Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Way I Live Now

Today as I walked around watering things in the shade, transplanting white impatiens from a broken pot into broken ground, and just gazing at the beauty of summer coming in, I thought, "I used to need down time, and now I live in down time. I changed my life!" True, the follow-up thought--as artists are constantly wracked by self-doubt-- was, "Maybe I actually need a little up time." But, no. I let that go.

And I wasn't really a slattern on my Saturday (Slattern Day in the blog)! I did the physical labor, and then I brought all my desk work outside, after a stint on the computer, posting the latest theatre review by Scott Klavan and selecting fantastic New York photographs by Frederic Bourret for it at Escape Into Life.

Outside, I was reading poetry, Echo, by Christina Lovin, toward a review; re-reading The Language Archive, a play by Julia Cho, toward a fall production; and writing, always writing. Some of it was note-taking. For instance, I noted from a poem in The New Yorker, "Kale," by Jordan Davis, the exact gardening information needed by my friend Kristi in Michigan: "If you cut a butterfly bush / down to nothing, it grows back / the next year twice as high." (I must remember to send that to her, or maybe she'll read it in this blog!) I love learning stuff from poems.

Yes, I love the way I live now. And it's also a Random Coinciday, as the latest book review up at EIL, by Seana Graham, is about The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope. That's one I saw first in its film version, as a fabulous mini-series. I hope I get to read it some day, perhaps in some down time. Watching the series, I felt the terrible pertinence to our times noted by Graham in her book review. Sigh.... It's as if we're Trapped in the Mirror, the title of this photo by Bourret!

And I love this bench, titled The Seat of the Soul. All those circles.

I sit on a bench-like glider, once the shade finds it, to do my outdoor back yard reading. No circles, just weathered slats and rusted screws, but it still glides...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Good Stuff

It was a wonderful Memorial Day weekend of gorgeous weather, gathering with friends and family, and good food. And now this: Dark Chocolate, a new painting from Jonathan Koch! Is it possible to gain 5 pounds in 5 days...from a painting? OK, there was chocolate cake! There were cookies in the shape of Chicago-style hot dogs (you had to be there) and gourmet-caramel-and-cheese popcorn! We went to a wedding in Chicago, visited old friends in Michigan, connected with our own kids, and came back home to visit with two aunts who hadn't seen each other in several years. Plus, an oven-rack symphony (ditto on the being there) and "screaming zilch" (do not try this at home; involves fire). A lovely walk in the woods with friendly dogs and humans, a beautiful cold lake on a beautiful hot day, and an amazing encounter with twin fawns, just born, from a gentle distance.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Suddenly Summer

It's not summer on the calendar, but it's suddenly (finally!) summer outside! So that's where I've been, and will be if you don't hear from me here! Golden columbine have just started to bloom, along with Ohio blue spiderwort. The red grape spiderwort and large purple clematis are in bud. Oh, the iris! Dark and light purple, glorious.

And, oh, the sweet smells of lilac and lily of the valley. (I've been steadily transplanting lily of the valley to areas of the shaded front yard over the last few years from a sweet, sweet bed on the north side of the house. On its own, the lily of the valley has dug mole-like under the fence and come up in the back yard, too!) The trellis roses are about to pop!

And the supposedly annual large pink phlox I secretly hoped was secretly! This Memorial Day weekend is starting out beautifully. And, two by two, the Aunts are marching in!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

In Conversation

Today I am in virtual conversation with some poets by way of short review articles at Prick of the Spindle and in the EIL Blog at Escape Into Life. Virtual conversation is good for an introvert and avid reader. But I like in-person conversation, too! (For a while. And then I need an infusion of silence. Today it was at 3:00 a.m. on the wooden glider in my back yard. In my jammies. Summer!)

At Prick of the Spindle, I review Mountain Redemption, by Nick McRae, in my Poetry Cheerleader column, setting him in a poetry tradition with a few other poets. At Escape Into Life, I "converse" with Trace, by Simone Muench. Both are fascinating poetry chapbooks. Feel free to enter the conversation by commenting here, at EIL, or at Sandy Longhorn's blog, where she's also been reading Trace and wondering about the same problems of attribution for collage poems.

The fabulous "patchwork" art here and at EIL is by Amy E. Mayfield.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Thank you to the incomparable poet, Sarah J. Sloat, who invited me on this tour. Please visit her blog, the rain in my purseI’m tagging the poets Sherry O’Keefe, who has a beautiful blog called too much august not enough snow (though I beg to differ with her weather choices), and Brett Elizabeth Jenkins, aka The Angry Grammarian to answer the same 4 questions you see below. Many thanks, too, to the writers who invited me on this blog tour back in April, when I was too busy to say yes!

What are you working on?

I’m working on a number of different things at the same time, which makes me feel like a small child in a cool Montessori school. Kids can handle that better, though, and I feel sort of brain-crunched. So I stop and breathe deeply. Or go outside.

How does your work differ from other writers in your genre?

It differs in essential and particular ways and is similar in essential and universal ways. Someday, when I’m safely dead, I hope some fine, subtle, compassionate, loving scholar will compare me to Emily Dickinson.

(Because I am her love child with Walt Whitman.)

Why do you write?

I grew up reading, so it’s a natural extension of my being, like a teasel blossom on the top of my head. I write poems about everything, so I’m sort of like an invasive roadside weed.

Here I am as a happy teasel, saying, “I got a poem published today in Heron Tree!”

When I’m dead and all dried up, you can use me to raise the nap on cloth, or remove pet hair from your coat.

What is your writing process?

