Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

I just finished reading “The Crying Tree,” and I have a few words to say

January 13, 2010

Actually, I’m reconsidering this as I write. What I was thinking about saying sounds a little mean, even to me, so I think I’ll just say this: It’s a first novel and it got finished and published, two pluses right there. It’s a decent read. I would probably consider reading another of Rakha’s books when she publishes one.

It’s unfortunate (for comparison purposes) that I just finished Prince of Players, a rather extraordinary biography of Edwin Booth. Ben’s been going through some old books, and he came down with this one in his hands. “I know you like Shakespeare,” he said (this is somewhat typical of his perception of my engagement with literature), “so you might find this interesting.”

Booth was the older brother of John Wilkes B., whom every Anerican older than 35 has heard of (somewhere in there they quit teaching American history, or at least the unexpurgated version of it). But few outside the realms of literature or drama have heard of Edwin. Yet in his day he was the premier American man of the classical theater. He had a career that spanned decades, and even in his waning days could draw crowds who brought their grandchildren to see the “great man before he died.”

This book was fabulously engaging. I’m sure it’s many years out of print (one of the advantages to hanging on to a lot of old books is that you never know when something will tweak your fancy, or tweak someone else’s), but if you can find it somewhere, I give it five stars.

But I’m afraid The Crying Tree suffered a bit by comparison. Dang it, I said I wasn’t going to be mean, but Rakha dragged out a lot of cliches to assemble into a plot. If you didn’t know very early in the book that the son was gay but nobody else seemed to know it, you just weren’t paying attention. She also relied very heavily on physical description of her characters, which I didn’t care for at all. That may be a personal prejudice, but I find myself often not caring what someone looks like (unless there is some gross deformity that has an impact on the action), and all those print dresses and ravishing locks really slow the action down. A man making a joke about his thinning hair tells me a lot more about the man than someone pointing out that the man’s hair is thinning.

But it was a noble effort, and I’m willing to give her another chance. She’s very young and can only get better, unless the success of this book convinces her that she’s already cracked the code. Which, IMNHO, she hasn’t.

On a lighter note (well maybe not lighter but more cheerful), I talked with an old friend last night, an Army buddy of Ben’s. We haven’t spoken for months and months, but we had a terrific visit. He said he went this year to a 101st Airborne reunion and took my book of poetry with him. When he got his five minutes in the spotlight, he read the assembled three of the Vietnam poems in the book. He said a 93-year-old man cried because “someone got it.” Made my night. . .

And I got a note from a professor at Marylhurst noting that the bookstore was down to one copy of my book and I should get them some more. I will do so.

Advertisements

Today. . .Don’t want to get out of the habit

December 29, 2009

Sitting here wishing I had a) trimmed my fingernails and b) got things cleared away enough to use a regular mouse. I hate those little slide pads, and Windows 7 seems to keep making decisions about what it thinks I want to do. But I’ve been reluctant to disassemble the clutter of old computers that eats up my upstairs desk until I was sure everything was working, Tomorrow I’ll try to set up the new wireless printer. Then I might get my office back.

English-style meat pie in the oven, and I’ve 15 minutes or so before I have to go feed the fire. Ben’s good about keeping it fed, but when I’m baking I prefer to do it myself. I don’t know if the English actually eat anything like this or not, but that’s what we call it–meat and veggies baked in a crispy crust. I learned it from a crazy woman who grew up in Corvallis but learned it from her English mother-in-law. Oops, there’s the bell.

OK, to quote Tom Paul Glaser, I’ve “put another log on the fire.” The pie is starting to look pretty darned good and smell even better. So I’ve a few more minutes, anyway.

We’ve had some pretty massive cold weather. The Big Elk froze clear across for the first time in about 35 years.

The plus is that we keep both fires going pretty much all day, so I’ve been doing a lot of baking and roasting–breads, pies, a standing rib with roast potatoes yesterday, piroshkis on Christmas Eve (a bit of a tradition in our house), cinnamon rolls, blah, blah, blah.

I must admit I’m very partial to being retired. It suits me. And I got an order for four more of my books today, which suits me even better. . .;^}

But now I need to go drool around the kitchen and set the table. Ciao.

Ahem. . .Anyone still out there?

December 28, 2009

I’ve been flirting with getting back to this log for some time, and I always put it off for another day. But here I am.

