I'm a weensy bit blue on this gray Blue Monday in the blog, but only because I just wrote the last of 30 poem drafts in the National Poetry Month poem-a-day celebration.
Local prompt: death.
I love doing this even if a bunch of the poems are, um, crap. Enough of the others are workable that I keep working on them! Or save something from them. And a bunch of them from past years are now out there in the world, having gone through enough transformation that I often forget they originated in this April celebration!
So, a semi-sweet sort of nostalgia is already upon me.
I have a cool church. We celebrate National Poetry Month by devoting a Sunday to reading aloud some favorite poems by others, or original poems. Today was the day, in a busy April that conveniently provided a 5th Sunday.
What struck us today was how many people from the congregation shared poems of their own! You know you are in a trusting, accepting group of people when that can happen.
Cool weekend all around. Last night we went to an art show/auction fundraiser and came home with postcard-sized art. Hubby got a painting called Majestic Giraffe, I got a beaded mini-quilt set of theatre masks by Barbara Miller, and our daughter got a photograph called Rock-O-Plane by local photographer Dana Colcleasure, and we got to chat with her that night.
I almost put my "auction" sticker on Rock-O-Plane myself, but thought I should look at all the art before claiming a piece, and then the crazy quilt called to me, me, me. So I was super glad that the Rock-O-Plane came home with us, after all.
Oh, dear, I am dusting today. Why? Well, things are dusty. I am cleaning up the piles in my office that having interrupted my reading, writing, thinking, and efficiency. Sigh.... So, it must be done.
Today's local poem-a-day prompt was to respond to a painting, so I responded to this one, Interrupted Reading, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (c. 1870) because it is in my 1994 The Subject is Women calendar from the Art Institute of Chicago, a calendar I cannot throw away because of the beauty within, which, then, sits around collecting dust.
I keep pondering external validation in regard to American culture,
which is dominated by extrinsic motivation, incentivizing, reward, money, and
The stuff on the outside.
I was thinking about it while watching The Devil Wears Prada again with my daughter. In that movie, based
on a book (a roman à
clef, ack, the kind I sort of hate, except when I love them, but I haven’t
read this one), a young woman starts out with inner beauty and ends up with it
again, but the bulk of the movie—containing her fashion makeover and
the “dragon lady” boss woman editor of Runway
Magazine that we love to hate—is all about external beauty.
“Oh, sure,” says the Stanley Tucci character of Nigel, “this
is a multi-billion dollar industry based on…inner beauty.” He is mocking
Andrea, pre-makeover, for having a hard time as the personal assistant to a
Next, we watch him re-dress Andrea in designer clothes, with
designer accessories, until a professional model can say, honestly, “You look
And isn’t part of the fun of this movie that we get to see
her “look good” right before she returns to inner beauty? Maybe she will retain her new sense of style, but she’s giving all
the designer clothes back. Maybe she
will continue to cut her hair this way, but maybe not, based on her restored
priorities, her low salary, and her lack of a built-in “beauty department” at
work. I have a feeling she won’t keep wearing spike heels.
And, of course, we wouldn’t be happy with the ending of the
movie if the main character didn’t get to “make good”—get a new job—or be
watching the movie at all if the author of the roman à clef didn’t “make good” by writing a
bestselling novel based on her experience as the personal assistant to a
high-powered woman in the fashion world.
Do we really value inner beauty?
Or do we just keep
repeating platitudes about it until somebody “makes good”?
It's Poem in Your Pocket day, a fun little National Poetry Month celebratory day. Fold up a poem and stick it in your pocket! Or maybe pull it out and hand it someone, as I suggest here in an Escape Into Lifeblog entry, with suggestions of specific short poems and links to those poets' features!
Fair warning: you have to be a little careful about how you share poems and with whom!
Somewhere I saw it specified that you put the poem in a rear pocket (so thanks to Dvortygirl and Wikipedia for the rear jeans pocket above!), but I have my poem rolled up in a side, zippered pocket on the jeans I am wearing today. (I am likely to do more gardening, so I hope I remembered to take the rolled-up poem out before I launder these jeans.)
I clipped it from an old issue (Fall 2009) of American Concierge Magazine, a classy glossy handed out free in hotels that uses poetry as filler (a grand old tradition) in a lovely pocket-like feature called "Pause for Poetry" slipped in among the ads. (Holy moly, look at the little river of "pockets" in the paragraph above!) Anyhoo, I am delighted to appear in American Concierge, in this instance across from a picture of Maggie Miley's Irish Coffee, and a recipe for it, and katty-korner down from a picture of swirled coffee from the Coffee Hound. Of course, my poem, "What I'd Tell You," very romantic and sad, is directly under an ad for Allied Waste of Bloomington, Illinois. But there is no picture of that.
