Friday, December 28, 2018

CHRISTMAS — CHILDREN

Lillian and Kate Xmas 2018

Lillian & Kate Romero, Christmas Day, 2018

When twins Kate and Lillian Romero joined our family three years ago in March, I became a Great Grand Mere, a title family members hardly ever use, but an honorable one that gets me an annual Christmas dinner invitation from the girls’ parents. Lillian and Kate are fraternal twins deeply devoted to one another, and, at Christmas, became the subjects of much photography; e.g., the photo at the top of this blog.

Alex, Kate, and Martin Xmas, 2018

Kate listens to Daddy's heart and Alex watches

A few months ago, I included a poem about the twins in my last book of poetry, All Love,. The poem speaks of their mutual devotion, and it pleased several reviewers because of its brevity!

TWIN GREAT-GRANDDAUGHTERS, LILLIAN AND KATE,

their inchoate language a babble
understood only by each other;
solitariness unknown, unwanted;

the joining of inner dispositions
down to the last breath
an articulation of love.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Photographs by Victoria Sullivan



Thursday, December 20, 2018

READING FOR THE NEW YEAR


Among the readings I’ve been doing to prepare for the New Year is the recently published book, A Resurrection-Shaped Life, Dying and Rising on Planet Earth by the Rt. Rev. Jake Owensby, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana. The book arrived two days ago, and I didn’t put it down until I finished it early this morning.

A Resurrection-Shaped Life arrives at the dawn of the New Year and is a wise, profound introduction to the idea of recovering what Bishop Owensby describes as our resurrected Self. The 110-page book of hope and insight gives Christian readers, emergent and seasoned, a sense of dying and rising again and again, moving from their brokenness and past shame and failures, through Christ’s grace, to become transformed humans. I was reminded of the Scottish preacher George MacDonald’s words in an anthology of his work by C.S. Lewis: “We die daily. Happy are those who come to life as well…”

For those who belong to this “pain avoidant culture,” as Bishop Owensby defines our present-day country, this book isn’t a panacea for sufferers who want to avoid suffering at any cost, but, instead, offers a message of hope for those of us who often forget that the cross is the symbol of our redemption. Owensby suggests that we devote ourselves to a higher purpose, citing Biblical stories, as well as quotations from contemporary authors such as Malcolm Gladwell, the author of The Outliers, a book that reaffirms what I believe as a writer — to master anything (including spiritual peace), ten thousand hours of practice are required to reach one’s higher purpose… and suffering is always a part of that practice!

Bishop Owensby reflects compassion and empathy but does not sugar-coat his spirituality, citing examples in his own life that reveal his humanity. His writing is not dogmatic but easily conveys his faith and transformation from issues of shame and blame to a believer in forgiveness and justice. Owensby shows us that there is a power in the universe greater than we are and greater than the afflictions we're suffering. He also presents a vision of the destiny we want to live out. 

As one who can readily identify with his story of abuse, I especially appreciate his candor about the messiness of our lives and am reminded of reading The Drama of the Gifted Child by the Swiss psychotherapist, Alice Miller. A close friend asked me what the book was about, and I replied: “Grandiosity,” which is not the theme of this book at all! I had subconsciously avoided its true meaning, which was to offer consolation and hope to those who had been abused as children. My friend was astonished and suggested I re-read this book about surviving an abusive childhood to overcome feelings of alienation and to discover a higher purpose.


I’m accustomed to writing reviews in which I cite numerous passages by the author, but in respect for Abingdon’s copyright rules, I have only briefly reviewed this Christmas/New Year’s gift of witness from Bishop Owensby — his meditations, spoken from the heart of his own experience, will help readers achieve transfigured lives of intimacy and resurrection with the risen Christ.


This is an honest and life-changing book by the enlightened leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana.



Wednesday, December 19, 2018

PINYON REVIEW #14

Cover of Pinyon Review #14 by Susan Entsminger

A few nights ago as I watched the PBS News Hour, I was pleasantly surprised to see a female poet appear in the last segment of the news. Ada Limon spoke passionately about the radical hope of poetry as an effective way of communicating and touted that people today are reading more and more poetry, exploring the nuance and mystery of it, as well as using it as a way to express rage. Limon also pointed out that poetry was a place where we admit to the unknown and sometimes practice beauty, make music from specificity and empathy. I was inwardly applauding her comments during the entire segment.

