Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Since I happen to be married to one (a firefighter, not a poem...)

The Firemen

God forgive me --

It's the firemen,
leaning in the firehouse garage
with their sleeves rolled up
on the hottest day of the year.

As usual, the darkest one is handsomest.
The oldest is handsomest.
The one with the thin, wiry arms is handsomest.
The young one already going bald is handsomest.

And so on.
Every day I pass them at their station:
the word sexy wouldn't do them justice.
Such idle men are divine --

especially in summer, when my hair
sticks to the back of my neck,
a dirty wind from the subway grate
blows my skirt up, and I feel vulgar,
lifting my hair, gathering it together,
tying it back while they watch
as a kind of relief.
Once, one of them walked beside me

to the corner. Looked into my eyes.
He said, "Will I never see you again?"
Gutsy, I thought.
I'm afraid not, I thought.

What I said was I'm sorry.
But how could he look into my eyes
if I didn't look equally into his?
I'm sorry: as though he'd come close, as though

this really were a near miss.

Deborah Garrison
from A Working Girl Can't Win: And Other Poems

Kristy Bowen on Poetry Daily today

Girls Against Boys

When she makes an o of her mouth,
the forsythia behind her head bursts into flame.
Singes clotheslines full of blue gingham
pinafores and yellow flowered sheets.
When she bends at the waist, she can make an o
of her body. A birdcall. A tiny pink sequin.
Can make up names for the baby teeth
beneath her dresser. Lydia. Amelia.
Their tiny lion tin. Can define the pinwheel
of her arms falling through dark.

The trellis by the steps slicks in the rain
and all night he calls for his extra rib,
his good heart's hinge. No one can sleep
with it. The world, all checked
cotton and charm bracelets by now.
Every verb imperfect.

Kristy Bowen
New Michigan Press

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

New Bob Hicok Interview

Found this on the web today--


Bob Hicok will visit the Fresno Poets' Association for a reading.
by James Tyner
February 27, 2007

For most poets and writers, there is always that piece of work that is "it" for you. It's that one essay or poem you read that inspires you and makes you think, "yes, that's what I want to do."

For me, that was what happened when I read the poem What Would Freud Say, by Bob Hicok.

It was a few months into my first poetry class, and I had decided to pick up some poetry journals, poring through everything I could get my hands on. There was something to the voice of the speaker in that poem, the use of image and story that drew me right in. I have been a fan ever since, and Hicok's poems have always been a guideline for me.

Hicok, who was a die maker for many years while writing poetry along the way, will be reading this Thursday evening for the fifth installment of the Fresno Poets' Association season at the Fresno Art Museum. The reading begins at 7:30 p.m.

Hicok, who currently teaches at Virginia Tech, has written several books of poetry, including The Legend of Light, Animal Soul, Plus Shipping, and Insomnia Diary. The self-taught poet has won the National Education Association Fellowship and two Pushcart Prizes. His work has appeared in such places as The New Yorker, the American Poetry Review, Poetry magazine, and Ploughshares.

To start, who are the writers that inspired you?

Humpty Dumpty. Before the great fall. It changes. Right now, I like Beckian Fritz Goldberg's poetry quite a bit. Intensely lyrical, a little strange. Neruda, too, of late. George Oppen.

How did you get into writing poetry? How long have you been doing it?

I started writing when I was twenty. My girlfriend broke up with me, so I was sad and said so to a notebook, which became a sad, blue notebook. So, twenty seven years and only one sad, blue notebook.

What is the writing process like for you? Do you rewrite often?

I sit at a computer in the morning with coffee and a bagel, my hands, when done with the bagel, on either side of the keyboard and a window in front of me and mountains in front of the window. An idea shows up. If I like it, I start writing. If I don’t like it, I tell it to go away. This goes on for several hours.

Some poems I rewrite quite a few times and some poems not at all.

Is there a big difference between "academic" and other types of poetry, in your opinion?

There can be, sure. Though so many poets have moved into the university that the nature of academic poetry has itself been changed. The elbow-patch wearing, pipe smoking cliche doesn't have much use anymore, except to lampoon.

There's good and bad everywhere. I wish we weren't so sold on the idea that poets belong on campuses. That's where the money is, so bodies will flow to the money, but the campus is not an essential Petri dish.

Do you feel that your writing has changed over the years? In what way? Has it changed after becoming a teacher?

Yes. It has become stranger, less narrative. I don't think teaching has changed my work, though my poems have changed while I teach. A coincidental, not causal relationship.

Do you feel your students influence you as well as you them?

Yes. Not sure how.

What topics do you find yourself writing about most recently?

Most recently would be this morning, so disorder, order and french fires. Fires, not fries.

How does form affect your poetry?

My avoidance of fixed forms gives me great pleasure.

What advice do you have for beginning poets?


Do you feel that poetry is currently changing?

Poets are always changing their socks, so poetry is always changing its socks.

For more details on Hicok's reading, visit

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Living in the Moment

I have a bad habit of living in the future. What I mean is that I say things like, "I'd like my next dog to be a greyhound" (when our golden retriever is only two years old) or "Maybe we could retire to a condo in ___________" (I turned 38 this year, and though my husband is 10 years older than I, you can safely assume "retirement" is not something that's going to happen soon).

I've been trying to determine where or when this trait or habit came into my life. My father, a Republican who wasn't crazy about "do-gooders" and a huge fan of Ronald Reagan and Ross Perot, was always planning for retirement. Even in second grade, I too was creating my savings account $2 at a time and how I hated to touch that money. There was a security in how the numbers kept rising, for later, for later, I thought. I was probably the only girl at my high school with an IRA, which my father began for me when I was 16.

Now, I don't want to discount saving or planning for the future, but there's a point where it can be too much. Two months ago, I had a pretty big health scare--losing one's vision has a way of making one literally, figuratively, and metaphorically see the world differently. It helps order priorities--for me, it was easy as I've only had two since I moved to this small town 10 years ago--1) family 2) writing. I say yes to things that fall into those categories.

