Like many people in the USA today, I woke up to the sad news about South Carolina. My radio alarm came on to wake me for lap swimming, and it told me about an old church...I feared a hurricane had taken it...but it was the shooting instead. Oh, dear. So I counter that hate with love. Here is a photo, taken by my daughter, at a wedding we attended in South Carolina. We know there is love there, and beauty. Healing thoughts, people. I've been busy (and gone), and reading, and swimming. I'm sure I'll be back to blogging soon.
What a delight to have been featured this week in The Wardrobe's Best Dressed series in The Sundress Blog. (And probably my favorite kind of dress is a sundress, from childhood on! And one of my recent calendars came from Sundress Publications; it featured the men of Sundress--in sundresses!) The current series curator is Donna Vorreyer, a poet I admire, so I am doubly/triply/quadruply honored!
The Wardrobe contains poems from my recent chapbook, Interior Sculpture: poems in the voice of Camille Claudel (Dancing Girl Press, 2014), which arose from a collaboration with Columbus Dance Theatre on the production of Claudel, about the life and work of Camille Claudel, a sculptor, whose work lives in the Rodin Museum in Paris. We hope that someday Claudel will be performed in Paris, too!
All 3 of us called our mom today, and our dad. And I was lucky enough to see both my kids--one in Chicago and one in central Illinois, thanks to Amtrak. Thanks for the chocolates and the flowers, my dear ones! Thanks for all the joy. Thanks for being born. Thanks to my hubby for Chinese food by candlelight with our daughter during a power outage. And now it's so late that Mother's Day has turned into a Blue Monday in the blog. Clearly, we're not blue here.
This April has been the busiest month ever, but now it's May, it's May, the lusty month of May, and it's also Slattern Day in the blog, so I'm celebrating with a new word I learned from Grandiloquent Word of the Day: Cover-slut, evidently a real apron! I will also celebrate by getting grubby again in the back yard, gardening, just puttering and stopping rather quickly to read and write, and then tracking in new-mown grass, and then sort of sweeping the kitchen floor.
My parents being among them! As it happens, I write the script for the entertainment for this event (part of my busy April), so it's been fun to revisit the stories of their lives as well as learning more about the other two honorees. In the banner picture at the museum website, you can see my mom at last year's event: blue dress, long braid down her back!
OK, the Russian thing just keeps happening, meaning coincidences involving Russia. First, here are some lovely matryoshka, made of glass, by Masha Emmons. They were her senior art project, purchased for display at the Center for Liberal Arts at Illinois Wesleyan University, where one of her paintings will also hang in the Ames Library. (A bit of extra delight: Ames Library was a favorite reading spot for Chris Al-Aswad, who founded Escape Into Life.) And wouldn't you know, our EIL reviewer, Scott Klavan, has just reviewed Dr. Zhivago, the musical.
This caused me to remember that when I read the Boris Pasternak novel as a teen, I loved it. "What did you like best?" my parents asked me. "The poetry," I answered, surprising even myself. Surely I loved the love story and the battle of political philosophies. But I do remember when I turned to the back of the book and found all the poems there, I was struck by the magic of it; it made it all so real. As it was!
And we've had a weensy return to winter here, temps in the 30s. So it's definitely a Random Coinciday, as well as a Russian Hump of the Week!
My reading has led to more pithy sayings, wouldn't you know, and people quoting other people, so now we're all like nested Russian dolls. In this fabulous interview in The Sun, David Mason quotes Ernest Hemingway saying, "Remember to get the weather in your damn book." It might not appear in the online snippet I've linked here--I've got the print version--but you will find Mason quoting Robinson Jeffers on finding "the honey of peace in old poems." I like that.
Speaking of snippets, my poem-a-day prompt for today is "a snippet of overheard talk," which may get me in trouble with 1) the devil 2) CollageMama, as you can read in her blog entry, "Prohibition against eavesdropping." This is a poem I have yet to write, but I have overheard the conversation.
Lately, the Russians have been reading my blog, and I don't know why. So today I've invented a reason. Lastly, thanks to Wikipedia for the Matryoshka dolls.
Speaking of sayings, Ernest Hemingway said this: "All things truly wicked start from an innocence." That shook me. On a more cheerful note, I'm reading Do-Over! by Robin Hemley, about re-living icky moments to make them into better moments. He quotes W.H. Auden in "Honour" saying this: "The first truth a schoolmaster has to learn is that if the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise; in other words, to leave well enough alone and not to give advice until it is asked for, remembering that nearly all his education is done by the boy himself with the help of other boys his own age. There is far too much talk of ideals at all schools. Ideals are the conclusions drawn from a man of experience, not the data: they are essentially for the mature."
