Friday, August 18, 2017

Disease

Self-Portrait


I can’t remember how to 

  write

the fear and the dread 
are
swamps

not founts

the words 
I cupped
been bulldozed to

 dust

and I feel dead inside 
dead inside 
dead and-

 lost

  
cannot - 

 right.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Best 100 Novels Challenge

The Champ!

Nathan Bransford posted a list of his 100 favorite novels and extended an invitation for other bloggers to do the same. Intrigued by the idea (and eager to waste some time), I decided to take him up on the challenge. 

It was a fun, if exasperating, exercise. What I found most difficult was evaluating books I hadn't read in ages, but remembered having strong feelings about. It's difficult to rank the things you love, anyway, but how to rank books you last read in high school against the ones you read last year? I'm a different person now. The older books' nuances (and sometimes, entire plots) might have escaped me in the intervening years. In the end, though, I figured if the book was powerful enough to have left an emotional fingerprint, then it deserved to make the cut (though it likely ended up in the bottom part of this list). 

I did not include collections of unrelated short stories, shorter novellas or memoirs. 

So, without further ado, here's my list of the top 100 novels: 
  1. Jane Eyre
  2. Anna Karenina
  3. A Room with a View
  4. Persuasion
  5. Women In Love
  6. Gilead
  7. The English Patient
  8. The Razor's Edge
  9. Emily of New Moon
  10. On Chesil Beach
  11. A Passage to India
  12. Charlotte's Web
  13. Bel Canto
  14. Madame Bovary
  15. Olive Kitteridge 
  16. Pride and Prejudice
  17. The Age of Innocence
  18. Anne of Green Gables
  19. The Corrections
  20. Breathing Lessons
  21. Silk
  22. Home
  23. Crime and Punishment
  24. The Anthologist
  25. Middlesex
  26. The Book of Ruth
  27. The Burgess Boys
  28. The Remains of the Day
  29. Middlemarch
  30. Villette
  31. The BFG
  32. The God of Small Things
  33. Freedom
  34. Lila
  35. My Ántonia
  36. The Sorrows of Young Werther
  37. A Thousand Splendid Suns
  38. Mrs. Dalloway
  39. Atonement
  40. The Road
  41. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
  42. Jude the Obscure
  43. Les Misérables
  44. The Lowland
  45. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
  46. Sense and Sensibility
  47. The Portrait of a Lady
  48. Great Expectations
  49. Mudbound
  50. The Grapes of Wrath
  51. Winesburg, Ohio
  52. Of Love and Other Demons
  53. The Art of Fielding
  54. The Sense of an Ending
  55. The House of Mirth
  56. Little Women
  57. To Kill a Mockingbird
  58. Mrs. Dalloway
  59. Life After Life
  60. One Hundred Years of Solitude
  61. Siddhartha
  62. The Namesake
  63. An Artist of the Floating World
  64. A Map of the World
  65. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  66. The Ten-Year Nap
  67. And the Mountains Echoed
  68. Elegies for the Brokenhearted
  69. Little Children
  70. And Then There Were None
  71. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret
  72. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  73. Emma
  74. Digging to America
  75. The Vagabond
  76. To the Lighthouse
  77. Animal Farm
  78. White Teeth
  79. Amy and Isabelle
  80. A Farewell to Arms
  81. Things Fall Apart
  82. The Scarlet Letter
  83. The Song is You
  84. Elective Affinities
  85. Talking It Over
  86. The Great Gatsby
  87. The Red and the Black
  88. The Westing Game
  89. Station Eleven
  90. Howard's End
  91. Life of Pi
  92. The Wings of the Dove
  93. Lady Chatterley's Lover
  94. Wonder Boys
  95. Tess of the d'Urbervilles
  96. My Name is Lucy Barton
  97. Searching for Caleb
  98. Norwegian Wood
  99. All Quiet on the Western Front
  100. Brooklyn
So there you go! No doubt I've forgotten a few. And I clearly have some big holes here. No James Joyce, no Marcel Proust, no Toni Morrison, Herman Melville, or Vladimir Nabokov—not because I haven't read their work, but because I haven't read any one book to completion. I hope to remedy that someday. I'm also not that adventurous when it comes to genre fiction, and I know I'm missing out on some wonderful mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, etc. 

If we were keeping tabs on frequency of mentions, Anne Tyler, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Strout, E.M. Forster and Marilynne Robinson would take the prize. 

One final note: Jane Eyre may or may not be the best novel of all time, but I've come to believe that the novels we read at a formative age (I was 13) are the ones that stick to our souls and won't let go. I've read that book a couple times since in the intervening years, and it's always held up. I love Jane. I love Mr. Rochester. I even love poor Bertha, raving away in that attic of hers.   

They're why I fell in love with literature. And they're at least partly responsible for why I write today.

Thanks for the fun challenge, Nathan! I hope others take it up. If you do, be sure to share your list in the comments section of Nathan's original post, and he'll link his post to your blog. 



Saturday, May 6, 2017

Like the weather

Campus couple

when he lowers his voice
and raises his eyes 
to ask her a question

her heart skips a beat
stomach falls

and she wishes
them both
away

from it all
so the rain
could be the answer 



Friday, May 5, 2017

The Gaffer

(photo by Dennis Jarvis)

Lousy at speech,
she became a writer

marching her words out
single file 

(some missing shoes,
others tottering)

instead of enduring the
alarm bell's clamor

sentences smothered,
meaning kinked

everyone panicking,
losing their shit—

hearing that crunch of bone
on teeth.  



