Required Reading

mood: calm | drinking: agua

mckinley_small

Books have always been a huge part of my life. I grew up without a TV, and my mom would take my sister and I to the Dixon Public Library once a week. We’d fill an apple box with books, take them home, and by the time we returned the next week, we had read all the books (some of them twice).

I had an early affinity for fantasy. I devoured fairy tales (the Grimm versions, not Disney), Greek myths, Indian folk tales starring Ganesh and Kali, Lewis’ Narnia, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Baum’s Land of Oz, George MacDonald’s stories of the Princess and Curdie and the goblins who lived just beneath a layer of earth, like moles.

With all these visions of mayhem and magic and brave, bold girls like Lucy Pevensie, I have no idea how I missed out on Robin McKinley. But I did.

I only discovered her by accident a few months ago, thanks to a vampire tale (her only book featuring vampires) called Sunshine.

I was intrigued by her writing style, her fully-realized alter-world, and her strong, stubborn female heroine. So I started poking around the web for a sequel or prequel to Sunshine, which doesn’t exist. I found instead the rest of McKinley’s ouevre, most notably The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword.

I read Hero while still pregnant, and finished Sword while in the hospital after delivering Lucette. And I decided then and there that McKinley’s books would have a prominent place on Lucette’s already packed bookshelf. They will be required reading.

Enough of these namby pamby Disney damsels in distress, whose only hope is a handsome, vapid prince to come along and kiss them, so they can live out their lives in pampered, dull luxury behind the walls of glistening stone turrets.

If Lucette wants to be a princess, I want her to model herself after Aerin in The Hero and the Crown, who gentles a wounded war horse, goes off dragon hunting, and saves her entire country from doom. I want her to favor Rosie in Spindle’s End, who hates the curly golden ringlets bestowed on her by fairy godmothers…

“When she was old enough to hold minimal conversations, the itsy-bitsy-cutesy-coo sort of grown-ups would pull the soft ringlets gently and tell her what a pretty little girl she was. She would stare at this sort of grown-up and say, ‘I am not pretty. I am intelligent. And brave.’ ”

So far this month, I’ve worked my way through four more of McKinley’s books, and I have the last few that I haven’t yet read on order. I’m going to be dreadfully sad when I read the last page of the last novel, though.

McKinley feels like a once-in-a-lifetime discovery, and I pity the poor author whose book is the first to follow my McKinley binge. They will suffer horribly by comparison.

-Lo, who will always find time to read, newborn infant or no.

Bernal Reading

Mood: Industrious | Drinking: Sweet Tea

berrygood

Starting the new year off with poetry and a berry photo. Just because I can.

On January 17th, I’ll be reading a few poems as part of the Bernal Yoga Literary Series in San Francisco.

Each reading is followed by a reception, and there is a suggested donation of $5 to $10 to cover expenses.

The Winter Series on January 17th will feature poets Roxane Beth Johnson and Brian Teare, novelist Suzanne Rivecca, and several local writers and poets including myself.

I will be reading three poems: two new ones and one from my book The Secrets of Falling.

You can find more information about the Literary Series here.

Hope to see you all there!

-Lo, finding new words for the New Year.

Two for One

gary
Mood: Sickly
Drinking: Green Tea

It’s very last minute, but that doesn’t make it any less fabulous…

I’m sharing a feature spot with my poetry pal Gary (pictured) this Thursday, February 7, at Bird & Beckett Bookstore in Glen Park.

The festivities start at 7 p.m. and are followed by an open mic. So if you’re around, head on over to 653 Chenery, grab a seat, and maybe even bring a few of your own rhymes to read.

In the meantime, I will be trying to ditch this scratchy sore throat that I brought home from New York so I can read without sounding like a frog. (I aim high.)

See you on Thursday!

-Lo, who believes in the healing properties of tea.

Well Met

reading
Mood: Content
Drinking: Tea

A big thank-you goes out to the fine bunch of folk who showed up at Sacred Grounds for the reading last night. (Kathy took this stealth photo of the reading in action.)

A special shout out to my open mic buddy Gary, who deserves the credit for getting me to Sacred Grounds in the first place.

I met a lot of lovely people, sold quite a few books, and had a great deal of fun reading my stuff. Which is all as it should be, I think.

I’ll be reading again in the next few months at Red Hill Books in Bernal and Bird & Beckett in Glen Park. I’ll post details for everybody when the dates get closer.

Meanwhile, I have some laundry and poems to finish, a dress to alter, a wedding to dance at and a dog to walk.

I’ll be seeing you soon with more things to say about a new cinepoem, an upcoming film festival, and how to upstage the bride without being too obvious about it.

Until then, Internet, sleep well and don’t forget to floss.

-Lo, who only flosses because her dentist is really good at laying down the guilt.

Featured

sacredgrounds1
Mood: Typical
Drinking: Usual

All my fellow San Franciscans (and Bay Area people, too) can consider themselves cordially invited to the poetry reading at the Sacred Grounds Cafe next Wednesday, September 5th.

The mic opens to all who come with poetry in hand at 7:30. I’m the featured reader on the 5th, so I’ll be taking the floor between 8 and 8:30. I’ll be reading from the new book, the old book, and perhaps a few hot and fresh lines, as well.

It’s a small space with good food, so get there early, get yourself some eats, and pay your respects to the open mic crowd.

See you there!

-Lo, who will not be playing, singing, reciting, or involved in any way with Free Bird.

The Writing Muscle

muscles
Mood: Procrastinating
Drinking: Tooth-rottingly sweet tea

Soon and very soon, I’m off to a conference for poets and writers.

I’m not sure what to expect. Writers often tend to be quite competitive, myself included. You always want to be the best in the room. Trouble is, “The Best” is so very subjective.

