Monday, December 14, 2009

Done :)

Posted an end of semester wrap-up post over at The MFA Chronicles last night, if you want a nice neat summary of the semester.

This morning, M and I went to campus, he printed off his paper, turned it in, then we went for a celebratory lunch of beer and nachos. It was quite a lovely end to the semester, although I already know I'll miss him a lot.

My ankle hurts (drunk me slipped on the ice Friday night), and I still have to turn in grades, then plan my departure from State College, but I'm pretty proud of surviving my first semester of grad school, and it was fun to celebrate it today before M leaves town.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The end of the semester

It is hard to believe that the first semester of my MFA program is all but over. Right now, all I have left to do is teach one last class this afternoon, then grade papers and submit grades by next Wednesday, and then I’ll be free from school obligations until January 11th!

I started trying to reflect on the semester, and I still can’t make any sense. Maybe next week, after I’ve turned in grades, after I’ve gotten my celebratory haircut, after M has left.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Things I Cannot Say

Some days I feel stupider than I can ever remember feeling, frustrated with my lack of knowledge, my lack of language, my inability to join the conversation. Sometimes I question what I'm doing here, and what I will do next. Do I want the PhD? Do I believe, at any level, that I'm capable of it? Is it taking the easy way out by not even trying to apply? Do I really want it? Or do I just want to write and teach? Is teaching my calling, even more than writing?

The questions only breed more questions.

But I don't have to know right now.


Sometimes I don't know how I got so lucky, to be where I am right now, to have found what I've found, against my will, against all my expectations. Some moments are too beautiful to experience with my eyes open; the only way to keep from crying is to close my eyes and rest my face against your neck. Sometimes I want to say it too.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween

It's about 12:30am. I just cleaned the kitchen and I'm drinking decaf tea. I have so much I *should* be doing right now, but I'm mentally blocked.

It's been a busy week, and I have run into a couple of interesting teaching situations this week as well. Up until Wednesday, I had enjoyed a remarkably smooth teaching experience -- I like my students, they seem to like me, they do what I ask them to, they write well, etc. No drama, no problems, no complaints. I've heard from people in my teaching mentor group and in our larger teaching seminar about all sorts of issues that have come up in other classes, and I've felt really lucky. Well, Wednesday I had my first student try to argue a grade, and yesterday I got an email from one of my students with a whole lot of information about personal struggles. Just stressful things, added onto an already hectic week.

There are only five weeks left of the semester, plus the Thanksgiving Break. That's kind of terrifying, the thought of all I have yet to accomplish this semester! And I also made my Thanksgiving plans, which is always a stressful endeavor where my family is concerned. This year particularly so, as I will be attending my family dinner for the first time in three years. I've also been forced to make some tentative plans for the winter break as well; I say forced like it's a bad thing. Instead, it's a very good thing. I'm flying to San Francisco for New Years! But this did make me start thinking about the rest of break and mapping out the logistics of everything. More stress.

However, it is Halloween weekend, and that makes everything better! I got a fabulous 80s dress today and some hot pink tights to go with it. I need to get some jewelry and some lace gloves tomorrow and a tiara - I want a tiara - and I am really looking forward to the EGO party Saturday night! I've gotten a few things done tonight in terms of school work, but I have much more to do before the party.

Work hard, play hard, that's what MFAs do, right?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Creation, etc.

Thinking about what art is, what power(s) we invest into the objects we create, how they become independent entities, about the ability of narration to create meaning, how experiences become real. About Nietzsche and Rushdie, significance and identity and language, about poetry, about the physical world, my physical body, the triumph of mind and community over physical weakness. About love, what it is, what it isn't, what it has been, what it should be. About gender, its irrelevance, its social construction, about the way life surprises me. About time, the sublime, and drinking wine.....

(Just threw that last one in because it rhymes, but it's also true.)

Let this suffice for an update: this is week 9, we got snow last Thursday in PA, I ran my half-marathon in Columbus on Sunday, I am busy, and I am happy in ways I never expected.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An exercise in procrastination

Things I love (or strongly like) right now:
1) coffee
2) walking to McKinnon’s from Burrowes to get coffee (far enough that I feel like I’m getting a break, but close enough that it’s not too much of one)
3) a glass of red wine while writing
4) a neighbor and friend who always tells me when she’s going to buy wine so I can tag along and replenish my supply
5) Salman Rushdie’s essay “Imaginary Homelands”
6) my chapbook proposal
7) that my bedroom smells like flowers
8) that someone bought me flowers
9) the prospect of a weekend in Columbus
10) the prospect of a haircut in Columbus
11) the super warm sweater I’m wearing tonight
12) the super comfy boots I bought last weekend

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Week 7 Update (WHAT?)

Is it really Week 7 already? How the heck did time go so fast? The crazy paradox of grad school, for me at least, is that each day is incredibly long (remember that schedule I posted last week? yeah, being on campus for 10 hours is not uncommon for me, nor is staying up way too late reading and/or writing) but each week goes by so fast. I've been a bit unfocused for the past week or so but still managing to keep up. Over the next week, I have fourteen more papers to grade before Friday (ten are done), a draft of my chapbook proposal to get ready for conference with my prof tomorrow, lessons to plan for Friday, Monday, and Wednesday, a book on bibliographic and textual scholarship to read by Monday, a few articles to read and a reflection to write for Tuesday, two chapbooks to read, a final draft of the chapbook proposal, and a poem due for Wednesday. Plus a five mile run tomorrow, a short run Friday, at least ten miles on Sunday, then taper runs next week. And plans with friends and other social entities.

But, you know what, it's good. I like it. I'm busy, but I'm happier than I expected to be. And I'm going to Columbus a week from tomorrow - seeing friends, enjoying some good food and some city life, running a half-marathon, getting a haircut, and stocking up on wine!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Review of "Mom's Canoe" by Rebecca Foust

I haven't been as diligent about posting my chapbook comments as I planned to be, but I'm right now procrastinating on doing other work, so I'm posting the most recent one. This book resonated profoundly with me; it's set in rural Pennsylvania and both the geography of the land and the issues raised are all so familiar to me from my own life.

Rebecca Foust’s chapbook Mom’s Canoe opens with the lines “You can turn round and round and round/ and always see mountains.” The Alleghenies hover over this collection, they “calve memory from twilight”, they come closer then recede, divide the false from the true, and eventually disappear and “efface into sky” (all quotes from the first poem, “Allegheny Mountain Bowl”). The natural beauty of the land mingles in these poems with post-industrial grit, economic depression, and social ills like alcoholism and domestic abuse. The title poem “Mom’s Canoe” addresses itself to the speaker’s mother and spins a string of achingly lovely images of the canoe itself, the mother’s hard work on land, her easy movement on the water, before ending elegiacally:

I still see you rising from water to sky,
paddle held high, river drops limning its edge.
Brown diamonds catch the light as you lift, then dip.
Parting the current, you slip
silently through the evening shadows.
You, birdsong, watersong, slanting light,
following the river bend, swallowed from sight.”

This blend of the beautiful and the sad, heightened in “Mom’s Canoe” by the fact that the canoe was mentioned in an earlier poem (“Backwoods”) which places the mother in an abusive relationship, typifies the tone of the collection. Foust utilizes rhyme in this and many of her poems, but never in an overbearing way. “Things Burn Down”, a rough-cut villanelle, repeating words rather than full lines, also epitomizes the style of the chapbook. Foust invokes specific family stories, broad socioeconomic commentary, and the physical atmosphere of her upbringing in this poem which questions what might bring her parents back. In this poem and throughout the collection, subject matter, form, and tone all seem to flow from the poet’s “hardscrabble” background and articulate a wry acceptance of both past and present. In “Altoona to Anywhere”, the speaker addresses herself: “Go ahead, aspire to transcend/ your hardscrabble roots…//But when you’ve left it behind you/ may find it still there” and ends the poem with a list of things she can not transcend, concluding beautifully with “the same siren nights pierced/ with stars seeping light, all that/ gorgeous, pitiless song.” The recognition of both beauty and ugliness, love and pain, lift the collection above either simple angst or romantic naturalism; the image left is one of reality with all its contradictions.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Collaboration, Coffee, and the Little Things

That's what's getting me through grad school thus far. I had a really good experience collaborating this evening in the midst of the bad assignment in the class that I have a fundamental philosophical, pedagogical, issue with. We don't need to go into the issues I have with the class, but the important point here is that we have a ridiculous assignment due for next week, which almost no one in the class is equipped to handle. So, I met with three of my classmates this evening, and we worked through it together. I can't say that the assignment was fun, but we all worked very well together, and we all brought very different skills and backgrounds to the table, and I think we got a good handle on it. It was a rewarding experience of collaboration, and another reminder that I really do like the people in my cohort!

Coffee. Kind of self-explanatory. I drink a lot of coffee. I go get coffee with various people when I'm sitting in my office. I while away an afternoon drinking coffee in a bookstore and chatting with someone interesting. I have coffee at dinner time, and I stay up till 1:00am and post blogs ;)

The little things: trips to the wine shop, lunch with friends, kitty cat snuggles, random voicemails from friends, crushes that make life interesting.

Monday, September 28, 2009

MFA Schedule (a reality check)

For anyone who's thinking of doing an MFA to have all sorts of "free time in which to write", allow me to explain how my day went today. This is not at all a complaint. I had a lovely, lovely day.

