Thursday, July 22, 2010


Okay, I admit I'm all thumbs when it comes to setting up anything on the Internet. But the new Seven Kitchens site over at Word Press was going along so well--so well that I thought installing those little Paypal "Buy Now" buttons would be a snap. They were a snap to install on Blogger. But even though I can see the HTML code pasted correctly on my Word Press pages, I don't see the button when I switch to view the saved page in regular ("visual") mode.

I don't know what I'm doing wrong. Maybe they are only visible once the site is publicly searchable? --That doesn't make sense, because I want to get everything loaded before it goes public.

I'm flummoxed. I'm walking away from it for a little while. Ah, gardening: something I'm really good at.

Up too late again

Dear 3 AM: WTF?

I mean, yes, I can always find something to do (two new chapbooks launched the same week, am I that crazy?) but I am not, I repeat not, a night owl.

We've got to stop meeting like this. I'd rather see you in my dreams.

Yes, two chapbooks: To the Refrigerator Gods by Terry Kirts came out on Monday--#8 in the Editor's Series, and on Wednesday (today) (though it's already Thursday), Guillermo Castro's Cry Me a Lorca came out--#4 in the limited-edition Summer Kitchen Series. I've been up late putting together a big batch of copies and cheating on my Red Sox by half-watching the Mets' lackluster effort to avoid being swept by the Diamondbacks. I gave up in the 12th inning: don't know, don't care.

I've spent hours every day this week typing in book & author data for Seven Kitchens' new online home. Yeah, we're jumping over to Word Press on August 1st, ready or not. I think we'll be ready. All the book pages are loaded. I need to add Paypal links (which should be easy, having just done this last week on the Blogger site) and move all the author updates to new subpages. That'll take about a week. Then a few days to let our authors preview the site and hit me back with any fixes that need attending to. Then we launch!

I should have a party. Or even better, a sale. But I wanted to have a sale this fall on our three-year anniversary, if I can figure out exactly when that is.

Slowly cutting through the pile of papers and files on my desk. There were two piles; now there's only one, and I made a good dent in it today. Progress! I want to make room for my old printer here on the desk beside the laser printer: I need it for color scanning and for printing drafts.

Harvested the first good handful of tomatoes today. We've been eating the yellow pears as they ripen, one at a time. These are thumb-sized, red tomatoes, I can't remember the name. And the yard-long beans, which I planted way too early in May, have suddenly come alive after languishing beneath the peas for months: tendrils snaking everywhere, and even a couple of flowers, though they were surprisingly dull--I was expecting more yellow or pink or even cream-colored blossoms, but these were a drab dirty-dishrag off-off-white. If I were a bee I wouldn't even stop to investigate.

There's a birthday with my name on it, and I can almost hear it slouching towards Lewisburg: the Big One. The half-century mark. I don't know what fifty is supposed to feel like, but I do admit that as I edge daily closer to this milestone, my ability to accommodate it as a tangible aspect of my reality, my identity, sheers off increasingly into disbelief.

Aaaand then I look into the bathroom mirror. No need to pinch me; I know this one is real.

Friday, July 02, 2010

New venue for reviews of poetry and nonfiction

Palmer Hall has launched a new online venue for reviewing poetry and nonfiction: The Yanaguana Literary Review. You can find it here.
. . .

Turned in my keys and ID today at Lyco. They asked for my parking decal as well. (Sure, no problem.) The only surprise was that there's no way to store & retrieve three years of e-mail, unless I go back in, have someone unlock my old office, and painstakingly forward each e-mail to myself. Umm, I could have used that information a few weeks ago; at least I'd have had time to forward some of the important stuff.

Other than that glitch, a very satisfactory three-year gig. I will miss it.
. . .

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Waiting for callas

Last year we bought some lovely yellow callas. I can't remember how long they bloomed, but I was eager to try to keep them over the winter and see whether they'd repeat the show this year. Late in the fall, when the leaves had started yellowing, I brought them into the kitchen and tucked the pot (a rather large brass pot that I'd lined with a heavy plastic trash bag) against the corner of the kitchen table where it would be out of traffic. The remaining leaves died quickly and were gone within a week.

