Sunday, August 30, 2009

Poetry Dreams

Last night I had a dream I met Walt Whitman's son, Ben. Ben Whitman.

Of course, as far as I know, Walt Whitman does not have a son named Ben, but there he was in my dream. He was saying he didn't know who his father was (he was probably in his fifties) and there was an announcement for anyone who might be able to help this man. I just remember searching a bookcase for Leaves of Grass with the above photo of Whitman on it and saying, "You look just like a young, shaved version of him." Somehow, we were sure it was him by the end of our talk.

I always wonder what poet dreams like this are telling me. I have been camping for two days and have not had poetry on the mind at all. Why was I thinking of Leaves of Grass? Of Whitman? Of a ghost son?

Maybe there's a poem in here for someone or for myself.


On a personal note, I wiped out mountain biking yesterday and almost ended up in the ER. What was stupid was that it was on what I'd call a "bunny hill." I was in my head thinking about autumn and other mountain bike hills I'd ride with the leaves changing and I absent-mindedly reached for my left brake (the front brake). Anyone who has ever ridden knows that if you want to completely flip over the front of your bike, this is the brake to press.

So my front wheel locked and I went flipping over the front of my bike and got a nice bruise/raspberry on my leg. That wasn't the issue, the issue was while I didn't hit my head, I somehow whiplashed it in the flip and had a terrible headache on the right side of my brain as well as pain behind my eye.

I was far enough ahead of my bike riding partners that I was able to get up so I wasn't found in my awkward position of girl in dirt, bike on body. I kept on for about 4 more miles then ended feeling as if I needed to go back to camp and rest.

Thankfully, my husband is a firefighter/EMT so he watched me for any bad signs.
I kept saying, "I don't want to be Liam Neesom's wife" to which my husband being unaware of the tragedy that happened to her said, "Why not? He's a rich and handsome man..."

Finally, the pain faded enough that I felt as if I didn't do some major damage to my brain.

It was a good reminder to:

1) Stay focused, even on the easiest parts.
2) It's okay to be in your head, but be in the moment when you need to be.
3) Mistakes happen even when we think we know what we're doing and have done it a million times before.
4) Always wear a helmet.

All good messages that can also be transferred over when writing a poem-- well, except for the helmet one, that would just be silly.


Poets in Our Neighborhood

Some interesting things on the blogs lately--

To see great photos from Breadloaf, check out Molly Sutton Kiefer's blog


Victoria Chang is writing about the challenges of being not just a writer: I think women, or at least people like me, feel guilty for not spending more time with their children. We are limited by what we can do to be like an Atul Gawande. I'm not at all complaining about my situation, because I certainly have it better than most people in terms of childcare freedoms, etc., but I do think it's different for a man versus a woman.


January (aka Poet Mom) has some great thoughts and ideas on her blog--

She's on a "money fast" -- This is the second day that I have not spent any money. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Her thoughts on poetry--
After a long period of not writing, I really enjoy overdoing it and writing in overdrive. . .So I am writing, sorting through what’s worth saving. What an ugly, humbling, spiritual process


And we will end with Molly again and her notes from a Breadloaf talk/panel with Louise Gluck on the Yale Younger Poet Series...

Great info!


Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Last Summer - Anne Sexton

So many of you emailed and asked what the Sexton book of photos I referred to was that I thought I'd post it here.

It's out of print, but Amazon has used books starting at $2.36 & new books for $4.50.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Best Poet Portraits

****I love this photo of Albert Goldbarth because it hints as what a lot folks don't realize-- he still types his letters, poems, etc. on a typewriter. He is not electronically connected to anything, no email, nada. I think this portrait captures his softness which many overlook in him.

Randall Jarrell - I love both of these photos because they captured his spirit and his passion for cars. I just look at them and feel happy.

Denise Levertov-- What a beautiful person, inside & out. I think this portrait captures her peacefulness.

William Carlos Williams-- This photo gives me a nostalgia for my own father and I love his expression. This photo is very endearing.

Anne Sexton - The master of the pose. She was a model and incredibly beautiful, so she was to photograph. Someone who reads this blog suggested to me a book of all her last photographs which I purchased. It is seriously difficult to take a bad photo of her. But what I love about this photo is that it captures a time. Cigarette pants, typewriter, cigarette. She was always able to pull things off that others couldn't. I can't imagine how ridiculous I would look posed like this, but her, it looks natural and iconic.

Edna St. Vincent Millay-- When my friend was taking my photo for my first book, I showed her this photo and said I wanted something like this. She came up with this. Which surprisingly, was the first photo I've actually liked of myself. I still like this photo, though as I age, I'm getting farther and farther away from looking like that.

But I think Edna, who could also pose naturally with her hand on her cheek (as could Jane Kenyon) without looking posed, really captures in this photo what I think of poetry-- a poet and the world around them connecting. She becomes the poem in this photo. She is magnolia and woman, background and twig.

* * *

Follow-Up - How Not to Be a Cheesy Artist

Yesterday in the Confessional I wrote:

I confess I get concerned when I see creative people focusing on what I think are the wrong things or doing cheesy stuff that makes them feel more like a used-car salesman than an artist. My biggest fear is that someone will see me this way or I will unintentionally become this and not someone who is trying to live her life as a artist, but as someone who has lost her way from art, literature, and creative pursuits and into a world of beer hats with straws or Precious Moments collectibles.

I confess I hope if I ever end up this way, I will know it and not have to find out by finding myself dressed in a whimsical scarf and poet-pin in the Walmart portrait studio or showing up to a writing event with a self-made nametag marked "Important Author."

January left me a note asking what I thought were the "wrong things" that I saw creative people doing that concerned me.

It's a good question, so let me begin first by saying, this isn't about you personally. I'll be honest, none of the bloggers I read or my poet friends do the things that concern. I have one sort-of-friend, who doesn't read this blog who kind of falls into this category, but s/he isn't a poet, or completely a poet. Anyway, I didn't want any of you to read this and get a complex, these are just things that concern me and more for me than you.

