Wednesday, October 18, 2017

the memoir FIRE SEASON by Hollye Dexter is not a book about defeat but VICTORY !

Chris Rice Cooper 

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Watch the FIRE SEASON book trailer by clicking on the link below in blue :

Chris Rice Cooper on
Hollye Dexter’s Memoir Fire Season
“The Mustard Seed of Victory”
     In 2010 Hollye Dexter https://www.
came to the realization that she had been living a depressed and defeated life since November 18, 1994.   

In a Facebook interview with Chris Rice Cooper Hollye said: Until the night my house burned down in 1994, I was a strong, independent woman, but after the fire, as one catastrophe after the next hit — bankruptcy, cars blowing up and a child in need of surgery — I unraveled. I became clinically depressed, struggling with persistent suicidal thoughts. I didn’t know it then, but I was in the grip of post-traumatic stress disorder from both our fire and events in my childhood. I was a complete mess.
For years I couldn’t talk about the fire. I couldn’t allow myself to look back at how I came so close to losing my children. I also didn’t want to remember how I came so close to losing my mind. But it was a grey cloud following me through life, never letting me sleep through the night, never letting me go.”
       Then the year 2010 came to pass and she found herself in so much despair that she finally confided in her writer friend Amy Friedman http://www. right who gave Hollye a sound piece of advice:  Hollye’s only escape and only effective therapy was to write about her deep painful experiences and memories; and so Hollye Dexter began writing Fire Season.
       “What I learned in the grueling process of writing and reflecting was that though yes, I was an emotional disaster, I also fought harder than I ever knew I could to find something to believe in again. Faith is hard earned and, like a beating heart, is a muscle that must be worked. I worked to find mine so that my children would not grow up in a hopeless world.
Instead of focusing on the loss, I focused on the hope that can be found in the most disastrous of circumstances — like the kindness of others who came to lift us back on our feet.  Above right. I found, while bankrupt and destitute, we still had our ability to dream, to love, to create, to hope and to remember. And in writing, I discovered that though we had lost everything, on a deeper level we really hadn’t lost anything. These are the jewels we unearth when excavating our complicated histories.”

     For the next three years from 2010 to 2013 Hollye wrote Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. surrounded by pets, piles of laundry and an unanswered phone.

     “I wrote while my youngest was in school.  I was very disciplined about it.”  
And discipline in writing was something Hollye practiced since she was a little girl:  “I’ve kept a diary since I was in the second grade.”
       In 2013 Fire Season was completed and the next step was the publishing process, which proved to be almost as arduous as writing the book itself.
“In the three years it took me to write the first draft of Fire Season, the publishing industry had completely changed. So I sat on the book, and hemmed and hawed for over a year, deciding what direction to take. I attended conferences, lectures, read books about it, asked the counsel of my friends. I did send it out to about a dozen or so agents and publishers and though I got good feedback and had a good track record with my first book Dancing At the Shame Prom with Seal Press, I kept getting the response that they just couldn't take the financial risk with an “unknown” memoirist.
Because my stories are the only thing of true value that I own, I decided I had to move forward in a way that felt right to me, and that meant having more control over this book’s destiny. Time and again, friends had recommended Brooke Warner’s above right new hybrid publishing option, She Writes Press, and because I have deep respect for and trust in Brooke after publishing Dancing At the Shame Prom with her at Seal, I finally committed. She Writes gave me all the perks of traditional publishing, but more creative and financial control.”
       On October 14, 2015 She Write Press published the memoir Fire Season My Journey From Ruin to Redemption written by Hollye Dexter with jacket cover art by Stacey Aaronson    

Hollye Dexter is on her second marriage with the love of her life Troy Dexter.  At the time the couple shares two children – Cissy, age 8, Hollye’s daughter from her first marriage, and their son Taylor, age 4.
Hollye and Troy each have their own business they are passionate about:  Hollye owns her own child clothing business out of her home and Troy http://www. is a successful Los Angeles based musician.  Along with their variety of pets, the family of four are happy and joyful in their beloved rented home partially situation in a Los Angeles cliff. Above right Troy and Hollye a few weeks before the fire.
On November 18, 1994 there is a sense of smoky fore- 
shadowing in Hollye’s soul – she doesn’t know why she is feeling this or where it’s coming from so she pushes it aside.  She drops her daughter Cissy off at her biological father’s house for the weekend and then heads back home. The foreshadowing continues and in the middle of the night she senses a voice telling her to go check on the baby; and gets up from her own bed and lays in bed with her four year old son Taylor.  She awakens to her Troy’s panicked voice and to the blazes of fire.

