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

Bogen Today and Tomorrow (My World and Welcome to It 15)

Since last post many changes erupted in my world — I grew old/ I grew old, perhaps I’ll wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. (Why is it that I write in quotations and no one has the same bibliography?)  March 27, I became 63. I was content to be miserable but my friends would not allow it.

I do not know what I do not know. My mother had Alzheimer’s disease. It was ironic when she was diagnosed in 1991 because the doctors said that she had had it for several years already and why hadn’t we noticed?  My mother was an erratic, volatile and hysterical woman. We had just thought she was being herself. Folks laugh when I’d say that, but to be honest, when one only knows another in one light after a long time it begins to seem normal.

Two weeks ago I went to the UCLA Gerontology/Psychiatry Clinic to see if my mom is coming to eat up my brain (in a manner of speaking).  I have been plagued with increasing memory loss. Things that I’ve known or once were easy to know or do — like remember certain poems I’ve written, say Havana or Rat City — I cannot remember. I will start a sentence and half way through, I forget what I was trying to say. Damn embarrassing if you are in front of an audience or students.  I’m still waiting for the results. Nervously waiting.

Do you want to know what really stinks?  Having to go to the Gerontology clinic.

Bogen Today and Tomorrow 14 (My Life and Welcome to It)

OK, that’s better. I made it past number 13…(breathe)

 

I was born in downtown Los Angeles at California Hospital and have lived within 15 miles of that hospital I’d say my entire life. I’m not sure if that is an accomplishment to be proud of or not. On one hand I could be thought of as provincial, a rube-ette in a manner of speaking. If you happen to love L A… well, you might think something else.  I spent a good part of my early life trying to leave my home. I attended Marlborough School for Girls in  the Hancock Park section of L.A. and that experience along with the very very tight apron strings that my mother choked me on fueled the hope that I could make tracks asap and head for New York City.

I graduated from High School in 1967 at age 17 — the summer of love they called that summer  — but if you only think of  the social norms and conventions of the era in terms of the counterculture, you need to remember that the same state that brought peace love and flowers also brought Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the men that put them in power.

If I had been schooled at convent I could not have been more isolated than at that school. my classmates had had the best education money could buy. I came to the school from public school — my father was a physical education and drivers ed teacher / coach at Hamilton High School on the cusp of Culver City. And he was Jewish. Democrat.

The daughters of Richard Nixon had attended Marlborough, so had the daughters of Walt Disney, the Doheny’s, the 400, the Blue Book members of the Social Register all had gone there. When I began in the 10th grade most of the girls had known each other since grade school, cotillion or volunteer social groups. They were not cruel to me by any stretch of the imagination. It felt even worse: I was invisible.

How did I deal with it? Anorexia. Depression. The beginnings of the mental illness that had started after my sister (the scapegoat) had left the family and my mother could turn her attention on me.   Still interested? More to come.

Bogen Today and Tomorrow 13 (My World and Welcome To It)

Bit of the old paranoia taking up residence in my frontal lobe, did not want to blog for fear of  _____________(fill in the blank). I’m not responsible, I didn’t mean it. Really.

 

Just need to finish this entry (number 13) so I can begin with a  more auspicious number.

 

Endit.

 

 

 

 

 

Bogen Today and Tomorrow 12 (My World and Welcome to It)

 

 

After an overwhelming 6 weeks, I’m back online. The world has been too much with me. Confusing to be sure. Kinda depressing, kinda exhilarating — leaving me and Sir Chumley trying to figure out where I belong on this spinning orb. Things I thought I felt, thought I knew, somehow have been coming up to bite me in the leg. An example: my mother.

One of the things that kept me alive has been that I have been able to stick her in a compartment in my brain named Cruella DeVille/Malificent the witch. She was EVIL. And as long as I could think of her as that only, I could be OK. Lately, however, I remember things, the good things, we used to do together, the things that made me feel like she did love me the best, maybe the only way, she knew how to. Not like the way that haunts my nightmares. The nightmares that are peopled with the merciless, the failed.

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

Bogen Today and Tomorrow 11 (My World and Welcome To It)

October 26, 2012

Considering the season: My favorite of the Halloween poems I’ve written over the years. Have you ever created something that made you smile when you thought about it? That you weren’t sure how it happened that you made this thing but it knocks your sox off? This poem does that to me. Tickles me. So, Happy Halloween. Wishing you all many treats and no tricks. Until next year…

 

October Knob and Broom

I.

 

Wind holds as the bonfires
grow crackle and spark
maple leaves fly away crows
caw and caw
what witness do you bear
jackdaw and superstition?

All Hallow’s Eve
and my rusted hobgoblins
so many apples bobbing on icy waters
rise up shiver and haunt

Children bloated and sweet
grin like fat little pumpkins
of summer made flesh
predict gifts under a sharp and radiant moon
 

As I needle and crochet shawls
from my jagged bones
rattle cast and spin
tooth of the earth

 

and winter is a-coming soon

 

II.

(What do you fear?)

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Happy Birthday Max.