Gary and Susan Entsminger, editors and publishers of Pinyon Review, a magazine that features poetry, fiction, art, and photography, have been doing their share of touting the effectiveness of poetry for almost a decade in the pages of a literary journal that showcases the talents of a diverse group of artists from throughout the U.S. and abroad. In the latest issue showing the cover art of “Limes and Leaves” rendered by Susan Entsminger, the editors have chosen to include the translated work of several Chinese poets and a deceased Dutch poet, M. Vasalis, billed in her country as the “Dutch Elizabeth Bishop.” 

Although the work of other poets: Stuart Friebert, Neil Harrison, Gary Entsminger, Scott Davidson, to name a few, contributed highly notable work, I chose to showcase the Oriental poets who take readers farther afield to explore the “nuance and mystery” of Chinese poets the Muse inspires. Also impressive: “To A Tree,” a poem by the deceased Dutch poet, M. Vasalis, translated by Fred Lessing and David Young, which quickly sets the tone of international sharing on the opening pages of this issue of Pinyon Review.

As I’m a tree hugger, I appreciated the poet’s plea for trees not to move, “… for who could bear it if a tree pulled up its roots/and danced away?…” Vasalis muses on the eternal qualities of trees that [are not] “made to move,/in lengthy lines, like steady music, simple,/and then again stand still, a slender temple…I stood there in the wet and heavy grass/and felt that I had drifted into paradise…” Gary and Susan plan to publish a career-spanning selection of Vasalis’s poems in 2019. Interestingly, she was a Dutch psychiatrist who specialized in the treatment of children and was recognized as the most widely read and admired poet of her country.

In a long poem entitled “Crossing Lop Nor,” the Chinese poet Wang Ziliang, translated from the Chinese by Ajiu X. LI, divides the poem into sunset, land, sky wind, high wind, and ear into a medley that ends with a humorous musing about the ear; e.g., “It is said that Lop Nor/has the shape of an ear,/though never used to listen… Lop Nor, a metaphor about listening./A metaphor about sound and its fading… This ear/emblems how the gods achieved immortality/through enormous silence.” In this poem, as in many Oriental writings, nature offers specific philosophical commentary through “the sensual beauty of the land.” 

A self-translated poem by Langji Tianya, another Chinese poet featured in this issue, offers readers a meditation entitled “Like Calcium,” in which he “settles in a mountain pasture,/His meditation slides on a slope, the mass rises in a curved manner./The dead leaves cover themselves, the weeds go home/The fresh footprints on the piles of rocks will find the way of release.” Like Haiku, the featured poems by Chinese poets in this issue, aren’t understood quickly and include lines for the process of meditation. As Limon said in her broadcast, in poetry “we admit to the unknown.”

In this 14th edition, an intriguing article, “The Studio of The Three Arrows,” by Robert Elliott and Susan Entsminger features photography by 20th century photographer Harold A. Taylor who in his early 20’s hiked through Yosemite National Park to photograph its valley — “massive rocks, waterfalls, sequoias…” partnering with Eugene Hallett to open the Studio of the Three Arrows, so named for the Yosemite Miwok Indians and the English-born Taylor’s family crest. The photographs, as explained by Susan Entsminger and Robert Elliott, were created by using dry glass plates that produced sharp images and beautiful contrast. Susan’s grandfather, William T. Elliott, acquired the glass plate negatives when Taylor retired as he and Taylor had been in a photography business together. Elliott gave his son, R. Elliott, the Yosemite and California Missions Collection, which he is digitizing and archiving. The arresting photograph of “Wawona With Coach,” is a digital scan of one of Taylor’s beautiful glass plates. Photographs in this article provided by father and daughter make this 14th edition a real collector’s piece. 

Along with the Oriental poems, I couldn’t resist including the haiku of award-winning Gary Hotham who lives in Maryland; e.g., “outside the lines/our grandson includes more/with one crayon”… and “mixing with the afternoon sky/a lifetime of clouds/disappear.” Hotham has won first place in the Harold G. Henderson Memorial Haiku Awards and second place in the San Francisco International Haiku Competition. Pinyon published his Stone’s Throw, described as a book echoing the Japanese masters.

Pinyon Publishing just celebrated its tenth year as a publisher of quality literature and art in book form. Pinyon Review, a journal of the arts and sciences, is one of the few journals that has kept its mission of featuring emerging and well-known poets, fiction writers, translators, artists, and photographers. The magazine is produced in a log cabin on a plateau in southern Colorado where Gary and Susan share a life devoted to the cause of sustainability and quality publishing. On a personal note, they have consistently featured and supported my writing and reviewing of other writers’ work. Thank you, Pinyon, from all of your writers, photographers, and artists.

