We leave on our trip on the 19th of January, 2019. We will begin posting on this blog at that time. If you’d like to know our schedule, see the agenda. See this link to read the pamphlet we made for our trip.
Maureen & Barbara
We leave on our trip on the 19th of January, 2019. We will begin posting on this blog at that time. If you’d like to know our schedule, see the agenda. See this link to read the pamphlet we made for our trip.
Maureen & Barbara
In January of 2018 Maureen and I started imagining a poetry writing road trip. She was preparing to retire and I thought I could swing a trip if I sublet my apartment. One year later, after lots of phone calls, emails and much planning, Maureen took a train from Denver, the Amtrak Zepher, and she arrived in Brooklyn at my apartment in an Eastern car service on Wednesday the 16thof January. (Barb)
Maureen’s report on her train trip–
Through Iowa snowy farm fields with Black Angus popouts. A single black steer, way out in the middle of frozen cornstalks poking through the snow.
In Mendota, Illinois, silos on the edge of town. All snow around. Huge ear of corn painted on the whole side of one, open eared, sun bright yellow kernels with sprightly green husks curled up the sides. Then a snowplow buried in the snow.
At night around Lake Michigan and then following Lake Erie. Arriving in Buffalo at daylight, torn snow, somber mauve landscape, the frozen forests of upper NY State.
Coming down the Hudson toward NYC, smoky graphite clouds ripped apart by day- glow orange horizon.
Train delayed and slowed by the River Rescue Patrol. Hoping no one is drowning. The lakeshore limited in beauty follows the Hudson, river frozen over with big chunks of ice pushing against the shore. Unfortunately it does not have a dining car so arriving famished. MO
While Maureen was coasting along on the Zepher and the Lakeshore Limited, I was packing up my apartment for a subletter, packing books, running errands to buy this and that for the trip, responding to on-line students, trying to clear a spot in my little studio for a blow up bed for Maureen to sleep on. We discovered we both like chilling out watching British detective films, last night, Peroit. (Barb)
Our first reading will be tomorrow night, Friday, Jan 18th at McNally Jackson Bookstore in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 76 N 4thStreet, at 7 pm, a Belladonna reading. Then on Saturday we are driving to Washington DC to read on Sunday, January 20thfor the “In Your Ear Poetry Reading Series” at the DC Arts Center with Terence Winch and Erica Howsare at 3 pm.
For both of us, this was a fabulous gala launch. Thanks to Belladonna and those at McNally Jackson Bookstore in Williamsburg. Special thanks to Rachael Wilson for organizing, curating and making lovely broadsides (see below).
We were especially happy that Pamela Lawton brought and displayed the original artwork for the cover of our pamphlet, “Poets on the Road,” and she spoke about her process in making the covers. She described the first time she ever made a cover for a poet was for a book of Lewis Warsh’s; she blew up lines from one of his poems and hung them around her studio; then she lived with those for a while and then began painting. She mentioned how she originally became connected to our poetic community through her relationship with the poet Elio Schneeman. Here are a few photos her partner, Danny Licul, took at the event of Pamela and the books:
Some of those who attended were Ed Friedman, Patricia Spears Jones, Joel Lewis, Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, Cheryl Fish, Lydia Cortez, James Polk, Sally Young, Cliff Fyman, Peter Busheyeager, Greg Masters, Hillary Keel, Christina Kelleger, Danny Licul, Phyllis Wat, Lewis Warsh, Jen Firestone, Toni Simon, Joanna Furman, James Loop, Elinor Nauen, Evelyn Reilly, Michah Saperstein, Rie Shimamura, KB Nemcosky, Jim Feast, Esther Hyneman, John Godfrey, Mark Nasdor, Ryan Nowlin, Judi and Bob Dumont and Annabelle Levitt.
The following photographs were taken by Peter Bushyeager:
Some photos by Barbara’s son, Michah Saperstein. The second photos is of Cam from McNally Jackson and Rachael Wilson. The third photo is a crowd photo with Ryan Nowlin, Lewis Warsh and Ed Friedman.
The following photo by Barbara is of Rie Shimamura and Michah; special thanks to Rie for developing our blog page.
Some photos we received a week after this post. Because we really liked them, so we’re adding them. They were taken by Belladonna’s James Loop:
Here are the broadsides that Rachel Wilson made for our reading:
And here is a link to our reading on Penn Sound:
The next morning, on January 19, 2019 we were flying along, leaving Brooklyn, on the first leg of our reading road tour, headed for D.C. to our next reading at the In Your Ear Poetry Reading Series. Along the way we chatted as we motored above bodies of water on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge over Lower New York Bay. (MO)
In the morning, my son Michah met Maureen and me to help us load the car and to shoot a few photos. As we drove, we talked about our families, losses, our archives, me-too, Charlie Rose, Al Franken, Kevin Spacey. After crossing several rivers, we started talking about experiences with rape, Maureen fighting off attackers, me once trapped and then another time running. As we passed through New Jersey, the landscape was rather desolate in a winter dry way. I looked up and a flock of geese passed overhead. Maybe they were heading south, like us. (Barb)
We stayed with the wonderfully Irish poet and story writer, Terence Winch and his wife, Susan Campbell, in Silver Springs, Maryland. Susan is a painter and has done numerous book covers. Among them a gorgeously mysterious cover for Terence’s title, “Falling Out of Bed in a Room with No Floor” and an entire book on the poet, Doug Lang. Inside the stunning cover the pages run wild with collage, text, paintings, quotes, and photographs. Our accommodations in their house were spectacular including a sudden appearance of Beckett staring down from the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. (MO)
I had corresponded with Terence before about a story he wrote that I always loved, “Night Shift.” What a delight to meet him in person. Both Terence and Susan were warm and welcoming and both great storytellers.
