Friday, June 27, 2008

A step outside

While heading out to pull a few weeds this evening, I noticed the roses.

Here is their story:

When What Lives Will Thrive

The wedding roses open, a scarlet
snarl of petals ruffling in a stiff breeze—
reminder this terra cotta pot
once held standard forms, made to look like trees,
white flowers grafted onto stronger stock.
That unblemished cultivar did not last,
succumbed to the usual troubles—black
spot, powdery mildew, aphids, and rust—
but below, the root began to burgeon.
New shoots appeared, a tender green advance.
Years after that hot August afternoon,
we abandoned our plans for elegance—
and even white—found our own way to wear
the years, let the roses be what they are.

"When What Lives Will Thrive" previously appeared in Limbs of the Pine, Peaks of the Range.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pull over!

Next week in Seattle we'll have a new law: No talking on a handheld cell phone while driving. ("Look, Ma! No hands!")

This means that when my daughter calls me, I'll need to pull over before I answer the phone. On the one hand, this is not a big deal for me because I try to avoid driving my car and I also try to avoid talking on the phone while driving my car. It's a stick-shift, and I have only two hands. (And just forget texting. That's way beyond me.)

On the other hand, the pulling over part could get tricky, especially during rush hours. However, if I can become more agile at pulling over to talk on the phone, I can apply that skill to poetry.

How often are you doing something (cooking, driving, weeding) when a poem arrives. I know that poems come to me much more readily when I can't follow the threads with a pen than when I am ready at the computer or an old-fashioned paper tablet.

How do you interrupt yourself to write?

Friday, June 20, 2008

The poetry gutter

I am hungry for writing. My metaphorical stomach is growling.


Instead, I have been baking bread and riding the bus and riding my bike and picking up the car at the mechanic's and watering the garden and hanging out on the floor of the basement bathroom with the cat and driving the cat back to the vet to check on suspicious symptoms and applying warm compresses and giving medicine to the cat and putting the new, larger, harder cone collar back on the cat and drinking wine and reading about comics.

The book is Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, by Scott McCloud. I didn't realize that comics were invisible; I've always found them to be quite visual and therefore visible—but maybe the book will explain this. I'm reading it for work (!), and I haven't finished it yet, but I have learned something:

That space between the panels is called the gutter, and it's very important because that space is what kicks the imagination into gear. The mind must fill the gap, make the transition between panels, to "connect these moments and mentally construct a continuous, unified reality."

I read that, and I thought, "Wow, that's like poetry!"

We have the obvious spaces, or gutters, between the stanzas, and the mind or the imagination must make its own connection between them is required. Even when a line carries across a stanza break, the mind must still stretch to understand the significance of that space.

But a poem often contains spaces within a stanza, even within a line, places where the mind must fill in the gaps in its own way. Or spaces where the mind must reconcile the idea of the gap—that it's there and it won't be filled in.

I hadn't looked at it that way before.

And I think there are also books that combine poetry and comics (you probably know of some—do you?). Maybe I should check those out next.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gilbert's new blue style

(Tom said, "I don't think you'd want someone taking pictures of you when you were like that.")

The kitten is looking pretty good after one vet trip Thursday evening, one to the emergency vet at 4:00 on Friday morning, another to the regular vet at about 9:30 Friday morning, a trip to the critical care clinic at about 10:00 Friday morning (by that time, I was so tired that I had to lie down on the little bench in the examining room even though Gilbert was showing the first signs of being a cat in more than 12 hours). Surgery Friday night, home Saturday afternoon (early, because the people at the clinic said that he was "really unhappy here"), and all he has to show for it is this collar, plus some stitches.

We are glad to have our kitty home. We are sorry that he has to stay in the downstairs bathroom. ("Try to keep him quiet," the vet said. Gilbert was not paying attention to that.) I have been spending a most unusual amount of time sitting on the floor of said downstairs bathroom. I get the feeling Gilbert thinks it is not enough.

But we are glad to have him home. The moral of the story? Don't eat the red foam puzzle pieces. Stick with the kibbles!

