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February 29, 2008

The Poet’s Hotline

Her words land in poems
like eggs in a skillet
She makes them sizzle
She burns the butter

Leave your poem
after the tone …

Her sonnets spill
into three message parts
until my answering machine is full

Speak in rhyme
if you’re so inclined…

With sparks flying
I hear her typing
“Sonnets are like poems wearing neckties
kind of ridiculous but demanding respect”
her new message says

Leave a haiku
and I’ll get back to you…

Holding the phone
between my ear and shoulder
like a hot potato
my pen is a spatula
slapping down notes

Let your verse be free
after the beep…

Ingredients for recipes
whipped up on the spot
The phone rings poetry
or random conversations
She’s alliterating lettuce
for a garden villanelle

~ Colleen Redman (for Mara)

February 28, 2008

13 Thursday: I’d Like to Thank the Academy

13cinema.jpg1. I was recently sick and hadn’t been out in over a week. I was beginning to think I should make a dentist appointment just to get out of the house.

2. Strangest thing recently seen: At a training this past Saturday,related to the work I do with adults with disabilities, I went to the bathroom at the break and saw an hourglass egg timer on the back of the toilet. I’m still curious about it.

3. I had a hard time sitting and paying attention for the four hour training so I doodled and worked on my teapoems, which reminded me of scribbling poetry on scraps of paper many years ago when I worked at a factory. I still remember writing this line then: Bob Dylan had the highway blues … he wore pointed shoes …and kept his guitar always loaded.

4. Sometimes I run my fingers across the keyboard and pretend that it’s a piano.

5. I’ve never played an instrument, unless you want to count the diggeredo, which is a long hollow bamboo instrument you blow into. It sounds something like the sound of blowing into a conch shell, unless you’re not doing it right and then it just sounds like farting.

6. I now have a Hewitt Packard Case Manager, a nice guy named John who sent me a new printer when my old one got fried even though my year warranty was expired by one day. I guess the company thinks I’m a special case, either that or they want to keep my buying their ink cartridges, which cost about as much to refill as the cost of the original printer.

7. This was my favorite Academy Award acceptance speech, given by Alex Gibney who won for his documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side, about an Afghan taxi driver who was falsely imprisoned and then killed: Truth is, I think my dear wife Anne was kind of hoping I'd make a romantic comedy, but honestly, after Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition that simply wasn't possible. This is dedicated to two people who are no longer with us, Dilawar, the young Afghan taxi driver, and my father, a navy interrogator who urged me to make this film because of his fury about what was being done to the rule of law. Let's hope we can turn this country around, move away from the dark side and back to the light.

8. I also liked Daniel Day Lewis’s acceptance speech for his best actor award. He began by thanking the academy for “whacking me with the handsomest bludgeon in town.” Then he said that his character “sprang like a golden sapling out of the mad beautiful head” of the movie’s writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson. Leave it to an Irishman to utter such poetry.

9. Classiest moment of the night: Although many of the thank you speeches were boring and I kept waiting for a streaker to liven things up, I loved it when host John Stewart brought best song co-writer back on the stage after a commercial break to say what she wanted to into the mic after the orchestra had initially cut her off.

10. Said with needles in my back to my acupuncturist: “I feel like a birthday cake.” I had just had moxa on my back (something like having a lit cigar held near your skin to improve the flow of energy) so was feeling a little lit up. “I’ll be back soon to blow you out,” my acupuncturist joked as he left the treatment room.

11. My poet friend Mara sent me THIS link to a ‘what kind of punctuation mark are you’ quiz. I came out a colon. “Well, at least it’s a committed form of punctuation, unlike the semi-colon,” I told her. And LOOK what Bonnie just posted on semi-colons. Seems you can get a lot of attention for using one correctly.

12. To celebrate Leap Year Brian Feldman, a performance artist from Florida, is going to do 366 12 foot leaps for 24 hours on February 29th.

13. Apparently, his blog is a performance piece as well.

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

February 27, 2008

Pink Flamingos and Turquoise Baby Booties

I drove all the way to Christiansburg yesterday without seeing one pink plastic lawn flamingo, which was disappointing since it was part of the reason I went. I had to go to town in the morning to drop the March Museletter off to the printer. After that, I debated if I should head on to Christiansburg, half an hour from Floyd, to do some other errands. My energy was low and I was leaning towards not going when I remembered the flock of plastic lawn flamingos that I saw on Route 8 a couple of weeks ago, about 100 of them! They were spread out on a quarter acre yard near the Radford pig path and I was on my way somewhere. I did a double-take but had no time to pull over and snap a picture. I knew if I could see those flamingos again, they would cheer me up and be worth the half an hour drive.

There wasn’t even one flamingo left in the yard. It was like it never happened. It must have been a prank. I kept scouring the countryside as I drove, looking for something out of place, something that would shake me awake.

But wait! What have we here? babystuf.jpgMy day turned out to be extraordinary after all, because I did something I have never done before. I shopped for an upcoming baby shower for my youngest son, Dylan, and his wife’s baby boy, due in May. As the mother of two grown sons, I kept thinking, I’m shopping for boys clothes again. It was like riding a bike. It all came back to me, the layette sets, the snap bottom onesies, the sleep kimonos, bibs, hats, and booties. I was transported back to twenty-eight years ago when I was pregnant and shopping for my first newborn son. But I've never been a grandmother before.

Later at home I laid everything out on the couch, like I did in the nursery in the trailer in Texas in 1979, where I lived the year my first son was born. I marveled as I held each item up, folded and refolded the soft cotton first clothes for a sweet smelling pink skinned baby boy. The reality of that is starting to sink in.

February 26, 2008

The Romance of Tea

teablock1.jpgUnfurled leaves ... waft waves of flavor ... Holding tight to cup handles ... tea lovers swoon ... ~Colleen

My friend Katherine and I are both involved in great romance. As lovers of tea, we've been mining the vein of gold that comes from pouring boiling water over camellia sinensis leaves for years. More recently we've both been writing poetry about tea. My tea poems are a series of little sips of words that I've glued onto black card stock and have been shuffling around like playing cards, as the ebb and flow of their order slowly reveals itself to me. Katherine, one of the managers of Floyd's Harvest Moon Food Store has been ordering their tea for years. At home, in her newly renovated terra cotta kitchen, she's been sampling exotic varieties, delving into their mysteries, and writing about them.

