Poet Tips


This website is awesome – you enter the name of a poet you like and it spits out some awesome recommendations. And just by some brief checking, the suggestions are excellent and the range of poets suggested even better (I checked for Anne Carson, Kenneth Rexroth, and Cathy Linh Che).

https://poet.tips/

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‘Shadowplay’ By Tad Williams


Point number one, Williams’ writing is not relentlessly grim, but his books are far too grim, at least, for the writer to go by ‘Tad.’ It’s just weird.

Second, I think I have merely transferred my bibliomaniacal tendencies to buy books towards checking them out from the library. Books on hold are being made available faster than I can read them (and certainly, fatherhood has slowed down my reading – a nearly seven year old, precocious, and active adopted child does not lend itself to quiet contemplation, though the trade off is certainly worthwhile). I had to renew this book once and I feel like the other two borrowed books in my possession will not be done before they are due. And I have more in the queue. We all have problems. This one, I suppose, is not even the worst of mine.

The level of ‘high fantasy’ – magic and monsters and the like – is higher than before. In fact, this series is actually, pretty textbook high fantasy, but it feels like it isn’t, because there is a certain grimness running through it.

I miss the realpolitik of the first volume, but it did a decent job of fleshing out the world and making the threats faced by the ‘good guys’ (two of whom are actually girls; arguably to primary protagonist is a self-possessed adolescent girl) more three dimensional than before.

But I still don’t feel one hundred percent convinced, though his writing is good enough, clearly, that I have now read five books by him (in two series).

DC Artist Anne Truitt


Ok. I hadn’t actually heard of her until I read a (positive) review of the exhibit in the Washington Post. But I did go see her in the tower gallery at the East Wing of the National of Art. And I liked her.

It helps that she was a DC artist. Not just someone from DC (and technically, she was born in Baltimore) who then moved away, but someone who lived and worked in DC for most of her career. Thank you. We are an artsy city and unless your name is New York or Paris, we can probably kick your butt, arts-wise.

Her minimalist work, spaced out in the large, high ceilinged, and vaguely trapezoidal gallery, gave the space the feeling of a secular temple (maybe like the Rothko Chapel, to which I’ve never been). Which made it so disappointing that there was only one small bench, set off to the side were you really couldn’t see much of the art very well. This exhibit was just begging for a couple of rows of pews, where people could pray or meditate in a setting that really called for an appreciation of art as a spiritual practice.

Jackson Pollock’s Mural


I apologize for the distortion cause by my effort to use the ‘panorama’ function on my iphone

I am only slightly ashamed to admit that I first learned about this mural from the Ed Harris biopic, Pollock (which also helped to promote the apparently misguided belief that Pollock painted the massive work nearly overnight – the exhibit makes clear that he had been working and making progress on it for a period of at least several weeks).

So it was awesome to finally see it in person… and disappointing.

This is the first time the mural has ever been displayed in DC. The decision was made to pair it with one of my favorite paintings from the National Gallery’s permanent collection, Number 1, 1950, better known as Lavender Mist.

I first encountered Lavender Mist in a college art textbook, but without seeing it’s scale (it’s extremely large, but less than enormous), it’s impossible to fully appreciate. Sometimes, I will visit the National Gallery for the sole purpose of spending twenty minutes sitting in front of it. I’ve done that at least a dozen times (besides shorter visits, or visits focused on other works) and I’ve never grown tired of the work.

And… Lavender Mist is better than Mural. It just is. And it kind of ruined Mural for me. I wish I could have seen it on it’s own. Surely it’s important enough to be placed where one can soak it in, undistracted by other large works?

Bad call, curator. Bad call.

 

Vermeer And The Masters Of Genre Painting (At The National Gallery Of Art)


I have never been a tremendous Vermeer fan; I appreciate him, but do not love him nor seek him out. Overall, I was as enthralled by his featured contemporaries as I was by the master himself.

