Monday, October 31, 2011

Poems That Scare Me

Happy Halloween! I've got my fun-size Snickers bars in a grinning skeleton cup ready for tonight's trick-or-treaters, and Poems That Scare You up at Escape Into Life, so I'm set!

The paintings by Charles E. Williams II are beautiful on their own but scare me in the context of the poems, with their fear of water. Also I'm scared by the water moving into motion at the bottom of the painting, and transforming from water, which it isn't, into paint, which it is. Why should that scare me? I don't know!

Yesterday I gave my poetry workshop the assignment to "write a poem that scares you." Of course! But we were bolstered by our Snickers and red wine, so we survived.

If you are a poet, here you go:

Write a poem that scares you.

They tell us it’s good to write about our fears and obsessions, but it can also be scary!  Make a list of things that scare you.  Maybe a categorized list: things that scared you in childhood, in various stages of adulthood, and now.  Notice what recurs, what stays.

Reflecting on the list, prewrite a series of sensory images, at least one for each sense, preferably more.  Images, not metaphors—so all your senses are engaged in the physical and sensory here and now.  And not clich├ęd (Halloweeny) scary images. The images might not be scary at all.  Yet.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Oh, God, I'm about to watch this movie with my son, to celebrate Halloween...Eve.

I don't like scary movies, unless they are funny. I'm thinking this will be plenty funny. It was between this and Shaun of the Dead, and I watched that recently, researching zombies for poetry.

In fact, I think I have seen part of Zombieland already, as I remember Bill Murray...but it's likely that I slept through part of it, which won't happen now, thanks to caffeine.

Unless I relapse into wine.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

I wish I could say I've been a true slattern on Slattern Day in the blog, but instead I baked pumpkin bread, from scratch, now in the oven,* at the request of my daughter.

Also I grilled many sandwiches--cheese, ham & cheese--at the request of my son, daughter, and husband. It is nice to have everyone home for Halloween weekend.

In addition, my parents are home safe from elder hostel in Missouri. Hmm, not that anything too terrible would happen to them in an elder hostel...but, well, you know.

Meanwhile, big winter snowstorms predicted for parts of the country while blue sky and gorgeous color continue here...

And the house smells so, so good.

*the importance of sentence structure.  One false move, and my daughter might have been in the oven!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Brought to You By...

My semi-imaginary friend Kim Kimmel would like to read a poem ending with the line "Let's don't screw this up."

Please see yesterday.

Please oblige her in the comments zone! Any topic, poem ends with her desired line.

You may play even if you don't identify yourself as a poet! It's Halloween weekend. You can wear an imaginary poet costume!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupy the Heart

Yesterday I got a card in the mail, an actual handwritten letter. It was from a friend here in town, a retired man--in fact, the man who hired my father for the job he kept until his own retirement. I have been honored, since moving back to Normal, to meet and get to know this man I'd heard about when a child.

In his note, he quoted the closing lines of one of my poems:

Let us care for each other.
Let us care for this earth.

I was touched in so many ways.  So today, as the Occupy Wall Street movement and its extensions continue across our country, and as some of the protesters are answered with violence and scorn, I ask us to occupy the heart. To care for each other.

To remember the past and the good and noble changes that have come from nonviolent protest here in the United States and all over our world.

Let's don't screw this up.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Weather

It looks kind of like this in my back yard this morning. Misty, grayish yellow, and full of imaginary owls.*

I call it Halloween Weather.

Artist Kathleen Lolley calls it Moon Ritual, the painting, that is. Here is her artist feature at Escape Into Life, and she is the artist paired today with poems by Susan Slaviero. I met Susan briefly at a RHINO Reads poetry reading in Brothers K coffeeshop a couple years ago now (that long?!), and, as it is hard to hear poetry in a coffeeshop, I also sought out her work in print, found her blog and her magazine, etc., and am so glad to share some of her new poems at Escape Into Life!

But, yes, Halloween Weather is upon us, that shift to colder temps and lingering or likely precipitation. I always hope the Indian Summer will last through trick-or-treat time, and sometimes it does, but I have gone trick-or-treating in the snow, rain, and cold snappy wind, too, alas. My son's coming home from college this Halloween weekend. I doubt he will want to trick-or-treat, but I do have some fun size Snickers in the house, for him and any possible costumed visitors,* chosen in light of possible leftovers.

