Oh Chicago

Self is just back from Chicago. Weather was positively balmy, and self saw four plays:  “Apat” at Circa Pintig, “Animal Farm” at Steppenwolf, “Strandline” at A Red Orchid Theatre, and “Smokefall” at the Goodman.  BLISS.

Here she is with poet Angela Narciso Torres (Angela’s first book, Blood Orange, won the Willow Book Prize.  Angela is an editor of Rhino Magazine). We’re on the train headed downtown from Angela’s place in the suburbs.

BFFs with, by sheeir coincidence, almost the same shade of red lipstick!

BFFs with, by sheeir coincidence, almost the same shade of red lipstick!

Seeing Angela again in a few.  She’s giving a reading at Beyond Baroque in Venice Beach, this Sunday, Nov. 2. Can hardly wait.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

The 48 Laws of Power, pp. 12 – 15

  1. A man spared the guillotine is a grateful man indeed, and will go to the ends of the earth for the man who has pardoned him.
  2. Since honesty rarely strengthens friendship, you may never know how a friend truly feels.
  3. There is almost a touch of condescencion in the act of hiring friends that secretly afflicts them. The injury will come out slowly: A little more honesty, flashes of resentment and envy here and there, and before you know it your friendship fades. The more favors and gifts you supply to revive the friendship, the less gratitude you receive.
  4. Ingratitude has a long and deep history. It has demonstrated its powers for so many centuries, that it is truly amazing that people continue to underestimate them.
  5. The problem with using or hiring friends is that it will inevitably limit your power. The friend is rarely the one who is most able to help you; and in the end, skill and competence are far more important than friendly feelings . . . keep friends for friendship, but work with the skilled and competent.
  6. A person who has something to prove will move mountains for you.
  7. Without enemies around us, we grow lazy. An enemy at our heels sharpens our wits . . .
  8. Never let the presence of enemies upset or depress you — you are far better off with a declared opponent or two than not knowing where your real enemies lie.
  9. A man of power . . .  often has dirty work that has to be done, but for the sake of appearances it is generally preferable to have other people do it for him; friends often do this best, since their affection for him makes them willing to take chances.

More From John O’Donohue

“The Banshee’s Grotto”

by Irish writer John O’Donohue, from his collection Conamara Blues:

The bean si is a solitary being . . . (Patricia Lysaght)
I heard her across the river crying: a neighbor was dying. (Paddy O’Donohue)
The tear is the anticipation of the eye’s future. (Joseph Brodsky)

The messenger comes from that distant place
Beside us where we cannot remember
How unlikely it is that we are here,
Keepers of interiors not our own,
Strangers in whom dawn and twilight are one.

When the black door opens, she often appears,
Keeping her distance from the house of grief,
Circling it with her cry until her tears
Have cut a path to the nerve of a name
That soon will stand alone on a headstone.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Diane Arbus in the Year 1928

from Diane Arbus: A Chronology, 1923 -1971, by Elisabeth Sussman and Doon Arbus:

In September, following in her brother’s footsteps, she enrolls at the Ethical Culture School on 63rd Street and Central Park West, a progressive private school begun by Felix Adler, founder of the Ethical Culture Society (1878). Originally known as The Workingman’s School, it emphasizes moral education, psychological development, teacher training, and the integration of “manual arts” with academics. The academic curriculum is designed to parallel the evolution of human civilization, from tree dwellers to contemporary society. Students in each grade study their subjects through the lens of a particular time period and culture.

The school is still in existence! Self just googled. Here’s the link. The name’s been modified but the address is the same.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Reading Poem (Next-to-Last Tuesday of September 2014)

An excerpt from “Nest”

by John O’Donohue (from the collection Conamara Blues)

 for J

I awaken

To find your head
Loaded with sleep,
Branching my chest.

Feel the streams
Of your breathing
Dream through my heart.

From the new day,
Light glimpses
The nape of your neck.