Now, years later,
I'm still learning

what it is
to make a story

where to shine
the point of focus

to feel the scourge  
of self-immolation

leave my body 
for the length

of a page — and

shape the fire
into glass




Friday, April 28, 2017

Snapshot

photo by Saul Leiter

Sometimes I long 
to know less 
of a thing 

To catch hold 
of an outline 
and have it 
draw me in, 

while still pulling
slightly
away


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Once



Take my hand, let's plunge 
into woods, dart between pines
like fairy-tale riffraff
sprung from a cage

Something is lurking, 
Something sees 
Is that why the rocks are so rigid and straight?
Why else should we stick 
like words to our page?

What if, instead, you let go
of my hand
and pushed me, ungently,
into a lake? 

What if I laughed
instead of getting mad,
slime on my head
a fish up the leg?  

Impossible to live
like orphans, you say, 
but it's spring 
and I'm drunk 
and I want to 
be nuts 

The clock says I've lived
but half of this life 

I want to get wet,
be charged with a quest,
kiss your hot neck— 

storm the castle

make off with the lamb 



Thursday, April 20, 2017

Francesca

© Francesca Woodman

As if volcanoes 
were born
to make art
of the lava

You, Francesca,
a human
person

Young. Naked.
Even in dresses.
Needful as
the living dawn.

Young. Dead
by the time
that I turned
five. 

Francesca Woodman,
a suicide 
a great 

crawling 
prostrated
obscured
in full daylight 

laughing silently
through
your lens

with a slippery, feral, 
unnatural intent. 

Gaze made 
of marble, 
Body ether

I bet you thought gravity 
would bend.

Baby-girl voice.
Varicose ambitions.
Your mother, the ceramicist,
didn't quite get you,
did she  

But your father, the painter,
let go of his canvas
chasing you through
the halls of your pictures,
to be trapped like Escher
in the mind of your eye

Francesca —

Italia. 

Woodman —

New England.

How uncanny your black,
how holy your linens

But you — 
you are still the something
Other. 
You ghost.
You specter.
You witchy shapeshifter.  

Francesca: 
Girl eternal.

Francesca.
22 years old when the body
struck pavement.  

Francesca. 
Wallpapered in 
to the seam 
of your story. 
Lacquered.
Canonized.  
Ethereal angel.  

And so.
But then.

You got what
you wanted.

Francesca, 
Francesca—
what a price.  




© Francesca Woodman

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bargaining

(Paul Gauguin, "In the Waves" or "Ondine")

I can't write horror.
I can't write resistance.
I can't write our way out of this, I'm sorry. I'm useless.
The world, overnight, betrayed our trust, becoming nakedly monstrous (without turning serious). Artists raged, felt the pull toward truth, spitting nails from their mouths, tasting blood at the roots. Minds were distorted, preconceptions split up. And I know, I know. We ought to fight evil with all the words in the arsenal. Every writer worth her salt should be screaming, "Look out!" and "Fire!" Remember your history? The hellscapes of Bosch, the Germany of Weimar? What power! (Drop your illusions, Sarah: be a truth-teller, finally.)
But I can't do it.
I am petrified wood in the face of this fire.
I need beauty.
I crave it.
Turn my back so to save it.
Giddiness! Upsweep! Poetic indulgence. Oh, I seek awe in the marriage of molecule and light.
I will have it.
So spring—do your thing. Swamp my soul like Ophelia's.
I want his eyes synched to mine, heart foolishly reeling.
Oh God but I'm tired of caring so much.
Atlas—that's it!
Shrug off that burden.
Sit with me. Stretch. Watch the mayflies grow older. 
A tulip. A daisy. The arc of the heron.
All I'm asking for—please—is the grace of a moment.  

And I will make of it a monastery.
At the top of the waves. 


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Kindle Countdown Sale on SARABANDE

It seemed fitting to run my Kindle Countdown Sale during Valentine's week, since Sarabande is, at heart, a love story. 

The novel will be priced at $0.99 from 2/12—2/19. Remember that you don't need to own a Kindle device to read a Kindle title. Just download the app to your tablet or phone. You can also read the book on your computer. 


One of the benefits of enrolling in Amazon's KDP Select program is the ability to run a "countdown sale" and/or a free giveaway during the author's 90-day enrollment period. I will be interested to see the results, before ending my exclusive contract with Amazon and enrolling the book in Smashwords, too.

The book is also available in good, old-fashioned paperback

I appreciate all the lovely reviews I've gotten so far. If you'd be interested in writing an honest review of the book, contact me and I'd be happy to gift you the ebook version or even send you the paperback by mail. I'd be especially interested in getting reviews up on blogs, Amazon and Goodreads. 

And, because it's almost Valentine's Day, here's a favorite love song I make mention of in Sarabande. Enjoy the lyrics of the great Leonard Cohen, interpreted by the now defunct duo The Civil Wars



Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Even the flowers

Car Mirror 2


I keep wanting to run
for the hills
To cut off my head
and replace it
with flowers

But I can't escape
the fear
and the anger

I carry them with me
they've blinded my entry

into the places
and people
I imbued with beauty

So that even the flowers
are doubted now

Yes, even the flowers

are cowards