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Poetry: I read it, write it, teach it, edit it, review it, publish it; Etc.

Thursday, December 31, 2009


Here at the last of 2009, I've been hoping to work through some of my reading backlog and this morning hunkered down with the newest-that-I've-received issue of Poets &Writers, Nov/Dec. I had apparently picked it up a few weeks back but soon found where I'd left off, "Beyond Intention," an excerpt from Dean Young's forthcoming and compellingly titled book of essays, The Art of Recklessness. I can't commend the book to you since I've only read this smallish excerpt, but I shall recommend this line taken from the excerpt of said book:

To cultivate fire is to perpetually gather fuel, sometimes to reconceive what is fuel.

The context for Young's comment is the case he is building for embracing a creative recklessness, specifically in writing poetry, as opposed to remaining within our tried and perhaps tired methods of writing whether they entail our intentions, expectations, assumptions or aesthetic notions. In this instance a poem is the fire . . . not a thing, Young suggests, but "a conversion."

That's an exciting comparison, one that resonates with some of my own thinking about fuel, about what "makes the engine go," as poet Stanley Kunitz put it. Making the engine go is what life consists in, whether it's writing a poem, novel, song or doing whatever it is that makes a person unique, whole, alive. I think of fuel not only as feeding a creative act, but as energizing resistance to life's decline. Part of resistance, I'm sure, is the ability "to reconceive what fuel is," to look beyond one's usual sources. It's a liberating idea for creative expression and for continuing to renew the lives we lead.

And so I wish you fuel for the coming year in its unseen joys and challenges, fuel for the fire that is you, fuel for your work and loves, fuel from unexpected places. Adieu, 2009. Happy New Year, All.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Juanita News!

Kore Press Pushcart Prize nominations are in. This year at KorePushcart Prize we've nominated Sally Ashton, Teresa Stores, Stephanie Balzer, and Heather Cousins. The Pushcart Prize is a highly anticipated anthology published annually by Pushcart Press. The collection of essays, short stories, poems and memoirs is chosen from hundreds of small magazines and presses across the world. Keep your eyes peeled this year for appearances by our Kore authors.

Congratulations and good luck ladies!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Some Odd Afternoon

Doesn't every day feel like some odd afternoon? This is the title of my book forthcoming from BlazeVOX press. I took the name from a line in an Emily Dickinson poem, #80, which I first used as the title of a poem. "Some Odd Afternoon" will appear in the winter issue of Dos Passos Review. I discovered Dickinson's poem after reading somewhere how she was taken with armchair voyages and by the idea of Italy as an imaginative place--So am I! Many of her poems reflect these voyages, but I will copy her #80 here.

Our lives are Swiss--
So still--so Cool
Till some odd afternoon
The Alps neglect their Curtains
And we look farther on!

Italy stands the other side!
While like a guard between--
The solemn Alps--
The siren Alps
Forever intervene!

Armchair travel is the ability to look farther on beyond the curtains of an ordinary day, or over an entire mountain range that stands between here and desire. Poetry provides just such a journey for the lucky traveler, a door to another world.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Just Back

I just got back from reading at the San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival last night. What a treat. First California reading for Juanita-as-a-book, and cool to be back in the town where I first attended college as a bright-eyed 17 yr old. Yes, crop science was my major and I was going to get back to the land and set my soul free. Somehow. Too bad I wasn't interested in science. But I took beekeeping, soil science, and row crops, learned some interesting vocabulary including apical meristem and friable. I learned when to shoot the nitrogen and the various cultivation shoes used for planting and weeding. Beta vulgaris is the latin name for sugar beet. In the 70's they had no use for organics.

So I earned C's, got A's in Spanish and Music Theory and Harmony and Life Drawing. Duh. I think I did okay in beekeeping.

The drive down 101 was amazing. If you have the chance to take it this week, do. The landscape is an unfolding miracle, ablaze with the vineyards turning colors now that the grapes are in.

