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Showing posts from March, 2009

"Beyond Forgetting" Now Available

Just in time for National Poetry Month, Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer's Disease is now available from Kent State University Press. The anthology is edited by St. Olaf alum Holly Hughes, and includes one of my poems. For more information, read my earlier blog entry about the anthology. To order, click the picture of the book's cover in the right sidebar.

The Last Page

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River City Books closed its doors for the last time this afternoon at 4:00. I was there between 1:00 and 2:00 to make my final purchase: a new copy of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway to replace the battered, yellow-highlighted copy I bought as a freshman at Oberlin in 1982. Near the beginning of the novel, as Clarissa Dalloway walks through London to buy flowers for her party, she passes Hatchards Bookshop on Picadilly and looks in at a book open in the window:
What was she dreaming as she looked into Hatchards' shop window? What was she trying to recover? What image of white dawn in the country, as she read in the book spread open:

Fear no more the heat o' the sun
Nor the furious winter's rages.

This late age of the world's experience had bred in them all, all men and women, a well of tears. Tears and sorrows; courage and endurance; a perfectly upright and stoical bearing. The book is Shakespeare's Cymbeline. The lines that Mrs. Dalloway remembers continue:
Fear …

Spring Flower Show

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To celebrate the cold weekend that straddles the end of Carleton's spring break and the beginning of the Northfield Public Schools' spring break, I headed up to St. Paul this morning to soak up the warmth and color of the spring flower show at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park. Here are some photographs.

Reading Journal: "The Post-Office Girl"

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Stefan Zweig, The Post-Office Girl, translated by Joel Rotenberg. New York Review Books, 2008. $14.00.

When I was in Salzburg in October 2006, I was thinking, like most tourists, about Mozart. I visited his birthplace and his other residence the city, attended a concert of greatest hits at the Mozarteum, and ate Mozartkügln in the marketplace. In my brief exploratory walks through the city, I probably passed the home of Stefan Zweig, on the Kapuzinerberg, without even realizing it. Zweig, one of the great European writers of the twentieth century, is not well-known in America—although that may change with the recent publication of several of his works by New York Review Books, including his intriguing posthumous novel The Post-Office Girl. The novel is elegantly translated into English for the first time by Joel Rotenberg.

Zweig was born in Vienna in 1881 and moved to Salzburg after the First World War. In Salzburg, he was well-positioned as a collector of rare music manuscrip…

Mothers, Fathers, and Dried Beans

The March/April issue of the local magazine Girlfriends opens with an essay by my friend Shannon Tassava, about "the challenge of balancing self-care with other-care," and ends with an essay by my friend Paula Granquist about her relationship with her father. Meanwhile, another writer friend, Mary Schier, has come up a winner in the annual Garden Writer's Association media awards.

Shannon writes about redeeming a birthday gift certificate for a massage and spending the entire hour of personal pampering thinking about her children. It's an experience most parents of small children can relate to. Paula, irrepressible host of "ArtZany!" on KYMN Radio, writes with characteristic lyricism and openness about her wonderful father, who was diagnosed with lung cancer while she was pregnant with twins. The image of the moon floats through her short essay. My favorite sentence: "My father shared 14 months on this earth with my children, their lives intersect…

Reading Journal: "The Enigma of Arrival"

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V.S. Naipaul, The Enigma of Arrival (1987). Purchased used for $6.00 at Monkey See, Monkey Read in Northfield.

In the summer of 2007, we visited Stonehenge, then drove down to Salisbury to visit the great cathedral, which among other things is home to the world's oldest mechanical clock (1386). Time was on my mind when we visited Salisbury. We had less than a month left of our year in England, and this was our last English holiday before returning home to Minnesota. In a short drive, from Stonehenge to Salisbury, we had traversed a distance of nearly four millennia, connected by modern highways and confusing roundabouts. On the lookout, as always, for literary associations, I found in Salisbury Cathedral a bust of the late nineteenth-century nature writer Richard Jefferies, whose native haunts were the Wiltshire downs. I didn't realize at the time that, at Stonehenge, I was near the haunts of a living English writer, one who shares an affinity with Jefferies, the 2001 Nobe…

Best of the Net 2008

My poem "Jane Austen's Toes," originally published in the online journal Apple Valley Review, was chosen by poet Dorianne Laux for inclusion in the 2008 Best of the Net Anthology.

