Sunday, December 02, 2018

A Simpler Tine

This is not intended to be political as much as it is hearkening back to a simpler time. A time when there was a simpler discourse among leaders and even though the bitter battles of politics were waged, in the end, differences aside, these were people who lead this country with an unquestionable dedication the country they believed in and wanted most of all for it to succeed.

To me, the passing of President George H.W.Bush brings with it a double sadness. First, the loss of a fellow American, whose service to this nation was long, and varied. I am also feeling a stark contrast in the present and earlier times.

To be sure, George H.W. Bush and I differed widely, both on domestic policy and foreign affairs. At the time of his election, I was serving as Chairman of the Jackson County Democratic Party (metropolitan Kansas City MO) and while the Democrats did not carry Missouri for our candidate, Jackson County did by the biggest margin for a Democrat up to that point, since John F. Kennedy.

Looking back on 41, I can say without a doubt that he believed strongly in America and his pat may have been different from what I hoped for, in the end, he cared about this nation. He cared about our allies in Europe and around the world. And his transfer of power was orderly and supportive even if he might have charted a different course. Dear Bill," George H.W. Bush scribbled Jan. 20, 1993, to the Democrat about to succeed him as president. "When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too. The full text of the letter can be found at the link above. This note was part of a ritual of the outgoing President leaving a note to his successor in the top left drawer of the "Resolute Desk" in the Oval Office.

Somehow, this all seems more complicated. America's reputation abroad is very low. In some places, perhaps the lowest of modern times. Our friends around the world are uncertain what we stand for. Indeed, many Americans seem to no longer embrace longstanding principals upon which this nation was founded.

When issues of colluding with foreign nations that differ with the U.S. on a number of pressing issues are front and center. When it is questionable if the President cares more about his investment opportunities then what is in the best interest of the nation, the concept of ethical government has become non-existent, can we be assured that President does, in fact, have a central dedication to American Democracy? What kind of letter might the next president find in his drawer?

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Mega-Confession On Tuesday

Dear Reader:

So it's been a while since my last Confession Tuesday and I'm not waiting any longer. I confess I don't know exactly how long it's been and I could look, but I'm not going to.

Reader, here are some of the things that have happened since the last confession: Call it the rebellious streak in me, or just plain lazy, your call.

  • My Giants did not make the postseason play this year.
  • I had another poem published.
  • I read in Liberty last month.
  • I got to see one of the poets on my 2018 Poet Crush List 
  • The Democrats in the house were part of a blue wave that may well give them a 40 seat gain in Congress, taking over that body as the majority. 
  • The big bad boogie caravan has not yet made it to the United States yet, but Trump has called up the regular military to protect us from gangs, bad dudes, murderers, rapists,  Leprosy, Small Pox, et al.
Please, join me at the confessional:

Dear Reader, all is not well. You know it (some of you anyway) and I know it. This country is ill. I've watched as the fever rises. I've observed its unsteadiness in the world community. I've seen its values denied by some. Hate is perhaps at an all-time high. The patient seems listless and those of us with concern are gathered with Lady Liberty at her bedside.  Who will offer blood for a transfusion? Who will give comfort and support? Who will help her stand again and walk? I confess it is so easy to be hateful at these times because one hate breads another. This is a challenge we face. But I think we have to be certain that not meeting hate with more hate means we simply roll over and do nothing. The absence of hates is not weakness. It is even a greater strength than the haters have. It is a will to defend, to support our democracy and that means be there for the inclusiveness of others. It is to have very wide arms.  

Now reader, on a lighter note, I have found joy in two things. One is that I have been working on my family genealogy. Working a little several times a week I confess that I have been making great inroads. I have the Wells family no going back to a fourth great-grandfather Freemon Wells, Sr born in 1770  and his wife Martha Combs born in 1774. It's fascinating and while it is perhaps not easy to learn intimate details about these relatives, some things will emerge. I confess that I would like to learn enough about these generations of the Wells family and some of their offshoots, Sartins, Keegans, Peachers, Masons, and Combs.  Or on the maternal side of my family.

Another joy has been the use of a family seal. I confess that in some mail, notes to others I have enjoyed doing a wax seal of the envelope. It's fun I think because it personalizes it, and it's a little bit artistic. I bet there are many of you out there that have never received a wax seal stamped envelope. I know I haven't. Maybe that is another reason I so much enjoy it. I know the person on the other end is getting something in the mail that even I have never seen in my mailbox. How crazy is that?

On Veterans Day our president did not even bother to go to Arlington National Cemetary. I confess that this seems to me to be outrageous. Wouldn't you think this would as commander-in-chief be a minimal thing he could and should do?

As to writing, least I close without confession that the struggle continues. But alas, I'm not looking for sympathy, If tomorrow I were to write the greatest poem the world has ever seen, picking up my pen the following day, the struggle would continue.  I am simply happy to write something better today than yesterday.

With this, I conclude this Tuesday's Confession.  May you all be safe and remain at peace!

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Laura Kasischke Returns after 12 years

This week I had an opportunity to audit a Masters class taught by Laura Kasischke at UMKC and the next night attend a reading  followed by an interview with her for New Letters on the Air,

I first met Laura 12 years ago at a reading here in Kansas City. She captivated my attention with her book Gardening in the Dark, a book I would read and reread for inspiration from time to time when I felt stalled in my creativity.