Speaking of pictures, here is a picture of early pockets, reminding us 1) of pocketbooks and 2) that men and women wore them 3) even while threshing.
I've also clipped my poem "On the Back of the Seed Packet" from the current issue, Spring 2012, of American Concierge, to have handy in another pocket or for Poem in Your Pocket day next year. I was surprised and delighted that the editor picked this one, as it has sadness and darkness in it and this is a cheerful magazine, full of things to do in town for people in hotels looking for something to do.
On the other hand, these are people in hotel rooms, pausing for poetry.
On the Back of the
Behind each poem you must have some suffering
they can trace to your daily life
or another way to dismiss the truth of shared suffering.
If you try to hide your sadness & show the shining path
to joy, they will call you sentimental
because they are afraid of how easy it is, and how hard.
Now that you know this, your own deep suffering
shall be as roofer’s nails
pounding through heart and gut, top of head, soles of feet,
to be hidden while you walk beside the fence
dropping moonflower seeds
for a fragrant night blooming vine.
Wednesday was Anything Can Happen day on The Mickey Mouse Club, which I had forgotten until very recently, though I remember singing the M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E theme song.
Today, I planted clematis seeds harvested from last year and cardinal climber seeds from the year before in areas that could use some climbing beauty. Bees hover at the gate now, where the Barbara Jackman Clematis is blooming. I planted pink poppies that will look like pom-poms. We'll see.
There’s a section of my morning exercise class in which I
feel like one of the ladies of River City in The Music Man. It’s a Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn moment of wacky classical
beauty, in which we lift our arms to the music, and I remember Grecian urns.
You may recall that this is the same exercise class that
incorporates the dancing hippos music of Disney’s first Fantasia. The animation in my head keeps me going.
But the Grecian urns made me think not only of truth and
beauty but also of the unusual ceramic cups and bowls I saw yesterday at the
little ISU art gallery in Uptown Normal, which just re-opened with
end-of-semester work by art students.
Traditional art—like paintings and photography—and postmodern
art, like ironic juxtapositions of everyday stuff. Very impressive as you walk
in the door is a gigantic snack-pack of Goldfish, opened, the golden fish
spilling out onto the floor. They are made of orange glass, and the package is
made of metal.
I loved Vanity, an
actual old vanity, its top drawer open, with cosmetics cast of ghostly white
And in the back of the room, right beside the refreshment
table, still not wiped clean from the opening reception, was a white box
mounted with a whimsical edible installation that looked like a neighborhood
made of pudding cups, colored ice cream cones, and artfully strewn jelly beans.
“I didn’t see a label for that one,” I said to the student
artist/gallery host, “but that’s an installation, right?”
She smiled. “That’s actually stuff left over from the
reception,” she said. “We just did that. I didn’t know it was still there.”
“That was my second choice,” I said. And my preferred
When I saved this public domain image from Wikipedia, I titled it "Lobster champ" because it looks a bit like a boxer who just won, holding up his boxing gloves in the center of the ring. Yes?
But this guy might have a little trouble with what they call "fancy footwork," eh?
Anyhoo, I was delighted to come home from my recent retreat to find the new issue of Arsenic Lobster up, with a bunch of wonderful poems in it, and one of mine, too! I love editor Susan Yount's introductory comments and her insight that "every poem in Arsenic Lobster has something hard to say." Wow! Yes.
I also came home to an acceptance (of 4 poems!) by a journal I really admire and a lovely review of Nocturnes (Hyacinth Girl Press) by Dave Bonta of Via Negativa.
Yes, I felt externally validated, something most people, but especially poets, sometimes really, really need to feel. And that was a nice other-side-of-the-metaphorical-coin of this intangibly valuable retreat weekend, where I got to feel internally replenished.
Here is some catmint, for Nene, who likes to know what can grow in sandy soil. It's also known as catnip, so if you plant it, the neighborhood (or feral) cats will like it, too. Or, as Wikipedia says, enjoy it as a "recreational substance."
I've been baking cupcakes. (I have my reasons.) But I did not eat any. Husband came home from volleyball practice (volleyball never ever ends, and that's OK) with the surprise of milkshakes. Life is good.
Yellow blossoms on the wild strawberries. Iris forming, soon to open. Roses on the trellis. Clematis on the vine. Blue bugleweed picking itself back up after a pummeling by rain.
