friday roundup: behind on everything edition

(insert deer in the headlights look here)

(insert deer in the headlights look here)

Reader, if I told you about my week, I’d sound like a broken record. Instead, let me tell you that I’m pining for the Girl with a Pearl Earring. I’m having a hard time letting her go — in fact, I’m thinking of going to see her one more time before she leaves town on June 2. Or would that be stalking? There is something really amazing about seeing a famous work of art with one’s own eyes. Dear Girl, I was so glad to meet you. I’ll miss you forever.

Okay, let’s get on with this.

rejection wiki File in: Things I Never Would Have Imagined. I’m probably the last to know about rejection wiki, right? Rejection Wiki is a website where you can go and search the text of a journal’s rejection to see if it’s a standard, higher tier, or personalized rejection. Omg. I almost wish I didn’t know about rejection wiki, but while I was there I looked up a couple of rejections that I thought were standard but apparently were “higher tier” — in other words, when they said to send more work, they actually meant it. Note to self. I think I’ll now go back to pretending I don’t know about rejection wiki.

20 little poems  Here’s an article by Tony Hoagland proposing 20 poems that he believes should be taught in American schools ( It was comforting to read that Hoagland and I are on the same page about why many Americans don’t get poetry). Last night at writing group we discussed the article, and decided we’d all bring a list of 20 poems we’d suggest to someone who may not be an avid reader of poetry as an introduction to the genre. I’m curious, Reader: what poems would you choose? Share in comments, if you like.

the sleeve of your best shirt  I think I might choose this poem by Jane Kenyon. Bless her for writing a poem about laundry. Bless every poet who ever wrote a poem about laundry. And now, I must away… the laundry waits.

Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for reading!

friday roundup: Gretel in print, on workshop, and ‘She has composed, so long, a self’

Penelope... from wikimedia

Penelope… from wikimedia

Happy Friday, Reader. My big plans for the day involve submitting some poems and procuring basic household items required to get us through the next few days (you guessed it: milk and TP — where does it go?). But first a little poetry talk…

Gretel in print  In yesterday’s mail, I received my contributor’s copy of The Massachussetts Review, which includes my poem “Gretel, Florida, 1978.” The story of the poem is one from my own life — getting lost on the way home from the mail box in my Papa’s retirement community when I was six years old. I wrote the poem to explore the way the world can feel dangerous to a child, even when the child is pretty darn safe. It begins, “Who knows now where my brother was. Locked away / for fattening, or gone to the store with our father.” It ends with a mother pulling something from the oven and offering Gretel a bit of it to eat (insert ominous laugh here). It felt so good to see Gretel in print — she’s been around so long I was starting to get sick of her. Finally finding a place for this poem reminded me about the importance of persistence in the writing life. I’m grateful to the editors at The Massachusetts Review for finding a place for Gretel, and looking forward to reading through the issue (which I’ll have plenty of time to do at ballet dress rehearsal tonight).

on workshop  Last night my workshop group met, and another writing-life reminder came home to roost. I’ll explain: I usually bring poems to workshop that I feel I really understand, and for which I feel I’ve done all I can do — then I see if they can stand on their own two feet in a group of tough readers. But last night I brought a poem that I don’t fully understand, and that I know isn’t done. The experience of having it workshopped was like whiplash: what one person loved and thought was effective, another person thought fell flat — and this all through the poem, which is long for me: three sections, 76 lines in all. There was spirited debate! I sat listening, jotting things down. But as I drove home, I thought about the fact that after all the workshop dust has settled, it’s the poem and the poet that remain. Following on yesterday’s post about mature poets: Mature poets know that workshop can’t decide things for you; the poem itself must be the guide. Mature poets know that until you understand every choice you, as poet, have made in the poem, it’s not done. Ever onward!

