Wordless Wednesday: Zibelemärit edition

November 28th, 2012


November 26th, 2012

One of my favorite Bernese traditions is the Zibelemärit, or onion market, held every year on the fourth Monday of November. It opens at 5 a.m., but I’ve never managed to be there in the early morning hours, not even when we lived in the city and it was just a short walk away. The Zibelemärit dates back several hundred years – up to six hundred years, depending on which story about the origins of the Zibelemärit you believe. The version I like, which happens to be the one that probably isn’t true, is that the tradition dates back to the years following the fire of 1405, which destroyed much of Bern. The story goes that the good people of Freiburg assisted in both fighting the fire and rebuilding the city, and as thanks the farmers of Freiburg were granted the right to sell their produce in the markets of Bern during the month of November. In November, you’d have a lot of root vegetables like onions laying about, wouldn’t you? And so began the Zibelemärit. (The other version, the one that’s probably historically accurate, is that the market is simply an outgrowth of the festivals surrounding the feast of St. Martin. I like the legend better.)

And if you’re wondering how big a market devoted to onions can be, I can tell you this: a total of 627 stands this year, 205 of which offered solely onions, other vegetables, or fruit. 145 stands offered food and drink, ranging from the traditional Zibelechueche (onion quiche), Chäsecheuche (cheese quiche, and one of my favorite Swiss words thought not one of my favorite Swiss foods), and Glühwein (hot spiced wine) to “American Style Hotdogs” (no, I didn’t stop to try one). The other 277 stands sold everything from vegetable slicers to traditional ceramics to clothes to cheap plastic trinkets.

Now early in the morning, apparently, plain onions are sold in bulk by farmers to restauranteurs, but the glory of Zibelemärit are the Zwiebelzöpfe, or braided onions:

Stand after stand of lovely Zwiebelzöpfe:

The early evening news stories I’ve seen from today suggest 58 TONS of onions were sold at Zibelemärit this year. A few of them, perhaps, in Nuggi (pacifier) form:

With all those onions around, somebody at some point decided people might need some mints, so you can find these colorful strings of candy everywhere:

People buy these candy strings and then wear them around their necks. Traditionally they were always mint flavored regardless of the color of the wrapping (all those onions, you know), but now there are stands that sell the candy in other flavors as well: orange flavored in the orange cellophane, lemon flavored in the yellow, and so on. I prefer the traditional mint, but this year the boys wanted orange and lemon flavored for their strings.

Then there is the confetti fighting, and the hitting of people on the head with foam hammers, which is, I’m sure, a much younger tradition than the Zibelemärit itself. Although my husband participated in the confetti and hammer madness as a child, so it’s not brand new. It was rainy today, which made for some soggy dirty piles of confetti on the streets but sometimes it also almost looked pretty.

Poetry roundup

November 23rd, 2012

(Posting this a day later than usual, because I figure nobody’s paying attention on Thanksgiving. Probably nobody’s paying attention the day after Thanksgiving, either, but there’s a better chance at least.)

I printed out a first draft of my chapbook manuscript earlier this month, and although both the manuscript as a whole and several individual poems within the manuscript need a great deal of work before I can send this thing anywhere, I have reached the point where I am starting to think about it as a manuscript as opposed to a pile of poems I’ve been working on. Compiling and ordering a manuscript introduces a whole new set of questions regarding structure, order and intent than writing what I flippantly call “one-off” poems does, so I’ve been reading up on how to think about ordering a collection. Here’s a sample of what I’ve found:

My manuscript is probably at the right stage to take some of this advice in this post, “It’s 2 a.m. Do you know what your manuscript is doing?” by poet Kelli Russell Agodon (Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room). She’s got a great list of things to think about once you’ve got the majority of the creative work done and are ready to turn that pile of poems into something more coherent. Like, if somebody asked you what your collection is about, could you tell them? How many sentences would it take for you to explain it? It’s the question she put in the title of her post: what is your manuscript doing?

Over at the This Frenzy blog, Elliott batTzedek takes a look at some of the possible theoretical approaches to ordering a collection in her “Notes on the Syntax of the Book

Once you’re ready to really impose structure on that pile of poems, read “On Making the Poetry Manuscript” by Jeffrey Levine (adapted from his essay “Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Poetry Manuscript” which originally appeared in the January 2007 issue of AWP Job List). The conversation and advice continues in the comments section, so be sure to read those as well.

More thoughts about order and structure from Kelli Russell Agodon here (part 1), here (part 2, Order), here (part 3, Sections Yes or No?), and here (part 4, The Final Revisions). Poet January Gill O’Neil (Underlife) also blogged about ordering her manuscript here. Again, advice and suggestions continue in the comments section so keep reading.