It was time for a gathering of the TEAPOET SOCIETY. When she invited me for a small tea party on Sunday, I said, "Sure. I need to do some more "research" for the tea poems I'm writing. I also need some new photographs, and you have the best teacups in town." teablockx.jpg

Dark brewed oracle ... Three cups full ... A holy trinity ... from St. Brigit's well ... We both love tea, especially of the black persuasion, but she is the real connoisseur. There were three of us present. Gathered around her dining room table, she brought out a large block of tea, so compacted that she had to use a chisel to break off a piece for the pot. It looked like dark chocolate, or a hardened block of rich earth, with an elaborate design pressed into both sides.

I had never seen anything like it. Lowering my face down close to inhale, I jumped back and gasped. The aroma was undeniably tea, earthy but with just enough sweetness to be irresistibly alluring.

"It's like a gold brick with its value disguised until it's released in hot water," I said. Indeed, tea was once used as currency, Katherine explained. It's also been linked with poetry and meditation for ages and has been the basis of something nearing religion, Teaism, as revealed in the 1906 book by Okakura Kakuzo, The Book of Tea.

Katherine does her research too. The block was pu-erh, a tea from China that is fermented and aged, and classified by year and region of production much like vintage wine, she told us. We drank out of crystal cups so that we could enjoy the amber liquid as it emptied, like watching a sun set disappear into the horizon. And the combination of sipping and reading poetry did prove to be intoxicating. tea2x.jpg
Katherine read a poem called "PROCLAMATION TO THE WORLD ABOUT TEA!" that she had just finished that morning.It was about how hard it is to get a good cup of tea in a café or restaurant because most people aren't aware of how important it is to the brewing that boiling water be used. She read:

... After all, how distilled and contrived is my request
When compared to that of the Chinese Tea Sage and Poet
Of the eighth century, Lu Yu.
His requirement was for the water for his tea to be drawn
From the Center of the Yangtze River.
He was known to reprimand his apprentices for
Serving him a brew that he Knew was drawn
From the sides of the river
And from the improper depth!

"And they think we're fussy when we ask for boiling water to be poured over our tea?" I said.

Before I left I asked her for a copy of the poem so I could put it in the next Museletter (our community newsletter). "I want everyone to know this," I said.

Post Note: Read more about the Teapoet Society HERE.

February 25, 2008

Truck Full of Snow

This is the place where a tropical winter vacation picture should be, but instead it’s photo of our truck that just had an $800 repair. Our dog Jazzy is guarding our investment. A couple of hours after I took this shot it started snowing. HERE is the videotape that resulted from that, titled “Truck Full of Snow: AKA This is going to take awhile."

February 23, 2008


Bonsai poetry
clipped to the root
A flower for the muse

Post notes: This weekend’s Sunday Scribblings' prompt, "Passion," caused this to bloom. Another poem about passion is HERE. The photo of the rose was taken by my blogging friend Naomi Caryl.

February 22, 2008

Magnet Poet

1. Magnets and words go together for me like peanut butter and chocolate.
2. When I was a little girl, my grandmother had Terrier dog magnets. They were my first introduction to magnets and I remember thinking they were magical, the way they stuck to each other. I tried hard to make the ones that repelled each other stick together because I thought they should, but they wouldn’t.
3. The first time I saw magnetic poetry was in a café in Radford, Virginia, that no longer exists. The booth I sat in had a portable magnetic stand. A friend joined me and we played with the words as we talked. It was like two conversations going on. I couldn’t think of a more fun way to spend time but eventually had to pull myself away.
4. Magnetic Poetry was invented in 1993 by Dave Kapell. Suffering from writer’s block while trying to compose lyrics to a song, he wrote down interesting words on paper and rearranged them in different ways for inspiration. Everything was fine until he sneezed and the paper words went flying, so he glued the words to pieces of magnets and stuck them to a pizza tin. From there they found there way to the refrigerator and the rest is history.
5. I love it when a word escapes the hold the fridge has on it and I find one while sweeping the floor. Picking it up to read, I always feel like what it says is a prophetic message just for me.
6. Once I found a green word outside in the grass that said “GROW.”
7. Over the years some of the novelty of magnetic poetry has worn off, or maybe I’ve stopped playing as much as I used to because the words are just too small for me to read easily now. I want big words that stick to other places besides the fridge.
8. Once I arrange a collection of words in an order that feels just right, I hate to interrupt it or move it. But I’m not the only one who plays makes fridge poetry. I don’t know who left so many interesting the messages on my fridge. Some are my own messages that have gotten so old they are now new to me again.
9. This post is dedicated to Ampersand who likes to take photos of magnetic poetry words that have traveled far from the fridge. She, who has a better camera than me, has recently re-inspired the magnetic poet in me.

February 21, 2008

13 Thursday: Call Me

13pho.jpg 1. Valentine’s Day Morning: He replaced the belt on the vacuum cleaner for me. I left him a pink valentine bag on the kitchen table the night before with a card and a Sunkist naval orange inside. He responded by leaving me a conversation candy heart that said, “Call Me.”

2. When the phone rings, instead of cringing and thinking ‘who could be calling me now,’ I’ve decided to pretend it’s the citizens clearing house telling me I’ve won a million dollars. Even though I never signed up for the prize, I’ve decided to pretend it’s true because I want to change some of my habitual negative thought patterns and replace them with enthusiastic ones.

3. I spent a good part of Valentine’s Day sick in bed with the phone, going through my speed dial to tell the people on it that I loved them.

4. I only got as far as three calls, which was a big deal for me since I’m practically phone phobic.

5. I can trace my aversion to phones back to when I was a girl. When boys I liked would call to talk to me, I would sit on the other end of the line frozen with nothing to say. But not liking to talk on phones also runs in my family.

6. I don’t like watching sports either, unless my sons are playing in them.

7. I don’t use white sugar so I never have it in the house. But I collect sugar packets from gas stations and fast food places so I have some on hand for when company comes.

8. When we first moved into our Blue Ridge Parkway cabin, fifteen years ago, our neighbor actually asked to borrow a cup of sugar. My kids were mortified that we had no sugar to offer him. I tried to convince him to try honey. He’s never tried to borrow anything since.