Things to Watch Out for if You're a Creative Person - or - How Not to be the Cheesy Artist--

1) The Cheesy Author Photo.

****I write this first with a little hesitation because you will see my profile pic is a little too close to the cheesy photo for my taste. I am wearing the NW Woman's Uniform of the natural scarf, it would only be worse if I had my hand under my chin as if I'm pondering something. It's a little cliche, but I needed a profile pic for my Artist Trust grant and this was the best my husband, my $100 digital camera and my goofy self could do at the time.

2) The Poetry Book in the Pocket

****I don't want to meet someone and see their book poking from their shirt pocket. Everything about a person should not be there to focus the attention on them as a poet/writer. For example, if you show up to a place or event where you are not giving a reading wearing a badge that says "Author" and your name, you have crossed into a very egocentric and self-involved place.

3) The Artist Look

****If you are too focused in looking like an artist/poet, but you are not creating anything, I'll feel a little concerned if we meet.

Sometimes this leads into #4 if you're not careful.

4) Jack of All Trades, Master of None --
While I think it's always great to stretch yourself as an artist, I get concerned when I see creative people doing a thousand different things, but none of them really well.

I think sometimes this happens in the beginning when you're trying to figure to what you're interested in. Say you've lived a life as an accountant and yet had always felt pulled to live a more creative existence, so you jump into things. This is think is a healthy, natural method for changing your life. But I worry about the artists who are ten-fifteen years into their creative life and seem to just spinning their wheels in all departments. They aren't really creating anything and while they seem to be doing a lot but not really accomplishing much.

And I don't mean "accomplishing" as in being published. I mean "not accomplishing" as in "not creating." If you are 10-15 years into your art and still haven't had your first book, but you are writing and practicing your craft and finding satisfaction in the creation, that's wonderful and I admire people who live this life through art. You are living authentically as an artist. That I love.

If you are trying new forms or genres, that's wonderful. Explore. Expand. Create. It's the folks who call themselves a writer or artist who aren't creating, I take issue with. And maybe because this is one of my biggest fears for myself.

For me, when I became an editor for Crab Creek Review, I was afraid I was going to lose my writing life. I didn't want to become someone to talks about writing, teaches writing, edits writing, but doesn't write. I do consulting during the year, but only work with a small number of poets because I don't want that to be my only focus. So far that has not happened, but the idea of it haunts me.

I told myself if I ever lose my own writing, I will resign from being an editor. I never want to become the person who is doing everything around writing, but not writing. I know some of the things we dislike most in others are the things we dislike most in ourselves, so this red flag blows in my mind and I constantly try to rebalance myself if I feel my writing life is fading. I want to make sure I'm not losing my writing in the mix of life and its temptations.

Please throw me an intervention if I ever become this person.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Waiting for the Interurban Sculpture Plus Spongebob

* * *

It's Tuesday again and since I've been focusing on refocusing my writing life and getting back into the creative world again, so I thought I'd focus this Confession Tuesday on creativing, writing, and the artistic life...

I confess yesterday I showed a friend my writing shed and felt thankful that I built it (though still wish it had a better name than "the writing shed").

I confess I let my CRWROPPS (Creative Writing Opportunities)email box get filled past 400. I've done a terrible job of submitting and being aware what is out there. I am much better at being a writer than submitting my work. I enjoy writing, I dislike submitting.

I confess Manic Time is helping me. Today I had to tag an hour of my time as "browsing, time wasting." I mark that color in red so I can't ignore it.

I confess if I see a book contest and the last group of winners and finalists were mostly men, I don't enter that contest because it makes me feel the judges have a bias towards a male-voice manuscript and since my manuscript is pretty much the opposite of that, I decide to save my money.

I confess it sometimes concerns me that I make judgments of who will like my manuscript and who won't, but I do try to trust my intuition on such things and not what my mind says.

I confess I still love it when I sit down to write expecting nothing to come from the moment, but then a poem comes about. It's the natural high that keeps me returning to the page.

I confess I love to be around creative people, especially visual artists, because they always make me feel more normal and make me live a more authentic and creative life myself.

I confess I get concerned when I see creative people focusing on what I think are the wrong things or doing cheesy stuff that makes them feel more like a used-car salesman than an artist. My biggest fear is that someone will see me this way or I will unintentionally become this and not someone who is trying to live her life as a artist, but as someone who has lost her way from art, literature, and creative pursuits and into a world of beer hats with straws or Precious Moments collectibles.

I confess I hope if I ever end up this way, I will know it and not have to find out by finding myself dressed in a whimsical scarf and poet-pin in the Walmart portrait studio or showing up to a writing event with a self-made nametag marked "Important Author."

I confess, I hope I never take myself too seriously when it comes to being a writer.


My Life According to Lorine Niedecker

My Life According Lorine Niedecker
(all titles are from Lorine Niedecker: Collected Works)

Using only POEM titles from ONE POET, ONE BOOK, answer these questions. You can't use the poet I used. Do not repeat a title. Repost as "My Life According to _____________." (fill in the poet's name)

Are you a male or female?
The elegant office girl -or- Lady in the Leopard Coat

Describe yourself:
I rose from marsh mud

How do you feel:
I am sick with Time's buying sickness

Describe where you currently live:
My Life By Water

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
Some float off on chocolate bars

Your favorite form of transportation:
Sunday's Motor-cars

What's the weather like:
Hi, Hot-and-Humid

Favorite time of day:
Coming out of sleep

Your relationships:
Woman in Middle Life

Your fear:

What is the best advice you have to give:
How bright you'll find young people

If you could change your name, you would change it to:
Jesse James and his brother Frank

My soul's present condition:
Poet's work

****If you've read this & you have a blog, consider yourself tagged...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Time Tracker -- Manic Time

I just downloaded the free program MANICTIME because I wanted to keep track of how my time is spent when I'm on the computer or during a work day.

To be more honest, I wanted to see how much time I wasted on Facebook, surfing the web, on email, instead of writing.