But the health scare has also made me make some changes I may not have made. I feel the need to risk more now. Not bungy jumping risk or let's-see-if-I-can-cross-this-highway-with-my-eyes-closed risk, but just in life, daily or otherwise. Maybe risk a little more in my writing. Maybe in how I meet the world, what I say, what I do. Perhaps, it's just more of living in the present. Because I'm less focused on X years from now, I'm able to live a little more freely.

I'm a Capricorn, so know there will always be a back-up plan. But I realized in December something I already knew--how quickly life can change--and it's never the things you expect. You worry because someone is driving over the Cascades and there's a snowstorm, but the call you receive is from Miami and your uncle has died from a fall off his front steps.

I find much of my life has been lived in fear of the unexpected. Trying to "out-think" the fates, to come up with the worse case scenario so I can't be surprised, but even with my fantastic ability to dream up pain or tragedy, I didn't expect to be hit with vision loss, and the night my stepfather suffered a stroke and I had been having a wonderful time with poets and our manuscripts were spread across the table, I didn't expect that phone call or that ten days before starting my MFA program I'd be living at Harborview, eating hospital food, and buying bobblehead toys at the gift shop because my daughter was so young and how do I even start to explain death to someone who has just found life.

I'm still working at this, this living in the moment, this seize-the-day mentality, because it goes against my plan-for-future, you-will-live-forever attitude I've carried all my life. As the days pass from December, I find myself having to remind myself of my promise to risk a little more, to live a little more--not from my office or bedroom, not from the comfy couch and through a book, but out in the world--living--not observing, which is something I’ve always been good at.

And when I'm not out in the world, with family and friends, I'm alone and remembering to appreciate what's around me and what I do have. I am working on not procratinating. I'm working on not putting off writing projects, or submitting, or any of the letters I've wanted to write. And those ideas I have that can make me fear rejection? I try. And again.

I guess tonight I'm feeling thankful for right now, not ten minutes from now or ten minutes ago, but for the grey and white cat atop my sofa, from the hint of moonlight, the prayer flags that arrived by mail, and a few hours to write poetry, to work on that story I've set aside. I’m feeling thankful for my family in their various places in the world, and to friends just going to sleep in their own homes, and the nightowls like me who are just beginning to write.

Right now, as the clock ticks on to the next moment and I look around at how quickly this movie is passing by and yet, how slow it takes for a year to pass sometimes— I give thanks for being here and able to see the words that I am typing and try, try, try not to take the world so seriously or to carry with me as I walk into my house or out the door to meet a friend. I'll try not to let what I can't control make my shoulders sag and what I can control? Give me a blank sheet of paper and audacity to tell the truth. I'll risk it.

Al Gore's Big Announcement at the Oscars

My hero.
(click the title to see Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio at the Oscars)

Oscars -or Let's Give Outrageously Expensive Gift Bags for Rich People

The Academy Awards are on tonight. Do you care? Will you watch?

I'm kind of out of it this year as I've only seen Little Miss Sunshine and loved it, so I'm backing that film. I think any movie that has a remix of Rick James' Superfreak in it should win something.

What I like about the Oscars--
Seeing what everyone is wearing on the red carpet. It's shallow, but true.

Ellen as host. She's funny, female, and friendly.

When someone who was unknown a year before wins and then says something poignant.

When someone stumbles up the stairs sincerely surprised and muddles something incoherent into the microphone, cries, or says anything that isn't scripted.

People who bring their own props--every Oscar show needs a brie of Frenchmen with stuffed penguins.

Anything political, like Susan Sarandon flashing the peace sign, or anything that makes the band start playing early or gets you kicked out off the stage. Winners--you're in touch with millions and millions of people at that moment, don't go limp.

What I don't like--
The red carpet interviews. It reminds me of the AWP where people talk to you, but are looking over your shoulder the whole time for someone *better* to talk to.

The question, "Who are you wearing?" It's not Silence of the Lambs, they aren't decked out in someone else's skin, get the question right.

Constant references and close-ups of Jack Nicholson. He reminds me of my creepy uncle who was always saying something obscene.

The people who say they didn't think they were going to win then pull out a speech or list of people to thank. Honestly, if you really didn't think you were going to win, you wouldn't have written that out. Believe me.

Winners who thank the people they *think* could help them in the future instead of thanking their old friends, family, their grandmother who told them at age five, "You can be a star."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Review of Microsoft Word 2007 & Windows Vista

I thought I'd drop in my 2 cents on this in case anyone is considering upgrading to Windows Vista or MS Word. First, save your money and don't fix what isn't broken. Unless you're buying a new laptop or PC, what you're working on right now is just fine and in certain ways, maybe even a little better. (That's for Mac people and old MS Word people).

Here's the thing I just found out yesterday that makes me ache for my old MS Word--and perhaps this is just a poet speaking--but it doesn't have that wonderful feature called "VERSIONS" on the new MS Word, so you cannot save various forms or drafts of the same poem/essay/document in the main file.

I posted a question about it on the MS community boards and it seems the VERSIONS feature sometimes corrupted files. Personally, I never had that happen and really miss the feature--it muddies up my files to have Poem a-version 1, Poem a-version 2, or Poem a-revised all throughout my files. So, I'm not sure how I'll deal with it when I'm not sure how I want a poem, I'm guessing I'll just muddy up my files (thanks, bill).

This new MS Word was not made for the writers of the world but for the people who value style over content (welcome to America!) You can pretty up a document in many ways; they make it easy, they want your press releases, your memos to be glowing, but your poems, your offers nothing for with the exception of "tags," which you can label your poems/documents with.

I have just started using this feature, but I see it working to help organize your work by form or subject. You could write: sonnets, prose poems, or use the tags to label subjects such as: food, love, birth. This may be helpful as you put together a chapbook of poems or if you want to submit to an anthology on a certain subject or style--you can search easily for those poems. So, it's a benefit, but I'd take the "versions" feature over it any day.

But mostly, Vista and MS Word 07 seem to want to make me feel more important than I am. It makes everything pretty, Toon Townish actually. And they moved everything around in MS Word to make it easier, which actually makes it harder until I learn where everything is. It reminds me of those old computers on television shows, where the camera would focus in at all the lights flashing and the paper spitting out, but again, more to impress than to do anything really interesting besides look good. Maybe the MS Word 2007 can be called the pretty high maintenance girl that occasionally says something smart. I'll take Marianne from Gilligan's Island over Ginger any day. I'll take brain over pretty outfit (right now, you Mac users might be asking then why I'm not working on a Mac then--I'll save that for another post...)

