Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mary Mary

Yesterday my day was filled with poetry. Normally, I bring my love of words wherever I go, but I found poetry at work. At our college all-staff meeting, a faculty member/published poet read her wonderful work. We connected afterwards. It was just nice seeing poetry presented before a large, non-literary crowd. And it was the perfect way to ease into attending the Mary Oliver reading.

If I ever doubted the Boston-area poetry community, they were put to rest as I stood in a line of what seemed like 400 people waiting to get into the art-deco theater. The crowd, made up mostly of women, waited patiently, and I eavesdropped on every conversation I could. Heard lots of banter like,” We must recreate the universe!” and “I’ll wonder if she’ll read her Percy dog poems.”

As it turns out, she did read a few Percy poems, as well as many older ones and some from her new book, Thirst. She read a good 20 poems for about 45 minutes.

Here are some random things that I learned about Mary Oliver:

  1. Every photo of Mary that I’ve seen is in black and white, so I though she was much older, maybe even frail. In fact, she’s quite the opposite—spry and healthy as a horse.
  2. Her voice is clear and seasoned, and she likes to talk between poems; though, I wanted to hear more tidbits. I always like to know how poets feel about their works over time. I did get some of that but not as much as I had hoped. Still, when she reads, her voice resonates, like she has lived with the words for a long time.
  3. Every time Mary finished reading a poem, the audience groaned in affirmation. Also, lots of head nodding.
  4. Mary made a list of poems to read, and yet she couldn’t seem to locate any of them quickly from book to book. And she veered off the list to read a few new, unpublished poems.
  5. She has nine poems about her four-year old dog, Percy.
  6. Someone brought a baby to the reading. As the mother of two kids under four, it’s difficult to expect a child to stay quiet in such a venue. So after a few playful squeals from the back, Mary said, “That’s the best sound in the world, a baby’s voice.”
  7. When the reading ended, the book signing was held at the Brookline Booksmith bookstore, just down the street from the theater. Somehow I ended up walking alongside of her (didn’t speak with her) and noticed that her escort was a priest! At the very least, he was a man of the cloth. That, somehow, was comforting to see. With the signing held at the bookstore, the line to buy books was outrageously long, so I left in frustration.
  8. Jumping back to the beginning, the host from Brookline Booksmith quoted and spoke about the first line of Mary’s poem “Messenger.” I thought that would be a great way to end this post for Poetry Thursday.


My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

I felt privy to sit back and be astonished by Mary Oliver’s work. Happy Poetry Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

December To-Dos

This week
*Attend Mary Oliver reading, and write up a review for Poetry Thursday
*Write a poem
*Collect manuscript comments from readers
*Send out manuscript to two more readers

Week 2
*Write a poem
*Make list of places to submit manuscript
*Send poems to three different publications
*Read David Tucker’s Late for Work

Week 3
Write a poem
Update 2007 booklist

Ho Ho Ho
*Show my parents my manuscript (YIKES!)
*Write a poem while my parents are staying with us for Christmas (yeah, right!)
*Spend alone time with Tim since we’ll have in-home babysitters
*Enjoy Christmas with my beautiful, loving, supportive family.

Happy New Year!
*Blog like it’s going out of style
*Make final manuscript changes before sending out in January
*Try not to get too sappy about how much blogging has meant to me in 2006
*Brace myself for the onslaught of the “January” jokes.

Now the only thing I didn't do on my November to-do list was send poems out to publications. My fear of failure--rather, my fear of success--prevents me from sending out to journals and magazines, I think. In any case, I'll give it another try this month.

I'm looking forward to tonight's Mary Oliver reading--can't wait to share my thoughts with you for Poetry Thursday.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I Remember

I remember I was a dark rose in a stone garden.

I remember being asked to my senior prom. A week before the prom my date changed his mind. To this day, I still don’t know why. Maybe something better came along.

I remember running into a friend at the mall, telling him my sad story, and his sweet offer to escort me. I remember he owned his own white tux.

I remember my mother taking pictures of us at the front door.

I remember my date’s car stalled in our driveway. My parents drove us to his parents’ house so he could borrow his father’s car.

I remember eating our prom date meal at Red Lobster.

I remember being so flat-chested that my nipple popped out of my strapless mint green dress. Some things never change.

I remember we arrived after the crowning of the king and queen.

I remember the movie Carrie, when the bucket of pigs’ blood drenched Sissy Spacek, covered her peach-colored prom dress in red.

I remember having more fun at the after party than the dance, watching the sun rise over sleeping houses.

I can’t remember the name of my date. Can barely picture his face anymore.

