Friday, December 11, 2015

ABCs of Women's Work

I am pleased to announce that I have a new poetry chapbook, ABCs of Women's Work, just out from a wonderful small literary press, Red Bird Chapbooks, of St. Paul, Minnesota. I have admired their chapbooks since they began. Many thanks to Editor-in-Chief Sarah Hayes, Poetry Editor Jenny McDougal, and Book Designer and Red Bird Founder Dana Hoeschen for all their fine work on my book and others! Also thanks to Elizabeth Laidman, who stitched this ABC sampler in 1760, and to my son Hudson Rio, who helped with the cover design! You can order the book here if you are looking for a stocking stuffer for yourself or someone who loves poetry, or writes it! I would be very glad and grateful if you did! Keep in mind that Red Bird publishes limited editions of only 100 copies of each book, a perfect amount for small poetry chapbooks! This one is 6" by 6" and looks exactly like a tiny sampler! Historically smudged.

Sample poems linked below:

How to Jump Through Hoops (at Red Bird)--H poem

Nameless Creek (at Eclectica)--N poem

Grasshopper and the Ant (at Umbrella)--G poem

Local Patterns (at Soundzine)--L poem

You get the idea!

And many thanks to the editors who first published these and other poems from the book in their print and online journals!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

What We Need

Today is Emily Dickinson's birthday. She found what she needed in a life lived mostly at home, baking and writing letters and poems. Legend has it that she dressed all in white, lowered gingerbread out the window in a basket for neighborhood children, and was obsessed with death. Well, death was all around. "There's been a Death,  in the Opposite House, / As lately as Today--" (Yes, she used contractions! And slant rhyme, lots of capitalization, and dashes.) Women died in childbirth, frequently, and frequently at home; the sick and elderly died at home; and the Civil War was going on in her lifetime. Lots of death there. The poet Susan Yount used Emily Dickinson for the Death Card in her tarot.You can find more tarot cards by Susan here, at tumblr, and here, in a poetry feature at Escape Into Life, from April (the cruelest month), 2013.

It's also Human Rights Day, a day in celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document spearheaded by Eleanor Roosevelt after the shocking human rights violations of World War II and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

Hmm, "spearheaded." Now that's an aggressive word, coming, as it does, from the sharp tip of a spear. Sigh...

Meanwhile, a rabbit has found what he needed: peaceful, out-of-the-wind, above-ground shelter under a plastic lawn chair overturned in my own back yard after the last mow of the season. The rabbit has been out there under the chair for days in a row, enjoying the mild temperatures and random protection. It's a multi-brown rabbit and a white chair. Of course.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Blue Advent

Blue sky this morning, after searing pink streaks, in the season of advent. I turn on the tree every morning now for the sparkle and light in the darkness at six, and I still can't get used to darkness falling at four-thirty in the afternoon. Today I'll take my turquoise-blue tulip to church--leftover from opening-night gifts for The Language Archive--to add to the ongoing home-made advent wreath.

My church annually publishes my poem "Advent" (about this table-top "wreath," a sort of semi-circle around advent candles) in their newsletter, and I've put it in the blog before, but I'll also offer it below:

Advent

First, we bring rocks: earth curves in a bow
around the source, light. Is it miracle
or did rock bend always as the willow?

What next? Acorn, walnut, holly, bluebell
pressed with a ribbon, tuft of baby’s breath,
pine cone, lighting of the second candle

by a child. Magic again? Now our wreath
a parade of fauna: camels, a cat, a cow,
marble hippo, rocking horse. Nothing yet

prepares as well for what’s to come: our own
meager arrival as human figurines,
plaster or plastic, a fragile sturdy crowd

of admirers, rigid with unspoken awe.
We stand alive, wild at heart, hope raw.


It's a broken sonnet, with slant rhyme, and we are living in a broken world, (here in the U.S.) a broken democracy, with many things aslant. But we keep putting ourselves back together, mending, healing as best we can, grieving, and being as kind and compassionate as we are able. Some of us seem less able, alas.

Whenever I mention my church, I want to mention its progressiveness, the way it honors all faith traditions as well as none: agnosticism and atheism are honored as reasonable responses to the evidence at hand and intelligence (or intuition or instinct) within.

