friday roundup (sort of) with a body and a rough net

Hello, reader, it’s been a while.

Summer has come and gone, the kids are in school, and—now that I’ve finished my MFA—some days I have time to do nothing for a while.

A short while.

The other day, I put up corn and tomatoes with my aunt. We blanched them, then cooled them in a cold water bath, cleaned (corn) and diced (tomatoes), then put them in containers for freezing. It reminded me of the importance of sometimes doing things that allow me to be just in my body, to take a break from what’s caught in the rough net of my mind.

I love the phrase “cold water bath.”

Most days I’m busy reading, writing, editing book reviews for The Rumpus, sending out poems and manuscripts of poems, looking for work, taking people to the orthodontist, making dinner, dropping off and picking up from ballet, etc.

I’ve been writing only small things. A list of words, a phrase, a grammatical construction: “The (n.) is what the (n.) (v.).” “Where (n.) (v.) you can find a way to (v.).” “I say (x) so as not to say (y).”

I’ve been casting about for something to read that will (get ready to laugh with me) Finally Make Sense of Everything Once and For All, that will (as I think of it) save me: a book of poems, just one poem, a couplet, a line, one word, rafter, loiter, femur, blanch.

Did you know the technical term for a joint (the kind in our bodies) is articulation? We say that one bone “articulates” with another where they join. Did you know that, amongst other things, articulate means “to divide into distinct parts”? Isn’t it odd that we use a word that means “to divide” to indicate a joining? From the Latin articulare, “to separate into joints,” from articulus, “a part, a member, a joint,” also, “a knuckle, the article in grammar.” A knuckle(!). Did you know that, amongst the many architectural (as opposed to corporeal) joints, there is one called birdsmouth. BIRDSMOUTH(!!!).

[This, by the way, is how one word can Finally Make Sense of Everything Once and For All, can save someone, at least for a while. A short while.].

I’ve been listening to the Commonplace Podcast while folding laundry, chopping onions, sewing ribbons on pointe shoes, ripping out ribbons from pointe shoes because they need to be repositioned, sewing ribbons on pointe shoes again (true story). If you’ve never listened, I recommend it enthusiastically. Rachel Zucker has interviewed poets (and some other people) and recorded their conversations. There are many gems for poetry, the writing life, and for all of life, really, in these interviews, and I’m grateful for the way they catch in my mind’s net and pass the time while I am in my body, folding, chopping, sewing on, ripping out, and sewing on again.

I’ve been reading women poets along with other poets and readers of poetry on Twitter. If you’re looking for books by women poets, search the hashtag #SeptWomenPoets and you will find treasure. This project is the brainchild of Shara Lessley. It’s been fun to read and tweet along.

Here’s a poem from one of the books I’ve read this month, which also happens to be by someone from my old writing group (during my California days): Even Years by Christine Gosnay (Kent State University Press, 2017). There is a particular joy in reading the poems of a friend and colleague, poems that you read when they were just born and solitary things, poems that you’ve watched grow up and begin to join together in constellations of theme and thought, poems that are now bound in a book.

*

AKADEMOS by Christine Gosnay

I give my daughter the name Hypatia, tell her
the monks pulled Hypatia through the streets
and sewed her back together. I give my daughter

an astrolabe and tell her ships baste slit-
seams in the ocean to snag falling bodies.

Earlier, white stones fell from my hands
and landed on the road
until I could not see one stone.

I give my daughter a body and a rough net,
tell her to straighten her back and be ready
to weave the welkin sphere that bleeds

skeleton-blue and gray. I give my daughter
eyes and a sky.
I give my daughter a long, bright day.

My daughter carries a harpoon. She drifts
the sea with her barb the size of a needle.

Sea full of bodies, she sings, stalling. Then bends
her back, out she climbs. Oyster shells
bunched in her net.

*

Happy weekend, thanks for reading.

just this:

We are as forlorn as children lost in the woods. When you stand in front of me and look at me, what do you know of the griefs that are in me and what do I know of yours. And if I were to cast myself down before you and weep and tell you, what more would you know about me than you know about Hell when someone tells you it is hot and dreadful? For that reason alone we human beings ought to stand before one another as reverently, as reflectively, as lovingly, as we would before the entrance to Hell.
—Franz Kafka

With thanks to the poet Francesca Bell.

friday roundup, vacation edition #2: views, skirts, and poetic citizenship

summertime and the living's easy

summertime and the living’s easy

Reader, don’t tell: I’m working on vacation. Yes, for the last few hours, I’ve been reading and writing poetry. That’s because vacation is about the only time I have built-in child care and also because for me poetry is a vacation. Here’s to vacation! Today we have another vacation edition of the roundup. Let’s talk about views, skirts and poetic citizenship.

views  When you tell people you’re going on vacation in Michigan (especially if it’s right before or right after you tell people you like to go rock pickin’ while you’re there), they usually look like they feel sorry for you. I think they’re thinking of Roger & Me and the worst stories you can imagine about Detroit. But Reader, you should see (what I think of as) my little corner of Michigan. Here, I’ll show you:

IMG_1603

See what I’m sayin’?

Today I’m working at what I consider to be my Native Library, even though this library didn’t come into my life until I was 20. On the porch that runs along its side and looks out over the bay, I am as much at home as in my mother’s kitchen. This library is in a house built on an island, and I’m quite sure there’s no better place for a library than in a house built on an island. My view as I work is the bay under sunlight, a thousand shades of blue, green and even gold somehow. This is much better than my view as I work in writing studio 5.0. I’m loving every minute of it. And yes, I’m now going to make you sit through a slideshow of my beloved Native Library. Forgive me. P.S. Click on one of the photos to scroll through in closeup.

skirts Reader, you have to buy one of these skirts. If you’re the skirt-wearing type. They are the very thing in my (okay, it’s really not mine) little corner of Michigan. You might think this has nothing to do with poetry but actually it does, it does! Because if you, like me, found out that you’re going to be reading at LitQuake, San Francisco’s literary festival, and if you, like me, did a five-second happy dance and then plunged into the bottomless pit of despair about what on earth you’re going to wear when you read at San Francisco’s literary festival, and if you, like me, are a forty-something mother of three who has never been one of the cool kids (or even any other, any aged person, mother or not, who has never been one of the cool kids) and are quite sure you have nothing you could ever possibly wear to read in San Francisco’s literary festival, well then, despair no more: these skirts are for you. And me.

Here’s why you want one: They are flattering, versatile, comfortable (I mean, so comfortable that I wore one all day yesterday instead of giving up, as I usually do, on the skirt, as soon as I’m in range of some yoga pants), reversible — yes I said reversible — two skirts for the price of one, and affordable — about $50, and that’s technically for two skirts. And you can wear them when you’re giving a poetry reading! That last reason is obviously the most important one. If you have an army jacket and some kickin’ boots to throw on with it, so much the better (sadly, I do not). Okay, enough of my little foray into fashion. Let’s talk about…

poetic citizenship  A few weeks ago, Drew wrote about poetic citizenship on her blog. She asked, What have you done to nurture the literary community? Part of the reason I started this blog is that I think it’s very important to shine a light (in Drew’s words) on the work of other poets and writers. So, over the next [oh no, it’s summer, do I really have to make a time commitment?] few weeks? couple months? little while? Let’s say little while. Over the next little while I’m going to be posting a few more “next big things” and a few author interviews. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I’ve enjoyed preparing for them and gathering them up (a process that I’m still in the midst of).

Meanwhile, happy Friday, happy weekend and thanks, as always, for reading.