Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Yep this was my past week

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Can you name ten different beer brands but none of the Ten Commandments? That's one of 25 signs that you will ultimately go to hell, according to divinity professor Jacob Pinewood, quoted in the Weekly World News. Here are other behaviors that may cause you eternal damnation: using the F word more than once a day; coveting your neighbor's household appliances; watching five consecutive hours of TV; invoking the Lord's name in vain when you stub your toe; and mentally undressing any person who would be bad for you to get naked with. Luckily for you, Leo, you're now in an astrological phase when engaging in the above actions will not earn you a trip to the infernal regions. That's because you're in an unprecedented grace period when you have slack to burn. If I were you, though, I'd use my karmic credit more constructively than simply getting away with naughty things.

... Posted by Hello
I received ten pages of notes on my manuscript this morning from Carolyn. Ten pages.

I have watched a master painter before at college. I watched him from across the room, the way all the light changed when he played with certain colors. Some people can look at a line to a poem and just see a line while others can look and see amazing connections almost as if that one line becomes a being you can walk around.

Forche is trying to teach me to see that. To make every word sing and deserve its place. But today I feel a little like a mule being taught ballet. I have hairy legs and I don’t fit into those pretty shoes. (It should be noted here I don’t really have hairy legs.)But I am a girl who gets a little overwhelmed by fives pages on syntax.

I need sleep. I need time. I need a nanny. Thursday I am heading out of town for a long weekend in the woods with about thirty, four and fifth graders. Why you ask, well because I am the damn mom. Now the manuscript has graduated from being in my car to sleeping with me in the tent. Someday I will look back on all this and smile. Today is not that day.

Monday, May 30, 2005

for olivia Posted by Hello
My Daughter Is A Photograph

A hand held on green moss, she waits
this white limb, this ivory lizard on a gallery wall.

There was a woman I once knew, an artist
who covered her children with leaves
photographed them naked in mud
and as they grew
her audience complained--
a young penis turned to bark.

Is it not the same with us?

My small kitten, my wet love.
The one who sprang from these legs
wrapped in the branches
and twigs of my motherwant.

Daughter, you are the shape of my pocket
carried like stone through the mud of my life.

These are the images I create
photographs taken
as innocence slips by.

for charlie...my flowers in the front garden Posted by Hello
My daughter Olivia crawled into my bed this morning, early before anyone else had awoken. She is now eleven and when she was little she would do this daily and now the days seem to spread farther and farther from each other. She read blogs with me. I showed her Emily’s duck, her name on Suzanne’s entry. She wanted to read one of my poems, one about her. She said, read me a poem of yours about me growing up, getting breasts. I don’t have one of those, I said. You should, she said.

I am thinking about how when Franz Wright told his father he was a poet he said, “Welcome to hell.” I hope my daughters never feel like that. I hope they grow up to be artists, firemen, accountants. I hope they grow up to feel loved. To be loved well.

Olivia and I went to Ruth’s blog and read a poem by Gerald Stern. I read it out loud. She read it out loud. We read it together. Of course then she turned to the side of the page and read the titles of Ruth’s books and said, “Wow mommy she has a lot more books than you do” and as much as I love my daughter and respect Ruth’s poetry, no writer should hear this before eight in the morning and coffee.

Waving Good-By

I wanted to know what it was like before we
had voices and before we had bare fingers and before we
had minds to move us through our actions
and tears to help us over our feelings,
so i drove my daughter through the snow to meet her friend
as an animal would, pressing my forehead against her,
walking in circles, moaning, touching her cheek,
and turned my head after them as an animal would,
watching helplessly as they drove over the ruts,
her smiling face and her small hand just visible
over the giant pillows and coat hangers
as they made their turn into the empty highway.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

... Posted by Hello
Art is not the application of a canon of beauty but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any canon. When we love a woman we don’t start measuring her limbs. Picasso

When I try to explain abstract art to my students I tell them to empty themselves, to enter the gallery, close their eyes. It is then you begin to see the structure, the order. I had this interesting discussion with Collins about order, granted over tequila but how what existed in formal poetry allowed the reader to trust the poem. When your reader trusts, you can take them anywhere.