The mess of travelling, coupled with exhaustion, sometimes created chaos and confusion. Tired of driving and fumbling around with some things, I got out of the car at Terence’s house and said to Maureen, “I guess we should lock the door.” Then we went into the house and met everyone. As we were all getting ready to go out to the car to bring things in, I looked at my bag, no keys. “Oh shit I locked the keys in the car.” We laughed and called Geiko for road service. We talked for an hour and then the guy from Geiko was spotted on the driveway, walking around the car with a yellow stick. He opened a passenger door. I go out to give him the tip we had promised if he would come quickly. And he said, “I don’t understand what the problem is. All the doors were unlocked!” (Barb)
Susan and Maureen at dinner on the 19th; photo by Barbara:
Our reading took place on Sunday, January 20th, 3 p.m. Terence and Erika Howsare read with us and the evening soared.
Terence’s first poem was about his mother. Earlier in the kitchen, he talked about how his mother had died when he was 16 and his father when Terence was 27. Those losses reverberate in his light-hearted poems. He often pokes fun at himself in a light poetic way. While he was reading a poem, entitled “Poor Country” about a virus that we think shut down the hospitals, suddenly a bunch of noisy theater people drifted through our space to use the bathroom. Terence stopped reading and said, “It’s all the fault of the people on the bathroom line.” And then everyone laughed.
It was a special audience of poets and friends. Some of those who we knew and now recall were: K. Lorraine Graham, Constance McKenna, Doug Lang, Heather Grant, Rod Smith, Simon Schuchat, David Beaudouin, Bevil Townsend, and Indran Amirthanayagam
All below photos by Barbara and Maureen– first, the four readers: Erica Howsare, Terence and us.
Below: Terence reading; Heather Grant, Bernard Welt, Constance McKenna, Terence; Simon Schuchat, Maureen; Barbara, Rod Smith, Simon; Chris Mason & David Beaudouin
After a bite to eat we went to Petworth Citizens where Terence played the accordion and his son Michael played fiddle in an Irish Sessions music gala. We all felt like dancing the Irish jig. MO
It was exhilarating to hear, Terence, his son Michael and others play impromptu Irish music in a session at a long table of musicians in the bar. At one point, I called Mookie on facetime so he could see and hear them. I took a few shots of Terence playing the box and his son on the fiddle. When I sent him a copy of the below photo, he wrote back, “Thanks for the photo. Playing music with Michael–my favorite thing to do in life.” One story he told at the kitchen table was about playing music in the White House when Clinton was president; this took place after Clinton had resolved some conflict in Ireland. (Barb)
The next morning: Terence taped us each reading a poem for his “Best American Poetry Blog.” Maureen read a poem dedicated to Ed Friedman and Barbara read “Here We Are” from A Day Like Today. Check out the post at https://blog.bestamericanpoetry.com/the_best_american_poetry/2019/01/maureen-owen-barbara-henning-on-the-road-terence-winch.html
We left DC in howling winds and unseasonable biting cold after Terence made an incredible Irish breakfast of scrambled eggs, beacon, crusty, buttery toast and much tea and coffee. Delicious! (MO)
As we were getting ready to leave, I put one arm in my coat and tried to zip it up that way. Susan was laughing hysterically. “We should photograph you like that,” she said. Outside the weather was bitter bitter cold. So cold that while we put things in the car, my fingers were frozen red. (Barb)
The winds continued on our drive to Raleigh NC and the cold pursued us. But all the piney forest along the road was green. A road side sign said, “Believe You Can,” to my amazement.
Through Haw River.
The Sam Hunt Freeway.
I remember the land starting to slope and the freeways beginning to curve. The low scrubby winter trees and grass started turning into taller brown trees, and finally into pine trees. Once as we were driving through the pines, I looked ahead up a hill, the sun overhead (we were going south), and all the cars coming our way were gleaming.
While driving, we talked a lot about our past relationships, happy to presently be living alone. We told stories about the people we had met at the reading, food, politics. We had a long conversation about the books we read when we were young. I read a lot of Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Mark Twain and Charles Dickens and all the books on the shelves in the school library. What Maureen loved reading when she was very young was Albert Payson Terhune’s stories about collies; later she liked reading Carson McCullers, Dostoevsky, Louisa May Alcott, Eudora Welty’s short stories, and so many others. Both of our mothers took us frequently to the public libraries. We both remember the excitement of coming home carrying big stacks of books to be read. (Barb)
On the 22nd, we woke up in Raleigh NC in a Doubletree Hilton, a special deal these first three hotels on Maureen’s AAA membership. We did our yoga practices (I’m teaching Maureen). Then we piled our many bags into our car and started driving another 300 mile stretch. As we drove along, I asked Maureen how she got involved in writing poetry. She said when she was young, she was up in the family attic and found an Irish songbook with rhyming verses. She remembers becoming excited and later at 8 or 9 writing an epic poem about the life of a blue butterfly. (Barb)
After a mistaken turnoff, we took business 85 for a while. I remember passing by a Giant Peach with the name, Gaffney on it. I think they grow peaches here, I said. Later I google and discover that Gaffney is in Cherokee County, South Carolina and is known as “The Peach Capital of South Carolina. But only .45% Native Americans live there.
Up early in Raleigh for yoga and buckwheat breakfast, then on our way to South Carolina. The geography begins to roll into curving hills and the road waves up and down.
