Sunday, January 31, 2010

This Thursday – Beth Ann Fennelly Mid-West Poets Series

Author of Open House, Tender Hooks and her latest Unmentionables, Fennelly will appear at Rockhurst University’s Mabee Theater at 7:00 PM to read.  A 6:00 PM reception will precede the event.

A sample of Beth’s work can be heard here  where she reads her poem:  Because People Ask What My Daughter Will Think of My Poems When She’s 16

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What others are saying about Unmentionables:

“Dramatic, complex . . . and enthralled with language . . . genuinely outstanding.” — Verse Daily

“This collection is stunning in its technical range and in its emotional complexity.” — The Southern Register

“A feast of light and sound.” — Paste

Unconscious Mutterings Week 366

You Say..... I think:

1.Furniture :: upholstry
2.Beauty :: shop
3.Sip :: coffee
4.Block :: street
5.Forehead :: bindi
6.Championship :: series
7.Hurl :: insults
8.Whip :: cool
9.Destruction :: quake
10.Leather :: jacket
Get your own list from Unconscious Mutterings

Haiti At Two Weeks

The dead unknown
at least a hundred-fifty thousand
buried in mass graves
or remaining under rubble

that shifts like sand
beneath our feat
the sickening sweet stench
of ripened death
and uncertainty

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Public Service Announcement

Up and about early for a Saturday, in part because the night wasn’t particularly restful anyway and I figured I might as well get a start on things.

I’ve got a growing list of things to do today. Numerous among them are what I typically refer to as administratively writer duties and those are not among my favorite.

We had a light snow overnight and the temperatures are cold again, but not in the deep freeze range. I made coffee, in the coffee pot and I distinguish this only because I generally make espresso but my espresso pot was broken.  I don’t often make regular coffee and since the coffee at the office is way to watered down for my liking I piled in the scoops of fresh grind and Walla! I have coffee that even puts espresso to shame. Yes, I may have overdone it a bit, but don’t spread it around. I don’t want to be known to have complained of my coffee being to strong. My reputation is that I first have to walk across it to be able to drink it.

Around the poetry/writer blog world there were some good reads this week and you may have missed them. Consider this a PSA in case any of these got past you.
Yes, I’m picking on Chang twice, but the Poetry Foundation piece I especially liked because while on one hand I don’t want to give up on others finding in poetry the same sense of discovery I have, deep down I know that so much of what she says in this is reality. Plus she has some very thoughtful ideas about what the Foundation might better do with the windfall gift they received.

Image: Darren Robertson /

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What Was Apple Thinking?

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. 
Now I will go do my penance.

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The Moment

My writing last night was not exactly what I wanted it to be. So you must be thinking in astonishment, wow, and he expects it to always turn out right? The answer is of course no. But last nights writing may simply remain comatose in my journal. It may never see completion; or even the revival attempt of multiple rewrites. Sometimes I feel it is so far off that I walk away from it. Lose interest.

Surely I am not alone in this abandonment of work. Still, I was thinking this morning about a statement about Sylvia Plath’s poetry writing that is attributed to Ted Hughes in which he says he is not aware of Sylvia ever abandoning a poem. There are (and I’m paraphrasing here) times when she decided should could not make a table out of something and was perfectly happy settling for a chair but he never recalled her abandoning one.

I’ve had tables that have turned into chairs or foot stools, but still, sometimes I allow the bad to stand and walk away from it. This morning it is bothering me for some reason.

Maybe it’s because some of these are in my journal along with everything else. Perhaps if I tore the pages out I would feel better. Perhaps not. It’s just where I am at this moment and I’m taking ownership of this feeling, but not necessarily comforted by it.

Image: Darren Robertson /

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Aimee Nezhukumatathil Interview - New Letters On The Air

Aimee was in Kansas City last year to read at an ethnic poetry series. While here she taped an interview with New Letters on the Air.  It's a great interview - I heard it Sunday on our local NPR station.  It has been posted today on the New Letters site and will be available only till February 10.

The Bio for this interview is as follows:

A first generation American poet and 2009 NEA fellow, Aimee Nezhukumatathil discusses her two books of poetry: the multi-award winning Miracle Fruit and At the Drive-in Volcano. She talks about writing poetry with a comic eye, and the poetic form for which she named her dog, Villanelle. She also discusses how her unique ethnic heritage--her father is from India and her mother from the Philippines--and her interest in environmental writing serve as creative influences in her work.

