Tag: Poets

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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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

Poetry Wonderment

One night in April I stumbled on the  livestream of a poetry reading program on Twitter, put together by Maria Popova, named The Universe in Verse. For over an hour and a half I listened in wonderment to a clatch of beautiful poetry read by some wonderful writers. Now the program is available as a video which I’ve posted here along with the playlist. I loved the whole thing but especially the readings by Diane Ackerman and Tracy K Smith. I hope you’ll find some time to listen to at least some of the readings. It will inspire you, I promise! Read more about the evolution of The Universe in Verse here

Playlist:
“Planetarium” by Adrienne Rich from Collected Poems: 1950–2012 (public library), read by Janna Levin

“My God, It’s Full of Stars” by Tracy K. Smith from Life on Mars (public library), read by the poet herself

“Power” by Adrienne Rich from The Dream of a Common Language (public library), read by Rosanne Cash

“The Venus Hottentot” by Elizabeth Alexander from Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990–2010 (public library), read by the poet herself

“Cosmic Gall” by John Updike from Telephone Poles and Other Poems (public library) read by Brandon Stanton

“We Are Listening” by Diane Ackerman from Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New and Selected Poems (public library), read by the poet herself

“On the Fifth Day” by Jane Hirshfield, read by Emily Levine

“For Oliver’s Birthday, 1997” by Steven Jay Gould, published in On the Move by Oliver Sacks, read by Billy Hayes

“Euclid Alone Has Looked” by Edna St. Vincent Millay from The Selected Poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay (public library), read by Sam Beam

“Jane Goodall (1961)” by Campbell McGrath from XX: Poems for the Twentieth Century (public library), performed by Sarah Jones

“The Habits of Light” by Anna Leahy from Aperture (public library), read by Ann Hamilton

“Address: The Archaeans, One Cell Creatures” by Pattiann Rogers from Wayfare (public library), read by Jad Abumrad

“Pi” by Wisława Szymborska from Map: Collected and Last Poems (public library), read by Maria Popova

“The Mushroom Hunters” by Neil Gaiman, read by Amanda Palmer

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.

***

Photo via The Early Hours.

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.

WITMonth15

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!

Sunshine

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I was recently nominated for a Sunshine Blogger award by Nick at Fifty Words Daily. It’s been a long time since I’ve been nominated for a blogging award. I’m really quite tickled because, for me, getting one of these tells me that at least one person likes to visit here. I’ve been blogging since 2005 but I really haven’t gotten into the WordPress community like a lot of bloggers do. Honestly, I don’t blog for “hits” or to try to increase my readership. I rarely look at my stats. I blog because I like to take pictures and I like to write and I like to see it all in living color before my eyes. Plus, it is great when someone else enjoys what I put up here. I’m afraid I don’t peruse other blogs as much as I’d like to but I do have some that I visit regularly, if not as often as I’d like.

Anyway, Nick has a great blog. He writes flash fiction and I do read his blog almost every day. His little stories are skillfully written and always entertain or make me think, hmmmmm. If he hadn’t nominated me I would have nominated him. So, go read over there asap!

Now on to the business at hand:

The guidelines of the award are as follows:

Answer the eleven questions from the blogger who nominated you.
Nominate up to eleven wonderful bloggers and write eleven questions for them to answer.

And here are my questions to answer:

What single piece of advice would you give to your eighteen year old self?
Live on your own for a few years. Don’t go straight from mom and dad’s house to getting married.

If you didn’t live in your current country of abode, where you most like to live?
Italy, without a doubt. I salivate when I see photos or videos on the Italian countryside. I love their laid-back lifestyle and the food! *sigh*

What has been your most extravagant purchase?
I’ve been thinking about this one. I’m not a big consumer, I don’t lust after stuff. To me, being extravagant means buying stuff that you can’t really afford but want intensely. I’ve never bought something I really couldn’t afford and I honestly can’t think of anything extravagant I’ve ever bought. Sorry. Boring answer.

What is the best movie of all time?
I guess that would translate to what is my favorite movie. Out of Africa with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. It came out in the 80’s and I watched it at a theatre and it was big and beautiful and I got completely lost in the story. I like that it’s based on a true story, that the cinematography is breathtaking, that it’s set in another country, that the costuming is phenom, and the story is engrossing. It has everything a huge movie should have. Plus, no super heroes or explosions. Big plus.

