Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In a Lonely Place

We are ready for Halloween at my house, meaning there's still half a tub of candy left and lots of naturally grown organic cobwebs.

We're ready over at Escape Into Life, too, our Haunting Poems feature graced with gently-eerie-but-also-whimsical art by Dan May.

This girl with birds and foreground rabbits makes me think of the phrase "in a lonely place," the title of a truly haunting film with Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame, one of my favorites in the film noir genre.

And this one, called The Departure, reminds me that I need to get a haircut.* It's paired with a poem called "Small Print Tornado" by Julie Brooks Barbour. I know some of you, faithful readers, are scared of tornadoes, but the poem is scary in quite a different way.

*My hair is almost this long but not swept up in such an elegant way.

Nor this blue-gray. More white-gold.

May you have a fun, safe, healthy, not-too-scary-or-cavity-ridden Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Starry Night

Last night we took our daughter back to college after a weekend visit home. Our son had visited, too, so while we were driving south he was driving north, back to his apartment in Chicago. We were all under a clear sky on a beautiful starry night. Bright and early the next morning, our daughter went to class, our son went to work, and we parents were empty nesters again, on a Blue Monday in the blog. But grateful and oh, so glad for the joy of the visit, the beauty of the night.

Our kids were tickled that we, their parents, had a date night planned for Saturday. While they went off to Gravity at the local movie theatre, we went to hear Iris Dement sing at the Bloomington Center for Performing Arts. She's a songwriter in the country and folk traditions, who has sung with John Prine, Ralph Stanley, Steve Earle, and Emmylou Harris, among others, and I first saw her on, of all things, the Conan O'Brien show, probably back in 1994. She invited him over for Thanksgiving.

She sings with a high, plaintive wail, piercing at times, in mountain style. Not everybody likes it. She writes a lot of sad songs. Ditto. But some of them reveal her great capacity for joy and acceptance. I connect. "My Life" is one of my favorite songs of all times. She sang that and "Easy's Gettin' Harder Every Day," which she somehow hilariously described as being as low as you can get, and "Our Town," and a bunch of the new ones. I loved the contrast of her gentle humor and sad content, sewn together with the thread of her fierce honesty.

I think she was blonde when I saw her on Conan, but she was a redhead in the concert and in this picture from a 2007 gig, by Ron Baker (shared via Creative Commons). Also enjoyed her in Songcatcher, a sweet film with Janet McTeer and Aidan Quinn about collecting songs in Appalchia. Yes, I have the soundtrack!

I have two of her albums, Infamous Angel and My Life, and there's a new one out now, Sing the Delta. You can see all of her album covers here, at her website.  I'm going to be playing Iris Dement while I cook for the next couple of weeks, you bet.

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Patch of Birds

This morning we visited my parents to see the walls stripped of wallpaper in the middle of a home repair & home redecoration project. There in the dining room was a patch of the bird wallpaper I remember from childhood--birds in foliage rectangles with their names printed beneath them: marsh hawk, boat tailed grackle, eastern mourning dove, eastern bluebird, wood thrush, mallard, cardinal. The professional wallpaper stripper and installer has left this one patch because it is problematic; it's on a different surface than the rest of the wall and won't come off without doing damage. She'll solve this problem.

But she won't do a small job, a patch, in a house where my husband is doing repair work so the owners can put their house on the market. So my husband had to do it. And you can't just patch the one trouble area (he had fixed a hole in the wall). You have to re-do the whole strip in the area affected. Sigh...  Poor him.

And poor me, sensitive wallflower, on a hopeless search for a patch of birds, a sample of the vintage wallpaper with birds and their names, to show you, dear readers. For one thing, "wallpaper" means something else these days; for another, some would consider this particular pattern, er, better off left in the past.

I did, of course, find the home decor kind of wallpaper, samples of which you see here. Page after page, I kept hoping for my particular patch of birds. But some things cannot be found.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Romancing Gravity

This is not a blog entry about George Clooney and the current film, Gravity. I saw a trailer for that, and it made me dizzy. So would the wild ride pictured on the cover of Romancing Gravity (Silver Birch Press, 2013), a book of poems by Daniel Romo. So I guess there is a connection on this otherwise Random Coinciday in the blog! (Click on book title and/or press to see beautiful silver birches and/or to buy book!) No, if it were (a blog entry about that), it would be called Romancing Clooney.

Imaginary soundtrack: Love, all love songs sung by Rosemary Clooney. (I own this. So it's not always an imaginary soundtrack.)

I posted a review of this book at Escape Into Life today, because it is a Poetry Wednesday there (and a Poetry Someday and the Hump of the Week here). This is a book of poems with sports in it, and a car chase, and I hope Daniel Romo knows he can send poems to Intentional Walk, an online magazine that specialize in sports poems. And, newly, creative nonfiction.