Click here to access the podcast!

At the Drive-In Volcano      Miracle Fruit         Fishbone

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Unconscious Mutterings Week 365

You Say... I Think:

1.Food :: Baby
2.Death :: March
3.Cafeteria :: Plan
4.Need :: Basic
5.Born :: First
6.Stitch :: Sew
7.Badly :: Worn
8.Blocks :: Cender
9.Chuck :: Steak
10.Spiral :: Notebook
get your own list at Unconscious Mutterings

I need this on a T-shirt

If I appear distracted, disengaged, unfocused today, it is only because I am hyper-vigilant in search of poetic moments. *

*my facebook status from Dec. 2, 2009  

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Quote for the week

Art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos.  ~    Stephen Sondheim

Checking in with the world

The weekend has felt like such a waste. I basically spent Saturday and a good part of today on bed.  I have not felt good for three or four days now but have been in denial of being sick.  I'm feeling better this evening. Not sneezing any longer. My sinuses better and my head doesn't feel like it has the weight of cinder blocks in it. I still feel achy and a cross between tired and being tired of being tired.

Of course this sort of conditions leads to the mind going off in left field and conjuring up the strangest things. For example, I was thinking about what if we could construct a transcript of our thoughts without interruption for a whole day. What would it look like?  How would we segway from say uncomfortable thoughts into something else?
On a positive note, I woke up this morning in time to listen to New Letters on the Air.  Angelia Elam was interviewing Aimee Nezhukumatathil during her trip into Kansas City last spring to read as part of an ethnic poetry series by Park University and the Kansas City Public Library. This must be Aimee week or something because she was also featured on How A Poem Happens. Love in the interview her thoughts on the Villanelle.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Aimee Nezhukumatathil - How A Poem Happens

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is featured on How A Poem Happens today. Check it out here!

Aimee is the author of Miracle Fruit and At the Drive-In Volcano.  I've read Miracle Fruit and I’ve witnessed one of her readings in person. Aimee is brilliantly funny and her work commands attention when read aloud or to yourself from a page. What she does with food in words could challenge an Iron Chef.

At the Drive-In Volcano

Miracle Fruit


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Birthday Book

 Arriving in the mail today.... Edgar Allen Poe and the Juke-Box - Uncollected Poems, Drafts, Fragments. I've been interested in this book for some time. It's a collection of previously unpublished works of Elizabeth Bishop. I've never read a lot of Bishop but I was interested in this when it first came out. Elizabeth Bishop had a reputation for being a real stickler about her work. Many have theorized that she would not have been happy to see this material in print, but I'm a sucker for things about poets that shed more insight into who they are and what impacts their work. Hence I've taken an interest in to books like Plath's Letters Home, Plath's Journals, Ted Hughes's letters, Anne Sexton's letters, to name a few. Anyway, this was a birthday present that arrived today and I'm anxious to start reading it.

On another note, tonight I saw Gretchen Rubin at the Plaza Library where she talked about The Happiness Project. An overflow crowd. Fascinating woman and story. More on this in the near future.

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

Poetic Vacuum

I’m in London, or so it would seem. The fog here has settled in this past week like an occupying army. It was cool at first, but the bullet gray is growing old and is quite depressing.

Yesterday I was certain I was coming down with something. Motivation was gone after work last night. Felt better this morning but not exactly great.

It was also yesterday that I felt there was no poetic dialogue going on. I don’t just mean that I felt a lack of connection with any other poets – but I felt there was no internal poetry dialogue with myself. I don’t especially like it when I feel there is a poetic vacuum. Do you know what I mean? Anyone else ever feel this way?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Recent Journal Bits

• January 6 - note: I'm still having trouble writing this year correctly.

• January 6 - "what I know of you / fits well in my cupped hand / it's all there is."

• January 7 - " Januarys grace is the slowly rising plum of smoke from the fireplace / chimney against the dark blue sky of a children's picture book."

• January 9 - "What do you suppose / the dead take with them / memories caramelized by years  / of turning, sautéed in the juices  / thank make up life?"

• January 10 - "Venation Blinds have great dexterity...  they align themselves so well / precise as the feet of a marching brand / white spats going up and down / in perfect cadence.

