Sunday, May 31, 2009


I wanted today to be all about writing and food: My perfect day.

To start, I began reading the Fannie Farmer cookbook, to see what she had to say about food and especially food science and nutrition. I immediately found out that I eat about three times as much as I'm supposed to. I tell myself that people were shorter then and didn't need as much nourishment.

Then I went to the neighborhood Farmers' market. I love to wander from stall to stall and then suddenly be smitten by something. I want to feel inspired. Today, it was baby turnips. What am I going to do with them? I have no idea, but they were so beautiful.

I also managed to pick up some Spring onions and shallots and some broccoli rape and sugar snap peas and cheese and una foccacia (and I managed to embarrass myself by using the wrong article and then not knowing how to say "I'm trying to learn Italian" in Italian; if I can embarrass myself once a week throughout the season, I might learn a thing or two about a thing or two Italian).

Then to the corporate grocery store because my daughter needed milk and my husband noticed they were having a sale on flank steak. Plus a bunch of other stuff.

Time for more writing. First, I thought I'd see what Fannie had to say about cooking turnips. I almost wept when I began to read the section on vegetables. Boil green beans for an hour? The same for spinach? So sad. This was cuisine in the turn of the century. The vegetables suffered.

I thought I'd get my flank steaks marinating, and I was about to go out to the garden to gather some oregano and thyme, when I realized that I'm basically out of garlic. Another trip to the store would be in order. I love food. I do not love going to the store.

Instead, I fixed lunch: whole wheat spaghetti with garlic, red pepper flakes, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, roasted red peppers, bread crumbs, and fresh parsley and basil, topped with some parmesan. All that and a glass of Chianti. My new favorite.

After my hedonistic repast, I had to buckle down and go to the store. I returned home with five bulbs of garlic. Now I have two steaks marinating (one is in the freezer for future use) and a batch of bread rising in the backyard (where it's extra warm). So far, the day has been a lot about food and a lot less about writing. I've worked on a couple of poems (glancingly), but it hasn't shared as much of my attention.

And it isn't over. In a couple of hours, I'll shape the bread and roast four of the garlic bulbs. But until then, I have some time, however much time, to write.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Getting the word out

Another new video—this one's about promoting your poetry reading, or any other event by making a flyer in Microsoft Publisher.

What's so cool about that? You can make one flyer—with pictures and everything—print it, and then send the same file in email.

Call me geeky, but I love that. Now, in getting the word out, I've stolen my own thunder, but you can see it in action anyway.

And if you've missed any of the other Writer's Guide videos, I've finally added a handy little list.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Biscuits? Did you say biscuits?

By popular demand: Jalapeno biscuits (with cheddar cheese and beer)

I admit it freely: I love biscuits.

When Norm Abrahms, on the carpentry shows, talks about biscuits, I start to feel hungry, even though I know he's talking about a skinny little piece of wood.

I love biscuits, and this recipe is a favorite of my husband's. It's from the LA Times (June 15, 2005). We were sitting having coffee in Palm Springs (a winding down after working at a furniture show in Pasadena), when we opened the newspaper and found biscuits!

Now, when I make them, I remember that lovely morning.

But enough about sun and the Times. Without further ado:

2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter (cut into little cubes)
2 jalapenos (seeded and minced)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (sharpness to your taste)
about 1/2 cup of pale beer

Mix the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter. Stir in the jalapenos and cheese. Stir in the beer. (I always need more than 1/2 cup, usually closer to 2/3 cup.

Knead the dough briefly and then pat it out on a lightly floured surface and wield your favorite biscuit cutter or reasonably sized water tumbler. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 425 degrees for 13-15 minutes. If you're really thirsty, drink the rest of the beer while you wait.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Two paths of my life have crossed

Poetry meets tech (or tech becomes smitten with poetry).

Either way, I'm surprised no circuit breakers were tripped.

I received an email message from Michael Douma regarding a
Web exhibit of "Poetry through the ages" that highlights a form called node poetry, complete with a node map of the entire site. Very technical, very 21st century, and it's fun to play with (although I couldn't find the part that was Sapphic-specific, and I need more scrolling or a higher screen resolution).

Take a look. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"I wish I'd written that"

As a reader, I am not easy to please.

