Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wrapped up or hanging?

Where have I been?

Apologies for the long absence. Work has been a study in stress (although I might get one or two more poems out of it), and last week was Reading Deprivation week in the Artist's Way. (Okay, reading deprivation three and a half days, which is how long I was able to last.)

Reading deprivation doesn't mean writing deprivation, but somehow it worked out that way. Time to get my game on again.

When I did start reading, I read a lot of poems. And I noticed that many of them try to create closure. Back when I started this blog, I talked about coming full circle, admitting I had a weakness for that. I wanted to wrap up the poem, maybe with a cymbal clash.

Then I think of all that advice to lop off the last few lines.

Do you prefer to bring the poem home, or do you like to leave the reader hanging?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Head in the sand or heart in the throat

This headline in The New York Times got me going, especially the part about "leaving universal coverage off his list of core goals." So did the election results in Massachusetts.

Conventional wisdom says that a lot of people in this country don't have health insurance or are underinsured--because they've lost their jobs (a lot of people have been losing their jobs) or because they have pre-existing conditions, or because their health insurance doesn't cover the care that they need.

It sickens me. What are those numbers? More important, where are those people? Why do they not have a voice, a LOUD VOICE in this national conversation? How can we help give them a voice?

Right now, one side seems to be doing all the talking, with volume. The people most in need aren't getting heard on a national platform, which leads me to this sense of the surreal or the unreal.

I can accuse "the other side" of using emotions instead of facts, but I'm pretty damn emotional about this issue, too.

I feel very fortunate that I do have health care, because more and more of this entire process is making me feel like my blood pressure is shooting up. I don't think it really is. But it feels that way. It feels like my heart is in my throat.

And when I feel that way, my first desire is to stop feeling that way. To close my eyes, stick my head in the sand, and hope that it will all work itself out and go away.

That isn't happening. Instead, one or two people in our Congress get to decide the fate of us, the people.

What can we do? We can send money, but I'd rather send my money to Haiti, and I did. We can call our representatives and senators. We can try to find a way to give a voice to those people who most need health care that isn't tied to a job, a voice to people who are self-employed. I'm probably forgetting a lot of people here. Feel free to add them.

Could social media help? Could someone start a Facebook group for people who don't have insurance and see how quickly the group grew? It's just an idea. Has someone done this already--and if so, how do we shine a spotlight on it?

If you have other ideas, I'd love to hear them. I'd love for the whole country to hear them.

Thank you, so much, for listening. And feel free to forward this to anyone who might have a good idea.



Sunday, January 17, 2010

Oh, yeah, I'm ready for a Villanelle Yell!

In the anthology Limbs of the Pine, Peaks of the Range, Geoff Pope has a poem called "Villanelle Yell." The final two lines:

When I complete a villanelle,
I'll clap & sing & dance & yell.

These weekend, I've managed to finish two draft versions of one villanelle and a first version of a second villanelle. And if you think that's confusing, now I want to start a second version of the second villanelle.

But finishing this last one, I was sitting on the couch with the cat on my legs and I felt a deep need to leap up and do something crazy, or at least something physical. Instead, I leapt up and looked up Geoff's poem.

The cat is now back in position.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Trying to stay in good form


I have three (possibly bad) versions of one villanelle, and I've been thinking a lot about accessing the truth in a form.

It's one thing to write a poem in a form, and to make choices to fit that form. But I think that for me, it's too easy to then say, "It fits the form; it's done" when maybe it isn't really getting at that truth. It's pretty and it sounds pretty and it looks good on the page, but it isn't really complete. It isn't leading me deeper.

Maybe I'm just feeling extra nervous because I'm working on a villanelle—a form that has eluded me for decades. Each stanza, each repetition, needs to lead the reader deeper, whereas I feel like my own efforts just keep circling back to the beginning. (And then all those rhymes!)

I'll keep working on it.

How do you balance a form with depth or truth or what you think that poem is screaming to say? Okay, I feel kind of stupid even asking that, but I'll ask it anyway.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Where do we begin?

For me, today's poem on the Verse Daily site starts at the third stanza.

What do you think?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New poem online

I have a new poem up at CHEST magazine, inspired by our bouts of whooping cough back in 2005.

And for all of you writing medicine-inspired poems, poems about the body, I recently found in my email inbox a link to another medical-arts journal: Hektoen International.

I'm not quite sure how I ended up in this niche, but it seems to be what I do.

Friday, January 8, 2010

I ain't got rhythm

Did I write that out loud?

When writing, I trust my ear. I trust the music in a line that my ear hears. Even
that professor said I had a good ear.

But I have trouble hearing stresses.

(As if I need any more stress.)

My natural lilt tends to add more than a normal person hears. It makes pentameter or tetrameter tricky.

So I cheat. I count syllables. My pentameter line, loosely iambic, has 10 syllables, give or take a stress.

Why am I sharing this? Probably because I woke up in the middle of the night trying to craft a line for another villanelle—even though I haven't finished the first one—and it got me thinking about formal verse, or my "casual formal" verse.

(I don't know how to diagram a sentence, either.)

Do you count your stresses? Do you look for music in your lines?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Still in the dark

I know that technically we've turned the corner. We're past the solstice, and the days are getting longer. But my body says it's time to hibernate. I don't remember being so tired so much of the time. Little energy for writing, blogging, asking questions.

I've been reading
The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver, and have learned that, according to at least one view of the world, we are just in the dark days and the sun will return on February 2. I'll hold out hope for that.

I've also started doing The Artist's Way again. I decided last year that it would be a good yearly practice. And instantly I fear that it will eat up all my writing time.

That was my New Year's Resolution this year: Write more. (I don't formally acknowledge the part about losing 15 pounds, although that would also be nice.) Usually the issue with writing is finding the time. But now it's finding the energy. Most of my free time is in the evening (never my best time of day), and it's hard to write if I'm starting to fall asleep at 8:30. Oh, and then there's that focus thing: I need time, energy, and focus—all at the same moment.

But tomorrow night, I'll need to stay awake, because I'll be reading at
Gallery4Culture at 8:00, following the opening of their new photography show. Beautiful, mysterious black-and-white images. I'm looking forward to seeing the show.

How about you? How is your New Year going? Are you finding time—and energy—to write or draw or paint or play?