Thursday, March 27, 2008

We Moved!

Hi everyone,

In case you're looking for 9 to 5 poet, we have moved to another domain hosting site. You can find the blog here!



Saturday, March 22, 2008

Technical difficulties

Over the next few days, I am going to be trying to switch my domaiin over to wordpress. Please bear with me as it may create some technical difficulties. (Not to jinx it or anything.)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

On the First Day of Spring

The World

I say yes to a world with green meadows,
flowers, to lying in sun. I also
say yes to fury, rage, broken asphalt.
I say yes to a world with everything.

(March 18)

I decided to share this quatrain tonight, because I was thinking about the Big Yes Model. I know that sounds a little strange, but bear with me.

When I went to the education conference in Tennessee, Dr. Carla DiMarco was the keynote speaker. She is a psychologist and adult educator, and she was teaching us (a group of often overstretched student services administrators) about saying yes and saying no.

Her taught us how to use her Big Yes Model -- a way to quantify and visualize what you want to say yes to in your life. To simplify it, it's a grid that you fill in what you want to expend your precious energy on. You put your "Big Yeses" closer to your center. Then, you fill in your "flexible no's, " things that you may sometimes say yes to, but reserve the right to say no to. And finally, you fill in your "Big No's," the things that you never ever want to spend your time and energy on.

Simplistic? Yep, in a lot of ways. But, I was surprised by how many things in my Big Yes category that I ignore, let languish, or put off and by how many things in my Big No category that I live with. Overall, though, I was happy with how many of my Big Yeses I pursue.

So what are your Big Yes items? How are you honoring them today?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Notes on Keeping a Daily Practice

The biggest lesson I think I have learned (and relearned) through my writing practice is: It will come back. I am constantly repeating this mantra to myself the past few days, because I feel lucky whenever it comes back.

Natalie Goldberg has a line in Writing Down the Bones, which I used to share with my students back when I taught College Composition: "There is no security, no assurance that because we wrote something good two months ago, that we will ever do it again." I think writers live in this fear that the last good thing we wrote will be the last thing we will ever write. I know this is true for me. Every time I go through a dry patch, and this blog certainly shows that I go through lots of them, I feel like I'll never be able to write again. I'll never have that joy or inspiration in writing poetry again.

When this happens, I flog myself through what my friend Kate and I called in college Writer's Sludge. It's not a block, it's just a moment where everything I write is crap. If I'm writing at all. Towards the end of this winter, it hit me hard. (As I've been writing here ad nauseum.) The sad thing is, each time I go through it, even though I know it is temporary, it bums me out so much.

Luckily, I've been forcing myself through a daily practice. One quatrain (4 lines of ten syllables each) a day. They aren't miraculous, but they are writing. Forty little syllables are a great place to start, because frankly, they aren't initimidating. They're just words strung together, like beads. I write them on the bus on the way to work. Now, to be honest, I only write them on work days in which I take a bus, so I'm averaging four or five a week. But still, it is better than the nothing I had been writing earlier.

I've never been a huge proponent of daily practice, because of the aforementioned Writer's Sludge, but dammit these little forty syllable pieces are working. To make matter even better, I stumbled on a project to do with these little quatrains. Putting these two ideas together, and I'm enjoying writing again. Hallelugiah! I'm thinking of my project when I'm not writing... and not with dread! With actual joy and inspiration.

So now that I'm enjoying writing again (this week) and producing something regularly again (this week), I'm toying with the idea of engaging in National Poetry Writing Month, after reading about it on Poet Mom. Am I a crazy masochist? Will I regret it? Will my writing continue to feel fresh? Probably yes and no to all of the above.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Working Together on the Web

A close friend of mine from college, Kate, has launched a new site with a friend of hers called Wednesday Machine Arts Collective. This site's goal is to bring artists and writers together in a virtual arts festival. They plan on connecting artists of different genres together to collaborate on their work. How the collaboration takes shape is up to the artists.

To me, this is one of the best uses of the online arts community -- to connect writers and artists from around the world to work together. I'm really excited to see how Wednesday Machine takes shape.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

After a Long Absence...

...our sun has finally returned. I never thought that a long stretch of cold weather would affect me so much. But now that the sun is returning, I'm having some serious spring fever.

Which leads me to creating. I'm starting a new project, which I'm not quite ready to unveil yet. (I want to make sure I stick to it first.) I'm finishing up submissions for Asphalt Sky, so the new issue should be out by the end of April. And, I baked muffins for breakfast last weekend. Even though they came out of a box, they sure are pretty.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Poetry Book Club for April

I am very pleased to announce that Deborah Keenan's Willow Room, Green Door has been selected for our April Poetry Book Club book.

