Saturday, April 23, 2011

Many Thoughts, Little Time

Alas. I had hoped to be a more regular presence in my own space. In fact, I have a longish entry to this blog that has been sitting in draft for over a month now. I've been out of town. I've been working. I've been sick. Simultaneously. So, on my first weekend to actually rest up without the aid of heavy medication, I--- attempted a cento. A cento is a poem made up entirely of lines taken from other poems. A poet, Danielle Pafunda, got some very experienced poets to act as judges, and in celebration of National Poetry Month and the Academy of American Poets, launched a Cento Contest. She tweeted one line from seventy-five different poems/poets on April 21, and anyone who wished could make a cento of any length of them, with the contest ending today at noon. The rules were very generous, with any use of the line allowed: split, whole, differently punctuated, spliced to pieces, partially used or discarded. I don't know what got into me; I gave it a try. I can immediately see from the more experienced entries (or what I assume are more experienced writers), more control: they used fewer lines to more coherence and sharper effect. The last one in the gate (as of now, but I think they are finished posting), called "Dementia Canto" is one such. Another is called "The Mistress." Mine is next-to-last-in-the-gate, but I have put it in below, with a few changes I wish I'd made (the deletion of a line and an extra "the" that never should have been there). I own up to working on it with more than a little effort. I am mostly pleased, but, naturally, welcome anyone's thoughts. The original entry is here, and the lines writers were given to work with are all at the end of all of the entries, or directly here. Also, check out 30 Poems in 30 Days, also from the Academy of American Poets.

The beautiful and intriguing lines from the original poems have opened up many new voices to me. More reading awaits in the longer, warmer, and sunnier days to come, glass of wine in hand and feet up on the porch.

Humbly yours on this Easter weekend,


Were they pearls

Sleep-fallen, just jars of buttons spilled
recurring naked in your dark hair,
implicit with stars;
plunge me deep in love,
the whole cathedral,
put out paper sacks stuffed full of orange
weighing the harvest
when my eye nearly failed.

You have lived and lived on every kind of shortage,
little corners of a kind of ham;
count out sherry, and ripe plates crash at your back---
and the trick is the pungent oranges and
bright green wings to make it personal.
It was not really necessary to eat the food:
one could breath it, the mystery of
---now I hear the clock snap just ten---
that. I became
hard to lift: my own bags were full of salt

which made them shifty in our hearts.
Hoist their nets,
sleepily indifferent,
we’ll kiss a hundred times
kiss the kiss to open your tiny beak-mouth
each kiss other, consider:
what you’ve said that looks as if it would never open
the magnolias
and not April
the wild, protected, liminal woods
the naked man;

in the glaring white gap,
in a carousel-sweet dress
I’m drunk,
each one a treaty, each one a place
where, glisten’d with wet,
I stand on the porch,
the reflected gleams
myself conjectured.

Alternate last stanza, which does not play so precious with Emily Dickinson's line "Myself conjectured were they Pearls---:" and replaces the segment of the Dickinson line with part of one from Gerald Manley Hopkins. I wanted some kind of ring composition effect, I think, to begin and end with Dickinson, and to do it by reversing the line's halves, but don't know how much sense I made of it, whereas this seems more straightforward.

in the glaring white gap
in a carousel-sweet dress
I'm drunk,
each one a treaty, each one a place
where, glisten’d with wet,
I stand on the porch,
the reflected gleams,
were they pearls,
to rescue one.

