Saturday, June 30, 2007

Berrying (take two)

We didn't find many berries this afternoon, but as I walked along the edge of a cornfield, I ran across this beauty. This particular damselfly has always been especially significant to me, so I'm very happy to get such a great photo.

What I'm quilting now

This is the second of two hand-pieced projects that Mom handed off to me several months ago. I'm doing a basic outline stitch inside each triangle. There are 108 triangle squares, each measuring about one square inch.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Berrying (take one)

I wanted to go berrying this morning, so after a yummy breakfast of ham & eggs on biscuits, we grabbed Sadie and a few small plastic tubs (and Sadie's leash, and a bowl of water, and her grooming bag, and my camera, and Randy's camera, oh and a couple of books and our cell phones), hopped in the truck and headed up to the Overlook trail where we'd been greeted by oodles of damselflies the other day.

Today the place was swarming with gypsy moths, even at mid-day: they were everywhere, and I fear we'll have major damage next spring (I assume they are laying their eggs now on--well, on everything).

A work crew had set a new line of fence posts and was installing hurricane fencing (is there another name for that heavy mesh fencing that people so often use in their yards and dog kennels?) and almost immediately, one of the men called out and warned us that our dog needed to be on a leash. We have her-- leash, I assured him (Randy had taken Sadie off her leash once they were around the corner but not quite out of sight of the persistent nabob who, it turns out, harassed Randy not fifteen minutes later as he sat at a picnic table reading. Sadie had climbed up on the table and Jethro approached and told R to please not allow the dog up there, saying something like "people eat at these tables" (to which R responded, yes, and bugs and animals crawl on them and birds shit on them). Randy ended up taking Sadie to the truck and phoned me that it was time to leave. Jethro even followed him to the truck and started in again.

The problem is that single men are harassed in this park because it has a reputation for being a cruising area. (People with children are routinely allowed to break the "rules.") Well, fine: but arrest the lawbreakers, and leave people the fuck alone who are just trying to quietly enjoy our state parks.

So not enough berries for pie baking. Yet. Tomorrow we hit site #2.

* * * * *
An unpleasant e-mail this morning: I've been asked to turn in my key to Bucknell Hall before July 13th. Though it's understandable that departing faculty or staff should turn in their keys, I'm not really going anywhere. I've made it clear from the start of my interim editorship that I'll be around to handle West Branch biz over the summer (not the way our regular editor usually operates, but it makes no sense to me to put stuff on hold until mid-August when we're all in the frenzy of teaching preps). So okay, so fine, I'm done. I'm done, and here's my key, and if there are any fires to put out before September, well good luck with that.

* * * * *
I wasn't going to rant about that. Oh well. Screw it.

* * * * *
The Lewisburg July 4 parade is tomorrow morning, and the fireworks display is tonight. It's just grown dark as I type this out on the patio. A firefly has landed on my wrist and is making his ticklish journey up my arm--against the grain, as it were--but hasn't yet emitted its lovely greeny-yellow lantern light. I think the laptop screen is drawing them. When Randy drove to the store earlier--around six--he said that folks were already setting up their lawn chairs along the parade route. We're a small town. Those chairs will still be there in the morning.

[photo: nasturtium, 6/24/07]

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New Mini

Here's the new mini. I finished the binding last night and washed the quilt in the kitchen sink, then hung it up to dry. It's ready to be mailed. The center checkerboard top was hand pieced by my Mom; I added the border, backing, and vintage 1940s binding and did the hand quilting in an overall "Baptist Fan" pattern. The quilt measures 8.75 x 12.75 inches.

* * * * *
Dad's procedure went well: one stent and several balloons, which, my sister says, is good.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Here's one of the damselflies we saw the other day. Really gorgeous dusty blue. I'm happy with this photo: you can see all the webbing in the wings. I must have taken 20 shots of this particular critter--it was very patient with me!

* * * * *
Hot day. I'm happy to be able to work in a nice, quiet, air-conditioned office.

