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149

music wall MN copy

 

Ok. So trying to process a conference like AWP the day after you get back is like trying to move after eating most of an extra-large pepperoni, bacon, and sausage pizza by yourself. But I'm gonna try anyway.

Best Session: Definitely S140 "Promotion as Art: Thinking Beyond the Book Trailer." This session focused on five poets who had films made of their poems as promotion for their books. Photographed by David Flores, the short films get straight to the heart of the poem and the poet. This film of Ellen Hagan's "Things to Tell Araceli" is really beautiful. What a terrific way for poets and poems to reach a larger audience!

Best Reading: I'll have to post two here. The first was the reading I participated in with Found Poetry Review. The 17 poets who participated had to read poems we had written while at AWP, no small feat, let me tell you. I wrote four out of eight prompts, and the last one was finished less than an hour before the reading. I have never felt such energy and a clear sense of play at another reading. Dan Chelotti's poem in response to the "Overheard at AWP" was particularly animated. I wish I had taken video! Also, the reading was at artist Allen Christian's House of Balls, a fascinating place filled with art created from found pieces, and the perfect venue for a found poetry reading. Check out this carved bowling ball sculpture (hence the name of the place!):

 carved bowling ball

The second reading was by Ray McManus from his book Punch and Jon Pineda from his book Little Anodynes. I had read Punch before going to AWP, and I was happy to get to hear McManus read. I bought Pineda's book at AWP, and after hearing him read, I am really looking forward to reading it!

Best New-to-Me Journal at the Book Fair: Hoot. This is a literary magazine that comes to you once a month in the form of an illustrated poem on a post card! I love this idea, and now I have a good example for how to do the post card reward for my Kickstarter poetry and art book project. 17 days to go! Check it out and please, consider backing my project.

Best Thing Seen at the Book Fair: An old typewriter converted to transmit to the iPad as seen at the London Review of Books Booth. Who could resist signing up for their mailing list when you get to use this?

ipadwriter

Best Food: 'Cause, you know, it's important! Definitely the Hen House Eatery. I had their rancheros tostadas twice, and they were fantastic. Black beans, avocado, eggs, queso fresco, fresh salsa, cilantro...mmmmmm. Yummy.

Of course, seeing old friends and meeting new friends was wonderful, and I had many, many interesting conversations with them about writing, reading, philosophy, science, art, travel...oh, and beer. Let's not forget that. 

Thanks AWP, and thanks Minneapolis for hosting all 13,000 of us! Your mayor is awesome! I had a blast.

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69

pigswm

It's day seven of NaPoMo, National Poetry Month, and I'm on track with my poems for PoMoSco through the Found Poetry Review. Let me tell you, I never knew that writing found poetry could be so much fun or that there were so many different methods of writing it! 

So far, I've written down words at random from Salman Rushdie's novel Fury and rearranged them; I've printed out Mark Twain's "The War Prayer," cut it up, stuck the pieces in a bag, drawn them out and pasted them down exactly as they came out; I've eavesdropped at the Wal-Mart and written a poem using the bits of conversations (and...just whoa...that's where I took the photo of the claw machine above); I've written a cento using the first lines from Rick Mulkey's poetry book Toward Any DarknessI've whited out words to create a poem on the editor's note from this month's Food Network magazine; and I've Googled the unlikely word combo "dainty iguana." Whew!

This is what I love about poetry -- playing with words and sharing the results. Check out the poems on the PoMoSco site; I am one of "213 poets representing 43 states and 12 countries"! What a wonderful way to celebrate National Poetry Month.

My Kickstarter project is a book of poems and art created in this same spirit of play. I hope you'll check it out and consider backing me! Thanks!

 

 

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86

kickstarterfront

It's April, my favorite month. Why, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. It's sunny, everything here is starting to bloom, it's not 200 degrees yet, and...it's National Poetry Month! That means two things: 1. Yay poetry! and 2. Crazy poetry challenges.