The Best of the Net "works to promote the diverse and growing collection of voices that are choosing to publish their work online, a venue that still sees little respect from such yearly anthologies as the Pushcart and 'Best American' series." The publishers hope the Best of the Net will "help to bring more respect to an innovative and continually expanding medium."

"The Talk of the Town"

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While I was living in England, my red ("ginger") beard was a source of predictable amusement to the more puerile inhabitants of the kingdom. Teenagers especially liked to point and laughingly call out "ginger!" Or, sometimes, "ginger pubes!"

I was reminded of this last night as I watched George Stevens' superb 1942 comedy, The Talk of the Town." The film stars Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, and Ronald Colman. Grant plays Leopold Dilg, who for years has been speaking out about poor conditions at the local woolen mill. When someone torches the mill, causing the death of the foreman, Dilg is immediately suspected and sent to jail. In the opening minutes of the film, he escapes from jail and hides out in the attic of a cottage owned by local school teacher Nora Shelley (Arthur), which she is preparing for a new tenant, law professor Michael Lightcap (Colman). Romantic screwball comedy ensues, as Nora attempts to keep Dilg hidden, and eventually attem…

A Wet Walk in the Arboretum

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The path along the river (not the river itself)

Bur oak, prairie, blue sky

Reading Journal: "Battle Cry of Freedom"

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James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. Oxford University Press 1988.

In What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, Daniel Walker Howe traces the developments in transportation, communication, and industrialization that in the first half of the nineteenth century began a profound transformation of American life. As James McPherson notes, the North was greatest beneficiary of most of those changes. The South remained primarily rural and agricultural, and preserved the settled and hierarchical social structure of an earlier era. "Until 1861," McPherson writes at the end of his magnificent volume, "it was the North that was out of the mainstream, not the South." The movements that Howe traces in his volume of the Oxford History of the United States reach a startling and bloody climax in the Civil War, which McPherson sees as not only a victory of abolitionism and free labor against slavery, but a victory of a Northern vi…

Publication News: Two Forthcoming Anthologies

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First of all, my heartfelt congratulations to Shan, who has taken another big step in her career as a writer. Her essay "The Mommy Wars Killed Our Friendship: Letter to a Former Friend" has been accepted for publication in an anthology tentatively titled Girl Talk: 25 Open Letters to Our Female Friends, due in October from Seal Press. Shannon blogs about it here.

Meanwhile, one of my poems is included in a new anthology now available for pre-order from Kent State University Press ($29.95). The anthology, edited by St. Olaf alum Holly Hughes, is titled Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose About Alzheimer's Disease. My poem, "Fudgesicle," is about the aphasia—the inability to remember words and the loss of speech—that my father suffered as part of a degenerative disease called progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). The symptoms of PSP, such as aphasia, are often confused with those of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's diseases. My father died of the disease i…

The Last Saturday of Winter Term

This morning I was up at 6:15 to start making two dozen bagels for my Latin students, whom I had invited for brunch at 10:00. I also bought a dozen enormous, buttery croissants at the Quality Bakery, and Nutella, and jam, and fruit, and lox and cream cheese for the bagels. (The lox, from Just Food Coop, was made from sustainably harvested salmon.) Of my class of twelve students, only seven showed up, and they were gone by 11:15, leaving many leftover croissants and bagels. (The boys later descended on the croissants and Nutella and finished them off.)

Full of bagels and lox, I took a brief nap, then strolled downtown. On Bridge Square, a group of students from Prairie Creek Community School were holding a rally to encourage people to support downtown businesses through these economic hard times. One of the downtown businesses sunk by the recession is River City Books, which is in the midst of its going out of business sale. I stopped in and found five copies of my poetry chapbook…

Reading Journal: "School for Love"

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Olivia Manning, School for Love. New York Review Books 2009. Originally published 1951.

The Library of Congress subject information for School of Love lists "Jewish-Arab relations" and "Jerusalem—Ethnic relations" among the novel's subjects. It's true that Olivia Manning's novel is set in Jerusalem in 1945, at the end of the second World War. The city is full of refugees from Eastern Europe and English civil servants evacuated from various parts of the Middle East. But while the war in Europe is still undecided, the ethnic conflict in Palestine remains on hold. In Manning's novel, young Arabs and Jews frequent Jerusalem cafés together, discussing Freud and Kafka, and looking uneasily toward a future that threatens to pull them apart.

As one Arab says in the novel: "Myself, an Arab, my friend, A Jew; and so the others, Jews and Arabs, mixing in intellectual amity. Were all to act in such a way, the problems of Palestine would be solved.&quo…