• January 10 - quote: "The late poems are the ones / I turn too first now ... they are made of words that have come the whole way" W.S. Merwin - Worn Words from The shadow of Sirus.

• January 16 - add the word pellucid to my word list - admitting the passage of light, transparent or translucent . Transparently clear in style or meaning.

Unconscious Mutterings Week 364

You say and I think....

1.Weak :: knees

2.Flashy :: bling

3.Sack ::  sad sack

4.Business :: listing

5.Purple :: heart

6.Fan :: baseball

7.Airline :: ticket

8.Guide :: TV

9.Lunch :: box

10.Exercise :: aerobic

get your own list at Unconscious Mutterings

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Some cheery news

After a two year absence from New York busses and subway, Poetry in Motion is returning. Poetry in Motion had been in opperation for 15 years and became a  model for other such programs in other cities.

For a glimpse of what commuters will see in 2010 - some Emily Dickinson, a 10th century Japanese poem, a 9th century Aztec poem and a "cheeky, chiding poem" by Stevie Smith called Deathbed of a Financier among other works.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Your three words for 2010?

Last night I did something I’ve been intending to do for some time now. I got comfortable on the bed and pulled out a file folder with some of my poems and began separating them into stacks based on how I thought they might work into a manuscript idea that I have. I found some that I believe will work as they are. Another group that I believe could work but I feel require anything from some minor tweaking to more involved rewrites; however I can still see working. Then there are the rest of them.

I would like to have had more that I thought would be a good fit, but I still have some material that was not printed out in that folder. I have material in a couple of other places, like our desktop that I don’t use for writing any longer and just some hard copies of work that I’m not quite sure where the original files are. Fortunately I’ve gotten better about how I retain my work, but there are things that fall into the hole of historically I’ve not always been so good about it.

I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty details of what my goal is here, but I did set some general timelines back in September about a manuscript and I am working to stay focused on this project.

Contrary to my norm, I did make some new years resolutions and I am happy to say that at this tinder age of 2010, I’ve stuck to them.

This has nothing to do with my specific resolutions, but I was trying to think if I could select a three year mantra for 2010, what it might be. There were several things that came to my mind, but in the final analysis, I chose these: “Read, write, more.”

What three words define what you wish for in 2010?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Gretchen Rubin: The Happiness Project

I've previously mentioned The Happiness Project here but I've learned this weekend that Gretchen Rubin - formerly of Kansas City and the author of four books will be speaking at the Plaza Branch Library here in Kansas City on Wednesday, January 20th at 6:30.  I'm putting this on my Calendar right now!

Power Money Fame Sex: A User's Guide

Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill: A Brief Account of a Long Life

Forty Ways to Look at JFK

A Missourian by birth...

 Tree Swenson, Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets, announced  today that Naomi Shihab Nye and Marie Ponsot have been elected to the Board of Chancellors, the Academy's advisory board of distinguished poets. Nye is a Missourian by birth having been born in born in St. Louis in 1952. She makes her home in Texas now but has been described as a a citizen of the world.  Her poetry often crosses borders and fosters understanding.  I know little of Marie Ponsot but Nye is truly a wonderful ambassador for poetry everywhere.

In My E-mail This Morning

  • A rejection letter for 3 poems.   :(
  • Word of the day - dysgraphia. Bad news nearly always follows when dys- begins a word, and so it does here: dysgraphia is an inability to write coherently, either as a learning disorder or a result of brain damage or disease. The Greek roots mean "difficult writing."
  • $30 birthday gift certificate.   :) Yeah!
  • Urgent Attention, I am here on off-shore banks inspection exercise. Based on the report on your abandoned transaction file, only $2M have been approved to your family from the will.  [Oh Darn, I was hopeful it would be at least $5M]

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Quote for the week

Books, like friends, should be few and well chosen. Like friends, too, we should return to them again and again for, like true friends, they will never fail us - never cease to instruct - never cloy.  ~ Charles Caleb Colton

Unconscious Mutterings - Week 363

Subliminal word associations. You say.... I think:

1.Resolutions :: New Year

2.Page :: turm

3.Narrow :: ruled

4.Refuse :: decline

5.Fountain ::  pen

6.Grunt :: strain

7.Construct :: build

8.Nightmare :: dream

9.Inch :: worm

10.Instant :: message

get your own list at Unconscious Mutterings

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Coffee Break - Announcements

Taking a short break from writing today to have a salad and post a few notes here.