It's been an artsy fartsy sportsy kind of day for me so far. I got my tickets to see Iris Dement at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, I saw an art exhibit based on bicycling, running (and also geography and technology*) at the McLean County Arts Center, and tonight I will be rolling merrily along down the road, possibly in a sports utility vehicle (but I don't know cars) to see Merrily We Roll Along, a musical that rolls backwards, in a movie theatre in Peoria.

*It's called Moraine, and the artist, Stephen Cartwright, has applied statistics from his own locations in daily life and his own cycling and running activities to create sculptural topographies, some of them kinetic. Push a button, and they move! Coincidentally, Cartwright lives, teaches, and makes art in Urbana-Champaign, another place you can see Merrily We Roll Along in a movie theatre!

Hmm, I seem to need a public domain picture of some wheels. Thank you, Wikipedia, for this penny farthing bicycle!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Reaching for the Zumba

This weekend I started zumba and saw the film Reaching for the Moon, about poet Elizabeth Bishop and Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares. I enjoyed both! And now I yearn for the play Dear Elizabeth, by Sarah Ruhl, a dramatization of the letters of Bishop and Robert Lowell. Where can I get a copy? Oh! I see I can read an excerpt at the playwright's website. And I could get the book of letters, too, Words in Air. But I have enough to read for now.

Zumba is fun. I knew it would be! I wore my inside shoes (only for gym floors) and used my inside voice (no energetic yelps from me). If I survive Saturday morning classes, I may add weekday classes. Until I can swim again outdoors!

Today I took a walk on the trail--warm, breezy, sunny, beautiful smells, the fall leaves. Then, since it's been cold already, I did my transplanting into pots to bring indoors: white geranium, heirloom Martha Washington geranium (two-toned purple and magenta), yellow snapdragon, and a bit of balsam already sprouted from seeds that dropped in late summer. Birds are here to eat the rest of the seeds, balsam and morning glory.

Above is Joe Tiernan's harvest moon, shared at Facebook (so I hope it is OK to share here). Some say the harvest moon is in September, but really it depends on the timing of the harvest. It could, in October, be the hunter's moon, but Joe was visiting Polyface Farm, and I think he knows his moons, and his harvests from his hunts. I've seen this kind of moon, this low and huge and golden, before. I saw it tonight, high up and white, emerged from the mist, between branches. I love the moon. Though man has walked on it, it never lost its romance for me.

Speaking of the past (moon landing, dead poets), I have a poem about Nebraska in the 1960s in the new issue of Hobble Creek Review. Look at all the poems! Theme is popular culture, so you can find vampires, Nirvana, Lucy Lawless, Anna Nicole Smith, and even Debbie, Eddie, and Liz.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Open Letter to Nicholson Baker

Dear Nicholson Baker,

I love you. Don’t worry, this isn’t a fatal attraction. I am married with children, married to an artist, in fact, and I know two writers would never work, especially not one like me and one like you. You are my secret twin! Hmm, probably I haven’t yet reassured you. As poetry and painting are sister arts, let me just say that I am married to the perfect man. I am pretty sure you must be married to the perfect woman, and I am glad we both have two children.

I love you because 1) you are hilarious 2) all that good and silly stuff about poetry in The Anthologist 3) all the good stuff about music and 4) your generous acceptance of human foibles, and I love you in spite of the vague discomfort I felt with what I like to call “the hifalutin’ porn” of The Fermata. (I haven’t read Vox.) (I should have said p*#n instead of “porn.” Now I will get all kinds of strange comments I’ll have to delete and mark as spam, and some new followers who are just basically advertising their services by joining my site.  Sigh….) Soon I will get hold of Double Fold, which people keep saying I will like, because I like books (and paper), just as they said I would like The Anthologist.  Those people were right.

While reading The Anthologist, I laughed out loud many times, shaking any stress and/or random toxins right out of my being. I attempted “eyelid wars,” and I tried to cross my eyes with my eyes closed. I failed. (I tried this again in the waiting room of the hospital and told my mom about it when, looking up from The Social Animal by David Brooks, she suddenly asked me if I could say the alphabet backwards.  “No,” I said, pretty sure I couldn’t. “Have you tried?” she asked. I tried, getting as far as “ZYX.” Then my mother said the alphabet backwards, easily. You would like my mother. She loves Sara Teasdale. This eyerolling backwards alphabet business happened during my father’s pacemaker surgery. He’s fine. And I did not get lost in the labyrinthine hospital halls this time.)

