Saturday, December 31, 2011

Limbo Fire Dancing

The limbo days and random coincidii continue.

After I declared yesterday, a Friday, to be a Blue Monday in the blog, I found my poem "Blues" up at Blue Fifth Review in the Blue Five Notebook series: Short pieces by various writers, plus a fascinating set of diptychs (here, two-part poems) from The Ghost of Yesterday, by Susan Terris, followed by her process notes.

I love process notes, and I like how hers moves to this shared sentiment: "But isn't the poet often the last one to know what he or she is actually trying to discover or to write about?" She discovered something big, so go read it!

By chance, I'd recently read Ghost, by Gaylord Brewer, and reviewed it for Prick of the Spindle, so this was particularly eerie and moving for me in that way, too. Also, this holiday season I revisited The Muppet Christmas Carol for all my ghostly needs.

Thanks to Wikipedia and Two Wings for the limbo fire dance, and to Hannah Stephenson for suggesting that we dance the limbo!

Happy New Year's Eve!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Lemon, Bowl, Walnuts, Leaves, Bees

Oh, thank you, Jonathan Koch, for this painting titled Lemon, Bowl, Walnuts, Leaves, Bees. It fits my blog perfectly on this "limbo" day "between the years," as poet Sarah J. Sloat explains/describes it in her blog, with the Germans even giving this between name to it. I have lost track of the dates, if not the days, and of the time of day. This morning the blue-gray sky seemed surely twilight, and I can't believe now it's only noonish (and in a blurry time, when I actually post this, post numerous interruptions....)

Anyhoo, it's a comfort to me to see things labeled clearly as what they are. Similarly, I love this list of books forthcoming in 2012 at the blog of poet Karen J. Weyant. Wait! Do all the poets I know have middle names that start with "J"?!

And happy birthday to The Bloggess!

As for me, I'm calling this Friday a Blue Monday in the blog. Because it's not.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Kicking the Ham

It's true: there's leftover turkey and ham in the house (my mother's house) from the holiday feasting, but now there is also leftover birthday cake.

My dear sister turned 50 yesterday, utterly surprised by the sudden arrival in the afternoon of extended family and a college/theatre buddy, not even alerted by the sign at the foot of the drive announcing that "Chris is 50!" as we turned in, arriving home after the annual birthday coffee chat in the Barnes & Noble coffeeshop. We just both laughed at the driveway greeting!

Anyhoo, guests included Kay and Matt, who used to celebrate Christmas by giving each other the gift of a canned ham, the same ham, creatively re-wrapped each year, and once or twice, I seem to recall (?), delivered by mail or FedEx. That prank gift tradition has bitten the dust...ew...but now there's a new poetry/music collaboration beginning here, at Ham Kicker: Collaboration and Transparency in Music, created by Joe Robinson. I interviewed Joe here, at Escape Into Life.

So if you are looking for something cool to do with your poems in the new year, check out Ham Kicker! And if you like this violin, check out more art by Scott Kahn!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Love, Actually

Love continues. Joy and warmth. Plus the eating! I hope and trust that you are all safe, warm, and happy somewhere this week as the holiday season continues. We have light snow cover today for a White After Christmas. And last night we introduced my mom to the holiday film Love, Actually (which I must remember to return to the library today!). Very funny, everybody's in it, and, as I had predicted to myself, she laughed out loud at the English subtitles from the Portuguese!

And my good news is that I actually won the love poem contest at Adanna Journal! Sometimes I am happy and lucky enough to be a finalist in a contest, but twice in 2011 I was a winner. What a joy and surprise. Congrats to all the finalists and prizewinners, and I look forward to the issue and to meeting some Adanna poets in early March at a reading at the AWP Conference in Chicago. (See Events at right.)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lo, How a Rose

While it is true that I kept a poinsettia alive all year only to kill it at Christmastime, I do have a tiny rose just now opening in a pot here on Christmas Eve. The Exotic Angels are doing a blooming dance of joy, as well, and there's new burst of blue lobelia. The pale pink begonias in the once-hanging pots just keep opening, all of these in a row on woven straw mats in the sunshine of the patio doors, taking the spot once reserved for shoes and boots, which are grudgingly clumped here and there on rugs and in corners. Oh, forgive me, shoes and boots and the feet who wear them!

