a poet on my writers’ block

Just made the remarkable discovery that Richard Katrovas writes and teaches from the Rust Belt. Michigan wordsmiths are a special breed–I’ve been to AWP where they were huddled in their own session trying to process the Lake Effect. It’s very fitting that Katrovas live in the Mitten, at least when he’s not living in New Orleans or Prague, a succulently seasoned place that could only be improved by the presence of my daughter, which it was when during our stay there this summer.

a lovely window dressing in Prague

As for Katrovas, here’s an affable grin (and bear it) of an especially “winning” verse…

Love Poem for an Enemy

By Richard Katrovas

I, as sinned against as sinning,

take small pleasure from the winning

of our decades-long guerrilla war.

For from my job I’ve wanted more

than victory over one who’d tried

to punish me before he died,

and now, neither of us dead,

we haunt these halls in constant dread

of drifting past the other’s life

while long-term memory is rife

with slights that sting like paper cuts.

We’ve occupied our separate ruts

yet simmered in a single rage.

We’ve grown absurd in middle age

together, and should seek wisdom now

together, by ending this row.

I therefore decommission you

as constant flagship of my rue.

Below the threshold of my hate

you now my good regard may rate.

For I have let my anger pass.

But, while you’re down there, kiss my ass.

Welcome, cuzins!

Groom Aaron & Bride Michelle at their trailer-trash bash

No shotguns needed at the nuptials I mean nupchuls for Aaron and Michelle, my friends who decided to throw a big wedding I mean weddin’ bash the likes of which none of us has ever seen. That may be a bit presumptuous on my part as the guests did a shockingly good job of looking like this was just another Saturday night at the Bitely Tavern for them.

The invitations scrawled on the back of a Busch beer carton set the stage…

Friends – I mean ‘cousins’ – were the players…

There wasn’t a dry eye – I mean mouth – in the crowd, including the happy couples’.

If you think you’ve seen the man (a rescue helicopter pilot) and wife (a physician’s assistant specializing in ER and trauma) before, please forever hold your peace about that, and just let them have some well-deserved fun.

…I sure did!

bleeder

Row house handrail, Harlem, 2013

Early in her amazing career, my friend Leslie spent some years in New Guinea teaching English quite unsuccessfully to remote villagers, the Papuas (the fuzzy-headed people). Over a lovely dinner at L’Ybane last week in NYC, she described the difficulty of finding a way to bridge their pigeon English to its proper expression. It wasn’t that they weren’t capable of the cognition, she explained, it was that she found herself not wanting to change their way of expressing their world. They said “mouth-grass” instead of mustache. She didn’t want to alter that, and found herself adjusting to their way instead. For example, the Papuas were familiar with 1) the shape of the blades on an electric mixer, and they knew that 2) the white man’s Jesus lived up there in the sky somewhere. So when a certain hovercraft made its first appearance over the island nation, the locals referred to it as a “mix-master-belong-Jesus.” That said helicopter to them. Whenever she corrected them, they would nod sweetly and affirm the circumstances of their lives relative to the object: yesyesyessss, mix-master-belong-jesus bring medsin. That was all they wanted to know about helicopters.

Nowadays Leslie is a consultant to federal asylum program based in DC. She works with foreign victims of horrific torture—usually young women—helping them learn English and adjust to life in the states. She tells me those years with the Papuas helped her develop a skillset she now relies on daily to avoid common word-triggers including “family” and “darkness” and “men.” She says a creative vocabulary is also essential in understanding what the women are trying to say to her. Knowing how “push-me-go/pull-me-come” translated to handsaw helps Leslie comprehend what she is hearing from these women who, under certain circumstances, still bleed sometimes…and will bleed for the rest of their lives.

(2013)

vision (and revisions)

A lot of serious writers would have a problem with the robust photoshopping of their headshot, but In a Perfect World (the name of my regular column in the #HandsandVoicesCommunicator) I don’t even need photoshopping (such is the power of my vision) so I was kinduv, pretty much like HELL TO THE YES, I mean yes when our new media and marketing sorceress #BrookeMontgomery showed me the promo for the Seaver Vision Award 2022. Those of you who know me, don’t bother DM’ing about the makeover–it’s all Brooke! ❤