* * * * *
They started cutting down several hemlock trees beside Bucknell Hall last week, to make way for a backhoe to dig a new steam line. I had not walked past the building in a few days, but this afternoon I did. Absolute carnage. A wound in the earth. I felt a piercing synesthetic moment, a visceral body shock at the sight of the ravaged space.

* * * * *
My dad's surgery is scheduled for tomorrow morning. Please send good thoughts.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Why I am not a banker

I forgot to pay Nancy & Bill last week. I realized it the morning that Nancy flew home, and put the checks in the mail immediately (same day), but it's a huge embarrassment. Doh. Double-doh.

* * * * *
We took a short trail walk this weekend up at the Overlook, a few miles out of town near Winfield: it's a wooded state park atop a rocky bluff that overlooks the river confluence at Northumberland. Two things of note: the wild raspberries are almost ripe (any day now), and there were damselflies everywhere! Probably hundreds. More than I've ever seen. Bright electric powder-blue, pale tawny yellow, all with transparent wings. All along the trail, clinging to trees, hovering near, alighting on grasses, but almost never holding still enough for me to get a good photo. Will see what I have in the camera. There should be at least one decent shot.
* * * * *
Last time I visited my folks (too long ago), Mom showed me two tiny quilt tops she had hand-pieced and asked if I thought we could make anything out of them. Sure, I said. And brought them home and set them on the bookcase in our dining room. So two weeks ago, during the June Seminar, I finished up a project and wanted something portable and remembered these really small tops (have I mentioned that they're really small? like, each square is maybe a half-inch across?), so I found a coordinating fabric to make a narrow border and used two scrap pieces of self-basting batting to put the thing together. (Self-basting batting, because you're dying to know, is slightly "sticky" and adheres when pressed between fabrics with a hot iron. It's too messy for larger quilts but really perfect for very small projects.)
So the quilt is a basic checkerboard design in two fabrics, a pale pink mini print and a sort of teal green floral. I used a medium rose-pink for the border, which will be about one inch wide when finished. The quilting pattern I decided to go with is an all-over "Baptist fan" design, which looks like tight concentric arcs that overlap in a kind of shell pattern. It has a LOT of quilting in it, and I'm nearly done. Yesterday I rummaged around and found a piece of vintage paisley dress fabric from the 1940s, which I'll use to make the binding. Will post photos by the end of the week. (Just indulge me; I'm really into this quilting thing.)
* * * * *
Quiet weekend. Quiet Monday. I did get some more poetry books listed on eBay, including Daisy Fried's second book and chapbooks by Alison Funk & Catherine Pierce. Prices are cheap and all the money goes to my press. Check 'em out.
[switching OFF shameless self-promotion mode]
[photo: blooming hosta in our garden, 6/21]

Friday, June 22, 2007

Lodestar sinks

I was sorry to hear that Lodestar Quarterly had folded: it's sad to lose another LGBTQ venue. Wishing Patrick Ryan all the best.

* * * * *

The Keystone Chapbook Prize is off to a great start! Thanks to all the folks who are spreading the word.

* * * * *
Moving out of my borrowed office this weekend is another reminder of how much paper I still manage to accumulate in a matter of a few months. Recycling isn't the problem; I just need to be more efficient at handling stuff when I first get it.
Yeah. I make piles.
[photo: shrub rose, 6/9/07]

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Prose poems: a wide line?

This afternoon, a few of us walked over to Zelda's for fruit smoothies (I had a frozen chai, yumm) and a nice chat about the prose poem. Betsy passed around some books and chapbooks (I was especially drawn to Give Up by Andrew Michael Roberts) (check out all the gorgeous handbound books at Tarpaulin Sky Press) and we read a few poems. One of the interesting notions that came up is Gary Young's notion of the prose poem as one continuous line. I hope I got that right, because it makes so much sense to me: when we abandon control over the line, we have to rely on other devices to keep the poem alive and moving forward. But if we could envision a poem as one long, extended line (I think of taping a paper banner--say, six feet long--to the wall, and writing with no anxiety over the right margin), how might this alter the ways in which we imagine it and bring it into language?

