Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Witches' Wine (Halloween Poem)

Witches' Wine

Trance work takes mulling
mugwort and lemongrass,

honey to sweeten the pinch
of herbs first boiled in pig

fat, then strained of bittered
brew. Tinctures of henbane

and monkshood, hemlock
and belladonna, mandrake

and nightshade alter what
rites first sips from pewter

cups restore. Like a potent
flight from God of the Vine's

own pagan stores, the dose
ferments nocturnal dreams,

works magic clear as the coven's
call to mount manticores or

brooms. From the cauldron rise
no spirits distilled. The line is

drawn, the circle cast in forest
dark as the raven's hair. Now

from primal well is drawn vinum
sabbati — black wine of owls.

Feathers swirling, witches fly out,
dance on the face of a Blood Moon.

© 2012 Maureen E. Doallas

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

the enemy has no uniform (Poem)

the enemy has no uniform

and an orange taxi is not armored
for rules of engagement

in the intersection with the Red Crescent
ambulance or the white Mercedes

or the pickup carrying the brother
who will never make it

because no one gave an order
to fire and everyone was firing

at the same thing everyone else was
left to figure out on his own

if your home is just around the corner
you don't turn back but dash right through

onto Baladiyat Street, tripping
the wires misfiring in the head ever after riddled

with questions you will hear for the rest of your life

like in a junk yard the cars pile up
because in Iraq the cars keep coming

like the bullets
keep coming from all directions into the intersection

if they could have they didn't just shoot
out the engines

their claim is the need to say so much before
the lines get run, the way mascara soon runs

from the eyes
from the backseat of the blue Mercedes

its windshield shattered not unlike the shoulder
dislocated and the skin pulled away

the white undershirt pulled off
the baby and waved

doesn't stop the firing, nor a kid rolling
out the door of another car

before another car and another
car not part of the attack

and not a single one a suicide bomber
but every one driving toward the intersection

like it doesn't matter
they're a bunch of innocent Iraqis

and any civilian who says that
in war there are no rules of engagement

bears a scar on his soul

five thousand rounds and a couple more
it takes to stop the path

of fear traveling toward you
because you can't say stop! loud enough

take time long enough to know
why you do what you do was not

entirely defensible
when cars are coming

toward you and the enemy has no uniform
you can see and there's something

about killing, about a mother with a mangled arm
holding up a baby red with blood

like your own that you will ever after remember

because you were told
anyone could be hostile, because you didn't train

for civilians coming out of houses
or driving through the wire right at you

toward the casualty-collection point

later, marriages will be lost and religions
given up unlike the dogging memories of the killing

it will take rituals of fire
and water to cleanse

tea and cakes on a tray
a long smoke in a front yard in California

to think about that stuff, humanize the things you don't
humanize over there

after you realize what you did before
forgiveness is mentioned

© 2012 Maureen E. Doallas
__________________________________

I wrote this "found" poem after reading Dexter Filkins's article "Atonement" in The New Yorker (October 29 and November 5, 2012). Filkins's nonfiction piece (available to subscribers online) is about an Iraq War veteran, Lu Lobello, and a family harmed when their paths crossed on April 8, 2003, in the neighborhood of Baladiyat in eastern Baghdad. It is a story about extraordinary loss, about fear and confusion in an impossible situation "on the ground", about not being able to forget, and about need to both seek and receive forgiveness. It moved me deeply.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Muse Watches 'Constellations'

I introduced a Todd Boss videopoem ("The Trees—They Were Once Good Men") to my readers this past July (see post). Below is an animation of Boss's poem "Constellations", which is from the collection Yellowrocket (W.W. Norton, 2008). Enjoy!



Text of "Constellations"

With Angella Kassube, Boss co-founded the nonprofit Motionpoems. Boss's most recent collection is Pitch: Poems (W.W. Norton, 2012).

"35 Poems for 35W", StarTribune, August 2, 2012

Broadside of "Today It Seemed I Had Nothing to Say", Kerri Cushman Letterpress, Woodcut by JJ Eisfelder (PrairieRosePress [Etsy]; Additional Images)

Motionpoems Animation of Boss's "God Flips"

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Forecast (Poem)



Hurricane Sandy, National Hurricane Center, NOAA

Forecast

Who's prepared to stare down Sandy,
her Cyclopean nerve center manned

by an angry eye grown large enough
to take in some eight hundred miles

stretching from the Atlantic inland
to the Great Lakes. Who can be blind

to her unpredicable ways, the power
she's gaining by aligning her forces

with a nor'easter and that cold front,
too. She's not likely to change a course

that's been plotted for the perfect storm.
Whose trick's the worst when high tides

rise with full moon this Halloween Eve.
This monster's assuring us nothing

not anchored will stay hunkered down.

© 2012 Maureen E. Doallas

Two other weather-related poems: July Storm and Weathering It.


Thought for the Day

Before me my longing,
And behind me fate.
~ Umar Ibn al-Farid

______________________________

Umar Ibn al-Farid, Egyptian Poet, 1181-1245

Umar Ibn al-Farid: Sufi Verse, Saintly Life, Th. Emil Homerin, Translator (Paulist Press, 2001) 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday Sharing (My Finds Are Yours)

This week's Saturday Sharing leads you to and then away from the Shakespearean Insulter, into the realm of color, alien civilizations, and origami bonsai. You might find the Infinite Atlas a help.

✦ This color wheel at CrowdFlower is like no other; it has at least 4,000 colors, with the names in nine different languages and translations in English. So, what do you think: Do people from different countries have different concepts of color boundaries, as the researchers ask?

✦ If you're insult-oriented,  the Shakespearean Insulter might be the tool for you.

✦ Looking for a  free online photo editor? Try ribbet. (Thanks to Diane Lockward for the tip.)

Infinite Atlas plots all the locations (there are more than 600) mentioned in the late David Foster Wallace's novel Infinite Jest. Created by William Beutler, the GoogleMaps-based interactive atlas is searchable, even by character. In the About section you'll find a link to Infinite Boston, described as a "ruminative travelogue and photographic tour of key locations" in Boston, Massachusetts, and a link to Infinite Map, a poster, available from the Infinite Shop, that identifies 250 of the "most interesting" locations identified in the novel. (My thanks to Publishers Weekly for the link.)

The Infinite Atlas Project on FaceBook and Twitter

✦ Ever wonder how to calculate the number of alien civilizations in our galaxy? Information Is Beautiful created this interactive infographic, using an equation offering a wide range of answers. You may tweak the statistical probabilities but you won't learn what to do when the ETs show up.

