Thursday, December 30, 2004

my life as an orange Posted by Hello

Shut off notice

I've been in an odd mood lately, maybe it is the conference with Billy Collins, maybe it is coming so close and yet not close enough to my writing goals. Tonight I’ve read several interviews with Amy Bloom and she talked about being a mother & a writer. She talked about not having a MFA and even goes so far to say that the best writers in the last 400 years did not have one.

When I did the conference with Dorrianne she suggested I enter her MFA program in Portland and I turned it down. One reason was the girls and the other, I just wanted to write. I see how easily I could get caught up in trying to “make” poetry and I read, study poetry more than most MFA’ers I know. I respect it, the way I respect a fine arts degree but it does not make a painter, all that matters is the work in the end.

Lately I have been lost. I get lost often. I wonder if the road I am taking is the right one or if I’ve made mistakes. When asked what she believed was the greatest thing that helped her (Amy Bloom) when she was first being published was, she did not think. She wrote.
She didn’t wonder where to send it, or if it was something she should even be writing about.

I think too much, I always have. I want to wake up every morning and write a poem because I love poetry the way I love my daughters. It is in me. I do not want to think anymore.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

I finished Amy Bloom’s Love Invents Us last night and am starting tonight on The Known World by Edward Jones who won the Pulitzer Prize for his first book. That is the kind of news that makes me deeply depressed. I have an almost kick me in gut reaction, most of the time I just want to get a book out there and then the other half of the time I worry that it won’t be good enough, what ever the hell good enough is.

Sometimes I feel like a race horse with the need to focus ahead, ahead being that place that says just write all your stories down and let the rest sort itself out. Not to think about anything else but getting words to paper.

I just finished my first book review of Dancing in Odessa which will be published in the next issue of Tryst. One of my favorite poems in that book is the Authors Prayer here is a taste…

If I speak for the dead, I must
leave this animal of my body,

I must write the same poem over and over
for the empty page is a white flag of their surrender.

If I speak of them, I must walk
on the edge of myself, I must live as a blind man

who runs through the rooms without
touching the furniture.

take it all off

To keep up with the dream posts going around in the blog world, last night I dreamt I was taking an Anthropology class and for the final the professor had us be strippers. We had to work on routines, pick out our own music and clothing. It was a hell of a lot more work than one would imagine.

He told us to reveal ourselves only to the point we felt comfortable. Needless to say, I was bare-chested swinging around a pole in black undies to Billy Joel’s Only The Good Die Young, which with the logical thinking of waking, I realize would be a very difficult routine. Maybe something simpler like BINGO.

Anyway quite a bit of dream was about whether to take my bra off while facing the audience or with my back turned and then the realization of never being able to the undo the metal clasps.

Why can’t I have Steve’s literary dreams? Wow even in my sleep I am blocked. May the poetry gods smile on me soon or may I get better hips so I can make a living.

Monday, December 27, 2004

light Posted by Hello

Queen of Mutable Selves

I am quoting Mr. Mueske today because I think he brought up good points below that did not get enough attention.

“I believe each poet wrestles with the amount of distance between the personal "I" and the inhabited "I". To complicate matters further, Joseph Brodsky often talked about the self as "a congress of selves" meaning, of course, that the self is mutable, too, and often takes up contradictory positions with itself base on context, emotion, distance, and other factors.”

I think I might be the queen to mutable selves but how does this apply to a body of work. How do we as writers take this self and make a book of poetry? One of the things I love about Kaminsky’s work is that he takes this self and makes it multidimensional. He brings in personal history, culture, other poets. It becomes a living, breathing thing.

When I write a poem that really works I always get this feeling that I can walk around it, that is becomes a sculpture, stand it on its head and it is still art. Unfortunately most poems tend remain flat on the page.
I am ready to sell my children off as cheap circus animals. It is wrong for them to have two weeks of school off in the dead of winter. It was ten below this morning, needless to say there is a lot of bouncing on the couch.

I sent off one submission to the Southern Poetry today which was an act of god with two children in the house. No one ever brings up the correlation that two of the greatest female poets were single mothers when they went off the deep end. Somehow this thought does not make me feel better.

Bella in sculpture Posted by Hello

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Beast and Tree

Funny, how when you become an adult you never believe you will change at all. I have spent my whole life growing into being human. Yesterday, the girls had the traditional “wake you up while you eyes are sandpaper” morning then we went to my best friend’s house. We have been friends since I was 17. We met in Belgium while I was backpacking across Europe and now we live in the same city, we always come back to each other. She calls me Tree, I call her Beast. It is a good life.

There are few people you can grow old with, I am beginning to realize now it has less to do with compatibility and more to do with acceptance. We lived through each other bad dates, bad husbands, my child birth, her need to call me during labor and ask it was painful. There is nothing she could ever do to make me stop loving her.

Oh and I know this always brings to mind where the woman finds her best friend in bed with someone she loves, a) I would laugh my ass off b) I can honestly say we have never found the same person attractive, unless they were dead or in a movie.

We have very few things in this life we will be able to carry to the end. Today I feel sad about that. Today I feel blest.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

a rock photo for rebecca  Posted by Hello

Two Giraffes Talking to A Towel

Today it is 20 below zero with wind chill so Florida is looking damn good. Actually, the inside of my fridge seems tropical at the moment. I can’t believe tomorrow is Christmas Eve, we still have Halloween candy. I do not think that the powers that be should start another holiday until we have finished the food from the ones before. It seems wrong.

Every morning Bella and I see what messages Jack Frost have left us on her window. She believes he tells her stories with ice. Today it is two giraffes talking to a towel. Sometimes the greatest poetry that happens in my life has nothing to do with the written word.

I am reading the Collected Poems by Robert Lowell, one review I read of the book said it was almost impossible to put together because he keep changing his poems even after he had published them. A poem for him was never done.

I am starting the book again. I will be working on this first book of poetry till the day I die, even when it is published I will go back and rewrite it, change its bone structure. I know this about myself. Every day I wake up believing I can write a better poem, every day I look for the messages on the window.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

oh glorious rocks Posted by Hello

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Last night I typed out a long entry about privacy because I am feeling a little invaded lately. It is constant war of how much of your self to reveal. I believe a good writer must reveal everything and then you have readers who then want to talk about it or repost somewhere you did not want it to be.

Plus one of the horrible/ wonderful things about word is that it cannot be owned. You can cut /copy anything. Yet I feel like my words are the deepest part of who I am. I believe I could be fully understood if someone listened to my poetry, really listened. It is the core of who I am…these words. So what do you do when they come back to bite you on the ass?

I suppose you move on, write some more. Believe that every day you have the possibility to write a better poem. Every day is waiting for that one moment when all the letters obey, fall into their place, when you are blest or damn because there is nothing more beautiful then this.

Saturday, December 18, 2004


A man held a heart;
An ornament. At small intervals
He’d examine the vast corridors,
Pathways; he’d lay a finger
Over the beating tunnels
Trying to find an exit.
His meals consisted of organs:
Chicken's, turkey's, sautéed in butter,
He’d add stems of garlic,
Heads of onions
Till it was a communion.
He was the reaper,
Gatekeeper. The same man
Who laid his ear
On the flannel vest of his father,
Who said, beat, stop, beat again.
This is more than a story.
Here is the man, the red heart
And the pot boiling over.
The reader needs to know
Truth. Does the man live?
Always there is heart
Singing outside, a man
Making meals of things
He cannot swallow.

Friday, December 17, 2004

i love color Posted by Hello


My nighttime reading tonight is Selected Levis and I am thinking how so many people have different opinions about his poetry and how wonderful it would be to write something that people had opposing views about.

At the conference this summer Lax and Millar talked about how brilliant he was, we spent an hour reading the same poem over and over. It bothered one girl in the glass immensely and when Jenn went to another writing workshop they said, that Levis poems were sloppy or something to that affect.

What do I think? Well he died way too young, he was an amazing voice. I think he was just coming into his prime when he had his heart attack. There is no way to know what he might have accomplished if given a longer life.

One of the things I love most about poetry is that takes on the form of a living being. You can love it, hate it and another person can come along and have the opposite view. Isn’t it beautiful? Plus sometimes I need to grow into word or into certain poets. Who I loved when I was 15 is not who I love now. Who knows who I will love when I am eighty. (God please let me still be able to read.)

Well I am back to Levis while I still have my eyes….