Back to The Anthologist, and my reader response/love letter. While reading your book,  I tapped my foot and thrummed my fingers to the beats in lines of poetry, which I also do while writing poetry (even my unrhyming verse) or reading poetry.  I cried many a silent “Yes!” to the ceiling at the rest theory of meter and felt validated in my own rhythms. I went over to the piano and played all your little melodies, eventually remembering that I had once written lyrics for a Chopin prelude I played during my piano lesson years. In another ceiling-ward glance of admiration, I wept inside, released, and accepted life very deeply. Thank you for that.

And tonight, you’ll be glad to know, I’m sure, dear Nicholson Baker, I am going to see the movie Reaching for the Moon, about the poet Elizabeth Bishop and her lover Lota de Macedo Soares, as I have always wanted to know more about the particular losses in “One Art,” about “the art of losing.” (Many thanks to Julie Kistler for the summaries and schedule posted here, in “Embracing Normal: LGBT Film Fest at the Normal Theater” in her fabulous blog, A Follow Spot. Yes, we have a/an (?) LGBT Festival in good old Normal, Illinois! I wish I could have seen I’m So Excited!, the Almodóvar film, last night, but at least I watched the hilarious trailer.)

O, Nicholson (what do they call you for short?), I saw you on Colbert and I hope you got the “Colbert bump” if that is something that interests you. I will keep checking your books out of the library and buy some whenever I can afford it. It comforts me that you are a teensy bit older than me—you: Aquarius; me: Pisces (and I know this is destroying my credibility and your reassurance that I am not a wacko, but hey, it’s a Random Coinciday in the blog!)—but on the cusp. You are definitely wiser, in a nicely foolish kind of way. 

Thank you, thank you, a thousand ceiling-ward thanks…and I know you understand these blueberries and Mirabelle plums.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Scary Book Month

I got a hold of this today at the library. It's probably not a scary book, but what's scary is 1) I am reading too many books simultaneously (and some are plays and some are poetry) and 2) I have to read The History of Love by Nicole Krauss before November 5, and I have not got a hold of it yet, and it might be long. You know. The history of love. But it's a novel. So.

Another scary thing: I am speaking in lists and sentence fragments. This is probably due to reading too many books simultaneously.

I can tell I'm going to like The Anthologist. It's about poetry, and it promises to be hilarious. The narrator is a poet who confesses, on page 2, "My life is a lie. My career is a joke. I'm a study in failure. Obviously, I'm up in the barn again..." I'm, you know, identifying.

If only we hadn't knocked down the barn.

And buried it.

True story. Recorded in a poem, "Gambrels of the Sky," Poetry East, Fall 2012. I think it can be said that everything that ever happened to me or was witnessed by me somehow makes its way into a poem. And I'm not even a "confessional poet."

It's definitely scary book month (and scary poem month) at Escape Into Life. Today I posted a review of Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey. Unexplained fevers are pretty scary.

And Seana Graham has reviewed Don't Look Now, a book of stories by Daphne du Maurier that includes that one, which was made into the scariest movie ever. I didn't realize that Hitchcock's The Birds was also based on a du Maurier story. There's always so much I don't know. I love learning new things, even if they are old things to some people!

And now I want to read this book, In the Image of Orpheus: Rilke, a Soul History, by Daniel Joseph Polikoff, which arrived in the mail today, a nice surprise. I think it is a gift from my aunt, but there was no return address! It's part biography, part literary criticism, and right up my alley, the kind of guy, poet, mythological figure, or angel I wouldn't mind meeting in a dark alley, however scary that might be. Have I mentioned Wings of Desire lately? Anyhoo...! (I just remembered that I have eaten only a banana today. That might explain it.)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Blue Abundance

Blue abundance continues on the back fence, with more morning glories opening each day, some climbing up the juniper tree, some up the volunteer mulberry, and many spreading across the neighbors' hedge, which is OK with the neighbors. I asked before dropping the seeds this spring. 

And I don't mind the clothesline in their back yard. Why would I? But, apparently, that's a thing--objecting to clotheslines--in some places. Sigh.... Speaking of clotheslines: "Clothesline." (I remembered this blue poem in Waccamaw this past spring.)

Not-so-imaginary soundtrack (meaning I was listening to these songs while cooking): "Blue of Blue" sung by Carly Simon on her Torch album, and Joni Mitchell's Blue album. It was a blue sky October day, one that got warmer but which caused us to turn on the furnace in the morning. I was a little blue about being old enough to be cold enough to turn on the furnace on October 14, but then I remembered they turn on the heat lamps on the el platforms in Chicago on October 1, and I was younger when I eagerly awaited that date, shivering on the platform, waiting for the A train. But that, too, shows how old I am, as now it's the Red Line, and the train stops at both A and B stations. (Maybe it's changed again. I've been away a while.)