Available from Pinyon Publishing, 23847 V66 Trail, Montrose, CO 81403.



Thursday, December 13, 2018

SOUTHERN CROSS

Front cover of Southern Cross

Janet Faulk, a native Alabaman now working in New Iberia, Louisiana, stays close to her southern roots when she writes most of the time. However, when she discovered a diary written by an anonymous Alabaman who traveled abroad to find his fortune following the War Between the States, she became fascinated by his account of a colony of Alabamans who settled in Brazil and moved her literary interests farther afield. Over a decade later, after transcribing the handwritten diary of an anonymous man who authored the Brazilian Travel Diary, she wrote finis to Southern Cross. 

Based on a true account, but written in the tradition of “non-fiction fiction,” Southern Cross also mesmerizes readers with a love story between the major characters, John Foster and widowed Kate Teal who develop a shipboard romance en route from Baltimore, Maryland to Brazil. The romance is related in deft, accessible prose, and Kate’s life of “inconsistencies…in which she moves toward something rather than away from something” keeps the reader transfixed about her survival once she departs from Mississippi near the Escatawpa River for the hinterlands of Brazil.

Faulk’s finesse with description emerges in the first chapter; e.g., “Nothing brings buried thoughts to the surface like the first dark of evening. At twilight when shadows lay long and thin in the grass, the fading light of day pulls color along with it and orchestrates a symphony of evening sound. This is the time of day when it becomes difficult to tell a black cat from its shadow and stillness spills over the earth like indigo ink. Then, the night movement takes shape with the subtle rustle of a raccoon family easing along the water’s edge, the whirr of seven-year locusts creating a rhythmic background for an occasional bullfrog croaking and the singular intermittent chirping of a lone cricket…”

Faulk skillfully weaves rich descriptions of the diarist’s visits to farms and lumber operations scattered throughout Brazil and brings into focus the politics, slavery issues, and future of agriculture (cotton, sugar cane, etc.) in 19th century Brazil. Romantic scenes between John and Kate are interspersed in alternate chapters to sustain interest in the diarist’s detailed explorations of the diverse countryside.

Choctaws, African slaves, Brazilians—Faulk introduces international diversity among her cast of characters, working to achieve authenticity and remaining faithful to historical detail through the extensive research she completed. Her readings included the work of Zora Neal Hurston, Sylviane A. Diouf, and Sandra Medlock, Operations Manager, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. 

Conversations between John and Kate contain serious ruminations about religion and ethics, and the end of Southern Cross will leave readers contemplating a softer denouement, but Kate embodies a kind of Faulknerean observation that humans will not only endure, they’ll prevail. This is a real page turner, as well as a heart warmer told with certainty of tone and narrated with an instinct for detail and sure sense of self.

Janet Faulk

Janet Faulk is a native of northeast Alabama and has resided most of her adult life in south Louisiana where she lives with her husband, Rudy Gonzales. Southern Cross is her first historical fiction. Previously, she published a book of personal essays, The Road Home, and co-authored Porch Posts with the poet Diane Marquart Moore.


Available online from Amazon and signed copies by mail from the author (janet.faulk@yahoo.com).


Friday, November 23, 2018

THE CONUNDRUM

Couhig at work at The Conundrum

On a chilly Thanksgiving evening following turkey and too much food, we traveled to St. Francisville in search of an independent bookstore owned by Missy Couhig whom we had met when she represented the works of authors performing in a reading at the Festival of Words in Grand Coteau, Louisiana.

The bookstore’s name, “The Conundrum,” remains a conundrum in the sense that the reason for naming this bookstore after a riddle patrons can’t figure out isn’t apparent to me. However, I did figure out, rather quickly, that I’d met a master marketer of books. Couhig, who’ll travel anywhere to sell books and meet new authors, says the word “market” isn’t really consonant with her mission. “The mission is about sharing,” she says of her profession.

As director of three literary festivals, she touts authors in every discipline — fiction, poetry, children’s literature through three major events: The Walker Percy Weekend; Writers and Readers Symposium; and The Children’s Book Festival — all based in St. Francisville, Louisiana. 