Deborah has been a fixture in the Twin Cities literary scene for many years, and she fosters younger poets' talents through her work at Hamline University's Master of Fine Arts program and the Loft Literary Center. She's also a founding member of the Laurel Poetry Collective. Obviously, I'm biased, because I am a former student of Deborah's and I have a lot of admiration for her talent and generosity.

I'll post the conversation post on Monday, April 7. Until then, happy reading!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Drawing Cards

When I was in high school in California, I taught myself how to read tarot cards. It was my first step into my own independent, spiritual practices, and it opened up doors for me.

I don't read cards as much any more, mostly because I feel like I've answered my questions for now, but I still remember what it felt like to learn how to read them. So, when read. write. poem. had a prompt to interpret dream symbolism through tarot (among other methods), I was immediately transported back to that time.

Here is the daily quatrain that resulted:

Three of Swords

Everything was too big for me: width and
length of the deck in my hands, the questions
I tried to answer. Three steel swords piercing
my fragile pink heart. Too big, the burdens.

Note: If you click on the title, you can read an interpretation of the card. The picture is of the different "Three of Swords" cards from my personal decks.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

New Matthea Harvey Review

Over at Poetry Foundation, Jeannine Hall Gailey just posted a fantastic interview with Matthea Harvey. If you want to know about some of Harvey's artistic influences, check it out!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Reading List 2008: Colonialism in a Memoir

Over my business trip, I finished Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir Eat Pray Love. (331 pages) While I enjoyed reading her spiritual/personal/emotional journey, I felt a little icky reading it.

Let me explain. I definitely think there is some strength and power in her act of taking time out of her (love) life in order to center herself spiritually and find balance in her life. However, I have two problems with her project.

First, in order to find herself she needs to leave America (fine) and immerse herself in another culture (also fine). But the way in which she insinuates herself into the culture -- simultaneously adopting and fetishizing their way of life -- seemed a bit offensive. I felt a little like I was reading a British women in the nineteenth century having her one last fling in Italy before going back to her staid normal life.

Secondly, I found her voice throughout the book to be a little annoying. There, I said it. I found myself admiring and loathing her, alternately. Now, the likability or charisma of a memoir's narrator is a huge part of the reading experience. In fact, it is probably the most important quality of the reading experience. She was kind of like that friend who leads a super-dramatic life and needs all of the attention all of the time.

Now, despite my above grievances, I did enjoy the book. I think she led some fascinating experiences, and I would love to have the opportunity to spend a year abroad. I'm wondering if anyone else out there had mixed feelings about the book, or if I'm just feeling some sour grapes.

Total For 2008: 1901 pages
Genres: Memoir (2), Essay (1), Graphic Novel (1), Non-Fiction (2), Poetry (2)

Poetry Book Club - a - palooza

So, we need to pick April's Poetry Book Club Book. I've posted the poll, which will be open until March 12. Considering the time it takes to order off of Amazon, or find a poetry book at bookstore, I'll be posting the conversation post on Monday, April 7.

Here are the options:

Deborah Keenan -- Willow Room, Green Door
Dorthea Lasky -- Awe
Rae Armantrout – Next Life
Bob Hicok – This Clumsy Living
Paul Guest – Notes for My Body Double

2008 Reading List: Swimming the Witch

Alright, so I have read Leilani Hall's Swimming the Witch. (74 pages) I just haven't posted my opinion on it yet. On my site. Last night, I wrote my review for read. write. poem., and the review will be appearing tonight at midnight. I'll post the link tomorrow morning when it's up (and I'm up).

Until then, my reading count is:

Total For 2008: 1570 pages
Genres: Memoir (1), Essay (1), Graphic Novel (1), Non-Fiction (2), Poetry (2)

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Late-Again Poetry Book Club Discusison Post: Swimming the Witch

Sorry for the late PBC discussion post. I was on a business trip to Tennessee, and didn't get back until yesterday. I'll have more to post later, but for now, we'll start the conversation.

Here are the discussion questions:

Overall, did you like the book? What about it did you like?

Were there specific poems that spoke to you? Which ones? Why?

Was there anything that confused you about the overall book? What was it?

Were there any individual poems that confused you?

How would you describe the author's style? How did she use language to convey images, ideas, or voice?

How would you describe the structure of the book? Did you see any sense of movement or progression from one poem to the next?

Would you choose to read this author again? Why or why not?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Yes, I'm Slowly Healing

My Body's Slow Response

Each day, my small cut reduces, grows thick
with brown callous. Skin expands and contracts,
growing over a weeks-old mistake. Soon,
I won't remember life without this scar.

