Invited to a Reading!

Promotional video: “Meet Matt and Annie Fitzpatrick, the owners of Bluestocking Social. Hear their story of how they met, fell in love, and eventually started Evansville’s newest bookstore!”

In response to this call by David O’Nan, of Fevers of the Mind, I volunteered to participate in a reading, and received a quick acceptance. I am excited to visit Evansville, where I have never been, and plan to share some of my poetry related to social justice, one of the themes featured on Fevers of the Mind. David also asked me to play violin to accompany one of his readings, so even more fun.

If any of you are in the Evansville, Indiana, area, or will be around May 20th after 5 PM Central Time, please come by. It should be an entertaining evening, and I would like to meet you.

“Second COVID Spring . . . ” Poem Up at Fevers of the Mind

Thanks to Editor David O’Nan, of Fevers of the Mind, for publishing my poem, “Second COVID Spring, with Azaleas,” which I wrote about here. Fevers of the Mind is a rich repository of creativity. You never know what you’ll get, but you can bet it will be stimulating. Recently, they featured a showcase of poetry by John Grey, whose work has often appeared in the same periodicals as mine. It’s good–you should check it out.


Two Untitled Poems Up at Litterateur

Photographic reproduction by unknown author of Sandro Botticelli’s Nascita di Venere [The Birth of Venus], ca. 1485. N.D. Wikimedia Commons. PD and PD-U.S.

I am happy to see my two little untitled poems up at Litterateur, Redefining world. I wrote about these poems here. It is nice to see them whimsically set up in the colorful pages of the journal. My thanks to the editors.

I find this journal exceptionally interesting for a number of reasons. Its affiliation with poet and performer Jack Foley intrigues me. What, exactly, is his connection with and influence over the journal? Whatever it may be, I like that Litterateur incorporates the work, in English, of many foreign artists, and I find it interesting to see traditions and styles of anglophone poetry forming in other countries, including India, the home of Litterateur, its principal editors, and many of its writers. It seems to me India, especially, is working out ways to innovate poetry in English with its own fruitful poetic culture.

So head on over and check out Litterateur. As always. I invite you to let me know what you think.

A Bouquet in My Inbox

Tomwsulcer, Floral Bouquet. 7 July 2014. Wikimedia Commons. CC0 1.0. PD.

Today I received a veritable bouquet in my inbox. First, Litterateur, Redefining World, wrote to say my poems were in the January issue, which is good to know, but they haven’t put the January issue online yet–I will update you when that happens. Then, Editor Sara Altman, of Whimsical Poet, wrote to send the link to the digital issue of that journal with “Why the Frogs Sing” in it, and to say that a paper issue will be available soon–again, I will update about that. Finally, the indefatigable David O’Nan, of Fevers of the Mind, wrote to accept my poem, “Second COVID Spring, with Azaleas.”

This last poem, sort of a sequel to my “Pandemic Spring, with Azaleas,” turns out to be somewhat prescient. I wrote it right after I was vaccinated for COVID, when it seemed we were all going to be all right. But I was somewhat leary of such hopes–partly because I’m distrustful of easy fixes by nature, and partly because it was already clear that not everyone was doing what they should to end transmission. Not only were MAGAts being MAGAts, but wealthy countries were not sending vaccines to poorer countries because big Pharma or politically unfeasible, or whatever the “reasons” were. Also, when I had the idea for the poem while rubbing my arm in the living room after the shot, I thought of again linking the azaleas’ reaction or lack thereof to the COVID situation, and I looked out our window-wall to the bank of azaleas there.

Now last time I wrote my poem, I was looking out the bedroom window. The azaleas, of various kinds, were backwards and sideways to the window, the sun was shining, and the whole thing looked like a joyous, crazy choir, completely out of step with lockdown. The azaleas in the beds outside the living room, by contrast, are planted so that the flowers face the house, and instead of variegated bushes, they are a massive phalanx of purple. I noticed they were closer than last year (they had grown), and they were framed by a gloomy atmosphere that day. They appeared to be looking in, if not trying to get in; or, if one saw the blooms as mouths, they seemed to be silently screaming something, perhaps at me.

So I wrote a dark poem about threatening azaleas and wariness in hopeful times. It should be out soon, and I will update you then.