Anyway, the "gadgets" on the side of the desktop are cool (just as using clothespins to stick player cards in your bike spokes is cool or ribbons from your handlebars is cool)--I have a clock, the weather, a slide show of other people's photos because I have none of my own on my computer and a big yellow square that is actually a post-it note (which I haven't used yet.) Still, it's style over content. Though poet/techie Jeannine Gailey has pointed out to me that the main benefits of the new Vista is the increased security. And that I can see, as I type this the words "Fraud monitoring is on" and I'm wondering "on what?" Obviously not our government...but I digress. It's a good feature.

So, that's the review of MS Word and Vista from a poet. Save your cash for stamps, paper and pencils, and upgrade at the very very last minute. You're in the majority if you don't have it. And that's a good thing.

Speaking of $$--

Money $ Changes Everything--

This book looks fascinating to me. (see the link above or the article below) They say it discusses "the last taboo" of American discourse--- $$.

I'm quite interested in reading the history and money-thoughts of other authors. I tell myself this is because I am a Capricorn who had a Republican father, but maybe money is one way to see where I fall (or rise) in the chart of financial life. And I'm interested to see how different (if at all) these authors lives are now as opposed to how they were growing up.

Writing poetry for money is like practicing shuffleboard so you can become a hockey player, the two things aren't necessarily connected. But with that said, there are opportunities available for poets. And if the moon is in the right part of the sky, the universe is spinning to a tune by Cyndi Lauper, and you've got your head screwed on right (like my nana says), you may receive a check or two and sometimes it can be enough to change your life—your artistic life.

Of course, I think poetry offers payment in ways that can't be counted out in dollar bills. I think the act of writing does that itself.

And it's interesting this *money thang* as a friend recently mentioned to me that the Republicans would never create a major deficit for education, but they would do so for a war. And another report that came out this week said that the worst place for children to grow up is in the UK and the USA as far as developed countries are concerned. So, this money, this status of “rich nation” doesn’t mean too much if we’ve become the drunk uncle fighting with the neighbors instead of the caring parents who are taking care of their kids.
And I guess it’s the same with people, writers included. You can have a fat wallet, but if you’re not healthy or not happy, money is just a number on a bank statement.

I’ve seen people ache to be rich because they think it will bring them happiness, but they are the same old crabby people just driving a nicer car.
What if we actually shared the wealth of this nation in a positive way? What if we were not the drunk uncle but the generous aunt who sends all her nieces and kids in the neighborhood across town handknit sweaters, who shows up in their classes with chocolate cookies. Imagine.

Write Porn, Forge Art, Buy $1,200 Wine: Money Tips From Authors

By James Pressley

Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Bankers flaunt their bonuses, and chief executives disclose salaries that make you choke. Yet money, for most people, remains a dirty family secret, something you'd no more discuss over lunch than Aunt Erma's adult diapers.

So it comes as a surprise when author Chris Offutt recalls how his parents paid the bills by mass-producing hard-core porn novels for ``various tastes: gay, lesbian, group, bondage, swap, interracial, incest, sadomasochism, even historical and science fiction.''

``Porn paid the mortgage'' in their gritty Appalachian town, he writes. ``Porn bought clothes and food and medicine.''

Offutt is one of 22 writers who have the guts to discuss what their editors call ``the last taboo'' in American discourse. The result, by turns hilarious and sobering, is ``Money Changes Everything,'' a classy collection of biographical essays edited by Jenny Offill and Elissa Schappell.

The book rattles up and down the social ladder, exploring the aches of the fabulously rich, the misery of the suddenly poor, awkward windfalls, vows of poverty and truly cold cash -- stacks of $100 bills hidden in a freezer.

In ``Nouveau Poor,'' Ruth Konigsberg describes growing up on the Upper East Side of New York in the shadow of the dwindling fortune of 19th-century banker William Wilson Corcoran. As the remembrance unfolds, Konigsberg is sitting at Sotheby's to sell off family heirlooms -- there go the 18th-century Portuguese rococo beech-wood armchairs -- to pay her mother's debts.

Isabel Rose, by contrast, is rolling in cash. She ``comes out of her walk-in closet'' to explain how hard it is to find the right mate when you've grown up on Fifth Avenue.

Crime and Wine

Crime shoots through these stories, like heroin through black veins. Andy Behrman, who chronicled his bipolar disorder in ``Electroboy,'' recounts his frantic buying binges at Barneys in 1980s Manhattan, when his ``art-counterfeiting efforts'' yielded ``neat rubber-banded piles of $10,000'' that he kept in the freezer behind Absolut vodka and Haagen-Dazs ice cream.

Elsewhere, we meet embezzlers, a money-losing drug dealer and teenagers who hold up a gasoline station on ``a mutual dare.'' Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket, explores the ``morality'' of drinking a $1,200 bottle of wine. Marian Fontana recalls the painful largesse occasioned by personal loss, as checks from strangers poured into her apartment after her husband, a fireman, perished in the inferno of the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Marital Math

The maddening arithmetic of marriage pervades the paired essays of husband and wife Fred Leebron and Kathryn Rhett -- one thinks it's for richer, the other for poorer -- while Walter Kirn captures the psychology of money in divorce settlements: The half his wife got ``felt like a fortune,'' he says. The half he kept ``seemed like two dimes tumbling loose inside a clothes dryer.''

There's something for just about everyone in this crisp collection, which will make you feel better about your bank account, be it big or small. ``Money Changes Everything'' is published by Doubleday (291 pages, $24.95).

After all these reflections on the mutability of fortune, I was relieved to pick up ``It's Called Work for a Reason!'', a bracing rant about the need to work harder and whine less from the ``Pitbull of Personal Development,'' Larry Winget.

On the dust jacket, Winget displays a shaved head, a blue Western shirt ablaze with red roses and lemon-colored cowboy boots. He lives in Arizona and makes a living by being rude.

``You,'' he declares, ``are a thief!'' Translation: ``Any time you don't give your best effort, you are stealing'' -- from your company, coworkers, customers and yourself.

