musing on alice persons’s “the perfect day”

“Portrait of Ann Reading” by N.C. Wyeth (1930)

 

THE PERFECT DAY
by Alice N. Persons

You wake with
no aches
in the arms
of your beloved
to the smell of fresh coffee
you eat a giant breakfast
with no thought
of carbs
there is time to read
with a purring cat on your lap
later you walk by the ocean
with your dog
on this cut crystal day
your favorite music and the sun
fill the house
a short delicious nap
under a fleece throw
comes later
and the phone doesn’t ring
at dusk you roast a chicken,
bake bread, make an exquisite
chocolate cake
for some friends
you’ve been missing
someone brings you an
unexpected present
and the wine is just right with the food
after a wonderful party
you sink into sleep
in a clean nightgown
in fresh sheets
your sweetheart doesn’t snore
and in your dreams
an old piece of sadness lifts away

~ from Never Say Never (Moon Pie Press, 2004)

 

“Chocolate Cake with Raspberries,” Oil on panel, by Mary Ellen Johnson (2014)

 

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nine cool things on a tuesday

1. There’s nothing ho-hum about Oregon-based ceramicist Sara Swink’s work. She creates human and animal figures that tease our thinking and beg interpretation. She takes something familiar and gives it a dreamlike, bizarre, or even humorous twist. Her distinctive pieces definitely compel us to take a second or third look.

Her love of clay began when she was eight, with the encouragement of a neighbor who was a potter. She learned to throw on a potter’s wheel, hand build and mix glazes in high school, even buying her own wheel with money earned cleaning houses.

Some twenty years later, she began taking ceramics classes, then studied art history, printmaking, drawing, and foundry work at several universities while teaching. Studying with Coeleen Kiebert (whose approach is to fuse artmaking with the psychology of the individual) was pivotal in shaping Sara’s work. Sara’s pieces can be seen as expressions of her inner psyche; there is a personal narrative that runs through all her art.

Sara opened Clay Circle Studio when she moved to the Portland area in 2006 and continues to offer workshops. Find out more about her classes at her official website, where you can also view a wonderful archive of available and past pieces.

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a stitch in time: “the grammar of silk” by cathy song

 

Ran across this Boomer Girls anthology a little while ago, and it’s all coming back to me now. As Rita Randazzo says in the opening lines of her poem, “The Sixties,”

I remember them/which proves I didn’t/ fully participate.

I may be slightly partial, but I think Baby Boomers are the finest generation. After all, we had the Mickey Mouse Club, Barbie, Beatlemania, bell bottoms, princess phones, saddle shoes, hula hoops, Woodstock, the counterculture, the civil rights movement, and were generally associated with individualism and social activism. 🙂

Since it’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, thought I’d share a poem by boomer girl Cathy Song, a native of Honolulu. Until I read her poem, I had almost forgotten about a special summer.

 

 

THE GRAMMAR OF SILK
by Cathy Song

On Saturdays in the morning
my mother sent me to Mrs. Umemoto’s sewing school.
It was cool and airy in her basement,
pleasant — a word I choose
to use years later to describe
the long tables where we sat
and cut, pinned, and stitched,
the Singer’s companionable whirr,
the crisp, clever bite of scissors
parting like silver fish a river of calico.

The school was in walking distance
to Kaimuki Dry Goods
where my mother purchased my supplies —
small cards of buttons,
zippers and rickrack packaged like licorice,
lifesaver rolls of thread
in fifty-yard lengths,
spun from spools, tough as tackle.
Seamstresses waited at the counters
like librarians to be consulted.
Pens and scissors dangled like awkward pendants
across flat chests,
a scarf of measuring tape flung across a shoulder,
time as a pincushion bristled at the wrist.
They deciphered a dress’s blueprints
with an architect’s keen eye.

This evidently was a sanctuary,
a place where women confined with children
conferred, consulted the oracle,
the stone tablets of the latest pattern books.
Here mothers and daughters paused in symmetry,
offered the proper reverence —
hushed murmurings for the shantung silk
which required a certain sigh,
as if it were a piece from the Ming Dynasty.

My mother knew there would be no shortcuts
and headed for the remnants,
the leftover bundles with yardage
enough for a heart-shaped pillow,
a child’s dirndl, a blouse without darts.
Along the aisles
my fingertips touched the titles —
satin, tulle, velvet,
peach, lavender, pistachio,
sherbet-colored linings —
and settled for the plain brown-and-white composition
of polka dots on kettle cloth
my mother held up in triumph.

She was determined that I should sew
as if she knew what she herself was missing,
a moment when she could have come up for air —
the children asleep,
the dishes drying on the rack —
and turned on the lamp
and pulled back the curtain of sleep.
To inhabit the night,
the night as a black cloth, white paper,
a sheet of music in which she might find herself singing.

