Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What's next

As last year wound down, I wrote about the poets and people who continued to inspire me.

This year, I owe a big thank you to Sam Green, whom I met and heard speak at this year’s LitFuse workshop in Tieton, Washington.

Sam’s poetry speaks for itself. I’ve been reading The Necessity of Grace during the past month, appreciating deeply the precise language and the strong awareness of and connection to the world around him.

And it’s how he chose that world, why he chose it, that inspires me now. Sam told a story about how someone told him that if he wanted to write the kind of poems that he wanted to write, he should live the life that would allow him to write those poems.

For Sam and his wife, that meant moving to an island and building a log home and planting an orchard and setting up a printing press and living very simply.

I don’t know what it means for me. But I keep reminding myself and asking myself what kind of poems I want to write—and what kind of life, what changes in my life—I need to make to write those poems.

I haven’t gotten very far yet—I don’t have any answers, certainly none that I can articulate. But in this case, it really is the journey—the path of inquiry—that’s important, and I look forward to continuing it in 2009.

Thank you, Sam!

Monday, December 29, 2008

How we roll

Here are the dinner rolls that I made yesterday for our snow-delayed Christmas dinner at my mom's house. I was trying to replicate the rolls we get from a local bakery each year at Thanksgiving, and I'd found what I thought was a good recipe in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

But the recipe was for bread, and I needed to know how many rolls that should make, what size pan to use, how long to bake them. I looked through the cookbooks in my closet, with varying results. Then I posted my questions on the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day website, and both Jeff and Zoe replied before my dough was done rising.

The rolls were a big hit, and I may be making them often in the (near) future.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Loading the Canon

The National Poetry Review is hosting the Laureate Prize for Poetry, which "honors one new poem that TNPR believes has the greatest chance, of those entered, of standing the test of time and becoming part of the literary canon."


As if.

I admit that I'm partial to my poems. As Gwen Head so eloquently put it, "Mes poemes sont mes enfants." My poems are my children, too. I'm especially fond of the poems in my new manuscript. But do I think any one of them will stand the test of time and whatever other tests the canon requires?

What does that entail? Writing about something big, important, historical? Writing in a form? Being famous? Being dead?

Is my reaction the response of a woman? (I don't think so.) Or is it the reaction of someone historically insecure? (More likely, but we're talking about poets anyway, right?)

I guess I'm writing for the moment, and for people I care about and love. I'll leave the literary artillery to someone else.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Quick vocabulary question

If a siren's song lures sailors to stay (okay, by drowning), what kind of song lures people away?

How would you describe the song played by the Pied Piper of Hamlin? Is there a word for it?

Any help is appreciated.

It's a quiet day with rain and melting snow and the manuscript, another combing through for the right word, the right image.

But a thesaurus and a dictionary will get me only so far.

Where do you look when you need to find the right reference?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A little more winter wonderland...

and a Happy Holiday, or a Happy Thursday, to everyone.

The new door

The door on the right, newly crafted and hung, leads to the barrel room. (The close-up photos didn't come out, but it is a very fine portal.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Harvesting sage for the dinner

It's under here somewhere...


As seen on skis

In the alley

Usually a busy bus stop

Other people are out on skis

No worries

Does anyone remember

asking last Wednesday, "Where's the snow?"

It's another working-from-home day for me.

I haven't been writing any poetry or even revising. The snow is my poetry. If I lived in New England, I might never write a word. I would just sit by the window all day and watch.

Okay, maybe for a week, a fortnight even. Then it might become ordinary. That's hard for me to imagine, although it's getting a little easier.

And thanks to the efficacy of email, I have received rejections.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My dream morning

This morning, inspired by Martha (thanks, Martha!) and my husband's desire for breakfast sausages, I strapped on my skis and went to the store.

The snow had a ice crust on top, but in the tire tracks, it was pretty smooth (considering it's been five years since I dug my skis out of the shed).

Now it's back to the store to stock up for the big family dinner tomorrow.


