The New Charmed Life: Because Ordinary is the New Extraordinary

I went and saw Marie Howe (What the Living Do: PoemsThe Kingdom of Ordinary Time: PoemsThe Good Thief: Poems )  last night in Seattle.  She was incredible, generous, grounded, and smart.  I could have these traits in all my favorite people, all the time.

Before the reading, I went out to celebrate my finalist status for the Foreword Prize with my co-editor Annette Spaulding-Convy, Ronda Broatch, and Martha Silano to Wild Ginger, one of Seattle's best restaurants. We met up with Jeannine Hall Gailey afterwards.

I think we were also celebrating life.

I must say, with all the terrible one-thing-after-another happening in Japan, I cannot help but look at my small life, my small evening of poetry, a good dinner, friends, and be thankful.  Tragedy does not study geography.  Nature does not pick and choose, and their earthquake could have been our earthquake, your hurricane, someone else's drought.

I will be honest, poetry feels like a luxury.

But it's not for me. It can't be.  Even when the world seems to be falling apart city by city,   writing is still a part of my order.  Still, hearing the stories out of the Japan, I think we need to redefine the term "charmed life."  It is not a flat-screen tv, or getting the job, or buying an iPad because of a surprised check that arrived in the mail.

I think a charmed life needs to be defined as waking up and turning on the hot water to take a shower, drinking coffee, opening your refrigerator to the numerous choices, going to the market, turning on the lights, reading a book, seeing a bird on the porch, opening up your front door and taking a large breath of air.

So, it's not thankful Thursday, but giving thanks again for the small things in life.  For the poets, the poetry, for the robins and mourning doves in the magnolia tree, for the family and friends who are not missing, for the Yoshino cherry tree in my yard preparing to bloom-- I will look it differently this spring, its petals each a hope and a prayer for the country across the sea from us.



  1. The Kingdom of Ordinary Time is one of the best poetry reads I had last year! It was on my top five list a while back (with some others you MAY have heard about);)

    I knew nothing of Marie Howe and I did not buy her book (nor did I steal it) but won it in the great blog book drawings of 2010. So it was a "total surprise" to me. It's one I often go back an pick up when I feel the need to be inspired before a writing session.

    *the word verification for the post is "funch." I love it! That has to be a fun lunch date.

  2. Yes!--to the small, joyful, lovely things, the extraordinary in the ordinary! And thank you for this reminder and the lovely blossoms.

  3. I don't see poetry as a luxury (though I understand what you're saying). It's saved me too many times. I pray with it sometimes. It gets me through the incomprehensible.

    A friend started a "things I take for granted" post, all the small things we never think about. We've been adding to it all day, and praying thanks.

  4. Thanks for your beautiful post, Kelli. You capture so well all the things I've been feeling these last couple of days but have not been able to articulate.

    "Tragedy does not study geography." Indeed.

    And the luxury of opening one's door and taking a big breath of fresh air.

    And your Yoshino cherry tree. I got a tear thinking of the sudden significance of the cherry trees that bloom all up and down our block. Sigh.

  5. I love Marie Howe's work, so much that I signed up for a weeklong workshop this summer with her at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA (fingers crossed for a scholarship). Had the chance to speak with her at AWP after her readings, which made me want to take her workshop even more.

    Glad you had the chance to see and hear her in person.

    And congrats to you on the Foreward Reviews nomination! A well-deserved honor. :)

  6. Michael,

    I'm a Marie Howe fan and somehow I didn't get Ordinary Time until that night! Love it!

    Kathleen-- Yes!

    Maureen-- I agree, it's not a luxury, for me, it too is part of my life. I guess it feels luxurious, as does a whole day in front of a fire with a favorite book. I think tragedy makes me appreciate my life more-- that's kind of sad to admit, but I can forget how much I have.

    I like your 'things I take for granted' list.

    Marty-- yes, this has been tough on you as you are a person who carries the world on her shoulders (I know this because I have done this too--it was a common quote from my mum when I was younger).

    Thank you for your note. and much love to you. xo

    January-- Oh, please do share after your workshop. It sounds incredible!


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