       A guttural, instinctual wailing fills the air – a voice I’ve never heard before.  It’s my voice.
       Fire behind me, a thirty-foot drop to concrete below.
       Troy shouts from our bedroom window,  “Hold on!  I’m coming – I’m gonna jump.”  Following his words is the loud thwack of his body, the sickening sound of bones against cement.  I scream his name over and over but he doesn’t respond.  I start to cry but there is no time for panic.
       Taylor and I hang out the window, engulfed in smoke, suffocating.  I lower him as far as my arms will stretch so he can breathe.  I hold only his tiny hands, his body dangling midair.  I am in the center of the firestorm. Above right a thank you card Taylor wrote to his mom Hollye. 
   The fire completely destroys everything except for their very own lives and very tiny burnt pieces of mementoes, which are discovered by Troy and his father Dennis.
       “My husband, wearing thigh-high fishing boots, dug through piles of rubble four-feet deep and pulled out small blackened squares. They looked like charcoal briquets, but they turned out to be my childhood diaries – one of them used to have a Holly Hobbie cover and a little gold key attached.”
       Other mementoes are discovered which gives Troy and Hollye reason to feel hopeful.  There, in vivid color, is a photo of me and Troy on our wedding day.  The edges are singed, the colors running together.  Like us, our wedding album is damaged, but it survived.  I smile and wrap my arms around him happy tears in my eyes.  Of all the things to be saved from the ashes.  Is this a random coincidence?  I take it as a sign.

Soon Hollye realizes it is more than just one fire but many fires that traumatized her throughout her life.  The physical fire that November night was just the tip of the ice burg.  And the ice burg is massive in titanic proportions.
       Hollye has to deal with the traumatic events in her childhood concerning her mother, her suicidal brother, the disturbing truth about her father whom she was led to believe was dead, incidences of violence that happened to her as a child and that she witnessed as a child, and the rejection from Troy’s family. The two pictures above are of Hollye and Troy inside their burnt home. December of 1994
       Hollye goes through intense PTSD about all the fires in her life that results in flashbacks, intense weeping, nightmares, insomnia, depression, suicidal thoughts, a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.                                                              

May 13, 1995

I tried to throw myself from the car today.  I didn’t care anymore what happened to me.  I wanted to hurt myself.  Troy grabbed me by the hair and yanked me back.  I lost a lot of hair, but now I see how drastic a situation this is.  I called the psychologist who helped me after the fire.  I am going to see him tomorrow.

New fires are started when they are conned by a supposedly reputable man in the music business, betrayed by close friends, and betrayed by Hollye’s business partner.  The couple is forced to lose the next two homes they reside in – one due to the owners going through a nasty divorce and not placing the rent money toward the mortgage; the other due to the owner not abiding by the rent-to-own legal contract between them.  As a result they lose thousands and thousands of dollars and have no choice but to file for bankruptcy.

Everything I once felt certain of is shaken loose like soil from the roots of an upturned tree, leaving me raw, exposed.  I have to find a way of taking root within myself.

       The fires of not knowing who to trust, of deep depression, of emotional hurts within Troy and Hollye continue to grow stronger making the PTSD incidences almost intolerable.  Hollye begins to question the existence of God and why all of these bad things are happening to their family.

       I pace the house for hours like the night watchman, my anxiety never letting me rest.  I lie awake thinking about our dogs and cats – trying to remember how their fur felt the last time they slept with me in bed.  I wonder if I made the right decision in letting my business go.  I pray that if I dare fall asleep, God will protect my children.  But I don’t trust God. Above right is an image Taylor drew about the fire; and Taylor himself in December of 1994.

