Sunday, October 14, 2012

Of Pre-Digested Sunlight & Free Speech

Healing Energies 


Mountain Rose Herbs are the ones who, through their email newsletter, apprised me of Rosemary Gladstar's lovely new video series where she talks about herbs and herbal remedies from her garden retreat in Vermont. I should probably note I am not in any way affiliated with anyone mentioned, I just love their ethos and their practice. In her recent videos Rosemary Gladstar talks about herbalism as an art and a practice, and in this latest one where she walks you through her Vermont summer garden brimming with yarrow and goldenrod and burdock and evening primrose, she talks of solar energy and how plants harness the immense energy of the sun so when we consume them we are consuming "pre-digested sunlight" -- isn't that the truth.

I recently watched a video on Ayurveda--Ayurveda: The Art of Being--where one of the practitioners explained Ayurveda as seeing all plant and animal creation as part of the same whole, so that the Ayurvedic herbalist or healer is mere conduit between the part in need of healing/the deficiency in one and the part offering the healing/the bounty in the other. Isn't that interesting?

One of the books on my bedtime shelf lately is Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs, which is an introduction or beginner's guide to herbs you can grow in your garden and use for all sorts of things, including colds and flus and infections and cleansing and vivifying. She also takes you step by step through the processes of creating tinctures and salves and infusions and teas. Being the unfortunate kind of reader who craves pictures this book is perfect for me, with its glossy photos of plants and plant remedies and golden honeys in bottles. I am dipping in to read, one plant at a time.

Among the herbs she mentions, in our own tentative, newly-dug New England garden this blazing, cooling October is: calendula, oregano, rosemary, wild plantain, straggly purslane, lavender.



Regarding books: I had thought I might have finished something this week--I am reading Duo Duo's Snow Plain, a collection of short stories by a modern Chinese poet, and dipping into Isaac Babel's Collected Stories--the combination of reading these two together makes for a surfeit of surrealism, at least, the stories I have read so far, of a frozen woman in a cabin of snow, and a man-angel with wings made of infant's sighs, no less--and re-reading the separate beauties of Winter Stars by Larry Levis and Adrienne Rich's An Atlas of the Difficult World, and Linda Gregg's Chosen by the Lion--this poetry that I love takes me back to those long-past MFA days, for better and for know you have grown older when you find yourself writing fiction out of studying poetry, once, a lifetime ago, or perhaps more--

Supporting Free Speech


From New Letters, via Three Percent, how Lawrence Ferlinghetti is setting an example for the rest of us on the importance of free speech in a world where totalitarianism creeps unchecked through whole countries: Lawrence Ferlinghetti declines 50,000 Euro Prize from Hungarian Pen Club

And, in other news, Stephen Colbert's own take on same--reviewing one's own book, now why didn't I think of this earlier! Thanks to Grub Daily for that one.

I didn't realize I was becoming a news-pointer, but apparently, in absence of my own reviews that is what is happening around here--so until next week, sayonara, and I'll plan to Actually review, next week!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Writing News, Herbal Energy Tea for Writers, and Muriel Rukeyser

Some Writing News


A story Matter of a Few Hours appears this week in Kweli Journal, which has recently become a quarterly. Earlier this year in March Kweli published three poems I have read often at readings in DC, but just never placed. I am so admiring of Kweli, because it is diverse, it is unafraid, and it is run by thoughtful, visionary artists, like Laura Pegram. I'm very pleased to have a story appear in such stellar company, with socially aware poets and fiction writers. Kweli is Swahili for Truth--and they are one of the rarer journals in the literary landscape, they seek to publish work that reflects the reality and diversity of America, not the unreal sameness courted by many, many others.

This spring too, Greensboro Review published a poem, Marking the Fields, on a subject I have spent years avoiding writing about, and I'm thrilled to report that Christine Lee Zilka of Kartika Review has accepted a story, Princess America, due out this fall. I feel especially honored to be included among other Asian-American writers, and, as with Kweli, with Asian-American and Latin-American and African-American writers as well.


