Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fire On Her Tongue

I'm thrilled and honored to be included in the first e-Book anthology of contemporary women's poetry, published by Two Sylvias Press and edited by Annette Spaulding-Convy and Kelli Russell Agodon. Fire On Her Tongue is available as an e-book at Amazon, and is described as a ground-breaking literary project

Fire On Her Tongue: An eBook Anthology of Contemporary Women's Poetry is the first electronic collection of poems by women writing today. Poets Kelli Russell Agodon and Annette Spaulding-Convy, Co-Editors of Crab Creek Review and Co-Founders of Two Sylvias Press, have collaborated on this ground-breaking literary project. Featuring over 70 of the most extraordinary poets from a variety of backgrounds and whose ages span from thirteen to ninety-one, Fire On Her Tongue showcases superbly crafted poems exploring the contemporary woman’s experience. Fire On Her Tongue: An eBook Anthology of Contemporary Women's Poetry includes poems by Kim Addonizio, Nin Andrews, Madeline DeFrees, Patricia Fargnoli, Annie Finch, Kate Greenstreet, Lola Haskins, Jane Hirshfield, Keetje Kuipers, Dorianne Laux, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Alicia Ostriker, Natasha Sajé, Peggy Shumaker, Patricia Smith, A.E. Stallings, Rachel Zucker, and many other accomplished poets. Fire On Her Tongue is a unique collection created specifically with eBook readers in mind. This anthology has been entirely produced with a zero-carbon footprint as a “green” way to share today’s most exciting poetry with a larger audience. Fire On Her Tongue is an amazing resource for any reader or student who wants to explore an in-depth selection of work from some of today’s strongest women poets.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Light, Light, Light!

Time to bring out the old light panel, even though the days are getting perceptibly longer. Still now enough light in my eyes to lift my spirits the way spring does. I bought this natural light panel that you look into for a half hour each day and it does something indescribable to your feelings. So of course I had to try to describe it in this prose poem, now appearing in the current issue of Spirits, out of Indiana University Northwest.

The Pearl. Every morning for an hour, I stare into a row of fluorescent tubes called a Brite-Wave, remedy for a part of brain that has forgotten how to bloom these winter mornings. Following printed directions, I gaze as if floating in the mother-of-pearl pool I once swam in at an Arizona resort at midnight, floating in opalescence beneath the vaulted dark. Light sears my retina with atoms. They are supposed to pry open the sleeping folds. For thirty minutes a day this beam raises my mental sun. The manual advises glancing occasionally, but more and more I am compelled to stare, and the effects are noticeable. The first morning I can barely lift my coffee cup while watching the light. The day after, I pedal my wheeling thoughts into star-fields. A week in, and I am bobbing in a raft on foaming waves. Two weeks, and I can backstroke any foggy morning, do laps despite the rain. Tomorrow, I’ll be able to shove old Sol aside and with my own focused stare illuminate the parking lot.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Reading hour and the new world

I spend so much time looking at my phone anyway, between reading email, texting, facebooking, googling, and playing games, that I decided I might as well try out reading books as well. To my surprise, a Kindle book is downloadable to an iPhone as well as an iPad, and the text is very readable. I already read poetry on my phone from such sites as Poetry Foundation and It seemed to me that for 99 cents or even $9 I could test-drive my idea. And I'm still driving.

One of the things I discovered is the instant gratification of buying an eBook. Last night I had a wish to read a new novel that's a contemporary version of Midsummer Night's Dream, one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. I debated: the library? the book's too new -- Amazon, too slow -- B&N, too expensive. Kindle's price was cheaper than print and the delivery time was RIGHT NOW!

That's when I realized I wasn't just in the reading hour, I was in a whole new publishing world whose rules aren't just about carrying your library around with you. It's about much more ... changing font sizes, getting a book ASAP, copying quotations, searching for names or specific phrases or words. It's much more than reading words on a page, it can be using them for research purposes. I'm getting quickly hooked and also hooked on seeing how different is the experience of reading a book this way than the other way. I wonder if there will be a tiered publishing format, similar to the straight-to-DVD movie, maybe there will be straight-to-Kindle books. I guess some self-published books already are.

Which makes me wonder about the need for eBook review magazines. How do you sort it all out and find what you want to read in this new world? We need review zines to help. Maybe I'll start one!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Publishers, Zines, and the Changing Landscape

Discovered a fascinating and informative page by Aaron Shephard on self-publishing and the changing landscape of eBooks.

Speaking of publishers, the ever-innovative micro press Cooper Dillon Books now has a link to my interview with publisher Adam Deutsch published at Fringe. Stay tuned for more. I plan to get Deutsch talking again about poetry publishing and the literary community.

Found some new (to me) zines I want to read and submit work to: for flash fiction, Smokelong Quarterly and Linebreak which describes itself as "a weekly magazine with a bias for good poetry." Always fun bloghopping the literary Internet.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

New poems published in Umbrella

I'm honored to be included in Umbrella Journal's fifth anniversary issue. the Orsorum section features my work, as well as that of:

C.B. Anderson
Seth Braver
Michael Cantor
Robin Chapman
Maryann Corbett
Tammy Ho Lai-Ming
Paul Hostovsky
Rose Kelleher
Kathleen Kirk
John Milbury-Steen
Ken Poyner
Jason Primm
Jennifer Reeser
Sarah J. Sloat
David Stephenson
Sherry Chandler (Book Review)

Huge congratulations to publisher/editor Kate Bernadette Benedict for steering this publication to a wider audience, through innovative and fresh ideas, and also creating an umbrella for Tilt-A-Whirl and Carmine Street Metrics. Umbrella is a journal unlike any I know of, with surprises and new dimensions all the time. Here's to another five years of delight!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Occupy with Poetry!

Among the many Occupy events I've been following are literary ones. It's a good moment in history for poets and writers to speak up through their art. I was happy to see that Fringe Magazine started an Occupy area on their blog. An Occupy poetry anthology is online and still accepting more works, I've heard. And I'm sure much more literature will come out of this new movement some are calling "the end of the beginning" of a change in world consciousness of equality and justice.

I feel that, as the Arab Spring demonstrated, and the Autumn Occupy is reinforcing, a new awareness of the need for more humane values is spontaneously emerging among great numbers of people on our planet. I don't believe this can be contained within politics -- certainly not politics as usual. It's organic and self-organizing, as my wise and funny friend Emily Levine pointed out, the way water molecules organize themselves to be liquid. You can't stop or even define this kind of thing. You can't demand it produce its list of demands. But you can make poetry about it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I was flattered to be asked by novelist and publisher Linda Leith to contribute one of my photos to her wonderful, rich online literary salon. Those are my leaves across the top, behind the banner! I feel like I've started a new venture, photography. All with my new iPhone 4s (yes, Apple please deposit the ad revenue directly into my Paypal account). I do love taking photos with my new phone. And I do love Linda Leith's website! Full of interesting visuals and articles and interviews.

While I'm bloghopping, I want to spread the word about a blog on a new film venture---and you can be part of it! As a supporter of The Spirit of Ireland. It's a new film by the Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Alan Cooke. You can see a trailer for the film on this page. Cooke, who won an Emmy for his film Home about being an immigrant in New York, says of his new project: "The Spirit of Ireland is a self-funded independent project.  It is been made on the good will and donations of people who love Ireland from around the world."Even if you don't have a tiny bit of Irish in your genes, it's a chance to be part of an uplifting film on an ancient and spirit-rich land.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Bloghopping & webrowsing Italy

A new television series on an innovator and legend -- no, not Steve Jobs, though that's not a bad idea -- Leonardo da Vinci, the Huffington Post reports.

