Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Cats & Orphans

There are more poems this October, not by me, and these with cats in them, up today at Escape Into Life, in the CatOber 2017 feature. (We have Dog Days in summer, poems with dogs in them, and give equal time to cats in October.) Poems by Catherine Moore, Jessy Randall, and Rob Carney, with links to more!! Meanwhile, I am reading--and about to finish--When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro, who just won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Here is a New Yorker piece on him that refers to "the itch of wanting to know" which is what I experience when reading Ishiguro. I had read Never Let Me Go and seen the movie of The Remains of the Day, which I also need now to read, or to read again...and some shorter pieces. There is a mastery in this writing. I want to keep turning the pages, not just to find out what happens, but to keep being told the story.... I like how this cover is a blur.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Poems in October

This has been a slow year for poetry for me--writing, submitting, publishing. I guess I was too busy with other things, or it could be a general winding down. (I hope not.)

My poetry tally is shamefully low; perhaps I will tally before I go... But on October 1, two new issues came out with poems of mine in them:

Rogue Agent with "We Ruined Our Teeth"
and
the museum of americana with "Sunset with No Motel in Sight" and "The Red Car"

Palindromish coincidence: Rogue Agent is issue #31 and the museum of americana is issue #13. (See creepy coincidii from yesterday here.)



Red herringish coincidence re: images. It is not really a No Vacancy problem but instead a "no motel in sight" problem, as that poem states in its title. And while aspects of each poem may be true or autobiographical,

1. We might not have been looking for a motel at all.
2. "The Red Car" is based on a dream and a myth.
3. Our teeth are not now constellations.

But it is true that the song "Drive" by The Cars makes me cry. The line, "Who's gonna drive you home...tonight?" I don't know why, really. I guess it evokes a time gone by...the 80s. Watch out: this is a sad, creepy music video (in case you don't know the song.)

2017 Tally:
Sent: 18 Rejected: 7 Accepted: 5 Pending from present or past: 10



Saturday, October 7, 2017

Magic for Beginners

I am creeped out. What are the odds that I would read two books in a row that contain a character named Ransom? Granted, in one, The Bostonians, by Henry James, Basil Ransom, is a major character, and, in the other, Aiding and Abetting, by Muriel Spark, Roy Ransom, a detective, is merely a mentioned character. (And his name might have been "Ranson," as it was printed the second time he was mentioned, though that might have been a typo. Or was it an intentional mistake, as he was mentioned in a character's notes, to lend verisimilitude. But does that happen? I found it weird.) And I did not read this particular edition of The Bostonians, but I liked this particular couple. They look ghostly or like they are made out of Hollywood ectoplasm, adding to the creepiness of it all. I read instead an edition with a good introduction by A.S. Byatt and excellent footnotes at the back, so I read with two bookmarks, to keep track of them.

The Bostonians is creepy as Ransom, a Southerner, not too long after the Civil War, is sort of stalking a feminist from the North (Boston)--or rather a lovely young woman with a talent for public speaking, who can be used by the feminist movement of the time. It was particularly creepy reading it in our times, in the context of the current prolonged backlash against feminism and the resurgence of Confederate flags and related controversies. And now I do want to see the movie with Christopher Reeve as Ransom, to ponder his charm, though I read the book casting the remake in my head, and Ransom was played by Adam Driver. Henry James describes Adam Driver's long, thrown-back hair, I kid you not. Creepy.

It is October, which adds to the creepiness. Now I am reading Magic for Beginners, a bunch of surreal short stories by Kelly Link. I just finished the story with many rabbits in the yard, so, if you have read it, you know why I am creeped out. Not only by the story, but also because my yard is full of rabbits, too, as we don't spray lawn poison, and I leave plenty of things in the yard for animals, birds, squirrels, earthworms, and insects to eat all year long. I mean seed heads, vegetable compost, and bread crusts.

And up this month at Escape Into Life is my review of Travel Notes from the River Styx, a book of poems by Susanna Lang, that is sort of a dreamy road trip in the Underworld. You can read it here if you want more creepiness! Meanwhile, the annual Evergreen Cemetery Walk continues in Bloomington, Illinois. I wrote a couple of the scripts for it, and the actors are doing a great job. The unifying theme this year is World War I, as this is the centennial of the USA's involvement in that sad, sad war. The ghosts of soldiers, Red Cross nurses, and hard-working, generous people of our community do walk again....