After reading a poem on the page, my reaction may be a bit tepid: "Doesn't really do anything for me." Instead of hooking me, taking me along, inviting me to an adventure, it's more like the poem opened the back door and went back to washing the dishes.

The next reaction is, "That's okay" ("nice").

Or the obsessive editor in me might wonder, "Why in the heck end the line with 'the'? Isn't there a better word for that place of power?" or "It doesn't have momentum, it doesn't have music." I do like music in the poems I read.

It might be a powerful story, but the language doesn't seem to be chosen. Or I can't find a metaphor anywhere. Not even a simile.

Or I might really like the poem. As picky as I am, I really like a lot of poems.

Then, there's "Wow, I wish I'd written that."

A delirious duality—I feel a little saddened by the realization that I did not write that poem and it's been written by someone else, and I feel a glorious exhilaration that someone did write that poem. Thank you! One example is
"Upon Witnessing My Mother Impossibly Blossom Above My Father's Deathbed," by Kevin Stein.

But imagine it: In
the new issue of The Missouri Review, I found seven of these poems! Seven!

Reading the elegies by Frannie Lindsay, I felt that they held and carried and invited me into everything I've looked for in a poem.

They are elegies, and they come from deep loss. After my own brush with grief-born poems, I felt I'd rather never write a poem again than lose someone I loved so much. Maybe Ms. Lindsay feels the same way. But what she's done with that absence and mourning is such a gift—immediate and poignant and detailed, exactly.

Take these lines from "Enough":

I can almost be happy
remembering my sister's cello
filling our dread-laden house

those November school nights

I'm there instantly, and nervously.

Or in "The Music Is Going Great in Both Directions":

…her ravaged voice
pleased as a housewife
pulling her first rhubarb pie from the oven

A delicious image, a wry wound.

And then these lines from "The Good Day":

…your sparse streamers of hair
fly behind you, your shadow

ravels, your legs rise and float like hawk wings
over the pedals, your fists slacken and lift
from the gears and brakes.

Legs rising and floating like hawk wings? What an image--visual, kinetic, unexpected. Really, the whole poem… read it!

Every once in a while the debate over whether to read or not read (not read?) other people's work rears its snake-laden head. For me, reading teaches me about writing—and reading poems that make me sit up or jump up nourishes me and inspires me to work harder, open more fully, listen more closely, and write.

What do you look for in the poems you read? What makes you sit up and listen, or sit up and write?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hey, loosen up!

Yes, I've been working more on this lately—working on loosening up, getting more imagination into my poems—more imagination and more movement.

The trick, for me, is to write loosely and expansively without being sloppy. Even when I'm trying to write in a more ebullient—dare I say spontaneous—voice, I still want to pay attention to repetition (of the inadvertent kind) and line endings and music. I still want every word to count.

(For years, I was very strict about repetition—as in "don't, ever." Now I've reached "don't, unless you do it on purpose and you're damned sure.")

How do you loosen up? Or do you?

Oh, what a night...

I'm still all glowy from the reading last night. What an evening! I was lucky enough to join Victoria Ford, Jack McCarthy, and Karen Finneyfrock in the theatre (I had to get gussied up for that) at Richard Hugo House.

So much fine poetry, plus David's trivia questions.

I'm so slow getting into Tuesday.

Friday, May 15, 2009

On the edge

Or at the edge?

Warning: Possible whine.

Lately I've felt quite on the edge of things. Maybe it's the string of rejections (yes, that comes with the territory—but it doesn't mean that ground is always easy to cover). Or maybe it's the feeling that much too much of adult life is beginning to seem much too much like high school (you're popular, or you're not).

I've often felt like an outsider (certainly during high school), and I've never been entirely comfortable there. Not that I'd be comfortable in the middle either. But I keep finding this yearning for acceptance, a need to belong.

TMI? Maybe.

But I was intrigued by the recent Poets & Writers interview with Ann Lauterbach. She says that she has spent most of her life on the periphery and that's where she feels the most comfortable. It's a novel thought for me.

Could I take this territory, stake it, and come to love it, genuinely deeply, as my own?

