Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Thank you, Sir, may I have another?

Another year, that is. Met with the Provost this week and the signs are pointing toward an extra year at Lyco. May have to wait a couple more weeks for a solid decision. Send luck.
* * *

I'm off to Cincinnati for a long weekend to help celebrate my dear old mum's seventieth birthday. Send love.
* * *

With six weeks to go, we've already received a dozen manuscripts for the Robin Becker Chapbook Contest. Send yours.
* * *

I'll get back to blogging next week.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

New mini quilt

Here's the new quilt: the pattern is "Crossed Canoes" and the quilt measures 13.5 inches square. I didn't piece this one (I wish my piecework were that good), but bought the pieced top from an eBay quilter. This is the first time I've quilted with a matching thread color (I generally use an off-white thread). Happily, I had a piece of matching fabric to make the binding.
Here's a close-up of the quilting:

Friday, March 21, 2008

"Body Parts"

This week's featured chapbook is Miss Molly Rockin' by the incomparable Maureen Seaton. This chapbook was published by Thorngate Road in 1998--the same press that runs the Frank O'Hara Chapbook Series. In the early years of that series, Jim Elledge also published the Berdache Series, of which this is the fifth title.

Maureen's work should need no introduction. When my own first chapbook was selected for the O'Hara Prize in 1998, I was extraordinarily touched to learn that Maureen had been the judge. I'd already read her books Fear of Subways and The Sea Among the Cupboards, but had somehow missed Furious Cooking. For years, her work has surprised and delighted me. It was a delight to finally meet her at AWP in Chicago in 2004, and to see Venus Examines Her Breast win at the Publishing Triangle Awards in 2005. Maureen Seaton and Jim Elledge launched my poetry career--if I can even call it a career--and I will always be grateful to them both for that.

Here's a poem from Miss Molly Rockin':


I’d never held the ashes of a dead man but I’d always wanted to
know a famous artist, so I reached out my left hand and she
spilled him into my palm. He was flame-white, his flesh dust,
he was tiny bones you could play with—they could be doll parts—
peaceful in my hand like light. I kept my hand open in case he
needed air and I knew it was not the essence of him but
nevertheless I whispered: Don’t worry, you’re safe with me. I
whispered: I love your paintings. This happened on the Upper
West Side in ’89 as the light changed over the Hudson, and that
light was in the apartment sliding on floor and walls as we
passed a dead man’s bones between us, weeping.

Once I spent a summer in Manhattan with a woman whose
desires were so unlike mine the air in the kitchen was sweetly
skewed. She told me: Pleasure, and I bent at the refrigerator
choosing the precise onion. I told her: Juice, and she stood at the
stove removing lemon seeds from basmati. We were perfect as
thumbs, we were starved and greedy as shorebirds, dipping
down, grabbing our food, devouring it.

Now I’ve begun to write “NO!” on my body parts, small cross-
stitched reminders to throw me back and hook another. Tattoo
on my right breast, sticker on my colon, scribble of bright blue
between my ovaries, hollowed now of eggs but still handy to
balance me out. The day I decide to go I’ll erase the words from
my body then disintegrate quickly like any dying fool, you’ll see
me rising from the shore—equal time lateral time—don’t hurry
into anything but love.

The man who lives in 4D sleeps above me every night in the
same rectangle of space, one floor up, beside the door, our
double beds appearing to the gods like open face sandwiches
with two chubby figures shifting and rolling in dreams or
trooping to the bathroom. Sometimes I watch Tai Chi on cable
at 6 AM because the man upstairs has jumped so hard from his
bed, and sometimes I sleep right through till 9 or 10, his footfalls
barely piercing dawn.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring, sprang, sprung

Our campus takes an easter holiday: no classes tomorrow. I'm grateful; I need time to catch up with my grading.
* * *
I saw one blossom on a perennial vinca growing against the sunny corner of an old home on my walk home from the bank. That and a few lavender crocuses, tightly shut and quaking in the cold breeze.
* * *
Randy's almost finished with a large quilt that he started this winter. I've helped a tiny bit on it; I need to make the binding this weekend so we can try to finish it before I go out of town next weekend.
* * *
Meanwhile, today I was happy to find a batik fabric in the cupboard that matches the mini quilt I'm just finishing for one of the women at the bank. I cut three inch-wide strips from the batik and sewed them together into one long piece; tonight after dinner I'll press it in half (and then again) to make a narrow binding for the new quilt. It's turned out well. I hope she likes it. Will post a photo as soon as it's done.
* * *
Got a friend's manuscript by e-mail yesterday. I'm looking forward to giving it a close read.
* * *
The Robin Becker Chapbook manuscripts have been steadily trickling in. Please do spread the word: the deadline is May 15th.
* * *
Ostara blessings to all y'all--

CFS: White Crane/James White Poetry Prize

I just saw this on Jameson Currier's blog. Mark Doty will judge this year's entries.

