Monday, May 14, 2007

your may annogram

Yes, I am back from my big trip to LA: The readings at USC and Otis College of Art and Design were wonderful. Thanks to our hosts, poet/professor David Lloyd and biographer/lecturer Béatrice Mousli-Bennett, and of course my publisher, Guy Bennett, for making this journey possible. What a gift to see Hélène Sanguinetti, the French poet I’ve been translating, as well as her friend Claire Barre, again. Ah mes amies, quelle joie!

Your Annogram – Hollywood Edition
My husband Michael and I made a point to stay in Hollywood, and you can read about our adventures below this blog entry.

Poetry this month
I am thrilled to have two favorite poems, “Boys of Iona Prep” and “St. Agnes, Pink-Slipped” appearing in Relief Journal, a Christian literary magazine.

Connor-Bey and Hightower at Center for Book Arts
Brenda Connor-Bey, Greenburgh’s poet laureate and author of Thoughts of An Everyday Woman/An Unfinished Urban Folktale (Blind Beggar Press, 1995), and Scott Hightower, author of Part of the Bargain (Copper Canyon Press, 2005), will read Friday, May 11, at 6:30 pm, introduced by Patricia Spears Jones. Suggested donation: $5 for CBA members and $10 non-members; first 40 entrants receive one free letterpress printed broadside. CBA is located at 28 W. 27th St. 3rd floor, New York, NY 10001, (212) 481-0295.

NYT columnist to read this week
New York Times columnist, author and Westchester mom Lisa Belkin will read in the Meeting of the Minds series, this Thursday, May 10, at 7:30pm. Reading and conversation, followed by refreshments. Free admission. Chappaqua Friends House, 420 Quaker Road, Chappaqua, (914) 238-3170.

Gigi and Lend-Me-A-Hand at Bronx Zoo
Wondering what to do this weekend? Come to the Bronx Zoo to hear the Gigi on vocals, her mom, Granny Franny, on keyboards; spouse Larry on bass guitar, and Larry’s best friend—my husband Michael—on lead guitar. Guy Elluzzi and Paul Rokowski round out the sound on drums and sax respectively. Shows Saturday and Sunday at noon, 2pm and 4pm in the Dancing Crane Pavillion.

Manhattanville Summer Writers Week
Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to study with and hear leading writers share their experience, knowledge and insights. Manhattanville offers a nurturing community of teachers and students perfect for new writers or those motivated to go to the next level. The Summer Writers Week takes place June 25-29 this year. For info and to register, see

New England Writers Literary Contests
I won this poetry contest years ago, so give it a shot. Enter as often as you like in all categories: Robert Penn Warren Poetry Awards: $300, $200, $100; Marjory Bartlett Sanger Fiction Award: $300; Frank Anthony Creative Nonfiction Award: $200. Send three 10-30 line poems; 1,000 words fiction or nonfiction; $5 entry fee; 3x5 card with name, address and titles of work; manuscript w/o contact info and mail by June 15, 2007 to New England Writers Contests, P.O. Box 5, Windsor, VT 05089.

New England Writers Conference
This well-organized and attended writers conference includes a writers panel, award ceremony, open readings, book sales, and refreshments. This year’s conference will be held Saturday, July 21, 2007 at Old South Church in Windsor, Vermont, which is easily accessible up I-91 from the tri-state area. Featured guests will be posted on web:

Toadlily sings
Our friends at Toadlily Press have just added audio to their book offerings—so now you can sample some poems before you purchase the books:

Laura Morelli, your guide to beautiful things
If you’d like to learn more about shopping for authentic handmade crafts around the world, sign up for Laura Morelli’s The Real Deal. The e-newsletter highlights the world’s best artisans and most time-honored traditions—from Murano glass to Navajo rugs, Baccarat crystal, Neopolitan cameos, Limoges porcelain, and more. See a sample here:

Brush with greatness
About 20 years ago, Michael and I were walking through mid-town. We passed a man on the steps of his townhouse, enjoying an evening smoke—hair all over the place, clothes casually professorish. “Is that…?” Michael asked. “Yes, it is,” I said, knowing he meant Kurt Vonnegut. That week, I would read that his apartment was being renovated—hence a good reason to be outside. Annogram salutes Vonnegut’s lifelong achievement in literature, and the critical thinking he engaged in the last decades that issued from a great love of our country: Well done, good and faithful servant.

Until next time,

Monday, May 07, 2007

your annogram - hollywood edition

Michael and I woke our first day in California hearing a woman screaming into her cell phone “I’m in Hollywood! I’m in Hollywood!” And who could blame her? This corner of Los Angeles represents decades of American dreams—a mythology about stardom and possibility that is part of our cultural identity.

At the Best Western Hollywood Hills, we shared our room with the Rat Pack and gangsters such as George Raft and Robert DeNiro: Framed photos and engraved signatures adorned our room. A tribute to the “I Love Lucy Show” sat, appropriately, above our TV while Gable looked loving at Lombard in another.

Populated by rockers, tourists and “Let’s Make a Deal” contestants, the motel’s 101 Coffee Shop offered savory diner fare such as malteds and burgers as well as sophisticated veggie meals. There was nothing like eating breakfast at 7:30 a.m. to “Rebel Yell” blaring over the loudspeaker and being served by Ashlee Simpson look-a-likes.

Around us, people in hushed tones promoted deals from recordings and auditions to screenplays and potential TV programs. And that was the creative energy of LA—this belief that you can make something happen, possibly something big happen—maybe something as looming as the Hollywood sign.

We took off up Beachwood Drive for our own pilgrimage to view it. Small apartment buildings gave way to more impressive cottages in every architectural style tucked close to one another on the winding upward path. The big white letters loomed larger and larger until we took a turn and found ourselves at a dead end. Something about the closer you get to Hollywood, the more it disappears.

A friend says he knows a big producer whose terrace overlooks the “O”.

On Hollywood Boulevard, small tanning, massage and other tired storefronts dot the street with huge movie theaters now boarded over.

Nevertheless, crowds cluster at Grauman’s Chinese Theater with its squares of celebrity signatures, hand- and foot-prints.

The Walk of Fame features familiar and not-so-familiar names in the sidewalk up and down the Boulevard. We just missed seeing Forest Whitaker receive his star....

At the Capitol Records building, built to look like a stack of 45s, we couldn’t enter the lobby but peered through the glass windows at walls of solid gold and platinum records.

The doorman recommended lunch at Joseph’s Café, a middle-eastern restaurant at Yucca and Ivar Streets, “where all the industry people go,” and we did see the singer Brandy there.

With Capitol the Beatles’ first label, John Lennon’s star is outside the building.
We drove the Sunset Strip, noting Whiskey-a-Go-Go, the Cat Club and the Viper Room, where River Phoenix overdosed—and Chateau Marmont where Belushi met his end. Given the murals and paintings of dead stars under bridges and on walls—paintings always slightly inexact—Hollywood has a bit of a mortuary feel to it.

At Venice Beach, we found there really is a “Muscle Beach” where people work out beside the shore on large weight machines. And friends introduced us to the Venice Canals, an idealized community of tiny homes edging beautiful canals. I noticed no one seemed to be home—and that’s probably because everyone was out driving the freeways which always seemed to be crowded—even on Sundays.

In LA, people are always seeing celebrities and talking about those experiences. Joseph Campbell once said that movie stars are like gods—they assume huge proportions on the screen, and then when we see them in real life, it’s as if we see Venus shopping at a local market, or Zeus going into a bistro. Such divine visitation in this city is an everyday occurrence, this magic that fuels creative ambition—in hushed tones—at the 101 and seemingly everywhere.

photos: michael cefola