I finished a powerful and very intelligent book, Unsuspecting Souls, by Barry Sanders, that beautifully and terribly describes and predicts the state we are in now, placing the death of the human being in the 19th century, when science, philosophy, technology, and industry changed the world and changed the view of the "human being." Sanders understands our current fascination with zombies, the walking dead, because, as a scholar, he can trace it back to when we started walking around dead inside, absent of our former sense of being human. I can see current gun violence and terrorism through this lens. Our horror and grief and compassion in response are signs of life; our sense of it being constant and almost routine, daily, an ordinary occurrence, a testament to the inner death. 

Makes me re-see my own words, though the irony was intended, and the challenge: "our own / meager arrival as human figurines, / plaster or plastic." Makes me sad, makes me turn on the Christmas tree lights in the morning, makes me wonder what I can write that will also shine a light.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day, celebrated in the early days as a Day Without Art, since so many artists suffered and died from AIDS. So much has changed, and there's so much still to do. This year's theme is baking, with the slogan, "Spread icing not ignorance." You can find out about that, get a red ribbon, and donate here, and you can combat ignorance with information here, as well, at the World Health Organization website. It's also Giving Tuesday, and I see lots of fine giving going on all around.

This December 1, I am changing the calendar pages to find frost on dahlias on my Easter Seals flower calendar in my office and redbirds and snowpeople on the Boys Town calendar on the kitchen door to the garage, where everything happens. I am pausing to remember friends lost to AIDS and pausing to be grateful for the progress in research and treatment. And maybe I'll do some commemorative baking. (If only I could bake like the bakers at recipe.com.)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Is Shame Necessary?

I am indeed enjoying and learning a lot from the book Is Shame Necessary? by Jennifer Jacquet. It looks like it is, as guilt is a private emotion, and shame has public uses. Jacquet does not advocate a return to public shaming devices like the stocks, but she does explain how shame can function in changing social norms.

The thing that struck me this morning was a quotation from an Atlantic article, by Michael J. Sandel, about the market society as distinct from the market economy. Jacquet quotes Sandel saying, "The difference is this: A market economy is a tool---a valuable and effective tool---for organizing productive activity. A market society is a way of life in which market values seep into every aspect of human endeavor." Sigh.... Exactly!

This has been troubling me for some time. People are valued according to the amount of money they make, salary-wise, or money they bring in to an organization, even a non-profit organization, not according to their actual contribution of volunteer labor or organizational ideas or management or loyalty or care. Hence, often they are not valued at all, and are treated with disrespect or are valued less than, say, a "major donor" who might, say, give money but not actually attend the event, or complain about the seating or lighting.... See what I'm getting at? Hmm, it appears to be a Cranky Doodle Day in the blog. Put 'em in the stocks! (I'm missing a pun on stocks here. And thanks to Austen Redman for the image of stocks in Chapeltown, Lancashire, England!)

So, just to be clear, when I complain about the excesses of consumerism or capitalism, I guess I am talking about the "market society," the infiltration of money-based value into the rest of society and culture, not about the economic system itself, which has some things to commend it. But so does socialism. (I'm missing a Hillary pillory, feel the Bern joke here.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

As Nature Made Us

I've been immersed in nonfiction lately. My daughter needed As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl, by John Colapinto, for a sociology course, so I checked it out from the library for her, renewed it, and read it myself. Wow! Truly, wow. Not only is the case fascinating, and the boy (now a man) a brave and beautiful soul, but the science, controversy, and internal conflict among scientists is eye-opening, too. I was struck when one scientist praised another for actually being more interested in the truth than in his career, which reminded me of earlier controversy connected to Sigmund Freud. We always think scientists, who often praise themselves for objectivity and the scientific method, are interested in truth, but, apparently, that's as rare in science as anywhere! Sigh....

Now I am reading Is Shame Necessary?: New Uses for an Old Tool, by Jennifer Jacquet, in hopes of finding out whether, indeed, we can shame big business, careerist politicians, tyrants, and terrorists into changing their behavior. Hmm. She's a very clear writer, and, clearly, a scientist or social scientist interested in testing her hypotheses and backing up claims with evidence. So that's good.