There are moments of respite – Hollye managed to reach inside herself and find her own art which proved to be therapeutic and her next business venture called One of a Kind; Troy and Hollye create memories drinking red wine as they sit conversing in their backyard; romantic evenings the couple shared in their famous 12-seater Jacuzzi above top left;  and numerous times the family as a whole turns what should have been a bad day into a day of good memories; like when they were so broke the electric company turned off their electricity.  Hollye and Cissy go to their regular art class and return home to a something magical.

       Troy and Taylor sit in camping chairs on our back lawn our tent behind them, sleeping bags rolled out on the grass.  Taylor is roasting marshmallows over the hibachi.  Troy plucks at his acoustic guitar.  Peering through that window, I marvel at how Troy is able to turn this disaster into a tiny miracle, and my heart swells with love for him.

But these are only happy little breadcrumbs in a life of many fires and soon their marriage is tested; and Holly finds herself at her breaking point in a field of mustard flowers, praying to a God she doesn’t even know exists.

       I wander into a wide-open field, with yellow mustard flowers growing waist high.  At the center of it I plunk down, where no one can see or hear me, and I wail with grief.  . . .
       I feel all the color drain from my face and from my life as I come to the realization that my marriage is failing.  Since I’m already on my knees, with nothing else to lose, I pray . . .

       Fire Season is more than a memoir about the Dexter home being destroyed by fire, Holly overcoming her PTSD, but it is also a memoir about the power of love so strong it conquered all.  And remains victorious. Right Hollye and Troy with their son Taylor (middle) and son Evan bottom left and their daughter Cissy bottom right. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Poetry Collection TIGER FUR - A Friendship Between Poet & Translator

Christal Cooper

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The Friendship of Poet Salgado Maranhao and Translator Alexis Levitin:
The Impossible Translation of Tiger Fur from Portuguese to English Through Friendship, Language, & Love

     On October 6, 2015 White Pine Press http://www.
/catalog.php?id=280 published the bilingual Portuguese-English collection Tiger Fur written in the original Portuguese by Salgado Maranhao https://
com/Salgado-Maranhão-730706050352609/, translated to English by Alexis Levitin Introduction by Alexis Levitin, Afterward by Antonio Cicero Above Top Right 
http://antoniocicero.blogspot.comwith jacket cover art by James Fitzgerald. Above Bottom Right 
Tiger Fur was first published in the Portuguese in 2009 by the title A Pelagem da Tigra.
Professor Luiz Fernando Valence, left formerly the chair of the Department of Portuguese at Brown University, introduced Alexis and Salgado to one another.  In an interview, Luis described that introduction. 
“I had the pleasure of bringing Salgado Maranhão and Alexis Levitin together during ”A Moveable Feast,” a festival of poetry in Portuguese, held at Brown University in the spring of 2007. That introduction was far from fortuitous. I had known and worked with Alexis since the early 1980s, and had always been impressed by the combination of precision, elegance, and creativity displayed in his superb translations from the Portuguese, both in prose and in verse. And I had been an early admirer and, indeed, the first person in the United States to have taught and written about Salgado’s poetry. I believed that it was high time Salgado’s poetry became available to English language audiences. And I was convinced that only a translator with deep sensitivity to the nuances of both Portuguese and English poetic language would be able to do justice to the intricate syntax and imagery that is the hallmark of Salgado’s poetry.”
In an email interview with Chris Rice Cooper, Alexis right in April 2015 described their friendship as a decade of good will, collaboration, poetry, language and understanding one another’s home country and its culture. 

