New Poem Live on Sassafras – She Took To Her Bed

My poem, She Took To Her Bed, is now live on Sassafras, Issue 2! Many thanks again to Miranda Holqvist, editor. Comments on this poem are welcome here on my blog .

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Please click here to read the piece:

http://sassafrasmag.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/carol-deminski-she-took-to-her-bed/

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The permanent link is available via the Published Stories page, here on the blog.

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Poem to appear in Sassafras!

Miranda Holmqvist, the editor of Sassafras Literary Magazine (http://sassafrasmag.wordpress.com/issue-one/), reached out to me based on a story of mine she read in Metazen. As a result of seeing my work, she was kind enough to invite me to submit a piece for her consideration for inclusion in Sassafras, her new mag.

This is the first time an editor has reached out to me directly without prior contact to invite me to submit. I have had editors invite me to submit based on prior contact and existing relationships, and knowledge of my prior submissions, but I’m excited to have been found this “new way” by Miranda. I hope it’s a trend!

And so I’m pleased to announce she has accepted She Took To Her Bed, a poem I wrote last year, to appear in Sassafras Issue #2. I’m excited to be an early contributor as she gets her fledgling publication off the ground.

Issue 2 of Sassafras is supposed to appear next Monday, 9/16. I will post a link to the piece when it goes live!

Poem: She Took To Her Bed

She Took To Her Bed

 

She took to her bed

Waited out the wailing winds,

And reckless seas that tossed her,

In love’s empty boat

Without a compass

 

She floated away from the land of lovers

The shoreline retreated in the darkness

She closed her eyes

And let it go

 

She took to her bed when the blood flowed

To mourn what never left,

What never arrived, what never grew,

What never died, what never blossomed

And never spoke with a voice inside her

 

She took to her bed to pass the days, adrift,

To lay on humid sheets,

Where she watched the shadows of trees crawl across the walls

Or heard the cooing of doves outside the window

 

And in the space around her there grew a calm.

One day a spot opened in the bed, it said,

I am here for you.

She nestled into that spot,

Curled as a lock of hair around a child’s pinky

 

She escaped without apology

Accepted the solace of pillows to the cheek.

The bed remained steadfast

Restoring strength inside her

 

With the blanket of time tucked under her chin,

The years passed.

 

Later, they said of her,

She took to her bed.

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Flarf and the meaning of meaning

In my recent online travels, I met a poet who, when I asked him what kind of writing he did, he exclaimed, “I write Flarf.”

“Flarf?” I asked, thinking it sounded more like a marshmallow spread than a form of poetry.

Flarf, it turns out, is a recent newcomer to the world of poetry since it began in the 21st Century. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flarf_poetry

I got a link to some of his poems, and boy did I have questions. First and foremost, I wasn’t sure what the poem “meant.” I read his most recent poem Body at War with Work (it’s really long!) and then re-read sections of it, then re-read them again, and my head was spinning.

When I asked Rick what his poem meant, he said he couldn’t summarize his poem or its meaning.

So Flarf is a kind of anti-meaning poetry, where random bits of information (from internet searches, snips from emails, or other data detritus) are used to riff the flarf-poem.

To quote Rick here, (for a guy who ascribes no specific meaning to his work, he sure is eloquent when it comes to describing the experience he is creating):

Rub any two words together and anyone who reads them, including the author, is gonna impose some meaning on them, sure. That doesn’t require that there be intentional, specific meaning encoded in the work. Not at all. No road maps for sale here. I have no idea what Chopin meant when he strung those specifically selected, meticulously arranged notes together buI I know how it makes me feel when I hear it. Jackson Pollock slung paint with a stick. What do those strafed canvases “mean”? Who knows? Same thing. In conventional poetry the words are slaves to the narrative, they’re just utilitarian signifiers telling you ANOTHER story. Language Poetry showed us that the words, like musical notes or splashes of nonreferential paint, should or could BE the experience rather than tell you a story about some other experience.

Rick has inspired me to explore Flarf – from a reading standpoint – not writing. But as writers are always influencing one another (or at least that’s how it’s worked for me) it makes me think about the deeper meanings we attempt to convey in our work.

Each of my stories has an intent behind it, some more lofty than others. Whether or not the reader receives the intended message(s) or not is a matter of speculation. And if they don’t receive the full message I intended, does that make their reading any less pleasurable, or meaningful for them? I don’t think so.

What do you think about the meaning of your work? Would you be content if no one understood what you intended to write, but enjoyed whatever meaning they brought to the text?

Everything is a matter of interpretation, after all, isn’t it?

And if it is all a matter of interpretation, where does precision in language fit into that concept?

The comments section is open and ready for your thoughts, diatribes, missionary zeal, and flarf-ist flarfings, friends……..

