Friday, March 29, 2013


1) I ran out of wine.  2) I posted an excerpt from the journal of EIL founder Chris Al-Aswad over at Escape Into Life that amazingly matches the, uh,...plot of Middletown. I may have to pull a Librarian and read it to the cast...  It's Good Friday?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Librarians for Marriage Equality

It's Thor's Day in the blog: I'm for marriage equality, and I love libraries. I'm not a librarian, but I play one on tv stage. I realized yesterday that I had played a librarian as Sara, who is also a poet, in Earth and Sky, by Douglas Post. And, of course, Marian the Librarian in The Music Man. Not to mention, um, though I just did, the Librarian in Middletown.

I was in Earth in Sky at the Theater of the Open Eye in New York, founded by Jean Erdman, a dancer and choreographer and theatre director, who was also the wife of Joseph Campbell, mythology guy I love! I remember reading the plaque on the wall when we were rehearsing and realizing where I was!

What I realized today is that Jean Erdman danced The One Who Speaks in Letter to the World with Martha Graham's dance company--that is, Emily Dickinson! Who gnu? So, definitely, it's also a Random Coinciday in the blog! OK, also? Jean Erdman and I have the same birthday!! This makes me inordinately happy.

Thanks to good old Wikipedia for everything and to derekkeats in particular for the dancing gnu, aka black wildebeest.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Good Luck

I always feel like one of the lucky ones in life: I am loved. I can love. I do love. Know what I mean?

Yes, I'm a melancholic. But we have a deep capacity for joy, too. In case you were wondering.

Anyhoo, I always feel lucky when I find the artist to match the poet in our Escape Into Life poetry features. The new poet up today is Luisa A. Igloria, who has been writing a poem a day for a really long time over at Via Negativa. But she had some poems to spare! So I snapped them up.

In pairing her with an artist, I was looking for color, especially yellow and blue and green, and for transparency, and I found them all in Markus Ã…kesson. You can go see, but here's an example: the first stanza of "Dragon."

It’s said luck follows those
born in the year of the fire-breather,
a time blue with the sticky, fluted
scales of rain-moths.

See the rain moths?! See what I mean? Synchronicity out the wazoo. As I like to say.

As for me, I was born in the year of the cock (rooster) and am headed toward osteo-porosis, but I still feel lucky. Spring is coming, then summer, with lap swimming. And before that, April, the "cruellest month," with plenty of poetry, more art, and more swimmers. 

Till then, floating along, eyes on the skies.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Big Poetry Giveaway 2013

Speaking of getting my ducks in a row for National Poetry Month, I'm doing the Big Poetry Giveaway again, this year hosted by poet Susan Rich. If you are a poet/blogger, you can sign up here, at her blog, The Alchemist's Kitchen. If you like to read poetry and want to win a free book, you can participate whether or not you blog or write! Just leave a comment about which book you'd like to receive, and, in early May, I'll pull two names out of a basket, announce the winners, and mail a book to each. (You can send your mailing address by email; see Contact Info tab above.)

I'm giving away a copy of my most recent chapbook, Nocturnes (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2012). It contains "night songs" and lyric poems, some published previously in After Hours, Blue Five Notebook (Blue Fifth Review), Fifth Wednesday, Poetry Porch, and Poems & Plays. Many thanks to these and other journals, and to Margaret Bashaar of Hyacinth Girl Press!

Another winner will receive They Say This, edited by one of my favorite poets, Richard Jones. This is a double issue of his journal Poetry East that constitutes an anthology of poems, essays on poetics, and short essays by contemporary poets praising books of poems they loved. They Say This contains poems by Mary Oliver, Sharon Olds, Thomas Lynch, Tess Gallagher, Gary Metras, Sam Hamill, and Hayden Carruth, and essays by Denise Levertov, Alice Fulton, Olga Broumas, Lucia Maria Perillo, and Gregory Dunne.

And many more!

They Say This brings together pieces from previous issues, including the out-of-print first Origins issue (#43) that I keep on a shelf over my writing desk, along with #55, a later collection of Origins: Poets on the Composition Process.

