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Laurel Ann Bogen is the author of 11 books of poetry and short fiction, including Washing a Language; Fission; The Last Girl in the Land of the Butterflies and Rag Tag We Kiss. Her newest book is Psychosis in the Produce Department: New and Selected Poems, 1975-2015 from Red Hen Press. Since 1990 she has been an instructor of poetry and performance for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, where she received the Outstanding Instructor of the Year award in 2008. Well known for her lively readings, Bogen has read her work at Cornell University, The Savannah College of Art and Design, The Knitting Factory (NYC), The L.A. Metropolitan Transit Authority, MOCA and LACE. She is a recipient of the Pacificus Foundation’s Curtis Zahn Poetry Prize, two awards from the Academy of American Poets and a 2011 Pushcart Prize nomination. Her work has appeared in over 100 literary magazines and anthologies.

Bogen Today and Tomorrow (My World and Welcome to It 25)

Welcome to January 2015. Welcome to a new journal to fill up with scribbles, students to meet, readings to give or listen to. In other words, time to get back on the stick with life.  What have I been doing since October one might ask? Avoiding Avoiding Avoiding.

Avoiding turning older — 65 next birthday, how that happened I do not know. I’m sensitive about it too. On Christmas — while I love my family / they mean very very much to me — it seemed like everyone was giving me beauty presents. It made the weird part in my brain turn on and tell me — wow you must look really bad.

And then I beat myself up for being superficial and not grateful for the family I do have. And  then remind myself of the fact that they want me around should be enough.  Ooohh foo, can I ever get it right? I am my own worst enemy I know: bad Laurel bad!!

This weekend I made 2 necklaces, a 3-strand bracelet (which I had to destroy for parts because the clasp was broken) and 9 pairs of earrings. Oh and I began a new poem too. 2015 Let’s Get the Party Started.

 

Bogen Today and Tomorrow (My World and Welcome to It 24)

Made it to October, whew. It is all downhill now. As long as I have air conditioning and some decent tunes listen to and a pad of paper and pen (more like many pads of paper and pens), I’m good.

Once a month in my master class instead of our usual format, we choose a topic that the group agree they want study or learn more about. Today it was the Elegy.

While I steeled myself for the usual pain and suffering that went beyond understanding, I was startled by some contemporary elegiac poems, such as Sharon Olds’ poem for Ruth Stone  (Suddenly) which crackled with life and humor. Or W.S.Merwin’s Elegy for a Walnut Tree, which unfolded with such  serene intent that I knew could stand anything that the universe hurled at me if need be. And would endure.

Well, just checking in tonight.

Brief, I know. But I’ve got some writing to do.

Bogen Today and Tomorrow (My World and Welcome To It 23)

A very curious sensation. Post Poem Depression. This afternoon I turned in the manuscript, All of the Above: New and Selected Poems, 1975-2015. I have worked on the project for about two and a half years. Choosing the “best of” from ten books, giving myself permission to finish or fix the poems that might have been published but still itched that they needed work.  Noon-ish today I met with Kate Gale at Red Hen press to turn in the manuscript and discuss business.  Suddenly I became awash in despair when I left the office. I have never had children so cannot attest to the accuracy of the emotion but Post Poem depression seems to be a lot like what I imagine Post Partum depression to be.

The book will be out in Spring 2016. Much work to still be done: setting up readings, getting radio jobs when it comes out.   Yes, I’m happy but I’m also feeling sort of lost. 141 pages of New and Selected. Speaking of hills of beans……..

 

 

Bogen Today and Tomorrow 22 (My World and Welcome to It)

I’ve been avoiding blogging for awhile. Paranoid? Mmmmmm maybe. Wanting to keep to myself? Yeah that too. Possibly afraid that to write something on my site would jinx it in reality. Like what, you ask? OK here’s the big one:

My new book All of the Above, feels like both a celebration and the finalization of my poetry career. I push myself to work on it and finish it, but it is my fear that when I do, I might die. The book includes my best work from 1975-2015 — that is a heck of a lot of time writing poems. My poems are the only thing that I really have to show for myself in the world. No children, no family (except my brother’s family, my cousin and my nephew), a lot of books.

With the difficulty I have generating poems because of the copious amounts of psychiatric medications I must take to be able to live a relatively stable life, it is a very difficult, nearly impossible, birthing for each small nugget of verse to come into the world. Each one is a small miracle but carries no guarantee that there will be another poem to follow.

So this is the big looming fear: my sister was told many years ago that she would not live to be 60 years old. She therefore subconsciously decided to oblige her doctors and died two months before her 60th birthday.

I am her sister (or to be more precise, her half-sister) and fear that I will not write anymore after the book is published; that this is it, in a manner of speaking, and it spooks the hell out of me.

Meanwhile, I trudge on. Me and Sir Chumley of Amherst — meowing now for food and some Chumley love. And so it goes. Kitty cats always have precedence.

