SAFARI seems to no longer work
for comments...use another browser?

Friday, September 27, 2013

The David Gilmour Flap

Writing room with books, rocks, and birds
Has everybody on earth who has read a book now weighed in on the puckish, contrarian David Gilmour and his interview? No. I have not. I may be the last one.

Here I weigh in
I like the idea of a department having at least one teacher who is wild about his reading and talks about stories from a writer's point of view, and I hope that his enthusiasm for the books he likes is contagious. Then maybe his students will explore and find some of those women writers (he does read Virginia Woolf) he claims not to read. Students are not stupid; they'll notice right away that he doesn't like women writers. Not every professor has to meet every need, cover every question. A department is, one hopes, a wholeness made of disparate parts. (And I, a writer and a woman, am not in a tizzy because David Gilmour will never read A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage. I am fine with that, recognizing that most people on planet Earth have not done so!)

Too many anchovies
The fact that Gilmour spouted all sorts of exciting, teasing non-p.c. things is unfortunate for him and fortunate for journalists and bloggers because he lives and works in a p.c. world. (I know the term "politically correct" is now out of fashion, but (alas) it still describes realities.) Maybe he had too many anchovies at breakfast. Maybe the department chair had just riled him. May the interviewer was a little too attractive. Maybe he had cat-scratch fever. I do not care one whit what his opinions are; they won't stop me from writing or reading as I desire. But I do wish he wouldn't lose his job because of this flap. (Here I note that men appear to be prone to getting themselves into sizzling-hot water at a fairly quick rate.)

The insanity of men and women's powers
I also note that if you look at the bell curves of sanity and neurological deficit, you'll find more men at each end--the crazy, wild smart end and the sad deficit end. Whether the fact that greater numbers of men than women are unleashed from normalcy (and thus, conventional thinking and writing) is a problem for women as writers is a thing we may be able to assess in a few hundred years. But I am confident of women's powers, looking at Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, George Eliot, and many more. If that estrangement from the norm is a measure, well, it seems likely that we have enough women who are also unleashed from the usual.

Weighing in on those who are writing posts (sort of like this, only different)
Can't we get over being so unbearably p. c. and also unloving of anything but the put-down? Violently snubbing him because he hasn't found women writers he likes (his loss) or only read Proust twice (actually he listened to audio twice and read twice, and I doubt that many professors have read/listened all the way through four times) seems absolutely ridiculous.

The Big Weigh
There are only two important genres of books. Good and not-good. Men have managed to write most of the books for many centuries, while women washed the dead and hung out the men's scrubbed undies and birthed the babies (and often died too young because of it, even if they had written Jane Eyre.Of course there will be more books by men that are great books, and more first-rate work to teach by men. It would be fairly sad story for the male sex if that was not the case. But what about today? Well, time hasn't sifted there, has it? The twentieth century isn't settled yet, much less the current one. But in every age prior, the history of the action of the sands of time on literary works shows us than there is always much more not-good to be rubbed away than there is good to endure. Moral: Women who are writers and men who are writers will both suffer the sifting of time. 

The End. 

Quit quarreling about it. 

Love one another and stay out of trouble (i.e. go read a book or write one, quick! And while you're still online, sign up for Prufrock.)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cooperstown anecdote, with baseball and opera--

Dear blogaholics,

Apologies for being overwhelmed by having to judge contests, revise a novel in short order, finish another manuscript, get the house repaired, and be a single mother, all in a few weeks while my husband is in Austria. I've been posting at facebook, twitter, and the new tumblr site (see links in upper left column), as those only take a minute to dash off. But here's a little thing that happened just before my husband left.

* * *

Michael is walking Susquehanna the dog by the shops of Main Street, not far from The Baseball Hall of Fame. Abruptly he is surrounded by a large group of young men and a couple of staff. They might be from area residential facilities like Springbrook or Pathfinder Village because they are all, in the jargon of our day, "developmentally disabled." The guys are sweet and chatty and unleashed from any fear of strangers, talking to Michael and among themselves.

Can we pet the dog? Can we? Nice dog! She? She's a nice dog! Isn't she? There's a lot of baseball stores here, aren't there?

