Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Month of Rains

April has come to mean many things to me. April is often when we head south during school vacation, taking time for this little family to regroup in a warmer and less hurried setting. Although this year Max is taking Drivers Ed courses during his week off from school. Driver's Ed for chrissakes!

Two years ago this month I wrote about Mary Gaitskill in The Startling Subterrane of Demonsand published eight other blog posts, including a little ditty about the la la la of anodyne, and a family trip to Niagara Falls (slowly we turned, step by step...).  Last year, in April, I wrote about losing my friend Sheila, and a family trip to D.C. It wasn't the best of months, yet there was still beauty, a lovely diffused  April glow, in its lengthened days. This April has not offered much time to blog, try as I may. And so...

Word of the day is splenetic. One meaning: melancholy (though obsolete).

April is rainy. Around this time, two years ago, I told you that Max loves a rainy day. But that the rains tend to hurl melancholy straight to my mind's warped door. The magnolia has not yet come around. (True. I just looked.) This time last year, I told you April hath thirty days. It hasn't changed.

(If I'm not mindful I could eat a whole 12.60 ounce bag of frozen m&ms in one sitting—in which case, I might become splenetic. In a different way.)

April is National Poetry Month.

(This could be The Blog of Links.)

This month, Lulu submitted her first poem for publication. She's been writing lots of poems. As she did last year and the year before that and the year before...

Here's one she wrote today:


Dribble dribble drop
There’s another thought
One, then two, then three
The emotions pour out of me
The page is filled with countless words
Ink the color of robin birds
No date or time
This is only mine

It was pouring yesterday when I picked her up from lacrosse practice. Rain and lightning and high winds, barrels and cardboard and all kinds of debris flying across the roads. She tossed her equipment in the trunk, jumped in the front seat and happy sing-songed, April showers bring May flowers!

Yes, indeed.

(I'll let you know when the magnolia comes around.)

The picture of her that tops this post was taken in an April of more than a few years back. Maybe six or seven. Or eight. I can't remember. But it was April all those years ago, and we were in Gettysburg. Lemme tell you, if the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in D.C. doesn't get to you (I know: if you are human the VVMW got to you), Gettysburg will.

After a splenetic meltdown in April in Gettysburg of all those years ago, we bought Lu a wood stock, steel barrel, pink Lady Kentuckian musket. Her brother had gotten a toy rifle the day before (against my wishes) and, thanks to her father, there was no saying No to her.  We walked Pickett's Charge, where this photo was taken, and could feel the low drumming of that war. Melancholy. There were boys on that field. Boys.

Emily Dickinson was thirty-three years old on July 3, 1863, the day Pickett and his troops charged across the open field. Though miles away in Amherst, MA, Dickinson was deeply moved by the events  of the Civil War which made its way into her poetry, in poems like My Portion is Defeat—today.

But it is this beautiful Dickinson poem (that has nigh a drop of rain but water, water everywhere), the unabashed wildness of nature, a long, long way from Gettysburg, war, the wildness of man, that I'll share with you today:

Poem 23: In the Garden

A bird came down the walk:
He did not know I saw;
He bit an angle-worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw.
And then he drank a dew
From a convenient grass,
And then hopped sidewise to the wall
To let a beetle pass.
He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all abroad, —
They looked like frightened beads, I thought;
He stirred his velvet head
Like one in danger; cautious,
I offered him a crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home
Than oars divide the ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or butterflies, off banks of noon,
Leap, plashless, as they swim.
Happy April. Happy Spring. Read poetry! Write poems!


  1. Speechless, for all the obvious reasons. :) Will return for lengthier comment anon!

    1. Yes, I see, anon! Will search further on down the thread. ;)

  2. i like lulu's poem. totally unpretentious, unlike a lot of poems.

    1. Me too, Billy. Of course, I'm partial to her poems, but I do like the way her lines speak to each other.

  3. "April is the cruelest month."

    I also like Lulu's poem. A lot.
    I'll have to come back when I can read on something bigger than a small phone and check out these links.

    1. Good to hear from you Ru! I like to think that poetry makes April less cruel. Could this be the why we find National Poetry Month in April??

      This past April 1st, Lu and I started our own mother/daughter collaboration online, and Lu's poem (above) was part of a three poem response to one of my posts. She knocked it (and the other two) off in 10 minutes after reading my entry. This is the wonder of youth--that sort of automatic writing that I envy. I'd love to find that space to respond to the world without a drop of self-conscious scrutiny.

  4. Wow. What a collection not just of links, but of memories. (The Blog of Linked Memories? You're welcome!)

    Poetry Magazine -- more properly, I guess, the Poetry Foundation -- ran a special National Poetry Month promotion this year. (I caught it via a stray tweet or FB status update from somebody or other.) If you provided them your mailing address, they'd ship you 10 free copies of the April 2013 issue. Purpose: just to give away! I'd forgotten all about this when the box arrived last week, and it even took an additional beat for me to catch on after I opened it. (I needed a memory link.) We kept one copy for ourselves; The Missus took one in to her office; and I arranged the other 8 copies on a table in the "break room" here where I work, with a "PLEASE TAKE ONE" Post-It affixed. The stack, gratifyingly, had disappeared within the hour.

    Here's a PDF of the issue, which they've made available online. And here's an essay on "Verse's Versatility," which quotes line from one of this month's poems which made me laugh: "'Don't think what you have to say is important,' William Logan instructs in 'The Nude that Stays Nude,' his Ezra Pound-inspired poetic manifesto. 'The way you say it is what's important. What you have to say is rubbish.'" What's interesting about your Soliloquies, of course, is that BOTH the way that you say it AND what you say is always interesting, and frequently intimidating to comment on! (Basically, I just throw up my hands and vamp.)

    That's such a cute photo, even if the (enhanced?) coloration suggests a sort of post-apocalyptic landscape. Per usual, complexity everywhere...

    I'd never have the nerve to use a word like "plashless." I probably need a good anti-timidity inoculation, too.

    1. JES- Thank you for these links! Links w/in links w/in... linked memories? (and of course, the new title). Ha. I'm tempted to see if the url is available, but I've too many urls on standby as it is. Ya know, just for the heck of it.

      Last month, at the AWP conference in Boston, I visited the Poetry Foundation's table and grabbed two issues, Feb. and March, also for free. I was surprised by the number of free goodies they were offering, which, made me think that' they must be well funded. And then, I find out that they're not only an online enterprise, but have an actual bricks and mortar home with a library, a gallery, a public garden, etc! I don't know why, but I just could not visualize this, and, obviously, had never done my homework on their website. In any event, it's all very encouraging. My next trip to Chicago will include a visit--I know the area--haven't been since 2009 (before the PF opened its doors) and we're due to visit family out there. Anyway, they are a generous bunch.

      If anyone has trouble commenting on SS I believe it may have more to do with the tumbling jumbled, disjointed, mess-o-thoughts presented on the page--er, screen (particularly this post), rather than intimidation. Oy! I went back after I set down these thoughts and realized that what I'd done is exactly that... set down thoughts without attempting to finish or structure them. I do love the quote you left, though. I am currently reading Mary Ruefle's Madness, Rack, and Honey--a book of her lectures which have been described as "[...]bouts of opposing impulses, cohabiting within the discursive form of her instruction." Which I also found encouraging, and may or may not related back to "The way you say it is what’s important." Heh! (She also quotes Pound.) (MR&H's bibliography is 10 pages long.)

      One last thought: I recently read a Charles Baxter short story, What Happens in Hell that had been published in Ploughshares last Non-fiction issue. Made me think of you, your writing style immediately. There is no sign of intimidation in this writing at all. And if I can find a link to it, I'll add it to the thread. ;)

    2. Look at you, changing the subject from you to me. Charmer.

      Thanks for the heads-up on the Baxter piece. Although Ploughshares shows some of each issue online, that particular (essay?) isn't among the ones currently offered. But I found the issue at Amazon for only $5 (Kindle format, anyway), so grabbed it there. Looking forward to the read. Of the whole issue, actually -- much of its contents were nominated for Pushcarts. (I don't know if any of them won, though.)

      Several years ago I read that either the Poetry Foundation or Poetry Magazine itself had been bequeathed a huge amount from someone who'd died and apparently just liked the magazine enough to do it, to "promote the cause of poetry" or some such vague restriction on how they could use the funds. I mean, it was GIGANTIC -- a very odd position for a literary journal to find itself in. They've evidently been working hard to be good stewards of the gift; as you say, their generosity is remarkable.

      (I know where I read about the gift -- you probably subscribe(d) to it, so may have read it yourself. But if I can find a link I'll post it here (or figure some other way to share the contents with you :).)

      You know I'm crazy about Mary Ruefle, too (another one introduced to me by whiskey river). That's quite a title on that book, eh?

    3. The magazine article should be in your Inbox, in PDF form.

      And no wonder it stuck in my head, although it was six years ago that I read it: the amount of the 2002 bequest to Poetry was 200 million dollars. It enabled them, among other things, to establish the very generous Poetry Foundation itself.

      P.S. And thanks for the reply to Amanda about the photo. Evidently unlike you, I always loved working with all those "nasty chemicals." But I haven't had access to darkroom equipment for close to 30 years now; and by now, of course, many of the manufacturers of equipment and supplies have bailed out or changed gears, thanks to digital. I've got a wonderful camera + lenses but it's such a pain to lug around now that I've gotten used to tiny (but less-fully-featured) cameras with giga-memories!

    4. I'm tempted to purchase a really nice digital camera, special lenses and all, but I know that would be a pain to lug around, too. I'm thinking, maybe I should just upgrade my iPhone to a 5, which is thinner and lighter than what I currently have. A lot easier to slip in the pocket and take up to the top of a mountain! And, with the upgrade, cheaper than a camera. How easily we are seduced by convenience! (Well, the iPhone does have a certain sex appeal, too. ;))

    5. My Amazon wishlist has had not one but TWO of those digital uber-cameras on it for several years now, mostly on a "reminder to myself for when my ship comes in" basis. Their prices have barely budged. And, of course, the ship is still wandering around somewhere out there.

      "Thinner and lighter" sounds to me like a camera I'd never be able to hold still enough to take pictures with. Can you mount an iPhone on a tripod? [laughing]

    6. Does ship ever really come in? I thought that it is eternally moored, within eyesight yet totally out of reach. Too far to swim to, and not a dinghy around. And yes, there are tripods for iPhones!

  5. Dear Jayne,
    thank you for so many thoughts and impulses on April! Emily is always a surprise, and Lulu's poem: lovely.
    "Enchanted April" - that does it for me, whether on DVD or Elizabeth von Arnim's novel.

    1. Brigitta- Enchanted April: One of my favorite little films. Thanks for reminding me! :)

  6. I love April! It's my birthday month.

  7. that is quite a breathtaking shot of your daughter - looks so daguerrotype...
    it seems she takes after her mom in the writing category - 'no date or time, this is only mine.'

    truly lovely.

    good to see you back - missed your posts!

    (splenetic - how can something that compelling be obsolete!)

    1. Amanda- Daguerreotype. Yes! Ha. (I just remembered I failed to answer JES's question regarding photo enhancement, and I'll hope he reads this as a reply to you both.) Many years ago I took a series of photography classes which included photo processing with all those nasty chemicals. I really enjoyed manipulating the paper, the color, the finish like this. Though, as I said, nasty chemicals--and I wondered what I was exposing myself to. In any event, I was more interested in composition. So, I am quite delighted by the number of applications available to us amateur digital photographers today. Post-apocolyptic or Daguerreotype--so many options! So, you can bet many of my photos, including this one, have been exposed via and application process.

      Thanks for stopping by. I really, really need to see how your book is coming along. Will visit soon! xo

  8. April has been the birth month of all my important women: mother, grandmother, daughter. They were, and are, all powerful souls. Actually mom and meme could be quite intimidating at times. My daughter is following their April legacy.

    Lilacs bloom in April in North Carolina, but I can't remember when they bloom in Mass. It's been so very long since I've wintered there and felt the thrill of the bi-polar springtime express. Ha! Here in Florida it's sunshine sunshine everywhere glaring in my eyes, got to get new Foster Grants before my eyes get fried.

    I kind of envy the appreciation you get to feel over the first magnolia blossom...and pussy willows! I miss them terribly.

    The poetry was fun. Lu's was magnificent. Thank her for sharing. And now it's mine;)

    1. Well, Leah, you have reason to celebrate all month long! Haven't seen any lilacs here, yet. But the daffodils are smiling.

      Sunshine, sunshine--don't we all wish we had such a problem. Yet, true, I probably wouldn't feel nearly as ecstatic as I do when nature blossoms after that long sleep.

      And the poetess thanks you, warmly. :)