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 http://www.theledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041119/APN/411191244
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. http://www.burnsidereview.com 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….