Category Archives: #writerslife

Palimpsest of Scraps

The more time I spend with my art journal(s), the more I am realizing what appeals to me and what I like to work on. I am beginning to see a connection with my writing. 

The word palimpsest carries great meaning for me. Here is the Merriam-Webster definition:

palimpsest

noun

pa·​limp·​sest | \ ˈpa-ləm(p)-ˌsest  pə-ˈlim(p)-  \

Definition of palimpsest

1writing material (such as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased

2something having usually diverse layers or aspects apparent beneath the surface

The following image is my latest two pages. I call it a palimpsest because it was created with many layers, and bits of each layer show in the finished pages, whether by eyesight or touch. For instance, there are pieces of poems: “It Would Be Easier to Stop Talking to Your Ghost” by Stella Li and “Triptych in Black and Blue” by Tatiana Johnson-Boria, published by Pleiades.

I’m also using my love of the reality and concept of scrap (title of my memoir-in-scrap), as well as a poem I’ve recently shared. I also love scrapbooking and used to love to design and make stained glass. I haven’t worked with quilting at all and not with mosaics since I was a kid, but those are other scrap arts and crafts that I love. 

For the initial layer of these pages, I used scraps from many sources, including graph paper, music, poetry, a story, a piece of an envelope flap that has the Hallmark logo embossed, and ripped up practice runs with art materials. I even included a hunk of the glued bottom of a brown bag. 

I skimmed through my pages in order of when I made them, and I discovered that at first my collaging was on the “top” of the page, so to speak, whereas now I am using collage as a base and then a bit more in one or two other stages. I learned the value of collage underneath because of all the interest it provides. My first pages look very flat in comparison.

Onward to more improvement LOL. I do see a connection (first noticed by Sheila Morris) between these art pages and my poetry. The layering, complexity, and happenstance, for one–er, three–things.  

I’m going to start PT for my shoulder/arm. And now I have vitreous detachment of my only reading eye. One of my eyes is to see distance, and the other is for reading. Seriously. That’s why I can’t wear bifocals and rarely wear glasses just wandering around. I wear glasses to read, another pair for driving, and then I have a computer pair made out of some really old and ugly frames. But my eyes (sort of) don’t work together, so having a really blurry reading eye kind of sucks.

Saturday I walked outside into the blue-blue sky, and I was attacked by swarms of birds from every direction. It was like a remake of the Hitchcock movie. But they weren’t real birds. They were one of the entertainments my eyes are providing me right now :/.

In other news, the puffballs are out! Technically, they are called Sweet Acacia trees, but we call them the dang puffballs. There isn’t a human alive who isn’t allergic to these things. They smell super sweet and, at first, you will think they are roses. But then the scent goes on and on and becomes sickening and you realize it isn’t roses at all. But they do signify home after all these years.

In the close-up you can see that this tree has two little puffballs growing from the trunk itself.

Announcements:

Pear Blossom’s 21st birthday is tomorrow!!! And Tiger Queenie’s 17th is April 1. Happy birthday, sweet girls.

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Filed under #amrevising, #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Arizona, Art and Music, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, Memoir, Poetry, Reading, Writing

Cat Pile

When I try to get a little rest around here, this is what happens.

Pear is at the top of the photo, then Tiger in the middle. They both have birthdays coming up. Pear will be 21 and Tiger will be 17. The big gray boy is Perry who is already 5.5 or 6. I am somewhere underneath. These are my three couch potatoes.

Then we have the other three cats. Kana is not a snuggler, though sometimes she sleeps in our bed with us. Sloopy Anne doesn’t like other cats much, but she sleeps with us a lot of nights, just not when Kana does. Felix is not a snuggler and never sleeps with us; he’s still a sweet boy.

Here is one of my art journal pages. Because this is all so new to me, it’s like a blank canvas of learning for me. And I love learning. Now I know I love getting my hands dirty haha.

Yeah, my goal is not to make pretty pages. It’s to express myself and to keep finding new ways to do so.

