Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

I love it when I read a book at exactly the right time (for me)! For me, it was exactly the right time to read Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, by Kathleen Rooney. I've been wanting to read it since it first came out, and though I did read the hardback, the paperback has just come out, and Kathleen Rooney will be presenting it, via Surprise Bookshelf series, at the American Writers Museum in Chicago today, at 5:30 p.m.! Wooee! I recently (St. Patrick's Day) visited the American Writers Museum, and it's wonderful. Kathleen Rooney and her husband, Martin Seay, also a novelist, are coming to our town in August to read from their work at the library. I'm sure I will read Martin Seay's book, The Mirror Thief, at exactly the right time (before he comes to town), too!

Also, it's National Poetry Month, and Lillian Boxfish is a poet and an ad writer, the highest paid woman in advertising in America! She is based on the real highest-paid woman in advertising of her day, Margaret Fishback, who was powerful and respected and well paid before the era of Mad Men, to give us some perspective. But it was still the era of having to leave work if you got pregnant, as there was no maternity leave and employers did not hold jobs for women who had babies or men who went to war. To give it further perspective.

This is an utterly charming book. The end papers of my hardback edition show a map of where Lillian walked. As a child, Lillian was inspired by another career woman, her aunt Sadie, a nurse at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City in the early 1900s, which is crucial here due to the flu epidemic of 1918. And Edna St. Vincent Millay got her middle name from that hospital/saint! She's a favorite poet of mine. On with poetry month!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Above the Dreamless Dead

I was wowed to discover the book Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics, edited by Chris Duffy, in our own public library! What a powerful book. Contemporary cartoonists "adapt" (interpret, illustrate) poems from the Great War, whether by the actual Trench Poets (poets who really served in the trenches) or others connected to that war. I reviewed it over at Escape Into Life, and should review more poetry books there this month, National Poetry Month, but I am a fast/slow reader of poetry. Even if I whiz through a book on first read, like eating M&Ms, I then slow down and go poem by poem, taking notes, savoring, mulling....um, to pursue the original simile, sucking off the candy coating to get to the chocolate. No, that doesn't apply at all to most poetry I read! Never mind.

At EIL, we are celebrating National Poetry Month with poems about poetry! Be sure to read the current solo feature by Christine Klocek-Lim, who has another poem in a mini-anthology coming up next week with other EIL poets.

And I hope I do a better job here in April, keeping up with my own blog posts on poetry, reading, and random coincidii. It looks like I missed March entirely.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Call Me By Your Name

I still haven't seen the movie, but I have read the book. My mother had a movie-tie-in paperback copy. Now I will be very interested to see how all the internal musing manifests in the film. I jotted down this snippet of dialogue between Elio and Marzia about readers:

     "People who read are hiders. They hide who they are. People who hide don't always like who they are."

     "Do you hide you who are?"

     "Sometimes. Don't you."

     "Do I? I suppose."

I guess it's mainly the comment on readers as hiders that interests me. Are they? Are you? She is afraid of revealing that she likes reading. Why? Not all readers are hiders, surely. I do think some (many) are introverts and armchair travelers. It's like Emily Dickinson's poem, "I never saw a moor."

It's National Poetry Month, and 1) I am again writing a poem a day 2) as a blogger have recommitted to at least one blog entry per week devoted to poetry. I committed and then failed, dropping into woe over Parkland and snow, marched for our lives in snow....but here I am again, now about to quote more from Call Me By Your Name, by Andre Aciman, this time about poetry.

They are in a restaurant after a bookstore reading. A late arriving guest proposes a toast: "But if the job of poetry, like that of wine, is to make us see double, then I propose another toast until we've drunk enough to see the world with four eyes--and, if we're not careful, with eight."

Then Elio muses on his favorite poem from the reading, the San Clemente poem, and how it connects to his life: "As we ambled down an emptied labyrinth of sparely lit streets, I began to wonder what all this talk of San Clemente had to do with us--how we move through time, how time moves through us, how we change and keep changing and come back to the same. One could even grow old and not learn a thing but this. That was the poet's lesson, I presume."

I connected strongly with this, that "one could even grow old and not learn a thing but this." I feel I have been learning it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Love & Grief

Happy Valentine's Day. As poetry editor at Escape Into Life, I celebrated with the annual mini-anthology of (often unusual) love poems. This year it is called Parted from Love. Poems by Karrie Waarala, about a busted marriage; Michael Meyerhofer, about a cleaving; Kristin LaTour, about a seafaring lover; and Jennifer Finstrom, about a divorce (a darn good one). With art by Eric Finzi.

Then my heart broke again at the news of another school shooting, this time in Parkland, Florida. My broken heart goes out to all in woe, fear, and grief today.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

For the Loyal


Well, the play is up! Yay! For the Loyal, by Lee Blessing, at Heartland Theatre. I never would have imagined myself directing a football play with a pedophile in it, but it has been a marvelous experience, working with a great cast and creative team and a rock star stage manager and her fabulous assistant. Good stuff all around. If you are local (I almost wrote "loyal"), come see it!

The play was written in response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State and has similar but different circumstances. It was awful to have the Larry Nasser scandal in the news at the same time we were working on the play, reminding us that this keeps going on and nothing fully protects kids from it. What should we do about that?

The local paper did a great feature story on the production, and the review is up today. Many thanks to all who have been working on the show and helping to get the word out. It takes courage to work on this one, and to see it!

