Monthly Archives: April 2016

Arizona Spring II

For this one I had to climb down a steep gravel hill and across the wash and up another steep hill. But don’t think these beauties happen spontaneously. The master gardener I live with plans them with great care. I wish he’d plant them where it was easier for me to photograph them!

Notice the shadows.  Just TRY photographing in Arizona without shadows. Worst (and best) light EVER for photography here in this state.

Leave a comment

Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, Photographs

An Hour Spent Peering into Zane Grey’s World

The most recent little trip was to Payson, Arizona–with hubby and daughter. We drove northeast on the Beeline. The landscape was dotted with saguaros for the first half of the drive.

Many or most of the saguaros had flowering tips.

We followed behind this truck for awhile :/. At a certain point, the saguaros disappeared as we were at an altitude where they can’t live.

None of us had ever visited Payson before. I had expected a quaint village, fun little shops, that sort of thing. The economy didn’t look very strong, and there wasn’t too much that was quaint.

We tried to find the candle factory, only to discover it was just a gift shop. We had a pretty good laugh about that.

But next door there was a fudge shop where we each picked out a flavor. Caramel pecan, creme brulee, and rocky road. The ceiling was tentlike and they sold little sculptures made out of spoons.

I enjoyed these sculptures. The young man who helped us with our fudge said his father made them.

We drove past these odd old buildings. Notice the new construction behind.

We had each selected something we wanted to see. Daughter = candle factory. Scratch that. Hubby = antique stores. They were out of biz, closed, or not very good. Scratch that. Me = The Zane Grey cabin and museum. Woot–that turned out to be a winner.

Zane Grey, if you don’t know, was a writer of frontier novels and short stories. He was responsible for creating (or helping to create) a very romantic image of the American cowboy. He was also a very enthusiastic and talented hunter. When he was older, he began to have second thoughts about all that hunting and joined the Izaak Walton League to promote conservation.

The cabin is a reconstruction because Grey’s original cabin burned down in a big 1990 fire, but it was fascinating to see it and hear about the writer’s life in Arizona. Did you know that Hemingway ripped him off? I think it was The Old Man and the Sea that took its story from one of Grey’s–an unpublished one that Grey had let Hemingway read before Hemingway wrote his “masterpiece.”

They didn’t let me take pix of the cabin’s interior.

But next door was an old cabin that used to house eight people. We all had a hard time getting our minds around that as the interior is very small. You can’t really tell that from the photo. Apparently the Haught family built (1904) and lived here while they built their “real” house. It took about two years.

After viewing these two buildings, we toured the museum. Our tour guide was an old-fashioned schoolteacher type (you can draw your own conclusions). She did a great job teaching us about the Tonto Apache and the history of the vicinity. This is where I plugged Adrienne Morris’ wonderful novel about just this subject: The House on Tenafly Road. You can read my review here if you missed it: book review.

41 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, History, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

Arizona Spring

So many cactus blossoms this year in Arizona!

Here is the latest. It’s from a pot of mixed cacti next to my back door.

I’m spending time with my daughter this week and next! Hope your weekend is a beautiful one.

Leave a comment

Filed under Arizona, Photographs

Elephants in My Room

The other day I finished reading my first Jodi Picoult book. I chose Leaving Time without knowing anything about it because it was available at the used book store (if I write used bookstore, doesn’t that mean that the store is secondhand?). It was cheap, and I wanted to see what her writing was like.

It was serendipity that the book turned out to be about elephants because I had just finished reading Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants. Maybe some readers would say, “Oh no, not more elephants.” But not this animal lover. I can’t get enough elephants.

By the way, remember my mother-in-law, the artist who painted the murals at The Birdland nightclub? She had a collection of little elephant statues that I inherited. I have them stuck to a shelf with museum putty so I couldn’t arrange them for a photo. This is how I have them jammed in, along with her Birdland and Stork Club memorabilia (sigh).

