April 24, 2017 Poem: “Those Ever-Present Mirrors of Myth and History”

Those Ever-Present Mirrors of Myth and History

Sometimes, after my morning shower,
when I ponder my mirror, that little
square above the sink,

I think I see evidence
not so much of middle-age,
but rather of something medieval:

me, as icon from another age.
I look to myself rather…raw—
or skinned, or parboiled—

and unblinking: some abbess
or uncoiffed good wife,
becoming crone.

I suspect that I am not
alone in preferring discreet
modern emollients—

little creams, tiny brushes,
and mineral paints—
to recreate some faint

retroactive allure; or
in taking modern joy in sound
teeth and bones, ample

fresh greens in winter,
abundant fruit, coffee, and tea;
unlimited hot water

for laundry, and lamplight,
and vitamins E, C, and D.
Ah! Now as I

(no longer quite naked,
thanks to foundation garments
and a delicate hint

of hypo-allergenic make-up)
reach for a new dress printed
with pink flowers and leaves

as green as any sea, I glance
into a farther mirror, catch
just a glimpse of Aphrodite.

Leslie Schultz

This last, impromptu photo was taken last October, just before Halloween, (Thanks, Tim!) as a surprise to text to our daughter at college. I was imitating the “Mel Head” from a cartoon she used to watch with her dad so many years ago (“Jack’s Big Music Show”). In the background, I can see another icon of womanhood, this one from my own childhood: the green-faced witch from the Hollywood movie of “The Wizard of Oz” (played by Margaret D. Hamilton). (Coincidentally, the kind-but-to-me-intimidating-and-scary headmistress of the girls’ school I attended in Australia was also named Margaret D. Hamilton.)

Hope you, too, are surprised by a smile today!


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April 23, 2017 Poem: “Weather”


Each day, the dawn reconstitutes our world.
Navy blue shades into lilac and gold,
reversing evening lights, and we are hurled
out of dreams, into stories yet untold.

What weather ticks against the window pane
or streams in as urgently as birdsong?
What internal turbulence might remain
from a conversation yesterday, strong

enough to shape, in answer, an insight,
or push us toward a bedrock truth at last?
Often stumbling, night-blind, we move toward light
each day we live, however overcast.

Dawn brings a form of storm as yet unwrit,
blowing in to see what we’ll make of it.

Leslie Schultz

Today’s poem is an attempt at a Shakespearean sonnet.

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Northfield Sidewalk Poets (2017) on ArtZany Radio (April 21, 2017)

For each of the past seven years, ArtZany! – Radio for the Imagination,  hosted by Paula Granquist on KYMN (95.1 FM & 1080 AM) has invited a new crop of Northfield Sidewalk Poets to read and discuss their winning poems. This year, chair of the Arts and Culture Commission, Bonnie Jean Flom, and ten the eleven winning poets (ten winning poems total)  joined Paula on April 21 in the KYMN studio. The link above will take you to the archived show.

Pictured left to right are: Lucy Archibald, Jon P. Frasz, Susan Jaret McKinstry,  Anna Moltchanova, Mar Valdecantos, D.E. Green, Andrew & Gina Franklin,  Caitlin Clarey, and Leslie Schultz. (Not pictured: Aimee Hagerty Johnson.)

It was an hour of lively conversation by a true cross-section of the Northfield community. You can find out a lot more from the Northfield City website’s Sidewalk Poetry page (under the Arts and Culture Commission link) including copies of the winning poems, a description of the judging process, a link to Paul Krause’s documentary, and an interactive map showing poem locations.

I was very happy to be included this year.


This project is funded by the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council (SEMAC) through the Arts and Culture Heritage Fund, as appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature, with added support from the Friends and Foundation of the Northfield Library.

April 22, 2017 Earth Day Poem: “Motif, for Ansel Adams”

Motif for Ansel Adams

I knew my destiny when I first experienced Yosemite.
Ansel Adams (February 20, 1902 to April 22, 1984)

He could see and was able to convey,
This keen devotee of Yosemite.
We need to hear what he needed to say.

As a boy, he was too sick to play,
So he studied each musical key.
He could see and was able to convey.

His father’s house, overlooking the bay
Of San Francisco, framed city and sea.
We need to hear what he needed to say.

At fourteen, with family, on holiday,
He first glimpsed his artistic destiny.
He could see and was able to convey.

Later, dazzled by Sierra Madre,
He fell headlong into photography.
We need to hear what he needed to say.

Using black, white, and tones of grey,
He reveals our land’s innate symphony.
He could see and was able to convey.
And we need to hear what he needed to say.