I remember wondering what the big deal about senior prom was.

(This is kind of an old poem created out of a writing exercise. Write down 10 "I Remember" statements and see where they take you.)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Way I See It #17

(A little Starbucks wisdom on a Sunday night.)

The world bursts at the seams with people ready to tell you you're not good enough. On occasion, some may be correct. But do not do their work for them. Seek any jobs; ask anyone out; pursue any goal. Don't take it personally when they say "no"--they may not be smart enough to say "yes."

~Keith Olbermann

New Poem

True Story #3: Missing

First a foot, then the whole body
found wedged upside-down behind
a tall bookcase,

a young woman missing in a home
she shared with her family
most of her life.

Eleven days misplaced, the police surmised
she simply fell over trying to adjust
a television plug behind the shelves—

Simply, as if she disappeared
to that land of lost socks and
missing keys

and could be retrieved
simply by believing it so.
Her sister passed her bedroom

without stopping to look
but could not put her finger
on that unfamiliar odor

soaking the house in loss.
It doesn’t matter, at this point,
if they believed it was a kidnapping,

or death or escape.
Only the following remains:
a little thing miscalculated, collapsed,

and gave way. What new fear
will guide their silent house at night—
her absence pinned against a plaster wall.

In the end, it wasn’t enough
to see her every day,
to love her silence and her shaky grace.

They seem convinced of
a quiet so deep
even common sense can’t intrude on it.

Every now and then, I write stories based on news events. Currently, this one is running on Also in the series are True Story and True Story #2: Devotion. Feels goos to write about people outside of my family. Constructive feedback is welcome.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Look at my big ol' head!

While I am not part of the self-portrait challenge group, I was so intrigued with the lovely and amazing bloggers glamming it up for the camera I had to try it myself. I don’t know about you, but I’m always taking family photos so I’m the one behind the camera.

Admittedly, I love this face. At age 37 with two kids, I’m one hot mama! (Hee! Hee! Hee!)

The first thing I notice is that I’m wearing eye shadow, which makes me look overly made up. Can’t remember the last time I got all dolled up to go out on the town. (*big sigh*) I love to go dancing—the kind of dancing that makes me work up a sweat in a club trying to keep up with all of the younger dancers. Now…well…it’s hard finding a babysitter, much less one who stays after midnight.

Also, I feel my most glamorous when I’m wearing hoop earrings. I don’t wear these big ones all the time. But when I do wear them it’s like wearing a talisman that wards off all negative thoughts.

While it is my ultimate goal to become U.S. Poet Laureate, I’d like to be known as the “hot” poet laureate. Yes, I’d like to be known for my turn of phrase and my command of verse and meter. But the general poetry audience does not really think of poets as being sexual at all. And the ones you do think of are not really that sexy in person. Let me be the one to break that stereotype (I'm laughing as I type this, yet I’m kinda serious about it.)

I rather like the concept of glamour because rarely in my day to day are people “under my spell.” In fact, I think they run for the hills. My kids do—I know they’re conspiring against me. But I did get a nice complement from my husband about how I looked today. So maybe there is something to glamming it up every once in a while.

(That's right, I'm bringing sexy back--not Justin Timberlake.)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

For those who celebrate Thanksgiving, how did you spend your Turkey Day?

My day started with, believe it or not, a workout. The "me" of a year ago would have rolled over and gone back to sleep. But after getting the kids ready for the day, I got in a quickie. You'd be surprised how many people were at the gym at 9 a.m. Thanksgiving morning. Is that sad or admirable? I haven't decided yet.

Anyway, we spent the day with my husband's family. Twenty-five adults and kids got together for the occasion. Conversations flowed, bellies filled, and glasses emptied.

And the Dom? That was an added bonus due to an extra special family event earlier in the week. It is, by far, the best champagne I've ever had.

Hope you had a great holiday, and will enjoy a few days of rest, relaxation, and shopping!

Mary Oliver

If you're in the Boston area, try to get tickets for the upcoming Mary Oliver reading.

Wednesday, November 29, 6 p.m. Coolidge Corner Theatre

According to Brookline Booksmith's Web site, the event is sold out. But if you're like me, you're not one to take no for an answer. Call and maybe they will release more tickets. You never know!

Poem for Poetry Thursday

Wow! Happy Poetry Thursday and Thanksgiving! So appropriate that two of my favorite days merge once a year because I am certainly thankful for both.