My nephew is 16 today, my brother’s only son, he lives with his parents outside of Phoenix AZ and phoned me (diganabbit one of those new fangled e-phone) a photo holding his first Driver’s License. At the risk of sounding banal it is difficult contemplating that Time Marching On concept. My sister-in-law, Laura was pregnant with my nephew 16 years ago that summer my father, Max Martin Bogen, died. So to honor both her father and ours she named her son Max Paul Bogen — Paul being her father’s first name.

For many many years whenever I thought of Max I’d feel a quick stab of loss that I’d stuff down as quickly as possible. Every birthday meant that my father had been dead for that many years. My nephew however, is his own human being. From birth he was loving, kind, smart and so cute all the ladies at his church had to touch his wild curly hair when the family came for Sunday services.

I must admit though, I do not know boys very well, in terms of gift giving or spending time up close and personal in a manner of speaking. How to reach out?

I remember when I was a child — some weird aunts and uncles would show up that I hardly knew. Maybe I’d see them 5 times in my life. Who were these people? Is that what I am?

I can honestly say I never wanted to have children. Never and not for a minute. But I DO like being Auntie Laurel — many of my L A friends, mostly from childhood or college, have bestowed Auntie-hood upon me regarding their daughters. Quite a bit easier since I know what girls are like. And things they like to do. I could take them to the theater to see Cathy Rigby live in Peter Pan, or we could have tea at Bullock’s Wilshire tea-room. Plus I can send them home when I get tired.

This sounds cavalier but it isn’t really. I also know myself. I have been schizophrenic since first diagnosed in 1971. I’ve been hospitalized so many times I don’t even know how many times it has happened. I’ve had 3 series of ECT treatments. So I don’t think having a child would have been a good thing. Saving the world from myself, I guess that’s the best way to see it.

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September 21

 

I attended a reading this evening at Beyond Baroque: Wanda Coleman, Amelie Frank, Maria Mazziotti Gillan. I’d hazard that it was the best reading I’ve attended this year. Perhaps because I’ve know Wanda since the 1970s and Amelie for quite a few years, I expected the customary pleasures of hearing colleagues at the peak of form. And Yes, they were.

There was something almost Olympian about Wanda Coleman’s reading. She had been ill of late, so did not speak out loud until it was her time at the podium. The diagnosis?

Dr. Bogen (sic) — Even though ill, Coleman suited up and gave a stellar reading. Her work, covering a range of themes and styles, from the jazzy to the noir then to the visceral, and with a macabre humor at times, she gave her performance her all. At one point, she had to wipe her face with a cloth and I had a sense that I wanted to say you are a trooper Wanda, I had such respect and admiration for her. The poems were brilliant too.

I have watched Amelie Frank grow and become seasoned over years. It has been a lovely thing to behold. I don’t mean to sound like a pompous old fuddy duddy (blah blah blah), but OK, I have been a poet in Los Angeles for over 40 years. I have watched the tides of poets who come here looking for — I do not know what, although the lure of Hollywood often brings them. Some last, some do not. Some move away, go to graduate school. Some die.

Frank could have been any of those. But she is not. She has endured the seismic upheavals to others close to her and has gained a wisdom from that pain that is hers alone. And thrived.

The real surprise, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, was simply breathtaking. Reading last, the audience for the most part did not know her. A couple left before her set began. More’s the pity because they missed the opportunity to hear work that resonated with truth in its depiction of one woman’s life.

But here’s the trick — on the surface, these poems are about one woman and her life. But Gillan takes that personal and expands it to the universal so that her husband’s slow descent to death is also an emblem in the BP oil spills. If you read that Gillan is reading at your city, I highly recommend.

Bogen Today and Tomorrow 7 (My Life and Welcome To It)

On Performance Anxiety…

Yes Yes and again Yes. I DO get anxious, big time. Today I spoke on two panels at the Writers’ Faire at UCLA Extension. It was a gorgeous day outside, not too warm, a nice crowd. Yet the two panels were very different. When I think about I should have heeded the sign: I spilled my iced coffee on the check-in table, dropped my purse twice.

But on I went: my first panel — one of the first of the day — I felt off my mark. It was in a huge lecture hall, I had little sleep the night before because I do not feel comfortable in front of an audience when I am not in complete control of the situation. (This is why I can do well on my own poetry readings because I know most of my poetry by heart and there are few fluctuations or untoward changes to deal with.) With me were three other writers – two novelists, a poet/memoirist who teaches online — and myself. At first the microphones did not work, one of the other panelists was stuck on the 405 but got there in the nick of time, the air conditioner was on the fritz. I was not a happy camper although I tried very hard to be. My jokes were flat, my class pitches dead. I could have been a cypher on a stool and gotten the same response.

The second panel was in a smaller classroom — filled to the rafters with students on the floor,in the hallway, we could not fit them all in. I felt much more at ease, perhaps because of Leon Martel, the excellent panel facilitator who brought out the best each of us. Everyone was engaged: students, speakers. At the end, I had 8 or 9 people waiting in the hall to speak to me.

OK, maybe I need to be needed just like everyone else, to feel that my chosen profession has worth, and by extrapolation, I do as well.
Enuf said for now.