✦ My friend Ann Martin at All Things Paper not long ago spotlighted the lovely and wonderful designs of origami artist Ben Coleman. Here's a video of his origami bonsai sculpture "Peach Dream".



Origami Bonsai on FaceBook

Friday, October 26, 2012

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

All Art Friday Spotlights

✦ A converted dairy farm, Lexington Farm, built in Reading, Vermont, in the early 1800s, has been converted to a gallery space by Hall Art Foundation. For the inaugural installation, work by Georg Baselitz, A.R. Penck, Neil Jenney, and Edward Burtynsky will be presented. Contact the foundation for event information. A complete Website is forthcoming.

✦ Save the Date: The Fifth Annual JRA Day, a craft artist exhibition and sale, sponsored by James Renwick Alliance, is December 1. Its location is the Woman's Club of Chevy Chase. Jewelry, wood, fiber, ceramics, glass, mixed media, photography, and cards will be featured during the event. Images by medium and artist name are here. All the artists are members of the Alliance. Admission is free.

James Renwick Alliance on FaceBook

✦ A highlight every fall, the 25th Annual Washington Craft Show comes to Washington, D.C.'s Walter E. Washington Convention Center November 16-18. Preview attending fine craft artists, by medium, here.

Washington Craft Show on FaceBook

✦ Fall means the holidays are approaching. It's not too early to think about gift-giving. If the beautiful work available at JRA Day or Washington Craft Show is beyond your wallet, consider Transformational Threads, where you'll find limited editions of exquisite custom hand-embroidery produced exclusively for Transformational Threads by Vietnamese artisans. These are unique, entirely hand-made works of art, ready to frame and offered at extremely affordable prices (from $175 to $365, plus state sales tax and handling/insurance/shipping).

Transformational Threads on FaceBook

Seen at upper right: Peacock (Crimson) © by Judith HeartSong. This image was licensed by Transformational Threads and recreated in thread for Transformational Threads. Other recreations in embroidery include Koi by Nuch Owen and Waikiki Gold and Nerium Oleander by Jennifer Kassing-Bradley.

✦ Save the Date: Next March, in New York City, Seth Apter joins Roxanne Evans Stout and Elizabeth Wix in presenting a two-day workshop titled "The Need to Tell Stories". A series of art-related exercises and activities will culminate in creation of a hand-made book. 

Knowing Seth, I can say unequivocally you'll have a wonderful time.

The Workshop is limited to 10 participants, so don't delay in signing up. For details, go here.


Exhibitions Here and There

✭ At the Society of Illustrators, New York City, you'll find "The Original Art: Celebrating the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration", on view through December 22. The annual exhibit features "the year's best" children's books, all selected by a jury of illustrators, art directors, editors, and experts in the field. Some 139 books are being exhibited this fall, including Gold Medal winner The Conductor (Chronicle Books) by Laetitia Devernay. The list of featured artists is here


Museum of American Illustration at Society of Illustrators on FaceBook and Twitter

SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia, continues its exhibit of "Lynda Benglis: Figures". On view through January 2, the exhibition features four large-scale wall hangings of cast aluminum.

Lynda Benglis on Art21

SCADMOA on FaceBook and Twitter

✭ In Richmond, Virginia, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is showing "Gesture: Judith Godwin and Abstract Expressionism", running through January 27. The exhibition features 15 works spanning the career of the New York-based painter, a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University. The university has mounted 25 paintings from the 1950s and 1960s for "Judith Godwin: Early Abstractions", showing through December 9. A catalogue is available.

VCU Exhibition Checklist (pdf with images)


Walter Robinson, "Judith Godwin: Now We're Ready",  ARTnet Magazine, December 13, 2010

Paul Ryan, "Reading the Paintings of Judith Godwin", The Mary Baldwin College Magazine, Fall 1998

VFMA on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

VFMA Blog

VCU Anderson Gallery on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

Anderson Gallery Blog

✭ The art of figurative painter Frank Moore is on view through December 8 at New York University's Grey Art Gallery and Fales Library. Included in "Toxic Beauty: The Art Frank Moore" are some 35 major paintings, more than  50 works on paper (gouches, prints, drawings), maquettes, sketchbooks, notebooks, storyboards, films, source materials, and ephemera. Accompanying the exhibition is a catalogue including excerpts from Moore's writings and highlighting previously unpublished archival material culled from the Frank Moore Papers housed at Fales Library.

Moore died of AIDS in 2002, age 48; he was an activist and founding member of Visual AIDS and involved in the creation of the red AIDS ribbon. This press release offers additional information about Moore and the exhibition.

Selection of Exhibition Images

Roberta Smith, "Where Anxieties Roam", Review, The New York Times, September 6, 2012 (Slideshow)

Kristina Bogos, "Late Artist Frank Moore's Work Delves Into Health and Environment", Washington Square News, September 6, 2012

Hilarie Sheets, "Frank Moore's Full Impact: Q+A with David Leiber", Art in America, August 23, 2012

Frank Moore Profile at Gesso Foundation and New York Times Obituary

Images of Frank Moore Work at Sperone Westwater

Fales Library on FaceBook and Twitter

Fales Library Blog

✭ Sol LeWitt is the subject of "The Well-Tempered Grid" at the Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts, continuing through December 9. The show, described as the first to focus on LeWitt's use of the grid, presents 65 works on loan from the LeWitt Collection, Chester, Connecticut, and a selection of LeWitt's artist's books from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Library. An illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition.

On November 1, "LeWitticisms", an evening of music and contemporary dance inspired by LeWitt wall drawings, will be offered at MASS MoCA, in North Adams, where "Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective" is ongoing. Download an exhibition guide (pdf) and an iTunes podcast about the latter. Detailed information about the wall drawings and time-lapse videos are found here. The museum has published with Yale University Press Sol LeWitt: 100 Views and Sol LeWitt Wall Drawings: A Catalogue Raisonne (go here for information).

WCMA on FaceBook

WCMA Blog

MASS MoCA on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

MASS MoCA Blog

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thomas Moore on Art and Spirituality

Psychotherapist, author, and lecturer Thomas Moore, Ph.D., spoke this past March at the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, on art, dreams, spirituality, and our need for emptiness. Below is a video of that talk.

Some highlights from the talk, which also included a question-and-answer period:

✦ . . . [W]e tend to live in just one layer, just one layer of our lives. . . We have our life that we look at that looks like this is the world we live [in] and this is who we are but we have overtones. . . we have a soul level. We have our ordinary life but there's a resonance to that life. . . [T]he first major level is the octave of the soul. Then there's another octave. . . another level altogether, which is the spirit. . . [S]o often we don't look at these other octaves. We don't listen for them. . . don't know. . . what's happening at that level of the soul and the level of the spirit. . . So, what do I do in order to pay more attention to the soul level? I ask for a dream. . . .

