Monthly Archives: February 2020

Poem up at Entropy: Lots of Birds Going On

I am tickled that my poem “Noah and the Middle School Marching Band” has been published by the wonderful journal Entropy for their BIRDS series, and it’s accompanied by art by my friend Mary Stebbins Taitt, artist and naturalist. Mary and I met through Cowbird, a site where we both used to publish stories.

Here is a sample from the poem:

Look at them come. Godwits

and bushtits, catbirds and black-

crested titmice, I tickle their feet​

to move them along a little faster.​

Click the poem title to read the poem and see the accompanying art: NOAH AND THE MIDDLE SCHOOL MARCHING BAND

When I asked Mary if she would like to have one of her pieces accompany my poem, I was amazed at how many birds she had worked on.

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Noah is my favorite Bible character.

“Noah and the Dove” by Judith Klausner

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MY GOODREADS REVIEW OF A NEW POETRY COLLECTION, Mesmerizingly Sadly Beautiful by Matthew Lippman:

I am writing my feelings and thoughts about Lippman’s new collection while they are still fresh, but when I don’t have time to write a thorough review that does it justice. This is a mesmerizing (and sadly) beautiful book. These poems are the epitome of Lippman’s big-hearted writing. I could imagine him with his big aching heart carried outside his body while he wrote these poems. Nobody creates FEELING from a poem like he does. Feelings of love and sadness are all intertwined here. You can’t have love without sadness and you can’t have sadness without love. Read this book, everyone! This is a book that can save us from our over-thinking and our despair.

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I will be taking a blog break for a week or so (therefore, I closed comments here). See you when I return and stay safe, healthy, and calm in the meantime!

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Filed under #AmWriting, #amwriting, #writerslife, Art and Music, Cats and Other Animals, Poetry, Publishing

Cinthia Ritchie’s Malnourished is a Tour de Force

Cinthia Ritchie, BRAG your book!  Start posting reviews or parts of reviews of your new memoir Malnourished on your blog cinthiaritchie.com because after I wrote mine I went on Amazon and saw some great reviews over there.

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Take a look at Cinthia’s book by clicking the image. It will take you to where you can purchase the book on Amazon AND where you can read reviews. This book is fabulous. It’s the kind of book that, if you’re a writer, makes you jealous because she gets it so right, word by word, white space by white space, chapter by chapter. Malnourished is a TOUR DE FORCE. No kidding.

I wrote a review that I will post on Amazon and Goodreads. It doesn’t do the book justice AT ALL. if you want to read a better review, read Carla McGill’s over on Amazon.

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Cinthia Ritchie’s memoir Malnourished is a strange and beautiful trek into the heart of a family. Ritchie has three sisters, and all four girls/women have been tragically affected by their upbringing in a home with a predatory stepfather, a mother who will not see the truth, and a deceased father.

While Ritchie’s sister’s death from anorexia is the catalyst for the book, the subject is Ritchie’s survival story. She shares how she and her sister Deena grew up together, how their relationship expanded and contracted over time, how she and Deena diverged in their responses to life, and where they were similar. While Ritchie claims never to have been an anorexic, she has a complicated relationship with food. Ritchie has exhibited starvation and other dangerous symptoms of emotional distress and control over her body. In this memoir, Ritchie manages to open up a space where we can think, discuss, soul-search human relationships with food as emotionally-charged metaphor and how that power plays out on our bodies.

Reading this story gave me insight into how personalities and desires are shaped by experience. For example, Ritchie is a serious runner who craves being outdoors. By reading Malnourished, I was able to feel what it would be like to need to run, to sleep outside under the stars. A small bedroom offers no place for a child to run from a menace that lurks inside the house, one which makes the walls complicit with the stepfather.

What I’ve written here might sound like Ritchie explains all this in the book. While she does reflect on her experiences, her gorgeous, lyrical writing does not “tell” the reader, so much as allow the reader into her world to figure things out for herself. Most importantly, Ritchie’s generosity in baring herself for scrutiny and understanding is such a gift to every reader.

Malnourished is not a comfortable read. It’s a work of art that nudges readers from our comfortable seats, from the comforting ways our minds purposefully arrange our interior landscapes. The beauty of the way Ritchie arranges her words will keep you going even through the darkest passages.

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Felix still has an upper respiratory infection. The vet says that it can last three weeks. Because he has to stay in the bedroom all this time (isolation), I have a lot of anxiety about him being lonely. Poor baby. Please send him healing vibes so he gets well soon and can be let out of the bedroom!

I started experimenting with writing weird poems about everyday subjects and objects, inspired by reading Matthew Lippman’s new poetry collection Mesmerizingly Sadly Beautiful. I’m not even done reading it yet!

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My Poor Baby Fefe

My boy Fefe has been sick for days. I am taking him to the vet this morning for the diagnosis.

This was Felix a day before he got sick.

By the next day he was sneezing. You see, Perry had sneezed for a full week before that, but he wasn’t really sick, and his sneeze had already disappeared.

So when Felix began sneezing I wasn’t too worried. I went away on Friday for most of the day, and by the time I got home late afternoon, he was holding his mouth open and looking very odd.

My vet, who is a wonderful person who does a lot of work for the shelter animals, said to bring him right over. Although they were fully booked, the vet examined him in back. At that time he wasn’t sure if he was dealing with an infection of the mouth and/or an upper respiratory infection–and the treatments are different. So they gave me an appointment for Monday morning, hoping the symptoms would shake out by then.

