Tuesday, 27 February 2024

Arts & Life

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.


Alice Friman, in her emotionally complex poem, “The Peach,” describes what appears to be the end of a relationship.

The nature of the relationship is not clear, though Friman’s images of stickiness and running juices suggests a tactile sensuality, that stands in contrast to the final image of snowdrifts and numbness.

It is a short, compact, narrative, that ends with a delicately captured disquiet, captured in the question that ends the poem.

The Peach
By Alice Friman

I stood on a corner eating a peach,
the juice running down my arm.
A corner in Pergos where he left me,
Pergos where I could catch a bus.
What was I supposed to do now
alone, my hands sticky with it
standing on the corner where he
left me a Greek peach, big as a softball,
big as an orange from Spain, but it
wasn’t from Spain, but from Pergos,
where I could see his red truck
disappear around a corner, not
my corner but further up the street,
and only later, months later, back
home when the trees were slick
with ice, their topmost branches
shiny as swords stabbing the heart
out of the sky, the earth chilled under
snowdrifts or as we tend to say, sleeping.
But I don’t know, frozen maybe, numb?


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 ©2021 by Alice Friman, “The Peach” from The Georgia Review Vol LXXV No. 3. Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

Lake County Poet Laureate Georgina Marie Guardado. Courtesy photo.


UPPER LAKE, Calif. — The Lake County Land Trust is hosting Georgina Marie Guardado, Lake County’s Poet Laureate for 2020-2024, at a nature Journaling event at the Land Trust’s Rodman Preserve, 63350 Westlake Road in Upper Lake, on Saturday, July 2, starting at 9 a.m.

Dubbed “Nature Journaling Under the Oaks,” the event is a casual, unstructured workshop that features interaction with Georgina Marie and other writers, enjoying the beauty of the ancient Oaks and other features at the preserve.

Bring a chair, writing supplies and a water bottle.

Georgina Marie is the first Mexican-American and youngest to serve in this role for the county.

In June 2021, she was selected as a Poets Laureate Fellow with the Academy of American Poets.

She is the literary coordinator and Poetry Out Loud Coordinator for the Lake County Arts Council, where she also serves as a board member, and poet in residence for The Bloom in Middletown.

She has served as co-editor for the Middletown Art Center’s Resilience and Restore collections of written word, funded by the California Arts Council.

As part of the Broken Nose Collective, an annual chapbook exchange, she created her first poetry chapbook Finding the Roots of Water in 2018 and her second chapbook Tree Speak in 2019.

In 2020, she was an Anne G. Locasio scholar for the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference and is now a member of their board of directors.

For information contact the Lake County Land Trust at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. RSVPs are appreciated, but not required.

The Rodman Preserve. Courtesy photo.




‘HUSTLE’ ON NETFLIX

A feel-good sports movie can be a heartwarming pleasure even if the game is not one that you may follow with the dedication of a true fan. That’s the case here for this reviewer in Adam Sandler’s basketball-oriented “Hustle” on Netflix.

I have to admit partiality to major league baseball, football, hockey and occasional trips to the racetrack to place a few bets on the ponies. As for basketball, the names of today’s players are mostly not on my radar.

Most of us recognize former NBA stars like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Wilt Chamberlain, and in many cases even former players like Doc Rivers and Julius Erving, better known as Dr. J of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Interestingly, Rivers and Dr. J figure into Adam Sandler’s nifty film, considering his character is Stanley Sugerman, a talent scout for the Philadelphia basketball team and a former college hoops player at Temple University.

It may stretch the imagination a bit too far to envision Sandler as an erstwhile player, but his character’s love for the game is so impressive that such thoughts are quickly dispelled.

Having grown weary of being on the road all the time and missing his daughter’s birthdays, Stanley is relieved when 76ers team owner Rex Merrick (Robert Duvall) promotes him to the long-coveted position of assistant coach.

Lugging baggage through airports and lonely nights in hotel rooms are not fun for a middle-aged man, and spending more at home with wife Teresa (Queen Latifah) and teen daughter Alex (Jordan Hull) will be joyful.

With the sudden death of the team owner, Merrick’s arrogant son Vince (Ben Foster) takes over and decides to send Stanley on a European tour to find what he calls the team’s “missing piece” for an NBA finals win.

Vince is such an odious punk that he doesn’t mind telling Stanley that he won’t be home for his daughter’s next birthday. One firmly hopes that the new boss will get his comeuppance.

Ending up in Mallorca, Spain, Stanley encounters Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangomez, an actual NBA player), a streetball hustler with a troubled past who proves to be unbeatable in one-on-one basketball games.

Taking care of his mother and young daughter, Bo fears losing his construction job when Stanley promises to be his mentor with an opportunity to play professional ball in America.

Back in the States, Bo’s passion and skill for the game does not immediately impress Vince and other executives, but Stanley has faith and empathy for his prospect and decides to invest his own time and money to train him properly.

The road to an NBA career is bumpy as Bo must prove himself against other prospects in the Combine, especially his nemesis Kermit Wilts (NBA player Anthony Edwards), a menacing presence who taunts the Spaniard with trash-talk about his family.

It doesn’t take a sports fan to figure out the eventual ending to a fairytale story of redemption and achievement, but watching the chemistry between Adam Sandler and Juancho Hernangomez makes “Hustle” an enjoyable and cheerful pleasure.

Bottom line for “Hustle” is that you don’t have to be a basketball fan to appreciate the passion and heart of the player and mentor leading to triumph over adversity.

ALL THINGS SHARK ON DISCOVERY AND NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

For the last several decades, “Shark Week” has been a successful programming block on the Discovery Channel, and as summer draws people to the beach the return of this popular program gets underway on Sunday, July 24.

The 34th installment of “Shark Week” promises new locations across the globe and cutting-edge technology that offers revelations about the mating and migration patterns of sharks.

A celebrity twist to this year’s program will be the Impractical Jokers, whose act involves out-daring and humiliating each other, using their antics for a hysterical adventure of shark education.

National Geographic Channel celebrates its ten years of “Sharkfest” with more action-packed programming across more platforms than ever before that include Disney+, ESPN, ABC, Hulu and Nat Geo WILD.

Starting on July 10, “Sharkfest” allows viewers to sink their teeth into almost 30 hours of original programming and over 60 hours of enhanced content featuring captivating science and stunning visuals of the iconic apex predator.

“Sharkfest” aims to not only shine a light on the science of sharks, giving audiences a better understanding of the ocean’s most misunderstood predator, but also features their true beauty, power and mystery.

The six-episode series “When Sharks Attack” explores the rise of shark attacks in North America and beyond. What causes the alarming uptick in human and shark encounters?

Scientists investigate first-hand accounts, uncovering clues and details that will unravel the mystery behind the terrifying shark attack spike. Reminiscent of fear generated by “Jaws,” the answers will impact beachgoers around the globe.

“Shark Beach with Chris Hemsworth” features the Australian actor, known to many as “Thor,” on a mission to uncover the science of shark behavior and discover how humans and sharks can safely coexist.

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



‘ELVIS’ RATED PG-13

Nothing expresses the cinematic style of writer, director and producer Baz Luhrmann more than his Academy Award-winning “Moulin Rouge!,” which brought back the movie musical and cemented his cultlike following.

It’s not far off the mark to note that Luhrmann’s signature blend of fantasy, romance and decadence fuses high and low culture, resulting in a trademark theatrical aesthetic that captivates audiences and ignites imaginations.

The visionary Luhrmann’s artistic touch has turned “Elvis” into an epic, big-screen spectacle with flashy visuals and bold colors that underscore Elvis Presley’s (Austin Butler) ascent to iconic status.

As much as Elvis establishes himself as the King of Rock ‘n Roll, this Luhrmann opus (the film runs 159 minutes) is equally, if not more so, the story of Col. Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), the carnival barker who latched on to the musical sensation from Tupelo, Mississippi.

The rise of Elvis is seen through the machinations of Parker, who proved to be so focused on promotion and manipulation of his meal ticket that he quickly abandoned his touring shows with country and western singer Hank Snow (David Wenham).

The early Elvis was captivated by Black musicians on Memphis’ famous Beale Street juke joints as well as revival tent shows. The blues and gospel music proved to be heavy influences on Elvis’ musical style.

Enamored with Black artists like B.B. King (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), Big Momma Thornton (Shonka Dukureh), and Little Richard (Alton Mason), Elvis took their music mainstream and used his hip-swiveling stage gyrations that made girls scream in ecstasy.

Thinking about how Elvis ended up overweight and dependent on drugs makes more fascinating his meteoric rise in the early days to sex symbol status, and credit goes to Austin Butler’s strong performance as the Elvis that should be remembered.

Though Elvis lived only to the age of 42, his life was stuffed with biographical excess that can’t be unpacked here, and Luhrmann glosses over vast swathes of his career, notably skimming over the decade of lackluster Hollywood musicals.