Thursday, December 16, 2004

short list

Well you asked for a list so here it is. Okay, Laurel asked and the rest of you must suffer through it, this is my small list. The truth is I have six books I already bought for myself that I will have for the girls to give to me when who ever is packing the tree turns to me and says, “oh what about the girls presents to you.” and if no one does this? Hell I still have the books under my bed.

The Sharon Olds book I am ordering because I have only read about ten of her poems and I have nothing for her to sign at the conference, plus I’m cheap and would rather bring it down with me. On the opposite end I have every Billy Collins and Thomas Lux's book ever written and I bringing every one on the plane. Forget suntan lotion, I’ve got books.

Please don’t point out they are all women. I know this and this will further the impression that I am a feminist pig. I can live with it. Truth is, I read far more women poets than men but if you don’t have Paul Celan or Ilya Kamisky you are missing something. Okay, if you have not read Paul Celan you can’t read this blog anymore. The man was a genius which leads to the bumper sticker all great poets are dead.

None of the poets below are dead (okay two are dead) but the vast majority are still breathing. Secret: when on amazon I always engine search my own name to see if a book I have not yet written will pop up;) Okay, if anyone else does this, they can still read this blog even if they have not read Paul Celan but it is a thin, thin line….

Unswept Room by Sharon Olds
Ariel: The Restored Edition
The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat
The Orchard (American Poets Continuum) by Brigit Pegeen Kelly
Year of The Snake Lee Ann Roripaugh
The Known World by Edward Jones
Book of Orgasms by Nin Andrews
Out of Silence by Muriel Rukeyser
Collected Stories by Grace Paley (who I love)
Lark Apprentice by Louise Mathius

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Note Body

I have so much I need to do and hardly anything I WANT to do. Writing seems like a distant memory and writing keeps me sane so I don’t think the days look brighter up ahead. Yesterday, I tried to self talk myself into thinking of poetry as another child and to make time for it accordingly but nothing as changed. The truth is the screaming, flesh and blood kids make more noise.

I am asking for books for Christmas. I am sure you’re all shocked by this. After the holidays I have two weeks off, of course with the girls so it really isn’t time off but I did sign them up for several days of fun with someone else and I plan to read, write, read and then I might write.

Bella (my six year old) has her first notebook because she starting to write out words and make sentences. She wanted her own space like mommy. Today on the cover I found this “My Note Body” which I think is a hell of lot better then notebook. I am horrible at not correcting her because I like the words she makes up far better than the ones I am offered in the dictionary.

My note body. I really need a note body. I need everything that I think in my head to come flying out on paper then it would truly be a beautiful day.


Rukeyser said, "If there were no poetry on any day in the world, poetry would be invented that day. For there would be an intolerable hunger."

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Conversation on the phone with my father the lobsterman

Ring, ring
Thank god you are not the answering machine
Hello dad
Your mother wants me to call and see what you want for Christmas
Oh (thinking I should not of answered the phone)
I need to know
Books, dad, books are good
Don’t you have books?
Yes (thinking what the hell)
Have you read them all?
nooooo (in a very quiet voice)
Well what…
What book do you want?
(And this folks is where I should have said the word, Gift Certificate in a very loud voice but nooooo)
Nin Andrews, she is a poet
Oh your mother said you were going to some poet thing
(defensive voice) yes, I am going to a workshop with Billy Collins
Billy who?????
Billy Collins, he was poet Laureate of United States
What the hell is a poet Laureate?
(and this is where I realize that though being a poet is my life goal I have no fricken clue)
uhhhhh well he is…a poet
and he promotes poetry.....and he is very famous
oh (in a voice that say yes, and my child is completely clueless all in one word)
so what book do you want, some from this Billy guy?
No, I have him
Have you read them?
(Lying) yes I've read every page
Well what book do you WANT....
Nin Andrews (and then I realize this is my revenge) The Book of Orgasms
Is that porn?
No poetry (feeling very happy with myself)
Do you write that stuff?
What poetry?
Yes, about you know (here my father can’t say the word)
No, I don’t have any orgasm poems (lying again) but I do have a masterbation one....
I think you need to talk with your mother.

those little elves

Oh Sundays, the tree is up and the girls are walking through the house wrapping up random things they find: a clothes hanger, glue stick, one shoe. Okay, my six year old is mostly doing this, Olivia at least goes for things in pairs but the fact is you cannot walk two feet without finding remnants on the floor. I must start this day as a steam shovel, walking behind trying to clear up the chaos they have left behind. I am tired already.

Yesterday I sent off a submission to the Water&Stone Review. It is a Minnesota based journal and several people have asked me to submit there. Then I worked on other submissions, the good thing about being a lazy ass is that I had the Mid American poems all typed up but never sent them off so I went over them yesterday and fixed a few things.

One of the things I dislike most about writing is when at night, I write what I think is this amazing thing. I have that total god like feeling and then I go to bed. Wake up and the poem is pure shit. I have no idea how that happens, I think it might be little elves twisting words while I sleep.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Oh the poems you find at christmas parties....

When Syphilis Was Happy

But he meant to say, Sisyphus, the greek god
who rolled the stone up the mountain yet syphilis
is what I heard, for a whole conversation
prostitutes rang through the room
like shiny bells and I tried to push them out
the door, in rabbit fur to the corner lamp.
The stone rolled back again
and he was tormented, his labor futile.
How sweet the girls underneath the moon,
back of a thigh so smooth. A mere mortal
begged Pluto to chastise his wife
still the rock waits. And the girls are patterns
of light, shaking their fingers around a flame.
Free. A cigarette for free but you must pay the man.
Happy, Syphilis was happy when the stone rolled
down the hill but Sisyphus was tortured.

Friday, December 10, 2004

because we haven't had a photo for awhile... Posted by Hello

Quiet Day

Today was a quiet day. I mailed off gifts to my parents in Maine, my father is probably the only person on the east coast who does not have the movie The Titanic. Well, he does now. One of my claims to fame as a child was my great grandfather’s brother was the helmsman on the real Titanic. I grew up playing hurricane and icebergs. Sometimes I feel very sorry that my children will not grow up by the sea or jump across rocks with their arms outstretched to get home. The ocean is my place.

Tonight Olivia and I watched the National Geographic channel with their special on sharks. It made me very homesick which is odd because we have no men in wet suits crazy enough to dive under water and throw red meat at animals. In Yankee terms those men deserve to be in eaten.

I have a very distinct memory of being four years old with my father in boat and watching these two people try to go UP the rapids in a canoe. I remember my father telling me, see honey those people are tourists and now they are going to fall into the river.

It was bred into me at an early age to never be a tourist. No matter where I have gone in this world I’ve tried my best to blend in, which by the way isn’t very easy when you are living in Haiti up in the mountains in a place where most people have never, ever seen a white woman. They always rubbed my hands to see if the color would fade.

One of the lines in my new book is I am a tourist in my own land which is something I use to write in my journal when I was 15 and going through what my mother deemed the dark year. Sometimes I think the journey of poetry is to bring up all that we know. It is a discovery into the deepest self.

Joseph Millar at our writing conference this summer said that a thousand years ago we (poets) would have been the holy ones. The people who sat in the night and told the sun to rise, that we would have believed our very existence had power to do that. Well that thought made it a bit easier to send submissions off today….

Blue Coat

Blue Coat

We’ve been together too long
What will you tell me that I don’t already know?

Trees are whispering to each other
In this place we are naked, listen to the cold

Slipping through us, as if we’re visible,
Somehow we’ve forgotten how to matter,

How to mean anything. Trees tell us nothing
Dressed in their white cloaks. Tall brides

Wed to winter. Alone I’ve forgotten.
I am the sparrow. I am the blue coat.

You must push their shiny heads into warm fabric,
quickly because your father is waiting in the car
and your mother is silent,
you are invisible, slipping into her pocket and she is gliding past;
a penny on the slippery floor. Then she is gone,
you know she is gone before the car
pulls out of the driveway. You are alone.
The coat does not matter.

My death will be blue.
I will say to my children
dress me in clouds, slip rings of water
around my wrists. Let me beautiful.
Let me be light.

Nin Andrews

I think I might be in love with Nin Andrews
read this great interview with her at Mi Po

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Pet Peeve and Little Mikey

My pet pee today, rejection letters that say “we enjoyed your work but could not reach an editorial consensus” or worse “I wish you luck finding a home for these poems” Luck, sweet jesus was that meant to be nice?

