Saturday, June 6, 2020

Long Days at Home

Cooperstown Public Library
The last post ended with a recap of whirlwind activities involving my new book, a train ride across the country, my 50th college reunion. Soon after that reunion Bill and I drove to Buffalo for Thanksgiving. On Sunday we planned a leisurely drive across the state to Cooperstown, to spend a night there as we had done a few times before. Unfortunately a storm was also planned for that day. We thought to ourselves, how bad could it be? Well, it was pretty daunting, took us all day to reach the turnoff for Cooperstown, the thruway full of cars creeping along in slush, our windshields pelted with pellets of frost. At the turnoff it was already dark. And a steep hill was on our route, unbeknownst to us the rather locally famous "Vickerman Hill." Cars to the right of us, cars to the left of us had spun out, but my Volvo soldiered on, only balked once, steady pressure to the gas and we made it to the top. I am becoming an accomplished winter driver. Still not there yet, though, another hour or two when it normally would have taken less than an hour. And minimal visibility, luckily very few cars on the road. We finally reached our destination, an old Victorian in Cooperstown, the Landmark Inn, and were fortunate one restaurant in town was still open, Mel's at 22, and it was warm and cozy with delicious food. The b&b let us stay an extra night of course, who else would be coming with several feet of snow? So we darted in to the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame the next day (we had to take turns because parking seemed to be prohibited everywhere...). We discovered Alex's World Bistro for a late lunch, then ordered takeout for our dinner back at the room (a bottle of wine purchased at the liquor store next door...seems liquor stores never close in inclement weather). So this is rather a long-winded description of a two-day event. Not to worry, there won't be much to relate for the next series of months...

I seem to remember a reading the Cools gave at the New Brunswick Public Library, and Gretna, Maxine and I having a great pizza lunch afterwards. That was March 7. Then the world started closing in. The pandemic had arrived. Events began to be cancelled. Frances Mayes' reading in Doylestown. Gray Jacobik's long-anticipated reading at the FDR library in Hyde Park. Bill and I navigated getting groceries delivered, and ordering takeout from places that allowed us to pick up at the curb. Masks acquired. The kindness of neighbors, some of whom shopped for us when online delivery was interrupted.

My great great grandfather Patrick Henry Rafter
becomes a citizen
Staying home is not as difficult for old people like us who are somewhat introverted and like to spend time on the Internet. I finished an article that I sent off to my editor at the Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey. Threw away bags of papers, files, photos. Started more genealogical research. Wrote some poems. Was interviewed by the Guilford Poets Guild. Zoomed with my poetry friends, Gilmanton folks, Bill's family in Buffalo.

But watched in horror as the president of our country seemed to become a more and more frightening and dangerous individual. And George Floyd was murdered. That is where this blog is at this point in time, June 2020. People rising up. So many helpful commentators. Trevor Noah, for example, on the social contract. What good does it do, he asked, if the people in charge have broken the social contract, why should the oppressed continue to obey it?

Bill and I plan to go to New Hampshire in late July. That is about the sum of things here. Be well and stay stafe. And listen to the voices of change. What do we want, justice. When do we want it, now.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Recap of 2019

Chicago
The year 2019 began with the publication by Cherry Grove Collections of my second book of poems, Will There Be Music? The book launch took place in Guilford, Connecticut, reading for the Guilford Poets Guild on April 27, 2019. But even before the book launch, I decided to attend AWP in Portland, Oregon, and to take Amtrak across the country as a sort of meditative journey, arriving in time for the conference which began March 27. I was able to touch base with lots of west coast poetry friends there, as well as staying with my college friend Peggy and her husband Bill. We drove up the Columbia as far as Cascade Locks and found the Sacagawea statue, and also went to see the University of Oregon women win the game that sent them to the Final Four!


