Saturday, October 31, 2009

Full day & Play Ball!


Settling to watch the World Series game tonight.  Looking for a good game tonight with the series tied 1 game apiece and the series moves to Philadelphia.  Pulling for the Phillies!

Today was busy. Brought some work home from the office for the weekend.  Did some of it today and saved some for tomorrow.

Send of poetry submissions.  Printed out hard copies of some of my work to sift through looking for manuscript material that I already have to assess what I still need to work on. Lots of stuff I intentionally didn’t print out. I messed around on some rewrites as well.

Made the dogs happy – taking them for a walk.

Chatted with one of my daughters for a good half-hour today.  She’s away at school and I’m missing her, so it was a real treat.

Made dinner tonight for my wife who spent day at the office.

If the game isn’t too late ending, I’ll probably read a bit before turning in. Not counting on a quick game though.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy Birthday Sylvia

Sigh….  I’m often tuned in enough to think this time of year that the 27th is Sylvia Plath’s birthday but I almost missed it this year. She remains a strong influence in my poetry tastes so I am often thinking about her on the anniversary of both her birth and death. Kudos to IVY for keeping the memory alive!
If you are headed soon to a Halloween party and want a costume idea with a literary theme go here.  What a fun bonus for those in Emily Dickinson costumes…. Hand out plastic flies while reciting the immortal line: "I heard a Fly buzz—when I died..."
Yesterday, Poet Kelli Russell Agodon opened up and shared a lot of information about the making of her latest book that will be out next fall.  Her blog post, The History of a Manuscript, details the path to publication of her manuscript titled Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room.  If you are thinking in terms of working towards publication of a manuscript, read this post. This recommendation is not meant to discourage anyone, but introduce a bit of reality to the process. As I’ve said here before, Kelli’s first book, Small Knots is among my favorite poetry books. Her work inspires me and her talents establish her as a poet whose advise I take seriously. 

Journal Bits

It's that time again...

• the paper absorbed everything and said nothing
• the night is an unsettled dog
• Mary Oliver quote - “Do you think the wren ever dreams of a better house?"
• the exit signs determined in their request
• it's a casual uncaring / not rooted in any harsh disinterest / more maladaptive to the day at hand
• losing myself in the moments of a hair cut / or the making of a spare key / that light headed tingling that forgets everything / suspends all thought in mid air

Monday, October 26, 2009

You Don’t Say….

I think the most un-American thing you can say is, 'You can't say that.' ~ Garrison Keillor

Actually, I think this is a splendid quote.


Technorati Tags:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

It was an Apple Betty Kind of Sunday



The cooler weather, the fall leaves, I don’t know it was just calling me. Besides I bought some Honey Crisp Apples yesterday at Target… it just seemed the right thing to do. I got no complaints.

It has been dark here all day. We had thunder earlier that sounded like war planes had hit the field by us. Was very unnerving to the dogs.


I was thinking yesterday and this morning both about what seems to be a difference of late on how distraction affects me when writing. For the longest time I never seemed bothered by conversation in the same room. Television, or any excessive movement around me, I just took in stride and kept on writing. This has however become increasingly annoying to me and I’m not sure why.

It could be that I am trying to be more attentive to what people around me are saying. However this would not explain why the TV was not annoying to me before when I wrote but can be not at times. There definitely seems something has changed; but what? Before this mysterious development, I always prided myself in the fact that I could pull out my journal and pen and write anywhere, anytime. I just know some smartass out there is thinking I’m going through the writers change in life.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Robert Pinsky at Midwest Poet Series

The Midwest Poet Series has hosted some wonderful poets over the years and yet last nights reading by Robert Pinsky is a standout among the many readings I’ve witnessed there myself. This is my first personal encounter with Pinsky, who by the way turned 69 this week and doesn’t look it.

His reading or let me call it an interaction with the audience was a lot different then most poetry readings in that he was very laid back and mingled stories with his poems and mid way through took questions and requests for poems to read. Yes, requests. This was particularly impressive because it implied on one hand, that he was confident there would be people in the audience well enough read on Pinsky, that they would have poems in mind that they wanted to hear; and that he would be able to produce those poems from his volumes of work quickly without fumbling through said work. It went perfect!

