Friday, November 13, 2015

With Paris

What happened? and what will happen next?

Paris feels like home to me in ways that actual home does not. I like the self that I am when I have been there--perceptive, understated, witty, responsive.

And why attack the locals, the people who are simply living? How could this improve anything?

We are filled with horror when we are not numb.

Our time is so fleeting, so brief. No need to shorten anyone's. Paradise is only here.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

You need this word, part 2. Also many cool shoes.

The next needed word comes from someone, also in Doug Powell's workshop, who apparently had not been paying attention to the sound or sight of words in his many years, and who pronounced a word to be "sartori." But, it is a good new word, s a r t o r i, useful for the many of us who fret over dressing properly for some--for any--social situation, from going to the market to, oh, attending a writing conference. I define it as the state of bliss and freedom from desire induced by knowing that you have chosen precisely the right clothing for the situation.

Monday, November 2, 2015

You need this word, part 1

At last summer's Napa Valley Writers Conference, I had the grace to choose Doug Powell's workshop. Doug always presents wrapped in flannel and knitted vests, with a tractor cap jammed down on his skull. He may run cold, but his seminar was hot. I still cannot encompass how marvelously he got back to the roots of writing. One of his exercises was to write one-word poems. Go ahead. You think about what makes a poem, and how to pack that into one evocative word. Another was to create a new word, a word that we need but that does not exist in English. I am still sorting these out.

I propose a new word:  t o n e d e f t . It means the opposite of "tone-deaf;" that is, the quality of using precisely the right word, or words, for the situation and the task. For instance, "D.A. Powell is tonedeft."

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How to make your point

Our printer gave up the ghost recently, and we went online to read reviews of new printers. There was one that Consumer Reports liked, and it got decent ratings on Amazon. There was, however, a negative review that made the decision for us. I paraphrase:  I hate this printer. I cannot express strongly enough how much I hate this printer. It has sucked my time, my money, and my energy. I hate this printer so much that, if I had a gun with two bullets, and I went into in a room with Adolf Hitler, Osama Bin Laden and this printer, I would shoot the printer. Twice.

Made us laugh, and scared us off!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Emerson, making music before your very eyes

Yesterday I heard a wonderful chamber concert, courtesy of the Emerson String Quartet. When I first learned about this quartet, many years ago, they were known for playing new music, under-heard music, not the kind I like to listen to. For me, for music to be musical, it has to stir something in the body--desire to dance, goose-bumps, tears, a sense of something building. Most atonal music is only cerebral to me. So, I never really tracked what Emerson was doing. They were young! which is to say, roughly my own age. They are still roughly my own age, no longer young. Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer  – violins. Lawrence Dutton – viola. Paul Watkins - cello, who replaced David Finckel in 2013 (I like David just fine, but he is really over-extended, and I'm glad he let this one go). And their musicality is a river and all its tributaries. The cellist is seated, as he has to be, and on a dais, so that his head is level with the other three, who all play standing. This lets them really lean into the music, really get free with the bow arm, almost dance themselves. First and second violins alternate 'chairs' between pieces, which has got to contribute to the cohesion of the group. They also generally synchronize their bowing, a beautiful thing to see with the music under it. The cellist has what looks like a lot of fun getting into the character of the music, facial expressions showing how he means. The violist does not play a particularly large instrument (I've seen some that look like young cellos) but has no trouble at all producing rich sound and big tone. A lot of play of the eyes among all four. And, I always love seeing as well as hearing the theme passed from instrument to instrument.

Yesterday they played Haydn's Quinten Quartet op. 76 no. 2. A beautiful, rigorous, well-seated job, made the music fresh. Then a hair-raising performance of Shostakovich's Quartet no. 10, composed in 1964. I had never listened to this work before, and it was thrilling. I hadn't known that music like this was being composed during my lifetime. The violist played the second movement roughly, fiercely. Faaantastic! I'm not big on standing ovations, but I jumped up for this one. The concert closed with Dvorak's "American" Quartet, something of a warhorse by now. Emerson played it like a hoedown. Whee.

There really is nothing, nothing, nothing, like hearing good music played live by dedicated musicians. I'm grateful that we have chamber concerts available within driving range.

Monday, September 7, 2015

More than meets the eyes for a Google surprise

I checked myself out in Google today. Never you mind why. It wasn't vanity. OK, I needed to know if a poem I wanted to submit would show up on a Google search--I had posted it on a message board for an on-line class. (It did not, by the way, so I'll send it out this afternoon.)

My first surprise:  my name generated more than 77,000 hits! Granted, only 180 or so were for my name, and not for some scattered combination of my name's three elements or for repetitions of the 180, but still pages and pages.

My second surprise:  poetry hits dominated. The psychology hits are fading off the screen. This is fine, as I have been retired from practice for nearly three years, and gave up my business phone number and address at that time; I haven't taught or supervised in a doctoral program for ten years, so no more listings linking me to staff in those settings.

My third surprise, the big one:  I have been reprinted and quoted and reviewed, and I never ever knew. I'll put some links right here:,_Karen_Greenbaum_Maya(

"Conductor" was a poem I could not get accepted for publication. I finally sent it to a blog about trains. Apparently it has been passed on from there without getting my permission, though to be fair, they always give me credit. Same thing for "Passing Through", a poem I wrote because I needed to write it. Another reference calls me "award-winning", something I never thought to apply to myself, though it is, technically, true. It's a big world out there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Does size matter?

Forgive the tawdry title. Recently I read a piece by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker, August 3, 2015. He is using the occasion of a reprinting of some Max Beerbohm's work to present Beerbohm as Proust manqué. He closes the piece by arguing that there are, really, no minor writers nor great writers, because the only thing that matters is whether a writer is read at all, and that everyone who is read at all is the same 'size'.

Several thoughts on this. My first reaction was very pleased: I often get blocked by judging before I write, namely, judging that what occurs to me is not "great". Which of course it isn't, and a criterion like that is a sure-fire silencer of my own idiosyncratic voice, whatever stature it may have. So, if I am read at all, I am 'great' enough. My second thought was that Gopnik may well be frustrated with his own topping out--that is, that he has risen about as far as he is going to rise. His books are pleasant, he is a regular staff writer at the New Yorker fer gawd's sake, he has written about Paris (which makes him dear to me), and he wrote a fine autobiographical piece, "Man Goes to See a Doctor" about his psychoanalysis, in which he confesses what his readers surely perceived, namely, that he is a narcissist who has some trouble remembering that he needs to make others interested.

And my third thought was, Well, isn't it pretty to think so. Major or minor, great or just OK, there are indeed great writers, and we are not those. We may be good-enough. We may be interesting enough, true enough to say what only we can say. It is a valuable development to be able to write despite not being great, and to be able to tolerate knowing this about ourselves.