The gardener had dose #2, and he really didn’t have side effects other than a sore arm–and a big twitch in the muscle at the injection site. My second dose is this Friday. Please wish me luck! Stay safe and have a wonderful week.

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Filed under #amrevising, #writerlife, #writerslife, Art and Music, Cats and Other Animals

A Week with AWP

For some reason way back when I thought it was a good idea to sign up for the AWP conference that was to take place on Zoom just a few weeks after the Barrelhouse conference. AWP was this past week. I didn’t have time for it right now, and then my internet went down for two days. Good grief. I heard that the sessions might be recorded and left up so that attendees can view them later, but without the live chat function. You might recall I attended the AWP in person a few years ago in Tampa.

These are the sessions I did manage to watch.

Free Verse: Making a Life outside the Tenure Stream: Victoria Chang, Paul Guest, Ada Limon, Jennifer Popa, Maggie Smith

Invincibles: Women Writers Publishing After 50: Peg Alford Pursell, Valerie Brelinski, Jimin Han, Geeta Kothari, Naomi Williams

Loss, Memory, Transformation: Women Poets and the Elegy: Allison Adair, Melissa Cundieff, Cara Dees, Janine Joseph, Yalie Kamara

To Contest or Not to Contest: River Teeth and the UNM Press Provide Insight: Joan Frank, Phillip Lopate, Joe Mackall, Elise McHugh, Angela Morales

Crossover Collaboration: Poets with Visual Artists, Dancers, and Musicians: Jeffrey Bean, Rebecca Morgan Frank, Douglas Kearney, Timothy Liu, Joanna White

Beyond the Brady Bunch: Reinventing the Poem of the American Family: Geffrey Davis, Blas Falconer, Keetje Kuipers, Erika Meitner, Oliver de la Paz

New and Known: Poetic Forms and Traditions: Roy Guzman, Khaled Mattawa, Diane Seuss, Mark Wunderlich

Every single one of these sessions was life-giving. Just wonderful.

I plan to check in on some of the other sessions in the next week or two.

I’ve also snuck in reading a collection of Shirley Jackson short stories–some I have read, but most are new to me.

I tried to make a few collage pieces for art journaling, but couldn’t really devote much time because of the conference.

And I got in some cat snuggling. But I really want to get rid of the pain in my arm. It’s been five or six months now. Good grief.

Have a great week! Here’s a bunny from my yard.

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Filed under #writerslife, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, Reading, Writers Conference, Writing

Reviews and Journals and Vaccines

Recently Liz (Elizabeth) Gauffreau  (also: Liz Gauffreau blog) reviewed Doll God, and it’s such a gorgeously written review that I wanted to point it out. This is the Amazon link: Doll God review by Liz Gauffreau. Her analysis reminded me of what Doll God meant to me when I was writing it and what it still means to me today. Here is a small section with her comments followed by a quote from “Sonoran October.”

I particularly appreciated the poems focused on the landscape of the Southwest because I’ve never lived there. After a few rereadings, I realized that the poems express a relationship with the land that is very intimate. You can’t get it from visiting; you have to live it. From “Sonoran October”:

Midafternoon, the only movements:
cottontails dart like ballplayers
from creosote to cactus to ocotillo.
A sky so blue it hisses at my touch.

I’ve been continuing to work on my art journals, although I’m supposed to be finalizing 2020 for taxes for the business. (hahaha) Yes, I said journals, plural. That’s because Amy Maricle suggests keeping more than one journal going at once. When one is drying, you can flit over to another and work on that one. The one I started with is relatively small, and the second one is much larger. The pages are also different as the smaller journal as an accordian style inside, and the larger journal has regular pages. I am learning why art journalists like to make their own journals, though. As you move through the journal, it becomes thicker and thicker until it can’t close. If you bind your own, you can solve that problem by making your binding adjustable or just giving yourself more space.

