friday roundup: the perfect date, we’re all beginners, and “List of First Lines”

Sputter, gasp. Here we are on Friday’s shore. This week, there was a birthday at the Wee, Small house. The celebrated one really loves to celebrate. He had elaborate plans, and many menu requests. I had to draw the line somewhere, so I chose to draw it right after Boston cream pie, and right before miniature cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches in all different shapes. “Cookie cutters, Mom!” said he. I’m not sure when making a birthday cake became a Herculean task, but I think it was somewhere between Child 2 and Child 3. At any rate, it was a wonderful (and delicious) birthday. On to the roundup:

the perfect date  A couple weeks ago, Husband and I went on the perfect date. We started at the Goodwill store in one of the nearby fancy peninsula towns (our own, dear Peninsula Town is not nearly so fancy). If you go to the Goodwill store in a fancy peninsula town, you can get designer clothing dirt cheap. I didn’t actually buy anything this time around, but it was fun to browse, especially because the store’s background music was square out of the 1970s (summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowin’ through the jasmine in my miiiiiiiiiiinnnnd). Next stop was the used book store (um, maybe I should’ve titled this “the second-hand date”) with a whole wall devoted to poetry. Of course, at a used bookstore you usually only find the rock stars and then a volume of poems by Jewel (seriously, every used book store I’ve ever entered has had a volume of poems by Jewel for sale). I was able to pick up a couple of essays I’ve been wanting — Denise Levertov’s and Adrienne Rich’s. I’ll be sure to share any jewels I find as I read through them. In the meantime, if you want a quick primer on the importance of line, go read Marie Gauthier’s post on the poetry of e-cards. I found it both hilarious and instructive.

we’re all beginners  Drew Myron has a post this week (or was it last week already? time flies) about reasons to attend a writing workshop. My very favorite one is #1 We’re All Beginners. Drew says: “Even if you’ve written a dozen novels and hundreds of poems, you start over each time you write.” The freedom of starting over every time we write is a wonderful thing. It deflates all the pressure of feeling like we must sit down with a blank page and write a masterpiece. And it also allows us to break free from what we’ve written in the past and try something new. Thanks to Drew for this reminder.

List of First Lines  Speaking of starting over, I’ve returned to this poem over and over again since I first read it in The Best American Poetry 2006. The poet, Megan Gannon, shared her process in the Contributor’s Notes: She was having a hard time writing anything. Every line seemed a false start. She stuck with it, pledging to write as many incomplete lines as it took to come up with a draft. As she wrote, she realized the incomplete lines themselves were becoming a poem. Pretty cool. Another reminder that, whatever we’re working on — a poem, a painting, miniature cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches in all different shapes — the effort is worth something. Here’s the poem:


List of First Lines

when winter sits as if

when a wrist gives

when you pour two saucersful for

when the sifter sticks

when the window

when drifts

when fenced in, staked down, full of forgetting, bent and kissed

when, if, then


when spoons tarnish

when the moon removes

when, whose

when winter isn’t it — more drift, almost ash,

when half the calving’s risked for fuller hands

when kindling’s stacked, a pack pyramid — first fourteen, then thirteen inside

when itching rends a loose stitch, a stray

when the wash creaks in a cold key on the line

when to burn

when to cut what won’t brown, tie to ends, haul and hold

when water seals stone to sediment, stem to picture turns

when the kettle seethes a stream on warming hands

when the birds

when rooms split light like a bent tin

when the cabinet’s stacked, still damp or dripping, isn’t it evening

when seed scatters, buckshot-strewn, through, or threw with, this

when shadows, parceled out from edge to edge

when by the bed the loose green is gotten

when skin

when burns raw red instead of, still

when lying quiet

when told to turn

when sighing through a reed of barbed trees, try

(originally published in Third Coast)


Well reader, we’re off to the swim team olympics, and then we’re going on a field trip that I’ll tell you all about real soon. Happy Friday, happy weekend, and thanks for reading!

6 thoughts on “friday roundup: the perfect date, we’re all beginners, and “List of First Lines”

  1. What a lovely surprise this morning, Molly. Thanks for the link-up. And you are SO right about Jewel; I find her in every thrift store, and I then feel a mix of sad (awww, poor thing, everyone’s giving away her book) and envy (wow, everyone bought her book!).

    p.s. Cutout sandwiches? You really are a SuperMom!

    • Yes, it’s always hard to know whether to envy or pity Jewel. And, to clarify, I’m not a SuperMom, I’m just a good-enough mom, I did NOT make the cut-out sandwiches 🙂

  2. Well, aside from Summer Breeze now playing over and over in the jasmine of MY mind, I really enjoyed your links. Especially the link to Drew’s blog post about writing workshops. I really would love to attend one, but am petrified. I feel as if I will get there and then get completely stuck, cry, sneak out in the middle of the night, push the car down the road in neutral to make a clean getaway…..Valerie WHO?? …….BUT, after reading the reasons why I should attend a workshop, I’m actually going to do a little research and see what’s up with that around here (Los Angeles).

    Oh, and, your date actually sounds wonderful……and to be honest, I love that sappy Summer Breeze song. 🙂

    • If it makes you feel any better, I know more than one seasoned writer who gets nervous before attending workshops — fear of failure, fear of being identified as an impostor (aha! you’re not *really* a writer, are you?). Even people who’ve been attending workshops for years go through this. So yes! Do some research! Tell your inner critic to can it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s