‘She has composed, so long, a self…’  Also at workshop last night, we briefly discussed Wallace Stevens’ work. Reader, I confess: Stevens is a gap in my poetry education. Of Stevens, I know only what’s in the Norton Anthology. I know I need to study his work, but I’ve been putting it off… mea culpa. One of my fellow poets asked me if I knew Stevens’ poem “The World As Meditation,” and I said I did not. Oh, he said, you are going to LOVE this poem. And Reader, I do. I LOVE  this poem. I hope you will go read it here (out loud, I beg you, out loud!). I hope you will LOVE it to.

And I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Thanks for reading!

friday roundup: the turn, a deepening, and ‘now that the fields belong to the crows’

...and also now that the putting green belongs to the crows... (wikimedia)

…and also now that the putting green belongs to the crows… (wikimedia)

Friday again, and a minimum day here in the Peninsula Town, so my time for kid-free activities is halved (but my aspirations are not!). I’d go grocery shopping but the frig is so crammed full of odds and ends that there’s no room for more. In theory, I could do some holiday shopping. In reality, there are more pressing items that need my attention: clean sock and underwear, for example. But first, let’s turn to poetry…

the turn  Last night at my poetry workshop group, someone brought an article by Michael Theune: Poetic Structure and Poetic Form: The Necessary Differentiation. In this article, the author argues for a more explicit discussion of what we call “the turn” in a poem — the place in a poem where the poet takes us in a new and different direction than the one we may have anticipated (classic example: a sonnet’s volta). Theune suggests examining a poem according to its structure rather than its form, and defines structure as “the pattern of a poem’s turning” (whereas “form” would refer to classic forms: sonnet, ghazal, sestina, blank verse, etc.). I’ve only read the article once, so I’m still digesting, sifting, and thinking — but I’m excited to have a new (to me) way of studying how a poem unfolds.

a deepening  Another interesting discussion last night was around the use of repeating lines, as one person brought a triolet. Someone wisely pointed out that when using repeating lines or phrases in a poem, its important that the reader’s understanding of, or encounter with, the repeating line/phrase deepens by the the time the poem ends. Although I may have intuited this in my reading a writing, I don’t think I could’ve articulated it before last night (this is why I love writing groups — I learn so much! And also because of the food and wine.). Something to think about as you’re reading and writing repeating lines and phrases.

And here’s an example of a triolet that does this particularly well: click here then scroll down to “Dactylic.” The poem begins with someone (probably a child) counting his toes. This might be a sweet and touching scene no matter what, but then the poem takes us back into history: Sapphic meter, “Generations of singers / keeping, conquering time.” By the end, we’re back to Tino counting his toes, but because this act has been linked to the continuum of art in the world, our understanding of the act of counting toes is richer and more weighty.

[I pause here to say: Yay poetry!]

now that the fields belong to the crows  This week I’ve been reading We Live in Bodies by Ellen Dore Watson (pardon the link to Amazon, but Powell’s didn’t have it). I particularly love the following poem from the collection (BTW, I know this poem is about 6 weeks too late for the parts of the country already experiencing winter, but the poem’s just right for NorCal right now 🙂 ):

**

Now That the Fields by Ellen Dore Watson

Now that the fields belong to the crows
and the dark rolls in on a cart with supper,
we thicken the skin of the house, tuck a caterpillar
of hay, a reverse moat, around the foundation.

Half the crickets in Conway died last night
under cold rocks — or do they all go at once, once
chainsaws are oiled and this new air reeks of apples?
Now that the last chrysalis has refused to open and our ears

are full of frantic roadwork, emergencies are blooming
like chrysanthemums — four in one weekend: first a heart
forgets the rhythm, then a woman leaps a ditch and hears
a loud crack in one of her body’s branches; one man falls off

his roof, another sits up and says: Breathing is just too hard,
now that the leaves are blushing to see their true selves
and the flies droning their I told you so song.
One blazing maple has taken over the town.

**

Amongst other things, I love that the dark rolls in on a cart and that the house’s skin thickens. I love the bold, journalistic statement: “Half the crickets of Conway died last night” (can’t you hear how much quieter the world is after that?), and the way she takes ownership of one spot on the map without saying she’s going to. I love that by the end, the town has been taken over by “one blazing maple.” It makes me want to write a poem that takes ownership of one spot on the map of my life. Et tu?

