Thursday, February 28, 2008

Soulmate Found

I realize there are versions of me wandering this earth. Much more successful versions, but versions nonethless...

Good Reads Interview: You have stated that each of your books was written over a period of only two to four weeks. Describe a typical day spent writing.

Paulo Coelho: When I finally feel I’m ready to embark on a new book, I always go through the following cycle that takes me from two weeks to a month. Before going to bed I have everything planned: I will wake up early and dedicate myself solely to the novel I’m writing. The only thing is, when I wake up I decide to browse through the net, then it’s time for my walk. When I come back I quickly check my mails and before I know it it’s already 2:30 p.m. and time to have lunch. After which I always take a sacrosanct nap. When I wake up at 5 p.m. I come back to my computer, check another set of emails, visit my blogs, read the news. Then it is already time for dinner—and at this point I’m feeling extremely guilty for not fulfilling my goal of the day. After dinner, I finally sit at my desk and decide to write. The first line takes a bit, but quickly I’m submerged in the tale and ideas take me to places that I never thought I would tread. My wife calls me to go to bed but I can’t, I need to finish the line, then the paragraph, then the page...It goes on like this until 2–3 a.m. When I finally decide to go to bed, I still have many ideas in my mind—that I carefully note down on a piece of paper. I know, though, that I’ll never use this—I’m simply emptying my mind. When I finally rest my head on my pillow I make the same oath—that the next day I’ll wake up early and that I’ll write the whole day long. But this is useless: The next day I wake up late and this cycle starts all over again.

Read the full interview here.

Tough Love & The Truth

Tough Love--

Okay, my writing tips were a little tough (Jeannine called me this morning and mentioned she read my blog and the tough love portion was throughout!) Just know, a lot of that were reminders for myself. Though I do get annoyed/bothered/concerns when I see a talented writer whose gift is being lost because of ___________________ (insert excuses here).

I'm a Capricorn, so I do have my more business-like side. I'm a reverse mullet--party in front, down to business in back. I'll give you three softer writing tips to soften things up.

1) Best words. Best order. (Plagiarized writing tip, but important). You have a poem that allows only so many words. Make sure you use the best words. If you have "up" after a word, there is usually a better now. Instead of "get up," perhaps consider "stand" or something stronger. I'm not saying every time or all the time, but if you find the word "up" (or "get" -especially "get") in your poem, there is \mostly likely a stronger word.

2) Learn to love your own unique voice. It's great to imitate, but honor your voice and style. And expand it. Don't become the one-trick pony, but allow yourself to grow.

3) When it doubt, take it out. - I have this same rule for food that I can't tell if it's good or bad. If you're not 100% sold on a poem in a chapbook or manuscript, take it out. If down the road you feel there's an urging to put it back, then do so. Only submit your best work. If you're not sure if the poem is your best, then take it out. (You can always ask if it can be put in once your mss is taken).

Were those a little nicer tips? I can be a little blunt, but it's only because I care (smiley face, heart heart, kiss kiss huggy hug.) It's really hard for me to be sugary sweet. But I can try.

* * * *

The Truth--

4 truths & one lie...

1) I high-fived Tom Selleck on Rodeo Drive.
2) I inadvertently became part of a sidewalk act in Nice, France.
3) I have never snowskiied.
4) I spent a number of nights in the Seattle Mariner's locker room as a young teenager because 2 of my friends were bat boys.
5) I once pranked called Drew Barrymore.

The lie in the bunch was (drumroll, please)... #1.

I did not high-five Tom Selleck on Rodeo drive, but I did shake his hand in the Ralph Lauren shop on Rodeo Drive. The friend who guessed this was a lie said, "I thought he was too tall to high five." Good point.

As for the others--

2) I inadvertently became part of a sidewalk act in Nice, France.
**True. When I was backpacking through Europe after college with my girlfriend, we didn't realize they do sidewalk shows for the cafe diners and became part of the act. There was a strange man in a mask who was crouched down and following us. He tickled our hand and we thought he was a pervert harassing us so my girlfriend hit him with her poster tube. He panicked and we walked away not realizing that this was an act. 2 weeks later when we returned to Nice after traveling through Italy, we saw him again (but from across the street) and watched him take off his mask. We still had no idea what was going on, but as he passed his mask to the cafe diners and they added money into it, we realized that this was the show he did. We're guessing he was paid well on the day the two American girls freaked out and beat him with artwork.