9. A poem I wrote twenty five years ago that my sister Sherry, a nurse, hung on the bulletin board where she worked is called Remedy and goes like this: Take two poems … and a trip to the ocean … call me in the morning … Plenty of fluids … and funny business … 3 Hail Mary’s and a hug … Take lots of music … as you need it …dance 3X a day … follow your own directions … watch your children play … Now bless your stars and tell me something nice …. call me in the morning …or call me at night.

10. I used to preface things I wanted to remember with “Note to self.” Now I’m at the point where I have to say “Note to self … in writing.”

11. Joe calls up to the computer room at night where I’m working, “Are you almost done?” “I’ll be down in a minute. I’m just admiring my blog," I answer.

12. The “Call Me” conversation heart Joe left on the table on Valentine’s Day morning sounded more like THIS rather than THIS.

13. Candy hearts are to Valentines Day what candy corn is to Halloween. 13 Messages After the Beep are HERE.

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

February 20, 2008

Power Corrupts

Today I turned a trick for a printer power cord, or at least that’s the way I felt after being on the phone with HP customer service for nearly an hour; after wading through confusing menus cheerily spoken by automated Stepford Wives; after using a magnifying glass to read and the then repeat a slew of numbers and letters from the a back of my printer to operators who couldn’t understand my accent any better than I could understand theirs; and after being sent back to the beginning more than once as if I was playing Shoots and Ladders and was losing.

I was twenty minutes into the ordeal when I was told that my warranty expired YESTERDAY.

“You’ve got to be kidding me?”

I couldn’t accept the “yesterday” part, knowing the cord burned up in a electrical fire a week ago, that local office supply stores didn’t carry a replacement, and that before the word “yesterday” was uttered HP phone representatives seemed happy to send me a new power cord – after they collected the appropriate number of digits, took my family history, and rerouted me a couple of times, of course.

I imagined myself throwing the phone across the room.

But I had too much time and aggravation already invested in the elusive power cord. I couldn’t bring myself to say “Thank you for your time” and slam the phone down, so I didn’t and was shuffled on to the next phone operator. I went from customer service to tech support to the parts department and even had a ticket number I was told to write down. I was on the verge of tears of frustration and then of relief when I was transferred to someone with an accent I could understand who said. “Don’t worry, Colleen. We will find a solution.”

“I feel like I’m in The Matrix. Please don’t disconnect me,” I pleaded, now forty minutes into the drama.

The new customer service operator was nice, but soon she discovered the word YESTERDAY in my file and even she wasn’t willing to send me a power cord under a one day expired warranty.

“It’s like life and death … one minute you’re alive and then … you’re warranty is dead,” she announced.

As I waited on hold to make my plea to the HP man upstairs, the supervisor of supervisors, I felt the pressure of being in a courtroom trying to establish my innocence while being guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I considered hanging up, but for once the wait wasn’t too long. “Hello … This is … John White Collar,” the man on the other end said.

“Thank you for hearing my plea and for listening to my story,” I began in my own defense, emphasizing that I wanted him to consider that my warranty expired YESTERDAY. I pointed out that I could document that the power cord burned up last Monday.

Mr. John White Collar seemed to be following the rule that if I had made it as far as his desk I earned whatever it was I was requesting, no questions asked, not even a serial number was re-mentioned.

The power cord is on its way, but I still don’t feel satisfied. I should have thrown the phone when I had the chance and liberated myself from such a soul sucking activity. Either that or, for all my trouble, I should have asked for a whole new printer because chances are that the printer was fried in the surge that ignited the original cord. But there’s no way of testing the printer without a new power cord.

February 19, 2008


cartruck.jpgIn the last week we’ve had an electrical fire; fried several lamps, our toaster, and TV; and then I got the flu – TWICE.

Yes, I’ve been spending a lot of time in my burgundy silk pajamas, topped off with an oversized sage green wool sweater from Ireland. My days have been revolving around short trips to the living room, taking a morning and evening hot bath to stay warm, and counting out vitamin C tablets.

It all started last Tuesday when I swallowed too many big vitamin pills at once and irritated the back of my throat. Soon after that, I felt a tickle that turned into a rattle. By the time I got to the voting booth in town for the presidential primary and then to grocery, I was primed for picking up something contagious.

It’s been more than eight years since I’ve been sick with a cold or the flu. Being sick this past week has been almost nostalgic, a nuisance for sure, but, for the most part, very manageable. I was happy with the way beta glucan stimulated my immune system, eucalyptus oil opened up my nasal passages, and I was surprised at how much mileage I could get from two aspirins.

After five days of explosive sneezing, intermittent bouts of low grade fever, and bed rest alternated with light activity, by Saturday night I finally felt well enough to go out. I didn’t want to miss the local spoken word open mic, held at the Café Del Sol and co-hosted by the writer’s workshop I belong to.

Once at the café, I found that being immersed in a milieu of merriment was initially harder than I thought it would be. I briefly flirted with the idea of calling Joe and asking him to come pick me up. But my excitement at the turnout and the energy the crowd had for the spoken word won out. After two years and four months of a few of us plugging away to maintain a viable local spoken word venue, seeing the record overflow attendance that night was a sweet validation I would have been very disappointed to have missed.

“I’m trying out my all-new voice … or lack of it,” I said to the audience before beginning my reading. “The trick will be to do this without coughing…” They laughed at my poem about my Jesus who reads the obituaries and has a long braid like Willie Nelson’s.

During a break for refreshments, a friend offered me a homeopathic remedy for cold and flu. I felt noticeably better after taking it (but looking back it could have also been the Guinness I drank that caused the improvement).

Homeopathy works like an immunization, it’s a like-treats-like approach that involves exposing your system to minute (or vibrational) amounts of the disease you are fighting. I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I was so happy with my improvement that I took a second dose when I got home.

By the next day I was shocked to find myself sicker than I had been on any of the previous five days combined, as though I had introduced a whole a new flu strain to my already compromised body.

Back under the covers I went. Cursing as I slunk down.

February 18, 2008

Word Has It

febspokewrdx.jpg Extra chairs were carried in from the Winter Sun hall to accommodate the overflow crowd for February’s Spoken Word at the Café Del Sol. I told my poet friend Mara that interest may have been piqued by the photo announcement in the recent Floyd Press of our mutual friend, Janean, reading at last month’s event. “Not only was it was prominently placed and as big as a billboard, the caption under it said she was reading a poem about a zombie” I joked.

