Saturday, July 31, 2010
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Day 166 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and Kay is reading The Mammoth Cheese, by Sheri Holman, because she could get a bagful of books for $2 at her library book sale, and it was available. It really is about cheese making on a small farm. And the birth of a bunch of babies. And complications.
Friday, July 23, 2010
I am not yet reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsson, because I do not have it, in English or Swedish, but I fear Nora Ephron has read at least one book of the trilogy, as she nails it in this spoof (with a few spoilers, so be warned), "The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut," in The New Yorker online. I love Ephron, her sense of humor, and her own tiny boobies, which she has written about in an essay that appears in some college readers. It is really about bras, not boobies, but boobies go in bras. If they want to.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Is half a stone still a whole stone?
It remembers its other half. Jagged or geode, it may now reveal its rabbit heart.
Do grains of sand get tired of being recycled into mountains?
They don’t believe in mountains, or in molehills. They are fine.
If you crossed a bat with a mushroom, would you get an umbrella?
This is what fairies were, before salt Shakers got hold of them.
Do the glasses one wears in a dream require a prescription?
Yes, they are allergic to the dark. They need a tincture of spiderwort sprinkled with rain in illegible scrip.
What songs do they sing in a school without windows?
The same old songs. They drone them.
Do the daisies love us or not?
The black-eyed and brown-eyed Susans lean over to love us until their chins hit the ground.
Is there any reason to believe that we’ll have working mouthparts in the next life?
What kind of cartilage connects us to the stars?
Some nights you can see those silver webs.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
It keeps on blooming in the big green pot:
pink bonnet, fat white lip, yellow eye.
An ugly baby
if that’s what you pictured in the stroller
of line two. I can’t pretend
this is not a poem. We all know it is
unwise to hang on too long
to innocence. It’s a kind of arrested development
say fathers and psychologists
(also a favorite TV show, cancelled—
too smart, too quirky—
but we have it on DVD, because, yes!—
I grew up, my reproductive organs functioned,
and I have a family that watches TV….
Remember the ugly baby
episode on Seinfeld, the show about nothing?
Now, be kind. Consider the poem’s parenthetical emptiness
and what it might possibly mean.)
Thursday, July 15, 2010
I found Etched Press in the Poet’s Market when I was looking for a publisher for the chapbook. The mission statement of the press is "writing that remains." It actually goes against the nature of chapbooks, because chapbooks aren't meant to last forever, so the goal is to publish writing that remains in the reader's memory. The chapbooks come from open and solicited submissions, and both are completely free.
Are all Etched Press chapbooks this handy 6 ½” by 4 ¾” size?
All of the chapbooks are supposed to be 5" x 7" J But, yes, they are all in that same, handy size. J
[I guess I am ruler-challenged, as well as math-challenged in general. 5” x 7”—yes, that makes sense. Sigh….]
The book is “for GG—who has been fictionalized in these poems.” Can you tell us a little about GG and your inspiration for the poems in the book?
The poems are all semi-autobiographical about growing up in Flint, Michigan—a city that’s undergone a massive shift from prosperity to poverty in the past few decades. GG is my grandmother, and she appears in one of the last poems in the collection: “In Buick City.” In the poem I tell the story of her being robbed at gunpoint but then depict her as afraid to continue with her normal routine because of it. I make a point to say she’s been “fictionalized” because the real story is that while she did get robbed three times at gunpoint at the same grocery store, she still goes and gets her groceries there every week. The inspiration for these poems (and what I hope readers take away) is that same spirit—that unwillingness to give up on yourself even when it seems like everything that was once familiar is lost. I think there’s something beautiful about that desperation to move forward.
They are all prose poems. What drew you to that form for this book, and what are your thoughts on prose poetry in general, its distinction (if/when there is one) from “flash fiction,” and the blurring of genres we often see these days in poetry?
I’m not sure what ever drew me to prose poems. I know I tend be drawn to them both as a reader and a writer more than traditional poetry, and for the types of stories I like to tell, the prose form seems to fit well. My poems tend to be narrative, but I think they differ from flash fiction in that I pay a lot more attention to rhythm and density than I think a flash fiction writer is required to. I always want the reader to understand the story, but I let the reader fill it in for themselves from one image to the next. I also pay a lot of attention to the way my poems sound—which I think is biggest distinction between the two genres: a poem is about the music, and I hope there’s music in my work even if it’s written a paragraph.