Okay, Reader, speaking of turns, it’s time for me to turn my attention to… well… looking around the house right now, let’s just say I’ve got lots of options. I hope you have lots of options for the rest of your day, too, all of them good. Thanks for reading.

on permission, or, reason #547 why we need friends

The Open Door, from wikimedia

The Open Door, from wikimedia

Reader, I’ve been thinking about permission, and the act of giving and being given permission. Because I’m a nerd, let’s take a look at the word itself (A ha! I thought this might be interesting):

permission n. the action of officially allowing someone to do a particular thing; consent or authorization. From the Latin permittere, “give up, allow” (per – through + mittere – let go, send).

So the word permission implies a crossing over from one state (or place) into another. And it requires the act and the moment of saying ‘yes’ to whatever or whoever is being allowed to go through — the moment of sending/allowing.

The reason I’ve been thinking about permission is that at Monday Poets yesterday, we ended up giving one another permission to do particular things. In our discussions of life and writing, one of us shared that she’s amidst a very generative time, with lots of new ideas and creative impulses — but she feels torn by all the other writing work that needs doing: research, fleshing things out, revision, submissions, etc. As she spoke, I remembered something my excellent friend, The Poet A.O.D., said to me once. She said something like: it’s okay to just ride whatever creative wave you’re caught by right now. So I shared that idea with the MonPoets and said, “I give you permission to ride the wave, to be in that generative flood, to receive what comes without worrying about the other work right now.”

Later in the conversation, after I had detailed all my goals about series of poems I was going to start working on, one of the MonPoets said to me, “I think it would be a good idea for you to just rest and restore yourself after all you’ve been through with your son. I give you permission to take a break.”

That moment was like a door opening for me, a door that I really wanted to go through, a threshold I wanted to cross. I felt so much relief when she said, “I give you permission to take a break.”

Why is it that we sometimes need someone else to give us permission to do something we (consciously or unconsciously) probably know we need to do? I don’t know the reason why. In fact, I really wish I could’ve just given myself permission, and not needed it from someone else. But it is what it is.

Either way, there’s some good and healing power in being given permission. Is there something you need permission to do/not do? Can you give yourself permission to do/not do it? Or, if you can’t, do you have a friend who could give you permission? Just something to think about… .

Meanwhile, I’ll keep plugging along, but minus all the detailed goals for now. I’ll be reading and writing and blogging (perhaps even submitting!), but also sleeping in and going for walks, and making dinner, and reading to my kids. I’ll be claiming the writing life every day, but probably not writing every day.

There are seasons, Reader: creative floods, major and minor family crises, and a bazillion other seasons in this life (in fact, somebody said something about “the holiday season” yesterday, but I’m not sure what they were talking about).

May you always feel you have permission to live the season you’re in the midst of.

monday morsels: deadlines, owning it, revision, links

Know what I love about banana bread? It’s like eating cake for breakfast.

Monday night already! This week, my house seems empty and quiet — no toddler in sight. We hardly knew what to do with ourselves at Monday Poets. But when the rubber hit the road, we got our coffee and treats and got down to business. I thought I’d share a few things we talked about today, quick and dirty.

Deadlines have power. We agreed that having a deadline inspires work in a way that not having deadlines can’t. In fact, I’ve learned to give myself deadlines, and then pretend someone else gave them to me. I’ve used this excuse for why I can’t (fill-in-the-blank volunteer opportunity here): “Sorry, I’m working on a big deadline so I can’t do it.” And it’s always true — it’s just that self-imposed deadlines are harder to hold ourselves to, aren’t they? I hereby give you permission to treat your self-imposed deadlines like they came down from on high carved in stone.

