Wednesday, July 31, 2013

wheat pasting with a purpose

Just off Harvard Square, there's a whole wall of wheat pasted faces of young people - part of a project designed to draw attention to the plight of the young homeless (of which there are many, it would seem, around the Square - and the middle-aged homeless, too).  And some disaffected Young, too - or so I judged the young person coming out of the subway station wearing a T shirt saying FUCK YOUR BELIEFS.  What made him decidedly unusual, though, was that he was wearing a zebra head.

In its own right, this is a good, serious piece of political-activist-pasting.  But what is it with the butterflies?  And the Dame et la licorne collaged extras?  Are they part of the original schema, or some other kind of visual intervention?

(And, Megan - no Hi Rise lunch today - I was too busy with press photographers' autobiographies ... but, having excellent tea with friends, I did have my share of one of a HR plum pie, which was quite exquisite.  I'd find it impossible to be restrained if one lived as close as they do to its source ...).

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

flowers on wheels

It was a perfect summer's day in Cambridge MA today - as someone said to me in a store: we should bottle it up and release it again in February.  I didn't have the heart to say that February in LA can be quite clement (anyway, everyone all day reacted to me as if I were a British tourist, so that would just have confused things).  A week working in libraries?  This is a wonderful treat ...  I can barely remember Harvard from previous visits - I know I didn't go onto the main campus the last time I was here, and the time before that ... I think it was 1981 or 2, and two things came back to me the minute I walked through the gateway off Harvard Square: first, that Cambridge here reminded me of Cambridge, England - it even smells the same, and I'd forgotten that - and second, that when I was here on that occasion, I performed an extraordinary act of heroism by removing the world's biggest cockroach from the bathroom of the friends whose apartment I was staying in - neither of them would go near it.  Place, indeed, uncovers some odd things in the memory.

Monday, July 29, 2013

research and rain

What was my favorite bit of research today?  Surely the ephemera in Jessie Tarbox Beals's papers.  Oh yes, indeed, there was the correspondence with her cat sitter about whether Sam liked his liver raw or cooked (said sitter gave it cooked one day, to be sure, because she thought that even though it was in the ice box, it smelt a bit iffy).  But I think that this dreadful piece of everyday racism - advertising a tailors' establishment in Chicago - gets the prize.

Or maybe this flier for a photo exhibition?

What's emerging, however, is that Beals, despite using flash as a tool of her trade all the time, didn't write about it.  And her writings - and drafts for broadcasts - about photography are inordinately bland and boring.  Yes, I admire her for her professionalism, keeping going with all kinds of commissions - portraits, house interiors, and, increasingly gardens - and I'm sure she was a fun person (at least, she went to a lot of costume balls ...) - but I do wish that she hadn't become convinced that she was truly interested in writing poetry - she was outstandingly bad at it.  So I learned a lot about the life of a professional woman photographer in NY (and briefly in California) in the first half of the century, but dismally little about her work with flash.

And then there was re-iteration of my ability to attract violent thunderstorms.  This was the Longfellow Bridge at around 5.30, as I headed off to Whole Foods - and it's not an attempt to imitate Steichen, or even Beals, in 1911, but a color image of the torrents rushing down the bridge incline.

There ... in this picture, one can actually see the color, creeping in at the bottom.  Next time I go on a research trip I shall make sure that the hotel is (i) within comfortable distance of the archives (ii) if not, within comfortable distance of a subway/bus stop.  But the walking is good exercise ... once the rain stops ...

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Not literally, this time - but this is part of a strange maritime sculpture in Boston Airport.  A week - well, four days - in archives!  Unprecedented - well, for some time, at least, unless it's been snatched days in the BL.  I hope that the Schlesinger Library is going to yield up what I need ... I have an entire new sheaf of propelling pencils - if that's what they're called in the US - and I'm raring to go ...

Saturday, July 27, 2013

our lady of the floods

It's rare that one gets a chance in Santa Fe to show anything reflected in water - but here's a painted slab in the rail yard, reflecting off the huge puddle below.  Compared with the last couple of days, it's been extraordinarily clement today.