But I was deeply struck by a tiny aspect of a Vermeer. Woman with a Lute featured metal studs securing the leather covering a chair that ‘popped’ so dramatically that I had to stop, because in that first moment, I would have sworn they were three dimensional. I looked for some kind of painterly trick, but there was none. And it’s not like the studs were (to my amateur eye, at least) something of thematic or compositional importance. They were (presumably) a representation of the same plain (brass, I would guess) studs on the chair that was the model for this chair. But, wow.

Woman with a Lute

I saw a similar effect in the gold decorations on the sleeve of a woman in another Vermeer, Young Woman Seated at a Virginal.

But I can’t help but feel like that, if I were given sixty seconds to grab one from off the wall and make a run for it, I would not go for Vermeer (assuming we are thinking about keeping the painting and now trying to pawn it; in which case, Vermeer would have more value). His moralizing feels too stern and off putting, like a white evangelical church in Appalachian hill country that forbids dancing.

The exhibition (as the curators note) is heavy on images of women. It might almost be called feminist. So it felt a little sad that my favorite painting is actually one that features no women at all. But I have always been drawn to representations of writing and books and maybe I am looking for myself in these.

Man Writing a Letter, by Gabriel Metsu

Adopting Older Children


I do not have any great wisdom to impart in dealing with the particular issues parents face when they adopt an older child, because I haven’t been such a parent for very long. But I would like to make a pitch on behalf of older children needing parents.

First, ‘older children’ can be a bit of a misnomer. The sad truth is, if a child is not matched with a prospective couple by the time he or she is two or three… that child will probably never be adopted. Never. They’re done. Sure, it can happen, but so can winning the powerball lottery. Have you won forty million dollars lately? I didn’t think so.

There are a lot of (justified) complaints about how a woman over forty is no longer valued, but this is a class of people who are no longer valued when they might still need potty training.

It was easy for us to choose to adopt our child. She was five when we first saw her picture (and almost seven when we were finally able to adopt her), and we were in love instantly; we didn’t have any interest in any other children after that – younger, older, whatever… we knew who our daughter was.

But the circumstances that led us to her – to that photograph, at just the right time when it was available to be seen – were convoluted and unlikely. A butterfly sneezes in Latvia in 1989 and maybe everything transpires differently and we never see her.

And if we we hadn’t, the sad and terrible truth is, our beautiful, intelligent, loving child would almost certainly never be placed with adoptive parents. It feels shocking to say. Who would not want her?

Most prospective parents only want babies or toddlers. And I can understand that, but now I can also understand how terrible a bias that is. That an adopted child is not a replacement for a hypothetical biological child is one of the first lessons you learn, but by adopting mewling little one who still needs diapers changed, it is easier to pretend that he or she is a replacement. We cannot pretend that. It’s okay – because she is wonderful for who she is (and she is quickly and weirdly beginning to resemble both her parents). But we did have to shed an illusion that many adoptive parents would rather cling to.

Beyond how wonderful our child is, there is a moral calculus. Ultimately, adopting is a moral decision. A parent has already taken the first step to decide to take into their home, a child who needs a family.

So take an additional step and consider an older child. Most people won’t do that, so babies will always be more ‘valuable’ than other children. But adopting a child who is six year old is a more moral act than adopting a baby. People who adopt children over ten are saints.

You will miss out on things, but the child was in danger of missing out on nearly everything. You have to accept that it is not about you. But that is part of what being a parent is, I guess. I guess because I do not know anything yet.

But while I may not know much about parenting. But while I may turn out to be a really bad dad who messes everything up. For all that, I do know that some actions are better than others.

Death By Sex Machine


I am too lazy to go into too much detail, save to say the poems are better than the titillating title. And power through the first quarter of the chapbook, which was so disappointing that I almost put it down without finishing it, because the rest is three quarters awesome (still a few stinkers, but the ratio is good).

It’s also worthwhile because in a post Trump, post Weinstein environment, her interrogations of the desiring gaze targeting women in various positions of psychic weakness feels more than usually relevant.