Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The poems to come are for you and for me and are not for mostpeople

For much of my life e.e. cummings was my favorite poet. My parents had only five or six poetry books in the house, and for me he kicked all the other folks’ behinds. I loved him best through my twenties & i still love him.

There are better poets, but it is always his lines that come to me unbidden. When I look out at the rain, I hear “you asked me to come: it was raining a little.” When the moon is out and I’m walking, I think “along this particular road the moon if you’ll / notice follows us like a big yellow dog.” Even my father wrote to me once, "because Whirl's after all:" and that is from one of my favorite poems. 

When my house caught on fire in 1987, my friend Amy bought me his Collected Poems to replace the copy I’d lost. It, too, has since fallen to pieces.

So happy birthday to everybody who loves e.e. cummings. He was born on this day in 18freaking94! 

Here are five of my favorite poems by him (I have fifty others), in no particular order. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Vermicelli Piano Piano

I went to the Frankfurt Book Fair today, publishers' annual bash for buying and selling foreign rights to titles. Of course it’s more than that. It’s also a showplace for trends, a marketing extravaganza, lectures and awards, and a book feast. On the last days many publishers sell the books they’ve brought along, rather than schlepping them halfway around the world on airplanes. 

There’s plenty of book fetishism to go around - the righteous adoration of das Ding an sich. It’s exemplified in this gorgeous Phaidon book, Cookbook Book, which as you’d guess is a book about cookbooks, with pictures of various cookbooks from various countries. Phaidon, like most publishers, cuts prices the last day but even so I thought it too pricey and useless to justify buying. Now, at 9 pm, I have the melancholy opposite of buyer’s remorse. 

Looking the book over at the fair, I thought of my favorite aphorist, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, who said in 1773, “Nowadays we already have books about books and descriptions of descriptions.”

He also said, “If another Messiah was born he could hardly do so much good as the printing press.”

And, “If, as Leibniz has prophesied, libraries one day become cities, there will still be dark and dismal streets and alleyways as there are now.” 

I left with one book for myself on collage, and bought my daughter most of what her heart desired, and even found a graphic novel for my reluctant-reader son, because that’s what money is for.


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Not to Decide

The minute and a half waiting for the tram, pondering whether or not it’s raining enough to warrant opening my umbrella.

The raindrops are large but there are not many of them.

I think of the word ponder, which has a pond in it, and those four rounded letters take up more space than most on a line. (Except w.) You may only write the word so many times before exhausting the line.

The segment swollen like these aimless raindrops, which sometimes miss anyway. Most of the time they miss. 

They are large but there are not many of them, and an umbrella is such a bother.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Weekly arrangements

Reading: Can’t and Won’t by Lydia Davis
Listened to: Can I Kick It by A Tribe Called Quest (my daughter’s favorite song)

Watched: Sherlock Holmes episode “The Golden Pince-Nez
Observed: Underneath my daughter’s bed lies a decade of dust.

Discarded: Scads of old poetry journals, moth-eaten sweaters
Received: 2 rejections, 1 acceptance 

Ate: Spinach-gorgonzola pizza, raspberries with vanilla yoghurt, brioche
Drank: Stinging nettle tea

Bought: A big expensive bookcase that I don’t feel guilty about
Did without: A grey cardigan with cloth buttons at a new shop downtown

Forgot: How to spell wool
Learned: More than I cared to know about the death of Jim Morrison

Failed: To exercise
Triumphed: Brought all the Dickens, Brontë and Hardy books to my room and arranged them together on a shelf. For the win. 

Dreamed: I was woken up and interrogated by an editorial committee of men right out of the 1950s.
Realized: In a shop on Saturday I realized that my husband’s (groundless) insistence that he is a size L has its equivalent in my always insisting I take an S. 

Word of the week: WOOL
Pithiness of the week: “Continuous eloquence is tedious,” wrote Pascal.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Russian Stepmother

Contained heroin is a guide to the world’s unusual produce items.
(herein)

Made with calculus extract
(cactus)

European banks sign loans to Russian Stepmother
(steelmaker)

Looking forward to having the family here for a cerebral palsy St Patrick’s Day Guinness.
(celebratory)

To the culturally urinated, working abroad can be a puzzle.
(uninitiated)

The disgust on the corner is open all night.
(druggist)

The jury began deliberations after two hours of closing arguments in a much-watered trial.
(watched)

Some people use aspergers to shorten texts.
(ampersands)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The 3 Degrees

big
large
sizable

substantial
considerable
jumbo

vast
immense
massive

huge
tremendous
giant 

enormous
mammoth

immeasurable
gigantic 

gargantuan
humongous
colossal

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dew settles on the hood of my car

Hey! I have a poem in the new issue of Tinderbox. It’s called “Poem Written After Reading a Poem With a Boat in It.” This is a poem that started with the title, and is kind of a poke at myself for liking poems with long titles. It’s also a homage to the Chinese. And an ode to motherhood, and an observation about a statue, and a nod to Weltschmerz. It’s anything you want.

Lots of poets I admire are in this issue, including Sally Rosen Kindred, Martha Silano, Donna Voreyer and Carol Berg. Carol has a poem with a title even longer than mine: “Belly-Ache Bush With Giant Sphinx Moth: Plate #15 by Maria Sibylla Merian.” As they say in Germany, ‘Respekt.’ 

Please you go read.
*

This song on my iPod helped me navigate home today. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pebble arrangement

Read: Heat Wave by Penelope Lively. #excellent
Watched: Das Weisse Band (The White Ribbon). #great

Discarded: A blouse I loved but didn’t suit me. I would have continued to let it hang in the closet as if I might someday wear it, but apparently I wore it enough to get a stain on it. Saved the buttons and threw it away. 
Received: A letter from Sardegna with a small seashell from my Italian daughter. 

Bought: Painterly pillowcase.
Did without: Went to IKEA to get a new rug for under the dining room table, and decided I didn’t need a rug under the dining room table. 

