Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Voices Project features "Anything But Summer"

If there can be an Ebenezer Scrooge of summer, I would proudly accept that title. This isn't the first time you've heard me whine about summer. But this very well may be the first time you've heard me complain about it in poem form! Thanks to The Voices Project, more people than ever will get an earful of my feelings of dread and distaste for that season everyone else seems to adore. Hopefully this time I've made my annual rant a little more fun to listen to. Please, if you would, visit The Voices Project and give it a read. If you enjoy it and really want to make my day, leave me a comment.

Anything But Summer

Summer: Best viewed from behind glass.

While you're there, stick around and flip through some of the other pages and poems that are there for you to peruse through. For now, I've got to go shake my fist at the last remaining days of the season, lingering about on my lawn. There are still a handful or two before autumn officially begins, and you can bet which of my handful of fingers I'll be waving them off with. So long, summer!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Review: Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon

Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon by Bronwen Dickey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent book. Extremely well-documented and it avoids the common problem of scholarly works going dry. The author chose a hot topic right now, not only in the dog community and the humane community but also within the general public. I imagine if you simply look at her star rating here and on bookstore sites, you'll end up seeing a falsely diminished score due to people who may or may not have read it downgrading it simply due to its subject matter. On the contrary, Dickey handles the subject in a calm, sane manner that doesn't always lean to a single side of the issue. Her interviews are especially interesting since she speaks with people of all types who work and play with these dogs. There are times you'll cringe and times you'll be saying, "Yeah! Exactly!" out loud, or you will if you're as prone to talking back to the book in your hands as I am.

Even if you think this book doesn't apply to you because your dog is a golden retriever mix or rescued chihuahua or purpose-bred doberman, trust me, it does. The best part is that it won't be a drag to read. It's intelligent non-fiction that reads like a juicy biography, and it should since it's really a biography of a breed that everyone has an opinion about.

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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Review: Cleaning the Kingdom: Insider Tales of Keeping Walt's Dream Spotless

Cleaning the Kingdom: Insider Tales of Keeping Walt's Dream Spotless Cleaning the Kingdom: Insider Tales of Keeping Walt's Dream Spotless by Ken Pellman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'll admit, I'm predisposed to loving all things Disney, being born into a family of Disney fans, as I was. And it's true, I'm predisposed to loving all things related to keeping things clean, having OCD and mysophobia*, as I do. Still I think this book is fascinating to nearly anyone who is at all curious about theme parks in general, Disneyland, what it's like to be a Disney Cast Member, or wondered how the parks maintain that exterior shine of glitter and pixie dust when you just know people are puking after riding teacups, and that many of those thousands of little kids brought in every day are still pretty darn inept at using the potty.

Enter the Janis! Not Janis, like the Muppet, but Jani-short-for-janitorial. Plural. They see all, they know all, and a lot of that is recorded in this book. I resisted opening it up to the chapter containing all their grossest stories to read them first, but when I finally got to that roller coaster ride full of "oh my god"s and a few moments that might make you need to put down the book and go wash your hands, I found myself wishing it was longer. This book is just fun. The authors do a great job of bringing you into their experiences in a way that makes you feel like you belong, like you're right there behind them trying to keep up as your broom and pan (metal, if you're lucky) knock against your knees. It's your first day doing what they do, and you're feeling lucky to get to do it.

The book definitely could have used an editor, or at least a proofreader. If you can overlook the editing errors and typos, the writing is very good and the content is fascinating. I loved this book, it's one of the best books I have read all year (365 days, not just January), and I hope that they will get together with some cast members from Walt Disney World to produce a follow up. If they do, I'd be honored to be the one to proofread it, pro bono, just to get to be the first to read it.

*That's germs, not mice. I love mice! Very clean mice.

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Friday, March 23, 2018


In the shower yesterday I had the serendipitous luck to hear this story about a couple of authors coming to the area who have had obsessive-compulsive disorder slither its way into their work, much as it has into mine. If you get a chance, please visit this link to the story. I'll definitely be checking out their books.

One topic they touched upon briefly that made me "hell yes"-out-loud was how common it is for people to say, "Oh I'm so OCD about" X or Y. This is something that makes me cringe on a regular basis, and not just because of the grammatical problems it creates. I don't want to be hypersensitive about it, but on the other hand it trivializes something that is anything but trivial for the people who live with it. So please, unless you honestly mean that your brain torments you with fears that prey on everything you care about most, and that X or Y are legitimate clinical tics that compel you to publically repeat often-humiliating behaviors that you wish you could stop doing like you wish you could keep breathing, please don't say you're "OCD" about it. #OCDIsNotAnAdjective

Anyway, I've been meaning to post some more sample poems to my site for a while, so I'm taking this as a nudge to share one on this topic today. First published by Open Minds Quarterly of Sudbury, Ontario, I hope you like it.

High Functioning

Mr. Hughes, or may I call you Howard?
I’m sure we know each other well enough, living
in the same disturbance as we do, albeit
at opposite ends of the century.  Me, obsessive, you
compulsive, and also the other way round.

