Friday, December 13, 2013

A True Physic, for when misery follows you like a hat.

Many years ago I found this under my windshield wiper. Mrs. Della must have known that someday I would have a blog, and would be looking for something light-hearted to post towards the end of the year. When I found this, I was in graduate school; my dissertation advisor was so tickled by the idea of a true physic that he sputtered his coffee into his beard. Then he taught me how to read palms and Tarot cards. I never did call her.

Remember to wear your shapow, because it's cold out there.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanatos, du Donnerwort


Boots on the ground carrying machine guns, at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, France, during an exhibition of Manet's work.

Recently my husband and I rented Amour, a beautiful and pitiless movie about being trapped by love when one person in a marriage develops Alzheimer’s. If you have not yet seen this film, I will say only that no one walks out, yet someone is abandoned. I don’t think I am giving anything away when I mention that, finally, the intact spouse suffocates his wife with a pillow. Very difficult to watch; I think I forgot to blink. It got me thinking about other pillow suffocations that have been presented to me, for instance, in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. More recently, though, on The Blacklist, the urbane and infinitely calculating character played by James Spader suffocates the heroine’s father with, yes, a pillow. Then, tears in his eyes, he kisses the dead man on his forehead. The suffocated person is always a patient, has always asked to be killed if they arrive at that miserable level, is always embraced by their merciful murderer. There is, however, something about seeing it on television—network television!—that stops me in my tracks. We are willing to show all kinds of death on television, gory and traceless, kind and vicious, needful and gratuitous; now that anything and everything can be recorded, these scenes are available to children. However, the notion of there being some dignity or necessity in two people having sex, that these might not be wearing any clothes, that it means something powerful to them emotionally—that is considered something that children should not see. Doesn’t have to be explicit, or pornographic. (We have the Internet for that.) Just saying that there are many more incidents of adults being murderous and of it being deemed necessary than of any dignity or rightness attaching to adults being sexual. Yet again, Freud was right: Death wins out over Love.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

This frightens (and fascinates) me


The real world is more frightening than anything you might make up. For instance, global climate changes are altering the ocean such that the number--or should I say amount?--of jellyfish is increasing hugely. They make beaches dangerous for swimmers, clog the intake valves of any machinery, consume the food supplies of species we desire. Some of them pretty much cannot be killed, as bits of them can grow into new jellyfish. They can fertilize themselves, they can go dormant for 100 years, and warming conditions just keep making the environment ever more jellyfish-friendly. They are spooky beautiful, and look like clouds of invasion. That's a nightmare to me.

All photos were taken at the Jellies exhibit of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It's a fabulous display of jellyfish, but I must complain about the dorky psychedelic/funkadelic presentation. Loud funky music, and even funky breaks down when it is repeated too many times; groovy op-art patterns and colors. If I had done drugs in the sixties, I might have thought I was having a flashback.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Overheard: Why it is a good idea to go out to lunch

From the department of things you simply cannot make up:  we were having lunch in a very conventional restaurant in our town. Delicate stomachs, long story, not relevant. Anyhow, I truly could not help but overhear the story one middle-aged woman was telling her companion, an older woman. I couldn't help overhearing because the speaker was LOUD. This is what she said, verbatim, no interpolations or omissions I promise:

"This cleaning product is all natural. It kills bacteria, but you can drink it. I do. This is the company that Richard was looking into. A pharma company went into his computer and deleted the file--so unscrupulous. She [no idea] is disgusting, despicable. Richard's business partner killed him. It was a mess. The FBI got involved. He was embezzling our money and everything. Organized crime. Richard lost it all--all his hair too. He started early.

"Richard's sister's husband's brother was murdered. He got into it with a homeless woman. She came back with five friends and they stoned him to death. They were on meth, pinned down his legs with a boulder. Richard gave him a beautiful service. [vigorously and with gestures, imitating Richard, I suppose] 'As he was dying, Sataaan went to pull him down, but Jesus flew in and snatched him up--and I know your brother sits in Heaven this day.'"

Friday, September 27, 2013

Finally photos again!

My sweet old cat asserting her rights to supervise me as I write. So glad to be able to upload photos again.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Translator is a Traitor

(Still can't upload photos, so here are links.)

