Wednesday, 05 August 2020

Arts & Life

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.


How fascinated a young person can be with the secret lives of his or her teachers.

I left junior high—middle school today—more than 60 years ago but still I occasionally wonder about the private lives of my algebra teacher, my science teacher, my English teachers, whose deep and abiding privacy I would have done anything to break through.

Here’s a poem by Fleda Brown from her University of Nebraska Press selected poems, “The Woods Are On Fire.”

Fayetteville Junior High

What happened was, when we weren’t looking
Mr. Selby married Miss Lewis.
We tried to think of it, tiptoed Mr. Selby,
twirling the edges of blackboard numbers
like the sweet-pea tendrils of his hair,
all his calculations secretly
yearning away from algebra, toward
Miss Lewis, legs like stone pillars
in the slick cave of the locker room,
checking off the showered, the breasted,
flat-chested. All this, another world
we never dreamed of inside the bells,
the changing of classes:
Selby and Lewis, emerging
from rooms 4 and 16, holding hands
like prisoners seeing the sky after all those years.
“Bertha,” he says. “Travis,” she says.
The drawbridge of the hypotenuse opens,
the free throw line skates forward,
the old chain of being transcended
in one good leap, worn floor creaking
strange as angels. In homeroom, the smell of
humans, rank, sprouting, yet this hope for us all.

American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2017 by Fleda Brown, "Fayetteville Junior High," from The Woods Are On Fire, (University of Nebraska Press, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Fleda Brown and the publisher. Introduction copyright @2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

I’ve shown you a couple of poems from the anthology, Local News: Poetry About Small Towns, from MWPH Books, P.O. Box 8, in Fairwater, WI. Here’s another, by Mark Vinz, who lives in Minnesota. Time and timelessness. We’ve all been in this café, haven’t we? His latest book of poetry is Permanent Record.

Center Café

Well, you’re in town, then. The boys
from the class reunion wander in
and take their places in the corner booth,
just as they might have fifty years ago—
grayer, balder, wearing hats announcing
places far away. Their conversation
rises, falls to the inevitable—a missing
friend who worked right up until the end,
another who is long past traveling. Smiles
grow distant as their silence overtakes
the room. The busy waitress pauses,
nods. She’s always known the boys.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2019 by Mark Vinz, "Center Cafe," from Local News: Poetry About Small Towns, (MWPH Books, 2019). Poem reprinted by permission of Mark Vinz and the publisher. Introduction copyright @2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

“Neurographica” by Antje Howard.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. – The Middletown Art Center invites community members to participate in “Connecting Community in the Age of Social Distancing,” a meditative art inquiry with Antje Howard on Saturday, May 30, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. via Zoom.

The workshop will focus on reinvigorating our connection to one another and to different parts of ourselves, some of which have been quite dormant during the past two-plus months.

"Connect with Us! We will inquire into what we hold dear as individuals as community, and as people living in, and sharing this place – Lake County – here and now’” explained Howard, the event’s facilitator.

“We will explore how and where we can connect through creativity, what each of us need and wish for, what each of us have to offer and how we can participate in strengthening our community together,” Howard said. “The inquiry will be guided with the help of a simple intuitive drawing process using the Neurographica technique that can help us to see things from a new perspective. No prior art experience is required."

Participation is by donation of $1 to $25 to benefit the center.

Preregistration is required. Please sign up at www.middletownartcenter.org/classes and a Zoom link will be provided. Work trade options are also available, inquire at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

All you need is a piece of paper, thin and thick black markers or other pens, colored pencils, markers or pens, and a readiness to try something new.

The drawing process will take approximately 1.5 hours, with the final 30 minutes of the workshop reserved for an optional community connection activity.

Howard is a certified Neurographica specialist, artist, creative coach and mentor who uses Neurographica, and mindfulness to catalyze personal and practical change.

Her guidance is solution-oriented, with focus on concrete steps to support holistic well-being and growth. Learn more about her work at http://neuroartproject.net .

The Neurographica Method was developed and trademarked by Pavel Piskarev of the Institute of the Psychology of Creativity in 2014. It is an interdisciplinary practice and unique art and stress reduction therapy that supports sustainable personal change. Learn more at https://www.neurographica.us/ .

The MAC has been offering children’s, artists’ professional development, and Woodland Community College art classes online since the shelter in place began.

Find out more about how MAC is adapting to the current evolving situation and ways to support the MAC’s efforts to weave the arts and culture into the fabric of life in Lake County at www.middletownartcenter.org .



‘BOSCH’ ON AMAZON PRIME

Adhering to the stay at home orders, notwithstanding some loosening on restrictions, has hindered our ability to enjoy such things as patronizing movie theaters, attending baseball games and enjoying concerts and live stage productions.