Soon, I can add another Origins issue, coming out this Spring! It will contain one of my own poems, "Damage," from Broken Sonnets, and a brief essay about its genesis.

I'm tickled pink.

Or, today, red. For Human Rights and Marriage Equality.

OK, so just comment below if you'd like a chance to win a free book. And say which, if you have a preference.

Monday, March 25, 2013

In the Bleak Middle of Why...

...oh why isn't it spring yet? (Background music: "In the Bleak Midwinter") Yes, we were dumped on. By 7-9 inches of snow, or, if you look at the picnic table heaped with snow in the back yard, about a foot. The roof is prettily drifted, like a swirled cake top. The driveway, however, was like a sheet cake. For a giant.

Not complaining, really. It's been a mild winter, and high temps are predicted, and this will melt and water the earth. My tulips are on their way up, day lilies, iris.

My pink and white begonias bloomed all winter long in pots in the house. All winter long!

That's Christina Rossetii. She wrote the poem that became the hymn, "In the Bleak Midwinter." Thank you again, Wikipedia.

Back to Middletown...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Coming and Going

Whew! Busy lately. Have started rehearsing Middletown, by Will Eno, for Heartland Theatre. It's a beautiful, beautiful, funny, quirky play. About being human. I am the Librarian. And you know I love books.

I am tickled that my first real role was Marian the Librarian in The Music Man, and this, I hope and imagine, will be my last role. "Middletown. We've got you coming and going" is one of my lines in the play! And I have to memorize it by Monday. So, um, goodbye.

It's Slattern Day, but I have tidied up my office just a bit. To be able to survive the next six weeks acting again. I got my ducks in a row for April, National Poetry Month, over at Escape Into Life, and I did the laundry. OK?

But I have some more memorization to do. And I'm not as quick a study as I was when I was younger. And for some of my lines, I am supposed to be reading. So I will have to actually be reading the actual lines, because it's sort of impossible for me to look at one set of sentences in a book and appear to be reading other ones out loud. I know. I'm supposed to be acting. eyes, my eyes!

Supposedly (well, actually), it was World Poetry Day on Thursday. But, because my brain is muddled in Middletown (and generally), I missed it. Only, I sort of didn't. By failing to post my poetry book review at Escape Into Life on Wednesday, during my "elastic week," I actually did something poetic when I posted it on Thursday, March 21, 2013, World Poetry Day!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Elastic Week

It's true, I missed a day. I was so busy on Wednesday, it disappeared completely from my memory, and for a moment I thought today was it, Wednesday, the Hump of the Week, "poetry Wednesday" (my day over at Escape Into Life), not Thursday (Thor's Day in the blog), but, it's true, I got to exercise class, which is on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays (oddly), not on Wednesdays, so some part of my origami brain was briefly working.

Anyhoo, it's still Women's History Month in the USA and over at Escape Into Life, so I posted a review of Ren Powell's book An Elastic State of Mind: D.L.D.'s Autobiography in Poems. Dorothea Lynde Dix (1802-1887) was a real woman from real history, and Powell has imaginatively re-created her. And how about the elastic face on that book cover?

The art in the EIL piece is by Nancy Pirri, and I knew I had found the right pairing of art and text when I found her Aphrodite in the EIL Store, after quoting Powell's line, "On a hard night I wake as Aphrodite" in the review. Synchronicity.

(You can own this! If you have $750.)

OK, Thursday is really busy, too, and I've got to get on it. It will soon turn into Friday and disappear.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What We Witness

Today, a sunny one, driving home from exercise class in my Scatter Joy baseball hat with a good brim, I witnessed what was nearly a disaster. This is to calm you in advance, to scatter joy (weal, instead of woe). As I came up to the train tracks, the signal lights began flashing, and the striped bars came down. I saw the light of the engine car as the passenger train approached the crossing.

And then, on the slight hillside beside the tracks, a man in a black winter coat walked straight toward the tracks, and on them, running a little as he touched the ties. The train was slowing and stopped.