I baked my tropical husband a coconut cake for Christmas, soon to be iced with Joy of Cooking boiled icing (unless I kill it) and sprinkled with the remaining coconut. This 7-Minute frosting at Food Network is essentially it, and I will take Alton Brown's advice to beat the frosting over the simmering water, and to use the frosting itself (instead of strawberry or raspberry preserves) between layers. Also, my cake has two layers instead of four. Why am I baking a cake from scratch and making boiled icing on a Slattern Day? Because it's Christmas Eve! (But I did not smash an actual coconut, so I think I can still claim to be a true slattern. Also, you should see the thin layer of flour on my kitchen floor.)

Happy and sweet holidays to you. Peace and goodwill.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Poetry Cheerleader

Hey, you know how I am always calling myself  "the poetry cheerleader" here in my goofy blog/life? Well, now I am one! Officially. I'm it! Over at Prick of the Spindle, in the newly redesigned site just up today with the new issue!

This means that even though I could never really do the tiger jump, I can be a cheerleader!

The Poetry Cheerleader is my new poetry-review column! First up is The Unemployed Man Who Became a Tree, by Kevin Pilkington. I also have a couple reviews in the regular review section: Ghost, by Gaylord Brewer, and Four of a Kind, by Mark Neely.

Plus, you can read a bunch of other reviews, poems, stories, interviews, essays, and even drama, as you can see from this table of contents page! I do like the new design at Prick of the Spindle! Very easy even for somebody as click-challenged as I am. So, congratulations to editor Cynthia Reeser on all her hard work!

Now I want to tell you about a random coincidence (which, yes, is redundant, right?) involving epigraphs. Killing the Murnion Dogs, by Joe Wilkins, reviewed over in the Escape Into Life blog, begins with this quotation from Bruce Springsteen:

Everything dies, baby, that's a fact.
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back.

The Unemployed Man Who Became a Tree, by Kevin Pilkington, begins with 3 epigraphs, one of which is this, by Ben Jonson:

Time will not be ours forever;
He at length our good will sever.
Spend not then his gifts in vain,
Suns that set may rise again.

This kind of thing makes sparks fly out of my poetry cheer-leader origami brain. Thanks to Phillip Compton (EIL store artist) for the spider mums that resemble cheerleader pom pons. And to Sports Bag Blog for these silver and gold ones and fabulous advice on "How to Choose the Right Poms Poms."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Day the Sun Stood Still

Today is the Winter Solstice, with solstice meaning "sun stands still." Thanks, again, to The Writer's Almanac for that, and the lovely poem "December," by Gary Johnson.

I will continue the holiday baking with Chocolate Oat Bars, requested by my daughter, a recipe from Joy of Cooking, (stained) pages 702-703 in my particular edition. These are the cookie bars I gave to my husband early in our courtship, which, evidently, made him think I could cook. (I can't, except accidentally.) The theory is that the rolled oats will roll away the sweetened condensed milk, chocolate, and cholesterol. No worries.

And there's a nice picture of the sun and moon on the same horizon, a thing that happened during that recent eclipse, over at Escape Into Life, in the blog, where I have posted a mini-review of Killing the Murnion Dogs, by Joe Wilkins, decorated with art by Phillip Compton. It's a wonderful book that crunched and unfolded my origami heart.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Anything Can Happen Day

In my usual roundabout way, I learned that today, Wednesday, was Anything Can Happen Day on the Mickey Mouse Club television show that I used to watch when I was a toddler. Telling family stories, my mom imitates my fairly pre-verbal singing voice, "Mi-mi Mou, Mi-mi Mou...".

I should have known it was Anything Can Happen Day when I was driving to the grocery store behind a car with antlers.

