Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Very Special To Do List

Today I have the pleasure of introducing a new book of poetry by Sarah Salway. The book is called You Do Not Need Another Self Help Book. A bit further below, you can hear Sarah read a poem!

Here's Sarah.  Isn't she lovely? I am very proud of her, and to be her friend.

I met her at the artists' residency, VCCA, several years ago. We drew together quickly, and spent many hours walking the paths and trails at Sweetbriar College, talking about writing and other less august matters. Our friendship outlasted the residency, and became another mutual residency, and then visits back and forth across the pond. Sarah lives in England--can you hear it in her voice?

She is an amazing writer of short stories and novels, including Getting The Picture, Leading The Dance, Something Beginning With, Tell Me Everything, and more! She has been a Royal Literary Fellow holding the fort at The London School of Economics, and is presently the Laureate of Canterbury, in which role she is doing many exciting projects, some of which you can read about on her website. (See the link below, after you listen to the poem.)

Today's reading is part of Sarah's audio blog tour. You Do Not Need Another Self Help Book can be ordered from her website. Look under the Read Me heading. It will be officially published in March.

When you click on the link below, you'll hear a reading of a poem. 

For more about Sarah, including links to other stops on her audio tour, please visit here:


Congratulations, Sarah, and best wishes for this excellent book!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Two Steps Up

Loren was an early riser, relative to the rest of her family, and we'd hang out while I waited for her sister Tina, my best friend, to get out of bed--which usually happened around noon or later. The parents were late sleepers as well, so it was just the two of us up in the house in Wynnewood, doing as we liked. One of the things we liked was to watch Shirley Temple movies. Shirley Temple Theater was off the air by then--it only lasted for three brief years, 1958-61--but somehow we had a taste for her, enough to pursue a learning of her repertoire. We formed our own Shirley Temple Fan Club, with some degree of irony, but that was hard to sustain. Shirley was so enormously talented and charming, and the plots of many of her films sent us out of the television room to an attic in London or an hotel in New York or a southern plantation (yes, we were aware of the awfulness of these plots and settings)--more effectively than nearly anything else. The films were fantastical, and chocked with song and dance, but she embodied innocence and an uncanny ability to make herself heard--a trait alluring to me, I see now.

My favorite was The Little Princess. Shirley's father is lost in the siege of Mafeking, and because her school bills aren't being paid, she must go live in the attic and work at the school rather than being a regular student. (This idea doesn't go away; witness Newt's proposal to make poor students work as janitors in their schools.) I loved her relentless belief that her father was alive, her quest to find him, and the music of the word Mafeking. (When I went to South Africa some years later I very much wanted to see Mafeking--not really a tourist destination.)

Below is another favorite scene. Yes, it is from another era and there are all kinds of things wrong with it in terms of race and class. There remain, however, some points of value; the kindness to a child who doesn't want to go to bed, Bill Robinson's extraordinary dancing, and lesson in teaching.
The emotional content here moves me in two ways, the first being the actual scene shown here, and the second being the depiction of a process of working and learning that feels, if not literally accurate, resonant with what I know of working, learning, teaching. Do the step slowly, move ahead, drop back and do the step again with a bit more speed, move ahead further, and so on. That is still more methodical than I am, but this small scene is an emblem of practicing an art form, any art form. It is the case that for every person now living there has been a great who has gone before us who has figured out all the steps and can be studied as Shirley watches Bill to see how it's done. It is always a great leap forward when a student can look to the geniuses rather than the very goods and see through the perfect creation to the scaffolding underneath.

Loren and I were lucky to have our fan club, because it came about so naturally. There is a great joy in sharing the pleasure of a movie, book, painting, music in the company of another--really sharing it, not just sitting next to each other.  We were young, and it was fun. As one becomes older it becomes harder to reveal the emotion of responding to a work of art at a deep level of being. It's so private to experience moments that resonate with your soul. To show how it feels to read or to watch something meaningful is a self exposure that makes one very vulnerable. Mostly we quickly wipe our tears away, and are sheepish if anyone noticed them. To take an experience that is most usually a communion between artist and an audience of one, and to extend it to an audience of two--two together, in rhythm--is really an experience of love.