Monday, December 31, 2007

Fast away the old year passes...

Outside it's cold and very blustery with the promise of snow by morning. I'm having a quiet, peaceful New Year's Eve, inside and cozy with chocolate, hot ginger peach tea, a stack of books, a couple of sacked-out fuzzybutt cats, and flannel sheets which will soon be fresh and warm from the dryer.

May your evening be as lovely.

May the new year bring you fabulous music, more good poems than you can shake a stick at (although why you'd shake a stick at poems, I don't know -- must be one of those newfangled metaphor thingies), something new learned every day, and love & solitude in precisely the right proportions.

Farewell, 2007 -- don't let the door hit you in the ass. Hello, 2008! A very happy new year to one & all.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The thin end of the year

If you celebrate these winter holidays, I hope you've had a good one. My departure was delayed by a day due to a flare-up of Bear's chronic megacolon, which necessitated an overnight stay at the vet, and by my own nasty little cold. But once I was well enough to drive and Bear was home and comfortable, I was able to spend several nice, laid-back days at my mom's. Ran into some serious pea-soup fog on the drive home last night -- about an hour and a half of driving in what was probably less than 1/8 mile visibility, ugh -- but other than that my travels were uneventful. Still have the cold. I think it likes me.

Couple of rejection notes in the past week or so; I guess some editors were indeed cleaning off their desks for the holidays. Good! I can get the poems shipped off somewhere else. I don't really make New Year's resolutions, but I do want to be more diligent about sending poems out next year.

Starting to think about summer plans. I got my early-registration info from the Fine Arts Work Center today. Since my car and my roof are both on their last legs, I may have to refrain from splurging on a workshop this year -- though I would love to take Marie Howe's. If you are looking for a summer workshop, and if you can afford the cost, this is really a terrific program (I know I've said that here before, but it bears repeating). I've taken three workshops there, which have ranged from life-changing to very very good. I'm definitely a better poet because of what I've learned out there, and Provincetown is a most excellent place for a vacation, to boot.

I may think about doing the Indiana U. Writers' Conference this summer instead, since I wouldn't have to spring for transportation or housing. Anyone know anything about how Jean Valentine is as a teacher? Or Reginald Shepherd? If so, comment here, or backchannel me if you prefer not to comment publicly....

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The traditional Christmas Bear

Those of you who've been around since at least last year have seen this picture before. No, it's not Photoshopped; my Honey Bear is just mellow enough to do a Santa-hat photo shoot. :) (One of these days I need to take an equivalent picture of Lotus. I think he'd be adorable in a little elf suit. Yes, I am That Kind of Kittymom.)

A blessed Solstice, merry Christmas, and very happy New Year to each and every one of you!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Looking forward

Managed to come down with a bit of a cold, so for the past couple days I haven't done anything much more intellectually taxing than play Windows solitaire, watch sitcom reruns featuring impossibly thin women with perfect hair trying to be funny without messing up their makeup, and nap. The napping was the best part.

It's getting to be that time of year -- the 100-best-this-or-that lists, the top news stories of 2007 (as if nothing else is going to happen in the next twelve days), the New Year's resolutions. The heck with all that. I'd rather look forward to the (mostly) good things that are bound to happen in 2008. Here's what I am looking forward to:
  • Finishing my book-length manuscript and starting to send it around (this won't be my first book-length ms. to get sent out, believe it or not; I had another one about 15 years ago, but it stunk, so thank goodness nobody wanted it).
  • Publication of my chapbook in August.
  • Probably buying a car (I'm driving a 1991 Corolla with 90K miles on it; it's a great little car and has yet to let me down, but I'm starting to think enough may be enough)
  • In light of the above, very possibly not having funds to travel for a summer workshop (sigh) -- in which case I may do the Indiana U. Writers' Conference again
  • Maybe, finally, getting applications sent out to low-residency MFA programs (sshhhh! don't tell! you'll jinx it!)
  • The following concerts, most of which I've already got tickets for:
    • Three Girls and Their Buddy (Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin, and Buddy Miller -- wow, what a lineup, huh?)
    • Carrie Newcomer's CD release concert for The Geography of Light (Carrie lives near here, so I get to see her perform at least a couple times a year. Lucky me!)
    • Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band! (Bruuuuuuce!)
    • Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea, and Jack DeJohnette (I may have an extra ticket for this one, in Row A ... anyone who'll be in or near Indianapolis in April and might be interested, drop me a note)

That is not even counting all the terrific books I'm going to buy and read next year ... much to look forward to there as well.

What about you? What are you looking forward to in 2008?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Only one more shopping day until tomorrow

The White Stuff:

The weather forecast here is taking on a doomsday tone, with phrases like "major winter storm," "half inch of ice," and "six inches of snow" (hush, ye northerners; around here we think six inches is a LOT). I had a long list of errands to do this weekend, but almost all of them can wait until next week if necessary, so that I can just hunker down in my house with books and movies and cats -- a blizzard is a great excuse to just sit around reading all day, right? Except for the one errand that really can't wait, which is: go buy snow shovel. Yes, I will probably be That Person tomorrow morning, standing in line at the hardware store with a snow shovel in one hand and a bag of ice-melter in the other, twitching nervously as the storm begins.

We're actually expected to get a little bit of snow, then several hours of sleet and freezing rain, then a bunch more snow. The layered look. I don't particularly approve.

Night of the Living Toddler:

I have friends who have 3-year-old twin girls and a 2-year-old boy. Last night I actually babysat for several hours. I'm not what you would call a natural with kids, and their mom would probably have been happier if the kids had actually gotten to sleep before she got home, but by the time I left everyone was still alive, everyone was still speaking to everyone else, the house was still standing, and no emergency rescue vehicles of any variety had been summoned. I call that a raging success.


Do you suppose editors are starting to clear their desks in a big "clear the desk before the holidays" push? I have a fair amount of stuff that's been out long enough that it might have been read by now, not long enough to get too antsy about it yet ... kind of wondering whether to expect a handful of responses in the next week and a half. Hmmm. I want to get at least a couple more batches out over the weekend. 2007 has been the Year Of Slacking when it comes to me sending stuff out to journals; I want 2008 to start on a busier note.

Of course, actually writing stuff is more important, and I want next year to be busy in that department as well. Lately I've been writing some stuff that feels a bit different for me, and I like that. I have several newish poems I'm eager to fiddle with. That's such a good feeling. I like the feeling of looking at a poem and deciding that it's finished, but I like it even more when it's not quite there yet, but I'm interested enough in it to keep on poking at it. How does that work? You make a thing, then you poke at it to find out what makes it tick -- even though you wrote it so you ought to know what makes it tick. That's the best: when I've written something that is still a bit of a mystery to me. When I find myself curious about my own poem, about what it's trying to do in its little world. That is just the best.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Originally uploaded by land mammal
Bear has a hard life. Poor thing. *grin*

Guess who...

Sacked out
Originally uploaded by land mammal a heated kitty bed for his sixth birthday yesterday?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Bruuuuuce, and poem of the week

Rain and more rain, and cold. At least it isn't ice.

Yesterday I bought tickets to see Bruce Springsteen in Indianapolis in March. Only for Bruce would I spend an entire day's salary on one concert. I nabbed tickets the minute they went on sale; when I checked back later, everything except the high up balcony seats and the behind the stage seats were sold out. I'm going with a poet friend who loves him but has never seen him live. Boy, is she in for a treat! :)

* * * * *


A letter is holy. A story
is holy hands reaching out into the world.
Birds come home
across distance I can't conceive

and live in their bodies.
Ash in the air. Every place I've been
is on fire with words.

One day
I throw away all my love letters
without noticing. Mountains

in the heart.
What belongs
to me? I leave the world
all the time. These arms, these

fingers, this tongue, these feet,
and their bent wings. I know
it will be dirt, the prayers

now in marrow will retake
earth. I will live inside whatever flies.
Burning, the brink of all things.

--√Čireann Lorsung
from Music for Landing Planes By
(Milkweed Editions, 2007)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The sky is falling...

Okay, it isn't the sky that's falling, but something is. It's too loud to be rain, and it's too cold to be snow. Something tells me I'm going to be chipping my car out of an ice block in the morning before I can go to work. Anyone wanna buy one winter, slightly used? I'll sell it to you cheap.

It seems I never do much writing in December. Work and life are always busy as heck. My blogging seems to have taken a bit of a dive as well. Not much to say.