I found what looked like a very nice program called Rescue Time, but there was a charge to download it. So I googled and googled until I found this free program called ManicTime that keeps track of the webpages I go to and how much time I spend on each one.

What I liked about Rescue Time was that I thought you could set a time limit on certain websites (say, no more than 10 minutes a day on Facebook) and when you reached your limit, it sent you a note saying so.

However, I've noticed just having the program running makes me more conscious about how I'm spending my time as I know it will be documented in graphs and I do not want to check them at the end of the week to find I've spent 3 hours on Facebook or what not.

If you try this program, I recommend watching the 3 short videos on how it works. It really helped me with "tagging" my time to help me understand what I was doing. For example, if I'm working with a poet, I mark that time "professional, mentoring" or if I'm doing work for Crab Creek Review, I mark it, "professional, CCR." If I'm just messing around the web, I tag it as "browsing, wasting time." Seriously, I have created the tag "wasting time" for those times when I'm just well, wasting time.

Also, if after 10 minutes you don't do anything on the computer, it's marked as "not active" and you can add in other tags so you know what you were doing. For example, you can say "Family time" or "social" or even "personal" or "domestic chores." I will also have "writing" and "submitting." You make your own tags so you can focus on what's important to you.

Currently, in the last two days,
I have spent the most time with
Family Time at 11 + hours
Social Time 4.5 hours
Mentoring 2.5 hours
Blogging 1.3 hours

I'm really interested in seeing how much time I spend writing vs. screwing around when September comes. I realize these next two weeks will mostly be about getting ready for back to school and some activities, but I think when I kick back into writing, this can be a very useful tool to make sure I'm back on track.

Again, this is such a Capricorn thing to do, but knowing I'm going to be held accountable by this graph and that I'm going to have to look the hours I spent wasting time in the face, will help me.

I am the person who comes back from vacation and steps on the scale. I want to know if I've screwed up and fix it. I want to know when the details of things and do not subscribe to the ignorance is bliss theory except when it comes to the nightly news.

I once took a class on stress and my defensive mechanism for stress was action (instead of distraction, avoidance, or addiction). I think this program is my action to fix what's wrong in my writing life. I'm not saying there's something wrong, but I do know I was more lax last year than the year before, and more lax than the year before that.

This isn't to say I'm not writing or doing anything, it's just to say I know I can do better. I know I've been wasting time and I don't want to anymore.

If you try this program, let me know how it works for you. I've only been doing it two days, but I think it will be helpful for me because even if I don't "tag" my time, my computer now keeps track of all my online browsing, where I've been and for how long. If anything, that's a good indication on how productive I've being.



Yesterday I posted on books that inspire me, but I thought I'd go a little more personal and let you know my routines, rituals, and how I find inspirations when I feel there is none.

My routine--

When I'm in my "practicing writer" life, which goes from September-May/Junish (depending on the weather). On my writing days, this is the schedule I try to keep for myself. Because I'm a Capricorn, I can be a little heavy on the "planning" of life. Humor me here...

My schedule on a writing day--

Wake up 7ish (note: though I consider myself a night person something odd has been happening in me causing me to wake up at 6ish)

7ish- Have breakfast turn on computer (I have breakfast before I do anything else)

7ish-7:30: Have Total cereal, read emails, read blogs (This is my quiet time...)

7:30-8:30: Breakfast for other family members & pets, life's details, dishes, listen to NPR in the background, shower.

8:30-9: Make lunch for my daughter, leave for school.

9ish - drop daughter off at school, either go to the gym/ride bike/walk dog or a combo of all of the above. Something physical, if I'm aching to write, I skip it (and throw in yoga, walking the dog, etc. in the evening).

10 ish/10:30 - Write. If I'm good, I don't get lost in email. If I'm really good, I go to the poems, essay, creative writing first. If I'm having trouble creating new work, I revise, work on Crab Creek Review projects or submit work.

Noon- lunch with husband if he's home, lunch alone in writing shed if he's not.

Noon-4 Continue writing and try not to get lost in distractions.

4-9:30: Life, family, writing group, yoga, dinner, commitments.

9:30: When the family sleeps, I write and finish the things I neglected. A lot of creative new work comes out of this time. It is when my writing is the strongest. I think many of my best poems have been written at this time. It is a time when nothing is asked of me, I have no upcoming commitments, anyone I need to pick up, nothing I need to do. Even sleep is optional when I'm working hard at night.

I feel completely at peace as a writer at night. The noise of the world quiets and I can get the most done.

I think the hardest part of the writing life is balance. Whether it's parenting, a full-time or part-time job, there is always something that will take us away. But that's always the way, with anything we do. So we work with it.

Inspiration and Rituals

Things I do when I want to write, but am not feeling inspired.

-- Read my favorites poets or a poem from a favorite book or one that inspires me. Currently, this book is Carolyn Forche's Blue Hour, but I'm also still inspired by much of Christine Garren's book of poems.

-- Go for a walk listening to a podcast of an interview with a writer (New Letters On The Air)--they currently feature Aimee Nezhukumatathil.

-- Force myself to write: Do a writing exercise based on a line from a poem.

-- Do 7 minutes writing exercises where I choose a line from a poem, or word, or title and just riff on it.



40 minutes of wasteful time -- Many times before I actually write, I spend 40 minutes sorting through email or being distracted with coffee and treats, or visit writing blogs. This is kind of a "wind-down" period before I jump into my writing. I am working to only have this be a 10 minute session of wasteful time--my goal for next year.

Coffee-- until noon. Must be available.

Atmosphere - I try to bring in something from outside to put on my desk. In the fall as I've mentioned to start off the season, I have blue hydrangeas and non-pariel chocolates (okay, these are from Central Market, but something that makes me feel rich, as do small bottles of Perrier with a lemon twist...) In the winter or colder months, I pick springs of rosemary to bring in. Sometimes I find a bird's feather. Anything to help me stay connected to earth.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Back to Writing - Book Recommendations to be Inspired : The List for Artists

For many of us with kids in school, when the school year begins, so does our writing.

