officially announcing the publication of my first poetry chapbook

coverdesignFinishing Line Press announces a new title: What the Seasons Leave. The poetry chapbook, part of Finishing Line’s acclaimed New Women’s Voices Series, is by Massachusetts author Elaine Frankonis.

“The poems in this chapbook,” Frankonis explains, “become a brief episodic memoir of an ordinary life lived with a sense of personal myth and magic.”

With the acceptance for publication of her first poetry chapbook by Finishing Line Press at age 74, Frankonis, has finally filled the only item on her bucket list.

A “chapbook” is a small collection of poetry centered around a specific theme and published in a limited edition. What the Seasons Leave begins with the metaphor of a compost pile and ends with the image of

...spears of brazen Jerusalem artichoke,
that perplexing garden gypsy
that blossoms and burrows,
grows up to nine feet tall, and
in the harsh summer storm
dances her defiance
to the grim arrogance
of gravity.

Psychotherapist, poet, and author Edward Tick (Dream Healing, War and the Soul, The Golden Tortoise) has said of Frankonis’ work: “Frankonis is a poet who is at once easy and difficult. She is easy because she is lyrical and familiar and embraces the everyday of loving, parenting, gardening. She is difficult in her demand that we go deeply into the simple and squeeze out the juices of love and wisdom. Frankonis lives up to her demand of poets – to make ‘the earth grow bones.’”

Over the past 50 years, Frankonis has had her poetry published in a variety of small presses and online journals (many of which no longer exist). Earlier versions of several of the poems in this chapbook have previously appeared in The Berkshire Review, the Ballard Street Poetry Journal, and Mused: the BellaOnline Literary Journal. In 1998, several of her pieces appeared in the anthology Which Lilith: Feminist Writers Recreate the World’s First Woman.

With a BA and MA in English/Education from the University at Albany, she was accepted by and participated in two competitive poetry workshops offered by the Writers-in-Residence Program of the New York State Writers Institute. For several years, she served on the Board of Directors of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild and was co-editor of, and contributor to, Gates to the City, the literary anthology for the Albany, New York Tricentennial celebration.

An admirer of all things Joseph Campbell, Karl Jung, Clarissa Pinkola Estes,
Ursula LaGuin, and the 1940s version of Wonder Woman, Frankonis is a perpetual student of feminist archetypes in various mythologies and science fiction.

When weblogs started to become popular, it was not surprising that she became one of the early adult female bloggers and was the first president of “Blogsisters,” the
oldest women’s group blog on the net. She continues to blog, although sporadically, at Kalilily Time.

Finishing Line Press is a poetry publisher based in Georgetown, Kentucky. In addition to the New Women’s Voices Series, it sponsors the Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Competition.

Cover art for What the Seasons Leave is by Troy, New York artist and print-maker, Linda K. Ryder, Ryder Studio, Troy, NY. Stone and polyester plate lithograph detail from “Diva” series (2009 to present).

Copies of What the Seasons Leave is scheduled for release January 3, 2015. It can be pre-ordered online at www.finishinglinepress.com. Click on “Preorder forthcoming titles” and scroll down the list to her name.

It can also be ordered directly from the publisher. Send a check or money order in the amount of $15.58 (includes shipping), to

Finishing Line Press
Post Office Box 1626
Georgetown, KY 49324

10 books I have read that have stayed with me

There’s a Facebook meme circulating to which I am moved to respond, especially because, in thinking about the challenge, I see that my choices are very idiosyncratic. And, while I read much more fiction than non-fiction, it is mostly the non-fiction books that I remember because they had such an effect on my ways of thinking and creating. The fiction I remember because they were quirky and mind-bending.

1. If You Meet the Buddha on the Road by Sheldon Kopp
2. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
3. Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
4. The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
5. The City Not Long After by Pat Murphy — a sci fi novel where artists save the world after an apocalyptic event
6. The Women’s Room by Marilyn French
7. Collected Poems, by T.S. Elliot
8. Words for the Wind by Theodore Roethke
9. a quirky transgender sci fi novel the title and author of which I can’t remember; but I remember the cover image, which looked a little like Prince (the artist formerly known as) with purple pompadour, and I remember becoming totally engrossed in the created reality of the novel
10 the Bible, both Old and New Testaments but not all of either — mostly the gospels because, as a kid, I liked reading about the dramatic exploits of Jesus while I sat through the boredom of mass

ADDENDUM: The sci fi book the title of which I couldn’t think of just popped into my head: Crygender by Thomas T. Thomas. Hardly great literature, but that was not the topic of this meme.