7:00am Wake up, followed by shower, breakfast, walking dog, etc.
8:34am Get on bus to go to campus
8:45am (approx.) Arrive at campus, drop books off in office, chitchat a little
9:05-12:05 Intro to Graduate Study seminar (with a short break around 10:30 during which I exchanged my coffee for water)
12:05-12:10 or so. Class drags on after it's supposed to be over while Prof. hands back abstracts after reiterating more than once how "charitably" he graded them. (Okay, so I am complaining about the condescension in that comment)
12:10-12:30 approx. Gather up a few people and walk into town for lunch.
12:30-1:30 approx. Try to get Indian food at two different places, one of which is closed Mondays, the other too crowded. Eventually end up eating at Pita Pit. It's delicious. Bitch about the class we just got out of and talk about teaching, and I get to tell the story of the creepy guy at the bar who I yelled at on Saturday night.
1:30-1:45 approx. Walk back to campus to my office.
1:45-3:25 approx. Print about 90 pages of reading off e-reserve, grade the last couple of freshman paper proposals, try to write a poem. Chat with a couple of people. Walk over to the library cafe to get coffee.
3:35-4:25 Observe Paul's teaching per the dictate of our teaching mentor group.
4:40-5:30 Teach my own freshman comp class while Paul observes. Hope he doesn't think worse of me because my students are rowdy.
5:30-5:40 approx. Walk to bus stop and chat with Danielle while waiting for the bus.
5:50 approx. Arrive home. Walk dog.
6:00-7:45 Eat leftover Chinese food, catch up on facebook and email, download an Editing Assignment from the class from this morning, write up my observations on teaching from today,try to make sense of Editing Assignment and get some of it done, before deciding to take a break to blog.
7:45-8:00 Post this blog
8:00-1:30 Foolishly drink coffee. Try to finish poem. Think about my plan for my chapbook. Waste time doing random stuff on line. Write in my journal. Look at poem again and decide it's as finished as it's getting for now. (Edited next day)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

First MFA Reading Was Awesome!

(Apologies in advance for any spelling and grammar errors, or a general lack of sense. I only slept for three hours.)

So I read last night, with Nick and Lauren. First MFA reading is under my belt. It was a lot of fun! I was nervous, but in a good way, and everyone was very supportive. There was a surprisingly good turnout considering that the weather was disgusting – cold and rainy – and the reading was held at the same time as the big Iowa game. A few of the 2nd and 3rd year MFAs went to the game instead of the reading, and I may never forgive them (joke), but a lot of MA/PhD students came out, especially our fellow first years, and I really appreciated that. I kept hugging people later and saying I was so glad they were there.

The readings here are very informal. Very not like they were at BG, for better or for worse, I’m not sure. They are organized by MFA students, held in a really cool campus building,
in this crazy basement room with red carpeted walls (couldn't find a good picture of the room), and there is beer. Rather a lot of beer actually. No faculty members attended last night – I don’t think they ever do for these types of readings, but I know there is a “works in progress” reading series with the students who are working on their theses, which is more formal. So, people drink and joke and make comments and the introductions are hilarious. Here’s the beginning of the intro my friend Daniel, a 2nd year MFA, wrote for me: “Various theories have been offered regarding the origins of Emily May Anderson. One story states that Dylan Thomas, king of the gods, awoke one morning with a splitting headache, and asked William Carlos Williams to strike him with a hammer. Williams did so, and Emily emerged from Thomas’s head, fully formed and carrying the notebook of wisdom and the pen of truth.” And it goes on in that vein.

The reading was great but nothing like the good old days in Prout Chapel, sneaking booze in soda bottles; here the beer is subsidized and right out in plain sight. Most of us went to a bar after the reading and then there was more socializing after that, hence my three hours of sleep, and my probable lack of sense here. It was a great experience though, and I look forward to the next reading.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Reading Saturday, and some random thoughts

The first MFA reading of the school year is this Saturday, and guess what, I am one of the three readers! Yay! I am excited and nervous, but mostly looking forward to the social aspect of the night.

There may be something wrong at some level that I am more excited to see a large group of people in a social setting than I am about my first graduate reading, but I really am struggling with the lack of social interaction here. It's not that people aren't nice; everyone is very nice! And it's not that I don't do *anything* socially, but it is just a very different atmosphere for me. I miss my friends in Columbus, and I miss my easy, comfortable concept of myself. All of that is thrown into question here: am I smart enough? am I talented enough? do I work hard enough? along with other questions of sexual and class identity that I just didn't have to think about after establishing my life in Columbus. Starting over in a new place forces me to re-establish an identity here with a new group of people. It is very much an existential crisis, as someone phrased it yesterday.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Posted a short blog at The MFA Chronicles tonight about a Penn State student who disappeared over the weekend and was found dead tonight. It appears to be an accident, rather than foul play, but it's really sad; and I know I'm going to have to talk about it with my students on Wednesday, and I don't really know what to say to them.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Even the sight of Scarlet and Grey makes me homesick and I don't care about OSU football

A non-comprehensive list of things I miss about Columbus

- Giant Eagle a block from my apartment
- the ability to buy wine at the grocery store
- good, cheap, noodle places
- Greek food
- lots of Indian restaurants
- Northstar (or anything like it)
- good food in general
- gay bars
- a neighborhood where I would feel comfortable kissing a girl on the street
- The Short North in general
- specifically all the great independent shops
- even more specifically, Posh Pets, Substance, Karavan, Paul Robinett, etc.
- Goodale Park
- a skyline view
- the Olentangy bike trail
- flat places to run
- Clintonville
- The North Market
- the grimy parts of the OSU campus area
- Poetry Forum at Rumba
- Café Apropos
- MoJoe Lounge – specifically good iced coffee and a pretty patio
- and most importantly, my friends!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Consider this a prequel

to my next chapbook review. We're reading Poems in Conversation and a Conversation this week; it's a collaborative chapbook written by Elizabeth Alexander and Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon. Alexander is reading at Penn State next week, and I've read some of her work before. I've been fairly lukewarm on it, and I remain so after reading the chapbook, but the poems by Van Clief are totally fascinating! Here is a link to an interesting little interview with her:

Oh, and she's a Penn State MFA grad :)

In Praise Of My Cubicle

Cross-posted on the MFA Chronicles

When I visited Penn State in March, some of the MFAs gave us an unofficial tour of the Burrowes Building, home of the English Department. They showed us some of the seminar rooms where we’d have classes, the library of lit mags and previous student theses, the big poster listing all the student publications, and they showed us the GTA offices. All the MFAs have their offices in a large basement room divided into shared cubicles. It’s fluorescently lit, cluttered, and feels like…well, cubicles in a basement.

I was a little put off. My disappointment was probably because I had the good fortune to be an undergrad a couple of years after the English Department had moved into a brand new building and the grad students at BG had real offices – two (or maybe three) people might share a room, a real room with a door, and they’d each have a desk – on the 3rd or 4th floor, with windows. Those little basement cubes were just depressing!

At the beginning of this semester, it was a little bit annoying to have to schedule my time in the office in cooperation with my cube-mate; there’s only one desk and one computer so we can’t both be in there at the same time. And the temperature regulation in the basement is not the best; it tends to be hot, so people open windows, so then it gets cold. I’ve learned to leave a sweater in my cabinet.

In spite of the fun that I’ve had here in State College, I’ve still felt pretty isolated, particularly during the week. My “previous life” in Columbus was very social: I had a lot of friends, I might go to trivia on a Monday, karaoke on a Wednesday, or just meet someone for coffee or a drink or dinner any day of the week. I seldom went more than a couple days without some sort of social interaction. And here it’s not like that. We are all buried in our work during the week (some people stay buried on weekends) and I might talk to the people in my classes, I might talk to my roommate for 5 minutes here and there, but then I go home and work.

Enter my cubicle. For a few different reasons, I ended up spending more time in my cube this week, and I realized that I would not want a separate office somewhere. I really like seeing people walk by; sometimes they just wave and say “Hi, how are you?” and a few times this week I actually had real conversations with some of my fellow students. It was nice! Just taking a few minutes out of the work day to chat with someone was surprisingly refreshing, and I realized that I love my cubicle. I would imagine the set-up was just designed because of the lack of available space, but it functions to foster community and to help people feel connected to each other.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

And this week's reviews, just for the heck of it

Two short reviews from class this week.


The poems in Martha Collins’ chapbook Gone So Far seem written specifically to break the heart and confuse the mind. The collection opens with a prayer about growing old which functions as a prologue, introducing the subject of the chapbook. The next poem, “A Little Life” blends images from a Dutch film with stories of war told by the speaker’s great-grandfather; ideas of being buried alive flicker between the broken lines of the poem and set up the mother’s request to “please make sure” that she is dead and then the assertion that “there’s life/ in the old a little yet”. The proceeding poems trace that “little life”, the final stages of the mother’s aging and increasing loss of control and connection with reality before the collection ends with “Her Poem”, a piece comprised of the actual words the poet’s mother spoke a few weeks before her death.

The poems in the chapbook dip into prayer, memory, and conversation, and often appear on the page in a scrambled, confused manner with short lines broken in the midst of phrases, or isolated individual lines, or alternating lines like a conversation where the two sides don’t match up. Images of the body and of breath appear throughout, as do light and dark, roads and travel, family members who’ve already died, and various nature images. Though the poems are difficult to make sense of on their own, as a whole they paint a picture of disconnection and of the impending loss of the relationship between mother and daughter.