It was such a pleasure to be included in the festival. Many thanks to Kevin Patrick Sullivan, most excellent and animated poetry series host. I was impressed by the SLO poetry community, its audience and its readers. Good times. Also thanks to George and Alyn Burns whose gracious hospitality and friendship made the trip.

It's about 5:30pm now, the sky already dark, fall winding down.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Out of the Box-Seattle!

On October 1, I joined fellow Bennington grad poets Marjorie Manwaring and Nicole Hardy in a reading at Hugo House entitled, "So a Magician, a Blonde, and a Donkey Walk Into a Bar..." We rocked the house, it was the first time to read Juanita from actual covers, and a good time was had by all.

Friday, August 28, 2009


DMQ Review Summer 2009 Release

The DMQ Review is pleased to announce the release of the Summer 2009 issue featuring the poetry of Nin Andrews, Albert Baker, Greg Billingham, Michelle Bonczek, Andrea England, Betsy Johnson-Miller, Meghan L. Martin, Kate McCann, Connie Post, Michael Spring, and Samn Stockwell with artwork by Susannah Habecker.

In collaboration with Peter Davis, editor of Poet’s Bookshelf: Contemporary Poets On Books That Shaped Their Art, Volumes I & II, the DMQ Review is also pleased to feature the essay and new work of Sandra M. Gilbert, our Summer 2009 Featured Poet.

John Amen’s poem, “I Am Not Ready to Nail This Door Shut,” first appeared in the DMQ Review’s August 2001 issue and comprises our “From the Archives” feature.

Check it out, www.dmqreview.com

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Art of This and That

Here's the dilemma. July is the month I set aside for creative work. I know, I'm supposed to be writing every day, and I do, but it's not always so creative. But July, mid-summer, poised between the end of the school year and the beginning of the next, laden with only one holiday that has no family expectations associated with it, most of the weddings and graduations over, friends in general are planning and executing vacations--July should be a great chunk of potentially focused time.

Should be. Invariably however I have a little side list going comprised of related projects--submissions, workshop proposals, unanswered emails, cleaning up the office--that I feel I must get through first. "I'll do this first and get it out of the way," is my rationale, "and then I'll be able to focus on that." I'll knock out a few hovering responsibilities, "this and this," always so pressing, and clear the way for unencumbered creative floooooow, the that.

What I've discovered is the only things that get done are the "thises." This is what's at hand. That is forever at a distance. I will always check off this item and this item from my list; as long as something remains that, it never gains the imperative required to become this thing I am doing. It remains that thing which I want to do after I get done with this.

This is not hyperbolic high-jinks. This is all there is. This is all I have. I will never have that. So the trick is, the dilemma, the necessity is I must do this now, this writing, this thinking, this composing. Then I'll get to that other stuff.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The 4th of July...

O, America. Of thee I sing, sigh, and hope.


Freedom is never free. Let's keep at it.

ps. Juanita cometh...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Travel Guides

Right after we'd bought tickets for Italy earlier this year, a well-traveled friend dropped off her favorite travel guide to Italy. Its dog-eared pages and a couple of remaining post-it tags proved it had been well-used. Since I wanted to have one I could use equally well and take with us on the trip, I soon bought one (so hard to choose just one!), a different one of course so we'd have a variety of perspectives. Before long Frank brought home a stack from the library and I put the whole assortment on the dining room table, a good, undisturbed place to spread out and really get to know a country.

By the time the trip was only a couple of weeks away, I hadn't done more than riffle pages and read captions under the glossy photos. No worries! We had a 10+ hour flight ahead of us. Plenty of opportunity, really an enforced stillness put to good use, to read the book cover to cover if I wanted.

The book never made it out of my carry-on. First I wanted light reading, then they put out the lights trying to get us west-coasters to believe that it was truly the night we were flying into...and out of! And then, we'd arrived and the journey was in full-swing. For this particular trip, the need to figure out what we'd do was less urgent; we were in the hands of our son for the most part and following a pretty full itinerary of people and places that we simply must meet and see before our all-too-short 2 weeks was gone--and then it was. We were back on the plane and I didn't pretend to read but wanted instead to watch every dvd in British Airways' library, which I did between intermittent attempts at sleep.

