DELICATE EDIBLE BIRDS and other stories by Lauren Groff

DELICATE EDIBLE BIRDS and other stories

51LMRgt-dtL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX342_SY445_CR,0,0,342,445_SH20_OU03_Lauren Groff

Hyperion, 2009

206 pp.

ISBN-13: 978-1400160709

Okay, so the book isn’t brand new, but when you stumble upon an author who entrances you, who cares when the book came out?

Lauren Groff, author of critically acclaimed and bestselling Monsters of Templeton, has given us the gift of this resonant book of short stories, each an insightful drama of a twentieth century woman.

She writes stories that are both achingly real and mythic. In Lucky Chow Fun, the first story, a shocker taking place in the small Midwestern town of Templeton refers to fairy tale within the telling of the tale, and it’s never intrusive. “Fairy tales,” she writes, “are not like real life in all its beautiful ambiguity. There are no semigod absent mothers. Or, for that matter, semipresent good ones.

The youngest daughter in this story has OCD, and fixed on ornithology. Every writer knows how challenging  it is to write onomatopoeia. Well, Poll, the younger girl, has figured out how to do birdsong in words.  “Hurry, flurry, blurry, worry,” is the scarlet tanager’s song. The Eastern Towhee’s song is “hot dog, pickle, ickle, ickle.”

No use in my telling you about each story. Read them. In each, there’s so much to learn beyond the stories edges. Other worlds to open to.

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coversketchSTRANGE LIFE

by Eleanor Lerman

Mayapple Press, 2014

81 pp.


Award-winning poet, Eleanor Lerman, has the gift of writing such intimate poetry that it feels confessional, even though she never gives us personal information. That’s because her poems are about all of our private selves—the stranger inside us who will try anything, go anywhere, to find our place in this world and the next. In Ask Ed About the Coral Castle, Lerman comes right out with one of her essential questions. Where, you ask, where do you fit in? In Date Night in America, someone whispers, Where do you fit in? In Anonymous, “After all/ we have always been “the other.”

                Strange Life is the journey of an ironic seeker who consorts with Carlos, a Nagual (Carlos Casteneda)—a human with the power to turn himself into a donkey or turkey, or, something sexier, like a puma or jaguar. The journey will take you to Virginia Beach, to the Edgar Cayce Institute “where it is promised that / All Questions Will Be Answered.” The seeker will make art and parade the artworks around, causing “the soft brown mountains where the spirits live” to write a letter that says, “they felt even more magical than they had in the old days.”

Sometimes Strange Life comes close to speculative fiction. We Have Our Dogs and Their Ancestral Blessings prepares us to survive the world’s end. And there are times that plain old good advice is sprinkled into the esoteric. And yet every poem, no matter how far out it goes, remains grounded in the everyday. In Dreamland the question is posed, “So how can it be avoided, the juxtaposition / of the household and the eternal.” Lerman’s language is full of contrasts. Who would expect to find “fanged revenant” and “the real deal” in the same poem?

Having had to memorize Joyce Kilmer’s Trees in elementary school, and always ending up the one who had to recite the line, “Upon whose bosom snow has lain,” I have never been a fan of personification, but Lerman use of this tool has won me over. Everything is alive in her poems where a raincoat can give an embrace and time sits on the couch beside you, looking heavy and dumb and the wind carries songbirds and bends the reeds in the lonely marshes.

It feels as if Lerman could give a terrific course called Science for Poets. Her poem, The Crab Nebulae, sent me to Google. Without reading her poem, I may never have known that when a star dies a violent and fiery death, it spews its innards out across the sky, creating an expanding wave of gas. And I was inspired to read about the Marfa Lights from one of her poems, ghostly lights, will o’wisps, that have been seen near U.S. Route 67 in Marfa, Texas that some believe are U.F.O’s, others the reflection of highway lights. Whatever you believe, this phenomenon makes a perfect foil for Lerman’s out-there imagination. And the title poem led me to learn about “the blue hour,” the time of twilight each morning and evening when there is neither full sunlight nor complete darkness, a time so prized by photographers that they call it “sweet light.” You can see that sweet light shape the landscape of Lerman’s poem.