I suppose I’m here at least in part because of a certain renewed confidence in my ability to manage computers. I defeated Microsoft’s attempts to squash me today (at least so far), and I feel a little rhapsodic.

I bought a new computer. I’ve been putting it off for years because I didn’t want to deal with Vista and it really fried me to contemplate paying extra money to have someone “downgrade” my computer to an OS that worked. But then Windows 7 was released, got pretty good press, and I couldn’t stand it anymore. The machine wasn’t supposed to come until January, but Dell cut their assembly time in half (or else they got a shipment of parts early) and Fed-Ex cut their delivery time in half, and my new machine arrived midday on Christmas Eve, a gift from Santa.

Last night I was wishing I had stood it a little longer.  As is my wont, I leaped in with little regard to manuals, instructions, pre-planning, and so forth. So I spent a couple of hours backing up old files to CD for transfer, fingers crossed the whole time. I dealt with file protection issues and waded through them. Then I booted my new machine and went through the setup and stuff only to discover that I couldn’t just load my files from CD. I suspect it has something to do with the shift from a 32-bit OS to a 64-bit OS. So I started over, actually following the instructions from Windows 7 on moving files.

It was less arduous that I was afraid of.

Then I got surprise number 2. There’s no e-mail program on Windows 7. So, fingers crossed, I loaded an old version of Outlook and–voila!–my contacts and e-mail archive appeared exactly as they had before I ran them through Windows 7’s little file transfer utility.

But I had a few permissions problems. MS has done a good job of trying to hide from Joe User anything that might be of any use to anyone, but I ferreted out the files I needed, gave the system permission to let me screw with them, and my problems went away. At least for now. All in all a satisfying evening.

So here we are coming up on 2010, and I haven’t posted anything since mid-2008. There are lots of reasons for that, some of which may appear in subsequent posts. But there appear to be a few stalwarts still looking for me to speak, so as the New Year approaches, I’m going to resolve to try to do a little better this year.

Here’s the Cliff notes version of 2009:

In February (pretty much on my birthday) I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. I got to spend several months poisoning my body with yew extract and a platinum compound. Then I got to spend several more months letting my body recover from the abuse. If the truth be told, it’s still recovering. As I read somewhere recently, chemotherapy is useful, but it’s highly toxic.

On the plus side, I just got a clean bill of health at my 6-month post-chemo checkup. If I can maintain that condition for only 2.5 more years, I’ll be considered officially cured. This oddball apparently comes right back or it doesn’t come back at all.

In June I published my first book. That was pretty exciting. I spent the late summer and fall doing a variety of readings at some fairly prestigious venues (did you know people actually pay other people to come and read to a third group of people?). The book has been well received, so I’m working on a second collection.

Those two things pretty well ate up 2009. I can’t say too much about the second half of 2008 except that I think my brother’s death hit me a little harder than I thought it did.

But at any rate, I’m going to try to write here a little more often. And I have to type another sentence or two because my “word count” on this just hit 666 and I don’t want to leave it there. . .

Happy New Year to all, and the best to you in 2010.

Return to the green place

June 27, 2008

I’m home. Everything changed while I was gone, and the differences are breathtaking. Being gone only 8 days and having the landscape so different really gives me an appreciation of how fast the seasons pass.

Of course, we didn’t really get a spring this year, just several months of really crappy weather. So it’s like the last few weeks of spring and the first few weeks of summer compressed in on each other. We’re eating lettuce, radishes, spinach, and chard from the garden. But most of the hot weather plants look like they’ve gone south, so we’re planting some backup tomatoes and corn. The fruit trees look great, most of them loaded. But the brassicas (cabbage and the like generally planted very early) are depressing. Some of the cabbage and all of the broccoli just got to about 8 inches high and bolted. Total loss. The berries are at least a month late.

But the Japanese irises and foxglove are blooming like crazy, the grass is that soft spring green and smells fresh, and the trees are fully leafed out so that the light filters through them in that wonderful summer way.

The convention was fun. I got 5 top-ten finishes in the 39 categories of poem that I entered, so I’m happy. If that doesn’t sound too impressive, you should know that most categories had from 200 to 300 poems entered.

Now I truly must go move some sprinklers. No deep thoughts today, just gratitude for a return to the NW. Much as I enjoyed the convention and the different landscape, there’s no place like home.