According to Pinsky, he would be a musician rather than a poet were it not for one thing; his lack of talent. Still, he is more than a casual musician and his love is the Sax is evident. I think the lyrical aspect of his poetry suggests that he is very tuned into sound.

Another strong component of his writing is the way he threads history through his poetry. He suggests that he writes for the dead, and quotes a mantra, “We do not worship our ancestors, we consult them.” He is big on the past, big on culture and the mingling of them together.

His presence is on of reassurance. He’s a very peaceful man. Even when he talked of his anger of the things he saw during the Bush years, he was even tempered and never raised his voice, but you knew he was indignant.

A few of the poems he read, Poem of Disconnected Parts, Shirt and The Night Game.

Poem of Disconnected Parts is such a terrific example of his pull of history and culture together to inform his poetics. Shirt is such a moving poem. Again history meets the art of poetry.

It’s no wonder Pinsky was Poet Laureate for three years- he is the perfect ambassador for the art. After a brilliant reading, he was most humble to the audience as he left the stage. You felt it was he, who was honored to be in our presence.

Hear and Read Shirt

Read Poem of Disconnected Parts

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Idle Hands...

Finish this sentence: Idle hands are ___________. Did you answer the devil’s tools or devil’s plaything?

How long can you sit with idle hands? Do you ever? Is this how you start to write?

In the most recent issue of Poets and Writers magazine there is an article about a writer who talks about stillness as he writes. “I’m very tolerant of stillness. I don’t mind sitting there for half an hour. I’d rather not move my hands just to move them; I’ll wait for the right thing.” Jonathan Lethem is a novelist not a poet, but his approach to initiating work on a page is maybe not a bad one even for poets. I sometimes will start with a line of something that comes to me. Maybe two or three different lines till something I feel something take hold. But when I think about my blog post on Monday and the Anne Sexton quote that I committed to thinking about all this week I’m thinking a lot more about the idle hands approach. The wisdom in the Sexton quote suggests listening hard. “Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard,” Sexton says.

It’s easy when you have a routine that says your take thirty minutes and write that you want to start writing as you sit down. The clock is on. Go! Such routine can probably create bad habits just as well as it can create good ones. But just as silence can be useful on a page, maybe it’s not a bad place to start to center yourself / your writing. In “The Artists’ Way” I think the morning pages are meant to drain out of your system all the residual sludge that can otherwise stain your work if you can’t get your mind off it. So maybe to start with, we should pause. A nice pregnant pause of sorts and then begin to create on the page as something surfaces.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thought for the Week from Sexton

I saw where Cecilia Woloch celebrated the launch of her new collection of poetry titled Carpathia on Sunday.  I’ve read Woloch’s book Late which was outstanding and will be interested to read Carpathia at some point and see how it compares. If anyone gets an opportunity to read it soon, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Robert Pinsky is in town Thursday for the Mid-West Poet’s series at Rockhurst University. I’ve got his reading on my calendar and looking forward to it.
Thought for the week from Annie Sexton - “Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.”

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Calling it a night – or whatever

Is the weekend coming to an end? Where did it go. I’m not rejuvenated yet.  As my wife would say, if I go to sleep morning will come and another day (workday)… sigh!

I did get a new rough draft of a poem together today. Read some Sexton… it (she) was speaking to me.

Submission -  yes I forced myself to get one out tonight. 

Squeezed in an Open Mic. I didn’t read tonight, just wanted to be a listener. A critical ear.

My daughter texted me yesterday to tell me she saw Where the Wild Things Are. I was so jealous.  Loved this book!  The movie looks really good.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The winner is...

I’m excited for Kelli Agodon - winner of the White Pine Poetry Book Prize! The judge for this year was Carl Dennis, poet who wrote Practical Gods, which won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2002.

Kelli’s winning manuscript Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room will be published in fall 2010.  Her book Small Knots, published 2004 is already among my favorite poetry books. I can't wait to read Letters. Congratulations Kelli!


There is a real tidal wave that has come over me and is pulling me back into the sea of writing. I feel I need to write to stay afloat.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Just Wondering

Do you ever wonder what the worst writing of the best writers looks like? Those poems and scratching that never make it. Aborted poems.

