Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The news today

I went to bed late last night before 1 a.m., before it was absolutely clear that there was no path to save us from a Trump presidency, though in my heavy heart I knew. Woke this morning at 6:30 to kiss my partner, wish him a safe day. Fell back into the covers and fitful sleep. 

So many friends have posted eloquently. Others just don't seem to understand the full gravity of what has been done to this nation. Others, abroad, are saying Wake up to the America we've always known: a sobering poke at our many levels of privilege. Another friend posted, urging us to use our privilege as leverage wherever we can to fight (again, but harder) injustice.

I work in retail. It barely pays the bills. I do not have the privilege of a comfortable income. I spend a large portion of my off hours running Seven Kitchens Press from my dining table, publishing work by a variety of poets, many of them queer. The press budget usually hovers somewhere around a hundred dollars: enough to make and mail out chapbooks at a measured pace--not as quickly as I'd like to, but steadily, steadily, for the past ten years. Effective immediately, I've decided to donate 10% of all chapbook sales to The Trevor Project. It's not much, but I can get by and I urgently feel the need to put some money behind my convictions. 

If you are in a position to do the same, please select a worthy cause that reflects your values and support them now. These next four years are going to hurt something awful.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Karin Gottshall | Almanac for the Sleepless

Almanac for the Sleepless: poems by Karin Gottshall (dancing girl press, 2012). Saddle-stapled chapbook, unpaginated (21 pages).

[I was at Vermont College with Karin a thousand thousand years ago, though she may count the time in mere decades. That said, we haven't really kept up and I consider this to be an objective reading of her chapbook.]

Karin's earlier chapbook, Flood Letters (Argos Books, 2011), is so gorgeous that I eagerly bought this one when I saw it in Kristy Bowen's catalog. (I'm a big fan of both presses.) I didn't really get into this one at first, but I kept it around, thinking, maybe it's me. The poems just felt too prosey and seemed to lack the surprising images, turns of language, and intensity that make Flood Letters so, so good. So I set this one down, started it again, set it aside again, and just the other day picked it up to finish.

And what a finish: the last two poems, "The Victorian Age" and "The Lake of the Valley," just vibrate with energy. The first buzzes with surprise in its accretion of like and unlike images and feels relentless and inevitable, yet completely original. "The Lake of the Valley" has a relentless quality, as well, but it's of the can't-look-away variety (a girl is drawing water from a well as a dam is opened to flood the valley) and concludes with a gorgeous, haunting image of girl suspended over well: gravity itself reversed, dreamlike and terrible/beautiful.

The other poems are interesting enough--I don't want to suggest less--but they lack, for me, the energy and intensity of these two, which absolutely make the chapbook worth reading (and I hope you do read it). I'm looking forward to finding more of Karin's work.

[rebound with orange cord]

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Nature break

White Oak estimated to be 550 years old, one of the "Three Sisters" at Sugarcreek Metropark near Bellbrook, Ohio. We had a nice long trail walk there today.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Quick check-in

Coffee and chapbooking and work, work, work. I found a typo at the last possible moment in JS's chapbook, so naturally I took apart the copies I'd already made and replaced the pages with corrected sheets. Which has delayed sending out orders because I'm always at my day job. Who was it that said No good deed goes unpunished? (My dad said it a few times.)

Two nights ago I chopped up the tomato plant, unthreaded it from the balcony, and tossed the branches into the brush below and behind our apartment building. Infested with mealybugs, it had pretty much stopped producing, and I know from experience that no matter how thoroughly I clean any plants or cuttings as I bring them inside this month, they'll likely end up with the same critter infestation.

I wanted to start new arugula seeds and maybe some other greens, see what kind of fall crop I can grow on the balcony. Some of the plantings did well; others languished. It comes down to light: there's just not enough on this side of the building, especially with the treeline so close. That the tomato bore at all was a surprise. But the peppermint cascading from its planter, and the bushy rosemary, hung from a bucket on the outside of the railing, both did quite well, as did the jalapenos. Not much room for any other sun-loving plants, though. I'm going to scale back next spring.

Ack. Time to get ready for the day job--

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Night of the living dead

parasitized hornworm on jalapeno leaf.
Home just before 10 and out to the deck to water plants. My zephyranthes (rain lilies) are really starting to bloom, but it's too dark to get a good photo. Found this critter on a jalapeno leaf and brought it inside to get a closeup. I think I'll call it Sebastian: a parasitized hornworm. All those little white rice-sized bits are wasp eggs, each a dart piercing this poor dude. They're feeding on the caterpillar. I imagine the larvae swimming through his internal goo to emerge from his eyes or forehead, but I really don't know the specifics. Nature can be such good, creepy fun.

