Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Lovely, fleeting--

We had a bit of snow yesterday. I took pics as I walked home at dusk: Bucknell Hall (the Stadler Center for Poetry) looks all warm and toasty (though it's really all cold and drafty upstairs). No one had walked the railroad tracks yet. So hushed. So lovely. I'm ready for more.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


--to Teresa Leo, whose manuscript, "The Halo Rule," was just selected by Sarah Kennedy for the Editor's Prize at Elixir Press. Watch for this book!

* * * * *
Off to my 1:00 class--

Monday, January 29, 2007

Burlesque Betsy

Pal Betsy Wheeler is reading tonight at the Bar Rouge in Dupont Circle (that's D.C., y'all). Click here for the blog on the whole reading series.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Kitchen Magician

That would be Randy. But today I helped with a project: we have an eclectic collection of cookbooks and pottery on two bookcases in the corner of the kitchen, and this morning Randy decided we should thin down the cookbooks to fit the shelf above the sink. Good idea! We were left with a box of cookbooks to store in the attic until we can yard sale them this spring. We washed all the pottery--and my too-many teapots--and rearranged them. Much nicer. (R's still in the kitchen. I have homework to grade and a lesson plan to finish.)

* * * * *
He just found me a spider: a small one, yellow-green, moving fast. I flicked it into a bowl and carried it up to the terrarium. (The aphids are still a problem. I tried a half-strength solution of rubbing alcohol, but it didn't seem to faze them. Maybe I didn't saturate them enough. I decided to continue my pursuit of non-chemical methods.)

* * * * *
I may not go to Atlanta for AWP. This has me a little bummed. We were counting on some travel funds that turned out to be about half the amount we expected. I need to go shake some money trees. At least next year's conference (if I'm still doing this sort of thing) will be in New York, only a three-hour drive.

* * * * *
Here's another poem that I read in class last week. (I keep a file of "daily poems" to read in class, and another one of "teaching poems.") I realized, as I was reading the "pallbearer" section, that the poem had come to mind because of the "disappearing twin" syndrome that Deirdre and I were chatting about two weeks ago.


Is reinvention. My son, chameleon-like,
is someone else every day — Spiderman
in makeshift leggings, Gina Lollabrigida

in my red heels. He isn't fixed
on gender, on the living or the dead,

fictive or real, evil or saintly. I let him be
Mussolini for a day. How much harm

could he do, with little time, no reinforcements?
When he is God he learns it's lonely

at the top, and hard to recall
all his addled sisters' demands.

As Ponce de Leon, he lacks
experience, is disinterested in the fountain of youth.

One day he is his twin brother.
Even I can't tell them apart.

The next day he finds a spot
on the warm slate floor

and barely moves. Who are you?
I ask. I'm a pallbearer, he says,

missing his twin. He is practicing
for his next incarnation: a stone,

which he has learned in school
can be halved and halved and halved

without pain, in rain and heat
and still cling to its purest properties.

: Andrea Cohen, in Provincetown Arts, v.18 (2004)

* * * * *
[photo: fence backlit by holiday lights, 1/12/07]

Thursday, January 25, 2007


How effing strange to see this poet on Jeopardy! tonight.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Reading weekend

This weekend I'm reading and thinking about Dorothy Allison's story "River of Names," which I'd never read before, for my intro CW classes. Looking forward to our discussions. Also reading the first batch of applications for the June Seminar. And (and!) I received the first set of proofs for West Branch 60, our 30th anniversary issue. Everything's due on Monday. It's a heavy reading weekend. I think I'll go to the office for part of the day.

* * * * *
It finally got cold here. My office window rattles. We've had snow flurries, but nothing's really stuck yet.

* * * * *
I'm gradually increasing my daily workout. It's going well: I have more energy, fewer headaches, and a heightened--what to call it?--clarity. My black jeans fit! And I've lost six pounds so far.

* * * * *
Continuing my practice of reading a poem each day in class, I started off with one of my favorites:

The Revolution

Robinson Crusoe breaks a plate on his way out,
and hesitates over the pieces. The ship begins
to sink as he sweeps them up. Sets the table
and stands looking at history for the last time.
Knowing precision will leak from him
however well he learns the weather or vegetation,
and despite the cunning of his hands.
His mind can survive only among the furniture.
Amid the primary colors of the island, he will
become a fine thing, perhaps, but a different one.

: Jack Gilbert, Monolithos (1982)

* * * * *
Hillary Clinton is in. Are we ready for a woman to lead the country? (I know I am.)

* * * * *
[photo: Bucknell at night: Roberts Hall]

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Silly busses

Tweaking mine again before classes begin tomorrow, at which point they (the syllabi) become set in virtual stone.

I need to walk a new path home this evening, just to check out the classroom accommodations (I hear it's a nice room but I've never taught in this particular building before).

Goodbye, leisure! Goodbye, novels! We'll meet again come summer . . .

* * * * *
On my bookcase today, I found a cup containing curdled milky tea. It was disgusting.

* * * * *
"Whenever I visit the seacoast, I derive pleasure just knowing that several feet beneath my waterproof boots lies an animal quite possibly 90 years my senior, silently finishing a supper of diatoms and algae inhaled through its meter long neck."

--David George Gordon, Field Guide to the Geoduck

Okay. I had never heard of geoducks before. The word is pronounced like "gooey ducks." My friend Deirdre mentioned them today. They're clams. They have huge long necks. They burrow about three feet down and then settle there for, like, a hundred years. And they look like penises. Giant, slimy penises.

Gooey ducks, indeed.

[photo: campus at night - just outside my building]

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Dark news

What is up with all the dead birds? First Austin, then this story out of Australia. Scary.

* * * * *
Just received my copy of Rigoberto Gonzalez's Butterfly Boy: looking forward to reading it.

* * * * *
Last week my dad's sister died. Mom hung up from the call and the phone rang again with the news that her own sister had also died. What are the odds of something like that?

* * * * *
This poem has been on my mind:


I have begun,
when I'm weary and can't decide an answer to a bewildering question

to ask my dead friends for their opinion
and the answer is often immediate and clear.

Should I take the job? Move to the city? Should I try to conceive a child
in my middle age?

They stand in unison shaking their heads and smiling--whatever leads
to joy, the always answer,

to more life and less worry. I look into the vase where Billy's ashes were--
it's green in there, a green vase,

and I ask Billy if I should return the difficult phone call, and he says, yes.
Billy's already gone through the frightening door,

whatever he says I'll do.

- Marie Howe, What the Living Do

[photo: campus call box light]

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Congratulations to Jill Allyn Rosser, whose manuscript has just won the New Criterion Poetry Prize! Jill's first book, Bright Moves, won the Morse Poetry Prize; her second book, Misery Prefigured, won the Crab Orchard Award. She's a marvelously accomplished poet--her poem "The Brain of the World" is smart, complex, and memorable, as are many of the images in her work. Not a semester goes by that I don’t read “Lover Release Agreement” and “Patience Is a Virtue” to my students: both are excellent villanelles, contemporary in their setting and tone but with language that makes a conscious nod toward the tradition of the form.

* * * * *
My copy of Pebble Lake Review arrived yesterday. Nice to see my work in good company. Thanks again, Amanda and crew.

* * * * *
We bought an elliptical machine. I've lost four pounds (as of yesterday morning). My goal is to shed enough to create a Mini Me so I can attend twice as many events in New York at next year's AWP. (I'll be the one that does not resemble a pile of chicken fat.)

* * * * *
If you have tried to reach me via my campus e-mail, try again with my Gmail. Bucknell's junk filter is still randomly sucking "good" e-mails into detention space, where I may or may not find them.

* * * * *
It's dark. It's cold. It's time to go home. Randy's making soup for dinner. I can hardly wait.

[photo: night campus, 12/27/06]

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Rolling with da Betty Wheel

Drove down to Harrisburg yesterday morning to pick up Betsy at the train station. I was hoping she'd brought along some good old midwestern snow, but so far there's been none, and temps continue to be freakishly warm. Anywho, B & I had a great chat on the way home (it's only an hour's drive) and stopped for lunch at Mya's, which has been nicely renovated (they had a fire last year). Hope you've been enjoying Betsy's poems this week over at No Tell Motel!

* * * * *
Last week, we watched a perfectly tepid Meryl Streep film: Before and After. Flaccid dialogue, lackluster performances from Streep, Liam Neeson, and Alfred Molina--you could almost see them cringe after delivering some of the truly lame lines--and the actor who played the troubled son was utterly annoying. This film came out in 1996. I've sprinkled a few of Meryl Streep's films into my Netflix waitlist--I generally *love* her work--but I can find absolutely nothing in this film to recommend it.

* * * * *
My hosta seedlings are up, and coming along well under lights in the attic. They started sprouting about three weeks ago. I still have lots of seed, gathered from our own plants and from a nice stand of giant white-flowered plants on campus near my office building. I started more seeds on the 31st: dwarf columbines and spider plants.

* * * * *
The terrarium is overrun by aphids. In November, I planted a few small cuttings of Kenilworth ivy, a beautiful creeping plant that grows in rocky crevices (I always notice it along the base of some of the old buildings in town, for example, and there are always several nice trailing clumps growing out of the mortar between the stones that support the railroad trestle near campus) and sports tiny pale violet blooms. A week or two later, I noticed a couple of aphids. That's all it takes, really: by the time you see 'em, they've got a foothold and some kind of action is necessary. As luck would have it, our chemistry building was swarmed that same week by ladybugs--it was another freakishly warm day in mid-November, and I noticed the ladybugs crawling all over the sidewalk and brick, so I caught two and brought them home.

At first they just sat there in the terrarium, clinging to the nearest leaf and doing pretty much nothing. Next day, I noticed that they were climbing all over the plants, and within a week I couldn't see a single aphid. This got me worrying about what to feed the ladybugs, which seemed to be hitting it off well: Randy actually filmed them making acrobatic ladybug love as they clung to a leaf. (Imagine two humping Volkswagen Beetles.)

It's been almost a month since I last saw them. Maybe they're hibernating? At any rate, the aphids are now in full assault, sucking on every leaf of the Kenilworth ivy, which has spread considerably. I don't think I can let this go much further without using some insecticidal soap. If I could find some other insect predator, I'd go that route first, though. Spiders, maybe?
* * * * *
[photo: hosta seedlings, three weeks old]

Monday, January 01, 2007


I'm grateful for these quiet days at home: reading, thinking, quilting. Here's the simple Square-in-Square mini quilt top I pieced over the weekend of the 24th: nothing too elaborate, my first attempt at foundation piecing, and though one of the rows is off-center, I still think it's not bad. On Saturday I started piecing a new mini in the "Hourglass" pattern--very tiny pieces, and it's slow work to keep them precisely square, but I did finish two blocks (with eighteen to go) and I'm hoping to complete the whole thing by this weekend. Meanwhile, I spend at least an hour each evening on a long-term project that's a surprise: I'm still hoping to complete it within two years (which translates to this August, so we'll see).

* * * * *
On Friday, I met P for coffee and we reviewed the final order for West Branch #60, which will feature a novel excerpt by
Pablo Medina, an essay on Charles Wright by David Swerdlow, stories by Ted Delaney and Rebecca Barry, poems by John Kinsella, Nancy Eimers, John Gallaher, Danielle Deulen, Peter Waldor, William Olsen and Nikola Madzirov (translated from the Macedonian), and reviews by Matthew Ladd and Sarah Kennedy.

* * * * *
It's perhaps interesting to note that I have been to Pickwick Dam, the birthplace of Charles Wright, because Randy grew up not far from there--in Adamsville, Tennessee. We visited R's parents--once--and stayed in a rental cabin.

How odd (I thought then) that a poet should arise from this place, or that Martins Ferry, Ohio should produce a James Wright. I stopped in Martins Ferry once, years ago, and asked at the visitors center if they could direct me to Wright's home. The girl at the counter asked "Who?" Sad, really, because the street on which her building was located was named after him. I pointed this out. "Yeah, I dunno what that's about," she replied vaguely, and off I went in search of the local library, where an enthusiastic middle-aged librarian chatted on and on about Wright and his poetry.

Of course (I know now) the librarian was gay. I wish (now) that I'd recognized this and stayed to chat longer.

* * * * *
Thanks, Sebastian, for the surprise phone call!

* * * * *
Happy New Year, everyone.