The pines stay green and the weather begins to thaw. Tonight we cook our dinner in the tradition of traveling Hindu women in the bathroom of our hotel room. Barbara has brought all the spices and tiny pots along. MO
Here we are in Pensacola sitting across from each other in the dining room. We are both trying to recapture and rethink about our last three days on the road. We open an email from Terence Winch, with a link to his blog “The Best American Poetry” about our road trip and with a transcript of the reading we did in his impressive basement/studio before we left his house—
We read Terence’s post and laughed at his description of our car full of things. Then I tell Maureen a story about Iris Adler, an artist I met in the early 90s at Byrdcliff Art Colony. She had an old van full of what looked like junk, but was in fact valuable items for making her sculptures. She was in her 70s then (I think) and traveled from one colony to another. Once she told me a story about how she managed to be an artist and a mother at the same time. She said something like this (as I remember), “When my children were young, I wasn’t much of a cook. For their school lunches I would make enough peanut butter sandwiches for a week and freeze them.” Iris and I laughed and now Maureen and I are laughing. We understand because we too raised children. (Barb)
We left Anderson SC on January 23rdheading South to Atlanta GA on I 85 South. Peaceful driving along and over the North Fork Broad River and on. Cloudy sky with rain pending, but the landscape became more and more beautiful. In Montgomery we found our hotel in a cluster of others on the outskirts. We cooked in as we had splurged in Anderson and gone to P J Chang’s. The Best Western we stayed at had the most obliging cooking situation of any of the hotels so far. Outside there was a cloudburst of rain that Barbara got caught in as she run out to the local organic store for a couple of things needed for our dinner. We had buckwheat noodles and veggies and went overboard with some Havarti cheese. After our repast we caught up on the daily news. Go Nancy Pelosi! (MO)
We stopped in LaGrange, Georgia looking for a lunch spot, came upon Gus’s but first we walked around the plaza with a statue of Lafayette and a fountain. Then we were too late. Gus’s closed. Back on the road. (BH)
As we drove further south, little by little we took off layers of coats and under-coats. Still cold and somewhat damp, but curvy and the landscape more beautiful even when overcast. As we were ending our drive in Georgia, the last 30 miles, we traveled on a back road so we could see the world behind the manicured freeway. Maureen took the wheel, still a little leery because she had not driven a stick in many years, but very quickly she remembered. (Barb)
All the hotel rooms were ok, but the air was stuffy. Upon arrival, we would turn on MSNBC and catch up with the antics of our destructive president. We clapped when Pelosi said, “No, sorry you can’t give a speech in the house until the shut down is over.” Then we rolled with laughter when the bully tweeted something like: “I decidednot to give the speech until after the shutdown.”
Every morning we religiously did our yoga practices. I am teaching Maureen and every day she is becoming more and more limber. Sometime in the future we will grace our blog with photos. (Barb)
Early morning on the 24thwe left Montgomery on a highway flat grey as the sky above, but no rain today. It’s cooler tho because of the downpour last night. Suddenly green grass! Gas is $1.89. Large birds soared overhead. Turkey Vulture or hawk? The ditches along the road were mowed here and formed lovely clean, green mounds. Lots of pasture land and cattle. We chatted about southern writers and how the South is so literary. They love poetry and stories and seem more romantic. We wondered if the warmer, easier weather promotes a more easy going lifestyle. And then the sun came out! (MO)
On the 24th, our gps directed us off the main highway (84 to 65) and on to a few smaller highways. As we drove along, the air started feeling different, more like the ocean, the houses, similar to the houses I remember in New Orleans, spread out with big porches. The accents of the people in the gas stations became thicker with that Southern slant. Jamey Jones and Rachael Pongetti were still teaching so we went straight to a funky warm vegan restaurant I liked when I was here a few years ago, “End of the Line.” Maureen and I sat at a table by the window looking out at the train tracks across the way. (Barb)
It was too early to go to our hosts, Jamey and Rachel, house and we wanted to see the water as we were so close. We didn’t know exactly how to get to it, so I picked a restaurant, Cactus Cantina, that was on 12 north and looked to be right on the gulf. We set our GPS for the Cantina, but it drove us around in circles, finally we got to the Cantina, but the airport was between us and the water! We couldn’t see it at all! We gave up and drove to Jamey and Rachel’s. Already the signs of warmer climes. Huge oaks and Magnolia trees. Camilia bushes. Their place is right on the Bayou. (MO)
As we sat in front of Jamey and Rachael’s house waiting for them, we watched some workman packing up their things (their house is being renovated). Ten minutes later Jamey and Rachael arrived and welcomed us into their abode, where they live with Luna, an energetic little spotted dog and Jeff the fish.
January 25, 2019
After unloading all our things into a mound in Jamey and Rachael’s front room, they gave us a tour of their fabulous house where Jamey had grown up with his siblings. Built about 1924, Jamey’s dad had later rather 1950’d the house, probably to make it different than it was while he was growing up. Now Jamey and Rachael were restoring some of the original glory as they also updated and modernized. Gorgeous patinas on some of the molding and the stairway to the spacious attic, that Jamey had spent months emptying out of family treasures. A big, new window illuminated the space and light bounced off the wooden floor. Now, just moving in while workers continued to finish the outside and roof, they too had boxes and possessions piled about. Where things were in the big bright, new kitchen was anyone’s guess. The magnificent tall windows were key throughout the house. Rushing up the walls, they flooded the rooms with light. Even in its unfinished state, Jamey’s boyhood home glowed. (MO)
When we arrived, I was happy to be back in Pensacola with my friends, Rachael and Jamey. They had moved back into his house shortly before we arrived. The house was beautifully renovated, a house that Jamey grew up in. His grandfather lived there too. As we walked around the house, Jamey said, “This is my grandfather’s foot print.” “The eaves were still there when my grandfather was here, then my father added plywood.” “See this hook? Two of them fell out when the carpenters were working. My grandmother used these exact hooks to weave in the room where you are staying. She had one in each corner.” I looked at the screw. An ordinary tiny metal hook with carving at the base. I said to Jamey, “Why don’t you make a list poem of all the connections to past generations?” While we swept, moved boxes into the corner and filled up a gigantic airbed where I would sleep, Maureen and Rachel went on a walk with Luna dog, down a few blocks to see the Bayou. (Barb)
Luna pulled us along like a little speckled spirit. The Bayou was water! And so pretty in the setting sun. Then I saw my first albino squirrel! As it leaped like a small ghost through the snarly branches of an ancient oak, I felt for a second like I was in the Japanese horror movie, Kuro Neko.
