wordless wednesday, not exactly: Bad Mood, Baker Beach

Happening now on my (temporary) kitchen cupboard:

IMG_7959.JPG

Because we need poems for the bad mood days. This one has been keeping me sane all week.

[Also, please someone tell Mom: BP O’s her $25. We need chocolate milk, ribbons for pointe shoes, cashews, peanut butter, Grape-nuts, spoons (??what??) and scrapers for the cars. Someone also remind her: Just do the next right thing.]

The poem is by Tracey Knapp, who I heard read a couple weeks ago at my friendly neighborhood independent bookstore. She read from her book, Mouthwhich is full of utterly hilarious and altogether heart-wrenching poems. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about how to execute humor in poetry, and especially humor alongside tender-heartedness, this book is a must-read. Or if you just need a good laugh-cry.

If you don’t want to have to squint to read the poem in the photo above (and I cannot blame you), here it is.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Baker Beach, it’s on the very northern edge of San Fransisco, in sight of the Golden Gate Bridge. A singular location.

Friday is finally, actually-factually, MOVING DAY. Although it feels surreal, we will soon live in a house again. I will have my stuff. And by “my stuff” I mean: my books, my dictionaries (which are a class of “book” all their own), my desk, my two favorite kitchen knives, my flannel shirts and pajamas. Socks by the dozen. Scissors. Tea kettle. Gaston Bachelard.

In other words, you may not hear from me for a bit. Meanwhile, write on!

 

 

 

 

 

friday roundup: the first fact of the world, exile, and the only warm thing for miles

Winter_in_de_Scheveningse_bosjes_Rijksmuseum_SK-A-2433

Happy Friday! It’s “ski week” in the Peninsula Town, so I haven’t spent much time at my desk this week. A hike in the foothills, a trip to the city, many hours snuggling on the couch reading The Tale of Despereaux, and—let’s be real—settling arguments amongst siblings, reminding people to take out their laundry and put their dishes in the dishwasher… this is how I’ve spent my week. No complaints. Now on to the roundup:

the first fact of the world  I’ve slowly been making my way through Robert Hass‘s essay collection, Twentieth Century Pleasures. I’ve read some of these essays before, but it’s been a while and a re-visit seemed needful.

I’ve also been reading poems (Larry Levis, James Wright, Frances Leviston, Chase Twichell) with an eye to trajectories: What is the journey of this poem, and how is the journey implemented?  What are its structures and formal properties?

In Hass’s “On Form,” he writes: “The first fact of the world is that it repeats itself.” He argues that, from our earliest days, “we are clued into the hope of a shapeliness of things”—hunger felt, then satisfied; the school bus coming along right on time.

But what is form in an era of poetry dominated by free verse? It’s so much harder to define than a certain number of lines, with a certain metrical pattern, and a certain rhyme scheme.

Hass defines it this way: The form of a poem is “the shape of its understanding”; it “exists in the relation between its music and its seeing.”

Not exactly a step-by-step guide for finding a poem’s best form, but worth thinking about… .

exile  n. 1. the state of being barred from one’s native country, typically for political or punitive reasons. 2. a person who lives away from their native country, either from choice or compulsion.

I’ve also been dipping in and out of Speaking and Language: Defence of Poetry by Paul Goodman. Regarding why he writes poetry, Goodman says:

“I am in exile. Like everybody else, I live in a world that is given to me—I am thankful for it. It is not made by me—and that too is very well. But it is not my native home; therefore I make poems.”

Goodman writes of a spiritual exile, of course, and I’m not entirely comfortable with using the concept of exile vis-a-vis art-making in a world when so many people are in actual, physical exile, and/or are risking their lives to achieve it. But his words resonate with me, and have me thinking about of poetry as a means to reconcile ourselves to the world, to ourselves, and to each other.

