Saturday, April 13, 2024

Spring Cleaning

I can feel that spring cleaning urge bubbling up inside me, and when it reaches full boil, I will clean, or, if the weather cooperates, get back out in the garden, but it's also possible I will just hunker down and read. Reading has been my comfort and my downtime for a long time, but is lately a bit like water, something I need to live. So it might be a Slattern Day for me, a Saturday of reading and writing poetry, chores only as they arise, and keeping an eye on my husband, who had the back of our Ford Escort fall on his head yesterday. It's a 1991 wagon, and we have to prop open the back loading door as the appropriate replacement longer exist? But yesterday was so windy, the box he was unloading was whipped against the prop, dislodging it. "That'll leave a mark," said the hubby. A dent.

The car pictured looks like our car, if it was newer, shinier, and lived in the mountains. And had all its parts.

For National Poetry Month, I am, as usual, writing a poem a day and providing prompts for such in an online workshop, where I commune with a bunch a lovely people, most of whom I have never met. For many years now, we have gathered in April. It's a joy. I am also celebrating by reading and reviewing poetry books by EIL poets over at Escape Into Life, most recently a selected works gathering by Keith Taylor, whose bird poems have delighted me in the past. This is a life's work! 

The title of this one comforts the slattern that I am, re: spring cleaning vs reading: All the Time You Want!

And, a delightful surprise, a cento I wrote recently for an art exhibit and artmaking workshop--a local gallery/library collaboration--also appeared in a column by Sarah Carson in Bold Cafe. She had asked for centos to use as a poetry prompt, and used mine! A lot of my poems are about my mom these days, and "Grief Cento" and its sources helped me process and depict aspects of my grief for her, and how that's somehow everywhere in the world around me...

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Poetry Month

It turns out I'll be celebrating National Poetry Month by catching up on my reviewing for Escape Into Life. The first review up in April is of Karen Weyant's book Avoiding the Rapture, which I loved from the start, thanks to its title and cover...and reading her work over many years!! I will probably be avoiding the Rapture for as long as I can.

Today it's been snowing on my yellow tulips, my white bleeding heart (tiny but already blooming!), and the various blossoming trees outside my workplace and on my route to and from. I might be a little grumpy about this, making it another Cranky Doodle Day in the blog, as well as the Hump of the Week. It's only Wednesday, but it feels like a Friday, and I'm doing laundry, so it feels like a Monday. Clearly, it's April, the cruelest month.

I am, almost an afterthought, writing a poem a day. It's something I do every year, providing the prompts at an internet site I participate in. This year, I almost forgot, distracted by too many personal things. Now, it is its usual absolute joy, and I am grateful.

Did I mention that clematis leaves have appeared on a trellis?! That daffodils I forgot I planted continue to surprise me by blooming, lately in the snow? That soon, possibly, my backyard will be overtaken by white anemone, coneflower, and oregano. It just keeps happening. Again, I am grateful. Maybe this year, in August, I will again read a book of poems a day outside on the glider. I don't know what will happen next. But I am grateful to have a baby in my life. She has found her foot!

Friday, March 29, 2024

Frog Music

My dad turns 92 on the 30th! Wow! He's already had a little celebration where he lives, and I was hoping we'd celebrate his actual birthday and Easter this weekend, but I had a surprise visit from Covid this week, so I am staying in. Already feeling better, and should be able to return to work, masked, next week. I guess I'll also play my first adult-league volleyball game masked, as well. Gosh, I did not expect this at all, having gotten all the available vaccinations whenever I was eligible. Was just about to line up the next! it came in this form instead. So it's a rare Cranky Doodle Day in the blog.

A couple more postcards arrived from the ongoing international postcard-writing/sending project. Here's my latest array.  I had also written ekphrastic poems for a special collaborative event--library & gallery--that I wasn't able to attend on Thursday, but they read and displayed the poems for me, and it went well, I hear! That cheers me in my crankiness! And I am grateful to have been able to work from home this week, and glad to be able to attend a meeting via Zoom tonight. Sigh...

My reading lately has been books from the ongoing library sale: Frog Music, by Emma Donoghue, and Homer & Langley, by E. L. Doctorow. They both hit the spot, good reading while resting on the couch! Both based on real people and real history, both fictionalized appropriately, both lucky finds! Learned lovely tidbits about folk music in Frog Music glossary, and had wanted to read the Doctorow book for a long time. 

The library sold out its used books in a few hours last weekend, preparing for a closure for renovation. I'm glad I had picked these up the week before and also that I got to see my desk moved down the hall, to lessen my disorientation on Monday when I return! Some of us will work at satellite sites, but my department stays put, based on the nature of our work. Meanwhile, I have 20 tulips about to bloom, tufts of bleeding heart, tufts of columbine coming, sprinkles of vinca and violet! Spring is aching to be truly here.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Where to Begin?


