Monday, July 22, 2013

back to school

University of Iowa ... check out the moon right next to the old capitol building
I have had the opportunity to attend the University of Iowa's Writing Festival in Iowa City (thank you Fund for Teachers). I am enrolled in a poetry workshop. I've been so busy since school let out that I really haven't had a chance to think about coming here or imagine what the experience would be like. I drove out on Sunday and went right into the festival. And I have to say, I was sort of nervous.

As I hit campus,  I ran into droves of incoming freshmen who were here with their parents for orientation. It immediately brought me back to the time when I first went to college. As the university is in Iowa, the weather is hot and humid, not unlike Carbondale, my undergraduate town. I checked into the union's hotel and had little to no time to get ready for the welcoming event. As I walked the blocks over to the site, I felt like I was 18. After my mom dropped my brother and I at school for my freshman year, I remember sitting in my dorm room and thinking: now what. The now what was nerves of course. And I think that I had a dose of those as I walked up the hill toward the Old Capitol building pictured above.

I sat at a table of strangers, and though  you would think that the thing that holds together, writing, would be the topic of conversation, it wasn't. As it happens, many of the people here have been to many of the festivals in the past ... even this summer's earlier sessions. One woman described herself as a 'writer's groupie.' She had taken sessions across the spectrum: playwriting, memoir, novel. I wonder if she would be better served if indeed she intends to write, to pick a genre to craft?

After a brief introduction to the week, we immediately set off to meet with our group in our assigned room. A short walk across campus, and we were a group. I wasn't surprised that all but one of the 12 were women. And interestingly enough, not one person was from the same place, let alone state. The intent of the meeting was to introduce ourselves to each other, and assign the first readings. The prof, Danny, had asked us each to bring three poems to the meeting to distribute. For the first three days, we will workshop each poem. Of course, when it came down to it, he asked us to pass 'round only one of our poems for the first reading. Danny! I had offered to go first for Monday ... hey, I know what it is to be a teacher and no one wants to go first! And then he said: one. He has no idea how hard it was for me to choose the three of the hundred that I've written in the last year. And one??

In our introductions, he asked us to talk about the things that inspire us in our writing. Most in the group talked about poets or maybe a novelist. When it came to me, I was almost at a loss for words. Well, almost. My favorite poets are Irish: Seamus Heaney and Nuala O'Fallon. I understand them ... and their underlying sense of tragedy that is their good friend. My favorite book to teach is Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye (more tragedy, held carefully by the beautiful form of Morrison's writing). As I told them, this is the summer of Daft Punk for me ... I've been hanging around my nephew this summer and they are his favorite 'band.'  Well, then there's the magazine habit that I have ... oh, the snippets and tidbits that I find there! So I imagine that all of this has something to do with what I write.

After the hour of introductions, we went off into the night with our first assignment. As I left the building, I couldn't help but be transported to 18 again. The building smelled like college. The corners were dusty, the halls dimly lit. Butterflies swooped into my belly ... not of nerves, but excitement, I suppose. It's an odd little group that I'm in from Toronto, Los Angelos, Montana, Reno ... I know that their read of my work will be constructive. And I look forward to reading work that I don't have to grade.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

vuitton and gatsby

In Style August 2013

Looks like Louis Vuitton is jumping on the Gatsby trend ala Prada (the costumer of the Baz Lurhmann film) and Tiffany.  I absolutely adore it.  I love the sensualness of the delicate silks and satins ... and the bias cut that makes the fabric slip across the body caressing it in hushed tones for decadent dusks into darkest night adventures.

One of my favorite movies in recent years is Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. Since reading F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway in high school, I have fantasized about the ex-pat life that they and others lived in Paris during the 1920's. When I moved on to Anais Nin and Henry Miller, I went deeper into the idea of living on wine and conversation and philosophical intimacies with dashing men who found ideas more important than life itself. Of course it is all fantasy. And Allen shows us in the film that indulging in the ideal of a past is best left to the imagination. And I agree with him on this point. Though I love the idea of it, I am happy to pull some of it into the life that I live right now. 

Sometimes, I wear pearls with my night gown and sip champagne from a crystal flute while listening to the Piaf or Billie Holliday (the French love American jazz).  I can close my eyes and find myself in my favorite Parisian square, Contrescarpe, seated at one of the cafes that circle the fountain watching the neighborhood breathe. I dine on stinky cheese and open a bottle of rose. It is all there for me to have if I put my mind to it. And I may not be wearing Vuitton, but I can wrap a scarf 'round for me to nestle my nose into a bit of sensual fabric and scents ... all of my scarves smell like Chanel #5.