And that was that. I think I sprinkled a little water on it once over the whole winter.

Then, in early March or maybe even late February, I started getting curious. I watered the soil sparingly, then, a week later, more generously. And as soon as I saw the tiniest points of green emerging, I moved the pot to a bench in the laundry room--more susceptible to changing temperatures but also to steadily increasing sunlight.

And the plants have leafed out beautifully. I especially like the small translucent spots in the leaves. But so far, no blossoms. The pot sits on the corner of our back door stoop, where it gets bright light for most of the day and a couple hours of direct sun. I'm feeding and watering regularly. Are leaves all we can hope for this year? Did some process of "forcing" that the callas may have gone through in order to be sold at market last year render them "spent" for this year? Are they recovering the urge to bloom? Or am I just being hasty: are they waiting for high summer?

Will report back on any new developments.

Monday, June 14, 2010

1984: Friends don't let friends buy Ziggy cards

Oh, God.

I've been cleaning the upstairs bookcases at the rate of roughly one shelf per day. So many books to sort through--keep out? box away for now?--and then there are the binders. Binders dating way back. Binders containing every rejection slip I received for my poems. Binders full of correspondence. Binders of journals from high school. Binders documenting people (and years) I don't even remember.

Oh, God. Did I ever buy Ziggy cards? I think I did. And smarmy pastel Blue Mountain Arts cards with insipid verses by Susan Polis Schutz. I always thought it was Schultz. But no, here's a card copyrighted 1982, all salmon and purple, and it's Schutz: When the/world closes in/and lies so heavily upon you.../ remember that I care. (It goes on. I won't.)

Oh, God. Who was I?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

queer calls

June 27th is the deadline for this year's Oscar Wilde Award (Gival Press) for the best previously unpublished poem in English that best relates GLBT life. The reading fee is $5 per poem of any length, form, or style. The winning poem will be published on the Gival Press website and carries a prize of $100. Previous winners are Chino Mayrina, Stephen Mills, Pablo Miguel Martinez, Dante Michaux, Julie Marie Wade, Jeff Walt, and some guy named Ron Mohring. Visit the web site for complete details (click on "contests" and then "Oscar Wilde Award-Guidelines").

July 1 is the deadline for the anthology Queer Girls in Class: Lesbian Teachers and Students Tell Their Classroom Stories, a collection of personal narratives. . . For more information or to submit work, e-mail:

July 1 is also the deadline for entries to the Atlanta Queer Lit Fest's Broadside Contest. The winner will receive $200, 100 copies, and a keynote reading invite at the festival. Full details are at http://www/

[Thanks to Jameson Currier's queertype blog for this information.]

Saturday, June 12, 2010


[photo: peony, Mom's garden, May 2010]
I've spent time every day this month working on chapbooks: proofing pages, printing, folding and cutting and tying, mailing copies. I'm still not caught up with some of the copies I owe, but the new titles are coming along very well and I think I can stay on track with the summer schedule.
It's fulfilling work. It nourishes a part of me that exists mainly in solitude. I can't emphasize strongly enough how deeply I love this work.
What it doesn't do is pay the rent. June, June: Will you bring me a new job?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Old Iris

I can trace this iris back 45 years to the first garden I remember, though what I recall most intensely is lying on my back beneath a blue sky full of papery Oriental poppies--bright orange--waving on hirsute, wiry stems. The original garden was bulldozed to make way for a convenience store the summer I was ten or eleven, along with the first house I clearly remember living in. The iris--or a piece of it--moved when we moved. Most recently, I snagged a fan from beneath an encroaching blue spruce at my parents' house about five years ago. I planted the spruce trees--25 of them--and can't believe how large they've grown.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Submit to the Pilot

Passing along this CFS from our buddies at Pilot Books:

We will read chapbook manuscripts postmarked in May of 2010. The selected manuscript will be published in our Meddling Kids Series in 2011. Please submit two printed copies of your original poetry manuscript (10-20 pages) each with two cover pages: one with manuscript title, your name, address, email and phone number; the other with manuscript title only. Entries should be postmarked in the merry month of May, 2010. Manuscripts will be logged in by an impartial third party and read anonymously by the Pilot Books Editorial Board. No SASE necessary; we will communicate via email. Post your entries, along with a $10 reading fee (make checks out to Pilot Books) to the address below. All entry monies will fund the production of the selected manuscript.

