The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields”

Somehow, the theme of these “Strawberry Fields” lyrics feel soooo familiar:

Always, no sometimes, think it’s me
But you know I know when it’s a dream
I think I know I mean a “Yes” but it’s all wrong
That is I think I disagree
Let me take you down, cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Connected: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s WordPress Daily Post Photo Challenge is:  CONNECTED.

Which is fabulous, as self recently had occasion to quote E. M. Forster in one of her UCLA Extension Writing classes:

Only connect.

Only connect.

Only connect.

Two simple words which mean so much.

Here to celebrate connectedness:

(1) Self met the musical composers/performers Xenia Pestova and Ed Bennett at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre this past summer. Here they are rehearsing a new piece:

Xenia Pestova and Ed Bennett rehearsing a new piece at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, this past summer

Xenia Pestova and Ed Bennett rehearsing a new piece at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, this past summer.

(2) Language connects people. Here, a snap of a page of the Oxford English Dictionary, which self found in her cottage at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig. She kept the dictionary open to the page defining “circumlocution” (a most fabulous word):

The Oxford English Dictionary in Self's Cottage at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig

The Oxford English Dictionary in Self’s Cottage at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig

(3) The Banff Writing Studio (April/May 2015) brought together 24 poets and prose writers for several weeks: This was the official portrait, self’s picture of a picture. Since she was the shortest writer in the program, she was in the front row (in pink and red). The writers were brought to Banff to work on book-length projects. When she arrived in Banff, she had 60 not-so-good pages of her novel-in-progress. When she left, she had 100 pages. Today, she got her manuscript up to 166 pages! Amazesauce!!!

2015 Banff Writing Studio Official Portrait: a picture of a picture, BLURRED!

2015 Banff Writing Studio Official Portrait: a picture of a picture, BLURRED!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: 3rd Monday of August 2015

Step one, you say, We need to talk.
He walks, you say, Sit down,
It’s just a talk.
He smiles politely back at you,
You stare politely right on through.
Some sort of window to your right.
He goes left and you stay right.

— The Fray, “How To Save a Life”

Self loves these lyrics. They are so, so — insouciant? Nonchalant? Diffident? What?

Dare self say — American?

That’s an entire flash fiction. Right there.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: 3rd Sunday of August 2015

Listening to The Fray, which in self’s mind will always conjure memories of San Luis Obispo, California.

Because that is where self first heard their songs.

I found God on the corner of First and Amistad
Where the west was all but won.
All alone, smoking his cigarette.
I said, “Where you been?”
He said, “Ask anything.”

— The Fray, “You Found Me”

#BackInTheEighties (Inspired Tweets)

#BackInTheEighties on Twitter last night, some good ones:

  • Wore floppy bows under suits * NO REALITY TV
  • Winona Ryder + “Heathers” * Jem (Not Carstairs)
  • Leg Warmers ala “Flashdance” * Cabbage Patch Kids!
  • M. C. Hammer and Vanilla Ice * Axl Rose + Guns’n Roses + “Sweet Child o’ Mine”
  • NO Kardashians. Whatsoever * NO Beverly Hills Housewives, either.
  • Shelley Long + “Cheers” * “Taxi” + Andy Kaufman + Danny DeVito
  • “Body Heat” + Kathleen Turner + William Hurt * William Hurt + “The Big Chill”
  • “Desperately Seeking Susan” + Madonna + Rosanna Arquette * Molly Ringwald + “Sixteen Candles”
  • “The Breakfast Club” made detention soooo exciting! * And everyone knew who to call.
  • Nastassja Kinski + python * Valerie Bertinelli + cuteness
  • Big Hair + Perms
  • Miami was kept safe by two dudes wearing pink suits and no socks.
  • Smart drones could go around corners — so sayeth Wayne on SNL.
  • 1st Gulf War “Shock and Awe” + Schwarzkopf
  • Everything was soooo tubular!
  • “Dressed to Kill” + Brian De Palma + Angie Dickinson’s million-dollar gams * We all tuned in to watch “Dynasty” and “Dallas” and everyone wanted to know WHO KILLED J. R. EWING
  • “Dirty Dancing” + Patrick Swayze + mullet
  • Siskel & Ebert did the thumbs-up/ thumbs-down on movies.
  • “Back to the Future” + Michael J. Fox * “Cagney & Lacey”
  • “Three’s Company” + Suzanne Somers + John Ritter
  • Self heard about AIDS for the first time.

Stay tuned.

The Journey of Emigrant Women/ Csilla Tolday and Fil Campbell

Self visited Rostrevor because Csilla Toldy was performing in the Fiddlers Green Festival.

Csilla, a poet from Hungary, and Fil Campbell, a songwriter who grew up in Belleck, on the Donegal border, were telling stories.

Csilla came through the “green border” at 18.

Fil grew up during The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The two women came together, decided to tell their stories as layered narrative: Csilla’s poetry and short prose, Fil’s memoir and her folk songs. The result was a book, The Emigrant Women’s Tale (Lapwing Publications, Belfast, 2015) that comes with a CD.

Yesterday’s performance: What. An. Event. Self can’t even.

And it happened in Rostrevor.

The two women are amazing.

Rostrevor is amazing.

Also, and self didn’t know this before: C. S. Lewis was born in Belfast; Northern Ireland was his spiritual home.