I wanna try this.

Someone's poem (I should have kept notes) reminded me of the imagery in James Wright's "How My Fever Left," and it's interesting that, in that moment, I actually remembered it as a prose poem (Wright used the form well, but of course this particular poem does not). Here's Wright's poem, from The Branch Will Not Break (1963):

How My Fever Left

I can still hear her.
She hobbles downstairs to the kitchen.
She is swearing at the dishes.
She slaps her grease rags
Into a basket,
And slings it over her skinny forearm, crooked
With hatred, and stomps outside.
I can hear my father downstairs,
Standing without a coat in the open back door,
Calling to the old bat across the snow.
She’s forgotten her black shawl,
But I see her through my window, sneering,
Flapping upward
Toward some dark church on the hill.
She has to meet somebody else, and
It’s no use, she won’t listen,
She’s gone.

[photo: some black raspberries I picked for my honey on the way home today]

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A few days

The June Seminar is winding down: Nancy Eimers leaves in the morning, and the Fellows depart on Thursday. We'll miss them. I'm already looking toward the rest of my summer--moving my office, completing a few final WB tasks, planning out a new course, transitioning into a new campus, working on new poems and trying to finish one of the two manuscripts I've been juggling for too long now--and the first task alone is daunting. Too much paper. So many books. Another reason to stay home, read for the sheer pleasure of it, spend some time with Randy.

And there's always the garden. The columbines are starting to release their first seeds: the pale green clawlike pods split open and out fall shiny black seeds, smaller than sesame seeds and more rounded, more oval. I want to set up lights on the basement landing (just off the kitchen) and start some more perennials. It's much too hot in the attic now.

* * * * *

Last week, Bill Olsen and I were talking about Thomas Lynch and recommending his wonderful book The Undertaking to someone (can't remember who). Bill said that Lynch was an advisor to Six Feet Under (possibly my favorite TV series ever), and that his name can be found in the credits! How did I not know this?

Here's a poem from Thomas Lynch's Still Life in Milford:


Rose, you are the winter oak
whose spent leaves redden and remain
limp emblems of the heart’s accustomed hold
on this—the known life of seasons,
daylights, nightfalls, weathers—
the ordinary calendars, mean time.
Ordinarily we live our lives out
hopeful and afloat among the rounded metaphors:
seedtime and harvest, dark and dawn;
solstice and equinox, calm, storm.
Ignoring the linear paradigms we move
buoyantly between our pasts and futures
gamely trading prospects for remembrances,
deaf to the regular changing of tenses—
those doorways slamming down the narrowing hall.
Behind the doors, we hear the voices still:
Goodnight. Godspeed. God Bless. Get Well. Goodbye.
The deaths we seldom grieve but set our watches by.

* * * * *
[photo: beetle I released from my office yesterday]

Monday, June 18, 2007


The KEYSTONE CHAPBOOK PRIZE is up and running. See full guidelines below. Open to Pennsylvania poets and PA-themed manuscripts. Please spread the word!

* * * * *

2007 Keystone Chapbook Award – for Pennsylvania Poets
Prize: $100 plus 25 copies.
Submission deadline: Postmarked between June 17 and August 17 of each year.
Eligibility: Open to all Pennsylvania poets [see complete guidelines below].


Any poet who was born, has lived, or currently lives in Pennsylvania is eligible to submit to the Keystone Chapbook Award. Additionally, poets living elsewhere may submit manuscripts which show a strong connection to Pennsylvania.

Submit a paginated manuscript of 16-20 pages (not including front matter) of poetry. Include two cover pages: one with the manuscript title, author name, address, e-mail and phone number; the second cover page should have the manuscript title only. Include a table of contents page. Include, if applicable, an acknowledgments page for work previously published.Please include, on a separate page, a brief (100-150 words) biographical note, which must address your specific connection to Pennsylvania (if you do not currently reside here).

The author’s name should not appear in the manuscript.

Simultaneous submissions are accepted, but you must notify us promptly if your manuscript is accepted elsewhere.