Lately I've been wanting to translate Heine. Not the poems that anyone is interested in, which is to say, that someone might like to publish. Just ones that suggest translating to me, like "Ich rief den Teufel, und er kam". I used to have a knack for finding the convincing equivalent phrase, but I am finding that I have less room to maneuver. Shoot, I used to try to match roots so that the subliminal imagery would carry over.

This is the image that comes to me:  say that a poem is a footbridge across a chasm carved by a river. When you walk out to the center, you can look upstream and downstream and enjoy the views. A translation is another footbridge, set close to the first one. You'll start out and end up close to where the first bridge does. Your views up- and downstream will be similar, but they won't be identical, and one of them will include the other bridge.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I love science!

I would have loved this even more if Blogger had permitted me to upload some of my many photos of cups of hot chocolate. I'll have to be satisfied with posting some flickr URLs.

...and, finally:

"Researchers at Harvard have conducted another study endorsing the benefits of chocolate. In a study of people over 65 with impaired blood flow, it was found that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day for 30 days increased their scores on memory and thinking skills tests." Whatever it takes!

This one isn't hot, but who cares?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Adventures on the road: another sestina challenge

I was supposed to meet last Thursday with my poetry buddy, Judith Terzi. She got caught up in a terrible freeway embouteillage:  a bus carrying seniors to a casino turned over, and inevitably all traffic stopped. (Wondering hard about a day in a casino being so many older folks' idea of a good time, but never mind.) She used the time, though, and noted words to be used as teluons for a follow-up to my Freeway Sestina from a few years back. (See links <---). She suggested brewery, bus, lane, jam, curb, bingo, and, gambling. I offered  beer, helicopter, accident, trap, bowl, and odds. We'll see whether either one of us can contrive a sestina on any subject at all from any six of these.  Right now, I am inclining towards jam, bingo, trap, odds, bus, and either beer of brewery.

Friday, August 16, 2013

another reading tomorrow, Saturday August 17

Many thanks to poetry mid-wife Don Kingfisher Campbell for inviting me to read at the Catalina branch of the Pasadena public library, at 999 E. Washington. There is an open mic, and the reading will go from 3-5pm. I promise not to read anything I have read there before.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Another reading this Sunday, 8/11/13

A bit dark, an unexpected take on something you see every day, somewhat whimsical. Yep, that describes my poems.

I'll be reading again this coming Sunday, 8/11/13, in Second Sundays, the fine poetry series hosted by Alex Frankel. For location, directions, and details, see With me will read the amazing Daniel Romo, as well as Martina Newberry. Martina and I knew each other 30 years ago, when we both had different names and different careers. She had a fine voice then, and I'm looking forward to discovering what she is saying now.

Monday, July 8, 2013

How I am spending my summer

traces of fireworks--long exposure on a point-and-shoot ELF!                        

I work with the steering committee for a poetry reading series usually housed in our local library. The other women on the steering committee are also working writers. That is to say, they write and seek publication (and frequently get published), and they spend a lot of time reading as well. We met recently, and when I walked up to the table, the others were discussing what they were reading this summer. Made me glad that I was the last to arrive:  I have been reading low-fiber stuff, for the most part. True, I am reading L’Etrangère en français, dictionary in hand so that I don’t miss out on Camus’ fabulous diction, but the rest of what I am reading is not only light-weight, but re-reading. I feel a bit embarrassed about how often I return to something I have read before. Usually, what I am seeking in the repeaters is a particular scene with a particular emotional tone, a particular interior landscape if you will. Most recently, it was a scene in The Devil's Cub, a Georgette Heyer Regency romance, and I'm not even going to try to summarize the set-up. (Earlier, it was a few of the Harry Potters. My husband is recovering from a knee replacement, and J.K. Rowling has made it possible for him to permit his leg to be iced long enough to give some real relief. Seeing the Potters around and talking about them with him made me want to go back. Still effective, btw. Now he is referring to people not in the know as Muggles, and to various obdurate bad guys as Voldemort. It works.) I've also been re-reading various essays of Josef Wechsburg, a lover of music and food and kultchah in general. He wrote a gorgeous piece about the late lamented Budapest String Quartet, and a fittingly worshipful account of visiting La Pyramide of Fernand Point. I'm a long ways from either one right now, I must say.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Burrowing Song emerges