Of the list of fourteen readers on the sign-up sheet, six were new to the venue. Sally helped the first reader, Hayden Polseno-Hensley, adjust the mic, asking, “Are you a sitter or stander?” “I usually crouch,” the over-6-foot tall Hayden replied.

Hayden, who grew up in Floyd and recently returned after being away for twelve years, had to tell me who he was before I could recognize him. samreader.jpg He stood as he told the audience that he’s recently started a writer’s workshop for short story writing. The short story he read about an airplane crashing into a yard was well received by listeners.

There were love poems, a poem about wild strawberries, winter, and Jesus.

A woman named Rose, who has been living in Floyd since May, spoke about how happy she was to be here before reading her poem, which she dedicated to her son. She said “You know you’re in the right place when you hear, ‘Oh, our house is perfect for someone with five children.’” Floyd is a healing place, she said.

It was, retired schoolteacher, Cheryl Spangler’s first time at the open mic, although, I’ve seen her act in plays and heard her do a stand-up comedy routine years ago at a different venue. She read some of her original comedy that involved several small children and bowls of spilled breakfast oatmeal.
febspokenwrd.jpg At one point Sally, Café Del Sol owner and spoken word MC, asked for a vote to determine if people wanted the lights kept on or if they wanted a candlelight atmosphere.

“Do you want a super delegate vote or just a show of hands?” someone from the crowd asked. The candlelight party won out and that was the end of my ability to snap any good photos.

A couple of non-coffee drinking readers (myself included) inspired by last month’s challenge in which Sally asked us to write coffee haiku, read newly written poetry about tea. There were several interactive pieces, which began with a nursery rhyme called Poet for President that Hollins College student Mara, recently wrote for a class assignment. And after school teacher, Skip King, read a series of 55 word poems, Mara assigned Sally to write a 55 word poem about coffee for next month.

Some read from chapbooks, others from notebooks. A woman named Elise shared that she had just come from the Dollar Store, where she purchased the brand new notebook she was reading from. Her chanting voice was melodic and her poetry was more of a story telling performance than a reading.

The two hour evening of entertainment was like a variety show of talent. I can’t wait to come back in March and see what will happen next.

Post notes: March’s Café Del Sol Spoken Word is scheduled for the 15th from 7-9. Reader pictured above is not Hayden but Sam. The other one is of Elise Brion. Click HERE and scroll down for more posts on the monthly Spoken Word.

February 16, 2008

Channeling Heath Ledger

Suddenly awake in the middle of the night, a resounding thought comes to mind: Now I know how easy it was for Heath Ledger to accidentally kill himself.

Granted I was only juggling aspirin, vitamin C, and herbal sleep aid supplements for my flu symptoms, but it was pitch dark, I was groggy, and I couldn’t remember what I had already taken. Impatient and only wanting to sleep through my misery, my arm became Heath Ledger’s, feeling around the bedside table for something to take. I could almost hear his voice say, “Oh, shit,” when he understood what had done, and I wondered if I was only twenty eight years old and under Hollywood star pressure would I likely have something stronger than tryptophan (nature’s own serotonin uptaker) and Valerian within arm’s reach?

Now I was really doomed. My mind had been activated and the thinking continued, not what I wanted to be doing at 3 a.m. I started thinking about how the more diluted homeopathic remedies are the stronger they are supposed to be and how so many mainstream medications end up having a rebound effect, causing the very symptoms they are treating. I remembered this past summer when I took heavy duty painkillers for a painful abscessed tooth. The first pill gave me such relief, but when it wore off I felt worse than before I took it and soon needed a larger dose to get the same result.

My arm kept groping, as I thought how far down the rabbit hole we have fallen, with drugs being sold on TV like they were candy, vaccines being developed for everything imaginable. No one is supposed to get old or be sick anymore, I thought.

I found a cough drop. Unwrapped it and popped it my mouth. I don’t remember what happened after that.

Post note update: The morning after channeling Heath Ledger’s arm, I checked Sunday Scribblings and discovered that the weekend writing prompt was “SLEEP.” Feeling the prompt was custom made for me, with pen in hand, I began the exercise. Now my hand is being inhabited by author of Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg. Coaching me not to let the pen lift of the page, just write … keep your pen moving … she said. “But Natalie, I’m so tired. I didn’t sleep well last night,” I complained.

February 15, 2008

The Music of Coriander Woodruff

corianderatthelof2t.jpgThe Following appeared in the regional newspaper insert “All About Her” in January 08.

Coriander Woodruff has been her own kind of musician since she was a toddler making drums from empty coffee cans.

When she was ten years old, she heard a segment on NPR radio about GarageBand, a software program that features a virtual soundboard for mixing and recording sound. She knew it was the next step in her music exploration. With GarageBand, Coriander could sample a variety of instruments, loop sequences, and synthesized sound to create her own musical collages in the comfort of her home.

Her father is a computer programmer and her mother is an artist. Her older brother leads a Floyd Ghost Tour with a theatrical flair, and another member of the Woodruff household is a musician. Considering Coriander’s background, it’s no wonder that by the time she was thirteen years old she had composed and produced two CD’s of electronica music.

“What was your party like?” I asked her. We were in the Black Water Loft, a café in downtown Floyd where the October release party for her second CD, Black Light Blue Frog, was held.

“There were plasma balls and lava lights,” she answered. She described how her father projected a light show onto the café wall. And what would electronica music, also known as house party music, be without a black light? There was one, she said.

In between sips of tea, Coriander’s mother, Pat Woodrufff, told me that the October 26th CD Release Party was also Coriander’s 13th Birthday Party. Coriander described how the black and white costume she wore to the party and in the photo on her newest CD cover came from a Halloween costume search. “I wanted to be an “optical illusion,”’ she said.

According to Coriander, her early music was “awful stuff that had me pulling out my hair.” In the first year working with GarageBand, she did a lot of “testing.” It took a year before she composed something she was proud of, a song from her first CD, Spirit Web, entitled Galaxy Seeker. More recently some of her music was featured in “Floyd Home Companion,” a parody of Garrison Keillor’s Radio Show, Prairie Home Companion, with a Floyd twist. The play was recently performed in Floyd by Coriander and other cast members of Floyd’s Young Actors Co-op.