(February 26)

I wrote this quatrain today, in my brand new quatrain journal. I made the cover last night and downsized to a smaller, lined notebook, in an effort to commit myself to this project. The "found" quatrains on the cover, cobbled together from magazine ads and lines from Poetry magazine poems, read:

Among the things the body doesn't know
it is the dark box I return to most:
Luckily there's enough regrets.

There is no headline
No photograph, no
Only silence.

Imagine four
true wild

I hang your lips
like birdseed
outside my door.
What choice do I have?

let go
the snow
It's easy.

Tonight, my husband and I watched The Darjeeling Limited and this quatrain popped into my head again, when Owen Wilson's character unwraps all his bandages and says, "It looks like I have more healing to do." I like small syncronicities like these.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Home Team Wins the Girl Super Bowl

According to this article in the LA Times, Minnesotans are just like Europeans. Well, sort of. We both cleaned up at the Oscars! It wasn't particularly surprising, given the quality of their respective movies, but Minnesota natives Diablo Cody won Best Original Screenplay for cutest-movie-ever Juno, and Joel and Ethan Cohen won Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture for scary-and-brilliant No Country for Old Men.

I wonder if they had hotdish at their respective victory parties....

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Waiting for Spring

After weeks of dipping below zero, way below zero, it's 31 today and feels like summer. The sun is shining, the icy gray snow banks are beginning to melt, and I'm feeling like something should be loosening inside of me.

This winter has been rough -- rough on my skin, which seems to be chapped and flaking off in patches, rough on my creative life, since I don't feel like I have any creative projects really going. When it remains that cold for that long, I feel like I just shut down and retreat into a pseudo-hibernation. My thoughts skim the surface of eat-sleep-work-TV-repeat, without delving any deeper. While some people might be forced to a kind of self-reflection in winter, I simply harden and go into survival mode. I try to imagine what it was like to live here, before central heating, electricity, and the comfort of the metropolis. I wouldn't have been able to make it.

I'm hoping that this small glimpse of sunshine will help recharge my batteries a bit. I may even walk around one of my neighborhood lakes tomorrow, if it remains this warm. The sad thing is that I know it's only the end of February and we still have one more month (at least) to go.

So that I don't sound too much like Debbie Downer (meow, meow -- for those of you who have seen the sketch), here is a list of the small joys I've had in the last couple of weeks...

Season One of How I Met Your Mother -- Predictable, but hilarious
Season Two of Big Love -- Did I mention that I was watching TV)
My grudging enjoyment of Eat, Pray, Love
Going to my alma mater for graduate readings -- although they do make me feel like a slacker. There were many brilliant writers there including, Michele Campbell, Beth Mayer, and James Henderson, to name a few.
Kimya Dawson's Remember That I Love You
Seeing the orange sunrise in the gray sky in the morning
This article in last week's Onion -- I think it was written about my cats
Facebook's Texas Hold 'Em -- I suck, but I love it
The roasted garlic/crusty bread/cheese we're going to have with board games tonight (and the beer)
My impending trip to Tennessee next weekend -- please let it be over 40 degrees
Being able to sign up for cell phones with Credo when I return

Okay, I'm starting to feel like I can handle four or five more weeks of winter. I think.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Reading List 2008: Promoting Peace through Education

I just finished reading Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time (337 pgs) by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. I was smart enough to read this book for double purposes: a book club at work and my March review for Uptown Neighborhood News. Which I have to write tomorrow. And will post a link to, once its available online.

Since I don't want to squander my enthusiasm for this book before the review, let me just give a brief recommendation. If you are interested in the humane solutions to the real roots of terrorism or if you care about human rights issues around the world or if you want to learn more about Pakistani and Afghani culture, read this book. Also, if you want to feel like a lazy slob who could do more good in the world, read this book.

Total For 2008: 1496 pages
Genres: Memoir (1), Essay (1), Graphic Novel (1), Non-Fiction (2), Poetry (1)

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Review I Wish I Wrote

David Orr has written a truly lovely review of Matthea Harvey's Modern Life, last month's PBC selection. I think he captures the strengths, flaws, and spirit of Harvey's book perfectly. This is truly the kind of review a writer would murder another writer for, or some other dastardly deed.

Back into Practice

These past couple of weeks, I've been doing many things, but writing isn't one of them. I've been keeping up with my articles, for the most part, but I have stopped my daily writing on the bus and I haven't been able to regularly keep up with prompts from read. write. poem.

