Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Present: 02.24.13

The Present: 02.24.13
The Present: 02.24.13

Yesterday, staring at a blank screen, I took to writing longhand. It seemed to work. That is, something came of it. A poem, perhaps. It allowed me turn away from the screen, away from what I was writing about, to move in a different direction, multiple directions, so that when I returned to the screen, it seemed as if I'd arrived at the place I'd been trying to get to all along. I incorporated what I'd been looking at before turning away directly into the poem. Perfect. That's the way it works when it works.

That and mucus are the stories of the weekend. A house full of hacking, coughing, sneezing, runny-nosed snifflers. This is round two. It starts with my daughter, who gives it to Lori, who in turn gives it to me. I am hopeful it will make a final exit this week, along with more of the snow.

I drove past the Basset Park dog run Friday afternoon. It's a little park about a mile south of us on the way into New Haven. They used the Dog Run parking lot to dump a lot of snow from elsewhere, creating some of the highest snow mounds I have ever seen, some of them thirty feet high. They probably won't melt until July.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Present: 02.20.13

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The Present: 02.20.13

A pattern seems to have emerged.

Days I decide to write now seem to be determined by whether or not I take a photo between the time I wake and the time I sit down with my coffee, kefir, and laptop. If, for instance, I take a photo of a tree while walking the dog, I will post that photo to flickr, then write about it on the blog. On the other hand, if I do not take a photo, I don't seem to write.

I am not always inspired to pull out my phone to take a photograph. Thus, I am not always moved to write.

A lovely winter light the cuts sideways through the sliding glass doors in my office in the morning, throwing the silhouettes of the trees on the wall. This morning I was tempted to shoot video rather than a still photo to catch the movement. I shot a still instead. The motion created a kind of blurring effect that abstracted the image.

Consumed with my job lately, I haven't had much time for self-reflection. I've been writing steadily, though, working on poems for my collaboration with Isabelle. I've already written ten of them. I even like a few. I will post some here, as I said before, but not until the project develops a bit.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Present: 02.15.13

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The Present: 02.15.13

We've more or less dug ourselves out here in North Haven. The mail comes, the back door opens, we have diapers. New Haven proper is a parking disaster, so I have been hitching a ride with a co-worker each morning and afternoon.

My skin is dry. A crack just opened on the skin between my forefinger and thumb. No blood, but it stings a bit. I still haven't found a suitable replacement for my books as subject matter for the blog, but I am enjoying writing these little diary entries.

I brought home two books by Lisa Robertson last night, R's Boat and Nilling. She's coming to the Poetry Working Group at Yale in a couple of weeks. The way the PWG works is as follows: curators Richard Deming and Nancy Kuhl order books by the visiting poet, which they leave on a shelf in the back of a room at the Whitney Humanities Center.  The group members pick up the books, read them, then get together to talk about the work.

A week or so later the poet shows up, having been prepped on the content of the previous discussion. The group talks with them about their work for a couple of hours. Most of the time the poets do not perform a full-scale reading, but often someone asks them to read a poem or two out loud during the discussion.

Thankfully, Lisa, has been enlisted to read in Nancy's series at the Beinecke, so we'll get the full treatment. I think Alice Notley is on deck after Lisa, which bodes well for spring.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Present: 02.12.13

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The Present: 02.12.13

A day of rain and some warmer temperatures have brought on a bit of a thaw. Still a ways to go, however, before things return to normal. Plows (I always want to spell this word like the Brits, "plough," for some reason I prefer the pillowy openness of -ough to the to disappointing finality of -ow) came through and created a lane on the opposite side of the street, leaving our mailbox inaccessible. Don't mail anything for at least a few more days.

Between last week's sick days and this week's snow days, I haven't worked much in the past few weeks, except some emailing from home. Not that I mind. I've gotten plenty of writing done, read a bit, played with my daughter, got to know a few of my neighbors via a blizzard pot luck yesterday afternoon.  We finally made it out of the driveway yesterday to pick up some diapers and chocolate.

Lindt brought out two new flavors of dark chocolate we've yet to try: Strawberry and Wasabi. We've tried all of their flavors, but generally stick to the few we like: Sea Salt, Chili, Orange, and, more recently, Coconut. We do not like Passion Fruit, Caramel-Sea Salt, Black Currant, Cranberry, Cocoa Nut Crunch, or Cocoa Almond Brittle. We used to like the 70% dark chocolate, but after getting into the flavored chocolates they just don't seem sweet enough anymore.

I'll let you know about the new ones once we've tried them.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Present: 02.10.13

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The Present: 02.10.13

The photo above depicts the remains of my breakfast. For the past several years, Lori and I have been making kefir smoothies each morning. This began in 2008. We'd sold our first house and were living in an apartment on Auburn Ave. in Buffalo. The apartment was lovely, but the bedroom, formerly a back porch, was without heat and very cold.

We only lived there for about nine months. We'd sold our house thinking we were going to move another city, but then the financial crisis hit and we thought it best to stay where we actually had jobs until we found a place to land. Four more years (and two more houses in Buffalo) passed before we finally made the leap.

Lori at the time began to experiment with fermentation. She started by making sourdough bread in our kitchen. She made one or two small loaves per day. I ate them about as quickly as she could make them. I had a check-up at the time and was told that my triglycerides were through the roof. We determined that my breadmania was the root cause of the sugar surge.

Lori also began reading about Kefir, a fermented dairy product originally from Caucasus region. She ordered some grains online and then began placing them in milk and waiting for the milk to thicken and turn slightly fizzy. During this period our entire refrigerator became a fermentation lab, filled with overflowing jars of sourdough starter and kefir. Kefir on its own tastes pretty nasty, so she started adding fruit and a little bit of sugar.

