Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Poems That Can't Socialize

PO-ET-RY:
My recent attempts at poems leave me wondering what I was thinking when I began them. The have interesting lines, but go nowhere. They are similar to the well-dressed people at a party who when you try to converse with them, have nothing interesting to say. Pretty to look at, annoying to take. Still, I'm writing, which wasn't happening due to my critical paper.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Thousand Places To Go

I’m reading ORDERING THE STORM, HOW TO PUT TOGETHER A BOOK OF POEMS. In the section by Liz Rosenberg she writes: Like most young writers, I spent years asking other for their opinions, and learning how little is to be gained by it. No one else can teach you how to be yourself.

I love this thought. As poets we need to trust our instincts on such things. We need to (from the deepest of our centers) know that we know more about our poems than anyone else. It’s the idea that when you are putting together a book of poems, you need to create it from within. It’s funny, in life when we have the most difficult troubles or concerns, we find ourselves asking others for advice. What should I do? How would you do it?

Still, I believe others can help when ordering a manuscript or working with poems, but not in the job of the poet, but in the job of the reader. A reader can tell you where you are missing information, where they are getting lost, or where there seems to be a break in the flow. As poets, we know the back-story to every poem. The problem occurs when we create a poem and it makes sense to us because we have this background info; another reader, unaware of all that we keep in our head, reads the poem and is either lost or uninterested in our genius thoughts.

I rely on others to help me find confusion in my poem. It sounds odd to go looking for confusion, but clarity is important to me. Not Windex-clean clarity, but I want the heart of the poem to come across the reader because I want that connection for them as well. I want to know where I became sloppy in my writing, where I became too poetic. Some of my best suggestions have been from my poets friends who have merely said, “Do you need this?” I take three words away and the poem is thousand times better. It’s the magic of being someone else. Of not being emotionally tied to a poem, not being in love with a word choice.

I think the best people to help with a poem are people who don’t want to make your poem theirs, but to make your poem a better yours. If your style is tennis shoes and jeans, they aren’t throwing a feather boa around your neck because that’s what they like to wear. They may suggest a better-soled shoe or a pair of jeans with smaller pockets, but they aren’t trying to change your poem into something it’s not.

I think that is always the concern with workshops. If you find yourself involved in community poetry, it’s time to slip out the door before the hoedown. A mentor once told me, “Poetry is not a Tupperware party,” and I think about that whenever I try to seal a lid on a poem or win the free orange peeler at my poetry group. What I mean is, I don’t write poems so my friends will approve them, but I continue to write poems that challenge myself as a poet. I want all my poetry friends to keep their original voices and so far, we have. That is the challenge of such things. From the moment we’re born, society tries to make us conform in so many ways. We need to avoid that in our writing, even while we’re wearing the trendiest jeans or the shirt from Old Navy that everyone has. We may let ourselves blend in other ways, but our writing is too important to follow the current trends. As Liz R. said above, No one can teach you how to be yourself. We each need to follow our obsessions and disasters, our gut feelings even when it feels as if the whole country is made of 2.5 kids and driving around in SUVs or minivans, we need to feel good in our Vega, our Beetle, on our bicycles circling the neighborhood as if we’ve a thousand places to go.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Poetry Book Gift List ~ Give the Gift of Poetry this Holiday Season

This list is from a Women's Poetry Listserv that I belong to. I created it as I've been thinking about how I want to spend my money this holiday season, I realize I want to support artists and writers when I do my Christmas shopping. If we could each support each other in our creative lives, what a wonderful world...

Maybe you'll find something on here for a friend, a relative, or for yourself. Maybe you'll recognize a few of these names and maybe you'll be excited for what you find in the pages of their books. Maybe give a book of poems this year, or two, or three.

They make lovely hostess gifts too.

Feel free to share this list. Thank you for supporting your community of poets...