You know what can grow in sandy soil where there used to be a swingset? Spearmint!
The current theme of the Featured Poets Page at Adanna Journal is father/daughter poems, and there is a variety of experience represented there. I have two poems on this page, one about my own dad and his talk of philosophy at the breakfast table while I was growing up, and Donna Vorreyer has two wonderful "literary analysis" poems that explore fictional fathers.
Of course, Atticus Finch is one of my favorite fictional fathers.
I alerted my dad to this page, having been told by him that all great poets write a "father poem." And I realized in the context of his response that, while I have indeed contributed poems to literary journals devoted to women's experience and drawing mostly female contributors (which helps balance out an imbalance in the publishing world, I note re: VIDA statistics)*, none has actually excluded men as contributors!
Case in point, from Adanna's home page:
While this journal is dedicated to women, it is not exclusive, and it welcomes our counterparts and their thoughts about women today. Submissions to Adanna must reflect women’s issues or topics, celebrate womanhood, and shout out in passion.
*It's cool that Granta, a magazine my folks love and gave me a subscrip-tion to, represents men and women writers pretty equally, this year swinging toward the women!
It's sort of a back-and-forth gray day in real life on this Blue Monday in the blog. But it's also a Random Coinciday and a Poetry Someday for me, as yesterday I wrote a poem called "How To Read Me" (in the ongoing tear-your-hair-out inspiring adventure of writing a poem a day for National Poetry Month) and today I found the lovely poem "How to Read a Poem" in Ruth's blog, synch-ro-ni-zing.
I hope she won't mind me quoting a chunk of it here:
Yesterday was all about Salome. One of my favorite Salomes is the lusty stepmother-witch in the musical The Robber Bridegroom, based on Eudora Welty's novella set in the Natchez Trace territory. This Salome conspires to kill her stepdaughter so she can have a handsome young suitor for herself. Her name is pronounced to slant rhyme with baloney.
Welty's tale calls on various fairy tale versions but also the Cupid/Psyche myth and the real adventures of an awful bandit of the Trace, Little Harp.
And a character in the musical is Big Harp, Little Harp's bandit brother, who is a disarticulated head carried around in a suitcase!
Salome sings a song comparing Rosa-mund, the step-daughter, to a lilybud and herself to the "prickle pear bloom." Thanks to Stan Shebs for this prickly pear (opuntia, a cactus) in bloom.
And, speaking of Rosamund, my trellis roses are beginning to pop!
On Easter Sunday, Pastor Bob spoke of Salome as being one of the women who fled the tomb, afraid, after seeing that the stone had been rolled away and Jesus was gone. I asked if this was the same Salome who had asked for the head of John the Baptist on a plate.
Since Jesus and John the Baptist were contemporaries, this didn’t seem too far-fetched for me, and it led me on a riff about repentance.*
Bob didn’t know, and both of us were intrigued. So I have taken it upon myself to find out. The short answer is no--thanks, of course, to Wikipedia. The real answer, as usual, is a bit more complicated and stickier to find out, partly because a lot of people have the same names and partly because some history is really legend.
I admitted to Bob that I mainly know Salome from the Dance of the Seven Veils. That is, I often get my religion through literature, in this case Oscar Wilde’s play, Salome, and the operas and cultural depictions since of Salome as a femme fatale.
Salome danced for Herod at his request, and he offered her whatever she wanted in return. In some fictional accounts, she wants John’s head because she desires him and he spurned her advances, or she wants to impress another potential (sophist) lover. Ew. That guy is not impressed by the head and goes back to Plato.
In a Biblical account, Salome’s mother tells her to ask for John’s head, because the mom is mad at John for saying her marriage to Herod, her first husband’s brother, is unlawful; she divorced her first husband to remarry. Yes, this is the same Herod whose actions led to the death of Jesus. And this Herod is the son of “Herod the Great,” the King Herod associated with the massacre of the innocents (children under two when Jesus was a child), but apparently he really just massacred his own family, pretty common among dictators of the past, alas, in various cultures, including Cleopatra’s.**
And in an apocryphal version, it’s not John’s head but Herod (the Great?)’s daughter Herodias’s head (did all these people marry their brothers and sisters? oh, um, yes, re: Cleopatra and various mythical gods and goddesses responsible for the creation of the world), and she was playing on the ice, fell through, and her head remained on the ice, which reminds me of stuff in the Jane Campion film, In the Cut.***
*If Salome, after asking for the head of John the Baptist, repented and became a follower or disciple of Jesus, present at the crucifixion and at the resurrection, then, wow, cool. Alas, it is a different person.
