Monday, March 28, 2011


by Zinta Aistars

The former Nazareth College
 Sunny Sunday morning, and I’m excited to meet Sister Betsy at the former Nazareth College to discuss my art show—on schedule for February 1 through March 31, 2012, at Transformations Spirituality Center, 3427 Gull Road, Kalamazoo, Michigan. The center contains within its parameters a small art gallery, and I am eager to see it as well as the rest of what remains of the college.

Today, the Sisters of Saint Joseph are still there, as are various offices for human services, Borgess Hospital facilities, a Head Start program, senior housing, an outreach center, and a spiritual retreat.

Driving across town toward Nazareth, my mind flashes back to many, many years ago. I have quite some history at Nazareth. I drive past it frequently when I travel from one side of town to the other, whenever I drop by to visit my parents. The long stone fence surrounding the campus, the drive in the main gate, lined by ancient pine trees, and the white marble statue of Christ, palms upraised in welcome, at its very end. Admittedly, over so many years, I’d developed a certain blindness to it. Familiarity breeds blindness …

Or perhaps there was something more to it. Looking back on those memories, at some point, may have been painful, more easily avoided. Then again, at least now, as I cross town to visit the old campus—the college closed in 1992 for lack of funding, but the buildings all found new purpose—I realize enough time has gone by that the memories flowing over me are more sweet than bitter.

I share them both with Sister Betsy after I find her in the chapel, still running her fingers over the chapel piano, rehearsing Easter hymns, as another Sister leads me in to find her. She greets me with a warm, bright smile, and we walk slowly through the winding corridors of the building, talking.

My grandfather, my mother’s father, I tell her, once worked here. A refugee from Latvia in World War II, with very limited skills in the English language, like so many other Latvian refugees, nothing mattered on this new shore of education or work experience on the other side of the ocean. If one was here with a green card and just learning the language and ways of America, work was all menial. And so my grandfather found work as a security guard in the college boiler room. He worked the graveyard shift, night after night watching over the great machines, making sure they all worked properly. I could remember visiting him there once as a little girl, awed by the immense and loud machinery, thinking this must be the heart of the college, thumping so greatly in its unstoppable rhythm.

Entrance to the art gallery
 “He would often bring home boxes of old books the nuns had discarded, or the library no longer needed,” I told Sister Betsy. “Old textbooks, yellowed history books, whatever books there were, he picked up and brought home. He had a great old desk, and he would sit there for hours on end, paging through the books, reading the dense text, learning the language but also the content, penciling notes in the margins.”

“Perhaps we crossed paths here then,” she mused. “I was here in 1964 already. But the young nuns weren’t allowed to talk much with others. Silence was encouraged.”

“And he was probably equally silent,” I smiled. “In his own contemplation of this new world, so far from home.”

We were both silent for a while, walking the corridors, the stone walls, the high arched ceilings, the great windows to the green courtyard of yet bare-limbed trees outside, in their own silence, holding secrets and unspoken memories.

“I miss him,” I said.


And then we had arrived at the section of the building called Transformations Spirituality Center. It was more a long corridor than a separate room, but I immediately found it appealing. The outside wall was all windows, sun streaming in, bathing the opposite wall, hung with paintings, in a golden glow.

In just a few days, my father’s paintings would be hanging here. His work will be on exhibit April 1 to May 31. Twenty of his watercolors and oil paintings will be here. Indeed, that was how Sister Betsy and I had connected. I often made arrangements for my father’s art exhibits, and since she had contacted my father now nearly a year ago to show his work here, I had taken over electronic communications, sending her jpgs and links associated with my father’s artwork.

Sister Betsy had done some online wandering and click, and click, had found her way to some of my sites, my blog and website. She’d found a few photos of my painted stones, and she had read some of my blog. When she contacted me to ask if I’d like to show my work at the gallery, I blinked, I blinked again, and then double checked to be sure she had not confused my father’s work with mine. She hadn’t.

I stood in the gallery hallway, studying the work on show by the current artist. No matter how many times I visited how many galleries in this city, I would always find a new local artist. It was what I loved most about living here.

Sister Betsy led me on to show me the rooms used for retreats and gatherings. There was a peacefulness here, a calm quiet, that drew me in—I hoped the tour would go on and on.

“And then,” I went on with my recollections, “my romance with the father of my children began here at Nazareth College, too.”

