Sunday, September 30, 2007

One Page at a Time...


It's been helpful reading over everyone's comments and ideas on my giving up writing post.

Some things I'm thinking about--

1) To allow the schedule to create me instead of me creating the schedule-- or in other words, don't try to cram inspiration into a 9-3 time zone. I need to remember that up until this point, my writing has always taken place without an exact schedule and to appreciate that.

Under that same idea, Nancy reminded me that it doesn't matter how, when, or where that it gets done, but that it does. In the end, our work is our work and if someone works better on a 9-5 schedule and takes weekends off and I work better from 10 p.m-1 a.m. for two weeks straight then no writing for 2 weeks, that's okay too. Find the routine (or lack of routine) that works best for you.

2) I've never enjoyed submitting my work or the "administrative" part of the poet's life. I like to write. One day my personal assistant who will handle those tasks. Until then, that person is me and the job will happen on a day I feel uninspired. But I'm letting myself feel free to ignore the submitting part of the job for awhile.

3) Writing happens even when I'm not writing. Sometimes I get my best ideas while organizing the snack cabinet or washing dishes by hand.

4) I'm in it for the writing and for how I feel when I'm writing.

5) There are a thousand paths to choose and there is a point when I have to stop researching the best path for me and just take a step forward.

6) Like the 70's sitcom: one day at a time, one page at a time...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Apple Brown Betty Recipes

Here are the my favorite Apple Brown Betty recipes--

From my Fannie Farmer Cookbook--

Classic Apple Brown Betty

(You won't need the lemon juice if your apples are flavorful.)

2 cups fresh dry bread crumbs
5 tbsp. melted butter
1 1⁄2 lbs. tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into
1⁄4" slices
1⁄2 cup brown sugar
1⁄2 tsp. cinnamon
Juice and grated rind of 1⁄2 lemon (optional)
Heavy cream (or ice cream)

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 1 1⁄2-quart casserole or a 9" baking dish, preferably with a lid.

2. Lightly toss crumbs and melted butter together in a medium bowl. Spread about one-third of the crumb mixture in the baking dish.

3. Combine apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice and rind (if needed) in a medium bowl. Fan out half the apple mixture over crumbs. Add another layer of crumbs, a layer of the remaining apples, and a final layer of crumbs.

4. Pour in 1 cup hot water. Cover with lid or with foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake 20 minutes more. Serve with heavy cream.


Basic Apple Brown Betty

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 Tsp of cinnamon
5 tart baking apples

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together butter and sugar. Add oatmeal to make a stiff batter/dough. Peel, core and thinly slice apples. Lightly butter a casserole large enough to hold the apples. Place all of the apples in the buttered casserole. Spread the topping over the apples. Sprinkle cinnamon on top. Bake one hour.

Serve with vanilla ice cream & whipped cream.

This is one I saw on the Food Network & is super easy esp. when apples aren't in season. I'm typing this one off the top of my head... Basically, you just keep adding layers in a baking dish of filling, brown sugar, oatmeal, cinnamon, and butter. Also, I'm guessing you can use fresh apples for this as well.

EZ Apple Brown Betty

2 12 oz. cans of Apple Pie Filling
1/2 stick of butter
1 cup of brown sugar
4-6 instant oatmeal packets (like Apple & Cinnamon from Quaker Oats)

Preheat over to 400 degrees.

Pour one can of applie pie filling in the bottom of a baking pan. Open and spread 2-3 oatmeal packets over the apple filling. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of brown sugar over the oatmeal. Sprinkle with cinnamon Cut four pats of butter and place on top of oatmeal/cinnamon. Layer 2nd can of apple filling over the butter, oatmeal, and cinnamon. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of brown sugar over apple filling. Cover with the remaining 2 or 3 oatmeal packages. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Add 4 pats of butter on top.

Cook for 40 minutes or until brown.

Serve with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.

Friday, September 28, 2007

What Cures Us

I'm feeling better about things. Thanks to everyone for their comments, ideas, and understanding. I think as writers many times we go through these hazy places in order to "find ourselves" or at least discover a little more what we are seeking.

Jeannine had a great idea about not trying to force my writing into a 9-3 schedule, which is what I was trying to do. She said "it goes against most writing books," but really, my best writing is done later at night and be best editing done during the day. So in that respect, I'm going to be a little easier on myself. I was trying to treat my writing life as a 9-3 job and while there were a few positives with that, overall, it wasn't working.

