Category: Writers

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!

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

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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

Inspiration Interlude: Diane Ackerman

“There was nothing to do but wait. It is always like this for naturalists, and for poets–the long hours of travel and preparation, and then the longer hours of waiting. All for that one electric, pulse-revving vision when the universe suddenly declares itself.”

― Diane Ackerman, The Moon by Whale Light and Other Adventures Among Bats, Penguins, Crocodilians and Whales

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Imagethe lagoon at Audubon Park, New Orleans / Photo by me

Women Online: Great Reads You Shouldn’t Miss

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I LOVE this tweet by Kelli Agodon, writer and co-founder of Two Sylvias Press who has a great twitter feed. Just had to share. Anyone who writes poetry has had a version of this wonderment in their head at one time or another. But, thing is, if you’re born to write poetry your really don’t have a choice. I wrote when I was very young then didn’t for years and years, only coming back to it in my mid-30’s but it was always in my head. Fragments, bits and pieces, phrases….it was always in there because it’s just how I think. So, no. Absolutely no, we are not wasting our lives writing poetry. The following poems written by some of the best women writers around are some of the best examples why.

The Gods’ Funniest Home Videos by Rachel Kessler in Pank.

She’s the kind of ghost who would taste so sweet. What god hasn’t tried to put her in his mouth and suck her down to the core?

The Southern Girl’s Guide to Getting Your MRS Degree by Allie Marini in Drunk Monkeys.

if all else fails, remember that other thing I told you about sweet tea: if you forget to add the baking soda, or if you squeeze the teabags, it can get mighty bitter. bitter tea—even if it’s sweet tea—can hide a lot of things, just like any good wife who follows all the rules.

Bare Bones of It by Tabatha Stirling in Feminine Collective.

I used to crack jokes about you to
make my father like me better. They
were cheap shots, Babycham insults.

Nuclear Family Warfare by Jane Noel Dabate in Rattle.

The women in my family
paint their lips red
in a school teacher’s correcting pen.

Although this is primarily a post about poetry I couldn’t not steer y’all to the following two essays. They are both amazing in different ways. They will both make you think and, maybe, shed a tear or two. Do not miss reading these words.
It’s a Man’s World by Maureen Langloss on her blog.

The multiplicity of bullet points in a single month, drawn from church and state, school and home, corporation and playing field, are like bricks overhead—caving in over my body, stoning me, crushing me, obliterating me. I feel personally wounded, bereaved. I have always been a person of hope and faith that things would get better for women, that together we would make a more equal, less violent world. But today it finally dawns on me, at age 45, that things don’t always get better. In fact, they get worse. And those stones that are crashing in over my head are inside me now. Festering, growing moss. They are the stone my body has internalized, that my heart has become.

Light & Darkness
How Sharon Olds brought me back to writing by Maggie Smith on The Poetry Foundation.

Turning to Sharon Olds, to poems such as “Prayer During a Time My Son Is Having Seizures,” gave me the permission and the courage to write my most intimate, vulnerable, and direct work yet.

I’ve read some pretty wonderful fiction online lately, too, so I’ll try to get a post up about that soon.

Life is a freight train and it’s bearing down fast. Take care, y’all.

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Happy Birthday, Sylvia


“The hardest thing is to live richly in the present without letting it be tainted out of fear for the future or regret for the past.” ~ Sylvia Plath

Happy birthday, Sylvia.

I’ve been reading her poetry this morning – so relatable, so poignant – and thought I’d share one of my favorites. There are so many opinions of Sylvia: that she was a genius, that she was tragic, that she was only an appendage of Ted Hughes. I think she was a woman, flawed and beautiful, like most. I think she did the best she could. There’s no doubt she made her mark on contemporary poetry and for that I’m grateful.

I Am Vertical

But I would rather be horizontal. I am not a tree with my root in the soil
Sucking up minerals and motherly love
So that each March I may gleam into leaf,
Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed
Attracting my share of Ahs and spectacularly painted,
Unknowing I must soon unpetal.
Compared with me, a tree is immortal
And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,
And I want the one’s longevity and the other’s daring.
Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars,
The trees and the flowers have been strewing their cool odors.
I walk among them, but none of them are noticing.
Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping
I must most perfectly resemble them–
Thoughts gone dim. It is more natural to me, lying down.
Then the sky and I are in open conversation,
And I shall be useful when I lie down finally:
Then the trees may touch me for once, and the flowers have time for me.

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Photo via The Early Hours.

Inspiration Interlude: Diane Ackerman


“The sensory misers will inherit the earth, but first they will make it not worth living on. When you consider something like death, after which we may well go out like a candle flame, then it probably won’t matter if we try too hard, are awkward sometimes, care for one another too deeply, are excessively curious about nature, are too open to experience, enjoy a nonstop expense of the senses in an effort to know life intimately and lovingly.” ― Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses

Happy birthday, Diane.

Inspiration Interlude: Louise Beech

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C.Hamrick 2016

“Isn’t all writing life writing? Life made us who we are and so it makes us what we write. We’re influenced (both consciously and subconsciously) by what has happened to us. Every word we put down we expose ourselves in some way. Writing our stories helps us to look at things more clearly. We can make sense of what has happened to us by recording it.”  – Louise Beech from her wonderful essay “On Life Writing” in Women Writers, Women’s Books

My Book List for Women in Translation Month

August is Women in Translation Month, a movement originated by book blogger Meytal Radzinski in 2014 which she details here. Basically, it’s an effort to encourage and spotlight translated books by women which are severely underpublished as compared to men. Meytal has posted supporting statistics for the past year on her blog here.