A year ago or so there was a book published with some of Elizabeth Bishops unpublished work. "Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts and Fragments," by Elizabeth Bishop a collection of her material which drew a lot of criticism because it is presumed she would not have wanted to see it in print. Anyway, when I’m having a bad day or string of them with writing, I wonder what a string of bad day writing might look like to a W.S. Merwin or Sharon Olds or maybe Mary Oliver.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thought for the day


The word "happiness" would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. ~ Carl Jung


Technorati Tags:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Journal Bits

I haven’t done any journal bits for a while so here we go…  Just a glimpse of some of my journal writings. Some of these are from free writes, some from drafts, some simple observations an occasional quote that strikes my fancy.
  • 10-12 Forty is still this side / of the curvature of the earth / I see it but I can’t touch it.
  • 10-11 The ash tray is dormant. / It occupies space / on the end table / to grandma’s old lamp. / Its empty nest stopped begging / for attention it never gets / about seven years ago.
  • 10-09 I saw the winter / slip and slide / nearly out from under you / and the plans you alone held to. / My hands were afraid. / They wanted only to hold / your hands tight / as physically possible
  • 10-07 The price for this hunger / a layover of hollow thoughts
  • 10-07 If there is a purpose for writing poetry, to me personally it is part personal discovery and part a feeling of some immortality.
  • 10-04 When baseball ends  / for the year  and the night /  creeps into the morning hour / the dark will eat you.
  • 10-02 “I am not alone / and never will be /  your absence is my company.”  Claribel Alegria – translated by Carolyn Forche’
Technorati Tags:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What I’ve been Up To This Weekend



Finished the off a poem draft – at least as far as I feel I can go today. At  that point when you’ve nothing more to add and can think of any more to cut, so it will sit a while and I’ll revisit it at another time.

Picked up a copy of The Complete Poems of anne sexton yesterday at Boarders. When you have a 40% off coupon it’s time to go buy a book.

I got an email telling me that Autumn Sky Poetry No 15 is out.  I always enjoy reading what the editor - Christine Klocek-Lim has selected for each issue, so of course I had to check it out.  This issue has some outstanding work in it.  A few if the poems that really impressed me:

  • The Trouble with Hope  by Cheryl Snell
  • Two Voices:  Frida’s Heart by Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda
  • Prototype of a Dream Machine by Kristine Ong Muslim
  • We Leave the Beaches for the Tourists by Ira Sukrungruang
  • After the Tsunami by Katherine Riegel




Saturday, October 10, 2009

Don’t Pass This Up…. Two short minutes & 13 Sec.


I’m not glued to twitter.  I was a long time in coming around to it. There are a lot of things on twitter I don’t care about. Gretchen Rubin  I discovered by way of twitter. The 2 minute and 13 second video is what Gretchen Rubin is all about. Enjoy it. I did.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Hunger of a Child

The price for this hunger

a layover of hollow thoughts;

a weakening distraction.

Eyes roll back

in unlevel sockets

to canvass the heavens

for some bright hope

that signals the stomach

to squelch the pangs.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

What is your poetry supposed to do?

books23 So you write poetry…  and you do this with what objective in mind?  I’m curious about what writers most hope to achieve when their poetry is read by someone. I know there are probably more then one answer for most writers, but I’m asking you to think about the majority of your poetry.

In considering my own I’ve realized sadly that I don’t often give this a lot of thought. There are times when I hope my poetry will inform. When writing something with a social of political flavor to it, informing can be a big part of it.  But sometimes there is no underlying message, just an attempt to provide a different way to view something. Stepping outside the box to show something outrageously different.  How a person might look to a catfish on their plate…

I read an interview of a poet recently and there was some discussion of poetry entertaining. Strange as it might seen,  I never really considered poetry to be about entertaining readers, though I suppose it is safe to say that I have myself felt entertained by poetry that I have read.

Do you set out to entertain when you write? What do you generally see as the best value of your finished poem?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Monday Matters

Wanted to take a few moments to call a couple of things to your attention.

REPUBLICANS  are threatening  Net-neutrality.

As federal regulators prepare to vote this month on  "network neutrality,”, twenty House Republicans — including most of the Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee — sent a letter to Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski today urging him to delay the Oct. 22 vote on his plan.  The neutrality plan would prohibit broadband providers from favoring or discriminating against certain types of Internet traffic. Broadband providers would like to regulate the speed at which sites load for customers. They would for instance like give preference to their own site and perhaps create premium commercial sites that would have speed preferences.

