Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Daughter of Midas

I love it when somebody makes a movie based on my work! (You should hear my Academy Award acceptance speeches in the shower.) The most recent is Daughter of Midas, based on a poem of mine in Glasschord, as interpreted by Nic Sebastian, who created The Poetry Storehouse. Poets offer poems for "remix" and filmmakers do just that!--remix by re-conceiving poems in their own way, adding available video clips or filming new footage. I love it when Nic records the poem herself, as in this case, when she was also the filmmaker, here at Vimeo! So eerily beautiful!

Othniel Smith also made a film of "Daughter of Midas," and I shared it a while back, but here it is again, for comparison! What a delight.

He has a wonderful sense of humor. So does Paul Hostovsky. I reviewed his book Naming Names today at EIL. It does name names! And it made me laugh.

I needed to laugh. Because, you know, the cold is here, and I don't really want to go out. And my car is still broken. And we raked all the leaves already. Almost all. Almost all the golden leaves...

Thanks to Wikipedia, Walter Crane, and Nathaniel Hawthorne for this illustration of Midas touching his daughter and turning her to gold. Thanks to Meryl Streep for hugging the Oscar.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Second Snow

I woke to the second snow of the season this morning, this one sticking to the roofs and cracks and shadows under shrubs. In celebration of "sticking," I share with you these photos from the Stuck Series of Dana Colcleasure, up today at Escape Into Life. She's not stuck artistically, as you can see, but, instead, physically, but she'll soon be unstuck, I am glad to report! Read more about her here.

I'm coming unstuck, too, lately, a few poems bubbling, fermenting...others due soon in journals. Of course, as usual, the rejections are plentiful!--but, as the submissions have diminished of late, soon, er, won't be, I guess. "It don't worry me, It don't worry me..." (Barbara Harris, singing that song from Nashville.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

First Snow

I do love the first snow! Today it brought a mini-fiber-optic Christmas tree to the door, mis-delivered mail. (I picture the poor mail carrier shivering and overburdened with yesterday's Veterans Day mail in addition to today's.) Anyhoo, I went out in my winter coat, hat, and gloves to re-deliver it to our neighbor a few doors north. In our mail: coupons, bills, retirement account disclosures, requests from charities, and the ISU Alumni magazine, with great stories about local Route 66 doings. The first snow was minimal and is gone, but I wrote a poem about it. That matches.

Up today at Escape Into Life is my review of The Dailiness, by Lauren Camp. I have been reading this book of poems, gently, for almost a year! That's often what I do for poetry reviews--read and re-read slowly, or read a book all at once quickly, and then re-read slowly. Her original solo feature, as well as the review, are accompanied by wonderful and whimsical art by Andrea D'Aquino. Whimsy with an edge, as in Bathers, pictured above.

I am currently reading The Man Who Loved Children, a novel by Christina Stead, and The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, nonfiction by Nassim Nicolas Taleb. I recently finished Little Women of Baghlan: The Story of a Nursing School for Girls in Afghanistan, the Peace Corps, and Life Before the Taliban, by Susan Fox, the topic of tonight's book group, with the author in attendance! I do look forward to that. And I note, with glee, that it is highly improbable that a lion would blow dry his mane! Thanks to Andrea D'Aquino for that!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Iron Women

The Fate issue of Granta arrived, hitting the spot. I've been a bit sad--hence, it's a Blue Monday on what is actually Friday. A hometown girl died this week, at her new hometown in Massachusetts, and I'm sad for her family. And we had a local murder, the mother of some of the sweet volleyball girls my husband has coached. I grieve for them and remain troubled and shocked.

But good things have tumbled right out, too, as usual. Last night we saw the local high school volleyball team, Lady Iron at NCHS, win their sectional. They move on to a super-sectional Saturday and then, we hope, state!

 Right after the game, still in orange and black spirit clothes, I went to see Falling, an autobiographical play by Deanna Jent, at Heartland Theatre--beautiful performances by all. Karen Hazen plays Tami, the iron woman of that family, holding up under the relentless stress of being the mother of a severely autistic son with violent tendencies. Intense, with spots of needed humor and remarkable beauty. You'll like the feathers!

And there was such joy! My sister and my brother and his wife came to town on the Halloween weekend! My son and daughter and my nephew and his fiance joined the fun with my parents. Sort of a Hallowurkey gathering, as I like to call it! The weather was so nice on Monday, some of us walked the Constitution Trail. And I've still been raking, raking, raking...

For beauty and strength via poetry and art, take a look at this EIL feature: Kelly Cressio-Moeller paired with Meghan Howland. You'll like the feathers there, too. And thanks to Natural Garden for the blue poppy, white dogwood, and green hellebore.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Weather

I woke to wind and the beautiful yellow leaves against the chill gray-white sky. Now the wind is keening at my office window, suggesting, "Lower the storm window,"* but in its own triple-throated language, and the sky is in a costume of blue. Rumor has it there's snow in the Chicagoland area. Earlier this week, raking in the sun, I hoped the Indian Summer would last for the trick-or-treat kids. Alas, no. It rained on the downtown treat fest Thursday, and tonight there's the usual Halloween freeze to expect, but I'll greet the brave ones at the door, the littlest ones, who come in the daylight. I've got my chocolate ready!