I guess I am the writer who writes best in the cracks of the day. My best work has come when most of the neighborhood is sleeping. My ideas appear when my hands are full of dandelions or I am two miles from home with my i-Pod and golden retriever. I realize as much as I think I could be happy being June Cleaver with a slight attitude, my life has always had writing in it. Thought I did make a pan of Apple Brown Betty and it did help.

I guess this week (well, these last few weeks since my daughter began school) have been a learning time for me. To figure out what works, and what doesn't. I have quit a poets group I belong to online because the supportive feeling I first felt there seems to have turned. I am thankful to have a great in-person writing group and a great online group as well. I'm paying more attention to what I give attention to. These small choices make a difference.

I'm sure in six months or a year, I'll be struggling with similar issues, but for now, I'm just going to try doing what feels right and relaxing into the pain (as they say, though I'm not technically in pain), just a little uncomfortable, just a few growing aches as I figure out what to do next.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Meaning of Life is Apple Brown Betty...

Ask me where I am. I am in “my office” (aka the coffeeshop) writing.

Last night I had the most amazing epiphany, I decided I was going to give up writing. How simple and it has never occurred to me, this could be the decision that would fix all my concerns. A simple life of Apple Brown Betty and color-coordinated furniture, I would even wear an apron, learn to cook. Yes, this was the last thought I had before going to bed. I even told my husband, I’m going to spend more time with him because I’m not going to write anymore. He mumbled something in his half-sleep stupor and fell back into the dreamworld.

I felt so much better with decision. I thought all my worry about this second manuscript being published, all this anxiousness of organizing my writing time and trying to create a schedule, it would be over. I thought about how free my days would be. I had this image of me watching “The View” or sitting on the couch reading or dusting the plants I'd buy. I realized how much time I’d have to do nothing.

I am anxious by nature and I’ve always believed that writing is a place to focus my nervous energy. But as I started to think about it, I wondered if maybe my nervousness was fueled by my writing, my imagination this place where there are daily tragedies, worst-case scenarios played over and over. I’m not sure what came first, the chicken or the egg, the nerves or the writing, but on my first day in trying to give up writing, I’m writing. And wondering if maybe writing is just something I cannot not do.

My husband asked me this morning what I was talking about last night and then reminded me that I’ve felt this way about my writing before. I have. I remember once (before my first book was accepted), I made a speech about how my manuscript submissions were a voluntary tax to the US Postal Service. Maybe I’m just in a transition, maybe it’s the full moon—I’m mostly water and can feel the minus tides in my bones—maybe every so often we have to stop and consider what we’re doing here, what we care about, where we want to go.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Poem of the Day - Jane Hirshfield

I was rereading THE LIVES OF THE HEART by Jane Hirshfield and found that I dog-eared page 86.

Here was the poem on that page--

The Poet

She is working now, in a room
not unlike this one,
the one where I write, or you read.
Her table is covered with paper.
The light of the lamp would be
tempered by a shade, where the bulb's
single harshness might dissolve,
but it is not; she has taken it off.
Her poems? I will never know them,
though they are the ones I most need.
Even the alphabet she writes in
I cannot decipher. Her chair --
let us imagine whether it is leather
or canvas, vinyl or wicker. Let her
have a chair, her shadeless lamp,
the table. Let one or two she loves
be in the next room. Let the door
be closed, the sleeping ones healthy.
Let her have time, and silence,
enough paper to make mistakes and go on.

© Jane Hirshfield

And to think I had almost forgotten about this poem.

WOMB of her own...

The new Equinox poetry issue is now available at WOMB.

I'm happy to be on of the poets in with this lovely group of writers:

Kelli Russell Agodon

Nicole Cooley

Kate Greenstreet

Luisa A. Igloria

Eve Rifkah

Jennifer Karmin + vispo

Nicki Hastie

Raina León

Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Arlene Biala

Nava Fader

C Mehrl Bennett

Laura Goldstein

Jill Alexander Essbaum

Kristen Orser

Pearl Pirie

Kathryn Douglas

Angela Veronica Wong

Juliet Cook

Lillian Baker Kennedy

Breaking News: Thousands of hyphens perish as English marches on

By Simon Rabinovitch

LONDON (Reuters) - About 16,000 words have succumbed to pressures of the Internet age and lost their hyphens in a new edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

Bumble-bee is now bumblebee, ice-cream is ice cream and pot-belly is pot belly.