One thing I like about blogging, in general, is that on this blog I present myself primarily as a writer -- no, that's not the only thing in my life, by a long shot, but it's a part of my life that's particularly important to me -- and sometimes, when I haven't been writing or when I haven't been sending stuff out, I think about this blog and I think "put up or shut up" and I make myself get to work. If I'm going to talk like a writer in public, I darn well better, you know, write. Every now and then, this blog is my own personal kick in the pants.

I didn't send anything out for several months this year. Not a thing. I've finally gotten back in that particular saddle, though, and have things out to a few places, and hope to get a couple more out over the weekend. It feels good to end the year with a bit of momentum. I'll be off work the entire week between Christmas and New Year's, and I have no plans for the last several days of it, so with any luck at all I will be able to get a little writing done then. I love those last few days of the year -- no plans, nothing to gear up for, and this crazy idea that something brand-new is just around the corner.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sunday, With Snippets

An ambulance just went past, lights and siren, glittering in the rain like teeth.

No snow here. It's 57 degrees. Did I mention the rain?

* * * * *

This weekend: Davis Cup tennis on my tv, a big Target expedition which resulted in the purchase of several particularly soft and fleecy things, some reading, couple new poemdrafts. Dark early.

* * * * *

. . . Tonight,
driving south towards home, I counted six struck deer
in two hundred miles: legs askew,
the terrible white of their throats, twisted round
to gaze up into that starry mess. Into whatever
they understand of maps, of heaven.

* * * * *

The rain this afternoon
wants in, wants in so bad . . .

* * * * *

December. How did that happen? I wasn't finished with July yet!

At the same time, I am starting to plot about something that I can't even start for another year.

* * * * *

We act as if the wind
is personal. . . .
. . . As if
the hell it wants to blow us to
is real . . .

* * * * *

If my poems were a TV series, weather would be the guest star who shows up all the time but you can never remember his name so you say "Hey! It's That Guy again!"

* * * * *

I used to like blue and purple best. Lately, it's been teal.

* * * * *

That thing is still in my attic. Better do something about that.

Better do something about anything, about a lot of things. Yes?


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Poem of the week

(It's not really seasonal, but what the heck. I love the ending of this.)


Tonight there must be people who are getting what they want.
I let my oars fall into the water.
Good for them. Good for them, getting what they want.

The night is so still that I forget to breathe.
The dark air is getting colder. Birds are leaving.

Tonight there are people getting just what they need.

The air is so still that it seems to stop my heart.
I remember you in a black and white photograph
taken this time of some year. You were leaning against
a half-shed tree, standing in the leaves the tree had lost.

When I finally exhale it takes forever to be over.

Tonight, there are people who are so happy,
that they have forgotten to worry about tomorrow.

Somewhere, people have entirely forgotten about tomorrow.
My hand trails in the water.
I should not have dropped those oars. Such a soft wind.

--Jennifer Michael Hecht
from The Next Ancient World

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Good news and good wishes

Back from Thanksgiving travels. I had a good one (even though it snowed... sigh!) and I hope y'all did, too.

* * * * *

Happy news from Valparaiso Poetry Review, which has announced its Pushcart Prize nominations for this year -- see editor Ed Byrne's blog for details:

John Balaban: “Finishing Up the Novel After Some Delay
Barbara Crooker: “Lemons
W.D. Ehrhart: “Coaching Winter Track in Time of War
Anne Haines: “Swallowed
H. Palmer Hall: “Vietnam Roulette
Diane Lockward: “Temptation by Water

* * * * *

And good wishes go out to E Street Band musician Danny Federici, who has taken a leave of absence from the band's current tour to undergo treatment for melanoma. He's an original member of the band and it's hard to imagine their sound without him. You can see the official announcement over at Bruce Springsteen's site; I hope to see an announcement there in the future with words like "back on the job" and "full recovery"...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pluggity pluggity plug

Just a few Good Things (sorry, had a rare moment of channeling Martha Stewart there) from around Ye Olde Intarweb that I'd like to pass along.
  1. Charlie's newest chapbook is now available -- order it from New Michigan Press or see his blog to get one directly from him. I'm intrigued by the concept of this one; it should be interesting reading.

  2. Got my subscription copy of the spankin'-new journal Knockout the other day. I haven't had a chance to dig into it properly yet, but I skimmed through it and there is some really good stuff in there. Also, I think this journal has the highest percentage of "people I know" (if you count both people I've met in real life and people I "know" via Ye Olde Blogosphere) of any journal I have ever seen. Which doesn't mean anything particularly, but it's fun. Anyway, if you're looking for a new journal to check out, this looks to be a promising one. Plus, they are making a point of donating some of their proceeds to help fight genocide in Sudan, which is cool as heck.

  3. Speaking of donations, have you checked out Free Rice? If you're a word nerd like I am, you may find yourself getting seriously addicted to this one. It's a vocabulary quiz and a donation against hunger! For every word you get right, they donate 10 grains of rice. The vocabulary words start out pretty easy and get very, ah, interesting as you go on. They tell you your vocabulary level as you go along; the highest you can get is a 50. I've actually hit 50 a couple of times and stayed there for a word or two before missing one and dropping back down -- I can usually sustain a level of around 47 with some consistency. My favorite word so far: cacography. (It means "bad handwriting" and I totally got it right by seeing it as a blend of "cacophony" and "calligraphy" because I rock.)
If you're celebrating Thanksgiving this week, I hope you have a good one. If you're traveling, safe travels to you! Enjoy your turkey, or your tofurkey, or your frozen pizza, or whatever you may be enjoying. Do it because I said so, dammit.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Happy things

First, you should dash over to Suzanne's place and congratulate her on some well-deserved good news!

Go on. I'll wait right here.

* * * * *

So, yesterday was a "take the day off for poetry" day. I listened to some downloaded poetry readings and podcasts on the drive up to the University of Indianapolis, which put me nicely in a poetry-ish frame of mind. That is to say, I was noticing the world the way I do when I'm ready to write: the little sounds of things, the way the wind blew crows around, the kestrel that dived into the median grass as I blew by on the highway. (And after the class, I went out to my car and heard the honk-honk of a flock of Canada geese. I looked up into the sky -- nothing nowhere. Geese? Hello? Then I looked about thirty feet right smack in front of me and there they were, marching in single file, wagging their big fat goosey butts as they marched, crossing the parking lot headed for who knows where. For some reason it made me laugh.)

The class was from 12:30-1:50, an undergrad creative writing class whose professor had generously opened up some spaces for community members to sit in on Mark Doty's guest-teaching session. I don't know how the students in the class felt about being invaded by random Hoosier poets, but I thought it was really cool to get the opportunity. We'd been asked to read the "heaven" poems from School of the Arts, and Mark started off by talking a bit about the genesis of those poems, then talking in more detail about the first poem in the book, "Heaven for Helen." That segued very nicely into a Q&A session that quickly became more general than just talking about the heaven poems; I was impressed by how well-prepared and interested the students were. Not all of them spoke up, but a lot of them did, and they asked some good, thoughtful questions.

Interesting bit about School of the Arts: Mark talked about how for many years he'd written with a goal of finding something to affirm, and how this was terribly necessary for a very long time especially at the height of the AIDS crisis in the gay community, when affirmation was in short supply. But as time went on (and I'm really paraphrasing here, but I think I'm close enough to what he said), that reach towards affirmation became something he was just doing out of habit. So as he worked on this book he wanted to resist that habit -- to just let the difficult be difficult, not trying to make it better or fix things.

I have always thought of Doty as a poet who seeks closure, as contrasted with someone like D.A. Powell who deliberately resists closure; to some extent I think what I read as "closure" is at least partly what Doty sees as "affirmation." So is this book successful in its resistance of that tendency? Good question. I'd like to reread the book now with that in mind. Strictly from a "how do you put a book of poetry together" viewpoint, I found this particular insight really fascinating, though.

Anyway, after a good Q&A period, he had us do a writing exercise. I don't always do very well with in-class exercises, or with exercises in general, really. But listening to poetry on the drive up, and the discussion in class, had apparently put me in a good writing frame of mind, and I did manage to come up with something that I think is worth working with. So I'm very pleased about that.

(It was a pretty simple exercise; after talking about the "heaven" poems, each of which is about what the idea of heaven might be like for various people and animals, we were to think of someone -- human or animal -- and first make a list of words about them, maybe phrases. Then we were to take those words/phrases/lines and write a "Heaven for..." poem for them. I was momentarily stumped about who to choose, then thought what the hell and wrote for one of my cats -- and then realized that heaven for a cat would probably involve a certain amount of ripping open small warm mammals, ewww -- and ended up writing basically a small poem in praise of the cat's carnivorous nature, which was not what I expected, but also wasn't the sappy-sweet poem I'm always afraid of writing if I try to write about my cats.)