So, I've decided to change my daily writing practice a bit. I haven't enjoyed the morning pages, so I've decided to write one syllabic quatrain a day. I began writing syllabic quatrains in graduate school while writing my thesis, because I figured, if I could get out at least 40 syllables, that was good enough. Several times, I've written quatrains around a theme and then brought them together in one poem. Right now, though, I'm not thinking that far ahead. I'm merely trying to get my hand moving.

So, I began writing quatrains on Thursday, and I now have three. Funny enough, they all center around the last RWP prompt of sacrifice, so I'm submitting them belatedly for RWP. (I haven't even started on my ode, which is due on Monday.) I may not publish my daily quatrains every day, but I will try to post the ones that I've found interesting.

On Sacrifice

When wanting, I'm left with the metal
tang of blood on my tongue, remnants of skin
clipped from cuticle, chewed from the soft
flesh of my cheek. I never wanted more.

(Tuesday, February 12)
* * *

I've lived with less, intentionally, less
creased books and wrinkled receipts, less shopping
malls crammed with clothes. I laid myself prostrate
on acrylic counters, begged for my price.

(Wednesday, February 13)
* * *

Today, I woke from weeping dreams, hiccups
and sighs I've hoarded for years. I only
recall bright glimpses of someone else's
treasures, glittering hopes I've long since lost.

(Thursday, February 14)

Monday, February 11, 2008

In Six Words

I've had an eventful morning, to say the least. While working out, I read my Time Magazine, which contained a short sidebar column about a new book, Not Quite What I Was Planning. In this book, people sum up their life story in 6 words. My favorite that Time excerpted was Joan River's quote, "Liars, hysterectomy didn't improve sex life!"

Being the good little blogger I am, I thought: What a great concept! This would make an interesting post. So, I started thinking about what my 6 words would be. Visions of my six word sentences drifted in and out of my head while I finished my push-ups. Even while I was making my breakfast of a cinnamon raisin bagel, I was still pondering the six words.

Until the knife slipped and a flap of skin opened on my left thumb tip. Then, of course, language left me. I went to the bathroom, washed off the cut -- still blooming with blood, and called my husband to tell him I was going to the clinic. Luckily, the clinic is two blocks from my house (yay city living), and the doctor stitched me up within an hour.

The nurses and doctor laughed at me/with me when I told them that I had worked at a bagel shop during college. This was also the summer that I had the worst accident record at the bagel shop, and got stitches on my thumb, during my vacation at Winnipeg Folk Festival when cutting an apple. (The cut was so deep I saw what fat looked like when it is inside your body. Kind of like cottage cheese.) It was then, in that moment of giggling, that I came to my six words, which sum up my life:

Some stitches, not too many scars.

So what are your six words? And how has your morning been?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Belated Kudos

My mentor from graduate school, Deborah Keenan, was nominated for Minnesota Book Award this year for her book Willow Room, Green Door. Keenan is an accomplished poet and teacher, with eight books to her name. (My favorite is Happiness.) It is long overdue that Deborah is recognized for her amazing poetry!

Buy her book today!

Friday, February 8, 2008


I've been busy, as you probably know. But that's no excuse for the backlog of posts that I planned on posting these past weeks. So, here is a lame attempt to catch up.

I have several articles I've published recently that I haven't shared with you, including an interview with Kirsten Dierking, author of Northern Oracle (pg of the PDF); a review of Kevin Kling's The Dog Says How (also pg 4); and a review of Matthea Harvey's Modern Life.

Whew! I feel better, now that I've caught up.

I will write an actual post sometime this weekend. It may contain something about poetry.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Votes Are In!

No, not the presedential election. That's yesterday's news. The Poetry Book Club book has been selected for February/March.

We are reading Swimming the Witch by Leilani Hall.

I'll launch the discussion on March 1. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Last Time I'll Bug You... Until Around October

If you live in a Super Tuesday State, please vote. Preferrably for Barack Obama, but vote your conscience, your mind, and your heart.

By the way, another important vote ends today. You only have 12 hours to weigh in on our February/March Poetry Book Club book. Vote!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Oh My God, I Actually Wrote a Poem

It's barely on prompt from read. write. poem., but I'm just proud I actually wrote a real poem. Whew.


