Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Something something

I've just been in the doldrums (and they haven't changed since last time). Slogging through today, thinking "must . . . blog . . . something . . ."

Something. Or as Randy says, sumpin' sumpin,' when we agree to let the ineffable remain, well, ineffable.

Which led me to ponder, momentarily, the difference between inexplicable and ineffable. Which I mentioned, in passing, to a (passing) coworker, who said (of the latter term) It's just not effable.

Which I think I shall adopt as my personal slogan.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Touch Me Not

My new chapbook arrived in yesterday's mail: it's perfectbound with the Editor's Prize manuscripts, a great idea I wholeheartedly endorsed when Phil Memmer, the editor, proposed it. (They plan to publish the series this way from now on.) Nice font, 91 pages, three chapbooks in one: Michael McFee's Never Closer, Lynne Knight's Life as Weather, and Touch Me Not (mine). I'd never read Lynne's work before, but I've admired Michael's poems for some time, particularly his book Earthly.

Don't judge this one by the cover, which is (alas) totally generic. I was hoping for some kind of photograph, some image, though I guess it would be hard to find one image to resonate with three books.

Three in one, just ten bucks: what a deal. Be the first on the planet to own a copy: order from Two Rivers Review, PO Box 300, Clinton NY 13323. Or you can PayPal ten bucks to me and I'll send you a signed copy.

/end shameless whoring for my new book.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Gertrude chapbook contests: good luck!

"In 2006, Gertrude Press will begin publishing limited-edition poetry and fiction chapbooks. These attractive collections will include a letterpress cover and will offer a limited and numbered press run of 200.
Writer Compensation: $50 cash award + 50 complimentary copies of the chapbook. Chapbooks will be distributed to subscribers, libraries, and bookstores carrying Gertrude, the Press’ annual literary journal.

Poetry Chapbook Guidelines:
Submit 16-20 pages of poetry via surface mail only. Indicate which poems have been previously published and by whom. Unpublished poems are welcome. Poetry may be of any subject matter and writers from all backgrounds are encouraged to submit. Include a cover letter and SASE for notification. For manuscript returns, please include exact postage. Include a $10 submission fee payable to Gertrude Press.
Deadline for submissions: Postmark – February 28, 2006.

Fiction Chapbook Guidelines:
Submit 16-20 pages of short fiction or a self-contained novel excerpt via surface mail only. Indicate which selections have been previously published and by whom. Unpublished pieces are welcome. Fiction may be of any subject matter and writers from all backgrounds are encouraged to submit. Include a cover letter and SASE for notification. For manuscript returns, please include exact postage. Include a $10 submission fee payable to Gertrude Press.
Deadline for submissions: Postmark – February 28, 2006.

Please send all submissions to: Gertrude Press, PO Box 8394, 8Portland OR 97283

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


So I have this small collection of bookmarks--just cheapo advertising bookmarks from some of the bookshops I've visited on my (limited) travels--and I keep thinking there must be something I could do with them. I'm a quilter, so I keep coming back to that: some kind of collage? A quilt?

The problem is, I don't have enough bookmarks. So I thought I'd put out a call: do you have a favorite bookshop in your town? Like Rivendell or Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Brazos Books in Houston, New World Books in Cincinnati? Do they serve coffee? Soup? Poetry slams? Can you get me a bookmark?

Come on now, y'all. Help support my current obsession.

Good poem

YMCA, 1971

It took a quarter to keep the lights on—
that was all the machines knew. And so
my mother emptied her purse for change
while my father tried to resuscitate a man
on the tennis court in the dark. But the man
died. The paramedics called the heart attack
massive, a widow maker. My parents
had just wed; neither one knew how to play
tennis well, it was something they were going
to pick up together. Years later,
after taking up racquetball instead, after their son dies,
after they divorce, this is the one story
where their two sides continue to match.
They say it felt like it was going to be
another ordinary day. They fed the dog,
then walked into the damp indoor air
onto the invisible slick of the courts. My father
was poised to receive my mother’s serve when
a woman cried, My god. My god. I don’t know
what to do—
the buzzer sounded that time was up
on the lights, everybody dropped their rackets
and began running in the dark
toward the white glow of the dying man’s clothes.

--Kristen Tracy, in The Southern Review, Autumn 2005

Friday, January 20, 2006


Thinking about cover art (no, not for me, but for West Branch), and browsing through paintings I've found online over the past few years to see if there's anything I've forgotten to bring forward to the other editors, I ran across a few Helen Bayley paintings again: I really love her work (what little I've been able to find) and fantasize about having something of hers on the cover of my next book (whenever it comes together & finds a home). Anyway, here's one painting, "Bee" (though they are hornets) (ahem):

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Back in the canon

(sing along, little doggies) I'm back innnnn the canon a-giiinnnn. . .

