Friday, August 30, 2013

The State of the State

RIP Seamus Heaney.

The Poetry Foundation has a beautiful remembrance by Tom Sleigh on its website.


The world seems a little quieter, a little less interesting, when a poet leaves this earth.


My article on The State on Poetry is on Mass Poetry's wesbite.

In my article, I make reference to another poem with these lines: There are moments when even the most experienced poet notices a wrinkle in the fabric of normalcy. Seamus is trending on Twitter and Facebook. Rightfully so. We are experiencing one of those wrinkles, folks, when poetry is present in our collective consciousness. And maybe that's his parting gift to us.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Confession Tuesday

It’s the last Confession Tuesday of the month. Time to share, folks.

Today is the first day of school for Alex and Ella! Saturday, we were swimming in the warm waters at Virginia Beach. Today, the kids have backpacks and lunch bags.


But the kids are excited for the new school year. Ella is especially excited that she “won’t have to learn anything today.” Can’t blame her. She’s got 179 days to catch up.


Right now, I’m sitting at my local Starbucks with my friend, Danielle. Occasionally we have writing dates, which are sometimes more chatty than productive—today is a productive one. She starts a new job next week and I go back to teaching, so we’re trying to cram in a lot of stuff before next Tuesday: getting organized, finishing up projects, and house clean up. It’s nice to spend time with people to keep me connected and grounded.


While typing, I'm listening to Lucille Clifton speak to Bill Moyers from The Language of Life audio book. Love this poem:

a woman precedes me up the long rope.
her dangling braids the color of rain.
maybe i should have had braids.
maybe i should have kept the body i started,
slim and possible as a boy's bone.
maybe i should have wanted less.
maybe i should have ignored the bowl in me
burning to be filled.
maybe i should have wanted less.
the woman passes the notch in the rope
marked Sixty. I rise toward it, struggling,
hand over hungry hand.


"maybe i should have kept the body i started,
slim and possible as a boy's bone."


"maybe i should have wanted less."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Elmore Leonard's Rules for Good Writing

Excerpt from the article, "How Elmore Leonard Wrote All His Books," Washington Post by Brad Plumer.

Back in 2001, Leonard laid out his 10 rules for good writing in the New York Times. The basic precepts are below, though you should read the piece for a fuller explanation:

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. You know the drill.

I'm writing again at the end of the day, which I planned this time around. I'm seeing what blogging at different hours does to my work.

I'm feeling the time crunch because the kids go back to school. We're trying to fit in a lot of last-minute summer plans, which is great, but leaves little time for writing. But I am trying. Still writing a few observations a day. Still finding time to revise poems while working on new stuff.


I have four new poems in Poets and Artists. Thanks to Nin Andrews for selecting my work.


Just downloaded The Language of Life audiobooks from iTunes. Was feeling a bit nostalgic at the time of purchase.


Poetry To-do List

1.  Apply for two grants
2.  Write two poems
3.  Send out two two publications
4. Continue to revise new poems

A short list this week.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Blink Your Eyes

I picked up a new edition of a textbook I'm using in a fall creative writing class and came across Sekou Sundiata's poem, "Blink Your Eyes." I haven't read the poem in a while, even longer since I thought about Sekou's passing. A lovely man--such as loss.

In light of the Trayvon Martin verdict, and now stop and frisk laws in the news, I was struck by how many of us (and by "us," I mean people of color) have poems about being presumed guilty. I have my own takes on the subject in each of my collections.

Here's video of Sekou's beautiful poem. Also, here's the text of the poem. You gain a real appreciation of his talent for performance when you look at the words vs. the video.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Why Can't the Thing Be the Thing?

I've been re-reading my journal notes from the past month, specifically from Marie Howe's workshop in Provincetown. Each day we wrote 10 observations, which I've been keeping up with for the most part. Those observations have caused me to look outward instead of inward; although, all of my poems turn inward at some point. Still, it's been a good daily practice for me.  


Here are a few gems from Marie's workshop.

  • Have faith that something will happen.
  • A poem is communication.
  • What if we don't compare anything to anything? Meaning, what if, in our daily observations, we write about the thing--whatever it is. What can't the thing be the thing? Why do we need to cover it up with metaphor, adjectives, and imagery to create "mystery?" 
  • Tell everything you know, so the real mystery can arise.   
  • To get to the poem inside the poem, write it out by hand over and over again.
  • If your read your poems aloud to yourself, or record yourself reading, you'll figure out what's not working.

The biggest change in my work? I can't bring myself to use like or as in a poem. In my head, I hear Marie saying, Why can't the thing be the thing?


Also, I find myself binging on poetry by William Stafford, James Wright, and Jane Kenyon. Go figure.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Confession Tuesday

 Happy Tuesday ... Eh Wednesday!

Since I've been back from my two writing retreats, I've been in mom mode ever since. A birthday party for my baby girl (who is no longer a baby, *sigh*), a trip to Six Flags, a zoo, and summer camp--I am in the middle of it all. Being back, I really appreciate how time and silence can fortify you for anything. Now, the question becomes how can I keep a part of this summer with me always.


Good news is that I feel as if I can tap into that part of myself at any time. The key is finding a block of time where I am not watching the clock. I may go back to writing at 4 a.m., which will give me two hours before my daughter wakes up. For now, I've scribbled four drafts since my return. They're just waiting for me to spend a little time with them. Soon, very soon.


My kids go back to school the last week of August. Where did the summer go?


I'm back on campus today. Lots of construction and summer upgrades happening at a rapid pace. Our students return September 4, and I have a few meetings on campus this week. Can I please have one more month of summer? I'm not ready to go back just yet.


Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. Time for your confessions. You know the drill.

Look at this wall. Look how pretty.

After two weeks and 12 new poems, I have enough work for the bones of a new manuscript! I'll continue to write throughout the year and see where I am at the beginning of 2014. For now, the poems have a loose order. No working title yet, but I'm in no rush to complete a new manuscript. Just want to see where my writing leads me during the next few months. I'm in a good place--hope I can stay there.


I need a blank wall at home so I can post pages whenever I wanted. Hmmm ...


My week at Millay Colony was a gift. Provincetown opened me up, but Millay gave me time to process and contemplate. I never knew how much I needed the time until I arrived. Six of us spent the week together writing in our own separate studios, then we'd gather at night for dinner and conversation. At the start of the week, I thought for sure I would not be able to full the time. But it goes by so quickly.

The spirit of Edna St. Vincent Millay was with us; she was our muse.


No Juno poems written, which is OK. I'm putting her on the back burner for a while.


I picked up the kids on Sunday and went to Six Flags to celebrate Ella's 8th birthday. Tonight is the official party--so I'm right back into mommy mode. Taking a few minutes this morning to write and reflect.  


Happy birthday, baby girl!

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Photos from Millay

Quite the contrast from Provincetown. Just as lovely and unique. And productive. Taking a tour of Edna St. Vincent Millay's home and writing cabin tomorrow. 

These photos are of the main house, the Steepletop barn (one of the first pre-fab kits designed by Sears & Roebuck), and surrounding grounds.  


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