Salt water melts
at a lower temperature and yet
here I am, clothed
in a carapace of ice. It started
slowly, as it always does. My eyes
shedding narrow rivulets against
the wind. Icicles grew on the tips
of my eyelashes, hung in sharp relief
against the night sky. Once they stretched
over the cool hollow of my sockets, touched
my exposed skin, it was too late.
My vision was soon obscured by layers
of gray white ice. I huddled
deep inside of myself, loosening my skin
against the husk that eveleoped me.
Waiting here, shivering but not shattering,
I conserve my heat and pray
to break against the frozen street.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

What We Did Today, Beneath a Jumbotron

Since we're precinct captains, we got "rockstar" seating at the Target Center Obama rally today -- standing room on the floor. While my whole body aches from standing in line for 2 hours, then standing in the Target Center for another 2 hours, and craning my neck up to watch Obama on the Jumbotron we stood beneath, it was an awesome experience to hear him speak in person. I even got to see him without a mediating screen between people's heads, towards the end of the speech.

Super Tuesday, here we come.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Poetry Book Club Discussion: Matthea Harvey's Modern Life

... a day late. Sorry for the delayed discussion post, but I've been busy prepping for Super Duper Tuesday. (Please vote or caucus, if you're in a Super Tuesday state.)

At any rate, here are the questions:

Overall, did you like the book? What about it did you like?

Were there specific poems that spoke to you? Which ones? Why?

Was there anything that confused you about the overall book? What was it?

Were there any individual poems that confused you?

How would you describe the author's style? How did she use language to convey images, ideas, or voice?

How would you describe the structure of the book? Did you see any sense of movement or progression from one poem to the next?

Would you choose to read this author again? Why or why not?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

It's So Cold...

...only my eyes were showing, through the folds of wool scarf.

...while I was waiting for the bus tonight, my eyes teared up.

...I wiped away the tears, afraid of them turning into tiny icicles, or sealing my eyes shut.

...I thought about spitting on the ground to see if it would freeze, but I didn't want to waste the heat. whole body tensed into a hard, shivering rock. muscles ached from bracing myself.

...I'm still not warm.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Help Pick the February/March Poetry Book Club Book

While discussion on January's Poetry Book Club, Matthea Harvey's Modern Life, will commence on January 31, it's time to pick February/March Poetry Book Club book. So, the poll's up, and here are links to our five options:

Rae Armantrout – Next Life
Mary Ruefle – Indeed I Was Pleased With the World
Anna Moschovakis – I Have Not Been Able to Get Through to Everyone
Graham W. Foust – Necessary Stranger
Leilani Hall – Swimming the Witch

I must be in an odd mood, because many of these books are a little "different," to use a Minnesota euphemism. But, I think they'll all create an interesting discussion. Please vote by February 5, so that we can get ready to discuss the book by March 1. Happy voting!

Reading List 2008: Terror & Robots

Okay, so I finished January's Poetry Book Club book several days ago, but I just realized I have to put it up. My short review: Matthea Harvey Rocks.

You can read a much less abbreviated response to Matthea Harvey's Modern Life (80 pages) in two ways. On January 31, we'll have our Poetry Book Club discussion. And, on the first Tuesday of January, I'll post a more formal review of the book on Read. Write. Poem.

Total For 2008: 1159 pages
Genres: Memoir (1), Essay (1), Graphic Novel (1), Non-Fiction (1), Poetry (1)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Reading List 2008: Making Time to Read

Have you ever experienced a “doomdart”? A doomdart is when a responsibility or obligation you’ve forgotten suddenly and unexpectedly pops into your brain. Immediately after you remember this important but neglected task and you feel a wave of stress and nausea wash over you. If you’re like most people, overloaded and stressed out, you’ve experienced a doomdart, without having a name for it. Dr. Edward Hallowell’s award winning book CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! (256 pages) not only names common problems like doomdarts, but offers tangible solutions to living overloaded lives.

Dr. Hallowell explains that as culture, we have undergone a dramatic shift in our intellectual energy, with the integration of communication technology (like internet, cell phones, and PDAs) and the expansion of the traditional 40-hour work week. As an expert on Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), he demonstrates that most of us adopt ADD-like traits in order to function at a breakneck speed. However, most people don’t function at full capacity because their attention is simply stretched too thin.

Dr. Hallowell provides solutions for not only surviving but thriving in a world where we have so many responsibilities and gadgets competing for our attention. Most importantly, he encourages us to be selective in how we choose to spend our time. Are we matching our output with our intention? If we are spending too much time on activities we don’t enjoy, or that don’t give us rewarding experiences in return, we should minimize these activities as much as possible.

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who feels stretched too thin, which would be all of us. It's an excellent description of our modern lives and offers interesting solutions to our dilemma.

Total For 2008: 1079 pages
Genres: Memoir (1), Essay (1), Graphic Novel (1)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Reading List 2008: WWMcD?

My husband encouraged me to read the graphic novel Shooting War by Anthony Lappe & Dan Goldman (192 pages). So I read a little every night before going to bed. This was not a bright idea, because I got horribly vivid dreams about the Iraq War.

