Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lent For Sale

Since you asked ...
what I'm giving up for Lent this year is Lent itself.

Happy Ash Wednesday!

Off to eat my chocolate bar...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

UK Stories

My New Favorite Graffiti Artist--
The laws tell me graffiti is wrong but I'd rather see public art than advertisements, esp. when the art is being done by a 10 year old girl.

Meet Sol

By the way, if you don't read UK papers, they have the best stories. Two other interesting ones...

Two police officers given run-around by giant white rabbit


one headline that is sad but beautiful to me--

Woman fell to her death while chasing a feather


Alison Stine Interview

Great interview by Alison Stine on the 32 Poems blog. Check it out.

Her new book OHIO VIOLENCE is now out and I will be getting my copy very soon! Can't wait!


Confession Tuesday

I confess, Tuesdays come faster each week.

To the confessional--

I just received an acceptance by Superstition Review (an online journal from AZ St. University) and a rejection from the Bellevue Literary Review.

I have been very disorganized in 2009 and feel as if I can't catch up.

My friend, Jennifer Culkin, is having her first book (a memoir/book of essays) published in April by Beacon Press. We worked on her webpage yesterday. You can see it at

I think all poets and writers should have their own homepage, even if it is absolutely basic. Just something for their readers to connect with them online.

I believe in visualization as a way to reach goals.

I'm kind of amused at myself for that last confession as it sort of came out of no where, wasn't I just talking about homepages?

I plan on bringing 2 poems to my writing group tonight instead of one. One of the poems I'm bringing came from meeting with a friend on the Friday to write.

I think there should be something as big as the Oscars for writers.

I think if there was though and the camera scanned the audience as it does, they wouldn't be as shiny or as nicely dressed. I think there would be a lot of fleece.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Where I've Been....

Sorry I haven't been around much, I've been in the Emily Dickinson room, though not literally. I haven't been visiting her grave in Amherst or staying at the Sylvia Beach Hotel again. I've been in the words of my mss, making sure each one needs to be there, that each poem completes the story or "vision" (in quotes because it feels too big to say) I'm trying to share.

What I've learned about my manuscript? Certain words keep appearing: beetle, broken, blue, bees. And many others that don't start with B: God, maybe, letter, found. I've learned I am much happier when an image from my previous poem appears in the following poem and that I am somewhat OCB about certain things-- the last word, the first poem, the order, the alphabet, how themes and images circle back.

My worry is I allow my rational brain too much power over my emotional brain (the brain I trust most) and it ruins things. My rational brain is the guy who comes late to the party and starts tearing down decorations. My rational brain throws away the party favors because he views them as clutter. My rational brain begins sweeping up the confetti even before my emotional brain as tossed it. My rational brain needs to be holding a martini, honestly, if it wants to play with the poets and their poems.

So, that's where I've been. As my family heals from their deep cuts, I am sorting paper and being sliced in my own way, through paper and words, having conversations with Ms. Dickinson about my use of "stars" and this manuscript, what feels more and more just right, and that doesn't come from that ego place, but the gut that feels it wants to sit with it a while until it's time to wash dishes, to pick up the clutter that has entered my own living room. Yes, the Emily Dickinson room is a place where my life and my writing collide.

* * *

Also, I just received the most beautiful book in the mail... (Thanks, Maya!) more on that soon!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Writing Club

I met with a friend and wrote for 90 minutes this morning. 90 minutes and when we were done I had 5 new starts to poems. Of those 5, one feels as if it will move forward and eventually end up in my "completed poems" file. It felt more like a gift that when the time was up, I wondered where it came from.

The other 4?

One has potential and a strong ending, in fact, a narrative.
One has an idea that just doesn't quite make it, but might.
One is a shorter poem that will either work or fail miserably.
One has strong lines but needs some transitions.

The poem that worked out best was the first poem I wrote of the day.

One thing I did differently with this friend is that I typed directly into my laptop instead of write freehand in a notebook. This was different for me (normally I write in a notebook), but I think I might prefer it.

A group of us will be meeting once maybe twice a month to write together. There is a nice energy when writing with others that can sometimes carry you.

* * *

If you want to do a couple of the exercises we did, here they are--

1) Write a poem that uses this as your epigraph

Take bread away from me, if you wish
Pablo Neruda from “Your Laughter”

2) Start a poem with this line: I have divided from the mind

(the line is from a Dorianne Laux poem either from Smoke or Facts about the Moon)

3) Begin a poem with the line: Next morning, breakfast

(this was just a random line from my friend's journal)

Have fun!


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Confession Tuesday

It's been a week (I think!) since I've confessed or even really been around or have I? Been around? I've been around eating chocolate covered strawberries on Valentine's Day. But this week, do I have anything to confess?