Next up is Unsuspecting Souls: The Disappearance of the Human Being, by Barry Sanders, which appears to argue that "the human being," the individual we used to value and respect, "died" in the 19th century, and the 21st century's willingness to blow people up, for example, is part of that legacy. I must be seeking an explanation, if not consolation, for what goes on today. Yes, it's a fight against despair, a fight for understanding, and a "fight" for compassion. But how can we fight for compassion? Well, with words and actions and votes, I hope, since here in the USA we are coming up on an election year. Despite the fact that compassion is viewed as a weakness among many vociferous types in the USA, I still vote for it.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Just Desserts

OK, for dinner last night I had two desserts: a piece of peach pie, fresh from the oven, yes, still warm (!), and a piece of German chocolate cake. Not small pieces, either. And a little champagne. I would have brought the French champagne, but it cost $50, so I brought the California champagne. This French and German-themed fare was offered at the meeting of our book group, to discuss All the Light We Cannot See. The peach pie was for the tinned peaches that Marie-Laure finds in the house, and the German chocolate cake was for the German occupation of France. Sigh...

After All the Light and Lila, I read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell, about turn of the (18th to 19th) century Japan, and how the Dutch East India Company managed to operate there despite a general policy of Japanese seclusion. Oh, it's about much more!--but that gives it a setting in time and place, somewhat unusual for David Mitchell, really!

As with All the Light, this Thousand Autumns shows beautifully how people behave--well and badly, motivated by greed or honor or lust or a crazy yearning for immortality or raw cruelty. I was deeply moved by the rare choices not to inflict harm or take vengeance. In both of these novels, there is great loss, and you hope that someone good will get to live a happy life. In these fictions, as in life, not everyone gets their "just desserts," but some do get their peaches.

And that makes it a Fat Tuesday on a Wednesday, the Hump of the Week. With Peaches and Leaves by Jonathan Koch.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Lila

Right after I finished All the Light We Cannot See, I picked up Lila, by Marilynne Robinson, and read it in two days--the fastest I've ever read something by Robinson. I'd been eager to read it, as it completes a trio of her books set in the small Iowa town of Gilead, which Lila discovers to be a Biblical name after she marries a preacher. As with the other books, I was absolutely gripped by character, by the internal searching, by the simplicity of diction, which gets at the profundity of thought, longing, suffering, and joy. There is a balm in Gilead.

The book was at hand thanks to a fabulous-but-forgotten gift card I received for some committee work a couple years ago. Another, more recent gift card, also set aside for a rainy day, but not forgotten for quite so long, rescued me from running out of writing journals. I am grateful for all I am given, even the stuff I forget.

In case you can't read the small print, that blurb on the Lila cover says Robinson's prose contains "the high loneliness of an old blue grass tune." Yes! And look at those wildflowers. I yearn for my own back yard to look like that someday. Right now it is covered in red and yellow leaves, except for one bare spot I got on Tuesday afternoon. We got the front yard pretty well cleared, but it keeps coming down! As will the temperatures, all too soon...

Makes you want to curl up with a good book. I see that Marilynne Robinson has a new book of essays out, The Givenness of Things, but it may take me a while to get to that. Meanwhile, there's more dense fog in the weather prediction, so another beautiful cloaked morning to wake up in, and maybe another sunny afternoon for raking...

Saturday, October 31, 2015

All the Light

I am reading All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, for book group. Hastening toward the ending. All the light here, on All Hallows' Eve, is yellow from the leaves or greeny blue, like the book cover, from the still-green leaves and the rainy weather. I am wearing my "costume"--an orange shirt with the black inscription, "This is my costume"--in preparation for the trick-or-treaters. It's the same shirt I wore to work yesterday, but with different pants and a different black shirt underneath, and new underwear (TMI). I am clean and thus vaguely hallowed.

Once again, I apologize for the long absence from this blog. I plead busy. And a midlife dedication to organization, cleaning out, recycling, regrouping, getting my head on straight. Yes, it's a bit like twisting a Jack-o-lantern, and sometimes with a similar grimace. Laundry, sorting of papers, burning of some. Why speak of work on a Slattern Day in the blog?

