Monday, June 30, 2014

Blue Horizon

I woke to a thunderstorm early this morning and thought, "No lap swimming." Really, there was a huge noise at the crack of dawn, and I learned on my way to lap swimming that a tree in the neighborhood had been sheared by lightning, strips of its bark in the street. Because, yes!--it cleared up by 7:45, and I got to the pool by 8:00, for the last half hour of Early Bird Lap Swim.

Before I could get a song in my head, "Swimmin' in the Rain," lyrics improvised to the tune of "Singin' in the Rain" but to the rhythm of the Australian crawl, I heard the blared music of the Aquacize class, "YMCA." That was fine, too.

What you see here on Blue Monday in the blog are beautiful photographs by my daughter, also on view at Ave Rio Photography, with shades of blue in them! The pink blooms are from this April, and the blue sunset is from this June, which ends tonight, probably again in thunderstorm.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Looking Back

The radio news is full of war, and not just the current struggles but also World War I, as it began 100 years ago with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This Reuters article notes striking parallels between the current state of the world and the state of the world then. Sigh...

John Guzlowski is looking back on his reading, his losses, and World War II in these poems in Escape Into Life, posted with beautiful and heartbreaking art by Margarita Georgiadis, also seen here in paintings titled Time Past and Anointed.

I've been looking back at my own poems this spring and summer, as I revise and submit them and prepare and revise chapbook and full-length manuscripts for submission. Since we are six months into 2014, I realized I should do a tally toward the 100 Rejections project again, and, after struggling only a weensy bit with the inevitable math of it, I came up with totals that actually added up! I have sent out 42 submissions, had 15 acceptances and 11 rejections; 15 packets are pending, and 1 is an N/A as it was returned unread since the publisher is backlogged. And it was a nice return.

What a busy time it's been and will continue to be this summer and fall. I like it, but I am also glad of down time, quiet mornings on the patio, steady breathing in the pool during meditative lap swimming, reading books of poems and short stories, and moments just staring at the petals of flowers or listening to birdsong.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Speaking of Swimsuits

Speaking of swimsuits, I recently learned about the Tata Top, possibly pictured below. (Delicate eyes want to know.) Heads up: this is a Random Coinciday in the blog, so things may zig, and they may zag. For instance, what you see here is Vivien Leigh in Caesar and Cleopatra. (Clearly, not wearing a Tata Top, nor a swimsuit at all. Great braids.) Since it's in black and white, this may qualify as a Throwback Thursday, but, given the #FreeTheNipple aspect of the Tata Top, it's also a Thor's Day in the blog. With a pink hammer. (I am for breastfeeding and for funding breast cancer research. There are all kinds of ways to do these things. If you are for these things, you will find your own way.) I don't know why I keep bumping into Vivien Leigh. And, in case you were wondering, my new swimsuit has not yet disintegrated! And this morning I swam in dense fog. Which means nothing in a swimming pool!

Speaking of the body, here's a beautiful riff on the beauty of the body by Paulette Beete, who is writing about her body these days in her blog. It made me look at my toes, which seemed strangely beautiful because I had painted them red to dress them up so I could wear flip flops to the theatre last night. The only bright red nail polish in the house (to match my red shirt) was called Phantom Freaks; it was blood-colored, for Halloween, but it worked just fine.

Speaking of freaky and strangely beautiful things, here is a very short film made to one of my poems, "Daughter of Midas," read by Nic Sebastian of The Poetry Storehouse. The filmmaker is Othniel Smith of Cardiff, Wales, using archival video for his darkly humorous poetry mashup. He's also a playwright and theatre and film reviewer, a man of many talents. I love the little final touch--to the glasses, by the window dresser.

Here are  some more figs by Jonathan Koch. And here is a parade of lady parts, featured at a website run by a man but written by women, named for a strange undergarment of days gone by (the bustle). And that's a Random Coinciday in the blog!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Young at Heartland

Imaginary soundtrack: rap song collage of Blanche DuBois saying, "Clothes are my passion" and "Sometimes--there's God--so quickly!" and "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."* Why? Because Friday morning, as I got ready for Early Bird Lap Swim, my husband, from bed, said, "Is your swimsuit see through?"

