mimsy and outgrabe //

a record of panic, parenting, teaching and art-making


Summer Reclusiveness

Sunrise as viewed from my deck. Not bad!

I took a break from the blog when I traveled with the kiddies down to Virginia at the end of June, and then never quite returned to it after we came back. Part of this is because I've been busy with making/going to doctor's appointments that SHOULD have taken place during the school year, chipping away at the clutter in my house and attempting to right all the wrongs in my housekeeping habits, and sometimes actually working on those writing projects I mentioned a month ago. 

But also: I just haven't had as much to say.

I'm feeling a little quieter. I kinda want to curl up and disappear from the world. And by world I really mean people. I'm rethinking/revising not only the way I write but the way I approach the different facets of my life all the time, and sometimes I feel overwhelmed, as if talking about those changes will put them all in jeopardy. It's a crazy-person kind of paranoia, really. I mean, sometimes it really helps to talk about them, whether to a paid professional or the internet via this blog, but at other times it really doesn't help at all, it just leaves me feeling exposed.

So, you know, I write about it here in this really public forum! Ha!

Also, logistics play a part in blogging. I simply haven't had a lot of alone time, and part of this is because I've been really relaxed with my normal wake-up-early-and-write schedule. I said to myself, fuck it, it's summer, and so I've been reading Harry Potter books with Little Miss Talkalot until, like, 10:30 or 11 at night and so not waking up until 6 or so when A. has to go to work. And then there are dogs to contend with (they need a thorough good morning face-mushing and butt-scratching, and with two wriggling labradors this is EXHAUSTING but also very necessary). And there's coffee to make, otherwise my mind wouldn't work, and so by the time my Olympic Dog Petting session is over and I'm into my first cup of caffeine, I don't really have much time to write before Vampire Toddler wakes up and demands, well, anything (her whims change daily by the second).
My very noisy writing partner, Vampire Toddler.

It's SO NICE, however, to wake up and go out onto the deck and attempt to write in the mornings, even with Vampire Toddler chatting away to herself or her food beside me (the other day I heard, in the midst of scribbling away in my journal, "Nice to meet you, orange..." -- it kinda threw me off my train of thought, but made me laugh). Summers out here are so lovely. There are a lot of fucked up things about Long Island, and sometimes I really loathe living here, but I rarely feel disgruntled during the summer, when I can smell salt in the air from the bay and know that the Atlantic is a short drive away. Of course, visiting the ocean with three children is another kind of near-Olympian feat in and of itself, but it's totally worth it.

For the record -- because why else blog unless to record these things? -- here's what I'm working on right now:
  • New poems: These may not be very good -- I feel like I'm rusty and clunky and need some time to get back into things. But hell, it's nice to be writing poems again. (Individual ones, not be project pieces, like . . . see my next bullet point)
  • Revising Act One of the verse play: I'm inserting new scenes into the act that further develop the characters, and beginning to wonder if maybe what I'm working on, this act, is really a full-length play in and of itself, and if my original idea for one play with three acts is really supposed to be three individual plays linked by subject matter and theme. Which will entail a lifetime's work, at this rate. Still . . . what else am I going to do with my time? If it's worth it, it's worth it. And if it happens, it happens. I'm not going to force it, but I'm not going to fight it, either.
  • Writing a review of a chapbook for the Hyacinth Girl Press web site, one of their new projects.
  • Reading a little bit of everything, but not a lot of anything, apparently. Nothing substantial yet, anyway.
Here's what I NEED to do (without feeling too stressed out about it, at the moment) before the end of August:

  • Poetry video: My schedule in June did not coincide with my colleague's, so I need to see if I can make this happen before the end of the summer (when both of us will have far less free time for collaborative projects like this)
  • Finish revising the one act
  • Finish writing the review (I said I'd have it finished at the beginning of this month -- oops!)
  • Attempt to write an essay (like, say, that Poetry of Witness monster I've ALSO been talking about for, say, five years?)
Anyway. PLANS. 


Five Poems, Five Days: Part V

The Quest

by James Wright

In pasture where the leaf and wood
Were lorn of all delicious apple
And underfoot a long and supple
Bough leaned down to dip in mud,
I came before the dark to stare
At a gray nest blown in a swirl,
As in the arm of a dead girl
Crippled and torn and laid out bare.