Saturday scenes

Ice patterns on the windshield. I was waiting in the car for a ride downtown to do some shopping. On our way, we saw a bus, and I switched over to mass transit. It was very mass.

It's rare that you can look out and see this much snow.

On the way home, my bus couldn't make it up the hill, so I walked the icy sidewalks with my fragile packages, and made it home just as the next snow began to fall.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Yesterday's weather

It's been a busy week, what with waiting for snow and watching the snow and working from home and bouncing around for shopping and cocktails. All very festive.

Not a lot of writing—poems or cards. Although I'd like to. In the flurry of the season, I long to curl up and create—something, anything (not that I can; I just want to). But I'm trying to go with the flow and enjoy the season and the snow.

How about you? How do you balance writing and revelry, or do you save your creative energy for the new year?

Monday, December 15, 2008


I was standing at the fish counter in the supermarket when my phone rang.

My daughter told me that the cat had knocked over the Christmas tree, and even though she put it back up, it was leaning, so she was holding it. Could I hurry?

I took my parcel of shrimp, paid up, and walked very quickly home. We reset the tree stand (loosening, straightening, tightening), mopped up the water, picked up the big broken bits, vacuumed up the smaller ones, and Tom has since embarked on experiments for closing that part of the house off.

We'll see whether that works.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It's that time of year

Poems are coming back at lightning speed, some in less than a week. It's enough to make my head spin. Ouch.

Meanwhile, the holiday cards sit in their boxes stacked under my little table.

Perhaps it's time to let the poems stay at home for a while and turn my writing energy to the season.

But first, cookies for the neighborhood cookie exchange!

A little white lightness

I love the way snow changes the landscape, but I also love the brightness it brings.

I can't drive in it, but I don't have a car this weekend anyway.

What time is it?


Friday, December 12, 2008

Wild Friday

I had a party to attend, and the wind was kicking up, so I left work at about 3:30.

At about 3:45, my car died on the highway. Dead. Nothing happening. I became a traffic hazard.

I've been stuck behind people like me.

But people are nice.

One person offered to pull me, but I had already called the State Patrol.

Another person offered to let me in. I think he thought I had a turn signal on and didn't see the emergency flashers.

Then two guys offered to push my car. This was good, as it took all my energy (and a shocking flood of adrenaline) just to steer over to the shoulder.


I called AAA, and I waited. I looked for out-of-state license plates: Oregon, Idaho, California, Utah, Indiana!.

I watched the rain on the windshield to see if it would turn to snow.

I still managed to get the wrong tow truck (how do you do that? total miscommunication and nothing to do with AAA), but even the wrong tow truck got me to the right place (the car mechanics'). My husband came and picked me up.

It took me four hours.

I missed the party, but I'm home. And people are nice.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Not the crazy electric guitar kind.

Today I received a rejection letter (yes, it's that time of year when they flock to my mail box), and the editor had commented on a poem, noting what didn't work for him.

How often does that happen?

I'll take some time to think about it and take another look at that last stanza.


That poem is part of a series, most of which I will now probably never publish. And I'm willing to make that trade.

The series centers on the idea of "outside the capital," the fact that a lot of times we the people know what's going on months before the elected leaders in D.C. begin to get a clue. I wrote a lot of poems last fall. I even finished some of them, and one was published.

But after the November election, those poems have lost relevency. For now. For a good long while, I hope. And it's a trade I'm happy to make. For me, a good real life trumps a poem any day and every day.


But this is a poem I can work on. I probably won't send the same poem back to the same editor (and given the little rules I have, I probably won't send to this editor for another year).

Do you ever get feedback on the work that you submit?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lights, camera, video!

Recently at work, I signed up to write a script for a video about how students could use Microsoft OneNote.

Now, with several script drafts and a lot of help from a lot of people, it's live:

Demo: Take OneNote to class

I had a lot of fun working on this project, partly because OneNote is fun. It's my favorite software tool to use. If you aren't familiar with it, check out the video to get a glimpse of it in action.