Each poem a little bridge, a little patch, a little healing, a little closer to home.

the only warm thing for miles  Speaking of home, it’s that time of year when those who live in winter climes are beginning to doubt that spring will ever arrive. While I’m leaving my house in a light sweater and enjoying the earliest-blooming trees, I remember well that slightly crazed doubt, and I miss the way the sharp edges of changing seasons can mirror our inner lives. A friend sent me this poem by Danez Smith; you could call it an argument for winter:

*

I’M GOING BACK TO MINNESOTA WHERE SADNESS MAKES SENSE by Danez Smith

 

O California, don’t you know the sun is only a god
if you learn to starve for him? I’m bored with the ocean

I stood at the lip of it, dressed in down, praying for snow
I know, I’m strange, too much light makes me nervous

at least in this land where the trees always bear green.
I know something that doesn’t die can’t be beautiful.

Have you ever stood on a frozen lake, California?
The sun above you, the snow & stalled sea—a field of mirror

all demanding to be the sun too, everything around you
is light & it’s gorgeous & if you stay too long it will kill you

& it’s so sad, you know? You’re the only warm thing for miles
& the only thing that can’t shine.

(originally published in Michigan Quarterly Review)

*

Stay warm, Reader, stay warm. And thanks for reading.

 

california 1,099 days in

Cyclops on my back porch

Cyclops on my back porch

Three years ago today, the occupants of the Wee, Small House woke up in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in a hotel whose A/C was broken (highs around 100 all that week), packed our bags, and went downstairs into a drippy, humid, steam-on-my-glasses morning, where, outside the hotel, a few dear friends had gathered — some to say a last goodbye, and one to drive us to the airport. Several hours later we landed and began the California chapter of our lives. Here’s what I can say so far:

  • Weather: better. Um, understatement of the century.
  • Healthcare: better. We had a wonderful pediatrician in St. Paul, but overall there is more advanced medical knowledge here, and more experts-per-capita. Thank you, Stanford University.
  • Schools: worse. This is one of my biggest regrets of the move. My kids attend what are supposed to be some of the best schools in California, and they don’t hold a candle to the schools we left in terms of curriculum, differentiation, facilities, extra-curriculars, etc.
  • Real-estate: Don’t get me started. Let me just say that we were amazingly lucky to have relocation assistance and to have bought just before another uptrend in prices.
  • View from my kitchen window: worse. Then: woods, the bird theaters (as Sister still says for bird feeders), a beautiful old cedar tree. Now: the loading dock of the Asian grocery store, a strangely out of context center hall Colonial, a blue duplex that gets frequent visits from the police.
  • Traffic and parking: (*crumples in defeat)
  • Literary and arts scene: better. The Twin Cities had a good literary and arts scene, too, but the scene here feels more democratic and ubiquitous.
  • The City: (*swoons and holds up hands in adoration)
  • Produce: So much better, so much cheaper. The only cheaper thing in California. Tender mercies.
  • Streetscapes: different. In the Midwest, you tend to have your “nice neighborhoods” and your “not-so-nice neighborhoods.” In the nice neighborhoods, all the houses are nice, tidy, and well-tended. In the not-so-nice neighborhoods, not so much. In California you have wild mixes: a multi-million dollar, ultra modern, new home right next to a 1920s cottage with no central heating that looks like it’s about to fall in on itself.
  • Public transit: so much better.
  • Parenting culture: Oh, help. The parenting trends we’ve seen all over (achievement culture, wanting to make everything special for children, helicoptering, etc.) are at a fever pitch here. I have a long story about being assigned (I emphasize assigned) to make clam chowder for 60 and deliver it to school on the day after Second Son came home from major surgery, and about what happened when I said I was sorry, I couldn’t do it. I have another story about a friend who was assigned to make fruit tartlets for 8th grade graduation, “must match attached picture, no canned fruit.” Have I mentioned the weekly teacher appreciation brunch? Friends, I can’t compete and don’t want to. I’ve also noticed that many parents speak of their children in the collective here: We are doing gymnastics. We have Mandarin class today. Somebody please pass the Midwest in 1978.
  • (I hasten to add that of course not all parents here buy in to this culture, but enough do to make me feel like I need to run and hide. Have I mentioned that when we first moved here I was known as The One Who Lets Her Kids Walk Alone To School? 1.5 blocks, people, 1.5 blocks)
  • Access to brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, nephews and cousins: BETTER ❤ I feel so lucky to live near my brother and his family, and not super-near but near-enough to my uncle and his family.
  • Flora: All I can say is: Abundance of pants on steroids (oops – typo – I meant pLants, but there are pants on steroids here too). When we first moved here, I actually felt a little freaked out by how big and ubiquitous plants and trees are (First text back to Saint Paul: “freakishly large geraniums”). I’m now getting used to it, and I’ve particularly fallen in love with succulents, which look like little (and not so little) aliens on the planet, exactly mirroring what I feel is the shape of my soul.
  • Freedom to be you and me: better. You can pretty much be/do/look like/try anything and everything in California and no one will bat an eye. There is a real freedom here to be who you are, to fly your freak flag.
  • Sleeping weather: better. Even on the hottest days (which rarely reach the 90s, and which typically happen in October) the nights are always cool. Thank you, cold and indifferent ocean known as the Pacific. Speaking of which:
  • Access to big water: better. When we lived in Minnesota I’d sometimes become despondent. I felt trapped and landlocked. Husband would ask what was wrong, and I’d say: I need some water. BIG water. Although MN does have Lake Superior, it’s quite a drive away from where we lived. Here we can be at the ocean in about 35 minutes. Having been formed by the sands and horizons of the Great Lakes, I need that vast expanse of big water. Thank you again, Pacific Ocean.
  • Access to psychics and palm readers: better 😉
  • Joint pain: better. No storms rolling through, no 6 months of cold weather, no basement stairs. My arthritis is easier to manage here.
  • Access to my mother: worse :(.
  • Thing I miss the most: my dear Saint Paul friends (*heart literally skips a beat, then aches).
  • Have I mentioned my washer and dryer are in the garage? (still not quite used to that)

