Monday, December 29, 2014

May the next year bring
recognition of the possibilities
in familiar settings
and the surprise
of the familiar
in unexpected settings.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Message from the deep

There's nothing quite like a fine big fish in your doctor's waiting room to keep you from worrying while you're waiting for your appointment. This particular fish has been there for years. He spurns some people but always comes over to the glass for us.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Hot damn! another Pushcart nomination

Thank you Savvy Thorne and everyone else at Conclave: A Journal of Character ( for nominating my poem, "Our Lady of the Red Potatoes", for the 2016 Pushcart Prize. I'd been working on this poem for six years, and submitting it along the way without landing anywhere. Couldn't give up on it, though.

For those who don't know about Pushcart, or who wish to know more, here is their website:

Our Lady of the Red Potatoes 

Our Lady of the Red Potatoes
has set her altar on a city bench.
She hunches small. No star-blue mantle
shielding her from winter light.
Hunger-thin and gray, not old,
in Rhino Records’ parking lot she calls
Red potatoes, red, six for a dollar.

Her eyes squeeze shut. I watch
her roughened hands
read each potato’s face.
She listens for their low voices.
Her hands receive the messages
her gods have scrawled there.
Behold, she hands to me
six red potatoes, red, six for a dollar,
thin-skinned potatoes bigger than my fist.

I rasp potato peel, twirl out their eyes,
prepare to receive the mystic meal
of red potatoes, red, six for a dollar.
No healing or redemption from our lady,
just nature’s artless poison, pure green gift
of alkaloids, red potatoes green as glass.
They are fallen from the earth into the light,
sun-stroked like their lady.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Rosewater: the most dangerous profession

We just saw this film, written and directed by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show. It is hard on the system but worth the distress, and very much worth seeing. This is the only film I can remember since "Z" that shows the risks journalists routinely suffer. Did you know that, proportionally, more journalists die while working than any other profession or line of work? If you are not upset to know this fact, you should be.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Neon in a strip mall

The only remaining business in a strip mall. It's a good Thai restaurant, and we've been going there for 30 years.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

More reasons why it is a good idea to go out to lunch, or, Seriously

 As usual, I fervently guarantee that I overheard all of the below. I take notes fast!
When I came home after a bad day, I’d just go straight through the house and start whaling on a 200-pound bag of kitty litter. That’s my punching bag. Kitty litter all over the patio. I had a serious body then, and my roommate would say, Hey man, don’t lose your temper, and I’d say, I’m doing this so I don’t lose my temper, ‘cause you wouldn’t want to be around that, no, wouldn’t be so pretty. I was in a bar minding my own business, and this guy says, I don’t like you, and I say Okay, have a nice day and the guy says No, you don’t understand:  I DON’T LIKE YOU. Okay, what do you want to do about it? And the guy says, Let’s go outside.  Okaa-ay, I say, so I gets up and WHAM I break a beer mug over the guy’s head. Bartender says, Seriously that’s pretty cool. Now I don’t know if it’s the right thing or not but I want to explain to these guys what’s what. That thing yesterday, I couldn’t have walked away like that. I was way too upset about the whole thing. I can’t even get any further into it without sounding so insincere it wouldn’t have made no sense at all. All I could have said was, Gonna rip your freakin’ face off and disappear.

 Now my son’s a good kid, a real hard worker, but the boy’s seriously left-handed, doesn’t read too much. I read over 1500 words per minute, but I just wasn’t into the terminology. I opened for Jimmy Buffett when Jimmy opened for Neil Sedaka. Jimmy wasn’t taking it too seriously. He came off the stage and said, Why don’t you go back on for me?           But they expect you, I said. Nah, they didn’t pay me enough. You go on. So I did and the audience loved it, and I stayed until 4 a.m.

