Saturday, November 15, 2014

"In the Library Bathroom, 2010" Now Up at Literary Mama!


In the Library Bathroom (2010)


Outside, people read their books
and life carried on
while i stood in the bathroom
waiting, waiting for one line to appear on that
white stick, hinged onto the future.
Instead, two lines appeared
and nothing else existed.

the intricate tile on the floor faded
ancient light fixtures dimmed
the mirror reflected what was already know.

there was no need to decode:
plus, minus; dots, lines-
One for no, two for yes.

it was almost spring
the traditional time of
rebirth, regeneration.

Life held on stubbornly,
a barnacle in the uterus.

I wanted none of that.

..........Read the rest here. 

Monday, April 07, 2014

My Poem Up At PoemCity'14 In Montpelier, Vermont

To An Unborn Son

Special thanks to Michelle Singer
for the picture

You never existed outside
Either in dreams
Or my own solid body. 

You came
When my daughter
-Your sister-
Was born
On what would have been
Your second birthday,
Then gone
Just as suddenly
As you appeared.
On a night where a king
Spoke of ancestry:
"Your eyes could never have been
Blue, gypsy." 
His regal stance
Your coy recognition:
Mother, Mother
I am here.
Now you are ten,
This son of mine
This bright flame
In need of a name.

October 2013

Monday, March 31, 2014

Reading Audre Lorde's "Cancer Journals"

The Cancer Journals, Special Editon
Audre Lorde
Paperback, 104 pages
Aunt Lute Books (September 2006)

I read May Sarton's Journal of a Solitude right before I started this, so there will be a bit of comparison. I enjoyed this one more than Sarton's book, perhaps because it does deal with illness in a very real, very frank way. In general, Lorde held more strength in her writing. While Sarton's book had its profound moments on creativity, being a woman, etc.
It seemed as if Lorde, despite what she was going through, was solid, present in the now. Not so much with Sarton. Her writing, an extension of herself, felt meandering and wispy, not quite as solid.

This was originally written in 1980-a little over 30 years ago. In 2006, a new edition was released with tributes by Adrienne Rich, Alice Walker and others. She moves back and forth from journal entries, poetry and prose that flows seamlessly.
A lot of what she says about doctors, hospitals, the Cancer foundations can still be applied to today's standards. For example:

"I would lie if I did not also speak of loss. Any amputation is a physical, psychic reality that must be integrated into a new sense of self. The absence of my breast is a recurrent sadness, but certainly not one that dominates my life. I miss it, sometimes piercingly. When other, one-breasted women hide behind the mask of prosthesis or the dangerous fantasy of reconstruction, I find little support in the broader female environment for my rejection of what feels like a cosmetic sham. But I believe that socially sanctioned prosthesis is merely another way of keeping women with breast cancer silent and separate from each other. For instance, what would happen if an army of one-breasted women descended upon Congress and demanded that the use of carcinogenic fat-stored hormones in beef-feed be outlawed?"-page 14-15 (Italics mine)

The woman was simply years ahead of her time. This book remains relevant because of statements like these and the entire premise of the book. Nobody had ever before written about breast cancer, let alone a black, lesbian woman. She was not afraid to tell it like it is.

In one scene of the book, she is in the hospital, recovering from surgery. A friendly nurse comes in to check on her and offers her advice about prosthetic breasts; how she would feel "more like a woman" stuffing her bra with one of these cold, form-fitting breast-like things. She simply refused to do it because it would be "a sham" and that women should feel no shame. It was also a slight hit to conformity. Why should she conform if only to please society's image of womanhood?

There are many, many passages underlined in my copy of this book. It's an amazing and essential read, particularly in Women's Studies and African-American literature.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Reading A Light in the Ruins, Chris Bohjalian

"Use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because you never know until you check."

The Light in the Ruins
Chris Bohjalian
Doubleday, July 2013
Hardcover, 309 pages
ISBN-10: 0385534817


His work is always exhausting to read-emotionally exhausting.