Sometimes I feel like my real life is still happening in St. Paul. That this is just a long, strange trip. Mostly I’m grateful for the way life can surprise and fill you full of goodness you never expected. I’ve made a few friends here, one of which in particular feels like a true soul mate, a sister ship on this voyage of life. Peaches grow in my front yard. My 3yo nephew loves to vacuum my couch, and lays his head down on my shoulder when he’s tired. My husband is employed, my kids are healthy, there is a roof over our heads and (at least for now) water comes out of our faucets when we turn them on. Who could ask for more?

we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you: wednesday wisdom

There's nothing like waking up in a room with a view

There’s nothing like waking up in a room with a view

Normally I’m rather wordless on Wednesday, but yesterday I found myself in the presence of wisdom that I’d really like to share.

Unaccountably, I found myself at the opening address of the Professional Businesswomen of California (PBWC) conference. Are you wondering how this happened? Are you wondering if I was the only poet in the house? All I can say is: crazy s#$t happens in California. And yes.

(Okay, actually a dear friend of mine was on a panel at the conference, so I went up to the city the night before, we had dinner, then yesterday went to the conference).

Anyway, one of the speakers was Rep. Jackie Speier who founded PBWC, and who has devoted her life to seeking equality for women, consequences for non-payment of child support, an end to sexual assault and harrassment, and other worthy causes. Then two women from different fields — Dr. Elizabeth Lindsey (National Geographic Fellow) and Charlotte Beers (advertising guru) — spoke together about what they’ve learned from their work life journeys. The keynote speaker was Arianna Huffington, who needs no introduction.