Now I got a lot of pets, but my cat Fluffy, she’s the bomb. Say Fluffy comes up for attention. She wants her head scratched. I tell her I gotta go to work, somebody’s gotta pay the bills around here, but Fluffy don’t care. You don’t do what she wants, she bites. Try to ignore her, she bites. Sharp teeth too. Seriously. She loves those little raspberry chocolate squares. Chocolate’s not good for cats, but somebody forgot to tell Fluffy.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Dangling Participles R Us

Shame, Lev Grossman and all your editors, shame shame! Your second book in the Magicians series, The Magician King, leads off with the following sentence:

"Quentin rode a gray horse with white socks named Dauntless."


I always name my socks too. Mine are called Clueless and Feckless.

I grant that it is a hard sentence to fix:  Quentin rode Dauntless, a gray horse with white socks? Dauntless Quentin wore white socks and rode a gray horse? Quentin rode a gray horse with white socks; the horse's name was Dauntless? Still and yet, even if it meant reshaping the entire paragraph, there must be some way around that misplaced modifier.

Enjoy the above grammarly griefs. Those who displayed them should have known better. Btw, the middle photo shows marshmallow-flavored jellybeans.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Action at a distance, or, Dr. Bob moves in mysterious ways, part 2


Dr. Bob continues to move in mysterious ways. I have been assembling a book-length manuscript, and I believe that it is at last ready to go out into the (publishing) world. However! when I went to  put the finishing touches on it, I found that I could not get Word to paginate. I tried the proper way some five or six times, and I came up with some work-arounds, and nothing worked. I even considered typing in the page numbers by hand, but decided that if I changed the order of poems, I would be typing and confirming page numbers for a long long time.

So, I called our resident computer guy, Dr. Bob Payne. Dr. Bob not only graduated from Microsoft U., he wrote the manuals at Microsoft U. He knows the godforsaken ways of the Microsoft. Dr. Bob asked me to talk him through another attempt at pagination. OK. I narrated, "Clicking on Insert. Clicking on Page Numbering. Selecting Bottom, option 3." All this in the tone of voice I use when I am resolutely remaining reasonable despite great provocation. And, may I be damned if the pagination did not take, at last. Yes, all Dr. Bob had to do was listen to me select the commands, and my document was healed. Truly, the man has god-like powers.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Tomatoes in poetry

At the Claremont Public Library poetry reading today, from Krista Lukas:

I was up early today wondering which to describe,

the fruits or the mold. I kept a bowl of tomatoes

 so I could write about them as they rotted.

from "Patio Tomatoes" in Rattle

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Why must the dog die?

A teacher friend told me a story from her new classroom. She likes to read to the kids after lunch, a soothing practice, and started by holding up the book she had intended to start with. The cover showed a dog and a boy. Now:  by this time, she has some impressions of which kids are going to take which roles in the classroom society. The kid who had looked as though he would be the sullen tough guy puts his head down on his desk and starts to cry. “What is it?” she asked him. “It has a dog in it,” he sobbed, “and the dog always dies.” She bethought the many children’s books with dogs in them—and the adult books too—and she put down the book and told him, “I think we’ll read something else.” Budding lit student, he’s right. The dog always dies. Someone, find another plot device and let the dog live!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014


The latest easily-foreseeable gun death in the United States took place in Arizona at a family-targeted (pun intended) facility called “Burgers and Bullets.” The idea, I suppose, is that families, adults and their children, would spend the day out in the open eating kid-friendly food and having a wonderful time learning to shoot guns. I read about this in the Los Angeles Times, saw references to it also in the New York Times and the Guardian.

Apparently the fond parents shot a video of their 9-year-old daughter having her first encounter with an Uzi. An Uzi. An instructor had set her up with protective ear mufflers, and can be heard encouraging her enthusiastically after her first single shot. He warns her about the recoil from a repeated-shot firing of the Uzi. Some people, like me, might say that he can warn her all he likes, because 1) she’s only 9, so probably won’t quite understand what ‘recoil’ is, and 2) she’s only 9, and won’t be strong enough to manage the recoil.

My husband was drafted into the Army and sent over to Korea. He tells me that he and the other soldiers (young men in their late teens and early twenties) were all astounded by the power of the recoil from their repeat-fire automatic weapons, and needed to practice bracing against it when shooting. (FYI, he could read and write, and volunteered for company clerk, thus getting pulled from the front lines, protecting his life and taking him out of the position of trying to kill others.)