I am woefully behind in submissions. Some of you know I have attempted yearly to obtain 100 rejections, a fun way of assuring more than 100 submissions. This year I'm down to 5, with 3 rejections and 2 responses pending. It's much easier for a math-challenged person like me. I do have a chapbook forthcoming, but it seems suspended...and may forever be forthcoming. We'll see, won't we? Or...we cannot see.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Beautiful Ruins

This summer my son went to Italy, posting some pictures on Instagram that looked remarkably like the cover of this book, Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. My son's favorite place was Corniglia, and I knew exactly where it was, thanks to a Cinque Terre picture map that functions as a sort of frontispiece in the book. My son loved Italy, and I loved this book, which starts in Italy and then rambles through time and geography in a wonderful way, going to Hollywood and Idaho to somehow critique the twentieth century and bring us right up to date with the craziness of reality shows on tv. We also get to visit the filming of the successful flop Cleopatra (with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) and ponder what it means to be a real artist or to "sell out," as they say. I laughed and I sat mouth open in awe at the marvelous truths revealed in this funny novel. The characters are easy to love, despite their flaws (which is what I want from real life, too, and to be loved in that way), down to a character you love to hate and hate to love!

We are in the beautiful ruins of summer now, with seedheads feeding the birds and leaves beginning to fall. Real fall starts on the 23rd this year, my calendar tells me, coinciding with Yom Kippur. (Ah, I just re-watched the film Atonement, so I'm coinciding, too.) I'm collecting balsam seeds in envelopes, and soon it'll be time to transplant the vintage geranium back into a pot to bring indoors. Likewise, before the first frost I'll bring in the hanging pots of fucsia, to hang indoors from a curtain rod...

But I hope we have many weeks of warmth to come. And many blue skies.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Web of Middle Age

We are in the season of abundant and ginormous spiders. I keep walking into their webs. I try not to, of course, because they are so beautiful and the spider's temporary home and feeding ground, but it keeps happening. And the spiders just keep rebuilding their webs in the same exact spot.

Making us equally stupid, I guess.

This morning, headed out to work, I walked into the rebuilt web at our back gate, fending it off, once discovered, with the plastic sleeve of a DVD I was returning to the library, and the spider landed on my hand.

Big wiggle (from me), no bite (from it). Sigh...

I just finished Middle Age by Joyce Carol Oates, and I really liked it.* I need to read more Joyce Carol Oates, and, indeed, there is more, plenty more. She is prolific and varied, sort of like Michael Caine in the acting world, and I love Michael Caine! In this book, Oates looks at a range of people in middle age--a full range of ages within the middle--and how hard, how disruptive, how like the woes of Job this transition can be. It can devastate and transform, or both! These people are unified by place--Salthill-on-Hudson, in suburban New York--and inciting incident: the sudden death of one of them. And that one is philosophical, intelligent, curious, vigorous, and mysterious, somehow leading them all on a journey of self discovery and allowing them, somehow, to arrive at a more authentic place.

I am the right age to appreciate this book.

*I kept pondering her use of the word "oblivious" (as I keep thinking of oblivion as a deep forgetfulness, not a constant and casual unawareness) and wondering about whether it's "oblivious of" or "oblivious to," but beyond that trivial meandering of my mind, I was gripped. As if she were a large spider and I were her prey! Ack! Oh, no, am I, in truth, oblivious to/of the ginormous spider webs?!

Anyhoo, I recommend this book, if you, too, are in middle age and of a mind to appreciate it. I also recommend Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White, to anyone of any age at any time. (And he would have recommendations for you as to the use of the word "oblivious," etc.) (I think he might disapprove of that dangling "etc." and, in general, my use of parentheses.)

Ah, the DVD I was returning was The Turning, which is strangely and wonderfully pertinent, a dark and twisty film based on a book of short stories by Tim Winton, an Australian writer. Gorgeous, compelling, and long, but I was all wrapped up in it.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Call Off the Search

Thanks, dear hearts, for checking in with me, during these many weeks and months of not blogging! Nothing's up, nothing's wrong! I'm just in a waiting mode, or observing mode, or I'm filling up with something that will pour out soon. It's been a lovely, busy summer of family gatherings and extended "spring cleaning." I've been throwing my life away, as I like to put it, but that means, basically, recycling a ton of paper. (Maybe an actual ton? I hope not that much! Many, many rejected poems. And other stuff. Don't worry, I keep records. Er, too many records. Hence...)

I've been trying to track down a particular song I used to hear. Haven't found it, but I've found the voice who sang it: Katie Melua. And another song I love, by her: "Nine Million Bicycles." Here's the fantastic video of that at YouTube! And I love "Call Off the Search," too! So, yes, I'm here. And not here. Call off the search.