Now that I'm home, I love the travel guide, the one we brought with us (and that saved us when we were in the cinque terra without hotel reservations) as well as the couple I'd picked up along the way. The transformation actually began our last night in Italy, in the small family-run albergo in Genova we'd discovered by guide book, waiting up with the only English language literature in the lobby for Frank to return from a midnight city search for overnight parking. It was a Berlitz travel guide I believe and included a concise history of Italy...

What I found then and since I've been home is that now that I've been to Italy, I have context for the travel guides. I recognize places I've been- a town, a chapel, a region- and now I want to know more about it. I'm reading, I'm checking for more info on the internet, I'm jotting down notes from the travel guide in my journal. NEXT time I'm for sure spending more time in this city, will look out for that museum, will detour into that town. I will see the amphitheater's rose-colored walls. I will not miss Poet's Bay where Shelley drowned. Next time, maybe I'll be better guided.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009


It's been a month since we boarded the first of 2 planes for Italy, yet I am still so full of all we saw and did there--though unfortunately no longer full of what we ate and drank--that I find this hard to believe. I still have my Italian pocket phrasebook and my compact Italian dictionary right here next to my keyboard. I've insisted on making espresso every morning. Maybe just a bit pathetic. Well, especially my espresso!

The images and impressions that remain so vivid are some consolation. The fact that we got to go at all keeps me from complaining. Too much. And for those of you who know others like me who are off on splendid adventures while your summer plans revolve around the "simple precincts of home," I thought I'd post this poem by Billy Collins. The fact that the poem ends on the word "Bologna" only endears it to me more.

ciao! ~ sally

by Billy Collins

How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hill towns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every road sign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon's
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyed camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a cafe ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Yr tour guide to a marvelous Italian adventure:

Okay, I’m here to begin a running account of our trip to Italy before its memory fades. I’d hoped to do something thoughtful. But why? The trip was a sort of drive-by vacation cramming in as much as we could, seeing a ton, and having a great time with James and his friends along the way.

Day 1: Arrived in Milano 1am. Slept for 11 hours. If you know me, you know that’s probably the first time in my life. . .

Later that same day: 11 hours! HS! Got up, café and brioched, and trotted across the park, through the castle, to the Duomo to board a tram for Opera, a town outside Milano where our friends from Nevada City, Bill and Sue, are teaching in an English school for 2 more years. Baci e abraccio, then wine and aperitivo in the local bar, then off in Bill and Sue’s Vanagon to intercept James’ train from Bologna in Pacienza. Baci! Abraccio! Baci! Abraccio! Then back into the Vanagon for early dinner reservations at an amazing restaurant in a lovely hillside town…returned to hotel in Milano where we snuck James in to sleep in his sleeping bag on the floor.

Day 2: Café and brioche, and off to the Milano train station to meet James’ Italian friend Nicoló uno, not to be confused later with James’ Italian friend Nicoló due, and board the train to Varese in the lake country where Nicoló uno’s family lives. Baci! Abraccio! 2 hour train ride through remarkable and unremarkable countryside, greeted at the Varese train station by Nicoló’s brothers, swept off to the lovely family home and fed. Pasta, vino, delightful. Then, a hike! Up Sacramonte, the route of pilgrims following the stations of the cross. At the top, vino e apertivo! Come home, out for fabulous pizza, then to the home of Nicoló due, dear family friends of Nicoló uno’s family, for dessert and a wild attempt at conversation, Italian! English! Try some Spanish! James, translating like a gentleman and a madman.

Day 3: Paola and Maurizio, the wonderful parents of Nicoló uno, drive us all to Lago Maggiore where we board a boat to tour Isola Pescatori and Isola Bella, bella bella indeed. A day on the lake, fabulous lunch, home for a quick nap then off to the home of Nicoló due for candlelit dinner on the terrace. Bravo, Micaela e Fabio! They’ve been cooking all day. Che delizioso! Grazie. Grazie mille. I'm sorry the deck caught fire . . .

