Friday, September 19, 2014

The Land of Totuaba

I'm excited that my memoir essay of camping in Baja California with my bipolar rocket scientist father and family is now published online at Halfway Down the Stairs. This issue of the journal has a rich selection of poetry and prose, and I'm honored to have had my story selected.

"The Land of Totuaba" is an excerpt from my memoir of an unusual childhood with a father who blew up rockets for a living and in a port town in southern California. The manuscript, Rocket Lessons, is still in my trunk, waiting to become my second prose book. My then-agent advised me to hang onto it and simply write my first book! The ways of the publishing industry are unfathomable to outsiders.

Here's a poem from Rocket Lessons that my agent made me take out of the memoir, which then found its way into my new book Gods of Water and Air, which has a whole San Pedro section.

-->
Our New Neighbor

A knobbed mob of water, the Pacific rang
my doorbell in the night and ran.

When I got up, she let fighting cats stand in
and pranked me with the cannery's whistle.

With a sob and a whoosh, she dangled trinkets
over our back fence and showed me her green silk

underwear. A crazy lady in a frilly robe,
the sea was our new neighbor.

Dockside cranes pulled at her flanks,
hauling up surprises. Automobiles,

fish, furniture and anchors trailing seaweed
sputtered out of her. A constant breeze

chopped her green speech and sudden
surges mangled fishing boats and surfers.

Our crazy neighbor lulled me to slide
into her curls, to roll on soft swells.

Neighborly, she pulled me in-
to her doom bed and closed a cold lid.

Then the father who had thrown me in
fished me out. From that day, the air burned.

When I rode her treeless hills and looked back to land
through her glistening I felt

the family's undertow, that was the sinking
lull and downward sea drag.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Permission to be a poet

It's something only you can give yourself: a space to create, sweet as ripe cherries. To find it, buy it with love for your creative self, wrap it in ethereal sheets of time, and then unwrap it as though you deserve every crinkle of the delicate paper and every silky ribbon of ink. You give yourself permission to NOT write a word. Not even think. To drift, a poet in poet time with the willingness to do absolutely nothing if that's what comes. To think about writing without necessarily saying anything is permission. Here's a poem about it from my book Gods of Water and Air.
 
-->
Life

I had a beautiful bowl of cherries
to paint, stems perfectly arranged, the jade
bowl offsetting the pale red fruit.
I ate them. Such is the fate
of so much art. But only the serious kind.
At least this artist won’t starve.
Looking at a half bowl of cherries
I still want to create. Maybe a painting
of the pits in another bowl, so much life
gone by. Or perhaps a poem about the greed
of the painter for sensuous delight, story
of artists and their models through the ages
and also the story of the art
that was never made
while they became their own
works of art. Jade bowl. Stems.
Hungers ripe and aching.
Summer’s half moon warmth.
Tender flesh. (Note to self:
They were so ripe and cold.
Put cherries on the grocery list.
The dark ones this time.)

I'm offering a 10% discount off the Amazon price of Gods of Water and Air during September. Write to me if you want one!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Gods of Water and Air Celebrates One-Year Anniversary! Woo-Hoo!!!

I'm happy to celebrate the one-year anniversary of my collection of poetry, prose, and short drama, Gods of Water and Air. Thanks to Karen Kelsay and Aldrich Press (an imprint of Kelsay Books) for creating a beautiful print book from my manuscript and supporting it! And thanks to all of you who bought a copy and read it. I'm going to make my book a little cake for its birthday, which I'm calling September 4 (the day I got my first copies). Here are the candles -- I wish it to reach more of you in this coming year! You can get it at Amazon, or if you order from me directly (email me at rachel@dacushome.com), I'll offer a 10% discount from the Amazon price for this month.

Friday, August 29, 2014

How much is enough in promoting your poetry book

Asilomar Beach, Photo by Heather Osborne
Jeannine Hall Gailey responded to Timothy Green's Facebook about the responsibilities (and guilt and anxiety) of a poet in promoting a book. Jeannine's post encourages us to forgive ourselves for not doing everything imaginable at our own cost: organizing cross-country book tours, banner ads, local readings, mailing out dozens of reviews copies, etc. Tim's post lamented the lack of support from his publisher. He gave  numbers: 105 sold by the publisher, 200+ sold by the poet. Around 305 total books sold. There you have it: about 300 sales is what you can expect as a poet with a good audience.

