One of the books I read on my couch was News of the World, by Paulette Jiles, a paperback I got from the ongoing library sale and which will go out in our Little Free Library once it's warm enough to go out there again. Tom Hanks is in the movie of this, and when I Googled it, it looked like I could see it on Netflix, but that was old news indeed. Or confusing news. Netflix streams it internationally but not here in the U.S., where it is again playing in some theatres, it appears. I will wait. But I am eager to see Helena Zengel, the young actor who plays the girl taken captive by the Kiowa, with whom she identifies, though her family of origin is German. I was drawn to her in the book.
Sunday, February 14, 2021
Today I gave in to the couch, and that produced 4 poem drafts, a healing calm, and restored my sense of who I really am. Sigh... It helped this past week to call up some friends up spontaneously on the phone. Thank you, friends! It's been almost a year of isolation, and maybe I hadn't felt it as intensely till now. I know I've had it easier than many, as a shy person and an introvert and someone with a safe, masked, part-time job. Feeling for all the rest of you, you can be sure.à la ronde. One was The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig, where one must choose among one's parallel lives in the multiverse. One was Faithful, by Alice Hoffman, in which a woman punishes herself, needing to heal and be forgiven. I was feeling like that. It helped to write some little poems, to send some poems out, to have a few taken.
Wednesday, February 3, 2021
*I say “mostly” because evidently I am writing about it here in connection to crankiness, so its effects may be lingering still.
In the meantime, I was so happy with myself for starting the year off right, and getting three submissions out in January, the last right on January 31. That submission was rejected two days letter with a cheerful suggestion that I subscribe via discount. There was a brief moment then, too, of laugh-out-loud-crankiness-slash-recognition, as I said to myself, “Oh, yeah! That’s why I stopped submitting to that journal!”
But, on February 1, I doggedly resumed my chalkboard poem a day on Facebook. Oops, I just realized I forgot the Instagram simulcast….OK, done. Double sigh…
Today’s poem was drafted yesterday evening, as it happened, and revised this morning, before posting:
February 3, 2021
briefly, in the shift of
I was gone,
nameless, part of the night
I’ve been reading Russian short stories in the book by George Saunders, A Swim in the Pond in the Rain. The stories and his commentary make me want to stop everything and write fiction again. (I did a little of that, longhand in a journal.) As it says in the poem above, I did feel nameless, gone, at one with the universe, at dusk, and I sense that at times in the Russians. My husband feels at-one-ment much of the time. In a comic version of all this, I forgot who I was in an email, when someone referred to “Kathy,” and I thought she meant me, but, to her, I am only “Kathleen.” We got it sorted out.
It’s been very sunny here lately, but a deep, deep cold is coming soon. Thanks, Groundhog.
Sunday, January 24, 2021
And how about that cover, that sunset, right? Looking up from one's reading, or one's life, to notice the actual colors of the actual sky is a crucial part of this book, in which what people say and do is completely constricted by their circumstances. This story is set in the "troubles" or "sorrows" of Northern Ireland, not ever named, like most of the characters. To stay alive during the political/religious conflicts raging all around, people have to contort themselves--their speech, their behavior, their emotions. Part of the "right time" to read this, for me, connects to the current constrictions of the pandemic, and part, the main part, is how it evokes the current political divide in the country I live in. We can't really talk to each other, kindly and well, because we're living in different realities. It's awkward, dangerous, and strange.
I want to share some favorite lines, images, facts, and, of course, random coincidii with you.
I loved "Facetime" by George Bilgere, partly about the return of the animals to human-deserted places, and partly about phoning up the eels! I loved Sarah Paley's strong sonnet about a store cashier, "At the Hardware Store on the Island (March 21, 2020)," and noted the coincidence that Paley has a chapbook forthcoming from Eyewear Publishing called The Autobiography of an Eel. A coincidence of eels! Who gnu?
I loved learning about "arborial cemeteries" in Gail Mazur's wonderful and funny "Matzoh." I was sad to learn this personal history detail from "Under Juncos, the Baby Stones," by Tess Taylor, which begins:
Grandmother, born 1918,
half-orphaned, mother dead of the flu,
your father, widowed, alone,
taped your mouth shut
to keep you from crying.
There is the connection of our pandemic to the 1918 pandemic, and also to whatever contortions of grief and circumstances might be happening now. My heart broke to read the phenomenal "An American Nurse Foresees Her Death," by Amit Majmudar, where, sadly, the title tells the story. With "Leaving Evanston," by Deborah Garrison, I sympathized with the theatre students having to leave school before their spring showcase production, before their Commencement, and thus also with all the students whose lives and expectations were disrupted this past spring...and likely will be in the spring to come.
"How I wish feeling terrible felt useful, as it did when I was a teenager," says Nicole Cooley in the poem "At CVS Wearing a Mask I Buy Plastic Eggs for My Daughter." That resonated, and also reminded me of the narrator of Milkman, who is seventeen and eighteen when the main events happen; it's hard to come of age when the adults don't know how to show you, teach you, bring you along. And in "Poem for My Students," by Sharon Olds, I encountered "chain-reading" (like chain smoking), something I do, reading one book right after another.
Despite my skimming and skipping, I found much to marvel at in ...a Sudden Strangeness, including this deftness with line and stanza break in the beautiful and simple "Quarantine" by Dave Lucas, that begins:
You could not come to me
so instead I set out for you
And I identify with this impulse in "A Private Life," by Mark Wunderlich, which I may, though lacking in chickens, follow:
I think when this is done, I'll stay
shut in, tending my hens, mending
the threadbare life nobody will see.
Sunday, January 17, 2021
And then I encountered Rilke, also quoted by Patricia Hampl in The Art of the Wasted Day and in one of my blog entries about that. Nunez's narrator, quoting Rilke in italics, commenting on her own reading (the way I comment upon mine in my blog...) says, "Once again I come upon his famous definition of love: two solitudes that protect and border and greet each other." In the Hampl book, the translation chooses "touch" instead of "border." I had just just quoted that book/translation here, noting the similarity to my own marriage, in the context of being lucky to be married to another artist. Layer upon layer of reading the right book at the right time, making almost every day a Random Coinciday.