Friday, October 31, 2008


Click on the links to see the original photographs:

1. the last of them, 2. pickings, 3. Untitled, 4. blanket for babe,
5. nifty, 6. love for lentils, 7. noknead2, 8. itty bitty sweet ones,
9. tudora, 10. 119, 11. acorns aplenty, 12. pretzelsammy

Created with fd's Flickr Toys.

This October, I have enjoyed:

- the above from my Flickr favorites
- the leaf colors, the way they glow, look lit from within
- baking bread: zucchini, banana, crusty french
- weekend poetry workshops
- meeting Junot Diaz
- listening to books on CD on my commute
- election signs that agree with me
- the last harvest in the garden, turning over compost for next summer
- the kind of running that is still a bit like shuffling, a bit like galumphing
- warm chai tea
- clean cotton sheets
- reading. reading. reading.
- trying to find a way to fit "clotted snow" into a poem
- returning to Michigan, still working on that series of poems
- plans for Thanksgiving
- sleeping in

Thursday, October 30, 2008

127: Junot Diaz

More here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

126: First Snow

You can see it vaguely, between the leaves of our new maple: little darts of snow, evidence that autumn is passing.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Yesterday: the clotting of first snow, the wet sort that comes down thick and dissipates on the four degree warmer ground. The leaves are still brilliant in places (our wee maple, the one we planted last autumn, has these gorgeous red leaves), gone in others (our boulevard trees are naked). I am loving the way Penelope blends in with the season.

I am conscious of how quiet I have been here since the school year has begun. I think, given my cryptic postings, it's fairly clear that I am attempting to take root, to figure out where I am, psychologically speaking. It's a dream to be in an MFA program, but I think it's also frightening too--not all is ideal, not all is awful, not all is belonging. But I'm pounding away at something that seems to make sense to me, and though I feel grateful to the memories of teaching from before, I know that this is where I am supposed to be right now.

The campus / office chatter is now focused on next semester: what will we teach, what will we take. I will be a TA for David Treuer in Contemporary American Literature. He was busy with a Guggenheim this past semester or so, which means I cannot drill other folks as to what it might be like to work for him. I also plan to take the seminar in poetry ("Bodies and Knowing") and the seminar in creative non-fiction ("Bodies and Place"), and I am contemplating a third course. This is generally not advised (at least by Julie, head of the program), but I am the procrastinator who likes to see things checked off in required boxes; I've been searching for a lit class that might satisfy just one more to-do. Have also been thinking about specialized biology courses (plant biology, insect behavior, and on) and digital photography.

For now, it's just about what falls into place: routine, reading, relaxing. Writing overdue book reviews, essays on Chaucer, reading novels, enjoying cloudless days. Weatherproofing windows: the chill of late autumn, the way autumn is over so swifty in Minnesota, settling in for winter, biding my time.

Friday, October 24, 2008

124: Jeff + Shelly

More here.


- Brodi, son of the groom, is a pistol, as my mother would say: "Leave me alone, Grandma!"
- Eve, daughter of the groom, was a miniature bride. Have never witnessed this phenomenon.
- Cake with fondant stars.
- Groomsman in rehab, then treatment for PTSD. Grateful it wasn't jail; grateful he is on his way to peace.
- Last shot put me elsewhere. Stories abound. Was not the designated driver, will probably be so for the next fifteen weddings. I owe it to those around me.
- Perhaps that wasn't such a wise follow-up to rehab.
- Wood wishing well for wedding cards. Made by groom's father for his children's weddings. A wonderful way to remember him; Jeff's father passed away when Jeff was fifteen, I believe.
- Groomsmen in monster masks for grand march.
- A little girl, no one knows whose she was, had a habit of tucking herself beneath the bride's dress and peeking beneath bathroom stalls.
- Held Ryan's hands through the ceremony. Knowing that ours has been good too.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Last week was a curmudgeony week. It was hibernation: in this house, in this room, in this bed. It was books propped against a pillow, irritated. Reading to slip away, to escape the nastiness of grading, of copying and pasting, of deadlines.

There are moments when re-charge is the only option.

This week I have decided all will be done, all will fall into place rightly.

And if I need some sort of boost, here are some things from former high school students recently:
- A student emailed me a few days ago, asking me to take a look at a draft of her essay for AP Lit. I think I didn't reply in time to be helpful, but that trust is a sweet thing.
- Another student emailed me from the library because she's bored. We're arranging to go on another Twin Cities field trip; last was in August when we went to a poetry reading together.
- And while grocery shopping at the end of last night, feeling a bit down about various things, a student spotted me and told me she missed me at school and enjoyed class.