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Something About Mary

As I mentioned yesterday, I have been reading a biography of Mary Martin, Some Enchanted Evenings. I always learn a lot from actor biographies, sometimes more than I ever wanted or needed to know, but I love finding ways to connect to other human beans. Like Mary Martin, I get good ideas in the shower, and, also like her, I don't like to see myself on camera or videotape. Here, on p. 316, the two came together: "So I said to myself one day in the shower--that's where I get all my famous ideas, like washing that man right outta my hair--I never saw myself on stage, so there really is no need for me to see myself now, or I might never go back on television." She was a hit on live television, as Peter Pan, and on various taped TV specials, but people loved her dearly onstage, alive and natural, full of energy, in that ephemeral art that is theatre. I think I hate seeing myself (taped live) from my basic shyness and introversion, and I sort of don't want to know how I do what I do. I don't want to be any more self-consciousness than I already am! A great thing about live theatre is to disappear into the moment that is shared--with other actors and with the audience and in & with the world imagined and created by the playwright first and then interpreted by theatre artists. Now, back to Siri Hustvedt, whose fiction and essays I have been reading all summer. Also reading & reviewing poetry for EIL, most recently Whirlwind @ Lesbos, by Risa Denenberg.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Earnest is Over


The Importance of Being Earnest, the play I was just in at Heartland Theatre, is over, and we struck the set on Sunday, and I am still catching up with my rest and my laundry! It was fun to be Lady Bracknell, and audiences had a great time discovering or rediscovering this very witty, utterly ridiculous play by Oscar Wilde. My daughter was surprised that such an old play could be so funny!!

I have been reading a biography of Mary Martin--Peter Pan! the original Maria in The Sound of Music on Broadway, Nellie Forbush in South Pacific!--and am comforted to know that she got just as nervous as I do! It almost makes me want to do a musical again. Almost...

Meanwhile, the world and our country have been falling apart, devastated by weather, politics, violence, and idiocy. Which is why we do need musicals and ridiculous plays sometimes....

Monday, August 21, 2017

Going Normal

I could not help but connect with this book, as I loved Olive Kitteridge and had already read My Name is Lucy Barton. Anything is Possible, by Elizabeth Strout, is another set of interconnected stories (like Olive Kitteridge)--though the New York Times calls it a novel (but the library calls it short stories)--and the book explores the characters back in Amgash, Illinois, Lucy Barton's hometown.

But I connected in a special way when I got to the story "Snow-Blind," with its Annie Appleby character, an actress.

"She had recently, though, had fantasies of 'going normal.' Having a house and a husband and children and a garden. The quietness of all that. But what would she do with all the feelings that streamed down her like small rivers? It was not the sound of applause Annie liked--in fact, she often barely heard it--it was the moment onstage when she knew she had left the world and fully joined another. Not unlike the feelings of ecstasy she'd had in the woods as a child."

I didn't know it was called "going normal," but I did this, and not just in fantasy, leaving the Chicago stage to marry, raise kids, and have a patch of garden in our backyard and then actually going to Normal, Illinois to let the kids grow all the way up near a set of grandparents. (Now they live and work in Chicago, and one is headed to new adventures in California very soon. I think we did OK.)

Now I am rehearsing a play again and revisiting the artistic dilemmas connected with that. I don't do it for the applause, that's for sure! (Sometimes I get sad or annoyed that people think all actors need applause and attention and ego stroking, but then I let that go, because I am older now and do not cling to my annoyances so much.) I do love entering the new world, the story of play! I love the immersion in the circumstances imagined by the playwright, even the ridiculous circumstances of The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde! We had a run-through last night, so we know we are not yet fully immersed, but we will be! That's what rehearsals are for.

And side by side with this imagined life is the ecstasy of my real life, my own backyard with its rabbits and chipmunks and squirrels and wrens and cardinals and occasional hawks, its cone flowers and balsam and Rose of Sharon, and its great night sky.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Stay Awake

Today I return to my report on my summer reading, here Stay Awake, a book of short stories by Dan Chaon. But I have to say I am preoccupied by current events, heartsick and sad about the violence in Virginia and now in Spain. Though perpetrated by different people, for different surface reasons, it seems to come from the same scared, angry place--little men, probably off balance, seeking meaning or purpose in the only way they can find, by hurting or killing others to make their lonely, alone, senseless "statement." The violence here in my own country does mean that we, its citizens and residents, must stay awake! Realize how deep goes the anger and hatred and displacement and lack of logic or empathy on the part of those doing the violence. They don't really know what they are doing, do they? If they did, they'd have to stop. They act in a terrible ignorance of their relationship with others, with the rest of us.

