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Showing posts from 2015

The Ghost of Poems Past

Yesterday I received the coolest email from a couple in New Jersey, fellow participants in that Poetry Postcard Project Little Miss Talkalot and I participated in back in August 2013. They were on the receiving end of one of her postcards (you can see it and read the poem here) and they wanted permission to reprint the poem along with a photo of a windmill from their backyard on their Christmas card this year. Also, they needed to know Little Miss Talkalot's actual name, because I don't believe she wrote a byline on this particular postcard.
I was only able to talk about it with her last night right before she went to bed, after an entire evening of shuttling back and forth between our house and the middle of town -- first, violin lesson drop off and pick up, and then a late-night (7:30!) trip to the school offices where she gave a report from her Student Council to the PTA members. The little girl is turning into her mama -- meetings up the wazoo, involvement in absolutely e…

This Week: Published Poems and a Poetry Video (Not too shabby!)

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Two things, my lovelies, and then I have to take Vampire Toddler to the doctor for a Mystery Rash. AND find someone to cover for me at work today. My life is nothing if not exciting.
ANYWAY:
The fall 2015 issue of the online publication Menacing Hedge was released on Sunday, October 11. It includes five chapters of my fairy tale poem as well as three of the "conversation" poems that interrupt the narrative between chapters. Kelly Boyker is an amazingly generous editor and I'm thrilled that the staff gave my poem so much space in their magazine. It's really gratifying to see this work out in the world, too. I'm still making my way through the rest of the work in the issue, but I'm quite in love with the conversation between Sarah B. Boyle and Sonya Vatomsky right now. It reminds me of the "interviews" in BOMB magazine, which I've loved since my undergrad days: two artists speaking with one another, people who are more or less sympatico. (Not a jo…

Good News: I'm Still Here! Oh, and Publication News too ...

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Yesterday I received a phone call from my one and only C.C., and she reminded me that I'm disappearing into work again and forgetting about other important facets of my life. (Oddly enough, though, yesterday morning -- well before the phone call -- I worked on a poem, and that was something I hadn't done for weeks. Yesterday something in the stars must have shifted and the universe was shouting, "Hey stupid! Wake up and do something else with your time!)
I mean, I *have* been doing something else with my time, but it's mainly involved the kiddies. Now that school is back in session for them, too, we're all sorts of busy as a family. There's a lot of negotiating between different activities and attempts to get small people to places without losing one of them or what's left of my mind. It hasn't been a bad couple of weeks, just very very active.
I'm trying to stay on top of things, and remember that most of the time I'm trying to squeeze a 40+ …

Mad Preparation for Fallpocalypse (Teaching in the New Semester)

This past week has been devoted almost entirely to preparation for the new semester of classes and committee work, with little writing. But SOME writing. Just not enough. And then some (maybe too much) following on Facebook and Twitter this insane shit-storm surrounding AWP and its conference proposal selection processes. And I'm lurking where that's concerned, listening, not participating, but it's still kind of exhausting.
I'm looking forward to finishing the prep for classes, which I've been doing with a kind of head-down, stubborn relentlessness. I've been trying to put all of my prompts for in-class writing, and quizzes, and essays up on the Blackboard course spaces so that I can, more or less, be ultra-prepared in the classroom instead of -- as happens quite frequently -- arriving at the classroom only to realize the quiz or the handout I wanted to distribute is back in my office. Also, there have been semesters where I've begun teaching a class with…

Progress Report: The Video Poem and The Verse Play

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Toward the end of July, P.T. (pictured to the left, doing his tech thing) and I began work on our poetry video collaboration. We recorded the audio, then discussed various images and the sequence in the video, looked at some stock footage, brainstormed, etc. Last week, we met on campus with my little helpers, Miss Talkalot and The Boy, and we managed to film a couple of shots of them as the characters from my fairy tale poem, and then also some shots of the surrounding pine barrens, which are lovely. 
This exercise is fun but strange and confusing. I have this idea of the poetry video as a piece of art unto itself, separate and distinct from a printed poem, but as we're creating this piece I feel like we're making a poetry video like people make music videos -- which can be an art unto itself but is also just as often a simplified representation, with visuals, of what happens in the narrative of a song. I'm really hoping to avoid the latter, but I'm not sure if we'…

What I Read When I Should Be Doing Other Things

Still not much to say. Juggling many different projects, and not well. I think I should just accept that I am a writer like I am a reader of books; one at a time, and slowly.
I'm really good at reading essays and poems on the internet, though. How much of my life has been spent falling down rabbit holes, I wonder? Anyway, here are two of the latest:
1) The Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project: I just discovered Mezzo Cammin, the online journal of formalist poetry by women, and then I tripped onto their Timeline Project, where they archive lovely little essays/introductions to poets like A.E. Stallings.
2) On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, experimental and not linked to form, is this "thin narrative in fragments." Lisa Ciccarello and Emma Trithart, the poet and artist respectively, call these ".gif poems." I'm in love with how this is so playful and yet so dark at the same time. The project is different and risk-taking and Number 10 is my f…

Summer Reclusiveness

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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 …

Five Poems, Five Days: Part V

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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 b…

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

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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' nes…

Five Poems, Five Days: Part III

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When One Has Lived A Long Time Alone by Galway Kinnell 8
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

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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, publishedby W.W. Norton & Co.