We talked a bit about what we'd gotten out of the exercise, and then class was pretty much over. A little group of us hung around chatting with Mark and getting books signed, and then I had several hours to fill before the reading. I'd decided against hauling along my laptop, but I did have a couple of books, my journal, and a sheaf of poems I wanted to work on. So I ended up setting up camp in the university library, and while I didn't do any stunningly amazing revisions, I did nudge several poems along in a productive manner and found one that I decided was actually finished.

Went out and got a little late lunch/early dinner, then back to the library where I curled up in a comfy chair and read until time for the reading. It was such a lovely day, reading and writing all afternoon in the library. Can I please win the lottery and live that way all the time, please?

The reading was good, though the only thing he read that I hadn't heard him read before was the excerpt from Dog Years. He did read -- as he probably usually does -- "Lost in the Stars" and "Heaven for Paul," which are two of my favorites of his to listen to. And he told a funny story about talking to a guy on the plane, who asked him what sort of stuff he writes; not wanting to say poetry, he said memoirs. "Oh!" said the guy, "whose memoirs?" At which point he looks out into the audience and says "Oh, I don't know.... Britney Spears?" Heh. So even though there weren't any real surprises in the reading, I'm glad I went; I enjoy his readings, and think he presents his work well. There was a short Q&A after the reading, less interesting than the earlier discussion in class, but not as excruciating as those things can be; and then he went out and signed books. I didn't hang around for that, having already gotten my copy of Dog Years signed, and wanting to get home to my two hungry carnivores who hadn't had their dinner yet.

Anyway, a nice day all around.

Hope you have all had at least one all-around nice day this week, or have one to look forward to in the near future.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

National Book Awards

The NBA winners have been announced.

In Young People's Literature: Sherman Alexie for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (which I actually just bought and can't wait to read! I love a good YA novel now and then, and I really like Sherman Alexie's work)

In Poetry: Robert Hass for Time and Materials

In Non-Fiction: Tim Weiner for Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA

In Fiction: Denis Johnson for Tree of Smoke

I don't know why I found myself so interested in these awards; I don't know any of the nominees (well, I met Sherman Alexie for thirty seconds once, which hardly counts) and I haven't read most of the books. I guess a little part of me wants the writing life to be glamorous. Which it's never going to be. Maybe if you're Sherman Alexie or Robert Hass you get a little moment of glamor now and then (okay, if you're Sherman Rockstar Alexie maybe you get a little more than that). But for most of us, we're just thrilled on the odd occasion that we get an email from somebody saying hey, I liked your poem. I mean, when that happens? It makes my day. No, it makes my WEEK. Actually, I've had a couple of very nice compliments from poets I seriously admired (the kind you replay over and over in your mind for years), and I don't think any award could feel better than that.

I guess the moral of that story is, if you find poems that you like, drop a line to a poet now and then to let them know. Because you can't give out National Book Awards, but you can give out compliments -- and sometimes, it really matters to someone.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Animals and other people's stories

HA. I wrote a poem and I put the animal in my attic in it AND I put the people in the Dallas airport in it AND I put the futility of telling anyone's story in it. I have no idea whether it all hangs together as a poem or not, but I hadn't written anything I thought might be revisable for a while (is "revisable" a word?), so I'm happy to have something down in words anyway. I could have called it "crap that keeps me up at night" but I didn't.

Thursday I get to sit in on a class with Mark Doty in the early afternoon, then he's got a reading in the evening. It's up in Indianapolis, and I can't see driving 120 miles round-trip to come back home in between, so I'll have to find a place to hang out in Indy for a few hours. I'm trying to decide whether to take the laptop and hang out in a library or coffee shop with wi-fi, or just take a couple of books and hang out in a library or coffee shop with a comfy chair. I'll take my journal and some poems to revise, regardless; with any luck the class will nudge me into working. If it's a nice day, I could go to the zoo -- I haven't been there in ages. Anyway, it's always nice to take a day off work in the name of poetry.

Watched a really terrific tennis match on TV this evening -- the WTA year-end championship match between Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova. It went well over three hours and actually set a record as the longest best-of-three match ever. Henin won, but it was pretty darned close. For a while there I wasn't sure whether I was watching "Survivor: Madrid" or a tennis match. Fun stuff.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The animal in my attic

There is some sort of animal scrabbling about in my attic. Must be a squirrel or a raccoon. It seems to move around at night. The cats are occasionally intrigued; I mostly cringe. I guess there are people who specialize in evicting such animals. Maybe I'll get a poem out of it anyway.

* * * * *

This blog has been like Short Attention Span Theater lately.

* * * * *
Books and journals are piling up. I don't need to take a month off work to write ... I need to take a month off work to read. And yes, when you work in a library, sometimes books just follow you home. We can renew most things over and over again indefinitely (unless somebody else wants it badly enough to recall it), which is kind of a blessing but kind of a curse too.

In a related event, I have made a small concession to middle age and purchased one of those little wallet-size magnifiers. What I really need to do is go to the eye doctor and get stronger bifocals. Sigh.

* * * * *

I've just recently discovered the blog "A Voice Box," which has audio recordings of poetry readings from the Bay Area. It is exceedingly cool.

Generally at lunchtime I spend 15-30 minutes walking, listening to music on my cute little iPod shuffle. I think I'm going to try loading that thing up with poems and listening to those instead. There are quite a few good poetry podcasts these days, and I just don't have time to listen to them, or attention span. But maybe they can accompany me while I walk.

I might miss the music, though. Well, we can give it a try.

If only I could walk and read at the same time. That would be efficient.

* * * * *

Really liked this poem by Sharon Bryan on Poetry Daily: "Bass Bass" -- I like how Bryan's language is very playful but has a definite serious undertone (more than an undertone). Also, my father was a bass player, so I have a soft spot for poems with a bass in them. That's long-a bass, not the fish. Though I have nothing against fish poems.

I do like the playfulness, though. I imagine a lot of poets started out by just being fascinated with language, the ways you can play with it. I remember when I was a little kid, both of my parents used to play language games with me -- for example, my dad always called the elevator the "alli-grue-a-tater" which never failed to make me laugh. (I was kind of a little baby word nerd, I admit it.) It's easy to forget how to play like that. I forget, a lot. Maybe that's the assignment I should give myself: just write silly shit for a while and have some fun with it.

Assignment. See? Already it isn't play. Good grief.

* * * * *

What I really want is cookies. Coooooooookies.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Artistic hubris redux

Walking through various airports last week, I found myself looking at people and thinking about how every single one of them has a story, or many. Every one of the hundreds of people I saw in those airports, and every one of the thousands of people I flew over in one jet-fueled tin can or another, has a story that is to them the most important story ever, the story his or her life depends on. Every one of those people has this whole other world inside that I will never see.

I've had sorrows and I've had joys. Mine are no greater than anyone's -- I'm tempted to say "and no less" but there is always someone out there who's got it better and someone out there who's got it far, far worse. The point being, none of it's unique. There's really nothing about any of my stories that's any more important or any more interesting than anyone's. Nothing. We all love and we all suffer, and the particulars of each are of interest only to ourselves, really. (If we're lucky, ourselves and a few close companions.)

I see friends going through what they go through and while I feel for them, for their griefs and their celebrations, part of me can't help but stand apart and think: yeah, that's what life is, and we just keep going on, so what of it? Is that horrible of me? That's probably horrible of me. But there you have it. There are all those million million stories out there, and what difference if I tell mine, or yours, or his, or anyone's?

When I write, lately, I get bogged down in one of two things. I get bogged down in the overly particular, the overly personal, the endless I, I, I. And then I think, dude, who the f*ck are you that anyone should care. Or: I get bogged down in the grand sweep of philosophizing, the stupid royal "we." And again I think, dude, why should anybody care, plus you sound like a blithering egomaniac with your grand pronouncements.

Tell me something. Point me to a poem that will show me why these stories matter. Give me something that walks the zone between the too-personal -- the small and claustrophobic -- and the grand but remote sweep of epic. Point me to a poem that will remind me why we do this. Because right now, just at this very moment here in my living room with a cat napping against my knee and newspapers piling up unread and the TV on mute and cars going by on Walnut Street headed south towards who knows where, I seem to have misplaced the reasons for poetry.

I'm sure I'll remember on my own eventually. I usually do. But just in case: point me to a poem that reminds you why. Maybe that will help.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Legal oddities and artistic hubris

Tomorrow is Election Day, and we've got a hotly contested mayoral race here. In Indiana, it is illegal to sell alcohol during the hours that polls are open (6 am to 6 pm). Considering some of the people we've elected before in this state, I'm not sure it does much good to make sure we're not roaring drunk when we vote...

