Thursday, October 8, 2015

Permanently Change

Image of the Day:  Bluejays and tufted titmice squawking at something (I'm assuming a hawk) on my way to the cafĂ© here on campus; on the way back, total silence, the birds gone.

So I have a poem here at Amethyst Arsenic you can read.  Funny story:  The title for this poem is actually the title to a different poem.  I emailed the editors if they could change it, totally panicked at the mistake--and they said they would, but I know life gets busy and they haven't yet.  And now I kind of like this title better than the original title.  I may permanently change it.

From Anne Truitt, in her memoir Prospect:  "We can understand what it is to be human only to the degree that we are willing to endure all that it is to be human" (64). 

"Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself" --I had misread that as empathy is finding echoes of yourself in another person when I first read this.  (Mohsin Hamid in Poets and Writers Sept/Oct 2015 in "The Time Is Now" column.)


Finally, the body is littered with landscapes,
the brain all map and diligent chart.

The three-story row houses line up like memories
over the barbershops and the gas station
along a street grooved with trolley tracks.

A town at the center of a stubbled cornfield
blinks under an unnecessary stoplight,
waits in bone for the winds to come at dark.

There are two lakes breathing in the chest,
one north and large, the other south and smaller,
freezing over each year, but still breathing,

the avenues rough with fleets of gypsy cabs,
the bus idling in front of the YMCA,
the national road with its angry pickup trucks.

There is so much soil in the creases of the skin,
feet black with asphalt, toughened by brown glass.

Finally, the wanderer will settle into one place,
laying the back's weight on the pavement.

The world will take root—
the world will be buried in that place.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Mess, Spilled

Image of the Day:  some bird in the deep woods, calling, calling.

Dreams:  We had forgotten to have someone come into our house while we're away and take care of our pet monkey.  So I leave early--a campground?--and go home and the fridge is a mess, spilled pasta all over the place.  I can't find the monkey and am super trepidatious.... (We do not own a pet monkey, fyi.)

From an interview with Rachel Eliza Griffiths in the recent American Poetry Review:
"Creatively, I had to let go of trying to control myself on the page.  And to give up any attempts to control other people's experience of me" (18).

From Women of Will:  Following the Feminine in Shakespeare's Plays by Tina Packer:
"[Shakespeare] was an artist, and as with all artists, the conflicts they hold beg for attention, so they can be examined, perceived, made whole, made use of"(43). 

I had deja vu when I read this poem and I don't know why...

In the Home for Elderly Vehicular Manslaughterers by the Sea
The guilt, like the sand, is in everything,
being so near, as they are, to the ocean,
being so close, as they were, to the end
of their lives, before they took the lives
they took. Someone should have taken
the keys away. In many cases, they tried—
but the old, mottled, gnarled knuckles
clenched, closing reflexively around
that silver promise, its heft, its glinting
mountainous teeth. And they held on to it.
Now the guilt, like the sand, is on their hands
and on their lips. It's the grit in the food
they can't eat. Lucky the demented ones,
with no idea, no memory, blithely chewing.

Paul Hostovsky

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Image of the Day:  Teeny tiny toad leaping across the road.

Hej Hej!  That's Swedish for hello! Hello!  My family and I took a trip to Sweden a couple of weeks ago and it was so gorgeous.  We stayed on the Island of Vaxholm and took ferry rides out to different islands and to Stockholm.  (I discovered that Sweden has an archipelago several years ago when my boss visited there.)  The shoreline and coast of Vaxholm was so similar to the coast line of Maine it was like I was visiting home.  I definitely could live there.  The Swedish people know their boats--we took a rented boat ride around the island by Beorn who built his own steam boat from mahogany wood and Siberian larch.  It had the feel of a train.  We ate lots of silky salmon and herring, pickled and fresh.  The fresh was so good--I'm on a quest to find local herring and make my own sauces for it.  I also purchased a rolling pin to make knickebrod--the crispy rye bread that went with everything. 

The flight home was fine but eight hours--lots of movie watching.  I got a strange sort of domestic surge when I got home--cleaning out pantry cupboards and canning blueberry conserve, peach jam and chutney.  The chutney didn't work out though and I had to ultimately toss it--after making three attempts to adjust the recipe and get it taste of something other than mustard seed and vinegar.  Maybe next year I'll try chutney again. I did manage to make some yummy gravlax:  cured salmon in my own fridge.  Here's an open face sandwich on my regular homemade bread.  It was yummy!

My son and I tried to memorize this Swedish poem before we went over.  You can listen to it here.  I translated it when I was doing my translation seminar.  Here is my translation: 


The little pink buds
contract in my head

I see out, it is hushed

dark whispering sounds come
my tongue buried under stone

my head finds no rest
even when the tongue was sliced from its cords

the voice was left inside
how could my head find rest

lilac-blue was the weft woven round me
hear, how sound
varies        it is a voice that lifts you

my tongue is buried, my ear shouts
my robe has gone, my head sings

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Image of the Day:  The electric hum of the hummingbird's flight toward the feeder.

It is a beautiful day:  no humidity finally, a slight breeze to keep the mosquitoes off--not to mention the evil horseflies--and the sun.

