Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mancave Envy



I’m seeing all these mancaves and it makes me super envious. Freud would say my house and I are not physically equipped to have a mancave, but we want one, and the power it represents. I’m going to indulge my boyish nature, appropriate some hormones and rename my little studio. I’ve got some of the accoutrements already.

My mancave has a chair named Bernhard because that’s a man’s name. 

My mancave has a manual typewriter because it’s bromantic.

My mancave has a Native American blanket because bold, masculine graphic.

My mancave has a picture of a beautiful woman, because beautiful women.

My mancave has genuine spiderwebs because Spidermancave.

My mancave has a dog because man’s best friend.

My mancave has an X-Acto knife in it because get off my lawn.

I understand every mancave needs a sign on the door, and you’ll be glad to know mine does have a sign on the door. My daughter (the beautiful woman whose picture graces the cave) gave it to me. It says “Mom,” in honor of Thoreau's mom, who washed his clothes for him. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Dear Goatee


Preparing to do Found Poetry's scouting project next month, I dug up this poem I did two years ago when I took part in their Pulitzer project, in which each participant chose a Pulitzer prize-winning book as a source text for found poetry. Mine was Independence Day by Richard Ford. "Dear Goatee" was written using words on p. 186 of the novel. It was a challenge to find a new poem every day of April, and you certainly got intimate with the book. To keep from going insane, I usually limited myself to one page per poem. With the scouting project, we'll use a variety of texts, and I'm looking forward to trying something new. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Had the Day off

Pruned the roses and cut back the ropey, dead clematis
Kissed the Rome-bound husband & son goodbye
Delivered wonderdog to her vacation
Took a stab at some found poems before PoMoSco
Went grocery shopping
Read Emily Dickinson’s #420 (There are two Ripenings)
Ate a salad of rucola, tomatoes & mozzarella, like an Italian flag
Bought a song on iTunes
Basked in the sunshine on the terrace
Shook three men’s hands
Posted a Throwback Thursday photo
Learned a childhood friend’s sad fate

Sunday, March 15, 2015

i taste a liquor never brewed

Anne Sexton will be played by Lindsay Lohan.
Robert Frost will be played by Christoph Waltz.

ee cummings will be played by Jeff Goldblum.
Sappho will be played by Cate Blanchett.

Emily Dickinson will be played by Mia Wasikowska.
Guillaume Apollinaire will be played by Jack Nicholson. 

Derek Walcott will be played by George Clooney.
Sylvia Plath will be played by Sissy Spacek.

Ai will be played by Eartha Kitt.
John Donne will be played by Clint Eastwood.

Wallace Stevens will be played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. 
Sharon Olds will be played by Catherine Keener.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Bergmanesque

Last night at a concert I discovered one of my most longstanding misreadings. A countertenor was singing a raft of French songs, including Claude Debussy’s Prelude and Clair de Lune, two of his best known pieces.

The concert program included the lyrics and I was reading the actually kind of lame melodramatic texts of various songs (o my heart) and it was slowly revealed to me that the two Debussy songs were not from what I’ve long been reading as Suite Bergmanesque, but from Suite Bergamasque

In other words, the songs weren’t a homage to the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman as I’ve been unconsciously assuming for about 25 years, but to a clownish dance from the Italian town of Bergamo. Since I never thought about the inspiration for the songs, or dwelled on any associations I made with them, I’d never corrected this abiding trick of the eye. 

You’d think it would have occurred to me that Bergman and Debussy didn't have overlapping lifetimes. In fact they missed each other by four months - Debussy died in March 1918 while Bergman was born in July of that year - meaning the composer never had the opportunity to see Wild Strawberries, or The Seventh Seal, or even the first movie Bergman directed, To Joy.

Well, dear 25 years, it’s been lovely having Debussy’s Prelude evoke all those Swedish walks on the beach, and letting Clair de Lune call forth the light in the foghorn scene from Persona. In fact, I think I’ll continue to let it. It’s much more pleasing than an awkward Italian dance from a town best known these days for its rinky-dink airport, served primarily by Ryanair.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

The week that was

On a 1-10 scale, the past week gets a weak 5. No one died or anything. Nor did a tree fall on my car, but I don’t drive. The week didn’t win an award for leading actress, or screenplay, or original score. And I banged my elbow. 

Listened to: Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro
Reading: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower by Marcel Proust

Saw: Birdman. I wasn’t crazy about it. And the popcorn sucked. 
Learned: To properly pronounce sangfroid 

Laughed: My own joke at work, which involved an English nursery rhyme peppered with German. That’s how desperate I was for humor.
Cursed: Being 5 minutes late for yoga, meaning I was locked out.

Failed: The moths are back.
Succeeded: Drafted a poem; received an acceptance

Regretted: My desk calendar. Every day there’s a new photo, and 55% of the time it seems to be a selfie, and god knows we’ve had enough of that.
Dreamed: My father was taking a bath in a shed in a rural setting. He got all contorted and was shouting for help. Luisa and I were nearby but I said he was just making noise and didn’t need help but Luisa went and helped him get out of the tub, exasperated with me.