Submissions must be posted between June 17 and August 17. The winning manuscript will be announced on or before October 15. Manuscript finalists will also be announced, and may be eligible for spring/summer publication in the Keystone Chapbook Series.

Manuscripts will not be returned. E-mailed submission is preferred, but you may send via regular mail.

Do not staple or bind your manuscript. If you are sending by mail, please use a binder clip and mail flat in an 8.5 x 11 envelope. If you are sending by e-mail, please send one document in Microsoft Word format (.doc or .rtf files are ideal); you must include the words “Keystone Chapbook” in the subject line of your e-mail.

Include a $12 reading fee with each manuscript you submit. Multiple submissions are acceptable. Checks should be made payable to Ron Mohring. Online payment may be made via PayPal to sevenkitchens at yahoo dot com. Each entrant will receive one copy of the winning chapbook, to be published on or before December 31.

The winner will receive $100 and 25 copies of their chapbook. Additionally, the publisher will distribute ten review copies and will solicit online reviews of the chapbook.

Send your manuscript:
~ by e-mail, as a Microsoft Word attachment, to: sevenkitchens at yahoo dot com; or
~ by mail to Ron Mohring, Publisher & Editor; PO Box 668; Lewisburg PA 17837.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Pokeweed, that is: such a lovely plant, really, with purple stems, intense green leaves, and creamy flower spikes like this one. Of course the deep purple berries are beautiful in the fall as well. This plant is blooming in a stand of wild raspberries that I'm keeping my eye on.

* * * * *

Congratulations to Jeff Mann on his Lammy! It's about time!

* * * * *

Randy's cooking Indian tonight: we're having company. I need to break down my sewing station so we can use the dining table. (I'm making a miniature album quilt, with blocks signed by the faculty and fellows in the June Seminar. Pictures available soon.)

* * * * *

[photo: Pokeweed blossom, 6/13/07]

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Don't do this

I was just talking last week about the time I lost my pocket journal (one of those miniature pocket-sized composition books) in the laundry. You'd think that, having done it once, I'd now have the sense to double-check my pockets, but this photo shows what's left of yet another journal that went through the wash. (Randy, bless him, discovered it before it went through the dryer.) It's still damp, but there appears to be a lot of ink left inside. I'm waiting for it to dry on the windowsill before I attempt to prise apart the pages and see what remains.

I don't lose things. This is what I tell myself: they are not lost. They're around. They're right where they're supposed to be. It's just that, temporarily, I can't recall where I left them: my post office box key (why did I take it off the key ring in the first place?); my pocketknife; a favorite photograph of my mother that I tucked into a book but then, because I couldn't recall which book, it essentially went missing for several years. And when they show up, there's always this of course moment: not so much found as reestablished, slipping through the muzzy veil of my consciousness into my visible, tangible world again.

Writers, check your pockets twice.

* * * * *

My book auctions are back again over at eBay. I'll be listing a bunch of poetry over the next few weeks, as well as some other stuff. All monies go to support my publishing venture, Seven Kitchens Press. Please check back often.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Metaphor and a manual typewriter

Deirdre led an interesting session this morning with the June Poets: a "poetic identity" metaphor exercise, in which each writer describes or invents a metaphorical identity--for example, "as a poet, I am the bridge: I connect but remain fixed; the world travels both over and under me . . ." (and so on) (my own poor example, not D's). Then we all wrote for about twenty minutes to expand/ embellish the metaphor (or start with a fresh one), and finally, the papers were shuffled and redistributed so we each received someone else's metaphor. We then read them aloud. The next step is for each of us to write a poem for Friday that somehow inhabits or responds to the metaphors we were given. I've done this exercise in the past; it always prompts something interesting.

* * * * *
When I inherited Bob Taylor's office for a year, I also got his Royal typewriter: a hefty monster that I moved to my current office last summer. Today I lugged it downhill to the Poetry Center and set it up in the reading library, hoping the poets might have some fun by collaborating on a few poems, pecking them out line by line.

* * * * *
It's great to see that Earl Pickens' new video is getting steady attention. A few weeks ago, having been given the heads up by Earl himself, Randy and I walked over to Market Street to watch the filming of the video's last segment in front of the Campus Theatre, where they changed the marquee to display Earl's name (and his new song title). Nice. And yes, he really does know how to ride that unicycle. Even if I could ride one, I'd be too terrified to do it across the George Washington Bridge (and that goes double for the New Jersey Turnpike).

* * * * *
I'm really slow at reading literary journals, and look forward to the summer when I can catch up. I love this poem by Catherine Bowman, from the spring '06 issue of Ploughshares edited by (former June Poet) Kevin Young:

Names of Tulips, Good Friday

All Winter I’ve Waiteds.
The Then You Came Backs.
Wands. Wounds. Tarot Cups. Lisps.
Strapless Dresses. Sylvia Tears.
Conjugations. Anne Frank’s Looms.
Another Man Done Gone.
Kleenex After Sex. Mrs. Manner’s Accidents.
The How Funerals.
The Greedy Toos.
Freaks. The What Happens Every Afternoon.
The Purple Spot on My Neck.
The Eye Tricks. Children’s Bibles.
The Favorite Parts of His Body.
His Forty Last Words.

Monday, June 04, 2007

June swirl

The June Seminar is in full swing. I'm re-reading poems for my afternoon workshop. The June Poets (the early risers anyway) are over in the seminar room for an informal discussion/ knockdown on Frank O'Hara vs. Wallace Stevens (poetry of lived experience vs. poetry of the imagination).

It's raining gently; the tiger lily that rises into a double tower outside this basement office window is spangled with rain, like beads on its frilly crowns. It leans slightly away from the window, as if nodding. (We watched "The Queen" yesterday on DVD and the imagery has obviously lingered--so much decorous pressure!)

Karla Kelsey and Bill Olsen arrive this week, Karla for a one-day visit and Bill for half the Seminar. I just picked up Bill's new book, Avenue of Vanishing. Still in its shrinkwrap, it waits here on my desk for a block of quiet time. I think he's an amazing poet. So many of his lines strike like little hammers in my brain.

My father is having a procedure this morning. They're trying to save his legs.

Sun breaks through for a moment, then retreats. A crow in the hemlocks beside Bucknell Hall shakes down a shower of rain to the slate sidewalk. The windowsill, a white box one foot deep, is at chin level. When I stand to look out at the lilies, I see there are three lesser stems in addition to the two tall ones. Later this summer, they will bloom, bright orange with dark speckles, heavy with pollen: the petals will unhinge and fall after only a few days. All along the stem, each leaf axis will cradle a small purple-black bulbil. These grow to about the size of a pea before being dislodged and falling to the ground. I collected some three years ago; one of the plants that grew from them is a foot tall and may bloom this year. My grandfather had these lilies in his garden; when I was about ten, he showed me the bulbils one day, thumbing one off the stem and handing it to me: If you plant this, it will make another one.

Here's a poem by Brendan Galvin, from Great Blue (1990):


What the warbler must have seen
was the world swung round;
without turning back
she was flying into
a distance already passed through:

another side of the woodpile
she had just cleared in a single pitch,
and beyond, through the middle ground
of pines, the background glitter
of running sea she had skipped above
like a flat stone thrown so well
it touches down on water
all the way to the other shore.

Swung round,
only slightly blurred.
Trees twinning,
far water grained,
air of a density . . .

then that split-second insight

into splashes of newspaper
and clothing,
filtered through
final dusts of light.

As perhaps,
in our last seconds,
we are swung round
to live ourselves back through
each particular,
to fall faster and faster
out of loves, out of
changes of clothes,
whole snows lifting skyward
becoming autumn leaves lifting
back into the green trees,
the dead stepping out of
crumbling loam,

at the last, seed and egg
unraveling, falling away.

And all
in the time
it takes a flat stone to skip over water
and be let in.

[photo: Crow, May 15]