Sunday, December 12, 2010

I AM MYSELF BUT NO ONE KNOWS

I am determined to post something here, tonight, and hopefully sometime soon afterward, before December is over. November (and December, really) have been a rough couple of months. I don't want to sound pathetic, but I sort of am: my father died four weeks ago, and since then I've been flying between Washington and Colorado, or playing catch up with my classes as the semester winds down. I complain, knowing full well that my two sisters back home are bearing the burden of settling Dad's affairs.

I could already say so much about losing my father, but the words start to bob up and down on the page (and in my head), a sloshy muck of doubt, of misunderstanding, whenever I try to tackle my emotions in writing. If anything, this is one of those life experiences that has pushed my poetry writing even further away from myself, in a way I'm not sure I like. I'm swimming further and further away from that tendency to "deal with" my own emotions in my poems. Someone else experiencing grief in my poem? Fine. War? Mental illness? Loss? Sure, anyone's but mine. Granted, poems aren't meant to "deal with" the poet's feelings. However, I've seen so many students lately who do it unabashedly, who struggle and fail and succeed and crave putting themselves on the chopping block that is a poem. It's brave. In the end, there are so many female poets out there that do it so well, so honestly; maybe I'm okay with standing back in awe for now.

For what it's worth, I don't feel as if I'm hiding from my emotions in "real life". But in writing? You bet I'm hiding. It's more fun.

A few days ago, I sent out a text message to a couple different writers saying that I was going to go sit in a cafe and write for a while, and I'd love it if they joined me. It turned into a group of four creative writers, Rebekah Harden, Tim Christian, Michael Ferguson and myself, sitting for close to three hours in Old Colorado City with our pens and paper and laptops. I mentioned something to Tim about how so many people write themselves into their poetry hoping no one notices the lack of "leaping", hoping they won't have to put themselves in a completely new, scary, bizarre, perhaps unhealthy, surreal, funky, experimental-type pair of shoes. Tim said I should be myself in a poem, only with a mustache so no one would know it was me.

So I wrote this poem. And I'm in it, with a mustache, but these aren't really my parents. And I don't know how to iron pants.

Night, all! And here's to a peaceful Advent.

(poem temporarily hidden!)

...



Friday, November 12, 2010

PERHAPS I AM THE JUNKYARD DOG

I can't believe I didn't notice that I'd gone nearly a month without posting a poem. Jeez. I've actually been surprisingly productive for this time of year-- buried in midterms and first drafts of final essays, and I'm still finding time to write my own stuff. More to come this month, hopefully!

(poem temporarily hidden!)

...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

MY AWESOME INTRO-TO-LIT CLASS

I really shouldn't be playing with poetry right now; I should be grading. Serious. The stack is off the chain, at least five inches high.

But I had to show everyone this great surrealism exercise my Intro to Lit class did on Tuesday. We were starting a poetry unit and discussing Andre Breton's "founding" of surrealism when I decided to try out an exercise from the text. In the last ten-ish minutes of class, each student wrote one line of verse on a page, folded over their line so the next student couldn't see it, then passed it on. I collected the sheet before we dispersed (we HAUL out of there at 9:45am, most of us caffeine-starved and desperate) and I typed up the results last night. Tom was in the other room watching Mythbusters and having a scotch. I really wanted to join him. But once that poem came together on my screen-- I didn't change the order at all, only small additions of punctuation-- I couldn't stop reading it. I was proud of this group working together. The musicality of the second section is lovely, and the last line of the first section makes you re-read the entire piece differently.

I'm failing to mention that this group has some awesome in-class discussions. They aren't afraid to ask questions, and even though some of them are new to poetry, each of them appears to enjoy it. So, when I presented them with a handout of their collaborative work, their first question, naturally, was "Where should we publish it?"

Enjoy!


Intro to Surrealism: A Collaborative Poem (Lit 115)

1.
I'm drowning in a sea of doubt,
(if nothing at all, don't let yourself fall)
the everlasting grip of a daughter's hug,
over, under, around and through the hoops we wander.
Red roses fall from above.
Walking along the crooked path
a man strode down the road.
Drift on the ocean,
and the leaves finally fall to the ground.
I love dogs the same.

2.
I woke up this morning hungry and thinking,
when the sun is setting for some it is rising for one.
How now, brown cow. How now, brown cow.
The sun shines brightly through the window
and the waterfalls cry from the mountains.
Yesterday I found a horse who didn't want to play.
Swiftly, take me away! Into the night!
Random thoughts and hampered iron dens atop the troughs of lending pens,
I'll be in outer space, but I got inner peace, to say the least.


