Reading and Two Movies for the End of the World

Scary headlines this morning regarding North Korea and … well, you know who. I am not building a bunker just yet, though I do always have some extra cash on hand, as well as a few cans of Goya beans.

Anyway…I still have three glorious weeks of summer vacation left before heading back to my classroom, and so I plan to continue reading and watching whatever I feel like before that alarm clock jerks me back into Routine.

Perhaps coincidentally to what is transpiring in the news, I just finished a beautifully written, poignant novel about the end of the world but, more importantly, the human connections and life questions that exist therein.  Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton circles around two isolated settings and their survivors: a brilliant, elderly astronomer named Augustine, who refuses to leave his post at the Arctic research center when a rescue mission flies out the rest of his colleagues. He then discovers a peculiar little girl left behind, and the two of them form a unique bond as they make a home in the abandoned snowy Arctic Circle.

Similarly isolated are the six astronauts aboard the Aether attempting to return to Earth from their mission to Jupiter.  Like Augustine, who keeps trying to contact anyone through his radio controls, Mission Specialist Sully persists in her attempts to communicate with Earth, though radio signals reveal no one, nothing.  As they near Earth, they notice an eerie darkness blanketing the blue planet: nighttime cities usually twinkling with billions of lights have been snuffed into complete black.

Beyond the adventure inherent to both dangerous settings, though, you will read of our human need to ask the “Big Questions” and our thirst for connection, touch, and love.  Brooks-Dalton reminds us that while solitude can be necessary and nourishing, our souls still need other people in order to fully thrive.  Nestled within the 253 pages, a few surprises will subtly reveal themselves and delight you.  And by the end, if you enjoy this book like I did, you will wish for a few more chapters at least.

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2 Favorite Movies for the End of the World:

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To New Paltz ~ A Poem

I wrote this poem a few years ago, and now it has found its way into this month’s issue of the Hudson Valley magazine Chronogram.  Even now as I read it for the hundredth time, I find several things I would like to tweak, which proves, I suppose, that poems are somehow living, organic beings.  Alas, here it is in Chronogram, so take a peek:

To New Paltz

And, by the way, if you enjoy the combination of nature, wineries, craft beer, mountains, water, bookshops, quiet, music, festivals, farming, hiking trails, artisans and galleries, you might just want to spend a day or two or three exploring the Hudson Valley region of New York. Spots like New Paltz and Woodstock have nestled into my heart, and they might just offer you something too.

Explore the Hudson Valley

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Tennis and Poems

Life can be so overwhelmingly sweet. A hot summer day, the AC blasting, tennis balls being slammed back and forth at the opening day of Wimbledon, and I am writing. As I tinker with words, I also make sure to keep reading. That goes without saying, as I always have a book or two going (typically literary fiction). While I am writing poems, though, I find myself reading even more poetry than usual. Discovering other voices, sifting through what speaks and sings to me on a visceral level versus what does not, inspires me and helps shape my own language on the page.

Here are the two poets I am reading today: Chelsea Rathburn and James Davis May.  Husband and wife, poet professors at a college in the northern mountains of Georgia, their clear, sharp, poignant poems speak of the heart and place, and they resonate deeply with me. Since discovering their work a few years ago, I find myself returning to both poets’ work time and again.

Check them out if you have not already…..

“Elegy for an Accordion” ~ Chelsea Rathburn

“Basil” ~ James Davis May

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Calenday by Lauren Haldeman

I left the University of Iowa’s 31st Summer Writing Festival this past weekend feeling inspired and ready to throw myself back into writing, much in thanks to my instructor Lauren Haldeman and her course entitled “Mixology: Writing from Source Material, with a Twist.”  I have the added pleasure now of discovering her poetry through her book entitled Calenday.  Check it all out:

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And watch this:

“The Size”

(via Vimeo; published on Propeller Magazine and laurenhaldeman.com)

 

 

Returning Home

As magical as it is to fly away to a new, undiscovered place (Iowa, for example)…

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IMG_0100 (Poetry section in Prairie Lights Books, which I highly recommend)
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(University of Iowa campus)

to push yourself toward a thing that is outside of your comfort zone (say, taking a writing class and opening your notebook to a group of strangers at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival in a workshop entitled “Mixology: Writing from Source Material, with a Twist” as I did this past weekend),

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it can be even more wonderful to find yourself back home again,  where the flowers seem to have bloomed larger and brighter since you departed,

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your loved ones seem to snuggle just a touch closer,

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and the sky paints a special “good evening” in celebration of your return. You place your tired head upon your own pillow, whispering thanks for a new place in your heart, and fall fast asleep. Home again.

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Adios, Winter! Hello, Spring! Life! Poetry!

Spring has finally sprung here along the shore of New Jersey, a state that probably brings to mind visions of smokestacks, smog, and spray tans for most people. I suppose I used to think the same thing of Jersey, growing up and living half my life in New York, but on a beautiful day like this….Well, there truly is no place like home.

Seagulls swoosh away the daunting, black crows that have been perching in the trees outside of my apartment all winter. Warm 70 degrees tap excitedly on my windows to be welcomed back inside through the screens. Last summer’s flowerpots and planters beg for some love and attention from my balcony. And I leap into the celebration, heart, soul, and each four limbs, bidding a swift adieu to Winter and each of her harsh, cruel lashes.

On to Spring! Life! Poetry! Wait…poetry?

Ah, yes. Just as the tulips and crocuses begin to poke through the earth, and chocolate bunnies and matzoh fill hungry grocery store shelves, Poetry Month makes her appearance, one that I have come to relish each April.

Yesterday, I attended a Writers Conference at William Paterson University, where American journalist, critic, and author (and New York Times obituary writer) Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, as well as four other writers/editors (including poet Christopher Salerno), spoke of revision. More thrilling for me, though, was when poet Timothy Liu (whom I discovered at the same conference last spring and have read avidly ever since) plopped down in the seat right in front of me. Goosebumps! Electricity! During a break, like some trembling teenager approaching a rock star, I croaked out through a huge, toothy smile (and crimson cheeks, of course), “Excuusee meee, would you mind signing?” and held out his collection Say Goodnight. Liu signed eagerly, chatting with me briefly before heading toward the buffet. No one else seemed to notice a great poet among them on line, but I smiled all the way home, new treasure in tow…..

Only to find a surprise package in my mailbox, another unexpected treasure, cloaked in a padded envelope from Georgia: a signed copy of Book of Hours by poet Kevin Young. A special gift from a lovely someone, meant to console me as I grieve and try to make sense of a loved one’s suicide, though she is also suffering heartbreak of her own. A simple act of loving generosity. Poetry in motion.  

Spring. Life. Poetry. Indeed. Here in my humble second-floor perch in the Garden State, I sing out a loud, boisterous “Welcome!” to each.

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Christopher Salerno, Timothy Liu (Writers Conference – William Paterson University)

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A Poem: MORNING WALK

Walking among the detritus—
a feather and rusty screw
a red leaf torn away from its roots—
I let the sea wash over my shoes
and hum a song to you
on the hard nights
you’re the ace right
.
These waves could swallow your mountains,
the surfers stand no chance,
even the boats simply rock and dance,
we’re all just mixed-up pebbles
tossed up on the sand,
waiting for a hand
to choose and rinse us off
like these tiny orange shells,
mini saucers made of carnival glass,
which I would gladly carry to you
on a carousel horse
made of water and foam
just to place them in your palm
or the crook of your door
wiping clean the miles
between those hills
and this November shore.

(italicized lyric is from “Tiderays” by Volcano Choir)

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A Poem: MORNING WALK