Partway through the speeches, I realized bits of wisdom were going to get by me if I didn’t write them down. I grabbed some paper and started jotting notes. Here’s what I’ve got for you today:

Wisdom from Jackie Speier:

  • Research shows that success correlates more with confidence than with competence, and that men have more confidence than women. It shows taht men tend to over-estimate their skills and abilities, while women tend to under-estimate theirs. Researchers call this “honest overconfidence” on the part of men (Perhaps this is why women writers don’t always submit like a man?). Jackie says: Women, be more confident!
  • Research shows that involving women in positions of leadership and decision-making improves the bottom line.
  • Make room. Make room in your life for what’s important to you and what energizes you.
  • Fail.
  • Be authentic.
  • (here come’s my personal favorite) Life should not be a journey with the goal of arriving in a perfectly preserved body!

Wisdom from Elizabeth Lindsey and Charlotte Beers:

  • Burn modest. (Meaning burn that word, do not be modest about your genuine worth and achievements).
  • Keep your own scorecard (Meaning don’t worry about the scorecard others keep for you, or that the world keeps for you).
  • The way to thrive in a storm is to transform.
  • Be a wayfinder.
  • Navigation means standing in your own power.
  • Shed other people’s ideas about you. Claim your own, true self-image.
  • Pay attention to your energy. Do the things that energize you even if they’re contrary to what others want you to do.
  • You can only see in another that which exists in yourself.

They ended with a quote from our dear Gerard Manley Hopkins: “What I do is me; for that I came.”

Wisdom from Arianna Huffington and her most recent book Thrive:

  • The third women’s movement will be to change the way the world works, because it’s not working the way it is.
  • Burnout is becoming the disease of our civilization.
  • We are drowning in data and starved for wisdom.
  • Sleep is a miracle drug. Try getting 30 minutes more sleep each night and see what happens.
  • Do not begin your day by looking at your smart phone. Begin it with one minute of deep breathing and intentionality.
  • Life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen.
  • Quoting Rumi: “Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.”
  • Quoting Carrie Fischer: “Resentment is a poison that you drink thinking the other person is going to die.”
  • Quoting The Onion (and can we just all pause for a moment of appreciation for a woman who will quote both Rumi and The Onion in the same talk): “World Death Rate Holding Steady at 100%.”

Her main message was that we all need to take better care of ourselves, and that power and money are not the only two metrics upon which to measure success, although those are the metrics our current society uses.

I hope a few of these tidbits of wisdom resonate with you today.

 

friday roundup: unless there is time alone, speaking differently, and overheard

Botticelli, public domain from wikimedia

Botticelli, public domain from wikimedia

It is zero degrees in the town where I used to live, heading toward a daytime high of five. Five. Degrees. It is 37 in the Peninsula Town, heading toward a high of forty-eight, and I am as cold as I ever want to be again in my life. I now understand the vibe I used to get from Californians — the vibe that said, Why live where it gets so cold? Just.. why? Of course, my intellect knows why and even how to survive in the cold, but my creaturely instinct is all about just wanting to be warm. Forever and ever. To all my people in the frozen northland, you have my undying admiration. Pass the hot tea.

And now, here are a few thoughts from my writing life this week that warmed me:

unless there is time alone  I’m reading the journals of May Sarton and finding comfort and kinship within its pages. The opening lines of this volume of her journals is:

Begin here. It is raining.

This now ranks amongst my favorite book openings ever. She goes on to write:

I am here alone for the first time in weeks, to take up my “real” life again at last. That is what is strange — that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or what has happened.

This is where my kinship meter maxes out. If I don’t have time alone to devote to my writing, my life doesn’t feel like my life. And I think this is true for many people and many artists — that time alone with one’s thoughts, or one’s art, is a fundamental need. I’m glad to be reminded of this as we enter a very busy time of year. I’m doing my best to make sure I get that time by hook or by crook. I’m a happier person and mom if I do.

speaking differently  Speaking of warming thoughts… I’m unspeakably happy at the news that Mary Szybist won the National Book Award for her collection Incarnadine. I know I’ve raved about this poet and this book before, but I think both are incredibly rave-worthy.