Dan Chaon's stories here are ghost stories. Or stories with a mystical or supernatural component or possibility. But all of them ring true at the psychological level, too, as just a state of mind, or a state of sleep, or a dreaming state....

I did not know his wife had died of cancer. Now I want to read her stories, too. Here is his loving account of her.

Monday, August 7, 2017

We Live in Seattle Now

It feels like we live in Seattle now, it's so cool and rainy. Meanwhile, Portland has turned tropical. That's all I'll say, today, about extreme weather and global warming. But I think I implied that I would tell you about my summer reading---specifically, my Michigan reading. Well, while in Michigan, though nowhere near Kalamazoo, Bonnie Jo Campbell's hometown, I read Mothers, Tell Your Daughters, a good book of short stories about strong, hard-working, not always entirely admirable women, but you can't help admire them, anyway, looking closely at their circumstances. I read like a daughter wanting to know everything. There were serious, long, and tender stories, short shorts, and a funny one called "My Dog Roscoe," about a woman who is convinced that a lost dog she adopts is her dead ex-lover reincarnated. Even that one gets poignant* by the end, all the more poignant for me, as I once knew a dog named Roscoe. In Michigan.

*New York Times reviewer agrees with me on the poignancy!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Swimming with Frogs

I have been back home and at work for a week and a half since an annual family wamily vacation in Michigan. We swam in pool and lake, some of us in inflatable kayaks. We read books (me), played golf and volleyball (others), did yoga (my sister), played games, and had great conversations. A time of togetherness. Here is a picture of most of us, this particular year. My son, who took the picture, is also in it, thanks to a timer. My sister's son, who was with us most of the week, is not in it, thanks to his life in the Nashville Ballet.

It has turned to August. How quickly summer slips by...

In Michigan one morning after a big rainstorm, there were tiny frogs in the pool. I swam with them, others fished them out. Back in Normal, during Early Bird Lap Swim, we early birds swam with a big frog, who stayed in two lanes, mainly, then jumped on deck, then escaped a big white bucket wielded by the lifeguard, then didn't. She carried him safely away from the chlorine pool.

Since my return, I have been attending rehearsals for The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde, going up at Heartland Theatre in September. I am Lady Bracknell, no doubt closer to the Dame Judi Dench type than the Dame Edith Evans type, or the David Suchet type. (She has often been played by a man.) When I saw the costume renderings, I noticed the pearl-drop earrings and realized I have the exact pair, thanks to my mother-in-law.

Lady Bracknell is a bit of a toad.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Hand Me Ups

Once again, I thought I had made up an excellent term only to discover it is already out there. "Hand me ups" are items of older (slower) technology handed up a generation or two by young people who have upgraded to faster, better technology. A second definition at Urban Dictionary is the one I intended, when younger people, such as siblings, hand their clothing up to older siblings. In my case, I wanted to mention that I am now wearing some of my daughter's clothes, since she has moved away and left a bunch of things in the closet and in various bags I have not yet given away. I found this strapless dress in the closet and wore it to the Sugar Creek Arts Festival yesterday and found a picture of myself in it on Facebook. That's my husband and me looking at art. (I got some.)

The other day I wore a lacy yellow top over another yellow top, the exact same yellow, a perfect find in a bag of hand-me-ups. Hand Me Ups is also a thrift shop in Omaha and a consignment store in Anchorage. I am clearly unoriginal.

I just relived the 1980s (and learned a lot about videogames) by reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. So I will have read the book before I see the movie, which is supposed to come out next year. Now I am reading Cline's The Importance of Being Ernest, a book of slam poems--because he is (Ernest) and titles are not copyrighted! I was delighted to see that a book he loves is I Love Science! by Shanny Jean Maney, also a book I love! Both these poetry books are published by Write Bloody Publishing.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

10,000 Hours

Happy first day of summer! I walked to work and back, just missing a midday sprinkle of rain. Here's what's blooming: Prairie Blue Eyes (lavender lilies), big yellow daisies, purple coneflower, the last of the white anemone, the beginning of the white hosta, the end of the blue & purple spiderwort, and a jillion orange day lilies. I've eaten a few early raspberries. There's work to be done (and hedgehogs to be folded), but I thought I'd fill you in on my recent reading.