Trees abound: Magnolia, live and water oak, Crape Myrtle, Sweet gum, Juniper, cedar, Pecan, pine, and palm. Camilia bushes across the drive. (MO)
That evening we four went to the “End of the Line” again, for a three course vegan meal.
Back at their place we sat up late into the night over wine and books. Jamey and I found we had both been wildly inspired early on in our writing by Gregory Corso’s The Happy Birthday of Death and Gasoline. We marveled at the mystery of how we all seemed to randomly find in so unpredictable a way the writers and the path that brought us to our work. As tho some mysterious part of our being was looking for it, but then rather stumbled upon these connections. (MO)
I was sitting in the rocker with eye patches warming my dryish eyes, I listened to Jamey and Maureen talking. Blindly, I piped up, “You two really have found each other.” Lots of fun always at the dining room table. Jamey and Rachael are both exuberant and excited about art, poetry and love of others. (Barb)
Rachael talked about her photography and showed me some pieces. I immediately fell in love with the edginess of her work. She spoke about her teaching methods and I so wanted to take her classes. I pulled out my iphone and showed her a series of photos I took of the pine forests on a train trip through the high Sierras when it was snowing heavily. She said I had an “eye,” which filled me with joy as I love photography. (MO)
For the first time in a week, Maureen and I were able to sleep in separate rooms. Blissful to be away from the bags of kitchen things and alone. (Barb)
On Friday the 21st, I woke up to hear men banging around the house outside. We washed our clothes and rearranged things, starting to find some kind of order for on the road. When Rachael and Jamey left for school, Maureen and I did our yoga practices. While we were doing yoga, the men were working on the eaves outside our window and we pretended not to see them and the pretended not to see us. While I was packing up, one man caught my eye and I waved to him. When we went out to the car to find a restaurant for lunch, I stopped to talk to them. Did you enjoy practicing yoga with us? I asked They laughed. “Even watching can transmit energy.” (Barb)
We spent the morning catching up on this blog. Then we went to lunch at the 5 Sisters Blues Café, an amazing blues venue with yellowed and new posters covering the walls. (MO)
Home I took Loony Tune for a walk around the block. Something about this dog—I really like her. Energetic, sleek and on her own journey, dashing around, but then she comes back for a petting session. Then Jamey came home and Luna wanted to go out again. The cats wanted to come in. Maureen’s stomach was churning. She fell asleep on the sofa. Rachael came in the door and fell asleep in her bedroom.
Rachael arrived with lots of yummy food. But I had to decline dinner and sit in their chocolate brown recliner with a bit of a stomach upset. Too much wine, no doubt, and too much new and varied diet of the trip. Rachael brought me tea and Jamey’s grandmother’s soft fog colored blanket. She was feeding Jeff the fish and told me the story. She said she hadn’t intended to get a fish, but some students had brought in goldfish for an assignment and one of them mentioned his fish was up for adoption. Rachael had had a good friend who died in high school and his name was Jeff. When she asked the fish’s name, the student said Jeff. Did you name him after someone you know? She asked. And he said he didn’t know anyone named Jeff. (MO)
Jamey and I take Luna for her morning walk around a few blocks and along the Bayou. Birds are singing like Spring. The bayou shimmers blue in the crispy sun.. Jamey has cousins and relatives a plenty here. As we walk, three boys go by on their bikes. We exchange hellos and Jamey says, “That’s my cousin.” Growing up on the racetrack and moving from place to place, I marvel at what a sense of rootedness this must bring.
Jamey, Rachel and I went to Pensacola Beach. We headed out under the famous Trestle bridge that Rachael took photos of daily for a year, recording the ever changing graffiti art that folks add to and paint over constantly, creating a phenomenal book. (See this link for an interview of Rachael). Across Pensacola Bay, the Gulf of Mexico was just a skip and a jump away. As I walked up over the dunes to the water I was struck by a view of the sea I’d never experienced before. Because of the way the dune dipped the sea appeared to stand up as though a huge wave was suspended in air or held against glass. But the tide washed in lightly over a thigh deep trough where a man was gathering shells. The sea was the color of illuminated aquamarine. The sand was pure white and soft as silk. It was an optical illusion of sorts that was overwhelmingly beautiful and at the same time it felt mysteriously dangerous as the water stood up so high above us. Neither Jamey or Rachael seemed to see anything odd about the view and I wondered if I’d entered some kind of altered reality after days of driving. It’s a scene I’ll never forget.
We said hello to the man gathering shells. He asked our names and said his name was Broken. He explained that he gathered the shells in the trough as they were not crushed apart as the ones on the beach were. He showed us what he had so far and his shells were totally whole and perfect unlike the scattered chipped ones on the beach. Not broken, I thought, reflecting on his name. As we parted Jamey said casually how good it was to meet him. Suddenly wary he asked, “What did you say?” Jamey repeated and Broken thanked him. “I really appreciate that,” he said. (MO)
Photos by Rachael Ponghetti
I stayed home to spend time preparing for the reading. I had rarely read Just Like That out loud to an audience and I wanted to prepare a ten minute dip into the story that would work while also reading poems.. The novel is about a relationship that starts and stops, starts and stops, and so forth and so on. Instead of reading a section dwelling on the emotions of the stop, I found another one where the narrator is writing a poem very close to a poem I once wrote. :-). Then I fell asleep for an hour and woke up as the group came back into the house. Maureen gave me a clam shell she had found on the beach that I tucked away in a safe place in my suitcase. I regretted missing the beach, but our bodies also require sleep and care.
