Sunday, September 28, 2008

What next?

This morning I set aside a large block of time to put some new poems up on my website. But after I started working on that project, I realized that most or all of those poems were out in the world, under consideration. So that won't work.

I can wait until they all come back in the mail, or until it's been a year and I figure I'm not going to hear back, but these are poems for now. I'm hoping that after the November election, they will be irrelevant, or maybe just a reminder of what can go wrong.

Then I thought that I could send out some more poems. I even have it partially organized. But these poems are in my new manuscript. Can you send out poems even while you are submitting the manuscript that contains them to various contests or open readings?

And do I really need to worry about this? The statistical likelihood of getting a manuscript accepted and a poem in that manuscript accepted elsewhere sounds like the lottery or lightning.

Okay, I've managed to convince myself. Now I just need to wait for the grass to dry so I can mow the lawn (dandelions, clover) and maybe figure out what to do with this monster clematis.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Second thoughts

Now that the manuscript is finished, all the questions answered
and one poem removed,
I'm having second thoughts.

What about what I didn't do? I wrote from the gut, I revised from the gut,

I incised and included suggestions, tweaked the titles—
I revised, but I did not exercise,
did not underline what must stay and jettison the rest,
did not cut each phrase into a paper strip and play with placement,
did not stretch my lines out long like spaghetti
or chop them short like onions diced
(the sound of the knife on the cutting board).

I did not try all the tricks from all the classes

I've taken on what to take out.

Maybe I did not try enough. After all, I want them to be good

and better than good, the best I can write.

Maybe I am not trusting my gut.

I can send this book out and take my chances,

or I can start from scratch, start over, start hard.

Tell me No. Tell me Not now. Not yet.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

: , ? ; ' . !

Apparently, in the U.S. today, it's National Punctuation Day.

Who knew?

(Poets can use punctuation, too.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

After morning rain, a day of sun and poetry

The reading on Sunday was fun, right down by Elliot Bay, it didn't rain, and it afforded me the perfect opportunity to hear Nancy Pagh and to buy her book No Sweeter Fat.

I loved hearing her read, and then when I opened her book, I could still hear her voice (one of the best parts about hearing poetry in person: it lingers). And the poems! Wow!

I finished the book today and felt a little sad. It's over, and even though I have a brand spankin' new copy of Nancy's Floating Bridge Press winning chapbook, I still want to go back and read No Sweeter Fat again, even the poems that I already read two or three times. Aside from the sensual delight and the poignant sharpness, they hold something for me to learn, and I need more time to find it.

What do you learn from reading other poets' work? Anything specific? Any specific poets?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Your mom goes to college

but for only one day.

We came, we saw, we stood in lines, and then I left.

The dorm.

Blurry son trying to avoid the camera.

Have a great freshman year!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Poems online

Aside from Monday's ups and downs, the week is looking up and three of my poems were published on The Smoking Poet website.

(No, I don't smoke, and I don't write about smoking, but I write.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An up and down Monday

Yes, I know it's Tuesday. I'm late posting again.

But yesterday was a rollercoaster. Given current events around the world, a kiddy rollercoaster, but I definitely needed to fasten my seat belt.

First, the ups:

In The New York Times, a lovely piece about the artwork (collages!) of John Ashbery.

Then, reading The Complete Poems of Edwin Denby. Consider this, from "Venice" in the Mediterranean Cities collection:

She opens with the gondola's floated gloze

Oh, I could be right there. I am there. Oh, wait...

But then:

I was on the bike shuttle, pulling out the aforementioned volume of Denby, when this exceptionally cheerful and energetic couple boarded the shuttle. Seated in the middle of the van, one on each side, they proceeded to discuss everything—the pastry they were passing back and forth across the aisle, exercise ("After yoga, we should do something more hardcore. Yoga isn't really exercise. What is exercise?"), and whether they could actually find their bike helmets.

Did I mention it was Monday?

Meanwhile, I'm trying to wade through this Denby poetry that I found out later, when I read Ron Padgett's introduction, is challenging. It wasn't just me. And it wasn't the people prattling on endlessly next to me.

What a grouch! Which is why I didn't say anything, gently, to them. What would I say? I was not feeling gentle anyway. I was feeling intruded upon and embarrassingly grumpy.

As I rode from the shuttle stop to my office building, I wondered why I was getting so bent out of shape, and I thought about their conversations on exercise.

That's it!

As a poet, my training isn't on a bike or in a yoga studio or at the gym. My training is writing and READING, as much reading as possible. And public transportation, even the bike shuttle, is usually my best opportunity. My training was interrupted. Hence, the grinch.

Since that little ride, I've had good opportunity to delve deeper into the Denby. I'm feeling a little more flexed, a little more supple, a little more out of my league, but that's part of participating.

I've asked this before (I think), but I'll ask again: In poetry, how do you train?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


It has taken me days to get this far: Last Thursday, the Poetry Daily website featured "The Ensemble," by Floyd Skloot.

Reading it, I felt my mouth fill with delicious words, with sounds that rolled around my teeth and over my tongue. I laughed in the middle.

I didn't even notice the rhyme scheme until the last two lines. I read the poem again and was even more impressed by the way Mr. Skloot kept the nature, the flavor of the poem genuine while keeping to his rhymes.

A poem I wish I had written. A poem to savor.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Under the surface

I can feel it, bubbling up like the mud pots at Yellowstone.

Or rising under the calm water of a pond.

I'm reading Louise Gluck's Averno again, and it always makes me think of this pond on Lummi Island.

A poem is coming. Myths are trying to be remembered.

I am not good at patience.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

For Dail...

On my way to the farmers' market, I sawIt reminded me of my friend Dail, who picked up a similar "pet" on her wild ride across the country.

Monday, September 1, 2008

And now for something completely different...

September will be my month of learning.

What, just one month?

Think of it as back to school, metaphorically. I've finished my manuscript (and I say that with crossed fingers and many wishes). Okay, I've finished my manuscript for the time being. Round one. Version one. Draft one. But it's done. And now I realize that I've forgotten how to write.

What? How does writing a book make you forget how to write?

I've been so focused on this one project for long, that I no longer know how to work outside of it. Previously, I talked about living the writer's life, and recently I realized that I was distilling that experience into the context of this one project (plus a bunch of short little postcards for August, and that's now done). Now I need to get back to the whole world, spread my writing wings, start from scratch.

Or I could just work on submissions.

I need to get going again, start with baby steps, crawl, walk, run. It starts with one word and then another word. One image. Ah, that's the trick: I've been looking at images through one filter. I need to broaden my view, open my eyes. Taking a deep breath or two might also help.

What about you? Do you ever feel like you've forgotten what to do, how to start? Does it feel like you've forgotten, in a way, who you are? (Please excuse the melodrama.) How do you get going again?