“Bookstores are comfortable places,” she said. “If I see a bookstore, anywhere in the world, I’m going to enter it." She’s an esoteric reader, and it’s evident she’s fascinated with the idea of meeting writers “in person.”

Couhig retired from a position as executive manager of a pharmaceutical company, a job she had held for fifteen years before her husband, an attorney in New Orleans, came home one day and told her he had signed a lease on the building now housing The Conundrum (without her knowledge) in St. Francisville, Louisiana. He surprised her with the opportunity to pursue a profession as bookstore owner and manager — work for which she immediately showed a natural aptitude — and passion.

Although Couhig first majored in English at LSUNO (Louisiana State University in New Orleans), she received a degree in General Studies because she says she didn’t want to spend five semesters in French classes required in the English curriculum. “I love to read but have no desire to write,” she added.

Couhig arrived in St. Francisville on the heels of Hurricane Katrina when her husband, concerned about the safety of property belonging to his family, ended up buying a house in this small community of 1700 people. St. Francisville sits atop a ridge overlooking the Mississippi River and at one time provided the largest Mississippi River port between New Orleans and Memphis, Tennessee. Since the advent of the 21st century, the town has become a popular tourist destination for those who enjoy historic homes and southern culture.

Couhig’s maiden name, Aleman, denotes German descent, and her great grandfather settled in Napoleonville, Louisiana on a Spanish land grant. She spends half her time in New Orleans where she and her husband have one home and the other half in St. Francisville where they own another -- that is, when she isn’t on the road, searching for new authors and bookstores.

Couhig displaying Native Flora Louisiana: Watercolor Drawings by Margaret Stones


While talking with us, Couhig was busy inventorying shelves, opening shipments of books, serving other customers — doing some serious multi-tasking. And we could see why she wants to expand The Conundrum as she needs more space to house her plans for selling a wide range of new and used books, scheduling readings, directing festivals... and promoting books and authors she loves.

Photographs by Victoria Sullivan


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

SATSUMA SEASON

Satsumas in Simon's Grove

On a recent exploration of Cajun country, while meandering not too far from the chenier plains of southwest Louisiana, we reached the Prairie Complex area near Leroy, Louisiana where signs directed us to Simon’s Citrus Farm. “Serendipity,” I said to Vickie, my travel companion. And it was serendipity indeed — seven acres of Satsuma trees among 25 acres of navel oranges, kumquats, grapefruit, lemon, and Louisiana Sweets as the Louisiana brand of oranges are called. And at the risk of fast becoming a Louisiana Agricultural Ambassador or a “foodie” via my blogs, I hasten to laud the quality of the Louisiana Satsuma Orange, Brown Select variety. This delicious fruit is plentiful in the orchards of southwest Louisiana’s best-known citrus farm owned by Lynn Simon, a retired geologist and one-time owner of several oilfield operations.

Lynn Simon

The farm is located near Kaplan, Louisiana on Gladu Rd., and Simon says unless a traveler Googles directions, knows where he’s going, or follows the signage, he’s not likely to come to his place for a visit. Simon Citrus Farm does have an informative website, with directions to the farm location where Simon explains that he began planting Satsumas in 1996 as a hobby, and the hobby burgeoned into a 1000-tree orchard. With the help of Dr. Brown, a specialist on the staff of  the Louisiana State University Agriculture Center. he began growing the “Brown Select” Satsuma, the sweetest of all this fruit’s varieties. 

“Most of my clientele are Orientals,” he said. “A seedless, easy to peel orange is a favorite of the orange varieties, and we ship boxes everywhere.” He pointed to eight pallets holding boxes of Satsumas under a shed beside his offices. “I’m shipping these to Tennessee next week. We harvest every single piece of fruit by clipping,” he says, “which requires a lot of pickers, including restaurants and other businesses, as well as family.” Simon reported that freezes last January and February in Louisiana damaged some of the trees, but he usually produces 500 pounds per tree. “We market throughout the United States for retail, wholesale, and shipping clientele,” he added. 

The Satsuma fruit was reportedly growing in Japan over seven decades ago. In 1876 it was first introduced into Florida by George R. Hall, and in 1878, the fruit became popular in Louisiana. Simon reports that from 1908-1911, approximately one million “Owari” Satsuma trees were imported from Japan, and citrus farmers planted them in groves throughout the Gulf Coast states. By the 1890’s they had burgeoned into large-yielding crops. 