Where to begin? I'm so far behind in my blog posting! Well, I am still participating in the poetry postcard project, from Winter Solstice to Spring Solstice, so I have only a few more to go! Here is the array so far received, some strewn on the floor and some neatly stacked in my postcard-perfect tiny basket! I write suddenly, inspired by the moment, or in little batches, upon receipt of postcards, and send out from the p.o. Today I got a rejection, of a postcard poem I sent to a different poetry postcard project, but rejections are always fine, because it means I am actually sending poems out! In one way or another!

On Thursday, my dad and sister and I went to the local history museum to see my mom's picture hanging in the rotunda for Women's History Month. She looked perfectly natural there, among other local history-making women. I did not feel grief so much as amazement. At other times, tears overcome me. Today it was from hearing "Danny Boy" on the piano at church, a song that made her dad cry, my Grandpa Sid. I never know what's going to do it!

Yesterday I walked in the St. Patrick's Day Parade, an annual tradition. I think I walk in all the parades now, with various groups I work with. For Labor Day and St. Paddy's Day, I walk with the Democrats and/or to support specific candidates. At Christmastime, I walk with Heartland Theatre, as it's a small-business parade. In the ISU Homecoming Parade, I walk with Moms Demand Action. I would like to walk with them for Memorial Day, too, as we are remembering the dead and protecting the future. It was a beautiful day for a parade, sunshiny and warm. Today is sunshiny and cold, the wind making it feel colder. I am still wearing my shiny green hat, as it's actual St. Patrick's Day today, and still trying to keep it from blowing away. Sometimes I fail, and the hat is rescued! I made a little list of recent failures and mistakes, just to stay honest and analytical, and to forgive myself. I see the reasons why. They are mistakes to learn from, to apologize for, and/or not to worry about further! I failed to send out my usual remember-to-vote letter, for instance, so it will be revised and go out as a thank-you letter! I did canvas with/for candidates. The primary is Tuesday. I have to vote early and take my dad to the hospital in Peoria. My life is crammed with lists, duties, tasks, details. 

Lately, I just want to sit down and do crossword puzzles from a big book, to rest my body and put my brain to different use. Or write tiny poems! Or, speaking of hats, look at pictures of this baby! The baby brings me great joy. Seeing pictures of her, thinking of her. The reality of her! Thank you, baby!

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

King Cake

When you work in a public library, supporters bring you food! Today I had a yummy wedge of King Cake, and a colleague found the baby* in her wedge! Later, I wore numerous strands of beads to a committee meeting, distributing them to my fellow committee members. And when I got home, there were two poetry postcards in the mail, after days of nothing. 

A Fat Tuesday, indeed!

*Luck and prosperity!

I doubt that I will give up anything for Lent, except accidentally. Except a Lenten online writing workshop I participated in last year (and the year before? oh, Time, where are you?).... You should see my skinny calendar, all marked up with penciled commitments, meetings, rehearsals, deadlines, appointments....

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and we have no plans. Except, "Please bring home food, as I have back-to-back Zoom meetings." Must add milkshakes to the request....

Saturday, February 3, 2024


This morning I sent out my first poetry submission since October. It's hard to keep up, to catch up, since all the big family events. Lately I've felt like three people instead of one, keeping track of everyone's personal health details and doctor's appointments. A juggling* act and an identity challenge. (I have to put initials on my calendar,** so I know whose appointment it is.) Since my mother died, I'm down to two people,*** but even that's hard. Anyway, while I'm behind in many poetry-related things (submissions, reviews, new poetry features at EIL), at least I got this done, and the October submission is forthcoming this spring, so there's progress.

Meanwhile, I am participating in a solstice-to-solstice poetry-postcard writing project, and it is delightful to get postcards in the mail with such marvelous creativity on them. I love snail mail!

**Speaking of calendars, I need a hard copy calendar. Everyone tells me Google calendar is so easy, etc., but I know what I can handle (and I have a Google calendar for work). I use a slim, portable, free (from the Nature Conservancy) calendar I can slip in the side pocket of my black-and-white polk-dotted handmade (Sugar Creek Arts Festival) purse, and fill out in pencil (because my life contains many erasures). I also have a large, spiral-bound 2022-2024 weekly-monthly planner for my theatre life. It's all working, but it keeps me 1) split 2) hopping.

*Speaking of juggling, a college friend just reminded me on Facebook that I know/knew how to juggle. I juggled 3 oranges as Elvira in a college production of Blithe Spirit. My face was sort of mauve and lavender for that play, a directorial/make-up designer choice. Elvira is a ghost. I believe I must have been shocking to look it. I shocked my dad, who criticized the choice, to me, personally, as if I had made it, but that's another story (an ongoing story...we're still in it! Sigh...) I don't think I even put on that make-up. The designer did it every night.