Of course I got a rejection letter with both those things in them today. And it always bothers the beejesus out of me when they make my poems sound like wayward children. Little Mikey was almost good enough for us to adopt but he threw up all over the floor.

I would much rather have, “this doesn’t work for me” or the ever loving "HAVE YOU READ OUR JOURNAL???” Maybe I’m just not a polite girl.

I would say about one out of twenty of the poems I write is stunning/good so here comes the bigger question of what to do with the other 19? I think they hold themselves better in a book than individual print but then you have your best poems sitting in wait land for the next three to six months waiting for someone to adopt them. Little Mikey please sit up straight and stop masterbating.

I am having that problem right now with the American Poetry Review. They don’t want any poetry under consideration elsewhere but don’t respond for 6 months and Carolyn after reading my manuscript wants me to submit there. It could be she is torturing me or maybe its little Mikey.

Yes, I've read this same complaint other places and thought people were whining at the time but now its me lol and also this is the first time in three years that I’ve had to write letters to journals and say ummmm, you’ve had these forever, care to drop me a line, any line.

Okay so I have comes to terms after this entry that 1) I am not polite t 2) I might be a little spoiled and 3) I am not patient (like that was ever a question.)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Palm Beach here I come...

So I booked the hotel today and paid for the airplane tickets, lets just say everybody’s stocking is going to be a bit lighter this year thanks to Billy Collins. Thanks to everyone who left kind notes below. Whenever I go to these sorts of things I start to feel slightly nerotic b/c I don’t have a MFA. You don’t even want to visit this blog if I get into Breadloaf. But once I actually get there I am fine.

Dorrianne offered to get me into her MFA program in Oregon but I turned her down so I don’t even know if it is the issue of the degree. Writing is such a private thing at times, going to a conference is like getting naked with a whole bunch of strangers. There are good parts to it and times where you go, you know I really didn’t want to see that.

I am curious about what other people think about writing conferences. Are they needed? Is it possible to really learn anything about poetry in such a short time? Or is it more a money making thing than anything else. It is also leads me to realize how many people are shut out of these thing because of the financial factor. Split Rock (which was amazing) paid for the whole conference in August. I would not have been able to go without it, of course I had to prepare a manuscript for them.

Still I am wondering what all this adds up to, if I am not better off to rent a cabin somewhere and just write for a week then I am to jet down to Florida. I guess we will just have to wait and see.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Billy and Barfin'

It seems Florida and the writer’s conference is getting closer and closer. Today I received an email about Sunday brunch and I began to realize that in less than one month I will be sitting at a table with Billy Collins. (I'll try not to blurt out all the secrets between him & Suzanne lmao)

The truth is I am nervous as hell. This is how paranoid I am-- I googled the names of other people who will be attending the workshop with me, of course some are professors, translators, most have their first books already completed. I am trying not to freak myself out. All that ever matters is the work, they could put me in a class with Jesus Christ and he’d still have to write better poems than me.

I keep thinking of what Rebecca wrote, how you must love your work more than anyone else. You must be enamored by your own voice. It feels so arrogant saying that but there is a part of me that believes without any doubt my voice is necessary. In the world of writing I am needed. There are lots of things I do well and lots of things I could be but writing isn’t a choice, it just is.

Of course then there’s that question about whether or not I am delusional and we may have to wait a good fifty years for the results to come in. But the fact is I am, in less than 30 days, going to read my poetry in front of Billy Collins and then I am going to throw up…..

Sunday, December 05, 2004

what a strange machine

"What a strange machine man is! You fill him with bread, wine, fish, and radishes, and out comes sighs, laughter, and dreams." ~Nikos Kazantzaki

Always the wingless birds hang on the wall
their skin absent of feathers. Where is your love?
Sleeping in the November fields of corn
or upstairs? She must be sleeping
if not for the birds my love would wake.
Lately I’ve been dreaming of spoons
the thin weight of their bodies. I hunger
for metal, the taste in my mouth.
I hunger for what the body cannot digest.

oh for a day like this Posted by Hello

a subconscious is a horrible thing

Usually when I dream, I dream in stories, sometimes I am in the stories sometimes I am watching from this odd vantage point in which I am aware of it being a dream. There are nights when I fall into my poems, actually find my body in the words and I try to move the lines around, sometimes these can be maddening, other times the dreams are comforting.

Yes, I know it's the mind’s job to bring out what we are hiding but I must say I was feeling no anxiety about the manuscript being off in the world (so I thought) until I had the envelope dream. The problem is it felt so real, I opened it and it said I had won the book competition and I thought “no way in hell” and all the emotions were there and I felt about a million miles off the ground and then of course I woke up.

Now what was resting comfortably in my head has somehow wiggled its way through my whole body and become a disease. I want a book more than I have ever wanted a book and I keep trying to talk myself out of wanting it so much. And torment is so over rated, besides when I think about writing I never write and thus adding to pain.

Friday when I was at work I talked to one of my student grandparents who recently immigrated from the Ukraine. I told him I would bring in “Dancing in Odessa” for him to read, it is one of my favorite poetry books and I was lucky enough to correspond with Ilya this summer a bit. Ilya is an amazing a writer and the book is such a journey into his soul. I want a book like that and I don’t know if I am there yet….or more frightening, if I will ever be.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Sex or is she just sexy????

Sex is everywhere lately, blogs, poetry, horoscopes even the cover of books. Why do so many back covers say “her poems are sexy and intelligent” and why is it more female writers than male who are described this way?

None of Billy’s books say that about him and Paul Celan was sexy as hell but his back cover just says, he was brilliant which by the way I find incredibly sexy.

Personally I am going for the book cover that reads “she is completely frigid.” I mean wouldn’t you as a reader, 1) laugh your ass off and 2) actually buy the book to see if the author indeed did not put out. That is the whole point isn’t it, to buy the book and that’s why we have these lame ass descriptions?

But what if that isn’t the point. Sales I mean, look at European book jackets, you know those beautiful translations you can hardly get anyone to publish here in the states. Not a sexy quote among them.

The reason I bring this up is because I always question how much society affects art and what our responsibility is as artists to not be affected by it. Because I believe that what stands the test of time (those books that last a hundred years) are books that rise above what society “expects”.

Laurel always loves to give me horoscopes which I like. Years ago I remember reading one that said it was important to know what I wanted, to stand the test of time or be famous. I read that just about the point I started writing again and I took it very seriously. I thought about what it would mean to me not to be well known in my life time and to be honest I still struggle with that question.

But if I had one wish, it would be to have a book that out lived my children, grandchildren, great-great grandchildren. And isn’t that what most of us want, to not just published but to write the best damn book we are capable of writing…or is it just me???

my girls at the beach. I think this would make a great book cover or maybe not... Posted by Hello

Thursday, December 02, 2004

A Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

I am having a series of horrible days

-I washed my cell phone in the washing machine
-I then put my cell phone in the dryer
-after drinking too much red wine I decided to register
at for my high school reunion
-every divorce or never married middle age man in my high school
class has written me by email. Thank god we had a small class.
Thank god I no longer live in Maine.
-I responded to only one, come to find out Jim is not John Plant, the boy I held
hands with in second grade, but rather the one who threw spit balls at me in English class
-I had a dream I won Yale and then I woke up
-had a fight with my love
-and I think I’m catching a cold

Now I am scurrying off to bed to feel even sorrier for myself, if that’s possible

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

this is a little girl from my trip who begged me to take her photo. I attract small animals and children instantly. I think it because I am usally digging around in the dirt or eating something that tastes good... Posted by Hello

What Is In Your Underwear Drawer?

It’s been very interesting to see what is on everyone’s top shelf because for me it is like looking into someone's underwear drawer. It reveals who they are at their core and no two are the same. And there are ironies, like the 70 year old lady I stalked at Barnes and Noble who was buying Anais Nin or my favorite friend who has secret romance novels tucked behind her toliet.

For as long as I can remember I believed literature to be dangerous and if the adults in my life really knew this information they would rip the books right off my shelves. I mean in my small Baptist church no one else seemed to pay attention to how much the characters in the bible actually had sex except me.

So I have been slightly horrified and thrilled to see how freely people give the contents of their underwear drawer away and wondering how many people took a few or added a few books to the photo. (I know the complete works of Shakespeare are here if I dusted them off;)

But mostly my wonderment comes from what complex creatures we are and I say that with the knowledge that my Clan of the Cavebearers book is right next to Paul Celan. We need word. We need the diversity of word to survive and that means as much as we feel we are in competition with each other or that our voices are not necessary, they are.

