Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Living on the Earth

A fellow blogger here, Julie Kistler, featured my forthcoming poetry chapbook, Living on the Earth (Finishing Line Press, 2010), on her new blog, Follow Spot, which will cover local arts events and more! Here is the link to that:

http://afollowspot.blogspot.com/2010/01/living-on-earth.html

The book is in that crucial advance sales period, when early sales help determine print run and keep publication on schedule. You can order here:

http://www.finishinglinepress.com/NewReleasesandForthcomingTitles.htm

where my current book, Broken Sonnets, is also still available to order easily in this way! That is very nice of Finishing Line to have the 2 books side by side with both International and PayPal ordering buttons!

I am tickled to have 3 "slim volumes of verse," as they say, sort of out there in the world. (The other is Selected Roles, a chapbook of theatre and persona poems based on my years as a professional actor, and it's available at Babbitt's Books.)

http://www.babbittsbooks.com/

I was listening to Piano Jazz on WGLT last night, our local NPR affiliate, about practicing music. People who get really good at what they do are practicing all the time, playing all the time, or, in Michael Jordan's case, playing basketball in the driveway all the time. Some of us are writing all the time, various forms, various ways. I write or revise a poem almost every day for great stretches of time (with some natural interruptions or periods of rest), so this is comforting and encouraging. If I keep doing this--daily, joyful, diligent practice--maybe I will be one of those people!

I am still reading and re-reading The Barbaric Heart by Curtis White. I really like it. The narrative voice in this one is still passionate and funny but not as curmudgeonly as in The Middle Mind. He's just as much a social critic, primarily of the groups of which he is a member, thus practicing what he preaches about self-examination and self-criticism, but there's a stronger sense in this one of compassion, wide and deep.

White gives voice to an impulse I felt way, way back in college (Kenyon College!), reading political philosophy for the first time, to raze everything. Not literally blow anything up, of course, just go back to the start, the heart of it all, the place in mind that allows for clarity of vision, courage, etc. First, see clearly, and then find the path.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

To Haiti and Back

Still reading All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg and still experiencing synchronicity in reading, waking, and dreaming life, now including my husband's dreams.

Notes: My husband seldom dreams, he claims, or seldom remembers his dreams, but he remembered a dream pertinent to my opening sentence. And I have become a fan of Rick Bragg on Facebook. Sigh....I still can't believe I am on Facebook, and I still can't believe I have a blog.

Rick Bragg went to Haiti to report on phenomenal violence and suffering there. While he certainly described a hell on earth there, I don't think it was from a pact with the Devil, to discount Pat Robertson here. So while I was hearing and seeing news about the devastation caused by Haiti's earthquake, I was also reading about an earlier period of suffering in this book.

Then my husband woke up yesterday morning recalling a weird dream. He saw two old men with long beards who looked very familiar to him, as if he knew them from life or other dreams. They looked wise and calm, expectant. He spoke to them, and they said they were waiting to get into the asylum. They looked hopeful about this. As he told me about it, he was realizing that this was how they would be taken care of in their old age--live somewhere warm, be fed. They were perhaps hoping to appear crazy enough to be accepted into the asylum. Perhaps the aspiration to end there would be sufficient proof!

At the end of his telling, he considered that maybe the two old men were us! This was how we could be tended in our old age and not be a burden on our children. We are certainly a little crazy. And I am certainly just as much the man in our family as he is! I sure hope my beard doesn't grow that long, though.

Anyway, to get on with the synchronicity of this, then I read in the Bragg book about the serial diner, a fellow who would order fine dinners in Manhattan and then not pay the bill so he could be arrested and sent to jail, where he could be sheltered and fed.

Now, in Bragg, I am about to begin a chapter in which he returns to Haiti. Hence, To Haiti and Back.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

All Over but the Shoutin'

I am reading All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg, published in 1997. Again, I read things when I get around to it, when they are chosen by my book group, when something compels me to read a particular book at a particular time. Or to re-read it. Right now I am struck by this passage about the Korean War:

The dead waved from the ditches in Korea. The arms of the soldiers reached out from bodies half in, half out of the frozen mud, as if begging for help even after their hearts had cooled and the ice had glazed their eyes. They had been shot to rags by machine guns and frozen by a subzero wind, leaving olive-drab statues in the killing, numbing cold in the mountains in the north.

I read this to my husband while he was shaving, before he set off for volleyball practice (he's the coach), because it relates to his paintings. He paints bodies or portions of bodies in agony (sometimes indistinguishable from ecstasy) and often emerging from water or mud. He understood immediately and said he'd read about the terrible conditions and cold of Korea during that war.

This, like The Tender Bar, which we also read for my book group, is a memoir by a man with a strong and admirable mother and a troubled and troubling father. Again, writers coping with their fathers, something I've been told I have to do if I'm a writer, and something I just keep avoiding. I notice that both these memoirists are honoring their mothers as they cope with their fathers, a pattern I might of course repeat.

We read The Great Gatsby, at my suggestion, after The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer, because the locale is the same, and the consequences of "careless people." I love the intersections of fiction and nonfiction, past and present.

So this passage grapples with that vision, that experience of war. My husband's paintings tend to grapple with his sense of loss, alienation, the violence of being ripped from the mother country. He is painting hands right now, and music is being composed and a dance choreographed in response to his hand paintings, to be performed in early April at Columbus Dance Theatre in Columbus, Ohio. More about that as it comes up.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Road

This morning I finished The Road by Cormac McCarthy. My husband and son had read it and handed it over to me. It is indeed a bleak and yet beautiful book, as people had told me. The prose style is so compelling! It is not ostentatious in any way, but it makes use of both rare and precise words, something I love to see. And it is not as honey-heavy as Marilynne Robinson's prose style in Housekeeping or Gilead (Home is upcoming reading for me, too!), but it demands that same close attention. I like that in a prose style!

This year I will keep a list of books read in 2010, as a friend does, whose list I always enjoy. Also keeping a list of movies viewed, as the family loves to watch movies together and sometimes discuss them....sometimes just ponder and feel together but on our own. But if we have the movie in common, we can refer to it later in a conversation about human things. "It's like that scene in...," we can say.

My most recent Wow! film of the year is Synecdoche, New York. As with books, which I read eventually, I see movies when I can--often when they are available at the local library!

These two connect in an odd, bleak, and loving way. The devastation of the set at the end of SNY is like the devastation of the world in The Road. There is fear, rage, hatred--people are capable of doing appalling things to one another. And there is undeniable love, human connection. But SNY is also about making art. There, it seems like such a waste to harm or neglect one another for the sake of making art. I suppose whatever we are making, or doing, there is terrible waste in harming or neglecting one another. In The Road, everything we made or did turned out to harm us, or to waste our lives and damage our world.

Seems like we are in a turnaround now. We are paying close attention to the prose style of our lives.
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