The poems in Miriam Goodman’s chapbook Expense Report are unified by a focus on work. The collection opens with “The Interview” and ends with “Labor Day” -- interview implying a search for, a desire for, work, and Labor Day a break from it. Throughout the collection, Goodman represents many types of work: the corporate world, teaching, housework. None feel particularly rewarding; it is only in “Bed Time” when the speaker hangs the pressures of the day on a hanger and in “Labor Day” that a sense of peace emerges. Images of food and eating appear throughout the chapbook, beginning with brief mentions of wine and restaurants in “The Interview” to “Breakfast in Nashville with Loretta Lynn” to cooking spoiled vegetables and calves’ brains in “Shell”, to a sushi restaurant, drinking with the boss, a company picnic, a steak dinner, a story about rival bakers, snacks purchased at an airport, and in “Labor Day” the child who doesn’t want to break his food. Food and the desire for food appear throughout. “Forecasting/Sales Meeting” ends “I pull up vanquished, another prospect/ famished; eat everything in sight.” and “Labor Day” concludes the whole collection by describing photography, a holiday pastime, as “feeling displaced onto the object/ the famished glance, allowed.” I don’t know what I make of these images, but they do lend a sense of coherence, a continuing frame of reference. Sexual imagery also appears frequently through the book, in awkward conjunction with office supplies, dreams of Buddha, a much younger boss, a husband who almost strays. Stylistically, the poems mix prose with poetic line breaks, even in different sections of the same poem in “In Defense of Desire: Business Arguments”. The theme of work, and subthemes of food and sex, emphasize the daily life appeal of the poems.

Week 3 Is Winding Down

and I am exhausted. And bewildered. In more ways than I can (or should) accurately enumerate here. But it's okay. In fact, it's good and more than good. I have written two poems this semester, and I can already see my understanding grow. I am reading some wonderful poetry and learning to be a more careful reader. I am teaching and loving it, learning from the days that work and the days that don't. I am challenged and rewarded in so many ways.

I am going to read the next chapter of the rhetoric text tonight, and work on poetry tomorrow, and then go teach class, and then I'll try to find a decent martini in a college town with some of the girls from the department. I am glad it's the weekend.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Update on first workshop, and a poem!

I posted an update on my first workshop over at the MFA Chronicles tonight if anyone wants to read it.

And, since Enru asked, here is the first poem I workshopped. We had to respond to the chapbooks, as I've mentioned, and then take one poem from one of those chapbooks and use it as inspiration for our poem. I appreciated the use of form in Jeffrey Harrison's book, and so I wrote a villanelle 'in response' to his villanelle.

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Although it feels empty, it’s never quiet here –
rustling leaves, cicadas, those critical crows.
I think maybe it is silence that I fear,

that I wouldn’t know what to do if all I could hear
was the beat of my heart, the way breath grows
to fill the emptiness. It’s never quiet here –

I fall asleep to the whine of insects beating near
my window screen, reaching toward the glow
of lamplight. I think it is silence that I fear,

even more than failure, no response, a deaf ear,
my mother’s refusal to hear her name even though she knows.
Although it feels empty it’s never quite here

that we meet. My mother will talk for a year
about our relatives, her garden, the climbing roses.
I think maybe it is silence that she fears,

or giving me a chance to tell her what she doesn’t want to hear.
Crows wake me early, my mother weeds beans in rows.
Although I feel the empty space between us it’s never quiet here
but I think maybe it is an inevitable silence that I fear.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Review of "At Night, the Dead" by Lisa Ciccarello

Stop #3 on the Read Write Poem Virtual Book Tour. I know the admin folks at RWP are on Pacific time, so to them this might appear three hours early, but it's September 3rd here. Trust me ;)


Lisa Ciccarello's chapbook At Night, the Dead haunts the mind of the reader just as the dead haunt the poems in the collection. There is a tight, almost claustrophobic quality to many of the poems; the reader is located immediately within, inside, while the dead seem to hover just outside. The first poem establishes this enclosure at the outset: “You lock the door. You lock the window. You dream of the dead. You salt the sills from the inside. You are going to dream.” The dead will appear in your dreams, regardless of the precautions you take.

The dead move slowly inside as the poems move forward. By the end of the collection “you” have disappeared and the dead have taken up residence. “The dead set up the house they remember, but it is not as they remember,” and even more disturbing, in the very last stanza, the first person has now joined the dead: “We reach for salt in the empty salt box. Missing from the kitchen what could keep us from the house…Our mouths draw close. The flame does not flicker.” All the salt, all the locks, have not kept the dead away.

The poems in this chapbook are short, some only a line or two long. Although I confess to not making much literal sense of the collection, the images are distinct and evocative. Unsettled dichotomies and conflicts of darkness and light, water and salt, dirt and diamonds, heat and home and love and paper and fruit fill the pages, but ultimately fail to make a concerted whole. This may have been the poet’s conscious intention; the mood is certainly constant throughout, but there is no recognizable narrative. Some other choices are hard to explain, such as the use of “yr” instead of “your” in some (but not all) of the poems. Another choice the author makes is that each poem is titled “At night, the dead” or some variation thereof. While this functions very well in terms of reinforcing a mood and a set of images, it makes it difficult to identify particular poems for commentary.

Overall, the chapbook is moody, dark, and haunting; the language is lovely and redolent with images (my favorites are “the sky smells like tea, the sky smells like timber and steam” and “the dark is a black bag where the eyes are kept”).* If you are looking for straightforward narrative poetry, you won’t find it here, but if you’re looking for a unique point of view and a quirky, creepy, set of poems, you will enjoy this chapbook immensely.

Get your handmade copy of At Night, the Dead

* from the second poem “At night, inside the house, the dead:” and the poem on page 16 called “At night, the dead:”

Charles Baxter on the importance of being still

Interview with Charles Baxter

I am enjoying the irony of having read this tonight, after having had the link open on my computer for several days and never feeling that I had the time to sit down, be still, and "waste" time on reading an interview.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Review of "Investigations: The Mystery of the Girl Sleuth" by Kathleen Aguero

When I first started reading Kathleen Aguero’s chapbook Investigations: The Mystery of the Girl Sleuth (dedicated “For Nancy Drew fans everywhere”) I felt like the type of audience the author intended: I grew up reading Nancy Drew and other girls’ mystery novels and am now at an age where I sometimes long for the simplicity of a formulaic plot and a crook to catch.

The collection opens with “To Nancy Drew on her 50th Birthday”, a poem which seems to me basically a mélange of titles and situations from many of the books. A note at the end of the volume calls this piece a found poem, but I felt that it was a bit boring, at least for an opening. However, the next several poems interestingly articulate Nancy’s problems (an unhappy marriage, a breast cancer scare) and discontent with her role in life; in “Competence”, she would “…like to change plots/ but she can’t figure out how.” The poems continue, following Nancy on a vacation where she can’t quite relax, peeking into the thoughts of her father and the housekeeper, then becoming more socially aware. “Stumped” reads like a real woman’s crisis with Nancy stuck between past and future with no way of growing older, nothing but a “stalled self”, and in “Unsolved Mysteries” Aguero points a finger at the selfish bourgeoisie world Nancy inhabits. And then, with “Mystery of the Tolling Bell”, the poems shift from a third person view of Nancy’s fictional world to a first person world in which teenagers do horrible things, friends commit suicide, and mothers develop dementia.

These poems, while couched in the terms of mystery, don’t fit with the rest of the collection. I found myself wondering if Aguero wanted to write two books: one about Nancy Drew, the other about the mysteries of her own life (or other ‘real’ lives). If she did intend to blend the two together, the balance is off in this chapbook; only five of the nineteen poems are in the third person. I feel like the chapbook would be stronger without those pages, particularly as it ends on a lovely note. After all of Nancy’s failures, fears, and stalling, the final piece “Zen Nancy” seems to show a girl sleuth who has somehow found a way to grow up, as she investigates bigger mysteries like “the sound/ of stone, the color of air,/ the vast and cloudless sky”.

The chapbook is available from Červená Barva Press

This has nothing to do with the MFA

Just felt like writing out a celebration and a complaint that have nothing whatsoever to do with grad school, writing, or anything else beyond mere vanity and comfort.

1) On Sunday, after buying my books, I stopped in a shop in town that sells all sorts of outdoor gear, clothing, accessories, etc. (This is a big area for hiking) I was just browsing around at first and was immediately impressed by the cute clothing they had, much of it made from organic and/or sustainable and/or natural fabrics. That is not an essential criteria for my clothing, but it’s nice when I can get it. What I ended up getting instead were two pairs of shorts for running. People who have gone running with me, or know me in real life, know that I hate to wear shorts; I have been and remain to a degree self-conscious about my thighs and upper legs – I think they are chubby and pale and ugly – so I never wear shorts shorter than Bermudas in social settings, and I am constantly searching for running shorts with an inseam long enough to cover my thighs. This is difficult, because I’m also extremely long-legged. I’m only 5’7” but I have the legs of a person who is 6 feet tall. Literally. I’ve compared them. I’ve looked in running stores before, and one shop in Columbus carries a longer length women’s short (I forget which brand – Asics maybe, or Nike, a common athletic brand) but the one time I was there, all they had were small and extra large. I am neither! So, all this rambling to say that I discovered on Sunday that North Face makes at least two distinct styles of women’s shorts which are suitable for running and have a long enough inseam to make me happy; one was simply a longer styled short, the other was a tall/long version of a shorter style. AND both were on sale! I wore the black ones on my long run Sunday and they were super comfy and the blue ones on my 4 miler today and they are quite acceptable. Yay!

