Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NaPoWriMo: Sestina #2

Here's the draft:

It's Just a Day or Two

A red-winged blackbird perches on a reed.
I've waited long for spring to come, to warm
the early morning, bring the light. I need
to walk outside, let go of the long storm.
I watch the water's mirror stirred by wind,
a changing patch of cat's paw ripples pinned

to the surface like a reminder pinned
to a cork board--Don't Forget--that I read
and don't remember, mind blown clean like wind
swept afternoons. I try to think, to warm
these fingers in between pockets of storm.
It's just a day or two--a week--I need,

a month or a year to catch up. I knead
my tired hands through the thin gloves, palms pinned
by damp cold, try to chase the shadow storm
that lingers after night recedes. A reed
stands like a lucky flute. The sun looks warm
enough to matter, but the steel-blue wind

picks up my skin, scrapes at my face. I wind
my scarlet scarf around my neck. I need
to button up, let my worries down, warm
the same old poem over and over, pinned
like a flower on my lapel. A reed
becomes an instrument. A thunder storm

sounds like a symphony. I want a storm
of oboes, want the melodies to wind
like water while my feet stay dry. A reed
makes a baton or a slim stake. I need
to be anchored fast, settled somewhere, pinned
but with a little room to move, to warm

up to my middle age. I want to warm
these tendering years after the flash storm
of hide and seeking, four decades pinned
to growing older, feel my days unwind,
give into time, stand as still as a reed
in this short field of my dreams. Yes, I need

spring to warm the pond and its ducks, to wind
through each reed shoots of green, even pinned
by winter's fists of storm. I need this poem.

NaPoWriMo: Sestina #1

Here's the draft:

Do What You Can

Tuesday's assignment: Write a sestina,
a sextet of chosen words at the end
of each line, over and over. Now bend
the meanings, keep the music, make it lean,
lead the reader. A 36- line form,
it travels on and on, a rushing swarm

of words. This repetition makes a swarm,
the same words flying through the sestina
like birds above a field. You need to form
new images, discoveries to the end.
Take a deep breath, take another, don't lean
on your elbows, don't roll your eyes. Just bend

your creaky old knees a few times, then bend
your brain to the task, enter the wild swarm,
follow what narrative you can, and lean
against experience, ride this sestina
like a greedy crow to the corn row's end.
Feel the summer wind in your head and form

the thinking you've hidden in black wings, form
dreams buried by night. Maybe you land, bend
to the earth, dig with your fingers to end
the work, the guessing, the questions' cold swarm.
Do what you can to find that sestina--
don't scrimp and let your harvest come lean.

When you started, the first few words looked lean
as a fence post and fettered by this form,
but see--you're nearly through this sestina.
You've written your way around the last bend,
scribbled harder into the stanza's swarm.
Flex your hands. You can almost taste the end

of the afternoon when you'll reach the end
of this poem. Dusk will fall and you can lean
into evening, forget about the swarm,
loosen your dinnertime thoughts from the form,
say hello to your beautiful wife, bend
her ear, tell her about this sestina

while in the lamplight gnats swarm and the form
rests. You bend your heart, lean into her hair,
end the evening, start your next sestina.

So a man walks into a bar...

So I'm trying to write a sestina (a form I normally love), and I decide to write two (because I'm having so much trouble with one), and I write through both of them (in a very rough, drafty way), and then I realize I've forgotten about the three lines at the end!

It's like that bit about the song that never ends...


NaPoWriMo continues to kick my, you know. One more day.

But first, I must finish those sestinas.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

NaPoWriMo: Tuesday's haiku

Tuesday's prompt was to write a haiku or to write about a haiku.

syllables confound
images lost in counting
cherry blossoms fall

wild japonica
blooms deep red by the roadside
as in other years

The first red tulips
open to rain and in shade
bright white trillium

duck under the bough
that crosses the walk, heavy
with petals and rain

let go the number
feel each poem fill you like breath
spring will not linger

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More NaPoWriMo (from a few days ago)

Saturday's prompt from Poetic Asides was to right about an intereaction. It could be between two people, or it could be between two animals (or Robert used the example of the interaction between a bee and a flower).

Here's my draft.

