Art by Roshan Houshmand

Of all the artists I know, Roshan Houshmand is the only one whose paintings are both in my house and in my office on campus.

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Artist’s Statement

As an Iranian/American painter who was raised in the Philippines and then Iran, with a Dutch-American mother and a Persian father, my roots are steeped in ancient patterns and textures.  My formal education in the arts however is absolutely Western, with a BA from Bennington College and a MA and MFA from Rosary Graduate School of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy.

My life’s journey has been based on making art for the past thirty years. It has been the only constant in my life for as long as I can remember.  My process feels ritualistic, and I am often guided by intuition, and a sensitivity to the formal relationships in paint.

The most recent series “Petrichor” incorporates Persian calligraphy, block prints, collage and painting. Petrichor refers to the distinctive aroma released when rain falls on dry land, activating certain compounds in the soil.  These paintings are about the present.  They were achieved with a spontaneity guided by process using mixed media.  The immediacy allows for a certain specificity and clarity that inthe past has been diffused through a more formal and analytical approach to image making.

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http://www.roshanhoushmand.com/

Class At The Planetarium–Poem by Miriam Sagan

The spring semester is about to start, and with it all the delight, confusion, and amusement that teaching brings. I came across this poem from a few years ago and wanted to share it.

***

Class at the Planetarium

Enjoys seeing “O’Ryans belt,”
Didn’t know there was a bear in the sky,
Thinks the moon landing
Was a conspiracy,
And thanks me because
They love astrology.

The physicist says
My face in the mirror
Is nanoseconds younger
Than my real face
Because of how
Light travels
(memory asks
how did I get so old?)

And then one student says:
Where there is a lot of space
There is a lot of time…

Poem by Imtiaz Dharker

I recently discovered this poet’s work, and wanted to share it with you. This work is from her website, see link below.

Prayer
 
 
The place is full of worshippers.

You can tell by the sandals
piled outside, the owners’ prints

worn into leather, rubber, plastic,

a picture clearer than their faces

put together, with some originality,

brows and eyes, the slant

of cheek to chin.

What prayer are they whispering?

Each one has left a mark,

the perfect pattern of a need,

sole and heel and toe

in dark, curved patches,

heels worn down,

thongs ragged, mended many times.

So many shuffling hopes,

pounded into print,
as clear
as the pages of holy books,

illuminated with the glint

of gold around the lettering.

What are they whispering?

Outside, in the sun,

such a quiet crowd

of shoes, thrown together

like a thousand prayers

washing against the walls of God.

***

Imtiaz Dharker is a poet, artist and documentary film-maker. Awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2014, recipient of the Cholmondley Award and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, her collections include Purdah (Oxford University Press), Postcards from god, I speak for the devil and The terrorist at my table (all published by Penguin India and Bloodaxe Books UK), Leaving Fingerprints and Over the Moon (Bloodaxe Books UK).

To read more: http://www.imtiazdharker.com/
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100 Cups of Coffee

I started an enjoyable writing project last month, that I’m calling A HUNDRED CUPS OF COFFEE. It is somewhat inspired by Patti Smith’s M TRAIN–one of the most incredible books on the life of a writer that I’ve ever read. Her book is a window into consciousness. And also has a lot of coffee.

The project is as follows:
1. Go somewhere and
2. Drink a cup of coffee and
3. Write a short piece

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No strict timeline for the project–it isn’t daily or once a week, just in a timely fashion.
No set subject–although they are emerging.

It’s a bit scary–observation always is. There are a few worrisome things in my life, and yes, I’m forced to address them. I also wanted the pieces to be varied. The Tune-Up paean below is one section. So are the haiku about my father’s death.

Is anyone doing a similar project? Advice? Requests?