New Orleans – a poem

New Orleans

The constant drip of the waters

Drip by drip, drop by drop

The dripping leaves, the rivulets of water running down the colunnades and green fronds

The soil is as full as a wet sponge, not one drop wrung out

The fecund scent of moist decay hides a terrible secret (cracked foundations scoured clean by the waters)

In my dreams, George Dureau drinks a bourbon on ice, his French Quarter companions blow lazy smoke rings with their thick, wetted lips

White flowers drenched in moonlight glow ghastly pale and irridescent in empty cemeteries

Drip by drip, drop by drop

Droplets of history pool in the gutters and drip down the shutters hung askew

One hundred fine ladies languish in lavendar bathwaters while sipping sweet tea

The streetcar lumbers along St. Charles Avenue; it casts off wet sparks and disappears into the fog

Sticky amber liquid parfum (a gift from her mother) dots the delicate wrist of the debutante

Drip by drip, drop by drop

A chef weeps into his red beans and rice, his salt the same peasant stock as his Bayou ancestors

Sweat beads on the forehead of a laborer, mopped with the edge of his shirt, soaked and stuck to his brown skin

At the feet of a stone maiden a fountain springs forth, a refreshing stream in the muggy sunshine

Drip by drip, drop by drop

And the sacred, unstoppable Mississippi flows on drop by muddy drop

 

Story Accepted for Publication: Short, Fast and Deadly!

I’m very proud to announce Short, Fast and Deadly has accepted a piece titled White Meat for their January 2012 issue.  As usual, I will post a link on the blog once the story has been published.

Their January issue is themed, with all prose pieces taking their first four words from the first four words of a famous poem. (And all poems will take their first four words from a famous prose piece.)

I selected The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams as my inspiration. Here is the original poem by Williams, but you’ll have to wait until January to read my piece in S,F&D!

 

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

The Artist’s Tuning Fork

Today was a gorgeous day in New York City, and I spent a few hours this afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art to see the William De Kooning exhibition. Now don’t get the wrong idea, I’m actually not a big fan of the artist, but I am very interested in Abstract Expressionism and I wanted the opportunity to re-think some of my ideas about this painter.

As per the MoMA website:

The exhibition, which will only be seen at MoMA, presents an unparalleled opportunity to study the artist’s development over nearly seven decades, beginning with his early academic works, made in Holland before he moved to the United States in 1926, and concluding with his final, sparely abstract paintings of the late 1980s. Bringing together nearly 200 works from public and private collections, the exhibition will occupy the Museum’s entire sixth-floor gallery space, totaling approximately 17,000 square feet.

Despite my internal resistance to the way De Kooning merges traditional body forms with abstraction in his most famous paintings like Woman I,

De Kooning's Woman I - part of the permanent MoMA collection

I really did like his later works in the last two decades of his life, none of which I’ve seen before. These works were much more graphic in nature, brightly colored, with lots of white background to provide space to the drawn forms and lines that marked these canvases.

Regardless, the De Kooning work I have the strongest resistance made me think about my favorite Frank O’Hara poem Why I am Not a Painter. It goes like this:

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. "You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh." I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. "Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just
letters, "It was too much," Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven't mentioned
orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.

This led me to think about De Kooning’s “positive” and “negative” series including paintings like Zurich, which are all black and white and have words or letters embedded in the paintings. Or his piece called Attic, which De Kooning said had “everything in it.”

I’m not sure why, but all of this led me back around to thinking about the end of De Kooning’s life again, and the last two decades that he painted even though he was in ill health. I thought about how he was unable to paint for at least the last seven years of his life, as his health continued to decline in his late eighty’s and early nineties. It made me wonder if he felt trapped inside his body, with ideas still coming about how he wanted to paint, but his body would have been unable to comply with the demands of the work.

There’s a story in that idea somewhere. I feel that instinctively. And if you’re wondering where all this rambling is leading, I do have a point so bear with me just a bit more.

Yesterday I went to an open air art show where painters, sculptors, potters, and photographers gathered to show the best of what they had to offer. I met a sculptor there, named Brianna Martray of Denver, Colorado. She was displaying a piece called Lighthouse Keeping which really intrigued me. I sensed a feminine energy to her work, and this piece in particular strongly reminded me – not in form but in feeling – of a Dale Chihuly’s installation at the New York Botanical Garden which I saw in 2006.

             Image above courtesy of Brianna Martray

 

MIRRORED SUNSET HERONS, 2006

                   Chihuly installation of small glass works at the New York Botanical Garden

This weekend was, for me, an opportunity to become inundated – even over-stimulated if you like – with the ideas of other artists. All of these things keep me “in tune” as a writer, with other aspects of art that lead towards a highly diverse set of expressions.

In my short story, Lancaster, the main character comes into close contact with an artist and that experience changes him in some way; it makes him want to strive to be the self the artist has depicted of him, a self that he sees as “other” and yet some possible alternate self to his current way of living.

