makeshifting

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I have begun to believe that the word makeshift should be a verb.

makeshift: serving as a temporary substitute; sufficient for the time being. Syn.: temporary, provisional, interim, stopgap, make-do, standby, rough and ready, improvised, ad hoc, extempore, jury-rigged, jerry-built, thrown together, cobbled together. Ant.: permanent.

I am makeshifting a writing desk here, as we prepare to move. Again. This time, it’s a happy move, home to The Mitten. Mostly happy. It’s always hard to leave people you love, and I love some very amazing people here.

For the record, I’m aware that winters will be longer and colder in Michigan (people in and around the Peninsula Town are fond of mentioning this). I have faith in my ability to endure, and expert knowledge of winter clothing strategies, sometimes makeshift in nature, but effective (bread bags in your boots, anyone?).

In the last few weeks we’ve: moved out of our house into a rental apartment, sold the house and rented it back, moved out of the rental apartment and back into the house, traveled to Michigan to look at houses, and traveled back again. In the next few weeks, the kids will finish the school year, the movers will come, we will say our ‘until-we-meet-agains,’ and then make our way north and east.

Which is to say: Life: 5,472; Poetry: 3 1/2.

Most of everything is packed away, so there’s a lot of makeshifting going on: borrowing clothes, hunting for eye drops in the oddest places, wishing I’d set a few more books aside to remain unpacked, making do, shifting expectations, even doing without my afternoon cup of tea from time to time (I know: it’s sad, but true). I’ve been thinking a lot about connections to objects (it’s the books I miss most, and my flannel shirts), about comfort; thinking a lot about refugees, their rooflessness, all the makeshifting they are made to do a thousand times a day. My makeshifting is nothing in comparison, of course.

I’m going to try not to disappear here, checking in when I can, maybe posting things in shorter bursts. Making, shifting, &c.

gone fishin’

M0015197 Prehistoric fishing gear, nets, weaving etc. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Prehistoric fishing gear, nets, weaving etc. Musee prehistorique Louis Laurent Gabriel de Mortillet Published: 1903 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Prehistoric fishing gear (wikimedia)

Happy Friday, all. Or actually, it’s a not-so-happy Friday considering this week’s news from Charleston.

I’m going to take a bit of a blog hiatus for the next few weeks. Because, summer.

But first, a poem:

*

The Fishing Tackle
by Bertolt Brecht

In my room, on the whitewashed wall
Hangs a short bamboo stick bound with cord
With an iron hook designed
To snag fishing nets from the water. The stick
Came from a second-hand store downtown. My son
Gave it to me for my birthday. It is worn.
In salt water the hook’s rust has eaten through the binding.
These traces of use and of work
Lend great dignity to the stick. I
like to think that this fishing-tackle
Was left behind by those Japanese fisherman
Whom they have now driven from the West Coast into camps
As suspect aliens; that it came into my hands
To keep me in mind of so many
Unsolved but not insoluble
Questions of humanity.

(trans. Lee Baxendall)

*

‘Unsolved but not insoluble.” I’m hanging on to that.

Thanks for reading.

summer flowers with dictionary, and wee, small hiatus

I noticed this lovely little scene yesterday:

Garden Flowers with Enormous Dictionary That Should Have Come with an Altar Boy

Garden Flowers with Enormous Dictionary That Should Have Come with an Altar Boy

Sister gathered the flowers. And yes, the dictionary that’s been hanging around the house, wanting to be fed is my doing. I will tell you more about it someday.

I’ll be going on a Wee, Small hiatus for the next few weeks. There will be some family time, and some time of not-being-connected-to-the-Interwebs, and some time wholly devoted to reading and writing.

Before I go and in case you missed it, you simply must read Karen Skolfield’s poem “Epiphenomenon” at poets.org today (if you want to know what an epiphenomenon is, look here). At the risk of being soapboxy (technical term), I feel I must say: One thing scholars have learned is that we read differently online than we do on paper. They’ve found we tend to scan and skim, rather than actually read. They’ve found we don’t really like to scroll down much, and we read for about a screen’s worth and then we wander off (can’t you just hear our attention spans shrinking??). I beg you to SCROLL DOWN and read this ENTIRE POEM. Because it just keeps getting better and better as you go. Or scroll as the case may be.

