Poetry Saturday: Laura Jean Baker

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Moon Over Park Avenue, New York, May 2016

Human Weather (an excerpt)

by Laura Jean Baker

August made a habit: warming our bodies
to the point of sacred.
On Dog Star days for twenty years
we loved to our dew point,
honeyed our moon,
and kneaded our bodies
into the wholesome shape of babies.
Girl-boy-girl
slid into the not-yet warmth
of every other May.

Better late than incomplete,
we made our last
between Autumn sheets; a boy named Frank,
he’d skid across the cusp of June and July.

The poem originally appeared in Calyx, a Journal of Art and Literature by Women, summer 2012.

About Laura Jean Baker: she earned her MFA from the University of Michigan. Her poetry, fiction, and memoir have been published in The Gettysburg Review, Connecticut Review, Cream City Review, Third Coast, Confrontation, and War, Literature, & the Arts.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Wondering About Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 3

It is sweltering here up in the Pasadena Hills, and self feels no inclination to go outside. In the daytime, Pasadena is a sleepy city. At night, everyone drives with fury almost, zipping past slower cars and switching lanes with abandon. Self finds it very disconcerting. Especially as her GPS Navigator tells her where to turn only after she reaches an intersection, at which point she is usually in the wrong lane.

So, no going outside today. She’s re-reading a Calyx poetry anthology, A Fierce Brightness: Twenty-Five Years of Women’s Poetry, which she stumbled across in her house two weeks ago. Here’s the first half of a poem by Sheila Demetre:

A Woman Is Running For Her Life

Under my ribcage a live coal
is singing. It wheedles from its hutch
of bone, glows blue in every kindling breath.

I need these bright shoes to burn up centuries
of inertia, of sickness holding me limp
with forehead ground against my tangled knees.

Celestial now, I’m all brush and sweep.
My elbows scribble, quickening the air I slog.
Don’t touch my sparks, my hieroglyphs of heat.

She absolutely loves the “hieroglyphs of heat.”

Tomorrow is Episode 3 of Game of Thrones. Does Euron die? Does Yara die? Does Ellaria Sand die? Does Olenna Tyrell die? Does Grey Worm die? If Grey Worm dies, will Missandei go crazy? Does Meera Reed die? If Meera dies, does Bran get to have a wheelchair at last? Do we see Gendry (finally? Cause the tweets are getting ridiculous) Do Brienne and Podrick get to spar again? Does Ned Stark come back from the dead? Does Stannis Baratheon come back from the dead? Will we see more of Ser Jorah’s horrible greyscale? Will Sam be retching again? Will Dany continue to be her insufferable self? Will Sansa be more of her cryptic self? Will Jaime continue to be disconcerted? Will Cersei continue to be sarcastic? Will we ever find out which skilled blacksmiths created the Giant Crossbow aka Dragonkiller? Will Arya Stark continue to evolve? Will Wun Wun come back as a wight?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J. M. W. Turner

Self began Franny Moyle’s hefty biography of Turner a few days ago.

It begins at the end of his life, which is a little sad. The man lived with his common-law wife in a grotty part of London and no one knew he was Turner. Neighbors thought he was a retired sea captain and called him “Piggy.”

Come to think of it, self hates any biography that begins at the end. She thinks it’s a little bit of a cheat. But that’s the only quibble she has about the book so far.

She was in London just a month ago. Can you believe it? She went to the British Museum and saw an exhibit, Places of the Mind, British Watercolour Landscapes, 1850 – 1950: celebrating “the work of British landscape artists during the hundred years following the death of J. M. W. Turner.”

She’s not reading the Turner biography because of that exhibit. She follows a strict order in her reading list. She read about the biography two years ago, and it took her all this time to work through the books that came before. It’s amazing that she’s reading about Turner when the watercolour exhibit is still so fresh in her mind.

More amazing: the Mendocino Art Center contacted her about submitting a description for the writing workshop she’s teaching there, early next year. The Art Center has a lot of visual artists, and that’s what it’s known for. There’s synchronicity in the universe now.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreadingpoetry: Paula Gunn Allen

An excerpt from Paula Gunn Allen’s Dear World, included in the Calyx anthology A Fierce Brightness: Twenty-Five Years of Women’s Poetry

Dear World:

Mother has lupus. She says that it’s a disease
of self-attack. That it’s like if a mugger broke
into your house and you called the cops
and when they came they beat up on you
instead of the mugger.

I say that makes sense. It’s in the blood,
in the dynamic. A halfbreed woman can hardly
do anything else but attack herself.
Her blood attacks itself. There are historical
reasons for this.

I know you can’t make peace
being Indian and white.

