Saturday, January 31, 2009



Through the open window, a confusion
of gasoline fumes, lilacs, the green esters of grass.
Edward Waite rides the lawn mower.
Each summer his voice is more stifled. His emphysema is worse.
"Three packs a day," he says, still proud of the fact.
Before he got sick, he drove semis across the country.
Every two weeks he drives his small truck up the mountain.
He mows in long rows fitting swath to cut swath, overlapping the width.
To please me he saves the wild paintbrush along the edge.
Stripped to the waist, I see he has hung his blue shirt
on my clothesline to dry out the sweat.
The shirt, with its arms upraised, filled with the body of air,
is deeply inhaling, exhaling its doppelganger breath.
:: Ruth Stone, In the Next Galaxy

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gaying out

So I'm generally not one to idly blogsurf--I usually have a destination or purpose in mind, because NOT having one in mind generally leads to the sort of brainless time-wasting that's fine for those who like to spazz out in front of the computer but always leaves me feeling so guilty at having wasted whhole hours of my life that I swear never to do it again--but I somehow ended up this afternoon at Go Fug Yourself and laughed so hard I nearly farted. Okay, I farted. But just a little, and no one else was around.

Start here. Poor Meryl. "Oh honey, no" indeed.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I'm shivering in word nerd ecstasy--

--because a coworker this morning asked how to correctly write the term for a file in .jpeg format, and I didn't know, and I said if only I had a copy of the Chicago Manual in my office, but I don't, but then I thought hmm, I wonder if they have a web site, and the answer, dear readers, is a thrilling yes:

Be still, my heart.

Fix It

Fix It (Winter)

He disappeared in the dead of winter.
—W. H. Auden

lips part
To greet the perfect stranger.
—James Merrill

Heart’s February: fill it in as bleak
and lonely. But today a warming flood
of color stains the calendar’s pale cheek.
The eve of your return I give my blood.
Picture a glacier bruising into bloom.
I let it all hang out and drain from my
right, my writing arm: the silent room,
morning and evening’s empty bed. I lie
between two bodies, palping a red ball,
flushed to pallor, gazing at the ceiling,
as hollow days are dammed into a crimson pool
soon to be sealed and channeled to a stranger
and even more precarious life. I’m filling
a loving cup to raise to mortal danger.

What the eye, seeking, fails to penetrate
the ear awaits. Presently a cry

(baby waking, tomcat, beaten dog,
or floating rage caught raw between the walls)

shrills from the street. No, from the locked
interior whose study window, bright

with strained attention, now winks suddenly
from a blank surface. You’ve turned in the light.

Beyond the potted palms in some remote
anteroom the beaded curtains stir:

so I must sense, must pluck from winter air
the snatches of that song, or let the link

between our skulls (now stretched; now tighter) loosen.
I shut my eyes and almost hear you think.

I read much of the night. Ineptly woo
some shabby cousin of oblivion
out of the garish hours after two.
Having locked the secret inmost door,
stretched, and remembered once again you’re gone,
I wander to the kitchen for a swig
of milk, and creak back down the corridor
to a ghost bedroom, chilly and too big.

No, but the necklace! Burst
and scattered agates sprayed apart and rolled
under the furniture, and it was lost,
a labyrinth of winter, overnight
and not to be recovered. Somehow scaled
in those cold globes was a whole summer’s wealth of light.

I lean my ladder on
the beautiful, the flawed
handiwork of God
and turn to spy my son

busy way down there
patching a balloon,
filling in the moon.
The whole world needs repair.

Broken! he calls the moon
if it is less than round.
These syllables resound
domestically soon

as lightbulb, pencil, tile
get broken. His decree
Fix it! shows faith in me
that prompts me first to smile

and then suppress a sigh
and fetching tape and glue
climb up to mend the blue
disasters in the sky.

I lean my ladder on
the beautiful, the flawed
handiwork of God
and turn to spy my son.

Time to tunnel deeper into winter.
Broken! the boy cries, pointing at the moon.
Agates roll downhill into the river.

I stretch my chilly legs awake and wonder
whether this absence will seem warmer soon
and, sighing, rise: another day of winter.