Send to: Pilot Books, PO Box 60551, Florence MA 01062

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Zinnias at Rapid Run

This afternoon we drove out to one of our favorite greenhouses. The woman who runs it had baby goats two years ago running free in one of the three greenhouses, and every year we see hummingbirds there well before they show up in our garden.

No hummers today (and no goats): we're under a wind advisory, and the constant snapping, vibrating plastic was a bit unnerving. Long rows of hanging baskets swayed as the poles they hung from vibrated and quivered, the whole creaking structures feeling as if they wanted to take flight. I snapped the photo of these zinnias with my phone camera. We bought some lovely cream-striped ornamental grass (it's outside on the patio table; I'll check the name later), a few yellow pear tomato plants (Randy's favorite tomato), and a big flat of cosmos, which I plan to set in a big mass into the garden this year instead of popping them here and there all over the place.

We've shared fish pepper seedlings with the owner in past years, and I fleetingly thought about taking along a six-pack (I have eighteen plants growing on the windowsills) but didn't. Turns out, she didn't have any. We said we'd bring them next time, and made arrangements to trade them for some ancho pepper plants. (I really don't have room for eighteen pepper plants, but that doesn't usually stop me from growing them!)

Windy and cool--I almost said cold. Windows barely open. Glad I'm wearing socks.

Working on getting some review copies sent out of Rebecca Lauren's new chapbook, then assembling more copies of a few other titles. I'm hoping to catch up this month but could really use some help. If I put out the call for a summer intern or two, I wonder if anyone near enough would respond?

Tonight's the long-awaited episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Betty White: can hardly wait!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Fresh callas

Fresh callas I bought this week.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Poetry book giveaway: the winners are...

If you've friended me on Facebook, you can see several more photos I took as I documented the selection process. Congrats to the following nine folks, only one of whom I've met (to my knowledge)--which is pretty awesome:

1) Tara Mae; 2) Stephanie Goehring; 3) Jen Gresham; 4) Matthew Thorburn; 5) Marie Gauthier; 6) Eldritch1313; 7) Carl Palmer; 8) totalfeckineejit; and 9) zooeylive.

You've won the following books, in corresponding numerical order:

1) my book, Survivable World; 2) Daniel Rzicznek's Neck of the World; 3) Boyer Rickel's reliquary; 4) Christine Klocek-Lim's The book of small treasures; 5) Deborah Burnham's Still; 6) Kevin McLellan's Round Trip; 7) Christina Pacosz's Notes from the Red Zone; 8) Matthew Hittinger's Platos de Sal; and 9) RJ Gibson's Scavenge.

You can read more about the last seven titles over at Seven Kitchens. Meanwhile, I'll be contacting y'all for mailing addresses this weekend. Congratulations and Happy National Poetry Month!

Friday, April 30, 2010

The 30th day: a ten-minute spill

Well, here we are on the final day of NaPoWriMo. I'm glad I did this: some real crappy drafts, yes, but a few that feel promising, definitely more than I'd have written without the daily public deadline.

Which I do not plan to adhere to: at least not the public part, though the daily aspect has certainly made me more consciously aware of language and its little surprises, something I thought had become part of my nature but which, I realize now, had been dulled (by not enough reading, by isolation from other poets, by--ehh, we'll leave it at that).