 

Bogen Today and Tomorrow (My World and Welcome to It 20)

I’ve been musing a lot lately about the assassination of John F Kennedy, 50 years ago this week. I have a poem on this site that deals obliquely with that time entitled The Waldorf Astoria (Family Album, New York, August 1963). But that date, November 22, 1963 has another significance. When I was a girl my father — a high school teacher — would get up first in the morning, letting my mom sleep in. He’d wake me around 7 a.m. and I’d go downstairs and put on the coffee water while he got ready showered, and shaved. However when I went downstairs I noticed the front door was ajar and since I didn’t have my glasses on I just thought it was strange, but probably was because  my parents had been out the night before and perhaps they just didn’t close it completely.

I asked my dad why the front door was open and my dad went into John Wayne/ The Protector  mode. Someone had broken into the house, gone upstairs into my parents bedroom, stolen my mother’s purse (what they didn’t take was strewn across the front lawn) and taken our car, a 1956 Packard. The thing that was really upsetting is that there was a knife with a 6 inch blade stuck in the front lawn.

As discombobulating as this event had been I thought, since I was in Jr. High School (what is now called middle school) that I had the Big Story to tell my classmates that day. And I did.  Until the P A system came on during math class and the Principal announced that a terrible tragedy had happened, our president had been shot….

If only my story had been the only story that day….

 

Bogen Today and Tomorrow (My World and Welcome to It 19)

I returned from a whirlwind five days in New York City on September 20th (2 of which were spent traveling to and from.) Although I  didn’t quite get to do all that I wanted to, I had a spectacular time. I understand why it is truly the greatest city in the world. (one caveat, worst traffic — yes even worse the L A )

I gave a reading at the Cornelia Street Cafe on Sept 19th l. A great venue it has a vibe of, say, The Cavern before The Beatles really made it big.  It was very well attended, and folks were enthusiastic (what could be better than that?) In the audience was my cousin Lester and his wife Bonnie — wonderful to see them, my father was from NY, but since I was raised and have lived my life in L A I have not had the opportunity to spend much time nor get to know many of my east coast relatives. Following the reading the three of us went to a fantastic French restaurant across the street: Gigot I think the name was. I could have died and gone to heaven. I had boeuf bourgonion (how the heck DO you spell that?) that was so tender it fell off the fork, little pearl onions and carrots. I’m waxing poetic just thinking about it.

I was particularly fortunate to have been able to see Tennessee Williams’ Two Character  Play with Brad Dourif and Amanda Plummer. Knocked my sox off. Reminded why I’ve loved theater in the first place. It crackled with energy, with a soupcon of sly wit. I think I’ll never forget the moment when Plummer turns to Dourif after sizing him up and pronounces  “You look like a man with excellent credit.”

If, by chance, you make a living as a poet, you might find that aforementioned quote to be particularly appropriate. Signing off now. Over and Out.

Bogen Today and Tomorrow (My World and Welcome To It 18)

I synthesize my life’s work daily as I prepare my manuscript of new and selected poems to come out next year from Red Hen Press. I am, indeed, very pleased but also very apprehensive. I search all old and half finished work as well as try to sniff out current work with promise.

It becomes daunting to finalize  — once and for all — all aspects of a relationship between myself and the page. Almost like a marriage (if I place a comma here, should I take out the line break), a contract.  Hundreds of words to remind myself about things I’d rather not think about. Hundreds of words from a career that began in 1968 as a freshman in college. Lots of words. Lots of poems.

 

Bogen Today and Tomorrow (My World and Welcome to It 17)

Manipulating ye olde remote control and landed upon the opening sequence of a film I had not seen since it first was released in 1977: Saturday Night Fever. Why am I wasting my evening thinking about or, perhaps even worse, writing about a disco movie, you ask? I was ready to become all haughty and stuck up when I noticed the film was coming up on the tv guide —  and I didn’t have enough time to find something on my 500 channels to interest me — so, still surfing, the film began. My half-attention swiveled towards the tv and Jesus Christ (!) the Bee-Gees, and the camera keeping time with  John Travolta’s gait, and I had to watch.

Sure, it’s dated. The clothes are embarrassing. The way our lives have gone on, for good or ill, can be messy. Even mortifying. Watching the 1970s (what I can remember about it) can be downright terrifying. I often wonder how, why, am I still alive? I have done so much harm to others because of my own inability to believe in the possibility of happiness. If I could not feel something how could I imagine what it would be like?

 

Bogen Today and Tomorrow (My World and Welcome To It 16)

Why I choose to live alone:

I can be as piggish as I want to be.
I can stay up all night watching Turner Classic Movies if I feel like it.
I have Sir Chumley of Amherst all to myself
Bon Bons in bed (guiltless).
Snore…
Room to move (womb to move?).
Get thee behind me mother!

 

The Mother’s Room
and this too is me
the dull sheen of purple jersey
daughter as crone
and behind that door
the mother’s room
unknown women tend her
blonde mother of the plains
silent girls offer reflections to kiss
a cord to my abdomen glistens and throbs
and she spins that cord
and she spins and she twists
and when she is old
she spins
and when she is dead
she spins