As with her early coffee can drumming, Coriander has been using a computer since she was very young. She taught herself touch typing after being involved in an “adventure chat room” in which you had to type fast to keep up with the game. That kind of self-motivation is a thread that runs through her and her family’s life. As a homeschooler, Coriander’s curriculum is based on the learning that is inherent in pursuing her interests. Her parents encourage her hands-on learning style. Working with GarageBand puts music making in Coriander’s own hands. It also allows her family to avoid expense recording session fees.cori1.jpg

We left the Black Water Loft and went to Coriander’s home, where she showed me her digital audio workstation and explained how she can find a sound to match the mood of a piece by searching under headings, such as Happy, Relaxing, or Dark. She can also overlay everyday sounds into her compositions. One of my personal favorite examples of this is in a song called “Please Turn Off Your Cell Phone,” in which she incorporates recorded phone sounds into a beat, everything from dial tone, to ‘if you would like to make a call, please hang up and try again,’ and her brother talking on the phone.

When I asked her if she was working on a new CD, she explained that she wanted to create music that would feel like the stars and the beginning of the universe. “It’s going to be hard, but I want to do it.” She added that making a CD takes a year or two because she can only work when she feels inspired.

At one time electronic music was a genre of its own, but these days many well known musicians incorporate it into their songs. The term “electronica” was first used in the early 1990’s to describe the rave movement and global-influenced dance music, but now it is also created for forefront and background listening. Also known as techno-music, electronica is a fusion of many types of music. It was once categorized with jazz and has been used heavily in New Age Music.

To those who think electronica music isn’t real music because it’s more about composing and mixing than it is about playing an instrument or singing, Coriander says, “If it effects you makes you happy, and moves you; it’s music. She promised me she’d invite me to her next CD Release Party. ~Colleen Redman

Note: Coriander Woodruff’s CD’s, Spirit Web and Black Light Blue Frog, are available at noteBooks in downtown Floyd. They can be purchased by mailing $10 plus $2 postage to Gryphon Studios, PO Box 190, Emporium, PA, 15834. You can visit www.myspace.com/musicCoriander to hear selections from her CD’s.

February 14, 2008

13 Thursday: For the Record

13tvx.jpg1. A haiku a day keeps the “roses are red violets are blue” blues away.

2. Where do poems come from? Some lines just come and you follow them. Others you have to dig.

3. I use to wonder when I’d be too old to sit on the sidewalk. Now I know it’s when you can’t get back up. I learned this recently while I was dealing with a bad back.

4. What I haven’t mentioned until now is that on the same day that Hillary Clinton's and Barack Obama’s Roanoke speaking engagements were cancelled due to high winds, brush fires spreading, and the Roanoke airport closing, we had an electrical fire in our computer room caused by a broken lamp that was still plugged in and a surge of electricity. The fire alarm probably saved our house but the room is covered with a layer of white 9/11-like fire extinguisher dust and smells like a toxic waste dump. LAMPFIRE.jpg

5. I went to the Hillary pre-primary rally (which was ultimately cancelled) with my friend Mara. At first I was hesitant about going. I had to be reminded about the significance of Hillary being the first female candidate to get this far, and I was still upset about her vote for the Iraq war. But Mara knows how to get me to go anywhere with her. All she has to say is, “Don’t you want to blog about it?”

6. From Thirteen Thursday February 2005: My first act of guerilla graffiti with my new label gun was to print up labels on bright red tape saying “I love you” and then stick them on certain people’s briefcases, cars, cards and such. I’ve decided that my graffiti tag is XOXO.

7. My new favorite word: frippery. Frappe is pretty good too.

8. I’ve always gotten the words bizarre and bazaar mixed up, probably because Bostonians pronounce them the same.

9. Probably the only Beatle’s song I never liked was the one called Revolution Number 9 in which someone repeats over an over “Number 9 ... Number 9 ... Number 9 ... Number 9."

10. When I was a little girl I used to tell my dad that I loved him 60. I guess it was the biggest number I knew.

11. Have you ever noticed that road speed limits match the speed of life? When you’re young time passes slow from 0 -20 mph. 45 mph is pretty comfortable, like middle age. At 55 life starts going pretty fast and after 65 it all pretty much whizzes by.

12. A clock is a man-made orbit … that paces its own cage … Round like a planet … made in its image … A mechanical nightingale of gilded numbers … is an excerpt from a poem I once performed with a troupe called Women of the 7th Veil. We did improv dance to Dave Matthew’s “Two Step” while the poem was being read. Let the clock stop … It’s hypnotic talk … Let the clock stop … Let it stop … Let it stop … Turn it off.

13. Watch time STOP at Grand Central Station HERE. .

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here. The first photo is one I took at the cancelled Hillary rally of hannel 13 interviewing an attendee.

February 13, 2008

A Haiku a Day


Spoonful of honey
Bright sun in February
Cream pours like snow falls

Post notes: This is one more in my series of tea poems. You can read about how the teapoet series came about HERE. A little sip of teapoetry can be found HERE and HERE.

February 12, 2008

Poet for President

poetforpres.jpg I wish all the billboards across the country read: "Give back the votes your brother stole" and the poets would shout from every street corner, "The emperor wears no clothes” … ~ Colleen

So my poet friend Mara, a Hillary Clinton supporter, knew she might change her mind and vote for Barack Obama in the Virginia primary when a Roanoke council member, speaking on Hillary’s behalf at the Roanoke rally Hillary had to cancel at the last minute, stood on the venue platform and said this: “We aren’t electing a poet, we’re electing a president.”

Mara gasped.

The next day she called me to tell me that not only was she was seriously considering supporting Barack but that he had won a Grammy for best Spoken Word recording. I thought she was joking because I had watched the Grammys and had not seen any such thing.

I googled some keywords and pulled up an article titled: Obama wins big in California. Knowing Hillary had won the California primary, I dug a little deeper and discovered that, indeed, Obama had won a Grammy for his audio recording of his book, “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.”

The audacity and the irony: Over the weekend Barack prevailed over Hillary in a sweep of primary wins, and then won a Grammy, beating Bill Clinton who was also up for the award for his own audio book recording.

