Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Live from Washington State, it's Tuesday night! How did the day get away from me? And I confess, I forgot to confess. Since I only have about 2 hours left (PST), I'll start the confessions rolling...
1) I love the CBS Sunday Morning Show because they highlight artists and odd little events and personalities no one knows about. I liked the story this week about Dewey, the library cat (from Kansas, I think).
2) I've been reading the news way too much lately. I've kind of been caught up in the drama of it--what will happen? I've always loved memoirs and this seems to be what my mum would say in a bad time, "Oh, you're just living through history..." I'm so curious how this book is going to turn out. Infotainment.
It reminds me how I was, right after Sept 11 '01. Every morning I would wake up and race down to check the top stories to see if there had been another terrorist attack, to see if the world was still around. Today I realized moments before I checked the news to see if anything had happened overnight, that I was fine. My family was fine. My house was fine. And that if I had to check in with someone else to see if I was okay, I was completely missing the bigger picture, as well as the definition of okay.
(Okay: all right: being satisfactory or in satisfactory condition)
I have come up with a few nuggets of knowledge from watching CNN today:
Even the experts have no idea what they are talking about
And Suzie Orman is really annoying.
I've decided to opt out of the information overload portion of this dilemma. I will be informed, but not overburdened. Someone, switch the channel back to What Not to Wear...
3) Tonight I made my first Apple Brown Betty of the season. However, it wasn't as good as it normally is (what am I forgetting?!) But even with that, plates were cleaned. It's time for me to find my big girl jeans and baggy sweaters, the winter body is on its way...
4)I went back and had my hairstylist "fix" my hair--basically, I had him cut off as much of the layers in the back as he could (aka my lunchlady hair). He served me green tea and chocolate (do not reward this kind of behavior, I say). The cut is now a sleek bob and takes 5 minutes to do. And when I say "sleek," I mean "easy." I realized I am hair-challenged.
5) I wish I had more writing confessions to share, but I have spent my day at a grade school and the only poetry I heard was when a little boy told me the Mediterranean Sea looked like the head of an elephant... And all of a sudden I could see it.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Can you imagine waking up to this phone call? Pretty cool!
"That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health-care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the--it's got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health-care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that."
Sarah Palin in an interview with Katie Couric when asked about the $700 billion bailout.
It made me think of this--
"I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uhmmm, some people out there in our nation don't have maps and uh, I believe that our, I, education like such as, uh, South Africa, and uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uhhh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, should help South Africa, it should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future, for us."
Miss South Carolina in the Miss USA pagent after being asked why a fifth of Americans could not locate the United States on a world map,
They are both beauty queens, but one of them is running for VP. Can you guess which one by their answers? Ah, welcome to the Land of the Catchphrase where you don't have to think before you speak.
"That's why I say it makes me think about poetry and how the language of metaphor is almost simile. So Walt Whitman, Shakespeare (aka sonnet face), they've got to go, shoring up poetry and putting it back on the right track not just double-dactyls and villenelles. We're ill about the position we've been placed in and I'm not sure our poetic license is valid. And space, there's worry there's not enough room in the poetry world. Dickinson. Plath. We've got to view them as opportunity and not a competitive, scary thing. So the poetry reviews are really formalists in pajamas. Randall Jarrell. I say Free Billy Collins, like every American poet speaking in iambic pentameter, it's got to all be about free verse, reining in submissions, sestinas, we've seen enough of those with their repetitive words, but ultimately, one in five poets are daydreaming, we've got to look at that reform. All those things under the umbrella of poem creation. And this one time, at poetry camp, I stuck a pen..."
Poet X when asked how she views the state of poetry today.
McCain/Palin Haiku Contest- winner to be published in The Nation
People For the American Way is looking for some great haikus about John McCain and Sarah Palin! Three winners will have their haikus published in the Nation magazine. Other prizes will be announced. Ten finalists will be chosen and then the three winners will be voted on by you and other People For the American Way supporters.
Click on the above link for more details...
* * *
I took a walk and here's what's on the Free Table Today--
a giant squash
a Swiffer wet jet-- huh. We are moving into new territory here.)
* * *
I've been reading too much news lately. And yes, I believe there is such a thing as too much news. I'm going to try getting my information from the herons. They always seem to be on top of things.
Friday, September 26, 2008
What I learned on sending out your manuscript--
First, you can mail your mss at the book/manuscript rate which is $2 cheaper than first class or priority mail. Actually about $2.50 cheaper, which may make a big difference to your wallet if you're sending out a lot of manuscripts.
The big difference with media mail (book/mss) is time. It can take about 2 weeks (it becomes low low priority for them), but it can also arrive pretty quickly depending if they aren't that busy. In the end, it will save you some $$ if you can send it that way.
Priority/First Class is about $4.85 and it will get there in 2 days.
At our post office, there is one mean lady and 5 other really nice postal employees. I mail on Fridays because I know she's off.
If you have a cranky post worker, learn their off days.
* * *
Artist date-- I did my artist date today and it wasn't as horrible as I thought it would be. (I used to like these artist dates, but I've become more of the sweet hermit who wants to stay close to home.) And actually, I enjoyed myself. I parked at the post office and walked down our main street to the local gallery of local artists.
Immediately after leaving my car, I ran into a poet. I thought it was a good sign to run into another writer.