And may your summer do the same, i.e., get better and better as you go. See you back here in a few weeks. Thanks for reading.

summer flowers with dictionary, and wee, small haitus

I noticed this lovely little scene yesterday:

Garden Flowers with Enormous Dictionary That Should Have Come with an Altar Boy

Garden Flowers with Enormous Dictionary That Should Have Come with an Altar Boy

Sister gathered the flowers. And yes, the dictionary that’s been hanging around the house, wanting to be fed is my doing. I will tell you more about it someday.

I’ll be going on a Wee, Small hiatus for the next few weeks. There will be some family time, and some time of not-being-connected-to-the-Interwebs, and some time wholly devoted to reading and writing.

Before I go and in case you missed it, you simply must read Karen Skolfield’s poem “Epiphenomenon” at poets.org today (if you want to know what an epiphenomenon is, look here). At the risk of being soapboxy (technical term), I feel I must say: One thing scholars have learned is that we read differently online than we do on paper. They’ve found we tend to scan and skim, rather than actually read. They’ve found we don’t really like to scroll down much, and we read for about a screen’s worth and then we wander off (can’t you just hear our attention spans shrinking??). I beg you to SCROLL DOWN and read this ENTIRE POEM. Because it just keeps getting better and better as you go. Or scroll as the case may be.

And may your summer do the same, i.e., get better and better as you go. See you back here in a few weeks. Thanks for reading.

this is just to say: AWP and beyond edition

my yellow pants, my Danskos

my yellow pants, my Danskos

The poet has landed. I’m waiting in the airport for another poet to land. Meanwhile I thought I’d check in.

Items that made the cut into the suitcase:

  • fleece bathrobe
  • two pairs of pj’s
  • sweats (for evening wear)
  • skinny jeans, bootcut jeans, boyfriend jeans
  • cozy socks
  • flameless candle
  • 1 pound of tea
  • 2 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies
  • many books
  • slippers
  • the best I had of poet attire (meh)
  • the small pharmacy that keeps this gal patched together

Items that did not make the cut into the suitcase:

       (this space left intentionally blank)

So far the only snafu is that TSA (a) cut the lock off my suitcase to inspect it, and (b)during their inspection, managed to leave a ziploc bag open. Thank you, TSA, for the hair gel all over the inside of my suitcase. I don’t know where I’ll be when during AWP, but if you smell hair gel I’m probably nearby. Forgive me.

I don’t have an AWP bucket list — I’m just going to assume my path will cross with those it’s meant to cross with. I’m just going to try not to wear myself out, while learning as much as I can and enjoying the company of poet-friends.

After AWP, I’m proceeding to an undisclosed location (no, Dick Cheney will not be there). Well, I will tell you this: I’m going to an ISLAND to WRITE POEMS for ONE WEEK. BY MYSELF.

An ISLAND. BY MYSELF. Reader, can you believe it? I can’t, but apparently that is the plan.

I haven’t made any rules or promises to myself about blogging, Facebook, etc., during the next ten days or so. I might be around or I might not. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing I wish you well. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, take good care of you.

the rolling year in equal parts*

Aztec calendar, which apparently did not actually end in 2012, wikimedia

Aztec calendar, wikimedia

*That’s a line from Ovid’s “The Rape of Propserine” (A.D. Melville, trans.) perhaps better known as the story of Persephone and Demeter, the ancient myth that explains, amongst other things, the turning of the year, the seasons, the existence of bleak winter.

November. For me, and for others I know, it’s a fraught month. Partly it’s the season and weather: If it’s not already winter where you live, winter’s coming. Not to mention the fact that it starts getting dark really early this time of year. Partly it’s the history of this month in my life (and for some others I know, in theirs) — what past Novembers have held. The year turns, and we turn with it.

Today I was thinking about how comforting it is to turn through the year with poetry, about the poems I always pull out and revisit at certain times of year. As the school year begins, I’m always thinking of “The Tortoise Survives the Fire” even though the poem takes place in January — because this mama-tortoise has just survived the summer, and those bouncing backpacks at the end of the poem. There’s “All Hallows” by Louise Gluck in October, “Feathers, Sister, Falling” by Sally Rosen Kindred for November, and “Minnesota Thanksgiving” by John Berryman (yes, he really did just say, “Yippee!”). So  many poems for the first snow (which I no longer experience first-hand, but which I pull out when my old homes wake covered in snow): Anne Sexton, Billy Collins, Thomas Hardy“For the Time Being” by Auden on the day after Christmas (“Well, so that is that. / Now we must dismantle the tree…”). For epiphany, Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi.” And not a poem, but a passage from Yeats’ Dubliners (the last five sentences especially) which has helped me through many a March (yes, March, the snowiest month in the upper midwest). When the rains begin (again, I’m still in the Midwestern spring in my poetry cycle — must update to California seasons soon), “The Antiphon” by Denise Levertov (which I can’t find the text of online). In the summer, William Carlos Williams and his plums. Others that I’m sure I’m forgetting.

