Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I hate when this happens--Classic books

someone a long while back suggested I should read Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad, said it was a wonderful book. I got almost all the way through it, and have to say it was not what I would call her best work, being as it is a slangy version of Penelope's side of things, from the grave, 'the way it really happened". It comes across as condescending (asides meant to inform, with the assumption that most readers won't have a clue about Odysseus), flip, and a sorry attempt to portray--somewhat lightly-- the whole messy business in modern terms. I was alternately bored and irritated. If someone is going to take a book like this on, it's up to them to find out who Penelope was and who Odysseus was without the author carrying the entire weight of explaining in gratuitous language.

The other disappointment was A Canticle for Leibowitz, which was written in 1959 and is considered a classic science fiction novel. At the time people were concerned about 'the bomb' and were building bomb shelters and considering the moral and ethical points of who to let in, who to keep out, all of that. This was gripping reading back then, and I can understand why. But now it's just, for me, anyway, old history that never happened, and overdone around the edges as well. I got through one chapter and gave up. Sadly. It's been sitting on my stash shelf for years, and now it will probably go to someone who will enjoy it more than I did.

It's like finding out your long awaited trip to a place you always wanted to see involves too many poisonous insects, the shots give you a rash and a blinding headache, and the scenery you wanted to explore is closed for the next six months because of renovations.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sometimes I will critique a poem on a poetry board that somebody has posted as a draft. Often these are the outpourings of teenaged angst, or young person angst, the standard 'moon june spoon'/'he left me and I am in six kinds of pain' poems.

I think most beginning writers go through this, having discovered that their fingertips are the most fascinating part of them (not unlike the way babies discover the world they belong to starting with ME and moving outward from there.) and there has to be certain period where they work out the rough spots. Now and then I take pity on one of them and while not directly critiquing the poem suggest that they might want to consider rewording some of the more angst-laden bits, cut down on the weeping eyes and rent flesh. Now and then they get it immediately, and return a draft that while not perfect, shows improvement.

All too frequently, however, all they want is praise for what they did and have no intention of reworking anything. I'm fairly wary of 'rough drafts' but now and then, as I did yesterday, I took a leap. Her friends came in and told her, basically, the poem was perfect as it was and they LOVED the way the inverted language sounded, don't change a thing, they said.


She hasn't been heard from since. Either she is somewhere hunched over her draft writing, writing, or she has moved on to Facebook.

'rough draft' is a two edged sword. Either the writer is so enamored of this thing that he's afraid to say it's finished and hopes no one will make him work on the masterpiece, or he's too lazy to
actually do the work himself. He wants us to rewrite his entire poem, line by line, and then takes credit for agreeing with us. In a way it's like teaching a kid to ride a bike by showing him a training film, or making him watch OTHER kids ride their bikes.

My own feeling is, if it's that rough a draft, clean it up, work on it, learn how to revise and not worry about "spoiling" it, and when you can't get any forrader alone, THEN you post it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Isabel. Finally.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Alternative to Google Search

it's clean looking, no nine gazillion google ads, your preferences are duly noted, and it seems to work as well as Google. It also lists your most recent seach history right on the side of the box, which my or may not be optional, but it's nice if you have a particular place you want to revisit but forgot to save the URL...

Google has now reached the stage where it's too big, too comprehensive, and too willing to second guess what you REALLY mean. It reminds me of someone who is always finishing your sentences for you. *g*

Friday, September 18, 2009


yep, it's here. Its been chilly the past few days but damp--last night we had rain, the first in a long time, and today we have what I think of as a classic fall day--crisp, good sun, and nice bit of wind for working outside. Doors have to be propped open or propped shut on a day like this, and the windows upstairs rattle in their casings.
In the swamps, the maples bleed into the water, it seems, and its a warning that it's our turn next.

Over time I have heard every weatherman out there explain why the trees turn when they do. One will tell you they don't turn until the first hard frost, another will tell you it takes chilly nights and warm days (err, that's maple sugar time), another, it only happens when the average temps fall below 50 deg. during the day. My own theory is, they change color when they're ready. A hard frost seems to make no difference, dry summers or wet, cold nights or cold days--but, then, these are also the guys who start talking about "Indian Summer" on the first cold day of September, when in actuality and historically it's that balmy period right around Thanksgiving.

Ive been reading Maxine Kumin; House, Bridge, Fountain, Gate, and am struck by the differences between her and Jane Kenyon. Both write of rural stuff, but Kenyon is much more
"me" oriented, Kumin tends to make more outside, deeper connections to what she writes about. Of course, the only book of Jane Kenyon's i have read so far (to be fair) was something cobbled together 'by the estate of", which always seems to me to be more for the money than the memorial. And Maxine Kumin is a perfect poet to read as the weather changes, and you sit in the sun on the porch, and reflect.

Back to the wood pile. Wintah's comin' on.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Eye Talk

Had an appointment with a retinologist today, to see about possible surgery for this detached retina. I didn't expect much to happen, and by golly it didnt. Basically, the way surgery would have gone, would have involved two hours of actual repair, followed by two weeks of recovery, during which I would be unable to read, computers would have to be limited, and as the nurse said, you could just veg out on the couch for the whole time.