What a mess

Anyway, I loved both books . . . a lot. Gruen’s novel is highly acclaimed. A movie was made of the book. As is typical, I haven’t seen the movie. It’s a story about a young man who travels and works with a circus. He takes care of the animals, including a beautiful and highly intelligent elephant that only understands Polish.  My Goodreads review is short because I’ve been too short on time lately for writing reviews.

Loved this book. I was so worried about the ending, but the ending turned out to be perfect.

Picoult’s book is a little more complicated. The average Goodreads star rating is 3.91. That’s pretty decent, but it’s comprised of some 1s and 2s. This is what I wrote in my review:

I’ve read some of the Goodreads reviews of this book, and I think I understand why I give this book a 5 and some others give it a 1 or 2. This is a book that appeals to a soft heart for animals. Picoult skillfully teaches me so much about elephants and their brilliant, creative minds and big hearts–and I don’t even feel as if I’m being taught. I feel as if I am living with the elephants. If you are mainly interested in humans and don’t feel a kinship with animals you might think that the book feels as if there are odd gaps at times–explainable by the story being told from multiple points of view. It might even seem a little jerky occasionally because of this. That is all understood by the end of the book (the twist), so it makes sense. Not my absolute favorite story without the elephants, but the elephants are the stars of the show–AND VERY WELL WORTH THE READ. in fact, I wish everyone would read it to learn more about them and to help them survive before it is too late and they are all gone.

One of the really cool aspects of the novel is that it comes with a prequel at the end that gives additional information about the elephants. Another is that one of the elephant sanctuaries in the book is the real one that exists in Tennessee. That is on my bucket list along with Cleveland Amory’s Black Beauty Ranch. Check it out!

When my son was in high school, he and I picketed the circus together–all over their treatment of the animals, especially the elephants. So imagine my excitement a few months ago at hearing that Ringling Brothers was giving in to the will of the people fighting for the health of the elephants by retiring all their elephants!

One of the most meaningful books I’ve ever read was Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s nonfiction When Elephants WeepIn it he makes an airtight case for the emotional life of elephants (and other animals). In his book I first learned that elephants have been known to create art!!!

When Elephants Weep

Now I’m looking for more elephant books to read. Has anybody read The Elephant Whisperer?

#amwriting: Yup, I’ve been getting my chapbook in shape, so that gives me a feeling of accomplishment. And now my daughter is visiting with her kitty. YIPPEE!!!

56 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, Book Review, Cats and Other Animals, Fiction, Nonfiction, Reading, Writing

That Same Old Drive Again

Last week we drove to California for work again. I tried to keep my camera phone on in case I could snap a shot of anything else of interest besides those beheaded palm trees I posted last time. The quality is poor because of shooting as we drove by, though the glass window and its reflection, and every other excuse you can imagine.

Freeway travel is fast and so often hubby drives in the left lane, which makes it even more difficult.

These buildings are out in the middle of nowhere.

And then we go through a rural area with cow and sheep ranches. Only they aren’t ranches as you think of them. They are FACTORIES to produce milk and meat. The stench is so bad that I have to cover my face with a towel in these areas. Remember those old commercials about happy cows in California? NOT. And as for Land O’Lakes and their sweet little signs on these enterprises, they can kiss my back forty. Today I bought some Irish butter from grass-fed cows. When I go to IRELAND this summer, I’ll check out the situation of the cows there.

(Yes, I am planning to go to Ireland. It’s not set up yet, but hopefully all will go well!)

Most of the landscape is monotonous desert stubbled with cacti or weeds, but occasionally we drive through master-planned chaos and more beheaded trees.

Last time I wrote about our drive, I wasn’t writing. I’ve been tinkering with my memoir manuscript and putting together the bones of my “genealogy” chapbook. It’s not a lot of writing, but it is writing.  So YAY!!! How about you??

Leaving you with a pic of my favorite shelter cat, Slupe. I couldn’t wait to get back and see her. She’s a prickly little calico/tortie (nobody can decide for sure, but I think she’s a calico), but we have a special relationship. She’s been at the shelter for two years and needs rescuing!!!

