Friday, September 29, 2006

Cave Canem panel at Dodge

(Left to right: Natasha Tretheway, Toi Derricotte, Cornelius Eady, Elizabeth Alexander, and Terrance Hayes)

Ten years. To think that Toi and Cornelius started this writers' group for African American poets from scratch into a force in the poetry community is simply amazing. On Friday, Cave Canem was featured at Dodge for a panel discussion about the group's 10th anniversary. I'm guessing that there was 60-70 people in attendance, with faces from all backgrounds learning about the group's origins and development.

Once accepted, you have the option of attending the annual retreat a total of three times. I attended in its second and fourth years, and still feel the connection whenever I meet up with CC fellows. (On a personal note, Toi was the professor who introduced me to poetry 20 years ago at Old Dominion University.)

CC is the epitome of strength in numbers. I think that was the most impressive note stuck at the discussion. Doesn't matter if you have an MFA or not. Doesn't matter if you've published or not. Doesn't matter if you're a spoken word poet or a formalist. You just have to be good. And the nice part about it is seeing many more members (more than 230) get first books published. It's a powerful thing to watch people who look like me have success in the art that I love so much.

CC will be having a 10-year anniversary celebration October 12-14 in New York City. Visit the Web site for a schedule of events.

Day One

Photos on the Tappen Zee Bridge on the New York/New Jersey border. (Kids, don't try this at home.)

The skies cleared and poetry filled the air. More pictures to come!

Dodge THIS!

Finally! After all the blog posts and jibba jabba, it's finally here! Unfortunately, it's raining in Massachusetts (read: long commute), and Ella just couldn't sleep, which means I didn't sleep.

No matter! I will at Dodge Poetry Festival today thru Sunday. Please check in tomorrow and Sunday for the the insider's view of the largest poetry festival in North America.

(Thanks and an apology to those who left comments about my Poetry Thursday poem. Sorry I haven't been very good about reciprocating.)

And a quick shout-out to Lynn at Sprigs (welcome back), and Jim Brock at Pictures that Got Small (thinking of you this weekend).

Holla back!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Poem for Poetry Thursday

Happy Poetry Thursday! Gosh darnit, I *heart* Poetry Thursdays!

Because I am headed for Dodge tomorrow, it really is all I can think about. So today's poem is an oldie, one of my favorites from grad school. It's one where I put everything into it but the kitchen sink--emotion, craft, empathy--and feel like I got so much more out of it. Maybe cathartic is the word I'm looking for.

As I look at the poem now, it reminds me that poems sometimes act like photos, capturing a snapshop of a moment in time. With that said, my father and I have a great relationship but it wasn't always smooth. He is not the same person I wrote about so many years ago. And neither am I.

Poem for My Father

Some night just after 10:30,
before mom leaves for the hospital
and you have started her car,
asked if she has money, her mace,
reminded her that she can pull apart
her Club and use its silver shaft as a weapon,
after you have kissed her goodnight
and watched her drive off from
the kitchen window as she has for so many nights,
driving over slick downtown streets,
and poured your first Jim Beam,
think about tomorrow, how it will be just like today:
boring, full of empty talk shows and infomercials,
or consider the possibility of gardening.
Before you walk up the dark stairway to bed,
drinking yourself to sleep, the TV volume turned low,
it would be nice if you called me, your only daughter,
550 miles from home, paying bills and not sleeping,
as I sit at my keyboard thinking of my father,
who also used to leave about this same time,
pressed and starched in a navy blue uniform,
gold shield, nightstick, bag lunch,
as you left night after night doing a job you hated
and never quit. A fire truck careens around
my street corner and soon
I will turn off my computer and wake
to do the exact same thing tomorrow,
while down south the quiet of your street unnerves you,
so much so you double lock the front door
and turn on the floodlights,
struck with the memory of how mom once quipped
she wished she could work 16 hours a day instead of eight,
anticipating your need for something to do in retirement
as you stare at a dying lawn and entertain the idea
of feeling the cold brown earth between your fingers,
wondering what has happened to this life you chose.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Art of Rejection

Yesterday, I received a rejection letter from Jubilat. While I'm not bitter (not really), and believe rejection is part of the publication process, I realized that I'm starting a new "rejection cycle" because I'm sending out my poems for publication again. The whole process sent me back to an old poem/spoof I wrote in grad school. It's so old that I used my then maiden name in the first line.

As you can see, the poem was put together from all of the many forms and letters I've received through the years. Ever notice how some publications send out slips of paper and others send letters with hand-written notes? The hand-written notes are encouraging.

And then there are those that send subscription and donation cards with your rejection. Now that's gall. Jubilat sent a rejection slip and a subscription card.

Ultimate Rejection

Dear January, Dear Ms. Gill, Dear Author, Dear Contributor:

Thank you for your submission to _____.
Thank you for submitting to____.
We appreciate your interest in us. We’re honored that
you would consider ___ as an outlet for creative work.