Hmm, no leftovers here.

Also, any leftover Snickers will be served to my poetry workshop on Sunday! Along with red wine. And, speaking of poetry, expect more scary poems, including another from Slaviero, on Halloween Monday in Escape Into Life, too. It's a mini anthology of poems that might scare you. They scared me.

For now, I leave you with Afternoon Frenzy, by Kathleen Lolley, something I hope not to witness in my own back yard. Remember, it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.

*And on Monday, a trick-or-treater--or 4--might actually cross the back yard from their yard to get to the treats, but they might be dressed as Lego people!

Also, check this out! Ego Leonard, etc.!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cleopatra and Emily Dickinson

OK, I knew but had forgotten that Emily Dickinson's favorite Shakespeare play was Antony and Cleopatra. I've run into this again in my Cleopatra project research. Emily called her sister-in-law "Cleopatra" and connected her to the Crown Imperial (Fritillaria imperialis), a tall, queenly, spring flower.

In The Gardens of Emily Dickinson, Judith Farr reports on Dickinson's frightening eye trouble, during which reading was forbidden: "It was reading Shakespeare that she most missed; as soon as her doctor's ban was lifted, she opened Antony and Cleopatra."

Imaginary background music: "Walk Like an Egyptian," The Bangles.

More random coincidii: Because it is October, I needed to watch To Kill a Mockingbird again. There's an early scene in which Jem walks like an Egyptian because of what he's studying at school!

Fritillaria images thanks to Wikimedia Commons. First in public domain; second (Antony and Cleopatra drooping together!) via Creative Commons.

And because Tootsie was right next to To Kill a Mockingbird on the shelf, I've seen that again, too, learning something new this time that, oddly, ties in with yesterday's wild animals dream, and tootsie rolls, a fine Halloween treat, and perfect for a Fat Tuesday in the blog.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Wild Animals

This morning I woke from a dream about wild animals escaping from an open preserve, oddly set in an open-door classroom down the hall from another large classroom in a large institution. I woke with a headache--in the dream ascribed to a bear that was attacking us--and realized it was because of dehydration, the furnace now on. We escaped the bear by going into the other classroom, and closing the door by lifting up the hinged doorstop, which I managed through panic even though it is the kind of thing I cannot usually accomplish in dreams.

Those of you who follow the news will find it easy to interpret my dream based on the recent escape and slaughter of wild animals in Ohio, but I was not aware of that news at all until this morning, preoccupied on the day it was happening by local grief, the death of a dog named Wolf.

If you, too, missed that news, here is one of the recent stories about it. (I am not going to show any pictures of the dead animals, but they are out there.) This is a sad, sad thing, and surely better laws, education*, and awareness will result.

*Is this why my dream was set in an educational institution?

Meanwhile, I wondered about the impact of this event on a new movie due out for Christmas, We Bought a Zoo, based on a book about a real family who did this in England. Of course, the Wall Street Journal wondered the same thing, meaning economic impact, in their Speakeasy blog, in this piece, titled "Will the Exotic Animal Slaughter in Ohio Hurt the Movie 'We Bought a Zoo'?"

The money aspect occurred to me, too, but I was mainly wondering about the tact issue, the shared concern over the welfare of animals, etc., and the charm of the movie as presented in the trailer I saw at The Big Year (the film about birders that just opened). I told my friend Kim Kimmel, mother of Wolf the dog, how glad I was of a nice family film coming out at Christmastime, etc. So now I'm hoping the movie will help with the education and awareness aspect and the revive the animals in joy.'s Blue Monday in the blog.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Trailing Clouds of Glory

Yesterday I had the sweet experience of meeting with Basel Al-Aswad, the father of Chris Al-Aswad, the young man who founded Escape Into Life.

We spoke in Chris's house across from a cornfield, on a road that intersects significantly (and literally) with the road to my childhood home out in corn country here in central Illinois. I realized I had passed the house many times without knowing it when taking a certain route to drop my daughter off at school.

I saw, in real life, up close, the swan and family paintings and drawings of Rosalind Al-Aswad, Chris's mother, that I'd seen only online before. I saw Chris's office, his library, his Gogol...Dead Souls.

