Monday, June 29, 2015

A Tiny TARDIS and More: Little Free Libraries in Cedar Falls

Do you know what a Little Free Library is? It's a really fun thing!

Little Free Libraries (LFLs) are grassroots collections of books and other reading material accessible to everyone, maintained by citizens and sometimes nonprofit groups. The Little Free Libraries are generally little "buildings," so to speak, like outdoor dollhouses, out in neighborhoods where anyone can walk up and borrow or drop off something to read. In an honor system, borrowers bring back books or bring new books or bring them to other LFLs. (Check out the LFL website.)

I just love the idea of the Little Free Library, helping to boost literacy and the love of reading in our neighborhoods! I bet you have one or more LFLs in your area. Here in Cedar Falls, Iowa, we have six. Well, five, actually. (That will become clear later.)

Shall we go on a tour?

Right outside of Cedar Falls, to the north a couple miles, there's an LFL that's memorable because it looks like the TARDIS from Doctor Who. That's the time machine / space ship of The Doctor . . . uh, just google. Wait, click here. Anyway, it's a very cool LFL made from a newspaper vending machine. Here, take a look.

8227 Buckridge Road


This next LFL is, like the last, also out in the country. It looks like a high-end log cabin with a fancy green front door with a picture window in it.

2126 West Lone Tree Road


In the middle of town, this next LFL is the first one I ever saw. I was out for a walk and saw what looked like a little blue house on a short pole, in a sleepy neighborhood not too far from downtown. When I looked inside it, I was amazed to see it contained books. And right next to it, a park bench. So cool.

823 West 8th Street
at College Street

I saw that this 8th Street LFL had a plaque on it, with an internet address. When I checked that website later, I found out there's a huge network of thousands of these libraries. The website features a map and photos of all the LFLs. I quickly located the other ones in my town.

This next LFL is a block away from the high school. I wonder how many students walking home have noticed it and stopped to borrow books. I certainly hope they have.

1203 West 12th Street
near Division Street


In the bottom picture above, you can see the cover of a book I borrowed from the 12th Street LFL, The Girl Who Became a Beatle by Greg Taylor. With my interest in rock & roll and pop culture, I really enjoyed this fun YA novel. The front cover is very cleverly designed; the characters from the novel are posed and lit like the Fab Four on the cover of their LP Meet the Beatles.

This next LFL is a different type. As you can see below, it's very close to the ground. In fact it rests on the ground. It is on the grounds of the Cedar Valley Preschool and Child Care Center. It's a library of books for the children of the center. It's a little different from other LFLs because it's not accessible to the public. The cool thing about it is that these kids learn about libraries and the fact that libraries have books just for them!

724 Lantz Ave
at Fern Ave

This last one is technically not an official Little Free Library because it is not registered with LFL Central. But it works exactly the same way. It's a bright purple color, which helped me spot it when I was driving through the neighborhood. It features not just books but also magazines and CDs. Very cool. Architecturally, this little "building" is distinctive because it has clerestory windows that help to light up the inside of the library.

2219 Sunset Blvd
between Willow Lane and Rownd Street

I hope the people who run this last free library will register it with Little Free Library HQ. That way, their library will be listed on the website and also appear on the LFL map. And anyone around the world can find them by address.

Well, that's today's tour of Cedar Falls Little Free Libraries. Hope you enjoyed that. If you live nearby, check out one — or all (!) — of the local LFLs. Take a book, leave a book, enjoy!

Friends, won't you comment, please? Love to know what you're thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don't find the word "comments" in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Help Amanda Gotera Bring "Middle Witch" to Life

Hello, everyone. Have you recovered from National Poetry Month? And Cinco de Mayo?   

A little over a half a year ago, I blogged about my daughter Amanda Blue Gotera, who is working on her MFA in filmmaking at the University of Texas, receiving a prestigious film award to support the completion of her thesis film, Middle Witch. In her application for that Princess Grace Foundation award, she wrote, "I intend to tell a fairy story that keeps its teeth sharp and features heroines who are neither charming nor easily digestible but human and messy and dark."