Bogen Today and Tomorrow (My Life and Welcome To It 6)

August 16th, 2012   9:34 p.m.

Tonight I am thinking about my father. Tomorrow, August 17th, would be his 98th birthday if he were still alive. This is a difficult concept for me to visualize, as he seems permanently 55ish or so. My Father: Max Martin Bogen. Born in New York, the youngest of five children and the only one to be born in the United States.  Left the Old World as soon as he could and, at the end of WWII met and married my mother in Los Angeles after a two month courtship.  As a child I thought my dad was John Wayne, because he looked a bit like him. Plus dad was a P E teacher — so he was very buff all the time — and that seemed to be a prerequisite to being heroic, at least according to MGM or 20th Century Fox. Since I was not at all athletic I felt I must have been a disappointment to him: a nerdy girl with thick glasses who loved the books of L. Frank Baum and Nancy Drew. My dad did not understand girls so spent most of his spare time with my brother and left me to spend the weekends — when he was officiating track meets or the like — with my mom.

To be honest, I never realized that my father even liked me until I was 21 and  I attempted suicide. My father cried as I was being taken to the hospital. Surprised, truly, he hardly said more than 5000 words to me my entire life.  How could I know?

Ah dad, here is a poem I wrote for you. If only I could have said it to you when you were here.

 

Harvest Come Home

 

My father sits huddled
in his winter mind
stubble and chill
have aged him
I gather him in
to skirts as full
as I am — no longer a girl
but willow strong
gathering all my pretty
ones: poems and dreams
 

I call out father
who was oak
father who was tree
I reach for you
with twigs and nestlings
small gray doves to sing
in your branches
 

I billow my skirts
and send them flying
up up up
through your spare hours
your brittle leaves
you, whose song turns
back on itself and chokes
mute and stammering

Harvest I say
harvest come home
there is plenty for you here

___________________________________________________________

August 1, 2012

What is the nature of competition? Why do we compete? Never very physically sporty myself, but I have enjoyed a good mental work-out with the best of them. At my high school, Marlborough School for Girls, I learned how to use my mind like a muscle — an excellent skill, for the 1970s and the ensuing flabby years. And, I admit it, I like to beat the pants off people in a metaphorical sense. I’m pretty forgettable as long as I’m not performing poetry. I guess you could say that this is my Olympic event. Wind me up and whew! Suddenly I am no longer invisible, old, creaky. Bette Davis once said “growing old ain’t for sissies” and she was absolutely correct about that. I could not imagine it would ever happen until Bang! There you are. And the guy behind the cash register asks if he can help carry your groceries to your car instead of  flirting with you.

 

So what I am trying to say is: I will never be Ryan Lochte, or Gabrielle Davis or Wilma Rudolph in my lifetime, but boy do I feel good when I can spin a metaphor or write a line that knocks my socks off or (best of all) someone tells me that my work has somehow helped or affected them. That is a gold metal experience.

 

 

 

 

__________________________________________________________________

July 30, 2012

The site is officially up today and (I hate to admit it) I’m very excited about it. Strange, when I look at this and that I think “who is that person?” And then I realize it is me, and then I get weird because I think people will be disappointed if they meet me. I look awfully good on paper, er, not paper, screen?

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Wooo Woooo

Cannot wait until Friday: London Olympics opening ceremonies. Friends coming over for viewing and celebrating the human spirit. You may ask why I am so “into” the Olympics. Perhaps it is because in 1960, when I was a little girl, my family went to the Rome Olympics — and that experience has never left me. It was the first time I realized (I know this sounds corny) what it was to be an American. Of course 2012 is a lot different than 1960, and a certain amount of creepy jingoism has replaced sentimental idealism. Yet I still am moved.

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Looking forward to Independence Day and being independent of all the emotional crap that’s been keeping me down. Watching the Olympic Trials in wonder at how athletes can use their bodies like robots despite pain, and what would be insurmountable difficulties — so many “up close and personal” heroic stories that I fear will go viral  and become fodder for the p r machines. Awww, I’m a sucker for this stuff. I think of my dad, my family — all gone now mostly — what is a hero now anyway?  Can one survive the 21st Century media?

How can anyone — any person, a human being with some sort of life — ever expect to run for office now that every aspect, every pore on your nose, the type of underwear you wear,  the small infractions in day to day life can be, no, are subject to such scrutiny and disseminated for public consumption, that  in the unlikely coincidence that one could fulfill both of the squeaky clean background check, and the extreme focus and energy needed to run and serve said office, who would want to do that?

 

Am I crazy or what?

 

 

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Out of the smog and into L.A.’s fog. Thinking of theater in Los Angeles. I’ve been mucho disappointed over the last 20 years by endless revivals of Our Town, etc.  I cut my teeth on the Living Theater, The ProVisional Theater, Company Theater, work by Megan Terry, Jean Claude Van Ittalie and the like. Things had seemed so boring that I just stopped going.

Recently, however, I was extremely pleased to see Feeding Time by M. Nasorri Pavone.
This new dark comedy  is part of the Fringe Festival and has a limited run — go see it.

Wholly original, great dialogue and acting. Worth every penny.