POETRY MONTH @ 21

VILLAGE HOUSE OF BOOKS at 21 Main Street, Los Gatos, CA hosted the launch party for (AFTER)life: Poems and Stories of the Dead published by Victoria Johnson’s Purple Passion Press at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 22, 2015. The cover painting, ‘The Grass Bends’, is by local artist Lacey Bryant. The anthology is edited by Renée M. Schell, Barbara Froman, and Marta Svea Wallien.

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The reading was great fun. Can you imagine getting paid for your poem, two free books, and a T-shirt? My poem is called “Remains”, which I unearthed from some notes I took when I lived near the Coquille River in Oregon.

Village Houselaunch photo

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AROUND TOWN: TWO WRITERS PUT LOVE OF OLD HOLLYWOOD INTO WORDS…

…AND THEY WERE REWARDED. KHALIDA SARWARI of Silicon Valley Community Newspapers wrote this article that was published in the Los Gatos Community Paper, Around Town, on August 8, 2014. The Mercury News originally carried the article on August 6, 2014.

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Longtime Saratoga residents Audry Lynch and Mary Lou Taylor thanks share a love of writing and of old Hollywood.

Last month Lynch, 81, and Taylor, 84, were honored at the Hollywood Festival of Books held in the Academy Room at the Roosevelt Hotel for their individual books, both of which shine a spotlight on the movie stars of yore. In The Rebel Figure in American Literature and Film, Lynch reveals an interconnection between movie star James Dean and novelist John Steinbeck; and Taylor’s The Fringes of Hollywood teleports readers back to another era, or as Taylor describes in her poem, “Glamour Redux,” “manicured lawns and silks and furs in Beverly Hills, Grauman’s Chinese sculpted in footprints of the stars, bright glow on a hill that spelled out ‘Hollywood’ in giant white letters.”

“Glamour Redux” is one of more than 70 poems in “Fringes,” almost all of them about Hollywood or her experience growing up in southwest L.A. and running into the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Gary Cooper.

“I thought, I want to write about this,” Taylor said. “In the ’40s and ’50s the stars were pretty big. I went to school with them and ran into them in bathrooms. It’s fun to think back on it.”

Lynch said she, too, was swept up by the magic of Tinseltown. “We just succumbed to the glamour of Hollywood,” she said.

Both ladies and their families went down to Los Angeles for the award ceremony on July 26, where Lynch accepted an award for best book in the biography and autobiography category and Taylor’s collection of poems was declared the winner in the wild card category. Lynch described the ceremony as “a mini Oscar evening for writers.” Taylor fell ill and sent her husband and friend to accept the award on her behalf.

Lynch has had a 40-year obsession with Steinbeck, making him the focal point in two other books, titled Steinbeck Remembered and With Steinbeck in the Sea of Cortez. Her latest book looks at how the lives of Steinbeck, Dean and director Elia Kazan intersected on Kazan’s East of Eden, based on Steinbeck’s 1952 novel. The movie catapulted all three to fame.

The book also traces similarities between Steinbeck and Dean, the main ones being that both were college dropouts who hailed from small towns and conservative families. Dean and Steinbeck both disliked their hometowns and left at the age of 18, but were buried there–Dean in Marion, Ind., and Steinbeck in Salinas–upon their death.
In life, both men had difficult personas and complicated relationships and struggled with the notion that they had disappointed their fathers.

“Through it all, they were producing all these genius films and books,” Lynch said. “I thought it was amazing they were so alike.”‘

Lynch is working on a book about Mark Twain and his travels to Bermuda, where he is considered a rock star, she said. She is a member of the California Writers Club and the National League of American Pen Women. Lynch is a graduate of Harvard University, Boston University and the University of San Francisco, where she obtained a doctorate degree in psychology.

Before committing her life to writing, she served as a guidance counselor for 32 years and taught English at Mission College for 25 years. Lynch has lived in Saratoga since 1970.

Taylor is also working on publishing a new book. Hers will be another poetry collection titled Bringing Home the Moon, and will explore “constraint versus flight.”

She is a Montalvo Arts Center artist-in-residence and serves as a trustee for the Center for Literary Arts at San Jose State University. She graduated from UCLA and SJSU and taught English and speech at Monta Vista and Fremont High schools. Taylor has lived in Saratoga since 1967.

FRINGE BENEFITS

My friend Calder Lowe got after me to enter my “old” book, The Fringes of Hollywood, in the 2014 Hollywood Book Festival. I thought why not.

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The news came today. Can’t believe it, but Jack and I will be staying at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood on the 26th of July, 2014.

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My book, The Fringes of Hollywood, got into the Wild Card awards as an Honorable Mention. So that goes with an invitation to mingle with the other winners at the Awards ceremony, to accept the award, and to say a few words.