On a hill I came to a bare house
And crept beside its bleary windows,
But no one lived in those gray hollows,
And rabbits ate the dying grass.
I stood upright, and beat the door,
Alone, indifferent, and aloof
To pebbles rolling down the roof
And dust that filmed the deadened air.

High and behind, where twilight chewed
Severer planes of hills away,
And the bonehouse of a rabbit lay
Dissolving by the darkening road,
I came, and rose to meet the sky,
And reached my fingers to a nest
Of stars laid upwards in the west;
They hung too high; my hands fell empty.

So as you sleep, I seek your bed
And lay my careful, quiet ear
Among the nestings of your hair,
Against your tenuous, fragile head,
And hear the birds beneath your eyes
Stirring for birth, and know the world
Immeasurably alive and good,
Though bare as rifted paradise.

from Above the River: The Complete Poems, published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux


Five Poems, Five Days, Part IV ( and photos from the Pittsburgh reading)

The Armadillo

by Elizabeth Bishop

This is the time of year
when almost every night
the frail, illegal fire balloons appear.
Climbing the mountain height,

rising toward a saint
still honored in these parts,
the paper chambers flush and fill with light
that comes and goes, like hearts.

Once up against the sky it's hard
to tell them from the stars --
planets, that is -- the tinted ones:
Venus going down, or Mars,

or the pale green one. With a wind,
they flare and falter, wobble and toss;
but if it's still they steer between
the kite sticks of the Southern Cross,

receding, dwindling, solemnly
and steadily forsaking us,
or, in the downdraft from a peak,
suddenly turning dangerous.

Last night another big one fell.
It splattered like an egg of fire
against the cliff behind the house.
The flame ran down. We saw the pair

of owls who nest there flying up
and up, their whirling black-and-white
stained bright pink underneath, until
they shrieked up out of sight.

The ancient owls' nest must have burned.
Hastily, all alone,
a glistening armadillo left the scene,
rose-flecked, head down, tail down,

and then a baby rabbit jumped out,
short-eared, to our surprise.
So soft! -- a handful of intangible ash
with fixed, ignited eyes.

Too pretty, dreamlike mimicry!
O falling fire and piercing cry
and panic, and a weak mailed fist
clenched ignorant against the sky!

from Bishop: Poems, Prose, and Letters, published by The Library of America


Also: Pictures from this weekend's Hyacinth Girl Press and Gigantic Sequins poetry reading at the Modern Formations Gallery in Pittsburgh, PA.

Rachel Mennies, author of The Glad Hand of God Points Backward

Kimberly Ann Schwartz, editor of the magazine Gigantic Sequins and the author of HGP's forthcoming chapbook, efs and vees

Essayist Caitlyn Luce Christensen

Margaret Bashaar, editor of Hyacinth Girl Press, and Kimberly Ann Schwartz, the lovely organizers of the event.


Five Poems, Five Days: Part III

When One Has Lived A Long Time Alone

by Galway Kinnell


When one has lived a long time alone,
one likes alike the pig, who brooks no deferment
of gratification, and the porcupine, or thorned pig,
who enters the cellar but not the house itself
because of eating down the cellar stairs on the way up,
and one likes the worm, who by bunching herself together
and expanding works her way through the ground,
no less than the butterfly, who totters full of worry
among the day lilies, as they darken,
and more and more one finds one likes
any other species better than one's own,
which has gone amok, making one self-estranged,
when one has lived a long time alone.

from When One Has Lived A Long Time Alone, published by Alfred A. Knopf

(This whole cycle, printed at the back of the book, is one of my favorite poems ever, but I didn't feel like I could really get away with publishing all eleven parts here.)


Five Poems, Five Days: Part II

In Heraclitus' River 

by Wislawa Szymborska,
trans. Joanna Trzeciak

In Heraclitus' river
a fish fishes for fish,
a fish quarters a fish with a sharp fish,
a fish builds a fish, a fish lives in a fish,
a fish flees a fish under siege.

In Heraclitus' river
a fish loves a fish,
your eyes -- it says -- glitter like fishes in the sky,
I want to swim with you to the common sea,
O most beautiful of the school of fish.

In Heraclitus' river
a fish invented the fish beyond fishes,
a fish kneels before the fish, a fish sings to the fish,
asks the fish for an easier swim.