Yes, definitely--

1) I found Slumdog Millionaire to be uplifting. I have learned after talking with others that they have found it to be depressing, draining, and overwhelming. If you haven't seen it, I don't want to spoil the movie for you (I will blog about it after the Academy Awards so hopefully everyone who has wanted to see it will--see confession 2 for why I feel this way), but I think it's interesting how the same movie can make one person feel almost inspired by the human spirit, the inner goodness of people and our ability as humans to pull through bad times and someone else just feel the world is a terrible place with violence and child abuse.

This isn't to say I didn't see this aspect in the movie and that the movie didn't have terribly disturbing scenes, but even while watching the very worst scenes, I found hope throughout the movie and saw how people survive, even through constant abuse and neglect, people can endure and still be good and loving and strong.

2) I like to see a movie without knowing *anything* about it. I came very very close to this with Slumdog. I went in knowing it had to do with India and that was about it. I shhhed a lot of people (including my mum, who is notorious for telling too much about a movie!) My mum is the person who will say, "You will love the surprise ending because the spy really isn't a spy but an alien and he marries his first love who is secretly a heiress and they end up in a castle somewhere in Spain baking bread."

3) I have been revised my manuscript enough that I almost did a post that just read: GENIUS! And I was glad because a few hours later, I would have posted "Above Average!" And by the next morning, it would have just been, "Done (??)"

4) Since January 1st, I've been trying to do a submission a week. I think I haven't missed a week.

5) Thanks for all who have sent good thoughts to my family. My mum (who had surgery) is recovering perfectly and is doing very well. My husband, who had the first surgery has also done very well and is scheduled to return to his work of saving lives in March.

6) I confess I hope I have more me time soon. ;-)

* * *

Saturday, February 14, 2009


I receive an occasional email from Classic Poetry Aloud and I thought I would share today's post--

Today's posting is When our Two Souls by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 – 1861), a love poem to celebrate Valentine's Day.

Today, in the twenty-first century, Elizabeth Barrett Browning does not loom as large in the popular imagination as her male Victorian contemporaries. Of her work the Sonnets from the Portuguese are the most read, and of those the most well-known is How do I Love Thee?, which again deals with love, but - as so often with EB Browning - with death hovering in the wings.

In her day, however, EB Browning was seen as more than a composer of pretty verse. She was politically interested, played a role influencing child labour laws, and wrote widely. On the death of Wordsworth in 1850, she was seriously considered for the post of Poet Laureate, but Tennyson was chosen in her place. Today, while her husband Robert Browning lies, lionised, in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner, EB Browning rests in Florence's Protestant Cemetery.

It may be, though, that the time has come for a woman Poet Laureate in Britain. The post has recently become vacant, following the end of Andrew Motion's ten year tenure. Wendy Cope remains among the favourites to be appointed, despite the fact that she has said she doesn't want the job (see here for more) and despite the prestige of the post and the associated £100 and butt of sack (a sort of sherry) given annually to the holder. (For a Classic Poetry Aloud reading of one of Wendy Cope's poems, please see Occasional Miscellany #4.) With Cope out of the race, Carol Ann Duffy is now in the frame, so we may get our female laureate yet.

For more info check out--

Classic Poetry AloudGiving voice to the poetry of the past
Subscribe: Classic Poetry Aloud at iTunes

Happy Valentine's Day!

Because an E makes all the difference!

From one of my favorite websites: CakeWrecks

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

"Fidelity": Watch the video and sign our letter to the state Supreme Court
Tell the Supreme Court to invalidate Prop 8, reject Ken Starr's case, and let loving, committed couples marry. DEADLINE: Valentine's Day

For more information: go here.

("Fidelity" used with permission from Regina Spektor and EMI Records.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Confession Tuesday - Late Night Edition

I have been busy with surgeries and life these last two weeks. Both surgeries went well and my family is moving forward into their bionic phase, while I play the part of the helpful assistant.

Still, in the middle of recovery and pre-op, I found time to go on a short writing retreat with friends (aka alums) from my MFA program. Though writing retreat would assume there was more writing than social time, but I would have to say, I talked more than I wrote.

I found the best time for me was in the morning, when everyone still slept in their comfy beds, I would take my laptop downstairs of the B&B, wrap a blanket around me and write. Or revise. Or work on my manuscript.

I realize I do my best work when others are sleeping. I'm sensitive to people's energies, to their movements.

I confess I always feel so much better when I get time away to myself. In our culture we are always taught we should always be there, be available, we are wired with cellphones and email, be there for our jobs, families, spouses, children, pets, homes, etc. etc. But some of us need to get away to recharge, we draw energy from alone time, from other writers, from a different routine. It's not being selfish or spoiled, it's a way to keep us calm, to keep us happy, to keep our anxiety quieted, it's a way to keep us.

Because I'll be taking care of my mum this month, I may be away from the online world.

For those of you going to AWP, have fun, take notes, and blog lots of stories for those of us who will be here and at home.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Essay by Carson McCullers

Random fact #54 - My daughter was almost named Carson after this fine author, Carson McCullers. Carson has a great essay about her writing & creative process online.

