Friday, February 29, 2008

Down to a size six (words)

Kelli tagged me.

She explains that it's from an old Hemingway bet. Leave it to Papa.

From her blog:

Here are the rules:
1. Write your own six word memoir
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere
4. Tag five more blogs with links
5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

My six-word autobiography:

I will try harder again tomorrow.

Now, I tag Tamara, T., Oliver, Hillku, and Jamie.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

No wacky wiki

I wanted to post comments about the poems on my friend Judith's Wikipedia site. But when I set up the account and read all the fine print, it sounded a little scary—as in post without any bias or we'll cancel all your accounts.

Fair enough. I made no secret of my bias, but I opted not to jeopardize the sites and accounts of my friends. That said, here's what I wrote:

I've had the pleasure of reading many of Judith's poems, some in draft form (some in multiple drafts, multiple versions), so I know that what looks easy is actually the result of determined immersion.

Judith's poems stem from and invoke subconscious undercurrents, providing a confluence for images that might otherwise be disparate or disjointed. The flow from image to image seems effortless, seamless and yet strange, as though it was written from a dream, as in

My conscience sits inside my spleen
like an egg that hasn’t been broken.

My father carried the egg.

In her work, it all fits, and I sense a deep narrative, so that the pieces fit layers down, inviting me to read and reread her poems through the strata of daily experience, as when she begins with

They say a spray of lavender
hung upside down in a closet,
they say lemons.

A surprise begins with

she is waxen

and broad leafed, her shoulder
blades oiled as a fine wood,
her mind swept clean.

and the poem continues, until it ends with

The wind is a rosin
that plays her hair.

In her poems, Judith explores the common experiences of being a mother, wife, writer, daughter, grown-girl, woman—from a subconscious realm where senses and observations are heightened, a place of myth and beauty and sometimes a violent hardness. But whereas the poems of Ann Sexton might explore these roles from rage or nightmare, Judith's poems breathe and notice the tastes and smells and colors and textures, the music of every day.

Mmm... well, not yet

How much is too much?
The full woman begs,
Not another bite.
The hungry one says,
Bring on the cheese.

Making cheese at Beechers' in the Market, Seattle.

A comma?

You Are a Comma

You are open minded and extremely optimistic.

You enjoy almost all facets of life. You can find the good in almost anything.

You keep yourself busy with tons of friends, activities, and interests.

You find it hard to turn down an opportunity, even if you are pressed for time.

Your friends find you fascinating, charming, and easy to talk to.

(But with so many competing interests, you friends do feel like you hardly have time for them.)

You excel in: Inspiring people

You get along best with: The Question Mark

And if you believe all that...

I found this latest personality quiz on Oliver's blog.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Crack that book!

This morning, a friend sent me the link to Timothy Egan's blog on the New York Times site. The title of the post was Book Lust, and in the post, Mr. Egan rebutted Steve Jobs's pronouncement that “the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year.”

Mr. Egan argues that all of the cool gadgets—including those we might use to read—are just product, and "Reading is something else, an engagement of the imagination with life experience. It’s fad-resistant, precisely because human beings are hard-wired for story, and intrinsically curious. Reading is not about product."

Hard-wired for story.

He goes on to say that "a good book still holds more power than anything with a screen. Power to transport the reader to another world. Power to get inside somebody else's mind, to live their story, to be moved."

Power to transport the reader to another world.

When I read through the post, three things came up:

How did he use the title "Book Lust" and not say anything about Nancy Pearl, who has written two volumes of recommended reading called Book Lust and who even has her own action figure and who would have quite elegantly supported his argument? (A former librarian has her own action figure, but we aren't reading books?)

Maybe some people aren't reading a lot of books, but maybe they're reading magazines or reading online (several comments on the blog pointed this out) and other people are reading a lot. In the article, 15 books a year was listed as a high mark. I tend to think of 12 as the low mark, and that doesn't include poetry (granted, when my children were younger, it took me a few years to work up to 12).

I'm more concerned by an often talked about trend among writers, who think that they shouldn't read. I've heard that this includes fiction writers and poets who are concerned that if they read it will somehow taint their imagination or sully their style. The argument is then made that if writers aren't reading, who is, and how can the poor publishers hope to sell any books and stay afloat?

For me, reading is very important. Reading poetry is key. It gets me in the zone. But that might not work for everybody. Still, if you're worried that reading might harm your art, buy books anyway. You don't have to read them. Just buy them and give them away. Take them to schools. Leave them in waiting rooms. Leave the in bars, even. Support publishers. Support your local bookstore.

Reading is active and it is escape—or exploration. "Power to transport the reader to another world." Or power to see the world you thought you knew from a different perspective.

Several years ago, someone described me as "a poet of place." Instantly, I felt self-conscious and could not write about anywhere. It was as though I felt I had to somehow represent place in my poems, and I had to be a poet of place.

I've let go of that, and by reading other poets' work, I've come to a better understanding of my relationship to place.

Lately, I think it all goes back to the Troll House. I had one when I was a kid, and it was a perfect little world, sort of Flintstones-like, with a little table and a bed and a rug and a fire, and I could imagine that world. I could go there.

I get the same feeling looking at a painting. I feel drawn into that world, and I want to go there.

Thinking about those different worlds and wanting to create them and be a part of them has given me a better understanding of my relationship to place in my poems. It's about being in those worlds and belonging in them.

That's why I write, and that's why I read.

Now that's a lotta dough

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How hard will your title work for you?

How hard does it have to?