I saw the sweet, quiet corner at the top of the stairs set apart for Buddhist meditation.

I am glad and grateful for this. Thank you, Basel.

And this morning, looking once more at the family's tribute to Chris--this article and the magazine itself--I looked again at Chris's handwritten excerpt from Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality...," a poem significant in my own youth in awakening my awe, for poetry and for everything.

I had again that little shock of recognition, having known but forgotten that Chris and I were moved by the same thing. He mentions intuition in one of his last journal entries, and his own sense of recognition that a life can lead to one inevitable discovery: "The best comparison is to a scholar or scientist who comes to discover that their life-work revolves around a single theme." I'll be pondering this all day, and thereafter.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Midnight in Paris

I loved this movie!

Midnight in Paris.

Saw it last night with my parents at the Normal Theatre, our lovely little restored Art Deco moviehouse. Beautiful Uptown Normal was all lit up, the trees wrapped in bluish white and red mini-lights. Woody Allen is back! As a filmmaker. And Owen Wilson stars! Charming, charming.

I won't say more: 1) It's Slattern Day in the blog, so I don't have to say more 2) I want you to be taken by surprise!

Friday, October 21, 2011

We Love Our Animals

Today, on Facebook, my son posted a picture of a cat wearing a chocolate PopTart.

Hard to explain.

"Do you have a cat?" I asked, via comment. I try to be unobtrusive on Facebook; it is already kind enough that my son agrees to "friend" me.

Friends close to home and "virtual" (online) friends have been suffering the illnesses and deaths of their pets. My heart goes out to them. I will miss a dog named Wolf.

And I miss and fondly remember some cats and dogs I have known and loved:

Dulcie (Dulcinea)
Harper (Harper Lee when we thought he was a she)
Britney (named by the kids, only briefly with us, as she ate the chairs; she really does live on a farm now, and was born on a farm, so all is well)

If there is another pet in my future, it will be:

1) an accident (a stray taken in as we took in Harper and Cheeks)
2) an Airedale (trained by Virginia; re-trained by Bob)
3) a drunken goat

Thursday, October 20, 2011

She Slumps There Shredding Documents

I've been enjoying the blog and poems of Kristin Berkey-Abbott for some time now, and today I'll tell you a bit about her chapbook I Stand Here Shredding Documents. The title alludes to a famous Tillie Olsen short story, "I Stand Here Ironing," from her collection Tell Me a Riddle.

Berkey-Abbott's poetry chapbook handles themes and concerns similar to Olsen's--work life, the working person; women and their work lives, often domestic, or balancing domestic labors with other labors; women in family life. I Stand Here Shredding Documents is also a gentle, humorous, and pithy critique of contemporary life, particularly 20th- and 21st-century woman's place in it.

The opening poem, for example, notes the irony of wildly expensive kitchen remodeling projects and television cooking shows in "a culture that doesn't cook." In another, a fashion design student doesn't think she needs to know how to sew. What's important is the runway, the logo, the sexy slit. "Besides, [she's] a little afraid / of the sewing machine."

And of course today's working woman has left "her ancestors' farms" behind for the new crop of gas-guzzlers on their way to offices:

She looks across the lanes of cars,
row after row of metal husks,
pod after pod with precisely one person
per car, lying fertile,
waiting to blossom in the workplace.

Berkey-Abbott revisits myth and fairy tale to look at culture and her personal dilemmas, and also explores escape via "Alternate Career Path #1" ("chief bread baker / to the Abbess) and "Alternate Career Path #2 ("dessert chef / to the homeless").  I like her imaginary professions a lot--body and spirit nurtured and nurturing in both! She also gives herself and her readers the comic relief any of us might need after a long and tedious workday or day spent in "Meeting Hell," also a slightly dismembered sonnet!

I love her use of the mythological character of Penelope (here at her loom, as painted by Leandro Bassano), patiently weaving and unweaving her tapestry as she waits for her husband to come home, now displaced to the workplace as "Penelope in the Office Cubicle," where she makes and dismantles a work chart, makes and pours out coffee, and endlessly revises departmental objectives. What comes home is the meaninglessness of our modern work lives.