Dreamed: I was 20 and decided to abandon Europe to go to college in Tennessee.
Visited: Took a walk through Frankfurt Cemetery in the pouring rain in honor of the birthday of Arthur Schopenhauer, who’s buried there. 

Failed: Stress galore. 
Triumphed: Moths ate my husband’s sweaters. 5 points for window screen advocates. 

Ate: Raspberries, chicken soup, fontina, toast, chocolate-covered almonds.
Drank: Spinach & cabbage juice.

Word of the week: Mosaic. That's what I wanted to tell the tour guide who talked about "the interesting pebble arrangement." But I didn't. 
Pithiness of the week: The art of not reading is extremely important. It consists in our not taking up whatever happens to be occupying the larger public at the time. - Schopenhauer

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Miniature City

Waiting is a weed that promises blossoms. It endures the worst conditions, growing even near the end of the road.
*

In the bookstore, there’s one customer who regularly reads the last page before deciding on a book, then finds the experience spoiled: The vines are thwacked. The step-mother dies. Making his rounds, the hunter comes. Or doesn’t. 

But life’s not a peephole.
*

Most of the time you are the little man hunched in the snowglobe waiting for a shake. 
Here goes nothing, you say, angling into an anticipated wind.
*

Outside the warehouse, the bus stop bench sits in a tangle of mayweed. You lean back. If not for the search lights, these clouds wouldn’t be lit like this, from underneath.
*

The fields fill, and the trees and the housetops, and the chimneys choke. And the bricks turn red and there’s a heady scent of something that is not smoke.
*

It’s the slow city you built in a bottle that makes these blossoms possible.
*

Friday, September 12, 2014

Looks Like I Won't Be Reading The Bone Clocks

Q. is on p. 33 of 640 of The Bone Clocks: "I feel the vibe when I pick it up. I feel the heat - this is going to be a mind-bending, memorable journey of a book. I want to remember this moment, the whole book ahead of me. Because when it is over, I will want this moment again,  when the whole book awaited me."

A. is on p. 59 of 640 of The Bone Clocks: "An easy read, but (as I was warned), not yet an enticing one. Well, not until page 58. It may be about to take off…"

J. is on p. 170 of 640 of The Bone Clocks: "Hugo is a horrible douchebag. I hope he dies sooner rather than later. Or changes. Or something. "

J. is on p. 187 of 640 of The Bone Clocks: "Charming, but not convincing. Not bad, but well below my expectations. Maybe things will change. That happened with Ender's Game, where a decent book was crowned by an incredible ending. There's still hope . . . "

F. is on p. 254 of 640 of The Bone Clocks: "This middle bit is quite good. Iraq. Shades of The Yellow Birds, though not so poetic. This section might have made a great standalone novella.” 

F. is on p. 292 of 640: "The last section was great. But now Mitchell is trying too hard to make his characters hip. Also, is he trying to inoculate himself against bad reviews through self-deprecation? I appreciate the "meta" of it all, but it seems like trying too hard. I'm probably going to be lynched by  Mitchell fans."

C. is on p. 321 of 640: "I don't know whether the metafictional aspects, like the entry of characters from his other works, is fun or a bit too self-consciously clever. I'm also irritated by the gratuitous use of names with a variety of accents, presumably because it's easy to typeset. Nevertheless, I keep turning the pages…"

F. is on p. 374 of 632 of The Bone Clocks: "NOW it's getting interesting. Good thing I plowed through the poorly-written part, i.e., THE FIRST 350 OR SO PAGES!"

A. is on p. 403 of 640 of The Bone Clocks: "A magnificent mix of brilliance and bombast so far. Also, a fantasy waiting (waiting, waiting, waiting...) to happen." 

Q. is on p. 516 of The Bone Clocks: "Had to slow wayyyy down. This last third gets more and more sci-fi as we go."

U. is finished with The Bone Clocks: “like hitting a home run and stopping at 3rd base.”

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Every appointment has been moved to last week

Ate: Chicken soup
Drank: Chamomile tea 

Read: About a German soldier in WWII who forged documents for Dutch jews. “Klemke, whose artwork made him a consummate storyteller, never talked about that stage of his life. A cartoonist who knew Klemke said that aspect of the story might not make sense in an age when people log on to social media to boast about minor accomplishments.” Recommended read
Listened to: Langley School Music Project, fun, and a tearjerker

Discarded: Unread newspapers
Received: A rejection after 10 months. Gets kind of annoying, that.

Saw: Got on a bus stuffed with senior citizens, strollers and a guy with a loudly wheezing bulldog. After 4 minutes on the road, the driver pulls over and gets out to inspect the bus. He looks up and down and behind, and finally opens the middle door, where he sees the rhythmically rasping animal. OH, IT’S THE DOG! he says. 
Decided: Old German drunks are among the funniest (from afar, of course) because of German, which in some mouths makes you sound drunk already. 

Failed: Mismanaged time left and right.
Triumphed: uhhhh….?

Dreamed: My daughter told me she dreamed I was a fascist concocting an elaborate plan to poison her. I said my dream was more exciting: I dreamed I broke three mugs in our kitchen and had to replace them. 
Laughed: Found a tweep whose shtick is to implant “your mom” in CNN headlines, as in “Your Mom Drenches Mexico,” and “Boy Bands Are Now Doing Your Mom.” Gets more mileage than you’d expect. 

Word of the week: Liebeskummer, German for ‘love troubles’ or ‘lovesickness.’
Pithiness of the week: O useless soulmate of my tedium. (Pessoa)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

August, Adieu

Watched: The bouncing lamb
Saw: Uriah Heep on the plane from London to Frankfurt, decidedly wizened. One vaping on the plane - once a rebel, ever a rebel.

Ate: Beets, broccoli, raspberries, spinach, Stilton
Drank: Rosebud tea

ReadStill Life on a Matchbook Lid by Charles Wright
Listened to: Anita O'Day's Two for Tea 

Failed: After chatting happily with several colleagues, discovered broccoli between my front teeth in the ladies’ room mirror. 
Triumphed: Ate lunch on the steps outside St. Paul’s, defying all reluctance, self-consciousness, uptight Protestant work-ethic. 