A few hours later, after much chatting, we went to the Pensacola Museum of Art for our reading. Grade school kid’s art covered the walls. There was a big crowd, many of Jamey’s students and other artists and poets from the community were there. I recognized several who were at my last reading (and workshop) in town a few years earlier. When Maureen was reading her poems from Erosian’s Pull, I recognized some of the lines (especially from “Whenever I snow…”). In 2007 Iinterviewed her about the process and background for the poems in this collection for Talisman. See http://barbarahenning.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Maureen-Owen-Interview.pdf
After the reading, Rachael rushed home to finish cooking delicious vegetarian lasagna and a crowd of friends came to the house for a party. At 1 am we crawled into our beds and so did Luna, Jeff and the kitties, Oscarella, Macey and Finn. (Barb)
January 27, 2019
After we left Jamie and Rachael’s house, we stopped at the Leisure Club Coffee Bar in Pensacola to continue working on our blog. At eleven we hit the road to Mobile, Alabama. An hour later we arrived at the Botanical Gardens. We were an hour early, hoping to find a cafe, but no cafe. A man outside the gate, Lynn, kindly escorted us to the garden’s learning center where we were to read. He unlocked the door and we found a pleasant carpeted room set up with refreshments in back. In front, there was a wicker chair beside an end table with a light and a microphone, and standing in the corner, a mock-gardener, scarecrow-like figure with an actual deer’s head mounted on top. (BH)
At the Mobile Botanical Gardens, storks and egrets were wading around in the garden’s ponds. The day was overcast, but not too cold. What a delightful garden! We headed towards a stately building behind an ornate wrought iron gate near the parking lot. The keeper of the gate’s name was Lynn, a charming, sprite like gentleman with a wry sense of humor. He walked us up the to the well set up room where the reading would take place. (MO)
We set up our books in back and waited for Sue B. Walker to arrive. Sue is the publisher of Negative Capability Press and past poet laureate of Alabama; I have known her for several years, first as a student in my writers.com classes (more like a co-teacher) and then as a friend; she published my book, A Day Like Today, and I read once a few years earlier at a salon at Sue’s house. (BH)
Our host Sue Walker arrived as we were setting out our pamphlet and books. A wonderful, energetic writer, editor, and organizer of readings and events. Check out her book “Let Us Imagine Her Name” from Clemson University Press. (MO)
Sue asked me to introduce Maureen. I wasn’t prepared and Maureen whispered, “Just read the bio in the back of our book.” I did that and also talked about how she had grown up on a farm and if they listened closely, they might hear the sounds of Minnesota farmland in her poems. (BH)
After we both read we took some questions from an audience composed mostly of writers, professors, and artists. Barbara and I responded to pertinent questions on our writing process and on whether poetry played a more visible part in our culture in past decades as opposed to contemporary times. We discussed rhyme and the importance of rhythm in the poetic line. Then a delightful reception with much chatting and connecting. (MO)
After the reading and questions, a quiet spoken woman approached me to sign some books, Marilyn Johnston. She told me that she was also from Detroit. Where exactly? I asked. East Detroit, she said. I was shocked. We were both from the same four square mile city, a suburb of Detroit, now called East Pointe. As I have traveled around the country, I’ve never met anyone who came from there. Then she told me that she had attended East Detroit High School, the same school I attended, but had graduated ten years earlier in 1956. And she also had worked for Chrysler Motor Company until she retired, liked my father, she in Market Research for new cars, my father, first on the line and then as a draftsman working on government contracts. That’s the story of Detroit. Almost everyone has relatives in the car companies. Marilyn now lives in Mobile, close to her son. (BH)
Then we followed our host for the evening, Lindsey Hanahan, poet and painter, to her home where we met Bella the Bassett. We were introduced to her youngest daughter, Grace. At dinner and drinks we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Lindsey. She has a book of poems soon to come out from Negative Capability Press. The next morning at breakfast she showed me some of her paintings and we talked about some of the poems in her forthcoming book. (MO)
Lindsey’s house was a sprawling Southern style house. Once I went the wrong way looking for Maureen’s room and I almost couldn’t find my way back. Then we holed up in my room in an extremely comfortable bed for an hour or two working on our Pensacola blog post. Here’s a photo from my bedroom window– (BH)
On the road to New Orleans, as I was driving, I asked Maureen to look up David and Roselyn, a musician couple that I knew from Detroit back in the late 70s. For a while they lived and travelled in a bus with their children and a few other people. In earlier years, I had spent a lot of time in New Orleans (a boyfriend had family there); now and again I would run into David and Roselyn performing in the French Quarter. I was wondering if they were still there. Maureen read the following description:
David and Roselyn met while touring Air Force Bases in 1959. They took a detour from music for David to get an Anthropology Degree from Berkeley while Roselyn became President of Berkeley Congress of Racial Equality and President of the Berkeley/Oakland Democratic Party. Their first trip to New Orleans together came while they were registering voters in Louisiana in 1963 and learning to play the blues in Juke joints around the state. They played by their campfires throughout the west and folks would gather around them and invite them to join them at their campsites and suggested they should be professional musicians. Their first gig was in the Cass Corridor in Detroit where they were billed as David & Zelda. They have played around the world and they are going again. http://multiracialmedia.com
See an early photo of them, posted by Dennis Pruss, a Detroiter, and posted on the Corridors Tribe website–