Look, we know how it feels. We are writers too. It happens.
Although there is no true consolation for rejection,
We regret that it does not meet our present needs.
We regret that the manuscript you submitted does not fit our editorial needs.
Unfortunately, space does not allow us to accept work at this time.
“Not quite.”

We are a small magazine, infrequently published. At present,
we’re reading well over a hundred poems a week.
We receive approximately 1700 pieces of poetry and prose a week.
We publish only 2% of what we receive.
We’ve reached a point where we’re simply unable to accept any unsolicited material
until January 1, 2024,
which makes a personal reply difficult.
We regret the use of this form.

In the meantime, we hope you continue to offer support
by telling everyone you know about us.
As an independent literary magazine in the current “arts challenged” climate
subscribing, and outright generous gifts, is the only way we can survive.
We are, however, interested in your progress.
So we hope we haven’t added to your pile of rejection slips.

Nevertheless, we appreciate you thinking of us.
We do appreciate your interest and hope you’ll think of us again in the fall.
Please feel free to submit by our next deadline.
Thank you for showing your work to us.
Best of luck in placing your work elsewhere.
Keep reading_____, and keep trying.
Thanks and sorry.

The Language of Life

Today's random act of poetry takes me back to one of the reasons I discovered the Dodge Poetry Festival in the first place.

Back in '96, Journalist Bill Moyers put together a PBS series, book, and audio recording of the festival. The Language of Life is "... a celebration of the vitality of the spoken word ..." In the book, 32 poets talk about their lives as poets, poetry as craft, and a few of their own works.

Never saw the special when it originally aired, but I do have the cassette set, and an audio download also is available. While the audio focuses exclusively on top-tier poets, it does give you a sense of what the festival is like with crowd voices and the occasional novice reading some of his/her works.

Swing by your local library and check out this anthology. And when you do, remember: I'll be at Dodge this weekend. Visit the blog on Saturday for pictures, posts, and more!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Mr. Incredible

It only took me 2 1/2 hours to figure out how to get the video from my camera to You Tube. But I did it and I'm pretty damn proud of myself! Woo Hoo!

In preparation for Dodge, I uploaded video of Alex and Ella having a little "super" fun with dad. We bought this costume for Alex on Saturday, and he's worn it two days straight.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Instructions

Today, the kids were BANANAS! Soon it will be time for baths and bed. But all I can think about is the Dodge Poetry Festival in Stanhope, New Jersey. Yes, I’m thinking about the big tents with people big-eared and intense about hearing poetry. Yes, I’m thinking about getting together with friends and colleagues in the poetry community. Yes, I’m thinking about my blog posts, photos, audio posts, and video clips.

But right now, I’m thinking about a weekend of adult conversations with no kids. And a hotel with an indoor pool!

So I’m using this Sunday Scribblings to offer my instructions on how to enjoy the Dodge Poetry Festival.

  1. Have a great time! This is the largest poetry festival in North America with people just like you who want to talk about poetry for four days straight. When does that ever happen in real life? Every two years.

  2. Discover a new poet. Chances are Jorie Graham or Mark Doty will read at a Barnes & Noble near you. I recommend taking the time to discover a new poet. For me, that will be Brian Turner, Andrew Motion, or Taslima Nasreen. Did you know that Taslima Nasreen has written almost 30 books that have been translated into 20 languages? I didn’t, and I can’t wait to find out more.

  3. Support the Poets Among Us. These are poets who have yet to publish a book or who have one or two books and are on the fringes of greatness.

  4. If you have the chance and you enjoyed hearing the poet’s work, tell him/her how much you enjoyed the reading. I don’t care how far up the food chain a poet gets, he/she enjoys the compliment.

  5. Buy a poetry book. It’s important to support the community, so don’t be cheap. And, if you feel so moved, have it autographed.

  6. Talk to other poets. See #1 for details.

  7. Read your own work. There are microphones set up all over the place. Read your best poem, but don’t hog the spotlight. Always leave the crowd wanting more.

  8. Take part in the discussions. Participate in the Q&A’s with your favorite poet.

  9. Get to the venues early because, as you would imagine, the good seats go quickly.

  10. Get in touch with your earthy, crunchy side. Leave the cell phones at home, or at least turn them off. And if it rains, suck it up. Hope for better weather in 2008.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Partners in Crime

Can’t seem to find many Dodge photos, but I did find this one. Next to me (left) are poets Joseph Legaspi and Phebus Etienne. We met at NYU and have been friends and coconspirators for more than 10 years. And while our lives have gone in different directions, we keep in touch and always always always manage to make it to the Dodge Poetry Festival every two years.

Joseph cofounded and is program director of Kundiman, a program dedicated to the development of Asian American poets. He’s been published in more publications that I can name, and his first book, Imago, will be published in fall 2007.

