Monday, December 31, 2007

Early, late in December

Moon hangs in the sky
half a pearl this cold morning
close to the New Year

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Three women, plus

Three poets this year

During 2007, I've been introduced to the work of Lynda Hull. I've been reintroduced to the poems of Roberta Spear. And I've continued my exploration of Louise Glück's poems.

These three women have inspired me, and I'd like to be able to say what I think I've learned from each one of them.

Glück's work has shown me how intellect can work in a poem and how spare writing can increase emotional tension.

In her poems, Spear has shown how to tell stories—how in a few lines a poem can take the reader immediately to a place and the lives of the people who live there.

Lynda Hull's poems pull no punches. They pierce right to the heart—with empathy and compassion but no pity. Her work has shown me how the poet can begin a poem as an observer, instead of the star, and let images lead into memory, let times and places lead into any sorrow, loss, or joy.

I've seen them do it. Now, can I?

Who did you read in 2007? What stopped you in your tracks? What did you learn?


Other people have inspired me this year, and some of these women have inspired me for many years.

Ellen, for her energy, her activism, and her scholarship of
Emily Dickinson
Eliza, for continuing to follow her dream
Alix, who has found a job she loves
Nancy, who has found a job that takes her to exotic places like Oslo and Shanghai
Laurie, whose comfort zone is traveling outside of her comfort zone, and her gift for seeing life and recording it on film
T, for her love of food and feeding others well
Judy, who writes and publishes and gets rejected and writes more
Ross Palmer and Gina and Kristina, who work hard and remain dedicated to their craft (and Kristina has found a way to take her work to Italy—twice!)
Bonnie, for her courage, her energy, and her fabulous sense of humor

When I look at this list, the theme is perseverance. My big thank you to you all.

Update: I knew the list wasn't complete. It still isn't, and it may continue to grow.

The language of light

(Not to be confused with Thomas Kinkade, painter of light)

I love light—its colors and textures. I love the paintings of the impressionists and the photographs of Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, and Walker Evans.

I love to write about light, to try to paint it in words.

Now, I have a camera, and so I'm trying to learn a new language. Technology: many settings to read and remember (and I'm more of a point-and-click kind of gal).

Friday, on my walk home from the bus, I took several pictures. It was too dark. They were all dark.

Yesterday afternoon, I was able to get a few images of the tree at the end of our alley.

Spokes of many wheels
Branches travel to the sky
Anchored in winter

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Seven things

Kelli posted this on her blog:

Aaron McCollough told a Michigan Daily reporter "7 things you should know about being a poet." Deborah Ager has challenged other poets to come up with their own "7 things" lists.

and she provided a very good list of seven things. She made some very good points about not doing it for the money (now I'll wait for you to stop laughing and catch your breath), about not having to be neurotic, drunk, or a train wreck all the time, and about writing because you can't not write. See her complete list

Not wanting to simply repeat her excellent points, I came up with some others:

  1. It's good to read, and it's especially good to read poetry.

  2. You'll probably write some bad poems and a lot of poems that are okay, but just okay, and for every great poem that you write, you'll have written x number of those other poems. But, if you want to write that great poem, you'll have read about 5x or 10x of other people's poems.

  3. It's good to read a lot of different kinds of poetry, including work that doesn't sound like the way you write. Move out of your comfort zone. You can always go back.

  4. Don't worry about reading out loud, but get to know your poems as well as you can. You'll learn new things about them as well new ways to read them.

  5. Listening is good.

  6. Rejections are a fact of poetry.

  7. Enjoy writing. Enjoy reading. Enjoy it all.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Another reply poem

I had that feeling again, today, when I read a poem and I wanted to answer. Today's poem on the Verse Daily website is "Saint Anthony Falls" by William Waltz.

Here is my response:

Paterson Falls

You bring me here to show me
that you have nature even in North Jersey,
where water thunders pale over the falls.
A rickety iron catwalk's closed.
Warnings tinge the air,
the river where garbage bobbles
by the edges, and cream-colored scum
that could have looked like lace
heaves up along the dark rocks.
On the far side, summer trees rise,
leaves an old green, lush summer stained
by living. The Passaic runs as though
she could still be wild, instead
of dressed in clothes the mills made.
This was a factory town, famous for its silk.
She was a working girl.
We watch the water, listen,
drift away across the road
drawn by the diner's lights.

(Laurie, does this sound right? Did the diner have some famous specialty? Probably hot dogs, back in those days when I didn't eat meat.)

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Watching for the snow
A day looking through windows
Always wanting more

More Gilbert

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Yesterday, in Seattle

In the park, just before...

Up in the water tower...

It's snowing, even if you can't see it...

Our white Christmas...

Monday, December 24, 2007


Whether you're writing or painting or dancing or singing or cooking (as I will be) or walking in the rain, may you find that creative spark and a good measure of peace in each moment.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Light one more candle
This longest night of the year
Darkness will not stay

Friday, December 21, 2007

Late in the season

Planting crocus bulbs
Visions of gold and violet
Waiting for the spring

Thinking ahead

Today, I planted some 360 crocus bulbs and any of the grape hyacinths that hadn't gone moldy.

My vision is to have a little meadow of crocus blooms in my parking strip. More likely, the squirrels will come tonight and dig them all up, or they will be planted too shallow and won't survive.

At one point, I saw the chopped end of a daffodil shoot. What? I stopped jabbing my trowel into the damp ground and noticed that yes, the daffodils are already arriving even though it's December, even though winter doesn't start until tomorrow.

Whenever I work in the yard, or the garden—and it isn't nearly often enough—I think about Stanley Kunitz, who made time for both passions, planting and poetry. Sometimes when I garden, poems begin to grow in my thoughts. Today, I just got muddy, cold, wet hands. But, bulbs are in the ground.