`Eight ATEs'

All that matters, Winget says, are results -- not the hours you put in. And if you don't get results, blame yourself, not your boss or co-workers. ``If your life sucks, it's because YOU suck,'' he says.

Motivational mumbo-jumbo bores me, and I'm annoyed when Winget recycles his homily on ``the eight ATEs of leadership,'' starting with creATE. Yet his advice elsewhere is so blunt and so true that it might keep you sane until you retire.

``It's Called Work for a Reason!'' is from Gotham (240 pages, $26).

James Pressley writes for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Writer Who Housewifes. . .

It's The Swing Years tonight on NPR, which is the on-switch in my head that tells me it's time to clean house. The problem is, I'd rather use my time to write. Today, the day slid by like a balloon rocket, shooting out of my hands and I was left with nothing but this urge to have something more.

Even if I never build a rocket, I'd like to try.

I realized tonight that when the house needs cleaning and my head needs cleaning, I have choose my head, sit down at my computer and write. I've heard so many people say, "I'm a _______ who writes," but what I realized today is I'm a writer who housewifes. I don't take my dustbunnies seriously enough to spend the day searching for them, for sweeping away the corner cobwebs.

I'm content to let the dust settle one more day if it offers me a few more hours or even an extra half hour to write. I'm content to shut the door to the family/art room with its happy paintbrushes and overzealous canvases leaning in all directions. I'm content to turn on Van Morrison and open up a poem to see what it wants to say to me tonight.

I never was good at wearing a lot of hats, I find my head gets hot and it creates numerous bad hair days. So, I'll try to keep it simple, to rid myself of any label that cares more about changing the sheets than changing the world.

Baby Food Recall

Just trying to spread the word about this--Feb 17th, 2007

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers late Friday not to use certain jars of Earth's Best Organic 2 Apple Peach Barley Wholesome Breakfast baby food because they may be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism, a life-threatening illness.

The manufacturer, Hain Celestial Group of Melville, N.Y., initiated a recall on Feb. 9 of 4,072 cases of individual jars and 38,298 variety packs, the FDA said in a prepared statement. Production and distribution of the baby food has been suspended while the FDA and the company work to determine the source of the problem.

The food, part of the firm's "2nd Vegetables, Fruits and Blends" line intended for babies 6 months and older, was distributed through retail stores and sold through the Earth's Best Website, the FDA said

The agency urged consumers to throw away any jars they might have.

The affected baby food involves:

Earth's Best Organic 2 Apple Peach Barley Wholesome Breakfast (4.5 ounce jars) 23923-20223 PFGJ14NP EXP 14 SEP 08 A
Earth's Best Organic 2 Wholesome Breakfast Variety Pack (12 pack) 23923-20295 13 SEP 08
Earth's Best Organic 2 Apple Peach Barley (4.5 ounce jars within 12 pack) 23923-20223 PF6J14 NP EXP 14 SEP 08 A.

Consumers who have questions should contact Hain Celestial Group at 1-800-434-4246.

Also, see post title for link to original article with more information on recalls of cantaloupe and Peter Pan peanutbutter.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Stories of Chapbooks

Floating Bridge Press, a fabulous small press in Seattle, Washington has a series of essays and stories about the making of a chapbook by previous winners of the Floating Bridge Press Chapbook prize.

They feature poets:
Annette Spaulding-Convy
Michael Bonacci
Tim Kelly
and myself

If you are putting together a chapbook of poems there may be some ideas to help you or you may appreciate the process that these poets took. Also, it's good to know that most of the chapbooks took at least a few years before they were published.

Whenever you submit your work there is the possibility that you will be rejected and feel discouraged. So many times, I think we need to remind ourselves as writers that rejection is part of the process and nothing personal. The poets we will read are the ones who can be rejected, feel discouraged, and yet, continue to do what they are drawn to do--write...and submit.

I told a friend recently my favorite Wayne Gretsky quote: You miss 100% of the shots you never take. Life is uncertain and temporary--don't let a little rejection get you down.

A Room of Her Own - The Importance of a Writing Space

I started taking my laptop upstairs to my bedroom to write and what I found is I do a lot less writing than when I'm in my office, which has always been my writing space.

What I've decided is that I'm too comfortable in my bedroom. I lean back on my comfy pillows and look outside. From my bed I can see the Cascade mountains, watch the ferry come and go, and see varieties of birds from bald eagles, to sparrows, to a murder of crows on my rooftop. I thought that this new location, this new view would be beneficial to my writing. I thought, "My poems will be written from the sky, from a bed of clouds." What happened was I slowed down and felt as if I were getting ready for bed. I was less likely to be productive and even write a poem from the comfort of bedroom and more likely to sit and watch my computer screen like some sort of silent movie made of white.

I bought a new laptop because I felt as if I was tied to my office from my PC, or as we've started calling it: my desk anchor. Where's mom? She's in her office--honestly, I felt like I was in the batcave while the world of good happened elsewhere in the house. I was the superhero fighting invisible bad guys locked in the corner office. I thought by moving into the flow of the household, putting myself on the top floor in the warmest and coziest room in the house, I would actually write more and get more done. I was so wrong.

There is something to be said about a little discomfort in your writing space, you should like your writing space, but not too much. If it is too comfortable, I might fall asleep. I might cozy up with a good book and let the words fall off the couch. I might look out the window and daydream the day away. But my office, with its round red desk and its "To Do" list, its reminders that I am a working, a practicing writer won't let me get away with my daydreaming.

There is a place and time for daydreaming, but it's not when you awake and the house is empty because children are at school learning about the rhombus and the husband is lifting heavy weights or stepping up an invisible staircase at the gym. The house is quiet, this is not the time to daydream, to do the dishes or the laundry, it's time to sit down and write.