And if you've got a problem, don't be such a crybaby (formerly cry-baby).

The hyphen has been squeezed as informal ways of communicating, honed in text messages and emails, spread on Web sites and seep into newspapers and books.

"People are not confident about using hyphens anymore, they're not really sure what they are for," said Angus Stevenson, editor of the Shorter OED, the sixth edition of which was published this week.

Read the rest of the story here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Photos from School...

When my family came to visit me on my last residency of my MFA program, my husband somehow managed to delete all the photos I had taken up to that point. But thankfully, a friend with a great camera just uploaded these and so I thought I'd share...

Natasha Trethewey, Our Guest Speaker--
She was fantastic, by the way. Very down to earth and talked about history being open as a subject matter for *everyone* to write about.

Albert Goldbarth teaching a class

My graduate reading

Graduation (I'm talking of course)

Self portrait with funny hat

Our morning walk -or- walking off into the sunrise

Friday, September 21, 2007

Welcome Paul Muldoon to The New Yorker --

Pulitzer Winner to Take Over as New Yorker’s Poetry Editor

Published: September 20, 2007

Alice Quinn, the poetry editor of The New Yorker, is stepping down after 20 years and will be succeeded in one of the most influential posts in the poetry world by Paul Muldoon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet.

Mr. Muldoon, 56, will remain chairman of the Princeton University Center for the Creative and Performing Arts. An Irish-born poet who has published 10 volumes of verse, he will also continue to write and teach at Princeton.

Ms. Quinn, 58, will leave the magazine in early November.

Read the full story here.

Poem of the Day - Wallace Stevens

More poems should use the word "hullabaloo"


A High-Toned Old Christian Woman

Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame.
Take the moral law and make a nave of it
And from the nave build haunted heaven. Thus,
The conscience is converted into palms,
Like windy citherns hankering for hymns.
We agree in principle. That's clear. But take
The opposing law and make a peristyle,
And from the peristyle project a masque
Beyond the planets. Thus, our bawdiness,
Unpurged by epitaph, indulged at last,
Is equally converted into palms,
Squiggling like saxophones. And palm for palm,
Madame, we are where we began. Allow,
Therefore, that in the planetary scene
Your disaffected flagellants, well-stuffed,
Smacking their muzzy bellies in parade,
Proud of such novelties of the sublime,
Such tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk,
May, merely may, madame, whip from themselves
A jovial hullabaloo among the spheres.
This will make widows wince. But fictive things
Wink as they will. Wink most when widows wince.

Wallace Stevens
from his first book, Harmonium

Four Agreements

There's a book by Miguel Ruiz called THE FOUR AGREEMENTS. These are basically rules in life to follow to make your life more happy and more calm. And actually, if you follow them, they do help. Here they are:

1. Don’t take anything personally.
2. Don’t make assumptions.
3. Always do your best.
4. Be impeccable with your words.

They work for writers as well as is. I've modified them below just for fun--

1. Don’t take any reviews personally.
2. Don’t make assumptions of your reader.
3. Always do your best revision.
4. Be impeccable with your words --always.
(there's not much to change to that last one!)

* * *

As writers, we open ourselves up to criticism and rejection. I think it's important to remember that when people respond negatively to our work or what we've written, it's more about them than about us. My friend A. was the first person who explained to me this idea: "my stuff and their stuff."

And somehow, writing the above reminds me of Brenda Euland's book and the first chapter, "Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say." We write because we have to write, we have to find our own path. Occasionally a cactus will fall in front of us and we will stop. Hopefully, we will walk (or learn to walk) around it.


The original rules are a good reminder. They bring compassion as they take away the judging of others and focus on acceptance. They keep us in the world we can control.


Today in my daytimer it says "Writing Day." The weather must have read my daytimer because I can hear the foghorn from the ferry as I type this, a perfect foggy day to stay inside with words. Off to disappear into the fog.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Poetry Reading Tonight in Redmond, Washington

If you happen to be in the Seattle area tonight, I'll be reading tonight September 20th at SoulFood Books in Redmond, WA with Ann Batchelor Hursey. The reading begins at 7 and it's followed by an Open Mic. (No chickens allowed.)