I see in this book a lovely, tender, gritty truth about “lives of quiet desperation.” I care about the people, even as I cringe at some of the behaviors, and wish it would work out for them. So I see the book as expanding my compassion, which is one of the reasons I read. What are some of the reasons you write?
When I was writing the poems in this collection, I feel like I was probably writing out of an instinct towards self-preservation. When I left Flint and went away to college, I often felt out-of-place and homesick for the kind of lifestyle and culture that I eventually began to write about. I would read books about factory life or Midwest poets like Philip Levine, so when I began writing seriously I tried to imitate the spirit of those writers who I thought really wrote about the heart of living in the Midwest or in industrial/de-industrialized places. Even now as my poems are becoming less autobiographical, I think the heart of the work is always to share something about my experience with a reader—which is the same reason I read, to share in the experiences of others.
Do you think poetry has any special tasks in our world right now? Are you drawn to poetry, or prose poetry, over other forms—fiction, essays—for reasons you can identify?
I think I’ve always been drawn to poetry in general over other forms of writing because of its capacity to do so much with so little. Both as a writer and a reader, poetry gives me the opportunity to find new ways of looking at the world. People become so consumed with such stupid stuff; we need more people who are looking for beauty and meaning in unlikely places. I think that’s what a good poet does—uses language to open a part of us up to something we’ve never thought of before.
Your writing is very accessible, which I appreciate. Sometimes these days “accessible” is a bad word in poetry, as if only the hard-to-understand stuff is really worth reading. And some poems are clearly not meant to mean in the usual ways, or not meant to mean at all. This is a big topic, but what are your thoughts on this as they pertain to Before OnStar? I find each poem quite subtle and provocative, along with its accessibility!
When I was writing these poems I meant for them to seem accessible—meaning that they contained a story that was easily understood, but that there would be more under the surface if you went looking for it. I had some grouchy people in writing workshops tell me they were too accessible and that they didn’t get the point. I wanted to tell a story with these poems, not try to make people solve a riddle. Personally, I find poems that are intentionally confusing pretentious and annoying.
Each time I read it, I am moved by “Us at Fifty.” Did you observe an actual couple walking hand in hand, eating peanuts, or did this happen in your imagination as you wrote? How did you know the poem was finished? I think the ending is perfect: “something must happen in the future that changes everything.”
I did observe this couple. I was pulling into this seedy little grocery store and this couple was passing through the parking lot. This doesn’t come through in the poem, but they both looked incredibly weathered—sunburnt, as if they walked everywhere. I was struck by how happy they seemed to be together. When you’re young you often get distracted by things that end up not mattering very much. I think the poem used to end “or maybe they were just having a good day,” but that seemed too snarky for that moment.
Likewise, I was moved (and gasped!) at finding the book’s title quietly hidden inside “In Buick City.” Was Before OnStar always the working title of this chapbook? Or did you discover it as you were writing “In Buick City”?
Before Onstar was always the title of the chapbook. I named my master’s thesis (in which a lot of these poems appeared) “Before Onstar,” as well as my portfolio that I wrote as an undergraduate. In the poem “In Buick City” the phrase is used to describe the time that preceded the current situation in “Buick City”—one where a woman who has lived her whole life in that town is now afraid to go get groceries because some people have become desperate. I always thought the phrase worked well to set up the poems as a collection. Probably “After OnStar” is a more fitting title since all of the poems take place in the aftermath.
I find that Sarah Carson's Before OnStar evokes that whole "before" period in both Flint, Michigan and American culture, even while presenting the stark aftermath. You can hear Sarah slinging her words with Wordslingers on WLUW at 88.7 FM in the Chicago area Sunday night, July 18, 8:00 p.m., or stream live at www.wluw.org.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
At the exact same time as the World Cup soccer finals.
OR a few more people would have been there, who love poetry AND soccer.
Also simultaneous with the Sugar Creek Arts Festival, a fabulous gathering of artists and craftspeople. And county fair foods people (corndogs, funnel cakes, kettle corn, of which I ate none. ) I did, however, purchase a melted beer bottle (Rolling Rock), with blue beads on it, from Total Meltdown.
I am very grateful, and pleased. Some people who came announced themselves afterwards as poetry reading "virgins." Wow! And, while I did explain much of my attire...
1) Batiked silk shirt, bought at a previous Sugar Creek Arts Festival
2) Earrings made from recycled rolled paper, from the Beads of Hope project, Africa, purchased at Printers Row Book Fair, Chicago
3) Shoes worn for Clean House, at Heartland Theatre, the reading venue...