Acquired: A rose-scented candle
Discarded: A purple poncho

Ate: Risotto Milanese
Ingested: A mouthful of exhaust smoke

Word of the week: Flummox, a well-built verb with an unconventional ending. 
Pithiness: "We spend our time envying people we wouldn’t like to be." - Jean Rostand

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Customer grouch

With beer sales up, Germans said Proust! more often in 2014.
(prost)

On annihilation, raise your hands over your head.
(inhalation)

Things to do in Hilarious, Germany
(Saarlouis)

China will never follow the path of western colonists, the foreign mystery said.
(ministry)

Swiss tourism faces tongue challenge after bank abandons currency peg.
(tough)

The couple bought a 4-story townhouse where they’re ravishing their twins.
(raising)

Profitability will be hit by an investment in customer grouch.
(growth)

Jesus Charlie.
(Je suis).

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Visiting America I decide to reconsider my disdain of scented candles

Blue Lavender
I’ve spent years overdosing on lavender in the form of soaps, sachets and lotions but this candle came with a wooden wick that promised to crackle. Open mind, I told myself, not every scented candle wants to strangle you with apple cinnamon. And unlike the ubiquitous pumpkin clogging the American esophagus, this was the scent of cottonballs and vaporous soufflés, of swans and a pale lilac sunset that glows for approximately 33 hours.
Mystery Collage by Valerie Roybal

Sandalwood
This wore a distinct masculine cast. Black wax and black glass, it purported to be aromatherapy and gullible woman that I was I bought it. It sat knobby in its chamber; the flame elicited beads of moisture, exuding an unctuous smell, like a mix of 1) burning tires and 2) sweat in a smoky, upholstered club that hasn’t been vacuumed since Adam. Womanly goodwill aside, I didn’t want such an atmosphere roasting my clothes and, dear reader, I tossed it. 

Wild Bluebells & Jasmine
When I had to whittle the cargo down for the sake of my suitcase this is the bouquet I almost manned overboard. Wild bluebells and jasmine, I said, how ridiculous. Do bluebells even smell? Is it just girlish, poetic marketing? But the candle was small, the color a robin’s egg blue, so I tucked it inside a sock in a side pocket. And in truth it became my favorite, because it said snow-capped mountains to me. It said bells of alpine goats who’ve been freshly shampooed. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

In the room the women come and go, talking

Two stand-out experiences I had on my trip to America had to do with public interaction, and how much friendlier, open and trusting it is than in Germany.

The first took place in a ladies’ fitting room. I came out to look in a larger mirror and found - not unexpectedly - strangers commenting on each other’s outfits in a way unimaginable in Germany. Friendly and helpful and possibly not altogether honest comments. I asked the fitting room attendant if she thought I had the right size, but it didn’t matter whether I needed advice - it was just refreshing not to feel you must stay closed up inside yourself, to make contact with people, even in a banal retail setting. In Germany in contrast, privacy starts with avoiding strangers.

In the second case, my mother and I had just seen a movie we had differing opinions on (Whiplash). We stopped at the ladies’ room, where there was the usual backlog of ladies. But everyone in line was talking to the others about the film, whether they liked it, how intense it was, what a fantastic jerk one of the characters was. Except for my mother and me, the ladies were strangers to each other as far as I could tell. You’d never strike up a conversation with a stranger standing on line in Germany, much less engage in a large, inclusive conversation, superficial as it may be.

I can’t lie and say I don’t miss that. I miss it all the time. It makes life more pleasant; you feel less isolated, less invisible. You are invited to participate in an exchange. This can also go too far sometimes, as with the well-off American man in front of me on the plane, who needed to interact with the duty-free team for over a half an hour about which watch looked best on him, then which one to buy for his wife as well. Blabbity-bla.  

And of course I returned to Germany this morning to news of a road-rage murder in Nevada, a 16 year-old executing his family then being killed in a shoot-out with police in Kentucky, and another deadly shooting at a Walmart in Mississippi. You can’t have it all.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Unhappy landings


On the morning of my departure I took the dog out to spare my husband at least one walking, since for some days he’d be sole proprietor. My good intentions only went so far, however. I was in a hurry. On the front stoop I put the long rubber boots on slapdashedly, my left heel lodged just ¾ of the way down. Sure enough I stumbled on the cement steps near my house. It was a long descent. On the way down, I had ample time to rue my haste and plan my landing.

I braced the fall with the outer edge of my left hand – luckily without involving the dog – next, my left shoulder slammed the sidewalk (though I only surmise this from the pain I felt later), then my left cheek touched down, impressively far from where the fall began. I smashed my pinky and it bled, my index finger, too, and the knuckle of my right thumb. It was still dark so I did without witnesses. No one heard me moaning; I had time to assess the damage and recuperate my wits. I decided my hand wasn’t broken, so I rose to continue my walk, tears or no tears, because someone still had to do it.

A day later I woke up a continent away with a vice-like headache and nausea that followed through. My mother said I probably had a concussion. All I wanted to do was walk the dog with the least amount of bother, then get on a plane, and a day in bed with the sun shining on the snow outside was my lecture on laziness.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Epigraphs

Evan S. Connell’s Mrs. Bridge, about a housewife suffering vague existential unease, begins with a Walt Whitman quote:  But where is what I started for so long ago? / And why is it yet unfound?