On my office door there's a handmade sign that reads: Writer at Work. When it's flipped over, the time is mine. The moment to create has been swallowed into a room with terra cotta walls and a 1932 Corona typewriter. Yes, I thought I wanted to be elsewhere, I thought I was the personal ad: Have laptop, will travel. But no, my space is in the oldest part of the house where ghosts travel through and chandeliers move for no reason, where I can't forget what I'm here for. It's not for vanishing into a pillow and a goose-down comforter, but to write as much as I can until the world arrives at my doorstep with bags of groceries or someone hands me the mail. It's my space where I look at the bottle sealed with wax that says, "Captured Hopes & Dreams," right next to the Frida Kahlo magnet with the word, "Passion." Yes, here's where you can find me.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

La Reina
- Pablo Neruda

Yo te he nombrando reina.
Hay más altas que tú, más altas.
Hay más puras que tú, más puras.
Hay más bellas que tú, hay más bellas.

Ero tú eres la reina

Cuando vas por las calles
nadie te reconoce.
Nadie ve tú corona de cristal, nadie mira
la alfombra de oro rojo
que pisas cuando pasas,
la alfrombra que no existe.

Y cuando asomas
suenan todos los ríos
en mi cuerpo, sacuden
el cielo las campanas,
y un himno llena el mundo

Sóló tú y yo,
sóló tú y yo, amor mío,
lo escuchamos.

* * *

The Queen

have named you queen
There are taller ones than you, taller.
There are purer ones than you, purer.
There are lovelier ones than you, lovelier.

But you are the queen.

When you go through the streets
no one recognizes you.
No one sees your crystal crown, no one looks
at the carpet of red gold
that you tread as you pass,
the nonexistent carpet

And when you appear
all the river sound
in my body, bells
shake the sky,
and a hymn fills the world.

Only you and I,
only you and I, my love,
listen to it.


This is one of my favorite poems for no other reason than stanza four was typed out for me and left on my desk one Valentine's day.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

In Minn., a Poetry Slam With a Twist

This was the number four Entertainment story on my Excite News headlines coming in after two headlines about Anna Nicole Smith and one about Gerald Levert. There is hope in the world today--


ST PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Slam poetry got a fresh twist when three Victorian-era re-enactors read from such poets as William Wordsworth and Emily Dickinson in a setting that was fitting for the event - a 19th-century stone mansion.

Actor Craig Johnson, wearing a gray frock coat typical of the period, said at the Saturday night event that there were two reasons for holding a slam - more typically the venue of rappers and hipsters - involving Victorian era poets.

"One is just that we really love the literature," he said. "The other is that it gives us a chance to do something we otherwise wouldn't get to do at the Hill House." Johnson manages the James J. Hill mansion for the Minnesota Historical Society.

Actress Laura Salveson, who has never been to a conventional slam, said she is a lover of all literary forms. She gave her performance in a floor-length silk gown and a corset.

"You learn to breathe a little bit differently," she said of the corset. "It's not something I'd choose to do on a daily basis."

Johnson, Salveson and Ann Brueggeman shook the dust off of poets from the 19th- and 20th-century, including Lewis Carroll and Walt Whitman, with rousing oratory and emphatic gestures.

One verse began: "Harmonious hog draw near, No bloody butchers here, Thou need'st not fear." That put the crowd of 50 or so in stitches.

Mitchell Harris, an English professor, had not heard about the slam until his wife, Megan, surprised him when they got to the Hill House.

"She told me about that right as we got to the door," he said. "It's nice to have a venue where poetry is read aloud."

A hushed reading of Walt Whitman's ode to President Abraham Lincoln, "O Captain! My Captain!" got some unintended audio assistance from the bells of nearby St. Paul Cathedral, which rang out just as Johnson reached the line "O captain, my captain, hear the bells."

Craig Cox, a self-described "English-major type," said he enjoyed the array of poems that were read. "I think they understand the need for variety. Audiences today want variety - lots of showmanship," he said.

As Johnson began winding up for his delivery of "Casey at the Bat," by Ernest L. Thayer, 7-year-old Caleb Bartels, who learned the poem from his older brother, nearly hopped out of his seat.

Caleb's synopsis of the slam: "Funny."

# # #

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Burlesque Poetry Hour

I was thrilled to see Reb Livingston's reading series featured in Poetry Daily News. What's impressive is how the series is run and the poetry readings sound like fun...imagine!

Great article. See below--

Burlesque Poetry Hour
Taking It Off for Your Art
by: Sandra Beasley

It was January 2006, and a new year always brings the thirst for something different. I was trying a new cocktail: the Down ‘N Dirty Martini (olives and a dash of Tabasco). A new scene: a banquet in the cozy, cherry-paneled Dark Room at the Bar Rouge on 16th Street. A new series: Burlesque Poetry Hour, which promised fresh, edgy poets in a swank setting. The inaugural reading featured Deborah Landau, of New York, and West Coast poet Kim Addonizio. I was ready for anything.

Well, almost anything.

After Kim Addonizio’s scorching set of poems on love, betrayal and the praises of gin, our hostess Gilda coaxed the audience into chanting:

“Take…it…off. Take it off!”

Our voices gained confidence: “Take it OFF! TAKE IT OFF!”

Kim smiled, and reaching under her skirt, slipped off her - What? Really?- something stretchy and purple, and the bidding began:

“Do I hear 15? 15!”

“18? 18!”


I heard myself say “25!”

“36? Do I hear 36?”

“Thank you, to the gentlemen on the left. 40?”

Kim Addonizio is a well-respected writer, mind you, the author of more than a half-dozen books.

“Do I hear 42? 42!”

She’s won a Guggenheim, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the John Ciardi Lifetime Achievement Award -

“Going, going, sold - ”

and I had just won the auction for her thong.

Celebrating its second year in 2007, Burlesque Poetry Hour challenges the conventions of arts nightlife in Washington, DC. “I think people are looking for more fun and sexy things here,” observes cofounder Carly Sachs, who hosts the series under the name Lolita. “DC can be a button-up town at times. What I love best is that people stay afterwards and drink and chat together…I know this is a strange way to build community, but I think it does.”

Reb Livingston, the cofounder otherwise known as Gilda, recognizes another benefit to the auction element: “The money goes directly to the poet. It’s his or her payment for reading and encouragement not to suck.”

This incentive for dynamic performance is a welcome relief to regular attendees of poetry readings. As someone who goes to at least one or two readings every week, I can attest to the standard formula: introductions read off the back of the book, 25 minute sets, the popping open of a bottle of white wine afterwards. Poetry readings are intelligent, friendly…and too often, boring. Words that thrive on the page can seem stillborn when read aloud.