3) I have never snowskiied.
***True. Though I grew up in the NW, I have never skied. I must look like someone who did as everyone assumed I was in ski school as a child. Nope. I waterski (and have done so since I was ten). I've innertubed at Snoqualmie Pass. In my 20's I went to Whistler and took snowboarding lessons for 2 days, but I've never snowskiied and actually, I've never been on a snowlift that takes you high up the mountain. I can't remember how I got to the top of the hill for snowboarding, but I don't remember a ski lift. I think I was on the bunnyslope.

4) I spent a number of nights in the Seattle Mariner's locker room as a young teenager because 2 of my friends were bat boys.
****True. My parents would drop me off at the Kingdome, then after the game I'd sit in the Mariner's locker room while they cleaned it. Some nights I'd take home broken bats. Sometimes I'd look through their lockers. Mostly, I just watched them clean. On nights I made it down there early enough I'd see the players and I did get a fully autographed baseball with my favorite signature-- Gaylord Perry.

5) I once pranked called Drew Barrymore.
***Sad, but true. I was in my 20's and staying the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island of Hawaii and she was staying there too. I thought it would be interesting to see if I could call her by asking for her room at the desk's reception. I could. They connected me to her room and I said something silly like "who's this?" There was no malicious intentions (aka malintent), just a curiousity, which usually gets the better of me.

So, there you go.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Three Writing Tips

Michael tagged me for three writing tips. Here are my three (long) writing tips.

1) Get comfortable with the term writer or poet. Before you can expect others to believe in you, you need to believe in yourself. Sometimes when we start off writing, it's hard to call ourselves "writers" ("poet" may be even harder). But try to get comfortable with it. In the beginning it's a big awkward cape we're toting around with us. As you wear it though, it becomes less of something you put on and more of something that you are. The cape becomes a handkerchief, a small piece of fabric you keep in your pocket, the shadow of yourself on the floor of the bookstore, the skin you own. The more you see yourself as a writer/poet, the more you will expect of yourself. The more you expect of yourself, the more you will write. By naming it, you become it. If you don't take your writing seriously, no one else will.

2) Think small & long term. Just like an IRA, what you write today is *not* going pay off tomorrow. Writing is like saving, you continue to add to the bank, then one day a check arrives in the mail. What you write and submit today will benefit you 6 months from now. Your acceptances are made up of your history. Think of your "Future Self" and how much s/he will appreciate the work you put in today, even if it was just for 15 minutes.

Writing is *not* about sitting down and writing the novel. It is not about sitting down and banging out five more poems. Writing is one step, one word at a time. It's easy to get overwhelmed if you look at the big picture. A collection is written, a poem at a time. A novel is written a page at a time, a sentence at a time. One words moving to another.

Write a little bit each day or find a stretch of time when you write undisturbed and devote yourself to that time.

If I wrote for a half-hour before bed every night, that is 3 1/2 hours of extra writing a week. If I could write for an hour, 7 hours of writing a week. Just let yourself write and stop censoring yourself or thinking "it's not good enough." Of course it's not, it's a first draft, that's what revision is for (if you've ever read Elizabeth Bishop's work before revision, you'd be gleefully horrified, it was pretty awful, but the final poem-- wow!) If you take it day by day, poem by poem, you'll get it done. Remember What About Bob: Baby steps get on the elevator... Baby steps get on the elevator... Ah, I'm on the elevator.

3) Do not allow yourself the luxury of excuses. This is the tough love part of the show. This is the part where I say this to you because I want you to achieve your dreams. There is *always* an excuse not to write. Every poet and writer can create a thousand reasons they aren't writing. There are a thousand reasons not to go back to school and get your MFA. There are a thousand reasons not to finish your book, your poem, your essay. There are a thousand reasons not to carve a space in the day for you to write. We all have busy lives with or without kids, with or without jobs, with or without sadness, with or without X. Writing is choice. If you want to write, you'll find the time. No excuses. And remember, you're loved.

My Memoir

What would you say if you had to summarize your life in only six words? Bookbabie got the idea from a book written by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser, Not Quite What I was Expecting: Six Word Memoirs by Famous and Obscure. It is a compilation based on the story that Hemingway once bet ten dollars that he could sum up his life in six words. His words were—For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Here are the rules:
1. Write your own six word memoir
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere
4. Tag five more blogs with links
5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!


I was tagged by Diane for this--

I thought a lot about how to characterize my life--suburban girl goes rural in seach of words, Capricorn loves the earth, but realize that after having a corporate job in my 20's, much of my life has been about opting out of the busy-ness that plagues people. I tend to say no a lot. I don't like to have a lot of projects. I like my downtime (for myself and for my family). I like spending time with people I care for.