The White Crane/James White Poetry Prize is given biennially for a book-length poetry collection. The prize consists of a monetary prize of $1,000, publication of the winning manuscript by White Crane Books, and 5 author copies.

~Submit 48 to 80 pages of original poetry with a $25 entry fee by October 30.
~All submissions must be in English.
~All submissions must be the work of the applicant.
~Applicants must be Gay-identified males.
~The winner’s book will be published by White Crane Books.

Please include a cover letter with a short biographical statement and contact information. This contest will be judged blind, so we insist that manuscripts to be judged NOT include your name or any identifying information.

Submissions not following exact guidelines will be rejected. Manuscripts will not be returned. For notification of receipt, please include a self-addressed stamped postcard with the submission.

Entry fees should be in the form of check or money order made out to James White Poetry Prize. Submissions must be postmarked no later than October 30, 2008 and should be mailed to:

James White Poetry Prize
172 Fifth Avenue, Suite 69
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Winter boarder (3)

When I decided to grow impatiens from seed last winter (a year ago), I picked a variety that was supposed to be deep, dark red. The seedlings came up fine, and after a couple of months they were ready to set out in the shaded area beside the house. When they finally bloomed, I was chagrined to find that they were a bright, fiery neon red, not the more medium tone described (and pictured) on the packet. (So it goes with such advertising, as most of you gardeners know.)

This past fall, despite my lack of love for their neon hue, I couldn't let the frost get to all the impatiens. I brought one inside to grow under lights in the attic (and if it hadn't been for Randy, I'd have forgotten about it) (thanks, hon). Here's the lone survivor, still screaming vermilion, but face it: any color is welcome during this long muddy pre-spring tease. This year, instead of seeds, I'll take cuttings from this "mother plant" to start another row for the shade garden. They do brighten up the alley beside the house . . . I just may try another batch from seed. Maybe white. How could they lie about white?
* * *

It was warm enough yesterday to scrabble around in the kitchen garden just outside the back door. I cut down the old stalks of perilla (the original plants were a gift a few years ago from Glynis, and she was right--it comes back doggedly from seed every year, in both our garden and our neighbors'), the dead geraniums, the frozen mint (new green shoots coming up already from that one). A small clump of columbines that reseeded last year are looking quite green and robust. I ought to dig them up and thin them out, but I didn't get that done. Oh, and I think the tarragon is coming back: very happy about that.
* * *

We have new neighbors in the small add-on apartment in the back. Alas, they're smokers: it literally comes through the walls. My eyes are burning. And the smell, yuck. I hate that it gets into our quilts. We have a sizeable air filter upstairs but need a second one for downstairs now. Can't wait till it's warm enough to keep the windows open . . .

Saturday, March 15, 2008

"The New Americans" & "Days of Forgetting"

Besides Mary Ruefle and Larry Levis, Jon Davis is a poet I must reread periodically. Scrimmage of Appetite is a book I have trouble getting my head around, but I'm convinced that it's the real thing.

Here are two poems:

They are rising from the duckweed shoals on slippery haunches,
front feet changed into grasping hands, thumbs and
forearms thickened for commerce, mouths too bony for
They will breathe through their skins.
Their eyes will be keened for motion.
They will be maculate, stricken with appetite.
They will lunge with purpose, long tongues speaking the
language of capture, shouting the single verb of longing
in the dialect of hunger.
They will grunt and snore nightly in the tall grass.
While gods, made in their image, bellow beside the river of
heaven, they will jockey in the weedbanks.
They will turn, nothing human in their eyes, just the hard
measure—the precision, the unswerving focus.
They will be mystics wired to the gods’ wishes.
They will leap before they know they are leaping.

These are the days of forgetting, of sensation and synapse.