Challenge #1:

I've launched my very first Kickstarter campaign! I am hoping to raise enough money to publish my book of poems, art, and writing tips. Please check it out here: "Imposition of Joy." If you enjoy it, please consider becoming a backer! And please, share, share, share it with your friends! Thanks!

Challenge #2:

Also, this year I'm a part of Found Poetry Review's PoMoSco, a month of daily found poetry challenges. For today's challenge, I took Salman Rushdie's novel Fury, and I wrote down words and phrases that stood out to me, then turned them into a poem. It was a lot of fun! You can check it out here: "Street-Goddess Swagger." Hope you enjoy!

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160

lightning blown paint

There's been quite a bit of drawing and painting going in at my house with ice storms and school closings and temperatures in the single digits. 8 degrees. In Eastern North Carolina. 8. I've been experimenting with using a straw to blow paint across the page as an abstract starting point. I thought this was going to turn into an exploration of sheet lightning. One of the most beautiful things I've ever seen is lightning shooting across the desert sky in the American Southwest. 

lightning with couple

But then these two showed up. I still thought it was lightning. You know, love hit like a "bolt from the blue," which turns out to be a thing. The bolt travels horizontally first, far away from the storm cloud itself, before it shoots to the ground. Is love like that? One minute, you're standing in the middle of a field or a street or a hotel lobby, and the next you're lit up and blown right out of your shoes.

couple with color

From Franz Wright's poem "Our Conversation":

Pure gaze, you are the lightning beyond the last trees
and you are the last trees'
past, branching (lines 1-3)

lightning to tree

And then it wasn't just lightning, but it was also a tree. A weeping cherry in winter, ghosts of pale petals.

Ceaseless blue lightning
this love passing through me:
I know somehow it will go on
reaching you, reaching you
instantly (Wright lines 50-54)

Now...off to do some more reading on lightning and then a poem draft. What will you write today?

 

Wright, Franz. "Our Conversation." Poetry Foundation. 2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

 

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176

You know those moments that you never quite forget? Moments that parts of your mind cover like a scrim, shielding the outline, the shadow of that moment? And then, something triggers, a light comes on, and you realize the moment was there all along. 

blow paint ray

One beautiful Southern California night about twenty years ago, I was walking on Manhattan Beach pier with a friend. It was just cool enough for a sweatshirt, and it was clear enough for stars. There were a few people out walking and some fishermen with their poles and buckets. 

blow paint full with salt

As crowds sometimes do, this one started with a shout almost no one noticed. A fisherman, a young, barefoot man in frayed jeans and a t-shirt hooked something big.

ray with purple

So big, he had to drag it down the pier. The crowd gathered in his wake, and, as each individual looker over the railing, the crowd grew a voice.

with ray

At the end of the line was a great, thrashing, gray creature. Its wings beat at the surface of the water, throwing froth and spray.

ray finished

This moment, the magnificent ray fighting the line; the moon, stars, and pier lights reflected in the tips of waves and furious churning of the ray's wings; this moment is always there. I've been dreaming about it lately and trying to get it down on paper, but I don't think I will ever be satisfied with the results.

From my poem draft "Failure to Obliterate":

If I could swim beneath it in the cold dark, 
I know its great gills would open 
like the iron grate of a furnace, 
continuous exchange of oxygen in blood. 

What is your ever-present moment?

 

 

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159

Some days, chilly days, days when the sun in shining but you can feel the crunch of the frost on the grass beneath your feet from inside the house; those are days when you need to just clean out the fridge and the cupboard, throw it in your crock pot, and turn it on low. I won't even tell you how long this butternut squash has been in my kitchen. Let's just say I got it with all kinds of eating healthy intentions at the farmer's market...before it closed for the winter. These things last forever!

butternut squash

And what a great word: butternut. It's all assonancy and consonancy at the same time. Let's throw some alliteration in the pot while we're at it:

Baleful butternut,
brawny hide belying time,
surrounded by browning bananas.