Well, that fairy tale with "its teeth sharp" is about to start shooting, and you can help make Amanda's dream come true. She and her crew have started a Kickstarter campaign to raise the rest of the funds they need to complete the film:

Would you please click the image above to go to the Kickstarter page and watch the pitch video? It's a really wonderful pitch (yeah yeah, proud dad talking . . . but actually it is). As you can see from the image above (which I pulled off a few minutes ago), they're almost 50% funded just a week into the campaign. And Middle Witch has been chosen as a Kickstarter Staff Pick. Could you donate to keep the momentum going and bring Middle Witch to the big screen? Even five bucks will help!

You can also go to the Middle Witch facebook page at to keep up with news about the campaign as well as the progress of the film. (You can see this page even if you are not a member of facebook, but you can't interact with it.)

Friends, won't you comment, please? Love to know what you're thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don't find the word "comments" in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Day 30 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015

Day Thirty. Another National Poetry Month for the history books. I hope, if you were writing a poem a day, that you succeeded. If you didn't, that's perfectly all right. You'll be able to do it next time!

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt: "I’d like you to try an odd little exercise that I have had good results with. Today, I challenge you to write a poem backwards. Start with the last line and work your way up the page to the beginning."

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt: "take the phrase 'Bury the (blank),' replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Some possible titles include: 'Bury the Hatchet,' 'Bury the Body,' 'Bury the Past,' 'Bury the Hate,' and 'Bury the Acorns.'"

I made my Thorson upside-down poem an abecedarian to keep control of the composition. I would know that the first line would start with a Z and then I would have to lead somehow to a Y and then to an X, etc. For some reason, I decided to up the ante by making each line only one word long. I started writing the ZYX words at the bottom, working backward, but then simultaneously worked on the ABC words to make sure it made sense going down the page. I found myself essentially writing two poems that would meet in the middle (around M and N), even though they were the same poem, the same column of words. So I had inadvertently doubled Maureen's prompt. Turned out I had upped the ante a bit.

The Brewer prompt entered in with the poem's sense-making. I'm a fan of The Walking Dead show and comics, and Brewer's word "bury" somehow brought "zombies" into the poem, even if the word doesn't appear. I didn't plan to do that; it just somehow happened. Fun, I hope.

Bury the Zombies
— a somersault abecedarian
    read first down left column
    and then down right column
    same words, new punctuation


—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

At first I typed the draft poem out A-Z, with instructions to the reader to also read the poem from bottom to top. I left off punctuation so as not to limit sense-making in the two directions. Then I decided to make it easier on the reader by also typing out the word list flip-flopped (Z-A, in a second column). But then I noticed that the lack of punctuation made the meaning ambiguous in places. Eventually, I realized that punctuation had to be inserted and different in both columns in order to guide flow and meaning.

I call the form a somersault abecedarian because of how the A-Z sequence is turned over in the second column. You should try to write one. They're fun but also the devil to carry off.

Okay, on to Alan's last poem for National Poetry Month. "I went a bit rogue with this one. Brewer's prompt about burial suggests that a literal burial was not necessary; I was thinking about what gets revealed when cleaning out a drawer. Why this poem turned out a sonnet, I don't know."


A bottle smaller than my thumb, tucked back
behind the various home cures, old gauze
unwound and yellowed, lozenges of Halls
Mentho-Lyptus, Band-Aids, liquorish Black
Draught, and, just hidden in a paper sack,
some “rooster pills,” four rolling loose moth balls,
dull dried-up Paregoric, Dr. Scholl’s
bunion cushions, liniment, half-smoked pack
of Salems, picture of my infant wife
still swaddled, in her sleepy mother’s arms,
the last of five, who spent her childhood life
among Republicans, scared false alarms
from Birchers, Auburn fans, Braves’ twisted knife
of fandom, what we hope will cure still harms.

