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.

The Year 2015: Very Stream-of-Consciousness

First Margarita Donnelly Prize for Prose. Mary Gaitskill. New York, New York. Carnegie Hall and Dearest Mum (Last night, front row seat, Trio Solisti. They killed Brahms. Absolutely killed it. Three standing ovations. From a New York audience. No joke). Florence & Venice with Niece. “Crackers” in Crab Orchard Review. Fan Fiction (self’s WIP: about Peeta as a prostitute!!!) garners more hits. London-Ireland-York (the last for the first time). Central Park walks. Middlemarch (swoon). Writers Group meet-ups. Twitter Hashtag Games & Folklore Thursday. Victorian Steampunk and Shadowhunters. Believing in dragons. Stay tuned.

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Carnegie Center’s Weill Hall, Before the Trio Solisti Concert Last Night

Victory: WordPress Daily Post Photo Challenge

From Krista on The Daily Post:

  • . . . I got the chance to test myself, and this time, I won.
  • In your photo this week, focus on the win, the victory — that moment of glory and pride you’ll remember forever.

Wow, what a grrrreat theme!

Looking back on 2015, here are three pictures that represent self’s small victories:

Self was in Florence! As 2015 began, she could never have imagined she’d end the year going there. And having tremendous fun. And loving the city. Here’s a picture of her, on the last night of her trip:

You did it, self! You did it! You accepted your niece's invitation, decided you did have the energy for just one more trip, and ended up falling in love with the city and its people!

You did it, self! You did it! You accepted your niece’s invitation, decided you did have the energy for just one more trip, and ended up falling in love with the city and its people!

Self never imagined, either, that she’d be back in Venice. But here she and her niece were, getting off at the train station in Ferrovia, and waiting for a vaporetto to take them to San Marco Square:

Ferrovia, Venice: All trains to Venice stop here. The last time self was in Venice was spring 2013, with Margarita Donnelly, her friend and mentor at Calyx Press. Margarita passed away December 2014.

Ferrovia, Venice: All trains to Venice stop here. The last time self was in Venice was spring 2013, with Margarita Donnelly, her friend and mentor at Calyx Press. Margarita passed away December 2014.

The one day she and her niece spent in Venice (Only two hours by fast train from Florence), the sun was shining, and San Marco Square was thronged with people. What grace! What a blessing! To be there again, and happy!

San Marco Square, Venice, Saturday Afternoon, November 2015

San Marco Square, Venice, Saturday Afternoon, November 2015

Of course she has to go back. Of course she will go back. She didn’t love Venice when she left in 2013. Or maybe she loved it but she didn’t know it yet.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Announcing: The First Annual Margarita Donnelly Prize for Prose Writing (Deadline for Entries: Sept. 30, 2015)

Margarita Donnelly's Last AWP, Seattle 2014. Pictured: Margarita and Brenna Crotty, Calyx Senior Editor

Margarita Donnelly’s Last AWP, Seattle 2014. Pictured: Margarita and Brenna Crotty, Calyx Senior Editor

She was indomitable, that is all.

Met her first at: Bookstore in the Mission

Self read her story “Ginseng.”

Margarita went up to self afterwards and asked, “You got more like those?”

(Yes, sitting in a file cabinet; Four years past the Stanford University Creative Writing Program, and self was such a coward that she never sent the manuscript out:  WHEEE!)

What better way to honor her legacy than a prose contest? Calyx, the press Margarita co-founded, launched the Prize on July 1. Here’s the link to their website. The contest is open to both fiction and nonfiction.

  • Deadline for Entries: Sept. 30, 2015
  • Reading Fee:  $20 (check payable to Calyx)
  • Maximum Length of piece:  10,000 words

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Pile of Stuff, Pile of Stuff, When Will You End?

When self’s inspiration for her fan fiction dries up, she has a very convenient pile of unread magazines very close by.

This pile reached previously unheard-of heights during Year 2014, because self was so often traveling (by choice: All of self’s trips are self-imposed)

Now to The Economist of June 14 – 20, 2014.

There is a humongous article titled What Is the Deadliest Sin?

Answers are given by seven intellectuals, ranging from a “former Bishop of Edinburgh” to a “conservative MP.”

Self finds the answer of Camila Batmanghelidjh, Founder of Kids Company (a support organization for vulnerable children) most interesting. She picked SLOTH as the Deadliest Sin (After reading her answer, self is inclined to agree)

She states: “The sin of sloth is not caring, not noticing, not doing.”

Her explanation begins:

We all suffer from moments of duvet apathy, when we can’t get it together to lift ourselves out of bed. In small doses, sloth is survivable. But on a national scale it can be lethal. Perhaps the contemporary word for sloth would be “complacency” : the condition in which we don’t aspire to greather things. I’m not talking about material enhancement, but an inner lack of ambition or responsibility for yourself and for others — a lethargy of the spirit.

Self is reminded of her good friend Margarita Donnelly, who passed away just before Christmas.

