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the rain in my purse





Updated: 2018-02-22T11:47:51.054+00:00

 



10 Down

2018-02-19T17:26:13.117+00:00

Germany is very cold. The sun is sorry and don’t be deceived when it manages to break through the grey.

Lots of traveling these days, but also staying put and receiving visitors. I try to make the most of plane time, reading or napping or listening to a podcast. On the last trip I listened to a Mary Gaitskill story called “A Dream of Men,” which was terrific. It made me regret not having read Mary Gaitskill yet.

I entertained the idea of doing a reading challenge this year and checked out a few popular ones. Understandably most of them encourage you to try genre fiction and, while I’m open to sci-fi and horror and even westerns, there is no way I’ll read romance fiction, and that’s what the two most promising challenges asked for. Why even begin? Then I thought it might be fun to put together my own challenge so I started composing a list until it began to roll its many eyes...

Read a book that came out the month you were born
Read a book about disgrace
Read a novel set outdoors
Read a trilogy backwards
Read a thriller by a person with a rare disease


I dropped this pursuit and simply set a goal of reading 60 books. 10 down. 



Misery catalog

2018-01-03T09:25:50.586+00:00

(image) I’ve been able to finish some new Misery poems this past week, though I am facing a disheartening glue conundrum. The stick doesn’t hold forever, and wet glues eat the thin pages. I’ve spent more than 50 euros trying different glues, to no avail. I ordered extra-strong glue sticks a couple days ago, and hope that brings a solution. Glue sticks are super because they don’t warp and well and they don’t weaken the paper. But they’re not lasting.

I had success with the Misery poems last year, with 35 published in 13 different journals. Including Misery 31, published at the tail-end of 2016 in concis, that makes 36. Below is a catalog with assorted links. 

For 2018, seven more Misery poems have been accepted by Diagram, Passages North, Poetry Northwest and Tinderbox. I have others submitted. My semi-move to Spain this past summer ate a lot of time and continues to do so, but it was a good move, and enriching.

Sixth Finch: The Wreck
Diagram: The Republic 

A Bad Penny: Champagne, Hot Temper, Night Flowers, My Ship, Empty Talk
One Sentence Poems: In Flowers 

The Journal: Infant Taint, Frostbite, I’m going up ace 
Escape into Life: The Far Woods, Very Grave/Very Reasonable, All the World, Impossible Flowers

Pith: O my lady, Moonscape 
Permafrost: NoonlightMirth, Doubt, IceThe Upper Hand 
Collapsar: Past Life, The Itch 

Thrush: Parlor, This Pale Furrow, Straddler, Blacktop, Interior Editor
Shuf: Searchlight, Squall, Eureka (no direct link)

Roanoke: Review: Spoon, The Rains (plus 8 reprints)