In contrast, there’s nothing stodgy or academic about Burlesque Poetry Hour, even though many of its featured readers teach by day. The first year’s prestigious roster of poets included David McAleavey, who directs the creative writing program at George Washington University. When McAleavey read at burlesque in February, he teased the audience by wearing a dashing Stetson throughout his set. Would he be willing to part with it, we wondered? His poems - swaggering, funny and at times scandalous - were drawn largely from his recent book of “Huge Haiku.” When it came to auction time, he pulled a last-minute switch and offered up a baseball cap, emblazoned with the logo for the GW Colonials.

Full disclosure: I’m a sucker for an impulse buy, and McAleavey’s cap only cost me $15. Who could resist? Plus, he signed the brim for posterity. (Addonizio actually did scribble her name on the Ziploc bag that encased the thong, but I doubt I’ll be showing it off anytime soon.)

It was not long after I posed for my second “winner’s photo” that Sachs told me that a slot in the July schedule had opened up. Did I want to read?

Of course I wanted to read. The bigger question: Was I ready to take it off?

At the next reading I watched as Jaime Gaughran-Perez followed a presentation of his visual poetry by reaching into his pants and whipping out…a rolled up ball of socks. Socks with puppy dogs stitched onto them. The audience laughed hysterically, and I wondered how a girl could compete.

As summer went on and the big night grew closer, I began to worry in earnest. What would I auction? Talking to other guest readers, I realized this was what we all worried about. Not the poems - the poems were easy. The striptease was hard.

I was walking down Connecticut Avenue, toward Dupont Circle, when I saw the answer to my prayers: one-size-fits-all, lacy and, in the tradition of Kim Addonizio, purple.

Sometimes the crowd is big and local; other times, only a dozen connoisseurs. Relying on word-of-mouth for publicity, the series is intimate by design. It doesn’t take much for things to get steamy in the Dark Room, which only seats about thirty people. Burlesque Poetry Hour sweltered last August, when Ravi Shankar, a poet-in-residence at Central Connecticut State University, stripped off his white tie with great fanfare. As Gilda modeled its many potential uses: boa, whip, kerchief, exercise band - what the audience members needed most was something to wipe the sweat from their brows.

When asked about the most popular auction wares, Sachs reports “Scarves and ties, but they’re not allowed in 2007.” Other items are more exotic - a glittery spider crown, a skull necklace, shiny red pants.

The hostesses take turns as auctioneers, and once Livingston ended up with the task of convincing the audience to bid on an item that could not be seen with the naked eye. “My favorite was Baltimore poet Lauren Bender’s ‘invisible cloak of poetic potential,’” Livingston says. “She showed up with a portfolio. She was prepared.” A spontaneous coalition of “investors” in the audience bought stock in Bender’s poetic potential for $30.

As Gilda and Lolita, Livingston and Sachs enjoy tweaking the pretensions of poetry. But their investments extend well beyond the Dark Room. Each is an accomplished writer whose work has appeared in the annual “Best American Poetry” series.

Livingston edits and publishes the online magazine “No Tell Motel” and the micro-press No Tell Books. Her first full-length collection, “Your Ten Favorite Words,” will be published this fall by Coconut Books.

Sachs is editing an anthology of poems about sexual assault, to be published by Deep Cleveland Press later this year. She won the Washington Writer’s Publishing House Prize for her first book, “The Steam Sequence.”

Sachs approached Livingston with the idea for a poetry series shortly after she began working as a bartender at the Rouge in August 2005. “I was looking for a co-host, someone as irreverent as myself,” she says, “and since Reb and I are from industrial towns in the Midwest (Pittsburgh and Cleveland) and our poems had appeared in several places together, I thought we’d make a good match.”

“Together, we batted around ideas until we came up with burlesque,” says Livingston, who also runs an online blog documenting the poetry series. “This year we’re putting the focus on interesting and fun readers - poets who give good readings and can embrace the Burlesque spirit.”

“I wanted poets to start having rock star status on some level,” Sachs adds. “I don’t think we’ve made our poets rock stars just yet, but you do get to spice up your wardrobe.”

So I did what any poet would do: I took it off.

And confidentially, to the person who now owns my garter belt: I hope it spices up your wardrobe as much as it did mine. The highest bid, in the end, was four times what I paid for it. Not a bad return on one’s poetic potential.

Burlesque Poetry Hour
Last Monday of every month, 8 p.m.
The Dark Room at Bar Rouge
1315 16th St., NW

Friday, February 09, 2007

Diversity of Work - From Doodlebugs to Death

My daughter told me that they were reading poems in class and she told her teacher, "My mom's a poet. She wrote a book." The thoughtful teacher said, "Oh wonderful, we should have her come in and read us a few poems." My husband when hearing this said, "Yes, I'm sure the children would love to gather around and listen to your poems about death."

He said exactly what I was thinking. Many of my poems focus on death or the unpleasantness of life. Many seem to be spraying silly string across the church's pews. Here are the first three titles from my manuscript:
* After Being Asked Why I Write About Death and Poetry
* Between the Covers We Find Jesus
* Coffin Shopping.

The next poem deals with a dead baby and fetal pigs in formaldehyde, the one after that- the problems with my St. Christopher medal & meeting Neruda in heaven. Definitely the stuff one would want to bring to a school to share with children who still look for flying reindeer in December and put baby teeth under their pillows.

Yet, I don't think my work is gruesome or depressing. But it definitely doesn't connect with everyone and it's really not the stuff to read to kids. There are poems in this manuscript and in my full body of work that I would feel comfortable reading to children, however, those poems tend to be the exceptions.

I started thinking about my work and the diversity of it. I also thought about labels, how some poets get tagged as "nature poets," and can get characterized by their poetry. I remember at the Skagit River Poetry Festival Ed Hirsch said to Li-Young Lee after the quartet finished playing, "Oh, what happy you go up there and read your poems about death." The audience laughed, but yes, that's what we were expecting. Just as we were expecting some mention of "geese" with Mary Oliver. And with Billy Collins, we expect to laugh. We expect the poems to be accessible with Ted Kooser and at a reading with Olena Kalytiak Davis, we don't know what to expect except that it will be unexpected.