Old Simon Homestead shaded by live oaks

We noticed an old house next door to the Satsuma grove which seemed to be in the process of restoration and asked if we could tour it. Simon eagerly agreed to allow us to do so, and we learned that it’s the oldest house in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana, dating back to 1865 when his great-grandfather lived in it. The house, built entirely with pegs, square nails, cypress walls and floors, is being restored to provide a bed-and-breakfast facility, and Simon and his wife are working on the restoration themselves. A talented and industrious couple, they also restore and build furniture that will decorate the old house. 

The visit that lasted for an hour with this engaging “retiree” provided us with two serendipitous tours, and we came away with a sack of Satsumas that are the sweetest Louisiana fruit I’ve yet tasted. October and November are prime months for these quality Satsumas, and we were happy to discover that they’re high in antioxidants and Vitamin C — just in time to ward off the winter flu season. 

Photographs by Victoria Sullivan




Saturday, November 17, 2018

I GIVE A FIG



During the month of November every year, for at least 20 years, I initiated a hunt for fig preserves made here in Louisiana to send to my youngest daughter, Elizabeth, in southern California—not smushed ones sold commercially in a grocery, but whole ones with the stem still on the fruit and steeped in lots of sugar like Elizabeth’s grandmother once served up on hot, buttered biscuits. For years, I talked to many food faddists in New Iberia, Louisiana who knew where I could find this homemade preserved fruit but they wouldn’t divulge the source (xenophobia at its worst)!! However…last year when we went to purchase grass-fed beef at GLC Meat Market in Loreauville, Louisiana, voila! I discovered an entire table of fig preserves, stems included, swimming in syrup, in Mason jars with gold tin lids. I saw more of the same product just last month, and I'm assured Elizabeth's Christmas gift is available.

When I first spied those preserves in GLC, I became as excited as I had been when I found a bottle of McIlhenny’s Tabasco sauce on the table of a small supermarket in Ahwaz, Iran where I lived in the oil patch for two years. “Hey la bas, hot sauce,” I exclaimed, startling a few shoppers clad in chadors who already thought Americans too boisterous. I couldn’t contain my joy when I saw those little red-capped bottles of sauce because I was in a three-months cultural shock phase and homesick for Teche country. At the time of this outburst, I envisioned a large black pot similar to the one owned by Big Mac in New Iberia, Louisiana, 100 lbs. of crawfish, a case of McIlhenny’s Tabasco, some strands of Spanish Moss waving in the hot desert breeze, and a crowd of expatriates gathered for a crawfish boil in my front yard. I left the supermarket with a half dozen bottles of the sauce and displayed one of them on the dining table for dinner guests to view for the entire two years we spent in Iran. It was a good conversation piece. 

I digress. My daughter Elizabeth could probably find fresh figs in California, but she hasn't located a source for fig preserves. I doubt if she knows how rich in minerals and anti-oxidants they are, as her sweet tooth usually takes precedence over foods that I’ve told her are good for her, so she’s getting nutrition without my having to counsel her about diet. She also doesn’t know that Buddha achieved enlightenment while sitting under a fig tree or that the fig tree was the first fruit tree mentioned in the Bible.

According to Francoise Mignon,* one of my favorite Louisiana authors, fresh figs taste better with a “dab of sugar and a spot of cream,” but he also admitted that he could possibly “respond to the sweetness of the preserved  variety …as it would carry with it a nostalgic reminder of the foregoing July when the gathering of the product was in full swing and figs for breakfast, dinner and supper were the order of the day…” He writes about the Ficus carica in Plantation Memo: Plantation Life in Louisiana, 1750-1970 And Other Matter.

Mignon mentioned that fig leaves have “served as models for more sculptors working in marble than any other device for de-sexing statues all over the Western world…” He was also amazed that Eve would have chosen the fig leaf to create clothes for herself and Adam since it has such a fuzzy, prickly texture. I might add to this comment that the smoother leaf of an elephant ear plant would have been a better sartorial selection as this large plant leaf wouldn’t have driven her to find thread and needle to create covering for the couple’s private parts.

P.S. And just as a piece of trivia, in case readers have warts, fig juice is supposed to remove these unsightly skin eruptions. I don’t know how many Cajun traiteurs still use this remedy in their practices.