I'm participating in the Adult Summer Reading program at the library, which asks us to read around in various genres. I'm reading a novel now, but I've already read my biography and nonfiction. I read The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage, by Daniel Mark Epstein, who also wrote the charming Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington, about the near-miss, across-the-street relationship of the President and the Poet who loved him.

I also read The Death of Expertise, by Tom Nichols, a 5-time Jeopardy champion, as it turns out! My mom will be impressed. (She'd also be impressed by India Cooper, another 5-time champion and an actor I knew in Chicago!!) In The Death of Expertise, Nichols lays out the sad situation in straightforward language and with a common sense approach that also reveals that he's en expert. He sees a great loss of critical thinking among people today, including the college-educated, in part because college has become a consumer product rather than a place to acquire knowledge and learn how to think. This goes side by side with contempt for intellectuals and the "elite," which Nichols tracks for us in popular culture and politics. This book 1) made me sad 2) articulated what I have also observed in America today. Nichols warns that American democracy is in grave danger, reminding us that our democracy is a republic, one in which we elect representatives who should be, er, experts!

Reading the book reminded me of the concept of getting better and better at something by doing it a lot, specifically for 10,000 hours. I realized I am old enough to have developed some expertise in more than one area. I have done 10,000 hours of acting (in a 10+ year "career") and more than 10,000 hours of writing & editing, not to mention reading. I hope I don't spending 10,000 hours making book hedgehogs. (By the way, here is an instruction sheet on how to make the folds for a book hedgehog.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Book Hedgehogs

I've been busy. And not just making book hedgehogs. I've also been reading books, not just folding their pages into adorable animals. I've been helping our daughter pack and move to Chicago. I've been working, writing, rehearsing for a gala, attending the gala, editing, walking to work again, enjoying the fabulous weather, and, yes, swimming! Swimming with ducks. Ducks like the pool in the early morning. Or they did. Now they're onto us. Humans who swim in the early morning...

Now that I know how to make book hedgehogs, I know what to do with all the books I need to get rid of but can't quite part with, not yet. That's not quite true, I suppose, as these book hedgehogs were made from paperbacks soon to be recycled at the library. One was A Shropshire Lad, by A.E. Housman. and since you can get that easily via Project Gutenberg, I have stuck some blue eyes and backyard grasses into this one.

Hmm, he looks a little like a possum.

Here he is in the woodpile.

Speaking of recycling, I filled a giant recycling bin with my past life, part of a big spring cleaning project that made me confront the big chunks of what I had forgotten. Now I have remembered, briefly, and recycled those same portions of my existence. I do not think I will be teaching again in a college setting, so goodbye to grade books and syllabi! When the time comes, goodbye to book hedgehogs, as well.

What will happen to my blog now? My most viewed post, with 117,498 hits, is Hedgehog Hodgepodge, featuring the popular real-life creature. Now this...

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Beartown

I wanted to read Beartown, by Fredrik Backman, because I liked A Man Called Ove, and as a kind of research* for a play I'll be directing next season at Heartland Theatre, For the Loyal, by Lee Blessing. Written in response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, For the Loyal is about a scandal that threatens a football program. Beartown is about a scandal that threatens a hockey program that means a lot to a small town in the forest. Both works keep asking us, "What should we do? What is the right thing to do here?" Backman's book is wonderful in how it keeps turning assumptions right around and opening up new ways of thinking about something and new possibilities of behavior.

*I'll be doing other research, too, which has begun with the documentary Happy Valley, about the effect of the crimes and scandal on the community of State College, PA, known as "Happy Valley" before things got so unhappy there. It is a careful, compassionate, and devastating exploration--with hope in it.

But this bit from the middle of Beartown, pertinent to its own plot, could apply to the state of things in the USA right now, where we seem to be headed for another Civil War, as uncivil as the last one.

Fredrik Backman in Beartown:

Hate can be a deeply stimulating emotion. The word becomes much easier to understand and much less terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies, we and they, good and evil. The easiest way to unite a group isn't through love, because love is hard. It makes demands. Hate is simple.