I don't do readings. Well, I do if invited, but I don't go out of my way to get invited, and that's because though I enjoy doing them, it involves some anxiety and preparation and I have a very busy life. I like to give my free time to writing new things. I can't afford book tours and ads. And I'm very grateful to my publisher, The Aldrich Press (Karen Kelsay Davis, an imprint of Kelsay Books) for supporting my book by making a trailer and sending out review copies.

So how do I promote Gods of Water and Air? I blog. I tweet. I offer discounts. I'm an active presence on social media, posting poems from the books, news, and anecdotes that connect with it. I never stop. And I don't beat myself up for having sold or given away (yes, I make gifts of books) under 150 in a year. I think it's a pretty good number and it will grow. It's a good book.

I do what I can and subscribe to Jeannine's philosophy. Also, I'm going to take Gods of Water and Air to e-book soon. I just bought Mary Oliver's new one on Kindle. I don't bring paper books into the house much. I don't care about sales, I just care that my work gets read.

Here's a poem from my book:


Taken

I was especially taken
with the grasses today, their herringbone
weaves and golds, purples, and greens,
the seed pods floating
like butterflies on tall stems.
I felt like a boat in a restless ocean
at sunset, among its moving flecks
and hues, rocked by the wind
with tangled bird trills,
and the Earth yawned
and mouthed me
and tongued my neck.
My speech came in medleys
of mood. I swayed
saying the Beloved’s name
with endless vowels.
I was especially taken
to the bone-clean rock
owned by a tiny lizard blinking
with its pebbled lid,
and when it slunk down,
hugging its planet, I went
home hugging my heart.








Thursday, August 28, 2014

My poem newly remixed in the Poetry Storehouse today

Thank you, The Poetry Storehouse, for including my poem "As Yearning Is Red" in the collection. This marvelous video remix of the poem, a film by En Doubluu of my poem read by Marie Craven, with music by Titee, showed up today on Facebook. What a lift into the air for my writing day! The Poetry Storehouse is a collection of poems and poetry remixes that is the brainchild of the amazing poet and poetry entrepreneur Nic Sebastian.
The poem is from my collection Gods of Water and Air. Here's the text:

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As Yearning Is Red

Sudden as a hat is ripped away
by the wind, he was over my head.
Long, black legs scissored together
as he plowed the seamless sky
with a beak like a boat’s prow.
His wings rowed lazily.

There’s little reason to look up
when I walk. I passed as he paused
to float on a thermal.
I was heading downhill
and he was gliding
down to the creek.
We were nearly eye level.
I had a precarious feeling,
as if my marching feet
had risen off the ground.

His wings rippled several times
as he held onto the wind.
They rippled again:
a lace bedspread shaken out.
He was white as yearning
is red and still as night’s
first sip of moon.

Then the luminous being was gone,
leaving me ruffled and aired,
forever feathered,
able to lift
on the beat of a breath.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Happily buried in the Italian Renaissance

I'm coming down the home stretch (= two-thirds through) of what I sincerely hope is the final revision of my time travel novel, The Renaissance Club. I'm past fallen-in-love with Gianlorenzo Bernini -- I'm in the forming-a-fan-club stage. If only for this sculpture of Apollo and Daphne, made early in his magnificent career as a sculptor. He was also the official architect of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome under two popes.

 When I say buried I really mean it. Buried in research, juggling plot lines and character growth steps in my ever-expanding memory, metering out metaphors to enrich but not overburden the narrative -- all while dancing to the tune of my clients' fundraising needs and juggling all THAT sea of information. I feel like the Beach Blanket Babylon lady wearing the hat containing all of San Francisco, but thank God I have some props and poles to lean the weight on. Thank God for the Internet, or the pile of books near my bed and couch would be even worse. Thank God for laptops. Oh, and thank God for the Renaissance. And for the wise and comprehensive advice from my editor, Arielle Eckstut of The Book Doctors. Even while juggling all this, I'm sort of relaxed because I have a handy list of What Needs to Happen Next.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July is winding down -- 9 days left on my book discount

If you haven't got a copy of my new book, Gods of Water and Air, I'm offering a hefty discount. It's a book with poetry, prose, and even This collection has prose a once-act  play (about the afterlife of dogs). 135 pages of summer reading -- a deal!

This price is good through July 31!  Email me (rachel@dacushome.com) to order one direct, for only $11.00 + shipping. (Amazon charges $2 more.) Here's a taste.