We were both in the wedding party, bridesmaid and groomsman. The bride was from Kalamazoo, the groom was from New York City. As were we. Standing at the altar to either side, our eyes wandered to each other. By the time we’d made it to the reception ballroom at Nazareth College, he was at my side and didn’t leave it for the rest of the evening.

Once Sister Betsy and I had parted, I wandered the campus on my own. There, I stopped between two buildings, a wide grassy area between them, dipping ever, ever so slightly in the middle, even now. There, we had walked outside in the starry evening, he in his tux, me in my pink chiffon, and suddenly, in a moment of exuberation, he had literally swept me off my feet, and went running across the grass with me in his arms.

I couldn’t stop laughing. Especially when he tripped where the ground dipped, and the two of us went rolling in the grass. My pink chiffon had green streaks, grass stains, all down my right side. His tux was badly mussed. We lay in the cool grass in fits of laughter. A couple years later, it was our turn to stand at the altar.

Our paths had diverted some 15 years beyond that moment in the grass, but two glorious children were born of that union, and I would never regret it.

How very young I’d been then …

How long ago …

How interesting, to come back here now. After all this time, as if in full circle, to plan an art show of my work, broadsides and painted stones, a combination of my two artistic loves. Would my grandfather from some great beyond see? Would the engines in the boiler room thump a little louder then? And that ancient pine, so tall, so broad, its great branches hanging heavy like green curtains along that long walk, remember that youthful joy of first love blossoming, when the young man from New York City pressed that young girl from Kalamazoo against its trunk to steal a kiss?

I would paint that pine tree. One of the broadsides to go on exhibit … yes, I saw it rise in my imagination, the colors, the lines, the droop of those heavy branches … and find the right words to measure the lifelong and indelible mark those two men had left upon my life. My grandfather and my children's father ... I had returned here now transformed because of both of them.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mouse in the House

Artwork by Zinta Aistars

But mouse -
it's my house!
And I don't wish to share.

Skittering your scattering,
quickening your quivering,
the endless nibbling,
the constant nabbing,
the skipping and the scratching.

Of mice, of men,
no breadcrumbs left.
No cheese.

Ach, the cuteness.

Fine. Stay.

~Zinta Aistars

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wine, Veggies and Poetry

by Zinta Aistars

A poet who gardens for both poetry and organic vegetableswhat could be finer? Sharing dinner and a glass of wine with a poet who gardens for both poetry and vegetables, finer still. Even better? Toss in an adrenalized discussion about the fast approaching authors' event, Putting on the Dog: The Smoking Poet Celebrates 5, on Thursday, April 28, at 7 p.m. at The Wine Loft.

Amy Newday from Friends of Poetry, Inc. (the event sponsor), is already waiting for me at the bar when I stroll into The Wine Loft, downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan. I almost miss her; the place is hopping. I expected calm and quiet on a Thursday evening, but the chatter all around is lively, waitresses are weaving through the crowd with platters of aromatic nibblings and glasses of wine, and the bartenders are working the long bar.

I do like this place ... I think that each and every time I walk in. If the online literary magazine I manage, The Smoking Poet, were an actual cigar lounge, this is very nearly what it would look like. I founded TSP five years ago, and it was the print version of the imaginary lounge in my mind: dimly lit, elegant interior, long wooden bar, soft chocolate-colored couches and chairs gathered around low tables, sheer curtains threaded with gold hanging from the ceiling to separate spaces for intimate conversation. An extensive wine menu doesn't leave out aged scotch or craft brews, and jazzy music is playing softly in the background. All that's missing are the cigars ... this is a smoke-free place ... but Winston's cigar lounge is just across the street for those who can't resist a bit of fire.

Amy and I move to the velvety brown couches and lean in to toss around our marketing ideas and plans for the upcoming event. Things are coming along nicely. The Wine Loft has designed a very kewl poster that will be distributed to businesses around town, to Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College.

There he is, our charming mascot, the cigar-chomping pup wearing a red bow tie and cap. A great date any night. A reporter from the Kalamazoo Gazette will be writing our story, a radio show is on schedule at WKZO's Lori Moore Show for April, which is National Poetry Month. Dean Hauck, owner of Michigan News Agency, has us on her schedule to put out a book table and sell participating authors' books.

In fact, Amy and I admit to each other with a flush of anticipationwe're a tad worried about space. Not enough of it. With a lineup of 14 great writers, some traveling cross-state to be among us, and concluding with an open mic, gee, we could be moving the walls out a few feet wider and longer. Good problem to have.

Which one of us will do introductions? In what order shall we read? Where should we stand the musicians? How about someone to record a video of the whole evening?