So what of modern poetry? Well there are internal rhythms sounds, line length, what exists is an order formed by each artist and the ones that do it well, in my opinion are the ones who allow you to trust them.

Yes, sometimes it is a bit like measuring her limbs and though I understand it is there, I don’t always want to know about it. I have never written a good poem by thinking about it nor have I ever been moved by a poem by feeling it was “made” that way. Always there is an issue, of trusting myself as reader, writer and allowing the chaos to take over.

Chaos and structure hold hands. One cannot exist without the other. One cannot have love in this world and not know how closely they are intertwined but I suppose that is another entry.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

A nickel for the first person to find the bird in the collage below and a dollar if you can tell me what the flower means?

Friday, May 27, 2005

today Posted by Hello

Dangerous Love

Art is never chaste. It ought to be forbidden to ignorant innocents, never allowed into contact with those not sufficiently prepared. Yes, art is dangerous. Where it is chaste, it is not art. Pablo Picasso

How do we prepare ourselves for the danger of art? Children do this so well, Picasso talks a great deal about children and art—the only true artist. Say dangerous words around preschoolers and they will be on you like a tick, to a dog.

Love. Hate. Death. They seek this danger. I have never met a child who builds safe little homes; they build bridges, wars, cathedrals. They kill off who they love and they bring us back again.

I long for my poetry to be dangerous, to seek out exactly who it is I am afraid to see, to write it all down. I had this wonderful discussion with someone about knowing. I have always had this deep sense of knowing. Writing for me is this long talk with myself, yet even to write that, contains the word and it's so much more.

Where it is chaste, it is not art Where it is controlled, where the poem is told to go that is not beauty. We have all read them. The ones that are crafted so well and the others, the others which make no sense because it should not work, not really. It is more than the sum of its parts.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

.... Posted by Hello

Oh the things I would paint if I only had the talent

There is something about being a girl and walking into a hardware store. I adore it. Today I am helping my friend redo his apartment so when he sent me to the store I was so excited that I actually got to walk up to a group of men and say “can you tell me where the silicone caulk is”? Caulk of course being said very loudly and like COCK, which really is a beautiful word to say to a group of men who stammer and then turn pink. I worked it into the conversation as much as possible.. How do you use this caulk? If the caulk dries, do need to wipe it? and the all important, every girl should ask question, will this caulk leave stains on my fingers. Just makes you want to take me to a hardware store, doesn’t it?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

today Posted by Hello
Well I just told my love that if I didn’t start getting some good poetry news soon I was going to become a plumber. It feels good to threaten the universe every once in awhile just so you know someone is listening.

It started out yesterday with a letter from one of the universities wanting permission to use some of my poems in a class, wanting information on where to buy the book thus causing me once again to feel like the aimless ass writer who has yet to get her book out. Btw, the manuscript has now been promoted to sitting next to me in the passenger seat of my car so I can have brilliant thoughts between stoplights.

And low and behold an acceptance letter from the Massachusetts Review and not a “we love this poem but we are not going to take it” hand written note letter, but an honest to god T.E. Ballard you are in this beautiful journal letter. I was ready to hire a marching band. Of course then I realized it might be another six months….

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I Blame This On My Good Pair of Jeans

Well I went to fight my ticket today. Yes, I know it has been three weeks but this was my first true day off when no one in the world had asked me to make/talk about anything related to art or writing. I get there and the woman says it will be at least an hour and a half wait (dear lord). So after I taught every child in the waiting room how to thumb wrestle I gave the Armenian man my cell phone number and went out to lunch.

I skipped the cafeteria, headed for the foundation and b/c I am magic I had fire grilled salmon on the patio, red wine and wonderful conversation. I returned just in time to have my number called, told the man this had been my best day in ages, I could almost hug him. He looked at me strange (this happens a lot) smiled and said well THEN you are free to go.

Yep, that was the only bad thing. I never got to tell my story of the social injustice of being pulled over in a car wash. But I didn’t have to pay anything which means if my current theories are correct all my saved money gets to be spent on books. Oh glory day!!!

