Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dear Summer, Please Slow Down . . . .

Photo: K Iuppa

Looking at the calendar, I'm amazed that it's Sunday, July 27th.  In a month, I will be beginning another college semester.  I will be attending many hour long meetings, and meeting students for the first time; I will be busy with programs and events and readings.  But, for now, I'm listening to a bird's plaintive song.

It feels like it's going to rain.  Next two weeks, I will be teaching two children workshops at Writers and Books. Looking forward to these morning sessions.  The days will fly by, quicker than an eyeblink.  They always do.

Upcoming Readings:

Writers & Books:
Genesee Reading Series hosted by Wanda Schubmehl

Now in its 31st year, the Genesee Reading Series presents writers from the greater Genesee Valley region reading in the Writers and Books performance space. This month: Poets:  Claudia Stanek and Jules Nyquist.

Claudia Stanek received an MFA from the Writing Seminars at Bennington College. She established Poetic Effect, a poetry submission preparation service for advanced poets. Her previous work experience is in marketing and public relations. Her poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming in Ruminate, Redactions, Euphony, The Fourth River, The Briar Cliff Review, Red Wheelbarrow, and Roanoke Review, among others.She will be reading form her recently released chapbook: You Refuse to Learn (Bright Hills Press, 2014).

Jules earned her MFA in Writing & Literature (Poetry) from  Bennington College in Vermont,  January, 2007. She took a B.A. in Creative Writing from from Metropolitan State University, St. Paul, MN.  Jules experiments with sound and form and continues to write poetry on the page and for performance.
Jules is the founder of the  Poetry Playhouse in Albuquerque, NM where she hosts visiting poets and conducts workshops on poetry, creative writing and the creative process.

Jules was was Program Associate for Education at the Loft Literary Center from 2000-2004 in the Open Book building in Minneapolis  and hosted the Loft's "Local-Motion" reading series. 
She  works as a Lead  Enrollment Counselor for the School of Education at Capella University.  
A native Minnesotan, Jules lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Looking forward to this!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Too Many Literary Journals? Really?

Earlier this week, I read an essay that argues whether or not there are too many literary journals (web & print).  I received this essay through a friend’s FB posting, which has since disappeared. 

The essay disturbed me, comparing The New Yorker, Tin House, Atlantic Monthly editorial processes to boutique web journals’ editorial processes, and coming to the conclusion that many of the boutique journals published less than noteworthy work.  Really?  
Here is my response to this:

The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly have been around for many decades and have significant readership.  Tin House, which may be close to the completion of second decade, has established its readership, too.   All have a web presence as well as print.
Many boutique journals, that have started as e-zines, have had to work hard to establish their readership. The ones who have capture writers and readers’ attention are thriving.Writers, who are also readers, want to be in those galleries.  There is something for everyone out there.

None of these journals/magazines would be significant without their selected writers.  And, isn’t it subjective determining what is good and not-so-good. Readers are editors too.  They are making decisions about what a good read is.

In many ways, this essay seemed to be casting doubt. This question of what is authentic, solid, engaging depends upon where it’s printed.  So if a writer elects to publish in a boutique journal, then it’s not as significant as being published in The New Yorker.

Not so.

I often wonder if these essays show up every decade to weed out writers whose vanity would be affected by such remarks.  But it seems like the question of what came first: chicken or egg? Writer or editor?

Writers need to promote the boutique journals.  I would say that Tin House began as a boutique journal, and writers/readers have lifted it to its status.  

Writers need to be concerned with their writing, not worrying about publishing. After all, you have to have something to publish; so get busy. Writers have to find the journals that match their aesthetic.  Writers have to support their industry. 

What seems obvious (at least to me) that this essayist has been hurt by this debate. Someone said, "Well, it's not the New Yorker."  

But don't you see, you can have both.


Friday, July 11, 2014

BIG RIB Festival at Highland Park

James Hunter, photo by Ron Baker.  Taken from Wikipedia.

Last night we went to the Big Rib Festival's first night of music and enjoyed an evening of soul and blues: Fat City, James Hunter  and his band, and Shemekia Copeland.

The weather was cool.  The crowd easy-going.  People were grooving.  Some dancing like can openers and letting it all out! 

The night was a perfect respite from all the work we've been doing.
I've seen James Hunter and his band several times before.  We have his CDs.  He's such fun and his sound (even tho' he's British, mind you)) reminds me of the movie The Commitments. I like the mix of instruments in his band (organ, guitar, sax, drums).

Fat City, a local band, with members Tom Castronova- Lead Vocals and Percussion Bob Miller- Guitar and Vocals Mike Patric - Bass and Vocals Dan Castronova- Drums and Vocals Paul Fricano- Sax, Percussion, and Vocals Jon Tucker- Keyboards.  Last night another Castronova (brother, I'm assuming) was play with them.  This band's music is blues, soul, classic R&B, a whole lotta funk. They were the opening set and I just loved them!

