Saturday, May 28, 2016

Mary, How Does Your Garden Grow?

My gardens are two varieties: those of the fruit & vegetable and literary kind.  I've been hard at work in both. Since the academic year ended several weeks ago, I made a plan to be committed to my creative endeavors.

Thus far, I have organized my fourth full length collection This Thirst, and chapbook e-Motion of prose poems and micro fictions (35 pages). I have sent out the chapbook to a contest.  Hoping to put the final touches on This Thirst this week, and then I will send it out too.

My third collection Small Worlds Floating will be here in 6-7 weeks per my publisher. I  began to put this together (4 years ago).  Finally sent it out.  It was accepted in six days.  I don't know why I was dragging my big toe on this.  Perhaps distracted by other work. No doubt.  That is what was going on.

Now I'm working on my  'no name yet' novella.  I'm over 15,000 words, which is a feat for me, and the story is just unfolding before my eyes. I'm hoping to have this done by end of June.  This too was started two years ago. I've worked on it in fits and starts for the past two summers.  Summer three is the charm.  I have settle into the narrative.  I found my form.  I hear and see my characters.  Consequently, this is what I'm writing.  My head is so focused on story-telling.

Several weeks ago, I was working on essays.  I have one that is just so fussy.  It has a terrific start, but everything that has come after, well,  truthfully, pretty awful. Snip! The edit x-key at work. It's that easy. Several other essays came together without a hitch. How does this happen? How can  this be the same person writing?  Is the process different?  It must be, right?  The creative zone or not. Funny too, the troublesome essay is about a second chance at what was believed to be a total loss.Of course, this makes sense, right?  It's on the back burner right now. Simmering.

Meanwhile, a lot has been going on outside too.  We started our seeds a while ago.  I have planted 113 tomato plants, and we aren't done yet. I would say we have a serious tomato addiction. We have three new heirloom plants: Mortgage Lifter (this promises tomatoes that weigh 2 lbs each-- some big ass tomatoes!)
Boxcar Willie and Crimson Beauties.  We have Carolina Gold, Honey Bunch , No name yellow tomatoes, Sweet 100s, Cherokee, Brandywine Pink and Red, Beef Steak, Celebrity,  German. and a lot of Romas.
I've also planted cherry bomb (hot) peppers and red bell peppers.

Today, I plan on getting out there now, before the heat of the day really cranks up (it's going to be in the 90s).

Photo: P. Tonery. Sunflowers, 2012.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Season of . . .Toeholds It's been five months since my last post!

Photo by K. Iuppa
Wild Violets growing in the Sidewalk Cracks.

Since the Spring semester is over at both colleges, I have been settling into a slower pace. Things are gearing up for the growing season. Soon I will be planting all of the vegetables we have started from seed.  They're growing by leaps and bounds now. The weather has been a bit cold, which has prolonged all of the early flowers and blossoming trees. Everything seems to be in slow motion here.  It was Lilac festival last week in Rochester, but the lilacs weren't in full bloom yet. Nor here.  I keep hoping it will warm up soon.  . . . Since it's been cold, I have been accomplishing a lot in my writer's life.  Every day for the past 10 days, I have been working on my novella.  I am in serious page and word count  now (more than I have ever accomplished). Somehow, I have found a stride and I am truly engaged in the story-telling. I have found a form for this narrative, and I certainly "know" its landscape and time period, but it was slow going (fits and starts, nearly two years ago).  Now it's on track. Every day I write about 5 pages.  Hope to be done by end of June.  I have also been putting together two new collections.  One is my fourth full length poetry collection, and the other is a  40 page collection of prose poems and micro stories. I'm hoping to have both of these ready to be sent off  in next two weeks.

Meanwhile, I have done two full edits of my upcoming  poetry collection, and it's coming along beautifully.  Special thanks to my editor Kevin Walzer (Cherry Grove Collections). Small Worlds Floating  looks  lovely, and I  am very grateful to my sister Karen for the gorgeous cover, and to Peggy Shumaker and John Roche for writing such  thoughtful and supportive  blurbs. Some of these poems were written in my last year of RWW at PLU my MFA program.  I graduated 10 years ago this summer. (How is this possible?)

