So much has happened since ‘ere I have blogged. For one, the world lost Gene Wilder. Why does this matter? you ask. Well, it matters a lot to me because he saved my life once when I thought there was no reason to live. That is it in a nutshell. I wrote a prose poem performance piece entitled Gene Wilder Saved My Life (Woman Tells All) that can be found — if you are interested — in my book, Psychosis in the Produce Department: New and Selected Poems, 1975-2015. Of course, he did not literally knock a revolver out of my hand, pull me from a burning building or sacrifice himself on my behalf. But he had this thing, this kindness and wisdom in his eyes, something wild and brilliant and truly, I loved him.
Someone once said that intelligence is the ultimate aphrodisiac. I would take it further: I would say that creativity is the ultimate aphrodisiac (with an intelligence chaser). So write on, create on, be brave and be wild. Become your own Gene Wilder. Your own Leo Bloom or Willy Wonka. And start that revolution. But not without me.
I have returned, Nutrition Solarons!
I have been book and word-slinging, bead searching and occasionally stringing, teaching and mischief making, and otherwise occupied.
This is what I wanted. This is the life I wanted and here it is: Big W!! (Whoa)
Let’s not get into this now.
I’ll be back — I promise.
Greetings one and all. Yes, the book came out. And I am pleased and gratified. Exhausted, but quite happy. April in addition to being the cruelest month (as T.S. Eliot would say) is also National Poetry Month and so in April every state, municipality, library, foundation, school and what-not fall all over themselves to do something poetic. This, can be a good thing, however, it would be nice if they would spread it out over the rest of the year. This April I have suffered from an embarrassment of riches. The city of West Hollywood decided to promote the poets of Los Angeles by featuring some of them on electronic billboards on two sites: one on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and La Brea and the other on the Sunset Strip near the Roxy. I am honored to say that my profile and a line from one of my poems (Detective Supremo: And suddenly the bougainvillea greet you like a happy extortionist) appears on the same boulevard that I used to cruise in college with my boyfriend. It feels like a “if they could see me now” experience.
The concept of poetry as profession happened by chance I guess. Perhaps I was too stubborn or just outlasted the others. What do I mean by that? Well, I just never stopped doing it. 40+ years on.
I’ve seen young people sprout up with passion and attack the written word. But if it doesn’t come easily or relatively soon, they give up. There is also life that gets in the way. My life is an unusual one, I admit. I like the idea of people but I don’t like people themselves in specific. I am an excellent friend, but I do not let anyone get too close. If I did, it would get in the way of my work — my poetry — and my life. I would rather be a poet than anything. Not a wife, nor a mother, nor president of the United States. That has been my choice, not one that most people — especially women — choose. A solitary life but my life of words.
OK, I bet you thought you would never hear from me again. SURPRISE!! I have returned from the dead. I’ll be brief. I scared myself as the days ticked by until the new book, Psychosis in the Produce Department, which had been looming in the distant future was suddenly upon me. It had been accepted for publication approximately 6 years ago and, well even the most patient of souls found that the lead time seemed a long long away. Ladies and Gentlemen, the book will be out on April 8th, and the publication party will be a splendid occasion at Beyond Baroque. Come one / Come all. The book has all my favorite poems from 1975-2015. You like Rat City? It’s here. Origami: The Unfolding Heart? Yup. What about Havana? Mom and the Goldfish? Kisses I Remember? Yup yup yup.
As I call it All Bogen All the Time. 181 Pages of Poetry, old favorites and some you have never seen before. And, on top of that, thanks to Harlan Steinberg and Michael C Ford, some of the poems have QR codes and should you place your Smart phone on them you will hear my own voice reading those poems. Cool, eh?
Sometimes even the most seasoned writer is plagued with self-doubt. Count me in. However, as of today, I say begone!! My grandmother used to say when I was a girl “give it a hit and keep on going” and then she would hit her leg. I was never exactly sure what that meant but it seemed to be an affirmation not to give up or give in to weakness or despair. So Grandma, I am hitting my leg and saying I’m ready to go.
You want to go with me??
Sooo I was feeling sorry for myself recently. You know the feeling. Things I thought I would accomplish in my life didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. I probably would not win the Nobel Prize in Literature — sure I’m being facetious here, but when I was a baby poet as I called myself (and other poets under the age of 30) in my misspent youth, I thought I would set the poetic world on fire.
Why am I writing about this, you ask? I am reminded about something that a very wise poet said some years ago. I used to curate the poetry series at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art where we featured Kamau Daaood, a towering figure in Los Angeles poetry and a driving force behind Los Angeles black cultural renaissance. Before he read he spoke about the role of being a local artist “I was taught that the concept of the local artist is a noble one. That to live and work in a community and to be known for that work, brings dignity to ones life.”
Those words resonated with me. So much so that it brought me some peace of mind — look, I have no immediate family except my family of poets and, by extension, my students and the Right Honorable Sir Chumley of Amherst (the Best Kitty in the World). And I know that poetry has changed some of their lives and for the better. And, in the case of most of my students, had it not be for me they would not have ever delved into this world at all.
So what more do I need? Piles of gems on a gold platter? A face lift? Forgiveness for my shortcomings? The last one, would be nice, but would take forever I fear. And the others, well I’ve gone beyond that.
If you are reading this, this is my hope for you: know that wherever you are you make a difference in someone’s world. You might not know it, but you do. You don’t need to make that Hail-Mary play (as they say in football), you can just sit quietly where you are and listen to someone who needs to talk. Or just be.
Well, that’s it for tonight. Sleep well.
It’s too damn hot. Too hot to write. Too hot to breathe I think. Maybe I should concentrate on Christmas…This might sound odd, but making or purchasing gifts for my friends and family gives me more pleasure than anything else most of the time.
I come from a line of Professional Shoppers of the First Order. Some of my earliest memories are of going to the tea room at Bullock’s Wilshire to watch the fashion show with my grandmother and mother and aunts. Then my grandmother would try on hats — often buying one — and take me to the fifth floor and buy me a toy, usually a doll by Madame Alexander.
I have graduated to kamakazi shopper status. I know where to go to find what I need, go there, get it and get out before I become distracted, stressed out or overwhelmed by other shoppers. Still finding the perfect gift for a person — not just any gift but the perfect gift — is a quest I willingly take on because I can imagine how tickled the recipient will be when they receive it. For example, growing up my brother’s favorite baseball player was Willie Mays. Even though I didn’t have much money, I saved up and for Brian’s 40th birthday, I was able to give him a signed baseball by the SF Giant star.
As for myself, I’m weird that way. I have too much stuff, don’t really want anything — perhaps that is why my life is as it is –isolated, in my head: I like the idea of people in general, in specific, not so great. I can be a fantastic Auntie Laurel (the one who takes nieces and nephews to the theater) but the one who takes them to the emergency room, probably not. It’s the old Push Me Pull You syndrome. Don’t Tread On Me.
Well, I thought I’d never get to this point. All of the Above seemed to be soooooo far in the distance that I had almost given up hope that it would ever arrive. O Ye of Little Faith! Today Red Hen Press informed me that it is time to get on the stick in a manner of speaking. The book will be out in less than a year and I must start working on getting / setting up readings for when it does. I’m kind of a have poem will travel type of gal. Any suggestions?
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.
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….
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.