A Matisse illustration for Charles d'Orleans
The companion novel Mr. Bridge begins with a quote from Wallace Stevens’s “Tea At the Palaz of Hoon:”
I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw
Or heard or felt came not from myself;
And there I found myself more truly and more strange.

Dorothy Allison’s autobiographical novel Bastard Out of Carolina begins with an epigraph from James Baldwin: “People pay for what they do, and still more, for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it simply: by the lives they lead.”

I love the Thomas de Quincey quote Billy Collins chose for Nine Horses: “See, then, that bronze equestrian statue. The cruel rider has kept the bit in the horse’s mouth for two centuries. Unbridle him for a minute, if you please, and wash his mouth with water.”

The epigraph to Collins’s Horoscopes for the Dead is also terrific - from Alan Bennet’s The Uncommon Reader: “It was the kind of library he had only read about in books.” 

Roberto Bolano’s Nazi Literature in the Americas starts with an epigraph from short story writer Augusto Monterroso: “If the flow is slow enough and you have a good bicycle, or a horse, it is possible to bathe twice (or even three times, should your personal hygiene so require) in the same river.”

The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq uses an epigraph from medieval poet and duke Charles d’Orleans, who wrote most of his poems while a prisoner:
“The world is weary of me, / And I am weary of it.”

The Blue Flower, Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel about the German poet Novalis, starts with a quote from Novalis himself: “Novels arise out of the shortcomings of history.” 

Edna O’Brien’s Down By the River starts with an epigraph from James Joyce’s Ulysses that makes me think I need to take another crack at Ulysses:
Darkness is our souls do you not think?
Flutier. Our souls, shame-wounded by our sins.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Thanks for not much

I have so not gotten on the gratefulness wagon I have to avoid certain settings, since my failure to chime in would surely draw a collective frown. It's not that I'm not grateful, it's just that I don't want to join the latest emotional directive. It's like when everyone is reading the same book, and it’s The Da Vinci Code.

I understand gratefulness is supposed to boost your happiness hormones and all that, but why make a project of it. Yesterday, for example, I went home really looking forward to the two hours of the day when I would not be working. I was so happy I even smiled. What I felt was gratefulness, but I didn't have time to craft a hallmark card about it.

Anyway, in the thankfulness department, my semiannual give-thanks-to-a-teacher anxiety came to a head this week when a couple FB friends posted about teachers who changed their lives by recognizing their talents or inclinations. Then a Slate editor published a memoirette about his relationship with his 10-grade English teacher, who advised him well after school ended not to pursue lawyerdom, along with delivering other life-enriching lessons.

To confess, I've always felt kind of grateful to my 10-grade English teacher, a former nun who presided over our class with dry detachment. She swayed like a stork in her 70s get-up, a short bob and bell-bottom slacks. She was a humorless sort, but she had the idea of giving students an extra point for each book they read. So if you had 86 points, a B or B+, you could kick it up to an A by reading 4 or more extra-curricular books each grading period. She passed out a list of acceptable titles that I kept until my house burned down 10 years later. I was already a reader, since my dad demanded I read 10 books every summer, but reading now had more rewards. I read everything. I read also to please my teacher, though she was about as interested in me as in dryer lint.

One day I got up the nerve to ask her if she'd recommend me to take honors English the following year. She looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. I didn't fit her picture of what honors English was. I knew who was in honors English and it's true I was not like them. Today they are housewives, realtors, or working payroll at a swimming pool chemicals company.

I was stung, it's true. As I said, I’ve always been kind of grateful to this teacher but lately I wonder what for. I’m grateful that she helped spark my interest in literature. But I am not grateful to her for anything else, not any later academic success, not my landing in journalism, not my poetry. I would like to thank her for taking an interest in me, but she didn't, and I managed anyway.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New year's misreadings

Lately instead of doing upper-body or lower-body I just do full-body stench workouts.
(strength)

It’s a grueling procedure, so prepare for preposterous care at home.
(post-operative)

The app makes photo mortgages of your face and much more.
(montage)

The room had a sort of underwear light.
(underwater)

We are in the midst of disgusting an entire library.
(digitising)

It’s the thought that gonuts.
(counts)

Perhaps when you ejaculate everything, you’ll see you’re wealthier than us.
(calculate)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Backward dog

Listened to: Be Brave from My Brightest Diamond
Reading: Dina’s Book by Herbjorg Wassmo, a Norwegian writer I’ve never read before

Laughed: SNL’s Lawrence Welk show with Will Ferrell
Learned: You can’t do anything well when trying to do four things simultaneously.

Failed: Poetry rejections.
Triumphed: First yoga class. Arrived dressed for class, on time, and pre-paid. 

Watched: Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows
Observed: Most virtual interaction with America this week was negative. Obese people in too small clothes, right-wing weirdos, & selfie obsessives. 

Dreamed: I was Thatcheresque.
Received: A book of stamps!