What I liked about her poetry was the way she made me believe in the magic that can be found in poetry when the poet is so inclined to treat you to writing with twists and turns and language that will not stand still. There is a tactile quality to a lot of her work. It doesn't just lay on the page.

I picked up her book The Infinitesimals to read, which makes the third book by her in my poetry library.  You can expect a forthcoming review of it before the end of the year.

Also see:  My 2018 Poets Crush Six Pack

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Breaking Out of Boredom with Lola Haskins

Friday & Saturday I had the opportunity to hear poet Lola Haskins read and to teach a workshop.

It's my first exposure to Haskins though I had heard good things about her.  Her Friday night reading was remarkable in that she read everything from memory, her voice is soft and yet words chosen in her work are profound. Each and everyone with a purpose. It was especially intimate because she was so in tune with the audience and not a page in front of her.

Saturday she quickly set out to provide sound advise and tool for eradicating the dreaded boredom that creeps into our writing and takes over. To stop writing from safety and write from risk.

Haskins has over a dozen books to her credit and another on due in 2019.
You can see some of her work and books on her website

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Acceptance - Yeah!

Just a quick note to say I'm excited that my poem Ambiguity has been accepted for a fall publication date.  More, later.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Local Poet Sara Minges Brings Her Poetry to Print

Kansas City area poet Sara Minges brought out her new book at a well-attended reading at Prospero's Books.

Sara's book, Naked Toes, published by Chameleon Press,
is a splash of upbeat, witty, and sometimes cathartic views of the world around her, through her wide open and perceiving poet's eyes.

She mocks Barbie and Ken. She even tangles with Barbie; she will not be plastic or silent.

Her real-life role is that of Play and Happiness Expert.  No, Really. There is such a thing.

She shares exploits of "arse kickin," being handcuffed in the county jail, and her little black dress.

One gets the impression that publication of this book was perhaps a freeing experience. Like the freedom, she gets from naked toes.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

My 2018 Poets Crush 6 Pack

It's an annual thing, my Poets Crush List. I'm back to let you know once again who is on my mind. Not an easy task when there are so many wonderful wordsmiths out there and I am sure there are likely many that would perhaps be on this list were they not yet on my radar.

This year's six-pack is all women. I probably read a disproportional number of women versus men poets anyway, I have had some incredibly accomplished men on my lists in the past.

For now, these are six poets that are rocking my world!

Francesca Bell caught a lot of attention with her poem I Long to Hold The Poetry Editor's Penis in My Hand.  I mean it's hard to overlook a good penis poem. Bell, however, holds a special place in this poet's heart because her talent has come without a formal writing education background. Reading her work you would never know it. She has carved out a very successful non-traditional road on her poet journey.  Her publication credits are lengthy and include River Styx, North American Review, Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Crab Creek Review to name a few. She has had at 6 Pushcart Prize nominations and been a finalist in several notable poetry awards.
Francesca Bell

In December of 2014 Bell had five poems published in Pank that are riveting.  They touch on the delicate subject of children sexually abused by priests. These poems underscore something about Bell that  I especially appreciate in a poet, a fearlessness in writing. I want to write as fearlessly as Bell does. Who wouldn't, but it is not easy. In her poem Regrets, she talks about undressing every emotion and how silence is a too-tight dress I can't wait to escape. She is genuine. Her writing has a depth that can be peeled back like layers of an archaeological excavation, or she can turn one her humor on the page and entertain you.

Another remarkable thing about Francesca Bell is her translation. She translated the book A Love That Hovers Like a Bedeviling Mosquito by the Palestinian poet Shatha Abu Hnaish along with Noor Nader Al A'bed. This book is a collection of largely tender verse that  I often go to and reread parts of each night before I go to sleep.

Bell has a book titled Bright Stain that will be out in Spring 2019 by Red Hen Press. Just in time for AWP in Portland.

Laura Kasischke is a writer that I met as a reading in Kansas City more years ago than I can remember. What I do recall was her book Gardening in the Dark I fell in love with the poems in this book instantly. Hearing some in her own voice, I would reread them and her voice still resonated. I loved that the poems often would take the usual and make it quite unusual. I could not wait for more poems by this poet I had stumbled onto a reading.
Laura Kasischke

I for more of her work, another book, and what I found was White Bird in A Blizzard. It was a novel, I wasn't into reading novels at the time and thought to myself, why is she cheating on poetry?  I enjoyed the book but it wasn't poetry. I did find similarities in her language but Kasischke fell off my radar for a while and unbeknownst to me, she was busy writing. (my loss)

When her book Where Now- New and Selected Poems came out it was over 350 pages of poems. I was in heaven. I reacquainted myself with her work and was enthralled. My dog-eared copy of Gardening in the Dark could get a bit of a rest.  It was her, "...the eye maker, voice maker, the maker of stars, of space, of comic surprises."  Sometimes dreamlike, sometimes magical,

Kasischke was awarded a Pushcart Prize, The National Book Critics Circle Award in 2011 and has many other distinguished awards and has had three of her novels made into movies. Another poet rocking my world this year.

