friday with screen door and Bill Knott

Doors are such a rich symbol. I could spend my life thinking and writing about them. As Gaston Bachelard writes in his The Poetics of Space, “[T]he door is an entire cosmos of Half-open.” Yes.

In my personal mythology the screen door is amongst the pantheon. Mine is an old screen door, wood-framed and warped, scuffed and cat-scratched, patched and pressed into. It never quite latches, just thwacks against its doorsill and remains open by a crack.

Recently, thanks to the good people at Open Books who know every book by every poet ever, I discovered the work of the poet Bill Knott. I was stunned to learn that he was from a little town in Michigan called Carson City, about ten miles from the little town in Michigan where I grew up.

It would be hard to overstate how little these towns are. Between them are backroads and farmland, soybeans and potatoes.

Barns and farmhouses.

Screen doors.

I confess to a fondness for poems that engage with liminalities ( this bit from C.D. Wright’s One With Others is another of my favorites: “The river rises from a mountain of granite.”).

Here’s a Bill Knott poem I spent some time with this morning:


Just this:

What if we never entered then—        


Here’s more about Bill Knott from The New York TimesHis selected is called I Am Flying into Myself: Selected Poems 1960-2014, and is edited and introduced by Thomas Lux. Have a good weekend. Thanks for reading.

did someone say National Poetry Month?

Reader, I may be returning to the surface (gurgle, gulp). Then again, it might just be a good morning. Either way, I’m glad to be here for a few minutes of poetry talk before I return to my mothering/nursing duties.

Rumor has it it’s National Poetry Month? I know many poets are writing a poem-a-day. As for me, other duties call and I’ll be taking my cue from Rita Dove, whose advice to young poets is pictured above. (BTW, I don’t think I could be accused of being a “young” poet. “Middle aged” poet, yes. “Apprentice” poet, always). There’s lots more advice, for poets of all ages, at this link.

Yes, I have lots of books on my to-read shelf. The latest addition is on its way, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it: Alison’ Seay‘s To See the Queen is finally out. I’ve been waiting for it since I came upon this poem, which I know I’ve linked to before, but trust me, it keeps.

Speaking of poetry books, Powell’s is offering 15% off all poetry titles this month. Tempting, verrrrrrry tempting.

Speaking of poetry books, Susan Rich is hosting the Big Poetry Giveaway this year, and there’s a list of participating poets in the left margin of her blog. I will probably participate in this, too, but give me a few days (gurgle, gulp).

Speaking of metaphors (uh, well technically, I guess we weren’t, but…), here’s a short but informative craft essay by Mark Doty about the making of his poem “A Display of Mackerel.” Amongst other things, he says,

“Our metaphors go on ahead of us. They know before we do.”

He says,

“I need something to serve as a container for emotion an idea, a vessel that can hold what’s too slippery or charged or difficult to touch.”

He says,

“Will doesn’t have much to do with this; I can’t choose what’s going to serve as a compelling image for me. But I’ve learned to trust that part of my imagination that gropes forward, feeling its way toward what it needs; to watch for the signs of fascination, the sense of compelled attention (Look at me, something seems to say, closely) that indicates that there’s something I need to attend to.”

There are more gems in this essay, which is called “Souls on Ice.”

As for my own work, I know it will be at least a couple weeks before I can count on what I think of as “real” pockets of time for writing. But I’ll keep reading, and I’ll keep slipping into cracks of time, jotting things down in my notebook like: Who knows which brother it was? He was / on his bike. It was summer. And, We made… Even the ruins… We went back to them… . And, There was more to be undone.

Who knows when or whether these scraps will become poems (Hey, maybe I can do a scrap a day, rather than a poem a day!?)… but middle-aged poets…, we do what we can.

Happy National Poetry Month!

happy flex day

a tirling pin

Hi, Reader. Today my computer seems to be mostly cooperating, so I’m going to take this opportunity to be less wordless than usual for a Wednesday. I also want to wish you a happy flex day, which is a day when you throw your schedule to the wind and do what needs doing.

Today, I really needed to buy new pajamas. Actually, three years ago I really needed to buy new pajamas, but I tend to procrastinate about such things. Then I realized that, because some of the accommodations are shared at the conference I’m going to this weekend, it was possible that someone, besides the dwellers of the Wee, Small House, might actually see my pajamas. The very thought made me cringe. I briefly considered cancelling my plans, but then I accepted the fact that it would be better to just go buy some new pajamas (this is how much I dread shopping in actual stores except for book stores).

(Speaking of pajamas, I was trying to find an image of old-fashioned pajamas or Wee Willie Winkie or something for this post. Didn’t have much luck there, so I went with this photo of a tirling pin. A tirling pin is a precursor to the doorbell. It was moved up and down to alert the people at home of someone at their door. It is memorialized in the original version of Wee Willie Winkie: “Wee Willie Winkie rins through the toun, Up stairs and doon stairs in his nicht-goun, Tirlin’ at the window, cryin’ at the lock, ‘Are the weans in their bed, for it’s noo ten o’clock?'” File this under: you learn something new every day).

At any rate, this morning I called “flex day!” and did a bit of preparing for the conference, including, but not limited to, procuring some new pajamas. My first stop was my friendly neighborhood independent bookseller. I bought The Hare with the Amber Eyes to read on the plane and before bed while I’m away, and an itty bitty book light (again, just in case of shared accommodations). I’m looking forward to reading something a little different (i.e., not poetry). But, because I thought it would be a good idea to have something exciting waiting for me upon my return, I also bought Space, In Chains by Laura Kasischke. Also, when you see a book like that at your friendly neighborhood independent bookseller you just have to buy it in the hopes that they’ll continue to stock living poets who are not Billy Collins, Seamus Heaney, or Mary Oliver (nothing against Messrs. Collins and Heaney or Ms. Oliver).

