Friday, June 28, 2019

June 30, 1974 by James Schuyler

June 30, 1974for Jane and Joe Hazan
Let me tell you
that this weekend Sunday
morning in the country
fills my soul
with tranquil joy:
the dunes beyond
the pond beyond
the humps of bayberry –
my favorite shrub (today,
at least) – are
silent as a mountain
range: such a
subtle profile
against a sky that
goes from dawn
to blue. The roses
stir, the grapevine
at one end of the deck
shakes and turns
its youngest leaves
so they show pale
and flower-like.
A redwing blackbird
pecks at the grass;
another perches on a bush.
Another way, a millionaire’s
white chateau turns
its flank to catch
the risen sun. No
other houses, except
this charming one,
alive with paintings,
plants and quiet.
I haven’t said
a word. I like
to be alone
with friends. To get up
to this morning view
and eat poached eggs
and extra toast with
Tiptree Goosberry Preserve
(green) -and coffee,
milk, no sugar. Jane
said she heard
the freeze-dried kind
is healthier when
we went shopping
yesterday and she
and John bought
crude blue Persian plates.
How can coffee be
healthful? I mused
as sunny wind
streamed in the car
window driving home.
Home! How lucky to
have one, how arduous
to make this scene
of beauty for
your family and
friends. Friends!
How we must have
sounded, gossiping at
the dinner table
last night. Why, that
dinner table is
this breakfast table:
“The boy in trousers
is not the same boy
in no trousers,” who
said? Discontinuity
in all we see and are:
the same, yet change,
change, change. “Inez,
it’s good to see you.”
Here comes the cat, sedate,
that killed and brought
a goldfinch yesterday.
I’d like to go out
for a swim but
it’s a little cool
for that. Enough to
sit here drinking coffee,
writing, watching the clear
day ripen (such
a rainy June we had)
while Jane and Joe
sleep in their room
and John in his. I
think I’ll make more toast.

Submit your work=New Flash Fiction Review

Wanted to let my faithful readers, both of you, aware of an opportunity. New Flash Fiction Review is accepting submissions.

New Flash Fiction Review was founded in 2014 by Meg Pokrass. They are an online magazine devoted to flash fiction. They even have a feature called Micro Interviews.

New Flash Fiction Review hosts an annual award honoring a master short-short storyteller Anton Chekhov: The Anton Chekhov Prize for Very Short Fiction--reading through July 15th.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Bear With Me


I’ve posted here before about Kyle White, a hybrid poet fromWisconsin. I know this is already such a lame intro to someone who’s work I really appreciate. Sometimes too many words can ruin a moment meant to be sublime. That’s Kyle, he underwrites and leaves white space for the reader. His latest book:
Bear. With Me. {A Field Journal}

"bear. with me." is nine mysterious bear illustrations interwoven with a story of wonder, told through forty haiku:
"Follow rabbit trail. You meet Bear in a fur coat. You find Bear is you."

"bear. with me." is to be read slowly and in one sitting, out-of-doors.

I shared with him my chapbook: Bright Invisible about a week spent at Great Spruce Head Island in Maine. Through essays, journal entries, persona letters where I attempt to channel James Schuyler and experience the island through his eyes.
 
Bright Invisible: Words Sketches of Great Spruce Head Island
These are the kinds projects no one has a category for. Haikus about bears, persona letters about poets from The New York School (a thing that isn’t really a thing). It all hangs on such a thin thread. Either the work is so ordinary or so far out there that there that there is no audience for it.

I’m happy to be here.

Kyle, I can’t wait to dig into Bear With Me!

ALSO check out Winter is Scissors: Thirty-one, small, daily readings for Winter.


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Saturday, June 22, 2019

Missing Mid-Summer

I'm missing mid-summer in Sweden.

A year ago I spent one of the most magical evenings I can remember amongst friends and strangers in the hinterlands of Sweden dancing around a "pole" and yapping like a frog (I have no idea) in celebration of the longest day of the year.

Summer in Chicago can suck and it certainly isn't getting off to a good start: temps in the low 60s and drizzly rain. We've had weeks of rain now.

I really miss riding my bike way into what should be night, into what is normally sunset--yet the sun is high and bright. I miss cleaning up at the water's edge and sleeping in the cool dusk--falling asleep before the sun goes down. I long for long summer days in Sweden.



Thursday, June 20, 2019

When They See Us

When They See Us
Ava DuVernay, director, screenplay

When I say “Central Park 5” you know what I mean. When I cryptically mention “wilding”, you get it. Same thing if I say southside or westside. Code words for African Americans. POC, people of color.