It was almost a haiku, but taking out "surrounded by" didn't make sense. Anyways...so I found a recipe for "Pinto Bean Chili with Corn and Winter Squash" in my Southern Living Slow-Cooker Cookbook that called for butternut squash (yay!), two cans of pinto beans, frozen corn, a can of crushed tomatoes, a can of green chilis, onion, garlic, red bell pepper, some spices, ad queso fresco. I had everything but the pinto beans and queso fresco, but I did have black-eyed peas and goat cheese, so I set to work.

all chili ing in pot

 

Ah...the slow cooker. A metaphor for the poet's brain -- when it's not a blast chiller freezing, a microwave zapping, a vacuum sealer marinating, a mortar and pestle grinding away...ok, ok. It's true. I watch Chopped way too much. But seriously, sometimes ideas need to hang out together in a slow heat until they come together in a steaming helping of warm-you-from-the-inside verse. 

chili done

 

From Mary Ruefle's poem "Blood Soup": 

[..] I had lost track of my life
before, but nothing prepared me for the onslaught of
wayfarer's bliss when she continued to list, one
by one, the impossible ingredients I needed to live. (lines 24-27)

What words will warm you today?

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290

dragon pinata

Yep, it's been a while since I've posted. What, you ask, have I been doing? Well, I'll tell you. I planned and executed a Harry Potter Tri-Wizard Tournament birthday party for my daughter. We even made a dragon piñata from scratch. It's truly amazing what you can do with a balloon, some newspaper, and liquid starch. I began a new semester of teaching -- this makes year seventeen of new students, new methods of teaching composition, and new ideas. Oh, and I wrote a book.

I took the 3-Day Novel challenge for the third time, but this time I wrote a book of poetry. It's about abandoned places: what happens when we build a place and then leave it? What type of creature might inhabit those spaces? By creature I don't mean mice and cockroaches. I mean what sort of essence is left? What might grow out of our human residue? It was interesting writing so many poems in a row, in a sort-of order, on the same topic and with a storyline. Very different from my usual randomness. I had a great time that weekend, digging around in my brain and pumping out some halfway decent poetry. 

For today's post, I want to give thanks to some of the people who helped me find the joy in writing and reading poetry again. Before I was accepted into the low-residency MFA program in poetry at Converse College, I hadn't written much of anything for years. I had been debating between a PhD and an MFA for forever, and I finally just got my act together, revised what I saw as my best poems, and sent them out with the application packet. Then I waited. And waited. And I almost missed the whole thing because my acceptance email went to my spam folder which I never, ever check. 

Long story short, I have had the privilege of working with some amazing poets (and fiction writers, and creative non-fiction writers). Denise Duhamel was my mentor for two semesters, my first and my last. Most recently, she was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award for her latest collection Blowout, and she was awarded a 2014 Guggenheim fellowship. Suzanne Cleary was my mentor during my second semester. Her latest book Beauty Mark won the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry. Both of these poets have long lists of awards, publications, and achievements. I'll admit, before I started the program in 2011, I was a little intimidated by those long lists next to each and every faculty member's name. What would they say about my poetry? What was I getting myself into?

As it turns out, both Denise and Suzanne are excellent teachers on top of being respected poets. They both encouraged me to experiment, helped me to learn different ways of tackling that most difficult of processes -- revision, and directed me to read some poets I might have never encountered who are now a permanent part of my poetic life: Richard Hugo, Kim Addonizio, Agha Shahid Ali, Dorianne Laux, and Charles Wright, just to name a few. (I know, I know, how could I have missed Charles Wright? But you can't find the poets you love if you aren't reading poetry. No you can't.)

If you're considering an MFA, I encourage you to consider Converse. I owe my renewed passion for poetry to the program and its faculty. You've got three days to the fall application deadline. Three whole days! That's enough time to write a book  AND make a dragon! Get your materials together and send them in. 