On Saturdays at Mrs. Umemoto’s sewing school,
when I took my place beside the other girls,
bent my head and went to work,
my foot keeping time on the pedal,
it was to learn the charitable oblivion
of hand and mind as one —
a refuge such music affords the maker —
a pleasure of notes in perfectly measured time.

~ from Boomer Girls: Poems by Women from the Baby Boom Generation, edited by Pamela Gemin and Paula Sergi (University of Iowa Press, 1999).

 

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poetry friday roundup is here!

“You are as welcome as the flowers in May.” ~ Charles Macklin

Did you know May is National Strawberry Month? Please help yourself to some berries and a ginger shortbread cookie.

 

Hello and Happy May! Welcome to Poetry Friday at Alphabet Soup.

It’s a new month — the month of flowers, buzzing bees, birds building nests, and nature-loving free spirits dancing around a maypole with gay abandon (are you one of them)? 😀

 

Phoebe Wahl (2014)

 

I loved May Day as a child. We wore muumuu and lei to school, and in fifth grade, we learned the maypole dance for the school program. So fun to see all those colored streamers weave together.

Here are two short poems in celebration of this lovely month. Hope your days ahead are full of joy with lots of time to savor the blossoming beauty.

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“Vilma Picking Lilacs” by Tavik František Šimon (1910)

 

MAY NIGHT
by Sara Teasdale

The spring is fresh and fearless
and every leaf is new,
The world is brimmed with moonlight,
The lilac brimmed with dew.

Here in the moving shadows
I catch my breath and sing,
My heart is fresh and fearless
And over-brimmed with spring.

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“Field of Flowers” by Jo Grundy

 

FROM THE BOOK OF TIME
by Mary Oliver

I rose this morning early as usual, and went to my desk.
But it’s spring,

and the thrush is in the woods,
somewhere in the twirled branches, and he is singing.

And so, now, I am standing by the open door.
And now I am stepping down onto the grass.

I am touching a few leaves.
I am noticing the way the yellow butterflies
move together, in a twinkling cloud, over the field.

And I am thinking: maybe just looking and listening
is the real work.

Maybe the world, without us,
is the real poem.

~ from The Leaf and the Cloud (De Capo Press, 2001)

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Ben Giles (2013)

 

Now, please leave your links with the dashing Mr Linky below.  Enjoy all the poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere this week, and as Kahlil Gibran once said, “Be like a flower and turn your face to the sun.”

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💚 A SUITCASE OF SEAWEED & MORE GIVEAWAY WINNER! 💜

Thanks to all for your heartfelt comments and condolences about my dad’s passing. I enjoyed hearing about how your parents met, as well as your thoughts about race relations in our country.

Just so happens there were four Michelles among all the beautiful and brilliant commenters. Though M. Random Integer Generator was starry-eyed over all of them, he managed (with great difficulty) to select just one Michelle to win Janet’s book. And she is:

🌺 MICHELLE TURNER OF GOURMANDISTAN! 🌷

🎉 CONGRATULATIONS, MICHELLE! 🎈

Please send along your snail mail address so we can get the book out to you lickety split!

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Copyright © 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

ruminating on janet wong’s a suitcase of seaweed & more (+ a giveaway!)

Sometimes good things can get even better.

I’ve always loved Janet Wong’s A Suitcase of Seaweed — it’s my favorite among her poetry collections. First published by Margaret K. McElderry Books in 1996, it explores her Korean and Chinese heritage and what it was like growing up in America.

When Janet was a Poetry Potluck guest back in 2012, I praised the relatable truths in A Suitcase of Seaweed, shared “Grandmother’s Almond Cookies,” and enjoyed hearing about her paternal grandparents. How wonderful to have a PoPo (grandmother) who was the “Boss of Dessert”!

In February, Janet published A Suitcase of Seaweed & More (Yuzu/Pomelo Books, 2019), which contains all 36 poems (+ 3 prose pieces) from the original book as well as lots of new text (backstories, musings, prompts). I loved learning about what inspired the poems, and appreciated the way she extended their themes and widened their contexts. I know her appealing prompts will get readers thinking, talking, maybe even writing their own poems and stories.

In “Love at First Sight,” the first of Janet’s Korean Poems from Part One, she imagines her parents in the early days of their courtship. They somehow met while her father, an American soldier stationed in Korea, would purchase fresh food for the troops from her mother’s family farm. Her mom could not speak English, and her father did not know Korean, but somehow they managed to communicate. It seems love has its own language.

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Park Hang-Ryul (1950 – )

 

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

I like to imagine Mother
when her face was full and smooth
and she wore her hair in a long braid,

and I like to imagine Father
with his crooked smile and his crooked crew cut,
wearing an American uniform,

running after her
in the narrow dirt streets
of her Korean village,

as she rushes away
laughing,
her long braid

wagging like the tail of a dog
that has found
a fresh bone.

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