Owning it. We talked about the power of claiming the title ‘poet’ or ‘writer’ — how that very act can help us, and those around us, take our work more seriously. On a side note, we laughed about how whenever you tell someone, “I’m a poet,” they (if not completely dumbfounded) ask, “Oh, have you published anything?” Did you ever hear anyone ask a surgeon if she’s ever completed a successful prodedure? Ask an attorney if she has any clients? Ask a teacher, “Have your students ever learned anything from you?” We had a good laugh thinking up questions we could ask people of other professions. All in good fun, of course.

Craft topic: revision. We all brought our own collections of revision tips, and highlighted our personal favorites. Then someone asked which revision tips I use most often — and I really had to think about that, but here’s what I do most often:

  • cut syllables (e.g., if there’s a two-syllable word that can be replaced with a one-syllable word, I replace it)
  • revise for sound/music (yes, sometimes this means adding syllables back in)
  • research etymology of important words to see if the words’ roots inspire any changes to the poem
  • re-lineate in couplets (for some reason, when I can’t figure out line breaks in other forms, doing a draft in couplets really helps me figure out line breaks)
  • re-draft, starting from scratch

Other favorite tips from the Mondays:

  • cram the draft into a form
  • write the poem over from last line to first
  • double space the poem, then add lines between existing lines to see what happens
  • go back to early drafts to see what hasn’t made it into the current version, and whether it might belong (I never do this! But I’m going to start!)

Links we shared (I have not read all these so I can’t vouch for their usefulness yet):

one zillion writing prompts from Charles Bernstein
Kay Ryan on recombinant rhyme
Linda Gregg on the art of finding
David Lehman on the Cento

As usual, I enjoyed the good company, the poetry talk, and the excellent treats. Now it’s bedtime already. Hope your week is off to a good start, and thanks for reading.

monday poets, with bonus content of ‘toddler invasion: part deux’

handy dandy index card, plus a colorful ‘m’ that reminds me to make one little corner of the world just for me

For the last decade of my life Mondays and poetry have  gone hand-in-hand. Although I’ve not confessed this to my current Monday Poets (spoiler alert!), for some reason I’ve always ended up with a Monday Poets group in my life. First was the original Mondays. We met in the cafeteria of a Lutheran college on Monday evenings. My excellent friend, The Poet A.O.D, is one of the wonderful po-people from the original Monday group. That group fell victim to “a slow wasting” as our then-leader put it. Soon I found myself with another group of Mondays. This group met at a cafe on Monday mornings. These Mondays cradled me during the months leading up to our move. Also they were fantastic poets and people.

When we came west, I made it my number one priority to find some poets; the Monday part was optional. I sent e-mails cold, risking being seen as a Crazy Poetry Lady (right? I’m right, right?). I showed up at a reading, introduced myself to the organizer, and asked if she knew of any, well, poets in the area. Luckily I’m not really a Crazy Poetry Lady, and eventually the reading organizer put me in touch with a workshop group.

But then, a few of us in the workshop group wanted more. More poetry time, more poetry talk. Last summer we began meeting on, you guessed it, Mondays. This is the group I mentioned in this post, and some of you were curious to know just what it is we do on Mondays so I’m here to give you the scoop.

As I wrote in the previous post, we don’t actually write poetry or workshop poems. We process the writing life. We start with a few minutes of just chatting and catching up over snacks (usually) and coffee (always).This usually takes way too long (30 minutes), but it’s fun and we’re human beings not po-robots.

Then we move on to our check-in: each person in the group shares joys, challenges, and progress on goals since our last meeting. We set a timer for 10 minutes per person — this is because we all like to talk and go off on tangents, and the timer helps us to stay on task. There is often some exchange of questions and answers, and many times we have come to new insights (as a group or as individuals) from this exchange. We always make sure to cheer successes, and help each other reframe setbacks in the best possible light. This part of the meeting usually takes 30 minutes.

Next we discuss a topic we’ve decided on at a previous meeting. We rotate responsibility for leading the discussion. Sometimes it’s a craft talk; sometimes it’s a discussion on one element of the writing life (e.g., obstacles, organdization, submissions); sometimes we read and study a poem together, and that day’s leader offers one or two prompts suggested by the poem (helpful hint: we’ve found that language-based prompts seem to be more successful at inspiring new work). Today’s discussion was on strategies for ending a poem — perfect timing for me as I’m doing battle with several unsuccessful endings. The discussion part of the meeting usually takes 45 minutes to an hour.