In mid- to late-April there was a news story about groups of roving black kids downtown. A warm April night (a rarity this past spring, not even goin’ to get into the fact it’s June and we’ve barely broken into the 70s yet) add social media and the mayor and the police chief were calling an emergency. According to the Chicago Tribune:
What happened?
About 500 teenagers gathered downtown early Wednesday evening. Police were ready for them because of social media posts, strategically staging patrols and calling for transport vans.
The teenagers spread out across Millennium Park and near the Lake and Grand Red Line stops, passing packed restaurant patios.
Some teens got in fights among themselves. In one case, police and teenagers got into a tense confrontation near a Potbelly sandwich shop.
Police on bicycles surrounded the kids and tried to direct them to public transit. No one reported a crime. They were just out there. And, that was scary.

Now, back to Central Park on a warm evening in April, 1989.

And the night bunches of youth gathered, rough housed, some got stupid, some broke the law, but none of them raped a woman jogger. They were run out of the park before that incident happened. Nevertheless, they were targeted and 5 were falsely arrested, convicted, and served time.

The story of When They See Us. What they see are animals, roving gangs (indeed almost 100% of the names on a “gang watch list” recently under scrutiny were POC), assumptions are made, tourists/white folks get uncomfortable. Whatever happened to freedom to assemble, freedom of speech, the right to exist? Civil Rights?

In the end, 31 people were arrested, Chicago police said in a statement to the Tribune. They are facing charges ranging from disorderly mob action to resisting arrest, battery and CTA violations. No injuries were reported.

Thankfully, Civil Rights lawyers jumped all over this. This: the cops squeezing the teenagers onto the Red Line and Express-ing them to the southside.

The thin line between kids congregating and mob action seems so tenuous. A matter of interpretation. Or a difference in color. On Pride weekend there are so many groups assembling, carousing, the ordinance against public drinking is not enforced, thousands of tourists/out-of-towners crowd the parade route, the parks afterwards, etc. There are a few arrests, but mostly the police take a hands-off approach. Pride Weekend is good for the city vs its own residents assembling on a warm spring night is an issue.

Same thing goes for the Air & Water Show—no one is thinking, Shit! There are way too many white folks here in one place! Let’s not talk about what’s in their coolers.

I remember as a kid wanting to break free, cut loose, go “wilding.” Poets write about this, that feeling of wanting to fly, spring—jump so high, hang with friends, talk loud, and laugh like a crazy person. Except if you do it downtown while being black—expect to be expressed back to your turf.


DuVernay deserves an Emmy for both directing and writing the screenplay. A masterpiece that should be viewed by kids in high school for years to come.


The Central Park Five with series director Ava DuVernay
The real crime: wrongful conviction

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Friend, book review


The Friend
By Sigrid Nunez
Riverhead Books, 2018

Let me start this review on a completely random note: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about lament. Lament is such a brilliant expression for the times we live in. It beats giving up. Yet there are so many who have done just that—giving up. Giving up also takes many different forms. Such as turning off your Smartphone and living in a cabin off the grid. I know people who are doing just that: isolating. I can no longer reach them and when I do they do not want to engage.

It feels like a death.

Then there are those who have chosen death. Every day we hear of someone who has taken their life. News media tells us it is an epidemic.

A current of hopelessness permeates the air, to the point that sometimes I have to escape. Disengage. What a vicious cycle.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. One way I choose to escape is through long-distance cycling trips. In fact, I’m planning one right now. Even just the planning inspires me to keep going.

So on that melancholy note I launch into a review of a book that starts with a suicide. The unnamed narrator is grieving the loss of a colleague, friend, lover. And, as we learn, a pet owner.

She is left with her sorrow and by happenstance his Great Dane.

The narrator is herself a writer, thus she explores the territory of vocation, almost a higher calling, and the reality of what it takes to be a writer today. Nunez through prose examines the pitfalls many writers of her age encounter when faced with sensitivity readers, critiques of word choice that in light of political correctness fall into a red zone. Student/teacher conduct comes into focus, as well as the fact that she slept with her professor, her late friend. There is a quip at his memorial service: that he is now a dead white male.

The narrator has nowhere to turn for solace—except the hulking, slobbery 100-pound dog left to her. She lives in a 500 square-foot New York City apartment where dogs are not allowed. She is in danger of becoming homeless, losing her mind to grief, and on top of all this there’s writer block.

Her heart is so raw. All around her are questions. Event he answers are subjective, depending on where you stand in a situation. She cries, walks her dog, teaches creative writing at the university, comes home to walk the dog. Along the way she discovers that reading aloud Rilke’s  Letters to a Young Poet, soothes both her and her new friend. The title of the book, The Friend, refers to both the friend she lost and the one she gained through adoption. She bounces back and forth between addressing her dead former mentor and Apollo, the Great Dane.