Sometimes I swear I'm hardwired to write from September to May, to throw myself into the work then completely neglect it during summer. This is how I operated during my school years and college. I spent every summer on college on "Unemployment Row" at Greenlake with my lawn chair.

Now as an adult, I do a similar thing, except replace "Unemployment Row" with "Family Plans" and you have my life.

So I've been returning mindfully to writing first before I jump in, that I will save until September when my writing shed will have a bowl of non-pariel chocolates and I will cut blue hydrangeas to put on my desk.

If you are feeling uninspired and looking to be inspired I have a couple of book recommendations for you as autumn comes and asks us all to quiet our social plans and come inside to write...

1) Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

***A fantastic book by genius grant winner, Twyla Tharp. From the School Library Journal: Tharp shows how and why artists must actively seek and nurture inspiration. The dancer/choreographer draws heavily on her personal experiences to guide readers into cultivating habits that give birth to success.

Most libraries have this book and I have checked out the copy so many times I feel as if I own it. I should eventually just buy this book because it's one that inspires me and reminds me there are so many of us trying to live the creative life.

2) David Lynch's Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity

***Okay, this was a recent surprise find for me. I downloaded the audio book from the Seattle Public Library last night and it's been a treat to listen to. I think it's only 2 hours, so it's a quick read (191 pages) or listen.

I would recommend the audio version of this book. David Lynch (Twin Peaks creator among other things...) is reading it and listening to him makes it much more conversational and enjoyable. There's a huge focus on Transcendental Meditation, which he has been doing for the last 33 years (he does 20 minutes of this meditation 2 times a day and hasn't missed a meditation in 30 years).

Publisher's Weekly wasn't really impressed with this book--some of the chapters are a quick blink--but I think they missed the point of this book. It's a fun, quirky book with a unique perspective by someone who began as a visual artist then became a film-maker and is written for creative people who are working in the arts, not a self-help guide, but a series of stories about happy accidents and how doors open when you find your path.

Also, great lessons. My favorite being the painter that said, "You need 4 hours of solitude to get one good hour of painting." (For me, this can be my writing life!)

This was published in 2006 and as I said, our public library had the audio version online and they have pretty inexpensive versions on Amazon (it looks as if it must be out of print). But if you like David Lynch, get the audio version as it's nice to hear him talking in your head.

3) Hugh McLeod's Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity

****I mentioned this book a few posts ago and just wanted to bring it up again since I finished it in 2 days and enjoyed it.

For this book, I recommend the print edition especially since the author is a cartoonist and many of his drawings are included throughout the pages.

This book probably won't teach you anything you don't know as an artist/writer, but it's good reminders and enjoyable writing, plus his cartoons can be pretty funny. It's one of those books where you feel like you're having a beer with the artist/writer and he's telling you what's worked for him.

A very easy read and should be available in your local library system (I got mine from our small community library, and I tend to think if we have the book in our system, your library should as well).

4) Cecile Andrew's The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the Good Life

***I have mentioned this book before also, probably because I read it cover to cover every fall. I think it's an incredible book for those of us living a creative life and helping us get back to things that are important to us. It's not about self-imposed sacrifice, but a greater understanding that we don't *need* a lot of the stuff we have and actually the more stuff you have, the more responsibility you have (the care of it, the storage of it, etc.)

I was surprised that this book got quite a few negative reviews on Amazon because for me it's the best book on changing your choices to live a better life and slowing down.

From the Amazon review:
The Circle of Simplicity speaks to readers seeking to find greater peace and happiness by eliminating some of the clutter and distraction in their lives . . . Her book emphasizes the value of slowing down as a way to find time to reconnect with a community.

For me, it's a reminder to spend my money on things that bring me happiness - experiences not things-- a lesson that I had to relearn from my materialistic teenage years to my rushed and overworked twenty-something years when money just slid from my wallet on "convenience purchases" such as eating at the Red Tomato every day for lunch instead of bringing a bagged lunch to quick purchases that weren't really thought out-- um, the gym membership I never used, never even found time for that...

So each fall, I pull out my Circle of Simplicity and remember all the things I've forgotten over the year about living simply, which itself is a creative process. For me, it's about reconnecting with my creative life, not being the waster, the quick-buy out-of-ease person, the person I can be when I'm not paying attending or living intentionally. It's about getting back to what matters to me, family, writing, friends, experiences that make me a fuller a person.

* * *

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Two New Poetry Communities Online

I just joined these two poetry communities--

Read. Write. Poem.


Peerscribe A Social Network for Writers

* * *

I am still learning their benefits and exactly what they are, but thought I'd let you know about them and if you're already a member, would love to know your thoughts and how they are beneficial to you.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Book Recommendation

I'm halfway through Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity
by Hugh Macleod and I recommend it for ANY creative person. Hugh totally gets it. Creativity is not about success, money, fame-- it's about passion, desire, and creation.

Here's a favorite part--

Chapter 7 - Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and you replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. being suddenly hit years later with the "creative bug" is just a wee voice telling you, "I'd like my crayons back, please."


Highly recommend!

Best Sign at the Healthcare Reform Protests...

Are You Mad?

This was on Peter's blog and I loved it so much I had to post it here. It's in regards to the *angry mobs* at the Health Care Reform Town Meetings...

You didn't get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate energy policy.

You didn't get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn't get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.

You didn't get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

You didn't get mad when we spent over 600 billion(and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn't get mad when over 10 billion dollars just disappeared in Iraq.

You didn't get mad when you saw the Abu Grahib photos.

You didn't get mad when you found out we were torturing people.

You didn't get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

You didn't get mad when we didn't catch Bin Laden.

You didn't get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

You didn't get mad when we let a major US city drown.

You didn't get mad when the deficit hit the trillion dollar mark.

You finally got mad when the government decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they were sick.

Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, are all OK with you, but helping other Americans? -- well fuck that.