 

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337

This past weekend, I reread Stephen King's The Gunslinger. It is my favorite of the Dark Tower series, and it is one of my favorite books by King, but it had been twenty-six years since I last read it. 26! How does that happen? Anyway, The reason I hadn't read it for so many years is simply that I didn't have a copy. The first time I read it, I borrowed it from a friend at a party, started reading it in a corner (I know, I know. I'm that girl), and finished it in my car by the next morning. 

Naturally, I decided to write an erasure from page 45. Like I do. I copied the page, started circling words that stood out, and noticed that I had a phrase/term I loved: sound watchers. I started thinking about synesthesia -- how can you see a sound? How would you actively watch for sound? I started picking out words on the page that are sounds: grunt, howl, tearing rasp, rattle, screech, pound, vibrate, struck, shiver. The last three are more actions than sounds, but they do produce sound. I also picked out the phrases: "some monstrous clockwork," "So here's your wonder," and "And he began to laugh again" (King 45). 

So while I was looking at these sound words and trying to figure out how they fit together, this bird

bird save

hit the window directly behind me. I heard a thunk on the glass, turned to look out and see if the bird was ok (the sound of a bird strike on a window is distinctive), and saw my outdoor cat slinking away with a wing sticking out of her mouth. I ran outside to retrieve the bird. It was stunned, but after about five minutes, it flew away. 

Hearing sounds while thinking about sounds. That's what life is giving me today. 

Let's see:

The prothonotary warbler (my best guess based on a quick search) struck the window as I wrote. The sound was dark. The sound was the dark of death, the creamsicle orange flash of a cat with a beak in its jaw, the stun inside a bell.

Play with sound and synesthesia today!

King, Stephen. The Gunslinger. Signet: New York, 2003.

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362

One of my favorite movies (and stories turned into movies) is The Shawshank Redemption. Among the many great quotes in this movie (like "Get busy living, or get busy dying") is this: "Geology is the study of pressure and time. That's all it takes, really, pressure and time" (Shawshank). Which brings me to what life gave me yesterday. Maintenance.

I spent all day yesterday pulling weeds (many, many toads were displaced), cutting grass, vacuuming rugs (my dog really should not have any hair at all on her body at this point), and sealing my deck. I pressure washed the deck Wednesday; I hadn't realized how weathered the wood had become, but it has been ten years since we built it. Ten! Ten years! Anyway, pressurized water cleaned my deck, and I wanted to get it sealed before another ten years went by. Like they do.

While working, I found a rotten board which will have to be replaced. Ten years of rain and snow and sun and feet turned this particular board into near mush. If I didn't weed and cut grass, we'd be overrun in very short order. The moss, vines, insects, moles, and weather; the pressure and time would eat away at the brick and wood, eventually taking the house into itself. So maintenance is what life gave me yesterday. And maintenance ain't going away anytime soon. How can I re-invent this and find a poem?

Maybe I'll write about feeling very, very small in the face of nature. Take a large-scope view of humans trying to maintain what they build. I live in the South, and it's easy to see what nature can do. There is a farmhouse or tobacco barn or trailer being pulled down by vegetation everywhere you look. Or maybe I'll write small. A poem about the rotted board. Now that I know it's there, I keep poking at it. When I press on it with my toes, water beads up through the cracks in the wood. It's rather like a kid playing with a loose tooth. Come to think of it, brushing teeth is like pressure washing the deck. More maintenance! 

What will you try to maintain today? Write about it!

The Shawshank Redemption. Dir. Frank Darabont. Columbia Pictures, 1994. Film.

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359

mutant target mushroom

I want to thank my seventh grade science teacher for the phrase fungus amongus which goes through my brain every. single. time. I see a mushroom, or a shelf fungus, or a nice crop of slime mold. I even wrote a poem about slime mold once, the kind also known as "dog vomit." Yes, yes I did. 