I tend to think that poets like Nicole Blackman are far better than your average stuffed poet laureate. But that’s me.

I went to a poetry reading the other night and watched a woman in green bob her head emphatically up and down like some sort of epileptic chicken at nearly everything the featured reader said. Clearly, she thought his overwrought, pedantic, self-important stanzas were the cat’s meow.

I, on the other hand, thought he was in rather desperate need of an editor. And an enema. (Rawr!)

So you see, different strokes…

Perhaps I’ll meet fellow writers who are lovely and kind, fellow poets who turn fine phrases without rancor. (I know they exist — I met one named Gary just the other night.)

But really, I’ll just be happy to exercise my own writing muscles, to learn new things about words and craft and self. There’s always room to learn and grow. No matter who you think you are.

And as added impetus for the wordy weekend ahead, a friend sent me this poem in an email titled, “Why I love and worship Auden.” It’s an amazing piece of work, not only for its beauty but also for its resounding truth…

Musee des Beaux Arts
by W.H. Auden
(1940)
About suffering they were never wrong,
the Old Masters; how well, they understood
its human position; how it takes place
while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
for the miraculous birth, there always must be
children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
on a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
that even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
but for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
as it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

-Lo, once more into the breach.

At the Open Mic

tube
Mood: Cranky
Drinking: Nothing helpful

Dear Fellow Poet-Person,

I hate the way you read poetry.

I’ve tried, really, I have, to be patient, to hear things from your point of view, to get in your zone, to say something nice. It’s not going to happen.

I unreservedly detest, I violently dislike, I utterly despise the way you read poetry.

You sound like a Valley Girl in the young Nicolas Cage era (pre-hair transplant and porcelain veneers), leaving ends of phrases just dangling in mid-air. Like, you know? You draw out the ends of words with fish hooks and wrecking cables. The words don’t want to go there! Please don’t make them.

I don’t want to hear about the pluuuuuuuuuuuuuuums your lover eats or those leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewd zucchinis. A purple plum? Ok. A lewd zucchini? I’ll take it.

But all those extra vowels just underline your mediocrity. Your schtick gets in the way of your words. I can’t hear what you’re really saying.

It doesn’t have to be like this. If you ever took a moment to listen to yourself, to actually hear what you sound like, without all the artifice, you might be surprised. You might like it.

But please, stop borrowing this overdone, overly dramatic Poetry Voice. Stop copying a device that got old before its time. (Just because it worked for them doesn’t mean it works for you!) Stop lazing around in a pool of your own supposed genius. Just stop.

You don’t need a gimmick. You just need your own voice.

I went to the Open Mic for my 3 minutes of amplification, true. I don’t mind the applause. But I was hoping to find someone else there. Someone original. Someone inspirational. Someone electrifying.

Instead I found 2 poor facsimiles of the Beatnik generation, 3 self-indulgent slackers, and 6 rhymers with no reason.

So I dragged myself home deflated and disgruntled. I’ve stewed over it for a few days, and have come up with nothing better than this sad rant.

I love you, San Francisco, but I miss The Green Mill more than ever. I miss the irreverence. I miss the feminist hiss. I miss the complete lack of politically correct concern.

Where’s the Marc Smith (So What!) of San Francisco? Where’s the discriminating audience?

Where are the good words hiding?

-Lo, who certainly doesn’t claim to be the best, but knows a thing or two about not being the worst.

Reading Accomplished

reading3Mood: Well Done
Drinking: Sweet Tea

Thanks to everybody who came out for the reading last night, especially those of you who had to stand in the back because of the lack of chairs. I hope we made it worthwhile.

I didn’t know any of the other poets who read, but it’s always fun to hear other people’s work.

I’m still recovering from the bug that has whupped my ass for the past 8 days, and midway through my reading, I realized I sounded like Nasal Hazel, all twangy and honky. For those of you who haven’t heard me read before — I usually sound quite a bit less like a stuffed goose.

Things at home are beginning to settle down after the vacation/sicktime upheaval. Although there is an extra 4-legged beastie in the house, and she just might be 4 legs too many.

My sister and peeps are on vacation, and since they kindly babysat the Loon while Boy and I were away, it’s our turn to sit for McKinna, the giant-headed christmas-ham-pawed panda-faced freakshow of a creature that my sister calls Dog.

McKinna is sweet as pie but dumb as a stick and I think I’m going to be happy to see her backside leaving through the front door this weekend. Two dogs make life more interesting than I need it to be right now. I’m ready to get back to status quo.

Speaking of normal and getting it back, Shel and I are FINALLY getting around editing Abattoir this week. We’ve been more than a little bit busy with other things, but I know you’ve all been waiting a good long time for a new cinepoem, and I promise you’ll have one soon.

Then after Abattoir comes Kiss & Fly and then Apres un Reve, and we’ll soon be shooting even more. Back to normal, indeed…

-Lo, who thinks that naptime should be normal. Every day.

Getting a Read On

overlandbook
Mood: Medicine-head
Drinking: Medicine-stuff

Vacation is over and onward comes reality.

My lovely new head cold prevents me from having any thoughts that could be construed as intelligent, so I’ll save the holiday reminiscing for later, when the kleenexes are all used up.

Here’s the new news that you need to know:
I’ll be reading from The Secrets of Falling this Sunday, June 17th, at The Great Overland Book Company at 9th and Judah in San Francisco. The reading is produced by the Writing Salon and includes 8 other local poets.

The reading starts at 7:15pm and ends at 9pm. I’ll be the first one to read after the break, so I’ll probably take the mic around 8 p.m. But if you live in SF, come out and support all the other poets, too. It’s sure to be an evening full of good words.

-Lo, who is realizing that vacations are just as exhausting as real life.

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