Balsam is here with me, too, blooming madly along the fence.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Love, Love, Love

Like many people in the USA today, I woke up to the sad news about South Carolina. My radio alarm came on to wake me for lap swimming, and it told me about an old church...I feared a hurricane had taken it...but it was the shooting instead. Oh, dear. So I counter that hate with love. Here is a photo, taken by my daughter, at a wedding we attended in South Carolina. We know there is love there, and beauty. Healing thoughts, people. I've been busy (and gone), and reading, and swimming. I'm sure I'll be back to blogging soon.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Wardrobe

What a delight to have been featured this week in The Wardrobe's Best Dressed series in The Sundress Blog. (And probably my favorite kind of dress is a sundress, from childhood on! And one of my recent calendars came from Sundress Publications; it featured the men of Sundress--in sundresses!) The current series curator is Donna Vorreyer, a poet I admire, so I am doubly/triply/quadruply honored!

The Wardrobe contains poems from my recent chapbook, Interior Sculpture: poems in the voice of Camille Claudel (Dancing Girl Press, 2014), which arose from a collaboration with Columbus Dance Theatre on the production of Claudel, about the life and work of Camille Claudel, a sculptor, whose work lives in the Rodin Museum in Paris. We hope that someday Claudel will be performed in Paris, too!

You can find the poems here:

"After Rodin"

"Broken Figure"

"Red Umbrella"

"The Photograph by Carjat"

"Liquidamabar"

And the book here! Many thanks to Sundress and Donna Vorreyer for featuring the poems and the book!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Joy

All 3 of us called our mom today, and our dad. And I was lucky enough to see both my kids--one in Chicago and one in central Illinois, thanks to Amtrak. Thanks for the chocolates and the flowers, my dear ones! Thanks for all the joy. Thanks for being born. Thanks to my hubby for Chinese food by candlelight with our daughter during a power outage. And now it's so late that Mother's Day has turned into a Blue Monday in the blog. Clearly, we're not blue here.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

New Word, New Month

This April has been the busiest month ever, but now it's May, it's May, the lusty month of May, and it's also Slattern Day in the blog, so I'm celebrating with a new word I learned from Grandiloquent Word of the Day: Cover-slut, evidently a real apron! I will also celebrate by getting grubby again in the back yard, gardening, just puttering and stopping rather quickly to read and write, and then tracking in new-mown grass, and then sort of sweeping the kitchen floor.

Other things to celebrate: History Makers 2015!

My parents being among them! As it happens, I write the script for the entertainment for this event (part of my busy April), so it's been fun to revisit the stories of their lives as well as learning more about the other two honorees. In the banner picture at the museum website, you can see my mom at last year's event: blue dress, long braid down her back!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

To Russia with Love

OK, the Russian thing just keeps happening, meaning coincidences involving Russia. First, here are some lovely matryoshka, made of glass, by Masha Emmons. They were her senior art project, purchased for display at the Center for Liberal Arts at Illinois Wesleyan University, where one of her paintings will also hang in the Ames Library. (A bit of extra delight: Ames Library was a favorite reading spot for Chris Al-Aswad, who founded Escape Into Life.) And wouldn't you know, our EIL reviewer, Scott Klavan, has just reviewed Dr. Zhivago, the musical.

This caused me to remember that when I read the Boris Pasternak novel as a teen, I loved it. "What did you like best?" my parents asked me. "The poetry," I answered, surprising even myself. Surely I loved the love story and the battle of political philosophies. But I do remember when I turned to the back of the book and found all the poems there, I was struck by the magic of it; it made it all so real. As it was!

And we've had a weensy return to winter here, temps in the 30s. So it's definitely a Random Coinciday, as well as a Russian Hump of the Week!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

More to Say

My reading has led to more pithy sayings, wouldn't you know, and people quoting other people, so now we're all like nested Russian dolls. In this fabulous interview in The Sun, David Mason quotes Ernest Hemingway saying, "Remember to get the weather in your damn book." It might not appear in the online snippet I've linked here--I've got the print version--but you will find Mason quoting Robinson Jeffers on finding "the honey of peace in old poems." I like that.

Speaking of snippets, my poem-a-day prompt for today is "a snippet of overheard talk," which may get me in trouble with 1) the devil 2) CollageMama, as you can read in her blog entry, "Prohibition against eavesdropping." This is a poem I have yet to write, but I have overheard the conversation.

