Cold here, sad, raining. But a needed rain. We've lost a friend, who was floating for a while, pain free, in her bed by a window. Now completely free.
New review up here, in Galatea Resurrects #18, of She Returns to the Floating World, by Jeannine Hall Gailey. I like how the editor, Eileen Tabios, alternates between saying someone "reviews" or someone "engages" a book. I certainly engage! You can learn more about the book here or at Kitsune Books.
Speaking of lilies, as I was yesterday, here is Lily by Angus McDonald, the Escape Into Life artist who is paired with poet W. F. Lantry in today's new poetry feature. Many thanks to EIL for allowing me to use the artist's images when I announce the poetry features here!
Bill's first poem is called "Songe" and I had to be reminded that this means "dream" in French. Then it perfectly paired with McDonald's painting Dreams.
Phrases from the poems connect to the other painting, Melon and Shawl, of a woman in her bed, phrases like "in this darkened room," "I've built her many things: crafted a bed, /white wood and copper...," and "can almost see her arm / encircled by a gold inscription." Oh, go see!
I love my job!
But I do hope W.F. Lantry doesn't think I think he's a melon...
I have been having intense morning dreams on these beautiful late spring, summery mornings. The birds, the sunshine, the early-morning garbage trucks, all are urging me up and outdoors while the dreams, too, are waking me up to what's in my subconscious.
Lately, this has been the inevitable loss of a friend, peaceful at the moment on her deathbed, surrounded by her family. On the morning I would hear the news of her latest health crisis, I had dreamed of a mother figure in a little house in the woods.
Later, I connected the house to her vacation cabin, lost in a California fire. The two losses were coming together in the "darkened room" of my mind.
The first daylilies have opened, and orange blossoms now stand tall beside the trellis roses. More to open soon along the back fence.
In years past, these daylilies have opened on the exact first day of summer, but, just the like the summer-vacation weather, they have come early. Because the first hot, false spring came in March, many perennials got an early start and came to an early bloom, some on shortened stems. It's hard to believe it's still May at this moment.*
Daylilies bloom in a kind of musical round, one a day, multiples on a stem, like "Sumer Is Icumen In," this traditional song, also known as "The Cuckoo Song," although there is another wonderful "Cuckoo Song" and "The Cuckoo Bird," sung by Deana Carter on the Songcatcher album, is spinning around in my head right now!
Here's a picture of the original manuscript. You can click on karaoke instructions, or another translation. (Yes, farting. But in this version it's the billy-goat who is farting. In the other, it's the buck. Ah, problem solved! Re: translation, not animal flatulence.)
*Also, "sumer" might mean spring, not summer, in this particular song. (See same note, above, that refers to buck and billy-goat farting dispute.) Thank you, daylilies, for not smelling up the place (that is, in a bad way).
Happy Memorial Day to all, or sad, as the case may be. If you are visiting grave sites, honoring your lost loved ones, I send you comforts. If you are celebrating with picnics, I join you in joy, having been gathering with family wamily here this weekend. A little blue on this Red, White, & Blue Monday in the blog as family members head home...or away....
Last night we said goodbye to our newly-graduated son as he headed back to "real life" in Chicago, which involves finding a job, an internship, and/or an apartment in the next couple of months. The train was late, and when it finally came, it wasn't actually his train! It was the earlier delayed train! So we took him home for cookies and milk and took him back for the real farewell. What a beautiful, warm, breezy night!
The train delay was good in that husband could get home from club volleyball tournament--his girls won the whole thing!--in time to say goodbye.
Thanks to Wikipedia-Wikimedia for the Memorial Day at Arlington Cemetery public domain image, and to Jean-Pol Grandmont for the red grape spiderwort, which is what greets me in the morning in my garden. That and blue and lavender blue Ohio and Virginia spiderwort...which is also Illinois spiderwort!
Today we had a huge wind blowing all day. Now it is always windy out on the prairie and farmland where I grew up, but today the wind in town was just as strong, coming from the south or southwest, warm and dry, so not really like the mistral, the cold north wind in France. But it was fun to say "Midwestern Mistral" as a title on this wild Thor's Day in the blog.
In the southwest flower bed, several stems of spiderwort and Dianthus (cottage pinks and Sweet William) were blown down, parallel to the earth. If they don't stand up soon, I suppose they can still live there, or I can bring some in for vases.
The flowers in these vases are by Jonathan Koch, Rose in a White Vase and White Camellia in Green Vase.