So, the instructor warns the 9-year-old girl, hands her the Uzi, shows her how to fire. Predictably and horribly, the barrel of the gun arcs up as the recoil pushes the girl back, and the instructor is shot in the head. Mercifully, the video stops before that point. I am utterly at a loss for an adequate comment on this event, except to say that my friends in Europe will no doubt learn of this incident and think, once and yet again, “Are they nuts?”


Monday, August 4, 2014

It's a real poem

This poem received an Honorable Mention in the Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Poetry Contest (pant pant), and was published in Comstock Poetry Review earlier this year. And, since you can't find it on-line...

Real Poem
Open mike, she comes up to ask me, were those real poems, or did I just make them up. I confess:  I just make them up. Her look says I thought as much. So many years I have faked it, getting credit for stuff I just made up. What you are reading here, for instance. It's not a real poem, just one I made up. This poem did not come from a certified breeder, someone who could vouch for the pedigree of the parents. Nah, it's a mutt, a Heinz 57, a tabby-tortie-tiger-cat, maybe even missing a tail. At the computer it will not leave me alone. Make a real poem out of me, it hisses, prowling across the keyboard, make me a real poem. At my desk, I made a nest for it from my grandmother's shawl, the one she crocheted even before she married my grandfather the head baker of Lodz. The poem deliberately lies sprawled across the paper I'm trying to write on, or it swarms up my shoulder, then lodges under my chin. I can't even see what my hand is doing. Sometimes I try to write without looking, but my hands crawl a row up or a key over, and the whole thing transposes into code, spilling out and leaking onto the table, disappearing into the carpet. Sometimes I lose track of the lines and go right off the rails, maybe even over the edge. But when the poem is satisfied I am not ignoring it, it lets me write. It curls up in the shawl-nest and sleeps, breathing in quick little bursts, snoring tiny snores, feet twitching as it dreams.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Four Questions (nothing to do with Passover)--or--the nature of work

Women making dumplings to order
--right there, on the spot, before your eyes, not until you have placed your order--
at FFY Noodle House in Rowland Heights, California

A long-time poetry friend tagged me to post on this my blog my answers to four questions about my writing. As soon as I figure out how to access her blog I'll read her answers too. Here are mine:

1. What Are You Working On?
A book-length collection, The Book of Knots and Their Untying; three different sestinas that resist closure; poems about death; poems that are not about death.
2. How Does Your Work Differ From Others In Its Genre?
I keep bringing in the psychological angle. Actually, I don’t have to bring it in; it shows up as soon as I start thinking. Also, when I seem to be most ironic, then I am being most accurate and direct. Also also, I write a lot of sardonic sonnets and literary limericks.
3. Why Do You Write What You Write About?
I write about what I notice. I write about why I notice what I notice. I try to explain to myself why something is remarkable, or weird. I write to give voice to what we are not supposed to notice.
4. How Does Your Writing Process Work?
Sneakily, mostly. Kicks in at the last minute. Maybe I’ll circle around and around, returning to some draft for three years. Or write a sonnet in an hour. Or free-write, and return to it months later. Or play Minesweeper for an hour and then write what I was trying not to think about. Or I’ll achieve that semi-trance state in which I am following an imaginal thread, swinging and grabbing the next metaphorical vine, almost taking dictation, ignoring what seems to be a disjunctive image or thought and then swerving back to it and hearing it out. All the while ducking the voice that says, That’s not a real poem. Or telling it to shut up.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Have a nice day: weird quote of the week.

Blunderbuss Magazine @BlunderbussMag
Go outside. Read a book. It'll help distract you from the yawning maw of death that eventually swallows us all.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Update: Dr. Bob in da house, moving in mysterious ways

Dr. Bob arrived yesterday afternoon and sat down next to the computer. I booted up and opened the manuscript document. Before he had touched the keyboard, or even said anything, the document unlocked. We asked him if he'd be willing to attend our next family party.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Curse you, Microsoft Word 8.1!

