Monday, December 17, 2012

Poetry Book Group Opens the Year with Stephen Dunn

Stephen Dunn’s Different Hours (Norton, 2000) is a Pulitzer Prize winner and collection you won’t forget, divorce to ekphrasis to plumbers.

We’re adding a new feature to our evening, and invite you to bring a poem written in the style of Dunn. If you’re in the neighborhood, join us for conversation about this moving book. Lemon Grove, 7:00, Tues. 8 Jan. 

I’m partial to the table by the window, which in December was next to a Christmas tree necklaced with tiny white lights. Angry Orchard on tap. Good friends and good conversation. What more is there?

Simpler Times

The violent boys merely armed
with fists, the president
avuncular, his office unspoiled,

it’s tempting to believe
we lived in simpler times.

Unfulfillment didn’t have
its high priests, not even a language.
I just thought of it as family life

or school, and on Sunday nights
ran in from the clean, safe streets
to laugh at Milton Berle.

--Stephen Dunn, from Different Hours

Monday, December 3, 2012

My favorite granola recipe

I like foods with texture and a good mix-up, and these days I’m on a granola jag. I stock Bob’s Red Mill rolled oats, and Ohio maple syrup from a place not too far from here. I also like different combinations of nuts and fruits. Hands down favorite: date-pecan, with Medjool dates I pick up at Jerusalem Market on Youngstown’s north side. But I use whatever’s on hand, and other tasty combinations are cherry-peanut, and cranberry-walnut. Switching up the liquids adds nuance – peanut oil is lovely – and honey makes a stickier, clumpier granola. For seeds, anything goes: sunflower, sesame, chia, flax, poppy, combination… I also toss in a handful of wheat germ now and then. I’ve even traded the oats for Bob’s Red Mill multigrain hot cereal. My friend likes it with the big flakes of Bob’s Red Mill coconut (you see the Bobs Red Mill theme), and crunched up bran flakes. I like adding cinnamon or ginger. Hmmm.... the crystallized ginger left over from a recent cookie project?

To assemble: mix the oats, nuts and seeds, stir in the blended liquid. Spread out in a greased jelly roll pan and bake at 325 for 15 minutes. Add the dried fruit (chopped, as in dates), and bake 15 min. more. I take it out when the oats are toasted, but I don’t let the fruit burn. If it’s very sticky, pour it out on waxed paper or foil to set. Store in an air tight container. So, so good on yogurt, oatmeal or cut fruit.


Oats: 4 cups
Chopped or broken nuts: 1 cup
Seeds: ¼ cup
Oil: ½ cup
Maple syrup/honey: ½ cup
Chopped dried fruit: 1 cup

Other ideas:
Coconut: 1 cup
Crunched up bran flakes: 1 cup

Saturday, December 1, 2012

At Home with Bill Bryson

I just finished Bill Bryson's At Home: A Short History of Private Life (Random House 2010), or rather Bryson just finished reading it to me on CD. I love listening to this author read his own works, and this book is so very Brysony. Maybe my geek card just fell out of my wallet, but I loved learning about the history of the rooms in our houses, as well as the stuff in them, and the details of domestic life: contemporary diseases of medieval origin, heavy-metal wallpaper, painful powdered wigs, and the obedience of Charles Darwin to his father (which might have prevented his journey). This author is the master of irony, and domestic life is nothing if not ironic.

Maybe what I appreciate the most is the way Bryson made me realize that the rituals and conflicts of our day are seamlessly connected to everything that came before. And that the most accidental events can lead to massive shifts in beliefs and practices. I guess this sounds obvious, but I don't always remember it. It helps me let go of the feeling that we're inescapably entrenched in our ways.

Terrific book. All thumbs up.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Comet Scar by James Harms

The Poetry Book Discussion Group will take up James Harms's Comet Scar the first Tues. of Dec.

Jim is a master of the observed, even when his landscapes are created. 

At dawn the third
dimension gradually returns,
a scent like salt
in the wind. The ocean
is a sound at the edge
of sleep, easily mistaken
for leaves gathering in
the courtyard corners,
and the leading edge
of light slips loose of
palm trees and jacaranda,
rattles like dice on the terra-
cotta tiles.

from "Keep My Word"

I'm taken with his linebreaks, his sound-fulness and the small boxes full of stories.

Kudzu on the cover. A song
wrapped in wax paper, all stammer and prayer
and the low, little sounds
of bugs scratching screens.

from "Murmur R.E.M."

I love his love songs and the sad good night. 

Walt wore green trousers to school today,
a little tattered and short but baggy enough
to get by, his ankles sharp wings above
his shoes, Hermes delivering his little
sister to kindergarten, who's in a green cardigan
over green t-shirt; she hates to be pinched.

from "March 17th" 

If you're in Youngstown, come down to the Lemon Grove and we'll marvel at these poems over mugs of Christmas Ale. We waited all year for this. 