In her acceptance speech Szybist, quoting Paul Connolly, said,

“I think often of the words of Paul Connolly, who said, ‘I believe it is not arguing well, but speaking differently that changes the culture.’ Poetry is the place where speaking differently is the most prevalent.”

Poetry is a place where you can write poems titled “Annunciation in Nabokov and Starr” (as in Vladimir Nabokov and Kenneth Starr. Kenneth Starr!) and “Annunciation as Right Whale with Kelp Gulls.” Poetry is the place where you can write from the perspective of the grass beneath Mary and the angel at the moment of the Annunciation. Poetry is the place where you can, as one reviewer wrote, “buil(d) an entire world around the coincidence of (your) name.” I’m so glad there’s a way and a place to speak differently in this world, because conventional modes of speaking can’t even begin to say what’s going on here.

Here’s an Oregon Public Broadcasting article that includes a short audio interview with Szybist about her National Book Award.

If by some chance you’ve not yet read Incarnadine, you can buy it here.

overheard  And speaking of speaking differently, of re-interpretation and different perspectives, here is one of my favorite poems from the collection:

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Annunciation Overheard from the Kitchen by Mary Szybist

I could hear them from the kitchen, speaking as if
something important had happened.

I was washing the pears in cool water, cutting
the bruises from them.
From my place at the sink, I could hear

a jet buzz hazily overhead, a vacuum
start up next door, the click,
click, between shots

“Mary, step back from the camera.”

There was a softness to his voice
but no fondness, no hurry in it.

There were faint sounds
like walnuts being dropped by crows onto the street,
almost a brush
of windchime from the porch —

Windows around me everywhere half-open —

My skin alive with the pitch.

*

Personally, I’ve always been amazed at what can be overheard from the kitchen, from one’s place at the sink.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Friday!

LitCrawl: a brief debriefing

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Reader, I’m three-fifths of the way through my scary calendar week. Today will be the day that makes it or breaks it. Let me quickly tell you about LitCrawl in case of imminent breakage.

good omens  I knew everything was going to be okay when I saw that the Bookmobile was parked outside of our venue.

location, location, location  I so love the Mission! I think everyone should do an immersion year in the Mission. Also, our venue, Elbo Room, was completely and utterly wonderful. A dark, barely-lit bar with a warm red glow. A tiny nook/stage type thing in the corner where the poets read. Someone who actually knew how to operate and calibrate the audio throughout the reading. AND a full house of bar-goers/audience members.

insider tip  I also knew everything was going to be all right when one of my fellow readers sat down next to me and said, Here share my shot of whiskey. It’ll make your voice honeyed. I knew this woman’s work, and on this basis I trusted her implicitly. I did not hesitate to share her shot of whiskey. Bottoms up.

new rule  Do not, I repeat, do not, sit on the tiny nook/stage type thing snapping selfies while your fellow reader is reading her poems. Just sayin.

poetry is an oral art form  After the reading someone came up to me and said, Wow, it’s so different to hear poems read out loud versus just reading them. Um, yes.

what I wore  jeans, avocado-green silk shell, black velvet mandarin collar double-breasted jacket that I’d picked up last winter at end-of-season clearance and forgotten about. Danskos. (sigh)

I had so much fun  that I can hardly remember being that middle-aged suburban formerly-midwestern poet who sat at this very same desk last week. For those who haven’t seen any, here are some photos from LitCrawl snapped by Ted Weinstein Photography. I’m the gal in the room with a warm, red glow.

And one more plug for the Tupelo Press anthology we read from: Myrhh, Mothwing, Smoke: Erotic Poems.