...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

AUTHORFEST OF THE ROCKIES

A friend of mine was kind enough to give me a free ticket to this year's Authorfest of the Rockies, an annual conference hosted at the Cliff House in Manitou Springs. So, off I went, to break up my day of grading. I sat in on a craft talk held by Art Goodtimes and Rosemerry Trommer, and Rosemerry had several three minute prompts for the audience to do while we picked up the discussion on writing and discovery. I thought I'd share my poem from one of those prompts, mostly so I could tell you how fantastic Rosemerry is (and Art! though I didn't get to chat with him as much), how tuned in to discovery, intellect, theory, and spirituality she is (or, at least, that's my opinion after a forty-five minute discussion). And the Sanskrit she chanted at the beginning? She's even got a lovely voice. The whole package. Check out their stuff.


Anyway. The group was prompted by the first line of Cavafy's "Ithaca" (which reads "When you set out on your journey to Ithaca..."). Art and Rosemerry both the read the piece to us, lending it two contrasting personalities. Rosemerry's was artistically cautionary and full of awe (you better see all the beauty) and Art's was excited and almost shocked (dude! you've GOT to see all this beauty!).


We had three minutes to write, something I think I'll use in the future; by having such a small amount of time, your mind doesn't focus on its familiar, favorite obstacles. It gets to the point. Also, it lets you get more done, which means you can go home with a notebook full of possibilities. Go!



JOURNEY TO ITHACA: SOME EXTRA ADVICE


Men, do not bother packing extra clothes.

You will not wear even your traveling gear long,

nymphs line the path like lanterns

with no one to chase their gold shadows.


Women, wear all the clothes you own in layers.

Unfastening one button pulling one string

can mean the difference between drowning

and crossing the flood on the shoulders of a Cyclops.



...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

BONE BIRDS, MUSCLE BIRDS

So, as I write this, Tom is somewhere in the sky between Baghdad and Kuwait, starting his long journey home for a short two weeks of much-needed R&R. I plan on spending the bulk of that time lounging with him at the spa, wandering through Denver, celebrating his birthday, and catching up.

For now, I'm sitting across from a stack of papers and stories (about, oh, four inches high) waiting to be graded. If I'm going to take next week off, I've got hours and hours of tedious work ahead of me, much like Tom, who can only travel one mile at a time.

I started thinking about my Advanced Writing independent study student this semester, with whom I've been meeting each Wednesday morning at a coffee shop just seven blocks from my house (a perfect little morning walk). For two hours, we discuss her assigned readings from texts by Richard Hugo, Ursula LeGuin, Constance Hale, Jerome Stern, and the occasional Natalie Goldberg. I listen as she reads her writing assignments aloud, more often than not noticing areas to focus on before I do, and tolerating my chants of "again!" after each piece.

This week, we focused on the sound of words in both poetry and prose, but we mainly focused on Roethke's poetry-- a subject inspired by Richard Hugo's fourth chapter from Triggering Town called "Stray Thoughts on Roethke and Teaching." (When we move further from prose into poetry, I'm busting out the big, fun guns like Steven Dobyns and Robert Pinsky.) We studied three poems from a collection of Roethke's work and noted how each piece moved up and down the scales of vowels and consonants, according to mood, to produce dynamic tones and evocative emotional responses. (Seriously. Read these poems aloud: "Orchids", "Child on Top of a Greenhouse", and "Cuttings (later)". Tell me it isn't singing for people who can't sing.) We also discussed Hugo's (and Roethke's) philosophy on not focusing too hard on publication or making a poem what it might not be. I am a particular fan of adding one of Hugo's rules to every exercise: "The poem must be meaningless" (Triggering Town, 30). By concentrating on the words (and all the "little things") the bigger picture comes together naturally, somewhere in our periphery, where we might not notice it at all until the piece is as complete as we want it.

Finally, we ended our session with an exercise I came up with after reading Ursula LeGuin's short chapter from Searoad titled "Foam Women, Rain Women" (a piece I recently assigned to my Intro to Lit class for rhetorical analysis as a short story, which went over much better than I expected). I asked for two nouns. Then we put the word "women" after each of them. Then we wrote a poem or short scene using that line as a title. Ten minutes. Even though LeGuin's "Foam Women, Rain Women" is more about how water comes in as many forms as women seem to, I wanted to play with the limits of a good title, the words for what they are: just words. My student chose the nouns: "drum" and "kettle". And off we went to write our versions of "Drum Women, Kettle Women".

My student's poem was worth revising this week; my poem was crap. However, later on that day, I tried again. This time, I chose "bone" and "muscle" for my nouns, and I decided to push a little further away from LeGuin by using "birds" instead of "women". The format is still entirely hers. But, as I sit here avoiding my papers-to-be-graded, hoping Tom will make it to Germany and eventually the states safely, I realize I can barely collect my thoughts well enough to come up with an exercise, let alone a format of my own. I feel as if I've been rushing around these past few weeks, filling in the blanks, everywhere, and I'll continue to do so for the next two(ish) days.