Of course, this is stating the obvious, but for available entertainment some of the best options require access to streaming services, with Netflix and Amazon Prime featured most prominently.

The plethora of choices on these streaming services would probably allow someone to stay in the basement at least until the next decade, but that’s not a scenario holding any allure for anyone who’s not a hermit or in a witness protection program.

Time now permits discoveries of programs that were somehow overlooked. A long-running success story on Amazon Prime, the “Bosch” police procedural aired its first episode in 2014 and is now on its sixth season.

How did I miss a cop show this good from the beginning? In the titular role, Titus Welliver is outstanding as LAPD detective Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch, a veteran in the Robbery Homicide Division at the Hollywood precinct.

From personal experience this past week, “Bosch” is binge-worthy entertainment, and I am determined to see it through to the end. Though with the seventh and final season announced, the wait for final closure might be taxing on my patience.

Titus Welliver carries the weight of the series, and he makes Harry Bosch a fascinatingly gritty character in so many ways. A hard-boiled detective, Bosch’s style brings to mind the type of no-nonsense officer found in a vintage film noir story.

Struggling with his own demons, Bosch once served in the Special Forces with tours in the Gulf War and later Afghanistan. With his military background and hardcore attitude, Bosch understands what needs to be done for effective policing.

Unafraid to take action when necessary, we come to grasp his tenacity at the beginning of the first season when he engages in a foot chase with a suspect that ends in a fatal shooting in a darkened alley.

Accused of planting a gun on the suspect that would allow Bosch to discharge his service weapon in self-defense, Bosch faces the heat in a wrongful death lawsuit where the plaintiff’s lawyer Honey Chandler (Mimi Rogers) proves to be a tough adversary.

By the way, it won’t be the last time that Bosch has to deal with his attorney nemesis, as he will cross paths with Chandler in a later season and even under circumstances that requires mutual cooperation on a volatile murder case.

A sign on Bosch’s work space that sums up his credo reads “Get off your ass and go knock on doors.” That’s exactly what he has to do in the hunt for serial killer Raymond Waits (Jason Gedrick).

Between court appearances and waiting for a verdict in the wrongful death case, Bosch works with his steady, younger partner Jerry Edgar (Jamie Hector) to unravel the mystery of the cold case death of an adolescent boy whose bones were found buried in Laurel Canyon.

A disturbing cat-and-mouse game ensues with the serial killer whose claims of having murdered the boy as one of his victims is not deemed credible by Bosch, when evidence shows the boy had suffered a history of brutal beatings.

A psychopath of the first order, Waits has learned enough about Bosch’s background to know that the detective grew up in horrible institutional conditions from a young age after his prostitute mother was killed at a motel and dumped in an alley.

Frequently troubled by his own past and the death of his mother, Bosch will get entangled in cold case investigations that cause worry for Deputy Chief of Police Irvin Irving (Lance Reddick).

“Bosch” has great supporting characters in the work place, from veteran detectives Moore (Gregory Scott Cummins) and Johnson (Troy Evans), longtime partners known as Crate and Barrel, to Lieutenant Grace Billets (Amy Aquino), who is Bosch’s immediate superior.

As a friend, Lieutenant Billets often has Bosch’s back as his disdain for authority puts him at odds with the career bureaucrats in the department and the Internal Affairs officers probing his moves.

While Bosch is famously taciturn to the point of exasperation for his colleagues, Crate and Barrel are humorously cantankerous and bring welcome levity to the squad room.

Divorced though still cordial with his ex-wife Eleanor (Sarah Clarke), Bosch’s personal life is messy when he gets involved in a romantic relationship with rookie cop Julia Brasher (Annie Wersching).

Nevertheless, Bosch is devoted to his teenage daughter Maddie (Madison Lintz), who lives with her mom in Las Vegas, but later spends more time in Los Angeles and takes on a bigger role.

Bosch occasionally bends the rules, whether conducting searches without a warrant or roughing up a suspect, and he’s willing to vent his frustrations with authority figures, such as the annoyingly ambitious District Attorney (Steven Culp) who seeks higher office.

“Bosch” is addictive and now is a good time to jump into the series from the first episode.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.



‘HOLLYWOOD’ ON NETFLIX

As reviewed in this column not so long ago, Showtime’s series “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels” featured the strange rich history of Los Angeles during a period of social and political tension during the late Thirties.

Netflix gets into the act of a period piece of Los Angeles history in which aspiring actors and filmmakers of the post-World War II era are hoping to make a big splash in the Hollywood film industry at all costs.

The aptly-titled “Hollywood” is a seven-episode series streaming on Netflix. Co-creator Ryan Murphy, the creative force behind the “Glee” television series, has found an outlet for a risqué homage to entertainment that could not be realized on network television.