And now, it’s time for my scary day to begin (or, more accurately, to resume). As long as I don’t break today, I’ll be back here tomorrow for a very mini roundup. Thanks for reading!

how to terrify a middle-aged, suburban, formerly-midwestern poet

Dear MUNI, please don't make me wait forever. wikimedia

Dear Muni, please don’t make me wait forever. wikimedia

First tell her she gets to read at LitCrawl. This will be terrifying enough because, amongst other things, she will not know what to wear.

Then tell her she’ll be reading from an anthology of erotic poetry, which, true, she does have a poem in — but technically it could be interpreted as erotic or not erotic, and when she wrote it she didn’t even realize it could be interpreted as erotic (but, truth: once she realized it could, she revised as such).

Next tell her she’ll be reading with people she’s never met before, and while she’s sure they’re very nice poets, she’s shy. And she’s pretty sure they’re younger than her, although she has no data to support this certainty.

She is also pretty sure they’ll know what to wear.

After that, send her some pre-reading information and include things like this:

“the audience can be loud at times, the scene rowdy, and venues packed beyond belief”

(The middle-aged suburban formerly-midwestern poet’s eyes grow large. She would like to know exactly what is meant by “rowdy.” Could it possibly involve rotting vegetables being thrown at the stage? Or getting the hook?)

“bring your flexibility and your sense of humor”

(The middle-aged suburban formerly-midwestern poet wishes she were super-flexible with a generous sense of humor, but she knows she’s really more like Bert than Ernie, more like Rabbit than Tigger. And she is already nervous about this reading, and unsure of what to wear).

“parking will be very challenging”

(The middle-aged suburban formerly-midwestern poet remembers life back in the midwest when “challenging” parking meant you would have to walk from the far edge of the parking lot to the venue. Those were the days. She knows that “challenging” parking in the city means: NO parking. She knows this means she should take transit, and while she’s good with that in principle — she’s a regular on the 22 bus, on the CalTrain — she can’t but help going back to the memory of waiting for a Muni that never came. Never. In fact, she’s not sure, but she might still be on that platform in the city waiting for that Muni.)

“there’s an after-party”

(The middle-aged suburban formerly-midwestern poet remembers the last after-party she went to. It was in 1989. Yes, it was in the Eighties, people. It was after her high school’s production of Oklahoma! She knew what to wear, and she knew her best friend would be there. She knows all the cool kids will be at the after-party, but she has never been a cool kid. Also, she probably can’t afford the extra babysitting time the after-party would require, so,… [here the middle-aged suburban formerly-midwestern poet wanders away mumbling incoherently and looking dazed]).

So, um, yes. She’s a little nervous about my reading on Saturday. And she’s adding up the psychic and actual cost of this little reading (seriously, we need grants for writers so they can attend their own readings!). And she’s telling herself, You don’t have to be one of the cool kids. And, You can wear one of your Haystacks! And your boots (thanks Mom and Dad)!

But she probably won’t stop wondering exactly what “rowdy” means until after it’s all over. And she would love for you to come if you’re in the Bay Area and if you can swing it; info here. And she wants you to know, if you never hear from her again, she’s probably somewhere up in the city, on a fog-cloaked platform, waiting for a Muni.

just two links

chain link, wikimedia

chain link, wikimedia

Reader, it’s Minimum Day. This is the weekly (yes, weekly) half-day of school that my kids, and I think most kids in California, have. I’m pretty sure whoever made up Minimum Day was not a poet. Or a parent, for that matter.

But anyway…

Today’s post is just two links:

This one is a link to several interviews Laura E. Davis has done with writers about their process. I’ve really enjoyed this series of interviews, as it gives me ideas for a few new tricks to put in my poetry bag of tricks. Full disclosure: I am one of the writers interviewed — but for those of you interested in process, this series is not to be missed.

