Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hot Sauce, Fire Water

Some people like ketchup on their eggs in the morning, and some people like tabasco sauce. Or that's the way it used to be.

Now, a new item appears in the hot sauce section of my grocery store in Silver Spring almost every week.

If you like to collect bottles of hot sauce, fly to New Orleans for the greatest selection. You'll have more bottles than a genie!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hot Poetry in Provincetown

Who turned up the thermostat in New England last week? Wasn't me. The apartments at the Fine Arts Work Center are without A/C, but let's face it. Nobody's in her room at FAWC.

The workshops, on the other hand, do have A/C. Unfortunately, because some of us are soft-spoken, the A/C is often sacrificed so we can hear each other.

We're talking 100 degrees in an upstairs room with the windows closed. I think this is a new theory of creativity. Roast the fledgling poet until something breezy and lyrical appears on the page.

Did not work for me. I think workshops are wonderful -- certainly a workshop with an inspiration like Jean Valentine. She's generous, thoughtful, honest, and kind to each and every poem that comes to her.

But I always get a little nervous when somebody says, "I like your poem. If you don't publish it, I will." I've heard this more than once in a workshop. My answer, "Well, it's not your poem," doesn't seem to rouse any remorse either.

All in all, I'm rethinking workshops. In truth, the only opinion I value is the poet's. So there's a gnarly branch to stumble over when I'm trying to explain my "snobby" attitude.

Let's take my poem, "Sleeping with Tigers," for example. I wrote this fanciful poem more than a year ago, but I'm still plagued with it being too long and not quite right. But no matter what I may want to change, the poem is about tigers. Thus the title. Duh.

Two people in my workshop said they were disturbed that I was focusing on animals and not on the human suffering (slavery) that white traders caused on the coast of Africa back in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

I suggested that was their poem to write, not mine. I mean this poem is about saving an old tiger. I don't actually think that's possible in real life, but it's lovely to consider.

As soon as "tigers" is published, I'll post it on this blog.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Little Boat . . .

A little boat's waiting for me down at the shore in P'town right now . . . but it's still days 'til I get there.

Three days to be exact. I should be grateful for the short wait, but I'm not. Laundry, packing, changing oil, selling two goats to buy enough gasoline to get up there.

And what about my surfboard? I haven't used it in 30 years, but I just might, so I better tie that to the roof of the car. Not to mention the industrial-strength fan, bedding and cooking utensils, Comedy and Tragedy masks in case someone decides we need some theater . . . A Greek chorus perhaps?

I'll pick up my children in Philly, my aunt in Poughkeepsie, and my sister's cat (see the sad story about Buzz the Rocket Cat's untimely demise last week).

There's something about driving into P'town and seeing the dunes all around. That's when I get out of my car and start walking. It happens every year.

Up early for my workshop, long walks with an old friend from high school, writing late into the night . . . I'm there.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Del and Phyllis at the AFI

The American Film Institute in Silver Spring, MD, recently hosted Joan E. Biren's award-winning documentary, "No Secrets Anymore: The Life and Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon."

Auspiciously, this event took place just a few days after Del and Phyllis exchanged marriage vows -- for the third time -- in their home town of San Francisco.

The first couple to wed after the most recent California law allowing same-sex marriage, Del (87) and Phyllis (82) are pictured here cutting their cake after the ceremony.

The film at the AFI was sponsored by Friends of the Montgomery County Library, great supporters of the expansion and diversity of our local free film collections. Hooray for their efforts.

Stories of exceptional human beings like Del and Phyllis need to be readily available to people everywhere who want to learn more about the way people live. The library is one sure place to keep that happening.

Many reasons to honor these women. . . . first, they've managed to stay in a devoted relationship for decades. Second, they both -- even in their twilight years -- remember to have fun and include their friends in the festivities.

Joan introduced the film and thoughtfully answered everyone's questions later on. Famous for her still photos, Joan is just as knowledgeable about films and film-making. And she has a deep appreciation for history (and herstory). The time she spent with Del and Phyllis making the film is a storyteller's dream.

So take a walk to your local library and ask to borrow "No Secrets Anymore." You'll be amazed. I promise.