resized low res cover photo for The Music of Leaving

Here is a sneak peek at the cover of my new book.

The cover of my new book is an exquisite image by the photographer and artist Mayumi Terada.

But what makes this picture particularly quixotic is that this is not a real room.

Born in Japan and now living in New York, Terada originally trained as a sculptor and her photographs are not what they seem. Her  subjects are familiar yet are, in fact, wholly artificial environments and objects. These seemingly simple domestic spaces and intimate landscapes are a miniature world that Terada fashions out of balsa wood and Styrofoam, clay and fabric, and then photographs using strikingly atmospheric lighting.

As Terada explains, these “dollhouses”resonate with her memories:

“I began to make many different kinds of objects for the house – stairs, windows, and curtains – that was how the Dollhouse series came about,” says Terada, who was . The series is mainly based on my memories, which I wanted to share with the audience. I deliberately chose a minimal design, which made the images more universal, regardless of individual tastes in home furnishing… Ultimately everything is painted white. The images are all shot with natural light… I do not use a computer at all…. coming from sculpture and handling plaster, black and white is an obvious choice for me.”

lace dress

All the Silent Girls

I realize now

decades later

they were the abused ones, the misused ones,

the girls in the back seats of cars,

willing, hungry, any attention would do.

What boys called, with a self-satisfied wink:

easy, when what they were was

lost.

Most of them I lay you odds

struggling for air

under the thumb, the boot,

of a distant father, sinister uncle,

stern boyfriend.

Silent,

for none would listen.

Silent.

For whom would believe.

 

All the sad girls, the voiceless girls,

carrying unseen yokes on

their frail backs

to the end of their days,

then down,

powerless,

down

into their uneasy graves.

 

pencil sketch of horse

With hoof beats as impermanent as stars

Happy Easter to you!

It continues to amaze me the legions of poets out there writing exquisite verse like the one below, artists that I am fortunate enough to stumble upon, time and again, in my travels, by land and keyboard.

Case in point is today`s offering:

Fists I Thought Were Made To Hold the Reins
by Brooks Haxton
Catfish, lacking scales, are beautiful
in their repulsive way, but they will give you
an infected wound if you’re not careful.
The filets I rubbed with cayenne, chili, salt,
and ginger, skillet hot and dry, then drowned
with lemon. Even the kids, who don’t eat fish,
left none. My wife and I stopped brooding,
and my right hand opened with me staring
into the empty palm, long having, if I ever
knew, forgotten when and how the reins
slipped free. I love equestrians,
but I let go the reins, unlike my heroes,
lacking their authority.

An unimaginable horse
is rippling at a gallop far away, unshod,
with hoof beats as impermanent as stars.

Easter morning once

A new dress, even if it had been my sister’s.

Fresh perms and white cotton gloves.

Boring knee socks and yearning to wear stockings like my older sisters.

My wee brother at my side in his clip on bowtie and tartan vest and pressed trousers.

We four positioned, solemnly,

on the stone steps before Mass for the obligatory photo-taking

in the harsh sunlight of the still chilly April morning.

Our secret smiles as we huddled together

counting  the days until summer, warmth

and freedom.

And in the end all that is really left is a feeling

This combines – sumptuously – the work of two of my favourite poets, Dana Gioia and Jena Strong.  With Strong responding compellingly to Gioia’s melancholic wise poem, “The Letter.”

 

The Letter

by Dana Gioia

And in the end, all that is really left Is a feeling—strong and unavoidable— That somehow we deserved something better. That somewhere along the line things Got fouled up. And that letter from whoever’s In charge, which certainly would have set Everything straight between us and the world, Never reached us. Got lost somewhere. Possibly mislaid in some provincial station. Or sent by mistake to an old address Whose new tenant put it on her dresser With the curlers and the hairspray forgetting To give it to the landlord to forward. And we still wait like children who have sent two weeks’ allowance far away To answer an enticing advertisement From a crumbling, yellow magazine, Watching through years as long as a childhood summer, Checking the post box with impatient faith Even on days when mail is never brought.

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And here, Jena Strong’s “Response:”

No, Dana. In the end, we will have received every letter, opened some neatly, along the crease of the envelope, using the letter opener we found that time at the five and dime when we were little kids with coins in our lint-lined pockets, that somehow we kept through all the loves and all the moves, all the well days and all the hand-wringing goodbye moments, tucked away and taken out to open letters announcing: I love you, you are loved.

Others, we will have been not so careful with, tearing them open with overeager hands or our front teeth like rabid animals, hungry not for news but for something to chew on and digest, to fuel us through one hard winter after another.

Yes, we sent messages out to the world, in bottles, in songs, in pleas and prayers, in exultation and in desperation, asking for so much and stopping one day and then another, no longer wondering if we deserved answers, deserved return receipt, deserved reciprocity.