Our poems are all in some universal underwear drawer in the sky and they are needed. At least that is what I think today.

Monday, November 29, 2004

I love this

"What a strange machine man is! You fill him with bread, wine, fish, and radishes, and out comes sighs, laughter, and dreams." ~Nikos Kazantzakis

Saturday, November 27, 2004

another photo... Posted by Hello

the look

Okay so I am sitting in the restaurant having Chinese food, well because I just could not swallow another bite of turkey and I look around and people have the exact same facial expression. The look that says I have been alone with my parents too long and the odd phenomena about this look is that it only happens to adult children.

My kids never have it. It is hey, can I swallow you look that scares the living beejezus out of me that my children posses. Anyway it reminded me of my favorite movie “Home For The Holidays” where Holly Hunter is sinking deeper and deeper into the backseat and she glances across to another car and sees another grown adult doing the exact same thing. And then I realized MY CHILDREN WILL SOME DAY HAVE THIS LOOK

It is possible I will bore them to an almost of coma, no matter how much they love me and they will think of all the places they would rather be, the people they would rather be with and for a moment the movie wasn’t funny anymore until of course I realized, hey it could just be their father.

First Snow

Last night I watched Russian films and drank red wine. It was one of those movies you think you hate but then it sticks in your head all day and you realize you really loved it. And besides languages films to me are always comforting, feel free to insert the word nerd here but I love to listen to people speak.

Today we ate pie for breakfast because Rebecca did it on her blog and I thought “what the hell”. My children thought it was a high holiday and we have so much pie left over from Thanksgiving I’ve decided to eat only the middle. Crusts are for peasants!!!

Did you ever have one of those days where everything is beautiful? Dust on the windows, tree branches stretching across your walls even the cat puke on the floor takes on a certain shape. Okay maybe not the cat puke.

But today is one of those beautiful days. It was the first snow fall. Bella made a snowman out of mud, leaves and the one inch of snow on the ground and it was stunning….

While Watching Russian Films

While Watching Russian Films

Silos are waking in the sun
and the mother is pouring wine to the boys
watering it down with rainwater and you’ll never know
what is in the blue box drowning with the father
waves first circling his fingers
then his wrists and it would be wonderful to die
like this, slowly. Children running on a beach
calling papa, papa and everything is more
than beautiful, it is lonely--
a boy’s cut lip, black hair sinking
deeper and deeper. The body blooms
at the bottom of a river. Camera goes black
then to the mother pouring wine and now
you know everything. It is simple to die.
To show dying. Do it slowly
like filling a cup.

The women are always beautiful
or ugly and even the houses are sad
flooding the screen then disappearing to white.
And you want to be cold, to have love
even though their tongues would be blue, locked together
but truth does not matter, it’s obsolete
and here’s a quality you admire. He could be enough
if it was cold enough and truth did not matter.
And the women did not grow to look like their mothers.

Generally there is no sex
but violins mate as if underwater
and these hums are lullabies
to the fish in plastic bags, breathing in, out.
You always come back to the silos
or the father dying and heaviness descends
slowly and is comforting. A blanket
to keep you warm when nothing else matters.

Friday, November 26, 2004

another photo for Ivy Posted by Hello

california to minneapolis Posted by Hello

Thursday, November 25, 2004


I always tell my students and my children that an artist's job is to notice things, to pay attention in close detail to the moments other people ignore. I don’t however tell them how painful that can be.

I remember when time started changing, of being ten and watching clouds in a bean field, how I knew time was traveling, that I was no longer a child because I was now somehow aware of everything I was losing.

Sometimes I think my main job of being human is to come terms with the person I have been since conception. Growing into an adult meant realizing that no one was really happy, that we each possessed a great emptiness and growing into a woman meant taking responsibility for the size of that emptiness.

Now I can feel myself traveling to another phase in my life. A realization that all these random decisions of my youth actually led somewhere:) now I know why all those old people were so stressed out. I have a stronger taste of death in my mouth, by that I mean I know I am on a journey and that it will end someday and I never want it to be over.

I wonder if all writers long for immortality, if one of the reason we are drawn to word is because it holds in it this ability to stay long after our bodies have faded away. I look at the writers I love and for me they will always be eternal.

i love rocks... Posted by Hello

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Turkey Butt

Well sticking your hand up a turkey’s butt is enough to make anyone a vegetarian and doing this at 7a.m. before coffee is an act of utmost cruelty. Plus I have to get up and drive to work and shut off a kiln I decided to fire on Turkey Eve but it did give me a weekend undisturbed.

Tonight I am thinking about my children, how quickly they have grown and what amazing creatures they are. Olivia is almost eleven sprouting breasts and somehow my baby Bella is on her way to being seven and I have no idea how this happened.

I always call them the great purifiers of my life. They show me preciously where I have failed, where I have succeeded. After finishing my manuscript Olivia took me aside in a very serious way and said, “You know mom I’ve read some of those poems and nobody is going to make that book into a movie.” LMAO

She was trying to save me from hurt and rejection and saw the ultimate goal of any writer to be the big screen. It was hard to keep a straight face.

Their dad once told (in a very pissy voice) that he never understood why I wrote poetry. All my mistakes were written down for the whole world to see, for the children to read later in life. And that is what I leave them, this imperfect mom who daily tries to love them the best she can, who takes them along (without a choice most of the time) down this road of her failures and successes and hopes that when the turkey is done and they are grown, they don’t turn out to be serial killers….

Olivia with her favorite butterfly Posted by Hello

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Search Engine

Sometimes in those little search engine boxes I want to type in real questions like why do I cry on certain days and not others? Why is there so much injustice and whatever happened to the tellatubies now that they are old?

And there always feels with the written word there should be answers, that if I took the time to type it down, then hell the complete instructions must exist somewhere.

I have been reading all the articles I can find about Edwidge Danitcat’s uncle
and how he was detained because of the patriot act, his medicine taken away, even though he had a visa to be in this country, and how he died handcuffed to a bed. He was an 81 year old minister, the man who raised Edwidge Danticat with stories and books so that she could become one of the most amazing women writers I have ever read.

I am looking for answers. I am looking for answers but it does not fit in my little box and I am thinking how unjust it all is, how we protect ourselves from our responsibility to the world by using the word privilege.

This man was stopped because he was black, denied rights because the officers at the scene called him a “stupid immigrant” and all because this country is ours (supposedly), we are privileged so we must lock the doors tight.

I have lived in both places and I have to tell you they are wrong. In Haiti people hold hands in the street, the sing to fires at night and love fiercely because it all could stop at any second. You could plant a stick in the ground and it would grow leaves the next day.It is a beautiful world…..

Sunday, November 21, 2004

What's On Your Gravestone

The only thing I don’t like about Sunday is the no mail thing and that here in Minnesota if you want a glass of red wine you need to remember on Saturday to buy it. I sent off my second batch of poems today to Mid-American Review, well I stuck it in the mailbox that won’t be opened till tomorrow. I got that wonderful handwritten note send more work. I think I might put that on my gravestone.

I was getting nervous about not having enough publications for breadloaf but I think I should just concentrate on one conference at a time. I still need to figure out all the details for Florida and I need to send Carolyn the final manuscript I sent to Yale but I am nervous about doing this. Oh well, straight through the fire….

I miss writing. I have poems in my head but my body is stopping them halfway down so I don’t have to edit them. My mind is avoiding anything that looks like work. What I need to do is just read a damn good book and relax feel free to send any recommendations…

Saturday, November 20, 2004

spirit tree

I am restless tonight and I can’t write-- a bad combination. I keep thinking about the man who led my daughter’s class on a nature walk a few weeks ago. How he kept saying "my people” and how I made my daughter and her friends go with him because his voice comforted me and I could tell he held great stories.

On the walk he made each of us eat a certain berry and stick out our tongues. We all looked at the different shades and he told us, how all bodies absorb things differently and this is what a good medicine man does, he pays attention to the color.

There was no shade to my tongue. I hold things in. There would be no way to know how to treat me….

I miss my house. I miss the trees we planted when each girl was born. I miss that I could name every flower from the front step to the back and that the turret is made of horse hair because the house is 200 years old and I loved it more than I loved my husband but not more than my mind.