But who wants these expectations? Do they help or hurt the poet? What if Ted Kooser started to write poems that needed a series of footnotes to be understood? Or if you went to a Billy Collins reading and nothing was funny? Would that be possible? Would people just be laughing or ready to laugh because that is the expectation?

I'm a young enough (and an unknown enough) poet that these issues haven't concerned me too much. But it's something I think about as I find myself writing poems about the same subject (over and over again), which I do. Am I writing the same poem a thousand times? Or am I discovering something new as I approach the subject a different way?

I like poets who vary their style and content greatly, but there's something comfortable about picking up a book by your favorite poet and getting the handshake you expected. Or perhaps, all that matters is if the poem is good. Whether they write about death or dope, Catholicism or chocolate, what matters is the feeling I have after the poem. A poet friend told me that it doesn't matter at all what the content of my poems are, what matters is the craft of the poem. Basically whether it's doodlebugs or Danfur, both poems have the opportunity to be successful or unsuccessful; it's not the subject, it's the poem.

Still, I hope I'm never called a __________(fill in the blank) poet. I hope my work is complex or varied enough that one word isn't possible--unless that word is "fantastic," "genius," or "Pulitzer Prize winning..."

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Writing Exercise of the Week: Love Without Love

In honor of Valentine's Day, write a love poem *without* using any variations of the word: love or like.

Other restrictions--
Can’t use similes or metaphors
The title must be surprising, and contain something surprising
8-12 lines

Must use 5 of these 7 words or variation:


Call for Submissions - Court Green

Submissions: Court Green 5
Call for Submissions
Dossier: Plath

Each issue of Court Green features a dossier on a special topic or theme. For our fifth issue, we are seeking creative responses to the work, life, and legacy of Sylvia Plath. It has been over forty years since Plath committed suicide. In the decades since, her influence has proven to be great and lasting. For this dossier, we would like to see fresh takes on and responses to Plath’s life and work, however subtle or overt, in poetry and short lyric essays or prose. All styles are welcome. We are not looking for critical/academic works at this time.

Submissions for dossier and regular sections of the magazine are welcome. If you would like to submit poems for either or both sections, our submission period is March 1-June 30 of each year. Please send no more than five pages of poetry. We will respond by August 31. Submit to:

Court Green
English Department
Columbia College Chicago
600 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605

Email submissions are not accepted. Submissions without a self-addressed, stamped envelope will not be returned. SASEs with insufficient postage will contain notification only. Poems submitted outside our reading period will be returned unread.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Three's a Charm: The Making of a Chapbook

This is the response I wrote for the Floating Bridge Press blog, the kind folks who published my first chapbook, Geography--

Many times when we see a book in print, we don’t think about how long it took to write that book or how many times it was submitted before it was accepted. Many times we just see the success—a book that’s made it to publication—and we return to our own writing and submitting feeling discouraged because we’ve sent our manuscripts out a couple times and no one has published it…

My chapbook Geography was not accepted by Floating Bridge Press the first time I submitted it, but the third time—five years after I wrote the first poem in 1998. In between the first poem and the acceptance, Geography went through many versions. Mostly, time and revision are what helped change my okay chapbook to a much stronger one.

The first time I submitted my chapbook to Floating Bridge Press, I was excited—too excited. The chapbook wasn’t complete, but I was the mother of new poems and off my children went without their raincoats or galoshes. Two poems were selected for the Washington State Poets Anthology,Pontoon, but the chapbook was not a finalist. I was thrilled to be part of Pontoon, but realized there was more work to be done.

The next year, I had improved the chapbook greatly through lengthy revisions. It had come a long way—the children were dressed for the weather—but still it wasn’t ready to be published. I submitted it anyway knowing it was a stronger manuscript than the year before—that year it was not only rejected, but none of my poems were accepted for Pontoon. I was discouraged, especially because I knew it had improved. Still, I felt in my heart it was a good manuscript and I wasn’t ready to abandon it yet.

In 2000, I had received Artist Trust GAP grant for some of the individual poems included in the chapbook, which gave me hope to keep trying. I enrolled in a chapbook class with Ann Spiers where we looked at various chapbooks, discussed the history of chapbooks, and talked about what a chapbook was. We discussed how a chapbook focused on a very specific theme or story and she reminded us to only use poems in the chapbook that stick with that theme.

I felt I was beginning to understand my chapbook more. I could see what poems weren’t strong enough to be included in it. I knew what I had to remove from my manuscript, but still, the chapbook didn’t feel complete and I wasn’t sure what I needed to do to improve it. Ann said something during the class that changed the way I viewed the making of my chapbook, she said, “Look at your chapbook and figure out what poems need to be written.”

It was the advice I needed. Instead of always taking away from my chapbook, starting with thirty poems and pulling out the weakest poems until I ended up with a number between eighteen and twenty-four pages, Ann had suggested the opposite. I was to look at my poems—my strongest poems—and decide what poems needed to be written to make the chapbook complete. For me, this was the suggestion I needed to hear. I realized that I needed to decide what poems were missing from the story I was trying to tell and to write them.

In early 2003, I was awarded a residency at Soapstone Writers Retreat in Oregon, where I focused solely on my chapbook for a week. I remember in the middle of a rainforest reading each poem again and again until I knew if it was right for the chapbook. I walked in the forest and in my mind went through every poem in the chapbook. When I returned home, I submitted my chapbook into the 2003 competition telling myself I’d give it try one last try. (Note: Knowing what I know now, I realize most poets submit their manuscripts many more times than just three before it’s accepted, so this was a bit of naiveté on my part.)

On a quiet afternoon, a Thursday I believe, I received a call from one of the editors at Floating Bridge Press telling me that my chapbook had been selected for publication. Five years after writing the first poem in the series, I would see a finished product. I was thrilled, thankful, and a little overwhelmed!

If I have any advice for other poets working on a chapbook, my mind returns to my class with Ann Spiers:

1) Focus on a strict theme or telling a story
2) Look at your chapbook and instead of taking poems out to make it stronger, start with your strongest poems and write the ones that are missing.
3) Write, Revise, Repeat.