It’s not as if I’m lonely. I’m a mother,
busy with fixing—pop went that balloon.
Agates roll away into a river

opaque with ice. So walk across the water,
so fix the brownouts of a cloudy sun?
No use. We’re heading deeper into winter.

What has been lost is gone and gone forever:
such knowledge is what forty winters mean.
My agates (yours?)—they vanished in the river

like last year’s snows. The only ever after
is what’s already written in the rune
of losses deeply etched into the winter
while agates settle blackly at the bottom of the river.

Something terrible is going to happen.
Something terrible has already happened.

Up from the dark words of authority rise,
anger, affection. Lights

gleam a minute till the door is slammed.
Easier to instruct anyone else in the truth of feeling

than try to span the awful gap yourself,
yourself to search for stones to leapfrog on

across the—is it water or a tunnel?
And in. And shut that door.

I don’t hear or listen well these days.
Did you say your new poem about your father

was to be called “Lines Found in a Bottle”?
I think I got it wrong. This bottle had

milk in it, bourbon, apple juice—not words.
It plugged three generations’ mouths to dumbness.

Weaned to a cup, my son escaped the bottle
and now eats sugar by the spoonful. I chew gum.

Faces stuffed, we slam right out of this
impossible world, propelled at speed

by terror, rage, loss,
and enter the shadow room of mourning.

Now it is multiplied as in a hall of mirrors.
Unpeeled of memory, ranks of men leap up

leaving lighted rooms with a start to go
in search of those lost lives:

precious particulars of how and when,
not whether, something terrible has happened.

“Both my fathers have cancer,” you said once.
I think you said it. Asymmetrically

you had two fathers, I had none. I had to
run upstairs one summer, slam a door,

and cry about my father: not that the loss was fresh
but that downstairs a woman also wept

whose ripened loss matched mine.
Two wounds touching start to bleed again.

Wetness is blessed: fountain stubbornly tumbling
to rise again over dust, shit, shards of glass.

“Now I want to kneel at a stream and drink,
or drink from a cup”; words flow from you

the week I’m teaching water, dipping deep
in Walden Pond, cursing aridities.

It had been said before as praise: “Recovered
greenness”; as prayer: Send my roots rain.”

Subterranean fathers hollowly
boom at the bottom of their empty cistern

Drink me.
My son’s new interest in drains
and water fountains (mountains, as he calls them):

he squats or lies face down to peer below
the grating; stretches up to touch the water.

Mountain of water, shine another spring
so we can drink from you and wet our lips

or raise a chancy cup
and across the rim salute each other’s

continued greenness. But the wind blows fresh
and filthy from the river.

Fix what is broken. What is scattered gather.
Easy to say. Not far from here, a woman

looks up to meet her eyes in the mirror
and sees a death. Her own?

Something terrible is about to happen?
Something terrible has already happened.

Not in the dead of winter
her father went, but one day before Easter

he walked the green, the warming earth, then vanished.
Pieces of his shirt still lay on the rug that night

where they’d cut it off to try to start his heart.
The tick, the march, inexorable. She touches

her own heart. It’s beating.
Wait. There are children sleeping.

There is unfinished music on the table.
The rest of a life waits on the other side of the mirror

and also somewhere invisible a limit.
A wall. If it were only painted black,

if she could see dark glass, it would be clearer.
She would be able to turn away from light

awhile and walk the room of the dead and say
it again: Something terrible has happened.

Fix what is broken. What is scattered gather.
Love’s gift of agates sown on the barren winter:

find them, restring them in another order.
And news of the lost father—

bottle bobbing, contents still unread,
toward a nameless destination,

perhaps a country where there are no fathers,
far out across the black and oily water.

Swoop of a bird swung between high walls.
Cry of a child rising from the house of darkness.

Up, uppie, says the boy, and holds his arms
up to be lifted in a world where sink
and table, chair and crib are still so tall
they have to be looked up to. Uppie, up!

The small bones lengthen, stretching in his sleep.
He is growing up. Our idiom features
cosily preposition-ended phrases
as well for aging, as slow down, dry out,

finally shrivel up.
Withered, a bush blows hard in autumn wind,
bald of petals now but still upright,
up, up,
obeying the commands of appetite.