2) And now my rant. The water in State College sucks! I don’t mean the taste of it sucks, although it kind of does; I’ve had worse though. Tastewise, it’s somewhere on par with the heavily chlorinated water in certain Cleveland suburbs although more minerally and less chemically. What really sucks about the water is what it does to my skin and hair. My hair is like straw, my face and chest are broken out, my hands are peeling, and I got a nosebleed today; that’s how drying the water is! I invested in a deep conditioner for my hair and some super moisturizing hand cream and I’m trying to be religious about moisturizing face and body, but it is quite annoying.

So there you have it. Two totally random things I’ve discovered in or about State College, PA. Oh, and there ARE drag queens :) And I know one :) So that's happy too!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Review of "An Undertaking" by Jeffrey Harrison

This is an expanded version of a grad school assignment - my review of Jeffrey Harrison's chapbook An Undertaking. (Have I mentioned my Poetry Workshop has a chapbook focus? It's really cool - each week we'll read 2 chapbooks (give or take) and write a one paragraph response to each, then choose one poem from either book and write a poem in response to, or in imitation of, or otherwise relating to, it. That's the first half of the semester; second half we'll continue reading chapbooks, start researching chapbook competitions, and put together our own chapbook type collections. Super cool, huh?) This is the first chapbook I've read and responded to for that class. I didn't love it, but I appreciate it. For more detail, read on....

Oh, and I may post reviews of all (or most) of the chapbooks I read for that class. I know I will post a review of Lisa Ciccarello's At Night, the Dead later this week, as part of the Read Write Poem Virtual Book Tour so stay tuned for more book-reviewing goodness :)

--- end babbling. begin review. ---

Jeffrey Harrison’s chapbook An Undertaking embodies its title in two ways. The word “undertaking” immediately conjures thoughts of a journey or a project, but once a reader sees that the chapbook is dedicated to someone who’s recently died “undertaking” seems to imply all things funereal. The collection opens with a poem called “Saint” in which the poet addresses a sculpted stone saint in a museum and asks for his prayers, and then the bulk of the chapbook contains a group of poems that focus on the suicide of the poet’s brother Andy at age 47 but also delve beneath the surface of his life and into the processes of grieving and healing. The collection closes with a poem titled “Visitation” in which the poet’s mother hears the song of white-throated sparrows and, in the song of these “family birds” she hears the memory of loved ones gone but also the knowledge that everything will be all right, and that the sparrows, like all people and things, “…will stay/ for only a few days before moving on.” In spite of the big subjects of suicide and death, Harrison’s poems are most memorable when they include concrete details like Andy’s seeming obsession with socks, discovered by his parents and brother only after his death, the rhyming scavenger hunt clues he wrote for his niece and nephew, and the silly songs he sang to a Newfoundland dog when the boys were younger.

Some poems like “The Investigation” and “Plea” use form, rhyme, and repetition to order the emotion while others explore different line lengths and stanza patterns. The poem “The Investigation” is particularly interesting to me because it makes use of the villanelle form to harness the emotion of the subject. The conversational diction and straightforward narrative style develop in the reader the same distance that the poet eventually achieves at the end of the piece. After struggling to understand his brother’s death, he realizes that he never really will, and that he has to “let it go”, a phrase that echoes throughout the poem. The structure of the poem and the enforced casualness of the language remind me of the way that many people deal with loss: we force ourselves to keep up with our habits and our schedules, to keep up appearances, and to speak and act as though things are fine. In life, as in the poem, the acting will eventually bring us to the reality.

Overall, the language in these poems is remarkably restrained, the opposite of the melodrama one might expect based on the subject matter. While I admire Harrison’s ability to process emotions rationally through words, I personally felt an almost-forced calmness in the poems and would have liked to see a bit more rawness emerge in this chapbook. The physical chapbook, from Haven Press, is a beautiful artifact: dark grey covers, letterpress printing on cover and title page, handsewn binding; and the poems contained inside tell a sad story in accessible language. An Undertaking is available on

Saturday, August 29, 2009

One week down.....

Week 1 summary is now posted on The MFA Chronicles. If you don't want all the details, here's the gist: it was a busy week. I’m only IN class for 12 hours a week, but there is a very definite balancing act I’m going to have to master of prepping to teach, reading/writing for my academic classes, reading/writing for workshop, AND still managing to run and have some sort of social life. I feel good about it though; I feel like I can do it, and I feel (after only a week) that I definitely belong here, I don’t doubt that for an instant, not even when I’m waiting for a bus in the pouring rain or sitting at my table glaring at an article about the Affective Fallacy.

I did however write a poem for workshop on Wednesday. I'd tried to write something and failed miserably on Thursday night, then after everyone left tonight (my roommate and I hosted four of the MA girls for dinner) I started from scratch and came up with something I'm much happier with.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I think I will like Tuesdays this semester

Or at least I really like this one. I slept till 8:30, then a leisurely getting-ready, hopped on a bus at 10:13am and was in my office on campus by 10:30. I read through the very good student papers as I mentioned this morning, then did some random online stuff and chatted with people coming and going. Heated up my lunch, then went to my Writer in the Community class. Ooh, I am so excited about this class! It will be such fun, definitely a challenge, but in a good way. It's kind of a service learning course - in small groups (2 or 3 people) we will run a 10 week writing program in some community setting (nursing home, youth center, prison, etc). We have complete control over how we run the program, and we'll be comparing notes and sharing our experiences as we go, reading a lot of pedagogy, and writing about it. We'll be writing teaching journals AND posting some highlights on a class blog. And we'll be writing a paper at the end evaluating the whole experience, and we have the option of applying to present our papers at conferences and/or submit them for publication somewhere. Super, super cool! The class is also very self-directed; there are a few sites that have ongoing programs from previous years, but we also have the option of researching and setting up new ones. L and I are trying set something with a local women's center. If that doesn't pan out, we'll probably work with LGBT youth somewhere. I'd actually prefer the latter, but since someone in the course already made a contact at the women's center, it seemed easier to start there. So, yeah, super exciting!

Also, because we'll be out in the community at least an hour a week throughout most of the semester, the actually classroom component of the course will be shorter than it is marked on our schedules. It will be about two hours instead of three, which is great, because that means I'll be done around 2:30 and can come home and go running.

Which I also did today. A sweaty, somewhat hilly, four miles. I have not hit a 5 miler yet since living in PA. I was supposed to do one over the weekend and ended up doing 3.5. The weekend before my 5 miles was about 4.5. I've just gotta get into a routine and commit to it, that's all there is to it. I keep promising people I'm coming to OH in October to run the half, so I've gotta get in shape! If I can do another good 4 miles Thursday (like I'm scheduled to) and a shorter run on Friday, then I feel confident about jumping back into my training schedule and going for the full 6 miles on Sunday. At least 5 though - gotta break that boundary!

Tonight, I have some reading/homework/prep for tomorrow's teaching. And I'm nervous about the workshop class; first class meeting is tomorrow. Oh, and my loan finally disbursed tonight, but they're telling me it'll be at least 3 days till it's in my account! Hopefully that means Friday so I can buy my freaking books! Ugh, money....

But this is a happy post. So happy Tuesday thoughts. The weather was great, the student writing was good, class was good, the run was good, it's all good :)

Prophecy (and some preliminary thoughts on grad school)

I realized this morning when my mother sent me an email saying that my brother had moved to Georgia yesterday that I'd dreamed about that event the previous night. Thinking on it, I had also dreamed about another real event the night before that. I was talking with J online the other day about fall, about this time of year, and how it feels so complex and bittersweet. People, no matter where we live or what we believe, are connected to nature and to the seasons. Some of us more than others, or more consciously, but we all feel it; we feel the days lengthen or shorten. This time of year, we feel the year winding down, the winter (the death) that is coming. The equinox is coming, and Samhain/Halloween/Day of the Dead. The veils between worlds are thinner then than at any other time; past and present, living and dead, "reality" and "unreality" are closer and more entwined, and sometimes overlapping. Things change in the fall. Things end, but more often for me, they begin.

(I will expand that and make it more logical at some point, perhaps, but for now, moving on to an unrelated thought)

First grad class was yesterday morning. It's the Intro to Graduate Study. Intimidating and encouraging at the same time. I thought class went okay; I was afraid I would feel like everyone else was better prepared than I was, but it felt like most of us were a bit overwhelmed, which isn't really a good thing, but it was good not to feel I was the only one. The assigned reading for next week is going to be a chore... Some of it at least. Some should be fun (or fun-ish).

My first day of teaching went well yesterday, and I asked the students to write for ten minutes at the end of class about themselves as writers, their experiences with writing, strengths/weaknesses, likes/dislikes, etc. I just read their material this morning (during my office hour - how cool to be able to say that!) and I must say that I am impressed. I don't know if Penn State really does have higher standards than state schools in Ohio, or if PA high schools are better, or if I just have an unusually skilled section of students, or what, but their writing, even uncorrected, handwritten, in class, is at a higher level than I expected. I am happy! And challenged. Yay!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ready As I'll Ever Be

Tomorrow, at 9:05am, I will attend my first graduate class. Tomorrow at 4:40pm, I will teach my first English 15 class.

This is so exciting and scary!