✦ . . . [I]t's important to lose a lot of things that we think are precious to us. . . .

✦ . . . [D]ream and the mysteries of our existence and the arts are really . . . in the same place. . . They're not at that literal level [where] we normally live. . . That's a reason, I think, why we have trouble with art and appreciating art and understanding art. . . we are not in tune usually with these other layers, with these overtones. . . what [the] artist is helping us reach. . . [T]he beauty of art is that [it] gives you pleasure as well as takes you to. . . where the whole meaning of your life is. . . .

✦ . . . [T]he deepest, deepest levels in your life — your spirit and your deep soul — are profoundly involved in the art around you. The art is there to show you what you have to experience in your life. . .   [T]o look at art is not to go look at something that's pretty. It's to go somewhere and be overwhelmed. . . .

✦ Emptiness. . . it's the very core, it's the foundation of a spiritual life.

✦ . . . [T]he point is not to fill ourselves up but to be able to live with. . . the thing that empties us out. And a real artist, it seems to me, like Emily Dickinson and Rothko and so many others, [is] willing to be and able to be emptied out. . . empty in a spiritual sense. . . .

✦ . . . [T]he spiritual life is meditative life, where we are in touch with the sublime moving toward values of world community. . . .

✦ [When] we're able to. . . see those images that are stirring within us, then we can approach art because then we'll know what its all about. . . .

✦ . . . [E]mptiness is not literal. You may not find emptiness in a place that's totally empty, literally empty. . . .

✦ . . . We need art. . . to have what we need for ourselves.

✦ One of the purposes of religion is to be an art of memory, to keep in mind things that we forget. . . .

Art, Dreams, and Spirituality from Rothko Chapel on Vimeo.

Audio Only

Lecture Transcript

For events this fall at the Rothko Chapel, check the season calendar.

Thomas Moore's Books

Care of the Soul Blog

Barque: Thomas Moore Blog

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It's a Girl!

To deny it, to be too uncomfortable to look
at it, to be too embarrassed to see it, is 
to be complicit in it.
~ A.G. Harmon 

The "it" to which A.G. Harmon refers is gendercide, specifically the killing of newborns who are female; in more dramatic words, "it" is described as sex-selective mass murder. Harmon wrote October 18 about the insidious cultural practice in his essay "The Three Deadliest Words in the World: It's a Girl" for Image Journal.

Readers of this blog know that I'm not shy in speaking out when an issue deserves attention. I've written about the repression of artists in the Middle East and Asia, gang rape on school grounds, the price we pay for blind obedience to government policy, bullying, Haiti, poverty and the experience of homelessness, AIDS in Africa, the brutal treatment of students in Iran. I don't kid myself that there are any easy answers to overcoming the enormous challenges these and other issues present. But as A.G. Harmon so wisely points out, to not speak out, to not sign a petition to increase awareness, to turn your face away from an "ugly" issue because you don't think anything you could do matters, is to sanction wrong-doing through your silence. We cannot afford silence.

Aborting, killing, or abandoning newborn females (also known as female infanticide), denying girls education to keep them in poverty, allowing child marriages, subjecting girls and women to neglect or worse physical abuse such as rape, enslaving girls and women via sex trafficking are deeply ingrained, culturally sanctioned and sustained practices. According to United Nations' estimates, as many as 200 million girls (!) are "disappeared" because of gendercide. Gendercide is prevalent especially in India (Harmon writes of one woman who has killed eight of her newborn daughters) and China but it is by no means limited to countries in Asia. In a May 5, 2012, article, "Gendercide in Canada?", The Economist cites a provocative study about the spread of sex selection to so-called developed nations. In the United States this year, proposed legislation (Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act) that would have banned abortions on the basis of a fetus's sex, failed to be enacted.

Addressing gendercide in law (as is the case in India, for example) goes only so far. Gendercide is not a women's issue but a moral and human rights issue. Profound and lasting change, meaning elimination of gendercide and related customs and practices that treat girls and women as less than equal, requires constant agitation and many voices raised together.

Some of those voices against injustice are captured in the documentary It's a Girl (Shadowline Films) by filmmaker Evan Grae Davis. The film relates not only the stories of women victimized by dowry-related violence, abandoned and trafficked girls, and women fighting to save their daughters' lives but also the stories of women "who would kill for a son".  Here's the sobering trailer:


It's a Girl is now partnering with Causes to leverage social media to increase awareness of gendercide and promote activism on the issue. In addition to encouraging  donations on behalf of initiatives of nonprofit partners such as Women's Rights Without Frontiers and Invisible Girl Project, It's a Girl and Cause are circulating petitions to end gendercide and forced abortion in India and China, respectively (I've signed both). They also are campaigning for worldwide screenings of the documentary. You can bring It's a Girl to your own town or city (learn how). An educational version of the documentary is available for classroom use, and the documentary is expected to be made available for sale to the public on DVD in 2013.


It's a Girl on FaceBook and Twitter

Join me in educating yourself about gendercide (I've provided some resources below), signing the petitions, helping to circulate the End Gendercide Manifesto, attending a screening of the documentary, donating to causes that support initiatives to help girls and women worldwide, and getting the word out through social media. 

You have a voice. It counts. Please add it to initiatives that can and do make a difference to us all as citizens of the world.

Resources




Gendercide: Boys Without Girls at Worldlife Expectancy


Girls' Rights (The Working Group on Girls at the UN) (See the factsheets.)





Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Poetry of Illness

Note: This essay, which first appeared on April 29, 2010, is a repost. It corrects for information that should have appeared as two separate introductory quotes.

Sometimes in sickness,
we are weak enough to enter heaven.
~ Epigraph, City Boots by Elizabeth Ward*

Is getting well ever an art
or art a way to get well?
~ "Unwanted" in Day by Day by Robert Lowell

Just as visual artists can do with paint, so can poets create with words the experience of living with, suffering through, and surviving their own or another's catastrophic illness. Cancer, AIDS, depression, Alzheimer's, paralysis—these and many other diseases and physical conditions exact an intimacy with the rising and falling of emotions thrown up against a body taking itself down: frustration and anger, defiance and abjectness, resignation and extraordinary will, despair and hope. 

Like any other art done well, poetry touches and teaches, too, when it gives us an honest, perceptive, and unique insider's view of the vulnerabilities we recognize as our own.