She founded Calyx, the oldest women’s press in America (Self would dearly love to say she started it with a credit card, but she’s afraid her memory might be faulty on this point)

Margarita was the Anti-Sloth. She was that strong voice that was never afraid to take on someone or something if she thought the cause was justified. And self got the full-on exposure to the Margarita Anti-Sloth when she spent time with her in Venice, in 2013.

Self must admit that a 24/7 exposure to such a dynamo did sometimes make her feel like hiding under a rock. Alas, Margarita would not brook self hiding under a rock. Self just had to face Margarita (and Venice) the hard way. Full-on, eyes wide open, muscles flexed in readiness.

Because, self is a product of an island culture, and if given the choice she would willingly spend whole days in the lobby of the Danieli (packed to the gills with YOUNG Asian tourists who arrived with matching Louis Vuitton luggage) sipping Pernod.

But instead she was with Margarita in a small apartment in Ca’ San Toma, and she got lost every single day. And every single street had a bridge with steps going up (as well as steps going down, let’s be reasonable, but the steps going up were extremely challenging, especially when self had no idea where she was going). And when the heavens opened up and it poured rain, self was never within sight of an awning. Never.

Which is why she just had to take off for Trieste one day. Assured Margarita she’d be back, and then lost herself in a very nice B & B next to a restaurant in a convento rustica/rustico, where little red mopeds could be rented by the day, and self was never lost because she hardly moved from the quay. Trieste will always be, in self’s mind, that cocoon where complacency trumped everything else. She can just see herself fleeing there when she’s ready to have a nervous breakdown.

You know, this is turning out to be quite a funny post (as well as a very long one) and self figures that must be a good thing.

She almost made it to Oregon to catch Margarita on her very last day on this earth, but she missed her and instead got to speak to Margarita’s daughter, Angelique, who told her there would be no funeral, Margarita had a “celebration of life” in November, right after Thanksgiving. And self now recalls that Margarita herself called to tell her about this celebration of life, but because self was in that moment in a state of high-functioning complacency, she got her ticket for AFTER the holidays. And totally missed the boat.

But, you know, Venice. She did get to tell Margarita this astounding thing: “I think I will go back to Venice. Want to come with?”

Made Margarita laugh. The week before she passed away.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Still Further Scenes From Self’s Multi-Chapter Hunger Games AU Fan Fiction

Self has no idea what is happening. A week ago, she had only 9 chapters written. Now, she has 15. Ever since she got the news of Margarita Donnelly’s passing, on Christmas Eve, she’s just been writing (and not just her fan fiction) like blazes. Writing’s always been how self chooses to deal.

In this chapter, Peeta returns home to 12 after a prolonged stay in the Capitol:

The train comes to a shuddering stop.

Haymitch is waiting on the platform.

The older Victor isn’t required in the Capitol. He’s become unsightly, an embarrassment. On the rare occasions when he shows up in the Capitol, he spends most of his time playing poker in the Capitol Casino. He gambles and loses and no one stops him because he’s still wealthy and there is a lot of money for him left to lose. Money’s no use, after all, unless it’s out of a Victor’s pocket and spread around.

There’s a small band waiting on the station platform. As soon as Peeta exits the train, it strikes up a tinny tune, the musicians giving an extra flourish to their motions as soon as they see Peeta turn his head in their direction.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Birthday Resolutions, July 14, 2012

Resolution # 1:   Self will see “Magic Mike” today, and if she likes it, she will not apologize for seeing it again. (And, several hours later, on another hot Friday, self has only this to say:  Channing, he really has the moves!  And Alex Pettyfer has a very, well, pretty face.  Self caught a screening at the downtown Century 20, which had it in one of the smallest theaters.  What’s up with that??? The entire audience was female, including two white-haired ladies sitting right next to self, who about halfway through the movie began to lean forward in their seats)

Resolution # 2:   She will only let the finest food known to man to pass between her lips, for twenty-four hours, starting at 12 midnight tonight.  “Finest food” would include some type of champagne, perhaps some Crouching Tiger viands (like the extremely spicy lamb dish self tried a couple of months ago).  She will imbibe mojitos from sun-up to sunset.  She will eat in Barbara’s Fishtrap, for the first time in five years!!!

Self is not sure how many of these goals she will actually achieve, since she is scheduled to be on a panel of Filipino writers at the John Steinbeck Center in Salinas, tomorrow.  She might have to take a rain-check on some of them.  So perhaps self should set a new deadline.  Here goes:

By Tuesday, July 17, self should have:  1) drunk very fine expensive champagne; 2) imbibed many mojitos; 3) digested the spiciest lamb dishes on the Crouching Tiger menu; 4) eaten scallops at Barbara’s Fishtrap in Half Moon Bay.

Most important of all:  Sell will not allow even one iota of misery to creep into her day.

The best thing anyone could do for self on her birthday is to donate money to women’s publisher Calyx.  Even if it’s as little as $5.  Puh-leaze!  Self could write a whole separate post on how Calyx saved her life.  How they published Going Home to a Landscape, one year when the budget was so tight, all they could afford to publish was ONE BOOK!