Here she be. Thanks for reading!

BONE BIRDS, MUSCLE BIRDS


Bone birds are so white they’re colorless,

self-starved, ugly, limbs held together with ribbons

of skin like tape, they’ll crack your binoculars.

Sometimes there’s a dead one on the sidewalk,

run over, no blood trail. Bone birds just snap

like bubble wrap and they’re gone, icy beaks cracked

wide open, wings drawn up like sails.


Muscle birds live for the silvery bath water

beneath the laundry line outside and swell like sponges,

absorbing, sucking, voices sweetened by sugar water,

honey, crumbs from last night’s spongecake thrown out

then resurrected. Muscle birds are mostly blue or violet but

my dad’s dad saw a red one on Christmas once,

nestled into a pine tree and glowing like a lantern.



...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

RAYMOND CARVER'S CROW

I've taken to reading Raymond Carver's poems before I go to bed. It's wonderful.

Of course, I have to read twenty minutes' worth of comic books afterward so I don't have nightmares of being swallowed alive by a sea of sadness and depression and beer burps, but whatever. I have plenty of Calvin & Hobbes lying around.

(poem temporarily hidden!)

...

Friday, September 10, 2010

PERSEPHONE COMES CLEAN

It is my professional opinion that I should stop spending so much time with good fruit. Because my table is literally covered in jars of jam, sweet and spiced with rum, sealed and ready for the holidays. Tom says I'm out of control. I probably am.

Of course, jam and other desserts are what I turn to when I'm procrastinating, and I currently have about sixty papers and short stories to grade. Yowza.

So, tonight, as I wait for the batch of blackberry-rum to finish boiling on the stove, I think about some fruit I haven't tackled yet. Which leads me to the pomegranate, which reminds me of the tale of Persephone and Hades, of Demeter, of how the seasons came about. Maybe I'll find a pomegranate tomorrow at the farmer's market. For now, I'm logging off with tonight's poem from my scratch notebook, plus a nice little picture I found online.


PERSEPHONE COMES CLEAN

I told him I hated

pomegranates

because I didn't

think he knew

who I was.

One bite

and the seeds

slide out

like fish eggs.

He said

he hated them

too, for real,

and from his

many pockets

he produced one,

small

and tame looking,

a swan heart,

tossed it

eyeball-height

toward me

and I reached

without thinking.

My mother says

I can dislike

something

all I want but

ripe fruit

must be eaten.

He leaned against

a charred pillar,

watching me.

I remember

my hands grew hot

as I chewed,

his red mouth

opening

over a seed

as it slipped

down my chin.



...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A NEW DECORUM

A quiet day here, with little to report. I sewed a button on a shirt today (if you know me, you realize what a huge feat this is). Here's a poem and a photo from my camera for your Labor Day.




A NEW DECORUM


Surprise mortar attacks have left

makeshift trenches between tents

every day this week, and the Forward

Command Center burst into flame

this morning at 0200,

a shade of red you can’t describe.

In the past three days I have washed

every scrap of fabric in the house,

bleached the kitchen, cleaned the windows,

fixed the screen door, made three batches

of strawberry jam with rum, hammered

butter into croissant dough, jogged ten miles

and finished two Agatha Christie novels.

You sounded as if everything would be fine

until I told you about the yellow irises

I bought last minute at the store tonight,

twelve of them at their peak, reflecting gold

over the grey-flecked linoleum,

over their cellophane funnel

dotted with red markdown stickers

that read in handwritten letters take me!







...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I GO FORMAL

I sat down to write last night just before bed, and I ended up with a pantoum, strangely enough. I always thought I hated this form just slightly less than the sestina. I hesitate to say that I've never written a formal poem, because I've tried several times (and I'm afraid my students will find out that I'm not a fan of the formals), but I've never come up with anything I felt was worth revision. I almost wrote a sonnet last summer. And I think I wrote a haiku a couple months ago, sort of, that went something like: I try to look coy. / Man sitting beside me asks, / are you feeling ill?

But I try not to put much stock into the poems I write whilst on the benching machines at the Y. Besides, it only reminded me that men don't flirt with me. I look ill when I think I look good. (Well, I also wear jean shorts and drive a Subaru-- complete with bumper sticker that says domestic shorthairs rule-- so they probably have other assumptions, but whatever. This is beside the point.)

My point is, I wrote a pantoum!


MAKING PEACH PRESERVES

The peaches are local but they aren’t ripe.

She stops me to ask what pearls are made of.

She thinks it’s oyster shit but I guess some kind of calcium

and keep slicing, orbiting the knife round the hard pits.


She stops me to ask what pearls are made of.

Grains of sand, maybe, trapped until they fester properly.

I keep slicing, orbiting the knife round the hard pits,

sawing into the red grooves beneath too-pale flesh.