The book Ordering the Storm: How to Put Together a Book of Poems, edited by Susan Grimm, came up on both those blogs. I have only just begun to poke around in it, since I have only just gathered a pile of poems into something resembling a manuscript, but this collection of thoughts about ordering a manuscript from eleven different contributors offers a wealth of ways to think about how to go about this. Perhaps too many ways.

April Ossmann offers some thoughts on the process from an editor’s point of view in this 2011 Poets & Writers article “Thinking Like an Editor: How to Order Your Poetry Manuscript.”

And as you can see, if you just google “thoughts on how to order a poetry manuscript” you’ll have a wealth of options to choose from. Feel free to add thoughts and suggestions in the comments.

Poetry roundup

November 15th, 2012

Jack Gilbert died on Tuesday. (That’s a link to the New York Times obituary, by the way, for those of you who can only access a certain number of free articles per month). I was introduced to his poetry late, only about three years ago through a woman in my writing group, but he quickly became a favorite for his both his directness and his restraint. Though clearly madly in love with the world, his work was as far from sentimentality as that of any poet I’ve ever read. Read, for example, “It Is Difficult to Speak of the Night” or “The Sirens Again.

His poems embraced all the grief of life and all the wonder and recognized the moment of intersection. The possibility. The necessity. He spoke about his belief that poetry should have above all an emotional impact in this 2003 interview and says this:

What’s the reason to write poetry? It’s not a hobby. It’s one of the major ways of keeping the world human. We have almost nothing else, no craft that deals specifically with feeling. The novel to some extent, but it embodies a different kind of empathy than a poem does, and I suppose film to a degree, but motion pictures are only able to show you the outside of what’s happening. Poetry works on the inside of what’s happening.

I could be maudlin and say the world is a little less human today, but I know too many wonderful poets to really believe that. So go write something, and keep the world human.

Poetry roundup

November 8th, 2012

I was unfamiliar with the work of Joshua Mehigan until about two weeks ago, and then the universe (or the internet, I’m never quite sure) decided I needed to read his work. First, a member of my on-line poetry group posted “Down in the Valley.” Then “The Cement Plant” popped up in my twitter feed. Then somebody posted “Promenade” (which had appeared on Verse Daily). I love when things like this happen, because living in a non-English speaking country my exposure to contemporary US poetry is hit and miss. I subscribe to Poets & Writers and a handful of print journals (fewer than I’d like, given that overseas postage about doubles the cost of my subscriptions, meaning I subscribe to about half of what I’d subscribe to if I lived in the US) and I read on line and subscribe to any number of daily/weekly poem in my in-box listings, but it feels very random somehow. I always feel a bit “out of it.” Maybe I’m not, maybe it’s that built-in expat feeling, or maybe there are just so many interesting poets out there and only so many hours in the day that there will always be somebody out there I haven’t read yet. At any rate, I like when the world gives me reading suggestions.

One of those daily poems I subscribe to, by the way, is Poetry Daily (actually I have the app and read on my phone), which is where I read “God, God” by Fleda Brown.

I’m taking a deep breath and calling this pile of papers a manuscript

November 5th, 2012

I read through my manuscript from start to finish today. It’s uneven – the poems in the third section are by far the strongest, making the weaknesses of some of the earlier poems really stand out – but it’s essentially complete and has “good bones” as a critique partner of mine likes to say. I’ve added a voice, so I’ve now got three characters and each one of them gets their say at least once; this has complicated things a bit but I think I can keep the voices clear for the reader through titles. There are a few holes I need to fill in, meaning writing a few new poems to address an aspect of a relationship that’s not fully explored, and once those are written – I think I need six – NO MORE NEW POEMS for this project: I’ve written too many poems that the manuscript doesn’t “need” as a way to avoid revising the poems that exist.

Do any of you do that? Continue to write new material as a way to procrastinate on the hard work of revision? At least it’s productive procrastination, but it’s procrastination nonetheless and I want to finish what I’ve started here.

Also: I write a bad sestina. And by bad I mean actually bad, as in the opposite of good.

Poetry roundup

November 1st, 2012

I’ve mentioned before that you can sign up for a daily poem in your in-box from Rattle, but I didn’t mention that it’s not always a poem they send to your in-box. Sometimes there might be an author interview or sometimes a book review. Tuesday’s email brought a review of A Dance in the Street by Jared Carter, which intrigued me enough to hunt down a full version of one of the poems excerpted for the review. You can read “Snow” here, and Rattle’s review of A Dance in the Street is here.

“Snow” got me poking around Jared Carter’s website and oh! oh! “Clavichord.” For so many reasons.

Over at Bare Hands Poetry, “Smoke” by David Rudden.

Breaking the pattern of one-word titles, “Wednesday’s Foolish Love Song” by Michaela A. Gabriel in Pebble Lake Review.