Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Mysterious Life of the Heart

A couple of months ago, I found out that one of my stories will appear in the anthology The Mysterious Life of the Heart, published by The Sun Magazine.

The anthology will be available in a week or so. I haven't yet received my author's copy, but I understand it will contain work by Bruce Holland Rogers and Steve Almond, among others.

The focus of the work in the anthology is on love and relationships. My story is about a woman who feels like she is losing her very self, and her boyfriend tries to help her, in his bumbling way.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Haiku #124

About sadness:
the days go by.
It is difficult.

Haiku #123

"But," I said,
"don't you believe in love?"
He shut his eyes and ate.

Haiku #122

My reluctant soul
wants to be of service now.
"Don't be a fool," it says.

Haiku #121

What metal are you?
You are copper.
You show us who we are.

Haiku #120

Give me back my old life.
No, god said.
His eyes were terrible.

Haiku #119

It's true--
if I can love him
I can love anybody. If.

Haiku #118

I think my life through...
God, in the troubled moment
Convert me to goodness

Haiku #117

Around the corner
she wears white with red shoes
she says her little prayers

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Haiku #116

Shaking in the wind--
it's only a plastic bird--
black crow against white snow.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Haiku #115

On my student's desk,
a half-eaten apple
is turning brown.

25 Random Things

This exercise is going around on Facebook. I won't be tagging anyone on Blogger.

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged . You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

1. I like to put tabasco on my peanut butter.
2. I have been shot at.
3. I didn't read and enjoy fairy tales until I was an adult.
4. I kept a scrapbook on Bobby Kennedy when I was 13-years old.
5. I am in the midst of planning a trip out West.
6. I didn't play with dolls much when I was little.
7. When I was in elementary school, every time my teacher said the word "there" I jumped because I thought she was going to say my name.
8. I used to make up newletters when I was a pre-teen in order to entertain my friends. These were hand-printed (all copies).
9. My favorite activity is sleeping.
10. I've slept on a bed in the back of a Ryder truck.
11. At a writing retreat once, I got locked inside a bathroom and a magazine editor (Sy Safransky) had to knock down the door for me.
12. I met my husband-to-be when I was 16 at a skating rink.
13. The first music I ever owned was on cassettes and included Cat Stevens, Cheech & Chong, and The Fifth Dimension.
14. I still have nightmares about math and French classes and riding a school bus.
15. I don't like to drive.
16. I once sent an e-mail to Tobias Wolff and got a reply. He was really nice.
17. To learn how to write a story for the Sun magazine, I piled dozens of issues around my bathtub and read them cover-to-cover over a period of several months.
18. I sometimes write stories in my bathtub.
19. As #17 and #18 suggest, I am a bathtub person, not a shower person. It is hard to read and write in the shower.
20. I have never broken a bone.
21. When my shoes are off I love to curl my toes.
22. I don't know yet what I'm going to do about the digital TV switch.
23. I am very messy when I cook.
24. I don't like milk.
25. I used to have soldier pen-pals. One of them was Velma T. Wallace who said his hobby was reading "sex-novel." This was more than a little creepy to me, but I wrote to him anyway. He never talked about sex in his letters. He quit writing. I always wondered if he got out of Vietnam alive.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Haiku #114

Glass jar
with spoon inside
shatters on floor

Haiku #113

Young man in a kilt
takes my order this cold day
at the corner grill

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


It's the early hours of the morning again, a time I find myself coming to the computer to discover something and possibly to make a connection. I often do this before finishing my prep for the next day's classes. I went to Bloglines to see who had posted recently and was glad to see that Cynthia of Sorting the pieces had two entries. My heart always jumps when I see she has posted. I enjoy her entries so much.

I was totally moved to see she had listed me as one of eight bloggers she had chosen for the "Friends" Award. This is a description of the award:

"The Friends Award isn't about being the most popular blogger or having the most read blog. It is just because you consider the author a friend. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

When I started blogging with AOL, Cynthia was one of the first to befriend me, to support me by commenting on my little entries. Our relationship has grown beyond the blogging world, and we have shared e-mails, notes, and cards. I long to see her in person and hope that someday I will.

