The Ladybroad Ledger is a free femme Alt Comics newspaper in Vermont. They produce an annual publication to promote comics by femme and nonbinary Vermont cartoonists. What could be better? I’m a frequent contributor, and I’m pleased to have been included in the most recent issue, which you can find paper copies of around coffee shops, libraries, and bookstores around VT. Here are the comics of mine that they published in this recent issue:
There are many reasons why I enjoyed reading Melanie Finn’s new novel, The Hare, or to be more accurate, why I tore through it like a hiker devouring a sandwich after hiking in the Green Mountains of Vermont. I’ll start there, in Vermont, where most of the book takes place, specifically in the Northeast Kingdom, where I grew up, and where the author currently calls home. She renders all of the historical, cultural, and natural details of the region as only a Vermont inhabitant could—the beauty and decay; the wealth and poverty; the mixed-up politics, the backwoods crimes; the chicken shit and roadkill; the tools and skills that the protagonist, Rosie Monroe, a young, single mother, would need to survive after her lying older boyfriend abandons her and their infant in a drifty cabin in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, the nearest neighbor, a toothless, boozy old lesbian named Billy Mix, saves Rosie’s life by teaching her how to hunt deer, how to forage for wild edibles such as ramps, fiddleheads, and morel mushrooms; and most importantly, how to light a fire in the woodstove to stay warm throughout the long, hard winters.
In order to not spoil any of the juicy plot, and yes—it is a nail-biter, replete with murders, deceit, drug trafficking, gender transformations, lust, and other literary thrills—I’ll skip over the story of that lousy boyfriend, Bennett, and focus on Rosie, who carries several layers of trauma from childhood and adolescence, but somehow, time and time again, takes control of the ghosts of her past and forges ahead with grit and determination. Rosie starts off with a full ride to Parsons, studying art, before Bennett ruins everything. While she’s still enrolled, she glimpses a possible future in her art mentor, “Ida smells of paint and turpentine. The coffee shop smelled of coffee and onions. It was fantastic. What if you could draw a smell?” This daydream dissipates when she meets Bennet, a charming man twice her age, while perusing the art at the MoMa. He charms her, takes her out for tea, and whisks her away for a summer in his friend’s boathouse, where she becomes accidentally pregnant. From the start, Bennett’s life story is hazy at best, and I’ll leave it that way in this review; Rosie is the more compelling character throughout.
The other truly captivating characters in the book are also women, ranging from the enigmatic Billy Mix, to a female cop who investigates various crimes against women, including a series of murders along the Vermont-New Hampshire border, as well as the possible predation of minors committed by Rosie’s boss, a chicken farmer. As this cop states in blunt terms to Rosie, she’s trying to solve various “incidents of male dickery.” These moments speak to the novel’s ever-present themes of female autonomy and strength in contrast to male ideocracy, greed, and ineptitude. One chapter that complicates this binary in a positive and intriguing way is an unexpected reunion with Rosie’s first love, who has since transitioned from male to female. I wish Finn had expanded this section of the book, in order to give Christianne proper room to breathe as a nuanced character.
Another character that I enjoyed is an inanimate object which Rosie regards first with fear, then with acceptance, and finally with enormous gratitude: the woodstove. She even writes a love letter to the stove, for teaching her “to value the steady.”
My favorite section of the book takes place later in Rosie’s life—mid menopause—how many books can you name which place a badass menopausal heroine at the helm? My other favorite aspect of the book are all of the chapters which reveal Rosie’s, and the author’s, deep knowledge about Vermont: its seasons, mud season in particular, its wildlife, its cultural contradictions, its geography. We learn about wild edibles that can be foraged in early spring, summer, and fall, and how to incorporate them into a meal,
“A hunk of back strap in the skillet, the blood oozing from the tissue. Wild onions Billy gave her, a basket of dried boletes… a week later, Billy brought them a hare, already skinned and butchered. It seemed so rudely naked. She set it in a broth of dandelion greens, ramps, and potatoes.”
The bogs, time-worn mountains, snowshoe trails, old cemeteries decaying in the woods; this is the landscape of my youth, and through Finn’s novel, I was able to relive my childhood in lyrical and precise detail. Thank you, Melanie Finn and the editors and publishers at Two Dollar Radio, for creating this book! I recommend it, particularly if you’re a feminist or feminism-inclined, and if you live in New England, although these are not imperative for enjoying the well-rendered characters and dramatic plot.
Over the span of three days, I painted a mural of Vermont bird species on the wall of the wood-fired pizza oven in the soon-to-open Woodbelly restaurant in Montpelier, Vermont. The process was thrilling, from the initial stages of sketching and planning to the finishing touches of brushwork on the wall. I wanted to keep the color palette simple, three colors at the most, so I selected birds whose plumage naturally display black, red, and yellow. This triple color combination actually generated a long list of birds, so I narrowed it down to the loon, red-winged blackbird, saw-whet owl, yellow warbler, crossbill, cedar waxwing, cardinal, crow, pileated woodpecker, and chickadee. And, on the last day, I painted a few quirky robots in the corner to decorate the electric panel. I can’t wait for the restaurant to open to sit at the bar with a pizza and a beer and see my mural as the backdrop to culinary action.
I’m so excited to have been asked by Bianca Stone to join the Ruth Stone Foundation Reading Series at the Wishbone Collective in Winooski on May 17th, with Marina Blitshteyn, MC Hyland, and Leanne Ruell.
Again, the event will be hosted by Wishbone Collective in Winooski, and there will be books for sale by Antidote books. Doors at 6pm, reading at 6:30pm. Drinks and snacks will be available.
Rick Agran hosts a show called Bon Mot (the good word) on a Vermont radio show through the Goddard campus radio, and little while back he interviewed me about my poetry career, my prose, Sylvia Plath, life adventures, and my artistic process.
Now you can listen to the recording!
Radio Interview on the art and poetry of Franky Frances Cannon:
I’m launching my new website and project: art and writing mentorship, where you can find more descriptions of the courses I will be teaching at the Shelburne Craft School, and other opportunities for individual mentorship. This is a soft launch, I’ll admit that the “school” is currently more conceptual than actualized, but I’m living more in my imagination than in the corporeal realm these days, so this fits,
I’m honored to work with this musical genius. He’s putting out a new album this season, and he asked me to illustrate his songbook. So I did, of course! “Pay up” on kickstarter and you might just get some of my original artwork. I’ve included a sneak peeks (illustration above).
I must put out another song of gratitude for all those who helped me publish a book of poems this summer, and those who helped me thrive in my artist residency, produce art, and participate in the farmer’s market.
Thanks to Ben Aleshire and Honeybee Press for leading and guiding the book publishing efforts.
Thanks to John Vincent of Revolutionary Press for enabling the letterpress process in his New Haven studio.
Thanks to Joseph Pensak, Lydia Kerns, and the New City Galerie for hosting my messy artsy self (see the photo of my studio below).
Thanks to those who helped me copy edit (Sam, Ryan, Stef, Robert, Cecile, Janet, Liza, Rebecca, Ben, am I missing anyone?)
Thanks to those who helped print, bind, glue, and fold books, what a lot of work! (Liza, Sam, Janet, Ben)
Thanks to those who fed me and loved me throughout the process (Andrea Solazzo! And all of the others)…