Mag 217

Magpie Tales is a blog “dedicated to the enjoyment of poets and writers, for the purpose of honing their craft, sharing it with like-minded bloggers, and keeping their muses alive and well.” Each week, it offers an image as a writing prompt.

dog sofa

Mag 217 (Go there to read what others have written in response to this prompt.)

Your Perfect Spot

There is no better place
than this untrained oasis,
where medieval fancies
embellish instant facts,
urging the mind to weave anew
what lies, shelf-dormant,
among the dust.

Here your best friend waits
in rumpled comfort
for your return from silence
to the lively clatter of clutter ,
the ritual engagement with
the antics of digital cats.

Sit, Walk, Write

According to Natalie Goldberg, writer and teacher, the order should be “Sit, Walk, Write,” but, as is my nature, I fudge things to fit my nature. Following directions is not one of my strong suits. I improvise.

When the temperature hit 50 degrees today, I went out for a stroll (again, my nature) under a clear and sunny sky. The cool breeze brought the non-scent. of a waning winter. There is still snow on the ground. Vague puddles cross my path.

I can barely hear my footfalls, although that can be more the effect of my diminished hearing rather than the soft tread of my measured heel-to-toe pace. I doesn’t matter.

Cracks in the asphalt form telling mandalas, and I wish I had brought my camera to capture the symmetries of these unexpected partnerships between man and nature.

A young woman jogs past me and turns up a hill that I always find too strenuous for my strolls. I am not going anywhere. Have no place I have to be. It is that time of my life when strolling is the way to go. (Unless, of course the Amtrak Writers Residency project picks me to “sit, ride, write.”)

The same young woman passes me again, this time going the other way. I wait for her to pass me yet again, because three is a magical number, but she doesn’t. Is there meaning in that?

A young boy, about seven years old, walks past me on the other side of the street. He is pushing what looks like a doll’s carriage; it’s too small for a baby. When he walks toward me later, coming the other way (it seems like everyone is coming and going, but I just keep going), I stop and look through the mesh into the stroller. It’s a big orange cat. He says the cat’s name is Oliver. I look down at the logo on the stroller. It’s a pet carrier. Why not.

When I sit, it’s on the sunny front steps with my daughter and grandson. We sip our teas and chat. I need that kind of company/togetherness, and they provide it. I feel lucky.

In a moment of silence, I wonder how my son’s goats are doing. It is the year of the goat. And of goat therapy. Sometimes magic happens.

The clouds finally drift in from the west, and the breeze picks up.

Now it’s time to write. And I am.

a total spring cleaning

Obviously, I’ve cleaned out my blog house, going for a fresh new look. Now, the challenge is to clean the cobwebs out of my head and start to write here again. It’s not unusual for bloggers to take a break every once in a while.

I’m also motivated to tune up physically — went to the chiropractor today. Of course, it helps a lot that my daughter (who cooks for the family) has upped our intake of delicious vegetables and cut down the fleshy portions of our meals. That means I’m eating healthier (except for my late night snacking, which I’m trying to control). With Spring will come more walking and a greater willingness to get myself out for the exercise classes at the well-equipped local Jewish Community Center.

My next challenge is to clean out my living space and make room for the new Lazy-boy glider recliner I bought myself for my birthday with my tax refund.

In the meanwhile, I’m still putting out heirloom seeds for wintersowing, even though it’s kind of late for that. I can’t wait to get out and garden.

My son, who is still job-hunting, has been motivated to publish his late father’s novels, which have been sitting on old 5 inch floppy discs in WordPerfect. They are available via Amazon Kindle, and he has put up a website to promote them: www.myrlnbooks.com

10-the-wheel-of-fortune
The Wheel turns.

The wheels turn.

Spring. Sunshine. Energy. Hope.

not Another Pleasant Valley Sunday

Actually, it’s a laid-back Pioneer Valley Sunday. All I did all day was some knitting while I listened to an audio version of the second book of the Hunger Game series, Catching Fire.

I love the fact that I can download audio books free from the library, but I don’t like the fact that I have to hurry and finish listening before the allotted time. I just don’t understand, since it’s downloaded, why an audio book can’t be available to any number of borrowers at the same time and for as long as they need to finish the book.

My grandson is out in the back yard reading an oversized Calvin and Hobbes book of cartoons; his mom is out there reading some book about home schooling on her Kindle; his dad is nearby reading an actual book borrowed from the library — a biography of Frank Zappa.

