Thursday, January 31, 2008

Winter boarder

I swiped a cutting of this plant from a neighbor last fall (over a year ago). It was late October or early November, and I was out trolling for last-minute snippings of tender annuals to coddle indoors over the long winter. In the planter, the original plant (or "mother plant," as we gardeners call it) had bloomed delightfully all summer and fall, and I'd admired it enough to covet one. One night, when a particularly bitter cold snap was forecast and the neighbor had decided (or neglected) to drag in (or cover) his plantings, I knew it was now or never. I think I actually pinched two cuttings. Stuck them in water on the kitchen windowsill and hoped for the best.

They took months to root. I hadn't expected such a delay, but maybe the cold had already shut down some survival mechanism; I don't know. In fact, only one cutting survived. I coddled it along and put it outside in a small pot on the patio table when spring rolled around. It slowly grew, but never bloomed. In late summer, I repotted it. Still no blooms. I brought it inside anyway in the fall and gave it half a shelf in the sunny window of the laundry room, where it continued to grow and sprawl and, finally, this winter, to bloom.

I'd tell you what it is, but I can't remember its name. I've thumbed through my mental catalog of blue-flowering annuals (Browallia? Streptocarpus?), but nothing sounds right. For now, it remains a gorgeous stranger.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

You're never as smart as you think you are.

I just took the online Jeopardy! test: fifty questions, 15 seconds to respond to each, no pausing, no going back.

I don't really type that fast. Even if I thought I knew the answer in the first few seconds, I was panicked about not getting the words typed in quickly enough.

On the other hand, wouldn't it be great if, instead of booking a hotel and flying off to MLA, you could simply answer a timed online interview? The distillation of anxiety into a bearable few minutes?

"Describe your teaching philosophy. You have fifteen seconds."

In praise of . . .

. . . the clementine. I eat them by the crate. Like candy.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Heading over to Bucknell Hall in a few minutes to catch the James Harms reading. Seems like years since I last settled into the back row with my sewing. . .

Sunday, January 20, 2008


57 essay drafts = one big honking bite out of my weekend. What, it's Sunday night already?

Friday, January 18, 2008


It snowed yesterday: nothing major, just enough to flock the trees. This morning, I was grateful that we'd bought the extendable-arm scraper as I cleaned off the truck windshield and the top of the cab. Lots of mist/fog on the drive to Williamsport, but the roads were fine. It's Friday, and I'll post this evening about a chapbook, but for now, here's the "daily poem" I will read to my comp students:

Because You Asked about
the Line Between Prose and Poetry

Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned into pieces of snow
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.

There came a moment that you couldn’t tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Poetry Residence at Bucknell

Philip Roth Residence in Creative Writing

Named for the Pulitzer Prize-winning Bucknell graduate and initiated in the fall of 1993, the Philip Roth Residence in Creative Writing offers an emerging writer four months of unfettered writing time during Bucknell's fall semester, without formal academic obligations. The Residence is designed to grant the writer time to complete a first or second book. The resident presents a public reading of his or her work and otherwise constitutes a literary presence on campus during the fall. Providing lodging on campus, an office in the Stadler Center for Poetry, and a stipend of $4,000, the Residence is awarded to writers of prose (fiction or creative nonfiction) and poets on an alternating basis.

The Stadler Center is currently accepting applications from poets for the 2008-09 Philip Roth Residence. The Residence will extend from late August 2008 through mid-December 2008. mid-December 2008. Click here for application instructions.

Philip Roth Resident, Fall 2007: Rajesh Parameswaran: A graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School, Rajesh Parameswaran has published short stories in McSweeney's, Book Magazine, Zoetrope: All-Story, and elsewhere. His story "Demons" received honorable mention in Best American Short Stories 2003. He has held residencies at the Ucross Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo, and has worked as a law clerk for a U.S. District Court. A native of Chennai, India, he has lived in Michigan, Texas, Connecticut, and New York City.

Former Philip Roth Residents:
1993-94: Blake Maher (fiction)
1994-95: Roger Fanning (poetry)
1995-96: Pamela Leri (fiction)
1996-97: Joe Wenderoth (poetry)
1997-98: Rhonda Claridge (fiction)
1998-99: Adrian Oktenberg (poetry)
1999-00: Tom Franklin (fiction)
2000-01: Ron Mohring (poetry)
2001-02: Junse Kim (fiction)
2002-03: Brian Teare (poetry)
2003-04: Michelle Hoover (fiction)
2004-05: Melora Wolff (poetry)
2005-06: Emily Rapp (fiction)
2006-07: Beth Martinelli (poetry)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Buy my book!

What a deal: for only seven bucks postpaid, I'll even sign it for you, and your money will go directly toward publishing more poetry (I'll put it in my Seven Kitchens Press account). Just send $$ via Paypal to, or e-mail me for details. And thanks to all the folks out there who continue to read my work. I truly appreciate it.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Last week, Randy printed photos of all the quilts we've done in the past two years. His first project was a queen-sized Starburst pattern in late 2005; mine was a Trip Around the World wall quilt that I insanely pieced together block-by-block (instead of taking the shortcut of strip piecing it)--if I hadn't kept all the tiny pieces in correct order on the flannel wall, I'd have given up on that one. Since then, we've made mainly wall quilts and minis, though each of us is currently working on a full-sized quilt.

This afternoon, I put all the photos into sheet protectors and typed up the information we had at hand on all the quilts--nineteen of them in just two years--so we can try to put together a decent portfolio of our work. It's a fun project, a perfect example of the kind of fussy tinkering work that I like to do, and a source of solid encouragement as we tackle new and larger quilts. (His is coming along very well. It's taken me two years to make mine by hand, and now I need to borrow a big conference table so I can baste the whole thing and get started on quilting it. There will be pictures, believe me. Someday.)