Grains of sand, maybe, trapped until they fester properly,

but now she wonders why we string contagion round our necks.

Sawing into the red grooves beneath too-pale flesh

I have little patience for philosophy, the purpose of pearls,


but now she wonders why we string contagion round our necks.

Because we love what does not happen often enough, even infection.

I have little patience for philosophy, the purpose of pearls

not as captivating as the pile of red pits bleeding into my cutting board.


Because we love what does not happen often enough, even infection,

she thinks it’s oyster shit but I guess some kind of calcium

not as captivating as the pile of red pits bleeding into my cutting board.

The peaches are local but they aren’t ripe.



...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

SOME HERONS... and some Colorado pictures!

My good friend Rena flew in the other day to visit from Atlanta, where I met her almost two years ago. (We worked together as vet techs at the East Atlanta Animal Clinic, which I'm including a link for, should any of you be in that area and need to adopt a pet! They're a great group of people, with smarts and compassion for lost, sick, and injured pets.) Anyway, I picked Rena up in Denver late last week, and we commenced a fantastic couple of days exploring Colorado.

We drove up the mostly-unpaved road to the summit of Pikes Peak, where it was a good thirty degrees colder than the downtown Colorado Springs area. It was pretty fun. I was surprised that the altitude didn't really affect me at the top; Rena, however, was slightly nauseated, so we didn't hang out too long on the peak. (Um, by the way, I'm kind of proud of the fact that my brakes were considerably cooler than those of other drivers at the halfway checkpoint downhill. See, Tom? I'm taking care of the car. Now, come home and fix the coffee pot, the garage door, and the top kitchen cupboard, which I can't seem to handle.)

Rena and I also spent most of one morning/afternoon walking, hiking, and sprinting around Garden of the Gods with Flynn, the wonderdog (who is currently awaiting obedience training, FYI). We were surprised to crest one hill and find two hikers whispering to us "There are bighorn sheep right around the corner! Go see!" How awesome! There were actually five bighorns: two curled up together in the shade of one shrub, and three picking their way carefully through the sticks and rocks, eyeing us suspiciously while they snacked. It was pretty fantastic. Thankfully, Flynn didn't appear to notice them and used it as an opportunity to rest with her doggie backpack.

I also took my bike out for the first time in months. I rode to Audrey's house, then tooled around downtown, where I did my best not to get smooshed by an SUV. I found this great mural under an overpass, on the side of the Smokebrush gallery:

Rena caught up with me on Colorado Avenue. Here's a (sort of fuzzy) shot of me with my trusty steed:

After all the running around, Rena and I spent some quality time baking and making peach preserves. Here are some of our lovely accomplishments:

Blueberry muffins with streusel topping for breakfast!

Peach-Blueberry pie for dessert!

A dozen peach pits...

Peach preserves being boiled down to a golden translucence.

Needless to say, it was a fun couple of days. I was sad to drop Rena off at the Denver airport, but I know she's got cats and dogs at the clinic to love on. I've got a busy few weeks ahead of me as well, with the Colorado Springs Writers Reading Series event this Friday (tomorrow!) and fall semester kicking off on Monday. Lots of writing and reading to do!

Want me to leave you with a poem? You do? Great. It's short because I wrote three poems last night, two of which were long, rambling flops, and this one came in last. The most concise.

SOME HERONS


There are some herons
that gulp down rabbits
in marshy areas of the country
where fish are scarce
although it could be argued
that the photographs
in magazines are presented
with a bias that does not
take into consideration
maybe the herons are
just picking the rabbits up
and returning them
to their hutch somewhere.

...

Thank you all for reading!

-Abby

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

GETTING A HAIRCUT

Hey all! I need to post a poem because it's August 11th (almost August 12th) and I haven't posted anything this month. To be honest, I haven't had much time to focus on my own writing. As I sprawled on the couch tonight (grades were turned in today for summer semester! wooo!) I saw my copy of Aaron Belz's book of poems called Lovely, Raspberry lying underneath the cushions with the dust bunnies. I sifted it out, brushed it off, and read a couple pieces. He doesn't write only funny poems, but most of them are funny, in some way. (I met him at AWP but we only discussed our preferences in types of Scotch.) Afterward, I sat down briefly to write. I got another wee narrative written from the perspective of a married male. Que sera.


GETTING A HAIRCUT

I love you so much I would let you cut my hair

right after the only other girl working in the salon

throws her blow dryer and flat iron into a grocery bag

and tells you to go to hell because she quits,

even though my hair is already too short

and I’ve been thinking about growing it longer.

When you get mad you like to tear sheets of paper

in half because you think punching pillows is too violent

and it makes a person prone to unintentionally punching

a spouse or a dog or some other non-pillow

the next time they are angry and pillowless.