And have a blessed day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Another week and summer begins its last steps towards autumn. I confess, I'm looking forward to fall. I have cleaned my writing shed and brought in a vase of blue flowers.

I confess I haven't really felt as if I've had anything interesting to say this summer and may go back to taking the summer off. If I could describe my brain in summer, it is that teenage girl on the beach asleep.

I confess I will not enter the Tampa Poetry Prize until they start choosing women poets as winners and finalists.

I confess I bought more Simpson stamps to use on my bills. I also bought "Early Memories" with black and white photos of 50's TV shows to use for personal correspondance and submissions.

I confess I Love Lucy is still my favorite show and my first crush was Ricky Ricardo.

I confess Howdy Doody always freaked me out as do clowns.

I confess I like men in black plastic rimmed glasses - think Elvis Costello or any hipster-dufus type with his black intellectuals on.

I confess when people seem "too normal" they scare me.

I confess I like to be with people who are working through things and are passionate about something else beside their kids.

I confess there were years when my daughter was young, I was the person who had lost herself.

I confess summer is when I feel less anxious, but fall and winter is when I do my best work. The gray sky and rain may send me into a dark cloud, but I'm thankful (even when I am in my own special funk) to be writing.

I confess it kind of scares me that when the weather/season changes, I may be caught off-guard emotionally and have to go through those sad feelings again that I sometimes get in autumn.

I confess last autumn was my worst ever and I stopped submitting because I thought my work and calling myself a writer was a waste of time.

I confess even though I am a little worried that the season's change will affect me emotionally and I could slip into another funk, I am still looking forward to autumn...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Summer Reading Reviews...

What I've Read--

Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else By Geoff Colvin -- Let me save you $18, I can summarize this book for you right here -- His theory is that people aren't born with "talent" (i.e. Tiger Woods, Mozart, Bill Gates, etc.), but were born into the right circumstances with teachers who helped them and taught them intentional practice. He talks a lot regular practicing of something vs. practicing in a focused way. Practice is not fun, but it is what makes the difference. Not talent. In the end, he concludes that anyone can be good at something but it just takes 10 years of intentional and focused practice. 10 years was the magic number in his mind with practicing with focus and intent several (or more) times a week.

It's an interesting book, but was a little too close to Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell for me. It even had some of the same examples like Bill Gates. Of course, I read Outliers first, so that may shade this review a bit.

So while I'd recommend this book if you're interested in this topic, I'd recommend OUTLIERS first.

This book still had good info and I did finish it, but I think I just read it close to Outliers. But honestly, the main idea is that it's practice not talent that matters.

* * *

Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction
by David Sheff - RECOMMEND!

I've been listening to this book on my iPod and it's pretty powerful walking back through a child's life from being born into addiction to see if you can figure out how someone falls into this world. There are no answers. David Sheff does a great job of sharing this story of his son's addiction and how it hurts families and what the parent goes through.

On a personal note, my sister is/was an addict. She was out of the house when I was 4, but her dramas have stayed with us through the years even though she now lives on the other side of the country from us. She has basically become the poster child for our family on why not to use drugs. Because of what I've seen in my own family, this book is a fascinating look into addiction.

I would recommend the print version of this book vs. the audio (which I'm listening to), because the book is read by the author and while he is a pretty decent reader, when he tries to talk in the voice of a child it's somewhat annoying to me. He also has that kind of smug professor voice that gets a little tiring to listen to.

* * *

Grayson: 50 cent library late fee - and I never read it.

* * *

Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You
by Ray Bradbury - HIGHLY RECOMMEND! -

Ray says it better than me, so here's a snippet:

"...if you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It mean you are so busy keeping one eye on the commercial market, or one year peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself. You don't even know yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is --excite. He should be a thing of fevers and enthusiasms. Without such vigor, he might as well be out picking peaches or digging ditches; God knows it would be better for his health."

(Note: Ladies insert "she" for "he" in this passage.)

* * *

I have a few more books I'm working on, so more later. I hope you've had a summer of good books. I'd be open to any you'd like to recommend.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Jump in...

the water's fine.


I told you how much I loved the new book Sunday at the Skin Launderette (Poetry Book Society Recommendation)
by Kathryn Simmonds, but I didn't share any of her work. Basically, I said, "I'm eating the best cheese and drinking the best wine," but didn't give you a taste.

Sorry about that.

Here are some favorite lines from Kathryn Simmonds--

From the first poem/first line in the book:
"Lie dow with me you hillwalkers and rest..."

From the prose poem "Afterword"

"I also lied about therapy. I lay back on a bench instead and
told my trouble to a drunk who stank the stale cider and
relieved me of my cigarettes. I lied about my one good kidney
and the ballet lessons. And the pills. I lied about my childhood
in Somerset where I learned the taste of crab apples and swam
like Esther Williams in a turquoise lake wearing a costume
splashed with orange sunflowers..."

The opening to the poem "Stationery"

"Your love of it will get you into trouble one day:"

From "Suburban Love Song" --

"I am giving my heart to the cul-de-sac,
the loll-de-sac, the mull-de-sac,
I am falling in love
with the privacy of sodium and hedge."


I am so enjoying this book, I will feel bad when I have fully completed it.


