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.
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.
Noah is my favorite Bible character.
“Noah and the Dove” by Judith Klausner
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.
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!
The Ekphrastic Review has reprinted another poem from my first collection Doll God. As I mentioned last week, the journal is a very unique literary magazine. The emphasis is on publishing writing that responds to visual art. Thus the name of the journal. Check out this article for explanation: Ekphrasis
Thank you to editor Lorette C. Luzajic for choosing my poem “Debris.” There is a strong connection between the poem and my mother-in-law’s art.
The photo above is the cover of the book that is a story of The Birdland jazz club illustrated by my mother-in-law’s Birdland murals. That is where my photos on the journal site originate from–not the actual murals themselves.
That wraps up a full week of five poem publications. I hope you’ve enjoyed them and aren’t jumping out of your tree to get away from my postings. Closing comments, but you are more than welcome to post at the site. Thank you!
The Ekphrastic Review is a very unique literary magazine. The emphasis is on publishing writing that responds to visual art. Thus the name of the journal. Check out this article for explanation: Ekphrasis
I was thrilled to see the poem “Fishing” from my collection Doll God published there today. This is the first time that the poem is shown with the art that originally inspired it. It was this print that I own and is in my house that began this poem.
Now that National Poetry Month and NaPoWriMo are over, I have been revising poems. Mainly, they have been small changes, so either I did better than I thought last month or (and more likely) I am still not seeing them clearly.
Spring is in full swing in Arizona, and everywhere I look it’s yellow, green, and blue.
I’ve been going through some of my mother-in-law’s paintings that were left over after she passed away. (She died 15 years ago, so it’s time to look at them again). The reason I pulled them out is because my daughter moved into her own place, and I am looking for paintings to bring her for her to choose from.
A lot of her paintings are portraits, and those are more difficult to hang on a wall than landscapes. I thought I’d share one of the portraits with you today. Maybe share some more later . . . .
Because my MIL was hired to paint a lot of celebrity portraits, the ones that are left are often “first drafts,” but sometimes she just painted them because they were famous and she hoped to sell those paintings.
Do you know who this is?
That’s right: Perry Como and his family, wife Roselle, son Ronnie, daughter Terri, and son David. Perry and Roselle were teenage sweethearts and were married until her death at age 84.
I love Perry Como’s voice and laidback coooool style. This is one of my favorites:
And this one, of course:
You might prefer different versions, but he’s pretty consistent, so they are all good!
OK, NOW FOR THE BIG QUESTION. Was Perry my sweet cat named after Perry Como?
Wait for it.
Perry the cat was named for Perry Como and Perry Mason!
Are you familiar with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way? I really like the idea of Artist Dates, where the writer or artist goes on a weekly expedition to explore something inspiring or enchanting. I like to try to do that as often as I can. (It’s been pointed out to me that Artist Dates should be SOLO, but when I have an opportunity like this, I take it as-is).
While my uncle was visiting, the gardener and I took him to the Teotihuacan exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum. Between 100 BCE and 650 CE, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the Americas. In some ways it was like many pre-Columbian exhibits and in other ways it seemed brand new to me. I can’t quite explain it. I also thought it was fascinating that there were so many “feline” shapes in the art. (Love my cats!) Let me mention that my uncle won two scholarships to the Art Institute in Chicago when he was a kid. He was able to attend the first time, but the second time he had a serious illness and had to stay home for a full year. He had to go to work very young and was never able to pursue a career as an artist, although he certainly had the talent.
It was really fascinating to see how much art was designed to replicate teeth!
The earrings or “ear plugs” the statues wear are the same as those worn by the Aztecs, so that style was around for many centuries (it still is, I guess).
The plaques on the walls described the city in some detail. I found the pyramids to once again remind me so much of Egyptian pyramids. Maybe I’ve heard too many episodes of the ancient alien shows that the gardener likes to watch . . . .
On the way in and out of the gallery, we were met with two beauties. One was the Carlos Amorales piece “Black Cloud,” a swarm of black moths and butterflies.
The other was this dandelion sculpture created by (I think) Josiah McElheny:
I’m a huge fan of big contemporary installations like these as they really set the tone and show me that humankind is still creating amazing art.
A few days after we visited the museum, we took Uncle Frank to California for a few days. I’ll write about that part of the trip later. Mebbe next week, I hope.
