Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of the Year 2008

Poets, and Lovers of Poets,

Here we go, off on our 2009 adventure. I hope that things begin to get better in the world, but the events of the past few days are a grim reminder that not everyone is seeking peace. [I am not assigning blame here as I have dear ones on both sides of that barrier] But I grow weary of the not getting along, the not seeing peace and seeing it is its own reward. Of course it is great material for poems (strife, fighting, killing), but to the end where violence only begets more violence is seemingly eluding some folks. ENOUGH is what I say! On with more poetry.

I am always a bit excited and filled with fear when the eve of another year shows up. For the past 12 years (this will be 13), I have taken up the project to write the final poem of the year on New Year's Eve (late at night usually). I do this before champagne is popped, before tucking myself in a warm bed to snuggle my husband. I then feel somehow that the year is "done" for me. The other half of the project is after midnight (usually within an hour or two but sometimes after breakfast) when I write the first poem of the new year. What always has amazed me is that the two poems, sometimes written within an hour of each other (OK--- so they're drafts!!) are so far removed from one another in subject or tone or style. It is like I am a new me when I write the second poem. Wonder how that happens????

So, now I have a chapbook number of these poems (will as of tonight/tomorrow). So I think I ought to send these out in 2009, organized and titled. Great! ANOTHER project. LOL

Well, off to the kitchen to get ready for dinner guests. We are doing dinner at six and the guests will be done and gone by 9 pm. Then it's me in my office and my hubby snoozing in the New Year. Isn't life grand?!

Happy New Year everyone. Peace is my wish for you and all.

Monday, December 29, 2008

it's good to be writing again

I swear I get so grumpy when I am distracted from the writing. I am making a NY resolution to write every day as I was doing before teaching took over my life.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

my head is busy

Poets and Friends,

My head is busy with plans for my time off from teaching. AFTER I clean the clutter in my office I have a number of submissions to do and will take a final pass at the book manuscript. I have so many notes to myself for doing this. And of course there is the jumble of work running around in notebooks. There is always that. 

Re: the manuscript, I am toying with 3 sections that can stand alone as chapbooks. So each section of the manuscript will have its own title and focus. I have fussed and fussed for over a year after going to the Compleat (Colrain) manuscript conference as there were poems that I want in, but as they were arranged did not hang together that well. A year later sees the thing more focused. Way different in terms of what poems fit and several new poems. I have 5 places to send it, so hope one of those will see the layout as a good thing along with the poems themselves. One new-ish section is entitled "Breakfast at the Brass Compass" which will feature 20 poems about Maine. I am excited about that. The other two sections are Confessions of a Town Girl, and Naming Water. I am looking for a title for the collection. NO clues there yet. Maybe someone will read for me (volunteers?) and see a title that links all three sections.

Well, I am off to see a movie. Going to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It is a 3 hour deal. Went to Bedtime Stories yesterday...good. Cute and not long. I recommend it. More later on  today's film.

Be well. WRITE.

one example of a poem using great literary work, just an example

I am snowed under
with work, my desk piled 
with papers and notes 
to myself to clear  
a space for writing. Snow
is deceptive, piles
of it outside the window
make me sluggish for work.
I need to stop drifting
and plow through the mess
I made here over 10 weeks 
of teaching others about writing. 
Writing is what I say I do. 
I cannot regard others'
writing as more. I need to fall
back, drift away on the weather
that has been building in my head
and write what snow is doing outside.

Lesson of the week/repetend

Recently my friend Ellen and I attended a workshop in Belfast (Maine) on using repetend in poetry. While the idea was not new to me, it sparked a surge of "oh yeah, I like doing that." The idea is simple really: use of a word or phrase more than once in a single poem, or using a word or phrase to connect poems to each other in a sequence. It is a great way to create emphasis or linkage. I like the idea that one can repeat something very simple and seemingly small or unimportant and make it drive the poem to a new and more emphatic level. I also love the notion that one can link poems this way, making leaps and connections that were previously not happening. I am toying with doing this with a group of poems that might not at the moment fit together in a collection. Hmmmmm.