On the  Senate side, , Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas, is considering legislation that would prohibit the FCC from developing Net neutrality.

What is it with these people that they want to stick it to consumers and provide another windfall for corporations?


The Dodge Poetry Festival started in 1986 as an initiative funded by the Arts and Education Programs of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.  The biennial even easily has attracted close to 20,000 participants to each of the 12 events.  But the economic downturn brought news that the festival would be cancelled for 2010.  In what may be the best Arts related  economic news so for this year, Dodge decided to resurrect the popular event -- the largest poetry gathering in the country.  The 2010 event will move to a more urban setting as it was announced that the festival will encompass the performance spaces at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center as well as at least two local churches, the New Jersey Historical Society and parts of Military Park.

The good news come just a year before the event is to occur. It was January when the word came that the 2010 event would be put in ice. The 2008 event cost about $1.3 million to produce. The Foundation had lost considerable equity in investments, nearly 30% during the recession last fall and winter and the latest development is exciting news.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Thought For the Day

"I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing." ~ Anais Nin

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Anne Sexton Letters Part I


I can’t recall the last time I received a personal letter from someone.  By letter I mean one of those things that came via the U.S. postal service and landed in my mail box and waited patiently for me to arrive home.  E-mail, I have plenty of.

So there is a real novelty to letters. As I mentioned in and earlier blog post I am reading Anne Sexton A Self Portrait in Letters. I’ve read the published letters of numerous poets over the last few years. Plath, Ginsberg to name a couple. Plath’s Letters Home are remarkable in that they provide a rather contrived communication with her mother.  If you read any of her biographies (I’ve read countless) and or her published journals you will quickly see two Plaths. The one she wanted her mother to see and an altogether different one. It is against that strange paradox that I find Sexton’s letters refreshingly genuine.  She seems to say what she wants and there is little evidence that she tries to control her message. In fact, it is not uncommon for her to follow up one letter with another one with an apology or some sort of disclaimer for something in an earlier note.

Many poets in the 50’s through at least the 70’s were quite prolific writers between friends and peers. One amazing thing I noted about Sexton is how quickly she managed to correspond with significant poets of her time. With barely a year of writing under her belt, Sexton was corresponding with W.D. Snodgrass, Carolyn Kizer, Nolan Miller, John Holmes, etc.  With Snodgrass she corresponded quite frequently and her letters suggest he returned the favor.  Sexton in fact used nick names in her communication with Snodgrass that suggest they developed a significant friendship. “Dearest Snodsy, Dearest De, My dear night clerk".”

With Snodgrass Sexton would discuss poems, things going on in a Masters Class with Robert Lowell, the progress of her manuscript, etc. I suppose it is not surprising that her work was well received  so quickly because she was able to get it in front of people in position to help her very early on.

In her letters she refers numerous times to the fact that she in not a strong speller.  Sometimes her letters meander around. “Christ. I’m off again.” Anne writes to Snodgrass, “Talking in circles. My darling, the peanut butter calls.”  These early letters also detail the toll that the decline of the health of her parents is having on her and reference her therapy as well and Dr. Sidney Martin’s encouragement that she write for it’s therapeutic value.

I loved the bluntness with which she wrote Robert Lowell in September of 1958 about her efforts and desire to enroll in his Masters class and her assessment of how this was viewed by the registrar’s perception of this. “Today, with 90 dollars in my fist,  I called the registrar’s office. However, it seems they are not bouncing with joy at the thought of a “special student” with no particular degrees. A Mr. Wilder said that I would have to wait until after registration and see if there are too many students in the class.”

As I plow onward though this book I will stop from time to time to share things I believe to be of particular significance.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

What if Life Really is a Musical?

Today I ran down the street to the Federal building to visit their cafeteria over the lunch hour. Exiting with my purchase, I headed back up the street to my office.  The wind was wicked crazy and it brought with it chimes from the carillons at St. Mary's Episcopal Church across the way. The music from this red brick church daily fills the downtown air. Today it was playing a tune from the Sound of Music… “i simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so baaaad.”  Suddenly I felt like clicking my heels and dancing. This prompted me to wonder, “what if life is really a musical?”