Spring will tell its own stories.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A tisket, a tasket, a kitten in a basket

Gilbert's new favorite place
(Thanks to a Harry & David gift basket)

Three for the 19th

Today, I haven't been able to fit everything into one haiku:

After that morning
I write this poem many times
It's never finished

On that other hill
We left you when you left us
Fourteen winters pass

The years don't erase
Imprints of death and then grief
Slowly, writing fades

For a little history, here is an older poem, from A Steady Longing for Flight:

December 19

Rain soaks the spare grass without mercy.
I come here less and less,
wait for the stone chosen last summer.
A slab of granite, an odd comfort.

You left behind anniversaries
like so many crumbs of bread:
the night we met,
the morning we married
and now this holy day
I observe on my own.
I can get to the cemetery myself.
Beyond that, I have no maps, no rules,
no way to call up and ask
if I'm doing this right.

I see a little sun right now, and feel thankful to be alive.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Still no sign of snow

I wanted a little line of poetry, and I wanted it to be about snow. I looked high. I looked low. I looked at the Poetry Foundation website and at, and then I realized that I could use one of my Decemer haikus. I could even write just the one that would say what I wanted to say.

Isn't that the point?

After a little work, I came up with:

Waiting for the snow
To change December landscapes
The world looking new

Then today, I sent it to Michael Dylan Welch, who knows much more about haiku than I do or ever will. He had a suggestion, so my latest version is:

Waiting for the snow
To change rain-blackened branches
The world looking new

Is it better? I don't know. Does it say what I need it to say? I'm not sure. I think the first version says what I want it to say. But Michael's comment opens up the possibility for change, and I can keep exploring it.

Three lines, Seventeen syllables or so. And still a wealth of possibility.

Now, time to check the weather forecast.

The un-blog blog event

Last night, the Capitol Hill Seattle blog hosted an event in the neighborhood. The Internet, or some of it, sat around a table and met each other.

In a cool retro twist, we also traded books. Real non-e, old-fashioned books. Made of paper, and already read. I walked away with a copy of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Well, it has a season word...

Knees ache with winter.
Cat sleeps on my lap. I watch.
That's all I can do.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


No snow. Little wind.
Winter hovers on the stoop
Gives nothing away.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Money plants

Thin thickets of coins
pale as the December sky
next year's seeds ready

Shock or awe?

At the Mighty Tieton LitFuse workshop, Kathleen Flenniken talked about how each line of a poem could (or should) contain a surprise—so that if you looked at that line on your own, even out of context, you would find something new or disturbing or delicious. At least, that's how I interpreted.

But when does the surprising become the startling, and when does the startling become vague or even a little monotonous?

Last week, I read a few poems from Black Warrior Review on the
Verse Daily website. They worked very hard at juxtaposing disparate images for surprise or shock or even glee. But at the end of each poem, I felt left without a coherent whole.

Maybe a poem doesn't need a coherent whole. Maybe that's a crutch I rely on. Still: How do you surprise the senses without dulling them? How does your work avoid becoming a cliché of itself?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Written in a fit of insomnia

Duck tucks its head back
Nestles beak under warm wing
To sleep on water

Saturday, December 8, 2007

One year

I started this blog one year ago today with the goals of keeping it up for one year and, in the spirit of inquiry, asking questions that might start a conversation about poetry and writing poetry—questions of craft and general perseverance.

I hope that you've enjoyed some of the posts, and that you have found some of the questions useful or at least intriguing. That said, I'd like to keep it going (even when I have to type with one hand because the kitten is chewing on my other thumb).

If there's anything you'd like to see more or less of—for example, more pictures and less whining—let me know. As noted, one goal was for this little weblog to be a place for conversation.

On to the next year!

More about haiku

Most of us learned, probably in school, that a haiku is a Japanese poetry form in three lines 5, 7, and 5 syllables. This, it turns out, is a simplification and not necessarily true. It's a good firm guideline, a rule you can hang your hat on, but it overpowers the inherent subtleties of the form.

Peter Pereira pointed to a post about Haiku Blogging and offered that as a way to create short, compressed blog posts. Michael Dylan Welch then weighed in (yes, I'm kind of giving you the play-by-play) with some comments.

Michael knows a lot about haiku, and in his comments he explains that other factors are usually considered more important than a syllabic structure (Japanese doesn't parse by syllables anyway, but by sounds, or mora). These factors, he continues, are "kigo (season word), kireji (cutting word that usually divides the poem into two juxtaposed parts), and objective imagery (no concepts, judgments, conclusions, or analysis)." He adds that you can find a different haiku every day at

For more information about haiku, you can read
Becoming a haiku poet or Michael's ten tips, or you can visit his collection of haiku and photographs, Open Window.

No sign of snow

The clear sky a bowl
Robin's egg blue in winter
A day to begin

Friday, December 7, 2007


Winter comes to rest
The darkest nights of the year
A few clouds, few stars

Yesterday's haiku

Dark as an old hat
Morning hides inside of it
Winter sleeps late


Bottle of roses
Bright red beneath a gray sky
Man on his way home


These holiday lights
Like moons floating in pastels
Unexpected Spring

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Yesterday's poem on Poetry Daily.


Whoa, Nellie

How did it get to be December already?

What about a poem to memorize?

What about an exercise?

Given the flurry of plans, it isn't such a good time to memorize anything. It is a good time to sing.

For an exercise, something simple. This comes from One Continuous Mistake, by Gail Sher: Write a haiku every day. Take a little moment. Breathe. Write your haiku.

You can get One Continuous Mistake from Amazon or you can probably order it from Open Books.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


The season's first snow.
Here, the first snow might be the only snow, so we enjoy it while we can.