Have you ever said I hate you and not meant it?
No. I’ve said it in anger and meant it at the time. Of course, later, after I cooled off I didn’t mean it and apologized.

Whale or dolphin?
That’s a hard one but I’d have to go with dolphin. How can you resist that grin?

What is your favourite first or last line from a book or poem?
Another one I’ve been thinking about. I have a horrible memory so I don’t tend to remember lines even that I really loved. But there is a short poem I love that has especially great opening and closing lines (and everything in between). It’s “There is a Girl Inside” by Lucille Clifton. You can read it here. (Sorry for the ad on the site. Ugh.) The last line is so awesome to me because it’s music, it’s magic, it’s happiness, it’s life. It is:

and her lovers will harvest
honey and thyme
and the woods will be wild
with the damn wonder of it.

How many languages can you speak? Could you teach me how to say ‘you have intriguing ears’ in non-English please?
I only speak English and I’m sure your ears are indeed intriguing.

Why is Donald Trump doing so well? I need answers here….
All I can figure out is “birds of a feather flock together”. Unfortunately.

Should the UK stay in the European Union? (I can’t decide so I thought I’d ask some learned people for their views. But I couldn’t find any so I’m trying you lot……)
I’ll leave that up to the citizens there. I have no idea which would be best.

And most importantly and maturely of all – what is your favourite colour? (Mine is green, which is proven to be the best colour of all by a country mile)
Turquoise. The color of the ocean on a calm day when the surface looks like what heaven must be like. I could look at it forever.

And now for my nominations which I’m sharing strictly so others will discover how great they are. Participation is optional.

As for my questions, should you decide to accept, I will defer to Nick’s. I think they’re better than anything I would come up with.

Hot Reads, Etc.

There’s so much good reading and listening on the Internet it’s overwhelming. How do you choose which piece to read,which podcast to listen to, which video to watch? And I’m always wondering if I’ve missed some really fantastic thing. In just the past few days I’ve read some really good stuff and, this morning, watched a very cool Periscope post by Indian chef Kalyan Karmakar. Do you watch Periscope? I downloaded the app a while ago but have only watched a couple of Lonely Planet posts. But when I logged on today there was a notification that this was streaming live so I watched and it was fascinating. Here are a few screenshots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The video was streaming from a train going from Delhi to Calcutta. There were stops along the way to visit local eaterys and restaurants amid conversations about Indian food and culture. Chef also has a blog called Finely Chopped which I perused briefly and plan to read more. Good stuff!

The Lost Gardens of Emily Dickinson in The New York Times about the ongoing excavation of her gardens is a cool read if you’re into poetry and gardening.

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Photo via Salon

 

On the music front, Salon has a good interview with Daryl Hall where, as usual, he speaks his mind about music and the internet, record company execs, and the cool things he’s up to. (H/T Adrastos) I’m a bigger fan of DH now than I was back in the day and highly recommend his show Live from Daryl’s House. If you haven’t seen it you are sincerely missing out.

The Womanly Art of Drag Racing by Anna Lea Jancewicz in Frigg magazine is a riot of a good read that I found highly creative and it just makes me green with jealousy that my imagination is nowhere near as elevated as hers. Still, I’m glad I can read her work and I do, often.

And as for poetry, I especially liked 2 Poems by Matt Dennison I read recently in Defenestration Magazine. Both are funny commentary on everyday household things that we see/do every day. That’s all I’m gonna say except “Never buy a single onion if you live alone”.

Neopol NovelsFinally, my writerly online friend Marina Sofia has a thoughtful post up reviewing The Neopolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante, Feverish after Ferrante. I’ve read the first two books and am currently reading the third. These books have garnered so much attention with each publication that it seems a lot of people are skeptical they can be that good. Trust me. They’re that good.(Here is a rare interview with Ferrante about the books.) But what I like about Marina’s review is that it comes from the perspective of her Roman side. Marina’s blog is so good – she reviews books often and is actually responsible for inspiring me to read writers from other countries and participate in Women in Translation month. Not to mention she writes beautiful poetry.

So, I hope you’ll take a minute and click over to some of these sites. I promise you’ll enjoy.