Category Archives: #writerslife

Two Weeks of NAPOWRIMO 2019 Accomplished!

I kept going this week and produced drafts of these poems:

  • Playing Word with Adrienne Rich
  • Nearest Animal Shelter
  • Dis-Ease
  • Out of the Cradle
  • Travel
  • To Keep Things from Working
  • Meeting the Relatives

It was a tough week because I had to travel for work and still keep up with a poem a day . . . .

As another important component of NAPOWRIMO, I pulled out the old poetry anthology I liked to teach from and started rereading from the beginning.

These poets might seem old school today, but without these poets we wouldn’t have the poetry we have today–written by women OR men.

The first poet showcased in this book is Lola Ridge. She’s rarely read today, unfortunately. When she was a little girl she moved from Ireland to New Zealand and Australia, and then as an adult, she moved to the United States, possibly to escape a horrific marriage. She was a feminist and an activist. You can read her bio here. Her first book, The Ghetto and Other Poems, is important for its very modern-like treatment of immigrant life 100 years ago–specifically Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side of NYC. This is the phenomenal section of the title poem that is anthologized in the book:

II

I room at Sodos’ – in the little green room that was Bennie’s –
With Sadie
And her old father and her mother,
Who is not so old and wears her own hair.

Old Sodos no longer makes saddles.
He has forgotten how.
He has forgotten most things – even Bennie who stays away
and sends wine on holidays –
And he does not like Sadie’s mother
Who hides God’s candles,
Nor Sadie
Whose young pagan breath puts out the light –
That should burn always,
Like Aaron’s before the Lord.

Time spins like a crazy dial in his brain,
And night by night
I see the love-gesture of his arm
In its green-greasy coat-sleeve
Circling the Book,
And the candles gleaming starkly
On the blotched-paper whiteness of his face,
Like a miswritten psalm…
Night by night
I hear his lifted praise,
Like a broken whinnying
Before the Lord’s shut gate.

Sadie dresses in black.
She has black-wet hair full of cold lights
And a fine-drawn face, too white.
All day the power machines
Drone in her ears…
All day the fine dust flies
Till throats are parched and itch
And the heat – like a kept corpse –
Fouls to the last corner.

Then – when needles move more slowly on the cloth
And sweaty fingers slacken
And hair falls in damp wisps over the eyes –
Sped by some power within,
Sadie quivers like a rod…
A thin black piston flying,
One with her machine.

She – who stabs the piece-work with her bitter eye
And bids the girls: “Slow down –
You’ll have him cutting us again!”
She – fiery static atom,
Held in place by the fierce pressure all about –
Speeds up the driven wheels
And biting steel – that twice
Has nipped her to the bone.

Nights, she reads
Those books that have most unset thought,
New-poured and malleable,
To which her thought
Leaps fusing at white heat,
Or spits her fire out in some dim manger of a hall,
Or at a protest meeting on the Square,
Her lit eyes kindling the mob…
Or dances madly at a festival.
Each dawn finds her a little whiter,
Though up and keyed to the long day,
Alert, yet weary… like a bird
That all night long has beat about a light.

The Gentile lover, that she charms and shrews,
Is one more pebble in the pack
For Sadie’s mother,
Who greets him with her narrowed eyes
That hold some welcome back.
“What’s to be done?” she’ll say,
“When Sadie wants she takes…
Better than Bennie with his Christian woman…
A man is not so like,
If they should fight,
To call her Jew…”

Yet when she lies in bed
And the soft babble of their talk comes to her
And the silences…
I know she never sleeps
Till the keen draught blowing up the empty hall
Edges through her transom
And she hears his foot on the first stairs.

Sarah and Anna live on the floor above.
Sarah is swarthy and ill-dressed.
Life for her has no ritual.
She would break an ideal like an egg for the winged thing at the core.
Her mind is hard and brilliant and cutting like an acetylene torch.
If any impurities drift there, they must be burnt up as in a clear flame.
It is droll that she should work in a pants factory.
– Yet where else… tousled and collar awry at her olive throat.
Besides her hands are unkempt.
With English… and everything… there is so little time.
She reads without bias –
Doubting clamorously –
Psychology, plays, science, philosophies –
Those giant flowers that have bloomed and withered, scattering their seed…
– And out of this young forcing soil what growth may come –
what amazing blossomings.