Monday, May 23, 2005

.... Posted by Hello
Today I went out with about eight four and five year olds to a field of white dandelions. I told them they were wishes and they got to blow as many as the wanted. (The neighbors love me) Elana asked me what I wished for and I said a dragon, she said “oh I wish I had known I would’ve brought mine from home.

And tonight I really wish I had asked for a new poem or maybe some wisdom but I’ve yet to discover the possibility of my new pet.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

one of mine Posted by Hello
I am going to take out my beer sign for Sunday it is by far the best day of the week.

One of the great things about working for a poetry review is getting to talk to the small presses, seeing how they promote their new authors, who returns phone calls, has information and just the investment they take promoting the work.

I have learn by far, more than I ever thought I would, plus I have figured out how to say “Teresa Ballard” five times in a conversation so if my manuscript ever does come across their desks, they will think, hmmmm I know that name. (in truth, they probably think I am "special" )

Top two presses so far: Graywolf (no surprise) and Alice James. AJ surprised me. I found that other places who were well known like Graywolf, did not measure up to them.

It has helped narrow down who I would send my manuscript out to and sometimes I think as poet, we get so busy just wanting to get the book OUT there, we don’t stop and think about who we really want to work with.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

fly, fly to me Posted by Hello

Where in the world

Because my friends love me, one of my friends picked me up the guidelines for the new Minnesota grant which is for women writers this year. It lets you apply for up to $5,000 that can be used to improve your creative mind, hell with that much I could buy a new head.

My friend is applying to go to Thailand and I have spent all morning trying to think of where I would go. Of course, you can use it for other things, computers, childcare (I could get my nanny named Lola) but it is REALLY hard to think that practically. Practically was never one of my strong points. I am toying between returning to Haiti or going to South America, so my question for the day is, where would you go to refresh your creativity mind?

Friday, May 20, 2005

36 days and counting

I realized today that I have taught 36 straights day with out a break, not the whole day mind you and some days I have given tours and there are days like today when I have made all my drawing and painting class crawl through the grass like bugs and then give me ink sketches so it's not hard labor. But in some form or another I have encouraged creativity and I must tell you, I am pretty damn sick of it. I am ready for heavy drinking or maybe a nice walk around the lake. I want to sit all day and not do anything but write, please don’t tell me that is creative because with what I am writing lately I beg to differ.

Last night’s reading was okay, it was a small crowd. I was a little freaked out when I pulled up to the building and there was a big yellow sign, you know the ones that say Beer $2.99 or buy one chicken leg get one free but this one said POeTRY REaDING/ TE Ballard and I thought “fluck” and then I thought cool I have my own beer sign.

But because I have been working so much I had to go to the grocery store on the way home and this is not okay. A) after I read I feel really, really good like a poetry god and for some reason in Minnesota people do not bag your groceries and that is not okay with a poetry god and B) after one reads, they should either get wine, laid or at the very least a nice dinner. None of those things happened and I feel very cheated.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

True fact: I always wanted to have a dog and name it Sartre. Another true fact: Last time I had a dog I was 5 and I named him Joe and then Joe had puppies so I named them Joe 1 and Joe 2. This may be why god has not given me another dog.  Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

... Posted by Hello

this was the only thing beautiful today

Perceptibility Is a Kind Of Attentiveness by Jane Hamilton

It is not enough
to see only the beauty,
this light
that pools aluminum
in the winter branches of apple—
it is only a sign
of the tree looking out
from the tree,
of the light looking
back at the light
the long-celled attention.
The leaves too,
and the fruit, distract
in their sweetness and rustling.
As snow distracts,
covering the tree’s looking out
with its own,
and the fragrance of blossoms.
Only stripped
of its multiple selves,
its many fabrics of loveliness,
does the tree’s eye
step into a form
we can see with our own,
the black roots twisting down
from the heart,
ours equally whorled,
equally silent,
a flood-swept corridor keeping
no vision but life’s
A mirror look into a mirror,
colorless, plain,
what flows between them
passes like water through a net.
A dragon-palace, but what dragon?
Its flowing scales of emerald,
emerald water;
it roaring rush,
tide-rush of water;
the treasure—oh even the treasure—
treasure of water.