Instant Gratification vs. Following Your Passions

Leslie made some great points about how we cannot always give into what we want or we will have a life full of instant gratification. She wrote: We as a culture are so used to having that key lime pie when we want it that we fail to realize we actually shouldn't have it. We don't always deserve the bike or the vacation. And the money we spend at the dinner (I don't get parking tickets) is something others can enjoy with us. She is right. If we always give in and have the keylime pie, we may end up poor and unhealthy. So there needs to be a balance. And yes, we shouldn't give into every spur-of-the-moment impulse-- we shouldn't *always* have dessert (okay, I always have dessert, so maybe this isn't the right words). But we shouldn't always buy or get everything we want immediately. So, I guess what I want to say or suggest is that sometimes we have the money or time to do what we want, but we whittle it away on other things that aren't as important to us. I think it's more about living intentionally, making choices that get you a life of what you want and not just things that you don't really want, but you just happened to pull them into your life because you weren't paying attention or living intentionally. Like this mountain bike I just bought, I waited 17 years to get a new mountain bike. I love to bike, I love to be on my bike, but buying a new bike seemed indulgent (they are expensive- well, at least to me), so I kept taking my $120 Costco bike up into the trails and not being happy about it, struggling on the hills, being annoyed with my bike chain falling off and yet, not doing anything about it (i.e. saving for a new bike, making choices in my life to get a new bike--basically living intentionally...) So for me, it was about a choice. I spent all summer making sure I was still using my bike a lot and still riding a lot, then when an extra bit of cash flowed in instead of sticking it all away in savings or allowing it to get eating up (literally, on expensive dinners, etc.), I used part of it to buy a new bike that I love. So when Leslie writes: So I guess what I suggest is that sometimes our desires are out of place with our needs and are the result of our culture of excess and instant gratification. Why not meet in the middle--set a goal: learning a particularly difficult song, for me; exercising consistently for a week before indulging in pie; matching funds spent on entertainment by putting it in a jar and saving for the bike? Instant gratification doesn't always make us stronger. I am trying to learn that, because it's sure easier to eat the pie. I completely agree. There are times not to act. There are times to say to yourself "We really can't afford a new snowmobile" (or whatever your whim may be). But if you are passionate about something and find it keeps returning, try to work towards that goal. When you know your inner voice is saying "Now is the time to move forward" and you trust that voice, and it's not the voice of ease, but you are living your life intentionally and something is calling to you, nagging at you, then I think it's time to say yes. And only each of us know our own circumstances and when to say yes. A $500 bike to me is a big decision, but in families with more cash flow, it isn't, but taking a 2 week vacation instead of only a one week trip might be the choice that they need to make and are having a hard time saying yes to less work.We each have choices to make to fine-tune our lives especially for us. Besides my family and pets, my passions are - writing, violin, and mountain biking. I try to say when I can. I try to be kind to myself in these areas. I sacrifice when it comes to - new clothes (I shop consignment shops), knick-knacks (I rarely buy anything like this), anything that involves electricity (give me the 30 year old blender off of eBay or the rotary phone from the rummage sale), let me use my cellphone until it completely dies or they its no longer workable because Verizon has told me its digitally behind. But let me splurge on books of poems, art, sheet music. We each know what's important to us. (Also, for the record, I didn't go out to dinner and a movie for $100, or get a parking ticket, or buy a bottle of wine, and my daughter doesn't take piano lessons-- I was just trying to come up with a scene where someone wants something important to them and has much of the money for it, but makes poor choices and doesn't get what they want...)

But that could have been me. I have wasted both time and money before and I'm imperfect and know I'll do it again. But I'm trying to say yes to the things in my life that I'm passionate about, the things that fill me up in the long run and don't just quickly satisfy. Like the candy bar purchased while in line at the grocery store--it's purchased because it's there and there's a hunger, but what's really needed is to wait for the drive home and a home-cooked meal.

But maybe you're diabetic and need sugar immediately. I guess the details are the things that only we know. We need to live our lives determining what is best for us and always follow what's best for us, not others.

Thanks Leslie for your good thoughts and continuing on this conversation. I am so glad you brought up instant gratification. You are right, I don't want to suggest we need that...

Summer and Filling Up

As I've said, I don't write very much in summer.

And truth be told, I submit very much either (actually, that's an issue that goes all through the year...), but in summer all I want to do is play.

Last year I took a hiatus from my blog. This year, I've tried to write, but it's been random. I have shown up for Confession Tuesday, but occasionally, a day or two late.

I've heard people say that you should write every day. I think that's great when you're writing, but I think intentional time off is important too. Taking time out to live and fill yourself is important and sometimes it creates this urge to write. (I have that now.) I want the rain to come so I can curl up in my shed and write.

But I will wait until September.

I will be the glass that is filled to the brim and waiting to overflow.

I guess the key is intention. Be aware if you're on a break and set a time when you will return to your writing.

This pup on the hammock, that's me these days, except insert mountain bike into the picture. There we are, summer and the hint of fall. A few more weeks and life will be coffee, non-pariels, shed.

Life will be a closed door, a space heater and an empty, but filling page.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I've been thinking about signs lately and how we can create them even when there not there.

But here's the thing, if we're "creating" signs to make certain decisions, then don't we know that deep in our heart it's the right thing to do.

It's kind of like not being able to decide between keylime pie or healthy strawberries for dessert, so you flip a coin-- heads = keylime pie, tails = healthy strawberries. It comes up tails and you say, "2 out of 3..." We flip until we get what we want.

So if you know you want the keylime pie, why not just have it.

Many of us are good at saying no to ourselves or feeling as if we need to sacrifice.

Let's say you want a bike for $500, but you don't want to spend the money. That night you go out to dinner and a movie with your spouse to talk about the purchase. Dinner and a movie costs you $100. While you are in the movie, you get a parking ticket. Another $50. You are so bummed about the parking ticket, you buy a bottle of wine ($20) and drive home.

The next day your child needs $50 for piano lessons and you're having friends over a book club so you buy brie, hummus, crackers, selzer water, fruit and dessert ($20).

You think about the bike, but you don't buy it. In the last two days you've spent $240 on things that have been eaten, drank, watched, and played. You still don't have a bike. And you don't realize that you had 1/2 the money, but choose to let it go elsewhere.

I guess what I'm saying is that if we *really* want something, there are ways to get it and to be aware of our choices. Especially with money. Especially with time.

And all those signs we see around us or find inside of us. Listen to them. They are trying to get us all back on the right track. Or bike path.

We pull away from them sometimes because they seem too big, too grand, too expensive.

I'm suggesting not pulling away, but listening deeper to them. What is that voice inside you saying?

* * *

I recently heard of a writer/teacher who quit her day job to go surfing.