We bubble and simmer with ideas. Not so much so that we don't have time to eat. The Wine Loft has broadened their menu to include a selection of dinners, and Amy tries the Filet Mignon salad, and I, the Margarita Pizza, with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil, olive oil and garlic on flat bread. For dessert, we share a plate of chocolate-dipped strawberries.

Conversation irresistibly turns to food. Spring is here, at least on the calendar if not quite yet reflected in warmer temperatures. Amy talks about her new business: an organic garden in Shelbyville, named Harvest of Joy Farm, which is just this summer beginning to sell just a few first CSAs, or community supported agriculture shares. She and friend Diane Glenn drew up their business plan last summer and are now ready to dig and seed and grow and share. Amy has for some time now been my source of organic wisdom, and it suddenly hits me ... I had considered getting a CSA this season, put it off due to a house sitting stint out of town, now canceled, so here I was, once again on the market for a CSA.

"Hey! I just realized I could still do a CSA this summer ... any shares left?"

Amy smiled like sunshine, and I didn't let her smile fade before I had my checkbook out and was writing a check for my share. While I despise general shopping, avoid malls like the plague, I can't resist book stores and farmers' markets. I have an addiction for both, and it can cost. Good thing Amy's poetry book was still in manuscript, or I would have bought a wheelbarrow full of copies.

Amy in her garden
I'm giddy with anticipation as I listen to Amy talk about the seeds that are going into the earth, to become a large part of my meals this spring, summer and fall. I'm planning on my own small garden, too, a raised bed in the backyard, so my visits to the grocery store could be few and far between, for dairy and breads and grains, but drives to Patch 'n Pasture, another small organic farm, supplying my poultry needs.

Combined passions. Amy and I talk long about hers, poetry and gardening, and mine, creative writing and painting, with my recent change in creative direction, writing and painting broadsides. It's good to be two-timers. Seemingly different pursuits, but somehow it all comes together, comes full circle. We are nourishing body and spirit, tapping both sides of the brain. How to make a business out of our bliss, how to market what we do best, how to share it with others of similar interests, how to steer our lives ever along the lines of Joseph Campbell's advice: "Follow your bliss."

As we plan Putting on the Dog: TSP Celebrates 5, it feels more and more like a bigger celebration than just five years of a literary journal. It is a celebration of a more poetic slant to life. It is a celebration of authenticity in our work. It is the exploration of finding creative freedom, expression that is uniquely our own. It is a bringing together of the healthy whole: feeding body, mind, spirit.

Definitely something delicious to chew on.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Toward Simplicity and Community

by Zinta Aistars

How often we explore the beyond and miss what is in our own backyard ... I was guilty of it, too. On this pleasant, blue-skyed Saturday, I headed out on a road trip to the very middle of Michigan, that is, the middle of the lower peninsula, known as the "mitten."

Smaller and ever smaller, two-lane roads led me into country. Towns were few and further apart, some flanked by trailer parks and manufactured homes in communities. Income appeared to dip, but then, I thought, so what? If there is one hard lesson some of us have learned in the economic crisis (or at least one hopes we have), it is that the race for more and more income isn't all it's been made out to be. Life is about more than big bucks, more than a mad rat race, more than spending long hours at the office, coming in early and leaving late. Are we working to live? Or are we living to work? The latter seems something akin to slavery ... or a form of addiction, or even an expression of inner turmoil or emptiness. As Henry David Thoreau pointed out, most men lead lives of quiet desperation.

Weaving through the countryside, my speed diminishes without my even being conscious of it. A horizon unmarked by cement buildings soothes the spirit and calms the hurried pace of the work week right out of me. I sense myself taking a deep breath and letting it out with a sigh, and my muscles relax.

I have plenty of big city in me. Born in Chicago, I have spent much of my childhood there, and now frequently visit family in and just outside of the "Windy City." I spent a decade in Cincinnati, and I married a man born in the Bronx and raised in Queens ... he was New York City through and through. Then there were years in a high rise just outside of Cleveland ... so the list goes on and on. Having traveled to 49 of our 50 states, I have probably spent some time in most every major city in the country.

And I like most of those cities. I am still drawn to Chicago. New York City is a world unto itself and like no other. San Francisco is a treat. For a moment in time, I considered moving to Seattle. And Denver.

My recent return trip to my ethnic roots in Latvia had me walking the ancient cobblestones of Riga, the capitol city and place where my mother was born and raised, and that echo called to me in so deep a way that my very DNA vibrated. It's population is around one million souls.