I have a poem here in Radar Poetry you can read and listen to.  I have been submitting more this year, it seems to me, than other years.  But my poetry output seems slower or more erratic.  It seems like how I write poetry is dependent on so many things that I'm not sure I can control:  time, mainly, and the right sort of combinations of ideas, prompts, etc.  My manuscript was a finalist in two contests and also a semifinalist, so there's that hopefulness that keeps me submitting that thing. 

I'm reading The Sunlit Night.  I've read Dear Committee Members which was fun but definitely not a second read type of book.  I also read for the very first time To Kill a Mockingbird, with all the attending hoopla about Harper Lee's second book coming out. 

I also have received some amazing poetry books from Facebook friends:  Donna Vorreyer's beautiful Encantado, Margaret Bashaar's Stationed Near the Gateway, and Ruth Foley's Creature Feature. 
I've also been able to up my subscriptions to magazines this year, and check out new journals like Atlas Review and Crazyhorse. 


                    To put the moon back in a song. To put back the sun
                    And the stars. To loosen a little the air from the ether.
                  To let the grass keep in thin shadows secret its secret love.
                                      To keep the roots dark. Nothing
                  Hasn't had enough of fear. Wants fear a little more wild.
      To the deaf ear and the wheat ear that cannot not hear the covering pall
Cover up the moon. Find some song like a coin lost in the grass. Give it a home.

Dan Beachy-Quick

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Turned Tender

Image of the Day:  The whole world turned tender and greening.

I have a poem here at the gorgeous DMQ Review. That artwork!
Happy to share poetry space with Sarah J. Sloat and her two gorgeous poems

I am still slowly clambering out of this past winter's wreckage. 

Laura Van Prooyen
Understand, this is a story. You are gone
and I am home. The viburnum is in bloom.

A convertible speeds past with the top down.
Wait. Back up. The neighbor invites me

for a ride on his bike. I think yes. I say no.
Our daughters hear me and laugh. In this story,

we have no daughters. You are a stranger
and I am the girl. This is the beginning.

You refill, again and again, my drink. We walk
for hours past row houses. We don't know

where we are. This is the part where I should be scared.
I'm not. This is the part where you tell me

I'm beautiful, and I believe you. Where you press
my thigh to your hip. I wipe the rain

from your lenses like a mother, then
you resist me. You didn't count on the rain.

Or the girl who falls, so quickly, for the stranger
every time. Understand, the plot

doesn't matter. Only the peak. In this story, you
are gone a long time. I get a kitten.

It grows. I don't know viburnum from a child's
pale palm. I refill, again and again, my drink.

This is the beginning. I take off your glasses and lift
my skirt. I don't know you, but tell you: resist.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Descriptions of the Endless

Image of the Day:  How you can somehow internally feel the snow melting slowly, hear the birds singing new spring songs, and bask as the sun burnishes snow banks.

What I'm reading:  Women, The New York School, and Other True Abstractions by Maggie Nelson.  Nelson, who wrote Bluets which was so incredible.  This book is just as incredible:  Her study on the painter Joan Mitchell, who said, "I want to paint the feeling of a space," and also, "painting never ends, it is the only thing in the world which is both continuous and still" (20 and 22 respectively). 

What I'm writing:  in my journal, descriptions of the endless snow and its endless changing. 

How I'm feeling:  sore throat, stuffy head, snot-filled nose. 

What I'm waiting for:  next week, on Spring Break!!!

What I'm gonna do on said Spring Break:  create my own writing residency....

What bird I recently saw:  Bufflehead merganser.

What poem to read:

Child of a lighthouse keeper and a firewatch,
conceived in a wordless encounter
at a rest stop—

1 part flywheel, 8 parts resraint—

luminous with near-disaster,

says, Don't try to mirror this

 world of nothing-is-as-it-seems.

Set down no word. Says, by means

 of a searching pause

 I mistake for an intimate nod,

 Step inside the caution tape.

Naomi Mulvihill

Saturday, February 7, 2015

To Land In

Image of the Day:  Small snowflakes sifting down, each one looking hesitant to land in such a snowscape.

Sometimes I am really surprised when a journal accepts one poem out of all the other ones I send in a submission packet that I think will fit, based on my reading and research. 
For example, I have a poem in the recent issue of Harpur Palate.  This was the first time I had ever sent to them.  They accepted my poem "Her Pregnancy Dreams."  And I thought to myself, what resonated about that poem for the editors? Why choose that one? I mean, I like that poem, but you never know. I just got my contributor's copy yesterday in the mail, and after reading through it, I can understand.
Somehow a theme must have started to coalesce from all the submissions they received, and from the first poems that they wanted to accept.  Themes of motherhood, dreams, and water images.  I'm sure from an editor's point of view, that must seem so cool, as if that particular issue was meant to be.  And of course I'm always happy/relieved/surprised that my way of thinking about things--or in this case--dreaming about things, is in fact not so weird.  That other people think about them too. So in this particular case, for this particular poem, I am enormously lucky.  Some journals announce a theme and that's always fun to submit to, but some journals let it happen serendipitously. It's a lot of fun to be involved when that happens. 
And so I need to remember to try and tell myself to just submit the poems I have.  Cause who knows?

The Other Side of the Argument
But she prefers the morning glory,
How slowly its bloom unfurls,
How its curl of vine
Catches the flaw in masonry
First, then the crosshatch
Of kite string we hung
From the porch
As a makeshift trellis,
How it needs only a foothold
To fill half the day with blue.

Eric Pankey