Since the world is populated with thousands of low-rent Elvis impersonators with minimal talent, judge for yourself how well Austin Butler revives the Elvis mystique. The young actor nails the portrayal of a legend with blazing energy in every musical number.

In the end, it’s sad to think how Col. Parker was a duplicitous, avaricious and contemptuous con artist whose scheming manipulations caused Elvis to be a virtual hostage unable to escape his greedy clutches.

The last chapter of “Elvis” are the Vegas years where Elvis took up residence at the International Hotel, mainly because Parker needed to pay off his considerable gambling debts, while Elvis was falling deeper into a life of despair.

One can’t help but think that after Elvis lost his beloved mother Gladys (Helen Thomson) and his marriage to Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge) crashed and burned, life for the King of Rock 'n Roll was destined to spiral out of control.

The dysfunctional relationship between the King and his grasping promoter that is explored is sadly essential to “Elvis,” but what is most satisfying is the singer’s interaction with the talented Black artists and his rocking musical performances.

‘THE DOCTOR BLAKE MYSTERIES’ ON OVATION TV

Ovation TV bills itself as America’s premier arts network, and yet it also features foreign mystery series. The first season of “The Doctor Blake Mysteries” will begin airing on Thursday, July 7.

This is a period Australian murder mystery series starring Aussie versatile actor Craig McLachlan as the maverick town doctor Lucien Blake, an impulsive risk-taker who’s not afraid to upset the status quo.

The setting is 1959. Dr. Blake has returned to a place he once called home to take over his deceased father’s medical practice set in the gothic gold rush town of Ballart.

Everything seems peaceful on the surface, but seething underneath are the age-old passions of a regional town clashing head-on with the tension and fears of the decade to come.

Haunted by the horrors of war, his own personal loss and changed by his experiences as a POW, the wry, yet very human Dr. Blake undertakes his other role as Police Surgeon with precision and gusto while many find his unpredictable and unconventional manner unnerving.

Ahead of his time, the good doctor looks to the science of forensics and his own understanding of the human heart and mind to help solve the mysteries that inevitably come his way.

In the first episode, when a wayward girl from the local reform school is found dead in Lake Wendouree, Dr. Lucien Blake is immediately suspicious. He shocks the police with his unconventional investigative methods.

Working beside Dr. Blake, helping and at times hindering, are his housekeeper Jean (Nadine Garner); her nephew Danny (Rick Donald), a young Constable; District Nurse Mattie O’Brien (Cate Wolfe); and Chief Superintendent Matthew Lawson (Joel Tobeck).

The original, period murder mystery series “The Doctor Blake Mysteries” will air four episodes back-to-back every Thursday, with season two episodes beginning on Thursday, July 21.

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

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

This poem captures one of the peculiar, private deals that we sometimes make in a world that seems to be marching on, completely out of our control.

Some might call it a prayer, or a spell, or a strange vow, characterized by a certain magical hope against reality.

Huey labels it a “fairy tale”, a deeply haunting expression of the familiar fear we have of “the bill” coming due.

Fairy Tale
By Huey

My father cuts off his thumb with a circular saw.
A tiny magical man makes me an offer.

I cannot refuse. My father’s thumb grows back.
The price I have agreed to pay is too great;

I cannot bear to say its name aloud. In the corner
of every room I enter, the tiny magical man

crouches, nameless and cruel. Not today, he says.
Not today. One day, I will enter a room and he will

not be there, and I will know the bill has come due.
A phone will ring. I will answer. A stranger’s voice

will mispronounce my name, apologize,
hesitate. In this brief silence, foolish hope will bloom.


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 ©2021 by Amorak Huey, “Fairy Tale” from The Southern Review, Vol. 37:3, Summer 2021. Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

The humble meal of bread, sugar and milk is an iconic expression of the seemingly “unpoetic” quotidian rituals of life — paying bills, worrying about the bills, surviving the bills.

In the poem, “Doing the Bills”, Lee Upton is reminded of her father, even as she, with a partner, does the bills.

She captures such deep sentiment in the image of the head being held in the hands. The moment of beauty arrives in the meal that she describes. It is a spot of sweetness in a world of everyday hardship.

Doing the Bills
By Lee Upton

My father impaling bills
on a nail on a block of wood
then putting his head in his hands
and you with your head in your hands
and my head in my hands
hands over my eyes
and I see again what I forgot for decades
my father
after doing the bills
crumbling bread in a bowl
and pouring milk over the bread
and spooning in sugar.


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 ©2021 by Lee Upton, “Doing the Bills” from The Southern Review, Vol. 37:3, Summer 2021. Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

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