Next week, I will attend a Mary Oliver poetry reading. She will be talking about her book, Thirst, so I'll give you a full post on the event. In all the years I've attended poetry readings, Mary Oliver is a first. I wonder what her voice sounds like. Will she read old poems? Will she talk between poems? Will the audience be a generous one? Can't wait to find out.

And onto today's poem, it's a first draft and needs work. And I'm not sure if I'm keeping the title.

I look forward to reading your post throughout the day.

Wet Chalk

Water fills the bathtub
telling me all of your secrets.
How many chickens and stars
can you hold in one hand?

Alone in our safe place,
we rediscover that same old fear
carved on your back forever,
your song dripping from the faucet
like wet chalk.

Never ceases to amaze me how
the body forgives intrusion
and goes on about its business.
Still, there is anarchy in your land—
cells waiting to attack, the viruses
that let you walk the streets
almost happy.

My little god,
it is time for your destruction,
so let’s put the stars back,
we are finished with the world
and all of its negative space.

Some nights are like this,
so content it puts our hearts
in a forgetful stupor.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

10 Random Thoughts the Day Before the Day Before Thanksgiving

1. It's been a while since I posted pictures of the kids.

2. I'm on day 3 of my healthy eating plan, part of my healthy lifestyle plan, which is part of my I-don't-want-to-pay-gym-membership-if-I'm-not-going plan. So far, so good.

3. Think I'll skip tomorrow's gym visit in favor of a Thanksgiving day workout. Now that's something I thought I'd never see myself type. Crazy talk, I tell you. Crazy talk!

4. I'm off from work today because of a very special family occasion. I won't go into too much detail, but having time off will also let me get caught up on a few things such as last-minute turkey-day prep, spending quality time with the kids, and writing.

5. A portion of the day will be spent in the car. Since I'm not driving, I will attempt to write my Poetry Thursday poem in the car. (My inner voice is saying, "Yeah ... good luck with that!")

6. Haven't visited many blogs lately, so I hope to do that over the next few days.

7. Can't believe Thanksgiving is just two days away. And then, the silly season starts in full force.

8. Tim is outside raking leaves. I'm thankful that he likes yard work because I can't stand it.

9. I've been thinking about how much I'm enjoying my life these days. Not every day is a good one, but overall I'm quite happy with what I've been able to accomplish personally and professionally during the year. A big part of that is being able to share my life with y'all in the blogosphere. I love you guys.

10. Today, I will try to say "yes" more than I say "no." See photos for more information.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Work it!

After reading this post, I was inspired to get my flabby abs into the gym. So I went yesterday afternoon, but I also went this morning at the crack of dawn. Actually, it was well before dawn, 5:15 a.m. to be exact.

Lying in bed this morning, I had a 10-minute debate with myself on why I should leave my warm bed for the gym. And it all came down to this: change doesn’t happen overnight, so why don’t I go and see what I can do today. That’s it. I don’t have to count calories or step on a scale or look in the mirror—all of which are deterrents for me. All I have to do is make today different than yesterday and the rest will take care of itself.

So I did 30 minutes on the cross-trainer machine, and I feel GREAT! I mean, I was happy (still am). The endorphins kicked in with a vengance—good thing because my son was in rare form this morning. But it was okay, because mommy took some “me time” for herself.

What I need to do is create a time map of my day so I can see how I want to spend my day. (A time map is kind of like a budget for your activities.) Otherwise, I won’t get anything done, including my new-found enthusiasm for a healthier lifestyle.

Hope I can stay with morning workouts and evening writing. That would be the cherry on top of a great 2006.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Which Famous Poet Are You?

Great. Those who know me know I'm not a Maya fan.
Maya Angelou!
You scored 66 Demeanour, 50 Debauchery, 62 Traditionalism, and 70 Expression!
You like to talk about yourself, and you smile ALL THE FUCKING TIME. You're not very daring or original, but hey, that's why Oprah loves you! Your masterpiece is "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings", or at least you think it is.

Link: The Which Famous Poet Are You Test

written by Torontop on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Laugh a Little, Help a Little

After an eight-year hiatus, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, and Robin Williams are back to host Comic Relief 2006. It airs tonight on HBO and TBS from 9 p.m. to midnight (EST).

Proceeds will go to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Sunday Scribblings: Hero

When I checked the Sunday Scribblings prompt for this week, there was no doubt in my mind what I would write about.

What the heck is the difference between a hero, a sub, and a grinder? This is a conversation that comes up in my office at lunchtime once every six weeks. We’re all foodies at heart, after all.