Victoria Chang
Victoria Chang has written several books that I own. Circle (her first I believe), Salvinia Molesta, The Boss and her latest Barbie Chang. I met Chang in Kansas City at a reading and have always kept my eyes out for new work from her.

I've always viewed Chang as a very cerebral poet. This especially came through in her last two books, The Boss and Barbie Chang. Her wit come through in her poems that always seem to find a way to mix seriousness with just the right quantities of humor.

Tackling issues in the workplace, and feminism in culture, she is especially skilled in form and metaphor, She has a large toolbox and plenty of language to make her writing both pleasurable and meaningful.

Barbie Change came to me as a bit of a surprise, but it shouldn't have. With The Boss, (awarded the 2014 PEN Award) I felt Chang was able to successfully carry a very concise theme through the whole book and keep her ideas fresh and meaningful.  She has nailed this with Barbie Chang as well. I feel it 's one of the best blends of popular American culture and poetry. Victoria Chang is a Rockstar Poet!

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is yet another poet I met at a reading in Kansas  City. (hint: poets out there, if you haven't read in Kansas City, you need to start planning. I had a couple of Naz's (for short) books already. Miracle Fruit and At the Drive-In Volcano. At AWP in Tampa this spring I ran into Amiee and got her to sign my copy of her news book Oceanic,  which has been all the rage.

Nezhukumatathil has a skill not everyone has. Her superpower may well be writing about the most mundane in a way you would argue with me and say, "there is nothing mundane about a C-section scar, a manicure or a valentine."
Amiee Nezhukumatathil

In person, her voice is very soft spoken but as she read her poems you will see her eyes sparkle with delight. She is a gentle person, but her poetry is built from an amazing word bank.  She's a walking encyclopedia of natural history. Plants, fish, birds, she's on a first name basis with them. That doesn't mean she will not know their scientific name. Oh no, she's on top of that too.

The beauty of Oceanic is what is found from the ocean to the sky above; life.

Amiee Nazuhukumatathi is another poet rock star!

Rachel Mennies is back. She was on my 2016 Crush List. I've had only a handful of repeaters before.  Mennies wrote the book The Glad Hand of God Points Backward.,which I read that year. While I was captivated by her book I have seen a number of her poems since then and I I view her work much the same I do Francesca Bell's. Boldly honest and cutting.

Mennies has had poems appear in the Adroit Journal, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Black Warrior Review, Colorado Review, Drunken Boat, Nashville Review, DIOLOGIST, Crazyhorse,  and Waxwing Magazine to name a few.

I met Mennies this Spring in Tampa at AWP and attended one of her panels. She impresses me as the real deal when it comes to poetry. She supports other writers - believes in a sort of literary stewardship and seems to stay abreast of things. She participated as a mentor in one of the earlier  AWP Writer to Writer sessions. A wonderful program I might add.

Mennies' writing style is the kind of forward-looking, authentic, uncut, writing I love and wish I could be turning out myself. almost everything I have seen of hers in the last 6 to 10 months has been poetry that makes me want to stand up and say, "That's what I'm talking about!"  She is once again, rocking my poetry world!

Beth Ann Fennelly is another poet who I've had the opportunity to hear read in Kansas City. She is also a repeat Crush Poet from 2012 when I did a 10 poet format. Her books Unmentionables, and Open House have been a part of my poetry collection for some time. Fennelly worked with husband tom on a novel together and I did not see any new poetry from her for a while..  Then she was named Poet Laureate for Mississippi, and also released a new book Heating & Cooling, a sort of hybrid book of micro memoirs.  Between the pages of this small book are 52 microbursts of whit and vulnerability that makes you want to both laugh and cheer at the same time.
Beth Ann Fennelly

Fennelly is a no-nonsense person that is living her writing life with husband Tom in the shadows of so many great writers that have called Mississippi their home in the past.

I was delighted to see her named poet laureate both because she has great energy and will make a good ambassador for poetry in the state, but also (and somewhat selfishly) because I am hopeful this brings back another renaissance of poetry writing for us all to enjoy.  She's a poetry rockstar as well.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Confession Tuesday - Flan Edition

Dear Reader: It's been one new riding mower, a San Francisco Giants 9-9 record, untold hours writing, slightly less reading, a nagging heel and 3 weeks since my last confession.   Come, follow me to the confessional.

Reader, I've been writing a lot, especially these past two weeks. I confess this is better than the alternative, But reading a Louise Gluck essay has taught me (and I should know this) the search for the ingredients of a poem never stop. I'm thinking today that it would wise for me to sit down and see if what I'm looking for is in any of these various pieces of writing and needs to be moved to a new environment and surrounded by other words that are more eager to play.

Being a poet is a condition. That's not an original thought, I confess that some poet has uttered those words but I don't recall who. Being a condition, if you believe that, and I do, then it is a lifelong journey or searches to find something that you don't know you are looking for. Once you are lucky enough to discover it and wrap a poem around it, the search begins anew.  It's a bit like government work. It's never finished. It just keeps going on and on and on.

