Thursday, February 28, 2019

February 28

We are about to turn the calendar page to March. Every February reminds me of James Schuyler. Lots of things remind me of his work and words.  Here is a poem written on February 28 (1969) that reflects a memory from years gone by, the glow of remembered light.

A chimney, breathing a little smoke.
The sun, I can’t see
making a bit of pink
I can’t quite see in the blue.
The pink of five tulips
at five p.m. on the day before March first.
The green of the tulip stems and leaves
like something I can’t remember,
finding a jack-in-the-pulpit
a long time ago and far away.
Why it was December then
and the sun was on the sea
by the temples we’d gone to see.
One green wave moved in the violet sea
like the UN Building on big evenings,
green and wet
while the sky turns violet.
A few almond trees
had a few flowers, like a few snowflakes
out of the blue looking pink in the light.
A gray hush
in which the boxy trucks roll up Second Avenue
into the sky. They’re just
going over the hill.
The green leaves of the tulips on my desk
like grass light on flesh,
and a green-copper steeple
and streaks of cloud beginning to glow.
I can’t get over
how it all works in together
like a woman who just came to her window
and stands there filling it
jogging her baby in her arms.
She’s so far off. Is it the light
that makes the baby pink?
I can see the little fists
and the rocking-horse motion of her breasts.
It’s getting grayer and gold and chilly.
Two dog-size lions face each other
at the corners of a roof.
It’s the yellow dust inside the tulips.
It’s the shape of a tulip.
It’s the water in the drinking glass the tulips are in.
It’s a day like any other.

I will start a new series based upon the obscure memoirs James Schuyler lists in this Diary edited by Nathan Kernan.

When I was at GSHI the summer of 2017 reading the entries mainly written on the island I was confounded by the archaic literature he bothered with. Do all titles of yesteryear seem as stale? Will one day my books seem like fire fodder?

I think this is something we all worry about—or should be worried about.

The Introduction by Kernan explains that Schuyler though a sporadic diarist himself was a lifelong reader of diaries. James Woodeforde, Gilbert White, Virginia Woolf, and Dorothy Wordsworth. He enjoyed gardening journals, descriptions of the English countryside, details of 18th C. food and drink.

From Kernan:
It was a memoir, Logan Pearsall Smith’s Unforgotten Years, that awakened him to the realization that he too must become a writer: reading the book as a teenager, Schuler looked up from his backyard tent and saw the landscape “shimmer.” Schuyler quotes at length in his Diary from Henry Daley’s memoir, This Small Cloud, from Iris Origo’s War in Val d’Orcia and from Boris Pasternak’s Safe conduct, he extolls Charles Darwin’s memoirs for their “simplicity” and  “reticence of intimacy.”  . . . One of the characteristics of the Diary, as of Schuyler’s poetry, is the way memories seem to rise abruptly out of the fabric of whatever else is going on, like Proust’s “involuntary memories.”

To be fair, in his Diary Schuyler also flashes back to tidbits from movies, musical recordings, stuff his friends have said. He weaves back and forth and finds connections or mental links to esoteric trivia.

At times Schuyler employed the “collage” poem, picking up pieces found lying around much like a Joseph Cornell box—both Cornell and his work were familiar to Schuyler and his crowd, The New York School. Cornell would scour the junk and thrift stores of New York City and find small, weird treasures—fragments of once beautiful and precious objects—and organize them into shadow boxes, the juxtaposition of these objects casting them into new light. A collection of mundane details. It was about remembering and revisioning.

Just as “February” was a reaction to the smoke and light happening outside his window, he was also reliving light from his time in Palermo, Italy, the Palazzo Abatelli, “and the carved stone ropes around its doors and windows” (Just the Thing, Letter to Miss Batie,pg 240.)
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Monday, February 25, 2019

Collaboration #6, a collaborative flash series with Colleen Davick

Ghost Shadow

All around us are ghosts
Ethereal beings, angels
That accompany us on our daily tasks
And it is only sometimes
When caught unawares,
Between sudden shifts
Of light and time, ruptures
In the third and fourth dimension
We are able see
Evidence, footprints beside us
A slight hope, an assurance
We are not alone

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Collaboration #5, a collaborative flash series with Colleen Davick

No photo description available.

Wake up, move these tired bones
Sometimes if I have to do the same thing one more time
I’ll scream, and at other times
I can’t take one more new thing or
I’ll explode, it is the dynamic
Of life, the tension of old and new
The familiar versus sudden revelation
The paradox that within brilliant sunlight
There is a bird shadow

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Collaboration #4, a collaborative flash series with Colleen Davick

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Super moon in winter
Looking east from the terrace
Midnight blue and luminesce
Powder and smoke and clouds
Stirred up by the semi-frozen lake
Which creates its own weather.

We live in a strange and scary city
Full of ghosts and the visages of
Time past, full of memories
Of summer, chilling on the
Terrace in shorts and sandals
            Watching the moon filter the sky

Monday, February 18, 2019

Collaboration #3, a collaborative flash series with Colleen Davick

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Black and white
After parking the car
On a lonely Sunday night
I pause, breathe in frost and ice
A single porch light
Casting elongated picket shadows
How can I sing, How can I write—
  With all this quiet beauty

Friday, February 15, 2019

Collaboration #2, a collaborative flash series with Colleen Davick

Image may contain: sky, skyscraper and outdoor

You wonder: Why am I awake at this hour?

