Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fog at Night

We drove through the fog at night, to Missouri and back, recently. Also, the pouring rain.

It reminded me of this poem, first published in Willow Review.

Fog at Night

In fog, at night, the whole world closes over,
nothing behind in the rear view mirror,
nothing ahead beyond the dome of streetlight mist.

It’s possible to live an entire life
this way, closed in the vehicle of body
behind the gray-draped hospital room curtains of fog.

To drift in and out of awareness
or move in a cushion of fear,
wishing vaguely for two red brake lights to appear ahead.

Those lights could come up
too suddenly, layered in a funhouse of mirrors.
It could be too late to stop.

They could be the devil’s eyes, winking.
The devil might come with his legion of red-eyed angels—
laughing, the tow-truck, screaming, the ambulance.

No use imagining the worst.
In fog, at night, it’s possible to get all the green lights
on the beltway home.

To take the curve gently,
at reduced speed, sometimes lit by headlights
coming up behind, benevolent as guardian angels,

and to believe in such things.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Still Howling, Still Weeping

Today I finished The Bay of Noon, by Shirley Hazzard, because I could not put it down. It was cold outside, and I was wrapped in a sherpa (cozy, very soft couch blankie, a Christmas gift), lost in the world of love and Naples and fine, fine writing, acute observation of human nature, humans still traumatized after a war (as humans always are, since we keep warring). Shirley Hazzard is a genius, and I wept.

And tonight is the official (by some calendars) full Wolf Moon. I hope we can still see it through cloud clover, when it rises, as it's raining.

By chance, I heard the tail end of a RadioLab story, Paul Auster (of Winter Journal, Smoke, Lulu on the Bridge, etc.) talking about how we can't know our story as we move forward, only as we look back, which seems obvious yet turns out to be subtle and miraculous. I've mentioned some of Auster's screenplays here because one of the characters in The Bay of Noon is a filmmaker and another a screenplay writer. This book was first published in 1970, though I am only reading it now, as Picador put it back in print, no doubt because it was up for the Lost Booker Prize in 2010. It has Naples in the foreground, Mt. Vesuvius necessarily and prominently in the background.

Not everyone will like this book, or its kind, but I do. And today, a Random Coinciday in the blog, I connect it to Paul Auster, saying we can't know the narrative of our lives till we look back on it and see it making sense, and to a reflection on water that I heard this morning. Here's Hazzard on the search for water (and sense-making narrative):

"We are like those early explorers of Australia who died of thirst on expeditions to the dead centre of a continent, always thinking they must come ultimately to water--to an inland sea, to a lake, a river, a cascade. Deceived by salt deposits, by rivers that flow inland, by the fossils of seashells, they were driven on by incredulity as well--by disbelief that one could come so far without drawing nearer to what one sought."

There's more, but I've spent enough tears; there are salt deposits on my cheeks. I am a perpetual seeker, and to know this is sometimes very hard.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

O, Wackiness! O, Wolf Moon!

I've been in one of those tender, teary, wacky states lately. Animal joy, human melancholy.* Oh, of course! It was the full moon coming on. The Wolf Moon, the full January moon.

Hubby saw it rising last night. I saw it rising tonight while we were traveling. He was driving (with one headlight), and it was not safe for him to look back over his left shoulder at that particular angle. But now we're home, and he can gaze (and howl) all he wants.

So can I!

Two wall calendars in our house say the full moon is tomorrow, but I'll be happy (or sobbing) whenever I find it. Now, thanks to this particular NBC science website, I'll be looking forward to the Full Pink Moon in April.

Meanwhile, I finished Winter Journal and am reading The Bay of Noon (not The Bay of a Wolf at the Moon), by Shirley Hazzard. Oh, what wonderful, subtle, full writing here. I loved two other novels by her, The Transit of Venus and The Great Fire, so I am glad to be reading this one, too. It's our next book club book, and I'm starting it so early, I'll be able to read it twice! It's set in Naples (at the moment).

Reading a bunch of poetry books, too. Very moony and loony am I lately.

*Translation: laughing while crying at an episode of 30 Rock. O, that Tina Fey!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Winter Journals

I'm reading Winter Journal, by Paul Auster, a library book. I went there to get short stories by George Saunders, the guy everybody is talking about, but my library didn't carry anything by him. (Fear not! Interlibrary loan!)

Winter Journal is a memoir, in second person, of all things. I remember reading about it, and here is an NPR mini-review. I've already encountered half of what's mentioned in the NPR account, and I'm only on page 13. Hmm. But I am gripped, maybe because I am so cold, wrapped in a scarf and various sweaters. It's winter in the Midwest.