I denied it, saying it was getting a little thin on the sides, yes, but nowhere important. But, he could see my backside. Really. Please pardon me, Friday morning lap swim pals!

But then....! In the afternoon, I went to the Young at Heartland Showcase, a set of scenes and monologues performed by the 55+ acting troupe that I've been working with as an instructor, along with Sarah Salazar. It was joyous, hilarious, and wonderful! If you are local, you must come see it Wednesday night, June 25, at 7:30, at Heartland Theatre. And be sure to see Fowl Plays, the 10-Minute Play Festival, too, if you haven't already. Fowl Plays runs through June 29, but the YAH Showcase has only one more show in the theatre; otherwise, they tour.

Anyhoo, I received gifts! The perfect journal, Notes of a Dramaturg (that's what I'm doing next at Heartland, for the Mike Dobbins Memorial New Plays from the Heartland one-act play contest, so I will take notes in this journal!), a card saying, "Actors speak louder than words" (true), and a gift card to TJ Maxx, which allowed me to buy a new, non-see-through swimsuit!

Today, even though it is Slattern Day in the blog (and I don't think Blanche DuBois did any dishes), I was not a slattern. I woke early, wrote down an important dream, washed dishes, folded laundry, and then got on my bike to join a small biking group. We met at Uptown Circle (aka the water feature), and I got to watch workers take down a big tent. Why? Today was a whole music festival! Why not leave it up for the bands? Then we rode many miles, even all the way out to see my folks and beyond! And back!

I was the only girl. (This has nothing to do with the swimsuit incident, though one of the bikers is also one of the swimmers.) Many miles. I will probably be a little sore in the morning. When I teach the Early Bird Poetry Class.

*Not that they are strangers anymore! Actors or swimmers! Or bikers!

Figgy paintings by Jonathan Koch. Blanche DuBois by Tennessee Williams.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Revising My Compost Bin

A couple years ago, following the instructions on an Internet video, I created a compost bin out of an old garbage can! I was delighted with myself. And, on down the road, with the compost. Which...composted rather slowly...and which I did not therefore use that regularly. But this year's balsam seeds, planted in a bed enriched by compost, have risen. Looking ginormously healthy.

So this year I revised my compost bin. This was like creating and revising a poem. I thought about it, I gathered materials (boards at hand in the woodpile, the usual suspects of pitchfork and hose), and, without nails or hammer, assembled a diamond inside a square former sandbox, into which I dumped the compost, covering it with re-purposed boards that can be easily lifted to add more compost or to stir it or to scoop it out for use.The earthworms---already in the earth!---can easily find it, and no more insects will die, trapped inside a plastic former garbage can, unless they want to live their entire life eating compost.There are holes in the boards or slats between they can get out!

Anyhoo. It's been that kind of day, and that kind of spring. Many, many small things accomplished daily in dribs and drabs, and much blooming. Currently: gloriosa daisies, purple echinacea, yellow snapdragons, blue lobelia, pale blue flax, the trellis roses, the pinks, blue and red grape spiderwort, and the ginormous golden columbine. Plus, stuff in hanging pots!

Sudden poem acceptances---yay! Tomorrow I attend a gala honoring wonderful local history makers. (I wrote the script for the entertainment at this event, performed by some marvelous singers and musicians, and directed by Rhys Lovell, himself a brilliant actor...who was a little boy when I was a teen summer drama workshop leader for the Parks & Recreation Department. Ah, life.) Friday I attend the showcase performance of the Young at Heartland theatre troupe, people 55+ who have taken up acting later in life, often after their careers in something else, or during their careers in something else. It's been a joy to work with them as an instructor in their current session. Many thanks to Julie Kistler for covering these and other theatre and arts events in A Follow Spot.