2015 was the first year I participated in WIT month. I chose and read three books and enjoyed them all. Honestly, what initially drew me to this effort is that I enjoy reading about other cultures and hadn’t read many books by non-American authors. I didn’t even know where to look for a book list or reviews. In case that’s your problem as well, check out these two lists: here and here. I often buy my ebooks from Amazon and another way to find translated books is by clicking their “other books like this” link.

I’ve been perusing books and authors for a few days and have settled on four books to read during August. As much as I’d like to think I’d read more than four, I know my limitations!

My Mother is a River by Italian author Donatella Di Pietrantonio, translated by Franca Scurti Simpson – I actually found this book through posting a tweet asking for WIT book suggestions. Calisi Press replied suggesting this book and, after reading a synopsis of the story, I decided to buy it. mymother

ladavine
Marie NDiaye Credit Catherine Hélie/via New York Times

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ladivine by French author Marie Ndiaye, translated by Jordan Stump – I learned about this book and author from Tony’s Reading List blog.

The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa  by Japanese author Chika Sagawa, translated by Sawako Nakayasu – I stumbled on this on Amazon while looking for translated poetry. I ordered the paper book and have peeked a bit inside. I can tell it’s a great choice.

The Lost Daughter by Italian author Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein – Again, Tony’s Reading List reminded me that I haven’t read this Ferrante book. I read the four books in the Neopolitan Series in late 2015/early 2016 and was ready for a break from the two protagonists by the end of the last book. lol. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy them, I absolutely did, but I think maybe the story was stretched out just a little too long. JMO. Anyway, I plan to read Daughter last, just to be on the safe side.

Iza’s Ballad by Hungarian author Magda Szabo, translated by George Szirtes (pre-ordered, release date October 18) – So, when I decided to begin looking for books for this list I immediately searched Magda Szabo. I read her book The Wall last year and was just blown away by it. Her latest book, Iza’s Ballad, won’t be out until October but I wanted to list it here anyway. I’m really looking forward to reading it.

I encourage anyone reading this little post of mine to participate in WIT Month in some way. Even one book read is one more step toward showing the publishing world that readers want more translated books by women. Follow and participate on Twitter with the #WITMonth hashtag.

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Amalgamation: TV,Music,Poetry,& Missing the Moon

imageSo we’re a few days past the summer solstice and I missed seeing the strawberry moon which won’t coincide with the solstice again until 2062. I’m bummed that I missed it. July is a few days away which means we’ll be entering the hottest months of the year here, July through September. On these hot summer days I like to get my house chores and errands done in the morning so I can cool it a couple of hours in the afternoon watching a movie or a series on my Fire TV. I recently discovered Acorn TV with its ‘all Brit shows all the time’ line-up and I’m really liking it. Currently I’m watching Blue Murder which has a single mom as the lead detective bringing in all the issues that involves in addition to hunting down murderers. I really like the understated British personalities – such a welcome contrast to America’s in-your-face bravado. The only thing I find distracting about Brit crime drama is the uniforms of the street cops. Their uniforms are a kind of Charlie Chaplin/construction worker mashup with their black bowler hats and bright yellow jackets. It’s hard for me not to smirk when they come on-screen except for my hero, Catherine Cawood of Happy Valley who, I’m quite sure, could kick anyone’s ass. No gun needed.  Anyway, such good acting in Blue Murder, I recommend it. I’ve also started watching The Tunnel on PBS. I discovered it by chance when it came on after Masterpiece Mystery last Sunday night. It’s also a crime drama wherein a body is found in the middle of the Chunnel, half in France and half in Britain. The first episode was smart with its intriguing story-line. The dynamics between the French and English investigators is as interesting as the story which includes a few good psychologically tortuous moments.  Again, really good stuff.
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On this side of the pond is a new series on CBS called Brain Dead that I’m getting a kick out of. It’s a sci-fi political dramady that is decidedly fresh and entertaining and I’m very surprised it’s on network TV. If you haven’t checked it out, do. I think it’s gonna be a fun ride for hot summer nights.

Then this from Deadline Hollywood: Elisabeth Moss To Star In Straight-To-Series Drama ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ On Hulu   For this I’ll subscribe to Hulu. Moss is an excellent actor. She was my favorite character on Mad Men and starred in one of my favorite crime dramas Top of the Lake (also starring the great Holly Hunter). Plus, Handmaid is an iconic book that deserves a quality production. I hope it works out that way.

In poetry, here are three that I just loved this week:

ICYMI, Good Bones by Maggie Smith in Waxwing Literary Journal went viral very quickly on social media. In fact, I first heard of it via Twitter.

“The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children. “

Here The Guardian talks about the poem and the phenomenon.

Bad Love by Lakshmi Mitra in The Fem
“in bengal, says my grandmother, the women / are all ghosts.”

Still I Give Thanks by Marie Reynolds on The Writers Almanac
” I want my doctor to use the word “cure” just once.”

Finally, in music, I recently listened to a great interview with Mayer Hawthorne on On Point, an NPR show hosted by Tom Ashbrook. If you’re not familiar with Mayer, you need to fix that right away. He has a new album out, Man About Town, featuring his new single “Love Like That”. Check it out below:

And listen to the On Point interview here:  Mayer Hawthorne is a Musical Man About Town.

On Point is always interesting and I listen to it almost every morning. You can catch it locally on WWNO  week days 9am to 11am or listen to the podcast on their website.

Have a great week-end, y’all!