Flash mob! Italian style. Why do I never get called?

If you're in the San Francisco area and love Renaissance and Baroque painters, you might want to see Masters of Venice, on exhibit through February. Why did they have to put the De Young so far away? Or fail to rebuild that freeway? I lament, as an East Bay denizen, how long it takes to get to any of the museums. Ah, well. A day well spent.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Rambling the blogosphere

In my rambles around the blogosphere, I've had my mind on novels and memoirs, because I'm working on a novel. Here are some interesting stops along your way, if you're similarly inclined: a Wild Irish poet's book on Ireland, the Plot Whisperer, and a revision checklist. Plus a few more.

Wild Irish Poet

The Plot Whisperer

Revision Checklist


Here's a taste of my novel:

Chapter Three. Rome, Day One.

In a room one floor below the Perls, Norman and Kathleen weren’t sleeping, either. Norman was working on his laptop, for which Rick had found a power cord, while Kathleen paced in her pink nightgown and tossed out place names randomly. Norman recorded everything she said, then tried to fit each word into a table of places and dates.
“Scacciapensieri!” Kathleen said suddenly and stopped. “That’s the hotel I booked us into for Siena. I’m sure of it.”
“Really? Because you researched so many hotels in Siena, and I don’t remember that name. Spell it.”
“You’re kidding, Norman. You know I can’t spell in English. I certainly don’t spell in Italian!”
“Well, say it again, slowly.”
“Hmm. That doesn’t sound Italian. And it doesn’t sound the way you said it the first time.”
Kathleen turned and faced him, putting her hands on her narrow hips.
“This was your idea, Norman. Free association. Spelling isn’t part of free association. You look it up. You’re the researcher.”
“I’m an economist.”
“Okay, say it again.”
“Sko-chow-pan-sier-y. This isn’t going to work. I can’t remember the dates! If we don’t have the dates right—”
“We can call the hotels and ask them. All you have to do is remember which hotels you booked in which places.”
Kathleen sighed. “I must have talked to hundreds of hotels in the last six months, booking tours for more groups than you have zeros in your ledger books.”
“We don’t use books anymore, Kathleen, we use software.”
“Whatever. Everyone’s computer-crazy these days.”
“Just relax, walk if you need to. Do you want anything? I can ring the desk if you’d like a glass of wine.”
“Wine will make me sleepy, and if I’m sleepy I can’t pace, and if I can’t pace I can’t associate. Start again!”
“Forget that one. Move on.”
“Okay, Firenze.”
“Nothing. Wait! Something with an ‘m’. . . .”
“An ‘m?’”
“A villa. Maybe near the Boboli Gardens.”
“Good . . . go on.”
Kathleen turned and sank into the chair.
“I’m too tired for this!”
“This is when it will work best.”
“Who elected you psychiatrist?”
“It’s a technique my therapist used.”
“Huh! Is that right?”
Norman put his laptop aside, got up from the bed, and came over to her. He put his fingers on her temples and rubbed gently.
“You need a neck rub. You’re all tense in the face, which means your neck is tense. Would you like to have me rub your neck?”
Kathleen gave in for a moment and let Norman rub her temples, but then she suddenly sprang up.
“No! Not if we’re going to get more of this out of my brain. I don’t want to be up all night.”
Norman sighed, went back to the bed and picked up his computer.
“Firenze. Boboli.”
“Villa . . . Cora!”
“Are you sure?”
“What the hell do you mean, am I sure? Of course not! If only Massimo were here. He’d remember.”
“Kathleen, why don’t we just look up all the hotels in Firenze and call them all?”
“Are you crazy? Do you have any idea how many inns, hotels, and villas there are around Florence? How many people are accommodated in Florence at this time of year? And how many are just lining up to grab our rooms if we don’t show?”
“I’m sure Rick will help. And Sandra. And maybe we can get a few others to make calls.”
“Norman, you would make a hopeless travel agent.”
“At least I know how to use a computer.” He said it with his head down, staring into the screen because he was afraid of his own sarcasm but unable to resist the temptation.
She didn’t fail to respond as he expected.
“You are a goddamn idiot! You think a computer would have made a difference? What if someone had hacked into it and stolen all our information? What if you had taken your stupid laptop out and the gypsies had nabbed it? Don’t give me that. Don’t act like it’s my fault!”
Her voice rose to a pitch that distressed him. He felt it had the potential of disturbing people even through the walls, but if he said anything more it would just set her off. Norman had learned that the secret of a long marriage was silence, applied at strategic moments.
Kathleen paced faster, frowning. His technique worked, because she let her feet pick up the agitation while her brain began to search again for useful memories.
“Okay, Villa Cora in Firenze. I’m sure of it, because I remember you said let’s spend the money and I said you were crazy, and you insisted that we have one really fantastic hotel and the rest of the way we could make do. Villa Cora used to belong to Tchaikovsky’s mistress or something. It’s practically a historic site itself. I’m sure we booked there. We can call them in the morning.”
“Good!” Norman typed “Villa Cora” into several slots. “Now all we have to do is call and ask what the dates are and when we have to check in to secure our reservations.”
“Okay, that’s all I can do tonight.”
“Honey, that’s great. We can do it. It will take a few days, but we can get all the information back. And then we can talk to the group about the money.”
Kathleen came over to the bed and got in. Within minutes she was snoring. Norman continued to stare into his laptop, wishing that she had at least thanked him for the idea of association, but at the same time formulating her
excuses: she was tired, she felt the stress of responsibility, she didn’t handle criticism well, she was tense in the neck.
At last he powered down, put away the computer, and got back in bed. He lay in bed beside a snoring Kathleen, who never had any trouble falling asleep. He thought about how tomorrow they would begin their life-changing adventure. When most people want to change their lives, they look forward—but not Norman. He found his key to a new life in looking back⎯way back, all the way to the Italian Renaissance.
Norman was happier in the past than in the present. He carried volumes within: volumes of economic treatises and the histories of markets. Statistics mumbled inside the vault of his skull, and he lived with numbers much more comfortably than with people. The only people he could really understand had been dead for centuries. They were the Italian artists and architects of the Renaissance, the popes and doges and civilized princes.
Like most middle-aged people, he longed for better days, which meant the past. In Norman’s case, however, it was the far distant past. His nostalgic urges were deeply satisfied by the study of history. He had found a way to indulge his nostalgia beyond his wildest dreams in forming The Renaissance Club. He had never imagined he could actually convince his colleagues to come on this tour of Renaissance Italy. But now that his great dream was coming true, he wasn’t going to let a few skeptics spoil it. All his career he had been surrounded by skeptics; that was almost the definition of an economist. He had a chance for something different now.
Rome was out there, and somewhere in it was his renaissance. Although he and Kathleen and Sandra had already explored a good bit of Rome, this was the real threshold of the adventure. He wanted to be fresh for it, but he found himself wide-eyed in the dark, wondering what the Sistine Chapel would be like and how close he could get to Bernini's sculpture of Teresa in Ecstasy. He wished Sir Kenneth Clark were with them. He had such an articulate excitement about history, an excitement he, Norman, failed at every turn to convey to his friends. But maybe Jacob’s friend George had an exciting way about him and could spark their enthusiasm. He hoped so. If he couldn’t, Norman was afraid this would be a very short adventure.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Sea Stories

I'm very pleased to have five of my ocean-related poems in the Fall issue of Sea Stories. Editor K.r. Copeland selects poetry for the Littoral Currents section of this beautiful. My poems appear in this issue along with those of J.P. Dancing Bear, fellow San Pedran (by birth) Larry Kuechlin, Lyn Lifshin, Janice Wilson Stridick, Virgil Suarez, Skylaar Amman, Lynn Fanock, Nancy Scott, L.B. Sedlacek, Arthur Seeley, Tim Tomlinson, Andrea Witzke Slot, Norbert Krapf, W.F. Lantry, and many more. It's a packed issue and full of lovely images.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Interview with an innovative publisher

In my interview for Fringe Magazine with Adam Deutsch, Publisher/Editor of Cooper Dillon Books, most interesting to me was his idea that poetry is on the outskirts of our culture because of an absence of community. We fail to see ourselves -- the poetry world -- as community, and often fail to act as a community, supporting each other in ways that would strengthen the art itself.