Off on an adventure

June 17, 2008

This is just a heads-up to you all. I’m off tomorrow with a friend on Amtrak to go to a poetry convention in Utah. I’ve made the decision not to cart my laptop along (Gasp! She’d chance being off line for 8 whole days?), so it will be next week sometime when you can expect to hear from me.

I’m going to ride the rails, look at country not easily visible from any other place, and contemplate. Amtrak got the section of track from Eugene to Klamath Falls (one of the prettiest sections of the trip) re-opened just a few days ago. It’s been closed for months by some big landslides, and I’ve been petitioning the travel gods to get it back open for our trip. It seems to have worked.

So, more next week. Be healthy, have fun.

Well, this just chaps MY hide

March 29, 2008

I’m getting darned tired of this stupid weather. Spring officially arrived a week ago, and the next day I planted most of my early garden–brassicas, lettuce starts, green onions, snow peas, sunflowers, a few potatoes (the rest have to wait until we can till the bed again). I also planted another dahlia and four lilies.

Every day since then, it has rained, hailed, snowed, and otherwise generally misbehaved. If this is leading up to an April Fool’s Day blizzard, I am going to be really pissed.

I checked the starts yesterday and they looked fine. I’m afraid to go back and look again after a morning of snow and hail and a full afternoon of monster hail storms. So I’m ignoring things, at least for the moment.

A chicken carcass is simmering on the stove. I roasted a chicken tonight, made mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy, and as we were stuffing our faces Ben looked over and said, “That chicken cries out to be made into soup.” And I started visualizing chicken and dumplings.

After a week of crappy weather I am really tired of feeding fires, but I told Ben if he’d feed the stove so I could do something else, I’d cook the chicken down and make something wonderful. He agreed, and before too long I’ll be able to set it off to cool and deal with it tomorrow.

I met all the poetry contest deadlines only to discover some other writing challenges. I’m working on a Malayan pantoum at the moment about a funeral. The pantoum lends itself wonderfully to ritual, and I suppose that’s what’s on my mind now. A week from tomorrow is Tom’s wake, and I’m running out of energy to deal with the emotions (other people’s, not my own–I’m just tired) that are surfacing around that.

So that’s what’s going on here tonight. Even the hummingbirds have been fighting all day. But I did re-engineer my feeder today and it works much better. It was prone to developing an airlock, and you had to go up every so often and give it a good whack. But as I was refilling it today, I found a spot that was obviously supposed to have a little air hole but hadn’t been punched all the way through. So I got a push pin and fixed it. Now it works great. I’m quite smug about that little piece of problem solving.

But I’m still going to be grumpy until I get some sunshine for more than 10 minutes at a time. . .

A poem worth noting

March 18, 2008

I’m about to cut and paste a poem from today’s Writer’s Almanac. I’m sure I’m in deep violation of some copyright law or another, but this poem reminds me so much of Tom’s last days that I’m going to do it anyway. If it touches you, subscribe to Writer’s Almanac.

Poem: “Snow” by Elizabeth Tibbetts, from In the Well. – Bluestem Press, 2003.
Reprinted with permission.

Snow

The old, blue-eyed woman in the bed
is calling down snow. Her heart is failing,
and her eyes are two birds in a pale sky.
Through the window she can see a tree

twinkling with lights on the banking
beyond the parking lot. Lawns are still green
from unseasonable weather. Snow
will put things right; and, sure enough,

by four darkness carries in the first flakes.
Chatter, hall lights, and the rattle of walkers
spill through her doorway as she lies there?
ten miles (half a world) of ocean

between her and her home island.
She looks out from a bed the size of a dinghy.
Beyond the lit tree, beyond town, open water
accepts snow silently and, farther out,

the woods behind her house receive the snow
with a faint ticking of flakes striking needles
and dry leaves-a sound you would not believe
unless you’ve held your breath and heard it.

Time for a quick break

February 25, 2008

The Sunday NY Times used many column inches of print to virtually declare Hilary Clinton’s campaign for President of the U.S. dead.

I suspect they’re right, unless the political machine can somehow put enough pressure on the “superdelegates” (one word, according to William Safire and the NYT copy edit desk, sort of like “superhero”) to swing the election away from the popular vote choice.

I’m sure the Republicans would far rather campaign against Clinton than Obama. She is a much more known quantity, with trunk-loads of baggage, her own and her husband’s, following her around. Many voters are too young to remember some of the financial scandals that swirled around the Clintons, but rest assured that the GOP hasn’t forgotten them or would hesitate to drag them out in a cutthroat campaign.

