Hope everyone who celebrates Christmas had a lovely one. My daughter’s in-laws had us over for an Italian Christmas feast, including gluten free versions for the gardener. We had a wonderful time, needless to say.
I had some minor good news the other day. An excerpt of my unpublished memoir Scrap was a finalist in the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards. Woot! That feels like a step in the right direction for this project that has been in in the works since 2008 hahaha.
Coincidentally, on Christmas Eve, the journal Furious Gazelle published three poems, and these poems all relate to material found in Scrap. A big thank you to the editors.
In this photo my father is on our left and his twin brother is on our right. They look like they belong in an Our Gang movie, and it’s true they were raised by the streets as much as by their mother or sister.
I’ve been reading more than usual lately. For one thing, all my Ann Cleeves (Vera, Shetland, 2 Rivers) books on the wait list at the library have been coming available. Then I’ve got a few fiction and nonfiction books I’m rarin’ to read. Additionally, I’m reading a couple of brand new poetry books that I plan to review for journals or this blog. The best way to understand a poetry collection, for me, is to prepare for writing a review. So reviewing is actually a benefit to me, not just to the poet who wrote the collection.
Something new that I am starting to do is to read the new issues of journals that are emailed to me. It’s not that I didn’t read any of them before, but sometimes I would hit delete if I felt like I had too much going on and plenty to read. But I’ve decided that that is not good because without all these wonderful lit journals a lot of writers, including myself, would be screwed. Then I am choosing one of my favorite pieces from the journal and sharing it on social media.
I have a belief that underlies these endeavors. Too many poets (I can’t speak for creative nonfiction and fiction writers because I know a lot more poets) are so involved with their own writing or maybe the writing of their “big star” inspirations that they do not put enough back into the poetry community. Of course, I include myself in this number. There are certainly plenty of exceptions to this phenomenon, including the work that lit mag editors and small press editors and owners do, especially those that continue long past the “it will help my career” period. Two special names that immediately spring to mind when I think of helping the poetry community are Trish Hopkinson whose website is a treasure for poets and Neil Silberblatt who runs the Facebook group Voices of Poetry. I’ve talked about Diane Lockward’s craft books on here several times. Her books, monthly newsletter, and press (Terrapin) are all important to the poetry community. In fact, she has a new craft book coming out soon. It’s called The Strategic Poet. I’m super blessed to have a poem in the tome (that rhyme is how you can tell I’m a poet hahahaha). The poem is called “After the Call from the Animal Welfare Office: A Triple Triolet,” and it’s a response to a horrific cat hoarding situation in Phoenix last year.
There are many more poetry helpers, too. The work that I am doing for the community is miniscule compared to that of others, but I am trying to keep #poetrycommunity at the forefront of my decisions as much as possible.
I have this great photo to share with you. I did not take it, but it is one of the bobcats from my neighborhood. My neighbor found the animal resting in his yard, so he snapped this image. What luck! And what gorgeous animals the bobcats are.
This poem was in Poem-a-Day this morning coincidentally.
I was waiting for something
to arrive. I didn’t know what.
Something buoyed, something
sun knocked. I placed my palms
up, little pads of butter, expecting.
All day, nothing. Longer than
that. My hair grew, fell out,
grew. Outside my window, I felt
the flick of a tail in September
wind. A bobcat sauntered across
the grass before me, the black tip
of its tail a pencil I’d like to sharpen.
I immediately hushed, crouched,
became a crumpled shock of
joy to see something this wild,
not myself. It turned to look
at me, its body muscular in
the turning. In its mouth was
the tail of a mouse drained of
blood, dangling diorama of death.
Sharp eyes looking at me and then,
not. Its lack of fear, its slow stroll
across the stream’s bridge, fur
lacquering its teeth. Sometimes
what comes to us, we never called
for. How long had I been crouched
like that? I stood up, blood rush
trumpeting. My arms wrapped
themselves around myself, lifted.
It was as if a bank vault had
opened and I was just standing
there, stealing nothing.
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.