That is present in the title poem, too, which ends:

I am a woman of file cabinets
and endless meetings of infinite boredom.
I stand at the shredder,
my daily friend, and think of work
that is never finished.

But there's a sense in the book as a whole that some of the unfinished work is yet to come, after the regular workday, and isn't boring, and is meaningful, and it's here, woven into poems.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Collaboration is Fun!

I don't mean collaboration with the enemy in a war. That isn't fun. I mean collaboration in the arts! That is fun! And here, to prove it, is a fun interview with Jessy Randall and Daniel M. Shapiro, just up in the Escape Into Life blog. The delightful art there and here is by Erna Reiken.

Jessy and Daniel also talked about collaborating with CL Bledsoe in the blog Murder Your Darlings, so, for more fun, see that interview here! (But don't murder your darlings--just the literary ones, OK?)

For more about collaboration in the arts see Julie Kistler's blog, A Follow Spot, for this press release by Ruthie Cobb about a local arts organization, the Area Arts Round Table.

And that should get us through the rainy Hump of the Week!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Won the Ekphrasis Prize!

Usually I am a finalist, not the prizewinner, "always a bridesmaid, never a bride," but in this case I actually won the Ekphrasis Prize for Poetry for 2011 from Ekphrasis, a literary magazine devoted to poems in response to visual art.

I won for "Repose," based on a painting by John White Alexander, pictured here (click link!) published in the Spring/Summer issue. The poem begins:

There is no repose in the woman
     draped across the divan
          like milk spilling, or a white wave
               crashing on a red velvet rock.

So why am I showing you a picture of limoncello tiramisu? Well, I think there is some sensual connection, but also because I don't think I have the rights to show the painting, but the lemon tiramisu can be found here, at The LoveBite, with a recipe you can "totally cheat on," and also here, at epicurious. Limoncello is a lemon liqueur. And it's Fat Tuesday in the blog.

And we had limoncello tiramisu at my poetry workshop on Sunday afternoon in little glasses similar to the ones shown above (actually candle holders, as revealed by Ginny, the poet/cook, as anything cooked by me would not have been as delicious as this was, oh, my God!)

Also, she brought some for my family, and I had a 2" x 2" square of it for breakfast on Monday morning, to prove my decadence, and I might do the same today, to celebrate Fat Tuesday, since I can't believe my husband didn't eat it all up last night after volleyball.

I still await the fall issue of Ekphrasis, which, I think, will announce my award, but I think it is safe to announce it here, as not only was the check in the mail, it is also already in the bank, and I have silver-edged certificate. This was a total surprise, and editors Laverne Frith and Carol Frith just called me up out of the blue one day, September 10, to give me the good news.

I am excited just remembering it, and I think I need some cake, lemon curd, limoncello, Mascarpone, and whipped cream.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Why I Love Shaw

I love George Bernard Shaw. Why? Let me count the ways:

1.  He's brilliant.
2.  He's funny.
3.  He's brilliantly funny.
4.  He tells the truth (as he sees it).
5.  He's annoying.  (I like his kind of annoying.)

I am starting a project that has me reading Cleopatra, A Life, by Stacy Schiff, and re-reading Caesar and Cleopatra, by George Bernard Shaw, and, pretty soon, Antony and Cleopatra, by William Shakespeare. (I will probably re-read Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, too, for good measure.)

So yesterday I re-read Caesar and Cleopatra, prologue by the Sun God Ra (hawk's head) and Shaw's notes at the end and all. Ra reviews some history for us and scolds the British theatre-going public of Shaw's time in delightfully funny and annoying ways.  For example:

And the gods smiled on Caesar; for he lived the life they had given him boldly, and was not forever rebuking us for our indecent ways of creation, and hiding our handiwork as a shameful thing. Ye know well what I mean; for this is one of your own sins.

OK, I might find Shaw's use of the semi-colon annoying, as well as his lack of use of the apostrophe. Plus, I don't know well what Ra means, but I have some guesses.

(That's Ra with a sun disk on his falcon head above, via Jeff Dahl and Wikimedia.) (And here's Shaw, looking sort of hawk-headed himself. I think it's the eyes. Or maybe the way he parts his hair.)