I suspect the gardener thinks the time I spend on the art journals is amusing or he isn’t sure what to think about it! He doesn’t say much, and he tends not to bother me when I’m in my office working on them. Maybe he’s mystified why I’m not using that time to write. I’m not, though, as it’s a completely different experience than writing and much more relaxing during the pandemic. Artist Anne-Marie van Eck says to stay in “createfulness” because when we create we are connected to our bodies and our minds and we stay in the present. I find that to be an exact description.

Many people seem to have taken up hobbies or expanded on them during the pandemic. Have you done that yourself? A friend of mine became an experimental baker, and another took up quiltmaking. Another friend has become an obsessed gardener (haha, you know who you are–I know you’re reading!!!!) and is transforming her yard into one huge garden (in addition to the catio she already has for her kitties).

I’ve been doing prose revisions lately. Two essays and a review all needed revision. Thank goodness for good and kind editors.

A friend and I read the first part of Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, a biography of one of my favorite writers, written by Ruth Franklin. The book could be better. It spends so much time on Jackson’s husband’s career that it feels as if he is standing between me and Jackson, if you know what I mean. And he’s a creep, too. When we had to return our “copies” (hers was audio) to the library, neither of us were very sad. In case the name Jackson doesn’t ring a bell, think “The Lottery” or The Haunting of Hill House or my favorite We Have Always Lived in the Castle. 

Nevertheless,  I rechecked out the book.  I am reading sections related to the writing of certain books. Continue reading

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Poetic Book Tours: Review of Arisa White’s Who’s Your Daddy

Today’s post is on Tuesday instead of Monday because I am participating in a pre-publication book tour of poet Arisa White’s Who’s Your Daddy through Poetic Book Tours.

Here is a synopsis of the book

Who’s Your Daddy is a lyrical genre-bending coming-of-age tale featuring a young, queer, black Guyanese American woman who, while seeking to define her own place in the world, negotiates an estranged relationship with her father.

After my review, I will share advance praise for the book, as well as information about the author, Arisa White. Then there is a list of blog tour links, including interviews and guest posts so you can learn more about Arisa White.

 

This hybrid is specifically memoir, but Who’s Your Daddy? shapes itself as a prose (and lyric) poem collection. I don’t know why we don’t have more books available to us that are a long narrative told in poetry. They are rare and yet so compelling, perhaps because poem series elicit more complex mixtures of emotions from readers than linear traditional memoirs do.

 

What attracted me to the book before I read it was the feeling of connection (my memoir-in-progress has to do with my father’s estranged relationship with his father) and the ping of curiosity about White’s life as a “young, queer, black Guyanese[-] American woman” since I fit only one of those descriptives.

 

From the first page I was captivated by the story. In the first section, the writing is succinct with a smattering of specifics that bring White’s childhood to life. She imagines or fills in what she can’t remember—the ride to the hospital for her birth, what life was like in the first few years. She grows up without her father, Gerald, a married man. She does experience love from her mother and her uncles, but life is still difficult. The book skips ahead to White at the time of her post-graduate studies. She has difficulties with relationships, but manages to forge one with Mondayway. White feels there is something missing. Halfway through the book, she realizes she has been running from something.

 

Deep breaths open my

tight chest, and I feel how running has taken more than

given. I rub my heart with the heel of my palm, and my

heart stays voicing,

 

Find your father

                   Find what’s missing there

                   Find what is enough

                   Find yourself whole

                   Forgive and be forgiven

 

In the second half of the story, White tries to get to know her father. He has been deported back to Guyana from the U.S. for participation in a crime. White and Mondayway visit Guyana to spend time with Gerald, but also to get to know White’s roots. Her movement toward acceptance and growth is a bit back and forth which feels realistic and painful. Again, powerful words that mark another epiphany are set apart from the prose poem form:

 

I got her back,

who I abandoned

in his going.

And, Yes,

                   she is enough.

 

Arisa is enough. She doesn’t need her fantasy of a father to fulfill her identity.

