Thursday, February 26, 2009

232: Bill Holm, 1943-2009

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

This image is gorgeous, I think. What a beautiful portrait and the colors, so rich, the backdrop so important to what I've learned was key in Bill Holm's work, that sense of place and culture.

I picked up his book Playing the Black Piano on a trip to the Minnesota Center for the Book Arts, curious of what else Eireann's publisher has put out.

There are many tributes up on the internet:

- Star Tribune

Holm wrote his drafts in longhand on yellow note pads, and because Buchwald could not decipher his handwriting, he hired a typist to transcribe them. "I would give him written comments, and he would give his rebuttal. He was never tactful, but that's all right," Buchwald said. "He was forthright. He never turned down a comment or suggestion that he felt might genuinely help the book along."

Holm taught for 27 years at Southwest Minnesota State University at Marshall. "Boxelder Bug Variations" came about because of an assignment he gave his students, who complained that they had nothing to write about, out there on the prairie. "He told them, 'That's ridiculous! You can write about anything!'" Buchwald said. "A boxelder bug was crawling across his desk, and he said, 'You can write about this!' And he gave them that assignment. And then he gave it to himself."

- Marshall Independent

While Holm wrote his works, it was often Sandy Mosch, a long-time SMSU administrative assistant in the English department, who typed them because Holm did not use a computer.

Mosch said she typed Holm's books and poems for many years.

"He wrote them in longhand," she said.


Holm was an occasional guest on A Prairie Home Companion radio show on American Public Media. The program's host, Garrison Keillor, called Holm a great man.

"And unlike most great men, he really looked like one. 6 foot 8 inches, big frame, and a big white beard and a shock of white hair, a booming voice, so he loomed over you like a prophet and a preacher, which is what he was," said Keillor.

"I wish I'd been there to catch him as he fell," Keillor continued. "I hope his Icelandic ancestors are waiting to welcome him to their rocky corner of heaven. I hope his piano goes to someone who will love it as much as he did. I hope that people all across Minnesota will pick up one of his books and see what the man had to say."

- Guernica


Monday, February 23, 2009

231: up memorial bluff

Yesterday we took the dogs up Memorial Bluff, which is closed to traffic in the winter months.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Sometimes it's all about what it's not about.

I think back to Thursday, and I want to say thank you: Greg for having me, and for coming: Ryan and Kelly and Christian, Lane and Angie, Emily and Chris, Colleen and Amanda and David and Michelle, Eireann and ZCLC, Mike and Jenny O, Hannah and Rachel, so many good friends, old friends and new, who came and sat there, listening, and how full that can make someone feel, those dopey bleary-eyed moments of happiness when you know, maybe, maybe, maybe it's all going to be all right.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

229: baby's first poetry reading

I promise, I was listening, but this darling kept distracting me with his disarming smile. I had to resist pulling him up into my arms and squeezing him close. This boy has me fully enamored.

So this weekend, I owe:

- Some semblance of thoughts regarding AWP.
- Some semblance of thoughts regarding tonight's poetry reading, which somehow involved me.
- Readings: arty porn, mixed metaphors, and better essays than mine.
- Grading forty-four "mini essays," as I've been calling them.
- Critiquing two better essays than mine.
- Preparing for "poetry group," a kind of book club we've formed for (five of us) poetry MFAs.
- Finishing the less better essay, after struggling this week.
- Sleep.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Not Only the Eskimos
by Liesel Mueller
from Alive Together