*     *     *     *

The book was given to self this spring by a priest in Dublin. She hadn’t seen him in almost 20 years. He used to work in the Philippines, then in the San Francisco Bay Area. He retired to Dublin. He’s 92 now and suffers from pleurisy. Yet he and a fellow priest managed to drive self from Dublin to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annamakherrig.

The trip was epic. The priests told self things like: a lir is a swan, a kill is a wood, a dun is a fort. The younger priest, self discovered, was from Cavan. (Which is why in her story “The Elephant”, just out in Your Impossible Voice, the main character, a ship’s captain, hails from Cavan.)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Eugene Gloria: “My Bad Uncle” (From HOODLUM BIRDS)

Eugene Gloria’s poems are surprisingly long. Self doesn’t usually read such long poems — they can go on, the dense text, for three or four pages (For the same reason, she doesn’t enjoy reading long stories — A short story should be able to do its work in 20 pages or less, if possible. Just her two cents). But what the heck, she brought this book with her to Southern California, and she’s in Venice Beach, which is all sun and bikers and surfers and funky eateries.

Here’s part of a poem she really likes (because after reading it she thought: “I know this person. Or plenty like him.”).

It’s from Gloria’s collection Hoodlum Birds (Penguin Books, 2006). Self bought her copy from City Lights after a reading in November 2006.:

“My Bad Uncle”

I saw him that night, his hands braceleted
behind his back — our neighborhood lit
like a bad uncle on a pint of scotch.

We all knew his sunnier days,
the perennial garden of his heart,
the shiny coins he doled out on his visits –

How he’d sacrifice himself to woman whims:
his mother’s, sisters’, wife’s, and lovers’. His gold Ford
Falcon that shuttled us back and forth to airports,

he was always available whenever we’d call.
He was a prince of the two-dollar cigarette variety,
a happy man in love.

But goodness is mostly work and hardly pays a thing
to the soul when it has to eat alone.
His own goodness would tell him to drive

all day to his fake errands, or circle round
and around in the El with a hideaway bag.
taking swigs between stops.

So one day when we weren’t thinking,
or were thinking only of ourselves,
he parked outside a Denny’s with his pistol

stuffed in his fanny pack. It was just a last-minute thing,
a quick bite then back to our house to sleep.
Takes very little to rouse the animal crouched in the garden:

The smirk of the local girl at the menu stand,
or the two boys spilling their Cokes on his new adidas.
A loud metal voice he seldom hears wells up

Venice Beach Boardwalk, 17 September 2014

Venice Beach Boardwalk, 17 September 2014

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

2nd Thursday of August (2014): A Poem By Joan McGavin

Met Joan McGavin two years ago, in Hawthornden (where she also met Jenny Lewis; and Alison Amend; and Hamish) and had many wonderful adventures which she looks back on with fondness.

Joan is expecting her first grandchild very soon. Self thought of her today while having her car washed: the Auto-Pride on Woodside Road has a great gift shop, with all manner of gift cards. Self chose one with a cheerful yellow envelope and a parade of babies on the front.

Joan is currently the Hampshire Poet of 2014 and is organizing the Winchester Poetry Festival and is mega-busy.

Her collection, Flannelgraphs, was published by Oversteps Books.

Self likes this poem in particular because she’s just finished writing a short story called “The Freeze.”

New Skills

for the globally warmer world
will include flood wading
taught by out of work
circus performers
ex-stilt walkers
acrobats and the like.

Anger management
will be increasingly called for
with levels of overcrowding
making those living
jowl by cheek
more and more likely
to go for the jugular
of their nearest neighbours.
Our tutors are tried and tested.

Tear control –
though not strictly part of our current
Adult Education provision –
is an old skill;
revision, one-day courses
will be offered
by our highly qualified staff
of tsunami victims.
Haitians.

Joan speaks so pointedly, though softly.

Stay tuned.