Slupe in cave

 

 

45 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, California, Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction, Photographs, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

More Doll Poems!

If I told you there is a new poetry collection about dolls out, you would say that is news I’ve been spouting for a long time, right? But this isn’t my book that I’m talking about. This is an anthology of poems by dozens and dozens of poets–and every poem is about a doll or dolls. The book is appropriately titled The Doll Collection.

The minute I opened the book to the table of contents I got excited. Dream dolls, paper dolls, Barbies, doll makers, puppets, mother’s doll, and doll heads. There is even a poem about the doll I have written about in my unfinished memoir: the red riding hood doll that flips around to be the wolf and/or the grandma! There is a pregnant doll. There are dark poems about loss and violence.  There are poems brimming with heart or compassion or longing.

The pens behind these poems were held by a large variety of poets (OK, give me a little poetic license on that one–we can pretty much figure most were written on keyboards), including many luminaries like Chana Bloch, Kelly Cherry, Denise Duhamel, Jeffrey Harrison, and many more.

Oh, and there is a poem from Doll God in there, too: “Marriage Doll.” Woot!

What a wonderful book for anybody who loves beautiful, accessible poems–and particularly for anybody who has ever loved a doll. 

LIGHTBULB FLASH!!! Or a cooler idea yet would be to buy a pair of books: The Doll Collection and Doll God.  What a great gift! Mother’s Day? Spring birthday? Just because?

###

Weddings plans are in the works for son and his fiancee! They are looking a year out, but lots of preparation is already going on!

We went to California again. I’ll try to post a couple of photos of that hideous drive later this week.  Hahahaha.

28 Comments

Filed under Books, Doll God, Dolls, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing

Talkin’ Poetry

Talkin’ trash here is more like it. So. You know how I’ve been working on poems and flash prose based on my research into my family history? Well, I have been. I’m working toward a chapbook–maybe 25 pieces.

One of my favorites was taken by a new magazine that looked great. They had one issue out with some excellent and even well-known poets, and I loved what I read, so I was excited for the 2nd issue with my poem in it. It was due out in December.

It’s now April and has not yet been published. And they don’t respond to my emails or my tweets.

If they had to fold, I feel bad for them, but it’s so unprofessional to accept work for an issue that will never be and not to notify the writers. I did send an email accepting their acceptance, so am I stuck now with a poem I can’t send out elsewhere?

I say NOT THE CASE. They seem to have broken any possibly contract that could have existed. But I was happy to have half my already-written pieces accepted and now this sets me back. I need another acceptance to catch up to that halfway point ;).

If I’m not going to name the offending journal, I guess I’m not even talkin’ trash, right? I’m just talkin’ poetry.

 ***

In 2004 I wrote a poem that took honorable mention in a competition that had an interesting reading venue. The poems that placed or were awarded honorable mentions netted their poets invitations to read at Carnegie Hall.  That impressed me. I always wanted to play Carnegie Hall, but I thought you had to be a musician! I was not able to attend, sadly, and that meant that somebody else read this poem on my behalf.

Super Nova

 

After the fires came mudstorms

Bulldozing bodies into the mix.

Weeks spent crumpling like dying stars,

Families’ children into science,

Into candlelit commiseration.

Pressure builds in a cauldron

With boiling tar, the three virtues tied

To a wheel and beaten with rods.

Small skulls of infants and bonobos

Commix in the pasteurized fields.

These offerings burst into flame

Larger than Santorini.

Rebuilding over brick, concrete, bones.

And the moon moves farther from us.

The event that inspired the poem was a horrific mudslide in San Bernardino County on Christmas 2003. Nine children and five adults were killed as they ate their holiday luncheon.

***

Weirdly, although it’s National Poetry Month, I picked my memoir manuscript back up last week. I feel a little split down the middle . . . .

Handsome (and mild-mannered) Rex dreams of a loving home in Arizona

@ Home Fur Good

38 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, Flash Nonfiction, Literary Journals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry reading, Publishing, Writing, Writing Talk

Are You Ready for a Poetry Coach?