We have only one noun
but as many different kinds:

the grainy snow of the Puritans
and snow of soft, fat flakes,

guerrilla snow, which comes in the night
and changes the world by morning,

rabbinical snow, a permanent skullcap
on the highest mountains,

snow that blows in like the Lone Ranger,
riding hard from out of the West,

surreal snow in the Dakotas,
when you can't find your house, your street,
though you are not in a dream
or a science-fiction movie,

snow that tastes good to the sun
when it licks black tree limbs,
leaving us only one white stripe,
a replica of a skunk,

unbelievable snows:
the blizzard that strikes on the tenth of April,
the false snow before Indian summer,
the Big Snow on Mozart's birthday,
when Chicago became the Elysian Fields
and strangers spoke to each other,

paper snow, cut and taped,
to the inside of grade-school windows,

in an old tale, the snow
that covers a nest of strawberries,
small hearts, ripe and sweet,
the special snow that goes with Christmas,
whether it falls or not,

the Russian snow we remember
along with the warmth and smell of furs,
though we have never traveled
to Russia or worn furs,

Villon's snows of yesteryear,
lost with ladies gone out like matches,
the snow in Joyce's "The Dead,"
the silent, secret snow
in a story by Conrad Aiken,
which is the snow of first love,

the snowfall between the child
and the spacewoman on TV,

snow as idea of whiteness,
as in snowdrop, snow goose, snowball bush,

the snow that puts stars in your hair,
and your hair, which has turned to snow,

the snow Elinor Wylie walked in
in velvet shoes,

the snow before her footprints
and the snow after,

the snow in the back of our heads,
whiter than white, which has to do
with childhood again each year.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Hello all:

I have a few poems and an image up on this month's issue of This Joy + Ride. Stop by and check it out! The poems are from a series I've been working on related to loss and memory based on my grandfather's suffering and subsequent passing from Alzheimer's.

In conjunction, I've put some new postcards in the shop; proceeds from this postcards will be donated to an Alzheimer's organization of my grandmother's choosing. They're some of my favorite images I took from Ryan and my one year wedding anniversary visit we made to my grandmother; this lake also figures into the series, though maybe only a little in the poems on Shari and Sheri's webpage.

Also, don't forget: I have a poetry reading this Thursday with Greg Watson at Barnes and Noble Har Mar (that's Roseville). Seven o'clock, and if things haven't changed, in the "events corner," which is to the back and left if you are entering from the street.

My friend Meryl, who is a second year poet in the program, told me about the phrase "in the weeds" while we were waiting for a table at a good Asian restaurant in Chicago on Saturday. (Wow. Lots of prepositions there.... while, for, at, in, on.) She said this is a term common in the food service industry--that a waitress juggles several steps ahead, all timing what might be ready in the kitchen or the bar or what the customers might be ready for, and when there's a moment of passing maximum capacity, of being fully overwhelmed and unable to track what to do next, then that person is "in the weeds." (This makes me think of Jonah's "messing up my swing" metaphor. I'm loving these phrases to connect our lives to that over other professions.)

My friends, I am, indeed, in the weeds. The Palm Beach Poetry Festival set me up to be behind by a week, but I caught up, much to my insanity, and then this AWP convention occurred, so I am again, slightly behind, and when I returned, I received another jury duty summons, this one I won't get out of (does it stop if you finally show up for a tour of the courthouse?)--it's supposed to be over April 5th, and I do want to do my civic duty, but most of all, I want to be a good student who can take advantage of this time in the MFA program, and that won't happen if I'm flitting around the country or deciding the justifying of small complaints.

I have a feeling I'd still be strung out and jittery without these setbacks: my semester is more demanding this time around. Teaching a lit class means keeping up with reading, and the way I set up my twenty pages of writing for these forty four students means I'm grading a mini-essay a week (silly me, thinking of the benefit of regular writing practice would help them become better writers, but this is such a time-suck). Taking two seminars, one of which has us reading fairly dense (non-poetry) things, and the other has us regularly writing reflections and large creative non-fiction pieces. Busy. Busy. Three days on campus, but seven days a week at work in some way.

(And the reviews! I have reviews I need to write!)

My friends, my friends, I am in the weeds, which means I will make humble attempts at being quiet here. I've never been truly able to restrain myself, but the hope is that I will.

In the meantime, buy some postcards.



All from Esquire. (Also: Weird. And: Do all U of MN poetry graduates get a weird such as this?)

December 25, 2008, 6:00 AM

The Meaning of Life Meets Winter Style

Buzz up!

