Monday, December 12, 2016

Tally Ho

While some people are still counting votes, I am tallying up my rejections for the year. I have not sent out very many submissions this year, compared to some other recent years, but an acceptance today was a spur to do the count. So, in 2016 I sent out 27 packets, got 9 acceptances (of 12 actual poems, including 2 reprints in anthologies) and 14 rejections. It never quite adds up, due to carryover from past years. I have 11 pending submissions in the 2016 file, and some carryover all the way back to 2014, but I am counting those (in my mind) as rejections even though I never actually heard back from three publications. (I won't be sending to those 3 again.) It is much easier to tally things up when I send out fewer submissions, but much harder to get 100 rejections!

Meanwhile, I have begun sending out this year's Christmas cards and letters, a gradual process, and keeping track of that, too. I love to get actual mail, and I hope some other people do, too, and I am using a combination of leftover Peanuts Christmas stamps from last year and the beautiful Fund the Fight Find a Cure breast cancer research stamps I buy regularly in honor of my cousin Margie. When I run out of those, I have flower stamps and Wonder Woman stamps. I just have to remember to leave them out for the mail carrier or drop them in the mailbox in town. My brain remains both scattered and full these days, ticking things off and being ticked off since November 8. Sigh....

Not to be a tally ho, but I've also started tallying up my annual expenses, etc., preparing for tax time. It's been a big year for donations, thanks to the election, as that was one small thing I could do in response, over and over again, donate to worthy and beleaguered causes. Double sigh...

Plus, I am peeling stickers off an Advent calendar just for fun. (No chocolate is harmed in this harmless, chocolateless, alas, activity.)

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Sixth Extinction

This gave me pause: "If you want to think about why humans are so dangerous to other species, you can picture a poacher in Africa carrying an AK-47 or a logger in the Amazon gripping an ax, or, better still, you can picture yourself, holding a book on your lap." Wait, what? I'm as dangerous as those other guys? Yes, according to Elizabeth Kolbert in The Sixth Extinction. Kolbert identifies this period of species endangerment and extinctions--there have been five previous extinctions--as the one caused by humans. One of the most famous extinctions was caused by the meteor that hit the earth and killed the dinosaurs. That was an outside force; the other extinctions have had internal causes associated with climate, weather, and geological change.

So I did picture myself with a book in my lap, hers! She and the scientists and naturalists she interviewed and went out into the field with agree that humans are trouble for the earth, basically starting with the industrial age but also because of our ability to use signs, symbols, language. "As soon as humans started using signs and symbols to represent the natural world, they pushed beyond the limits of that world." She quotes Michael Benton, a paleontologist,* as saying, "In many ways human language is like the genetic code. Information is stored and transmitted, with modifications, down the generations. Communication holds societies together and allows humans to escape evolution." That is, evolution, like our democracy, has some natural checks and balances. We've thrown them out of whack.

And it appears we've thrown our democracy out of whack, too. I couldn't help but make the political comparison when I got to this paragraph in The Sixth Extinction:

"The one feature these disparate events [the previous extinctions] have in common is change, and, to be more specific, rate of change. When the world changes faster than species can adapt, many fall out. This is the case whether the agent drops from the sky in a fiery streak or drives to work in a Honda. To argue that the current extinction event could be averted if people just cared more and were willing to make sacrifices is not wrong, exactly; still, it misses the point. It doesn't matter whether people care or don't care. What matters is that people change the world."

Kolbert means that, no matter what we do, we do change the world. If we step outside of our place in nature, or in evolution, we can (and did) screw things up, endangering many species, including ourselves. What I see in the current political context is that some people could not handle the rapid rate of change and feared extinction of the status quo, an old way of life, with them at the top. They feared there weren't enough resources if we shared them--power, freedoms, security, jobs, human rights. Alas! I did love this book, which was published in 2014, from the woolly mammoths to the giant rats that may inherit the earth. In 2016, it is even more frightening to consider.***

Now, the weirdness of memory: I kept thinking I had seen Elizabeth Kolbert on the Colbert Report talking about her book, and that she was Stephen Colbert's sister. But why, then, did she spell her last name with a "K"? Evidently, I had remembered seeing her, as Wikipedia reminds me, on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, way back in 2014. The Elizabeth Colbert I was remembering as Stephen's sister with the one from Clemson, who ran for office in South Carolina, way back in 2013, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch. My brain is losing some cells and twisting the other ones together.** Sigh....