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

Five Poems, Five Days: Part I

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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: XVI 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, exp…

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…

A Possible Summer Writing Group, Boo Killebrew's "Miller, Mississippi," and . . . Field Day

At the end of last week I attempted to create a small writing group that will meet once a week during the summer -- to do NOTHING but write. No workshops, no craft talk, just gathering in the semi-comfortable chairs of the local library for three hours, away from the messy houses and the kids and the talking spouses, and attempting to get words on a page on a regular basis. Everyone was in, excited, ready-to-go . . . and then no one could meet this Wednesday. (Including myself, because I fell ill YET AGAIN (read: another/thesamethatwon'tgoaway stupid sinus infection) and had to ply my system with antibiotics.)
1) I am falling apart.
2) I fear this is a sign of things to come. Both my falling apart (more), and the inability of the writing group to get together.
Still, we'll see. 
On Tuesday I saw an amazing reading of an equally amazing play by Boo Killebrew, this year's winner of the Leah Ryan's Fund for Emerging Women Writers. The acting was incredible, and the play,…

Good News and My Morning Reading

A quick note to say, excitedly, that the online journal Menacing Hedge has accepted the first FIVE chapters in my fairy tale poem, "The Woman with the Frog Tongue," and as well as a handful of the in-between poems that enact a kind of conversation between a child reader and her mother. 
I know. The whole thing, from title to conceit, just sounds weird, doesn't it? I hope the actual poems are better than they sound when I try to describe them.
Also, I just finished reading this incredible poem by Monica Youn on the Poetry Foundation's web site.
This thing is a fucking achievement and might even make me subscribe to Poetry again.
I might use it in my Advanced Poetry class in the fall, too . . . if it runs. (Fingers crossed, please let it run!)
I'm feeling schizophrenic again. There is SO MUCH TO DO and that I want to do that I can't quite figure out what to focus on next. I'm doing, piecemeal, little things for school, little things for my writing, little …

My Morning Reading: Marina Tsvetaeva and Sarah B. Boyle

This week has featured more reading than writing, but I'm okay with that. (Babysteps towards art-making, right?) I've vacillated between internet essays and the Bloodaxe Books' collection of Tsvetaeva essays, Art in the Light of Conscience, as well as Dark Elderberry Branch: Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva.
And honestly, I'm disappointed in Dark Elderberry Branch. Its subtitle is "A Reading by Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine," and I'd hoped for more by two such well known and fairly well respected writers. They've excerpted bits and pieces of Tsvetaeva's poems as well as bits and pieces of her nonfiction scribbling -- from essays to letters -- but the sole commentary on these bits and pieces comes at the end of the collection in an essay/afterword by Kaminsky. 
I'm left frustrated with the feeling that there's too little substance here. I really don't want to say that, because I was excited about the book when I found it, but there you go.…

Finding and Maintaining Optimism

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It's been a week of recovery! And Plan-Making Lite, meaning that I'm beginning to think of the best way to tackle all of the things I'd like to do with these next few teaching-free months. My summer class was under-enrolled and didn't run, which is probably more good fortune for me than bad: I'll have less money, but now I can use the next month (the one where my children are still in school) to do prep for the fall at a leisurely pace, and to work on the things that I'm feeling starved for, like reading and writing. And exercise -- even the simplest kind, such as walking through my neighborhood or stretching. And sleep. Lots of sleep.
I've begun reading this week, as a kind of segue between Disaster Semester and Disaster Semester Prevention Planning, Lynda Barry's Syllabus. It's really marvelous. Lynda Barry is one of my new favorites. I discovered her via my colleague D.W., who studied with her at University of Wisconsin-Madison (and is actually …

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

I went to sleep at two in the morning on Sunday night after grading until I was cross-eyed and when I got ready for bed I checked my email and I had a message from a student who said I have emailed you twice in the last month and have not received a response- please get back to me about my questions and so I stayed up another half hour because I felt the need to write her back and prove with a screen shot that yes, I'd forgotten to send her a reply to an email she sent that past Tuesday but I'd only received one email from her since early April, and I DID reply to the one from April, and I could tell that when I woke up two hours later with the alarm and the beginning of a migraine and the non-sleeping Vampire Toddler it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day.
At breakfast Little Miss Talkalot decided she was too tired to eat breakfast and then The Boy decided that he was too tired to eat breakfast and then Vampire Toddler decided she wanted to eat Pirate …