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. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Confession Tuesday on Sunday 2017 Wrap - Wild Things Edition

Dear Reader:

I'm overdue for Confession Tuesday so I thought I'd get in one more confession before the new year.

It has been a dip into arctic temperatures, one DNA sample, one visit from fat man in red (not intended to be a disparaging comment on physical looks - just a plain old adjective), one homemade Giants card from a poet friend, one lost diamond stud earring (in the house) one new bookcase in and an old one out, many more claims there is no  collusion with Russer, many more indicators otherwise, one dog escape from the backyard, some stuffy and crusty nose stuff, an immeasurable amount of stress, some weird dreams, three weeks and 5 days since my last Confession Tuesday.

I confess that the end of the year is always fraught with a tugging and pulling over resolutions for the coming year. This year is no exception.  I find in part that resolutions for a new year seem to automatically come with the caveat that they generally are broken. So, once again making resolutions seems like an exercise in futility.

Frederick Nietzsche points out that the major distinction between humans and other animals is the ability to make promises.   He notes they are often broken but insists we should keep making them least we lower our selves to the animal level. It's an interesting argument but one that only adds the stress of not only keeping your promise but uphold the decency of humankind by making them to start with.

I feel what works best for me this year is to be more general in my resolution rather than saying I am going to submit 125 pieces of work this year, or my goal is to get 100 rejections or write X number of new poems a week, my resolution should maybe look something like this:  In 2018 I will live a life of poetry, looking for the rhyme and reason to life. Informing myself of the many works of others and finding the value in them. Be authentic, in that I can appreciate other marvellous poets, both living and dead, that I can learn from them, but in the end, I cannot be them. Accept my own uniqueness and, endeavour to bring writing/poetry into the world that reflects this.

There is always the other important general stuff like being an advocate for peace, justice, for those with whose voice is ignored or lost in the world.

I confess that I love mail. Mostly I never get any bills any longer by mail. I still get a lot of junk mail and that I could do without, but when I order books and they come or some other surprise is in the mailbox, this is really cool.  Recently another person, knowing my passion for the San Francisco Giants sent me a homemade Giants card.  I was amazed when I opened it.  I wish more people exchanged snail mail.


One of my Christmas gifts this year was an Ancestry DNA test.  I confess it seemed a bit gross spitting in a tube and mailing it off.  Still, it's not quite as disgusting as some of the smears that the doctor has had me mail back to the lab.

I'm keenly interested in my heritage and for some reason, I think everyone should be. I confess that is probably a bit of an overreach on my part. I just think there is some comfort in knowing more about where you came from.  This, in my estimation, is one of the great travesties of slavery. It makes it extremely difficult if not impossible for many slave descendants to be able to take that linkage back very far and that is

Awaiting the results of the DNA testing is both exciting and torturous.  I have certain expectations and to some extent, they are based on some things I already know about my own genealogy. I am anticipating that I am descended from a mixture of  Irish, Scotch, Welsh and English heritage. I'm expecting that there is likely some western Europe influence - though perhaps lesser, I'm totally prepared for surprises.


I confess that I am thankful for being a part of the spring session this year of Writer 2 Writer mentoring program through AWP. Thankful for my mentor Ken Waldman.  I'm also appreciative of being able to work recently with Ivy Alvarez.  I confess I never want to stop learning.


I confess that this year has been difficult for sustainability. Selling our home and moving was traumatic and really still is. My mother's passing in November added a new layer of emotional challenge. Sometimes it seems these kinds of years give you something to write about, and to some degree I have. I just have not found a theme in which to begin to pull it all together. I suppose there is loss. So much has already been written on loss. I guess I deep down want to be found.


My biggest disappointment is perhaps that I did not publish more this year.  I confess that I did not submit as often as I normally have. I've been expecting more out of my own work before sending it off and for the most part, raised the bar on who I send work to.  That means I especially hold the key to that success or lack thereof. No blame on this press or that journal. I confess it's me and I know what I need to do.


Finally, I confess that you are never too old to appreciate the Wild Things....  Above right is a picture of one of the Wild Things overlooking my desk. Just one of my muses.

And with that, I've performed my last Confession Tuesday for 2017 being fully aware it is actually Sunday.  Forgive me.  ;-)

Wishing you all a very happy new year - May 2018 bring you ample supply of peace, love, joy and hope.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Confession Tuesday - 100 Years Edition

It's confession time, won't you come along with me?

Dear Reader:

It has been one low key Thanksgiving, one house lockout, one damaged book from Amazon, untold breaking news stories on the investigation into the Russian influence on the 2016 campaign and  Trump family, et al., another guilty plea, a promise this will all be over by the end of the year and Trump cleared (I have some prime swampland for sale at bargain price), the end of the cleanout of mom's apartment, one Super Nova Moon and two weeks since my last confession

I confess that I missed a week, that just gives me more to work with today.  I'm home from work taking a half day vacation. I have this problem that requires me to do this from time to time. I have accrued nearly my limit in vacation hours.  To go over means I will be truncated. In other words, I lose any new hours acquired during that pay period in order to stay at the max. When this happens I get a little note from our office manager telling me to take some time off,  or sometimes she just writes GO HOME! on the vacation and sick day form, we get bi-weekly. It seems I am the only one in the office with this problem.  I will use a bunch of hours in March when I go to AWP18.

So going back to Thanksgiving, it was low key this year.  My wife and I had a small no-frills meal together and in the late afternoon, she left with two of my daughters to drive to Tennessee to see my third daughter for a few days. I enjoyed our time together. I confess I missed not having a pecan pie, but who would not miss one if they didn't have one.  So, I was mostly home alone for the holiday. at least the extended portion. I managed to find interesting things to do, like lock myself out of the house. It's a long story and I confess that's all I'm going to say about it.

Then, I confess that there is so much I want to say to Donald Trump's face, but I won't go into details. Let's say that none of it would be friendly or in any way complimentary.

I confess the Super Nova Moon was awesome. I told my wife in the car the other night that I believed the moon was God's gift to poets.I know that so many poets have written about the moon that many believe it is overworked in poetry.  That may be, but it is up there and it's like a mirror in the sky and it is so fucking inspiring sometimes. Say what you want about the number of moon poems, but the best one has never been written yet...

You already know that my mother recently passed away (if you've been reading my confessions) and in addition to that a former boss of mine died rather unexpectedly at the end of November. John was 69 years old. I confess, as I've mentioned in the past, that I have been compulsively obsessed with the combined elements of death and time.  This started sometime between age 20 and 25 but was certainly blow wide open at 25.  I think it's roots were probably bedded in the "quarter-century what have you done" complex.

In more recent years say maybe the past two, I've dwelled upon this much less. Almost none. But here I am again, back for more punishment.I suspect I have the recent deaths to thank for that.  The Five For Fighting song, 100 Years keeps going on in my head. I like the song but it's somewhere between nostalgic and melancholy.  But it's when I'm obsessed with death that I feel the most pressure about writing. The feeling that I am up against a clock ticking till the end and when it comes, that's it. What I've got, what I've created, achieved, that's it. That's what I leave behind. A really burdensome thought.

 Thank you, dear reader, for joining me. Until next time, I'll just be looping this song in my head...