Contests, paint, and horrible news

I’ve spent most of this week reading first the regional poetry for the annual WOMR Jose Gouveia poetry contests and then the national. Jose was a close friend of mine for many year. I miss him and I’m glad to judge the contests that celebrate his memory.

The regional had lots of good entries as it did last year, but this year the national entries had many more excellent pieces. Last year, the best poems were good, but there weren’t so many of them. This year, there’s much more interesting work.

About 25% of the entries are just doggerel or rants or someone’s idea of what a poem is, full of old clichés and inflated feelings. That’s the first cut after I read everything. Another 40% have merit and something well done in them, a turn of phrase, something structural, a good image or two. I keep them around for another close reading or two. Then I’m down to the ones that stick in my mind overnight, the ones that do something striking, original, moving. I read and reread those until finally I make the final cut of ten poems. Then I rank them.

Sometimes when I judge contests, there’s so much bad poetry that it turns me off for a while. Not so this year. I wrote a couple of new poems this week. Thursday and Friday, my friend Janet was painting our upstairs bathroom. I’ve always done the painting with Woody, but I realized I can’t. What I can do with my titanium knees doesn’t include kneeling or squatting.

Janet did a wonderful job. We had supper together both nights. I’d come to hate the color of that bathroom over the years. This time it’s a sort of old gold color, much more attractive.

One of our dear friends, Paul, a big active guy who sails and plays pickleball, had a stroke suddenly, followed within hours by a seizure. The rescue squad took him to Cape Cod Hospital, but after the seizure, he was sent by ambulance to Brigham and Women’s in Boston.   There they discovered the stroke was caused by a clot from one of his lungs, which seems to be cancerous. He’s too weak for a biopsy so everything in up in the air. In the meantime, his husband, who’s Canadian, Is stuck in Nova Scotia, where he gets his wonderful medical care. He had flu and he’s recovering from a series of operations designed to cure his rare type of blood cancer. it’s an agonizing situation for Dan but he hopes his doctor will give him leave to travel next week. We are all extremely worried and fearful.

Tonight we have friends coming, Sophia, Dion, Jen, Ann and Shaun. We could use some cheering up. I just heard other bad news about old friends of ours. We haven’t seen much of them in recent years, but had them over for dinner just last spring. They’re both older than we are. I feel as if sickness is closing in on so many people we care about. At least the friends coming tonight are all much younger. Before I start cooking tomorrow, we have to put the bathroom back. I did some tonight, but everything on the shelves will have to go back tomorrow morning. Willow, our sweet cashmere kitty, went into hiding when the bathroom was emptied and began to be painted. I’m hoping she’ll recover her mojo tomorrow and rejoin us. She’s by far the most timid of our cats, although not around rodents– she’s a natural hunter.

She did return to my bed last night and had breakfast with the other cats this morning, but she still seems a little wary.

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