So the first thing that happens in a conflict is that we choose a side, because that's easier than trying to hold two thoughts in our heads at the same time. The second thing that happens is that we seek out facts that confirm what we want to believe--comforting facts, ones that permit life to go on as normal. The third is that we dehumanize our enemy. There are many ways of doing that....

This rings very true, and I'm watching it happen all around me. I'm sad about it. I keep expecting us all to grow up, but we linger in an easier immaturity, I fear, or in "the inability to tolerate ambiguity," as my dad used to put it. I grew up being warned about this, but here it is, still.


I do tolerate ambiguity. I'm an artist, a thinker, a reader, a witness to the complicated lives lived all around me. But I see people of hope and goodwill still choosing to oversimplify situations that are complicated, looking for easy solutions, wishing for good to defeat evil the way it happens in our fantasies, our myths, our hopes...and maybe forgetting that one side thinks it is good and the other evil, and vice versa, if we oversimplify. There are interesting, creative, reasonable solutions, but they take attention and effort, cooperation and compromise, and often do not "permit life to go on as normal." Fortunately, I live in Normal. Where unusual things keep happening...

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Poetry as Food

It's Poem in Your Pocket Day, but I forgot to wear pockets. I did find my envelope of tiny poems for your pocket yesterday, while cleaning up my office and listening to Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders. I wrote about that listening experience over at Escape Into Life, in the EIL Blog, including a poem about Lincoln, which is too long and too online to stick in your pocket, but you can go there via this easy link, if you like!


That poem was published in Feast: Poetry & Recipes for a Full Seating at Dinner (an anthology of food poems and, yes, recipes, published by Black Lawrence Press in 2015). It was included in the cocktail section, because Lincoln is toasting Robert Burns, and I also made up a cocktail, with help from the bartender at the Marriott, called the Lilacs in the Courtyard Cosmo. Walt Whitman's elegy to Lincoln is "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," but "courtyard" is, here, alliterative and more likely--drinks in the hotel courtyard! In any case, both poem (Whitman's) and drink (mine) are blue. I'm rambling. (So you know it's me.)

Then today the Food issue of Poetry East arrived! It's glorious. It is also set up as a full-course dinner, but a particular "perfect meal," as chosen by chef Mary Jo McMillin, of Mary Jo's Cuisine (a restaurant in Oxford, Ohio) and Mary Jo's Kitchen (her blog), with recipes provided. Mary Jo is the widow of James Reiss, a poet, to whom this issue is dedicated. He has a wonderful poem in the same issue, a funny poem called "Mary Had," with "little lamb / hunks" in it, and lamb is indeed the main course of the "perfect meal." The perfect meal is perfectly photographed by the Poetry East editors, who apparently got to eat the perfect meal in February of this year! There is also gorgeous art about food all through the issue. You can get a copy here. If you read this issue, you will be hungry and yet satiated. And you will enjoy "Fat Hamlet," which is about "grief bacon," as in "Kummerspeck--in German, excess weight gained from emotional overeating; literally 'grief bacon'"

My poem in this issue is "Glazed," in the dessert section, about a honey-sweet day in April, previously published in Crab Creek Review and reprinted for the PE food anthology. Many thanks to all for the food and the work and the love and the yumminess. Hmm, I should have posted this on Fat Tuesday, but it hadn't happened yet. But this had! So it's a Random Coinciday in the blog. On Poem in Your Pocket Day in the USA.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Lab Girl

I love this book! I knew I would when I heard an NPR interview with the author, Hope Jahren. The book came to the library, and I waited patiently for it to come back! Now it has, I've read it, and it's just come out in paperback, and my book group is going to read it, and all kinds of yay! This is a book about trees, about plants, about love and being a scientist, and about an interesting guy named Bill

Just read it.

I read it at the perfect time, while working on the play Photograph 51, about another "lab girl," Rosalind Franklin. Both of them had to deal with some men who didn't know how to respect women scientists as equals. I was surprised that it still goes on today, and I expect to hear more about that at a discussion by Dr. Cynthia Moore after the 2:00 Saturday matinee at Heartland Theatre on April 22.

This year I am keeping a reading journal in a notebook that looks like a library card. So far in 2017, I have read 33 books. Because I love to read. Some of them were plays and books of poetry. Some were novels, some short story collections, and several were nonfiction, including this wonderful memoir, Lab Girl.

Here are some sentences I wrote down in my reading journal:

"Tiny but determined, I navigated the confusing and unstable path of being what you are while knowing it's more than people want to see."

"Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life."

I could stop there...but I can't.

"It has also convinced me that carefully writing everything down is the only real defense we have against forgetting something important that once was and is no more, including the spruce tree that should have outlived me but did not."

This comforted and bolstered me so much because 1) I have kept a diary since I was 10 and 2) I'm now keeping this reading journal.

"There is nothing in the world more perfect than a slide rule." We have one as a prop in the play!

And, to reveal myself as I record what I value: "A vine becomes whatever it needs to be and does whatever it must to make real its fabulous pretensions."

I love that. I feel a strange affinity to vines. "Vines are not sinister; they are just hopelessly ambitious. They are the hardest-working plants on Earth." I'll leave you thinking about that!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Home From Away


I’ve been away from the blog for a while, but I’m back, at least for today. I was doing other things and not quite in the blogging mood. Some of the things:

1)      Democratic precinct work building up to the April 4 election.
2)      Assistant directing the play Photograph 51 at Heartland Theatre.
3)      Library work + freelance writing & editing work.
4)      Writing a poem a day in April for National Poetry Month.

Well, the election has happened, the play is up and running, I’m still working, and it’s still April, so I’m still writing a poem a day, but the blogging mood seems to have bloomed with the tulips, violets, dandelions, and bleeding heart. So here I am.

Our local politics have gone viral. Yesterday, my husband was reading his Daily Kos and said, “Isn’t that the lady who was in our front yard?” Yes, indeed, that was Chemberly Cummings, who had brought a campaign sign for our yard and was elected on April 4. She is the first African American to be elected to the Town of Normal town council. This is the new Normal!

Daily Kos and others had picked up the story from the Huffington Post, which had also done an earlier story on Cheri Bustos holding a workshop for motivated people like Jodie Slothower, to help them learn how to run for public office. I’m so proud of all our locals who stepped up to serve the public! The mayoral race was too close to call. Official results will come out today, and there may still be a recount. A reminder that every vote really does count.

While I was not blogging, I was also not sending out very much poetry, but that engine is beginning to rev up, too. I participated in a wonderful poetry reading for the museum of Americana at the McLean County Museum of History with fellow poets Justin Hamm and Tim Hunt. On April 20, we have the next open mic reading at the Normal Public Library, with an Earth Day/Arbor Day set of themes: earth, trees, weather. It’s from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the library cafĂ©. Local poets and poetry lovers, come on over!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Do What You Do


I’m through with you,

You winter flu…

I seldom get sick, but this time I did. The winter crud, the winter plague, whatever it was, I got it. I wasn’t sorry to miss some of the ongoing Trump disaster, but I was sorry to miss a local rally for Planned Parenthood and the annual Roosevelt Dinner for the Democratic Party. Sigh… But I kept my spirits up (and down) with favorite movies, To Kill a Mockingbird, Tootsie, Saving Mr. Banks, Mary Poppins, Cloud Atlas, Hot Fuzz. Yes, a weird array.

And now it’s almost Valentine’s Day…which I will be celebrating with another rally, Stand Up for Social Justice, while my husband celebrates by coaching volleyball.

My daughter has written a Valentine column in The VidetteThere is a new Valentine feature at Escape Into Life.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Math Challenged

I often joke that I am "math challenged,"...because I am. Now I am delighted to read and to be in the new issue of Snakeskin, an online poetry magazine in the United Kingdom. It is the Maths and Numbers issue, guest edited by Jessy Randall, poet and librarian.

Jessy also maintains Library Shenanigans, all about...library shenanigans! And she writes poetry comics as well as poems!

My poem, "We Matter," is about math, science, sociology, and counting.

Speaking about libraries, yesterday I participated in an online class on Librarians vs Fake News. You can, too, here at Gail Borden Library. I live streamed the panel discussion and Q&A, but you can still watch it there on YouTube and also see a great list of fact-checking sources.

