Sunday, December 14, 2008

Multiple Selves

I am sitting on a large gone-with-the-wind-type staircase wearing a ball gown, complete with crinoline and corset. It feels rigid and tight and I am uncomfortable. I am also sad, rest my head on my hand like I am waiting for someone. There are horse hoofs beating the ground in the distance and I look up to see a carriage approaching. A footman steps out, who I recognize as my brother-in-law, and he hands me an open-faced sandwich, topped with peanut butter and shredded carrot.

“No thank you,” I say and he walks away. Then he comes back and now a second self is sitting beside me and he offers the same sandwich to her. She also declines. I look at her and she looks at me. We think it curious, but are not alarmed by the duplicity.

“Shall we,” I say, and then take her hand and walk over to our mutual brother-in-law standing by the carriage. It is a warm summer night yet the outside of the carriage is covered in ice.

“Can we look inside?” I ask.

He answers gruffly, “Can if you want.” The carriage is shaped like a large pumpkin, perhaps similar to a drawing in a Cinderella book I saw as a child. I move the heavy fabric curtains to the side. It is so cold I can now see my breath. My other self is standing behind me, also trying to peer inside. I squint to see but it is remarkably dark. As my eyes slowly focus, I make out a woman. She appears frozen solid. On her lap curled is a frozen cat. Her hand is wrapped around it as if cuddling in sleep. I look at her face and recognize that it is me in old age. My other self lets out a gasp. We turn and face each other. Then I wake up.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Great Book Covers

Some of my favorite 2008 book covers.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Being the best is for motivational speakers and seven-step programs

Lately I have become increasingly aware of the controversies surrounding awards and “best of” anthologies. As long as there have been people deciding who is worthy and which texts are valued and for what reasons, there have been other people who disagree. But lately I have become more cognizant of the differing literary camps and the ongoing debates between them. I think critical debate is necessary, if only to resolve one’s own opinion. I don’t understand why it is so hard for people to recognize another perspective and see it as valid. Many have the first part down but they refuse to admit that another’s opinion has any merit. They battle on grounds of prejudice, authority and influence.

I have a friend who said something like, “what is the point of doing something if you don’t want to be the best?” It never occurred to me that as a publisher or writer, that THAT should be my goal. Sure it would be nice to win an award or get a little validation, and as a publisher I have an obligation to submit my authors’ books to award competitions, but in the end, is that what it is about? I’ve always done what I find rewarding and not worry about the rest. The book will find its audience. And to me at least, as a writer, the process is more foundational to artistic merit. Creating art is what matters — not selling it, labeling it, critiquing it, admonishing or praising it. Ego needs to be disassociated from the final work.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

You want to see where?

Shawna Lemay asked me to write something for her "Capacious hold-all" blog. I was a bit reluctant at first, opening up one's purse seems so revealing, but then again I write in a revealing way on this blog quite often. I guess I have fooled myself into thinking that no one besides me even reads what I post. There is, however, no denying that Shawna's blog is well read. So I am being brave and dumping out the contents of my purse for all voyeurs.

"I am a disorganized, cluttery-minded person, and my capacious carry-all is an example of someone failing miserably at trying to compartmentalize her life. When I open my purse, I am not surprised at all by the jammed, wall-to-wall contents — a small coin purse with metal snap closure, business card holder, fold wallet for credit cards and receipts, smaller wallet for cash, notepad but no pen, weekly planner, four months worth of receipts, parking ticket, my daughter’s report card, unopened mail, salt shaker, Canadian Tire flyer to remind me to exchange the ill-formed shaker, a clear plastic pouch for business related items and another for coupons..." Read the entire post at

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Revise, Revise, Revise

I have edited this poem again. Its earlier versions can be found on this blog, dated September 25th 2005, and published in The Windsor Review (Volume 38.2, 2005). I think I have tightened up the verse by removing some explanatory statements. The line lengths had to be changed for this posting.

Elizabeth Paints a Second Self-Portrait

In heaven, paint is free.
God encourages everyone to take art class.
Creative expression should not be underestimated
in its ability to heal old wounds.
He used this therapy himself.

No longer on the path of destruction— floods, fires,
the usual antics of a wrathful god— he now teaches art.
Soothes the spirit with yellow ochre and burnt umber.
Like children, they paint with their fingers,
smear the palest blue into the whitest paper.
This is the sky.

Elizabeth does not participate.
She has other things to work on.
She looks to the clouds, imagines the sun, paints
her face for the second time. There is no hint

of darkness, no deep shading to the side of her nose.
This time, she paints herself smiling,
though no one will see it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Found Poems

The lines used in the first poem have been excerpted from Brown’s record of a visit to the Rossetti studio, dated October 1854. Although the words, and ordering of them, are unchanged, I have chopped the prose text into short lines. The lines in the second poem are excerpted from Rossetti’s letters. The word order remains the same, but I have again broken the prose into shorter lines.

Found Poem — Ford Madox Brown

Everyday she is thinner
& more deathlike
& more beautiful
& more ragged

than ever,
a real artist.

Found Poem – Dante Gabriel Rossetti

I look at her sometimes, working or too ill
to work, think how many without her genius
or greatness of spirit have granted them abundant
health, while perhaps her soul is never to bloom
nor her bright hair to fade…
All she might have been must sink
in that dark house.