Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review

This one from Carolyn Sieradzki of Silver Spring, Maryland.

Consider This, Señora Harcourt Brace & Company
Harriet Doerr 15 East 26th Street
New York, NY 10010
Copyright 1993
ISBN: Q-15-193103-8 Reviewed: November 30, 2009

To continue with the simile first used by my mother-in-law, this book also does not taste like milk. It tastes like a banana. After one has read the jacket notes, one opens the peel with anticipation brought on by color and hints of bruising, secrets within the protective covering, and certainty of the varieties of smell, taste and texture, even threads that remind one of mysterious permanence.

Immediately after the peel is drawn down like a woman’s nightgown, a burst of scent erupts like an upward spray of mist. But it is not an olfactory image. It is the introduction of three of the characters, described with the precision of eruption. Essential details about their lives and their personalities crowd into the reader’s mind in a flurry. Those details will not be forgotten, nor will the details of the deal the three strike; they lay the foundation for all that follows.

The jacket notes say that Consider This, Señora is the story of the lives and internal discoveries of the Americans who have come to a Mexican mesa. The novel equally captures life and discovery among the Mexicans who live in the town below. Their lives reflect and intersect with those of the Americans.

As the reader unfolds the outer story of the book, the effects of the bruises emerge: some are learned from experience, some consumed without gain, and some even set aside without consideration or expression. The very existence of secrets – as in life everywhere – complicates and somehow comforts every interaction. The secrets are memories; present events known only to the participants; dreams for the future; wisdom known but unspoken. No one is without them.

The ever-present thread, like that found between the peel and the flesh of the banana, is the coming and going of the rainy season and – when the rain is gone for long periods – the desperate need for water and the failure of authority to heed pleas for help. It is that often annoying remnant of our primal selves that we all experience, dependent on something outside ourselves that we cannot control and for the failure of which there is no help.

One of the inhabitants on the mesa, a musician, brings a piano and, for months, plays only a single note, like the taste of the banana as we hurry to consume it on our way to work. But just as the first rain brings needed water for the crops and for the household, music – in every form from sonata to opera, from fugue to rhapsody – simultaneously begins to pour forth from the piano. This music becomes the source and symbol of renewal. It brings with it discovery of the diverse flavors of the banana – the colors found in overt descriptions of materials, flowers and scenery, as well as in the dimensions of the characters’ fruitful inner lives. Finally, each of the Americans finds that which they sought.

A friend loaned Consider This, Señora to me in a bag of books I “really should read,” without saying a word about it; I was completely surprised to find it so delightful. It is not a “heavy read.” One could easily sit and read it straight through because it is not only an effortless read, it is very engaging. You want to know what happens next, and you would rather not wait until tomorrow to find out.

Harriet Doerr entered the community of authors as a relatively older woman. She has received numerous honors and awards, including the American Book Award in 1984 for her novel, Stones for Ibarra.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

New Voices

New Voices
Saturday, December 19
7:00 to 8:30 PM
Pasha Coffee House
3914 St. Elmo Avenue
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Call (423) 315-0721 for full information

New Voices includes readings of poetry and short prose works, as well as musical interludes by Jim Woodford (keyboards), Bob Voigt (saxophone) and friends. Ray Zimmerman, former president of the Chattanooga Writers Guild hosts the event although it sometimes features a guest emcee.

This will be the last New Voices reading for a while. I expect to resume in March.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Ray Zimmerman
Will appear in the Chattanooga's Got Talent show, Tuesday, November 24, 6:30 PM at the Vaudeville Cafe. It is on Market Street, directly across from the Tennessee Aquarium. Call (423) 517-1839 for tickets.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Your Manuscript is important

“…Nor does anyone need your manuscript. Everyone needs shoes more. There are many manuscripts already – worthy ones, most edifying and moving ones, intelligent and powerful ones. If you believed Paradise Lost to be excellent, would you buy it? Why not shoot yourself, actually, rather than finish one more excellent manuscript on which to gag the world?”