Here's an announcement for those in our neighboring state of Kansas.
Kansas Voices writing contested, sponsored by the Winfield Arts & Humanities Council, is back for its 21st year. Authors are urged to submit short stories, prose or poetry.  Details here.

Issue 30 of Right Hand Pointing is up.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010 - 7:00 pm  - Johnson County Public Library, 9875 W. 87th, Overland Park, KS
Featuring Jo McDougall and Steve Paul

TWP SALON  - Monday, January 25, 2010 - 7:00 pm - Open Mic opportunity hosted by Sharon Eiker
3607 Pennsylvania  - Kansas City, Missouri

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

Tails Of The City : National children's pet poetry contest deadline extended

The American Pet Products Association (APPA) will be accepting poems for its 2nd Annual APPA National Children's Pet Poetry Contest through February 15, 2010 at 5 p.m. EST.

Third, fourth and fifth grade students are invited to pen a unique poem about their pets and then post it to or mail it to: Pets Add Life, 45 Winter Street, Reno, NV 89503.

Two students from each grade level (six total) will win a $250 gift certificate for pet products, and a by-line in a nationally circulated publication. In addition, the six winning students' classrooms will each receive a $1,000 scholarship to spend on pet-related education.

Posted By: Amelia Glynn (Email, Facebook) | January 08 2010 at 11:40 AM

Tails Of The City : National children's pet poetry contest deadline extended


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Friday, January 08, 2010


Single digit temperatures and -0 wind chill, this was my view leaving work yesterday. Each day we seem to be redefining cold here in the Midwest. Tonight is supposed to be a new low. Given how things look, this weekend should/could be a great weekend for writing.

I've drug out my copy of The Artist's Way again and decided it's time to re-examine what I'm doing for the sake of creativity.  Especially since I feel like I'm in a somewhat conflicted state at the moment. I'm trying to look at it positive and a growing place but frustration isn't affording me any particular comfort. Basically I'm trying to project a different style of writing but I'm less satisfied with the results (more often then not) and it wants to pull me back to a more abstract approach. I'm thinking what I really needs is to be someplace between the two. I'm feeling as I move away from the abstract my voice becomes bland. There are other poets I admire who can do this well- I know it can be done.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Attention Metrophobics

"Does the thought of poetry make you nauseous? Does it trigger a dry mouth and clammy hands? Does your heart feel like it’s going to pound right out of your chest? Do your legs turn to rubber bands?" If so, help is on the way. For only $147 you can get a Home Study program of CDs and a Work Book or if you prefer, for the paltry sum of $2497 you can get one-on-one Private Sessions with Board-Certified Specialist to help you eliminate your underlying fear. This according an internet site that can be found here.

I’m so glad there is hope for people suffering from metrophobia. It seems there are so many metrophobics out there. Some of my own family may be metrophobic. This of course causes me to wonder why or how I escaped the condition? Is there a genetic predisposition towards this condition? If so, perhaps we can isolate the gene that controls our poetic responses and tweak it a bit to make poetry a little more palatable. Of course, if such therapy became possible, poetic gene therapy could put the previously mentioned site out of business.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A bit overdue for Journal Bits

A few journal bits from recent writings-

Dec. 15th “and now I / Foam to wheat, glitter of seas / The child’s cry [from Ariel by Sylvia Plath]

Dec. 15th when your room is a town / and the hallways a thoroughfare / to climb into your own bed is trespassing

Dec. 16th What is it that keeps us focused and what are the things that derail us?

Dec. 22nd Trying to expose the soul is like catching carp with bare hands. If a soul wanted to be seen and recognized for all that it is it would show a little leg.

Dec. 24th Silence is the reversible side.

Dec. 24th. Guilt creeps through superficial cracks…

Dec. 26th I failed miserably.

Dec. 26th I don’t choose them; they find me (morning thoughts)

Dec 27th What does one have to do to get a glass of plain water?