The next big thing has finally arrived. My chapbook of prose poems, Burrowing Song, is in the process of being printed and bound, and should be available by next week. I say "finally" because it's been four years since my first chapbook, Eggs Satori, was chosen as a finalist by PuddingHouse Publications. PuddingHouse and its editors were hit by a number of setbacks, the worst being health crises, and they put their publications on hold--apparently, on permanent hold. Sammy Greenspan of Kattywompus Press was good enough to take a look at my set of prose poems, and accepted not only Burrowing Song but also Eggs Satori into her catalog. (ES should be coming out at the end of 2013).

But--! If you are interested, you can find Burrowing Song at If you would like a signed copy, send me your address, and make payment to at PayPal. Prose poems have been around a while, although not under that name. You may find them reminiscent of the short pieces of Kafka, or Buber, also of shaggy dog stories, fairy tales, and dreams. Who knew that most of the preoccupations of my adult life would find a place in one genre? Below, an example:

Golden Hind
Time-traveler from disco days wears molten gold space pants, astronaut-tight, catching rays and glances. She’s known at Gold’s Gym. Her pelvis leads the way across the parking lot. She’s muscle-queen of SoCal’s March heat wave, gold standard of saucy butts, she is shrink-wrapped in a Lycra blend of gold lamé, she hits her aerobic range just tugging those things on. Her 18-carat hair is the Golden Fleece. How many golden hours given for that elevated rump, those plastic alabaster arms? Not the working sculpt of dancer’s muscles, but a body for no motion at all, for beholding alone. She smiles the secret smile of the marble maidens at the Acropolis. Their eternal draperies mention rounded bellies. She basks in her own fat-free golden light. Her daughter with golden locks trails in her wake, a mirroring moon waiting for a moment of just-right, sneaking another cheesy goldfish from the foil-lined bag.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Mental Space of One's Own

You know how there is always some great book or work that you have never read, feel you ought to read, never quite get around to reading? Some work that everyone around you has read, so that you are reluctant to admit that you never did read? I have in fact read Moby Dick, Ulysses, War and Peace, Tristram Shandy, and Part 2 of Faust (auf Deutsch), but until last week I never had read A Room of One's Own. I'd seen so many references that I supposed I had already got its goodness, basically. Wrong Wrong Wrong!! I had utterly forgotten how sly Virginia Woolf is, how deftly she builds up the bits of evidence, emotional as well as physical, that will lead you cleanly grievously to her conclusion. I had never heard anyone allude to the Manx cat, a perfectly good cat, complete even without a tail, that strolled calmly through the quad of the men's college where she was lunching. I had certainly never heard anyone mention the poor dinner of the women's college, and how it must contribute to the scope of work that can be produced. And when she mildly but inexorably adduces the circumstances that must obtain in order for a woman to sit herself down and gather her thoughts and have the mental room to let them mingle and speak--well! No wonder this work is a banner and a mantra for women who write. Just from reading it, I feel that space has been cleared in my own crowded head.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Conference season is approaching


Two years ago I attended a writing conference at Esalen in Big Sur on the Central California coast. I do want to say that it was a magically beautiful place, and that I took home a lot of ideas and writing oomph, to say nothing of a renewed appreciation for whole grains. Tonight, however, I am also remembering the graffito dashed on the fence that greeted us as we drove up to the entrance:  "Jive shit for rich white folks." Just saying.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Next Big Thing: Burrowing Song

Vieve Kaplan, friend, colleague, and poet, invited me to join The Next Big Thing, a cascade of promoting myself (read:  my work) and inviting others to do the same.

My tagged writers for next Wednesday are:  Judith Terzi, Richard Garcia, Dale Wisely, Nickole Brown, Cati Porter, and, Maria Andrade. I haven’t collected their URLs, but when I do I will post those here. Check them out too!