I've been looking for titles. Or, I've been looking for new titles, wondering whether some of my poems are weighed down by titles that just don't add that certain mystery or intrigue, titles that just don't work.

Once in a while, I come up with some bold, long title that I love. Yet those poems aren't getting picked up, either.

Hmmm… Let's get to specifics.

On the one hand, I have poems called

  • Beyond the Streets, Slick with Night’s Imprint

  • 1999: Into the Sharp Timbre of Light We Walk the Morning

  • At the Hospital, They Keep the Bright Lights On

  • Late in the Growing Season, When the Nights Begin to Cool

And then I'm left with

  • Another March

I convinced myself that this last had subtle shades of meaning, although possibly only to me.

Looking at them here, I realize that I am equating length with goodness, which I admit seems arbitrary (maybe not even fair), but the longer titles are stories in and of themselves. Is that a good thing? (I'm leaning that way.) And would you want a whole book of these lengthy and exuberant titles? (Back to that idea of balance.)

I know it rests on context, the title with the rest of the poem.

But as I struggle with my paltry one- or two-word titles, I find myself wondering whether I'm just not trying hard enough to find something more generous, maybe even wild.

Any title hints or tricks out there?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ain't no ravens here

You see wings the color of night
and want to say it's the shaman's bird,
find portents in the clicks and caws
that crack the morning. You want
mystery and the mystic,
truth unfolding as light as feathers
or as dark as death, to know
their wheeling flight at dusk reveals
a world no longer common.
It would be that romantic,
but Brother, I have to tell you
those are crows.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

What do you do...

when your kids miss their connecting flight in Phoenix?

You make a lot of phone calls, and then you go out for lunch.

A Rhone wine, a lamb burger, and frites.

When your kids miss the plane, you eat the frites.

Epilogue: They finally made it to their destination.

Friday, February 15, 2008

On the way to the poetry reading

Yesterday, David D. Horowitz and I took the ferry from downtown Seattle to Winslow and drove up to Port Townsend for a poetry reading at Northwind Arts Center.

I didn't get any photographs of the reading, but it was a great evening with a really good turnout and a lot of colorful, energetic art on the walls. Oh, and poetry!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fast love

Store-bought sauce + oven-ready noodles = lasagna in the refrigerator, on a night when I'm away

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What we can see

When the trees let their leaves down,
they show themselves. Bare.
The cloak of summer green goes

and anyone can see the ruckus
of limbs grown akimbo
like a story poorly told
with lots of starting over.

You can spot the scrappy nests
left from other summers,
years of bad pruning.

And they let the leaves go

so that the wind can pass.

I see birds

Well, I did.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Poetry and a garden

From The Harmony Silk Factory:

"Is the purpose of a flower bed not similar to that of a poem? Within their artificial boundaries, both contain a tiny world of beauty, a joyous compression of life."

Friday, February 8, 2008

Sound and sense

In the last post, I talked about Richard Hugo's The Triggering Town and getting off the triggering subject. While I was rereading that section of the book, I came across the following:

"The poet's relation to the triggering subject should never be as strong as (must be weaker than) his relation to his words. The words should not serve the subject. The subject should serve the words."

I think Mr. Hugo is continuing to talk about the triggering subject, not that next surprising place the poem takes you. And, because he goes on to say, "This may mean violating the facts," I think he really means that the words should not serve the facts. If the house is yellow, you can make it blue.

But it made me think about that relationship between subject and words—subject as essence, not necessarily narrative. I don't think that one serves the other, or the other way around. Rather, I think of them as two Argentine tango dancers, wound into one another, seeming to trade the lead in a conversation, a fluid give and take, a partnership.

The poem is a dance.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

First one thing, and then another

I was listening to Kathleen Flenniken read at Benaroya Hall the other night, and I was struck by the way she moves from one subject to the next—how her poem grows from one subject into something new and yet not unfamiliar, not out of the blue. You can hear and feel the connection and the transition.

It made me think of Richard Hugo's advice in The Triggering Town. He talks about the triggering subject and suggests starting with it and then getting off it as soon as possible (before you run out of things to say, as he points out).

The trick, for me, is getting off that first subject and opening myself up to what can become next, what needs to become next.

That movement, that seemingly easy and yet powerful transition, was again brought to my attention in today's poem on the Poetry Daily website. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What can you say?

Gilbert's favorite toy

is Winnie the Pooh's head.

(This head came from one of my daughter's socks. No bears, real or stuffed, were harmed.)

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Oh, clear blue so beautiful
this winter morning.
All through the moon's invisible crossing
we watched for snow,
a little change in the wind,
a decrease by degrees,
but dawn revealed a sky of colors
rose turning to robin egg,
the only white a thin gauze
high in the atmosphere.
And when the clouds steal in,
thicken, and warm the sky,
the ground stays the ground.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Mail call!

The mail came early today, and here is most of what I found:

One packet of poems marked as undeliverable, return to sender.
(In my doofiness, I sent it to an old address. Try, try again.)

One rejection letter
(With a date of November 26, 2007!)

On a brighter note:

A thank-you card from my Mom.
(Very pink!)

One postcard poem!

All balancing out.

And regarding this ongoing rejection theme, I think I'm going to remember a move from my dance teacher, who likes to say, "You're still a fabulous person."

I may be 48, and I may want to lose 10 pounds, and my poems may get rejected, but I'm still a fabulous person. And so are you.

Plus, I have a cat on my lap.

In other news, I found out today that Galway Kinell and I share the same birthday: today, although we are a few years apart.