Let me back up -- Shooting War works on the premise that it is now 2011. The Iraq War hasn't stopped, John McCain is president, and one videoblogger is sent to cover the war for a CNN/Fox-News-type network, after a brief brush with a sort of morbid fame. Said videoblogger gets mired in the complexities and lies of the war, all while trying to rediscover his journalistic integrity.

What's scary about this is that it doesn't feel science-fiction-y in the least. The predictions are scarily authentic and the politics, while extremely left-leaning, show awareness of the multitudes of gray areas in this war.

I would highly recommend this book, if you like political writing or graphic novels.

Total For 2008: 823 pages
Genres: Memoir (1), Essay (1), Graphic Novel (1)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

When Poetry Critics Attack!

According to this New York Times article, the recent transcription of Robert Frost's Notebooks is being contested by two critics.

Apparently, the editor of the notebooks couldn't read Frost's handwriting correctly, and one critic found over 100 errors in his work. The editor assumed that Frost was misspelling some words intentionally and let the misspellings stand. The critics dispute the readings and insist that Frost was correctly spelling different words.

So, was Frost a bad speller or is the editor a bad decipher-er? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Coming soon... The Attack of the Illegible Handwriting!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Poet is a Verb: Prioritize

Lately, I haven't been writing as much poetry as I would like. I understand that this is a temporary situation. Since I've been paying closer attention to my writing habits, I've noticed that my writing output seems to ebb and flow. There are times when I'm "on" and I write up a storm, 2-3 poems a week. And then there are times when I stumble along, writing little to nothing. I can't predict when these happen, other than to say that one tends to follow the other.

I've learned that I just need to relax into the writing slump, and trust that the writing will return. So, instead of writing, I've been doing other things, including reading, writing articles, and volunteering my time. (Besides working my job, naturally.) One of the many books I'm reading now is CrazyBusy by Ned Hallowell. Dr. Hallowell is a leading researcher on Attention Deficit Disorder and this book follows the trend of multitasking and spreading yourself too thin as the new social norm. It's very enjoyable and easy to read and I find myself in some of his descriptions. Okay, lots of his descriptions.

Here's one that particularly hit home for me:

"If being busier than I'd like to be is the price I have to pay, most of us seem to say, then so be it. After all, modern life is worth it. Life's never been this exciting.

But if we're not careful, we'll get so busy that we forget to take the time to think and feel. We won't have the extended periods of time required to complete a thought, develop a conversation, or reflect upon a complex set of emotions."

This passage reminded me of W.S. Merwin's quote about poetry that I posted last week. Perhaps, rather than filling my time with other activities when I'm not writing, I should be slowing down. Perhaps my slightly addictive multitasking is drawing energy away from writing.

Hallowell suggests prioritizing as a way to slow down. His argument is that you can only give your energy and attention to so many spheres of your life. After a certain threshold (and everyone's threshold is different), you become less effective. He says that you should know where your energy is going, rather than rushing around and spending it without thinking.

When I think about my priorities, I know that my energy tends to go to my lower, yet more insistent, priorities while my true priorities get ignored. I'm getting much better at this, but it is challenging to realign my actions with my intentions. If I had to prioritize my life right now, I would say that my top priorities are:

1) Marriage
2) Writing Pursuits (includes poetry, blogging, articles,in that order)
3) Work
4) Friendships
5) Volunteering
6) Other Creative Pursuits (includes reading, photography, and art making, in that order)

I am happy to say that my work is no longer #1 and I don't behave like it is. (Whew! Hooray for less stressful jobs.) Listing my priorities in this way, I'm not exactly sure what takes up my time. I watch a little too much TV, I spend a lot of time online, not blogging, but Facebook-ing and such. But I'm honestly not sure where it all goes. (Bad sign.) Notice TV isn't even on there!

This week, I'd like to spend my time closer to how my priorities are listed. While I believe I do a better job than I did a year ago, I certainly think I can do better. I am going to commit myself to a week of slowing down, and realigning my energies. I'm declaring this week, for me, Slow Down Week. I will try to spend my time working on my top priorities, rather than on the "other stuff" that seems to be rushing in.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

When Your Calendar Sends You Road Signs

From my Poetry Speaks Page-a-Day Calendar, for January 15:

"Any work of art makes one very simple demand on anyone who genuinely wants to get in touch with it. And that is to stop. You've got to stop what you're doing, what you're thinking, and what you're expecting and just be there for the poem no matter how long it takes."