Forgot: After 22 years without a dryer, how pleasurable it is to peel the delicate lint from the lint filter.
Learned: “sturmfrei,” the German word for the fun of having the house to yourself (for adolescents).

Missed: Luisa, my Italian daughter, who left for Sardinia for a month to take language classes. 
Observed: A tour guide on the streets of London foolishly shouting: “You are history! You are London!”

Realized: I love a few nights alone in a clean hotel. Own bed. Own bathroom. Own desk & chair.  Own nakedness. 
Decided: To sign up for some kind of salubrious movement course. 

Discarded: Old, unloved potholders.
Received: Moleskine bookshrine, compliments of husband.

Word of the week: Candescent, too much in the shadow of incandescent.
Pithiness of the week: “There is a species of bird which pecks holes in the thickest hollow trees, and it credits its beak with such strength that after each peck it is said to go to the other side of the tree to see whether or not the blow has gone right through it.” - Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Friday, August 29, 2014

Daunt

After work Wednesday I headed to the traffic-tangled intersection of Ludgate Hill & Fleet St. to visit Waterstone’s, only to find it had closed. What a let-down. It was a convenient and close to my hotel, not really inspired as bookstores go but serviceable for a poor ex-pat like me.

Thursday my colleagues directed me to Daunt on Cheapside, up behind St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was a stroke of luck that Waterstone’s closed, because Daunt was rich and gorgeous and peppered with fabulous books. 

Near the entrance was a display including NYRB novels and novellas from the Melville House series. And the different thing about Daunt is it organizes much of the store by country. I was skeptical, but it worked. In the France section, for example, they had all the de rigueur French writers, plus novels set in France, plus history and diaries, etc. Ditto Canada, India, Eastern Europe, etc. 

I sat a spell beside Italy browsing the Leonardo Sciascia titles. I’d heard of Sciascia with his tactile last name, but was never drawn to him. Daunt had five of his books, three from both NYRB and Granta. The translations were identical, only the packaging differed. I shelled out the two extra pounds NYRB wanted for The Day of the Owl just to acquire that odd, hot/cool cover. 

(I’ve obviously become a slave to beauty. I almost don’t care if the book is any good. While in London I also bought a dainty glass teapot and loose rosebud tea so I can watch the pale pink buds floating, and smell the heady flowers. The drink is secondary.)

At Daunt, I also bought Penelope Lively’s Heat Wave, JG Ballard’s Crash, Upamanyu Chatterjee’s English, August, and The Everything Store by Brad Stone, a book about Amazon. The cashier told me he and his colleague had been discussing how much they liked the cover of Crash, and I had to shove The Day of the Owl up in his sweet young face.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Roughhouse

The Wiggle Room
The Panic Room
The Soap Bar
Hell's Kitchen
The Room to Maneuver
The Breathing Space
The Flowerbedroom
Master Bath
The Elbow Room 
The Room for Improvement

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Roll up, or the week that was

Ate: Ossobuco
Drank: German red wine

Reading: The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst
Listened to: The Magical Mystery Tour

Watched: Tootsie, for the umpteenth time
Saw: A thin spot on my husband’s head of rich dark hair 

Discarded: Underwear neither my daughter nor I could claim with confidence
Acquired: New wine glasses, which I did not need

Failed: Draft #17
Triumphed: The dog, hopelessly lugged along on a visit, made friends with our friends’ cat, Madame Curie, then wolfed down all her food

Found: A gorgeous stick stripped of its bark
Received: Half a bar of soap from Ursula (mistress of Madame Curie)

Visited: Arithmeum museum of calculating machines, Bonn
Observed: I really need a driver’s license if I expect to go anywhere. 

Word of the week: Resplendent (“Sitting outside at the End of Autumn,” Charles Wright) 
Pithiness of the week: “The US dumbing-down that is seizing Germany more and more is one of the gravest consequences of the war.” - Albert Schweizer (seen on the wall of one of my husband’s Italian students, an 80-year old former nun who lives in the woods)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The only order the day had was chronological order

In the afternoon, the hour of five falls like quintuplets from the clock.

To live in the moment is a frightful thing. In all the past I never lived in the moment. I was saving those moments for now.

The future is no better place. The future is coming with the sole purpose that I might regret it.

I once loved someone who said things like, “when we’re older and you write my biography…” What a presumptuous jerk. But more pathetic was how I adored him, and how he still crosses my mind every day, at least the person he was, not our failure.

Nothing nourishes suffering like nostalgia.

At dusk, while the stars sort out their sleep patterns,

I don’t pretend to know anything, including the French word for hell. I don’t even know if the English word for hell is quite correct.

After feasting, mint restores coherence.

Although anyone who looks can see it, and even explain it, the daytime moon always seems something secret and subversive.

It is good to put an hour aside for thinking. Slow down. Behold your horses.

Weltschmerz. I wash mine down with coffee.

Monday, August 18, 2014

My martini shook in my hand

Fed up with sleeping teenagers, I visited the cemetery Sunday with my cemetery kit: three books, two pens and paper. I read some of all the books - The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje, a book of Benjamin Peret poems, and Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte.

The Peret poems wearied me with their crazy energy. Billy the Kid, which I’ve read many times, was good, but chilled me - also because the day was cold - and made me tired. I closed my eyes, I felt cold. I’d chosen a bench in the sun but there was no sun. My eyelids drooped; more than anything I longed to lie down, but it seemed disgraceful. Still, I had nothing anyone could steal while I slept, and it was unlikely anyone would accost me, there were so few people there. As an experiment, I put my legs up on the bench. I couldn’t go through with it. 