Maybe we should read some excerpts from Barack’s book at our Spoken Word Open Mic this Saturday at the Café Del Sol.

February 11, 2008

Hillary Makes a Conference Call to 2,000

1. It was a mother and daughter date of historic proportions. My friend Mara and her young daughter Kyla (pictured) attended Sunday’s pre-primary rally for Hillary Clinton, our country’s first female presidential candidate who has a chance of getting the Democratic nomination.
2. A crowd of nearly 2,000 took an hour to slowly file into Patrick Henry High School. Everyone was pumped and all eyes were on the empty stool in the front of the gym where Hillary would speak from. But then the event MC, who had previously been conducting a Hillary Trivia Quiz and passing out Hillary T-shirts, announced the bad news twenty minutes before she was due for her 5 p.m. appearance. Due to brush fires caused by high winds, her plane was not able to land at the Roanoke airport.
3. As far as the rally went, candidate Hillary had to concede to a higher authority: Mother Nature. The consolation for the disappointed crowd and the woman in the bleaches behind me who had been there since 9 a.m. was a speaker phone call from Hillary. She apologized for not being there and reported that her husband Bill would be speaking on her behalf at the same venue the following evening.
4. I had a contingency plan to spend the night with my son Dylan and his wife Alexis after the rally, so I could attend the Obama rally at the Roanoke’s Jefferson Center the next morning. But besides the fact that the wind was uprooting trees and blowing over traffic signs, I heard that Obama’s rally tickets sold out in ten minutes, so I headed back up the mountain and prepared for a night in front of the TV watching the Grammies. I learned later that night that Obama cancelled his Roanoke appearance too.

Post Note: You can listen in on Hillary's conference call, see Mara's Hillary the Riveter button and Kyla's pink "Hillary Rocks" button HERE. Whenever I get confused about who I'm going to vote for in the Virginia primary I watch THIS.

February 9, 2008

The Bob Eubanks Guilt Trip

fridge.jpg Whenever I look in my fridge, I think about The Newlywed Game and Bob Eubanks. Eubanks, the host of the 1960’s game show, asked contestants questions and couples had to guess what their mates said. There was one question I've never forgotten: What’s the oldest thing in your fridge? At the time I was a teenager, and the idea of things rotting in a corner of someone’s fridge was disgusting to me. My mother kept our family refrigerator sparkling clean. I assumed it was easy to do. I didn’t know I would grow up to be one of those people whose cleaning policy on messes behind closed doors would be: if you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist, until, of course, it starts to smell. And I had no idea at the time that Eubanks' question would stick in my mind and come back to haunt me.

The Bob Eubanks fridge question is like another one asked by my grandmother. I went to church with her once and when the service was over, she asked me what the sermon was about. fridge2.jpg I remember feeling put out that she would quiz me because my parents were not in the habit of doing that. She may have only asked the question once, but it was enough to make me listen to sermons after that and prepare my answer for what it was about if anyone should ask. Not only that, but the same thing happens when I hear a lecture of any kind. I have an imaginary grandmother in my head quizzing me and a game show host asking me about my housecleaning.

But Bob Eubanks has never been enough to get me to clean the fridge when it gets really bad. For that I use an imaginary visit from my mother who still keeps a clean fridge, or one from my grandmother. It motivates me every time.

Post Notes: Typing this in my upstairs office Saturday morning, Joe woke up and called up to me, “What’s it all about, Alfie?” “Bob Eubanks and the Guilt Trip, that’s what,” I answered. “What? What’s that, the name of a new band?” “No, it’s a new blog post that oddly came from a Sunday Scribblings prompt, “fridge space,” I answered.

More Sunday Scribblings on Fridge Space are HERE.

February 8, 2008

Three’s a Charm: Advice on Writing

alphabet.jpg When Deirdre from Writing Anam Cara tagged me to list three pieces of writing advice, I thought “only three?” Of course the real trick will be taking my own advice:

1. Commitment: Be prepared to spend an inordinate amount of time fiddling with words. Carry pen and paper with you everywhere, even to the mailbox. When the muse starts dictating, stop everything and take good notes. She generally does not repeat herself.

2. Surprise: Don’t be predictable. Keep yourself surprised about what you will write next and your reader will be too. Don’t tell a story from A – Z in a straight line. Allow for twists and turns to happen when your “talking on paper” just like they do during a good conversation. (This is different than veering off completely or monopolizing the give and take of good conversation.) Don’t be afraid to hit a nerve when writing, in fact, look for one. That’s where the power is.

3. Seek out the right teachers: Find writers you resonate with. Read their work and what they have to say about writing. You’ll likely be drawn to the ones who are working from the same tradition you are or who have something in common with your own style. That’s why you’re drawn to them. They can provide insights that feel custom made for you. While I can learn from many writers, there are a few who have felt kindred and have propelled me forward. Just yesterday, after reading Billy Collins' editorial introduction to The Best American Poetry of 2006, I said to myself, “What did I do before Billy Collins?” He speaks a language I understand and I knew when I first read one of his poems (about five years ago) that he would inspire my writing. Before Collins it was Natalie Goldberg, and Richard Brautigan was one of the first who also did that. In my quest to learn from other writers, I collect good writer’s quotes, which I consider to be condensed inoculations of good teaching. Here’s one of my favorites that I try to always keep in mind when I’m writing, said by Elmore Leonard, ”try to leave out the parts that most people skip.”

Post Notes: Please feel free to leave your own writing advice in the comment section. I would also like to tag Smiler, Claudia, Christine, and Poe to pick up this meme if they feel so inclined. The photo is one of my Asheville Potter son’s. They are the letter stamps he used for putting words on bricks he made HERE. I also want to mention that I received a meme a couple of months ago very similar to this one from Pris that originated from The Shameless Lions Writing Circle. I started to do it but then got sidetracked. I wonder if this one was seeded from that?

February 7, 2008

13 Tidbits and Tea

rune13x.jpg 1. I’ve been pruning little tea poems … origami notes … petals of the Orient …light enough to float.

2. I’ve also been expressing myself with valentines via conversation heart generators (like THIS one). See the heart I made for my friend Bonnie below.

3. Recently said to my sister Sherry while expressing my happiness that she regularly visits Loose Leaf: My blog is a mass produced love letter that I send out every day!