 

There is so much I could write about this book, but I just want to give you an idea of why you would want to read it. The prose poems are short. The organization is helpful, as are the brief Guyanese proverbs and quotes from thinkers. I found references to even an old standby like the Bible and Shakespeare or Eliot (the pearls that are his eyes from The Tempest or The Waste Land—I wasn’t sure which one she was referencing, maybe both). But much of the book is punctuated with more contemporary thinking, such as the context of toxic masculinity. Gerald is a tragic example of that phenomenon. In fact, near the end of the book I realized that I can’t stand Gerald. I was willing to try to get to know him “while” Arisa did, but when he continued to do harm to her through his selfishness and misogyny, I could no longer try to tolerate him.

 

The book can be read in two sittings, but you will want to mark passages and go back to them. You will be thinking about Arisa White’s story for days afterward.

***

Those of you who know I have been working on my memoir for 1,000 years might be interested to hear that I found White’s format super inspiring. I’m trying out writing my memoir in prose poems instead of traditional prose. In some ways, I feel that I am going back to the beginning of my project a bit, when I was writing in “scraps,” but it’s a world away from what I’ve done before, too.

***

Advance Praise:
“…absence breeds madness, an irreconcilable relationship you know is there but can’t call it by its name…” In these crisply narrative poems, which unreel like heart-wrenching fragments of film, Arisa White not only names that gaping chasm between father and daughter, but graces it with its true and terrible face. Every little colored girl who has craved the constant of her father’s gaze will recognize this quest, which the poet undertakes with lyric that is tender and unerring.
-Patricia Smith, Incendiary ArtArisa White channels the ear of Zora Neal Hurston, the tongue of Toni Cade Bambara, and the eye of Alice Walker in the wondrous Who’s Your Daddy. She channels Guyanese proverbs, Shango dreams, games of hide and seek, and memories of an absentee father to shape the spiritual condition. What she makes is “a maze that bobs and weaves a new style whenever there’s a demand to love.” What she gives us are archives, allegories, and wholly new songs.
-Terrance Hayes, American Sonnets for My Past and Future AssassinsSomewhere nearing its end, Arisa White says of Who’s Your Daddy, it’s “a portrait of absence and presence, a story, a tale, told in patchwork fashion…” This exactly says what Who’s Your Daddy is, though it doesn’t say all it takes to do justice to the mythic paradox an absent parent guarantees a child, young or grown, or what it takes to live with and undergo such birthright. There’s not only a father’s absence and presence, there’s a mother who says you raise your daughters, and love your sons, there are stepfathers, uncles, aunts, cousins, a grandmother, brothers, lovers, all of whom leave their marks and give and take love. Surrounding the whole book hovers the questions do I forgive him, and is forgiveness possible? This beautifully, honestly conceived genius of a book shook me to the core.
-Dara Wier, You Good ThingHow does a lyric memoir—a queered-up autobiographical hybrid of prose and poetry—become a real page-turner? Well, for one thing, its speaker uses her authenticity and open-heartedness to generate a rib-cracking amount of courage to look for, find, and emotionally confront a missing Guyanese father who ends up being the “unhello” of a “nevermind.” What’s so moving about this discovery is the speaker’s lyric response. It’s a shrug that’s a song that’s the speaker telling it experimentally-straight about how it feels to have “arms free of fathers.” It’s a story that’s a song that’s the speaker’s “gangster swagger” that beautifully tells of how to confront one’s relation to “a culture of deadbeats, wannabes, has-beens, what-ifs, [and] can’t-shows” without succumbing to despair. One really wants to quote Plath’s line here about “eat[ing] men like air.” Oh, I love the courage of this book. The whole “black heart” and love-strength of it. And you will too!
-Adrian Blevins, Appalachians Run AmokA lyric anthem for the fatherless, for seekers of the places and people that made us, for the artists ready to unearth and reshape their own stories. I gulped this exquisite manual like precious medicine, a spell that made me more myself.
-Melissa Febos, Abandon MeCollaborative, interactive, this work of poetry and memoir offers life as a recurring question. Who’s Your Daddy is a study of how power and loss work on the intimate scales of daily living and queer loving. Read this with compassion for your own defining questions and the raw texture they have left upon your heart.
-Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Dub: Finding Ceremony