Last week was very busy. I got on the bus at 8:36 every morning and orientation started at 9:00. We were mainly in one particular room; the location of the building was convenient but the desks/chairs in the room were horribly uncomfortable. Not just not comfortable, but truly painful. We had lectures about the Composition program and English department policy, we got course syllabi and rosters and schedules and lesson plans. We heard from faculty and current graduate teachers about how exactly they conduct the first week of classes. We graded some practice papers and spent a whole morning discussing them; by the far the most fun and helpful morning of the week. We had people come in and speak to us about diversity issues, sexual harassment, the Writing Center, the Counseling Center, the Women’s Center. We got a tour of the library and free lunch that day. We spent one morning and a separate afternoon in a computer lab learning about all sorts of technology issues. It was exhausting, mentally and physically.

But we socialized too. Except for the day the library gave us lunch, we were on our own for an hour to an hour and a half, so we got to eat with our classmates, or run errands with them, and just talk and get to know people. Thursday night, two of the other new MFAs and I walked over to the milk and cookie party. All the new MFAs were there and quite a few of the returning ones. We chatted and ate cookies and it was nice and relaxing. Friday night, my roommate and I and our neighbor drove out to a party at one of the faculty member’s houses; there was very good food, and I think all of the new students were there, along with a few returning students and a few other faculty people. Some wine was drunk by me, and much fun was had. Maybe 1/3 of us new folks convened at Mad Mex downtown after the party wound down and enjoyed some more laidback talking and drinking. Saturday was the EGO party. N cooked dinner for my roommate and I, then we went to the party. It was packed and hot and loud and crazy, but less so than the last time I’d been to that house (same house that hosted the first party of recruitment weekend). I got to talk with a few of the older students I’d either not met, or not spoken much with, before; and got to bond with a few of my fellow newbies. Some people got drunker than I had yet seen them, and I got drunker than I had been since moving here, but not too drunk. Four of us were singing along to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” in the car on the way home though. Fun stuff!

Everyone really is ridiculously nice, and, for a group of academic people, remarkably social. A handful of folks skipped the party last night, but most attended, and I think everyone there had a good time.

Today, I finished prepping to teach for the first week – I have outlines for each day, and I wrote out a full script for Monday and Wednesday, though I may not even refer to them; it was just helpful to write it. And I cooked a big pot of soup so I can eat leftovers this week, and I picked out an outfit to wear for my first day of teaching. I am as ready as I’m gonna get, and I am excited to get started and see how it goes!

I was thinking yesterday that I feel a little bit like I have lost sight of being a student this past week and just thought about being a teacher, but since our orientation was for teaching, that makes sense. I also have not bought my books yet, because I don’t have any money; I’m hoping my financial aid refunds tomorrow, so I can do that. My class tomorrow is Intro to Graduate Study; it goes from 9:05-12:05. Then I’ll eat my lunch (which I’ll pack in the morning), then hopefully go buy books, put them in my office, print out copies of an assignment sheet, pick up the copies of the syllabus that should be in my mailbox, and then spend some time reading for class – I’m assuming that we’ll have a reading assignment from that morning – and/or working on the 1-2 page writing assignment I have due for Tuesday. At around 4:00, I will switch my focus to reviewing for English 15, then get a cup of coffee and head to class. I’ll teach from 4:40 till 5:30 (I’m guess I’ll keep them at least 40 minutes if not the whole 50), then head home.

Tuesday I’m supposed to be in my office from 10:30-11:30, then I have my Writer in the Community class from 12:20-3:20. Wednesday is Poetry Workshop from 12:20-3:20, then office hours, then English 15. Thursday I just have English 602 from 1:00-2:15; that’s our teaching seminar. Friday the only thing on my schedule is teaching in the evening. I like that my schedule is busier early in the week, and freer as it goes on. I need to work in lots of writing time (as I have not been doing much writing recently) and my running time as well.

So, that’s where I am right now, on the eve of my first day as a grad student. I am so nervous and excited for this week, and I just want to get started!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Brain Full, Please Sleep

Here is a link to my post on The MFA Chronicles today:

It's a pretty fair summation of the first two days of orientation. So. Much. Information. Really, just SO MUCH! But it's good info, and I do feel like I could go in and at least get through the first day right now. We'll tackle days 2 and 3 later this week, and talk about/practice grading papers, and so on and so forth.

Tired now though, and going to get everything ready for tomorrow.

The MFAs are having a milk and cookie party on Thursday evening. Friday evening is a party at Dr. Glenn and Dr. Olson's house for all of us who've survived orientation. And Saturday night is an EGO (English Graduate Organization) shindig. So there is fun to be had as well.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Yet again, I am sitting on my balcony drinking coffee, with the laptop, doing nothing. This has been a very slow week: unpacking, getting settled, running a few errands, but not really *doing* much. Next week, all that will change. I'll be in Orientation from 9-5 every day, and then classes will start the next week, so I decided to take the time, while things are slow, to write out my goals for my MFA.

1. To write a lot! And to write the best poetry I can. To learn from my teachers and fellow students and from the new experiences I will have. To synthesize all of that in with my own existing voice.

2. To teach. To learn as much as I can about the theory and practice of teaching and to be the best instructor I can. To challenge and inspire and learn from my students. To be a force for good in their lives and their college careers.

3. To learn to network. I've never been good at this, but I'm hoping to learn and to make a lot of friends and professional connections. To contribute positively to workshops and classes and to the department. To join some sort of professional organization(s) and contribute to the larger community.

4. To take a non-fiction workshop, to develop a plan for the non-fiction book I want to write.

5. To put together a cohesive collection of poetry. To develop good writing and submission habits. To publish poems, and, ultimately, a collection.

6. To develop my voice and abilities as a critical reader and writer, to prepare and publish scholarly articles, to apply to (and get accepted into) the PhD program here at Penn State.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Lovely Day (and a bunch of boring details)

Well, I did walk to campus yesterday to get my student ID and set up my computer access and my email account. I actually liked the picture for my ID, which was a nice surprise, as I normally hate the way I photograph. Today I went and picked up the books I'll be using to teach freshman composition. Looked through them a bit this afternoon, and while it's kind of overwhelming, it's also very exciting. I am also desperately waiting for my tuition bill to post so that I can get my student loan money deposited into my checking account; it is this whole involved process where the bill doesn't actually post until after you activate you computer account, and then you have to submit it to the bursar, and then they can't "refund" your loan money until after the first day of classes. Even though I have a tuition waiver, I did request loans this first semester to help with the costs of moving and getting settled and leaving my old job and all of that stuff. I'm broker than I should be right now, but I have a very small paycheck coming next Wednesday (leftover from my job) and then hopefully, if all goes correctly, I'll have the loan disbursed the following week. I'm in no danger of starving in the meantime, but I can't afford to ride the bus, so I guess I'll be walking my first couple days of orientation; it should take about 35 minutes. I timed the walk to Burrowes today (the English building where I picked up my comp books) and it took 37 minutes; Willard, where orientation is being held, is slightly closer.

I actually had a very nice day today. We got our modem delivered this morning and now have real, reliable, internet that actually is intended for our use. I got back from campus around 1:00, I think, baked some sugar cookies, walked to the grocery and got a few things, read for awhile, then went running around 5:45. Had a nice run, for the first time; I don't know if I'm getting used to the hills, or if I just picked a better route this time. I also made a really yummy dinner: pasta with zucchini, chickpea, and tomato sauce. Yum, yum, yum. And lots of leftovers too.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

First post from PA

Well, I’m here. I moved in on Saturday with the help of my wonderful moving posse. They left on Sunday afternoon, and I started unpacking. Sunday and most of Monday were spent unpacking and organizing. I checked out the grocery store and the Goodwill Monday afternoon and went for my first run in this new neighborhood. At first it felt a bit like running in Dublin did, past the apartment complexes and the cul-de-sacs, but then I turned up Whitehall Road, and it suddenly felt like southern Ohio: I was running beside a black-topped road, with fields sloping down to my left, hills rising softly through the humid air, passing separate houses with gardens and fruit trees and falling-down barns. It was lovely and homey.

My roommate arrived on Tuesday. I must say it is odd to have a roommate again. I am old and set in my single ways, so having someone else in the apartment just seems strange. She is nice though, and seems really laidback, and I am sure we’ll get along fine.

I still have not done anything all that constructive, in terms of going to campus and getting my id or my books or anything, but that can wait I guess. I am desperately poor right now, and trying to hang in there. I did however, on the topic of constructiveness, write a poem on Monday while sitting on my balcony.

Pennsylvania Morning #1

Walking my dog this first morning
we follow a path behind the building
bordered by an overgrown tree line -
maples and elms, a dark-leafed shrubby thing
I can’t identify, and plenty of weeds.
I recognize many of these plants from Ohio,
Queen Anne’s Lace, tall purple thistles
that punctuate the verge with danger,
wild grape vines with pointed leaves
and dusty curling tendrils, and the yellow tongues
of touch-me-not that nevertheless invite
my touch. I remember the blossoms as orange
when my mother took me hiking
on the Cleveland Metropark trails
she’d known as a girl and taught me
how they work and why; I wonder if
these are a different species or if
my memory is wrong, but the striated
green pods are swollen just the same,
and when I close my finger and thumb
around the largest it bursts just like
I knew it would. The pod splits,
its sides curl open like streamers,
the inside is white, the seeds fly free.