Two years ago, Paula Closson Buck taught my chapbook, The David Museum, in her poetry workshop. I had a great visit with her students, and she said that TDM was their favorite book that semester. (Awww thanks.) So she's teaching it again this spring: I'll have a classroom visit in March, right after spring break. Way cool.

Just checked the New Michigan Press site, which says TDM is "still a classic, still selling well." Maybe other poets are more actively engaged in keeping up with this sort of thing? I confess that I don't know how. I have no real idea what "selling well" means at this point, but it sounds good. I did a big mailout (and e-mailout) when the chap first came out, and will prolly rely on e-mail to announce my new one (any day now!), but other than that, I guess a web site would be a smart thing to put together. . . I'm grateful, of course, to Ander Monson and his press for producing such a great-looking chap--and for keeping it in print.

Interesting collaboration

Check out Another Place, an online collaboration between poet Nat Hardy and artist Julian Grater.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Fine Press Seminar for Emerging Writers

This sounds like a dandy opportunity:

2006 Letterpress Printing & Fine Press Publishing
Seminar For Emerging Writers

The Center for Book Arts invites applications for our Letterpress Printing & Fine Press Publishing Seminar For Emerging Writers. The next section of this seminar is scheduled for Friday through Sunday, March 31, April 1 & 2. The seminar is tuition free for participants. There is a small fee for for those accepted to cover the cost of materials. Those selected must attend the entire three-day workshop.

Participants will hear lectures from various professionals in the field – printers, fine press publishers, book artists, and dealers, to get a practical overview of letterpress printing and fine press publishing. They will learn the basics of letterpress printing, both traditional typesetting and options with new technology, by collaboratively printing a small edition of chapbooks or other projects.

Each seminar will be offered to a maximum of eight students. Writers from culturally diverse backgrounds are especially encouraged to apply. Finalists may be interviewed or asked to provide supplemental information to their applications.

Applications will not be accepted from students enrolled in undergraduate or graduate degree programs during the program year (September 2005 – May 2006).

Application postmark deadline is February 15, 2006.

NOTE: Applicants must be 18 years or older.


1) Three copies of the completed application form, filled out completely, signed and dated.

2) A five-page manuscript. You may submit prose, poetry, nonfiction or any other genre.
Manuscripts should be bound with a simple spring clip. A title page should list the title of the manuscript title, table of contents (as needed), the author’s name, address, telephone number(s) and email address. Manuscripts will not be returned.

3) Three copies of a resume, including recent publications, if any. (Two pages max.)

4) A Self Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE) for results notification.

5) $20 application fee

Do not send additional materials. They will be discarded.

Send entries to:
Writers Seminar Application; The Center for Book Arts; 28 West 27th St., 3rd Floor; New York, NY 10001

A few new poems

Well my friend Katie asked last week if we could meet and exchange new poems--we agreed on Tuesday (yesterday) at Mya's, a coffee shop on Market Street where I'd sit and write every day if a had a coffee budget--and this prompted me to open my file of drafts and notes and what-all to see if there was anything ready to step up and become a poem. There was. I tinkered and fussed over four drafts (two were really, really short, around ten lines each) and showed them to Deirdre and Peg on Monday at work (to build up my confidence that there was at least something happening on the page).

So a nice meeting with Katie last night. She had four poems as well, two of which really knocked me out; we spent the bulk of our time on those and on one of mine, the newest one, "No Wonder," which now feels most complete and even--dare I?--ready to go into the manuscript.

Up this morning much too early--I woke from a dream that I'd accepted a job in Columbus (umm, sure, I'll consider that here in the waking world, why not?) and then had to check the weather radar online to see if I'll be walking to campus this morning (rain or ice?). Turns out it's rain for now, and won't be changing to snow till late this morning.

The rain sounds nice . . . It's lulling me back to bed for an hour . . .

Monday, January 16, 2006


I bought Jan Zita Grover's North Enough: AIDS and Other Clear-Cuts a couple of years ago from the Daedalus catalog--this was back when I still had a decent book budget--and for some reason I just couldn't get into it at the time. Picked it up again this week and--well, I'm truly moved by this memoir. Partly it's my own memories of friends lost to AIDS; but more than this, it's Jan's use of scarred landscape as a figure of consolation. Here's an excerpt:

Eric had a story, and like most people, he told it and retold it until he finally understood it. I must have heard it a dozen times before that happened. It was always while we were in motion, as if the ground moving beneath us set up a goading, reminiscing rhythm that pulled the story out of him like a ribbon from his throat.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Man wielding thimble

Randy's been quilting a lot this week, working on a small sawtooth quilt that I pieced on the machine from reproduction Civil War-era fabrics. It's just another thing we do. He's very good at it. Here are pics of him from yesterday evening.

