we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you: resurfacing (gurgle, gulp)


Moon over the Wasatch

Moon over the Wasatch

Reader, I am back.

There have been tea anxiety dreams (in which my favorite cup for tea, the one only I am allowed to use, breaks into a thousand shards).

There have been shampoo anxiety dreams (in which my good shampoo, the shampoo only I am allowed to use, is gone).

There has been HADD — Household Appliance Attachment Disorder (in which I have had trouble re-forming attachments with the household appliances that surround me).

Also people keep asking me what’s for dinner. As if they expect me to answer.

These I understand to be normal elements of re-entry after time away for writing. I carry on.

I’m here today to share just a few bits of poetry/writing wisdom I picked up at the conference. Mainly, the wisdom comes from Ellen Bass who taught the poetry workshop, and who is an excellent teacher with a contagious laugh. Wisdom:

  • On discovery: To tell a story we already know is not a poem. Be willing to disturb the story you know.
  • We have a shared vocabulary for how we describe people physically. Don’t use it.
  • The line(s) that is most important to you is often the line(s) you don’t need in the poem. Bass calls this “the bay leaf” — it flavors the whole poem, but has to come out in the end (I probably don’t have to say how much I COMPLETELY ADORE the concept of “the bay leaf”).
  • A good tool for improving the flow of a poem is to vary your sentence length.
  • No matter what you wanted to do in the poem, the poem always wins.
  • If you’re going to use mixed metaphors, use a lot of them. Be unified or wild.

And perhaps my personal favorite (after “the bay leaf” of course):

  • One cooked meat is enough for a poem.

I’ll just let you sit with that one for a while.

Meanwhile, the kids are out of school, swim team has started, and, I don’t know… laundry. Yesterday as I walked through the house I came upon this scene (which I’m sure I unwittingly created at some point) and thought: simulacrum

Dictionary with Kitchen Tongs

Dictionary with Kitchen Tongs

I’m reminded that there is no such thing as “balance” — only fitting everything in the best we can. Fit away, Reader, fit away.


5 thoughts on “we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you: resurfacing (gurgle, gulp)

  1. Great advice! Sounds like a fantastic workshop by Ellen Bass. Thanks for bringing her to my attention. I loved her poems in your Handout, especially Basket of Figs. Thank you for the Handout as well, I enjoyed reading it very much.
    Best wishes to you and your writing.

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