New review up in the EIL Blog of Escape Into Life, where I do something related to poetry every other Wednes-day. This is a mini-review of Susan Slaviero's chapbook, A Wicked Apple (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2011).
The fabulous art is by Chiarina Loggia, works called Enchanted and Here I Am, which get at the fairy tale twists and presence of reality in Slaviero's poems. Another work that ties in and features the red mirror is called Will You Look in the Mirror?
I tend to be fascinated by re-tellings of myth and fairy tale, even though people keep doing it. Like the originals, which got told and told, the newer versions still have a pull. I note that late-20th and early-21st-century versions keep warning against ingenue status, favoring the tougher woman with a bit of witch in her to survive. Or at least without as much passivity or gullibility.
Somehow this relates, ironically, to my career as an actress, so often playing the ingenue (or, if less than virginal, the saloon girl with a heart of gold, and shiny yellow dress, and fishnets). Anyhoo, just like lots of little girls hearing and reading fairy tales, I had yearned to be a beautiful princess but never was one in real life! My mom threw in "The Ugly Duckling" among the fairy tales, promising me I'd be all right when I grew up, and somehow getting across the swan-is-a-swan-not-a-duck message in just be-what-you-are ways, too, not about superficial beauty (though that was still what I wanted at the time). Then, growing up, aauugh: stringy hair, braces, pimples, pudginess, not the cover girl on Seventeen. No swan there. When I became an actress, the princessy roles came my way, and people who knew me then always assumed I'd been the blonde, blue-eyed pretty one all my life. Nope.
So when I look in the mirror, I don't know what the heck I'm seeing.
New review up at Prick of the Spindle, in The Poetry Cheerleader column, a very short review of The Body is a Little Gilded Cage, by Kristina Marie Darling, which has this fabulous cover. (I want that mesh heart purse.) (But I don't want to put anything in it.)
As the subtitle says, it is "a story in fragments & letters," and it's H.D.'s story, Hilda Doolittle, a contemporary of Ezra Pound, labeled H. D., Imagiste by him.
Meanwhile, in garden, the lupine and balsam planted from seed this season are coming up, thanks to a blessed rain and days of glorious sun. To use the pathetic fallacy, the pinks and spiderwort seem very happy. And the day lilies, previously stunted, have stretched their elegant necks. I'm sure they'll open orange as ever.
Lots going on today: solar eclipse, NATO summit, NATO protests, poetry workshop, and my dad "preaching" in church: a new Genesis. When the pastors are away...you never know what might happen.
I got this new painting, Meyer Lemon on a Ledge, by Jonathan Koch, via email, and had to look up "Meyer lemon" to see what it was. It's a lemon crossed with an orange, or a mandarin orange, rounder and sweeter than your average lemon.
I loved this book, The Psychopath Test, by Jon Ronson, a "madcap journey" indeed. I learned a lot, and it was funny. Just like the author, and probably all medical/psychology students, I was self-diagnosing, but I am not a psychopath. Neither is he.
It does seem possible that lots of tyrants and heads of companies would pass the psychopath test. Next up: All the Devils Are Here.
But I want everyone in my house to read this one before I take it back to the library.
I appreciate how the author takes up the issue of diagnosis and over-diagnosis, seeing both sides. Quoting Allen Francis: "There's a societal push for conformity in all ways....There's less tolerance of difference."
This always surprises me, given the age of Political Correctness, the tolerance we are relentlessly encouraged to bestow, all the celebration of "diversity," and the real compassion and kindness and respect for human rights I see so often around me. I guess the point here is that difference is tolerated in terms of "political identity" but not if your way of being human breaks the conventions too much.
On the other hand, as Francis continues, "And so maybe for some people having a label is better. It can confer a sense of hope and direction. 'Previously I was laughed at, I was picked on, no one liked me, but now I can talk to fellow bipolar sufferers on the Internet and no longer feel alone.'"
Yes, if there is a name for what is wrong with you and a legitimate reason for your behavior, you are, perhaps, more accepted, can find your own, can fit into the larger community, thus labeled, can be treated and accommodated. Although I don't see labels as stopping bullies from bullying. Oops, I just labeled bullies, who are sometimes psychopaths.
But Francis immediately says that the diagnosis of childhood bipolar disorder is not good. It's a label for life, and it is probably a mistake. And probably an excuse to give medications. And even the originator of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, about which there is always plenty of controversy), Robert Spitzer, does not like to speculate on the mistakes that may arise from it, in which ordinary behaviors may have been labeled mental disorders.