Skilled bees

In State College a couple months back, while browsing through the last existing used book shop, I found a wonderful old book: a 1919 edition of Maurice Maeterlinck's The Life of the Bee, translated by Alfred Sutro. As a child, I read whatever books were available (I remember lots of Reader's Digest Condensed volumes) and was especially lucky to find some old Pearl S. Buck novels. Still have a small collection of them.

Maeterlinck's prose (at least in this translation) has a lyrical cadence that's reminiscent of (my memory of) Pearl Buck's fiction. Of course, as a gardener, I'm also fascinated by bees. (I didn't know, for instance, that the realization that a queen bee governs the hive is relatively recent: before that, folks thought that there was a "king" bee.) (How patriarchal.) Mainly, I confess, I pick this book up to be lulled by its rhythms. Here's a sample paragraph:

Now, the form of the hive that man offers to the bee knows infinite variety, from the hollow tree or earthenware vessel still obtaining in Asia and Africa, and the familiar bell-shaped constructions of straw which we find in our farmers' kitchen-gardens or beneath their windows, lost beneath masses of sunflowers, phlox, and hollyhock, to what may have really been termed the factory of the modern apiarist of today. An edifice, this, that can contain more than three hundred pounds of honey, in three or four stories of superposed combs enclosed in a frame which permits of their being removed and handled, of the harvest being extracted through centrifugal force by means of a turbine, and of their being then restored to their place like a book in a well-ordered library.

[photo: bumblebee in a hollyhock, Strawberry Alley (a block from our apartment), June 2005]

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Quiet day at home. Gray and rainy, which I don't mind, and then the wind picked up this afternoon and we got a little snow. Feels like January again. I admit that the warm sunny days earlier this week felt a little--well, unnatural. January is for browsing through the garden catalogs and dreaming about growing six kinds of heirloom tomatoes. Sadie's been tracking in mud, and that shouldn't happen until March.

Sadie's such a good cuddler. I've had a headache all day. When I lie down, she finds me, lays her head on the edge of the mattress and sighs, waiting to be invited up. I stroke her soft ears and whisper poems: she seems unsettled by Robert Frost.

I took this photo last year on January 9th. Just resized it. Wish my initials were "EL." Maybe I'll go back soon and try to find one.

Re-reading Richard McCann's beautiful poem (& chapbook) "Nights of 1990:"

When the hospital therapist asked me what was the matter
I told him my heart had broken. He placed his hands upon my chest.
He said, "Now I'm going to press down harder."

Friday, January 13, 2006

Lavender Languages

The annual Lavender Languages Conference will be held at American University from February 10-12. Anyone planning to go?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Like pouting robots

From my lunch walk the other day, the photo at right is of two ginormous vents on the roof of the Carnegie building. I shared an office last semester in Carnegie. One of the oldest buildings on campus, it served for a time as the library. Old brick, old exposed pipes, loud knocking radiators, water damage whenever it rains, no elevator: I loved that office. These vents, or ducts, or cooling units--whatever--look so incongruous on the roof of such an old building. Like two aliens having an argument about how to climb down. Like snitting robots. Giant mailboxes set free to conquer.

A line from Lisa Lewis's poem "Genesis" (I'm re-reading her book The Unbeliever):

"As if some unseen machine had him by the hips."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Gail Griffin is on campus to lead a 2-day workshop on "uncovering whiteness" (in reading, writing, teaching); I'm looking forward to this. Should be some great discussions. (Not teaching this spring, but hope springs eternal each fall.)

Photo at left: close-up of Prof. Roberts (a plaque thereof), the dude this old building was named after. I love these old plaques: head-on, they look fine, but viewed from one side (or the other) close up, the noses get really wonky and out of perspective. There's a reason for this I'm sure (i.e., we're not supposed to view them other than head-on) (but I like the side view). I'll try to get a good wonky pic & post it soon.

Totally unrelated: I'm starting up some collaborative poems with two or three folks I haven't worked with before. Really, really looking forward to seeing where this goes!

Bedtime for Ronzo . . .

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Look Up

Today on my lunch hour I walked around campus with the digital cam. I'm not so good at photographing people, but I do look for patterns: dew, shadows, that sort of thing. Here's a stairwell in Roberts Hall, where I'm working right now:

Pugilistic dreams

I've been fighting a lot in my dreams, but can't remember with whom. Also getting lost, often in Mexico City, or what feels like Mexico City, which is the only foreign capital I've ever visited (Frankfort, Kentucky doesn't count) (oh, come and get me, I haaaaaate Kentucky, it smells like an ashtray). Also, David is showing up a lot, though he's been dead ten years--


January 14th. Okay, I get that part.