I'm basically doing everything I can to avoid getting a "real job" and right now, I'm appreciating the simple life and what I have.

So here's mine--

Sunbathing while commuter train passes by.

I tag: Jeannine, Peter, Michael W., January, and Joannie.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Confession Tuesday

Forgive me reader; it had been one week since my last confession. I have been traveling reader, and retreating. I thought I would write more than I did. I revised. I took naps. I organized poems in my head as I watched the waves from my window. I wanted to do more, reader. I thought I would leave with so much more. And I did in other ways...

Let the Tuesday Confessions begin--

1) The image below of the blue house on the cliff is The Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon (yes, Peter you were right!) I spent the last 4 days, 3 nights there on a retreat with 9 other writers. Each room is styled after an author. I stayed in the Emily Dickinson room. Other writers stayed in rooms styled after Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde, Hemingway, Tolkien, and others. It was an amazing time. (more blogging/photos on this experience soon)

2) For the last five months, I've been trying to schedule my writing time between 9-3 because it fits the hours of a regular job. I realized this weekend at my retreat that I am *not* a daytime writer. I do my best work now, late at night when the neighborhood sleeps.

Even at the Sylvia Beach retreat, all day I would pace, read, nap, get coffee, organize manuscripts, revise, snack, move from desk to bed, bed to desk, climb the stairs to the library then return. I hardly wrote new work until around 5:30 when the light That was when I could write. Of course, dinner was at 6, so I was stopped in the midst of a poem more than once. But I wrote after dinner when I returned to my room.

I have been trying to force my internal writer's clock into a time that isn't conducive to writing for me. I have ignored what I know best about myself as a writer-- that I write best and most late at night.

Why have I been doing this and why have I just figured it out?
**I started doing the 9-3 thang because after graduating I felt to have the "job" of a writer, I needed to have a schedule. 9-3 made the most sense with my daughter being at school and having an MFA made it feel as if I had to be taking my writing more serious and approach it like a job. I have been wearing the veil to the wrong wedding. 9-3 is not my time. I thought I found Mr. Perfect, but what I found was someone who was perfect for someone else. I need the vampires, the night owls, Conan O'Brien.

We had many incredible talks about our lives as writers at the retreat and it occurred to me how much more productive I was when I wrote at night. In my life 6 hours of daylight hours = 3 hours of night time hours. It's true. I write 2x as much. And I figured this out because I finally had a moment to reflect on my life instead of trying to live it. I was able to step back in the Emily Dickinson room and consider--how can I do this better? It seems so simple, so obvious now.

New writing hours? 8 p.m.-midnight (or 9 to midnight) except during new Grey's Anatomy shows, then there's a brief delay.

3) I played a game at dinner called 2 truths and a lie. (We played it 2 nights, here are 4 of my truths and a lie.)

One of these is a lie (can you find it?).

1) I high-fived Tom Selleck on Rodeo Drive.
2) I inadvertently became part of a sidewalk act in Nice, France.
3) I have never snowskiied.
4) I spent a number of nights in the Seattle Mariner's locker room as a young teenager because 2 of my friends were bat boys.
5) I once pranked called Drew Barrymore.

4) I watched Oprah tonight because Valerie Bertinelli was on and in high school I was a huge Van Halen fan. In fact, my mom wrote me a note excusing me from classes so I could take the 8 a.m. Metro bus down to the Seattle Center coliseum to wait in line with my friend Karen for our general admission tickets.

5) My mom also wrote me notes so I could skip school to go to the Nordstrom sale.

6) I hope when my daughter is 16 I'm able to write her an excuse for something she wants to do without the whole public education system coming after me with voodoo eyes and truancy hipsway. I hope I am not so serious that I say no.

And I hope I can do it without the worry that follows mothers around, the worry of strangers and car crashes, men at concerts who steal teenage girls.

I don't believe the world is more unsafe than it was when I young(my God, in my neighborhood there actually *was* a kidnapper for awhile and a decade before me, Ted Bundy), but I think we're taught to believe (from the media? tv news? our crazy aunts?) that the strangers outside out doors are just waiting to snatch us up and carry us to scaryland, that there's a hazard waiting and if we live our lives, we might possibly accidentally, inadvertently, maybe, kind of run into it. And well, we need to be "safe," don't we?

7) Metaphor alert: I'm learning how to rent a tiger and walk it around the block.

8) I still like classic Van Halen, but no longer like Nordstrom sales. Some things change, some stay the same.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Quick update...