:: Rachel Hadas, Pass It On (1989)

Sunday, January 18, 2009



The sky cracks along
a branch of sycamore: its fault.
The sidewalk, split in jigsaw-
puzzle pieces by the roots,
lifts, oblique to itself.
The foreground--leaves and bark--
collapses like a sinkhole
while the sky's crazed blue
bulges like heavy crockery.
Everything seems to have two
sides. I could be wrong.

:: Joan Larkin, A Long Sound (1986)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

New books I can't wait to get my hands on

K A Hays,
Dear Apocalypse
Rane Arroyo,
The Buried Sea
Kevin Gonzalez,
Cultural Studies

Maureen Seaton,
The Cave of the Yellow Volkswagen

Brent Goodman,
The Brother Swimming Beneath Me
Stacey Lynn Brown,
Cradle Song
Karen J Weyant,
Stealing Dust

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I'd like to meet that pilot

Just to shake his steady hand. Wow. Wow.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets: two weeks to apply

Please share this information. If you know a student who qualifies, please encourage him or her to apply. If you can write a letter of recommendation, please offer to do so.

In 2009, the Stadler Center for Poetry will conduct the twenty-fifth annual Seminar for Younger Poets. Held for three weeks in June, the Seminar provides an extended opportunity for undergraduate poets to write and to be guided by established poets. Staff and visiting poets conduct writing workshops and offer lecture/discussions, present readings of their own work, and are available for individual conferences. In the past, such poets as Robin Becker, Denise Duhamel, Linda Gregg, Terrance Hayes, James Harms, Mary Ruefle, Gerald Stern, David St. John, Michael Waters, and Kazim Ali have served as visiting poets. Numerous readings provide the participants with the opportunity to hear and be heard by their peers. Applicants compete for ten places in the Seminar, all of which come with fellowships. Fellowships include tuition, housing in campus apartments, and meals. Accepted students are responsible only for their travel to Bucknell and a modest library deposit. A limited number of travel scholarships are available on the basis of need.

For the 2009 Seminar, visiting poets Kwame Dawes and Dana Levin will join director G. C. Waldrep and staff members Deirdre O'Connor, Erinn Batykefer, and K. A. Hays.

The dates of the 2009 Seminar will be Sunday, June 7, to Sunday, June 28. The postmark deadline for applications is Friday, January 30. Click here for complete application guidelines and here for a program FAQ.

Monday, January 12, 2009

new pomes

I, um, have these three poems up at ::diode:: if ya wanna check 'em out . . . Very happy to be in such good company.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

CFS: Wanna be on YouTube?

Shape of a Box, YouTube's first literary magazine, accepts submissions year round but we'd like to announce a special request.

  • Are you going to AWP? If you are and want to submit work between now and February 1st, and it is accepted, the Editor of Shape of a Box will be available at AWP to record video or audio of you reading your piece for publication!
  • Our guidelines are available here or here, but in short, send 1-6 pieces (at about 500 words, although we have worked with 1000 word pieces) pasted into the body of the email.
  • Any genre is welcome (poetry, non-fiction, fiction, stage/screen, graphic novel type work etc).
  • Look forward to reading your work at AWP!

Emerging Writer-Lecturer: Gettysburg

Department of English, Emerging Writer Lecturer:

  • One-year appointment, beginning August 2009, for a creative writer who plans a career that involves college-level teaching, to teach three courses per semester, including Introduction to Creative Writing and an advanced course in the writer's genre, as well as to assist with departmental writing activities.
  • Mentorship for teaching and assistance in professional development provided.
  • M.A., with a concentration in creative writing, M.F.A., or Ph.D. with creative dissertation required. Teaching experience and literary magazine publications are essential.
  • Competitive salary.
  • To apply, send letter of application, c.v., the names of three references, and a 5-10 page writing sample to Emerging Writer Lectureship; Department of English, Box 397; Gettysburg College; 300 N. Washington St.; Gettysburg, PA 17325.
  • Applications must be postmarked by January 30, 2009. Electronic applications will not be accepted.
  • Gettysburg College is a highly selective liberal arts college located within 90 minutes of the Washington/Baltimore metropolitan area. Established in 1832, the College has a rich history and is situated on a 220-acre campus with an enrollment of over 2,600 students.
  • Gettysburg College celebrates diversity and welcomes applications from members of any group that has been historically underrepresented in the American academy. The College assures equal employment opportunity and prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, and disability.