The man was in black, not orange, like one of the manual signal workers, and not near the signal at all. He seemed a pedestrian, but in those few moments in which I leaned forward in fear for him, gasping, he was a potential suicide. I was feeling for the driver, too, wondering if his heart stopped. There was no awful screeching of brakes. The brakes had already been applied. But still...

A door opened, and a conductor stood there for a while, looking. He was too far away for me to tell if he was concerned, or talking to the man in black. Or what.

Then the lights stopped flashing, and the bars went up. It was safe to cross the tracks in our cars, and the train would pull into the station a little while later. Once home, I listened for and heard the horn.

I told my husband all about it, and he listened patiently, as a priest listens to confession. We've been dealing with a suicide that touched the family. Our hearts are open.

Then, eating my delayed brunch, I read a short story in the December issue of The Sun, something I had somehow missed when it arrived. "A Good Idea," by Craig Hartglass, about one man saving another from suicide. That wasn't a spoiler; you'll know right away. You can read it here.

What a great name, "Hartglass." Like a glass heart. Or a glass hart.

Monday, March 18, 2013

More Weal, More Woe

I had the pleasure on Sunday to meet with a couple people to discuss poetry--and this was on top of the pleasure of having my son home for the weekend! There was plenty of family wamily conversation at meals, cuddle time, giggle time, serious planning. It all connects, because there is what can be said and what can't be said. With family, it, the ineffable, is conveyed through love and hope and small services we perform for one another. With poets, we know we are engaged in the activity of expressing the inexpressible.

Or, as Marilynne Robinson would say, about all kinds of serious reading and writing, we are engaged in "demonstrations of the extraordinary power of language to evoke a reality beyond its grasp, to evoke a sense of what cannot be said." Yes, I am still reading and loving her book of essays, When I Was a Child I Read Books. A little later in her essay called "Imagination and Community," she says, "We live on a little island of the articulable, which we tend to mistake for reality itself." That seems so often and so clearly true to me.

It's like that picture of the iceberg, used to illustrate what goes on in the theatre, just to articulate a play to an audience.

Here's something she says to which I powerfully, viscerally, connect: "I seem to know by intuition a great deal that I cannot find words for, and to enlarge the field of my intuition every time I fail again to find these words. That is to say, the unnamed is overwhelmingly present and real for me."

I feel this way all the time now--overwhelmed and thus tremulous and fragile in the world--but also floating on a sea of awe, my natural home. Since there is so much I sense but cannot articulate to others, I sometimes feel adrift (see iceberg), disconnected from the major land mass, endangered, and, perhaps, perceived as dangerous (again, see iceberg), but I am not intending to wreck any ships, and, by the way, I am in the process of melting.

It is reassuring to read Robinson's provisional definition of community: "I would say, for the moment, that community, at least community larger than the immediate family, consists very largely of imaginative love for people we do not know or whom we know very slightly. This thesis may be influenced by the fact that I have spent literal years of my life lovingly absorbed in the thoughts and perceptions of--who knows it better than I?--people who do not exist...I think fiction may be, whatever else, an exercise in the capacity for imaginative love, or sympathy, or identification." Robinson is a fiction writer, in addition to being an essayist, professor, and great reader, steeped in all kinds of knowledge. She knows that her community includes characters she has created in books, met in books, and, of course, all the authors of those books, most of them now dead.

I, too, belong in her community. "I love the writers of my thousand books," says Robinson:

"It pleases me to think how astonished old Homer, whoever he was, would be to find his epics on the shelf of such an unimaginable being as myself, in the middle of an unrumored continent. I love the large minority of writers of the writers on my shelves who have struggled with words and thoughts and, by my lights, have lost the struggle. All together they are my community, the creators of the very idea of books, poetry, and extended narratives, and of the amazing human conversation that has taken place across millennia, through weal and woe, over the heads of interest and utility."

In the context of the essay, "interest and utility" cover the day-to-day practicalities, commerce, self interest, and such small-group interests of politics and business as usual that have contributed to "[t]he cultural disaster called 'dumbing down,' which swept through every significant American institution and grossly impoverished civic and religious life, [and which] was and is the result of the obsessive devaluing of the lives that happen to pass on this swath of continent." If, for example, education is seen only as the creation of workers, we have devalued education and also ourselves. It makes me sad. I feel, in my gut, the woe.