Also, I am now participating in a collaborative blog called The MFA Chronicles; all the contributors are starting MFA programs this fall and we’ll be comparing notes and sharing our experiences with each other and with readers. If you’re interested in the MFA process, check it out. So far I have posted an introduction and a long post about how I chose the programs to which I applied and how I ended up at Penn State. Feel free to give them a read if you want, but I’ll probably cross-post a lot of things here, if I think they’d be of general interest.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Last day of work

I'm reading (and loving) Lisa Ciccarello’s chapbook "At Night, The Dead" as part of the first Read Write Poem "virtual book tour". Several people will be reviewing the chapbook on their respective blogs; my review will appear here on September 3rd.

Also, just playing on the new fabulously redesigned Read Write Poem site today. Go check it out!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Grad School Preparations

I have now packed the following:

Six boxes of books (then I ran out of boxes)

everything that was previously under my bed (well, ok, I threw out a good bit of it)

a box of small pictures frames, interspersed with scarves for cushioning

the contents of my desk so I can get rid of it

I’ve also gone through my front closet and thrown things out, given things away, and gotten the rest of it organized. I even put all my hats, gloves, etc in two little plastic tubs.

I’m making gradual progress. I am also increasingly nervous, about the physical details of the move, the prospect of living with a roommate for the first time in three years, and mostly about the program. I’m second-guessing my creative abilities, and my intellectual ones, and I am anxious to just get in there and challenge myself. Oddly, the one thing I’m not questioning is the one thing that everyone else seems to think I should be most nervous about, and that’s teaching; instead, I’m really looking forward to it. I hope I didn’t just jinx myself by saying that, but I’m really excited to teach!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ghazal - "Nothing"

You know I love ghazals, and there was a post on Poetic Asides about them the other day, so I wrote one off the cuff that evening and thought I'd toss it up here since I haven't posted much poetry recently. I changed one line from the version I posted here (You can read the post about the form and a few other people's submissions as well).

I loved her four years and took away nothing
but memories and photos that add up to nothing.

In Ohio, it is hard not to love summer, the bright green
of grass, the brightness of bodies wearing next to nothing.

We were both eighteen, bare-legged on a summer night,
sweet smell of cornsilk, so faint as to be almost nothing.

An apartment without air conditioning. Open windows
all night long. Two bodies sweating. I would change nothing.

Sun and moon love earth the way I loved her, the only way
they know how: offering themselves, asking nothing.

It has been ten years since she left. Still when I drink wine,
I wonder what I should have done differently. The answer: nothing.

With all this time to think, Emily has realized
that without both love and loss, life is worth nothing.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Possible beginning of a poem, or just a random bit of thought.


Two shoeboxes full of photographs
a flip book of evolution, a novel
in glossy 3x5s and 4x6s, main characters
and minor, some who’ve died and some
who’ve disappeared, a poor white
station wagon and my baby sister
in a stained dress playing on a bare
floor, friendships and tourist attractions
and yellow fields and red brick,
dogs I remember and cats I’ve forgotten

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Make it new

Attended a really great open mic event tonight (at Urban Spirit coffeeshop, on Long Street, for any Columbus people reading - it's absolutely worth checking out! More slam-oriented than the Poetry Forum, but very supportive of all different voices, and filled with talent!) And I was noticing that a lot of poems dealt with similar themes and/or sounded similar to other poems I've heard or read before, so I was just thinking about how to make things new, and how hard that is. The easiest things to say are the ones that have already been said, but are they the only ones?

Is there an end of newness, a limit to the number of new things a poet can say, a finite number of new ways to say them? Is it like a relationship, where it loses the excitement after awhile? Or is there a way to keep the spark going, to make a commitment, to marry the work. I, Emily Anderson, take you, poetry, to be my partner….. I feel a bit like that’s the commitment I’m making by going into an MFA program; I’m saying “yes, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. This is the career I want to have. For richer and for poorer…” (mostly poorer – poets, even with university jobs, aren’t known to be wealthy). That’s scary, that commitment. And we all know I don’t do well with commitment. But maybe I can change. Maybe I'm ready.

Monday, July 13, 2009

perfect (from this weekend)

(I wasn't online at home at the time I wrote this, Saturday afternoon, but thought I'd post it now)

it’s raining today, a steady, cooling, soaking rain, with some light thunder, the day after I noticed how low the river was and how sad the mudflats looked in the center of it. I felt a little guilty for wanting nothing but sunshine this summer, and now we’re getting rain on a day when I had no outdoor activities at all planned. again, it is perfect. perfect, perfect, perfect. overwhelmingly so, and scarily so, and I just want to live up to it all.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Reasons I like riding the bus:

1) seeing the pregnant mom with three young children and being glad it's not me

2) accidentally eavesdropping on a cell phone conversation and realizing that I still understand more Spanish than I thought I did

3) not having to drive, or think, or pay attention to anything for a little while. feeling like i'm "supposed" to be just reading or daydreaming or playing games on my cell phone.

4) no parking hassles

5) no parking tickets

6) relinquishing control and my obsession with being on time

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer Reading Part 3

Yesterday was a deliciously book-filled day. After work, I walked up to the library. I returned Autobiography of Red; I'd meant to re-read it carefully, but after re-reading a few sections, I decided not to. While I appreciate that it's a very smart, very unique book, and while the story did stick with me, the poetry of it, the language of it, didn't really connect with me. So I returned one book and picked up four more, including Czeslaw Milosz's Selected Poems which I absolutely love, then I took the bus up to Clintonville to spend my gift certificate at Areopagitica Book Store. Oh, I love that place! It's a used bookstore, in all the best ways: it smells of old books, it's usually empty, you can stumble across all kinds of hidden gems, and the proprietors lurk quietly and can tell you where anything in the store is. I got there right around 6:00, only to see on the sign that they are supposed to close at 6:00 on Mondays. The door was still open and the shelf of clearance books still on the sidewalk, so I walked in and asked if they closed at 6:00 and the man behind the desk said he'd decided to stay open that evening. So I wandered a bit, picked up Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet (which I've read before but need to own) and The Delicacy and Strength of Lace, letters between James Wright and Leslie Marmon Silko, and I ordered a copy of A Wild Perfection (the collection of James Wright's letter that I have from the library right now). I've always enjoyed James Wright's poetry, but reading the letters is just so interesting; I'm maybe a third of the way through the book and there are so many things I'd like to go back to read again and think about.

Then I had a nice coffee break with Sam, then went home, had a veggie chili dog and a spinach salad for dinner, then read and read some more. I am so in love with Milosz! If there is one critique I could make of my assigned reading in college, it is the almost complete lack of poetry in translation. I never read Neruda or Paz or Akhmatova in college; I've discovered all of them later, through friends or my own reading. I did read and fall in love with Rilke (thank you, John Wylam, for including one of the Elegies in the English 205 course packet), but his is the only translated poetry I remember reading in college. Anyway, Milosz is wonderful: poignant and smart and visual and just altogether lovely. So I read a bit of that, then I finished the novel I started last week: The Shadow Lines, by Amitav Ghosh. The second half was better than the first. The whole novel jumps around frequently in time, all through the childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood of the narrator; it can be confusing, especially early on until the reader gets a handle on the basics of what happened when and where. By the second section, one plot point has been resolved and the reader has a decent grasp on the overall arc of the story, so the second half reads easier than the first. I enjoyed the book, and it's a worthwhile read, but not super-outstanding.

I need to write. I want to write. I get ideas for poems, but I am embroiled in some strange sort of conflict with myself over actually sitting down to write them. I think on one hand, I want to save my writing for once I get to grad school, as though I'm afraid if I write a lot this summer, I won't have anything to say in the fall. On the other, I feel like I really should get into the habit of writing, but I'm dragging my feet against that obligation; I don't respond well to pressure or obligations, and telling me I "should" or "have to" do something is one of the best ways to keep me from doing it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer reading Part 2, and etc.

So, I think last night's post may have been my first drunken blog update. Fun. I had taken the day off yesterday, to recover from the weekend, so I slept late, walked the dog, then spent a couple hours at a coffee shop. After dinner, I decided to drink some wine that was left at my apartment a couple weeks ago and read poetry, which is what I was doing when I got the text inviting me out on a Monday. If I hadn't already been drinking, and/or if I wasn't still in weekend mode, I would not have gone, but as it was, I did, and it was fun.

Anyway, on the reading update I meant to give... I read The Unbearable Lightness of Being last week. Read Autobiography of Red yesterday, and will re-read it soon. As I was reading, I didn't love it; much of it really did not read as poetry for me, more like chopped up lines of prose. But the images and story have stuck with me, and I am looking forward to re-reading it. What else? I finished Late Wife and loved it. Still working on the James Wright letters. Oh, and I read Mirror Mirror by Gregory Maguire (of Wicked fame) - I'd read his Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and found it lacking, and this wasn't as good as Wicked either, but better than the other.

Thinking a lot about this summer and these three holiday weekends in a row and how different they are. Pride is a celebration of community, a defiant assertion of identity, and (for many of us) a cathartic, Dionysian, revel where we can drink and dance and kiss and fuck our sorrows and issues away in a safe place. Comfest is a "party with a purpose" as the slogan goes; it is idealistic and rejuvenating, an escape into an idyllic mindset for a weekend which can inform and inspire and anchor us as we go back out into reality. And now this coming weekend is the dichotomy of Red White & Boom on Friday (the patriotic, mass-culture, traditional display of fireworks downtown) and the DooDah parade on Saturday (complete anarchy and irreverence).