(Yes, like this one that I’m just now adding after remembering it — it’s good for end of semester time).

These poems help me mark time. They help me reflect — what was going on the last time I lived with this poem? What have I learned / done / lost / forgotten since then? They help me refocus on the now: this season, this moment, this plum.

But I’m talking too much. Sorry. What I really wanted to share is a poem by Charles Wright, “A Short History of the Shadow.” I saw this poem for the first time only today, but it broke me open and it will be one of my November poems each year, I’m sure.

Do you have poems you return to as the year rolls? If yes, I would really love it if you’d share them in comments.

I won’t be posting for the rest of this week — I’ll be baking and boiling and mashing and saucing and candy-ing and basting and stuffing and (oh yeah, eating) and doing crosswords and hanging with family and going for long, slow walks in November. Oh, and I almost forgot!: celebrating 15 years with my sweetie on Thanksgiving Day itself.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and thanks for reading. May the year roll gently for you.

smoke signals

early forms of communication as sculpted at the entrance of Grande École Télécom ParisTech; wikimedia

early forms of communication as sculpted at the entrance of Grande École Télécom ParisTech; wikimedia

Holy smokes, Reader, where were we?

I had gone fishing. You had done whatever it is you do. There was a cross-country flight (upon which I realized the plane I was flying on is bigger than my whole house). There was a summer bug — or as I now think of it, The Germ of the Devil Himself — and several fuzzy days. There was a laundry festival, then a big nap, and now here I am again sending up smoke signals to say so.

Slowly, I’m cranking the household and the poetry operation back into “running” mode after our vacation. Emphasis on slowly. For example, there has been no poeming yet this week. Also for example, there’s no way in hell I’m cooking dinner tonight.

But I wanted to check in to say hello, and to say: stay tuned. I have several more author interviews coming up, a new art obsession to tell you about, and some vacation-steeped thoughts on process. On the other hand, I also have a camping trip and some serious back-to-school tasks to take care of over the next 21 days. Not that I’m counting days or anything. So I’ll be here and gone a bit, but more here than gone.

Meanwhile, I hope you’re having a wonderful summer with a little bit of here and gone, too.

the universe delivers, and… some other stuff

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one reader’s trash…

Reader, long have I yearned for a copy of Gray’s Anatomy. The body is fertile ground in my writing, and anyway, the drawing of the hand alone is worth a whole obsession packet! But, y’know, book-buying budgets… and poetry is always my first priority… . So, I’ve been getting by with the library copy now and then, making copies, scribbling notes, etc.

This morning I finally went the grocery store parking lot recycling center with a few bags of shoes and clothes that have been sitting in my garage for months (these are the shoes and clothes that are so beat up, I can’t in good conscience hand them down or donate them). As I was loading the bags in the shoes/clothes bin, I noticed that there was a big mess of books left outside the book bin. And, of course, I couldn’t help myself. I had to look through it. And what do you think I found? Yes, a copy of Gray’s Anatomy. I snatched it right up, of course.

It’s a bit worse for the wear. Who knows how long it’s been camping in the grocery store parking lot? It’s a 1995 edition (I was shocked when I did the math and realized that 1995 was 18 years ago!!??!!). It’s marked up a bit, bent, spine slightly crooked. It’s not perfect, but it will do.

And it was a cool moment for me — a reminder that, sometimes, the universe delivers. There is synchronicity. Perhaps if I’d taken the clothes and shoes last week, I’d not have found the book (it doesn’t look like it’s been through any rain, which we had early last week). I kind of needed a reminder like that this week.

As for the other stuff, this is just to say: I’ll be away from the blog for most of the next week or so. Motherly duty calls as one of our kids is going through some medical stuff — nothing too scary, but it’ll take time and care. I may check in here and there if there’s something quick and easy to post, and if I can find a sliver of time. If not, I’ll see you back here when things open up again.