The last thing I wanted to do was go home and start innerly burning about my lazy do-nothing-all-day teenagers. So I moved on to Kaputt, with its slightly sleazy, sympathetic narrator:

“I had just returned to Italy a few days before after having lain in a Helsinki hospital where I had undergone a serious operation that had exhausted my strength. I still walked with a cane and was pale and emaciated. (...) My martini shook in my hand I was still so weak.”

Sunday, August 10, 2014

All week ignominy

Reading: Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte
Listened to: God Must Be a Boogie Man 

Watched: ‘Team America’ videos, incl. ‘Aids
Saw: The new Planet of the Apes

Discarded: Odd socks
Acquired: Hiking shoes

Failed: draft #15 
Triumphed: After 20 years of complaining, I finally hung a screen in my window to keep the goddamned bugs out.

Forgot: Which continents horses are native to. 
Learned: Horses became extinct in N. America thousands of years ago. They were reintroduced to the continent in the 1500s by Spanish Conquistadors. 

Decided, sort of: It is not such an ignominy not to have read The Iliad.

Ate: Meatballs & tomato sauce
Drank: Tonic water with lime

Realized: So many areas hit by war - Ukraine, Iraq, Israel - I will stop cursing the too-frequent sound of construction in the city. 
Dreamed: I was watching a housetop swell and glow green and explode itself of its whirling shingles, only to grow them back and start again, and again.

Word of the week: “Dinnertime,” a word like a small bell tingling. 
Pithiness of the week: 'A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That's why they don' t get what they want.' - Madonna

Thursday, August 07, 2014

I think I could turn and live in the Vitra display window

On the ground floor of my office building there’s an upscale furniture store that sells cool, elegant pieces like the Eames chair and its splendid ottoman. I pass by daily and never see a customer inside. I assume they need sell only a single sofa every month to pay the overhead.

I said to a colleague today my wish is to get a position inhabiting that display window tucked beside the entrance. I could sit beneath the lights there, showing the deep-pocketed how stylish solitude is. 

As you see in the picture, the current display is all black & white - a little bit of pine ringing the stools and trolley, a Tapiovaara chair poised attentively in the corner like a fragile animal.

I think I could abandon all I possess and sit there with a book, tapping the ash of a cigarette onto a black saucer. 

I wouldn’t brood or fret about the future. I wouldn’t obsess about sins I committed half my life ago. I could turn my back on Israel and Palestine. I’d be glad to drink a glass of sparkling water with lime to jolt the color scheme, or import some black-eyed susans from what until then I’d called my backyard. 

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Anatomy and Cleopatra, or recent misreadings

Customers have been abandoning physical sores at an increasing pace. 
(stores)

You can’t argue with fire ant.
(fine art)

A school sheltering distracted people was hit by what appeared to be an airstrike. 
(displaced)

After reading the passage, students were asked to put their convulsions in writing. 
(conclusions)

British Museum’s Boob Wheel gets attention
(book)

Haworth's weather is generally windy, rainy, and cough.
(rough)

Sounds injuring.
(intriguing)

Police find cannibals growing on the highway.
(cannibas)

The 'local midwife' can refer to more than just exotic native fauna.
(wildlife)

Sunday, August 03, 2014

A Note on the Text: Duchat

The text of this book is set in Duchat, an angular typeface based on the handwriting of Emmanuel Duchat, royal scrivener to Nicolas II. Duchat expressed his intelligence in a barbed tongue, his wit evinced in the reams of correspondence he left behind. Duchat the man was an epicure: his spacing provided ample separation, inviting readers to savor every shape and word.

Duchat wrote in an quick hand, his bowls evoking eyes that squint at the heavens in inquiry, be it daytime, midnight, or eclipse. The typeface that bears his name bristles with loops and tails; its ascenders emerge like figures leaping up on tiptoe. 

The letterforms are a lean creation, sparingly adorned, marked by acute curvature. Steep swoops dictate the pace, while the capitals are not overlarge, like an emperor who is respected, but not given too wide a berth.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mistral

We came back today from a short vacation in Sardegna. The weather was great. People, including me, complain about the maestrale wind but I liked it this time because it didn’t spit sand at me, and it brought waves. I did enjoy lounging on the beach, protestations otherwise aside.

I’m sure the highlight of my trip, however, was reading Villette. (Guadalupe, I hate you!) I sent the boys to the beach in the mornings without me so I could drink all the coffee and read and take notes. I really missed my calling as a scholar of Victorian literature. Oh well, I've made this my Brontë year in any case, and am making up for lost time.

As ever, the publisher found a very uninspiring painting of a solitary woman for the cover. It’s called the Charlotte Brontë Cover Art Disease. Is there not a person with another idea?

While I was gone, Escape into Life ran its ‘Dog Days’ summer poems. Thanks to Kathleen Kirk, my prose poem “As Smoke Enters My Mustache” is included. It’s a complaint poem, or rather, a recovery-from-complaint poem. I was lucky to have another canine ode - Song of the Small Dog - at EIL last year, too.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Text set in Moog

Before I fly off, here are links to some of the poems I’ve had published lately.

DMQ Review published "The Uppermost Affliction," a sleep poem. The table of contents is here

RHINO published two typeface poems, and is gradually making all of its new issue available online. Here’s the table of contents - scroll down for "Typeface #77 (Moog)." Its partner #71 should be liberated soon, too. 

Frostwriting published two poems from my chapbook Homebodies, "Spoon" and "Steam."

And this isn’t newly published, but Right Hand Pointing nominated my poem "Heiress to a Small Ruin" for Best of the Net. 

On the submission front, I've gotten rejections from Barn Owl and Linebreak, but acceptances from Beloit Poetry Journal ("Inksleep") and Sugar House Review ("Clinic Lilies" & "Schnapps Distilled from the Flight of Doves"). So I'm counting myself glad. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Whose paradise

We leave for vacation tomorrow - a week in Sardegna with our son and one of his friends. I hope it won’t be boring for them. God knows after a week I’m bored as can be, which is why I don’t like going for two weeks. I like the sea and all, but get stir-crazy with nothing else to do. Of course I bring books and write, but I still feel so stranded.