Obama, on the other hand, comes more or less out of left field. He’s a swirling, nebulous target who seems more than willing to confess to past peccadilloes. It makes him a difficult target.

One of the most interesting points raised in the NYT stuff was that of “experience.” If, the Times writer asked, experience counts for so much, how come Clinton’s made a complete hash of her campaign and Obama’s has been executed flawlessly? A question worth thinking about in someone you’re planning on electing to a high-level executive position.

The Times also pointed to “Clinton fatigue,” not so much with HRC as with the duo. It’s something that came into play the first time WJC stepped out like a little pit bull with both jaws bared and teeth snapping.

If course, I confess that I look with suspicion on anyone who really wants to run for high political office. If they want to be there, I probably don’t want them pretending to look after me. . .

OK, that’s enough break for now. It’s poetry competition time. Back to editing, formatting, printing, and all that other dull stuff.

Goodbye to 2007, reflections, and a few interesting discoveries

January 1, 2008

And I wish I could say I’m going to miss this year, but the truth of the matter is, it’s been a mixed bag, so I don’t know if I will or not. But at least it’s been interesting. . .

Yesterday I heard of a Scottish custom for celebrating the changing of the calendar that I really like. At midnight you open the front door to let the new year in, then rush to the back door and open it to let the old year out. Beats the heck out of getting smashed and throwing up all over yourself and everyone close. . .

But I couldn’t help but wonder: What if you reversed the order and let the old year out before you let the new one in? Would it stop time for the moment? (I’m not usually this weird but I’ve been listening to a series of lectures on physics, and the lecturer has me thinking about the non-absolute characteristic of time. So that speculation isn’t as far fetched as it seems.)

There’s an article in the current issue of Archaeology magazine about the henge builders (think Stonehenge). One of the things we discovered this year was that we have our very own henge on this place, although it’s made of trees, not stones.

One of our serious landmarks is a very large (over 200′ tall according to my astrolabe) pair of Douglas fir trees. They escaped the logging that was done in the early 1960s (just before Ben bought the place) because they functioned as the tailholt for the tower cable (an anchor that holds the lower end of the cable in place). A piece of the cable still sticks out from where they have grown together over the years. They’re very very lovely, but that’s not the most remarkable thing about them.

The most remarkable thing about this pair of trees is that on the winter solstice, the sun sets right between them. It’s a beautiful thing to see and a good thing to know (especially if calendars should disappear one of these days, not a totally unthinkable event in these interesting times).

It’s very cold since the rain stopped, but that has its advantages, too. I started the kitchen stove first thing this morning because it puts out heat so much faster than the living room stove. So by breakfast time I had a hot oven, and we were able to feast on skillet-baked cornbread, bacon, scrambled eggs, and fresh, sweet orange wedges, the kind you only seem to be able to get in the winter.

One of this year’s real plusses is that I’ve had the time to become very good friends with my wood cookstove. I haven’t attempted a cake yet (mostly because none of us particularly likes cake), but I’ve run just about everything else through it. I’m getting very spoiled.

I discovered a piece of cookware I don’t have (Ben says that’s impossible). I don’t have an apfelskiver pan. I think that’s a very good thing. They look like a great deal of trouble to bake, and I suspect that other apple things taste as good or better. So I’m not looking for one.

And of course, I discovered White Lily flour. I’m still making discoveries about how to use it, when to mix it with other flours to get the desired result (for example, scones made with pure White Lily flour are too cakey for my taste, but if I add a little hard wheat flour (about 3 parts WL to 2 parts hard wheat) the texture is perfect.

And speaking of scones, you may remember that one of my goals was to find the perfect scone recipe. I hit it second time out, so now I’m messing with various additions for flavor. I used to think that apricot scones topped with apricot or peach jam were the best, but that was before I added some crystalized ginger to my plain scone dough.

The local co-op has a million varieties of organic crystalized or candied dried fruits, so I’m not through experimenting. But it’s hard to imagine anything better than that ginger. . .