Here's a link to the bookstore:

And Ann and I have decided to use "Invitation" as our reading theme, so all of our poems will be based on that idea or subject.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Food Chain of Language

Interesting article from ther Roanoke Times here on Bob Hicok's poem from APR--

The latest issue of the American Poetry Review includes a poem by Virginia Tech English professor Bob Hicok entitled "So I Know."

The poem -- one of five Hicok wrote for the issue -- is an unflinching and pained look at Hicok's thoughts about shooter Seung-Hui Cho and the professor's feelings of guilt for not doing something to stop his former student.

Part of the poem reads:

"I don't know what I could have done
something. Something more than talk to someone
who talked to someone, a food chain of language
leading to this language of 'no words' we have now.
Maybe we exist as language and when someone dies
they are unworded. Maybe I should have shot the kid
and then myself given the math. 2 < 33."

While a student in Hicok's class in spring 2006, Cho wrote a play about a student who plans a mass school shooting.

Reports say that Hicok was one of several professors in the department to voice concerns about Cho and he took those concerns to department head Lucinda Roy. But Cho was not removed from his class.

Hicok did not return a call Monday to speak about his poem. In the poem he discusses the media attention that has followed him since the shootings and acknowledges that people may feel it's too soon to write a poem about the shootings.

# # # # #
Here's the full poem from APR--

Bob Hicok
So I know

He put moisturizer on the morning he shot
thirty-three people. That stands out. The desire
to be soft. I could tell the guy from NPR
that's what I want, to be soft, or the guy
from the LA Times, or the guy from CNN who says
we should chat. Such a casual word, chat.
I'm chatting to myself now: you did not
do enough about the kid who took your class
a few buildings from where he killed.
With soft hands in Norris Hall killed.
This is my confession. And legs I think
the roommate said, moisturizer in the shower,
I don't know what I could have done
something. Something more than talk to someone
who talked to someone, a food chain of language
leading to this language of "no words" we have now.
Maybe we exist as language and when someone dies
they are unworded. Maybe I should have shot the kid
and then myself given the math. 2 < 33.
I was good at math. Numbers are polite, carefree
if you ask the random number generators.
Mom, I don't mean the killing above.
It's something I write like "I put my arms
around the moon." Maybe sorry's the only sound
to offer pointlessly and at random
to each other forever, not because of what it means
but because it means we're trying to mean,
I am trying to mean more than I did
when I started writing this poem, too soon
people will say, so what. This is what I do.
If I don't do this I have no face and if I do this
I have an apple for a face or something vital
almost going forward is the direction I am headed.
Come with me from being over here to being over there,
from this second to that second. What countries
they are, the seconds, what rooms of people
being alive in them and then dead in them.
The clocks of flowers rise, it's April
and yellow and these seconds are an autopsy
of this word,

Bob Hicok

* * * * *

You know, mostly I feel bad for college professors and teachers because they are teachers, not social workers or psychotrists trained in knowing who is a "young angry male" and who desperately needs help. I could never blame any of them for not knowing that a student in their class was about to be a murderer.

They are not mind-readers. They do not know if a story turned in is based on fiction, a young Stephen King in the class, or some sort of forewarning from a disturbed individual.

Who do I blame? The man with the gun. I hold him responsible.

I think our college campuses and communities should have better health care available to all--physical and mental health. I think college campuses should have better emergency responses to contact their students, say text-messages to their cellphones that say "stay off campus (or in your dorms) until further notice." I think universities should make sure that people who need help get help and are followed up on. But do I think it is the responsibility of professors not only to teach the class, but be aware of the mental health status of all 60-600 students in their classes? No.

How can you ever know who is going to snap and who is just having a bad semester, a bad life? It's like trying to locate worm on the inside of an apple, sometimes you can see the small hole on the side very clearly, other times you just don't know until someone takes a bite.

Quote of the Day...

If you see crazy coming towards you, cross the street.

Vote for Pedro

At the blog, the Writer Unboxed had a challenge for us to make up our own word with our own definition. There were some great words invented here.

My word "appause" (which has to do with poetry, btw) is one of the ten finalists.

So, if you'd like to go over and vote for "appause" or another word, you can do that here.

I've already been there to vote for myself. ;-)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

Someone mentioned this poem to me tonight, so I thought I would post it.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver
(who will be coming to the Northwest this spring (april 22, 2008) via PLU's new writing series.)