*Francois Mignon, the author of Plantation Memo, published his columns first in the Natchitoches Enterprise and in The Natchitoches Times; later, the columns appeared in The Leesville Leader, The Shreveport Journal, Alexandria Town Talk, Opelousas Daily World, and The Shreveport Times from 1957-1970. He was the famous house guest at Melrose Plantation in Robeline, Louisiana who was invited to visit Cammie Henry, mistress of Melrose, and stayed in Yucca House on the grounds of Melrose for over thirty years! I’ve been considering writing a non-fiction book about him. His columns about Melrose are outstanding.

Photograph of fig leaves by Victoria Sullivan




Wednesday, November 14, 2018

POO YI, PECANS AGAIN!

Marquee on New Site of Cane River Company

Six years ago, I walked into the offices of the Cane River Pecan Company here in New Iberia, Louisiana and was surprised to see, on one wall, a framed copy of a 34-year old article in the Daily Iberian entitled “Pecan Businessmen Beginning Young” with my byline. After I talked with Jady Regard about the framed article, I blogged about the  Company, acknowledging the Dan Regard family for its phenomenal progress with a small enterprise manned by three forward-looking brothers who established a home-based pecan-cracking business called “The Nutcrackers" that  mushroomed into a thriving business selling pecans as far afield as Singapore.

The Cane River Pecan Company features a product line that includes roasted and salted pecans, chocolate-covered and praline pecans, fresh-baked pecan/chocolate chunk cookies, pecan pralines, pecan praline popcorn — and, now, a dessert that CEO Jady Regard has concocted for the “Company Special”—Boudin Pie!

In the window of the Cane River Pecan Company

Jady Regard is one of New Iberia Louisiana’s entrepreneurs who gave up a job as manager of corporate sales for the Chicago Bears and for the LSU Basketball team to take over marketing products of the Cane River Pecan Company. His newest concoction, Boudin Pie, contains one pound of locally sourced, uncased pork boudin, a layer of sweet potato souffle covered with a pecan glaze in a handmade deep-dish crust. Boudin and pecan glaze? I’m told that it’s a dessert infusion that bests all homemade Cajun dishes.

I haven’t tasted this dish yet, but I visited the new headquarters of Cane River Pecan Company on Main Street two days before their scheduled tasting event. I walked around looking at products the company offers and admired the murals of the Natchitoches plantation area on one wall of the showroom — pictures and timelines concerning the pecan growing business. By adding pictures to this wall, Regard hopes to form a museum that will educate visitors about the industry, as well as advertise Louisiana’s rich resources. 

The Cane River Pecan Company was sourced by Jady Regard’s father, Dan Regard (now deceased), who owned a pecan grove on the plantation “Alcock Place” in Natchitoches, Louisiana. He employed his sons to spend their after-school hours and holidays cracking up to 400 pounds of pecans a week, using a large nut-cracking machine he ordered from San Antonio, Texas. Jady and his brothers sold pecans from a shop adjoining the Regard home on Darby Lane and advertised their product on signs placed in store windows of New Iberia and in the local newspaper, The Daily Iberian. From that small beginning, with their parent’s backing, and, later, with Jady’s talent for marketing, The Cane River Pecan Company burgeoned into a worldwide product distributer now equal to other Teche Country products such as hot sauce and rice.

Colorful tins with lids featuring paintings by Louisiana artist Clementine Hunter and, now, lids of tins with pictures of New Orleans streetcars, contain the company's pecan products and line the shelves of the new showroom. In addition, corporations can order custom gift tins of pecan products that show their own logos and personal messages.  

Mais, when the weather clears — if the weather clears — I’m going downtown and get my satisfied from a boudin pie so I can brag about it to my Sewanee, Tennessee friends who often wonder what Cajuns will eat next!


Sunday, November 11, 2018

ALL LOVE,




Border Press Books, Sewanee, TN, announces the publication of All Love, by Diane Marquart Moore, a volume of poems about relatives and relationships, death and dying, illness and recovery, and includes a special section about a three-week sojourn in Mexico. Also featured are prose poems and excerpts from “Everyday Journal IV” about ordinary and extraordinary daily happenings, as well as observations about present-day social issues.