Acquired: Jewelry
Did without: Jewelry

Cooked: Tomato sauce. Mine’s made with carrots rather than sugar, and rosemary rather than basil.
Drank: Fennel & Anise tea.

Word of the week: Cosmonaut
Pithiness of the week: "My father predicted everything when he said I would procrastinate until I died." Jane Bowles

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The I-Did-It list

Some writers I know put together year-end notes - some counted their submissions, some counted how many poems they wrote, others stood on their heads naked and recited from memory in French. 

No one was bragging; many were modest. Still when I counted up my rejections, and tried to reckon how many poems I'd written, I just didn't want to go there. I don't even know how to count how many poems I "wrote" last year. Should I count the stillborn, the lame, the aborted? What about those I’d begun years earlier and finally finished in 2014? In any case, it wasn't many. And those rejections, man, a deluge.

Truth is I sent almost twice as many submissions in 2014 compared with 2013 (74 vs 40) but still got just two more acceptances (11 vs 9). A bunch of those submitted remain outstanding so I could squeak out another acceptance or two, but I’m not expecting an effusion of yes

Of the acceptances, I had to pull the poem because I later realized it resembled - in idea if not in wording - a poem by another poet that I had read long ago. The editor understood and I was grateful, though sorry and a bit disturbed. 

So I liked the pep talk I got reading Lisa Romeo’s "I Did It" idea, which asks you to look back and acknowledge your accomplishments, big and small. Here are some of mine. 

For one, I didn’t regret any of my acceptances, i.e. wish I’d sent my poems to a ‘better’ publication. Acceptances were few, but wonderful, and I was particularly heartened to land my poem “Inksleep” in Beloit, and “Bloodshot Cartography” in Crab Creek.

Two editors corresponded with me about poems I'd submitted asking for minor changes. I was happy that the editors considered those poems worth the effort. 

I was especially fond of the video Nic Sebastian made of my poem "Ambien" from Poetry Storehouse
Marie Craven also made a dynamic, delightful video of "Dictionary Illustrations." It can only be viewed offline, unfortunately, which I have done many times, as have my husband, mother and children!
(These videos were not my accomplishments, of course.) 

I also got a Pushcart nom from Storm Cellar.
And Best of the Net noms from DMQ and Right Hand Pointing.
And Dancing Girl Press accepted my chapbook - “Heiress to a Small Ruin” - for publication later this year.
And DoubleBack press plans to reprint my first chapbook, “In The Voice Of A Minor Saint.”

So I feel good despite my crappy stats.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Combray, Vienna, Texas & the western front: Where I've been

I dragged my feet reading this year, but still averaged over a book a week, helped by chapbooks. In non-fiction my favorite was Cheryl Strayed’s Dear Sugar, and I began her memoir Wild with tears on the UBahn this morning. In poetry, which I didn’t read enough of, my favorite (chap)book was Extraordinary Power by Emily Bludworth de Barrios. Vilette nearly clinched the fiction title, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way was the most satisfying, awe-striking novel I read all year. It was! Thank god I won’t be going to my grave without it. I plan to read more Proust next year.

My highlighting system went wooey when I tried to implement it this year, with worrying about what I was highlighting and why, etc., so if you're interested in what I thought about any of these titles, I suggest you join me at Good Reads. I've given a lot of them more time there.

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. Imago by Lindsay Lusby (Jun)
29. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (Jun 18)
30. The Best American Crime Writing, Otto Penzler, ed. (Jun 19)
31. Seriously Funny: Poems about Love, Death, Religion, etc., ed. Hamby & Kirby. (July)
32. Orlando by Virginia Woolf (July 10)
33. Someone Else’s Wedding Vows by Bianca Stone (July 11)
34. Unless by Carol Shields (July 23)
35. Villette by Charlotte Brontë (July 29)
36. Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte (Aug 17)
37. The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst (Sept 13)
38. Heat Wave by Penelope Lively (Sept 18)
39. The Day of the Owl by Leonardo Sciascia (Sept 27)
40. Can’t and Won’t by Lydia Davis (Oct 7)
41. Stitches by David Small (Oct 20)
42. Sorted Books by Nina Katchadourian (Oct 24)
43. The Death of Sigmund Freud by Mark Edmundson (Oct 28)
44. A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel (Oct 28)
45. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast (Oct 29)
46. The World in Place of Itself by Bill Rasmovicz (Oct 31)
47. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (Nov 4)
48. Sidetracked by Henning Mankell (Nov 14)
49. Cut & Paste: 21st Century Collage by Richard Brereton (Nov 16)
50. Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively (Nov 19)
51. Dogfight at the Pentagon WSJ (Nov 24)
52. Mörder ohne Gesicht by Henning Mankell (Dec 17)
53. Incident Reports by Caitlin Thomson (Dec 24)
54. Baby-Doll Under Ice by Katie Jean Shinkle (Dec 27)
55. Zoonosis by Kelly Boyker (Dec 27)
56. Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust (Dec 28)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Alright, then, I'll be born

Before I assault you with my 2014 book list, here’s a list of some of the poems I enjoyed online in the second half of this year, with links. I've omitted my short list from July of poems I think worth checking out.