In Heraclitus' river
I, the sole fish, I, a fish apart
(say, from the tree fish and the stone fish)
at certain moments find myself writing small fish
in scales so briefly silver,
that it may be the darkness winking in embarrassment.

from Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wislawa Szymborska, published by W.W. Norton & Co.

ALSO, NIGHT-POST BONUS: This gorgeous long poem by Ryan Black over at Tupelo Quarterly.


Five Poems, Five Days: Part I

Also, unremarkable but pretty Instagram pics of my garden this spring, 'cause, you know, this blog needs some help in the visual department.

Day One:



by Derek Walcott

So what shall we do for the dead, to whose conch-bordered
tumuli our lifelong attraction is drawn
as to a magnetic empire, whose cities lie ordered
with streets and rational avenues, exact as the grid
of our vibrating metropolis? In our arrogance, we imagine
that they, too, share the immense, inaudible pulse
of the clock-shaped earth, slower than ours, maybe, but within
our dimension, our simple mathematical formulae.
Any peace so indifferent, where all our differences fuse,
is an insult to imagine; what use is any labor we
accept? They must find our prayers boring, for one prays
that they will keep missing us when they have no urge
to be ever-remembered, they cannot see what we hoard --
photograph, letter, keepsake, muttered or knitted homily --
as we change flags and houses. We still wish them to serve
us, expecting from death what we expect of our prayers --
that their hearts lift like ours with the surge
of the surf and the cupolas of the sunset, that the kingfisher
startles their darkness sometimes. But each one prefers
the silence that was his birthright, and the shore
where the others wait neither to end nor begin.

from Midsummer, published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

p.s. I cheated. I posted the poem above because I love the last eleven lines especially, but also because I felt like it was more accessible than THIS, which is the poem I REALLY love, for reasons I can't quite put into words, from Midsummer.


Writing AND Running in One Week: A Summer Recess Miracle!

My summer writing group met this week. Three out of four of us met, at least, and it was a good beginning. We did chit chat for a few minutes too long at the beginning (which is against the rules), but then we each buried ourselves in our writing in one of the small meeting rooms in the library. We worked at a table in silence for nearly three hours. It was lovely.

It took me a while to begin, though. I have, as I've mentioned before, several writing projects floating around in my head, but I thought it was probably best to keep it simple and just begin writing a poem. I've been reading poems and reading about the craft of poetry almost every day since school let out, but I haven't written a poem for months. So it seemed like a good beginning point, for both my summer writing endeavors AND my participation in the group.

It was strange, though, writing in the presence of other people . . . and other people I know at that. I'm used to writing in the presence of sleeping dogs (who aren't really sleeping, but rather waiting with their eyes closed for me to feed them breakfast). I managed to get over it, although it did take me almost the entire morning to work on six lines of a poem. I am the slowest m*****f****r when it comes to writing. I mean, like, painfully slow. 

Of course, writing groups come at a price. I felt like I paid dearly for my three hours of writing later in the day, when Little Miss Talkalot had a meltdown after school because I hadn't come to the during-the-day science fair. (Before she went to school I'd told her I was going -- and we did go -- to the after school for-working-parents science fair . . . but I was missed at 11 a.m., apparently.)

In the midst of this the house is still a mess and I'm still really, really slowly getting my work life back on track (organizing, prepping for the fall, planning), and my health is increasing only in tiny, tiny increments (because the stupid antibiotics one takes to annihilate the bad stuff in your body also annihilate everything that's good in your body). But I've actually run twice this week. The runs did NOT go well, but at least they happened. I am far, far less crazy when I actually expend some of my energy in a physically exhausting way. 

Today I'm meeting my colleague in craziness, M.K., for some more festival planning and then it's back to the office for some earnest prep work. Then it's back home to meet the bus, when my son will bring home with him this adorable little girl, who loves him dearly, for their first play date.  

I am looking forward to REALLY getting to work on my writing, but I feel like I need to get the rest of my house and work-life in order for that to happen, and I fear the summer will be over before my writing gets any real attention. It's only June 12, but at the same time, I'm like, "FUCK, IT'S JUNE 12!!" deep inside me, an anxiety like another spine, something that keeps me upright and moving but, well, it's another spine, it's not supposed to be there, and it's fighting for room and control with the other one, the one that's natural.

I kinda lost control of that metaphor, didn't I? Damn, I'm out of practice.