During the last part of the meeting we set and share weekly goals, then decide on the discussion topic for the next week (BTW, knowing I’ll be reporting my progress on goals to the Mondays is a great motivator, and I always write my goals on an index card and prop them right up on my desk). This last portion of the meeting, plus the wrap-up, goodbyes, petting the dog one last time, etc., usually takes about 20 minutes.

Monday Poets has become an indispensable part of my writing life. I’m actually not sure how I ever coped without it now that I have it. What I think is that I went along in a state of lower awareness about what was and was not working in my writing process and writing life. By opening those areas up to discussion, support, and supportive questioning, I’m so much more aware of my creative process and I have help navigating the sometimes tricky waters of the writing life.

People, this kind of group could work for anything, anything! Parenting, art, political action, teaching, quilting, raising dogs. It’s all about process which, I remind you, is from the Latin for procedere, meaning “go forward.” And it’s also about sharing the journey. I humbly suggest you go getchyou some Mondays (or Tuesdays, or Thursdays, whatever works for your life).

And now, last week I promised to tell you how to have a successful writing group meeting with a toddler in tow. One word: food. Oh, and a sense of humor doesn’t hurt. Here are some photos of today’s meeting of the Mondays:

before

um…… after

Something tells me next week’s meeting of the Mondays, when my extremely cute and charming nephew will no longer be on the roster, will seem very, very quiet :).

friday roundup: learning new seasons, perspectives on line, and The Smoke

from wikimedia

Reader, have you been watching or listening to the debates? I have not. The reason is that I get too wrapped up in emotion while watching and then I can’t sleep at night because I’m trying to solve all the world’s problems in my head — the first of which is that elections have become show business purchased by rich people. I’ve tried to tune in on the radio, but after a few minutes, I always reach the point where I can’t stand listening to one more word. Also, the pundits providing the play-by-play always seem to mention the 2000 election, over which I’m still nursing my broken heart. Actually, I’m not over the 2004 election yet either. Oh, dear. I think we’d better move on to poetry… and some other stuff, before I get mired.

learning new seasons  Yesterday it was cool and cloudy all day, and it even rained a bit. Today, cool and cloudy again. Just like last year, I’m wondering: Is this autumn? Having moved away from a place where the four seasons are strikingly different, I find it harder to know what season we’re in. I’ve also noticed that I have a hard time placing my memories on my mental map of a year. Before our move, I could call up an image of a memory and find cues about the season — I was wearing boots and I remember having to shovel to get out of the driveway, or, it was so humid my hair curled (believe me, it takes a lot of humidity to get my hair to curl). Then in was easier to place the memory on the calendar. Without as many seasonal cues, it’s harder for me to remember when something happened: It was sunny. For 320 days. Even remembering what fruit was in season (another one of my favorite clues) doesn’t help because the seasons are all different out here, and some fruits have two growing seasons. I’m curious about what, if any, mental map of a year will emerge for me in California.

I’ve also been thinking about the seasons of a writing life. Last year at this time, I was busy drafting the Mail Order Bride poems. I remember that those drafts came to me slowly, word by word, under a title that had arrived whole. As the Mail Order Bride poems rushed out of my pen, I really set all other writing work aside in order to work on those poems. Part of me thinks doing so is a natural response to the energies present in the moment; other parts of me feel like: No! You have to keep doing the other stuff, too — reading, revising, submitting! Lately, it’s been revising that seems most urgent, but I’m afraid to leave off  generating new work. How do you think of the seasons of your creative life, and how do you respond to the different intensities of one creative activity or another? I’m curious to know.

perspectives on line  My Monday writing group recently read and discussed the essay “Line and Room” by Marianne Boruch from her essay collection In the Blue Pharmacy. Can I just say I LOVE having people to discuss such things with!? Anyway, in keeping with our theme of gem-hunting this week, I thought I’d share a few gems from the essay:

  • The word line comes from the Latin, linea, meaning ‘linen.’
  • She quotes Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren: a sentence is a unit of sense but the line is a unit of attention.” The Mondays and I agreed that society values sense, and art values attention.
  • “Line (is) a still, then, against life’s dizzying momentum which, at heart, is the lyric impulse anyway, to stop time… .”
  • She compares end-stopped lines to DC electricity, and enjambment to AC.
  • The enjambed line “moves in two directions, relentlessly across then cutting down to surprise or deflect or underscore” (bonus craft tip in those last six words: three reasons to use enjambment).
  • She discusses the important of the silence and space at the end of the line, which she likens to a moment of taking back for an instant what was just said.
  • She quotes Nicolaides, who says something along the lines of: there are no lines; there is only “the place where the figure ceases.”

That last one is my favorite. Anyway, it’s a great essay — I don’t think it’s available online, couldn’t find it anywhere or else I’d link to it. I’m looking forward to reading more of the essays in Boruch’s collection.

The Smoke  Last night at my other writing group — the one where we workshop poems — I brought a poem about fire. Well, it was kind of about fire, and also about motherhood, as we all know those subjects go hand in hand (ha, ha). One of the other poets brought me a poem about fire to read — a chance to consider another poet’s way of writing about it. So, yeah, I read the poem this morning and decided to retract forever my own poem about fire. Never mind. I didn’t mean it. There’s no reason for me to do this because it’s already been done. WAY better than I could ever do it. Looked for the poem online to link to here and, whaddayaknow, it was published by Linebreak. Have I mentioned how much I love Linebreak? Anyway, the poem is called “The Smoke” by Bruce Snider, from his most recent collection Paradise, Indiana, which I have not read but have heard is stellar. Go read the poem here — you’ll be shocked and enraptured by all the things the smoke did.

Happy Friday, and thanks as always for reading!

friday roundup: art in the Mission, going forward, and a convincing sermon

“The Unmade Bed” by Imogen Cunningham

Happy Friday, Reader! I’m in an unaccountably good mood today. Perhaps because I said NO to helping with first grade literacy centers and YES to poetry this morning. Perhaps because I decided to (air quotes) air (end air quotes) the beds this morning (wink, wink) and spend more time writing. Perhaps because Husband and I are going out tonight and I will get to wear a shirt with bling and, sadly, also my trusty Danskos. But anyway, on to the roundup:

art in the Mission  Last week I mentioned going on a field trip to the Mission with a friend. We visited a place called Creativity Explored, a non-profit studio and gallery space for adults with developmental disabilities. And, Reader, WOW! It was an amazing experience to watch these artists at work, and to talk with them about their art. I wish I had some pictures, but I only had my phone not my camera, and also, it wouldn’t have been cool to take photos of the artists at work without their permission, but poke around on their website and you will see that there is some really amazing art being made at Creativity Explored. What interested me is that you could really see each artist’s obsessions coming through in their work: one artist worked on wood and the background of every painting was a listing of TV schedules; one artists was clearly interested in eyes, their placement on the body, and how eyes mirror other parts of the body and objects in the world; one artist does small, but amazingly accurate, ink-drawn portraits of famous people (Elvis, Tina Turner, Oprah, etc.). It made me wonder what the world would be like if we all had access to studio space and materials — would the Happiness Quotient of the World go up? I tend to think it would.

going forward  Lately I’ve been meeting with a couple of po-friends every Monday to talk poetry and the writing life. The neat thing about this group is that we don’t workshop each other’s poems, but we talk about our creative lives, check in on our goals each week,  cheer each other’s successes, and encourage each other when times are tough. I think of it as a group for processing the writing life. The word process comes from the Latin procedere, meaning “go forward.” I’m amazed at how much this weekly meeting has helped me to go forward in my writing life. The accountability of sharing goals, the camaraderie of different journeys on a shared path, and the encouragement we give each other has given me so much new creative energy and insight. I’m not sure how I ever got along without these Monday meetings. If you’re interested, I’ll write more about exactly what we do on Mondays….. stay tuned.