Poem for the First Monday of August (2014): Maiana Minahal

where is my country?

    by maiana minahal (Scroll to the bottom for a link to Maiana Minahal reading)

right now
in this country
someone wants me to answer
not here
just like last night
in this country
someone invited us to his party
with everyone else
but gave us the wrong directions
just like today
in this country
someone’s wife
hiding behind lacy white curtains
watches me and my brothers
certain that we want to break into her house

right now
someone’s crooked math
calculates how my foreign birth
proves my american roots shallow
twenty years long shallow
just like yesterday
someone’s denying eye
turned the page past my forefather’s obituary
the deceased american life
of another perpetual foreigner
just like last week
someone’s high school history book
forgets my filipino ancestors
started settling this country
in 1885
this history that
for one hundred years
for over one century
refused to see
their american births and deaths

right now
someone wants to take the words from my mouth
someone wants me to close my eyes
and stop listening

right now
i keep writing poems
my sisters and brothers and i
keep writing poems
for our brothers and sisters
for our children and grandchildren
in our country
my country
this country

The poem is from Maiana Minahal’s collection Sitting Inside Wonder (San Francisco:  Monkey Book Press, 2003).

Here’s Maiana, reading an excerpt from her poetry.  She was one of the contributors to the Filipino women’s anthology self co-edited with Virginia Cerenio, Going Home to a Landscape (Calyx Press, 2003).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Miguel Hernandez, NYRB/Poets, Poems Selected and Translated by Don Share

Received in the mail today, these treasures:

Arrived in the Mail Today: a poetry collection and PANK # 10

A poetry collection by Miguel Hernandez, translated from the Spanish by Don Share;  and PANK # 10

Self has blogged about Miguel Hernandez before, so his name should be at least passingly familiar to some readers.

A poem of his, translated by Don Share, has been taped above her desk for months.

Finally, she has his translated poetry in her hands! She reads the first poem, “A Man-Eating Knife.” Here’s how it begins:

A man-eating knife
with a sweet, murdering wing
keeps up its flight and gleams
all around my life.

A twitching metal glint
flashes quickly down,
pricks into my side,
and makes a sad nest in it.

My temples, flowery balcony
of a younger day,
are black, and my heart,
my heart is turning gray.

About the poet:  Miguel Hernandez Gilabert was born on October 30, 1910, to an impoverished family in the old Visigothic capital Orihuela, in the south of Spain.  Of seven children, Miguel was one of only four who survived.  His father raised goats and sheep, and for most of his life Miguel worked in the family business as a shepherd.

About the translator, Don Share:  Don Share is the senior editor of Poetry magazine.  His books of poetry include Squandermania, Union, and most recently, Wishbone.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Aimee Bender on Fairy Tales

These days, self’s reading is all over the map.  She’s tried so many times to finish reading Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scriptures, but despite him being such a beautiful writer, she can manage only a page a day.

Aside from that book, she’s also perusing her personal bookshelf.  The books she consults most often are lined up on the shelves in son’s room. Here’s an excerpt from one of those, Conversations With American Women Writers (University Press of New England, 2004).

It’s from an interview with Aimee Bender, author of the (magical realist?) short story collection The Girl In the Flammable Skirt.  The interviewer (Sarah Anne Johnson, one of the best) asks her about fairy tales. Self thinks about fairy tales a lot because she’s thinking of sending yet another piece to Café Irreal. And she’s also reading a book of Oscar Wilde fairy tales she picked up in Dublin.

I’ve heard you say that fairy tales present plot as metaphor.  What do you mean by that?

Mainly that a fairy tale character has no internal world, so the entire plot is a reflection of their internal life.  Or at least it can be interpreted that way, to good effect.  So suddenly the plot becomes wildly meaningful.  Instead of the truth of regular life, where I don’t believe in signs and symbols in the same way, in fairy tales everything is a sign for something, and the world is this strange, blinking ordered universe of actions.

How else do fairy tales inform your writing?

I feel like somewhere along the line I ate fairy tales. I ingested and digested them, and now they’re part of my whole person.  The way they move plot, the settings, the imagery.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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