To reveal another negative-energy thing about myself: the vacation starts tomorrow but for me it began Saturday when we took the dog to friends. Like the sea, the dog is nice and all, but I can’t pretend I love coming home after 10 hours of work to cook dinner, clean up and walk the dog. It is just a time-suck, and I feel so obligated.

For a few frantic hours I considered buying an iPad to take on vacation, but was unsure whether I could store documents on it. I want it more for that than the Internet. Although the Apple guy said I could keep documents directly on it with Pages, I was skeptical because my iPad-carrying colleagues said they don’t know how to. With vacation threatening I felt like I was going to buy on impulse without really being informed. 

Then on the phone my mother told me how she was going to save $100 a year by not having caller ID on her phone, and that was what the iPad sleeve alone was going to cost me and suddenly I felt so spoiled and wasteful

So here’s some of what I’m taking on my scenic, calm, non-technological vacation:

Unless by Carol Shields
Villette by Charlotte Bronte
The Captain Lands in Paradise by Sarah Manguso 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

History puts a saint in every dream

My grandfather had a tavern in Scranton, PA, aptly named Sloat’s Tavern. He quit the business and retired on his stock exchange winnings, now evaporated, before I was born, but the tavern is part of the family lore. My father has told many stories about sweeping up there after school.

I remember at the bar at his own home my grandfather had these tall aluminum tumblers in metallic colors like purple and teal, and whatever you drank out of those tasted tall and metallic and cold whether it was cold or not. He kept a gold one in the bathroom for rinsing your mouth.

My grandfather was a Highball man who used shakers and crushed ice and was never in a bad mood. His bar was outfitted with stools, stirrers, a mounted bottle opener and packets of powdered Whiskey Sour mix. My sister Lisa and I used to play ‘bar’ there, you know, it was a like playing ‘house.’

Song of the day: Time 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Little Smoking All Night, or the Week That Was

Ate: Mango, M&Ms, olives, vanilla pudding, mozzarella sandwich, brioche, pumpkin seeds
Drank: Licorice Spice tea

Laughed at: “Get your free American flag with a donation of $25 or more”
Realized: When I was chasing them down for death, I realized it is good that moths can’t scream.

Disliked: Insects of all kinds
Liked: The boychild returned from class trip to Rome.

Saw: A woman’s milk carton burst and spill milk down the aisle of the UBahn
Watched: Soccer, what else

Read: Orlando, finally!
Listened to: “The Married Men” - The Roches

Received: Best of the Net nomination for “Heiress to a Small Ruin
Gave: A damn and went jogging

Threw out: Emergency t-shirt, bought 7 years ago when Alitalia lost my luggage
Bought: Earrings

Learned: There are 115 women for every 100 men in Switzerland
Forgot: To buy a new toothbrush. I gave my son my new-fangled one, which he admired, but was left with his ancient one for days because I kept forgetting ...

Saturday, July 12, 2014

like a lamp / across the field

Some poems I have admired recently:

Emily Bludworth De Barrios’s “Be these omens from heaven or hell,
I love this for the juxtaposition of the old-timey title, taken from a 1764 Walpole novel, with the accessible, conversational tone of the poem, which is almost funny, but of course quite serious, and reaches out to help me in my great envy (of this poem).

Meredith Stricker’s “everything has black sounds
An homage to Lorca, part of a series that weaves news of war with the Spanish poet’s disappearance and death. 

Sarah Messer’s “Not Talking
I love this for those (un)folding chairs, that segue to blossoms. A gorgeous, prickly collection of images swirling and loosening into a cool cave.

Rochelle Hurt’s “In the Century of Mandatory Crying
It was the title that first lured me. I love how this short poem launches from its smart idea, wraps round it, and offers up a simple, subtle rhyme as a tissue to dry the last tear. 

Bianca Stone - 3
I loved all these poems at Souvenir. I’d never read or even heard of Bianca Stone before. But now I have. 

Kathleen Hellen’s “How I came to some advantage
I love this for the surprises and free associations and because the view is the problem with geese. (This was at the top before, but the Swarm link isn’t working, so rather than discouraging readers on the first poem, I moved it down here. Try it - it may have since been restored.)


Monday, July 07, 2014

Nunnery

I spent a night in Berlin, checking in Sunday before it got dark. Since my former boss always booked a little hotel called Hotel Albrechtshof, so do I, and it’s charming. It’s a Christian hotel with a little chapel in the basement. Next to the chapel is an “IT Room,” which consists of a slow computer, and an iron and ironing board. 

Rather than chocolates, there was a little stapled-together book of poems on my pillow. And, unlike many hotels, the windows opened! Which was good, because it was very warm. 

I love checking into hotels alone. Christian or not, a clean, impersonal room makes me feel chaste and contained. The towels are clean. The bedding is fresh. There is a desk. 

I went for a walk while it was still light and found a restaurant with tables outside, where I had a salad and a puddle of Sauvignon Blanc. There was a hipster couple a table over. An American family came in and, after determining the menu would suit everyone’s allergy mix, they sat behind me, where the father immediately cracked open the laptop. He began reading from a webpage about the Berlin Wall & Checkpoint Charlie & daring East-West escapes for the benefit of all nearby diners. 

The hipsters and I exchanged smiles, but really the family was breaking my heart. The teenage daughter was hating it; the mother was trying to accommodate everyone, sending back the pizza because there was chili pepper on it; the boy was the pre-teen variety of indefatigable; and the dad was trying to make it all “worthwhile.” 