Scary things happen in threes: the car broke, the dishwasher broke, and the oven broke. The scary part is the expensiveness of replacement or repair. I don't at all mind 1) walking everywhere 2) washing dishes by hand 3) cooking on the stovetop (on the 2 1/2 working burners) and by crockpot. But, yes, we'll have to fix things. I miss roasting vegetables and baking cakes.

Likewise, here are three scary things up now at Escape Into Life: 1) a new book review of Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson 2) Cat-at-Strophe 3) In Cat Country (the cat poem features mentioned earlier here in the blog). The cat poems were chosen for October as the cat is often depicted as the witch's "familiar" (or attendant spirit in animal form) in connection with Halloween. And, yes, Kevin Nance, the photographer, says it's OK to post his photos here! These are all his. Thanks, Kevin!

And here is a poem with death in it, "After the Game," and also baseball, and also my brother, Jeff, who is here for a visit. The poem just came out--perfect timing (personal and World Series timing)--in Intentional Walk, an online literary magazine dedicated to sports. And I just dressed in Halloween colors, orange and black, to attend the area volleyball regionals last night. Congrats to NCHS, Regional champs, and lovely to see NCWHS girls play, too! My husband has coached so many area girls, we root for them all! (You can expect a volleyball poem to appear in Intentional Walk in a future issue!)


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Where I've Been

Where I've been: 1) raking in my yard 2) in cat country. In the recent gorgeous fall (Indian Summer) weather we've been having, I've been raking lots of yellow leaves to the curb, where a great leaf-sucking machine will suck them up for local composting. As the leaf truck hasn't actually arrived yet, I am soon to head back out to rake some more, as, you know, the leaves just keep falling until they're gone, the trees bare. For now, I share with you this lone yellow leaf on a green fence, called Loner, by Kevin Nance.

I hope it's OK to share it here, but I think so, as it is shared at Facebook, and you can find (and "Like") more of his work there, at Kevin Nance Photography and also at Escape Into Life at his own feature and in the current poetry feature, In Cat Country, with more poems with cats in them. Kevin Nance is a wonderful writer and journalist, too. "In Cat Country" is actually the title of one of the poems in the feature, by Julie Brooks Barbour, and it's got stray dogs in it, too, and black snakes, as well as feral cats. Plenty of surprises and a general eerie mood, set up by this stone lion, so check it out!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cats and Birds

Emily Dickinson loved birds,* and her sister, Lavinia, loved cats. That's a comic mini-conflict inside The Belle of Amherst, a one-woman play by William Luce. I did it as a senior thesis project at Kenyon College many years ago (I'm finally the right age to play the role!), and now there's a revival of it Off-Broadway, starring Joely Richardson, reviewed by Scott Klavan at Escape Into Life. Julie Harris played the role originally.

You can see production shots at the review and also this fabulous Death tarot card, starring Emily Dickinson, by Susan Yount.

This week and next, you can read poems about cats at EIL, too! We had the Dog Days this summer, poems about dogs, and now, in October, it's equal time for cats,** with cat art by Nicola Slattery. I'm calling the first installment of this mini-anthology Cat-at-Strophe, a horrific pun. You see the Halloweenish theme here. This lovely Slattery piece is actually titled Hallowed Cat! Lavinia would be pleased.

*  And also bees and butterflies.
**Birds are pretty ongoing in poetry.

Monday, October 20, 2014

I Love Letters

I love letters. It’s been a while since I got any. These days the mailbox, like the inbox or the phone, gets mostly junk mail. I did just write a few letters, notes, really, short ones, to say thank you and get well. And I still write checks and mail my bills, using stamps. Today I am walking to the post office!

But I miss writing the long letter that sends love and news and personality to the recipient, that asks questions, hoping for an answer—by mail!—soon. I miss the little illustrations I used to add sometimes and the decorative marginal or closing flourishes. I miss getting such a letter back. Sigh…

I’ve just finished reading A Fire in the Mind, the biography of Joseph Campbell by Stephen and Robin Larsen that excerpts many letters as a way of delivering information and personality. Several are by Campbell, of course, to his wife and friends and family members. Others are about him, by these people and various students and colleagues and professional associates along the way. Biographers must already be having a harder time re-constructing a life, now that the age of letters is over.

