Saturday, November 30, 2013

Delicious, Argumentative

Image of the Day:  How the white throated nuthatches and grey tufted tit-mice fly into the feeder on my window, all sharp speed and grace. 

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Mine was delicious, argumentative, happy, painful and quick.

I have a poem here at Lyre Lyre.  I do not have a glass eyeball but I did have something, well, to me something similar that made me feel self-conscious and less than, if you know what I  mean.  It is weird how our bodies reveal stuff about ourselves, and yet sometimes it's our flaws that are the most revealing things of beauty.  (Of course here I am thinking of your flaws, not my flaws.)

From an interview with Valzhyna Mort:
                I always write in response to what I read. If I'm not reading anything, I won't be able to write anything. I've said that certain poets wound you, and so you keep on going after them, and because they have hurt you, only they have the power of healing you, and in that conversation, I think, you're able to find yourself, to restore yourself again.

From The Imagination, Drunk with Prohibitions by Joy Katz

Womanhood is more embarrassing than manhood.
If the woman is old, breakfast is hopeless.
If breakfast is brioche, it becomes less frightening.
Insouciant is more French than nuance,
disappointment more French than matinee,
London more suave than Paris.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Review of Donna Vorreyer's A House of Many Windows

In the recent issue of American Poetry Review, an article titled “Baby Poetics” ignited a fascinating discussion on Wom-po, the on-line list-serve for all things women and poetry.  Much of the conversation was an attempt at figuring out what the author, Joy Katz, was actually up to with her essay:  decrying poems that actually attempt to write about babies in them or pointing out the fear that women poets have in writing about such topics?  A complicated essay about a complicated subject.

Donna Vorreyer’s fascinating first collection of poetry, A House of Many Windows, addresses this important subject matter.  What is a woman in relationship to motherhood?  When does a mother become a mother?  How are we as women allowed to write about, or allowed to feel as mothers or as women who can’t or don’t become mothers?  And why exactly are these questions so deeply important?

One of my favorite of Vorreyer’s poems, “Billy Gets the Analogy All Wrong” speaks exactly to the necessity of asking these questions.  Billy Collins:  Poet Laureate, filler of poetry bookshelves in book stores across the country. Billy Collins, an actual name people can associate with poetry.  And here is what Billy Collins has written about women without children:  “a woman without children, a gate through which no one had entered the world.”  In her poem, Vorreyer closely examines that analogy and picks it apart, the idea that a woman is just some door to a hip bar or event, where “children / [are] waving twenties and straining / to catch their names on the list.”  But Vorreyer doesn’t just show us what we aren’t—more importantly, she shows us what we are:  “not the shuttered womb, / but the unlatched heart, wide open.” 

            The first section of Vorreyer’s book describes the attempts and failures of a woman trying to get pregnant and to stay pregnant, likening her body to a city, “waiting for the scaffolding to rise.”  Many of the titles are heartbreaking, alerting the reader to what occurs with an unflinching accuracy:  “Upon the Second Attempt, Whole Foods,” “After the Third Failure, Silence,”  “After the Sixth Failure, IKEA.”  Notice this movement of language from what are at first “attempts” to what becomes to be perceived as “failures.”  

            Throughout the book, the relationship between the woman and her husband are also detailed, and how this relationship is effected by the effort at pregnancy, which causes silence and strain between them, such as in the poem, “When I Don’t Love You Anymore is a Wasp.”  Here the speaker is struggling with quick momentary spurts of feelings that could be released through angry language, compared to a wasp, but is held back:  “She wants me to spit her with wild / velocity, stinger first, straight into your patient face.”  That word “patient” adds such an honesty to the speaker’s complexity of emotions in this poem. 

            Another, thoroughly heartbreaking poem, is “Still Tending Each Garden.”  Here, the speaker addresses her “tiny truth, my traveler.”  Having a miscarriage is such an emotionally challenging situation, where one is grieving for something unseen but yet known in a most intimate way. This poem is partly a list of things the speaker compares to her unborn child:


                        My grace note, my disembodied echo,

                        your hum rumbles through my limbs,

                        a melody unfinished, without a refrain.


