Monday, August 3, 2009

In Honor of Shark Week, the Academy of American Poets Presents...

Poems for Shark Week

Where the fin of the shark cuts like a black chip out of the water...
—from "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman

In honor of Shark Week, the Discovery Channel's annual weeklong series of television programs devoted to sharks, has compiled 35 Poems about Sharks, and examined how the animals have been represented in classic and contemporary poetry.

Described by poets as "death-scenting," with "lipless jaws" and "eyes that stare at nothing, like the dead," sharks have long served as a cultural symbol of mortality and looming danger. Despite the fact that sharks kill fewer than 20 people a year, their reputation as the ocean's most allusive and deadly predator continues to inspire fear and fascination in audiences throughout the world.

Included are poems by Carl Sandburg, Robert Graves, Martín Espada, Denise Levertov, Joel Brouwer, Walt Whitman, Tomasz Rózycki, Herman Melville, Alan Dugan, James Dickey, Vivian Shipley, Jamey Dunham, Nancy Willard, and many others.

On the web at:

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Hurt Locker is the Most Realistic Film About War... I Think

Last night I saw the war movie Hurt Locker at the Towne Centre in Provo, and if you live in Provo and you weren't in the theater with me, you probably missed your chance--independent movies with no big names, this is probably a one-weekend-only deal.

Too bad.

This movie, as far as I can tell, realistically depicts not just the fear and moral indecisiveness of war, but something also of the tedium and boy-stupidity (as illustrated when the company gets sloshed on whiskey and compete to see who can punch whom in the stomach the hardest). There were a couple of instances where I think the soldiers probably would have shot first and give warnings later--when a taxi breaks the perimeter of a IED scene at 50 mph, you can probably assume that he's not just a bad driver--but other than that, this film was remarkably true to life.

I think.

Because, you know, I haven't been to war. Not this war, not any war. I'm not particularly signing up at my local recruiter's either, because I'm pretty sure that I would be bad at war; heck, I'm bad at laser tag. I don't even know what a realistic depiction of war is, aside from what I can cobble together of my own generalizations on life, magazine articles, and the scenery in Call of Duty IV.

I do this thing, Soldier's Angels (yes, that's the correct position of apostrophe, though it drives me mad), which is all kinds of awkward for me; you're supposed to write encouraging letters to a complete stranger in the armed forces. I remember this kind of exercise in embarrassment from my Young Women's days, but sub "missionary" for "soldier." What do you say encouraging to someone you don't know? "Hope things are going well," "We're rooting for you," "Let me know if there's anything I can do." Then add to that the fact that, generally speaking, I have no idea what soldiers need to hear. "Don't get yourself killed." "Don't feel bad if you shoot a civilian terrorist." "Please don't commit any autracities that will reflect poorly on America."

But they tell me that things like this, giving support to soldiers, is one of the most important detirminants on a soldier's deployment and post-deployment mental health. And even though I'm not a big fan on the wars, I still think that the fewer really psychologically messed-up folk out there, the better. So mostly, I just send chipper postcards and packages filled with peanut butter and gaterade packets. Because, I can guess, as someone who's been in a foreign contry away from her family, that sometimes it's nice just to get a pile of mail from headquarters.