Saturday, March 05, 2011


Remember this ? Where you put your ipod on shuffle and see what song titles come up to answer the questions ? I decided that this Saturday morning was time for a revisit. I've added, it seems, quite a bit of music since 2009. I admit as well to being an ipad 2 holdout: though ever fiber of my tech-loving being desired the ipad the minute rumors of it began to emerge, I have held fast to waiting for at least the second incarnation (this wait and my lack of patience helped by generous visits to the Apple store to play with the thing). Yes, if I had real patience, I would wait for 2.5 or 3.0, whatever one will emerge with the usb, the retina display, the sd card slot, or even the new Thunderbolt (usb, I gather, may not last much longer). So, yes, I confess, I have reached some personal limit, and I will foolishly purchase the transitional device: my techno-wonder, my gadget lust, can wait no longer. All this, I sigh, because my eyes are too old to enjoy the ipod touch, hence this little revived meme is brought to you via an ipod classic, you know, the kind with a hard drive and a click wheel. I admit, I admit, I have no issue with the ipad being, as some keep wailing "just a glorified ipod touch." I'm happy that the ipad is as big as a picture frame and that I can bluetooth a keyboard to it. My eyes are happy. My senses are stimulated. Okay, enough. Ironically, having planned now for a year (or since the original one came out) to stand in line for the ipad 2, I will be out of the country on the day it comes out. And I want a black one. So I will have to wait some more. I also had no patience, literally, to revisit all twenty-odd questions for a remix of this meme, so I picked the ones that were the most interesting last time or to which I got the least satisfactory answers on the first go. I still have the same fear that Christmas songs may overwhelm the mix. But we will see. If one pops up, I'll note it but go on to the next... Post-experiment notes: there were still too many Christmas songs; I noted them in some places, but the pile up was too long elsewhere, so I just moved on. The opener, "How do you feel today ?" is also fairly apt: I have a lot to do. So it's been nice to pause here and be a little silly. Contemplating this as an actual playlist, or even how it would have sounded it I'd let this all play, doesn't conjure up a soothing set of tunes or any kind of coherent experience. Still, I may cue it up and let it play while I'm doing some housework this morning. I'll let you know.

1. How do you feel today ? Situations (Jack Johnson)
2. How do your friends see you ? Ain't No Cure for Love (Leonard Cohen): this is really funny, considering that I am in love...
3. What do you like in a girl/guy ? I Can See Clearly Now (Johnny Nash)
4. Where will you get married ? And She Was (Talking Heads) Parse That Please. I would like to know
*When Will You Get Married ? (I added this): Life Effect (Stars) Disappointing answer !
5. If someone says, "Is this ok ?", you say: Georgia (Ray Charles)
6. What would best describe your personality ? Cycles (Rickie Lee Jones): Ooh. That could be true !
7. What is your life's purpose ? [Winter Wonderland, Eddie Higgins + 3 more Xmas Songs. Skip] You Belong To Me (Kate Rusby)
8. What is your motto ? 15 Step (Radiohead)
9. What do you think about often ? Rock, Salt, and Nails (Kate Wolf). Metaphorically, I think I can see this...
10. What is your life story ? Calendar Girl (Neil Sedaka). Deadlines, deadlines...
11. What do you think when you see a person you like ? Little Island (Randy Newman). Interesting
12. What will they play at your funeral ? Someone Else's Life (Josh Radin). Funny. Not as funny as last time (Belly: Feed the Tree)
13. What do you think of your friends ? Mercy of the Fallen (Dar Williams).
14. What is the one thing you regret ? Suit and Tie (Suzzy Roche) Oh him. Just kidding.
15.. What makes you laugh ? Ponytail (Panda Bear) eh.
16. What makes you cry ? Germs (Yeasayer): can't argue with that !
17. What's the worst that could happen ? Muengue Mwa Ndolo (Coco Mbassi) Can anyone translate this ? I would like to know.
The next song was "Grazed Knees" (Snow Patrol): I'd settle for that.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