Next week, I'll start planning my move. And my going away party.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The tail end of a long weekend

(or the most perfect summer)

It it late, but I can not motivate myself to go to bed. I only have a three-day work week, so it's a little hard to care about a lack of sleep. I, against my better judgement, accepted an invitation to meet J for drinks tonight, on a Monday, and am now, slightly tipsily, taking advantage of the miracle that is internet access at home.

Comfest was last weekend. It was perfect. It was hot and sunny and sweaty and dirty and crazy and drunk and sad and amazing. I love my life here, I love it so much and am so very grateful for it and for everyone who makes it what it is, and it is so very very hard to think about voluntarily leaving all of this, BUT I am still so excited to be going to school and to be doing an MFA and I KNOW it is the right decision.

The weekend before was Pride, which was also perfect, in all the same hot, sunny, drunk, friends-I-adore ways.

It's hard to be so happy. It's hard to see someone I was happy with be with someone else. It's hard to be disappointed but not heartbroken, to know things work the way they're meant to work. It's hard to feel so lucky to have been with her, and to have the people in my life that I do. But I'm lucky that these are my difficulties.

I am lucky. I am happy. This truly is the summer I wanted. The most perfect summer I can conjur. I am like the child whose world revolves around her; I wanted a perfect summer to say goodbye to Ohio, and I am getting it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

a snippet

Where is the line between
sun and shade? It moves
you know as an afternoon
flows on. We start in the sun
and end in shadow, pinked
and chilled in the evening.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Lit survey (from a facebook friend)

1) What author do you own the most books by?
Without looking at my bookshelf, I can't be sure, but I think it's probably Anne Rice. I know, that's embarrassing. I went though a vampire phase when I was younger, what can I say?

2) What book do you own the most copies of?
I don't own more than one copy of any book. There are plenty of short stories and poems that appear in more than one anthology I own, but no single book appears more than once in my collection.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
I didn't notice it, but now that you mention it......

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
hmmm, I guess I'm pretty good at separating fiction from reality ;)

5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)?
I'm not sure. The Vampire Lestat, by Anne Rice. Or Tolkein's LOTR trilogy (since I read it the first time at a young age). I go back to escapist favorites like that, with their associated memories of the past, when I'm bored or depressed.

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Probably something by Betsy Byers.

7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year?
hmmm.... Probably a scifi novel I picked up at the library solely for it's title: Till Human Voices Wake Us. I loved the Eliot reference, but the book did not interest me at all.

8) What is the best book you've read in the past year?
I am loving Claudia Emerson's poems in Late Wife!

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
That's not my style. Read what you love.

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
uhm, I feel like I should probably have an intelligent suggestion here, but I don't.

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
Nothing comes to mind. I generally don't like book to move adaptations.

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
Anything by Dan Brown. Keep him away from me and next to airport toilets! Gracias! (Lol! I'm keeping this answer directly from Tory, because it's funny, and I agree!)

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
hmmm..... none come to mind.

14) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult?
I read plenty of fantasy and scifi, "genre fiction" if you will. Can't say just one book. I did read the Harry Potter series, but I have however NOT read Twilight. I grew out of my vampire phase when I was about 19.

15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read?
oooh, good question. Uhm, The Sound and the Fury, or Vanity Fair? Those are the first that come to mind.

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen?
hmmm, I've never seen anything too obscure. Maybe Much Ado About Nothing?

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?

18) Roth or Updike?
Roth, definitely.

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
That is a toss-up. I've really not read much of either.

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Shakespeare, of course!

21) Austen or Eliot?
Eliot. Go ahead and take away my chick card. It's okay. I admit it: I don't love Jane Austen.

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
Probably Medieval/Renaissance. And nonfiction. And my complete lack of a background in theory. I fear this will haunt me in the coming years.

23) What is your favorite novel?
The God of Small Things, by Arundahti Roy. If I have to pick just one.

24) Play?
A Doll's House, by Ibsen. Maybe. Or, this isn't a play per se, but Twilight Los Angeles, by Anna Deveare Smith, is absolutely brilliant, and a crazy-important historical document about race and class and violence in the 90s.

25) Poem?
How about book of poetry? Rilke's Duino Elegies (David Young's translation). Hands down. Going back to question 9, if I could tell everyone to read one book, this might be it. It speaks so beautifully about life and death and what it really means to be human and to be an artist.

26) Essay?
"A Room of One's Own" by Virginia Woolf, if I have to pick one. That's a classic. I read a lot of contemporary essays on politics, culture, gender issues, gay issues, globalization, environment, etc.

27) Short story?
I haven't read much short fiction lately, so I'm not sure I can answer this. I will say though that I read "Brokeback Mountain" years before it was made into a movie and found it a wonderful, moving story. This is an improper comment for a writer, but short stories are perhaps my least favorite genre. I much prefer my fiction at novel length.

28) Work of nonfiction?
Kurt Vonnegut, Man Without a Country

29) Who is your favorite writer?
Oh, goodness.... Most anyone I've mentioned here already. Plus Whitman, Yeats, Edith Wharton, Michael Chabon, Salman Rushdie, Richard Hugo, James Wright, Carolyn Forche, uhm, etc, etc, etc.....

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
Meh, everyone sees value in different things.

31) What is your desert island book?
The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry. Plenty of variety, and thousands of pages, to keep me busy.

32) And... what are you reading right now?
Late Wife: Poems, by Claudia Emerson (wonderful)
A Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright (wonderful)
American Sublime, by Elizabeth Alexander (meh)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

and this

read this!

if you don't read anything else i ever link to, read this.

Thursday, Thursday (sung to the tune of "Monday, Monday")

Let's see, what to say today? I am excited for the weekend, but having a good week already. Tuesday was my first carless day. I took the bus to and from work, walked over to the rental office to put money on my laundry card, and then did 4 loads of laundry (can you tell I've been procrastinating?). I also got a lot done on the jigsaw puzzle I'm determined to finish before Saturday. When my friend L moved to Arizona a couple years ago, she gave me three big 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles. They've been sitting around my apartments since then, and I finally decided to start one last week. It's probably 1/3 of the way done now. I am hosting brunch before the Pride parade on Saturday so it has to be off the table before then, and I would hate hate hate to have to put it away without finishing it. Yesterday, I bought some groceries after work, then walked my dog up to the bank with me and deposited some money, then I brushed him, clipped his nails, and gave him a bath. And then I went swimming! First time this year! It was a little cold, but nice to be in the water. Tonight I want to stop by the North Market after work and get some produce, then I have volunteer training from 6-8, and then I want to bake at least one batch of muffins, if not two. And I want to go out tonight to kick off Pride weekend. Tomorrow, I will drag myself through work, and then the weekend will commence. I've gotta get everything ready for brunch and get my apartment vacuumed again (damn that dog hair!) before the lovely irresponsible spirit takes over completely, but I will do it.

Oh, and I like this poem by Wislawa Szymborska. And I read a couple more of the James Wright letters last night. The ones where he talks about the Korean War are very interesting. If I had the book with me now, I'd quote a few passages which read as quite contemporary and relevant even now.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Within the space of less than a week, I have gone televisionless and carless. I think I like it. I will definitely do more walking, and more reading, and hopefully more writing as well.

I also started reading the poems in Late Wife by Claudia Emerson last night, and I love them. And started reading James Wright's letters in A Wild Perfection. Good stuff, good stuff! Just thinking about how I will never get past being a country girl. No matter how long I live in cities or how much I appreciate them, there is part of me that will always recognize and attach to the seasons and what they mean to the land and to those who farm it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Just read this:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Interesting article

An interesting article by Louis Menand about teaching creative writing - whether it is possible, what workshops accomplish (or don't), the ramifications of an "anti-system" like writing being part of a system like the university, etc. It's a pretty interesting read, although it focuses much more on fiction than on poetry, and I agree completely with his assessment of the value of CW workshops at the end of the article:

"Did I engage in self-observation and other acts of modernist reflexivity? Not much. Was I concerned about belonging to an outside contained on the inside? I don’t think it ever occurred to me. I just thought that this stuff mattered more than anything else, and being around other people who felt the same way, in a setting where all we were required to do was to talk about each other’s poems, seemed like a great place to be. I don’t think the workshops taught me too much about craft, but they did teach me about the importance of making things, not just reading things. You care about things that you make, and that makes it easier to care about things that other people make.

And if students, however inexperienced and ignorant they may be, care about the same things, they do learn from each other."

Those are my italics, but that is very much how I remember my undergraduate workshops.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Letter Project

I discovered The Letter Project today. I too have always loved writing and receiving letters, and reading what is posted so far on the site has been inspiring. I just requested from the library the book of James Wright's letters that Theresa mentions. This is exciting.

Summer Reading, part 1

I'm intermittently reading The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser and Charles Simic's The World Doesn't End. Both of which I want to love, but don't quite. They both have moments I love, but I'm curiously unmoved by much of what I read. Maybe it's just me. I'm waiting for something to really grab me!

And I'm also reading Zelda: A Biography (about Zelda Fitzgerald). I confess to finding it pathetic more than anything else. Both she and Scott come across as shallow, self-obsessed, and irresponsible to such an extent that it's just sad.

Sigh! Can anyone recommend something that will knock me on my butt?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Thought and Memory

and a total first draft of something.....

Thought and Memory

Their wings beat
beside my ears, ruffling
my hair but never tangling it.

Knowledge comes
unlooked for - I knew you
before you arrived, saw your soul
in silence as we lay on the bare floor.

