Saturday, January 6, 2018

What Are We Making of the New Year?

Politically: The sick, cruel joke grows sicker and crueler, with no relief in sight except for a moment's mirthless snicker of disgust. Still failing on that front.

Artistically: Artists always move forward, somehow finding ways through the sickness of the times (and the times are always, in some way or ways, sick) into newness and awareness and meaningfulness. Find yourself an artist to love.

Poetically: I have attended one poetry reading so far this year, and been inspired. Next week, I think I'll be discussing poetry and the process of getting it onto the page with a friend, so the year is healthy in terms of the practice of this art.

Personally: Reading continues to open my eyes. I just re-read one of my favorite novels, Persuasion by Jane Austen, and this time through I zeroed in on this sublime and subtle truth: one of the characters becomes conscious of the difference "between the steadiness of principle and the obstinacy of self-will, between the darings of heedlessness and the resolution of a collected mind."

The resolution of a collected mind! I hope my stubbornness is of that order, though I fear it is more "the obstinacy of self-will." But now at least I am aware. And that brings us back to the political, for what better description is there of all that is wanting in our political leaders than that very lack of discernment of the difference "between the steadiness of principle and the obstinacy of self-will, between the darings of heedlessness and the resolution of a collected mind."

Onward we go.

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Joy (sort of) of Cleaning (sort of)

There is one corner of my room which my husband uses as evidence that, in the event of his untimely and greatly-to-be-mourned demise, I will become a hoarder. So on this first morning of 2018, I vowed to clean my "hoarder corner." In the process, I found a 3x5 card on which was written one haiku and two tanka. The haiku reminded me of a photo I had taken on the High Line in New York City a few Octobers ago.

A haiku of indeterminate age + a photo from a few years back = the first haiga of the new year.

Finding beauty and light in unexpected places...not a bad way to begin the year.

I highly recommend cleaning a neglected corner of one's room/mind/hard drive/life every once in a while. There's probably a poem there!

2018...Onward we go...

Sunday, December 31, 2017



I don't make them.
I make them every day.
I keep them to myself.
I break them all, then remake them.

The core ones never change:
Take more walks.
Chase dragonflies.
Do art stuff.
Find wildflowers.
Watch birds.
Study the interplay of light and water.

Onward we go.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Joy of Crappy Photos

Of course I love having taken a photo that is clear, sharp, focused, perfectly composed—a photo that makes people ooh and ahh as they flip to the next month on the calendar and see it (the photo) as the image for a bright and promising thirty days of prosperity and good fortune.

I've taken approximately five such photos in my life.

So this is to celebrate photographs that are not simply out-of-focus, but had no chance of ever being in focus: photos taken from a moving car; photos taken at night from a moving car; photos that just look like the proverbial waste of film but which, thanks to digital photography, I can amass by the thousands. And of those thousands of blurry, grainy, compositionally-challenged, and just plain odd little moments, I find gem after gem.

These photos often inspire me to stop and write a haiku; when added to the photo image, they make a haiga. The two included in this post are from photos I took just last night, from the car, as my husband was driving with great skill and patience through the streets of Manhattan. The mannequins in the window I knew I loved; the man pacing in the foyer of a building waiting for someone, perhaps dreading having to go back out into the cold, was a gift. I just love photo ops such as these. Postcards of real life, out-of-focus, hurried, compositionless, ephemeral, beautiful, gone.

Sometimes I cheat a little and crop the photo. So a wee bit of composition may happen later. Like a memory, new with each remembering.

I included some of my crappy photos—which I guess I should call (for promotional purposes) "accidental postcards of real life"—in a small book I made several years ago. If you are interested, go to and perhaps order a copy of Images for your very own.

Accidental, ephemeral, beautiful, gone. Life imitates art, yet again.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Winter Memory

Just a haiga for today's post, to get some color and visual stimulus into these arctic days...

Go see and create!


winter memory
the snow a little deeper
with each hawk

Friday, December 22, 2017

Principles of Design

Balance, emphasis, movement, pattern, repetition, proportion, rhythm, variety, unity: the principles of design used by artists in the process of creating a work that feels whole, a work that offers each viewer a path toward meaning without distracting paths leading in the wrong directions. It’s not so different in poetry, these principles. 

The guiding principle that unifies all these is, I think, order—art (visual, verbal, etc.) takes chaos and puts a little corner of it into order.

For almost a year now, I’ve been using collage as a parallel to poetry, to see if I can make visual on the page some of the meanings I explore through words. It has been an interesting journey, only successful now and then. I am a lot more comfortable creating images with words than I am with, well, with images. I am afraid of color; my comfort zone is earth tones. My collages tend toward cliché. In other words, I’m a beginner in one medium, while exploring new realms of proficiency in the other. I’m in two places at once, artistically.

And really, that’s kind of cool!

Go create lots of beautiful art in 2018.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Drench with Your Splendor Me

Perhaps because this semester seemed to go by so quickly, the span in American Literature I between the  worldview of Cotton Mather and that of Walt Whitman stood out strongly and rang with possibility. We traveled from a narrow little world where evil reigned, empowered by leaders and followers who could see no other option but that we cavort with the devil and become devils ourselves. The "invisible world" wherein evil gets the upper hand becomes the only world we know, and guilt by association, guilt by coincidence, guilt by the jealousy and greed of one's accusers, and guilt by accusations of children and childish-minded adults becomes the law of the land.

The irony, of course, is that, if we believe we are possessed of evil, we are possessed of evil, and will act accordingly. How did we survive that narrow little world? Salem was not Washington, D.C., but perhaps there are lessons we could go back and study and relearn about how not to allow magical thinking undermine our capacity for rational thought.

And though there were many weeks remaining after reading Mather, it seemed as if suddenly we felt the wind and sun and salt air on our faces as we ferried from Brooklyn to Manhattan alongside Whitman. "Gorgeous clouds of the sunset! drench with your splendor me, or the men and women generations after me!" Whitman exclaims. In our final class, as we read "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," we wondered at that hyperbaton—a use of unusual word order—"drench with your splendor me." It's one of my favorite lines of American poetry, and I consider "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" the great American poem. We wondered at Whitman's capacity to contain all—to acknowledge the dark side(s) of human nature while still celebrating human nature and life and all the possibilities therein. 

Whitman's is a voice we need in these dark times, as stupid people turn loose the demons of greed and self-righteousness and hypocrisy and all the other nasty little inhabitants of their invisible worlds upon the rest of us. Each of us, Whitman reminds us, contains all. It is our blessing and responsibility to choose what part of that "all" we will allow out into the visible, communal world.