Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Reading Mrs. Dalloway

What a busy week, and it's only Wednesday! I started a new job, which may have yoga in the middle of it! I posted a new poetry feature at Escape Into Life, Julie E. Bloemeke, with figurative art by Dorothy Grostern. We did our taxes!--filed (electronically) and paid (postally). We updated our daughter's FAFSA. And I had a fantastic time working with the playwright, Peter Macklin, director, Duane Boutte, and the fine actors in a staged reading of A Different Time, "a gay-themed play," as it says on the program, sponsored by The Prairie Pride Coalition and ISU's Department of Theatre and Dance.

And I've been reading Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf, inside The Mrs. Dalloway Reader, edited by Francine Prose, which is an excellent way to read it. I particularly loved re-encountering "The Garden Party," by Katherine Mansfield, in its pages. Also, I have images of The Hours, the movie based on the Michael Cunningham book, stuck in my head. (I still need to read the book!) And here's something that makes this a Random Coinciday in the blog. In both The Hours and A Different Time a guy falls out of a window. (On purpose.)

The lovely painting of Woolf, above, is by Roger Fry. Here's Virginia in fur. She had an interesting life, with lots of suffering in it, alas, and while she did not fall out of a window, she did walk into a river with stones in her pocket. (On purpose.) Sadly, I have a poem about that, because that seems to be what happens. "A Foreign Body," in Menacing Hedge. Well, this has taken a turn. But I'll be very busy again tomorrow.

Friday, February 20, 2015

It's My Party

Background music: "It's My Party" (of course!), sung by Lesley Gore, here depicted as Pussycat, an associate of Catwoman, on an episode of Batman television series, the version from my era.

I'm not actually having a party, but it is my birthday! And I am not crying!* I am so glad to be alive and, specifically, to have survived the Internet Death Quiz. Sadly, Lesley Gore did not. That is, she died all too young, and recently, though not from taking the Internet Death Quiz.

*I was interested to learn from Jezebel that the hit song was based on a real teen, who really uttered the words, "It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to."

Last night I celebrated at Stave Wine Bar via Uptown Covered in Chocolate, a real event, having the Double Trouble special: a red-wine blend (yummy & smooth) and a dark chocolate truffle! Thanks, Kim and Willemina! Today I celebrated at A. Renee, with lunch and a fabulous dark chocolate dessert called A Hot Mess! It was hot, and it was delicious! Thanks, Marty!

But woman does not live on red wine and dark chocolate alone. Um, why not?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dirty Rice on Fat Tuesday

It's Mardi Gras, so, yes, it's actually Fat Tuesday in the blog. We had decadent pastries for breakfast (4 for a dollar at Jewel), and we're having New Orleans-style dirty rice tonight. This is a summer picture with Mardi Gras beads, not on us. But I'm not so festive after hearing on NPR about the Carnival-related deaths in Haiti. Sigh... So, since I can't dance with my brothers and sisters, I won't dance at all.

Instead, I will tell you about the fat cats--well, not so much fat as large, wild, healthy-looking--probably feral cats hunting in my back yard this afternoon in the sunshine. They worked as a pair. First there was some digging in the ground, rolling in the sun against the roots of the sweetgum tree, and eating of dried catmint. I think they might have been getting high in my back yard. It made them all the more alert and attentive...to the birds! The cardinals that nest in the mugo pine. They stalked these birds. They retraced the steps of the flocks of juncos and winter starlings that graze seeds in my back yard. I did not see them kill anything, but I did think of the eternal conflict between Lavinia (cats) and Emily (birds) Dickinson.

One (cat, not Dickinson sister) was striped and blotched as if a big, beautiful gray tabby had mated with a giant diamond-backed slug. The other (cat) was also a gray tabby mix, but with a red fox. This is impossible, but appeared true. They were gorgeous cats who took over the yard on Fat Tuesday, looking for things to eat. (Or get high on.) Here are more of the 3 generations of women (sisters, daughters, moms) who met in Michigan this past summer. And here are some Presidents we met on the beach. On Presidents Day. On Facebook. Feral Presidents. Of the mind.




Sunday, February 15, 2015

Valentine With a Twist

It's been a wonderful Valentine's weekend! My husband's volleyball girls won their intercity tournament! We had (private!) champagne! He took our son to the Chicago Auto Show, an annual tradition, and I took our daughter out to breakfast! I got to meet with some women writers to read stories and poems of love, young love, and/or heartbreak. (Also with wine!)