What is the working title of the book?
          Burrowing Song

Where did the idea come from for the book?
          Sammy Greenspan of Kattywompus Press challenged chapbook submitters to offer her unusual collections, such as a chapbook of prose-poems. I just so happen to write a lot of those, thanks to Richard Garcia’s mentorship.

What genre does your book fall under?
          Poetry chapbook, I guess…maybe weird fables, or dream book.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
          Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Robert Downey Jr., Tina Fey, Angelica Houston—those people who can play anything and anyone they want, and no one at all.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
          Apparently, I look at the world in strange, or at least unique, ways, and my sense of humor also is tweaked.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
          To write the poems, a span of four years; as we all end up saying, to perceive the poems, many more years than that. When I write, I continue to be surprised how drifts from so many different things in my life enter my words.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
          Immediately, Richard Garcia, for introducing me to the notion of the prose-poem form; more broadly, the Brothers Grimm, my dreams, German Romantics, Kafka, shaggy-dog jokes, Dada, Mitteleuropa humor, and people who speak in code because they are in danger.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
          When I’m being serious, I’m pretty funny.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
          Neither; Kattywompus Press has picked it up (after inspiring it) and tells me that it should be published sometime in 2014.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Schubert Ensemble at the Coleman

I am amazed again and again at how hard chamber music groups work. They play ambitious programs, and when the greedy audiences ask for encores, they comply! I kind of wish they wouldn't, because they've done enough and they've already assembled a musically coherent program. The fine musicians of this group gave us:

  • Martinů—Piano Quartet No. 1, H. 287
  • Mozart—Piano Quartet in G minor, K. 478
  • Schumann—Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 47
Someone or other at the Julliard School said that playing piano in a piano quartet was more demanding than playing a piano concerto. I agree. Any one of these pieces would have been a feast. All three of them, in one program, on a mild SoCal winter Sunday afternoon, made a transcendent experience. I love watching the play of the eyes as they play together.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A moment in the brief history of hitting someone with a fish

Some of you may remember a post from last year:;postID=1317420141659901448

It discussed the vexing considerations involved in hitting someone with a fish.

It turns out that hitting someone with a fish has a literary history. While Verlaine was living in London with Rimbaud, Rimbaud saw Verlaine walking up the street with their supper, namely, a bottle of olive oil in one hand and a fish in the other. Rimbaud thought Verlaine looked silly, and was immature enough to say so. (I mean, really--the guy leaves his wife and child to be with you, and you mock him when he goes shopping for dinner??) Verlaine was incensed, or at least touchy, and smacked Rimbaud in the face with the fish. I don't know yet what kind of fish, or whether they cooked dinner that night.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

[Reed] Griffin, saved from Pompeii

Lately I've been immersed in an oral history of Reed College, of which I am a proud and grateful graduate. I loved, and love, Reed for the larger world that my time there opened up to me, for the entirely unconscious acquisition of the ability to go to the heart of an argument, and for the great pleasure of being with others who thought it was fun to know things.

Since my time, Reed students have developed the Hum 110 play (pronounced Hume, as in Humanities), a quick and tricky take on the entire year's coverage of 2000 years of Western civilization, starting with the Greeks and moving on through the Middle Ages to fetch up against Dante. Five-unit course, big old deal. Greg Lam, '96, offered:

Shit happens, then your armor clatters thunderously. 
Such was the battle of Hector, breaker of horses.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Once was lost, now is found

I discovered just today that two found poems I had submitted to Verbatim Poetry had indeed been accepted, even published last May and June. (See links at left.) This caps off an amazing run over the last two weeks, including six at RiverLit, one at Mom Egg, one at Parody, and one at Centrifugal Eye. My poems seem not to get accepted in any steady sustaining way, but rather like giving birth:  much waiting, then big result. Come to think of it, that's how I write. As above, so below.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

All About Ides

I learned just today that the Ides of March is the exception rather than the rule. Today was the Ides of January, the 13th. Only March, May, July, and, October have their Ides on the 15th. It is supposed to be the day of the full moon, thus, the middle of the shorter months falling on the 13th, just as the 15th is supposed to be the day of the full moon for those months with 31 days. Obviously, the Julian calendar was long overdue, and there has been enough precession to make us need an adjustment again. But, seriously! aren't you glad to know what Ides actually are?