Ward Ritchie Collection
Clouds Brushed in Later








Bill met me in Southern California where we visited my sister for a few days, then drove up to the Pasadena area. Some highlights were visits to two cemeteries where I found my Swedish grandmother (in Long Beach) and my maternal grandparents (in Whittier); a tour of the William Andrews Clark Library and its Ward Ritchie Collection (where a copy he owned of my chapbook resides); Santa Anita racetrack; and a tour of the Charles F. Lummis House with Kirk and Melinda.













Santa Barbara Mission

Unbeknownst to my sister, we needed to kill time before her "surprise" birthday party, so we drove up to Santa Paula, were given a tour of Ojai by my Italy XIV friend Jerry Dunn, and hung out with friends Fran and Roger, and Gil and Joan in Santa Barbara, visiting the Santa Barbara Mission among other sites. When the time came, we truly did surprise my sister at Kent and Cindy's house.

Returning to the east coast, there were two readings for my book, one as mentioned above in Guilford, CT, and the second at the Princeton Public Library in June. In between these events was a quick trip to Buffalo to attend my step-daughter-in-law's graduation from the University of Buffalo Law School. On the way home I managed to create a genealogical mini-tour at Honeoye Falls, where some of my Sandfords migrated in the early 1800s.

Honeoye Falls, NY
In late July I joined my poetry friends in Chester, Connecticut where suitable hijinks as well as serious endeavors took place. Then on to Drew Farm, the grandchildren, swimming, the Rock Party, all went on as usual. On the way home I convinced Bill to take a detour to Vermont where we found a monument to one of the Sandfords in Weybridge, and then we stayed two nights at the Inn in Westport (NY), and on the day in between we drove up to Long Lake and had lunch with a distant cousin of mine, also a Sandford, a fellow writer Pat Garber.

With Ned at the game
With Tom and Cindy at the game
With Holly at class party

In September I gave my third reading for my book at the Newtown Library Company. Then in October I flew back to Portland, Oregon, where my friend Penelope had invited me to read at her White Dog Salon. Staying again with Peggy and Bill, and the last night at Penelope's, was quite cozy. The next stop, meeting Bill in the Bay Area where my Stanford Class of '69 50th reunion was about to begin. As one of the volunteers I got to go to an extra party, and Bill and I attended dinner on the Quad before a cold virus struck him down. I avoided this malady for the nonce and was able to attend the class party, the football game (where our class walked on the field during halftime), and the dinner I arranged at Vaso Azzurro in Mountain View for 24 members of our Italy XIV group (with some spouses, luckily Bill was able to bounce back for that!). We stayed in town an extra week to visit Palo Alto friends, and ended with a final reading at Waverley Writers before we flew home. Some highlights were being driven to the first event by my friend Holly in a tiny bright red Mazda Miata, re-connecting with my freshman friend Ned Wight (who swung me around expertly at the class party), attending the football game with Italy friend Tom, who plastered a red pompom on his head for the walk across the field, and being sung to for my birthday by my Italy group and the entire restaurant at Vaso Azzurro! The Waverley reading was especially lovely, so nice to connect with such old friends.
With Bill at Vaso Azzurro
Poem I wrote for our class

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Coming this way: Oregon and California!

Don't miss Sharon Olson reading soon in Portland, Oregon and Palo Alto, California.

Sunday, October 20, 3-5 p.m., White Dog Poetry Salon (reading with Laura LeHew), 507 NW Skyline Crest Road, Portland, Oregon
AND
Friday, November 1, 7:30 p.m., Friends Meeting House, 957 Colorado Avenue, Palo Alto, California, hosted by the Waverley Writers.

Sharon will be reading from her new collection entitled Will There Be Music? published in 2019 by Cherry Grove Collections. Copies available for sale at the readings, from Amazon and from Barnes and Noble, or order from your local independent bookstore.

Cincinnati, Ohio, Cherry Grove Collections,
ISBN: 978-1625493026, 106 pages, $19.00.



