“Lines on Elephants Having Breakfast” Is Up on Grand Little Things

Me with an elephant at Glen Afric Lodge. Taken by our guide, Tim Smith. Summer, 2019.

My poem about my close encounter with elephants, which I wrote about here, is now up at Grand Little Things. Many thanks to Founding Editor Patrick Key and team. If you need something light and pleasant in your life these days, head on over and read my poem. If you want more than just pleasant, hang out and read other grand little things. The journal has a rich and varied menu of offerings.

“Why the Frogs Sing” Accepted by WhimsicalPoet

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

Many thanks to Sara Altman, Editor of Whimsical Publications, for accepting “Why the Frogs Sing,” which is about my reaction to the death of my mother. When I got the call telling me she was dying, I had an odd sensation of lightness. Later, I woke up when it was still dark. It was a steamy Southern night, and the frogs were chorusing.

A few years ago, I heard a story on NPR about how frogs in a lake (as I recall) near the Atlanta airport were unable to chorus due to noise pollution from the planes. Because they could not produce their intimidating group noise, owls were picking them off.

My imagination connected the image of frogs borne upwards to the lightness I had felt when I first heard Mom was going. I felt many confused things about Mom’s sad life and her death during, but apparently not from, COVID. I thought of the abuse she had endured as a child, and of how hard she had tried to escape the mental illness that landed her in a home far away from me, and of how hard she had found it to socialize with us even for a short time the last time we saw her.

It seemed to me there was a parallel between the frogs’ short, desperate lives and our own, between their singing to cheat death and our efforts to give our lives meaning, and between their ends as they were borne aloft in the owls’ talons and the feeling of a lightening of burdens and at the same time an emptiness that i imagine death brought to Mom, and that I certainly felt.

This is what I tried to convey in the poem. Again, I’m grateful Editor Altman found it suitable for WhimsicalPoet, and I look forward to familiarizing myself with that publication.

“Kayaking on 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.

“BEST” Nominated for Best of the Net

and no review . . .

Industrial plastic netting. Taken by me.

I am thrilled to discover that the editors of Angel Rust have nominated my poem, “BEST,” for Best of the Net! I wrote about the poem here. This is especially gratifying because it can be hard to even place avant-garde poems, and as I have mentioned, I was once abused by an editor for daring to submit a couple.

Also gratifying is the inclusion of work by my friend and colleague, Shloka Shankar, in Angel Rust‘s list of nominees. Her nominated poem, Recital, is characteristically dreamy, beautiful, and fraught with lurking violence, so go read it.

And now, Why there will be no more reviews for a while:

My son moved away to take his dream job teaching high school social studies. He is the driver of the reviews project, and by far the more knowledgeable about media (and history). We are hopeful we may have some time to do a review here and there when he comes back, but it is hard to organize when we are both busy and far apart.

I miss him and our projects. Luckily, my daughter is keeping me busy with wedding plans!


My BEST Poem Accepted by Angel Rust–And a Review

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

I am pleased that the editors of the new magazine, Angel Rust, have accepted my can poem, “BEST,” for their first issue. I have written about my can poems so many times that they have their own category on the blog, so you can just hit that for more information. Basically, I select text from top to bottom, front to back, of a can. The words coalesce around a theme. To give myself a slightly broader vocabulary, I sometimes put parts of two words together to make another.

I find that composing these pushes me to think outside the box because words I would not have thought of get worked into the poem and help it say something I did not expect. The corporate and commercial language also tends to produce an activist slant, because, divorced from its original context, this language highlights systemic depersonalization and inhumanity in our society, although at times it can also get positively lyrical. I hope to find enough new can text to produce four more poems, and then I plan to stop, though you never know.

“BEST” fits the can-poem theme of corporate depersonalization since its subject is an anonymous, perhaps collective, speaker’s demand for subservient mediocrity. According to their About page, Angel Rust “is a place for under-represented voices to be messy, to speak their truth no matter how shocking, and to die on a hill no one else cares about.” As such, it seems a fitting place for “BEST,” and I look forward to seeing the kind of company my poem will keep there.