1. I doubt that a guy named Alan Shapiro is going to end up a “Country Western Singer,” but I loved this funny ditty anyway, which you can find here

2. “Peace Before Cigarette Butt Storm” by Shahram Shahidi in RHINO. I loved how the butts of the title are immediately identified with the bullet of the first line, and the ironic laugh this short poem provides. It’s a PDF, so you could be two clicks away

3. Dana Weir’s “What Matters To You Matters To Me” in B O D Y, which is a longish prose-ish poem full of kickers, including: 

Let’s just say you have a choice.
You have a choice whether to be born or not to be born?
Who wouldn’t say, all right, then, I’ll be born.

4. Kristy Bowen’s “Apocalypse Theory,” an online chapbook that you can find here. Most of the prose poems begin with “My apocalypse theory (DOES SOMETHING),” and turn fun and imaginative. 

5. Matthew Lippman’s narrative “Marriage Pants” in American Poetry Review is sad and entertaining and has a great ending. 

6. Dave Bonta does a generous series of poems at his Via Negativa site, where he makes the effort of erasure poems seem effortless. His series is based on the Diary of Samuel Pepys. Some of my favorites include Messenger, Downsizers, and Stripper, with its “barn-dark oyster.” 

7. I also enjoyed Dillon J. Welch’s “Jewel Erasure Poems,” which are here at keyhole. 

8. And while we’re on the subject, Jenni Baker’s marvelous erasure poems in Boaat, from the Boy Scout Handbook, complete with nostalgic illustrations. 

9. The outtakes from Caryn Lazzuri’s “The Encyclopedia of Love” in apt are wonderful, especially “A is for April,” in which a person on a train falls in love with a stranger. It’s good to recognize the feeling. 

10. “Please, Space” by Suzanne Wise in Quaint Magazine is an acrobatic prose poem that I much enjoyed. 

11. I loved the list poem “Ways to Dance” by Mark Leidner, which I would like to try to live. 

12. I loved Jessy Randall’s short fables in The Bakery, which she reads herself. 

13. Both of Andrew Grace’s poems in Pleiades appealed to me strongly: “Say Hello to My Little Friend Sorrow” and “Warning to My Mortician.”

Friday, December 26, 2014

Fresh disappointment, fresh encouragement

Salvage
My mother brought the Dec. 15 New Yorker with her, and after the cartoons I read “Let it Go,” an article about hoarding by Joan Acocella. It dwells at first on two well-known hoarding cases of the genteel variety - the Beales and the Collyer brothers - which give hoarding a dash of idiosyncratic charm before descending into true squalor. The writer mentions ‘postmodern’ explications of hoarding - as practiced by deviants (obviously). One author mentioned is Scott Herring, who says people have a right to collect as much junk of whatever variety they choose (they do), and that doing so is an act of non-conformity, with those who criticize hoarding being anti-individual.

I found this little segment freeing, although I am not a hoarder, although I am generally tidy, and my superego is, if anything, over-utilized. When I’m drawn to things I don’t possess - a mug, a book, a stone, a twig - my second reaction is often negative, i.e. it’s clutter, it’s junk, your house is full, someday not far away you are going to die. 

So, of the three New Yorkers my mother brought, I will clip the bits I want, though I may never glance at them again, and throw the bulk away.

Nov 31
I just got the first volume of John Fowles journals, and this morning I looked through to see if there was an entry for Dec. 26. I didn’t find one, but looking further I was aghast to find one for Nov. 31, 1961.

In third grade we were doing a project about the calendar and one of my classmates put a Nov. 31 on it, to which I reacted with crushing irritation, there simply being no Nov. 31. I let him know that I was an expert, having my birthday on Nov. 30, the last day of November. 

So is John Fowles a fool or has there been some kind of proofreading error? In any case, his entry for Nov. 31, 1961, a day that never was, begins: “On the surgeon’s report it said: ‘Virtually hopeless.’”

I can only agree. I hope this won’t happen again.

Toast
As I approach the end of Swann’s Way, I did some reading about the book, and one article told me the madeleine immortalized by Proust was in earlier drafts just a piece of toast. I was disheartened by this - I had been so content to think the rhapsody on this little cake came quickly and naturally, that he had been storing it up a long time, looking for an opportunity to extol upon the madeleine’s taste and texture. And yet it might as well have been a piece of toast, or a pretzel stick, or the heel of an stale baguette.

