’s all I can attest to though I can only imagine he’ll get worse as I read on.

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How Do We Repay a Good Deed?

My wife was at the Apple Store, a vile place that is kryptonite to upstanding Android/PC devotees such as myself, where they have those out the door lines. I suspect they make you take your shoes off to pass the threshold like when you were ten and went over to that kid’s house whose mom was a retired marine. The lady in line behind her heard my wife tell the clerk, who likely has a much more outlandish title than clerk, that she was there to replace her Apple Pencil (not ipencil because of “I, Pencil” I assume) as it had ceased. The woman behind her, untitled as far as we know, said that she was there to upgrade her something or another and that her Apple Pencil wouldn’t be compatible with the new set up. She gave my wife her old one.

That was really nice of her. It saved us a hundred and twenty buck or so, bolstered my rosey faith in humanity, and may have set her up for an adversarial interaction with the clerk (technology-duala or whatever) depending on whether iclerks work on icommissions. That eavesdropping line lady is alright.

So how do repay her kindness? We are on the down on the ledger and manners requires at least a gesture of some sort. I can only assume that the electronic item she gave us was first altered to track our location and listen into our conversations. We could put on some sort of show for her.

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POETS Day! Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov Photo by Henry Kellner, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

It’s POETS Day! Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday… yay…

Look. I’m trying to be enthused about sneaking out of work and starting the weekend early, but the college football season is done. Party’s Over, Endure The Sabbatical feels a better fit. August 26 is a long way off and I’m full of existential questions. “Are you really a Saturday if no one misses a holding call?” “How are you not just a secular Sunday?” Justify yourself, Saturday.

I guess all the non-football related fun stuff is still out there and once the pain of loss ebbs I’ll pick up and remember that weekends are still worth living for and shift hours are still damned tools of the oppressor but right now my heart just isn’t in it. Sure, you could dissemble, obfuscate, fudge the truth, and gleefully trespass the norms and delicate pieties that preserve our hopefully durable civilization as per usual, but why? There’s no college football methadone out there. The rules are still the same though let’s face it. We’re just going through the motions here. All means are a-okay in service of the urge to prematurely escape the bonds of employment and settle in at a friendly neighborhood joint a few hours before even happy hour begins, lay comfortably in the grass at a local park, go for a swim, or God forbid, go for a light jog. It’s your weekend, I guess. I’ll need a bit to mourn and acclimate. Thankfully, there’s still verse to pass the time.

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We call it Awesome Sauce: Birmingham Style Hot Dog Sauce

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

“Nobody, I mean nobody, puts ketchup on a hot dog.”
– Harold Francis Callahan

If you like to cook you’ve experienced the private joy of making something from scratch that you usually buy pre-made, finding that homemade tastes better than store bought, and saving money in the process. Simple marinara is a good example of what I’m talking about. It’s remarkably easy to put together. Cheap too. Buy a can of plum tomatoes for a couple of bucks and combine with ingredients – olive oil, garlic, oregano and or basil, a splash of white wine, red pepper flakes, and salt – that you probably keep in the pantry and you have made sauce. You’ll have to wash a knife and cutting board in addition to the pan you’d have to wash anyway if you reheated an eight to ten dollar jar of whatever the grocery shelves have on offer, but since you were in charge it’s exactly as herby and salty as you like it. People will say things like “You made this yourself?” and you can act demure and pretend that it was not that hard but a little harder than it was. That’s just one example. There are plenty more.

If you really like to cook you’ve experienced the mania that drives you needlessly to replicate something that mass market food providers do very well and in the course of replicating you’ll spend at least twice as much as you would grabbing a bottle of whatever and there’s suddenly clean up where before there was screwing a cap back on. Most of the time this type of cooking is done just to say that you’ve done it. I made ketchup once. I’ll never do it again. The recipe called for more onions than tomatoes. I didn’t expect that. Hot dog sauce is a favorite condiment of mine so I figured I’d give it a go. It was disappointingly easy to make with only a modicum of mess but even though most of the ingredients are pantry staples I was able make it cost more than the three bucks I would have shelled out for the fruits of somebody else’s labor. The problem here is that even though there are great products out there I like my sauce better. Now I have to make it a lot.

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POETS Day! The John Milton Edition

[Ed. Note: This piece was originally posted at ordinary-times.com on 11/5/21 which was, in fact, a Friday. You can look it up.]

Congratulations lads and lassies; despite the drudgery of the work week you’ve made it to Friday and the weekend is in sight. But we are not watchers, you and I. We are not mere witnesses to the unfolding of our destinies. We do not wait for the weekend. We seize it. It’s time for a P.O.E.T.S. Day – Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday.