I saw this unnatural looking beauty in the Target parking lot, and I thought...fungus amongus. Then I said it out loud, and my children repeated it for about three hours. Naturally, I took a picture for day three of writing the everyday. This thing is such a bright yellow/ochre color, I thought mutant mushroom? But apparently there are plenty of different types of bright yellow mushrooms.

I'd like to learn how to properly forage for mushrooms. They are often so compelling to look at. I won't say beautiful, although that might be one word for them. More like strangely fascinating and repellant at the same time. We have had several orange fungi crop up in our mulch which look very like Cthulhu's tentacles. After a quick search, I found out they are columned stinkhorns. Now that's a name to include in a poem, for sure. Thanks to Bill from Wondering about Fungi for that information. He's even got a Facebook page "Florida Fungi." Love it. 

So...off to read more about fungi, look at some images, and think about poetry, and spores, and fairy rings, and columned stinkhorns. 

What poetry will you grow today?

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305

bath tub toys

Everyone should have Jedi Masters in their bathrooms. 

So...bathtub toys. I remember bathing our cats when I was little - bathing them while I was in the tub with them. Not sure how that worked out without being stripped to ribbons (they were not declawed). Not that they were bathtub toys. My brother played with his Star Wars action figures until they had no defining features. 

It's really not the same when you get too tall to fit your whole body under the water, know what I mean? Something is always sticking out of the water and cold. 

Where, oh where will a poem go from here?

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329

pits

I've been feeling a bit untethered lately, and I was trying to come up with a way to kick myself in the behind when I came across Naomi Shihab Nye's poem "Valentine for Ernest Mann" yesterday. It's a beautiful poem where two skunks become a Valentine's Day present - you should read it. But the lines that really resonated with me go like this: "poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes, / they are sleeping [...] What we have to do / is live in a way that lets us find them. [...] Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us / we find poems" (Nye). 

This is my challenge to myself, and my challenge to you: every day, I will write about the things life gives me. It's not all that different from what I've been trying to do here at Lady Random, but it is a renewed permission to simply write. About anything. I challenge myself to "live in a way that lets [me] find" the poems hiding in my everyday life.

Today's inspiration is the pits. I don't have a kitchen windowsill, but I do have a shelf above the sink, and that is where little things tend to accumulate. My kids save seeds and plant them regularly; sometimes they even grow. We have an avocado tree that's doing fairly well - I'll have to remember to bring it in for the winter. There is something that remains fascinating about pits. Their shapes and textures; oval and smooth, arrowhead and convoluted, rough. The peach pit cracks open to reveal a pale seed. 

I remember our family labrador, Tippy, steadying avocados between her front paws, intently peeling them, and eating around the pit with her tiny front teeth. 

Maybe I'll write a draft about pits, or maybe I'll write about Tippy, a sweet dog who also stole shoes. 

What do pits make you think of? What will you write today?

Nye, Naomi Shihab. "Valentine for Ernest Mann." Red Suitcase. 1994. Rpt. in Academy of American Poets. Web. 4 August 2014.

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1846

imajica erasure

I think I'm going to have to get more specific when I choose words and phrases, because this is a tough one. I have been simply choosing words and phrases that strike me. Maybe next week I'll choose words in alphabetical order and write an abecedarian, or maybe I'll make up some other rules. We'll see. For now, let's play!

I'm going to try this two ways: The first will be "reading" top to bottom for each of two pages. The second will be reading left to right across both pages. I'm not going to break any lines at first.