For All of You Who Fell in Love with Horses, or Dreamed of Doing So; and for the Lover of Rights-Both Animal and Human:
Horses and the Human Soul by Judith Barrington (Story Line Press,, 2004) $15
Available from Powells.com, Amazon.com, or direct via http://www.judithbarrington.com


For Anyone Who's Visited Alaska or Wants To:
Blaze, sensual Alaskan poems by Peggy Shumaker and paintings by Kesler E. Woodward (Red Hen Press, 2005) Hardcover $39.95, paperback $29.95
Available at http://www.redhen.org/. More titles available at http://www.peggyshumaker.com/


For your favorite Art Lover:
Femme au chapeau, Rachel Dacus, David Robert Books, 2005 - $17.00
Available David Roberts Books or Amazon


For your favorite Bad Girl--
Becoming the Villainess by Jeannine Hall Gailey (Steel Toe Books, 2006) $12
Available through Steel Toe Books, Amazon, or the author's website


For your favorite Bird Lover--
White Summer by Joelle Biele (Southern Illinois Univ. Press 2002) $15
Available at Southern Illinois Univ Press or Amazon


For your favorite Chameleon
Shapeshifting by Celia Lisset Alvarez (Spire Press, 2006) $10
Available at http://spirepress.org/book.html.


For your favorite Cook
Eat Our Words: The Montana Writers Cookbook featuring poems, excerpts and recipes from 92 Montana authors (Far Country Press, 2005).
Available at Amazon.com


For Creative Writing Teachers with an Experimental Bent, Collectors of Old Mimeos, or Lovers of Prose Poetry:
To Delite and Instruct (blue lion books, 2006), $19.26
Available only through cafe press. Be sure to search online for a cafe press coupon code before buying!


For your favorite Divorcee (or Sonneteer):
The Paragon by Kathrine Varnes (WordTech Editions 2005), $17available through WordTech, Barnes & Noble or Amazon


For your favorite Domestic Goddess:
Famous by Kathleen Flenniken
Available through Univ of Nebraska Press, Amazon or your local bookstore


For your favorite DJ or any Midwesterner:
Diane Kendig's Greatest Hits_ by Diane Kendig (Pudding House 2001). Chapbook, $8.95.
Available through the publisher at http://www.puddinghouse.com/ or phone 614 986-1881.
For a signed copy at no extra cost, contact the poet at diane@dianekendig.com


For your favorite 8-12 year old or K-8 teacher, or lover of poetry for children:
Spinning Through the Universe, by Helen Frost (FSG, 2004)
Available through your local bookstore or Amazon (If you would like a signed bookplate, email me.)
For more information: http://www.helenfrost.net/



For your favorite Feminist and Pop Culture Critic:
Unbound & Bounded by Christine Stewart-Nunez (chapbook based on a series of artists responding to icon Kate Moss). Published by Finishing Line Press, 2006. Available at http://www.finishinglinepress.com/


For your Favorite Friend Who Has Been Challenged by Loss, Love, or Illness
Small Knots by Kelli Russell Agodon (Cherry Grove, 2004) $17
Available through Cherry Grove Press, Booksense, Amazon or signed/ inscribed copies available at the author's website


For your favorite Insect lover:
Breath in Every Room by Tami Haaland (Story Line Press, 2001). $13.95.Availble at Amazon.com


For your favorite lover of vistas: Montana Women Writers:
Geography of the Heart (Far Country Press, 2006). $18.95. Edited by Caroline Patterson and containing 39 contemporary and historic writers.
Available on Amazon.com


For your favorite Food Lover or Regular Lover:
What Feeds Us, by Diane Lockward (Wind Publications, October 2006) $15.00
Available at http://windpub.com/order.htm or Amazon.com


For your favorite Friend Obsessed with Hardness and Vulnerability

Armor and Flesh, by Mendi Lewis Obadike (Lotus Press, 2004) $12.00
Available at Amazon.com and lotuspress.org


For your Friend Who Maybe Likes a Sestina Now and Then:

Passing, by Eloise Klein Healy (Red Hen Books, 2002) $11.95 Available at http://www.redhen.org/catalog.asp or Amazon


For your favorite Friend with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder):
Radiance by Barbara Crooker (Word Press, August, 2005) $17.00,
available at http://www.word-press.com/crooker.html or Amazon or Barnes&Noble.com


For your Favorite Funny Foodie--
Miracle Fruit by Aimee Nezhukumatathil (Tupelo Press, 2003) $14
Available at Tupelo Press, your local bookseller and Amazon


For your favorite Global Traveler, or for your Favorite Armchair Traveler,
Cures Include Travel by Susan Rich (White Pine Press, 2006) $14
Available from http://www.susanrich.org/. Susan will inscribe the book as you would like and also sign it. Also available from http://www.amazon.com/ or http://www.elliottbaybook.com/ or by calling Susan (206) 930-1276.


For your favorite Grown-Up
Five Terraces by Ann Fisher-Wirth (Wind Publications, 2005), $14.
Available at Wind Publications and Amazon


For your favorite Healer, or Older Woman, or Anyone Grieving and For all Who Need Consolations in the Face of the Terror:
Duties of the Spirit, Patricia Fargnoli (Tupelo Press, 2005) $16.95
Available through Tupelo Press, your local independent bookseller, or Amazon.


For your favourite historian, feminist, or person interested in the unwritten stories of women's lives:
Neile Graham's _Blood Memory_ (Bushek Books, 2000), $14.95,
Available from http://www.sff.net/people/neile or amazon.com, amazon.ca, powells.com or The League of Canadian Poets


For your favorite Homebody with a Checkered Past:
Laura Cherry's chapbook, What We Planted (Providence Athenaeum), $5.
Available through the Providence Athenaeum


For Anyone Who's Interested in How Poems Come into Being:
Encore: More of Parallel Press Poets (Parallel Press, 2006). $15 (Each of the 40 poets contributed a poem and a statement commenting on their experience writing the poem.)
Available through Parallel Press, $15 includes shipping and handling.


For your favorite Latina in Crisis
The Stones by Celia Lisset Alvarez (Finishing Line Press, 2006) $14
Available at Finishing Line Press


For your favorite Literate Healthcare Provider:
A Form of Optimism by Roy Jacobstein (University Press of New England, October 2006) $15.95, available at 1-800-421-1561 or http://www.upne.com/, or Amazon


For your favorite Lovelorn friend or relative:

Love is a Weed by Lana Hechtman Ayers (Finishing Line Press, October 2006, 29 pages) $12,
Available from Finishing Line Press or for a signed, personally inscribed copy with free shipping via PayPal, email author at moonlit.cloud@yahoo.com.


For Anyone who Loves Language and Sees Life's Lessons as a Journey Toward Wholeness :
Light Made from Nothing, Susan Elbe (Parallel Press, 2003). $10
Available through Parallel Press, $10 includes shipping and handling.


For Magpies in Love with Shiny Gold Items and Love Poetry:
Locket, (Tupelo Press, 2005), $16.95
Available through Tupelo Press, your local independent bookseller, or Amazon.


For your favorite Mathematicians and Pattern-seekers:
Rare Momentum by Athena Kildegaard (Red Dragonfly Press, 2006) $15. Available through http://www.reddragonflypress.org/, your favorite independent bookstore, or Amazon.


For your favorite nature-worshipper--

Calendars by Annie Finch (Tupelo Press, 2003) $14.95, available at 802-366-8185 or www.tupelopress.org, www.barnesandnoble.com/, or http://www.amazon.com/


For your favorite Neophyte Cosmic Gazer Obsessed with the Rhythm of Death, Sex, & Recklessness
South of Here by Lydia Melvin (New Issues Press, 2005), $14.http://www.wmich.edu/~newissue/


For your favorite New Mom--
Blue Positive by Martha Silano (Steel Toe Books, 2006) $12
Available at Steel Toe Books, your local bookstore or at Amazon.