Flan, are you for it or against it? I confess that I am way into it. We've talked about going to a Mexican restaurant and just ordering the flan. I haven't done this, but I have stopped on the way home to get flan carryout. I especially like the way the caramel dances around on my taste buds. It's texture custard-like, I want some right now.

As it gets later into the year there are things I am missing. No, I found my keys. I confess that I always looked forward to the iris that came up in our yard.  I also miss the geese that came in droves and would walk across the street in front of our house onto the open field These were little things that made me smile. That gave me hope. I miss those things as do I miss the house where we lived.  My wife got me a package of iris bulbs to plant - but it will be next season until I can lose myself just looking at the flowers when they come up.

June is my Poet Crush List month. I confess I've been tossing poets around in my mind and the list is not quite cemented yet, it's getting close. I always get excited about doing this. That's of course after the anxiety of making the selections when there are so many poets right now that rock!

First, it was my left knee. Then it was the tendons in the heel of my left foot. In one way or the other, I've been struggling with one or the other since back before I went to AWP.  The knee is doing better. The foot issue has improved but still far from 100%. I confess through all this my balance has sucked.

Till next time, stay safe and dance every chance you get in life.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Confession Tuesday - The original lava lamp edition

Dear Reader:

It's been an extensive lava eruption in Hawaii, a 5 & 8 Record for my  Giants (who play tonight), an improving left knee, damage to a tendon in my left heel, some writing  frustration, a feeling of being overwhelmed, more to the ongoing story of Trump Fucks Up America, one more school shooting, sporadic reading, being out of control with my eating, and two weeks since my last confession.

Reader, it's been a strange beauty/horror as I watch pictures from Hawaii. The flow of lava seems to follow the path of least resistance and therefore threaten both people and man-made property that stand in its way. This is another reminder that mother nature holds tremendous power over both beauty and destruction. I confess this is the power nature holds over us, abundant beauty and terror.  Someone must be writing about this!

I am frustrated with writing and reading. I've been doing a fair amount of writing but not so good on reading. And to the extent that I am cracking out words, I don't feel I am happy whit what I am writing. Oh, sure there are bits and pieces that and extraordinary but things are not coming together.  I had planned on entering a contest this month and had pieces that I wanted to rework or polish up for it. I became so disillusioned with myself that as the 15th deadline came and went, I did not have it in me to work anymore on these pieces and I just chucked it all in. I told myself I needed to own this decision and not look back on it with regret,  I confess to being disappointed in myself but that is not the same as regret.

Another school shooting takes innocent lives. I confess that  I have more resolve to cast votes for candidates that reflect the belief we can make a difference - and this issue is guns, not exits, not arming teachers, not allowing more guns in the open community.

There is this reading issue. I'm not reading enough. It's not from lack of books. I confess that I subscribe to the adage that writers must be constantly reading far more material than the write. I'm going to do better on this starting today!

Last but not least, I confess that I have been far too enamored with potato chips and ice cream. These two items have become a food group ion my food chain.  Comfort food?  Items that I can't break away from because of the taste. I don't know. I confess it has just been a problem this past couple of weeks.

I had the opportunity to see several women that belonged to a poetry group that has not met in some time.  It was very nice to see Joyce, Brenda, and Mary (who I haven't seen in good Lord, maybe two years?

That's it for tonight. May you breathe in the fullness of life and watch out for the lava.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Confession Tuesday - Mail Edition

Hill of Slane - County Meath, Ireland

Dear Reader:

It's been one new, rear hatch door on my Scion, another  April - Poetry month has gone by,  a mixed bag of good on writing a poem a day in April, a mixed record of 13 wins and 8 losses for my San Francisco Giants, a somewhat improved left knee, not very good news at the dentists, a cool card from a friend, and 3 weeks since my last confession. 

Let me start with the card. On the left is a photo attached to a homemade card from someone who I believe I first had contact with several years ago as a result of an April - Poetry Month Book give-a-way. This kind person sent me this card wishing me a happy Easter, it went back to her because we had moved and the post office did not forward it.  She messaged me for my new address and resent it. There was a personal note in it, she shared a story about visiting the 9-11 memorial and enclosed a SF Giants window decal. Marianne is aware of my love of baseball and all things SF Giants.

Postal mail has changed so much over the years. I remember the dreaded reach into the mailbox expecting dreaded bills and junk mail. An occasional letter but those were infrequent. If I was lucky there would be a new book I had ordered. They always give me a thrill when they arrive.

Over the years the mail has changed. Drastically so.  In fact, I rarely if ever get so much as a bill in the mail these days. I'm not complaining. Part of that is because I have almost no bills any longer, but also because account statements are usually available to me online. What I do get, is an ever-increasing amount of junk mail. This mail offers me everything from hearing aids to timeshare get-aways. There are siding offers, new windows, funeral plans, car deals, and God knows what I've pitched without delving too deeply int to specifics. Rarely do I ever receive personal mail. Again, the arrival of a new book is about as good as it gets.

I doubt that my mail situation is much different from my neighbors, you, or anyone else. I don't believe this is unique. Sadly, it is a sign of the times. I long for the days that poets & writers wrote to others about their trade. Getting this card was a pleasant deviation from the sad commentary of what the mail has become. It made my day.