-- W.S. Merwin

My first thought when I saw this, while checking emails and voicemail messages simultaneously: maybe I'm not stopping enough. After all, this was yesterday's quote.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Ripping Someone Off

This poem's form was inspired by Matthea Harvey's The Future of Terror series, which I wrote about yesterday. But more importantly, it was inspired by the trigger over at read. write. poem. You should run over there to check out other wonderful poems, written about "Traveling Companions."

On the Bus

Babbling babies drool in mommas' laps
buried beneath
layers of blue fleece blankets.
Sour, end of day bad breath

crowds the aisles, shared
carbon dioxide clinging
to our closed mouths. Cacophony
of overloud cell phone conversations,

diluted digital music streams
murmuring from dislodged iPod
ear buds. Dank lighting
drained of all color, but yellow. Don't

evade eye contact, don't
erupt into edgy rage. Never cross
the equator of your seat
even on days your coat's too long,

or your bag's too full. Forget
the time time table, finish line
of your final destination.
The faint whisper of Fuck, fuck, fuck,

from the gelatinous grandma up front,
her grating whine. Gracefully
embrace the gorge of the aisle
as the godforsaken bus shudders

to a halt. Here is your escape:
hop over the gray snow bank,
hear the hum of diesel engines,
hurtling down the street.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Close Reading of Sadomasochistic Poets

I just started reading Break, Blow, Burn by Camille Paglia, and I am already in love with it. Paglia is just one of those personalities that you love and hate, like the smart and pretty best friend who gets all the attention, and you want to just despise her, but you can't. Because she's pretty and brilliant. Whenever I read Paglia's prose, I'm prone to fits of envy and laughing.

Here are two examples.

From the introduction: "During the past quarter century, humanistic principles and honest practical criticism could reliably more be found among low-paid adjuncts faithfully teaching service courses at community colleges than among the vain, showy professoriat of the elite schools."

As a former adjunct wage slave and someone who probably will never rise to the level of professoriat... Amen!

And from her explication of "Daddy," which I flipped to first, naturally: "If Plath has no literary successors, she certainly has her peers -- but they are in popular music. I nominate Sylvia Plath as the first female rocker. ... The nihilistic wipeout of the last line of "Daddy" is also in the fractious rock spirit: it parallels the smashing or burning of guitars by the Yardbirds, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, the peak of expressiveness being a destruction of the instrument -- in the case of the poet herself."

I mean, can't you imagine it? Plath on a stage, burning her guitar? I'm sure I'll be quoting liberally from this book in the next few weeks. So, if I start mentioning Freudian phallic imagery and sadomasochism, you know now why.

Post Script: I typed in Google Images "Rockstar Poet" to find a picture to go along with this, and found this website. I also found this site, when typing in Camille Paglia.

I give up. No pictures for this post.

Poems, from A to Z

I'm reading Matthea Harvey's Modern Life, in preparation for our Poetry Book Club discussion at the end of the month. So far, I am enjoying her slightly surreal take on the world.

One of the aspects of her book that intrigues me is her use of abecedarian (alphabetical) poems. Her series of poems, "The Future of Terror," use alphabetical lists of words embedded in the text to flesh out the descriptions. Most of the poems go from the letter "g" to the letter "s" or "t". It's a brilliant technique, because she stretches towards a unique vocabulary. In the poem I linked here, we get everything from garden gnomes to napoleons.

When I think of alphabet poems, I always think of the more formal style. Christina Rossetti's "An Alphabet", is emblematic of that style. Intended for children, it contains still hidden philosophical gems like, "I am I—who will say I am not I?" The beauty of the abecedarian poem is the way it forces the poet to fill in words, and surprise ourselves in the process.

Similar to my surprise and joy at Natasha Trethewey's mirror image poem, Myth, this new take on the alphabetical poem may inspire to write some actual poetry yet.

I hope you're enjoying Modern Life as much as I am!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The First Two Bite the Dust

Over the next year, I'm going to be keeping track of the books I'm reading and the resulting "pages" I've read. In the past two days, I've downed my first two books of 2008. They were:

Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama (453 pages)

The Dog Says How by Kevin Kling (178 pages)

Both were excellent. Obama is a surprisingly good writer and his story is touching and endearing. But I'm biased. I really was interested to see the formation of his political consciousness, from his childhood through young adulthood.

I'll post my review for Kling's book, after I've published it in the Uptown Neighborhood News. The short review, though, is that it is a very funny and easy read and a good insight into the Minnesota subconscious.