Day 4: Paola and Maurizio would like to take us to Lago Como, but we are expected in Udine that evening, a 2+ hour drive we think. They insist we take their car to be returned to Nicoló uno in Bologna several days later. But first, café e brioche, baci e abraccio, ciao, ciao, arrivederci! And off across the beautiful countryside into more and more beautiful countryside, to the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, northeast near the Alpi. Here we will be the guests of Pio e Mara, parents of James’ exchange student friend, Alessia. Alessia is very Jane Austen and working in a hotel in Brighton (England), so we will not see her. But we are treated like family, like the royal family, by her parents who apparently are rather fond of James. Baci! Abraccio! They situate us in their hotel, Albergo Costantini, take us out to dinner at a riverside restaurant, a night tour of Udine by foot and arrange to pick us up at 10am in the morning. Udine a notte è bella.

Day 5: Café e brioche! (okay, and some granola and yogurt this time), and off into the beautiful countryside on the autostrada, to the Roman ruins of Aquileia. We tour by foot. It is amazing, it is feckin caldo! Sweat is streaming. We are moving through the ruins, the village, the sanctuario, the amazing ruins, back into the car and off to the seaside town of Gardo for a fantastic seafood. . .lunch? Well, it was big. Back into the car and off to Vino Russi Winery for a personal tour set up by our host, Pio. But first, a hike up a hill owned by the winery’s estate for a nap under the trees surrounded by vineyards, rolling hills, a countryside dotted with the steeple of each village. Then our wine tasting appointment and tour of the winery. Back in the car! Off to Trieste! Yes, more, more! We arrive in Trieste 15 minutes before the castle closes. We circle it on foot, pausing for pics, then off for a car tour of the city, then vino e aperitivo in the plaza maggiore as the sun sets over the sea, then a light supper in a wine bar. Back to Tricesimo, a neighboring town, and gelato in the town square, maybe 10:30pm?

Where are the photos for this portion? Frank informs me they are on his memory stick. fine. I’ll entertain you with useful Italian phrases:

Ha? . . . do you have? (formal)

Come sta? . . . How are you? Bene.

Come va? . . . Howzit going?

Che succeed? . . . What’s happening?

Vorrei . . . I’d like

Dóve? . . . where is?

No parla . . . I don’t speak

Mi chiamo . . . my name is.

That’s all for tonight kiddies. Quiz tomorrow. And off to Venezia. Woot!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jet Lag

Now my canoe glides across a small lagoon. I trail my fingers in the water and watch the ripples fan out behind the boat as long as I can. Already the twists and turns of the journey recede, and the canoe noses toward the shore. I don't want to get out. When I look down into the water, 228 lost faces peer back from the depths.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

What I did manage to write:

As anyone who thought to check here for updates soon realized, I did NOT blog during my two weeks in Italy. Through a combination of non-stop travel, paid internet hours, borrowed computers and James' busted screen, online access became virtually impossible. I will in the days ahead offer some retrospective views. However, the one draft I did start at the beginning of the trip (which does NOT include the photos I had no time to download) provides a humorous segue to my ultimate blogging failure...

"Milano e Varese

Sunday in Varese, getting ready to head to Udine and friends of James. Caldo. Not much time to write so here are some photos. But first, some interesting characters you don't find on a US computer. òçù§°àéè^ì£."

Monday, May 18, 2009

A word from my Mom--

"If the time you are wasting is enjoyed, then the time you are enjoying is not wasted."

Bertram Russell

To all of you who aren't travelling, get busy!

Off to bella Italia

Look for updates from time-to-time. First stop: London for a 6 hour layover before connecting to Milan. Once there, I'll blog if I can find a computer and can stay awake. I'm hoping to see Da Vinci's last supper...I'm packing my paints and pencils, a new journal and new pen. Oh, and about 4000 pounds of clothes. When I arrive, I'll expect to find the few things I took out are the very items I could use.