All of this reading and re-reading is reminding me of my undergraduate major, Poetry and Political Philosophy, at Kenyon College, actually a "synoptic major" in English, Drama, and Political Science. My thesis was on the character of Caesar in Shakespeare in Shaw. This time around I will be focusing on Cleopatra. And spending some time with Mark Antony.

But at the moment I am looking at how Shaw looks at Julius Caesar, as a great and original man:

Originality gives a man an air of frankness, generosity, and magnanimity by enabling him to estimate the value of truth, money, or success in any particular instance quite independently of convention and moral generalization....He knows that the real moment of success is not the moment apparent to the crowd. Hence, in order to produce an impression of complete disinterestedness and magnanimity, he has only to act with entire selfishness; and this is perhaps the only sense in which a man can be said to be naturally great.

Shaw pursues this kind of Superman in various characters in his plays, poo-poohing the conventions of his own times:

[The] distinction between virtue and goodness is not understood in England: hence the poverty of our drama in heroes. Our stage attempts at them are mere goody-goodies. Goodness, in its popular British sense of self-denial, implies that man is vicious by nature, and that supreme goodness is supreme martyrdom. Not sharing that pious opinion, I have not given countenance to it in any of my plays.

I do so love his annoying self confidence! And his frank expression of doubt:

The really interesting question is whether I am right in assuming that the way to produce an impression of greatness is by exhibiting a man, not as mortifying his nature by doing his duty, in the manner which our system of putting little men into great positions (not having enough great men in our influential families to go round) forces us to inculcate, but as simply doing what he naturally wants to do.

So much going on here! Shaw is:

1. Talking about playwrighting--producing an impression of greatness--but of course today's politicians work on their image!
2.  Damning the nepotism of British society...and that practice anywhere, ongoing.
3.  Examining human nature, and assuming that man is not naturally vicious.
4.  Differentiating natural selfishness from greed for money or power.
5.  Criticizing Christianity: It must be a constant puzzle to many of us that the Christian era, so excellent in its intentions, should have been practically such a very discreditable episode in the history of the race.

That puzzle continues.

Meanwhile, here is the painting Cleopatra and Caesar by Jean-Leon Gerome. She appears to be emerging from a carpet, as Plutarch and Shaw tell it. Schiff says she was smuggled in by way of a hemp or leather bag.

And, as I recall from The Apple Cart, Shaw's favored political system is the benevolent monarchy! If the monarch is indeed benevolent (not vicious) and natural.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Big Year

Last night I saw the movie The Big Year with my good friend Kim Kimmel! (Afterwards we drank red wine beside her fire pit!)  It is a fabulous movie about friendship and birds!

As Kim Kimmel says, "It's a dick flick!" Meaning it's about male friendships.

We really enjoyed it. As the last movie we saw together was Bridesmaids, which some might call a "chick flick," I am glad we gave equal time to a "dick flick."

It stars Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson, and, despite that, is remarkably low key! It really is about birds and friendship!

All these guys are seeing as many birds as they can in one "big year," some on a lark (heh heh), and some as an important ego thing...and Jack Black even knows birds by their calls and songs!

If you want to acquire expertise in birdcalls, visit birdJam!

...previously, on Random Coinciday, So Many Crows...and various Pamela Callahan!...

Saturday, October 15, 2011


I am reading Iodine, by Haven Kimmel, and I am absolutely gripped. I love Kimmel. This one is dark, and I am pulled right in by the archetype info--the main character is taking classes in archetypes in literature and psychology, and also a "wounded women in literature" class--while trying to figure out her own story.

She's also reading about UFOs and abduction stories. Seeing some of the actual literature on this, when I worked at the used bookstore, published from 1947 on, always made me a little sick to my stomach. I was troubled in so many ways: something really happened, something happened and the government covered it up, UFO stories were a cover for something else icky that happened, or UFO story writers were playing on the vulnerabilities of the people who yearned for the stories to be true, for various reasons.

Iodine is a blue-black solid in nature, or a metallic gray, and violet as a gas. The main character's eyes are violet. The title and author's name on the book cover are the deep purple of iodine as a gas. I've been calling my blooming mums maroon, but they have an aspect of iodine.