The Writing Life
Annie Dillard
Harper Perennial
ISBN 978-0-06-091988-7

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gary Snyder in Berkeley

Dennis Fritzinger posted this on the Warrior Poet Society mailing list. Hope he doesn't mind my copying it here.

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems

Friday we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems by Gary Snyder, in the Morrison Library on the Berkeley campus.

The place was packed. Robert Hass was there, emceeing, Michael McClure was there and spoke, Gary Snyder was there, looking and sounding younger than his 70-plus years, very active still, and the brand-spanking new 50th anniversary volume was there on a back table, flying off it as fast as the sellers could ring up sales.

The event went from 4:30 to 6:00, after which Gary went out into the hall and sat down at a table where he autographed copies. The line was long, and Gary seemed to be talking with everyone who brought him a book to sign, so it went slowly.

The 50th anniversary volume is very good looking, with cover art by print-maker Tom Killion, who co-authored another worthy volume, Tamalpais Walking: Poetry, History & Prints.

After Hass's introduction, when he reminisced about his first encounter with Riprap, saying that the poem "Paiute Creek" struck him like a lightning bolt, Michael McClure read some prepared remarks, apparently hand-written, as he frequently lost his place, stumbled, or mis-spoke and had to recover. Still, what he said established a certain context, as he described the Gallery Six Reading he, Snyder, Philip Lamantia, Phil Whalen, Kenneth Rexroth (acting as emcee) and Allen Ginsberg were all at--the legendary reading that kicked off the so-called Beat Generation.

Michael said that although the East Coast critics focused on Ginsberg and Kerouac (who didn't read but hung in the back of the room shouting "Go - Go - Go" while Ginsberg read), Snyder's poem "A Berry Feast" that he read, introduced the figure of Coyote into western literature for first time (except for the legendary Jaime De Angulo, who brought him up in "Indian Tales"). McClure called "A Berry Feast" an "eco poem", which it certainly is. McClure has written before about the ecological impulses underpinning the literary upwelling of the time, particularly the west-coast members of the so-called "Beat Generation".

Snyder then took the podium and gave background sketches of the poems in Riprap, being careful to locate them in place as well as time. He also brought in a fair amount of personal history to do that.

Snyder's resume includes working on a ship, as a fire lookout, a trail builder, and a logger. All these professions find their way into the pages of Riprap, perhaps Snyder's most accessible book. In fact accessibility was the point, Gary said. He said he thought a poet ought to earn the right to publishing his difficult stuff by publishing his easy stuff first. Which probably explains that the poems in Riprap are mostly about work.

Cold Mountain Poems, translations of a minor Chinese poet named Han Shan, is a different story. These are translations that Gary wrote while an undergraduate at UC taking a class with one other student from a brilliant Chinese scholar. After they were published, Gary said, they were criticized by another Chinese scholar who happened also to be a poet. The critic said that the actual mountain, "Cold Mountain", was in southern China and covered with trees and bushes--in fact not exactly cold at all. Gary made it sound as if the hermit poet Han Shan (it was typical of hermits to go by the name of where they lived) lived in the Sierras (which was where Gary had worked building trails).

There were many other stories and anecdotes I could go on about, but I think I'll stop here.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

New Voices

New Voices
Saturday November 21
7:00 to 8:30 PM
Pasha Coffee House
3914 St. Elmo Avenue
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Call (423) 315-0721 for full information

New Voices includes readings of poetry and short prose works, as well as musical interludes by Jim Woodford (keyboards), Bob Voigt (saxophone) and friends. Ray Zimmerman, former president of the Chattanooga Writers Guild hosts the event although it sometimes features a guest emcee.

Readers for the November edition of New Voices include
Ninian Williams
Ginny Sams
Pam West
Jane Starner
Ray Zimmerman
others to be announced
New Voices Schedule for Autumn, 2009
7:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Saturday, October 17
Saturday November 21
Saturday, December 19

New Voices Poetry Readings are presented by MusePaper Productions.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


“Just keep in mind that it won’t be the birthday cake covered with twinkling candles that will make readers feel that you were really at the party, but the bone handled serving fork with one tine missing and the place where the lace has pulled loose from the hem of the table cloth.”

