Focus on Four: Reading Women Online 

There are some fantastic women writers writing interesting, enlightening, bold stories online but, sometimes, its not so easy to find those voices among the cacophony that is the internet. So. I’m going to share four women whose stories and poems stood out for me recently. Oh, I could share so much more but, if you’re like me, posts with a long list of  “what I read online” can be daunting. Why not focus on four gorgeous women and their writing?

First up is Lori Sambol Brody, a writer of incredibly good flash fiction that I discovered this summer. Lori has blown me away with her style, her subjects, and her innovative use of language. The story I’m linking to is the cream of the crop, IMO. Do google her to find more of her flash gems.

I Want to Believe the Truth is Out There” by Lori Sambol Brody in Jellyfish Review

“I will explore the basement of a cabin in the woods, the halo of my flashlight illuminating faint footprints, bleached femurs, vertebrae. I will drive down the Extraterrestrial Highway and sneak into Area 51. I will not remember how many times my memory has been wiped. On on-line forums for UFO abductees I ask: have you seen her?”

Julie Kane is one of my favorite poets and was Louisiana Poet Laureate for 2011-2013. She’s also an incredibly nice and giving person. I interviewed her for my now defunct blog, NOLAfemmes (do click over and read it), and was honestly surprised someone with her chops agreed to be featured in my little blog. I’m linking to her recent piece about studying under the great Anne Sexton. It’s not to be missed!

Last Class With Anne Sexton” by Julie Kane in The Dark Horse

“After collapsing into a chair, the first thing Anne did was to kick off her shoes. Then, with a husky voice and great cackly laugh, she asked us to go around the room introducing ourselves and reading one of our poems out loud. I hadn’t brought any poems with me that day, so I recited one from memory, about the women in my family at an Irish wake. Anne chortled her approval. But when a classmate’s poem responded to an ambulance siren with the line “that little thrill when they enter your neighborhood,” Anne let out a shriek. “No, no, it’s not thrilling at all!” she protested. “I should know. I’ve been in the back of too many of them myself.”

The next writer is Alexis Rhone Fancher whom I only discovered last week via a tweet. Her poems in Diode Poetry struck me as honest and fresh. Read and see what you think.

Two poems, “The Famous Poet Apologizes For Not Coming On To Me Sooner” and “The Famous Poet Asks Me For Naked Photos”, by Alexis Rhone Fancher in Diode Poetry

“4. The famous poet swears his wife

is cool with his serial betrayals,

that they inhabit different countries

in the same, small house.

But I’ve seen his wife at parties, how

his philandering makes her flinch,

the face of desperation, choked down,

Sylvia Plath style.”

Another writer I discovered last week is Elissa Altman. I don’t remember how I found her and her blog but I’m very excited I did. She’s an accomplished chef and food writer and I’ve become obsessed with reading her blog. I’m going into her archives to read and every single entry is a big wow. My link is to the first story I read and it’s all about letting go of  the material stuff on your life and the hurdles we face in letting go. It’s so good.

Cleaning the house, tending the weeds” by chef and food writer Elissa Altman in her blog Poor Man’s Feast

“After the painters left, we began to put things away. We stopped. It was overwhelming. A week went by. We couldn’t face the task. What to keep; what to weed out.

What are the memory triggers that bend our hearts? What are the things that break them?”

Such wonderful writing and reading is really an inspiration to me as a writer. We can learn so much from these and other writers about the craft of writing. Aren’t we the lucky ones?

Happy reading!

***

Feature photo is a close up of zinnias in my garden.

WWW Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Taking on a World of Words hosts WWW Wednesday each week, I’m told. The objective is to answer the following questions, leave a link to your post, and read the posts of other participants. It looks like a great way to find some good books to read because we all need more good books, right? Thanks to Marina Sofia at Finding Time to Write for sharing this meme.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently reading Revenge by Japanese author Yoko Ogawa for Women in Translation Month. It’s a book of short stories which is my favored genre lately, especially when the stories are a bit on the dark side. I’m finding the writing crisp yet nuanced. A good choice. 
  

The last book I actually finished was The Odd Woman and the City by Vivian Gornick, a memoir set in New York. It chronicles a 20+ year friendship between Vivian and her gay friend Leonard, her daily life as a single woman in an urban setting, and meditations on what is means to be a feminist. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, a finialist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2016. 

Also for WiT Month, my next planned book is Eve Out of Her Ruins by Mauritian author Ananda Devi, awarded the prestigious Prix des cinq continents upon publication as the best book written in French outside of France. It tells the story of four young Mauritians and their lives of fear and violence in a tourist-driven country. I’m looking forward to it. 


What are you reading? 

Chimera


Chimera
(A Wild and Unrealistic Dream or Notion)

All I want on a Sunday morning is to
luxuriate in my laziness. I want to watch
old movies with the volume turned up loud,
the newspaper crackling as I shift my supine
body on the couch, the words of duplicitous
politicians and photos of narcissistic socialites
mashed under my ass.

I want to gaze out my window where heat
rises on the street like steam from a gumbo
pot while I lie, cool as a nectar cream snowball,
in my Maggie The Cat slip, painting my toenails
a color called Bad Influence.

