My road test with a Rodan + Fields facial care package in support of great literature!

The lovely Paula Cary of the review site, Poet Hound, has been a longtime supporter of indie authors and small presses, including Alternating Current. She reviews indie books and showcases open submissions and writing opportunities on her blog, and she recently started up a consulting business with Rodan + Fields selling skin-care products to pick up a little extra cash for her family in these tough economic times. Since she has always supported the small press, the small press is going to support her! I was recently granted a mini-facial for a test run, so here it goes!

First, the mini-facial care package. So cute!


In the morning, I was instructed to use the Rodan + Fields Enhancements Micro-Dermabrasion Paste. It's a thick exfoliant that you can rub into your face without water, and it polishes with a high-glide sugar-and-salt scrub that contains vitamins C and E. You can use this up to three times per week in place of a morning cleanser, and it enhances cell turnover and improves tone and texture with repeated use.

MY VERDICT: It really, really got down into my pores, which was nice. I have big pores, and they were nicely minimized at the end. It contains a base that becomes moisturizing as you rub, so it doesn't need a separate water lubricant. This allows for the paste exfoliants to get deep down into your pores because they don't get washed away or bogged down in any water. It is rather abrasive, if you are not used to it, so you do not need to scrub hard, and I wouldn't recommend it for sensitive skin (noted “not intended for sensitive skin" on the package). A very gentle rub, though, goes a long way, and it has a refreshing, but not overwhelming, citrusy smell. Smells clean without overdoing it. I gave myself the full recommended 60 seconds before rinsing, and it felt like a stimulating massage. After rinsing, it did brighten my face a little, made my pores appear smaller, and left a slight moisturizing-oil feel behind that enabled me not to have to use so much facial moisturizer (even oil-free moisturizer ends up clogging my pores), which means my pores stayed minimized longer and didn't get re-clogged. With extended use of this product, I could see my pores becoming nearly invisible, which would be awesome. I'd definitely use this again, and I'd be very interested to see the full effect on my pores over time. My skin is not super-sensitive, but it is a smidge sensitive, so I would only use the product once or twice a week for my skin, and probably only for 30 seconds to minimize any temporary redness that might come from overuse. Throughout the course of the day, my skin felt consistently clean, too, so that's an added bonus!


In the evening, I was instructed to wash and tone my face, then to apply Rodan + Fields Night Renewing Serum over my entire face (avoid the eyes) to improve skin texture and firmness and to reduce the appearance of wrinkles over time.  After that, I was instructed to apply Rodan + Fields Redefine Lip Serum to my lips to smooth the lip texture, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and increase moisturization.

MY VERDICT: The night serum is super soft and velvety, with a hint of vanilla scent, it seems. It goes on ridiculously smooth and doesn't make you pull at your skin when you rub it in. Just glides like silk. I have oily skin, so my skin has a tendency to get over-dry. After a few minutes of this serum soaking in, I could feel it firming my skin, and the process tightens the skin slightly. If you have over-dry or sensitive skin, you may need a moisturizer. I used just the tiniest dab of my regular moisturizer, and it all worked perfectly together. The lip serum at first feels like a sticky Vaseline, but it is very smooth after application. The lips could glide effortlessly and felt softer.


This morning, my skin still felt soft, and it actually appeared to be brighter. I don't sleep well, so I usually have dark circles under my eyes, but this morning, those circles seemed to be a little brighter without the aid of make-up, just more hydrated overall. The serum left my lips feeling plump and soft, and my pores still appeared smaller. All of these products have a nice feel to them, not oily and not overly harsh, so they are all worth a trial run. I'm definitely going to try more of the Enhancements Micro-Dermabrasion Paste because I'm super pleased with how it minimizes my pores, which is a big make-it-or-break-it hurdle for me when it comes to exfoliants.

If you are interested in trying any of these products, please contact the lovely, lovely Paula Cary. Her contact info is listed in the graphic at the top left so she won't get trolled and spammed, but you can find it easily enough there. Or you can always email me, and I'll be happy to connect you! Mention that you saw this post, and she might throw in something extra, like a sticker or a postcard or something fun!