Reindeer antlers.

And then, get this (!), on the way home, I saw another car with reindeer antlers at the same intersection. A different car. First was a gray wagon; second, a white mini-van. So people are out there driving around with reindeer antlers.

I am glad I am staying home now, baking more pumpkin bread. Of course, yesterday I was out there as the Christmas Bunny, delivering red velvet mini-cupcakes in an egg carton. But I did not put bunny ears on my car.

OK, this bug is cute.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

News of the Day

Question: Why are people on Facebook saying that Jon Bon Jovi is dead?

Answer: Because people on Twitter are.

Sigh...  Apparently, it's a hoax. (I checked with New Jersey.) I hate getting my news from Facebook.

Meanwhile, my friend Bill sent me this article on "the microeconomics of poetry." Oh, so that's why I'm so poor. I asked him to recommend any good second job he can think of, but so far he's employing my husband to fix his garage, which is good enough for now!

A fine working poet is our poet laureate, Philip Levine, and this is his News of the World, which you can get here from Random House. Many thanks to President Ronald Reagan for establishing that position for a national poet, and to Garrison Keillor and The Writer's Almanac for reminding me of that.

And you'll want to read "Human Beauty," by Albert Goldbarth, the poem up there today, with its lovely claim that "the poem is an origami bird," which will fit right in among the other origami folds of my brain. But now I'm off to handle the tiny accordian folds of cupcake liners and mini-cupcake liners, because the holiday baking continues, and it's Fat Tuesday in the blog!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cashew! Bless Me!

OK, round three on the Rolo turtles today, made with cashews. Mini-pretzel topped with Rolo candy (chocolate, caramel), 3 minutes at 350 degrees to soften, not melt; then top with a cashew, pressing down softly. I seem to have given away all the previous pecan turtles as holiday or house gifts already!  I promise, I only ate, like, two, maybe three, the lopsided ones!

Meanwhile, this wonderful, strange, many-armed, multicultural Eve is here to bless us! It's the new chapbook, A Wicked Apple, by Susan Slaviero just out at Hyacinth Girl Press! In conveniently Christmasy colors: red, green, & gold.

You may remember Susan Slaviero from Halloween here in the blog and at Escape Into Life, here and here, and as the author of Cyborgia, here and here! And here, at Mayapple Press. Not to mention here, for a random robot arm.

So it's been a fruity month, with Hawaiian Papayas, mandarin oranges, tangerines, and now a wicked apple! I'm sure we'll find a figgy pudding somewhere, too.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Everybody's Home!

The nuclear family is home!

Let the sibling rivalry begin!

Yes, the brotherly-sisterly antagonism has begun, all in love and good fun.

So far.

And, in honor of that, I have declared it, finally, a Cranky Doodle Day in the blog.

Cranky Doodle Day, you may recall, is a day for me to get cranky about something (not happening much lately, since I am suffused with joy) and/or do something in the "Crafty Doodle Day" mode of my friend Lorel. Since I am known to stick my fingers together with glue (inadvertently), cranking and crafting do stick together in my house!

So today I am lunching with a poet friend and later dropping in on an open house, where we will all be visiting a bathroom recently rehabbed by my husband (of 22 years). Have I mentioned that my husband is credited with keeping a certain marriage together by completing their kitchen rehab?! I do not speak of my own marriage in this instance. Our kitchen still needs rehab....

So, to the point: crafty doodle home made holiday gifts! Yes, it's the Rolo turtles in white margarine tubs decorated on top with recycled Christmas cards trimmed with craft scissors (Seagull edge). I knew saving all those margarine tubs and Christmas cards would come in handy someday!

And if you love Christmas music and lush voices, here's a CD for you: Sibling Revelry, by Ann Hampton Calloway and Liz Calloway. I gave it to my sister one year for Christmas, as I recall, so it is the Voice(s) of Christmas Present Past.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hawaiian Papayas

Although it is Slattern Day in the blog, I do have chores to do, so I will be brief.