I read an article recently on how there is no sympathy for the parents of psychopaths. Other people who have children with various disorders get plenty of sympathy, but not these. And psychopaths have a problem with the amygdala. It's not the parents' fault, though, of course, they might aggravate the situation or not deal with the problem.
But it's the psychopaths themselves that are and have the problem. Looks like we all need to spot them, guard ourselves against them, and not continue to let them bully the world or individuals in it. But we'll have to do this with the empathy we feel...and they don't. Ouch.
I had walked into town for a meeting, thinking maybe I would stop by the library on my way home to see if The Psychopath Test, by Jon Ronson, is in yet, but I got a ride home from my mom, which gave me a wee bit of chatting time with her. Came home to the email saying the book is in, so I have a perfect excuse to do more walking.
Ah, but I had just started, finally, A Story Like the Wind, by Laurens van der Post, and that is going to be hard to set aside. Fortunately, I am only on page 9, so I can easily start over again if I don't read these simultaneously. I am re-reading Olive Kitteridge, too, before book group meets, and I notice, over at Goodreads, that I am in the middle of a couple of other books, too! But I have to read things at just the right time!
And place. And van der Post can come to the beach with me, perhaps!
Anyhoo, I stopped in here to show you this Sprouted Onion by Jonathon Koch, just arrived in email. And to tell you I tried another Salade Niçoise, this time with tuna and green beans, and it was delicious. And green onions.
When my onions sprout, I try to plant them, by tossing them into the yard. I planted my sprouted garlic by putting it in a hole and watering it. We'll see. This same hole previously held a sprouted carrot...pulled up by squirrels.
Email also had the good news of the acceptance of 2 (sprouted!?) poems, so a good Random Coinciday all around.
I don't make light of the term "starving," given the hunger in the world. It's true I've used the colloquialism, "I'm starving," to mean "I'm really hungry," but that was more when I was younger and not thinking in the larger context. I try not to do that now.
But I was struck by the short story "Starving," inside the novel-in-stories Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout, when Olive says to a young woman who is truly starving, from anorexia nervosa, "We're all starving," meaning emotionally. Or spiritually. We are all hungry for something we lack.
"Why do you think I eat every doughnut in sight?" she asks the young woman, who gets it. Sympathy and empathy are achieved.
And the Snodgrass poems also have something wonderfully obsessive about them, with a Gertrude Stein-like repetitiveness, and an odd mix of calm and chaos, of the sort Lee Price is creating, too, in her paintings. What a lucky match this time.
Above, Lemon Meringue, by Lee Price. Below, Strawberry Shortcake III.
Friendly advice: if you have two avocado pits sitting on the windowsill propped up on toothpicks in jelly glasses full of water, hoping they will sprout, do not, just because it got sunny and nice out, put them out on the picnic table on the patio to get some sun. The squirrels will grab them, toss out the toothpicks, and bury them.
On the other hand, if this turns out to be a long, hot summer and/or if a combination of climate change and, alas, global warming turn the Midwest tropical, I might have a couple of avocado trees growing in my yard.
In other news, I received The Wait of Atom, by Jessie Carty, in the mail the other morning, as I was a winner in one of the Big Poetry Giveway blog celebrations this year during National Poetry Month. What a charming chapbook!
Here is a picture of the green cover, but it appears that I have #51 of an edition of 75 handmade copies. Mine has a black cover folded over the green cover--it's Folded Word press!--with the title and author handwritten in gold!
Inside are 19 poems in two voices, exploring the periodic table of the elements in fascinating and funny ways. She wears high heels and wants to live in the city. He wants to live in the country and shop for fertilizer. I won't give away any more of the domestic secrets of these two endearing speakers, but I do want to quote from the poem "Ars Poetica," that's like the avocado pit heart of the book:
On the walls of my work room, I hung a
framed, poster-sized copy of the periodic
...When I feel
unfocussed, I try to name a random element...
Chemists took time to name elements with
such little purpose or quantity like number
75, Rhenium. I had to look it up. A rare
item extracted from other materials to make
super alloys primarily used in jet engine
parts. Someone took the time to find
Rhenium, to name it, measure it, to find
some purpose for it. Then I can begin.
I love the patience and focus here, the way the speaker can center herself with a kind of compassion for the rare, unsung element, and then apply this to her own work.