Here’s a partial list of other notable books/women writers published by Calyx over the years:

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Talked to Margarita, Happy Happy Joy Joy

Margarita Donnelly, founder of Calyx — nothing in the world sounds as good as hearing her laugh.  Self called her today, and found out that the memoir self and others have been urging Margarita to write, for years and years, has just gotten a tremendous boost by the discovery —  of course in an attic, probably even a mice-infested attic (Now why, self, would you think about mice just because you keyed in the word “attic” a few moments ago, and now where do you think you are going with this you started out writing about Margarita, remember???)

Oh yes, the memoir in the attic, very yellowed, nibbled at the edges, turns out to be about Margarita’s memories of her mother, who died too young.  And now an agent is interested in helping Margarita get her memoir published, and there is no doubt at all in self’s mind that Margarita’s memoir will be an instant feminist classic!

And then self found out that Margarita has a plan to go to Venice early next year, and before self had fully realized what she was doing she found herself blurting out:  “Venice is great!  Can I join you?”

And Margarita said, “Of course you can join me!”

And now self has to figure out how to break the news to the husband, but as usual self gets ahead of herself, Margarita might just have been thinking aloud.

So, hmmm, what else was important about this week?

Marc who cuts her hair was wondering aloud if he should invest in Facebook shares.  Until that moment, self had never thought of Marc as the investing type.  Shows you how easy it is to misconstrue people!  Just because a guy is 30 years old, good-looking, and works in a beauty salon does not mean he can’t be interested in Facebook!  Especially Facebook shares!

Yesterday, Tiffany, the woman who’s been applying this wonderful gel-like nail polish on self’s hands and feet for months, suddenly up and asked self if it was true that the Philippines was the best place to get sex change operations.  Picture this:  dear blog readers.  It was 2 p.m., on a warm day in Redwood City, California.  The sun was shining.  All sorts of people were passing by the nail salon:  teen-agers, women in yoga attire (There is a yoga studio right next door, in the Andrew Building —  self kids you not, the name of the building is on a sign, that’s how self knows the building has the same name as her son), business people out on lunch break, even firemen (There is a fire station nearby).  And suddenly, this gorgeous young woman who self has known for several years decides the time has come to ask self about —  sex change operations in the Philippines ???

“Hmmm,” self replied.  “I don’t know much about sex change operations in the Philippines, but I do know you can have plastic surgery for something like $3,000 US.”

“Really?” Tiffany exclaimed.  “How much does plastic surgery cost here?”

And self, really reaching now, said “$10,000 US!” (which is probably way off the mark, self’s never been interested in this particular form of surgery)

But OK, she can pretend to be an expert, for Tiffany’s benefit, that is.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Hey, You!

Yes, you!  Dear blog reader!  Whose impeccable taste is affirmed daily when you check in with Kanlaon (i.e., this blog, not the volcano, silly.  The volcano’s on the other side of the world, and self chose it to name her blog after because —  well, because she has a thing for mountains and volcanoes, who knows why.  It’s elemental)

Well, self wants to call dear blog readers’ attention to an excellent interview with Calyx Senior Editor Becky Olson.

It’s on bibliobitch (Way to appropriate the derogatory, oh fab bibliobitch editors!  Hear, hear!), which is the publisher of Bitch Magazine (See above parenthetical remark), and if you want to know how Becky and staff are handling the transition from founder Margarita Donnelly (Self’s Most Awesome Second Mother, after Dearly Beloved Doreen Fernandez) to the current crop of kick-ass women writers, read this now!

Here’s what Calyx did to add to the cultural landscape:

They published The Forbidden Stitch, the first Asian American women’s anthology in the United States.

They published Nobel prizewinner and newly departed poet Wislawa Szymborska, way back in 1980, when she wasn’t even Wislawa Szymborska.

Heck, they even published Barbara Kingsolver when she wasn’t even Barbara Kingsolver!

They published Chitra Divakaruni’s Black Candle, when she was still writing poetry.

They published the Filipino women’s anthology GOING HOME TO A LANDSCAPE!  Which self co-edited with Virginia Cerenio!  (And that volume included:  Shirley Ancheta, Arlene Biala, Michelle Bautista, Conchitina Cruz, Luisa Igloria, Reine Melvin, Maiana Minahal, Angela Narciso Torres, Barbara Jane Reyes, Veronica Montes, Maloy Luakiun, and so many many other women who feared they weren’t “really” writers because they hadn’t any publications yet)

They published self’s first book, Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila!

They published M. Evelina Galang!

Really, where would self be today if not for Calyx?  Puh-lease check out their website and if you can find it in your heart to dig out a little contribution (for the furtherance of women’s art and all future women geniuses) please do so.

Self will leave you with an excerpt from a Szymborska poem:

I believe in the refusal to take part.
I believe in the ruined career.
I believe in the wasted years of work.
I believe in the secret taken to the grave.
These words soar for me beyond all rules
without seeking support from actual
examples.
My faith is strong, blind, and without
foundation.

Beautiful. Challenging. Brave. That’s Calyx.

Stay tuned.

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