You’re Gonna Eat That?!


This is the title of my newest book which currently resides at the designers for formatting, placing the photos in the correct place and position, making sure everything is just right.  The subtitle is:  Adventures with Food, Family, and Friends.  It includes family and travel stories, adventures, poems, and recipes. Here are a couple of food photos which will be in the book with recipes.

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Every Sunday until publication, I will post an update as to progress.  My goal is to have it available for purchase for Christmas presents for those who love food adventures.

 

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Afternoon at the Library


Usually at the library I checkout and return books. Because my grandson is taking art classes at a nearby college for three hours in the afternoons, I go to read and observe.  The same older men show up everyday.  Some, acquaintances or friends, quietly chat. They look scruffy with dirty, stringy hair.  Are they homeless?  Does the library provide an air conditioned refuge?  They read, look at magazines.

One man in a tan Alaska cap takes notes from a large book.  He appears well groomed, clean, with a sculpted, small beard. Another alternates reading and checking his cell phone.  At a separate round oak table a man sits in a dark heavy coat–it said 102 on my car temperature gage when I arrived.  He never looks up, concentrates on the black laptop in front of him. The white earbuds stand out against his heavy dark beard.  His fingernails are dirty.  A white haired man approaches the round table I occupy and asks if he can sit there.  I reply, “Sure.”  His dark skin shows the heavy creases of outside work and age.  His fingernails are clean. He focuses on filling out an application for a commercial driver’s license.

In the several days I have stayed here to read and wait, I have seen only one woman where they allow adults to sit.  Do these men, day after day, come here because they have no place else to go?

Jen Payne’s New Book


Evidence of Flossing, WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND provides an unexpected metaphor for individual life, culture, and so much more. Nearly all the poems are accompanied with a photograph, often of trash in which lays a dental flosser (yes, one of those instruments with which you floss your teeth) with date and location.  Flossing is supposed to prevent anything from being left behind.  Hence, the title brings up an unusual play on words.

The first section Damage contains more than 20 poems which are a lament about much of modern life–mass shootings, the demise of wildlife, unpleasant changes.  One poem asks the question:  “Would God floss?”  In the second section, Contact, the poems focus on the natural world, walks in the city, the woods, beaches.  The third section, Connection, emphasizes the interconnectedness of everything, especially the relationships between humans and animals and nature.  There are poems about frogs, storms, birds.  One called Evidence of Fairies makes the reader feel the magic of old growth forests with moss and ancient trees.  In the footnote to another poem she discusses the fact that wolf spiders actually create songs to lure lovers. Then, toward the end, the Alice poems appear,  Alice as in “Alice in Wonderland”.  In my favorite poem Payne relates her encounter with a stranger picking oyster mushrooms near a path in the woods.

After reading the poems and comments in this book, I will never view flossing the same way again.  Will I find dental flossers now, something I never even previously thought about?  I use those long strings of floss not flossers.  Apparently the poems and flosser photos affected enough people that some sent Payne photos of flossers they saw here and there on the ground, some of which she has included in the book.

Even if I find no flossers, now I will certainly give a lot more thought to what I and others leave behind.

 

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About the author:  Jennifer Payne is the owner of Words by Jen, a graphic design and creative services company in Connecticut. She belongs to the Arts Council of Greater New Haven as well as several other arts and poetry organizations.  Her work has been featured in various publications, including The Aurorean, Six Sentences, and the Story Circle Network.  You can read some of her writing on her blog Random Acts of Writing.

 

 

No Offense by Esther Nelson


This blog will be of special interest to university professors and anyone who teachers in a college or public school at a higher level or those concerned about the state and future of education.

What a pleasant surprise to become acquainted with Samar Habib when she appeared on my newsfeed the other day.  According to her biography, she “is a writer, researcher and scholar” as well as “[a] tireless advocate of human rights.” She is also “an expert of international standing on Gender and Sexuality in the Arab world, with unparalleled publications on same-sex love and desire among women and the juncture of Islam and homosexuality.”  The Ted Talk I stumbled upon, titled “Let the Scholar Speak, Even if it Scares You,” explores the modern university’s difficulty navigating that murky space between academic freedom (based on scholarship and inquiry) and giving offense (based on fear of decimating a student’s belief system).

Samar is Palestinian, raised in a secular, but nominally Christian, household.  Initially, her research focused on the study of sex and gender in the Arab world and gradually incorporated the more specific…

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Predetermined?


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Today at the bookstore browsing, I picked up a book nestled among the magazines.

 

This question appeared on page 41:  “If you were given a book on the story of your life,

would you read the end?”

 

I asked my grandson.  He immediately said, “No!”

 

I wonder.

 

Remain unsure.

 

If I read it, could I change it?

 

Are lives predetermined, choiceless?

 

Are we unwittingly predetermined and just victims?

 

If I read it, could I change it?

 

Eat something different,

sing a varied song,

laugh more,

spend more time with sunsets, sunrises,

read less, more,

love someone new,

say words now lost,

write a contrary story,

choose an opposing path,

challenge?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Motherhood of God by Mary Sharratt


The first woman to write a book in English–in the 1300s.

Doing a recent talk on pioneering woman writers, I like to do the Before Jane Austen test with my audience. Who can name a single woman writer in the English language before Jane Austen? Alas, because woman have been written out of history to such a large extent, most people come up blank. Then we talk about pioneering Renaissance authors, such as Aemilia Bassano Lanier, the subject of my recent novel, THE DARK LADY’S MASK, or her mentor, Anne Locke, the first person of either sex to write a sonnet sequence in the English language.