But the museums like open parking garages, and David buying antique Coca-Cola metalware, and losing the car in some hilly neighborhood, and the heartbreakingly beautiful Mexican lad who bandaged Sadie's paw (how did my dog get into this dream?), and David saying it's fine to go with that boy? I keep fighting awake like I've been drowning. It's not restful. It's only two in the afternoon on Tuesday and I'm whipped. I must, must, get to bed early tonight.

Randy got a splitter for his portable CD player; he falls asleep listening to Tibetan chants and such. I may take him up on his offer to share. I need to find less chaos in my dreams.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Trusses & beams

[Two photos today, taken in January of last year, of bridges in Bloomsburg.]

What do you do--besides read--when you're not writing? To nurture that awareness, that spark? If "poet" means a particular way of being in the world (I believe it does), then couldn't just about any activity be undertaken in the same conscious, receptive manner that typifies the "zone" I feel I'm in when a poem is coming to me? Walking to work, certainly--so much to notice, so many rhythms. But chopping carrots? Cleaning out the litter box?

Is it enough to practice mindfulness, to make it an increasing part of daily life? Or does being a poet require output: the product defines the maker?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Buffing Sestinas

Eduardo posted a link to Jason Schneiderman's snappy Buffy Sestina the other day. This got me to thinking about sestinas again--specifically, how I generally prefer to write a sestina that pushes back against the form. Example: I wrote a "truncated" sestina with a six-syllable line, and then "bumped up" every other line so the poem was set in 3-line stanzas. This is a pretty fun way of disguising the form, since half the repeated end words are "buried" mid-line; the resulting pattern of end words isn't immediately apparent, either. You end up with seven stanzas of three lines each. Mathematically, it goes like this:

1-2/ 3-4/ 5-6 //
6-1/ 5-2/ 4-3 //
3-6/ 4-1/ 2-5 //
5-3/ 2-6/ 1-4 //
4-5/ 1-3/ 6-2 //
2-4/ 6-5/ 3-1 //
2-5/ 4-3/ 6-1 [envoi]

So I'm wondering: how do other poets approach the sestina form? Does anyone else have a specific way of tweaking it to produce something atypical?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


The new Florida Review is out. My poem "Thievery" is in it. I'm very pleased.

All my little chickens have roosted for the long night.

Translation: I have no poems out. I haven't written any new ones since June.

Defense: I've been thinking about quilts. And quilting. I've been quilting, and also thinking about quilts.

Self-encouragement: Making quilts is just another way of making poems.

Self-doubt: I lack maybe three poems to finish my new manuscript. I think I know what poems they are (rather, I sense them in the room and can almost imagine their becoming). What if I can't write them?

Unrelated lingering image: For the past couple of weeks, in a low-lying cornfield just outside town, we've spotted several wild turkeys. At first they were easy to spot against the snow, eight or nine humped figures shaped like dark Amish bonnets, and I thought: crones. Now the snow's all melted--the fields are so muddy, it might as well be March--and they're harder to spot. But Randy saw them yesterday in the same field. Old ones. Almost a coven.

Return to the issue at hand: I'm okay with not writing poems for now. Ideas and phrases are bumping around in my head. Last month, for instance, I read Chris Forhan's poem "Dream: Obedience" in the summer Laurel Review and had to jot down this line:

Some boys won't go willingly. I will.

I think it wants to be a villanelle.

Walking home yesterday

Five things presumably left/lost in the snow which are now (that the snow has melted) visible:
  • chapstick
  • tube sock
  • yellow pencil
  • cracked cafeteria tray adorned with the letter "J" in duct tape
  • spork

Also, walking past a maple tree, I noticed a squirrel's bushy ass hanging out of a hollow spot, about eye level, and wondered (idly) whether anyone had ever hidden anything inside the tree. It's on campus, beside a fairly well-traveled path. Surely I'm not the only one to ever consider this.

Would the squirrels allow foreign objects? Would any non-food item be rejected as taking up critical space reserved for sustenance? Do squirrels really store nuts and acorns in tree hollows, or simply line them with nesting material? What might I hide in a tree, knowing I could probably not retrieve it?

  • pennies (version of a "wishing well")
  • anonymous confession of a crime I've considered but never enacted
  • poem drafts: the tree would slowly digest them and offer revisions in March
  • a spare cell phone: I could hide uphill at night and dial it as people walked past & drive them batty as they attempted to find it

Monday, January 02, 2006

November photos

Yeah, I'm late posting these, but ran across them today on the PC: some local photos I took while we were out for a drive in the country on November 11. Enjoy.