Next I came home and had lunch, rested with a guided meditation, and journaled about travel anxiety. Which I have. Leaving the kids for the longest time ever (not that I’m proud of that — it’s long overdue; and I know they’ll be fine). Sharing my work with “real” poets who I don’t know (as if I’m not a “real” poet). Traveling by myself (as if I have not done this hundreds of times — but it’s been a while, and traveling is hard on me physcially because of my chronic illness). All that stuff. My po-friend C-1 (there’s also a po-friend C-2), who just came back from Thailand, promises me that travel anxiety is normal. Anyway, it helped just to write it all down.

So, yeah, sometimes the schedule goes and we do what we need to do. I’m feeling more ready and relaxed for my trip. My printer connection is up and running again, so I have all my stuff printed out and ready to go. Huge relief after the sore throats and technical difficulties of the last several days.I still have a few last minute things to do (buy treats and pack my bag, for example), but they feel manageable.

And I haven’t forgotten about organdizing, but at this point I think it’s going to have to wait until next week, although I’ll try to squeeze out a post tomorrow if I can. I won’t be blogging from the conference (in fact I’m not even taking my computer), but I promise to tell you all about it when I come home. See you back here tomorrow, maybe. Otherwise, next week. Have a wonderful weekend in the mean time, and take a flex day if you need one! It can make all the difference.

friday roundup: the writing on the wall, two things you don’t throw out in France, and footnotes

Reader, forgive me for my little pity party yesterday. After some time spent with a poet-friend and some comfort food for dinner, I perked right up. Still, I must admit I’ve seen

the writing on the wall: I’m trying to do too much. Or, put another way, I have unrealistic expectations for what I can accomplish this summer. I’m trying to really read and really study Louise Gluck’s early work. I’m trying to get a submissions system up and running. I’m trying to submit poems every week. I’m trying to do my morning reading and writing, revise current work, and prepare for a writing conference I’m going to in September. I’m trying to do all this in about an hour a day.

This morning as I prepped five submissions — spitting and polishing, checking guidelines, generating documents, etc. — I saw the writing on the wall.

Repeat after me: When something isn’t working, there’s usually something you can do to change it.

I need to think about what to let go of so that I can really make this the Summer of Submissions.

I will not, neither by hook nor by crook, be getting 5 submissions out the door by 5:00 p.m. today. I might, however, have a shot at having them done before I go to bed. I’m telling the inner critic she’s just going to have to hush up and face reality.

I carry on.

two things you don’t throw up out in France  Earlier this week, based on a friend’s Facebook status, I decided I wanted to move to Sweden, where children roam free under a minimum of adult supervision, and use real saws and hammers, wood and nails, at preschool. Yesterday, I read this New York Times article and decided I might rather move to France, where bookstores and print media continue to thrive. In France, there are public subsidies for bookstore owners. In France, it is said, ““There are two things you don’t throw out in France — bread and books,” (thus says Bernard Fixot, owner and publisher of XO, a small publishing house there). In some philosophies of government, one of government’s roles is to provide incentives that support vital elements of culture, community, and infrastructure. I confess, I wish bookstores were considered a vital element of this country’s culture, community, and infrastructure. Sigh.

footnotes  Yesterday in my poetry-related web surfing, I came across these poems by Kristina Marie Darling. The poems are in the format of footnotes, which I think is really original. Go read them! I love how using the footnote format naturally fragments the poems while providing a thread of connection. I love how the “she” in the poems enters just enough to give the poems some heart, to hint at what’s at stake. Have you ever written a footnote poem? Might be something to try… .

And now, it’s breakfast time, then swim team time, then lunchtime, then who-knows-what-all time. Thanks, as always, for reading and have a wonderful summer Friday.

amazon guilt

I confess, I sometimes buy things at

I confess, I feel guilty about this.

(sidebar: I confess, I’m old enough to remember when amazon was pretty much just a big long menu with a jungle-themed black and white banner, are you?)

This morning I wrestled mightily with that serpent-of-guilt. Here’s the story: I’m taking a spring term class through Stanford’s continuing studies department, and I needed to order the required texts. Normally when I buy poetry, I like to buy directly from the press that published the collection, or from the author’s website (I also try to patronize my friendly, neighborhood, independent bookseller whenever I can — usually for non-poetry books). But when I have to buy a whole bunch of books, I don’t want to pay separate shipping fees for each one. My go-to store for big batches of books is Powell’s, an independent bookseller in the Pacific Northwest. Not local, but regional, and independent.

This morning when I visited the Powell’s website and made my selections, the website grouped my books into three shipments, each with a $3.99 shipping charge. Ouch! I guiltily toggled over to amazon to see what their charges would be — what a deal: free shipping! Still, the guilt, the nagging guilt, the suffocating, nagging guilt! I went back over to Powell’s to see if I could find a way to weasel out of all the shipping charges, and what do you know but I found one. If you group your order into one shipment (slower) instead of several (faster), the shipping costs go way down. So, in the end, the Powell’s order ended up being less expensive than the same books would have cost on amazon, despite amazon’s free shipping.

I confess, I’m so glad to have saved myself from amazon guilt.

I also confess that sometimes I still buy things from amazon, especially around the holidays when I’m shipping things all over the country. And also when I’m trying like anything to avoid a trip to the shopping center in the College Town. And I still feel guilty about it.

Why am I writing this post? I guess because I just want to say that, sometimes, if you can wait and if you try hard, you can find away around the behemoth that is amazon.

And also because, I confess: I’m dying to know if other people have amazon guilt, too. Reader, tell me I’m not alone!