In the Modern Dance Class

The body meets the floor, melts its shoulders
and spine into smooth wood, fans its arms
as though to fly, presses palms and thighs.
The body loves the floor's firm plane
on stomach and breasts, knees
and carefully the back of the head.
On these worn boards, the body curls
like an embryo, unfolds in a star,
gathers itself and leaves the floor, leaves
only its two distant feet on the floor
and the floor calls out for it. The body
has met this floor before, the body
has the map of gravity and knows
how to go back, how to spiral-glide down
into a sea shell, lolls its haunches,
rolls and stretches, feels what it's like to touch,
to caress the floor as long as it can.

Monday, April 20, 2009

How to add page numbers to that manuscript

Yes, it's time for part two of the two-part video series on creating a manuscript.

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Finally, gnocchi

The March cooking challenge was to make gnocchi. Clearly, I'm late. But I wanted to make it anyway.

Sunday dinner began with a salad of grilled greens (raddichio and red-leaf romaine).

Next, gnocchi in a light red tomato sauce, with gremolata and a little parmesan.
Then halibut, asparagus roasted with lemon and sage, and a minted carrot salad with currants.

This was my first potato gnocchi experience. I had this vision of making sweet potato gnocchi, seasoned with cumin. And I seasoned the russet potato gnocchi with coriander.

The gremolata and the sauce were delicious, and they completely overwhelmed any subtle flavors. Don't get me wrong—I enjoyed them. We all did. But next time, I'll double the coriander and I'll stick with the russets.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Not autobiographical

Well, maybe a little bit.

Today's poetry challenge prompt was hard: Take a title of a poem, change the title, and then write a new poem. Yikes, what title will I use? How can I take my whole library with me on the bus?

I came up with a few contenders: changing "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed" to "When Lilacs Last in the Backyard Bloomed" or changing "The Sun Rising" to "The Bread Rising." But I ended up returning to one of my more modern muses, Olena Kalytiak Davis, and changing "In Defense of Marriage" to "On the Fence of Marriage" (from And Her Soul Out of Nothing).

The little bit part? The scene is inspired by Flying Horseshoe Ranch in the Teanaway Valley, where my sister and I used to go to summer camp.

On the Fence of Marriage

The top rail feels thin, and you sit
yourself down, hope you don't teeter,
wobble so he can notice. You rest
your new boots on the lower rail, look off
into a future of timothy,
alfalfa, a bay horse grazing,
and a palomino in the corral.
Behind you, the ridge rises up
like a genealogy, history

spiked with dry pines. Closer in,
you smell the sweat and shit and leather,
feel the splinters in your butt.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Brioche au chocolat

Ever get a hankering for something? That's what happened: I was thinking about pain au chocolat when I saw a brioche (at the gym, of all places), and I thought, "Why not?"

I mixed up the dough yesterday using the recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. After it rose, I put it into the refrigerator to cool down a little. Then I shaped the brioche, folding the lower portion of each around 5 dark chocolate chips. I put the pan into the refrigerator for the night.

This morning, I took the pan out, let it sit for a while, and then very gently brushed on a little egg wash.

Here they are ready for the oven.

And here they are done.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

More cat love

Today's prompt over at Poetic Asides was to write a poem about an object. Immediately, I thought of a salt shaker. (There is a shaker on the cover of my copy of Pablo Neruda's Ode to Common Things.) But as much as I love salt, the shaker was not an evocative image for me.

Then the cat began to get restless, which means that the cat began to get into trouble. I thought about what might make him happy, and I had my image.


It came with 11 others,
a small white mouse alone
on the kitchen floor.
For now, it has two red eyes,
two pink ears, and its own leather tail.
All of these may come off
in a day. It will fray to a wad
of soft and battered fur
and still the cat will spring
like an acrobat, body twisting, chase
this catnip prey
as if it ran by itself,
The rest of the package
stays in the drawer,
and the cat knows where that is
just as he knows I keep
extras in my pockets. He crouches,
tense, as soon as I reach my hand in
(even I just want a tissue
or a note I wrote,
even if the mouse I threw before
sits no more than six inches from him).
He is obsessed with his wealth
of mice just like this one,
and they disappear.
Somewhere in this house
is his abundance.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Whatever you do, don't type that TOC

My new video is live now, and it covers how to compile a manuscript and add a table of contents—without typing it in by hand. See how to do it, and get your next book ready!