So here's my last offering, the only poem this month generated by an exercise--specifically, Rita Dove's "Ten-Minute Spill"--though I kept tinkering with it past the initial ten minute mark (more like an hour and ten minutes):

:: bloop ::

Thanks for reading, y'all, and for the encouragement to hang with this project.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 29: on synaesthesia

Busy day today, and I'm late heading up to campus. This is as far as I can get this one to go for right now:

:: bloop ::

. . . And that's all he wrote of that one. Still grading papers here and not much time for writing, but I'll give it my best tomorrow morning and see what comes of the final--yahoo, the final!--poem-a-day post.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 28: Putting on the Patsy Cline

Putting on the Patsy Cline is a phrase that's been stuck in my head for a few years now, one I want to do something with--I think it may be a chapbook title if I can ever write the rest of the poems that comprise that collection. Scavenging through my journals this morning in search of a line to launch a fresh poem, I ran across the phrase again, as well as a line that our neighbor's youngest daughter uttered while trying to reach our cat: Allie, don't you want to pet me? And that's the line that started off this poem:

:: bloop ::

Well, that's that: two days to go. No idea what I'm writing tomorrow, but this has been an awesome experience and I want to thank y'all now for your supportive enthusiasm.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 27: Adrienne Rich

I started this draft in June then abandoned it, so it's not "fresh" like the others, but it's all I have to offer today as we near the end of NaPoWriMo. The poem borrows language from Adrienne Rich's "XIII: Dedications" in An Atlas of the Difficult World. "Borrows" is too mild a word; the poem is literally constructed around passages from Rich's poem to the extent that I'm nervous about posting it, nervous at using so much language from another source. I do think, though, that there might be something new in what's created here. And I love, love, love the source poem.

:: bloop ::

Thanks for reading, y'all.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 26: Villanelle on a line from Ned Rorem

A few years ago in my creative writing class, I gave my students a three-page list of lines I had collected from various sources, both poetry and prose, as potential "starters" for poems. This is one of the methods I use to write collaboratively with another poet: it brings a third voice to the table, and each of us responds both to this initial voice/statement and to each other as the poem progresses.

One of my students wrote a powerful, beautiful villanelle from a line by Ned Rorem, a line I'd been carrying around in my head for a few years: Here is the boy who will breathe my air. He wrote it in response to an ultrasound image of his soon-to-be-born son. His poem was at once a celebration and an acknowledgment of his own mortality. In many ways, his poem is better than the one I finally wrote this Saturday.

I didn't post this on Saturday because I'd written something else as well, but also because it's about a particularly crushing moment in one's career and--because anyone who knows me knows where I've worked for the past ten years--I didn't want to hurt any feelings.

But fuck that. It's a poem, for Pete's sake, and it's driven as much by its form and meter and rhyme scheme as by any "truth" at its heart. And the scene it describes happened only in my head, not where I work(ed). So all disclaimers aside, here's the villanelle I have been trying to write:

:: bloop ::

Thanks for reading, y'all. See you tomorrow.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Day 25: Bathroom Window, Cat

An attempt at a more minimalist approach to my usual narrative bent:

:: bloop ::

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day 24: Late Testament

:: bloop ::

Thanks for reading. Six days to go.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Day 23: on a line by Gertrude Stein

Stein wrote of Glenway Westcott in her Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, "He has a certain syrup but it does not pour." From which I made this today:

:: bloop ::

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Read this now: Terrance Hayes

"The Golden Shovel"

The top of my head flew off. My brain is still fizzing.

Day 22: The Fires

I was thinking about Hurricane Andrea from a few years ago, how folks in Florida were practically praying for the storm to bring rain to douse their wildfires. That satellite image of Andrea's noncompliance. And so came up with this:

:: bloop ::

Wow. Only one week to go.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 21: Practice

This old guy is in my head today. Who knows why. Here he is:

:: bloop ::

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 20: Deer & Dog

I missed yesterday's post, but here's a big ol' mess of a poem draft to make up for it:

:: bloop ::

Thanks for reading it, y'all.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The 18th day: 1965

Not much I can say about this one. I've been thinking a lot about the store my mother worked at when I was a kid:

:: bloop ::