Who’s Your Daddy is striking and gorgeous. “I’m born into a bracket of boys,” White writes, framing a portrait of fatherhood that shutters and aches; it enthralls. I wanted to lap it up. A reflection on family that permeates via knitted prose with deep verse—my favorite kind. White’s work is sonic, lyric, and important. I can’t wait for y’all to read this book.
-Emerson Whitney, Heaven

ARISA WHITE is a Cave Canem fellow, Sarah Lawrence College alumna, an MFA graduate from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of the poetry chapbooks Disposition for Shininess, Post Pardon, Black Pearl, Perfect on Accidentand “Fish Walking” & Other Bedtime Stories for My Wife won the inaugural Per Diem Poetry Prize. Published by Virtual Artists Collective, her debut full-length collection, Hurrah’s Nest, was a finalist for the 2013 Wheatley Book Awards, 82nd California Book Awards, and nominated for a 44th NAACP Image Awards. Her second collection, A Penny Saved, inspired by the true-life story of Polly Mitchell, was published by Willow Books, an imprint of Aquarius Press in 2012. Her latest full-length collection, You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, was published by Augury Books and nominated for the 29th Lambda Literary Awards. Most recently, Arisa co-authored, with Laura Atkins, Biddy Mason Speaks Up, a middle-grade biography in verse on the midwife and philanthropist Bridget “Biddy” Mason, which is the second book in the Fighting for Justice series. She is currently co-editing, with Miah Jeffra and Monique Mero, the anthology Home is Where You Queer Your Heart, which will be published by Foglifter Press in 2021. And forthcoming in February 2021, from Augury Books, her poetic memoir Who’s Your Daddy.

Blog Tour Schedule:

Oct. 12: Diary of an Eccentric (Guest Post)

Oct. 21: Review Tales by Jeyran Main (Review)

Nov. 20: CelticLady’s Reviews (Interview)

Nov. 23: Unconventional Quirky Bibliophile (Review)

Jan. 19: Allonge and emzi_reads (Review)

Feb. 23: Luanne Castle’s Writer Site (Review)

March 12: Anthony Avina Blog (Guest Post)

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Filed under #writerslife, Book Review, Creative Nonfiction, Inspiration, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry, Writing

What Gave and Took from My Energy Supply Last Week?

The high point was Saturday when I attended the Barrelhouse writers’ conference, Conversations and Connections, via Zoom. I attended sessions by Tommy Dean (micros), Randon Billings Noble (lyric essays), and Claudia Gary (villanelles). It was a comfy way for me to attend a conference. Even so, I get a little overstimulated. Plus, I had to feed the cats their very complicated breakfast during the micro segment, so I couldn’t do the writing. I learned some interesting stuff, and if I ever get a clear head again I plan to make use. If they offer the conference online again, I highly recommend it. The cost was not high, and we get a couple of free books.

Also this week, I did the following:

  • worked (from home)–the usual crap–no more, no less
  • cleaned the living room and my daughter’s old bedroom (even got rid of stuff nobody is going to want)
  • was frustrated because of the pandemic and because I am tired and don’t feel so great (Valley Fever)
  • was in pain, particularly my arm and shoulder
  • wrote a review of Beth Ruscio’s poetry collection Speaking Parts for Main Street Rag
  • played with my art journal
  • worked on the beginning of the new draft of the memoir
  • got frustrated working on the beginning of the new draft of the memoir
  • cleaned up cat puke from several cats and wet litter dragged through the house by my old girl, Pear
  • groomed Pear every day and worried about her
  • was annoyed by the gardener worrying about the covid variants and the vaccines (he’s an overthinker)
  • was annoyed by an identity theft issue and the stupid bank it occurred at
  • attended a telehealth appointment and made more medical appointments
  • talked to my mother less than usual, but was glad to hear she got her second vaccine dose (I also owe phone calls to two relatives and a text to my brother–I can’t seem to want to communicate with people lately–maybe that’s why Perry chatted with you last week hahaha)