Now I have my head and I plant nothing in this place the girls and I rent. I plant nothing because I can’t bear to watch it grow. And there is something beautiful in that too, though I want to be able to name it but I can’t.

The nature guide said the center of the Lynden tree holds a star, out of its emptiness it takes on the shape of the universe and that is why it is holy. He said, my people call it the spirit tree.

Friday, November 19, 2004


Because all good things come in waves I just received news today of a pushcart nomination. I am beginning to see distinct parallels in my life…

when my real life work sucks….writing life does well
children good at school…horrible at home
no money….endless opportunities to spend
time off….no place to go

I’ve decided to send my manuscript to Fence for the Alberta Prize this weekend. I am not sure how I feel about this, a part of me balks at an award for only women, what if I was just a cross dresser? And then another part of me goes, the pool may be smaller, your book could get picked. (This voice by the way has a very small vocal system.)

It seems we spend so much time boxing each other in, even in writing. Young poet, woman poet, Asian poet and we have contests to further confirm that our boxes are needed.

I've always said that when I become famous I will create my own first book contest with certain guidelines….

….must be between 40 and 52 type written pages
….a cover page with the authors name, phone number
… must be written when children are in the house
….and the Barney Song plays or PBS is blaring on the T.V.
(if not sure of these programs, please borrow children)
….no more than 30 years to create the manuscript
….and on the acknowledgement page please list the number of bottles
wine, aspirin or prescription drugs used during its completion

Oh and don’t forget to make the checks out to T.E. Ballard…

Thursday, November 18, 2004

yep that says it all.... Posted by Hello

Oh but such a brilliant man, Mr Bukowski

so you want to be a writer?

if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.

if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.

if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful...

I had this great conversation today about female writers and why it seems on their book jackets they have this need to print a picture of themselves about twenty years old, even if the book was written when they were sixty.

They always remind me of these exotic tropical birds that we may see only once or twice in a lifetime.

Why is it that we need women to beautiful as well as brilliant? And it seems to be the opposite for men if a male author is not attractive it actually works in his favor which may explain (if the rumors are true) why Bukowski got laid so often.

I have had the pleasure to meet some very famous women poets in person (I’d be a fool to put any names here:) and I have to tell you it takes few seconds for the brain to travel from the cover jacket to real life, usually accompanied by ones mouth hanging open.

Am I immune? Hell no, I think my bio photo is over seven years old and I actually had one of Olivia’s teacher say, “wow I’ve never seen you look like that.” A side note here is that I usually don’t brush my teeth or comb my hair when I drop my kids off for school so he is dealing with total opposite side of the coin.

But is it our choice, does it help us sell more books? One of things I love about Annie Dillard is that she looks like she just strolled into the back yard for the photo. But poets are a different breed. Look how much publicity young poets get for their first book verses an old poet, especially if that poet is a beautiful young woman.

Look at the women who have won Yale, Walt Whitman and then look at the book (if they were lucky) they wrote ten years later. I’d bet you it is the same photo and it bothers me. It bothers me because I am going to grow fat and old I will still be the same person I am now and these poems will still be inside me….hmmmmm I wonder if my cover photo will change.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Palm Beach

Well I got accepted into the Palm Beach Poetry Festival with Billy Collins and Thomas Lux, plus Sharon Olds but I don’t have classes with her. Now I have to figure out how the heck I am going to get there and which child I am going to sell to pay for it;)

Now I am too tired to write anymore because I got up so early to have a good day....I think it kinda worked.

good day

I got up an hour before I had to this morning which is some ungodly hour like 5 am. I wanted to sit in the house before I woke up the children. I wanted to have coffee alone without being rushed to have coffee and I wanted to be with my manuscript before I sent it off.

It reminds me of the ritual of sitting with the dead, how sitting alone in a room with something you can’t change (already in its envelope) is peaceful somehow. Everything you want to say comes to the room, everything you need to let go of. I know that in this culture we have done away with the things that make us more human. I know, because I have lived in a culture where it has not yet gone. When you are there when someone dies and they are not hooked up to any machines but to you, your hand. And life is something daily you are grateful for.

One of the first things I did in Haiti was sit in a grieving room with a woman who had lost her husband, for days we sat on mats and talked, and sometimes we were just silent. But the ability to be still made us more.

I go to that room in my head. The place where I am quiet but not alone and sometimes in real life I go there before the children wake and when I am the first person to see the sky get up and then I know, it will a good day.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

One More Day And Counting

Well the table of contents are done and the acknowledgement. I am ready to print out the beast and sent it. Of course, I will be sending it on the last official day to send the manuscript and I hope that is saying to the publishers, yes she is brilliant and not down right lazy. This is the way I do things. I am not saying it is a good way but hell I am getting it in the mail.

All that said and done, I think I have a better shot at Breadloaf then Yale; I could go on my long tirade about Gluck and female writers. Has she ever picked a woman for a contest? But it seems like a waste of breath and Philip Levine, who is picking for breadloaf this year, is the person who first noticed Dorrianne Laux and brought her to print so I feel like at least I have the, I know someone who knows someone, who likes my work thing going for me.

The funny thing is how much the book has changed for me. How much I have been changed by writing this book. I first started out trying to find the best formula and had Carolyn Forche read the manuscript, which isn’t a bad way to go. Then I became obsessed with everyone else’s first books and how they were oh so much better then mine.

I began to think my story wasn’t worth telling so I went back to formula, of course sometimes finding my own voice and weaving in and out of feeling like it was/wasn't working. Now I am at wanting the book to be for me, not anyone else and in doing that it has become mine. It has become what it needed all along to be, alive. It required my blood.

I don’t think it is done. I don’t think it will ever be done. But this is a story of a girl from Maine, who married, divorced, traveled to Haiti, had two babies (nothing is in order) and somehow found a voice to write it down. And it is my story.


After the last post I thought, “Hell I am not even sure if I believe in soul mates.” But I do think there are people you meet that you have unexplained history with. My two best friends I knew within ten seconds that were indeed my best friends.

My favorite stories in the bible were about these angels that sat on their knees in the throne room of god, every few seconds they would go up in flames because they were filled with so much love. Then they were recreated only to go up in flames again. This was their eternity.

I believe the bible messed up my view of love far more than Cinderella or Snow White ever did. I mean really…..

1) true love is to let ppl. beat ya and nail ya
2) tie your son to a rock and have the knife ready
3) you can be naked have sex but don’t go looking for fruit
4) never look back
5) love for animals may be tested by boarding large boats

See, if you expose young children to this before they can walk, it is no wonder they grow up to be, well, poets….

Friday, November 12, 2004

table of contents

I am tired. I worked a ten hour day and then went out and had wonderful sushi. I love sushi bars, you always have the best conversations at them. All restaurants should have long table where you sit next to strangers and eat. It is so much more fun that way except of course when it isn’t and the person next to you drives you crazy. I am friends with my sushi chef so he always gives me this special nod if the guy is whacked or worst would try to pick me up…we have a system.

Yesterday I spent most of the day working on the book and I wrote my first table of contents. If I try to describe the feeling it is going to sound really dumb but if you ever met your soul mate, you know in the first few seconds that you are saying the things you have been waiting your whole life to say, that is the way it felt when writing out the table of contents. I was doing the thing I will be doing the next half of my life. The thing I've been waiting for. There is no other way to describe it…besides that it felt sooooo cool.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


When you get old you leak. This is a fundamental principle with roofs, cups and yes, women. And if you have ever had children (a 8 pound head) pass through an area where only things the size of a sun flower seeds should flow then you leak in a way that is not becoming any writer.
Why am I sharing this? Because now I have a cold and when I am teaching a class and if I have to sneeze, it is quite possible that I might also wet my pants.
It seems the only area in my life where I CAN do two things in complete unison. I am not the walk and chew gum kind of girl and even in bed I find it best to concentrate on one area at a time, as not to fall over yourself, and loose track of exactly where you've been;)
So out of this dilemma I have found a skill I did not know I had which means there might be other things I can do at the same time.
Laundry and read a book.
Type and watch T.V.
Tie my shoes and talk
The world does seem endless this morning…..

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Burnside Review

It is pretty safe to say that if I ever get this manuscript mailed of by the 15th I will never bitch again about submissions. This makes throwing a few poems in an envelope seem so easy compared to whittling your work down to 50 poems, seeing sections, or just wavering between the belief that you, as a writer are either gifted or retarded.
It does feel like that and I wonder if one of the poems I am putting in the “not in the book pile” would actually save my ass if a certain editor were to read it. How about the one blueberry& grandmother poem, say the editor loved (hated) his/her own grandmother and the mere mention of said person caused him/her to embrace (throw the fricken thing across the room) These are the things that go round & round in my head.
And ppl wonder why poets stick their heads in the oven.
On the positive side of writing today I got an acceptance letter from the Burnside Review which is a new journal out of Portland. They took two of the three poems I sent them. I could almost kiss them today for the positive reinforcement. But the truth is you never respond with what you really want to say, which is “thank you for publishing me, I had no idea I could write at all.”
I am still waiting for my fourth letter from Beloit (your it, no your it….) and hopefully that will be good news. Or if it bad news it will wait till yale and breadloaf are out so I don’t burn the whole damn manuscript in a mass fire in the back yard. It could happen…

Monday, November 08, 2004

pillar of bugs

Back when I was 15 and trying hard to be a fundamental Christian someone gave me a book about caterpillars turning into butterflies (feel free to hum any Joni Erickson song now) and there was one page where all the bugs had made a pillar and were trying to get to this one place. No one knew where the one place led to but everyone knew it was important to get to, some would fall to their deaths, others were trampled while a few made it to the top and found it led no where.
Twenty two years later and I still feel like a fricken caterpillar. Sometimes in writing it feels like everyone is trying to get somewhere, some people support you while others tear you down and others look to your for direction to figure out where to go. And we are all headed up that big pillar.
But I suppose it doesn’t have to be that way. When I talked to Ilya about his book, which was brilliant. He said, “Teresa, writing is such a private thing. There is no way to do it; each of us does it differently.” Like a dance almost, each of us finding our own tune, direction.
Still I feel like a bug today in my life. My role as a mother, teacher, writer, in everything I feel like I am crawling over and over the same bodies trying to get to some certain place. I just don’t know where.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

pissy as hell

Yesterday was a hell day at work and I spent two hours talking to a co worker about it this morning. We have a new boss and of course, she wants to change everything so it looks like to her bosses that she is doing something, and she is starting with the most successful programs first. How irritating.
I had written up my class load for winter and she asked me not to teach one of my classes, which I’ve never had happen before, when I asked her the reason she said, she didn’t feel I was passionate enough about it.
What the hell. She has never observed me teaching this class. And besides wearing a little cheerleading outfit and jumping up and down. I am a pretty passionate person, in fact too much. I don’t do things I don’t like, I don’t teach classes I don’t like and I have spent hundreds and hundred of dollars with a therapist to be less rule by that corner of my brain. My shrink will so happy to know it’s working….
So now I am left with the problem of what to do. Whether to write her and figure out what the pluck she's talking about or to let it go. Okay so I wont let it go (see once again passionate personality) but right now I am so pissed off I want to tell her to take a flying leap.
I have students I adore there, who wait to get into my classes and if I stop working it will their loss and not hers. So I am caught between trying to be civil and yet I am so angry I could spit. Thank god it is the weekend.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

the view from outer space

Leroy Chiao became the first American to vote from outer space but after getting up this morning and reading the results from Ohio and Florida I don’t believe he was the only one.
All the people I know are tired and sad. Anger I am sure will follow soon. Kerry took Minneapolis by 80% and for Minnesota being a swing state, we didn’t swing very far. It was amazing yesterday to drive down the street and see people standing in the rain with their signs but I grew up in the young Republican Party and knew not to hold my breath. Having met both Bush senior and Regan while my grandfather was a senator, I know that it is not always all about sides and division but it has become that in this election.
What bothers me most is that fear seems a stronger emotion then sense? And so many decisions are made to benefit the few and not the many. I am sad. I am tired. I have the experience of growing up political, of being the only member in my four generation family to vote for democratic canadate and I should be use to this feeling of standing alone but today I am not. I am ready to move overseas.

city of lights bookstore Posted by Hello

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

the flying flucks

Who defines us? On today’s posts at Victoria’s blog she noted that she was going to stop blogging b/c of comments from others. I have always loved that blog. She talks a lot about writing and how to get published, different schools of poetry and such. It is just nice to see someone on the other side of where I want to go (first book of poetry).
It also bothers me a great deal that we allow others to control and direct our behavior. Would I be this bothered if she just stopped b/c she was busy? No. Well maybe a little but I expect more from her and maybe that is not fair.
One of the negative things about workshops/blogs on line is that people say things about our work that they would never say in a real writing workshops or life. Yet sometimes that is a strength. I have been in writing workshops where people have been too “soft” and I feel like that is not being very helpful either and though I don’t agree with a lot of the banter that goes on, it does cause me to think and consider my own truth.
The thing is, (and everyone knows this thing but it takes time to travel from your brain to your heart) there are always going to be people out there who hate what you write and others who love it.
I have at time allowed people to define me and my writing. I have stopped writing for weeks because I lost a fellowship or a publication I really believed I deserved and somehow thought “this punishment” served some sort of purpose.
Maybe you are reading this and you are not a writer but everyone has things, people who define them. At what point do we as adults take over the definition of ourselves…change the rule books. Say this is who I am….and I don’t give a flying fluck….

Sunday, October 31, 2004

another san francisco shot and obviously Ive had a spelling problem in the last photo...there is no edit on hello but the boats are still pretty... Posted by Hello

finally posting on of my san fransico photos...make me want to jump back on the plane Posted by Hello

happy halloween

I am feeling better but now of course the girls both have colds. I even caught the cat sneezing today. Bella and Olivia went to a big party Friday night, while I drank red wine and read a book at home (I know poor me) and it seems Bella has the knack for door prizes. They had a basket filled with gourmet chocolate and of course my six year old was in heaven when she won…the basket weighs more than she does. That plus the loot she got tonight and we are looking at some serious dentist bills. It does seem wrong to waste godiva on a child and I am not above trading her a giant snickers for the basket. I know, bad, bad mom.
On a side note and to answer some of the emails I received, no in real life I don’t think Virginia was ugly, it just seemed that Nicole Kidman was made to look like crap. I don’t think I would have cast her in that role. Iris was one of the best writing movies I’ve ever seen so if you haven’t seen it, check it out. Kate Blanchett is in that one, I believe and I think they just made her out to look naked. Why does it seems that writers need to either be portrayed as sluts or shutins?????
I am getting the itch to write fiction. I read the short stories in the New England Review and it just seems that I have so many more stories in my head that haven’t been told by anyone. This is going to sound awful but I also think there are more talented poets out there than short story writers so the competion isnt so harsh. I would love to see a ratio. I know most journals get more poetry submissions than anything else. I know some people are poetry purists but I don’t think I am one. Poetry will always be my first love but I’ve been known to fool around a little. It seems narrow to me to say I only work in this medium. I think as artist we should continue to push ourselves to grow. Right now I am going push myself to bed….

Thursday, October 28, 2004

sicker than a dog and the gay man inside

The sniffles that the girls had turned into a full fledge cold with me. Of course b/c I am the grownup but luckily it was my day off today so I spent three hours in bed working on the manuscript with out feeling guilty. In motherhood that doesnt happen often....
How come I can edit better when I am sicker than hell? I think it is the Nyquil, either that or the high fever has made me delusional. Possibly the combination of both.
Nothing new to report. I went to IKEA and bought bookcases today before the chills set in. I am a book addict which means I would take a good book over food and I like owning them. Yes, I know there are libraries but I think I am still scarred from that 30 dollar fine when I was 11 and they banned me from the South Berwick public library for a whole month. If I own it I don’t have to bring it back.
Has anyone out there watched queer as folk? It is like a gay man’s soap opera with a bit more nudity. Yes, I know I am a middle age white woman but I think I have a gay male inside me. And he very much enjoyed the twenty hour dvd set of the first season. Of course I wish he come out during my clothing purchase b/c I never know what to wear. Seems he only to affects my tv viewing, that and theatre. I was the only woman in the first three rows to see Victor Victoria.
Julia Andrews. Simply amazing.
Anyway I am off to bed. Please send soup