Anna is different.
One is always aware of Anna, and the young men turn their heads
to look at her.
She has the appeal of a folk-song
And her cheap clothes are always in rhythm.
When the strike was on she gave half her pay.
She would give anything – save the praise that is hers
And the love of her lyric body.

But Sarah’s desire covets nothing apart.
She would share all things…
Even her lover.

This narrative poem shares as much as a short story in more concise language that vibrates the heart and nerves at the same time.

What you read here is part 2 of a 9 part poem. Although NaPoWriMo wouldn’t be a good time to try it, writing a very long poem like “The Ghetto” would be fun to try if the subject is epic enough. Not a lot of places to get it published, but it could be its own chapbook, I suppose. But what about readers–do readers like to read super long poems?

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Filed under #AmWriting, #NaPoWriMo, #writerslife, National Poetry Month, Poetry, Research and prep for writing, Writing

One Week of NAPOWRIMO 2019 Accomplished!

How convenient that NaPoWriMo starts on April 1, that April 1 was a Monday this year, and that I blog on Mondays. This way my posts can neatly sum up the previous week. I feel so organized!!!

I wrote the equivalent of a poem (draft) a day, although I wrote two on one day because there was a day I knew I could not write anything. To me this is acceptable. I still get the same number poems at the end of the month, and I am not ignoring something important like family over for birthdays and holidays.

Here are the (working?) titles of the poems I have so far:

  • Super Bloom
  • Maybe It Was Spring
  • I Want to be Irish
  • My Say
  • Noah and the Middle School Marching Band
  • Never a Bride
  • Javelina Life Rules

I haven’t even checked in with the NaPoWriMo site because I am having a great time using the prompts in Diane Lockward’s The Crafty Poet, which is her first craft book and one I hadn’t really taken advantage of before. I find her prompts to be of the type I need: they come at poem creation from at least two angles, if not more. Being told to write a poem about purple often isn’t enough for me. I like more WRITING CONSTRAINTS.

When I look at the list of poems above, I see that there are repeats in subjects for me. For instance, “Super Bloom” has echoes of “Super Nova” in Doll God. They are completely different poems, but I could write a paper comparing and contrasting the two poems. Noah and Lazarus are in here, and I’ve worked with them before. (Of course, Noah is one of my obsessions. I have a sculpture of Noah releasing the dove that I dream about and a tiny Day of the Dead Noah shadow box).

Are you participating in NaPoWriMo? If so, how are you doing? I’d love to hear!

Other subject: the other day I posted a question on Twitter. I want to know if other poets save drafts of their poems as they revise. It had suddenly occurred to me that this is important to think about. I’ve never given it any thought and, in fact, destroy all my earlier drafts as fast as I move on. You might say I do it obsessively! I’m embarrassed of the earlier drafts and want to forget they ever happened. Then one day I read that a poet looked at one of her old drafts. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAA? And I remembered how much time I put into studying the earlier drafts of some of Sylvia Plath’s poems when I was writing academically.

That’s when I thought to myself that we can choose to save our drafts or not. Or have some kind of system about it. Instead, I have been operating solely on emotion, ripping and shredding gleefully. And my computer operates palimpsestically (hahaha, as if that’s a word) and cleaner. Sometimes there is no trace at all of what came before.

Not sure if I’ll change, but I’d like to think it through. What about you? Do you save old drafts? Of poetry? Of prose?

Is there value in saving them?

And let’s not forget Noah. What are your “obsessions”?

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Pick Up Your Pen–It’s April 1 and the Start of NAPOWRIMO 2019!

Last year was a successful NAPOWRIMO for me, so I plan to participate again. Last week I pulled together my poetry prompt and craft books and scrounged around on Google for more prompts. Now I am ready to WRITE POEMS. How about you?!

Click the image to get to the NaPoWriMo site.  Checkitout.

There are other places to post what you write (if you prefer not to submit to journals), too, but I am not posting any of those because I don’t have time to really research and recommend. But put in the search words NAPOWRIMO and “poetry prompts” and look for sites where you can find prompts and even submit your own poems.

Happy writing to all!

In the spirit of poetry prompts, I’ll share with you a pic I took in search of Superbloom in Arizona. Not as successful as I would have liked, but how much joy did I need to find?!

