Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Yesterday's poem

Yesterday's National Poetry Month prompt on Poetic Asides was to write a sestina. It was fun! (True confession: I love sestinas, even though they always seem daunting at first.) I decided to choose, instead of six random end words, three pairs of rhyming end words.

Here is my attempt (or my draft):

At the End of Winter and a Day

An April wind may blow
no ill, or summon gray weather,
rain on the trees, one lone crow
winging west. Gone is the flock,
a sleight of bone and feather.
The clouds pile up and knock

into thunder, a rumbling drum, knock
on a copper kettle, a blow
to evening's descent. You find a feather
lost in this darkening weather
and look for the circling flock,
bird shadows in the shape of crow

but the wings elude you, each crow
gone to roost, and you knock
at the door of dusk, flock
to the porch light, a glass of wine, blow
out the candles and watch weather
bruise the sky, feather

the light to shreds of wind. You feather
your hand through my hair, crow
feet perching at my eyes. You weather
my storms, watch me knock
over my glass, trash my dreams, and blow
up sometimes. I flock

to the lights and then return like a whole flock—
birds of a black feather,
posse of crows, even pigeons. I blow
off my steam, my storm, eat my crow
and you, quiet now, knock
a rhythm on the table, Stormy Weather.

We will wait out this spring, whether
the wind gives out or not. We'll flock
to the wild side, knock
on wood, on birch bark, wish on a feather
watch for each midnight crow
and listen to this cruel month blow

into May. Listen! I'll blow the candles, knock
three times, hold you in sunset weather.
Flock to the west, wish on a feather and crow!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Poetry pick: Furious Lullaby

…while we soaked in grace from the blue
light of stained glass. We were a river of blessings.

Starting with "Holiness," Furious Lullaby, by Oliver de la Paz, draws the reader immediately into the currents of God, the Devil, and a treasured string of mornings.

The poems in the book are presented within a structure of aubades, essays, and letters, giving us "Aubade with the Moon, Some Bones, and a Word," "Penitence Essay," and "My Dearest Apostasy."

I first noticed and admired this structure because it provides such a solid framework—solid, providing a sort of comfort, and yet open, more like a lattice, with room in the interstices for exploration, experimentation. That, and it's a book full of poems about morning.

Yet Mr. de la Paz does not flinch from language. He combines mystic images with more scientific, or more Latinate, terms without stumbling syntactically. Instead of seeming out of place, a verbal jolt, the words fit with precision, as though turning a key for the reader. Consider this from "Flutter":

…Ash-mouthed and mischievous,
their wicked beaks full of hair. If we kept disintegrating

into the sound of wings, we would be shoeboxes of dust by morning.

Or the first stanza of "My Dearest Recklessness,":

We'd be in danger of splitting our loves into tertiary sequences.
You'd get the bigger piece and I would go on,
housed in my difficult sack-of-a-commotion.

Or these lines from "Aubade with Constellations, Some Horses, and Snow":

Their helices of in-breath tick,
whole owls of flame. The field turns
like naphthalene—skins and snow.

The aubades read like a series of poems to the beloved—sometimes a lover, sometimes perhaps an old friend or an aging parent. The poems contain the sadness or longing one may feel at dawn or even before then, when the Moon still reigns in the sky—and the images, palpable, unveil in layers a great tenderness, as in these lines from "Aubade with a Book and the Rattle from a String of Pearls":

yet you would not speak about things such as age
and the body gestures that come to claim your mornings.
Neck-sure, arm-sure, I think about you and your book
coming to some agreement…some place of rest.

and later:

Each room carried us from clock to clock. Each tick
an earful about ourselves. God knows,
the way night moves its shoes from side to side
or how day wrestles syllables from us in our sleep.

Then, just when you think this is a quiet book, Mr. de la Paz throws in "What the Devil Said":

Lo! A jigger of wine
fills itself to the brim.
Heat I give you and a fifth rib…

As I said, Mr. de la Paz does not flinch from language or from love, sorrow, or loss. He confronts them, embraces them, pierces them, as in "Fury":

…Poetry makes us bastards.
My dead cousins…my wounded relations

sleep in phosphorescence. A canopy of stars
endless beyond the ginkgo, shine apocryphal
on language I dredge in safety, not fury.

I've read these poems several times, and they've opened up new windows, new doors—possibilities of language, image, of how a book can be made and how a living can live on the page.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

On the way to the poetry reading at the Jewel Box Theatre

Snow on the road in April

The lovely Scandinavian enclave of Poulsbo

Vikings everywhere!

All in all, a fun reading, and a good day.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

You do not need to adjust your screen

April 19th, on Seattle's Capitol Hill

Earlier, in a brief weather lull (with sunglasses!), I hurried over to Open Books and brought home an armload of poetry. My future is looking like Robert Hass, Osip Mandelstam, Paal-Helge Haugen, and more Tracie K. Smith.

Meanwhile, I'm going through Furious Lullaby again, and it has inspired me in a completely new direction on my main manuscript project. I am so excited that I wrote drafts, very rough drafts, of 12 poems, with ideas for several more. And that's the great thing (I think) about inspiration: No matter how much I aspire to write like someone else, it will always be different, will arrive, sooner or later, in my voice.

