Sunday, January 30, 2011


I'm excited about the new biography Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. I bought it for my dad for his birthday, though after reading the first chapter I was tempted to keep it for myself. And my mom might take it and read it before he even gets to touch it. The prose is beautiful, and the fascinating subject is treated in a way that makes this hotly contested, much defamed more interesting rather than less. Schiff does an excellent job of putting the story into context (ie by her time the Sphinx had had to be renovated 1000 years ago...As a Ptolemaic pharaoh, Cleopatra was about as Egyptian as Elizabeth Taylor) while making her life feel relevant and immediate.

Looking forward to reading this one!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

masterpiece classic

One of the pleasures of January is that PBS's Masterpiece Classic returns, and their current new series is Downton Abbey. It promises the grand English manors, concerns about proper suitors for headstrong young women, and worries about inheritance of the beloved Austen novels (it's hard to match Austen's wit, but as far as themes and epic sensibility, we're in at least in the same ballpark), but what fascinates me about this one is when it is set: 1912. It opens with news that the Titanic has sunk and, with it, the heir to the grand estate of Downton Abbey. It can only be passed on to a male heir, of course, and the current heir, who only managed to save his estate back in the 1880s by marrying an American heiress, has only managed to produce three daughters. The choice falls to challenging the entail that guards the estate intact from male-to-male and passing the home and the whole of their fortune on to a third cousin whom he has never met and who, they learn to their horror, is common enough to actually work for a living. Horror! Brewing beneath the drama of this grand estate are burgeoning new possibilities: electricity, cars, women's rights, modern medicine, maids taking correspondence courses to become secretaries...the large serving staff that runs the home are as important to the story as the wealthy owners, all of which makes for fascinating storytelling. And of course, we "readers" know that we are only a few years away from WWI, which will change everything....

Watch the first two (of four) episodes on PBS here.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


If January were an animal, it would be a thick-furred mammal, oh-so-slow to get on its feet but long on endurance once it's up. In the middle of the semester, January is a promise: whole weeks free? What hope! What opportunities to complete myriad projects! I keep this expectation through the month, but in reality, January is a time of burrowing in, waking late despite efforts to the contrary to discover that there are only 4 hours of daylight left.

I heard that somewhere in central Minnesota a McDonald's was offering a great deal, buy one (whatever), get one at yesterday's noon high temperature. And no, they would not give you money back for negatives. Yesterday, I could have brought a second (whatever) for 7 cents. So I guess it's still somewhat warm out.

I keep trying to write poetry about January but stop because it makes me cold.

That said, the sun today was heavily, and I finally figured out where the county park is. I saw more people on the cross country ski trails this afternoon than I saw all week. And you simply can't beat the peace of it, the snow covered views.

Wishing you a cozy January.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

sample poems

Check out the winter edition of The Broken City Magazine for two of my poems. I'm on pages 4-5.