Epic vacation

I decided to go to the Homestead for a while, visiting the ancestors. Ha ha. It’s been fun to wake without an alarm and to devote entire hours – hours! – to reading.  I consider it a wonderful setting for writer’s summer camp.

There’s the familiar sights and sounds of summer, whether taking walks down the dirt road or watching summer sports. It didn’t take more than a day before I felt an epic poem coming on, a la The Song of Hiawatha:

By the shores of Wiggins Lake,
in the big brown stuff’d recliner,
rested the warrior, The Old Man,
pointing with the TV clicker,
shouting at the TV, angry,
angry at the lousy Tigers.

Unfortunately, my father didn’t like the reference to “The Old Man” – a proud warrior’s title, I thought. I suppose the Detroit Tigers won’t like it, either. Everyone’s a critic.

BOOK REVIEW: Cool Melons – Turn to Frogs!

Gollub, Matthew.  Illustrated by Kazuko G. Stone. Calligraphy by Keiko Smith. Cool Melons-Turn to Frogs!: The Life and Poems of Issa. New York: Lee & Low, 1998.

This is a beautiful book, even for children who aren’t fond of poetry. Matthew Gollub tells the story of the haiku master Issa, interweaving translations of 33 haiku. The narrative creates a framework for understanding, especially the plaintive poems written when Issa keenly felt the loss of his mother.

“Motherless sparrow,/ come play/ with me.” Continue reading

Book Review: Three Haiku books for children

Confession: When I get stuck while writing – such as 400 words into a scene that I realize doesn’t move the plot – I have a couple pick-me-ups. One is to pick up a dry academic book and read until my brain screams for creative release.* The other is to read a children’s book.

While perusing my library’s catalogue, I came across a title I hadn’t seen since I was little: Flower Moon SnowA Book of Haiku by Kazue Mizumura. I requested a couple contemporary haiku books, too, which made an interesting contrast. Continue reading

M.L. Liebler, my second poetry teacher

“I do not come from an intellectual family. (…) There was not poetry read around the dinner table, and they didn’t take me to the library. The point is: If I got into poetry, then it’s accessible to everybody. That’s been my mission since I was a teenager: To try to get people to see that poetry is more important than people think it is.

At work on Friday, I walked into the lounge and saw Mike’s staring up from cover of the arts section of The Detroit Free Press (aka Freep).  I haven’t seen him in years, but he looks the same: white beard, black beret, keen eyes behind dark-framed glasses.

How nostalgic! And serendipidous, considering the rut I’ve been in. Continue reading

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Kondo, Marie. Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, The: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Trans. Cathy Hirano. Berkley: Ten Speed, 2011. Print.

Summary: A cheery little book that walks the reader through culling one’s belongings

Now that I’ve had a chance to “do the book” aka the KonMari Method, I can review it. It’s quirky, written like a conversation sprinkled with anecdotes. I enjoyed it, particularly Kondo’s folding method, which helped me organize La Casa de Tontería’s  linen closet of doom. (However, she did a poor job of explaining it. See related link below.)

I’ve read many books on organization (not to mention having time-management seminars and work-efficiency training – oh, the corporate world!)  Yet I still found interesting variations on the theme.

Sort By Category

Forget moving clockwise through a room or tackling one space in a weekend. Kondo calls for dealing with one category at a time, starting with clothes and ending with sentimental items.

Reading this, I felt nostalgic for the days of spring-cleaning my bedroom, where everything but my bicycle “lived” with me. I used to empty my closet and dresser onto the bed, try everything on, and ta-da! only the best were kept.

Kids will love this, and her Rule of Thumb regarding papers: Throw them out!

However, adults have to hunt for like items all over, including storage areas for off-season clothes. Kondo is tough about getting  everything from the category.

“You can forget about any clothes you find after this. They’ll automatically go into the discard pile.” I let them (my clients) know I’m quite serious. I have no attention of letting them keep anything found after the sorting is done.

Yikes! Long-time readers will understand how I felt when I decided to use the KonMari Method on books.

Everybody Thing Get On the Floor! (Walking Dinosaurs and Shaking One’s Booty are optional)

Yes, the floor. My klutziness instantly recognized a good way to trip and die!  Imagine the challenge it poses for parents of small children. Not to mention cluttered people already have difficulty clearing floorspace.

However,  Kondo insists on it.  Items in their natural environment (shelf, closet) “remain unseen, just like a praying mantis still in the grass, merging with its surroundings” (p. 87). She notes that if books are already stacked on the floor, moving them to another location will allow the tidier to really see them. Continue reading

Poetry recitation where people are…

I’m in the throes of spring cleaning the linen closet, but I wanted to give my readers something nice:  Gary Dexter’s piece about reciting poetry in the streets.  He writes:

“Poetry is strong stuff: sometimes I wonder whether I’m really licensed to deal in it. Words, the right words, can make people cry and laugh and fling their arms around you. If your aim is to get hugs in the street from complete strangers, you can do no better than recite Shakespeare.” 

I’m saddened by the tl;dr crowd (too long; didn’t read), which seems to grow in number. Not to mention, I have yet to meet a person under 40 who has a poem or two memorized. But Mr. Dexter’s account gives me some hope that there are young people who are open to poetry.

4th Day of Christmas

Back home again. Didn’t really want to leave my parents’ house – I even put up with The Rack (also known as the guest futon) – but the forecast calls for freezing rain today. So I got on the road after breakfast in a local restaurant and the final search for personal effects.

It was the shortest drive I’ve taken between my birthplace (aka La Cuña) and La Casa de Tontería. Usually it takes 3.5 hours, not including those time distortions caused by seeing the flashback of my life – and that of the driver behind me if it’s a life-flashing double-feature – when an SUV decides to switch to my lane without warning. Continue reading

Merry Christmas!

From my treasure book, here’s a poem by Dunstan Thompson:

Fragment for Christmas

Dear Lord, and only ever faithful friend,

For love of us rejected, tortured, torn –

And we were there; who on the third day rose

Again, and still looks after us; descend

Into each wrecked unstable house; be born

In us, a Child among Your former foes.


Treasure-hunting success!

For more than a year, I’ve been trying to track down the work of a once-acclaimed, then obscure American poet: Dunstan Thompson.  It started when I read one of his poems that was re-published in a review of Dunstan Thompson: On the Life and Work of a Lost American Master.  I think that was 2011 or 2012.

I found a copy of his 1943 collection called simply Poems. Back then, he wrote in a densely-packed web of images which were beautiful but not quite what drew me to his work.  I also picked up his novel The Dove with the Bough of Olive and a travelogue The Phoenix in the Desert which were positively inexpensive.

But I figured what I really wanted was his later work, published posthumously as Poems 1950-1974, called “The Red Book” because of its dust cover. In July I heard that The St. Austin Review might have copies of it, so I contacted someone there. After assuring me that he’d let me know when he spoke to the supplier, I heard nothing and follow-up inquiries went unanswered. That was in August. Continue reading