Sunday, January 18, 2015

100 Years, 100 Voices


It was a bright but cold day for our visit to the Montclair Art Museum. Many of the galleries are under construction util the end of this month, but the 100 Years, 100 Voices exhibit was worth the price of admission (which, incidentally, is half off until February 2015 since so much of the museum is currently blocked off).

100 Years, 100 Voices includes works by Rothko, Warhol and Edward Hopper. There's a special focus on artists from New Jersey, and the collection suggests different ways of viewing urban expansion in 19th and 20th Century America.

I was stopped in my tracks by "Queensborough Bridge" by Elsie Driggs (Though I admit, I thought it was a Stella at first.)


I'm a sucker for straight lines and bright lights, I guess. The clean, determined look of this piece shows excitement for the future (the work debuted in 1927), and a celebration of industry.

It was such a stark contrast with Colin Campbell Cooper's "Old Grand Central Station" (1906):



There may be some pretty pastel lighting here, but that is a dirty, smoky city.

"Box II" by Larry Kagan was just delightful:


This piece was new in the sculpture garden. My group had several theories...


Haunted some funky vintage couches for coffee/tea.


And then we maybe sneaked some unbelievable donuts into a rather somber movie. Don't judge.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Heat, Color, Craft

I've been trying to stay sane through a particularly cold and dark week; as always, there are bright spots to find.

This week work brought me to the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ.




bwe kafe in Hoboken is a great spot! Even if it's to sip tea quickly before a meeting.



I traveled toward the other end of NJ that night, though not for work. I soaked in steam and the smell of birch, then shocked my system in the ice pool, at a Russian spa.



It was very, very hard to leave the hot water and steam rooms. Eventually (after two hours) I did!

I cannot live in a Jacuzzi, I am told. At the very least, I can fill myself with hot food. Lately I am obsessed with fake-bacon fake-cheese melts.


Last step: add avocado
Confession: I ate real bacon once before I was a vegetarian. I don't remember it. So this is a pretty awesome treat for me... real-meat lovers may disagree!

And this, a tofu version of Moroccan shakshouka:



There's nothing like a great cookbook (Vegan Express by Nava Atlas) to inspire me to make a vat of food.

I love food that is colorful and flavorful and spicy. THEN I got this new bit of color this week, hand-made for me:

I... still can't crochet. Oops. But I gladly accept crocheted gifts!
I confess: I have not been crocheting. I've been hand-sewing fabric-y projects and reading, though!

Then today I had an online photography exhibit go live at the Camel Saloon. I tried to see things I pass every day in a different light. I also went exploring through the state I grew up in to find weird and wonderful things.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Break. Time.

Having two mid-week holidays has really messed with my routine. But for the first time in a long time, I feel like I have had time.

I've tried to fill it up well.

Life is sooooo hard when you're in a cafe with someone you love, and coffee and tea, and a poetry lit mag, and nerdy podcasts, and yarn and crochet hooks. SO. HARD.
Learning to crochet. Crafting. Long walks on sunny days. Reading, reading, reading.



Sometimes I get frustrated as I try to learn something new in knitting or crochet, so I take a break to make a yarn octopus. Or, like, five yarn octopodes. 

Connecting with good friends who live far away, who inspire me to take myself on a date to see Wild. (Which I did. I cried and I cried and I was so happy to be in that theater by myself.)


Reconnecting to friends you haven't seen in a long time, but you pick up just where you left off...

Don't mind us, we're just sinking into the sand at Surf Bar in Williamsburg.


I made time for meeting new people, too, and it was all well-worth it.

I gave Jersey City another shot after a two-year break. My visit came on a dark, slushy day, but I was charmed.








Also accidentally stumbled upon the best cheesecake in Little Italy. Oh happy accident!



Tomorrow the weekly grind starts again. So, for now, goodbye to the break, and goodbye to the road.



Friday, January 2, 2015

2015: Year of Rereads

I've made several promises to myself about things I'll do better in the new year, but one of the more unusual commitments I've made is: I will try to reread one book a week in 2015.



I realized I wanted to try this after I made my 50 Works of Art That Have Shaped Me list this summer:

50 Works, PT 1
50 Works, PT 2
50 Works, PT 3
50 Works, PT 4
50 Works, PT 5

Revisiting these works, just briefly so I could summarize them, felt good. I could re-read the poems on this list easily enough, but when I remembered novels I'd loved, I felt drawn to them all over again. But I couldn't stop to reread them cover to cover--not when there are so many books I'd never given chance!

This challenge makes me a little uneasy. To put it bluntly, I'm afraid I'll get bored.

I am used to reading at least one new book every week. I take in a lot of new information all the time, and books are the least of it. I have a dumb phone, kinda, but I also use the Internet all day long. I love blog posts and podcasts and newfseeds and RTs, as I am sure all the kids say these days. (Ping me later, cool cats! Ahhhh I don't know what I am talking about!)

I want new, current information. Constantly.

The problem is, I have been noticing that I forget some of what I have read. Well, first go the finer details--exactly what was a character wearing? Or what was the direct quote? Minor stuff, right? ...Then timelines for stories get blurry, and then, oh my God, I don't even remember what  happened in the end!

I do want news stories as they unfold, and I don't want to reread trend pieces in the Altantic from five years ago or whatever.

But novels are forever. (Poetry too. AND COMICS.) I don't want breaking news from fiction--I was gorgeous language and breathing characters and some insight into this messy humanity. I want to remember every line that made me fall in love. I want to keep it fresh and not forget.

And so. The first book I am (re)reading this year is Eva Luna by Isabel Allende, perhaps my all-time favorite book. It's been more than three years since I read it, and while I loved every moment I spent with it then, I cannot believe how much I'd forgotten!

