Wednesday, April 29, 2009

La Vie en Rose

My whole world seems to be blooming pink this week.  I keep thinking of that great Sarah Vowel essay when she tries to become Goth for a week, and she's so cute and sweet that all the Goth kids tell her she's the "pink of Goth."  That would be so me.  Everywhere I turn this week, no matter how serious and writerly I try to be, I keep catching flashes of giggly, sugary pink.  The dogwoods in front of the old mill outside my window have just exploded in a deep rosy blush.  I look forward to the bloom of these particular trees every year because of the gorgeous clash of the blossoms against the deeper pink brick.

After a long writing morning, Todd and I headed up to Portsmouth, NH, today for lunch at one of our favorite spots, Friendly Toast.  Deep pink walls and kitschy nostalgia combine with crazy good comfort food to make this place very friendly, indeed.  Plus, I love restaurants that serve breakfast all day.
Sister Mary Pink-Eye

This is my all-time favorite milkshake: a pinkie.  A black & white shake with crushed raspberries.  Do you remember the five-dollar shake in Pulp Fiction?  This one's $5.25, and worth every penny.
My veggie BLT (on anadama) and home fries were served on a pretty, square, pale-pink plate.  
Back at home, our crumbling neighborhood even glowed a pretty pink.  

My mum and me after my reading on Monday.  I wore my Morrissey "black on the outside 'cuz black is how I feel on the inside" sundress, but topped it with, of course, a splash of Goth pink.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Harvard & Hollis

The weekend began with pink tulips and the promise of summer weather.

Friday afternoon we found ourselves in Cambridge
with Marlowe & David.

A peek in Colonial Drug was called for . . .

. . .as was some time spent lounging in front of Cafe Crema 
with the birds and the young couples in love.

Saturday was a lost day.  
As gorgeous as it was, I spent most of it inside 
working on a reading/talk I'm giving Monday.
I've been feeling under the weather, 
which is a pity on such a weekend as this,
so Todd dragged me out of bed today and off to the Hollis Flea!
The farmers were out plowing this morning, 
and the dealers were out dealing.  
Tons of great stuff at the market. 
 I bought a few vintage-y treasures, but here's a look at a few that I passed by:
My Memere always had a ceramic tree just like the green one 
on her kitchen table in Old Town, Maine.
A chorus of Kermits.
Fabulous barbells.
It was hot at the market today, 
but this mum and daughter made my heart melt even a little more.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Canal Living

Some shots from the neighborhood this week.  

When you live in a town with many old canals, you learn where old bikes, washing machines, baby carriages, TVs, tires, and scooters go to die.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Terror and the Art of Writing

"Write what you fear," advises Roy Peter Clark in Writing Tools, his incredibly generous and useful guide to writing.  I am trying, Mr. Clark, really I am.  On Monday the 27th, I'll be giving a talk and reading on the campus where I teach.  I've called the talk "Picture This:".  That colon in the title is important; everything in the talk and the reading itself will revolve around the idea of the poetic image.  
When I write poetry, I always begin with image--never idea or argument or thing that makes me want to climb on my soap box and shout to the world.  That's what my blog and letters and emails and long talks over tea with my girlfriends are for.  Poems are for discovery, for experimenting with sound, and for the very serious business of playing with images (well, those other things can be for that, too!).  Arguments and ideas may emerge from image and sound--or they may not--but the most important thing is that foundation, that leaping off point for the imagination.  
"A poem should not mean / but be," Archibald MacLeish tells us, and William Carlos Williams in a "A Sort of Song" claims, "No ideas but in things."  They both echo aspects of John Keats' negative capability, because in order to trust the poetic image and to trust and respect the reader enough to take an imaginative leap from image, the poet has to be able to exist "in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason."  Keats, pictured above, died at twenty-five.  Who understands negative capability at twenty-five, let alone conceives of and gives name to it?  Maybe the fact that he knew he would die young enabled him to grasp something most folks seem to struggle with their whole lives.
So, Roy Peter Clark, I, at well beyond twenty-five, am trying my best to cultivate my negative capability; I am trying to trust in my knowledge of the poetic image, and of form, and of phenomenology, and of good old poetic elements like lineation and meter to be able to write what I fear.  Even more terrifying, next Monday I am going to try to speak what I fear.  Why am I so afraid?  I've been teaching poetry for a decade and these days I give public readings almost every month.  Plus I'm a ham who loves nothing more than an audience.  What's my problem?
Actually, I can't answer that, which is probably a good thing.  It's also probably a good thing that I'm feeling a rising panic about this talk.  I care more about the poetic image than about most things in life.  It's what I think about when I wake up in the morning; it's what I think about when I'm brushing my teeth.  It's there when I'm waiting in line at the post office or stirring a pot of soup.  Sometimes the image is an apple; other days it's a microphone or a staircase or a bee hive or a corned beef, but no matter its shape, it's there, waiting for me to see it, put pen to it, give shape to it, breathe life in it, find a way, no matter how afraid, to speak.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Boston--On the Verge . . .