BUT a few days after my uncle left for Arkansas, I had the real pleasure of meeting Theresa Barker. She blogs at Theresa Barker Lab Notes. We had a fun time comparing notes on our families and exchanging a few of our favorite poems and discussing them. What a blast! She is as nice and smart in person as in blogland.
I’ve been feeling very depleted and tired lately, so much so that creating new work seems impossible. However, I pulled out a lot of unfinished poems. By unfinished, I mean that they were too complete, too mediocre, and had been filed away. I am going through and revising these poems. Maybe I will find something good in some of them!
Last week I told you about the great restaurant we found in the Ozarks, along the White River bank. But we did more than go to that restaurant. We kept my uncle going every day! It had been decades since we had been to northern Arkansas. When we last visited, there were so many ancient Ozark-style log cabins tucked into the woods on the side of the road that the flavor of the land was everywhere you looked. If you don’t know what those are, they are small slightly rectangular box cabins with a peaked roof and a front porch with roof (imagine a wooden rocking chair and Pa with a corncob pipe just about now). Typically, the cover to the porch is a different pitch than the main roof–and best yet, the roof is generally tin. There aren’t very many left, but the remains of the ones being slowly claimed by the forest can be seen. Also, some have been refurbished with aluminum siding. Some new houses are built in the same style, to reflect the traditional architecture.
The reason I don’t have photos for you is that most of my Arkansas photos are crap, having been taken through a car window. It was too hot and humid to keep rolling the window down–and the so-called highways (NO freeways at all) are winding and long. It’s way out in the country, y’all. Anyway, the gardener drove, and it exhausted him so I didn’t want to distract him by rolling the window up and down–or asking to stop where we could have been run over IF someone else had driven there just then (that’s a big IF).
This part of Arkansas must be well within the Bible Belt. In Mountain Home (population 12,448), the Wednesday newspaper had a listing of churches in the immediate area.
I counted FORTY-ONE Baptist churches. There are also a lot of other denominations, including LDS, Jehovah’s Witness, and even Bahai! There is no synagogue, and I don’t think there is a mosque. Also, there are only two Catholic churches–one in town and one in a nearby town. The one in town is my uncle’s church. You might wonder then how my uncle ended up in Arkansas. He was born and lived in Chicago. After a horrible crime touched his life (story coming tomorrow in thefamilykalamazoo.com) he moved his family to rural Illinois–and eventually to Arkansas. He wasn’t alone–there is a whole “expat” group of Chicagoans who live there. They like being away from the hubbub–and a lot of them like to fish. That–and some Californians who have escaped the west coast–probably makes up the majority of people who attend the Catholic churches.
Let me mention that my favorite church names are the cowboy churches. Notice that this listing shows Bar None Cowboy Church. We flew into Tulsa, OK, and drove to Mountain Home. On the way, we saw other cowboy churches, like the Cowboy Gatherin’ Church in Inola, OK, and Crooked Creek Cowboy Church in Harrison. Apparently “cowboy churches” are a thing and are scattered across the country. Who knew? Well, I sure didn’t.
Speaking of Harrison. It’s only 48.4 miles from Mountain Home, but there’s a big difference. Mountain Home, as I said, has attracted people from Chicago and California and is close to reknowned trout fishing near the Bull Shoals dam which links Bull Shoals Lake with the White River. People think of pretty Ozark country when Mountain Home is mentioned. Harrison’s reputation comes from being known as the most racist city in the country. I got that from Wikipedia. So who knows the accuracy. Apparently, between 1905 and 1909 white citizens threw out all the African-Americans who lived there and established their city as a “sundown town.” That means just what it sounds like: no non-white people in town after dark. You think things have changed?
The city has been dubbed “the most racist city in America” because of its high presence of white supremacist organizations. Kingdom Identity Ministries, a white supremacist organization, was founded in 1982 in Harrison. Thomas Robb, national director of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, maintains his office near Harrison in the outlying town of Zinc and uses a Harrison mailing address for the organization. Combined with the history of the 1905 and 1909 banishment of unemployed railroad workers and all other African-American residents, this incidental connection to the KKK has given the town a negative image.
The article goes on to say that there are people who are trying to combat that image by speaking up against racism. Of course, all this just made me want to visit. The writer in me, you know. But that’s an easy call as a white woman. As the white mother of Asians, I would not have suggested we visit if they were with us.