But my insight still holds: we can only repent of what wrong we ourselves have done, not wrong done to us. Only the perpetrator of that wrong or harm can repent of that. Unfortunately, we often take on the shame and blame for the harm done to us because the wrongdoer is neither willing nor able to do so, and society, too scared to go after the wrongdoer, or finding that too difficult to do, joins in, piling shame and blame on the victim, the one who has been damaged.
This is not a new insight. And it certainly happens. What intrigued me was the thought that Salome, who had done wrong, even if urged unto it by her mother, might have repented and spent the rest of her life doing good. Nope.
***random coincidence starring Meg Ryan and Mark Ruffalo, involving ice skating and a “disambiguated” head. In Wikipedia, disambiguation means separating one use/meaning of a word from another (to avoid ambiguity). In In the Cut, it means separating a head from the body, in police jargon. This is pertinent because Meg Ryan’s character, a poet, who reads short poems on public transit intermittently throughout the film, is researching word meaning, specifically slang. Oh, wait, no! It's a "disarticulated" head, not a "disambiguated" head, but that's still about language, speech, words, meaning. And, boy, did my origami brain enjoy that brief misapprehension.
Have I mentioned how much I love Mark Ruffalo (rhymes with “buffalo”)?
I am writing poems with my friend Kim this month, having shared with her the poem-a-day prompts I gave my poetry workshop.
We did this last year, too. When we remember, or when our poems are not too embarrassing, we send them to each other by email. We will attend a women's retreat later this month, and we will have to keep on writing, in pen or pencil, to keep up with the National Poetry Month poem-a-day adventure. My workshop is probably pulling out some of its hairs already. But I am glad to report that I do have 11 poem drafts on April 11!
Two other poets who write together are Jessy Randall and Daniel M. Shapiro, and today Jessy Talks About Dan over at Escape Into Life, celebrating his new echapbook, which you can read for free. You'll want to see the KISS cover, so be sure to click the links. Art there and here is by Erna Reiken.
You can find other writers writing together over at Two Beans Or Not Two Beans, which, as you can tell by the title, is a hilariously literate blog written by two human beans. Today's entry is about collaborating in the writing process and various diversionary tactics. You will have fun. But your car might get towed.
I'm pretty sure I always forget that the fruit of the avocado is also known as the alligator pear. Oh, Wikipedia, thank you for reminding me of that on this Fat Tuesday, and for the public domain or Wikimedia Commons images! (Branch by B. Navez)
Tonight, two small ripe alligator pears will be part of dinner, seasoned very lightly with olive oil and/or lemon juice and salt & pepper. Thank you, Jessa, for your vegetarian handful recipes in Bowl of Bees. I got more green beans today and remembered dried cranberries for sprinkling here and there.
It's also a Fat Tuesday for writing jobs, as a new one arrived on my doorstep this morning! And its bearer was given a cup of tea.
Out on the lawn, blackbirds are finding what they need. I'm ready to sow more seeds, not intended for blackbirds, including more of what I harvested last year and, new this year, the pink Venus poppy, with "double frilly blooms," but it's in the 40s out there now, and a frost is predicted for tonight, so I will wait a bit.
I have attempted to grow an avocado from the pit, as pictured here, but to no avail.
Happy Easter, or whatever you do today, a pretty blue sky Sunday here. There are 4 eggs in the house wrens' nest. I have learned that when I go into the shed, where the house wrens built their nest in a bucket, if I turn my head away and just get the trowel or clippers off the hook, the mother will stay on her nest. If I have to face her, to retrieve the garden gloves or seed starters, she flies up and waits till I am gone to return. So I turn away, to spare her the worry and sudden flight.
Getting kicked off the Internet lately, so I will be brief and hope for the best. I don't know what we've done to cause this intermittent problem...this time.
Still keeping up with the poem-a-day in April. Today's local prompt is rupture/rapture.
Still keeping up with the 100 Rejections tally. An acceptance today! But recent rejections, too. Here's where I stand: Since Jan. 1, 29 sent, 8 acceptances, 5 rejections, 14 pending. Since Sept. 1, 75 sent, 21 acceptances, 30 rejections, 24 pending. I hope it all adds up. If not, there will be another origami brain explosion, this time from math challenge.
I planted some of these from seed a couple days ago, purple coneflowers, seeds harvested from Bill's garden, and found this image at this fabulous blog, Beyond all reason and sanity.
Since everything came from somebody else, and the work was done earlier, and I got dirt under my fingernails from not wearing garden gloves, this proves that I am a slattern on Slattern Day in the blog. Right?