Hmm, speaking of a follow spot...this isn't that. It looks more like a movie projector, right? Projecting a bird. Anyway, today, you can find the neato, cool, "Dear Teen Me" poet Kelly Cockerham (and a "Mockingbird") up at Escape Into Life, with art by Ryan Mrozowski, which you also see here. In Dead Men's Float, The Enthusiasts, and Bird Test. It's a Random Coinciday and a Poetry Someday on the Hump of the Week.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Magnolia Studies

Lovely weekend, with a full honey moon. Walked many miles in beautiful, breezy weather. Listened to live music, talked with sweet people, visited old homes (restored and/or renovated). I've read a book and pondered various things.

There was silence, too.

I offer this evening two Magnolia Studies by Jonathan Koch. And two poems, in the current issue of Poetry Porch: "Wild Columbine" and "Transported." This is a fascinating issue, and I'm tickled to be in it with Frederick Turner, one of my professors at Kenyon College, who helped revive the Kenyon Review.

I suppose that makes it a Random Coinciday as well as a Poetry Someday in the blog.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

In a Fog

Dense fog this morning, and then I was swimming in it. Lap swimming. Driving in fog is mysterious and weird, delightful and scary. Swimming in it is just like swimming without fog, since it's close up and just like the mist on other mornings when the water is warmer than the air.

I feel in a sad fog lately about the recent shootings. We know better than to keep on keeping on without enough gun control. Poor Emilio, in the wrong place at the wrong time. He loved soccer, his mother said, and now he'll miss the World Cup. A small, ironic shame inside a huge, horrific one. Shame on us.

How will we fix it?*


My computer is in a fog, too, aka slow motion. I feared acquiring a virus from someone I communicated with recently in a professional capacity, so I cleaned everything, and the slo mo may just be the computer reacquiring all its cookies.

Or it might be fumes. Remember how my husband paints, lately, with paint thinner? Imagine my dismay, and the hilarity, of finding toxic fumes in Bark, by Lorrie Moore, the story called "Paper Losses." In this story, a woman's husband (shortly before a divorce) is building model rockets in the basement. She's talking to a supportive friend about her unsupportable life and the general lack of marital communication:

"I ask, 'What the hell are you doing?' I ask, 'Are you trying to asphyxiate your entire family?' I ask, 'Did you hear me?' Then I ask, 'Are you deaf?' I also ask, 'What do you think a marriage is? I'm really curious to know,' and also, 'Is this your idea of a well-ventilated place?' A simple interview, really."

I love Lorrie Moore. It's scary, as I said before, how much I identify with her characters and situations, wishing I could be half as funny, but I'm happy to report that I simply ask my husband to wear an appropriate mask while painting with paint thinner. I'm pretty sure he's not trying to kill us. Or himself. Summer is good. We can open the windows.

Yes, I got to the library, and they had Bark, and I answered most of my own questions. Yes, dogs. Yes, trees. Plus people barking at one another instead of communicating more gently and in human language. I'd have figured out the tree part if I'd looked closely enough at the cover image, but I was focusing on the words, fog colored.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Birds of America

I'm re-reading Birds of America, a book of short stories by Lorrie Moore, for book group, which meets later in June. It came out in 1998, and I guess I didn't read it then, but I'd read several of the stories when they first came out in magazines. I read the collection in May. And now I am reading it in June, following the Great Books shared inquiry discussion method advice of reading it twice before talking about it.

Each of these stories has a bird in it, or a reference to birds, or a bird image, or bird poop (as on the Blarney Stone in Ireland...which my parents visited; I will have to ask them about the angle of kissing, the lipstick marks, the bird poop). The bird might turn out to be a bat. Moore's current book is called Bark. Will there be dogs? Trees? Dogs peeing on trees? Must find out. At the library!*

I love Lorrie Moore's stories. I get her humor, her references. We know the same show tunes. She's hilarious and melancholy. I sympathize with her flawed, suffering, funny, smart, pathetic characters, and sometimes rather too closely identify with them. For example, Olena, a librarian of Transylvanian heritage, her name an anagram for "alone," in the story "Community Life."

*"When Olena was a little girl, she had called them lie-berries--a fibbing fruit, a story store--and now she had a job in one. She had originally wanted to teach English literature, but when she failed to warm to the graduate study of it, its french-fried theories--a vocabulary of arson!--she'd transferred to library school, where everyone was taught to take care of books, tenderly, as if they were dishes or dolls."