She also said that the surgery would be mostly to keep the eye from getting worse. No improvement in vision.

My biggest thought through all of this was, which two weeks would I be willing/able to give up, realizing this was not as big a deal to them as it was to me. Right now we are putting wood in the shed. That will take maybe another month. I still have the garden to dismantle. By the time the wood is in the shed I will have to clean two chimneys, and then we'll be burning wood on a regular basis, lotta lugging and clanking, there. By my reckoning, maybe I could fit this all in by July of 2115...

The doctor said, actually, unless you insist on it, there really isnt much point to the surgery at all, not after all this time. I agreed.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Food Heaven

it was wonderful. My volunteer tomato plant is loaded, and finally put out one large enough and red enough to bring in and eat.

Wednesday my mother-in-law called and said, this year for your birthday why don't I get the whole meal at KFC and bring it over, and we can have a picnic? I've never had KFC in any form, and always had the feeling it would be right up there with the old Swanson Mystery Chicken TV Dinners from the early 50s, but oh boy was I wrong. Yesterday she brought chicken, rolls, mashed potatoes, gravy, and we just plowed our way through the whole thing.

The picnic had to be moved indoors because 58 deg. is really too cold for picnics, but the kitchen table worked just fine...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


25 years ago in November I got my first driver's license, (can we say late bloomer here), and today I went for my new one, (we now get them every five years instead of three), with a new photo id. my god. I now resemble an aging and slightly melted Lily Tomlin. We even took two tries at it, but i could see things weren't improving with practice, so I let it go and took the second one.

From there we went north to the Flume Gorge, which I havent seen since I was a kid. Damned impressive, and not a bad walk at all.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


the fields were mowed last week, and the skunks have begun to spread out their pit digging further and further across the now accessible ground. It does indeed look as if someone flew overhead and dropped large invisible marbles onto the bare ground, leaving little pits everywhere; there isn't enough milky spore out there (that I would be willing to apply) to cover 6 acres of field in a futile effort to eradicate japanese beetle grubs. However, I am beginning to think there are enough skunks, moles, and birds that will do it quite nicely. Go, skunks.


Im not sure just how it happens, but now and then I find a writer who writes seemingly mundane stuff, and at first I think, well, okay. So he was poet laureate, so she was a big deal.
This is boring. And I keep reading, suddenly stunned by something that really has no words to express it-- a link, a connection, the way the words fit together, the spirit, perhaps,
of the writer that lingers in the poem--

Someone writes a simple, 12 line poem about snow, and I can see that snow, feel it, Im in the middle of all of it. I read a poem about walking across a yard in early spring, and there is the yard, that feeling of damp, the smell of soggy hay, of mud, of a much too warm south wind blowing at me--and I think, what just happened here? It has to be more than just the words on the page, more than the fact of celebrity, or skill with words; hell, im a poet myself, and I can't understand it, even though now and then I find myself reaching that same place in something I write, something that resonates for someone else.

In some way the writer enters his own poem, and leaves bits of himself in there for the rest of us to find.

Ted Kooser, thank you. Jane Kenyon, thank you.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Barnes and Noble blowout

We went out to eat last night and ended up at B&N. By the time I was done I had bought six books and one CD, possibly more than I have ever bought at one time except at book sales, which are a special category all in themselves... two poets I have read but never extensively--Ted Kooser and Jane Kenyon--a deeply discounted Spenser novel, Now & Then, a deeply discounted Sue Grafton mystery, T is for Trespass, Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad--one of those books someone says I 'should' read but somehow have never gotten to--and a book for my mother-in-law who reads only particular authors, this one by Kathleen Woodiwiss, who writes historial fiction.

Also stopped off at the Best Buy and recycled an old dot matrix printer; I recently found out that all the BB stores will take electronics, from TVs to printers, mouses and keyboards, and my little recycled soul wept with joy at that. All in all a satisfying, if expensive, night out...

Lope (cool link)

a series of images, once you get into them they become almost like a Rorschach test--I keep thinking, what do *I* see in this...and if nothing else, just fun to move through, one at a time.

Friday, September 4, 2009

when we go back we expect
our old life to still be there
waiting for us just the way we left it.
Mother on the front porch reading,
Daddy asleep in his chair
by the fireplace.
The old dog thumps his tail in greeting,
even though reason insists
that no dog could live forty years,
even for you; all your friends
where you left them, at street corners
and in doorways, leaning against cars
and motorcycles; nearly grown, waving hello
and goodbye as you drive past: Tommy
alive and sporting that new beard,
Ruthann still slim and waif-like--
Armena with a bright new diamond on her finger.
As they were, uncluttered, unfettered by change,
as you were, for a little while.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Storm Tracking

It's that time of year, and this is a very cool weather tracking site with good graphics, a lot of interactive buttons, and it lets you check out other areas as well without too much work.