4. After writing THIS poem about Jesus as a graffiti artist, more lines have been coming, like this: Jesus is left handed and afraid of heights … I guess it’s what novelists mean by “character development.”

5. I recently read a blog post about basketball and left a comment saying: Basketball is so over my head. (I'm 5 foot 1 inch).

6. As for the Super Bowl, I should have been rooting for the home team, but besides Tom Petty I didn’t even know who was playing.

7. Speaking of sports, in the last few days I’ve spent a good bit of time laying on pool balls and rubbing a golf ball across my foot in lieu of needles as per the order of my acupuncturist who is treating me for a back problem.

8. I was shocked to hear HERE that rabid right winger Ann Coulter would not only vote for Hillary Clinton over John McCain, she says she would campaign for her if John McCain wins the Republican presidential nomination.

9. Coulter thinks Hillary is more conservative than McCain. What does Hillary think of that? Her reaction HERE says it all.

10. Chelsea Adams, a Radford University professor of writing, has been coming to our spoken word open mics. After she recently read some poems about her love of coffee from her chapbook called Java Poems, Sally, the café owner, challenged the poets present to write coffee haiku for a future event. I told her I would use my poetic license to write about tea instead and that I probably wouldn’t be counting the number of syllables in lines. Even so, many of my teapoems from the series I’m working on have morphed into haiku in spite of myself.

11. The morphing of my teapoems into haiku reminds me of how I had no idea how to talk with an Irish accent until I read Angela’s Ashes aloud to my youngest son and suddenly found myself reading with a thick Irish brogue, which I can still do at a moment’s notice.

12. Somehow these two quotes go together (not because they were both said by Johns) and express my relief to be writing more poetry than prose this past week: Dancing is the poetry of the foot. ~John Dryden. Poetry is to prose as dancing is to walking. ~John Wain

13. My love of writing little sips of poetry has led me to a new fascination with one line poems. This one by William Matthews is one of my favorites: “Premature Ejaculation”: I’m sorry this poem’s already finished.

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

February 6, 2008

He was the King of His Castle

coldad2.jpg Taking my bath at night with the lights dimmed low, I notice that the veins in my hands have started to become dark and raised like my father’s were. When my house clothes get that rumpled lived-in look and I forget to brush my hair because I’m immersed in a project, I feel his undomesticated nature within me. I got my love of rhyme, giving people nicknames, and breaking out in song from him. I don’t whistle or like cashews as much as he did. I don’t yell as loud as he did, or fall asleep stretched out in chair. But I do like to tell stories and make people laugh the way he did. I got his impish Irish nature, his mix of being shy but outgoing, his pronounced way of pronouncing words, and his habit of choking up easily at both sad and happy occasions. Every time I stoop over the stove and sip homemade soup from a big spoon, I’m reminded of him doing that. He was always doctoring soup and wanted everyone who came into the kitchen to taste it.

When I pick up a magnifying glass to read the small print on CD liner notes or a vitamin bottle, I think of my dad. His eyesight was bad in the last twenty years of his life and he had magnifying glasses all over the house. The one I use now used to be his. Am I becoming more like him each day, I wonder?

My dad often said, “I’m the king of my castle.” I’m a homebody too. He liked the music of his generation, the way I like the music of mine. He was sentimental, and whenever he sang songs from the 40’s, he did it with emotion. When he sang, “You always hurt the ones you love, the ones you shouldn’t hurt at all,” we knew it was his way of apologizing. He whistled and snapped his fingers when he danced the jitterbug.

Whenever I come across a photo that didn’t come out right and I’m tempted to throw it away, I remember that my dad kept a stack of photos no one wanted in the drawer by his kitchen chair. I got the biggest kick out of him saving the pictures that anyone else would have throw away. They weren’t complimentary to anyone. (In fact he probably could have used a few to bribe others with.)

My dad was the king of his castle and a bit court jester too. He wasn’t tall in statue. (Ditto that for me.) But his sense of humor was big and mostly off beat. I inherited some of that from him, but he was the real master of it. I miss his playful ways.

~ Robert Redman: March 1924 – November 2005. Read my WVTF Radio tribute to my dad HERE. Eulogizing My Father is HERE.

February 5, 2008



Ceylon amber moon
sipped to a crescent
slips to the bottom
of a bone china cup

Post Note: You can read about the Teapoets Society Tea Party in which the above cup that belongs to my girlfriend Katherine was featured HERE.

February 4, 2008

The Music of Bernie Coveney

bernie2om.jpgThe following was published in The Floyd Press on January 24, 2008.

Bernie Coveney – who has played with Grammy award winner Emmylou Harris, contributed to the soundtrack of King of the Gypsies, and taught Robert Duval how to play guitar for his role in Tender Mercies – has just released a first CD of his own music.

One of the CD’s best reviews came from his neighbor’s mother who received a copy from her son for Christmas. “There’s no yelling. There’s no swearing. And the man plays from his heart,” she said, thanking her son for the gift.

Coveney’s music has been described as mix of gypsy, jazz, and bluegrass. When asked about the meaning of gypsy music, he explained it as a musical style, both emotional and ethnic, rooted in the folk tradition of roving tribal people. The CD, named Whispering Pines, is an instrumental collection of original old and new songs that reflect the inner and outer journeys of Coveney’s life story.

Born in Massachusetts and raised in New Jersey and New York, Coveney already had an impressive musical history when he and his wife Lucy came to Floyd in the mid 90’s to escape crowded city life. It was Lucy who first fell in love with Floyd, while Bernie wondered what he would do for work in a small rural town and worried that his life as a musician would suffer. He had no idea at the time that Floyd had an active and historical music scene.

It didn’t take him long to discover the Friday Night Jamboree and to feel like he had come full circle, back to some of his earliest roots in country music. When he met Jimmy DeHart, a prominent Floyd musician and jamboree mainstay, Coveney discovered an eerie connection to Floyd that had preceded his own arrival.