Here is iodine as a gas in the laboratory, by Matias Molnar. Iodine is important in nutrition, and that's why our salt is iodized. A lack of iodine can lead to thyroid problems or mental retardation. Iodine is used in the X-ray process sometimes, also seen on the book cover. Tincture of iodine is a disinfectant. So far in the book, iodine has been used on the cuts of the main character as a child.

I await illumination.

Friday, October 14, 2011

So Many Crows

There are indeed so many crows in my neighborhood, often convening in the backyard trees, but I refer today to a painting by Pamela Callahan, So Many Crows, seen here, and send you to her Otter Creek Arts announcement about the Fall Art Tour this weekend in Wisconsin.

Pamela has new work up at her Woman Made Gallery website, and many crows and watchers paintings, she says, at Brewery Pottery Studio, in Mineral Point, WI, during this Fall Art Tour.

Here in Illinois, the bright yellow tulip poplar leaves are covering the front lawn and bright yellow sweetgum leaves, the back, so my world is bright indeed. The maroon mini mums have opened. The air is sweet. I celebrate with Confetti Crow.

Ah, but as the leaves fall, the rejections begin to arrive in the 1 Year, 100 Rejections tally, begun, with Brett Elizabeth, on September 1. So far, I've sent out 18 packets of poems, had 5 rejections, and 1 acceptance. The acceptance has already been published, in IthacaLit.

The quick responses are from online magazines and projects. The more usual response time is 1-3 months or 3-6 months for print journals, or sometimes 1-6 weeks for online journals. Of course, there have been other rejections and acceptances during this time, but I'm talking the tally since September 1. I love these little projects, for the sense of community!

Now that the cemetery walk is over, my poetry workshop can meet again this Sunday, and I so look forward to that gathering! If it's warm again, we can keep the patio doors open and listen to the convening of crows in the background of our own convening. Here they are on a Field Day!

Ah, but this morning, the furnace came on again...

All too soon, we'll be in Antarctica.

Imaginary background music: "Antarctica" by The Weepies.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stealing Thunder

It's Thor's Day in the blog, but I hear no thunder; there's just a gentle drizzle. Looks like it will last all day, and we could use it!

I've been wondering how to write about an odd thing that happened last night, when I attended a new play by a young playwright (still in college), but referencing "stealing one's thunder" is exactly how.

The wonderful definition at The Phrase Finder tells the little theatre story that is the origin of this phrase. The playwright John Dennis invented a thunder sound effect for the short run of his play Appius and Virginia. The play failed, but the thunder was a great success, used soon after for a production of Macbeth.

In response, Dennis may have said, "Damn them! They will not let my play run, but they steal my thunder."

Or he might have said, "That is my thunder, by God; the villains will play my thunder, but not my play!"

At any rate, this incident is the source of "stealing one's thunder," the act of using someone's else ideas or accomplishment to one's own advantage. And I witnessed an astonishing example of that last night.

The play was well done, showing us "old racism" and "new racism" in powerful and charming performances by black and white actors, including a boy in second grade! Wow! A panel discussion followed that brought the audience together in just the ways desired by director Jamelle Robinson in her program note:

The purpose of Soda is to bring up some social issues that are not openly discussed on a day to day basis. It is the goal of Kamaya Thompson (playwright) bring these issues out into the open so that they can be discussed and a change can come forth from our generation.

But then an audience member, who had spoken earnestly during the discussion, got the last word/s...and during these last words walked up to the stage area, facing the audience, her back to the actors, playwright, director, and discussion moderator, and her "comments" revealed themselves to rhyme a bit, developing into a full-out spoken word performance.

We all survived. There was graciousness and goodwill afterwards, people seeking each other out in joy and praise and to continue the discussion. But during the mingling, the spoken word artist handed out photocopied flyers of herself, with 3 of her poems, and, I discovered this morning, full contact information and lots and lots of copyright protection notices, some in boldface.

I shake my head, if not my hammer, in disbelief. And I don't think she knows or cares that she stole a young woman's thunder.