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers. Nana Rose has left the hospital and is taking it easy, but doing well!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Confession Tuesday

Forgive me reader, it's been one week since my last confession. I must confess I'm not really in the mood to confess. I'm worried, reader. I'm anxious. I'm the cat on the fence waiting to see if the dog below me leaves or it bites and bites hard.

Let's begin--

1) When my daughter was younger, she told me that my skin color was "french fry," while daddy's was "baked potato." Sometimes when I watch TV, I wish there were more french fry/baked potato families represented on sitcoms and TV shows.

2) I get annoyed when I hear a woman say she won't follow her own dreams/goals/passions because she feels her family needs her too much. In a certain way, I think it disrespects women who do work or follow their dreams/goals/passions along with having a family; it's as if they are suggesting by having something outside the homelife that the family is somehow lacking.

If there's one good reason why I think a woman should have other things outside their life besides her children, it's so her own daughter won't grow up with this sense of guilt that she must sacrifice her life's desires because she's had children.

I believe in balance. I believe you can do both. You will make sacrifices for both at times. Sometimes you will lean in favor of one over the other, but I don't believe just because you become a mother means you have to lose important parts of yourself.

I also think this annoys me in other women because I worry about it in myself. Guilt sleeps in the corner of my closet and can be easily awakened by poetry books dropping to the floor.

3) I am superstitious about words and what I write. Because of this, I know there are some stories or poems I will never write because of my superstition that words have power and can create things into being. It limits me as a writer, but on certain days I just can't get past it.

4) My mother-in-law came to America from from the Phillipines in the 1950's with her husband. In 1958, she had a baby and within two years of that, her husband died. She didn't speak English and was now raising a two-year-old boy by herself. What did she do? She learned to read and write English, found a job as a seamstress where she worked until the 1990's when she retired. She raised a son (my husband) completely on her own who went on to graduate from the UW and became a firefighter.

And while raising my husband by herself, she saved enough money to buy a home for them, which she still lives in it today. One by one, she helped her sisters and brother move to the US where they live today. She never remarried. She sends boxes of clothes and supplies home regularly to her family in the Phillipines. She walks to church every Sunday.

To me, she represents what is right and good in America. My husband always says that his mom represents "the American dream." She left her homeland for hope of a better life for herself and her family and she achieved it. She has always been one of my personal heroes. And is one of the kindest, most generous people I've ever met.

4) When I start bellyaching about my own small problems in my life, I always remember the above story as it puts things in perspective.

I think that's it for today. I'll keep you posted on how "Nana Rose" is doing. Thank you again for your prayers and good thoughts.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Prayers Welcome--

My husband's mother had a "small" (I put that in quotes because we're talking about her heart here) heart attack yesterday and is in the hospital right now.

I'm a strong believer in prayers, good thoughts, and sending positive vibes, so I'm sending this out tonight asking for your prayers, good thoughts, good wishes, positive energy, whatever you believe.

We'll know more on what's going on tomorrow, so please keep good thoughts for her.

Thank you.

Li-Young Lee Interview 2008 (Seattle visit Tomorrow)

Here's a short article/interview with Li-Young Lee from the NW Asian Weekly who will be coming to Seattle tomorrow night.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

And one more for Valentine's Day

"I Love You Sweatheart"
by Thomas Lux

A man risked his life to write the words.
A man hung upside down (an idiot friend
holding his legs?) with spray paint
to write the words on a girder fifty feet above
a highway. And his beloved,
the next morning driving to work...?
His words are not (meant to be) so unique.
Does she recognize his handwriting?
Did he hint to her at her doorstep the night before
of "something special, darling, tomorrow"?
And did he call her at work
expecting her to faint with delight
at his celebration of her, his passion, his risk?
She will know I love her now,
the world will know my love for her!
A man risked his life to write the world.
Love is like this at the bone, we hope, love
is like this, Sweatheart, all sore and dumb
and dangerous, ignited, blessed--always,
regardless, no exceptions,
always in blazing matters like these: blessed.


(Thanks Amy, for reminding me of this favorite.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!


Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.

Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The rain takes off her clothes.

The birds go by, fleeing.
The wind. The wind.
I can contend only against the power of men.
The storm whirls dark leaves
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night to the sky.

You are here. Oh, you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry.
Cling to me as though you were frightened.
Even so, at one time a strange shadow ran through your eyes.

Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your breasts smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.

How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes,
and over our heads the gray light unwind in turning fans.

My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
I want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.

Pablo Neruda
Poem #14 from 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Power Crazy General Than Shwe Chapbook!

