Intrepid or insane?

This was the temperature in my car this morning 
when I set off to play at a church in Lake Crystal.

Insanity, to set out across the prairie on such a cold day? Not when there was a church full of people waiting for me to play for them. Not when I was excited to perform the world premier of one of the pieces I'd written in Ireland this summer. 

Nope, I'm Intrepid Harpist. And it's my job.

P.S. Did you know that a synonym for "intrepid" is "plucky?"


If I can't write for Coldwater Creek, I'll play the harp for Coldwater Creek

 If you don't get the Coldwater Creek catalog, you should. 

Yeah, the clothes are beautiful and everything, but the WRITING - it's like getting a little volume of poetry, of gorgeous vignettes, of lovely little 50-word stories that transport you beyond clothing and and accessories into the place you want to be while wearing them.

That's good copywriting. And I know. I've been a copywriter for more than 15 years, and I'm pretty jaded. When other catalog copy manages to move me beyond the product to the experience, I bow down in homage.

I actually met the chief copywriter for Coldwater Creek once. I was at a catalog conference in San Francisco several years ago and she was one of the presenters. I was already a fan then. I introduced myself and dithered and mumbled something about wanting to write for her, write like her, work for her, to be her, wear clothes like her...and she said, "Thank you," and turned to the next person in line. End of dream.

Then, in December, the local Coldwater Creek store called and asked me to play for a holiday event. Playing at the mall is really a pain - parking, hidden entrances, loading docks, long hallways, dodging shoppers. But I agreed. Because I wanted to be part of it all.

No, they're not selling harps.

 Strange how you get what you want, 
like working for Coldwater Creek, 
but in ways you never expected.

I have come to accept these twists-of-fate kind of things lately with open arms. The universe and I are on timidly friendly terms, meeting in the middle on thin ice, shaking hands, eyeing each other up. I'm ready for more. Bring it on.


I got a rejection letter! (No, it's a good thing!)

I haven't submitted anything for publication since I was in college. But, buoyed with confidence and enthusiasm from my writing seminar in France in the fall, I decided to print out some poems languishing on my computer and send them off.

It was a contest, offering publication and a cash prize. I kissed the envelope and dropped it in the mail. And then in the flurry of holiday performances, I forgot about it. Until I got this in the mail:

A rejection letter!

So I didn't win the prize and my poetry won't be published, but it's a NICE rejection letter. One of the judges took the time to write me a personal note telling me I made it to the second round, that they loved my writing and that I had the talent to transport readers into the heart of the poem. 

Hooray! I learned at the writing seminar in France that it's rare for a judge or an editor to write a personal note on a rejection letter. It gave me hope and those encouraging words absolutely made my day.

The poem the judge is referring to is "Dominion," which I wrote last summer while sitting on my front porch after a run. I'm going to do something scary right now. Very scary. I'm going to share that poem with you. (Gulp. Shake.) Here goes:

by Amy Kortuem

And God said, Let us make man in our image: and let him have dominion
over all the creatures on earth and over all the birds of the air. Genesis 1:26

This early evening is still and the heat is so close
my running pace turns plodding, reluctant,
slow enough to see a baby robin sleeping just beside the walk,
a jewel nestled in the damp uncut grass,
head tucked under its wing,
tiny spotted breast rising and falling.
I stop to bend over it,
worrying that the approaching dog will stretch its leash and startle the little thing,
that the black cat straying this block will find it easy prey,
that the cluster of clumsy boys on skateboards four houses down will crush it.
So I wait for the dog and its people to pass panting,
for the cat to roam in lazy distraction behind the neighbor’s hedge,
for the boys to give up their jumping for lolling on their front steps.
And I keep watch for the bird’s mother to
flutter at me with her protective wings,
dash at me, furiously chipping,
But she doesn’t appear.
Neither does a nest when I search upward into the haze of the leaves.
I remember standing small in my father’s tall shadow
over a baby bird windblown from my grandmother’s tree,
crying for dad to climb it back up to the nest
and he sighs but doesn’t,
tells me if the little one has his scent
the mother might not take care of it anymore.
Now, as then, the only power I have
is to stand and worry and wait and keep watch
until distant lightning spears the sky,
thunder rumbles some slow seconds later,
and I turn for home.

Copyright © 2010 Amy Kortuem


Prima Vox - fire on an icy morning

Our first performance of 2011 was actually supposed
to have taken place on December 12, 2010.

That day a blizzard was raging outside so the service was (wisely) rescheduled. Today was the day. It was a great decision all around. It gave Prima Vox one last chance to sing our beloved Christmas chants and songs, to give special encore performances of my "Ave" and "Fire & Ice," and to start 2011 with the sound of our voices.

Fire & Ice was the theme of the service, actually. The "ice" was taken care of the by morning temperatures (-2 F, I'm not even kidding). The "fire" was set by our sizzling performance, of course, but also by the burning bowl ritual. The congregation members wrote down what they wished to release during 2011 on pieces of paper and burned that paper in the fire set at the front of the fellowship. 

That flame, the ice outside, the girls singing "Fire & Ice" with me one more time...it was the perfect first performance of the year.


1-1-11 Wedding

I'm betting the groom NEVER forgets his anniversary. Nor will the couple forget their gorgeous New Year's Day 2011 wedding. Outside was frosty and cold, inside was warmly lit and filled with friends and loved ones.

And the bride was perfectly ruffled and so sparkly.

I loved performing for their ceremony and cocktail hour
and being a part of that elegance and joy.

The bride was thinking optimistically past 1-1-11, however.
This is the music she chose for her recessional:
"All in a Garden Green."

If this is an indication of the line-up of 2011 weddings ahead of me, it's going to be a beautiful year!

P.S. I am so easily distracted by shiny things. 
Look at the bride's bouquet! It's made from vintage satin roses, 
white feathers and vintage rhinestone brooches. Dazzling.


Ringing in the new year

Oh, this Minnesota weather - it decided to end 2010 with rain, sleet, freezing rain, snow and then wind. Torture. I had no idea if I'd be able to get to Minneapolis on New Year's Day to play for the 1-1-11 wedding I had scheduled, so I decided to head north with the harp early in the morning on 12-31-10. Mom and I made arrangements to stay at Chez Aunt Sheila in Mahtomedi and spend New Year's Eve with her. It was lovely.

There was exquisite champagne from France
(in Irish Waterford Crystal).

 Chocolates made by nuns in Iowa.

And a truly unique improvised rendition of 
"Auld Lang Syne" on the piano by the harpist.

Then there were hugs, kisses, laughter and dancing around the candles on the living room table as the grandfather clock struck midnight. After we raided the fridge, we all wandered to bed, welcoming 2011 with joyful thoughts. Aunt Sheila has terminal cancer, but I hope there are many, many more beautiful and memorable moments like this.

Happy New Year.