I took a liking to the smoothies and we eventually started working together on the smoothies, mixing and matching ingredients to produce what has become our healthy morning shake. Each ingredient has some reason for being there.

The kefir is good for the intestines and aids in digestion. We add two tablespoons of crushed flax seed to boost my HDL levels which are always too low. To increase protein in the shake, we add one scoop of vanilla why protein powder. This also sweetens the confection. For a time, we used stevia for sweetening, but I never liked the taste and it's pretty expensive, so we gave that up.  We also add one banana for bulk, flavor and sweetness.

The final ingredient is the one that varies on a day to day basis: frozen fruit. We usually by frozen fruit mixes at the grocery story. Our current favorite is a berry mix that includes frozen cherries from Trader Joe's. We also use blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, mango, et al. About once a week we ditch frozen fruit in favor of peanut butter. When we do we add ice in order to increase the volume.

***

In other news, we're still buried here in North Haven. We spent about 2 hours trying to shovel the driveway yesterday. We cleared about half of it before we nearly collapsed with exhaustion. When the sun gets  little higher this afternoon, we'll try to finish the rest. Not that it matters. We live on a cul de sac and are unlikely to see a plow until tomorrow at the earliest. Here's hoping the diapers hold out.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Present: 02.09.13

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The Present: 02.09.13

Quite a snowstorm last night. I'd say we got at least two feet, if not more. The photo above is the view from my office. The snow drift rises nearly to the doorknob. The door enters on the garage, on the other side of which, in the driveway, my car is completely buried. Not one part is visible. You could ski down the driveway and mistake for a mogul.

All the streets in Connecticut have been closed. Wind gusts blow dry tiny flakes of snow this way and that. I'd like to go out to shovel, but it's just too damn cold. I'll wait, at the very least, until the plow hits our little cul de sac. Or not. If the wind dies down perhaps I'll head out earlier. Of course, where do you displace two feet of snow? We'll have four feet on either side of the driveway when I am done. I wish I had a snow blower. Alas. A little exercise won't hurt.

I just finished reading Kim Stanley Robinson's amazing Mars trilogy: Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars. It's a spectacularly detailed imagining not only of the technological side of terraforming Mars, but of the difficulties of founding a colony, creating a system of government, negotiating with the the mother country, dealing with tensions between immigrants and native born, not to mention the effects of slowing down aging on memory, consciousness, et al. Great stuff.

Immediately after putting that down I picked up Roadside Picnic, the Soviet era sci-fi novel that Tarkovsky used as the basis for Stalker. I'll let you know how it goes. It's great so far.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Present: 02.04.13

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The Present: 02.04.13

Very cold out this morning. Zelda seemed to have trouble going to the bathroom on our walk this morning She kept darting from one spot to another on the perimeter of the yard, never really stopping to do her business. I think she needs her anal glands emptied. Poor Zelda.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Present: 02.03.13

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The Present: 02.03.13

A dusting of snow last night, just enough to let us know that it was there. Everyone here is coughing and sniffling except me. I am still recovering from gum surgery two weeks back. It's just soreness at this point, but I can't really chew on the right side of my mouth.

Last night we watched Mughal-e-Azam, the famous Bollywood epic about Akbar the Great and his romantic-poet-warrior-rebel son, Salim. I'd been wanting to see this for years, but it hasn't been available on Netflix. It made an appearance in a documentary about the history or world film we watched last week. Turns out they do have it on Netflix now, so I put it in my queue.

For better or worse, it had been colorized. At times the colors dazzled, but the colorization was kind of haphazard. Rather than color everything, they chose to leave white and gray materials desaturated, so that, for instance, in a palace scene all the curtains and costumes and props would be colored in the most garish golds and purples and greens, but the marble walls and columns and floors would be left alone, creating an almost cartoonish disjunct between the two. Comme ça:


Nonetheless, once we'd accustomed ourselves to the colors, we were (or at least I was) able to enjoy it. I am not sure it stands up as a narrative or even as a whole film. Like most Bollywood films, it's about an hour longer than it should be. The advantage of long form films like this, though, is that it allows the filmmaker space for all kinds of poetic innovations, of which this film is chock full. 

The greatest scene takes place about halfway into the film. In the story, Salim, heir to Mughal Empire of his father, Akbar the great, has fall in in love with a maid.  He wants to marry her, but tradition forbids him to marry such a lowly woman. Another maid who imagines herself a rival, plots, Iago-like, to make sure the emperor discovers the relationship, knowing he will put a stop to it. He confronts the maid, Anarkali (which means "pomegranate" in Urdu, in case you were wondering) and asks her, in exchange for her freedom and her life, to tell his son she doesn't love him and never did.

She does what she is commanded, but that night, when she performs her new year's dance, she finds she cannot betray her feelings or those of her lover. What follows is a stunning dance sequence in which her image splits off into a thousand mirrored reflections, hallucinatory expressions of her love that, rather than representing a fragmentation of her feelings, represent their multiplication. It's almost like the mystical evocation of a the godhead so filled with love it must reproduce itself infinitely.

The effect is overwhelming, first to the son, who realizes she truly does love him, and second to the king, who is brought nearly to tears by the dance and by the words of the song that follows. It's the dramatic climax to the film, which doesn't bode well for the next 90 minutes, most of which seem like afterthoughts. I am not sure Lori's enjoyed it as much as I did. She would have preferred that we continue watching the excellent House of Cards on Netflix. We'll return to that tonight.

I am working on a project with my friend Isabelle Pelissier involving poetry, translation and visual collage. We will probably start posting our results here soon, but we need a little more time before we do. 

Stay tuned...