Friday, June 30, 2006
Snapped this photo on my morning walk to campus. There's a row of hollyhocks, all colors, planted against a garage on our alley: the lower leaves are chewed to lace each summer when the Japanese beetles emerge, but before that--before that--they're a riot of activity. It was still cool enough to catch some of the bumblebees at rest, apparently sleeping, or too drowsy to move. They practically moan with pleasure, burrowing into the hollyhocks, pollen spilling all over their brawny little bodies. Such fun to watch.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Could have gone with Frost, or Bishop's "One Art." And gosh, I think that's all. I used to know so many poem by heart.
I remember Cynthia Macdonald, in her undergrad workshop in Houston, asked us each to memorize a poem. Everyone chose something in form--so much easier--except Nels Highberg, who impressed the shit out of me by reciting (a good part of) Adrienne Rich's "Diving Into the Wreck."
Will read Jason's poem next week. The summer session is halfway through. Then a month off before my crazy busy fall.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
I looked it up, and thanks to garden web, now I know that the long tubelike thing in the center of a tomato blossom actually encloses both male and female organs. I can't believe I didn't know this. But I see now that the paintbrush method may not work--these blossoms are so small, and they fold up in cloudy/rainy weather. I will have to resort to shaking the whole plant.
I do have a greater appreciation for the delicate work that bees accomplish.
I'm rusty at this. Tried coasting for a while on the good news of the last chapbook, but I didn't work very hard on trying to get readings because the cover--well, I've talked about this before. This is not a whine. I showed the chap to a friend recently (because she asked) and her reading was dead-on: a group of not-quite-narratives that slowly give up the central subject, she said. And that the overwhelming word in her mind after reading them was dread. And I thought: okay, I am on the right track with this manuscript.
Tom-Tom has two blossoms, but I can't quite figure out where the pollen should be coming from (lacking office bees, I plan to use an artist's brush to pollinate them). Do tomatoes have separate male and female flowers? These look to me like big ovaries. Must read up on this.
* * * * *
This week's daily poems:
- Jill Rosser, "Patience Is a Virtue" (Misery Prefigured)
- Mark Levine, "Work Song" (Debt)
- Adrienne Rich, "Dedications" (An Atlas of the Difficult World)
- Jason Schneiderman, "The Unnaming" (Sublimation Point)
- Eduardo Corral, "Border Triptych" (The Border Triptych)
* * * * *
Back to grading--
Monday, June 26, 2006
Bad Ron, no cookie.
* * * * *
This morning I woke with an image that may work as the conclusion for a short story I put away a couple of years ago. I thought about it on the way to work, and took a few minutes to record what was in my head (I keep a micro-cassette recorder in my desk) (though I really ought to carry it in my messenger bag).
* * * * *
My sister had to put her dog down a week ago Friday. His name was Thoren. No words. No words.
* * * * *
Randy so deserves a back rub tonight.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Here in Lewisburg, the annual 4th of July parade is held in June: this year, it was today. We usually go and take bunches of photos--much easier now with the digital cam (I still believe you've gotta take twenty shots to get the right one). Anyway, we didn't go this year. Though since we live only half a block off Market Street, we could still hear the bands and bagpipers, the horses and fire trucks.
I'm grading essays half-heartedly, giving myself frequent distraction rewards. In the past, these would be in the form of Oreos or some other chocolate--grade a paper, get some candy--but now that the weight is slowly coming off, I reward myself by taking little trips out to the garden to poke around and see what's new. In the narrow alley between our house and the Kellys, we filled two large storage bins and planted tomatoes, hot Thai peppers, and birdhouse gourds--the latter on a netting-and-bamboo trellis we ran to the upstairs window sill. One of the gourd vines has raced about halfway to the window and I don't really know what it will do once it hits the top. In Houston one year, I planted luffa gourds near a telephone pole: they climbed up then snaked out along a phone line (big flapping leaves, long green gourds dangling over the street: quite a sight actually). So I guess it's possible that these vines will just rocket across the gap and grab hold of the house next door. Or punch through the window and eat the cat, like something out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Does anyone know an easy way to tell the difference between an American toad and a Fowler's toad? We may have both. I'm not sure. They are fairly small, and one hides in the mint bed, though we've seen another along the patio (Randy watched it snag a bug with its tongue!). And the one I saw in the lettuce a while ago looks different from the little one I saw yesterday hunkered in a flower pot.
