2% Milk Roundtable Up on YouTube

2% Milk logo on tee I got at the launch party. Taken by me. 4 June 2022.

Here is the link to the 2% Milk roundtable discussion that I mentioned in earlier posts. Editors Nic Rago and Lily Reed (mostly Editor-in-Chief Nic) follow up with the artists on their views about their creative processes, their art, and the interaction between the arts and their social and cultural contexts. As on the website, the graphics in the roundtable video are trippy, which I mostly enjoyed. I’m both happy to have been a part of this well-thought-out, interesting, and experimental project, and a little sad that it’s over. The amount of time and energy the editors have put in is truly impressive.

So check it out. And if you have created anything especially intriguing and a little wild, 2% Milk is open for submissions here: submission@uddertimes.com.

Celebrating Rena and Her Art

Water color and pen and ink work by Rena Williams, photographed by me. I am not sure whether this has a title, but she said she created it for her son Robert, who passed away in his thirties.

My friend Rena died in October. As her artwork suggests, she was an endlessly creative person. She was also full of love for all things good and beautiful and perpetually curious about the world. She left a lot of great art behind–I am fortunate to have a small collection of it–and her family and friends are making a book to share her art and spirit with others, especially people who might be interested in displaying her works. I’m proud to say they have accepted my short tribute to Rena for this volume.

I will just tell a short anecdote here, which is one of my favorite Rena memories. Rena’s friend wrote Under the Tuscan Sun, so Rena and her husband Steve were invited to the Hollywood premiere of the movie. They chose to attend their granddaughters’ violin recital instead (I was the girls’ teacher). While I was (though flattered) still reeling from this decision, Rena came up with a plan to have our own premiere when the movie came to our town. We all put on strings of pearls, sunglasses, and other stuff we imagined Hollywood people would wear, and we gave each other air kisses and called each other “dahling.” A wonderful time was had by all.

I’ll leave you with another work by Rena that I am privileged to own.

This is a photo I took of one of many postcards Rena created while listening to music (often opera, especially Baroque and early Mozart). She graciously allowed me to choose a small selection of these, and I was drawn to the ones with asemic writing (art that looks like script).

Cohen Anthology Arrives

Anthology inspired by Leonard Cohen, Before I Turn Into Gold. Taken by me, against a background of my favorite striped azaleas.

This anthology arrived today. It has my poem, ““Hearing ‘Hallelujah’ at the Women’s March, 2017,” in it. I wrote about the poem here. The volume seems to contain a good variety of work, and the visual art is good, too, as the cover suggests.

I like the pose here. The tilted angle of the head and the back turned toward the viewer convey introspection, but there is also a certain intransigence in the cane and the way the figure blocks us. At the same time, the hat is almost rakish. The picture captures a lot without showing us the face. If you would like to contemplate more interesting responses to Cohen, click on the title link in the caption, above, and buy yourself a Kindle or paperback copy.

Poem from 1983 Published and Other News

I have not been in touch with Xiao-Fu for decades, but I hope he will not mind being identified as the inspiration behind the little poem I discussed here, which was published today in Right Hand Pointing and can be read there. Many thanks to Editor Dale Wisely and team for that. Though Xiao-Fu is much older now (I seem to be as well), I think you can see and hear why I thought he was “a little luminous.” I remember him as a very kind person who lived to do justice to great music and to help others do the same. In his spare time he made pots (like the one shown below), went fishing, and cooked wonderful wontons.

Here is a quote from his professional bio:

Xiao-Fu Zhou, a Curtis trained violinist and violist, once acclaimed by New York Times as “a master of his instrument and a poet”. Listening to Xiaofu Zhou playing, wrote one eminent critic in the Strad Magazine, “reminded me of the thrill I experienced 40 years ago when David Oistrakh played this sonata at his first Carnegie Hall recital.”

Mug Xiao-Fu made for me that inspired the metaphor for him in my poem.