You can explore more of her work here at her website and blog, and at the marvelous "nesting site" of Referential Magazine, where I get joyfully lost for a while each time I visit!
Today, rescuing my husband from a hunger headache on a roof,
by taking him a sack lunch, I encountered some fresh asparagus and arugula.
Thank you, Bill. Bill was just then cutting some asparagus for me, from his fine
garden, and handed me the knife to cut the arugula, a “peppery” green.
I had no tuna and no anchovies, and I did steam the
asparagus with a bit of olive oil and lemon juice, so this is in no way a
purist’s Salade Niçoise,
which would require the fish and the uncooked veggies, but it was delicious. And
I used the asparagus spears in place of the traditional green beans. (I love
green beans, but I didn’t have any!)
And I had no fresh parsley, but I had fresh cilantro, so I used
that. There was chervil in the cupboard, but dried and in a jar, so I stayed
with the fresh greens and garnish. I used both ripe and green olives, fresh
tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and red grapes.
Without the fish this was also vaguely vegetarian, but
chickens do have a face, so not quite vegan or fully “heart healthy.” Still,
healthy and delicious!
I have a beautiful, beautiful eggplant. As long as no one sees it and knows that it is a main ingredient in the soup, we may be all right!
Due to a recent sale at the grocery store, I also have olive oil out the wazoo.
Cooking a soupy vegetable stew from scratch seems like a perfect thing to do on Slattern Day. I plan to be untidy. (And to use my homemade compost bin for the peelings!)
Also, time to tally the submissions toward the 100 Rejections project! Since September 1, I've sent out 86 packets, had 35 rejections and 25 acceptances, with 26 pending. My ratio is still looking darned good!
And, to make it a Random Coinciday, this morning when I told my husband I was making ratatouille he told me he was watching a French thriller last night with a scene that had this dialogue:
"What are you making?"
Of course, they were speaking in French. But, in French, ratatouille is ratatouille, right?!
I got to have some time with my mom today, at the Bloomington Kiwanis Flower Sale, their 3rd annual Mother's Day weekend fundraiser for Camp Limberlost. My dad got this thing going here after visiting a similar event in Akron, Ohio, where he grew up!
Locals, the sale is 9-7 Friday and Saturday and 10-5 Sunday at the Shoppes at College Hills under a big red-and-white striped tent!
Dad got some vegetables for the garden, plus mulch. Mom found some impatiens for her shady areas. And I got a variety of lovely little plants for my hanging pots: asparagus fern, a purple lobelia, delicate white euphorbia, and yellow and white lantana (which I hear grows like a weed in Australia). The idea of the pots is that 1) the rabbits won't eat these delicacies as they hang from the eaves 2) the squirrels, likewise, can't dig in the pots, burying their treasure and kicking up the plants.
Planning to get together with my mom on Sunday, too, to talk poetry!!
Today, driving to pick up my daughter at school, I heard the most beautiful song, a woman saying, "I keep looking for a place to fit / Where I can speak my mind / I've been trying hard to find the people / I won't leave behind," in a slow, yes, melancholy voice. I felt addressed! I felt connected to her. "This could be my song!" I was thinking.
I kept listening and driving in the beautiful, blue sky day, figuring Jon Norton of WGLT Jazz would eventually repeat the song title and tell me who was singing it. But then all sound stopped, and some alarming noises came out of the radio, and, worse than technical problems, it was an Amber Alert! Two babies kidnapped by their "non-custodial mother." That could make anyone hopelessly blue.
Hoping these kids will be safe & loved.
What I was hearing, without knowing, was a really famous Beach Boys song, by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher, called "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times," but it was sung by Kat Edmonson, so that's why I was so strongly identifying. Her pacing, her mellow melancholy.The lyrics come out a certain way from her, making it quite different from the Beach Boys rendition.
It's from her new album, Way Down Low, which also has a song called "Hopelessly Blue" on it.
Meanwhile, my spiderwort is blooming, gloriously blue. And the red grape spiderwort is gearing up to bloom, too.
I am in love with these pinecones, created from shovels by Patrick Plourde.
Well, I asked myself that question in the Escape Into Life poetry blog today. And sort of answered it. And then asked you a question.
If you are so inclined, please see the EIL Blog and leave me an answer!
But then my brain did one of its Random Coinciday things. I thought of the Cone of Invisibility. I'm pretty sure there's no such thing, even if these shovels become "invisible" in transforming themselves into pinecones.