For your favorite New Mother, Old Southerner, or Feminist Biblical Revisionist (and lover of heavy rains):
Garnet Lanterns, a chapbook by Sally Rosen Kindred (Anabiosis Press, 2006) $6.50 Available at: http://garnetlanterns.quietmoon.com/


For your favorite (Overworked) Woman with Mate and Children
Kitchen Heat by Ava Leavell Haymon (LSU Press, Aug, 2006) $17.95Available through LSU Press and Amazon


For your favorite Peace Activist:
Homefront, Patricia Monaghan (WordTech Communications, 2005) $17.00
Available From WordTech Communications or Amazon.


For your favorite Person Who Cares About Others and the Life of Our Planet --
Sight Lines, poems by Charlotte Mandel (Midmarch Arts Press, 1998) $12.50.With photographs by artist Judy Siegel.
Available from Midmarch Arts Press, 300 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10025.


For Your favorite Person Obsessed with Death but Looking for Comfort Anyway,
Mortal by Ivy Alvarez (Red Morning Press, 2006) $12
Available at Red Morning Press: http://redmorningpress.com/


For your favorite Philhellene:
On the Altar of Greece, winner of the 2005 Gival Press Poetry Award, Donna J. Gelagotis Lee (Gival Press, 2006) $15.00
Available through Gival Press (1.866.203.8926 + 7444; http://www.givalpress.com/) or Amazon.com (On the Altar of Greece)


For your favorite Poetry Lover: childhood/mother/marriage poems--

Keep and Give Away (Winner of the SC Poetry Book Prize) by Susan Meyers (University of South Carolina Press, 2006), $14.95
Available through the University South Carolina Press, your local independent bookseller, or Amazon.
Press info for Susan Meyers: 800-768-2500


For the restless adventurer, maternal explorer, or political activist,
Notes on Arrival and Departure by Rachel Rose (McClelland & Stewart)
Available at http://www.mcclelland.com/)


For your favorite Sister, Teenager, High School English teacher, Genealogist, Scots-Canadian, lover of historical (1850's) novels-in-poems:
The Braid, by Helen Frost (FSG, 2006)
Available through your local bookstore or Amazon (If you would like a signed bookplate, email me.)
For more information: http://www.helenfrost.net/


For your favorite Teenager, High school English teacher, or Lover of novels-in-poems (sestinas and sonnets):
Keesha's House, by Helen Frost (FSG, 2003)
Available through your local bookstore or Amazon (If you would like a signed bookplate, email me.)
For more information: http://www.helenfrost.net/


For your favorite Urban Contemplative:
Here from Away by Kate Bernadette Benedict (CustomWords, 2003) $16,
available from the publisher or Amazon.


For People You Don't Want To Give a Book of Poetry, But Do:
Whimsy Daybook, 2007 Maryrose Larkin (flash + card press, 2006)
[it is an actual day book, spiro bound, heavy stock, full color painting repros, calendar] with "poetic" (they were published as poetry) entries for everyday (ex., "Diffuse Radiance Week"), illustrated with paintings by Nita Hill
$12 directly from Maryrose Larkin, maryrose at gmail dot com.


For your favorite Person Grieving the Loss of a Parent
Night In The Shape Of A Mirror, Lynne Knight (David Robert Books, 2006) - $17.00
Available at David Robert Books or Amazon


For the scientific explorer or health care worker,

Giving My Body To Science by Rachel Rose (McGill/Queen's University Press)
Available at http://www.mqup.mcgill.ca/


For your favorite Visual Artist or Ekphrasis Enthusiast:
Nude in Winter by Francine Sterle (Tupelo Press, 2006) $16.95
Available through Tupelo Press, your local independent bookseller, or amazon.com.