2017 Booklist

2018-01-01T12:13:18.870+00:00

I squeaked over the 50-book barrier last year, despite a lot of work and tumult. I read less poetry than usual, but I'm not scolding myself. I won't lie and say, oh but I read so much poetry online, because it's not true.  Because I spent much time on airplanes, I listened to a number of story podcasts. Perhaps I'll try to remember them all for a separate list. My favorite book this year was War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans, a somewhat hybrid memoiry-fiction about WWI that was very affecting. There were books that disappointed, like Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. I also listened to a podcast of one of his stories, which I also disliked. I quite wanted to like Calvino, him being a legend and all, but there you have it. I found Invisible Cities a bit of a yawn, and the story, whose title I forget, sexist and ridiculous. I likewise disliked A Little Life by Hanya Yanaghihara, with its bad writing decisions, emotional-disaster tourism and sappy shot at "affirmation." I put this in a category with Bel Canto, which I also dislike, of books that try above all to say oh yes life can be awful but we're alive and did our best and love triumphs over death etc etc and here are some sunrises to prove it, which turns my stomach. I did back-to-back Dickens, which was fun. Dombey and Son beat out Our Mutual Friend, which has a fatal flaw, in my opinion, though it was still enjoyable. I also read two Brenda Hillman poetry collections and am happy to say she's wonderful. I read Clarice Lispector for the first time this year, both The Hour of the Star and The Passion According to G.H. I admired her writing a lot and hope to read more this year. I sought out dystopian & apocalyptic novels but was underwhelmed. The best of them was Margaret Atwood's Oryx & Crake and The Year of the Flood, which were imaginative and, most importantly, well written. I skipped the last of the trilogy out of fear of disappointment. Other books I'd recommend are Édouard Levé's Autoportrait and How to Be Both by Ali Smith, one of my favorite writers. 1. Pieces of Air in the Epic by Brenda Hillman (Jan 2) USA2. War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans (Jan 13) Netherlands3. The Best American Mystery Stories, ed. Carl Hiaasen (Jan 17) USA4. Eventide by Kent Haruf (Jan 21) USA5. The Beauty of the Husband by Anne Carson (Jan 22) USA6. A Little Life by Hanya Yanaghihara (Feb 4) USA7. The Old Cities by Marcel Brouwers (Feb 11) USA8. I Love Dick by Chris Kraus (Feb 17) USA9. The Ground I Stand on Is Not My Ground (Feb 25) USA10. The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink (Feb 26) USA11. Ice Mountain by Dave Bonta (Mar 9) USA12. Loose Sugar by Brenda Hillman (winter) USA13. Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens (Mar 26)* UK14. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens (Apr 30) UK15. Hot Milk by Deborah Levy (May 6) UK16. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (May 10) USA17. Fortune Cookies by Andrew Cox (May 14) USA18. How to Be Both by Ali Smith (May 21) UK19. The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes (May 27) UK20. Karate Chop by Dorthe Nors (May 31) Denmark21. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (May 31) - gave up USA22. I am Legend by Richard Matheson (Jun 1) USA23. Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector (Jun 3) Argentina24. The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Lhosa (June 18) Peru25. The Indifferent World by Ken Craft (Jun 18) USA26. The Summer Book by Tove Jannson (June 21) Finland 27. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller (July 4) USA28. Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden (July 15) USA29. The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier (July 21) USA30. The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh (July 28) UK31. What a Carve Up! by Jonathan Coe (Aug 9) UK32. Night Fever: Interior Design for Bars and Clubs, ed. Frame Magazine (Aug 9) 33. Animals by Simon Beckett (Aug 10) UK34. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (Aug 13) Canada35. Recyclopedia by Harryette Mullen (Aug 13) USA36. The Calling of the Grave by Simon Beckett (Aug 15) UK37. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood [...]



Not even someday

2017-08-27T07:38:50.245+00:00

You know how there are couple of books in your to-read stack that turn you off every time you look for a new read, despite their long-standing membership there?

As in, every time you see them you think not now, as if it were a mood issue or a simple case of subject, or you wanted a woman writer this time, or something shorter, or something not set in New York or about WWII, so you snub the book again and after a few years of its languishing on the stack you realize it’s more deep-seated than that. 

All the worse when you’ve sampled 5-10 pages of it and then put it back on the pile, pretty much guaranteeing you’re never going to commit. 

These days it seems like my whole to-read stack consists of such books.



The Itch

2017-08-19T06:27:19.755+00:00

Two more of my Misery poems are up at The Collapsar, "The Itch" and "Past Life." 

(image) "The Itch" reads:
If you turned the thing over 
to take a look at the works, 
you saw the itch let herself in 
dragging something heavy, 
a cross of soft skin.

"Past Life"
O maddening serene thing
in a previous life
such a rain began to fall

A couple more from this series are due out shortly, and at some point I'll make a linked index of them and post it here.



France

2017-08-14T20:48:36.504+00:00

(image)
Back from a vacation in France today, and glad to have tomorrow free before returning to Spain for work on Wednesday.

Like last year in Bourges, we saw a number of WWI sites in the Champagne region. One day we went out to visit the ruins of an abbey and found ourselves just a few kilometers from the site where Guillaume Apollinaire was wounded in 1916. Someone erected a stone marker there with an excerpt from the poem “The Seasons.” I picked up these leaves and such as a souvenir.

We are not big champagne drinkers, alas, but we went to a tasting and bought a bottle for the fall birthday of a friend.

I regretted not taking enough books — usually I lug too many. But early on the day before we left I finished Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. It was a good read and I was especially sorry to see it end with no other fiction or non-fiction at hand. I was stuck with a poetry book I was not enjoying and another I’ve read many times. Plus two copies of Misery that I didn’t even look at. Our Airbnb host had two English-language novels on her shelf but one I’d read and the other didn’t interest me, plus I would have felt guilty absconding with one anyway.