And as for the Farmers' Market, which is where we were walking?   Let's just say that I've never had a blueberry-lavender bluecorn donut before, but this may not be the last ...

Friday, July 26, 2013

between storms

There's something very soothing about the awnings and blue wall and blue sky at Cafe Fina.  But goodness - when I scuttled inside in Albuquerque at 1 in the morning, 2.71 inches of rain was in the process of falling.  And they've had another huge storm this evening - I-25 is closed because of downed power lines - there were 90 mph winds at the airport (I'm very glad I wasn't coming back tonight).  We could see the storm, looking very dark, down in ABQ - it's been raining for a couple of hours here, but not dramatically.  It's good to see the monsoon, after so much drought, but this is - well, wet.

endeavour pastrami (for July 25th)

I don't intend to make a habit of late posting, but yesterday's travel woes were extreme - a long, long delay in LAX, a flight that arrived after midnight in Albuquerque that descended into the airport with lightning flaring off on either side, and a drive back up I-25 that - well, didn't last very long, since the heavens opened with sheets of hail and thick water, and I somehow navigated my way off, and found a flooding hotel that sheltered me for the night.  Meanwhile, back in sunny SoCal, I see that a friendly neighborhood eatery, just by USC, is capitalizing on the latest arrival in the science park.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

technology (harrumph) - for July 24th

... so: I take my Nikon to Bread Loaf graduation, and find I have no memory card in it.  Yes, that's why the design allows me to carry two cards in it simultaneously, to avoid that happening.  But.  Lesson learned.  So no impeccable portraits of my colleagues, like the unmatchable Simon Ortiz.  Bah.  But my iPhone, at least, managed to pick up the women's mariachi band - who'll be leading the procession from the Cathedral on Sunday, at Spanish Market (I talked to them in the rest room - they needed rescuing from the woman - non-Bread-Loafer - who was quizzing them about whether they played Guantanamera).

But could I upload even that at the Sheraton at LAX (despite the great view?).  No.  The advertised free wi-fi didn't exist.  The 12.95 wi-fi refused to connect.  And in any case, I was too busy trying to mend the toilet cistern (chain had broken on the handle, internally).  I like plumbing.  I've had several notable plumbing successes this summer.  This wasn't one of them (admittedly, flying with carry-on, I didn't have my Swiss Army knife with me).  So, defeated by technology of all kinds, I slept.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Dawn this morning was very, very pretty.  It's so very easy just to be satisfied, here, with staring at the sky.  The trouble is, if one does this for too long, institutional reports don't get written; student grade cards don't get composed; back-to-school-welcome-breakfast letters don't get re-drafted, and so on.  It was that kind of a day, and I'd much rather have looked at the clouds.

Monday, July 22, 2013


I completely love the sunflowers that suddenly spring up at the side of the roadways at this time of the year - this one is right at the end of our driveway.  But at the same time - they're also a harbinger of summer's end.  Today was the last Bread Loaf class (a group I'm truly sorry to wave good-bye to - I've learned a lot from them); and there's been a whole avalanche of admin to negotiate, too.  But I shall try and suppress hysteria for a little longer ...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

nearly at the end

... of Bread Loaf Santa Fe 2013.  Tonight was the Senior Party, at the Inn of the Turquoise Bear, which turned out to be a great setting for it - and somehow it didn't rain, despite threatening all the time.  Above, our fabulous Director Cheryl Glenn, without whom ... and below, Jeff Nunokawa with a graduating senior - Jill Evans - looking for all the world (but I promise you it's not) like some kind of betrothal ceremony.  Or a rodeo cowboy trying to dance a two-step with the Queen of the 4H parade.  Very celebratory, and of course a little melancholy - and now it's back to the grading ...

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Back from Colorado Springs to find that we missed a spectacular inch of rain falling yesterday.  Our driveway seems to have temporarily turned into an arroyo and now has a large streamed cutting through it.  But all our plants are flourishing most wonderfully in their pots, and here's a good small handful of chopped herbs to go on our dinner.