Community isn't a new concept, but it's newly emerging as an alternative to the conventional ways of doing things, a more collaborative way to live. You see it in movements like co-housing and sustainable community gardening. A sense of being connected and that we all benefit from working together, not competing with each other. Replacing competition with cooperation. Perhaps it's too much to expect poets and writers not to feel competitive in the difficult process of getting published and developing an audience. But the point Adam made in the interview was that just a little more sense of community would benefit the entire poetry world. More books would get sold and read. I think he's hit on a big idea. More power to him and his press.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fringe - My Interview with Adam Deutsch

Fringe Magazine has just today published my interview with the fascinating Adam Deutsch, Publisher and Editor of Cooper Dillon Books, a poetry press in San Diego, California.

Adam Deutsch has a novel approach to small-press publishing: he avidly collaborates with poets and responds to manuscripts within five weeks of submission. But perhaps to me the most radical idea he has is to find and publish -- and even in some cases, create -- manuscripts of transcendence and lasting importance. High aims, ones I'm in complete sympathy with, as we seem to be getting overwhelmed with poetry publications that may not even outlast the year, let alone a decade. It's a provocative read. And more to come.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My poem in Tiferet

I'm so pleased to have my poem "The River" in the current issue of Tiferet Journal. You'd love the issue, so buy a copy if you can. Here's the poem, which is also in my forthcoming book, Gods of Water and Air:

The River

Cookies crumble in the pockets of my jeans.
I save them in case I need extra fortune.
The one today told me to relax.
Mom always said, What are you waiting for?
Why are you so impatient?
She couldn’t have been right about both,
could she? I just grabbed the nearest one
and I notice as I chew and swallow the pieces,
they all melt into the same thing: loss, anger, joy
swirl down the stream outside the restaurant
I left winking at the statue of Lao-Tzu on his ox.

Take some more, they said,
I took a hunk of architecture,
some random windows—open, close.
I took the cheapest ticket, the desperate caress,
the stolen insight. Moments flowed
through my ears, whispering
that nothing is ever lost, just changed
into memory. I should have done more
with my life.

All time exists at once.
I think Einstein said that, or Lao-Tzu, breathing
down my neck, wanting his river back.
I cross carefully, my shoulders wearing wings
of fog. I step on small islands, all the souls
I have ever known gone
hanging around my neck.

Friday, September 02, 2011

A Poem in Blue Fifth Review

I'm very happy to have a poem in Sam Rasnake's online journal Blue Fifth Review! I'm pleased to have work alongside other wonderful pieces.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Future of the Book - artifact?

As a rocket kid and the author of books, I was intrigued by this thoughtful piece in the Guardian about the possible future of the book in the post-Kindle era.

The most interesting thing in it was my introduction to the term "wilfing." The "What was I looking for?" aspect of being online seems on the surface antitethical to the concentration required to read cogently, say, a piece of literature, even a short one. I think it's doing something else to us: it's breaking down the linear thinking we have been schooled in for centuries. What does that open the door to? A way of making connections that can seem random, but might often be intuitive. An openness to a new way of connecting things, perhaps. Or perhaps, as some suggest, just a giant waste of an afternoon.

I don't know, but I do know that I have "chanced" upon some amazingly helpful finds in my wilfing hours, things that found their way into poems, grant proposals, business plans, conversations, and sometimes just the sense of wonder that I prize most in my days.

Wilf away, I say, but then set aside time to focus. Both and, not either or.

Friday, August 05, 2011


I'm thrilled to announce that I've just signed a contract with Kitsune Books to publish my new poetry collection, Gods of Water and Air, in 2012! It's been a long time putting this one together, and finding the right publisher. I feel very lucky!

Kitsune Books describes its mission this way:
Kitsune Books was founded in 2006 to make available to the reading public an eclectic variety of artistic, well-written books that are slightly off the beaten path. We publish literary and some genre fiction, nonfiction literary commentary and memoir, and poetry.

And making it also special for me is to be a fellow Kitsune author alongside my friend Jeannine Hall Gailey, whose new collection, She Returns to the Floating World, was just published by Kitsune. It's an amazing book, combining Jeannine's unique blend of Japanese myths and folklore, Shinto spirits, philosophy and popular culture.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Writing Life

Reading Annie Dillard's inspiring and reassuring book of that name, and found this nugget, which made me feel so much better about how slowly I'm editing my novel:

Thomas Mann was a prodigy of production. working full time, he wrote a page a day. that is 365 pages a year, for he did write every day -- a good-sized book a year. At a page a day, he was one of the most prolific writers who ever lived.

Monday, June 27, 2011

My interview with Jeannine Hall Gailey is up at Fringe

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing for Fringe Magazine a fellow rocket kid and poet, Jeannine Hall Gailey. Her myth-based poetry collection She Returns to the Floating World was just published by Kitsune Books. In the interview, Gailey discusses her process and sources, including how she came to use fantasy, mythology, and comic book characters in poetry, and why she thinks poetry continues to dwell on the outskirts of our culture. She's a fascinating subject and the book is a terrific read, unlike any other book I've read. Grab a copy, you won't be sorry! And will learn a lot about Japanese mythology.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fathers & poems

Happy Father's Day! The subject of the relationship to a father has been a rich source in poetry. Today I'm missing my complicated, troublesome, creative, and vibrant father, who died a year and a half ago. My faovrite last memories of him:

At the Easel with Alzheimer's

My father is painting in the basement: blue,
green, yellow. The cinderblock wall’s white-
wash is tanned with dust and the ocean view
obscured by a flapping sheet of vinyl. It fights

the wind. He says he's inspired to blue. My phone call
came to his studio and I was greeted: I know you.
You’re the pharmacist, right? The pall
on his memory has not dimmed his bad taste

in jokes or how at the easel he’s always affable
over the scribble of boar’s bristle, the give
of canvas to brush. I skip over laughable
lapses, as when he asks me where I live

and then pretends he was kidding. Name-
dropping, his mind grows patches, nicks
and spores like the salt on his aluminum
windows that will eventually make them stick.

Painting down there, his panes always closed
to keep it warm and dry, not a hint of sea
outside. What are you working on? His nose
nearly on the canvas, he can only say,

It’s getting better, going somewhere. It’s green,
blue, and not as grim as it sounds. His brain
grows lacy and colors squirm like the skeins
of yarn above the basement washing machine.

I’m frightened of how much he forgets,
this new breeze that unzips our history,
but I say, Don’t fight the wind. Be a net.
Catch the world by letting the knots slip.

- first appeared in Fringe Magazine

Here's another father poem I love:

Those Winter Sundays
By Robert Hayden 1913–1980

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bloghopping: Listening to Literature

Found a new zine that publishes audio versions of fiction and nonfiction -- The Drum. A nice companion to Whale Sound, which does audio publication of poetry. Words on breath, what literature was meant to be, at least short literature like poems, essays, and stories. With authors like Gina Ochsner, Susan Orlean, and Paul Harding, this looks like excellent listening.