We deserved it, deserved it all in the end, got what our starving hearts feared wouldn’t come. We arrived, at the end, here, to this place where open and honest learned to lie together, lion and lamb, storm and stasis, breath and gifts from an abyss of longing unwrapped, a party in our mouths of words and of kisses and of running to the mailbox after work to lift the lid from the tin mailbox– It came! It came! Mama!

All things in good time and all good things in time after so long waiting, Dana. This, I believe. This, I refuse to give up for another minute, not wasting a single morsel of the mail, the inbox– the sender and the receiver, the writer and the reader are one, and the same.

From "Last of the Mohicans."

The most romantic lines in movies. Ever.

In “Pride And Prejudice” when Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen) says to Elizabeth (Keira Knightley): “…If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love … I love … I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.”

In “An Affair to Remember” when Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) says to Nicky Ferranti (Cary Grant): “Oh, it’s nobody’s fault but my own! I was looking up… it was the nearest thing to heaven! You were there…”

In “Notting Hill” when Anna (Julia Roberts) says to William (Hugh Grant): “Don’t forget I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”

In “As Good As It Gets“ when Melvin (Jack Nicholson) says to Carol (Helen Hunt): “I might be the only one who appreciates how amazing you are in every single thing that you do, and … I watch them, wondering how they can watch you bring their food, and clear their tables and never get that they just met the greatest woman alive. And the fact that I get it makes me feel good, about me.”

In “Say Anything” when Lloyd (John Cusack) says to his girlfriend Diane’s (Ione Skye) dad (John Mahoney):“What I really want to do with my life — what I want to do for a living — is I want to be with your daughter. I’m good at it.”

In “The Last of the Mohicans“ when Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) says to Cora (Madeleine Stowe): “…You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.”

In “On Golden Pond” when Ethel (Katharine Hepburn) says to Norman (Henry Fonda): “Listen to me, mister. You’re my knight in shining armor. Don’t forget it.”

In “Sleepless in Seattle” when Sam (Tom Hanks) says: “It was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together … and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home. .. only to no home I’d ever known … I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like … magic.”

In “Always,” when the ghost of Richard Dreyfuss’ character sees his love (Holly Hunter’s character) again, he says to her:  ”I miss you. I miss you like it was a thousand years.”

In “The Wedding Date” when Dermot Mulroney’s character says to Debra Messing’s character: “I think I loved you even before I met you.”

In “An Affair to Remember when Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) says to Cary Grant:

“Oh, it’s nobody’s fault but my own! I was looking up… it was the nearest thing to heaven! You were there…”

In “Rich Man, Poor Man,” when Nick Nolte’s character says to Kay Lenz’ character: “Every time we make love I forget one more bad thing that’s happened to me.”

In “Love Actually” when Mark (Andrew Lincoln) says to Juliet (Keira Knightley): “But for now, let me say — without hope or agenda, just because it’s Christmas and at Christmas you tell the truth — to me, you are perfect. And my wasted heart will love you. Until you look like this [picture of a mummy]. Merry Christmas.”

In “Forest Gump” when Forrest says to Robin Wright’s character: “I may not be smart. But I know what love is.”

In “Gable and Lombard” when Jill Clayburgh as Lombard said to James Brolin’s Gable: “I just want to curl up in your pocket and stay there forever.”

In “Dirty Dancing” when Baby (Jennifer Grey) says to Johnny (Patrick Swayze): “Me? I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of what I saw, I’m scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.”

Nuff said? See you at a matinee.

Gary Cooper resized

The Oscars, Scorcese-slamming, and Raspberry Squares.

Movie acting is about covering the machinery. Stage acting is about exposing the machinery. In cinema, you should think the actor is playing himself, if he’s that good. It looks very easy. It should. But it’s not, I assure you.
– Michael Caine

I love the Oscars. But I hate the cringeworthy “In Memoriam” segment. So incredibly awkward when certain photos evoke total silence from the audience.

Sorry, Ernest Borgnine. Ya reap what ya sow.

Counting the hours ‘til the curtain: Do not judge me! ‘Tis my Super Bowl!

I come by my passion honestly. When I was growing up we had a ball watching them, myself and my mother and my sisters all together. Mom would let us stay up right to the end, as long as we didn’t make a fuss getting up for school the next morning. We were quite happy with that trade off. Mom would make these insanely good jam squares of hers and we’d have pot after pot of tea. I provided colour commentary throughout, more knowledgeably as the years progressed… Who was squiring who (whom?) What were their movies? When were they last nominated? Who was wearing who? (Just try and stop me.) My kingdom for a Photoplay!

Lovely memories… I can still taste the piquant raspberry in my mouth …

The next morning I replayed the whole thing in a montage for my classmates. The early-to-bed brigade who didn’t have nearly as cool a mother as I did.

On to this year’s contenders…

I not so humbly offer the following: actively avoid “The Wolf of Wall Street,” if it’s not too late.