SO, here's the prompt of the week:

Write one or more short poems, using repetend as a strategy of emphasis. 

Monday, December 22, 2008

Semester is done YIPPEE!

I am thrilled that as of today I am off work until April. I hope to have more time to blog and to do some serious writing. I hope not to get sucked in to obsessively do housework. OK, so I have neglected a few dust bunnies. I am not ashamed to be feeding them as they are SO hungry. 

Well, I am off to eat dinner with my hubby (downstairs in the dining room!). He was outside most of the day snow blowing and will probably go to bed early. Then I will return and post a few snow photos! It is sure beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Family news

Hi all! Here is an update on the family.

Katherine: busy busy busy... the school year is in full swing and that means she is over the moon with work. Still finds plenty of time for Scott and Christopher (a junior in high school and running x-country, doing mock trial, and very involved in church).   I am grateful for frequent calls to me. I love that she calls on her way home from work several days a week. Nice private Mom/Daughter time. Scott is busy with his job too and yet finds time to call regularly. His girls are living back with their mother, not the best thing for them or him, but there is nothing to be done about that at the moment. 

Kristin: busy busy busy... work as usual and she just went to a nursing conference in D.C. where she visited Arlington and the grave site of my parents. A sad moment to be sure. She called me from there and we had a bit of a "boo-hoo" together on the phone. She also took pictures of the newly-engraved niche cover. It has been fixed as to the date error of my mother's info and the Purple Heart is back (it had been omitted when her info was put on originally) Thanks Kris for letting me see it is fine now. Alexander is a senior and we are planning a trip to CA in June for his graduation. Justin at VVC for some general ed. stuff before deciding what to do about going back to NAU for upper division work.

Gina: busy busy busy... work and kids' activities and balancing too many of those. Kids are involved up to their ears in scouts (Jake) , water polo (Nick) and drama performances (Jennie)
Hubby Bill still playing music with his group and spending time with his kids when he can.

Erin: busy busy busy (see a theme emerging here?)... running around like a chicken with kids activities and taking care of a senior lady (Ann) and another woman's household (personal assistant?). Adam busy too with job at Microsoft (loves it and is doing great there!) Jozeph is doing so well in school and enjoyed playing kid football. Jenna Bee is her sweet self, enjoying first grade.

Richard: way busier than we want to know! His life is filled with job and managing the three boys and worrying about Yeya (his wife) who is having another cancer surgery. Prayers for these folks, please.

Lauren: busy busy busy... running around doing kid stuff with a very active three year old (almost) and taking care of Matt who is recouping from serious back surgery. He is chomping at the bit to get back to his job as fire captain. It must be bugging him to be home with all the fires to be fighting now in So California. Patience Matt! Alyssa (9) and Megan (7) are busy with school and Brownies/Girl Scouts as well as their other interests. Lauren's scrapbooking job ended when the store closed. She is getting her online scrapbooking business up soon. Watch for info on that.

Bill and I are busy too, getting the house ready for winter and preparing for a trip to the White Mts of NH and then to my sister's for Turkey Day. Soon it will snow, but so far the ground is just bare and the air is cold. Brrrr. But we love winter here. Way more than in CA.

Enough for now. What are YOU doing?

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my winter poem from assignment 11/18/08


It's easy to know that when the horizon blackens,
something new is on the way, a dream rinsed
in yesterday's black mood. The sun spins away like a mad kite,
its light a shattered wine glass on the hearth. 
How can we mend visions of fuchsia and heather
when there is less and less, not a crumb to gather
for the table? And what of the plot to bury the yard
in shrouds of white? What witch cast that spell here?
What moth ate all the leaves we planted? Stay deaf and dumb,
wait for the sky to open again, to cast its bluest eye
on the yard again, to rouse the seeds that sleep now. Wait
as the bird waits on her egg. It is a season of windows.
Hear the nothing of falling snow. Wait. Watch the sky.

today's assignment 11/18/2008

Try this: write a 20 line (or longer) poem about winter without mentioning winter. Here are some words to include: blacken, crumb, rinse, spin, moth, glass, mend, witch, plot, dumb. You may notice that some of these words are off or half rhymes with one another. Hmmmm? Could there be something to that? You can use these, use some, use none. Just write.