Whale Sound currently has Wendy Babiak's wonderful "Ekphrasis on a Screensaver." Take a listen.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Non-contest poetry book publishers and the paradigm

Sparked by the Poets and Writers article on contests, and Anis Shivani's article in the Huffington Post, the debate about whether contests are good for poetry flares up high again. We seem to be locked into the contest paradigm, and yet the natives are restless, at least some of them are. Marginalization, as always, creates resistance, rebellion, and ultimately revolution. I am speaking metaphorically, of course, but I do think the anti-contest sentiment is building, even among poets who have supported it in the past. Just a quick look at the numbers reveals why: those who need to publish poetry books are too numerous for the number of contest wins available -- by far.

So what new model of poetry publishing can be developed, given the cultural marginalization of the art? I've felt for a long time that e-publishing, which is changing the landscape of prose publishing very quickly, will exert a similar transformative effect on po-biz. Perhaps a little more emphasis on biz -- on how to attract audiences and book buyers -- would help.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Poetry book contest + updates on my Non-Contest Publishers Page

Anis Shivani, in a Huffington Post article about poetry book contests, makes an excellent point about how contests damage the art:

Is this the best way to discover new poetry talent in the country? What happens to editorial judgment, consistent aesthetic vision, commitment to particular values, building a movement, advocating for a particular style, and creating a critical mass of new writing if the contest model is allegedly based in "impartiality" and "blindness"--in other words, pretends to be the exemplar of democracy, egalitarianism, and disavowal of values?

My page of poetry book publishers who read outside of contests -- and presumably exercise this type of editorial judgment, rather than giving it over to grad student screeners -- has been updated. The venerable Tupelo Press was added, and also some information about reading periods and reading fees (the new sneaky way of getting the same amount of money as in a contest, but with a different evaluation paradigm).

I agree with Shivani's basic idea: we need to rethink in this country how poetry is edited and published if we don't want to see poetry further marginalized and made tepid and culturally insignificant. A lot of people like poetry and have never heard of any of the books being published to great fanfare. What's wrong with this picture? Publishers complain about the media ignoring poetry, but I wonder if there's a good reason it mostly gets ignored.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Saint Monica + bloghopping

Yesterday I received Mary Biddinger's terrific new chapbook, Saint Monica, out from Black Lawrence Press. I was lucky enough to be asked to write a blurb and so get to see this marvelous, original, biting, and witty collection before it came out. I can only reiterate my comment on the back:

Biddinger crisply narrates these memorable tales that entwine horror and sensual discovery, using deft rhythms, head-snapping line breaks, and highly original imagery."

I give it the highest praise a poet can: I wish I'd written it. Buy the book!

For a fresh taste, try tongues of the ocean.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bloghopping + books by women men should read

Thanks to Nic Sebastien (Very Like a Whale), I discovered the wonderful A Year with Rilke, which pairs poems with art by friends of Rilke. One of the great things poetry online can do is pair with visuals. Another great thing it can do, as Nic's sites so brilliantly showcase, is become sound again, rise from the flat page into the music poetry is meant to be.

Also was sent a link to Joyland's blog about Esquire Magazine's list of 250 books by women all men should read. A friend pointed out the that the list for books by men all women should read was only 75 books. As it should be!

Pirene's Fountain is open to submissions for the October issue.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dreamin' of Dylan

Poet of our generation, happy 70th, Dylan! He's still got it, the lyrical chops, in my opinion. Interesting that so much of the best poetry of our generation has been in the form of song lyrics. A lot of people argue that lyrics and poetry aren't the same, but I think that's an old-fashioned view. To me -- writing both -- they're part of a continuum. So here are a few of my favorite Dylan poems.

Dreamin' of You

Subterranean Homesick Blues

Don't Think Twice, It's All Right

Someone recently wrote to me and asked for work for an anthology defining our unique generation. I wish I had written a poem about Dylan to send!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Poetry for non-poets + Saint Monica

The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation's Giving Voice session at a two-day arts seminar this May brought poetry to leaders from fields unaccustomed to considering the art: leaders from every sector: finance, social services, arts administration, marketing, real estate, education, media, health, engineering, insurance and government. Bravo! to the Foundation for reaching out beyond the teaching community and bringing poetry to a wider audience of leaders. A very interesting way of carrying out the mission of supporting poetry in our culture.

In other news: Mary Biddinger's brilliant chapbook, Saint Monica, is out from Black Lawrence Press. Having had a sneak peek, I'll say that you should rush over there and pre-order a copy right now! (Ships June 1.) You won't be sorry.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Why I Like Weather

It's a restless, atmospheric spring day, I've been listening to Bach and looking at gorgeous images of Dutch tulip fields, and my own poem came to mind. This is from Earth Lessons.


Famous for always being there, it takes no hikes
or long vacations, leaving forty beeps on the answering
machine. Evasive, evocative, weather
is as much what you see through as what you see.
This afternoon my dog and I headed out
to find a pyramid of taffy-rolled cloud
wrinkling the sky’s forehead. We circuited
the neighborhood, bemused by vast aerial doings.
The cumulus spread away, thin as bouillon.
Sun winked on the flanks of an airplane -- last buffalo
roaming the high plain. “He’s smiling again”
I said to my dog, as if the sun
were a cloudy-headed Apollo
dashing from horizon to horizon.

I often take comfort from weather
as a folk remedy. It’s good for blame, lovemaking,
moods, price dips, metaphors in talk of politics. Whether
you can think straight may be attributed to it --
"I'm under a cloud today." Forecasters will say,
“There’s not much weather out West” --
as if air, moisture and electricity
flowing at the speed of thought around the globe
does not achieve the status.
Farmers and scientists pigeonhole energies
with chewy words: drizzle, Nor’easter -- like naming
your bloodstream Sally or your elbow Sam.
The sway of a temblor underfoot
makes me think weather churns underground,
loose and roving as comets and sea spouts,
ball lightning, St. Elmo’s Fire, the katabatic winds
called foehn, Chinook, cow-killer.

Does the equator’s airy calm -- the doldrums-- seep out
of the planet’s bellybutton?
Is that a huge stomach I hear underfoot?
I like the Hindu belief that ultra-fine weather
circulates in our bodies, too subtle for computed tomography.
I suspect similar currents whirl inside earth’s core
spinning magma like clothes in a dryer.
Weather crashes planes, sends killers
on rampages. Is it subject to the moon’s pull?
Does El Nino come from rays of hypnotism?
I like to believe anything’s possible, exercise
the muscle of wonder so it does not atrophy
and make me overly scientific, a calculating cynic
who sees a cloud and thinks only of ice.

We’re made of weather -- electrons twirling
like tiny twisters, blood-tides rushing and pumping.
How can anyone predict how we'll blow?
Or what will come of our combative forces --
disease, health, madness, illumination?
Wild planets with fierce cycles of emotion,
we wobble on elliptical trajectories
toward idealized destinations,
subject to massive buildups of uncertainty.
We can be exalted as the galaxies and atoms
who share our mad momentum. -- But enough of chaos.

We need the comfort of names and laws.
A name can call you, but no one can be predicted by it.
And that’s why I like weather: its events evoke
daily self-explorations that slam restlessly
hither and yon, seeking shape then frantically undoing it
for something better -- or perhaps just wilder and wetter.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My review of Barbara Crooker's More up at The Pedestal

I'm happy to have my review of Crooker's newest collection appearing in The Pedestal magazine's new issue. It's hard work, but I like book reviewing, which is a way of concentrating on poetry in an arc of expression, as a good collection must be. Here's my pull-quote from the review: "In these glass-half-empty times, Barbara Crooker takes a radical stance: she wants more. She celebrates the life of the senses in poems of praise, gratitude, and grief."