Next up, I'll try to pull together a little something about how I've been using OneNote for writing poetry.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

For the love of language(s)

I love language, but I also love languages. I always thought that I would learn a lot of them, and well. I haven't gotten very far. I haven't gotten far at all.

But I had this great idea, I thought, for learning Italian. I'd found a couple of (mostly) cooking blogs, Cuoche dell'altro mondo and Un Tocco di Zenzero, and I thought that I could learn some Italian by translating these blogs. If not a whole blog post, at least the recipe.

Some of it can be figured out in context. A lot of it, not so much. Tonight, I finally broke out the Italian/English dictionary my son gave me last Christmas.

What is OMG in Italian?

I was lost immediately, so I skipped the introductory text and went straight to the recipe. In terms of translation, I still became lost quickly. I probably could cook it, minus a couple of ingredients, but I couldn't begin to tell you accurately what it means.

I need to try again, or I need to find another way to learn Italian.

Click Send

I just sent in my inaugural ode—which isn't really an ode, and I still wish it could have been a sestina.

How about you? The deadline is tomorrow.

I'll post it here on the Big Day.

It was fun to think about the transition we're in and where the U.S. could go in a good way and to try to capture those feelings in a poem, even if it felt a little fast and forced.

That said, I am in general feeling prompt burn-out. Having a daily prompt for NaPoWriMo or any other month of the 12 is fun, but I start to feel like it's pulling me away from the work that I want to do—like I'm spinning creativity cycles on poems that are, in the end, kind of a shrug. A great way to get over writer's block—but if you aren't blocked, a diversion. So I'll return to being the unparticipant for a while and try to work on work.

Do you like a steady diet of prompts? Are you able to interweave them into your other writing, use them as a tool to forge ahead? Or are they an aside, a separate endeavor?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

In the barrel room

Yesterday, on our way to wine tastings a couple of wineries in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle, we stopped by the shop to check on the wine. When Tom pulled out the bungs, we could hear the wine crackling with malolactic fermentation.

I've spent the most part of four glorious days working on poems. I started by going through every poem in my manuscript (the one I wasn't going to revise for a while). Then I went through my most recent copy of Poets & Writers and some of the submission call information on Facebook and gathered all the links.

Now, I'm going through the poems in my "list of poems that are available to send," and some of them I'm sending to the barrel room. Looking at them through my time-has-passed and post-Lorna-Dee-Cervantes-workshop lenses, I can tell that they need work—and if I don't know quite what that work is, if I try a few or a lot of things and the poem still isn't working, it just needs more time to age. (It might be a lot more time. Some of those poems might never get bottled—but that's okay, and I'll probably learn something along the way.)

And now, for your submitting pleasure, here is my list:

Bryant Literary Review

Hanging Moss Journal

Mary Magazine

Natural Bridge

The Normal School


The Pedestal Magazine

Third Wednesday

And the wineries we visited?

Nota Bene


Friday, November 28, 2008

I was out walking this morning past the cemetery of the Grand Army of the Republic and thinking about my inauguration poem when I saw this memorial. It's across the lane from the cemetery, which might be why I don't remember seeing it.

The walk was good, and I decided that my poem needed to have a refrain. Then I thought that it could be a sestina! That would give it some form, and the refrain would take care of one line in every stanza. When I came home I began to write.

And then I checked Martha's helpful blog post again and found a few more rules. The poem needs to be an ode and it needs to be in four quatrains. Rats! No sestina. It also needs to include three of the following words: honor, integrity, faith, hope, change, power. I'd had honor covered in a line and hope as an end word, but my other end words were light, morning, go, turning, and far.

(Power? My poem will not include the word power.)

Back to the writing board.

How about you? Are you working on an inauguration ode?

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Yesterday afternoon, while I waited for the bus, I was able take a moment and appreciate a week of leaving for work at sunrise and leaving for home at sunset. So much glorious color right in front of me.

This morning, I'm able to take a quiet moment and be thankful for family and friends and a job and a home and good food and good company and good poems and our new president-elect and each day that brings its own measure of hope and beauty. For me, it's a day to focus on the good things. The sadness and horror and hurt are still out there, but for this one day, let them not take center stage.

