Earlier this year I was shortlisted for this competition conducted by the Ravenglass Poetry Press.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Earlier this year I was shortlisted for this competition conducted by the Ravenglass Poetry Press.
Monday, October 24, 2011
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
-T.S. Eliot “Little Gidding”
Growing up, my parents took us up to Weston, Missouri, each October. We picked pumpkins and looked at the animals at Red Bard Farm and spent the day at Westbend State Park, which sits above the bluffs above the Missouri River.
The trail at the park is a three mile loop; my brother and I rode our bikes around while Mom and Dad walked. Sometimes, if we were feeling particularly strong, David and I would ride around again and catch them up from behind.
This year we took Harriet with us for a second time. Last year she was just a tiny baby, and Devin carried her around the trail in a sling.
This year she isn’t a baby anymore, but though this loss of baby-dom at times makes me unutterably sad, it was delightful to watch her interact with her surroundings with her boundless toddler energy and insatiable curiosity.
For me, going up to Weston is always a lesson in memory and nostalgia, and taking my child to my old haunts adds yet another layer to my experience of the place. This year, as I looked over the bluffs and down the river, the forested landscape pristine, turning gold, I thought about our childhood bike-trip around the Westbend Loop.
Now, I thought, I’ve really come full circle. I have caught my parents up from behind: I have become a mother myself. I’m bound to watch my daughter experience these places that are mine.
There is something rich about moving back to the place where you grew up. Richness and a strange kind of sorrow in watching a new child in your old place. Sorrow because you know you can’t be that child again. Sorrow because your daughter’s childhood is—though *yours* in one sense—in another sense completely inaccessible. Hers.
I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am so glad to be home, biding here in these familiar parts. Home, I find, is not the dull wasteland I feared it might be. Your house is, after all, your castle and your hometown a country of terrible beauty.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Earlier this year I was shortlisted for the Ravenglass Poetry Press Competition.
The competition was judged by John Burnside.
Ravenglass Press is a small press based based in England and edited by Julia Wallis Martin. Every year they publish an anthology highlighting those poets shortlisted in their competition. And, behold! I am one of them!
You can buy the anthology on Amazon UK. For my American friends, there is not, alas, an American addition. But everyone likes getting a package from abroad, yes?
Purchase the anthology by clicking HERE!
"Professional photographer? Why do we need a professional photographer? I'm a good photographer!" I retorted. "Well, you know," he responded sheepishly, "a professional photographer would have a studio, the right lighting, you know...and a really good camera."
"We have a good camera!" I countered, "and I can put up a sheet and take a shot just like this--" I held up my grandma's photo. "I'll put that silver cross around Hattie's neck. It will be great."
The next day I proceeded to hang a sheet in the dining room and a necklace around Harriet. I plopped said babe down in front of said sheet and started shooting. "So far, so good," thought I.
Of course young Harriet is mobile now, so...
...she soon left the sheet behind.
Then she discovered the drawers in our china cabinet.
Then she discovered her necklace.
So I took the necklace away.
...she became very angry with her mother.
So much for that.
Any recommendations for [professional] photographers?
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
“Our hunger for the twenty-minute gourmet meal, for a one-pot ease and prewashed, precut ingredients has severed our lifeline to the satisfactions of cooking. Take your time. Take a long time. Move slowly and deliberately and with great attention.”
-Thomas Keller, French Laundry
I read this quote this Sunday as I sat with my husband at the one-of-a-kind Justus Drugstore in Smithville, Missouri. Jonathon Justus, the chef at the Drugstore, included these words in his menu, and as I savored my delicious, extended meal I pondered.
Pondered my relationship to food, and how this relationship reflects how I relate to the world around me.
Food is a mystery. A “mystery” not because it is unknown or unknowable—because eating is, of course, one of the most common, tangible, and mundane aspects of human experience. But yet food is a “mystery” in the sense that it’s full meaning stretches beyond itself. Food helps define communities; it is an expression of culture (family, ethnic, religious, national). Meals form families. Food is “the fruit of the vine, the work of human hands,” and as such it is the supreme cooperation between humans and the natural world. The clouds rain, sun shines, earth enriches. We tend the soil, plant the seeds, harvest. Then we cook.
And the action of cooking itself involves the whole person: her foresight, her hands, her mind, her time, her love.
How often I forget to enjoy the process of cooking and eating. I am tired at the end of the day, my emphasis is on speed and efficiency. This past year has been the worst; it is so difficult to slow down and consider the onions, the carrots, the roux. The first few months after I had Hattie I was plagued by anxiety: “How can I get everything I need to do done?” I asked, panicked. How long will the baby sleep? When will I find the time to [sleep, bathe, clean, read, write, exercise…eat…cook].