* * * * *

Lotus just brought me a paper clip. Seriously, he found it, jumped up onto the coffee table in front of me, and presented it to me. He is very pleased with himself. I would have a cat with an office supply fetish.

* * * * *

Not much poetry going on around here the past few days. I think the Muse is peeved with me for not picking up on the poems she was trying to foist upon me out in Santa Fe.

However, a week from Thursday is the Mark Doty workshop & reading, which should be fun. We've been asked to read all of the "Heaven" poems from his most recent book in preparation for the class. Not a bad homework assignment, methinks.

What with running off to Santa Fe, craziness at work, and other stuff, I am behind schedule for planning my grant-funded manuscript-putting-together retreat. With any luck, that will happen soon. I am oddly nervous about doing it. Other people seem to have more confidence in my ability to do this than I do. Of course, I think that's because I know the scope of the task ahead of me and I'm being more realistic. *grin*

The artistic ego is a funny thing. It takes enormous hubris, I think, just to put words on the page -- and even more to send them off somewhere for an editor's consideration. "Hi, this stuff came out of my brain and I think a bunch of people need to read it." And yet, every artist & writer I have ever met has, however well disguised, a pretty deep sense of inadequacy about their own work. It's a funny mix of egotism and insecurity that fuels the creative mind.

I mean really. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of books out there, and I want to add to that deluge ... why? But for whatever reason, I do want to.

Go figure.

* * * * *

Remember: vote early and often!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Back home again in Indiana...

The trip to Santa Fe was short and relatively packed, what with events related to the family wedding I was there to attend, and trying to spend time with family members, some of whom I don't see very often. I didn't get much sightseeing in (but thanks to those of you who passed along recommendations, which I'm saving for next time) -- I did see enough to know I'd like to go back someday! It's a fascinating little town, not like anywhere else I've ever been; it's been a long time since I found myself in a landscape so completely new to me -- unexpected light, unfamiliar smells -- juniper, sage, salsa. The dry desert air sucked the moisture right out of me. Next time I'm taking chapstick.

The whole time I was there I had this nagging feeling that a poem was almost in me, like a sneeze that won't quite happen. There was one morning when I spent an hour or so sitting at a table in the sun in the courtyard of the hotel, scribbling nothing in my journal and reading some poems, and I almost caught the poem then, I think. But not quite. Sometimes I just need to hold really still for several hours, glancing now and then out of the corner of my eye to see any suspicious movement, before the poem shows itself.

Next time I go to Santa Fe, I'm hunting poems. I like to travel looking for poems the way some people travel looking for the perfect souvenir. I know there are poems in Santa Fe, in that brilliant desert light, in the wings of the humongous crows soaring everywhere (we have crows in Indiana too, but I swear the New Mexico ones are bigger). There's a vocabulary there which I didn't have the time, this trip, to figure out. But I'll be back.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Santa Fe

So I am in Santa Fe right now. This is the first time I've been to the Southwest at all! So everything is very new to me -- the land, the light, the smells. I'm here for a family wedding, and between the wedding-related events & the difficulty of getting my little group of family members all moving in the same direction at the same time, there's not a huge ton of time for sightseeing. But I've been able to spend several hours downtown (in the general vicinity of the Plaza), and I have to say, this seems like a really neat town. Also, everybody here dresses much better than people in Indiana do. Also, looking around all the little shops makes me wish I had a LOT more money than I do. :)

I went into a nice little bookstore called Collected Works; when I'm in a new town, one of my favorite things to do is to go into a local bookstore and try to buy a couple of books by local poets. Collected Works had a pretty decent poetry section which included quite a few local and local-ish poets, and I found three that appealed to me after dipping into them just a bit, so that was a big bookstore success (one book each by Pat Mora, Valerie Martinez, and Carol Moldaw). Also popped into a couple of galleries and several other little shops. It is definitely the sort of "interesting shops and galleries" town I love spending time in, and I think I will try to come back sometime when I can be more leisurely about things. I'll keep an eye out for particularly good poetry readings out here, and maybe try to time a visit so that I can hear somebody fabulous.

Speaking of which, I had hoped to make it to a reading by Sheryl Luna and a couple other poets at the Institute of American Indian Arts this afternoon, but the stars just weren't aligned quite right, or whatever. (Plus I was slightly mistaken about where the reading was, and made it to the IAIA museum about one minute before the reading was scheduled to start, but the reading was about 20 miles away at the IAIA school. Oops. I wouldn't have been able to make it out there anyway, unfortunately.) Sorry, Sheryl -- next time!

I do want to come back to Santa Fe; it doesn't strike me as someplace I am drawn to in an "I really want to live here when I win the lottery" kind of way (which is how I feel about Provincetown), but it's certainly a place where I'd like to spend a little time. I'd also like to get out of town and investigate the landscape a bit, do a little light hiking, that kind of thing. I have to say that after a dreary, rainy, chilly few days in Bloomington, the brilliant sunshine here is most welcome indeed. I'd like to go hunting for poems here, which would probably mean traveling alone (something I enjoy anyway). October seems like a particularly good time to be here, so maybe next year. Anybody know what the queer community is like here? I haven't been able to get a sense of that yet.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Upcoming Indianapolis events

For anyone who may be within driving distance of Indianapolis: On Thursday, November 15, Mark Doty will be reading at the University of Indianapolis. And earlier that day he will be leading a creative writing class there, which has a few open spaces for community members. At least -- there were still openings as of this morning, when I reserved my spot! It doesn't sound like it is a workshop where he will be looking at our own work; the faculty member who's coordinating it said she would be sending out a pdf of the reading we are supposed to have done before the class. Cool -- homework! Here's all the info on the reading and the class (and also here).

Then the next day (Friday, 11/16) Doty will be giving a talk at the Indianapolis Art Museum, "meditating on selected objects from the collection." Like Thursday's class, the talk requires registration in advance. I will probably have to miss this, since that would mean taking a second day (or at least most of the day) off work. But I am totally going to the class and the reading.

And I'm totally getting my copy of Dog Years signed. :)

There is a Q&A after the reading. If anyone has any really good questions they'd like me to try and ask him, let me know!

* * * * *

Best spam subject line of the month: Change your baby banana to a large banana. I think that one even beats the Big Dick Fairy ones I keep getting. Bwahahahahaha!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Copper Canyon on tonight's PBS NewsHour

I never get these things until the very last minute. If you want to get alerts whenever they're going to run a poetry story, instructions can be found at the bottom of the email I've copied here....


* An E-mail Service of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
* and the Online NewsHour


October 22, 2007

Despite the challenges of making a profit in the poetry publishing business, there is still a lot of poetry being produced in the United States. As part of our ongoing NewsHour Poetry Series, tonight we take a look at the ups and downs of Copper Canyon Press and other local Seattle poetry publishers.

Copper Canyon Press has been putting out books for 35 years. With a million dollar budget and a staff of eight, Copper Canyon relies on foundation and government grants, and private donors to publish about 20 poetry books a year. In the poetry publishing business, 5,000 sales is a bestseller, but every so often, there's a blockbuster that brings in real money. One such bestseller is the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Delights & Shadows by Ted Kooser, which has close to 100,000 copies in print.

For online coverage of the Poetry Series, go to the Online NewsHour at

EDITOR'S NOTE: Segments highlighted on NewsHour Poetry Series Alert are scheduled to air but subject to change.

NewsHour Poetry Series Alert subscribers receive an e-mail notice every time a
poetry piece is scheduled to appear on the NewsHour.

The NewsHour Poetry Series is funded by The Poetry Foundation.

To subscribe to NewsHour Poetry Series Alert, please send an e-mail to from the e-mail address you want to subscribe, with the following in the message body: subscribe newshour-poetry-l

Landscapes and perspective

Blogging 'round these parts may be light to nonexistent for a few days while I get ready for a quick trip to the Southwest, where I've never been before. Hello, totally new landscape. Hello, red and green chilies. (Drool...)

* * * * *

I'll probably jinx it by mentioning it here, but I sent out a short story a few days ago, for the first time in several years. I've had one short story published, way back in 1992, but I just don't write fiction very often. I wish I did. I spent several hours tweaking the story I sent out last week and found it pretty enjoyable; writing fiction feels like work in a way that writing poetry doesn't always, and I like how it feels. How you dive into the flow of the words and stay there, maybe for hours. Writing a poem, or revising one, tends (for me) to involve a lot of staring into space; a lot of writing a few words or a line then scratching half of it out; a lot of feeling my way through narrow corridors with all the lights out, not quite knowing where I'm headed, following my senses as best I can. Writing fiction feels like running, picking a direction and heading for it, working up a bit of a sweat.