So I’m glad to be home with a few unread books to choose from. I’d really like to read the fat book I have about the French revolution but recall I’ve left Kershaw’s big biography of Hitler in my desk at work in Barcelona, which dissuades me from cracking open anything too heavy.



The roses have dropped their lawsuit

2017-07-06T19:08:50.931+00:00

I neglected to mention the generous Jennifer MacBain-Stephens has written a review of my chapbook "Heiress to a Small Ruin." It was a surprise to me, and very welcome. She spends some time with "Seven Postcards from Solitude," "I Will Now Eat a Loaf of Bread," and "Salem," among others.

If you are interested in "Heiress," it's here.



Bloodshot Cartography

2017-07-05T06:48:16.107+00:00

My poem Bloodshot Cartography is now a blockbuster movie! The generous Dave Bonta of Via Negativa fame is the video artist, with a reading by me.
This poem began with my wondering whether the word 'amazon' had anything to do with 'amaze,' and finding out it doesn't. Mix in a little homesickness, lack of sleep and antipathy for insects, and it's done. The poem was originally published in Crab Creek Review.

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="480" mozallowfullscreen="" src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/221781698?color=ef3800&byline=0&portrait=0" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640">
Bloodshot Cartography from Dave Bonta on Vimeo.



Mid-year book list

2017-07-05T06:48:44.303+00:00

Here's my half-year book list. I double-Dickensed in the spring!
My favorite fiction was Clarice Lispector's "Hour of the Star" because I loved the writing.

1. Pieces of Air in the Epic by Brenda Hillman (Jan 2) USA
2. War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans (Jan 13) Netherlands
3. The Best American Mystery Stories 2007, ed. Carl Hiaasen (Jan 17) USA
4. Eventide by Kent Haruf (Jan 21) USA
5. The Beauty of the Husband by Anne Carson (Jan 22) USA
6. A Little Life by Hanya Yanaghihara (Feb 4) USA
7. The Old Cities by Marcel Brouwers (Feb 11) USA
8. I Love Dick by Chris Kraus (Feb 17) USA
9. The Ground I Stand on Is Not My Ground (Feb 25) USA
10. The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink (Feb 26) USA
11. Ice Mountain by Dave Bonta (Mar 9) USA
12. Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens (Mar 26) UK
13. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens (Apr 30) UK
14. Hot Milk by Deborah Levy (May 6) UK
15. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (May 10) USA
16. Fortune Cookies by Andrew Cox (May 14) USA
17. How to Be Both by Ali Smith (May 21) UK
18. The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes (May 27) UK
19. Karate Chop by Dorthe Nors (May 31) Denmark
20. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (May 31) - gave up USA
21. I am Legend by Richard Matheson (Jun 1) USA
22. Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector (Jun 3) Argentina
23. The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Lhosa (June 18) Peru
24. The Indifferent World by Ken Craft (Jun 18) USA
25. The Summer Book by Tove Jannson (June 21) Finland



I go to the hill & the hill helps me down

2017-06-10T07:00:49.943+00:00


At the end of May I went to Ireland for a reading with O Bheal, which was fun and went well. My daughter went with me and we spent a few days in and around Cork. The highlight was the hours we spent trawling a used bookstore. She also tried on some gorgeous long dresses in a vintage shop. They were tempting but where would you wear them?

My reading —about a half hour— is here.

I've had some poems --mostly found visual poems from Misery-- out recently, and many more accepted. Three are in The Journal, a favorite publication of mine:

Frostbite, with the image of a jump suspended.
Infant Taint, which I put together the day after the November election.
I'm going up ace, a brag poem.

(image) Ucity Review took four poems that came out last week:

Infinite Loop, a bookish poem.
What's What, about going with the flow.
On Missing the Bottom Step, about a mishap I am a victim of not infrequently enough.
Ingested Pins, one of a few poems inspired by Philadelphia's Mütter Museum.

Other recent but yet unpublished acceptances have come from Permafrost, Thrush, Zone 3, Tinderbox, Passages North, Poetry Northwest, Collapsar and Diagram.




Stupidity is a Dangerous Enemy

2017-06-10T06:32:40.334+00:00

Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one's prejudgment simply need not be believed--in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical--and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous. 

-Dieter Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison



Spring poems

2017-04-08T19:02:23.557+00:00

I have been remiss in writing this month, since it's National Poetry Month and I'm not with the poem-a-day program.