Shemekia Copeland  has a set of pipes on her.  My goodness she can belt a song.  She's full of personality.  Her band  (guitars and drums) knows how to bend a song.  The evening just rose to the nearly full moon  set high in the sky.

More music  to come today (7/11), Saturday (7/12) and Sunday(7/13).  Some BBQ too.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Suddenly, July and Summer in full swing

Lake Ontario, Fourth of July Weekend
Photo by Meghan Rose Tonery

We had the perfect holiday.  Weather, family gathering, good spirits all around. 

Content:  I think that's how I'm feeling lately.  Summer allows me to sleep soundly, but before I fall asleep I see the vexing weed of my garden.  The one I have been removing carefully from the raised bed of carrots.  I have 400 carrots, all named Jack, growing in orderly rows.  It took me three days to clear all the weeds, which is actually a cattle feed.  Its rye zone  has lasted over 100 years.It's such tedious work.  I had to switch up the weeding to other rows that were easier to clear and lay down hay to keep future weeds at bay.  The gardens look amazing this year.  I think we finally have it down.

I think this year will be the year of the tomato, like the harvest of 2012 , when I put up over 100 jars of  That'sa Good Sauce. I shared with family and friends, of course.

Right now, I have spied tiny blue lake string beans, a yellow squash that's the size of a cigarette and three yellow grape tomatoes nearing perfection!  But soon more will come.  Blossoms in abundance.  Weather is so much better this year. Although, others would say this isn't so.  There have been some fierce rainstorms that have caused a lot of damage.  We had the rain and wind, but escaped the ruin.  That was last year for us.

In my writing life, I accomplished my 12 lyric CNF essays by July.  July 3rd to be exact.  I posted my progress on Facebook.  I'm grateful to friends who gave me thumbs up.  I think going public with the challenge kept me honest. Often, I attempt the  monthly poetry challenges.  The 30X30 is difficult.  I have some friends who draft more than one a day to stockpile.  I think my personal best is 25.

I have written one poem since I finished the essays, and have revised it extensively (snip, snip, snip!).

I feel a bit wobbly now, trying to accomplish some domestic tasks and allow my self to dip into my box of dreams.  I realize that I write from my life experience, but the one who is writing isn't exactly the struggling me-- the one who worries day to day about survival.  My writer I writes with a knowledge beyond me. I realize that this may throw readers who are invested in finding the Truth/truth in poems, stories, essays. 

Some of us read to experience another life.  Some of us write to make sense of a life that doesn't quite make sense.  Some of us want love's solution.  Some of us drank too much Love Potion Number 9. Some of us just want to be tickled, or touched, or held.  I'm somewhere in that sum.

I have a GREAT idea for a play.  I have had this idea for quite a few years.  Now I think I can get it down on the page.  My challenge is to have it written and ready for a salon reading by the last weeks of August.  We'll see if I can pull this together. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

First Days of Summer . . .

White Campion and Antiquities. Photo by K. Iuppa

This is my sister's front yard (lake side).

I think this is an amazing accidental arrangement.

 The garden is at last planted.  Spent three hours yesterday cultivating rows.  Hopefully, this will be the year I stay ahead of the weeds, which ironically are mostly edible too.The sun was so hot yesterday.  Air so muggy.  Then  rainstorms came through.  Here around 9 p.m.  But, Northeast of here the rains began around 5 p.m. I was in Rochester leading a poetry workshop and during our session the skies opened up at least three times.  Had to pull over on my way home.  It was intense.  I rolled in around 10 p.m.  Puddles everywhere, but not like the puddles in Rochester.  Will survey the garden this morning.  Hopefully, we didn't get the same volume of rain that fell a week ago.  Last week, actually a  week ago, we received 2 inches. 

Yesterday, I was stunned by the jump in size of our tomato plants. Put our cages in place before the plants get much bigger and begin to topple.  This may be an exceptional season.  We'll see.

I have been spending my mornings writing, keeping up with my personal challenge: 12 lyrical CNF essays by July.  I've completed 9.  I may be in the homestretch.  One flash fiction slipped into the queue, but I can't count it in the challenge, even though I spent a very long time on it.  I have this idea that I have wanted to write for at least 2 years now.  I know this essay will have longer sections. I think I'm looking for the proper rhythm.  Maybe the rhythm is in my subject and not me.   I've wanted to start it and then get distracted by something else.