In other news, my flash about the closeted Darwinist, “‘Difficulties on Theory,'” has been reprinted in a compendium edition of recent issues of cc&d Magazine called What Lies on the Other Side. So that’s nice. I’ll pick up a copy soon.

“Dreaming to Updated Mountain Songs” Is Up in Coastal Shelf

Before the blight, chestnuts were an important commodity of West Virginia, one that might have spared the Appalachian region much of the ecological and economic devastation of coal mining.

Today I discovered that my poem, “Dreaming to Updated Mountain Songs,” is out in the first issue(s) (1/2) of the new online journal, Coastal Shelf. I am further honored that Carson Pytell, one of the editors of Coastal Shelf, liked my poem so much that he wrote an explanatory note about his experience reading it and some of its implications regarding Appalachian “mountain songs,” which accompanies the poem in the issue. I am grateful to him for his interest, his work, and his patience with me in our exchanges regarding the poem.

I first wrote about this poem here. I want to reiterate now that the work was inspired by a performance of Robert Beazer’s “Mountain Songs for Violin and Guitar,” which can be found beginning at 45:36 of this recording of an excellent recital.

But although Carson Pytell’s interest in the poem as a commentary on Appalachian music is not wrong, I also meant it to comment on the tragic fate of Appalachia, which fell victim to the environmental and socioeconomic depredations of the coal industry, and on the dark side of our country as a whole. The innocence of the “columns” of vanished chestnuts recalls their importance as a healthier, more egalitarian resource than coal. The healing potential of the lost chestnut trees and the living music of Appalachia is counterpoised against not only the damaged region, but also against the “orange hair” and “parade of tanks” that evoke our current national sources of evil and destruction.

At the same time, the poem tells of a dream and thus invites the reader’s mind to wander where it will over the scarred landscape of Appalachia, the United States, and their own psyche. Pytell’s interest in the loss of folk character in popularized and highbrow versions of Appalachian music, for example, adds an intriguing dimension to the work. Please let me know how you read it, and join me in checking out the work of my fellow contributors as well.

Photo credit: Trichestnut, American Chestnut Blight Survivor. 1 Jan. 2016. Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0.

“Dreaming to Updated Mountain Songs” Accepted by Coastal Shelf

Juan Gris, Violin and Guitar, 1913. Wikimedia Commons. PD.

Today I received the welcome news that out of thousands of submissions to the new magazine, Coastal Shelf, my poem, “Dreaming to Updated Mountain Songs” was selected for the first issue. Moreover, because one of the editors made a strong case for its inclusion, Editor Zebulon Huset plans to publish my poem together with a “mini-essay” by the editor who especially appreciated it.

I am very happy about this because I like this poem a lot. It was inspired by a recital you can listen to here, and specifically by Robert Beazer’s “Mountain Songs for Violin and Guitar.” I highly recommend the whole recital, but the “Songs” begin at 45:36.

I liked the combination of traditional idioms with a new sensibility and new techniques in the piece, and later I liked how imagery came together in the poem in a way that was dreamlike but at the same time made a forceful statement about my feelings regarding what has happened to my country, not only recently, but repeatedly over the years in different places and in different ways, as ignorance, greed, and violence tragically put their stamp on the land and its inhabitants. It is good to know that someone else appreciated my statement, and I look forward to seeing precisely what that editor took away from the poem.

“The Perfect Doll” Accepted for A Monster Told Me Bedtime Stories

Dramatization of Schubert’s Erlkönig

Please go see and hear this haunting dramatization of Schubert’s Erlkönig, which was part of the inspiration for my story, “The Perfect Doll.” Ever since I studied this song in conservatory (music history and piano class, I think; I’m not a singer), I have had a thing for it, and I love the way the paper cutouts capture the spooky tragedy of the story in this YouTube video.

I can’t remember the call that inspired me to write this story. Probably it was a Christmas horror anthology. But I combined my mild disgust at the Elf on the Shelf Santa spy with the elves from pagan traditions like those in the Erlkönig or the Wild Hunt and imagined an earnestly Christian family confronted with the pagan Yule.

