For Florenz: “Yes” by Catherine Doty

from Momentum 

Yes 

It’s about the blood
banging in the body,
and the brain
lolling in its bed
like a happy baby.
At your touch, the nerve,
that volatile spook tree,
vibrates. The lungs
take up their work
with a giddy vigor.
Tremors in the joints
and tympani,
dust storms
in the canister of sugar.
The coil of ribs
heats up, begins
to glow. Come
here.

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For Florenz: “Childhood Elegy” by Joseph O. Legaspi

When I think of my first book, Imago, which would forever be my first, I can’t help but feel immense gratitude.  In part because I felt heartened and validated that someone, a duo, a generous publisher, believed enough in my poems to package and deliver them to the world.  And how unsurprising that one of those important someone was Florenz Eisman.  Such a kind soul, Florenz was nurturing but also truthful, upfront with her opinions, ready with her advice.  With her guidance, the process of book-birthing was relatively painless, rather invigorating and surprisingly humane.  I’ll always be thankful and indebted to Florenz, who played a huge role in making my dream of a book come true.
-Joseph O. Legaspi

 

Childhood Elegy

If our angels hover above us,
they will see a darkening cornfield, the spectral traces
of lightning bugs, and two brothers
lying among the stalks.
We come because sometimes it is hard to live.

The cornstalks, limp under the tropical sun,
revive in the cool of twilight.
The angels will know we have been here for hours.
They will land and rest their feathers around us
and whisper soothing names of winged things: finch, monarch,
whippoorwill, ptarmigan, Daedalus, Icarus, Gabriel…

The angels will bend down and touch their faces
onto ours and borrow our eyes: Earlier,
a horse slipped, breaking its leg.
A boy stood beside his younger brother.
Their father came into the stable, carrying a gun.
Quails flitted out of a bamboo tree; the boy 

traced the trail that had led him here,
the field tilled by the dead horse,
where his brother laid down,
dust on his cheeks.   

 

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ADA Awareness Month: ASL poem “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe

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For Florenz: “Misconceptions of Childhood” by Celia Bland

I send along this poem because I remember that Florenz liked it — she thought it, I believe, rather mordantly funny, and asked me if Bernini’s orgiastic depiction of St. Theresa had inspired the last verse (yes, yes!).    Florenz was a lovely woman — thoughtful, kind, quick to laughter.  My experience with the production of my first book was first-rate from beginning to end, from the editorial side (Joan) to the design (Peter) to the dailiness of production, marketing, etc. (Florenz).  I read at a fundraiser for CavanKerry with Jean Valentine and I remember watching Florenz’s face as she listened: so open to the enjoyment of image and idiom and phrasing, so ready to enter into the sensual experience of poetry.  So alive to the community of readers and listeners.  A true woman of letters.
It was a pleasure and a privilege to have known her.
-Celia Bland

Misconceptions of Childhood

                    from Soft Box 

My father was a sidewise Jack,
always in profile, a hand on his rod.
His pack was a Destroyer, said my mother,
where he played ping-pong on
the deck, two fingers flat on his spade.
I saw his photo: a big-bellied dick
in a tailor-made sailor suit.
“Bye-Bye!” he waved, and out I
sprang, strong enough
to shove all the drawers shut.

My teeth took root. White
stalagmites, their stems sunk inward
and rotted. Biting strawberries,
they sheared unripe heads from
luscious tips.
The leaves caused a rash.

My mouth’s toes, St. Theresa,
grind with your hips
when you close your eyes. Sex is
sacred, you say.
Leaving me, to prove it.

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The Writer’s Janus: On Inspiration and Process

In Track a Book, we follow one manuscript’s journey from creation to publication.  This monthly series will look at Brent Newsom’s upcoming CavanKerry release Love’s Labors, which is scheduled for release in April 2015.

Janus1

Credit: Loudon dodd

The Writer’s Janus: On Inspiration and Process

By Brent Newsom

In the writer’s life—or in this writer’s life, at least—inspiration and process are names for the two faces of a Janus: one looking forward, the other looking back, and back, and back. Inspiration, the rush of words and ideas spilling forth in the euphoria of a creative moment, looks ever forward like a mad, visionary genius, saying, “Good, yes, keep going, this is going to be great, the best thing you’ve written—no: that’s ever been written!” And while you know inspiration is a flatterer and a flirt and given to hyperbole, you’re tempted to listen. Process, the plodding and drawn-out work of revision, of tinkering and refining a stanza or a line or a phrase, is the more prudent of these twins (and the boring one at cocktail parties). Process looks back at the page and points to the cliché in the very first line, to the awkward phrasing, to the weak line endings, to the muddled metaphors and lackluster language. And Process has the gall to ask, “What is this poem about, anyway?”