I've been putting together a manuscript for a book-length collection of poems. This is the kind of fussy task that I find staggeringly difficult, also somewhat stupefying. Finding, inserting properly, not incorporating any unintentional commands--so many ways to go wrong. It is easier only than doing the same thing entirely by hand. THE PROBLEM is that, when you work virtually, your virtual collection is subject to the weirdnesses of MS shortcuts, those unhelpful intrusions that you didn't want in the first place. I worked over the weekend and had the document in shape to be printed out so I could work on the sequence of poems, something I can do only with the physical piece of paper laid out (or moved around) next to the other physical pieces of paper. I called up the document to print it out--had a new cartridge of ink and everything--and discovered that somehow I had 'locked' the document. 'Locked' means that I can make no changes. Actually, 'locked' means that I can't do anything at all with the document except read it on the monitor. Can't even print it out. We googled the problem and found it to be familiar to many folks. Unhappily, we found also that the proposed fixes were at best pointless, at worst incomprehensible. I called our computer guy, Dr. Bob, who wrote the manual used to train the folks at Microsoft U. Dr. Bob is in the middle of recovering from cataract surgery. Take your time, Dr. Bob, take all the time you need, and enjoy the recovered colors of our interesting world. And when you are recovered, call me and come over and free my poetry manuscript from its weird dimensional shift. Help me unscrew the inscrutable.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

When you have nervous energy, and cherries...

...the thing to do is to bake a cherry pie, from scratch, with sweet butter in the crust, and fresh pitted cherries. My reading is tomorrow, I've got everything ready, and I'd rather have my jitters in the kitchen where I will have something to show for it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

This Sunday, June 22 2014, at 2 pm, I read in the Fourth Sundays series at the Claremont Public Library

What it says. I'll be reading with the illustrious B.H. ("Pete") Fairchild, recipient of many awards, collaborator with many other illustrious writers. The H stands for "Harold", and is that not truly one of the best writers' names you have ever heard?? Herald (or Fair-haired, perhaps) Fair Child. I am merely Purified Green Tree. I am very pleased to have this gig so soon after the publication of Eggs Satori; it's a friendly bit of timing. Shout-out to Sammy Greenspan of Kattywompus Press. But back to Pete. My first thought was to pick out poems of mine that are in his style--I have a few. My swiftly-following second thought was that mine were likely not to measure to up his. My tentative but dawning third thought was that I might be better off not competing with Pete, as it were. There are poems and styles and modes I write that he does not. Why not play up my own strengths, rather than invite comparison to his? I mean, the guy's a master. He's been doing this since his teens. Seriously, I think his first collection was published when he was in his 20s. I've been writing all that time also, but not solely and steadily. My doctorate is not in Litt. I have not been apprentice of nor been mentored by sundry Great Twentieth Century Poets. As Martha Graham said, if I do not speak in my own voice, what I have to say will never be expressed in any other medium, and will be lost.

An example, soon to appear in Goreyesque:

Because of his hairline’s retreating,
old Ovid declaimed, Life is fleeting,
            but Art, she lasts long.
            This he put in a song,
and found it improved with repeating.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Bloomsday 2014

— I —    
Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him on the mild morning air.

He held the bowl aloft and intoned:
Introibo ad altare Dei.

Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called out coarsely:

—Come up, Kinch! Come up, you fearful jesuit!

* * *

. . .and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes
when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red
yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall
and I thought well as well him as another
and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes
and then he asked me would I yes to say yes
my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes
and drew him down to me
so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes
and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will

--courtesy of The Project Gutenberg EBook of Ulysses, by James Joyce

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Eggs Satori, my second poetry collection, is here.


Eggs Satori is finally published. The collection originally took an Honorable Mention (or was it Special Merit?) in Pudding House's 2010 chapbook contest. The publisher had a severe health crisis, and brought in her son to take on the chapbook end of things--and then he died, suddenly and unexpectedly. Pretty awful. After a few years, I sent my second collection, Burrowing Song, to Sammy Greenspan of Kattywompus Press. She picked it up and last year printed up a very handsome chapbook. Somewhere in correspondence I mentioned to her that I had another collection, though in limbo. "Let me take a look," she wrote graciously. I sent her the file, and she picked up that one too. Naturally, in the four intervening years, I had written more poems, and had stronger work to include, mealier work to delete. Sammy has brought this one into existence, featuring my photo below as cover art. In this regard (and no other) I am like Beethoven, whose First Symphony (first published and performed) was composed after his Second.