I was never very good at running, either. *grin*

I sent out a few poems, too. 'Bout time I got back in the saddle.

* * * * *

I have a publication date for my chapbook now. Pre-orders will begin in June (if you asked for a postcard or an email, you will get it then) and the chapbook will be published in late August of next year. So you might not hear much about it until summertime -- but believe me, I will keep you posted. If you don't promote yourself, who will, et cetera.

* * * * *

Thinking, the past few days, about the nature of distance, the nature of memory, the nature of what's past. I don't miss the person I was, back then. Funny to come to that conclusion. Funny how two separate, entirely parallel lines never actually touch, but appear to converge as they recede towards the horizon.

* * * * *

My decrepit old iPod hates me.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Not much poetry

Microsoft wants to read your mind. Cue the evil dancing paperclip....

* * * * *

Factoid: It's very difficult to blog when one has a very large, very fluffy cat flopping himself lengthwise across the laptop and presenting his belly for rubbing.

* * * * *

Very pleased today to get the word that a poem-ish thing* of mine will be appearing in the not-awfully-distant future in Bloom (the queer one this time, not the Bloomington lifestyle mag I was in before).

*I think it's a prosepoem of sorts, actually, but it might be a highly-compressed little essay thing, or a micro-fictiony-thing without much in the way of plot. I'll call it a prosepoem, since I don't really know any better.

* * * * *
Glamorous Job (© Rebecca Loudon) department:

If you are interested in volunteering as a Floor Warden to aid in clearing the Wells Library during an evacuation, please contact me.

I thought they only had wardens in prisons & asylums. Hmmm....

* * * * *

FINALLY got my copy of the new Bruce Springsteen CD today. I made the dire mistake of pre-ordering it directly from the label (Sony), because they were offering a special free lyric booklet along with the purchase. I've been really excited about this CD -- I love me some E Street Band -- and when release day came and went with no package in my mailbox, I started to worry. ("Is there anybody alive out there?") Finally, eight days after release day, I had an email from Sony letting me know that they'd had "a problem at our distribution partner" and shipment had been delayed. They did take off the shipping charges and gave me a couple bucks off the CD, but I still could have gotten it cheaper at Best Buy -- and most importantly, faster. The lyric booklet is kind of neat, but not worth a two week delay. Grrr.

But I have it now. What time is it? It's Boss Time!

* * * * *

Sunday, several members of my old writers' group got together for a little reunion of sorts. We met once a week, every week, from 1985 until sometime in the mid-nineties ('96 or '97 maybe?), and met sporadically for a couple years after that. Many of us have continued to stay in touch, even if loosely, but this was the first time in quite a few years that most of us had been together as a group. It felt like we'd never been apart, except that our usual routine of going around the table and "checking in" about what was up with us that week became a check-in about what had been up with us for the past ten years. That group was always much more than just a writers' group, which I attribute in part to the strong commitment to feminist principles that underpinned everything about our process, in part to the fact that we all worked hard to communicate clearly and really listen to one another, and in part to pure damn luck in gathering together a group of truly remarkable women.

Not all of us have continued to write seriously (or at all). But to my great astonishment, four of us are now talking about getting together more or less monthly to share and critique poems, along with another woman who used to come to our readings all the time and has been known to mention us as an influence on her own work. I would not have predicted this as an outcome to our little reunion, not in a million years. But I am absolutely thrilled that it's happening.

All the way home from S.'s house out in the country, which is where we met yesterday, I had a line from Paul Simon in my head: "After changes upon changes, we are more or less the same." Yep. That we are.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Quiet night

Last night's reading went well, I think. We had a very full house (it's a small room, so it doesn't take much); I'm bad at audience-counting, but I guess we had about 40 people and it felt packed.

* * * * *

Quiet day today; quiet night tonight. I spent a while in my tiny little study at the back of the house, reading and writing a bit and listening to the next door neighbors who were apparently having a small social gathering on their back deck.

Got out Adrienne Rich's Dream of a Common Language and read her "Twenty-One Love Poems" for about the billionth time. How is it that poems I've read so many times, over the course of twenty-plus years, still have the power to move me so deeply?

* * * * *

What kind of beast would turn its life into words?
What atonement is this all about?
--and yet, writing words like these, I'm also living.

[Rich, Twenty-One Love Poems, VII]

* * * * *

As often, I'm thinking about the choices I've made that have led me here, where I am: this small house, this night, this quiet.

* * * * *

I choose to walk here. And to draw this circle.

[Rich, XXI]

* * * * *

It's the choices I don't remember making that circle back on me, nights like this. Even so, I chose this life and I'd probably choose it again.


Thursday, October 11, 2007


So very pleased to wake up to the news this morning that Doris Lessing had been awarded the Nobel. I haven't honestly read that many of her books (and she has a ton of 'em), but I did read The Grass Is Singing and The Golden Notebook and some of her short stories as an undergrad, and I remember being especially moved and inspired by The Golden Notebook. (It's been on my "really should reread this now that I'm older and maybe know a little more" list for a while now.) I think I've read a couple others of hers as well, but can't recall titles off the top of my head. Anyway, happy news.

* * * * *

My poetry group's annual reading is tomorrow evening. I like it much better when we have a Saturday night reading; I'm always so low-energy on Friday evenings after a long work week. I'm going to take a niblet of vacation time tomorrow and leave work an hour or two early, which should help; at least it will give me time to come home, change clothes, have a bite to eat, feed the cats. Note to self: print out poems before going to bed tonight!

We are reading at Boxcar Books, which is a nice little indie bookstore specializing in lefty political stuff. They do have a smallish but generally well-chosen poetry section. They are kind enough to let us use their back room for free -- it's nothing fancy, but it's a nice little space with room for 20-30 people to sit and listen. The bookstore is run by a cooperative of young folks (mostly in their twenties, I think); I always feel a little bit old when I go in there, but they do good work, and have a number of community projects they're affiliated with, including a very active Pages to Prisoners program. Nice little place, and it's fun to read there.

I need to start thinking about the reading I'll be doing in the spring in connection with my grant; it's none too early to start finding a space and choosing a date. I hope that when my chapbook comes out I'll be able to do a few more readings. In a smallish town like Bloomington I don't get to read that often -- there just aren't that many venues -- but I do enjoy reading, when I get to do it. Didn't used to. I used to have stage fright something awful. I'm not quite sure what I did to get over it, but now I'll get up in front of pretty much anyone and read poems. (Extemporaneous speaking is another matter entirely. *shudder*)

Some of my favorite readings ever have been the student readings at the Fine Arts Work Center summer program. You're limited to reading one page, which is not much, but it turns out to be about right for the number of people there. Every year so far there have been at least a couple of students who've astonished me with amazing work -- they attract such a high quality of students there. And although the workshop faculty aren't required to attend, in my experience they always have, and it's pretty sweet to look out into the audience and see people like D.A. Powell, Carl Phillips, Robin Becker, Sonia Sanchez, et al. (Sonia Sanchez was especially cool, going around afterwards to everyone who'd read and thanking them for reading and giving them a hug. She's great.) At those readings, students very often read something they've just written or revised that week, which lends a certain air of risk and excitement to the whole thing.

One of the poems I'm reading tomorrow night is pretty new (I've been working on it since the beginning of August) and probably not quite entirely finished. That's enough risk for a home-court reading, methinks.

* * * * *

Summer has finally snapped like the last string bean, and instead of highs in the low 90s (which we had as recently as Monday) we're topping out around 60. It's a bit of a shock, but at least it's seasonal. I love October, usually. Love it best when the trees are orange and the sky is brilliant blue. There's a certain shade of blue that only happens in autumn. I could live inside that blue, could love it forever. Every year I try to write about that particular sky and every year I fail miserably. Figures.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Found poetry

This list is excerpted from a list of related keywords found in a recycle basket at the library where I work. I don't know what the person's original search was, but it couldn't have been as interesting as the list they tossed. I've left out a bunch from the list, but these are all in the order in which they appeared on the original pages.