At this cold, subzero dawn.
Slowly the distant stars fade, and a pale casting of light
Rises between the buildings. A low hum from
Lake Shore Drive plays behind hesitant birdsong.
Even the sparrows are subdued, fighting against headwinds,
Head colds, hungover from their desperate struggle to survive.
We all have our balancing act, teetering on the brink
Of a new morning.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Collaboration #1, a collaborative flash series with Colleen Davick

Image may contain: sky, cloud, ocean, mountain, outdoor and nature

Landscape No. 3, Cash Entry Mines, New Mexico

After spending 18 months in New Mexico, Marsden Hartley returned to New York in 1919, but he continued to paint the Southwest from memory. My friend Colleen is flying today from New Mexico back to Chicago. She is an artist of the cellphone camera. In 2011 I spent a week in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico at Starry Night Artist Retreat. I returned home to continue to create from memory. Leaving one place for another doesn’t erase our longing, our desire to connect to a landscape, the people we love and miss. True art speaks to our emotions, to the sublime within us.

Today it is 1 below with windchill—I reach back in my memories to the night I rode my bike down dark T or C streets to a hot spa. I eased my tired body into the natural pool and soaked in the minerals letting go of stress and self-doubt. For a little while.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Notes on a Flash Series

the action of working with someone to produce or create something.
"he wrote on art and architecture in collaboration with John Betjeman"

I’ve always dreamed of working in collaboration with another artist. Writing is such a solitary discipline. But what would collaboration look like?

My friend and fellow bootcamper Colleen Davick is a Renaissance woman in that she has her hand in many pots. An avid Gaelic speaker, a spooky flutist, green room hostess, booker of concerts, likes to hang out, always ready for a road trip, and takes awesome pictures with her camera.

What if we did a thing together?

So here we are in the second month of 2019 and I feel it’s time: We collaborate.

Starting next week for one week she will post a pic on Facebook (or a few) and I will respond by writing a flash essay inspired by the picture.

That’s the rules. There will be no boundaries on what she takes and we will not “arrange” or coordinate a theme. Her picture/my words/one week.

Ready, set, go.

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Friday, February 8, 2019

40 Years Ago

Khomeini waves to followers as he appears on the balcony of his headquarters in Tehran on February 2, 1979.
February 1, 2019 marks the 40th year of Ayatollah Khomeini’s return to Iran from exile. What does this mean to the rest of the world?
Many leaders in the Middle East placated the West by calling for democracy and modernization—while at the same time maintaining a regime of suppression and human right abuse. Today we can point to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, colloquially known as MbS. In the 1970s America supported Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran. In 1979 the Shah abdicated his throne and Ayatollah Khomeini helped establish the Islamic Republic.

So what does this have to do with Appalachia, with Cloud of Witnesses? Though Cloud of Witnesses feels contemporary, it is a historical novel set 1979/1980. A sub-story in the novel has to do with a young foreign student, Hassan, from Tehran in Iran. His father came to Athens to work on the faculty of Ohio University. While in Athens the Iran Hostage Takeover (November 1979) occurs, and the resulting Crisis consumes the American media and presidential race. The day Ronald Reagan is sworn in the 52 hostages are released. As alien as his story seems from Roland’s, they are actually more alike than different. Both feel like strangers to their surroundings, each feels a bit like they are in exile from their true home, where they are supposed to be. For Hassan that would be Tehran, where the family can no longer return, and for Roland—he feels as if his destiny is to one day leave the foothills.

For many of us, we feel the same. Not always are we at “home.” Some of us yearn for something out of reach—out “there.”

At this point, after 40 years, America and Iran are still at a diplomatic impasse.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

What it’s like to be 50 below

What it’s like to be 50 below

Out of control
Like mankind is sunk
No bailing out of this one
Like Jack London’s story “To Build a Fire”
We’re doomed
Everything and everyone
Where each breath is fire and ice
And all the stores are closed
And all the fun stuff is cancelled
Where you feel as if an avalanche has swallowed you whole
All the ordinary Earth rules are void
Up is down and the sky is falling
Life is like artic fog
Steaming off the lake
An illusion
We dream about the day
We will be 50 above

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Monday, February 4, 2019

Book News=Cloud of Witnesses

Join me and SCBWI member Marlene Brill at the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square Wednesday February 20 7 – 9 pm for LOCAL AUTHOR NIGHT where we will be reading from our new releases!


The Book Cellar
4736-38 N Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 293-2665

Friday, February 1, 2019

Mad About You

This is how you know you’re getting old: you Google=that song where the singer does that thing.

If I even had a clue I’d be able to narrow the search. It’s like having your navigation turned on but forget where you’re going. Thankfully someday we’ll all be using Google just to complete sentences.

So I think (but can’t remember) that’s how I stumbled upon the 80s song Mad About You by Belinda Carlisle. And then, I remembered. That hair, those earrings, the shoulder pads. Floral dresses and . . . the jean jacket.

In the early 80s I had hair that length, that color of blonde, hoop earrings—but not the jacket. I really really really wanted the jean jacket. We were particularly poor in the 80s and the few times I went shopping at the Brickyard Mall (since demolished). I priced the jean jackets but they were too much. There was a sort of jean jacket, the kind that wishes it were a real jean jacket, but not as hip or cool. I tried it on and rolled up the cuffs, and there was this weird lining. I bought it anyway.

Mad About You released in 1986, I remember it as if it were yesterday. A certain playfulness, carefree, staying up all night talking, watching the sun come up. Something we had then that we don’t have anymore.

Like the jean jacket, long given away.