Poems of Wales for your mwynhad

*UPDATE: I received an honorable mention in this contest! The honorable-mention poems are now listed on the Americymru website here, so in order to give the site more foot traffic, I am removing the poems from this blog. Please go to the Americymru website to read the poems.*

Hello, friends! I am entering these five poems into a contest, so I am sharing them here for all to see, as part of the contest rules. The 2013 West Coast Eisteddfod Online Poetry Competition is featured through a group called Americymru, an online social network for Americans of Welsh descent or with an interest in Welsh culture. While it is stated in the contest rules that the poems do not need to be about Wales, as a fellow traveler through the country, I thought it would be more enjoyable to write some thoughts about my time in Wales and the history that fascinates me about the country. It was fun to recount these memories, and I hope you will enjoy them, too.

The first four poems are about Wales, and the fifth poem is one I thought still fit nicely and would be of interest to like-minded individuals. It is a poem written in the Ae-freslighe Gaelic form, a form that dates back to the 5th century, where poetry was largely carved into trees and gravestones, thus the need for alliteration, repetition, and sound structure to make the poems easier to remember. The sound structure is so important that it even takes precedence over adherence to the rhyming and stanza-structure pattern, making this poem selection a fun one to read aloud. Gaelic poetry also relies heavily on the cyclical nature of its stanzas, with the ending words and syllables being the same as the beginning words and syllables. To make it even harder, each stanza is a quatrain of seven syllables. Lines one and three rhyme with a triple (three-syllable) rhyme and two and four use a double (two-syllable) rhyme:
x x x x (x x a)
x x x x x (x b)
x x x x (x x a)
x x x x x (x b)
Then, the entire poem ends with the beginning word or syllables that first began the poem. Please enjoy all five of these poems, and be sure to check out the 2013 West Coast Eisteddfod Online Poetry Competition!



Please help Alternating Current’s Kickstarter campaign

We have just launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign! It’s hard to ask other people to care about the projects that are close to your heart, but I’m asking you, please, to take a moment to care. The arts are struggling in this downturned economy, and we need your help in raising enough funds to print our upcoming journals! This endeavor supports authors and artists and my press company, Alternating Current, as we struggle to keep the arts and the written word alive. Thank you so kindly for donating all that you are able.



A Quiet Learning Curve | Aleathia Drehmer & Dan Provost

56 pages
5 ¼” x 8 ¼” perfect-bound trade paperback
ISBN: 978-1-59948-269-9
First Edition
Main Street Rag Publishing Company
Rank Stranger Press
Mount Olive, NC, USA
Available here
$10, plus shipping

This book is split into two sections, one for Aleathia Drehmer and one for Dan Provost. They don't have poems written together here, they are just sharing a cover and binding. So let's tackle Ms. Drehmer first.

Drehmer covers the world of love and loss, domestic life and hardships, the tragedy of divorce in the act of dividing belongings

I fold the laundry
in between loads of dishes
as you make lists in the air
ticking off items collected over the years.

You place them in neat piles,
short and haphazard,
realizing most everything
is mine by default.

[ ... ]

You notice the clock given to us
at our wedding and how it stopped
telling proper time and mention
the Swedish Love Knot
that unraveled years ago.

[ ... ] (from “Whispers Something about Irony”),


[ ... ]
The door clicks open and my progeny

eases in to deliver rapid fire cartoon fantasies
about the time she was a cat trainer
living in the circus and didn't I remember that?
Or was I just too old to imagine it?  (from “Sparking the Fire”),

growing older (yet wiser)

[ ... ]

We are the pain
creeping into joints without remorse,
   the pulling of muscles flexed
beyond intension, the subtle tightening
a warning to us all.

[ ... ] (from “Hollow”),

and a recurring theme of love, loss, departure, and human qualities in relation to science and math

[ ... ]

We dance back and forth
until you and I are nothing
more than a closed system
that finds the tiny existence
of our relationship isolated
and unchanged — a perpetual

Never falling backward,
never moving forward. (from “(critical) mass”).

Drehmer writes on reflections of love found and lost, emptiness felt with an elephant's weight, and the childish laughter that fills otherwise quiet spaces. And she writes of these things with intelligence, refreshing personal openness, and the experience of someone who's been there.