But my disappointment was temporary: I am glad he abandoned the toast, and that he was able to turn so many crumbs into a hymnal of memory and the senses.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

On Christmas Eve, in honor of a particularly marvelous passage from Proust, I wore my monocle

The Marquis de Forestelle’s monocle was minuscule, had no border, and, requiring a constant painful clenching of the eye, where it was encrusted like a superfluous cartilage whose presence was inexplicable and whose material was exquisite, gave the Marquis’s face a melancholy delicacy, and made women think he was capable of great sorrows in love. But that of M. de Saint-Candé, surrounded by a gigantic ring, like Saturn, was the center of gravity of a face which regulated itself at each moment in relation to it, a face whose quivering red nose and thick-lipped sarcastic mouth attempted by their grimaces to equal the unceasing salvos of wit sparkling from the disk of glass, and saw itself preferred to the handsomest eyes in the world by snobbish and depraved young women in whom it inspired dreams of artificial charms and a refinement of voluptuousness; and meanwhile, behind his own, M. de Palancy, who, with his big round-eyes carp’s head, moved about slowly in the midst of the festivities unclenching his mandibles from moment to moment as though seeking to orient himself, merely seemed to be transporting with him an accidental and perhaps purely symbolic fragment of the glass of his aquarium, a part intended to represent the whole, reminding Swann, a great admirer of Giotto’s Vices and Virtues at Padua, of Injustice, next to whom a leafy bough evokes the forests in which his lair is hidden. (Swann's Way)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Via Copernico


Nothing plunged me deeper into exile than living in the Via Copernico in Milan. 

It was not far from the Sondrio subway station, and Vespa-infested.

In the next street there was a horse meat shop and an old-fashioned grocer, where you had to ask the clerk to ferry items down from the shelves. 

I learned a lot of Italian begging for red wine. 

I was both impressed and alienated by our beautiful apartment. We had an old-fashioned elevator with iron doors, a concierge, and a terrace with hydrangeas. Such a snake-like name for such a pretty flower!

Outside the Milanese never cleaned up after their dogs.

The Milanese never cleaned up anything in public, though their homes and persons were impeccable. Never a crooked tie. Never a run in a stocking. But dog shit everywhere. 

Nearby there was a garden named for Gregor Mendel. Herr Mendel, I cried, return me to sober German-speaking lands! Give me parks that aren’t littered with junkie syringes.

I had to look up Copernicus to remember where he was from. Like Mendel and myself, he spoke German but wasn’t from Germany. Though for Italians I might as well have been German, since I arrived there via Germany. 

Which was fine with me. 

But I was not one of the many Germans who tell you they're Italian in their souls. 

First thing to do when a German tells you he’s “Italian in his soul” is make the Italian gesture for “what do I care,” which involves flicking your fingers out from under your chin dismissively. 

I can understand not wanting to be German, but this is baloney I've never bought. 

What does it mean to be Italian in your soul? To toothbrush your eyebrows until the perfect look is achieved, but sneak off when your beagle craps on someone’s front steps? The soul is invisible, not manifest in gestures or good taste in suits. The Italians have no more soul than anyone else, they’re just less inhibited.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Get out your handkerchiefs

This week I continued to struggle with sitting down to write. I waste much time, and I’m uninspired. I fritter away. I vacuum dog hair. I check my mail. I loiter at work. Do I have lipstick on my teeth?

It snowed a little one evening, fat damp flakes that came only to wave their handkerchiefs. Snow you know won’t last makes me want to break into a construction site and smoke cigarettes under the floodlights.

In keeping a dream journal, I notice that trying to recall a dream later in the day is like trying to remember what I charged to my credit card over the course a month, i.e. near impossible. In the dreams I’ve written down I am invariably dowdy and middle-aged. I dote on my son. I command small police squadrons. 

One thing I remember charging is this pillowcase with pussy willows & three oranges. It’s now warming up a place on the couch. 

The word of the week was integrity, which is a word I use more and more to talk about physical things. Today it was the Christmas tree, which was too tall for the living room. My husband said he would lop off the top and I said it’s important to preserve the tree’s integrity. I don’t even know if I’m driving it quite right but I am at the wheel. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

it happens now every evening

I understand wanting to go by foot, but I suggest the UBahn. It’s two short stops. Otherwise you could walk this street past the seedy Hotel National, the Colour Hotel, the sari shop and Arabic grocery. After the intersection, you’ll reach a sandstone bridge. Set off across it until you find the stairwell down to the promenade, and follow the river eastward. I can’t vouch for the safety of the riverside at night, never having ventured it. The linden trees are almost bare. Keep walking about 15 minutes until you see the lights of the Christmas Market on the left. Somewhere there are stairs back up to the street. You can’t miss it, the smell of spilled wine, the sound of an accordion, the flocks of people. If you pass beyond the Eiserner Steg footbridge you’ve gone too far.
photo: abisag tuellmann
 

Sunday, December 07, 2014

A week of limited daylight

Read: Walter Benjamin radio broadcast on dogs. I enjoyed the stories, but objected to how Linneas’ description takes the male as the norm and sets the female aside as a special category of dog.  
Listened to: Sharkey’s Day

Laughed:  Loud eating in the library
Learned: Pigeons, through a genetic glitch, can breed all year round.

Failed: Photography. I need to photograph a stationary, outdoor object for a piece I wrote and I can’t seem to get it right. Limited daylight has not helped.
Triumphed: Guided two well-coiffed Swiss ladies from the Hauptbahnhof to the Chrismas market via the UBahn 

Watched: A typeface video using part of Borges’ poem “Break of Day” (below)
Observed: It is too warm for December. 

