...In-between sets from poet Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow

October 28, 2012

Yes! Echo Magazine's roll call for the Poetry Line!

Lovely article by Liz Massey in Echo Magazine highlighting the art of poetry and its beauty as the spoken word.  In her "Verse by Verse" section, I was thrilled to find myself mentioned in a gallery of incredible, stellar poets -- wow, the likes of Jed Allen, Alberto Rios, Regina Blakely and Cynthia Hogue. What a beautiful surprise! (Don't know who the "James" is referring to - the last name accidentally left off.)  Very insightful commentaries included, notably by Rosemary Dombrowski and Cindy Dach.  The article really gives a sense of the wonderful resurgence of poetry as art and entertainment in the larger Phoenix metropolitan area.

Here's a quote from Rosemary Dombrowski, to whet your appetite for a read at it:
"Open with a few introductory, ice-breaking remarks, followed by a poem or two that's easy to read and comprehend ... end with a poem that concludes with a profound closing stanza or series of lines. All good published writers know it's better to go out on a high note, and live readings should be no different."

               Avanti, gentile spirito!

October 27, 2012

Memoirs of a Fabulous Frenetically-Filled Friday

Whew! What a superlative day yesterday was! OK, smarmy, sentimental stuff first: I have to say I feel like the richest, most fortunate woman, to have the friends and family I have.  I am so utterly thankful to have all of you in my life. 
This is not a mug shot. I promise.

DOUG MOLITOR:  Do you see this man?  Take a good look at this man.  I mean, a really, really good look. This man is what they call a brilliant, gifted, handsome, wise, kind, person. Did I mention "kind"? "Kind" is a big deal in this world, these days. Remember kind people? The Gregory Peck-type in "To Kill a Mockingbird"?  He is one of them. Here's his extraordinary new book, MEMOIRS OF A TIME TRAVELER, just released in paperback and Kindle.  And perhaps the cover gives it away, but this is not poetry.  Well, it is poetry of a certain kind, the way-back and the way-forward, filled with entertaining insights along the way. An absolute must-buy, if you truly love literature:
But this is not the only reason why I write about this superlative man.  Let me be frank.  Doug and I have a very special relationship.  If we passed one another on the street I believe we would look slightly familiar, as if maybe we'd had a conversation from adjoining tables at a restaurant once, months ago...but, otherwise, hmm...you look familiar, but....  Such is Facewatch.  OK, hang with me, I'm getting to the action.  Some of you are familiar with "But the Gentleman to my Right."  Well, FOR FORTY-PLUS YEARS, "BTGTMR" has been figuratively PLAGUED with wondering what the name of a film is, from which he remembered only one rather, shall we say, weird scene. Additionally, with only a 7-year-old's memory at that. Kind of a James Bond-y scene but not quite.  Over 40 dingdang years pondering what could that movie be -- just think about that ladies and gentlemen, please.  Over 40 years.  I asked Doug, in desperation, about it.  [I did ask Peter, and Arye, and William, and they worked diligently -- they all worked very hard to find the movie.]  Here comes the Amen part: I put the question just after noon, about 12:15, to Doug.  "BTGTMR" has been waiting for an answer to this NAGGING movie scene for 40 YEARS (last time I say that).  And Doug! Doug had the answer in FIFTEEN minutes, by 12:31pm.  15 minutes!  Not only had he the answer, but he sent the link to view the entire movie on bluetube. Not only did he send the link to view the movie on bluetube, but he gave me the exact time, down to the minute when the scene would appear. 

Doug Molitor has a place at my table for the rest of his life.  Bless him.

Moving forward:

I met my good friend, and blossoming poet, Dorothy Stewart, for lunch at Cyclo, a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant in Chandler. I am not a picture-taker of plates of food, so just believe we enjoyed our meals, but the conversation was really the highlight of the afternoon. I love it when you can sit for a few hours, in lovely surroundings, and really get to know a fine person. And how about those orange sunspots on the walls?  That ain't nuttin'. I arrived at the restaurant before anyone was there, even the hostess.  I could hear people in the kitchen, obviously preparing food, but the front door had been open. In I walked, and sat for about six, seven minutes just looking around:Lovely environs. Pretty wall art, cool fixtures, "invisible" chairs.  Not a single person there but me at the corner table, facing the door.  And you know what I thought?  This is the old Chicago-born-bred-influenced, what else can I say, Chicago-girl in me. "Five minutes," I thought, "three guys, one van, five minutes would be all they'd need, this place would be empty. Literally. Empty. Front door wide open. This place would be totally empty." Oh, and then the hostess finally came, and then there was Dorothy! And then luncheon attendees started showing up.  Will that Chicago scheming-ness never depart completely?

But wait, there's more:
Balboa Poet House!
The night topped off with a delightful flourish of poetry, fellowship, merriment, and stimulating conversation.  Many different forms of poetry were heard, and shared, to hearty applause. It was a true poetic salon experience.  I had one of the nicest times I've ever had.  Here's a photo our wonderful hostess, Deborah Berman, took:

Here's hoping this is the beginning of a beautiful Valley tradition!  To Deborah and Joe, many thanks for welcoming all of us to your lovely, love-filled home.  (P.S. If you're looking for me, you can see 3 inches of the top of my head. I'm seated, fourth from left, right behind the very left-leaning Chris Robideaux.) 