I had the recent pleasure of receiving an in-depth critique of a poem I'm working on and thought about the value of our connections as poets, how no one works in poetry, or in any art form, alone. The myth of the lone artist is just that: a myth. We must have lots of solitude, but we must also have lots of exchange, if only by studying one another's work and the work that's gone before. There is no solo planet for a poet. We are intertwined in this work.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Poem for Easter

After Reading Dante’s Paradiso

We live in a heaven we take great pains to avoid.
Shielding our cheeks from a winter sky’s
chilled fur, we hunch against the brush of air
that has rushed gloriously everywhere. We listen
into our phones so as not to be pierced
by arias in the pines. Clench worry’s hands
to keep a woodpecker’s drumming
from entering our bones. Stay separate.
Refuse to sail a cloud into evening’s gold.

I circle your neighborhood. You switch on your motor
to cancel my hellos and drive by, tunnel-gazing
at the road. You will not allow yourself
to be distracted by a flock of red butterflies
that seem to have settled on the quince. You work
at not seeing the cherry trees’ candlelight parade.
Busy yourself steadying a tea tray on your head.
It’s hard not to look into each other’s eyes,
down wells of the water we daily draw up,

but bliss is trying to leach into our cells
from the sheer forces of nature and humanity.
Happiness can sprout in a moment, absurd
amid the gray towers strafed by centuries.
Don’t make a habit of paving over any space
where a tiny flower could pop or hold
your breath, so you can’t nose around
as easily as an old dog finds a neighborly scent
and comes upon another circle of delight.

from Another Circle of Delight

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Mesmer + Dickinson

Another for April, thinking we might get more of the unusual April showers today. First appeared in Pirene's Fountain:


Rain can be like Chopin,
all piano strings
and syncopated pauses, geometry
of blings under wheels
and rubber heels. A bliss
baptism from branches.
Drooled harmonies.
On your neck, wet
kisses slithering. Rings
around plop into pools:
ting, ting, ting, ting. Scriabin
zithering loss up your edges,
then his departure’s
sudden, cold feathering.

And one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems, which I hope to memorize:

HE fumbles at your spirit
As players at the keys
Before they drop full music on;
He stuns you by degrees,
Prepares your brittle substance
For the ethereal blow,
By fainter hammers, further heard,
Then nearer, then so slow
Your breath has time to straighten,
Your brain to bubble cool,—
Deals one imperial thunderbolt
That scalps your naked soul.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A poem for Earth Day

Every Morning I Try

to pronounce a divine name perfectly, knowing
I can’t really say its swallow-swing
or enunciate the syllables a mockingbird
loops in medleys, can’t whisper vowels

of an airplane’s rhyming trail.
Names like that must be repeated
as a flower lets pollen fly. I should mimic
the closed bud’s wise pause.

My human mouth can hardly shape
the million-zinnia alpha letter, let alone
the final plosive dazzle –
but I can hum the consonants
of this green-button day –

and add several bandaged overtones
to the morning-setting moon,
echo two doves speaking
to my dog, who rolls and rolls
on the name’s final Ah.
Since I cannot make that pure sound,

I will get down on the grass and roll with him,
then give the next being I meet
a courteous consonant
dangling an ocean vowel.

first appeared in The Cortland Review (with sound file)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

April poem

From my collection Earth Lessons, because the roses are getting ready to pop.

Leaflets long, pubescent. Flowers deep pink in a corymb. Hips large and bottle-shaped.-- Rose catalog.

With five slim petals
she satisfies her procreative need,
enticing flying feet and wings to collude
in a rage to be perpetual.
Behind her sepals’ five-fingered fan
she awaits the sun’s caress. Sly señora,
she knows how to meet a warm hand.
Her private core is deeply gold,
pollinated with the musk of want
becoming tall. Each lingam of light
waggles its cache of pollen in the breeze.
Her stamens climb the sky
but her roots descend
eternity’s steep stair.
Such fragile music
wafts from a gorgeous maw,
yet it excites in us raw
and lovely hunger.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Listening to poetry -- looking at animated poems

I was happy to find a link on Facebook the other day to a poetry video that was a collaboration between the wonderful artist and poet Patricia Wallace Jones, Beau Blue and his Blue's Cruzio Café, and me, animating my poem One Night, Light.

It made me think about the mixed-media possibilities for online poetry. I went to listen to the recordings of my poems that have appeared online and updated my website's Online Reader, which I'd like to rename Online Reader and Radio.

Billy Collins may have helped kick off this trend of animated poetry and mixed media spoken work, with his "The Dead." Whoever started it, it's a trend to watch. A really satisfying experience, to combine art and poetry, animation and poems.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Listening to poetry - Part 2

Thank you, Nic Sebastien, for featuring my reading of "I Spend an Afternoon with Monet" at Voice Alpha!

If you haven't spent time at Voice Alpha and Whale Sound, you're missing one of the most delicious poetry experiences you can have online.

So listen to some great poetry in April, as well as reading and writing it!

Some other places with the sounds of poetry are The Cortland Review and qarrtsiluni. More zines are getting on this bandwagon -- a very good thing for poetry! Any suggestions? I'd like to compile a list.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Listening to great poetry

Thanks to the wealth of free digital media, it's possible to incorporate listening to great poets read their work into your daily writing and reading practice. Last night i heard a great poet, Kim Addonizio, read, and it had a good effect on my approach to today's work. Here are some youtube clips. She read with the wonderful poet Susan Browne, and Kim also played some blues harmonica.

Kim Addonizio - Muse
Kim & Susan - several poems

And some of my other favorites:
Galway Kinnell - Oatmeal
Robert Hass -- I Am Your Waiter Tonight, and My Name Is Dimitri

And of course, I'm on Youtube too, though not great! (Yet. I'm working hard though.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Poet Interviews

Ren Powell is interviewed on Fiona Robyn's Writing Our Way Home blog.

I am fascinated with poets being interviewed, the questions asked and the answers given, opening windows into the intensely private and individual process of creating poems.

I have an upcoming interview on Fringe with the fascinating Jeannine Hall Gailey. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Kim Addonizio reading in Walnut Creek + How A Poem Happens

One of my favorite poets, and my teacher, Kim Addonizio, is reading at the Walnut Creek Library on Tuesday night. Here's the Contra Costa Times announcement. Should be a great evening. Music too!

Brian Brodeur's blog How a Poem Happens is great reading if you want the behind-the-scenes story of notable poems. This week's interviewee is Gray Jacobik, with Brian asking questions about revision, the trigger for writing, what part inspiration plays, and all those wonderful things we talk about endlessly when poets get together.

Happy April poem-writing! (Or revising.)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Big Poetry Book Giveaway Continues

You can enter here, to win either my book or Dorianne Laux's, or go to Kelli Russell Agodon's site for links to lots of poets giving away one copy of their book + one copy of another poetry book at the end of April. To enter, just leave your name and email!

Hope April Poetry Month finds you drafting, revising, reading, and networking with other poets! I'm going to an online workshop this afternoon.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Big Poetry Book Giveaway a Hit!

Kelli Russell Agodon's brainstorm of the Big Poetry Book Giveaway appears to be taking hold, with lots of poets hosting a giveaway on their sites, and of course I'm giving away two books to the winner of a drawing here. You can find lots of links on Kelli's site, and there's still time in April to launch your own!