Now I can take my time. Because I've read this through once, I'm not distracted by the suspense of What's going to happen next? How will this end?!

I can savor the language, and read more as a writer. I can ask, How does this book work? What was the author intending, laying out for me?

Like this passage, from Chapter 1, which I'd forgotten. It's the blueprint for the whole novel--it's the message in a nutshell! Here is our narrator, Eva Luna, describing the childhood her mother gave her:

She manufactured the substance of her own dreams, and from those materials constructed a world for me. Words are free, she used to say, and she appropriated them; they were all hers. She sowed in my mind the idea that reality is not only what we see on the surface; it has a magical dimension as well and, if we so desire, it is legitimate to enhance it and color it to make our journey through life less terrifying.

Rereading feels good. It feels like coming home, like returning.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

What I Read in 2014

I read a lot of poetry this year. Possibly this makes me very crazy.

It's that time again: If I finish everything I'm reading right now, I will have read 60 books in 2014. I beat my number for 2013!

For six insane months in 2014, I had three part-time jobs. I still tried to carve out time for reading and writing... I did the best I could. Getting lost in a good graphic novel felt especially welcome this year.

I think I read more poetry than I ever have, most notably because I turned July 2014 into Poetry Month. I only read and wrote this genre. (The first bit of fiction I read after the month ended was Ayiti by Roxanne Gay. I was so happy to be reading anything other than poetry I nearly went into an ecstatic state.)

My list is a weird mix of everything I'm into: mod poets, Beat poets, comics, literary fiction, young adult series, and some nonfiction/diarist work. I'd do it all over again--although, somehow, I'd try to squeeze in more Mary Oliver.

My Top 10 of 2014
Blue Hole Back Home: A Novel – Joy Jordan-Lake
Ayiti – Roxanne Gay
Dream Work – Mary Oliver
Curves and Angles – Brad Leithauser
The Madonnas of Echo Park – Brando Skyhorse
Play It As It Lays: A Novel  – Joan Didion
Small Victories – Anne Lamott
Yes Please! – Amy Poehler

What I Read in 2014
1.  Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart – Alice Walker (fiction)
2.  Blue – Pat Grant (graphic novel)
3. Remedies – Kate Ledger (fiction)
4. The Eye of the Heron – Ursula K. le Guin (fantasy/fiction)
5. Blue Hole Back Home: A Novel – Joy Jordan-Lake (fiction)
6. The Patchwork Girl of Oz – L. Frank Baum (children’s fiction)
7. The Godfather – Mario Puzo (fiction)
8. The Lowland – Jumpha Lahiri (fiction)
9. The Rings of Saturn – W. G. Sebald (fiction)
11. A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire) – George R.R. Martin (smutty fantasy WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF?!)
12. Woman Hollering Creek: And Other Stories – Sandra Cisneros (YA fiction/short story collection)
14. The Sociopath Next Door – Martha Stout, PhD. (nonfiction)
15. Catching Life by the Throat: How to Read Poetry and Why – Josephine Hart (nonfiction/lit theory)
16. The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting – Clara Parks (nonfiction/essays)
17. Saga, Vol. 1 – Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (graphic novel)
18. Sixty Odd – Ursula K Le Guin (poetry)
19. Pretty Dead – Francesca Lia Block (YA fiction)
20. Beat the Reaper: A Novel – Josh Bazell (fiction)
21. Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami (fiction)
22. Indigo – Alice Hoffamn (YA fiction)
23. Dream Work – Mary Oliver (poetry)
24. Batman R.I.P. – Grant Morrison and Tony S. Daniel (graphic novel)
25. Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama – Alison Bechdel (graphic novel)
26. The Eternal City: Poems – Kathleen Graber (poetry)
27. The Gift: Poems by Hafiz – Translated by Daniel Ladinsky (poetry)
28. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Frank Miller (graphic novel)
29. Batman: The Long Halloween – Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale (graphic novel)
31. The World Shared – Dariusz Sośniki (poetry)
32. Curves and Angles – Brad Leithauser (poetry)
33. A Thousand Mornings: Poems – Mary Oliver (poetry)
34. Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems – Billy Collins (poetry)
35. Ayiti– Roxanne Gay (fiction)
36. Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life – Bryan Lee O’Malley (graphic novel)
37. Saga, Vol. 2 – Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (graphic novel)
38. Batman: Hush – Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee (graphic novel)
39. The Madonnas of Echo Park: A Novel – Brando Skyhorse (fiction)
40. Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass – Gary Paulsen (nonfiction/essay/memoir)
41. Hustle – David Tomas Martinez (poetry)
42. Tik-Tok of Oz – L. Frank Baum (children’s fiction)
43. Bless Me, Ultima – Rudolfo Anaya (YA fiction)
44. Death Comes for the Archbishop – Willa Cather (fiction)
45. Written on the Body – Jeanette Winterson (fiction)
46. Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women – Maya Angelou (poetry)
47. Play It As It Lays: A Novel – Joan Didion (fiction)
48. Not My Father's Son: A Memoir – Alan Cumming (memoir)
49. Saga, Vol. 3 – Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (graphic novel)
50. Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace – Anne Lamott (nonfiction/essay)
51. Looking for Alaska – John Green (YA fiction)
52. Yes Please! – Amy Poehler (nonfiction/memoir)
53. A Little Lumpen Novelita – Roberto Bolaño (fiction)
55. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins (YA fantasy)
56. The Poem She Didn't Write and Other Poems – Olena Kalytiak Davis (poetry)
57. Learning To Love: Exploring Solitude and Freedom – Thomas Merton (nonfiction/journal)
58. Mockingjay -- Suzanne Collins (YA fantasy)
59. Hallelujah Blackout -- Alex Lemon (poetry)
60. Trickster's Queen -- Tamora Pierce (YA fantasy)