Friday, May 30, 2008

Suggested blog question: What are your favorite splurges?

What are your favorite splurges?

Ah, yes. How do we spend this money we're not making. ;-)

For me, I love to spend money on nice or fun dinners with friends. This is a newer splurge for me and probably came about over the last 8 years. For a long time I felt dinners out were a waste of cash as I could easily get by on what was at home (even it was a can of soup and some bread.) I'm pretty easily satisfied with home meals and eat rather plain foods anyway-- rice, cereal, chicken, fruit & veggies, chocolate. I don't like a lot of sauces or rich meals.

However, what I realize is I love the experience of dining with friends somewhere new. I now tend to order the higher priced items like wild salmon or halibut. I always order dessert. And I've learned, I like to spend my money on *experiences*

We had a great dinner that included a bellydance show at one such dinner out and one time out after two hours of talking and eating, I ended up with a poem called "The Day They Drank Sangria."

Other than that, I like to splurge on

Experiences, especially anything fantastic such as a great play/concert, or handfeeding a giraffe, which I did last week. I also splurge on anything I haven't done before, the handfeeding of a giraffe fell into that category.

Lately I've been splurging on gas and food, though not by choice. $4.13 a gallon for gas, which I paid yesterday. And organic milk stumbles in at $8 a gallon, which makes hormone-injected cows seems like something I can overlook or maybe I should just my own cow or just wander into one of my neighbor's farm with my bowl of cereal.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Confession Tuesday

Dear Reader, Forgive me for saying "Ah, it's Tuesday," for thinking I have nothing to confess. The weeks are moving faster. Summer is 70 degrees and sunny in between the clouds. I have broken our glass patio table in celebration of upcoming solstice. I have chased after our sun umbrella in wind.

Off to today's confession

I have never explored the southern part of the US. I've been to Texas and Florida, but I'd love to see Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. I regret not visiting New Orleans before the hurricane.


How many times have I directed you to a story on Military News? Never? Well, here you go. I thought this was an inspiring story about an artist who paints portraits of the soldiers who have died in the war and sends them to their families, all with her own money and time.

Beware if you're at work, it's a video and it starts immediately, so turn the sound down.


If you were to ask me what I wanted to do with my life, I still do not have a perfect answer.


Sometimes my fears slide back into my life and I have to ask them to please leave. I'm the polite hostess to the drunk party crashers who have already knocked over the punchbowl.


I believe the more we know about each other, the harder it is to have wars.

Imagine how the country would have reacted if President Bush would have said, "We're going to bomb the polar bears because they pose a threat to humans." We would have freaked out. Somehow it seems okay to bomb humans and to take human lives in the name of war, and sadly in the name of peace. I don't get that.


War has been on my mind this Memorial Day weekend and having two dads who fought in WWII and my father-in-law as well, I hope the next president will be more of a dove and less of hawk. And I'm tired of blaming. I just want things fixed.


My husband took his mother to the cemetery as he does every Memorial Day, while I remembered my friend at Plum Cottage. I don't have any confession about this, it just seemed important to say.


Thanks for reading. I don't say that enough.


I'm off to a play about James and the Giant Peach. I look forward to seeing the peach on stage. Simple pleasures.


It's going to be a busy week for me. I have a couple suggested blog topics to write about, if you have anything you'd like me to finish up the year with, email me or leave me a comment.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Just Sharing... Recipe

This is the soup we ate yesterday when we gathered to celebrate the life of our friend. We also wrote poems, each writing a line and passing them on. There is a part of me that wants to share them to, but a bigger part that always protects what I hold dear.

But I share with you because if you ever need to feel nurtured, to feel as if you deserve the good things in life, try this soup with fresh cilanto on top and a dab of sour cream. Perfection.

Enjoy and pass the good things forward...

Annie’s Favorite Red Lentil Soup

1 ½ cups red lentils (To make a truly beautiful soup, use the bright orangey-red lentils!)
6 cups water (vegetable stock adds a tasty flavor—canned veggie stock works great!)
3 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 slices fresh ginger root, each about the size of a quarter

2 medium carrots (1 cup grated)
1 cup canned tomatoes
1f small red or green bell pepper (1/2 cup finely chopped)

1 ½ cup chopped onions
2 TBS. olive oil
1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
1 ½ tsp ground coriander
pinch of cayenne
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
salt and ground black pepper to taste

Sort and rinse the lentils. Put them into a soup pot with the water, bay leaves, garlic and ginger. Cover and place on high heat.

Prepare the carrots, tomatoes, and bell peppers, and add them in the pot. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender.

While the vegetables simmer, sauté the onions on medium heat in the olive oil in a heavy skillet for about 10 minutes or until browned. Add the cumin, coriander, and cayenne, and sauté for another minute, stirring to prevent sticking. Remove the bay leaves, and ginger from the soup pot. Stir in the sautéed onions and the lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4- 6 Food Pyramid folks: dry beans and vegetable group is being served!

