I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
On the first of each month,
a guest writer
how he or she spends the day.
July 1, 2017: Sandy Gingras
This past February, I got up from the Writing by Writers’ booth at AWP and roamed the halls of the book fair–part exercise, part curiosity. I was moving pretty fast, but two cute guys standing at a booth slowed me down. I stepped up to the table and discovered Diode Editions, a small press with thin, eight by six inch books that make the reader feel grateful for each page. I couldn’t resist this cover and title.
When it pays off, judging a book by its cover feels like discovering buried treasure. Which was the case with Sandy Gingras’s Not Even Close to What She Planned On, which was awarded an honorable mention for the New England Poetry Club 2016 Jean Pedrick Chapbook Prize. On its Table of Contents page, I starred nine out of the twenty-two poems.
Here’s an excerpt from “The Light Factory.”
I have to take / the dark in my gloved hands and make / something of it, then connect it to something else.
And here’s a portion of “The Bear that Came through the Window.”
Now I’m going to start in on the second stanza.
In this one, the idea is to discover
what emotion this whole poem is about.
Although you may not realize it, but sometimes
you have to write for a while to figure that part out.
I hope, for my sake, that’s what happens here.
“Sestina for Stephen Dunn” uses repetition to brilliant effect. You can read it in its entirety over at The Sundress Blog; an excerpt will not do it justice. “Chicken” is one of my favorites, and Sandy has given me permission to share it with you here.
Twenty years ago, we went out.
Now he cooks the rotisserie chickens
at Costco. “Remember when we were
going to start a B&B?” I say.
He shakes his head.
“I just fell into this,” he tells me.
The chickens twirl and drip.
His gloved hands reposition them.
He used to be good in bed,
but now the fragrance of chicken
is all around him, clinging
to his apron. Once, he wore crisp
white shirts and his father’s gold watch.
I used to picture us changing bedding
together, making toast for the guests.
Maybe it would have been a Victorian
house with all those nooks
and crannies. Maybe people would
have felt cozy there. What happened
to us? I want to say. But I don’t.
He takes a chicken out
from under the warm lights
and puts it in a plastic bag. “It’s on me,”
he says handing me the chicken.
I take it because I like chicken.
Everyone likes chicken.
When I get home, I eat it with my fingers
on my tray table in front of the TV.
I watch the show I always watch where they redo
people’s houses. I keep thinking of the guy.
Tom, his name is. Tommy, I used to call him.
You can see her range. Sandy uses dialogue, humor, story, moment, and even plays with the act of writing itself. She says on her website that she wants “to say things fresh.” And that’s the way these poems strike me. Not as if she’s polishing anything but as if she’s letting go of what’s unnecessary, which makes what’s left shine without any polish. Sometimes it feels as if she dunked a bucket into her life, poured it through an orange plastic sieve, and merely lifted the pieces that caught onto the page.
After I read the poems, I googled Sandy, and that’s when I discovered I’d been enjoying her words and illustrations for twenty years. How to live on an Island was first published in 1996. It started as a doodle, jumped onto a t-shirt, and then became a card. And that was just the beginning.
One day I brought the design to a local publisher I knew and told him that if I just split up the phrases of the design (one to a page) and did an illustration for each phrase, it could be a book. He thought it was a good idea. And that’s how How to live on an Island came to be.
Sandy says she’s always been more of a writer than an artist, but that her world is all connected, all “jumbled together.” In addition to the ”How To Live” series of books, (on beaches, on islands, in flip-flops), she has won New Jersey Council on the Arts awards for her poetry. She’s also written a mystery novel, Swamped, and her story “Beached” won the Crime Writers Association’s Debut Dagger Award in 2012. Her poetry and memoir pieces have been published in many journals.
She’s published twenty-six books with five different publishers and lives with her husband, son, and Golden Retriever on an island six miles out to sea off the coast of New Jersey, where she recently completed a memoir.
Come back on JULY 1st to read how SANDY GINGRAS spends her days.