According to’s food dictionary, a hero sandwich is generally defined as “… a small loaf of Italian or French bread (or a large oblong roll), the bottom half of which is heaped with layers of any of various thinly sliced meats, cheeses, tomatoes, pickles, lettuce, peppers—anything for which the cook is in the mood.”

Here in Massachusetts, we call them subs, which begs the question: Can a sandwich by any other name taste as delicious? Why yes, according to Wikipedia. Here's their list of sandwich names from around the country:

In the United States, the terms "submarine" and "sub" are widespread, but there are also many regional names for the sandwich, especially in the northeast part of the country:
  • Bomb — New England, usually used for hot sandwiches with melted cheese and other toppings. Steak bombs, turkey bombs--yum!
  • Bomber — New Jersey
  • Cosmo — North Central Pennsylvania in and around Williamsport, PA - a cosmo is an oven toasted sub.
    Grinder — New England (some say this refers specifically to an oven-toasted sub) and Riverside, CA. I've never heard anyone seriously use the term grinder.
  • Hero — New York, northern New Jersey and the Eastern United States. When I lived in Virginia, no one ever called them heroes.
  • Hoagie — Philadelphia and environs, including South Jersey
  • Italian — New Jersey, Maine, Maryland
  • Poor boy or Po' boy — Gulf Coast, especially around New Orleans
  • Spuckie — Boston, Massachusetts (now rare) . My husband is a Massachusetts native with Italian relatives and he's never heard the word.
  • Torpedo — New Jersey
  • Wedge — New Jersey and Westchester and Rockland Counties in New York and southwestern Connecticut
  • Zep (for zeppelin) — New Jersey. Really?
  • Italian - Maine, where "Italian" is used regardless of the filling--which is specified separately. For instance, a "ham Italian", a "veggie Italian" or a "roast beef Italian". A regular Italian tends to be a ham Italian. Italians are big here, too, especially, the Hot Italian sandwich. Hot Italians refers to the spicy flavor rather than the temperature.

    So what are these sandwiches called in your corner of the world?

Friday, November 17, 2006



Tony Hoagland

In autumn, Operation Enduring Freedom commenced,
which some party-poopers wanted to nickname
Operation Infinite Self-Indulgence.
We tied flags to the antennae of our cars
that snapped like fire when we drove.

In winter there was Operation Gentle Sledgehammer,
which seemed linguistically a little underdigested,
but we lined up squads of second-graders
to stand at attention while we beat a drum.

Let me make it clear that I was
as doubtful as anyone about Operation Racial Provocation
but I loved Operation Religious Suspicion,
which led to Operation Eye For An Eye,
which was succeeded by Operation Helping Hand;
—Let me tell you that was a scary-looking hand!
But that was also a very successful Operation.
Someday you will be required to perform a terrible deed
in order to save yourself,

but save yourself for what?
That would be a question for Operation
Self-Examination to answer,
which is a very painful operation
performed without anesthesia
in a naked room full of shadows and light.

Perhaps I might suggest, instead,
Operation Self-Medication, or Operation Endless
Mindless Distraction?
In the meantime Operation Collateral Amnesia
is proceeding very smoothly
When it is over we want call it Operation One Big Happy Family—
Is that okay with you?

(My apologies for not being able to break the lines correctly in Blogger.)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Poem for Poetry Thursday

I'm literally shrugging my shoulders wondering where this poem came from. All I can tell you is that I followed the Poetry Thursday prompt and this is what I got. However, I did wake up with the title in my head.

The Last Cigar

Smoke ’em while you got ’em!
and that’s what everyone did
until all the cigars in the world
were gone. Ropes of smoke
wafting up to heaven, creating
blankets of sweet smog. Tobacco fields
were turned into low-income housing;
the wrappers became biodegradable containers
for grape tomatoes and strawberries.

And the people went about their lives,
until a man in a town on the outskirts
found a perfectly preserved cigar
in his damp basement. He longed
to take this tightly rolled bundle
between his lips, but instead
he told a few gypsies and

not soon after, his lone discovery
was placed in a glass humidor.
It toured the country like a rock star,
complete with an entourage
and green and blue M&Ms at every stop.
Eventually, the last cigar was placed in
The Smithsonian.

True believers who missed the taste of smoke
came out in droves to see the famed torpedo,
the scent of phantom leaves still fresh
on their fingertips.

As for the man,
he was grateful that time dimmed
his recall of some things—aftertaste,
the smell of burnt air leaving traces
wherever he went. How satisfied he’d be
if he wasn’t walking through his landfill of a mind
wondering what Freud would do.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

“Write Your Way Out”

…is what Boston Erin said to me as we were walking back to her car after lunch yesterday. A fine children’s lit novelist in her own right, she read my poetry manuscript as its first reader/editor and made some excellent suggestions. But isn’t that why we write—to make things better, to improve our lives, to “write our way out” of the old and into the new?