Ah, it's a Fat Tuesday of joy in the blog, with a new painting, Peeled Valencia Orange, by Jonathan Koch, new seeds in the ground (delphinium, balsam, gloriosa daisy), and many things blooming: purple iris, cottage pinks, delicate Sweet William, and golden columbine like stars in the afternoon.
Just back from the Re:Verse poetry reading at TheatresCool--well attended, great fun, always lovely to read with Kathryn Kerr. Fun open mic, too. Animals were there--Kathryn's turtles, Judy's behemoth/hippo, and I had crows, a whale, dolphins, and a manatee. And all kinds of humans and ways of being human. And laughter, and awe.
I'll be reading my poetry with local poet Kathryn Kerr tomorrow night at Re:Verse, the reading series at TheatresCool in downtown Bloomington, if any of you "locals" want to attend! There's an open mic afterwards, so you can read, too.
I'm very glad of our "eat local" and "shop local" and "good to go" (environmentally responsible, sustainable commuter challenge) local programs for healthy, socially aware living. Going to area theatre and literary readings is a way to "listen local" and support your homegrown artists. Likewise, with the visual artists. "See local." Let's do it!
In this case, Kathryn and I like to appear together now and then to prove we are not the same person. Our names are so similar, and we both write poetry, and we've done some of the same things--Illinois State Writing Project at ISU, AWP Conferences in Chicago, college teaching, chapbook publication--that sometimes people think we are each other. And, of course, we are both "local poets."
Coincidentally, I just finished Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout, which I read for my local book group. The New York Times book review of it is titled "The Locals," as it's about people in a small town in Maine. I loved this book, a tender look at the tough lives of regular people. I've been wanting to read it for a long time and was glad the library had the hardback with a leaf on the cover.
It's like Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson, in being a novel-in-stories or short-story-cycle held together by a central character whose life intersects with other lives in the town, and in revealing the "quiet desperation" of many lives, and the quiet joy. It helps you understand your neighbors better, and yourself.
Also by chance, I read a short article by Augusten Burroughs this morning (thanks for posting it at Facebook, Sarah Sloat!) that connects with these two books in presenting the common, shared unhappiness of people, that some unhappiness is part of a normal life and that we can't all always be relentlessly cheerful despite the current trend to be always, always, always "positive." "How to Live Unhappily Ever After" appears to be an adapted excerpt from Burroughs's newest book, coming out this month.
But I imagine our local poetry reading will have a mix of humor, tenderness, beauty, awe, intense observation of human and animal life, ordinary speech, and, perhaps, "local color."
...and I am happy to help her out. I enjoy her books and her sense of humor. She's honest about all of life's crapola and can still laugh. I liked Anne Lamott long before I knew about The Bloggess, and she (Jenny Lawson, on her book tour now for Let's Pretend This Never Happened) makes me laugh, too. In fact, I think if The Bloggess got on it, she and her fans could find a nice boyfriend for Anne Lamott. Or Amelie (of Amelie). Or me, as I have sort of a good track record with this kind of thing, oddly enough.
He needs to be a Democrat in the San Francisco Bay Area, 55-65, smart, funny, spiritual, and healthy. You can read all about it by "liking" her on Facebook. Her son is looking for a girlfriend, too, but wait!--didn't he have a girlfriend, the mother of his child? Hmm, I need to read the new book mom and son wrote together, I guess, Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son. I'm pretty sure this boyfriend should read all of her books first.
They say confession is good for the soul, but I love the twist on that in Debra Bruce's poem "You Said You Needed to Confess," just up today in the new poetry feature at Escape Into Life.
Peachy beachy oceany art there and here by Nadirah Zakariya, and you'll want to click on her EIL feature, too, to see some scary red high heels and an electrical cord. Sort of Wizard of Oz meets Blue Velvet.
I also love the twist in Bruce's poem "What It Leads To," a girl falling in love with books (!), thanks to that "shipwrecked Odysseus." Wikipedia reminds us that the hero Odysseus/Ulysses was also known as "cruel Odysseus," twisting back up to Bruce's twist on confession.
Anyhoo, have fun on this hump of the week, still gray around here, but warmer and not at this moment raining.
"You must change your life," said Rilke. So that's what I keep doing. I've been an encyclopedia editor, a poetry editor, an actor and director, a library clerk, and an assistant professor of English. Now I'm a freelancer, work part time in a library, blog "eight days a week," study the random, tend perennials, and listen to birdsong.