How cool is this: Chapbook: "Power Crazy Senior General Than Shwe

I was impressed with who quickly the editors took action on this to create the chapbook and how great it looks.

From the Anti website Steven D. Schroeder writes:

I’m proud to present a project that takes advantage of the fast turnaround time and unique presentation possibilities of the online format, and that stands against something that’s clearly important and worth fighting. I’m only the host for this work, but I’m honored to have that opportunity.

And thanks to Luisa, who emailed me about the opportunity and information to write a poem!

* * *
More info --

The chapbook "Power Crazy Senior General Than Shwe" is now live on the Anti-website.

The chapbook, edited by A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz, features poems by

Kelli Russell Agodon
Ivone Alexandre
John Davis
Anne Haines
R. Joyce Heon
Luisa A. Igloria
A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz
Woody Loverude
Nathan McClain
Carolyn Moore
Pamela Johnson Parker
Heidi Sulzdorfand
Saw Wai (translated by Dr. David Law)

This from the Editor:

"Thank you all for making this project a possibility!

It's been a pleasure and honor to read all of your work. Please help to publicize this project by distributing copies of the journal to friends and family, leaving copies at local bookstores and libraries, e-mailing interested people, and via any other means that you can. If any of you would like to volunteer to write news releases or contact internet news sources, such as Boing Boing, Digg, Technorati or any other relevant place, please e-mail me and let me know.

Again, thank you all, and well done!

A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz

A Writing Shed of His Own

Dylan Thomas had a shed (ee-ei-ee-ei-oh!)

Confession Tuesday

Dear reader, it's been one week, $7500, two rejections and two new books since my last confession. I've been busy busy busy this week and sins have been easy to miss and what would I have to confess? Let's dig deep.

Is there ever a good place to begin? How about with the emotional truth...

1) Last night I almost cried during "Because I Said So" when the daughter (played by Mandy Moore) wouldn't pick up the phone and talk with her mom (Diane Keaton). I would have cried except I held it in because I always feel so goofy when I cry during movies. Other dumb movies I cried during-- 13 Going on 30 (I'm quite embarrassed by this given the fact IT'S A COMEDY), The Water Horse, and of course, every time I see it, Dumbo.

2) The movie I cried hardest during was Bridges of Madison County, which I saw in a theatre. I cried while the movie was over, leaving the theatre, and the whole ride home. My husband finally asked me "Why are you crying so hard?" Through sobs I said, "She had so many unfulfilled dreams." (Oh, the melodrama.) I didn't understand then why this movie turned me into the ridiculous blubbering idiot until later I realized that I was afraid that one day I'd become her, and that would be my life.

3) Despite confessions 1 & 2, I am really not a crier.

4) Every time I buy alcohol, I'm always surprised I'm not carded. When did this stop happening? Probably the same time the workers in the GAP started calling me "ma'am."

But for some reason, in my mind I think I stopped aging at 25. I know I didn't, but I don't feel as if I'm 39. And when I look in the mirror, I don't think I look any different than I did at 25 (I do.)

5)Strangely, at 39, I like myself a lot more (inside and out) than I did in my 20's. I think I've eased up and become much more forgiving to myself--I've also realized after giving birth, just how amazing women's bodies are, and with that, appreciation for my own.

6) On that same thought, I have never said "I'm fat, I feel fat, I look fat, I hate my thighs, my butt, my __________" since my daughter was born because I never wanted her to look at herself the way I grew up looking at myself.

7) A friend and I were in a parking lot and saw this vanity plate on a Jaguar and immediately started laughing. It read: CATSASS - the owner must know (and like) both meanings, right?

8) And again, on that same thought, I found that Botticelli image on a website named: TOPOFART.COM - - I know they really mean TOP OF ART, but all I see when I look at it is TOPO FART.

9) We watched A Charlie Brown Valentine for family movie night and I kept waiting for the part where Snoopy cuts this fantastic valentine (something I tried to recreate as a child), but that scene never came. Now I realize, what I wanted to watch was "Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown" (1975). Just be aware friends, just be aware...

10) In watching A Charlie Brown Valentine I realized I have the same haircut as Peppermint Patty. I kind of like that I have the same haircut at Peppermint Patty.
(I also have freckles.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Money Changes Everything...

First, thank you all who left messages (on my blog and Jeannine's) with congratulations and thank you for the emails. It means a lot to me to hear from you with good words and wishes.

So, many have asked what I plan to do with the money from the Dorothy Rosenberg Prize. While I have set some aside to deal with practical things such as our old home and its maintenance, my most exciting purchase will be a wooden shed ($599) from Home Depot, which will be my summer writing studio.