A Poem About Apples

It was like the dream was having you.
The orchard spread across the valley,
a shaggy carpet. A basket slung
over my shoulder, I picked
the fruit, fructose-heavy,
sleeping red birds dangling
from skinny branches.
Each tree gasped as I
severed what seemed like
the head of the queen of Washington.
After gathering my share,
I sat leaning on a well,
ate the basketfull until I'm filled
with the mush of chewed apples.
I slept my second sleep,
to wake-up feeling my two
front teeth loosened.
I twiddled them with my tongue,
tapped the tough enamel, swinging them
backward and forward until, like dripping honey,
both fell softly onto my hands,
both brown-speckled, exposed, little peeled apples.
I washed them in bitter water,
they were white again.
Bone-hard, sharp, smooth, I made one
into a pendant suspended from a silver chain,
the other a bracelet around my wrist in gold.
What has this got to do with apples?
Maybe this is about teeth.

Copyright Joseph Legaspi
You can find more poems by Joseph at La Petite Zine.

Also having too many publications under her belt to name, Phebus was first runner-up for Tupelo Press's 7th Annual First Book Award this year. And, in 2002, she was a “Poet Among Us” at Dodge. Incidentally, Phebus and I are both Cave Canem fellows.

Black Enough

I traveled to Paris and the pork free,
lactose intolerant sorority sister questioned
how could I walk the decadent grounds of Versailles
when I had not traced my Dahomey roots.
Even Dessalines danced the minuet.
Europeans swim in my blood, surfacing in Victors
who walked ahead of me, signifying beauty
with cafe-au-lait or mulatto skin, straight noses and silken plaits.
They left or were driven from
milkweed forests and sugar cane acres,
after learning the simplicity of dried cod tossed in vinegar
and served over cornmeal at midday.
Luxury was siesta, open air baths at dusk,
lemon leaves scenting a tin basin.
Parisian men praised my pronunciation
while their women appraised my brown shell. Some secured
purse straps, pulled husbands closer
as we shared bridges arcing above the Seine.
Two centuries since we raised a flag,
rice farmers and professors sail wooden ships
through another middle passage.
I know the taste of Bordeaux, crème brulee,
the sweetness of standing over Napoleon's tomb.

Copyright Phebus Etienne

I was going to close with something gooey about friendship, but the truth is I just love these guys. Nuff said.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Poem for Poetry Thursday

Okay, so I ran out of time to right a new poem. Spent so much time writing yesterday's poem I lost sight of today (hard to believe, I know).

So today's poem is an oldie, but one that fits the prompt. And, it a roundabout way, addresses one of my favorite indulgences.


I pour a tablespoon of sugar on my kitchen counter
spreading it thin with the back of my spoon
Each grain becomes a moment,
a seed resting on tilled earth,
the words forming in my husband’s mouth as he says
kiss me, and I am reminded again and again
of the first, the beginning, the newness of his mouth,
his plump lips deciphering the arc
of my teeth; his tongue a new species born
in my vast ocean. I myself a creature,
made of sugar and water
capable of dissolving right out of existence,
salvation and destruction in one sweet instant.
Each granule is a lost poem, an unanswerable wish
spinning on the edge of consciousness.
I say to the pots and pans: every act of nature
requires a human narrative.
I tell my story to the cereal boxes, the soup cans—
they turn their labels away in disbelief,
their stupefied lids open wide like paper sacks.
For every truth I hold to be self-evident,
I touch the flat of my tongue
to the counter’s surface.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

New Poem

Always, There’s Something

Every house hides a story—
ask it about the grout
the knots in the hardwood floor
the dirty secrets we share
between the sink and the sponge.

Days press down on me
like an iron on a silk blouse.

First there are the insufficient wants:
stockpiles of clothes and toys,
movie ticket stubs from 1986
pictures of people I loved once.

And then there is this need
to ask for help, to be impoverished.
I talk to the closet, tell the clothes
my story—they send their regrets,
say, “don't dust anything taller
than your tallest friend.”

Always there’s something
wanting to be something else.
A glass cake dome
becomes a tabletop garden
—a hothouse for baby tears
is a blessed moment of escape.

I have worked on this poem so long that I've put more effort into it than I should. Feedback welcome, but I'm probably going to put it away and never look at it again. Still, it's good to post things that don't work as well as the ones that do. New poem coming for Poetry Thursday.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Dodge Poetry Festival Schedule

Check out the events schedule for the Dodge Poetry Festival.

I haven't had a chance to check out the whole schedule yet, but here's the list for the poetry sampler. On Friday, September 29, these poets will read back to back in 10-minute intervals.