Poets don't become better poets because of their experience with disease or what issues from it. Often, the best write without ever referring to their illness by name and without ever populating their poems with the real-life paraphernalia that provides the means of coping with it. The medicine bottles, IVs, and bandages cluttering their (or our) kitchen tables and bathroom shelves don't have to be mentioned to be seen. The words create the visual metaphors.

Today, I'm giving you the words of a few poets whose work testifies to the grace that comes through words when words are the last things said, who show us how to sieve loss — of a breast, a limb, an eye, the mind — to be able to go on, who know how to hold onto memory when all else is gone. 

* * * * * 

The son of Maya Angelou, poet and novelist Guy Johnson was paralyzed because of an auto accident and suffered numerous spinal surgeries before regaining ability to move. Out of his experience came "The Psalm of Severed Strings"* from which these deeply felt and evocative lines are excerpted:

Yet, if spirit remains,
a human can still be seen
amidst the disobedient flesh.
And, if the will has fiber,
even wood can be made to dance.
. . . with gossamer thread
each ligament, nerve and limb is moved
to rejoin life's wild carousel.

(* I found this poem in Kim Rosen's Saved By a Poem.)

Rachel Wetzsteon, about whom I wrote here, committed suicide last December. A close reading of her poems in Sakura Park gives insight into the darkness that consorted with her. The questions that haunted are sometimes clear, the answers unknowable.

When that attempt at betterment—
Empty the mind I would not, could not—
Lasted about ten silly seconds
. . . I succumbed
Unwillingly as children creep to school
To the signed slip, the full bottle, and the
Really quite unanswerable question:
If I did recover would that "I" be
No one I knew, or the  true me back at last?
~ From "Two Remedies"

In his prize-winning My Alexandria (1993), Mark Doty, who in 2008 won a National Book Award for Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, addresses death and grief through the metaphor of AIDS. (Doty's partner Wally Roberts died of the disease in 1994.) Here's an example:

Nothing was promised,
nothing sustained
or lethal offered.
I wish I'd kept the heart.
Even the emblems of our own embarrassment
become acceptable to us, after a while.
~ From "Days of 1981" from My Alexandria and in Fire to Fire

In "Fog", also from the same volumes noted above, Doty writes about HIV testing and of "seeing blood everywhere" he looks.  Peering into his garden, he remarks upon the thinning of tulip petals at their base, which he thinks no one else "would see. . . looking in" from the outside, but he then comes to "realize my garden has no outside, only is / subjectively. As blood is utterly without // an outside, can't be seen out of context, / the wrong color in alien air, no longer itself. // Though it submits to test, two, / to be exact, each done three times, // though not for me, since at their first entry / into my disembodied blood// there was nothing at home there. // For you they entered the blood garden over // and over, like knocking at a door / because you know someone's home. . . ."

In "Atlantis" from his collection Atlantis (1995), also a prize-winner, Doty theorizes: "I thought your illness a kind of solvent / dissolving the future a little at a time; // I didn't understand what's to come/ was always just a glimmer // up ahead. . . ." Loss glimmers as "the tide's begun / its clockwork turn. . . ."

The poet, essayist, translator, fiction writer, and screenplay writer Tess Gallagher published Dear Ghosts in 2006. The fact of Gallagher's breast cancer, its name unspoken, echoes below the surface of many of the poems in the collection, as in this example:

Driving to the ferry,
that reverie releasing
the unsaid, I tell my friend
it's okay. I'll be okay.
When the doctor 
said There's no cure
an arrow flew out of
the cosmos—thung!
Heart's center. Belonging
to everything. That
quick.
~ "Bull's Eye"

Fourteen years before, Gallagher published Moon Crossing Bridge (1992), elegies to her husband, the famous writer Raymond Carver, who died of cancer in 1988. Loss and grief, so profound in such lines as "My love's early death has scraped away my future", also are expressed beautifully here through the simple act of folding clothes:

I Stop Writing the Poem

to fold the clothes. No matter who lives
or who dies, I'm still a woman.
I'll always have plenty to do.
I bring the arms of his shirt
together. Nothing can stop
our tenderness. I'll get back to being
a woman. But for now
there's a shirt, a giant shirt
in my hands, and somewhere a small girl
standing next to her mother
watching to see how it's done.
~ "I Stop Writing the Poem"

Cancer survivor Mark Nepo calls the moving poems in his Surviving Has Made Me Crazy "handle-less cups"; the poems are handle-less, he explains, because they represent what he had to learn while trying to regain his health: "that to touch and to drink are the same thing." He is now, he says, "broken open into honest living". Here are a poem entire and an excerpt from another in the collection:

When wiggling through a hole
the world looks different than
when scrubbed clean by the wiggle
and looking back.
~ "Living Through Things"

The net is more important
than the fish. It is the casting,
the waiting, the pull, not knowing
what is resisting. And the fact
that every good net has holes
is a reminder that everything
that lands in our hands
is just a borrowing.
~ From "The Sale of Our History"

Many other poets have written eloquently about those they love whom disease has claimed, among them Donald Hall, who wrote the remarkable collection Without after the death from cancer of his wife, the poet Jane Kenyon. (She also wrote a number of wrenchingly beautiful poems about being ill.) The depth of the loss Hall has suffered (and referenced in all that's left behind) is undeniable in this excerpt, the conclusion to his "Midwinter Letter":

Remembered happiness is agony;
so is remembered agony.
I live in a present compelled
by anniversaries and objects:
your pincushion; your white slipper;
your hooded Selectric II;
the label basil in a familiar hand;
a stain on flowery sheets.


For many of us, a poem like this "works", is as much about our own as Hall's loss, because it hits altogether too close to home.
____________________________________

* In her book (available on Amazon), Ward attributes the epigraph to Robert Lowell.

Apple Picking (Poem)

Apple Picking

How you reach,
ever stretching

that hand up, as
if it's not enough

to wait for what
the branch will

hold down for you.

     * * *

The falling is
to the apple

no more than
is the missing

limb to the tree.
The vine sheds

what makes no
wine. The fruit

the tree bears
as the ground

does rot after.

© 2012 Maureen E. Doallas
______________________________

This poem is inspired by the beautiful images of apple trees photographed by Kelly Sauer.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Muse: The Poetry Doctor Is In


Logo for Poetry Surgeries Program
The Poetry Society, United Kingdom

Are you suffering rejection malaise? Can't seem to get useful feedback? Unable to count syllables? Failing to get your rhythm right? Maybe you're just heart-sick and not sure how to describe your symptoms in words your readers understand? Are your love poems not hitting their mark? Do you need professional help to learn how to avoid mixing metaphors that sends others' blood pressure up? Is seeing imagery in your mind causing you migraines? Would your lines benefit from new breaks? 