Started: Keeping a dream journal
Dreamed: (Dec. 7) "I wanted to become a detective in a seaside town, and as part of the application I had to write a poem. As a prelude, the police department required I sleep with a young man, then write the poem. I was anxious about this, also because I’m married. I had to really consider how much I wanted to be a detective. I was worried the poem would be worse than the sex. I was worried the sex would be worse than the poem. The police department was populated by nicely dressed middle-aged people, polite, but not particularly sympathetic. They did not look like poets."

Discarded: A scarf I never wore. Threw it away once before, then rescued it. For real this time. 
Acquired: A tablecloth. This may seem trivial, but since our kitchen tablecloths serve anywhere from one to three years, it’s revolutionary. 
Received: A Pushcart nomination for my poem “Smoking Jacket” 

Ate: Braised carrots with honey and thyme
Drank: Glühwein without alcohol, though I’m not sure how that’s possible

Visited: Drawn by the children’s books in the window, the bookstore Weltenleser
Realized: No matter how many ads you ‘hide’ on FB, there are more. 

Word of the week: Skirmish. A quirky-sounding word related to scrimmage, probably from old German skirmen, to defend. 
Pithiness of the week: Tradition is the most sublime form of necrophilia. - Hans Kudszus


Thursday, December 04, 2014

I interview myself about some of the books I read this year

Reading is elemental. Which book would you associate with earth?
My favorite, Villette by Charlotte Brontë, because it is tied to the ground and intent on the hearth. Our English heroine is planted on French soil, where she does some serious suffering. 

“I too felt those autumn suns and saw those harvest moons, and I almost wished to be covered in with earth and turf, deep out of their influence; for I could not live in their light, nor make them comrades, nor yield them affection.”

Which book would you associate with fire?
That’s easy: Carol Shields’ Unless. And also with fury. 

“At certain moments, for no reason -the smell of apple wood burning in the fireplace- I become convinced that everything is going to be alright.”

And, skip the water, which book makes you think of ice?
Obviously Virginia Woolf's Orlando, for its skating scene. As a whole, the book moved slowly, but the love affair with Sasha was magic. Where did she disappear to? Sasha, you minx. 

“‘All ends in death,’ Orlando would say, sitting upright on the ice. But Sasha who after all had no English blood in her but was from Russia where the sunsets are longer, the dawns less sudden, and sentences often left unfinished from doubt as to how best to end them--Sasha stared at him, perhaps sneered at him, for he must have seemed a child to her, and said nothing. But at length the ice grew cold beneath them, which she disliked, so pulling him to his feet again, she talked so enchantingly, so wittily, so wisely (but unfortunately always in French, which notoriously loses its flavor in translation) that he forgot the frozen waters or night coming or the old woman or whatever it was, and would try to tell her--plunging and splashing among a thousand images which had gone as stale as the women who inspired them--what she was like. Snow, cream, marble, cherries, alabaster, golden wire?”

And with air?
Can’t and Won’t by Lydia Davis, for its buoyant humor, and “Waiting for Takeoff,” one of my favorite stories in the book, which takes place in an airplane.

"We sit in the airplane so long, on the ground, waiting to take off, that one woman declares she will now write her novel, and another in a neighboring seat says she will be happy to edit it."

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Two minutes of morning

Going to the UBahn I walk through a small park, too small really to earn the term, it’s more of a pathway with a bench or two, tall trees and what was once a sandbox, which nonetheless offers two minutes of relief from the apartment blocks and monotone of sky. I would call it a glade because of glide and because it’s leafy and keeps a cool temperature, but a glade, if I am not mistaken, intersects a thicker wood and is neither manmade nor even man-fashioned.

Along the walkway leaves have fallen in such a way that they resemble - also because sometimes they are in the midst of tumbling - sunbeams or patches of sunlight on the ground, and when I am close enough to apprehend what they are it’s both a disappointment and a consolation, a let-down because my expectations are dashed, and a consolation because they’re just as luminous as sunshine, and I have been beautifully fooled.

This morning amid the damp ambient of leaves and mud and cobblestone I see my new boots come slicing, the flat heels so comfortable I’d like launch into a run. I think of the saying “fit like a glove” which amuses because we’re talking shoes, and the German word for glove is ‘Handschuh,’ i.e. “hand shoe,” and somehow an item got mashed on backwards in translation, and it’s frosty and I don’t have gloves. 

When I’m walking in the cold thinking of running I remember the essential thing is to breathe. Have I mentioned how my face is falling apart?

Inhale, exhale.

Or had I rather say collapsing? The lengths, breadths and heights of it?

In, hale. Ex, hale. 

For months I have been considering a chin tuck. 

Inhale.

Abstractedly and noncommittally, now running past houses.

Exhale.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Desuetude

Reading: Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
Listened to: Le Tourbillon by jeanne moreau

Laughed: Bible Verses Where The Word “Philistines” Has Been Replaced With “Haters”
Learned: “Humility” and “humiliation” come from Latin “humus,” aka dirt. 

Failed: Went to the Christmas Market, but it wasn’t open.
Triumphed: My chapbook “Heiress to a Small Ruin” was accepted by DGP and will be published next winter. I almost didn’t send it in. 