It sounds a little odd, but these sheds are fantastic. My husband found them last summer and while my first response was, "You want me to write in a shed?" I was quite impressed when I saw them. There is one for a few thousand dollars in the shape of a barn with a sleeping loft. Anyway, that is the purchase I cannot wait for. I will post some photos of it when it's up. It will probably be April or May when it happens.

It will look similar to this, but smaller and without the lattice unless I decide I put that up.--

Also the poem "Mirror Beetle" was inspired by this glass beetle by a local Seattle artist named Roger Nachman. Here's a link to his website. He no longer makes these perfect little insects, but does larger installations locally and nationally. My friend A & I toured his studio and it was incredible.

Here's an image of the artwork which is in a true scientific species box. And lovely enough, the bug comes out of the box and has a pin on the back--truly wearable art.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Night with The Smith's & Sonny and Cher ...

They say we're young and we don't know

We won't find out until we grow . . .

Golden Lights--

We've been playing the "Let's Pretend It's 1859" game in my rural community, watching the lights flicker, our insider warning that 1859 is not that far away, then pow-- darkness. It's not uncommon to lose our electricity out here, we lose it when there's a wind storm or when a seagull sneezes.

Because one by one our neighbors have each purchased gas generators, now when the power goes out, instead of the quiet lapping of waves on the shore we hear what sounds like a symphony of leaf blowers, the buzz of our generators all purring through the night.

But since I'm typing and posting here, you can trust that for the moment, the power is on.


Bigmouth Strikes Again or Oscillate Wildly --

I've been reading through some essays, articles, and thoughts by poets and I have a huge headache. Yikes. Let's make a deal, when we are talking about poetry, let's just say what we mean in order to communicate the main points instead of blah, blah, blahing across the page trying to sound smart. (By the way, if you think this is directed at you, it's not.)

It's really annoying to be reading an essay only to realize that the writer wants to show off his Free Rice vocabulary level instead of inform. And when I say "him," I could mean "her." Or better, I get to the end of the "thoughtful essay" only to realize the writer has not actually said anything, it's as if I've been Eddie Haskell'd.

And I'm not saying the name of Poet X to be coy, cute, protective, or mysterious. I'm not using the name because I like Poet X and at sometimes I can be Poet X and it's a good reminder to myself to speak clearly and not to stutter. And this little post right here, is almost an example of how I am imitating Poet X except I think I'm being wittier and more forward, but honestly, I'm blah blah blahing across the page as well.

Me and Poet X, we're going places. Let's stop, step off the train, and look around. There's no reason to be afraid.


This Charming Man --

So after I complain to myself about bad poetry essays, I find this lovely little gem by David Biespiel on an Olena Kalytiak Davis poem. And what made this such a gem and David a charming man? This:

"The poem begins with a stark declaration tinged with self-pity:

I have been a day boarder, Lord. I have preferred the
table to the Bed.
I have proffered, Lord, and I have profited, Lord,
but little, but not. I was Bored,
Lord, I was heavy, Lord. Heavy bored. Hopeless,
Lord, hideous, Lord. Sexless.
I was in love, Lord, but not with You. The nine
malic moulds, Lord.
The butcher, the baker, the under-taker. Lord, I was
taken under. . . .

I had to look up "malic," which is a word describing the acidic flavor of raw fruit such as apples or almost-ripe green grapes. Davis' tone is certainly tart; her devotional posture is marked by wishfulness and despair. Though not a true believer, she truly wants to believe."

The most refreshing thing I've read today, a poet and editor admitting to not knowing a word and having to look it up. When was the last time I've seen that in print? I thought his honesty and openness to the reader--the Oregon citizen--was a way of opening a door. He's saying, I don't always know myself, but I follow through and find out. We can learn together. Don't be intimidated by language. He's saying, there are doors everywhere in a poem to let you in. He's saying, pay attention to details. He's saying, I'm human. We can figure this out. He's saying, Relax, this isn't a lecture where I'm right and you're wrong. He's saying welcome.

I've been reading essays where it feels the poet is afraid not to know something, and I wonder isn't that all of us? Aren't we afraid of being found out for the black holes in our education, in our vocabulary? It's one part of the literary world of not fond of, this feeling as if we need to know it all. Hurry up please it's time.

There were times in my MFA program when I wanted to hid under the table because I could not think of a poet or poem. And maybe this should be for Confession Tuesday, but there were a couple times when I didn't ask a question and just pretended I understood because it was easier. It was easier (and less embarrassing) to remain quiet.