One time you took a flat of peaches back to the store

because six of them were badly bruised

and when the grocer refused to give you back

your five dollars you held the receipt up in front of him

and tore it down the middle; when we got home

you said you didn’t feel like being upset anymore.

That’s why I trust you with scissors, even though

I only came in here to drop off the frozen lunch

you left at home this morning but now I’m getting

a haircut as well so you can talk it out, and I don’t

even care that you forgot to put that soft ribbon

of tissue paper between the cape and my neck.



...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

THE LAST POETRY MEETING

A poem for you on this warm July evening. I need to lay off the Duhamel because my stuff is just a beautiful shade of pale beside hers. Still. I write. And I mock writers and their habits while I'm at it. Take that, self!


THE LAST POETRY MEETING


Who is your inspiration

for carelessness,

for absolute carelessness?


The woman beside me says

it’s a toss-up between

John Milton

and Miley Cyrus.


The woman beside her says

she’s got this forty-year-old

nephew in Los Angeles.


I should have checked myself

before I said carelessness, to me,

is Ganesh, the Hindu god.

I don’t know why, in fact,

I know little about him

other than his elephant nose

and his fondness for sitting upon mice,

which reminds me

out loud

of my sister, who is

an endoscopic nurse

and has pulled the strangest things

from the strangest people’s

rectal cavities

though she’s never mentioned

mice, yet


and the woman beside me says

isn’t that sort of bigoted?

To think another person’s god

is the embodiment of carelessness?


I say yes, it probably is,

and she smiles

in a very unbigoted way


while the woman with

the nephew in Los Angeles says

she had a bigoted uncle once

but he died and no one

in her family felt obligated

to attend the funeral.



...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

THE PAINTED URN

All right, so we've moved out of the realm of psychic octopi.

I read a lot of Kay Ryan tonight, along with some Vera Pavlova, and I started wondering who my favorite female poets are. Recently, while posting sample poems for my students in English 221, I realized most of my role models are male: Tate, Neruda, Merwin, Gilbert, Bell. I didn't panic, though, and I remembered the voices of Hilda Doolittle, Denise Duhamel, Dorianne Laux. It's not like I don't read female poets. I just feel it's, well, sort of more rare to discover the female imagination that has been let loose, at least in comparison to the number of male poets who unabashedly gallivant through perfectly crazy worlds.

That got me thinking past the women on my bookshelves and more about the women in my poems. They're typically a strange, hybrid personification of guilty innocence. Why are women like this, I wondered, in all of literature? In poetry, it seems impossible for women to stray from this adaptation, even in the lais of Marie de France, which I love. I remember, as an undergraduate, one professor told me it will never be possible to see an apple in a poem and not think of Eve. I was determined to be the first to write it, a poem with an apple that didn't link the reader to its Genesis origins; I failed, of course, but I haven't yet decided how I feel about that failure. Honestly, how I feel about women in poems (and women as writers) will take decades for me to understand. I despise pride, but there is something so essential about the female voice and its role in literature, its role in imaginative writing. Men and women are not equal in terms of who they are (in terms of rights, yes, they should be). What they have to say is equally significant though, and I'm trying to reconcile that. Why are they equal? Why are they unequal?

I guess I'll keep ruminating, and the women in my poems will keep asking me when I'll cut them loose.


(poem temporarily pulled for submission purposes 7/28/2010)

...

Monday, July 12, 2010

PAUL THE PSYCHIC OCTOPUS

I think one or two of my sisters may have played soccer at some point during our childhood, not because I remember watching any games, but because I seem to remember the wallet sized photos around the house... maybe it was Michelle... anyway, someone in my family once posed with a soccer ball. That's my point.

To say I'm not a soccer fan is, well, not an understatement, but it's accurate. I grew up with baseball. The first time I ever heard my knees pop was during third grade, at baseball practice, while learning how to slide across bases in a bumpy grass field near Pioneer Park. (I still can't slide. I kind of just... fall. On the base.) I played on a boys team with my best friend in Ferndale, sported a bowl cut and cussed like a pirate so other kids wouldn't pick on us. I wasn't super talented at the sport in particular; I mainly kept the outfield laughing.

Soccer was something one step closer to skiing, something I didn't understand. Besides, soccer players don't get to hit anything. I've always been partial to sports that involve not just running, but also a club of some sort, a bat, a racquet, and the smacking of other objects, the harder the better. My oldest sister tried to teach me how to play tennis when I was in middle school. Once I realized I couldn't hit the ball as hard as I wanted, that you had to aim, of all things, I decided to lose touch with that sport too (at least, until I discovered racquetball about fifteen years later. That's a game I can get into).

Eventually, I became engrossed with the physical demands of dance, and I slipped slowly from sports to the arts. I went to college and got really into theatre, decided I didn't much like actors, and got really into writing.