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

A Room Of My Own Or Maybe A Broom Closet

The movie opens with Nicole Kidman looking well, a bit ugly and she is writing at her desk. The maid brings her water, she pushes her food away. She writes better hungry. She has a room, a desk. She is Virginia Wolfe and the image of everything I’ve ever thought I’d be when I became a writer. Except of course, hopefully without the ugly.
Now here is my writing life. To save paper Bella has begun drawing her animals on all my old manuscripts, it is not uncommon to find a purple puppy on top of a cow covering an unfinished poem. I have resorted to locking myself in the bathroom with the laptop.
I write a line to a poem and I have to get somebody juice, milk, the phone rings and where the hell is Virginia’s maid?
The fact is, writing while being a mother is like trying to have tea in a mine field. Sexton said when her children were small she would wake up in the middle of night and write crap but essential crap because it got her where she needed to be.
I get the crap part. And the frustration of reading young writer blogs who teach classes and then come home to hours of time to work. I am not jealous. Okay well maybe a little but I just wish there was a first book contest for women writing in mind fields. It does seem a bit more fair.
Well that is the bad part but the good part is my children love me. My ten year old always asks me great questions like “how old do you have to be to use shit in a poem.”
I said of course it depends whether you are writing good poems or not—very few poets use shit well. I read her great poets at bedtime. She already done her first reading 0f her own work in front of people. It is amazing to pass on the love of words. With hopefully not the poets mental illness rate.
And my children continually humble me. There is not much an editor can say about my work after I spend hours picking up the living room with my poems filled with barnyard animals. I know from where I come from. My girls always remind me.My children own me. For now. And may be this is my essential crap period but I would not trade it for anything. They are amazing, horrible beasts but yes the maid could bring me some more alone time….

Monday, October 25, 2004

Poets in the Modern World

All these book competitions will make you crazy…okay, maybe it’s just me. I do realize that most of mid America does NOT even read poetry, never mind the work and craziness trying to figure out how to publish a book. I have conversations at work all the time about “why don’t you write something useful” And the fact that I specialize in girl self esteem and the art classes as I do, article writing is not a bad way to go, that is if I were SANE. I am not…obliviously…
Okay so time for a secret. Not the lace underwear in the closet kind of thing but my grandfather was a poet. Published three books of poetry. Self published….but that combined with the fact he was senator, in our little town in Maine, made that man famous. I would go to book signings, touch his books on the shelf and I think it is pretty safe to say my mind has been twisted about writing for a very long time.
I am writer. And I can’t explain it but to say when I give a reading or I am in my room and a poem has just flown out of me, it is the truest form of who I am. It is Teresa pure. Stripped down. I know at that moment there is nothing else I want beside this. No one else.
But I fight continually with the fact that I am a lazy ass. Like now, I should be working on the book but I rather be here. Because this is instant gratification and my character is always drawn to that.
I read somewhere about how this person wanted to be a writer but was not willing to do the work of a writer. Wow did that hit home. Am I willing to do the work of a writer? To be disciplined in my art. I wasn’t in painting. I was a damn good painter and my professors pulled their hair out because I had no passion. I do for this but do I have discipline.
When does poetry become work? Should it be work? Or does it have the need to be more mystical? I know people who fight over such topics. I tend to go more to the work side. I mean some of its basic odd. If you are going to spend 14 years working on a manuscript and sending it out chances are someone is going to publish you. I mean the odds are high. Does that make you talented. Well talent is another question. And the other question is, who will be tomorrow great poets. Will it be Gluck, Collins or will it be some unknown person. Who knows…..and at the rate society is processing, will there always be poetry?God, I hope so….

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Up Hill and I might be rolling down any minute

I have missed two readings I wanted to hear this month. Spencer Reese and Fanny Howe, I have both their books and am really mad at myself for not being committed to the time. Both readings fell on days I had the children and I’ve become more and more reclusive as I work on submissions & the manuscript. I go out to eat sushi and work.
I don’t believe being in the house writing is always a good thing but it is the way my body is naturally working at the moment. I just applied for the Palm Beach Poetry Contest and I sent off my third submission to Beloit Poetry Journal . The first letter asked for more work, the second asked me to rework a poem they liked (which I did) and now I have sent three more poems and reworked the one they liked.
I hope I get in. I am a little obsessive about it at the moment. Anne Sexton was first published in this journal, Langston Hughes. I think it is the oldest poetry journal in New England and is based in Maine where I grew up. Did I mention I am a little obsessive about it?
I am filled with the feeling of not being good enough. I wonder if there is a writer out there who loves sending things off. If so please feel free to take over this area in my life.
I am very big on encouraging people to send work out, ask poor Laurel. But I don’t think it ever becomes natural. I do think that the more you do it, the easier it becomes and the less you think about it. Of course till you are again forced to think about it because it is a place you really, really want to get into.
Like everything else when I am unaware of self I do better. It is a long list. I write better when I don’t think. I do readings better. I make love better. When I am not aware of steps I do not limited myself.
Oh well today I am very aware and there has to be some worth in that. Anyone who knows what it is please email me. I love the stanza of the poem below. Laux emailed it to me this morning and I have no idea what poem it is from and google has not helped me. Did you ever have on of those day when you know you are moving but it mostly up hill?

a stanza for morning

"We had moves we didn't know we had
our bodies spun on swivels of bone and faith,
through a lyric slipknot of joy
and we knew we were beautiful
and dangerous."- Yusef Komunyakaa

Friday, October 22, 2004


I truly believe in the statement “if you ask the universe a question it will answer back” I’ve been struggling this week with all the things I have to get done. I’ve been struggling with questions inside myself.
The short story is one of my daughter’s best friends comes from a fairly well to do family and the mother has a studio where she paints full time. I was faced with the possibility this month of being able to write full time and then it fell through. The income that would support both me and the girls for a year so I could write did not happen. This causes so many voices in my head to do battle.
I like being a working writer. I feel like I get nothing done. When I have something in my head I am forever putting in on the back burner because, my real job, or the girls need me and the time to write falls away. I don’t feel organized. When I have time I have no inspiration.
Anyway I was feeling very jealous of this woman and then reminding myself we each have or own struggles and I would not want to trade place with her anyway. But it is hard to do when I think of all the time she has to work and somehow this creates a picture of her in my head with Bach playing, paint flying and birds singing. It is rather lovely.
Well of course as the universe goes, we ended up having a long talk today and she said she doesn’t feel validated or worth anything b/c her partner brings home all the income while she paints. So much for the flying birds.
I find that so sad that we have to put a monetary value on our art. What is value? We give value in our society to all sorts of things, is the unpublished writer more valued then the published one? How do we value ourselves? Are our successes worth more then mistakes?

Sunday, October 17, 2004

sunday love

I love Sundays, my perfect day, all is quiet and peaceful. I have a perfect time to 11:11—I just like it when all the numbers fill up the clock a certain way, of course you need a digital clock. I am going to post some of our photos from San Francisco later today. The City Lights books store was amazing even though it was 95 in there, and the die hard poets were all up in the attic. It was like a writers hall of fame held in the depths of hell.
And how sad is this—I got a black & white photo of Edwidge Danticat to keep in my writing journal. She is an amazing writer and my age, five books under her belt. I cant look at the photo very long or I get depressed at my lack of publication.
Last night Bella was talking in her sleep “sssshhhh, the trees are dancing” God I want to have her dreams. I been dreaming about the convention I am teaching on Thursday & Friday and my images are so much more stressful.
I am reading Margot Schillip right now. I posted my favorite poem below. God I love that a poem. I really should shower and brush my teeth, it is almost noon. Did I mention I love Sundays????

Saturday, October 16, 2004

an amazing poem


I know that dying is how we escape
the rest of our lives. I think that trees
send us a message: do not believe

you are lucky. The skins of apples
and the peeler will marry; it's simply
a question of when. Believe

in mourning and carrion birds.
Look how their fleshy treasures
dissolve in the sun before their very eyes.

To love something
you must have considered what it means
to do without. You must have thought

about it—the coefficient of the body
is another body—but do not forget
that there are people who are willing

to staple your palm to your chest.
Know there are places it isn't wise to go.
Begin again if you must: there are ways

to make up for what you have been before,
the dust in the corners that collects you.
Sympathy is overrated.

Rethink how lack
becomes everyone's master, drives us
into town and spends our money.

Quiet: the trees are napping.
Water meets itself again.
We reach for the days that precede us

and the world keeps us from knowing
too much. The body loves music,
the abandoned road of it;

each day a peel
lengthens in the shadow of blossoms,
fabric weaves itself into light.

Pay attention to the patterns.
They repeat—terraces erode,
groves lie fallow—order is cognate of joy.

