Leslie Ullman on Paul Delvaux

This fascinating duo is re-blogged from https://vasari21.com/34890-2/

By Leslie Ullman (from Natural Histories)

After “L’Acropole,” by Paul Delvaux

First he noticed my
face, he said.

At a distance
the bones surfaced,

they split the light
into pools of no light

and my hair, he said,
so colorless

yet full of breath.
He would walk

into it, he said.
He would disappear.

I undressed for him,
the room so familiar

it contained no odors.
The white walls,

their shadows in place
fell away, and my body

emerged as space
shaped like a body.

Cheryl Marita on Mortality, Asking, and Bucket Lists

Cheryl Marita is several things in my life–student (writing), mentor (death and dying) and friend. I’m re-blogging some of thoughts here–how cool to see Amanda Palmer integrated into this kind of thinking.



Then I went to a panel discussion of some local writers about their writing life. One of the writers recommended Amanda Palmer’s book, “The Art of Asking.”

Slammed me against the wall. All three in one day. Asking. Communicating. Asking some more. Comes down to the courage to ask. It’s a risk. It’s about knowing ourselves.

Asking the doctor about tests – what’s the benefit, what will it do for me? Will the results add comfort to my life at 88? How about at 72? Will the tests help me achieve my bucket list?

via Opening My Eyes at 72

3 Questions for Jonathan Penton

Delighted to add this highly thoughtful interview to the ongoing 3 Questions project. Miriam Sagan


1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.

I always rehearse my poems aloud, so I have a careful and somewhat consistent relationship to the breath — variations on a type of breath, I’d say. I experiment with lines, seeking different ways to represent that breath. I almost never use traditional forms, unless I’m going for a specific spoken-word cadence, and even then I’ll alter the form. I do sometimes borrow the experiments of other form-breakers, Anne Sexton’s most of all. But usually I’ll use the line, and projective lines, to attempt to visually capture the experience of dramatic or operatic voice.

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?

Almost all of my poems are an exploration of my own body or someone else’s. I call the former category non-fiction, since I know my own body as well as anyone, and the latter category fiction, since I am speculating on the experience of someone else’s body. For the purposes of poetry, I make the assumption that the mind and body are eternally interdependent. I don’t believe that in a scientific sense, but this simultaneous interdependence is true for as long as we live, and I don’t write about the experience of being dead.

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

I don’t necessarily compartmentalize my consciousness in that way, so that I might identify a part of my existence as “being a poet” or not. I suffer from major depressive disorder, which I suppose is more likely to cause the poetry than the other way around, and although I dislike that, I wouldn’t know how to compartmentalize it from the rest of my consciousness, either.

I suppose some poets dislike the practical aspects of being a poet — namely, that there’s a lot of us, and no one outside of the poetry world cares about any of us. That doesn’t bother me. Rather, I am grateful to not have my income related to my artistic output. I want as few restrictions on my artistic growth as possible, and reject financial, academic, or social systems which might inhibit said growth. Of course artistic growth comes from exploring the artist’s interaction with society, not from attempting to reject society. But society has its traps, and it’s good to be a poet who can ignore those.

Biographical Note: Jonathan Penton founded http://www.UnlikelyStories.org in 1998. Since then, he has lent editorial and management assistance to a number of literary and artistic ventures, such as MadHat, Inc. and Big Bridge, and technical assistance to organizations like 100,000 Poets for Change, the New Orleans Poetry Festival, and Lavender Ink. He has organized literary performances, and performed himself, in places like Arkansas, California, Chihuahua, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Washington, state and DC. His own books are Backstories (Argotist E-books, 2017), Standards of Sadiddy (Lit Fest Press, 2016), Prosthetic Gods (New Sins Press, 2008), Blood and Salsa and Painting Rust (Unlikely Books, 2006) and Last Chap (Vergin’ Press, 2004).

2 Second Fix: I Don’t Want To Work At Love by Miriam Sagan

2 Second Fix: I Don’t Want To Work At Love

I always start to feel bad when folks talk about “working” on relationships. I’ve never been a huge fan of work. It implies making an effort I wouldn’t otherwise for a monetary pay off. I’d rather play. Or engage in an activity for itself. I’ve certainly worked—heck, I’ve got a pension—but I don’t want to “work” on my marriage.
I’d rather play. I do put a lot of time and energy into the relationship. It’s pretty much my fave activity, my best hobby. I try to be entertaining, and thought provoking, friendly, supportive. I like to flirt. I try to not just wear schmattas around the house. I want to be honest, and even uncomfortable in my pursuit of intimacy. To let things change. Develop. Experiment.

