Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sucking at studying

I read a lot. But… I'm 50 years old and I still can't study—not effectively, not with efficient retention.

It's been an odd week.

I've been reading some energizing and inspiring anthologies, including Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms, Lyric Postmodernisms, and now The Verse Book of Interviews.

But when I remember something I've read and try to find it, I'm lost.

I saw a really helpful quote, and now I can't find it anywhere. While I was searching for it online, I thought I saw it, but now I can't even find that. Could my brain have created this memory to fill a gap? (I've read that brains do this, and I might even be able to tell you where.)

And I thought I read an interview of a Very Famous Poet. I remember thinking, "Do I want to read this? Sure, might as well." I remember details of the biography (which, it turns out, is the biography used for this poet ubiquitously), and I remember details of the interview, but I can't find that either. And I don't think my brain could have fabricated all of that!

Which leaves me...where?

Monday, November 29, 2010


It's coming this Saturday, December 4!

From the Hugo House website:

Write-O-Rama is a full day of more than 30 one-hour workshops offered by Hugo House's writing teachers. Sample Hugo classes, dabble in different forms and genres and share your fresh, new writing before the ink even dries at two open mics.

I'll be doing a fragment-inspired Break It Up: Short-Burst Writing workshop at 10:00 and at 2:00—and you can read about loads of other workshops on the Hugo House website.

Come, and come ready to write!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gratitude Journal, and it's dark already

I'm grateful that the roads are now clear.

I'm grateful that most of the family was able to get together for Thanksgiving on Thursday, and that we have such a wild, wacky, wonderful family.

I'm grateful for my children, and the chance to watch them grow.

I'm grateful for the cat who is sleeping on my legs.

I'm grateful for a bunch of writing time this weekend.

Tomorrow, it's back to work, but I have gratitude to take with me.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What kind of poetry do you write?

How do you answer this question?

It came up again last week at a dinner party. I hem and haw, never sure what to say.

And it depends who's asking. If it's another poet, do I say lyrical or narrative? I'm still trying to wrap my head around those two, because at one end we have the Iliad and the Odyssey, and at the other hand we have postmodern lyrics (and probably post-postmodern lyrics), and I fall somewhere in the vast middle.

If it isn't a poet, I want to say "accessible," because that's true. Even my new, more fragmented poems are still pretty accessible. And I don't want to get into explaining how I'm exploring with more nonlinear poems, trying to break up the narrative in longer poems that are divided into sections. How dry. (Although I'm having a blast writing them.)

Often, I try to answer the question by saying what I write about. The stock answer: gardening and death. Except that my forthcoming manuscript is about illness and healing. And the poems I'm working on right now are mostly about middle age, set in the Pacific Northwest landscape. Except for a few more poems about death and grief. And then I'm toying around from time to time with the messy confessional poem.

Clearly, I need a succinct answer that is generous and--yes--accessible.

How do you answer this question?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Snowed-in--it takes just a dusting

Yesterday began with that dusting. Then, snow mist and freezing fog.

The ride home from work was surreal, with the wind swirling clouds of that snow mist in the headlights. It looked like the smokey wraithes that rise off of dry ice. The roads were solid ice. The bus commute was two and a half hours--probably one of the shortest rides in the region--and I missed the Billy Collins reading.

The winds continued to drift the snow, so a few inches was sculpted into peaks and swoops, like a meringue.

This morning, I'll be staying put, working from home, with a cat on my legs.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Gratitude

It's a slow Sunday. My one adventure outside was to Half-Price books--where I found a bunch of postcards but none of the books I was looking for--and the grocery store. Oh, and another quick dash to the alley to stand in the falling snow. Around here, you have to enjoy it while it lasts, because most of the time it doesn't. Now I am throwing the catnip mouse for Gilbert to chase.

Today I am thankful for those few flakes of snow, and I'm thankful that it didn't stick (especially because my daughter was out with the car).

I'm thankful that I finished a poem, and I'm thankful I had the time to finish a poem.

I'm thankful that my husband is making a big pot of red sauce.

I'm thankful for my here family and my wider family--aunt and uncle and cousins.

I'm thankful for "Homage to Paul Cezanne," by Charles Wright.

I'm thankful for the chance to ask questions.

I'm thankful for this day.

Open the door. Open my heart.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A question about prose poems

From what I know, in a prose poem, the unit is the sentence, as opposed to the line.

But I read in an interview a poet saying following about the publication of a manuscript:

"...it was nothing but a series of disappointments and frustrations...a prose poem is lineated where the manuscript margins ended;"


I thought that's how prose poems go. At the margins. Justified, even. Otherwise, isn't it a poem with page-long lines?

What do you think?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Gratitude

Today, all five us joined for Sunday dinner. I'm thankful for that. It was so good to see Jamie, and it was Daniel's last night in town before moving into his new place in Olympia. And Tom cooked (always a good thing).

I'm also thankful for my sister and lunch together at Cafe Presse.

I'm grateful for the class on Saturday (writing poems in a series) and for writing, or working on writing, new poems today.

It's been a good day.

Thank you!

Open the door. Open my heart.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Ever eat a pound of butter?

Tonight, we had pie night. And for this rare occasion, I made a leek pie (it was supposed to be leek tart, but I've misplaced my tart pan) and then a tarte tatin for the dessert.

And I forgot to take pictures.

All this after attending a wonderful poetry reading by Susan Rich, Kelli Russell Agodon, Oliver de la Paz, and Allen Braden. The reading was at the Frye Museum, and the focus waas on ekphrastic poems. I wanted to come home and write ekphrastic poems. Instead, I made pie.

But I was able to work on some map poems today, and so it's time for gratitude.

I'm thankful for writing.

I'm thankful for all the inspiring poetry that's out there to hear or to read.

I'm thankful for community.

I'm thankful for a night hanging out with two of my kids (the oldest already had plans) and feeding them and hearing their stories.

I'm thankful I can still make my daughter laugh (even if she's laughing at me, it's still laughter).

All in all, a good Sunday.

Open the door. Open my heart.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Writing poems in a series

It's coming soon…

...and spaces are still available.

I'm teaching a class on Writing Poems in a Series at Richard Hugo House, November 13, 1:00-5:00 PM.

(It's my favorite way to write—a good way to avoid the blank page for as long as possible.)

Here is the official description:

Writing Poems in a Series

How do you follow that great idea—that fabulous first poem—for an entire book? Do you ever get an intriguing idea and then wonder how you'll keep it going? In this class, we'll discuss different ways to explore a theme and its variations through images, narrative and voice. We’ll read examples of how other poets—including Louise Gluck, Carolyn Forche and Oliver de la Paz—extend themes and weave multiple themes, and we'll write through some exercises to help unearth those extensions, to explore and expand our basic idea while maintaining a connecting thread through each of the poems.

Truth: I'm lazy, so I love already having a direction when I sit down to write. And that's why I love creating poems in a series.

I hope to see you then and there.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Was it a dream? A question of form...

I could swear that I recently read about a poetic form that sailors used to compose poems to Saint Christopher. Or Saint Elmo. I don't remember which Saint.

I also don't remember which form, or where I read it.

Was it in Lyric Postmodernisms? Was it in Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms? I looked (using Google books) in those and also in Handbook of Poetic Forms.

And now the cat is barfing.

Got to go...any ideas about a form used by sailors to write poems to a saint?

All help is appreciated.