I confess that I did not write 30 poem drafts in April. Sometimes it happens that I do, but sometimes I fall short. What I can say, is that I have a few drafts that are keepers and may once cleaned up a bit, will be looking for homes.  So, I won't say that the April exercise was a failure. I will say that it fell short of expectations.  Or maybe plans is a more accurate description.

I confess that  My left knee is much better, but not 100%.

I confess that today I am off from work and I have received no less than 4 solicitation calls to my cell that is on the Do-Not-Call list. This has really ticked me off. They all start with how are you today and my response is, that depends on who you are and why you are calling. I get in my curmudgeon mode. Usually, I don't answer if I don't know the number, but I was anticipating a call that would likely have been a number unknown to me.

I'm totally angry with our government and I confess that I don't see much good coming of it until we can change what we've got.

As you can see, I am a bit cranky today. Hot weather will do that to me, but so will ignorant as well as unethical public officials,  as well as unwanted calls from solicitors.

On that note, I will sign off and hope that tomorrow Michael is less cranky.

Have a safe week, everyone.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Confession Tuesday - Schizophrenia is in Full Bloom this Spring

Dear Reader:

It's been two snowfalls, an injection of cortisone directly into my left knee, 4 wins for the SF Giants and 7 losses, 14 more fucking long days of Trump, an air strike on Syrian targets, a lot of writing, and two weeks since my last confession.  Won't you follow me to the confessional? Come..

The poet community is one less. I confess I did not personally know Sam Hamil, but I knew of him. I knew some of his rugged past that probably had a lot to do with the person he was. I became acquainted with him during the Poets Against the War lead up to U.S. Bombing Iraq.  When I think of Copper Canyon Press I think of Sam. When I think of Sam, I think of Copper Canyon Press. It's that simple. Sam was all about peace. There was a quiet spirit that resided in Sam, but Sam also had the ability to unleash tremendous indignation where appropriate. One thing I don't think I ever saw in Sam was much optimism. His worldview of governments including and perhaps especially our own was highly pessimistic.  War, hate, violence, greed, corruption. These were things that kept his vision from seeing a reason for optimism. But Sam gave is poetry. His gift to us all, are words that will continue to speak to us if only we will listen.

We've had hot days & we've had cold and snowy days. We are deep in a schizophrenic springtime that has no clue what it is. I confess this is trying the patience of everyone I know locally.

What I've been thinking about lately is not the cesspool in Washington D.C. that is the Trump Administration, at least I've not been trying to, but rather poets. That would only be natural since it is April, but I'm contemplating what poets have I read and heard lately that are rocking my world? This is on my mind because June is not that far away and that is when I release my Poets Crush List. A six pack of poets that are wickedly awesome.  No hints. I couldn't if I wanted to as I am still mulling the possibilities. 

It has occurred to me that  I need to get out to more events. I confess that  I've sort of slacked off and part of that is because of this ongoing problem with my left knee, but more recently that has just been an easy excuse. I really have not been especially engaged in the community that much since the first of the year. Other than of course the time spent in Tampa for AWP.  There are some reading coming up I need to get on my calendar. I confess that I will try to step up my game and be more involved.

May each of you be touched by at least one poem this week. 

Be safe! Be at peace!

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Confession Tuesday, - NaPoWriMo 2018 Edition

Dear Reader:

It's been a dreary two weeks since my last confession. I think I may have seen sunshine twice, but I'm a little sketchy on it because it's been so long I'm not totally certain what it looks like.

Lent has come and gone, Easter has come, but we are still technically in the Easter season and spring is here. Spring and baseball. Ah, baseball. I confess that baseball, life, and poetry all three mirror each other. At least that is my perspective.  They all lean heavy on surprises. The seeing eye single that sort of rolls through the infield uninhibited for a base hit, when there are two outs, and 3-2 count wit hone of the lesser strong hitters at the plate. Or when the pitcher, faced with runners in scoring position strikes out the next three batters who all happen to be the heart of the order. Or the poem that started out of nowhere and ended in a manner in which the poet her/himself could not even have imagined. And there is life itself, that just throws any and everything your way. Coincidence that baseball and April both are a part of spring? I think not. April is national poetry month. I've already seen more than one smooth 6-4-3 double play and we are only 4 days in.

So, I am doing NaPoWriMo 2018. I'm posting the poems on a private Facebook group page that is set up especially for this annual event, that way the poem drafts are not published for public view and can be treated as unpublished should we decide to submit one or more to a journal. I confess that sometimes it's rather easy to do this and other times it is excruciatingly painful.  Some of it has to do with what else is going on that day and less to do with flushing the poem itself out into the world. But there are days the later is the problem.

The knee issue that I have written about in past weeks remains a problem. Just today I was back to bee my primary care and we are going to do X-rays and knee specialist. I'm told this guy is the "Rock-Star of Knees" -LOL.  I confess that I'm sort of tired of feeling like I am dragging my left knee around.

I have been writing a lot these past ten days or so. Some of it I believe is inspired by going to AWP18 and part is reading a lot more really good work by others. That always inspires me.  When I read other works, I confess it tends to pull me away from writing safe stuff. I suppose because when I am cranking out something boring, something that I see is not extraordinary, it causes me to stop and ask myself what and why am I writing? I truly believe that anyone who is not reading other people's work has no business writing.