It varies with the poem or project, but I start by paying attention. I see something. Then, when some words come, the next ones can arise from those. They might get revised or cut, but they at least got something going. My husband paints this way, too—putting something on the canvas (or hunk of board or drywall) and seeing what can happen next while still coming back to some original impulse, purpose, feeling, or mood. 

If it doesn’t work, if it doesn’t come alive, we start over, or paint over it; he gets richness and layering that way, colors underneath, and I think I do, too, even if the eventual poem turns out spare. It can have power from the unspoken.

One way I “test” my process, as to its soundness, is to notice how it compares with the process of other artists and other creative, thoughtful people like scientists. And it does. Scientists often start by noticing something and then pursue it with curiosity and fine instruments. Sometimes they are problem solving, and sometimes so am I.

But sometimes I am just teaseling you.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Oh, my darling, oh, my darling, oh, my darling celandine! I'm hoping my celandine poppy comes back this year. I think I see its leafiness, but it's moved! The mauve double columbine are blooming in front and on the south, along with the sweet blue flax, and lilies of the valley on the north. Rain has sent the back yard up in blades! And I don't mean mower blades. I mean leaves of grass. Nobody's mowing around here; we're all slatterns, and it's too darn cold. I've been meeting deadlines on various writing projects, submitting a few things, preparing & revising things, but I'd have to admit to being one of the creative untidy types lately!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Internal Tigers

The troubled expression on this woman's face captures something of the odd anxiety I've been feeling lately, even when basically joyful and calm. I think it's because I sense the troubles around me even when my own lucky life continues untroubled. For instance, our former mayor died on Monday, Carol Reitan, and this was a shock and a sorrow. (I had just read about her entire public life, researching a script I wrote for an event coming up in June, where she will be honored as a History Maker by our local history museum, and was so looking forward to seeing her at the event. And now, suddenly, she is history.) On Sunday, as I spent a pleasant Mother's Day with my kids and my mom, my pastor's younger brother died at 47 from a massive heart attack, leaving a wife and two young sons. And, oh, the Nigerian girls!

I don't ignore this vague internal woe, because I've learned from experience to be attentive to it and let it be, but I try not to get weighed down by it, a stone on the chest while floating downstream.

Today's poet at Escape Into Life, Lauren Gordon, and accompanying artist, Brianna Angelakis, are helping me with this at the moment. Gordon's poem "A Short Marriage" contains these lines:

We ignored our internal tigers,
left with no other choice.
And bleakness
which settles into your gums,
makes your teeth shiver.

Brrr. It's been raining a lot, good for the hollyhocks and spiderwort just coming up or coming into bloom, good for the bleeding heart and the pending iris and clematis.

And things'll get sunny again...soon.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Make Way for Mothers

I almost titled this "Make Way for Mucklings," a bit of goofy humor my mother would expect from me, but I stuck with "Make Way for Mothers," as I am getting ready for Mother's Day by 1) buying a pertinent (you'll see just how pertinent soon, Mom!) card 2) posting a poetry feature at Escape Into Life about mothers and 3) staring at my gardens to see what I'll need to get at the big Kiwanis Mother's Day Flower Sale (Thursday through Sunday, brainchild of my dear old dad!).

The EIL poems explore all kinds of mother issues, but not really the conventional. There is a place for cheery, sentimental, rhyming, greeting-card verse on Mother's Day, and that place is a greeting card. (Although the one you'll get is currently blank, Mom. I do hope to fill it in with lovey-dovey but probably not rhyming words.) At EIL, you'll see poets handle grief, rage, the choice to be or not to be a mother, and the choice to stick around. I confess I walked out the back door once, frustrated by mothering, but it was only to walk around the block for fresh air and to blow off steam. Literal steam, from boiling rice... (And the kid was safe, and supervised, but only after my desperate, frustrated, repeated efforts to get the two men in the house, who were not cooking, to watch the toddler. Sigh... Steam...) Anyhoo!

The fabulous poems are by Yvonne Zipter, Sarah J. Sloat, Sandy Longhorn, Martha Silano, and Molly Spencer. I hope you'll go read them. The fabulous art is by Michael Parkes.

My mom had a duck nesting next to the house, with five eggs in the nest, as of two days ago. Alas! Raccoons? Possums? Crows? Above, swans!

Is this a griffin?

And, to make it a Random Coinciday in the blog, the clerk in the shop where I got the Mother's Day card raved and raved about how much she loved News That Stays News: Sustaining Our World Through Poetry, our recent local reading of poems based on the news, sponsored by The Parret Endowment, a bequest from Margaret Parret, who used to read poetry out loud with my mother!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Blue Bugleweed

The blue bugleweed is blooming. It is a ground cover in some gardens, grows tall in others, and is invasive in some places. Oh, how I love Wikipedia as a source of info and pictures, here offered by H. Zell. (Thank you, H. Zell!) The blue bugleweed in my garden is "chocolate chip" and comes from a farmer's market a couple summers ago.

It's Blue Monday in the blog, and I send you here for the soundtrack (and blue jello)! I'm not blue, as my daughter is home for the weekend, and till her mid-week final exams, and then for good, as she's transferring back to college in our town! Yesterday we spent some time Spring Cleaning for her summery return! She got a job at The Vidette, as a reporter who takes her own pictures, which is the way journalism is going. Maybe she can teach me how to take my own pictures, on my smart phone that is smarter than me. (For now, thanks again, H. Zell!)

I've been pondering again how I like to get up close and personal with the various wildflowers and perennials in my own back yard. It's a way of life, and I've chosen it.