Wednesday, April 25, 2007

See I told you

those poetry manuscripts were dangerous

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


You know it is going to be a hard day when someone shows up for a site visit at your non profit with the word “philanthropist” on their business card. When she found out I was an art therapist she wanted to know if I “get a lot of sexual abuse cases” working with low income and children of color. No, was my answer ---most of those kids live in the suburbs.

If you want to make a huge generalization and back that up with statistics, white people fuck up their children far better than anyone else and white people with money tend to do it the best.

So why do I buss my ass to have free after school art programming for kids who can’t afford to do it anywhere else? Because honestly most programs in the United States that work with low income people are demeaning. Contractors build houses they wouldn’t live in and they create schools where the teachers wouldn’t send their children.

And they do this somehow believing that they are kind and good because of it. Or better. There is so much absolute shit in this world b/c someone believes they are “better.” When you put yourself on a different plane than someone else you make yourself less. It is a basic principle really.

I teach because I am selfish. I love children and they love me. And when I am with them, when I am in my space, and we are creating, it is the most amazing thing in the whole world. You can write that on my card: I am a selfish teacher!

Monday, April 23, 2007

And for Suzanne:
Five poetry collections you may not have read but certainly must:

1. Paul Celan’s Collected if you haven’t read it you need to get off my blog
2. Dancing In Odessa by Illya Kaminsky
3. Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced by Catherine Barnett
4. The Book of Fables by W.S. Merwin (I got an advance copy)
5. And Her Soul Out of Nothing by Olena Kalytiak DavisPosted by Picasa

Monday, April 16, 2007

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I HATE NATIONAL POETRY MONTH!!! There I’ve said it, it’s politically incorrect to say out loud and yet I have to tell you as much I love the written word I hate it when things are forced upon me. I dislike being at an education conference and having someone do a very bad reading of Langston Hughes or worse some rhyming flower poem about tulips.

But it’s to be expected—it’s April after all and no where is safe. One can’t open the mailbox; go to the coffee shop, a school building without some other person, who by the way doesn’t really seem to read poetry any other month of the year, shoving a poem down your throat.

What if we did this with other things? What if it was National Baton Month in April and any idiot could walk down the street showing you tricks on his baton? What if there were hundreds of idiots and you couldn’t shut your door?

Today I went to my favorite restaurant for take out which by the way I figured was a fairly safe place and I looked down at the menu and someone has started “Take-Out Poetry—write a few lines on our menu and display it all month long” The first poem was a haiku about apple juice and I had to leave without ordering ANTHING.

Ballard truth: this is the thing that I think bugs me, it waters down poetry for me. Makes it seem like it's this thing anybody could do if only…..and I guess on some levels that’s true but most of me says NO!!!!

I work my ass off to put a manuscript together. I think poetry is harder than writing fiction, short stories, or comic books. Poetry is work. What I do as a poet is work. It takes time, patience and discipline…

But maybe the baton twirlers would feel the same.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Today was fairly close to a perfect day, after the three inches of snow last week it’s finally spring in Minnesota. Of course saying that out loud just makes me fearful—it has snowed for Mayday before…
I weeded the garden, cleaned out the side yard and painted the front steps. All the while stopping to read Tim O’Brien’s “The Things We Carried” every ten minutes b/c E brought home this book I would never pick up called “The Top Ten—Writers Pick Their Favorite Books.” And it was all like crack cocaine reference book style b/c I could see at a glance Annie Dillard’s favorite books then cross-reference it with Proulx, while glancing at Sherman Alexie and Pinsky.

It went on for hours.

Anyway this is why I am reading O’Brien’s book even though it is about Vietnam b/c it is beautiful and b/c I have never read it. My summer list which use to consist of all the Great Russian writers is now titled:

“Books Ballard Has Not Read and Should Read Before She Dies.”

Saturday, April 14, 2007

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It has been one of those days when I’ve had the sad realization that I have too much life to live to fit into one lifetime.

All the books I want to read is at least 1 ½ lives and the books I want to write, maybe two. I want to be a traveler…I mean a real traveler. I just read this article yesterday about a tribe in the Amazon, they have no words in their language for left or right—there’s no need for direction. They have resisted over the years all forms of Christianity and social change. They still eat monkey. I want a life to eat monkey. No left. No right.

Maybe I want a half a life of satisfaction, of doing everything right the first time. No ex-husband, no ex lovers. I will always find the things I love right away and not have to search so hard. The person I want to be will be the person I am. I will have a trust fund and an orchard. I will wake in the morning and pick peaches like the poem I love and they will all have eyes and the peaches and I will have a long conversations.

I will be crazy.

I will be wonderfully crazy and not have to hide that I like it when my socks don’t match or that I prefer shorts to pants even in the winter and that ALWAYS in my head there’s someone writing a story so much more beautiful than anything I will ever put down on paper.

I will dream more. Sleep outside on blankets even in the day time.

I will learn every star’s name.

I will have three lifetimes to be loved by the person who has loved me better than anyone ever has. Three lifetimes to walk, to explore all the places we have never seen—we could walk across the country with a sleeping bag and a flash light.

See who will let us sleep in their barn when it rains, plant seeds of some weird tree or find all the places where they still eat monkey, get lost, sit still, make love and not do any of those other things which seem to take away from the every day the ability to REALLY listen to each other.

A lifetime to sit by lakes with an easel and paint water.

A lifetime to use a camera.

I’d like to learn to sew in one of my lives. Bake more bread. If I had all eternity I’d try to speak every language. Or make those intricate paintings on eggs with wax.

I’d have more kids.

I start my own schools in Africa, India, and Costa Rica. We’d make a lot of art. I’d spread stilt walking and cardboard ships across the world.

I’d live alone one life to see if I could. I grow old in a cabin where I was born and I’d only understand the trees.

If I was in control, if I was a god and I could create my own world, my own lives I would still leave in loss, the possibility to loose.

And maybe I would do it just as it is now—leaving humanity with just a taste of everything it could be. Everything it could feel, see, taste.

Maybe god is the ultimate writer---leave them all wanting another book.

Stella's favorite place to sleep is on my books :(
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It seems it might be my job to introduce our new family members
or at least give you visuals.

They are full of piss and vinegar
And they believe my leg is a climbing pole
And the laptop is a walking path

But they're ours and as with children that seems to be the part which counts.

Plus they’re cute as hell!!!!
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Max & Stella (eight weeks old)
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anyone want a new job


Monday, April 09, 2007

Language by W. S. Merwin

Certain words now in our knowledge we will not use again, and we will never forget them. We need them. Like the back of the picture. Like our marrow, and the color in our veins. We shine the lantern of our sleep on them, to make sure, and there they are, trembling already for the day of witness. They will beburied with us, and rise with the rest.