Friday, July 19, 2013

wheat paste and carry on

Yes, we had an amazingly profitable day in the archives in Denver ($257 worth of xeroxing!).  But that's Alice's research, not mine, except vicariously, and not my story to tell ... except to offer trailers (today, probate!  court cases!).  My special treat?  Walking to lunch, and finding a whole alley full of curling, bleaching wheat paste images.  These are but three of a wonderful selection ...

Indeed, I've complained in the past about the cliched appropriation of this never-really-used WW2 slogan ... but I can just about appreciate it here ...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

the drama of Colorado Springs

This was the view from our window this evening - about to storm.  Only ... it didn't.  I spent the afternoon as Alice's research assistant - how I love reading old newspapers on microfilm - still piecing together bits of her Scandal book.  Today it was May 1938, a very dull month in Colorado Springs ... it snowed a lot, up on Pike's Peak, and a white Persian cat became a surrogate mother to four tiny coyote pups, and Hitler met with Mussolini (but that seemed, obviously, a long way away), and there were a few car wrecks, and that, to be honest, was about that.  Alice's mother must have gone crazy with boredom.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

up a tree

But I don't understand it.  Where did that bird GO?  Begging forgiveness for showing Moth two days running, this was an adventurous morning, with her hurtling up a tree at the very moment that I was throwing Walter Gomez back indoors, stopping him from jumping over our yard wall.  She has worked out how to do trees!  I was petrified that she wander along a branch and onto the roof, and that it would take me forever to find someone with a ladder that would let me get up there, and meanwhile ... yes, meanwhile, I was trying to do teaching prep, and the morning was evaporating as I was standing under a tree going MothyMothyMothy.  Meanwhile, of course, a selection of birds kept landing in the other tree, and giggling at her.  In the end - her magic, favorite kitty wand that she's obsessed with, and a bowl of kibble, did the trick.  It was, it goes without saying, great fun seeing her have fun, even if she was wobbling my nerves at times.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Our little Moth!  Not really the picture that I intended to post today, but she has knocked over my new suitcase (the last one split on the way back from Italy, or rather, when it landed in Albuquerque - mercifully not spilling its contents, but with a very damaged zipper), and is now posing on it.  Now that she's a year old, her ginger bits are looking a little more ginger - I was convinced, for a very long time, that we might have the world's only pink and grey cat.

Monday, July 15, 2013

clouds, weather

Strange thick wisping clouds behind St John's this evening when I finished teaching, changing the landscape into something more like - well, I'd say the Yorkshire moors, apart from the foliage.  Today, in class, was Englishness, and icons of Englishness, and then a whole range of poetry from Penshurst to Ted Hughes via Gray and Goldsmith and Betjeman - I've somehow gone through life without discussing "Pike," so today was the day.  The "icons" that people brought along were the usual predictable suspects - a red phone booth (not the actually pee-smelling artifact, of course), and the Beatles, and Downton Abbey, and a guardsman in his bearskin, and lots of cups of tea (cue for me to play John Agard's Alternative National Anthem).  And then I upturned the stereotypes by showing a recent Simon Armitage interview about poetry and violence and the national (bleak) mood, and we lightened things up a little with Carol Ann Duffy's "John Barleycorn" as a lament for the traditional English pub/encapsulation of history through pub names, which wasn't, come to think of it, very cheerful, at all.  Jackie Kay et al's Out of Bounds anthology of black and Asian poetry should do some more challenging on Wednesday.

My offering for the day (didn't have time to do the cooking I'd planned - that'll have to be for Thursday, too - was the weather, since it was, during class, pouring.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


For rather too long now I've had a disconnect between different computers, iPod, iPad, and other ways of storing my eclectic music collection - a collection that I tried to doctor many years ago, when I first met Alice, so that I wouldn't look radically unhip in my tastes (this was before I realized that her tastes were even more dramatically unhip than mine, and found myself uploading, say, Gladys Knight and the Pips, so that I wouldn't look too out of it in that direction, either).