Let the story or theme emerge in your chapbook then focus on it completely. Decide what needs to be written and when it comes to poems you’re not sure are strong enough I follow this advice—when in doubt, leave it out.

Good luck and good writing.

The Permission to Write

I went to a workshop yesterday with two good friends, who are also poets. It was sort of a mini retreat at someone's house where we were given great food (gourmet--homemade veggie soup, salad, two kinds of quiche--brie & broccoli or salmon quiche, plus a dessert that consisted of a brownie base with chocolate chips, almond butter cream frosting and hard chocolate on the top) and we were also give the space to write. We had time in between writing to come together and discuss other poets' work, as well as time to discuss our own. The workshop raised money for a new writing retreat (Hypathia in the Woods) that will allow women the space and time to write.

The founder of the retreat said an interesting thing, she said that for women the time to write always seems to be later: "I'll make time for the writing once the kids are older, once the kids are in school, once the kids are in college, once I retire..." Many women nodded at this statement. I know one of the reasons I returned to an MFA program is because I knew that if I were part of program (and paying tuition), no one would question me taking time to write.

I've been thinking about this--it seems we give priority to the things and take or make money. Poetry tends not to be one of those things. You can do it on the sly, sending out submissions for little cost, book contests take a little more, but not enough to take a family from Whole Foods to Wal-Mart. And what does it bring in? Occasionally $20 from a journal that pays, sometimes a nice sized grant of a thousand dollars or more. Sometimes a thousand dollar prize for a book or contest, but mostly, it pays in what it gives the poet--satisfaction, fulfillment, balance, pleasure.

In Anne Sexton: A Biography by Diane Middlebrook, I was taken by how things are not as changed as much as we think. This comment comes after Sexton received a Radcliffe fellowship:

“It immediately made what I was doing more respectable to my husband. I wasn’t taking so much from my family; I gave more back. You see, you always have a guilty feeling that it’s selfish, because everyone says, ‘Why isn’t it enough to be a wife and mother? ‘ I still remember my mother-in-law saying, ‘Why aren’t your husband and children enough—why don’t you make it a hobby?’ You have this guilt. but if you get this amount of money, then everyone immediately thinks you’re respected, an beyond that, you’re contributing.”

What’s odd is think about the other things women do in their lives that they don’t worry is “a waste of time” or feel guilty about. Not to be stereotypical, but shopping falls here, even grocery shopping. A mother doesn't drive to the market and think “I feel guilty for having to leave my family to buy spinach and milk.” But both poetry and food are nourishing. Even the women who shop for new shoes or something else, usually aren’t feeling guilty for going to the mall or the outlet store. But for some reason, to stay in your own home, retreat to your own space, and maybe even--dare I say it?--close the door, is somehow a selfish act.

Leaving the house seems less selfish because you are physically away from the needs/wants/requests/buzz of your family. But maybe it’s being in the same house and saying “I’m taking time for myself” that brings on that feeling of guilt. Instead of feeling as you are taking time for yourself, maybe it brings on a feeling of neglect. But still, if women poets were making say $40,000 a year from writing, or even $25,000, I’m not sure this would be questioned. Again, it seems money gives importance to things.

Last night we drove home from the workshop talking about giving ourselves “permission to write.” We are all women born between 1960-1970, we consider ourselves feminists, and yet, why do we need “permission to write” and whom are we asking this permission from? --Answer: From ourselves. We are all mothers with children in school. I have the youngest child in school. I have one child, they have two. If I were not a mother, I would not be asking permission of anyone, or myself but because I have a daughter, my freedom to live my life a certain way feels altered. I write “feels” because it may or may not be. I could be (and mostly likely am) placing restrictions on myself that aren’t needed or that other mothers wouldn’t do. Maybe some mothers can write without guilt and in many ways, I can, but sometimes this fear of "am I being a good mother while being a poet" slips across my desk. Can I do two things well?

And yet through all this, I want my daughter to see me as a person as well—not just a mother—with talents and interests because I don’t want her to grow up and in the choice to have a child, have to make a choice to lose her own passions. And I don’t want her to feel this guilt that sometimes comes with trying to balance being a mother with the rest of my life. So, I work hard to be the best mother I can be and the best poet I can be. Of course, my job as a mother will always come before my job as a poet, at least in these earlier years. Later in life? I'm not sure how things will work out, but with a young child I'm not ready to be superpoet, but I'm also not ready to zeropoet either.

In the end, I think we all try our best and do what we think is best. And the ones who really want to write will find or create the time to do so. They will get rid of the timewasters in their own life whether it’s a long commute, the internet, not cleaning the house to perfection but good-enough, letting the garden have a few extra weeds this year, staying up a little later, waking up a little earlier. If a woman wants to write, she will find the time between colicky babies and college, the time is there, and if we want it, it’s ours.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Writing Exercise of the Week: The Colors of Poetry

Choose a color, write a 15-20 line poem, where the name of the color is often repeated. Begin by listing the images associated with that color, then consider the narrative and associative possibilities.

Consider as you write the broader, symbolic associations of the color chosen. Also consider the personal associations that color has for you. Incorporate the color in the title is you can. Try to refrain from using "like" or "as" in this piece.

Lights Out!

The 1st of February 2007:

Participate in the biggest mobilization of Citizens Against Global Warming!

TheAlliance for the Planet [a group of environmental associations] is
calling on all citizens to create 5 minutes of electrical rest for the

People all over the world should turn off their lights and electrical
appliances onthe 1st of February 2007, between 1.55 pm and 2.00 pm in New
York, 18.55 for London, and 19.55 for Paris, Bruxelles, and Italy. 1.55pm
in Ottawa, 10.55 am on the Pacific Coast of North America, 1.55 and 2.00
am in Vietnam.

This is not just about saving 5 minutes worth of electricity; this is
about getting the attention of the media, politicians, and ourselves.

Five minutes of electrical down time for the planet: this does not take
long, costs nothing, and will show all political leaders that global
warming is an issue that needs to come first and foremost in political

Why February 1? This is the day when the new UN report on global climate
change will come out inParis.

This event affects us all, involves us all, and provides an occasion to
show how important an issue global warming is to us. If we all
participate, this action can have real media and political weight.
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