Since my profession and my passion for Deaf stuff are vectored on my writings,* I’ll post this opp on my writing blog. Those who’ve won the Seaver Vision Award since its inception in 2012 are making life better for families with children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (like mine). If you know somebody who should be under the spotlight of appreciation, here’s what to do: https://www.handsandvoices.org/about/seaveraward.html

If you need a vision of how it all turns out–that your kids you worry about endlessly will grow up and live a life of their own some powerfully capable day, here’s my beautiful boy Dane in the mountains he loves:

* https://iwastoldtherewouldbenomath.wordpress.com/2020/12/24/we-interrupt-this-commercial-message-with-a-deaf-child/

blog it already, girl

My friend was thinking about starting a blog and I recommended WordPress (you’re welcome, WordPress). And so she has launched prolifically: https://whatdoesntkillyougirlmakesyoustronger.com/

I’ve known Sheryl since shortly before her August 2014 wedding day (pictured). She married into a wonderful farming family that I’ve known since grade school, which qualifies me to say her hubby Scott is one of the world’s nicest human beings. They’re facing some incredible challenges right now. I’m intentionally not using the c-word. Sheryl has found the healing benefits of off-loading some weighty emotions into her writing, and sharing those lessons from the school of hard knocks.

What Doesn’t Kill You, Girl, Makes You Stronger is as intimate as a diary, and as useful as a medical journal (one written understandably). It’s a navigational, inspirational tool. I’m so glad Sheryl is sharing what she’s lived and what she knows… this should be required reading for anyone working in the field of c (not gonna capitalize it either).

Swanchurch

There are lots of swans here, which is why I call my writing retreat Swanchurch. Here are two trumpeters (blackbilled) and a mute swan (not as quiet as you’d think) just off my dock a couple springs ago.

Every spring, I hold my breath in anticipation of the signets. A banner crop of six in 2018 holds the record for most babies, also for most losses, which is a story about snapping turtles.

This year, Keats and Shelley (the pair–whichever pair–that claims my stretch of the river as theirs is called Keats and Shelley) had two signets two days ago.

Today, there’s only one. I’m not posting a picture of that.

There are swans here year round… they are photogenic in all seasons. I could post a hundred more pictures, but will leave you with this one from last autumn at Swanchurch.

The Muse of Château Musar

The woods of my childhood were easy to reach beyond my backyard and across the long pasture to the west. There, at edge of civilization as I knew it, was a tall, thick stand of conifers with a perfect little smeuse the size of a six-year-old girl. Through it, I would step from the open field into a shady cosmos of birdsong… sunlight kaleidoscoping through the boughs… the sharp scent of jack pine oxygenating the air. It was enchanted in a way the grown-up world would rarely ever be… except on this night.

“The first ever bottle I tasted that was produced by my grandfather, Gaston Hochar Senior. A nose of forest floor followed by a palate of sweet ripe berries, layers of tobacco, coffee, liquorice with balanced acidity and SO MUCH freshness. A singular experience from a wine from the early Musar era. ~ Marc Hochar, Chateau Musar

On this night, the taste of pine sap on my fingers brought it all back to me, except it wasn’t pine sap at all but a deep breath and sip of a Château Musar Rosé. From this “still and softly-oaked tribute to the ‘blended’ rosés of Champagne,” a liquefaction of memory poured forth. I was simultaneously a little fairy climbing a tree and an imperious professional woman attending her first-ever wine dinner.

Who knew wine could do that?

Well, Marc Hochar knew. It’s just another day at the office for Château Musar, which is not to diminish the wonder of such unexpected revelations. This just compels the Hochar winemakers to bless the wider world with the fruits of their labor. They have been making Château Musar wines for generations in the soil of the Garden of Eden, so it is understood: something divine is going on here.  

Grapes and earth and weather over the imprimatur of time can create many lives in a bottle of Musar, and several more inside us, according to Hochar. That’s because “We preserve the life that’s embedded in these wines. We don’t filter them, or strain them, or take anything out,” he explained. “So they retain this ability to behave like living things… they change. If you open two bottles of the same vintage at the same time, you should not be surprised to find they are not the same.”

Coming from Lebanon, a land of extremes, such seeming contradictions are embedded in the DNA of a Château Musar. The Mediterranean climate of warm, dry summers and bitter cold winters in their Bekaa Valley vineyard inhabit every bottle. Such dimensionality was deliciously supported by a five-course “Taste of Lebanon” at Kalamazoo’s Rustica restaurant. At its by-invitation-only wine-dinner, six different Musar wines were featured. Each one was unique yet somehow recognizably Musar… familial in the roots of Rosé, Hochar Rouge, Blanc, Rouge… ancient and alive.