This one is a link to an article about 10 easy and scientifically-proven ways to increase your happiness. I’m usually not a fan of such lists — they can seem like so many doggy tricks — and there’s no way in the world I’d ever plan a vacation and then not go on it (#8 on the list, seriously). But my radical self-care antenna perked up when I saw that 7 minutes of exercise might be enough, that more sleep helps us resist negative emotions, and that our brains can be rewired (pass the wire-cutters, please).

And now I’m off to my happy place, the library, to maximize Minimum Day. Have a good one.

not-so-wordless wednesday: seasons

waiting for this...

waiting for this…

waiting season This time of year, I start waiting for a crisp edge in the air, for the leaves to show their true colors. I’m ready for sweaters and stew, corduroys and actual socks and shoes (as opposed to sandals). I want gunmetal grey skies and a stiff wind.

Here it is already our third autumn in the Peninsula Town(!), and I’m starting to catch the drift that in September and October we seem to get our hottest weather, and the trees are green, green, green. There is one tree I’ve noticed — it looks like some kind of sycamore — that looks like it might consider dropping its leaves, but other than that — still summer as far as the flora and temperatures are concerned.

I’m learning to see autumn in a shifting quality of light, and a joyous return to my desk for long stretches of time during the day.

back-at-my-desk season  Don’t look now, but for the last three weeks I’ve been cranking away at my desk while the kids are at school; second shift starts at 2:15 when they get out. Yes, as a family we’re back to the season of digging for clean socks in the dryer and running out of T.P. And at my desk, it’s been application season — a residency application that’s finished and submitted, plus one more that I hope to have done ~October 1.

submissions season  I’m also happy to report I’ve send a few packets of poems out into the world recently. The start of the fall submissions season doesn’t wait for leaves to turn. I’ve found that turning my attention to submissions is one way to break open poems for revision. Once they’re in mini-manuscripts — stout little piles of poems that play well together –, I can get a new angle on what might need to happen in one poem or another.

reading season  It’s always reading season, and here’s what I’m reading (or re-reading in the case of these collections):

Malinda Markham’s Ninety-five Nights of Listening. Beautiful, spare, image-rich poems, low on narrative, high on feeling. I’m looking at how this poet intersperses her poems with questions, and what that does to the tenor of the collection as a whole.

Kathleen Flenniken’s Plume. This book just won the Washington State Book Award, a well-deserved honor IMHO. I’m looking at how this poet weaves together the personal and the political, and how naming — by which I mean using the actual names of people and places — brings an immediacy to this collection that it would lack (I think) if the poet had not named people and places specifically. An example: there is a character, Carolyn, who is clearly the speaker’s friend. Knowing this character as Carolyn rather than as ‘a friend’ or ‘my friend’ makes her feel more real and immediate to me.

Jennifer Richter’s Threshold This book continues to be a favorite of mine, and like any good collection, opens itself up in new ways each time I read it. This time, I’m studying how the poet uses point of view to increase and decrease the psychic distance (or lack thereof) in various poems, and in various threads of the collection.

Natalie Diaz’s When My Brother Was an Aztec. The word that comes to mind is profusion. A profusion of language, an anchored chaos of words to create a world (can chaos be anchored? I’m going with Yes). Right now, I’m just immersing myself in this poet’s voice and mining words and syntax to weave into my own poems.

not drafting season, not so much  Truth: I’ve not drafted any new work these last few weeks. Other seasons are primary right now. Even though I’ve learned that this is how the writing life works — a time to draft, a time to apply, a time to send out, a time to revise, a time to refrain from revising 🙂 — I still get nervous when I’m in a drafting/generative fallow period. To keep the fires stoked, I continue with short pieces of morning writing that come out of what I’m reading. Once application season is over, I’ll go back to my goal of one draft a week.

season of what else is coming up  Check back here soon for an interview with poet and radio commenter Molly Fisk.

**

What seasons have taken hold in your world? What are you reading, thinking about, learning? Share in comments, if you like.

And now, since it’s going through my head and it’s been a while since I’ve listened to it, and maybe it’s been a while for you, too: