:: back at it ::

As is typical lately, health issues have given me a run for my money. It's made research a challenge, that's for sure. But I find that God helps me just in the nick of time. Like today ~ sun-filled, hopeful, notable brain activity, and I can't help but see inspiration ....

Mr. Sock Monkey keeps popping up everywhere, never failing to make me smile. That PaperBlanks journal is an eye-catcher, too, filled w/my wretched penmanship. And the book re^mark .... I love visuals:

I'm oh so grateful for my comfy chair:

I'm writing about a poet for my next Curator article, so the left hand inspiration wire is full of beautiful words:

Such as, a handout from an HBU conference I attended ~ "Credo: the Arts as Expressions of Belief." The quote by Marilynne Robinson is on my brain:

"It has seemed to me sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance - for a moment or a year or the span of a life. And then it sinks back into itself again, and to look at it no one would know it had anything to do with fire, or light .... Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don't have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it? .... Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave - that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm."
[from her must-read book, Gilead. I should mention that Marilynne Robinson was at that conference. IN PERSON. She read aloud from Gilead. I stupidly did not talk to her b/c I'm too shy.]

[directly above lamplight]

[L to R] 1. A card from my Mom w/a funny quote by Flannery O'Connor:

"Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them."

2. A Guerilla Poetics Project broadside with a pretty blue heron (J. and I saw a blue heron while on a neighborhood walk last week). It reads:

Blue Heron

This is what I left behind--a blue heron
in a perfect chaos of trees. An estuary
for wintering. The sweet
old troubles.

A small boat
on the tide.

A long figure

Tell me this, blue heron:

Can one make a life
small enough to take
anywhere, and live in,
even as it looms
over us
darkly, at times

--Sharon Kessler

[I am sadly behind on hiding poems]

I'm happy to say that I've nailed down my Curator writing topics through January '09. They are very inspiring subjects, semi-distracting me from this poet-article. Such a lovely problem, though.


:: the curator ::

[a repeat post from dreams of genevieve]

I'm happy to announce that The Curator launched today! Look to your right for a button to click ~ I'm in love with that logo designed by John Hendrix.

[if you'd like to add a Curator button to your blog or web site, just shoot me an e-mail (see my profile) and I'll send you the code]

Obviously, I'm excited to be published, but even more than publication, I cannot wait to sit down and read the other articles. The Curator is exactly the type of web zine I live to read, so I'm thrilled and thankful to be part of such a great group of writers. The mission of The Curator is right up my alley, too. I agree wholeheartedly with this excerpt from Alissa Wilkinson's editorial, "Why The Curator?":

"Here, we’re providing a place for you to find artifacts of culture which we believe are worthy of your time, either to contemplate as a reflection of the good, the beautiful, and the true, or to cause you to ask important questions about the many dimensions of humanity - thought, expression, faith, citizenship, mortality, recreation, and our relationships with ourselves and each other. Our goal is that you will find the ideas and cultural objects presented in The Curator to be fresh, insightful, and thoroughly worthy of your attention."

Here's the table of contents for this first edition:

Why The Curator?
Alissa Wilkinson
Why do we need another culture magazine?

Three Sanctuaries
Jenni Simmons
A look at the de Menil collections in Houston and the idea of sanctuary.

Mütter Museum’s Gruesome Grace
Rebecca Tirrell Talbot
Seeing the human story in beauty’s ravages.

The Redemptive Power of Forgiveness
Christy Tennant
A cinematic look at revenge, brokenness, and forgiveness.

McCain, Barack, and 30 Rock
Alisa Harris
Timely television for a real-life political circus.

On Being in Strange Places
Wayne Adams
Religion and art collide in an unlikely place.

Vive le Salon!
Samuel Kho
An interview with Los Angeles art salon host, Ryan Callis.

Rethinking What It Means to Be “Made In America”
Sarah Hanssen
Entering a hopeless world to find humanity.

Pay Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain
Kevin Gosa
How one man's creativity can change the course of history - through rock and roll.

Intro to Pastry
Daniel Nayeri
Luxury, necessities, and cake.

Yes, Video Games are Art
Matt Cox
Finding beauty in an unexpected avenue.

Enjoy your reading (and thank you for doing so). I'd love to hear your thoughts.


:: the story of edgar sawtelle ::

This morning, I read an e-mail from a great bookstore here in town: Brazos Bookstore. They mentioned a long list of books that come highly recommended, one of which I've heard a lot about, as in lots of praise. It's a novel called The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski:

From goodreads:

"Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong friend and ally. But with the unexpected return of Claude, Edgar's paternal uncle, turmoil consumes the Sawtelles' once peaceful home. When Edgar's father dies suddenly, Claude insinuates himself into the life of the farm and into Edgar's mother's affections.

Grief-stricken and bewildered, Edgar tries to prove Claude played a role in his father's death, but his plan backfires spectacularly. Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who follow him. But his need to face his father's murderer and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs turn Edgar ever homeward.

David Wroblewski is a master storyteller, and his breathtaking scenes—the elemental north woods, the sweep of seasons, an iconic American barn, a fateful vision rendered in the falling rain—create a riveting family saga, a brilliant exploration of the limits of language, and a compulsively readable modern classic

And isn't the cover art gorgeous?


:: a poem ::

[I read this aloud to myself today]

Carol of Brother Ass
by Vassar Miller

In the barnyard of my bone
Let the animals kneel down -
Neither ecstasy nor anger,
Wrath nor mildness need hide longer,
On the branching veins together
Dove may sing with hawk her brother.

Let the river of my blood
Turned by star to golden flood
Be the wholesome radiance
Where the subtle flesh may dance,
Where the only bait to bite
Dangles from the lures of light.

Let the deep angelic strain
Pierce the hollows of my brain;
Struck for want of better bell,
Every nerve grow musical;
Make my thews and sinews hum
And my tautened skin a drum.

Bend, astonished, haughty head
Ringing with the shepherd's tread;
Heart, suspended, rib to rib,
Rock the Christ Child in your crib,
Till so hidden, Love afresh
Lovely walks the world in flesh

:: september is too far away ::

I'm a happy camper today. I pre-ordered Marilynne Robinson's novel, Home, which releases on September 2nd. (!)

From goodreads:

"Hundreds of thousands were enthralled by the luminous voice of John Ames in Gilead, Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel. Home is an entirely independent, deeply affecting novel that transpires concurrently in the same locale, this time in the household of Reverend Robert Boughton, Ames’s closest friend. Glory Boughton, aged thirty-eight, has returned to Gilead to care for her dying father. Soon her brother, Jack — the prodigal son of the family, gone for twenty years — comes home, too, looking for refuge and trying to make peace with a past littered with tormenting trouble and pain. Jack is one of the great characters in recent literature. A bad boy from childhood, an alcoholic who cannot hold a job, he is perpetually at odds with his surroundings and with his traditionalist father, though he remains Boughton’s most beloved child. Brilliant, lovable, and wayward, Jack forges an intense bond with Glory and engages painfully with Ames, his godfather and namesake. Home is a moving and healing book about families, family secrets, and the passing of the generations, about love and death and faith. It is Robinson’s greatest work, an unforgettable embodiment of the deepest and most universal emotions."

Anyone else geeked up along with me??

Also, thanks to Alissa, I'm reading this fantastic essay on Cosmic Realism, a literary style written by the likes of Annie Dillard and Marilynne Robinson. Great brain-food. Very inspiring.


:: kaboom books ::

We visited Kaboom Books yesterday, a small bookstore within walking distance of our Church. I've been dying to visit ever since I spied bookshelf upon bookshelf in a charming storefront we pass every Sunday while driving home. There's a space a few doors down that seems to be transitioning to a café or coffee shop. Oh, please, God! Kaboom's web site will improve soon, but for now you can see a glimpse of just how many books are in that place.

We opened a heavy door into a true book haven. A nice lady greeted us who I believe is married to the other owner - a kind, quiet man. Their two dogs were also very friendly, trotting around the aisles. It took me about five seconds to decide that I'm bound to return often. Kaboom is across town from our house, but since we're at Church 1-2 times per week, more book purchases seem likely. I can hardly wait for the weather to turn cooler this autumn. Our Church's neighborhood is perfect for strolling over to the bookstore; admiring bungalows, crepe myrtles, and oak trees along the way.

Kaboom is a long, narrow store, every wall covered with tall, wooden bookshelves. The interior space is filled with more shelves which create a maze of genres: fiction, poetry, humor, nautical, children's, reference, political science, literary criticism, history, essays, music, art, architecture, first editions, film, and religion. I've been to many a bookstore, but I was truly impressed by the wide variety and bountiful selection. After his wife left for the day, I told the other owner I could stay in his store for hours. He said, "Then you'd have to alphabetize for me." No problem - I used to work at Half Price Books, after all. I still find myself straightening shelves in any bookstore I visit. Sad, isn't it?

Johnny initially said I could choose one book which was fine by me, but when I revealed my finds, he looked at the inexpensive prices and said, "Heck, they're cheap. Let's get all three." 3 + his own choice = 4.

For Johnny:
Grendel Archives by Matt Wagner.

For Jenni:
The Best American Spiritual Writing 2006 edited by Philip Zaleski.
[includes work by Wendell Berry, Scott Cairns, Michael Chabon, Alan Jacobs, Richard John Neuhaus, and John Updike, among several others]

For both:
-The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers, introduction by Madeleine L'Engle.
-Brendan: a Novel by Frederick Buechner.

I also considered Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, and The Professor and the Madman: a Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester, but those will have to wait for another shopping spree. I really wish I had searched for novels by Ron Hansen.

After we finished shopping, we drove less than a minute over to Church, just in time for the potluck dinner. I carried my lunch box packed w/yeast-free eats, and much to my happiness, a friend cooked a delicious navy bean soup full of safe ingredients. For the past several Wednesdays, our pastor read an Epistle aloud. I've read Paul's letters and such fairly often, but it was a treat to hear them as the early Christians did - a letter in the mail, full of good news, read out loud. It also reminded me of what a lame letter-writer I am (I owe at least four people a handwritten letter).

However, our pastor wanted to do something a little different last night. We read the entire book of Esther the same way Jews do every spring during the Feast of Purim. Adults and children volunteered to read the parts of different characters: Mordecai, Esther, King Xerxes, Haman, and the King's and Queen Esther's servants; our pastor read the in-between narrations. Not only that, but Rev. Ellisor brought along toy horns and his son's noisiest toys - to make a boisterous racket whenever Haman's name was mentioned (he was "the bad guy", wanting to wipe out the Jews - Esther's people and God's chosen people). You can imagine what a blast the kids had making all that noise, and their glee was pretty contagious. I felt very reserved amidst all the silliness, yet I couldn't quit laughing. Just so you know, Johnny read the part of Mordecai. He also contributed to the noise-making by drumming on the table and creating inappropriate sounds, even with his armpit. Oh, Lord.

Back at home, I read in bed, and as I turned off the lamp, I fell asleep mulling over Buechner's description of Jacob's Ladder in The Son of Laughter. It was such a fun day full of books, the Bible, childlike frivolity, laughter, and in the end, vivid writing which brought that particular Jacob-story to life. As I said on dreams of genevieve, stories cover me like a healing balm, especially the good and true ones.

:: a poem ::

by Vassar Miller

I, like a stone
kneel while the waters
of prayer wash over me.

Like a hare havened
in its own stillness
I freeze against Thy whiteness.

Once more myself,
I feed upon
Thy manna of the minutes


:: book re^marks ::

My new favorite reading/writing aid? A Woodcut Alphabet book re^mark:

[photo courtesy of buyolympia]

It's a bookmark + 8-page notebook! Perfect for reading and taking notes. If you don't fancy that alphabet, there's also Space Journey, Rosy Rose, Majestic Mr. Owl, and Circle Code. Only $2.50 each and letterpress art to boot.

These All in Good Time file folders are brilliant as well:

[again, photo courtesy of buyolympia ~ one of my favorite online shops. Click each image to see larger.]

The folders read:
-Next Week
-Next Month
-Who Knows

Perhaps the Procrastinate set is more appropriate to my behavior. Yes, I'm afraid so.


:: keep calm and carry on ::

One more ~ another page I love from The Principles of Uncertainty:

[courtesy of The New York Times. Click the image to see larger.]

Very good advice for me in particular. At some point, I'll buy it in black & white to hang in our house where I can easily see the wisdom.

:: the principles of uncertainty ::

Um, I've used that photo twice on my other blog, but I don't feel like snapping another pic today - how do you like that? See, I needed a photograph to show you that I'm digging Maira Kalman's book, The Principles of Uncertainty. Those two books up there were prizes for braving a TMJ appointment way back in January. I'm a w-i-m-p when it comes to most anything-dental, so rewards are necessary. I'm not that grown up yet.

I flipped through Kalman's book in January and 'twas lovely, but I set it aside for a long while, until yesterday. I sent a copy to a friend for her birthday and last night, she flipped out with excitement. So much enthusiasm that although it was past my bedtime, I stayed up reading 134 pages! I laughed, oohed, and ahed over Maira Kalman's writing and illustrations. I love her creative, eclectic, ever-asking brain.

Here's a partial description from goodreads:

"The Principles of Uncertainty is an irresistible invitation to experience life through the psyche of Maira Kalman, one of this country's most beloved artists. The result is a book that is part personal narrative, part documentary, part travelogue, part chapbook, and all Kalman. Her brilliant, whimsical paintings, ideas, and images - which initially appear random - ultimately form an intricately interconnected worldview, an idiosyncratic inner monologue. Kalman contends with some existential questions - What is identity? What is happiness? Why do we fight wars? And then, of course, death, love, and candy (not necessarily in that order)."

This book is also a compendium of columns that Maira Kalman did for The New York Times. You can view every single column on the newspaper's web site, but really, I believe her book is worth owning ~ to read again and again. For example, here are two of my favorite pages so far:

[these two images courtesy of The New York Times. Click each to see a bit larger.]

It is, as they say, a beautiful book. And now, I'm dying to re-read one of my favorite writers' resources - The Elements of Style, the edition illustrated by Maira Kalman. Maybe I'll go ahead and add some of her children's books to my future-kids' collection, too.

What an inspiring lady.


:: two by jane kenyon ::

From Collected Poems ~

Afternoon in the House
by Jane Kenyon

It's quiet here. The cats
sprawl, each
in a favored place.
The geranium leans this way
to see if I'm writing about her:
head all petals, brown
stalks, and those green fans.
So you see,
I am writing about you.

I turn on the radio. Wrong.
Let's not have any noise
in this room, except
the sound of a voice reading a poem.
The cats request
The Meadow Mouse, by Theodore Roethke.

The house settles down on its haunches
for a doze.
I know you are with me, plants,
and cats - and even so, I'm frightened,
sitting in the middle of perfect

Drink, Eat, Sleep
by Jane Kenyon

I never drink from this blue tin cup
speckled with white
without thinking of stars on a clear,
cold night - of Venus blazing low
over the leafless trees; and Canis
great and small - dogs without flesh,
fur, blood, or bone ... dogs made of light,
apparitions of cold light, with black
and trackless spaces in between....
The angel gave a little book
to the prophet, telling him to eat -
eat and tell of the end of time.
Strange food, infinitely strange,
but the pages were like honey
to his tongue