How would you like to work on and develop your poetry under the specialized coaching of the person who encouraged Doll God into existence?  It’s now possible to work with Caroline Goodwin from wherever you live through a new project called OneRoom Poetry Group!

I took a prose and then a poetry course through Stanford University from Caroline a few years ago. It was during the poetry course that she said something that completely changed the way I saw my poetry. I’d been farting around fooling around with writing poetry for more years than I would like to face. She asked me to start pulling my book together. What book?! I thought to myself. But she had complete confidence in me, something I lacked when it came to my writing. With her help I did pull together my first book. Imagine my shock when it won a state book award. It would never have happened without Caroline.

You can find my review of her gorgeous poetry book Trapline here at Poetry on the Edge.

On to the link to this wonderful opportunity:  OneRoom Poetry Group

There are only a few spots left, so don’t delay if you want to take advantage!

From the site:

Here’s what happens when you join:

  1. Your experienced coach will reach out to you and schedule time to talk, to learn what you struggle with, and help you craft a set of concrete and achievable goals and a tailored practice plan to meet those goals.
  2. You will get access to a small, intimate support group of people working towards similar goals.
  3. Your coach will stick with you for the long-haul, making suggestions, sharing feedback, holding you accountable from day-to-day and week-to-week, and celebrating with you when you achieve your goals.

Meet the group coach

Caroline Goodwin

“I taught my first creative writing course in a Vancouver, BC public high school in 1994. After attending Stanford as a Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry from 1999 – 2002, I began to teach at California College of the Arts and Stanford Continuing Studies. My areas of expertise are poetry and memoir; I have published four poetry chapbooks and one full-length collection. I love teaching and consider it a privilege to engage with my students’ creativity and the development of their individual voices. I am currently serving my community as the first Poet Laureate of San Mateo County, CA.

If you end up working with Caroline, I can’t wait to hear about it. She’s a fabulous poetry teacher.

15 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing, Writing Talk, Writing Tips and Habits

April is the Humane-est (sic) Month, Breeding Thoughtfulness

T.S. Eliot’s epic poem “The Waste Land” famously begins:

 

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
So it’s quite ironic that April is National Poetry Month. If anything, since poetry makes the world more thoughtful and compassionate, I think April might now be the most humane month.
*
Poet Yehuda Amichai wrote: “Compassion is what we need.” Ain’t that the truth!
 *
Of course, one of the greatest mysteries is how a scumbag can write a compassionate, sensitive poem. Case in point: Ezra Nazi-collaborator Pound. He wrote this gorgeous poem/translation:
 *

THE RIVER-MERCHANT’S WIFE: A LETTER

 

by Ezra Pound 1915 (adapted from Rihaku or Li Po 701-762)

 

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead

I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.

You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,

You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.

And we went on living in the village Chokan:

Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.

 

At fourteen I married My Lord you.

I never laughed, being bashful.

Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.

Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

 

At fifteen I stopped scowling,

I desired my dust to be mingled with yours

Forever and forever and forever.

Why should I climb the look out?

 

At sixteen you departed,

You went into far Ku-to-en, by the river of swirling eddies,

And you have been gone five months.

The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

 

You dragged your feet when you went out.

By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,

Too deep to clear them away!

The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.

The paired butterflies are already yellow with August

Over the grass in the West garden;

They hurt me.  I grow older.

If you are coming down through the narrows of the river kiang,

Please let me know beforehand,

And I will come out to meet you

As far as Cho-fu-Sa.

 

Frustrating that it was Pound who wrote these beautiful lines. Do you love a work of art by a creep? (Hint: you do if you like James and the Giant Peach or Matilda)

Happy National Poetry Month!!!

I plan to celebrate poetry this month, and am going to try to overlook the little detail above: that I don’t care for this year’s poster. Check out previous year’s posters here.

 

What do you think about this year’s poster? Does it make you want to go read a poem?

 

By the way: #amwriting

40 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, Poetry, Writing