Monday, September 17, 2007


I went to hear poets Holly Hughes and Stan Rubin read yesterday and I realize just how much better I feel when I'm around creative people--poets, writers, photographers, painters, artists--anyone who has something they are passionate about it. I really think it makes a difference in being around people who have something in their life that they just love (and I mean besides their kids and pets). But something they *love* to do with themselves.

I tend to think artists first, but I bet rock climbers could fall into this category, or scientists who devote their lives to tree frogs or sea turtles. Maybe I just like to be around people who have these other passions. It's a word that I've come back to a lot this year--passion, compassion--I'm realizing more and more how intertwined they both are. You need to have passion for your own life to have compassion for others.


I'm reading Brenda Ueland's IF YOU WANT TO WRITE (published first in 1938!--thank you to whomever recommended this to me, it's wonderful).

Here's a couple quotes:

...we northerners have become too much driven by the idea that in twenty years we will live, not now: because by that time our savings and the accrued interest will make it possible. To live now would be idleness. And because of our fear we have come to think of all idleness as hoggish, not as creative and radiant...

Chapter 10 was called "Why Women Who Do Too Much Housework Should Neglect it For Their Writing." She writes:

"Like many of the most talented and funniest people, she is too nice and unconceited to work from mere ambition, or the far-away hope of making money, and she has not become convinced (as I have) that there are other reasons for working, that a person like herself who cannot write a sentence that is not delightful and a circus, should give some time to it instead of always doily-carrying, recipe-experimenting, child-admonishing, husband-ministering, to the complete neglect of her Imagination and creative power.

In fact that is why the lives of women are so vaguely unsatisfactory. They are always doing secondary and menial things (that do not require all their gifts and ability) for others and never anything for themselves. Society and husbands praise them for it..."

It's been fascinating to me how much of this book is relevant to writers and women today. I hope to post more on this book again...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Writing Time-- Midnight Mind....

I realize, I write best (and most) at night.

Being the mother of a school age daughter, this is not really when I get my writing time. My writing schedule now takes place between 9-3. But honestly, I don't get as much done in that time as I do as soon the clock clicks 9 p.m. When night comes, words come. Images come. Ideas come.

Last night I went down to write at 9 p.m. when everyone in my house had fallen asleep, even the pets. I live with a house of early riser and souls that slide into bed as soon as the sun drops into the ocean. I am the only nocturnal one. I am the one they call "slow to wake up." But I'm realizing, as much as I've tried to push my writing life into the 9-3 schedule, my writing life is at night.

And I've started reading a new book that tells me to do a daily action in the morning for my writing (it can be meditation, painting, anything fun that may move me into that creative place). But my mornings aren't magical like some, like William Stafford who woke up with the sun at 4 or 5 a.m. and by the time his family had wandered to the breakfast table, he had written for 2-4 hours! The last time I woke up at 4 a.m., there was no magic but this pressure on my head saying, "Return to sleep, return to sleep, no good can come of this..."

I think we each have to be in touch with our own writing times. And while I think I can still get some writing done between 9-3, it will most likely be revising or submitting, or anything that uses the other side of the brain. My midnight mind is where the poems and stories come from. My daily mind likes to wander back into the kitchen for a snack, likes to stare into space rolling her worries into a ball of string, thinking "I only have this much time left..." At night, there is no clock, there's nothing that makes me think there will be an end to this time. Writing time is open and eternal where there is darkness. It's the time I will write the things that the daylight scares away.


Three beautiful chapbooks arrived in my mailbox yesterday--

apples for adam by michaela a. gabriel (michaela, yours in on the way!)
(FootHills Publishing)

The Discarded Halo by Matthew Olzmann
(Pudding House Press)

Rising and Falling by Claire Keyes
(Riverstone Press)

I can't wait to read them!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Not the Poet, But Someone Who Knows A Lot About the Poet...

Good conversation about persona poems going on here with Steven, David, & Jeannine.

Here's my response and some more thoughts on the "I" in the poem--

It fascinates me and frightens me how many readers admitted to believing that a poem was true/autobiographical then feeling manipulated when learning that it wasn't.

Every poetry class from the very very beginning at the UW always taught me to assume the narrator in the poem was the "speaker" and not the poet. That was pounded in our heads, so honestly, it's been shocking for me to learn that there are still readers who believe the poet and the "I" in the poem as the same person.