My downfall of late is not submitting enough. I confess I know full well that I need to go back to my Submission Saturday every single week.

I'm all confessed out. Until next time, be safe, be kind, enjoy life!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Confession Tuesday - Hanging Tight Edition

Dear Reader:

It's been another week with a sore knee, but less limping, a string of dreary overcast days, several with rain, a visit to an Alpaca show, and a week since my last confession.

I'm still in a coming off AWP mode. What that is like is a mixture of highs and lows. I confess that one of the things that happen, is I tend to proactively think about things more outside the box. Something all artists should be doing a pretty much all the time. I become more aware of it at odd times like I'm driving to the office and things are turning on in front of me like lights bulbs.  It's a more, why can't this be a certain way as opposed to how you would normally view it. It has been a springboard for some things that I am in the process of trying.  But the other thing that happens is that I start that time frenzy all over. The one I've battled most of my life. Like I have a clock ticking against everything I want to do or achieve. This, I dread. This is a battle that is real.

We went with our grandchildren to an Alpaca show this past weekend and I confess I like Lamas more than I do Alpacas. I confess that their faces do not look trusting. Go figure.

I confess that  I feel like I am trying to come down with a cold or something more serious. I have had a flu shot, but there was that year I had a shot and got it anyway. I'm going to continue my routine of trying to deny it, but the nose, throat, combination stuff is not cooperating.

Thanks to AWP I confess that I have a ton of reading to do. This is not a bad thing.

I confess that I am reading a poet who is new to me Anne Barngrover. I like what I am reading so far. Maybe it's the way that Missouri keeps creeping into some of her poems. I'm sure it's more than that, but the Missouri stuff doesn't hurt.

I hesitate to bring this up, but if I do not say something here I fear my head will explode. Good lord, how has Donald Trump survived?  I seriously believe he is the biggest moron in the whole world. NEVER do I wake up in the morning with a good feeling about where this country is going. Each month he gets worse. He cannot sustain this presidency. I only hope that we survive his tenure and that he is gone sooner than later.

Until next time, hang tight!

Friday, March 16, 2018

What I am Reading Now

In my post AWP days, I am kind o getting grounded again and I have plenty of reading material I came home with. One of my favorite publishers is University of Akron Press - (I purchased three books from their table.)

I have selected one of them,  Brazen Creature by Anne Barngrover to begin tonight.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Confession Tuesday - AWP Edition or Sylvia in My Midst

Dear Reader:

It's been one round-trip flight to Tampa, Florida, 35990 AWP Steps in 4 days, one out of body experience involving Sylvia Plath, the discovery of mini-moon pies, one cortisone shot, a pack of steroids, a lot of new books, and two weeks since my last confession.

This year was my third AWP. My second in a row. I skipped LA three years ago After attending my first in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I confess, some things never change about AWP. I confess that AWP is both exhausting and exhilarating. It's four days of highs and lows and it must surely mimic in some ways living with multiple personalities. Okay, I'm pretty sure that is an exertion, but you get my point. There are people you are so damn excited to see. There are people you miss. There are people you never knew, but now you do. Meeting these three poets for the first times were highlights for me:
All three of them have work that I have read, so I was familiar with them, but this made it extra special.

With Heather Derr-Smith

Before I left, (actually the Friday before) my left knee became very swollen. I stayed off of it Friday night, Saturday and most of Sunday. It went through various stages of being very painful to semi-tolerable.  I called my doctor  Monday and she saw me after work.  I received a cortisone shot and a package of steroids and the probability I would be in good enough shape to leave Wednesday morning for my flight out.

I did, and I confess the trip was not pain-free, but it was for the most part tolerable. So from Wednesday through Saturday night, I logged 35,990 steps. Now, I confess that I was exhausted by the end of each day, but that is how all of my AWP trips have been. Still, it didn't help that my knee was not 100%. Actually, it still isn't.

With Maggie Smith

I love the various swag that comes with AWP. It is always fun to see what new buttons are floating around.  New this year was a red button that read, 'Make America Normal Again.'

There was a series of Cat buttons associated with the various writing genre. My poetry Cat button is awesome. The cat has a red beret on its head.   There was a Teenage Gothic Cat who had mascara streaming down from her eyes.

The absolute best panel I attended was on Confessional Poetry.  The panelists Were Jerico Brown, Maggie Smith, Rachel Mennies and a fourth person whose name I forget at the moment. I must confess that this panel was both serious and hysterically funny in large part to Jerico Brown.

Oh, and going back to swag, one booth had Mini Mood pies in all six flavors. As a diabetic, this size is a better serving size. Not that I don't enjoy the larger size. I have already had to order some from Amazon.

I was able to meet up with two other mentees from the Writer to Writer program. Michelle Cerulli McAdams and Erin Robertson. Michelle and I attended the keynote speech and Eran and I met for dinner one evening.  My Mentor Ken Waldman was there and the two of us spent an hour at the Writer to Writer booth talking with potential future mentees and mentors.
With Rachel Mennies
I went better prepared this time. I packed light and I was able to collapse a good sized leather bag into the suitcase.  If you don't go to AWP and come back with tons of books, something is wrong.  I once packed with books for the return, this was the heaviest of the luggage I had. No contest.