And I came home to find 2 of my poems in Flyway! I guess my "Hawk on the Fence" poem is sort of a sad valentine, or anti-valentine, or valentine with a twist, but be sure to read the contributor's note. Despite the pink in "Japonica," nothing's really blooming outside yet here...but it will, it will.

The next love-poem feature, "Love, Itself," went up at EIL, with fabulous art by Jesse McCloskey, including The Lovers, with green love climbing in the window, and Magic Horse, reminding me of Pegasus, the winged horse of poetry!


Has anybody invented the Valentini! Or did I? Oh, yes, it exists. In several variations. But without a twist....

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ready for Love

I'm doing a play reading later this month for the Prairie Pride Coalition, a human rights group in our area. I love it when the arts and social justice come together, and I get to help out! Titled A Different Time, it's a play about how hard it was to be a gay man in "a different time" than now, and it's still hard. But it sure makes me glad of and grateful for all the advances in human and civil rights during my lifetime. If you're local, come hear the reading on Monday, February 23, at 7:30 p.m. at Kemp Hall. It's free. The playwright will be present!

In the meantime, I will be celebrating Valentine's Day by attending the intercity junior high volleyball tournament. Yes, that's what the love of my life will be doing, coaching his still undefeated seventh grade team, and I'll be there! That's another wonderful thing about the times we live in: girls'/women's sports!


There will be chocolate. Beautiful Uptown Normal is having a chocolate walk next week, and I plan to find some chocolate by walking around. I hope I find it at the wine bar! Next week is also my birthday week, people are taking me to lunch the next two Fridays, and I'm gathering with some women writers on Sunday to share love poems and stories--funny or sad--so it's going to be a good February, indeed, even if the bitter cold comes back instead of the annual February thaw I used to enjoy in my college years and beyond.

Speaking of love poems, we have plenty at Escape Into Life, in two features already up and another coming up on Valentine's Day itself. The first was Looking for Love, and the one that went up today is Ready for Love, with paintings by Maude McDonald, including the one you see here, View from Within, and, above, This Piece of Me. I hope you have a lovely Valentine's Day, ready or not.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Bride of the Monster

Happy Groundhog's Day and Valentine month. I am celebrating with the Monsters issue of Snakeskin, guest edited by Jessy Randall, in which I have a love poem called "Bride of the Monster." Many monster poems for you to peruse here at the table of contents. This is Elsa Lanchester seeing the Groundhog see his shadow. Which he clearly did this morning, as the sun was shining boldly on heaps of white snow.

As I recall, I wrote this poem last February with a random poem generator as a Valentine's Day game! I promise I have actually accidentally made banana glue many a time, and now that my oven doesn't work I cannot make banana bread. Sigh... But I could possibly apply the banana glue to my hair in order to shape it permanently into this hairstyle.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

In Delirium Influenza

Many thanks to actor and classical scholar Mark Gerard de Veer for the title of today's blog post and my recent state of mind! Many thanks to EIL artist Victor Rodriguez for the panting, which also seems to get at it. His work is found at his solo feature, here, and with the poetry of Katherine Riegel, here. I'm feeling much better, as is my husband, but, thanks to delirium insnowenza, we are all staying put today, enjoying a visit from our son, who has to brave the roads later to make it back to Chicago for a big presentation tomorrow (although, who knows, Chicago might be closed tomorrow!). We hope you all stocked up on your blizzard/Superbowl supplies and can also stay put as long as possible. Try not to get mad at the snow. To help with that, here are some gorgeous up-close pictures of snowflakes by Skye Sadowski-Malcom!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Ezekiel's Bones

Background music: "Dem Bones" by James Weldon Johnson.

I'm not really cranky, but I am really sick--yes, I caught my husband's cold/flu ickiness--so it's a Cranky Doodle Day in the blog. It also helps explain the recent weepiness as sickness was coming on. And it's a Random Coinciday, too, because my last blog post was Bittersweet, and that's the title of the most recent book by Colleen McCollough, who just died and got a shamefully weird obituary that her fans are currently mocking.

It contained this actual sentence: "Plain of feature and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless [sic] a woman of wit and warmth." (Perhaps Australians leave out that expected comma after the "nevertheless." Nevertheless, I had the urge to say "sic.") (Them bones, them bones, them wry bones...) Consequently, other authors are writing their own silly, personal mock obits in response.

Here's mine: "Kathleen, holier than thou, who just wouldn't dye her hair, still managed to write a few good poems."

It pains me, actually, to type that--literally because I started coughing in the middle of it, which hurt, and figuratively (and superstitiously) because I have to stay alive for another 21 days, at least, thanks to the Internet Death Quiz, before I can rest easy....

