Monday, July 21, 2014

Fiddling



In a way, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past two years.

When I received word in 2011 that Shadows and Ghosts was going to published, it caught me off-guard. I was thrilled, but soon lost track of the future as I readied the novel for release. Then, when it was released, I suddenly found myself bombarded by an internet storm of expert advice:

                                       “Get a web site!”
                                       “Start a blog!”
                                       “Join Twitter!”
                                       “Join Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest…”
                                       “No platform? No Brand? Get one! Stick to it!”

So, I set about earnestly following this formula—set up a web site, started blogging, and established profiles in all the recommended places. But establishing a platform? Branding myself? 

I tried, earnestly, and created Beyond Willow Bend as a place to showcase my interests (and Shadow’s main character’s interests) in film. along with film-related guest posts, and promotional material for films involving family and friends.

It went well for a while, except, as is often the case with all my projects, the blog evolved into something else.

It’s taken a lifetime, but I’ve finally realized I’m not a person who can stick to a platform, be branded. I am too changeable, diverse, prone to experiment—too unsure of what I actually am; and that’s okay.

What I do know is that both my web site and Beyond Willow Bend needed reorganization—sorting out, if you will. And that is precisely what I’ve done.

Beyond Willow Bend will continue to host writing about film, but will also host short essays about writing itself.  You’ll still find the Music and Prose series, as well as Music and Prose interviews and conversations here, but you’ll also find the occasional book review, and information about, and excerpts from my books.

Beginning on July 28th, my web site will be the new and sole home for my poetry,  excerpts from works-in-progress, and essays. Eventually, a blog page on that site will host these, but for now, I’ve created pages for “Poetry” and “Music and Prose” and will add to them until that site’s blog goes live.

Of course, I’ll be dropping in at Twitter and Facebook to announce all the new offerings.

I hope you’ll visit both of my sites, and spend some time exploring them. Thanks!

©2014
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Things Immaterial



I found a moth on my kitchen window,
climbing up the screen.
It was a large moth, close to an inch,
I think—I didn’t measure.
And it seemed confused
by endless mesh
beneath its legs, its feet—
fragile, if moths have them,
I didn’t check—
and morning’s heat,
the lack of exits,
how it became so impossibly trapped.

At any other time, in another room,
I might have grabbed
a weighty book—Gray’s Anatomy,
perhaps—
and disregarding frantic flaps,
each frenzied dodge,
would have taken aim,
in memory of garments lost—
cashmere sweaters,  silk shirts—
to their nestling appetites,
hatching broods.
Acrylic doesn’t suit their tastes.

But on this morning, without thought
for material salvation—
the artifice of dress, donned image—
I grabbed a glass instead,
possessed by instincts to
free, protect.
Its wings fluttered hard against this new
transparent jail—
momentary, but how could it know?—
then spread wide upon release, flight.
On any other day, I would have
crushed it, for reasons that seemed right.

But somehow, not today, not today.

© 2014 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Voices....

"The Voice" Edvard Munch 1893
They used to hang out on Red Room. We all did. And we read each other's work, and commented on, admired, and sometimes wrote reviews of it.  We were a community.

But Red Room has closed and so  I've assembled a list, because all of these writers deserve attention. A few names you will know, others will be new to you. But seek them out, read their work, follow them  All the links are live, and the list can be copied and pasted as is.

They have such wonderful voices.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Book Review: The Glass Sponge by Jules Jacob

Genre: Poetry

Consider for a moment the title of Jules Jacob's poetry chapbook—a creature which prefers the ocean depths to shallow waters, one with a unique ability to conduct and react to electrical impulses. Yet, for all their heightened sensitivity, they are remarkably old, almost impossibly, suggesting an ability to survive that is miraculous. Jacob's rich and ironic poems suggest similar strength. In these poems, there are not only relationships between opposites, a world where a dream home can be simultaneously “familiar” and  “strange,” and “command the tides” while harboring tragic secrets, or a child’s toy can embody the all-too-human pain of being used and manipulated, there are  also poignant observations about life’s brutality—abuse, ravages—addiction—and inevitability—aging. But there is also beauty and love—perfectly expressed by the stirring image of a child’s breath “floating to the candle on his first birthday cake.” Each poem in The Glass Sponge reflects different aspects of that extraordinary sea creature, and all are evocative, masterful, and truly unforgettable.

Buy The Glass Sponge.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Sound of Language: Conversations with Orna B. Raz, Part I

In early December of last year, fellow Red Room author, Orna B. Raz, wrote a blog post entitled, “‘Promises to Keep’ and Reading.”  

The title, which refers to a line in one of my favorite poems, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost, immediately caught my attention. Even though I was in the midst of holiday preparations, I took the time to read it because of the title, and the fact that Orna writes beautifully about every subject she chooses. Very quickly, I was glad I had. I had been trying to think of new ideas for Music and Prose, and now here was one, wrapped like a gift, in Orna’s lovely post:

“... listening to audio books has become my favorite pastime while driving. I feel they add life to the written text, and ignite the imagination.”

What better way to express the belief central to every Music and Prose post? That language is an art of meaning and sound?

I was so inspired and excited, I contacted Orna to ask if she would be willing to engage in a series of conversations with me for Music and Prose about the sound of language, and to my delight, she said, “Yes.”

And so, it my great pleasure to share our discussions with you….

BF:  There are so many places we could begin, but it occurs to me that it might be best to start with those experiences that led us to develop an aural relationship with literature. My first experiences with literature came from being read to as a child. Because I already had a love of sound, and my parents were expressive readers, I instantly related to the tones and rhythms of the text. Was this how it happened for you? 