Natural Herbal Health and Nutrition for Writers (and anyone else)

Vaguely, at the back of my mind, is a small and growing desire to become better versed in herbalism. Having spent a life being infatuated with plants of all kinds, and more than a decade pursuing TCM and Ayurveda and native American and European herbs, it is not after all a too-large leap to want to spread what I learn of the natural powers and holistic healing of plants. I love what many herbalists--Susun Weed, Rosemary Gladstar--call plants that heal us: our plant allies. I have become such a fan of herbs of all kinds lately I am thinking of pursuing the study of herbs in a more formal way. I guess I need to research first what herbalist courses are out there and where and who to study with, etc. Meanwhile I thought I'd offer any visiting writer a little herbal gem borrowed from my reading for the week, and I'll start with Nettle Tea, from Susun Weed.

ARKive photo - Common nettlesIf you're experiencing a flagging of energy by midday or mid-afternoon, if you feel at times separated from your once-alive burning drive and the ambition and energy you might have experienced in your teens and twenties, if you'd like to wake up every day with renewed vigor and vitality, if you need stamina and energy to finish your work on a daily basis, look to the lowly herb, the stinging nettle. There are many stories about this herb, and many herbalists rave about "her" powers, her multi-vitamin content, her mineral content, and her vitalizing effects on the adrenal glands and kidneys--nettle is not a stimulant like ginseng or ephedra but a slow and reliant infuser of energy and stamina.

For more, read herbalist Corinna Wood's article in Susun Weed's newsletter, and Susun's own words on the herb, and another informative article by Susun which tell you more and offer various recipes for herbal teas, infusions, vinegars you can make with nettle--and carry some amazing stories and testimonials from new drinkers of nettle. You can find nettle tea in your health food store or order it online from any herbal place (I use Mountain Rose Herbs). I tried it on Susun Weed's recommendation, and I have to say I did not experience its effects as slow.  I drank 2-3 cups a day of nettle infusion, made the way she recommends, for a week, and felt my energy literally go through the roof--I simply don't flag anymore midday and I seem to have found enormous founts of mental and psychic energy to finish all the writing projects I am halfway through and have often dithered in self-doubt about. No side-effects, no energy drops as in caffeine, no sleep disruptions.

Seriously, it works. If you try the teabags, 2-3 cups a day of nettle tea--let it steep a few extra minutes--work just as well. It's like a mild green tea that way. But the infusion, boy, you can see and smell and taste the minerals. The infusion made and kept overnight turns almost black by morning. Very strange to me first time I saw it, but the longer it is kept steeped, it also releases a deep, blossomy kind of fragrance and taste. May not last beyond 36 hours though, you may want to refrigerate it after it is made.

I'm on a quest to drop pills and capsules of vitamins, and I like the boost of nutrients in nettle infusion. For vitamin and mineral content, please see Susun and Corinne's articles.

Muriel Rukeyser 

This poem from Muriel Rukeyser, poet scientist, social activist, feminist is on the Poetry Foundation website--oddly evocative of our time although written before cell phones, iPhones and Droids, the Net--in 1968:


By Muriel Rukeyser
I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons. 
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
(rest of poem here)

"In our period, they say there is free speech. They say there is no penalty for poets, There is no penalty for writing poems. They say this. This is the penalty."

I have read her work before to teach it but I want to read more of her work this fall merely to read it--like Denise Levertov, she wrote out of passion and conviction, she opposed war and stood up against it--to read of her and other poets who marched against the Vietnam War and spoke out against it makes one wonder: where are the marches against these wars in Afghanistan and Iraq now?--I marched with 2 or 3 in the early years. What happened to the anti-war marches? Why was war not really mentioned in that first Presidential debate? Why are we reading no news about it except in the alternative media?  Has America accepted war, or is America wallowing in information blackout by the everyday media?

I looked up The World Can't Wait, and apparently there have been protests in front of the UN this week and there are actually marches this weekend, in Chicago, New York, San Francisco.  It's worth reprinting Debra Sweet's preface: "Obama expanded the U.S. war on the people of Afghanistan begun 11 years ago by the Bush regime, now the longest war in U.S. history. The U.S. occupation is fought not only with  military personnel, and mercenaries for hire, but increasingly by Special Forces and unmanned drones.

"The U.S. continues to imprison and indefinitely detain people without charges, conducting night house raids that terrorize innocent people, and conditions leave women worse off than when the U.S. invaded.