I am supposed to choose eight other bloggers, but I'm just going to mention four:

1. Cynthia of Sorting the Pieces--right back at cha, for being such a rock through my early days of blogging and for writing entries that continue to inspire me to think deeply, with more empathy. We've exchanged e-mails, cards, and we nip at each other now and then on Facebook. I still owe her a letter! Cynthia's effect on my thinking has been immense. Cyn, you are very important to me.

2. Vince of To Grow Is To Be Anxious--Vince and I shared gifts with each other through the mail once a long while ago, and he reacquainted me with Bruce Springsteen! Vince, you ROCK. Vince and I have had fruitful discussions about Freud, Jung, and Rollo May, especially regarding what each man had to say about creativity. Vince also introduced me to Denial of Death by Ernest Becker, a book that has shaped my thinking in so many ways.

3. Judith Heartsong. I can still remember the first time I contacted her by e-mail after finding her beautiful blog. Through the years she has inspired me to be more creative and to return to my roots in visual art, which I had abandoned on account of motherhood and work. Judi, thank you for showing me the way back to my art and for inspiring me with your beautiful artwork.

4. Beth of Beth's Front Porch, which is cheating because we were friends before we were bloggers, but this is a good excuse to tell her that I love her. Her life has recently changed: she has a brand new front porch and a brand new husband. And, after a long break, she's starting to blog again. Beth, you are my best friend.

These are the four people who have consistently commented on my entries and with whom I've contact other than blogging.

I am thankful every day for the interactions I have had and continue to have with Beth, Cynthia, Vince, and Judi. AOL may have treated its customers shabbily in the end by putting ads on the journals and then discontinuing journals as a service, but I wouldn't have met Cynthia, Vince, or Judi without AOL journals. I can't imagine life without them.

When I first started blogging, my creative life was sinking. I was too busy, too distracted by life and work, and I felt that part of myself was dying. Blogging helped me to find my way back. It made me more mindful. It helped me to explore my thoughts and my needs. And my blog continues to adapt to my needs. These four people have not only been with me the whole time, they have offered encouragement when it mattered most.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Haiku #112

Tuesday, Martin,
we shall be living
in a different country

Haiku #111

How can we begin to hope
and love with love we love most?

That need for union
throbs in some forgotten place--
oh, beauty, beauty.

Haiku #110

Why did I just think
about drinking coffee
when it's so late.

Haiku #109

Bring a deer to life,
bring back feelings I thought were dead,

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bathtub Dream

I had a strange dream last night. I was living in a huge house, a very old house with several storeys, rooftop statues. It was in a city. It was a dream about a haunting. Somehow I was on the roof and knocked over several stone statues. Inside the house was a black bathtub in which my youngest child was bathing. It was a huge marble tub, and I had lined it with a sheet so that he wouldn't slide in the tub and hurt himself. Suddenly I got a bad feeling concerning the haunting and went to check on my child. He had disappeared. The dream ended with me frantically searching for him. This dream is similar to the one I had earlier about the lost child on the beach, except this dream had a more domestic setting. As I write this I know that this house is similar to one we lived in in the 1990s, a duplex we rented in Bowling Green. It was a huge, crumbling mansion with a large tub (although not a black one). I have been dreaming of versions of this house for some time, including dreams in which I purchase the house but must move it to a rural setting.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Creative uses of Twitter

A couple of people mentioned Twitter to me recently, so I signed up and put Twitter on my blog. I'm not in any way under the impression that anyone would want to "follow me" on Twitter, but I started thinking there might be creative ways to use it. It could make me more mindful of what I'm doing and thinking. It could help me to commit parts of poems to memory. I've already gotten a Haiku out of it: and isn't that what entries on Twitter are? Moments of a life, spontaneous observations, just like a Haiku? If I can catch a passing thought before it evaporates to nothing, so much the better. If Twitter can help me to do that, then I'm going to be a Twittering fool.

I could make more use of Twitter if I had a Blackberry, but I don't have a cell phone of any sort. So for now I'll be Twittering from my school and home computers.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Haiku #108

I like winter, but
Negative 1 and snowing?
Outside? Forget it!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Haiku #107

Feet are getting cold.
A warm bed is waiting.
Time to pack it in.

Haiku #106

Round moon lights the night--
Found a penny on the Road
I have a new life!