In NOLA, we walked 8 blocks along Royal Street looking for a particular restaurant, and then we discovered that we were going in the wrong direction. Fortunately our wrong turn stopped us in our tracks, mesmerized by an African American woman singing a blues song. She turned and looked into my eyes while she was singing and I felt teary. She had such a beautiful voice and spirit. As we went along, I asked a few musicians if they knew David and Roselyn. Finally one said yes, they are usually down on Royal and Louisiana. But he added that he had not seen them in a while. The last post we found on line was from 2016. I remember them singing “The Beaubien Street Blues” in Detroit clubs. (BH)
When we arrived in New Orleans, we found our lovely little airbnb, courtesy of Bill Lavender. Unloaded the car and took a 20 block walk to the French Quarter. It was so elating to be in New Orleans! So warm and sunny and full of colors. We ate dinner at Bennachin, a delicious African restaurant. Then exhausted from walking around we hailed a cab that drove us in and out of streets, turning this way and that, unnecessarily taking us on a much longer route home than we had walked. But only charging us the fare we had been promised. Curious, and a little scary. (MO)
Kind of late on the 28th, Maureen and I sat in the small living room in the back of our New Orlean’s apartment on St. Phillips Street in Mid-City New Orleans. We had spent most of our free time writing in our blog. When we are bleary eyed, one of us will say, “Let’s watch something on TV.” What a good decision to watch Roma, our first movie of the trip, a black and white Netflix film. What is it about black & white? It jars your sense of reality and makes you more aware of the art of the film. Also it harkens back in time. And this film (by director and writer Alfonso Cuarón) is set in the 1970s when many of us were still watching black and white television.
The film starts out very slowly focusing on the daily activities of a comfortably middle-class family in Mexico City, mother, father, four children and two maids. The beginning of the film was focused on daily activities; I was reminded of Klaus Knausgaard’s novels; unlike Knausgaard, the camera follows someone other than the narrator, in this case, a housemaid, Clio, who is very loving, tender and naively involved with a lousy guy who is being trained by the government to be a soldier. Simultaneously the mother, Sofia, is dealing with a husband-professor who abandons her and the children. Little by little, slowly and quietly, the problems accrue for Clio until finally she finds herself in the middle of a horrifying attack on student demonstrators, her boyfriend one of the attackers. I loved the slowness of this film, the black and white shots that zoomed in on ordinary unbeautiful objects, like a pile of dog poop. I also appreciated the way female nudity was not used to titillate. Instead a completely naked man does martial art moves, showing off for Clio. I also loved the way at first we begin to recognize her hard life as a maid, but then it becomes clear that she is part of the family and when she is undergoing extreme difficulties, Sofia does not abandon her; the two women bond. When the movie was over it was already 1 pm and we crawled into our beds, me into my lovely sleeping bag inside the covers, always cold inside in southern climates when the temperature drops down to 30 degrees. (BH)
After yoga and breakfast on the 29th, we walked a few blocks up Rendon St. to Esplanade in a sunny, but sharp, cold wind. It seems the cold just can’t stop following us. Coffee shops and cafes greeted us. We accelerated our pace to Café Degas which looked so warm and inviting, tucked away in a thicket of bushes and trees between streets. Then we heard two women wailing “It’s closed on Tuesdays!” Yes, it was Tuesday. Bracing into a bitter wind we made fast tracks for Fair Grinds Coffee shop, the first other place in sight. They had no decaf coffee at all to my disappointment, but we stayed and worked on our blog, with the idea we’d go to another café in a bit that had decaf lattes. So after working for a while, we walked a couple of doors over to 1000 Figs Café and were so enticed with their menu and atmosphere that we had lunch. I never did get coffee.
We picked up a few things at the big market on the corner and found walking back not as cold. Things were squeaky clean from a big rainstorm during last night and the sun made it all shine.
We added photos to our blog. Barbara spoke to an old friend of hers and made plans to see her tonight. Bill Lavender,a poet, editor, and teacher living in New Orleans,and his wife Nancy emailed inviting us to a reading by a good friend of theirs, a New Orleanian, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, debuting his new novel, “We Cast a Shadow.” Bill founded Lavender Ink, a small press devoted mainly to poetry, in 1995, and he more recently has founded Diálogos, an imprint devoted to cross-cultural literature. (MO)
I drove over to my friend Marie Scavetta’s house. We had been friends when our children were growing up. Her son, Amando, and my son, Michah, were best friends since the time they were about seven years old. When Marie opened the door to the duplex, I was surprised to learn that Armando was living in NO’s too, working as a high school teacher. He is living in one duplex with his wife Frida and their two little girls. I took a photo, a bundle of love. I always admired Marie because as a lawyer she dedicated her practice to helping people, for Legal Aid in NYC and here in New Orleans, for years she represented prisoners on death row. While we caught up, we ate bowls of mustard greens with garlic, cheese and naan bread. When Armando came home from teaching high school, he explained to his oldest daughter—“When I was just a little older than you, I was over at Barbara’s apartment all the time.” And I said, “Yes, you and Michah were going back and forth, from our house to yours, trying to find a place where no adults were at home so you could do whatever, whatever.” (BH)
As we walked the couple of blocks to the event, Nancy and Bill remarked how all the shops were so new that they hadn’t even seen them before. What used to be a print shop, a Dixie stove shop, The Dollar Bill Bar, were now sha sha mod clothing stores, and tight, upscale, sparse looking fronts.