Here are the WILD CARD winners:

WILD CARD:
WINNER: Down One Side and Up the Other – Peter Shikli
RUNNER-UP: Law of the Desert Born: A Graphic Novel – Louis L’amour (adapted by Charles Santino, et al)



HONORABLE MENTIONS:

• Private Svoboda – Steven R. Roberts with Alexander von Svoboda
• Adventure Inward – Jonathan Wunrow
• 8 Keys to Wholeness – Donna DeNomme
• The Undiscovered Goddess – Michelle Colston
• Swanson at Sundown – Jack Ryan
• L.A. a la Cart – Richard Asperger
The Fringes of Hollywood – Mary Lou Taylor
• The United States of Theocracy – Janet K. Humphreys, Ph.D
• Murder in the Haunted House – Carolee Russell
• Time and Forever – Susan B. James
• Surveillance on the Down-Low – W.M. Sanguine

Another winner is Audry Lynch for her book on John Steinbeck and James Dean, The Rebel Figure in American Literature and Film: The Interconnected Lives of John Steinbeck and James Dean.

The Rebel Figure

I was fortunate enough to review it, and the reviews were published in Pen Woman and in Steinbeck Gazette. 
Steinbeck Remembered

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BACK BEHIND A PODIUM

Belonging to the Saratoga Foothill Club has given me opportunities (maybe forced me) to delve into Frances MayesThe Discovery of Poetry: A Field Guide to Reading and Writing Poems, to read up on images, and to offer an hour-and-a-half class through the Foothill Club’s Public Lecture Series titled Introduction to Poetry. Two weeks later I worked with a memoir class to present the two types of images Mayes suggests. I also joined the memoir class a week later to hear poems they chose to read, theirs or others. And enjoyed a potluck lunch without having to contribute. Delicious.

Another opportunity arose when Erica Goss and Mari L’Esperance taught a one-day class on images at the Markham House in History Park. What a relief to discover that literal images exist and are as acceptable as figurative. A more-than-useful day. My figurative images are few.

One of my students at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino was talking with me about poetry. What he said was: “It’s pretty easy to write a good poem. It’s almost impossible to write a great one.” I’ve never forgotten those words. An Introduction to Poetry must begin with Billy Collins and his poem of the same name. Not a great poem, but a good one that tells a true tale in his usual clever style. Billy Collins is a favorite of mine for his use of humor.

It’s been said that a poem needs POWER AND PUNCH. If that’s the type of poem you plan to write, you’ll need images. And where do they come from? SIGHT, HEARING, TOUCH, SMELL AND TASTE—the five senses. A figurative image likens an object or experience to something else, often something surprising. The poet intends to do one or all of these:

• Go beyond the literal meaning to the senses.
• Give pleasure or surprise to the imagination.
• Impart vigor by the inclusion of a sensory detail.
• Intensify the deeper intention in the writing by adding a figurative image as a new dimension.

Here’s part of a poem, “Pleasures of the Exotic,” from my book, The Fringes of Hollywood. Note the figurative images.

Artichoke:
fortress all its own
spiked at each leaf’s tip
refusing to reveal its secrets
unless uncovered one by one
like Salome’s veils

Avocado:
its greenness snug in the palm
press it, feel it give, cut through
firmly to open its halves.
Some skin peels away
like an opening curtain;
some must go under the knife.

Papaya:
shaped like a Rubens woman
its color the warmth of the setting sun:
inside, firm flesh, smooth, slippery
its womb black pearls
full of promise

And what are literal images? : A literal image aims to replicate in words the object or experience. The writer tries to reproduce the subject realistically without comparing it to anything else. Literal images take the flatness from your writing. No more “there are” beginnings. Many fewer is, are, was and were words. Use lively verbs. Be spare with adjectives and make them count. Even more spare with adverbs. And choose a noun that goes deep into description.

Another poem from The Fringes of Hollywood, this one without figurative images. Does it work?

JACK IN THE MORNING

I fixed a peach for you, he says, coming in
to wake me. I know that at the table bowl and plate
await me, sit royally on the blue mat

knife and spoon in place. The rich aroma of coffee
follows him down the hall. I push the covers back, thrust
my feet into padded slippers, paddle

to the kitchen. We sit behind our papers in unspoken truce, broken
only by the click of the microwave door. While his coffee
heats again, he kisses me,

microwave kisses and the toot of his horn at the foot
of the driveway. Sometimes I peer through shutter slats
to watch him drive away, linger

on the front porch to wave goodbye, happy
to have ended up after all these years
breakfasting with Jack.

And so many other ways to make a poem sing—alliteration, internal rhyme, repetition to name a few. You already know most of this, but I found that a quick review of the definitions of both literal and figurative images changed my writing.