12:45 – 3:00 p.m.
Ekiwah Adler-Beléndez
Taha Muhammad Ali
(with Peter Cole)
Lucille Clifton
Billy Collins
Toi Derricotte
Mark Doty
Jorie Graham
Linda Gregg
Tony Hoagland
Linda Hogan
Ko Un
(with Richard Silberg &
Kyeong-Soo Kim)
Kurtis Lamkin
Andrew Motion
Taslima Nasreen
Linda Pastan
Gerald Stern
Sekou Sundiata
Brian Turner
Anne Waldman

I'm quite dizzy with anticipation!

Observations from a Li-Young Lee Reading

Tonight I went to Li-Young Lee's poetry reading at Brookline High School. It's been a while since I've been to a reading held by an established poet, so having a night out to listen to poetry was a gift.

Here are my observations.

1. Not many minorities present. Whenever I go to a reading, it is the first thing I look for when I enter the room. Habit, I guess.

2. Coincidently, the reading was held in the MLK Room. It was comforting watching Li-Young at the podium with King's portrait in the background.

3. Li-Young was perfectly charming. He told a story about how he's on a poetry tour and rather than packing and repacking clothes when he's home, he's wears the same dirty clothes over and over again. He was reluctant to take his jacket off because his shirt was dirty, and he was wearing pajama bottoms.

4. Li-Young read amazing new work instead of older pieces. His soothing voice compliments the poems so well. His subjects tend to focus on duality, of growing up Chinese, and raising a mixed-race family.

5. One of the quotes that stayed with me was, "I feel that I have found the recipe that makes my life work." We should all be so lucky.

6. Listening to Li-Young's work makes me want to write longer poems. I've always had trouble sustaining an idea longer than a page, but maybe I'm ready to try something new and different.

I was hoping to find a poem online that he read at the reading--no such luck. But I did find this one, which offers a taste of the work he read tonight. Enjoy!


When I lay my head in my mother’s lap
I think how day hides the star,
the way I lay hidden once, waiting
inside my mother’s singing to herself. And I remember
how she carried me on her back
between home and the kindergarten,
once each morning and once each afternoon.

I don’t know what my mother’s thinking.

When my son lays his head in my lap, I wonder:
Do his father’s kisses keep his father’s worries
from becoming his? I think, Dear God, and remember
there are stars we haven’t heard from yet:
They have so far to arrive. Amen,
I think, and I feel almost comforted.

I’ve no idea what my child is thinking.

Between two unknowns, I live my life.
Between my mother's hopes, older than I am
by coming before me. And my child's wishes, older than I am
by outliving me. And what's it like?
Is it a door, and a good-bye on either side?
A window, and eternity on either side?
Yes, and a little singing between two great rests.

—from Book of My Nights

Monday, September 18, 2006

Is Best American Really "The Best?"

Interesting discussion about David Lehman's Best American Poetry series on Seth Abramson's blog. Is it the best poetry or just nepotism at its best? You can read extensively on the subject here.

An assertion made by one of the respondents got me thinking—that local and regional poetry will dominate the poetry scene (eventually). The business of poetry keeps so many of us on the fringes that big-name poets will no longer loom large over the poetry landscape. We see that happening now with blogs, writers’ groups, and self-published chapbooks. I predict that once a self-published book sells 10,000 copies, the poetry industry will hit a new level of creativity and diversity.

But what do you think? Is the tide turning? Are we catching up to publishers or is it the other way around?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

20 Things I Love About Tim

(Yes, I could have called the list 1000 Things I Love About Tim, but I had to cap the list somewhere.)

  1. I love that we met in New Orleans in 1996 at F&M Patio Bar. You asked your best friend talk to one of my friends, so you could talk to me.

  2. I love that our first dance was on top of a pool table. Ahhh … memories!

  3. Even though I lived in NYC and you lived outside of Boston at the time, you would drive 3½ hours to visit, sometimes within a 24-hour period.

  4. I love that because you introduced me to the Boston Red Sox, you come to poetry readings and plays with me.

  5. I love that I was right about how great a father you’d be.

  6. You are always the smartest one in the room. And, your natural ability and curiosity makes you a lifelong learner.

  7. My mother always said that I should either have a lot of ambition or marry someone who does—I lucked out on both accounts. Never have I been more certain of that as when you stared your own business last year. I love that with careful thought and planning, you decided to take a chance. Most important, you’re running your business debt-free, which means your business will grow a little slower, but you’ll never put our family at risk financially.

  8. I love that you taught our son how to make a toast. Gives me great pleasure to watch you two clink glasses. You say, “Cheers!” He says, “To Health!” I don’t even think he knows what that means.

  9. I love that in bed you rub your feet together to help fall asleep.

  10. I love your kisses.

  11. I love that you give me enough room to be myself.

  12. I love that being an interracial couple has never been an issue for us, and we’ve managed to surround ourselves with people who accept us without question.

  13. I love watching Ella pull herself up using your leg to steady herself. It’s comforting to know you’ll always be there for her.