Here's a little "tune" a friend sent as a send-off. All together now--

by Robert Louis Stevenson



(To an air of Schubert)

GIVE to me the life I love,

Let the lave go by me,

Give the jolly heaven above

And the byway nigh me.

Bed in the bush with stars to see,

Bread I dip in the river -

There's the life for a man like me,

There's the life for ever.

Let the blow fall soon or late,

Let what will be o'er me;

Give the face of earth around

And the road before me.

Wealth I seek not, hope nor love,

Nor a friend to know me;

All I seek, the heaven above

And the road below me.

Or let autumn fall on me

Where afield I linger,

Silencing the bird on tree,

Biting the blue finger.

White as meal the frosty field -

Warm the fireside haven -

Not to autumn will I yield,

Not to winter even!

Let the blow fall soon or late,

Let what will be o'er me;

Give the face of earth around,

And the road before me.

Wealth I ask not, hope nor love,

Nor a friend to know me;

All I ask, the heaven above

And the road below me.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

DMQ Review Release!!

The DMQ Review is pleased to announce the release of the Spring 2009 issue featuring the poetry of Kelli Russell Agodon, Patrick Carrington, Donna Lewis Cowan, Peter Davis, Carolyn Dille, Laura Donnelly, Asya Graf, Roxane Beth Johnson, Arlene Kim, and Sarah J. Sloat with artwork by Philip Rosenthal.

In collaboration with Peter Davis, editor of Poet’s Bookshelf: Contemporary Poets On Books That Shaped Their Art, Volumes I & II, the DMQ Review is also pleased to feature the essay and new work of Bob Hicok, our Spring 2009 Featured Poet.

Sheila Black’s poem, “The Colonization of Dreams, Part I: The Border,” first appeared in the DMQ Review’s August 2005 issue and comprises our “From the Archives” feature.

Check it out, www.dmqreview.com

Sally Ashton, Editor in Chief

Associate Editors: Marjorie Manwaring, Jennifer K. Sweeney

Assistant Editor: Mary Donnelly

Poet’s Bookshelf Editor: Peter Davis


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Change that blog!

I'm writing today in which I have no time to write simply because leaving my blog current with an entry whose first line contains sorrow, invasion and pain has become too much to bear, even if it's a line of fiction (I'm writing a split-narrative serial, you sillies! "Second Fork," get it?).

I have been trying to drum up a new entry of greater interest, but in the interests of the beautiful at last April weather we're at last enjoying at last, I will simply leave you with a new first line, though I think the entry itself worth reading. The one below with sorrow and pain.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

KGB Bar: Last Night!

This is jet-lagged Sally Ashton, back on terra firma, though somewhat wobbly. But here's a review of the reading I did with Nin Andrews last night. Such a blast. Viva New York City!

From Best American Poetry Blog and the lovely pen of Megin Jimenez.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I'm off to New York tomorrow to read with Nin Andrews at the KGB Bar next Monday evening, March 30, 7pm. I'm really looking forward to it and know it will be great fun. I get to hang with my daughter, too, AND it's spring break. Too much joy. I'll be back next week. In the meantime, a little KGB humor sent by my pal Kelly:

Come on down if you can!

Sunday, March 22, 2009



It was as if she held a bee in her mouth,

as if only she knew what that buzzing was.

It was as if words had six black legs, wings, antennae,

as if thought hovered over each possibility.

It was as if she tasted what she’d waited so long to know,

as if the bee formed the first surprised syllable.

It was as if something tapped behind her teeth,

as if a music hummed itself in her throat.

It was as if she knew when to open her lips,

as if she knew when to stay completely still.

It was as if such things were entirely possible,

as if she could relish the sweet without sting.

cést moi.

First appeared: Syracuse Cultural Workers Women Artist’s Datebook 2007

Monday, March 16, 2009

Calvino, at last.