Dan Provost, meanwhile, is nearly the opposite. He is not quiet and does not reside in his pain or place quietly. Yet, he still speaks of tragedies and isolation with personal experience. He ventures into less-domestic arenas with his blunt discussions of politics, gun ownership/violence, anarchy, war, death

Wrong Charles,
Man is never ready for ...
Simple things might send him to the madhouse,
But you can leave eventually,
[ ... ]
Death, there is no turning back ...
[ ... ] (from “Wrong Charlie”),

even Indian affairs

[ ... ]

It only became visible when scholars, who had nothing
else to put on their Minority Literature syllabus,
decided to put Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee on the
mandatory reading list. (from “Half-Breeds and Scholars”).

Provost is not as approachable as Drehmer, his words harsher and looser, more violent and free-flowing, jarring, abrupt, abrasive. Where Drehmer's words quietly reflect on the living, Provost's unapologetically proclaim the dying. Through it all, there is a need to fit in, to be remembered, to lay rest to the pain, the weariness, the wandering ... to be forgiven by the self, as well as by others. His emotions are complex and sporadic, his words are curt, and his tone is unabashedly in-your-face. Oh yeah, and of course, there's a healthy jolt of that New England that I so distinctly remember:

She told me that “If I didn't
know you personally, I would
never approach you ... you're very blue
collar and always have a sneer on your face.”

Well, baby, I wear that persona like
a battle scar ... never wanting to
wear my poetic side on my sleeve.

[ ... ] (from “Blue Collar, White Heat”).

•This book was sent to me from Aleathia Drehmer; I have corresponded with both authors and have met Dan Provost briefly in person.•



Teaching Metaphors | Nathan Graziano

Poetry, brief prose
76 pages
5” x 8” perfect-bound trade paperback
ISBN: 978-0-9769857-9-2
First Edition
Buffalo, NY, USA
Available here and on Amazon

Mr. Graziano is the teacher you want teaching your kids. He's smart, witty, and aware of what's going on in the public school system today. What he's not is a

[...] glorified babysitter, zookeeper, or sick sexual predator [...] (from the introduction),

and these pages exist to debunk the myth that public-school teachers aren't interesting, professional, hard-working, intelligent, important, or necessary individuals.

As the daughter of several generations of public-school teachers, I can tell you that they are, indeed, interesting and necessary individuals. My poor mother spent over thirty years teaching in an underprivileged, underfunded, middle school/high school conglomerate, where she taught sixth-through-twelfth graders in the same classes. You can't tell me that what she did on a daily basis was anything less than astounding; to find something of interest and understanding equally between a sixth grader and a twelfth grader on the same subject in the same class is nothing short of a miracle. But even if I hadn't had this background of experience going into this book, these words would still have touched me.

The beautiful paperback book (Everything Sunnyoutside creates looks ungodly perfect.) is split into two categories — The Student Body and The Faculty — that encompass the stereotypes of the two, as Graziano's introduction says, for good or bad:

[ ... ] because [the sterotypes] speak to a human need to categorize[.] [ ... ] [T]he labels slapped on us often reveal some core truths about ourselves, both as individuals and as a society.  [ ... ]

The truths you'll find here will be at once familiar and startling. You'll remember the hallways of your yesterdays vividly, but you'll also see them in a whole new light and through a whole new perspective, a different set of eyes. Graziano will make you remember it all new, unlearn it, then relearn it again, all differently. The words are not just caricatures or stereotypes of people he's met or taught along the way, but studies of people as a whole, of what makes us human as we grow and learn and interact, what makes us do the things we do, and what that is going to inspire in us in the future. A reader can almost see the way these figures on these pages will become over time, how they will stretch into each one of us, how these personalities become ours, become we as grown adults. This is a portrait of the American school as people, not as a thing — as the living soul behind it that makes up its body and churns out those living spawns that become we.

The book starts right out with this beautiful thing that shows us so perfectly the two sides of our narrator:

[ ... ]
   In your more serious moods, you stand outside your classroom in your shirt and tie and fail to see yourself.
   Other times, you can see your own face through the steam, wearing that dizzy gaze that has always belonged to you.