Thank you, everyone, for what you bring to the world.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Who's your favorite?

I was just picking up a second cup of coffee when a colleague asked me, "Who's your favorite poet?"

Imagine the sound of screaming inside my head. AAAAaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!

He tempered his query by adding, "I know that's like asking, 'What's your favorite air molecule.' "

Oxygen in my lungs, carbon dioxide in the Champagne.

I asked him if I could get back to him.

Why is this so hard? Because there are so many! And because I am a fickle reader, shifting attention to whomever I'm reading, if I'm liking the reading, at any one time.

I'll admit that I've been reading Best American Poetry on the bus. So many poets, so many names. And a lot of them just don't do it for me. I'm sure they're brilliant, but they do not speak to me. At least, not this morning.

I could look at which poets I come back to again and again—but often it's not the poet's whole body of work. Rather, a specific collection has drawn me to their poems. By the time the next volume is in print, they may have moved on into artistic terrain that is too rugged or strange for me. Or I may have changed my way of looking at the landscape. We have parted ways. And that's okay.

For example, I love James Galvin's book God's Mistress. That one.

This is the long way of avoiding an answer to the question. Another sip of coffee…

I am horribly underread in the classics, the canon, so those names aren't going to show up.

But over the years, I return most often and joyously to these:

Frank O'Hara, Roberta Spear, and Louise Gluck.

I can't tell you why. I know I certainly don't write like O'Hara or Gluck. Or maybe that is why—they give me something that I cannot give myself: O'Hara, the music and exuberance; Gluck, the unflinching precision.

If I have to choose just one, it's Gluck.

(But wait--I'm at work, and it's the day before Thanksgiving, and I could be forgetting someone, the most obvious someone. It's almost inevitable!)

Who is your favorite? And can you pick just one?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

And I quote

"It was dark, and I was surrounded by ponies."

Daniel, on trying to ride his bike from Olympia to Yelm and realizing that he was kind of lost.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Someone's having fun

Still waiting...

The son is home now
His gear spread out on the floor
All of him we've seen

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fun, and more fun

Tonight, I had a fun time—a marvelous time—reading with Jack McCarthy and Martha Silano.

And I had a chance to ask Martha about the inaugural poem contest (?), which I first read about on her blog, more than a week ago already. You can get the full details on her blog—but the basic idea is to write an inaugural poem that uses one line from any poem in this year's Best American Poetry by December 5. Yes, very soon. Start writing now. Were you wondering what to do on that Friday after Thanksgiving?

I am so, so embarrassed to admit that I do not yet have a copy of Best American Poetry 2008. If I can find one this weekend, I'll give this a try.

Think of it as one more way to celebrate the election.

(I remember reading Maya Angelou's poem for Bill Clinton's 1992 inauguration: I was hunkered over my big pregnant belly reading the poem by flashlight the day after our wild Inauguration Day wind storm.)

For the many details, see Martha's blog.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Irons in the fire, or burners on the stove

or pots on the burner, or cooks in the kitchen…

I'm feeling much better than when I made my (ahem) highly dramatic post on Sunday. I'm still haunted by images in the book, but I'm able to revisit them, carefully.

Now, I'm reading poems by Yehuda Amichai, and they are leading me on a richly textured journey.

Next, I'm ready to get to some of my own work. I've spent so much focus on revising the poems in my manuscript again that I haven't turned to anything newer. And I have quite a few things going, including a whole series based on that fairy tale that I can't find and can't remember and some place poems I wrote in Tieton and a poem about Lipomas and many, many things to revise. Tonight, I think it's time to give those poems a turn.

And hey—I could even think about sending out some work. (Do editors really have the time and inclination to read submissions this time of year?)

Finally, I'm trying to cook an artichoke. With the choke and the sauce and the rice, that's three burners.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Trip to Portland

The Portland train station

Seen on our walk through the woods this morning

Playing with Max the dog

Outside the Chinese Garden

Inside the Chinese Garden