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

These details bring me back, Alan. Mercurochrome was the first-aid wound treatment I preferred because the other option, Merthiolate, stung. A lot. A LOT. I also remember Paregoric, for gastric distress and other ailments. Another item I could imagine in this drawer is Vicks VapoRub, though Mentho-Lyptus is reminiscent of it. Also, at the dinner table sometimes, my dad, a devoted Democrat, would rail against John Birchers. I used to think when I was little that Birchers had something to do with tree branches.   

Friends, won't you comment, please? Love to know what you're thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don't find the word "comments" in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   

NAPOWRIMO / PAD 2015 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Day 29 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015

Day Twenty-Nine. Looking online for something to say about the number 29, I found these interesting facts: According to USA Today, 29% of married couples share a toothbrush. It would take 29 million years for a car traveling 100 miles per hour to reach the nearest star. And April 29 — today — is International Dance Day!

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt: "write a poem in the form of a review. You can review either animate or inanimate things, real places or imaginary places. You can write in the style of an online review (think Yelp) or something more formal that you might find in a newspaper or magazine. (I imagine that bad reviews of past boyfriends/girlfriends might be an easy way to get into this prompt, though really, you can 'review' anything in your poem, from summer reading lists for third graders to the idea of the fourth dimension)."

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt: "write a what nobody knows poem. It’s easy to write a poem about what everybody already knows, though it may be difficult to write an interesting poem about such things. Still, use today’s prompt to explore things people may not know — secret stories, locations, and so on."

Since Kathy and I live 1000 miles apart, I occasionally take a selfie to show her my look for the day. This afternoon's selfie was from the side and in it I found something to write about.
I hope I've been successful today in combining the "official" prompts for a review and the topic what nobody knows.

My Father Reviews My Hair Style

                        —a hay(na)ku sonnet

nobody knows
looking straight on

I’ve got
a baby ponytail

bantam swashbuckle
serpentine of black,

how iconoclastic —
rebellious! — I am.

Papa, long dead,
shakes his head.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Here's Alan's segue into his poem. "Today, I attempt to blend the Thorson prompt of a review with the Brewer prompt of what nobody knows. I spend a great deal of time writing about literature, of course, but I also write about music — I co-edited with Roxanne Harde a collection of essays about country music, Walking the Line: Country Music Lyricists and American Culture — so I was at one time drawing some distinctions between AM pop and contemporary music. I sort of put myself to the challenge of getting copies of some of the most sickening pop of the era, and I discovered this album on one of the online retailers. The problem was that it was listed by the wrong title. If you get a copy of the CD, the title on the spine is ’70s Party Classics, but the title on the cover is ’70s Party Classics with the word Killers written over the last word of the title. That made finding the album a bit more complicated."

’70s Party Classics

You may not realize it, but the spine
on this CD is full of lies — it’s meant
to drive adults away though treacly hits
they might remember from the seventies,
when AM pop began to eat itself.
I swear a deli down in Knoxville played
this disc to drive its customers to gulp
food down and clear the seats for turnaround.
I will not mention songs — this festered nest
of earworms almost breaks a man like me,
who built his tolerance bits at a time,
but I will name the culprits: Dawn, Clint Holmes,
Bo Donaldson, Dan Hill, and Paper Lace.
If Terry Jacks were on this disc,
the ATF would confiscate it, but
Paul Anka’s here, the Captain & Tennille, and Rupert Holmes
(no relative to Clint that I can tell),
Sammy Davis, Jr., Morris Albert,
the Starland Vocal Band, a dirty joke
sung straight by someone named MacGregor — how
I wound up with this disc I cannot say.
I’m shamed to see my surname shared
with two offenders on this ugly thing.

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Alan tells us, "As indicated in the poem, the worst of the '70s earworms, 'Seasons in the Sun,' is not on the CD, but this one disc is a useful tool to create a noxious pop mix to clear rooms, void appetites, and extinguish all romance in any group. It's the saltpeter of albums, I assure you. If you are so unfortunate as to have a frat house next door to you, get some amps, some mighty speakers, and let loose."