Go ahead now, pick up your pen. Make tea. Eat chocolate. WRITE!

a winter poem

Here is a winter poem of mine. It was first published by The Comstock Review. Enjoy. Send in your own winter poems!

awol on my own blog

Hi everyone! I have been away from my blog because I couldn't remember how to get back! (stop laughing! really, just stop!) OK, I look like a non-tecchie here, but I really do have brain fade sometimes when it comes to these things. Sorry. I promise to be better.

It is getting to be winter here in Maine and my thoughts turn to snow and ice and the coziness of being "tucked in" behind the glass. It is actually my favorite time of the year when there is actually TIME to sit and knit and write. I am teaching two classes (Freshman and Soph Comp) so I have constraints on my time. But I enjoy it, and hope I am making a difference for my students. 

One really great thing about winter here is loads of time to read. The stack next to my chair is growing. I read and then cannot bear to put the good book into the bookcase. After all, I might want to get back in! I'd love to hear from my friends and family what they are reading, so come on! Give me some hints as to what I could add to the stack! 

I went to the Dodge Poetry Festival this fall and brought back a group of books  (poetry of course) and I think I will create a topic later for books we love. So watch for that one. Anyway, I am reading a great collection of war poems, American War Poetry, edited by Lorrie Goldensohn. It traces poems from the pre-colonial time to the present day. Wow. Poets have surely been writing about war a long time. I have been surprised by a few of these. Who knew that the Star-Spangled Banner was originally entitled, Defence of Fort Mc Henry? or that it has three other stanzas? Who knew that Robert Frost wrote war poetry? I recommend reading "Not to Keep," which is wonderful. Although it was written about W.W. I, it is pertinent today. I guess that is one thing about war poems: they (like war) are timeless. I hope for a day when no one will have to write war poems. Having said that, I am doing it myself, adding to the ones in my collection (Daughter of the Ardennes Forest). I guess it will get to be a longer collection. Who knows.

Well, why not send in a favorite war poem of yours, friends. Let's see what we are reading in that area of poetry!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

today's assignment

Go ahead and try this one:

Take any poem of at least 10 lines (a loved poem or a hated one) and choose 20 powerful words. these must be active verbs or nouns. NO ADJECTIVES please. Now create a 10 line poem of your own using these words as end words or beginning words. Do NOT be concerned with "getting a good poem" here... just see what happens.

Post it.

A poem for today

I want you to see what I mean about endings. Here is a recent poem where the endings are carefully chosen for power. Look at the end of each line and also the end words of each stanza. See how they move the poem along and create dramatic tension. Tell me what YOU think. 

Welcome to the poet's room

Here is the place for poetry-related subjects, for looking at my process, and for some teaching. I will post at least once a week, with thoughts and at least once a week with some idea or lesson. 

Today for example, I bought a couple new books, including Susan Woolridge's book on craft as it springs from unexpected non-poetic spaces. I am excited to get that and a book I bought on line. I think a lot about line and its importance. More specifically, I think about ends and beginnings. I get very frustrated with poems where the end words seem capriciously chosen by the poet. When I see throwaway words such as "for" or "the" at the end of a line I grimace and wonder what the hell the poet was doing there. These words do NOTHING for me as far as advancing the line or the feeling or the stanzaic power. Call me crazy, but I like to be shoved into uncommon spaces and motivated to keep going. With so many amazing oems out there, why read on when the words drip in stasis at the ends of lines. I think it is RARE that these throwaway words DO something there at the ends of lines.

Beginning words are important too (just ask the French who believe these more important than the end words!) I look for words that zip and zing at the fronts of lines and stanzas.  I recently taught an online class (ask how YOU can take one of these from me) and asked the students to seriously consider the ends and beginnings and to stretch the limits of using words of power in both places. We got some AMAZING results. You will too.