I appreciate this nod to that past, and I look forward to the fall fashion editions to see if anyone else is feeling that '20's vibe, which for me is decidedly all things francais and cut from a different time and place.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

electric dance music

niece and nephew
So the inspiration for this entry is from the pages of my life more than it is a magazine ... my sister's family is in town for the annual summer vacation. My niece, and to some extent, nephew love electronic dance music. Sixteen is a difficult age, we all know that, and I wanted to make sure that the teenager had a good time at grandma's, so I looked for an event that would make her ... happy. And so here began my odyssey of the Wave Front Electric Dance Music Festival.

one of the smaller stages
Lucky for me, the teenagers like to sleep and the idea of arriving at the 11 a.m. start time was a bit ... much. She was happy to get there when we got there. So in the early evening, we arrived. And we immediately threw ourselves into the thick blanket of ravers at the big stage. She didn't know that I would go in ... she said something to the effect, 'you know, it's like a mosh pit in there,' as if I didn't have a clue of what lie in store. Oh no! I'm going in there with you ... your cute little self is going to have a body guard, and it isn't going to just be your brother!

We plowed through the throng of bikini clad, altered stated madness to find ourselves right in front. The bass was so loud that the hair on my arms stood on end. I bounced right along side the kids and endured the water canons as they shot out over the crowd that was already wet from sweat. My nephew couldn't take it, so he wandered to the back. I wanted to stay with the girl ... yes, I was being a little over protective of her. But she's cute and petite, and those big bad wolves out there could eat her up and spit her out in a minute! But I got thirsty ... and I wondered how my nephew was doing, so I broke away from the pulse and a bopping 16 year old and found ...

the sun sets over the bass
that I was in an episode of Girls. I thought of the 'crack fairy' episode, except I wasn't on crack ... everyone else was, and who knew that me being there would have such a great effect on the children. I was high fived, fist pumped, and told I was 'awesome' as I dragged myself and the backpack through the throngs. I guess that they figured out that I wasn't 20! At  one point, a girl reached out and grabbed my breast. When she got it in her hand, she exclaimed, 'wow!' and held on to it even tighter. I had to knock her off of me to keep going. Next, a meat head, a finely chiseled shirt-less buck whirled me around and started moving his hardness all over me! Really? Oh, get off of me! I was worried about the wolves devouring my niece? That crowd liked the novelty of me and couldn't get enough. I wasn't in any kind of altered state, but it sure was a surreal experience. And I was Hannah sober, so I experienced it real time. And it is stuck in my memory forever.

Once out, I was not surprised at how many more people were rushing the dj.  I couldn't find my nephew, grabbed a Bud Light, and thought to reenter and find at lease one teenager that I knew. I found her after I went through the tunnel of grab right where I left her. After another hour of pulse, I grabbed her out to find our other. At that point, we decided to find a spot at an apex of all of the djs, put the blanket on the sand, and chill. It was the perfect spot as the night's ending fireworks were set off right where we were. We toddled to the car amidst the soon to be dazed and hung over, and wandered over to a diner. Breakfast was the perfect end as we reviewed the events of the evening. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I sure had fun. I was with the coolest people there. And the beat was solid.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

pussy riot in nyc

Rolling Stone July 2013

I wonder ... did Bono ask Pussy Riot to record their protest song for the ONE protest songs campaign? He should have.

Two of the girls, pictured here, are on a U.S. visit to support the debut of the film that tells their story. Two of the other band members are still incarcerated in the penal colony that they were sentenced to for 'blasphemous hooliganism.' Pussy Riot's Punk Rock Prayer was a direct attack, not on religion itself, but the Church that supports Putin. In the article, Masha Gessen, a journalist who has written a book about Putin, said, "Putin has mentioned Pussy Riot six times since the arrest ... I don't think there's a country in the world he's mentioned six times in one year. Maybe not even Obama. he's personally upset and pissed off, and this is how he responds. he thinks of the cathedral as his- it's where he prays- and he feels like they shit on his stairway."

What is anyone doing about this? What's happening over there in Russia? What's up with Putin? This article bugged me. At the premier, Patti Smith introduced the film, and Salman Rushdie ate popcorn.  The horror of what this represents, the denial of what we enjoy as a basic freedom, is packaged as the event, not a crime.

Send the SEALS. Get those girls out so that they can sing and protest the tyranny that is, apparently, Putin.