I would sip Southern Wedding Cake coffee
from the chipped china cup I knocked off
the bedside table in a moment of
passion and savor a fresh chocolate croissant,
tender flakiness that melts on the tongue like
vampires melt in the sunlight.

As the sun climbs the sky, I’d meander into the afternoon
with the expectation of an early summer storm when
we would go upstairs and slip between our cool, white
sheets and not be heard from again until
Monday morning.

***

Chimera was published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature in 2012. 

Pine

Rural Mississippi 2008

Walking past a neighbor’s house, I pause
to smell the pine. A pair shoot up into the sky,
their long pliant needles pointing as if to say,
“Look at the sky, the earth, the air full of flying things!”
But, instead, I close my eyes and pull in a deep breath
of the sharp green scent so familiar it’s a part of me.
The sounds of the city fade as a hushed needle-covered
path rises up and I walk into my childhood.

Women in Translation Month 2017: My Reading List

August is Women in Translation month and this will be my third year participating. I really enjoy reading books by writers from other countries and highlighting their translated books. I’m also quite impressed by the translators. I only speak English and have always been in awe of those who can speak multiple languages.

WiT Month was created by Meytal Radzinski on her blog Biblibio and you can read all about it here. There’s also a Twitter feed where you can find book recommendations and keep up with all the activity during the month. Thanks to WiT Month, I found what has become one  of my favorite authors, Magda Szabo and I highly recommend her books, The Door and Iza’s Ballad. 

So, after a bit of research, I’ve decided on four books for this year. I wish I could read more but I know my limitations and so I prefer to keep my list attainable.

  1. The True Deceiver by Finnish author Tove Jansson, translated by Thomas Teal.
  2. Eve Out of Her Ruins by Mauritian author Ananda Devi, translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman.
  3. Umami by Mexican author Laia Jufresa, translated by Sophie Hughes
  4. Revenge by Japanese author Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder

And I hope to read Khomeini, Sade and Me by Iranian author Abnousse Shalmani , translated by Charlotte Coombe, during the month but, if not, definitely after.

I really encourage you to make a point of reading at least one translated book by a woman. I remember the first year I decided to do this how I felt completely at a loss as to how to find these books. It’s easier now with the #WiTMonth hashtag on Twitter so I recommend checking it out.

Happy reading!

Happy birthday, Lucille!

Lucille’s mother was a gifted poet with only an elementary school education. Her poetry was offered publication but Lucille’s father wouldn’t allow it and forced her to burn the poems in the fireplace. It’s said Lucille never forgot it and I’m sure it shaped much of her own poetry. About the incident, she wrote a poem called “fury”:
“her hand is crying. / her hand is clutching / a sheaf of papers. / poems. / she gives them up. / they burn / jewels into jewels.”

She was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for two separate books in the same year: Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir (1987), and Next: New Poems (1987). She won the National Book Award for Blessing the Boats (2000); the 2007 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize; and the Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America in 2010, just before her death.

When I discovered Lucille’s work I felt energized. Her messages of empowerment and self-love are lessons every one of us should take to heart and put into practice. How great it must have been to hear her read in person. 


Photo via The New Yorker

13 Odd Questions

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There’s a column in the weekend Wall Street Journal that I enjoy reading called “20 Odd Questions”. All sorts of people are quizzed, from actors to artists, athletes to writers, designers to scientists. It’s interesting to read the answers and, often, you learn something new or glean tips you can use yourself. I like to answer the questions from my pov so I thought it’d be fun to answer this week’s list and post it here. I eliminated some of the questions that didn’t apply and came up with 13 Odd Questions. 

My dream dinner party would include guests like:
Patti Smith, Lucille Clifton, Joan Didion, Swoon, Helen Mirrin, Maria Popova, Toni Morrison, Amanda Palmer, Dianne Ackerman, James Corden, Idris Elba, Depak Chopra.

I never leave the house without:
lipstick on. Not even to walk the dog around the block. It’s because my face is so beige.

The place I’d love to return to is:
New York City. Let’s go.

The album from my childhood that I still listen to is:
Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors

The oldest piece of clothing in my closet is:
a tee shirt with Micky and Minnie on it from the early ’70’s. I slept in it for years but now it’s ripped and holey. I just can’t throw it away.

I love to collect:
I don’t collect much anymore but I save a lot of stuff on Pinterest. I do like kitschy garden art. My husband would say I collect handbags and shoes but he has no idea what a real collection looks like.

The book I love to read again and again is: 
Dorianne Laux‘s Smoke. I love her poetry. It’s so honest, human, and accessible.

My favorite cuisine is:
Anything cooked by Ree Drummond. I love her cooking show, never miss an episode. Every recipe of hers I’ve tried has turned out great. But Italian cuisine is a close second.

My day isn’t complete until:
I’ve read some poetry.

The most used app on my phone is:
Instagram

The most stylish fictional character is:
Carrie Bradshaw, of course.

I unwind at the end of the day by:
I try to listen to a podcast when I go to bed. I enjoy The New Yorker’s “Modern Love” and “The Writers Voice”.

If money were no object I would buy:
it’s a tie between an apartment in Manhattan or a place in Italy, maybe near Lake Como.