Meanwhile, I hope the universe delivers for you, too.

friday roundup: the conundrum of self-promotion, after the smoke clears, and ‘the whisper of girlhood’ (and… some other stuff)

I'll get around to the housework... after the smoke clears... (snagged this image from FBTroublemakers via Sandy Longhorn)

I’ll get around to the housework… after the smoke clears… (snagged this image from FBTroublemakers via Sandy Longhorn)

Reader, this week has been devoid of long, quiet library mornings. It has been devoid of long, quiet anythings. We have had birthday and fever and birthday-fever. And then some more fever. I’ve been telling myself: make use of whatever time you have, and believe that it’s enough. People ask me, “How do you write with three kids?” Answer: sometimes I don’t. Other times, I write in whatever time I have. I’ve drafted poems on the way to the zoo, at swim practice, and in the ballet studio waiting room. Also the doctor’s office waiting room. Also in the aisle at the grocery store and the movie theater. I’m extraordinarily lucky to have a few hours every day those weeks when everyone’s in school (I remember this in theory) — so I’m not complaining. Just saying: whatever your passion is, slip it into the tiny cracks of your days if you have to, until a wider plain of time opens up. Yes, I am writing this to remind myself — thank you for bearing with me :). Now on to the roundup:

the conundrum of self-promotion  Erin Coughlin Hollowell writes today about the conundrum of self-promotion. Her book Pause, Traveler (which I’m looking forward to reading) is coming out soon. Erin says, “The problem is, like most introverted writers, I feel awkward promoting myself and my work. Pushy, self-aggrandizing, embarrassed, uncomfortable.”

I don’t have a book to promote, but I certainly do feel the same way when it comes to spreading the word about my poems as they make their way in the world. Still (deep breath), I’m going to share with you a link to Myrrh, Mothwing, Smoke, an anthology of erotic poetry from Tupelo Press, that I’m happy to have a poem in. Other contributors include Cynthia Rausch Allar, Michelle Bitting, Lisa Coffman, Amy Dryansky, Li Yun Alvarado, Paula Brancato, Gillian Cummings, Darla Himeles, Joel F. Johnson, Christopher Kokinos, Amy MacLennan, Stephen Massimilla, Barbara Mossberg, Susanna Rich, Aubrey Ryan, Anna Claire Hodge, Janet R. Kirchheimer, Conley Lowrance, Lea Marshall, Mary Ann Mayer, Steven Paschall, Liz Robbins, Jo Anne Valentine Simson, Jeneva Stone, Judith Terzi, Gail Thomas, Kim Triedman, Bruce Willard, P. Ivan Young.

The book is available in print and e-book format. I’m grateful to the folks at Tupelo Press for finding a home for some of my work. And here’s a teaser: Peter and Wendy… who knew? 😉

after the smoke clears  I’ve been reading through a really cool issue of Poetry East called Origins: Poets on the Composition Process. For each poem published in the issue, there is also a short essay on the poem’s origins, written by the poet. It has been fascinating to read about the process behind each poem.

And yet, one of my favorite essays in the issue is “For Once Let’s Not Talk So Much About the Poem” by Joseph Stroud (whose poem “Grief” appears in the issue). Stroud says,

“Perhaps the best response to a good poem is silence. Or to read it again.”

He says,

“In the end, after all the smoke clears, after all the discussions and theories and criticism, there are two kinds of poems. Poems that make a difference in our lives. And poems that don’t. Let’s hold on to the ones that do, hold on and cherish them, and do all in our power to try and write them.”

Let the people say, Amen!

‘the whisper of girlhood’ (and… some other stuff)  Reader, forgive me, but I just haven’t been able to narrow down this week’s poetry selection to one poem. No, I’m sorry, but I have to ask you to go read this entire issue at Connotation Press. Because I know you want to read some of Sandy Longhorn’s sickly speaker poems, and Bernadette Geyer’s garbage disposal poem (and also her yoga poem), and Brooke J. Sadler’s poem/prayer involving…, well I don’t want to give it away — but it involves breakfast meat and go read it. And also Julie Brooks Barbour’s work (teaser: watermelon!). And then Erin Elizabeth Smith’s Alice in Wonderland poems (where you’ll find ‘the whisper of girlhood’). And there are other good poems there, to. So, click around. You’ll be glad you did.

Oh, and then, just a note: I’ve been having some blog-keeping issues. My whole list of po-links somehow disappeared. I’m slowly rebuilding the list, but in the meantime, sorry about the  missing links.

Happy Friday, Reader. Happy poetry! Thanks for reading.