For the seven men in this portfolio, the meaning of life isn't something they kick around in their spare time. It's their job to make sense of the world and make us laugh, think, and question our way to a little bit of wisdom and, over the following pages, anyway, a sharp sense of winter style.


Poet, author of Hallelujah Blackout, At Last Unfolding Congo, and the following poem written for Esquire on the meaning of life:

"Being Here"

Listless blight, safe words, every little
Sound in the night is a gasp -- bonetip

Blossoming through skin. It's no Bull, man. Anymore, we're all


& afraid to pull these faces off.
Maple leaves & plastic bags summersault

Through the park. One cloud
Grips the moon. Call me anything

Before morning comes, little lover, Because it's true & doesn't

fucking matter.

Kill the lights. Feel the burn. Rev yourself
Up & sing along with the good thrum

Found in everything. Hang around
Until the end. Melt my ashes on your tongue.

Double-breasted wool peacoat ($945) by Emporio Armani;

cashmere sweater ($865) by Malo; cotton shirt ($245) by

Armani Collezioni; stainless-steel Portuguese Chrono-Automatic

watch with crocodile strap ($6,800) by IWC; glasses ($375) by

Tom Ford.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

225: AWP, Day 3

Top to bottom: Carolyn Forche + Nick Flynn, Nick Flynn, Carolyn Forche, Donald Hall, Honor Moore

Switching Hats: When Poets Write Memoir. (Alison Granucci, Nick Flynn, Carolyn Forché, Honor Moore, Donald Hall) These renowned writers traverse both in the genre of poetry and creative nonfiction. When poets write memoirs, with voices both similar and different to those in their poems, they go deeper into the narrative thread, remembering and telling, using the memoir as different mode of travel through the creative terrain. Please join us on a journey through faith and sexuality, race and addiction, and testimonies from war prisoners in this celebration of courage and versatility.

Top to Bottom: Rachel Zucker, Carl Phillips, Erin Belieu

Beyond The Song of Oneself: The Intersection of the Personal and the Public in Poetry. (D. A. Powell, Erin Belieu, Rachel Zucker, Carl Phillips, Josh Bell) " can anyone be more amusing than oneself/how can anyone fail to be"—Frank O'Hara. One of the chief difficulties in writing personal lyric poetry is the construction of a self who acts as speaker, participant, and/or eye of the poem. How does the intensely personal exist in a public space, and what are the strategies for translating the personal into the universal? How does the poet invite the reader to inhabit or share the consciousness of the self presented in the poem, whether through first-person or through some other version of a self. Is poetry by nature a solipsistic art, regardless of pronouns—and, if so, is there a set of methods by which that emphasis upon the poet's life is mitigated, challenged or out-maneuvered? Five contemporary poets of various aesthetics read from their work and discuss the ways in which they grapple with the problematic relationship between the consciousness of the poem and the mind of the poet.

Top to Bottom: Tony Hoagland, Sophie Cabot Black, Tree Swenson, Elise Paschen, Victoria Redel, Marie Howe

Tribute to Jason Shinder. (Tony Hoagland, Marie Howe, Sophie Cabot Black, Victoria Redel, Tree Swenson, Elise Paschen) Jason Shinder was a tremendous force for poetry, through his own deeply-felt art and his passionate support for the art of others. This reading by Jason's friends and fellow poets pays tribute to his humor, to his poetry, to his enduring spirit, and to his life.

Again, so much over-stimulation, but I knew it would happen. I tried to limit myself to three panels today, but still, my brain bubbles over: poets whose work I obviously need to explore, considering the self within a work of poetry, and the giddy high of meeting some fabulous writers (Donald Hall!) and being called "my Molly" by Carolyn Forche and told I need to send her some poems (eep).

