Saturday, June 30, 2007

The future, the past

The future:

Upcoming, probably in my next post: I'll outline the project which my Individual Artist Grant will be funding, and why I'm going to be one darned busy poet for the next twelve months.

Upcoming, in a little over a week: Hey, cool! Tony Hoagland and Jason Shinder are reading at FAWC on the Sunday I arrive there. I'm not intimately familiar with the work of either poet, but I've read a bit here and there, so I'll look forward to this. Carl Phillips and Gail Mazur are reading that week too (of course, since they are teaching). And the Saturday I leave, there is a reading by Keith Althaus, Sara London, and Paul Lisicky (whose work I like a great deal). Dang! I've got motel reservations in Providence that night, and seriously doubt I could find a place to stay in P-town for just that one night -- so sticking around for that reading would mean making the drive to Providence quite late at night. Hm. We'll just play it by ear. Maybe I'll find a couch to crash on.

The past:

Here's a really old poem, just for kicks and giggles.

The summer wears on
becomes overripe and malodorous.
You try not to move too much
but always something calls you,
the phone, a kid selling candy,
the water for your dinner boiling over.
Every action feels like an uprooting,
limp pale tendrils pulled through dust
and clods of dry earth.
You want it to rain.

But what you planted grows relentlessly
despite the weather,
tomatoes swell and split and fall,
zinnias grow too tall for bouquets.
In back, early windfall apples
hit the ground at odd moments,
plock, and you gather them in paper bags
but it's too hot to can or bake pies.
Every night you check
the asparagus, cut the stalks
when they're still tender,
finger high. What you miss
keeps growing, ferny and defiant.
No matter how much you harvest
some escapes you, falls free,
goes to seed.

-A.H. (1987)
Published in Calapooya Collage #12, 1988

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


PWADJ tagged me, so I'm supposed to reveal eight things about myself. I'm not a particularly mysterious person, so this probably won't be too exciting....
  1. I always wear comfortable shoes, thus neatly fulfilling a couple of stereotypes at once.
  2. I didn't get a driver's license until I was 29 years old.
  3. I'm only 5 foot 1 (and a half). I know, I blog like I'm much taller.
  4. I used to be a very serious karate student when I was in my early twenties. I trained for some seven years or so, and got as far as second-degree brown belt. I never quite got it together to go for my black belt (I was getting kind of burned out), and then my sensei left town.
  5. The first poem I remember writing was a long rhyming thing about the Apollo space program that I wrote when I was about nine years old. The only lines I remember for sure: "Apollo 11 / Went straight up to heaven." Oh, the humanity!
  6. I don't have a significant other or a religion. I think poetry is both of those. I'm not altogether certain that's healthy, but there you have it. I kind of like it this way, actually.
  7. My first celebrity crush, when I was like six years old, was on Catwoman (from the campy original Batman series with the NA-NA-NA-NA-NA-NA-NA-NA BATMAN! theme song). Mrrrrowwwrrrr!
  8. I can't watch TV shows about lost or injured or abused animals, even if they get rescued and are OK in the end (like all those Katrina animal-rescue stories). I think about the poor scared animals and I just can't stand it. I know, I'm way too much of a softie.
Okay, that's eight. I kind of hate these things, so if you want to be tagged, consider yourself tagged!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Newsy linky bits

Annie Dillard has a new novel and it's set in Provincetown! I think I'll buy it when I'm there.

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If you are a DIY publisher, micropress, or anything like that, check out The Word Vine!

What a totally cool idea. I hope it takes off big time.

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I love this poem by Beth Ann Fennelly in Blackbird: "The Kudzu Chronicles." I had a cat named Kudzu once, because when he was a kitten he grew like crazy and took over everything. He wasn't a noxious weed, though.

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Two weeks from today, I'll be in the midst of my workshop with Carl Phillips. I hope it's good. I bet it will be.

Speaking of Provincetown, the Fine Arts Work Center has named a new Executive Director. She is an attorney and a gardener. I hope it proves to be a good fit for everyone.

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Verticle Oracle card

Gemini (May 21-June 20)
We're almost halfway through 2007. It's time to take inventory of how well you're capitalizing on this year's unique opportunities. So let me ask you, Gemini: Are you working hard to heal the indecisiveness that has dissipated your energy in the past? I hope so. You've never had a better chance to unify your divided mind than you have now; you will continue to be the beneficiary of unprecedented help from cosmic forces whenever you make concentrated efforts to coordinate your diverse desires. I urge you to invoke all your ingenuity as you seek out the magic that will make you a virtuoso of variety.

"Cosmic forces," eh? Cool! *grin*

drafty in here

I haven't been writing much for the past month or so -- so I am glad for what comes, even if it's not much (as this one isn't).

It won't stay up for long...