Yet there is nothing like the moment I sink my fingers into rich earth, and stand firm on country ground. While the great cities can give me a shot of temporary adrenalin, it is small town life that calms me. Country life calls me home. The older I get, the more clear that call.

Driving into middle Michigan, I contemplate the peacefulness around me. When I see people walking through the towns, they all seem to move at an easier pace. Weekend, perhaps. But I wonder about what I have read about places that rate higher in happiness quotients (and the United States ranks relatively low in those surveys and studies, at a somber 23rd place worldwide).

According to Sherry Ackerman in her book, The Good Life: How to Create a Sustainable and Fulfilling Lifestyle (Hermitage House, 2010), "A report recently released by the New Economics Foundation ... looked at 143 countries, ranked the United States 114th in terms of cultural contentment and personal happiness, due to its hefty mass consumption and massive ecological footprint. According to the report, the United States was happier - and greener - twenty years ago than it is today." (page 15)

What do they have that we are missing?

Overall, it seems, a slower pace of living. Less in terms of personal monetary value, in some cases, but a higher rate of satisfaction in living. Capitalism does all right in terms of producing happiness, but only when it is paired with strong social services and, yes, health care for all. Smaller is better. Community is key.

When I pull over to walk through downtown Stanton, or the main street of Ionia, or cross the main street of tiny Lowell, I wonder if it isn't the sense of community that draws me to these small towns, and that is missing from bigger cities. When I think of why it is that I am so drawn to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and to the Keweenaw in particular, surely the physical beauty of the surroundings are a large part of that. For all my travels, Keweenaw is still one of the most beautiful places I've ever called home. I hope to return someday, and this time, stay. I aim for a life of solitude to pursue my art, but a more intimate connection when I on occasion emerge from the wood into that small town just outside.

It isn't just the beauty of mountains and water and rocky shores and green forest. It is also a quiet beauty in the people who live there. After all, there are many beautiful places right where I am now that I could buy a home and call it permanent. No, it's something more. A sense of community. I do feel it in Kalamazoo, where I live now, and so have put down roots, but the folk far up north have a sense of life that appeals to me. Smaller, I sense, at least for me, is better.

I stroll down Main Street in Ionia and my thoughts wander to travel stories my daughter told me when she visited Vietnam a few years ago. She spoke of community, of families living close together, parents and adult children, uncles and aunts, cousins far removed in blood but not in distance. Small children wandered from house to house, at home in all of them, always finding an open lap and a warm hug. One knew oneself supported.

Depression? It seems to almost be a uniquely American concept. We are keen on popping pills to feel better, sitting on therapists' couches, and search longingly for meaning in life. Still, we rank only 23rd in happiness, or a little improved 17th by other measures. How did previous generations do without?

Perhaps they didn't do without. We are the ones who are doing without. Neighbors knew neighbors, communities held their members up, families were forever, and spiritual leaders were lifelong advisors.

Never so connected as we are now, it seems, but never so isolated. We tweet and click and friend and unfriend at a moment's notice, yet true and intimate communication, face to face, is hard to find.

There are few souls on the streets of these small towns. I find more when I wander into a local indoor farmers' market. I stroll the aisles, reading labels, turning produce in my hands, drawn to local fare, choosing a few items and tossing them into my cart. Winter greens grown in this county ... honey from local hives ... a bag of beans grown in another small Michigan town a few miles down the pike.

It's possible, I think, that I may be seeing these small towns through rosy-tinted glasses. Or longing for a long ago, mythologically more golden day. But there is something to what I have learned throughout my own travels, or gleaned from the travel stories of family and friends. We may be losing touch with something, something within ourselves, and some of us have gradually been returning to it even as the economic crisis has burst open to show its infection. I suspect that the local food movements have something to do with community and not just the food grown nearby. It is the exchange of produce from one person to another, a known face greeting a known face, and the conversation wrapped around the purchase.

Connected as never before, yet longing for connection. With others, just a few, and with ourselves, and we are sniffing the breeze for it. Hilary's slogan of "it takes a village" resonates. I don't doubt there are tears shed here, too, in these tiny communities. Plenty. Farm folk suffer, too, and plow their suffering into the soil, perhaps in that way sharing a certain bitter sweetness as nourishment with all the rest of us.

That may be it, then. Not so much an absence of tears, but spilling them together, sharing our sorrows as well as our celebrations. The happiest places are those places where grief is mellowed together, lessened in the process of doling it out among the many. Sadness shared is sadness halved.