 . . . of blooming,
of singing,

of sailing (first day of the season tomorrow),

of running (marathon's on Monday),

of catching up,
of heaven.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Commodity Fetishism

You can't have everything; where would you put it? 
--Steven Wright 

Okay, I know I shouldn't worship objects, but I have to admit that I do. Not many, but a few.  Don't get me wrong, I buy things--mostly flea market objets--and have been known to cheerily rescue a chair or a lamp from someone's sidewalk trash.  I love having beautiful things, but I rarely worship them.  In fact, I regularly purge my stuff in order to make way for new goodies.  Basically, when it comes to material stuff, I am fickle and unfaithful.  

I do, however, worship a few items: the letter holder my father made; Todd's Babci's rolling pin; the small, achingly beautiful landscape by my friend Nancy; the wooden bowl where I store garlic; and a few other, mostly small things.  Included on this list would have to be the little change purse, pictured above, that I bought a couple of years ago at Camden Lock market in London.  The purse was designed and made by Sophia Afxentiou, and back when I purchased it, she was still making all her own wares and selling them at Camden Lock and the Greenwich craft market.  I think she was fresh out of design school at the time, and I remember talking with her and thinking, she is going to do really well.  

And she has.  Hooray!  She and her partner, Matt Savage, have moved to a space of their own at Trinity Buoy Wharf so they can concentrate more on design, while a family-owned London company is making most of their inventory.  This cheerful, unassuming little bag I bought for a few pounds is so wonderful.  It is made from laminated fabric, the only kind of material they use at Afxentiou, and I stuff everything in it, from change, of course, to receipts, bobby pins, and fabric swatches.  It's indestructible.  I wish I'd bought one in every print.  At the time I snapped up this one, she was also selling huge, brightly colored buttons that looked good enough to eat.  I bought some for a good friend plus a few bags for other friends, but now I need some of those buttons!  She doesn't feature them on her website, so I'm hoping that she carries them at the shop.   

Todd and I are going to be back in London for a little while this summer, and a visit to Afxentiou is high on my list of things to do.  Who knows what triggers one's lust for or attachments to a particular object?  For me, with this little purse, I'm guessing it has everything to do with color and shine.  I told you I was a magpie.  

A couple of pretty things from Afxentiou:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Poetry of Home, Part II

We had a perfect afternoon for "The Poetry of Home."  As I mentioned in my last post, my poetry workshop gave a reading of their work in celebration of the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater Lowell's 100th anniversary.  

The first floor of the Patrick J. Mogan Cultural Center has been transformed into an amazing exhibition of the VNA's important work over the last century. Before the reading, I snapped a few photos of some of the memorabilia and photographs from the collection:

I love this photo above--the enthusiasm and vibrance of these young women is inspiring.  

All the folks from the VNA, Nancy Pettinelli, Elaine Crandall, and my friend Irene Egan, were simply amazing this afternoon.  They thought of everything: lush flowers, lovely linens, balloons. Irene even presented each poet with a leather-bound journal for their writing.  

One of the nicest aspects of this collaboration is how much we've been able to involve area students. The pastries for the reception were made by students from the vocational school--and they were delicious.

Two UMass Lowell music students helped make guests feel welcome.

UMass Lowell art student Sherwin Piedad designed the cover of our anthology.

Here's my wonderful class, along with poet Paul Marion.  They gave a fantastic performance of their own poems based on the theme of home.  We had a full house, spirits were high, and I could not be prouder of their hard work.

Below is one part of the gorgeous quilt the VNA had made by local textile artists as part of their centennial celebration.  Some of the funding for the quilt project, as well as for our poetry project, came from the Lowell Cultural Council.  

The exhibition includes quotes from patients, such as this one: 

This has been one of the most rewarding collaborations I've done in a long time.  What a pleasure to watch young writers work hard to write, revise, workshop, and revise again (two more times), then push themselves to do something as difficult as reading in front of a packed house, and then, at last, to succeed at it all fabulously.