It is.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Half-way book list

Here are all the books and chapbooks I read in the first half of the year. I did a lot of reading this month especially, thanks to airplane travel and vacation. 
Best novel was The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë. Best discovery was Emily Bludworth de Barrios' chapbook. Best whatever was Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things. All ladies! #readwomen2014

1. Apocalypse Theory: A Reader by Kristy Bowen (Jan 4)
2. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens (Jan 26)
3. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (Feb 8)
4. My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Feb 18)
5. The Book of Beginnings and Endings by Jenny Boully (Mar 5)
6. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Marie Remarque (Mar 22)
7. Dick Wad by Deena November (Mar 22)
8. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (Mar 3)
9. Sum of Every Lost Ship by Allison Titus (April 6)
10. Trench Talk by Julian Walker and Peter Doyle (April)
11. The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell (April 24)
12. let us now praise the empty parking lot by Jason Heroux (April 27)
13. The Son by Philipp Meyer (May 10)
14. The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal (May 27)
15. The Sick Rose by Richard Barnett (May 29)
16. Ah Xian Skulpturen/Sculpture by Dieter Brunner (Jun 3)
17. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë  (Jun 6)
18. Smoke and Mirrors by Toni Clark (Jun 8)
19. Sea/Words by Crystal Gibbons (Jun)
20. A Wicked Apple by Susan Slaverio (Jun 8)
21. The Grotesque by Philip Thomson (Jun 8)
22. Art & Love: An Illustrated Anthology of Poetry, ed. Kate Farrell (Jun 9)
23. Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (Jun 11)
24. Everything, Vol. 1 by Lynda Barry (Jun 11)
25. Extraordinary Power by Emily Bludworth de Barrios (Jun 15)
26. The World of the Brontës by Jane O’Neill (Jun 16)
27. The Brontës, ed. Harold Bloom (Jun 17)
28. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (Jun 18)*
29. The Best American Crime Writing, ed. Otto Penzler (Jun 19)
30. Seriously Funny: Poems about Love, Death, Religion, Art, etc., eds. Hamby & Kirby. (Jun 30)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Give my errands to Broadway

In an omnivorous sign, the governor slammed Congress for rejecting the bill.
(ominous)

Authorities step up efforts against cigarette smudging.
(smuggling)

All your toddlers have been updated. 
(folders)

Who will pay my spirit bill? 
(sprint)

The treatment will benefit patients not edible for surgery. 
(eligible)

They were mobbed by yellow churchgoers when Harkins encouraged attendees to greet those near them.
(fellow)

Sickly government on the verge of another crisis 
(Sicily)

For decades sharpness tempted fate on Everest for clients' goals and the survival of their families
(sherpas)

Monday, June 23, 2014

thy bed of crimson joy

I was recently reading two books that presented the face and body as landscape. The first was a book I ordered on the Chinese artist Ah Xian, who imbues the traditional sculptural bust with the look of Chinese pottery; the second was “The Sick Rose” by Richard Barnett, a book of medical illustrations from before the days of color photography.

It was only coincidence that I read these beauties at the same time, and yet they spoke clearly to each other. Both books offered corporeal images intricate and exquisite, but one was kind of dreamy and impossible, and the other vivid and all too gruesomely real.

I suppose that, in the imagination, breaking out in a rash or weeping sores could be like sprouting the flowers native to your homeland.

I prefer to wake up plain. 

I don’t have any particular reason to mention this now, except with a beach vacation approaching, I was thinking today of mix-n-match bikinis, and the notion of swapping one look out for another that might fit a body just as well brought this juxtapositional reading/art experience to mind. I'm not much for the grand display of my own design and intricacy: my favorite beachwear is the cover-up. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Jet Lag Headache II

Books inveigle a way to my suitcase, and that’s hardly the half of it. 

Weighing each lengthwise, I make an assessment foolishly generous. 

This far along I think of friends who’ve been burdened with cleaning out the houses of the deceased. 

A task to menace one’s mania for things. 

Fondness is a cramp that makes love to a library. 

When I start a new document, I nix the header and implement jettison. 

Where to I don’t know. Acreage elsewhere, beyond the space my brain has to give.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sept/Ember

On my one visit to New York this trip I went to the 9/11 Museum. It opened just a few weeks before I flew over, and the hype - if you can call it that - penetrated as far as Germany. So I put it on my list. 

But once in the states I got the feeling some people considered it kind of tasteless, a sort of polished ‘disaster tourism.’ I worried it was going to make a spectacle of people’s pain. I also worried it would be an excuse for jingoism. Still, I had a ticket, and off I went.

And I was impressed. The museum itself is solemn and gorgeous, almost like a sophisticated archeological dig. Its giant artifacts of catastrophe most resemble Anselm Kiefer sculptures, delivered by the dada of disaster. The interactive memorial room offers a biography for each victim, with as much added info as loved ones wanted to provide. It was all laid out beautifully. 

To me the most enthralling part was the wall projections in which (mostly) survivors recounted their steps that day, stories both chilling and very moving. There are also phone calls from the dead. There’s a large, meandering area with a timeline along the walls, also offering artifacts and various media. It is informative and grimly fascinating. 

In the end I didn’t budget enough time for the museum. After nearly four hours I had to rush through the final rooms, which did look kind of Americanaesque, and for all I know veered into we’re-the-greatestism, but I just did a quick nod-and-thank-you through that part, still wanting to visit the Strand bookstore and get to my dinner date on time!

At $24 a ticket it was worth seeing. And it was a gorgeous day in New York.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Two days in Dickson City

We coast the desolate stretch from parking lot
to parking lot, without needing
to use the street.

Past the motel dumpster, a slash
through a bent arrow warns against right turns

but there is no road right, just thicket
you’d have to be whacked or half-asleep to think

What will we leave behind to represent us:
the sinkhole that swallowed south of here

the sagging powerlines that crisscross, aloft,

as if this piece of Pennsylvania
were held together with string

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Welfare Mothers

The last couple years when I visit my mother I go on what I call my library suicide mission, where I go to the library and load up on stuff I’m going to force myself to read before I leave. I love going to the library because, wow, they’ve got stuff you never imagined. Here’s what I took and some things I didn’t.