Soul-depleting.

For me it was entirely derivative, shamelessly so. Scorsese disappointed me, and this is from a huge fan. (Raging Bull and Casino are in my top ranks.) It was Good Fellas unabashedly revisited, but across the river and with higher rents: the ongoing self-satisfied narrative, the occasional conspiratorial glance at the camera by Di Caprio, the ever-tracking frenetic camera, the overheads,  the omnipresent feeling of someone out of breath; a train at top speed without brakes, like that ridiculously entertaining movie I may have watched three, ok, four times.

The strange thing is that I became nauseated by all the excess, like when you eat the caramels out of the pot instead of waiting to coat the apples.  Inured to the debauchery as ‘twere. And it sank to parody I felt; The palsied Di Caprio crawling to the car. (And who amongst us, kind sir, has not?) That said, he was wonderful in the part of Belfort. (I see Belfort actually did 22 months for money laundering, which I did not know.)

I watched 12 Years A Slave, a very difficult film, and I agree with current opinion circulating that it’s unadulterated torture porn. Can’t imagine any redeeming value there. There may be ways to elucidate when it comes to racism and slavery but a film like this I feel is not one.

Thought Matthew McConaghey could not possibly top his turn in HBO’s “True Detective.” He is transcendent in the lead role. Wrong. He does just that, in Dallas Buyers Club.  I’m for him for the win on Monday. Although Christian Bale in American Hustle was sensational. That opening five minute scene where he painstakingly configures his hairpiece in front of the mirror is a master class in itself.

The whole Woody Allen thing could be hard to watch, if in fact he shows up. (Rumor has it he’ll be a no-show.) The whole art vs. artist debate is a thorny one, is it not? If we held artists’ morality up to the light we may never want to look at a piece of art again. Consider Picasso alone, that raging misogynist. Vermeer. Rodin. And of course  Carrot Top. Don’t even get me started on Gallagher.

Stay tuned.

 

 

office

Two new poems published.

My poems “Hallmark” and “Funeral Sandwiches” are featured here http://apheleiabp.org/home.html at Apheleia Broadside Publisher.

Theirs is an intriguing wonderfully creative concept for promoting the reading of poetry. On their website they publish individual poets that capture their interest and then they print the work and distribute it around New York City on flyers.

Here’s their romantic mission in their own words:

What used to be sold cheaply so that the art of many poets could reach as many people as possible, we are distributing completely free.  A book is often expensive and intimidating.  A single page is simple and quick. If you are in New York City, find one of our broadsides floating around. When you finish it, recycle it by passing it to a friend that you think may enjoy it as much as we hope you did.”

I just love this, the idea of my work being discovered randomly by someone on a New York subway who reaches down to pick up a piece of paper that blew underfoot and finds my words.

Go visit! http://apheleiabp.org/home.html

DSCN0310

Stealth

 

I awake in the early light

to the smack of water between the hulls.

Something draws me to the tiny porthole by my berth,

not a sound really, more a sensation.

And there on the horizon through the glass

looms an ocean liner of such size

it appears mythic.

 

All glinting steel and glass,

a beacon under the new sun,

this monolith of turbines and chrome

cutting a swath a football field wide

yet so far away

that neither the bellowing of her engines

nor the roar of her wake reach me,

rendering her, eerily, lifeless,

a paint-by-number colossus,

frozen in a dead calm sea.

 

Too far away to decipher details

so I settle for only imagining

the early morning risers

now assembling on her decks,

settling into chairs with their first coffees,

breathing in the panorama before them.

Conversation would be hushed, expectant,

Another idyllic day at sea ahead.

 

Do they see me?

My tiny sailboat moored off a small island,

Might they conjure me too,

Whether I am awake yet,

Where I sail to? From?

What name is painted across my bow.

 

Will some raise their binoculars to learn more

And watch as my sails fade away behind them,

Before they turn back to their morning.

(Gorda Sound, British Virgin Islands.)

sun sand 1.75 MB Double Bay resized 840x400

While Swimming

While Swimming.

 

Do our spines remember

gills, our bellies

the cool ocean floor?

 

Can we conjure ourselves in

the cavernous deep,

amid the ocean’s unknowable chambers,

resurrect what it was we carried,

intact,

as we slithered ashore?

 

Swimming,

I try summoning

my watery DNA that surely lurks

somewhere.

 

When my arms tire,

and all too soon,

I imagine myself armless,

sleek again, fins as my rudder.

designed for just this.

 

Forced to the surface for air,

is my resentment simply

the helix,

rebelling from memories of diving

deeper and deeper,

skimming the vast reefs, skirting beaches,

circling islands,

until the light finally left the surface

and expectantly, resolutely,

I dive deeper

again.

 

 

 

Tricia McCallum

Eleuthera

February 2014.