Almost everything this week, other than the conference and the art journal were energy sucks. I can’t stress enough how therapeutic the art journaling is for me (you too?). I know I suck, but I am learning techniques. I have to remember that I am starting from absolutely ground level.

Looking forward to an energy sprouting week ahead. Who’s with me?!!!!

 

 

 

 

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Interview on the Making of the Poem “Scrap”

You might remember my poem “Scrap” that was published last month at Anti-Heroin Chic. Poet and blogger Chris Rice Cooper has published an interview where I discuss the making of the poem–the backstory–on her blog over at blogspot.

Come join the fun!

INTERVIEW

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Poem Up at The Orchards Poetry Journal (Remember the Hawk?)

A big thank you to editor Karen Kelsay who has published my poem “Without Flight” in the new issue of The Orchards Poetry Journal. 

Last May I wrote about a red-tailed hawk that showed up on our patio. You can read the prose account here: An Unintended Visitor

 For the poem version, you can follow the link to the beautiful Winter issue of the journal. My poem is page 94 of the magazine–95 of the digital form:

WITHOUT FLIGHT

###

This week was not as good as the one before because I didn’t feel that well, plus I had extra work-work.

But over the weekend, I created a chalky pastel background that I really like, a strange scribble background using pastels in similar but different shades, and a string ink background. 

I also was able to do some revision work to an essay that is in limbo with a journal. I’ll try to read it over today or tomorrow and see what else it needs.

So far in January I’ve collected a few rejections. Last spring I had two poems accepted by a journal that has not yet published them. They didn’t put out a fall issue, so am I waiting for the spring one? Hard to tell. I wrote to them, but got no response.

 

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Reading, Writing, and Art Journaling

I’m readjusting into 2021 and trying to ignore the outside world as much as I can (since I have severe tension in 80% of my body right now). So what am I doing (besides work-work and home-work and cat-work)?

I really thought I was going to rewrite my memoir into something readable (ask Marie, I really was).  Now I have another idea, but can’t start it yet. My idea (which has been suggested by others in the past) is that I write my memoir as a book of poems. So we will see.

In the meantime, because I wanted to work on that, instead I became excited about writing some new poems for the book-in-progress (which is not the memoir). So I’ve written about six poems so far. Because I am always starting my poems at the kitchen table, I added my craft books to the kitchen, which means they are now in with the cookbooks.

I’ve also started my art journal and am taking Art Journaling 101 from Amy Maricle (an online video course). I’ve been working on background pages. Here is one of my acrylic backgrounds. I am using watercolor and water-soluble pastels for backgrounds, as well.

I might just sit around and play with acrylics. It’s so much like finger painting. What a great stress reliever.

I’m riding the stationery bike, doing stretching or yoga, and walking–at least one of those per day. Yes, I should do more per day, but I have so much I want to cram in each 24 hour period. And that includes reading “my”new mystery series, Vera Stanhope detective, by Ann Cleeves. (Love that name, Ann Cleeves LOL)

OK, go out and seize the week and stay resilient and healthy. XO

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Poem Up at Cider Press Review

A big thank you to editor Carol Andregg who has published my prose poem “Liminality” in the new issue of the well-known journal, Cider Press Review.

“Liminality” is a poem about my father. The poem begins this way:

Hell’s bells my father rolled off his tongue when frustrated or not pleased with the current situation. They weren’t the angry words when his temper swelled and overpowered his vulnerable body. Being only human, those other words . . . . 

 You can follow the link to the full poem, as well as an audio recording of me reading the poem:

LIMINALITY

 

 

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