Stepping into a local book store, I hear the chatter of a customer and clerk. They talk of nothing more important than the weather, the winter past and the spring to come. It's empty banter, yet rich with local expression, and the two smile wide at each other in concluding their conversation.

"You give my best to Patsy."

"You bet. And you, to Merrill."

Faces that come with names, and names that are attached to familiar faces. There is medicine in that.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japan: I See You

by Zinta Aistars

"A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed." ~Henrik Ibsen

Every evening I watch the news, and every evening, I end up in tears. I can hardly bear to watch these images of destruction and devastation in Japan, yet feel compelled to do so, if only to bear witness, to not turn away from the suffering of others.

What good do my tears do? Do they matter to the elderly Japanese man who struggles to maintain his composure as he holds up a photo of his two lost grandsons to the television camera? Do they matter to the Japanese woman, infant held tight in her arms, who has lost her husband, her home to the roiling ocean? Do they matter to the now homeless Japanese widow who has lost her life as she knows it, family, friends, gone into the open chasm of a belching earth? Do they matter to the wide-eyed child, suddenly orphaned?

Someone thousands of miles away, someone they will never know, weeps for them all. My tears give them nothing. Restore nothing. Bring no one back from a watery grave.

Yet I recall many years ago (not many enough) working on an article for a magazine about the rape-death camps in Kosovo. I wrote about thousands of women held by force in camps to be impregnated by the enemy to produce children for them, reproduce until they died, even as genocide raged around them. The more I researched, the sicker I felt inside. How did I not know this was going on? How did I not see? Not until I was given a story assignment by an editor …

Every evening as I prepared dinner, the television chattered daily news, background noise, images flashing across the screen that were a blur of light and color in my peripheral vision. It was all there. Human faces with eyes gone empty. The ravages of a hundred wars. Children sliced into pieces by machetes in Rwanda by their own neighbors. Starving mothers in Ethiopia holding babies with bellies swollen by hunger, too defeated to brush away the flies from their faces. A never ending parade of misery and injustice.

One country after another. One terrorist act after another. Bombs, disease, murders, torture, a world crazed with suffering … as I stirred my broth and tasted it. A pinch more garlic salt?

As I worked on that article, the lesson sunk in. It sunk in deep. This could have been me. This could have been my son, my daughter, my sister, my mother, my father, my friend. My son’s limbs amputated and bleeding living blood. My daughter’s body ravaged by thirty men in one day. My father sitting stooped on a cot in a shelter, homeless at 83. While the world stirred its soup and added a pinch of garlic salt.

I knew a moment of defeat. More than one moment that I wanted to run screaming to the woods, enfold myself in silence, heave my television and my radio and all the newspapers and magazines on a trash heap and declare myself deaf, mute, blind. See no evil, hear no evil, live in a cocoon.


If nothing else, I could bear witness.

From my warm and currently secure home, I could hear these stories, see these images, cry with my fellow woman and man and child across the globe. And there were, after all, a thousand things I could do along with that bearing of witness. Donate some dollars, volunteer for some effort, or even just to write my own articles and spread the word so that others might bear witness, too.

I see you.

I acknowledge you. That you, too, are a living person with love in your heart and hope for a future and a dream to pursue. I am like you, and you are like me, even as we are each and every one of us unique, precious, irreplaceable.

I can put down my wooden spoon, turn the heat down on the stove for a moment, let the stew simmer, and sit down to watch, hear, allow those images from such a great distance to enter my living room and enter my heart.

I can cry.

I can vow to keep my heart soft, and in its softness to find its source of strength. Because before any of us take action, we must hear the stories so that we may feel for our fellow human being. In these stories, we gain understanding, and in understanding, we begin to feel compassion, and from our compassion is birthed an action. Wiping our eyes dry again, we move to make this, each in our own small way, a better world.

American Red Cross – Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Relief

Habitat for Humanity – Disaster Response for Japan

Doctors Without Borders Disaster Relief

UNICEF for Japanese children

How to help pets in Japan

and many others. Please be sure to verify the charity before giving.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


 by Zinta Aistars

There you lie in the cool shadows, long velvet ears folded back—so very still, so very still.

At peace with the rumblings of the Earth.
At peace with the ravenous Wolves.
At peace with the durable Tortoise.
At peace with the terrors of Man.
At peace with the enticements of Clover.
At peace with the dangling of Carrots.