For Those Who Dare To Hope
NorthSight by Lois Roma-Deeley (Singularity Press, 2006, cloth) $25.00Available at http://www.singularitypress.biz/northsight.html or Amazon.com


For a Poetry Reader Who Knows Motherhood Is Way More Complex Than Greeting Cards Ever Suggest:
What if your mother by Judith Arcana (Chicory Blue Press, 2005) $15.00
Order from your local independent bookseller, Amazon.com, or direct from http://www.chicorybluepress.com/.


For your favorite Wilderness Backpacker/Adventurous Woman/ or Buddhist:
The Strict Economy of Fire by Ava Leavell Haymon (LSU Press, Aug, 2004) $16
Available through LSU Press and Amazon


For your favorite Women’s History Buff, Medievalist, or Lover of Saints:
The Love of Unreal Things by Christine Stewart-Nunez (chapbook based on the life of Catherine of Siena). Published by Finishing Line Press, 2005. Available on amazon.com.


For women of a certain age looking for hope and a few laughs:"Hanging Out With Loose Words," by M.R. Betten, Foothills Publishing, 2005, $8.00 36 pages hand-sewn chapbook, available at http://www.foothillspublishing.com/

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Joy of Being "Lucky"

Thought of the Day—


I was browsing my bookshelf recently and found a book a friend bought me a couple years back. It’s called TAKE JOY: A BOOK FOR WRITERS by Jane Yolen. I opened to a page and this is what it said:

Be Prepared for Serendipity.

The word serendipity, which means “a happy accident,” was actually coined by Horace Walpole in his take about “The Princes of Serendip” who made more of their luck than most of us.

How does a writer organize luck? In a variety of ways. Perhaps a file of articles or quotations. Perhaps a stack of book s from a second-hand shop on a variety of fascinating subjects. I keep photos and pictures around that seem to say, “Find my story.


______


I started thinking about the way I find “luck” in my writing. I think showing up is part of it. I tend to write more poems when I (get this) sit down and start writing. Imagine! When I spend less time wandering the words of emails or weaving through the internet, I tend to write more. When I write every day, my mind is much more open to writing, it wants to try and play. It’s not worried about making mistakes. However, when I don’t write for a while and I sit down to write, I put more pressure on the words, on the poem. I think: This one has to work out; it’s been so long! When I’m writing daily, the pressure is off because I know if I don’t get a poem today, I’ll get one tomorrow or the next day. I know they will appear, my fingers, my mind, my paper is open to them.

I also keep a notebook, orange with a pocket in the back for interesting items I find. Sometimes genius is written in that notebook, though most times I’m trying to figure what I meant by something, a random phrase about salmon thrown in with the words “woodchuck, woodstock.” Where was I that day? What was I thinking? I usually don’t know.

I think “luck” is really persistence though. If you really want to write better, you will. If you really want to publish a book, you will. If you really want to write every day, you will. You will find time in busy day. There will a few moments on a bus or before bed. You make time for what’s important. Luck in the writing world is showing up and persisting, even after the 70th rejection. Even after doors have closed. Luck is what happens when you don’t take no for an answer.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

There is always reason for thanks

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire
life is 'thank you,' it will be enough.

--Meister Eckhart

* * * * *

Listen


with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridge to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water looking out in different directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
in a culture up to its chin in shame
living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you

over the telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the back door
and the beatings on the stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
with the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
unchanged we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us like the earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster

with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

-- W. S. Merwin

_________________

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Critical Paper

I'm finishing up a good first draft of my critical paper on contemporary women poets who use humor in their work. It feels good to be so far along. I want to finish it for one reason only-- it seems the left and right sides of my brain don't work so well together. No, I haven't been writing poems. I haven't been revising poems. Poetry is the second cousin I don't see very much.

And I've tried. I wrote a few odd lines in a bookstore coffeeshop, but if you asked me how to begin a poem, I wouldn't be able to tell you. I'm not even sure I know where they live. Perhaps, they are a mysterious tribe somewhere in the mountains of Bhutan. They are nowhere near my desk. ButI will call for them soon. After the MLA guide has been tossed into the sea and my "work cited" list has become a paper airplane for fruitflies.