What matters now is that people change the world.

*like Ross, from Friends
**like the double helix
***like a giant orange rat

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Girl Who Grew Up

I’m sad today. We had a chance to elect our first woman President, and we didn’t do it. And to think that we elected this particular man instead is horrifying. As the president-elect himself has said so frequently during his campaign, “It’s a disaster.”

So I’m feeling shivery and shocked and have been pondering the plethora of “Girl” titles of books and films and how we once shed the word “girl” for the word “woman.” This is part backlash, part marketing, and part reclaiming a word, I know. But it’s been on my mind a lot in recent weeks, months, even years.

Here’s a partial list of what’s out there:

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes
The Girl Who Drank the Moon
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
The Girl Who Played With Fire
The Girl Who Wrote in Silk
The Girl Who Lied
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
The Girl Who Fell to Earth
The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
The Girl Who Ate Death
The Girl Who Bore the Flame Ring
The Girl Who Fought Napoleon
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
The Girl Who Got Out of Bed
The Girl Who is Worth 100 Cows
The Girl Who Knew Too Much
The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden
The Girl Who Had No Enemies
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky
The Girl Who Heard Demons
The Girl Who Could Fly
The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo
The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die
The Girl Who Chased the Moon
The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair
The Girl Who Owned a City
The Girl Who Stayed
The Girl Who Cried Murder
The Girl Who Escaped ISIS
The Girl Who Stole the Apple
The Girl Who Came Home
The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts
The Girl Who Looked Under Rocks
The Girl Who Slept with God
The Girl Who Came Back
The Girl Who Fell
The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness
The Girl in the Ice
The Girl in the Spider’s Web
The Girl in the Red Coat
The Girl in a Swing
The Girl in the Picture
The Girl in 6E
The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Mountain
The Girl on the Cliff
The Girl on the Half Shell
The Girl on the Boat
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo
The Girl With Seven Names
The Girl With All the Gifts

Enough already. 

I’m a girl who grew up. 

And voted for Hillary Clinton. 

In a pantsuit.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Edge of Forever

So, I was just telling you about reading Time Travel, by James Gleick, which mentioned Flatland: A Romance in Many Dimensions, by Edwin Abbott, published in 1884. Abbott was dealing with the fourth dimension, and our difficulty getting our heads around that new idea, by imagining a two-dimensional land where the inhabitants are trying to get their minds around the possibility of a third dimension. (Plus, it satirizes Victorian culture.) Abbott's narrator is a square named A. Square.

Flatland has come back to us in various ways, including via Futurama and Big Bang Theory on tv, and also in an episode of Carl Sagan's television series, Cosmos, "The Edge of Forever" episode. But it came back to me almost immediately--that is, in the next book I am reading, which is This One is Mine, by Maria Semple, which I had to read after reading Today Will Be Different (which I had to read after reading Where'd You Go, Bernadette? Yes, I am, evidently, addicted to reading.) Little did I know that all three of Semple's novels sort of connect, in a Random Coinciday kind of way. (But not so random, as she is a bestselling author, who also used to write for Mad About You and Arrested Development--favorite shows in our house!--and she knows what she's doing!)

Anyhoo, imagine my delight when, on page 70 of my paperback edition of This One is Mine, "An image came to Sally, something she remembered from childhood. It was from the Carl Sagan series Cosmos, something called Flatland. Flatland was this two-dimensional world where everything was flat, even the Flatlanders who lived there. They could only perceive left and right, front and back, but no above or below. One day, a potato flew over from another dimension--really, Carl Sagan had said it was a potato--and this potato looked down and said, 'Hello.'"

OK, Sally goes on to perceive love in an altogether new way, thanks to Flatland, and I went on to seek out Flatland and Cosmos from the library! Oddly, I could only find the audiobook of Flatland, so that's a fun and unusual experience. When the narrator says, "In Figure 1, etc." I know there must be illustrations, but I can rather easily imagine them. I have not come yet to the potato, nor to "The Edge of Forever," but I have seen a still from the series in which Carl Sagan is holding an apple over a two-dimensional gameboard-like depiction of what might be Flatland, so...a pomme if not a pomme de terre. (Oh, my origami brain!) If I ever get there, to the Edge of Forever, and back, I'll let you know. But, for now, my destination is not even Flatland but Cleveland, via televisonland, and the World Series. May the best team win!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Time Travel

I am reading Time Travel, by James Gleick, so my brain is looping around in time. Many delights here, and Gleick is so clear, as he was in explaining chaos theory via Chaos, back in 1987. I will pause long enough in loop to mention two of the delights:

1) Gleick describes a short film called La jetee and I'm recognizing the plot of 12 Monkeys, a film I watch over and over when the mood overtakes me. Then I'm thinking I remember seeing a credit to La jetee in 12 Monkeys, then doubting my memory (am I creating that memory?!) and then Wikipedia to the rescue, and also IMDb!! Indeed. (And now I will have to watch 12 Monkeys all over again!)

2) On page 182 of Time Travel, I'm reading about the Golden Record, sent off in Voyagers 1 and 2, "a twelve-inch disk engraved with analog data via the technology, now obsolete, known as 'phonograph' (1877-ca. 1987)." Inner giggles at the way Gleick describes the obsolete phonograph record, which he and I are old enough to remember, and because I just read all about the Golden Record, in great detail, in The Voyager Record, by Anthony Michael Morena, which I reviewed for Escape Into Life. (Morena might not be old enough to remember the phonograph, but the records and record players are still around, relics of time travel...!)

Goofy little confession: The Golden Record part comes before the La jetee part of Time Travel, so I have reversed chronology here. Tee hee. People who like science fiction will enjoy this book, with its references to Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, and E. Nesbit, among others. And I loved learning, via footnote, that James Gleick's mother, Beth Gleick, wrote a children's book on time, called Time is When.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

On Fire

I am not on fire. But these poems I read side by side have little flames in them: take a look here, in a brief compare/contrast piece at Escape Into Life, where I continue to read and review and select poetry, even as the world goes up in flames around me. In some places, that's true, alas, and in the current political climate in the the USA, that's figurative. Sigh.... The poems, provided (with the poets' permission), are by Donna Vorreyer and Jeannine Hall Gailey, both, by now, returned to my stolen/absent/disappearing/reappearing blogroll. (Did it go up in [Russian] flames?)* And whose books I read and reviewed at EIL, as well. Here and here.

I hope you got to see that gorgeous big yellow harvest moon. The harvest is going on around here, corn and beans, with some good weather for it, and for the grasshoppers. I have spent time outside, reading, of course, and also gazing at a praying mantis who lives in the back yard. And, at night, gazing up at that moon.

Tonight I believe there is a Cubs game and a debate. I'm debating what to do...

*See Cranky Doodle Day blog explanation here.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Textbook Amy

Three things: 1) I am cranky 2) I lost my blogroll 3) I love this book that is not exactly a memoir, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and I need to return it to the library. That is not why I am cranky! I am a little bit cranky because I lost my blogroll here at blogger (Did the Russians steal it when they hacked America?!) and will be gradually reconstructing it... Sigh...

But I am mostly cranky because of the news I wake up to every morning and hear all around me, and all the political crap & comments going on. I may vote early just to help shut it out, but I do love voting on election day, which is November 8!!

But this book certainly cheers me up and gives me great faith and joy in the human race. Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal is an interactive book, and you can text her--words and photos--by doing what she says while reading the book, or later, and you can see what people have contributed at her official website for such things, here!* Have fun.

*It is a busy, ever-changing-because-interactive website, so it loads slowly. Be patient, not cranky!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Angels and Florists

Dear hearts, I've been busy, performing in the annual cemetery walk as Jennie Thompson, a social worker, dubbed locally as the Angel of the West Side, who died in 1924. The other day, during a performance, I caught a fainting student, so maybe I have earned the nickname! I get to wear a silvery gray 1920s-style dress as well as low heels while performing 12 to 15 times a day, so that might earn me a halo, too. But when I come home to rest and recover, I am still reading! And still reading memoirs.

I am in love with Patricia Hampl and must now seek out her poetry, after reading The Florist's Daughter. Her dad was a florist in St. Paul, Minnesota. Here is a random coincidence. Jennie Thompson had a kind of "flower ministry," using a particular extra donation to her charitable organization (a day nursery and settlement house) to take flowers to mothers whose children had died.

I found an excerpt from another of Hampl's memoirs in Writing Women's Lives, edited by Susan Cahill, a book I'd heard about for years but finally got hold of at the library! That is truly wonderful. And I read Graham Greene's memoir, A Sort of Life. We discussed Sunny's Nights, by Tim Sultan, this summer at my book group, sort of a memoir of a bar, like The Tender Bar, by J.R. Moehringer, which we'd enjoyed in a previous year. Very soon I'll get back to novels, starting with Kent Haruf's Our Souls at Night.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Making Toast

I’m on a memoir kick. I read The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr, because I had read & enjoyed two of her bestselling memoirs, Lit and The Liars’ Club, and it was new at the library, but I got my own copy so 1) I wouldn’t deprive patrons of their chance to check it out and 2) I could write in it. So far, what I am writing in it is little checkmarks beside the memoirs I have already read in her lovely list at the back. Here is my already-read list, checked off Karr's list:

Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Cheever, Susan. Home Before Dark.
Crick, Francis and James Watson. The Double Helix.
Dinesen, Isak. Out of Africa.
Didion, Joan. The Year of Magical Thinking.
Fey, Tina. Bossypants.
Gilbert, Elizabeth. Eat, Pray, Love.
Harrison, Kathryn. The Kiss.
Hemingay, Ernest. A Moveable Feast.*
Keller, Helen. The Story of My Life.
King, Stephen. On Writing.
Lopate, Philip. Against Joie de Vivre.*
Macdonald, Helen. H is for Hawk.
Martin, Steve. Born Standing Up.**
McCourt, Frank. Angela’s Ashes.
Pirsig, Robert. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Smith, Patti. Just Kids.
Welty, Eudora. One Writer’s Beginnings.
Wiesel, Elie. Night.
Wolff, Tobias. This Boy’s Life.

*recently re-read, as well
** from the Ongoing Library Book Sale (pity/envy me, as I am daily exposed to this…!)

Currently reading, simultaneously, two more from Karr’s list:

Merton, Thomas. The Seven Storey Mountain. (already in my house)
Chast, Roz. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (borrowed from the library today!)

They balance each other nicely, one being by a Trappist monk and the other by a Jewish cartoonist. One is making me laugh out loud.

May have read, but clearly must re-read:

Nabokov, Vladimir. Speak, Memory. (on my parents’ bookshelf; if I read it in my youth, along with Lolita, which I do remember, I did not “get it”)
Crews, Harry. A Childhood: Biography of a Place and Blood and Grits.

Not on her list, but I have read them:

Ian, Janis. Society’s Child.
Norris, Kathleen. The Virgin of Bennington, etc. (The Cloister Walk is on Karr’s list, but I don’t seem to have it in the house here with the others I inherited from Grif, who loved Norris.)

Plus, a bunch of actor memoirs: Helen Hayes, Gene Tierney, Diane Keaton, Marian Seldes, Susan Strasburg, Katharine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Claire Bloom, Sandy Dennis, Elizabeth Ashley. Alas, I think my parents gave me some of those memoirs to try to steer me gently away from a life in the theatre, but I was stubborn, and/or to let me know what I was getting myself into.

One thing I’ve read that is mentioned but not on Karr’s list, is a memoir she refers to as basically a bunch of lies, Pentimento, by Lillian Hellman. Karr prefers Mary McCarthy. I have read McCarthy’s novel, The Group, but must now read Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, on Karr’s recommendation, and, fittingly, after Merton. But maybe a little while after….

Because I am sort of a book addict/hoarder, I also purchased from the Ongoing Library Sale (the actual quarterly book sale is this weekend, and I helped to set it up in hopes of inoculating myself from buying anything) the book Making Toast, by Roger Rosenblatt, a beautiful sad memoir of a sad, sad year, the year his daughter died at 38, and he and his wife moved in with their son-in-law to help raise the kids. I am sure somebody told me about this, because when I saw it there on the shelf, I knew I had to have it. I thought it was someone from the library’s Book Talk group, but…no? Or someone from my monthly Book Club? Suzie? Or my mom, who would have read it early on in The New Yorker? I don’t know, but it is lovely.

More on memoir later, no doubt……

But for now, this coincidence. On page 28 of Roz Chast’s memoir of taking care of her parents, she provides a cartoon of her dad attempting to make toast. “Now, let’s see… You put the bread into one of these compartments… How do you know which one? Do you put the bread in first?? Or do you press this little lever down first???”

In Rosenblatt’s book, making toast is the one thing he does know how to do. (My heart is still breaking for him.)

Chast continues about her dad’s daily ineptitude (he has his reasons!): “He was bad at opening packages, like cookies or cereal. You could tell which ones he’d tried to open, because they were always torn in some strange way, as if a raccoon tried to get into them.”  

Believe me, I identify. With the father and with the raccoon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Castle Cross The Magnet Carter

What a good book! I wouldn't be surprised if this one wins the Pulitzer Prize in 2017 (but I don't know much about the timing/nominating process for that). Though it starts in the 1940s, it is a book for our times, showing us what happened in the United States from then right up to now(ish), now when the violence of race conflict that had gone underground has re-emerged. The Castle Cross The Magnet Carter is a book about American social and political history, race conflict, civil rights, labor rights, deaf culture, gay culture, and being human. Written by a woman playwright, Kia Corthron, its central characters are two sets of brothers--one set black, one set white. We see them in the circumstances of their families and the changing culture of America after World War II and through the violent civil rights era to the moment of now. We need to read it now, so we don't ever let some of what happened here (in this book and in this country) ever happen again.

This is a challenging read, with many characters and incidents to keep track of. A wonderful thing about its narrative voices (in chapters from various perspectives) is that it reads/looks the ways it sounds, like speech. Black and white speech from the American South and Midwest, moving north and west and east, through the years, though schooling, and through the education that is life. And this is all the more remarkable because some of the characters speak with their hands! I learned that "the sign language" was called just that before getting "standardized" into American Sign Language, which was sort of white American sign language. The title resonates beautifully throughout--coming from the Magna Carta, the Great Charter of our political liberties and basic rights, as it is heard by a particular young boy: "I like that! I like the Magnet Carter!" Another marvelous thing is that in the immersion into characters I cared about, I 1) became them 2) did not know sometimes whether I was white or black (but then, suddenly, I did) and 3) came to understand how terrible, terrible, difficult things can happen and how people can survive them, or not.

Visit the book via the publisher, Seven Stories Press, here, where you can see/hear Corthron read from her work! And/or read the first chapter here, at the author's website.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Finally, the Sweet Pea!

All summer I have been waiting for the sweet pea to blossom, and suddenly this morning I saw it! Pale pink blossoms on tall, sturdy, winding stems. I planted it by the fence and also gave it some supporting posts, but it really wanted to wind around other greenery, which, at the fence, tends to be Sweet Autumn Clematis, also beginning its bloom, and deadly nightshade, which, despite its purple beauty, I tend to pull out, due to its deadly berries. This is one of the fine Wikimedia images of Sweet Pea, full credit here.)

Also, finally, it's raining! Got in my last early morning swim before the rain! More on the joy of swimming and swimming in the rain here.

Today I will take back to the library The Man of My Dreams, by Curtis Sittenfeld. Very sweet & honest. I located Prep in Young Adult Fiction, so that's next. Returning to young adulthood, but I was never in prep school, so there will be plenty to learn. (No frogs were harmed in the making of this blog post.) I get cranky listening to the news these days, so it's Cranky Doodle Day in the blog. I agree with those calling for journalists to report the news (not so much the news about the news) and get at the truth of things. I'm sad about America today but excited about the future of America as it could be guided by a woman who knows how to get things done. The woman of my dreams.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Dog Days

The heat and humidity of central Illinois hovers over August, the fair, the start of school...but, for now, I am still swimming in the early mornings, and still reading up a storm. After Eligible, I read Sisterland, also by Curtis Sittenfeld, borrowed from the library for a train trip. I learned about psychic powers, twins, and earthquakes.

Earlier, on vacation, I read Rosemary: the Hidden Kennedy Daughter, nonfiction by Kate Clifford Larson, a sort of sister-and-brotherland experience. Without psychic powers or earthquakes. But with Presidents and First Ladies....

And now, back to Sittenfeld, I am immersed in American Wife, reading it well after its scandalous timeliness in 2008, as it is a novel about a First Lady who strikingly resembles Laura Bush. So now I am learning about...a fictional Laura Bush. And enjoying the story and how it is unfolding. Two sentences have arrested me so far. "My grandmother assumed my loyalty, and this, surely, is the reason she got it." Yes, I am loyal to those who assume my loyalty, but I guess I've learned that it doesn't go both ways, alas. I've assumed that some people were loyal to me, who weren't. That's been a wake-up call that keeps ringing.

This same grandmother tells the main character, "We have to make mistakes. It's how we learn compassion for others." That's true for me, too! My mistakes awaken compassion in me as now I finally understand the behavior of others! And, mostly, forgive them. Even that loyalty thing!

I have already been to the beach this summer, the Lake Michigan beach, and there may be a weensy bit more of that, but today I went to the virtual beach via the art of Kazaan Viveiros. With dogs, via Dog Days 2016 at Escape Into Life.

Friday, July 29, 2016

What Will Keep Us Alive

I finished Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld, and can now pass it along to my daughter. It's great summer reading, and, yes, we watched a season or two of The Bachelor together. I guess this is the lip print bookcover. I am, of course, re-watching Pride and Prejudice, the mini-series, the Colin Firth version, and will be tempted to re-watch the more recent film version, also good. But I did picture Colin Firth as Darcy as I read Eligible. Because I can't help it.

Soon, I can borrow Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the movie, from the library. Yes, I read that book, too. It was funny and surprisingly close to the original. Plus zombies. It certainly contains skills on what will keep us alive in the zombie apocalypse.

But my summer reading also includes a lot of poetry, and I am catching up on my poetry reviewing over at Escape Into Life.

Today there's a review of Kristin LaTour's wonderful book, What Will Keep Us Alive (Sundress Publications, 2015). I have a rabbit like that in my own back yard. (Minus the carrot candle.) That fabulous art is called Night Watch by Maggie Taylor.

More gushing: Letters to Colin Firth, by Katie Riegel, also a Sundress book!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Eligible Cheese

I am reading Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld, and it is indeed hilarious, as everyone has said. On page 88, I found Lydia saying, "The casomorphins in cheese are as addictive as opium," which explains why I ate so much smoked gouda yesterday afternoon, right? And also set me on one of my crazy Internet searches for the Internet's version of the truth.

I found this, from Yum Universe, which confirmed Lydia Bennet, who is totally CrossFit but also silly and uncensored in Eligible, and made me scared that I had addicted my babies to morphine by breastfeeding them.

Science News undid my worries a bit, but made me want pizza.

And the Huffington Post proclaimed that "Eating Cheese Isn't Even a Little Bit Like Smoking Crack Cocaine"---pause...well, I wouldn't know...---alongside the image of a woman bonding with the devil's disarticulated white tongue. Oh, wait, that's cheese.

All of which makes it a Fat Tuesday in the blog, even though it's Wednesday. And probably you already knew all about the cheese thing as I am often late to the party. And probably brought cheese.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Is Russia Hacking Me?

I ask because I have not posted here for over a week--I was Internet-free off in Michigan with family wamily--but today my blog was viewed by more than 1000 people in Russia. So, clearly, this must be connected to the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee. Right? Probably I clicked on some Hillary thing, and her campaign is definitely sending me emails. Sigh...

Actually, this Russian blog attention has happened over the past week, so I should have heeded earlier warnings, as reported by CNN. Only, I didn't get any. Should I have been sending money to Hillary's campaign? Sorry, I don't have any!

Aside: Russia, you are hacking up the wrong tree here. Yes, I intend to vote for Hillary Clinton, but I have no actual power, except the power of a single vote, which, actually, is a lot. And I intend to use it. But please don't hack me. I don't want to be hacked. Feel free, though to read my blog, and to admire the Mashtroshka image posted by Fanghong at Wikipedia/Wikimedia. And my actual family wamily of living dolls!

More info here, in the New York Times. Geez Louise, it's just like the Cold War. Only now it's the Clod War, featuring Putin and Trump. Darn it, and I was all mellowed out from Michigan...other than having the Trump Follies on in the background last week. And, of course, there was worse news, so the weeping woman is still weeping.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Swimming in the Rain

This morning I went swimming in the rain! Well, it wasn't raining when I left home, and it sprinkled a few drops during my first lap or two but then stopped. But as my lap swim continued, the sky went darker and darker. We don't have to get out unless there is lightning...and, rumble, rumble, flash, there was some! Day cleared up till early evening, when there was another downpour. My sympathies to those with branches down, or worse, around town. Happy for those of you with the rainbows.