Per Serving: 82 calories 3.3 gm protein 3,2 gm fat 11.2 gm carbohydrate 24 mg sodium 0 mg cholesterol

Because this recipe takes awhile to prepare, I usually double it. It freezes well and gets better as a leftover! This recipe came out of the most recent Moosewood cookbook, however, I got it from a friend and do not know the name of the Cookbook.
It is said that variations of this soup are found in India and Egypt.
You can serve your soup topped with plain yogurt, minced onion or sprigs of fresh mint, parsley or cilantro. We’ve experimented with all three and it’s a nice accent. Whit enjoys it when I take the soup and smooth it in the blender, making it “creamy.” Both my in-laws and parents ask me to prepare this soup whenever I’m in Ohio. This is an excellent choice when looking for low fat and no cholesterol meals.

Wishing you peace this Memorial Day

Black Wings: Tuskegee Airmen, World War 2
Originally uploaded by discoverblackheritage

Black Wings: Tuskegee Airmen, World War II

Members of the 332nd Fighter Group attending a briefing in Ramitelli, Italy, 1945.

Monday Mumblings


Someone found my blog today by googling "sock puppet poem." I hope this isn't a direct reflection on my work.

* * *

Foot of Glass, Crescent Moon--

On Saturday inspired by the good weather I went to put our sun umbrella into our patio set as it had been blown out of it on Friday. When I went to put it in, there must have been a crack in the glass as the entire table shattered and shards of glass rained down below on the deck.

I was of course dressed in my summer shoes--flip flops--and one piece of glass pierced the top of my foot. Blood, pain, and thankfulness that it was only one piece. A quick clean up by EMT/firefighter husband determined stitches were not needed. Once the blood was wiped away, I realized I know have a pretty cool crescent moon/boomerang shape to scar on the top of my foot. Better and quicker than a tattoo, I carry the moon and a remind of luck and to pay attention to the details.

* * *

Women Poets, Remembering

We gathered in a lovely bungalow in West Seattle to celebrate the life of my friend, P., who passed away on May 8th. This was my old Seattle poetry group, the Mercer Street Poets. We all met and became friends because of P.

We each went around and talked about how we met P and how she changed our lives. I was fine up until the point I started talking about how her belief in me and how she supported my vision for the rest of my life. It was then I broke down in tears realizing what a different life I would have had if I had not left my corporate job, if I had not moved across the water from the city to a blue house in a hill surrounded by evergreens, horses, sheep, goats, cows, and beach.

Sometimes we meet people in our life and they change us in the best ways. Synchronicity is more than a Police song, it's something I'm thankful for. I said yesterday that my life is better for knowing P., she was the human form of a blessing, she was what I imagine magic would look like if it wrote poetry, smiled, cut flowers from the garden and brought them inside.

* * *


Last night I had a dream that Peter P. was sweeping his driveway and Dean was planting beautiful red roses in their yard. I walked a little further and there was another poet's home and garden (I can't remember who though). I kept thinking maybe there's a poet in every house. The rest of the dream falls away at this point and I remember something about water or a boat and someone walking me through a cottage and saying, "You can live here for as long as you like."

Friday, May 23, 2008

For Jeannine, Who's Lost her Map...

RE: What island?

Pender Island, Poet's Cove

And you're welcome to bring G. ;-)

Suggested blog topic: The Career Poet and How to Make Money & Influence People

This seems to be on the minds of a lot of us. I just saw that Jeannine was thinking about this as well and has two links to two other poets who are thinking about this too.

Maybe we're thinking about money and "careers" more because our economy is an ugly mess. With the extra we're paying towards gas, the less we have for things in our lives that really "fill" us (no pun intended).

But first I have to comment on the term "career poet," I think it's an oxymoron. You can not be a "career poet" just as one cannot guess the weather in Topeka for the next thousand days, we have no control of the weather in Topeka and as writers, much of our writer's life is responding to what happens *to* us. Yes, we can submit or self-publish, but our so-called "careers" are controlled by others and we can take a hundred different routes to the same goal.

I think we need to define "career." If we mean by "career," a way to make a living, I'm not with you. But if we mean by "career," as a way to make a life, then you have my attention.

Here are some "career" definitions I learn towards--

1) The sum total of your life experiences including education, paid and unpaid work, and community, volunteer and family activities.

2) A profession or occupation that one trains for and pursues as a life work.

I do not see poetry as a career sport in the way one would pursue a career solely for the paycheck.

Plus, if you're in poetry for the money, you might as well take a cardboard sign and write this haiku:

will stand here for cash--
unemployed poet with time
to smell the daisies

because most likely, you will make more through the generosity of others than you will through selling your books. (Though note, you could be highly successful, this is a generalization of most poetry books which may or may not be you and/or your book.)

However, don't take this as hopelessness or one of many fears I've read from poets of "there too many poets graduating with MFAs" or too many poets. That's like saying there are too many wildflowers, lighten up a little. There's enough room on the island for everyone.