* * * * *
More garden stuff: A couple of weeks ago, on my way to work, I clipped a small sprig of blooming comfrey to put in a little egg-shaped vase on my desk. It wilted, dramatically (which reminds me of little Lily Kelly's impression of the wilted lettuce plant in their garden, sooo cute), for two days, then--surprisingly--perked back up. I hadn't remembered to bring anything else from the garden to replace it until Monday, when I cut a piece of the 'Moonbeam' coreopsis (feathery leaves, nice pale yellow blooms) to replace the comfrey. But when I pulled the comfrey from the vase, it had rooted! So I put it back. With the coreopsis. Which (come to think of it) will probably follow suit.
Anyone need a comfrey plant?[photo: comfrey in bloom in our garden]
Friday, June 23, 2006
I don't care if it turns out to be crap. It felt so good to be such an open conduit again.
* * * * *
A cover letter that I couldn't throw away after recycling the appalling poems:
Enclosed are five of my poems. I have never been published before. I have decided to make my living as a writer, so I hope that you like these poems and decide to publish them. I'm currently working on a novel called ________________, its an anti-war novel and will take time to complete, so I hope to get a good start in my career with these poems. I have written 110 poems and they comprise a book called "___________." The five poems I have selected most clearly represent the whole.
The voice reminds me of myself at around age 14: I was so certain I was going to be a Poet and write Poetry (note how I distinguished between the two). It's the combination of innocence and hubris, intelligence and absolute lack of experience that's almost heartbreaking. "I have decided to make my living as a writer." As if tomorrow morning I should get up and decide to be an architect, I who know nothing of scale, dimension, who can't hold a picture in my mind well enough to sketch it.
And yet. . .
I did this. I wanted first to be a writer. Eventually, I wanted to learn how to write. And I do this, this thing which has nothing really to do with making a living, but so much to do with making a life.
Who will save this young writer from the harsh, indifferent world? How will he grow from "being" to making? How much encouragement is too much? How much, in the end, does discouragement matter?
When I was in my late teens, I sent terrible poems to journals--journals I'd found listed in Writer's Market, journals like Antioch Review and Bitterroot and Cape Rock (working, as I recall, alphabetically through the listings). Someone, Menke Katz I think, once scribbled a note on a rejection slip: "Try again in five years." I heard a poet recently say that the most succinct comment she'd ever received (or maybe this was already a second-hand tale and she was relaying that it happened to a writer friend) said simply: "Not these." Which led us to joking about notes we'd love to see (though not necessarily on our rejection slips): "God, no." "Never." "Please stop." As if writers would obey such admonitions, as if we didn't already have at least some small belief in our gift that was inviolable. My novel is going to take a while, so golly I hope you take these poems because, after all, I have decided to make my living at this.
Wow. And-- wow.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
... of a sort: Randy did all the detailed work on this--the hand quilting--and a wonderful job. I made the binding and sewed it on. Oh, and I designed the quilt, chose the fabrics, and pieced the top on the machine. But Randy did the hard work. The photo really shows his quilting: a modified "open grid" pattern in the central area, quilted on the diagonal (his own design) and a nice authentic "Baptist fan" pattern in the outer borders.
The quilt is copied from a 19th-century Mennonite "bar" or "strip" quilt made in the Lancaster PA area; the fabrics are reproductions of authentic 19th-century colors & patterns. Note especially the "poison green" fabric (I should get a close-up), a color and pattern found often in original PA quilts of that era. The yellow is a repro of "chrome yellow" and the pink is a repro of "double pink" (or "cinnamon pink").
We sold the last two we made; this one goes (is) on our wall.
[photo: "Bar" quilt made by R Mohring & R Barlow, June 2006]
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
* * * * *
Bit by bit, I've been re-reading Paul Monette's novel Afterlife. When I first read it about ten years ago, I was deep in the grief zone of having lost David. This story of a loose group of "AIDS widows" had a strong emotional resonance. It still does, but now I can see how the writing careers unevenly--a brilliant, one-line characterization (two power brokers haggle by phone over a Hollywood contract, navigating loopholes "delicate as crochet") followed a couple pages later by a cheesy B-movie passage (bared chests under the gibbous moon). Still, I don't mind the tonal roller coaster. Monette was under enormous pressure to complete his last few manuscripts (he fully believed he'd die before finishing Borrowed Time). I'll take the high with the low. Even his brilliant memoir Becoming a Man, which won the National Book Award, has its off-key moments, though it's certainly tighter than Last Watch of the Night, which veers into shrillness at times. The latter feels more like this novel: I sense the writer working in haste, resorting to easy tropes and tricks at times in order to race forward.