The loose ends of lives and generations are expertly bundled in these alert, meditative poems. Part of a poet’s task is to catch the resonances of time and Sharon Olson has done that.
—Baron Wormser

‘Will there be music?’ asks the poet in her title poem. This collection definitively answers that question: we cannot live without it.—Fred Marchant


Sharon Olson is a retired librarian, a Stanford graduate, with an M.L.S. from U.C. Berkeley and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Oregon. Her chapbook Clouds Brushed in Later (1987) won the Abby Niebauer Memorial Chapbook Award. A previous full-length book of poems, The Long Night of Flying, was published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2006. She has published (with co-author Chris Schopfer) numerous articles about the Sandford family of New Jersey in The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey. After retiring from the Palo Alto City Library she and her husband moved initially to Guilford, Connecticut, and presently live in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. She is a member of Cool Women, a poetry performance ensemble based in Princeton, New Jersey.


 

 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Newtown Library Company Reading Sept 20

Poetry Night: Sharon Olson

Who: Sharon Olson
When: Friday, September 20, 2019 at 7:30PM
Where: The Newtown Library Company, 114 E. Centre Ave. Newtown, PA
Bring a friend and a poem for the open mic!


Sharon Olson is a retired librarian, a Stanford graduate, with an M.L.S. from U.C. Berkeley and an M.A. in comparative literature from the University of Oregon. Her chapbook Clouds Brushed in Later (1987) won the Abby Niebauer Memorial Chapbook Award, and a full-length book of poems, The Long Night of Flying, was published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2006. Her second book Will There Be Music? was published by Cherry Grove Collections in early 2019. She has published (with co-author Chris Schopfer) numerous articles about the Sandford family of New Jersey in The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey. She is a member of the U.S. 1 Poets’ Cooperative and also performs with the Cool Women Poets.

114 E Centre Ave, Newtown, PA 18940, USA

Monday, May 27, 2019

Next Reading, June 10

Poets at the Library

Monday, June 10, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon St.
Newsroom, Second Floor

Featured poets Gretna Wilkinson and Sharon Olson read for 20 minutes from their works, followed by an open-mic session.

Sharon Olson is a retired librarian, a Stanford graduate, with an M.L.S. from U.C. Berkeley and an M.A. in comparative literature from the University of Oregon. Her chapbook Clouds Brushed in Later (1987) won the Abby Niebauer Memorial Chapbook Award, and a full-length book of poems, The Long Night of Flying, was published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2006. Her second book Will There Be Music? was published by Cherry Grove Collections in early 2019. She has published (with co-author Chris Schopfer) numerous articles about the Sandford family of New Jersey in The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey. She is a member of the U.S.1 Poets’ Cooperative and also performs with the Cool Women Poets.

Gretna Wilkinson began her career as a missionary teacher in the jungles of her native Guyana. She has performed her poems on radio and television and is published in Saranac Review, The Literary Review, and Poets of New Jersey: From Colonial to Contemporary, among others. She’s been featured in The New York Times, The Star Ledger, Courier News, and others. After 17 years as a college professor, she joined the Visual and Performing Arts Academy of Red Bank Regional High School where she ran the Creative Writing program. Her online literary magazine, theravensperch.com was nominated Top 10 Literary Blog on The Web (Feedspot). She is an honorary Eagle Scout, Monmouth County Art Educator of the Year, Red Bank Regional Teacher of the Year, and was recently named Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction.



Thursday, February 21, 2019

Ekphrastic Poetry: Part Four, Finding Comfort

Geertgen tot Sint Jans
John the Baptist
in the Wilderness
The genius of my first art professor, Patricia Rose, was how she demonstrated the power of detail in works of art, especially the capability of details to convey emotion, a surprising revelation. I remember sitting in the dark as she displayed the slide showing John the Baptist in the Wilderness by Geertgen tot Sint Jans, and then she zeroed in on the proliferation of flowers and animals, and the way the central figure sat in this wild grass, with one foot slightly above another ("one foot deliciously massaging the other beneath it"). It was many years later that I wrote about this image, the poem appearing in my book Will There Be Music? 