We’re grifters, you and I
flashing a series of parlor tricks, one furtive tic
and then another. Artists of escape, slipping
out of handshakes, turns of doorknobs, disappearing
into the safe small sterility of hotel rooms
and other dark, yet shiny places. Even there our most delicious
cravings are coated in terror that drops
into our laps in the quiet late at night like a flat, ovoid
cockroach losing its grip as it crosses the ceiling. Infected?
Syphilitic movie starlets? MRSA creeping hot and silent
into the divot of another scab irresistibly gouged
by frantic fingers desperately digging for the clean, fresh
untainted flesh beneath the platelet crust of our own mortality?

We hold the world together with cellophane tape
and a ton of excuses. It’s a nonstop sideshow
trick, pulling a never ending rope, hand over hand,
even as the fibers fray apart. Knotting faster than the human eye
can see. The imperfect spaces terrify me, the same as you. The truth
we hide beneath forcibly-slowed breaths is that
we can never be sure. Are we hallucinating or are they blind?
It’s still unanswered, Hughsy, and we’re both held
captive by that question, in the same dark cell.
Our fears crossing hand over hand through time.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

"Cats, Remember", a poem in honor of the Women's March on Washington

Cats, Remember isn't a poem I wrote for the occasion. The issue of women's rights isn't something that was invented for today either, it's just an occasion that calls for a reminder that we won't be property, we won't be subjegated, and that we won't be ignored.

This is a poem about cats, but it's important to remember something that's been observed in the fight against animal abuse: cats, in particular, tend to be "practice victims" of abuse, torture, and killings for people who go on to victimize women. There are speculations as to why the cat, male or female, is the species so often chosen in this case. Some believe it's the cat's independence and refusal to be fully tamed.

Special thanks to the Gertrude Poetry Journal, where this poem first appeared, the Gertrude Poetry Award, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and The Blind Man's Rainbow where it subsequently appeared.

Cats, Remember

Remember the drowning,
young rough edged hands and drawstring bags,
the burn of  summer evening sunlight on burlap, thrashing
elbows and knees of eight siblings and a mother, growling,
angrier than a hiss.

Remember the stomach drop plunge into
cold still water and the frantic swish
of claw cutting faces, ears, paws,
and the cool feeling of blood
drawing away.

Remember the first to go down
sudden stillness, an involuntary twitch.
Remember when it was the one above you,
her weight like a fist, pushing pushing.

Pushing weight without movement, just the bearing
down, the still heart and heavy ribs above you like the collapse
of a tired house under the dark green weight of kudzu vine.
Just one kitten lump and then another, smaller,
more compact. There is no sound, only the silent dis-
solve of another lifetime disposed.

Remember this, when they feed you.
Remember this, when the collar clicks on,
when they stroke your kitten ears and pretend
to love your slick satin coat and
the white iron bones beneath.

Remember this, when it is time
for warm baths or revolution.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Really? 50?

I love Goodreads. I love knowing what my friends are reading. I love writing reviews and reading them. I love having a place to put my "want to read" list and if they would make it easy to print in a handy-dandy compact form so I wouldn't get book amnesia the minute I walk into Ed McKay, it would be positively indispensable. No, I'm not getting free books or kickbacks. Heck, they haven't even published one of my poems in their monthly newsletter. Which reminds me==reading the monthly newsletter poem, chosen via slush pile by a guest judge, is another of my favorite things. Goodreads is just something I'm really nerdy about.
My cat eats books faster than I can read them.

What I don't like is the way their annual reading pledge that encourages obsessive people like me to think, "Sure I can read fifty books in 365 days. Who can't?" Yeah, Veronica. Were you thinking of devoting this year to re-reading the Frog and Toad are Friends series, perhaps going for the long haul with the Superfudge books after that? Get cerebral with the Sweet Valley High series? Nothing against any of those books, all of which I adore, I just didn't account for the fact that most books I read are...wordier. So...the main thing I've learned so far is that I am unrealistically ambitious and a far slower reader than I thought. It's even worse when I really like a book. I start getting lengthily distracted every other page, picturing scenes in my head, arguing with myself regarding whether or not I think the protagonist would really do whatever he just did, and/or looking up words in the O.E.D. Not even obscure words, but words that make me wonder if I am absolutely certain I know every nuance of, and words I've only read, not encountered verbally and therefore find myself killing the next fifteen minutes trying to decipher the dictionary's pronunciation key so I don't sound like a dork the next time I try to casually use the word in conversation. Biopic. Is it Bye'-Ah-Pick or Bye-Oh'-Pic?

Violet in action: une gourmande de mots

mOf course, now that I wrote down my fifty book overreach, and better yet, wrote it someplace public, I have to make a concerted effort to accomplish that goal. I honestly doubt I can make it, but it nonetheless has me reading four books at once to try. You can read my previous reviews on Goodreads, and I'll be posting some of them here. Make your own account and friend or follow me on Goodreads, so you too can submit poems to the open call for the coveted monthly newsletter spot and plot an overreaching reading goal for yourself and scramble madly about for the rest of 2017, wondering if travel pamphlets and lost pet flyers can count as books.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Riff Zine's Inaugural Issue

Riff Zine is a new literary magazine with a different theme for every issue. The first? Shakespeare. The fifth? It's the page my poem is on. Check it out!