Took:
Everything by Lynda Barry
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
American Hybrid
The Brontes by Harold Bloom
The World of the Brontes by Jane O’Neill
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

Neglected:
Funeral Customs Around the World
Tiny Whittling
Practical Electrical Skills
Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society
Nothing by Stephen King (though I was tempted by 11/22/63)
Nothing for Dummies
Nothing by Stephen Hawking
So Fat, Low Fat, No Fat
My Sister from the Black Lagoon
Welfare Wifeys

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cashier encounters


T: Would you like to have a Talbot’s card?
M: No, thanks.
T: Are you sure? You’d save 10% on top of the 30% you’re saving now.
M: I don’t live in the country.
T: Where do you live?
M: I live in Germany.
T: That’s so cool!

B: Would you like to apply for a Bloomie’s card?
M: No, thanks.
B: You’d be invited to special sales.
M: I don’t live in the country.
B: Where do you live?
M: Germany.
B: You don’t have any accent!

J: Would you like to have our J. Crew card?
M: No, thanks.
J: Are you sure? We’d email you when there’s a sale.
M: I don’t live in the country.
J: Where do you live?
M: Germany.
J: Oh, wow! What’s the weather like there now?
M: Right now it’s warmer than it is here.
J: I’m going to Italy in October. Do you think it’ll be good weather there when I go?
M: Yes, it will be good.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

B for Beguile

I finished The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and enjoyed it inordinately. I have now traveled the Brontë trinity from A to E and hope to read Villette (C) and Agnes Grey (A) this year, too.

In looking at my own volumes of Brontë books and those on Amazon etc. my only disappointment is the very unimaginative book covers the Brontë books are slapped with. About 85% of the time it’s a dim 18th century painting of a woman in a cloak or voluminous dark dress. I’ve also seen a couple goth cartoonish covers, and some that look like Harlequin Romances. Yuck all around. There must be more to these stories than clothing and landscapes.

For Jane Eyre I found the Penguin Drop Cap series of hardcovers, which uses the author’s last initial in fancified, illustrated typeface. I do like that. It’s bold. You can see the cover Of Jane Eyre and the 25 others classics in the series at this link. Unfortunately I don’t need another copy of Jane Eyre. Or do I?

Penguin makes a gimmick of it and suggests you check out your initial, and the author quote on the back of the book. Mine would be S for John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. Too bad I’m not a Steinbeck fan. 

My favorite design among these is the D for Dickens’ Great Expectations, which I’ve read twice, followed by the Q for Ellery Queen's The Greek Coffin Mystery, which I’ve never read. Can an elegant Q convince me?

While I’m at it I also like E, G, J and L! It looks like the whole alphabet would cost more than $500 new, so better just to spell your name, or your favorite four-letter word.

If I had an e-book reader I could have started Villette this morning, since it's free on e-format at Amazon. In fact I do have a Kindle on my home computer and downloaded it, but I won't be schlepping that with me on a plane to New Jersey tomorrow. No, as usual when I'm about to embark on a trip, I'll be lugging a many-million page tome, this time Juliet Barker's family biography The Brontës. 1158 pages, not counting the introduction and middle bit of illustrations.




Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Eureka

I took a day off for my son’s 16th birthday but for some time I was home alone since it’s not yet a national holiday. I went to the store and bought kid food, including chocolate milk, strawberries and a box of cornflakes. This box didn’t seem to be half-smashed, which is usually the case, but full of hale and whole flakes. So I sorted through in search of Jesus’ face, or Mary’s, or any remnant of the saints, prophets or apostles, or even George Fox or Ron L. Hubbard, but none appeared.
Instead I found:

Teardrop
Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen
Fang, molar, incisor 
Gene Simmons’ tongue
Deformed heart
Coat hook
Oyster and pearl
Chile
Schnitzel with mushrooms
Van Gogh’s ear


Sunday, June 01, 2014

Week went by

Ate: Squid, lamb, celery, carrots, croissant, licorice, bread, cheese, apricot jam
Drank: Tonic water with lime

Laughed at: Jar of peanut butter that warned “this product contains nuts”
Realized: Books are the best bug-killers

Disliked: Carrying my 50 lb. dog up the street to the vet. She refused to budge, realizing our destination.
Liked: Mom arrived for a visit

Watched: Maleficent, which my husband hated
Saw: The Würzburg fortress

Reading: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall 
Listened to: Hair soundtrack

Received: A compliment on my headphones (“Coole Kopfhörer!)
Threw out: Hoarded postcards

Learned: Coeval
Bought: Chocolate cake mix

Fail: Over-explained
Victory: Established proper antecedent, pre-publication!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Eyrehead

I started reading the neglected Brontë today, Anne, and when I googled her for details, I found out she died on this day 165 years ago. Coincidence!


I decided to read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall because months ago I started a long biography of the Brontes, and thought it would be worth reading Anne before going any further, having read the other sisters. I’m a big fan Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, less of Emily’s Wuthering Heights, which is a bit of an eye-roller. I do like Emily’s poems, though.

I’m enjoying Anne. Here we have a scoured hearth, and a weak but sufficient fire, enough for a single woman escaping a dreary past with hot tea, a small income and a mended dress. 

And we’ve got looooong sentences that don’t skimp on punctuation. As in the sentence with 19 commas and one semi-colon on p. 8: 
“Nothing told me then, that she, a few years hence, would be the wife of one - entirely unknown to me as yet, but destined, hereafter, to become a closer friend than even herself, more intimate than that unmannerly lad of seventeen, by whom I was collared in the passage, on coming down, and wellnigh jerked off my equilibrium, and who, in correction for his impudence, received a resounding whack over the sconce, which, however, sustained no serious injury from the infliction; as, besides being more than commonly thick, it was protected by a redundant shock of short, reddish curls, that my mother called auburn.”