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day seventeen: back into it

I went verseless yesterday. There's a lot going on right now, but no excuses: I just couldn't get to it. Here, though, is a fresh draft drawn from a messy block of a freewrite in my journal that I wrote in response to finding a dead hummingbird on the sidewalk years ago:

:: bloop ::

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Late in the middle, I steal another line


An inventive young lad from Bombay
used to sit on his elbows to pray.
Though scorned and abused
he steadfastly refused
to pray the traditional way.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Day 14: five o'clock muse

Well, the last student conference of the day went well. I gathered up my must-do pile and closed the door. I sat and thought. I turned to a line I carry in my head, a line from a poem by Bill Olsen. And twenty minutes later, I have this:

:: bloop ::

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow at the halfway point.

Day 14: waiting

A full day of student conferences: their major essays are due next week. No poem yet. Hoping to carve a niche from my schedule somehow today to close the door & summon the muse...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

13th day

Nearly halfway there. Here's a draft I wrote just before going to bed last night:

:: bloop ::

Thanks for reading, y'all.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The eleventh day: between the lines

Just this:

:: bloop ::

Glad to hear so many of you had good times at AWP. Hope everyone is safely home soon. See you tomorrow.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

NaPoWriMo: Day Ten

Today has been full of setbacks and delays, but I didn't forget about the daily poem. This one kept morphing on me: every time I thought it had solidified into a draft, I'd go back to tinkering with a word, a line, and off the poem would race again. Even now, I'm afraid I've tried to curb it, rein in its energy just for the sake of having something to post by the end of the day. So here it is, without further apology:

:: bloop ::

Thanks, y'all, and see you tomorrow.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The ninth day: Awe, Woe, Rue

This poem started with a photograph and owes a debt to Facebook, which provided the venue for some private dialogue that, were I not a writer, should remain private. But I'm a writer, and I confess to having felt that familiar split viewpoint even as the dialogue occurred over the course of a few days: part of me in it, part of me already tinkering with its structure . . . This is what we do. Does it change the past, set right a wrong, to create of it a small, made thing? No matter how well- or poorly-made, the poem that exists as the means to an end is a tragic mistreatment of memory. If nothing else, my goal with this one is to achieve some empathy. I've already talked too much about it, more than this little poem has "earned."

:: bloop ::

Thanks for reading. Back at it tomorrow.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Eight in eight

Last night I couldn't sleep and kept reaching for my notebook in the dark, writing down lines that kept coming to my head. This morning I tried to decipher the notes. There's something there, something mean and angry. This is not that poem. This is a memory from when I lived in Houston:

:: bloop ::

Seeya tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Day Seven

Seven poems in seven days: I can't possibly maintain this pace. Can anyone?

Wishing everyone at AWP in Denver a great conference. Since I last went, the bulk of my acquaintance-making has been virtual (though no less "real"). Maybe next year in DC we'll all meet for realzes.

Here's this morning's poem:

:: bloop ::

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Day Six

As I worked on this poem this morning, I thought at one point that it wanted to be a sonnet, but thirteen lines feels right. This poem is for Karl Patten:

:: bloop ::

See ya tomorrow.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Day Five

I think I know where this one might be going, but for the moment this is all I can come up with. Let's file it as a scene in search of a conflict, a starter block. A key?

:: bloop ::

See you tomorrow.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Day Four

Okay, this one's not for the youngsters, but I had to pursue the image. Here we go:

:: bloop ::

Tomorrow's Monday; it'll be interesting to see if I can keep this going during a regular workweek. Stay tuned; see you tomorrow.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Day Three

The fact that I dreamed last night about writing today's poem seems like clear evidence that this process is starting to get to me. I've dreamed many times about writing, but rarely does any element of the dream translate to my waking life. In this case, what I remember vaguely is the process: a mash-up of sorts, a random pairing of ten intentional lines (ten in all, written toward some intent or direction) with other lines pulled from--what? In my dream, they bobbed and swirled around me, easy pickings. Alas, none of these actual lines has stayed (consciously) in my head.