My grandson takes a break from reading every once in a while to resume his imaginary globe-trotting journey that is based in a “camp” he has set up next to his “fort” in the yard– complete with globe, desk, drafting tools, and assorted mute companions — where he devises maps and plans his adventures. He has amused himself all day out there with only occasional bouts of participation by the rest of us in his continuing saga.

At some point, I unplug myself from my audio book and listen as my grandson reads aloud to us something from Calvin and Hobbes that he thinks is funny. My daughter shares a passage from the book she is reading about how important it is for kids to have time for imaginative unstructured play. I think about our neighbor’s young son whose days are taken up with competitive sports, school, karate, Pokemon, and video games. A basically nice kid, an ordinary kid, he is almost devoid of any flights of fancy or curiosity about the world around him.

Ours is not a typical or ordinary family, and our quirkiness extends way out to the west coast, where my imaginative untypical son still struggles to find a job.

I think about what the world will be like when my grandson is ready to participate fully in this society, to find work that is meaningful and satisfying. Hopefully, the Hunger Games is not prophetic, although if the Republicans had their way, it might come awfully close.

For now, we are thankful for what we have. And we hope for a future where curiosity, imagination, playfulness, and mutual support and cooperation across age levels are valued a lot more than they are today.

Books. I….

One for my ears and one for my eyes. That’s how I do books — usually two at once. Maybe it’s an escape — a way not to think about the things I really don’t want to think about. You know what I mean — female infanticide in India, the GOP debates. You know what I mean.

The book I just finished was on digital audio, and I just couldn’t stop listening to it until I was finished. Everything about it was unique — the format, the characters, the premise, the language.

The Night Circus.

The author is incredibly talented on a number of fronts. I was particularly fascinated by her Flax-Golden Tales. Be sure to take a look.

The Night Circus was nominated for a Golden Tentacle Award, which

ts awarded annually to the debut novel that best fits the criteria of progressive, intelligent and entertaining. The book must be the author’s first published work of novel-length fiction in any genre.

Take a look at the other nominees if you are into “progressive, intelligent, and entertaining” reading.

Of course, I download almost all the books I read from my library’s digital catalog. I was surprised to see that they even had The Night Circus. Usually I wind up with a mystery or suspense, which is what’s on my mp3 player now. Not on the level of The Night Circus, but it keeps me from thinking about the things I don’t want to think about. You know what I mean — malnourished people, malnourished animals, malnourished dreams.

minding the mortal

Thinking about it. Annoyed by it. Just not yet destroyed by it.

There were times during that icy week without heat that I could imagine just slipping into a frozen sleep and not waking up.

There were times during the week or so after, floundering in a mix of aches and fever and stuffed sinuses and peppery throat, unable to rest or eat or think, that I could imagine dosing myself into a cloudy sleep and not waking up.

Discomforts for the young can become depressing struggles for elders.

And, if it’s more than just discomfort, if it is, indeed, mortality beleaguering your cells — as it is for my first hospice patient with whom I sat for several hours today — how do you wrap your mind around that?

When I got home from that visit, I found an email letting me know that I have three poems accepted for an online poetry site, the new version of which will be up sometime over the winter. Two of the poems I submitted were based on my experiences with my mother during the last stages of her dementia.

Mortality. It’s just the way it is. We are all terminal.

In the meanwhile, I have to come up with a recent photo to go along with my bio that will go along with my poems on Cyclamens and Swords. The photo that they have — and the one that was on this blog for a while — is almost a couple of years old.

So I take a new photo.

Yeah. More reminders of mortality.

But I do my best to look my best — a little blush, a little hair teasing. Only there’s no denying the passage of time, fine-lining it toward the final loosing of that mortal coil.

Like Mehitabel, I used to brag that “there’s a dance in the ol’ dame yet!”

Well, today, I’m not so sure about a dance. But a song, for sure.

….my youth i shall never forget
but there s nothing i really regret
wotthehell wotthehell
there s a dance in the old dame yet
toujours gai toujours gai

the things that i had not ought to
i do because i ve gotto
wotthehell wotthehell
and i end with my favorite motto
toujours gai toujours gai.

Wotthehell.

If you want it but it doesn’t exist,
create it.

I moved into this town two years ago after a decade of taking care of my mom. It took me about a year to get over the stress and tension of living with my (demented) mother and (set-in-his-ways) brother for several years. And then my mother passed away.

For a year after that, until now, I have been trying to find a place for myself in this larger community. I joined a gym but found it all very depressing (and expensive). I joined a quilting group, figuring that I like to sew and might enjoy it. But I didn’t for all kinds of reasons, including that I have neither the space where I live nor the design talent and experience to get into quilting. And I find it boring to quilt from a kit.

