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