Leslie Schultz

I am grateful for a book given to me by my talented photographer sister, Karla, some years back. Ansel Adams by Barry Pritzker (1991) combines gracefully written biographical and critical essays on Adams’ life and work with a sample of his thrilling, heart-felt, technically masterful black-and-white images of the American landscape. It was from this book that I learned of Adams’ youthful ill-health, his early plan to be a concert pianist, his father’s gift of a Kodak Box Brownie camera. I also learned that it was another book–given to him by his Aunt Mary to cheer his sick-bed–In the Heart of the Sierras by J.M. Hutchings, a book of keen descriptions and illustrations–that caused him to urge that the next family vacation be to see this national park. On that family vacation, his life changed forever, and so, I think, did our collective idea of the land in which we live. Over his life-time, according to Priztker, Adams “personally produced more than 40,000 negatives, signed 10,000 fine prints, exhibited in more than 500 exhibitions, and sold over 1 million copies of his books.” He was also a fierce eco-warrior, keen to move us all protect our heritage of natural beauty and to experience it directly and often.

Here is an excerpt from Pritzker’s introduction: “At the age of fourteen, on vacation with his family at Yosemite National Park, he experienced the Sierra Nevada mountains for the first time. He instantly fell in love with their majesty and sheer physical beauty, and returned there at least once every year of his life.”

Is it a coincidence that Adams died on Earth Day, 1984? Perhaps. Still, I think it is fitting to celebrate this great-hearted warrior-artist for the inspiration he continues to offer.

Here is a short and insightful documentary look at Adams and his work that demonstrates how he uses tones from light to dark and encourages us all to look at photographs and the world around us with greater precision.


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April 21, 2017 Poem: “A Question of Style”

A Question of Style

Bustles and splatterdashes had their day.
Top hats and cutaways have gone away.
Now, it’s only well-dressed cartoon cats who
pull golden pocket watches into view.
What pricey items now inciting passion
will soon draw scorn as artifacts of fashion?

Leslie Schultz

I am a regular reader of Vogue, and I take a lively (if arms-length) interest in all kinds of trends in wearable, readable, architectural, curricular, culinary, and other consumable fashion. (Makes me wonder, incidentally, what Ozymandias was wearing on his long-enduring legs and shattered visage–spats and cool shades, perhaps, to combat the desert dust and glare?)

Here are two of my favorite samples of how fashion is continually updated through the lens of a quirky and catchy song, “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” written by Irving Berlin in 1927. (Interestingly, this was the year after Britain’s King George V deleted spatterdashes from his public dress and caused a mass exodus away from splatterdash-wearing. Apparently the gathered crowded littered the bushes with their own spats before their king had done speaking!)

The first video example is from the Jeeves and Wooster series filmed in the early 1990s but set in the late 1920s when the Irving Berlin song was newly published as sheet music. The second, incorporating the modern trends of flash mobs and athletic shoes, might be my favorite version. (I was interested to see, in seeking out this video clip, that there are numerous others now that take advantage of this elderly but ever-new song’s bouncy lyrics to combine it with group dance, including one charming one set at Heathrow Airport. To date, at least to my knowledge, no flash mob version of this song has been filmed in Rice County, Minnesota!)

Gary Cooper–mentioned in the lyrics as a nonpareil of fashion despite his enduring film legacy as a ruggedly dressed cowboy–was born in 1901, the same birth year ascribed to fictional Bertie Wooster, P.G. Wodehouse’s immortal young man of fashion, above.

My favorite statement in this modern update? It’s a toss-up: Either the opening dancer’s basic black ensemble or the bride’s classic bouquet!

Wishing you a light-hearted look at your world today……LESLIE

P.S.  For more on the silly side…

This morning’s post made me reach, as I so often do, for Stephen Fry’s  peerless book on prosody, The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within. I was amused to see that his perfectly realized Jeeves is, like Fry, a master of rhythm and rhyme. Fry’s book is filled with lucid and succinct summaries of elements of poetic form presented with Fry’s devastating wit.  (The occasional screamingly funny but x-rated quips make it unsuitable for the under-sixteen set, in my opinion, except in excerpted form.) If you are of voting age and curious about the ins and outs of iambs, or want to distinguish meter from rhythm, or crave an algorithm describing the sestina–this is the go-to book.

and, in case you hadn’t heard yet…

one of my favorite online publications, Light Poetry Magazine, just instituted a Poem of the Week feature that offers a humorous view of the past week’s current events. Coincidentally, the cover image for the current issue features a top hat!

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