Fast forward almost ten years, to today, when I live in Colorado Springs, and my best teaching buddy, Audrey, is obsessed with soccer. Having lived in Britain for about seven years, "footie" is all this girl talks about. The World Cup blows her mind every four years. She knows the name of everyone who's stepped onto the pro field. Because I like Audrey, and I value our friendship, I promise her that I will watch at least one soccer match with her down at McCabes, a local Irish pub.

First match was about a week ago, between... um... I don't remember. Uruguay and someone else. I brought my poetry textbook and planned lectures. B- for effort.

I swear up and down that I will watch the World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain. I promise not to bring my textbooks. Of course, as usual, I show up a little late and squeeze into the seat that's been saved for me RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE FLAT SCREEN next to Audrey and about a hundred other fans. I spend a lot of time wondering which players will take on shampoo endorsements after the Cup ends; some of them have just beautiful hair, long and curly and bronze. Audrey snaps me out of it, tells me that Paul, the psychic octopus in Oberhausen, Germany, has predicted that Spain will win. Wait... what? A psychic octopus?

This is something I can get into.

Unfortunately, Audrey is yelling at the television every 60 seconds and can't answer all my questions right away. Who is this Paul? Where did he come from? (Apparently he was hatched in Britain but now lives in a German aquarium.) Why do people believe his predictions? (Turns out he's been spot on with all of them.) Audrey mentions he's had death threats from other countries. That the Italians are claiming he really belongs to them, and his name is Paolo.

I manage to watch the rest of the final match, though I'm outside on the phone with Tom when Spain scores the winning goal. I can see everybody's reactions through the sticky windows: the Dutch fans with their orange face paint and wigs, slumping on their bar stools; the rogue Spanish supporters punching air and hugging each other. And Audrey, in the front, leaning back in her chair and sighing happily.

Conditions are perfect for a poem.

(poem temporarily pulled for submission purposes 7/28/2010)

...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

RESIDENCY READERS

Greetings from Forest Grove, Oregon!

While I'm missing my pets and the awesome weather we're apparently having in Colorado Springs right now, I just can't put a value on my experiences with the writing faculty at Pacific University's MFA Program. I've been working as the emcee for the nightly readings held in Taylor-Meade, a lovely concert hall on Pacific's campus. I'm currently staying in one of the swankiest dorm rooms I've ever seen, and I actually need to get going soon to tonight's reading!

Fortunately, I've been able to work on my poems while I've been here, when I'm not reading the fiction of my students being submitted online. I'll post some of those later! For now, here are some pictures of the fine guests here...



Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of American Salvage, finalist for
the National Book Award in 2009.


Jack Driscoll, author of the novels Lucky Man, Lucky Woman,
How Like An Angel, and Stardog. One of the nicest guys on the planet too.



Pam Houston, author of Cowboys Are My Weakness,
Waltzing the Cat, and tons of short stories.


Peter Sears, author of collections of poetry titled The Brink,
Tour: New and Selected Poems, and most recently Green Diver.
One of the best mentors, ever.

Marvin Bell, creator of the Dead Man poem
and author of Nightworks, Mars Being Red,
and over twenty other books of poetry.
Tied with Peter Sears as best mentor ever.


View from Elk Cove Winery, where the MFA Program
conducts one reading each summer. Lucky them!



View of the front of the crowd at the winery reading.
They've really had to work to fit everyone in here!



Judy Blunt, nonfiction author of Breaking Clean
and shorter pieces which have appeared
in Oprah magazine and The New York Times.
...
More pictures to come as the residency winds down... tonight's readers at Taylor-Meade are poets Ellen Bass and Joe Millar, plus fiction writer Kellie Wells!
...

Monday, June 14, 2010

WRITING OVERLOAD

So, I'm about to leave Colorado for a little over two weeks. I'm going to be in Forest Grove, Oregon, at Pacific University's MFA residency, where I'll be one of two alumni volunteers, introducing brilliant writers at the nightly readings and interviewing a couple of them for Pacific's website. The days will start early and end late, and I'll be doing my best to briefly adjust to dorm life. Fortunately, Forest Grove is one of the more beautiful, quiet, and lushly green towns on the west coast, and if I can get any spare time, I'm going to go on a nice walk... maybe through the hazelnut grove up on one of the hills!

I'm excited and, as of last night, a little nervous. I'm trying to get ahead on the creative writing class I'm teaching at PPCC so I don't falter while I'm gone... unfortunately, we're going to be covering Point of View and Dialogue, two of the more difficult elements of fiction writing for beginning writers. My students this semester are dedicated and put a truly admirable amount of effort into their writing, and I mean that. Sometimes, when I read their comments, I wish I had their determination. I've been introduced to some wonderful characters in the past couple weeks, some of them in war zones, some in magical realms, and can I tell you it's a relief just to know they exist? Go students!