The other journal--I titled this "Winter Journals"--is my new red leather heart-stamped diary, 30% off Valentine's-Day-related items* at Barnes & Noble, the coupon waiting in my email this morning, found just after coming to the last page of my previous diary. So it's a Random Coinciday in the blog.

To celebrate, uh, besides buying a new journal with a fine discount, I will say that I forgot to mention, in Meetings, that I found out about Jack Schwarz, my most recent poet at Escape Into Life, thanks to meeting in person his daughter Hannah when I was working on Cleopatra in Ohio in November! I do love meeting in person poets I've met online.

*red, heart-stamped

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


And today...I have meetings. A brainstorm meeting for an upcoming writing project, to which I am taking my "brainstorm notes," and a meeting of my book group: we read The Book Thief, by Markus Zuzak. Normally, I don't much like meetings, but these should be good.

Here are some meetings of pages, via spiral notebook spine, in the art of Tifenn Python, paired with Jack Schwarz in the new poetry feature up today at Escape Into Life. I like how I know when an artist is "the one" to pair with a poet in my fantabulous job as poetry editor. It's different every time, but it's some wonderful meeting of poem and art, some set of coincidences. Here, the doubleness of page in the notebook art did something, the mix of animal parts, the mix of words and images.

And that the word "python" appears in one of the poems!

Schwarz is writing about Susan Sontag writing about art, so there's a doubleness in that. In the love poems, there are two people, an "I" and a "you." There are meetings of text and image, of mind and heart, of criticism and creation. And Jack is the father of Hannah Stephenson, featured earlier at Escape Into Life, with the wonderful multiple images of Claudia Rogge, some of which also use writing & image.

And if you don't like art or poetry, you still might want to click on Jack Schwarz's feature because he looks a little like George Clooney, or, as Jack himself says, like "a cross between Paul Newman, George Clooney, and Steve Buscemi." What's not to like?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Big Things

Since I've been back (from Columbus, Ohio: Cleopatra, Columbus Dance Theatre at the Lincoln Theatre), I've been taking care of business. Editing, laundry, two new poems, bills, children, and other small and big things.

Today, it's to remind you of the Next Big Thing bloggers I tagged. I'll link you to their posts if they're up!

First, Cynthia Reeser, who tagged me, wrote about Lefenstrausse, a book of short stories she's writing, dark fairy tales about children.

Margaret Bashaar is working with Lauren Eggert-Crowe on a "badass" chapbook of poems called Divine Ladder.

Sarah Carson posts regularly in her Important Things blog, so I'm sure the Next Big Thing will turn up there soon.

Christina Lovin posted about her new book of poems, A Stirring in the Dark, just out from Old Seventy Creek Press.

Susan Slaviero yearns to get her sh#* together at Mythology and Milk, so I'm sure she will!

Sarah J. Sloat wrote about Inksuite, a chapbook that will come out later this year from dancing girl press. I have read some of her wonderful typography poems. Check out the links at her post.

And Donna Vorreyer wrote about A House of Many Windows, her first full-length book of poems, coming out this year from Sundress Publications.

So check out these big things and the big things they link to. It's a pyramid scheme that does no harm.

And thanks to Wikipedia, Creative Commons, and Ego Leonard for the giant Lego Man.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cleopatra, My Sister

What a thrill! My sister played Cleopatra this weekend in a marvelous spectacle, a dance theatre version of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, a production of Columbus Dance Theatre, at the restored Lincoln Theatre in Columbus, Ohio. The interior of the Lincoln is itself spectacular in Egyptian Revival style.

All text was Shake-speare, pulled to the essential story in scenes with Cleopatra. The rest of the story was told in dance and video projected onto a huge screen, with costumes and painted columns dropped in on panels, and so much to look at. The asps were danced by lithe children.

My sister is magnificent.

Here she is, not too happy with the messenger and his news that Antony is remarried in Rome.

And here is Dancing Antony, aloft! The dancing Antony and Cleopatra were a husband-wife team, and so were the talking Antony and Cleopatra.

Here they are together, the dancing ones, with my sister Chris still pleased behind them, in her white sheath of a dress. She looked like the pictures of the willowy youthful Cleopatra, a Macedonian Greek. Her dancing equivalent wore the characteristic serpent headdress and very little else, perfect for the athleticism, passion, and eroticism of her dance.

This was a wonderful thing, like opera, with scene-by-scene synopsis provided in the program.