I remember, too, feeling such a connection with Stephen, the protagonist of Afterlife, and with how he tries to find a way to pick up the threads of his life. . . Only a few people (including Jim Elledge, who published it and suggested I change the title) know that my first chapbook, Amateur Grief, was initially titled Afterlife in homage to Paul Monette's work.
Does anyone else still read (or remember) this man's (critical, in my view) prose? I'd love to see a symposium on his influence upon today's queer writers.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
* * * * *
Met with Paula this morning: she handed over some files and correspondence that I'll need for fall. It's now as official as it gets: I'm the interim editor of West Branch. We're setting the fall issue (#59) this summer and I am very happy to say it includes new work by Betsy Sholl and Paul Guest. This fall, we're reading for the spring '07 issue (#60).
Have poems, you say? Have an essay? A dandy story that will knock my socks off? We resume reading on August 15. Send poems by mail [West Branch, Bucknell Hall, Bucknell Univ, Lewisburg PA 17837]. You can save trees, stamps, time by e-mailing your fiction to wbfiction at bucknell dot edu. (Yeah, we'll still read fiction via snailmail.)
* * * * *
One of the cool plants I started from seed last month is the smallest, damned-cutest tomato I have ever laid eyes on. It's called 'Micro Tom' and when the seedlings first came up, I thought "You have got to be kidding me, these puppies will shrivel to gray-blue wisps by morning." Or I thought something like that. Only four seedlings even came up (though I think I planted six seeds, so that's actually not too bad).
I start my tomatoes in egg cartons. I cut off the top lid, seal the tab holes with waterproof packing tape, and use it for a saucer/tray. Then I cut a slit in the bottom of each cup and poke a sliver of capillary matting--about 1.5 inches long x 1/16 inch wide--up in there: about 1/3 inside the cup with the other 2/3 dangling out. This way I can water the whole contraption from the bottom: the wee wicks suck up the water evenly.
So I had three tom. varieties in this one egg carton, and the last seedlings--the absolute runts, the slow boys in the class, were these micros. Yesterday I finally popped them out--nice root balls, healthy, stocky leaf development, and two wittle teeny flower buds--and set them into flower pots. I brought one to the office this morning. The pot itself is less than 3 inches tall, 4 inches wide. The tomato plant (actually two, so intertwined were the roots that I decided to let the twins remain in their conjoined state) is maybe 1.5 inches tall, about 3 inches wide, stocky, fuzzy, very very green and just cute as shit. Two of the flower buds are starting to open. I am hoping to keep Tom-Tom going on my window sill all year. Snow's gonna fly, but my Micro tomatoes (size of a pea? a nickel? who knows?) will bask in their own ruddy glow.
Monday, June 19, 2006
I was just lying on the floor, trying to get my flash key inserted into the sole USB port on my office PC: you have to flip open a hinged cover and then feel around for the slot. Couldn't line it up without getting on the floor. Small openings, low interior hum from the big gray plastic box. I put my eye up to it: faint amber light inside. Like standing in a dark alley next to a warehouse late at night. Bugs batting at the sodium vapor lamp. Nothing here needs you.
* * * * *
Is anyone familiar with Peter Waldor's work? We were very excited by a batch of poems he sent this spring, but--ack!--our contract crossed in the mail with his letter indicating most of what we wanted had been accepted elsewhere. I'm e-mailing him today. Hoping he has more on the level of this first batch.
* * * * *
Energy level is still way down. If I had a pillow I'd nap on the floor.
* * * * *
Daily poems for this week:
- Jack Gilbert, "The Revolution" (Monolithos)
- Betsy Sholl, "Back with the Quakers" (Late Psalm)
- Ruth Stone, "The Sperm and the Egg" (Simplicity)
- Thomas Lux, "Virgule" (New & Selected Poems)
- Matthew Rohrer, "incensation at the funeral" (A Hummock in the Malookas)
[photo: spent rhododendron, june 1st]
Sunday, June 18, 2006
The sore throat that started mid-week has given way to full-body congestion: I feel dull and clumsy, ache all over. Up for a few hours at a time, but even a ten-minute walk leaves me worn out and queasy. I graded papers and worked on my lesson plans this afternoon, then, after an early dinner with Randy, went back to bed at six. Up at ten for a little while, just to check in: apparently there've been sirens down the street for the past hour, but I heard nothing. Randy says there are lights flashing just down the block; I think he is going to walk over.
