Saturday, March 26, 2011

Moving ->

The Poe-query blog is moving to its new home:

I know, it's harder to spell. But I hope you'll join me over there.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Coming soon: Spring class at Hugo House

What: Building the Long Poem: Writing in Sequences
When: May 1, 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Here are the full details from the Richard Hugo House site:

What's the difference between poetic sequences and series? How do you extend metaphor and imagery across long-poem sequences? How do you maintain compression and build tension, creating an arc without depending on narrative? What roles do form and structure play? In this class, we'll investigate poetic sequences and how they build the long poem. We'll look at examples from Charles Wright, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Kate Fagan and others—and we”ll write, generating our own sequences. If you've wanted to dig deep into an idea and explore it, this class is for you—and you”ll leave with drafts you can build on.

To register:

(Note: When I say, "we'll write," I mean a lot.)

Monday, March 21, 2011


I am always thankful for a Monday, because it's a kind of fresh start. That doesn't mean I love Monday's, per se--but I do love fresh starts.

I am thankful that we now have a rear windshield wiper for my car that I mostly don't drive but my daughter does drive basically daily. This took three trips to the auto parts store, and for one of those, it was closed and we ended up at the Blue Moon listening to Chele's Kitchen and sitting at the Walt Crowley memorial booth and I'm grateful for that but also glad that we now have the wiper ready for the rest of March.

I am thankful for writing and the hummingbirds and chicken dinner tonight. But mostly, I'm thankful for friends and my family.

Open the door. Open my heart.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Morning questions

It's 6:45 on the East Coast. Often, in the morning, I finish my journaling, move my thouhts ahead three hours and back a few thousand miles, and I wonder, "What are the East Coast editors doing?"

Are they getting another cup of coffee? Are they sifting through poems? Are they grading papers, teaching classes, going to meetings? Are they, like me, holding down a day job and looking at submissions on the weekends? Are my poems still in one stack or another?

Will I hear from them today?

Then I remember to "be careful what you wish for"--but I know what I'm wishing for, among other things.

And if I sent poems to Hawaii, those editors would probably still be asleep.

One of those other wishes: A good Thursday for the world.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wracking, see Nerves

I have a project at work that's making me nervous. When I feel nervous about something, I want to avoid it, do something else. This is a good way for me to get other things done, but that elephant (could it be a giraffe?) is still in the room.

Most new things make me nervous--certainly anything new. It's the unknown.

If I avoided everything that induced anxiety, everything new, I would not even have this job. I would not be working on crazy long poems. I would not have made my daughter a triple-layer chocolate birthday cake filled with hazelnut buttercream and chocolate mousse.

Clearly, the rewards can outweigh the anxiety.

I've been trying to breathe through it--which is good, but it doesn't necessarily create any movement, any forward progress.

So I then I try to break it down, really take it one step at a time while trying to hold that end vision in my head. For the cake, I had to make one component at a time.

For the poems, I have to look at one section at a time, or look only at how the sequences string together, or examine just the verbs. Verbs are good.

And for other projects, like this one, I need to map the path that will get me to the X with the treasure, move past the anxiety by focusing on those steps, one at a time.

What makes you nervous? How do you move through it?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Gratitude, on a gray Sunday

This Gratitude Journal comes with a confession.

I confess that I spent the weekend hoping to hear some poetry news (I did receive one rejection), and I felt guilty with all the tragedy in the world right now--the devastation and human loss in Japan, and the ongoing conflict in Libya. And the loss in Wisconsin. Closer to home, and who knows how large that will loom in our future?

So much sorrow, so much to mourn. Such long roads.

This is when it's hard to feel thankful. Maybe this is when it's most important.

I'm thankful our family could come together last night--both sides--to celebrate my daughter's 18th birthday. I'm thankful one son made it up from Olympia. We'll catch up with the other son later--although there won't be any cake left.

I'm thankful the cake I made turned out--and I'm thankful my husband did all the rest of the cooking so I could focus on that cake.

I'm thankful for the dance class I took this morning--first time in more than two years, and apparently I can still walk.

I'm thankful for some time to write today, to try to make the poem I want to make.

Open the door. Open my heart.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Poor Misha

I confess that blogging about the sun hunters has started to feel like a chore. Is it because the days are longer now? Or is it because I'd rather be working on my long poems, happily immersed in sequences and pulling together threads and narrative and then breaking up that narrative.