Ted Kooser
The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets
University of Nebraska Press
ISBN 978-0-8032-5976-2

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Writing Life

“You write it all, discovering it at the end of the line of words. The line of words is a fiber optic, flexible as wire; it illumines the path just before its flexible tip. You probe with it, delicate as a worm.”

The Writing Life
Annie Dillard
Harper Perennial
ISBN 978-0-06-091988-7

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

mad to live

mad to live

In the brief volume, "mad to live," Randall Brown reveals his masterful story telling in eighteen flash fiction stories. For those of you not familiar with the genre, flash fiction stories are 1000 words or less, yet must be a complete story. Character development is minimized, with a focus on the story line.
Brown’s characters range from childhood to middle age, engage in the battles of day to day life, and live with dilemmas that never seem to quite reach a resolution. In one story, a boy and his grandfather escape from the attack of two hoodlums when the boy delivers a well aimed kick to the groin of one attacker and the grandfather recovers from a blow to the head long enough to find and use his shotgun stored behind the counter. As they exit the grandfather’s store, sirens wail in the distance.
Brown presented several of the stories in a highly entertaining reading at the recent Meacham Writers Conference here in Chattanooga.
The title is not capitalized and is drawn from Kerouac’s book, On the Road. With the decreasing attention span so obvious in American culture, flash fiction may well be the wave of the future.

mad to live: a collection of very short fiction
Randall Brown
Flume Press
ISBN 10:1-886226-13-5
ISBN 13:978-1-886226-13-5

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


With the controversy about the statues on the Market Street Bridge,
I was reminded of a poem I wrote about another Chattanooga Statue. This poem appeared in my chapbook, First Days.


Immodest she stands
Before the museum
Jaybird naked
In front of God
And everyone

Her bronze constitution
Has made her immune
To summer’s heat
And winter’s cold
To the stares of
Prudish visitors

Though I am certain
She is lovely as
The original
She is unaware
Of her audience
Wholly unresponsive

Thursday, November 5, 2009

two landscapes

A Tale of Two Landscapes – Appeared in the Chattanooga Chat, Newsletter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society, Chattanooga Chapter and in my chap book Guardians and Other Sightings.

The land had once been a private estate, and the large front lawn was green and well fertilized and manicured, and much like any other lawn, but behind a hill stood a wild and “unkempt” thicket where shrubs and vines and blackberries abounded. It was a somewhat wet landscape, enough to attract an occasional killdeer.
Every spring the thicket produced a crop of young rabbits, in fact the property was never short of rabbits. Occasionally a red fox would saunter by, no doubt gathering a dinner of rabbit meat. Beyond the thicket was a hay field and beyond that, a forest. At night, coyotes howled in the near distance.
One winter day I led a bird watching expedition and we saw a female Peregrine falcon land in a tree. Soon a male bird joined her, dropping a prey item as he landed. Perhaps he saw us at the last minute and dropped the bird that he was carrying to his mate. Soon, both falcons flew away and we discovered that the dropped bird was a killdeer.
A high ranking government official dropped by my office one spring day and informed me that we would embark on a project of “landscaping for wildlife.” Soon the bush hog arrived and the thicket was leveled to be replaced with a few trees, whose fruit is reputed to attract birds. Low lying areas were filled to accommodate foot traffic.
The last time I visited the property, I saw neither rabbits, nor fox, nor killdeer. I definitely saw no peregrine falcon. Where branches in the thicket had been alive with the songs of nesting birds, it was eerily silent. And so the landscape was tamed, and so it was “landscaped for wildlife.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Ray Zimmerman
Will appear in the Chattanooga's Got Talent show, Tuesday, November 24, 6:30 PM at the Vaudeville Cafe - directly across from the aquarium. Call (423) 517-1839 for tickets.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why I write

Some one posted this reply on the facebook group, "Feed Your Brain."

I write for the same reason I like to view art or listen to different various points of an argument -- to inform myself of other points of view to reality. The more ways I see something, the better various areas of my brain can translate it and help me understand the total picture of what is.
October 27 at 7:19pm