Ow. My ear just popped. Maybe this is a good sign that my head is about to clear.
[photo: post-storm on campus last January, all the ice beginning to thaw and drop away.]
Friday, June 16, 2006
Michael read new poems last night in Bucknell Hall (I think he said they are newer than the ones in his forthcoming book): sensual, edgy, smart, they seemed to barely be contained: I got the sense, over and over, of the language muscling its way through each line, testing the limits. He does this so well with sounds, images, ideas. I think he's such an interesting poet.
Ah, I want to write. Something in my head today about the tundra swans--or were they snow geese?--on the river last year. Something about them descending en masse through the line of trees to land on the water. An almost molecular form.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
- David Groff, "Birthing" (Theory of Devolution)
- Chana Bloch, "Coasting" (Mrs. Dumpty)
- Marie Howe, "How Some of It Happened" (What the Living Do)
- Mary Ruefle, "Why Did I Endlessly Chatter?" (Post Meridian)
- Pattiann Rogers, "Geocentric" (Geocentric)
Next week's list is still open. Want to suggest something? I have my ideas (and machinations) but I'm (very) open.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
It's so hard to get to bed early--esp since I didn't teach this spring; I've completely fallen out of the rhythm of keeping my "academic hours." Walked back to campus tonight to hear the June Poets read (some good poems!) . . . now that I'm teaching every day, I don't find myself wondering how things are going over at the Poetry Center quite so often.
Good night, all you lovely people.
[Photo: no parking zone, taken on my walk to campus]
"How many of you have an iPod?"
Every hand but one went up.
Turns out they all rely on Facebook.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Randy finished the quilting on our latest project, so I spent about an hour today marking, cutting and pressing fabric for the binding tape. I hope to have the binding completely finished by the end of this week. Will take photos: this is an especially nice one.
ISR is installing new computers in the West Branch offices tomorrow. Our main databases are kept on a Mac, but tomorrow we'll get a new PC and everything will be transferred. All day, the thought of losing data needled at me . . . so this evening I walked over and e-mailed our submission databases to myself. It's the only way I know to save data from a Mac. It's not that I don't trust the ITech folks, it's just--well, I've written before about "the island vs. the mainland." Anyway, I feel better about it now.
The Tony Awards are on tv tonight and I can't even get interested. I'm usually such a fan of all those glammy awards shows, and even get choked up sometimes. I understand it completely: the Leo in me wants to be recognized for doing a good job, whereas the Libra in me doesn't want anyone to make a fuss and can't handle genuine attention. So when I watch people get recognition for doing something they care passionately about (or seem to, anyway), I get all verklempt.
Gonna check my class enrollment to see if I need more copies of anything. Adios--
Saturday, June 10, 2006
A wonderful, relaxing day. Randy and I drove out to Mifflingburg to pick up quilt batting at Verna's fabric shop and got out of there without dropping TOO much money. Then off the beaten path toward the line of hills, then along Penn's Creek, where we stopped at a covered bridge to take some photos. We were delighted to see a long black snake at the opposite end of the bridge, all stretched out in the sun. It slowly turned toward us, then nosed into a hole beneath the bridge, disappearing lazily as Randy snapped photos. I thought of Dickinson's "unbraiding in the sun," which I hope I have right from memory.
Tonight, I proposed that we take the camera and tripod and try to get some night shots of the full moon (for the second night). This time we walked down to the (Susquehanna) river. I took this one of moonlight on the water, then fiddled with the color balance. I'm pretty happy with the effect.
Friday, June 09, 2006
* * * * *
I've been seeing "my" damselfly everywhere for the past few days, the kind with the metallic bluegreen body, black wings. It's reminding me to write poems. May sound crazy, but that's how it is between me and this delicate creature.
* * * * *
BIG lightning! BOOMing thunder! I'm supposed to be packing up my things so R can pick me up to do a few errands together. I need to get a move on--
Thursday, June 08, 2006
On the bronze fennel, there were two TEEEEEENSY grasshoppers. I chased one with the camera for a few minutes: the fennel is so ferny, its fronds kept getting in the way. Very hard to focus on the hopper itself, but I finally got one!