One recent discovery is wonderful. Living off the grid as we do, I’ve become somewhat of an expert in flashlights. We’ve tried a number of LED mini-maglites with varying amounts of success. The problem with most of them is that a) they cost about $20, and b) they may be very bright up close but they don’t project. But I stumbled onto this weird little mini-mag (brand Performance Tool, made in China, of course, in a variety of bright metallic colors and basic black, but since I rarely chew on my flashlights, I doubt that there’s a problem here). It’s about 4 inches long, fits nicely in pocket, purse, or glovebox, uses 3 AAA batteries (don’t know the life expectancy yet, but with the LED lamps I’m expecting wonderful things), and projects its brightness about 25 yards (or roughly as far as you can shoot accurately with a pistol, even a good one). I liked it so much I bought a bunch of them ($3.50 each at Bi-Mart) and have scattered them around in useful places. I even have one by the stove for an oven light. And since I ended up for some strange reason (tied, I’m sure to a battery-buying binge I went on when I moved out here) with a surplus of AAA batteries, I think I’m getting a double hit here.

I think I’ve finally identified my mystery birds, and it’s so dumb that I really feel stupid. But I think the birds with the beautiful song are sparrows, house or song, I’m not totally sure. But if that’s the case, I can’t believe we’ve never had them around until this year. But they can come sing to me any time.

And of course I’ve discovered Super Mario Galaxy. I’m sure it will take me the rest of the winter to finish it. Most days I play only during the evenings when the generator is running and during the times I’m not busy getting dinner together or the leftovers put away. I’m trying to average one star a day, but some days I don’t play at all, so then I have to try to make up for it. The stars are getting harder and harder.

I think I’m basically too impatient to be a very good Wii player. My favorite approach is to run full tilt at whatever is my target. But sometimes my speed is better than my accuracy. This often leads to a less than satisfactory result. Come to think of it, there are a number of things that I approach exactly the same way, sometimes with exactly the same result. Hm-m-m-m-m-m. . .

Here’s what I’m hoping for in 2008:

  • Peace
  • More good weather than rain
  • Peace
  • A satisfactory resolution to my brother’s troubles
  • Peace
  • Lots of visits with friends
  • Peace
  • Some good writing
  • Peace
  • One belly laugh (or more) every day
  • Peace

You get the idea. . .

Now once again I have lumped so many topics together I’ll probably get another note from that guy who complained before, which is OK. At least I knew he read the whole thing. . .But I’m going to sign off. I’ve got to go write a poem about Appalachia, and I’m not sure where to start.

The best to all of you in 2008. Stay in touch.

Thoughts on Christmas Eve, and a poem for you

December 24, 2007

Dear Santa,

It’s difficult to ask for something when you already have so much. So I guess the truth of it is, there’s nothing on my Christmas list this year for me.

But for the last four or five weeks, I’ve recycled about 50 pounds of advertisements a week. Despite the fact that I read them thoroughly, I was unable to find the things I’d like to give my friends. So let me instead make a list of things I hope you bring the people I care about. (If you want to broaden the task and give them to other people, too, that’s OK by me.)

I’d like my friends to have the following:

  • A measure of the peace and joy I find in this wonderful place I live. Today is calm and bright, a welcome break from the wind and 15 inches or so of rain we’ve had this month.
  • The luxurious pleasure of living in the moment. There’s something about having the time to listen to birdsong and the rush of water in the river and assorted culverts that’s priceless. Maybe that’s why I can’t find it for sale anywhere.
  • The warmth of a woodstove with lots of dry wood. If it’s a cookstove, so much the better for baking and roasting.
  • Freedom from war. I hope some day someone solves this issue. I seriously doubt it will be in my lifetime, but I can always hope.

I know you’ll come through for me Santa, but in the meantime, I’ll just leave my friends with a gentle reminder that there’s a lot more to Christmas than decorations and presents.

There Are Many Ways to Have a Happy Christmas

For thirty-three winters, the end of December
I’ve placed and trimmed a corner Christmas tree,
A noble fir.  These ornaments remember
Other people, other times, great glee,
Glad tidings of grandchild to come, the warmth
Of laughter, music in the fragrant air,
A yule log blazing brightly at the hearth,
Cedar scented boughs, the candles’ flare.

This December, my corner has only debris
From building a house, not finished, not by far.
The ornaments remain in boxes, and the tree
Has not been cut, stands with others regular
Along the road.  The skies clear, and I see
Above each treetop, God has placed a star.

Merry Christmas to all of you reading this, whether you celebrate it or not.

Hugs, Marianne

(Updated 12/25 with format corrections)