But then I read, I laugh, and I am inspired again. (I'd like to show you an image of Homer Simpson here, saying, "D'oh!" but I don't own the copyright.)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Weal and Woe

Imaginary (and actual if you go there and click) soundtrack provided by: The Weal and Woe!

Little did I know (sudden reference to Stranger Than Fiction, which this sort of is) that my random meandering in this blog would lead me back to an old boyfriend.

Yes (sudden reference to Young Frankenstein), he's my boyfriend! (Was.)

OK, hold your horses. Back up, start over, go slowly, in linear fashion, calmly. OK, so, yesterday, quoting Marilynne Robinson, I wrote the phrase "weal and woe." I made sure "weal" meant what I thought it meant in that context, not a red welt but the public good, as in the commonwealth. A care for all, generosity through awareness, and prosperity or good stuff, as opposed to "woe."

So far, so good.

Today, I pursued it a little further, discovering Weal and Woe in Garveloch, political fiction by Harriet Martineau, from her Illustrations of Political Economy, which you can read via the Online Library of Liberty. (I gather it is more successful as an "illustration of political economy" than as fiction, which reminds me of my synoptic major in Poetry and Politicial Philosophy at Kenyon College, and thesis projects for it involving Shakespeare, Shaw, and Emily Dickinson. But I meander.)

That Harriet Martineau was quite a woman!

Anyhoo, The Weal and Woe is also the name of a band that just produced The One to Blame, an album full of "[g]orgeously harmony-driven oldschool honkytonk and 1950s style proto-rockabilly sounds," to quote their website quoting the New York Music Daily blog's praise of it. Go there and see and listen! Many congrats to the The Weal and Woe!

I went to high school with Mark Deffenbaugh, the guy on the left, and the rest is personal history!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Call it Self or Call it Soul

I am reading When I Was a Child I Read Books, by Marilynne Robinson, partly because I love her writing, partly because when I was a child I read books, too, and partly to counter the blue effects of The Book of Disquiet, by Fernando Pessoa.

In Pessoa, the disquiet goes on and on. In Robinson, it is given a name, a context in literature, and a buoying calm: "lacrimae rerum, the tears in things." She is citing Virgil, the Aeneid, and reminding us that the ancients saw, knew, and intuited so much. Why do we ever reduce or dismiss them?

So I am still reading Pessoa, experiencing his tenderness alongside his sadness in Lisbon, but now I am feeling uplifted, comforted, and calmed by Robinson, who remains remarkably afloat on a sea of tears, even in the face of our potential destruction from the unintended consequences of our actions. Which the ancients took on, repeatedly, in literature. New threats: bacteria, nuclear fission; old source: human nature, hubris.

Meanwhile, there's a new poetry feature up today at Escape Into Life, which references good old Walt Whitman, author of Leaves of Grass, singer of "Song of Myself." Laura Madeline Wiseman has continued to imagine him in poetry and in love. Beautiful photos there and here by Sebastien Tabuteaud.

I read a lot of science, and my husband is educating himself on quantum physics. This morning, I read to him from Robinson's books of essays:

"Having read recently that there are more neurons in the human brain than there are stars in the Milky Way, and having read any number of times that the human brain is the most complex object known to exist in the universe, and that the mind is not identical with the brain but is more mysterious still, it seems to me this astonishing nexus of the self, so uniquely elegant and capable, merits a name that would indicate a difference in kind from the ontological run of things, and for my purposes "soul" would do nicely."

I have a feeling Walt Whitman would have liked Marilynne Robinson, so "elegant and capable" a soul. She continues, later in the paragraph: "At this point of dynamic convergence, call it self or call it soul, questions of right and wrong are weighed, love is felt, guilt and loss are suffered. And, over time, formation occurs, for weal or woe, governed in large part by that unaccountable capacity for self-awareness."