Each night I've been here, my mind pin-balls through all kinds of thoughts: the cleaning of our backyard, missing the pups and Ryan, points brought up in the panels, getting my books to my car, paying for the hotel, reading student essays, reading books for the class I'm teaching, reading the books for the classes I'm taking, writing my literary journalism piece (on Alzheimer's, I have decided), the people I've met, the emails I need to send, the poems I want to read, the poems I want to write.

And yes, more images here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

224: AWP, Day 2

Top: Paul Muldoon + Major Jackson; Bottom: Marie Ponsot

The Duty of a Writer.
(Jackson Taylor, Marie Ponsot, Paul Muldoon, Sapphire, Major Jackson) In America, we legitimize a creative writer by noting commercial success—but what is often left unnoticed is that the creative writer performs a very important job in society—the recording of truth as he or she sees it. With truth, the writer hopes to engage the conscience of people—and perhaps get them to ask their own questions. William Blake weighed out that without contraries there is no progression—and one of the duties a writer performs is to present contraries—questioning authority in order to discern that which is ethical and legitimate. This panel will explore the duty of the writer, particularly from the perspective of a student, discuss the potential for literature to affect social change, ask if literature is an alternative to consumer culture, and explore why so many writers find their way into exile.

Top: Valzhyna Mort; Bottom: Kwame Dawes

Poetry of Resilience.
(Alison Granucci, Kwame Dawes, Katja Esson, Valzhyna Mort, Brian Turner) From prison life to the war in Iraq to global acts of violence and suppression against human beings, poetry has been used to speak out and to help transform traumatic events. Through their poems and narratives these extraordinary poets take us to the hearts of these events—a young Belarusian challenges a forbidden language, the ghosts of American soldiers in Balad still speak, and we are allowed a glimpse of the inner lives of inmates. With their verse they unveil the sublimation in poetry. With their unflinching accounts they remind us how frail the human spirit is, and how astounding.

Top: Marilynne Robinson, Middle: Bharati Mukherjee, Bottom: Aleksandar Hemon

The National Book Critics Circle and the Chicago Tribune Celebrate NBCC Fiction Award Winners and Finalists.
(Jane Ciabattari, Marilynne Robinson, Aleksandar Hemon, Bharati Mukherjee, Elizabeth Taylor) The National Book Critics Circle and the Chicago Tribune host a fiction reading by National Book Critics Circle Award Winners and Finalists Marilynne Robinson (Winner for Gilead), Bharati Mukherjee (Winner for The Middleman & Other Stories), and Aleksandar Hemon (finalist for Nowhere Man). Hosted by NBCC President Jane Ciabattari, welcome by Elizabeth Taylor, Literary Editor, Chicago Tribune.

Top to Bottom: Ada Limon, Wayne Miller, Alex Lemon, Eireann Lorsung, Melissa Kwasny

Milkweed Editions Poetry Reading. (Wayne Miller, Eireann Lorsung, Alex Lemon, Melissa Kwasny, Ada Limon, James Cihlar) This reading features new work by five distinctive poets—Ada Limon, Melissa Kwasny, Alex Lemon, Eireann Lorsung, and Wayne Miller—all recently published by Milkweed Editions, one of the largest literary nonprofit publishers in the country. Commemorating Milkweed's twenty-fifth anniversary as a book publisher, this event is an exciting opportunity to discover innovative work. Moderated by Wayne Miller, author of The Book of Props and editor of Pleaides.

More AWP here.

Still, so much, so overwhelmed. Spent too much time (and indeed, too much money) in the booths, more thick essays on poetry books. Went to four panels back-to-back and now I know what they meant, those giving advice to us first-years, about pacing and spacing and breathing. I'm thinking about what it means to really push in poetry, but also about self-confidence, and self-awareness, and giving yourself the freedom. (How is it that entrance into an MFA program has riddled me with so much self doubt?) Thinking about Marie Ponsot and how she said that noticing things is the cure for boredom. Thinking about cracking open language and all the slim volumes I have now, in translation, and especially of Valzhyna Mort's work. Thinking about a context for my own work, a context for myself, but mostly, right now, about sleep. Wishing I didn't have to read for school tonight.