So, I did more knitting to keep me busy, but that didn’t fill my need for community connection. I tried a couple of book clubs, but they never talked about the books and I didn’t quite fit in with the memberships.

So, I joined the Jewish Community Center, mostly for the Zumba and aerobics and gym facilities, and that helped to get me out of the house. But it still wasn’t what I was hoping to find. The JCC offers some other programs that I might have taken, but they were all at night (and I don’t drive at night) and cost more than I can afford.

So, I joined up to be a Hospice volunteer, got trained, and just met my first assignment. That was a start, but not exactly to the point.

What I miss from my old life are the people with whom I worked and the groups to which I belonged in which I took some leadership. Some were peer discussion groups; some were expressive arts therapy groups. They were groups that dealt with substantive personal issues and opened doors to creative and spiritual exploration (even though I am an atheist). I always made friends with people in those groups because we had those interests in common.

So, I went on a search for a group — preferably a therapeutic group dealing with elder issues or major life transitions.

Uh uh. No such thing. Not even within a 25 mile drive.

So, I drafted a proposal to start such a group under the auspices of the Jewish Community Center, and, since I am a trained study circle facilitator, I volunteered to lead such a group.

I’ve done that before — started a group to which I wanted to belong. It has worked in the past for me, and I’m hoping it will work again.

If it doesn’t, with the SAD season starting, I’m going to find it tough to muddle on through.

Oh well, I’ll think of something……

my life as sweater metaphor

I’m not the first knitter to come up with the idea that “knitting is like life.” (Google it and you’ll see.)

Even if you’re not a knitter, you probably get the point. And if you are a knitter, you might find my experiment in intuitive, no-pattern knitting something you might like to try. (“Intuitive Knitting” will also come up in a Google search, but what you’ll find is not what this post is about.)

One of the reasons I knit is that I prefer to have a useful product as the result of my creative efforts. And I prefer to play with processes that don’t come with patterns of exact directions. I like to wing it and see what happens. Thus, the title of this post.

For this particular intuitive endeavor, I experimented with techniques I had learned from two books: “Modular Knits” and “No-Pattern Knits.” Mitered squares, triangles, and the simple garter stitch became the basis of my improvisational project.

I started out with a few skeins of Vanna’s Choice yarn that I bought on sale a while ago, although I had no specific plan for their use. I just liked the variegated color scheme.

As I expected, I ran out of the yarn and went back to Joann to get more — but the store didn’t have enough of the dye lot, so I wound up buying a few skeins of a different dye lot as well. And a complementary solid color in case I decided on a contrasting trim (which, obviously, I did).

As I continued to improvise, I discovered that not only were the two dye lots of what was supposed to be the same yarn a little different in color; they also were a little different in thickness. Connecting one with the other was a mathematical challenge (the number of stitches per inch changes with the thickness of the yarn), but I persevered.

I began by using one of the dye lots to create a mitered 12 inch by 12 inch garter stitch square that became the center of the back of the sweater. The dimensions were arbitrary; it was just a place to start. And this is what the back of the finished sweater looks like. You can see the differences in the shades of color in the variegated yarn. And because I never did figure out the stitch gauge exactly, the bottom ballooned out a little and I had to take in the extra “fabric” with my sewing machine. (Sometimes I REALLY have to improvise!)

Coordinating the two thickness of the same dye lot of yarn worked better on the long panels that I knitted as the basis for each front side of the sweater. And I made the two sides different from one another. (I find asymmetry aesthetically pleasing.)

By using the solid color yarn to pick up stitches along the sides of the variegated panels, I added to the width of the sweater so that it would fit around me. Then I picked up the stitches around the top of he square armhole and used the Norwegian technique to knit the sleeve from the top down. I added the solid color cuffs and the variegated color pockets later. The neck band was definitely an intuitive romp — garter stitches with arbitrary decreases made on the right side.

This is a photo I took of me in the sweater (with my i-phone, in a mirror; but you get the general idea). It’s oversize, so I’m wearing a hooded sweatshirt under it. It was in the lower 40s today, and I was toasty warm when I went for a walk this afternoon.

I’ve already gotten unsolicited complements on the sweater. After all, it’s the only one of its kind in the world.

I suck at canvas and paint. My efforts at quilting have yielded marginal results. But give me a few hanks of mismatched yarn and I’ll amuse myself for months, playing at coming up with something that’s uniquely mine.

Some people make lemonade out of lemons. Me? I’d try for a lemon tart.