One

damnable magic shivered with unease rituals for the raising simpering, mindless plucked by their summoners It wasn't congenital stupidity it was anguish the summons the binding he was trapped changing his face on occasion search vicious sway he failed to see this wretched interview it took a kind of genius nothing to regret for it "We're ready for you now" won't even know you existed sounded ludicrous extraordinary step condescension without argument revenge the drapes were drawn clutter of bottles brooding weary faces invited to occupy not one face among them wealth and influence forbade

Two 

he failed to see damnable magic this wretched interview it took a kind of genius shivered with unease nothing to regret for it "We're ready for you now" rituals for the raising simpering, mindless plucked by their summoners won't even know you existed sounded ludicrous it wasn't congenital stupidity it was anguish extraordinary step the summons, the binding condescension without argument revenge he was trapped the drapes were drawn changing his face on occasion clutter of bottles brooding weary faces search invited to occupy vicious sway not one face among them wealth and influence forbade

Now, let's try some line breaks.

One: damnable magic

shivered with unease Rituals
for the raising simpering, mindless, 
plucked by their summoners. 
It wasn't congenital, 
stupidity. It was anguish. 
The summons, the binding. 
He was trapped changing his face. 
On occasion, search vicious. 
sway He failed to see, this wretched.
interview It took a kind of genius
nothing. To regret. for it "We're ready
for you now." won't even know
You existed sounded ludicrous. 
An extraordinary step, condescension
without argument. Revenge.
The drapes were drawn. Clutter
of bottles; brooding, weary faces
invited to occupy. Not one face
among them wealth. and Influence. forbade


I like the way the words take on new meaning when line breaks and punctuation take them out of their original configuration. I feel that this one might be going in the direction of "To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet" (Eliot). And I really like the title. Lots of places to go with that.

Two: On occasion, a clutter of bottles

He failed to see, damnable magic, 
this wretched interview it took a kind
of genius. He shivered with unease. Nothing
to regret. for it "We're ready for you now."
Rituals for the raising simpering,
mindless, plucked. by Their summoners
won't even know you existed sounded
ludicrous. It wasn't congenital. 
Stupidity it was anguish, extraordinary. 
step The summons, the binding condescension. 
Without argument, revenge. He was trapped. 
The drapes were drawn, changing his face. 
On occasion, a clutter of bottles. Brooding, 
weary faces search. invited to Occupy
vicious sway. not one face among them
wealth and influence forbade

I'm not as sure of the direction of this one, except that there is a sense of futility present. But my brain is now awake and working! What will get you started writing today?

Barker, Clive. Imajica. New York: Harper Paperbacks, 1991.

Eliot, T.S. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Poetry Foundation. 2014 Web. 20 July 2014.

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349

 

anansi erasure

 

This weekend's reread was Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys. A terrific read, as always, and the natural choice for today's erasure effort. So, here you go.

look what you did!

five bottles of whiskey, plantains, pineapples, mangos, banyan tree. sit and eat don't you lie to me If you lie to me, I'll tear out your throat. what is it? he kills her, loves her places her body he was serious he wasn't going anywhere, It wasn't the first time he's never been born. all stories Even this one. singing the sky and the ocean. he wanted all the stories man gets himself all tangled up he looked like a man. he never changed his shape. That's all.

Now, let's adjust the lines:

Look what you did!

Five bottles of whiskey, plantains, pineapples,
mangos, banyan tree. Sit and eat. Don't you
lie to me. If you lie to me, I'll tear out
your throat. What is it? He kills her, loves her,
places her body. He was serious.
He wasn't going anywhere. It wasn't
the first time he's never. Been born. All stories.
Even this one. Singing the sky and
the ocean. He wanted all the stories.
Man gets himself all tangled up. He
looked like a man. He never changed his shape.
That's all.

Ok. Let's play a bit: 

He wanted all the stories

Five bottles of whiskey. Don't
you lie to me. Plantains, pine-
apples. I'm serious. Mangos,
banyan tree. Sit and eat.
I'm not going anywhere.
I've got myself all tangled
up. You look like a man.
You're killing me. Love me.
If you lie to me. Singing
the sky and the ocean.
I'll tear out your throat. Don't
ever change your shape. 
It's not the first time. Sit.
You want all the stories,
even this one. Replace
my body. Look what you did.