Our EIL theatre reviewer, Scott Klavan, just got to see Carol Burnett and Brian Dennehy in a revival of Love Letters, by A. R. Gurney, a play that recreates a relationship through years of letters. Generally, the actors simply sit and read the letters, which makes it easier for actors to do star turns in limited engagements, as in the current Broadway production. Burnett just replaced Mia Farrow, and other actors coming up include Alan Alda, Candice Bergen, Stacy Keach, Diana Rigg, Anjelica Huston, and Martin Sheen. Here is Scott’s review of the current production. (The art there and here is by Erika Kuhn, from a Moleskine journal project at Escape Into Life.)

And I yearn to direct and/or be in Dear Elizabeth, by Sarah Ruhl, a play based on the letters of the poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell.

Today is expected to be the warmest day of the week, and I already see the sun poking out between the morning trees. Reading the end of A Fire in the Mind yesterday, I got a short note from Nature, in a way. The last chapter has a lot of letter excerpts, several recounting where the writers were when they first sensed Campbell’s death. Yes, those intuitions or premonitions or visitations…that, when confirmed by the facts, make it possible to construct the myth or narrative of one’s own life, or see one’s life as such a thing.

I was reading this testimonial by Lynne Kaufman: “I find that beyond all the brilliance and scholarship, when that fades, still as a man, he was shining. He was radiant, the aliveness of the world came through him. The vividness, the vivacity of it, the immediacy and warmth of him. The way the universe was alive for him, he could transmit that.”

It had been gray all day. As I read, the sun pushed through, gently, beginning at “He was radiant…,” and faded away again during the next two sentences. I like it when stuff like that happens. It’s just the sun, doing what it does, shining, and being covered by clouds, and me, doing what I do, reading, and reading the world for its endless signs of life. “This is my letter to the World,” wrote Emily Dickinson, “That never wrote to Me—” Or, in my case, That never always wrote to me.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Whistling Mailman

Today I was awaiting some super-good news to befall a buddy in the way of a big performing arts award, and I couldn’t stand it, so I took my 2-mile walk to town to run a couple errands and do  some magical thinking and wishing and hoping and…(earworm?*) 

When I approached the bank (first errand), I heard but did not see the Whistling Mailman, but he put me in good cheer. At the library, it was 2-for-1 DVD day, so I got Infamous (the other Truman Capote film) and The Upside of Anger (Joan Allen!) for $1! At this point, I was pretty darn sure my pal would win his award!

Then I escaped death not once, but twice! For what to my wondering eyes and ears should appear, as I approached the parking garage, but the Whistling Mailman in his mail truck. He opened his window-door to say hello. I asked him how he was.

“I’m trying to stay out of the obits!”

“Me, too,” I said, confessing to the vague Internet Quiz Death paranoia.

He was sympathetic and almost whistled.

 “Don’t run over me with your truck,” I said, bravely walking in front of his government vehicle. He didn’t.

When I got to the corner, he was stopped at the crosswalk, looking down at the mail. His foot could slip off the brake, I thought, crossing with the light. It didn’t. He opened his window-door again, and we kept up the open-air conversation.

“Thanks for not killing me!” I called.

“What did it say? Death by government vehicle?” he called back.

I love our Whistling Mailman.

I won’t be whistling, though: “A whistling maid and a cackling hen / Always come to some bad end.” I’m glad I am able to cackle at my Internet Quiz Death, if still a bit haunted by it. After all, Jan Hooks and Elizabeth Peña just died. Sigh… Loved their work. At least I survived (spoiler alert!) past the age of the concierge from The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery!

But my wishful thinking did not make my pal get the award. Instead, he graciously congratulated another winner, and will move on to other things, and already has. “World tour!”

*Bacharachround Music: “Wishin’ and Hopin’” by Burt Bacharach (as sung by Dionne Warwick)(or as whistled by the Whistling Mailman)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

An Apparent Intention

I'm on p. 456 of A Fire in the Mind, the biography of Joseph Campbell. I continue to enjoy the coincidences and connections I am making while reading the book, and reading it at the right time in my life. His wife, Jean Erdman, who is still alive (98), is a dancer, choreographer, and theatre artist, and I feel connected to her (via birthday) and delighted that my life in theatre and writing has also taken me into the dance world. Since she created a dance theatre piece, called The Coach with Six Insides, based on Finnegan's Wake, I will probably have to read Finnegan's Wake someday! At least I can use Campbell's Skeleton Key to get inside it!

Anyhoo, on p. 456 is this, from a letter Campbell wrote to Erdman:

"It all puts me mind again of Schopenhauer's wonderful piece on An Apparent Intention in the Fate of the Individual: how the continuities of a lifetime seem, in the end, to have been plotted out by a novelist--all the accidents, apparently uncoordinated as they first occur, concurring finally toward the shaping of an order."

I've been attuned to that "apparent intention" lately, noticing it in my own life, and also hearing a lot about it in current culture, while having forgotten that it came from Schopenhauer, so I suppose he'll also have to go on my reading/re-reading list.... Surely I've read some excerpted Schopenhauer! And those he influenced. Sigh.... How will I ever read everything? Also I'd rather look at this dahlia.

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