I would be charmed as hell to send you a copy. Like all Kattywompus publications, it is priced at $12. If you want a copy of Burrowing Song as well, you get a discount, two chapbooks for $20, such a deal. Just email me at with your address. I'll tell you how to go from there. I'll absorb shipping costs in the name of art. And eggs.

Below, one of the poems in this collection:

Exchange student’s ghazal

A Jewish girl, in love with old things German.
Opera, poetry, quartets for strings in German.

Streets of concrete cubes, all closed and locked.
What Kafka meant:  nothing mingles in German.

With tea or coffee, elaborate torte must be served.
For birthdays, flowers you must bring in German.

In the first warmth, all go outside bare-armed.
Shed boots and heavy coats. Spring in German.

We walked at dawn in North’s mild light.
Our little private summer fling in German.

We couldn’t understand what each one wanted.
We gave each other hurts and stings in German.

Oktoberfest.  Rivers of beer, brewery tents, ponds of piss.
Barmaids heft liter-steins and everybody sings in German.

Change your job?  Only for misfits.
No one has new wings in German.

I love you, care in vain.  Go where you are headed anyhow.
You need to live where you were born, to cling to German.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Verses and Flow, part 5: Tonya S. Ingram


Tonya S. Ingram gave her poem, "Unsolicited Advice to Skinny Girls Who Bite Their Fingernails," and she was fantastic. Excellent flow, sure, also great rhythm and emphasis and timing. And judicious use of repetition. She had the audience laughing, gasping, and nodding in recognition. I've invited her to read for Fourth Sundays at the Claremont Library sometime in 2015. Still waiting for you to settle on a month, Tonya. HINT.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Lexus Verses and Flow, part 4: the seating of the beautiful people

First of all:  Beautiful People. There were plenty of them. I wish I had been better advised about the more-or-less dress code, because I actually do have a Little Black Dress and black suede heels, and I would have loved to have been in them. It wasn't only the outfits, although there was plenty of style and flair, and a great deal of self-expression. No; these were exceptionally pretty people (youth helps, of course).

Second: the beautiful people got seated first, at the front. We, being friends/guests of the show-runner, got fine seats in the center towards the back. Thus, I was in a good position to watch the stage manager (who looked pretty swank herself, in a sort of 40s slinky dress and up-do) arrange the BPs the way I might arrange flowers in a bouquet. You, over there, take this table in front; you, no, you're too tall, change places with the girl behind you; you two with the great headdresses, you make a good accent right here. The woman in front got admonished not to set her purse on the table--it would have interfered with the candlelight, would have made the table look fussy instead of very very cool.

Third, they were taking no chances at all that the poets themselves might spoil the image. Here, unawares, some tech person is applying make-up to the next performer. Naturally, everyone is watching.

I had so much fun!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Verses and Flow, Part 3

So much gorgeous color! Elegant people, come to the Siren to hear something new and cool. The sound stage was set up like a jazz club, with little tables with lit candles. The pretty people got seated first (next posting will get to this, a bit.) Attendees indulged me considerable and permitted me to take photos when they had something going that caught my eye. (See above.) Once we were all in the sound stage, the MC--can't bring back his name, nor find it on Lexus Verses and Flow--was good at working the crowd and keeping an enthusiastic vibe going, but I don't think he really gets why someone would write and why someone else would want to hear what was written. Introducing the third poet, a soulful faculty member back East, the MC told how the poet had been in love with a girl in college. Deeply painfully pointlessly futilely in love, the poet had started writing poems to this girl.  I mean, this girl really must have been somethin' ,said our MC. Imagine a girl that makes a brothah want to go back to his room and sit down and write a poem. The audience listened politely, imagining this and evidently having no trouble doing so. Apparently this was supposed to have made us laugh, but no one laughed. OK, rallied the MC, that was the sound of a joke falling flat. Go back, he called out to the camera crew, and they re-taped the 'joke', the MC this time telling it so that it didn't sound like a misstep, and so that his recovery wasn't part of the show.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Verses and Flow, Part 2