The painting above, by William Hogarth, is David Garrick as Richard III. It's from a production at the Drury Lane Theatre, where Garrick was theatre manager as well as actor, where Dennis's play had its short run, though it would have been pulled by the previous management, as Garrick wasn't there yet! Here, as Richard, he's experiencing some fear and regret. And here, in another painting by Hogarth, is a happier-looking Garrick with his wife!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Blank, Empty, and Perfect

I let Fat Tuesday go by me in the blog, mainly because I was out in its beauty, and so I'm doing catch-up on the Hump of the Week. The gorgeous full moon, a Hunter's Moon, should be up there again tonight, perhaps not behind so many clouds....

Yesterday I was out crunching through the golden leaves, walking, re-potting plants, and acquiring (free, and randomly, a walk-by wanna) some Hunter's Moon-shaped paving stones, now stacked on the front walk behind a mugo pine shrub. I will lay out a new walk for the mail carrier soon...ish. That is, this fall, or next spring, when the ground is moist and malleable for sinking them round the edge of my plants-that-won't-grow-that-are-being-gradually-replaced-by-plants-that-will-grow-in-dappled-shade, mainly hosta and wild yellow poppy, plus some columbine.

Today, I send you over to Escape Into Life, for the new poetry feature, Mather Schneider, with amazing street art by Cake. For more of Cake's art, here is her website.

I love these lines of Mather Schneider's, from the poem "Blank and Empty and Perfect":

Everything was blank, empty and
and it was my job
to keep it that way.

But nobody can, right, except maybe the Buddha?

For more Mather, here is his blog, and here is his new book. And here he is in Right Hand Pointing #44, the Regrets and Unnamed Monsters issue with a flying night carp.

It's all putting me in a Halloween mood.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Gentle Meltdown

Once again, I am not at all blue on this Blue Monday in the blog, but the sky is, as the beautiful warm weather continues. Rain, we hear, tomorrow.

Today we (NCHS) play Bloomington and Hinsdale at a volleyball mini-tourney, and we (the parents) work concessions, the last of the parental obligation in that little booth. (Nachos, hot dogs, candy, water, pop.)

I'm gently melting down after playing Martha Rice in the annual Evergreen Cemetery walk, remembering her saying, "Bloomington was a nice place to live except for that namecalling. Copperhead! Secesh hole....Well, I guess 'blackhearted abolitionists' was namecalling, too." And her moment of shared/public regret.

I think Martha took to heart President Lincoln's second inaugural address, asking the country to come together after the war. To heal, not to keep punishing each other.

Ah, yes, the melancholy president. On a Blue Monday. And now I've got Elizabeth and the Catapult in my head, singing "Rainiest Day of Summer," and the lyric, "I'm feeling melancholy, melancholy."

But I'm not.

Except sort of, the maroon mums still just about to bloom.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I woke in grief and beauty

Here is a new poem of mine--"I woke in grief and beauty"--in the new issue of Right Hand Pointing. And be sure to click on the contents page, to see the marvelous image provided with The Pillars of Hip Hop theme of this issue, and to click on the hand to read from start to finish or on the poet's name.

Click the Note to learn more about the editor's grief for his mother.

You know I love coincidence, and by coincidence my sister arrives tomorrow, returning to her childhood home with her daughter for a college visit nearby. The grief of the dream will be relieved by the joy of reality.

You see the female monarch above, in red and white clover. It's a photo by HaarFager, will full credits & licensing info here. Our local monarchs are among those who migrate south to Mexico, often in October.

And here is the underside of the monarch, its "pale orange repose," a featured photo from Wikimedia Commons!

It's Saturday, after the cemetery walk, and I am about to slip into a pale orange repose of sorts, on this Slattern Day in the blog, having worked hard all week as a ghost and yesterday, on A Ghost's Day Off doing the accumulated household chores....

And here is an amazing photographic record of a monarch emerging, by Megan McCarty, a Creative Commons image, also thanks to Wikimedia, with full info here.

For more about the monarch butterfly, go here.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Ghost's Day Off

This is our one day off from the Evergreen Cemetery walk, and, in my case, a day for doing human things: all the laundry, all the grocery shopping, and all the housecleaning that has not happened all week. While I was dead...

Tomas Transtromer won the Nobel Prize for Literature and Sweden erupted in jubilation, and so did plenty of other people who love poetry! Over at Escape Into Life, you can read Patricia Clark's poems, including one called "Poem Ending with a Line from Transtromer," and a beautiful line it is. So is the rest of her poetry.