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 →
My life has slowed down to a crawl, but I am still learning things. For instance, this. Sloopy Anne has to eat her meals in the bedroom because she has a sensitive nature and Perry will keep her from eating if he can get to her. She is so skittish that if I set the food down, turn around, and start to leave the room she will run out of the room ahead of me, unless I walk out backwards. Hahaha. So she watches the direction my feet are pointed. That should not surprise me because cats are all about gestures. That’s how they communicate. A flick of the tail, a tip of the ear.
When you see how innocent he looks when he sleeps or cuddles it’s hard to believe Perry can be so naughty.
I’m learning a lot about this stupid Valley Fever. I still have the same pneumonia I had a month ago and it’s possible that my blood levels have gone up (they will be retested in a couple weeks); this is because the fungus grows very very slowly and then very very slowly is pushed into an onion of a lung nodule (the rings, you know). This will take months. The fungus doesn’t just evaporate. It gets pressed by my immune system like a pearl in the making. In the end there will be a nodule in my lung.
Another thing I learned about VF is that my neck pain–remember my neck pain from a few weeks ago?–was the first symptom I had of the disease. For some people that is the first sign. A man in an online support group told me to hydrate like crazy (my GP had told me that, too) and that the pain would be diminished because it’s displaced pain from the inflammation in the lungs. I was glad to hear of something to use because the neck pain had come back, radiated into my upper back on the left side (my left lung is the affected one), and I had even bought a little brace from Amazon. (Gee, Mom. It cost ten bucks–how much could one have cost in the late 60s?)
I’ve also learned that the brain fog from VF makes me make stupid mistakes, so I need to avoid impersonal social media as much as possible. I hope I don’t make an egregious error on here, but I guess y’all will understand if that happens. That word “egregious” is so much fun. Years ago I bought a book on sale called I Always Look Up the Word Egregious. After that, I never forgot what it meant and it’s a lot of fun to say.
This fall has brought a lot of rejections from lit journals. Some of them even praise the work I sent, but say it doesn’t fit. Um, ok. What does that mean? I think it means it’s weird. But I did have a pleasant acceptance finally this past weekend to The Orchards Poetry Journal. Another problem with publications right now is that there are a few poems that were accepted many months ago, but the issues have not been published yet.
Keep on staying safe, please!!! Grab this week by the horns!
Before I get into the title subject of this blog post, I am sharing a link to a review I wrote of Ann Keniston’s newest poetry collection Somatic. It was published in the beautiful journal Under a Warm Green Linden: Review of SOMATIC by Ann Keniston. These poems are sometimes historical and public and sometimes about her private grief for her mother and father. The poet works with the forms ode and elegy in a way that questions how the forms function.
Puppy Mill Awareness Day (was September 19, 2020)
When my daughter was young she became aware of puppy mills and was horrified by the plight of especially the breeder dogs, the mamas. After that, every argument paper she wrote for school was an argument against puppy mills in one way or another. She came at it from a different direction each time. I wish I had thought to save the papers and put them together into a binder. The thing is: she was right. Puppy mills are horrid places, especially for those mother dogs because they never get to leave until they have been “used up” and thrown away.
While Puppy Mill Awareness Day was technically two days ago, I wanted to post this today to suggest that every single day should be puppy mill awareness day.
Tell your friends: if they are set on a certain breed dog, have them search for rescues that focus on those breeds.
The only dogs I’ve ever owned have been mutts literally found on the street–or in the case of my childhood dog, in the lake. Three of my granddogs are rescues. Two are mixed breed and both cute as a bug’s ear. One of them is a “purebred” Jack Russell whose original owner was going to march him off to the county kill shelter when he was sixteen years old. Both purebred dogs and mixed breeds need rescuing.
These are my “granddogs.”
Riley is the baby. She’ll be a year old at the beginning of next month. She lives with my daughter and her fiance and her sister, kitty Izzie.
Gary is the senior. He’s 18 1/2 now and acts like a puppy. He lives with my son and DIL and his brother, doggie Theo, and brother, kitty Meesker, as well as sister, kitty Lily.
Theo is an adorable and fur-challenged piece of work who lives with Gary, Meesker, Lily, and his mom and dad.
Here is some important and fascinating information copied from the Puppy Mill Awareness Day website HERE.
What is a Puppy Mill?