(A found poem)

Animals on television
Arabs on television
Arthurian romances on television
Asian Americans on television
Blacks on television
Body, Human, on television
Businessmen on television
Closed-circuit television
Color television
Crime on television
Detective teams on television
Digital television
Grazing (Television)
Heroes on television
Home video systems
Homosexuality on television
Internet television
Justice, Administration of, on television
Lawyers on television
Libraries and television
Man-woman relationships on television
Medicine on television
Melodrama on television
Military television
Nihilism (Philosophy) on television
Nuclear energy on television
Nuclear warfare on television
Nurses on television
Older people on television
People with disabilities on television
Physicians on television
Racism on television
Realism on television
Sensationalism on television
Sex on television
Slow-scan television
Terrorism on television
Underwater television
Video art
Video dial tone
Video telephone
Violence on television
Women heroes on television
Working class on television
Youth on television
Zapping (Television)
Aggressiveness on television
Archetype (Psychology) on television
Astronautics--Optical communication systems
Bisexuality on television
Clergy on television
Death on television
Family on television
Gay men on television
Identity (Psychology) on television
Indians on television
Interviewing on television
Myth on television
National socialism on television
Occultism on television
Pioneers on television
Prehistoric peoples on television
Religion on television
Saints on television
Suffering on television
Tattooing on television
Teenage boys on television
Vampires on television
Whites on television
Women employees on television
More information: Here are entered general works on television
and general technical works on equipment.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Interesting tea

I always think that, being professionally bookish as well as being a spinster poet and what-not, I should be the kind of person who drinks interesting tea. So I go to the natural foods co-op and I buy all kinds of tea -- yoga-doing, karma-enhancing, aromatic tea. I make tea one evening, drink half a cup, and months later can't remember why I bought all those boxes of weird-ass tea in my cupboard and in the snackie drawer of my desk at work, and wonder how on earth it is that I've run out of diet Coke again.

My poems, however, drink interesting tea. They take long walks at all hours of the night. They probably do yoga and have dreams worth recounting. They live in rooms with delightful fragrances wafting through the air, and spend their evenings reading. They might be vegetarians. They certainly know more about wine than I do.

I'm not entirely sure I trust the things.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Atchison, Topeka and...

So, looks like I'm going to be spending a couple days in Santa Fe later on this month for a relative's wedding. I've been to Colorado (only east of the Rockies though) and California, but the Southwest will be completely new ground for me. I'll be flying into Albuquerquererqerquqeruque* and either taking a shuttle or renting a car to get to Santa Fe, so I may conceivably be able to spend a few hours in ABQ on the way in.

Anyone have great suggestions for stuff I should see or do, given that my free time will be pretty limited? I'd especially love to find an interesting bookstore, of course. (It's not a BOOKSTORE ADDICTION. It's PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. Dammit.)

Looking forward to some delicious Mexican food, for sure... yum!

*Yes, I can spell Albuquerque. I just like putting on a few extra querques.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Quick note

Poet Troy Jollimore, author of Tom Thomson in Purgatory, is this week's guest blogger over at the Powell's Bookstore blog.

Here's an excerpt from his first post, which compares being a poet with being a philosopher (which he also is):

Typically, answering the question "What do you do?" with either "I'm a philosopher" or "I'm a poet" will get you a pretty similar look. A look which, if it could be rendered in English, would go something like this: "How peculiar — I mean interesting — I just remembered something quite important I have to do somewhere rather far away from here — please don't ask me who my favorite philosopher/poet is or anything like that — nice meeting you, I'm going to back away slowly now, smiling awkwardly the whole time."

Should be worth keeping an eye on this week to see what else he's got to say.

Frequently Asked Question

One of the most common searches that leads people to my blog is "artistic resumes" (and various variations, like "how to write an artistic resume"). Unfortunately this doesn't lead them much of anywhere -- just to a post I made a year and a half ago, in which I was looking for information on how to write an artistic resume!

And by "artistic resume" (for all you Googlers out there), I don't mean "how to format a regular resume so that it looks all pretty and artistic" -- I mean a resume listing one's artistic accomplishments.

Anyway, I got some good advice in the comments on the original post, and the artistic resume I created at the time seems to have worked (I was runner-up that year for the scholarship I was applying for, and this year I actually won the thing), so I think I probably did OK with the resume. Because this is such a freakin' popular search (and because there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of information out there), I am going to write up a post compiling all of the advice along with my experience, and I'll post that in the next few days. Meanwhile, if anyone has any advice they'd like to add, comment here and I'll include it. Thanky!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Poem of the week, & thoughts on critique

Went out to an old friend's house yesterday evening to talk poetry and have some dinner. She lives on a hill out in the country, and as evening fell, a group of deer wandered down towards the pond. The dogs kept a close eye on them so we didn't have to worry about being attacked by marauding deer, though. Good dogs.

Anyway, we talked about workshopping/critique -- when it helps, when it doesn't. In my old writers' group, which this friend was a part of, we talked about "heart" and "craft" critique -- sometimes you just need to hear whether the piece rings true and can then feel empowered to go back and work on it, while hearing about line breaks or commas or whatever would be overkill and can sometimes paralyze you from wanting to work on the poem further; sometimes you need to hear about what's working or not with the craft, the mechanics of the poem. I no longer think it's quite that easy to separate out these two facets of how a poem functions, but for a long time it was a helpful way of talking about critique, and especially a helpful way of bringing beginners into a workshop setting.

What occurred to me last night was yet another way of categorizing critique: that which urges the poet to clarify, and that which urges the poet to complicate. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive, of course, just as clarity and complexity are not mutually exclusive in a poem. But I've realized that when I feel frustrated and unsatisfied with critique, often it's because the people responding to the poem are thinking primarily in terms of clarity. I can push myself in that direction pretty satisfactorily; what I like to get from a workshop or critique group (I almost typed "critique grope" but that would be something else entirely) is a recognition of what is complex and mysterious in the poem, an exploration of where that complexity arises and where it leads the poem, and suggestions about how to nudge the poem further in the direction of its own mystery.

In both of the workshops I've had with D.A. Powell, he has quoted Rachel Zucker: "Revise towards strangeness." I think that is, in general, excellent advice.

* * * * *

I don't remember for sure which blogger recommended Nancy Pagh's book, No Sweeter Fat. Peter, was it you? Anyway, I'm quite grateful. I actually ordered it some months ago, but my book backlog is just crazy right now, and I've only just gotten around to reading it. There's some terrific stuff in here! This one is a little different from some of the other poems in the book, but I thought y'all might particularly appreciate it:

Among the Vegetarians
(apologies to WW)

Sometimes I would like to turn and live
among the vegetarians --
they are so placid, and so self contained.

They understand the eggplant's secret
firmness, the tabula rasa the bean curd is.

I contemplate them long and long.
Death does not linger on their breath.
The darker crevices
of their cutting boards are safe.

They exist without asking another
animal to kneel and spill itself.

The gentle eyes of the vegetarian
flash liquid revelations
to me and I accept them.

Theirs is an appetite to know and be filled
with the scallop the coho the razor
clam's dignity apart.

My hunger takes
the cream-white flesh of the halibut
the migrating eye of the halibut
the scythe-mouthed strike of the halibut
the graveled bed of the halibut
the cold gray sea of the halibut
in every bite.

It is incised, protean, unassuaged
by toast.

My hunger wants more than the halibut
and finds it in the halibut.

Believe me sometimes
I think if you were as much of this world
as the halibut
I would have to eat you too.

--Nancy Pagh
from No Sweeter Fat (Pittsburgh, PA: Autumn House Press, 2007)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Classified ads

Posting for a poet friend in NYC. I don't know from NYC housing, where the rents have a lot more numbers in them than they do here in Indiana, but I'm guessing this is a good deal...

from Dec 15 to April 1 (give or take a week)
(Available for whole winter or segments)

My studio is on East 15th Street (Manhattan)
between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.
That's East Village/Gram. Park.
The building is on a quiet street next to a park
and not too far from Union Square
so great for transportation.

Queen-sized bed and full-sized futon.
ac, tv/dvd/vcr (no cable
but I have wireless internet access),
microwave, stereo, the basics.
Apt is on 6th (top) floor--so it's quiet.
Elevator and laundry room.

1550 per month.
Cheaper and cozier than a hotel.
Photos available.

Please pass on my info if you know someone:

(917) 817-7171

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Simic on PBS

Tonight on the Jim Lehrer NewsHour (on your friendly neighborhood PBS station -- check your local listings)...


September 26, 2007

As a part of our ongoing series of poet profiles, tonight we feature Poet Laureate Charles Simic.

Simic was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia during World War II where his earliest years saw occupation, civil war, and the beginnings of a Stalinist regime in his homeland. Although he is the fifteenth Poet Laureate of the United States, he did not speak English until he was 15-years-old. Simic has published over 60 books in the United States and abroad, including numerous volumes of his own poetry, essays, and memoirs. He won the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for The World Doesn't End: Prose Poems.