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Post-Election Optimism

This election has me feeling optimistic, a point of view I thought I had given up on. I lay down my doomsday scenario predictions, that post-Citizens United America would never see the success of a non-neocon. I will continue to hope for the nomination and election of rational, informed liberals and conservatives so we can have reasoned debate about the serious issues facing us. I long for a democratic process free of corporate money. But today, I applaud the fabulous diversity of the newly elected, who bring Congress closer to a representation of our population. I hope those lamenting the end of the rule of lily white (men) wake up and realize that white Americans are descendents of immigrants (often penniless) from northern Europe, that is all, and only those whose parents didn’t procreate with one of the descents of immigrants from anywhere else. I raise my coffee to my grandmother who said that if we intermarried, we’d all have a nice tan. I think that breaks down the idea of race quite beautifully.

So now that reason has made a comeback, let’s get real issues into the spotlight. Energy is first on my list since I am living in the shale gas crosshairs of the monsterish gas and oil industry. Let’s change the way we do everything. We need a nimble grid so buildings can feed energy into the system, and so that mutant storms don’t take out power for a whole swath of neighborhoods. We need good public transportation and bike paths, and public service ads that show how expensive and unhealthy the car is for us, personally, and our communities and countries. Let’s examine the way we use energy in industry. Let’s put solar panels on everything, and windmills down the center of highways, along every shore, along hedgerows of farm fields. Let’s power new buildings with geothermal, and require energy companies to fund homeowners’ and businesses’ installation of green energy and weatherization technology, to be repaid over time.And come on, America. Get off the single-use drink containers and plastic bags.

I see progress everywhere – certainly the local food movement is thriving here, and the energy it saves by not growing produce in petroleum-based fertilizer and shipping fruits and vegetables an average of 1500 miles is powerful to contemplate. But we are so very far from being able to claim that natural gas will help us transition from dirty coal and foreign oil. We are energy addicts, and gas is our new fix. It will kill us just as quickly, which is bad enough, but if we take the air, soil, water and climate with us, that adds a whole dimension of irresponsible horror. To those who say we can’t afford do to these things, I ask: Are you kidding me? What we’re doing now is costing us everything. Taking these steps will save a fortune in the cost of health care, military protection of foreign oil resources, environmental cleanup, highway maintenance, and in the case of fracking, water that has first been radiated, then taken completely out of the water table. It will also put people to work in fields with a real future.

I would also like to see a national discussion of personal responsibility, which is now code for cutting the safety net and not requiring corporations to pay a living wage. What can we reasonably expect of individuals? Let’s expect that. Where is the system rigged against the individual? Half of Americans live near the poverty line. Life expectancy can be predicted by zip code. Our own sense of agency is pathologically skewed when we live paycheck to paycheck, knowing we’ll lose everything with any ordinary disaster. The lion’s share of people in my generation are heading into retirement with very little savings, having lived through the loss of value of their wages, homes and pensions. The generation coming up will see all of their economic gains funneled into the repayment of student loans, which may take their entire lifetimes. We act like we’ve been hit by a tsunami, when in reality, we were hit by a redistribution of wealth. Let’s see some serious discussion on this, inside and outside of Capitol Hill.

I look forward to a reasoned and informed discussion on health care (to those businesses stroking out over the future projected cost of Obamacare – yes! let’s get the cost of health care entirely off the back of business), and foreign policy. Central should be our closest ally’s heartbreaking oppression of the Palestinians, a failure of Jewish teaching as much as our military violence is a failure of Christian teaching. Noam Chomsky’s moving piece about what life is really like in Gaza, which he calls the world’s largest open air prison, is here. And for the love of god, no more drones.  Let’s live up to our own rhetoric of peace, freedom and due process.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Youngstown Cash Mob gets all artsy

Youngstown gets its arts on for the holidays, and the Youngstown Cash Mob will be there.

Our November cash mob event will visit the holiday sale of the Artists of the Mahoning Commons in the historic Ward Bakery building, 1024 Mahoning Ave. This former bread factory will be creaking with painted silk scarves and pillows, small and large sculpture, jewelry, pottery, watercolor painting, photography, Christmas decorations, handmade hats, mittens, cupcakes, maple syrup, granola… 
The Youngstown Cash Mob day will be Sat. 17 Nov. noon to five, although the sale will continue the following Sat. and Sun. noon to five. An extra treat for us will be the performance of the Youngstown Complaints Choir! Conductor-composer-poet Kelly Bancroft collected complaints of Youngstown residents and set them to music. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if our complaints were always accompanied by music?  

We have added a free raffle to the cash mob days. This month’s winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate for The Health Food Center at 6015 Market St. The free tickets will be available at the Cash Mob table – stop by and say hello! You don’t have to be there when we draw the winning ticket at the end of the day. Congratulations to last month’s recipient of a gift certificate for Joe Maxx Coffee!