Lately, the Russians have been reading my blog, and I don't know why. So today I've invented a reason. Lastly, thanks to Wikipedia for the Matryoshka dolls.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Speaking of Sayings

Speaking of sayings, Ernest Hemingway said this: "All things truly wicked start from an innocence." That shook me. On a more cheerful note, I'm reading Do-Over! by Robin Hemley, about re-living icky moments to make them into better moments. He quotes W.H. Auden in "Honour" saying this: "The first truth a schoolmaster has to learn is that if the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise; in other words, to leave well enough alone and not to give advice until it is asked for, remembering that nearly all his education is done by the boy himself with the help of other boys his own age. There is far too much talk of ideals at all schools. Ideals are the conclusions drawn from a man of experience, not the data: they are essentially for the mature."

This struck me in 3 main ways. One: I hope I'll one day become wise as I persist in folly. Two: I hope I remember the necessary restraint till my children ask for advice. So far, sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Three: I ran into a lot of idealism in my youth and became something of an idealist. Now, I'm more of a realist.

A few pages later in Do-Over!, Robin Hemley attends the film Perfume with some teens on a "Breakout" from boarding school. Whoa! I've seen Perfume--recently, by chance, making this a Random Coinciday in the blog. (It's supposed to be a Slattern Day, but I tidied up the flower beds.) The film is based on a book.

Hemingway continues, "So you live day by day and enjoy what you have and do not worry. You lie and hate it and it destroys you and every day is more dangerous, but you live day to day as in a war." He's talking about his love life. No doubt he had to live this way, a veteran, his life utterly changed by war. But I don't want to live that way. Even if it's folly, I persist in preferring peace.

Of course, wise Auden also said this, in "September 1, 1939," a famous poem about the start of the next world war: "I and the public know / What all schoolchildren learn, / Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Random April

Busiest April ever. Still writing a poem a day, plus reading plays for a contest, attending play readings, drafting scripts, editing, and working. Sometimes I forget to eat, which can be remedied by chocolate-covered raisins, wine, and giant reception cookies at campus events. Yes! (Making this a Fat Tuesday as well as a Random Coinciday in the blog.) In connection with The Paris Wife, I recently re-read A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway, which was one of Paula McLain's main sources for her novel. I'd forgotten how funny Hemingway could be, and how snarky, easily betraying his friends, but he is also tender in this memoir, and you hear his regret, and his recognition that his first wife, his Paris wife, was his real wife. "I loved her and I loved no one else and we had a lovely magic time while we were alone." I was surprised at how moved I was by this the second time around. (Moved, heh.)

I have never read this book, Random Harvest, by James Hilton, but I remember seeing the movie as a kid and loving it. Wow! That can happen? It's an amnesia story and a love story. Like Septimus in Mrs. Dalloway and various Hemingway figures, the main character suffers from shell shock in the first world war. So my reading lately has connected. Then, the book review editor at EIL posted a review by Sarah Sloat of a book of sayings and I went to a Jesus Seminar on the Road about the Gospel of Thomas, among other things, which is basically also a book of sayings. Thomas Jefferson would have liked it, a gospel without miracles. He is said to have cut up his Bible, clipping out all the miracle stories. Sloat is, during the month of April, writing erasure poems, a similar activity, and other interesting poetry concoctions! I'd say more, but I'm off to see a play in a planetarium.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Really April

Big beautiful moon out there, peeps! Speaking of Peeps, the Washington Post Peep Diorama hilarity is upon us. Whenever I see these wonderful Peep worlds, I want to make one...and then I forget all about it. Instead, I do stuff like writing a poem a day in April for National Poetry Month, which gives me 30 drafts to fiddle with for a while. I guess I forget about some of those, too, and find them later, thinking, "What? Where did this come from?" If I can save one line from...breaking. Nope. In poetry, we want lines to break!

Anyhoo, here's a strawberry, upside down. Or right side up. I don't really know. By Jonathan Koch. At the grocery store, a woman was dipping giant strawberries in chocolate. She did not offer me one. I went there for milk, red potatoes, and a prescription refill and came home with wine, M&Ms (pastel and peanut pastel), and Tom's natural soap (lavender). I went to work and came home with The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain. The kids are coming home for Easter. I'm glad I left the Christmas tree up.