Speaking of maths and numbers, yay for Hidden Figures at the SAG Awards!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Women's March

What a thrill it has been to watch live video of the Women's March on Washington, D.C. today. And live video and photos of the sister marches all over the country and the world, even in Antarctica! I saw joyous, strong, peaceful protests everywhere I looked. At noon I was silent, and during a part of the march, I "marched" a 2-mile trek on the local hiking trail, as it is 60 degrees and sunny here in globally warmed central Illinois today, smiling at my fellows humans and dogs. So many friends and strangers were marching in so many cities. Thank you all. And thank you, Shepard Fairey, for these peaceful, hopeful protest posters. And now I'm off to see Hidden Figures, another form of peaceful protest. (I think Hollywood listened.)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Public Library

I've been reading the short stories and the italicized interstices of Public Library and Other Stories, by Ali Smith. She's the delightfully random writer of The Accidental, about a woman who walks into a house. Ali Smith is in love with words, books, libraries, coincidence, connection, and the imagination. Between the stories, she tells us about the assault on libraries in the United Kingdom, and here is a BBC News article with the current statistics on that. Many libraries were closed, many people lost their jobs (and were replaced by volunteers) and many people lamented the loss of libraries they loved.

In the context of Brexit and post-truth America, I was struck by what writer Sophie Mayer told Smith: "I believe libraries are essential for informed and participatory democracy, and that there is therefore an ideological war on them via cuts and closures, depriving individuals and communities of their right to knowledge and becoming on their own terms." This coincides right now with the fears and worries about the end of democracy in America due to the lack of an informed citizenry.

Smith also includes comments by Richard Popple that coincide with our current concerns for our most vulnerable populations here in the USA. Popple says, "Libraries are, at heart, helpful and kind providers. It is hard for those who perhaps don't feel the need to visit their local libraries to understand what a vital service they provide for communities and individuals who do--and those who do are often the most vulnerable." I feel so lucky both communities in my twin-city home are talking about new libraries, and have already renovated and expanded to fit the changing times and needs, ever since I first used the library and since I first worked in one in my college summers. I hope we never head toward cuts like those in the UK, but these days any bad thing seems possible.

Back to Sophie Mayer, whose list of weapons used by Buffy the Vampire Slayer includes a library card. "Libraries save the world, a lot, but outside the narrative mode of heroism: though contemplative action, anonymously and collectively. For me, the public library is the ideal model of society, the best possible shared space, a community of consent...." I love that, "a community of consent" as a truly participatory democracy. And isn't there a Librarian Superhero yet?! 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Baklava for Breakfast

It's true that during the holidays, I once had baklava for breakfast. Pistachio baklava from Mid-East Pastry Delight! By chance, that was the day a poet friend asked on Facebook what was the last thing you ate, as that would be the name of your new dog. My new imaginary dog is named Baklava!!

The holidays were a lovely, warm, game-playing, yummy-eating time for family wamily! Yay! Followed (or accompanied) by bitter cold and resumed terror in the world and in American politics. Sigh...

Sometimes I escaped, as I am wont to do, by reading. I read a bunch of nonfiction and a bunch of fiction, and in 2017 I have started a hard-copy reading log in a notebook that looks like a giant yellow library card. (I have socks to match.)

A fascinating coincidence: Harriet Jacobs. I read about her in Trainwreck, by Sady Doyle, and it would seem to me that she is a model for Cora in The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead! They both hid in an attic, as did Anne Frank.

Another coincidence: Rosalind Franklin. I love her because I love the double helix of DNA, and she was an x-ray photographer whose work helped establish the shape and structure of DNA. This winter I'll be working as assistant director on the play Photograph 51 by Anna Ziegler, about the pertinent photograph and the scientist herself, and I am currently reading Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton, which contains this fabulous cartoon about Rosalind Franklin that sort of encapsulates the play. (Likewise, thanks to Kate Beaton, I don't need to watch the rest of The Borgias television series. But do come see the play Photograph 51 at Heartland Theatre, in April. It is very well written and Franklin's character is a delight. I hope Ziegler and Beaton have talked!) I had already read Step Aside, Pops, another set of Beaton history, literature, & mythology cartoons, because it was available first at the library. And I devoured Swing Time, by Zadie Smith, a favorite writer of mine.

Once I emerge from reading hibernation, I'll be working on behalf of local politics as a Democratic precinct committeeman (person). Because that was one thing I could do after the horror, the horror of the recent election.... And here is my imaginary dog, Baklava.