To do that, to live at the periphery, I need to genuinely deeply live who I am—not who I think I want to be, not who will fit in, not who writes the way I want to write (although I can learn from them—as much as possible).

Lately, I've been thinking about baby steps. Now I'm thinking about how to keep taking those baby steps toward the outside of the circle, instead of trying to stumble my way inside. And how to figure out what it is that I do that I do—my real work.

What about you? Do you feel outside or in the middle of it all? And did you ever manage to get over high school?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's a jolly holiday with Gilbert...

Gilbert the cat has become obsessed with the Santa hats that he found in the basement. He carries them, worries them, and then growls a low and rumbling growl. Our festive little hunter.

Win at what?

My manager sent a link to an article from the innovation issue of the New Yorker. "How David Beats Goliath," by Malcom Gladwell, examines how David can win, and how rarely the Davids in life choose to.


The idea is that if you play by Goliath's rules, Goliath will win. If you want to beat Goliath, you have to break the rules, change the rules, make rules that work for you. The article tells the story of a girls' basketball team of girls who haven't really played much basketball and how, by changing the dynamics of the game (not the actual rules, even), they managed to win game after game.

When I read this article a few days ago, I had just come out of a fairly long and steady string of poetry rejections (the last couple of days have been SASE-free, from the "no news is good news, I guess" department). I wondered, "How could this apply to poetry? How could you change the rules?"

Right away, a couple of answers came to mind:

"If it's a contest, you can't change the rules. Don't even try."

"Writing is not about winning. Writing is about writing."

True. But is submitting not about winning (in a sense)? And if it isn't, why did the recent issue of Poets & Writers include articles on slush piles and agents and literary nepotism and the lit mags that will do more for your work?

If the premise is that your odds for success can become greater if you try something different, what might that something be?

(The article also discusses how indignant your peer group might become if you begin to play by a different paradigm.)

To me, it's worth thinking about. "Winning" at submitting won't help me write that better poem. But I think my poetry has changed some over the past 15 years, while submitting (on the writer side of the equation) has mostly stayed the same.

Could I try something different? What would that "something different" be?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My Dorothy moment

A few weeks back I got a great idea for my next writing project. And it involved food, writing about food, which I've been wanting to do more often. I found a little information on Wikipedia. But then, I needed a book.

I checked one of the neighborhood used bookstores a couple of times and came up empty. I checked the neighborhood indy bookstore and came up empty. In Boulder, I tritsed through the rain to a Barnes & Noble in a strip mall and found that the book in question had been updated by a subsequent author.

Fabulous, but I wanted the original. I figured that the library was my next stop. Then one night, I broke down and checked for used copies. I ordered what I thought would fit my needs (a grand total of less than $8, including shipping).

I waited.

When the book arrived, it was a revised edition by another subsequent author. Did I order wrong? Did I not have enough information? Did they send the wrong book thinking it wouldn't matter.

(I think I didn't have enough information and ordered wrong.)

I went to Wikipedia and read the relevant information again. But this time, I scrolled down to the links at the bottom.

Now, think about those ruby slippers!

Links to material from the book I'd been looking for! It was there all along for me to find, right there in my own virtual backyard. And I'm back on track.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tomorrow night! More about "Till We Wake"

Friday night and Saturday night you can still see "Till We Wake" at the Dairy, if you happen to be in the Boulder area. And if you happen to be in the Boulder area, I highly recommend the performance.

It's so layered and textured that I haven't done a good job of explaining it. I feel like I'm still immersed in it.

But a couple of reviews are in, one from Denver Arts and one from World Dance Reviews.

P.S. While I was watching, I suddenly felt that the "you" in the poem was not a lover but was the muse, and then I wondered why I hadn't thought of it in that way before.

Self-publishing? One copy at a time

The next episode in my video series is live, and this one shows how to print your manuscript out as a booklet (think regular letter-sized paper with a fold in the middle).

I first looked into making a booklet when I was making a birthday present for my husband a few years ago. I've also found that it's a handy way to work with a manuscript when you're still revising it. (It's just a little easier to carry around and flip through.)

If you want to take a look, you can
see it on YouTube.

Or check out all the Office Podcasts.

Let me know what you think. And remember: Always print a test copy to make sure everything is where you want it.