  14. I know you think about your father often, who passed a year before we were married. But I think if he were here, he’s tell you how proud he is of you, and how he couldn’t have asked for a better son.

  15. I love that you have strong opinions about politics, and while we don’t always agree, you keep putting those ideas out there.

  16. You cook, clean, and change diapers.

  17. You are in denial about your bald spot.

  18. I love the way your mind works. You look at problems from all sides and try to find the most equitable solution for everyone.

  19. I love that you are extremely helpful to our neighbors. You are the one cutting grass in the summer and snowblowing in the winter. You are a throwback to how it used to be when people could depend on one another in times of need.

  20. You never give up.

    Happy Anniversary, Tim. Here’s hoping the next 55 years are as good as the first five.

    I love you.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Oh Happy Day!

Whitney, step into the light. It's okay. We're waiting for you.

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- The tumultuous marriage of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown -- which withstood drug addiction, Brown's numerous arrests, the decline of Houston's once-sparkling image and domestic abuse allegations -- is coming to an end.

The Grammy-winning, superstar singer filed papers in Orange County Superior Court on Friday requesting a legal separation from her husband of 14 years. The reason given was irreconcilable differences. (Read for the full report.)

Happy Anniversary

Tim and I are celebrating our five-year wedding anniversary! Needless to say, I haven't posted today. So I'm taking the night off and will post more about our day without the kids tomorrow.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Poem for Poetry Thursday


Here we are now, the wasp trapped between the window and me.
He feels the cool breeze of freedom but cannot find his way out.
This is the last time I’ll see him alive. But he’s moving on
and so am I. You can only think about dying
for so long. Today I am speaking in the mother tongue
in which living and dying is the same language. Today
I want to hurt something, smash something between glass and hand.
The wasp in his black muscle T and stripped pants so tight
his ass looks like a bubble. I tap the pane. Watch his antenna move.
He must feel grounded. Or trapped. Misses his mother.
God save the queen. God’s mercy is missing.
Maybe he’s lost hope. Maybe he wants to jump.
Or wait for the wasp rescue squad that’s just not coming.
And after his passing, I will hold endless memorials for him.
I’ll speak fondly of him as if he never made the wrong choices.
Never climbed around my neck to sting me. I will never forget
the redness, the swelling—the gift that keeps on giving.
But you must move on and so must I. Does he believe in posterity?
Decorum implies that that I stop but retaliation seems the only way.
I am the horrifying other who can’t be located or identified. I am
God’s missing mercy. Today we’ll gather our incomplete information,
our faint knowledge of each other, and plot each other’s destruction.
You cannot find your way back to the cool breeze of freedom.
This is the last time you’ll see me alive. Today I struggled. You struggled.
The universal “you” struggled. Without sentiment. It happened.
Here we are now.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Only at MIT

In what may be an only-at-MIT Sept. 11 tribute, a fake fire truck appeared this morning on top school's Great Dome (From

Monday, September 11, 2006



Easy for almost anything to occur.
Even if we've scraped the sky, we can be rubble.
For years those men felt one way, acted another.

Ground Zero, is it possible to get lower?
Now we had a new definition of the personal,
knew almost anything could occur.

It just takes a little training, to blur
A motive, lie low while planning the terrible,
Get good at acting one way, feeling another.

Yet who among us doesn't harbor
A grudge or secret? So much isn't erasable;
It follows that almost anything can occur,

Like men ascending into the democracy of air
Without intending to land, the useful veil
Of having said one thing, meaning another.

Before you know it something's over.
Suddenly someone's missing at the table.
It's easy (I know it) for anything to occur
When men feel one way, act another.

~Stephen Dunn, from the book Poetry After 9/11


I wasn’t sure if I was going to post about 9/11. Out of respect for the people who died, I considered not blogging today. But I walked in on part of a 9/11 tribute to firefighters on TV and was so moved I felt I had to say something.

Just about everyone can remember where they were on that day—this is my story.

Sounds like a cliché, but it was a day like any other. I got up, got dressed and went to work. Except this was the day before I was supposed to fly to Norfolk, Virginia, to prepare for my wedding on 9/15.

When I got to work, mentally I was already on vacation. Wedding details kept running though my head. And then someone came into my office and said an airplane had hit The World Trade Center. I remember thinking maybe a small plane had capped the top of the building. But then I had trouble logging into The only Web site I could get to was, and the details were sketchy in the beginning.

So I drifted downstairs to our PR group and we’re all glued to the TV. Then I did what most people outside of NYC did: called friends in NYC to see if they were okay; called parents; and called Tim, my then fiancé, to see how we were going to get to Virginia. Later that day, my coworkers planned a party for me wishing me good luck in my new life, but no one wanted to celebrate—it didn’t seem appropriate. In fact, it seemed inconsequential at the time.