Yes, it apparently all comes down to Calvino. Yes, I did finish Six Memos for the Next Millenium some time back, but I have not felt that I finished with the book here. I think I shall not finish with Calvino for some time, however. For one thing, I'll be teaching a short-short workshop at the Gold Rush Writer's Conference at the beginning of May using Six Memos, so I'll be digging back into my notes and into the text in preparation before long.

The final chapter is called "Multiplicity." In it Calvino chiefly addresses the novel, its encyclopedic nature, its value as a vehicle for a "network of connections." Good if at times abstract reading, including excerpts from Italian, German and French authors! Then, a swift return to Ovid and Lucretius all in the matter of the first 10 pages. Then onward to more reflection, Henry James, Dante and Dostoevsky, and of course Borges. The novel considered here as a work of infinite possibilities, and Calvino seems to reach toward them all in pulling this concise yet potently expanding last chapter together. Well, go read it.

But here's the quote that stuck, last page of the book, in which Calvino defends against the notion that such movement toward multiplicity in a work of literature is an inevitable movement away from the vortex of the author's self, that the author must somehow surrender a degree of integrity in order to allow for such unbounded expression.

"But I would answer: Who are we, who is each one of us, if not a combinatoria of experiences, information, books we have read, things imagined? Each life is an encyclopedia, a library, an inventory of objects, a series of styles, and everything can be constantly shuffled and reordered in every way conceivable."

Who are we indeed?

the good part

Now I've come to the good part.
I don't hesitate to write--
My bed floats above the city, the city
of abandoned ships.
Happy is the woman who can tell of such things.

(after Wilfried Satty)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Americans for the Arts: take 2

Whenever I think of the name "Americans for the Arts," I immediately think of "Men in Tights." I can't tell you why.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Americans for the Arts

Cool beans. Check it out. Join, it's free. The political is personal and the personal is political. Step lively, now. Americans for the Arts!

Saturday, February 14, 2009


So here's a contradiction of my longing to enjoy the ancient Roman adage, "Festina lente," or hurry slowly as I've mentioned earlier. Not that I'm altering one smidge my sense that hurrying slowly is a great way to be in the world that will hurry, no matter what, with or without us. It is our ability to keep our eyes and ears open in the rush of it that will slow life down enough for us to savor the moments given. Yes.

And I wonder whether Lente Festina is substantively different? hmmm

BUT, because if I've discovered anything in life it's that one adage calls for a counter-adage, I find I want to also speak for my darling Festina. Yes, I do adore her; she provides the fire in my life, a bit of the spirit of eros, to hew to a Valentine-appropriate theme. In fact, it is from the lines of a classic Valentine's poem that I find myself most encouraged to pursue Festina. While the beginning of Marvel's poem is such a finely crafted and constructed argument against the preservation of virginity, likely the best ever, such argument is now personally a moot point, but I do find the last stanza one that drives me onward, offered here as a reminder of the fire at our feet.

from "To His Coy Mistress"
by Andrew Marvel

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball,
And tear our pleasure with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

and as far as I'm concerned, if you're still alive, you've got enough "youthful hue" to qualify for Marvel's fiery exhortation: devour our time, fast, faster!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Almost . . .

. . .Valentine's Day and I'm trying to choose poems for the reading I'll be doing with Nils on lucky pre-valentine's Friday the 13th (see the sidebar). So much about love and then not enough. About love. And Valentine's just the goofiest holiday of all, and too often the biggest rip-off of the human spirit instead of its celebration. Speaking of, not the rip-off part but the h.s. part, I have to admit that my newest religion is the video below, the Brickies of Bangladesh. I watch it at least once a day. After seeing it, it's sorta hard to look at things the same way. And that's what the best poetry is about, I think.

So on Valentine's not-day we'll be reading some poems from all sorts of poets, and looking at the different layers of love, trying to get to the real labor of love, balancing one brick atop the next, pulling one's foot out of the way when one falls. . .finding another brick to take its place, to keep the balance. Hope you can come.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Poetry 101


So, here's another poem to check out. It's the featured poem this week at Linebreak.