Last night, dinner with Ryan: I read him a stanza of a poem and he scrunched up his face, considering where to take it next. No suggestions, but a sweet conversation. He is adorable when he hasn't had enough sleep.

Tonight: runnning again. It isn't fair to call it that. Walk a block, shuffle a block, more like. We've done it twice now, and I'm still alive and not entirely bitter when the shiny-white shoes come out of the box. I joke about how easy he has it without the same weight distribution; women have some unfair shapes when it comes to that kind of pacing.

Autumn is passing; the leaves are now settled on the lawn, a noisy street sweeper goes by as I write this. I wait patiently, dream sometimes, of the first snow. I will be tired of it come February or March, but there is always something magical about those first flakes, and the best, when one is absolutely trapped inside, the snow blower inching forward, the dogs leaping about in the backyard as you figure a path out for your cars.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Not a quiet weekend, but a good one: a wedding, the discrepancy between "good" shots (orange crush) and "bad" shots (liquid cocaine), the disappearance of Penelope in the autumn leaves, the harvesting of wee brussel sprouts, the first run of the new shoes, the consideration of happiness in poetry, and the way clean sheets feel, late at night, your body worn and the sweetness of your husband humming next to you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Last night, book club: the discussion of Woman: An Intimate Geography, an exploration of the body and sense of self within this biological world. I underlined my own copy, a training in slowing down as I read, an earnest attempt at cultivating a stronger memory. I looked up the mythological and other cultural references I ought to be more aware of, but have gaps, jotting down who Cassandra is, what a keel is (ah, that boat reference), and on. And I underlined as a lover of words might: the phrases that appealed or the facts that might resurface in poetry.

Next up: Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama, selected by Chris. Timely.

And after dinner and discussion, as bedtime fast approached, we sat around the table in the dim light of full evening, the moon bulbous, the pumpkin soup settling and bread's leavings crumbled on the table. I have felt so unmoored these past seven weeks, have wanted desperately to root into the program, and while that is certainly happening, a sense of self has been acutely need. And good girl friends. It's so important to have women who will listen and whose warmth emanates, who truly care about one another, whose use of the word "relationship" expands, undulates, swallows us whole. I felt the warmth last night, the "sisterhood" in our discussion, but later, as the night wore on, that comradeship and sacredness that is friendship.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Garden oddities: zucchini the size of a calf, intricate unlockable puzzle pieced carrots, sunflowers that herald the call of Timber!

These days I am still appreciating the green: our grass is rich, our peony bushes are only starting to fade, the hydrangea still blooming, the raspberry bush flush. I tried and failed at a raspberry crumble recipe, in hopes to bring it with me to class tonight. Something about the vegetable shortening; the taste is prevalent and strange.

I'm beginning to progressively more comfortable where I am. And tomorrow, Tuesday, blessed day of getting-caught-up: mowing the lawn, scrubbing the sills of the front porch, reading and writing.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Monday night we were taken on a tour of the Open Book: decades old letterpress machines, glossed letters in the floorboards, words engraved in tables, the recent Jerome fellows (including a certain someone who made our wedding invitations), a question and answer with the editor-in-chief of Milkweed Editions.

After: being taken out for wine and appetizers by our esteemed professor, Trish Hampl. Conversation: tropes in literature, the recent political and economic climate, the capacity of the Kiefer house brewery.

And news:

- The most recent issue (#4) of Dislocate has come out, though it's not available for purchase on the website yet. My poem "Counting" is in it (and indeed, it was accepted into the magazine before I was accepted into the university for the MFA program; otherwise, I wouldn't have submitted it, and I don't think they would have accepted me, given it would be a major conflict of interest).

- My Cry of the Loon photographs I recently shared have made their way over onto the U of MN's English homepage. Here's the quote:

<<Every year English professor and Creative Writing Program core faculty member Michael Dennis Browne lends his cabin compound in the north woods to MFA graduate students in creative writing. The 2008 "Cry of the Loon Retreat," which took place in late September, is documented in photos by MFA candidate Molly Sutton Kiefer.>>

- In turn, I have been asked to take photographs at English events. My first assignment: the dinner reception for Junot Diaz. He's got a reading coming up at the end of the month. I am flattered and nervous--it's an incredible opportunity and immense responsibility.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I think of how to write a poem: the object (or action) as symbolic, the carrot standing for something like determination, or gardening as representative of procreation, of seeding, of seedlings, of the weeds that grow around our hips.