OR:  I believe it all started with the radio, I don’t remember my mother reading a lot to me when I was little. But I always loved the radio and especially radio plays. I read that over one million people watched on television the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth the 2nd in June 1953. It was a year-and-a-half before I was born. Until the beginning of 1970’s we didn’t have a television set at home and Israeli television only started broadcasting around 1966.

As children we listened to children's programs. I don’t remember much of their content, but as a result of some of them my brother and I, together with a cousin, started our own secret society. In our games, as in life, we followed my brother’s instructions (he was always my inspiration, and besides he was much older than us). Most of the children’s program were in the early afternoon, after school programs.  However,  we were also allowed to listen to the best radio drama, at night. It was the program that everyone listened to, about the detective Paul Temple.  I just Googled it and found that it was a well know British radio drama which was translated into Hebrew from English.

BF: Ah, radio…. You know, there’s a popular Saturday afternoon radio show around these parts called Those were the Days, which features recordings of old broadcasts from the 1930’s and ’40’s.” Of particular interest to me in that show are the wonderful plays, such as “Sorry, Wrong Number,” which were introduced to so many on radio. In some ways, I think radio allows the listener multiple benefits: it provides the enactment dramatic works need in order to give them life, and it gives the listener/audience a chance to exercise their imaginations, fill in with images. In a concrete way, it is the best of both worlds—theatrical and literary—and a superb introduction to writing. As a bonus, it also allows the listener, who is not distracted by action on a stage, to really hear the dialogue and words, savor the language itself.

OR: You are right, radio makes the imagination work harder. For me it is the perfect medium. I have vivid memories of my father listening to the radio (especially classical music and news), and my brother, who is a journalist. He started his career in the Israeli public radio and has been working for many years in public television.

BF:  Wonderful, and what an impressive and distinguished career he’s had.  It’s interesting that he moved into that medium, and you moved from radio into print. Yet you point out in your post,  how ideal the medium is for drama, particularly the works of Shakespeare.

OR:  Yes, listening to the records of Shakespeare’s plays helped me understand them better, and they suddenly came to life, especially when I read along with the record. Then Shakespeare was no longer  an old difficult text, but a funny or a sad drama.

Later I read with my girls, usually in Hebrew. At the time we lived in the US, and they learnt to read English very early and read very fast, thus they had no patience to read together. But they wanted me to read aloud in Hebrew.

Years later I discovered that audio books were perfect for long distance driving, I loved listening to them. This method also helped me tackle some difficult texts that otherwise, I don’t think, I would have had the patience to read, like Bleak House.

In the last couple of years, I have been listening to another radio program This American Life, on PBS, and it is a source of inspiration for me. I listen to it regularly as I skate in the park and often write down key words and sentences which I later use. In fact, the last program of This American Life, which just aired, was about radio drama.
 
Once a week I read aloud with a young friend (she is 10). She is very smart but doesn't like to read. It is a great fun when we do it together. (I wrote about it in two posts: "Can Great Literature Save Lives?" and "Ramona the Reader or What Can We Learn From An 8 Year Old Girl?")

BF: I find it interesting that your daughters prefer for you to read to them in Hebrew. Is there a reason for this beyond their greater familiarity with the language?  I ask because every language has its own unique characteristics.  I remember having to sing an aria in English, when the original text was in Italian, and hating it. Everything about the pairing felt wrong to me, as though even the words’ meanings were fighting with the music.

OR: An important reason why, when we lived in the US, I  read to my daughters in Hebrew was that I couldn't find  translated literature in the library or in  used books stores. Almost all the children’s books around were written originally in English. I looked for the books which I read (and loved) as a child, and wanted to share them with my girls. Somehow it was very important for me that they would read them. Since most of the books in Hebrew are translated from different languages it has always been easy to find great children books in Hebrew.

I also wrote about that challenge in several posts: "Judging a Town by its Library," "God’s language – translated literature and subtitled film," and "Balancing between Instruction and Delight—Erich Kastner."

The conversation continues with Part II: Hearing the Printed Word.

 About Orna B. Raz:

I live in Israel and have been teaching ESL for almost twenty years. I write about literature, cultures, women and education. My main area of research is British literature and society, specifically the cultural scene of the 1950s. I also enjoy translating Israeli poetry into English You could find research material and translations in my site on Blogger.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Blossom Whine


Photo by S. L. Syverud © 2014

What grand intelligence is this
that sends its tiny armies to undo, unfold
until every head bursts open?

What shameful mockery
leaves us thus, to hold our faces high
on so slim a stalk?

We, who would preen on every breeze?
But left unblessed, we droop
and sigh instead.

There must have been some lesson in it.
To craft beauty which
must be staked or caged.

Or was it just a drunken afterthought?
Or wager, perhaps—to see who would
overlook so obvious a flaw?

©2014
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Now Available....

Tender Weeds is now available for purchase from these vendors:

Smashwords

Amazon

I want to thank everyone who actively followed the novella, or dropped in just to read a section or two. Your support really kept me going. The published version is a bit tighter than the one presented in serial form on this blog, but more importantly, it contains a bonus story—"Enlightenment"—from the collection in progress, Suburban Gothic. I think you'll recognize one of the characters in it. She is an important link....

Since I'm not going to be spending a lot of time promoting Tender Weeds—there won't be any launch parties, blog tours, readings, or interviews—I hope those of you who have read and enjoyed it will stop in at the book's page on Amazon, Smashwords, or Goodreads to offer a few words about it.

In the meantime, I'm going to give myself a short, much needed vacation, and then get back to work. I've got half a dozen stories in various stages of completion to finish, a stack of musical pieces to learn, and a new series of posts in the works for Music and Prose.

There's still a lot to say on that subject....

Happy reading!