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Sudden Story II

I reread the story I wrote on Saturday, and it holds up. I was relieved, because, you know, sometimes a story that looks good when you've just finished it doesn't look so good later.

The story needs more development. I will keep it on top of my stack of stories in progress and see if I can add to it during the new semester. It's working title is "The Weatherman."

Haiku #105

Moon reflecting on snow
or earth's inner light?
This January night

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Sudden Story

I wrote a short story today, a brand new one that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It will surely need more work, development, especially, but it feels so good to have "completed" something in one day.

This happened because I accomplished a great deal of work for the new semester, which begins Monday, and I rewarded myself with some creative time.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Breakout

A little game has been going around on Facebook that I thought I'd try. You are supposed to put your iTunes (iPod) on shuffle and answer the following questions with the song titles that come up. When I did mine, I skipped over titles that made no obvious or even metaphorical sense. I think being too much of a purist ruins the fun.

I was pretty amazed at some of the answers:

How would you describe yourself?
Breaking Silence (Janis Ian)

What do you like in a guy/girl?
Living in the Past (Jethro Tull)

How do you feel today?
I who have nothing (Ben King)

What is your life’s purpose?
Nothing Man (Bruce Springsteen)

What's your motto?
Before My time (Johnny Cash)

What do your friends think of you?
Wayfaring Stranger (Johnny Cash)

What do you think of your parents?
You've Lost That Loving Feeling (Righteous Brothers)

What do you think about very often?
Comfortably numb (Pink Floyd)

What is 2 + 2?
One Less Set of Footsteps (Jim Croce)

What do you think of your best friend?
Knockin' on Heaven's Door (Bob Dylan)

What do you think of the person you like?
Certamente (Madreblu)

What is your life story?
Juliet's requiem (Nellee Hooper)

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Rain Dogs (Tom Waits)

What do you think of when you see the person you like?
I'm Gonna Crawl (Led Zeppelin)

What will you dance to at your wedding?
Civil War (Guns & Roses)

What will they play at your funeral?
A Bad Nght (Cat Stevens)

What is your hobby/interest?
Love me Tender (Elvis)

What is your biggest fear?
Philosopher's Stone (Van Morrison)

What is your biggest secret?
Gotta Serve Somebody (Bob Dylan)

What do you think of your friends?
Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Bruddah Iz)

What will you post this as?
The Breakout (John Mellencamp)

Dreams II: Our Thoughts Are Hooks

Ever since the other night when I had so many beautiful dreams, I've wanted to repeat the experience. But the subconscious does what it wants, and last night I dreamed of the beach again, but it was not a pleasant dream--no snow falling like flower petals into the sea.

Instead, the dream was discomfiting, although it has been hard for me to say why. Tonight as I was going through a poetry anthology, I found a poem that felt familiar, though it was only a familiarity-in-strangeness. I don't recall ever having read the poem before, and the event described in the poem is not exactly like that of my dream. Still, the poem captures the eeriness of my dream.

"Head of a Doll" by Charles Simic:

Whose demon are you,
Whose god? I asked
Of the painted mouth
Half buried in the sand.

A brooding gull
Made a brief assessment,
And tiptoed away
Nodding to himself.

At dusk a firefly or two
Dowsed its eye pits.
And later, toward midnight,
I even heard mice.

There is a sense of menace in this poem. The doll is no mere toy but a talisman which carries the speaker into a realm of deep mystery.

For centuries dolls have housed powerful spirits. Kachinas, for instance, are an important part of Pueblo cosmology. In the fairy tale, "Baba Yaga," Vasilissa carries a doll which is animated with the spirit of her dead mother. The speaker recognizes that the doll--whether god or demon, is representative of an unassuageable fear.

It doesn't take the "brooding gull" long to size up the situation. He nods and tiptoes away, quite the way anyone might act when encountering a deep, inevitable, and perhaps uncomfortable truth.

In the Baba Yaga tale, the doll's eyes shine like fireflies with the spirit of the girl's mother. In Simic's poem, however, the fireflies do not animate the doll but call attention only to its dilapidation. The mice, nocturnal creatures associated with wastage and death, complete the thought: This is a poem of change and disintegration, about the ravages of time.