Chasing Waves: A Surfer's Tale of Obsessive Wandering

She was on NPR and said we should all have WAPs (Wild Ass Plans) and follow them. That's how she began on her journey, I think there are journeys for all of us out there, just take notes, listen and follow them...

The Poet I've Been Searching For...

So for the last few months (or longer), I've been asking you for your advice on a new poet to love. I've tried to date your favorites and while I admire them for their great personality and style, there hasn't been the chemistry I've been searching for.

Then, thanks to Poetry Daily (I believe), who featured her work, I found my new favorite poet and book of poems.

KATHRYN SIMMONDS Sunday at the Skin Launderette (Poetry Book Society Recommendation)

I am reading her book slowly and intently and just enjoying it. She writes in both in form and free verse. She lives in London and was born in 1972.

As I look at the cover of this book I'm noticing that it was "Shortlisted for the 2008 Costa Poetry Award" and was the "Winner fo the Forward Prize fro Best First Collection."

This feels like one of the books I read in the the late 90's to early 2000's when I discovered Jane Mead, Christine Garren, Olena Kalytiak Davis, Beth Ann Fennelly-- all those books I could not put down.

So many of my poetry books have been going on my shelf after one read. This will not be one of them.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Confession Tuesday

I confess I love my mountain bike and mountain biking. It's my new hobby that has taken me out of the house and away from poetry and writing. While I have always been athletic and sporty, I have never pushed myself physically like I do with a mountain bike. This is new for me. I am usually the one who says, "Let's go get a snack." Or "Want to watch the sunset?" I feel stronger than I have in my life, physically stronger and when I make it down a steep hill without crashing or almost crashing, but at the last minute saving myself from the fall, I feel powerful.

I have always pushed myself intellectually, so I'm appreciating using these new muscles.

* * *

I said my August would not be busy, but that must have been someone else's calendar I was looking at.

* * *

I learned today I did not win the book prize I was a finalist for (National Poetry Series), but 5 wonderful (I'm assuming wonderful, I know one for sure is wonderful) poets did.

Here are the winners--

The winners of The National Poetry Series 2009 Open Competition are listed below:

Julie Carr of Denver, Colorado, Sarah - Of Fragments and Lines
Chosen by Eileen Myles, to be published by Coffee House Press

Colin Cheney of Brooklyn, New York, Here Be Monsters
Chosen by David Wojahn, to be published by University of Georgia Press

Carrie Fountain of Austin, Texas, Burn Lake
Chosen by Natasha Trethewey, to be published by Penguin Books

Erika Meitner of Blacksburg, Virginia, Ideal Cities
Chosen by Paul Guest, to be published by HarperCollins Publishers

Jena Osman of Phladelphia, Pennsylvania, The Network
Chosen by Prageeta Sharma, to be published by Fence Books

***Congratulations to Erika Meitner!!


But no worries for me, I learned a couple weeks ago, I'm a finalist for another prize... still hope, little poet.

* * *

I cleaned my poetry shed yesterday to prepare for fall when I disappear back into my writing life.

* * *

I confess, I'm ridiculous behind in the laundry. And I'm someone who doesn't push themselves when it comes to laundry. Especially laundry.

* * *

I'm considering naming my mountain bike "Velma" because she was the most dependable out of the Scooby Doo gang and the most useful. She was also my favorite cartoon character.

Or I'll call my bike, "Moby" after the great white whale.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Poem of the Day

Another poet just emailed me this poem and I was so taken by it, I wanted to share it with you.--

Advice to Young Poets

by Martin Espada

Never pretend
to be a unicorn
by sticking a plunger on your head

by Martín Espada,
from The Republic of Poetry
© W.W. Norton Company, 2008.

* * *

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Confession Tuesday

From my trip to Alaska. When I took this photo, I was thinking about Confession Tuesday.

So there's my first confession, there's a lot going on in the world, so let's begin.

* * *

There's been a big brouhaha over Seth Abramson's new business about helping writers apply to MFA programs. If you don't know about what's going on, consider yourself lucky because honestly, it's much ado over nothing. If you want to find out what's going on, read more here, and here.

I confess, I'm kind of a live and live girl myself. And while I see the irony & humor in a potential MFA student who can't write their own personal statement (um, maybe you *shouldn't* be applying for an MFA program if this is a problem for you), it makes no difference to my life whether Seth has this business or not.

Honestly, it's hard being a poet. And when I say "being a poet," I mean trying to squeak by on what we're paid. I mean, not paid. I teach in various ways to make extra cash. I confess, when things weren't very good financially for us, I used to take a box around the house and fill it with items I could sell on eBay. I remember when my husband noticed the anniversary gift I gave him (the vintage lighter that looked like the helm of a ship) was gone. You do what you have to do. We had bills. I cleaned house.

So while it's easy to take someone down for trying something new, something you don't agree with, it's actually easier (and better for your health) just so say, "interesting," or perhaps, "interesting, I wouldn't do that, but interesting" and move on with your life already in progress.

* * *

I confess I'm always amazed how people grow a backbone on the internet.

* * *

I confess when I pay my bills, I use The Simpson stamps.

And when I'm paying for a bill I'm either not happy about or was higher than I hoped, I put the "Homer Simpson making the 'Doh! face" stamp on it. When I like the company, such as a donation or our water bill (our cheapest bill since we don't use our dishwasher- consider this an extra confession for the day), I use the happy baby Maggie stamp.

* * *

I confess I just learned that my very favorite magazine is back in business (and I know how much a dork this makes me look like, but honestly, I've spend most of my life having interests that a so-called "dork" would have ---i.e. rock collector, stamp collector, coin collector, orchestra-or "dorkestra" as they call it, poet (sorry, guys!), NPR nerd, watcher of Antique Roadshow, lover of big band music, documentary watcher, or the list goes on and on...) so I will tell you that my very favorite magazine of all times is none other than Victoria magazine.

And I know you probably haven't heard of it.

Here's a link to it if you want to know what it's about. Let's just say it has nothing to do with lingerie (that would be too edgy for me).