When, in the cartoon, the video creatures leaped from the
screen and began wandering through the rooms of
the house, the artist, the writer, the machinery of the
discursive formation stumbled onto a truth.

Instructions: Shake it and it begins snowing.

“Wherever you find yourself,” someone, perhaps in the
mid-sixties, once said, “there you are.”

The world is “whatever is the case.”

Whatever is the case, where “whatever” is a loping crane,
where “the case” is a construction worker’s
inappropriate, but, to some, flattering scrutiny.

Staple your heart to a paper flower and fold once.

Hit the space bar until the corn begins rustling in the breeze.

When the tourists discovered, at Chaco Canyon, that they
had stepped over a rattlesnake on the trail up, they
returned to taunt it with a stick and a camcorder.

The tiny man, bare to the waist, kept kicking and flipping
even when his handlers left the room.

“That’s how I want to be,” said one of the boys, making
himself stiff as a machine, spinning and kicking at the
family dog.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Double Ruefle: "Cabbages" & "Trust Me"

When I am not writing, I read Mary Ruefle. I can think of no other poet who so dislodges me from my usual relationship with language and the world. She's simply incandescent, a genius:


The blues and greens, the reds,
the purples, the blanched pearls.
The smocked farmer delivers two heads
at the same time, pulling them up
like a pair of balanced pails.
The children wail. The quartered brainchild
lies upon their plates. Cut, they are swirly-
full of fancy French end papers and strange
lacunas. A bumper crop is in the air:
China stinks of cabbage soaked in brine,
wet and rotten. They feed a billion
on the cannonballs. They pile them in
the streets, they build a wall, they
roll heads until the feathers shed. In
Ireland there’s a lidded pot and they’re
blindfolded. Their mouths are stuffed in
Poland. They’re doll-sized in Flanders,
to be discreet. Such a loss
of mind! It’s fodder for the imagination.
While we live & shout & die, they are
capable of escaping the least of attention
and so survive: thrown into a river
they float, crowding helplessly towards
an alien sea.


What can be discussed in words
I beg to state in brief.
A man has only one death:
it may be as light as goose down
or as heavy as a fatted hog.
Gingerly, the flowers open
and are crushed in the vat.
What’s in your perfume?
The hills of Africa are in it,
and the cormorants with their mouths full of fish,
a bed of carnations, a swannery in Switzerland,
the citrine sun baking Nappa
and a rhino whining at the moon.
An after-dinner argument is in it
and the ever-stronger doses of clap-trap
we are forced to take while still alive.
A whole aeroplane, wings and all,
and the lush spaghetti siphoned into lips
poised for a kiss.
Finish it, finish it.

: Mary Ruefle, Apparition Hill

Tuesday, March 11, 2008



The clock inside the mantid egg under the drifted snow,
the sap clock in the February tree,
von Karajan’s internal metronome
with different signatures exact in either hand,
terns, orcas, caribou in shrunken herds,

state ministers who synch their talks
into the general’s scheme, stock brokers
taking note, and families at the border with no plan,
the unhoused axle of the planet wobbling
one half turn among the stars in thirteen thousand years,

hatched leatherbacks not making for the heavens
into the surf but pulling onto the highway
with front flippers bloody toward new lights in town, clock
stopped on the mantel, pockmarks of storm systems on the sun,
ticking from inside a flame-rapt log

: Brooks Haxton, The Sun at Night (1995)

Monday, March 10, 2008

More honking geese

Look up. They're everywhere: long, trailing pennants of geese.
We hear them before we see them.
Like a Muybridge series!

Robert ParkeHarrison

Robert ParkeHarrison: Passage [detail]

Robert ParkeHarrison: Turning to Spring [detail]

Last week, I ran across an art book in the library: Robert ParkeHarrison's The Architect's Brother. I hadn't heard of him, but something about the cover image--its sepia tone, misty focus, and inverted proportion scale--drew me in.

You can see a nice sampling of his work here. Click here for commentary on the exhibition at the Sheldon Museum.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Ruth Lilly Fellowships

[passing this along to all you young upstarts . . .]

Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowships (go to this address to download entry form)

Five Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowships in the amount of $15,000 will be awarded to young poets through a national competition sponsored by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry. Established in 1989 by the Indianapolis philanthropist Ruth Lilly, the fellowships are intended to encourage the further study and writing of poetry. Applicants must be US citizens between the age of twenty-one and thirty-one as of March 31, 2008. Applicants should submit:

- Completed application form
- Ten pages of poems, double spaced
- One paragraph explaining how the fellowship would aid the applicant's work
- A publication list (optional)

Do not include any additional material at this time (cv, cover letter, references, etc.). If you wish to be notified of receipt of your application, include a self-addressed, stamped postcard. Application materials will not be returned. Applications must be postmarked during the month of March 2008. Electronic submissions will not be considered. Finalists will be announced on August 1, 2008 at Winners will be announced by September 1, 2008.

Buffalo Small Press Book Fair

[passing this along . . .]

Buffalo Small Press Book Fair
Saturday, Mar 22, 2008 Noon - 6 p.m.
Porter Hall, 453 Porter Avenue in Buffalo, NY

The 2008 Buffalo Small Press Book Fair is a regional one day event that brings booksellers, authors, bookmakers, zinesters, small presses, artists, poets, and other cultural workers (and enthusiasts) together in a venue where they can share ideas, showcase their art, and peddle their wares. Over 80 vendors are currently scheduled to attend. In addition, poetry readings, performances, discussions, and related lectures are scheduled to go on throughout the day.

This event is free and open to the public.

For more information:

Split This Rock

[passing this along . . .]

If you have not yet registered for Split This Rock: Poetry of Provocation and Witness, I urge you to do so! Visit the website at to view the schedule and register. As the fest organizers write: "The festival kicks off with a press conference Thursday, March 20 and ends with a silent march and closing ceremony in front of the White House on Sunday, March 23. In between, we will celebrate poetry and activism with panel discussions, workshops, collaborative writing, walking tours, film, and readings."

There is only one week left to save on registration! Before March 10, registration is only $75 or $40 for students, which includes entry to all readings, workshops, panels, receptions, walking tours, and other activities. $25 will buy a day pass, which includes readings, workshops, panels and other activities for one day. Some scholarships are available.

Beltway Poetry Quarterly is a co-sponsor (and is coordinating the guided walking tours). The festival will also include readings, workshops, panels, films and activism. Featured poets: Chris August, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Princess of Controversy, Robert Bly, Kenneth Carroll, Grace Cavalieri, Lucille Clifton, Joel Dias Porter (aka DJ Renegade), Mark Doty, Martín Espada, Carolyn Forché, Brian Gilmore, Sam Hamill, Galway Kinnell, Stephen Kuusisto, Semezhdin Mehmedinovic, E. Ethelbert Miller, Naomi Shihab Nye, Sharon Olds, Alix Olson, Alicia Ostriker, Ishle Yi Park, Sonia Sanchez, Patricia Smith, Susan Tichy, Pamela Uschuk, and Belle Waring.

-Kim Roberts
Beltway Poetry Quarterly

Saturday, March 08, 2008

"Dreams of Affluence" & "The Weather Balloon"

So I was trying to figure out how to come up with a series of random numbers (for logging in manuscripts) when it occurred to me to just Google it. Found this way cool random integer generator at Super duper.
* * *

This week's featured chap is a day late. We're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but in this case--I love the covers on this chapbook series from Godine. Here are two poems from Ann Deagon's There Is No Balm in Birmingham:
Dreams of Affluence

I am a housewife vacuuming
her swimming pool. Under my toes
under the blue vinyl, moles
hump their tunnels. The cat
lays them pale and dripping at
our doorstep. She has learned
how to dive. The chlorine
has bleached her white.
You cannot tell her from a mole.

I am diving through my life.

The Weather Balloon

In June at seven from the pool
the clearest-eyed child
cries out, has sighted
the weather balloon, tiny as
a bead of quicksilver, a bubble
caught under fathoms of blue.
It will not surface here
where our yard beaches the sky.
At sea in air it drifts, its whole
purpose that drifting. Meteorologists
plot its azimuth. We train
binoculars and our binocular gaze
on its uncaring passage. Our round
pool blinks back the sky. We think
we are tethered. We are all of us
at sea.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

As promised

Today's mail brought Betsy Wheeler's Start Here, a gorgeously produced chaplet from Small Anchor Press with a very nice letterpressed cover designed by Lindsay Valentin. I've been waiting for this one . . . it's a single long poem; Betsy read several passages from it at her Bucknell reading last year and it really knocked me out. I read the whole thing in one breathless sitting. Go buy this chaplet; it's already half-sold-out.