Hmm...it was a challenge to keep Anansi the spider and the story with Tiger out of this, but I think I've got something to work with here. Critique! And I highly recommend this novel. It's even better the third time around!

Gaiman, Neil. Anansi Boys. New York: Harper Torch, 2005. Print.

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382

marbles

 

On scrolling through Facebook this morning, I came across the article The Fermi Paradox by Tim Urban on his Wait but Why blog. Among other things, this article discusses the vastness of the universe, the tiny-ness of humans, the possibility of other tiny lifeforms in the vast universe, and theories as to why we haven't had even so much as a text from any aliens, ever. Unless, of course, you subscribe to ancient alien theory, but I'll let that one go for now. And so it was that I was reminded of this magnificent tin of marbles I got at a yard sale a few years ago.

Maybe it's because I watched Big Blue Marble as a kid. Whenever I think about stars and planets and solar systems, I think about that image of Earth from space. You know, the one that was so unique way back in the 70's. And now we've got satellites littering space and a whole internet full of pictures of Earth from space. I am reminded of a book edited by Kurt Brown titled The Measured Word: On Poetry and ScienceSome people think that science and poetry are at odds, that there is a deep, unbridgeable chasm between the two. This book explores the closing of that chasm. I believe that science and poetry naturally go together. While I am no scientist, as a poet, I question and seek answers. I want to know the origins of things, I want to understand how things work, and I want to know how humans function in the great expanse of space and time. Poetry is one vehicle for exploration, for discovery.

Anyway, the Prompt: 

Write a poem of exploration and discovery. Or write a poem about marbles. Your choice. 

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384

Food Network color bowls I set out this morning to do an erasure, but after flipping through a few magazines, I hadn't found anything that jumped out at me. Then I got to this article in the May 2014 issue of food network magazine. While some of the items presented are fun to think about; a flame red Kitchenaid stand mixer (ooooh...), a lime green quartz countertop (how cool is that?), a grape cooking range (stainless steel's got nothing on this); it was the colors themselves that called to me. "Flame red," "mustard yellow," "lime green," "teal," and "grape" are rich, bold colors. They are fun colors. But before I could despair about my poor, dull, unfun kitchen countertops and appliances, I remembered Richard Hugo's "Stone Poems."

These are my favorite Hugo poems. They are funny and sad and contemplative and weird. In "Brown Stone," Hugo writes, "Act friendly to the stone. / Smile. Touch. Even pat its brown hand / and say 'good stone, good,' though of course / be alone when you do. Don't get a reputation: /  'Creep with pet rock'" (428). In "Blue Stone," he writes, "A blue stone is only one piece / of a huge blue stone nobody can find. / A blue stone is anything but / a blue stone. It is a speck of sky / in your hand or a tiny bit of sea" (Hugo 429). These poems have switchbacks like mountain roads; they make you go back, look again.

Prompt: 

Pick a color. Pick a dull color and make it exciting. Pick a bold color and make it feel like the last kid picked for the team. Write a poem about color.

"Brighten Up. 60 Ways To Color Your Kitchen." food network magazine. May 2014: 59-68. Print.

Hugo, Richard. Making Certain It Goes On. The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2007.

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418

gloves2 saluda

Draft: 

Work Gloves

You wore your leather work gloves like pearls,
ever-present, necessary accessory
when pulling stubborn weeds from between
volunteering tomatoes, when clearing grass
for a decorative bed of rosemary,
lavendar, a dwarf juniper sweeping
brown mulch with its prickly skirt. When raking
crumbling must of fall leaves, when clearing
baby black walnuts with loppers extended
or with a growling chainsaw. I watched you pull
the string, bring it to life, your hands strong,
padded palms, biceps working slick. The leather
is stiff with your sweat, plant oils, sap, gas,
like pearls worn against a lotioned, perfumed curve
of neck and never properly cleaned.
I would pull them on, flex thick scarred fingers
until they felt at home around a trowel.
The certain weight of a treasured necklace
against my heavy breast.