Thank you, Ursula Le Guin, for inventing a planet where the word for “work” and “play” are the same.

Santa Fe Clay

Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers…



Friday, February 23, 2018 • 5 – 7 pm

Exhibition runs through March 24, 2018

“I’m interested in ideas of socially-constructed identity and value. My research explores contemporary popular culture and how we perceive mass media influences propagating consumption. Drawing from media imagery – especially that related to gender, beauty, and material desire – my work aims to create a feeling of cognitive dissonance.

Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers… is a direct response to the current obsession with extravagance and the space inhabited by a simultaneous feeling of distaste and desire. The pieces reference contemporary fashion trends capitalizing on the political climate and eagerness for social change. The work is all hand-built ceramic and mixed media, incorporating textiles, faux fur, beading and other adornment.” – Jessika Edgar

Suminagashi in Japan–Isabel Winson-Sagan

Working with suminagashi in Japan was a terrific experience. Returning to the country that is the source of suminagashi lent meaning to the practice in a way that nothing else could. Because it is a traditional art form, the original influences were easy to find- from pieces of sumi in museums to the mountains that have influenced everything from woodblocks prints to sumi-e, the physical place and culture that birthed the art form were all around me.

Home From Japan But So Many Impressions Remain


the gate of the city of Fukuoka
sits as a walled park,
its shrines are several stories
with a public architecture
of gray curved roofs

the spirits housed here
assert a place
that will be populous, prosperous,
its train station
takes you everywhere else
and you must
bring home a box
of little cakes
to show you were there

feral but sleek
black and white cats
by the bodhisattva—
(someone must be feeding them)
a large pile of tiles
stacked up
to keep things in repair
above our heads

red pagoda
enormous tree
handful of cherry blossoms
lines of weathered buddhas
put out to pasture
and one huge buddha
you can’t photograph
but offer incense, candles
as I whisper
your long gone name

on the corner
is a noodle shop
the table set with garnishes
of green onions and tempura bits
who wouldn’t be happy?

flying half the night
I don’t see
the eclipse of the moon
although that will no doubt
the one I love

back in Honolulu
on the way home
Pagoda Hotel
with its funky
overgrown green
carp pool
full of whiskers and big turtles
I sit alone in the afternoon
in a fake
replica of a tower
that invites
the habitation
of the invisible.

“I came to the Bible looking for a fight” by Lucy Moore

I’ve had the great opportunity to attend an interfaith torah study group with Rabbi Nahum Ward-Lev for over a year. This deep and poignant piece was read aloud by the author this week. I’m proud to present it with her permission:

Lucy Moore Beit Midrash Feb 15, 2018

“I came to the Bible looking for a fight”

My father railed against religion, all religions. All the other evils in the world – plagues, pestilences, diseases, political wars – nothing could equal the evil of religious wars, the inquisition, the pogroms, the slaughter of one group by another in the name of God. He was a proud atheist. “Make ‘em prove it to you, Lucy,” he would declare. And then with satisfaction, “You’ll see. They can’t! They can’t prove it,” and that was the end of that. My mother was less willing to commit and declared herself an agnostic, admitting that she, too, was waiting for someone to prove God’s existence to her.

They are gone now, and I blessedly don’t have to explain to them what I am doing in a Bible Study Class. But the question remains. What am I doing here?

When I joined beit midrash at Nahum’s urging I felt that there was a big gap in my education. I was living in a society molded by a book that I had never read, whose stories I only knew through popular culture. Something about Adam and Eve and an apple and a snake. Something about Noah and his ark full of pairs of animals. Something about one brother killing another. Something about a baby almost cut in two, a burning bush, a coat of many colors, so many scraps of trivia that had no meaning for me.

Beit Midrash seemed like a perfect setting in which I could read this book for myself, in the company of interesting and compassionate people.

But now after more than six years, I realize that I came to the Bible looking for a fight.

The baggage I brought with me included a deep skepticism. I was ready to find fault in those pages. And I have to say, this has not been hard. I have found many of the characters, including God, seriously lacking in humanity and overdosed on deceit and sneakiness.

Just to recap a few of my grievances: I was an early defender of Cain. Here was a brother who decides to offer God his best gift, the sheaf of grain, beautiful golden grain, I imagine, with long, strong stalks and the plumpest of heads bursting with goodness and nutrition. His brother Abel, not wanting to be outdone, offers a fat lamb. And God, like a father looking at his two sons and their handiwork, declares that Abel’s is the favored and Cain’s fell short. We all know what happens next. I blame God for that. Why couldn’t he have said, “Cain, I really appreciate your gift. It is beautiful. I gave the first place ribbon to the fat lamb because I am partial to meat, but please understand that I love you just as much as I love Abel.”