The gardener and I took Mom way out to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. On the way, the roadside was in bloom with a pretty palette of wildflowers, but the gardener wouldn’t stop for photos (as usual). Then when we got near the towns of Superior, Miami, and Globe, the golden poppies were thick along the side of the roads and parking lots. Oddly, I couldn’t see any blossoms on the surrounding hills. But I guess the roadside had a lot more water.

Above is Ayer Lake at the Arboretum, and the photo below is one of the views from inside the park.

What a great place to hike or even leisurely walk.  There are trees and plants from Australia and China, as well as Arizona native vegetation.

For dinner, we went to The Arizona Biltmore hotel in Phoenix. In the ten years I’ve lived here, the only time I ever was on the property was a business thingie to hear Janet Napolitano speak when she was still governor. I had a feeling that chicken dinner wasn’t a proper example of the restaurant food at this gorgeous resort. So we went to the very fancy pizza and burger (and more) restaurant, Frank & Albert’s, for dinner. After dinner we walked around the lobby. Look at this beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass.

Then we walked outside and toured the entertainment and pool areas.

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Filed under #AmWriting, #NaPoWriMo, #writerslife, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, National Poetry Month, Poetry, Research and prep for writing, Writing

Monday Update

My  review of Karen Paul Holmes’ poetry collection No Such Thing as Distance has been published in the latest edition of the esteemed journal Pleiades.

If you get your hands on this gorgeous issue, you can find out why I think there are commonalities in Holmes’ work and mine. OK, here are some hints ;). She is also from Michigan, and the sense of place–places, really–is very important to her work. Also prominent are family and family history. Her book is beautifully written and extremely accessible.

On another note, I’m having foot troubles. And I also had a very telling dream. But first the feet.

My right foot is the one that has a reconstructed navicular bone. That happened 13.5 years ago and was a big, big deal. Now I have to be really careful so that that bone doesn’t shatter. About nine months ago I developed plantar fasciitis in the left foot, and no matter what I do, the pain is not letting up. This puts pressure on the right foot, of course. Then Friday morning I dropped my cell phone on my right big toe. Please let me out of this nightmare.

MRI Prep

Speaking of dreams. Did you know that if you dream of a litter of kittens it means that you are feeling swamped and overwhelmed? The other day I dreamed that the shelter where I volunteer was closed temporarily. I went to check on it. Of course, it wasn’t that place at all, but an old-fashioned storefront with the store divided into three big rooms, all with glass windows in front. I knew right away why they were closed. They were overwhelmed–literally filled to the ceiling with kittens. There wasn’t even an inch between kittens. There must have been thousands in there. I wasn’t worried for the kittens because I knew the shelter would take care of them, but I was shocked at how many there were.

So do you see how overwhelmed I have been this month????????? I know in the end it will be ok, but I have never felt so overloaded with work as I have this month. I sure hope I get April to write poetry!

(Weirdly, I have worked on a little essay, but only the last couple of days, and I don’t know if it will turn out or not).

Sending love out into the universe. Please send back some extra minutes haha.

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A Colorful Trip

After the gardener recovered (at least enough for travel), we went to California for a couple of days. What gorgeous color all over the hills! Because it’s rained so much this winter the wildflowers have gone crazy. Unfortunately, we were buzzing past the flowers  on the freeway, so I couldn’t stop and take any good pix. There must be a lot online by now, though, as the cars were lined up at Lake Elsinore to get out and snap shots and just enjoy the beauty of the usually dusty “mountains.”

What I am saying is that my pix really suck, but they are all I actually have. I find this frustrating, but at least I saw the flowers (and thought of The Wizard of Oz movie).

The golden California Poppies (state flower of California!) and yellow flowers (don’t know their name as I couldn’t get close) are stunning, but there are purples and whites mixed in on some hills. Even violet lupines.

Check out this photo from Times of San Diego:

I hope it’s ok that I put the link here–and the whole photo popped up for some reason. So I made a custom link and now you can click through the pic and check out their article! And here is a good site to check out the wildflowers: Desert Wildflowers

This week I had a great acceptance of 3 poems to a gorgeous new journal (name withheld until publication haha) and a good rejection from one of my long shots. They liked two of my poems and asked me to send more, so that makes me want to keep trying them ;).

Planning on making the world a little better in my tiny ways this week!

 

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Filed under #writerslife, California, Poetry, Publishing, Writing

Week’s End

I might have mentioned that the gardener and I have had a lot going on in 2019 with relatives visiting and other urgent projects (non-writing, of course). I have been looking forward to April to write some poems. Ahem.