Dec. 27th “The poet’s only hope is to be infinitely sensitive to what his gift is, and this itself seems to be another gift that few poets possess.” [Ted Hughes – London Magazine Vol. 1 NO. 2 1962]

Dec. 29th “pulp non-fiction / outdated upon arrival”

Jan 1st “I see the pox / on the old man’s face”

Jan 4th We’ve evolved into a voodoo age… Our current socio-political climate is so amerced in a high voltage hate that most Americans are of a mindset that they whish harm to come to those who are of a different (and usually believed inferior) view then themselves.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Unchopping A Tree

Artist and architect Maya Lin has produced a video which is inspired by a W.S. Merwin poem of the same name and focuses on how we would feel if deforestation came to the city parks that we love the most. It’s a quietly powerful piece that I hope many people have an opportunity to see.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

A Thought for the week

The concept that an artist would be revered by popular culture is an immediate dismissal of his relevance as an artist. ~Thomas Kinkade

Unconscious Mutterings - Week 362

You say - I think:

1. 365 :: days

2. Tombstone :: pizza

3. Dumb :: luck

4. Intrusive :: government

5. Fat :: cat

6. Axe :: Lizzy Borden

7. Planned :: vacation

8. Spike :: Lee

9. Bleach :: stain

10. Shopkeeper :: Clerk

get your own list at Unconscious Mutterings

There are Consequences

Feline steps are deliberate
cautious intermittent pauses-
to allow for adjustments.

No one expects life
to be without recalculations
or changes.

It is our prerogative
to make u turns
even if the law doesn't allow

for it, the road itself will
not hinder us
or the police that follow.

Boring? Think Again

For those who might think all things poetry equals boring, think again. We who chose our words with great thought are quite capable of sparking sharp discourse. There are a couple of excellent examples of this going on right now in full public view.

On the national scene there is the ongoing and seemingly unending friction over a $200 million gift to Poetry Magazine by Ruth Lilly, the 94 year old reclusive philanthropist and drug heiress who died this past week. The basic story is old news to most poets, but the death of Ms. Lilly seems to have drawn media attention back to it by as evidenced by a series of new articles that have appeared in print these last few days.

For an art form often marginalized, such a gift was both shockingly exciting and on some level a bit difficult to rationalize. The Poetry Foundation which publishes Poetry Magazine is operated by a staff of four. It has a circulation of 12,000 and an annual operating budget of about $700.000 which makes such a gift seem a bit like overkill. But for many, it’s not so much the gift as it is the administration of the Foundation that has been the focus of discussion. Some, including a former trustee have been critical of the foundation’s expenditure of $25 million to build a “Home for Poetry” in Chicago. John Barr , the director has also been criticized for giving his wife a job at the Foundation. Complaints have reached the Illinois Attorney General who is looking into "questionable governance and management practices."

Back in my home state, the selection of a second Poet Laureate have has brought some criticism of the Governor’s office who has posted an application for the position that looks more like they are searching for a CEO of a fortune 500 Company than an ambassador for an art. It asks for instance to: “Please provide any other information, including information about other members of your family, which could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the Governor” and “Is there anything in your or your spouse’s background that might become an embarrassment to you if it were to become public? Please consider carefully any letters to the editor, blog posts, etc., which you or your spouse may have authored, even anonymously.” It also asks about associations with other individuals which might be a source of embarrassment. I’ve not personally seen applications used in other states, but according to a January 2nd Columbia Tribune article, “Application forms for poets laureate in other states do not ask similar questions.” The same article notes several individuals have expressed disappointment about such approach to the search and at least on poet with national accolades that said he was not interested in applying with these terms.

The outgoing Poet Laureate Walter Bargen, said he was not asked to fill out an application but he and his wife did agree to a State Highway Patrol background check. He was asked if there was anything they should know about. Bergen to them, “I grew up in the ‘60s,” and that he once used the world “nipple” in a poem.

Friday, January 01, 2010

VISITOR # 50,000

It seems a nice way to kick off the new year is to make it with this site having been visited by its 50,000th unique visitor. Yeah! An thank you to all 50,000 peeps.

A new year and a new book in my reading stack. I’m not only working through Winter Pollen - (writings and essays by Ted Hughes) but I picked up a copy The Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin today. This book was published by Copper Canyon Press and I’m always impressed with the quality of their books. I’m anxious to share my thoughts on this book once I’ve read it. Merwin is among my favorite poets.

I kind of like that I’m kicking the year off with a male poet as I tend to be drawn disproportionately to the work of female poets. This isn’t a complaint, just an observation.

Who’s on your reading table at the moment?