Of course these creative forces aren’t so opposed as I’ve made them seem. Like Janus’s two faces, they’re attached. They overlap and interweave. Invite process for brunch, and inspiration will probably show up too. (Who doesn’t love brunch?) Scrapping the second quatrain of your sonnet—those easy rhymes and the halting meter—makes way for a new burst of inspired energy, one that could make the poem richer and more surprising than before. And when you’re talking about a book, not just a single poem, inspiration and process are layered together so thickly they’re nearly inseparable.

The earliest poems that will be included in Love’s Labors were drafted in 2007. I was living in Louisiana, the state where I was born and raised, and to which I’d returned after living other places. In a burst of creative inspiration, I began writing short narrative poems set in a fictional Louisiana town I called Smyrna. I peopled the town with citizens and like those I’d observed in my home state—salt-of-the-earth people with their inherent contradictions and struggles and celebrations and faults. I envisioned a whole book of these poems. A Spoon River Anthology of sorts for Louisiana in the twenty-first century. But the revision process revealed certain weaknesses with this scheme: poems overpopulated with peripheral characters, a lack of clear focal points, the possible tedium a reader might feel when faced with one persona poem after another. Over the next few years I scrapped some of those poems and reshaped others, focused on a few recurring characters.

Meanwhile, in 2008 my wife became pregnant with our first child, and the prospect of becoming a father unleashed inspiration in a big way. Though I knew it was dangerous—how to write about babies without producing treacly sap?—I found it hard to write about anything else. But what about the Smyrna idea? Would these poems be part of a different manuscript? And then there were, occasionally, poems seemingly unrelated to either of these driving forces. Where did they fit?

As inspiration and process did their work over the next couple of years, a web of shared themes emerged: issues related to place, family, and faith, as well as motifs of automotive imagery and a concern with America’s twenty-first century wars. By 2010 I’d drafted all of the poems that remain in the collection. I began to see that the poems spoke to one another in ways I hadn’t noticed or anticipated as I was writing them. I was in the doctoral program in English at Texas Tech University then, and the community of poets there helped me greatly to see such connections where I’d missed them before: it wasn’t two or three different books I was writing, but one book. I developed an early version of the collection (with a title I later abandoned) as the creative portion of my dissertation project.

But the work of restructuring the book and revising the poems continued up until CavanKerry Press accepted the manuscript in 2013, and then after that, throughout the editorial process, up until July 2014. (Remember: process looks back, and back, and back.) By the time the book is published, eight years will have passed since those earliest poems were drafted, making Love’s Labors a true labor of love. It’s a labor I’m proud of precisely because inspiration and process have both been given their due.

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For Florenz: “Overcast October First” by Wanda S. Praisner

Always with warmth and grace, Florenz guided my work from manuscript to print to delivery.
I was sorry I never met her, never had a chance to say hello–or good-bye.
-Wanda S. Praisner

Overcast October First
from Where the Dead Are

A friend called from the UK,
wished me Happy Rabbit’s Day, luck
for the first of the month, a family custom.
Here too it’s fog, no luck finding
the Great Blue Heron, actually gray, absent
since leaves began to fall. Like time,
when you look for it, it’s never there–
September and all its losses gone–
I cut short my son’s last call to watch TV,
told my mother in the hospital
I’d visit in the evening–
the silence now of words never spoken.

My friend ended the call
with Happy White Rabbit’s Day,
what his granddaughter wished him earlier,
but I’m still with gray: the rabbit’s foot
my grandfather gave me after butchering one
for supper, I not knowing what luck was,
still don’t. But I know gray: squirrels
crossing the meadow, nuts carried
in mouths for burial; a rabbit foot matted
in blood; the heron spending time elsewhere,
gone without a goodbye—
no well-wishes, not even See you later.

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ADA Awareness Month: Joan Seliger Sidney

Although I first met Joan Seliger Sidney at a gathering of CavanKerry Press authors, I didn’t really meet her until I read Body of Diminishing Motion, her powerful collection of poetry and prose which was published by CavanKerry in 2004. In the four-plus years that I’ve been working at CKP, Joan has been, and continues to be, one of my go-to people because she, in actions as well as words, supports the work, particularly the community outreach work, done by the press. She’s also one of my go-to people because I love how she, a founding member of the CKP ADA Advisory Board, brings her keen mind, quick humor and big heart to whatever she does. Check out her website to learn more about her and about her books.
-Teresa Carson, Associate Publisher

 

MY WHEELCHAIR LIFE

by Joan Seliger Sidney

Since this is Disabilities Awareness Month, Teresa asked me to blog about some of the obstacles I’ve faced despite being helped by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Let me begin with today’s experience at the Mansfield Community Center, where most mornings I swim up to half a mile—that’s eighteen laps! Because my multiple sclerosis (MS) has progressed to where I can no longer be independent in the Women’s Locker Room—a place I miss both for friendship and poetic inspiration—my husband, Stu and I use the Family Changing Room, which we have helped make wheelchair-accessible. There’s even a sign on the door with a wheelchair symbol and the words, “In consideration of patrons who need to use the accessible changing room, please use another one, if it’s available.”  Well, you can probably guess what comes next, my gripe: This morning, as happens too many mornings, Stu and I shivered in the hallway in our wet swim suits while one person occupied the room, telling us she’d be out “in a minute.” I recognized the voice of an English Department secretary, who emerged ten minutes later without a cane or wheelchair, energized by her strenuous “boot camp” exercise class. “Why do you need this room?” I asked. “Because I have osteoporosis in my back and need to sit down.” As if there aren’t benches in the Women’s Locker Room for her slim body. If all the (MCC) members with osteoporosis behaved like her, I’d never get to use this changing room.

Next gripe: Since from my wheelchair I drive my ramped mini-van with hand-controls, there’s the usual parking problem with healthy drivers taking handicapped spots: “I was only a minute” is the usual answer, while I wait much longer, wondering where’s the police who could ticket and collect a hefty fine. Once, even a resident trooper refused to ticket the guy he found relaxing in Starbucks, who said, “It won’t happen again.” In contrast, another time a resident trooper traced the woman who threatened to run me over as I copied down her license, and fined her in her kitchen! Of course, there are still the ignorant people with handicapped permits who park in the crosshatched area, blocking my ramp, making it impossible for me to get back in my car. Shouldn’t there be some kind of education along with each permit the Department of Motor Vehicles issues? Speaking of permits, though they’re no longer Lifetime Pendants, it’ll take awhile to get rid of the dead people’s permits that healthy relatives use, and unless they put photos on the new pendants, there will still be family members abusing them.

Now, finally, onto the story I told Theresa, which generated her suggestion for this blog. In connection with my new book, Bereft And Blessed, my publisher, Antrim House, arranged for me to participate in his local TV series, “Speaking of Poetry.” But when I came to the studio, there was no way to drive my wheelchair onto the stage. Was I the station’s first non-ambulatory on-screen participant? Fortunately, since I’m a lightweight and the producer was young and strong, he lifted me up and into the comfortable armchair onstage.

 

 


 

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For Florenz: “Bathing in Your Brother’s Bathwater” by Nin Andrews

I never met Florenz in person, but I always looked forward to her emails. Always kind and encouraging, she offered such great comments and insights.   Even over the internet, she could light up my day.
-Nin Andrews

 

Bathing in Your Brother’s Bathwater

 from Southern Comfort

Bathing, Miss De Angelo informed us in health class,

is very important, especially once you become a teenager.

In fact I can smell many of you this very day,

so I advise every one of you girls

to go home and take a good long bath tonight.

I know some of your folks like to skimp on water,

but consider it homework.

Say Miss De Angelo assigned it to you.

But girls, let me warn you.

Never take a bath in the same water as your teenage brother.

Why?

Well picture this.

All those tiny bubbles settling on your legs

when you sit in a nice tub of water?

If you could count every itty, bitty bubble,

that would be only a fraction of how many sperm

stream from a single man.

Even if he doesn’t touch himself,

the water does.

And it only takes one.

One fast-moving whip-tailed sperm.

And you know how easy it is to catch a cold,

how quickly that little virus races clear through you.

And once that happens,

no one will believe you’re any Virgin Mary,

no matter what you say.

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ADA Awareness Month: Robert Carr and The Cultural Access Network Project

As I mentioned in my first piece for ADA Awareness Month, I recently attended an ADA Plan training session facilitated by John McEwen and Robert Carr of the Cultural Access Network Project. John and Robert are passionate about helping New Jersey’s cultural organizations make their programs accessible to everybody. Robert generously agreed to answer some questions about the work of CAN and about the importance of accessibility for all. He asked John to field the last question. Thank you Robert and John!
-Teresa Carson, Associate Publisher

195_NJTA_Program_Graphics_CAN

CavanKerry Press
What is the Cultural Access Network Project and why was it established?

Robert Carr
The Cultural Access Network Project, established in 1992 is a co-sponsored program of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. The Project provides a wide range of services and programs to assist theatres and cultural organizations in making their programs and facilities accessible to seniors and people with disabilities. It was created in response to the Americans with Disabilities Act signed into law in 1990.

It is comprised of a committee of arts administrators, advocates and professionals that are well versed in the field of accessibility.

CKP
Why is it important for NJ cultural organizations to make their programs and facilities accessible to seniors and individuals with disabilities?

CARR
According to the recent census, it is estimated that over 10% of NJ citizens identify themselves with having a disability. As organizations in the “audience business”, not to include this population in their audience development efforts makes little sense. Our population is aging and offering accommodation only ensures that this population will continue to consider attending the rich and wonderful programming our arts organizations offer.

CKP
Please give some examples of ways in which cultural organizations provide access to programs or services.

CARR
Many performing arts organization offer American Sign Language interpretation of plays and musicals as well as providing Open Captioning and Audio Description. Offering large print Programs are an easy way to accommodate those patrons with low vision. We have seen great examples in the visual art world whereby certain paintings in collection have been converted to raised line drawings for patrons who are blind to feel in order to get an idea of the content of the painting.

CKP
Have there been changes in technology that make it easier for organizations to provide access?

CARR
Technology in the access arena is developing rapidly. More and more technologies are being developed to harness the power of smartphones and other personal devices. The New Jersey Theatre Alliance purchases and loans Assistive Listening devices that work by transmitting an FM signal that is picked up by a personal receiver for use in either Audio Description or Volume Enhancement. I expect 3D printing technology to be a boon for Visual Arts organizations by offering samples of artwork and sculpture that may not be able to be handled directly but can be recreated by having the item be 3D printed as a facsimile.

CKP
How does the Cultural Access Network Project support cultural organizations in their efforts to make their programs and services accessible?

CARR
We offer a wealth of programs and services such as technical assistance workshops, sensitivity training and equipment loan to aid organizations as they develop their access efforts. We also administer in partnership with the NJ State Arts Council, the collection and evaluation of ADA plans that are a part of the Arts Council grant requirement.

CKP
How long have you been involved with the Cultural Access Network Project? What changes, particularly in how cultural organizations approach accessibility, have you seen since you began?

CARR
I am currently entering my 10th year of work with the Cultural Access Network.  The greatest change I have witnessed is the growing sense of priority in the arts field. More and more organizations are “getting on board” with this work.

CKP
Please describe your vision for the future of the Cultural Access Network Project.

CARR
I would defer this question to the Founder and Chairman of the Cultural Access Network and Executive Director of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance, John McEwen. I have asked him to answer this one.

John McEwen
As a result of the work of The Cultural Access Network Project, I see a future where every cultural organization in New Jersey has an understanding and commitment to making its programs, services and facilities accessible to all patrons.  In addition, I envision organizations, large and small, designing  innovative programs to ensure a wide range of constituents, including older adults and people with disabilities, can enjoy and participate in the arts with dignity and independence.


About Robert Carr
Robert is a life-long resident of New Jersey, a spectacular cook and a seasoned veteran in the arts community. Since 2005, Robert has served as Director of Programs and Services/ADA Coordinator for the New Jersey Theatre Alliance, the award winning service organization for NJ’s professional theatres. Previously, Bob served as General Manager for the 12 Miles West Theatre Company. He called Playwrights Theatre home from 1998 to 2004 and in his professional career has worn many hats as producer, actor, director and teaching artist. He has also served on the faculty of New Jersey School of Dramatic Arts in Bloomfield. As a performer he has worked in many of the Alliance’s member theatres including 12 Miles West, The Bickford Theatre, The Growing Stage; The Children’s Theatre of NJ, Luna Stage Company and Playwrights Theatre. Carr is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and is a proud member of Actors Equity Association. Robert is husband to Stephanie and father to Sabrina. 

 

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For Florenz: “To Forgive Is” by Pamela Spiro Wagner

from We Mad Climb Shaky Ladders

to begin
and there is so much to forgive:
for one, your parents, one and two,
out of whose dim haphazard coupling
you sprang forth roaring, indignantly alive.
For this, whatever else followed,
innocent and guilty, forgive them.
If it is day, forgive the sun
its white radiance blinding the eye;
forgive also the moon for dragging the tides,
for her secrets, her half heart of darkness;
whatever the season, forgive it its various
assaults — floods, gales, storms
of ice — and forgive its changing;
for its vanishing act, stealing what you love
and what you hate, indifferent,
forgive time; and likewise forgive
its fickle consort, memory, which fades
the photographs of all you can’t remember;
forgive forgetting, which is chaste
and kinder than you know;
forgive your age and the age you were
when happiness was afire in your blood
and joy sang hymns in the trees;
forgive, too, those trees, which have died;
and forgive death for taking them,
inexorable as God; then forgive God
His terrible grandeur, His unspeakable
Name; forgive, too, the poor devil
for a celestial fall no worse than your own.
When you have forgiven whatever is of earth,
of sky, of water, whatever is named,
whatever remains nameless,
forgive, finally, your own sorry self,
clothed in temporary flesh,
the breath and blood of you
already dying.
Dying, forgiven, now you begin.

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