Who inspires you to write?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Third person

Today's NaPoMo poem-a-day prompt from Poetic Asides is to write a poem in the third person. Although you can write about yourself and put it in third person, the exercise was to take yourself out of the poem, so I wanted myself out of the poem as much as possible. Here is my draft.

Sunday Visit

How carefully she navigates the shifting
sands of conversation that sink, without warning, drift
from one story to the next. She
asks a question, and her face smoothes
like a mask, porcelain and serene. She nods
as the answer blows through her like the April wind
and follows with another query,
even as the new leaves shiver,
the shadows of words winging
away from this sunlit afternoon. She leans
on instinct and years of good manners,
knows how to carry grace even
in such quiet calamity. The third question slips
in delicately, an innocent--the fourth,
a vase of dahlias on the table. Then the light
behind her thin curtains fades just a thumb,
the difference between one moment
and the moment after, and she reaches
for the next card in her hand,
returns to that first question, begins again.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


On her blog, Kelli makes a practice of Confession Tuesdays.

I confess that I am not organized enough by Tuesday, but I can confess on Wednesday.

Today I confess that I am haunted by punctuation—misplaced apostrophes (it's its when it's possessive) and commas that strand the subject from its verb. I let my inner editor get in my way.


While trying to explore various technology questions at work, I found I could now see the slideshow from last November's LitFuse workshop. (Oh,
Mighty Tieton!)


While walking home from the bus, I was listening to music and I heard a song by Penguin CafĂ© Orchestra—a song that I had choreographed to back when I was a younger woman. It was so much fun.


Now I need to work on my NaPoMo poem-a-day poem—something with a twist!

Monday, April 14, 2008

On the way home from the bus stop

Even in the rain

Poet Narcissus? (!)

I thought these came only in purple!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Yesterday at the races

Christine, in the black and yellow, moving up

Crazy kind of croweded

Jamie, in the black and red, chasing.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It's that perspective thing...

It could have been a contender for one of the crappiest rejections ever.

I received an email message that my poem had been accepted for publication in a review. But the title of the poem didn't look familiar. Did I write it so long ago and send it out so long ago that I didn't remember it? How embarrassing. Gwen Head once wrote, "Mes poems sont mes enfants." My poems are my children. Had I forgotten a child?

After looking high and low for some trace of this mysterious work, I sent a sheepish response and received my reply this morning: I was sent that acceptance by mistake.


That took the wind out of my sails, and I'll admit that I felt mopey and pretty snippy, too.

But then, all kinds of nice things were happening. Friends were calling, sending email, stopping by. I finished a project that I'd been putting off. I started another project that I enjoy. I pondered words for today's poem. I had fun, and then I got to ride my bike home and it wasn't even raining.

In the middle of so much goodness, I read this on Debra Jarvis's site. A good reminder, and it made me laugh.


I heard again from the aforementioned publisher, and they accepted another poem (one that I did write). So I enjoyed a fabulous day with very minimal wallowing, and in the end one of my poems found a home after all.

Now, if only my back wasn't complaining from that little bike ride...

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Time out, the pictures

Cocktails on the balcony, and the macadamia nuts that Tom (I) won

Sunset from the balcony


Akaka Falls

Where hot lava meets the sea


Big Island graffiti


Sea turtle petroglyph

On the way down at Polulu


Mauna Kea

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Day 2. Who?

For today’s Poetic Asides prompt, Robert Lee Brewer posted the following:

Put yourself in someone (or something) else's skin and write a poem about the
experience. Who (or what) ever you become, please make that the title of the

I thought, "Piece of cake! A persona poem. I can do this." Then I started to think about whose skin I might choose to step into, and I rapidly came to the conclusion that I do not know enough stories, not enough history. I began to panic, just a little. I made a list, starting with obvious options: Joan of Arc, Penelope.

Then I remembered a poem that I have been wanting to write for months. Here is that draft:


Always the men with their silly ideas—
to taunt the universe and all its gods.
Daedelus left me to tend hearth and well,
stew pot and wine jar, took my shining boy,
his eyes already full of light.
The dawn of my son’s birth my bones
weighed already heavy with grief.
Each day was a wager with sea and sky, the ledge
he would leap from, the height in his heart.
My heart hangs like a stone, my eyes
blind with the wool of my shroud,
and I have no use for my husband,

no need to see the sun.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Happy Poetry Month!

It's April. Cruelest month, tax deadline, and perhaps lilacs. (Will they really be this early?)

In the U.S., it's also Poetry Month. But what about elsewhere? Is April a poetry month for Canada, too? Do other countries have poetry month? When?

When will we have a world poetry month?

Over on Poetic Asides, Robert Lee Brewer is hosting a Poem a Day, and will provide prompts for the entire month. He explains that these are drafts. If April is for writing, May is for revising. With that healthy spontaneity in mind, here is my first draft of my first attempt:


A little girl in a little room
up the narrow stairs--an attic,
the ceiling comfortably close
and a crack in the closet
that revealed the garage below.
A big madrone cursed for its mess,
a large yard with raspberries
and a swing set. Then, when
the interstate came through,
my father walked me down
to the end of the street
to see the construction
and the cement outlines
of the homes that had to go.