I interviewed Patricia Clark on her work, here, in the EIL Blog, and I was especially curious about her take on "nature poetry" and its stigma/sudden trendiness. She points out, quoting Gary Snyder, that it used to be "'death' for a poet to be called a 'nature poet,'" and I have certainly read guidelines that say, "We don't want garden poems" and heard editors say, "I hate nature poems."

I agree with Patricia that it's usually best to read the poem closely and see what's going on, rather than labeling and dismissing it, and I wish more readers and editors would do so. This ties in with The Geography of Bliss, too, by Eric Weiner, whose happiness research confirms that we find great joy in being open to nature and to the beauty of our surroundings.

And nature is not all beauty, either. It's what's going on. ("It's what's for dinner.")

Anyhoo, I'd be interested in your thoughts on "nature poetry" here or at the EIL Blog interview.  How do you define it? If you have written poems about nature, have you run into the stigma? If you are a reader, what turns you off or on in poems that include nature? If you are a reader and writer of poems, have you, too, noticed the irony or hypocrisy of "eco-friendly" poems emerging in an age that has tended to despise "nature poetry"?

Here, again, is that great photo by Dana Col-cleasure, as, tomor-row, I head back to the cemetery, for the final weekend of the Voices from the Past Evergreen Cemetery Walk 2011. We think it will still be sunny and in the 80s, with sweet yellow and red leaves raining down, rambunctious squirrels, and sometimes a spider dangling down from the brim of one's hat....

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hilmar the Happy Heathen

I am still reading The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner, for my book group, and just finished chapter 5, “Iceland: Happiness is Failure.” I am in love with Iceland, and particularly with Hilmar the Happy Heathen.

I was reading about Hilmar just in time for Thor’s Day in the blog: we first meet him in the book wearing “a small silver pendant: the hammer of Thor, the Norse god.”

Turns out heathens/pagans/Vikings/Norse gods 1) weren’t quite as violent as we are told and 2) love cappuccino.

Wait, I might have muddled that up a bit. No matter! Icelandic mythology, in the book called the Eddas, “could be a muddle of thought, but,” according to Hilmar the Happy Heathen, “everyone needs a belief system, in order to have these transcendental moments.”

As Alice in Wonderland might say, in a happy mood, “Happier and happier.”

Anyhoo, I find Iceland endearing, and right after reading that chapter, I cooked dinner while listening to Bjork. Vespertine, the swan CD. (See above, and click title for details.) It has a song on it called “Pagan Poetry.” Hilmar mentored Bjork. Also, he met Joseph Campbell, a favorite of mine.

So I am really happy and transcendent right now, and will save this and post it tomorrow morning, Thor’s Day, right before I head off to the cemetery….

Wishlist, constantly: W. H. Auden, Letters from Iceland.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dead By Now

Last night we got this email from our fearless director for the Voices from the Past Evergreen Cemetery Walk 2011: "Tomorrow is 'hump day.' If you make it through in one piece, the rest of the Walk is a piece 'o cake!"

Well, we made it through. We, the actors, volunteers, and tour guides, did not collapse, but, as of the "hump of the week," 10 people have fainted--a combination of dehydration, pre-existing conditions, lack of breakfast, and blood. They tend to go down at or near the two Civil War doctors, covered in (stage) blood, discussing amputation, which, as you might recall about the Civil War, was a main treatment for bullet/mini-ball wounds.

Yes, one of the doctors carries a saw.

I perform near the monument of a man named Townsend who died in 1865, at the end of the war, at age "54 yrs., 6 mo." as is inscribed right on the white stone. It reminds me that if I had lived in the first half of the 19th century, I'd be dead by now. Um, I mean that in more ways than one.

I'm also near the grave of a Civil War soldier, marked with a star, from the 33rd regiment. And, of course, my own--Martha Rice--marked for the cemetery walk with red, white, and blue flowers. Early this morning, the cemetery workers were out with their leaf blowers, clearing off the graves and performance spaces--what great guys they are!--and they'll do it again tomorrow morning, as all morning and afternoon, the yellow and orange and red leaves were gently falling.

For your own Table Saw cake knife, go here. For your own ampu-tation, for more on Civil War medicine, go here.