I saw on Facebook this morning that Edward Albee has died (yesterday). This makes me so sad: he was such a brilliant writer. I enrolled in his playwriting course years ago at the University of Houston, and used to see Mr. Albee on campus--he was always friendly, genial, warmly encouraging of my writing (my application portfolio was poems, and when I learned that he had, early on, tried to be a poet, I was pretty smitten by the notion that I, too, might write plays someday). In class, he could be a bit chatty, but who didn't want to hear stories about John Gielgud and Irene Worth in Tiny Alice? I stupidly hoped he might live and write forever.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


An hour and twenty minutes to get home after getting mired in some inexplicable traffic snafu down in Loveland, a sleepy river town that's sold out to monstrous development in the past couple of years. Anyway. I needed to cut through Loveland to get out to my grandmother's old farmhouse, where one surviving cat still lives in the tall weeds and scrub, presumably supplementing its diet on various rodents and birds, but my sister--my dear, huge-hearted sister--insists on driving down the rutted gravel lane to regularly feed the cat. So I tried to get there. Through Loveland. And failed. And my turnaround and attempted rerouting took almost as long as the slow, gluetrappy immersion into the clusterfuck that had one car getting through a green light every two light changes. Oh, god, listen to me, such first world problems, boo hoo; I used to live in Houston, Houston, where a 90-minute commute to cover a scant 8 miles on the freeway was the daily penance for living so close to downtown. Still. I wanted to step out of the car and bash my head open on the nearest limestone outcropping. I do not do traffic well. As long as it's moving, even creeping, I'm fine. But standing still in traffic feels like being stuck in a hot creaky elevator, but the elevator is my spine, or maybe my throat, and I can't breathe, can't relax, hate feeling corralled--

So: Happy 8-month anniversary to my dear Taylor. I've calmed down by listening to some old Indigo Girls CDs and watering the plants out on the patio. Now we can go out to a nice dinner and celebrate.

Oh, yeah: he is driving.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Divorce Suite | Jose Angel Araguz

The Divorce Suite: poems by Jose Angel Araguz (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2016). Hand-tied chapbook, 40 pages.

Jose's work just keeps getting better. I was initially surprised to see this chapbook divided into so many sections (4), but they work. And as with the previous chapbooks, I found myself copying lines into my journal to contemplate further ("a fire striking itself alive"), ("He had a swagger talking to me then, as if on a dare to himself"), (about the pale band left when a ring is removed: "I had to wait it out"), ("marriage a thing that can disappear / like salt tossed in a broth"). I'll be re-reading this one for a good while.

[originally posted to Goodreads on August 24, 2016]


Second harvest from the one cayenne plant on the balcony: it's already set about a dozen new green peppers since I picked the first batch of 30 in August; I'm hoping for one more flush of bloom and a final crop to set now that I've "relieved" the plant of all this seed-setting fruit. We'll see. But it's been quite a bountiful reward in return for a simple daily watering. (Cayenne you say hot peppers?)

Also potted up the slip of willow I cut from my sister's tree last month and rooted in a bottle of water --her tree planted three or four years ago from a slip of my own willow back in Lewisburg: clone of a clone of a clone.

Spent most of yesterday printing and folding page sets, then T and I visited Mom and went out to dinner. Nice to take a break. Nice to see them getting along. What I mean is that I'm grateful that my mother sees me happy with my partner, with someone I did not expect to come into my (mid)life.

Working today to get those page sets trimmed and sewn: all for Liz Ahl's chapbook launch on Thursday, with enough left over--I think--to fill remaining orders. Then back to filling out orders for Alison's and Eric's chapbooks, and finishing proof corrections for three of the four Summer Kitchens titles, which are fixing to drop this coming week; the final title will be out as soon as I can.

All chapbooks. All the time. With a smidge of gardening wedged in here and there. As summer rolls inevitably to its close.

Friday, September 09, 2016


I found one of the jalapeno plants nearly defoliated the other night: here is the munching culprit. I'm amazed that such critters find their way to our second-floor balcony. I watched this eating machine take out half a leaf in the space of a few minutes, chomping at a constant pace, row after row of bites--it made me think of a typewriter, of all things, erasing a page. I couldn't bring myself to dislodge the glutton with my finger--that single daunting thorny bit on the tail end--and so clipped the branch entire, and dropped it, muncher still munching, or perhaps pausing to consider the sensation of its sudden rushing descent to the lawn below. I wonder if it managed to find cover and food in the scraggly treeline 20 feet behind our building.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Hollywood Starlet | Ivy Alvarez

Hollywood Starlet: poems by Ivy Alvarez (dancing girl press, 2015). Saddle-stapled, unpaginated.