Monday, June 16, 2008

A poem online

The beauty of online publishing:

This morning I received an acceptance, and my poem, "When the Water Disappeared," is already online at New Verse News.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Last night's last letterpress class

Last night, we ran a few last prints (two-color only), and then we cleaned everything up. Our typesetter group redistributed the type, which is a fancy way of saying "put everything away," while the design group cut and folded the sheets into buttonhole books.

In this shot, you can see the creases and the cut

which fold up to make this:

I'm going to miss this. Now, can I fit in another class?

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Congratulations to Daniel!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The day is finally today!

Daniel graduates from high school tonight.

I have nothing else in my head.

No photos, no poems, no muse.

Just crazy excitement!

Not even the gray is dissuading me (although I plan to take blankets to the stadium).

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Lock and print

More from letterpress class:

On Wednesday, we met at the studio for an extra class session so that we could lock up. (Setting the rest of the type took more time than we expected, including the colophon's list of six names centered.)

On a flat-bed press, lock up means placing the blocks of type where they need to go on the printer bed, adding furniture (pieces of wood) and riglets (smaller pieces of wood) and slugs (lead, but not bullets) in all the spaces in between. Then you add quoins that you expand by turning a key. The coins squeeze everything together so that nothing will wriggle under pressure.

The press was in one room, and most of the furniture was in another room. I felt like a contestant on the TV show "Survivor": Looking at the puzzle to see what piece was needed, hurrying into the next room to find the piece, bringing it back only to realize that it wasn't quite right—and so on.

Eventually, we got everything in place (for the time being—it seems that in printing, as sometimes in poetry, nothing is ever really done). Then we sprayed sheets of paper with water so that we could print on dampened paper the next night.

On Thursday, we returned to print. After much more measuring to get the paper placed correctly, we discovered that our ink was stubborn (or sleepy or cold or—I don't know) and didn't want to stick to the rollers or the blocks. We were printing in three colors plus black, which meant that for ever print, four people were rolling ink on to the type and the linocuts and the woodblock. (I was in charge of rolling gray onto the lighthouse). That's a lot of action.

We added some burnt plate oil to the ink and eventually got it to behave somewhat. And then we began to print: the paper placed in the frame, the frisket lowered, ink rolled on, frame lowered to the bed, the bed rolled in, the handle pulled and held for a count of three, the bed rolled out, the frame raised ever so gently, the print removed, and again and again and again.

Next week, one team will cut and fold the prints into the buttonhole books, and the other team will redistribute (put away) all the type.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Here a prompt, there a prompt

Let's face it: Right now, my primary job is to throw toys for the cat.

However, during April, I participated in the poem-a-day prompt on the Poetic Asides blog on the Writers' Digest site (in the house that Jack built…). And in May, a couple of people were offering prompts. So many prompts, so little time. I quickly got behind.

And then I realized that I was spending all my writing time on prompts, instead of on the creative avenues that I was wanting to explore. Enough of that, already!

While I love to participate, I needed, for now, to bow out. The prompts were great for sparking creativity, for battling the blankness of the blank page—but they were never designed to get in the way of other work.

Ha! And then I found
today's poem on Verse Daily. I immediately thought, "Hey, Poetry Throw-down" (think Bobby Flay Throw-down, or Iron Chef—and now you know more of my secrets). I haven't yet found how these lines hang together as a poem, but they are fabulous lines.

Start with any one, use it as a first line. After you're done, take off that first line, and you have your poem. But it's a prompt—so if you're already busy, forget it.

And I'll work on my poems and my cooking and my cat-toy-throwing and be glad for a little bit of garden in this gray.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Found in translation

I've been reading some poems by Norwegian poet Paal-Helge Haugen, translated by Roger Greenwald. The book, Wintering with the Light, is presented as a bilingual edition, which means I can stumble over the Norwegian (almost all of which is way beyond me) and then read the English translation.

This one, especially, resonates.

(Lean in)

I lean in over the edge of you
You lift a hand
You sign a word
in the almost enclosing silence
of the evening, where sounds live
before they lock into phrases

Later the last trace of twilight
comes down from the hills
The dusk we know
That has lived in us always
That is folded into us

It brings a limit for our eyes
A space for our thoughts
It meets us halfway
and receives what we have in our hands

Shostakovich, String Quartet No. 8

—Paal-Helge Haugen