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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Featured Poem on Verse Daily!

A poem of mine, published in the journal Arsenic Lobster, was recently featured on VerseDaily. It's a prose poem based loosely on my experiences searching for a place to live on the Northern Fork in Long Island. Let's just say I looked at some thirty odd houses and apartments before settling on an apartment for my husband and I in downtown Port Jefferson Village (see above). Nothing like traipsing around from one recently-vacated domicile to another or chit-chatting with various landlords/owners to get a taste of the quirkiness of humankind. The experience made me a bit philosophical, and the poem came out of the paraphernalia of that experience. Feel free to take a peek at the poem on VerseDaily and to explore the other prose poems and pieces in the Arsenic Lobster website.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Some Recent Prose Poems Published in Arsenic Lobster

If you would like to discover a wry, entertaining and adventurous new online literary journal, check out Arsenic Lobster. If only for the title, it is worth a click of your mouse! I recently had two prose poems published in their 2011 winter issue: "Mrs. P. Goes House-Hunting" and "Head Cold." Feel free to read these two poems (which follow below) as well as explore the website to discover other prose-poetic voices and their current online issue.

Mrs. P. Goes House-Hunting

Buzz, buzz, buzz goes the world.  We are each in a distortion of our own making. The glass is half whatever, depending on the day you are having—its etches and flaws encompassing the mind’s dark hesitations. Mrs. P. went house-hunting. Trees braided in and out of the clouds, pollen fell like ash onto her windshield. At one house, Doreen, the realtor, balanced precariously on a step ladder to see if anyone was home—peering inside: the room loomed like a movie scene, after the shooting: stripped walls, carpets curled up like infants, fluorescent lights with cords hanging motionless as the birds and stars in a Miró painting. Bright blue, dimpled tarp half-covered a boat in the backyard. At another home, a blue plastic shark hung near the door—mouth open. An address is something we tattoo quietly onto the self. It whispers its letters and numbers into our breathing until it flies constantly behind us, like the banners planes drag, undulating across the sky. You think a place is home and then it’s time to move on. You think you are having a bad day when you begin to envy
the bees, spinning around helpless in a puddle on a piece of pavement, the sun dousing them in an early summer glow.  You envy the tight little frame that pavement becomes for them. The neat circumference of their pain.  Most of the time loss fails to offer the drama required: the elegant heroines smoking cigarettes as their lives dwindle away, the enemy troops marching through the town square.  Only Mrs. P. driving from name to name: Cherry Lane, Admiral Street, Possum Hill, and the laundromat a block away. 

Head Cold

It begins as clouds at the back of the brain—grainy, tenderly bruised clouds.  I want to be free your brain exclaims. Free from what? You ask as you make your way down the corridor: beige light pleading at the occasional window, blond shining shapes on the mopped, smooth floor. But you know what your brain means. You could duck out now, under the red-embroidered Exit sign, take off for pancakes at noon in a little, off-the-beaten-path café, the bathroom smelling a little smoky, like a memory you know you have and have forgotten. The sun notches itself another degree towards the west. In the Western, it’s all railroads and horses, the mountains like movie-star teeth in all their polished snow.  You wish you could head off this cold like bandits at the mountain pass. It rumbles closer, velvety and particular, amassing in one corner of your consciousness, like people outside a theater in the rain—their black umbrellas blooming all at once. In the end, you give in. The furniture moves a few inches to the right, the pillow embraces you like a distracted mother. You are grateful as the silence thickens and grows viscous, pours over you like a kind syrup. From a certain distance, you can imagine the many small feet of birds skimming the air above your apartment building. Or you can imagine your clothes loosening their hold—the sleeves fluttering more lightly about your wrists, your black jeans shuffling like breezy curtains about your hips. This is not Spain with its olive oil and tourists. This is not Costa Rica, simmering in its varying shades of green. This is not even the sandbox you played in as a child—the damp grains of it stickingto your skin—but it is a place, and with a nod of 
your head, your whole body falls in.

 Only this literary journal could have phrases like this on the home page:

 "Lobsters Have a Language all their Own" or "Lobsters Age Gracefully"...... Enjoy the Reading!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Few Comments on The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

While at VCCA (Virginia Center for the Creative Arts) this past June, one of the poets I met--Therese Halscheid--suggested I read Gertrude Stein's Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Supposedly it had oodles of literary gossip from the early 1900's in Paris when Matisse, Juan Gris, Cezanne, Picasso, etc...were first trying to make it on their own as artists. This was a time when Gertrude Stein and her brother could pick up a few Cezanne's from the art dealer Vollard as one might buy vintage dresses or skirts from a second-hand shop today--very off-hand, nonchalant purchases as none of these artists were yet known. Thus, I've begun to dip into it and it is written in a whimsical, unapologetic tone. You find out details such as Picasso's wife at the time, Fernande, only cared about hats and perfume and could talk of little else although she was very beautiful. You find out about the maid at Gertrude Stein's house, Helene, and how she disliked Matisse for having asked to stay one night for dinner after inquiring about what was on the menu. You also find out how people wanted to actually scratch a painting of Matisse's they found ugly and offensive when it was first displayed at a public salon, a picture of a woman with a fan. Interesting how new versions of beauty can so terrify.