I want to get everything done in time to watch Rachel Feldman, local high school alum, in Illini volleyball, in Nationals, on ESPN-2, on my parents' big-screen tv, at 7:30 p.m., Central time.

That said, there is laundry to do, and there are cashews to buy for round 2 of Rolo turtles, the good-for-your-teeth, crescent-moon version. (I believe they are still working on that cashew-based toothpaste, so please content yourself with cashew butter, crescent-moon treats, and the nuts themselves. They are good for your teeth, if you don't crack your teeth on them, and if you floss.)

But what shall I blog about today?  "Sometimes--there are papayas--so quickly!" Thank you again, Jonathan Koch, for this newest painting, Hawaiian Papayas on Cloth. I know people are grousing about the cost of President Obama's family vacation to Hawaii, but I'm glad he gets to have one, and I hope he has a merry Christmas.

And thank you, Blanche DuBois, Tennessee Williams, and A Streetcar Named Desire.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Orange You Glad

Remember that incessant knock-knock joke? Knock knock. Who's there? Banana. Banana who? Knock knock.Who's there? Banana. Banana who? And so on, until: Knock knock. Who's there? Orange. Orange who? Orange you glad I didn't say banana?

Who knew I'd be telling a childhood knock knock joke in my blog on the morning of our 22nd wedding anniversary? 22 years married + 8 courting = 30 years of togetherness.

On this day in 1989 we headed downtown to the courthouse to be married by a judge who looked a lot like Abraham Lincoln. Our friends Gary and Pat came as witnesses, and then we went over to the Walnut Room at Marshall Field's for brunch beside the gigantic Christmas tree.

A week later they joined us at home, at my parents' house, for a small family ceremony that led also into the celebration of Christmas. Tony's mother came up from Miami, and his brother's family came over from Missouri. My sister's family arrived from Ohio and my brother's from California. Quite a year.

There's a banana joke in here somewhere, but I'm thanking Jonathan Koch for the mandarin and tangerines.

Knock knock. Who's there? Orange. Orange who? Orange you glad we got married?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thor by Proxy

It's Thor's Day in the blog, but I don't have anything to smash with a hammer. I have not been keeping up with Cranky Doodle Day, either. I am so not cranky. A little blue now and then, but that's my melancholy nature. It allows for deep and quiet joy, too.

So here's a link to an article on rejection--in list format--at Terrible Minds (by Chuck Wendig). 25 Things Writers Should Know About Rejection. It is hilarious and true! (I sent it to my poetry workshop, warning them that it contains bad words, and telling them it applies mainly to fiction writers, but that we can apply it to ourselves. Directly to our wounds, if we want!) I have received my share of rejections and learned a lot from them!

Speaking of Thor, god of thunder, we had actual thunder and lightning here yesterday!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hail, Mary!

The new poetry feature is up at Escape Into Life! It's the fabulous Mary Biddinger, with cool collage art by Tony Fitzpatrick, sometimes in oddly Christmasy colors, like this red and green fish!

And I've been reflecting on the Virgin Mary, thanks to this 3rd Sunday of Advent reflection by Susan Ryder over at the Reflecting Pool. It provoked quite a discussion, I hear, not exactly in response to the questions at the end or the continuing theme of "Fear not."

My mom and I missed church for that train trip to Chicago to hear readings from Solace in So Many Words at Woman Made Gallery. So we were reflecting on important things, but we were not discussing Mary's virginity (or lack thereof) or the virtues of fine storytelling as part of most religions.

Actually, I was discussing religion and mythology in my Solace essay, so I guess this is a Random Coinciday in the blog, too.

To that end, I would just like to say that it was not quite coincidence that I picked this art for Mary's poems. That is, I chose this coincidence of hairstyle. See the straight-across bangs on the girl in this collage? Just like Mary Biddinger's! Although that's a bit hidden under her green winter hat in the EIL bio photo. Just like "hidden" meanings in poems (or lack thereof).