In Rostrevor there is a trail called The Narnia Trail.


Start of The Narnia Trail, Rostrevor, Northern Ireland

Start of The Narnia Trail, Rostrevor, Northern Ireland

How can one resist?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poetry Monday: “There for six months”

A student wrote this years ago, shortly after the first Gulf War (You know, the “shock and awe” war). The class was Composition & Rhetoric. The assignment was for students to write an autobiographical essay. But self didn’t have the heart to grade the student down for thinking outside the box, especially after he told her it was the first poem he ever wrote.

She really liked the piece. Dear blog readers, the fact that this piece got written at all is something of a miracle.

She was reminded of it by a poem in J Journal’s current issue.

After The Hurt Locker, after Zero Dark Thirty, after American Sniper, self finds the perspective of the poem very refreshing:

There For Six Months

Underneath Pink Floyd’s alluring rhapsody
the phone was ringing,
Hey you, out there on your own,
sitting naked by the phone, would you touch me
and my older brother is telling me that
come January, he’ll be in Iraq,
serving his time of duty for six months
in the war
see also: abuse of power, see also: corpses

Meanwhile, people all around are nestled away in their cozy,
unobtrusive shells: human anti-socialism,
one thousand and one bloody bodies, our own an afterthought.
Warming cups of soup, chicken-noodle flavor,
and stacks of crackers on a folded napkin, for dipping.

Hey you, don’t help them to bury the light,
don’t give in without a fight
And my brother is telling me that if he makes it back
there’s a good chance he’ll be based in the west coast,
see also: home, see also: happiness
There’s shake and shiver undertones in his voice
when he keeps saying, Don’t worry,
they trained me how to live, but all I can wonder is
if they trained him how to die.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Afloat: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is AFLOAT.

The pictures self chose are from: Venice Beach, a trip she took with Angela Narciso Torres in November; the park two blocks from her house in Redwood City, which holds free weekly concerts every Wednesday throughout the summer; and the Cambridge River, on a visit self paid to ex-Assumption High School classmate Doris Duterte Stanley.

Venice Beach, November 2014

Paragliding: Venice Beach, November 2014

Concert in Stafford Park, Summer 2014

Concert in Stafford Park, Redwood City, CA: Summer 2014

Men's Crew, Cambridge, May 2014

Men’s Crew, Cambridge, May 2014

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Ephemera 3: The Trips Self Takes

The WordPress Photo Challenge this week is EPHEMERAL

“So looking forward to seeing the fleeting moments you’ll capture.”

Here are a few from self’s trip to the East Coast, a few weeks ago. As dear blog readers can see from these pictures, when self is on the move, she can’t be bothered with such things as alignment.

Taking the Bolt Bus from Boston Into Manhattan, mid-March

Taking the Bolt Bus from Boston Into Manhattan, mid-March 2015

Landscapes Still Blighted With Winter

Landscapes Still Blighted With Winter, March 2015

The occasion for self’s trip east was the performance, by the Symphony New Hampshire, of Drew Hemenger’s The Marife Suite, which was based on a novella self wrote, Marife.

New Hampshire was cold and wet, the night of the performance, on March 14.

Drew's brother drove us to the concert. This is what New Hampshire looked like that night, seen through the car windows.

Drew’s brother drove us to the concert. This is what New Hampshire looked like that night, seen through the car windows.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Self Wrote the Libretto for a Two-Act Opera!

Self wrote the libretto for a two-act opera.

Self doesn’t watch opera. But she is never one to let a little thing like not knowing anything stop her from writing!

Self’s composer/collaborator, Drew Hemenger, is sick, as self was before she left California. A few shots of chili-laced Szechuan soup near Harvard Square and she’s all better!

The world premiere of The Marife Suite is this Saturday, in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Boston is freezing cold. Self tried walking around Harvard Square this morning. CRAAAAP! She didn’t even make it five blocks. The wind and — ugh, ugh, ugh! Lips are chapped! Yikes! Hands look like wrinkled prunes!

She’s switching all her fan fiction (the ones that had Peeta as a Harvard undergrad) to Palo Alto.

So glad. Just so glad she chose to study in Palo Alto, where giant palm trees line the broad avenues etc. May the Heavens preserve us, she just can’t take this bitter Boston cold.

Self brought with her the libretto for The Making of the Representative for Planet 8, the opera by Philip Glass and Doris Lessing. Believe it or not, reading this libretto, six years ago, was what started self thinking that maybe, just maybe, she could pull this one off. Maybe she could actually write a full-length opera.

Lessing’s libretto combines two of self’s most enduring interests: science fiction and terse language. Here’s an excerpt from Act II Scene 4:


The people stand huddled together, waiting. Beside them is a great heap of insulating material.

The People (variously)
Like coats for houses.
In this new time of ours buildings must wear coats and skins.
Like us.

They sink down into the snow. Sit listlessly. Some go off to sleep.

Reading the above, self wonders how much of her story The Freeze, the one that’s coming out in Bluestem Magazine (It’ll be on sale at the AWP Book Fair. Yeessss!), consists of lingering echoes from The Representative for Planet 8. In self’s story, the temperature drops overnight, everything stops working, every living thing dies — except for huddled bands of starving people, who decide to head south.

Her story follows one intrepid band (teen-agers and one very old woman) who decide to follow Highway 1 to Mexico.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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