Monday, October 29, 2007

Still no video

I admit that I associate a sofa with TV. At least, these days. So I really wanted to polish up my funny little video from the '80s. Coming soon.

In the meantime, I'm featuring another one of the horse proverb poems
on the sofa.

That, and getting ready for
LitFuse in Tieton.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Recent comments on my recent whining have brought to mind a passage from Life Work, by Donald Hall, in which he quotes the sculptor Henry Moore:

"The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to,
something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life.
And the most important thing is—it must be something you cannot possibly

No matter what we write or how it's received—or not received—I think we are all engaged in that elusive pursuit of our best work. It's an evolution, and it's our life works.

That said, I've been reading Can Poetry Matter, by Dana Gioia—and so far I've been struck by two ideas regarding my own work (I'm speaking only for myself here and not for anyone else):

One: I'm too much invested in my ego (I want to succeed; I want the approval). I'd be a liar if I said otherwise. True, it's the writing and the writing life that's important and if I were shut in a dark box I would scratch the walls or go crazy trying to memorize what I wanted to write. But when one watches one's peers or people one knows or people one has heard of before get books published or national awards or coveted readings, it's hard not to measure oneself on that yardstick.

Two: This could encompass about 20 things, really: Not having found my own personal voice, formal poetry is too sloppy, other poetry is too mundane. What am I saying, really?

I'm not sure.

That's the problem, I think.

How to write poetry that is relevant, that resonates. The urge to create is matched with an urge to communicate. We write what we write—but is there a way, is there a lens we can look through, to bring added depth or reach to our work?

Or is it a crapshoot and we practice and hope that helps?

Now it's time for the first game of this year's World Series. (I think Mr. Hall would approve—after all, Boston's in it.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

All in one

I like to work on poems in a series.

The other day, I started a free write and I immediately thought about how cool it would be to write a series.

Then I wondered whether that would be diluting my efforts, diluting the poem. If I set out to write six or twelve or forty poems about a subject, am I spreading my idea too thin? What if, instead, I put all the energy and effort and time that I would give to a series on this one poem?

The anxiety is that I will have a whole lot of poems that are completely unrelated to one another and I will never be able to pull them together into a book manuscript. That would be a bummer. But there's a chance that they would be stronger poems. (They might even get published.) That seems like a fair trade. Who knows? Maybe some of those poems will still grow into a series. The point, for me, is not to plan it that way.

So I'll try to stop working so far into the future.

How about you? How do you think about a poem when you begin? How do you think about a project?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Memorize: Uncle

Live and learn.

I had a grand plan of memorizing a poem a week. It wasn't a bad idea, but maybe it was a little too ambitious. Now, I say, "Uncle!"

I still think that memorization is a great tool for understanding work—my own or anyone else's. But one poem a week, I've found, is too much. I'm not giving the poem its due, and I'm forgetting them as soon as I move on to the next poem. That was not the point.

So I'm revising my ambitions to better achieve them: a poem a month. I want to stick with the Frost poem for all of October and really give myself time to internalize it.

Allowing enough time for that poem will give me some time to write and revise some of my own poems—oh, and update the website.

After a brief hiatus, during which I was trying to edit a little video (it isn't done yet), I'm featuring one of the proverb poems on the sofa. So plump up the pillows, bolster the bolsters, and take five, take a nap, or read a poem.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Another abundance

of clarity, perhaps, abandoned?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lean to the left, brain leans to the right

I saw this on Kelli's webblog, and I had to check it out. Now I know.

You Are 40% Left Brained, 60% Right Brained

The left side of your brain controls verbal ability, attention to detail, and reasoning.
Left brained people are good at communication and persuading others.
If you're left brained, you are likely good at math and logic.
Your left brain prefers dogs, reading, and quiet.

The right side of your brain is all about creativity and flexibility.
Daring and intuitive, right brained people see the world in their unique way.
If you're right brained, you likely have a talent for creative writing and art.
Your right brain prefers day dreaming, philosophy, and sports.

Notice how the right side of the brain is all about creativity, but the left side of the brain controls verbal ability. Hmmmm...

This is a test

I'm struggling with the disappointment of not getting outside recognition and not selling more books and… and…

In some ways I feel like this year is a test. I'm being asked to, or forced to, examine and own my motivations for writing. In some cases, I need to nudge myself toward some adjustments. (I find it's always easier to adjust when I can own and understand where I'm coming from in the first place.)