Critique! Thanks for reading.

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gloves2 saluda

Quick one today! Visual prompt.

Post your first response in the comments, and thanks!

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Lately, I've been listening to and reading about murder ballads. I find this genre oddly fascinating, like watching Dexter and wanting him to not get caught. Writing ballads, basically song lyrics, is harder for me than writing straight poetry. The rhyme seems restrictive, and the repetition has to really mean something. But I've been wanting to try them, so here you go.

Draft: 

I'm Long Gone

I come home from working, I been working all damn day.
Oh, I come home from working, I been working all damn day.
I come home to find you sleeping,
in our bed with that girl from 'round the way.

The sheets I washed were bunched around your hips,
Yes, the sheets I washed were bunched around your hips.
Well, I pulled out my pistol,
and damned if I didn't empty that clip.

I'm just driving, driving, leaving the blues and you behind. 
And I'm just driving, driving, leaving the blues and you behind.

When they find you, they'll find nothing but piles of bones.
When they find you, honey, they'll find nothing but your bones.
I torched those sheets; I watched them burn.
I've got smoke in my hair, and I'm long, long gone.

A hundred miles out, and night has turned to dawn,
A hundred miles out, and night has turned to dawn.
I've got my pistol on my hip,
and every thing's right that once was wrong.

I'm just driving, driving, leaving the blues and you behind.
And I'm just driving, driving, leaving the blues and you behind. 

Process: 

I started with the fourth verse/ fifth stanza "A hundred miles out..." This is the first image that popped into my head, a woman driving into the night after killing her lover. This is a pretty standard topic for a murder ballad, but there are a few things I left out. I did not give a proper name for the victim or the shooter. I think that this song would benefit from having a name to attach to one or the other. I also did not include justice being served. Usually in a murder ballad, the murderer end up in jail or hanged, or some member of the victim's family exacts revenge. I think I'd like to write more where the murderer gets away with it. And as I write this, I can't help but think...again...what's wrong with me? This genre has been around for a long time and has been popular in many different cultures. Why are we so fascinated with death and revenge? 

I'm not satisfied with this draft, but it's time to post and move on to revisions. Anyway, I'll try a few more, I think. And Nirvana's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?", their rendition of the traditional "In the Pines," just came on my Pandora station. Haunting.

Let me know what you think!

 

 

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Home again, home again. I'm back from the first annual Converse College MFA alumni weekend, which was absolutely fantastic by the way, with readings by Albert Goldbarth, Denise Duhamel, Robert Olmstead, Cary Holladay, Leslie Pietrzyk, and Jim Minick; and I got to read with two of my favorite women who also happen to be two of my favorite writers, Sonja Condit and Kathleen Nalley Moore, at Hub City Bookshop. We had terrific workshops involving exquisite corpses (from which emerged the title of this post), fake author bios, and a month's worth of laughter. What a wonderful group of people, and what a terrific low-residency MFA program. If you've ever thought about getting your MFA in poetry, fiction, or nonfiction, you should check them out.

So I'm back, and I just realized it has been a little over a month since I've posted here. National Poetry Writing Month was such a wonderful challenge, and I thought I'd just take a few days off, and now it's June. Yikes! So, let's get this party started.

As a refresher: I'll post a prompt. I'd love it if you would add your first responses to the prompt in the comments section by clicking on "continue reading" below. Yeah, you have to sign in, but it doesn't take long, promise! In a couple of days, I'll post a draft of a poem based on some or all of the ideas. You can post a draft, too!

Prompt: 

I'm stealing this from my good friend and fellow Converse MFA alumni Matt McEver (whose latest work "Yonder Comes a Sucker" can be found on Steel Toe Review): What is/would be your own "personal apocalypse"? 

I'll start: oh, this could go in so many directions. From Starbucks goes out of business to my MacBook Pro explodes to the much more serious. I really should back up my hard drive...

Now you! And thanks for playing. Write on!

 

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