Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Poem: Dream E & F

Back in my poetry-writing days, I had fun submitting work to small and/or obscure journals. It was always a pleasure to have a poem published. If you hadn't ever seen the publication you sent work to, it could be tricky. A couple of times I was rather disappointed by the look of the zine, or the company I found myself in. That was not true of Dream Machinery, a delightful small journal that published dream poems. If I could find my copy, I would gladly supply the editor's name, but I could not put my hands on it today. But my notes indicate that this poem was published in Volume 1 of Dream Machinery, 1994.


Elvis and Frida
dance together,
he still a teen
in his movie usher uniform,
she even younger,
a schoolgirl in the days
before the bus ran her over.

E & F.
Elvis Forever,
Eternally Frida,
equally flamboyant.

After they dance,
they shop the racks of Limbo,
but the clothes are monochrome.
Either heaven or hell
would have had better shopping,
they agree; better colors:
pomegrante red, electric
guitar lustre blue, gold
sequined grandeur, and
cadmium yellow.

On Earth
their images
multiply: on posters
and apparel, notebooks and
3-D post cards.

In Limbo they have
vague recollections
of gaudy fame.
They know they are different
than the rest of the crowd.
They keep busy, Elvis looking
after his stillborn twin Jesse,
Frida fussing over an imaginary friend.
But sometimes when they dance
it comes back to them,
the adulation, the sweet, sharp
tastes of life, was it a dream?

- Keddy Ann Outlaw

photo by KAO: Memory Lane Inn

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Collage: the Circle Game

Alongside my series of collages on labyrinths, I've begun a new set of circle-based collages. Limiting yourself in any way through choice of shape, colors or theme helps to focus the choices. Just as in writing haiku, having certain restrictions really forces your hand. Cutting the circles is something of a meditative act, since it takes patience to get the circle cut correctly. I do have a handy circle cutter for circles larger than four inches, but even using that tool, sometimes the circles come out slightly imperfect. You just have to work with that and often due to the overlapping nature of collage, you can hide the imperfect edge.

Beginning collage artists might appreciate doing an exercise limiting themselves to circles, as it makes the overlay and fitting together process much more intuitive. There are no jagged edges or complicated jigsaw-like pieces involved. I've also begun mounting some of my matboard collages on wood which I wrap with paper, creating a frame effect. I am experimenting with different lacquer, varnish and gloss mediums for a final durable finish.

We are having a season of drought here in Houston, and the temperatures are getting into the three digit zone, so unless you get out and about in the morning or late evenings, it's hard to stay outdoors for long. I am thankful for air conditioning, and for my continuing collage practice, which keeps me inside, cooled down and busy. Tuesday, June 21, 2011 will be summer solstice, which I plan to commemorate with an early morning labyrinth/photography walk. Happy Summer Solstice to all!

Art images by Keddy Ann Outlaw: Wheel of Life, Labyrinthia 13 and Going South (collages on archival matboard and wood)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Dederer, Hall and Howe: Three Good Biographical Reads

After finishing my novel-reading duties for the TLA Lariat task force, I have (finally) found more time for reading memoirs and biographies. I've got three good ones to tell you about today: Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010) by Claire Dederer, The Best Day The Worst Day: My Life With Jane Kenyon (Houghton Mifflin, 2005) by Donald Hall, and My Korean Deli: Risking It All For a Convenience Store (Henry Holt, 2011) by Ben Ryder Howe.

Indeed, my favorite YMCA yoga teacher liked Claire Dederer's book so much, she read us a short excerpt in class one day. But you don't have to be a yogini to get into Poser. Although the topic of yoga gives this book much of its structure, topics such a marriage, motherhood, and individuation make it the touchy-feely memoir it is. Dederer, a New York Times journalist is one of those brooding, cerebral types who definitely needed to get out of her mind and into her body; thus the yoga. Sampling various yoga classes and calming herself down, Dederer gains in both strength and spirit. Bonus asides include her prickly analysis of popular culture, especially involving the crunchy granola crowd she and her husband find themselves living among in both North Seattle and Boulder.

I remember being so struck and upset by the early death of poet Jane Kenyon, who died of leukemia in 1995 at the age of 47. Although her husband, poet Donald Hall's biography was published ten years later, obviously it took me awhile to get around to reading it. The Best Day The Worst Day reconstructs their marriage in alternating chapters between sickness and health. What a privilege it was to step into their shared life in the New Hampshire farmhouse they loved so much. Read Kenyon's poem "Otherwise" (also the title of her posthumous collection) to sample her deceptively spare yet potent style. I know so much more about both poets after reading Hall's bighearted biography. See also the Bill Moyers documentary, Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon: A Life Together.

My Korean Deli is a book perhaps best enjoyed by those who have some familiarity with New York City and Brooklyn. What an offbeat book. Why? Because Ben Ryder Howe is not the kind of person you'd expect to own a Brooklyn deli. He also had a day job as an editor at Paris Review. He and his Korean-American wife, Gab (a lawyer) buy the deli for Gab's mother, Kay, whose work ethic demands but cannot afford such a business opportunity. Howe and his wife move into the basement of Kay's home on Staten Island in order to save money for their convenience store project. Of course, such an undertaking has disaster spelled all over it, not that they don't enjoy some level of success. Even George Plimpton, the infamous editor-in-chief of the Paris Review, asks if he can play stock boy for a day, although in the course of the book he dies before this fantasy can be played out.

One of the things I most love about biographical nonfiction is the way such books integrate disparate elements of one person's life into a whole narrative. Interweaving the strands of multicolored lives, the best biographies and memoirs remind us that life is a tapestry whose pattern, however random, can indeed be made sense of when reflected upon and shared.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Adding Text to Photos, a Popular Pastime

I don't always like photos or art with verbiage inserted, yet I find myself playing with it myself. Photo editing software makes such a task pretty darn easy. Sites such as I Can Has Cheezburger? attest to the popularity of adding captions to photos.

Perhaps it was a blogger's block, but this morning I first thought of doing an update on my 2008 Not So Commonplace Books post, where I presented a handful of quotes I'd collected in various notebooks. I browsed through my collected quotes again and then began to look for a photo to use with whatever I presented. Instead I started doodling with adding text to an old photo I'd taken of palm tree twigs. Their swirly contorted form delights me. And thus the captioned photo above was created. That feels like enough for this week. Otherwise, I am busy getting ready for an art show. More on that in a few weeks.....

"What one relishes, nourishes." - Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1734.

photo by KAO: Palm Twigs