Some living color at Verses and Flow. The pre-party was lavish, awash in violet light, fresh hors d'oeuvres, and instant ice cream. Liquid nitrogen freezes the mix in 9 seconds, no chance for crystals to form, so it's creamy. Also an open bar and mixed drinks, mostly aqua and turquoise. I could have got drunk on the colors alone. Speaking of which...

I wish someone had advised me of the dress code. Poetry events are usually pretty dressed-down, with maybe cool shoes (see above). However, these three young women were not the only ones who were dressed to express, and how they did shine. I actually just acquired a little black dress, so I could have risen to the occasion, had I but known. But seriously:  almost everyone there was highly put-together, men and women. A fair amount of posing in areas that looked to have been set up especially for that purpose, with draped backdrops, a dais, a spotlight. A gorgeous crowd.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Verses and Flow: Part 1

Lexus is in its fourth season of sponsoring a spoken-word show called Verses and Flow. I suppose it's an effort to make Lexus a cool and desirable brand among a young black urban audience. In any case, it's a terrific showcase for slam and spoken-word poets. We had the pleasure and privilege of being invited to attend the taping (spoiler alert:  No one in our party was in the demographic. We were variously, too old, too white, or both. Didn't matter). What a show! What excellent poets!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

AWP Seattle 2014, part 4: How to write a good bad review

That is to say, if you are reviewing something horrible, how do you say so in a way that makes someone want to read your review? The panel had several points to make, and illustrated them with marvelous devastating examples. Martin Amis on Norman Mailer:  "It is clear that this book was written by someone who must come up with $500,000 annually for alimony."

Of course funny is good, but you have to earn it. You must demonstrate (by your own example) that you can tell if something is well-written or not; you must claim some kind of standing, whether as a defender of literature or a disappointed reader of Regency romances; you must not kick lousy or novice writers, but only those who really should know better.

It reminded me of a similar problem that confronted me when I used to review restaurants for the Claremont Courier. I didn't want to kick a modest place when it was already down. In those instances I preferred not to review the place at all (unless the owner insisted--this happened, and they were never ever grateful for the feedback). I needed to show my cooking/eating chops by explaining what had been done wrong, and how it should have been done (e.g., frying pommes frites in a single step rather than in two steps). And damn, it had to be funny, or at least sly. Once I reviewed a sports bar called Heroes. I reviewed it in heroic couplets.

Iambic verse makes not a courtly ballad;
therefore, I sing you now of taco salad.

The whites and browns of food are here most seen,
the least, the bane of little boys:  the Green.
Lettuce, pickles:  these are not unnerving;
Do jalapeƱos (stuffed) count as a Serving?
Why "Heroes"? for no bravery's required
(unless, perhaps, your charge card has expired):
the offerings familiar, their sole daring
a surcharge charged if you're inclined to sharing.
Desserts are straight from Mom, who did not bake
this apple pie, nor yet this chocolate cake.
Boys of all age and gender: here lies bliss!
and comfort food, for some, will taste like this.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Verses in the garden: an all-day poetry event

This Saturday, from 10 am to 3 pm, more than 75 poets will be reading poems about gardens, nature, the environment, life, death, and tomatoes, both others' work and their own. I am very pleased to have been part of organizing this event. I know most of you are far away, but if anyone is within driving distance, come for all or simply part of this lovely day. Plus, a huge sale on tomato plants!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Did the earth move for you too?