Dear poems,
Soon.
Soon.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Jeannine Hall Gailey & Ronda Broatch at the Jewel Box Theatre

I'm just back from an incredible poetry reading by Jeannine Hall Gailey and Ronda Broatch. When I hear these two read, I always believe I'm participating in part of history. I know, it sounds odd, but it truly feels as if Ronda is the next Jane Hirshfield while Jeannine is a more fun Louise Gluck. They are two of my favorite poets writing today.

Ronda read first. She chose poems from her chapbook Some Other Eden as well as some newer work. A few of her newer poems were written from writing exercises that explored part of her childhood. Her chapbook is lovely, the second page is paper with rose petals pressed into it.

Here's one of the last poems she read. Her work is quite spiritual without slipping into cliche'. She has an amazing way of taking what we know in nature and making it new.

Three Before the Fall


I.

Tree Frogs


The tree frogs dim
their evensong. Mornings
in summer, asters

outside the kitchen window—
the radiant of each
bears a small green jewel,

vanished when the sun repairs
to a southerly room of sky.
Fix each one with the eye

of a Nikon, find the odd
bloom shared by two.
Imagine

waking to find the day
shedding its velvet cloak, and you
centered in petals.


II.

Because Even the Crows Know


You shut the book,
wait for the voices to die.

There is only space,
crows filling it, the wind

blowing dust from the maple’s many hands.
Dry August. In the grass

you espy something shiny.
But the sun keeps walking

and it seems you were wrong.
Because the shade plays

tricks on the afternoon light
you are not convinced.

The crows know,
and they’ve stopped talking.




III.

Last Frog


He winds the clock
work of his croak
until taut

Audible only
the applause of alders
before the fall

And one more bird
he cannot name

breaks

against the granite sky


by Ronda Broatch
**Note: the original poem has much nice spacer and can be seen here at DMQ Review

__________________

After a brief intermission with plates of pumpkin pie and sky-high whipped cream (okay, that was just my plate) Jeannine Hall Gailey read from her book Becoming the Villainess.

Jeannine said to us later at dinner, "Aren't you all becoming bored of my poems? You've heard me read them so many times..." The answer is an overwhelming no. Jeannine is one of those readers whose voice adds so much to her work. It is a treat to hear her read. She is right in the moment, quite prepared, and smooth flowing with no mistakes as she reads to us about Wonder Woman, Cinderella, the Evil Stepmother.

She ended the reading with newer poems. I appreciated how Ronda and Jeannine did this. As an audience member, I always love to learn what other poets are working on and where their poems are going.

I have lost count how many times I have heard Jeannine read and I have never been bored or distracted at one of her readings. Here's a link where you can hear Jeannine read.

Here's one of my favorites that she read--

Stepmother, at the Wedding


I did the best that I could
and she turned out okay, didn't she?
It could have been a lot worse.
These shoes are killing me.

You don't understand how ard it was,
those greasy children
with their lentils, their field mice,
always playing with fire,

their clinging fingers wrapped
around locks of their mother's hair,
how many apples I feed them,
how many times I send them into the woods.

They never blame their father
who brought me here, to a house
full of strangers, where even the servants
worship images of the dead.

I say, make room for the new.

Jeannine Hall Gailey
from Becoming the Villainess

___________

When she read that line about the field mice, I laughed out loud.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Work in Progress

The Trouble With Self-Doubt

On the ferry ride home today I read this in one of those higher spiritual mind, body, & soul free magazines--

"Self-doubt feeds on the mistrust of our vision, understanding and progress. When we disbelieve our knowing, we project doubt--unwilling to trust others. Then we start to doubt the Divine Plan, 'There's no such thing.' We discredit the Master, 'They're re're not really out there helping us...' The doubting grows like a cancer..."