Definitely-imaginary soundtrack: theme song from Gilligan's Island, the phrase "a three-hour tour," substituting "four" for "three." Yesterday I drove four hours round trip, taking our daughter back to college after a weekend visit home. So, yes, residual blue from that, hugging her at her dorm as we said goodbye again. But, you know, there is joy in all this blueness. Things are as they should be. It's good to grow up.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Collecting Seeds

On breaks from editorial & writing work, I go outside and collect seeds. In paper envelopes. I have one marked just "Balsam" and one marked "Magenta Balsam." The magenta were in the minority this summer, and I want more of them! Meanwhile, deep maroon cosmos has just bloomed, and the morning glories continue, yesterday in profusion, today in a kind of purple and blue striped reluctance that I think means, "It was too cold this morning!" But yesterday the glorious blue blossoms stayed open all day! (For a beautiful maroon cosmos image, go here!)

Also meanwhile, things are back to scary at Escape Into Life, with a new poetry feature by Julie Brooks Barbour, with photos by Rashod Taylor (who is doing a local tintype portrait event this coming Saturday!). I love living in an artsy town!

Perpetual meanwhile: rejection, rejection, rejection, sudden acceptance, rejection, arrival of publication, patient persistent submission, writing, editing, and a bit of purple & blue striped reluctance. But the sun is shining, so I'm off to enjoy it, eat my forgotten lunch, and collect more seeds before the afternoon tasks!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Delightful Things

1. My daughter is home for a visit!

2. My niece did a great job in a staged reading of a new play at Knox College last night. She played a boy! Wow! Congrats to the student writers, actors, and directors in the Playwrights' Workshop at Knox!

3. The annual Evergreen Cemetery Discovery Walk opens today. (May the rainstorm hold off till night!)

4. Seana Graham is announced as the new Book Review Editor at Escape Into Life! (You can also find her on my blog roll at Confessions of Ignorance.)

5. ...Alongside fabulous book art by Samantha Huang, one of our EIL Artist Watch artists!

6. The morning glories, the morning glories, the morning glories!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Scary Things

It's already a scary month. Various scary things, recent, present, or looming: Syria, shutdown, shooting. Nick Courtright's poetry feature at Escape Into Life (+ some haunting poems I'll post closer to Halloween). The sky yesterday evening just before it let loose. This art by Kenichi Hoshine.

An edgy feeling, and also a loss-of-the-edges feeling. How those two feelings co-exist--as if I am merely a sketchy outline, disappearing.

Hearing my own poem, "League Bowling," on the radio, and remembering how scary it was to write it.

But today, the baby is alive! The sky is blue. The morning glories keep tumbling off the fence. The balsam, beaten down to the ground by the rainstorm, will release its seed close to the earth.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


It's October 1st, but don't be alarmed: I'm not going to talk about the government shutdown. It's the first Tuesday of the month, so the sirens went off here at 10:00 a.m., the monthly test, sort of a mournful, scary sound, though, since the sad sound means the sirens are working, vaguely reassuring.

Meanwhile, I was vaguely alarmed at the recent loss of sound from videos on youtube or posted on Facebook. I knew I would be too technologically challenged to sort out what my computer had done to mute or block sound, so I asked my son. Other helpful people had advised me to turn on my speakers or turn up the volume. I am not being sarcastic here. I do know that this is often the solution, as is unplugging and re-plugging one's computer when it keeps kicking you off the Internet. Thank you, Al Gore.

My son instructed me, by email, to go to Chrome, click the 3 bars in the upper right corner, and clear my browsing history. I had a choice here, about how far back to clear it, and chose From the beginning of time. I found this thrilling as well as alarming, and waited to see if I would actually explode, or just disintegrate little by little.

Also, I am reading The Fermata, by Nicholson Baker, about a guy who can stop time. People kept telling me I would love Nicholson Baker, and I saw him interviewed by Stephen Colbert and thought it was time to give him a try. Why did people think I would like a book about a guy who can stop time in order to take off women's shirts? Well, true, they thought I would like The Anthologist, about a poet, which was not on the shelf at the library, and Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper, a nonfiction book about preserving words on paper, also missing, and I probably will, because I am pretty darned fascinated (and simultaneously alarmed) by The Fermata.

So, anyway, just because sound was paused indefinitely on my computer, it didn't mean 3 million other people couldn't hear the delightful daughter of Ben Ames sing "Tonight You Belong To Me" to ward off fear of fireworks. They could! I couldn't! Not till I cleared my browsing history From the beginning of time. And now I can. She is very cute.

And that, my friends, is a Random Coinciday in the blog.