I've lost 3 pounds in 3 days, from not eating, not a diet I'd recommend, even for the "certainly overweight" Colleen McCullough, not because I have the gastrointestinal "flu" but because, in my case, the upper respiratory case, the lung bone's connected to the stomach bone, and coughing is a general disaster. I do like chicken soup and carbonated beverages.

There are a jillion books titled Bittersweet, and none of them are on my bookshelf. The closest is Eros the Bittersweet, by Anne Carson, and I'm still on page 108 (the perfect number!) of that. But these are all versions of McCullough's Bittersweet. I'm liking the audio book because of the sympathetic and handy nurse, and I love the teal cap, and how about that politically incorrect fur collar?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bittersweet

I did not mean to sound mopey or weepy yesterday, a Blue Monday in the blog, in a post celebrating The Weepies and their beautiful bubble! (I enjoyed counting the chapbooks in my box in the closet, and many thanks to Maureen E. Doallas for buying 4 of them, which will change my 2015 totals to report to the tax man in 2016!) I think, according to Facebook, that it is Deb Talan's birthday--singer/songwriter in The Weepies. Many happy returns!

I know I am one of the lucky ones in life. I have my health, a loving family, and work I love (even if it is ludicrously un-lucrative!) Today is Fat Tuesday in the blog, and I am celebrating leftover chocolate and the fact that my husband does not have strep throat and thus will not spread it to his volleyball team! In the waiting room, I was re-reading stories by Lorrie Moore, in Bark, a pre-birthday gift from my mom. She knows I read the hardback from the library closer to when it came out and also that I love Lorrie Moore and will want the paperback edition on hand for relentless re-reading of favorite stories and passages.

Here's one, from the story "Wings," which is a sort of re-imagining of Wings of the Dove, by Henry James (just as The Innocents, by Francesca Segal, is a contemporary re-telling of The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton, and now I want to re-see the film versions of both The Wings of the Dove and The Age of Innocence, and this parenthetical moment is an example of what I mean by "Fat Tuesday" in the blog; it's not always about food). Anyhoo:

"Bitterness came when one had done the long good thing and then gone unrewarded. Dench would never operate that way. She,* on the other hand, had been born with a sort of pre-bitterness, casting about for the good and unacknowledged deed that would explain her feelings---and not coming up with it. So instead a sourness could beset her, which she had to appease and shrink with ice cream and biographies of Billie Holiday."

*"She" is a singer/songwriter in this story, making this also a Random Coinciday in the blog. And this is bittersweet, its innocent white flower, its two-toned fruit above, with many thanks, as always, to Wikipedia. But see the food? And the perfect definition of "bitterness," the ice cream needed as a sweetness to counter it? And Billie Holiday?! Oh, how I love Lorrie Moore.


Monday, January 26, 2015

In a Bubble

I love this sweet picture of The Weepies, a band my niece introduced me to and one my daughter also likes! Here's their love story! And I love their music.

It's a Blue Monday in the blog. The Weepies. It got cold again, after a great Saturday, 40s, two-hour walk in the sunshine, etc., and now it has snowed. Worse for those in the East, I hear. My friend Paulette is sad, but she also knows how to feel better, so that's good. And my hubby is sick, but has been resting and drinking liquids. (I do not plan to get sick in response.)

It's not just flu season, it's tax season. The organizer came in the mail from the tax man* and the various W2s and 1099s are arriving, and I have been counting my depreciating inventory: unsold chapbooks in a box. (Paulette, that's a little depressing, yes, but I'm oddly cheery, maybe because, despite my math challenge, everything's adding up! Math is fun!) I have 20 copies each of two books, 1 each of two others, and 44 copies of my first chapbook. Hello? Five bucks each. Even the fabulous Dianne Wiest has money worries on this Blue Monday....

In church this past Sunday, we had 10 full minutes of mindfulness and 7 steps to it, etc. I noticed that I did not, in being mindful, block anything out. I let everything in. I noticed the rain that had turned to snow, the breathing and hacking of the woman next to me, my own breathing, the sweet faces of the congregation, poor Colleen rolling her eyes and checking her watch (we hugged and laughed about this afterwards!), the calm music, the wonderful black legs of chairs against the gray carpet like a miniature stylized forest. I don't see mindfulness as living in a bubble. I see it as walking in the wind, fully buffeted, fully alive, fully aware.

*"Tax man! Tax man!" (Dialogue from Stranger than Fiction, a movie I love! My kids gave it to me!)
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