Dreamed: of an encounter with a Jehovah’s Witness
Realized: Sugar drenches everything

Watched: Memento, a poorly executed psycho thriller
Observed: The introverts seem to have stopped talking about how introverted they are. 

Discarded: indecipherable German snail mail
Received: Dogfight at the Pentagon from a colleague 

Ate: Falafel
Drank: Chai tea, coffee, wine, sparkling water 

Bought: very little
Did without: very little

Pithiness of the week: "There are persons who, when they cease to shock us, cease to interest us." FH Bradley 
Word of the week: Desuetude
“Even when she had to give an armchair, silverware, a walking stick, she looked for ‘old’ ones, as though, now that long desuetude had effaced their character of usefulness, they would appear more disposed to tell us about the life of people of other times than to serve the needs of our own life.” (Swann's Way)


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday off

I took the day off because my daughter had an appointment about a retirement account and wanted me along. In the course of the day we discovered she didn’t need this appointment. Since she doesn’t have a job and is just 18 she doesn’t quite yet need a retirement account. Yes, I've said in the past one needs to save for retirement and she should too but I didn’t mean now, and when I said I would contribute to her savings, I meant I'd regularly deposit a small amount in her savings until she is - someday - gainfully employed.

So all day we were waiting for 4 o’clock to roll around and at 3 our limbo ended with this revelation of misunderstanding, and we were relieved to be set free from an awkward appointment with a country bumpkin banker. We celebrated with a very buttery Croque Monsieur. I also did two loads of laundry, read 40-50 pages of Moon Tiger and a review of a biography of Penelope Fitzgerald, paid bills and filled the fridge with groceries.

In other news, I’m happy to say my chapbook, Heiress to a Small Ruin, has been accepted by Dancing Girl Press. It will be published about a year from now.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Atomizer

In the book I’m reading, a character who is much belittled wears the same fragrance I do, and I can’t help but feel insulted. The character, Sylvia, is the sister-in-law of the protagonist of Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively, a novel about a historian ruminating on her past from a nursing home bed. 

Sylvia “has devoted herself to children and houses. A nice old-fashioned girl, Mother called her, seeing quite correctly through the superficial disguise of pink fingernails, swirling New Look skirts and a cloud of Mitsouko spray.”

Mitsouko, I gasp. I wear Mitsouko! And the thing about Mitsouko is it’s ravishing. Ingrid Bergman wore it. Anais Nin wore it. Jean Harlow wore it, and her husband doused himself with it before committing suicide. So, you know, I’m kind of feeling that Mitsouko hardly needs me to defend it. Undeterred by a few raised eyebrows, even Charlie Chaplin was known to splash it on. 

And yet here is Sylvia, the wife of a man who works “himself into the ground, when it is a matter of the intellect. His laziness is more subtle than that, it is a laziness of the soul, and Sylvia is its manifestation. Gordon needs Sylvia like some people need to spend an hour or two a day simply staring out the window…”

Of course I see that Mitsouko was considered part of a disguise, being, I suppose, more sophisticated than Sylvia. Perhaps as the book progresses and the true Sylvia emerges wearing a stodgier scent, I won’t feel so intimately wounded.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Accidental Tourist

I read Villette in Sardegna.
I read Tess of the D’Urbervilles in Bath, England.
I read Chrisina Rosetti in London, England, on the same trip.
I read The Collected Works of Billy the Kid in New Brunswick, NJ, shortly before my maiden voyage to New Mexico.
I read Reader’s Block in Santa Fe, NM.
I read Daniel Deronda in Madison, NJ.
I read The French Lieutenant’s Woman at home in Frankfurt. I think of this book, or at least the experience of reading this book, every day.
I read Under the Skin at home in Frankfurt.
I read The Passage in Frankfurt. It pissed me off.
I wish I could remember even one book I read in Kansas. A year there and I draw a blank. I remember considering reading My Antonia, but deciding not to.
Ditto Milan. No recollection of anything.
I read Voices of Chernobyl at my mother’s apartment in North Plainfield, NJ, where she set up a little card table-desk for me.
I read Dear Sugar at the same card table.
I read Jude the Obscure in the Austrian Alps.
I read Alcools in Davis, CA, while staying at my stepsister’s.
I read The Land of Green Plums at home in Frankfurt.
I read A Clockwork Orange in China, just days before the Tiananmen massacre.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Pure Spirits

To explain the long silence, I've been traveling. New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania. And Toronto Airport, a regular madhouse. 

To catch up on recent poem news, my poem, "Headache, Amen," just went up at Mead Magazine. This journal publishes poetry in the categories of beer, wine, cocktails, etc., though the poems themselves don’t have anything to do with drinking. I was happy to find my poem filed under ‘pure spirits.’

"The Uppermost Affliction," published at DMQ Review a few months back, has been nominated for Best of the Net. 

Finally, "Ambien," about the sleeping drug that induces sleep-eating, has been made into a video by the generous Nic Sebastian. The poem appeared in my Homebodies chapbook. Here it is.

'Ambien' by Sarah Sloat from Nic Sebastian on Vimeo.


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)

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