Friday, November 26, 2010

Eating a Novel

The turkey is reduced to leftovers, the pies will be finished by noon today, and we will immediately pull Christmas decorations from the dark hole under the stairs. One major holiday down, one to go. And this week it seems to me that holiday meals and manuscript critiques have much in common. Certain stock ingredients are called for, but the side dishes and the seasoning vary from one cook/author to another. The novel needs characters, setting and plot, the way a holiday table needs a turkey and stuffing and green-bean casserole. But is the setting as speculative as apple stuffing--an unimaginable reality for some--or as familiar as contemporary white-bread-and-sage America? What tastes like Heavenly Hash to some tastes like tripe to others, and they each take a seat at the table during the dreaded but necessary manuscript critique, where Fred picks the onions out of every chapter, Marla demands more sweetness in the plot, and Aunt Sally sniffs the setting like a hound in search of contraband.

The kitchen counter and the writing desk are awash in revisions and dripped gravy, exhaustion looms, and the dog throws up in the dining room just as pie is served. There sits the cook, hoping each guest gets something tasty and no one gets salmonella, hoping that as they close the book and sigh, they are full and waiting for the next feast from the same table.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Joy, Party Girl

Joy, Party Girl
Karen Douglass

Joy comes to anyone's party,
drinks anyone's Bud Lite.
Her little dress is ready, pressed,
slingbacks waiting by the door.

Joy has no taste. She laughs out loud
in church at whatever inner light or sight
giggles her while the poor preacher
frowns and pounds home the point.

Joy is a tramp, climbing stairs
belonging to strangers, eating
another one's bread, spicing up
a leftover plate of grief.

Uninvited, Joy appears, not always
on time or with her hair combed.
At the table, Joy sits opposite Despair,
tickles his shins with her bare toes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who ME?

Well, now, here's news I never expected. Seems that Scott Owens, Editor of Wild Goose Review has nominated moi, well, my poem "No-News Day," for a Pushcart Prize. Thanks Scott. You can read the poem at the web site, Spring 2010 issue. (There is an index, one that works!)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Up and Down Days

Yesterday was a ride on the sick side. I was up and out early for an upscale breakfast meeting--valet parking, white linen, waiters circulating with breakfast smoothies, and smoked salmon for breakfast. Not my usual morning. Not my usual response to salmon, which is guarded at best. But that's what was available, so I ate it. Do not, REPEAT, do not go against your instincts about edibles. Somehow that salmon swam upstream to my already wonky sinuses and threatened to spawn in my skull. I stopped at a favorite bookstore, had cranberry juice--tasted good, but was no match for the fish. And engaged in my annual fall ritual of buying The Best American Poetry. This anthology is suspect in some minds, but I look forward to it. Unfortunately, by the time I got my sick head and soggy stomach home, I had not interest in poetry, only in sleep, antihistamines, and off-loading in a very unladylike way that breakfast.

Today is much better. I had slept much of yesterday in naps, slept most of the night, and woke to my gentler routine--feeding the dogs, making tea, working on a poem, and finally, reading the first few pages of the anthology. Wow! There is life after smoked salmon and sinus pain. I even understood and admired John Ashbery's annual offering. I rarely understand his poems, but I did this time. And I found a quote by Guest Editor Amy Gerstler that sums up the delight I find in poems and in prose written by skilled, witty poets: "Our tribe of upright monkeys will always require specially charged, compressed language bursts that marry prayer and play, so we will never be without blessings, spells, curses, cures, protests, tongue twisters, riddles, hymns, vows, recipes, threats, boasts, apologies, pleas, insults, predictions, taunts, rants, or dirges." Now that sentence alone is worth the price of the book! Salmon, get thee behind me. It's Saturday and I have 72 more poems to read. Oh, I feel so much better.