in which i learn the difference between ‘blur’ and ‘out of focus’

me with granddaughter alice, by jim hester

It is an undeniably sweet picture.  When I first saw it on my husband’s camera, I felt a small twinge that (it seems) manifested as a sigh, or catch of my breath; something easily (and apparently) interpreted as disappointment. 

In fact, it was surprise. I had not anticipated the image being so … out of focus. My husband is a masterful photographer, winner of awards and seller of his prints at art shows. He prides himself on his artistry, whether the subject be landscape, tight leaf shot or portrait. So I had some context for my initial, um, surprise.

This was a parting shot of myself with my newest grand-child, Alice. She and her family had spent the Thanksgiving holiday with us and our hosting daughter. At the time of this photo, her family was saying its goodbyes in preparation for their return drive to points south. A precious moment, captured.

When I expressed my surprise at the unfocused nature of this shot – especially in comparison with the quite clear pictures taken before and after – my husband patiently explained to me the intentional artistry involved in creating a ‘blurred’ shot in which the camera moves slowly to create a soft brush-stroke effect. If it were simply out of focus, he said, edges would be unclear and the whole would be unidentifiable.

As always, I am grateful for his artistic eye and for the intention with which he creates his chosen art form. It IS a beautifully watercolor-like image and one I shall cherish. In fact, the longer I look at it, the more it invokes two of my favorite mother-child artists: Mary Cassatt and Pablo Picasso … Yes, my husband is a figure artist with his lens.  And he has captured, in this BLURRED still life, the essence of a weekend filled with love and loving moments, each one crystal clear; though, in toto, they collage into something of a blur.

 

 

poem coming in October

 

the Aurorean has once again accepted one of my poems for publication, this one to appear in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue. Recently, a friend of mine asked why I don’t post my poems here. Why not, indeed? The simple answer is: you never know when you might want to seek publication. For many journals, a blog posting constitutes publication which would make it off-limits for them.

But AFTER something has been accepted? Well, why not? Please enjoy the following two-part poem which is near and dear to my heart on so many levels. I’d love to hear what you have to say after reading it. Where do you feel it? Does it transport you to your own memories of apples in one form or another?

Fruit Tasting of Earth and Song

I.
The first apple I truly tasted was a marvelous
late-season Macoun from Hans’ orchards, his trees
loved into abundance with old-world wisdom
and song. Oh, he tended the earth

reverent in support of its best instincts, vigilant
against pest and pestilence, inviting us in to weep for joy
at the first crisp crunch of each perfect fruit, its juice dribbling
down my chin after exploding onto my child’s cheek,

each precious drop a tang of dirt and time, seasoned
patience and the humility of a master, his works of art
coaxed from the land by his patient hand with weathered grace
of age and timing, feeding our greed with gratitude.

II.
When I hear ‘apple’ my thoughts bypass the tart pleasure
of the first fall bite through taut red skin to the smooth firm flesh
within, its juicy tang squeezing my cheeks

bypass the smooth deep rose of applesauce hand-turned and divided
into flat pints frozen against dark days’ yearning for fresh fall pairings

bypass even the requisite dumplings, coffeecakes and pies of all kinds
that bake away those first fall days. No, my thoughts turn to long

blossom-laden boughs of spring, my Dad cheerily filling my childhood home
with armloads of pink and white sweetness, their intoxicating promise

of a few short days and several long months the open-and-close
of a full season bookended by the twin joys of this single tree. After all
these decades, I cannot say which feeds me more – blossom, or fruit.

new book review

Aside

It’s summer, and that means reviewing poetry collections for Mom Egg Review! The most recent review – We Became Summer, by Amy Barone – is now up.

It turns out that 750 words is not much when it comes to a thorough analysis of or even simple response to a full-length collection of poems. But if it is enough to help readers filter through the many options to match their interests to the offerings, then it is a job well-done.

writing about flowers

It has been months since I posted here, for reasons far too numerous to mention. In any case,  today’s Poem-a-Day from Academy of American Poets spoke to me so deeply that I decided to break my silence by sharing it here.

This question of writing about flowers is in fact very near and dear to my heart. The need arises in all of us who live close to the earth, to the heart, to what pulses through and connects all of life. As a poet, I love the idea of writing a bouquet of poems arising from a common seed. I also love the sublte metaphor and its shift through the poem. It draws me into multiple layers of meaning. [Clearly, my weeklong poetry workshop wtih Marge Piercy is still with me!] And, of course, I love how a simple experience can evoke such a powerful poetic response.

How Can Black People Write About Flowers at a Time Like This,
by Hanif Abruddaqub

dear reader, with our heels digging into the good
mud at a swamp’s edge, you might tell me something
about the dandelion & how it is not a flower itself
but a plant made up of several small flowers at its crown
& lord knows I have been called by what I look like
more than I have been called by what I actually am &
I wish to return the favor for the purpose of this
exercise, which, too, is an attempt at fashioning
something pretty out of seeds refusing to make anytning
worthwhile of their burial. size me up & skip whatever semantics
arrive to the tongue first, say: that boy he look like a hollowed-out grandfather
clock, he look like a million-dollar god with a two-cent
heaven. like all it takes is one kiss & before morning,
you could scatter his whole mind across a field.

The poet writes of this poem:

I was at a reading shortly after the election, and the poet (who was black) was reading gorgeous poems, which had some consistent and exciting flower imagery. A woman (who was white) behind me—who thought she was whispering to her neighbor—said ‘How can black people write about flowers at a time like this?’ I thought it was so absurd in a way that didn’t make me angry but made me curious. What is the black poet to be writing about ‘at a time like this’ if not to dissect the attractiveness of a flower—that which can arrive beautiful and then slowly die right before our eyes? I thought flowers were the exact thing to write about at a time like this, so I began this series of poems, all with the same title. I thought it was much better to grasp a handful of different flowers, put them in a glass box, and see how many angles I could find in our shared eventual demise.

Does it speak to you in some way?

 

women’s review of books

The current issue just arrived from Wellesley Centers for Women on my computer screen. An impressive collection of serious writing about thought-provoking issues, from academia, tenure and feminism to historical and current events, criminal justice,  sex museums, marriage equality, and so much more. Including poetry. And on the last page (32), two poems of mine.

When I first received the invitation to submit poetry to Wellesley College’s Women’s Review of Books, the call was for pairs of related poems. The challenge intrigued me, as I was just assembling a new collection about my sister. Of the three or five poem pairs I submitted, they accepted “Late Spring” and “Early Spring.” You can read them here.

The Wellesley Centers for Women, according to their website, “is a premier women- and gender-focused, social-change oriented research-and-action institute at Wellesley College. Our mission is to advance gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing through high quality research, theory, and action programs.”

The Women’s Review of Books is one of their significant publications, and I am beyond honored to have been published by them twice now. (see my author’s note for HEAR ME, SEE ME).