...I did not tell them I was wearing polka dot underwear. I am telling you that, faithful readers.
Some old faithfuls came, including my mom, who rocks. And a guy from church, with fabulous blue eyes, a guy I keep trying to set up with single women.... (It's OK, he doesn't read my blog...he doesn't own a TV, either.) The virgins. My dad, who gave up the first part of the World Cup to hear me.
Julie, of A Follow Spot, the sweetie.
Some of my students. And fellow area poets. Amazingly, it was a fabulous turnout, filling the center section of the theatre!
Thank you, all.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
4) It is the 50th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird, with a new edition out echoing the cover of the first (pictured here).
5) Harper Lee has been almost as silent as J. D. Salinger....(also a topic in this blog and an author in the women's book group I'm in).
6) To Kill a Mockingbird was recently the book chosen by Chicago (and probably other cities) as the book for everyong to read that year.
7) Calpurnia, a crucial character in To Kill a Mockingbird, is also the name of Julius Caesar's wife, which I know from playing Portia, who is Brutus's wife, in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Sigh... It's always all about me, isn't it?
Anyhoo, I notice that the brief Amazon review of the book of essays by Mary McDonough Murphy, called Scout, Atticus, & Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird, advises people to go back to the book itself, which is exactly what Ginny did, but it was the book of essays that inspired her to re-read the original!
The essays are by Oprah Winfrey (who has done a heck of a lot for books with her book club), Alan Gurganus, Wally Lamb, Richard Russo, Tom Brokaw, and Roseanne Cash, among others.
8) Ginny was just in Babbitt's, making a fabulous literary collage from Things Found in Books,
9) and so was Kim,
which is how I got my information...
I have to say it was amazing to watch adults get wrapped up in (go into a trance involving glue sticks) making bookmarks. Ginny said she was just encouraging someone else to make one, and then she got hooked. Kim came with kids, one of whom made 4 bookmarks in 5 minutes and then went back outside in search of free frisbees (me following as temporary shepherd), one of whom ignored her, getting wrapped up in the sports books aisle, while Kim herself rummaged through the box of things found in books.
Ultimately, Kim and kids left...and Kim came back, alone, having safely deposited the children elsewhere, to work on her bookmark collage.
I love people! I love books! I love bookmarks! I love collage!
My mom made one, too. A poem collage. My mom rocks.
Friday, July 9, 2010
These are not my lantanas, by the way, but mine look a lot like them. So do the lantana along Linden Street, which used to have a lot of linden trees, including the one I grew up climbing, out on Linden Street Road, the rural extension of Linden Street, now, unromantically given an impossible-to-remember number, for emergency-services reasons. Linden trees are called lime trees in Isak Dinesen....
No links today. I am cranky and lazy, thanks to terminal perimenopause.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Meanwhile, while I hope I don’t actually die from it, I am suffering from “terminal perimenopause,” a phrase I made up. It is based on “terminal adolescence,” a phrase I grew up on, uttered by my dad*, and “perimenopause,” an awkward term made up by medical professionals to describe that ongoing terrible transition to the real end of menses.
Oh, I should have put up a TMI warning.
Why did they call it “pause” in the first place? When we are in it, we want it not to pause, but to end.
Peri-menopause. “Peri” as a prefix meaning “around” or “about” or “near.” “Menopause” meaning “the period of natural and permanent cessation of menstruation, usually occurring between ages 45 and 55”—who knew it would be all 10 years?!—and “pause” being a confusing word meaning “temporary cessation,” which is of course probably why they called it “menopause” in the first place and there is no need for the word “perimenopause.” Menopause already means the menses will stop and start, erratically, for a decade and drive the woman and anyone near her crazy.
Pertinent here: Freya Manfred’s poems “The Husband Speaks of Menopause” and “The Wife Speaks of Menopause” from her book My Only Home, which I am also reading.
Anyway, Lillian Hellman (1905-1984) was 75, sick, almost blind, and surely past menopause, when she got pissed off by something Mary McCarthy said in a television interview and sued her. McCarthy (1912-1989) was younger and terminally sarcastic when she said the mean things, and both of them had their reasons. I am amazed and admiring of author Anthony Arthur’s compassion and evenhandedness as he writes about these feuding literary types, but this is a case (literally, a legal case) in which, despite his respectful presentation of Hellman’s career and performance during the era of McCarthyism (interesting that two McCarthies—made-up plural—plagued Hellman), he comes down firmly on the side of McCarthy, who accused Hellman of lying.
Apparently, she did lie. Or misrepresent the truth. I have read Pentimento, Hellman’s memoir, and seen the movie Julia, but it seems probable that Hellman took someone else’s story as her own in the “Julia” case, namely that of Muriel Gardiner. It’s all over now, the court case, the quibbling. Muriel Gardiner has told her own story. But why do people do this kind of thing? Insecurity, literary ambition, the yearning for some kind of power?
The fiddling-with-truth seems always to have been an aspect of memoir, but also of history. Arthur points out that even the New Journalism, and Capote’s invented form, the “non-fiction novel,” were not really new, after all, just ways to label and market things. In Cold Blood.
Anyway, Capote and Vidal were not suffering from perimenopause, just from spurts of mean-spiritedness, which could afflict any of us, perhaps, for various circumstantial, hormonal, and personality-based reasons. And both suffered from literary ambition, which seems the basis of most literary feuds. Sigh…
Anyway, I have read The Group, by Mary McCarthy--happen to have a first Avon printing, I see, now that I work in a bookstore and notice such things—and Arthur’s book tells me it was based on a real group of women, her own “liberal intellectual set” (quoting Michiko Kakutani), the kind of thing that ultimately got Truman Capote in trouble, commenting on his own glamorous celebrity set. And not to call any of these writers lightweights (that’s the kind of thing they do), but I am glad I have paperback copies, due to my terminal lower back pain.
Since I admit I never really grew up, but did get boobs and a period, it occurs to me that I have indeed gone from one painfully awkward long transition stage, terminal adolescence, to another awkwardly painful long transition stage, terminal perimenopause, and may well die of the two combined.
*The phrase “terminal adolescence” was uttered by my dad, who attributed it to a friend, well before Kevin Leman wrote the book Adolescence Isn’t Terminal—It Just Feels Like It and long before Cheaper Than Therapy turned “Terminal Adolescence” into a song. Where did that phrase originate? Was it my dad’s buddy, as he claims?!
But I’m pretty sure I just originated the phrase “terminal perimenopause.” Let’s see if it sticks. Meanwhile, I am happy to direct you to this blog on perimenopause, which turned up when I searched for the phrase and does seem pertinent. Oooh, and here's another! The Scandalous Women blog has an account of the quarrel!
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
A young woman caressed that pale lavender paperback copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, saying, "I used to read this over and over, and now I don't think I have it in my house," so she bought it, so she would. The fondness for the book was so sweet, and her nostalgia almost had the aroma of lavender. Plus, that background uncertainty--where is that book?--suggesting various leavetakings from various homes. Sigh....
A man returning to the area for the summer, on break from a professorship in the Middle East, visited the bookshop for old times' sake, bringing his wife and two young children, looking for books from his own childhood to give to his kids--particularly Dr. Seuss, and he found some. Meanwhile, his kids were vocal about their own non-Seuss finds, and he eventually gave in and got 3 books, one for each child, including his "inner child."
And a young man bought 100 Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a nostalgic favorite of mine, because people keep telling him to read it, so now he will. I love that book. I'm holding (well, now I'm typing, but I was holding) my mildly dampstained Avon Books paperback copy, 16th printing, in my cupped hands, as the lovers caress in their intense red and green jungle on the cover. Ah, 100 Years of Solitude. When I least expect it, the beautiful bald girl ascends to heaven in my mind.
And last night, I grew nostalgic for books I don't even have yet!--a paradoxical emotion. Just arrived from Amazon, where it waited on my wishlist till I had saved up, is What Feeds Us, by Diane Lockward, a poet I enjoy every time I find her work in the journals. Finally, I have this book. But her latest, Temptation by Water, is just out, and now I lust after that one. I say "lust" appropriately, I think, as this book seems to be about desire! And water, where I feel at home. And I still desire another Lockward book, Eve's Red Dress
Likewise, I yearn for The Alchemist's Kitchen, by Susan Rich, which sits in my cart till I save up again for poetry! But these two wonderful poets have given us all a treat. Diane interviewed Susan in her own blog, Blogalicious, which you can click on my bloglist, and you can read the interview, a poem, a meditation on the poem, and hear Susan read another poem via a link to youtube! (Or you can click Susan's blog, The Alchemist's Kitchen, on the bloglist, and find her link to the interview. Ah, the wonders of technology. Which reminds me, I signed up for Goodreads but haven't done anything there since. Sigh....)
Bloglists, aka blogrolls, are great. You see the latest entry, and they're so adorably clickable. Blogrolls sound edible.