Original music by Charles Wetherbee, performed by Carpe Diem String Quartet.

You can read the rave review here and a summary account here, with all the credits!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ars Dentifrica

Don't worry. That's an entirely made up phrase. I've been reading Doc, a historical novel by Mary Doria Russell, about Doc Holliday, the famous dentist of the Wild West. The novel is mostly set in Dodge City, Kansas, but also visits Georgia, Texas, California, Arizona, and Colorado. Doc Holliday sets up a practice in Dodge, and we get to see him make a marvelous partial denture. Alongside shootouts and poker, of course.

But on p. 215 of the book there's a sort of ars dentifrica that could serve as an ars poetica as well, a sort of explanation for why a poet writes, what is the essence of poetry, and what is that particular person's essential task in poetry. Here, the essence of dentistry.  Doc's girlfriend, Kate, is wondering, since he can make way more money dealing cards, "why in hell you bother with this!"


She grabs his papers and equipment, frustrated, and asks again.

"'Because,' he said, astonished that he had to say it, 'I can relieve sufferin'."

She's stunned, still not understanding why he would do something if can make more money doing something else, why he helps people who can't pay him, etc. She can't understand why he has to do the thing he is good at and has a talent for, whether or not people can or will pay him.

"I bother with all this because I can relieve sufferin,'"he repeats. "I can improve lives. Sometimes I can even save them."

I think many a writer, poet, artist is similarly driven. We create in order to relieve suffering. Sometimes we can improve lives, even save someone, depending on the circumstances. The right word falling on the right ears, or heart, at the right time. We don't know. And, in some cases, it's ourselves we are saving. We don't do it for the money, and we can't not do it.

Of course, dentistry advanced, and people pay for it. Art continues, and people are less willing to pay for it.

But look at this tooth, the Roman Coliseum carved into it! (Many thanks to Maureen E. Doallas for showing me the carved tooth. She shares a lot of poetry and art via Twitter, Facebook, and her blog, Writing Without Paper.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Water Bears

Why do I have to know that these exist? Water bears, aka Tardigrades. They're little and they like lichen. Answer (to the why question): Facebook (where this image appeared in my newsfeed) and this blog by paranormal romance novelist Renee Silvana.

So it's a cute, scary creature that reminds me of the kind aliens in some science fiction film. The Fifth Element?

If this is too creepy and freaky for you, go see the beautiful images by Margriet Smulders at Escape Into Life. Her artist feature was posted on Christmas Eve, when a lot of people were wrapped up (heh heh) in the holidays. I used some of them in "Furious Moonlight," a mini-review of Carol Berg's chapbook, Ophelia Unraveling (dancing girl press, 2012). Flowers in a watery space.

"Furious moonlight" is a phrase from one of the Ophelia poems.

Here is one of those beautiful images by Smulders, called Heaven, It's a Place, in case you need something lovelier to dream about tonight than water bears.

I don't know, though. Ophelia stills drowns...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Happy 80th to My Mom!!

It's my mom's 80th birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom!

So far, she has received 53 birthday cards, and the mail has not even arrived yet today, her actual birthday! (It comes in the afternoon.) So I think we'll reach 80 cards, easily!

I made a Facebook "event" for this: Card Shower for My Mom, Turning 80. It was a great way to reach some of her former students and colleagues. She's a retired high school English teacher. Yes, the apple illustrations here are in apple-for-the-teacher mode. Thanks, Wikipedia. My mom faithfully donates to Wikipedia! She's a classy babe.

I sort of giggle (and sort of don't get) that some people responded to the card shower invitation by saying they wished they could come. It was as if they didn't read the few short cheery sentences (and sentence fragments) explaining what to do: mail a card to this address. Nor look at the big picture of a map with the address on it. I thought I was appealing to both visual and verbal learners and Facebookish people far more technological than I am! But maybe I somehow didn't make the map visible, though I made the event visible to "Friends of Guests," which I thought would cover it. Ah, but maybe people don't even click anymore in our point-and-click world. Maybe most information is gathered in a glance...

Do I sound cranky? I'm not. I'm befuddled. But I will add Cranky Doodle Day to the labels on this post! It seems nicely schoolmarmy, and I'm a former schoolmarm, too. (But not as classy a babe as my mom.)

Anyhoo, Happy Birthday, Mom!

(I know you read my blog. But you don't have to comment! Take it easy, eat an apple, have a glass of wine!)