Sometimes it takes a whole day of doing other stuff to come up with the poem for the day's Poem-a-Day prompt, which, today, for my workshop, was "the idea of the good." I did not realize, of course, that talking about irresistible grace, one of the 5 points of Calvinism, would play right into that, and would pretty much insure some trying moments in my life in the interim, testing my graciousness, which surely adds to my present fatigue. Anyhoo, I have a sparkling pinot grigio in the fridge, and my sister's back in town!
OK, here is the insight I promised at the end of Répondez s’il vous plaît. In a comment, I warned Seana that it might have something to do with Calvinism (or reformed Calvinism, or Calvinism as it is commonly...um, misunderstood, according to Marilynne Robinson, but that's another story), and it might. Or it might not.
But even Wikipedia understands that Calvinism understood as a response to the 5 points of Arminian Remonstrance has little to do with Jean Couvin (aka John Calvin), as "Calvin died in 1564 and Jacob Arminias was born in 1560." (Still with me, Seana? Anyone?)
Anyhoo, I was realizing on Cranky Doodle Day that not only must I live peacefully and patiently without hope of reward, which I mainly do because there so seldom is one, and, of course, for philosophical and spiritual reasons and because I am nonlinear, but also I must live patiently and non-crankily without hope of response.
Likewise. Because there so seldom is one.
Even though not responding seems sort of ungenerous and unpolite, people have their own reasons for doing that, which have nothing to do with me. I have to just get on with it. I can be momentarily annoyed, and forgive myself for that, and then be as responsive and as patient and polite as I, personally, can possibly be, because that is who I am and who I want to be. If I behave badly in response to...the lack of response
Ack! My head exploded.
But, to speak Calvinistically, I have to work to be who I am and I have to choose to be, um, chosen for grace, even if I am not, and even if I am. Head is trembling...*
I have to try to do the gracious thing even if people are ungracious toward me.
Because...? I am hard-wired that way? I was raised that way? I am predestined in some way? Grace is irresistible?
Another great painting by Jonathan Koch, this one called Oysters and Lemons. I use it perhaps to illustrate the abundance in my life right (joy, spring bloom) and the tartness, as I was pondering something that tends to make me cranky.
Aha! That makes it a Cranky Doodle Day as well as a Fat Tuesday in the blog.
Why do I always feel a little guilty for leaving out Cranky Doodle Day? It's good not to be cranky, right? Um, remember Bright-Sided, by Barbara Ehrenreich? Yes! Because I just returned it to the library. Well, hey, sometimes crankiness and complaining is good because it 1) points out crap 2) can lead to change 3) is part of real life, not falsely optimistic oversimplified unreal life. OK, that got me in the mood to crank!
So, what was making me cranky was the lack of response in several areas of my life. I won't go into it too much, but some is in personal relationships, and I can handle that in 1) risky conversation and 2) poetry. In fact, while today's poem-a-day prompt is "a particular kind of tree," the title of the poem I got from that is actually "Répondez s’il vous plaît."
Aha! That makes it also a Random Coinciday in the blog.
Anyhoo,...hmm, by now I am perfectly cheerful and have lost all crankiness, but I'll still try to crank it up. Yes! One of my poetry workshop participants was lamenting the lack of response to some of her submissions, and I'm sure a number of you can identify with that. I got a response today to a submission. It was a rejection! But even that doesn't bother me.
What bothers me is when a person (or organization) only contacts me when they want something from me. And they want it right now.
But if I need something from him or her or them, there is often no response. Usually, I just need more info, some kind of clarification, etc. If it has to do with what the person wants right now, I might get a response, so that I will give the person what he/she wants right now. If it is information that is important to me but not deemed important or urgent by that person...I will probably not hear back at all.
Or there will be a long silence.
Was that cranky enough? This crankiness actually led to a deep and important insight that I will share with you at a later time. Perhaps on a Thor's Day!
Lovely weekend: my dad turned 80, some family wamily arrived for that, and wild violets have bloomed in the lawn. Family wamily arriving means family wamily departing, too, by car (sister back to Ohio on Sunday) or train (son back to college this morning), so it's also a bit of a Blue Monday in the blog.
"You must change your life," said Rilke. So that's what I keep doing. I worked as an actor and director in Chicago, wrote for an encyclopedia, edited two poetry journals, shelved and retrieved materials in several libraries, walked beans, and was an assistant professor of English. Now I serve as Poetry Editor and Editor at Large for Escape Into Life, an online arts magazine, write & edit as a freelancer, blog "eight days a week," study the random, tend perennials, and listen to birdsong.