Reviewers celebrate Moore’s new book:

“Mindful of Diane Moore’s ‘other life’ as a Deacon in the Episcopal Church, ‘It is truly right and just’ to celebrate these poems that beat with such a steady pulse our hearts, and by extension, our spirits flourish. Deeply faith-based in her own way but accessible to all of ‘other’ or indeed those of no faiths at all, her words ‘extend to infinity’ (see title poem, which, as all good poems strive to do, means much with fewest means employed), help us negotiate ‘the boundary between twilight and dark,’ and are a sturdy ‘cane’ to rely on as we wend our way through the challenging landscape of this tome.” 
- Stuart Friebert, author of Decanting: Selected and New Poems, founder and director of the Oberlin Creative Writing Program and co-founder of Field Magazine, the Field Translation Series, and the Oberlin College Press.-

“In the epigraph for her poem ‘Music,’ modern mystic Diane Moore cites a line from Rumi. ‘Music’ is a lyric poem celebrating love in the sound of a wren’s singing, the sun’s laughter, and a loved one’s voice. Narrative poems convey Moore’s gift for agape: an Amish woman selling corn and flowers recognizes the poet as ‘a good little lady,’ a child necklace dealer in Mexico, ‘Christ’s vendor,’ displays ‘Jesus on a black string’ with a peephole revealing Christo Rey 'who takes away…all the sins in the world,’ as well as ‘my pesos at the rate of 20 a day’… In ‘A field of Battered Weed,’ Moore reveals the reality of long-lasting love through a thistle, ‘an ancient symbol of both pain and pleasure.’ 
-Kathleen Hamman, editor, Plateau Books, Sewanee, Tennessee.-

Diane Marquart Moore is a retired archdeacon of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana, poet, writer, and journalist who lives part of the year in New Iberia, Louisiana, and part of the year in Sewanee, Tennessee. She publishes “A Words Worth” blog at revmoore.blogspot monthly.

The beautiful cover photograph is Karen Bourque’s glass adaptation of a lotus appearing in Why Water Plants Don’t Drown as illustrated by Susan Entsminger and authored by Victoria I. Sullivan. Cover design of All Love, by Martin Romero.

All Love, as well as 49 other titles by Moore, are available through Border Press Books, P.O. Box 3124, Sewanee, TN and amazon.com.




Monday, November 5, 2018

IN THE TIME OF SHIMMER AND LIGHT



In this time of anxiety and darkness in our broken world, we can count on Paul Schexnayder, New Iberia, Louisiana artist, to gift us with his playful illustrations that always lift our spirits. In The Time of Shimmer and Light, the second book in a three-part series just released by University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, will delight both young and adult readers. The story takes us to the happy island home of Sir Galatoire Gator, Tin Toy Hare and Queen Ida Peacock where the three critters vie for a dazzling doodad the Queen has found bobbing up and down on the water near their island home.

Schexnayder’s vivid acrylic paintings mesmerize readers, glowing with imaginative figures that “bumble, mumble, and grumble” until the Queen shows her critter friends the object she has discovered and placed in a brilliant red boat to dispel the disharmony developing amongst the friends. I won’t reveal the object or the end of the imaginative fable Schexnayder has created, but readers won’t be disappointed to find more serendipity in the work he offers.



A visit to Schexnayder’s gallery is an occasion of “joy and wonder, shimmer and light,” and visitors usually come away with an art object in hand. Lately, a visit reveals paintings of moss-covered kings who people one wall. The paintings depict mystical-looking beings who are a departure from his “Girth Series,” those kings with tiny heads and billowing robes that he initiated in 2016. “It takes awhile for patrons to get used to a new series,” Schexnayder explains. However, I've found favorable reviews of the new work on facebook and know that his followers will soon add them to their Schexnayder home galleries.

Schexnayder, who always discovers treasures to paint, has made memorable a simple red rowboat that provokes thoughts of optimism, and the word “joy” is frequently reflected in his books, as well as in his art. The mysterious factor in his paintings is that he’s color blind; however, his purples, reds, yellows, and blues leap from the walls and pages of his work after their birth in the colors of his imagination.

This notable New Iberia artist has created illustrations for at least three of my own books, and I often re-use them in blogs. The whimsy that Schexnayder conveys is infectious and his mission, a simple one — to recreate the Fruits of the Spirit, specially the one at the top of St. Paul’s List — JOY. His creations also emerge as acts of love, another outpouring of the Spirit.

Paul Schexnayder has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Louisiana State University, has worked as an art teacher, serves as a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and owns an art gallery in New Iberia that he generously shares with regional artists and writers. Recently, he painted a mural depicting his “Girth Series” for the City of New Iberia. The mural emphasizes the idea that New Iberia is not only the “Queen City of the Teche”, as it is often called, it’s also the King City of Bayou Country.


Bravo, Paul, thank you for spreading joy and wonder, shimmer and light!