Thanks to Roberta F. for the core and Abhijit Tembheka for the whole apple. Thanks to Roger Griffith (Rosser1954) for putting his apple blossoms in the public domain.

And thanks to my mom for being...a real peach!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Friends and Family Wamily

Whew! Not much of a Slattern Day. I attended a 1/2-day steering committee retreat, and my brain went mushy. Red wine is reviving me, and a friend, thank God, has invited us for dinner. (I did, however, cook a small early dinner for our daughter. Fortunately, I was untidy doing it, though I wore an apron, so, again, perhaps not slatternly enough.)  She* took a nap. I did not. Red wine and no nap might mean...something. Also, I did not do laundry. And tomorrow is busy, too. Ack!

My son sent me the link to Sherwood Anderson's letters to his son at Brainpickings. He** gets us. And we get him. We are so lucky in our children. They 1) love us 2) understand that we are artists 3) are artists themselves. Poor them. O, happy them!

My sister is about to open in Cleopatra, a dance theatre project at Columbus Dance Theatre in Columbus, Ohio. She is magnificent. Here is a short article on her in Spotlights, a publication of Otterbein University, where she teaches. This is her sabbatical project. (It mentions me because I am her acting coach, a great privilege. It was also a privilege to watch her husband at work, as a dancer-choreographer!) We rehearsed in Ohio and Illinois, and the dancers rehearsed/are rehearsing in Ohio and Maryland, and the costumer blogs!

My sister sent me a beautiful handwritten letter on delicate brown paper. Very banks-of-the-Nile.

In poetry news, my poem "Current Photograph, Old Boyfriend" just aired on WGLT Poetry Radio, and here it is as a podcast with "Oozin' the Blues" by Randy Kohrs. It's based on a real photograph of a real boyfriend and his wife's actual comment, but after that becomes a composite "boyfriend" in case you were worried about him. And a real garden and a real asparagus patch. I've forgotten how the boyfriends, male friends, motorcycles, and motorscooters all line up. But pondering this reminded me that I was once married to a man with a motorcycle. I forget, but I think it was blue.

*This indefinite "she" refers, correctly, to both friend and daughter.

**This indefinite "he" shall remain indefinite, but probably refers to both son and Anderson.

The Christmas tree is partly unclothed, reduced to its white and red ornaments, its snowflakes, icicles, stars, and butterflies. And hearts. It is a Valentine's Tree.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Next Big Thing

Cynthia Reeser tagged me for The Next Big Thing, a blogging writer thing in which a writer answers 10 questions about a current project or upcoming book and then tags 5 other writers.  So here are the questions and my answers, illustrated thanks to public domain images at Wikipedia, and with links at the end to individual poems and the blogs or websites of those I tagged! Look for their Big Things in their blogs next week.
What is your working title of your book (or story)?
The Cassandra Poems.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I have long identified with the mythological Cassandra.  Apollo pursued her in love, she rejected him, and he gave her the gift of truth telling, coupled with the curse of never being believed.
I’m human, so my truth is…human, not perfect, but I try to say what I see.  Often I feel not understood or not believed, so what’s going to happen happens anyway.  Sigh….  I need to work on the fate and destiny thing.

What genre does your book fall under?
It’s a set of poems, all with titles beginning “Cassandra….” in a third-person phrase.  I don’t speak as Cassandra.  I observe and render her truth and her frustration in 3rd person limited omniscient p.o.v.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Cate Blanchett would be Cassandra, for sure.  As a redhead.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The mythological Cassandra now lives in 21st century America and has two imaginary children.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It’s a chapbook manuscript, and I am sending it around, as I always do.  Possibly, in two to ten years, it will be published by a small literary press.  That’s why I am a millionaire.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Two months, September and October, 2011.  The poems came in a rush in September, a few continuing in October, when I was also revising.  Several have been published in literary magazines.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I love reading books of poems that stick with and explore historical or imaginary characters. Here are a few:
Thomas and Beulah by Rita Dove
Saint Monica by Mary Biddinger
Pinion and Figure Studies by Claudia Emerson
And The Wild Iris, by Louise Gl├╝ck, poems that speak as flowers, God, times of day.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I was looking at cornfields in fall, and began to see Cassandra, who, of course, never actually lived in the American Midwest.  So that was weird.  The poems gushed out like blood.
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

It’s hilarious.  And scary.  And there are pancakes in it.

Links to some of the poems:

4 Cassandra poems at blossombones, including


Other Cassandra poems appear or are forthcoming in Poems & Plays, Slipstream, and Spillway. Thanks to all these magazines and their editors!  And to you, for reading some of these, and my blog.  Believe me, I appreciate it! (Wait, why does Wikipedia describe the Evelyn de Morgan painting as Cassandra "at the height of her insanity"?  Insanity?!)