There's a vampire thing going on in the background of "Community Life," and this is subtly countered in the story that comes next, "Agnes of Iowa," in which a writing teacher advises a student to avoid the trendy vampire genre in her own creative writing. Olena in "Community Life" is pale and withdrawn and grows reclusive; her boyfriend, rationalizing his own bad behavior, accuses her of "sucking the blood of [the community]" instead of contributing to it. But she can see the falseness in people's cheerfulness and politics. Of course, any time she does try to be "normal" or human, or to contribute to the community, it is always devastating. You can see why she retreats.

The stories in Birds of America are all realistic. I read that Bark contains a ghost story. I guess Lorrie Moore is trying genre writing now. Edith Wharton did ghost stories. I like a good ghost story. A character named Mack, in Moore's story "What You Want To Do Fine," is horrified, as was I, to learn that John James Audubon shot the birds he painted. But I learned this from a Eudora Welty story. Geez, I learn a lot of things from fiction. And poetry.

"He shot them?" Mack kept asking. "He shot the damn birds?"

"Revolting," said Quilty loudly. "The poor birds. From now on, I'm going to give all my money to the Autobahn Society. Let's make those Mercedes go fast, fast, fast!'

That's characteristic Lorrie Moore humor and word play.

Saturday night I saw Fowl Plays, the 10-Minute Plays at Heartland Theatre Company. Each of those had a bird in it, too. What fun! And that makes it a Random Coinciday in the blog.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Land Shark

Anybody remember the original Land Shark skit on Saturday Night Live? Um, I do! It struck my fancy. I couldn't stop laughing. Well, recently in the blog I mentioned Poet Beer, so now it's equal time for Land Shark. Why today? Because of Rob Carney's "Gathering Pages for The Book of Sharks" in his poetry feature up today at Escape Into Life, among other wonderful poems you can see here, with fabulous art by Paul Tremblay. Poet Rob Carney was recommended to me by the wonderful Scott Poole. Thanks!

Why the lightning? Because of last night's thunder-storms and this morning's steady rain, which kept me away from the pool, alas, for lap swimming.

Why a comedy skit? Because Rob Carney is quietly hilarious, whether he's bringing statistics, sex, Gemini girls, or bookstore cats into his also perfectly serious poems. Oh, yes, it's a Poetry Someday for the Hump of the Week in the blog!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Friends Forever

Early Bird Lap Swim began this morning, with me as the first (and for a while) the only person in the pool. But here are the fun babies swimming, no doubt friends forever after this liquid bonding.

Yesterday I participated in the Friends Forever Fun Run/Walk (I walked). I love this organization, its slogan ("World Peace...Grown Locally"), and its local program. (Read more here, scroll down to Illinois for Bloomington-Normal press coverage.) In the Life Raft: Israel program, 5 Jewish Israeli youth and 5 Arab Palestinian Israeli youth get to come together and do fun stuff and form friendships by visiting towns in the USA, as it's difficult to do such a thing (in an organizational way, publicly) in Israel. Privately, people get along together well all the time!

Before we left, we sang a song, "Salaam," by Mosh Ben-Ari, arranged by Rick Recht, in English, Hebrew, and Arabic and got sent off by the Song of the Shofar.We walked from Moses Montefiore Temple to the Islamic Center, 3 miles, and it was very hot! We were greeted by friendly faces, air conditioning, water, brownies, pastries, fruit, and a lovely imam, who told us about the activities in the center and answered our questions.

It was a lovely, hot, red-faced, sweaty time, partly on sidewalks, partly on the Constitution Trail, partly on the grass by the side of the road on Gill Street, and I wanted to jump into the pond with the sprinkler in it, but I consoled myself with the thought of Early Bird Lap Swim. And Poet beer. (Not really. I just made that up when I found this picture of my bottle bush, formerly a burning bush, but it died. I hope not from hanging bottles on it! It's growing back, finally, in various places near where it used to be, and also far from where it used to be. How does that happen?) And great conversations with Unitarians along the way....