Sunday, May 30, 2010

Two for Dan

Yesterday was my friend Dan's memorial service, an afternoon of many stories, songs, and tears. A big gathering, with comfort and sorrow, with music and more stories into the night.

Here are two poems that I wrote during the couple of weeks.

Our Hard Watch

In my sorrow I plant beans.
Scarlet runners fall from the packet
marbled red and night, a handful of magic.

We hoped for a miracle, red cells blooming
through arteries, day after day waking
to a new wonder. Through the long

treatments, chemo rounds like a boxing match
pummeled you—and you still standing at each bell.
You learned a hook or two.

Wood sorrel clouds the ground.
The dock sends stalks skyward,
feathery flags waving.

I smooth the dirt over.
Teases of rain spit from the sky.
The crows may uncloak their mysteries.

This is better than waiting
where my words fall, fail
like old seeds in a field of stones.

Dusk grows in the garden.
Everything hovers—breath, hands.
Time balances like a boy on one foot.

To keep a vigil from the far side
of the water. To keep the fury out
when it wants to surge in as hard as the sea.

You move through a larger circle,
but it feels like an eddy,
a swirl, a suck out of time.

We must hold you,
love you, let you return.

We miss you before you go.


Walk With Us

Evening grows in the garden.
Walk with us in this hush
of light falling.

We must send you off into the lilac dusk,
into the darkening cedars and firs,
but you can walk with us.

Bang on the pots and pans.
Bring your guitar.
Walk with us.

Emptiness reaches up to the sky,
too early for stars.
We could be better at letting go.

You must move on and yet a part of you
lives in a cup under our ribs,
in the night's quiet valleys.

You are a clear note through the distance.
You are a ray through the world,
a sunlight we touch, and our hearts

are pierced by it, and we open
our hands to find maps we didn't know
we held, our possible hours etched

on our palms. Walk with us
through this shivering, into the garden
where birth sprawls green.

Walk with us.
Help us to live the rest of this life.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Poems online

These poems on the Hektoen International website are from my manuscript The Body Makes a Plot.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

When a slam isn't slammin'

Recently, I've been invited to participate in two poetry slams—something I'd never done before.

And I still haven't.

I appreciate the invitations to read, but these are readings in the usual way, where each person gets up and has 10 minutes or so and then is done. That works for me, but it doesn't fit my understanding of how a poetry slam proceeds.

So I checked. From the Poetry Slam, Inc website:

A poetry slam is a competitive event in which poets perform their work and are judged by members of the audience. Typically, the host or another organizer selects the judges, who are instructed to give numerical scores (on a zero to 10 or one to 10 scale) based on the poets' content and performance.

(Which might explain why I haven't participated in a slam before.)

So what's with suddenly calling everything a "slam"? Is "reading" too boring? Will calling a reading a "slam" inject it with a sudden knock-down vigor?

Do readings need to change? See Martha's post on how to have a most excellent poetry reading for some ideas.

Or do we just need a new word? "Event" sounds too corporate.

Poetry party?

Poetry bash?

What would you call it?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A new look and a new outlook

I've given my blog a little remodeling, like a coat of new paint.

Now, I'm trying to match those colors on my website, and maybe recode parts of it. That part of the project will take longer. (How can the same HTML color code show up differently on two different sites?)

Over the weekend, I went to the Finding Your Readers in the 21st Century conference at Richard Hugo House. The conference focused on getting your work published and then getting it into the hands of readers. (Okay, I'll say it: Marketing.)

I figured that if my goal was to get my manuscript published and into the hands of readers, I should show up and learn as much as possible.

During the sessions, I learned more about Espresso Book Machine and also about Publication Studio. These look like viable, and very different, self-publishing options, and I'm considering both of them (basically becoming my own gatekeeper).

I also heard some good strategies for researching presses without going the contest $25 check contest $25 check contest $25 check route.

Alice Acheson gave some dynamic hands-on sessions on pitching and promoting, and Wendy Call provided fantastic insights on writing query letters. And Kelli Russell Agodon provided some really helpful information on writing grants.

Much of the conference was geared toward the prose publishing landscape, but I think that knowing how to talk about a project, write a good letter, and promote a project will help with poetry, too.

Now, it's time to put some of that good information to use. And write!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

In sorrow. In memory. In appreciation.

Dan and Beth

Our dear friend Dan passed this past Wednesday, as the rains blew in over the Sound. I've been thinking a lot about our friendship, and the example he set out--how to live a good life. Our hearts are with him, and our hearts are with Beth and his family.

I feel like I should explain more, and it's hard. I met Dan in 1982, when I suddenly needed a home. A classmate recommended her shared household. It was an absolute dump--but Dan was the house manager, and he said that if I passed approval of all the other tenants, I could move in.

It was a glorious summer. My friends in this new house, Toad Hall in Seattle's University District, ran together, hiked together, and went out for breakfast. (Honestly, I'm better at breakfast than at running or hiking, but they were pretty patient.)

We shared plenty of pots of coffee, arguments about cleaning the dishes, and philosophical conversations on the porch. We played music in the kitchen and banged on what pots and pans we had. Dan introduced me to my husband. (I had no idea at the time.)

We moved to other addresses. We stayed in touch. Dan built communities and lasting friendships. In these past few days, we have come together. In sorrow. In memory. In appreciation.

Dan, cheers to you! And a Guiness for good measure.

Monday, May 17, 2010


We've been in a no-time here. After months of successful treatments—grueling, yet successful—my friend Dan's leukemia resurged like a tsunami. Last Thursday, he came home to be with family and friends.

This morning, I was reminded of this poem by Stanley Kunitz.

The Long Boat

When his boat snapped loose
from its mooring, under
the screaking of the gulls,
he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore,
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
that caring.
He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of his cradle,
buffeted by the storm,
endlessly drifting.
Peace! Peace!
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn't matter
which way was home;
as if he didn't know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.

—Stanley Kunitz

If you have any good thoughts to spare, please send them to Dan and Beth and their family.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

On the same day

I read this article by David Biespiel about poets and civil discourse, and my daughter showed me this spoken word performance and this one, by a friend of hers at school.


Here's my brand-new bike. It's a Raleigh, but I named her Stella. And today, I made my inaugural ride across the lake, about 17 miles each way. I've done the ride before, but not in almost two years. And definitely not with this bike, which is a definite improvement over my previous wheels. We both made it across and back. And I can still type. (Maybe not coherently, but...)