New Additions

Not the cups. I'm still feeling a little snarky about the whole collecting/curating "trend" I was talking about a few posts ago. I realized that leaving my blog, hmm... unattended for some time has been akin to leaving the house while on extended travels elsewhere. I have returned refreshed (if, let me confess, somewhat worn by little --metaphoric-- earthquakes at Greenhouse City and, well, something else, but we'll not go there), but my home here had gotten dusty: some broken links in my blog roll (fixed or removed), and because middle age has set in and I seem to need everything in one place, some additions of new items to my lists, some that I had mentioned in earlier posts but now do not want to back track to find, and others found via other blogs that I'd rather have right here. The others are Finnish. I am not, not an ounce, not a genome, anything Finnish: it is really more of an obsession with sound and winter: I love the sound of the language. I can count to twenty and say "hello" on a good day, and have memorized the word for cat, kissa, like our word "kiss" with "sah" (double consonants pronounced separately) because I love those creatures mightily, but that is all. And I do like a wintery landscape, as those who have been following since this post have likely noted. So in addition to Dave in Suomi and Daydreaming in Helsinki (sidebar) who have stopped writing (but who am I to judge ?), I've added a few that I've been reading (Finland for Thought and Life in Finland), as well as Hel-Looks, a blog that tracks what people are wearing on the streets of Helsinki. Aside from things Finnish, there is January Magazine (literary), sans everything (literature and Canadian politics-culture respectively), A Cat of Impossible Color by Andrea Eames, a Zimbabwean born writer who now lives in Austin, TX (I have no idea how I found that blog. I just like it). Under my "Good Things" Listings (I know, I know: I should think about recatagorizing these, but not yet), there is Read Free Books Online , a site that offers all kinds of books to read (not to download, usually). I have a hard time reading novels online; my eyes get tired enough from reading blogs and work, but there it is, and it is marvelous. Also Next American City, which thinks hard about living well and green and on bicycles and in what a city ought to be. As for "Opus is Gone," I checked. If you click on the "letter" that now pops up, explaining that Opus is napping, you will go to Berkeley Breathed's page, where you can find information on his other work as well as Bloom County and its sequel. I guess Flawed Dogs created some controversy, as it seems to be a children's book, but the cruelty that some people perpetrate on animals (dog fights) is described in details too disturbing for some. It's another post, how we've defanged fairy tales (literally) and taken out the scene where Bambi's mother is killed (see here, eg), etc., but thinking about Breathed's book brought this all to mind again. And then there is his art, which is, well, poignant and funny all at once. So that's the round up.

I could get all meta-narrative, meta-blog post about a post that is still riding on some snark about collections and then presents a collection of links, but we won't do that. I'm more in the mood to think about the egregious number of parentheses in this post, but it seems to suit: this post is a parenthesis of sorts, a nice pause to just sit down and look.

As for my 'art,' ahem, Corel Painter is really quite the thing, isn't it ?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Accidental Tableau

It just happened. I don't how they piled up or even how they ended up in the teacup. Morning, afternoon, evening, I realize as I stare quizzically and groggily at them: the cup and one spoon are from this morning's five am cappuccino. Another spoon from yogurt and honey I'd had as a snack when I got home this afternoon; the third... oh yes, I'd had tea after falling asleep on the couch mid evening. I'd used a different cup, and even rinsed it. But put the spoon in with the others. They are still there. Markers of an ordinary day and the whole of it evidence of an unplanned evening nap, and the peacefulness of a late evening where some things, cups and spoons and worries and work, must just be left to rest.

Perhaps I should also add, that in this peaceful evening, in fact, making a habit of having a little time for one each night, I have been reading, resting quiet and undisturbed under my covers as my spoons under water, Peter Høeg's The Quiet Girl, Den stille pige, and while missing dearly the snowy and still, suspended, landscape of Smilla's Sense of Snow, have been finding it a fascinating piece, virtuosic and odd, a page-turner and luringly suggestive of what various critical theories could make of it (and is up to it). I won't recount it here, only my deep surprise that it was not well received in Denmark (and who knows: maybe not here either), a fact I only discovered when I looked for information on its English language publication date (2007). It came out in Danish in 2006 and The Danish Literary Magazine has an article by the Norwegian author Kjaerstad on his own surprise at the novel's reception. It doesn't really give anything of the plot away, so feel free to read it here. Kjaerstad calls the novel, or one aspect of it, "high baroque," and I think this does capture the over all tone of the work, though it is all at once a detective story, science fiction, and more. More often than not, the scenes between characters recall to mind Isak Dinesen's stories and I wonder if anyone else has sensed this. Is there such a thing as a Danish-baroque sensibility ?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What We Live With

Dear Reader:
I promise to read something else. Rather, I promise to blog about something other than what I've read in the NYTimes, lest you begin to suspect that this is my only source of information/stimulation outside of the cappuccino and Excedrin combo to which I often also refer, and, alas, have resorted to again this morning as I also munched on toast and read the aforementioned publication in the predawn light (it turns out, apparently, that when one


gets up way too early on purpose, going to bed just a little earlier and hoping to sleep just a little later does not work. Wide awake at 5:40. Drat.).