Here's a sample and you can click on the link below to read the whole thing--

When work does not go well, no life is more miserable than that of a writer. But when it does go well, when the illumination has focused a work so that it goes limpidly and flows, there is no gladness like it.

Why does one write? Truly it is financially the most ill-rewarded occupation in the world. My lawyer has figured out how much I made from the book The Member of the Wedding, and it is, over the five years I worked on it, twenty-eight cents a day. Then the irony is, the play The Member of the Wedding had made so much money that I've had to give eighty per cent to the government — which I'm happy, or at least have to be happy, to do.

It must be that one writes from some subconscious need for communication, for self-expression. Writing is a wandering, dreaming occupation. The intellect is submerged beneath the unconscious the thinking mind is best controlled by the imagination. Yet writing is not utterly amorphous and unintellectual. Some of the best novels and prose are as exact as a telephone number, but few prose writers can achieve this because of the refinement of passion and poetry that is necessary. I don't like the word prose; it's too prosaic. Good prose should be fused with the light of poetry; prose should be like poetry, poetry should make sense like prose.

--- Carson McCullers from The Flowering Dream, Esquire, 1959


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Confession Tuesday - The Poetry Edition

I realize I haven't been around too much lately and when I have, I've posted photos of kittens. This is not good for my blog reputation. It's getting personal. It's adopted cats and small town facts. We must return to the poetry, the writing.

Today's confession will be poetry focused. There will be no photos of kittens.

To the confessional--

1) I was rejected this week by Willow Springs. They have an odd rejection that also has submission guidelines on the back. I opened it and thought they wanted me to submit, then realized they were telling me no.

2) I have been working on my mss this week. Revising it or as I like to say, "Sucking the life out of it." There is a point when you can over-revise. While I've made some very good tweaks, I've also completely messed up the first section and have had to go back. The middle section though, it's awesome.

3) I was a finalist in the last two book contests I entered. This gives me hope and also makes me feel sad at the same time.

4) Self-sabotage - In October I was anxious and full of self-doubt about my work. I had 6 manuscripts to book contests ready to go out (Alice James Books, Bear Star Press, and 4 other contests with Fall/Wtr deadlines)--they were printed out, in their envelopes with checks written, all addressed and ready to go--and I didn't submit them because at the last minute I had a huge gush of anxiety and self-doubt go through me. At the last minute I thought, "Save your money, you won't win." And I did--save my money that is. (Good one.)

Minor confessions based on Confession #4
a) 5 of the 6 mss still sit in my closet with their non-voided checks. I gave one to a friend to use a template to help her format her own manuscript.

b) Do not listen to the voice inside your head that says you are not good enough. I don't believe there's a devil, but if there is, I believe he's a poetry critic.

c)If anything keeps me down, it's my own perfectionist behaviors. It's believing something has to be absolutely perfect. Sometimes things just have to be good enough.

d) There are a thousand people who would be happy to push you down for whatever reason. Don't be the first one in your own line to do so. Mostly I think I'm the person who holds the door open for me. However, there have been times (like said time above) when I'm running to make it through and I slam it in my own face at the last minute. Don't do this; it's just not good manners.

5) I am submitting a packet of poems a week and have been since January 1st.

6) As hard as I try to keep my desk tidy because I feel I work better that way, I tend to have papers scattered everywhere. When I clean my office, I put on an old podcast of This American Life to listen to as return all the books and papers to their homes.

Monday, February 02, 2009

What Came Home with Me on Saturday

I am the unplanned pregnancy in the pet owners world. This makes twice in a year I have ended up with a new cat while not looking for a new cat.

We went into the pet store to see the guinea pigs, to pet the guinea pigs, not adopt a kitten. But there was a rescue service there with 3 young kittens that needed homes. There was a sign on the door that said, "Careful entering, kittens are loose."

I asked, "Are there really kittens running loose?"

She said she'd find one to show us. I told her no need. I told her we were just here to pet the guinea pigs. But she said they were cute.

"Let me find one," she said.

I should have gone running from the store.


My daughter was with me. She is not anyone who'd persuade me not to take a kitten. She kept coming up with more reasons-- we don't have any girl cats and we need a girl cat. She looks like our old cat Emily. I've never had a kitten before. She's so sweet. She's so little.

I should have gone running from the store. But as usual, I didn't. Instead I wrote the check to the rescue service, left with a bag of food, a new toy, a scratching post no one likes, and a kitten.

She's 14 weeks old. Her full name is Lucy Belle Lightning. Lucy after Lucille Clifton. Belle because that's what my daughter wanted to name her. And Lightning because there's a white bolt in her fur on her shoulder. We call her "Belle," though I call her "Tiny."


Early confession- Kittens are just too fun.

Request - if you ever see me near rescue animals, please send me in the other direction.

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