Poetry chapbook contest for women

2009 New Women's Voice Chapbook Competition:

  • A prize of $1,000 and publication will be awarded by Finishing Line Press for a chapbook-length poetry collection.
  • Open to women who have never before published a full-length poetry collection; previous chapbook publication does not disqualify.
  • All entries will be considered for publication, and the top-ten finalists will be offered publication.
  • Submit up to 26 pages of poetry, PLUS bio, acknowledgments, SASE and cover letter with a $15 entry fee by Deadline: Feb. 15, 2009 (POSTMARK).
  • Carol Hamilton will be the final judge.
  • Winner will be announced on our website.
  • Send to: New Women's Voices Chapbook Competition; Finishing Line Press; PO Box 1626; Georgetown, KY 40324
  • Visit website for further entry instructions.

New writers' rez taking fall applications

A new writers’ residency, Writers in The Heartland, is now taking applications for its inaugural season. Writers in the Heartland is a writing colony for creative writers in all genres. The colony is located in Gilman, Illinois, approximately 2 hours south of Chicago, on a beautiful 30-acre wooded site with lakes and walking paths. A limited number of one-week residencies are available for September 18-25 and October 3-10. Lodging and food are included.

Applications must be received by April 15, 2009, to be considered. Decisions will be announced by July 1st. For further information about applying to Writers in the Heartland, see our website or contact us by e-mail.

Emerging Poet sought: Columbia College of Chicago

Visiting Poet with recent MFA or PhD (no more than five years ago) sought by Columbia College Chicago for an annual, one-year non-renewable position.

The Elma Stuckey Liberal Arts and Sciences Emerging Poet-in-Residence starts August 2009.

Poets from underrepresented communities and/or those who bring diverse cultural, ethnic, theoretical, and national perspectives to their writing and teaching are particularly encouraged to apply.

Successful candidate will teach one course per semester (undergraduate workshop, craft, and/or literature seminars), give a public reading, and possibly supervise a small number of graduate theses.

Qualified candidates will have received an M.F.A. in poetry, or Ph.D. in English (with creative dissertation) , or other relevant terminal degree in past five years; demonstrate excellence and experience in college-level teaching; and will have strong record of publication in national literary magazines (but will have published no more than one full-length poetry collection).

Salary: $30,000 for the year.

Send cover letter, curriculum vitae, 5-page sample of published poetry (photocopies are fine), sample syllabus for undergraduate or graduate-level poetry workshop or literature course, three letters of recommendation (at least one should address teaching), and statement of teaching philosophy to: Tony Trigilio, Director, Creative Writing - Poetry, Columbia College Chicago, 600 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60605.

Postmark deadline for applications: February 15, 2009.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A wintry mix

I stayed home again today, opting not to face the sleet we were told would arrive by lunchtime. It arrived later, preceded by a few minutes of fitful snow, hard pellets leaking down like sawdust from a wood-boring bee, and now I'm not sure which category precipitates against the window. I hear a faint ticking. It's 28 degrees. I set up the laptop on the dining table (no flat surface remains empty for long around here) and have toggled between projects all afternoon: work, then browse, then work, then look at collage art online, then think about book covers (for an upcoming 7KP title), then back to lesson plans. Tunneling into the last few quiet days before the new semester erupts into activity.
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A truly comforting e-mail from Robin (Becker) today, regarding our loss of Sadie. I should publicly thank all of you for your condolences. And for those who can't imagine being *that attached* to a dog, well I send you my own condolences for the emptiness where your soul would otherwise be.
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I'm not attending AWP this year, but for those of you who are, tell me: which of the panels or related events are you most looking forward to? You'll feed my vicarious hunger, and hopefully provide some good tips for folks who are trying to decide what not to miss.
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We had homemade pizza for dinner last night, loaded with broccoli, zucchini, garlic, onions, baby bella mushrooms, and turkey sausage. I wept, eating my crust: Sadie always loved the pizza bones.

[photo: me working on a mini quilt (photo by R Barlow)]