As the months have gone by my ability to balance has improved, the baby sleeps more consistently and is more easily entertained. I no longer live in a state of emergency. But a bit of the anxiety lingers, and I feel it when I cook and when I eat. Chop the vegetables as fast as possible. What can I prepare while the shallots carmelize? How can I be more efficient? When I sit down to eat I forget to look at my food, at my husband. Forget to drink water, sip wine, talk, breathe.
This past Sunday’s meal was a good reminder—a reminder to slow down. Enjoy the sight, smell, feel of the kale, the way the carrots contrast with the celery on the cutting board. Slow down. Slow down and eat. Reassure myself that I am not late, I will not miss my life—or my dinner.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Now that I have finally completed this post, I find that I am remember not twelve months, but THIRTEEN. Happy 13th month-day, my child.
And Happy Birthday, also, to my wonderful husband, who makes babies, family dinners, and sanity possible.
I have not missed you these past few months. I have not spoken to you, but I have not spoken much. Silence hangs around me, wonderful September, the month when children are born.
Perhaps you wonder why I haven’t written, where did our relationship go wrong? you wonder. What explanation can I offer for my silence, what explanation can I offer for abandoning you?—you who saw me through years of…marriage, houses, dogs, transatlantic flights, plantings of gardens, friendships, conversions, short winter days, and early summer dawns, poems, babies.
Many reasons for my recent silence come to mind. One reason in particular: a daughter who is One, who walks, runs, climbs, opens, closes, and dismantles with greater zeal than I had imagined possible. She is relentless: her energy, interest, joy. She sleeps less and less, and her wakefulness leaves little or time for books or blogs. Even now, as I type, she pulls herself onto my lap and with great violence attempts to grab the keyboard, then my notebook, then my earrings, then my eye. Indeed, Harriet herself alone is enough of a reason to abandon a blog.
But it is not only my newly monstrous toddler that has kept me from you. It is, strangely enough, the silence. I am loath to break the silence. You might wonder how I find any silence in the presence of the Lovely Holy Terror Child, whose vocabulary and volume are increasing by the hour.
Maybe the silence that I am finding is, in fact, my own silence in the face of the world around me, in the face of my loud and glorious child, in the face of the space and stuff of my own life. Maybe it is the fact that I have NOT, dear blog, told you about these things, NOT blogged about the past months, NOT commented, analyzed, catalogued, or curated my life for the benefit of an audience---maybe it is THIS which has made the events and experiences stand out bright and strong in my mind.
I did not blog on September 9th, when my baby turned one, when I sat in a huge auditorium with a friend listening to Bon Iver, remembering remembering remembering—last year’s labor, pain, fear, and joy when the baby came, how her hair was plastered to her tiny skull, her hands stretched out.
I did not blog about the afternoon when Hattie played in the hose on the driveway, singing, saying “Wah! Wah! Wah!” [“water!”] I took off her soaking clothes and she waddled dripping through the grass, fat tummy, tiny wrinkled naked butt. Sunlight on baby skin, water collecting in split cement: the last hot day of the year, and I rolled up my jeans, took off my shoes and walked through the pools.
I did not blog about last Friday, when I cleaned the house: the sweetness, the intense satisfaction of an orderly home—the wood floors dark and shining, the clothes folded and warm, a baby sleeping and food cooking. Outside the autumn crickets sang. My home: my quiet, peaceful home.
I did not write about these things. But now I have; now I broke the silence. Perhaps I’ve ruined it. I have told you about these things, just when I had *almost* decided never to tell you anything ever again, just when I had decided to remove myself from the public view, to retreat into a wholeness or solitude or silence I always hope to find.
Why did I do it? Why could I not, in the end, maintain a dignified silence?
Dear Blog, I am beginning to suspect that I am a writer, not a monk. Though every poet and every human must retreat at times to the cell—to watch, to wait, to pray—we must also go outside again, we must speak to our friends, engage our enemies. I am a writer and a writer must have an audience. God defend her from vanity, self-consciousness and narcissism which are counterfeits of this real urge: the urge to speak out, to say the world we saw in silence.
I may need you soon, my little blog. I may be forced, against my inclinations, to pour even more into you. I may even need to refashion you, and you--you may need to help me expand my audience. I’m a writer, after all, and a writer needs an audience.
Stay tuned for future developments.