So here we go, blindly:

:: bloop ::

See ya tomorrow.

Friday, April 02, 2010

NaPoWriMo: Day Two

Last evening we ate out on the back patio for the first time this spring: a beautiful day, leafbuds popping open all around us--the euonymus hedge, the curly willow, the Japanese maple, the crabapple all greening in slow motion. I wondered what it might be like to actually hear all that rustling and unfolding, the clicking of clasps as stem by stem unlatched and opened into the warming air. Such beautiful late-day light in the buds of the little quince bush beneath the hedges. Would it be a gift, such synaesthesia? Or would it be cacophany?

Here's my poem draft for Day Two of National Poetry Writing Month:

:: bloop ::

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

NaPoWriMo: Day One

Happy April, everyone. It's a stunningly beautiful day in my neighborhood, and I'm hoping to leave work early enough to maybe snag a little hammock time.

Congrats to Todd Davis, whose poem "The Saints of April" is scheduled for today on Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac. Here's a link to that file:

(Thanks to Katie for the heads up!)

And great good luck to all the poets participating in NaPoWriMo this month. Here's my own first effort:

:: bloop ::

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Poetry Book Giveaway: You Can't Lose

Here's another wonderful idea: po-blogger Kelli Russell Agodon has launched a poetry book giveaway to coordinate with National Poetry Month (that's April, y'all). I'm happy to participate. Click here for Kelli's full post/explanation on her blog.

I will be giving away one copy of my book, Survivable World, and one hardcover copy of F. Daniel Rzicznek's Neck of the World (winner of the May Swenson Poetry Award and published in 2007).

All you have to do is write a response to this blog post (this one, right here, the one you are reading right now) before midnight on April 30th. On May 1st, I will randomly select two of the comment posters; each will be mailed one of the books. (So if you post, be sure that I have a way of reaching you in case I need your mailing address.) You don't pay a thing.

Let's play!

Update, 4/06: I've decided to sweeten the odds. For every five persons who respond to this blog post, I'll add a chapbook from my micropress. Right now, we have fifteen comments, so I'm adding three chapbooks to the giveaway pile: reliquary, by Boyer Rickel; The book of small treasures, by Christine Klocek-Lim; and Still, by Deborah Burnham. Feel free to spread the word!

4/19 update: We've surpassed 25 comments, which means two more chapbooks are up for grabs: Round Trip, collaborative poems by Kevin McLellan and fifteen poets, and Notes from the Red Zone, by Christina Pacosz. Thanks for spreading the word, y'all.

4/24 update: Keep the comments coming! With 30 folks responding, I'm adding a copy of Matthew Hittinger's Platos de Sal.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On top of everything...

. . . On top of everything else I have to get done, I'm throwing my hand in with the poets for the month of April. Yep, I'm gonna try to write (and post) a poem a day for this year's NaPoWriMo. I'll try to get 'em up during my lunch hour (no guarantees) and ::bloop:: they'll vanish from the blog by midnight.

If you've never heard of NaPoWriMo, click here. There's still time to join us!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Winter boarder: begonia grandis

Winter boarder: Begonia grandis bulbils sprouting from a pot of dieffenbachia that I kept outside all summer and fall and overwintered in the laundry room. I'm always astonished at the capacity of this plant to propagate from the tiniest, most negligible-looking bulbil: some are smaller than a BB; some grow to maybe pea-sized. And all of them--all of them, if given half a chance (tossed nonchalantly into this pot, for example, not planted with any purpose or worry about light or water), will grow.

What you don't see here is the gorgeous deep pink of the leaves' underside, a large part of what makes them so beautiful all summer and fall in the garden: the afternoon light through the leaves is spectacular. The plants don't blossom until late in the year, and though the flowers are worth the wait--deep pink, cascading from multibranched stems--it's the leaves that make this hardy begonia a standout in the shade beneath our crabapple tree, in the shade beneath the pines, in the narrow alley between our house and the neighbors' where there is literally only a two-inch-wide space to dig in between our flagstone and their sidewalk. It also performs well in full sun, as long as its base is well-mulched.