Charles Simic will be answering your questions on his work and the future of poetry in an Online Insider Forum. To participate go to

EDITOR'S NOTE: Segments highlighted on NewsHour Poetry Series Alert are scheduled to air but subject to change.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The local (that's local, not lo-cal!) report

Best recent google search leading to my blog: "i'm sick of self indulgent bipolar people"

* * * * *

I see that IU's MFA program has updated their website … but they haven't put redirects on the old site yet, so I've been continuing to check the old site, not knowing the new one was up! Oof. Web designers, take heed. The new site is a big improvement, though! Very attractive. So kudos to them for that.

Looks like A.E. Stallings is reading here in October, which is lovely. And Ross Gay has joined the faculty this year -– hooray! I haven 't read that much of his work, but I look forward to doing so, and maybe hearing him read sometime soon. He seems to be a good fit for the program. He's a Cave Canem fellow; that program seems to do such amazing work in supporting and encouraging young African-American poets and so many terrific voices have come through those ranks. I'm glad it exists. It would be nice to see something equally vital and exciting and productive for GLBT poets, wouldn't it?

They've taken Kevin Young off the list; he was officially "on leave" for a while, but for some reason I was under the impression that he wasn't coming back, which apparently is the case.

It is odd, being a poet affiliated with a university that has a strong MFA program, but not being connected with said MFA program. I've been known to rant at length about the fact that it's hard for someone outside the department to find out about the readings they sponsor; I've attended the occasional MFA student reading (and they're usually pretty good) and try to make it to as many of the visiting-writer readings as possible, when I find out about them in time. When I've had a chance to get to know some of the MFA students I've consistently been impressed with their energy and talent.

I really think the "MFA versus non-MFA" divide is a fallacy that hurts us all. I know non-MFA poets who look down their noses at MFA folks, and MFA poets who don't quite trust the credentials of non-MFA types; it goes both ways. The fact is, MFA programs are great for some people, not so good for others. It's certainly not the only way to learn how to write. And I do think they sometimes do poets a disservice by leading them to believe they'll be able to get a cushy teaching job once they have that degree in hand; there are far more MFA grads than there are teaching jobs, of course. But for the right poet at the right time in her/his life, I think an MFA program can be an incredible learning experience. And while for various reasons I do not think that IU's program would be right for me, I think that for some students, it's a tremendous program and I really respect and value what they do. And truly, I think that non-MFA poets and MFA-type folks have a lot to learn from one another, if we can all just get over being a bit defensive about our choice to MFA or not to MFA.

This has been your "can't we all just get along" moment for today.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Mail call! Last chance!

If you'd like to receive a postcard in the mail to let you know when my chapbook, Breach, is available for pre-ordering, please drop your mailing address in my email (ahaines at gmail dot com). I need to get these addresses no later than Thursday (and actually I am already That Person who is asking her publisher for an extension, sigh), so hop to it...

If you'd like an email (instead of or in addition to a postcard), give me your email address.

Of course, I'll post here when pre-orders are open, because I'm a spammer like that. *grin*

Okay, that's enough shameless self-promotion for one day!

Pluggity plug plug

I'm so far behind, I think I just met myself coming back the other way.

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Upcoming! Five Women Poets' 33rd annual reading. Featuring original work by poets Joyce B. Adams, Patricia C. Coleman, Anne Haines (who dat?), Deborah Pender Hutchison, Antonia Matthew, Leah Helen May, and Anya Peterson Royce. Friday night, October 12th, 7:00 pm at Boxcar Books & Community Center in beautiful downtown Bloomington, Indiana. Free, but make a donation if you can.

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Also plugging: Joyce Adams, one of the members of aforementioned Five Women Poets, has a chapbook coming out from Finishing Line Press: "What is Brought to Light." You can order it at their website; if you're interested & have trouble finding it on there, let me know. I wrote a wee blurb for this, so it has my seal of approval....

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This coming weekend, again in beautiful downtown Bloomington: the Lotus Festival! Good times, good times...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Help Wanted

I have no clue whether this pays enough to live on, but I just spotted this in the local paper and thought I'd pass it on ...

The Writers' Center of Indiana (WCI), the state's only comprehensive literary arts organization, seeks an Executive Director to be responsible for overall management, organizational growth, and fund development of the WCI. The ideal candidate should have experience in small nonprofit administration and fundraising, as well as a passion for the literary arts. Send resume/salary requirements to

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Poem of the week

I often dislike dream poems. There are lots of reasons for this. Sometimes they can be too easy: Ooh, here's some weird images! They don't have to make any sense; they're from a dream! Sometimes they're too personal, too encoded, meaningful only to the person who wrote the poem or dreamed the dream, or maybe to someone who knows that person well. Sometimes they're just too self-consciously symbolic, like a poem your high school English teacher would ask you to analyze, picking out every image to determine once and for all What It Really Means.

That said, I like this dream poem by Michael Collier. Looking at it again, what really makes the poem for me is the word vernix. It's such a completely unexpected word, such an unusual word to begin with and not one most of us use on a daily basis, and it seems to catapult the poem to a whole new level as soon as it shows up. Such a mammalian, human word, given to birds in a dream -- it's startling.

Interesting how much weight one word can carry in a poem.

Birds Appearing in a Dream

One had feathers like a blood-streaked koi,
another a tail of color-coded wires.
One was a blackbird stretching orchid wings,
another a flicker with a wounded head.

All flew like leaves fluttering to escape,
bright, circulating in burning air,
and all returned when the air cleared.
One was a kingfisher trapped in its bower,

deep in the ground, miles from water.
Everything is real and everything isn't.
Some had names and some didn't.
Named and nameless shapes of birds,

at night my hand can touch your feathers
and then I wipe the vernix from your wings,
you who have made bright things from shadows,
you who have crossed the distance to root in me.

--Michael Collier
from Dark Wild Realm (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)

Fiddly little edits

Today I printed out a huge stack of poems -- pretty much everything workable I've drafted in the last two years -- and went to Soma, a funky local coffeehouse largely frequented by grad students. I sat there with said stack of poems and a double cappuccino and a pen, and started editing. I wanted to do some real revising, re-entering the poems and making major structural changes, but mostly what I made were fiddly little edits. Still, it felt good; sometimes when I haven't revised in a while I have to sit there making fiddly little edits for a while just to get into the space of making alterations, and eventually I find myself doing the more drastic work.

I also found myself liking a lot of poems I'd half forgotten writing. I rolled my eyes at a bunch of them, of course, but I had lots of "hey, that's not half bad" moments. Which was nice. If I have half an ounce of sense, which I'm not sure I do, I'll take advantage of feeling this way & get some stuff sent out tomorrow.

Also realized I have a lot of, for lack of a better phrase, terribly romantic poems. Not love poems necessarily (and in fact most of them are not love poems per se), just poems that are ... I don't know. Non-cynical, I guess. And I'm really not a hopeless romantic (shut up, you -- I'm not) so I'm not sure where those come from. Funny. I'm beginning to think the me who writes poems believes different things about the world than the me who lives the rest of my life.

Does that make the poems (or me) dishonest? I don't think so. It's just sort of an interesting conclusion to come to.

Maybe poems are like pillow talk: you mean it at the time, but let's hope nobody holds you to it later on. Which is kind of an interesting angle to the persona-poem versus first-person discussion percolating around various corners of the blogosphere (Kelli's place, in particular).

Well, here's a for-example. I'll take it down in a day or so. This one sort of (kinda) falls into the love-poem category, so it's a bit of an exception, but it's the kind of thing I'm thinking of.


Friday, September 14, 2007

The season is turning

Just in the past few days, the oppressive heat and humidity of an Indiana summer has shifted into the cool weather and sometimes amazingly blue skies of fall. Big sigh of relief, here. Many trees are starting to lose their leaves early due to the intense drought, so already I look outside and see little brown leaves spiraling downward. I dislike the winter that it leads up to, but I really do love fall.

Today I'm taking the day off. I was to the point of actually losing my sense of humor on occasion -- which, if you know me, you know doesn't happen very often (hello, class clown here). Stress both at work & outside of work had just built up to an unpleasant point. I'd thought I would make today a highly productive day, get some chapbook-related stuff done that needs to be done asap, send out some poems, clean house, et cetera ... but instead all I've done so far today has been to take a shower and then a long nap with a large sleepy cat snuggled up in my arms. (I couldn't HELP it. The cat made me take that nap.) Tomorrow, I'll get up at a reasonable hour and go out for brunch with Too Much Coffee and get a lot of work done. Swear it.