Here's Deborah Berman's comments on the Balboa Poet House extravaganza.  I'll end this post with her very competent telling of our sweet October night:
A HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who came to Balboa Poet House tonight. It was a beautiful night of friends, food, wine and words and I am so grateful to everyone for participating. It honestly could not have gone better and truly was the night of my dreams. Thanks to Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow for the cheesecake and vodka (you're coming back over to drink it, you know!), to Debby Mitchell for her award winning guacamole (best I've ever had - for real), wine & for bringing Gary Mitchell (glad to see you're feeling better!), to Victoria Hoyt & Paul for the book I can't wait to read and the Ryan Lyin' haiku, to CChristy White, the winner of our Haiku contest!, Neil Gearns, Gary Bowers & Julie Elefante for reading their poetry, to Robert J. Lee & Jasmine for being awesome supporters of poetry...and lastly thank you, with all my heart, to Heather Smith-Gearns & Chris Robideaux for featuring, for sharing a body of your work in way few get to see. I am in such awe of your talents. Thank you for being a part of our night. We love you all! See you next time!

October 11, 2012

ROBERT OLEN BUTLER: Have Your Cake; Eat It Too!


Step over to the Preach Corner for a few seconds and let me holler at you:  The most attractive, the very most beautiful person in this world, is the person who, not merely willingly but joyously, ebulliently, with both arms throwing it out at you, gives you the knowledge they possess of the thing they know best, and they want you to have it, they want you to have it so bad that you now know it’s not actually a gift, but a duty.  And the duty for you will be to pass that very thing on to the next fellow. There is absolutely no more beautiful person in the world.  I will not spend this time telling you about all of the people who have committed this bounty to me, and they know who they are, on the many, various occasions of my life.  I want to tell you about last night.

Last night I walked into The Poisoned Pen Bookstore expecting a crowd of 60, 80, 100 people at the least. This was a Pulitzer Prize-winning, Guggenheim Fellow, Nat’l Magazine Award winner, with at least 17 books under his belt who was giving a reading.  Eight people milled around, counting Patrick, the bookshop employee.  This figure is more important than it appears, so bear it. My friend, Martha Schulzinger, came in, and now there were ten of us.  Robert Olen Butler arrived, with no attending fanfare – he’d made his way from the Valley Ho, with its bathtub eight inches from the bed’s mattress. (See Mr. Butler’s own photo on his “facewatch” page.  All puns and double entendres intended.)  [And that’s what we call “fb” in our house; we call the internet the “internut,” “nut” for short; and we call photoshop “autoshop.”] That is how we manage to not go crazy with technology that changes every three months; we make fun of it.

So, we’re engaging in introductory conversation at the front of the store, near the cash register, when Howard, whose business card I have but not the permission to disclose his private information, mentions that yes, he’s now writing his 3rd book on Van Morrison.— OK, now if you know me, you know that Van Morrison belongs to me – me alone; of course, Van does not know this but everyone else does, so there. He’s mine. Go get your own.  The key thing here is, Yes – I pushed, and we do have witnesses, I pushed a Pulitzer Prize-winning author out of the way to get to the counter to share contact info with regard to Van.  Suffice it to say, everyone was amused, particularly Mr. Butler.  With another Pulitzer Prize-winning author (ahem) this may have not been the case.  And I know you writers know who and what I mean.  In the background, I heard Patrick moving what had been three long rows of chairs. 

Now there was small, intimate circle of chairs.  If there had been a round table, and food, it would have made for an apropos celebratory dinner. The intros and reading began.  Mr. Butler read from his new spellbinding book “The Hot Country.”  I believe he read probably, only, the first 10 to 12 sentences from the book.  He told us the tale about how he possessed a postcard showing the nape of a man’s neck, and a horrific murder, male bodies heaped upon on ground in front on him, and further ahead, a gaggle of beautiful Hispanic young women, one of whom did this man’s laundry.  The man in the postcard had drawn an arrow from the back of his large head to her, there far down the road.  This was the spring from which Mr. Butler began his new novel.  And then you know what he did? He laid it to rest.

And then you know what he did?  He started talking to me, and to Martha, and to the guy next to us, and to Howard, and suddenly and without warning, us in this small circle were present to the privilege of an astonishingly gifted writer sharing his craft, how to shape it like clay, how to work plot (and that means all of us, all ya’ll, poets included.)  He said, verbatim: “Plot is simply yearning challenged and thwarted.”  Any writer in any genre can utilize that one sentence alone to better and polish their craft.  And he shared with us, many, many more insights.  You know what it was like? It was like AWP without the10,000 people roving about in an airport concourse trying to find their flight.  It was just you and the man who knew how to do what he did best.  Which he did extraordinarily well.  And he was telling you alone.

RECOMMENDATION:  To those of you fortunate enough to be in the geographic path of Robert Olen Butler’s book tour for the rest of October and November, RUN, DON’T WALK, to be at his appearance and reading for the wonderful “The Hot Country.”  Buy his books; support the literary arts.  Bring a friend; I bought “Hell” and “From Where You Dream.”  Martha bought “The Hot Country.”  We’ll swap and return when we’re finished reading. 

To Robert Olen Butler: Best Wishes on your fantastic book tour.  It was not just a nice evening of literary worth.  It was a night I will always remember. Thank you for the generosity of your wisdom, your talent and your spirit.  Thank you for your inscriptions.  As promised, we’ll be in touch in December.  Onward!

Robert Olen Butler, upon throne:

Robert Olen Butler and Cynthia grimacing at all the books Robert had to sign to leave for the bookstore shelves. (Note re: photo: Never let your wonderful hairstylist cut your hair one week after her honeymoon.  Way too much of Cynthia's hair cut.)

Good friend and wonderful fiction writer, Martha Schulzinger, and Robert Olen Butler.

A wonderful night.