Paula Gunn Allen, who passed away in 2008, was Lakota, Sioux, and Lebanese. She edited several anthologies of critical studies and American Indian fiction. She published two collections of essays, two volumes of poetry — Skins and Bones; Life Is a Fatal Disease — and a novel, The Woman Who Owned the Shadows.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

For The Daily Post Photo Challenge COLLAGE: July 2017, So Vivid

Everything Summer 2017:

 

 

  • Discovered an old stash of photographs of Dearest Mum in her younger days.
  • Explored the inside of son’s closet in 2431 Hopkins Ave., Redwood City.
  • Rediscovered one of self’s most treasured books.
  • Had dinner with Jennie, son’s fiancée, at Himalayan Café in Old Town Pasadena.
  • Found artwork by son (when he was in grade school).
  • Got a Birthday present (for self) from son and Jennie: Nude Awakening (Self is so WOKE!).
  • Amused by a giant stag at the end of a driveway in the Pasadena hills.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Finishing BARBARIAN DAYS

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life is a 500-page memoir. Self has got to admire William Finnegan’s nerve.

The pace is unrelenting but it’s so well-written that self can’t stop.

Questions, as she races through the final hundred pages:

  • Does anyone die? Because Finnegan is so good at describing close calls: his own (of course he can’t die, lol. The author never does) as well as others. So she naturally assumes all these close calls have to culminate in a close call that ends up being a final call. So far, p. 466, no one has. Lucky!
  • When is Finnegan going to stop? When is he going to decide that he’s too old to surf? How does this story end?
  • Finnegan gets a plum job with The New Yorker. How? It’s never fully explained. Self sincerely wants to know how a committed surfer becomes a New Yorker writer, without giving up surfing. Or, surfing as much as he seems to do. One minute he’s traveling the world in the search for the perfect wave, the next he’s a writer for the New Yorker? Self wished there was a brief explanation of how he landed it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Collage: The Daily Post Photo Challenge, 13 July 2017

What is a collage? In the words of Michelle Weber over at The Daily Post, it is “an assortment, a collection, a hodgepodge.”

Here are a couple of shots that show a collage:

  • The printed dress. So fabulous. The wearer was self’s niece, Rina. We were having lunch at Boiling Crab:
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Rina Villanueva, July 2017

  • An assortment of reading matter: Everything from a Playbill to a book written by someone she used to know in college, Rick Manapat. The book, History of Negros, is about an island in the Philippines called Negros (The Spanish gave it the name, in the 16th century):
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What Self Found in Son’s Room: July 2017

  • A collection of roses on a hat at the recent exhibit “Degas, Impressionism and the Paris Millinery Trade” at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor:
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Woman’s Hat, circa 1910: The artist went by the name “Madame George”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

BARBARIAN DAYS: Sri Lanka

This memoir is like Jack Kerouac, but much much more enthralling. The author and his buddy, Bryan, go all around the world, living hand-to-mouth, and experiencing culture from the bottom. Only young Americans would be so laissez faire.

But, enough of digressions. Below, an excerpt from p. 289:

We pushed on, always edging west. We caught a ship from Malaysia to India, sleeping on the deck. We rented a little house in the jungle in southwest Sri Lanka, paying twenty-nine dollars a month . . .  I resumed work on my novel. We got Chinese bicycles, and each morning I rode mine, board under arm, down a trail to the beach, where a decent wave broke most days. We had no electricity and drew our water from a well. Monkeys stole unguarded fruit . . .  A madwoman lived across the way. She roared and howled day and night. The insects — mosquitoes, ants, centipedes, flies — were relentless.

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Night descends on a Philippine Sea.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading From the Book of AMAZING RARE THINGS: About An Amazing Naturalist, Maria Sibylla Merian

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How Self Reads: Everything In Front of the Couch

MARIA SIBYLLA MERIAN (1647 – 1717)

Born in Frankfurt, she “married one of her stepfather’s pupils and they moved to her husband’s native city of Nuremberg in 1670.  Five years later Merian published her first book, Florum Fasciculus primus (A first bunch of flowers), which she followed with two further parts in 1677 and 1680.” These were essentially pattern books “designed to serve as a model for embroidery . . . ”

“Merian’s first scientific work . . .  was her Raupenbuch, or more fully Der Raupen wunderbare Verwandelung und sonderbare Blumennahrung (The wondrous transformation of caterpillars and their remarkable diet of flowers) . . .  Each part comprised fifty plates showing caterpillars, chrysalises, butterflies and moths in their natural habitat, and represented the results of many years of observation.”

Her pioneering work was performed “between 1699 and 1701,” when she went “to the Dutch colony of Surinam in South America, where she studied the insects indigenous to the country,” resulting in the “magnificent work” Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium (The transformation of the insects of Surinam). It was “one of the most important works of natural history of its era . . .  ninety-five” of her watercolours on vellum are in the Royal Collection.

You can see some of her art here.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading BARBARIAN DAYS, p. 227

My fears were unnecessary. Nothing too heavy came. Instead, I caught and rode so many waves, through four or five distinct phases of the day, that I felt absolutely saturated with good fortune . . .

— William Finnegan, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

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Albion, California

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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