So cute. So ravenous. So lucky I no longer have Oscars to feed it to.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Awakened this morning by a steady tapping--no, not a raven, but two workmen repairing the brick steps of the house across the street. Masonry saw, hammer and chisel, sacks of concrete mix. Drifting gray dust. One man did most of the work while the other (worker boy) mainly paced back and forth and occasionally dug his finger into his navel. Now they're gone, and it's just as hard to write in the relative silence.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Monday, June 05, 2006
Parameters: US Army War College Quarterly
Perspectives on the Long War:
--Stability Operations in Strategic Perspective: A Skeptical View
--Challenges in Fighting a Global Insurgency
--Tentacles of Jihad: Targeting Transnational Support Networks
--The Long Small War: Indigenous Forces for Counterinsurgency
Losing the Moral Compass: Torture and Guerre Revolutionnaire in the Algerian War
Cyber-Mobilization: The New Levee en Masse
Beware of Boldness
The Environment, the US Military, and Southern Africa
Sunday, June 04, 2006
Leafhoppers appear in most parts of the country and the adults are large enough to be seen. Injury is usually restricted to foliage where they feed on the underside of the leaves. From above, the injured leaf develops a grayish, mottled appearance and there is general loss of color. When plants are shaken, leafhoppers will be seen jumping among the leaves. Like thrips, leafhoppers often come to the roses from other plants.
As a rule, when insecticides are applied for red spider mites or thrips, leafhoppers are not a serious problem. DDT either as a dust or spray seems to be the most specific remedy. A treatment or two, when leafhoppers are prevalent, will usually hold them in check.
My garden doesn't have room for more than one full-size rose, so I selected an heirloom variety, a climbing "Dawn"--full white blooms with a pink blush on the buds--and compensated by planting a dozen or so miniature roses through the flower bed. I didn't need to buy this book, but as I was browsing through it, I found a letter inside, dated July 17, 1961. I wanted that letter. Could have tucked it in my pocket, but the way I saw it, the letter belonged in the book. So I keep it there. Here it is:
* * * * *
Dear Irene & Wells,
I dont know if you are home yet or not. I saw Gladys up at The Lake. I went up Thurs night and came back to Greene Sunday night, then Elmer and his girl friend brot me home Tues. George had a cottage from Mrs. Williams and we staid over an extra day, and she didn't charge for that one day, said she was glad to see me back, she was very nice to me. I stood the trip fine but now Im back I dont eat.
I got a pretty good shock of electricity Fri afternoon, my left hand was numb for over two hours. I was lying on the couch and it seemed to come in the hallway. I sure was scared for a while.
Douglas & Hyla & Mary phoned while I was gone, so here's hoping they will be out. I was hoping to see you drive in during your vacation, but I guess not.
I got a short note yesterday from Mr. Clugstone and he is still in the hospital poor old guy, I wish I could go to see him. I still dont know his trouble.
Has Rex said anything more to you about that lot? I really would like it & Nick thot that I could swing it. I dont know, but I know that I cant stay here this winter. Mary says I can come there.
How did you find Dick and family. I bet you had a wonderful time.
I guess Karl isn't going to bring Lee out anyway they dont say any thing.
Its raining part of the time here today, so just a little dreary. Willis is up to Gertrude's so Im alone.
Guess this is all the latest.
* * * * *
The letter was sent to a rural address in Binghamton, New York: I was eleven months old at the time. I love "now I'm back I don't eat" and "I still don't know his trouble." I love the names--Elmer, Hyla, Mr. Clugstone--but mostly I can't stop thinking about the electricity that "seemed to come in the hallway." What the hell is up with that?
Thursday, June 01, 2006
(I can woof. I know Leo.)
Thanks again, Dan.
* * * * *
Congrats to Betsy Wheeler! Her manuscript's a prize finalist . . . She's being secretive about it, so that's all I'll say.
* * * * *
. . . working on a new poem. Genesis: the image of silver maples flashing their underleaves, "praying for rain" as folks used to say. If this one works out, it goes into the "Trees" manuscript.
I shouldn't call it that. Evokes the Joyce Kilmer poem. Gad. The ms. is still called "The Boy Who Reads in the Trees."