Hieronymus Bosch
The Extraction of the
Stone of Madness
Similarly in my poem "Motley Fool" I have examined closely Hieronymus Bosch's "The Extraction of the Stone of Madness," depicting an early form of the medical barbarity known as trepanation ("ice fishing into the skull to pluck the fish of madness"). I think the viewer places himself into this work, commiserating with the victim, this patient of 1494.






Death of Harold
Bayeux Tapestry
By chance I came upon the story of a friend of mine, a librarian named Ellin Klor, who was clutching her knitting materials while running up some stairs, and inadvertently stabbed herself in the heart with one of the needles (she survived!). Somehow this tale fit so nicely with a long poem I was writing about Einstein ("how starlight bends around the sun"), color theory, horse racing, and the Bayeux Tapestry ("Heavenly Bodies Along the Rail"). The detail in the tapestry that captivated me was the place where the dying Harold is depicted ("a spear hanging like a tear from his eye").

As a young woman reading Proust (my literary side) I remember being interested
Adoration of the Holy Wood
Piero della Francesca
in the way he was able to focus on such interesting themes, like the way one saw a steeple "move" as you traveled by coach upon different curving roads. And I loved his description of three trees, "those trees themselves I was never to know what they had been trying to give me nor where else I had seen them." By the time I had read these words I had already seen "these trees," those in Piero della
Overlooking Arezzo
Taken by author, 1967
Rembrandt
The Three Trees
Francesca's paintings, an engraving of three trees I had laid eyes on in Rembrandt's house, and a group of cypresses I had photographed above the city of Arezzo. The poem I wrote about all these ideas, if one could call them ideas, is called "Placement."
Portrait of Masolino
Town Hall, Panicale
Basilica of Sant'
Eustachio, Rome












Finding comfort in art can be as simple as noticing a portrait looking down upon you as you are being married in a town hall (Masolino in "The Marriage Ceremony"), or seeking solace from the head of a stag on the front of a church ("Meditation in Rome"). 

The appearance of my father in a vivid dream, not long after his death, seemed at the time to remind me of the Raphael drawing I had seen long ago in the Vatican, The Miraculous Draught of Fishes ("the disciples reached down for the nets, sun on their muscled arms").

This ends my art tour. It has been a pleasure being your guide.


Raphael, The Miraculous Draught of Fishes






















Ekphrastic Poetry: Part Three, Portrait of the Artist

Quite a few of the poems in my book Will There Be Music? contemplate the artist more than the works themselves, and in some cases they focus on the subject of rather public art. In part two of this series I mentioned a game I had made up to mimic the pose of figures in Henry Moore's works. My husband Bill became an early convert to this game, aptly copying the "lean" of Jean-Paul Sartre in the statue of him by Roseline Granet outside the Biblioth√®que Nationale. I had always imagined the fragility of the man being pictured here "marching against the wind and rain." My  poem about him remarks upon the writer's melancholia, and the irony of his known intolerance for statues of famous people. I learned later he was not really fighting a true storm, but that the sculpture was made from looking at a photograph of him, taken on a beach in Lithuania, where he was trying to evade crowds of onlookers.

Sometimes it is not exactly a work of art that inspires a poem, it might be a death mask ("Nietzsche's Death Mask") or a desk left behind in a California mansion ("Franz Werfel in California, 1945"). One of the artists who has been a constant influence ever since I discovered him in a class on twentieth-century art is Emil Nolde, a complex figure whose works span the period from the 1880s to the 1950s. Nolde was born in a region claimed back and forth by both Denmark and Germany, but he always felt he was German, and many of his early paintings championed old Germanic myths and folk figures. This got him into trouble with the Nazi regime which interpreted these images as "degenerate," and banned his works from museums, and prohibited him from painting at all. Nolde himself espoused anti-semitic views, a viewpoint he later tried to expunge from his memoirs. My poem "Painted Into a Corner" celebrates his landscapes, which I have always found to be spectacular ("red skies all but overwhelming the naval blue mountains below them"), as well as his expressionist works ("those wild women shaking their naked bodies in a primitive dance").
Emil Nolde, Dance Around
the Golden Calf, 1910
Emil Nolde, En Meer