Oh! and just discovered if you click the speaker icon, someone is reading it! How cool is that?

Friday, January 30, 2009


This talk is refusing to be led in the direction I set myself~
Calvino, "Exactitude"

So, a poet's blog without a recognizable poem so far. Therefore, to rectify and exactify myself, I'm pasting in a poem of mine that appears in C&R Press' just released anthology, Breathe: 101 Contemporary Odes. I'm pleased to have this poem appear alongside so many remarkable odes; Breathe is a volume worth picking up despite the fact there's a typo in my title (doh!).

The poem is called

Remembered Lines on the Way to Stockton

My father owns the cattle on a thousand hills;

they graze among windmills scattered

along the interstate. Beneath a tinfoil moon

it’s not quite dark by nine. A silver-sided truck

roars, sucks at my passing car

flashes high beams to let me over.

Bott’s dots reflect the headlights,

comets chased by tails along an asphalt skyway.

I have traveled this road all the years of my life

a journey landscaped with exits never taken

into countryside where mown hay swells blonde

against alfalfa fields already regreening

and words rise from wild grasses

like surprised birds or flock along power lines

draped pole to pole beyond the city limit sign.

I pass the towers for a drawbridge.

It no longer raises over its river

the only ship a row boat upended on the bank.

Faded letters on a grain tower

advertise horses for sale. They died

half a century ago.

There is no map for places such as these

that recede in the rear view mirror

and await my return. It is dusk

forever here, with the scent of mowing.

Tonight I drive straight through to Stockton.

My father’s mansion has many rooms,

if it were not so I would have told you.

A sudden oasis of farmyard hemmed

by walnut trees. The rising thrum of cricket.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Post-Inauguration Six Word Story

Gotta add former President Bush's that he uttered upon his return (thank the good lord) to Texas today:

"It is good to be home."

To that I will add my postscript:

At Crawford Ranch sunset, then quiet.


Monday, January 19, 2009

The problem with January

It's the 19th already. This brings to mind Calvino's personal motto, an old Latin saying, Festina lente, or "hurry slowly."

Actually the problem with January seems to begin in December. Do you remember there used to be an entire week between Christmas and New Year's, one long, languid week with no school or little work, holiday celebrations over, and tiiiiiiiiiime to simply relax? What happened to that week? It's gone as far as I can tell. I close the door on the last guests Christmas night, blow out the candles and when I awaken, it's New Year's afternoon. It's January, when most of the boxes on the new calendar are still as empty and white as a snowfield. January, when a whole year stretches out wide, one you get to spend all over again. January a time to dream, reflect, perhaps resolve to do things differently. In any case, not much else used to happen in January. It was a long month. At least that's how I experienced it. January was a month you could count on to drag like an iceberg.

Now like the last week of December it seems January too shifts from glacier to galactic. The stillness of winter no longer exists. Stillness becomes a curiosity, something to glimpse as a blur out the window of a bullet train. Oh, look, how lovely, what were you saying? And so the year barrels ahead full-speed.

Hurry slowly. Apparently the concept isn't strictly post-modern. And it tempers the alternative, hurry hurriedly. All blurredly. Even though that's how most of life gets lived-- fast, faster. The ancients must have felt it, too. Festina lente. I guess there's some comfort in that. Festina lente. Here we go.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Calvino planned to write about Consistency as his sixth memo but died before he was able to do so, as I mentioned yesterday. It occurs to me that his unfinished business, the mystery, this gap in the narrative that causes us to wonder and imagine, is somehow very consistent with Italo Calvino's work. Very appropriate, as my granddad would say.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

One line story

When I woke up, the dinosaur was still there.
--Guatemalan writer Augusto Monterroso

Calvino cites Monterroso's line as a favorite example of the one line story. Yes, I'm still hanging with Calvino, still proceeding slowly through this second chapter, "Quickness." Because the short prose object, be it flash fiction, prose poem or vignette, falls under consideration in this chapter I'm finding it even more difficult to leave behind. Only the promise of 3 more chapters, each considering another essential aspect of literature lures me on, the sixth memo never written down. That in itself teaches the writer something essential: for god's sake, write it!