Hail, Mary, full of grace.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Comfort Food for Thought

It’s Fat Tuesday in the blog, so I should perhaps discuss the upcoming pumpkin bread blitz, the weird cupcake extravaganza (exploding in my origami brain), or the Rolo turtles (Rolo melted on a mini-pretzel, topped with a pecan) that I hope not to burn, my excellent mashed potatoes (secret ingredients: potatoes, butter, cream) (always my Christmas dinner contribution, along with the pumpkin bread), but, after this fat sentence is over, I intend to mention two statements that were, for me, a kind of “comfort food for thought” involving poetry.

Both statements come from The Writer’s Almanac, which, like everything else, needs your financial support.

Today there is this, from James Wright, who, like me, went to Kenyon College.  He’s talking about thinking he was done with poetry and discovering he was not:

“Sometimes there is a force of life like the spring which mysteriously takes shape without your even having asked it to take shape, and this is frightening, it is terribly frightening. …Being a poet sometimes puts you at the mercy of life, and life is not always merciful.”

And on Sunday, there was this from poet and novelist JimHarrison:

“Life is sentimental. Why should I be cold and hard about it? That’s the main content. The biggest thing in people’s lives is their loves and dreams and visions, you know.”

Yes, exactly! As poets we resist and fear being sentimental--that is, asking for more emotion that is warranted, or manipulating the reader (jerking the tears), or telling the reader how to feel, etc. But, sometimes, we should…yes, fear not! And remember that our “loves and dreams and visions” already connect to theirs.

Now, I could complain about male writers getting away with tender, honest statements like this and women writers getting dismissed or insulted for similar tenderness…but I won’t. That’s been said before, noticed by many. I want to be done with that and let us all speak as openly and honestly as we want in our poems.

And, anyway, the tenderness was criticized in these male writers—for instance, in this Poetry Foundation article about Wright. But tenderness seldom bothers tender-hearted me, and one of my favorite poems is “A Blessing.” Oh, how I love the tender eyes and ears of those ponies “[j]ust off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota.”

We are sentimental. Being a poet is frightening.

Fortunately, there’s chocolate. And mashed potatoes. Not together though, OK?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

My mom and I went to a funeral today for the farmer up the road. We sat next to his friend, Gus, 95, who is, for us, the farmer next door. It was good to be all together there, and good to hug Mr. Rinehart's children (my generation), who had all been together in April for the death of their mother.

A tough year.

It put me in mind of the melancholy song, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." I didn't realize just how much of a downer it was--with the original Meet Me in St. Louis-based lyrics--till I read this Wikipedia article. I have to say I like the revisions that emerged in the movie and in recordings since.

Here is the youtube clip of Judy Garland singing the song to Margaret O'Brien in the window seat scene, complete with the smashing of the snow people! The first time I saw this movie, that scene amazed me--very dark, very crazy, real tears. I guess Margaret O'Brien was quite well known for her real tears.

But it was a beautiful, sunny, blue-sky day on this Blue Monday in the blog. And the jazzy "Amazing Grace" at the end of the funeral had already put smiles back on our faces. Robert Rinehart, farmer, also played the saxophone!

And that's Judy Garland, above, from a different movie, looking like a snow angel.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Comfort and Joy

Lovely reading at Woman Made Gallery today, contributors to Solace in So Many Words, edited by Ellen Wade Beals.  Taped by Kurt Eric Heintz for Chicago Amplified, WBEZ, so you can eventually hear/stream it. My little group of Normal poets so enjoyed the poems and stories they heard and the art all around. I read an excerpt from my essay "The Solace of Reading..." and here is a book tree from Half Price Blog.  And to all...a good night!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Greensleeves (Reprise)

When I wrote earlier about "Greensleeves" I awakened fond memories of that melody and various versions in many, some who commented here (see the Debby Reynolds version) and some over at Facebook, where I was told my hot pink cleaning gloves* might clash with my green sleeves....  Thanks, David, who gave us this fabulous youtube link to the John Coltrane version.