I should go cover it with Peeps.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Spring Cleaning

Though it's a Slattern Day in the blog, I was not a slattern. I tidied up all day! Plus, I did editing work. What the hey? I loved the sunshine, though the temps stayed so low I had to stay inside, tidying up! I dusted my office! I took paperwork down to the basement, where it will languish. I did lots of laundry and cleaned 2 bathrooms. I did not vacuum, but, clearly Jennifer Anniston did. (OK, the Christmas tree is still up. I'm that much of a slattern, at least. Once the temperature is consistently, convincingly above freezing for an extended period, I will take it and its glass icicles and crocheted snowflakes down.) Yesterday must have been Reject-Your-Chapbook day, as I got two chapbook rejections. I am cheered by the news that the Sundress Blog will feature my chapbook Interior Sculpture in the Best Dressed section of their Wardrobe in May! By then, stuff will be blooming! And I might be wearing a sundress!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Spool of Blue

I am reading A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler, and I have to finish in seven days, because it is a 7-Day Book at the library! So I fear my head is going to be full of Anne Tyler instead of Virginia Woolf or Mrs. Dalloway by the time my book group meets. In the meantime I did read The Hours, by Michael Cunningham, which made wonderful sense after Mrs. Dalloway and since I have seen the movie, The Hours, based on the book...that is based on the other book.

Yes, my brain is like a spool of blue thread.

Now I would also like to read A Moment in the Sun by John Sayles, as I heard him read from it yesterday, a vivid chapter about Cuban battles in the Spanish American War. Tonight I'll see his movie, Amigo, set during the Philippine-American War. Sayles sure knows a lot of history! And I do love getting my history through books and movies. A Moment in the Sun is about American racism and American imperialism and their intersection at a particular moment in our history. The title comes from W.E.B. Dubois: "The slave went free, stood a brief moment in the sun, then moved back into slavery." The book shows how.

Monday, March 23, 2015

March Madness

March Madness continues in the world of basketball and will soon give way to the April Madness that is National Poetry Month, with many poets writing a poem a day, on their own, in groups or workshops, or for certain publications and blogs. There's a March Madness post over at Escape Into Life today, by Art of Sports columnist Mark Lewis, about Randy Kindred, local sports writer with a national reputation, and H.V. Porter, who coined the term "March Madness." And poet Sarah J. Sloat is gearing up for another found poetry project for National Poetry Month by re-visiting her poem, "Dear Goatee" in her blog, the rain in my purse.

It rained here today, turning (madly) to sleet.

It snowed in Chicago.

I could complain but, instead, I'm happy simply to gaze at Meyer Lemon No. 2, 8x10, 2015, by Jonathan Koch, precipitating there at the right. Soon it shall be lemonade season.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Busy Corner

Yes, I am meeting myself on the corner of Busy and Busy these days! But I finally got to visit the Busy Corner diner in Goodfield, Illinois this week, coming home from the 7th grade state volleyball tournament in East Peoria. And I got to have pie!

Door County Cherry cream pie! As you can see, I am still thinking about it.

While I was busy, a new issue of Blue Fifth Review appeared, and I've got a poem in it, based on Joseph Cornell, particularly a work of his sometimes known as "Sure Cure for that Tired Feeling."

Timely.

Pie is a sure cure for that tired feeling.

And here are some White Genoa Figs on a Plate, by Jonathan Koch. That could do, too!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Things That Start With "P"

Probably I need to clean my house, but fortunately it's a Slattern Day in the blog, and one devoted to "things that start with 'P'" as it says above. It's Pi Day, for instance, 3/14/15, and I'm celebrating with a public domain photo of apple pie and baseball stuff on an American flag, distributed by the United States Department of Agriculture.

It's also the big weekend for celebrating St. Patrick's Day--a saint who starts with a 'P'--with parades and green beer. I was at two train stations this morning, leaving Springfield as the town was setting up for its parade ("parade" starts with a 'P') and arriving in Normal as it was setting up for its own parade.

I was in Springfield to judge the state poetry recitation competition for Poetry Out Loud, a wonderful program supported and administered by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation in Chicago, and the state and local arts agencies that help set up Poetry Out Loud in schools and communities.

What a joy and what an honor, and what talent and dedication from the students. They each prepare 3 poems--at least one from before the 20th century--and have to be ready to recite any one of them in Round 1, Round 2, or Round 3 (the final round, now reduced to 5 finalists). The poems are provided in an online and print anthology available to all. I was so impressed with the students, the program, and the fabulous organization of the state competition. Gorgeous poems, beautifully spoken.