These tiny plants are up early: they're the last to arise in the outdoor garden, later even than the notoriously is-it-still-there-or-not balloon flowers. When this small, they're easy to tease out of the soil and pot up in their own containers, though lately I've come to play more with companion planting: christmas cactus cuttings interplanted with an ornamental pepper; spider plants in the same pot with the bushy poinsettia that I've kept going for three years now; and (later, once it's safe to garden outside again) heartsease and oregano in the giant pots we use for growing tomatoes.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Air Empathy

On the red-eye from Seattle, a two-year-old
in the seat behind me screeches

his miniature guts out. Instead of dreaming
of stuffing a wad of duct tape into his mouth,

I envy him, how he lets his pain spurt
into the open. I wish I could drill

a pipeline into the fields of ache, tap
a howl. How long would I need to sob

before the lady beside me dropped
her fashion rag, dipped a palm

into the puddle of me? How many
whimpers before another passenger

joined in? Soon the stewardess
hunched over the drink cart, the pilot

gushing into the controls, the entire plane:
an arrow of grief quivering through the sky.

:: Jeffrey McDaniel, The Endarkenment

Sunday, February 28, 2010

This and that

Today's the last day to nominate a blog post for 3 Quarks Daily's Arts & Literature Prize. Full details here.
Day Two of spring break:
  • essays graded: 0
  • chapbook review copies addressed & ready to ship: 10
  • copies ready to ship to buyers (thank you!) and entrants (thank you!): 15
  • new chapbook covers designed: 2
  • inches of new snow received: 0
  • hours till we finally get to see Avatar: 3
  • spending my Sunday as I choose for once: priceless

Friday, February 19, 2010


When you phoned I was far, and sleeping,
but they brought me the message and I ran,
I ran to the phone where you were,
you were speaking, we two were speaking,
when I ran back to the room I no longer
knew we would speak again. Twenty minutes
and I was gone, there was a plane,
and another, there was a friend who took
me to you, you were asleep. I didn't know
there was still any question, I only learned
later, everything later, weeks later I was
still frightened of all that I learned.
I swear though I knew it was there I scarcely
saw the hose taped to your mouth, its ridges
that breathed in case you did not; scarcely saw
the twin tubes coming out of your chest or
the blood running through them and into the pump
that returned to your wrist, quietly, steadily,
what belonged there. The slenderer tubes
that entered the side of your neck I scarcely
noticed; not the empty ones waiting for something
not needed, not the ones drawing fluids
from three labeled bags. They had washed you,
I barely noticed the yellow stains and the blood
that remained on your skin. They had cut you,
I did not see the bandages holding the length
of the chest, they lay where I should have been
lying, I did not understand. I did not see
the wounds on your side where some scalpel or saw
had been dropped or some heated or iced tool
had burned. The monitor's chiming ws nothing,
someone would come, they would turn it off.
The slash stapling the crease of your thigh was
nothing. When the nurse turned the white valve
near the collarbones' nest before opening one
on the wrist, there was not one cell of my body
that needed to understand. I barely felt the bars
where my hand fitted into your hand, the rail
that days afterward still tracked my cheek.
The urine that drained to the sack below us must
have been warm, I must have touched it, I should
have known it was warm wih your warmth but I did not.
I waited. I knew the sweetness I smelled
on your body was powder, was baby powder, I did
not understand, but I knew they had given you back
to this world for a second time and I waited
for you to agree. I waited for you to open your eyes,
a first time, another, another. I waited until
you were sure, until every part of you stayed.

:: Jane Hirshfield, in Five Points 1:3 (1997)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Two things that happen to be going on at the same time this week seem to have overlapped, at least emotionally, in my (what? mind? heart is more like it)--in me.

First, I've been making the rounds in my department, getting letters of recommendation lined up for the necessary and energy-consuming job application process. I'm currently in my third year of a one-year visiting contract: I love what I'm doing and where I'm working, but there's no hope of it becoming a permanent gig. Reality looms.