Sorry, I was going to post more about the writers' conference, but we just had a 5.4 earthquake, a long rolling one, which means that you sway around as though you were 20 stories up while you are sitting on the couch. My heart is still beating hard and I jump every time my husband sneezes, and it was two hours ago. We had some creaking and some rattling, but no damage, only a phone jolted out of its cradle. The bookcases held, thank heavens. We remember the 1990 earthquake. That one broke a lot of dishes:  they had all slid against the cabinet doors, and when we opened the doors, the dishes made a break for freedom (as you might say). Half the water in the aquarium sloshed out, though no fish. I was in a second-story office with a patient. The acoustic ceiling tiles flapped up and down for nearly a minute. I definitely screamed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

AWP Seattle 2104, part 3: These 'translators' are traitors


One of the panel discussions I attended was given by people with university teaching jobs, presumably tenure-track, also terminal degrees, who asserted (aided by PowerPoint--I hate PowerPoint) that you did not need strong knowledge of the source language of a work to make a translation of it. While I was struggling with that one, asking myself how you would know if the trot you had started with had correctly dealt with the faux amis, someone else on the panel asserted that you could use the text as a starting point and perform erasures or riffs, and still call your result a translation.

This is waaay too po-mo for me. My big ethical dilemma with translating was more on the order of "should I re-write it so that it's better in English than it was in the original, or just let the author's clumsiness shine on its own?" This is of course regarding translations of technical articles, not poetry or plays. But, not even to know the source language well enough to work through it on your own--! and still to call it a translation--!! I mean, if you don't love the original enough to want to bring it across into another language, why even bother to call it a translation? Why not 'inspired by' or 'suggested by' or even 'provoked by'? It reminds me of a guy I met in my callow youth in the
Sixties, who maintained that it was wrongly narrow to insist that a sonnet have 14 lines and a given rhyme scheme. You could, he proclaimed, have a perfectly good two-line sonnet. No, you can't.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

AWP Seattle part two: I'm more Zen than you are, nyah nyah nyah


Tiny teapot in millefiore glass, seen through glass, next to glass, reflected in glass. In the lobby of the Seattle Sheraton, host to the AWP convention.

 More adventures with writers:  I learned that the gym on the 35th floor had floor-to-ceiling windows, perfect for checking out views and photo-ops. I hopped in the elevator and brightly shared my plan with my fellow traveler. Remote and controlled, he replied that he preferred to experience the moment unmediated, the better to note the experience and use it later in his writing. Pompous jack-ass, I thought, and replied that I liked to do both things. He looked away, smiled faintly.

Friday, March 14, 2014

3-14: Today is pi-day!

forever      and ever       and ever     and ever...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

AWP Seattle 2014, Part One: How to Tell a Writer

First time I've attended this convention. 12,000 writers in a relatively small space. At least 3,000 poets!! How can you tell the writers out on the street, aside from the convention's tote bags? It seemed to me that writers don't necessarily dress fancy or even cool (it's cooler not to be too cool), until they get to the shoes. Women and men sported truly eye-catching footwear. Many boots, of course--Seattle in February--although the weather was spookily warm and dry, boots with buttons and straps and HEELS, shoes in the latest neon pastels and with more subtle design. I dared take photos only of people with their backs to me, which ruled out most of my shoe-lurkation shots. Still, a person can gawk and nudge her companion and point.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Art vs. Reality, continued


Not that one cancels out or opposes the other. Still, I had an unexpected conversation at a reading of a
poetry series that I help curate (is that the word?). An otherwise clear-headed man asserted to me that the only reality worth bothering about was that of Art (capital letter in his voice). Note, please:  I am far from being someone who downplays the power of art/Art, or for that matter the power and importance of the inner personal realm. At a time when my outer life was downright bleak, the promises made by Art and the perception of Beauty did give me hope and did help me slog on. Similarly, a rich and meaningful inner life sustained me for years. However, how can we say that the outer world is unimportant? As long as we live in bodies, as long as we live in communities, societies, we had better take account of the events around us. If our taking account includes perceiving beauty and meaning, so much the better.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Suri and the meaning of Life

Art:  it's better than Life.

My son, displaying his new iPhone:  Go ahead, ask it something.

Me:  OK...what is the meaning of Life?

Suri:  I am looking for the meaning of Life...I am not finding the meaning of Life...perhaps there is an app for that.