Friday I went to the doctor for the plantar fasciitis in my left foot. This is not my reconstructed ex-tumor-ridden right foot. I’ve had pain now for about 8 months, so the doctor had me get xrays. He called me Saturday and told me I need an MRI to rule out a stress fracture or whatnot as there is a weird white line or somesuch on the xray. This line has gotten bigger since a random xray I had last May. That xray was to check on my reconstruction in the right foot and they only took an image of the left for comparison.

Then Saturday afternoon my two boys lay together in a bed on the counter.

Are Perry and Felix not the cutest guys?! Felix has that expression because when Perry lays with him he always says to me, “What fresh hell is this?” a la Dorothy Parker.

I have primary lymphedema in both legs, and I use a compression pump–or am supposed to–to flush out some of the excess fluid. I hadn’t used my pump in a long time because I’m so tired at night and it takes a couple of hours, but I decided to last night. I didn’t put Perry in his room. Big mistake. While I was trapped on the machine, he started “instigating,” and he ended up knocking over our good lamp, shattering the light bulb and breaking a big chunk out of the side of the lamp. In the photo look at the right side of the lamp and you can see the white line at the start of the hole.

The gardener searched for the broken pieces of the lamp and tried piecing it together while I swept up the light bulb and made sure the floor was safe for little cat beans.

Then I hooked back up to pump my legs, while the gardener started watching TV. Less than two minutes later, he was sick. Without going into all the details, I will say he is still ill and we don’t yet know what is wrong.  Because when it rains it pours, I received two separate rejections for poems since Saturday night. Yup.

(Update: The gardener is suddenly starting to feel better!)

So I am going to close comments and leave you with a favorite poem (that I dug out to show Theresa Barker when she visited Phoenix. WordPress won’t allow correct formatting, but I think this is close enough to give you an idea of the poem.

SO I SAID I AM EZRA

 

by A.R. Ammons 1955

 

So I said I am Ezra

and the wind whipped my throat

gaming for the sounds of my voice

I listened to the wind

go over my head and up into the night

Turning to the sea I said

I am Ezra

but there were no echoes from the waves

The words were swallowed up

in the voice of the surf

or leaping over the swells

lost themselves oceanward

Over the bleached and broken fields

I moved my feet and turning from the wind

that ripped sheets of sand

from the beach and threw them

like seamists across the dunes

swayed as if the wind were taking me away

and said

I am Ezra

As a word too much repeated

falls out of being

so I Ezra went out into the night

like a drift of sand

and splashed among the windy oats

that clutch the dunes

of unremembered seas

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Filed under #writerslife, Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction, Poetry, Writing

Cats and Dogs and Poems, Oh My! And Mysteries, Too!

The American Academy of Poets welcomes in Women’s History Month (March) with this list of poems:

Batter My Heart, Transgender’d God” by Meg Day
The Soul selects her own Society (303)” by Emily Dickinson
I Sit and Sew” by Alice Dunbar-Nelson
Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why)” by Nikki Giovanni
Bring Back Our Girls ” by Marwa Helal
Poem about My Rights ” by June Jordan
How to Triumph Like a Girl” by Ada Limón
Exclusively on Venus ” by Trace Peterson
Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich
On Virtue” by Phillis Wheatley

That first poem is a “rewrite” of a famous John Donne Holy Sonnet Batter my heart, three-person’d God which is one of my favorite poems. What do you think about what Day did with the Donne poem?

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I do have an update on my cat Tiger and the test for pancreatitis. Her test is at the very high end of normal. That result, coupled with her other out of whack test results could mean that she has an inflammation of the pancreas. The question is whether she has an inflammation that can improve, but has started a slow decline (kidney disease, for instance) because of her age (15)–or if it’s the beginning of a very serious disease. She is asking for prayers and healing vibes. OK, I am asking on her behalf, but she does want them!

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Here is a cool reading opportunity, as well as an opportunity to help shelter animals, at the incredible bargain price of $.99! That’s LESS THAN A DOLLAR, FOLKS! One of the recipients of the funds is Home Fur Good, the shelter where I volunteer!!!!!!!!! An all-female group of cozy mystery writers wrote a story collection which is available for preorder now through the following sites.  Summer Snoops Unleashed.  Each story is the length of a novella, between 15,000-30,000 words.