But the career poet, I don't believe it. I believe in following your passion. I believe in getting paid for your work when you can. I believe in buying and selling books. I believe in supporting poets and independent presses. I believe in writing, in discussing poetry, in discussing art and the writer's life. But I don't believe in the career poet, but in making a life from your writing and doing that however you are able.

I think it was Ilya Kaminsky who called himself a "practicing writer" or "practicing poet." And I like that term a lot. It says so much as we are all practicing. Even call yourself a working poet. Find a verb to describe you, the nouns will bring you down every time.

In one of the posts Jeannine posted, the writer wrote this--

There are four ways to survive as a writer in the US in 2006: the university; journalism; odd jobs; and independent wealth. I have tried the first three. Each has its costs.

***But in each of these, we are not actually surviving as a writer, we are surviving as citizens who need to eat and have a place to live. We each have this challenge, whether an artist or not, we need to pay the bills. But surviving as a writer and/or poet is different, to me it means living in the world with intention and in giving focus and time to your art.

Let us all be surviving writers, be alive and writing despite the GW economy or the price of gas, or the propane bill, the heat bill, the parking ticket.

Whether or not you are earning money from your work does not equal whether or not you are a successful poet, writer, or artist. Many of things that matter most to me in this life are not "cash cows." Somehow we've confused successful with rich, successful with profitable, successful with money-making.

How did this happen? How did rich become synonymous with successful, they are two completely different words.

You are successful as a writer if you find what you do rewarding to you as a person. You are successful as a writer if your work connects with another.

It has nothing to do with how much income one has generated through their writing. And on the other side of that, I do not think someone is a successful writer because they've earned a lot of money, they are a rich writer or a writer with a bigger disposable income, but in my thoughts $$ doesn't always = success. They can go hand in hand. Great writers can get great money, and when that happens let the confetti fall on all of us, but great writers can also be overlooked and underpaid, and many times, they are.

* * *

So, if it comes down to cash, how do we make money?

Some writers write freelance articles or do technical writing on the side. Some are skilled in other areas and do website or graphic design. Others work in bookstores part or full time. Some are baristas.

I have sold things on eBay for extra money. I have taught workshops or done readings and hoped to sell a book or two. From Sept-June, I work privately with a few poets and help them with their work. This summer, I'm having a garage sale. I'm applying for a very part-time job in the fall. We do what we need to do to pay the rent and feed our families, and to have some extra money to buy books.

But if I were to base my self-esteem on whether I bring in X number of dollars every year as a poet, I might as well squeeze the blood out of my paper as this is not a way to live.

What I can tell you-- life is temporary, we must live it the way that makes us happy even it goes against what the rest of America is doing. You are not your Coach purse. You are not your khakis. Do your best and follow your instincts. And if you find yourself wondering how your "career as a poet" is going, go write a poem instead. This writing life, it's a journey, not a destination. To some of us it's spirituality, to others it's sanity.

We will never get exactly where we are going anyway, but we can have fun trying. And the money thang, we all struggle with it, even the richest folks struggle with money because we've somehow built a country that believes you are your paycheck--you are not your paycheck.

Try to have enough money to eat well, sleep in a warm place, follow your passions, and a little more to give to others.

As Forrest Gump said, “Momma always said there’s only so much money a man needs, the rest is just for showing off”.

And the bumper sticker I saw this morning--
The best things in life are not things.

I hope all our banks accounts are full, but I also hope as humans we are filled in a deeper way. We have to be. We have to be.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Got $25 to share...

Help Maria Luisa Ramirez De Bardales of Peru receive her loan. She only needs $500 more.

Go to KIVA and give. It only takes $25 and they work to pay you back.

This is a great organization. So far, I've had two of my loans paid back in full and a 3rd 85% paid off.

Do your good deed for the day and go forth into the world with good karma. I'm sponsoring Maria, so we can do this together...

Before I Close Up Shop for Summer--

Dear Lone Reader,

As we arrive at mid-May, I realize as June approaches I shall be leaving the electronic world for a world of sunshine (I hope), but summer. So, I'll be posting here a little longer, then may randomly pop in during summer, but most likely, will find my way back here in the fall.

If there is anything you'd like me to blog about before I go, let me know. I've been a little low on topics this year (besides notes from others) and I think it's because my life has been very full (in good ways), so while I used to sit down and blog first, a sort of warm-up for my day, I find myself going straight to the writing. Which is good for me, but may offer boring blog posts (or missing blogs) to you.

So if there's anything on your mind you want me to blog about drop me a line or a note and in these next couple weeks, I'll blog about them (and you can be anonymous if you like, or I'd be happy to post your name as the one who suggested the topic, either way.)

Let me know what's on your mind...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Confession Tuesday

Dear Reader, it feels as if it's been months since my last confession, but only seven days. 7. I have little to confess, but will try to think of something. Try try try.

I confess wherever I visit is wherever I want to live. I was daydreaming about farm houses this weekend, about long windy roads and tractors. In my daydreams I wore overalls and flowered dresses and my hair was long, much longer than it is today. I confess the farmer part of me likes to sit on the porch and watch the dust slide across the road. I could live in house placed atop a prairie, I could live there and there and there.