My dream was also about change: loss and disintegration. In the dream, I was younger. I was married to a man whom I did not recognize, a man much different than my husband in real life. The dream-husband was selfish and vain. He couldn't love me because he only loved himself. We had a child. The child and I went for a swim and then came back onto the sand.

I left a child on the beach alone. When I returned, the child was gone. I called and called, but nothing answered. A little ways into the surf was a broken statue of a mother with child.

I believe I dreamed this at least partly in response to the death of John Travolta's son, which happened in the Bahamas. Upon hearing of the death, I felt the loss myself, though I could not situate the feeling exactly.

Simic's poem identifies the origin of the pain as somewhere ancient, as part of my genetic memory. In another poem, Simic explains further. He writes of how we may come to our understanding of life.

He says it's like fishing in the dark: our thoughts are hooks, our hearts the raw bait.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Rilke Project III

"Terrible Angels: For Rilke"
Conte pencil, colored pencil

I thought about how to depict terrible angels. I didn't want to do anything that looked like a Renaissance angel. I looked at many images created by Frida Kahlo and I also looked at several books of primitive art. I decided to create two angels who are vaguely skeletal and vaguely reptilian in appearance. I included an angel in the background who is more human in appearance and bathed her in sunlight.

We can never know whether a terrible angel will be pleasing or repugnant to the eye.

In "The Man Watching," Rilke writes of the angel who wrestled humans of the Old Testament:

When the wrestler's sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Rilke says that what we should want is to be beaten by this angel because in doing so, we will go away "proud and strengthened and great." Rilke says that the defeat kneads us as if to change our shape. Of the Old Testament human wrestler, Rilke says:

Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Rilke Project II

"When We Win It's with Small Things: For Rilke"

In the poem "The Man Watching" by Rainer Maria Rilke (translated by Robert Bly), Rilke says:

When we win it's with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.

The poem is about accepting what is great and eternal and allowing ourselves to be dominated by these things.

We talk all the time of overcoming our problems. This is important, too, but it is also important to learn to accept things that cannot be changed. In 2009 I want to remember this.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Dreams: seascapes and wishing wells

I had a lot of unusual but pleasurable dreams last night. One took place near a frigid seascape. All I really remember is that somebody wanted to walk on the beach with me to "watch the snowflakes fall like flower petals into the sea."

Another dream was about three young elementary school teachers. One was a handsome young man whose life was falling apart. He confided in two women who taught on his same hall. The most memorable part of the dream is that the young man went into one of the women's classrooms and asked her to show him the children's art projects. There had been a contest, and he wanted to see the first place winner.

It was a clay wishing well. Upon seeing it, the young man began to cry. He bent over so that his tears dropped into the well.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Rilke Project

"Once More My Deeper Life: For Rilke"
Conte pencil.
After a drawing in Frida Kahlo's journal.

I'm going to work with Rilke now.

I did this simple drawing with Conte pencils, using an image from Frida Kahlo's journal. I changed the drawing, giving my animal longer legs and giving the legs stripes. Kahlo's image was done in paint and bore no dedication. Her entire journal, though, is a dedication to Diego, to her great love for him.

On New Year's Eve, Allen and I drove up to Dearborn, MI to Blicks Art Store. I got hooked on the Conte pencils when I sampled one. We ended up buying the 48 pencil set, although it was very expensive. I was going to come home without it, but Allen could tell that I really wanted it and encouraged me to buy it. We also got a large set of colored pencils and other small things.

I've never worked with Conte pencils, but all of my attempts with pastels in the past were awful failures. I always overworked them, and they were just a muddy mess. This is my first try with the Conte pencils and at least I can say I didn't overwork the drawing. I hope to get better with my image-making as time goes on.

This drawing was done on a sheet of drawing paper folded in half. I'm going to do several pages dedicated to Rilke and then stitch them together into a book.

Why Rilke? Because I love him. Because he understood solitude and because of that understanding was drawn to Picasso's Family of Saltimbanques. Because Rilke put his art at the center of his life and found his salvation there.

The lettering inside the sun in my drawing is from a Rilke poem: "Once more my deeper life goes on with more strength...and the paintings I see seem much more seen into."