Preorder it now because: All the royalties from pre-orders will be donated to the Rescues. Royalties collected after release will go to help authors defray the cost of publishing and marketing. So the time to buy is NOW!!!! I just purchased mine through Apple iTunes!

Maria Grazia Swan is a mystery writer who also volunteers at Home Fur Good. Her story is included in this collection. Maria has published several mystery series, and they are wonderfully written, fun cozies, featuring dogs and cats.

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Lastly, a lil ole reminder about Kin Types as a good addition to Women’s History Month.

“Kin Types exhumes the women who have died long ago to give life to them, if only for a few moments. Through genealogical and historical research, Luanne Castle has re-discovered the women who came before her. Using an imaginative lens, she allows them to tell their stories through lyric poems, prose poems, and flash nonfiction.”

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Filed under #writerslife, Arizona, Book promotion, Cats and Other Animals, Family history, History, Kin Types, Poetry, Writing

“Tuesday Afternoon at Magpie’s Grill”

Thrilled to have a new poem up at Nine Muses Poetry. This poem was written about my occasional time spent writing poetry at Magpie’s and named, appropriately, Tuesday Afternoon at Magpie’s Grill.

I

A big thank you to editor Annest Gwilym.

I hope you enjoy the trip into a writer’s thinking in this odd poem!

 

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Review of Kin Types in Latest Issue of Main Street Rag

Alice Osborn has reviewed my chapbook Kin Types for the new Winter 2019 issue of Main Street Rag. 

 

I love how she calls the book a “labor of love.”

It’s a beautiful issue with fiction and poetry, an essay, and quite a few book reviews, and best yet, it’s only $6! Click this link.

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KIN TYPES IS AVAILABLE AT AMAZON:

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Remember my kitty Tiger, star of The Bitch’s Tale? She has gotten a bit skinny, so I took her to the vet for bloodwork and urinalysis. Her kidney and liver values are now elevated, and she had to have an add-on test for pancreatitis. Please send positive vibes and prayers for Tiger that she just has slow aging issues and not a serious illness. I had thought Tiger was 14, but after recalculating and conferring with my son, we believe she is at least 15.

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Favorite Outfits Never Really Leave You

I didn’t get much accomplished this week since I had to go to California for business and got caught in the floods there, delaying my return by one day. On the way to California, I saw an odd blimp out in the middle of the desert, just off the 10.

At the time, I found it confusing. Then I saw an article about Carnival Cruise Line starting a blimp campaign last year.  But the gardener saw a different article. That one said that the DEA is using blimps for border surveillance. Hmm. I guess it could be both. Truth is strange, as you know.

I’ve been working on my own version of Swedish Death Cleaning by trying to go through file drawers a little bit every day that I am home. I’m also finding objects and papery reminders which make me want to write more posts about the life of objects.

I found a couple of old photographs of one of my favorite outfits ever which led to a week-long meditation on “favorite outfits,” and the beginning of a possible poem. How many favorite outfits have you had in your life? I can count mine on both hands–maybe one hand.

I bought this one with my store discount from the fancy store in Kalamazoo where I worked when I first started college. It was called Jacobson’s, and they had an apparel store and a “store for the home,” but the prototype was probably Saks. This 3-piece jersey outfit was comfortable, and I loved the cream/vivid blue combination (although I’m not actually a blue person, probably half my favorite outfits have been blue or had blue in them). In these two photos you can see both the tank top and the jacket, but not the almost-palazzo pants. The beads were from work, too. I don’t know what ever happened to the outfit, but I suspect I literally wore it out. I never would have gotten rid of it otherwise. That’s how much I loved it. Best memory wearing it was in Jamaica, at our months-after-the-wedding honeymoon.

The man on the right is one of my uncles, and the other man was his FIL. I was serving punch at a family party. Isn’t it funny that seeing that outfit in the photos makes me as happy as wearing it used to? And why did I love that outfit so much more than anything else? I have always loved birds, and pheasants run loose on the fabric, but that’s only one aspect.

I can’t imagine feeling this way about what I wear today since I have it down to a uniform involving either yoga pants or Duluth Trading Company stretch pants along with a tunic, athletic shoes, and a ballcap.

Anybody else have those thoughts about favorite outfits of the past? Tell me about your favorites, please!

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