Too bad poets, writers, and teachers don’t get the recognition our society affords athletes and rock stars. Wouldn’t be great to have your first book accepted right off the bat because the masses have heard of you and are clamoring for more, like the NBA draft?

I’d be lying if I said, “I don’t need recognition or validation by my peers.” I don’t write in a vacuum. I write, primarily, because I need to see my life before my eyes. Sometimes it gets so lost in toys and bills and long commutes, which is time away from home that I’ll never get back. But I also put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, so that one day I can support myself as a writer (and become U.S. Poet Laureate!). I just think being a writer is one of the greatest vocations in the whole wide world!

Last night, I made revisions to my poems and sent them off to the next round of trusted souls for their opinions. Then in December, I will shove my baby out into to world to sink or swim.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Cold

I promise to use my blog for good and not evil. But after yesterday's comments from Mr. Poetmom, it was time for a little comeuppance. He did, however, make a mean pork chop for dinner so he's getting off easy.

Letter Meme

Last week, I was tagged by BostonErin for this letter meme. At least Writer Bug had the letter J. But O is hard!

10 wonderful things that start with O:

  1. O’Neil, my last name. Okay, this one I stole from Bug but it’s applicable.

  2. Oprah. She rocks my world! So does O magazine.

  3. Sharon Olds, my former professor and mentor. Also rocks my world.

  4. Obi–Wan Kenobi, aka Sir Alec Guinness (Ewan McGregor is okay, but not as good as the original.)


  6. Orange Juice. Tropicana Pure Premium, some pulp.

  7. Oak trees.

  8. Ohio. A big swing state in this year’s election.

  9. Off the Wall by Michael Jackson. Look at that album cover. Michael, what the hell happened?

  10. Okra. Probably the only vegetable I’ve written poems about. Maybe I should branch out to sweet potatoes.

Five bad things that start with O:

  1. October…everything dies in October. Not even a good holiday to lessen the blow.

  2. The OC. Is that still on the air?

  3. Bill O’Reilly
  4. OG—slang for “original gansta.”

  5. The word "over"; rather, its constant misuse. Over refers to spatial relationships: Let’s fly over the Grand Canyon. With numerals, I see this a lot: I won’t pay over $200 for an iPod this year. It’s better to use “more than” in such cases: If it costs more than $10 to see a movie, I’m not going. You get the idea.

I don’t believe in tags so if you feel like trying this meme, consider yourself tagged. You take letter P. Then pick five friends and have them work through letters Q-U.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

New Poem

I'm not sure if this is a poem, so let's just call it a first draft. Not sure if the repetition helps or hurts.

Naming Names

I was born in the Year of the Cock. Nappy hair,
fat lips, toothless smile. I threw words around
my back yard until darkness came,
and when I woke up, darkness warmed my bed.

That was the year I took Annie’s breast into my mouth
to taste her milk, the year I swallowed an open safety pin.
That was the year Jed and I dry humped between mid terms;
below the waist, my body was made of metal.

The cherry blossoms bloomed too early, opening
their tentative pedals to the sky. How many layers of dead skin
did I pull from my apple lips?

That was the year Prince didn’t want his name,
wrote “slave” on his face and seceded from the union,
the year I told Nikki I was tired of her shit. Then I met Tim,
danced with him on a pool table—the year I knew he’d be the father
of my children.

That was the year of the nipple, the year
Prince took back his name, the year of Prince Alex,
the year of yellow-eyed Ella, the year of the year
I found myself, the year God blessed the rage in me,
the year I brought sexy back.

That was the year I became January,
the coldest month of the year,
I come from the god of new beginnings,
always looking backwards and forwards.

Sunday Scribblings: Passengers

"There are passengers, and then there are drivers." How many times have I asked someone else to take the wheel for me. I’m a big fan of the phrase, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.” Yes, to my great surprise, blogging has led to the most productive, most creative time in my life.

Last December, I wrote down my new year’s goals (because I don’t believe in resolutions), thinking this year I’d give my writing top priority. With two kids under four and a two-hour commute daily, I thought there would be no possible way to write on a regular basis, much less publish or put together a manuscript. But then I started blogging, and my life became all about me again.