I confess I was annoyed at the two men who walked out of a panel when the woman poet began talking about how it's been hard to balance writing poetry and being a mom. I don't feel anyone should have to stay at a panel that isn't interesting for them, but use your manners, there is always a break in the conversation and that's the perfect time to leave.


I made a point at the festival to tell the poets when I appreciated what they said or what they read. I realize so often many of us introverts tend to walk out without saying a word. I'm trying to make a point to say thank you more. And to offer a kind word when I have one to give.

Here's something I wrote in my notebook and didn't share with you:

There's never enough time to write, you need to find a place for it now.

I also wrote this:
A god swims through a garden
of dahlias determined not to
wince, hand-sews a fig leaf
to a statue, hides a cherub
beneath a lacy sweater.

I really have no idea what it means. The exercise was to take a word I used "agodon" "dad" and "swim" and make anagrams from those letters to use in your poem. I took an easier route, I just let the letters "inspire" words for me.


I realize that while I'd love to find a publisher for my second collection, I realized after the festival that it's poetry--both reading, writing, and listening to it that nurtures me. And while I enjoy publishing poems as it makes me feel part of the conversation, it's just the cherry on top. I actually enjoy the whole poetry sundae without or without that cherry.

It kind of surprised me. While I didn't find the *magic* that my first two festivals gave me, I found something else, a calmness, a thankfulness, a reminder of this greater connection poetry offers. And it sounds almost cheesy to use these words--nurture, connection, magic--but I can't think of a better way to say that my life is enriched because of other poets and my life is enriched because I write.

Notes from the Skagit River Poetry Festival 2008

I'm back from a weekend of poetry in the darling town of La Conner, where they hold the Skagit River Poetry Festival. The Skagit festival is a smaller version of the Dodge Festival in New Jersey, it's the West Coast version I guess.

First thing I noticed was that there weren't as many people attending as in other years. In years past, if I even arrived to a panel or reading late or a few minutes before it began, I was destined to stand in the very back. Maybe because there were more panels, workshops, and readings, that we were better dispersed. I hope so as I hate to see attendance dropping on such an incredible event.

I have to say, I have not been able to recapture the magic I felt at the first and second festivals, which have been beyond anything I've ever experienced in the poetry world. Both of those years, everything fell into place, the poets were incredible, the readings-incredible, and I just remember feeling carried from place to place. Don't get me wrong, I still had a lovely time, but it wasn't as magical as those first years.

Someone suggested that maybe it's because I know more people or have seen "behind the scenes" in such an event. Sort of like being a kid and seeing your favorite Disney character without his Pluto head or realizing that the man who just gave you a gift was not Santa, but an uncle dressed like Santa. I'm not sure, but I'd love to get a little more of the magic back and will try to...

I did notice that some (poets/audience members) seemed a tad crankier than usual. I heard a few petty comments and I was reminded of that scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas when Sally said, "I only want what I have coming to me, I only want my fair share." I don't like to think about the "business/career path" of poetry, that takes away the magic of it for me; it makes it more like a job, less like an art. I know some of the harsher comments came from a place of insecurity, and I tried to remember that. I too have felt insecure at times, worried about where I fit in the poetry world. We poets are such fragile-hearted folks. We need to work past the details of awards and books and who's doing what and just bathe in the words that these poets are sharing with us and with whatt we share. We are all so flawed and passionate and there's a beauty in that.

Here's what I liked best about the festival and some highlights

Getting to spend time with some of my favorite people and poets--I made a point to make sure I got some one-on-one time (or group time) with my favorite people (I even skipped two panels just to talk with a friend) and these were some of my favorite times and conversations.

Being at the Women Speak reading and hearing Jane Hirshfield and Nancy Pagh.

Peter P's Poetry and Healing panel with Gloria Burgess and Bryan Patrick Miller (afterwards I made a point to tell Bryan how much what he had said had meant to me having lost a friend last week and his response to me was so generous).

Nancy Pagh, Tom Lux, and Robert Wrigley's reading on humor. They read, but then also left time for questions and discussion, which I appreciated.

The Morning Poems with Kurtis Lamkin in the Methodist Church. I took my daughter there with me and it was probably one of my top highlights of the festival. I confuse poetry with religion and in fact, it may be part of my spirituality. But being in the church with his words, the music of the Kora (the 21 sting instrument from West Africa) before much of the town was awake was a perfect way to begin my Saturday.

Lorna Crozier being the last reader of the festival and how she ended it perfectly, thoughtfully, and with such style. She has become a new favorite poet of mine as she was just incredible.

Dinner the first night at Kerstin's and THREE desserts circling the table. Ah, if you remember my post from last week, you'll be happy to know, no one said they were on a diet, we all shared easily. My perfect group of diners!

