Thursday, April 29, 2010


(click on above image to enlarge)

Still buried under the desperation of the waning days of the semester, but it seems fair to pause a moment to let you know about an amazing opportunity to both help fundraise for a family to put together a accessible bathroom for their six-year-old son (who looks like quite the charmer!) and to put your name in the hat for some amazing artwork from some of my absolute favorite letterpress artists, fiber artists, and on. The link to all the items in the giveaway is here; the donation buttons are in the sidebar.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


This is the time of the school year when I do a little flutter kick, make a feeble attempt at keeping my head above water. In my high school swim team days, we used to paddle out to the deep end, hold our flat palms shoulder-height and kicked to keep afloat. This, my friends, is precisely how the last two weeks of the semester feel: today I picked up a heavy stack of research essays to grade and did a limping-along presentation on zuihitsu. Tomorrow I grade, I make phone calls for various medical procedures (I have an HSG in my future; Penelope needs to see a surgeon; Ryan even has a doctor's appointment I apparently will have to make), submit my chapbook to a few presses whose deadlines are fast approaching, consider a final paper, work on putting together a first rough draft of that vague thesis... And breathe in, and breathe out.

I signed up for autumn classes: thesis credits with Trish, thesis seminar, workshop, and a class in the Classical & Near Eastern Studies department on the classical epic in translation, which should fulfill my "related fields" requirement. It's certainly an overload, but my final semester would be incredibly smooth sailing. The coursework and teaching (intro to poetry) will be spread over the five days of the week, with only one extra-long campus day.

In honor of the zuihitsu, but in a more blog-conscious format:

On my bedside table: Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
Just finishing watching: Carnivale (season 2, disc 5)
Blooming in our yard: a single red tulip, the zestar apple tree, our two crabapple trees
Listening to on my commute: The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
Which makes me want to re-read: "Leda and the Swan" (see below)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I can't believe this, but there are only 2 1/2 weeks left in the semester, followed by my favorite week of the school year, thesis defense week. I love the freedom that hangs in the air--it's also exam week, but at this point, all of my own essays and collections of poems should be turned in, and grades will be complete. The air will be fresh, and I can sit back and watch as my colleagues in year three celebrate their accomplishments, two hour parcels of reading and discussing, the windows in Lind flung open, students sprawled across the mall's lawn, the voice of poetry floating in the sun.

The trees are exhausted with blossoms. If all the bunches on our apple tree became fruit, the tree would sink to its knees.

I've started a little life list to remind me of all the things I want to do before I conk off. I've only just started it, and it's good for me to let it all percolate, let me decide exactly what it is that I want to do with this one wild and precious life.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

454: garden before

Finally, one of our favorite wedding gifts from one of our favorite people finds a home. I can't wait to see who else finds a home here.

We haven't steeped anything in the dirt yet, but the dirt is already given us things: the strawberry plants have survived a winter of dog tromping and snow packing, and there is a small swath where the sunflower seeds have produced an incomprehensible tangled gathering. I'm so awful at thinning the seeds: does anyone nearby want some brilliant sunflower plants? We are, after all, known in the neighborhood for our ridiculously tall blossoms.

There is much to do in the dirt this year, and I find myself vowing to be better at weeding, but I have to be honest with myself; it's not likely to happen. For now, Ryan has been better than me: he's been responsible for our first mowing of the season, and while he is on his Sunday call to his parents, he weeds clumps of grass and sorrel, and I think of the bigger, angrier weeds that are to come.

Monday, April 19, 2010

453: first hay creek of 2010

What perhaps makes me the most sad is that this short trip took Penelope out of commission for the weekend (yesterday, Ryan took Z to the bluff in an attempt to calm him before book club; it worked... sort of). Her limp is becoming more pronounced, and I think it's time to call the surgeon.

But to watch these two romping through the creek is such a gift. The delight!