P.S. If you've already seen this link several times, sorry for the redundancy. I'm just trying to get the word out.


Premium T. was right. The replacement flowers are indeed impatiens. But they're looking a little small and lonely so far.

Grow, grow!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My poems need to be more like a painting by Marc Chagall

I noticed an old postcard on the refrigerator, and I thought, "That's it!"

But when I turned the card over, I found out the image was by Raoul Dufy.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Whirlwind weekend in Boulder

I went to Boulder to see Till We Wake, a dance performance incorporating text of T.S. Eliot's poem "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock." I really wanted to see this dance, and my friend Eliza was performing in it, so I got on a plane, flew to Denver, and drove up to Boulder. (If you know me, you know this is not quite normal—but it was amazing!)

When I arrived in Boulder, it was gray and cold and spitting rain. I'd been warned so I brought warm black turtlenecks—and one fancy dress (okay, not entirely practical—but if you're going to fly in for one night to attend a performance, you might as well do it up at least a little bit).

Here is the theatre space where the performance took place.

Here is the marquis.

The Dairy includes a lot of visual art space, including a hallway lined with pictures of photographers. No lie! When you walk through the hallway, their cameras follow you. Their whole bodies follow you. How does the brain do that?*

Sunday, the mountains began to emerge from the clouds.

We took a quick drive up to Chataqua to see the Flatirons.

I had thought that the dance was about Eliot's poem. It was, and so much more. The poem was the scaffolding on which the choreographer explored themes of history and now, the transition from the Belle Epoch to Post World War I and the change in our understanding of the world and of our elected leaders after September 11, 2001. It covered birth and pain and healing and solitude and solace.

I could feel the dance happening inside me. I could feel the words inside me.

It was amazing.

*Loren Donner, Blind Act

When Spring arrives, the winter pansies are retired


The pitfalls of corporate landscaping. No doubt the pansies (or violas) will be replaced. But where did they go?

Monday, May 4, 2009

NaPoWriMo recap: A month of titles

I posted a few of the poems during the month, but I thought I'd follow Kelli's example from a year or two ago and post all the titles for the month:

At Another Beginning
The Problem with Whining
Bad Kitty
Seven Feathers Casino
In Our World
Spring Cleaning
After Work
Labor Day, 1994
Your Girl Friday
So We Decided to Crash the Party at Walter's House
On the Fence of Marriage
All I Want Is to Grow Tomatoes
In the Modern Dance Class
In the Face of It
After Death
(haiku: no title)
Always More
Here and Gone
From the Gate
The Croquet Tournament
What Is This New Language?
Where I Would Live, How I Would Write It
Do What You Can
Never Forget
Farewell, My Forties

I need to work on my titles!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Whole wheat goodness

I've been tinkering around, and I think I've found the recipe that works for me.

This loaf is made using the method in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, but I wanted a version that was wholly whole wheat and yet was kind of light.

Here's the recipe:

1 1/2 cups very warm water
1 1/2 cups milk, warmed and then cooled enough so that it doesn't kill the yeast
1/2 cup honey
2 pkg. rapid rise yeast (I figure with whole wheat, I want to throw everything I've got at it)
5 Tblsp. olive oil
1 Tblsp. salt
4 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

Mix it up (I like to start with the water, honey, and yeast so that I can watch the yeast begin to foam).

Cover the bowl (but not air-tight) and let it rise 2-3 hours, or until doubled.

This batch makes three loaves. I usually bake one right away, and I form the other two and freeze them so that I can bake them later. You can also leave the dough in the refrigerator for a few days and bake the loaves when you want them.

To form the loaves, keep your hands wet and pull the dough around, rotating the loaf, four times. The
Artisan Bread site has very good instructions.

Place the loaf in a buttered loaf pan or just set it on some cornmeal on a pan. In the picture above, I dusted the loaf with a little more whole wheat pastry flour and sliced the top three times.

After the loaf has sat around and rested (it just went through a lot), turn the oven on to 350 degrees and wait at least 20 minutes. You want it hot.

Put the bread in the oven, and add some hot water in a pan for steam. (I know I'm not doing this part right, which is another good reason to
visit the website.)

Bake for 40-50 minutes, depending on your oven.

Cool the bread on a rack.