Anyway, I read stories, graded, and planned last night until my right eyeball was literally twitching and I had to sign off. (Sometimes, work is just not healthy. Of course, I wouldn't have had to work so late if I hadn't spent Saturday stalling, crafting and making homemade pasta, but whatever.)

I think I may be moving past this hitch on brevity. After signing off last night, I flopped face down on the couch for fifteen minutes and listened to Tchaikovsky long after Alec Baldwin's classical program had ended on the radio. I closed my eyes and retraced the steps of my day. When I sat up, I felt I had maybe ten minutes of writing within me. So, back to the computer with the timer set. Here's what I got, a poem over five lines! Hurray!

Thanks all for reading. (I know my working at the residency later this week is going to prompt more writing, and I'm looking forward to it. I'll post more as it progresses!)


GERMAN WAR BRIDE

She is alone in the church when usually

I am alone in the church,

one sleeve pulled over her hand

to wipe beneath her eyes, left to right.

When I sit down behind her she stops.

I can see a card on the pew beside her

with a man dressed in brown on it,

he is helping a young woman stand up

beside a faded blue fountain,

or maybe he is proposing to her

or kissing her ring, maybe she is a queen?

Beneath the tiny painting it says

Heilige Gerhard, Saint Gerard.

She is German. The lines running down

her face and neck are fine.

She stares straight ahead.

I say, “Bist du…shit…zufrieden?”

which is actually “Is you…shit…content?”

She shakes her head and whispers “Nein.”

We both stare straight ahead.

The children of the parish have drawn pictures

for the altar, all of them showing Mary

who touches her belly with one hand,

reaches for Elizabeth with the other.

...

Monday, May 31, 2010

STILL MORE SHORT POEMS

BIFOCALS

Bifocals, having never found love,

saw my sixth-grade face and said

get me all over that.

*

EAR PULSE

Listen! My heart

has gone creeping up

into my ear again.

*

A TOAST

May you sip your rosewater tea

at seventy five and read every blurred name

scrawled into your ankles and arms.

*

TOAST

Jesus came back

for some peanut butter

not thinking you’d notice.

*

COWLICK

Cowlick on my right temple,

postal clerk says I can hold my temper.

*

...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

BRAIDED CREEK AND MORE BREVITY

I'm at the point where I'm realizing, yes, my mind is going; this penchant for short poems and mild skepticism of longer pieces is not just a phase. My attention span is no longer under construction. It's just busted and we're going to have to drive around.

I'm not at the point where I'm worried just yet. So many good short poems out there! So much fun to be had! So much to read! I'm in Seattle right now, and the day after I flew into town I made a beeline for Half Price Books, where I picked up a $5 copy of Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser. I like it so far. If anything, brevity provides a more subtle deadline to acknowledge while writing; yes, we may not be able to write past a project's due date, but in brevity, we also cannot write past what the tiny page allows. We have to make every word count. (And yes, this IS a picture of me, thoughtfully reading text. Look at me think!)


Sometimes I wonder if Kooser gets away with more, though, because he's so old. This might be true. (Joking. Kind of.) Anyway, the book is set up without much guidance. The reader has no sure way of determining which poet wrote which poem, and all the pieces are roughly four lines. After a few pages, I started putting together a small list of people I might ask to do a similar project, mailing each other VERY short poems (this time not associated with any specific postcard image) and keeping a tiny thread connected between each of them.

Let's start with a couple I jotted down last night, as I pretended Harrison and Kooser were conversing with me through their poems. Anyone want to leave their own response in poem form? I'm open to starting my own "braided creek".


* (Wednesday night, May 26th)

I liked him better when I thought
he was talking about muffins
not coffins

*

Everybody matters eventually.
If you're a boy you must wait
until you're a man. If you're a girl
you have to wait until you're dead.

*

Even God wishes he had
a goat to keep the yard
in check



...

Friday, May 14, 2010

POSTCARD MEMOIRS

So, this isn't my great idea. It's actually stolen from the lovely brain of Sonja Livingston, who manages this awesome project called Postcard Memoirs. (It helps even more that Sonja is one of those super-sweet-in-person, writes-in-multiple-genres people. I got to hang out with her at this year's AWP conference, and I just love her.) I highly recommend you check this link out, as it will probably inspire even the busiest writers to start their own postcard project.

Some of us have seen postcard poetry prompts before. They're used in productive workshops because they work perfectly for both professionals and beginners. The idea is to keep things short, concise, precise, and of course, visual. These are tiny poems, usually written on the backs of postcards or photos, that make the image 'pop' just a little more than the eye can manage alone.