Oh, and I am amused that I caught the very moment when Penny lost her collar in the creek. Gone, gone, a little sacrifice to the water gods.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

452: bookclub

Tonight, a quiet evening with a good group of girl friends, where we discussed Flow, which is up available on bookswap, and I learned a good handful of scintillating facts regarding that monthly, which I still think can provide great moments of embarrassment and disgust, as the book hoped to convince me otherwise, and I do think my body-bookclub-book my heart belongs to is Woman: An Intimate Geography. So good.

Our book club has expanded in the past few months; for a while it was just me and Angie and Emily holding down the fort, but Chris rejoined, and Meryl folded herself in, bringing her sister (who has "popped!"--and is due in July) Casey along. It's a good six, and I adore these girls a great deal. (Now, if we could only convince that Kelly to join again...)

Happy Sunday evening. Night sounds of laundry and crickets, watching a recorded episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, trying to finish a young adult novel version of Emily Dickinson's life.

Friday, April 16, 2010

451: artwords

Brian Gebhart, first place: "Offering"

Brian Laidlaw, second place: "The Mountaineer Encounters a Coast."

me, third place: "In Geography" (which is going to get a good, scrubbing edit soon)

Alex Grant: "I Have Seen the Plight of the Dinner Bird"

An extra-special, very big thank you goes out to three of my favorite girl friends, who took time out of their chaotic days to do a little cheering. It means so much. ♥

Thursday, April 15, 2010

450: awp, denver, 2010

It snowed on our way down, that thick clumpy sort, the kind that belongs to December drives into Wisconsin. We made it through the night, sleeping in shifts, our backs curled against windows and doors and arrived as the sun did, our hotel generously allowing us into our room so we could continue our night's sleep.

Day one was: exploring the conference hall, falling in love with big blue polar bears, registering, finding a Chipotle, picking up friends at the airport, delivering boxes of dislocate issues, going to Casa Bonita to watch the "cliff" divers and eat the most plastic Mexican food money can buy, (oh Velveeta and bellow-gut).

Day two: two morning shifts at the dislocate booth, a visitation on a panel on the politics of birth and motherhood, a tour of the book floor and a heavy bag to bring home, a visit to Bull and Bush brewery (we have since fallen in love with avocado in all its wonderful forms), and an evening reading where I surreptitiously took a photograph of audience member Anne Waldman.

Ryan and the boys went to play pool, where they met a woman they called "Shalom," who stumbled and ordered four more whiskeys, who tried to distract Dan by shouting, "Blow you, Dave!" The rest of the weekend and later, on one another's Facebook pages, we've written that, or the alternative: "I'm an elk!" responded with "I'm a sasquatch!" in imitation of Ryan's adorable summation of Mike's Idaho woods story. There are hand gestures too, if you must know, so if you tell me that you are an elk, then I will expect the Rudolf antler-thing, and if you tell me that you are a sasquatch, I'll expect you to more be imitating an T-rex.

Day three: Today was meant to be a nine am to midnight sprint through panels and readings with only fifteen minutes between each block, no room for even dinner, but I woke up feeling so flatteningly unwell I had to wait, to hibernate, to pause and have a true breakfast, and when I finally did emerge from my cocoon of unrest, I attended a reading and interview of Rita Dove and I feel instantly in love. My notes, translated:

- Dove was a professionally trained cellist.
- She watched
Immortal Beloved and noticed an African American standing in the background of one scene. A search later and she discovered George Bridgetower.

Q regarding connections of Bridgetower and Beulah.
- Dove didn't think of Beulah at the time. She stated that the work reveals more about the person at the time--often more autobiography than autobiography (as well all lie).
- "I feel like when I was writing these poems, it was me. Or the line between us--there was no difference.

Q regarding expectations placed upon her because she is African-American, writing through the Black Arts movement--interviewer states we are in a post-racial society
- Spoke of
American Smooth (which is a type of ballroom dancing), another established poet told interviewer "no one wants to read a poem about ballroom dancing"
- "It's facetious to say we don't notice the difference, but we need to get rid of that fear."