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This past Sunday evening I drove up to Indianapolis for a reading by Roger Mitchell at the Writers' Center. I'd never been to the Writers' Center before, oddly enough; thanks to Mapquest I was able to find it with no problem. It was a little over a ninety-minute drive each way, which is why I haven't been there, I guess. I do want to go back for the occasional event, though I'm sure I'd be more inclined to do stuff like that if I had a car I trusted a little more.

Anyway, the reading was quite good, and I'm pleased to find out that Roger Mitchell has a big new & selected coming out from Ausable Press in the not-too-distant future. I went alone and didn't know too many people there, though there were a number of familiar faces and, as I found out when I chatted with people, several familiar names -- Shari Wagner, for example, whose work I came across when I went to the Indiana Arts Commission literature panel last spring (they had the grant applications in a big binder for anyone in the audience to peruse, and the poetry she included with her grant application was quite wonderful; and yes, she did get a grant). I also reconnected with someone I knew waaaaaay back in my undergrad years; she was a year or two ahead of me at IU, and we had at least one creative writing class and maybe another class or two together, and ran in similar circles. I'd known she was teaching up at IUPUI (that's the Indianapolis campus of IU), so was not too surprised to see her there.

I signed up for the open mic, of course, and was dismayed to see that there was a LONG list of signer-uppers by the time the reading started. We were asked to keep it to one minute, and to my surprise, pretty much everyone did their best to comply. (You know how an open mic can be ... someone thinks their four-page epic comes in at one minute, plus they ramble on and on with an extended intro.) And overall, there were some pretty good poems read. Definitely a higher-quality open mic than some I've been to.

They seem to have a nice little community going on up there at the Writers' Center. I don't know how often I'll be able to take part in it, due to distance -- but it's nice to know it's there. And they have a nice little facility, too! There's a small sort of arts complex there, which the Writers' Center is a part of; it's near the Indianapolis community of Broadripple, which is sort of the "funky shops, clubs with live music, art galleries, and interesting restaurants" neighborhood in Indy.

* * * * *

So, no, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. I'm still behind on everything -- but am starting to feel a tiny bit more sane. Hooray for the occasional mental health day, especially when it involves napping with cats. And hooray for the season starting to turn, finally.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Things may be quiet around here for a few days. I just got a shiny new laptop (it's very shiny!) and for a little while, most of my computer time will probably be spent transferring files from the old falling-apart one to the shiny new one, and getting used to the quirks of Vista Ultimate (which is also very shiny) and Office 2007.

The new laptop's name is Harriet2 (the old one is named Harriet). Bonus points to anyone who knows why I named it that. Hint: a laptop is also called a notebook. :)

It's nice not to have to stick the K key back on (with that tacky blue poster stuff... yes, I meant it when I said it was falling apart) every few minutes, and to have a hard drive that is not 95% full, and not to have the CD drawer pop open for no reason at random moments. Shiny!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Brief notes

That's brief as in short. I'm not talking about underwear here.

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Interesting . . . this year, the Lambda Literary Awards are putting all the poetry nominations in one big poetry category rather than dividing them between lesbian & gay poetry. I wonder if they just don't get enough nominations in poetry to sustain two categories? Fiction is still divided, although they now call it "women's" and "men's" (to be more inclusive of various orientations).

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Way to go, Jerry Lewis! As if the telethon weren't icky enough already for its whole "tragic-but-brave" attitude towards people with disabilities. Ew. Glad I was watching tennis instead.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Poem of the week and other stuff

It's been crazy this week. First week of classes. It took all the energy I had just to come home from work, collapse onto the couch, and watch way too much tennis on TV. (Go, James Blake!)

But this weekend should be nice. The weather has finally broken, after far too much heat and humidity for far too long. And this weekend is the Fourth Street Festival of Arts & Crafts, which for me means looking at a lot of gorgeous art I wish I could afford, making goo-goo eyes at lots of dogs, and most likely running into any number of people I know. This is the festival's 31st year; it will be my 29th year in a row of attending. (Wow, I'm old.)

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I just picked up Laurel Blossom's Wednesday: New and Selected Poems via interlibrary loan. (This copy came from the Virginia Intermont College library, and it's signed!) There are a couple of poems in here that I stumbled across years ago -- I was an undergrad, or maybe (could it have been this long ago?) in high school; they must have been published in Poetry, as that was one of the very few literary journals I was aware of back then (because the public library carried it). In fact, I'm pretty sure that is where I remember finding them. Anyway, something about these two poems just grabbed me so hard at the time, I remember reading them aloud to myself and loving the way the language felt in my mouth. If I stumbled across these poems for the first time now, as a considerably older woman with considerably wider reading behind her, would they grab me quite as fiercely? Maybe not. I have no way of knowing. But I'm so grateful for the way they became a part of my younger vocabulary, and for what they taught me at the time.

Here's one of them.


The road sign reads Kansas, another example
of language imitating life. The land's so flat
the wind acts as if it would like to blow you to hell, but
you're modern, this is it: a wheat field

is a wheat field
is a wheat field till you wish. Be careful.
This is that dead stretch they warned you
to cross at night. They were right. If you're driving
straight through to the Coast, you're both crazy
by this time, you are not quite the strangers you
may have been when you left.
Neither of you has ever been this far west.

Your companion pops No-Doz, flips the radio dial
every few minutes to make sure he is
where he thinks he is, no fool
like the deejays spinning blind in their booths.
Every station repeats the same news.
You swear you can smell the sea
and he loves it, no question
California, the two of you, the future

you've heard a hundred times before. It's a hit
and it shines on the other side of this landscape
like the light from the setting sun or a star, traveling
at the same speed you are.

--Laurel Blossom
from Wednesday: New and Selected Poems (Roseville, MI: Ridgeway Press, 2004)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Believe it or not

It's a 4 1/2 foot fossilized walrus penis. (What did you think it was?) If you'd had 8000 dollars, you could have bought it. Instead, it will be in the Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum.

Here's another story about it, with more details but no picture.

I really want one of you guys to use the word baculum in a poem. Isn't that a great word?

* * * * *

Last night I dreamed that I was talking to C. Dale (who I have never met in real life) and he asked me who my favorite bloggers were. My response: "Me, of course!" I think this is perhaps a sign that I am spending way too much time online.

Then we continued the conversation but neither of us would name any names. Come on, C. Dale! You can give me better gossip than that in my dreams!


* * * * *

Also present is Mark Doty’s incredibly rare 1981 manuscript The Empire of Summer, a book that Doty has since disowned and stricken from his official resume. The book appears in only eighteen libraries worldwide.

One of those libraries happens to be the one I work in. Hee, hee. And I am a huge Mark Doty fan, but after reading the book, I can understand why he wouldn't care to lay claim to it. But isn't it kind of reassuring to know that one's favorite poets didn't, oh, spring from the forehead of the Muse or whatever -- that there was a time when they hadn't yet figured out what to say or how to say it?

All the same, the fact that people are apparently willing to pay a great deal of money for this book makes me want to burn the high-school literary journals with my crappy teenage poems in them, just in case. Oof. Not to mention being grateful that the crappy book manuscript I was sending out about fifteen years ago never got published. Apparently, sometimes one can be grateful for rejection. Ha!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Good, Blurb, Peeve, Ephemeral

Good: A good day today, with good food at the Runcible Spoon, somewhat cooler weather after three triple-digit days in a row, sufficient caffeine, cats, and lots of poetry.

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Blurb: If anyone out there -- anyone of the published-book persuasion, I guess -- would be interested in blurbing my chapbook, drop me an email & I can send you the manuscript to read. I have a couple blurbs lined up, I think, but another wouldn't hurt.

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Peeve, pet variety: People using "poetry" as a synonym for "beauty." E.g., "When James Blake hits a killer forehand it's pure poetry." Yes, when a poem is good you have the feeling that not one word should be changed, everything is exactly where it needs to be, et cetera. But good poetry can also be disturbing, jarring, ugly even. Some poetry is beautiful but if you always come to poetry with the expectation of beauty, you're eventually bound to be thwarted. It's like "nature" -- nature is orchids and butterflies and pristine beaches, but it's also droughts and earthquakes and cat-5 hurricanes, and critters that kill & eat one another in sometimes unpleasant ways.

Don't even get me started on people expecting "nature poetry" to be all pretty and domesticated. Nature and poetry can both be terrifying. Ought to be, sometimes, really.

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Ephemeral: As usual, this draft (hot off the press, scribbled while sitting in the public library this morning) will disappear in a day or so.

[...and, gone!]