At this, a large, plump kid with a head shaped like a pumpkin leans back and starts belting out "Take me out to the ballgame." What is most startling and wondrous is that he sings with a deep, velvety, gorgeous voice. An operatic voice.

Joy! The sunlight and the one traffic light in Cooperstown change. The day is disarranged, rearranged, estranged.

* * *

Might have to use that some day, somehow.

* * *

Of course, now my husband is in Vienna, conference-going and having afternoon and evening adventures from opera house to concentration camp, as well as eating monstrous dinners like veal cheeks, squid-ink risotto, and diced calf heart and lungs with bread dumplings (the latter served up at Der Grosser, founded 1566 and serving the eagerly carnivorous ever since.) And I am walking the dog every other instant. Because, as we know, life really ain't fair!

Monday, September 23, 2013

In print, all in one spot--

In answer to various people who've asked about what is in print, how to get books, or how to get some book in particular (I get that a lot on the small press books), here's what I know about my 2011-12 books. I'm putting it all in one place and shall put up a rickety little sign with a hand and pointing finger...

For review clips, please use the tabs at the top of the page.

Narratives of two sorts...

Novel: A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage 

The novel is available in hardcover (only a few copies of the hardcover left here and there at indie bookstores and at Amazon) and paperback, as well as for Kindle. Handsome design work by Burt and Burt.

An adventure with a healthy amount of daring, verse, passion, and violence in blank verse: Thaliad, available in paperback in many ways online and off, and in hardcover only through Phoenicia Publishing. You can see the various ways it is available here.

Beautiful art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, immaculate design by Elizabeth Adams.

Poetry collections

The Foliate Head was published in the UK and is available directly through Stanza Press or via Amazon or special order. The first printing has sold out--that's very pleasing, as poetry tends toward low numbers--and the second printing is on the way.

Profusely decorated by artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins of Wales, beautifully designed by Andrew Wakelin.

The Throne of Psyche is still available in both hardcover and paperback at many outlets, online and off, and also at Mercer University Press. Cover image by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, lovely design by Burt and Burt (won a gold Addy award for them.)

Next up: another novel, Glimmerglass.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Recommended: Marilynne Robinson interview

Art in the interview
by Denise Nestor--go see and read!
I have finished work on two poetry contests and am moving on to make a change in a novel that I thought was finished long ago (changed my mind!); pressure from many deadlines having slackened a little, early this morning I rambled about the net for half an hour. And in my wanderings, I found something to recommend.
I suggest that you leap over to Vice and read the interview between Marilynne Robinson and one of her Iowa students, Thessaly LaForce (with a name like that, I'm surprised Thessaly didn't feel compelled to become a poet.) 
Here's a snip to entice:
...Something that I sometimes say, and even sometimes believe, is that there has been a loss of the cult of genius. When I was younger, I remember going around totally deluded by the idea that other people might, in fact, be geniuses or at least be able to express this in any intelligible fashion. The idea that you might do something radically brilliant—that assumption is very empowering and it has given the world a lot of really interesting things to look at. It’s a side effect of the cult of normality—the idea that it would be preposterous and perhaps undesirable to single yourself out in that way. I think that’s why a lot of stuff that basically amounts to breaking china is seen as being creative when, in fact, it’s as subservient to prevailing norms as anything else is, as obedience to them would be.
There is that whole Malcolm Gladwell thing—if you spend 10,000 hours on something, you’ll be good at it. Or good enough. 
The “good-enough” standard is not very desirable.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Nose pressed to the grindstone--ouch!

As I am still in the throes of reading manuscripts for contests and after that shall be doing a hasty burnish on a novel, please go and skim about the blog of Fritteria, who has a passel of quick posts in queue. You'll see lots of images from and notes about some interesting friends and acquaintances of mine.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A case of the fritters

Christine de Pizan


This is the kind of terrible thing that happens
when you have read a manuscript twice in a row
and don't quite feel like starting on the third go,
and your brain feels too worn and stupid
to start other scribal duties.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Book-tour-and-collaboration friends--

Marly with Nathan Ballingrud at Malaprop's. Photo by Paul Digby.
Here are a few of the promised pictures from the August book tour--one from my reading with Nathan Balingrud at Malaprop's in Asheville, and several with the Digbys in front of my family home in Cullowhee. My mother made a splendid lunch for us all.