Perhaps you need Poetry Surgeries to bring everything into alignment. Limited to emerging and mid-career poets, they're an entirely elective form of critical care that tend to have the best outcomes when patients are open to criticism and know not to take their medicine too personally. Caveat: Willingness to fill a prescription for improvement right away is no guarantee you'll enjoy publishing success. Poetry Doctors have no control over run-away editors or critics who exercise their own subjective opinions about which poems to accept. 

How I Think Poetry Surgery Works

Four times a year, professional poets in the United Kingdom with the right credentials get to hang out their Poetry Doctor shingle and practice the medicine of word-righting. Licensing is through The Poetry Society, which, for added convenience, currently coordinates surgeries in three locations (London, Edinburgh, and Norwich) to put the right patient in touch with the right doctor. Wordsmiths who understand iambic pentameter and are skilled enough to explain how a simile differs from a metaphor or why Plato wanted poets in his republic are preferred. Applicants with years of teaching experience may be awarded extra credit at time of e-mail.

Those selected to become Poet Surgeons (and there can never be too many) offer appointments on their own hours. Some surgeons may be so adored by their patients that they fill their calendars early. For example, this year, London Poetry Doctor Katy Evans-Bush had to schedule her December surgeries in October.

A simple pre-admission requirement is in place: Prospective patients will be asked to submit a few sample poems in advance. (That should be a breeze. Imagine if you had to write an essay about the history and symbolism of the caduceus! As a poem!) If you've published something recently, keep that fact to yourself, unless full disclosure is requested. Any additional requirements will be communicated when the appointment is confirmed. Different doctors have different requirements, depending on the specialty or degree of expertise sought. None is associated with any school advocating death-by-writing panels.

Payment is required at time of booking. No exceptions! Be sure to let the doctor know your affiliations when you call for an appointment, as fees are discounted based on your particular plan; members of The Poetry Society, for example, are charged one fee, with the scale sliding up for non-members.

Working With the Doctor

Patients will be told to arrive promptly at the specified hour; no esteemed Poetry Surgeon wants to be kept waiting when she has a full schedule and limited time for her own writing after hours. If you're booked (i.e., accepted), expect 30 minutes of relaxed conversation per session; the meeting place will be specified in a virtual letter of acceptance.

Bring your own Kleenex if you forget to take your anxiety pill in advance of your meeting. It's helpful to have a writing pad or some other device to take notes as the doctor talks with you. You'll want to have your own printed copy of the poem to be discussed.

The session is one-on-one, face-to-face, although some doctors might keep an assistant at hand to record minutes out of view of the patient. Any such record is retained only until publication or destruction of the poem, whichever occurs first.

Bribes of cream teas and scones are strictly prohibited!

Expect every Poet Surgeon to provide a diagnosis that aims to highlight the strong points in every poem read and picked apart. If necessary, the doctor will prescribe personalized medicine to heal earlier wounds, which means he will seek to concentrate your attention on how to make your poems stronger, not wad them up for the circular file.

After the initial consultation and diagnosis, ongoing communication with the Poetry Doctor is between you and the good Doctor. No need to drag The Poetry Society into further affairs.

Going Abroad or Staying Home: It's No Choice

The Poetry Society has not shared any plans to export its National Health Plan for Poetry to America, credential its Poetry Doctors for work abroad, or encourage doctor-patient relationships in the former colonies via Skype. No doubt poets-to-be in the United States would benefit from more open direct-enrollment and consumer-directed policies but there's a limit to everything, you know. 

So, forget traveling abroad to work with English poets. There's an easier way to offer poetry care right here at home. Given the thousands of would-be poets twittering in word communities throughout the United States, many looking for attention, your best bet, if you're a professional poet on this side of the Atlantic, is simply this: consider the British Poetry Society's model your own, and don't be shy about putting the good idea to practice. After all, America has its Poetry Foundation, its Academy of American Poets, its Poetry Society, its presses large and small; any one should be willing to take a virtual leap at the opportunity to increase revenues without having to publish a thing. It's the American Way to make (and hold onto) a profit.

Now, convincing any one of our national, regional, or local organizations to sponsor custom Poetry Surgeries shouldn't take your writing hand or a cup of sharpened pencils, and equitable cost-sharing arrangements with mentors shouldn't take an act of Do-Nothing Congress; however, at this point in my essay, you're entirely on your own. But do be the first to submit a proposal. Don't confuse talking points with a real plan. Remember to give your venture its own catchy name to avoid testy run-ins over trademarks. Keep your prescriptions legal. And consider offering prospective mentors an incentive to up their patient-loads, say, an app guaranteed to keep all negative criticism confidential while blocking patient access to FaceBook or other social media reporting sites.

One final bit of advice. When you're ready to affiliate, be careful to not impose too much red tape. Encouraging creativity is an art and poets are known to be especially sensitive souls.  Nobody likes a poetry snob, especially when in need of  a doctor.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Invitation to Invest (Poem)


Reverse of The Great Seal of the United States
on U.S. Currency


Invitation to Invest

If it's a pyramid scheme,
nobody keeps an eye

on the guy at the top.
When you're creating

a new order and claim
Providence favors your

every move, you don't
need to finish the building.

Starting it is good enough.
By the time the last block

is in place, the climb up is
much harder for anyone

beginning at the bottom
of those 13 slippery rows.

You just have to talk Latin
to your stars in the middle,

remember to let them bask
in the shine your own rays

cast in all directions. Write
them their check in Roman

numerals, date it 1776, sign
it Virgil. The promise of it's

the poetry: the few bills slipped 
from the pocket of your pants.

© 2012 Maureen E. Doallas
_______________________________

This poem is my response to today's photo prompt at Magpie Tales, shown above. If you're unfamiliar with the symbols and inscriptions on our money, go here for an informative explanation. I've made liberal use of it.

The prompt, provided by poet Tess Kincaid, can be found here. Write our own poem to the prompt, drop the link where indicated, and enjoy the other contributors' poems.

Thought for the Day

To perceive something is to recognize it. But to recognize
something is not necessarily to perceive it.
~ Judith Thurman, Introduction to Drawing Is Thinking*
_________________________

Milton Glaser's Drawing Is Thinking (Overlook Press, 2008) is without text. We best learn from it when, as Thurman recommends, we "[o]pen the book to any page and . . . just sharpen [our] eyes."