This is Our Lady of Greensleeves, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, altered by Maris Stella to enhance the green of the sleeves. But today is Slattern Day, so we are also considering the untidy possibility of grass stains on the sleeves of a loose woman, all thanks to Wikipedia (which needs your cash, also green).

And this is Virginia from The Clean House, by Sarah Ruhl, who must surely have a recipe for laundering grass stains from loose sleeves. And, yes, those are her hot pink cleaning gloves (*) trimmed in pink and yellow feathers. (I did the laundry yesterday so I could be a slattern today! And/or write poetry, always a little untidy to start out.)

And it's Emily Dickinson's 181st birthday, so let's sing to her, and also to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Thanks, Eleanor Roosevelt!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Peeled Mandarin

I saw crates of clementines in the grocery store yesterday, and I'm thinking fondly of our Christmas tradition of tangerines in the toes of our stockings. But this is Peeled Mandarin, another lovely painting by Jonathan Koch, who is painting a virtual cornucopia! A fine fruit basket of beauty!

Coming up: a cornucopia of comforts by way of a reading/book signing event for Solace in So Many Words, edited by Ellen Wade Beals, this Sunday, December 11, 2-4 p.m., at Woman Made Gallery in Chicago. I am going up by Amtrak with members of my local poetry workshop!  We will bring food--maybe clementines!--and talk on the train, all the way there and back. And/or write!

And it's snowing! The first real snow, sticking to the ground. We had the first area snows a little while back, and the other day when I opened the door to toss a couple apple cores to the squirrels I stepped into a few flicks of snow, but this is the real thing!

Now I'll have the chorus of "Snow Angel" going in my head, from Tori Amos's Midwinter Graces, chasing away "Pink and Glitter." Or just chasing, maybe not away....

And my citrusy orange and yellow exotic angels are wildly in bloom! But, alas, the poinsettia is presumed dead.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What Song is This?

Today I decorate the blog with Guava with Leaves, another gorgeous painting by Jonathan Koch.

In the close-up at his website, the brown leaves look like a pair of brown lips puckered for a kiss. That kiss and the guava's green leaves put me in mind of "Greensleeves," the famous, probably Elizabethan love song, perhaps about a promiscuous woman, maybe just a flirtatious one, that has new Christmassy lyrics in "What Child is This?" that we are hearing on the radio (and in stores, if we are the shopping type) this time of year.

Here are the lyrics to "Greensleeves."

And here are the lyrics to "What Child is This?"

I loved learning from Wikipedia that some people thought the song was written by Henry VIII to woo Anne Boleyn, which seems unlikely, historically, but sounds good as legend. My daughter is writing a research paper on Anne Boleyn for her Honors English class, so she's been immersed in that story and, at some point, I'd love to borrow Anne of The Thousand Days from the library and watch it with her. Anne is Genevieve Bujold! Oooh, it's also time to see Choose Me again, with Bujold as Dr. Nancy Love!

Oh, dear, it's a total Random Coinciday in the blog. And yet, somehow it all connects. For instance, speaking of Anne Boleyn, who was beheaded by her husband Henry, not such a nice guy in the long run, puts me in mind of yesterday's Split Pomegranate, for various reasons.

And now I have decorated the blog for Christmas, in red and green.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Split Pomegranate

If you mistype "pomegranate," you can end up with "poemgranate," so Split Poemgranate was almost the title of today's blog entry, which would have been about something altogether different, you can bet. Instead, I offer you Split Pomegranate, another example of the fine art of Jonathan Koch.

Perhaps you must have it for yourself or would give it as a Christmas gift...!

Today at Escape Into Life, you can see the Pushcart Prize Nominations in the EIL Blog, along with art by Yuri Ogawa Terazaki. Let us be compassionate and honorable as we remember Pearl Harbor Day, and all that came before and after it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Man Seeks God

Regular blog readers know I love NPR and belong to a book group that just read The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner. Imagine my delight to hear an interview with Weiner yesterday on NPR. You can click to read about or hear it here. Not everybody in my book group enjoyed Weiner's whiny humor, but Man Seeks God sounds like a book I will seek out, being, if not a "gastronomical Jew," at least, like him, a perpetual seeker.