Lynn Digby and Marly. Photo by Paul Digby.
Lynn and Paul drove all the way from Alliance, Ohio to go to the reading and meet in person. We ate at an Indian restaurant with Nathan and then moseyed over to Malaprop's. A great stop, especially reading with the hometown boy! 

Paul Digby and Marly. Photo by Lynn Digby.
I've been e-friends with composer (and more--what doesn't he do?) Paul and painter Lynn quite a while, and I'm grateful to Paul for the lovely youtube videos he has done (and will do) of my poems--so grateful that I dedicated Thaliad to him (and to one other who has also been a friend to my work, John Wilson.)

Paul, Lynn, and I are collaborating on a work called Requiem (well, my part I'm currently calling The Gold Requiem) that will culminate in a gallery show with paintings, music, and poems. I'm looking forward to more music and paintings!

Paul took a picture of his plate! The small empty one at left
was a cold, lemony eggplant salad with Indigo Rose tomatoes.
Here he has onion tart, fresh creamed corn, butter beans,
corn bread with cracklin', white acre peas, and okra and tomatoes.
Very Southern. And much from my mother's garden.

Saturday, September 14, 2013


Laughing! @Malaprop's, August 2013
Or, the Fear of Spontaneous Combustion!

I'll be off blogging for a little while longer, as I have a long manuscript to polish and a book contest and an anthology contest to judge, all due before the end of the month. Please whisk about in past posts if you feel like reading the blog, and let me know if you find in gold in the far hills.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Dear bloghounds and wandering sprites,

Photo by Rebecca Beatrice Miller, 
August 2013
No doubt you are all on tenterhooks about what has happened--if anything--in my life (unless you are tied to facebook and twitter, in which case you already know, as last night's insomnia was good for both of those sites!) For now, I'll say that I am back from Vermont, where I delivered a child to school and had a very good time (though my vertebrae are protesting from all the East Coast driving of the past three weeks. And the box-toting in Vermont.) But I have leaped from the proverbial boiling pot to the fire, as my youngest has just met the doom of another year of high school, the new painters finally arrived this very day (my house has been measled with primer all summer long by the last set), and I have a manuscript dueduedue.

But I really shall post pictures from the book tour, and perhaps even from Vermont... when I post them. And not before!

Friday, September 06, 2013

"Warrior Girl" & the cartoonists--

I'm off to the curious land of the cartoonists... And leave behind today's poem--one only, rather odd, rather small at Angle.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

On the road: fall

After the reading... Marly Youmans and poet Jeffery Beam at Flyleaf.
Photo by painter Laura Murphy Frankstone.
I'll be going back South in November to visit and talk at Wofford College, where Jeremy L. C. Jones is using both Thaliad and A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage in literature classes. I'll also be reading from The Foliate Head (and maybe more) at Hub City Books, and maybe doing a workshop. And I'm contemplating what else I might do while on the road or in the Carolinas...

Perhaps I'll add an event or two since I enjoyed my last Carolina tour so much--13 exhausting days of frolic and readings and roads. But right now I need to get children ready for school and do some ferrying.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Vermont Kingdom + Children of Mystery

I'm back from the book tour--13 days of frolic, readings, old and new friends, marvelous dinner parties, and long-distance driving. I'll write something about the tour later and post a few pictures, but for today I'll just note that two poems in the September/October issue of Books and Culture are now online as well as in print. Here's a small bite from each. If you want the entire meal, fly here.

"Vermont Kingdom" was written on a bench at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont while my daughter was having a portfolio review. "Children of Mystery" came out of a longish exchange on Twitter with the wonderful @DeathZen.

Vermont Kingdom

Dirigibles barely wafting, dropping
Shadows on the mountains, handkerchiefs
No giant will pluck—

Children of Mystery
     "The ecstatic hermits are invisible at first." —@DeathZen

Even as infants they were hard to find,
Often resting in shadows from the huts,
Squeaking when we tripped on little torsos,