When the poet I was working with told me to listen to The Waste Land instead of reading it with its nation of notes, I found the music the poem had never had for me. HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME.

And maybe this is why newer poets aren't writing critically as much because it's intimidating. There are shelves of poems we haven't read. There are shelves of poets we have read, but then...we've forgotten them. There are words we know and ones we don't. Let's forget what we don't know and remember what we do--we write because we love words, we read because we want to know more about the world and ourselves. We try. We fail. We succeed. We are all in this together, even when it fels as if we're not.

--I got you, babe.

* * *

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Confession Tuesday

Dear reader, it has been one week since my last confession.

Tonight is also Fat Tuesday and I am eating milk chocolate as Lent begins tomorrow. I have never "cheated" during Lent, though there was that grey area regarding whether I should have had the apple crisp at Country Village. I learned my lesson. I moved apple crisp into the red zone. This year, to avoid grey area, I will give up chocolate (but not sweets).
This year, the Church of England suggests a carbon fast for Lent and I would recommend this for everyone (there's even a neat little 40 chart of what you can do to help the environment.)
But dear reader, you have waited long enough for my small confessions. I confess, my mind is wandering...

* * *

From the confessional--

1) I eat bags of sunflower seeds each week. They are in their shells and come two for a dollar at the market and I keep bags of them in my desk. I sometimes wonder if I am part squirrel.

2) Today is voting day. I’ve gone back and forth on whether to vote for Hillary or Barack. Honestly, the voting this year is so good it’s as if I’m trying to decide if wanted the key lime pie or the crème brulee for dessert—both are my favorites and I’d be happy with either one.

3) When I warm up my coffee, I always punch in 139 (a minute and thirty nine seconds) on the microwave. I’m not sure how I ended up with this number, but I believe it’s the perfect amount of time for reheated coffee.

4) Speaking of numbers, Jeannine Gailey called me last night to give me some good news for both of us. Did I say good? I meant great. There are angels in the world.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sunday Check- In

I'm taking a break from responding to the poets who submitted to the motherhood anthology I'm editing with photographer, Elisha Rain. While I *love* to send the finalist letters that tell poets that their poems will go into the final group where we begin to match poems with specific photos, I so dislike the "Sorry to say no" letter, the rejection letter I have to send to another group of poets.

Of course, I know we won't be able to use all the finalists and some of them will receive a "sorry to say no" down the line, but right now, they are closer to being part of the anthology-- what remains is to see if we can we find a photograph that will work with the poem or a series of poems, and this is how we will choose.

Editing reminds me a poet that sometimes a poem is rejected merely because it doesn't fit. I've rejected poems today I really enjoy, but they don't quite fit the vision for the anthology. I try to make that clear in my response, but what the poet may see is the rejection.

I think that's important to remember as a poet, that *you* are not being rejected, but the poem may just not right. Also, editors are people who have varying moods. For example, there was a poem I considering rejecting last night, but was too tired to send the rejection. Then this morning with fresh eyes, I reread the poem and thought--why was I going to reject this? I'm imperfect and my tastes vary. I read things when we should be asleep.

* * * * *

In other news--

In the nation's first-ever $3 trillion budget, President Bush seeks to seal his legacy of promoting a strong defense to fight terrorism and tax cuts to spur the economy.

I roll my eyes to the president again and again. Somebody wake me when he's out of office.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Follow up on the Meme (oh there's that word again...)

Susan left a note for me regarding question #4 and I wanted to follow it up in a post.

Here's her follow-up questions...

Hi Susan,

I am asking if it matters to you as writer/reader that you connect with your peers. Do you celebrate and support other women.

You know, it's funny. When I write a poem, I sort of assume I'm writing for another woman. Sometimes I'm surprised (as well as happy) when a man likes my work because I never really know if I'm connecting with men.

It does matter to me if other women find my work interesting and engaging. And I feel/hope that all readers feel that about my work, though poetry is such a personal thing--what works for one person, may not for anotehr.

As for celebrating and supporting other women, my answer is a definite yes. I think it's so important to highlight other women artists as for so long all the fine arts are have been dominated by men (and many still are).

January (aka PoetMom)had a quote on her blog that said, "There's a special place in hell for women that don't support other women" (or something similar), and I think it's a good reminder to use as women writers.

As I said in a previous post, I'd like to see more women writing critically (I fall into this category myself as it's a goal for me this year). While there is a large selection of women writing poetry, I'd love to see more articles, essays, or interviews about women poets by women. Of course, I'd like to see more articles, essays, or interviews about women poets written by men as well. I'd just like to see more.