But then, there's Misha, Sevario, Lydia. And there's Misha's family in South Bend, Washington--where you can eat a lot of oysters. I want to find out what will happen--and this is me, who is somehow missing the plot gene.

This could take a while.

Then I'll be back to poem-ing, free and clear.

Okay. Thanks for listening.

And while I'm feeling bad for my stranded character, I feel much more for the people in Japan and the people in Libya and the people in Saudi Arabia.

(I'm awaiting the U.S. State Department's statement on that last one.)

Two questions:

How do you make things happen in your writing?

How do you help things happen in the world?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gratitude Journal, with movement (with feeling)

Every morning, at the end of my little journaling session, I write at least one thing that I'm thankful for--a way to start the day with gratitude and with a positive step.

Here are some of the things I've been grateful for during the past week:

the cat calming down for a moment, my fluffy pink bathrobe, my job, poems, our poetry group, hope, optimism (hope's close cousin), opportunities, inspiration, and doors opening.

Which brings me to today, and I'm thankful I had some time to spend in the yard hacking away at the wild roses (think Sleeping Beauty), and I'm thankful I had some time to write, and I'm thankful for my chance tonight to see some friends perform a dance by Shirley Jenkins, choreographed to FADO, and then connecting with old friends--some from 20-25 years ago. What a day!

Now, it looks like I might even start going to dance class again. Open the door. Open my heart.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Gratitude, with snow and statuettes

I'm thankful for Martha's reading on Thursday--quite the party and quite the poetry! And I'm thankful for dinner with Bonnie on Wednesday, a celebration complete with Champagne and snow.

Today, I am thankful for no small potatoes, but the fabulous hash browns my husband made because four-fifths of us were together and it was a good reason to cook breakfast.

I'm thankful for the time I spent with my son while driving him back to Olympia.

I'm thankful for the snow in Olympia, how beautifully it was falling.

I'm thankful for the Oscars and the red carpet and the dresses--also the costumes and sets in the movies.

Take... (I think it's a high number by now.)

Open the door. Open my heart.

Friday, February 25, 2011

O, wealth

No one makes furniture for the money.

You make furniture because you love to make things, you love the materials, and you want a great place to sit.

No one makes wine for the money.

You make wine because you love to make things well and you enjoy drinking wine.

No one makes poems for the money.

I write poems because I love the music, and I'm not a musician. I love the images and the light in the images and the many shades blending, and I'm not a painter. I love a story, and I'm not a novelist. I love creating a new world, an egg with a creature inside it, and I'm not a god nor a chicken.

I am waiting for the mail. My ship is in the Hebrides, tides writing their own charts.

I am also ga-ga over Martha Silano's new book, The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Gratitude, with a confession

I'm thankful for the sunny days and blue skies we've been seeing.

I'm thankful for the season's first crocuses.

I'm thankful my kids (apparently) made it safely to their grandparents' house in Arizona. I haven't heard otherwise.

I've been doing a little art, and I'm thankful for the courage to try even though the results never come close to what I saw in my head before I started.

I'm thankful that I've been able to spend a lot of time writing lately. My husband has been cooking dinners--and he is a wonderful cook--so that I can have those extra bits of time to work on poems. Thank you!

And I confess that I'm a little nervous. For the past eight or nine months I've been exploring poetry in a different way--longer, more fragmented, or denser and metered. Or prose poems. Sometimes long and dense and metered. Big projects of aggregation, building up and taking away.

It's been really fun, but not one of those poems has been accepted. They are all out for consideration, but… So sometimes I, having always craved approval, wonder whether any of them will get published, ever. (Then I think, "That's negative energy. Be positive," and I practice being positive.)

But I know that these are the poems I want to be writing now, and on my good days, I think "Publish, shmublish." Would I want to change what I'm writing to fit some mold? Even if I thought it would work? No way.

That's where gratitude comes in again. I'm thankful for this confidence to explore what I want to explore, to write crazy new ways even if they don't make sense--or even if they aren't crazy enough.

I'm thankful for this journey.

Open the door. Open my heart.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Another deadline: The Smoking Poet

I don't smoke, but I do help out as poetry editor for The Smoking Poet, an online journal that rolls up fiction, nonfiction, interviews, cigar reviews, good causes, and poetry.