As we sipped, my friend and I would say the first thought the taste and aroma conjured: mown hay, carob, chanterelles, the marsh on a summer night, a cellar door. The ocean… sand that had been stirred up by whale fins. The acrid air from skeet shooting. Colostrum…  manuka honey. An awareness of past lives… gravestone moss. The stories started telling themselves with our voices. This wasn’t about logical, credible comparisons, but letting the wine meander through our sensory lobes of experience. Here were memories that weren’t always our own… or were they? I thought of these lines in a poem by Jon Wallace:

What we say seems to make sense, yet

beyond the chatter don’t we go on forever, effortlessly

resisting the fixity of words? I tell you

we are precisely what cannot be spoken

or felt, and so remain secrets even to ourselves.

From this mysterious inner-expedition came my “sappy” review, which I was somewhat embarrassed to share with Marc Hochar when he stopped by our table. It didn’t seem dignified enough, or in the proper canon of wine vernacular. But to my great relief, Marc was delighted with my story. He found pine pitch entirely apropos because that’s what was real for me. And that was the point… maybe even the goal.

This remarkable event has raised the bar for every glass of wine I’ll ever drink again. You’re welcome, Hochars, and I am sorry, every other label.

It’s just that Château Musar invites an engagement in which wine isn’t just for enjoying, but for enhancing a delightful tour of self-discovery. The wet-dry, earth-sky, love-hate, hot-cold, blood-water, laughter-tears, primordial-modern Lebanon has imbued its country’s most famous wine with its own memories. To imbibe is to rehouse them… and explore the Muse of your own life when you let them live in you.

© Leeanne Seaver 2022

mass comm

Civil War Mass Comm

Among the gems found in my research for my new book commission: a scrap of paper on which A. E. Simons sketched out the music he’d soon memorize for his troop, the 37th Illinois Volunteers Infantry. Simons recruited and organized the brigade, assigning the best offices and commands to those he thought qualified. This magnanimous approach left him without rank himself, but “Every war has to have some privates,” he reportedly said. His commanding officer squelched that, “You’re not going to be a private. We haven’t organized our music; you must take charge of that.”

This is how Simons came to be the Fife Major.

Every regiment had a fifer and a drummer; their tunes constituted mass communications across the rank and file. Everything from breakfast and dinner “Mess” calls to “Taps” (day is done) directed the activities of the men, especially in battle. Simons performed his duties through harrowing circumstances until after the war in 1866. He was left with severely compromised health, dying just ten years later.

His widow, Jennie Bessie, and five small children, bravely set out to claim land on the Kansas prairie that was her “Widow’s Pension.”

All of the children would go onto successful futures. One would establish a successful newspaper publishing company that spanned four generations.

I am writing their story. Have I mentioned how much #Ilovemyjob

#OrangeShirtDay

We were sitting around a campfire this past Saturday night listening to Jared… rapt. After describing what he does as a mariner (that’s right: a professional m a r i n e r), Jared said no, he never got seasick. Under any kind of conditions from the ᑭᒋᑲᒥ (Gitche Gumee–the “great sea”) to every port of call around the globe, this Ottawa #NDN of the Grand Traverse Band has never suffered nausea or discomfort. This prompted my recall of the days I worked in television and there would be the annual scheduling of downtime for work on the tower. It was always done by a team of Native Americans. I cannot recall which tribe they were from, but these guys traveled a national circuit doing this kind of work. Rich Pegram was GM of WTVR when I was there, and he explained in the Monday morning staff meeting that these guys were unscathed by danger… no fear of heights whatsoever, so they pretty much had a lock on this dizzying gig for every station across the country. This aspect of Indian-DNA has put them in some really high places, to wit: https://dailygazette.com/2017/04/16/honoring-native-americans-who-built-skyscrapers-bridges/

But these are not stories about #orangeshirtday. Orange Shirt Day is not about good stories, it’s about unconscionable things that have happened to indigenous children and their families on this continent. It’s about putting a spotlight right on these issues because they’ve been buried (literally) for so long. So I’m training what amperes I’ve got in that direction, too.

Here’s a link I hope everyone visits today–September 30th–the day we wear our orange shirts:
http://www.orangeshirtday.org