That's self-awareness, not self-consciousness (in a negative sense), nor self-absorption. Self-awareness takes its place among other humans, being generously aware of them, too.

Pessoa felt his alienation. Whitman felt his connection, though one of a kind. Hmm.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Darkness and a Duck

Well, the "spring forward" aspect of Daylight Saving Time has made it dark again around here in the early morning, during the get-to-school-work-and/or-exercise-class routine. It's depressing, as the optimism of spring was just arriving via the light!

But this morning, in the dark, a duck was crossing the road. I didn't hit her, and she stopped. Headlights. Noise. It's nice to see her back. A pair of mallards wanders the neighborhood each spring. Sometimes they swim in the tiny pond that appears at the back corner of two lots here after a strong rain. As happened yesterday.

Mixed with snow. No doubt the ducks didn't like that any more than I did.

But the sun is shining today! Blue sky. No snow in the forecast. No snow on the steps of the McLean County Museum of History. Come on over at 7:30 for ¡Fiesta, Forever! ¡A Celebration in Poetry!   
Poets in the community are reading poems composed in response to objects and information in the current exhibit on Mexican popular arts. 

The museum exhibit is set up like a tourist visit if you could travel through time, getting your passport stamped in every region, seeing colorful stuff and learning a lot about history, pottery, handicrafts, stone, the Mayans, and Catholic saints as you go! Free, fun, colorful, cultural.

Thanks to the museum for the graphic, Country Financial for helping to sponsor the exhibit, and Richard Bartz for the ducks.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Votes for Women

My daughter is registering to vote on International Women's Day! What a thrill!

All this week we've been celebrating March as Women's History Month and today as the arrival of International Women's Day over at Escape Into Life. Today there's a sort of Whitman's sampler of lines from poems by 13 women who live all over the world writing poetry. Several live in the USA but have a heritage from elsewhere, and several live elsewhere but came from the USA; it's an amazing array of women writing in English who live in Australia, Mexico, New Mexico, Germany, Norway, Austria, etc.

The fragments of poems make up a sort of collage, and there is collage art by Ashley Blanton, who is cutting and pasting and inking on pages from old books. You can find more of her work at her website, Paper Doll Parts. I love the sweet ironies in all this. And the taste of iron in blood.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Born to Lose

I sold my car today. My sweet little 1998 Nissan Sentra. And I've been listening to The Blue Room, the newest CD from Madeleine Peyroux. Hits the spot! I love her gorgeous slow, easy voice and choice of songs. On this one, I'm drawn to "Born to Lose" and "You Don't Know Me," and last night I wept to her rendition of "Gentle On My Mind." Not because of the car. Just because the song is sweet and sad and lovely.

I'm still reading The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa. Also waiting on a patient stack: Where Good Swimmers Drown, by Susan Elbe, winner of the Concrete Wolf chapbook contest, and Survivors' Picnic, by Debra Bruce, both poetry books, both a little blue-sounding (and making it a Blue Monday on a Thor's Day in the blog). For instance, here's a very short poem by Debra Bruce:

Her Ex Sits Next To Her

It's far too soon for her to make a joke of it,
scuttle him away with a swish of wit,
This is a love seat, isn't it?

but too late to reach across the child-size space
between them, or look directly at his face.

Good stuff, that. I'll be able to read and review Survivors' Picnic for Escape Into Life, because Debra Bruce is one of our EIL poets, so more on that later!

In the meantime, everything is gentle on my mind.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Peafowl & Poetry

Celebrating Women's History Month in the USA and International Women's Day, coming up on Friday, March 8, with this Women in History poetry feature over at Escape Into Life. It's got poems by an international crew of women: Nicolette Wong writing about Chinese fiction writer Eileen Chang, Michaela A. Gabriel of Austria, writing about Austrian physicist Lise Meitner (later a Swedish citizen), Jeannine Hall Gailey writing about Austrian-American movie star and mathematician Hedy Lamarr, and Ren Powell, currently of Norway, writing about Cuban revolutionary Haydee Santamaria. With photos of sculpture by Petah Coyne.