-->Life Can’t Be Art You Say

But if those clouds were Turner’s pale blooms
stemming from ocean – if any horizon could tie itself
in evening’s lilac knots, my stanzas of self could
sail into the not-everything-a-poem.

If not art, why would our family villanelle
have been just Say it!, all arguments end-stopped
rhymes with ever and fend. Whatever else
explains this morning’s layers of birdsong and wind?

A musical threading of our years’ arabesques
of absences. You admit relationships
are either art or science, so don’t those lean winter trees
somehow alliterate with alien and lenient?

And the air’s tang reverberate with the new year’s
blossom pink? Our rising mountain years,
the waterfalls of doubt we scurried beneath,
our bare legs and umbrellas like a print by Hokusai.

Love is different than a work of art, I agree.
The layers keep rearranging
their chrysanthemum geometry.
We remain an unfinished still life,

breaking into a cantata of dish clinks
and dogs whining – and yet
pristine breakfast silence
can cloud with lyric all our logic.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

July's big discount on GODS OF WATER AND AIR

Happy Fourth! If you haven't got a copy of my new book, Gods of Water and Air, I'm offering a hefty discount on Gods of Water and Air to celebrate midsummer. This collection has prose as well -- even a small play. Email me (rachel@dacushome.com) to order one direct from me, for only $11.00 + shipping (135 pages -- a deal!). Or you can get it from Amazon. Here's a taste.

From "Prayers for Everywhere":

Prayers for the volcanoes
that need garlands when they erupt
and prayers for the freeways
you never drive them the same twice,
prayers for the buds
that look like babies' faces
as they open next week and for the blossoms
opening their soft legs to the bees.

Prayers for everything the soul
must reluctantly or passionately kiss:
rain-running gutters, a pebble in the shoe,
the silt gritty on your ocean-washed lips.

Because what is a prayer
but a laugh that can't be formed
in letters, but only heard
in that place that, praised, lights up.
So prayers for everywhere
that needs them.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Time Traveling in Italy

Today I'm working on my time travel novel set in Renaissance and present-day Italy, featuring the genius sculptor and architect who invented The Baroque style, Gianlorenzo Bernini. Of this sumptuous sculpture of Bernini's beloved, Costanza Piccolomini, art historian Jonathan Jones wrote: "He has made an intimate monument to secret moments, a sculpted memento of his lover, whose marble reality dissolves, when you chance on her among the stony dead, into breath, life. Bernini's genius for motion is dedicated to making his lover live for ever. Her wild hair and loose clothes speak of energy and passion. He has caught her mid-glance, mid-conversation, perhaps before or after sex."

What was the truth of the Bernini's relationship with his assistant's wife? We may never know, though if you read my book, you could learn the secrets. Wikipedia tersely sums up the interesting facts: "... Costanza Bonarelli, with whom [Bernini] fell in love when her husband was working as Bernini's assistant in 1636. The normally polite Bernini openly insulted the husband, which led Pope Urban VIII to intervene before anyone was killed. He advised Bernini to get married, which he did, in 1639, to Caterina Tezio. Their marriage lasted 34 years and produced 11 children."

Monday, June 23, 2014

Metaphor Monday

The only way to sanely start a week, if you're a poet, is with metaphor. Reading to start and revising is the juice. I have three inches of print drafts to plow through, how many e-files, and am grabbing summer by the shorthairs to make a space for poetry. I need to make a fresh pile of worked-up stuff, need time and peace. Hedging my priorities. Here's one from Gods of Water and Air. Have a luminous day.


 American Luminous 
“California Spring” by Alfred Bierstadt

The painting at the de Young Museum
is so big I can walk ten steps
before reaching the other side.
Stepping out from under the umbrella
thundercloud onto a slope, I pause
inside the canvas and rest
next to a cow. I’ve left the actual
California to contemplate its light
and illuminated mists, the way they billow
and thin as the sun’s roving spotlights
ray out over inky valley oaks.

That dot on the hills---a wagon train?
Stunned settlers stopped to ponder
a life so wide. They’ll snug their hopes
into cabins and live in miniature
under skies with county-large shadows.
One among them wonders
how to cover a canvas with this horizon.
Bringing their pianofortes, they plunge
into birdsong thick along the river’s length
and the rattle of a thousand alders.

With their cousins and aunts
they weave through rock fields
and forests the size of cities.
This landscape devours. They enter
the kind of time that turns grandly
and meanders. I wait for them,
learning to see their earth’s
pastels of space and light,
wanting to take it back outside
and free it from the frame.