We have the same birthday...

Stanley's Century: a Tribute to Stanley Kunitz

Celebrating the 100th birthday and lifetime achievement of Stanley
Kunitz--poet, editor, teacher, activist, leader, collaborator and

With Lucie Brock-Broido, Olga Broumas, Mark Doty, Nick Flynn, Edward
Hirsch, Marie Howe, Major Jackson, Galway Kinnell, Karl Kirchwey,
Cleopatra Mathis, Gail Mazur, Michael Mazur, Marie Ponsot, Gerald
Stern & Nancy Willard.

Thursday, May 19, 7pm
Tribeca Performing Arts Center
@ Borough of Manhattan Community College
199 Chambers Street, New York City

Tickets: $25/$15
Call (212) 220-1460 or visit www.tribecapac.org

Organized by Poets House in partnership with The Academy of American
Poets, Cave Canem, Fine Arts Work Center, The New York Times, Poetry
Society of America, Poets & Writers, and the Unterberg Poetry Center.
Additional support from LMCC and Teachers & Writers.

Monday, May 16, 2005

... Posted by Hello
When I was a little girl I used to wake up at my grandmother’s cabin and go down to the beach all by myself with a flash light and wait for sea turtles. I’d read somewhere that they could be tricked into believing a bright light was the moon. I had also read, sea turtles traveled thousands of miles and lived to be a hundred years old. In the middle of the night I wanted to be the moon, I wanted to be so blest that a creature would travel the world to plant her babies at my feet. The only problem of course, was my grandmother lived on a lake.
My daughter had a free writing assignment tonight for her 5th grade class and she is so shut off from coming to any readings in the future and I may have to take my Anne Sexton tapes out of the car. Her story is called the “Maria Diaries” and has dead birds, father abandonment, an unwanted pregnancy and three children who are basically in charge of themselves.

Actually it is a wonderful fiction outline and I may have to steal it someday but if this doesn’t get me a call from the school social worker, I have no idea what will. I wonder if the explanation I let my children read whatever they want, will actually hold water.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

,,, Posted by Hello

so this is what the cover letter said and this is the only thing the cover letter said and for some reason, maybe lack of oxygen, it made me laugh my ass off…

,,, Posted by Hello

Art Whore

If you were at the institute of art this morning in Minneapolis I know you saw me b/c I was that chick trying to convince all the children that they really did want to come paint but what we really did was:

~ set off the alarms at the Japanese tea house
~ look up the skirt of the Indian princess
~ burn a swan’s quill in sand
~ write in Hebrew (it is important to note here that I can write all common children’s names in Chinese, Hebrew and Hieroglyphics but I don’t know how to sort laundry)
~ drop pennies in the foundation from the second floor
~ and make spooky sounds in the mummy room

I probably did a lot of other things but this is off the top of my head. I am glad it is over and get back to this thing called writing though I feel like I have missed every deadline in the world and all I want now is a nap. However, I do know more about writing on holy scrolls then I ever thought possible.

I know how to pick a skin, soak it in lime and find the five feathers one chooses from a goose for writing so if anyone out there wants their next book to be holy, well I’m your girl.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


- I rented “the pillow book” and then saw Miss Rebecca’s blog
- a child told me I was magic
- another gave me her angel painting
- my lover told me I was thinking too much
- I told a room full of children if they stopped and painted
everything else would fade away
- I was told I was magic again

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

.... Posted by Hello
Okay my reading is in two days which makes me think I should actually have something to read. This will be my third time reading there so I should probably have new poems and one of colleagues wants to bring her child. Why do people do that? I went through my poems today to remove all the ones that have sexual connotations in them, and well I won’t be reading any poetry on Thursday if I stick to that rule ;)

I bought a brilliant fiction book Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close I hate authors who are young and brilliant (that is the jealously talking) but Foer is doing things in this book that need to be done. He is pushing the envelope. It is the first time in a long time I have read anything new in literature and hell I read more than the average American watches T.V.