I had the killer pegged about halfway through and then I peeked at the end just to make sure. I couldn't wait. Yes, I know! Cheating!

The precision of the words are amazing, as with his other books. I read Sandcastle Girls when it came out in 2012 and was blown away. No less hard to read. As a side note, I had the pleasure to go to a reading when this first came out at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vermont. There was a long, long line for a signing. I was dead last, but did indeed get my copy signed.

A Light in the Ruins is a scene of World War 2, Italy, betrayal, devastation, torture and circumstances.
I was disenchanted by the end. I expected more destruction in the way of Cristina's defense against German soldiers, but she didn't do any of that. They would have been justifiable casualties of war. Maybe I expected it because that's the way stories usually go.

The man who was following Cristina and wreaking havoc in her family gets shot but doesn't die. That would be expected, of course. But, it left me unsatisfied anyway, simply because there was no real, definitive end. Everything felt so unsettled. Then, again, not every story ends all tidy and neat.

The line for signing. I'm in the blue shirt in the way back.
The signed book.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Contributor at Speak Mom

Starting this month, I'll be contributing to a brand new site focusing on motherhood at Speak Mom.

From the site:
We're partnering with writers from across the web to bring you a diverse mix of mom-focused content. 
Check out the contributors, browse the site and consider subscribing.

Feel free to take a look at my posts here.

Keep updated!...Speak Mom is on Twitter and Facebook!

Interested in contributing? Find out more here.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Reading: Dark Places, Gillian Flynn

Dark Places
Gillian Flynn
Paperback, 349 pages
Broadway Paperbacks
ISBN: 978-0-307-34157-0

 The book starts off with one of the best lines I've read in a bit:

 "I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it. It's the Day blood. Something's wrong with it. I was never a good little girl, and I got worse after the murders."

 How great is that? This made me want to read more.

If you have a weak stomach, this is probably not for you. It's dark and gruesome in parts and somewhat graphic.

It switches back and forth from present day to the day of the murders some 20 years ago and is told from the point of view of three people: Libby, Ben (brother) and Patricia Day (mom). Sometimes the multiple point of view approach doesn't work at all, but Flynn manages to get it rolling here.

It starts off in the present with Libby Day. Her entire family was murdered by her brother (so they said), she-left as an orphan, passed from family member to family member. It was a highly publicized murder and there was high-profile media coverage as she was the only witness. She became the heroic nine-year-old survivor to a horrific event. A "Libby Day fund" was set up for her by donations from the public who felt sorry for her-a couple hundred thousand dollars-which she has been living off of since she was eighteen. There were book deals and articles that popped up on anniversaries. When the money starts running out, she proposes another book deal to her money manager, but he doesn't think it would work because of the time lapse and people are more interested in another horrific murder.

When you read Ben's point of view, you see all evidence points to him, and by extension, his girlfriend, who-admittedly-is a bit of a crazy one. He's into Satanism, keeps to himself and is generally acting unlike himself.

She finds out about the "Kill Club," one that is obsessed with notorious crimes like the Day case, who are convinced that the brother, Ben, did not do it and have their own theories. They sent her a letter hoping she would consent to giving talks about the day of the murders on the "real facts'. They are a bit star-struck that this is THE Libby Day, in the flesh. Libby agrees to help them out with the case, but she wants money in exchange for her services-upfront. The Kill Club was a bit people can be so obsessed with something like that and the fact that there was, like, a convention.

There was one part where Flynn introduced this man, Calvin Diehl. He only has one small chapter from his point of first I thought: What is this and why is this guy here? It seemed he had no place whatsoever. Wrong. You find out by the end of the book. Don't want to spoil it. You'll just have to read it.