Oh well, spring has arrived anyway, bringing Misery poems. At this point, I've had more poems accepted in the first three months of  2017 than I had accepted in all of 2016.

Which is something to ponder.

A Bad Penny published five Misery poems here, including "Empty Talk" and "Night Flowers."

Pith also has two: "Moonscape" and "O MY lady."

Hopefully, I will depart April with at least one decent poem in my notebook or on my drawing board. 





This land is my land

2017-01-24T21:02:05.506+00:00

(image)
Things that kept me awake: whether my alarm clock would work, whether my back-up alarm clock would work, a lie my husband may be telling me, my daughter's education and future, my son's education and future, my doctor's appointment, the dog's broken claw, a story I'd edited perhaps with an error, the source of certain information (I got out of bed to check this), the story I had to write the next morning, dry skin, my son's sleeping hours, whether I should go to the bathroom (I did), whether I was warm enough (I got a sweater), or too warm (I took off the sweater), my lung capacity, why must I have a body, why must I have a mind, one or both of these are keeping me awake, the disaster administration, the glow of the energy saver strip, electromagnetic-wave pollution in the home, the earth, how miserable I'd be in the morning, the future of public lands.

(erasers by Anu Tuominen) 



Misery 33

2017-01-21T08:29:48.727+00:00

One of the found poems I wrote using Stephen King's Misery, The Wreck, is up at Sixth Finch.

I'm still working on this project, but am thinking of moving on soon, maybe to another book. A motivating factor behind Misery was I had to do it - it was my assignment as part of a larger group. I worry that if I choose the book, I might give up too easily when I hit a rough spot.

So far I've done about 40 Misery poems, half of which are worth submitting. Five of those have already been accepted somewhere.
 
I'd like to use thread a bit more, though I've got collage material out the wazoo. 

And every day the paper boy brings more. 




On an otherwise dismaying day

2017-01-19T19:51:16.943+00:00

(image)
When we got to the last station this morning I found a personless backpack at my feet. I thought, whoops, pretty sad to forget your backpack on the UBahn. My second thought was, well, this is an "unattended baggage" problem that doesn't need to be mine.

But then it was, & I hadn't sat next to anyone shady -- a 20-something woman listening to music, then a middle-aged man head over heels in love with his companion, headed out of town judging by their bags. But I was engrossed in a Kent Haruf novel about compassionate people on the Great Plains and hadn’t paid much attention. The UBahn lights went off, which means GET OUT so I grabbed the backpack and got out. 

I felt bad rifling through the backpack but no way but forward. The wallet was stuffed with Swiss francs & the plastic had a male name so I knew it was the man's. There was also a phone, laptop, glasses, gloves & files. I thought, ok, this guy is on his way to Switzerland minus some very important stuff, which he's surely realized by now. I found the platform for the one train to Switzerland but didn't spot him. I went to lost&found but was told since I found it in the UBahn & not a long-distance train I had to go to another office downtown. Mr. X's long lovebird weekend would be ruined by the time all that played out. I kept hoping he'd call his phone, but alas. I thought about how unmoored I'd be without my glasses. 

I went to my office & burrowed deeper into his things. I found his Twitter profile but he never tweeted & there was nothing revealing otherwise. In his wallet I unearthed a Swiss consulate ID. I called the consulate & got the robot who says "if you are calling about A push B, etc." Finally I pushed 86 & got a human & explained the situation & asked how I could reach this man or talk to a colleague. I was put on hold. A few minutes later a breathless woman came on & said the man had just called & gee what luck & was I British that's some accent & she took my number & said he'd call. He was at the police station at the train station. I hadn't known there was one.

Soon after he rang & I said I worked nearby & could bring the backpack over. I worried he'd be offended that I looked through his stuff, which was absurd. I asked a station worker where the police station was & I was standing right next to it. So much for my sleuthery! I remembered the old New Yorker cartoon of a man standing below a sign that said "The Illiterate Club" who asks, 'Hey, where is The Illiterate Club?' It was more imperial in there than I expected, except for the guy and his girlfriend who were thrilled and a smiling police woman who downgraded the case from theft to forgetfulness. The guy handed me 50 euros but of course I said no thanks. Go on your trip and give it to someone who needs it, I said in the spirt of my reading.