Cold painted walls
disco ball above, tiny mirrors
tiny stars dancing on the wood floor
on your wide-open eyes, your dark-lashed
glowing eyes, your brown eyes, your sad eyes.

I remember your name
from somewhere I've never been.
I remember the smell of your hair,
Raven-dark and shining, smoky and shining
and surrounding me suddenly. I don't remember
you moving, beside me, above me, your hair like birds
delicate and quick, hollow bones, breakable, but still


defying gravity.

I feel like a real grad student

I am registered for classes now! Yeehaw!

Intro to Graduate Study
Poetry Workshop
Writer in the Community

plus a 1 hour Teaching Colloquium, and my freshman comp teaching assignment.

Super cool!

Thursday, May 28, 2009



There are paths in the brain
we tread every day: time, space,
self, but there are ways to step
off the well-worn track. Wilderness
awaits, a terrifying mystery,
a disconnection, a connection.

God is present in the space
between your reality and mine.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The universe is made of stories, not of atoms

That's a quote by Muriel Rukeyser. I've run across it before, and liked the lines, but read it again recently and it's stuck in my head. I enjoy her poems quite a bit.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Just a couplet

You are the smell of lighter fluid and charcoal and charring beef.
You are nostalgia, not desire: I have been a vegetarian for ten years.

I have not posted anything in weeks.... I had a good visit to PA, but then things fell through with the apartment I thought I had, and I was very annoyed about that. It feels like one has to be heterosexual and without pets in order to find a roommate and apartment in that damn town. I think I've found another roommate, but we're still hunting for a pet-friendly place. So, yeah, it's an ongoing process....

I've not done much writing recently. I'm trying. I keep coming up with ideas when I'm out running, or walking, or driving, or in some other way unable to write them down, and then failing to remember them or lacking the motivation to sit down and write them when I am able to do so. I've been reading a bit - mostly fiction but some poetry. Thinking about brain chemistry, concepts of self and identity, society and individuality, ingroups and outgroups. Typical stuff ;)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Goodbye, Poetry Forum! I will remember you fondly!

So I read on Monday, probably for the last time at the Poetry Forum, or at least the last time as a regular. I promised to come back and visit, but a Monday night event is not the easiest thing. It was a really fun night; Nathan's reading was wonderful, and everything seemed to go very well. I had probably one glass of wine too many, but hey, it was a special occasion.

I'm going to PA on Friday, to find an apartment and hang out. Supposed to bring poems to show one of my future fellow students. Nervous about everything having to do with grad school, but excited. I now have a nice bookstore gift certificate to spend and need to make a list of stuff I want to buy. Yay books! And yay roadtrips! And yay poetry! (and to balance that out - boo to annoying coworkers, rainy days, and people leaving without saying goodbye!)

Friday, May 1, 2009

What I Fear

One of the last PAD prompts was to write a sestina, so I did. The themes come from two places - one a very old prompt I took from Stacey, which is just to take all your fears or anxieties and write them into a poem - and one taking off on the theme of a poem I read Monday night.

What I Fear

These are the things I fear:
both success and failure, love
and never finding love, being
trapped in a house that’s burning,
cars stopped on a bridge,
growing old or dying young.

I no longer feel young
in the winter, and I fear
the ice on each bridge,
want only warmth and love,
your face above a book, fireplace burning
beside our two chairs, the simple act of being

with you. Each human being
can be happy but only the young
see it as a right. This ends with the burning
of a hand on a stove, the lessons to fear
what you do not know, that love
sometimes punishes, that not all bridges

can or should be crossed. A bridge
just outside of town where we went to be
alone, threw our bras in the creek and made love
in the car for the first time. We were young
enough to be reckless, old enough to fear
judgment. My mother told us we would burn

in hell, her knuckles white, her arms a burning
cross over her chest. She can not bridge
the gap between God and love. Her fear
is for my soul, her guilt for not being
able to avert this crisis when I was young.
There are so many kinds of love

and so many feelings that are not love:
to be trapped, to be forced, to burn
inside with shame. When I was young
I learned to fear escalators and bridges
and strange men and drugs. I learned to be
good is to be safe, and this is what I truly fear:

that I will let fear keep me from love,
that nothing will be enough to burn
away the bridges sunk deep when I was young.

Monday, April 27, 2009

To The One I've Not Yet Met

To The One I've Not Yet Met

Speak to me in your own language,
your own voice and vocabulary. Do not try
to impress me or assume you know
my language. Speak to me as to yourself.
If I understand, we'll know this is love.

from Sunday's PAD prompt to write about miscommunication, after thinking about how sometimes i feel so few people, even among my friends, really speak the same language as me.

A promised, a bit of backstory

So, here is the story about that poem I posted last week....

I have been wanting to write a ghazal for a long time, but never really made myself try one. A pretty good explanation of the form is here if you want to read up, but the basic rules, as I understand them, are that a ghazal is composed of 5-15 couplets, and it utilizes a repeated word called a radif which appears at the end of both lines of the first couplet and then at the end of the last line of each succeeding couplet. Each couplet should stand alone, although a loose theme or feeling is generally developed throughout the poem. Traditional ghazals often evoke themes of the romantic, erotic, and/or spiritual, and have a melancholy tone. It is also tradition for the poet to "sign" the poem by including his or herself in the final couplet, often in 3rd person, though I chose to use 1st person.

The ghazal was popularized in English in the U.S. by a Kashmiri-American poet named Agha Shahid Ali. I met him in the fall of 1999; he read at Bowling Green as part of an Asian-American Writers' Conference. I also got to hang out and drink with him afterward, and he was a wonderful man. He died two years later. Before he died, he put together a book of ghazals which are absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking and amazing, especially knowing that he wrote many of them when he knew that he was dying.

The PAD prompt was to write a poem about regret, and for some reason the word just struck me as the perfect word to use in a ghazal. I wrote the 5 couplets posted here that day and then another three over the weekend that I think I will add in.

Shahid's book is called Call Me Ishmael Tonight: A Book of Ghazals. He also edited a book called Ravishing DisUnities: Real Ghazals in English which includes work by Maxine Kumin, William S. Merwin, Ann Townsend, and many others.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


no time to talk about this right now, but wanted to post it.....

Regret: A Ghazal for Agha Shahid Ali

The poet approached his death without regret.
His loves, his words, all pure and true. No regret.

Sunshine in April warms the panes of windows
composed of broken sand. Does the ocean regret?

The room is brilliant and empty, bed made,
window open, curtains billowing in gusts of regret.

Lovers frolic in the new grass, hands hot and waiting.
Their eyes meet. Everything is possible but regret.

I met the poet the year before he died. We talked
of everything but death. I still carry that regret.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Art of Work (and some news)

Still keeping up with the PAD challenge, though I haven't written anything super exciting the past few days. This whole experience has been very good for me though. Not only have I really gotten into the habit of writing every day, but it's been good for me to write on some different subjects and to write without feeling like the end result has to be perfect or even good. Going into the Poem a Day challenge, I gave myself permission to write some really bad poems. As long as I wrote something every day, that was okay; I've been trying not to overthink the prompts and just go with whatever comes to mind. Some of the poems have come easily, others I've struggled with. Some I've known were complete crap, but others have surprised me in good ways.

I read two more of these newbies on Monday at the Poetry Forum: "Easter Morning" (the prose poem I referenced but didn't post in its entirety last week) and "White, Through Four Seasons" which I linked to. Got good responses, but they could both use some edits I think.

But here's the big news: I found out on Monday that I won 3rd place in the William Redding Memorial Poetry Competition! It's an annual contest sponsored by the Poetry Forum and Pudding House Publishing. My friend Nathan actually won first place - go Nathan!!! He gets a featured reading at the Poetry Forum in 2 weeks. The 2nd and 3rd place winners also get to read that night in shorter spots, so that'll be exciting!

Anyway, here's today's PAD poem. The prompt was to write a work-related poem.

The Art of Work

When I was young, to be called lazy
was the greatest insult. Like robots
my parents valued efficiency and hard work
at the expense of anything else.
Creativity was unnecessary unless it meant
a new way of cooking dinner or a faster method
of clearing brush or harvesting corn. The arts
were luxuries we could hardly afford.

A working writer is an oxymoron
in my father's eyes. There is no sweat
involved, no dirt, he sees no danger.
I can not explain that art is a blade
turned inward, two-edged and shining,
an artificial intelligence that cuts to the truth
leaving the artist in tatters, sweating
and exhausted after a hard day's work.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A New Relationship

A New Relationship

I believe I have finally made peace
with sweet potatoes. For years
I would tell anyone who cared
that I just don’t like them, even go
so far as to say hate. And I do
still hate, or strongly dislike,
and refuse to eat, sweet potato pie
or any concoction that involves
brown sugar, butter, or, heaven forbid,
marshmallows. I credit Northstar burritos
and my last two ex-girlfriends
for inspiring me to renegotiate
my relationship with a vegetable
I’ve always felt I really should like.

We got off on the wrong foot, sweet
potatoes and I, that gooey, too sweet
winter vegetable “eat your dinner
or go hungry” foot of childhood,
and I confess, I held a grudge. I just
wouldn’t see that they could be more
than orange mush masquerading
as dessert. We just needed some spice -
salt and pepper, cumin, chili powder –
and some mutual friends – black beans,
onions, tofu, tortillas, olive oil
instead of butter, and never, ever,
sugar of any kind. If we both follow
those rules, I think we can have
a great, long-lasting relationship.