Friday, June 22, 2007

I will not take these things for granted

Today I received the happy confirmation that, out of a record pool of 226 applicants, the Indiana Arts Commission has selected me as one of the 2007-2008 recipients of a $2000 Individual Artist Grant.

I think they were going to be awarding about 40 grants -- I haven't yet seen the list of recipients. I'm dying to find out which of the other literature proposals got funded!

There will be more details about my project to follow, because -- dig this -- blogging about the whole process was a part of my proposal. Hee! I will tag grant-related posts with the tag "2008_IAP_Grant" so they can be followed here. For now, suffice it to say that I am going to be one busy poet for the next twelve months or so -- and of course there is plenty of paperwork.

I also need to insert a small caveat -- in the "everyone should have such problems!" department, I am going to have to revise my proposal because of getting the Agha Shahid Ali Scholarship from FAWC -- since the workshop is part of the project being funded. Yikes! I did NOT expect to get both the scholarship and the grant -- but I am NOT complaining!! --The revision, as I understand it, means that the IAC has the opportunity to re-evaluate my proposal. But I have already figured out how to handle this, I think, and hopefully it won't be a problem.

Yeah yeah, everyone should have such problems. *grin*

So, more later on the details of the project. For now, if you'll excuse me, I have a major BUTT-WAGGLING HAPPY DANCE ALL AROUND MY LIVING ROOM that needs to be performed....

Monday, June 18, 2007


Indiana has a Poet Laureate -- who knew? I've lived in Indiana since 1971 and I've never heard of this person. Interesting. (Thanks to Jilly for the link!)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Landlocked girl

It is a summer evening in Indiana, cicadas and crickets buzzing, swifts circling ferociously through the sky, swooping up insects. Because it's summer my thoughts turn to the beach town that I love, where I try to spend a week every summer, have managed to do so four out of the last six summers though once I couldn't manage a full week. It amazes me to be planning for the ocean. I am the first one in my family to make regular visits to the ocean, though I grew up reading books about people who did. But that was for rich people. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a rich person. And yet here I am, making lists and reservations, shaking a bit of sand out of last year's suitcase. How did this become my life?

Growing up, I didn't know the ocean. I'd never even caught a glimpse of it until I was twenty. But I was fascinated by it, dreamed of it as only a landlocked girl can dream of it. I imagined what "the taste of salt air on my tongue" might be like. I imagined it the way I imagined sex, in just that hushed a tone. When I was ten my family moved to Indiana, and some months later we made the hour's drive to Lake Michigan, my first sight of water that went past the horizon. I was entranced, I collected rocks from every beach we went to, I climbed up the dunes and went running tumbling down. Gray water, small waves, the smell of dead alewives washed up on the sand. I dreamed of brine and seashells and the real ocean. I listened to Heart's album "Dreamboat Annie," with its bits of seagull-and-crashing-wave soundtrack. I remembered the album my parents had when I was a little little kid, Hawaiian music and the sounds of ocean surf. I could almost daydream myself there.

Years later, thirty-two and head over heels in love with a woman who lived near the beach, I visited her and for the first time slept within walking distance of salt water. It was October, sunny and just warm enough. While she went to work I walked along the beach, caught sight of a pod of dolphins traveling, leaping through the waves. Years later, offered the opportunity to take a vacation, I remembered those dolphins and thought that I might like to go whale-watching. That's how I found myself in Provincetown for a week in June of 2001, alone, incredibly at peace.

The softest animals live in the ocean: jellies, anemones, velvety rays. Cetaceans, smooth and sleek and rounded. Squirmy cephalopods moving freely in every possible direction, no more solid than mercury. Seals with their huge liquidy eyes. It's like the water that surrounds them enables them to be that soft, that vulnerable. I know what that is like. And I'm kidding myself, of course, because the ocean is also full of jagged teeth and spiny things, shells that cut your bare feet on the beach, rocks you can't even stand to walk on.

I'll probably always come back to the midwest, always be the landlocked girl with the landlocked heart. But I'll keep going back to water, back to salt. It's a small pilgrimage, a kind of prayer. When I first get to the beach I walk to the water, let it lap around my feet, do a little dance because it's cold. I cup my hands, bring salt water to my lips. Every time, the sweetness of it surprises me.
race point beach

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Happy Bloomsday!

When I was an undergrad I took an entire semester-long seminar about Ulysses. It was pretty amazing, though I suspect I would get a lot more out of that book if I read it now than I did back when I was twenty. Someday I'd like to go back and read it again.

* * * * *

I love travel planning, deciding to go somewhere and then researching the heck out of it beforehand. I am so not a spontaneous girl. The planning is at least half the fun of the vacation, though.

* * * * *

Carrie Newcomer's annual free concert in the park was yesterday evening. As always, a lovely time was had by all -- picnics, dogs, little kids playing on the swings and dancing, birds wheeling overhead. At one point a huge black butterfly flew over much of the crowd, just past seated-head level. It never feels quite like summer until after Carrie's park concert. So, now it can be summer.