Slow to ignite

2017-01-02T22:04:33.787+00:00

I was early for an appointment so I went to the English section of the bookstore, which I was sorry to see had shrunk, yielding to a stupid section of Frankfurt paraphenalia. My eyesight has grown so poor I have to keep taking my glasses off and putting them back on - on to scan the bookshelf, off to peruse the book in my hand. I found a short story collection by Lucia Berlin - such a European name, though it looks like she never left America. She grew up somewhere obscure and moved to Texas and NY, like everyone. She was an alcoholic with a back brace and multiple sons. I was surprised to read that the bright-eyed, coiffured woman on the cover was her - I thought it was a character. I read three stories including ‘Macadam,’ which begins “When fresh it looks like caviar,” then the bio, how her last marriage was to a guy named Something Berlin and I thought —until it dawned on me at dinner— wow, weird that she ended up with a guy with the same last name as her…



I Can't Expect to Avoid Anger & Brooding

2017-01-01T13:09:31.723+00:00

Training

I’m thinking of living forever.
I think that way I might finally
get my gig straight and solve the crosswords.
I’m considering outlasting everyone
although I know I’d have a hard time
explaining not having read Ulysses
past the first chapter.
I don’t care if death smells like nutmeg.
I don’t buy the plotline on eternal rest.
By staying alive someday
I might manage to hail a taxi,
and fulfill my father’s wish
of reaching town without a red light.
I couldn’t expect to avoid anger or brooding
or to make the journey with my beasts appeased.
But I might walk vast expanses
of earth and always be beginning
and I love beginning
or could learn 
to love it.



2016 books

2016-12-31T13:23:58.980+00:00

I had a good year of reading, with a number of terrific books rolling through in December alone. I've been putting off making my list with the notion I might be able to stuff just one more in, but with 14 hours of 2016 left, it's not going to happen.It wasn't a great year as politics goes, but Bob Dylan did win the Nobel Prize and I will never forget sitting at my desk flushed with surprise and delight, then spending days rebutting the naysayers. I found out I don't like Elena Ferrante, nor do I care who she is *in real life.* There were a number of books that underwhelmed, including Half a Life and Blood Will Out, which was very disappointing. Where did I get that book? Here are my favorite reads pretty much, though it is terribly difficult to make choices. I bolded 10 highlights below, but there are some others of course that almost made it.  Best fiction: So Much For That Winter by Dorthe Nors, A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary MantelBest poetry: Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon, The End of the West by Michael Dickman, Death Tractates by Brenda Hillman Best non-fiction: The Three Christs of Ypsilanti by Milton RokeachOther: The Book of Embraces by Eduardo Galeano1. The Dinner by Herman Koch (Jan 3)2. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (Jan 7)3. What the Truth Tastes Like by Martha Silano (Jan 16)4. Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien (Jan)5. Zinky Boys by Svetlana Alexievich (Jan 27)6. Chocky by John Wyndham (Jan 29)7. Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon (Feb 6) 8. Hotel World by Ali Smith (Feb 7)9. The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (Feb 18)10. Swoop by Hailey Leithauser (Feb 20)11. Shockwave by Stephen Walker (Feb 22)12. The Scented Fox by Laynie Browne (Feb 29) 13. The Three Christs of Ypsilanti by Milton Rokeach (Feb 29) 14. Blood Will Out by Walter Kirn (Mar 3) 15. Kindred by Octavia Butler (Mar 17)16. The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart by Deborah Digges (Mar 19)17. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (Mar 27)18. Heartsnatcher by Boris Vian (April 6)19. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (April 21) 20. There Was An Old Woman by Jessy Randall (May 2) 21. Five Days At Memorial by Sherry Fink (May 17)22. Selected Translations by WS Merwin (May 28)23. Universal Themes in Literature by Howie Good (online chap, May 29)24. The Vegetarian by Kang Han (June 3)25. The Book of Embraces by Eduardo Galeano (June)26. The Possessed by Elif Batuman (June 25)27. Half a Life by Darin Strauss (Jul 1)28. The End of the West by Michael Dickman (Jul 3)29. Small Boat by Lesle Lewis (Jul 5)30. Sight Lines by Sandra Marchetti (online chap, Jul 5)31. drip, drip by Lizi Gilad (online chap, Aug 1) 32. Stone Bruises by Simon Beckett (Aug 11)33. Death Tractates by Brenda Hillman (Aug 11) 34. Where There’s Smoke by Simon Beckett (Aug 13) 35. It Is Such a Good Thing to Be in Love With You by David Welch (Sep 2)36. A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel (Sep 16) 37. Ochre by Gla4 (online chap, Sep 18)38. 102 Minutes: Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers - Jim Dwyer (Sep 27)39. Misery by Stephen King (Sep 29)40. It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden (Oct 25)41. Seven Years by Peter Stamm (Oct 17) 42. Crash by JG Ballard (Nov 1)43. Chinoiserie by Karen Rigby (Nov 1) 44. The hows and why of my failures by Dan Nowak (chapbook, Nov 5)45. Lovely Green Eyes by Arnost Lustig (Nov 12)46. Pigeons in the Grass by Wolfgang Koeppen (Nov 23)47. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder (Nov 27)48. Mislaid by Nell Zink (Dec 5)49. So Much For That Winter by Dorthe Nors (Dec 9)50. Arthur a[...]