I've read all three of Flynn's books. She really has a knack for writing damaged women, dark and disturbing situations. In Dark Places, she did a great job in writing Ben and the psycho girlfriend. You believed he really murdered his own family. Although, with each book I read, I felt the need to regroup and clear my head. Reading it sometimes made me uncomfortable and squirmy. Like a sticky film.

So much better than Sharp Objects. You can see the writing is tighter and the plot more developed. You sympathize with Libby even though she is far from perfect. I totally did not see the end happening as it did. Truly a bit of a twist for me.

Gillian Flynn's site
You can read an excerpt from the book here.
ALSO! Dark Places looks like it will become a movie soon! 2014?

You can read more of my reviews at Goodreads.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Reading Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and her Family's Feuds

Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds
Lyndall Gordon
Paperback, 512 pages
June 2010
Penguin Group
(originally published by Virago Press in England)
ISBN13: 9780670021932

I loved this book precisely because it delves into what happened after her death concerning her work. I had no idea! The fact that the family completely perpetuated the legend of Dickinson, part of which a generation removed continued with their parents' crusades, took it to another level of truthfulness and revenge.

Mabel Loomis Todd (who had her own husband) was the life-long mistress of Austin Dickinson, Jr. (Emily's brother). It seems as if she attached herself to the family because they were affluent and held heavy influence in Amherst. Some would say she was parasitic in her quest, for lack of a better word, for fame and recognition. Mabel openly (privately) lambasted and vilified Mrs. Austin Dickinson and made her life miserable. Although, it probably went both ways.

She (and eventually her daughter, Millicent) played a huge part in E.D.'s literary legacy. E.D.'s sister, Lavinia, was the literary executor after her brother Austin died.  Mabel squeezed her way in with her excellent copywriting and editing skills by transcribing E.D.'s poems, publishing them in a book with the insistence of her name being on it.  The feud went on between Lavinia and Mabel to their deaths and their daughters continued it. After Lavinia's death, Mabel became the sole executor through her involvements with E.D.'s work.  The whole ordeal (lawsuits, courts, petty feuds) lasted well into the 1950's-a century after E.D.'s death, the two families bitter rivalries to the end.

Lydall makes the conclusion that she had Epilepsy based on medications that were given throughout her life as well as a possible explanation for her reclusiveness. She also points to a nephew, Ned, who also had the affliction, suggesting that it may have been congenital. It's possible, though many seem to dispute that.

Another thing I found interesting was the way the family "doctored" her picture throughout the latter half of the 1800s and beyond, according to the times, with different hairstyles, different clothing. This was probably publicity related because, at that point, a small museum was erected in the house she lived along with the publication of the collected poems. The family was already enjoying receiving curious visitors to The Recluse's room in hopes of understanding this unknown woman. This only added to the mystery of the poet.

Very little has been written about E.D.'s actual life. She has always been shrouded in mystery-the Lady in White, recluse. Recently, a photo surfaced of an older Dickinson, a rare find since no other daguerreotype was known to have existed. The literary world and authorized experts were ecstatic. She was in the news again with the discovery of her "envelope poems", gathered together in the book The Gorgeous Nothings. A fair amount of press for such a private person.

It was kind of slow-going and it took me longer than usual to finish. Considering it was 512 pages, it was a haul. But, it was well worth it.The scope of this book is thorough, and this particular review only covers a small part. If you haven't read enough Dickinson, this is a great place to start. Another great book is White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. He plays a pretty significant role in Lives Like Loaded Guns.

Today is Emily Dickinson's birthday. The internet is buzzing with tributes, articles (both scholarly and general literary). The Writer's Almanac had a piece on her today in celebration. I suppose this review is a bit of a celebration as well.

As an aside, The Daily Beast published an article, The Revelatory Paper Trails of Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath. 

Lyndall Gordon has written many other books about classic authors including T.S. Eliot, Henry James and Virginia Woolf. Lives Like Loaded Guns was a Duff Cooper Prize Finalist, a British prize for nonfiction.

You can see more of my reviews at Goodreads.