I found myself as thrilled as a kid on a treasure hunt when I came across references that set off bells in my head. In the Nature and Attributes of God, I found “and starve / with the best of our generation.” (Hello, Ginsberg.) Heartbreak begins “You are not a hotel…” (Elvis Lives.) And I got to find out that Endymion was a mortal who fell in love with the moon.

For all the wit, there’s an underlying urgency to this collection. Lerman, like a soothsayer, a prophet, a rabble rouser, encourages us to start our own revolution if there isn’t one out there that fits us. Her poem, Deadpan, is a cautionary tale of what happens when we try to force ourselves into a life that doesn’t sustain us. She encourages us to support each other, to kiss the stranger. And Lerman sprinkles in good advice for anyone getting overly worried about what others think of us. “Think about satellites drifting out / of orbit hello, hello, as they wander / through the starry void.”


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Where have I been that I’ve never heard this before? First heard about this Canadian songwriter/singer/poet/and novelist while I read the Guggenheim award-winning poet, Eleanor Lerman’s latest book, Strange Life,  (Mayapple Press, 2014). Her poem, Leonard Cohen’s Guitar, led me to google him. His delivery, the intensity of his feeling, the intimacy of his words! Lerman describes it as “the kind of concert where you’re nailed to your seat and then the aliens arrive to announce the end of the world.” Sounds right to me.

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HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY to all my readers

Page by Joseph Jalal – Valentine Heart Flowers 14093code.jpgdownload

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BERNARD AND ANNA BLUME at the MOMA (or the Kitchen Klutz)

I sae myself in Anna and Bernard Blume’s raucous photos of a hausfrau being overwhelmed by her kitchen chores. Potatoes fly about as if they are being juggled by poltergeists. How is it that if you put me on the dance floor, I can do anything–hip hop, samba, tango, and even modified break-dancing if I’m wearing pants and my knees are up to it, or rather down with it. But in the kitchen….

The other day when I bunked a pot of water against the tap, the water flung up onto the counter. When I lifted everything from the counter, I ended up bunking the top of the fire extinguisher into the cabinet. It sprayed white powder all over the place until I got it to stop. Selective Klutz-erie is how I see it. What about you?

This photo is from the website


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I can’t wait until you see this Chilean drama about Gloria with her Brazilian wax (played unflinchingly by Paulina Garcia) who goes dancing in a club where “older” people meet, and falls madly in love with Rodolfo, (Sergio Hernandez) recently divorced. Gloria is an empty-nester whose children have given her the nudge from the nest. I winced as her son texted while she was trying to have a conversation with him.  I don’t want to put in a spoiler, but what until you see what she has to face with her daughter.

Rodolfo has left his wife and two grown daughters, none of whom work, but has his heart left them? Just count the phone calls he gets from them while he’s with Gloria and you be the judge. Whether this relationship works out or not (and I’m not telling) you also see the challenge of having to cope with someone else’s children.

This film shows the awkward fumbling and the electric passion that can exist between bodies of any age. And it gives women a model for living with dignity and brio. tbn_48cb8664df212849


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Great new review for I DARE YOU TO WRITE

51UyqDyJPLL__SY300_For anyone who enjoys a good “dare”, this book is for you.
I barely finished reading three pages, when I picked up a pencil and started to write, just the way Rochelle suggested. Within 40 minutes (…which flew by I must add), I had over four pages scribbled in an old spiral notebook containing thoughts, ideas, memories and more. Believing that I could actually write a novel was another matter. In fact, from the start I was more doubtful than confidant in any writing ability I once thought I had. But, a “dare” is a very strong motivator for me, and I continued to read, think and practice many of Rochelle’s ideas. Whether I ever write a novel, or an essay or even a short paragraph that anyone would care to read is still up in the air. The most important thing is the process, the effort, the fantasy of creating something that has any worth. Rochelle, you’re on! You had me at “I Dare You…”

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Beautiful Song About Rockaway Beach by Christine Lavin

I grew up in Rockaway, so this song calls to me. But anyone who lives in a resort town or anyone who feels the passage of seasons poignantly or anyone who is alive will enjoy this.

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