The various photos of interesting peafowl here, um, all male, since they are the fancy ones, are thanks to posters sharing images at Wikipedia. The amazing white peacock is from the uploader Abdominator. This peacock feather, which reminds me of decorative feathers in my childhood home, is thanks to Schnobby. (Here's looking at you, bird.)

Here's another wonderful peacock on display, thanks to Jebulon. These birds are so amazing, but also so annoying, I hear--from Flannery O'Connor and Joan Didion, to mention a couple women writers! Didion's husband threw things at the screaming birds, I just read in The Year of Magical Thinking.

Ah, yes, it's a Random Coinciday in the blog, a Poetry Someday, and the Hump of the Week. And now, like a green peafowl, aka Siamese Dragon, thanks to Frankyboy5, I shall walk daintily, majestically away...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Magical Thinking

I've just read The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion. It's about grieving and coping and going a little crazy (just part of the grieving) the year after her husband died. Fascinating and beautifully written book. In it is a passage about geology that relates to "the grand indifference of the stars" in Fernando Pessoa's Book of Disquiet, which I am still reading, mentioned in a past blog entry.

Here's Didion:

"As a child I thought a great deal about meaninglessness, which seemed at the time the most prominent negative feature on the horizon. After a few years of failing to find meaning in the more commonly recommended venues I learned that I could find it in geology, so I did. This in turn enabled me to find meaning in the Episcopal litany, most acutely in the words as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, which I interpreted as a literal description of the constant changing of the earth, the unending erosion of the shores and mountains, the inexorable shifting of the geological structures that could throw up mountains and islands and could just as reliably take them away. I found earthquakes, even when I was in them, deeply satisfying, abruptly revealed evidence of the scheme in action. That the scheme could destroy the works of man might be a personal regret but remained, in the larger picture I had come to recognize, a matter of abiding indifference. No eye was on the sparrow. No one was watching me. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end."

This gets at my sense of things, how science and whatever the soul is co-exist. What is, is, as the Buddhists say. And as I say, frequently, in conversation.

Sometimes with myself. What a comfort to read, in this Paris Review interview, that Joan Didion is, essentially, talking to herself, too! "Are you conscious of the reader as you write?" asks the interviewer, Linda Kuehl. "Do you write listening to the reader listening to you?"

"Obviously I listen to the reader," Didion answers, in her usual smart, blunt way, "but the only reader I hear is me. I am always writing to myself."

Thanks to Joan Didion for her acute insights and to Facebook for "talking to Myself...."

Monday, March 4, 2013

Silent Spring

It's not quite spring yet, but it's coming! And I'm glad it's not silent. Birds were singing this winter morning! But I've been thinking of Rachel Carson on this Blue Monday, as we begin to celebrate Women's History month over at Escape Into Life, first with If Bees Are Few--another look at the prairie, this time with the help of Emily Dickinson, Rachel Carson, and Sandra Steingraber.

It's another look at Shawn Decker's Prairie, too.

The other art you'll see there, and here, is by Chuck E. Bloom. Chosen for its eerie beauty and haunting titles: What We Forget, Appreciated From a Distance, and How Many Times Will It Take? Go take a look.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hazelnuts in Winter

I'm tired of winter. But it's very pretty. Here is the Winter Quarterly issue of Blue Fifth Review, its Blue Five Notebook series: 5 writers on a topic, this time, the city. My poem in it, "Emilio's Tapas, Sol y Nieve", actually takes place in the summer in the city, but there is a reason (hazelnuts) to imagine the winter.

Reading is a good way to keep warm, all bundled up on couch or chair.

And here is Prick of the Spindle, where I have a new Poetry Cheerleader review up, of Illinois, My Apologies, a chapbook by Justin Hamm. Cheerleading is another great way to keep warm.

Many thanks to Wikipedia for its public domain image of the common hazel and to Tony the Tiger for three hazelnuts (aka filberts), skin-on, skin-off, and halved. Yes, Tony the Tiger. Filberts are also good covered in chocolate, yet another way to stay warm in winter. Do I seem a little obsessed with chocolate lately?