In stillness, sunlight dapples warm across the silken curve of your back.

In stillness, you hold within you—Earth, Wolf, Tortoise, Man, Clover, Carrot.

In stillness, only your tender nose twitches, attentive to All, missing Nothing.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Announcing: The Smoking Poet Spring 2011 Issue

“A fine cigar and good literature―two of life’s most enduring pleasures.”

Integration by Holly Friesen

When those little green knuckles start pushing through the rich soil, gradually unfolding, stretching, growing into the lush greenery of spring—one can’t help but think about beginnings. This spring, I think about the beginnings of The Smoking Poet, five years past.

Back then, I had little concept of where I was going with this. I just knew I wanted to work with good writing and sharp writers. I wanted to do it in a classy and meditative atmosphere, something like a cigar lounge, where one entered a dusky place to relax, enjoy an hour or so of indulgent pleasure. I could see fine art on the walls. I could hear a jazz quartet playing in the corner. I could imagine the poet leaning against the polished wood of the bar and reading a poem.

Five years later, I can look back on how far we’ve come, and I feel proud. Proud for all of us. We are—editors, writers, readers who want to share our hearts’ passion with others. We are enthralled with the power of language. We are mesmerized by the beauty of art, whether our tool of the trade is a pen, a pencil, a keyboard, a paintbrush, a camera, or a musical instrument.

On April 28, in the comfortable and dusky ambiance of The Wine Loft in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a group of us are coming together to celebrate five years of The Smoking Poet. Putting on the Dog: TSP Celebrates 5 will be an evening of 15 authors who have appeared in our pages reading their work. Jazz will be playing in the corner. Poets will be leaning against the polished wood of the bar, poems in hand. Dean Hauck of Michigan News Agency will be selling books. And the community will gather around us to listen and join in our celebration. If you are in Kalamazoo on that evening, please join us.

The event is being sponsored by the Friends of Poetry, Inc., with the devotion of two women in particular that are exquisite poets … but by now, also my exquisite friends. I have been honored by their help in organizing this event and am ever grateful. Amy Newday and Lynn Pattison, you have honored me and all the good writers who have graced these pages. To Erica Vitkin of The Wine Loft—this toast is to you.

And so we go on, bringing you yet another remarkable issue. Among our feature writers and artists are Stuart Dybek, Judith Fein, Holly Friesen, Marjory Heath Wentworth. In our pages of fiction, nonfiction and poetry are great talents, some with a long history of publication, some yet fresh with spring dew. Our Kalamazoo & Beyond page showcases how rich in local talent is the southwest Michigan region. Don’t miss our ever-smoky Cigar Lounge and Andris’ Blue Note. Book reviews will be added throughout the season.

Drum roll: We are also announcing our fifth contest, our first to combine both prose and poetry. Please read the submission guidelines and send us your work—we would love to read your very, very best.

Please celebrate with us. Reader or writer, or both, you have played an immense role in creating the pages you see before you today. We offer you emotional and intellectual nourishment. We hope that it moves you to consider a gift to The Smoking Poet. Our hope is to publish an anthology before the end of 2011 to put between covers and on paper the best of our best. We will need your help in doing this.

Thank you, from the heart, to my best of the best editors—Joanie Kervran Stangeland, poetry editor; Mick Parsons, cigar editor; Andris Sīlis, music editor. Lost without you.

With a good word,

Zinta Aistars
TSP Editor-in-Chief

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Serving up burgers with inspiration on the side

In Southwest Michigan's Second Wave:

Daphney Dotson at Studio Grill - photo by Erik Holladay

Serving up burgers with inspiration on the side
Zinta Aistars Thursday, March 03, 2011

Craig and Daphney Dotson, owners of the popular new diner Studio Grill, encourage their customers to get creative -- in their food orders and in their artistry. Writer Zinta Aistars talks to the Dotsons about how a restaurant becomes a "vessel of inspiration."

When the order comes in, Craig Dotson can often tell which customer has just entered his restaurant, Studio Grill at 312 West Michigan Avenue in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Quickly, he serves it -- "Order up!" -- and Daphney Dotson, wife and co-owner, swirls into the kitchen and brings the meal out with a smile that spreads sunshine throughout the busy diner.

There's Mike's Omelet, there's the Moby Omelet, and then there's a burger so tasty the customer named Rusty said it hit his hunger nail on the head. Ever after, that burger became known as …

Read the article in Second Wave: Serving up burgers with inspiration on the side.