Plus there is the coincidence of seeking out Sufism, which I did accidentally in Arizona on the desert at a Catholic poets' retreat. Haven't I already told you this story? Never mind. Let's just say Weiner and I both like the Sufi poet Rumi. So, sue me.

Woman Seeks Poinsettia

Recently I said to my husband, "I like keeping things alive," which he was happy to hear. I was referring to houseplants and pot plants I'd brought indoors to keep alive over the winter. I've also managed to keep a poinsettia alive since an after-Christmas sale at the grocery store last season. This one was thriving outside during the hot, sometimes wet, sometimes dry summer, and doing OK inside, too, until I re-located it, twice.

First, it was in a spot under the counter getting plenty of sun from the sliding glass patio doors, but getting bumped and broken by people who don't pay attention to poinsettias in pots. So I moved it to the downstairs bathroom, mainly to cover up a hole in the wall (don't ask), but also in hopes of protecting it and giving it the indirect window light that the African violets seem to love.

Poinsettias do not love this same light.

So now it is pale and spindly, but maybe, just maybe, this is the spindliness before the storm of red color?

I fear not.

For red color, tips on poinsettias, and a picture of hers, see Kristin Berkey-Abbott's blog today! And Happy Feast of St. Nicholas Day on this Fat Tuesday in the blog.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fear Not

Today I have a funeral to attend, library books to renew, and a bank deposit to make--enough to pay the next bill, thanks to my odd little freelance life. Some mornings, some nights, I lie abed in worry, but last night, instead, I did my A.M. Yoga with Rodney Yee, and this seems a good solution. There is never a good time to do A.M. Yoga in the morning now, so why not do it at night? (P.M. Yoga, the other obvious choice, is too much for me.)

This is a roundabout way (my usual way) of getting to the subject of yesterday's second-Sunday-of-Advent reflection, "Fear Not," by Bob Ryder, the husband half of our doubled pastor. I did find it comforting and sustaining, and it was fun to remember that I have a poem called "Fear Not" based on the renovation of beautiful Uptown Normal, when a big crane sat there for months. Now, where there was once a hole in the street, there is a lovely award-winning traffic circle of green space.

Driving my daughter to school in my pajamas, I got to listen to some more of her music, this time "Breakable" by Ingrid Michaelson, on the album Girls and Boys, about our fragility. Lyrics here. Albums here. News/new one, Ghost, here.  "Ghost" lyrics here. (By chance, I just sent off a chapbook review of Ghost, by Gaylord Brewer, to Prick of the Spindle. I do so love it when things coincide.) No matter how dark her lyrics, her "voice like an angel" encourages me to fear not.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Eye Candy

It's true that I decorate for the holidays partly in candy: red and green M&Ms in clear glass dishes strewn on tables around the house. It's possible to go through a lot of decorations that way, but later there's no storage problem. I will serve some to my poetry workshop this afternoon!

Here is the new issue of Stirring with a beautiful picture of Vero Beach by Stephanie Stair on the cover/contents page. More than eye candy!

I have a poem in this called "Blue Blood Moon," written during the moon-gazing fall. It's kind of sad and scary, but I like it, and dusting a desk lamp gave me a crucial image. Blood moon is one of the names of a full October moon (see Farmer's Almanac), and a blue moon is an extra full moon in a season, so I put them together and got this, though now the term "blue blood" resonates a bit for me as the end of aristocracy, as I just saw a beautiful production of Three Sisters at Heartland Theatre, and I can't remember the Italian for "window" or "ceiling." I understudied Irina years ago at Steppenwolf Theater, so my past is laying me flat with steamroller force...