Copyright © 2003 Margot Schilpp All rights reserved

Dorriane Laux and John C at the reading...which was also my birthday. We had lots and lots of fun... Posted by Hello

Joseph Millar, Steve Mueske, John C and friends at the workshop Posted by Hello

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Drive and does anyone know when we will get there???

Laurel talked about drive in the post below and that is a good question, does a poet need drive to succeed? First of all I think it’s hard to have drive if you are not being published. I mean when I am rejected from a journal I feel bummed out but then I remember what it feels like to get in so I send my work off again. Every step feels like I get closer to the goal…and that goal continually changes.
I remember two years ago when I wanted to enter Ploughshares Emerging Writers Issue and I needed someone to sponsor me so I wrote to different people and none of the writers I knew met Ploughshares qualifications so I just off the top of my hat decided to write to Kim Addoznia and asked her to sponsor me. Of course, she already had a student she was entering but she gave me great advice about taking small steps as a poet, of paying my dues. It was then I think I began to work.
Honestly I am a lazy ass poet. I don’t think I’ve even yet truly begun to work. Brigit Pegeen Kelly sometimes spends a year on one poem. I want to have that kind of drive. I’ve never done that and in truth I don’t think the manuscript is done…I don’t think I’ve even begun to work. My lack of drive is something I fight with every day so dear Laurel I think you should get another hero or at least give yourself credit for getting up every day and writing---its damn hard to do that some days.
I think I sent things off so I can live with myself. I know I have to enter Yale this year not because the manuscript is great but because it is a step and a hurtle I need to get over. I am 37 years old. I have three more years to enter this damn thing and then low and behold I’m an old poet:) But I also know it would be so much easier to let it slide till I’m 40 and close the door on myself with the safety net of well maybe….and that does feel like a greater crime.
I got really mad at Carolyn when she said that some poets go 15 years of working non stop to get a manuscript published and it takes that long. She has a good friend who that happened to...I was like, why are you telling me this???? I feel like such a child with her sometimes. Drive...that is a question I ask myself every day. Would I go the 15 years? Honestly, I have no idea...

Monday, October 11, 2004

Yale and Bread

I am feeling better about the book. I don’t want to jinx myself and say it out loud but I don’t think a blog counts. I of course have been reading everything Glück has selected in a contest forum before the book goes off to Yale. I don’t think there is a chance in hell…she loves those strong male voices and I don’t mean that as an insult but it is true. She picks men and my book is very much me, and maybe there is a male bone in there somewhere but I can’t find it.
The reason I am feeling better is that I think I have finally figure out what Laux was talking about during the workshop this summer that we must write the poetry only we can write. There is something about claiming those words…like cowslip for me which is a part of my own childhood in Maine. I have a language only I know and the trick is to get it out on the page….oh hell, I sure hope I’m not jinxing myself. It has been nice to spend the last few days really writing and not feeling so stuck.
Oh and I decided to try for Breadloaf this year as Carolyn Forche suggested. Now time to stop playing and get to work….

Sunday, October 10, 2004

big head

Okay so my big head was the first step of technology, anyone who knows how to put the links on the side to other people’s blog, please email me (and talk to me like Im three. )
I have been reading for twenty minutes and still cannot figure it out. It is always those simple things which confuse me but at least I figured out how to post photos…one small step for man….

te ballard Posted by Hello

Sarah Jewett

The Author Visits Sarah Jewett

Riding down route 4, it was possible
not to touch the handlebars until the edge
of the flower garden bloomed
over the front wheel of my bike.
I’d hide behinda kitchen door, listening to a man,
almost always a man, saying words like literature,
scholar, then I’d sneak past the tour guide to a child’s bed,
blue herons on a wall, curved heads,
reflections of eyes in windows searching down
to my brother’s shirt pulled tight across my chest.
Miss Davis cleaned the house daily, her brother, a pedophile
collected girls on his back porch like bottles, blue,
brown, red; their long necks kissing air
calling to me as I rode by. I knew nothing of poetry
only that the darkest maple bled
sweet syrup and long ago, on this road,
a writer found a bird and people came
from all around to view the white-blue house.
In her room I imagined Sarah, the two of us
joined together, covered by the shell of an egg,
yellow light streaming down, lace patterns
falling over our skin. I knew she’d be able
to identify cowslips growing
by the backdoor near the pine. Sarah
was the kind of girl who'd ride her bike
fast through a broken yard, call to her friends,
save them one by one like feathers
tucked in the pockets of her jeans.

*side notes

Jewett was most likely a lesbain, married once
but rumored to have "serious" relationship with certain young girls

she was rich, very rich and could write
without any eating

if you google miss davis's name it gives you her telelphne number
which makes me think I should change it before it goes to print

I grew up in that libary...which is no bigger than my bedroom now
in the center of that house...

Friday, October 08, 2004

Happy Birthday Merwin

this poem really stuck with me today


I will tell you what he told me
in the years just after the war
as we then called
the second world war

don't lose your arrogance yet he said
you can do that when you're older
lose it too soon and you may
merely replace it with vanity

just one time he suggested
changing the usual order
of the same words in a line of verse

why point out a thing twice
he suggested I pray to the Muse
get down on my knees and pray
right there in the corner and he
said he meant it literally

it was in the days before the beard
and the drink but he was deep
in tides of his own through which he sailed
chin sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop

he was far older than the dates allowed for
much older than I was he was in his thirties
he snapped down his nose with an accent
I think he had affected in England

as for publishing he advised me
to paper my wall with rejection slips
his lips and the bones of his long fingers trembled
with the vehemence of his views about poetry
he said the great presence

that permitted everything and transmuted it
in poetry was passion
passion was genius and he praised movement and invention
I had hardly begun to read

I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can't
you can't you can never be sure

you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don't write

i'm stapeling that last stanza to my head

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The Unidentified Tree Grows Fruit

The Unidentified Tree Grows Fruit

Peeking through the last branch
I see it by mere chance,
glancing up to check the clouds.

Two days later
I call it plum or plume, lick the cool skin
with my tongue, there is something erotic
about wanting yet leaving it there to grow,
to fall to the ground.

At night I say to my lover,
do you remember the cherries in Paris,
the rain falling through the window near the day bed
and the ripe, red world?

My lover has never been to Paris.
Once we took the children to an island
off the coast of Lake Superior,
when the children believed us friends,
who held hands secretly,
who made love quietly

while the birds slept,
and the girls grew round.

The tree is old,
nothing is expected,
the leaves fall, then return.

Somewhere there is a country
where the streets are always wet with rain.

Friday, October 01, 2004


O happy Friday...I have been thinking about Victoria's question on her blog about jealousy and I still don’t see it as a bad thing. It depends how you define it, I suppose. I read Dancing In Oddessa and I thought, what an amazing book, I wish I had written it. And yes, it DOES make me sad that someone else wrote this amazing book and it wasn’t me but does that make me less of a poet?

I do think there is a sort of arrogance needed in writing, that if writers didn’t posses this thought that what they were saying was important, they would not do what they do because it pays no money, its damn hard, and you never know if anyone will even read it when your done.

Carolyn said that the publication of my book will not define me, neither will my poetry
but I do believe what I write is part of my definition and if I believe that, why am I having such a hard time finishing the book? Am I afraid to finish it?

Maybe because I am waiting for something. Something that will make it the best book I can write and I have no idea what that might be, just like I am always waiting for the perfect poem. Maybe I am just thinking too much---that of course is always possible.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Touchy, Feel Good Food

Well I just had the best lunch. Why is it that I love those hole in the wall places where people touch you (in a good way) before they serve you food? A few months ago I watched a woman who was covered head to toe, a small half inch hole for her eyes, read Lorca in Barnes and Noble. There was something so beautiful about how she flipped pages without revealing any skin, how she lifted the veil to take a sip of water.
My view of feminism has changed, my need to have people share the same vision has also changed. What defines a strong woman? Is it that she is independent, well read? Wouldn’t that be an educated bias about how one defines strength?
Sometimes I think that the whole purpose of growing old is to empty ourselves of all we believed when we were young…that universal truths do not exist, well maybe some do like kindness or love but the definition of people: what it means to be a writer, a mother, a lover. Those definitions are continually changing.

I need to add more links, to other blogs, my work on the web but this is all new to me and the fact that the page kinda works surprises me every time I click on it. So hang on there with me. It requires more time than my lice filled world can handle at the moment. I am here, I am writing and hopefully someone out there is reading.