Yes, sometimes they are the same. Sometimes I write highly personal poems based on a true experience. But I always believed readers were to assume it was a persona--"the speaker"--and not me, just as I was taught. I guess believing this allows me to write both personal poems and non-personal poems because it again, it offers a veil, a way to be seen, but not seen.

I'm happy to be the poet in the background and I'll also pour myself into my poems. I just need the contract with the reader that they connect with the poem first--the art--and later, we can be friends, we can sit together and have tea and I'll tell you the dark and secret details. I'll say, "Yes, this really happened." I'll say, "I wanted this to happen." But you need to be friends with the poem first. I'm just the typist, the woman behind the curtain who believes in Oz and all the beauty a poem can hold.

"As for you, my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don't know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable. "

----The Wizard of Oz


Do not arouse the wrath of the great and powerful Oz. I said come back tomorrow.

Persona Poems

There's been a big conversation on the Wompo Listserve (women poets listserve) about persona poems and autobiography in poetry. I've been horrified to read how many readers believe that every poem is autobiographical (if this is true, it means Jeannine Hall Gailey eats children! ;-) --she doesn't of course, she mentioned this was truly fictional).

But Rebecca Loudon and Jeannine both had wonderful responses on the topic.

Here's my response referencing their responses--

"Thanks, Rebecca for your response.

I especially appreciate what Rebecca wrote-- "What I was writing is that why should the poet always be considered the narrator/subject/I of the poem? I was addressing the readers of poetry in my post, not poets. I never assume anyone who writes a poem is writing a memoir--and--...because poems can become so personal (I call these "Marcie's bladder poems) that they lose their art."

Also what Jeannine said, "But I take a more Jungian view, that we all have some shadow self, that the collective unconscious exists and we sometimes write out of that, etc."

Here's my 2 cents--

Poetry is quite complex. It plays with Truth vs. Fact., it offers shadow selves, personas, different voices, but ultimately, it is the poem that comes to us on the page, not the poet. And again, I think the discussion comes back to craft vs.content.

My concern in a society that views the poet as the speaker of each and every poem is that poems will not be written because the poet will be afraid that the topic/subject/theme will reflect poorly on them. Who would want to write about a difficulty in a relationship or a bad marriage if the result was everyone assumed the poet and her husband were on the brink of divorce?

I feel I am very open about my life, but I would feel limited in my topics if everyone assumed that every poem in first person was about me. I think I've lived a pretty interesting life, but I believe my imagination offers much more to the reader than my actual lived experience. Though both places--real and imagination--are places to draw from when we write and as Tom Hunley said, we can use both in our poems.

One interesting note is many times--because poets fear that their first person poems will be considered autobiography--poets will write in third person on the subject, topics, or issues that are closest to them. The "she" or "he" in the poem is really them. I guess because this mistake does happen to poets a lot, it's another way to keep the focus on the poem and not the poet.

I write because I like to be in the background. I love to create something and see how it moves in the world. I would be a painter if I could paint or a sculpture if I could sculpt, but I love language and words, so I write. So when I create something on the page, I send it out into the world without me, without my biography or list of experiences. I send out a piece of paper with words on it, not with a photo, resume, or my ID-- the poem enters the world without me and its better that way.

There is too much "celebrity" right now, people famous for being famous, and that's what I love about well-written poems--they don't need an author with perfect white teeth or a good hairstyle, they don't need an author who speaks well at parties or always has the perfect line (that's what revision is for!) One of my favorite things about a poem is that the best poems need nothing else except words. That's it! How simple. You don't have to be rich, powerful, or good-looking. You don't even have to ever leave your little home in Massachusetts. Poems require a strong mind and the ability to put down "the best words in the best order" as Coleridge said.

We are lucky to have this before us as poets, the ability to write about ourselves or not to, or to do both. I guess I'm thankful that poetry isn't memoir and poetry isn't fiction, but we've created genre to move into each of these places if we choose.

Anyway, this whole conversation has been wonderful, I've found it both enlightening and absolutely frightening. ;-)


So the question is--

Do you care if the poet is writing about something s/he hasn't lived or isn't true?

Is it (fiction/persona) always okay or do you draw the line at certain topics?

Are you always the "speaker" in your poem --or are your poems usually or always based on your life? Why or why not?