Okay my house smell funny and I have two fellowship applications due by the end of the day so I can buy my nanny named Lola who will feed my children mangos while I finish all the books I want to write. Now to put that in sentence in a one page letter that actually gets me money….

Sunday, May 08, 2005


All I wanted for mothers day were three good days to write but I did get two runny eggs, toast buttered on both sides, coffee that could kill you and two little girls who love me. It was a good morning.

I am a little apprehensive about writing more about the discussions with Elizabeth, mainly b/c people might get so bored, they may start throwing rocks but it is the only thing in my head at the moment so you will have to endure.

Yesterday Suzanne talked about Emily Dickenson. Can one have a good poetry discussion without Emily? What does she represent to us as poets, more than just her work but her example as a writer? One of the reason I think so many ppl relate to her is because she’s the still small voice that says, even if no one ever sees my work, in a hundred years from now someone may be reading my book.

Yet there has to be a Lavina, the person dedicated to actually seeing the work go to print. The basic fact: talent is not everything, whether we believe it should be or not. Elizabeth said that she has spent her life time researching poets who never made it as writers, more specifically the forgotten black poets. For every one Gwendolyn Brooks there were hundreds who were never heard.

And for some reason Elizabeth finds this comforting, to know that so many things come into play besides the work. I must say my first reaction was down right fear but then I began to think about what I believe about myself and poetry.

The first is, that I believe all the language and everything I need to say is already inside me, that poetry for me is a rediscovering and listening for what I already know to be true. Secondly, that I can no more stop writing than I can breathing, as much as I sometimes try to trick myself into believing I can.

Dorrianne Laux told me that she writes every day so she is out in the field when lightening strikes and if you take that same rule and apply to publication then you are sending work off to be in the field. You are making yourself available so that whatever the universe has to offer, you are open to it. And yes, that bit is comforting.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Last night we talked about the fire within poets, the desire which pushes us to write. It was a very interesting discussion. Elizabeth spoke about one of her best friends, who always won awards for her writing, who was the person who was suppose to grow up to be the poet.

The thing was she didn’t have the fire. It was possible for her not to write so she stopped. I understand this. I love to paint but I don’t need to paint. It does not make me crazy if I don’t paint. Yet you do not want to be in the same room with me when I haven’t written. It's not pretty.

It is my fire. I think writers have a lot of different combinations of burning. I have a friend who blows me away with the amount of work she produces and yet she has no desire to be published. I don't think I ever understood this but I am beginning to realize lately that everyone has their own unique journey.

Not all poets have the desire to be read by other people and I don’t think you need that to be a great poet. Emily Dickenson didn’t. She had only the desire to write. A person who has a fire to be read does not put thier poems in a box. It is not possible.

I have a fire to be read. There is something that happens to me when I read in front of people, when I realize the whole room in breathing in, when I am breathing in, that we are in this moment, in a space I’ve created. To be honest sometimes that is even better than the feeling of nailing a poem. And nailing a poem is damn good.

One of the most important things I think I heard last night is that Teresa Ballard is never going to arrive anywhere. Even if I get everything I want, if I win Yale before I am forty I am still going to want something else. I am still going to continue on this journey. And oddly enough that is comforting. I don’t have to wait for something to happen to make me the writer I see in my head. I just get to be her.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

blest poet

I struggle a great deal in my poetry life. I don’t think I really talk about that a lot and I don’t know how much it is my poetry life, as it is my publishing life. I wonder if what I write is ever worth reading. This last month has been a deep struggle. I am submitting to journals I believe I “need” to get into and getting notes back (sometimes) but not getting in. It hard not to let this define me as a writer and lately the question “why am I doing this” has been following me everywhere.

I need a community of writers. I desperately miss Palm Beach, sitting and talking with people who have a passion for poetry. I haven’t felt like I have fed that part of my being since February and she has become a hungry little bugger.

Tonight I made myself go to reading, actually my lover made me go b/c I have been mopping around the house saying, ,“I will never ever have a book” and my children made me go b/c my little weeps have made them crazy. You know it’s bad when your kids want you out of the house.

