Saturday, May 22, 2010

Talking Art: Life as a Fixer-Upper

By Judith A. Ross for Talking Writing

I have always enjoyed stories of rebirth – particularly ones involving modern-day heroines who overcome trying circumstances to carve out a new, more satisfying life for themselves. For example, Anna Rossi, the main character in Hunger, a novel by my friend Jane Ward, leaves her lifeless marriage for a life shaped by her passion for food.

I also enjoy reading nonfiction accounts of triumphs over adversity, such as the new memoir by former House & Garden editor, Dominique Browning. Its title, Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas & Found Happiness, is a siren song to those of us who yearn to live life at our own pace with the time and freedom to discover and explore the things that interest us.

My fascination with rejuvenation extends to objects as well. For example, I enjoy articles and books about home renovations, and study the before and after shots with the fervor of one preparing for an important exam. I want to understand how they transformed that wreck of a place into a home.

Its time to approach my own life as though it were one of those fixer-uppers. It has sheltered me during more than a few severe storms and given me much pleasure. But some rooms need cleaning. No. Some rooms need gutting. Change is terrifying.

Risk-taking doesn't come easily to me. Living in the moment -- rather than envisioning how a possible disaster will unfold -- is a habit I need to develop. Yet I'm certain that if I don’t find the courage to take some chances, I will never experience the satisfaction of achieving success on my own terms.

And so I am drawn to this image by Nashville-based artist, Bridgett Ezzard. The lush green garden beyond the wooden grid beckons me. “Take a chance,” it says. “You’ll get there. But first you have to unlatch the gate.”

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother’s Day Poetry: Moms and Daughters Speak

 For Talking Writing by Carol Dorf

Mother’s Day requires poems. This selection of poems is from work that is available online, so the first stanza or so of each is here along with a link to the entire poem. Two of these poems, Nellie Wong’s “Mama, Come Back” and Lucille Clifton’s “[if mama/could see],” are from the child’s point of view. The others are from the mother’s point of view. However, in this ever-shifting dynamic, in a number of the poems there are shifts and turns. Enjoy!

Mama, Come Back  
by Nellie Wong

Mama, come back.
Why did you leave
now that I am learning you?
The landlady next door
how she apologizes
for my rough brown skin
to her tenant from Hong Kong
as if I were her daughter,
as if she were you.


[if mama / could see]

by Lucille Clifton
if mama
could see
she would see   
lucy sprawling   
limbs of lucy
decorating the
backs of chairs
lucy hair
holding the mirrors up   
that reflect odd   
aspects of lucy.

To a Daughter Leaving Home

by Linda Pastan

When I taught you
at eight to ride
a bicycle, loping along
beside you ....

Iva's Pantoum   
by Marilyn Hacker
We pace each other for a long time.
I packed my anger with the beef jerky.
You are the baby on the mountain. I am
in a cold stream where I led you.


The Nursery 

by Fanny Howe

The baby
         was made in a cell
in the silver & rose underworld.
Invisibly prisoned
         in vessels & cords, no gold
for a baby; instead
eyes, and a sudden soul, twelve weeks
old, which widened its will.

Fruit Of Stories 
by Carol Dorf

Demeter and her daughter Persephone:
every woman tells this story with her mother.
Temptation of the thin-skinned juice-filled seeds,
and following that God back to Hades,
wrapping  arms around his leathery waist,
as the motorcycle shoots through time and space.

We return to mother with our children,
but she puts the plates of soup in front of them,
while we peel fruit, and rinse scummy glasses.


Toth Farry 

by Sharon Olds
In the back of the charm-box, in a sack, the baby   
canines and incisors are mostly chaff,   
by now, split kernels and acicular down, no   
whole utensils left: half   
an adz; half a shovel, in its broken   
handle a marrow well of the will   
to dig and bite. And the enamel hems ...

Kill School 

by Fran Richey
That was the summer he rappelled
down mountains on rope

that from a distance looked thin
as the dragline of a spider,

barely visible, the tension
he descended

into the made-up
state of Pineland

with soldiers from his class ...