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!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Answer to Where I've Been

Photo: K Iuppa
Tomatoes, early August 2015.

It's hard to believe that I've managed to put by over 70 quarts of tomato sauce since early August.  I'm grateful, no giddy, that there isn't a bushel waiting on the porch to be processed.  My last post marks the beginning of the putting by season, and not a word from me in those seven weeks. Every day at the stove, like a witch I stirred the pot. Hucka-Pucka! 
 My dining room table  has a dramatic line up of jars of all sizes and tomato sauces for every mood. We will be in great shape this winter, but I confess I'm having sensory fatigue, even as I ooh and ahh over the last batches of roasted tomatoes. I want to be away from this constant cooking, so I can come back to it with fresh tastebuds.  Still, I can't believe how blessed we were this year. The garden did well by us.  I like counting the jars.  It makes me feel rich.

Now with this sudden release from kitchen duty, I'm able to poke around  a bit, which has made me so happy. Yesterday, I went out to the pumpkin & squash gardens and picked what was there.  Then, took a look at our apple trees, heavy with fruit.  Soon we will turn our attention to bringing in the apples.

In the next five weeks, the landscape will change drastically.  I think our area is several weeks behind  what is to be expected.  That is, I bought peaches and sweet corn yesterday, and we all know that  the season for peaches and sweet corn should be completely over.  Gosh, I'm so glad it's not. The sweet corn we had for dinner last night was simply heaven.

Now to enjoy the next five weeks, my mind is open to the oncoming change.

 Wishing everyone, the best of autumn.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Few Days of Stormy Weather . . .

Once again, I'm standing on a brink of another new year.  For me, the year begins in September, the start of something new,something possible. I have been know to look at pen and paper supplies for hours, picking out the ones that will suit me without fail.  The Sunday paper  had a headline boasting money-saving coupons for Back-to-School.  August can be filled with anticipation.  31 Sunday evenings, that anxiety of returning to work that never seems to be done.  Grading is so repetitive.  Once one group is all sorted out and humming along, there' s a new group that needs to hear your instruction.  I want a nickel for every comma splice or split infinitive. Maybe I'll do that this year.  Put in a nickel for each time I note these corrections.  I bet it would buy me a night out.  It may make the process a challenge, because the nickels should be less by semester's end, right?  I think I'm going to do this and see if I'm making progress.  This will be called the NICKEL ASSESSMENT. 

Nickel in Yankee idiom means hug.  So I'll expect a bunch of hugs this semester. I will keep you apprised of the experiment. 

It's much cooler this morning.   A perfect day to accomplish a lot.  So far, so good.  I have written letters and cards.  Re-read my poems  written during 31x31 poetry challenge.  I can't believe that I've been on task with this.  I have a million thing yip-yapping at me.  The other day, I put by Apricot Jam (pure gold,as my mother would say, 'Too Good For The Common People.' Of course, if you were told this, you weren't one of the common ones.  You were uncommon and would know what was uncommonly good. This includes you who stops by and read this.)   Well, this batch of jam was a  wrestling match. It bubbled and jumped out of the pot.  Splats of sweet, sticky heat, enough to burn my forearms, face, wrists-- the price of close work. I was stirring with a kettle screen. The process took three hours. If any you get a jar of this jam, you are NOT to be  less than enthusiastic.  I know, I can't hope to have rave reviews, but it would be nice to hear that it brightened that muffin, or piece of toast, or ice cream . . . and you thought of us, of our attempts to live simply and honestly here on the farm.  Every jar has sun in it.  Imagine that! 


Here's the latest issue of THE BLUE Heron Review.  Please take a moment to peruse these exceptional poems.  This is one of my favorite journals.

Back to work . . .