I’m leery of the word “suddenly,” because things rarely happen all of the sudden—usually we’re given signs. But in April, after just a few blog posts, suddenly, my days were more than just the same old same old. I wrote poetry. And then my poetry tuned into essays and lists and memes and photos. Now I have a completed manuscript; and, more importantly, I can see poems everywhere. Seems as if I am just starting to tap into my imagination, as well as the wonderful words and art of my fellow bloggers. What a fine fraternity (hmmmm … sorority) we make up in the blogosphere.

Coincidentally, yesterday I was driving to Boston, reflecting on what an incredible year this has been creatively. So I will close with a few photos from the afternoon, which I consider a visual representation of poetry. Keep in mind, I was driving when I took two of them—now I’m sure that was a sign of good things to come.

For more drivers, visit Sunday Scribblings.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

November Poetry To-Do List

Since Writer Bug started posting her to-do lists online, I've been compelled to do the same. And I have to admit, the public accountability helps keep me on track.

To Do List

This Weekend (well, Sunday)
  • write two poems
  • clean desk
  • read Terrance Hayes' Wind in a Box

Week 3

  • write one poem
  • send poems to one journal/review
  • work on manuscript revisions
  • send revised manuscript to next group of readers
  • read Tony Hoagland's What Narcissism Means to Me

Week 4 (Turkey Week)

  • write one poem
  • send poems to one journal/review
  • Make reservations for AWP conference

Week 5

  • write one poem
  • send poems to one journal/review
  • go to local poetry reading
  • attend Mary Oliver reading (Brookline Booksmith)
  • work on second revision on manuscript
My hope is to get the manuscript in good shape so I can submit it to small presses during their open submission periods. Then I can let it go and start fresh at the beginning of the year.

Also, I need to get involved with my local writing community. I'm a big advocate of being part of the solution and not the problem. I like the idea of starting a writers' group or working on a group project. But I just don't have the time. Still, I have to make an effort to connect with other poets locally.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Soundtrack of My Life

I tagged myself for this meme from Kristine's blog. The timing is perfect because I have I Love the 70s: Vol. II on in the background. My iPod has more than 1,100 songs on it so this should be good.

If my life had a soundtrack, what would the music be?

Here's how it works:

1. open your library (iTunes, winamp, media player, iPod)
2. put it on shuffle
3. press play
4. for every question, type the song that's playing
5. new question-- press the next button
6. don't lie and try to pretend you're cool

opening credits:
No Other Way, Jack Johnson

waking up:
Never Say Never, Romeo Void
("I might like you better if we slept together." Classic.)

first day at school:
Come on to My House, Rosemary Clooney

falling in love:
All in Love Is Fair, Stevie Wonder

breaking up:
Califonication, Red Hot Chili Peppers

Sex Bomb, Tom Jones
(Okay, this song is pure cheese, but I love it!)

life's okay:
Fighter, Christina Aguilera

mental breakdown:
Strawberry Letter 22, The Brothers Johnson

Bust A Move, Young MC

Golden Years, David Bowie

getting back together:
Is There Something I Should Know, Duran Duran

Best of My Love, The Emotions
("Devastating love and affection..." Go head on withcha bad self!)

birth of child:
Rollout, Ludacris

final battle:
Reflection, Prince

death scene:
Whispers and Moans, Crowded House
("When I wake up in your room, to share one piece of your life, when tomorrow comes we may not be here at all, without your whispers and moans.")

funeral song:
Remember the Time, Michael Jackson

end credits:
Digging in the Dirt, Peter Gabriel

I'm just thankful The Wiggles didn't come up in the shuffle. This may be more revealing about my personality than any poem I've posted on the blog.

I may have to go back and post a cool version and choose songs for the categories.

This was fun.

Poem for Poetry Thursday

Wish I had written a new poem this week for Poetry Thursday. Instead, I give you an older narrative poem. Not much to stay about this one except that this was an isolated incident. My mom's the biggest nondrinker you'll ever meet.

However, this is probably not the week to tell her I have a blog.

The Only Time I Ever Saw My Mother Drunk

She bounded into the house with a piece of silver tinsel
wrapped around her neck, tucked inside her coat
like a winter scarf. Dad propped himself up
from door frame to wall to wall.
They had been across the street for hours
visiting our Polynesian neighbors. Mom said
they spent most of the night trying Karaoke.
Dad slurred, but was happy to talk about
the neighbors who performed nightly at Blue Hawaii
and their Christmas tree that touched the ceiling.

Suddenly she erupted with a spasm
that bent her body in half. A thick liquid glistened
on the floor. At some point she noticed a contact lens
had fallen out. We knew it was lost
in the chunks on the brown tiled floor.
Mom knelt down, tried to collect the goop with her hands.
Dad just shook his head, started in with a lawd have mercy,
then was silent. He watched my mother cry
into her hands, then stumbled out,
knocking over a chair on his way to the bedroom.

