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Sunday, February 26, 2012

AWP Yawp and Frolic!

I've been a tad remiss with posting this month, mainly because I wrote or revised at least one poem a day from Feb 1-Feb 17 ... and then I went on serious hiatus from all things poetry for a week-long snowboarding vacation par excellence. As I type I am icing a sore knee, visions of fresh powder dancing in my head. I have never had such a good time in my board-head life-- 6 hours a day for four days of non-stop floating and flying. I could almost trade my current life for snowboard-bum one-- working as a ski lift operator four days a week, sailing down a mountain the other three. I woke up this morning with my head full of heal-toe action, shreadding down Tomahawk for the umpteenth time.

with brother-in-law Freddy 


But not too far in the back of my brain lies the scepter of ...AWP! I am getting very excited for all the good readings and panels I am about to witness. Can't wait!!!!! If you want to see/hear me, I have two events:

A reading with Saturnalia Books authors on Thursday night from 6-8 pm at Villian's Bar & Grill, 649 S. Clarke Ave. (just a short-walk from the action). Campbell McGrath, Sarah Vap, Catherine Pierce, Tanya Larkin, Michael Robins, Debra Kuan, and Margaret Rhonda will also read.

4:30-5:45 PM Saturday
S230. A Tribute to Carolyn Kizer
(David Rigsbee, Kevin Craft, Emily Warn, Martha Silano)
Waldorf, Hilton Chicago, 3rd Floor
This panel will discuss Carolyn Kizer’s work and significance to American poetry. Kizer has combined private lyricism with a Confucian sense of public responsibility. At a time when it was unfashionable to proclaim oneself feminist or political, Kizer proudly proclaimed herself both. Founding editor of Poetry Northwest and first Literary Director for the National Endowment for the Arts, legendary teacher Kizer has produced a moving body of work that dazzles with clarity and passion.




If I don't see you at either of these events, I hope to run into you at the book fair, in one of the hotel lobbies/bars, or in the elevator. Save travels to Chicago!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception a Noted Book of 2011

The Academy of American Poets has named The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception a Noted Book of 2011.

It is a great honor to be in the company of such wonderful poets, many of whom have been my teachers-from-afar since I began this whole "I'm going to be a poet" thing when I was around fifteen. Robert Bly, whose Talking into the Ear of the Donkey is on this same list, was the second poet I ever heard read his poems aloud (my first was Allen Ginsberg). I can still remember how he looked up on stage (his hair was silvery and wild), and when he put on a mask to read one of of his poems I thought, wow, this guy is so out there (and I meant that in a good, good way). For the next ten years I would read all of Bly's work, memorizing several of his poems from Silence in the Snowy Fields and The Man in the Black Coat Turns. He is one of my poetry fathers.

Donald Hall, another poet included for his book The Back Chamber, has been a touchstone poet of mine for over 20 years; last summer I savored his book Life Work, which made me go back and read many of his poems. "Lie for the sake of assonance," he whispers in my ear each time I begin to write a poem. He also reminds me nearly daily to read the 17th Century poets, but I have to admit that most of what those old guys wrote is lost on this B-average Jersey girl.

When David Wagoner allowed me to sneak into his poetry writing workshop at University of Washington in the fall of 1991 as a non-matriculating student, he summoned the name of Tess Gallagher as the rationale for letting me attend: Tess, he said, had also sat in. I never forgot the fact that she was my predecessor--talk about big shoes to fill. I doubted I would make it through David's class, let alone through a second round as an official MFA candidate at UW.  To be on this list with Tess Gallagher is testament to the notion that poetry writing, if it's done with passion and fervency, can be taught.

I am not much of one for using this blog to toot my horn, but I wanted to share this good news mainly because I am so thrilled to be doing right by my editor and publisher, Henry Israeli. He was the one who put my manuscript into the hands of Campbell McGrath, and, once Campbell had chosen it for publication, it was Henry who assisted me in weeding out the weaker poems. He is also responsible for the gorgeous design.

Finally, I would like to thank the Academy for choosing to include books from both highly established and independent publishers. I am deeply grateful.










Friday, February 3, 2012


I went online looking for some uplifting, thought-provoking, pithy quips about the art of writing, and I came up empty. This is what I found:

The professional writer who spends his time becoming other people and places, real or imaginary, finds he has written his life away and has become almost nothingV. S. Pritchett

For a person to discover that she or he does not have a calling to write can be good news….Consider committing your life in an impossibly difficult, underpaid profession that is not right for you. Stephen Koch

Most writers enjoy only two brief periods of happiness. First, when what seems like a glorious idea comes flashing into mind, and secondly, when a last page has been written and you have not yet had time to consider how much better it all ought to have been. J. B. Priestley

Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don’t think an artist can ever be happyGeorges Simenon

To write is to invite angry censure from those who don’t write, or who don’t write in quite the way you do, for whom you may seem as threatJoyce Carol Oates

I think writing tends to deny you a full life. Writing is incompatible with everything. It’s incompatible with having children, with having a job. You can’t do anything. Paul Theroux


It's incompatible with having children: what the heck!? 

So I googled Inspirational Writing Quotes and this is what I found: 

So often is the virgin sheet of paper more real than what one has to say, and so often one regrets having marred it.  ~Harold Acton, Memoirs of an Aesthete, 1948

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.  ~E.L. Doctorow
The wastebasket is a writer's best friend.  ~Isaac Bashevis Singer


Impossibly difficult? Unhappiness? Regrets for having marred the blank page? Schizophrenia? My best friend = wastebasket? JEE-SUSSSSSSSSS.


Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place.

Of course I am looking in the wrong place.

I am increasingly finding that search engines are b.s. (unless you already kinda know what you're looking for--name of the book, a close approximation of the quote you want to find, etc.) because a general search--even when you wade in 10 pages deep--rarely provides the best answer, the right answer, a good answer, any answer.

Case in point: How to Deal with a Pomegranate. Do NOT try this at home. I repeat: do not fill a bowl with water, dump the whole pomegranate in a bath and attempt to remove the skin and innerds yucko white stuff. No, no, no. Big mistake. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

This is what I think. There are no shortcuts to making mistakes, feeling around in the dark, reading dozens and dozens of interviews with writers, dozens of books about craft, thousands of newspapers, magazines (some of these actually get your hands dirty from the ink), and attending dozens of poetry readings, literary panels, etc., etc., to amass your favorite collection of quotes about writing and the writing life. 

Trial and error. Hunting and pecking. A lifetime devoted to reading and listening. As for peeling a pomegranate, carefully peel back the skin and gingerly pick away at the individual arils (yes, arils -- okay, disclaimer: I learned that word online).

I also learned that the French refer to pomegranates as grenades at this same website. 

Okay, okay, 

Very well, then, I contradict myself, I am large,  I contain multitudes. Walt Whitman