Milton Glaser on FaceBook and Twitter

Judith Thurman, a contributor to The New Yorker, is the author of Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller (1993; Picador [paperback], 1995), Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette (1999; Ballantine Books [paperback], 2000), and Cleopatra's Nose: 39 Varieties of Desire (Picador, 2008), a collection of essays. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday Sharing (My Finds Are Yours)

This week's edition of Saturday Sharing time-travels with Google's World Wonders Project, visits 21st Century Abe, makes note of an Authors for Libraries site, checks out a collection of Library Quotes, marvels at the more than 130,000 free reviews at Booklist Online, and listens intently as Jorge Luis Borges lectures on the riddle of poetry, the metaphor, telling the tale, and more.

✦ Google's World Wonders Project will have you time-traveling — no admission tickets required —  from Stonehenge to Pompeii to Cape Evans in Antarctica. Explore by location or theme, such as archaeological sitespalaces and castles, and places of worship. The site includes guides on history and geography for teachers at primary and secondary schools and is available in six languages.

✦ While not new, 21st Century Abe will delight fans of Abraham Lincoln. Don't miss Maira Kalman's "Finding Lincoln" in the Project Artists section.

✦ Use the Authors for Libraries site to find your favorite writers and their titles online. The site is a project of ALTAFF (Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations) and aims to connect authors with libraries (to schedule talks and readings, for example) and keep them informed about library-related issues. For more information, go here. ALTAFF also maintains an Authors & Libraries Listserv. Also of interest is the American Library Association's ilovelibraries.

✦ The searchable Library Quotes is a collection of quotes about libraries, reading, books, literacy, and all things literacy-related. The quotes are collected from activists and benefactors, historical figures, media, politicians, entertainment and sports figures, and the library community.

Booklist Online, the American Library Association's book-review magazine, offers more than 135,000 reviews dating to 1992; all are free. Be sure to check out its Book Group Buzz blog and the Great Reads page. Booklist associate editor Donna Seaman hosts the hour-long Open Books Radio from Chicago.

UbuWeb, one of my favorite sites, offers in their entirety Jorge Luis Borges's "The Craft of Verse: The Norton Lectures, 1967-68". These six lectures are not to be missed.

Friday, October 19, 2012

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

All Art Friday Spotlights

✦ The coalition Artists Against Fracking,  involving more than 180 artists, has been launched by Yoko Ono and her son Sean Lennon.

✦ The American Association of Museums, Washington, D.C., is rebranded the Alliance of American Museums.

AAM-US on FaceBook and Twitter

✦ Latitudes's #OpenCurating is the first recipient of a BCN Produccio 2012 research grant from Barcelona's Institute of Culture. The initiative, launched in early September, aims to examine how contemporary art projects "can function beyond the traditional form of exhibition-and-catalogue in ways which might be more fully knitted into the web of information" existing today. The first of 10 projected interviews, "Beyond Interface", addressing the content of the Walker Art Center's Website, is found here and here (issuu pdf).

✦ The Peekskill Project V: The New Hudson River School kicked off September 29-30. Some 120 artists selected by a team of curators are participating in the city-wide festival, which runs through July 28, 2013. Presented by the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, the festival seeks to bring "cutting edge" contemporary art into the community, with urban sites —industrial spaces, vacant lots, storefronts, parks, local businesses, the Peekskill waterfront — serving as "stage". In addition to site-specific art exhibitions, the festival offers performances and screenings in multiple venues through Peekskill, New York.

HVCCA on FaceBook

HVCCA Blog

✦ The "George Bellows" show at the National Gallery of Art closed October 8. The exhibition included a David Hammer documentary about the artist, produced by NGA and narrated by actor Ethan Hawke, that uses original footage shot in Manhattan and Maine to chronicle Bellows's career and how he addressed the social and political issues of his time; archival footage and photographs also are used. The film, in DVD format, may be purchased through the NGA's online shop. A brief review is here.


Works by Bellows in NGA's Collection

Attention Fiber Artists!

Are you a fiber artist in the greater metropolitan D.C. area who needs studio space? The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Capitol Arts Network - CAN Studios may have an opening for you.

In August,  I wrote about CAN's exciting new arts initiative: an arts center offering residents artists studio space in which to work and affiliate artists space as needed and as available. (See my post here.) Since the announcement about the center, CAN has juried in approximately 22 resident artists from all practices. Currently, it has space for 10 to 12 more artists. The affiliate program, providing lockers and work space from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. every day except holidays, is able to host 18 artists; one already has been accepted into the program.

To round out its offerings, CAN is seeking fiber artists at all levels, from emerging to mid-career to established professionals, in need of studio space (the arts center is in the Rockville, Maryland, area). This is an unparalleled opportunity in our area to become part of a new arts center focused on working artists and arts education.

For information about remaining studio space, a tour of the studio space, or the application and jurying process, please get in touch with Judith HeartSong at judith@capitolartsnetwork.com.

Capitol Arts Network on FaceBook

Exhibitions Here and There

✭ Washington, D.C.'s National Gallery of Art continues through January 27 its exhibition "Shock of the News". The exhibition, in the gallery's Mezzanine, examines artists' appropriation and uses of newspapers. Included is the work of more than 60 European and American artists, among them F.T. Marinetti, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Kurt Schwitters, Jasper Johns, Laurie Anderson, and Robert Gober.

NGA on FaceBook and Twitter

✭ Next week, the Spagnuolo Gallery at Georgetown University opens a show of drawings by plastic surgeon and GU alumnus David A. Hidalgo. (As an undergrad, Hidalgo double-majored in art and biology.) His "Personal Passages" runs from October 24 through December 9. 

Laura Landro, "The Man of a Thousand Face-Lifts", The Wall Street Journal, August 17, 2012

✭ Next month in Seattle, the Seattle Art Museum will be showing off a special selection of objects from its textile collections. "Going for Gold", opening November 3 and running through November 17, will feature "glittering golden threads of French brocades, imperial Chinese robes, Japanese kesas [the shawl worn by Buddhist monks], and Persian bedcovers—all seen as rich backdrops to gleaming objects", including powdered-gold lacquer boxes, hammered gold earrings from Africa, and a Faberge cigarette case. 

SAM on FaceBook and Twitter

✭ Continuing through January 6 at the Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, South Carolina: "Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade 1940-1950", spotlighting 37 of Rothko's paintings, watercolors, and works on paper drawn primarily from the collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. A catalogue, published by Rizzoli and featuring an essay by Rothko's son Christopher Rothko, as well as essays by Rothko scholars David Anfam, Harry Cooper, and Ruth Fine, accompanies the show. An array of exhibition-related events, including lectures, is offered. 

An ongoing show "Modern & Contemporary Art from the Collection" features more than 30 paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptures by Leon Kelly, Gene Davis, Jasper Johns, Sally Mann, Ed Ruscha, Pat Stier, and others.