These poems read to me like broken sonnets: there's a recursive quality to their sound and structure, just enough slant rhyme to hint at threads of formality trailing through the poems like a trodden hem. I read this in my car on lunch break, then again at home, then again at bedtime. Familiar snippets of biography and legend, artfully lineated with close attention to voice and portraiture, plus just enough surprising imagery, all structured with a kind of ghostly, shattered formality: I really enjoyed this chapbook.

Some excerpts:

There'll be no ovation. There's hardly a road. / Home is a distant thought, hovering on a squall. ("What Ingrid Bergman Wanted")

Under the bridge, a dim lagoon. / Slow notes from a saxophone / glow in the trees. The pool / becomes a black sky, fallen leaves collapsed stars. ("What Ava Gardner Delivered")

tender leaves to sting the tongue / to wonder, a mouthful of silence ("What Jayne Mansfield Had")

[Rebound with variegated rose-red cord.]

Monday, September 05, 2016

Nearly everybody's in the kitchen

Nearly everybody's in the kitchen
gathered around the island
where pitchers of sangria
and platters of pot-stickers
refill and multiply as in a parable.
:: Liz Ahl, "Life of the Party" (from Home Economics)

Thursday, September 01, 2016


Several of my 7KP authors have indicated that they will be attending the AWP conference in DC this February, and I'm trying to work out a way to get the press there--sharing a book table, setting up an offsite reading. The cost of the conference registration itself is daunting. I had a couple hundred dollars set back from chapbook sales this summer but that has gone for production and mailing costs. It's easy to imagine that the logistics would be simpler if I were still teaching--AWP is even offering free registration to adjuncts, for example, who volunteer four hours (or so I hear). But my connections are tenuous and outdated. If anyone out there knows anyone out there who might help me pull this into an actual, workable plan, I'm all ears.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


So, instead of writing a new post, as I sat down to do, I've spent the better part of an hour clicking and updating my links section. Dead links are gone. Some blogs, though not current, remain because maybe, like me, their writers are doing other things right now but may return to blogging. I hope so. Oh, and I started a new poem based on a line from a poem by Jose Angel Araguz, from his new chapbook The Divorce Suite. When I'm not writing poems, it seems that often the way back to them is to use this springboard technique, getting a running start with another's language or image.  

Very excited to be meeting up with Jose this Thursday: coffee in Clifton, my old hangout from so many years ago. 

Edie (Whispering): Poems from Grey Gardens | Sarah Nichols

Edie (Whispering): Poems from Grey Gardens, by Sarah Nichols (dancing girl press, 2015). Saddle-stapled, unpaginated.

Transcript excerpts set into brief poems. If you're a fan of Grey Gardens (any version), you'd likely expect these poems to add some layer, however thin (it is a spare chapbook), to the Big Edie-Little Edie spectacle. I can't really say that's true of this collection, though it's nice to read some of my favorite quotes from the documentary. If you've never seen the films or play, this might be a good invitation to do so.

[Rebound with size 10 plum variegated cord.]

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Caught on a line: Christina Hutchins

Here are lines from Christina Hutchins' chapbook, Radiantly We Inhabit the Air, that I copied today into my journal as part of my ongoing project to write a poem that arises from every 7KP chapbook I've published. Several poems from this project appeared in issue 14 of Assaracus (Joy Exhaustible: Assaracus Presents the Publishers). My thanks to Bryan and Seth for reaching out to me for some poems; their encouragement convinced me that this project is worth pursuing.

Language has lingered into slow scents
-          “Between Pages of Our Dictionary”

A joyful dog barked the letters of foul words.
-          “The Music Inside”

Hairs, collected and abandoned, line the inner nests/ of unknown birds
-          “The Music Inside”

before even I was plated with a name
-          “Interregnum”

yet I craved the broken levee
-          “Interregnum”

a day already underway
-          “Interregnum”

I stole a fingernail of brick
-          “A Traveler Is Met by Touch”

there is nowhere loss will refuse/ to take us
-          “A Way Back to Life”

          I listened again to the troubles of the creek

-          “Turnstile”

Mountain of work

Wednesday. My day off. I had originally planned to visit Mom so we could try making quilt squares using the new method that LW posted online, but Mom has a bad sinus infection running into its second week now and was finally able to move her Friday appointment to today. And I am so far behind with the press, I don’t know how to catch up:
·         25 copies for T
·         23 copies for E
·         35 copies of L’s new chap, which should have dropped today
·         proofs to set for K and D
·         15 copies ASAP to A
·         many orders to fill
·         finish Ploughshares interview questions
·         get E’s proof out to her

And laundry. And bills. And throwing everything into the crockpot for tonight’s dinner. I slept till 9:30 and went out for a quick breakfast because I need time to think and write, “me” time, if only for an hour, before tackling a mountain of work I can’t possibly finish today.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

In haste

Wednesday. Hastily assembled a third proof copy for L and shipped it off—express mail, for $23—then treated myself to breakfast. My only day off in a week; the bonus is that I get overtime but the toll is that I was too tired to stay awake after T and I went to bed. 