Oh, yes, this is a Random Coinciday in the blog. Thanks to Dezidor for the Christmasy red and green steamroller. And to the editors of Stirring for taking my poem. I'm off to church for the second Sunday of Advent, taking my mini-sculptures of "greens" for the wreath, and some glittery pine cones with red ribbons.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pink and Glitter

Yesterday I put together the artificial tree without too much disaster, my husband helping by replacing a bulb and  clarifying the first section to stick into the base. And then I trimmed it, and it's glittering with little white lights, shiny stuff, including a big gold butterfly and a white glass volleyball.

I love our tree.

And I fell in love with "Pink and Glitter," as I was playing the Tori Amos Midwinter Graces album (and Pink Martini) as I trimmed. Lyrics here. Video here, with just piano. And here, on the David Letterman show, with the jazzy orchestra back-up as on the CD!

Friday, December 2, 2011


Yesterday was World AIDS Day. While I celebrated the start of Advent here in the blog, I put on my black mourning costume over at Facebook, my Day Without Art black profile picture....

But it was also a big day for poetry. I had work in two online magazines that "went live" yesterday, and I will link to those in a moment, but first I'd like to share with you "Reindeer," by Sarah J. Sloat.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the public domain photos of real reindeer/caribou.

Sloat's poem comes from the new issue of YB, dedicated to Animals! My animal poem in this issue, "Too Late," has a calico cat in it.

To make it a Random Coinciday in the blog, as well as a Poetry Someday, Sloat and I also appear together in the new issue of Umbrella, which is celebrating its 5th anniversary. Click the umbrellas to enter the issue and find the marvelous offerings! Here's the page with my 2 poems.

I had great joy yesterday, and will have a good rest of the week continuing to read all the wonderful offerings in both of these magazines!

And if you are looking for holiday gifts, keep in mind that reindeer poop makes great tree ornaments! And necklaces. Oh, yes, there's a lot you can do with reindeer poop! Check it out at the Miller Park Zoo!

Thursday, December 1, 2011


When I moved back to my hometown and started going to church, I was delighted by the home made and ongoing Advent wreath, a kind of art installation on the altar table. On the first Sunday of Advent, people bring rocks to shape in a semi-circle around the Advent candles that will be lit one at a time. The next Sunday, it's greens (evergreens or dried flowers or creative representations of greenery); then animals (photos of pets, figurines, toys); and, finally, humans.

I was so charmed by this that I wrote a poem about it, which is now published annually in the December edition of the church newsletter. I am honored. It might not make sense to anyone but us, but here it is:


First, we bring rocks: earth curves in a bow
around the source, light.  Is it miracle
or did rock bend always as the willow?

What next?  Acorn, walnut, holly, bluebell
pressed with a ribbon, tuft of baby’s breath,
pine cone, lighting of the second candle

by a child.  Magic again? Now our wreath
a parade of fauna: camels, a cat, a cow,
marble hippo, rocking horse.  Nothing yet

prepares as well for what’s to come: our own
meager arrival as human figurines,
plaster or plastic, a fragile sturdy crowd

of admirers, rigid with unspoken awe.
We stand alive, wild at heart, hope raw.

The first Sunday of Advent this year was actually November 27, when I stood on the train platform on Sunday morning, sending my son back to school instead of bringing a rock to the wreath. This Sunday I will take the weird little stand-up cardboard triangles of "greens" I've constructed from recycled greeting cards.

Here is the reflection from that missed Sunday, if you, too, want to ponder the Sacred Mystery. I was struck by the lines quoted from Mark Nepo about the seeds cracked open in the dark. They remind me of Leonard Cohen's song "Anthem," this famous verse:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

I just heard him singing this in the documentary Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man that I finally saw after many people had recommended it to me. Before I ever heard this song, I wrote a poem called "Damage" about banging on and cracking a wooden door and seeing the light stream in. People who read it and liked it alerted me to the famous Cohen song, which I have loved ever since. I wish I wasn't so clueless all the time...except that it allows me to fill with wonder repeatedly at the newness of what I've missed, or forgotten, thanks to the cracks in my brain.

And thanks, again, to Jonathan Koch, for another branch of persimmons! And the first, in case you missed it.