Poet, etc, David Lehman is another advocate of the one line story. If any of you have written one, send it to comments. Here's one I've composed. See what you can do.

He forced open the door and found the pilot slumped over the controls.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Speaking of

Earlier last week after I began this blog I noticed a peculiar convergence of ideas in my reading and recent experience. I decided to go with it and attempt to describe some of the apparent intersections here. I mean, I thought I'd be writing about the film Donnie Darko and the giant rabbit Frank, but instead it's been flying buckets, Vespas, and magic--Yesterday I opened the new issue of the American Poetry Review to the back cover where a long poem is typically featured. This time, it contained a passage from Stanley Kunitz taken from a commencement speech he'd given entitled, "Speaking of Poetry." Besides pursuing a Donnie Darko discussion, I'd also been creating a mental list of recommended reading to pass along from time to time. I'm suggesting this short essay now and hope you'll have the opportunity to read it for yourself. But I couldn't fail to take note of one of Kunitz's comments, even as I type realizing I enact an even deeper level of synchronicity. "The moment is dear to us," he writes, "precisely because it is so fugitive, and it is somewhat of a paradox that poets should spend a lifetime hunting for magic that will make the moment stay."

Friday, January 9, 2009

And then

And then like cloud drift, I touched ground. "Che fai tu, luna silenciosa . . ."

Calvino's second chapter considers "Quickness." As I said, I'm reading slowly. Even cumbersomely-ish. What has stopped me short in this 2nd memo is a generalization about literature that he forms from an ancient legend about a magic ring, a legend that reinvents itself in the mythos and legends of various cultures. He summarizes by saying that "the moment an object appears in a narrative, it is charged with a special force and becomes like the force of a magnetic field . . . We might even say that in a narrative any object is always magic." Maybe only Calvino can make such an assertion, Calvino, Borges, Marquez, but doesn't it grab your attention? Even though he tempers his assertion with "might," he is saying something crazy, something that demands a response. Don't you immediately want to come up with some exception? I might agree that my flying Vespa is magic, but the burning battleship? The war planes? What I like about Calvino's seemingly innocent but totalizing statement is that it forces the imagination to wake up and either embrace or resist the premise. Any object? Always magic? And so we begin to look deeper into a narrative, into our own assumptions, and to move more carefully over each object we encounter. What's at work here? Magic? I think so.

"Dimme, che fai . . .?"

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Che fai tu, luna, in ciel? Dimme, che fai,
silenciosa luna?

What do you do there, moon, in the sky? Tell me,
what do you do, silent moon? -Leopardi

So, I'd begun re-reading Italo Calvino's Six Memos for the Next Millenium as an appropriate sort of new year's contemplation, reading slowly, musing, taking notes. I began the first chapter, "Lightness," on New Year's day, the chapter from which Leopardi's quote is taken. Last night I began the chapter's conclusion. Calvino acknowledges that he's introduced several varied ideas, or threads, in his consideration of lightness, a consideration which has to do with weight rather than illumination here. He writes, "There remains one thread, the one I first started to unwind: that of literature as an existential function, the search for lightness as a reaction to the weight of living." Wow, that's going in the blog, I thought. And so it has.

But he isn't finished and goes on to connect this existential function of literature to anthropology, ethnology and mythology. He considers how way back before literature, folktales in the oral tradition often featured "a flight to another world," and how this is also a common function in the heroic tradition, and of course here is where I am really engaged; if I ever had time for a doctorate, this is my stuff . . .but wait, he then describes Kafka's very short story, "The Knight of the Bucket," in which an empty coal bucket flies the protagonist above the impoverished town and into the night sky . . . Calvino ends "Lightness" writing, "Thus, astride our bucket, we shall face the new millenium, without hoping to find anything more in it than what we ourselves are able to bring to it."

That isn't exactly the same as being astride a flying Vespa, but close enough.