My friend David Israel has a charming verse up on his blog this morning. Maybe you can use a line from it as a prompt for today.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Poetry prompts for today + E.E. cummings

The Writing Site has a good list of poetry-writing prompts for children at different grade levels. If you're teaching this April and want to include a section on poetry, this article might be useful. I'm all for kids getting into poetry early. I did, with Dylan Thomas, the Japanese haiku poets, and even Wallace Stevens (couldn't make head or tail out of the poems but I loved the sounds the words made and some of the stranger words).

Speaking of early impressions, this E.E. Cummings poem

made its mark on me when I was an early teen. The fresh use of words and syntax opened my eyes to new possibilities.

The photo exercise is another prompt. Select a photo and write a poem from it. I wrote one, am going to try another this week.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Alchemist's Kitchen

I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Susan Rich's fine poetry collection, The Alchemist's Kitchen. My review is up in the current issue of Valparaiso Poetry Review. This is a delicious book (kitchen pun intended), brewing up travel, transformation, and mind-watering meditations on a range of subjects. Hope you like the review -- better yet, get the book.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Memoirs of a Rocket Kid & Fathers

Thinking about my father today, so I thought I'd post an excerpt from my memoir Rocket Lessons about growing up as a Rocket Kid.

Like the men who built the railroads, Dad was an adventurer. In space, what mattered was audacity, not polish. Manners were not part of the calculation set. But my father was not even as calm as other rocket engineers. He was blessed with a thundering voice and a quirky nervous system that did not permit him to sit down for more than half an hour, unless he was too depressed to get out of bed. His Depression-era childhood made him imagine he fit into working class San Pedro. He saw himself as similar to the Europeans who had come here in the 1900s to create what you could call a fish rush. But Dad was nothing like the slow-moving Slavs and Italians. Dad's voice preceded him by two rooms' length and he never stopped talking. He prided himself on being in the elite vanguard. He had received his top secret clearance, shaken Louis Dunn's hand and met Werner von Braun. The Russians were launching missiles that could put nuclear bombs in our back yards, and that gave everyone at STL a permanent headache. No wonder Dad's twitch was getting worse.

We had no idea how high the stakes were. No one yet envisioned men on the moon and satellite-deflected communication. We used rotary dial phones with cords. If you had to call France, you sent a telegram. There were three channels on our black and white television, and none came from farther than the transmission towers in Baldwin Hills. All we knew was that Dad was strung tighter than piano wire. When he came home from Florida he reverberated like the top-hat in a drum set.

"Dolph's got my ass in a sling. Ga-dam bean counters wouldn't reimburse me for the raincoat I lost. Next expense report, I'll say, okay, you sons-a-bitches, go ahead and cross off the raincoat – if you can find it. It's in there. Only it ain't called 'raincoat.' Geezacrist, if we don't get this payload into orbit, I can move to Rosarita Beach and fish all day."

He jumped up and wandered around the living room, inspecting the furniture as if to find fault. My mother smoothed her apron and rubbed her lips together to spread lipstick the way she did when guests arrived, but she did not have lipstick on. Dad repeated gleefully, "Move to Rosarita! Fish all day!"

She emptied the ashtray into the bowl of discarded peanut shells and took it to the kitchen, looking like she wanted to go on out the back door and never return. But she did come back to put the ashtray on the table. Her eyes seemed to have lost color. Dad's job was taking a toll on all of us. A different father came home from every trip. His gaze seemed more pointed, his hair shorter and twitch worse, his searchlight of criticism sweeping the room.

"Let's see that report card," he demanded of me one night. The martini glass was empty. We heard the clang of pot lids, Mom at the frenetic stage of making dinner. I ran to my room, got it and proudly handed it over. He scrutinized my straight A's. Raising his chin, he peered down at me as if he expected one of the A's to wiggle around and become an F.

"Aha, aha … okay. Okay, good." He gave me a look. "Now don't rest on your laurels."

I was in second grade. I just stared.

After the next launch, his face was the color of his cigarette ash. Settled on the couch, he slurped his drink in silence, spitting olive pits into the dish and often missing.


Here's a great poem about a father by Theodore Roethke:


The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Big Poetry Book Giveaway

I'm participating in the wonderful Poetry Month event Kelli Russell Agodon is organizing, the Big Poetry Book Giveaway. I'm offering my own book, Femme au chapeau, and also Dorianne Laux's What We Carry, a book I think essential to any poetry library.

To enter my giveaway, leave a comment here and be sure to include your email address. I'll print out your names and fish the two winners out of a bowl on May 1, then let you know who the winners are and ship the books!
If you want to participate with your own giveaway blog, check out Kelli's page.

Details, details

Ted Kooser in Poetry Home Repair Manual on the value of details in a poem: 

  • It's the details that make experiences unique and compelling. It s watching one particular old woman in a cardigan sweater burn wallpaper in a barrel, pushing it down and down with a crowbar.

Finely detailed writing won't make it a poem, but it will bring the reader into the scene, whatever scene you're setting, so that you can perform whatever magic poetry can effect within the scene.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

First drafts are not yet poems

I was stunned to look at Elizabeth Bishop's early draft of her famous villanelle, "One Art." It was such a shapeless mess that had I penned it, I would have thrown it away not long afterward as being hopeless. Yet Bishop was one of the most dogged revisers the art of poetry has ever known. She claimed to have taken 20 years to revise "The Moose." This article gives a peek at her 17 extant drafts of "One Art."

Friday, April 01, 2011

April - National Poetry Month in the U.S.

It's become a tradition to join the April Poetry Month Poem-A-Day challenge. I've done it for several years. This year, I plan to revise a poem a day. The last thing I need is more unfinished drafts. If you want to generate new work, here are a few sites offering ways to celebrate: - 30 Ways to Celebrate
For Teachers
The Official NaPoWriMo site -- the biggest and most comprehensive, listing 280 related sites
Poetic Asides hosting NaPoWriMo
The Gazebo at the Alsop Review - hosting NaPoWriMo

I plan to blog every day a little something to help -- a prompt, a site, a thought. Happy writing and reading! (Don't forget the reading.)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Places That Verb Your World - Around the World

I'm happy to be a pin on the literary map of one of the more exciting journals online, Fringe. Here's my Mt. Diablo pin-drop verse. Just scroll down on the left side of the world map to read my lines.

Fringe is always coming up with interesting ideas, genres, and literary work. Disclaimer: I do interviews for Fringe. Still, I'm entitled to my opinion, and it's that you should check out Fringe. Their Maps issue is fun and their blog is full of surprises and delights.

In other news, I've been at work on my novel, which means a delightful mental sojourn in Northern Italy. Today I've been visiting the Hermitage in Assisi, where Saint Francis lived and preached to the birds. How lucky to get to take breaks in Italy! I'll have to set my next book somewhere fun. Maybe southern Italy! A little research will be required, however.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Double rainbow

In the po-biz, some days you get the lowering clouds and some days, the double rainbow. The trick is to keep sending them out, no matter how discouraging it can be. I've been circulating a manuscript for over two years now, and as it goes out, it evolves, especially if an editor made comments in the process of rejecting it.

Yesterday I went walking after the storm had abated in the early evening, to find myself arched by an enormous, perfectly formed and brilliant double rainbow. I thought of the way one or two acceptances after a long, difficult season of submitting, can restore your faith in your own writing. That faith (and the concomitant persistence) is the key to improving your work. Nice to get such a picturesque reminder!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Acceptance and Rejection - The Coin

The two-sided coin buys you into the game of publishing, but really it's more like a 17-sided coin, with only one reverse: 17 turn-downs for every acceptance.

With that as my best average, I'm pleased to have had my poem "The Pearl" accepted recently by Indiana University Northwest's Spirits magazine, for their Spring 2011 issue.

And for that lovely news, I paid with the usual 17 rejection notes, some of them very pleasing for a rejection letter. Some were "please try again" letters, some let me know which poem they liked best. I always appreciate a little feedback on a rejection, as it makes me feel they really considered the work, and it made it to an editor with some decision-making power, not just the first round of (student) readers.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

New poetry presses - non-contest + Bly/Rumi reading

Find new non-contest poetry presses to submit your manuscript to! Several new entries on my page of poetry book publishers that read outside of contests. It seems as though more presses are accepting unsolicited submissions, though some charge a reading fee. But I think the tide of all-contest-poetry-publishing may be turning back to a more diverse way of finding new books and supporting presses. I don't mind a reading fee, especially if you're promised some feedback (Kore Press does this), and even if not, as long as my fee supports a press that publishes work I admire. And if it doesn't, I should ask myself why I'm submitting there!

A hilarious Robert Bly reading of Rumi on praise and catastrophe. (Thanks, Marian Haddad, for the link.)

For a bit gentler Rumi reading, here's Coleman Barks and music, with a poem, appropriately right now, that takes water as a theme.

Get well soon, Coleman Barks!

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Thousand Cranes for Japan

It's hard not to get whiplash this week, switching between disasters in Japan and the revolution in Libya. My heart still sends up many prayers to suffering Japan. Japan has a tradition of making paper cranes for luck, a tradition that found its way into one of my poems. Here's to recovery in Japan:

At the Thousand Cranes Auto Repair

The women were making and the men waiting
in the room provided. Folding a square piece of gold,
the Japanese woman looked up from behind
her sunglasses and said: A thousand paper cranes.
For a party. For luck. The men’s eyes
fuzzed and snapped: NO TALKING to strangers
during auto repair. A woman with a fan of years
on her forehead moved across the space
to sit beside the folder, pleating the room.
Another question launched the tale
of the last thousand cranes, made at a dying
grandmother’s bedside. (Hers? Mine?
This woman might appear someday at your bed—
for luck, she would say) Everyone was listening
openly now. Their necks leaned in parallel.
Feet dropping down, they flew on story currents
and watched being after being take shape
and rise from luck-bending, blind invention’s
darting, dark skinned fingers.

-- Rachel Dacus
(originally published in Stirring)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ghost Hours

Ghost Hours

1. Spring Forward
The government’s at it again, tampering time.
We stagger behind, wishing Salvador Dali minutes
would lag instead of leap. April, the month of taxes
and poetry, trails us like an urchin, asking for thanks
while we are thanked by the government
with jet-lag and loss of easeful dark.
Do you really expect us to pump
the big-top minutes in this shell game
with lifespan, this unsought forward-swap?
And where do the authorities keep
my acrobat hour? My purse’s emptiness
holds shadows and stars.

2. Stashed
Perhaps Congress has stashed the saved time
in a teak box inlaid with mother-of-pearl roses
and lined in dawn-like blue satin.
Or perhaps they use a big penny jar
shaped like a trumpeting elephant.
The lock in his triumphant, raised trunk.
Too many of us must have keys,
for every fall we find it looted
like the empty bank I once saw hung with a For Sale sign.
The silver-hinged vault lay open
for deposits of dust. Ghost hours
must have danced in that mouth at midnight.
I won’t put my overtime
in anything so mawed
or keep my memories under its picked lock.

3. Fall Back
When skeletons dance
and red devil leaves seesaw,
the clock spins backwards. Spring
forward, fall back, I repeat to timepieces
whose hands I wring.
The powers-that-save have conjured
the phantom hour. It imps my night, keeps
afternoons whirring like hummingbirds.
I see now why we must hoard every spark
of light against night’s snip-end and hold life
by the tail – the dark dot
of the question mark.

-- first appeared in The Atlanta Review

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Starting the day literary

I have a friend who closets herself in her study for two hours each morning before work in order to write. I don't ask her what "writing" includes. Does it mean dreaming as she looks out the window at the deer grazing in her yard, or preparing batches of poems to submit, or writing a book review, or shuffling through the pages of a file labeled "Poems in Progress," or lying back on the couch sinking into that state between dreaming and creating? For me, "writing time" includes all those things, and ever since I heard that my friend rose early in order to carve this silent, solitary space out of her busy day, I have tried to start my day in the dreamspace of creativity and even the po-biz parts of it that are necessarily attached to being a published writer.

When I tell friends that my grant writing goes better if I've worked first on a poem, they always laugh, as though poems and proposals were separate planets in the solar system of the mind. Of course, for me, writing can even include brisk walking, or taking a long shower, or reading. It's a state of mind and time. And of course it also occurs in the pockets of the rest of the day, the slack tide moments when your mind doesn't have to focus on much (while washing dishes, for example), and you can return to that poetic problem you've been chewing on.

In case your writing time includes po-biz, here's a handy list of March contest deadlines:

Have a creative day!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Every Morning

Because it's that kind of day ...

Every Morning I Try

to pronounce a divine name perfectly, knowing
I can’t really say its swallow-swing
or enunciate the syllables a mockingbird
loops in medleys, can’t whisper vowels

of an airplane’s rhyming trail.
Names like that must be repeated
as a flower lets pollen fly. I should mimic
the closed bud’s wise pause.

My human mouth can hardly shape
the million-zinnia alpha letter, let alone
the final plosive dazzle –
but I can hum the consonants
of this green-button day –

and add several bandaged overtones
to the morning-setting moon,
echo two doves speaking
to my dog, who rolls and rolls
on the name’s final Ah.
Since I cannot make that pure sound,

I will get down on the grass and roll with him,
then give the next being I meet
a courteous consonant
dangling an ocean vowel.

First appeared in The Cortland Review

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Twice As Much

I woke up feeling that today will allow a great deal of creative thought -- thanks to some mysterious force, the laws of which we haven't yet discovered. This poem, which originally appeared in Eclectic Journal, is my ode to those unknown, expansive forces.

Twice As Much Starlight

The universe, say surprised astronomers, has twice as much accumulated starlight as can be explained by all the known stars and galaxies. -- Newspaper article, 1998.

This can only mean
a hidden conflagration
burns in the cosmic whirl.
Where can it live, this occult fire --
not at the center
galaxies are escaping.
Not at the frontiers of space
where new suns are pioneered.
So where does the pure pulse
of light beat,
how does it race out of nowhere,
like a night light
the void itself switches on?
Leave it to science to find evidence
that deep in the spin
of atoms is a tiny sun, a heart
of radiance. Let the measuring mind
find the measureless through theoretical
mathematics, I only know
I have lived through days
when there is twice as much love
as people around me to explain it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The inevitable process

We've had two family members with dementia, possibly Alzheimer's, in the last few years. My father died a year and a half ago from it, and his wife now has it. Having been appointed her conservator, I feel as if I've now acquired a new, ninety-year-old child. Her well-being is my responsibility. While she dazes off into the eternal present, I pay bills and handle legal matters, locate doctors and confer with geriatric specialists. Thank God my brother is co-conservator and can share all this! I wrote a lot of poems about my father's condition and how it was to lose him inch by inch. This morning, I'm thoughtful about losing her the same way. Here's one of the poems that made me change my attitude toward the whole adventure. (Included in the wonderful anthology Beyond Forgetting):

At the Easel with Alzheimer's

My father is painting in the basement: blue,
green, yellow. The cinderblock wall’s white-
wash is tanned with dust and the ocean view
obscured by a flapping sheet of vinyl. It fights

the wind. He says he's inspired to blue. My phone call
came to his studio and I was greeted: I know you.
You’re the pharmacist, right? The pall
on his memory has not dimmed his bad taste

in jokes or how at the easel he’s always affable
over the scribble of boar’s bristle, the give
of canvas to brush. I skip over laughable
lapses, as when he asks me where I live

and then pretends he was kidding. Name-
dropping, his mind grows patches, nicks
and spores like the salt on his aluminum
windows that will eventually make them stick.