So tonight I went to the Loft “our literary center” to see Elizabeth Alexander read and the two other people who were awarded a mentorship to read with her. I applied for this. I didn’t get it. Yep, and I was a bit bitter. Side note: I am bitter about most things I don’t win—I don’t think this is a good quality.

I didn’t want to go and hear people tonight be poets when I felt so lost but well, I was kicked out of the damn house. I went to the Loft and there on the billboard was Elizabeth’s name and the message “reading on the 6th” and I thought hmm, I wonder what today is? Another side note: I never know what day it is.

I went upstairs to the office and it was empty, then I saw the director who I met last summer with Dorrianne Laux, he remembered me and of course told me, well the reading is Friday, then he said, well come to this meeting with three other people (who won the mentorship) and Elizabeth. So for the next three hours I sat in a room and we talked about writing. We talked about exactly what I have been struggling with and every single question I put in my journal this week was addressed. It was almost as if she was reading my mind.

I know I am blest poet. Normal people don’t get pulled out of a car to have a drink with Billy Collins and Thomas Lux or go to a poetry reading on the wrong day and have it be better than any reading could possibly be. I struggle inside myself every day to be poet. I struggle with the hunger I have and the ideas of what defines this. But there are days when I am given gifts. When I know I am standing exactly where I am suppose to be and it is good.

True fact: when the Jews were lost in the wilderness they would pile stones on their path so they would always remember where they had been. A reminder of which way to go. I have stones in my poetry life. They are not many but I’ve always known when it happened, that it was a place I needed to mark.

>>> Posted by Hello

Holy Cow!!!

I would like to say I’ve been away writing so you can picture me in a field, note book in hand, yellow butterflies weaving in and out of my hair. Well, you could picture this. I picture this when I’ve actually folded so much laundry my fingers are numb b/c truth, though supposedly a powerful thing, is hardly ever pretty.

I have no time to write and I becoming bitter. Bitterness is not attractive on a 37 year old woman. It makes her hide herself in the bathroom, pull into the driveway and sit there for a good ten minutes before she actually gets out of the car. Side note: I always wondered why my mother did this, just stood there before opening the door as if she was diving into cold water.

The new show is up at the museum. The first illuminated bible in modern history. I am teaching about it but I haven’t seen it yet—that is bad. The director was telling me yesterday how everything is made on skin, tiny handmade pens to write on skin, how they use feathers to make the pens. How cows in some way are considered holy in almost every culture and that (I kid you not) if aliens ever really took over the world they would probably beam up a cow first, because you find their skin or image on every sacred text.

Of course this was followed by a deep stutter, and several minutes of how she didn’t really believe in aliens but all the way home I saw the cows sailing by every tree. Beautiful mama cows being beamed up to start the world again.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

a horse is just a horse of course Posted by Hello

in the box

Well I actually have poetry news today. I will be reading next week (May 12) in Saint Paul, Minnesota, email me if you want directions and Shenandoah is holding my poem “Sparrow” which I am very, very happy about. Of course it will probably be another year before I see it in print. Pleiades was 18 months from acceptance letter to actual journal. It is amazing how long the birth of a poem is. Also the Loft Mentorship Applications are out today (for anyone else living in this cold state) www.loft.org I am thinking of applying for Non-fiction this year as well as poetry. I have been a finalist (I almost got to study with Doty) but I didn’t win and this year the poetry mentors don’t excite me. However Nick Flynn in non fiction does excite me and then I can sell photos to Jenni when I get to meet him. I am always so excited to apply for things until the depression sets in as I am licking the envelope.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

all hands Posted by Hello

>>> Posted by Hello

the world is orange and red

Mayday is a high holiday. We are home to the Mayday Parade which happens every year a few blocks from our house. There are giant puppets, artists galore and pagan celebrations for spring. It is an amazing adventure. This was Olivia first year on stilts and Bella first year walking the three miles by herself, mostly b/c I had to catch Livi if she fell on her head.

It is amazing how uplifting it is to shout happy mayday at people and throw seeds at their heads. Besides it is full of children, kids who have created their own costumes who march in the streets. People who believe the world is a beautiful place and today for at least a few hours, it was.