So fake a cough, “twist your ankle,” or just slip out of the office quietly. No one will think the less of you for a lie or minor property destruction in the cause of sidling up to a bar a few hours early.

This week’s get-out-of-work-early gambit requires a smart phone and a roughly eleven megabyte app download. I have a Pixel so I download from Google Play but I’m willing to bet there is an iPhone-compatible app in the iStore.

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A Blog in Full

I’ve wanted to do more with the blog for a while or I’ve been wanting to do more with the blog for a while for precisely that reason. There has been a time over which I’ve wanted to do more with the blog so “I’ve been wanting” seems correct in that it conveys a continual desire over time, but it also seems clunky. “I’ve wanted” leaves it open as to whether I was occasionally hit by a passing fancy. I didn’t even attempt “I wanted.” That makes it sound like I considered and abandoned an attractive idea.

It’s a saw that you can break grammar rules when you know them and I’ve got personal experience that says the rules aren’t always the best way to precisely convey information. I bought a used copy of Warriner’s English Grammar as a refresher and we have a lot of writer on writing books at the house an a few snarky titles like The Deluxe Intransitive Vampire. I’ve wanted to do more with the blog because I think improved clarity will come as a byproduct of practice and grumbling at oddball constructions that either carry the right rhythm but also ambiguity or tell the reader exactly what I mean to say without the slightest hint of wit or character.

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POETS Day! Edna St. Vincent Millay

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

Happy New Year and welcome to the first POETS Day of 2023. It’s not a prime numbered year, but that’s okay. If every year were prime we wouldn’t look forward to them the way we do. I don’t know what new challenges and joys may arise this trip around the sun but I do know that old challenges have a habit of carrying over. Work still takes time away from better uses and you still feel the loss of time most acutely as the miniscule bit of it that is yours to use freely approaches. The weekend is coming. Stop waiting. Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. Dissemble, obfuscate, fudge the truth, and gleefully trespass the norms and delicate pieties that preserve our hopefully durable civilization. Nearly all means are justified by the urge to prematurely escape the bonds of employment and settle in at a friendly neighborhood joint a few hours before even happy hour begins, find a park bench and a guitar and busk, put on your two-tone shoes and play the ponies, or God forbid, go for a light jog. It’s your weekend. Do with it as you will, but in homage to the mighty acronym may I suggest setting aside a moment for a little verse? It’s a particularly good way to pass time waiting on friends who may not run as roughshod over the delicate pieties and were not as successful as you were in engineering an early exit.

I knew little to nothing of Edna St. Vincent Millay until the beginning of this week. I’ve come across her work before and read a few poems here and there, but she was a name on a long list of names I resigned to never find the time to get to know as much as I wished. Her name came up in reference to a crossword puzzle. The clue was “Poet _____ Wylie” and I had “EL_NOR” but if I was right about the across word the name would be “ELINOR.” I’d never seen it spelled that way so I checked Google. There she was. Elinor Wylie. I downloaded one of Wylie’s collections and while some was really good most was structurally impressive with little content or vice versa. It was a small sampling and she was well though of during her time so I’m not passing judgement yet, but I did notice that among those who admired her was Millay, several volumes of who’s work a quick search showed was available at the library down the road. I checked her out.

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Recipe: Inauthentic Steak Tacos

Steak Tacos

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

This recipe came about because my brother-in-law has a wandering eye. He developed an interest in cooking and started watching shows and flipping through cookbooks. He gets a channel called Tastemade that I don’t get. Cable, Satellite, and fitty-leven different internet tv services have made every house like a hotel room where you have to figure out what channel number channel thirteen is on and “Hey. They got Jeopardy at four-thirty here.” Pati Jinich’s Pati’s Mexican Table airs on Tastemade and I think he likes her. “Likes” likes. He gave me her cookbook, Treasures of the Mexican Table, for Christmas and though I haven’t seen the show yet I will agree that she looks cute in the picture on the cover.

I can’t credit Jinich with this recipe because I haven’t had time to do a dive into the book yet. I’ve read the introduction and flipped through looking at pictures and saying things like “Ooh. Pollo a la naranja y chile verde,” (translates as “Kuku wa machungwa na chili ya kijani) out loud to my wife but I can see that I need a trip to the Mexican market before trying any of the dishes. We’re decently stocked for Latin cooking but it looks like Pati’s asking more of my larder than it’s prepared to give right now. I have all the basics for Italian, French, and some regional Mexican cuisines, but she wants me to have a variety of dried chilis that aren’t from Calabria among other things. The book sparked an immediate craving for authentic looking tacos.

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My New Year’s Resolutions

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