Measured Extravagance

09 January 2003 - 11:27 p.m.

Well, foot. So much for my frantic effort on New Year's Eve - the packet came back from the editors yesterday with a note that they'd closed the reading period early, as the next issue was apparently declared "full" earlier than they anticipated. I'm a little miffed, since it seems to me they could've said so on their website as soon as the decision was made, and because it irks me to have frittered away 97 cents in postage. Yes, I know that sounds petty -- it's not the amount that grinds at me, it's the waste. I'm perfectly happy to part with an extra dollar or two to try a new wine, purchase the better brand of soap, or contribute to a group present, but throwing money away - bank charges, library fines, and SASEs to closed markets - grr!.

Ah, well. They're hardly the only periodical with a time lag between editorial developments and site updates, and the note was apologetic, and I put another three packets into the mail today. That'll be it for the week, though -- I need to move forward on assorted calligraphy projects, and the poems remaining in the "submittables" folder are going to require multiple sittings for me to revise them to satisfaction. Sing it again: Ars longa . . .

At the post office, a "I'm too young to feel this old" moment: the clerk was having trouble ringing up the Thurgood Marshall stamps I'd selected. I couldn't resist joking, "Well, it's just like him to be contrary." "He was a good man," she stated. Both the clerk at the next window and I heartily agreed. . .which prompted the customer next to me to ask, "Who's Thurgood Marshall?"

(It didn't help that the guy looked to be around my age.)

Mayonnaise-based cooking appears to be another theme of the week: I brought a plate of devilled eggs to tonight's potluck, and yesterday followed Mark Bittman's instructions for "real tartar sauce" (mayo + minced cornichons + minced scallions). Tomorrow, perhaps some potato salad to go with the leftover fried chicken? Last night we opened a bottle of Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc (recommended by Deb) to go with the fish and green beans; the BYM pronounced it less interesting than the Lake Chalice sauvignon blanc we sampled at the NKF tasting, but that didn't stop him from sharing half of the bottle with me.

Other sensual pleasures: it was warm enough to leave the coat at home when I walked the dog this afternoon, and the older Christmas cactus in my bathroom is on the verge of blooming - the buds started to appear right before New Year's Day, and they've gotten heavier and more beautiful with each passing day. (We now have a younger cactus with us as well - my mother-in-law was going to chuck it out once its blooms were spent, so I figured I'd experiment with it and see if I can't nurse it into another season or two. If not, well, it didn't cost me anything. . .)

In this month's issue of Poetry, the two pieces that made the strongest impression on me were Philip Terman's "My Mother's Other Life" and Jeffrey Harrison's "Poem for Roland." I'd attempt to entice you to read them by posting sample quotes, but I found both poems impossible to excerpt: the power of their stories is in the structured accumulation of their details. (In other words, these are both poems one has to read from beginning to end to be moved by their narratives - as opposed to some of the more imagistic stuff around, for example, where one can sometimes just dip in and extract a jewel of a phrase or two without requiring their context.) I think what also draws me to that pair of poems is that they're both vignettes from domestic life: in the first, a man muses on how his mother coped with herding four sons and her husband; in the second, a man describes his seven-year-old daughter's breakfast encounter with Roland's final book of poetry (titled Easy). Doesn't sound like much, does it? but they're good poems.

(All of a sudden, I am reminded of the Jazzercise instructors' insistence on correct form. A common mistake (particularly during ab and weight work) is to associate larger motions with better results - that is, it can be tempting to swing one's body (and/or one's weights) higher or wider than the actual movement required. The problem is that the larger motion frequently fails to engage the muscle that the routine is supposed to tone up in the first place; so, this week (a fresh wave of students. . .), the instructors have been taking extra pains to point out which muscles are being worked during each mat routine, often emphasizing that the target movement isn't at all grand, and that control is more important than range.)

(Yep, I can draw analogies to creative effort from just about anything. Speaking of which, I ought to hop to it. In this instance, to bed, in hopes of getting enough sleep to generate some kick-ass layouts tomorrow. (Sure, I can manage merely "okay" layouts without enough zzzs, but why settle? Onwards. . .)

Was it only two years ago I posted some insanely ambitious list...?

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