Instead of a formal December cash mob, we’re focusing the whole month on buying local for the holidays. Here are some gift ideas:
  • For someone who cares about skin: Lovely, handcrafted soaps from bodygoodies.
  • For someone who entertains: An antique dish from Joshua Tree full of retro candy from Touch the Moon Candy Saloon.
  • For the foodies in your life: A gift card for artisan bread from The Bread Chef and handcrafted jams from the Northside Farmer’s Market.
  • For someone having a big event this year: A coupon for the most beautiful birthday/graduation/baby shower cake ever from Clarencedale Cake or Sugar Showcase.
  • For parents or kids: A parents’ date night, including babysitting and a gift card from one of our wonderfully locally owned restaurants, or a kids’ day out at Oh Wow! science center and a stop at Maggie’s Magic Muffins.
  • For householders: A gift card for Uhrain Greenhouses, Girard Hardware, déjà vu décor, Star Supply or Mahoning Valley Vacuum.
  • For the love of your life: A gift card from Massage Café and Underdog Records.
  • For someone who has moved away: Youngstown t-shirt or memorabilia from Youngstown Nation.
  • For a reader: a stack of current fiction from Dorian Books.
We are so lucky to have these unique shops in our community, and they would appreciate your support. In a nutshell, think local these holidays! If you buy something wonderful and would be willing to send us a photo, we'll post it on our facebook page.

Our January cash mob will be at a business that’s younger than three years old. How can you nominate? Join our facebook page. Our nominations day is Sun. 2 December. We look forward to learning about the new kids on the block, so we can stop by and give them plenty of support. Our new businesses don’t have the advantage of million dollar ad campaigns and national name recognition. That’s where we come in!

Thanks for helping us spread the word.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

from Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists

--Herman, adding to "The Bible," his copyeditor's handbook in the newsroom.

  • literally: This word should be deleted. All too often, actions described as "literally" did not happen at all. As in, "He literally jumped out of his skin." No, he did not. Though if he literally had, I'd suggest raising the element and proposing the piece for page one.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Youngstown Cash Mob Looks Toward the New Year

Our next cash mob will be at The Encore Shop on Sat. 27 Oct. Stop by anytime between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. This charming consignment shop for women’s clothing, shoes and accessories is in a plaza at 4427 Logan Way, just a stone’s throw south of Hwy. 304.

There will also be a bake sale, sponsored by Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to raise funds for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. I had a chance to see some of the baked goods when WFMJ came to interview us, and mmmmm.

The Encore Shop carries lovely clothes for holiday events, as well as sweaters, coats, scarves and boots, and even Halloween costumes. I have my eye on a certain pair of shoes, and I look forward to the chance to browse. Between Raks and Encore, my closet is getting a terrific update.

Votes are in for the November cash mob, and our top vote getter was the Artists of the Mahoning Commons holiday sale at the historic Ward Bakery Building, 1024 Mahoning Ave.

This will be our last cash mob of 2012. In December, we’ll be promoting ‘Buy Local Holidays.’ We invite you to let us know what independent, locally owned business has the perfect gift. Send us a note and/or photo (, and we’ll post it to our Facebook page.

In 2013, we’re going to mix things up with some special cash mobs. Here’s a peek at the calendar (‘Business as usual’ means any establishment in Youngstown and first-ring suburbs):

December: Local Christmas cash mob
January: Business younger than three years old
February: Business as usual
March: Woman-owned business
April: Business as usual
May: Mahoning County outside of Youngstown and first ring suburbs
June: Business as usual
July: Activity Cash Mob
August: Business as usual
September: Black-owned business
October: Business as usual
November: Non-profit

To nominate a business, visit us on Facebook.

I hope to see you at The Encore Shop! Please take a moment to say hello, and grab an “I Cash Mobbed” sticker if you’d like one. Just like “I Voted” supports our democracy, attending a cash mob supports our local economy.

Thanks for helping us spread the word.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Daniel Handler on poetry

I’ve never had any of the problems with poetry that most people do, i.e., that it’s boring and/or incomprehensible. A voracious reader, I spent my childhood reading things for adults, and learned early to find peace in the stasis of literature. Having read The Rainbow at fourteen (I’d heard D.H. Lawrence was dirty), a Robert Hass poem feels action-packed. And as far as comprehension goes, I find poetry actually has very little mystery compared to anything else. Just this morning at the bus stop, a little electronic sign told me my bus was arriving in two minutes, then one minute, then “arriving,” although the street remained empty. Then it was gone. I’d missed a bus that had never arrived. Not a phrase in The Tennis Court Oath can touch that for sheer befuddlement.

From "Happy, Snappy, Sappy" in Poetry, January 2011