In between the large projects--the ones that take months or sometimes years--I like working on minis. I can sit after dinner and watch TV or a movie and get in an hour or more of quilting. These small quilts, usually less than 16 inches square, are portable, easy to pick up, easy to set aside and come back to later. I just finished quilting a whole cloth mini, my first, and need to make the binding so I can finish it. The pattern is called "Queen's Crown." The great thing about whole cloth quilts is that they're easy to quilt: it's just one layer of fabric, the batting, and the backing fabric that you're pushing the needle through, as opposed to three or sometimes four layers of fabric with pieced quilts. The down side, if any, is that they're just one color. This one is unbleached muslin, but I had to jazz it up, so I backed it with a brighter fabric, a nice solid golden orange. This really shows off the "back side" and underscores the other main appeal of whole cloth quilts: the back looks just as good as the front, so you essentially get two quilts in one. What's kept me from finishing this one is the dilemma of how to bind it. If I use the orange, the front side will look weird (muslin framed in orange); if I use the unbleached muslin, the back side will look awful (orange framed in muslin). The solution, of course, is to custom-make a two-color binding to match both sides. I think I can do this.

I'll post photos as soon as it's done.

Friday, January 11, 2008

"Objects Contain the Possibility of All Situations"

I know I keep touting the Stanley Hanks Chapbook Series, but it was really great while it lasted. Case in point: in 1995 they published The Kindling Point by H.L. Hix. It's a great chapbook, containing 32 poems. The title of each is a borrowed line from another text--sources include Plato, Wittgenstein, Chomsky--but the poems aren't coldly intellectual; instead, each uses the borrowed line as a jumping-off point. The borrowed lines are sometimes integrated into the text as well. Hix has a whole book of these (Perfect Hell), but this chapbook predates the longer collection and, to my taste, less is more.

One more thing: I looked up the St. Louis Poetry Center online, and the remaining chapbooks in this series are on sale (click here).

Here's a sample poem from The Kindling Point:

Objects Contain the Possibility of All Situations

I may kill. You should know this about me.
A razor in the night, without warning.
Objects contain the possibility
Of all situations. States of being
Embrace all imaginable events.
Any one life, or pair of lives, harbors
Every death. The succession of presents
Comprehends all foreseeable futures.
I have it in me to be a galaxy
Or one leaf on the frond of a fern.
I may become light in a sanctuary
Kindled by a rose window, or a cairn
Older than the woods it renders holy.
I may become water or earth. I may burn.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Back to basics

Followup to the "PC envy" situation: I've rediscovered overhead transparencies. It feels a bit Stone Age, but then again, when I was an undergrad teaching assistant, I made copies on the blue-ink mimeo machine. . . those were the days.

Shuffling off to bed--

Just sign me "Grampa."

Monday, January 07, 2008

Back to school

Classes started today. I was surprised to find that my classroom is not equipped with a PC. I should have checked in the fall, but I'd been in nearly every classroom on the floor last semester, and they all had PCs, so I figured mine would, too. Doh. To complicate the problem: I teach all three sections in the same room. So, for example, today when I reviewed the syllabus, I had to read stuff to them from the one copy I had printed out, instead of throwing it up on the projection screen for all of us to review together.

Grr. So much of my teaching utilizes on-screen stuff. I hate to lose that element. And I hate to print sixty copies of everything that normally would just take the click of a button or two.

There are no available classrooms with PCs--they've all been snapped up.

I'll adjust.
* * *
The weather here is freakishly warm. We have mud. In January.
* * *
I get to sleep late tomorrow: no Tuesday or Thursday classes. It's a relief, because I had so much trouble falling asleep last night (this always happens the night before a big event, or the first night staying in a new place). I'm pooped.
* * *
Me, me, me: mehhh, I talked too much today. We also did a short writing exercise--just to get a sampling--in which I asked the students to "go back in time" and describe what they were doing ten years ago. What surprised me was how many claimed they couldn't remember anything specific from when they were eight or nine.

Friday, January 04, 2008

"White Garden at the End of My Summer"

Winter break is ending. Classes begin on Monday. I've enjoyed the down time--immensely--but I'm ready to move into the spring semester. My classes meet back-to-back, three days a week; I'm very hopeful that I'll be able to set aside some writing time on the odd mornings. We'll see.

Congratulations to Katie Hays: her manuscript, Dear Apocalypse, will be published in 2009 by Carnegie Mellon. Katie gave an incredible reading this fall at Bucknell Hall: excellent, complex poems. Her work has been published in some great journals lately, and was just up last week on Poetry Daily.

Today's chapbook is Suzanne Rhodenbaugh's The Shine on Loss, which won the 1997 Painted Bride Quarterly Chapbook Contest.

A sample poem:

White Garden at the End of My Summer

Almost every evening, though not more than one bloom
is granted, the moon vine out back will blossom.
I go to the garden and stare.

If it can make one bloom, why not more?
Why can it not be covered, a bounding
full-blossoming vine?

If I took what has been festering, the persistent
eggshells and stinging onion skins,
the slimy tomatoes and coffee grinds and rinds

and basted the roots of the moon vine
with the gloppy rot would I get more
moon vine blossoms?

The size of a hand,
one ghostly trumpet only?
My God, I’m trying to listen.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Why bears watch Jeopardy

Dan Pawson. Go, Cubcake, go!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

As promised

Two photos of the quilt we finished last week for my dad. It reached him safely in the mail, so now I can show it without ruining the surprise.