Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sunny Spring Days Are So Welcome

While the pear trees’ blossoms have blown away, the redbuds in yards and roadsides have burst into full bloom. The daffodils are fading, but the paperwhites are in their glory. Soon the dogwood will join the redbud. Gerald has daffodils, hyacinths, paperwhites, and tulips all blowing in the wind and adding color to his new welcoming flower bed at the top edge of our retaining wall.

It is a glorious time of the year on a day like today. The sun was shining and a light jacket was all one needed to be comfortable in the pleasant breezes. Since Gerald was going to Kentucky with his brother for the butchered beef, I assumed they’d be away at lunch as they were last week. Instead they left early this morning to enjoy breakfast together before they picked up the frozen beef and had to hurry home. I had made plans to spend the morning with our daughter in town and go to lunch with a friend, so I hurriedly fixed something for Gerald to eat when he returned for lunch.

After a delightful afternoon visiting after lunch at the friend’s house, I made a final stop back by my daughter’s and was privileged to hear Samuel tell about his Longfellow School field trip to at Art Day at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He liked seeing the glassblowing and the pottery making, but the blacksmithing was his favorite.

When I arrived back home, Gerald was already listening to Erin’s game at Oklahoma State. Gerry had driven all night long to get to Stillwater for this double header that Gerald had wanted to go to in the worst way. We went there ranked fourth in the nation. Unfortunately, tonight after eleven straight victories in the Big 12 Conference, Texas A&M lost their first conference game to the Cowgirls 6-5. But Gerry got to see Erin go three for three in the first game and have a fourth hit in the second game, which the the Aggies won. Of course, we are still first in the conference. Between the games, Gerald and I ate a hurried bowl of chili in the kitchen and then had a cup of yogurt for dessert as we watched the second game.

I spent a while reading emails and thinking about tomorrow night’s Writers Guild meeting. Allison Joseph spoke to us five years ago, and I have always considered that one of our finest programs. She will be with us again tomorrow night. Here is the news release I sent out as program chair:

Poet and Associate Professor Allison Joseph has carried a love of language from the Bronx to Southern Illinois University Carbondale while earning degrees, fellowships, and numerous poetry awards. She will share experiences and expertise she has gained at Southern Illinois Writers Guild on Thursday, April 17, at 7 p.m. in the Terrace Dining Room Annex at John A. Logan College. The public is invited.

What Keeps Us Here published by Ampersand in 1992 brought her the John C. Zacharis First Book Prize. Four more books have continued her success: Soul Train published by Carnegie Mellon in 1997, In Every Seam by University of Pittsburgh Press in 1997, Imitation of Life by Carnegie Mellon in 2003, and Worldly Pleasures by Word Press in 2004.

Born in London of Caribbean heritage, she grew up in a Bronx neighborhood she often has written about. Influenced by the late Illinois poet laureate Gwendolyn Brooks and a story teller like her father, she often writes free verse as she tells brutally honest narratives with remarkable human insight that are sometimes autobiographical and sometimes imaginative. She also writes fiction.

Perhaps New York’s poets-in-the-schools program along with the writing she did at Bronx High School of Science inspired her to start the Young Writers Workshop at SIUC in 1999. The creative writing faculty and graduate students are used in this effort and offers a four-day residential summer program that draws high school students from both in and out of the area.

Holding the Judge William Holmes Cook Endowed Professorship, her many honors have included fellowships from the Illinois Arts Council and Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers Conferences. In 2003 alone, she received six prizes. More recently she was awarded $5,000 for her poems “Cartography” and “Emergency Librarian” in the 2006 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Competition and then received a second Artists Fellowship in Poetry in 2007 from the Illinois Arts Council for $7,000. She is the editor and the poetry editor of Crab Orchard Review, an international literary journal of SIUC.

She was graduated from Kenyon College in 1988 and was awarded a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Indiana in 1992. She taught two years at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock before coming to SIUC.

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