For those concerned about my wrist, the doctor was surprised that it seems to be healed after only four weeks. Now I should practice again.

“Light & Crispy FACTS” Accepted by 2% Milk

mroach, Fox News in Boston. 19 Sept. 2006. Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Just a quick note to say thank you again to Editor Nic Rago, this time for accepting my follow-up submission, “Light & Crispy FACTS” (derived from a carton of bread crumbs), for 2% Milk. I guess this poem is inspired by the phrase “alternative facts,” and by the many alternative-fact universes people seem to be living in right now. But once I put “FACTS” with “Light & Crispy,” I had to find more imagery to elaborate the implied metaphor. Luckily there was a recipe that alluded to the golden color of the bread crumbs and recommended putting the concoction “into a shallow dish” and serving it “with honey.” This all seemed to go along with the kind of “facts” people want to believe in–items cooked up from shallow motives and served in a manner calculated to make their consumers feel good, at least until they die in a climate-change related disaster or find themselves breathing their unvaxxed last on a ventilator. So another political poem was born. I look forward to seeing it up on the 2% Milk site in the fullness of time.

“Amy” Accepted at 2% Milk

Photo credit: Bruce Bisping, Old Style Cash Register and Canned Goods in a Butcher Shop in New Ulm, Minnesota. October, 1974. Wikimedia Commons. PD.

Today I received the exciting news that my can poem, “Amy,” has been accepted by the new journal, 2% Milk, which is so new its multimedia website is still under construction. Not only did Editor Nic Rago accept “Amy,” he also asked me to send along any other “food-related” poems I might be harboring, so I sent my 25th can poem, written a few weeks ago, “Light & Crispy FACTS.” As I mentioned in another post in the can poem category, I do not intend to write more, though if in the future a can’s text seems to be crying out to be remixed into poetry, I may not be able to resist.

The text of “Amy” is derived from text on a can of Amy’s Organic Soup. I used mainly the opening instructions and a long section where the makers describe their homey soup line and mention their daughter, Amy, whose name is on the label. From this I derived a poem in which a parent talks to her (probably) daughter’s lover and her daughter (Amy), trying to advise on a passion that is clearly beyond the parent’s control. While the parent’s imagining of her daughter’s love life seems to violate boundaries, this is in tension with her protective concern for her inexperienced child’s wellbeing. I think it is touching, and I am happy that Editor Rago and team saw something in it as well.

No more reviews right now, as my son has gone back to teach real, heavy facts–not the light & crispy variety–to his high school students. My apologies.

“Why the Frogs Sing” Up at Whimsical Poet, and on Its YouTube Channel

Plus, A Review!

My mom and her dad. Unknown photographer. Not sure when this was. 1947? ‘49?

I was pleased to receive word from Editor Sara Altman that she put “Why the Frogs Sing” (the poem about my mother’s death, which I discussed here) up on the Whimsical Poet site and on the Whimsical Poet‘s YouTube channel. You can see and listen to it here on the website, or just listen here.

Editor Altman also complimented my blog and called me “an accomplished and diligent writer.” I appreciate the kind words, though I could be a lot more diligent. I hope all of you are enjoying reading the blog as much as I enjoy writing it.

In case you would enjoy it more with a review, you are in luck because my son was here for the holidays long enough for us to get one together. Here it is.

Review of Ted Lasso, Season 2:
I can’t get this to embed. I’m working on the problem. In the meantime, you can click the link and hop on over.

Otherwise Engaged Is Here

Otherwise Engaged against a background of Christmas Eve music I was supposed to play. Taken by me.

Amidst the busy time of preparing for Christmas, made even busier because i broke my left wrist* and am effectively one-armed for six to eight weeks, this lovely journal arrived. It contains my poems, “SLOW” and “Tappan Square,” which I wrote about here. It also contains many other pieces and is a delightful thing to dip into at odd moments or pore over at leisure.

So if you missed someone on your holiday gift list or are looking for a varied volume of poetry and prose for your own delectation, check it out here.

Hope you are having a happy holiday season.

*Fell on the ice during a magnificent trip to the Grand Canyon. Small fracture in left wrist, but irksome for a left-handed violinist.