We drove all night to get to Norfolk with my husband’s mother and brother, 12 hours on the road. We passed NYC but were unable to travel within a 50-mile radius of the city, taking detour after detour. I remember being near the Garden State Parkway and hearing soot and debris hit the car, as light as falling snow. It looked like our car was bathed in pollen. I also have the distinct memory of listening to Howard Stern’s broadcast in the wee hours as we were passing Washington, D.C. I can still hear the pain in his voice mixed with a bit of courage for broadcasting through such a difficult time.

We got to Norfolk without incident, got married on 9/15, and flew out on our honeymoon a day later. And in the five years since then, I’m always reminded that our anniversary is forever connected to that day. It’s a selfish thought, I know. But it’s my recollection of the day.

To all the bloggers out there telling your 9/11 stories, talking about friends and family members affected, offering your stories and remembrances, thank you. And for the victims and their families, my prayers are with you today.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: I Would Never Write ...

Journalism. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

I worked for Associated Press for four years as an assistant and saw firsthand what a sh*t job reporting was. I worked long hours for little money until I could prove I was good enough to cut my teeth on something bigger, like a book review or art exhibition. It takes years to be able to write or edit hard news. And, news organizations want you to get your experience someplace else and then come back a “seasoned” reporter. In the end, I don’t enjoy writing on deadlines, but I have immense respect for those who do.

Also, I was amazed at how many details are left out of story. Real life can be too gruesome for the average reader. And the photos … don’t get me started on the photos.

At the time, I didn’t feel I was ready for journalism; it’s something I may try in the future, however. I still don’t like deadlines, but I’m better about meeting them. In addition to writing and editing for a living, blogging gives me the same feeling as reporting. Telling a story. Getting all the facts. Putting the words together. Communication. That’s what I enjoy the most.

For all the news (and then some) that's fit to print, check out Sunday Scribblings.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Ten Things You Should Know About Dodge

All this talk about the Dodge Poetry Festival and I haven’t really talked about the festival itself. I think I’m hung up on the fact that I can’t find my photos from the last two events. Drat! Anyway, here’s my take on the festival, in no particular order:

  1. Bring comfortable shoes because it can rain, which means muddy trails to and from venues.

  2. Always attend events featuring Robert Bly and/or Lucille Clifton. They command a Sunday audience because their readings are more fluid and spiritual that those of other poets.

  3. Always attend an event where Franz Wright gets to speak his mind. He usually has something interesting to say that’s counter to what everyone else is thinking, especially about MFA programs.

  4. I'm hugh fan of Mark Doty's work, and look forward to hearing him read at Dodge every time. But for Pete's sake, please don't read the poem Golden Retrevals. He's read it at the last two festivals and in every public appearance in between.

  5. Don’t go to poetry readings carrying bags of books to have your favorite author sign them. It’s annoying for the poet, and for the people who bought a single book to have autographed. So tacky. Take your e-Bay books somewhere else.

  6. Always go to venues featuring “Poets Among Us.” These are budding poets, and an event like this can be a springboard for his/her career.

  7. Expect to hear all kinds of poetry at the Open Mic Tent. Okay—expect to hear BAD poetry at the Open Mic Tent.

  8. The food vendors sell moderate to lousy food. Not worth the expense. But then again, there’s nothing in the surrounding area. In fact, I didn’t find the local mall until our last visit, which was my fourth time at Dodge.

  9. Don’t bring your manuscript in progress because no established poet will want to read it.

  10. And, last but not least, please, please, please don’t expect any big answers or solutions for an easier life as a poet.

    Bow Wow.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Poem for Poetry Thursday

I attempted this week's prompt, which was a good one BTW, and this is what I got. Blue is my favorite color, so maybe this month I'll do a blue series in honor of Dodge Poetry Festival. As for the poem, I don't know how to tab over in Blogger (or the html coding for tabs), so this is not the true formatting for the lines.

Like many of you, I'm having trouble with the Blogger beta. I plan on getting to as many poems as I can. But if they can't get it together, I may go medieval today. (see definition #3)


I love how you think the world is flat
swooping and gliding over the pines
down the road and back again.
You put up with me, the interloper,
with my picnic table and paved walking path.
This is how you roll: stealth,
swooping down, patrolling for chipmunks
I am no threat to you, which leads me to ask
what are you doing here?
Where is your open country, your high perch?
You’re a red-tailed hawk gliding on exhaust fumes.
I’ve heard your cry only in movies as the
piercing background sound denoting wilderness.
As September ducks into a passing cloud
the late heat of summer taken by hydrangeas,
those big-headed flowers stealing cerulean
from the sky. Going. Going. Gone.
Roam rusty red high above tree tops.
I’ll eat my bagged lunch and leave you
to your prey. I have not forgotten
your ability to kill.

Feeling blue? Check out the poetry at Poetry Thursday!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Gather 'Round the Table

Thanks, Deb, for letting me filch this meme!