***I'm one of them, but I'm fine. Routine exams, dentist, optometrist. Sort of slacking on that last. So it's a Slattern Day in the blog.

P.S. I don't have the 5-year butterly planner pictured above. I just like it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024


My sister and I are reading the same book right now, Wintering, by Katherine May. Chris got it from a friend, who found it good for grieving and healing, for hunkering down when needed, and I found it on the library shelf while collecting adjacent books for a display. The subtitle is The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, and we are both resting and retreating since the death of our mother. Bitterly cold, it's an excellent time to hunker down and read; "wintering," as much a state of mind as a season or kind of weather, is all about taking time and care to adapt to any bitter reality.

Chris is reading slowly and as part of her daily meditation practice. I am reading in soft, slothful chunks, slathered in sherpa and fleece on a comfy couch. Where I am in the book, May is currently swimming in the cold sea at Whitstable, where she lives, in southeastern England, with her family. And here's one of those coincidences I love: Whitstable is where a man goes for his honeymoon in the play, Every Brilliant Thing, by Duncan Macmillan (with comedian Jonny Donahoe, who helped develop the script by performing it). I had not really heard of this place till I read (and re-read) this play, and there it is in Wintering. The play is about a man who makes a list of every brilliant thing that makes life worth living, a list he makes for his mother. It's got ice cream in it, and donuts, and the color yellow.

As well as The Sorrows of Young Werther, a famously sad romantic novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that temporarily made suicide dangerously popular. Considered the first psychological novel, it features impossible love and Werther in a blue coat. I would have put it on the display, but the library doesn't have a hard copy. (There are many electronic versions available for checkout.) When I finish Wintering it will go on the display. Heartland Theatre is doing this play in February, and I will be there, perhaps more than once. Relying on audience interaction, it will be a little different every night. The playwright also suggests changing place names and dates to adapt to the local circumstances. So probably no Whitstable.

Last night, I facilitated the Poetry is Normal Presents reading at the library, a virtual one, with Lannie Stabile reading from three of her books, including The Inconvenience of Grief, about the death of her mother. She was in Michigan, equally cold. She read several poems on the "First..." (Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthday) without her mother, what we've just been through in our family. The previous night, I facilitated An Inside Look, a discussion with the directors and designers of Every Brilliant Thing. It was, by coincidence, my mother's birthday. She would have been 91. And Martin Luther King, Jr's. He would have been 95. It gave me pause.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

100 Books

In 2023, I read 100 books. That's according to Beanstack, where I track my reading now. I read all kinds of things, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, murder mystery, young adult, and even a children's book, the marvelous Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo, which I had heard about for many years. And I gave some books as Christmas presents, favorites from the year or from the recent months spent escaping, slothlike, on the couch, covered in fleece blankets. Speaking of sloths, I have already earned a sloth as a "completion prize" in the library's winter reading challenge, set up as a bingo card, where I have scored a Bingo from slothliness.

I gave Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin, to my son, in hopes he will share it with his girlfriend, a big reader, and they can discuss it. It's about gamers, friendship, love, and compassion. Yes? With some sound and fury and meaninglessness, despair, and regret thrown in but also hope. OK, it's about being human. Also enjoyed The Book of Form and Emptiness, by Ruth Ozeki, a lot of which takes place in a public library! On p. 276, the Bottleman says, "Let me tell you something about poetry, young schoolboy. Poetry is a problem of form and emptiness." It sure is!

All my poems these days are about my mother, even if they are ekphrastic or written on postcards. "Grief deranges," says Gish Jen in The Resisters, a book I read in January, actually. "Healing is slow." It sure is. I am participating in a solstice-to-solstice poetry postcard project and have sent 8 postcards and received 3. (Maybe that will pick up after the holiday mail...) Some have gone to Santa Cruz, CA and Portland, OR, where I have family, and one went to Japan! I love the random coincidii...

I loved Stoner, by John Williams, which I hope to discuss in 2024 with an online book group, an occasion to reread it. Life as it is lived, academic life, at the University of Missouri in Columbia. I loved The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes, a quiet Wow! book, a revelation, also, in a way, life as it is lived, but by someone not fully paying attention, until, well, until... I liked it so much I sought out the movie I had remembered shelving at the library, with Charlotte Rampling in it. Well done.

I gave Tom Lake, by Ann Patchett, to my daughter and my sister, who had already heard Meryl Streep read the audio version but now has a hard copy to cuddle up with on the couch, like a sloth. It's a mother-daughter story with a production of Our Town in it, perfect for our theatre family. I gave my dad compression socks, but I've been steering books his way all year. Stoner was one of them. I am very, very slowly getting back to real life. But thanking all those books.