I have already signed up for a subscription. Forgive me.

* * *

I confess this is the end of confessions. I'm going mountain biking today on my new bike. And I confess the best part of buying a bike from a small town is that the bike owner gave me his phone number and said he offers 24 hour FREE emergency road assistance (basically, he jumps in his truck and comes and picks me up) if anything happens to me or my bike while riding. Priceless! Gotta love these small towns!


Bizarro World

From the article my husband was quoting from this morning:

The night Billy Collins fought Luis Resto, something was terribly wrong with Resto's gloves. The beating Collins took cost him his career—and maybe his life

What was funny when he read "Resto's gloves," I heard "Louise Gluck."

He explained to me later after I was thoroughly confused that Billy Collins is also the name of a boxer.


Sunday, August 02, 2009

How To Stay Focused As a Writer (a P.S.)

And stay off FACEBOOK!



How To Stay Focused As a Writer

So I've been thinking about what takes me away from writing.

In the summer, it's summer things, and that's okay because I believe everyone needs a break to be filled up again. We need to have lives as well as writing lives. But in the fall, when I write, I sometimes get distracted or I find myself procrastinating, so I thinking about how I can do things different and the answer to the question, "How do I stay focused as a writer?"

1) Check email once a day, once every 2 days, or once a week if you can.

Email is one of the most distracting things ever invented. It can be it's own daily project. The biggest problem with email is that it makes everyone else's priorities your priorities. You take the focus away from what's important to you to what's important to someone else.

If you are an email nut, promise yourself you will only check it once a day. If you must check in more, check it first thing in the morning (but promise yourself this is only to see if you have any acceptances or interesting mail and not a time to respond to anyone, that you will do on *your* time, which you will schedule for it) and check it once before bed (this is a good time to schedule 30 minutes of responses.)

Also, someone told me if you cannot respond with less than 3-5 sentences, then call the person directly, it's faster.

2) Turn off your email sound alert or better, keep your email program closed.

I am like Pavlov's dog when I hear the bell go off. I stop what I'm doing and check to see what important news is being sent to me. Oh, someone just added me as a friend on Facebook. Someone wants me to buy herbal supplements. Great, I'm glad I stopped what I was doing to know that.

3) Set a scheduled time for you writing each week and stick to it.

During this time, you are not to a) surf the web b) check email c)"research" - aka surfing the web, browsing through book d) leave your seat at your computer to do any other tasks.

The more you set your mind to writing during the time you set to write, the easier it will be to get to work.

4) Read blogs, news, etc. AFTER you've already written.

The part of your brain that processes news and blogs is your left brain, the non-creative side. If you want to be inspired, read your favorite author before you write, not journalistic stuff. And with blogs, you never know what you'll get--sometimes it will inspire other times not, so just wait until you've done your writing to read them.

5) Turn off the phone, the TV, the radio, the family, or anything else that can distract you.

I know "turn off the family" how do you do that? Set limits. I remember reading that Lucille Clifton (I think it was her) told her kids not to disturb her when she was writing unless they were on fire.

No, it's not bad parenting to tell your kids that what you is important and you need time for it. It's being a good role model for them so they don't feel guilty for exploring their own passions. Especially girls. I definitely do not want my daughter to grow up to be someone like me who constantly feels guilty when I do something for myself that doesn't involve family. I don't always feel guilty, but enough to know I never want her to feel like this.

6) Set goals and keep them.

Maybe you need a goal buddy, but find a way to set goals for yourself--how many words/pages/poems you will write in a week, how many submissions you will send out, etc.--and hold yourself accountable. No one cares about your writing more than you do, so don't slack off. You owe it to yourself.

7) Realize you are a writer and have a writing life to keep up.

If you only talk about writing, you are not a writer. Writers write. If you want to have the title of "writer" you need to earn it. Write. Even if it's bad or you don't want someone to see it. You never know what you're going to get until you start. It's up to you. Write and go forth.


Saturday, August 01, 2009

Summer Writing Schedule: Are you writing?

We have had an incredible summer this year in the Northwest. Some (many) will say it became too hot (103 is too hot for most) Though I actually enjoyed it and today's scheduled high of 75 seems a little chilly for me--I currently have my space heater on.) But with this good (great!) weather comes activity. All the activity us indoor-Northwesterners didn't get during the winter months happens now. I cannot tell you how many nights I have slept in a tent or how many days I have spent in a kayak or bouncing over bumpy terrain mountain biking.

Because of the weather, this has been one of my most active summers ever, which I love. I love being outdoors and in nature, it keeps me sane. It takes away anxiety, I fill up on Vitamin D, I see the world again, reconnect in ways I do not in the winter months--ways that involve putting my hands in the earth, actively participating in a world I hide from much of the year when I stay inside looking through the screen I type on.

It's very hard for me to think about (or even read) poetry in the summer. I am very much the student in life when the cool breeze of fall approaches and blackberries ripen and sunflowers bloom, I find myself aching to write.

Today I woke up and a fog had covered my small town. The ferry was crazily blowing its horn (from 5 am on until 8 am - note to reader: do not romanticize the ferry, it is really only a loud deep alarm clock going off outside your house). When I went downstairs I could feel autumn in the air. I love this feeling. We're slowly moving into fall and as September rolls around the corner, I will be so ready to write. Yes, I'm already starting to feel that ache of wanting to.

But if you look at the poems (or anything) I write in the summer and compare them to what I write from September to June, they aren't as good.

I've been trying to think why and I think much is because I'm out of practice during the summer. I don't know how to begin a poem, an essay, a letter. It all feels very foreign to me. I basically just check out.

This is the first year I didn't take a vacation from my blog. I haven't been here as much, but I wanted to have this place to go to write, to have a reason to write.

As fall returns, I will write more and poetry will return as well. But for now, I'm the observer who is filling herself up with the world around her. When September comes, I know these experiences will find their way onto the page. Right now though, being out in the world has felt really good.

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