In the late 1970’s when Coveney was a single father of two, he sold his old Martin guitar to a collector because he needed the money. DeHart’s daughter later bought it in Ohio for her father. It was Coveney’s first time at the Country Store jamboree when he recognized the hole near the pick guard. It took a photo of Coveney with the guitar and a matched up serial number to fully convince DeHart (who has since passed away) that such an unlikely coincidence was indeed true. whispering%20pines.jpg

The cover design of Whispering Pines is from a photograph by Doug Thomspon. The music was mixed and recorded at Martin Scudder’s Mountain Lighthouse Studio in Floyd. Scudder also plays electric violin on many of the songs. Other Floyd musicians who are well featured on the CD include acoustic violinist, Mike Mitchell, mandolinist, Abe Gorskey, and bassist Chris Luster. Luster’s bass accompanies Coveney’s guitar throughout the CD and is highlighted in a solo segment on a song titled “Coming Home.” Another song features the rise and fall and weaving together violins in a duo by Scudder and Mitchell. Gorskey’s mandolin adds a spirited up-beat to two of the selections.

The first song on the CD, Lucky Lou, was written for Lucy who died from cancer in 2002. It’s a playful song, composed soon after they had met. “I felt so lucky to have found her,” Coveney said.

The title song, Whispering Pines, named by Lucy and inspired by the pine trees that border Coveney’s Floyd property, opens with the sound of wind and the cry of a hawk.

“BJ’s Rag,” the shortest song in the collection bears the name of Coveney’s vanity license plate and was written when his first son, BJ, was born. “The fretting reminds me of tickling a baby,” Coveney writes in the liner notes.

“Still I Wonder” was inspired by a Virginia setting where Trappists Monks once meditated. It includes the only vocals on the recording. The ethereal voices of Dorian Dugger and Kari Kovick add a sense of mystery to the penetrating melody.

“En La Frontera” is a border song written when Bernie lived in San Antonio, Texas. It was named by a local resident and plays out like the soundtrack to a cowboy adventure, complete with a love story.

For “New Love,” a song about exploring the freedom of expression, Coveney traveled to New Jersey to record it with his high school friend and fellow musician, John Carlini. Country music wasn’t widely popular in the Tri-state area in the 1960’s when Carlini and Coveney would listen to it on a car radio. They liked it so much that they traveled to Pennsylvania to hear the Campbell Hour radio show, broadcast from the back of Ola Belle Reed and Alex Campbell’s store, where Coveney and Carlini eventually were invited to play on the air. Carlini went on to play with New Jersey native David Grisman, who was a forerunner in the fusion of bluegrass into what is sometimes referred to as “newgrass.” Grisham gained some notoriety through his musical collaborations with Gerry Garcia and has played at Floyd Fest. jober.jpg

Coveney, who makes his living teaching music and playing private events, has headed up bands since first coming to Floyd and has finally settled on a name: Bernie Coveney with Natural Selection. Natural Selection refers to the roving roster of musicians he plays with. Besides the musicians featured on his CD, Coveney frequently plays with actor and former owner of Oddfellas Cantina, Rob Neukirch who sings as well as plays guitar.

Bernie says developing one’s own recognizable sound is what is important to him as a musician and what he encourages his students to work towards. On Whispering Pines, he closes out the rounded sound of the CD with a signature sweet guitar solo, the last plunk of which plays like a period at the end of rich conversation. ~ Colleen Redman

Post Notes: For more information, visit berniecoveney.com. Whispering Pines can be purchased for $15 locally at Blue Ridge Muse, Café Del Sol, New Mountain Mercantile, and The Floyd Country Store, or online at cdbaby.com where the songs can also be heard. Photos are: 1. Bernie at Over the Moon Café. 2. Whispering Pines CD. 3. Bernie giving a porch guitar lesson to Joe.

February 2, 2008

The Ice Age Comes to Floyd

1. For some reason whenever the electric power goes out I begin to feel that my normal clothes look dirty and I wonder why I didn’t do a wash yesterday when I had the chance. When water doesn’t run freely from my faucets, I’m thirstier than normal and start to feel that I simply must wash my hair.
2. We have a generator but discovered it was broke when the ice storm caused the power to go out at 11:00 a.m. on Friday. Even if it was working, ours doesn’t generate enough energy to run the water heater or cook on the electric stove. I’m not much of a cookout griller, but I bought a grill a few years back because it had a propane burner on one side that I knew I would use for emergency tea making. I can do without a lot of things, but tea isn’t one of them.
3. The dogwood tree in front of the house, laden with ice, has bent forward and reaches the porch now. I open the front door and say to myself, “Oh, look who came to visit.”
4. Being colder than the rest of the south and warmer than the north makes Virginia prone to ice storms. What would be snow is rain. What should be rain turns to ice. Ice is pretty to look at but does a lot of damage.
5. My yard looks like the Ice Queen’s Palace from Narnia. Such a treacherous beauty. Diamonds couldn’t be any prettier. Icicles sparkle in the sun.
6. It sounds like a shooting gallery. Pop. Pop. Bang. Trees branches, too heavy with ice, snap and crash down. As the day warms, it begins to rain melting ice. Avalanches of it periodically fall from the roof.
7. A walk to the mailbox can be dangerous. The dog is skittish and won’t come. A tree seems to explode close by. I duck and run. Everything smells like fresh pine, the most vulnerable tree to ice damage. Some trees are completely uprooted. Others bow and lean, making an archway to walk under.
8. By the late afternoon, the sound of the tree falling blitz has been replaced by the hum of the new generator, arrived just in time to save the food in our fridge and our freezer full of venison.

February 1, 2008

The Trash Collector

1. He tells me I’m sweet like the Princess in Aladdin. I say thank you because I figure it’s a compliment.
2. Strolling along Morning Dew, the dirt road I named after the Grateful Dead song, we picked up litter. “Do you see anything red?” he asks. “No,” I answer. I point to an old flattened Dr. Pepper can and say, “I think this used to be red, but now it’s faded into pink.”
3. “People should know better,” he says examining an abandoned plastic green bottle.
4. When the weather was warmer and he called me Mary Poppins, we walked along the Parkway waving at motorcycles going by. But not now. The weather is cold. I don’t think I saw a single car the whole time we walked.
5. The trash collector is also a good dog trainer. Before heading back to the house, he whistled for the dog to come out of the woods, and she did.

When I’m not writing or being supposedly retired, I provide respite for foster care provider families that offer live-in care to adults with disabilities, something I used to do full time. MINUTE POST UPDATE: Hit comments and see # 9.