The live action in the video is at
Richard Hugo House in Seattle—an inviting space and a very supportive place for writers, with classes of all kinds and a packed schedule of events.

Next up: How to add page numbers to that manuscript.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

NaPoWriMo poem #6, sort of

Yesterday was a disappointing poem-writing day, but a good family day. The prompt was to write a poem about something that was missing.

I got two ideas on my way home from the store, and then I did my P.T. and cooked dinner and ate and cleaned up the kitchen and then we ended up having a family conversation about all kinds of things for over an hour, and by the time I was able to write, I had only four very spare (or highly compressed?) lines left.

In Our World

Five lives lost—six,
if you count their father.
When did his gun
become an answer?

I didn't write about the death of a family, because I was spending time with my family, and that's a trade I'll make. But there is so much more to say about this. Too much.

If I'm in the same situation tonight, I might sit down right outside the backdoor and write before my evening begins.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

NaPoWriMo poem #4

Today's prompt from Poetic Asides is to write about an animal.

I immediately had grand thoughts about Great Blue Herons and went nowhere.

But my sister is in a band called Bad Kitty, and that inspired me to write about my own felonious feline. Here's the draft:

Bad Kitty

O, my glorious pet, my pest,
your morning claws climbing
the back of my pink bathrobe.

My mouse chaser skittering
across the kitchen in fierce pursuit,
dropping the catnip bounty

on the floor for me to throw again,
then sprawling with your prey gripped
between your teeth like a fat cigar.

Guardian of the front door,
your long tail switches as you spy
on the sparrows outside.

Tramper of counters and mantles,
all territories forbidden, opener
of cupboards, hunter of rubber bands

and other hazards requiring surgery,
your imperative meow insisting
on treats and all doors ajar.

Then you slip into a paper sack,
or curl up in a basket, soak up
the light in a square of sun.

You of bell and purr, soft fur, curl
next to me when, finally, you fall asleep.

NaPoWriMo poem #1

Well, not exactly. I'm writing a poem a day based on the prompts that Robert Lee Brewer is providing over at his Poetic Asides blog.

Day one's assignment was to write an origin poem, and I was stuck at the start. After I got going, I wrote three, and asked my husband to help me choose which fit best. He thought that this poem was more about food than origins (is this ever a problem?) so I'm posting this draft of it here instead:

Where These Come From

You ask about the origin of my hips,
a generous genesis coming from bacon
and pancakes at breakfast, a bit extra
added by that pina colada at lunch,
a mai tai or four on the cocktail cruise,
Kalua pig quesadilla,
wasabi macadamia nuts and even the peas,
goat cheese as smooth as butter,
fish bits crusted in coconut and served
with a sweet chili sauce the color of sunset,
lobster bisque, cole slaw with avocado,
and then there was the banana cream pie.
I was born with these bones
but the rest is a menu to relish.

Friday, April 3, 2009


Last night, I arrived home to find my contributor's copy of a publication. Getting accepted is always exciting, and so is seeing the work in print—either on paper or online.

However, in this case, my name had been changed—just the first name—to something completely different. Not a typo, but another name entirely.

I'm not sure how it happened, and it was disappointing, but it brought up questions about the work itself and writing. What's more important: the poem or the publishing credit?

The poem, but...

This poem has not only found a home in the world, but out in that world it is completely separate from me. It's standing on its own entirely.

I'm not sure how I feel about that, but it's a learning experience.

Have you ever been published as someone else? How are your poems a part of you, a part of who you are?


When the tide is out

Up in cow country

Monday, we went up to visit some friends in Waimea, which is cow country on the Big Island. And this was the view from their back window.


Whales and cocktails

The little dark arch in the middle is a whale.

On the beach at Punalu'u

At the south end of the beach.

On our way up to the lava field.

Up top.

The pond at Punalu'uv

Sea turtles

In Na'alehu

Here we are at the Hana Hou restaurant in Na'alehu. This restaurant is known for two things: its pie and the fact that it's the southernmost restaurant in the United States.

When we came for lunch a couple of years ago, we didn't leave room for dessert! This year, we planned ahead and shared slices of macacamia nut cream and banana cream pies.

Our little island lunch guest

Happy Poetry Month!

It's April already, even if we had snow this morning.

I know I've been a little silent, but I'm back online after my vacation, and my first order of business: Pictures!