When we got to town, I saw the pretty historic theatre where events are still held.
Love the neon sign!
Harrison is quite a pretty small town, and there wasn’t much to hint at a dangerous undercurrent of racism. Then we stopped at an antique shop for the gardener.
My eye was drawn to certain things. I started to feel uncomfortable.
I realize people collect Mammy this and that. Raised in Kalamazoo by my northern relatives, I will never feel comfortable with this stuff. In fact, in Arkansas, I had to keep reminding myself it used to be a slave state. I’ve never lived in a state where slave-holding was legal.
And then there was this little section.
Don’t you love the juxtaposition of items? The Rise and Fall swastika, desperation, a book called Rifles and Shotguns, Rhett Butler, and the fragility of that ruffled porcelain atop the stack. I figured we’d been in town long enough. Time to go!
Next day we visited my cousin’s home in the mountains. He is an orchid farmer by trade, and they live way out in the middle of nowhere (yup, it’s probably even called that). He always loved cacti and orchids, and it’s kind of cool that he’s made a living all these years doing what he loves.
He’s got such cute grandchildren, too. So much fun playing with them!
One day we visited Mystic Caverns. I guess northern Arkansas has a lot of underground caves. Many have probably not even been discovered yet.
Close to Mountain Home is a tiny town called Norfork. There you can find the Jacob Wolf House Historic Site.
The site includes the main house, which was the territorial courthouse, built 1825, as well as some outbuildings. Seeing how the men “roughed” it even inside the courthouse really made me think of what the settlers went through. During the day, court was in session, and at night, the men spread out their bedrolls where they had been sitting in court earlier.
As we left Arkansas, the gardener and I stopped at the Osage Clayworks because the area has been known for pottery for quite some time. They had some good buys on “seconds,” and I bought my daughter a garlic thingie to use for her rings on her dresser.
The Photography of Justin Hamm
If you like seeing small towns and the fading past of America, you need to check out the photography of poet and photographer Justin Hamm. He’s also the editor of the museum of americana. I love Justin’s photos. Rustic images of old cars, barns, that kind of thing. Gorgeous. Click here for his Instagram. Here are the photos on his website. Look at this photograph of an old Ozark barn, care of Justin. He’s been in the Ozarks recently so I am watching for all those shots I imagined but couldn’t pull off.
The Art of Len Cowgill
On the subject of beautiful American art, I want to tell you a little update on the work of Len Cowgill.
Many, many years ago, when Len, the gardener, and I were all very young, Len gave us a series of three pieces as a gift. This was before he knew about archival materials, and over the years in the hot sun of California, the drawings faded. Here is one of them–see HOW faded.
Upon hearing about the fading, Len kindly offered to repair all these drawings. Look out great they turned out! In the first one, he changed the static brick wall to Allen Ginsberg’s poem “America” and then followed the theme for the rest of them.
I’m so blessed to have such thought-provoking and breathtaking art in my life. Thanks to Len and thanks to Justin both for sticking with your passions and making the world more beautiful.
On Friday I had some medical tests. I’ve been having some shortness of breath problems. I went to the doctor months after I should have, but I doubt it matters. I now suspect it is more of that acid reflux problem! Probably getting into my lungs. But my doctor thought he heard a new heart murmur so I had to take some tests. I’m sure it’s because my mother had a TAVR last summer. She was so lucky to do so well because she had more wrong with her heart than people usually do who get TAVR procedures. This is less invasive than open-heart surgery as they “go up through the groin.” My mother is now the darling of Spectrum Hospital in Grand Rapids and is featured on billboards throughout the city. She’s so darn cute. Tell me if she’s not adorable.
I’m not worried about my tests because I have seen how bad this acid reflux situation is. I have a splint thingie that I am supposed to wear at night for my TMJ problem, but the acid has eaten through the acrylic!!!
I kid you not.
I go to Mayo Clinic in Arizona because, why not? One-stop shopping for medical. They take my insurance for which I worked my TUSH off by teaching for a pittance for all those years. (If you think I am exaggerating, you would be wrong. Lecturers or adjuncts or freeway flyers, which is what I was, do over half the teaching work in most universities and get paid a tiny share of what professors make. People who clean houses–and do not need high school diplomas–get paid more per hour than I did with my P. H. and D. No kidding again. But I will say I did it with love).