At the same dinner, a funny conversation about "big bottoms," which led to us trying to recall who sang "I Like Big Butts" and a hilarious moment when a rapper was invented "Rap Master Flash" - sort of superhero and rap artist. (Though there really is a Grandmaster Flash.) And in case you didn't know, it was Seattle's Sir Mix-a-Lot who wrote the butt song.

Sam Green's workshop on details of a poem was incredible and he was generous with notes and handouts, which I loved.

Seeing the wild turkeys wander the streets (and no, I'm not talking about the poets here).

The fresh cookies provided all day by my inn.


Here are some things I think could be improved--

While they have a volunteer to make sure poets/readers/presenters have water, I wish someone would introduce the sessions, just briefly. Not the long bio notes, but just a "this is X, X, and X. And we're hear to discuss __________." I think it would just open the sessions a little more cleanly and we'd no who everybody was.

I'd love to see some new faces at the festival. The last years, they've had a lot of the same folks and while I do love their work, I think some new faces and voices would add some good energy.

Just 15 minutes for lunch!

* * *

Here are some of the notes from my small black notebook. They are random and odd, but maybe you'll find something of interest in them and maybe a little magic--

Bryan Patrick Miller on poetry and healing (and his mother having cancer for many years before she died & yet he was also experiencing authentic joy at other things) "I cannot reconcile those two experiences." Then later he said, "Poems get at the central experience of being human and the murmur of these voices is the radio of my life."

From Sam Green's workshop called Stop, Look, & Listen--

We need to work at being more in the "hereness."

When we have a poem on the page, it's our job to get the reader from the first word to the last.

In keeping a notebook-- "If you notice it, write it down."

If you don't know where to start, start with a detail (that will ground the reader and s/he can more forward.)

Hayden Carruth "Not 'things,' but the relationship of things."

Nothing exists in isolation

* * *
Elizabeth Austen's advice in putting music in a poem: "Read through a poem saying only the vowels." By doing that, it allows you to hear the melody and where the poem falls flat.

Kathleen Flenniken said that she feels she's really writing when its' not the sound leading the poem or the ideas, but both.

* * *

"Reading is 80% of writing." Thomas Lux

Regarding making a time to write and showing up to write, Joseph Green said, "You have to open the store, it doesn't matter if anyone comes in."

Paul Hunter suggests to put a date, time, place, weather report in every journal entry, anything to help you return to that place at a later date.

On finding time to write--
"How will you spend the cash of your life?" Paul Hunter

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Old Words, New Meanings

I found this on Cheryl Snell's blog and had to share--

The Washington Post's winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers were asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.--

1. coffee, n. the person upon whom one coughs.

2. flabbergasted, adj. appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.

3. abdicate, v. to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. esplanade, v. to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. willy-nilly, adj. impotent.

6. negligent, adj. absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only anightgown.

7. lymph, v. to walk with a lisp.

8. gargoyle, n. olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. flatulence, n. emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

10. balderdash, n. a rapidly receding hairline.

11. testicle, n. a humorous question on an exam.

12. rectitude, n. the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. pokemon, n. a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. oyster, n. a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism, n. the belief that, after death, the soul flies uponto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. circumvent, n. an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men

Monday, May 12, 2008

Confession Tuesday

I'm doing better.


My closet is organized by pants/skirts and tops and organized by color, from lightest to darkest. I worked at Benetton throughout college and I think much of that store wore off on me. I also fold my sweaters neatly.

I have two pet peeves-- one is if the garbage can is taken down to the corner without being completely full--I hate clutter, believe me, I can find something to fill it with. My second is pet peeve is women who don't order dessert (usually because they are dieting) then proceed to take "bites" off of mine.

I've never seen an episode of American Idol. However, last night I saw Keeping up with the Kardashians. What the heck happened to Bruce Jenner?

I think I've aged more in the last couple month than any other time of my life. Maybe it's the short haircut, or the allergy eyes, but I've gone from looking my age to looking ten years older. I've no idea what I've done.

I cannot believe how long it's taken me to come up with these random and not-so-interesting confessions. I've been having trouble staying focused. I look away. I think of something else. I use distraction more than I'd like to admit. I confess I'm not good with death. I'm not the person who has the right words or the hopeful thought. I'm the one who stays in bed all day and watches television or finds things to clean. I've never believed that a person has "a time" or that they are "in a better place." I am selfish, just like I am with my dessert. I'd prefer them here than anywhere else.


I think I'm doing better.

Barbara Kingsolver Commencement Address 2008

Smart lady. Smart words.

From: Barbara Kingsolver's commencement speech titled "How to be Hopeful." Prepared for delivery at Duke's 2008 commencement ceremony May 11 at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Here's some of her thoughts for the graduates--

My younger daughter is eleven. Every morning, she and I walk down the lane from our farm to the place where she meets the school bus. It’s the best part of my day. We have great conversations. But a few weeks ago as we stood waiting in the dawn’s early light, Lily was quietly looking me over, and finally said: “Mom, just so you know, the only reason I’m letting you wear that outfit is because of your age.” The alleged outfit will not be described here; whatever you’re imagining will perfectly suffice. (Especially if you’re picturing “Project Runway” meets “Working with Livestock.”) Now, I believe parents should uphold respect for adult authority, so I did what I had to do. I hid behind the barn when the bus came.