The Ace hotel in the business district hosted the book reading and signing. A high ceilinged, new hotel that retroed old New Orleans with its dark wood interior, high ceilings, and romantic lighting; it hosted the event in a wide, cozy room with an upstairs balcony. We got drinks from one of the two bars and went upstairs with the overflow crowd. Nancy had gone to congratulate Maurice and had him sign her book downstairs. A fellow writer and close friend, who had gotten together with Maurice regularly when they both were working on their separate novels, gave a lively, thoughtful, punctuated with jokes about them, introduction. Maurice, who seemed loved by everyone in the packed crowd, then read an excerpt from his novel. I wanted to buy a copy, but restrained myself as too many books in our car. Made a note to do so when I get home. Then his editor at Random House, a bright snappy New Yorker, fielded questions to him about the novel. It made me want to buy a copy all the more.
Nancy had made dinner reservations for us in the hotel restaurant and we tiptoed downstairs as the Q and A was wrapping. A friend of theirs, Darlene Wolnik, joined us. Darlene is a sustainable food worker and coordinates with farmer’s markets, giving lectures all over the U.S. for NO and Cleveland, and applying for grants, etc. She started the Farmer’s Market in NO. Dinner was delicious and we decided to share a Black Forest desert. When the desert arrived we thought it was a mistake and hailed the waitress that it was not what we had ordered. It in no way resembled what we expected. Instead a mound of raspberry like sauce, a mound of greyish lump, a big swirl of crumbled nuts dabbed with one tiny squirt of chocolate, and 2 curls of bitter chocolate thin as transparent sea shells. Our waiter, looking a bit apologetic, explained that the chef created deconstructionist cuisine and this was a deconstructed Black Forest cake. Er, well, ok, we said. We dug in and it was quite tasty, and would have been more tasty no doubt, if we had not expected a rich chocolate cakey delight. Eating it we realized we should have gotten a heads up from the rest of the meal, which tho absolutely delicious, had little outward appearance of what we envisioned we ordered.
Early afternoon on the 30th, we went to PJ’s Coffee Bar, a place where Barbara had frequented in earlier years. We worked there, preparing our reading and working on our last blog post. A young woman at a table across from us was happy to snap our photo.
That night, we read at the Dragonfly Poetry and Performance Ritual Space. The reading was organized and hosted by Megan Burns. The crowd was smaller than our other events, but the audience was into poetry, attentive and interactive. See photos below–
In the morning as we were leaving, we found a bag of books hanging on our door from both of Bill’s poetry presses, Lavender Ink and Diálogos Be sure to check out the website. On our way to Austin (via a night in Beaumont), we stopped for gas at Breaux Bridge, La and Maureen snapped this snappy store —
Jan 31, 2019
As we headed out of NO, a man pulled up alongside us at a stoplight and motioned. We rolled down the window and he said, “I know two good looking white women like you wouldn’t be worrying about getting any trouble ‘bout it, but your brake light is out on the right side. If it was me I’d be worrying, cause they’d be coming after me!” He was a sweet, funny fellow, laughing as he talked.
We drove long stretches of LA. St Charles came up on 10 west as we listened to Ray Charles sing “Tell your mama, tell your pa, I’m gonna send you back to Arkansas.”
News flash: Every senate republican backs a rebuke of Trump’s troop withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan. We didn’t brake when we saw a police car and resolved to replace the light when we got to Beaumont.
In Texas 3:01
Speed limit 75 (MO)
February 1, 2019
In the morning in Beaumont Texas, we set up our mats in between the beds and did our yoga practices, then downstairs we ate some grits in the “complimentary breakfast.” After loading the car, we stopped at a gas station to ask where we could get a brake light. We were directed around the corner to a truck repair. The young man kindly took apart the inside entry for the light and showed me how to install it. He sent us to an auto supply. We left Beaumont without worrying any longer about the police stopping us and confiscating my old Honda with all our kitchenware and books. (BH)
Foggy then thin sun. over Trinity River, then overcast & fog again. Darker skies. We chat about our past and places we’ve lived. A host of trucks on the highway and now pastures of Texas long horns. (MO)
I don’t remember much about the four hours of driving along I-10 to 71. Pretty flat, one big frightening power plant, then a little strip of curvy roads and we came into Austin. (BH)
When we arrived in Austin we drove to the University of Texas at Austin, where our hosts for the night taught. The campus was vast and we drove, confused about where we were supposed to meet Johnny, Barbara’s friend. We called him on the cell and after driving in what seemed familiar circles we finally saw him gesturing to us. We had some time before Rebecca, our other host, would be ready so Johnny gave us a tour of part of the enormous campus. 50 thousand students go to UT at Austin. We strolled uphill to the famous turtle pond and took some quick pics of the many basking turtles. Then walked by an amazing sculpture of stainless steel and aluminum replicas of canoes intertwined by Nancy Rubins, titled Monochrome for Austin. I snapped photos from all it’s jutting angles. (MO)
In Austin we stayed at Johnny and Rebecca Hartigan’s house for two nights. I’ve known Johnny since he was about nine years old. He is family to me. His mother was (and still is) a dear friend and when Johnnie was a child, he traveled to carnivals and fairs with my husband, Allen; they had a special bond with each other.
Rebecca and Johnnie kindly offered us shelter, food, laundry and great conversation. We stayed with them for two nights. They are music lovers–Johnny plays the accordian, dobro and concertina, and Becca plays the mandolin. See below for a wall in their living room. Johnny is an anthropologist; in his last book is Care of the Species, he uses ethnographic ideas to study botanical gardens and knowledge. He is now working on an ethnography of wild horses in Galicia, Spain. For more info on his work, see–
https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/anthropology/faculty/hartigan Rebecca also works for the UT, educating and managing a large group of high school teachers who then teach their students college level statistics.