What I noticed at Mayo this time was a preponderance of beautiful art. I hope that somebody loans or donates it to them because I would hate to think that my insurance and my deductible and all is paying for that art. Beautiful Chinese jade pieces, well-made Native American pottery, you name it. They are in glass cases, so I couldn’t really photograph them because of the reflections.
But I will admit that I feel better getting poked and prodded in an artistic and serene environment. Art calms my soul. Kind of like cats do.
A quintessential Phoenix Soleri bell
Another quintessential Phoenician art form
Flowers floating on the wall
The best part of the day, though, were the therapy dogs. I saw three! And they were all beautiful dogs. One a big blondie, another a golden of sorts, and the third? Here he/she is!
What is that noise I’m hearing? Is Kana in a kitchen cupboard again? [Leaves to go check.] OK, I let her out.
Here is my writing update. If I don’t write one day, I try to make up for it the next. This weekend I worked on a piece for a book that someone else is writing. The book is about the beautiful old lakeside park and dance pavilion that my great-great-grandmother’s niece owned and that my father bought from her on a land contract . . . for a time. Since those years of my childhood stimulated my imagination, it’s a story I’ve been writing and rewriting as poetry and prose for years.
I had a nonfiction story taken by a magazine I was hoping would take it (woot!).
The ole memoir is completely restructured now. (Aren’t you sick of hearing about that dang thing?) And I organized my send-out pieces. Three months ago I thought I had nothing left, but I’ve rewritten poems and prose pieces and feel I have some offerings to the world.
I hope you enjoyed Carol Bachofner’s pieces. Years ago, Carol was my student, not for creative writing, but for literature. She was a fabulous student, the kind of student all teachers wish for: passionate and smart and logical and creative. And hard-working.
Are you wondering how Perry is doing? hahaha He’s driving everyone crazy, but he’s so darn sweet. Kana and Felix figured out if they lie on the cat trees by the glass doors, I can put the drapes around them, and Perry can’t get to them. He knows they are there, but it makes it too difficult for him to climb on them.
That is Felix on our left, looking out. You can see his little face in the door. Kana is the black shape on the right side. From the inside of the house, Perry and I can only see the drapes.
If we don’t do this with the drapes, this is what happens. Perry climbs right up with Felix and within a few seconds he starts to annoy!
Perry got to stay up after 10PM for several nights last week because he is so good! The only trouble is that he has to have his bedroom door shut at night because no matter how I wrap the sheet over the gate, he can figure out how to get out. The little smartypants.
The gardener and I have been married for ever so many years (vagueness is mandatory here), and this month we had our anniversary. We ate at a wonderful Lithuanian restaurant (I thought it was Ukrainian, but I was wrong). We also decided to choose our own anniversary gift. This is what I chose for myself.
A gorgeous light catcher custom-designed and crafted by Pauline at The Contented Crafter. I wanted something for my office, which is coral and black on ivory. When it arrived last week, I was ecstatic. Such a classy presentation, too. Pauline had the light catcher in a gauzy bag with the top of the piece tied to the bag so that it can just slip out and not be tangled.
I laid it out in a tray because the gardener wanted to hang it himself. (He doesn’t trust me with picture hangers, but the truth is that unless it involves a molly I think I am better at them).
My mother has arrived for a few weeks, and we had to put her in Perry’s room (my daughter’s room). Perry had to be moved into my office. He sleeps in there and also has his time-outs in that room now. So we decided to hang the light catcher in our living room instead.
As I inspected it on the tray I was thrilled to see how much of my personality Pauline imbued the piece with. As she describes it: “pinks and oranges and coppery hues; sea jasper beads, tiny coral beads, seashell pieces and masses of crystals.” The charms are a Russian nesting doll, a cat, an “I love cats,” a tiny book called “A True Story.” There are hearts and stars. Imagine!
And here is a close up of the top of it.
See the doll (for Doll God) and “I love cats” above?
Since my photos suck, Pauline sent me some better shots of the lovely! Click through the slideshow to see up close!
Why did I want a light catcher?
Well, for one thing I had seen some of the photos of Pauline’s work and thought it beautiful.
Also, one of my favorite movies as a kid was Pollyanna, and the most memorable scene was the one about the prisms at Mr. Pendergast’s house. If you want to cut to the chase, start the video at exactly 2:40.
The light catcher is certainly living up to its name. It throws brilliant rainbows all around the room.
Mini rainbows on the floor
I love having my home filled with rainbows!