And now, a review. This is the end of the Oscars reviews. Before my son and partner called a halt to them, I had already seen this movie and thought it was very good, so I strongly encouraged him to see it and do a review with me. I’m still his mother–what choice did he have? So after we finished seeing It’s a Sin, we saw Crip Camp. Here’s our review.

Second Poem Accepted at Right Hand Pointing–and a Review

My living room, taken by me, 7 June 2021.

After a worrisome dry spell, Right Hand Pointing announced on Facebook that they didn’t have enough acceptances for their next issue and requested submissions. Since they so recently accepted “Luminous,” I thought I should send something, and I happened to have a good poem called “While You’re Away,” written when my husband had to take two trips in a row

I walked into the living room/dining room/music studio (not visible in the picture, but to the left of the table), and found those two chairs turned as if invisible people were turned away from me and talking. I see that in the picture they don’t look exactly like this. The actual reason they are turned is that I read with my coffee in the mornings and rest my legs on the chair to the left. But that day they were positioned more as if two people were sitting talking together, so a poem was born. I’m grateful to Editor Wisely and staff, who promptly accepted it.

I enjoy the quirky work in Right Hand Pointing, and I have also been enjoying the haiku and senryu in First Frost, another product of Right Hand Pointing‘s parent press, Ambidextrous Bloodhound Productions. If you like brief, evocative reflections, this is the poetry for you. I don’t often attempt this sort of thing, but admire those who do it well.

I look forward to seeing “While You’re Away” out in July. In the meantime, here’s a review:

Our final take on It’s a Sin.

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.

Love Song for LaTasha Review, and Twitter Mention

We found this film to be laudable in its intentions but disappointing in its execution. Portraying Latasha is a delicate balancing act, as anything negative about her or her friends, family, and neighborhood is likely to be seized on by racists and used to justify her murder. But by praising her largely in vague, idealizing terms, the filmmakers make it hard for us to feel that we are getting to know a real person and her real relationships. I do believe this is an important injustice that should be more widely known, and I respect the choice to focus on LaTasha, not the crime or its aftermath.

In other news, I was pleased to get this mention by After the Pause of the poem I discussed here. You can read it just by clicking on the arrow in the tweet and going to full screen. As always, I would be interested to hear your thoughts.


College Poem Accepted, and a Review

Mug my violinist friend made for me. Taken by me.

A few weeks ago, when looking through a drawer of old stuff, I came upon some writing I did in college. A poem struck me as tolerably good, so I submitted it, and it has now been accepted by Right Hand Pointing. I was probably eighteen at the time I wrote it, which means it is from 1983! Talk about evergreen content.

The poem is Asian-inspired, in more ways than one. When I was growing up, my friend’s mother translated Chinese poetry, and I was interested by it. And at the time I wrote the poem, I was taken with a Chinese violin student at Oberlin. We were never more than friends, but I enjoyed his company, learned from his teaching–he would burst into my practice room and help me phrase better–and appreciated the mug he made for me, shown above. My poem uses the mug as a metaphor for how I felt about him.

The mug still makes me happy when I look at it, and the prospect of sharing the poem is a joy.

And now, for something completely different, a review:

More amazing Holocaust references here. Also, I note similarities between my life and work and those of Russell T Davies that in no way mean I think I am equally talented–they just struck me.

“Why did I lose my heart so easily?” Up in Nevermore

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Lovers, 1875. Wikimedia Commons. PD.

Today I was happy to find that my poem, “Why did I lose my heart so easily?” is up in Anthology I of the new journal, Nevermore. I can’t say much about Nevermore, since it is new, though I do look forward to reading it. Also, I am grateful to the editors, but beyond that can say nothing, not even their names, as they are shrouded in mystery.

Likewise, I wrote about my poem here and don’t have much more to add. Although I learned a lot about myself in the process surrounding writing “Why did I lose my heart . . . ?,” I still have a lot of doubts about the best ways to use that knowledge. Mostly it seems I should be thankful things have worked out as well as they have and do the best I can with that. Perhaps this is a good general strategy for encountering the new year in general: if we can only grope our way forward, at least we’re going in the right direction.