This struck me in 3 main ways. One: I hope I'll one day become wise as I persist in folly. Two: I hope I remember the necessary restraint till my children ask for advice. So far, sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Three: I ran into a lot of idealism in my youth and became something of an idealist. Now, I'm more of a realist.
A few pages later in Do-Over!, Robin Hemley attends the film Perfume with some teens on a "Breakout" from boarding school. Whoa! I've seen Perfume--recently, by chance, making this a Random Coinciday in the blog. (It's supposed to be a Slattern Day, but I tidied up the flower beds.) The film is based on a book.
Hemingway continues, "So you live day by day and enjoy what you have and do not worry. You lie and hate it and it destroys you and every day is more dangerous, but you live day to day as in a war." He's talking about his love life. No doubt he had to live this way, a veteran, his life utterly changed by war. But I don't want to live that way. Even if it's folly, I persist in preferring peace.
Of course, wise Auden also said this, in "September 1, 1939," a famous poem about the start of the next world war: "I and the public know / What all schoolchildren learn, / Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return."
Busiest April ever. Still writing a poem a day, plus reading plays for a contest, attending play readings, drafting scripts, editing, and working. Sometimes I forget to eat, which can be remedied by chocolate-covered raisins, wine, and giant reception cookies at campus events. Yes! (Making this a Fat Tuesday as well as a Random Coinciday in the blog.) In connection with The Paris Wife, I recently re-read A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway, which was one of Paula McLain's main sources for her novel. I'd forgotten how funny Hemingway could be, and how snarky, easily betraying his friends, but he is also tender in this memoir, and you hear his regret, and his recognition that his first wife, his Paris wife, was his real wife. "I loved her and I loved no one else and we had a lovely magic time while we were alone." I was surprised at how moved I was by this the second time around. (Moved, heh.)
I have never read this book, Random Harvest, by James Hilton, but I remember seeing the movie as a kid and loving it. Wow! That can happen? It's an amnesia story and a love story. Like Septimus in Mrs. Dalloway and various Hemingway figures, the main character suffers from shell shock in the first world war. So my reading lately has connected. Then, the book review editor at EIL posted a review by Sarah Sloat of a book of sayings and I went to a Jesus Seminar on the Road about the Gospel of Thomas, among other things, which is basically also a book of sayings. Thomas Jefferson would have liked it, a gospel without miracles. He is said to have cut up his Bible, clipping out all the miracle stories. Sloat is, during the month of April, writing erasure poems, a similar activity, and other interesting poetry concoctions! I'd say more, but I'm off to see a play in a planetarium.
Big beautiful moon out there, peeps! Speaking of Peeps, the Washington PostPeep Diorama hilarity is upon us. Whenever I see these wonderful Peep worlds, I want to make one...and then I forget all about it. Instead, I do stuff like writing a poem a day in April for National Poetry Month, which gives me 30 drafts to fiddle with for a while. I guess I forget about some of those, too, and find them later, thinking, "What? Where did this come from?" If I can save one line from...breaking. Nope. In poetry, we want lines to break!
Anyhoo, here's a strawberry, upside down. Or right side up. I don't really know. By Jonathan Koch. At the grocery store, a woman was dipping giant strawberries in chocolate. She did not offer me one. I went there for milk, red potatoes, and a prescription refill and came home with wine, M&Ms (pastel and peanut pastel), and Tom's natural soap (lavender). I went to work and came home with The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain. The kids are coming home for Easter. I'm glad I left the Christmas tree up.
Though it's a Slattern Day in the blog, I was not a slattern. I tidied up all day! Plus, I did editing work. What the hey? I loved the sunshine, though the temps stayed so low I had to stay inside, tidying up! I dusted my office! I took paperwork down to the basement, where it will languish. I did lots of laundry and cleaned 2 bathrooms. I did not vacuum, but, clearly Jennifer Anniston did. (OK, the Christmas tree is still up. I'm that much of a slattern, at least. Once the temperature is consistently, convincingly above freezing for an extended period, I will take it and its glass icicles and crocheted snowflakes down.) Yesterday must have been Reject-Your-Chapbook day, as I got two chapbook rejections. I am cheered by the news that the Sundress Blog will feature my chapbook Interior Sculpture in the Best Dressed section of their Wardrobe in May! By then, stuff will be blooming! And I might be wearing a sundress!
"You must change your life," said Rilke. So that's what I keep doing. I've been an encyclopedia editor, a poetry editor, an actor and director, a library clerk, and an assistant professor of English. Now I'm a freelancer, work part time in a library, blog "eight days a week," study the random, tend perennials, and listen to birdsong.