They shook out late that night when I became convinced Felix had a pretty bad URI.

I isolated Felix because I am terrified of Pear (who is now 20) getting sick. The gardener set up a humidifier for him because Google says a humidifier helps cats with URIs. I also have had to hand feed him food–and not his hated prescription urinary diet, but Weruva salmon (nice and stinky), Temptations treats, and Inaba Churu scallop-flavored creamy treats.

Please send prayers, hugs, vibes, and virtual pets to my dear boy! (Yes, he’s the one that had the urinary blockage last August!)

On a writing note: I have been revising as I can this week. It’s been hard to fit in in, so I try to grab at least 30 minutes to revise. Better than nothing.

Hope we all have a healthy, peaceful week!

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Rereading Plath

I just read Sylvia Plath’s Ariel: The Restored Edition. My parents gave me this copy, at my request, years ago. I think the hard copy (which I have) was published in 2004, so it might have been that year. While I have skimmed it many times, I hadn’t  really read it cover to cover until now.

But don’t think I’m a newcomer to Ariel, Plath’s final and most groundbreaking poetry. While I am not a Plath expert, especially since I have not been involved with the academic world for many years, I do have a lot of experience with Plath’s work.

For instance, I performed an oral explication of the poem “Fever 103” for my master’s thesis. This one will always be my favorite Plath poem.

Then for my PhD dissertation, I wrote a chapter about Plath and the “carnivalesque.”  But my favorite experience was writing a chapter,  “Higgledy Piggledy Gobbledygoo: The Rotted Residue of Nursery Rhyme in Sylvia Plath’s Poetry” for Betty Greenway’s Twice-Told Children’s Tales: The Influence of Childhood Reading on Writers .

More recently, I’ve had two poems published at Plath Poetry Project; I find her work helps open the floodgates of imagination.

I believe that Plath is one of the greatest 20th century poets in the English language. We could debate the possibility of a few others being in her league, but not many.

Don’t think I don’t see her flaws. For one thing, there are her personal flaws. She was not always the nicest person, and she could be a crazy bitch. She didn’t really try too hard to make herself a better person, just a better writer. If I had known her in person, I doubt I would have liked her.

Her writing has some flaws, too, but mainly because EVERYTHING is out there in public. If she had lived, she would not necessarily have published everything–and even if she had there are poems I believe she would have later revised or withdrawn from future editions of her books.

Back to the book I’m reading. Ariel was published posthumously, after Plath committed suicide, by the way. You need to know that to see where I am going with this.

This newer copy of Ariel includes all the poems Plath intended in the collection in the order she intended them. The original publication of Ariel featured a collection arranged and edited by her estranged husband, English poet Ted Hughes.

I experienced a very distorting and disturbing ride reading the collection Plath’s way.

I have always kind of hated Hughes for cheating on Plath, which started the beginning of her end. But he did a great job putting Ariel together–a much better job than the poet herself. Maybe she was too close to the project. Maybe she would have rearranged everything herself if she had lived. But Hughes did it and he did it well.

The collection as Plath left it has a lot of rot in it, if you ask me. Many of the poems do not seem strong. Poems that are in the Hughes version do not seem strong now. I can only conclude that the placement of the poems within the collection guide our reading. Surrounding poems add to the appreciation of particular poems.

I think “Daddy” and “Lady Lazarus” are absolutely brilliant. So are a few others. But some others, hmm. I see her trying out images in some poems and then using them much better in others.

The biggest annoyance (actually makes me really angry) is the way Plath uses the black or African body as metaphor. In “The Jailer,” she includes the line: “Pretending I am a negress with pink paws.” This is no brilliant metaphor; rather, it’s stooping low to grab at an old-time stereotype, a vision of the “black body” as animalistic. No no no no.

There has been a helluva lot of discussion about her use of Holocaust victim imagery in her most famous–and other–poems. But those are not relying on old stereotypes, but rather employing poetic conceit, a term that means a metaphor that is stretched a bit extra and might even be shocking or strange, but that works. John Donne was the master of conceit, and he was one of Plath’s inspirations.

So I am disappointed to read this version. Plath’s latter poetry blew open American poetry, and for that she must be honored. But let’s be honest about the poems like “The Jailer” that just might suck.

Thank you, Ted Hughes.

NEVER thought I’d write those words.

#thisisnotabookreview

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OK, I don’t expect you to go another week without a Perry photo! Sometimes he is naughty, trying to instigate the other cats to play when they want to rest, so I zip him into his little playpen (which I have shown you before). So now if he’s naughty he runs into his little CUBE instead of the playpen because he thinks I will think he’s in time out, but in reality he can get out on his own. HAHAHAHAHA. He is so smart. And a nut.

 

And you might want to see another pic of my granddaughter Riley.

CUTE!!!!!!! But what do you think? Can you tell what breeds of dog went into making up this pretty girl? The shelter told my daughter she was part Australian shepherd. HAHAHA.

I think that might be a no. What breed dogs do YOU see in Riley? She is four months old and weighs ten pounds. I won’t tell you where my daughter and her fiance are leaning at this point because I don’t want to sway your opinion.

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Filed under #amrevising, #writerslife, Book Review, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing