Monday, December 31, 2007

Peace in 2008

Peace in 2008 sand sculpture on Santa Cruz beach
Originally uploaded by J-Byrne

Happy 2008!

2007 becomes 2008: Happy new year!
Originally uploaded by Optical illusion

2008 New Year's Resolutions

1. Make choices out of compassion
2. Reduce/Reuse/Recycle
3. Dream big--um, scratch that... make it Live big.

Gratitude List

1) Family & Friends
2) Hedgi the Hedgehog
3) Crab Cakes and Creme Brulee
4) Buttercup the chicken laying an egg today while we were there.
5) Cowboy boots
6) electric blanket & space heater
7) blue skies
8) the Kuan Yin statue on my desk
9) the library
10) making through another year safely, happily and with a desk of poems.
11) democrats (who vote) ;-)

To a new year and a new administration! Remember, Election Day is only 11 months away- November 4, 2008 - vote early and vote often.

To 2008, the end of an error!

Wishing you all a creative new year!

Don't ever believe poetry is irrelevant in dark times

Ferlinghetti argues that poetry can save the world
Steve Heilig

Sunday, December 30, 2007
From the San Fran Chronicle

Poetry as Insurgent Art
By Lawrence Ferlinghetti

What is the "use" of poetry? Or, as more than one author has asked, Can Poetry Matter?

More than 50 years ago, renowned American poet William Carlos Williams wrote famously that "It is difficult/ to get the news from poems/ yet men die miserably every day/ for lack/ of what is found there."

A practical man who was not only a poet but also a practicing physician, Williams' lines are usually read to imply that poetry - good poetry, at least - is essential to one's inner life and spirit. In the cultural doldrums of the early 1950s, that rang true for many people.

Around the same time Williams wrote those lines, Lawrence Ferlinghetti arrived in San Francisco, fresh from Paris with a doctorate from the Sorbonne and a love of the printed word. He soon co-founded the landmark and still-thriving City Lights Bookstore and publishers, issuing not only his own work but also the first printing of Allen Ginsberg's iconic poem "Howl" and many other works by writers who became known as Beat and others. Ferlinghetti has been poet laureate of San Francisco, received numerous awards both literary and civic, had his paintings widely exhibited and printed and, nearing 90 years of age, is about as famous as a poet can be in these times.

In other words, Ferlinghetti should need no introduction. That he still might, to the vast majority of Americans who rarely, if ever, read poetry, is part of the lamentable background to his latest book. It has been argued that the current decade is the 1950s all over again, but worse. And for Ferlinghetti, poetry's "use" extends far beyond the personal into the political. "Poetry can save the world by transforming consciousness," he argues in "Poetry as Insurgent Art," a slim hardback pocketbook manifesto of prose epigrams, seemingly addressed to poets and those who might be.

"I am signaling you through the flames," he begins in the new section from which his book takes its title. "The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it." Poetry, in this vision, must be a political statement, arrows slung for freedom of expression, thought and resistance. "Write living newspapers," he counsels. "Your poems must be more than want ads for broken hearts" - in other words, to paraphrase Bertolt Brecht, to write mere "love poetry" in such times is "almost a crime." So "challenge capitalism masquerading as democracy"; "Liberate have-nots and enrage despots"; "Don't cater to the Middle Mind of America nor to consumer society." And so on, in variations of his admonition to "be committed to something outside yourself."

This is a tall order for poetry, to be sure. But the six or seven (mostly) one-liners on each of the 30 pages are testament to Ferlinghetti's enduring vision and commitment. Some of these lines read as if they could have been penned in the Beat heyday, decades ago: "Stand up for the stupid and crazy"; "Dig folksingers who are the true singing poets of yesterday and today." Political economy, down-home mysticisms, and occasional cringe-worthy silliness ("Make permanent waves, and not just on the heads of stylish women") all blend into his own version of Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet." Thus, poets should "see eternity in the eyes of animals," but not "be too arcane for the man in the street." Ferlinghetti can be self-deprecating: "Don't lecture like this. Don't say don't." But he is also dead serious: "Don't let them tell you poetry is bull-" and, especially, "Don't ever believe poetry is irrelevant in dark times." Indeed, as Williams would probably agree, in dark times and in this vision, poetry becomes even more essential.

The second major section of the book, "What Is Poetry?," was started by Ferlinghetti in the late 1950s; here he provides backup for his argument for the importance of poetry, and that "life lived with poetry in mind is itself an art." Here, the political returns - somewhat - to the personal, as "poetry is the shortest distance between two humans," is "the anarchy of the senses making sense"; and "it is a pulsing fragment of the inner life, an untethered music" which "restores wonder and innocence."

Again, a lofty charge, but many have believed it, and some, such as Ferlinghetti, have lived it - even though, as he acidly quips (echoing Ginsberg's famed opening lines to "Howl") in "The Populist Manifesto" appended here, "We have seen the best minds of our generation/ destroyed by boredom at poetry readings."

This impassioned, compact and concise little book won't destroy any minds. But it may stoke some hearts, as Ferlinghetti intends. Long may he add to his poetic warning: "Wake up, the world's on fire!" {sbox}

Steve Heilig is a writer, editor and public health advocate in San Francisco, a frequent book critic and a music critic for the Beat magazine.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Resolutions ? ! ?

I'm debating on whether to make New Year's Resolutions this year.

I want to make the resolution: Publish 2nd book. But really, unless I self-publish, my resolution will have to be "submit second manuscript" because whether or not my book gets published has to do with outside forces (known as editors or contest judges).

So I could say my resolution is submit second manuscript--though I had already started doing that, so it's is it really a resolution to do something I've already been doing? Instead, I guess I could say my resolution is to "write better poems." And of course, what better way to kill inspiration than to judge it, so by making the resolution to "write better poems," it will probably have the opposite outcome.

What about have fun with poetry? This gives me the image of taking poetry out to Pizza Factory and giving her a handful of quarters for videos or taking my poems to the pool hall for a beer and a game of darts. So, no fun and poetry this year, methinks.

I could say my resolution is to create a writing schedule. Of course, just because I create a writing schedule (I resolve to write daily from 8-10 p.m. except when The Practice is not a rerun) doesn't mean I'm actually doing it.

So maybe it comes down to resolving not to make resolutions--which I break immediately by making that resolution.

I'm going to think about this more. A year without resolutions may be nice. Or maybe the resolution to be a little less resolved, or involved, or maybe to explore some anagrams for "resolutions"--

Loonies ruts


So into rules!

Hmm, I have one more day to decide, to wonder what 2008 will hold and if I walk straight into 2008 with resolutions in my pocket and fireworks shining around me or if I will wander there with my head in the clouds thinking about kingfishers or which book I should read. We'll see.


My question--

Do you make resolutions? If yes, what are they?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

7 Things You Should Know About Being a Poet

Aaron McCollough told a Michigan Daily reporter "7 things you should know about being a poet." Deborah Ager has challenged other poets to come up with their own "7 things" lists.

Here are my 7 Things You Should Know About Being a Poet:

1) You need to have poet friends for two reasons-- acceptances and rejections. Your family will have no idea why you are so excited about being published in Literary Journal X and no idea why you are so disappointed you were rejected from Literary Journal Y.

2) Poets do not need to wear a beret, black turtleneck, vintage t-shirt, colorful scarf, glasses, whimsical pin, or hold a glass of wine in their author photo to be considered a poet.

3) Poets are rich in words. (Ya, the "gettin' paid" thing. Get over it.)

4) We are not all suicidal, drunks, falling apart, narcissistic, or crazy. However, we may write about those things and at time we may or may not be all of those things.

5) Each poet has one huge character flaw or secret that s/he tries desperately to hide.

6) At a reading, poets should never say, "Here's a poem I wrote this morning."

7) We write because we cannot not write.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Cards from Beyond!

This is something I could see myself doing...if I were more organized. ;-)

Oregonian known as a joker sends holiday greetings from afterlife

By Associated Press
ASHLAND, Ore. (AP) - Even in death, Chet Fitch is a card.

Fitch, known for his sense of humor, died in October at age 88 but gave his friends and family a start recently.

His Christmas cards, 34 of them, began arriving - written in his hand with a return address of "Heaven."

The greeting read:

"I asked Big Guy if I could sneak back and send some cards. At first he said no; but at my insistence he finally said, 'Oh well, what the heaven, go ahead but don't terry there.' Wish I could tell you about things here but words cannot explain.

"Better get back as Big Guy said he stretched a point to let me in the first time, so I had better not press my luck. I'll probably be seeing you (some sooner than you think). Wishing you a very Merry Christmas. Chet Fitch"

A friend for nearly 25 years, Debbie Hansen Bernard said "All I could think was, 'You little stinker."'

"It was amazing," she said. "Just so Chet, always wanting to get the last laugh."

The mailing was a joke Fitch worked on for two decades with his barber, Patty Dean, 57.

She told the Ashland Daily Tidings this week that he kept updating the mailing list and giving her extra money when postal rates went up.

This fall, she said, Fitch looked up to her from the chair.

"You must be getting tired of waiting to mail those cards," he told her. "I think you'll probably be able to mail them this year."

He died a week later.

An After-Christmas Mint

Taking Down the Tree

"Give me some light!" cries Hamlet's
uncle midway through the murder
of Gonzago. "Light! Light!" cry scattering
courtesans. Here, as in Denmark,
it's dark at four, and even the moon
shines with only half a heart.

The ornaments go down into the box:
the silver spaniel, My Darling
on its collar, from Mother's childhood
in Illinois; the balsa jumping jack
my brother and I fought over,
pulling limb from limb. Mother
drew it together again with thread
while I watched, feeling depraved
at the age of ten.

With something more than caution
I handle them, and the lights, with their
tin star-shaped reflectors, brought along
from house to house, their pasteboard
toy suitcases increasingly flimsy.
Tick, tick, the desiccated needles drop.

By suppertime all that remains is the scent
of balsam fir. If it's darkness
we're having, let it be extravagant.

Jane Kenyon

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy All-Of-Your Days

Whatever you celebrate, wherever you are...I send warm wishes, safe travels, and the ability to stop quick for posing reindeer.

Merry Everything.

See you in 2008!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

In California During the Gulf War

Among the blight-killed eucalypts, among
trees and bushes rusted by Christmas frosts,
the yards and hillsides exhausted by five years of drought,

certain airy white blossoms punctually
reappeared, and dense clusters of pale pink, dark pink--
a delicate abundance. They seemed

like guests arriving joyfully on the accustomed
festival day, unaware of the year's events, not perceiving
the sackcloth others were wearing.

To some of us, the dejected landscape consorted well
with our shame and bitterness. Skies ever-blue,
daily sunshine, disgusted us like smile-buttons.

Yet the blossoms, clinging to thin branches
more lightly than birds alert for flight,
lifted the sunken heart

even against its will.
But not
as symbols of hope: they were flimsy
as our resistance to the crimes committed

--again, again--in our name; and yes, they return,
year after

year, and yes, they briefly shone with serene joy
over against the dark glare

of evil days. They are, and their presence
is quietness ineffable--and the bombings are, were,
no doubt will be; that quiet, that huge cacophany

simultaneous. No promise was being accorded, the blossoms
were not doves, there was no rainbow. And when it was claimed
the war had ended, it had not ended.

-- Denise Levertov

Saturday, December 22, 2007

We're Getting Close....

So Christmas is sliding through the front door with wet boots and an umbrella here in the Northwest. Outside, the sky is a holiday grey and the fog, just enough to make us keep hope there will be snow...though we know most likely our homes will glisten with rain and not snowflakes.

This is the stocking I've had since I was little. Born in 1969, I've met a lot of other people my age with similar stockings--the felt and sequins rage. The one item I had with my name on it where it was spelled correctly with an "i" and a "y."

I remember this stocking stuffed with everything from a Lifesaver book to underwear. Usually, there was a plastic candy cane filled with Hershey's kisses or some other candy poking out. Oh the treasures of the stocking.

What I want this year (besides my hat back), is a lot of world happiness. I've been asking for world peace the last couple of years and I think it's a big order. I think if we start with happiness first, it may lead to peace. It may lead to one person being kind to another and so on. It may lead us to see each other as people, not groups or enemies, but to see each other as individuals with gifts to offer, with families, with the hope of living another day, another year.

It's easy to forgot what's important as bills slide into our mailboxes, as commercials tell us how our lives aren't perfect because we haven't upgraded to HDTV. So many reasons not to be happy...look past them.

A reverend once told me that we were put on this earth to remember where we came from, to remember how we arrived with nothing and yet, we still smiled at others. We were all born with hope and goodness. We can still find it in others and in ourselves. And while it can be hard not to be distracted by the craziness of culture--celebrity, commercialism, chaos--I'm taking a moment to be thankful for I have that can't be wrapped--the voices of my husband and daughter down the hall laughing, the breath of my golden retriever asleep on the floor, the snoring (yes, snoring) of my cat Eliot on the couch.

And while I love the rip and unwrap of Christmas, what Santa brings, what we find beneath the tree, I know it's temporary, like this and this and this all of this around us. So I say "thank you" for what I have. And I wish you the very best holiday season--Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, Solstice--and if I could wrap up some happiness for you, I would. If I could mail it your way, I would. I would offer you a bowl of happiness, a garden of happiness, a house of happiness, a world of happiness, a poem of happiness--

now that I can do--

The Great Wagon

by Rumi

When I see your face, the stones start spinning!
You appear; all studying wanders.
I lose my place.

Water turns pearly.
Fire dies down and doesn't destroy.

In your presence I don't want what I thought
I wanted, those three little hanging lamps.

Inside your face the ancient manuscripts
Seem like rusty mirrors.

You breathe; new shapes appear,
and the music of a desire as widespread
as Spring begins to move
like a great wagon.

Drive slowly.

Some of us walking alongside
are lame!


Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.


Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.


The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don't go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.

Don't go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill

where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.

Don't go back to sleep.

I would love to kiss you.
The price of kissing is your life.

Now my loving is running toward my life shouting,
What a bargain, let's buy it.


Daylight, full of small dancing particles
and the one great turning, our souls
are dancing with you, without feet, they dance.
Can you see them when I whisper in your ear?


They try to say what you are, spiritual or sexual?
They wonder about Solomon and all his wives.

In the body of the world, they say, there is a soul
and you are that.

But we have ways within each other
that will never be said by anyone.


Come to the orchard in Spring.
There is light and wine, and sweethearts

in the pomegranate flowers.

If you do not come, these do not matter.
If you do come, these do not matter.

* * * *


Dear friends,

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Best wishes to all.

* * * *

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Last Minute Gift Ideas....

Support Poetry Magnet for your Car from Redactions

To order a "Support Poetry" magnetic car ribbon (8" x 3 7/8"), enclose two stamps and a $5 check made out to: "Tom Holmes" and send to 24 College St., Apt. 1, Brockport, NY 14420.

or here's a great price for a subscription to Redactions:

Subscriptions are $8/year or $15/two years.

To order an issue, please make a check out to “Tom Holmes” and send to: Redactions, 24 College St., Apt., 1, Brockport, NY 14420.

Individual copies of issues 1, 2, or 3 are $5. Issue 4/5 is $8. Subscriptions are $8/year or $15/two years. Please indicate issue number.



Help Support a new journal by purchashing some cool items (even a dog-shirt!) here.
The owl image is awesome!


A full year of ATLANTA REVIEW for just $9.99 !
You can subscribe here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

What you should be reading instead of this.

If you haven't read Debra Jarvis' LAST SUPPER post at It's Not about the Hair blog, you need to do! It's fantastic.

Why Poets Should be Paid Well for their Work-

Since I wrote why I don’t put a price tag on my poems and that I believe if people want to have a job full of monetary reward, the role of “poet” may not be the best job for you, I want to write the other side of this—that while I believe that if you are writing poetry *solely* to make money, you may have boarded the wrong train—I honestly do believe poets and all artists should be paid better AND well for their work.

What? You ask, You just wrote a whole post how you give away poems and you aren’t in this to make money. Yes. That is true. But do I believe a poem is worth as much as “The Break-Up” starring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn. Yes, I do. In fact, I think poets *should* be paid as much those two, and especially as much as Cameron Diaz—actually *I* should be paid for having to sit through a Cameron Diaz movie, but that’s another issue.

I guess I just want to clear up the idea that I think poets need to be poor to be 1) creative 2) interesting 3) honorable. I don’t. I would love to see every poet I know get a $500K Genius grant and not have to rely on a 1) teaching job 2) part time gigs 3) stealing. I would love to see our books on the bestseller list, and do I think they deserve to be on there with all those long works of fiction? Yes, and again, even more so.

I guess my biggest issue with artists and money is when the money becomes the motivator for what one creates. For example, let’s say pig poems are popular and they are selling like sausages. Journals like the Bacon Review start popping up. Every time you read a poem it’s about a pig or some aspect of a pig. Why? Because consumer demand is changing who we are as artists, they become the source that dictates what we create. We want to write a poem about depression or loss, but happy pig poems are selling and so that becomes the poem we write-- and the poem we want to write, we need to write, disappears into the vapor.

I guess my biggest disagreement with Wendy Cope was how far she had taken it, how there didn't seem to be a gray line. She was annoyed because people forwarded her poems onto someone. Again, I guess I just do not see how this can be a bad thing. Most people in the world have not heard of Wendy Cope, if they get a poem by her and they like it, there is a bigger opportunity for one of her books to be purchased than there would have been when the person had no idea who she was.

I think people share poems because they love them. I know when I send someone the poem “New Poet,” by Linda Pastan, it’s not because I want to take royalties away from Linda, but because I am so in love with that poem I want to share it with someone I feel would love it just as much.

As poets, as writers, and as artists, I think we should support each other both emotionally and as with our checkbooks. Yes, if you like someone’s work, buy their book. It’s a win/win—you’ll get a book you cherish and they (or their press) will get some money from it—poetry will be supported. But again, I return to the idea that most artists (I think) don’t become artists because they are looking for the big pay-off. I’ll return to that Jasper Johns quote again:

I assumed that everything would lead to complete failure, but I decided that didn't matter - that would be my life.

I write poetry because the payoff is not just monetary and so far, I’ve had a few prizes and grants that have helped me enormously that I am truly grateful for. But I didn’t come to poetry because I thought that it would lead me to riches. If down the road, I sell as many books as Billy Collins or Mary Oliver, I’d of course be thrilled. If I could write poetry without worrying about money, bills, if I can attend this conference or not, the price of gas, etc. etc. because I’m getting enough back from book sales, royalties, prizes, grants, art donors, Oprah, tv interviews, cameos in movies, or in any other surprising way that happens, then yes, my life would be a lot easier financially for me. But if that never happens and I happily go to the mailbox and get my $25 check from the North American Review or just a note that says, “We’ve accepted your poem. Your payment is a subscriber copy,” honestly, I'm happy as well. Because I will write poetry even if no one pays me for it. And I think that is what all people should always ask themselves with any job. If no one were paying you to do this, would you still want to?

I don't believe money is the root of all evil and in fact, I think money can actually do a lot of good for people. Dear poets, I want your pockets to be filled with cash, for each of you to sell a ton of books, and my wish is that we can all be financially independent so we can focus on solely on our art. I understand the importance of artists and writers being paid well for their work and wish it to each of you. I wish it for myself as well.

But I also understand we write poetry because we cannot not write poetry. And I’m not convinced that poetry’s payoff is necessarily written out in check. I don't think a poet should feel annoyed with others for sharing your work. I think in living the life as a poet, a writer, an artist, there is far more to grateful for than there is not. I am thankful for having the time to write a poem. I know that by not working right now, there is a sacrifice. I can't purchase everything I want. I have to think about the dreaded words "living on a budget," but I am thankful every moment for the time I have to sit down and write. And mostly likely, next year, I will getting a part-time job and my writing time will dwindle a bit, so I'm even more thankful for the time I have right now. And I feel lucky and grateful for all that I have.

But I guess I've learned that happiness, satisfaction, or any of those feel good words cannot be tied to money. Poets and artists should be paid more. They should be able to live off their art without having to sacrifice their creative time to pay the bills. But ironically, I like to think of writing as its own version of the MasterCard commercial--

Ream of paper: $4.50
Pencil: 25 cents.
Chai tea at the local coffee joint: $3.23
The satisfaction of writing a poem: Priceless.

Poetry: There are some things money can't buy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I've got a little change in my pocket going jingle, ingle, ingle...

Wendy Cope's article: You like my poems? Pay for them.

A.E. Stallings' response on the Wendy Copy article

* * *

Okay, I've been meaning to comment on this. First, when I read Wendy's article my first thought was I completely understand how she feels and wow, I feel completely feel the opposite.

First if you've come to poetry because you think it's the moneytrain pulling into the station, a long time ago, someone mislead you in a very fantastic way. Sure, it would be great if some wonderful arts donor sent us a check every year to live on or gave us a fabulous ridiculous amount of money for the work on my poems, but in most of our lives as writers, it doesn't work that way. We hope for a genius grant, an NEA, but we continue writing whether we get one or not. We hope our books sell well, but we continue writing if they do not. We hope for a book, and sometimes we get one, sometimes not.

I may be in the minority on my feelings here, but if you find a poem of mine on the internet and want to forward it to your friends, feel free. If you like a poem of mine and can't find it on the internet and want a copy of it, drop me an email and I'll mail it to you so you don't have to buy my book. It's all good.

Then again, I'd be one of those bands allowing others to bootleg my music at concerts. I'd encourage sharing, just like I do with poems.

Cope writes:

"Often the offending websites are the responsibility of well-meaning enthusiasts, who have no idea that they are breaking the law. Neither do the people I meet every now and then who say: "I liked your poem so much that I sent copies of it to all my friends." I'm supposed to be pleased. I've learned to smile and say thank you and point out very politely that, strictly speaking, they shouldn't have done that. They should have told their friends to buy the book. Or bought it for them."

If for some reason someone found my writing compelling enough to share it with another, feel free to be one of those wild law-breaking citizens who puts my poem on the Plagiarist. Feel free to cut and paste my poem off the internet and include it with your Christmas cards.

Cope also writes:

One argument that often comes up in relation to all this is "But it's free publicity". Well, it's true that there are poets who are happy to see their work anywhere and everywhere, just for the sake of the attention. But for those of us who make a little bit of money from royalties and permission fees, and depend on that income, it's different. Free publicity has no value if all that happens is that even more people download your poems from the internet without paying for them.

****This is where I feel for Wendy because unlike me (who will sell her stuff on eBay for extra cash); it sounds as if she's truly trying to make her living from her art. For me, I sort of separate the two. While I'd love to be paid big bucks for my poetry, I don't write with the idea that I need to make X amount of dollars this year. It’s not my source of income, if it was, I’d probably be very resentful of poetry. Poetry would be causing me to write things I didn’t want to write to get paid. I’d be the commercial poet writing what sells instead of what I want to write about.

I disagree on her feelings about free publicity. Because there is really is no such thing as a “famous poet” (truly, it’s an oxymoron), for a poet to have their name out in the world, I believe will only help in the long run. And I think free publicity only helps sell more books. Even her article will sell more books for her because people will want to see what she's writing that's so important that it needs to be kept in a vault with a $14.95 combination lock. (Of course, I'm sure more people will google her poems first.)

I think it's less about attention, but for me, it's a feeling of for some reason I have always felt the need to write, this weird inner desire that it's what I'm supposed to be doing. I have a Charlie Brown/Jasper Johns attitude about it too. Johns was quoted saying, "I assumed that everything would lead to complete failure, but I decided that didn't matter - that would be my life."

And I feel the same way, but my writing time never feels wasted because even if it the poem doesn't work out or ever get published or no one sees it, the satisfaction came out of creating, of putting something in the world where there was nothing.

But I do understand her perspective and it’s refreshing to see someone who values her poems like that who will say, “these poems are worth $X to me.” And I’m more appreciative that it’s a woman with this attitude given that so many women do not value their time or art. So I can definitely see both sides here. But I never went into to poetry to "get rich." I put that in parenthesis because "get rich" could mean so many things to others, but I didn't start writing poetry because I believed that at the end of the rainbow there was a big pot of gold with my name on it.

If one day, I could live comfortably on royalty checks and money from poetry then that would be ideal. But I'm not going withhold my poems from anyone who wants to read them to make that happen. I am truly thankful for the people who buy my books and I am thankful for the people who read my poems on the internet or in a literary journal. I’m thankful to the people who share my poems with others, especially thankful to them. I feel “paid” if I receive an email from someone saying “I loved your poem.” No, it won’t pay my mortgage, but it will make this house a little warmer and a little more livable for the time being.

Great article/interview with Dorianne Laux that mentions Jeannine Hall Gailey

I was thrilled to see Jeannine mentioned by Dorianne Laux in a recent interview. You can read the whole thing here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

After the Flood...

Olive Branch--

I don't even know how long it's been since I've written, but if you were worried about me, my home, my family, the streets of this small town, the floods...we are all fine and dry. I was truly impressed how quickly the water receded once the rain stopped. The ark project has been temporarily halted.


What else I have I been up to? Ah, yes...two other poets and myself had a little "submission party" since we last spoke.

Basically, we each arrived with copies of our poems, SASEs, envelopes, postage, laptop, cover letters, and submission guidelines for six of our favorite journals or six places we'd like to be published in.

We sat on my friend's bamboo floor and chose poems. We tried not to get too over-involved in the choosing. This is something I do when on my own. I try to choose the poems I feel best represent the journal or what I think the editor will like. I might as well use a Magic 8-ball because one never really knows what another likes when it comes to poetry. Sometimes I guess right, but sometimes not. So, I tried to make it "fun."