Acts of Compassion--


Amish donate cash to school gunman’s widow
Unspecified amount given by fund disbursing $4.3 million in contributions

PHILADELPHIA - An Amish community that lost five girls in a Pennsylvania schoolhouse shooting massacre last year has donated money to the widow of the gunman, the community said Wednesday.

The Nickel Mines Accountability Committee, which was set up to handle more than $4.3 million in donations from around the world after the shootings, said it had given an unspecified "contribution" to Marie Roberts, a mother of three.

Read more here...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


It's late and I'm just back from my poetry workshop group. There are six of us poets, each with a completely different style from the other, different voice, different subjects. This works well as we each come to the groups with incredibly different perspectives and opinions, and yet, somehow we all mesh, we all connect, and we all help and support each other.

A friend of mine brought a poem that referred to someone currently in the news who people are not talking nicely about. You can try to guess who this person is or isn't. But as I write this, I realize this could be anyone in the media from Hillary to Britney Spears, from Bill Clinton to ____________ (fill in the blank), American media loves to bash, to insult, to point out flaws, mistakes, etc. etc. And I'm guilty of it too. I've been known to have little tolerance for PopStar X or Heartthrob Y. But what made this poem stand out was how it showed compassion in surprising ways, compassion to a person few have compassion for.

It's easy to judge others, in fact, sometimes it comes too easy. Once on New Year's we all made resolutions not to judge others and had a contest to see who could last the longest. I made it to 12:01. It was shocking really as I had always considered myself as someone who was pretty open-minded and non-judgmental.

So I'm thinking about compassion tonight and how I can offer it to others--people I know or don't know, strangers on the street, people in my family. I'm thinking about how as humans we can try to understand that some of our worst behavior comes out of pain and that what we dislike most in others can be something we dislike in ourselves.

It's amazing what a poem can do. It reminded me how connected we all are. There is no "them" and "us," just us. All of us. In this together. Trying our best.

1) a deep awareness of and sympathy for another's suffering
2) the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it

So, my extra credit questions to take with you into your day are--

Whose life are you going change today?
What's one compassionate act you can do today?

Finding a Routine...

The only person I have to blame for my failure to write is myself.

This could be my quote of the week as this week I've been my own worst enemy in the writing life. Instead of sticking to my schedule, I've been worrying about things that don't need to be worrying about, saving a dog from traffic then searching for its owner (okay, this had to be done), taking care of little things but not big things, wandering the house like a lost dustbunny.

My daughter went back to school last week, so the days are open for me to write. If I do not write, I cannot say "I didn't have time." What I can say is "I didn't focus" or "I didn't take it seriously enough." I can say, "I procrastinated," "I answered emails," "I read the news," but I cannot say that I honored or even appreciated my writer's time.

So today to break the habit of not producing I tried something new. When I returned home after my morning walk with Buddy Holly (my golden retriever, not the dead rock star) I entered the house, warmed up my morning cup of coffee, and grabbed some of my "to read" poetry books I keep on a small step stool in my office. I went to my red chaise in the living room(with a small bowl of Lucky Charms without milk) and read. What happened? I was inspired by another, in this case, poet Molly Tenenbaum who is Seattle poet and someone whose work I really admire.

I read and then I went to my writing space and wrote the first draft to a poem. I think for me, the goal is to read first then write before doing any left brain activities such as submitting or bills, but just giving priority to the moment to create before anything else.

I'll try it again tomorrow and see how it goes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Writing on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Wanted--

I thought this looked like a great project--

Martin Luther King Commemorative Issue
of Passager Is Looking for Your Memories

2008 marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther
Jr. Passager, a national literary journal, is part of a season-long
in Baltimore of his death, the civil rights movement, and especially the 1968
Baltimore riots.

Help us remember. Help us not forget.

Send us your poetry, fiction and memoir on race, race relations and civil
Send us memories about the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr.,
where you were at the time of his death. Short, informal writing is fine.
Ask your family and friends for their memories, too. Begin a conversation.
Submissions from groups are welcome, as are photographs.
Maximum word count for fiction: 4000

Deadline for submissions: October 31, 2007 (extended from September 15)

We will accept both mail & email submissions.
Include SASE with sufficient postage for reply.
Send to: Passager, c/o University of Baltimore, 1420 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
Or email: passager(at) (replace (at) with @)

For more information, contact Passager, 410-837-6047, or email us at:
passager(at) (replace (at) with @)
Visit our Web site for updates:

For more information on the Maryland Humanities Council MLK Initiative,

Friday, September 07, 2007

Thank you!