I have been writing some essays too.  Some have come quickly, without much fuss, and one has been enormously difficult. All I have saved from it is the first paragraph, which makes me wonder about  it all together. It so unruly. But, I guess this is how it goes, or at least for me.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Take My Breath Away

Photo: K. Iuppa

Trust. Your ability to surrender to what can't be seen. The blank page contains the endless possibility. There is no horizon, only everything is there, filling in the blank at once.  How do you find your way?  Is a blank page a raft or an abyss? Is the first word or stroke of line, color, shape, the tear in the fabric that let's you disappear into what you will eventually see? Once it's realized and can be seen clearly, it is trusted.
That is to say, it is enough to stand up to the scrutiny of others.  The willingness to say yes or no to its  meaning depends upon the intricacies of its metaphor.  The mystery is up to you to change the view of the world that is stretching out before you.  Pick a pen, a brush, a pencil, a certain stroke to begin.  Here is the blank page.
In so many ways, the blank page is daunting, and I think if writers or artists were to think intently about it, they would freeze up and not make that initial stroke, or slash, or strike.  A blank page is chilly in its perfection, and we all know that to be truly creative, we must make a mess.

So far, ( this is the third day of January, 2016), I have had hits and misses.  However, I have changed the page, and that is what my work is.  I have something to think about now.


For me, the natural world has been a source of inspiration. It doesn't take long for me to slip into the mind of weather.  The land supports my steps as I go further and further away from what I call home. In so many ways, my day to day life is caught in a struggle between routine and adventure.  Status quo  resembles the dumped rocks, stones, boulders known as riprap that protect Ontario's shoreline. Status quo (another world for fear)  keeps everyone walking with their heads looking down on the worn path. Status quo is a big fat NO. I find 'no' annoying.  I like looking up.  Yes.  Make it so.


Sidebar note: I have decided to pay myself $2.74 every day I work on my own work.  I'm putting it in a bank. By year's end, I will have a nest egg (1000.00, more or less) and hopefully a new book or two.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Happy New Year! Make Every Day Count!

Happy New Year! Photo Karen Iuppa

So, here we are on the brink of a new year, thinking, What to do, what to do that's oh so new.

For me, it's time to create a catalog that focuses on creative process. I think I need to spend some time reflecting on inspiration, muses, choices; perhaps revealing what actually happens when you choose to live an introspective life.

 In many ways, living here on Red Rooster Farm is a cloistered life. I do love the view outside of every window in this old farmhouse. I can get lost in the dome of lake sky  that you see illustrated on this page. To imagine this place of ever-changing beauty, to be an integral part of it every day for the past 28 years is privilege.  Its ephemeral nature humbles me. This connection to the glacier landscape, to Ontario is my spiritual core. Consequently, when I look at my poetry, collection to collection, I see the day to day, the 1000 piece puzzle that is my life here.  Each poem is a thumbnail study of a life in progress.  Each lyric essay has captured the past and its life lessons.  Each fiction has taken the peculiar stories and made them into mirrors.  Faces, that are often grotesque and wily, and only truly seen by the viewers.

It's so demanding to look closely at what is happening all around me. Recently, I returned to my daily practice of writing.  I wanted to resume work on my novella, and had a bit of a jog trying to locate the document in my files.  Once I did find it, I began reading it from the top.  I was stunned to find it so engaging (seriously, this surprised me). I was interested in the characters, and actually got lost in their actions, interactions, reactions. I was surprised my the word/page count, wondering how did that happen?  So I've resumed this work.  I'm wondering what will happen next in this story that will no doubt teach me a lot about relationships.