As usual I had a fun time writing it, only to realize I had once again, without really intending to, produced something on the edgy side. But, as usual, it has found a home. After placing Theda and Me in Horror USA: California on Soteira Press, I look forward to appearing in another anthology from the press, A Monster Told Me Bedtime Stories, due out August 1. Thanks to Rachele Bowman and any other editors and readers at the press who were involved in selecting “The Perfect Doll.”

I hope you are all healthy, happy, and productive in these difficult times. Now go watch the Erlkönig video!



CNF Out in Scarlet Leaf Review

IMG_0672The house I grew up in, taken by me.

I am excited to report that The Scarlet Leaf Review has published my creative nonfiction, From Candy to Courage: Four Life Lessons on People and Politics, which is about how I grew up to be engaged with the political process. I have a sentimental attachment to this piece, which evokes the intensely intellectual milieu of Oberlin in the late 60s through the 70s. Although my family was dysfunctional, I was in many ways highly privileged. I believe this piece shows how that privilege led me to become an informed contributor to our times, and I’m grateful to The Scarlet Leaf Review  for publishing it.

So check it out! And in the meantime, enjoy this 1952 recording of my father’s second symphony, featuring the Oberlin Orchestra, which I recently discovered online:


Two Can Poems Out in Clockwise Cat


I’m pleased to see my poems, “Can #6: Pet Pride Shredded Chicken & Salmon in Gravy” and “Can #11: Clabber Girl Double Acting Baking Powder,” out in Clockwise Cat. “Can #6” was first published in ShufPoetry and republished as part of “Erosion” in Malevolent Soap (now defunct). “Can #11” is one of my favorite can poems and says a few important things about how women are treated/constructed in America.

In the interim between when these can poems were accepted and now, I have been familiarizing myself with the previous issue. Editor Alison Ross collects energetic, cutting-edge pieces that have something critical (in every sense) to say, and say it in a challenging (in every sense) way. It is bracing and sometimes a little scary.

In addition, Ross is paying tribute–briefly in the current issue, fully in the next–to the late Felino Soriano, whose life was cut short at 44. I am not familiar with Soriano or most of his poetry, but, having now read a little of his work, I can say I deeply respect his quest for inventive poetic idioms for our time, and particularly his allegiance to the bond between poetry and music, which is ever-present in my own mind as I write poetry and too often lacking since the days when recitation was still part of every school child’s cultural education. I also know that he generously assisted other poets, including Heath Brougher, who in turn generously recognized my own work and published it in Luminous Echoes (which I discussed here, among other posts).

I am grateful to be in the same company with other poets who are pushing the poetic envelope and paying tribute to those who did so. I look forward to inspiration, encouragement, and a little intimidation from this issue of Clockwise Cat, and I encourage everyone to plunge in with me.

Photo credit: Giftgarden Black Cat Wall Clock Home Decoration for Pets Gifts. 27 Feb. 2017, Flickr Commons. PD.

“Improv” Up in Jerry Jazz Musician


My story, “Improv,” is up on the Jerry Jazz Musician site, here. Please check it out!

As always, once I saw my work in print, I realized that it was perfect in every way, and all my earlier doubts were ridiculous. For one thing, it had been a while since I read it, and now I see that although there is a little rough sex, the most detailed romantic description is sweet and tender, but not too overpowering, since it’s a wistful fantasy.  Speaking seriously, of course I don’t consider anything I’ve written “perfect,” but I was satisfied, and editor Joseph Maita has provided a nice picture of a jazz lounge to go with it.

 In the story, a young woman who has broken out of her humdrum life and love affair experiments with new musical and romantic possibilities, but it turns out she is not the only one willing to push boundaries. So check it out, and enjoy, and also check out the other jazz-themed stories, poems, and articles on the site, which is lively and informative throughout.

Photo credit: hds, Bohren & der Club of Gore performing at Hamburg, Nochtspeicher.  27 Feb. 2014. Wikimedia Commons, Bohren dcog (12843586343).jpg; original at https://flic.kr/p/kyWJKR. CC by 2.0.