God bless the animated old lady two booths away, her quavering lively voice at shouting level as she recounts her travel adventures. And someone please bring her food so she will shut up and eat.

N posted on FB a few days back a photo of his new chapbook from _____ Press, and when I clicked the link—interesting cover, hand-tied chap—I thought hmm, why haven’t I bought anything from them before? Then I scrolled through several pages and remembered: their chapbooks look pretty horrible: awful font choices and designs, no consistency. The only other title I wanted to order is by R (one of my authors). 

N's chapbook arrived yesterday and looks good, well-made, but with an odd white border (the cover is not full-bleed), about an eighth-inch wide, that I immediately wanted to trim off. Otherwise it’s quite nicely made. Congrats to N. I don’t know when I’ll have time to read it.

Today: dishes, while I put together the Summer Kitchen proofs to mail out tomorrow. And I need to get D’s proof together ASAP. I owe about fifty author copies right now, and maybe 35 orders need to be filled. Ack.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Nothing to say

So D asked, and, grateful to be asked, I said yes but thought immediately that I have nothing to share because I write so little these days. I don’t have any advice except the obvious: keep doing what works. I work in retail now, far from academia, far from colleagues who might drop by to discuss what we’re writing or reading. Has social media become my literary lifeline? A couple of years ago, I wrote 28 poems during April, and almost every poem was started in my car. Three decades ago, I went to my department chair (I was an academic administrator) and asked for writing time; he gave me a key to a windowless office with an electric typewriter, and there I composed poems on my lunch hour. It can be done.

Much of my free time is spent promoting, as much as I’m able, the work of others. Does editing and publishing prevent me from writing? I don’t think of these evenings as lost opportunities—I love working on chapbooks—but I definitely fantasize about a room without internet where I might escape long enough to finish my next book (or maybe just a poem or two).

I’m writing this at my old desk, a work table in the corner of the bedroom, the quietest spot in the apartment. The spider plant I started from two pinched cuttings has just this week sent out its first offshoot, a slender wiry arm with tiny leaves unfolding at the tip. 35 years ago a student intern told me the plant’s Spanish name was mala madre—because they throw away their young—and I grabbed that name to use in a poem. Once a man I went home with told me the secret to growing spider plants was to pinch off all those shoots, redirect the energy into the main stalk. But the new plants, if left to develop, are still attached to the mother plant; they’re not so much orphans as literal offshoots. Clones. Am I writing the same poem? Am I too attached to them? Is that why I’ve stopped? If I don’t get the poem out, do I reabsorb its potential?

Monday, January 04, 2016

Dream inside the dream

But then he was with me, alive and sweet, apologetic for having died but he kept reassuring me that it hadn’t been my fault, that we could be happy now together. We were opening all the boxes I’d packed away, finding books, finding shirts wrapped around vases—There’s my summer shirt!—laughing in love and disbelief, the nagging undercurrent: how can we manage this, how can we make this work when it’s not real, but it is real, he’s right here, he came back to me; it’s not like last time when I would dream of David coming back, disappointed and upset that I’d sold so much of his furniture (even though he’d told me to do that if I had to, and I had to, I had to get out of that house and start again somewhere), it’s not like that at all, and I’m marveling at our luck, and I’m worrying about Sadie but he says she’s fine, she stays with another couple sometimes, two women who love her and feed her, she’s happy with them; we’re in the back yard and it’s fall, the garden has come in, still so many tomatoes, the kale is tremendous and his truck, his red truck is parked beneath a towering arbor of scuppernong grapes, they’ve fallen and pelted the truck, they’ve stained it, they’ve covered it, I’m laughing and wiping mashed grapes from the hood, What are we going to do with these?, and I swipe the windshield and there, inside, in the passenger seat, is his body, his face turned away, his skin old newspaper, his arms locked around an old duffel, I’m so sorry, I’m moaning, I’m crying on a bed in an old hotel, it’s Puebla, the door is open and someone is across the hall—is it Lois? Is it Wendy?—and I wail facedown into the pillows, half-smothering, and then Sadie is in the room, she’s licking my elbow, shoveling her sweet face under my arm, get up, Daddy, get up.