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Tune-Up Cafe of my Dreams

What is Tune-Up? It is a cafe—-500 steps from my front door, to be exact. Go north on Kathryn. Pass the orange wall. Cross the street. Pass the place that had pit bulls and used to fly the Jolly Roger. Pass the carved gate and the garden with beehives and statues of Ganesh.
Turn left on Hickox. Pass the  re-sale shop with the sign proclaiming 25% off. Pass Aranda’s, once just a humble plumbing store but now a tiny general store that sells espresso and has a a huge sign: ARANDA’S: The Store. They also sell breakfast burritos from…Tune-Up, if you don’t want to cross the street.
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Cross the street. Tune-Up has a modest porch and outdoor area. Today it is crowded inside, lunch rush at 11:30 a.m. Order at the counter. Specials on the board. Xmas decorations, tons of those cool textured balls of light in blue, yellow, pink, peach, orange, white, red, and turquoise hanging low over the tables. Back room is full. Two happy people in the only booth.
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I grab the end of a long table.
Tune Up is my overflow office, meeting space, writing room. I feel deeply “in tune” with it. When I was at the Great Mother conference, and thus prone to liminal states, I had a dream in which my friend Kath said: “I just want to go to the Tune-Up.” I don’t think the dream was just about her.
I order green chile stew. I was meant to live near a cafe and this is the only one within walking distance—although the equally perfect CounterCulture is a two minute drive down busy Baca Street. (I could walk, but it’s a half hour, and I never do.)
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Tune-Up was once a restaurant called Dave’s Not Here. When I first moved to Santa Fe in 1984 I helped take care of Phil Whalen, old beat up Beat poet and Zen priest. Phil heard the hamburgers were great at Dave’s, and he was forbidden meat at the Zen center. The hamburgers were great. I ended up buying a house around the corner.
Dave’s Not Here had once been owned by a man named Dave. He went into debt, was reputed to be on the wrong side of the law, and vanished. The new owners would tell creditors: Dave’s not here. That became the restaurant’s name. Of course it eventually got shortened again to “Dave’s” as if he really was there, if only in spirit.
Dave’s Not Here was sold, and some Central American delicacies added to the menu, but the new owner’s still provide a Dave’s Not Here hamburger for order.
At Dave’s there was a mural in the parking lot of a big Diego Rivera woman with calla lilies. That wall is now inside, part of an addition added to the back.
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Simone de Beauvoir wrote that she never so much as boiled water until the Nazis invaded Paris. She lived over a cafe. I’m more domestic than that, although I’m happiest out.
When I walk home, the street will look different. Everything changes. Everything is close together.
It is easy to see this at Tune-Up.

More Recommended Books On Writing

Diana Rico Right now I am groovin’ on Lisa Cron’s “Wired for Story.” It’s my third read-through and it is helping me make critical story breakthroughs on my first novel.

Donna Snyder On Becoming a Writer was one of the first I read and I recall at the time I thought it was great.

Liz Wallace Art and Fear

Janet Brennan Oh yes, I forgot about that one. The successful. Novelist ” by David. David Morrell. Highly recommended.

Paula Ambika Bromberg Of course that’s easy—all of Natalie Goldberg’s books..They rocked my soul….if that counts as helping me write…they inspire and delight…what’s yours?

Claudia Long Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott

Richard Peabody Sol Stein’s book on writing fiction. Taught Gardner, Goldberg, and Lamott for eons. Lance Olsen’s book and John Dufresne’s are also great for fiction.

Jennie Cooley Stephen Kings book on writing. keep going back to it.

Alfred Stanley The Elements of Style

Joyce Kornblatt ONE CONTINUOUS MISTAKE, Gail Sher

Linda Wiener Art and Fear is my vote too

John Roche I often use Writing Down the Bones or Susan Wooldridge’s Poemcrazy in classes. But the book that worked for me was Ezra Pound’s ABC of Reading.

Cinny Green one of my favorites is The Passionate Accurate Story by Carl Bly.

Marmika Paskiewicz Writing Down the Bones definitely was/is it for me – gave me the freedom to leap into it with all my fingers sticky without worrying “Am I really a writer?” or “Is it good enough?”

Marmika Paskiewicz I really want a writing guide with “snow” in the title…

Lauren Marie Reichelt The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. It helped me to develop a concise and clear literary style.

Kate McCahill Dicey’s Song changed my writing life.