But it's time for organization ... so I'm uploading lots of the cds that exist on another computer, but don't co-exist with everything that I've downloaded over the past five or six years.  Unbelieveable! that I'll actually, with luck, be able to cross another item off this summer's To Do list ...

Saturday, July 13, 2013


From our driveway, at this time of the year, knowing whether it will actually rain or not - despite approaching clouds, despite lightning - is a completely uncertain act of prediction.

Friday, July 12, 2013

yard sale find!

We've noted for the last couple of days that a house up the road was having a yard sale, starting today, and yesterday on our walk we saw this fine wooden rocking chair standing outside.  The sale started at 10: we were there at 9.58, and claimed our bounty ... Over the years, local yard sales have supplied some very excellent things, including the table on which I'm currently writing (and Alice bought a $3 pottery jug, for flowers, too, today) - a so much happier tale than our own attempt in LA, a few years ago, at holding such a thing.  We should have packed everything in the car and come to Eldorado, I now realize ...

Thursday, July 11, 2013


I spent much too long today doing something I've been meaning to do for - well, a few years, I guess - disentangling my jewelry.  Mostly, that is, my cheap jewelry - the truly respectable stuff is kept fairly tidy, although I was delighted to resurrect a couple of pairs of earrings that I'd feared I'd never see again.  This is the final, pretty much impenetrable tangle.  Too much moving, too much throwing things into bags, too little culling ... So now there are a few things to take to be mended; a large heap (disentangled) to go with some clothes to Look What the Cat Dragged In (the animal shelter's charity store here in Santa Fe), and, indeed, a whole lot of quite wearable jewelry.  In particular, there are a number of wire and crystal necklaces that I have little or no memory of.  I suspect that a good deal of this stuff cost 6.99 in Monsoon fifteen years ago, but some of it may well merit a wearing, and towards some I just have fond associations.

opera night

Gosh.  Who knew The Marriage of Figaro was so long, and so ridiculous?  Actually probably most people, except me.  The lightning and thunder clap between the first and second acts was so good that it got a round of applause all to itself.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

pressing things

This press is both a thing of beauty, and a reproach.  As a thing of beauty ... I bought it some nine years ago from a woman who used to have a stall at Jackalope, and also sold things out of her home on occasion, way over on the west side of town - artifacts, for the most part, that she brought back from Mexico.  I have an unframed, and slightly amateurish, but lovely azure blue oil painting of a Mexican city square from her, and a bowl or two, and this - for which I think I paid $100, together with the painting, and had to scrape the money together at that time, but I was so glad that I did.  There's an identical object offered for nearly three times as much - and no oil painting included - in - yes! - the current Restoration Hardware catalog, in the artisanal objects section ...

But it's also a reproach, as I said.  Every summer I am full of intent to be more artistically productive, to draw, to print make (and this is where the press can come in handy) - and what's happened to date?  I've drawn Moth from several angles, done (at other people's behest) a couple of drawings in the more obliquely intellectual moments of our British Poetry class, doodled my way across a couple of pages, and that's about it.  And I'm behind hand in correspondence, badly, and I have a little shelf of books I really, really want to read that are whining at me for attention ... This, in other words, is the panicked state of mind of someone who realizes that it's a lot closer to next semester, already, than I want or need it to be ...