Q What's at stake when we craft toward audience? Need to understand context--poems that could only be written by a woman, someone who is black, etc.
- "Yes, OK--" and poems that only someone who knows music or the streets of Vienna. The experience of writing from what you know. But--then you need to explain if you are not in the majority. So how much do you want to explain to the audience? The key is to make the words so crucial that those who know, will nod and those that don't, will think it's beautiful. It's also the case with historical novels, etc., but because race and gender are so fraught with guilt and anger, it becomes complicated. You have to realize, without rancor, that if you want to send your work into the mainstream, it's something you need to consider.

Q regarding the value of the MFA
- remarkable validation
- apprenticeship
- learning how your voices stretch, not a time for you to polish but to make things ragged because it's the last free time you've got--
- people's need for approval
- what does being on top matter if you don't like what you are writing? priority is to be satisfied with your own writing
- (Also "the worst time in her life--Sorry, Iowa!")

Last Q: Life after the MFA. Many awards, etc. How do you feel about the prize systems right now? (recognition or replication) Dove is rarely a judge.
- will boost jobs and publications
- all contests look for remarkable work
- contests are a business
- concern for younger writers who write toward the prize and not writing the work that they need to write
- always asks to see all the manuscripts--discovered top 25 in some contests were all uniform--asked to see more

(note: Rita Dove bits are cross-posted on my joint blog, in conversation)

We went to Wynkoop, had Patty's Chile Beer, vegetarian chili and vegan "chicken" wraps, gazed out over the hall filled with pool tables.

Day four: Perhaps the sweetest moment of this day was when my friend Amanda came back to our hotel room, hopping around after getting her books signed by various poets she adores. Dinner was an Italian restaurant Mike found: mushroom ravioli and a pair of raspberry lemonades (with vodka).

Day five: Our long drive begins after we return to the Rocky Mountain Diner. I've had a bad morning; my sour attitude is something I regret, though it flashed and was gone by the evening, with me dancing in my seat, listening to music late into the night as I drove across Nebraska, Iowa, the bit of Minnesota that belongs to us.

My AWP set of photographs is so humble this year in comparison to last, but the full set is here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

449: still thinking about him.

Two months ago today, Callen Fuchs, a former student of mine, passed away when snowboarding in Michigan. He continues to linger, in the best of ways, reminding me to be a better person, to find joy in the everyday, to celebrate life, to live in a way that honors that bright spirit.

I am moved by this sweet post by his sister on his one-month anniversary of leaving this earth. (Is this what most middle-school age boys are like? I don't think so.)

Thinking of the vast span of people Callen touched, those who are mourning his passing, those finding ways to honor and celebrate and cope too.

(Much of my original nattering about Callen occurred in this month.)

Photos gleaned from Facebook page honoring Callen's life.

Monday, April 12, 2010

448: my new anthem

Apologies to my companions in the car last night: we drove home from Denver, and at some point, in the wee hours, both my husband and my dear friend were snoozing away, and, lonely in the middle of Iowa, I repeated this one, boogeying in my seat, keeping myself awake as we rolled into Minnesota at 2:22 and got to our home by five in the morning.

I will share thoughts and notes from AWP soon. For now, I turn to student essays, errands for cat litter, and a visit to the kennel in the country where our pups have been residing.

Tomorrow night: I read my poem "In Geography" at the Weisman Art Museum; it took third place in the ArtWords contest.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

447: weekend, part v (the last, the marathon)

Day 1: stopping in Winona for a picnic, onigiri and edamame and fruit for lunch, watching lightning streak across the bluffs, creeping over the train tracks and walking along the Mississippi, discovering rail ties and picked-clean bones, flattening pennies on the tracks. Writing together in slender notebooks.

Day 2: National Wildlife Refuge, where we saw spotted buffleheads, deer, a turtle, swallows, river rats, and on. Trempealeau Hotel, where we ate walnut concoctions and listened to live music. At night, we played Scategories and now will giggle at the phrase "mocha puffs."

Day 3: The girls went on a hike at Parrot State Park, my stomach blurred and I remained behind, napping and reading a bad novel. However, this video makes me feel as if I were just there, with them.

The weekend itself was brilliant,