Alan also says, "There's a trick in this poem. I made the two worst songs not fit in the rest — the line that mentions Sammy Davis, Jr., and Morris Albert is trochaic instead of iambic."

If you're not familiar with poetic meter, what Alan means is this: the poem is made up mainly of iambs (dah-DUM). So the preceding line — "no relative to Clint that I can tell" — has an iambic pattern (i.e., made up of iambs): "no REL- | a-TIVE | to CLINT | that I | can TELL" . This iambic pattern is predominantly used throughout the poem.

But the line about the worst songs and singers on the CD — "Sammy Davis, Jr., Morris Albert" — uses not iambs but rather trochees (DUM-dah): SAM-my | DAV-is | JUN-ior | MOR-ris | AL-bert | (a trochaic pattern). So essentially that line is upside-down from the rest, if you will, calling attention to itself by its opposite rhythm, and thus calling attention to the worst singers. Clever, huh?

Thanks so much, Alan. Very entertaining poem, especially that bit of metric magic. Friends, here's the cover of this invaluable CD, showing the title "full of lies."
Hang on to that one, Alan. If it becomes a collector's item, you could retire in comfort! At present, though, you can buy it from Amazon for $1.46.

Incidentally, Alan, one of the unforgettable earworms on this CD, "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)," by your "cousin" Rupert Holmes, hit number 1 in the 1979 Billboard Hot 100. Bet he made a pretty penny with that song and still gets royalties every time it's played on the radio. Maybe Rupert's the one retiring in comfort.

Friends, won't you comment, please? Love to know what you're thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don't find the word "comments" in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   

NAPOWRIMO / PAD 2015 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Day 28 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015

Day Twenty-Eight. At the end of this day, exactly four weeks — 7 x 4 — of National Poetry Month will have passed. And two days left in which to write poems for NaPoWriMo or PAD.

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt: "write a poem about bridges. A bridge is a powerful metaphor, and when you start looking for bridges in poems, you find them everywhere. Your poem could be about a real bridge or an imaginary or ideal bridge. It could be one you cross every day, or one that simply seems to stand for something larger — for the idea of connection or distance, for the idea of movement and travel and new horizons."

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt: the last "Two for Tuesday" Poem-a-Day prompt till next year: "(1) Write a matter poem" and/or "(2) Write an anti-matter poem."

Probably no surprise I'm attempting to meld all three prompts: bridge, matter, anti-matter.

                          — for Kathleen Ann Lawrence

Kathy, you are my bridge between what matters
and what doesn't matter. My very own
Golden Gate Bridge. What matters: flesh and bone.
What doesn’t . . . well, wait. Everything matters.
Spring blossoms. Alices and Mad Hatters.
Octopi. A fallen ice cream cone.
The child crying from dropping that ice cream cone.
Flags of countries, brand new or in tatters.

Kathy, you are my bridge . . . let me start over.
You connect me to the finest version
of myself. You are my moonbow, my sun
dogs. You are the cloud of quicksilver shooting stars.
You are the rhyme with orange. Lawrence. See?
You are the whole poem. A to Z. Infinity.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Friends, I've always kinda thought it was silly of poets to title a poem "Poem" but I find myself in that very situation. And it's not silly — it's frustrating. Any help you can provide with this quandary I'd appreciate very much.

P O E M   R E M O V E D

while being submitted for publication.


Please come back later. The poem may
return at some time in the future.

Thank you!


Great job with the blank verse, Alan. Also I love the specifics of the fish fry, especially the "grease [that] traces shiny spots / where we have touched the tablecloth to wipe / our hands just clean enough." Well-lived, well-observed details.
Friends, won't you comment, please? Love to know what you're thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don't find the word "comments" in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   

NAPOWRIMO / PAD 2015 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

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