Upstairs we heard the rattle of pants and belts
that hung behind the bedroom door. He
fell asleep, made himself unavailable to us
while in the bathroom, I stripped my mother,
wiped the crusty film from her mouth
and put her to bed in my room.
I held her hand in my two until she
drifted off. While they slept, celery chunks
and cocktail wieners waited for me on the kitchen floor.
Somewhere a lens floated in heavy syrup.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Morning in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is a hard state to love. It’s always cold. Traffic is horrible--don’t get me started on the Big Dig. The cost of living is way too high. Iced tea is a seasonal drink (as if!). And happy hours are illegal (WTF?). But there are some things the state gets right.

Massachusetts overwhelming elected the state’s first black governor, Deval Patrick, last night. He’s only the second black governor to be elected to office in U.S. history.

As a Virginia native, it was my great privilege to vote for the country’s first black governor, Doug Wilder, in 1990.

But today, I am a proud, card-carrying member of the Democratic Party in Massachusetts. I live in a state where hope is the mandate. Congratulations, Deval, on running a successful grassroots campaign. Thank you for not running any negative television ads, and thank you for taking small campaign contributions and not caving to special interest groups.

Now don’t f*ck it up.

P.S. Things I do love about this state: Boston Red Sox, Celtics, and Patriots; it’s a Blue State; it allows gay marriage and will offer heath care to all of its citizens next year; steak tips; the wages are higher, on average, for professional women; and, most importantly, the people. It’s always about the people.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Reasons to Survive November

Reasons to Survive November

Tony Hoagland (Listen to the Poetcast.)

November like a train wreck –
as if a locomotive made of cold
had hurtled out of Canada
and crashed into a million trees,
flaming the leaves, setting the woods on fire.

The sky is a thick, cold gauze –
but there’s a soup special at the Waffle House downtown,
and the Jack Parsons show is up at the museum,
full of luminous red barns.

– Or maybe I’ll visit beautiful Donna,
the kickboxing queen from Santa Fe,
and roll around in her foldout bed.

I know there are some people out there
who think I am supposed to end up
in a room by myself

with a gun and a bottle full of hate,
a locked door and my slack mouth open
like a disconnected phone.

But I hate those people back
from the core of my donkey soul
and the hatred makes me strong
and my survival is their failure,

and my happiness would kill them
so I shove joy like a knife
into my own heart over and over

and I force myself toward pleasure,
and I love this November life
where I run like a train
deeper and deeper
into the land of my enemies.

(from What Narcissism Means to Me. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf, 2003.)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Strength in Numbers

Poets&Writers magazine has a short Q&A with Cave Canem cofounder Cornelius Eady. You can read “Q&A: Eady Sees Cave Canem Success” at the PW Web site.

Ten years ago, CC was a grassroots effort. It united a disenfranchised group of writers, and became a way to make our poetic voices heard. Now the group boasts roughly 270 members with its fellows publishing books and articles, and teaching at institutions throughout the United States.

On the eve of U.S. elections, I want to know if you've been a disruptive seed for literature? In other words, have you ever challenged the established norms to create an event or group project in your community? Have you ever started a writers’ group, held a reading event, created your own journal, self published a book or chapbook, or put together an anthology? Did you enjoy the process? Would you do it again? CC is a great example. And bloggers have a knack for challenging established norms.

Tell me what was it like to be the small pebble that created ripples in your literary community.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Mornings

Sunday mornings seem more chaotic than the rest of the week. My husband and I (pictured left) try to stay in bed as long as possible but with two kids under three-years old, that's never easy. However, I usually get to sleep in since I take the kids on Saturday.

But I have a few quiet moments now, so here are a few things I'm grateful for on Sunday mornings.

1. Ella now sleeps in her own bed. She slept with us until she turned one year old. And while we enjoyed having her with us, we missed stretching out. In fact, the only one stretching out was Ella who liked to lay horizontally between us.

2. A hot cup of tea with lemon and sugar that my husband brings to me once he's settled the kids.

3. The Sunday Boston Globe. Rarely do I read the newspaper during the week, but I know I've had quality time to read when my fingers are covered with newspaper ink.

4. Pancakes. My son likes to read the ingredients (well, he shows me the pictures on the back of the box), and flip the pancakes on the griddle. If one day Alex came to me and said he wanted to be a chef, I'd be ecstatic.