Meme is one of my least favorite words--

This is from Susan's blog. And while "meme" is one of my least favorite words (along with panties and filibuster), I like to do these.

Reading & Writing

1. What are you currently reading and what’s on your to-be-read pile?

Currently reading,
Just Breathe Normally, by Peggy Shumaker
Dorianne Laux's Questions about the Moon
What the Postcard Didn't Say by Shoshauna Shy
Hip Logic by Terrance Hayes

To be read:
The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams
A Conversation with Elizabeth Bishop
Li-Young Lee's, Behind My Eyes

2. What type of writing influences your work most: fiction, poetry, or non-fiction?
Poetry inspires my poetry, but reading or listening to interviews with authors inspires my entire writing life. I write more when I hear the voices of others battling the same issues I am. I'm inspired by their creativity.

One of the best place to find great interviews with writers is here:

New Letters on the Air. Author interviews by Angela Elam who I appreciate for her desire to understand what makes these author tick.

I listened to a fantastic interview with Eleanor Wilner, while trimming my hedge. She is a marvelous poet and interviewee.

3. What 3 characteristics, elements or themes are prevalent in your work?


4. As a writer and reader, does gender matter?

It depends. I do not choose poets by what sex they are, but by their words. I want a connection. My favorite poets writing right now are a mix of men and women--

Li-Young Lee
Dorianne Laux
Tracy K. Smith
Tony Hoagland
Bob Hicok
Peggy Shumaker
Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Peter Pereira
Jeannine Hall Gailey
Susan Rich
Martha Silano
Kathleen Flenniken
Molly Tenenbaum
Beth Ann Fennelly
Franz Wright
Terrance Hayes
Heather McHugh
Dorothy Barresi
Nin Andrews
Ilya Kaminsky

However, that said I tend to connect more (or prefer) the poems by women. For example, for awhile there was this huge gushing over Ben Lerner's poems. I have a copy of his book THE LICHTENBERG FIGURES and while on paper I can appreciate his craft, it's not a book I'd take to bed with me, it's not the book I'd carry around with me to read in those in-between moments.

Of course, there are women who write this way too. There's a wall between the reader and writer, a standoffishness. I don't want that in the poems I read. If the poet gives me cleverness (with word, form, or speech) there needs to be more for the poem to be satisfying me. I admire Heather McHugh and Peter Pereira because they can be clever with words and still satisfy me emotionally as a reader.

I'm noticing the "relationship language" in my response--I want to take a poet to bed, I want to be satisfied emotionally--and maybe that's what poetry is to me, a paper love affair where I don't want to date the cool kid with all the great comebacks or the boy who needs to convince me he knows more than I do, I want the man or woman who offers craft and compassion, who is considerate to my needs as well as theirs.

Maybe for me, the question shouldn't be "Does gender matter?" but "Does connection matter?" That space in a poem that you can't name, but it's there, the gut reaction, the emotional grasp a poem can have on me. To me, that's what matters, the ability of the poet to reach out and offer me a hand without pulling it away right before we connect.

Best Line of the Night....

At the Democratic debate,

when it was noted that Americans may not want to go from Bush to Clinton to Bush to Clinton again, Hillary responded:

"It took a Clinton to clean after the first Bush, it might take another Clinton to clean after the second Bush."

Baby, It's Warm Inside...

Have I mentioned how much I like people with skills? The furnace man came, added a little more duct tape to our furnace and for $81, we now have heat. Being a writer requires skill, but I admire people who can take something broken and fix it. People who look at the wiring and say, "Here's the problem." I also admire people who build bridges and buildings.

I must say the irony that I spent more on reading fees yesterday for book contests ($30 + $25 + $25 + $10) that heating my home was not lost on me. While I support the contests these small presses offer, there must be a better way. As a poet without a "regular" job, money comes to me in bits and pieces and when it arrives, I'm thankful.

Though I guess, I would much rather give $25 to a small press than have 5 lattes at Starbucks. And these small presses need to stay afloat. We've talked about people buying poetry books, supporting presses. Is there a box we can think outside of? Is there a way to let the poets keep their reading fees (or lower them) and the presses still have enough to print quality work?

These independent presses are our voices. I definitely do not want to see them go away, but what can we do differently, do better? I'll consider this today in my nice warm home. What does $81 buy someone these days-- 4 book contests, a fixed heater, cellphone service for 2, a mini iPod, 20 gallons of gas, 3/5 of a cashmere sweater at Nordstrom. We all make our choices.
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