Cain might have said, “I am so angry. I wanted to please you most. I feel like making my brother pay. I want to throw a rock at him.”

God could have counseled him about anger and jealousy and maybe suggested that he take up weight lifting or javelin throwing to deal with his anger.

And then there was Abraham who out of fear and weakness told his wife to masquerade as his sister so that the Pharoah wouldn’t kill him to get her for his own wife. The Pharoah helps himself to Sarah and boy is he sorry. God intervenes to wreak havoc on him and make sure that Abraham’s caravan leaves a lot richer than when it arrived.

I have problems with Abraham’s sending Hagar and his first born Ishmael out into the wilderness because of Sarah’s jealousy. I have problems with Rebecca’s conniving and covering for her favorite son at the expense of the less favored.

And now we have Jacob about whom I have been grumbling for several months.

After many years he wants to go back home to his father’s land. I understand that but I also yearn for him to be a man, to face his father in law and have a serious talk about what he needs, what he can offer, how to leave on good terms, how to honor the relationship with the man who is the father and grandfather of his family. I yearn for them to really talk.

It almost happened in the dot dot dot passage. I ached over that missed opportunity. The door was open for a real conversation about Jacob’s need to leave. “If you care for me,” Laban says, and depending on your translation the next words are either “please stay,” or there are simply three dots – an opening to a difficult conversation. Jacob is non-responsive and they get sidetracked into the spotted and speckled wars.

I was at the end of my rope in chapter 31, 1-24. Jacob hears rumors, goes into a huddle with his wives, whips them into a frenzy of resentment about their father, tells them God told him to take everything and go, loads the wives, his children and all his goods on camels and sneaks off. Not a word to Laban, who may have his own share of deceit for sure, but does he deserve this? I think not.

But now comes the amazing part. After all my griping and whining, I read what comes next — chapter 31, 25- 54 — and for me the heavens open up, my heart sings, I am filled with joy and hope! Laban has caught up to the fleeing Jacob and what does he do? He marches right up to him and speaks. His words are honest, passionate, from his heart, words of hurt, of love, of sadness, and yes, laced with anger. He speaks the truth, his own truth. “Why did you sneak away? I would have given you a going away party. You robbed me of the chance to kiss my daughters and grandchildren good-bye. I have had to chase you for 10 days to catch up and tell you how I feel about what you did, to tell you about the relationship we have as family.”

“And then there are the stolen images. On top of everything else. I want them back.”

Interestingly Jacob doesn’t respond to Laban’s eloquence about the loss of his daughters and grandchildren. He chooses to address the lost images, telling Laban to go ahead and search the camp and whoever took them will be killed. He’s saying to Laban “I am your son in law, and I will take responsibility for this and make it right.” He doesn’t know how to talk about the emotional pain and loss and hurt part of Laban’s speech, but he is listening and he is responding. They are talking. I am sooooo happy! They are talking about real things.

After a futile search for the images, Jacob levels with Laban. “I have worked for years and years, you manipulated my wages, I earned those speckled and spotted animals fair and square, and now I am going to my father’s land.”

As Jacob didn’t respond to Laban’s message of hurt and loss, Laban doesn’t respond to Jacob’s message of frustration and injustice. And that’s ok. They have heard each other and understood.

So they enter into a male kind of conflict resolution process. They make a pile of rocks, maybe quite a big pile of rocks, and agree that one will go one way and the other the other way. Satisfied, Jacob goes to sleep. Laban lives up to his side of the agreement and prepares to leave that night. But before he goes, he kisses his daughters and grandchildren good-bye. It is a beautiful passage, where family members talk to each other honestly and from their hearts, and in the end Laban is able to have those moments of farewell with his daughters and grandchildren. How sweet were those good-bye kisses!

And I think this is what God wanted. He warned Laban not to judge, at least not too much, and to speak what was in his heart. God wanted the two of them to have a relationship of respect and understanding. He wanted them to talk and they did.

I love God for that.

It’s been a long journey for me these past years and although looking for fights can be exhilarating and has kept me engaged, it also is often exhausting and depressing. I am still ready for a fight when I think about Cain and Ishmael and Esau and the injustices visited on them. But I have found something else in these pages of Genesis. I have found a friend, someone on my side, someone that people call God.

Thank you, dear classmates, for your patience and companionship along the way.