How do you like your eggs? Scrambled, but I’m partial to omelets. And hard-boiled. Let’s just say that I like any egg that doesn’t have a runny yolk. Yik.

How do you take your coffee/tea? Lipton tea with lemon and six sugars (get over it, Twitches!). When I don’t have lemon, orange juice will do in a pinch. Can’t believe iced tea is seasonal in the Northeast—as if!

Don’t like coffee but I do like the smell of coffee on an airplane—brings me back to flying as a child.

Favorite breakfast foods: Apple cinnamon oatmeal. Honey-bunches-of-four-grain-something-or-other? A good muffin. A good doughnut. A good hamburger. (Don’t you get tired of eating traditional foods at expected times?)

Peanut butter: smooth or crunchy? Neither. I don’t like peanut butter—gives me a headache. Don’t think I’m allergic; I just never really liked it.

What kind of dressing on your salad? Ken’s Italian or Hidden Valley Ranch.

Coke or Pepsi? Dr. Pepper (a.k.a. nectar of the gods, next to iced tea). But I’ll drink a Coke every once in a while.

You’re feeling lazy. What do you make? A call to Siam Delight for Thai food.

You’re feeling really lazy. What kind of pizza do you order? Pepperoni, mushroom, green peppers, black olives.

You feel like cooking. What do you make? Crabcakes. Shrimp scampi. Braised chicken. Delmonico steak. Cupcakes (I don’t care what anyone says, store-bought cake mix makes the best cupcakes. Must be all those preservatives that makes them taste so good!

Do any foods bring back good memories? Aforementioned coffee on a plane (no relation to Snakes on a Plane).

Crabcakes remind me of vacation in Rhode Island five years ago, a few months before my then future father-in-law passed away. It was a fluke of a summer with so many young crabs in the inlet next to the house. But Johnny O. was out there with the grandkids crabbing in the hot July sun. It’s been five years but the crabs finally came back this past summer—the experiences have become part of the O’Neil family lore and part of my recent family history.

Do any foods bring back bad memories? Chitlins. Any unrecognizable food from an animal: “fat backs & hog maws & hog jaws & scrapple” (I'm refering to the poem one the left.) Also, pickled eggs, pickled pigs feet, pickled pigs ears, etc.; although, a good pickle can be quite refreshing on the side of a sandwich. It clears the palate.

Do any foods remind you of someone? Godiva makes chocolates in the shape of a seashell with a hazelnut cream—that reminds me of my best friend. We used to send them to each other when one of us needed an “atta girl!” She’s pregnant with baby #2 so I suspect chocolates are on the way, Special K! Atta girl!

Is there a food you refuse to eat? See question about bad memories. And let’s not forget beets. No, they don’t taste like candy.

What was your favorite food as a child? Ice cream. Also, bread and butter. I used to eat those things thinking I would fatten up and fill out. Too bad my master plan was successful 25 years later—all in the wrong places.

Is there a food that you hated as a child but now love? Nope.

Is there a food that you loved as a child but now hate? Scallops—it’s a texture thing.

Favorite fruit & vegetable: Easier to point out what fruits/veggies I don’t like—raw onions. But if I have to pick favorites, I’d say okra, asparagus, and bananas.

Favorite junk food: The Burger King Whopper. The Chick-fil-a chicken sandwich. Yum!

Favorite between meal snack: Yogurt or bananas.

Do you have any weird food habits? I like a bagel with cream cheese and a sausage patty. What else … I like apple pie with a slice of cheese. But I don't have weird habits such as my foods can't touch each other on the plate. In fact, I encourage touching.

You’re on a diet. What food(s) do you fill up on? I don’t believe in diets but I do believe in drinking lots of water. And I don’t drink much soda.

You’re off your diet. Now what would you like? Since I’ve never been on a diet, it’s hard to say. Pizza, I guess.

How spicy do you order Indian/Thai? I like mild to medium spiciness. Food with a little heat is good, but if I can’t taste the flavor of the food, I won’t enjoy it. (And food should be savored, don't you think?)

Can I get you a drink? I don’t know, can you? (That was Deb’s answer so I’m sticking with it.)

May I get you a drink? Absolutely. I like a chocolate martini.

Red wine or white? Used to be a red wine drinker, now I’m leaning toward the white.

We only have beer: Then call me the designated driver! But if you can find a hard cider, or some other “malternative,” I’m in like Flynn!

Favorite dessert? Banana chocolate chip cake. I’m looking for a good recipe so if you have one, send it along. Much appreciated.

The perfect nightcap? The love of a good man. Hot tea with lemon and six sugars (Let it go, Twitches! Let it go.)

US to UK/Aussie/Kiwi Translator
cookie = biscuit
biscuit = scone (savory, not sweet)
fries = chips
chips = crisps

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Top 10 Tips for Writing the Perfect (or not-so-perfect) Poem

From our friends across the pond at Poets United.