Monday, July 8, 2013

pillow talk

Today in class - "found" poems; poems derived from the language in the world around us; poems written for particular objects ... this was perhaps the most photogenic of them all: a pillow decorated with the contents ("active" and "latent") of dreams.   I should add that the creator of this added a little copyright sign in one corner, and I'm reproducing this without her permission - though obviously she knew I took the pictures - so please respect this ... So many good ideas!  There was the "five short poems from the Norton Anthology" - just put "The Norton Anthology" into the anagram tool on line (who knew?) and see what you get.  There was a poem written on a mirror - a quotation about the possession of one's face from Romeo and Juliet, plus the terms of a lease - in what way does one "own" one's living space?  There was a wonderful overheard/transcribed conversation - a very snippety row - between a couple on Canyon Road.  Someone created a poem from the mutilated signs in Downtown Subscription telling one not to take unpaid for magazines to one's coffee table; someone else used the phrases (and added one herself) to be found on the restroom chalkboards there.  One person constructed her poem from her four year old's phrases that weekend; one was a compendious set of Thanksgiving instructions written - in excruciating detail - in an email by someone's mother-in-law - a complete compilation of social assumptions and character delineation.  One student contributed her packing list for a couple of days at the Grand Canyon.  I loved the student who'd cut out seven pictures from an up-market real estate magazine in Santa Fe, each accompanied by a vignette-from-Santa-Fe-life-observed-or-overheard.  Somebody transcribed a poem, then erased lines and replaced them with her own.  Someone interspersed the prose of a UC Santa Cruz article about man eating lions with the language taken from posters advertising acts in a Hollywood club.  There was a brilliant country-music-song-style version of the drinks menu at the Coyote Cantina.  And one person pulled together a whole lot of article titles from Reddit, and then - just as he was reading out Not Ever Pope Francis, there was a huge thunder bang and all the lights went out, which seemed to signify divine disapproval.

And then we wrote 15 sonnets (15 of us - one title, 14 lines) - passing the paper on after each line had been inscribed, with a complicated fold-over scheme giving continuity in rhyme pattern, and some narrative.

After all of that, who wouldn't feel that they could encourage their students that there's poetry everywhere in the world?  And who didn't understand the problems of attributing authorship?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

a party next door

Since yesterday afternoon, our fridge was playing host to two large smoked turkey breasts, and this evening, early, our oven had some wickedly good mashed potato re-heating in it ... this was in honor of a party for Tim and Natalie - Tim's our neighbors' son, who's getting married up at Lake Tahoe in two weeks time - and because us local Eldoradians are unlikely to be making the trek up there, they had a gathering this evening to celebrate.  And it did feel good to be part of a local community - quite different from, let's say at random, a university gathering.  And there's nothing like weather (the rain cleared up at 10 minutes past six, with perfect monsoon timing), the dire state of local restaurants, the absence of any trains on the local line, and No One Mentioning Hens (in case someone was on The Other Side in the Great Eldorado Hen Debate) to keep one bonded.  And Tim and Natalie seem very happy, indeed.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

watching for things in the railyard

On the way from the carpark to the Farmers' Market, and under the walkway by Warehouse 21, the center for youth/arts, is a very non-Santa Fe pair of eyes looking at one ...

... and then there are the wheat pasted faces that have been there almost a year now - by Anne Staveley - peeling nicely ...

and then, and more serendipitously, some unexpected poems.  The class is meant to be writing poems made out of found language, or experimenting with the idea of poetry written on various material forms and surfaces, or writing poems that would be site-specific and appear in unexpected places, or that follow the model of Herbert's "Angel Wings" or Apollinaire's "Il Pleut" - and here, as if to cue, were three poems on a board at the side of the rail tracks ...

I craved to commit
language so flamboyant
it seemed a crime

Friday, July 5, 2013

flower children, 2013

So we went to Agua Fria Nursery today, to stock up for the gaps in our pots - the whole of the end of their property is a really pleasing riot of wildness, since they presumably just plant out what doesn't sell.  And there, inexplicably, at the end of the garden, were four girls apparently just sitting ... having spent two or three days reading Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (and writing - somehow managing to tie in Ken Kesey and internal acid flashes and external strobe lighting to Walter Pater's pulsations, which might be pushing my luck), it all seemed a little unreal.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