You know who you are!

Gratitude Journal

1) Libraries

2) Jilly offers her Poetry Hut Blog Posts by email Too cool!

3) Lucky Charms

4) New used books

5) Brain, Child magazine

6) The Future Freaks Me Out by Motion City Soundtrack

7) Animal Cookies

8) Art Parties

9) Fog

10) Caller ID

Call for Submissions

I'm not exactly sure what they are looking for here, but I like the journal and thought this sounded interesting...

Call for Submissions -

The Grotesque: Hayden's Ferry Review is looking forprose, poetry, and visual art that explore the humanity, beauty, and realityof the literary grotesque - the monstrous, the unusual, the abnormal.

Please send to: Hayden's Ferry Review (SS42), Virginia G. Piper Center For CreativeWriting, Box 875002, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-5002.

Postmark deadline: January 15, 2008.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Review - The Little Black Book of Style by Nina Garcia

Product Details
Author: Nina Garcia
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins (September 4, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0061234907
ISBN-13: 978-0061234903

Having spent much of the summer in flip-flops and getting sick of “celebrities as news stories,” I was pretty sure when The Little Black Book of Style by Nina Garcia from Project Runway arrived in my mailbox I wasn’t going to like it. I mean, I had just read Cecile Andrew’s The Circle of Simplicity on the art of living simply and now I was going to read a book on fashion telling me to buy all these things I don’t need. Great, I thought, I hate writing negative reviews, what have I gotten myself into.

However, it turned out there was very little in this book I disliked. In fact, this book was not at all about following the trends or buying the it purse, but finding your own style in life and valuing that. Garcia said that many times women buying on a budget or women who shop in vintage stores are actually much more stylish than women with money who just run out to buy the latest trends. It seems the budget shopper may actually be a little more in touch with herself and her taste. She has to be creative and this creativity leads to a more stylish, individual look.

What I appreciated about this book is that Garcia doesn’t have a one-style fits all. She says directly that if the latest trend doesn’t look good on you, don’t buy it. There’s the simple advice that has been ignored by many, “Buy your correct size” and “Don’t be sucked in by the sale tag.” But I think one of my favorite sections was “How To Be Imperfect,” which is about taking your flaws and making them your assets. It’s not about fixing what’s not right, but appreciating the uniqueness of each of us. Throughout the book, it’s easy to see that Garcia is a believer in the individual style of a woman and not trying to create a cookie cutter look for everyone.

One of my favorite stories in the book what about how her parents would take her out of school in Barranquilla to travel to different places such as New York, Paris, Japan, India, and Italy. She would complain to her father that she was a month behind in math, but her father would say, “But you saw the world! There’s always time to catch up on long division!” This “you-only-live-once-so-have-some-fun attitude comes through in Garcia’s style and writing.

My only complaint about this book is while Garcia says that fashion can be intelligent, the author still embraces real fur (I think her exact words were “PETA be damned”) and not mentioning the faux-fur alternatives made me question the "intelligent" statement. Overall though, this was really the only area in the book I took issue with and if you can overlook the fur matter (which in all honestly was only a small part of the entire book) it’s a fantastic resource for the fashionista in your life with lots of fun drawings, lists, and good quotes throughout. The last section even included short interviews with other fashion favorites such as Ralph Lauren, Iman, Vera Wang to name a few.

Final thoughts: You can still live simply and be stylish –or— the little black dress lives on…


This review was sponsored by MotherTalk. <-- click here if you're a woman blogger who's interested in reading and reviews.

Or visit them at: MotherTalk

Sunday, September 02, 2007

What Makes a Successful Writer?

During my residency, one of the faculty said that he sent out emails to other professors of creative writing courses across the US and asked them what characteristics of their students might determine whether they would be a successful writer in the future.

The top two answers?

1) The student loves to play with words.

2) The student loves to read.

I think those are the fundementals of a good writer, but the Capricorn in me needs to add: persistence and preserverance.

The ability to keep writing and submitting even when the rejections come pouring in. The trust that there is a reason that your inner-self has this desire to write. The belief that this isn't "for nothing" and that in the end you'll see the bigger picture.
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