I think I know where I am. I know that may be a curious statement, since I should know where I am. But this is not about location, which I know is everything.  This is something else in a creative life. Today, I'm feeling relaxed and certain.  I realize things take time.  I really learned that lesson  this past summer, spending hours upon hours in our vegetable gardens. I think I wrote while I was weeding. Actually, I think I'm writing most of the time, unless I have to pay attention to you.  Strange thing about teaching, I have a lot of 'you' in my working life.  Good thing, I actually care about you-- you as an individual, you as a group.  This paying attention gives me a chance to participate in a creative life from a different angle.  I would say my own work is an inward action, whereas teaching is an outward action.  I give directions. Some follow; some do not. Some get to their destination; some get lost. It's the life is a journey cliche.
This year I'm unfurling a new roll of paper and will begin drawing a new map. Perhaps you, gentle reader, will join me.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Red Rooster Farm, Merry Christmas to All!

Design and photo by P. Tonery.  Homegrown peppers, 2015. Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Photo K. Iuppa

It's been a green December, thus far. Unusual weather, especially after two very cold winters.  Some sputtering snow yesterday, but nothing to speak of on the ground.  The wind blew it all away.
The semester is officially over.  Grades are in.  I am trying to relax.  It seems to be impossible to find that zone of quiet, with my arms loose at my side. I don't want to hold anything; not a pen, a book, a fistful of paper.  I want to wander in the orchard's crisp air. Clear my thoughts of all the words that I've ingested over the semester-- some tender, some wise & thoughtful, some full of heartburn.  I taught five writing intensive classes, 147 students (the most I've ever had) and  directed an Arts Minor Program  that sponsored over 8 Lecture & Art events over the semester that were so successful.  Our audience attendance (Rochester and St. John Fisher community) ranged from 60-180. I'm grateful for all the collaborations, for all the people who said yes.  Now it's time to imagine something else, but before I do, I plan on having a bit of good cheer.
Without expectation,  I can be free of practically everything. Imagine that.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

December 5, 2015: The Fall Semester Is Nearly Over

Have You Had Your  Free-Range Egg Today?

An eyeblink. Setember to December. The silence on this blog.
Too long.  Time to dust it off and put on some writing music.  Fill you in on what has been happening.
We've had an exceptional growing year. My root cellar is full of jars of tomato sauce, jams (strawberry, blueberry, apricot, peach, raspberry),
verde sauce, sweet pepper sauce,
pickles, applesauce and so on. Freezers full of fresh veggies.
Exceptional year for tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, garlic, peppers sweet to hot-- all kinds, tomatillos, eggplant, cabbage (purple and green),  butternut squash, acorn, green beans, dry beans (which I still have to shuck!) pumpkin, zucchini, yellow squash; not so good for cauliflower or broccoli, onions (fair).  We're in good shape, though.
Our Thanksgiving meal was  all farm produced, with exception of wine and beer.  It was quite a moment for all of us gathered round, realizing that we did it.  We had a big gang of family here.  Such fun.


On November 14, 2015, I received a Big Pencil Award from Writers & Books, for Lifetime Achievement.  My family and friends were at the award's ceremony. It was a wonderful evening.  My sister Karen made me a pencil tiara, which is so fantastic!  It sparkles in my silver hair!


On November 21, 2015 at Writers and Book, we celebrated the life and writing of friend and mentor Jusith Kitchen, and the new CNF anthology Close Encounters edited by Judith Kitchen and Dinah Lenney.  It was an evening of beautiful readings by Sonja Livingston, Bill Capossere, Alicia Hoffman, Carol McMahon, Jenny Lloyd, Monica Gilligan, Bruce Bennett and  me. I am grateful to all of these fine writers for saying "yes" to participating in this event and making it happen seamlessly.  To Joe Flaherty and Al Abonado  for giving us the space to celebrate and ordering the anthology. To everyone who came to be there and listen and remember Judith.  It's so hard to believe that a year has passed since she left us physically, but her spirit and energy is everywhere.  I share her words daily with my students.  She is in my thoughts, always.


This semester may be busiest yet.  I have a 147 students, all doing a significant amount of writing.  I have been keeping up with my usual 7-10 day turnaround on  papers (critical and creative). It's been challenging to say the least.  I have a World Lit class with 43 students, who love to read! Somehow, this class has been mostly discussion based. They have been such a gift, in so many ways, and a majority are freshmen, so they will only get better and better and better. I hope I'll get a chance to work with all of them again.

Actually, all of my classes have been a joy.  I raise my cup of coffee to them all!