Tagged by:

Tagged by me (more than five, in case one yes was misunderstood or a maybe):

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Winter Issues

The snow and ice are melting today, a sunny, blue-sky day. I've been wearing my boots and carrying my shoes around in a grocery bag, except when I forget and have to do exercise class in my socks. It's been "back to work" lately--writing, editing, submitting, meeting, phone calls, chores, figures, errands, lists.

So far, this has not included taking down the Christmas tree, or random house decorations, but it might.

I've posted a "poetry blog" at Escape Into Life about all the winter issues in which our poets are featured, and other stuff. If you are a poet, go comment on that blog, and tell us what you are doing, poetry-wise, this winter.

In my usual reading-a-number-of-things-at-a-time mode, I finished The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak, weeping, and started Doc, by Mary Doria Russell, a library book. I finished Stag's Leap, by Sharon Olds, added to the Olds collection on my shelf, and started A Thousand Mornings, by Mary Oliver, a library book. The poem "Hum, Hum" made me very sad. I had thought she was free of sadness and trouble in her childhood, but, oh, no, she wasn't. Her love of the world is all the more astounding. It was, after all, her life's work.


Forgot to credit the EIL artist, Evgenia Arbugaeva!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Goofy Little Epiphanies

I'm drinking coffee from a cowprint got milk? cup and looking at a little black and white cow keychain on my computer desk right after reading cancer guidelines from an old actor friend who says to avoid both milk and coffee.

Inspired by The Bloggess, I looked at the search terms that brought people to my blog.  Here are the top ten:

dove soap
frigate bird
cinco de mayo
evening primrose

Here are people people were searching for instead of me:

Buddy Hackett
Hoss Radbourn
Eddi Reader

Indeed, they are here in my blog.

Someone was also searching for "a cat drinking milk with a x over it." That, I think, is not here in my blog and, apparently, could give the cat cancer.

In the last week a lot of people were looking for the "feast of the epiphany," which, indeed, is today.  In my house, that is a crockpot stew (which I am not eating because it has red meat in it, probably infused with growth hormones). It's Three Kings Day, and in my husband's household in Cuba when he was a child, today was the day he got presents in his shoes.  That did not happen in our house today, nor in my blog.

Answering a request, I counted up how many actual poems I had published in 2012 (not just rejections and acceptances of packets in the 100 Rejections project) and I was astounded to figure out that it was 65 poems!  65?!  Wow!  Part my amazement is that I counted twice, and it was still 65.

And I am glad to say I found an extra wall calendar for 2013 and hung it on my office door, so I think I know what day it is.

But now a song from Pal Joey is playing in my head. (Originally from Too Many Girls, Wikipedia tells me!)

("I Didn't Know What Time It Was")

Saturday, January 5, 2013


What the heck is the date today? I've been remembering to write 2013 on things (checks, paying the bills), but I sent out a series of emails with the wrong dates in them because I was looking at last year's calendar. It's still on the back of my office door. And still on the December page.

Nothing made sense. Nothing.

I should have looked at my Reading Woman calendar.

Yes, eventually I did.

She looks so calm, doesn't she? That's because she is reading a book, not the wrong calendar.

What can I say? It's Slattern Day in the blog.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tricycling Along

Happy New Year! On New Year's Eve and New Year's Day we celebrated with friends in traditional ways involving drinking (but not too much), eating a variety of excellent foods (in small amounts, but probably, when totaled, too much), and playing games. One of the games involved hilarity in form of not being able to tell a joke. I suffer from this condition, but the queen of not being able to tell a joke was there, so she retains her crown!!

Now I am back to work: writing, editing, and, still, tallying. Another rejection came in, but also notification of publication. I have two poems in Review Americana, and here they are, taking us back to summer and fall as we settle into winter. By chance, "American Dream," which both questions and nostalgically restores the American Dream (I think...I hope...?), coincides with some journal comments excerpted in Escape Into Life today, at Be Alive.

Thanks to Jeff Felker (there and here) for his Lamplight Ballet!

The tricycle made of buttons and crochet work is by Marie Bergstedt, and you can find it at Woman Made Gallery, as I did! It was in their 14th International Open exhibition, as was a table full of ancient corn harvesting tools. These items and others appear in my second Review Americana poem (scroll down), "The Art of Ghosts." As does a famous funny movie.