Perhaps later this week I will share some of the titles of the books I brought home.

I confess that I actually wrote two decent poetry drafts while I was in Tampa. I'm in the mood for a full court press of writing and submitting.

My out of body experience as Sylvia Plath
And finally, in the spirit of fun, I confess that I entered into an out of body experience with Sylvia Plath.  I have proof here to show.

Until next time, be safe and peace!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Confession Tuesday - A Word On Thoughts and Prayers

Dear Reader:

It's been 13 more indictments in the Russia Election Influence investigation by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Untold self-injurious tweets by our president,  two more legitimate draft poems and untold musings, mummers, pointless scribbles, one Amazon order, one meeting with my old mentor Ken and an event, and three weeks since my last confession.

You can almost count the passage of time based on your Amazon orders. Well, at least that is true with certain consumable products like our calcium supplement. Not so much books, because they get ordered in spurts.  I'm not sure this is a good thing, but I suppose if I wasn't having it delivered to my door, I'd be driving over town to purchase it.

Time has been skipping along and whistling a happy tune and then, I realize it's only 16 days till AWP. That means I need to get people at work ready to cover my responsibilities. It means I still have to narrow down my schedule for the conference, and at the same time throw myself into a stress frenzy. Oh wait, I confess the stress frenzy has already started. It just seems that time has been flying like a bat out of hell.

The meeting with Ken Waldman came almost as a surprise. We write each other just after the first of the year to catch up with each other. They a week ago I got an email from Ken saying that he signed up to work the Writer 2 Writer booth at AWP at the same time slot I had taken so we could be there together. Then he let me know he was doing an event at a local bookstore if I had time to stop by. I did have time and I did stop by. I confess it was one of those crazy things that came about almost on the spur of the moment. Time always seems full of surprises. Some better than the others.

I finished a Journal I believe I started in September. I confess I'm always excited to get a fresh refill and start again. It's kind of like a cleansing thing. I can step on the floor mat and wipe my feet off before entering the new one. I have untold numbers of journals - I can't quite recall what year I started writing but I know it was before 2000. Maybe this summer I will attempt to arrange them in chronological order.  I still flip through them periodically to get old bits and pieces of writing to bring to the page and try once again to bring some life into them. I confess I don't revisit these as often as I should. Maybe that is something for me to work on this year. After all, how we feel about something we've written sometimes strikes us quite differently a week, six months, three years down the road. This means we can refine it or embellish it to modify where we are going with it.

Lastly, I confess that I am tired of public officials replying to school shootings by saying they are playing for the victims because we all have much more we can do. I'm not against prayer, but if you are not going to offer prayer and commit to taking some positive action to assure efforts to minimize the gun violence will be personally made, your prayers are hollow.

Until next confession, seek joy, be safe & peace!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Her Poetry is in the Beads

Beadwork by CJ Wells

My wife completed her first beading project of the new year.  I'm going to brag a bit about it because I really love the colors and texture of this piece of beadwork. She is very accomplished with her bead art and has done far more challenging projects but this one is so nice because the colors and design are just so pleasing that it is calming just to look at.  

One thing that I have always wanted to do is collaborative where she does a piece of bead art - perhaps abstract and I wrote a poem the response to it. We've talked about it - though she is not into abstract as much as I am. Still, one day I think it will happen. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Confession Tuesday - The Personal Identity Edition

Dear Reader:

It's another hit of cold and snow, another birthday, $145 (at last count) raised for the Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary, three more fricking recorded calls that start out "there is nothing wrong with your credit cards..." WELL DUH! They are all paid off! Lots more reading & writing, my DNA results arriving, and another week since my last confession.

So Monday, the long-awaited, much-anticipated email arrived with the results of my "spit" in a tube.  On the right, you will find the results. I confess I am not majorly surprised. I anticipated the Irish, Scottish, Welsh role in my ancestry would be maybe 20%.  I also anticipated England would figure in...  I was maybe surprised that it was as much as 38%.  Europe West at 35% seemed like a lot, but when you realize that it accounts for all the influence of ancestors from Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein, that 35% could be quite splintered up.

The 3% Iberian Peninsula represents Spain and Portugal.

The 3% Scandinavia represents  Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

The Caucasus would include  Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey and the made up 2%.

Finland/Northwest Russia less than 1%

Europe South - as in Greece and Italy, less than 1%.

East Europe - This includes  Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Russia, Hungry, Slovenia, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia also less than 1%.

The other surprise is the Caucasus leaves me feeling a strange connection to these countries whose history is steeped in war, conflict and sadness.

I confess that I think it is good for people to have a realization about from where they have come. Who their ancestors are, not just parents and grandparents. Would so many people today be up in arms about immigrants if they realized where their roots lead back to?  Would the world seem so big? Would we feel as steadfast in a singular "American" nationality? And unless we have native American roots, American nationality is a bit of a misnomer.

I confess I have been fascinated by this information. I already have a family tree mapped out a bit and have slowly been trying to take it back further, but this information adds a new dimension. It sort of jettisons me back in beyond the individual family trees.