In fact, for days, I have had in mind to write a post about something else, somewhere far away, that has nothing to do with some things, but here it was and here I am, brain not quite in gear enough for that post, but with enough wherewithall (these are all puns, people..) to post less of a post than notes for one, so here we are: the Magazine, which I usually resist until later on Saturday and then only for the puzzle at first, h

as a brief article on a blog phenomenon I had been unaware of, i.e. people posting photos of their stuff, but their artfully arranged things. Rob Walker, the columnist, offers several observations and a sound working theory of why this is happening, wherein, again, I learn a vocabulary word, or rather a new use for an old one, curation:

...the most satisfying examples now often depict more workaday stuff, treated with an unusual level of observatory respect; they frequently echo the “humble master pieces” featured in a Museum of Modern Art exhibition of that name several years ago: just as that show prodded viewers to reconsider the paper clip or the matchstick as “marvels of design,” these (humble) blogs recontextualize things most people ignore. Perhaps some of us are in more of a mood to accept beauty in the everyday, rather than aspire to the latest gleaming luxury.

And then there’s the way this stuff is arranged. There’s certainly nothing naturalistic about it; these are practically inventories. It has become a cliché to talk of “curation” as the great skill of the info-saturated online world, but probably what matters here is the overt display of that skill — the de facto announcement that someone is in charge. After too many years when stuff seemed to rule many lives, these things have been culled, sorted and mastered.

Not that I don't suspect that these photographers aspire to the MOMA ideal (and even an exhibition or book contract of their own), and not that I don't on some level find Walker's control theory compelling. In fact, the highbrow (if that is what it is) intellectualization (ditto) of the whole simplification movement ---or, let's be kinder--- its transformation from merely throwing stuff out to arranging what one has in order to enjoy it anew is refreshing, but the example blogs (see below) that Walker cites appear to me as cataloguing than curation. Yes, it is a kind of artful cataloguing, but this is what catalogues are nowadays, and I mean certain mail order catalogues, not exhibition catalogues. I confess, up front, I have not stopped the onslaught filling my physical mailbox, in part because of the visual pleasure of, say, the Garnet Hill, Sundance, even J.Jill catalogues (this is still an ad-free, unsponsored blog. I merely state the truth. Deal). I shop online for these things, if at all, but I do enjoy an afternoon cup of tea with a slew of new catalogues, the ones which arrange a rather minimalist number of items per page, quite artfully photographed, with descriptions that do mimic those other, i.e. museum collection catalogues: "unique shapes overlap to create modern artisanal styles;" "the long shirt;" etc. There is a cataloguing impulse/device/gimmick out there in the blogosphere, what I ate, what I knitted, what I photographed, cats in sinks; even Stuff White People Like is, at root, a catalogue. Were I to go all academic about this, there would be a lot to say here about the reinscription and performance of display, i.e. how it has been reappropriated and repurposed (optimistic) and how life is now structured by advertising techniques that we are supposed to be savvy and ironic enough to recognize (pessimistic, though not unrelated). The columnist notes, although he does not use this term, that the objects in the blogs he examines are decontextualized (he says "recontextualized") from everyday life: grouped against neutral backgrounds, a collection of bobbins or measuring spoons offer themselves as interesting in se ipsis, but one gets tired of walking with Certeau, so to speak, no matter where the walk goes. So I am less interested in this manipulation of the quotidian as a socio-anthropological phenomenon, clear on the fact that things arranged well give us pleasure (neatness counts, goes the aphorism: you'll like/use your stuff if you can find it, says common sense; you'll appreciate what you have if you maintain it, says mom, yes, sew the buttons on, etc.), than the groupings or arrangments that arise in context. Yes, I suppose this is the backbone of every decorating magazine and even of a certain spirituality (remember the "home altars" movement ?), but I do not mean faux context or creating a context (spiritual space, e.g.). After having read the column, I just poked my head up and peeked around: what have I bothered to arrange, I thought, and aside from the visual pleasure, what might it say ? That's all: lots of writing here to serve as an excuse for the first thing I thought of, my rather transparently readable arrangement of glassware, stored in, as is probably obvious, what should be a liquor cabinet, pictured at the start of this post. Enjoy. Let me know.