Or the one on p. 14, also with 19 commas, which is even longer and squeezes in 2 semi-colons:
“Her hair was raven black, and disposed in long glossy ringlets, a style of coiffure rather unusual these days, but always graceful and becoming; her complexion was clear and pale; her eyes I could not see, for being bent upon her prayer-book they were concealed by their drooping lids and long black lashes, but the brows above were expressive and well defined, the forehead was lofty and intellectual, the nose, a perfect aquiline, and the features in general, unexceptional - only there was a slight hollowness about the cheeks and eyes, and the lips, though firmly formed, were a little too thin, a little too firmly compressed, and had something about them that betokened, I thought no very soft or amiable temper, and I said in my heart - “I would rather admire you from this distance, fair lady, than be the partner of your home.” 

What more could an unsung heroine ask for. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

I don't even know who this bitterness is for

The week in review

Disliked: The 30C heat 
Liked: The storm that snuffed it

Watched: Mud with Matthew McConaughey
Saw: A sharp #2 

Reading: The Hare with Amber Eyes
Listened to: Sufjan Stevens’ “Illinoise” 

Learned: The word moue
Forgot: Also unbroken glass can cut you

Bought: St. Peter’s B-List for my folks
Threw out: pounds of magazines, plundered for collage many times over

Realized: There are 2 kinds of weather - white & red wine weather
Dreamed: Went with my entire office on a working trip to Sardinia, where I had the obscure assignment of writing about a piece of coal that erases unpleasant odors.

Ate: Licorice
Drank: Tonic water 

Laughed at: Celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves
Cried about: The struggle to shed bitterness

Fail: Emptied the bio-garbage into the plastic recycling container
Victory: A set IKEA desk drawers (=3 hours)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

blog tour

I was invited to participate in this tour by Drew Myron, poet and publicist. Drew keeps a gorgeous blog at Off the Page. Thank you, Drew.

1. What are you working on?
I’m working on the amplification of moonlight and a kind of belligerent mind-cinema. There’s a baseball backstop I felt very sorry for as a child and I’m trying to make it up to it. One day not long ago I saw a squat cream-colored ceramic bowl that I wanted to be more than anything, and I am working on that. 

2. How does your work differ from others in its genre?
It’s less famous. 

3. Why do you write?
I don’t think too much else is really worth the time, even though my e-wastebasket is wadded with sorrow. For me writing is a way to escape my body, my looks, my circumstances, the stupid desk I am sitting at. Even my fate is not safe. 

4. What is your writing process?
I wish I knew. I take small bites because I have a full time job, two kids and a dog that demands walking. I am also a chain worrier. I try not to get too distracted, though distraction entertains. 

Mostly I read and let that inspire me. Poetry, prose, sentences, the dictionary. Besides reading, I like misreading because reading madman where it says madam reveals another possible world. 

The tour now noodles on with Kathleen Kirk. According to the rules, I should tag two people, but since Kathleen is a poet, editor, wife, mother, neighbor and all around interesting person, I am counting her as two. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Americium

which element are you 
which layer of the sun are you
which surgeon general’s warning are you
which obsolete technology are you
which boob shape are you
which insect are you
which of the 10 commandments are you
which shade of eyeshadow are you
which corporation are you
which junkyard dog are you
which noun are you
which hair gel are you
which serial killer are you
which household cleaning product are you 
which first world problem are you 
which b-list celebrity are you
which circle of hell are you
which expletive are you

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Muttertag

I’ll be off yodeling in Switzerland this weekend, the land I hate to love. I complain often about the country that separates us from Italy with its overpriced everything and inconvenient currency. But whenever I arrive it’s so amazingly gorgeous that I chide myself for being petty. Anyway,

Not to miss Mother’s Day! Here’s a photo from 1996 that says motherhood is not an endless feast of cuteness and bubbling good moods. It is also isolation, doubt and enormous, eternal inconvenience. Rather like Switzerland. (That baby is also gorgeous.)

Escape into Life was kind enough to include one of my poems, Dear Scum, in a poetry feature this month on motherhood. The poem was a reaction to a pornographic letter and drawings a disgruntled schoolmate of my then 8- or 9-year old daughter left on our doorstep. Certainly exercised my motherly outrage that day, week, month and pretty much year. There! I broke the “don’t-explain-your-work rule.” You'll live.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

I interview myself about what I’ve been reading

What are you reading?
The Son by Phillip Meyer. One cover blurb says “Remarkable,” and a remarkable thing is when sitting at my desk with the book in my peripheral vision I keep trying to grab the cloud on the cover. It looks like a tissue I wadded up and left there.

Why are you reading this book? 
A ex-colleague recommended it to me, and our tastes overlap, at least in the areas of masculine voice preferences and depraved violence. 

What is The Son about? 
It’s kind of like the song ‘I’m My Own Grandpa,’ but with Texas vegetation and hostages. 

What genre is it? 
Family Saga - Revisionist History - Adventure - Stockholm Syndrome - Cowboys & Indians & Mexicans

*
And what did you read before starting The Son
The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell, whom I have mixed up many a time with J.G. Ballard. Two Different Guys

What kind of book is that? 
It’s a Demise of the Empire story about a ragtag bundle o’ Brits in India who suffer an extreme lack of self-awareness, in addition to cholera. 

Did you like it? 
I admired it. Despite the poor defenses portrayed, every sentence was built like a tank. I wouldn’t call it gripping. There are some good characters, without there being too much character development.

Whom would you recommend this book to?
Hoarders, zombie-genre fans, creative cooks.

Friday, May 02, 2014

A little smoking all night

After weeks of sunshine we finally got our rain and wind. With everything gone wet and green, the wind is like a big swirling and mixing. I love the sound and the blur. They mowed the grass at the park, too, without raking, so it’s a great mush over there, an olfactory munchie. 

Anyway, thank whatever it’s Friday. I’ve got some poems up at Right Hand Pointing in an issue of just three poets. Very happy to be included - I almost didn’t submit. On the last or second to last day I said oh just go ahead and was so lucky. 

One rarely reads about one’s own voice in writing, so it was good to read the editor’s take: "(she) is wry; she tells it slant. Her poems are on their way somewhere. They will cast you a sidelong glance and a half-smile, before passing on."
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