Perhaps another reason this all feels exciting is that I grew up with very little contact with my father and the whole paternal side of my family. This always left me feeling as though I didn't really know who I was. It was like a piece of my identity was missing. As a child, I always felt I was something less than most everyone else.

I am wondering how this information may inform my writing in the future. I confess that I see it as adding some texture to my view of my life, and that can't but help make me a deeper writer.

That's my confession for this week. I hope we all remember we came from someplace, even if it was from under a rock.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Is Marginalia For Me? or Would You Could You In A Book?

Perhaps I owe my respect for books to my mother. I don't particularly recall as a child, but someone must have given me some foundational basis for an almost reverent veneration of books.
My own children read some of the same books I read as a child, their condition mostly with only normal wear.

Continuing into adulthood, my books receive the utmost care. Nothing more than normal wear will do. It is precisely because of this the concept of marginalia, though seemingly fascinating, is hard for me fit into my routine related to my books.

A good many of my poetry book collection are signed by the author. Those have been the only allowable markings otherwise acceptable. However, on occasion, I have been sort of reawakened to marginalia. Usually, this comes about by reading something that has touched on the subject and again my curiosity is opened; I wonder then if I might be missing something.

It seems the practice dates back to ancient times.  What's more, there are recorded instances of well-known writers who have taken to the practice when reading other people's work. According to an article by William Giraldi, writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the author Herman Melville was rather partial to the writings of John Milton. His copies of Paradise Lost and other poems were said to contain numerous personal notations on the pages.

I acknowledge the thought of picking up someone's copy of a book with such notations is quite intriguing. I am fascinated, for example, of the personal writings of other writers.  I believe they give more insight into the thinking of that person. It would only stand to reason I would likewise relish the possibility of reading works with such notations. The conundrum for me is personally moving beyond my hangups and become a marginialest myself. (is that a word?)

I am curious how many poets or avid readers of poetry, or any writing for that matter, make such notations in their books?  Did these people find it difficult at the start?  Are their others, like myself, who have been conflicted on this matter and how have they gotten over it? To this point, I am asking readers if they would mind taking a survey on the subject. You will find it in the top right sidebar.  Your participation is appreciated.  Anyone who feels like sharing more specifics may post in comments or email me directly.  I will keep you posted in the future on my path towards or away from marginalia.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Confession Tuesday - First of 2018 Edition

Dear Reader: It's been one car wreck,  two poem drafts, one check-in with my #W2W mentor from last spring, one haircut, and 9 days since my last confession.

Last year was the pits. I'm being kind in this description so some reason I cannot explain. So much negative stuff went down I'm still dealing with it.  That said, I was anxious for the new year to come just to be rid of 2017. So you will find pictured above our baby. The Scion was making a routine drive to work on the 5th when we were rear-ended while stopped at a light.  The gentleman who hit me commented he hoped this did not ruin my day.  Ha! This is going to ruin a lot more days than one.  Alas, no one was hurt - except baby Scion. There is that to be thankful for.  Beyond this, however, I refuse to let this incident suggest that the new year is going to be another crappy one. It's my year and I get to say yea or nay, on the whole, another bad year thing.

I got my plane reservations today for AWP18 in Tampa. It's going to be here sooner than you would think. I confess I've never been to Tampa and I confess I never really wanted to go there. No one asked me, but I wouldn't have put it there this year.

I confess that I am almost intrigued by the letters of poets and other writers as I am their writing work.  I have volumes of collected letters of numerous poets. Off the top of my head, I have T.S. Eliot's, Allen Ginsberg's, Sylvia Plath's Letters home, and I added volume one of Plath's collected letters that just recently came out. Seems like I have another writer's but it is escaping me now.

Correspondence between two writers is fascinating because it is communication that is personal but on perhaps a higher level because these are people who make their whole life about the choice and arrangement of words to convey their thoughts. I wish more poets today exchanged mail. I wish everyone was more into writing. It's a lost art.

It's been 23 days since my DNA sample was mailed off. Still no sign of ancestors. Will they be wearing Kilts or Lederhosen? I confess I was less anxious about it before I started thinking about it again today. One of the poem drafts I wrote recently was about sending off my spit.

I started wondering yesterday how many poets engage in marginalia?  I think I will do a twitter poll on the subject.  I confess my feelings are conflicted. I have quite a few poetry books that are autographed and I think that ads to my desire to keep them especially nice looking.  If you have an opinion,  let's hear it.

Until next time, peace, joy, and the American Dream (whatever that is anymore)

Monday, January 08, 2018

2018 Poet Blogger Revival Tour

I've been doing this blog for more years than I care to admit. Sometimes with more dedication than others. I have always liked blogs. I prefer them over Facebook and Twitter, though each of them have their own place in this world.

When I realized that others were kicking the dust off their blogs or maybe starting new ones, that there was a renaissance of poetry blogging I was quite hyped. There have been a number of blogs that I have gleaned so much good advise from over the years and I'm excited to know they will once again be offering new material.

You can find a list of those participating  (blogging at least once weekly) at the link below.

Poet Bloggers List for 2018 

I'm looking forward to reading a lot more poetry blogs this year.