Meanwhile, I've posted a review--a sort of reading interaction--about global warming, climate change, extreme weather, and poetry over at Escape Into Life. It's about Scar, by Carrie Etter, a long poem in chapbook form. It takes place in Illinois. In Normal, Illinois!

Also check out Neatorama and Ddjvigo T-Shirts for this cool "Just Singing in the Rain" image by ddjvigo! And/or check out Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds in Singing in the Rain! And, wherever you Go, watch out for Pokemon!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Accidental Tomato

Evidently, I (or a squirrel) planted a tomato in the pot with the cilantro. It is quite tall now, smells like a tomato plant, and has new yellow blossoms. My hope is for fruit. I thought I had planted a few flowers in there to share the pot, but I am happy to see (and smell) this tomato.

Woe continues in our country (and all over the world). The weeping woman has become my continuing Facebook profile picture. I found this in the book I read over the past two days, My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout, and I think it is good to keep in mind to keep us in check:

I have said it before: It interests me how we find ways to feel superior to another person, another group of people. It happens everywhere, and all the time. Whatever we call it, I think it's the lowest part of who we are, this need to find someone else to put down.

I think Elizabeth Strout is right here; her narrator, Lucy Barton, is right. It is "the lowest part of who we are," and I am ashamed of any time I was this low or acted this way and ashamed on behalf of those who don't yet realize they are acting this way, and may never realize it. I have to keep my shame and throw off theirs, replacing it with compassion, if I can.

Last night, we watched Zootopia, borrowed from the library. Little did we know how pertinent it would be. Hang on, little tomato.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Birthday, America

Happy Birthday, America. I'm grateful and glad to be celebrating with family in my own small town, but I am saddened by the polarization of our country, by our domestic terrorism and dismay, by a kind of pervasive, low-level post traumatic stress disorder, not to dismiss more acute and actually diagnosed cases of PTSD, or some that should be diagnosed but aren't. Sigh...

I am sad about Baghdad and all the violence and suffering all over our world. Yesterday, I listened to a lovely talk about Ramadan by a woman who was shattered by the Pulse shootings, the event itself and its timing during a period of peace, compassion, atonement. Baghdad brings the same terrible irony to mind and was calculated to disrupt Ramadan.

This holiday week and weekend I have posted two poetry reviews at Escape Into Life. One might be the remedy for the other. I hope that Mark Neely, of Dirty Bomb, might read Suicide Hotline Hold Music, by Jessy Randall, so he can cringe and laugh in equal measure.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Wild Onion

Wild onion grows happily in my front and back yards. (This particular picture is courtesy the Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve, where you will enjoy the photo caption!) I posted a very similar photo on Instagram, captioned "Electrified!" Commanded by something at Facebook, I also planted an onion that had sprouted in my freshener, and it sports a gorgeous head of white blossoms at the moment. But, alas, today I was out there early with my scythe, whacking at certain tall grasses and plantains that are out of control. Then with my little garden chair, clippers, and gloves, doing some edging and weeding.

Even earlier, I watched a flock of bluejays take up the bread crumbs I'd laid out under the sweetgum tree. Then the resident squirrels enjoyed their chunks of apples. Now it's back to domestic chores and moments of rest, reading outdoors, currently Edna O'Brien, with whom I am in love. Ah, and did I tell you about the neighborhood raccoons, six or eight of them, living in a neighbor's tree? A rare and wonderful thing to come upon a gaze of raccoons! (Many thanks to garyjwood, flickr, and Wikipedia for this particular gaze!)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

S is for Selfie

I learned from The Bloggess that today is National Selfie Day. Or rather, #NationalSelfieDay. (I suspect this is a Twitter thing.) I planned to illustrate this blog post with a selfie. If I could figure out how. I vaguely remembered taking some accidental selfies a few years ago when trying to document storm damage to our fence. Sigh... And I do OK on Instagram, taking pictures of my garden. So the plan was to go out and take a selfie beside the newest bloom on the Prairie Blue Eyes, since I have blue eyes (and it doesn't). I grabbed the new cap I bought today to walk home in, so I could show you that, too, my support of ISU Redbird Volleyball, and I do support Redbird Volleyball, but I bought the hat because I forgot to take my hat to work, since I don't wear a hat on the way to work, so my hair can dry,* only on the way back..., when the sun is in my eyes. Double sigh...