Did I just use the term "fun" while referring to submitting my work? I did. Submitting is not fun to me. It brings out every insecurity I have as well as makes me become the crazy last-minute editor (i.e. "Oh, I don't want that comma in line 16, I'll have to revise this before I can send it out...weeks pass...) Poems that seemed finished, no longer have that sparkle and are returned back into the pile.

Submitting with friends makes it much easier and enjoyable, and while I still left with 8-11 poems I didn't submit because in the end I didn't feel they were strong enough, I still did 4 submissions, then came home and did two more online submissions. So six in a day, not bad. The other poet did seven submissions, and the owner of the bamboo floor poet did two. (15 in all for the math majors.)

It's quite lovely to submit while snacking on coffee cake, fresh cinnamon rolls, peppermint tea, and amidst poet friends. While we talked about poetry, we also talked about life and once and a while a white cat rolled across our poems. The time went quickly. We arrived at 9:30 a.m. and left at 1-ish. (I almost left all my submissions under a table, but they were found just before I left!)

I simultaneously submitted two poems where the guidelines said it was okay (I rarely do that), but all the rest are not sim-subs. Honestly, I don't like to do sim-subs because I worry about my record-keeping and having to track that. Also, I don't like having to contact editors to pull poems if they're accepted some place else. The other poet does all her poems sim-subs though and it works very well for her. (And she submitted the most and the quickest too.)

There is a part of me that wishes I could be much more casual that way, but I'm not. I'm not really a multi-tasker when it comes to submitting. My positive outlook would be that I'm the tortoise, slow and steady, but my negative outlook would be that I'm the nervous nelly whose afraid she's going to be mess something up with having submissions too many places. I guess we each have to find which way is best for us. Maybe one day, I will try to sim-sub more, but for now, I'm doing okay as is, one poem at time.


So, since the olive branch is my life staying dry and the dove is submitting my work, the ark must be my writing.

I'm in an online group with 8 other poets and we're trying to write a poem a day for 16 days in December.

So far my favorite title has been: Portrait of Younger Self with Witches’ Butter (and this may be my favorite poem so far). My worst title is "After". (Good one.)

So, my writing life is sailing along. Each day, a new poem. On the first day of Christmas my muse gave to me...

Saturday, December 08, 2007


Northwest Floods

Missed Connection --

Thursday, Dec 6th -

You: Lovely red-haired Floating Bridge Press winning poet in hat (beret?) rushing past Westlake Center near the Spanish band.

Me: Tall poet in 1940's style coat with faux-fur collar and warm brown hat drinking coffee outside of Starbucks with another FB Press chapbook winner.

You were carrying something and went by too quickly. I tried to say hello, but the moment was over and the band was too loud.

If it was you, leave me a note. I'm sorry we didn't get to say hi!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Self Portrait with Olive Branch

Well, we are drying out today.

Yesterday, when we went to check our unfinished basement, we learned that our 25 year old sump pump had failed and now along with Lake Garage, we had the Sea of Basement.

The ark is still not built and my home is ready to sail away.

I started calling all every giant hardware store in our county--everyone was out of pumps. So I called our small town hardware store and there was one left which they were happy to hold for me to pick up. (There is a whole story about my good luck here in ending up with last pump, which I'll skip, but just a note to whoever is watching down on me--THANK YOU!) And a good reminder to me that the Home Depots and the Lowe's of the world have nothing on the small locally run hardware store when it comes down to it in an emergency.

So within a few hours of wet work, my husband and I got the new pump working, the main part of our basement pumped out and this morning, when I woke up, Sea of Basement had turned into Pond of Unfinished Work.

Thankfully, the main part of the house that we live in, is up high enough that we remained dry and grateful. The sun is out and a dove just appeared in our flowering plum and I swear it has an olive branch in its grasp.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Dear God,

Stop raining, the ark isn't complete yet!!

Weather or Not...


I spent Saturday building a snowman and will spend today building an ark. We went from Winter Wonderland to the Seattle Special, which is rain rain and more rain. People joke about the NW and say that it's really sunny here. Yes, we have beautiful blue skies, we have weeks in a row of gorgeousness, but when it rains, it's intense.

Our winters can be grey and wet. They are grey and wet. Right now, I have my car parked in Lake Garage. Our fish pond is almost spilling over. Rivers of children are rushing down my street. We smell of wet wool. Now we must watch for falling trees, their roots are resting in a flooded ground, so down they will come.

But back to Saturday. I spend the day sledding, drinking hot chocolate with whipped cream and a Hershey mini bar tucked in the white cloud. We watched Mr. Bean's Holiday. I loved how all my unraked leaves disappeared under a neat white sheet. I put on a Santa hat. I thought that the idea of building a snowman is always much more fun than the actual building of a snowman. We sat by the fire. We counted snowflakes.

And now all the snow is pouring into Puget Sound. Wet wet wet. But what I love is that I can stay inside and do nothing and feel good about it. I can write, sleep, read, and there's nowhere I need to be and who'd want to drive in this? I can turn on my space heater, have a snack, a cup of coffee, and watch the water rise.

Poetry News?

Nothing here. Some friends and I are getting together this week to have a "submission party." Basically, we're each bringing information about 6 journals (or more) we'd like to submit to, some poems, some envelopes, some SASEs, some cover letters, and off they go.

I've never been crazy about submitting poems, though I know it's "part of the job." Otherwise, I'd just be journaling. And it's easier to submit with friends, with tea and coffeecake.

I've done this once before. I ended up with a poem in the Atlanta Review from that experience.

Speaking of which, I just received the issue it appears in and there's a wonderful poem by Edward D. Nudelman that I opened to. What's funny, is that when I first started reading this poem, I expected not to like it--a poem about writing poem--but by the end, I was won over. And I think that's what a good poem can do, win the reader over. Anyway, I think it's quite wonderful.

Here it is:

The Wrong Poem

I want to start the poem:
She walks across the room
like a subtle cloud that forms
from the rising waters of my need,

but the poem begins like this:
She stands and stares
with both hands
on their respective hips.

I want the poem to include
this line:
As we slip together
into one long fall of fury,
our bodies move weightless
succumbing only to the death
of our own vainglory,

but this one keeps cropping up:
Still you say you need
much more than I can give,
and I keep saying
you’re probably right.

I’m hoping the poem
will sound likes it’s written
in French
or even Portuguese,
but I’m getting a distinct
lower east side vibe.
A perfect closing to the poem
I’m writing would be:
And then she blesses the Adam
of my apple with her Eden kiss,

but it looks like the poem
is going to end with
me saying:
You have an inflated view
of your self worth,
and as for me,
I’ve got my own problems.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Still Life with Tombstone & Poem

While I find this article interesting that they found an old headstone with a poem on the back, I'm more amused that the name of the County Administrator they interview is Bill Collins.

How to Get Your Groove Back...

I'm taking a break from writing. Yes, that means my writing life, my circle of creativity is feeling much more on track. I *am* writing, so I actually have something to take a break from!
As many of you know, since graduating, I've been, well, how do I put this? Floaty. Not focused. Basically I feel as I've been recruited into a lifestyle of "Ladies Who Lunch." I really haven't been doing much except talking or thinking about writing, socializing with friends and family, going for walks with the dog, organizing events, trips, household chores, but not focusing on my writing like I have in the past.

Maybe a few of you are thinking I'm sort of an unreliable narrator here as I have written poems and submitted my work since graduating, but honestly, it has not been with much intent. It's been random acts of poetry. It's been hit or miss days.

I'm going to try to explain the various stages and steps that have allowed for my writing groove to return in case others have gone through, are going through, or will go through a stage like this.
Here's a few of the ways that have helped me get my groove back.

1) Accepting the void, but getting past it...

I've been trying to be kind to myself for not "unfocusedness," but I've also been trying to recreate my writing life.

I knew I wanted to give myself a break since I have worked hard in school, but I knew this break could last a short eternity if I wasn't careful and honestly, as a Capricorn, extensive break times can be hard to do.
I'm not all work and no play, but I am not really a play, play, play kind of gal either. I welcome rest and relaxation, but I also need to have some sort of "work" happening in my life to relax from--whether it's school, or focused writing, or a pt job. There needs to an "other" or I'm just too unscheduled. Like a toddler with too much room to roam, I will spend hours sticking things in the light socket, give me some boundaries though, and I will stack blocks, create the next poem.

2) Thinking about things--

or as my daughter would say when she was three "I'm finking about fings." I guess I needed to think about what I was going to do with the rest of my life. It sounds a silly, it sounds very 1992 when I graduated from the UW, but leaving PLU left me with a void that surprised me and this odd question-- now what? I can see why people move on from degree to degree because it does fill the empty space grad school leaves behind.

So, I've been thinking about what exactly I want to work on-- novels, essays, poems, children's books, articles-- and the overwhelming answer has been yes. Yes to all. The upcoming new years offers a nice time just allow a new game plan to come about, to write and write and see what happens.

3) The Artist Way Action Plan has reappeared--

Surprisingly, this is strange chart that you create while doing Artist's Way has been a sort of touchstone for me. It's a way to see bigger goals broken down. It doesn't just say "Publish award-winning novel," but under daily goals it can say "Write 1000 words today," (or whatever your goal is). It takes the bigger ideas and put them into babysteps, like a What About Bob way to live: Babysteps into the elevator... We move slowly, but we get there.

4) Sick and tired of feeling/sounding like a wannabe--

It's amazing what a little self-humiliation can do. Honestly, I'm so tired of hearing myself *talk* about writing instead of actually doing it, it's made me devote entire days to writing and revising. It's made me pull essays out of out thin air just to have something to submit that isn't poetry. It's made me have to get out of my comfort zone and feel a little *uncomfortable,* submitting to new genres to new venues. My tribe's unrefined motto of: If you're not going to sh*t, then get off the pot.
Do something. Do anything! Okay. I get it.

5) Listening to New Letters Podcasts on NPR--

They interview writers. No, they interview people who are writers and it reminds me that this (writing or not writing) is a choice I'm making. These people/writers do not have superpowers, they are ordinary folks who work hard and write. Dedication. Perseverance. Persistence. A little luck. A little timing. A little more dedication to their goal. Hard work and persistence. Some have degrees, some don't. Some have large vocabularies, some don't. Some are funny, some aren't. Some had fabulous childhoods, some didn't. There's a lot of everything and lot of room for others. So, I'm inspired by these people and when I hear them talk, I want to write.

So, there it is. The details of how I slid back into my writing life. I'll keep you posted on the ups and downs of it (hopefully, more ups than downs) and let you know what's working and what's not.

I think much of it is realizing that without my writing, I feel a little off-kilter, like our Christmas that despite its beauty was leaning a little heavy to the right. It eventually fell (but I caught it - as well as hung up on Jeannnine Gailey who I was talking to at the time).
I tend to catch the things that fall around me--Christmas trees, my writing, others--and I've learned that what ends on the floor can be fixed, a tree can be retrimmed, as can a writing life. And a friend can be recalled to let know that everything is okay.

From an interview with Kim Addonizio

Do you think poets get less leeway than novelists? With a novel the audience presumably knows invention is part of the equation. Too often, I’ve heard poets who write in the first person accused of being merely confessional.

Everyone expects a poem to be literally true, but of course it’s not. A poem is a work of the imagination, and the self you create on the page isn’t the same person who washes the dishes and goes to the grocery store and tries to figure out how to fix the computer. It’s a deeper self, or maybe a self you can’t actually access in your daily life.

Or maybe it’s a self you don’t, or can’t, show to anyone in your daily life. It’s a part of you, but not the factual part, if that makes any sense.

I’ve often been labeled as a “confessional poet” because I write about personal things: finding or losing love, fearing death, feeling a sense of hopelessness about the world. But those are also universal things. I try to tell my little piece of it, and maybe it connects to what someone else feels.


And it looks as if there will be a sequel to Poet's Companion. She says when asked what she is working on:

"a sort of sequel or sister to a book. I wrote with poet Dorianne Laux, The Poet’s Companion.
The new book is going to be called Ordinary Genius. It’s about writing poetry and living a writer’s life, and has a lot of advice and ideas for anyone who wants to write poetry."

****I'll be looking forward to that.

Full interview here

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Oz & Frida Kahlo's Ghost

I finish my manuscript then disappear from the blogworld for 3 days. One day was Christmas shopping, one day was submitting my manuscript, and one day is today. So, I'm back.


Last night on the way to a poetry workshop, I was complaining to two of my good poet friends that I haven't been writing, but then I thought-- Wait, I've been writing. (I was bringing a new poem to our workshop!) And I've been revising (see above post, I just said I completed my mss). Not on a daily schedule or every day, but I've done a lot. I think because I haven't done it in a 9-5 way, it doesn't seem as if it happened. It's sort of as if my writing time has become Oz, a hazy place, but a place where I'm sure I've been. Now, just to get those ruby red slippers for proof.


Warning: Dream post--

Speaking of Oz, I had this dream where the word came into play...

In the dream, I was staying at a residency for poets who wanted to write novels (Peter Pereira had just been there a week before me) and Ted Kooser was coming to my studio at night to see what I had written. When I explained, I wasn't able to write anything and that I had spent the day doing research, he called in a woman writer named Cici to talk with me.

When Cici arrived she was very distracted. When I asked her what was wrong, she said she was afraid of Frida Kahlo's ghost. She took off the Frida necklace she was wearing and put in around my neck. Frida is an inspiration to me and I was thrilled to have the necklace. When I turned it the pendant with Frida's photo on it, it was inscribed "Oz."

If I were to interpret this dream, I'd say that 1) it was created from my concern I've been wasting too much time lately (and the ex-Poet Laureaute is going to check up on me).
And 2) that there's nothing to be afraid of, our minds are Oz and they can be filled with flying monkeys, ruby slippers, or Frida Kahlo's ghost, it all depends on what we want to make of it.

It also tells me there's a few yellow brick roads I need to follow...


On my walk this morning, I started thinking about a children's story I wrote, submitted twice, then sort of abandoned in my computer files. I'm reconnecting with it today. I think I'm reconnecting with a lot of things today. I hope you are too.


By the way, if you need a writing prompt today, write a poem called "Frida Kahlo's ghost" or one that uses that image.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Checking in...

A friend of my mine kindly surprised me with an early Christmas gift-- Duende, poems by Tracy K. Smith. The poems are fantastic. I love this book. I read it on the ferry on the way home and I was so inspired by her writing.
Reading my favorite blogs this morning, I was shocked to see that my friend Debra's terrier was attacked by a pitbull. Charlie's sweet dog Arden was also attacked this week. I am so thankful that both dogs are healing and will be okay, but geez, what is up with all these people with aggressive dogs (and running wild in the world). Sheesh, don't get a dog you can't control.


My manuscript is done. My manuscript is done. My manuscript is done. And I am happy happy happy with it.


As for today, we're decorating our tree and covering our little world in tinsel.


And boo hoo, the Huskies lost the Cougs in the Apple Cup. Because of this, I'll have to tell my favorite WSU joke--

Q: Why did the Pullman police department take the 9-1-1 off of their cars?
A: Cougar football players kept stealing them because they thought they were Porsches.

***Congratulations Wazzu for a game well played, we'll see you again next year...

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Gratitude List

1) My family & another Thanksgiving with my nana, who will turn 96 in January. During our family grace before our first Thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday when asked, "What are you grateful for?" She said, "Give me a minute, you took me by surprise." Love it!

2) Thanksgiving Deja Vu: Since half of my family lives on this side of the water (rural seaside USA), and the other half lives on the Seattle side, we're having two Thanksgivings. One traditional one we had at my mum's and one today, where we will meet my sister, nieces, nephews, great-nephew (yes, I'm a great aunt!)and we'll dine out. I am thankful for the colorful stories this side of the family gives me with their holiday dramas, it would not be the holidays if someone wasn't talking about someone else. ;-)

3) The holiday season-- I know many hate it, but ignore the commercialism and listen to the underlining message-- to give, to be thoughtful, and to pay attention to the others around you.

4) I give thanks to giving thanks.

5) The Macy's Thanksgiving parade

6) You. Yes, every known, unknown, or random person who reads this blog. Whether you comment on not, email or not, you matter.

7) 4-day weekends-- Which reminds me of my friend's goal in high school: Never waste a 3-day weekend

8) The earth. As much as use and abuse it, it still keeps spinning for us.

9) Our imperfections. Imagine how dull this world would be if we were all perfect. I give thanks for our bad habits, our vices, our emotional days, and everything about ourselves we try to fix.

10) Ferryboats-- my water car.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Lee Young Lee - Lunch Poems, Nov 2002 - Video

Saw this video (it's long, around 45 minutes), but thought I would share it for the Li-Young Lee fans out there.

Robert Hass gives the intro.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The "Kindle" - Will it burn out?

Some snips from it--

"...everyone has an opinion, mostly negative, about how it looks. A sample description: "like a prop from an old sci-fi horror flick."

"Kindle, which is roughly the size of a paperback and weighs about 10 ounces, is taking a beating for its appearance. "It has a sort of late-1970s Battlestar Galactica/Pong/digital watch aesthetic about it," Silicon Alley Insider's Peter Kafka wrote. "Which is fine with us -- we're function over form people, when push comes to shove. But this thing would not pass muster with Steve Jobs."
99-Cents a Blog
"Blogs, virtually all of which are free online, will cost Kindle customers either 99 cents or $1.99 a month for a subscription. (TechCrunch, Scobleizer and GigaOM are among the 300 blogs participating in Amazon's program.)

Engadget, among others, called it an odd arrangement.
In a subsequent post, author Ryan Block noted that the blogs are selected by Amazon and will share the revenue with the online retailer.
But why pay to read something that's freely available, asked the Globe and Mail's Mathew Ingram. "I'm trying to think of a blog that I would pay money to read, and nothing is really coming to mind -- not even Engadget or TechCrunch or Boing Boing," he wrote. "But that line of thinking raises the inevitable question: if a blog like Engadget is pretty much as good as a magazine (which I think it is), then why would people pay for one but not the other? That can lead you in one of two directions: charge for the blog, or don't charge for anything. We know which one Jeff has chosen -- but is it the right one?"
I kind of half-posted this yesterday and somehow deleted my own thoughts on this little item--
First, had I not recently moved up in the tech-world recently by organizing my life by PalmPilot instead of paper Daytimer, I'd be completely bashing this product. However, since I realize the easy and convenience of my PalmPilot, I could see how this product could be useful, especially on vacations or while traveling.

I lugged two bags of books down to California with me. If I could have had them in a small handheld device, it would have been easier than lugging them up to my hotel room. So, I'm open to this.

Where I think the Kindle goes wrong is that 1) It should come with some books uploaded in it. And a good selection of independent press books too, not just the big guys.
2) Blogs should be free.
3) If you purchase a REAL book through Amazon, you should get the ebook as well (or for 50 cents more)
Right now, by buying this, you're just buying an empty shelf at the library, not any words. That bothers me. For $399, you should at least get to choose 5 books to download as well.
And I don't know if poetry books will be available in eBook, I'd need to find that out as well.
I think it has possibilities and definitely for travel, but for now, it just not "the best that it could be," so I'll have to pass in favor of my sofa, my fireplace, and my stack of paper books.
(I'll be watching to see if Amazon upgrades it in the near future...)

To Get You in the Holiday Spirit- Poet Elves!

Poet Elves

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Excellent MiPOesias Issue - Now Out and Online!

What I like about MiPoesias is that visually, it's pleasing to the eyes. And this issue has poets as you haven't seen them before (sailor suit, boxing gloves). It has the feel of a Vogue layout and I mean that as a compliment.

Unlike when Fence tried to get attention with dare this sexy cover-- this was a great mix of content and photography. I'd love to see other journals follow their lead. Didi Menendez has some fantastic visual (and visionary) style and it shows in the current issue.

I might in another post discuss why I feel MiPOesias did a better job with intrigue than the Fence issue, or how why I see them succeeding in doing a so-called "hot" issue. But for now, I just wanted to let you know, it's out and available ONLINE.


Included in this issue:

Reb Livingston
Lee Herrick
Jenni Russell interviews Billy Collins

From Jenni Russell's interview with Billy Collins:

Do you have a favorite poem in The Trouble with Poetry?

I don’t have a favorite poem of mine in that or any book.
The reader, not the poet, is the one to have “favorites.”
Frankly, I have absolutely no interest in any of my
poems. They’re orphans searching for a reader to adopt
them. Or kick them out into the snow.

Note: I have fast internet service and PDF file took a bit longer to download because of all the fantastic photographs, so don't worry if it doesn't come right up. (And dial up folks, you may want to take a walk around block or make yourself a snack while you wait...)

See the new for yourself--
Visit MiPoesias here
Download the PDF File

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Week of being Thankful

I'm writing this B.C. (before coffee), before I've really even rolled from bed (so B.F.- before floor). Thanksgiving slides up on us this week. Here we were, minding our own business, just finally getting around to throwing out the rotting Jack O'Lanterns, when now it's time to return to our families--no, this year I won't have sit at the child's table--and the roles we love to hate.

So, I'm thinking about gratitude this week and what I am thankful for:

1) Family and Friends, as much as I see myself as a bit of a loner, I'm not.

2) Christmas songs (played 24 hrs a day starting this week)--I know, some of you are cringing, but it's the soundtrack to my season

3) Miracles, Coincidences, Synchronicity - and not just this time of year, any time of year

4) Peace, Love, and Understanding - Not just an Elvis Costello song and also the Elvis Costello song.

5) My pets-- they should have been mentioned earlier in the list, but my cat Eliot appeared and sat on my foot when I was on #5

6) Clean sheets - my favorite way to go to bed

7) Snow - Yes, I'm putting in my request for this holiday season.

8) Poets -known & unknown: I love to learn someone is writing poetry, or reading poetry, or going to poetry readings because s/he loves poetry. No other reason.

9) My new palm pilot-- it has taken the place of my 15 lb. daytimer and I love it!

10) Christmas shopping - while I despise shopping in general, I love buying gifts for others

11) Stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie-- while I've never been a huge turkey fan (probably from my 12 years of being a strict vegetarian), it's the trimmings on the table

12) A title for my manuscript (CHECK and DONE!)

13) Salted sunflower seeds in the shell

14) Hedgehogs

15) Faith

16) A cedar tree of cedar waxwings

17) Toys that don't require batteries

18) Each day

19) Gift bags full of girly stuff (thanks, J9!)

20) A poetry community - virtual and real life.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A New Small Town Girl

Jeannine is moving to a small town.

It's 45 minutes away from my small town. To get to where we live you have to take a ferry or drive two hours to cross a big bridge. If you live out here, you didn't just accidentially take a wrong turn at the Space Needle, you chose to find this place.

No one just "ends up" here. We are the small towns you have to hunt for. There is no freeway connecting us to the city, no freeway connecting us to anything. We are small highways and old roads winding around farms and forests.

City folk worry about people breaking into their cars, we worry about trees falling into to ours. We worry about weather, how long the power will be out. We buy generators for our homes. We deal with septic tanks and drain fields. It is not uncommon to hear coyotes at night. It is not uncommon to love your cat to a coyote or your kitten to an eagle. We know the flight patterns of birds and not airplanes.

But one thing to know about the small town life is that it gives you extra time to let your mind wander and sometimes while this leads to wonderful creative ideas and inspired thoughts, it can lead to anxiety. When I visit the city, I do not have time to worry. I am making sure I'm not hit by a Metro bus or watching the musicians on the street. There is constantly something moving my thought from one place to another--oh look, the traffic, the homeless, the street vendors, the cork tree, the Lusty Lady, the art museum, the, the, the, from one image to the next.

Out here, when the only things that changes is the shape of clouds or the color of sky, your mind can wander into anxiety. Your mind can be your best friend or that shadowy figure you run from. It's a challenge for me as I have a creative mind that likes to put different scenarios into play, not to move into the "what ifs." But that same creativity, those same thoughts many times move into a poem instead.

And I love my small town life even if I have to move past those thoughts dashed with anxiety because creatively you can thrive out here. Because the one thing people have out here more than anything else, is time. (Now, what you do with your time is your choice, but it's something we tend to have more of.)

So welcome Jeannine, you've just been awarded the gift of time (and beauty, and fresh air). Enjoy! And write!

Full Open Days

Writing Routine--

Because of different appointments and events, I haven't had my regular writing schedule of full open days available to me. Yesterday on the way to and from the dentist, I wrote on the ferry. Well technically, I revised on the ferry. Lately my writing seems to be the thing that gets stuck in between appointments and events instead of the thing that I scheduled events and appointments around.

It feels as if writing has become my second car. It's the convertible I love to drive, but I'm in the routine of the practical SUV and every day I jump in the big gashog only to realize my favorite car (the one I care about) is being neglected. It's not as if I need to drive the SUV every day, but I'm in the habit of the SUV. But we know this isn't about cars, it's about choice. Making choices to give your writing time priority (and when I say "your," I mean "my").

There's a part of me that knows that this little three month period of neglect (Sept-now) is because of the hyper-focus I had on my writing the last three years with the MFA program. I'm allowing myself to take a break, "to fill up the well" (as some say), to be the socialite I wasn't. I have been saying yes a lot more and because of that, my calendar filled up with the things I neglected--friends, appointments, vacations.

But I realized this week, after being back from my vacation, after two dentist appointments, a poetry group, a list of errands, that the old feeling, the old want/need I had about my writing is returning in a much more serious way. I want to find--no create more time for my writing. I want to put it on my calendar--I am putting it on my calendar--and working my life around it. I have to.

In other news, we got a hedgehog.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The "I" in a Poem

January over at the POET MOM blog started a good conversation on the use of "I" in a poem.

She writes:

There's No "I" in Poetry
I was listening to a recent podcast at the Poetry Foundation’s Web site on the “I” in poetry. The critic asserted that since the Confessional Poets (Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, for example) of the 1960s, “I” is the most overused word in poetry. This has lead to an abundance of “me” poetry: me to a lover, me to my parents, me to my children, something bad has happened to me. And it all wraps up in a nice little bow—my relationship to the rest of the world.

Then asks:

So I wonder: is the “I” overused? Have poets lost the ability to write detached, objective poetry? Have we lost our ability to write about the universal? Can we write a poem about things and situations but not have it relate to ourselves directly?

As one who writes in the confessional vein, I welcome the thoughts of writers but especially readers. What kinds of poetry to you gravitate to, more personal poetry (first person) or that which talks about the broader spectrum of the human condition (third person)?

Here's my response--

Critics can annoy me. Even their name is negative (critic instead of writer’s helper.)

But I've never been fond of grand-sweeping statements like this. "The I is overused." "There's too much nature poetry." Etc. etc.

No, the I isn't overused, just as the he/she/they/we/you isn't overused. Each poem is a choice of perspective, of point of view.

I definitely don't think that poets have lost the ability to write detached, objective poetry, but is that what we are seeking in the poems we read? I'm looking for connection, for insight, for showing me the world in a way I haven't noticed before. I'm not so interested in the POV.

Also, I have always had a huge issue with the term "confessional,"--what were they "confessing?" Especially as many of the "confessional poets" were women. I have always felt the term is another way to quiet the voices of people (many women in this case) from speaking what matters most to them.

Yes, childbirth is bloody and sticky. Yes, we sometimes have terrible relationships with others. We think about death. We have traumas in our life, depression. To me, there is no taboo subject in poetry and any of these can be written about in any POV. It comes down to the craft for me--is it a well-crafted poem?

A lot of my poems come from personal experience, sometimes they don't. Sometimes I write in first person about something I've never experienced, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I write in *third person* about an autobiographical event, sometimes I don't.

But is the "I" overused? How can it be? It's just a letter, another way to tell a story. Just as there can't be too many kinds of beetles, birds, or leaves, their can't be too many poems with I in them. Some will be wonderful. Others will be terrible. But to make anyone question their use of the "I" is like taking a certain ingredient out of your cupboard and asking you to make every meal it without it. You can do it, but why would any poet want to limit herself?

I gravitate to any poetry that surprises me through language or thought (not poetry that's meant to shock though- we have cable, there's not much that could shock these days) or poetry that shows me the world in a new way. I tend to go allow with whatever POV is used, the overall poem is what I feel connection with.

* * *

Also, on a side note, it's rather amusing and ironic to me how Elizabeth Bishop is being considered a "confessional" poet now given how much grief she gave Lowell about his poems.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Satisfaction in Two Parts...

So satisfied--

Last night I went to check my Verizon cellphone minutes to make sure I hadn't used more than the 700 allotted to me. When I went to check, it said 699 . I got this hugely satisfied feeling seeing how close I came with out going over (sort of like the Price is Right showcase showdown).

Anyway, I felt incredibly happy; I felt "wow, sometimes things just work out." And it's so small in this chaotic world, but 11:45 pm after a bizarre and not-so-powerful windstorm, knowing that midnight, my cellphone minutes would be cleared for a zero balance today, I felt good. I felt as if I got my fill from the cellphone buffet. I guess it's the little things that get me through sometimes.

* * *
Speaking of little things--

It's been a while since I posted a gratitude journal. Here's some other things that get me through the daze, I mean days.

1) Waking up to find hot coffee already made
2) Uwajimaya's paper dragon(s) & $7 beaded slippers
3) Lumpia made by my mother-in-law
4) My teeth after a cleaning
5) Kind strangers who smile
6) Always a hot shower
7) Lavender soap
8) The Frida Kahlo necklace a friend gave me
9) Art class
10) Other artists who make their lives creating their art

Monday, November 12, 2007


Excellent review of Ann Pancake's first novel STRANGE AS THIS WEATHER HAS BEEN in the NY Times:

ANN PANCAKE’S fine, ambitious first novel is about something simple: what it’s like to live below a mountaintop-removal strip mine. As one family negotiates the Vesuvian landscape of their wrecked hollow, its natural defenses against flooding uprooted and trashed, readers may think of the aftermath of Katrina, another man-made disaster. But until the book dips into explicit activism, this tragedy seems less the work of greedy businessmen than of a terrible old god. The most powerful passages in “Strange as This Weather Has Been” depict the lives of children in West Virginia whose only playground seems to be desolation.

In an abandoned precursor to “The Mysterious Stranger,” Mark Twain sent Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn on a visit to hell. Pancake’s 10-year-old Corey is as bright and conniving as Tom Sawyer, but his hell is no vacation spot. He lives there full time. Corey teases his little brother with an apparition called “the monkey,” an unidentified drowned thing in one of his many secret places. It’s “mostly just an open eye too big for the body, and then a kind of what must be a snout, but most of that turned away and part buried in mud.” The image of the monkey haunts the book, as alien and full of warning as the Martian skulls rolled around like snowballs by Ray Bradbury’s unthinking colonial boys.

Corey’s world is full of toxic but irresistible junk that is washed down from deluged dumping grounds; the woods are turned into a bad boy’s Wonderland. Some will be reminded of John Boorman’s film “Hope and Glory,” in which children during the London bombings of World War II played house in the fresh ruins. Pancake writes: “If you can unfocus your eyes right — and Corey can — wading the creek is like walking the aisle of a Wal-Mart made for Corey, with all the price tags saying free.”

Corey’s “unfocusing” is really a kind of wide-open perception — generously shared with the reader — in which the senses flood together and words can hardly keep up.

Elsewhere, Pancake’s various narrators share noticeable and sometimes distracting linguistic habits, like an ambivalence about the suffix “-ness.”

One character worries about “the hoarse of my breath.” A sound carries “a pleasure and a sad.” A stare isn’t blank — it has “this blank to it.”

“I could feel not only the hot wet, but also the nervous off him.” And so on.

Pancake is well aware of these quirks; she has one character reflect on the deadness of standard English words that “you must use like coins, shiny and rigid. The value of each one already fixed before you get hold of it.”

In the Corey sections, the stylistic choices don’t enter your mind. You are swept along in the escalating peril to his tough, blind innocence. Lace, Corey’s mother and the novel’s conscience, talks about the way men manage to “stay babified” their entire lives, but the truth is that every character we meet, man or woman, has an endangered child inside.

Dane, the most sensitive of the book’s many children (he is described, in the space of two sentences, as having both a “soft” and a “softness”), is given what might serve as the book’s epigraph: “I’m only 12 years old. And I’m going to see the End of the World.”

Pancake’s aim is that high. Her horrors are biblical, her compassion towering.

Her acknowledgments direct the reader to Web sites “to find out more about mountaintop-removal mining.” But aside from a few slips into frank didacticism, Pancake is true to the world she depicts, where any idea of deliverance is muted to the point of suffocation. Lace is a strong, smart but defeated woman. The Bush administration’s recent push for looser restrictions on mountaintop removal would come as no surprise to her. Lace’s battle with the mining company blurs into a kind of existential endurance: “The best way to fight them is to refuse to leave. Stay in their way — that’s the only language they can hear. ... Listen here, it says. We exist.”

Another character, who has escaped the hollow, still carries the mark of that stubborn and inconvenient existence: “In Baltimore or Detroit or Cincinnati or Cleveland or whatever city, it’s not just a matter of keeping down the dirt. ... It is a matter of you yourself being perceived as dirt.”

Pancake — she is a distant relative of the short-story writer Breece D’J Pancake — makes her point in “Strange as This Weather Has Been” in a powerful, sure-footed and haunting way: People aren’t dirt. But they know when they’re being treated like dirt, whether in the Lower Ninth Ward or the hills of West Virginia.

Review by: Jack Pendarvis’s most recent book is the story collection “Your Body Is Changing.” He is the visiting writer in residence at the University of Mississippi.

By Ann Pancake.
360 pp. Shoemaker & Hoard. Paper, $15.95.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Can't Say Enough About KIVA-- (Or who needs another scented candle this year?)

I was just over at one of my very favorite organizations, KIVA.ORG, and was so glad to see it was mentioned on Oprah, the Today Show, & in President Clinton's new book GIVING.

Since we're getting to that time of year where we randomly spend money trying to fulfill the material needs of others, or at least not come off as a heel at the family gift exchange, I wanted to recommend giving KIVA Gift Certificates for Christmas.

Here's the cool thing about this, you don't just donate in the person's name--something I've done for Christmas gifts, though it does lack the *umph* when giving it sometimes--but the person redeems the gift certificate by going to the website and choosing the person they want to give a loan to. Everyone wins as the person becomes an active part in the giving.

And if the person is a cheap I'd-rather-have-a-real-actual-gift type of guy/girl, they win too, because once the money has been paid back (6-18 months depending on who they choose), they can take the money and buy themselves a nice scarf, soap on a rope, or a half of carton of cigarettes, whatever they like.

Of course, my hope would be that the money would continually be used and reused as loans in the KIVA organization, but at least I'd know the money helped someone before Crazy Uncle Eric smoked it away.


KIVA is also a good way to your kids involved in helping others. Here's the entrepreneur my daughter chose to sponsor this morning.

Anyway, you get the idea. I'll be posting links to some of my other favorite organizations as the Christmas season approaches. I mean, who really needs another candle or tie this year?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Poetry to Participate in--

This is from Seattle poet's John Burgess' blog--

Here are the details:


Call to action! Add a verse by posting a comment to this post. Feel free to read it at open mics, gatherings, happenings, etc. Peace.--jb

Go here to add your verse.

Sharon Bryan

This is on Poetry Daily today.

I was lucky enough to hear Sharon read this poem a few times at PLU. It's probably one of favorite poems ever because not only does she use wordplay, but it moves beyond that into a more interesting place or why and how.

Bass Bass

Stringed fish thub
thub thubbing its way

downstream or wave-
grained instrument—

the words make a little
sizzle in my brain,

which twin is it, does it
rhyme with ace or ass,

my tongue trips over
itself when I come to

either one, am I at
the opera, jazz club,

bait shop, is something
keeping time or sifting it

through gills—you've
got the picture, here's

the quiz: striped bass,
stringed bass, sea bass

double bass, basswood—
what a difference a vowel

makes, this is the danger
you face, telling the story

of your life, if you fail
to enunciate perfectly

you could have yourself
all wrong, Bayzil not Basil,

married to Lisa not Liza,
writing for Poultry magazine—

how many close calls our
lives are made of, did

the palm reader say
You will have a long life

or the wrong wife, suppose
god has bad handwriting

or a lisp, and we've mis-
understood the messages:

In the begonia was the worm...
we mistook gardening advice

for the story of our lives—
god made lime, and separated

the lime from the bark, planted
seeds, they were fruitful and

vegetable, he looked at what he had
made and saw that it was food,

he was pleased, this was just
his first try, blessed were the leeks,

unheard of on earth until he
grew them, and the peas also,

he tasted them and found
that they were good, a god

could spend his life like that,
puttering in the garden, not

a care in the world beyond
watering his plants, growing

the only sweet fat tomatoes
in the universe—if only

he hadn't wanted to take a day
off to go fishing, so he created

fish and fishing line, and got
to looking at the line, thinking

what else it might be good for,
suppose he plucked it just like

that, and that, it sounded pretty
good, but by then he was tired,

he used almost the same names
for the stringed thing and the fish

that jerked his line just then,
he got himself all tangled up

in words, until he didn't know
his bass from his treble,

he was in trouble, he saw
he needed help, so he invented

Mingus and other people
to show him which way was up.

Sharon Bryan

Poetry Northwest
Fall 2007 / Winter 2008

Friday, November 09, 2007

Thoughts on a Friday--

Morning Poems--

I like it when poets wake up and write a poem first thing in the morning. This isn't me. But I like poets who do that.

Have you read EARLY MORNING: REMEMBERING MY FATHER by Kim Stafford? I enjoyed it. William Stafford awoke at 4 or 5 and wrote until 7ish. He wrote until the rest of the house woke up and then he knew he had his writing in for the day. If I awoke and went to the couch to write for 3 hours, I would find myself asleep on the couch. I'm a noctural writer myself.



Anyway, back to biographies. Of course, I love biographies of poets. If you haven't read POETS IN THEIR YOUTH by Eileen Simpson (John Berryman's wife) you should. I also recommend SAVAGE BEAUTY about Edna St. Vincent Millay until about 75% through and then it seems it is less about poetry and more about the other things that take us down.


Christmas Shopping--

Every year I try to support poets (and writers) by giving the gift of their books. I also like to give a bottle of wine & a poetry book as a host/hostess gift.

I have already purchased 3 poetry books, but I cannot say which ones in case the givee is reading this.



Yesterday I overheard three women talking about how terrible the world was--"Did you hear about the kids shooting each other in White Center? And that woman who is missing?"

I wanted to tell them, the world is not as bad as the news would want us to believe it is. I recently heard a woman say that she's not concerned that her children are going to mistake cartoons or video games for reality. She said, "I'm more concerned they are going to watch the news and think that's real."

Infotainment, I tell you. If I hear the term "Superbug" again, I'm going to have to create my own comic book where a beetle jumps out of a phone booth wearing an S on its chest. Faster than a speeding bullet...


Poem of the day by William Stafford:

"Are you Mr. William Stafford?"
"Yes, but...."

Well, it was yesterday.
Sunlight used to follow my hand.
And that's when the strange siren-like sound flooded
over the horizon and rushed through the streets of our town.
That's when sunlight came from behind
a rock and began to follow my hand.

"It's for the best," my mother said—"Nothing can
ever be wrong for anyone truly good."
So later the sun settled back and the sound
faded and was gone. All along the streets every
house waited, white, blue, gray: trees
were still trying to arch as far as they could.

You can't tell when strange things with meaning
will happen. I'm still here writing it down
just the way it was. "You don't have to
prove anything," my mother said. "Just be ready
for what God sends." I listened and put my hand
out in the sun again. It was all easy.

Well, it was yesterday. And the sun came,
It came.

—William Stafford

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Missed Connections... Part 2 & Poem of the Day

Goat Drama--
While driving by the "Found your goat" sign, I was amused to see that right below it was a "Lost Goat" sign. I do hope these folks meet up.

Animal Farm--

Animals roaming our streets is nothing new in this small town. In the ten years I've lived here, we've had a bull running through the downtown area (and no, we were not trying to recreate seaside version of the Running of the Bulls), I've seen my neighbor's sheep roaming his front yard and driveway, and once, a cockatiel landed in my backyard. My neighbor said, "I guess he flew here because you have a sign on your gate that reads 'Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary.'" Smart bird.



Poem of the Day by Martha Silano from VALPARAISO POETRY REVIEW --

Visit her website at:


Across the yard, despite a fierce unrest,
I can’t help noticing the smudged chin

of an English sparrow, ululations
of cedar waxwings, robins slick

in the sloppy rain. If there were footprints,
they would be cloven. If this were an orchard,

it would smell of fingerlings, marimbas
and timpani, the polished floors

of my twenties & thirties. Not many hearts
have lifted like swallows to the cliffs

above Pomme de Terre lake, not many
have lived much closer than five doors down

from God. And yet I’m no girdle
on this galaxy’s expanding waistline,

and yet I’ve no sacred cows worth swimming
to the South China Sea and back for.

Each morning the silent coyotes
disappear behind my window’s dusty slats

just as an all-night cat in heat slips a paw
through her little cat door. My morning coffee

tastes of the earth, a cell or two of every creature
who’s padded or paddled, crept or crawled,

slithered or swam, who’s foisted a pincer
on an unsuspecting worm. Earwig. Juggler.

Jaguar. Saint. Bombardier riding shotgun
on a leaf held high by an ant.

© by Martha Silano

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Best Sign

At the top of my hill there is a sign nailed to a post that reads: FOUND YOUR GOAT (and a phone number). This made me happy today.

Lost Sylvia & Found Lorine

Things I Did Today--

I freaked out because I couldn't find any of my Plath books except The Colossus and Ariel, only to discovered I had moved them all into the living room bookshelf. I swear, I was starting sweat.

It makes me a little crazy when I can't find one of my books. I keep them alphabetized to avoid such confusion, but I've moved some larger collected works, journals, and letters to that living room bookshelf and I tend to keep forgetting that. Maybe I should put a post-it note on my bookshelf that says, Don't worry, walk towards the couch.

* * *

Have you ever read Lorine Niedecker?
You should.

Two old men--
one proposed they live together
take turns cooking, washing dishes
they were both alone.
His friend: "Our way of living
is so different:

you spit
I don't spit."
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