The challenge to write a Lyrical CNF in 250 words makes me so fussy. River Teeth, a journal dedicated to CNF has a column called 'Beautiful Things.'  I have really enjoyed reading what is offered there.  Marcia Aldrich writes about her father's shoes; Sonja Livingston talks about collecting driftwood.  Much to be admired, and a terrific resource for teaching.  Grateful I stumbled upon it a week or so ago.

Here we are, mid-week, nearly the end of June.  Hope you are well dear reader.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer Solstice. Something in the air!

Photo by K. Iuppa
Object:  my mom's crossword puzzle dictionary, a gift from my dad on Valentine's Day 1988.  The symbol under my mom's  signature is short-hand for 'I love you.'

They were head-over-heels in love.

Karen found the dictionary in her attic space. 

So here we are: Sunday, June 22,2014.  It's the third day of summer.   The morning is young and I'm trying to make a plan for today.  So much to do.  The North garden is drying out after that deluge of a storm on Tuesday evening (6/17), so I think I will be able to plant the rest of it today.  I'm grateful  that the plants I did get into the ground are thriving.  We're actually having good weather.  A bit cooler than usual.  My Magnolia tree still has a few blossoms, which is so surprising.  Checked our apple trees and it looks promising for this year's harvest.  Some of the trees are loaded. Thank you, busy bees!  They must be exhausted!

My writing challenge is going well ( I may have 12 by July 2014).  I have eight completed Lyric CNF essays.  Out of the eight, four have been accepted for publication, which makes my heart soar.  The real challenge is writing those short flash essays.  250 words is a tight word limit.  I've managed one so far.  Interesting too, a lot of journals are seeking these nugget essays.

Recent flash fiction published in Grey Sparrow Journal Summer, 2014  Edition.  Here is the link:

Thank you, Diane Smith, for including me in this issue! 

It's strawberry season here.  I need to go  the strawberry fields and pick enough to make the annual batch of strawberry jam. I usually go to Brown's Berry Patch. I love watching the children who eat their weigh in the fields.  Evidence: red ring around their mouths and sticky fingers.  The squeals of finding  one bigger than the next.  When it's blueberry season, the berries  at Brown's are usually bigger than nickels and oh-so-sweet.

Next week, I hope to purchase a fishing license.  I would love to sit on a  grassy bank on Sandy Creek and see if I catch anything.  Peter and I  have a plan to pack a picnic lunch and spend a lazy afternoon together.

Sounds good, doesn't it?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

On Writing

On Writing:

By the end of the Spring semester, I made a contract with myself.  To write 12 lyrical creative nonfiction essays by July, of varying lengths and random topics.  I’m up to seven (7), with two accepted for publication. 

I feel like I’ve tapped the right vein. I’m enjoying the freedom to push a lyrical line to breaking point.  No wonder Whitman favored this conversational line with its iambic pacing.  It has its allure for both writer and reader.  After all, it is my ambition to capture my reader’s attention, however briefly, but hopefully long enough to read my work to its end.

Then, life interrupted the rhythm that was setting up here.  Our routine turned upside down. Peter landed in the hospital for 5 days with a skin infection that developed out of blue on his right leg.  IV antibiotics, bag after bag, until his release.  Now it’s a week past.  We’ve lost count of days in the hospital, and coming home has been equally difficult because we’re slowly talking about the seriousness of it all.  I confess I’m not prepared for such consequences, but they are always there, like gauzy shadows, trailing after us.  If we were to consider consequences every day, I doubt we would get out of bed.  I guess we really should celebrate our amazing bodies.  How they muster courage to fight the unseen battle. We actually face death every day.  I get that now. I'm grateful to have Peter back as his cynical self.   Hence, I know he’s better.

When we came home, I wrote an essay called “Vigil” to purge the hospital from my thoughts, trying to make sense of all of it.

So since last Thursday, June 5th, I believe, we have been trying to fill in the gap, much like the wound that is healing on his leg.  I have been attending his wound care. The surgeon gave me a thumb’s up for my care earlier this week.  A relief to hear this approval. 

Now that we’re on the mend, we’ve returned to the demands of the farm.  Two days ago, I planted two rows of potatoes, and three rows of bean plants (Blue Lakes (green), brown and white(dry beans).  The garlic rows look fantastic.  I think it’s been 5years since we’ve had a crop like this.  The weather has been so rough on our efforts.  

Our tractors have been acting up, in all sorts of colicky ways.  Tractors are worse than insolent children.  You can’t bribe them at all.  Peter sorted out their mysterious ails, much to his relief.

We now can cut the grass that has been growing, growing , growing.

Yesterday, we had several hard rainstorms rumble through, starting around 4:30 p.m. and coming on in surges every two hours.  It was muggy yesterday.  After the rain, the air lightened up as evening came on. The tree frogs were singing harmonies, call and response. 

So here I am this morning, thinking about writing  . . .