5. Sunday Scribblings. This one goes without saying. But since I write a lot of poetry, the chance to express myself in essays and musings has been immensely rewarding.

6. Starbucks. Later this morning, I'll sneak out while the kids nap and write a poem. Or read. Or people watch. Doesn't matter what I do--it's my time and I protect it tooth and nail.

7. Late morning walks. We haven't done this in a while, but it's probably time for us to start stretching our legs after being couch potatoes all morning! (Pun intended.)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Poem for Poetry Thursday

Ugh. I hate posting late on Poetry Thursday. It really is my favorite day of the week.

I was thinking about the idea of worth. Specifically, I was thinking about it in reference to Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club. Know your worth. Those words run through my head all the time. As a middle-class black woman in Massachusetts, what is my worth as a poet? What is my story? And now that I am raising a daughter, who is second generation removed from the civil rights movement, how am I going to explain how important it is to value those things we take for granted. Poetry is a way into all of those complex subjects for me.

So I was thinking about all of this and wrote something completely different! How many times has that happened to me over the years. Oh well. Maybe I'm not ready to write about worth because I'm unsure of my own. Well, I'm unsure about where I fit into the scheme of things.

Kerning is an old print term that refers to the spacing between letters. I was thinking about family and words and came up with this.


Today I spent the morning
brushing pink crayon
from your teeth. This tells me
you know how to eat words.
You’ve tasted those intangible calories
that fill my cavernous heart.
You’re beginning to understand
how sloppy and brutal the imagination can be.
I put my fingers between pearly teeth
and yank petals of paper from your mouth.
Someday, I will teach you how to read
words that are not there,
show you how to breathe without
disturbing the air. Nothing lives
outside of us in this overprinted world.
Decide for yourself. Then let me know
if you can eat a crayon without leaving
a mark.

Also, read the previous post about Sharon Olds' poem, The Victims.

The Victims

The Victims

When Mother divorced you, we were glad. She took it and
took it, in silence, all those years and then
kicked you out, suddenly, and her
kids loved it. Then you were fired, and we
grinned inside, the way people grinned when
Nixon's helicopter lifted off the South
Lawn for the last time. We were tickled
to think of your office taken away,
your secretaries taken away,
your lunches with three double bourbons,
your pencils, your reams of paper. Would they take your
suits back, too, those dark
carcasses hung in your closet, and the black
noses of your shoes with the large pores?
She had taught us to take it, to hate you and take it
until we pricked at your
annihilation, Father. Now I
pass bums in doorways, the white
slugs of their bodies gleaming through slits in their
suits of compressed silt, the stained
flippers of theur hands, the underwater
fire of their eyes, ships gone down with the
lanterns lit, and I wonder who took it and
took it from then in silence until they had
given it all away and had nothing
left but this.

Copyright Sharon Olds, from The Dead and The Living

When I think of the poems that hooked me into my poetic life, this one was monumental. Back in the late 80s (ugh), I took a creative writing class as an undergrad in college with Toi Dericotte. We hit it off, and I knew I had found my vocation.

The Victims by Sharon Olds is simply amazing.

“When Mother divorced you, we were glad.” Glad? Of course I had to read on. Divorce is difficult for all parties, but to gloat about it?

Great as the opening is, the following line I carry around like a jewel:

“Then you were fired, and we
grinned inside, the way people grinned when
Nixon's helicopter lifted off the South
Lawn for the last time."

Fired? Wait a minute. I can speak this way in a poem? I can fire my father? My lover? My boss? I can take the power back in our so-called relationship? Sharon pushes the envelope as she continues with the Nixon reference. I was born close enough to the Nixon era to understand how his his legacy of lies and deceit hurt this country. So to equate the father to a the ultimate father figure, a president, who left office in shame no less … brilliant.

So who are the victims in the poem? Not the speaker, or the family that “pricked at [your] annihilation” I think the errant fathers are the victims. They are the slugs, the loser dads who wouldn’t know kindness if it came up and gave them a hug. These men are not men. These men run from doing the real work of raising healthy, responsible kids. Maybe they valued work over family. Or alcohol over family. Or both. We all know lost souls like this. They cannot be saved. All we, as readers, are left with is this poem. Can we be saved or are we victims, too?

I love this poem because it is fierce in its steadfast and unflinching way it tells this story. I cherish it because it was given to me by my soon-to-be mentor. And I revel in it because I had the great privilege to study with the woman who wrote it.

Allen Ginesberg’s Howl made me take notice of poetry. But The Victims gave me the courage and the permission to say the unsayable.

(For more poems, visit Poetry Thursday.)


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