So, as you sit down to do some reading, whether it be a collection of short stories or a novel, you should also consider using the artist’s tuning fork and get out to see an exhibition of paintings, sculpture, installation art, arthouse films or anything else that intrigues you. While writers are notorious observers of other people, sitting next to them in restaurants, in trains, or elsewhere, we shouldn’t overlook the opportunity to tap directly into the veins of artistic expression and mainline directly from other masters of expression – words are optional.

There are so many possibilities to be inspired by other artists… who do you find yourself most in tune with, and why?

The Time Machine: Meet Me Circa 1985

kentg1000

I don’t usually talk about myself on this blog, I talk about my writing struggles and triumphs with getting my short stories published, that sort of thing. So, today, I’m going to talk a little bit about me, which frankly, makes me uncomfortable but I’m going to do it anyway. I’ll consider it a learning opportunity on how to connect with my blog readers.

I’ve been a writer for quite a while. In fact, I’ve been keeping a personal journal since I was 8 years old. I’m much older than that now, so that makes an awful lot of volumes of hand written journals. I’ve got black leather journals, and red leather journals. I’ve got journals with red courdoroyand I’ve got cork covered journals. I probably have about fifty (50) volumes of my personal journal at this point, but honestly I’ve lost count. (Uh, I don’t write one volume a year so don’t go thinking that I’m 58 years old or something. I’m not.)

Sometimes I go back and read my journals and re-live parts of my life, other times I just have to get something down on paper that I want to remember and I just write it out. It’s nice to read about some of my traveling adventures, or personal achievements, and it’s painful to read about when my father died. Still, it’s all in there for posterity, I suppose.

So, as I’ve said, I’ve been writing this personal journal forever. But I didn’t mention that I have also written extensive amounts of poetry too. The poems on my “Poems” page on this blog were published when I was in college. In fact, they were written when I helped edit The Anthologist, which was published by Rutgers, where I went to school. No, that’s not true, I went to Douglas College an all-girls school, which was a part of Rutgers University. But I participated in The Anthologist on the Rutgers Campus, with three other kids from Rutgers.

I loved those kids, especially my very dear friend Scott Nicolay, who I met in a Senior Seminar on James Joyce. Our professor was kind of wacky, and Scott and I both loved that class. That’s where we bonded. Eventually Scott moved to New Mexico and got a job teaching English on an Indian Reservation. Then he fell in love with an American Indian woman, got married and they had two children.

Before he moved west, Scott publish his own journal, called American Standard. American Standard was handmade, something he photocopied himself, then mailed to all his friends. Scott had a massive writing talent.

Another one of the “kids” at the time was Leslie Wheeler, who has gone on to acclaim as a poet. I think she is teaching poetry these days too, but I haven’t spoken to her since our college days. I’d love to reconnect with her.

Like Scott and Leslie, I got my undergrad degree in English Literature. My major emphasis was on American and British poetry. I love Wallace Stevens, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Adrienne Rich, Wm Butler Yeats, Anne Sexton, Marilyn Hacker, Langston Hughes, TS Eliot, blah blah blah. You get the idea.

So given my experiences as an undergrad, I recently went back to look at my poetry journals from that time period to see what I was writing. I found a bunch of poems that were sentimental, over-wrought things. Then there were others that were image poems, and some of the lines were pretty good. And after sifting through even more, I came across Alarm Clock.

I wrote Alarm Clock in 1985, and when I re-read it as my adult self I thought it wasn’t half bad. Reading it brought me back to my earlier days as a writer, and my love of alliteration for instance, and it made me remember how much time I spent writing then. I envy that of my younger self these days.

As long as I’m being honest, I’m going to come clean. When I rediscovered Alarm Clock I sent it around to see if anyone would print it. I got some nice feedback from some editors, but no one wanted to publish it. I’m okay with that though. Alarm Clock is as much a sentimental journey in time for me as it is a single poem. It represents something about who I was, and who I still am, even if that earlier self is more deeply buried inside now.

Anyhow, here it is, a portrait of me as a young writer, circa 1985.

Alarm Clock

The hum hung in the air. It buzzed, it sang there like destiny. A simple white job, it didn’t even glow in the dark. It only reminded one of the time in the open-aired daylight. It was raw and blatant and it hummed. A sort of thrumming electric hum, it never stopped. It reminded one of the unpleasant shock that would strip one of the layer of sleep the next morning. It foreshadowed this stinging shock; it thrummed. And as it stung, it steadily stung, this thrumming stung one’s ears, surely one felt it. It hung in the air, that hum. And so it sat, white and buzzing, white and singing like pure destiny. It sat, happily sat, electrically stinging one’s ears, knowing it would thrum like a drum in the morning, knowing it would incessantly thrum until one bolted upright and smashed down that little button to make that loud stinging hum stop. No one wanted something so blatantly white and pure like destiny to remind one so incessantly of the thrum. No, no one did.