1. Observe well
2. Carry a notebook to jot down thoughts
3. Read poetry to improve your poems
4. Read your poems out to experience how they sound
5. Use all your senses – not just the five we're told about at school
6. Simple thoughts simply expressed can have a profound impact
7. Keep a dictionary and thesaurus handy
8. Don't be afraid to experiment
9. Try not to stick to just one form of poetry
10. Practice, practice, practice

Full (yet short) article from Peterborough Today online.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Just make sh*t that works--that's all I ask.

Frugal vs. Cheap

Not to harp on this subject too much, but my Sunday Scribblings post got me thinking about an idea I’ve wanted to flesh out for a long time.

I’m fascinated by the concept of being frugal versus being cheap. For me, being frugal means reusing items or finding cheaper ways to do things. Being cheap, well, I define it the same way pornography is defined—I know it when I see it.

I admit, if I can get away with not paying for something, I consider it a coup!

Here’s an example: I carry teabags in my purse because I never know if I’ll get stuck someplace that only serves coffee (meetings, waiting rooms, airports). If I have access to hot water, I’ll make myself a cup of tea. If I can finagle a cup of hot water from an eating establishment, I’ll make my own tea even if it’s served on the menu. Am I being frugal or being cheap?

Another example: My mother carries Sweet-n-low, artificial sweetener packets, wherever she goes because some restaurants and coffee bars don’t carry that product. But, she’ll pick up extra packets if she sees them at a condiments bar to add to her stash. Frugal or cheap?

Yet another example: Many folks I know who take the commuter rail to work read the daily newspapers left behind by other passengers. They never buy an actual newspaper, but will always read what someone else has left behind.

Here are a few other examples to consider.

  • Reusing plastic grocery shopping bags as trash bags.
  • Not buying trash bags because you only use grocery shopping bags.
  • Reusing plastic sandwich bags.
  • Driving out of your way to save a few cents on gasoline.
  • Saving once-chewed chewing gum to chew another day.
  • Taking the soaps and shampoos from your hotel room.
  • Taking a pen from work.
  • Tearing out a magazine article in a doctor’s office or waiting room.
  • Hooking up another room in your house to cable TV, even though you only pay for one connection.
  • Using your neighbor’s wireless Internet connection without his/her knowledge.
  • Picking furniture and discarded items from the neighbor’s weekly trash collection.
  • Downloading music from the Internet without paying.
  • Seeking out free samples (cosmetics, toothpaste, etc.) but never buying the products.
  • Leaving a standard, 15 percent tip at a restaurant.
  • Haggling for a better price on a blouse at a department store when you can afford it.

My new favorite frugal thing that I do is using hair conditioner on my legs when I shave. Conditioners have an emollient in them so I don’t have to use lotion afterwards. I’ll never go back to using shaving cream or soap again!

So tell me, are you frugal or cheap? Where is that fine line for you? And what do you do that you consider frugal?

Sunday Scribblings: Fortune Cookie

Live like no one else so later, you can live like no one else.
—Dave Ramsey

Wouldn’t it be great to open a fortune cookie and have the meaning of life answered with one simple phrase? Seems like everyone is looking for that one thing that will make their lives better, their wallets fatter, their waistlines slimmer—and I’m no exception. None of us are truly happy with what we have, always wanting more when everything we need is right in front of us.

Here’s the phrase I consider my fortune cookie fortune: Live like no one else, so later, you can live like no one else.

This simple phrase has given me more fortune than any message in a cookie ever could. What does it mean? Exactly the opposite of what ad agencies tell us in commercials and magazines: don’t be like everyone else, delay gratification, live on less money than you make. “Normal” in this country means being up to your eyeballs in stuff and debt. So I’m choosing to be “abnormal” by saving, investing for the future, and not buying things I can’t afford.

Being a good steward of my money is a topic dear to my heart. Heck, I could have written about “the debt monster” in last week’s Sunday Scribblings. But after paying off a ton of consumer debt earlier this year, I have a certain kind of freedom I’ve never had before. I don’t have internal conversations like: if I buy a $7 lunch, will that throw me into reserve credit? Or, should I take $100 and pay on 10 bills or pay one bill with $100?

Being debt free translates into making difficult choices now to succeed in the long run. It’s about turning down dinners out so I can put that money into a rainy day fund. It’s about driving a junky car past its prime so I don’t carry a car payment. It’s about having garage sales, taking freelance jobs, and cutting the cable subscription so I can pay cash to attend the Dodge Poetry Festival in a few weeks. It’s not about missing out—it’s about getting the most out of what you’ve been given. No more. No less.

The image I chose sums up exactly what I’ve been trying to say. I don’t need to open this cookie now. I’m putting it off so I can one day open it in my paid-for house with our newly renovated kitchen (paid for in cash), celebrating my good fortune with the people I love most.


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