Total for 2008: 631 pages
Genres: Memoir (1), Essays (1)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Thinking About New Hampshire in a Different Way

Why do I love the New York Times? Because, today, they published an excellent editorial from Donald Hall about voting. Sort of. It was really about the weather in New Hampshire and the snowfalls of his childhood. Sort of. It was really really about the noise that has been invading his state for a year and a half, the noise that is unnatural and will be leaving in 24 hours. It's about how he's craving the silence in his state. Sort of. It's about all of these things.

What I love most about this editorial is not the sentiment. It's kind of typical --a childhood recollection, a smattering of quiet political observations, a longing for the political process to be about community, and a communion with nature. Some of these are already Hall's tropes. But it's the fact that in 2008, we can be on the eve of an important primary, and the Times gives space to see what Donald Hall can say to us that makes us think about it in a different way. That's the power of poetry. So, go read him pontificate.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Do Politics and Poetry Mix?

Here are some pictures of a collage I made while listening to the Republican and Democratic presidential debates on Saturday night. (The bottom right picture is of my cat, Said, who is named after Edward Said, not the Lost character.) Yes, that's exactly what I did on Saturday night. I listened to 10 politicians discuss their policy differences and played with magazine cut-outs, paper and paints. I think that's why the paper is red and blue.

I'm torn (no pun intended) on what to do with all of the interesting things I'm learning about the presidential race. I've decided to volunteer more heavily with the Obama campaign, something that I started to do back in December. It's exciting and fun and interesting, and I'm really enjoying being involved in the political process, for once in my adult life. For instance, we went to an awesome campaign rally in Minneapolis on Saturday and got to meet some very nice fellow supporters.

However, the campaign is quickly taking over my brain and I'm wondering whether or not it belongs on this blog. I thought about starting a new blog just for this section of my life, because (if we're lucky and successful) I'll be volunteering on this campaign almost all year. I've always envisioned this blog to be about my poetry and personal life, not my political practices. But now, they're all coalescing together.

The larger question I'm asking myself is whether or not politics and poetry and real life mix. To be honest, I've always written political poetry. But it's political ideology, not political reality. There's something that seems sort of messy and mundane about who's running for president, as opposed to the systems of our culture. The blog issue is just representative of the larger question. I could segregate the political stuff to a separate blog, so that I could see the easy division of these spheres of my life. (And also not annoy readers with any political polemic. I certainly don't want to bore people with policy issues if they're expecting free verse.) But the spheres aren't that separate. It wouldn't be authentic to separate them, because the I live it all together, which is why I was collaging while listening to debates. This is the shape of my life right now: poetry, real life, and politics, all smooshed into one.

Don't worry, I won't be writing sonnets about presidential politics. (There aren't that many rhymes for mandates or ethics anyway.) I just want to be authentically representing what's going on in my life. What's going on in my life, right now, is that I'm participating in democracy. And it's really fun!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Edgar and Annie, Sitting...

..on my desk. Edgar Allen Poe and Annabel Lee were a Christmas gift and now they're watching me type. I was so excited when I got them on Monday, that I kept telling people how Annie sleeps in a sepulchre by the sea. Yes, I know they're just dolls. But, I hope they come out with more in this series. Below is Poe's poem, which inspired the dolls and my inner dorkiness this past week.

Annabel Lee

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Belated New Year Goals

I've been bowled over by a wretched cold, so I've spent most of my days off blowing my nose and watching DVDs. But since I'm staring down the barrel of a brand new year, I figured I should review how I did on my last year's goals, and craft some new ones for 2008.

So at the beginning of 2007, I gave myself the following goals.

1) Write 3000 words/week. (Result: 159,000 this year.)

Mmm, this was when I was writing fiction. I stopped counting about 3/4 of the way through the year, but at last count, I was at 30,452. But, I was writing relatively consistently.

2) Work on getting published in journals once a month.

I submitted poems more sporadically, but had some good results, especially with articles.

3) Send out my book manuscript once every two months.

Didn't send it out once.

4) Maintain my blog consistently all year.

Success! I totally did that!

5) Make regular time in my life for my writing practice.

This is the one where I feel I've made the biggest strides. I've changed my job and schedule in order to write articles and poems. So, that's a good thing.

Reviewing this list, I realize that the ones that I did well on were more abstract goals. The concrete goals floundered pretty quickly.

With that said, here are some goals for 2008.

1) Work on getting my manuscript published.
2) Work on getting poems published.
3) Work on getting articles published.
4) Write and revise poetry consistently.
5) Maintain my blog and my journal for the year.
6) Read books that will feed my writing practice.

There's a little less accountability possibilities with these goals, but I think that they are all attainable. I think, in order to keep myself honest, I'll keep a poem count, article count, and reading count on this blog.

Here's to doing a little better this year.