Terry Lucas I agree with all of the above. And I know you asked for “the best book,” but all of the following have been “the best” at different times for me: Best Words, Best Order by Stephen Dobyns; The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux, Ordinar…See More

Charles Trumbull The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets by Ted Kooser. One of the most sensible books on writing IMHO.

Doug Bootes Unbroken Line: Writing in the Lineage of Poetry. Seriously, I use this book more often than any to help expand and solidify my poetry.

Aline Tayar Kate Grenville and Sue Wolff’s Ten Australian Stories – interviews with famous Australian writers who talk about how they came to write one of their novels – from Jessica Anderson to Patrick White and Peter Carey. There are samples of early drafts as well as the final version of a piece of text. How an idea is born and how it gestates – this is the one book on writing that I’ve read and re-read.

Kelly Davio Scene and Structure. It’s dry, but incredibly useful. It’s a technical manual rather than a rah-rah-you-can-do-it book, and that works for me.

Monday Feature: Bird Pong–More Ekphrasis from Michaela Kahn

Bird Pong – More Ekphrasis

I had so much fun working on the ekphrastic prose poem for last week’s blog post that I wanted to try again. I’ve used another of Leonora Carrington’s paintings, “Bird Pong.” It’s oil on canvas, painted in 1949.

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Bird Pong

Celia has invented a new game. “You must tie the birds onto the paddles, Annabelle, you see?” she says, showing me her tidy Highwayman’s Hitch around the hummingbird’s leg. “Otherwise they’ll fly away.”

It’s a subtle insult, the sort I’m used to, the kind I’m meant to smile away—like the ugly partridge-shaped feather hats the courtiers have taken to wearing, or the swan consommé served at tea by a witty hostess, or the feather boas the children have taken to using for their games of tug-o-war.

And so I dutifully smile and brush my hand down over my white-feathered body, smoothing the ruffled places. When one of only six marriageable princesses in Reallia is born with feathers, the kingdom takes it as an affront to its honor. They blame me for the feathers. They blame me for never having scoured them off. (Not that I never tried. I’ve used pig-bristle brushes, silver combs, hemp rope, pumice stone and finally my own sharp nails. At thirteen I plucked myself bloody, only to have the quills poke through skin again.) Since they blame me, they take liberties. Jokes, barbs, small jibes … I’m still royal, so they are careful never to say or do anything they can’t explain away as careless oversight or loving jest. But I ask you, are a million small cuts, inflicted daily, really any better than one deep gash?

Celia explains the rules of “Bird Pong” and smacks her hummingbird down into the first wedge of the table, scoring five points. She squeals with laughter. The poor bird hangs limp at the end of her line. The children, who’ve come to see the horror, start to chant, One, two — Hummingbird fly, snap and catch the fine bright eye. Feathers whirl through the air. I gently urge my own hummingbird to fly down to the second wedge. Celia flings her bird so hard it slips the knot and crashes against the wall. Three, four – blood on the floor, chant the children. Celia reaches into the cage for a replacement bird. I pull my own up into my hand and stroke its tiny head. Five, six, Hummingbird die – snap the neck and eat its eye, the children cackle.

Through the window, in the garden, I see my sister Origina flirting with Gregor. He bends down and plucks her a cabbage rose. A giant pink one. Gregor and I were betrothed before we were born. But of course no one felt they could enforce the betrothal, not when my feathers didn’t disappear by the time I was fifteen. My father was indignant about it (he doesn’t want me on his hands the rest of my life) but he needs the goodwill of Gregor’s father Orloff. Origina puts a tiny pink-skinned hand onto Gregor’s chest.

Celia has slapped her new bird down into the next three wedges. It flutters, dazed, trying to get away. I hold my hummingbird up to my mouth and whisper to it, pull the slip on the Highwayman’s knot on its leg. It darts free, a blur of green and red, flying up, down, here, there, then it speeds off, straight at Celia’s face. Her laughter turns into a shriek.

Seven, eight, the children chant, Hummingbird Gate – in, out, over, through, better look out, its coming for you!