Holiday poems

2016-12-28T19:53:56.096+00:00

(image)
We had a lovely Christmas with my mother here. As usual, everyone got many presents and if anyone complains they will be duly smacked. A highlight was driving up the Rhine on Monday to a restaurant overlooking the vineyards and river. There was a sun shower and lots of wind and our brunch was horrendously expensive but I’d do it again. 

In writing news, I’ve got two poems up at Ghost Proposal: “Gestures in a Landscape” and “Rome Postcard.” I really enjoyed the issue and hope you’ll spend some time there. “Gestures” is aphoristic, moving through war, landscapes and air. “Rome” is a travel fragment. 

(image) Barnstorm, where I had a poem a couple or three years ago, also published my poem “Rue Musette” mid-month. I wrote this mostly at the end of last year after visiting Dijon and visiting the beautiful Fontenay Abbey in France. I usually decline to record a reading but I went ahead this time. When I sent it I said “if it sounds terrible just toss it” but the very kind editor said it was beautiful and I felt happy about that for a long time! 

Three more of my Misery poems have been accepted, and I’m looking forward to seeing them out in the world soon.



death tractates

2017-01-12T20:29:53.616+00:00

This year, so far, I’ve read three really outstanding poetry books. Forced to pick a favorite I’m going with Brenda Hillman’s “Death Tractates.” It wasn’t written this year —it’s rare I read books the year they come out— but in 1992.

It has a dullsville cover, and the title makes it sound like some kind of plodding, ancient tome. I didn’t have high expectations, though I’d loved Hillman’s “Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire” a year ago. (That one I bought that on a whim and after opening it was like, ugh, I’m going to hate this. But I ended up loving it.) 

“Death Tractates” is certainly about death, and suffused with grief, but Hillman puts suffering off to one side to ask questions about existence. The poems convey death’s mystery, and treat the deceased as if she were still present, only separated a little, and unreachable. The dead woman is often referred to as a bride and she is nowhere and everywhere. The poems aren’t filled with tears or wailing, but with questions and thoughtful wondering.

Here’s the start of ”Seated Bride” -

She had died without warning in early spring.
Which seemed right.
Now that which was far off could become intimate.

I said to the guides, let’s stand
very close to the mystery
and see how far she’s gone…

One of the best poems is “Much Hurrying,” which begins:

—So much hurrying right after a death:
as if a bride were waiting!

Crocuses sliced themselves out
with their penknives. Everything well made
seemed dead to them: Camelias. Their butcher-
paper pink. The well-made poems

seemed dead to you …. 

The other two outstanding books of poetry I read this year were Ada Limon’s “Bright Dead Things,” which WAS published this year, and Michael Dickman’s “The End of the West.” Of course I read a lot of very good poetry books this year, but I'm being really strict with myself here. So: 3.




Black chair

2016-12-09T08:46:09.130+00:00

My husband and daughter went to Italy for a long weekend. My son has school, and I’ve taken the day off to lounge around and stare at the walls.

Ha, I wish. I have to paint a wall, buy the paint, finish a story for work (get back to me, people), and pick up a small chair that’s been reupholstered. Black. 

My first Misery poem is up at concis. It’s simply called “Misery 31.” 

I think a recorded reading of a poem can ruin it. The poem on the page is expansive and porous. A voice pierces it. It’s like illustrating a book. You drew a character in your mind, and suddenly a different image barges in.

This is not always so. Some poets are great readers. 

If the department of transportation decides phone calls are OK on board airplanes I will really start reading aloud aloft. I have done this on the subway when someone would not shut up. 