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Biding my time, waiting on the commission...

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I've ordered this book by Eloise Klein Healy, this one by Ellen Bass, this one by Anne Marie Macari, and this one by Sam Witt. Next I'm going to order Erin Bertram's new chapbook. It's not like I need more books in my house, and it's not like I have any shortage of titles in the "haven't read this yet" pile. (Okay, piles, plural. Eek.) I just love buying books. (I could stop anytime I wanted to. Really. Um...)

At least nobody can accuse me of not supporting poetry. *grin*

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Pleased to learn that an odd little poem of mine called "Surviving the Fairy Tale" will be included in the inaugural issue of Barn Owl Review, due out at AWP in January.

Which makes me want to go to AWP! But New York hotels are just awfully expensive, even at the discounted conference rates. I doubt I'll be able to swing it, but I'm trying not to rule it out just yet.

* * * * *

Speaking of hotels, the following description appears on the website for the Best Western in Seekonk, Massachusetts: The brand new Best Western Providence-Seekonk Inn features 50 rooms, three stories, one elevator with indoor pool and fitness room.

That must be one heck of an elevator!

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Some nice publicity for Valparaiso Poetry Review -- thanks to Ed Byrne for passing this one along. I am amused that they picked me out as one of the names to mention, probably because it's an Indiana newspaper and I'm, you know, from Indiana and stuff.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Lifestyles of the Rich and Gaymous

The New York Times has a nice article about Mark Doty & Paul Lisicky and their new place on Fire Island, and why they left Provincetown. Mostly the article is about their fabulous home though.

I understand why they left Provincetown. I find myself wishing I'd discovered that place, started going there (...been able to afford to go there...), years before I did -- back when it was still more of a funky artist town and not quite so gentrified. At the same time, I think I got there when I needed to.

I first went there, actually, in 1982 for the annual women's martial arts camp I used to attend every summer; it was held in a different location every year, and the first year I went, it was in P-town. (We had our big mass opening & closing workouts in Town Hall, which was just too much fun.) I didn't go back until 2001 though, a few months after finishing library school, just exactly when I was ready to start writing again -- though I didn't realize that until I found myself sitting on the beach scribbling madly in my journal. I spent a week there, staying by myself in the lovely Fairbanks Inn, whale-watching and shopping and beach-bumming and generally happy as a clam. (Happier, probably, than the clams I ate that week. Hm.)

I found out about the Fine Arts Work Center sometime after that trip, and decided I wanted to go there someday. In 2003 I couldn't afford a week-long workshop, but I found a good airfare that just happened to coincide with a few days in which both Mark Doty and Stanley Kunitz were scheduled to read. Lucky me! I remember the moment I walked onto the grounds of FAWC, I felt right at home for some reason, even though I didn't know a soul there. It was kind of like -- oh, here's where my people have been hiding!

I registered for a workshop in 2004, but had to cancel in order to spend time with my mom when she had knee replacement surgery that summer. But when I finally showed up for workshops in 2005 and 2006 -- well, those of you who've been reading this blog for a while know how much fun I had and how hard I worked, those weeks. Going back there feels like going home, now -- and by "there" I mean both FAWC and the town itself: the harbor fog, the dunes, the gloriously queer parade along Commercial Street at night.

Provincetown feels so much like home. Even though I'll never, never be able to afford to live there -- and completely understand why someone who has loved it would leave it now.

Then again, I'm the one who actually likes living in the Midwest. So what do I know. *grin*

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


When I say this is an older poem, I really mean it. I wrote it in 1989, when I was (yikes!) 28 years old. 1989 is also, coincidentally, the birth year of many of the folks entering college this coming fall as freshmen. (To those of you who suddenly felt really old there for a second: yeah, me too.)

Anyway, this was published in Prairie Schooner (Fall 1993), which makes it one of my "biggest-name" publications. Despite that, it doesn't seem to be making it into any of the manuscripts I try to put together. I won't go so far as to say that I don't believe in this poem anymore, but it feels ... distant, now. When I wrote it, so long ago, I think I still kind of bought into the notion that one must feel some kind of suffering in order to write, and I think the pain in this poem is sort of manufactured. ("The taste of my own blood" indeed. How goth!) Still, it has some images I really like, and I'm fond of the three-part contruction, how it gave me the freedom to write three sections that didn't follow upon each other in any kind of logical or narrative way -- but that do feel connected, and they do feel like they're in the right order, they're not so independent as to be interchangeable. So there are still things I like here, even if it's not a poem I'd probably want to write now.