But my next question takes us even further back into history. Who was the first woman to write a book in English?

The answer is Julian of Norwich, who wrote Revelations of Divine Love.

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Bedtime Reading


 

A habit I acquired years ago, perhaps even during my childhood, is reading just before I go to sleep.  Picking the right books remains key unless you want to stay up half the night either reading or thinking about something horrifying or depressing you’ve read. Lately, my reading has not been conducive to sweet dreams.  Earlier this week I finished Among the Ruins, an Iranian mystery of sorts, by Ausma Zehanat Khan.  It’s fiction but one of the characters writes letters from prison which are anything but cheery.  Now I am reading the Pulitzer Prize winner, The Return.  Since Hisham Matar never saw his father again after he was captured and hauled off to a Libyan prison, sleep inducing it is not.  Last night I decided perhaps for bedtime I needed to find something not exactly boring but somewhat less stimulating.  It may take me all summer given that The Silk Roads, A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan is 505 pages.  If I get bored with that, I can go back to two books I reread off and on and save for bedtime reading, When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams and Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz, Selected Works translated by Edith Grossman.  Both inspire reflection and contemplation.  For those who do not know Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz, she lived in Mexico in the 1600s.  She became famous for her intellectual capacity, her poetry, and was referred to as “the Phoenix of Mexico” when women rarely rose to such heights.

What are you reading this summer?

 

A Week of Wonder and Flowers


 

This past week was my birthday.  The wonder started a week ago when my friends came for dinner and my friend’s father, visiting from Mexico. brought me red roses.  I had not seen my friends in a long time and it was fun.  Then on Sunday, Roberto, the father, and I went hiking in Palo Duro Canyon on a new trail.  I never saw a name for it.

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We found this trail by starting at Chinaberry (for those who go to the Canyon), taking Comanche Trail up to this new trail.  When they intersect, we went north rather than south on Comanche.

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If you read the previous blog in December about hiking Comanche, you saw this peak but from the center and to the south.  This is a view from the north looking south.

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Eventually, after hiking up and down across an arroyo, you end up above the river which looks tiny here, but when a big rain comes, it can rise many feet in a few hours.  It was very sunny, I had a hard time focusing so occasionally a finger got in the way.

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Roberto has a funny sense of humor.  He could not resist pretending to hold up one of the many giant boulders along the trail.

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This is not a difficult walk and not too long if you only have a few hours.  We came across a group of wild turkeys, but they moved so much, I was unable to get a good photo so gave up.

Wednesday was my birthday.  It began with my first period class–I teach senior high school English.  They showered the room with confetti, brought me a giant chocolate muffin with a candle in the middle, lit the candle and sang me Happy Birthday.  Then during second period, two of my students arrived with two bouquets of flowers.  The room smelled wonderful for three days.  I brought the flowers home yesterday in a big box.

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My grandson told the florist to make me a giant bouquet with exotic flowers.  This is one side of it.  Orchids, roses, hydrangeas, and some really unusual flowers which I cannot identify.

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This is the other side of the same bouquet.

This bouquet is from my son.  He knows my favorite color is orange and that I have a lot of that color in my house so….

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I am seriously nerdy and asked for an atlas for my birthday.  My daughter outdid herself and bought this one full of all sorts of information I never expected and maps.  I love maps.  When I read a book from Latin America, Africa, etc., I look up the places on maps.

Last night I sang songs, using the poems of Octavio Paz and Pablo Neruda among others, with the Amarillo Master Chorale in a church with perfect acoustics for choral music.  Tonight I will see friends at an opera party.  What a wonderful week!!

Naked and Unafraid: Mahasveta Devi (1926-2016)


A powerful story of the power of woman and in this case of “right”.

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Mahasveta Devi died last month at the age of 90 in Kolkata, India. A widely acclaimed Bengali writer, she identified as an activist first, clearly evident in her meticulously researched “fiction.” Most of her stories champion the cause of those living on the margins of society, particularly the Adivasis or original inhabitants of India; poor, unemployed and itinerant, they traditionally subsisted off the land, and continue to struggle against exploitative upper caste landowners.

I cannot claim to be an expert on Devi or her activism, but there is a story I read a few years ago, which never fails to haunt me, whether because of the rawness with which she describes the harsh reality faced by tribal people or because of what can be seen as the violent but ultimate triumph of its female protagonist, I cannot tell. Perhaps because of both, or because…

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Modern Politics and Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz


Who would think that a Mexican woman who wrote poetry more than three hundred years ago would have anything applicable to today’s political arena?  About one and one half years ago, my daughter returned from a business trip with a little gift, a translation of Sor Juana’s work.  It is not the sort of literature I sit down and read all the way through.  It is deep, questioning, the sort of literature you savor here and there.  A few minutes ago I opened the book once again to read one of her ballads–typically referred to as romances.   However, this is not exactly a romance.  It reads:

“One who is sad criticizes

the happy man as frivolous;

and one who is happy derides

the sad man and his suffering.

 

The two philosophers of Greece

offered perfect proofs of this truth;

for what caused laughter in one man

occasioned tears in another.

 

The contradiction has been framed

for centuries beyond number,

yet which of the two ways was correct

has so far not been determined;

 

instead, into two factions

all people have been recruited,

temperament dictating which

band each person will adhere to.”

 

This is only a small portion of the ballad.  It is ballad 2 in the translation by Edith Grossman.  The introduction to the book is by one of my favorite authors (I have read all her books published to date), Julia Alvarez.