Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses, Reviewed

She Recommends:

“Lies Knives and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge, pronounced (KUR-chee)

(Candlewick Press, 2012); 88 pgs; 17.99; hardcover illustrated by Andrea Deszo

If prose poetry or novels in free verse is news, you are in good hands with “the wisest, most entertaining wise guy in American poetry” according to Poet Laureate Billy Collins, of Ron Koertge, b. 1940 (He is 74 years old!)

Winner of Publishers Weekly Best Book 2012 and Kansas City Star’s Top Books 2012, Lies Knives and Girls in Red Dresses is a wonderfully chilling knock outside the door. It is a free verse treatment of classic and obscure fairy tales for the modern retelling; hand in hand with visually sharp and deeply lined woodcut art formed illustrations by Transylvania born, Andrea Deszo who currently serves as art professor at Amherst College. Twenty three archetypes or tales reappear in an imagined space with varied voices viable with points of view which open up the conversation and inner landscape for the life-long reader. A sixteen year old, a twenty six year old, a forty six year old and a seventy six year old scans the same text but reads necessarily not the same book from each’s pressed fingerprints and prisms.

The truth Koertge carries through all the voices and personas led me to read these fairy tales as archetypes from the collected unconscious. These stories allow the reader to be predator and prey, light and darkness, lost and omniscient against the classic backdrop. I leave you with a quote from the book’s illustrator, Dezso who shared, “We didn’t have access to contemporary publications (in Communist Romania), so we read the classics. We lived in books. Traveled through them.” For those of us who lived through political oppression, violence and censorship about the threatening Brave and Modern World, we retreat through the portals of fairy tales no longer to restore our Innocence but to spread light of Experience onto what was once absent in the dark corners and to name those who Appeared to speak Lies and wield Knives.

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Mirror Work

When someone punches you,

the face swells

When someone screams at you,

 the face swells

after she/(y)/ou spills her/self/you

of water, moisture, life   

through the eyes, nose, lips

The face swells.


Scared before her/ y’own reflection.


The mirror bends

The bounds beyond

the flat surfaces of the visual dimension.

There is no audio



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Odd Girl Hums “Hakuna Matata”

On a good day, I spend a couple of hours reading passionately and crying when I properly touched by truths.

I constrain myself by reading other’s work and not writing myself dry.  Typing and writing for hours is something I do not do in a given day.

What is this business of writing from within one’s experiences?  I confront this
D(a)emon that speaks, “You have nothing valuable to say after forty years of a self centered life”  to Inalienable Life.  I have lived these forty years around the ideal of a pain free existence through compromises, whilst feeding Fear and staying on these paths of least resistance because the mere imagination of pain and extended suffering are enough to retract my mind to lizard survival mode. 

I want to investigate the value of such a way of Being. The life of aversions and Flight has shaped a character which has become divided from its Integrity and discordant with her given word.  I have lived on terms which suited my changing moods and ills, and I have developed poor character and poor form when engaged in social relationships with my fellow man, beginning with my family. 

My confidence is shot in the leg when asked to arise to obligations and other token pleasantries that man poses onto fellow man.  Conversation appears delicate and willing to collapse at the mere hint of gravity.  The weight of Projections shifts with the opening of the small talk about “the rains in Spain staying mainly on the plains.” If marbles in my mouth could simply improve my ability to gab with superiors, I would store them like a chipmunk before the winter. My sisters, Intensity and Ernestine dig my grave through lettered books whenever they are let out from the upstairs bedroom.  Their drawn faces are sometimes MAC’ed for mockery and feminine power. 


Child or Warrior’s

Classic Feature#1- She won’t do what you ask of her without discussion, protest or resentment of your powers over her Velocity. Classic Feature #2- She will lie though those promises which sounded the most plausible.  Classic Feature #3- She won’t do what you ask of her. Adjectives and pejoratives include: willful, stubborn, independent, irresponsible, single-minded. 

The angers and bitter temper are remnants from battles over her soul and rightful freedom to life on her terms and values.  But what kind of ( over)-culture includes women of intelligence, soul, authenticity, quick tongue to match the temper?  Where do such fiery women belong?  They do not most often belong with other women whose roles are dictated by marriages, motherhood and Martha molds out of modern demonstrations. They come from a tribe created from God’s breath into Mother Earth and they maintain the cord into the Spirit womb in order to continue to create as the Resurrection of Christ’s Love.

I have no privileged status in life, Unmarried, Barren and Estranged from my original family while reliving a drama based on their Rejection of me, the Failing girl child.  Perhaps these descriptions carry no sentimental charge for the gentle reader…

These terms occur to me suddenly as another lexicon in Freedom and Responsibility.

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The Paris Review

The joyous reading of these interviews is drawing blood and life up to the surfaces and I am encouraged by my tribe.  They are persons of intellectual breath, humor, subtlety and distance from my original family tree but they speak my language!  I am at once home and up in rarified atmosphere where the frequency of my breaths skip to take in more oxygen, more creative life by gulps and gasps where need be. 

The aspiring writer loves to hear how the process is for other writers.  The Mystery is never unraveled by their confidences or literary confessions.  Still by some hint of light there is enough illumination to peer more clearly onto one’s piled high desktop.  The desk connects back to the Universal source of Mystery and Creativity.  Yes, the desk as a portal to infinite space in our imaginations… 

The view around the keyboard is cluttered at the moment.  I compare my reality with photographed homes and interiors of homes visited.  My apartment is a mess of distractions and disorganization where things do not have a proper place for themselves. 

There is no place in the bedroom/ writing corner where I keep library borrowed materials for perusal and return.  I finished uploading Bedtime Stories by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes and wondering how long Alan Brennert’s Honolulu will sit to my right because I think it would be nice to finish listening to the story before meeting up with ____ for lunch at the end of the month.  I’ve reached by Disc 6, boredom with how the story is being told in third person as a historical fiction narrative.  I don’t care about the primary female.  Yes, her circumstances move the plot along but I have less interest in going through all the remaining discs if this is the set up for the entire story. It’s equivalent to taking the historical multi-vitamin through the ears. 

Right of the CDB’s is a green tank top untouched since I took it off from the night’s sleep, a thin roll of Charmin and a traveler’s bag full of my daily medications, package of Costco AA batteries, a turquoise acrylic drinking cup rimmed with lipstick, silver jewelry cleaning solution, a mirror for doing makeup outside of the bathroom, a small cup of McDonald’s coffee, Smackers Dr, Pepper tinted chapstick, birth control pills, copied music on more discs, headphones, a solar calculator, my DMV renewal notice and more books in a semi tidy pile near the left side of the computer desk with The Paris Review Interviews Women Writers at Work on top.

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“As much as we can embody”

I picked up Ernest Holmes’ The Science of Mind for a word or phrase

a kite to fly against the grey that appear on the film

of my consciousness when I think

upon my fill in the blank life. 


The Fog brought Despair and Circular Thinking

which is not totally unexpected….


but They have become unwelcomed by Sanguine Spirits,

Hahn (if you are Korean, especially if you are a Korean immigrant) and

Every day Patience.


From Chapter III, The Science of Mind

“Should all the wisdom of the universe be poured over us

we should yet receive only that which we are ready to understand.


The scientist discovers the principles of his science,

the artist embodies the spirit of his art,

the saint draws Christ into his being-

all because they have courted the particular presence of some definite concept. 

Each state of consciousness taps the same source,

but has a different receptivity. 

Each receives what he asks for, according to his ability to embody.”
Here and now, we are surrounded by, and immersed in, an Infinite Good. 

How much of this Infinite Good is ours?


And how much of It may we have to use?


Posted in Korean Quotient, What the Pho? | Leave a comment

Danielle’s Grandma in the Apartment

“We are all equal, humble and acting democratically

typing away until there is a wetness of untapped feeling

 a jump from the gut to the throat because the spirited come

to accompany

at the bottom of the bed as an orb of light. 

It’s brighter than the light drawn from a bulb in its IKEA shade and

it just stays a little bit longer than the thoughts of

what it’s doing on this side with the living. 

The impulse to get up from underneath the covers, comforter and

“turn off the light” gives way to the next morning.

These moments of sleeping and waking

are my days and nights.  

Somewhere above these aspects,

I desperately seek through conscious contact

my Spirit through written language. 

We love it written long hand. 

We love to see it typographically. 

We love to hear that the conversation never ends.”   

Posted in Poetry, Shadows and Spirit, What the Pho? | 1 Comment

“May I be Frank?”/ “Hi, Frank.”

These days seem to blur when the Writer does not write home to the Mother.  It’s been a week since my last shared post and the Writing Child has gone almost mute from the slow leak of poetry and beauty from the tit.  The Antagonistic Teenager wants to argue from the fact that life is presenting her with so many distractions. Welcome to my psyche and inner world!

I have been exploring wordpress blogs and finding myself curious about what others are interested in reading and writing about.  While replying on another blog this week, I realized that my comment to the creator was too direct, too personal and kin’da off. As in. “delete the comment”.

After I sent it, I realized that I was mis-stepping on the anonymous feet of this unidentified person of unknown gender across the cyberspace to what appears to be New York City.

Given that I too am struggling to embrace the social media platform to create a life online, how much self disclosure is warranted to create community…much less, true and  valid communication between us in this New Flat World? 

This blog is a platform to share creativity through ideas, books, beauty and inspiration….its not Catfish TV!   I realized in making that faux pas how human it is to want to know something about the person whom you are “speaking to”.   On a book cover, I WANT to see the photo of the author.  I want to know a little back story/ biographical context because these provide a connection and level of resonance that could not be afforded by the creative work alone. 

Agree/Disagree? there are schools of comparative literary criticism and camps devoted to either position… thankfully.

For me, the life of the mind can be cerebral but its children are embodied in me…. in the corpse body.  In declaring our thoughts in digital print or ink print, do we want to own what has come through us to speak from depths and in ranges recognized by the Soul?

Which brings me to my next question of whether reading much lends itself to expecting the world to reflect this art.  If one’s language of choice is the literate language of the printed word, how normal would inner thoughts be to you?  Deep thoughts and inner processes are the very mediums of stories. 

When I was a little girl I wondered why people in my life didn’t speak like the characters in the books I was reading from the library.  The vernacular conversation rang tinny and disappointed me constantly whenever I wanted to speak “literary”.   At some point I may have thought it was because my parents didn’t know how to master the English language.  That was not the case.  My parents never mastered fluency in this second language but their references to Korean idioms, proverbs and poetics have found a place in my inner ear of memories. 

My father who is now in his mid seventies will speak in formal English when addressing me in mixed company of blended and extended families. His grasp of the words are fundamental and stiff like the starch that is put onto collars at the cleaners.  When hearing the formality of his sentences, I see in the mind’s eye the volumes of paperback grammar textbooks he has in his bedroom.  They are worn translucent  from his fingerprints turning over its pages.  My father studies from them after all these years in the United States.  His sense of inadequacies is palpable.

I am not the only little girl who thought people in art were more real than people in life. For me, its not enough to see the boundaries of art versus life.  I want there to be more fusion of art into Life and life into Art, which brings me back to the writing on this blog. 

I realize that it is myself who has been slow to make… , ok, like, no adjustments to the social world with its necessary small talk and tolerance of very real people who may not read books, can’t read, can’t read English, or won’t read what’s not on a screen much less think about ideas in profound or interesting measures with every possibility in between.

When I sat down to write tonight, I thought maybe I was going to peel away some layers about a work scenario, blah, blah, blah!  Naah…instead

Write until you see the Wise Woman, I told myself.  I received her message tonight when I wrote that I have not changed to belong to the people of this world.  I have privileged the life of the mind above and beyond the relationships with my fellow human beings. Ugh! Wowwzzaa.

Such is the paradox and complexity written in our humanity because we all want and need to belong and we are struggling to discover and maintain it. 

A Tribe some call it. 
finding your tribe
your peeps. 

It makes it sound like there is a multitude of people out THERE who understands you,
accepts you and claims you as one of their own. 

May Peace be upon us
as we go this way…



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