And then I walked back up the lane in my fly regalia, contemplating this new equation: “Because of your age.” It’s okay now to deck out and turn up as the village idiot. Hooray! I am old enough. How does this happen? Over a certain age, do you become invisible? There is considerable evidence for this in movies and television. But mainly, I think, you’re not expected to know the rules. Everyone knows you’re operating on software that hasn’t been updated for a good while.


If somebody says “Your money or your life,” you could say: Life. And mean it. You’ll see things collapse in your time, the big houses, the empires of glass. The new green things that sprout up through the wreck –- those will be yours.


Hope; An Owner’s Manual

Look, you might as well know, this thing
is going to take endless repair: rubber bands,
crazy glue, tapioca, the square of the hypotenuse.
Nineteenth century novels. Heartstrings, sunrise:
all of these are useful. Also, feathers.

To keep it humming, sometimes you have to stand
on an incline, where everything looks possible;
on the line you drew yourself. Or in
the grocery line, making faces at a toddler
secretly, over his mother’s shoulder.

You might have to pop the clutch and run
past all the evidence. Past everyone who is
laughing or praying for you. Definitely you don’t
want to go directly to jail, but still, here you go,
passing time, passing strange. Don’t pass this up.

In the worst of times, you will have to pass it off.
Park it and fly by the seat of your pants. With nothing
in the bank, you’ll still want to take the express.
Tiptoe past the dogs of the apocalypse that are sleeping
in the shade of your future. Pay at the window.
Pass your hope like a bad check.
You might still have just enough time. To make a deposit.

You can read the full speech here (thanks to Jilly's Poetry Hut blog for helping me find this)

Monday Mourning...

A strange weekend. I learned on Saturday that a friend and mentor of mine died from cancer. She was 52. Only 2 years ago she was in remission, then it came back and hit hard. I'm still making sense of this.

Saturday felt as if I was in a story with an unreliable narrator. The news wasn't making sense and I couldn't connect my life with the details of her death, it just seemed to be a mistake. By late Sunday, it had sunk in, she was gone.

What made this person so special to me is that when I met her at age 25 or 26 with a dream of leaving the city and my 60 hr. a week corporate $$ job to live in the country and write poetry, while the rest of my social group thought I had lost my mind, she was one of the few who told me to follow that instinct.

And it's a reminder to me how this life is such a random path of events. I would not have guessed that in 1995 when we met, she would only have 13 years left on this earth as she was the one who did everything right--she didn't smoke, ate organic, did yoga, gardened, had a passion for poetry, for words, for people.

This is the part of life that I'm uncomfortable with, the part that steals the best people and leaves the Rush Limbaughs and Dick Cheneys alone. The life that takes the Princess Dianas, the JFK Jrs, the mentors, and we are left with the lawyers who advertise on tv, with the Jerry Springer show, with the Billy Joel song playing in my head--only the good die young--and I know I'm simplifying things, that good people live long--think Mother Teresa, think Stanley Kunitz--but the chaos of the universe, it's supposed to spin in a pattern, or does it?

I'm still in the grieving period, with accepting, with remembering and moving forward. And with allergy season, a cold that has held on a little too long, and crying on and off, my eyes are swollen and I have the lovely look of pig-being-born face, and I'm tired. So tired.

And I hate to end on that, but I'm off to walk my dog and find my place on the planet, spend a little time on the sunshine that is trying to say that summer may actually come this year, that after the cold there will be warmth.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

2 New Books of Poems--

I am the proud owner of two new poetry books--

Meaning a Cloud by JW Marshall (owner of the Open Books Poetry Only Bookstore in Seattle). I just started reading this and it's fantastic. It was winner of the 2007 FIELD Poetry Prize and it incorporates my favorite things in poetry--accessible poems, that are strong, lyrical, and interesting.

In fact one poem has become a favorite of mine. Here it is (short and perfect)--

Dear Hummingbird

You're not alone.
It's taking me ages
to learn the red leaf isn't a flower.

by J.W. Marshall from his book MEANING A CLOUD

* * *

I also just purchased Beth Ann Fennelly's UNMENTIONABLES, which is beautiful and out in hardback. I haven't sat down with it yet, but Beth Ann is a favorite poet of mine so I'm expecting good things.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Martha Silano has a New Blog!

night poetry
Originally uploaded by kechambers

Visit poet Martha Silano (author of Blue Positive and What the Truth Tastes Like) at

Poetry Month is over

magnetic poetry
Originally uploaded by surrealmuse

What do we do with all these leftover words?

Poetry Reading in Port Townsend, WA: May 8th at the Northwind Gallery

Poetry Reading with Holly Hughes & Kelli Russell Agodon--

On Thursday, May 8, Northwind Reading Series will feature Holly Hughes and Kelli Russell Agodon. The readings will start at 7 pm in the Northwind Arts Center, 2409 Jefferson Street.