As I walked to the gallery, I noticed the asters were blooming and the co-op preschool where my daughter went began to ring it's bell (snack time!) The schoolhouse the preschool is in is one of the oldest buildings in town (the attic rumored to be haunted too) and the bell is original to the school. Each day one of the preschoolers gets the job of ringing the bell for snacktime-- a thrill for them.
At the gallery, I took notes and spent time browsing. There was one piece I really liked, a print called "Pink Lady" but part of the image was a giraffe. Giraffes have come up twice for me in 2 days on the synchronicity scale. I talked with the artist working at the gallery, a woodmaker.
I found a notebook with the artists bios and sample photos of their work. It was nice to see how people keep art in their life and have an artistic existence. It is something that I aim for in myself, to continue to keep my life creative and full of writing and art.
Afterwards, I walked back to my car at the post office and just like clockwork, another good friend, also a poet (Ronda Broatch) stepped out of her car to check her PO box. She's recently had an acceptance at a journal in Ireland. We talked for awhile trying not to block traffic and making carpool plans for our next poetry workshop.
The sun had come out and I could see Mt. Rainier towering over Seattle and the tips of skyscrapers and Space Needle as I drove home. I thought I heard recently that you can only the top (or all) of Mt. Rainier only about 62 days in the year because of our foggy, cloudy weather. I don't know if that's correct, but when I do see it, it's calming and amazing to me.
As you can see reading this, it was sort of a Seinfeld episode in that nothing happened, yet everything did.
Forget Wall Street, I just sent my manuscript out today and I'm broke! I've got no change in my pocket going jingle, jingle, jingle... Holy poor poets, submitting a manuscript is becoming a pricey little activity. I had forgotten!
Printing of MSS at copy shop: $5
USPS First Class mail: $4-5
Reading fees for poetry contests: $20-25
Being rejected 6 months later: priceless
So it's about $35 to submit your mss to a poetry contest, $9 if you submit it to one of the fine presses that doesn't ask for a reading fee (see Amy's list my post below for those fine presses).
I hadn't realized that as poets we were spun from our gold. (We are you know.)
I am thankful that technology has come to a place where poets can now publish their own work. I would love to see a group of poets come together with some sort of cooperative and each poet publishes a book and is responsible for promoting his/her own book (and the money that would be used on contests, submitting, would go to helping the poet market their own book.) And the other poets would work as an editorial team to make sure that quality books would be printed. All the money that now goes out to presses, would be used for the cooperative.
Of course, I also don't want to see these independent presses go under and I know they get a lot of money from these contests (that's why they have them). We have a poetry and fiction contest each year at Crab Creek Review and much of that money keeps our little journal afloat! So it's a tricky thing, supporting independent presses and not going broke on contest fees yourself.
I need to think more about this, but there's something to this idea of a cooperative... maybe this will be a topic for my Artist Way morning pages (which I've done faithfully every day).
But in the manuscript department, I'm feeling really good about my second manuscript. Of course, this guarantees nothing, but there it is. I'm sure when a rejection flies into my mailbox, I will question myself, my work, the poetry world, the mail carrier, my dog, but for now, I'm feeling groovy.
So think good thoughts for me. My manuscript flies away today into the hands (hopefully the gentle hands) of strangers. I would love to get this second mss out in the world, so I'll take all the good thoughts and good karma you can give.
On the comedy front, here's some video from Chris Rock (who I *heart*) on the Larry King Show (who I'm not so crazy about). If you're at work, be warned, Chris's comments may not be workplace appropriate, definitely *not* PC, and maybe offensive to some, etc. etc. But I love what he says about McCain's houses. He makes some good points about voting for someone who represents the normal person.
Artist Date to be happening soon...
I think this represents the cartoon equivalent of being a poet.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
so if you're in the Seattle area, please join us on Oct 22--
We are excited about our upcoming reading at Seattle's Richard Hugo House on Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 7 pm for a few reasons.
The first is that we have an outstanding group of readers who will be their work:
Monica Schley is also a harpist who will be playing a few selections during the evening as well.
The second is the generosity of these writers:
Tom Hunley & his press Steel Toe Books
who have all donated books and literary items to be part of a drawing at the reading. We want to give them our deepest thanks for supporting our journal.
So not only does the reading have a spectular group of poets, but we are also having drawings throughout the event for some wonderful literary items below--
Signed novels by Jennie Shortridge including Riding with the Queen, Eating Heaven, Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe
Signed books from Tom Hunley of Steel Toe Books
Jenifer Lawrence's signed copy of first edition One Hundred Steps From Shore
Holly Hughes' broadside & signed chapbook, Boxing the Compass, winner of the Floating Bridge Chapbook Award
Signed book of poems from Barbara Crooker
Signed books from Nin Andrews
Editors' Bundle featuring signed copies of In the Convent We Become Clouds by Annette Spaulding-Convy, Small Knots by Kelli Russell Agodon, Becoming the Villainess by Jeannine Hall Gailey, Love is a Weed by Lana Hechtman Ayers, and Shedding Our Skins by Ronda Broatch.
And of course, with Hugo House there is always wine and coffee available, so please mark your calendars for Wednesday, October 22nd so you can join in the literary festivities with us.
Reading Info --
Crab Creek Review Reading: Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Contributors from the Spring/Summer '08 Issue
read their work Oct. 22, 2008 at 7 pm
Richard Hugo House
1634 11th Avenue
I feel as if I've caught up on a lot things. I've felt behind. But I think much of it is trying to balance my own poetry, editing Crab Creek Review, and working with other poets with my regular everyday life. I have a lot going on, but I realize, for me it's best to break things up into bits (do a little of this and this), or just schedule big blocks of time, say a full day, and devote it to one project (reading someone's mss or working on my own.) As long as I'm not missing deadlines though and marking things off my To Do list, I feel pretty good.
But this brings me to my next topic--
The Artist Way--
If you haven't heard of the The Artist Way ( The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity) it's basically a 12 steps program for creatives. I highly recommend it if you've never done it I'm doing it for the next 12 weeks with 5 friends, all writers. The biggest hit of time is doing the morning pages (which is 3 pages of writing--which can be anything, basically it's to clear your mind...kind of what a blog does, I've noticed). But I realize, depending on my mood, I can do this between 10-30 minutes.
I also have to go on an "Artist Date" each week. 2 - 3 hours by myself, somewhere besides my house. I must say, I resist this, which must mean I need to go. I haven't had my date this week, but I will.
What I've learned already in Artist Way (and this is 4th time I've done it since 1997--also did it 2000, 2003, 2008) is that I'm not so good at saying No. Sometimes, I need to claim my own writing time. I know what I need/want to do, but I don't always necessarily do it. So I'm working on saying no.
I've heard other women have problems saying no, and I'm not just referring to the women in sexy bar clothes, but just in general, some of us tend to be nurturers--though I think I'm a little more self-indulgent, selfish, and quite open about my feelings (aka blunt) I do have a side of me that wants to help people. My dad would have called me a "do-gooder." Or maybe he would have said I need to make sure I take care of myself. Too. I think we all need to take care of ourselves.
I'll add a few updates about my Artist Way experience and what I discover.
On the Seattle Neil Diamond concert last night--
I was surprised to learn that I don't know as many of his songs as I thought, and in fact only truly love the karaoke songs (Forever in Blue Jeans, Cracklin' Rose, & Sweet Caroline). I hadn't occurred to me that Neil also sings songs I despise (Love on the Rocks, You Don't Bring Me Flowers, Play Me). About halfway through the concert, I turned to my husband and said, $@%#, he's the guy that sings "Heartlight" doesn't he?!
However, I am glad I went as it was a great time hanging out with friends (5 firefighters and their wives) and that it was the 5 firefighters who put together the evening on their own was worth it. ( I also realized last night that I don't think I could be married to anyone who wasn't a firefighter, which was kind of an odd thing to conclude, but I realized I would trust any of these guys with my life, and I can't say that about many people.) One day there may be a post or a whole essay about being married to a firefighter, but I'll save that for another day. I will add if you're a single woman, the majority of firefighters (both men and women) make good husbands/partners. Of course, they are home an awful lot... (this is both good and bad!)
It must have been our faraway seats, but the whole night I kept thinking of Michael Dukakis when Neil sang. I think it's the eyebrows.
Well, that's it from the peanut gallery today. I hope you are safe, warm, and happy.
Monday, September 22, 2008
For this confession Tuesday I thought I'd focus on my faults. So here are some things about me that others may want to change, but honestly, this is just me.
I confess I am nowhere near perfect, not even close...
1) I had the choice to go to the gym or pick blackberries and make blackberry crisp. Can you guess what I chose? Yes, and I ate the blackberry crisp with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream because there is no better way to eat any warm crisp or cobbler. I go to the gym only because I like to eat dessert, not because I find it emotionally or physically satisfying in any way.
I recently heard a survey that 3 out of 4 people said they would take fruit over chocolate if given the choice for a snack. A week later, they secretly tested these people and most of them took the chocolate. I would have been right up front with everyone and been the 1 in 4 that would have said they'd take the chocolate to begin with.
2) I cannot have nice things-- Over the week, I've managed to break the R button off my laptop (it is currently superglued on and quite wonko, but useable) and my cat Eliot broke the very cool and colorful floor lamp my husband gave me for an anniversary about 5 years ago (smashed to the floor and shattered in all directions). I still wonder how a little cat could knock down such a big thing, but know, if he wouldn't have broken it, I probably would have down the road. I broke my other floor lamp by sending boxes down the stairs via gravity instead of carrying them.
3) I like Neil Diamond songs. I not only like this songs, I will be going to his concert. And I know this in advance-- I will be singing along.
4) I have an emotional attachment to my hair that when a haircut makes me look too different than how I normally look (even if it's for the better) I get a knot in my stomach. I am okay with change or changing my appearance, just very s-l-o-w-l-y.
5) I dog-ear pages of books.
6) I am terrible with names. I have recently started saying the person's name a few times after I first meet them to help me remember it. I always feel a bit weird reusing someone's name after I meet them--hi, I just met you, but I think I'm going to say your name 7 times so I don't forget it. Oh and when you forget my name, I'll try not to make you feel uncomfortable that I know yours.
7) I sometimes feel uncomfortable having a blog. Maybe it's a generational thing, but it seems like a very weird thing to have. In this case, it's like saying my own name 7 times to people I don't know.