CMA on FaceBook and Twitter

✭ Sculptures and paintings by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Olga de Amaral (fabric sculptures), Carol Shinn (machine-stitching), Gugger Petter (newsprint), and Lia Cook ("embedded" portraiture), among other contemporary artists, are on view through November 25 in "Sleight of Hand" at the Denver Art Museum. The show highlights the artists' creative and sometimes surprising use of embroidery, quilting, weaving, netting, crocheting, coiling, and ikat.

DAM on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Interview with Artist Evy Lareau

[Art] is a language I understand.
~ Evy Lareau

Figurative painter Evy Lareau is an art instructor at a correctional facility. She got the job after responding to a help-wanted ad. She's worked as an art therapist (she has a master's degree in art therapy), case manager, and art teacher in residential treatment centers and specialized schools, as well as public schools, around the country. Lareau also has created after-school programs and programs for Boys and Girls Clubs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Los Angeles, California, where she now resides. Wanting to know more about Lareau's experience in bringing art into uncommon environments, I conducted an interview with her by e-mail. Portions of this interview appeared in August at the T.S. Poetry Press blog TweetSpeakPoetry.

Maureen Doallas: What draws you to working with at-risk youth, the disadvantaged, or those in need of special education services?

Evy Lareau: I have always had a passion for creating and providing opportunities for people in environments where art is not commonly found [to be] important. Art is such a wonderful tool to respond and communicate with. It is so versatile. It also is non-threatening, allowing my students to learn and feel heard. I'm an activist for arts education as a means of general education. I recognize the value it offers, and embrace [its] challenge.

MD: Why do you think art matters to the specific groups you teach?

EL: I ask my students, "Why is art important to you?" [Some of their answers are:] "Because I'm able to express myself." "It keeps me focused." "It distracts me from where I am." "It relaxes me." "It makes me feel good about myself when I complete each project; I feel like I am good at something."

MD: You created an arts program for your current employer from the ground up. What are some challenges in designing a program for any particular facility?

EL: Contraband—from colored pencils to paper clips, yarn, and paint. Everything I use is a potential hazard or could be used for alternative purposes. Learning how to accommodate and account for these items in a controlled environment has been one of my biggest challenges, because I refuse to be limited to what I can teach because of materials I am allowed to use.

Language barriers. Although art is a universal language, teaching in a diversified classroom has proven to be challenging. A large number of my students have very little education and, being primarily Spanish-speaking, know minimal English. Comprehension and execution — getting the message across — have been my primary challenges. Needless to say, my Spanish is getting better by the day.

Constant transition/student turnover. My particular facility has a high turnover rate. Given limited time [with my students], I try to provide the most necessary skills in the shortest amount of  time, so that students can move quickly and confidently through the program.

MD: How does your background in art therapy facilitate your teaching?

EL: I don't use art therapy in my curriculum but the act of making art in these unique facilities encourages a therapeutic environment. I know how to respond to emotions that come into my classroom or that come up during the creative process. [My teaching] is a growing experience for me as well.

MD: What's your most memorable teaching experience to date?

EL: It's hard to name one but what warms my heart is to be told by my students that they have never made art before, and then see the beautiful artwork they create. They are excited about their accomplishments and want to share what they have learned with others, most especially their families.


Pilar
Acrylic and Plaster on Canvas, 2002
22" x 32"
© Evy Lareau
Image Used With Artist's Permission

I also asked Evy, who grew up in a creative household — her father works in the culinary field, her mother's an art professor, her brother is a cinematographer, and her father's mother is a singer — to answer several questions about her artistic career.

MD: What inspired you to pursue a career in the arts?

EL: I really don't think there was any other option for me. I have been drawing and making art since I could pick up a pencil. It is a language I understand. I actually didn't learn how to read and write until I was eight, because I would draw pictures explaining what I meant instead. . . [Art's] in the blood, and I was heavily encouraged and supported [by my family] to pursue a career in the arts.

MD: You describe yourself as a photo-based figurative painter with a documentary style. I'm struck by how expressive your portraits are. Tell us about your artistic process.

EL: I primarily work from my own photographs of people I personally know. My process starts with the camera as view-finder or subject-finder [and] is as important as the painting itself. I paint from my photographs because [this approach] allows me to capture, crop, and edit the singular moment I want to embrace and expand upon. The camera has the capacity to frame life through angles and close-ups that are only possible through the lens. In this technological world that we live in today, it is my belief that this is the view that we relate to most and recognize as being truthful and honest.

MD: What or who are our favorite subjects, and why?

EL: My paintings reflect mundane occurrences that we don't necessarily recognize as being important or significant, like sitting on a couch, eating dinner, or holding a pillow. More so, I observe relationships. I'm fascinated with the relationships people have with themselves and others. My goal is not to send a message to the viewer but merely expose him or her to events that naturally exist around us. I want the viewer to be aware of his or her environment.

MD: What do you hope viewers will see in or take away from your paintings?

EL: I hope that viewers of my paintings can relate to them personally; that [my paintings] may spark a memory in their own lives, and [the viewers], in response, [may] have a relationship with the paintings themselves.

MD: What is your dream for yourself as an artist?

EL: I've always told myself that I never want to have a job where I can't wear my painting smock every day. For the most part, I have managed to stick to this goal. Ultimately, I want to continue what I am already doing: teaching in unique environments, as well as maintaining a career as a professional painter. I need the balance of both worlds to be a whole person. 

A dream of mine is to be able to create art programs abroad, particularly in orphanages, although I am really enjoying working [now] within corrections.

Images of other paintings by Evy Lareau may be viewed here. My thanks to Lareau for taking time to answer my questions.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Thirsting and Once In Need (Poem)


Who's the Boss?
Photo Credit: © Steven Elliott
Courtesy of Abbey of the Arts


Thirsting and In Need

Twitter your criticisms loud
as you like; others will shout

you down for bad manners.
Some might look away, a few

even turn their backs, not sure
their voices matter. Count on

the quiet ones to make the move
first, prepare the slippery slope

for your first-time landing. Where
room enough can be made, they'll

stand out by example, call for
the rest of us to see just how much

like you we are our own brothers
and sisters, thirsting and once in need.

© 2012 Maureen E. Doallas
________________________________

Today's poem responds to the 61st Invitation to Poetry — Hospitality at Abbey of the Arts. (I've revised the ending since first posting it at the Abbey.) Christine Valters Paintner selected the theme and photo prompt and invites you to submit your own poem to the party. Poems or links shared or submitted before October 19 are eligible for a random drawing for a space in Christine's upcoming online retreat "Honoring Saints and Ancestors: Peering Through the Veil", a contemplative art retreat.