What both “City of Angels” and “Hollywood” have in common, if at all, is the opportunity to weave true-life events into a fictional narrative that is either revisionist history or wish fulfillment for what never was.

“Hollywood,” even more so than the Netflix series, goes out on a limb to explore the sexist, racist, misogynistic and hypocritical aspects of the lurid underbelly of the film industry’s Golden Age.

Have you heard about Scotty Bowers, a handsome former Marine who lands in Hollywood after World War II and becomes a legendary escort for male and female celebrities while providing his “full service” out of a gas station in the shadow of the film studios?

You may learn more about Bowers from his memoir “Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars,” a collaboration with Lionel Friedberg, or the documentary film “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood.”

The relevance of the post-war hustler’s dalliance with celebrities seeking furtive affairs is that “Hollywood” pivots in a big way to the activity at the Golden Tip gas station run by Ernie (Dylan McDermott), who provides a stable of hunky young men satisfying sexual fantasies.

Celebrities of both sexes, gay and straight, patronize the station and speak the magic words “I want to go to Dreamland” to one of the attendants. Enter Jack Castello (David Corenswet), a war veteran who wants to be a movie star by becoming one of the pump jockeys.

Expecting a child with his wife Henrietta (Maude Apatow), hustling at the gas station is the only way for Jack to get into show business, and as luck would have it, he gets hooked up with Avis (Patti LuPone), the wife of the studio head (Rob Reiner) of Ace Pictures.

Jack’s long-shot bid for the movie business was off to an inauspicious start when he’d hang outside the studio gates hoping to be an extra for the day, along with a throng of other hopefuls.

Not alone in getting his foot in the door at the studio, Jack’s other gas station buddies, wannabe director Raymond Ainsley (Darren Criss) and Archie Coleman (Jeremy Pope), an aspiring gay black screenwriter, are soon swept into their own dreamland.

Another young man, straight off the bus from flyover country, the handsome but dim Roy Fitzgerald (Jake Picking) ends up being molded by Henry Willson (Jim Parsons), a real-life closeted agent with a nasty streak, into Rock Hudson.

That “Hollywood” is revisionist history, in the sense that it would like to present a world that did not exist, Hudson and screenwriter Archie become lovers so openly that even agent Willson warns that Hudson would sink his nascent career with a public display of his sexual orientation.

Grounded in some relatively factual situations, “Hollywood” brings to life real characters of the Golden Era, from a bawdy Tallulah Bankhead (Paget Brewster) to Anna May Wong (Michelle Krusiec), the Chinese-American star victimized by institutional racism.

Wong was not alone in suffering ostracism. Queen Latifah’s Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Oscar, played Mammy in “Gone With The Wind” and was mainly stuck in domestic roles.

Ryan Murphy upends the customs of the era by bringing together the half-Filipino director Raymond, the gay screenwriter Archie, straight white male Jack, and future star Rock Hudson in a movie project based on the life of British actress Peg Entwistle.

Archie has penned a script titled “Peg,” and Ace Studios decides to make a film based on the tragic life of the actress, but the title is shifted to “Meg,” when Avis, acting as interim studio head, greenlights the production to star a black female actress.

The actress in question is the fictional Camille Washington (Laura Harrier), involved in an interracial romance with director Raymond, and she delivers a luminous performance that is Oscar-worthy.

The final episode, knowingly titled “A Hollywood Ending,” takes us to the Academy Awards, where “Meg” is nominated in several categories including, among others, Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Director. Just for fun, make your own guesses on the winners.

Blending fact and fiction for a desired narrative, Ryan Murphy is the driving force behind the fantasy message for an illusory Golden Age in “Hollywood,” buttressed by the visual treats of retro scenery, automobiles, and elegant clothes that are fun to take in.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.



Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

We’ve featured several other poems by Bruce Guernsey, who lives in Illinois and Maine.

But here he is visiting Gettysburg and giving us a poem for Memorial Day.

“Naming the Trees” is forthcoming in the fall issue of Sow’s Ear Poetry Review.

Naming the Trees

At the national cemetery in Gettysburg
all the trees have names,
both family and genus
on small brass plaques at the base of each
to let the visitor know
the kind of oak,
whether red, white or black,
and is this rock or silver maple
looking once like any other
burlapped ball of roots
when it was lowered to earth
those decades after the war.

Colorful names like Tulip Poplar,
Weeping Beech, Buckeye,
Sweet Gum and Ginko—
sounding like nicknames almost, these trees
from every region and state
with broad leaves or skinny,
shiny, dull, or no leaves at all
like the Eastern Hemlock,
but all, all with names every one,
no matter the size and shape
amidst the many anonymous
mute stones in their shade.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Bruce Guernsey, "Naming the Trees." Poem reprinted by permission of Bruce Guernsey. Introduction copyright @2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

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