Anyway, Lish McBride, my writing buddy in Seattle, posted a link to Postcard Memoirs a couple weeks ago on facebook and I've been thinking about it off and on since. My first thought: who buys postcards? Where can I find some? Well, I found a couple snapshots I thought about using, and that could work just as well as an actual postcard. However, I drove into Denver today and stopped at the Tattered Cover to peruse the poetry section. (I sifted through all authors V-Z, thank you. Quite productive.) They have a stand of postcards there that I hovered over like a moth at a lamp post. I found seven great images, all of them connected in some weird way. My favorites were prints of Quint Buchholz's work, and I googled him when I got home. Totally. Awesome. Here's a link to one of his pages; it's auf deutsch, but I think the site is (visually) explanatory enough to navigate. His best works, in my opinion, are the ones that show the impossible looking simply accomplished.

Okay. So, the point of this post is, I think I'm going to take part in Sonja's postcard project, albeit from a distance, since I can't attend the workshop. I have a blank journal that a friend of mine gave to me for my birthday that hasn't been used yet. I dug it out of the YA section of my library (what was it doing there?) and it's currently sitting on the table, next to my stack of postcards, demanding to be written in. (Of course, it's also sitting next to a couple bills, my textbooks for this summer, three cookbooks, a lit journal, a pile of pens that don't work (why am I keeping these?) and two empty water bottles. I may consider organizing myself tomorrow.) I'm going to keep looking for postcards (I'd love to find more of Buchholz's stuff) and put them on opposite pages from the short poems I'm writing. I'll keep the poems written in pencil so I can edit as needed later, and the journal will just be for my own satisfaction. Unless, of course, someone insists on publishing it later. Heh.

Here's tonight's first (tiny!) poem in this project, which is linked to THIS painting by Buchholz. (I really hope the link works. The painting is awesome.)


ROOFTOP COWS

For an extra fifty dollars

a night you can book

our penthouse suite

which includes access

to our rooftop garden

and resident dairy cows.

Enjoy the view of the city

and feel free to smoke;

try not to speak directly

to the cows, however,

as they are constantly

wanting to know where

they are, and we find

keeping them unaware

is part of this great

establishment’s charm.


...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

PACKING PEANUTS

Well, Napowrimo has been over for twelve days now, and I'm just sitting down to post another poem. I thought April was a productive month, writing every day, even if I wasn't 100% thrilled with every poem I came up with.

Updates in writing: the next reading for the Colorado Springs Writers Reading Series is scheduled for Friday, May 21st, at 7:30pm. It's being held at the same place as April's event, the Inner Space studio at 322 N. Tejon. (See the blog for more updates: www.cswritersreading.blogspot.com) Our featured reader is poet (yay!) Jessy Randall. I'm looking forward to it! Because the event falls smack in between Spring and Summer terms for the local colleges, I'm hoping to get the word out to students via email, blog, loud shouting, whatever.

Here's a poem from this evening. Maybe tomorrow I'll post some more... I've been coming up with very, very short poems lately. Hopefully this isn't a sign of my attention span diminishing even further, but I've been really pleased with all the shorter poems I've been reading lately. (Namely, those of Jessy Randall, plus Aaron Belz, Pamela August Russell, and Campbell McGrath.) Maybe it's because it's the end of the semester and my brain is half fried from the grease of final essays and portfolios. Maybe I'm succumbing to the appeal of instant gratification. Or maybe these poets just rock.

Either way, I'm writing, and I guess that's what matters. Thanks to all y'all who have been sending me comments on facebook. You have no idea how excited I get over feedback!


PACKING PEANUTS

My next door neighbor left a cardboard box

full of packing peanuts on the curb to be recycled

but forgot to put a rock over the lid to keep it shut

and we had a huge windstorm which I understand

couldn’t have been predicted but still

there are packing peanuts all over the neighborhood

now and even the birds seem disappointed

and look bored when they pick at them

outside my bedroom window which is a gutter

and it’s full of white and yellow and pale green fluff

like it’s been snowing egg salad and every morning

the first thing I do is brush my teeth so this morning

as I brushed I stared out into the gutter wondering

if I’d have the balls to tell my neighbor he’s careless

if he and I happened to lock our front doors

at the same time today but more importantly

who’s dying those packing peanuts different colors

when they aren’t even meant to be seen?



...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

NAPOWRIMO, DAYS 21 & 22

It becomes clear that a writer is losing steam when all she can manage to write are blatant, funny knock-offs of better poems by better poets. Still.

Day 21 of Napowrimo: William Carlos Williams? Meet Mad Libs.

NOUNS


NOUN depends

upon


a red NOUN

NOUN


glazed with NOUN

NOUN


beside the white

NOUN.



Day 22: Cummings, Meet Mad Libs.


VERBS (by e.e. cummings)


(and i VERB
never VERB Joe agreeably cheerfully VERBED when
VERBED by fat stupid animals
the Jewess VERBED
the messiah VERBED successfully into the world
the animals VERBED VERBING. And I VERB she, and
heard them VERB and
in the darkness)
VERBED sharp angels with faces like Jim Europe


...