Painting down there, his panes always closed
to keep it warm and dry, not a hint of sea
outside. What are you working on? His nose
nearly on the canvas, he can only say,

It’s getting better, going somewhere. It’s green,
blue, and not as grim as it sounds. His brain
grows lacy and colors squirm like the skeins
of yarn above the basement washing machine.

I’m frightened of how much he forgets,
this new breeze that unzips our history,
but I say, Don’t fight the wind. Be a net.
Catch the world by letting the knots slip.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Best of the Web nomination

These are the moments when I truly begin to wonder about my memory, but actually I think if I did get an email about this, my spam filter ate it. Because I'd remember THIS! My poem "Mesmer" was nominated by that marvelous zine, Pirene's Fountain, for Best of the Web 2010 (Dzanc Books). Thanks, editor Ami Kaye, and others on the Pirene's team. I'm just delighted. And my apologies for not thanking you sooner! Here's the poem:


Rain can be like Chopin, all piano strings
and syncopated pauses, geometry
of blings under wheels and rubber heels.
Sudden baptism from branches.
Drooled harmonies. On your neck, wet
strings slithering like kisses. Rings
around drops that plop into pools: ting,
ting, ting, ting
. Scriabin zithering
loss up your edges, a soul-cling,
foreboding’s cold feathering.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

This and That

Got the new issue of Off the Coast, with my poem "Anniversary" in it. Nice to see the poetry of some friends in the same issue. Good-looking journal! I'm pleased to have work in it.

In other po-news, Soundzine is now reading for its next issue. It 's a print-and-sound zine, with readings of all the poems by the poets.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Why Rocket Kids?

A long, long time ago, in a life that now seems faraway, my agent suggested I start a blog to help promote the memoir we hoped to soon sell, my book Rocket Lessons. In that book, I wrote about growing up as the daughter of a bipolar rocket scientist in the Cold War era (think Dr. Strangelove).

Things have a way of evolving, and my writing evolved more in the direction of poetry than prose, with an intervening poetry collection, Femme au chapeau, absorbing more of my promotional space and time continuum than Rocket Lessons, which my agent and I finally agreed would make a great SECOND book. Problem now: write my FIRST book.

In the intervening six years I did write that first book. Turns out it has nothing to do with rockets or kids. And now I'm stuck with this lousy blog title. Or maybe great blog title, for someone else.

But I like the implication of zooming, and in the spirit of the original title, here's an excerpt (actually an outtake) from what I hope to be my second book, a little piece about a lovely little spot in San Pedro, my oceanside hometown in southern California.

The Lifeguard's Museum

Natural beauty was not one of the reasons my mother loved to spend a summer day on Cabrillo Beach. It was simply a good place to park your children. We ran pleasantly and safely amok in a crowd of kids on the small triangle of warm sand between the pier and the breakwater. Cabrillo Beach was a tiny San-Pedrans-only place that was so safe it was not long before my mother let Davey and me go there by ourselves. She was reassured by the surveillance of friendly but stern lifeguards under the direction of John Olguin, captain of lifeguards. With a fatherly smile as unvarying as summer sun, John made the beach friendly and safe, so that our parents did not have to watch us too much. He showed us how to respect, but not fear the ocean. John was a San Pedro legend because he had once swum the twenty-six mile Catalina Island Channel. These days, everyone thought of John just as the nicest guy anyone had ever met. You knew if you got into trouble in the water that John's boys would pull you out.

One day, John had had the idea of a marine museum and set up a couple of tables in the long deserted Beach Bathhouse. The gracious old Mediterranean style Bathhouse, with its red tile roof, thick adobe walls and red tile floor had been built in the 1930's at the end of the streetcar line that ferried beachgoers to San Pedro. The building was now gathering dust and sand. John, the official for the facility, had a key. No one objected when he took over the Bathhouse to create a marine museum, though a few people shook their heads and smiled. He swept out the sand, hung photographs of the largest fish ever caught at Norm's Landing, gathered skeletons of large tuna and arranged table-top exhibits of tide pool habitat. He put up a sign advertising free admission and -- Voila! -- a museum, San Pedro style – that is, fast and economical. With the right entrance fee, it quickly acquired an audience of children.

Mom drove me and Val and Davey to Cabrillo Beach almost every day of the summer. Davey was allowed to accompany us because he was willing to carry our towels and the bag of soft drinks. When sun-bathing became unbearable and the squawk of gulls tiresome, the three of us often traipsed uphill to wander through the museum. I was especially drawn to the display of sand dollars, those furry cookies that house teethed creatures that eat seaweed and bury themselves in the sand. The sand dollar, I learned, walks along the ocean bottom on tube feet. The babies have no feet when born, so they swim. This and other arcane ocean lore kept me coming back, and there were always new displays. One day, John hung on the wall a photo of himself wrestling in the surf with something long and feathery. It was labeled a sea-serpent. People whispered and winked, but they ran the photo in the San Pedro News Pilot on the front page. In the blurry snapshot it is hard to see the thing in the surf. It could be a sea serpent. In the museum, I found that scientific names are Latin, like the prayers in Sheila's church. The museum provided amazing discoveries: for example, that an octopus can walk out of the water and go hunting; that jellyfish have no eyes, ears or brain. In the quiet, sandy rooms, my flirtation with nature heated up.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New poetry presses - non-contest

I found a couple of small publishers that consider poetry manuscripts (or queries about manuscripts) outside of contests. Take a look at my page: Non-Contest Poetry Book Publishers. Please let me know if you know of others. I'd like to make this as comprehensive a resource as possible.

Hope your 2011 is starting off poetically!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Journals that focus on poetry of the spirit

I'm happy to have had my poems recently appear in these journals with a focus on poetry with a spiritual theme:

Now under the editorship of Maria Melendez, this print journal describes itself as "a small magazine living the big questions; a community-in-print serving an eclectic fellowship of readers, writers, artists, naturalists, contemplatives, activists, seekers, adventurers, and other kindred spirits." I like their emphasis on the natural world.

Ruminate Magazine
An attractive print journal that looks for poetry and prose pieces that "resonate with the complexity and truth of the Christian faith ... literature and art that speaks to the existence of our daily lives while nudging us toward a greater hope. Because of this, we strive to publish quality work accounting for the grappling pleas, as well as the quiet assurances of an authentic faith"

And I've had work in past issues of the gorgeous print journal Image:
Image Journal 
"Art, faith, mystery." Their inclusion of full-color art work and articles on the visual arts makes this journal an appealing read.

So far, I've never made it into the pages of these magazines, but they're interesting spiritually-oriented journals:


Ruah/The Power of Poetry 

Of course, many American literary magazines include poems with spiritual themes, but there seem to be few that focus on spirituality. Kind of surprising in a country that has been described as one of the countries with the most people who describe themselves as religious or spiritual.

Any additions to this list? Maybe there's an opportunity here to start something new.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Poetry Presses on My Non-Contest List & Bloghops

My list of poetry publishers who read outside of contests has just grown, thanks to editor/publisher Adam Deutsch and his eagle eye (Cooper Dillon Books). I added:

Black Ocean Press
Four Way Books
Octopus Books
Steel Toe Books

Carolina Wren has closed poetry submissions and now reads only prose outside of contests.

Slowly recovering my blogroll. Today I added back Mary Biddinger's blog the word cage. I enjoy her images as well as her words.

Send me your blog! I can't remember everyone's blog, and left no forwarding address.