MONTALVO RESIDENCY:DAY TWO

No clock. My husband promised to call at 7:30 a.m., and that’s when the phone rang. No alarm clock, but I was already awake. I’ve made a list of what I forgot or what is missing in the studio that I want to have: the clock, a washcloth, Kleenex, a dishtowel, a wine opener and a sponge. I forgot tea, printer paper, a stapler, and envelopes and stamps. I brought a dictionary, but they furnish that. When you have your own residency, make a list.

After breakfast, I read a few poems by Adrienne Rich from 100 Essential Modern Poems by Women. Rich read in Santa Cruz this week, and many from Santa Clara County drove over to hear her. An excellent reading, I hear. Her poems are known for their technical mastery; when she won the Yale Younger Poets prize in the early fifties, that and her ability to keep the self out of her poetry interested the judges.. As her attitude and circumstances changed, the “I” returned, particularly in her love poems of the ‘70’s. The last poem in this set shows her political stance. I hope to read a poet or two a day while I’m at Montalvo..

What do those do who live in London or New York? I went home and raided the kitchen cupboards, the cabinets in the hall and my bureau drawers for missing items. Being from Saratoga is a huge help. I live only minutes away, probably the only artist in residence at Montalvo that has ever come from Saratoga. Now I’m back at the computer, ready to uncover some of those “golden words” I’m searching for.

Computer problems. I will call Mike, tech support for the residency.

Today is sunny and so bright in my studio. With windows on both sides, I have light. Darker at night. The best reading area is the bed or the desk. Good swivel lights.

Dinner tonight was another revelation: cauliflower casserole, sautéed chanterelles from the grounds here, and arugula salad. No meat.

The chef buys everything organic and so fresh; I have never tasted good arugula before. And who would dream up a cauliflower casserole?

I admit I was a little nervous eating the mushrooms, but the rest of the residents assured me that they had had them before, and they were still alive. We had more than a lively conversation at dinner: global warming, religion. Hot topics, and everyone had an opinion and expressed it. We had a guest, a biology major at Stanford who seemed to know about the warming issue. We had opinions from all across the country, which made for a good discussion, particularly on the religious topic.

Dessert was kiwi fruit. I found the fruit slips easily from the rind with a spoon.

MONTALVO RESIDENCY:DAY ONE

Montalvo Residency

What with packing clothes, food and toiletries, and getting work together to take to the Montalvo Arts Center, I didn’t show up at the Commons building to pick up my key until three. Julie Thorne was there to greet me along with her little dog Griffin. Griffin is named after the two stone animals guarding the Montalvo gate. I’ve met the little terrier before, so she ran up to greet me, tail wagging, a welcome that started things off well for my almost-two-week stay in a studio on the grounds.

 

My studio is one big room, like a loft apartment in the city. The windows are huge, the ones facing the walkways equipped with shades. My computer sits on a solid IKEA desk and overlooks tall trees and blue sky, an inspirational view for a writer. I’ve brought file after file of collected material I’ve written in the past and never transcribed. I have three goals in mind: to finish my manuscript, Finite Infinity; to find some “golden words” in all those files I brought; and to find a press that is interested in publishing a poetry anthology on Hollywood, its stars, and its myths.

I’ve met three of my fellow residents, all of them from a distant place. That’s the first question they ask: How far have you come? Two of them, from London and New York, are working in concert on a computer project. Last night at dinner they tried to explain it to me. I’ll have to see it to understand. The other lady at the table is a composer who uses the writings and poetry of others as a basis for her music. She is experimenting with a collage approach to the writings. Less hard to understand, but interesting. And Montalvo invites one staff member each night to dinner at the residency Commons to get them acquainted with what goes on outside the Villa. Last night it was Nicole, who handles weddings and other events; she was charming and wields a mean dishtowel.

Last week in the Saratoga News the feature article was on the chef at Montalvo. After transporting all my goods to my studio, I went out to lock my car. Next to it was a pick-up loaded with bag after bag of greens and groceries. Michelle Fuerst, the chef, was just returning from a trip to the Farmers’ Market in Santa Cruz, where she goes every Wednesday. I carried some of her packages into the kitchen in the Commons, where Michelle cooks dinner for the residents five days a week. She has worked at Zuni’s and Chez Panisse, learning all the tricks of two great restaurants. Montalvo brings in an intern (this time Michelle) for a year’s worth of experience in feeding varying groups of people. Culinary fellows are interviewed and selected for a one-year residency, the only one of its kind in the country, and I am particularly lucky to be a resident while this chef is here. Last night we had melt-in-the-mouth salmon, farro with yogurt and herbs, and a crisp green salad. Dessert was figs and tangerines. Perfect. She truly is an artist with a kitchen as her canvas.