The deadline for our Spring issue is February 28.

In brief:

Email a group of two to six unpublished poems in the body of your email—no attachments—to the attention of Poetry Editor, and include a bio statement of no more than 100 words (please resist being cute and keep it professional). Subject line should read: Poetry—Last Name.
Or check out the full guidelines.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Punctuation--it's what I'm sayin'

A while ago, Kelli posted about her pet peeves as an editor--that she has none. She is a kind and generous person, and she says:

While I like people to use semi-colons correctly, I will not reject a poem or story because the writer got it completely wrong. We will accept the poem/story and write to the writer to let him/her know we have some punctuation issues we need to fix, but would still like to publish his/her work.

I admire that--and I'll admit right now that, while I hope to be a kind and generous person, I know I'm not when it comes to punctuation.

Sure, I make mistakes, too. I'm not perfect. Every once in a while, I've realized that in the process of revising I've introduced some error. And I'm mortified.

As an editor, I'm quickly distracted by inconsistent punctuation, inconsistent capitalization, inconsistent dashes, mix-ups between it's and its, and mixed-up homophones (there/their/they're, hear/here, heel/heal). Technically, those are spelling mistakes, and I look closely to make sure it is or isn't an intentional play on words--which would be fun.

But honestly, if a writer doesn't care enough to check his or her work before sending it, why should I care enough to read it?

Quick interjection: If a poem is pushing punctuation, using it unusually (but consistently that way), or not using it at all, that's great. Recently, I've been reading some poems by Mei Mei Berssenbrugge in which she uses punctuation only when a stop comes inside a line. If the stop coincides with the end of the line, she doesn't add punctuation. It's different, but she's meticulously consistent. And many fine poets, including W.S. Merwin, have decided not to use punctuation at all for very good reasons.

Before you think I'm only whining, I'm going to give you another good reason to attend to your punctuation: Chances are extremely good that an editor isn't going to have the time to do it for you. Your poem will be posted or printed as-is, warts, misplace apostrophes, and all.

What are your thoughts on this? If you've read this far, do you even care? Am I a dowager or a dinosaur (or just too damn nit-picky)?

What do you think?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday, with sun and gratitude!

Today, I am so grateful for the sun. We've had a mild winter, but sun and blue sky still makes all the difference. I felt my spirits lifting. Lovely!

I'm also grateful for the cat sleeping on my legs, my fluffy pink robe, writing time, and the delicious dinners Tom has been making.

And I'm grateful for the longer days. Now, it's light when we leave the house in the morning and when we return.

Open the door.

Open my heart.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chapbook season--and the deadlines approach!

Yes, it's time to send out your manuscripts.

If you reside in Washington State, the Floating Bridge Press deadline is February 16. Here are the details:

  • Washington State (USA) residents only.

  • Simultaneous submission OK. Individual poems may be previously published.

  • Maximum 24 pages of poetry (does not include title page or table of contents).

  • Title page and paginated table of contents. Please include page number and title of manuscript on every page. Standard three-hole punch on left side.

  • Author's name must not appear on the manuscript. Include a separate page containing title, author's name, address, telephone, email, and acknowledgements of previous publication, if any.

  • Manuscripts are judged anonymously and will not be returned. Winner receives $500, 15 copies, and a reading in the Seattle area.

  • For notification of manuscript receipt, include a SAS Postcard (optional).

  • For results notification, include a #10 SASE.

  • All entrants will receive a copy of the winning chapbook, and individual poems will be considered for inclusion in Floating Bridge Review, the annual Floating Bridge Press journal.

  • Reading Fee: $12.00 check or money order, payable to: Floating Bridge Press.

  • Deadline: Postmark between November 1, 2010 – February 16, 2011, inclusive.

  • Winner to be announced in May 2011. Reading in September 2011.

  • Mail To: Floating Bridge Press, P.O. Box 18814 Seattle, WA 98118.

  • Questions? Send email to
  • No electronic submissions at this time, please.

And if you live anywhere and are writing in English, the Tupelo Press Snowbound Series chapbook contest closes February 28.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Trying and trying again, plus gratitude

Today, I am mostly and gladly grateful that my daughter starting to recover from her really bad cold (bad as in four days of school missed and counting).