                        Some days, I hear you, calling from

                        an unseen place in umbilical code,

                        my confidante, my secret semaphore.


Such tender grief. 

            The last section concerns itself with the adoption and subsequent trials and errors of becoming a mother. And in the prose poem, “How You Become A Mother,” it is clear that each way of becoming a mother is fraught with its own challenges and emotional difficulties:


You sit in the social worker’s office, and she asks you what sort of

child you would like to adopt.  The only answer you can think of

is human.  You have to write about your whole life, the

therapist’s foot tapping in time with her pen as she grills you

about  your parents, your childhood, your definition of family.

You have to circle yes or no on checklists:  would you adopt a

child without a limb?  With a heart condition?  You are a monster

whenever you circle no.


This first book of poems is a wonderful, truthful look at what issues are at stake for women and mothers.  It is an attempt to define what those words mean in the most honest way.  We need more books like this, written by women in the attempt to define ourselves since, as Vorreyer says in her poem, “Anatomy of A Day,” the miracle of our ourselves is “what our bodies hold.”


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

In The Quiet

Image of the Day:  Three large white swans flying low in the wild sky this morning.

On my commute today, I saw a deer in someone's back yard and slowed and the deer saw me and started running for the road and so I moved on but noticed a car behind me so I stopped so the car would stop but it just slowed and then the deer came flying across the road and I yelped but I think the one car didn't hit the deer. 

From Mary Ruefle's essay, "On Erasure":  "art--it is a private journey; we can be inspired and we can be influenced, but the predominant note of any journey must be found in the quiet unfolding of our own time on earth."

Poetry books I have purchased recently:  Canticle of the Night Path by Jennifer Atkinson
Hot Flash Sonnets by Moira Egan

I am also reading Donna Vorreyer's A House of Many Windows and getting ready to write a review of this fabulous book. 

A couple of acceptances recently. 

From Toad, by Diane Seuss

Do you ever 

wonder, in your heart of hearts, 

if God loves you, if the angels love you, 

scowling, holding their fiery swords, 

radiating green light? If your father 


loved you, if he had room to love you, 

given his poverty and suffering, or if 

a coldness had set in

Monday, November 4, 2013

Taken Aback

Image of the Day: The leaves are falling so slowly today, languidly, in this crystal cold air. 

The reading of The Mom Egg Review had a great turn-out.  Lots of people and lots of readers.  It was such a gorgeous day as well--with sunshine and warmth.  My friend Diane and I ate lunch at the little cafĂ© at the Arts Armory and enjoyed a reading of "Titus Andronicus" from a local theater group called  the Dead Actors or something like that.  When we first walked in we were a bit taken aback from the reading, but then it was really fun to listen to.  Titus is one of those Shakespeare plays I've heard about but never read. 

This is the week that my mom died seven years ago.  Hard to believe it's been seven years...and it's strange how one year it'll hit me much harder than other years.  Well, maybe not that strange. 

Anyway, one of my Lascaux poems got published recently and I thought I'd share it here, since it has my mother in it.  Sort of.

A Field Guide to Sorrows:  The Lascaux Woman

What else with my endless time but the gnarled naming.  I dislike this job sometimes so many sorrows in my mouth.  Little blue darlings.  I burst their skin under my canine teeth. He is so eager with his gifts of habitat of range.  Description:  Crunch of Eyes Turning Away.  Description:  just one more Slip on the Slick Ice of Remembering.  Description:  combination of the Sorrow of Sedum and the Sweet Smell of Damp Grass.  Description:  His Eyes become Small Sharp Flies.

Footprints from someone else and I was not well-furred for it.  The path was silent.  What did I think I would find, my dead mother asks me always from the caves of Lascaux she running with the  moon-soaked reindeer.  I sew my sorrows with needles carved from brittle bones of stars. 

Heron Tree

I have so enjoyed working as an editor for the Heron Tree volume 5 edition.  I learned so much from reading submitted poems!  And realized w...