Also, I got the new issue of Tab in the mail. It’s quite an innovative literary magazine. It’s a series of beautifully designed postcards with poems and art. My photo is sort of upside down, but I don’t think it matters because the idea is that you pick up a card and read them one at a time. I have been carrying them around with me.
Here’s what I have to say about #amwriting. Before Mom got here I had completely restructured the memoir. It still needs a lot of revision, but the structure is radically different. Marie Bailey really helped me with her comments. Thank you, Marie! Check out her story, “Rapunzel, A Different Kind of Fairy Tale.” Extremely enjoyable and found at the new lit mag, The Disappointed Housewife. When I restructured, it was easy to see what scenes to get rid of. I jettisoned about 23,000 words and wrote another 3,000 so far. This means that I have now written about 310,000 words for this project. But it’s only 66,000 words right now. Good grief, get on with it and finish it, woman!
More information on Pauline at The Contented Crafter
A little about me: For a start, I’m a baby-boomer – you do the math – the number keeps changing and so do I!
I’ve had many incarnations as wife, mother, student, teacher, teacher trainer and mentor, curriculum writer and advisor, community hub developer, new worker trainer, and [whew!] life coach. In between I painted, crafted, hand worked, gardened and generally tried to create beauty around me where ever I went. Oh, I forgot to mention ‘world traveller’!
These days I’m [mostly] a very contented crafter and pursuer of serenity. And of course, I live with Orlando, a now elderly Maine Coon cat of great distinction and forbearance and a most delightfully joyful pup who goes by the name of Sid-Arthur [yes, a play on Siddhartha for those of you who picked it up]. They feature prominently throughout this blog.
I’m retired now and happily spend my days doing whatever it pleases me to do. Sometimes, in between my crafting projects, I still coach now and again, gratis, as a thank you for this blessed life I’ve been given.
I have had a most interesting life, from traumatic beginnings through the highs and lows of self discovery – learning to take responsibility for my thoughts and actions, learning to forgive and let go, learning to trust, learning to ‘be’.
I adopted this as my motto many years ago, it still fits: Life is a school room and everything is a lesson to be learned. Lessons will be presented in many ways and many forms until they are learned. When a lesson has been successfully mastered, another lesson will be presented. You will be tested.
What I have come to see is that some lessons will be tough, some will be fun. The secret is to maintain a sense of equilibrium with them all, no matter how they make you feel.
And in the end, it’s all been about learning how to be a ‘successful’ human being – and by ‘successful’ I don’t mean in a material way. I mean in terms of understanding who and what I am and why I am here and what is the meaning of it all………. you know, all that existential stuff.
I consider myself to be counted amongst the most fortunate of people despite the fact that I live without much of the material wealth and supports that so much of the western world considers necessary. I enjoy to keep it simple these days!
When the gardener and I lived in Michigan we were good friends with artist Len Cowgill. He specialized in a type of pointillism which was well-suited to the detailed nature of his subjects. We have a series of three pieces that showcase different stages of a man’s life. They are just stunning. Unfortunately, they are under glass, so I can’t really take photos of them.
Recently, I found his work online–in galleries and on Flickr. While his art has grown and changed, it is still recognizably his inimitable style. Using acid-free paper, he works mainly in ink, graphite, white charcoal, and sometimes colored pencil. Len’s work isn’t merely decorative. He doesn’t turn away from difficult subjects, but focuses his eye on the human condition.
We haven’t seen Len in years, but hope to see him before too long now that we’ve reconnected.
When I really love a work of art, I get all revved up (jumping up and down in my chair, if you must know) and want to share with everyone. This is how I feel about Len’s art. He let me use these images from his Flickr account, but please do not copy them for public or internet use.
103 Secret Saints
Strangers Battling Through Eternity
We Are All In This Together
The Burden of Personal History
You can find Len’s work for purchase at the following galleries:
To contact Len, he can be reached through the contact page at Tamarack Art Gallery.
Just writing this blog post is giving me an idea for poetry: to write an ekphrastic poem based on one of Len’s pieces. An ekphrastic poem about a piece of visual art. Traditionally, the poet expands upon the meaning of the art within the poem, but it really can be any response to specific art. Use the artwork as muse or inspiration. Hmm, gotta get to writing. If you write a poem in response to one of the images in this post, please post a link or the poem itself in the comments!