I'm also grateful that I received a poem acceptance yesterday, especially glad because I wrote this poem for a friend--in 1995. That's a lot of years of revising and tweaking and sending and rejections and more revising and a title change and all of that over and over again. And now that poem has found a home.

Finally, I'm grateful for a week off in the sun and for another year and for time back at home with my family, even when I'm dispensing cough drops and soup.

Open the door. Open my heart.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tharp habits

During my vacation, I read The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, by Twyla Tharp.

The book is meant to apply to all art forms, all creative endeavors, but I found Ms. Tharp's dance stories and movement examples especially invigorating. They brought back memories of standing in the studio, at ballet class or at rehearsal, choreographing, teaching phrases to the generous women who danced with me--and it reminded me of the time I auditioned for Twyla Tharp (longer story, there).

In the section on scratching for new ideas, Ms. Tharp advises to always scratch in new places for new ideas. At first, I thought that sometimes I like to revisit my tried-and-true sources. For example, I've learned that reading Lynda Hull's poems lights a creative fire for me. Then I realized that it's the difference between a new idea and a rejuvenation. One is the spark for new work, and the other is the inspiration that helps me start.

I liked Ms. Tharp's advice in "Accidents Will Happen" to pick a fight--to create your own accidents. This is an intentional way to keep you on your edges, an idea that is again explored in the chapter on skills. I'll admit that this chapter flummoxed me some--on the one hand, you need your skills at their peak, the very best, but you also need inexperience, so that you're forced in new directions. That all makes sense--you want skills, and you want new directions--but I found the juxtaposition unsettling. Maybe that's the point. (I liked the stories about standing behind the best dancers and copying their moves, and the general advice to copy the experts--but honestly, I don't know if I want to copy anyone right now. I'm 51, and I want to learn from the best, but I don't want to copy. Talk to me in a week or a month.)

In that same chapter, Ms. Tharp suggests that readers take an inventory of their skills. That sounds like a good plan (haven't done it yet--but I was on vacation). She also provides a 20-questions exercise that could also fit in the section on "spine."

Then I suffered a crisis of confidence. It was in the Waipio valley, and I thought, "Maybe I'm not a writer! I'm not looking at every plant and transcribing it into a poem. I'm not seeing so many shapes in the clouds." And if I'm not a writer, what? I've already ruled out visual artist, musician, and dancer and choreographer. Then I convinced myself that this is ridiculous, and I reminded myself that I've spent years learning to let go of the constant need to look at every experience as a poem and to live in that experience as completely as possible instead, to trust that the experience will return when I need it.

I'm still working through the idea of spine. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense: Pick a concept and make sure that all your efforts fit with it. On that other hand, I've heard that poems work best if you can not know what they're about for as long as possible--and I believe that. So although Ms. Tharp says, "Once you accept the power of spine in the creative act, you will become much more efficient in your creativity," I don't think that for me it's about efficiency. I do think that spine is a critical tool in revising and even more so in choosing poems for a manuscript.

I spent the rest of the week trying to figure out what the spine was for the poems I'm working on right now. Still working…

The book includes much more. I recommend it, and I'm confident that I'll return to it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Not making this up

Today, I received a rejection from Willow Springs and a rejection from Willow Review--one in email and one in postal mail.

I'm feeling mail-balanced and willowy.

Now, onward to the Lucia Perillo reading and inspiration!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday gratitude served up

This week, especially, I'm grateful for my husband's cooking. Not only does he make amazing food, he's been giving me more time for writing.

I'm grateful for writing, and for being able to follow new directions into crazy-long poems even if they lead nowhere. And I'm grateful for the acceptance I received today.

I'm grateful for a few minutes of sun today (I even needed my sunglasses), and I'm grateful for the little dusting of snow we had on Tuesday night.

I'm grateful for my colleagues at work and for my friends--and I'm grateful for the laughter in our family.

It's a good thing.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

10 pages!

No, I am not making this up.

From the submission guidelines for Seattle Review:

We are looking for exceptional, risk-taking, intellectual and imaginative (as if
these two could ever be separated) poems between ten and thirty pages in length.

Between 10 and 30 pages.

I've been working on longer poems--upwards of 50, 60, 70 lines--and thinking that I might not be able to get them published anywhere.

Now, maybe they aren't long enough.

The submissions page includes examples of what the editors consider acceptable, including "a unified sequence of series of poems."