*Swimming, followed by chlorine removal shampoo. (So my hair doesn't turn green.) (Wouldn't that be a fun selfie?)

But when I picked up my phone, it was dead. So it's on the charger now, and I am going to tell you about H is for Hawk instead. This is a wonderful book, as everyone told me, by Helen Macdonald, and I loved remembering two specific things while reading it: 1) My own reading of The Once and Future King, by T.H. White, as Macdonald discusses that and other works by White as she a) mourns her father and b) trains her hawk 2) seeing a falcon in a hood on a falconer's wrist in childhood (sort of scary).

Here are some things I loved in the book:

1. "Being a novice is safe. When you are learning how to do something, you do not have to worry about whether you are good at it. But when you have done something, have learned how to do it, you are not safe anymore. Being an expert opens you up to judgement." (p. 146, British spelling of "judgement.") Yes, indeed, judgment and expectations! Your own and others. Not to mention fear! Fear of judgment, fear of failure, and even fear of success, the self-consciousness that brings and how it can take the joy out of the activity you loved while beginning to learn it. Of course, this can be countered by the joys of mastery, confidence, and the ability to help/teach others, etc.

2. "Some part of me that was very small and old had known this, some part of me that didn't work according to the everyday rules of the world but with the logic of myths and dreams." (p. 220) This is the part of me that I trust and need to remember to trust, because whenever I don't remember to listen to little, old her 1) she stamps her foot 2) it's a disaster.

3. Back to p. 146: "'Need to excel in order to be loved,' White had written in his dream diary." Well, yes. That's exactly what drives my need to excel, to pursue excellence, in general. Plus, I keep a dream diary. What's not to love? Well, the "unspoken coda," as Macdonald calls it: "What happens if you excel at something and discover you are still unloved?" Mmhm. Well, thus far, my answer is, "Be more lovable." That little foot-stamping girl probably taught me that.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Way Behind

Mmm, yes, I appear to be way behind in my blogging. It's not that I haven't been inspired to blog! (Or maybe it is.) It's that I've been busy, and swimming. And walking, and reading, and seeing people. And writing and editing to deadline.* And working.

It's all good. I think five poems have come out since I last blogged, two in a print mag no doubt on its way to me, since I did not go up to Printer's Row Lit Fest this year to retrieve it, and three online:

"Harpoon" in Sweet

"Crabapple Blooming" in Poetry Porch

"Cows in the Rain" in Redheaded Stepchild

You can hear me read "Harpoon," thanks to a tiny computer microphone my son gave me for Christmas! It's a very short poem that keeps flailing. I think Emily Dickinson might like my weird use of the word "it" in it. You'll want to see the red hair and peacock feathers on the home page of Redheaded Stepchild, a home for rejected poems.

And my daughter, who is twenty something, wrote a Father's Day list for the Entertainment (etc.) section of  forever twenty somethings, a fun place to be forever twenty something. And I love her bio.

*Yes, one of the deadline pieces is about elephants.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Poetry Reading on Friday, May 20

I am excited about this poetry reading in Chicago on Friday, May 20, 2016! Doors open at 7:00 at 914 W. Lawrence, and the art gallery is on the 4th floor. Come early to see the art! I get to read with the fabulous poets listed here, who start us off at 8:00 p.m. I read after that, probably around 9:00 p.m. There will be refreshments--must bake cookies!!--plus beer & wine. (So I hope there will be potty breaks!)

I have been reading my poems outside, now that it's sunny again, and trying not to be too nervous. Sunshine aids with that, but on the night of the event I will be indoors and trembling. But all shall be well! There will be much love in the place, including friends, family wamily, and encouraging strangers.

Come hear Susanna Lang, Kristin LaTour, Donna Vorreyer, Valerie Wallace, and me!

I'll be reading from my new chapbook, ABCs of Women's Work (Red Bird, 2015), and this poster comes from the cover of that! Both of these great posters are by Paul Ryan, who runs the Lagoons Sessions reading series and Lagoons Editions, a small press. Our paths crossed years ago in a small writing group in Chicago, and I am glad they have crossed again! Random coincidence: cross stitching!

I also plan to read a couple poems from two previous chapbooks, choosing poems with "women's work" in them and honoring the work of the women who run those small presses: Kristy Bowen of Dancing Girl Press and Margaret Bashaar of Hyacinth Girl Press. You go, girls!