I got a chance to meet Sigrid Nunez when I was on waitstaff at Breadloaf a million years ago and since then have read a few of her novels/memoirs/whatever you want to call it. You see, that the beauty of her work, is that it is not easily classified. She borrows from the world around her, other people’s lives, material from her past and melds them together into a hybrid novel that feels real—like looking out a window where you can’t tell if there is glass. I love this kind of work. Lily Tuck did the same thing with The Double Life of Liliane.

In a hybrid there are liberal doses of the “real” and invented parts. Poetic license. Where we as readers assume she is writing about herself, while she is aware of constructing a story that makes sense, which means playing with the facts. Often “real life” is too strange and convoluted to appear real. Subtext gives it a little more credibility.

If you enjoy feeling off-balance, reading memoirs, love dog stories, or want to read about the writer’s journey: read The Friend by Sigrid Nunez.
The Friend: A Novel

Friday, June 14, 2019

Another blast from the past=The Blue Hour

The Blue hour put out a call for submissions and I responded. Ten minutes later in my inbox I got an acceptance. That was fast, I wrote. The editor simply said when we see it, we know it. Apparently it was just the right piece for that issue.

Untitled
by Jane Hertenstein

Turning fifty is no big deal. It’s like forty-nine plus. Like size 1 is hardly different than a size 0. As if I knew. Those numbers are so far in my past as to be irrelevant. In fact I’ve never been a 1 or a 0. More to the fact, the closest I’ve ever come to a small was when I was a 11 junior—before the fashion charts got a make-over, adjusted for the new American woman, before an eleven was deemed a nine and a true eight became archaic.
Fifty is a state of mind. A half-way point—if one were to live to a hundred. Current statistics proclaim women will outlive men by seven years. The average woman today will probably make seventy-eight. In that case I am more than half-way there. Three quarters. Only I might have to do it alone.
Since the divorce. Since the death of my ex-husband. Since my man-friend moved to France and my daughter lives on an opposite coast from myself.
TO FINISH READING GO HERE:
Image result for The Blue Hour

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Reprising A Note in the Lobby

Here's another one from the archives:

“It has come to our attention that certain residents are not curbing their dog.”
I don’t have a dog, but I do have a parakeet. So I wondered if this message was for me. After affixing my galoshes and screwing on my thermal gloves, I pushed out through the revolving doors. What does it mean to curb?
At the web design startup where I work, Carrie had a fit because someone (again) ate something out of her plastic tub in the lunchroom fridge. Not that her rant referred to me.
I was curious, so I asked her what she was missing. She glared at me. More like a scowl. Not sure the difference — only that I brushed crumbs out of my mustache and scurried back to my cubicle.
When I returned home after a long day at the office — okay, not that long, only about ten hours, but it had been arduous — I found another note in the lobby of my building. I set down my bags and pushed my glasses further up on my nose until it nudged into that snug place.
“Please clean up after your pet.”
To finish reading go here:
https://spelkfiction.com/2017/03/03/a-note-in-the-lobby/

Image result for clean up pet waste

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Bringing back old favorites

Here is a link to a story that came out a few years ago:

In Her Garden
by Jane Hertenstein

When the regional rail line was extended north, Carol Ann and her husband Bob decided it was time to move out of the city and their second-floor walk-up and out to the unincorporated hinterlands where new suburbs were being planned. They were tired of thin walls and hearing their downstairs’ neighbors squabble. They wanted more space, room to spread out, especially as Carol Ann was pregnant with their second child.
She surveyed the back acreage of the lot-and-a-half upon which their new house sat. The surrounding land was open, for the time being. It was an area once impacted by the Ice Age. Receding glaciers had left fields of moraine and mostly flat treeless prairie. She imagined what it must have been like for the early settlers. A tabula rasa upon which they worked from sun up to sun down draining the sloughs and farming the land. She thought about how all things must eventually pass, erode away and decay. She was the last of her line, originally a LaMott. Her father was brother to five sisters and she, Carol Ann, was an only child. She’d already lost her name and some day she’d be gone too, buried she supposed under that same prairie. Her thoughts often strayed toward morbidity when she was pregnant, a consequence of carrying life.

Image result for garden

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Memorial Day Backpacking Trip to Smoky Mountain National Park, 2019



Last week I went back to my roots: backpacking.

Also my parents used to live in Tennessee and I have spent a lot of time in the park. When they moved back to Ohio around 2007/8 I thought my time in the Smokies was finished. On top of that my hiking partner moved to Minnesota, so that seemed to seal the deal.

Until I got a hankering--and my feet fixed (see post). I contacted my friend to see if she was available and when the stars aligned I cooked up a plan. It's always good in the dead of winter to have a spring plan!