Have any long poems ready to send? You have until May 31.


In other news, round 2 of the Paper Our Walls with Rejection Slips Competition started today. I have nothing to send yet.

But how about you?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

And then, wealth

I've been working on trying to let my poems explore more, to give them a wider range, to let them pull in images from my past--especially places.

Combing through these images reminds me what a rich life I've led. And these days, that's what wealth means to me--having a pond to stand by and reflect, and the time to stand by it in the afternoon, to walk by the pond or walk along the beach.

I think about the wealth I have and have had. The dead tree outside my window is a part of my wealth. The travels I've taken are part of my wealth--the drive up to Boulder, the drive from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, the swans on the beach at Lake Geneva, train stations, Venice, and that vague moment in the afternoon after we descended the Duomo to the hectic Florentine streets. My memory bank is my wealth, and each day I have a chance to add to it, even if I'm here on my sofa or walking to the bus.

Shelter and health for my family and me--that is wealth. Sure, there are the hard memories, the grief and anger, the bad slap that's also a part of living. But beyond that, to uncover, recover, and savor the good memories, even the fleeting ones, to pull them into my poems, to allow my poems to grow richer through the connections of instances that might seem disparate on the surface but are connected under the surface--that's a bliss.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Grief and gratitude

Any moment I think of it, I feel wrenched by yesterday's shooting in Tucson. Just last Wednesday, I heard Gabrielle Giffords on NPR. Then yesterday, I heard she'd been shot, along with others.

It's so wrong it's hard to hold. I send her my best thoughts. I send them to her family, to the family of the girl who was shot, the judge who was shot, and all the others. It's so wrong.

But this is Sunday, and amid this insanity, I need to remember what I'm grateful for, so here is my gratitude journal.

I'm thankful we had a little snow this afternoon. We waited all weekend, and while the flurries were barely showers, the world looked a little healed for a little while.

I'm thankful for art and the people who make art, who add beauty and searing perspective to my day.

I'm thankful, as always, for my family, my job, and for writing--for a day of writing today.

I'm trying to hold some light and share it.

Open the door. Open my heart.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Self-disciplined or stubborn?

'Tis the season of resolutions, and I'll admit right now that I'm not good at self-discipline. It feels virtuous and focused, but it also feels like deprivation. We have the gym, work, the bus, groceries, dinner--and then deprivation?

No thank you. I'm more likely to say, "What the heck, it doesn't matter anyway." I'll take the cookie. I'll take the cocktail.

But if my goal is to, say, lose fifteen pounds--and I already know that I fail at self-discipline--stubborn might work well for me. Stubborn doesn't say, "Oh, I'd better not eat that." Stubborn says, "What--you think I can't do it? Wanna bet? Watch me."

Stubborn isn't about doing without, it's about winning. While that isn't a good motivation for all situations, I'm becoming convinced it has its place.

And it's working for me, so far--one-tenth of a pound at a time. I haven't yet figured out how being stubborn fits with writing goals--in part because I'm trying not to have writing goals, other than to write more and to exact more, to spend more time exploring a poem and see what limits I can push and how far.

I recently saw someone on Facebook say his goal was to write 250 poems this year. I thought, "Really? Five a week? When can you revise and polish? Is quantity the goal?" And he might say, "Watch me."
Photograph by Claire Kervran.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Winter is cold, but the Poet is Smokin'

Fallen Trees at Cape Kolka, photo by Andris Silis

The winter issue of The Smoking Poet is online, with poems by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé, Amy MacLennan, Ruth Foley, and more--plus an interview with Dorianne Laux, A Good Cause, the Cigar Lounge, and more.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Gratitude for the New Year

Yes, I am thankful for the New Year--another beginning, a fresh start. My resolution list is short ("All the longer to accomplish them, my dear"). Okay, that was supposed to sound like the Big Bad Wolf.

I'm thankful we were able to spend New Year's eve at home--yes, I'm that kind of a gal--and cook for each other an abundance of fun (with wine).

I'm thankful for this cold snap--hell on the plants, but no rain.

I'm thankful that our oldest kid came over tonight to watch the Seahawks game.

I'm thankful that our youngest kid completed her first college application. I had the privilege of reading her essay today, and it made me feel all teary-eyed.

I'm thankful for verbs.

I'm thankful for resolution.

Open the door. Open my heart.