Holly Hughes’s poems have recently appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review and the Bellingham Review, as well as in several anthologies, including Dancing With Joy: 99 Poems. Her chapbook Boxing the Compass won the Floating Bridge chapbook contest and was recently published by Floating Bridge Press. She is the editor of Beyond Forgetting: Poems and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease, forthcoming from Kent State University Press. A recipient of residencies at Hedgebrook, Centrum, the Vermont Studio Center and the Whiteley Center, she is a graduate of the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA program. She teaches writing at Edmonds Community College where she co-directs the Convergence Writers Series.

Kelli Russell Agodon is the author of two books of poems, Small Knots (2004) and Geography, winner of the Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award. Her poems have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Prairie Schooner, Notre Dame Review, IMAGE, as well as anthologies such as Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems for Hard Times, Poets Against the War, and the newly released anthology of feminist poetry, Letters to the World. Kelli is the recipient of two Artist Trust GAP grants, the William Stafford Prize, and a Puffin Foundation grant for her poetry broadside series: The Making of Peace. A graduate of the University of Washington and Pacific Lutheran University where she received her MFA, Kelli currently lives in a small seaside community in the Northwest with her family.

The reading is free, with donations gladly accepted to support Northwind, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting the arts to our community.


Friday, May 02, 2008

Notes from the Talk and Reading with Mary Oliver at PLU - Earth Day 2008

Finally, my notes from the Mary Oliver talk and reading on April 22nd, 2008 at Pacific Lutheran University.

The Talk-- Mary Oliver & The Writer's Story--

First, Mary Oliver's talk was fantastic. It wasn't really advertised to the public and so there were only 40 of us in the room. Mostly students, some alumni, some professors, but there were more empty chairs than not.

If you remember, only a few months ago the Mary Oliver in Seattle was sold out and people were asking if they could come dressed as a tree and stand in back. Oh, if only these people had Google alert or were on the Mary Oliver mailing list because, well, they missed out...again.

The talk was an audience participation Q&A. It started out with crickets (no one wanting to talk and the pressure of the first question), but once it started rolling, questions were asked for about an hour and Mary thoughtfully answered them.

Here are what notes I have from the talk--

First question "How did you come into writing poetry?"

The answer was that her life wasn't perfect and "I needed another world than what I was living in...the world of nature, the world of poetry...and I cherished the top that I could do something myself."

She said it was her 3rd book where she felt she had finally achiever her own voice.

The problem with poets? "They think of it as a profession instead of a takes a long time to get a voice."

How she feels about changing the facts in poems or writing things that aren't true--

"Since gender didn't matter, I changed "sister" to "brother" in one of my poems and I don't have a brother, but the imaginary fiction served the poem."

Her said, "Your own story really isn't so important." (What's important is the story of the poem.)

Other quotes--

"Poetry is politics, too."

"There is a connection with holiness because when you are alone with nature, you're with something greater than yourself."

"There's a part of us that is beyond the material."


She is awake every morning. She said, "I missed one day this year of sunrise--I want to see the sun come up."

* * *

I asked her about what her writing schedule was and if she wrote every day.

She said, "I believe very much in discipline." She also believes in the scheduling of writing and keeping a notebook. She says as poets we must be "attentive to everything in this world." "The more attentive we are, the more alive we are."

* * *

When someone asked "Why should we read or write poetry since it's not read by many?"

Mary Oliver replied, "Why breathe, why laugh, why love?"

"There is something in us poems give comfort, healing to. They give a way to praise. It is an enrichment to one's life and perhaps [by reading and writing poetry] we'll get kinder."

"I try to write poems that give comfort. I try to write very accessible so more people can understand them, feel it as their own experience."

"Poetry has an absolute intellectual & spiritual effect on people."

To the question "Why write poems?" -- "What else are we going to do?"

* *

When asked how to be a better poet she said, "read it [your poem] as if you haven't written it. Read the poem as if you haven't seen it before."

* *

To what is your revision process--

"I write quicker and cleaner now than I ever did, but I still throw things out. . .I go through 40 drafts of a poem."

She said she uses a computer last because "A computer makes it look too good before it is done."

She said, "Know your process." And "I kill adjectives and commas--I want it to work faster. Adjectives are egotistical, they want to be noticed. Study what you've done to see if it works or not."

* *

When asked about who she reads she said that "Whitman was the finest poet this country's had." Also reads Keats, Shelley, Blake, Yeats, Robert Bly, Neruda, Galway Kinnell, and others.

* * *

Question: What is your definition of a great poem?

Her answer "One that has endured."

* * *

On her book "Thirst" she said, "I was trying to voice my won quest for the feeling and the wanting."

She said, "I think there are many divine sense that we get things from."

* * *

Question: As a poet, what's your biggest regret?

Answer "I don't' have any." She said she is very happy with her life as a poet and living with her art. She said, "Art is an essential hallway into a spiritual life."

* * *

Question: What did you have to give up?

