friday roundup: why apply?, “to make the world strange,” and eating well

What's wrong with this picture (also, please don't look too closely -- my towels are an embarrassment)

What’s wrong with this picture? (also, please don’t look too closely — my towels are an embarrassment)

Reader, it’s been a week of minimum days. And next week is also a week of minimum days. Because, conferences. [I pause here to NOT get on my soap box about how unusual and inconvenient this schedule is. Ahem.] I’ve been breathing deep about all the writing I’m not doing, setting tiny goals for myself, and enjoying long afternoons with my kids. Also, folding towels. Now let’s do the roundup before school lets out for the day:

why apply?  If you’ve been reading along, you know I’ve been applying for a few writerly gigs. There’s nothing like working on applications to encourage Spiteful Gillian, my inner critic, to come sniffing around. She’d like to know why I’m even applying? Do I know how slim the chances are of actually getting one of these gigs? Please indulge me as I write an open letter to Spiteful Gillian:

Dear Spiteful Gillian,

You are so freakin’ spiteful! But that’s not the point of this letter. The point of this letter is to tell you why I’m applying for writing gigs I might not get. Here’s why:

  1. It’s what writers do. Besides write, revise, submit, read, and champion the work of other writers.
  2. It gives me a better picture of what I’m working on — the themes, directions, and impulses of my work.
  3. Assembling a manuscript for an application is a really good way into revision. Bonus: afterwards, I have a few mini-manuscripts to send out to journals.
  4. Just to piss you off.

Lots of love,


Reader, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel of my application season (woohoo!), and I’m really itching to get back to creating some new work. After everything’s signed, sealed, and delivered I’ll write more about what I learned in the hopes that it might be useful to you.

“to make the world strange” At my writing group this week, we talked a bit about surprise in poetry. Surprise is a word that often gets bandied about in classes, workshop, and submissions guidelines (surprise us!).

But what is surprise really? Dictionary definition: surprise: a feeling of mild astonishment or shock caused by something unexpected. What about a poetry definition? I think I found one this morning as I read a Poetry Foundation interview with Lyn Hejinian. She says,

Techniques of defamiliarization are precisely intended to revivify the familiar, animate the ordinary, and make the world strange so that it’s visible — even amazing — again.

I really love this idea of making the world strange so that it becomes visible again. I’m tucking it away into my “poetic surprise” pocket. If you’d like to read the whole interview, which is not actually about poetic surprise, here it is.

eating well  I have an admittedly conflicted relationship with cooking. On the one hand, I love it because 1. yum, 2. it connects me to people I love, and 3. healthy, nourishing meals are so important. On the other hand — Oh my goodness, three meals a day every day!? As I write this I’m cooking beans in the crock pot so that later I can make a pot of chili so that we can have an easy, early dinner then head out for my reading tonight. Cooking beans made me think of this poem by Louise Gluck (pretend there’s an umlaut over that ‘u’).


Firstborn by Louise Gluck

The weeks go by. I shelve them,
They are all the same, like peeled soup cans…
Beans sour in the pot. I watch the lone onion
Floating like Ophelia, caked with grease:
You listless, fidget with the spoon.
What now? You miss my care? Your yard ripens
To a ward of roses, like a year ago when staff nuns
Wheeled me down the aisle…
You couldn’t look. I saw
Converted love, your son,
Drooling under glass, starving…

We are eating well.
Today my meantman turns his trained knife
On veal, your favorite. I pay with my life.


Louise Gluck, the X-acto Knife of poets.

And now, reader, it’s time for me to check the beans, then practice some more for my reading tonight. I hope you have a happy Friday and a relaxing weekend. Thanks for reading.

4 thoughts on “friday roundup: why apply?, “to make the world strange,” and eating well

  1. Break a leg at the reading tonight, and have fun!!!

    I love Louise Gluck (umlaut also missing), thanks for the poem.

    I love that you are applying for “gigs”. Wish I had your moxie. (which may or may not be quite the right word…) Best of luck!


    Please don’t feel bad about your towels– because your photo is making me feel much better about the fact that I am now sitting at my dining room table next to a bowl of rotting fruit and un-folded laundry; I do have a desk in a nook in the living room but it is covered with mail and other daily detritus. This nook used to be a wet bar. Oh how my life has changed. 🙂

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