After picking her up at the airport we drove almost to the park and camped one night in the Daniel Boone National Forest (Holly Bay campground). I always find tent camping most exciting when there are bear boxes and Bear warnings. We did not spy any bears--we only heard birds in the mornings. We knew we were below the Mason Dixon line because it suddenly was no longer cold.

Upon arriving at the park we cycled the 11 mile loop of Cades Cove and trekked to the old farmhouses etc. After that we jumped back into the car and drove to Gregory Ridge Trailhead. By this time it was 6 pm and we had about 2 miles to hike. Though fairly level, we were dehydrated from the hot ride and had to scramble under fallen trees. The 2 miles paralleled a rushing stream. We set up camp at site 12 and quickly got a fire going and cooked up a supper. It was dark by the time we stowed food and "smelly" stuff up on the Bear truss high off the ground.

cycling Cades Cove, where there are still remnants of those who farmed and lived in Cove
The next day we hiked 4 - 5 miles pretty much all UP. We averaged about 1 miles an hour which I thought was bad until a group of guys told us it took them 1/2 mile per hour. When we got to Gregory Bald we were relieved: it was a lot cooler and we knew we were almost to our campsite, just down the hill to #13. We arrived early enough in the afternoon to set up a hammock and do some handwash. I'd forgotten how much you sweat when carrying a pack. I was drenched. We laid around and read and rested. That evening we went back to the Bald for some sunset pics.

The next day we hiked 4 miles out to a seasonal road that was still closed and then about 4 more miles to the trailhead parking and our car. We quickly got into the car AC and then drove to the OTHER side of the park to the Greenbrier district to hike up Porter's Creek trail to another campsite. By the time we arrived at #37 it was almost 7:30. Again the whole way up there was a rushing stream--yet at the campsite access to water was difficult. One would have to rappel down 20 feet, after doing a GI crawl under a huge fallen tree.

To say the least, we conserved water and made-do with what we'd hiked in with.

Now we were done with hiking. We headed out on route 321 and saw a sign HOMEMADE APPLE PIES and pulled into the Kyle Carver Orchard where there was a restaurant with hi-carb food--just what we needed. Before even placing our order they brought fritters and apple butter and apple cider in cups to the table. We ordered turkey and dressing with mashed potatoes and corn. It came with strawberry shortcake, biscuits, and a drink. Let me tell you!!!

We were a wreck and looked it. I went into the bathroom to freshen up after ordering to find dirt and bug carcasses in the creases of my neck. Sheesh!

Now I feel ready for more hikes--maybe in cooler climates.
on the trail, blooms
















Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Grieving, part of the writing process



This will be a very personal post. When we write, even fiction, we are revealing a little part of ourselves. Indeed, this may be why I write: to crack open the soul.

So then . . . after I've done my part, written and cracked, ached and revised, what next?

I'm not a hobbyist, so I put it out there--for the world to read. Or at least I hope so.

I send out my flashes and short stories and essays and generally after a lot of coming and going and wrestling, they are published. The novels take much, much longer. If I can't get an agent for the work then I try for smaller presses which are still reading manuscripts. Sometimes I go the self-publish route. Either way eventually these also get published.

After all this then I help market and publicize the work. I begin to intentionally engage with readers. And, this is where I have hit the wall.

I can't make people read my book, just like you can lead a horse to water but can't make them drink. I asked friends to read the novel either in digital form or buy (on Amazon these are VERIFIED) and write reviews. I've asked friends to request my book at the library. There are so many small things we can do for our author friends that have very real meaning.

Just like how a farmer plans during the winter, plants in the still cold spring, sometimes into hard ground, the fruit eventually comes and you hope to share it with others. That they will EAT what you've worked hard to grow.

My grieving process has been this: That people I thought would read my work simply have not.

I've had to work through this disappointment. Partly I blame myself for having such expectations--but they only made sense! Folks have been interested in me as a person and a writer. They have sometimes asked how it's going--so I assumed that when Cloud of Witnesses came out that they would blurb, review, or just read it. Give me a thumbs up.

Not to say I haven't had people write to me personally and tell me that they enjoyed the book. They have. One woman wrote to me and we met for coffee recently. I can't tell you what an impact it had on my psyche when she said your book made my day (in so many words). This was really like honey to me.

Which made me realize how many times I'd read a book that changed me or made me realize what a small world or big life is out there. That there is always more and at the same time we are all the same. Where I feel "one" with the author or the story resonates with me. Every now and then a book becomes a signpost in my life, a place to mark where I stand and that I can go back to to revisit that moment in my life. And, I never once wrote the author.

So I'm guilty also.

Nevertheless, the reality of this, the let down after publication is something I've been grappling with. I've had to grieve what I thought might happen and reconcile that with what actually happened. That it bloomed, came to fruition and some people ate and some did not.

Image result for end of a dream
It doesn't mean the book or story died, only my dreams for it.