"This war MUST end now, not in 2024, a date arrived at by Obama and Karzai, and not on an obscure date in the future!"

Amen to that. Please march if you're in those cities and can do it!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Beginnings

Well, having informally hiatus'd for almost two years now, I probably should start a new blog--I am so lost in writing short fiction, long fiction, poetry though currently I have put reviewing lately on the back-burner, it's a lovely thing to do but it does take time and in between dashing with my lovely 7-year-old Sophie to piano classes and gym classes and soccer practice and soccer games and school potlucks I am lucky to get my week's reading in let alone writing.

Not to mention becoming interested in herbalism, fitness, and health--I am currently reading Feed Your Tiger by Letha Hadady, and Asian Health Secrets (her book too) and planning to live on green tea and apples and mushrooms and seaweed--these are incredible books, full of amazing information on Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs, homeopathy, nutrition, cleansing.

There's Susun Weed too, for her assured and compendious knowledge of native American and European and other herbs. If you have the slightest hint of a weight issue or a hormone balance issue or an age issue or really a health issue of any kind, read their books--really illuminating and life-changing.

I am also reading Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks--dreamily, in snatches, on the treadmill (maybe that's why I haven't finished it yet), week after week. It's a lovely, wrenching, amazing book. What's a bit shocking about it is that he apparently wrote it in 4 months. We're talking about a book that seems to have been written after a great deal of research on the war. His capacity for perceptive and credible description, page after page, stops me in my tracks. The movie--or rather, television serial from BBC I think--is on PBS, or at least it was when I watched it in the spring--and is wrenching in itself, but the book is of course always so much more of an immersion. Ravishing in places.

Set mostly around the time of the Great War (First World War) it follows the story of a young English man who is working in France and falling in lust and love with his employer's wife and then enduring various vicissitudes which propel him into signing up for the military which of course opens up new vistas of vicissitudes and almost leads to perdition but not quite, being our sensitive though occasionally frozen protagonist he survives the war and survives the trauma of personal loss, and lives to leave legacies behind for a future progenitor to find.

I have to marvel at what an omniscient narrator can do--the story seems to lurch from third-person limited inside a few of the characters' heads to third-person omniscient, rather casually, on and off, and I can't decide currently if it comes across as too facile or just an odd authorial quirk which establishes a particular kind of narrative authority. Some of the writing seems a little too blunt and hard-fisted, words for words' sake, to establish whatever it is they are establishing--narrative, or character, or setting--and the voice and POV go with that hardness, announcing rather than painting in, but elsewhere there's fluidity in action and image, it's eerily enterable.

There are other books I'm reading, too many at one time!--but maybe I'll spare the world for now and refrain from listing them. I think I want to do something a little different with this blog. I admire writer blogs that are simply personal and open and candid and opinioned, I learn from writer blogs that offer so much on writing. I crave the inspiring and community of listening to and speaking with other writers. And while I have played with the idea of starting a literary journal online, I think currently what I have the time for is a much more casual and candid blog, where I can throw in lovely writing things I find online, maybe on a weekly basis--things that enlighten or inspire or support and sustain or extend one's writing self. God knows we could all do with some inspiring. (Not to mention sustaining...)

So here's one gem, from The Common's website, a tiny video featuring James Salter's travelogue--what some would say his erotic--novel: a long time ago, when I read A Sport and a Pastime, I think it was purely for the language, wanting to drown in that exquisitely lyric prose, but maybe it was also for France, traveling in a dream through France with his (sometimes inexplicable) characters--he talks here about the book--and oh look, another Olympic writer, he wrote this one in 3 months!--and being young and being in France, post-war.  Interesting post by Paul Yoon too, on his reading of that book.  James Salter at The Common

And because I adore the Paris Review interviews, here's their conversation with James Salter. "Hope but not enthusiasm is the proper state for the writer.” And: "I’m not the first person who feels that it’s the writer’s true occupation to travel. In a certain sense, a writer is an exile, an outsider, always reporting on things, and it is part of his life to keep on the move. Travel is natural."And: "It seems to me that when you read, what you are really listening for is the voice of the writer. That’s more important than anything else." And so much more--

And if you crave more James Salter or you're in love with language--read his books! his prose is unmatchable--here's the New York Times' extended feature.