I deleted my last blog and regretted it. But it's not something I share with people who are not writers because I think it sounds a little creepy to say, "Hi, I blog." Sort of like saying, "Hi, welcome to my home, do you want to look in my closets? my underwear drawer?"
Jeannine has always said I'm not shy in person, but shy online, and I think there's truth to that. While I'm happy to talk to most anyone in person, when it comes to online-- I always feel weird when a friend who is not a writer says they read my blog.
I don't think it's weird that other people have blogs, in fact, there are so many of you who I like to read. But I think it's sort of like having this open file drawer that anyone can look into and while I choose what I keep in those drawers, I can't choose who decides to sort through my files and that's kind of icky and maybe why so many people *don't* have blogs.
But I guess I do keep a blog because I've found the good outweighs the bad. And it is a way to connect with others and other writers. And it's a way to write. Still, I can't think too much about it about this because it sort of freaks me out.
8) As a child, I wrote a letters to Shaun Cassidy, Charles Schultz, and Mel Blanc. In fact, I'd write just about anyone a letter. For absolutely no reason, just to say hi. Now I wish I was still able to reach out to people I don't know like that. Maybe this is why I blog.
--me, on my new haircut
If you don't know where to start, start with a detail.
--Sam Green on how to begin a poem
Reading is 80% writing.
There is never enough time to write, you need to find a space for it right now.
-- me, a random note I put in my notebook
You have to open the store, it doesn't matter if anyone comes.
-- Joseph Green on having a time and place to write.
Being in the right hand margin is like having a spotlight on the world (sp - word).
--random quote with error found in my notebook.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
(above photo: Cow Parede IV - The Cow and the Poet)
I haven't done one of these for awhile...
2) fresh coffee in the morning
3) blackberry crisp
6) the Poetry Barn
8) NPR's weekend shows
9) friends to go to poetry readings and radio shows with (ASC, NC, NP,)
10) cellphones & free long distance to keep in touch with friends moving out of state
11) This American Life
12) cats and dogs
13) people who see the positive
15) people who keep showing up and keep trying
Friday, September 19, 2008
But let's discuss the poetry reading I went to recently. As a poet and reader, I learned a lot from it. What to do at a reading and what not to do.
The poetry reading was a beautiful home on Bainbridge Island with 4 poets from UW Press -Suzanne Paola, Bruce Beasley (her husband, I learned), Christopher Howell, & John Witte, whose new book just came out. All very strong poets with big resumes and many books.
Each reader had a different style and I thought I'd talk about what I liked and what could have been improved with the reading. Because I don't want any poet to feel awkward if self-googling and finding this critique, I will discuss what I liked and disliked without naming the poet personally.
What I liked at the poetry reading -- (oh and to make things easier for my typing fingers, I refer to the poet(s) as "they" instead of him/her, etc. )
Things I liked at the poetry reading--
When poets uses humor to connect with the audience and don't take themselves too seriously.
When they read poems of various lengths
When they talk about how a poem evolved or came to be. In fact, as a poet, I love this.
When they talk to the audience and not above us (this is both figuratively and literally).
When a poet is able to mix heavier issues into the poems they read without making the audience feel as if they want to find the nearest razorblade and slit their risks. I don't think you want to depress your audience (but I do like heavier topics along with lighter ones), so even if your poems are dark or difficult, your personality does not have to be.
When they stay to the time limit (they *mostly* did this)
When they read poems that are interesting to listen to. I know that seems obviously, but some poems need time to sit with. If you read one of these poems, please help us into your poem, don't just begin without grounding us and giving us some info to help us through the poem so we don't get lost.
Read poems that are both lighter and ones that are a little more intense, vary the tone and the mood, and make transitions accordingly so the audience goes along with you. I love it when a poet reads a very dark poem then says, "This next poem is much happier..." and the audience laughs because they want you to stay with them.
It bothers me if someone reads a poem about a miscarriage then goes directly into a poem about a funny experience with apples because there was no transition and I'm still holding onto sadness.
When poets mention what book they are reading from.
When poets read old work and not just "the new stuff." It also sells more books.
When poets seems excited to be there and have an energy about them. Even if they are not energetic people, to try to bring that to reading instead of going up there with the one expression face and reading.
When it feels as if this is the first time they've read the poem--even if it's not, even if it's the 1000th time they've read the line, they continue to breathe life into their poem and not act tired with it. (most of the poets that read did this and I appreciate it!)
What I didn't like--
When there is no introduction of who the poet is and their work and they jump right into the poems as if we know who they are and what they are doing. Give me a little handshake before you take off your coat.
Reading a long long poem in the same voice, tone, and not really helping me into that poem. You will lose me if something else happens in the room (aka a jetski goes by outside on the water, the caterer brings in yummy food) and I won't be able to get back into the poem and will end up thinking about the architecture of the room, what kind of wood the beams are made of.
Breathe and allow the audience to breathe too. Your time is not sack to fill with stuff, but a tray to put your poems on orderly and with thoughtfulness.
More poems does not = a better reading.
Breaking a promise-- when a poet tells me they are going to read 2 more poem--actually asks if it's okay if they read two more poems (and the audience nods and says yes)--then goes on to read those 2 more poems and asks if they can read more and does so--I want to run up the mic and say "You said TWO poems..."
It's bad form and a bad habit to tell the audience one thing then go on to do something else. You have set up an expectation (hoorah, 2 more poems and I get to have appetizers!) then broken it. While many more grown-up audience members will be fine with this, there will be someone like me (who loves poetry, not sitting) who will be rolling her eyes and will not buy your book b/c you annoyed her because she has sat for 2 hours at a poetry reading and is hungry.
And then calling us "such a patient audience" does not help your cause. I did not hear that last poem anyway because I was thinking about the little chicken salsa appetizers and the peach wrapped in prosciutto and basil.
Do not think you are interesting just because you are a) on stage b) a poet. *Be* interesting, doesn't assume it comes with the package. Oh and interesting poems can be made uninteresting if you read them that way.
Don't be so hard to find after the reading. There are people who may have bought your book and are looking for you.
Actually, the press should have said something about this, where to find the poets to sign books afterwards, there were 4 of them and they just scattered so I wasn't able to even say "nice job" afterwards because they were lost in the crowd.
So there it is. It was a long reading (we arrived at 3 and left at 5:45). Not all of it was reading, but a lot of it was.
But it was a good reading with various styles and voices. And I did buy two books by the same poet-- Christopher Howell, I bought Light's Ladder actually 2 copies, one for me and one for a friend having a birthday (hi N!) The book won the Washington State Book Award for poetry in 2006 or 2005. I will say that of all the poets who read, I was most interested and connected with Christopher Howell's poetry. I'm really enjoying the book too.
* * *
Tell me, what do you like best at readings that some poets do and what do you like least?
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Bush lands in Texas; Residents urged to leave
***I guess it's gotten bad enough that when the president comes to your state you need to get out of there. He's like the grim reaper, except with those squinty eyes that always make it look as if he's staring into the sun.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Dear reader, it's been seven sunny days since my last confession. The Northwest is saying yes to global warming with 80 degrees days, summer has arrived fashionably late and we are saying yes, yes, yes!
To the confessional--
1) Half of you saw my blog post about living simply and have half of you didn't. This is my special skill as a blogger, to screw things up.
However, because I was afraid the post was a little pollyanna-ish, a little too much violin solo as the Titanic went down, I didn't work to hard to make sure everyone saw it. The core message is to try to live on less and appreciate that you have your art and what you love. I can trim things down into tidy sentences like that, but sometimes in the morning, I just gab on and on and on. I hope it didn't sound too cheer squad to my own life. I think I was just trying to talk myself out of my own concerns, remind myself what's important.
2) Speaking of cheer squad, I have the gift of the pep talk. If you ever need one, just write me.
3) I just read this in the NY times:
CHICAGO — Senator Barack Obama raised more money in August than any presidential candidate has ever recorded in a one-month period, with his campaign disclosing on Sunday that it collected $66 million and drew 500,000 first-time donors to his candidacy.
I know that some people feel Sarah Palin is all that and a big of moose chips, but do not underestimate hope. If the Democrats lose this, they will lose it with scraped knees and empty wallets- I tell you, no one is going down easy on this election, it's just too important.
Please make sure you register to vote.
Along with pep talks, I also have studied the art of the lecture. And I will lecture you for not voting.
4) I have not submitted a poem in 43 days. That's what my "Days Since" widget says. That is longer than I would like.
5) I do not like the word "widget." I also do not like these words: meme, filibuster, panties, potty. I especially do not like it when grown men excuse themselves to go to "the potty." I think it sounds weird.
6) I do like these words: hope, lackluster, hipsway (which technically isn't a real word), foxtrot. I especially like it when men carry hope in their hipsway and not lackluster as they foxtrot their way out of the potty. (See how "potty" ruins moods.)
7) I shouldn't confess at night, a pre-confession, I'm too punchy.
8) Next week I'm starting the Artist Way with 5 friends. I hope to report about any synchronicities I may have. I'm reading the "Basic Tools" section right now. I seem to do the Artist Way every 3 years. It center me.
It's been amazing this year watching the US economy and financial institutions sort of self-destruct; it's been kind of like watching someone live the last seven years on speed, eventually they are going to crash and crash hard.
It can shake a person up, that worry of money, of "enough," of getting by, of "how will this affect me?" I think artists thrive in this times because well, many times we don't have a lot to lose.
When the banks shut down, no one will be coming to my house to repossess my boat, my Porsche, my condo on Cabo, my designer wardrobe (unless Goodwill & consignment shops make housecalls.) There will be no jumping from a skyscraper (I'd have to travel by ferry to find one) or no tears because I've lost my job (I'm self-employed).
I don't have a lot in material things, but a lot of what I find valuable--my family or pets, my garden in the back yard, my books, my friendships, my writing. I am not woven into the financial market and do have to come undone every time someone drops a stitch. Yes, we have retirement funds, but thankfully, that's future so there's always hope that things will improve enough by then. But if not, I have learned I can be happy with the smallest of luxuries-- being warm, being fed, being loved.
Once when I looked back at video of myself with my husband (then boyfriend), together in a house with no furniture, balloons taped to the wall for a birthday, my 23rd birthday, still sort of living on Ramen, on what they sold at Bartell Drugs because it could be bought with a credit card, before grocery stores took credit cards, and I saw how happy I was with so little. Even just getting by, I was happy, strangely dressed, but happy.
It's amazing when you really think about what you *really* need to survive. We have built our country on the false belief that more is better, that you need to buy something to have happiness--that if you don't have this (insert important appliance, car, or material item here), you are not this (insert keyword: successful, happy, important, loved, wealthy).
It took me a long time to figure this out, my mid-twenties took me away from being happy. I strived for the business card, for the 401K fund, for the designer suit and expense reports. I didn't realize I should strive for happiness not money, that $ didn't equal happiness, I had always been told it had, that having a good job would make me/happy. I wanted a line break there, because that's the thing-- I thought a good job would make me. I thought a good job would make me happy. (Actually, I thought just having a "real job" would make me happy.) I was wrong.
And now I realize we really can be all of these things (successful, happy, important, loved, wealthy) without a lot of things.
Remember that if the world begins to self-destruct, if our country seems as if it was build on quicksand because we were rushing that day and decided to build a house without taking the time to make sure we had a solid foundation. I hope you're not in the quicksand. I hope you have your art to save you, to walk towards away from the quicksand.
I'm taking a walk up to my neighbor's house to see if he has any more cucumbers on his "Free" table and I'm having salad (lettuce, spinach, and arugula) from my garden for lunch, and a boiled egg from the dozen eggs my friend gave me last night from her chickens. Wealth doesn't have to have a designer label, sometimes it's right outside your kitchen door.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Here are some highlights from the newsletter from Women Artists
On Barack Obama--
An Artist Corps in the Schools
One of Obama's most interesting ideas is his plan to form an "Artist Corps" of young artists trained to work in low-income schools and their communities. Programs like this that create jobs for artists have often been the most effective forms of arts subsidy in the U.S.
* * *
On John McCain:
"In 1999 he was one of 16 senators who supported the Smith-Ashcroft amendment which would have eliminated funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. (The amendment failed.) Then in 2000 he was one of 27 senators who voted to reduce the National Endowment for the Arts budget by $7.3 million. (This amendment also failed.) "
If you haven't registered to vote, you can do so here and here.
And remember, if you don't vote, you can't complain.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
I can't believe how quickly Saturday arrived with it's CarTalk and Weekend Edition, but here we are in the middle of the day with my family all taking naps around the house. Lazy last days of summer, I love them.
But I wanted to report on a few poetry events I participated last week--
1) Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award Reading at Richard Hugo House-- My friend Nancy Pagh (author of the great No Sweeter Fat) poetry book was the winner of this year's FB prize for her chapbook AFTER. What makes AFTER so incredible is that every poem in the chapbook is *after* another one.
The way Nancy put it at the reading that she had taught Sharon Olds in class that day and her students had a remarkable discussion about a poem. When she came home that night she said something like, "Sharon Olds could write a poem like that, but I can't. Maybe Sharon Olds could help me write my poem..." She said these poems were written when she was in a difficult place, but with "help" from these other poets--Neruda, Dickinson, Piercy, Eliot, and others--she was able to write her way through it.
It was probably one of the most inspiring readings I've ever been to. Nancy had 5 of us in the audience stand up and read one of the poems that she wrote a poem *after.* I read Emily Dickinson's "From great pain, a formal feeling comes..." But we also heard Prufrock, an original poem from Peter Pereira, Neruda. I left with that magical energy I sometimes feel after a good poetry reading, that "this is the path I want to be on and these are the people I want to be with" feeling.
Her new chapbook AFTER is available through the FB website right now. Check it out here.
It is a limited edition chapbook, so get yours before they sell out. And I'm guessing they will!
* * *
2) Another friend, Martha Silano came over by ferry to visit me last week and help bring some good poetry juju to the Poetry Barn. We wrote for a couple hours then went into town for lunch and walked to the beach to eat and talk.
I think I ended up with a couple poems I hope to revise and work on. Martha always has the best ideas for poetry exercises. Once in a friend's studio, we glued poems together from science articles we cut up.
Anyway, the weather has been perfect here in the NW and we wrote with a perfect late-summer breeze and barn doors open.
3) Floating Bridge Great Art Party-- There's a rumor that this may not happen next year, but I so hope it does. For $100, everyone leaves with a great piece of art and Floating Bridge Press has a terrific fundraiser that helps keep them alive in the art community.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
What was interesting was when he told me that, the idea of taking a moment of silence actually irritated me a little. Not because I believe I am too good or too busy to morn for strangers or that 7 years has passed and I am ready to forget, but because that one day in history, that one act by no more than 20 men with boxcutters has resulted in the deaths of thousands of others in the world due to our choices as a country. I'm angry for how we responded and I'm sad for what happened, what's still happening.
My husband is a firefighter. New York lost more firefighters that day than any other department has ever lost in a moment. People who were just going to work to make a living and keep a family, also gone. So I will find silence for them, but also for the 100,000 + of Iraqi citizens who have been killed in our war, and the children who were innocently born in the wrong place, wrong time--they shouldn't have to live through this.
And 16 years ago this week, my father died a quiet lesser-known death, but the tragedy of that still stays with me, still comes out in my poems. So a moment of silence for him and for poet Reginald Shepherd, who died last evening.