See other images for Invitation to Photography: Hospitality here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Love at the Five 'n Diner/Forget White Linens (Diner Poems)

Love at the Five 'n Diner

I asked for no butter the way
any girl would who's watchin'
her figure. I wanted to keep
turning that cute new cook's head,
catch the eye of the banker I needed
a loan from, remind myself
that a lady was coming through
that plate glass revolving door
& she was lookin'
good.

Darlin', what menu you think I
put in your hand? Butter's first, last,
always the main seasonin' here.
And you know Gus don't allow any
substitutions.

Gus and the Five 'n Diner went together
like a chrome fin on a 1956 Cadillac.
It was Gus who put in the first juke box,
turned on pony-tailed blonde dolls
in poodle skirts to Elvis, brought this
god-awful town his own version
of American Bandstand. He traded out fake
wood for Formica & cuddle-booths
& that neon sign that's always shoutin'
Open!

Sweetie, you hear me? No substitutions.
You want toast? It don't come plain.

Gus could've had a future. He told me
he read the Beats after the dishwasher'd
showed him Kerouac's On the Road. I
hadn't read it myself but that didn't keep
me from being real impressed. A man like Gus,
he understood, a dame likes guys who read
poetry.

Hon, what's it gonna be? There's others'
tables waitin'.

I thought Gus might be a ticket to somewheres.
I'll never forget seeing him the first time,
hair like an oil slick, lashes thick as syrup.
When Jackie took up sick, Gus paid her anyways
and kept the place open late. Pocketed
the jar tips, too, then put 'em in an envelope
and gave 'em to her for Christmas. I heard
she had a conversion after that. Showed up
to work on time and all.

Child, I ain't got all day. The menu ain't
changed since yesterday.

Gus wrote the menu hisself. Breakfast
anytime. Corned beef hash. Scrapple.
Pecan waffles. Side of home fries. Omelets
to. die. for. Liver 'n onions weren't such best
sellers but the double bacon cheeseburgers
and chili dogs washed down with frosty glasses
of Classic Coke kept the quarterbacks in
their game. Gus's menu was a kind
of diner poetry. I loved him
recitin' it.

All our food is cooked to order. You got
to give it time for proper preparation.
Please.

How many  times did I hear Jackie say
that? Point to those bold Bodoni letters and slap
her thighs? Same as that last line in red eye-tal:
Prices subject to change without notice.
Gus always laughed but I told him it
made the lawyers happy to see it. There's no
guarantees in anything, you know? Like me
and Gus. Who could've imagined? We'd made
a pact. He promised to stop smoking, stop
the carousin' after closin'. We were gonna be
a team forever, together
at the Five 'n Diner.

Whenever you're ready, Babe.

Mornin', Jackie, it'll just be the usual, Hon.
No butter. And coffee. Black for a change. No
sugars. The way Gus always poured it
for me first
thing.

© 2012 Maureen E. Doallas

* * * * * * * *

Forget white linens.

You want white linens, you go
eat at the Ritz. At Bob and Edith's

— she was Bob's wife but carried
the burden of that possessive —

the help's happiest when you leave
your ruby red lips on paper, sip

through flex-a-way plastic straws,
keep the salt 'n toothpicks tidy.

Gray's Donut Dinette, it was; changed
hands in '69. Bob needed 13 years

to upgrade the first time. He cut
down the standard 10-stool counter,

halved it, put in 7 booths, cozied
us up with our thick chocolate shakes,

root beer floats, and Waffle Sundae
Couples Delight. Mike and Pinky,

Nancy and Greg took some heat in
the kitchen, then Pinky passed. Greg

and wife Victoria are sole owners now,
running their own certified landmark.

The diner's been modernized, even
has a Website to show off the specials

'round the clock: 8-oz. Delmonico steak
and fries, cooked-to-order tuna melts,

side slings of grits, golden brown hot
cakes, famous onion rings just $2.99.

Whole apple pies, pumpkin (in season),
chocolate peanut butter cake come

24/7. The Zagat's rates the place a 20.
It's a classic, this dive, ambience nothin'

fancier than spit-shined chrome siding,
and the parking can get real tight, like

the regulars debating the good 'ole boys.
There, everybody's pretended to be

from Dallas when the Cowboys are in
town. Come on down the Pike, grab

a window seat and hang like it's home.
Coffee's brewed in a big pot, and free

refills don't end till you can say when.

© 2012 Maureen E. Doallas
____________________________________

Last week, the Poetry Foundation's Harriet blog spotlighted a Food & Wine interview with filmmaker, director, and artist David Lynch, "The Hungry Crowd: David Lynch". Lynch, apparently, has a thing for diners; those in the know say he's a diner dessert connoisseur. In addition to calling them "beautiful. . . brightly lit, with chrome and booths and Naugahyde and great waitresses", Lynch says poets "could write volumes about diners".

That last bit sounded like a challenge to me, and a wonderful prompt, so I threw down the napkin, so to speak, and invited Lyla Lindquist, Matthew Kreider, Seth Haines, Glynn Young, and the rest of the fun folks at TweetSpeakPoetry and around the Internet to cook up their best diner poems for the Diner Poems Challenge.

The first poem above comes from my imagination. The second is about a real place that's been slinging hash for more than 40 years; there's yet another generation working there now. I've made liberal use of its history.

We have several diners of note where I live. One's part of a chain, so I don't count it among the kind of ma-and-pa establishments that really rate. Another, just down the road, features tabletop juke boxes, and carries pies with toppings a mile high and no flavor; but even this always-jammed favorite of locals doesn't stand a chance against Bob and Edith's, a family-owned and -operated concern that doesn't hide its loyalties to the Dallas Cowboys in a town where the Redskins reign. The diner is still open 24 hours a day, which means it's never closed. The county police get their grub there, and I can vouch the clientele gets a bit dicey after midnight (yes, if you ever party late and can't find anyplace else open, you know, no matter where you live, to go to Bob and Edith's on Columbia Pike). The food is more than merely edible, and not a few patrons describe it as "downright excellent"; the service gets extra points, too. T-shirts and hats with the diner's logo cost more than most of the items on the menu. The last time I checked, the place had 365 reviews on one site alone. What else merits the equivalent of a food critic a day? 

Got a diner in your parts? Immortalize it in an original poem (a photograph is great, too, if you've got one), drop your link in the comments section here, and then tweet the poem using the hashtag #dinerpoems. Be sure to put it on FaceBook, too. Who knows, maybe David Lynch will notice.