Now I want pie.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Spring Forward

Spring coming and being busy has left me a bit scatterbrained of late. It's dark again in the early morning when I rise. It's warm enough to take a walk on the trail. I've written a new poem that can sit a while. And today I invite you to read some gorgeous poems by Karen Craigo at Escape Into Life, accompanied by some gorgeous photos by Sabina Tabakovic. And this is a cat montage from Wikipedia, in honor of le chat in Craigo's first poem, "La Maison Francaise." Today I did yoga at noon at work (as promised) and one of us fell asleep (not me), a little cat nap!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Frog Hospital

As I've said before, I love Lorrie Moore. She gets me. She's never met me, so what I mean is, I get her. I get her humor, her song references, her use of the word "schweetie" as a term of endearment. On a recent business trip, I reread Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? which I liked even better this time around, no doubt because I am older on this second read--not an aspiring short story writer in my thirties but more of "[a] disillusioned, middle-aged woman," as in the opening sentence of this book review from Publishers Weekly. So I get the whole looking-back-on-one's-childhood thing, seeing it all differently. Wanting to be kinder, understanding one's limits, and others' generosity.

Here's what leapt out at me this time, a young girl's insight after being sent off to summer camp because she did something wrong (in an effort to do something loving), as she tries to answer her mom's question about what she learned:

"What I'd learned at camp, from all the vesper readings, mostly, was that you didn't give back to the same people who gave to you. 'Let's see," I said, stalling. You didn't give back to the same people at all. You gave to different people. And they, in turn, gave to someone else entirely. Not you. That was the sloppy economy of gift and love."

This paragraph goes on, but here I gasped at the connection to The Gift, by Lewis Hyde, which I'd also been re-reading recently, all about the "gift economy." (Here's a bit of conversation about The Gift at Escape Into Life.) How many times will I have to learn this, I wonder?

"But that was living as a Christian--a practical Christian, but a Christian nonetheless," continues Berie in her mind, trying to find the words to answer her mom. "This, I realized, my parents already understood. Though it was probably not what they'd hoped I'd learn. 'I learned that God is eternal benevolence,' I said finally, a little breathlessly."

Speaking of book reviews, and of Escape Into Life, there are a couple new ones up--a review by Seana Graham of An Experiment in Love, by Hilary Mantel, a slimmer volume than Wolf Hall, and a review by me of The Robot Scientist's Daughter, by Jeannine Hall Gailey, about the Manhattan project and its scary effects on the environment and human health. In a Random Coinciday kind of way, I can see how the Moore and the Mantel books connect, both about childhood friendships.

Speaking of nuclear fallout, who will run the frog hospital?! And speaking of being an aspiring short story writer, I had a bit of good news about my fiction--I'm a semi-finalist in the Press 53 Award for Short Fiction competition, a nice surprise. As "a disillusioned, middle-aged woman" with a Lorrie Moorian sense of humor, I've learned to celebrate my nominations and my semi-finalist status instead of waiting around to win. Don't worry, schweetie, I'm fine!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Green Zebra

A green zebra is a kind of tomato and a vegetarian restaurant in Chicago. I was out of town this weekend--EIL business + pleasure--and it was all about food, something I celebrate on this "Fat Tuesday" in the blog, also a delayed-start ice day at work. I had a toasted sesame something-or-other at Green Zebra--the menu changes--and a fantastic soup with celery in it.

Later, meeting with EIL poet Yvonne Zipter before heading home on the train, I had a Scorpion Burger at Native Foods Cafe, made with neither scorpions nor "burger," in the usual sense, but rather with tempeh, red onions, and red tomatoes. You can get green zebra tomatoes here, once they are back in stock.

So, yes, it looks like I am a vegetarian. However, the weekend also contained beef bourguignon, the famously difficult recipe from Julia Child's book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, made famous again in the blog project and memoir by Julie Powell and the film based on that, Julie & Julia, by Nora Ephron. Oddly enough, I found myself exclaiming over the weekend, "I love Amy Adams!" recalling, not this film but Enchanted. (Clearly, it's also a Random Coinciday in the blog.) (As well as a test-the-tornado-siren day in my town.) Now I'm hungry, as it's a late-start breakfast day...

Ah, and now I'm recovering from an unexpected shutdown, no doubt ice on the wires. So, bye bye for now! (But how about those green sparkly earrings?!)