That night, we had dinner together with their daughter, Zia and her friend, at a vegan restaurant, called Beer Plant, thereby making all of us happy, those who drink beer and those who don’t (me). When Zia arrived, I was surprised at how much she still looked like the little girl who spent the night with me in 2005 in Tesuque, New Mexico; she’s a beautiful, vibrant young woman studying civil engineering. It wasn’t long ago when women did not major in Engineering. Hurray for Zia. The next day we had lunch at the Sour Duck, another crazy beautiful delicious place. And the next night at the Spider House. (BH)
February 2, 2019
In the morning the weather was still misty and damp. Austin is close enough to the gulf to share humidity with desert plant life. I went on a hike with Johnny, heading down a path behind his house through a wooded area, following a dry creek to a flood plain and finally ending at the public library (possible 3 miles). (BH)
Thanks to Becky Garcia at Malvern Books. She did a great job of organizing their space for our reading and also promoting the reading. Fernando set up a table with our books and Rebekah introduced the three of us. There was a big attentive crowd. We read with Ashley Smith-Keyfitz, a young, exciting Austin poet. Here’s a link to her reading one of her poems–
Michael Anania, longtime friend, Poet, essayist, and fiction writer, who I hadn’t seen since I had reddish hair and he had black, came to our reading at Malvern Books. Fabulous to see him again after so long a time! We had fun catching up a bit and in his usual energetic fashion he turned me onto one of the books on display: Duets by Edward Byrne, a little book that tests the boundaries of translation. I’ll say no more, but you must check it out as Michael’s excitement about it is not to be questioned.
After the reading, we went out with Ashley Smith-Keyfitz and Ben Keyfitz. We ordered vegan sandwiches from a food truck called To Dine outside The Spider House; apparently there are hundreds of food trucks in Austin. We sat outside in the misty weather eating our burgers and chatting about poetry, Austin, New York, families and . . .
February 3, 2019
On the road to our motel in Sweetwater Texas, we talked about many things. As we passed by miles of grazing and farmland, one of the more interesting conversations was about Maureen’s potato farm. She owns some property in Minnesota, the farm where she grew up. The house is ramshackle now, maybe collapsed, but she has this idea that she will put up some temporary structure, like a little trailer or a yurt or something like that and she’ll go out there for a few months of the year and raise potatoes to donate mostly to an organization that for example supports the homeless, and raising just enough to pay her electricity for the year. It will be called the Bud Phalen Potato Project, after her uncle who farmed there. I see her there on a flat country landscape digging and planting potatoes and at night, laying on the hood of her car, looking up at the stars and writing poetry. (BH)
Another interesting thing, as we neared Sweetwater, TX, the landscape became an enormous wind farm. Literally hundreds of wind turbines, their elegant slender bodies, creamy white and stunning, engulfed the hilly view. They seemed to go on forever and we noted that tho the development of wind power is a boon to the environment, the problem of their wrecking havoc on migrating birds and water fowl is a grave one. We chatted on noting that this was an issue that was being investigated. I thought I’d read somewhere that some kind of sonar device was being worked on that could be installed in the turbines and would signal our feathered friends to avoid that area. But we agreed it was still a complicated issue. Improving the environment, yet wounding the creatures in the environment. (MO)
One Eye Open & Driving
One eye open, the other still sleeping
yoga between beds, reach up, wake up
curtains drawn, passersby pass by
sky blue and wide, Texas style
pumping gas, a cow braying in a trailer
miles and miles of wind mills
a dry treeless main street town
Post Texas library with no bathrooms
love of the word, pee in MacDonalds
no such thing as decaf, a donut
from Donut Depot for Maureen,
all of a sudden Lubbock &
a scruffy guy with a cigarette
dangling lays down his bike
and snaps us beside Buddy Holly’s
glasses, sun in my eyes, hello
from Cricket Street to Broadway,
urban coffee decaf and Tumeric Latte,
then off we go tracing the wires,
along US 84W, listening to Arthur Blythe
remembering entering Alvin’s Finer
under Blythe sound with Allen
& with Detroit friends, flat flat
land in 4 directions, finally hot,
in theTimes read out loud
about prisoners in Brooklyn,
without heat, zero degrees, banging
on the walls & we’re 26 miles to Clovis
and Mexican food at Leal’s,
just a hop skip & jump to our beds
For Patrick Happy Birthday!
Feb 4th 2019
Left the very fine Microtel Inn in Sweetwater, TX , headed for Clovis, NM. Driving straight along beside acres and acres of graceful and elegant wind turbines, we looked for a town with a coffee shop. In Slaton we found Donut Depot, but no coffee or tea after 11:30 a.m. And definitely no decaf. I’m finding Texas does not do decaf. No decaf lattes. When I ask for decaf they seem to question my sanity. Like why are you drinking coffee if you don’t want caffeine?
We went off route in Lubbock to see the Buddy Holly Museum/Center where a giant replica of his glasses sets out front. Being Monday the museum was closed, but we delighted in posing beside the dark geeky frames. A man on a bicycle came by so we asked him to take our photo. He mentioned that Sunday, Feb 3rd, the day before, was a gala 60thanniversary for BH at the museum. Sigh, had we only come a day earlier, but it was great to be there now. BH was and still is my favorite rock n roll singer.
In Lubbock we found a perfect coffee shop and, of course, no decaf lattes. But they did have decaf coffee, so I had steamed milk with that. Lubbock had a lot of shuttered storefronts, boarded windows, abandoned shops. Rather surprising in a city with fabulous red brick streets.
We left Lubbock for Clovis through country sides dotted with little homesteads, scrubby trees, and solitary oil rigs on little farms. (Maureen)