I also feel a little disconnected from this poem because it dates back to before the writing hiatus I began (unintentionally) in 1994, when my life got just a little nuts. I was starting to get some good publications, and had a couple of chapbook manuscripts that were finalists in various competitions, and then I stopped for about six years -- barely writing at all, and sending out almost nothing. When I came back to it -- after grief, love, more grief, and library school -- it felt like starting over, in so many ways. I'll write about that someday.

Anyway, here it is, just for grins.

* * * * *

Telling Stories, The Evening Star

I drink strong coffee to wash
the taste of blood from my mouth.
I tell myself stories as I fall asleep
to banish the taste of blood
from my dreams.
One blood is mine,
one someone else's.
I bite the inside
of my cheeks sometimes
to stop myself from speaking.

Venus glitters, evening star,
like an idea I might have had.
In the morning
the waning moon will cast
pale light on crusted snow.
I walk outside in these times
of half-light, trying to name
the colors. The names elude me
and so the colors fade
into night or into day. In the west,
past twilight, Venus sinks
imperceptibly lower each moment,
a piercing light that makes the sky
look darker, that gives bare branches
the fierce clarity of knives.
My breath is a pale cloud, descending.

One morning I wake with a stiff neck.
Nothing helps, not heat, not stretching.
All day I stumble clumsily, trying not
to turn my head, gasping with pain
at any sudden movement.
Feeding the cats, I lower myself
slowly to the bowls; folding laundry,
I am careful not to jostle.
And I think, how we arrange
our lives around our pain,
the care we take.

I step out into stars and snow,
but stiff and sore, I can't look up.
I take the evening star on faith,
its steady light slipping westward.
I don't need faith for the ice underfoot,
the crunch of the snow's crust,
the cold that numbs my feet.

The taste of my own blood
warms me. My breath
rises like the end
of a question,
like a story I'd tell.

-A.H. 1989

Monday, June 04, 2007

Alexie interview and revision out loud

For those of you who are Sherman Alexie fans, and those who just like entertaining interviews with writers, check out this excellent interview on the Powell's Bookstore site.

I love the idea that he's rewriting his novel as he reads/performs it, and the idea of republishing it to reflect those revisions. He's right -- musicians change their songs all the freakin' time! Poets, well, sometimes we revise a poem between its appearance in a journal & its subsequent enshrinement in a book; very rarely, I'll find a poem in a selected/collected and note that it has been revised since its earlier bookification.

When you give a reading, do you revise your poems as you read or do you always stick to what's already written down? Do you improvise on them? I guess this question is aimed more at "page poets" since I already know slam/performance poets do that kind of thing a lot -- but if you count yourself among those latter, and you also publish, how do you decide which version gets published?

I know I certainly use reading aloud as a revision tool, reading my drafts aloud to myself or sometimes to my poetry group. (I'd kind of worry about any poet who didn't do this at least some of the time.) Occasionally I've changed a word here and there during an actual reading, either on purpose or inadvertently, and sometimes those small changes stick. But I'm talking about more extensive revision, and public readings moreso than critique groups/workshops.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

The hairball theory of rejection slips

This evening while working on getting some poems sent out, I had a tiny revelation: the way I feel about rejection slips is pretty much exactly the same way I feel when one of my cats yarfs up a big old hairball. It's not particularly fun, and I have a moment of thinking "well crap," but it certainly isn't going to ruin my day or anything. You just clean up the hairball, send the poems somewhere else, and get on with your life. :)

Saturday, June 02, 2007


I forget which teacher it was who said not to put a heart in a poem unless it was an actual, beating, dissectable heart. This is not a metaphor. This is my actual heart.

All those years of hearing friends complain about their diets, count every calorie, exercise their bodies as if it were a math problem to dispose of. All those stubborn years of loving my flesh just as it was. Well I still love it, every inch of it. But upon my heart’s alarmed complaint it’s my turn now, the low-fat cheese, the lunchtime walks (so brisk and filled with purpose), the steady tick of numbers making narrow columns in my head. Twenty-five down. I have more room to breathe now, feel my hips amazed and capable of swaying in place of the slow clotted dance they did before. I plant my own hands on my waist and it feels different now, my own body smaller underneath my palms like someone else’s, strange and not. I’m intrigued, want to touch it, test my own response. Like a far-off love come calling: voice familiar, body new. I introduce my thighs to one another, cross and recross them, feel the pivot of my waist. I need new clothes, my t-shirts hanging past my hips, pants slipping dangerously. I need a haircut, a new name. I love every inch of it, love it still – I take up all the space I ever did but fill it now with breath, with the tongue-drum of my rescued heart.

* * * * *

The body is political and personal -- there's not much of any way around it, especially for women.

* * * * *

Outside: One of those thunderstorms that begins with a good 45 minutes of distant grumbling, and now a downpour of Noah-esque proportions, rain that feels like surrender, rain running like a tiny river down my driveway. Rain that splashes up in great sheets as cars whish past on Walnut Street. Rain that reminds me I have got to get my roof fixed, dammit.