The day before a day off is always the better day. 

Going to put on my paint-splattered pants and bike to the DIY store. At some point. Today.



more on misery

2016-12-04T20:08:01.191+00:00

Since my trip to the states I’ve been on a writing hiatus. I did poke around in poems in progress but haven’t started anything new. Fall was dominated by the Misery project. I haven’t abandoned it yet, but I know when I pick it up again I’ll be leaving this peaceful period, whether it’s Misery or another book.

This wasn’t my first time doing found poetry but I did spend more time with Misery, and my approach made creation feel very intimate - sewing paper with thread, cutting and dissecting pages, pasting them with confetti and magazine cut-outs. It was one of the more tactile relationships I’ve had with a book. I cursed a lot about glue. 

(image) A lot of the poems I came up with were failures as poems go, but I dressed them up and managed to give them some charm. The ones that worked both as poems and visuals I’m happy with and am submitting. Others are going nowhere. Nothing I did was elaborate. I didn’t set out thinking I’d do visuals every day, but then I couldn’t drop it once I started.

Misery is an entertaining book. It’s well-written, it’s got plenty of gruesome moments and a wound-up villain. But it isn’t a masterpiece of literature. You don’t want to start with a masterpiece when you’re doing found poetry, in my opinion. You find too much unearned gorgeousness.

I also forgot to post these recent poems from The Baltimore Review: Industry Lap Dog and The Quiet Car



Goldfish Sitter

2016-12-04T12:55:22.993+00:00

I’ve been remiss! I had a rich October doing the Stephen King found poetry project. I had more energy than I expected, turning each daily poem into a little creature with various kinds of collage and drawing, which motivated me. I ended up submitting lots of poems in November, without much payoff so far - a few rejections, a stray acceptance.

I also visited the states last month to help my mother prepare to move and to enjoy a rare Thanksgiving, a holiday I always loved because of the food (and family). The family has scattered I’m afraid, and my mother, our last New Jersey stalwart, picks up stakes in January, too.

I did have one poem published last month, Goldfish Sitter, in the National Poetry Review. It’s a poem I wrote after Christmas last year, when I was indeed assigned to babysit a neighbor’s goldfish over the holidays.




Reposting a Dylan entry from a couple years ago...

2016-10-13T18:43:55.930+00:00

I have dueling versions of Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands on my iPod, Bob Dylan’s and Joan Baez’s. For a long time I only listened to hers, but in fact I prefer his. She has a distinctive, beautiful voice, whereas he just has a distinctive voice. But he’s also got personality, and that piercingly sad harmonica!

Ok, so what's another reason to love the song? Because it is a list poem that reminds me of the French surrealists, that’s why.

Take this, from the song:
With your sheets like metal and your belt like lace,
And your deck of cards missing the jack and the ace,
And your basement clothes and your hollow face,
Who among them can think he could outguess you?
With your silhouette when the sunlight dims
Into your eyes where the moonlight swims,
And your match-book songs and your gypsy hymns (etc)

Then this, from Benjamin Peret’s “Here:”
my ghetto of black iris my crystal ear
my opal snail my mosquito made out of air
my bird-of-paradise mattress my hair of black foam
my exploded grave my rain of red grasshoppers
my flying island my turquoise grape (etc)

Then this, from André Breton’s “Free Union:”
My wife whose hair is a brush fire
Whose thoughts are summer lightning
Whose waist is an hourglass
Whose waist is the waist of an otter caught in the teeth of a tiger
Whose mouth is a bright cockade with the fragrance of a star of the first magnitude
Whose teeth leave prints like the tracks of white mice over snow
Whose tongue is made out of amber and polished glass
Whose tongue is a stabbed wafer (etc)

See! I told you.



Dial M for Misery

2016-10-03T18:07:04.901+00:00

(image) I'm doing a poem-a-day project as part of "The Poeming," where each participant gets a Stephen King book in which to find a poem. My poems are all at Dial M for Misery, though I'm calling the tumblr blog "Remaking Misery," since I've hauled in some thread, confetti and coloured pencils.

I did read "Misery" as part of the deal, so I'm not at four King novels, the other three being "The Dead Zone," "The Shining," and "The Stand." I've listened to some stories on tape in the car, too. Not entirely my cup of tea, but enjoyable. To get into it I even watched the movie the other night.