When I looked at the Kahlo image from her journal, I saw it with my deeper life. In that moment of seeing, really seeing, I wanted to use her work as a model and make it mine.

On another page of her journal, she wrote of trying out new pencils. That made me smile, since I, too, was trying out new pencils:

I'll try out the pencils
sharpened to the point of infinity
which always sees ahead:
Green-good warm light
Magenta-Aztec, old TLAPALI
blood of prickly pear, the
brightest and oldest
color of mole, of leaves becoming
madness sickness fear
part of the sun and of happiness
electricity and purity love
nothing is black--really nothing

leaves, sadness, science, the whole
of Germany is this color
more madness and mystery
all the ghosts wear
clothes of this color, or at
least their underclothes
color of bad advertisements
and of good business
distance. Tenderness
can also be this blue

Well, who knows!

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Harlequin

Family of Saltimbanques by Pablo Picasso, 1905

I've always been drawn to this picture. I believe the first time I encountered it was in an art history class when I was a freshman in college.

For most of my life, I was never much interested in clowns. My mother-in-law collected them because, she said, they are beings who hide their deep emotions. She was always secretive; her emotions were never on the surface. Mine often are, though I invest a lot of energy in keeping them hidden.

I think I've always loved this painting, not because it portrays clowns, but because the loneliness of all the subjects is so well portrayed. In fact, I would say that the painting reflects my inner life, the sense of separateness from others I have always felt. Even as a small child, I would watch others play rather than participate in the play.

It has been said that Harlequin is the image of Picasso himself. Jung said that artists' who paint themselves in this disguise reveal a subconscious wish to "juggle with everything while remaining aloof and irresponsible."

Artists must have a sort of coolness when they create, a distance that might be taken for aloofness or irresponsibility. A certain objectivity is necessary in order to create a true picture.

This portrait of inner loneliness fascinated Rainer Maria Rilke, one of my favorite poets, He asked the owner of Family of Saltimbanques in 1928 if he might live in the same room with the painting. Rilke later revealed that the fifth of his Duino Elegies was inspired by it:

But tell me, who are they, these acrobats, even a little
more fleeting than we ourselves--so urgently, ever since childhood,
wrong by an (oh, for the sake of whom?)
never-contented will? That keeps on wringing them,
bending them, slinging them, swinging them,
throwing them and catching them back; as though from an oily
smoother air, they come down on the threadbare
carpet, thinned by their everlasting
upspringing, this carpet forlornly
lost in the cosmos.

Jack Kerouac

Posted earlier today by my friend Angela Winter on Facebook:

Belief & Technique for Modern Prose -- List of Essentials
by Jack Kerouac

Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy

--Submissive to everything, open, listening
--Try never get drunk outside yr own house
--Be in love with yr life
--Something that you feel will find its own form
--Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
--Blow as deep as you want to blow
--Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
--The unspeakable vision of the individual
--No time for poetry but exactly what is
--Visionary tics shivering in the chest
--In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
--Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
--Like Proust, be an old teahead of time
--Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
--The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
--Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
--Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
--Accept loss forever
--Believe in the holy contour of life
--Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
--Dont [sic] think of words when you stop but to see picture better
--Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
--No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
--Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
--Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
--In Praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
--Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
--You're a Genius all the time
--Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

As ever, Jack



About Me

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Northwest Ohio, United States
"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken


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Fave Painting: Eden

Fave Painting:  Eden

Fave Painting: The Three Ages of Man and Death

Fave Painting:  The Three Ages of Man and Death
by Albrecht Dürer

From the First Chapter

The Secret of Hurricanes : That article in the Waterville Scout said it was Shake- spearean, all that fatalism that guides the Kennedys' lives. The likelihood of untimely death. Recently, another one died in his prime, John-John in an airplane. Not long before that, Bobby's boy. While playing football at high speeds on snow skis. Those Kennedys take some crazy chances. I prefer my own easy ways. Which isn't to say my life hasn't been Shake-spearean. By the time I was sixteen, my life was like the darkened stage at the end of Hamlet or Macbeth. All littered with corpses and treachery.

My Original Artwork: Triptych

My Original Artwork:  Triptych



Little Deer

Little Deer



Looking Forward, Looking Back

Looking Forward, Looking Back

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