1. The term, Puppy Mill is a slang term. It defines a place where dogs are bred for profit. Little or no thought is given to the health, temperment, or quality of the breeding dogs or offspring. A commercial breeding facility would be such a place.
Commercial breeding facilities are USDA regulated and the dogs are defined as livestock. Being the fact that they are livestock, they do not have to be cared for as we care for our personal pets. They live in small cages, or hutches much like a rabbit hutch and never stand on solid ground. Many dogs live their entire lives like this with little human contact. When the dogs no longer “produce” they are usually destroyed.
2. When did this practice start?
Soon after WWII, when the midwest crops failed, the USDA presented the idea of breeding pure bred puppies as a cash crop. The number of puppy mills have been growing ever since.
3. How are these puppies sold?
Many commercial breeding facilities sell their puppies through a “Broker” or Class B dealer. Breeders will sell litters to brokers, such as the Hunte Corporation.
The broker will then ship orders to pet stores. It is their job to make sure the puppies are in that adorable 6-8 week old stage so the pet store can make the most money selling them. Other methods are internet sales, classified sales, farm markets or simply a sign out front.
4. If my puppy has AKC papers, it means its healthy right?
NO. It means that the breeder registered the litter with the AKC. AKC is a registry body. A registration certificate identifies the dog as the offspring of a known sire and dam, born on a known date. It in no way indicates the quality or state of health of the dog. Just because your puppy has AKC papers does not mean that your puppies parents are healthy or kept in a humane manner.
5. When it is time to look for a family dog, where should we look?
PMAD always promotes adoption. Our country shelters kill 6-8 MILLION dogs and cats each year, not because they are sick, or aggressive, simply because there are not enough homes. Many are housebroken, trained and excellent with children. They end up in the shelter because of family problems, such as divorce, loss of job, relocation, death in family, allergies, etc.
We suggest adopting from your local animal shelter, your local animal rescue, Or petfinder.org when adding a furry companion to your home. By adopting, your teaching your children that life is important. You are teaching compassion.
Daughter and her fiance have rescheduled their wedding, hoping to get it far enough out from the pandemic. Now it is scheduled for 2022!!! That’s a long time to wait, but the upside is that I have plenty of time to find a dress and shoe combo that will work for all my ailments, complaints, and preferences LOL!
Have you read the latest Louise Penny Armand Gamache mystery, All the Devils Are Here? Wow, I loved it. I’ve read each book, all in order (thank you, WJ), and the one before this, A Better Man, was a stinker IMO. But now she is back on track! I hope her next book will be a quarantine Gamache.
The other day a friend of mine posted some photos from a nursing home in Texas. Some of the residents were looking for penpals. Their facility is locked up because of the pandemic, so the people are presumably getting lonely. Each person holds a white board with their first name, listing a few items they like. In a few moments of spontaneity, I wrote to one of the residents. I chose Matt because he simply wrote that he is interested in war stories. He reminded me of my dad a bit, and my dad loved war stories when he was living in the nursing home. Also, I am researching my great-uncle Chuck’s military history because my uncle asked me to do so. He told me that there is a story there, one that I had never heard before. I don’t have all the info yet, but when I do I plan to reveal it on my family history blog. I’ll probably link to it here.
Anyway, I wrote to Matt about my dad being in the Korean War and Uncle Chuck in Germany during WWII. I really hope he writes back, but he might get a lot of mail. I felt happy just writing to him, even if I don’t hear back.
I wondered if other nursing homes are doing the same. I mean, it didn’t take long to write the letter and it cost me a stamp. I found this article by AARP: Pen Pals Share the Joy of Letter Writing. The AARP article led me to this website: Snail Mail Social Club. For this “club,” you end up writing to individuals in “facilities,” as well as to the staff at the facilities. I think this is a chance to thank people who are taking care of our elders. I filled out a very brief form for Snail Mail Social Club. I put down my interests as animals, art/crafts, history, and reading. You have to choose from the choices on the list. I will be sent a list of people to write to by email.
Letter writing is strictly old school, not like what bloggers do. To blog we need the power of the internet and the power that goes into our computer electrical cord (or battery). It felt good to send out a letter. Now I better write one to my aunt!
Kind of ironic that I am posting about letter writing when the USPS is in trouble, but then maybe it is meant to be that I write about this now.