The author continues, "Whenever I doubt myself, I'm sending a message to the Universe that my hopes and dreams won't be fulfilled. I can only imagine how many opportunities have been blocked by this attitude. Disfaith postpones happiness. The doubt that good things can really happen energizes that reality. Doubt says NO to greater possibilities. Why not just conclude with "I don't know" or "maybe" than "I doubt it."

Being someone who believes that our thoughts shape our reality, I realized that yes, it is easier (better) just to say "maybe" and not fall into Glum-speak "We're doomed, we'll never make it," (If you ever watched the cartoon Gulliver's Travels, you'll know what I'm talking about here.)

Even the graffiti I noticed today reflected this thought: "If you find yourself asking. 'Is this all there is?' Shouldn't you be asking yourself, 'Is this all I created?'" --such mindful graffiti artists in the Northwest.

We don't know the outcomes. And we don't know the outcome of whatever we try (well, unless we don't try it-- quote Wayne Gretsky "You miss 100% of the shots you never take"). So if we can't think yes, think maybe. Think "I don't know what the outcome will be" and move forward.

So often self-doubt wanders around the living room or sits on our desks suggesting the world is a scary place, so we better sit still and not try anything. We better not submit to that book contests or apply for a grant because we won't get it and rejections hurt. And we believe this stranger. We believe "no" before we believe "maybe."

I tend not to believe in a master plan, but more in the idea that there are no wrong choices. I believe more in the pen that says we are the reality we create and the plan is a work in progress, like we all are.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Heather McHugh

Poetry--

Who's on my mind today? Heather McHugh.

I was just rereading HINGE & SIGN by Heather and I was amazed at the main levels each poem works on. She is a master at wordplay and double and triple meanings on a line.

One of my favorite openings is to her poem, "Mind." (page 128)

A man looks at his watch to see
if he's hungry. Yes, it's eight,

***Just two lines, no fancy words, but her ability to see--no, to remember, the multiple meanings of words is wonderful. As in the first line, the word "watch" is both a noun and a verb. In this case, it's a noun, but look how in her first line of eight words, three of them have to do with vision: looks, watch, see.

The line reminded me of the strange (and not quite PC) sayings I heard around my house growing up-- I see, said the blind man. (The full Wellerism is: "I see, said the blind man, to his deaf dog, and he picked up his hammer and saw.") McHugh is one of those poets who returns the magic to language that we lose as we get older. As children, we are so aware of words as we are trying to decipher the world around us that we actually listen to what is being said and are quite aware of the literal meanings of each word.

Another sentence from that same poem is:

At school/his days are numbered. He makes a felt /calendar.

__________

A favorite poem of mine by Heather McHugh


The Size of Spokane

The baby isn't cute. In fact he's
a homely little pale and headlong
stumbler. Still, he's one
of us-the human beings
stuck on flight 295 (Chicago to Spokane);
and when he passes my seat twice
at full tilt this then that direction,
I look down from Lethal Weapon 3 to see
just why. He's

running back and forth
across a sunblazed circle on
the carpet-something brilliant, fallen
from a porthole. So! it's light
amazing him, it's only light, despite
some three and one
half hundred
people, propped in rows
for him to wonder at; it's light
he can't get over, light he can't
investigate enough, however many
zones he runs across it,
flickering himself.

The umpteenth time
I see him coming, I've had
just about enough; but then
he notices me noticing and stops-
one fat hand on my armrest-to
inspect the oddities of me.

Some people cannot hear.
Some people cannot walk.
But everyone was
sunstruck once, and set adrift.
Have we forgotten how

astonishing this is? so practiced all our senses
we cannot imagine them? foreseen instead of seeing
all the all there is? Each spectral port,
each human eye

is shot through with a hole, and everything we know
goes in there, where it feeds a blaze. In a flash

the baby's old; Mel Gibson's hundredth comeback seems
less clever; all his chases and embraces
narrow down, while we
fly on (in our
plain radiance of vehicle)

toward what cannot stay small forever.


-Heather McHugh, from Hinge and Sign (Wesleyan University Press).
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