“In 2012, I spent 90 days driving all over the country with Salgado left in New York October 2017 and we never had an unpleasant interlude. He is companionable, relaxed, and wise, an excellent combination. Cementing our strong personal feelings for each other is our shared love of poetry and our shared feeling that the music of language is the living heart of real poetry.”
 Alexis translated Salgado’s works Blood of the Sun and Tiger Fur from Portuguese into English through his friendship with Salgado, observing Salgado’s personality, the way he spoke the Portuguese language, both verbally and on the written page, and with the support of his friend Valente.
“I found Salgado's poetry very difficult at first and would not have dared to try to translate his work without the fervent support and encouragement of Prof. Luiz Valente of Brown.”
The poem that compelled Salgado into writing Tiger Fur was a poem about his ex-wife called “Boundary Five/War Heads” from his earlier poetry collection Blood of the Sun.
On April 19, 2016 both Salgado and Alexis conducted a Portuguese and English poetry reading from Blood of the Sun and Tiger Fur at Lake Community College in Eugene, Oregon. Above Left.
 During the reading Alexis described Tiger Fur as a poetry collection trying to explain the possibilities and impossibilities of passionate relationships.  He further stated that the attempt to explain these passionate relationships is not found in the passion itself but in the words that describe the emotion that deal with the passionate relationship.  
These words of emotion in the passionate relationship can be described as a form of light that burns or heats, or leaves some kind of mark:  ablaze, amber, beam, blaze, branding, burning, burst, carved, chiseled, combustion, enflames, engraved, fever, fire, flame, flash, furnace, fused, glitters, halo, illuminated, lava, light, lightning, magma, meteor, moonlight, plasma, pulses, rays, scanning, scar, shimmer, smoke, spark, stars, sun, sunlight, tattooed, etc. Above left Graduation of Fire attributed to Rene Magritte in 1939. FU
       This passionate relationship itself could refer to humanity and the elements of the earth; two people in love; language; elements of the cosmos and earth; animals; and the mythological god Eros. 

Humanity and Elements of the Earth
Alexis stated at the poetry reading that his brother chides him on his chosen life of a bachelor and questions why he chooses impossible women.  Alexis’s response to his brother was that he built his life on impossible women:  I am the sailor who loves the horizon.”
        When Alexis stated this quote he was specifically speaking of the title poem “Tiger Fur” but it could be applicable to “Pre-Logos 1” where the speaker of the poem is awed by the horizon. Right Photoshopped by Chris Rice Cooper. 

Terror, lightning, fog
an ambiguous landscape
before my eyes. 

Two People In Love
       In “Sea of Flames 1” the speaker of the poem speaks of his need for his ladylove even before he meets her. When he finally sees her, the pupil of his eye literally goes through a transformation along with his libido.

or the flagrant moment (the flirtations look!)
in which the pupil
coagulates the gesture, the gestation.

       The poetry collection Tiger Fur sings and sites words of passion to language itself. 

what makes the lyric fertile (beneath
splinters of immutable
moons) I sing
to the sundered solitary heart.

Excerpt, “Sea Without Waves 1.”
Elements of the Cosmos (the sun) and Earth (lake)

By attachment, there will follow, to the
intimate lake (of mirrors)
this sun that breathes
stilettos, that lays waste
within, carnivorous
as a kiss.

Excerpt, “Sea Without Waves. 3.”

      There are numerous animals mentioned in these poems: dragonflies, dogs, birds, dinosaurs, jackals and serpents but the one animal that tops the list is that of the tiger which is depicted in numerous poems throughout the collection. Right Attributed to Marlene Thyssen CCB2.5

a sharper’s shimmering coat—
eyes that flow with couplets of light
and a blade beneath the fur in which it hides.

Excerpt, “Claws in the Iris”


Could it be the work of Eros
that has set the desert
there before us?

Excerpt, “Sea Drift VIII”

The last three lines of the poem “Tiger Fur” describe the impossibility of humanity trying to understand the impossibilities of these passionate relationships.  The last three lines could also be a warning to humanity to quit trying to figure out the impossible and just marvel and be in awe of the impossible. 
If we keep on trying to figure it out, as the last three lines state, we will only experience exasperation, dissatisfaction, and humiliation. Right The Lovers attributed to Ralph Magritte FU

The tracks, no more, of some forgotten tale
of treasure that bewilders us and takes us in,
so winning it we only win chagrin.

Instead the mantra of Tiger Fur can be found in “Solitude,” where we are told to always have our own individual beginning, different from every one else’s.

Mine is just a beginning
no footsteps to be followed.

We as individualas have our own impossibility, our own awe that can never be explained but forever will amaze, just like the words that describe the impossibility.