I'm not getting acceptances, so that's a low. But if I look at the high points during the year, they were the writing—the two manuscript projects that just swept me along. My task now, my challenge, is to focus on the writing and the craft and—most important to me—the deepening and the release, and to let go, let go, let go of all the longings for acceptance, recognition, validation.

It makes so much sense when I say it or write it down, but I find that doing it on a day-to-day, ongoing basis is much harder. I slip in and out. As I said, it's a test—like a fitness test, more muscles (metaphorical) that I need to exercise.

I'm pretty sure I've asked this before, but because I am slipping in and out, I'll ask again: How do you find encouragement or validation? How do you measure "success" (on your own, in your writing community)? How do you keep in the top of your mind the real why you write poetry? How do you keep on keepin' on?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


How do you free write? Do you free write?

My goal is to free write every day, even if I don't fit any other writing into the hours. Beyond that, my goal is to free write for at least five minutes.

Doesn't sound like a lot, does it? But I find I can make it until my idea runs out of steam (around the two minute mark, perhaps) and then I stop. I run out of ideas.

If I could just keep going, push through that stall, that inertia, maybe I'd get to the really interesting stuff.

How do you keep going?

This morning's (short) write:

She revisits the places of her dreams, the different houses
and their rooms of varying light, the large gardens,
the stairways and harbors, destinations she comes
to willingly as the clock ascends toward midnight
and she is ready to climb the stairs to her own room,
descend into sleep, the familiar strangeness,
and yet how often the houses become her mother's,
filled with preparations for food, with packing and waiting
for journeys to begin, with round puppies that she
in real life would never find there as though she is growing
as she sleeps a new life, building it backwards,
one step at a time.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Boo! or boo-hoo

It's that kind of a day, gray now after a bout of blue, and I've been trying to deal with technical difficulties of the computer kind since Sunday morning. Not so much fun, and I'm finding that I have little creative drive or even intellectual curiosity. Instead, I am consumed by the tasks at hand, with a mixture of incompetence, frustration, and obsession.

This leaves a lot of time for wallowing—oh woe is me, no acceptances in the mail, no mail today, but there probably wouldn't be anything other than junk anyway. Ah, kid, snap out it.

In the meantime, it's Monday, and time for another memorization poem. I admit that I struggled this week with what to suggest, and then today I was inspired by
Jeanine Hall Gailey's blog to try this e.e. cummings poem.

anyone lived in a pretty how town...

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

—e.e. cummings

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Monday, October 1, 2007

Lift that simile (October's exercise)

If September's any indication, this is going to be a terrible year for my poetical fitness.

Did you try the sonnet exercise? Did you have success? I did not do too well, and if my previous pressure's-on sonnet is any indication, this one may take me another 11 months.

Meanwhile, it's October and time for a new exercise. My suggestion:

Take one poem that you've been struggling with and use just the first line to start another poem.

I think I might even start with September's poem again. Something will work.

A poem a day, or not

At the beginning of September, I decided that I should write about food and that I should write a poem every day—hence, a poem a day about food. I also decided that I should do a free write for my next direction every day.

Success was marginal.

I found that my "poems" were more like free writes and mostly didn't even have titles. And I found that my free writes were more restricted than I want, as though they were trying to be poems right away.

And I missed a day, but only one.

So I think I'll take the whole batch, or both batches, and hide them away for a few months.

In the meantime, in this year's Poet's Market (I am so old fashioned) I found a magazine that publishes poems about food: Alimentum, the Literature of Food.

P.S. Last week I mentioned writing response poems. My earlier effort at this is posted this week on the sofa.

Happy Monday

Did you try memorizing the Frank O'Hara poem?

For me, I'm realizing that I probably won't be able to recite each of these poems by memory whenever I want to, but the value of the exercise is in gaining that greater intimacy with the poem.

This week's memorization adventure is brought to you by Emily Dickinson:

He fumbles at your Soul
As Players at the Keys
Before they drop full Music on –
He stuns you by degrees –
Prepares your brittle Nature
For the Ethereal Blow
By fainter Hammers – further heard –
Then nearer – Then so slow
Your Breath has time to straighten –
Your Brain – to bubble Cool –
Deals – One – imperial – Thunderbolt –
That scalps your naked Soul –

When Winds take Forests in their Paws –
The Universe – is still

— Emily Dickinson