Just for your morning, noon or evening reading pleasure, here is a brief excerpt from this "Autobiography," which is really Stein talking about her own life through the literary protagonist she's created in Toklas. Thus, this is Alice/Stein talking--a rather complicated double-image of an "I" in this autobiography, but definitely an accessible work by Stein if you forgive her unorthodox punctuation and refusal to use quotations marks:

"...Fernande was the first wife of a genius I sat with and she was not the least amusing. We talked hats. Fernande has two subjects hats and perfumes. This first day we talked hats. She liked hats, she had the true french feeling about a hat, if a hat did not provoke some witticism from a man on the street the hat was not a success. Later on once in Montmartre she and I were walking together. She had on a large yellow hat and I had on a much smaller blue one. As we were walking along a workman stopped and called out, there go the sun and the moon shining together. Ah, said Fernande to me with a radiant smile, you see our hats are a success." (pp. 14-15 Vintage Books Edition, March 1990).

Just one of the many quirky moments and spontaneous ramblings this books seems filled with. It also brings to life this time in Paris (such as how people actually got fit walking up and down the many flights of stairs to their ateliers since there were no elevators yet installed, etc...), and since Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris is also re-envisioning this same time period this summer, it seems extra appropriate and fun to read this autobiography now.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Just returned from VCCA--Virginia Center for the Creative Arts!

I just returned from a two-week stay at VCCA--Virginia Center for the Creative Arts--and loved it. Nothing like being surrounded by talented writers, composers and visual artists in a bucolic setting with blue-birds flaring their lavender-bright wings in bushes and on telephone wires, with vines tendrilled around fences and long, patient green fields undulating away from your studio window. Don't mean to wax overly-poetic, but it was a soothing, beautiful setting. I met some great poets and artists, learned vinaigrette could be served five thousand different ways (thanks to the resident kitchen staff): bell pepper vinaigrette, cilantro-line vinaigrette, maple vinaigrette....and heard my first Tree Frog--a kind of wet gurgle emanating from the trees--a gurgle in short riffs repeating itself over and over again. This was the first fellowship to a residency that I had been awarded, and the warmth and welcoming atmosphere of the other resident artists was palpable and helped me settle into a writing routine. I plan to post soon some sitings of beautiful artwork I saw while visiting the visual artists in residence with me.

I'm still getting settled back into to being home again in Stony Brook, NY, but here are a few photos (see above) to get a glimpse of the grounds at VCCA. If a few more birds start showing up in my poems, their trills and vibrant colors--you'll know why. Having nature right outside my window was a true gift while staying at this artist's retreat.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dear Jean Seberg, My New Chapbook, is Out and in the World

Just thought I would announce that my new chapbook, Dear Jean Seberg, is out and in the three-dimensional physical world now! Back in late September I received the kind of phone call every writer hopes to receive at least once in his or her life--an editor telling me my chapbook manuscript had won a contest! Considering it had been a rather stressful, harried day, this was music to my ears. The editor was Sid Miller and the contest was the 2010 Burnside Review Chapbook Contest. I had been lucky enough to have my collection of twenty odd poems selected by the wonderful poet Matthew Dickman.

This collection of poems really came out of sitting on the couch--I mean sitting on the couch watching films: black and white films, Technicolor at its most Technicolor, Steve McQueen car chases, French films (thanks to my librarian husband's knack for discovering obscure, and then not-so-obscure, directors and actors and then being very good at using the local library system to get access to sometimes hard-to-find DVD or video copies of these films). We found ourselves coming up with our own homespun versions of film cycles: William Holden Month, or Yves Montand Week, or, a Jean-Luc-Godard film cycle. Thus, I re-watched "Breathless" and discovered a new interest in the cherub-faced, blond American from Iowa, Jean Seberg, who found herself (via a rather circuitous route) in a Jean Luc Godard film in the 1960's.

Hence, the title poem of this collection. This chapbook is really a journey onto a fuller, longer collection, but I believe it stands on its own as a verbal stamp of some of the images, films, words and sounds that have influenced me over the last few years since moving out to the eastern end of Long Island. I don't consider Dear Jean Seberg about film; I consider it a collection of poems infused with the atmosphere of some films I watched and how images and moments in those films flickered in and out of my life long after watching them.

Feel free to purchase a copy at the Burnside Review Website for a reasonable $6.00 and to feast your eyes on the wonderful cover created by Robert Edwin, a wonderful Port Jefferson/Long Island artist. 

Jean Seberg led an enigmatic, hard-to-categorize life, and my only hope is that these poems begin to capture some of the wistful strangeness that was the backdrop to her life and the surreal collisions that can occur, at times, in anyone's life. But enough of waxing poetic! Check out the book if you are interested. I will soon be posting sample poems from it on this web site.