I told my mother about writing to Matt and asked if the nursing home at her campus offers something like this. She asked me to please call and give them the idea. I left a message on the voice mail of the appropriate person, but I have not yet heard back.
If we all, adults and children alike, wrote to just one pen pal, that would give light and color to the lives of so many people who are cooped up from Covid, unable to even see their own relatives in person. Imagine how it feels to be locked in, wondering if you will die before you can go for a car or bus ride or see your relatives again.
This photo is from my father’s U.S. Army photo album from his time in the military. Interesting that he seems to be posing in front of the quartermaster school. He was not a quartermaster, but he was a supply sergeant, so it’s likely that (unless I have this confused) he worked for a quartermaster. He isn’t wearing a uniform in all of his photos. In some of them he is even wearing a bathing suit. I chose this one because I like his jazzy sweater.
I’m going to close comments because it’s been a super busy week, and I need to catch up with comments and the blogs of others. Make it the best week you can (considering haha).
Over seven years ago, I posted “How and Why I Don’t Know Science,” which was “Freshly Pressed” by WordPress. I’m going to paste it here so you can read it if you like and if you didn’t at that time. Why am I posting it all over again?
I am reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This is how the book is described on Goodreads:
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Werner, the German boy, is a genius at science, math, engineering, mechanics. I am not quite 1/3 of the way into the book and the two main characters have separate threads. Werner’s thread makes science, especially applied sciences, sound so fascinating that it makes me regret that I never learned much science in school. Thinking about this reminded me of my post all those years ago. The post explains how it came about that I didn’t learn science.
Once in awhile I like to go back and look at something I wrote a long time ago. I’ve had seven years of writing experience after composing that blog post. I’ve also changed as my life has evolved over time. Since I wrote it I have become more involved with my writing and more involved with cat rescue. And I’ve gotten farther away from my childhood.
The main reason for feeling that I am further from my life (and me) as a child is that because I have written so much about my childhood since then I have been able to let some of it go. Once I write about an event, I unpin it from deep inside me and it begins to float away. Very useful way to get rid of bad memories.
Until one goes back and reads a memory, of course ;).
Here is HOW AND WHY I DON’T KNOW SCIENCE.
After I heard we had to dissect the body of a cat in tenth grade biology class, I requested to take a replacement course instead. Today many school districts are sensitive to this issue and students can opt out without creating a stir. But back in 1971, school administrators at my Michigan school had never heard of a college-track student requesting to skip the foundation of high school science classes—and all over a dead cat. (How and Why the cat would die wasn’t divulged). Although they were surprised by my request, they allowed me to switch over to a course called Earth Science, but the only connection it had with its name was interminable dullness like dirt.
At fifteen I saw the world through a lens like a microscope and never from the top of a cliff. My father often said, “You can’t see beyond your own nose. It’s the bigger picture that counts.” My father, though, only saw the world as if it were a coloring book—large geometric blanks to be colored in by him, sloppily, with loops passing wildly beyond the black lines.
My view worked well for the science projects I had performed at home for years. When I was nine, my mother had bought me a How and Why book with scientific experiments kids could do at home. I grew mold on potatoes, made a weather station, something different every week.
But Earth Science class turned out to be a playpen for students who would not much longer be called students, kids who had troubles at home and troubles at school. Because I didn’t have the capacity to look at the longer range consequences, I didn’t realize that by not taking biology I’d left science behind. I wasn’t able to study physics or chemistry as all the science classes were lined up like the begetters in the Bible—biology begat chemistry which begat physics.
The SAT didn’t require any scientific knowledge, and somehow, with my intuitive test taking abilities, I managed an eighty-something percentage on the science portion of the ACT. The next year I attended a college chosen for its proximity to my boyfriend and satisfied the lone science requirement by taking a course called “The History of Science,” which taught no science.
Today I don’t know much about science, but my conscience is clear where my four cats are concerned. Too bad I couldn’t have a clear conscience and science both.
Obviously seven years ago I had four cats. But now I have six!
Kana says, “Have the best week possible!”
Kana is next to my cardboard standing work desk
and the painting on the wall behind her was by my MIL;
the table is one we call “kitchen” but actually functions as cat feeding station