drawing in class

I think I'd better put these drawings in context: this summer's class, on "Reading Teaching Enjoying (British) Poetry" is aimed at (largely) high school teachers, and focuses on pedagogy, and the kind of tactics and techniques that one might use in the classroom.  So different pairs/trios of students take turns in leading the class - and then hand over to me at some later point - and we all, together, take part in various exercises, trying out what their own students might be asked to do.  Yesterday, as I said, we were all asked to draw a "literacy map," with no guidance (deliberately) as to what this might be.  Mine was more graphic than most - many used words and arrows alone - but what also strikes me about mine (and yes, if you really want to, you can see it by blowing up the picture) is that it's focused on when I was around 2-3, when I started to read - with a flash forward to when we lived in Cumberland (from 3+ onwards for a few years) and my main source of books was Carlisle library, often via the library van.  Right at the center is Top Flat, 3 Copse Hill - and a bubble shows my mother reading to me, running her finger underneath the words as she went - and apparently I just picked it up, and one day was to be discovered reading The Times - probably not extensively reading The Times, but still ... And then there's a long and winding road down to Wimbledon Public Library, where I borrowed my first books (starting with The Cow Who Fell in the Canal, and I can remember exactly where that was on the shelf).  And I think that's about right, when it came to literacy: if I could read Winnie the Pooh on my own by the time I was three and a half, I guess I was literate?  I can't remember learning to write, but there again, I can't remember not being able to write ...

And the drawing on the left?  That's from an earlier class, where we were all asked to draw what we saw in a poem - a brief poem - so that's Pound's "In a Station of the Metro" - and quite curiously, drawing it, I felt inside the poem like never before ...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


For whatever reason, the images I wanted to post today - taken on my iPhone and emailed to myself - aren't coming through, thus sparing you a discussion of my class's heated conversation on the topic of "literacy" (a very interesting age divide there - us geriatrics were defending the idea of the "letter," written or printed - i.e. the idea of being able to read/write the written word - and the younger people in the class were - oh, you can be "computer literate", and "culturally literate", and literate means being able to read visual signs.  And no, reading a chunk of Raymond Williams's Keywords didn't help.  Very instructive.  And a great class - we also covered Anne Bradstree's "Prologue," Wordsworth's "The Idiot Boy," Kipling's "Tommy," Tony Harrison's "V", and a chunk of The Waste Land).  But instead of an image of our blackboard, and / or an image of my own personal "literacy map" - sorry, this morning's dawn will have to do.  But it's pretty good ...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

the inexhaustible Moth

If only I had as much energy as our young Moth.  One never knows where she's going to turn up next: this evening, on top of the kitchen cupboards.  And I'm feeling exhausted from reading Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which seems much more readable than when I borrowed it from Wimbledon Library in 1970, but is having the effect on me of wanting - needing - to go and sit on my own in a very, very quiet space - like Walt Whitman without the line breaks, at best, and for the rest of the time - the most remarkable thing is that Wolfe himself claimed that he never took acid, only once smoked marijuana - and yet, of course, he manages to get inside the head of every doped up Merry Prankster.  Why, you might well ask ... ?  Lots of flashes!  Revelatory ones!  Inner experience ones!  It's the link between Harold Edgerton and stroboscopic photography and - and what?  Flash mobs, flash fiction, flash restaurants ... but I won't get to writing about them till the weekend, most probably.

Monday, July 1, 2013

summer school

We've been charged with taking some photos of our classrooms this summer - not easy, when they are relatively (energy-conservingly) dark.  These are St John's Santa Fe rooms, where I'm teaching for the Bread Loaf School of English (two afternoons a week) - I've been teaching BL on and off since 1990, which makes me very long in the tooth indeed - I think all of my students would have been born by then, but I'm not sure.  Here are fourteen English teachers discussing "Burnt Norton" (and "Tradition and the Individual Talent") today - it was "poetry and impersonality," and BN was precariously sandwiched between Shelley's "Mont Blanc" and Simon Armitage's poem about the Columbine shooting.  It's actually great fun (I don't normally ever get to teach "British Poetry" as a category) - real time out.

And actually, I'm taking time out from writing about The Finch Tragedy.  It got worse.  There was one brave finchlet left in the nest this morning, tended by about 14 adults.  And then ... I was just starting class ... text from Alice, back in Eldorado ... another red racer ... you know the rest.