Maybe we should have silence for the Father of all Bombs, tested last year by Russia on this day, and when I say silence what I really mean is speech. We should continue to speak out for what we don't believe in as well as for what we do. We should have not fathers of all bombs, but children of all peace.
And maybe when the news media said we should have a moment of silence what they should have said is we should never hold our tongues when it comes to what's important, when it comes to peace, compassion, kindness, for understanding there will be individuals who will do bad things, but we must never mistake their mistakes for another's mistake and hurt an entire group of people. As countries or individuals, we must make our choices from compassion and not fear. And yes, I think I've come to realize that while it's good to take a moment of silence to remember or to reflect, it's also important to take time to speak.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
It's been one week since I last confessed. What can I say, I've been pretty good, but not pure, not perfect or purrfect. I'm not even sure where to begin, I'm not sure what I have to say. I'll try, reader, already, forgive me for not knowing where to begin...
1) The Sadness-- I've talked to quite a few friends and many have been waking up with "the sadness." They pull themselves into their day and put on a happy face, but more than one have said they feel that if they let themselves they could break down in tears.
I don't know what, but I think there's something up, a weird energy of sorts. Maybe it has to do with the upcoming election, maybe the planets are in some funky order that steals a bit of contentment each day, maybe it's just a restructuring of sorts.
Have you felt this way lately? Is it autumn? The changing of the seasons? Even my friend's chickens are molting. Are we?
2) Night Mind --Today, I woke up feeling better but still not as energetic as usual, but I did have a bad dream about someone ripping down an Obama sign and tossing red paint all over a theatre sign where he was going to speak.
I've been having vivid dreams. I may be writing them here just to keep track, so my apologies because as Max Beerbohm has said, "People who insist on telling their dreams are among the terrors of the breakfast table." I don't want to be your terror...but it may happen.
3) The One Who Should Have Got Away --I hated the ending to the movie Definitely, Maybe. I won't go into details in case anyone hasn't seen it, but let me just say I was not pleased...
4) Generous - My neighbor with the giant garden has built a big table outside his front yard with the words "FREE" on it. He fills the table with all the extra vegetables and fruits he has grown. There is a part of me that always wants to leave money on the table when I take something, but I know he just wants to share with others.
Sometimes I imagine what it would be like if all of our houses came with a table outside labeled "FREE" and we could put all the things we don't need on it. I think the world would be a friendly, nicer place.
5) Boxes - My least favorite character flaw in myself is that while I try to see people as individuals, sometimes I find myself grouping people into categories--democrats, republicans, californians, northwesty types, etc. I think it happens because it's easier to say "because of this equals this."
But I need to remember that like myself, people are complex. I may garden, hike, and love nature, but I also like to have my hair done and have nice toenails. I may have said this before, but I have tried many times to fit myself into a category --granola, grunge girl, business woman, bohemian, earth mother, fashionista--but realize I can never quite fit. I'm not organic enough for the organic group or stylish enough for the stylish group. I think if I were in a group, it would mishmash. I think if were a vegetable, it would be stir-fry.
I think I'm realizing as I get older that even if we think we can place someone in a certain group like watercolor paint being set no a wet page, we blend into other areas. And maybe that's the most important thing, to not try to fit in perfectly somewhere, to be a little of everything or not. Just don't let others define you. Or me. It's easy to try to box us all in. Maybe it feels safer that way. Maybe it's just easier than taking the time to get to know someone better. I'm not sure, but I'm thinking about it. And trying to be better.
6) What's Left -- I still have a henna tattoo on my hand from Sept 1st, but it's fading fast.
Monday, September 08, 2008
My daughter and I had an interesting talk about being famous on the way to the school today. I find it interesting when someone wants to be "famous" instead or being great or doing good work.
As we drove to school I found myself quoting from Naomi Shihab Nye's poem that she wrote after being asked several times by school children, "Are you famous?"
For me, fame is not what I strive for. I strive to write well.
But if someone wants to be famous, it's easy to do that...or be infamous. For me, being famous or known has never equalled being important and I wonder if that's what drives people to try to achieve "fame."
I may write more about this and maybe how "famous poet" is an oxymoron, but for now, I'll leave you with the Naomi poem I quoted from--
By Naomi Shihab Nye
The river is famous to the fish.
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.
The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.
The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.
The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.
I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.
“Famous” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Portland, Oregon: Far Corner Books, 1995). You can find more by Naomi here:
I'm feeling much better--it's amazing what coffee, some breakfast, and some time to write will do for a person. (Plus my husband just arrived home from work with a bag of non-pariels and sushi for lunch!)
Now, time to find a poem for my poetry group tonight.
I woke this morning feeling a bit melancholy. I think that's interesting when you go to sleep feeling one way, but awake completely different. I wondered if maybe what I dreamed about put me in this quieter place.
Oddly, last night I dreamed I was in Hawaii and it was lovely weather and there was a celebration and this airshow with planes pulling ridiculously large Hawaiian leis (you can only imagine how large they were because I could see them from the beach - they also had red and white smoke coming from the back).
But at the end of the night, the weather had changed from warm to a very light snow. But it wasn't as cold as the Northwest. And Billy Collins was there selling his chapbook for $10. Or that could have been a scene from another dream, you know how they all mix together.
Anyway, when I woke up, I felt a little sad and not really for any reason.
Tonight is my poetry group and we'll be having a goodbye party for Jeannine who is California Dreamin' Maybe the sadness is loss? Maybe it's fear of change. I've never been good at analyzing my dreams like those people who see angels in the architecture, I usually just see walls.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
I worked on my manuscript today. While I just learned it was a semi-finalist in a recent competition, it was also rejected by one of my favorite presses that said (and these are my words, not theirs), "It has a nice beat, but we can't dance to it."
I looked back in my records to see if I had sent the same version of the mss. Yep. I've revised it since then, my manuscript slowly becoming the scab I can't stop touching. Poor manuscript, you are not a scab. Sometimes, I just need to stop touching it.
It's a reminder to me that someone's semi-finalist is another's not-so-much. I'm American Pie & Disco Duck at the same time. One boy tells me I have a nice smile, another says I have a small mouth.
I have to remind myself not to rip apart what I think is good when someone shakes their head no at me, and I have to tell myself to stop bowing in the mirror when someone says "nice job." While feedback from others is helpful, I cannot base my entire manuscript on it. I can listen and consider, but my work cannot be a knee-jerk reaction to what someone else said.
I wrote a short essay for my graduate program about rejection and how I deal with it (summary: I email my favorite poetry/writer friends and they tell me I'm lovely, talented, wonderful, etc. etc. They say "Their loss!" and "You're too good for them." Beautiful friends.) And as I writing this essay I wanted to look into some of the rejections that other more well-known writers have received.
Here were a few from Rotten Rejections: The Letters that Publishers Wish They Never Sent, that I found worth sharing--
“... overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian … the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream … I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.”
A rejection for the book Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov—now imagine receiving that in your mailbox. (Under a stone for a thousand years? Harsh.)
“There certainly isn't enough genuine talent for us to take notice,” received by Sylvia Plath from an editor.
"The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the curiosity' level,” one of many rejections for The Diary of Anne Frank, which went on to be rejected sixteen more times before being accepted by Doubleday in 1952.
The acceptance part of poetry and of all art is subjective. I do my best and cross my fingers. Luck and timing, another part of the writing life I'll talk about some other time, but for now, I return to my manuscript already in progress.
Warning Political Post Ahead:
Here's a quote from Sarah Palin's speech:
"just your average hockey mom [who] signed up for the PTA because I wanted to make my kids’ public education better.
*** Um, I just don't want an average hockey mom (or dad) in charge of the country. I have seen what "average" can do for the country over the last 8 years. I want smart. I want exceptional.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Music: the Jason Mraz station
Gratitude Journal: non-pariels, golden retriever, coffee, freshly-cut hydrangeas, sunshine, writing shed
Notes: First day back from Summer Hiatus
The Poetry Barn, 2008
* * *
So here I am. Back at work, opening the door to the Poetry Barn back into the writing life.
I had wanted my writing shed finished by Sept 3rd, the first day of school for my daughter, but I cut it close. It's all finished except for the outside trim, which will be painted today. It's all finished except for the finishing touches. It's all finished except for the inside trim, if there will be trim, and a wastebasket.
I think I'll like it here. I may need a different chair, or maybe better posture. I'll work these things out as I go along.
So besides being in a barn next to my house, where am I in life?
Well, I'm happy to be back to writing. As I said, summer is not my writing time. If I get a poem or story, good for me, but I do not count on it. I see summer as a time to refill and I think writers need times when they aren't writing but living. Living and taking notes.
I do have a fantastic writing group I meet with twice a month, though I'm sad to have 2 members of my group moving away-- Jeannine Gailey being one of them, currently curing herself from what ails her in San Diego as I type this and another good poetfriend (NM). Thankfully, we recently had a new member (Lana!) join us and she's been a positive change for our group, just good energy there.
I mentioned this summer that I'm editing Crab Creek Review with another poet and my good friend, Annette Spaulding-Convy, and we've already done a lot of work hopefully to give CCR some of the recognition it deserves. It's a gorgeous perfect-bound, full color cover print journal that has been around the Seattle area for the last 25 years and has published some incredible poets throughout the years including one of my favorite poets, William Stafford.
I'll talk more on this blog about what I'm learning as an editor and try to give you an inside peek beneath the covers of a literary journal.
Also, we've just started a Writer's Notebook series on our Crab Creek Review blog.
Found at: http://www.crabcreekreview.blogspot.com/
where we'll be having previous contributors to our journal write about their poem or an aspect of the writing life. Our first blogger poet is Julene Tripp Weaver.
Other than that, I recently met with some writer friends to set some goals for ourselves and one of mine is to submit more. It's really the part I like least about poetry and writing in general. I like the writing and revising. The submitting part needs me to put on my administrative hat and get serious. I can do that though, get serious, wear hats.
So, as promised I've returned to the writing life which I actually never really left, just electronically, just a little weather-related absence. But I'll be here much more often and hopefully will say something that interests you or spurs conversation. Maybe. I'll try my best and you now know where to find me by email of course, and now in a barn with yellow walls, paint color: Happy Times.
I see some red apples on my tree, time to get a snack...
(Above) My own private party of non-pariels and morning coffee.
(Above) My writing buddy, Buddy Holly