We learn our narrator so completely in these pages. He teaches us ourselves, and he teaches us him. We learn to trust him, to want to learn from him, to let him be our guide down these hallways as he introduces us to ghosts and necessity. He's wary and cautious, and he's careful and accurate, a quiet observer who then keenly interacts like a stranger next to you, joining into your overheard conversation and leaving you with a new piece of knowledge. He doesn't offer you solutions or answers — sometimes, he even hands you more questions — but he offers you a glimpse of something new and the spirits who inhabit that something new. He offers you something broken, but doesn't plead with you to fix it, only to understand it.

And that's the tour we take through the broken public school system, with a very able navigator at our helm. But not just through the school, also outside the school, in the real world, where we see these teachers and students as humans or as animals and what this system, this life, this world has made of them:

[ ... ]

embarrassed because this former student sees me
outside of the classroom without the natty necktie
that frames me in a portrait of adult asexuality,

embarrassed because I see him standing alone
in the winter mist with his baseball hat crooked
while his mother's frail hand clings to a phone.  (from “At a Red Light in the Winter Mist”).

It's in this education we learn our animalistic behavior, how we exist on the inside and how different that is from the outside, how we carry ourselves, then bury ourselves. And underneath and over the top of all of this, is the running knowledge that this narrator, this teacher, is a figure who cares. Compassion threads through his words. He views brokenhearted students with unjudging empathy, and the proud with a quiet understanding of the downfall to come, and yet, like a rock, he stands there for all of them equally, unwavering in the knowledge that he cannot require them to learn anything, he can only hope to teach it. Sometimes he's a spectator, doing nothing; sometimes the guardian. In this he is both teacher and student, and his students are also both. So unbelievably human and flawed.

Throughout The Student Body, we meet the same characters again and again — Yesterday's Princess, The Slick-Talking Senior, The Man-Boys — and we watch their slow progression or deterioration with new eyes. When we get to The Faculty, we get a new cast of repeating characters — Head Case, The Ex-Hippie, The Stress Bomb — and where The Student Body section shimmered, The Faculty section fair glows in fluorescence. Graziano is no longer the observer, but the player. We see his element, the dysfunction, the smooth machine, the chaos, the serenity. From this second section, comes my favorite poem, “The Man Who Whistles at the Copy Machine” (in part):

I see him like the naked eye sees comets:
on rare occasions. It's always at the copy machine.
He teaches in a classroom eons from the English wing,
in the black hole known as the industrial arts.
Today he's pirating a how-to leaflet on drywall,
an inch-thick packet that reads like Sanskrit to me.

I'm waiting, fidgety, with a W. C. Williams poem
dog-eared in a fat anthology, a piece
I neglected to photocopy before class.

The Industrial Arts Teacher [ ... ]
stands hunched [ ... ]
[ ... ] whistling a song
I recognize [ ... ].
He whistles in perfect pitch, merrier
than Wordsworth's daffodils dancing ten pages ahead
in the anthology growing heavy in my hands.

There's no reason to expect him to allow me
to step in front, make a quick photocopy
and get back to my creative writing students.
So I lean against the wall and listen to him whistle,
enjoying this impromptu concert by a man
whose own students are too smart to study poetry.

There is laughter here

[ ... ]

We never made it past
the giggling after I wrote
“assonance” on the board.  (from “A Deeper Appreciation for Sound”)

and plenty of moody seriousness laced with casual humility and self-awareness. But above all there is a connection, a portal to a world that is real and exists for all of us, a composite of what will fold into the American Dream from a steady stream of paradoxical dysfunction and serenity. There is humility, and there is humanity. This book touches on everything from state testing to student apathy to financial budgets to Homecoming dances to faculty-meeting doughnuts, finally unfolding into an Epilogue that is to die for, one of the best pieces I've read to date, and I'm not going to share a word of its awesomeness with you. You need to buy the book solely for the punctuation of the Epilogue to the ending of this tale. It will make you feel for teachers everywhere, maybe get out your notebook and pen a thank-you note while you watch the boats leave the harbor.

•This book was sent to me from the author because I'd previously admired his work, and I have since corresponded with both the publisher and the author.•