I think of how his hands work: the grasp of beer, that slick casing, the pull of round root.

I could write a poem about carrots, about the way we pulled harvest from the garden this weekend: the mixing bowl of sunflower seeds, the wet carrots in the sink, and at night, boiling the chicken carcass in the copper pot, later, weeding out the bones, the way the gristle and strange lumps of meat (I think back to childhood) mixed with carrots and onion and celery (I think back to childhood in Tennessee, sitting, folded legs, on the floor), now part of an array of glass jars (I think back to that dinner of the art teacher, her husband), the covers now bulging, now burst from over-exertion (I think of the husband, schizophrenic, who made us dinner, my family, my father, the professor), but for winter, so much stored (I think of the gristle on my plate, how I thought I could catch it, schizophrenia, how to want it, how not to).

I could write a poem about those slim orange pieces, the carrots, the first from the garden, the cake we might make in a week or two.

Or, it could be a love poem: one to this one, the partner of over nine years, the one whose hand I hold beneath wool blankets, the one who parses his work day (oh, workaholic husband) in wee bits to attend events, the one who cheers me on, quietly, stubbornly--and this, the love song, the one I write to you when you are asleep.

Monday, October 6, 2008


I wanted to link to this video, but embedding was disabled.

Fortunately (frighteningly!), there are plenty of clips on YouTube.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Linguistics of the MFA program:
- I am going to [eat, usually] the [shit/fuck/hell] out of this [foodstuff, usually].
- [This book, music, whathaveyou] is going to rock [or blow, I think I've heard that too] your face off. [yeeouch]

I am learning to not be that prim high school teacher I once was; sometimes, you can find me swearing, openly, in the classroom, hyped up in expressing how much I loved/hated a particular technique in a story/poem/etc. It's not often, but it might slip, if you watch closely enough.

I've been thinking a lot about how I censored myself as a high school teacher, especially after reading Michelle's very vocal post about gay rights and marriage. That part of me, the one who fell in love with a woman at the end of high school / beginning of college has been secreted away for so long. And I know this blog is completely google-able, that people from high school who might have suspected, or my former students who might now cringe at the thought of their former teacher being very comfortable with saying this, and I think I just have to recognize that it's a part of me that needs to exist, alongside my brazen announcements of deterioration of my body (oh, little breast mouse), and there it is. And I know that I also grapple with the fact of my life being easier since the past nine years have been spent loving a man. And this is just how it happened to be; I could have just as easily fallen in love with another woman once my year plus relationship with Jen came crashing down in a most melodramatic way. (Hey, we were nineteen; this is what happens in that angsty part of your life.) There is a certain privilege that I have been allowed because of the way Ryan and my organs happen to be, and I don't think there is fairness in that. And sometimes I try to avoid the topic altogether because I get so violently upset (and also hugely distanced due to my so-called unique position). Sometimes logic doesn't seem to win out in this country's decision making.

I must tell you other things, things that won't get me all tangled up inside, thinks that spark, but in a lovely way instead of the frustrated way.

- I am now The Carol Connolly Reading Series intern at Intermedia Arts, which means I attempt to juggle a great deal of information and put it into the correct slot. I got the position about two weeks ago, and I don't think I mentioned applying or the interview, but here I am, done with my first week, and it has been going well. It's nice to feel connected to the literary community in this way, and I think it fills a need of mine to be useful to other artists as opposed to selfishly pursuing my own. It's a great opportunity, and I'm really excited to be a part of Intermedia.

- I am now a part of the Line Machine blog. It's put together by Josh Wallaert, whose Webster's Daily blog (finding poetics in the dictionary) I have long admired, and Line Machine is doing something similar to what I had been doing in Collectanea, which I failed to keep up with. Anyway, I believe my first post is going up tomorrow, which is fun. A little Wanderlust. I love the idea of community reading--a choral reading, a sharing of what is on the page, a celebration of the art of language.

- My photo from last summer was put on the Shutter Sisters daily click a while back, and a few weeks ago the collective invited it to be a part of a book they are publishing. It's odd to think of a photograph of mine being in a book, but there you are. Granted, it's a blurb book, but nonetheless, the Shutter Sisters are a talented bunch with a solid following. I'm pretty pleased.

This weekend will be spent quietly: Kleenex, some potpourri boiling on the stove (I had forgotten how good cloves and cinnamon smell!), a good book propped in our laps. Cold season is descending; autumn is in full bloom here. Stout carrots are coming out of the garden and raspberries are awaiting transformation with instructional jam recipes.