Saturday, February 27, 2010

A few thoughts from the sofa

I finally posted a couple of essays (I'll call them essays) on the sofa:

Friday, February 26, 2010

Innovation: Consider the gauntlet thrown

I've lately been looking at this notion that virtue =

(pick one or more)

  • hard work

  • long hours

  • deprivation

  • suffering

  • a measure of misery

What if that isn't the case?

And I thought about software development, an environment that seem to thrive on the hard work-long hours-deprivation factors of that equation.

Seems to thrive.

Somehow we as a society generally buy into the idea that if we're really being productive and contributing--if we're really being good or virtuous--it has to hurt. And if one person on the team works 80 hours a week, three more people will decide they must work 100 hours a week--at a cost of health, family, accuracy, and

...wait for it…


I'm throwing down the gauntlet and saying that I think we as a company or a nation or a world could be much more innovative and come up with much stronger, safer, more streamlined solutions if we worked less and suffered less--and if we played more.

Are you going to get your best ideas if you've spent 100 hours a week at your desk? Or if you've spent 20 of those hours in meetings with other people who have spent 80 hours a week at their desks?

Innovation comes from creativity, and creativity thrives on new experiences and new surroundings and new connections and the freshest air possible.

What if you worked 40 or 50 hours a week and brought your best, most-rested brain to it? What if the rest of the week you had more time to think and to dream up new possibilities…

...What if?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Calling all editors, with a question

When you're reading submissions and choosing poems to publish, do you keep your audience in mind? Do you choose poetry based on what you think your readers will like?

Or do you choose what you like and trust that readers who enjoy the same kind of writing will find you?

Just wondering.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Have you ever watched the cartoon The Tick?

Tonight, while dishing up dinner, I pulled my big spoon out of the drawer, and it reminded me of this quick (draft) of a poem that I wrote for the April PAD in 2008.


It's a big and made of plain metal
with a wood handle worn by use,
by washing. It stirs the pasta
or the onions, the peppers in olive oil,
it serves wherever it is needed.

How bright the sun poured
as we walked out our new door,
under the thick leaves of old trees,
past the jail, circles of razor wire catching the light,
and onto the broad boulevard,
or that's what it was called.

Our first night in our first apartment
together, our first morning
and a trip to the diner for breakfast.
We lingered by the tables
of the church ladies' sidewalk sale,
and we bought this practical spoon--
our first utensil in our new life.

After two decades,
I'm on the other side of the country
and the husband has passed,
but the second-hand spoon keeps
its place in the drawer, more
treasured than the meat fork it came with
or the glass bowl I bought
when I was twenty, even
the colander handed down
from my grandmother
that has a dent and is missing
both handles and that I can almost
let go of. The spoon stays.

Alas, the colander is still waiting for its next use out in the garden. But the spoon does stay.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I love a list!

Lately, I've seen some doozies.

Kelli provides an insightful list of
why your work might not get accepted.

Martha offers helpful lists on
how to help editors accept your poems and how to help your poems hula!

while thinking about first lines, I came up with my own (yet another) list for polishing my poems. I'll admit that I've come up with lists before and then been too, ahem, lazy or, ahem eager to get right down and use them.

But I'm getting ready to take another turn through the Manuscript, and I'm committing to using this list, this time, to help make these poems the best that they can be.

  1. Where does the poem begin, really?

  2. Can those earlier lines or images be folded in later? (Will they add or distract?)

  3. Where are the trap doors, the places where the poem might want to leap somewhere else? Where will they lead?

  4. Where is the end of the poem?

  5. What are the end words and beginning words of the poem and of each line? Do they add strength?

  6. What about the first line? Can it hook the reader in?

I could add music and truth, but they seem too big—like they need a list of their own. This list is for after the music and truth.

Now, on to the poems!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

On the island

Waipio Valley, from the top

On the way down


More resting... (and we hadn't even started to hike back up)

Luck at the Anna Ranch

Japanese Rice Bird. I love these little guys...

...and they always fly in pairs


Green textures

The sun was really red.

A few pics from the Poetry Birthday Bash

On February 1, I turned 50, and I decided to celebrate by inviting some of my favorite local poets to read at the Columbia City Cinema.

We had wine and cake and party blowers, and we had poetry! Here are a few photos from that evening.

It's a party!

Judy & Molly

My parents

Now, that's a sofa-full!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Big E (on the Big Island)

When I arrive here, I think of a week of writing--and then I don't write nearly as much as I want to (or I don't like what I write nearly as much as I want to).

Last year, I wrote more than usual--but not poetry. The poems remained as elusive as shadows at noon. Instead, I wrote essays (or what I thought were essays). It was my fantasy of becoming a professional vacationer by writing essays about traveling and writing--connecting the experience of a place to the experience of writing.

Yes, I sound deluded--but it was a nice thought while it lasted, and at least I wrote something.

This morning, I finally admitted that when I'm brimming with anticipation for adventure and writing (and reading novels by the pool), I'm hobbled by my own Expectations--my Big E. I'm expecting to write wonderful things about this wonderful place in this unusual bounty of time--much more time than I have in my usual everyday living.

Those expectations muffle me.

How do you conquer or mollify or dismiss your own expectations? Can you stay awasy from them, and from the fear of failing them? Relax, and just be?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Voice adhesion

That isn't a technical term, although it sounds technical. Maybe you know the correct technical term?

I'm talking about the way a voice that you're reading sticks to you, the that you begin to speak in that voice.

This can be an advantage. Or not.

I recently finished reading The Anthologist--and partway through the book I realized that I was thinking in the narrator's rambling, digressing voice. Anything I wrote, I'd have to fight that voice or agree to it.

I think this is why reading poems--aside from the immediate experience and the rippling after--can be such a delectable guide to writing poems. When I find a poet who speaks to me in that way--the way that gets into my own voice--it opens doors.

I don't worry about imitating, because I'm not those other poets, and my poems are not their poems. Lynda Hull's voice gets into my voice. Louise Gluck, James Galvin, Roberta Spear get can get into my voice--and my work sounds nothing like any of theirs. But their voices help open my voice, open doors of image and thought. I read their work for a while, and then I can't not write.

I couldn't find my copy of Lynda Hull's collected poems when I was packing (a fast panic), so I brought a book by a different poet. Richly textured poems that are a delight to read and that offer layers, but their voice does not get into my head, does not speak to me in that way.

Do you find voices sticking to you? Do you have favorites you return to for just that reason?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Begin with a bang

Last time, I talked about lopping off the end of the poem--a way to avoid that temptation to come full circle and tie it all up neatly with a shiny satin bow. Although we almost never have ribbon in the house, I am drawn to a good knot at the end of a poem.

Now, I'd like to take a look at the beginning--that first line. Often, good advice says to lose the first line or the first stanza, or it says, "The poem really starst for me here." Good to listen to that.

But on January 20, I read on the Verse Daily and Poetry Daily two poems that had knock-out first lines, the kind of first lines that make you read to the second line.

Then, it isn't just about where you start or when you start, but how you start--and trusting that a dynamite first line will lead to fireworks in the second line (even if they are subtle, whispering fireworks) and that the poem will charge forward from there.

It's a theory. Will it work?

I don't know, but I'm already paying close attention to end words and beginning words and the end of the poem and titles (so much time and agony on titles). Now, I'm going to spend a lot more time on that first line.

P.S. I hope to have pictures, including party pictures, posted soon.

P.P.S. I'm reading The Anthologist, and I hope to post more on that soon, too.