“Kayaking in Lady Bird Lake” Accepted for Hotazel

Train bridge over Lady Bird Lake. Taken by me.

I was surprised and pleased that Editor Linda Mostert and team accepted my poem, “Kayaking on Lady Bird Lake,” for the new South African journal, Hotazel. I think this poem is one of the better ones I have written, and I am excited that it will come out in South Africa, where I have not published before.

Lady Bird Lake, much like South Africa, is a study in contrasts. On the one hand a kayaker finds themself in an urban wilderness, nesting ground for several species of water birds, not to mention turtles and the famous bat colony that makes its home seasonally in the tiny space between the surface and the concrete undergirding of one of the bridges across the lake. On the other hand, the lake has a lot of trash in it, and giant skyscrapers, including a new Google tower, rise on every side. These contrasts are oddly parallel to my experience of taking a bus outside Johannesburg to visit an elephant sanctuary, though I did not think of that at the time.

Lady Bird, too, seems to me to embody many contrasts. I have only read her Wikipedia bio, but her decade of determined work on what was then Town Lake supports some of the details I read about this apparently traditional Southern lady who famously concerned herself with the beautification of US highways. Though some might consider that preoccupation the kind of lesser field deemed appropriate for ladies before the era of feminism, Lady Bird was the first First Lady to have her own office and staff to carry out her initiatives—in other words, she transformed her position into a real job with some real power. “The Highway Beautification Act was informally known as ‘Lady Bird’s Bill’” (from her Wikipedia bio). She was also a trained journalist and a successful businesswoman who used an inheritance to help her husband run for Congress.

As for the supposition that Lady Bird’s beautification efforts were a sort of decorative hobby (a supposition I myself had entertained, I admit), the amazing urban biome she got constructed at the lake that now bears her name shows how important and serious her work was. In fact, she reminds me of my mother, who was also raised to be a Southwestern lady, but worked hard to earn her Ph.D. in art history and become a professor.

Finally, the art of the lake presents yet another evocative set of contrasts. Graffiti, often regarded as vandalism and defacement. becomes a shifting tapestry in which mostly anonymous artists put their stamp on the lake and make their voices heard. For me, the command, “BREATHE,” on the bridge depicted above, evoked the tension between the peaceful solitude I found in the kayak and the busy urban culture around it, between the natural richness and the sinister throwaway culture of our times, a culture embodied not only in the trash of the lake, but also the fate of George Floyd and so many others.

I look forward to my study of these contrasts appearing in a land of different, often troubling, contrasts, and I hope to see other, similar work in Hotazel.

People waiting for the bats to come out of the bridge. Taken by me.

“Tappan Square” and “SLOW” Out in Otherwise Engaged

Photo credit: Daderot, Tappan Square, Oberlin. Ohio, US. July 2008. Wikimedia Commons. PD.

Usually, I post when poems are accepted. But in this case, I failed to notice the acceptance amid the sea of requests for financial assistance that crowd my inbox daily. So it was a surprise when I received an email informing me that my poems, “Tappan Square” and “SLOW,” were already out in Otherwise Engaged Literary and Art Journal Volume 8. My thanks and apologies to Editor Marzia Dessi. I look forward to reading the journal.

“SLOW” is a can poem on the theme of carpe diem. I don’t think it says anything earthshakingly new, but I’m not sure anyone else has pulled comparable wisdom out of instructions for heating soup.

“Tappan Square” is about a real square at the center of the town where I grew up. If you just went to the back of the picture, a bit right of center, and made a left, it’s a five-minute walk to my old house. The square is also where I had my college graduation. I was moved to write the poem after I learned that Moses Fleetwood Walker played baseball there in 1881 before going on to become one of the first Black players to play openly as a Black man in major league baseball, before the major leagues were officially segregated.

Although I recognize that Oberlin is far from perfect in terms of diversity and equality, I still feel proud of the college’s legacy as the arguably the first college to admit Black and female students and the town’s as a station on the Underground Railroad. It was also an enriching place to grow up and attend college, and that’s really what the poem is about.

I don’t yet know how the other pieces in the journal are, but I have a pdf, and when I receive my hard copy, I will post a brief review. In the meantime, as I say to annoy those fighting the War on Christmas, Happy holidays!