a convincing sermon  Some of you have probably already seen this poem by Melissa Broder from Poets.org‘s poem-a-day service. But its’ so good and so interesting I just had to share it. I love that Mother Mary is in the pews. I love that the body is a coat. I love the warning: “It is dangerous to grow accustomed to a garden.” Do you notice that a majority of the lines are end-stopped? For me, this gives the speakers voice an air of authority and certainty. I believe this speaker! Anyway, go on, read the poem. (And, if you’re a writer, think about what your convincing sermon would say).

That’s it for today. I’m off to say YES to poetry. Have a wonderful weekend and thanks, as always, for reading.

friday roundup: S.O.S. post mortem, more on political poems, and ‘someone should mark / the day’

ours came with a really cute pickle on the side of the pickle juice shot; photo from this flickr page

Moooaaaannnnnnn. Groooooaaaaannnnnn. Mommy stayed up too late last night. Mommy was at writing group which, for reasons too complicated to explain, met at the bar in the Four Seasons hotel up in the college town. Not only did we critique each other’s poems, but we also sampled a cocktail known as the pickleback, which involves a shot of whiskey and a chaser of pickle juice. Being Poets of a Certain Age, all six of us shared one shot — yes, we did the pickleback with dainty sips. It was surprisingly good, considering I don’t like whisky. But I digress. I was saying, I was up too late and now I’m behind on everything. On to the roundup:

S.O.S post mortem  My kids are in school, so summer’s over for us. And with it goes the Summer of Submissions. I’ve learned and re-learned and re-re-learned that, really, I’m no good at turning over a new leaf. My process is more like this: Notice a leaf lying on the sidewalk. Watch it for a few days. One day maybe pick up one corner and look underneath. A few days later prop it up with a toothpick. Then maybe after a while a big wind blows through and turns the leaf over (or in other cases, blows the leaf away. But I digress again.). That’s pretty much how the Summer of Submissions went for me: slow, marginal efforts that did not blanket the earth with my poems, but that did create a new habit and result in several acceptances. This time of year poets far and wide are preparing for the fall submissions season, with many journals reopening to submissions in September. I will be plugging along with my goal of two subs per week. If there are weeks when I can do more, I will; if not, not (why am I just now thinking of the song “The Old Gray Mare?” ).

more on political poems In this post I wrote a little bit about the political poem, and I want to follow up this week with some gems I read in an interview with Yehuda Amichai, of blessed memory. If you’ve never read Yehuda Amichai, I highly recommend his work. He somehow writes of the political and the personal incredibly well, and he gets from point A to point Z and back again in a way that makes me walk around the house muttering, “How did he do that?”. Anyway, here’s what Amichai says about political poems:

I try to create a kind of equality between my personal history and the history around me because historical events often occur during times which are metaphorically concentrated. For instance, if I were to say that I remember my father during Passover in 1940… by mentioning Passover I bring into play the whole history of the journey of Israel out of Egypt as well as a particular celebration of Passover in a particular place at a particular time. Whole histories can be included in the language by collapsing content and language itself… .

This idea of calling out to a particular shared history by writing about a moment of personal history makes attempting the political poem seem less daunting to me. Read the whole Amichai interview here.

‘someone should mark / the day’  Some of you have probably already seen Gerald Stern’s poem “Day of Grief,” which came out on poem-a-day this week. For those who haven’t, it’s a stunner. Please go read it now. I’ll wait. I just love the stream of consciousness voice, the appearance of so many disparate elements in one short poem, and the idea of “my other religion.” This is a poem that makes me want to stand out on my front porch and yell: “Yay, Poetry!” But of course I won’t because I’m trying to make a good impression with the neighbors.

Speaking of which (or not), I’m late for the Ritual Opening of the Library Doors at 10:00, so must away. Have a wonderful Friday and a wonderful weekend. As always, thanks for reading.