* * *

I promised Arlene I'd post this poem. It first appeared in Florida Review in 2005:


There are worse reasons to be caught
at midnight in my neighbor’s yard,
though I can’t think of any. Right
now, arrested mid-reach by the hard

twin headlight beams of her Pontiac,
I fish for a quick excuse. Perhaps
I’ve lost my watch? There’s a knack
to lying; I don’t have it. (Theft,

however, I’ve down pat.) Pockets
stuffed with rattling pods, I stand
unaccused. Virginia’s car groans past.
I’m off the hook; the old gal’s night blind.

Her daylilies surround me: past
their prime, hardly a bloom remains.
In the dark, I snitch the last
ripe pod: shiny seeds, obsidian

black, spill from its flared open end.
They’ll keep three months in my freezer,
sprout grass-thin blades in deep winter
under lights I’ve rigged in my cellar.

Three years, maybe four will pass
before they’re large enough to bloom.
I’ll give the lion’s share away,
persuade Virginia to make room.

[photo: tawny daylily, 2007]

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Christian soldiers onward

(sigh.) Good for him, of course, but we wanted Rami to win.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Wee new quilt

Here's the new quilt: the pattern is Chinese Coins; the quilt measures approx. 5.5 x 7.75 inches. Can't wait to do another one.


: curried arroz con pollo, sauteed Brussels sprouts, steamed broccoli, & grilled naan.

Snow globe diversions

Check out the amazing snow globe art of Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Snow geese on the Susquehanna

(Click on photos to open high-res versions.)

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Two poems: Emily Rosko & Richard Garcia

Last week, I browsed through a back issue of the Notre Dame Review (#17, winter '04) and flagged two poems for re-reading. Both, interestingly enough, are about mothers. Each stood out, as far as I'm concerned, from everything else in the magazine.

Here you go:


Take the concentration intricate
work requires—a needle, embroidery. The in

and out through the eye, thread and
fabric pulled. Or the cautious

hands of my mother, webbing yarn
into a sweater, the genius

click of her needles. It’s enough
to make me jealous of that kind

of patience. When I took the box of give-
away stuff to the garage

I found swatches of crepe and a lace
tablecloth discolored by

wine, as if a dinner party had
decided to throw their bad manners out

in the open, leave their spoils. The luxury
of this fabric, its airy matter.

I’d like to tailor it, get it down
in a form myself. All you need

is a pattern, she’d tell me. No,
I thought, pawing my scissors,

one snag is all it takes,
one disruption—

: Emily Rosko

* * *
My Mother and Your Mother

My mother and your mother making tea in heaven—no, not heaven, but that place you go to live after you die and have acquired certain skills.

Your mother wants to take my mother to the PX and stock up on Folgers coffee, Ritz crackers and a couple cases of gin. My mother wants to go to the new senior center because she read in the paper they’ll be showing a movie with Mario Lanza. Finally they settle on Italy where your mother was happy for awhile.

Your mother shows my mother the apartment where she lived, the echoing courtyard, and in between the same flapping laundry still hanging on the line, the volcano. After a couple of cappuccinos on the Via Manzoni, your mother agrees, out of her Southern courtesy, to go with my mother to Mexico.

Today is the day she’ll relive being the small girl in the white dress that hands Porfirio Díaz a bouquet of flowers. Overcome with joy, El Presidente announces that he won’t run for office ever again. Viva! Hats and bullets fly through the air and my mother takes credit for starting the Mexican Revolution.

Your mother wants to go home to Charleston and eat some chess pie made out of eggs, brown sugar and butter. Mine wants to eat those hotcakes again she had the first time she crossed the border and thought, What strange tortillas these Gringos eat. As a compromise, they come to see how we’re doing in L.A.

But once here they forget why they came. My mother and your mother, on Olvera St. trying on straw hats. Your mother and my mother at the counter in Bloomingdale’s, spraying Chanel No. 5 on their wrists.

My mother and your mother at Musso and Frank’s. Your mother is deep into her peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream. Mine is table hopping, collecting autographs. She can’t believe her luck, there’s Gilbert Roland having a martini with Dolores Del Rio.

: Richard Garcia