And second, I'm shooting PDF copies of a chapbook by one of our upcoming Seven Kitchens authors to a few folks who have generously agreed to write blurbs.

I know that writing a blurb is nothing like writing a letter of recommendation. I've done a few of both, though, and I can tell you that to me they feel much the same: in the end, I always feel that (a) I could have done a better job and (b) the friend/colleague/student should have picked someone else (because that someone else could have done a better job).

As for being on the receiving end, the truth is that I come unraveled when anyone says something truly thoughtful, positive, and supportive about my work. You might not think that a Leo should have such difficulty with praise, but I do. I lose it for a moment--a brief moment, like today when I saw the letter a generous colleague had written for me: I had myself a good, quick cry and then, with a scant ten minutes left to prepare for class, I pulled my act together like Mama Rose and threw myself into what I do, sometimes, almost as well as the man described in that letter.

As I said in a quick message to our author mentioned above, it's very good to have such good friends, mentors, colleagues. And I want to thank them--hers, mine, and yours--all of you out there, trying to do what we do as well as we can do it. My life has been so enriched, and I am truly grateful for every gesture, large and small, that all of you have made to help hold someone else up, keep someone going, keep someone teaching and trying and writing and growing.

Just that: one enormous thank you, too huge for me to accommodate in words (see above), but if I could--if I could stay conscious of this feeling and inhabit it with intention, maybe you might could imagine a thank you as constant and quiet and present as your next breath. And the next one. That's me, giving thanks. To you.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lone Star: all points done

I finished piecing the central star in R's Lone Star quilt a few days ago. I settled on a blue fabric for the setting pieces: a reproduction Lancaster blue that we got at the PA quilt show in Harrisburg a couple years ago. I'd been saving it--now I know for what.

Most of the setting pieces are attached to the central star now; I only need two squares and one half-square triangle. I'm paper-piecing these as well, and they're kind of floppy and ungainly to work with, but it seems the right approach since I'm butting them against rows of paper-pieced diamonds with the backing still intact and basically joining like parts together.

I pieced four small Lemoyne stars to center in the four setting squares, and have appliqued two of these in place so far. With any luck, I may get the other two finished this week and the three remaining blue pieces attached. At that point, I'll need to decide on borders. I'm thinking a triple border would look great. We'll see.

Here's the second small star I was appliqueing two nights ago; you can really see the Lancaster blue fabric too (I'll take pics of the whole top once it's ready for borders--soon, I hope):

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Click here to read a fine poem by Miriam Greenberg over at 42opus . . .

Classes started yesterday. I'm teaching three days a week instead of five--hooray--and hope to get some writing done at home on Tuesday mornings. Today I've been playing catch-up with the press. Trying to get completely back on schedule by the end of the month. It'll be tight, but I think we can do it.

We've been fortunate to have missed the heavy snows that socked so many others. I've warned my morning class to check the college's web page on rough weather days--I won't drive through that for a one-hour class--so of course they're probably rooting for heavy weather. Even in poor driving conditions, I think I can make the commute in time for my afternoon classes, though I'm still not crazy about being out in sleet or heavy snow. Of course this is all hypothetical so far--no actual winter storms yet. Even my holiday trip to Cincinnati went without delay. Lucky, lucky.

On Thursday, I'm attending an all-day workshop at the Writing Center at Bucknell, "Integrating Writing and Learning Across the Curriculum" with Katy Gottschalk and Keith Hjortshoj. Looking forward to that.

Over on Facebook, a recurring meme is making its rounds again: the one where you grab the nearest book, turn to page 54 and post the 5th sentence on the page. I'd forgotten how fun this random selection can be. Not exactly bibliomancy, but mild fun for anyone who loves language and accident's potential . . .

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Lone Star update

I took the Lone Star quilt top along to Cincinnati and was able to make some progress: three of the "arms" are finished now, and I've started "auditioning" background fabrics. A darker print seems appropriate--I had been thinking about blue, but this one looks nice:

The photo was taken with my cell phone, so the quality's not the best.