Blogs mentioned in the NYTimes column: A Collection A Day 2010; Things Organized Neatly

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


Late Winter Afternoon

The snow itself seeks
a roost in the trees' branches.
Inside: tea on, rest.

I am borrowing from Liz at Cassandra Pages (see sidebar), who as a disciplined and actual writer, did not abandon her blog, but wrote only short prose pieces and poems, haikus among them, for all of January. Determined not to become a once a year poster to my own blog, I sat down this evening too tired to really write anything, so decided to risk embarassment and take up haiku myself for one night to get started. I've been fussing over the last line, but what the heck. Too bad "the welcome arms of home" has six syllables is what I've been thinking, because that is much more the general idea.
It is wintery here, all right, today, and coming home this afternoon after some tense meetings at Greenhouse City and running errands finds me fairly wiped out. Now the oven is on and dinner is cooking, and I could really do with that cup of tea. I've saved it for myself for later, having fought off a pounding headache with an extra cappuccino this morning (so much catching up to do: I replaced my broken machine here with a Sirena machine bought on the cheap, in case you've been waiting for the end of that story...).
At the right is a picture of Snowland, not my snowy land, which has so far escaped the full force of the storm now in place, but the Snowland where my love lives and where we may make a home (complexities abound, but in middle age, all kinds of configurations seem possible that in younger years may not have appealed). So that's it, tonight: a post about snow and love, fatigue and possibility, and just about how the thought of a cup of tea can get one through the last hours of a long day.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

And Now I Feel Guilty. And Hungry

I love marmalade, and this tempting photo in the NYTimes attached to a recipe for marmalade, somehow put me in the mood to blog again. Actually, that is overstating the magical powers of the photo or the substance. For all of the time I have spent "away from here" as John B puts it, I have spent not an insubstantial amount of that time thinking that I should be writing here. So, yesterday, I was poking around, both here and at Blog Meridian, Willo's, and the Cassandra Pages, Steph's, etc. really emjoying everyone else's ongoing blog world as if visiting another time and place, almost another life. In that sense, Cassandra (Elizabeth)'s post of a photo from some years ago in Vermont was very apropos. How does a life, one's own continuous life, seem to suddenly ---though it isn't sudden--- become a life so different from the life and self that one once knew ? As readers of this blog (hearty souls, for certain !) will know, I had an abrupt and quite unwanted break in that continuity before I'd begun this blog, once so forceful that I experienced it as exile. This is a much more happy circumstance, but has brought with it stresses all its own: I've gone from being quite single and contentedly so, to falling in love with a man with whom, we two agree, we'd like to make a life together. Complications and adventure abound: it is long distance, children are in the picture, job stress (Greenhouse City has turned Dickensian, but I am hanging in) and potential relocation issues lo---, well, no, they don't loom as much as they open up so many possibilities and uncertainties. About which I'm most likely to write very little, details being what they are, and this blog being unknown to him. It's kind of my place, my diary in the sock drawer, so I've been wondering about that, too: the blogs I've mentioned are openly tied to their writers' identities. I know there are other bloggers out there that do what I do (academics are notorious for it, as are doctors and therapists, privacy issues being what they are, or, in the case of academics, academia being what it is): any thoughts on the "sock drawer blog," so to speak ?
Ahem: back to my tale of getting back here. Either Willo really reads her sitemeter thoroughly or she mistook my last blog post for 2011 instead of 2010, but there it is, posted below, how nice to see me back. Yes, wouldn't it be, I thought. So here I am. I'll be coming around to visit you all more obviously. Thank you, Willo !