Friday, February 2, 2018

M&Ms for Breakfast

1) I don't recommend M&Ms for breakfast, but 2) I was sure glad to find some in the top right drawer of my desk at work this morning. Apparently, I forgot to eat breakfast. This may have been because I accidentally washed my hair and had to dry it before going out into the resumed bitter cold. (Italics to emphasize bitterness.)

I needed to leave early for work to have time to take  about 100 letters to the post office so they would arrive 1) before the March 20 primary election (plenty of time for that!) and 2) before a local candidate forum on February 6 (less time for that). I think I made it, even though our letters now go to another town before returning to our own. I am on this particular ballot, as Precinct Committeeman,* and we have candidates to choose to run for Governor, Attorney General, and state and county offices.

In the wee hours, before I accidentally washed my hair, and when I could have been eating breakfast, I was instead finishing up an enthralling book, The First Bad Man, by Miranda July. I had read one of her short stories recently and liked her movie Me and You and Everyone We Know (our family's kind of quirky comedy), so it was time to read her novel.

*"man" is part of the official name of the office, but we like to think of ourselves as people

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Blue Blood Moon

I have been observing the moon this week and will gaze up again tonight, but did not go out in the early morning today to try to glimpse the super blue blood moon in its full (but locally cloud covered) glory. I did, however, imagine a blue blood moon for this poem, "Blue Blood Moon," published in Stirring in December of 2011. The last super blue blood moon was November 30/December 1, 1982, and I probably noticed it but without all the hype way back then. The poem's blue blood moon is milder, not super, and apparently connected to the speaker's mood. So that's a random coincidence for a Random Coinciday in the blog.

Here's another one:

Nancy Heather Brown, a retired public television producer who now writes for Escape Into Life, wrote about women's rights and the state of the union as she sees it, among many other related things, for instance, "[p]atriarchy at is worst," in this piece, "Life in the Box: Venus Marches On." Summing up the 20th-century book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, she said:

One of my main take-aways from that book is that men tend toward hierarchical relationships—where people are one-up or one-down from each other. And women tend to believe everyone’s equal.

My other reading this week included various articles and stories in old New Yorker magazines that now need to be recycled. I was taken by a piece on the artist Laura Owens, who, the New Yorker writer Peter Schjeldahl tells has had "a keen interest in whatever her peers were up to, eschewing competitiveness." That makes sense to me, and I take a keen interest in what my poet peers are up to, and my fellow theatre artists, because mutual support is important to me, and we can inspire and motivate each other without needing to be rivals. Imagine my delight to see Laura Owens quoted as saying, "It's debilitating to think that this person is above me and this person is below me. I want to be in a conversation with someone." And it would be a conversation of equals, evidently, and Owens seems to be a Venus, and Nancy Heather Brown might also enjoy this Random Coinciday in the blog.

Monday, January 29, 2018

A Secret Sisterhood

I've been reading my Christmas presents and watching Veep. I'm busy, and I need downtime, and Veep (recently discovered and loved by my kids, and thus by me) is funny, short, and addictive. And I can borrow it from the library. The books engage me, distract me, and bring me back to the world.

I love books that show how people's lives intersect, and that's what's going on in A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf, by Emily Midorikawa & Emma Claire Sweeney. (Part of the fun of this book is that it was written by a literary friendship!) Turns out each of the writers in the subtitle had a special woman friend who tends to get ignored or overlooked in literary history, so these two writers have improved literary history. I knew about the "rivalry" part of the literary friendship of Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield, but I did not really know how friendly they were. They were!

I've known that Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco was on the bestseller list, and I keep watching for it to appear at the library. It hasn't yet, as it is available in electronic and audio forms. But I got it for Christmas, and I do love reading hard copy. It is a funny and informative book by the former White House Deputy Chief of Staff to President Obama. It goes really well with Veep.

When not working, editing, reading, or unwinding to Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President, I am directing For the Loyal, by Lee Blessing, at Heartland Theatre, so my head is full of football, acting notes, and sound cues.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Baby Shampoo

Today I washed my hair with baby shampoo. It's my husband's shampoo, as he has baby-fine hair, and I used it 1) to empty & recycle the bottle and 2) to smell and feel again that baby-fine feeling of washing my babies' heads. My grown-up babies have gone back to their grown-up lives after a lovely holiday visit, and I miss them. As Kim Kishbaugh puts it in her blog entry about her adult son leaving after the holiday, I am bereft.

I am also busy, working and directing a play, and that is helping me through. But today is a day of rest, in which I am doing heaps and heaps of laundry and changing the sheets on all the beds. (But not taking down the Christmas tree.)

Over the break, I read a few books, including The Awkward Age, by Francesa Segal. It's about a second relationship for two people in midlife, parents of teenage children from their first marriages. The kids are at "the awkward age" and the complications put quite a strain on the adults' relationship, not to mention making the teenagers' own lives full of, well, angst. I know I had an awkward age as a teen and plenty of angst, but, as parents, we did not encounter any trouble from our teenage children, who got through adolescence with quite a bit of grace! We all got lucky there.

Francesca Segal also wrote The Innocents, a re-telling of sorts of The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, something my book group read and I enjoyed. It made me re-read the Wharton novel and long to re-see the movie. Reading provides me with comfort when I am bereft, or anticipating my grief, as well the downtime I need as an introvert during the socializing of the holidays. This year I was reading as my family played Parcheesi. There I sat in the same room, cuddled in a blanket, watching and listening to them play as I read my novel. Parcheesi crams my math-challenged head with numbers and counting. I was probably closer to my kids and husband reading than I would have been playing, stressed out, rubbing my forehead, madly counting. It was a quiet bliss.

Happy New Year!