Mary Oliver: "I never looked or thought I'd get material things. I had a $100 car I used to stop by hitting a brick was a wonderful life."

(BTW, that wasn't said sarcastically, she loved her life as a young poet.)

* * *

Many many more people came for the reading which filled their theatre. We had tickets for the "overflow" room, where we watched her live on a giant screen (no fooling-- we referred to it "smell-o-vision"). She answered questions after the reading to the audience, but they were more likely to be short answers and nothing as thoughtful as she gave to the students.

While the reading was lovely, I found her talk absolutely incredible and inspiring to me as writer. I left feeling full and satisfied (and it wasn't just from the delicious Italian restaurant we ate at or the Tiramisu). A fantastic night and I was thankful to have my three wonderful friends there to share it with me.

A joyous ride home in the rain and the question to all,

"Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life..."

Feel Good Story of the Day

With all the bad annoying news about how terrible the youth of America is and the new generations of "mean girls," there's also stories like these. If only our gov't could learn from them--

Today's great story in the Bremerton Sun about Central Washington University's Girls Softball Team

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Confession Tuesday

I swear, there are more Tuesdays in the week than any other day. Maybe it's because I know on Tuesday I promise to be here confessing. But I'm such a good egg, what could I possibly have to confess?

Dear reader, it's been a week, some not-so-deadly sins from my last confession...let's get these over with

1. Gluttony (Latin, gula): Truth-- I eat dessert every day and do not feel guilty about it. It's the reason I'm a writer and not an actress-- less paparazzi and bathing suit photos.

2. Greed (Latin, avaritia): Me time. I am greedy for me time.

3. Sloth (Latin, acedia): I am the last person into the car 95% of the time. And usually the last person to wake up in the morning.

4. Wrath (Latin, ira): I confess while most of the time I'm pretty laid back, I am very much a mama bear and will protect whatever is important to me.

5. Envy (Latin, invidia): Book-envy only.

6. Pride (Latin, superbia): I never thought this was a bad thing. I have nice wrists.

NaPoWriMo Summary and Thoughts--

Holy flash poetry, Batman, we're through.

I feel as if I'm been through a villanelle torture chamber. It was much harder than it looked (if it didn't look hard). It was tiring. It was tedious. It was a date with the page every single night even when I didn't want to write a poem.

BUT...I ended up with many more decent poems than I thought I would have. And I realized, if I push myself, they will come. Sometimes, I'll take the easy route (see poem about bowling ball), but other times (most of the time) I will suck it up and write the poem.

What was hard for me?

Posting drafts. That goes WAY beyond my comfort level. Drafts that were only so-so revised if that. Drafts that were just written then placed on my blog for everyone to see, that was a little strange and uncomfortable, I can even say vulnerable (like the say in that Eddie Murphy movie "I feel so vul-ner-able...") But a good vulnerable. And so many of you were so supportive and left notes and thank you for that.

Was it fun?

Sometimes. Mostly, it started to feel like a task. But a good task. Still though, it took me away from other things I'd rather be doing (or should be doing), but I learned so things about my writing life--like I CAN write in the morning. And how music helps me write. And I can pull a rabbit out of a hat when necessary.

Would I do it again?

Yes. And I wouldn't wait until National Poetry Month either. But it definitely will NOT be over the summer. Maybe in September or October. I did it in August last year, but I didn't push myself as much as I was in school.

I got this summary sheet from January's blog

Number of poems written in April.
30+ At least one day, a couple times I started a draft that didn't work out.

Number of poems you’ll keep and revise.
Maybe 16 - Maybe more, maybe less. ?? At this moment, there are 16 poems I like enough to revise

List the titles of your top three NaPoWriMo poems.
Absentee Landlord
Midnight DiseaseShe Adds a Dash of Cumin to Lucky Pea Soup

List your three least favorite NaPoWriMo poems.
To a Bowling Bowl
Study in Snow

Favorite line from one of your NaPoWriMo poems.
Let me remind you, your grin is the only gun
you ever need, my favorite murder with teeth.
**though I stole much of this from a poet friend I email with- which is probably why it's my favorite.

Favorite poem by a NaPoWriMo participant.

January's poem: What My Kids Will Write About Me in Their Future Tell-All Book

What surprised you most about writing a poem a day?
That many more came out better than I thought and that they were stronger than when I did this in August. Also, they became stronger the more I wrote--here's a secret, I actually started writing a poem a day with some poets by email on St. Patty's day. So, that warm up really helped.

Also, it became less painful to post these drafts as I as just THANKFUL to have something done. I definitely lowered my expectations when it was 10 p.m and I hadn't written my poem for the day.

Now that you’ve started the momentum, what’s next?
***I'm going to clean the house! If anything falls to the backburner when I write, this is it.

Also, I'm submitting manuscript #2. And I'm ready for a vacation or some sunshine, or both.

Thanks for reading.

And I owe you a report on my Mary Oliver reading/talk. That will come next week, I promise. I mean, I'll have some time now!
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