Auld Lang Syne

Saturday, April 30, 2011

the anti-love

I think it balanced to contrast love with its opposite (which is, by the way, NOT hate). As I do the Boyfriend Project poems, an occasional negative creeps back to tap me on the head. So I have written a few poems about the darker side of love. I'll see where this goes. When I was still in grad school, I wrote one poem that came from a simple statement from a friend. It lit up my mind, but not as she said it... as I heard it. I went right to work on a comparison poem, one about my ex-husband and my husband. I called it A Tale of Two Husbands. What bit of conversation with my friend sparked the poem? "And there is..." Funny how something so small can grow into something that is art.

I am happy to have the opportunity to write, inspired by the darnedest little things.

What are YOU finding as inspiration?

Let's chat about that.

Royal Wedding and Scrabble

I admit it: I got up at 330 and watched the Royal Wedding. Totally unimportant in the grand scheme, but I have to say that the sermon preached by the Archbishop of Canterbury was a piece of genius. Words to live by if you are married, considering marriage, or put off by marriage. Inspiring to hear that and hear it in his deep rumble of a voice too.

I spent the day thinking about relationships and love and what it means to make a commitment to another person. I though of all the love I have in my life, husband, kids, grands, friends, fellow poets. I thought a great deal about the disappointments that love has brought. On balance, love wins. I am in the midst of a poetry project right now, a collection of poems about love, The Boyfriend Project. This has evolved out of finding (in some cases SEARCHING) lost loves from my younger days. I am excited about this work, a departure in a way from what I have been doing the past 5 years. I get to recall these boys and their impact on my outlook toward love. I can close my eyes and see them, imagine backwards if you will to the days of dancing in my parents dining room, kissing lessons, the scent of the beach and tanning oil. It has turned into much more than nostalgia though. I have found that it is healthy to know where people go after love. I found one beau in the nick of time, weeks before he died of cancer. We spent an amazing afternoon together, I got to meet his wonderful wife of 37 years, and had the chance to tell him how very important he was to me. My high school "sweetheart" is in my life again too as a result of my searching. We have had lunch recently (December) and hope to introduce ourselves to our spouses this summer. We both want to meet the persons who made our lives happy lo these decades since we were "in love." I treasure this guy. He me.

So how can I not write about this discovery process? I have to do it. My writing group is my first line here, looking at the poems as I write them and advising me on what to fix, what to scuttle, what to keep. They are invaluable to the process.

So, off that topic and on to Scrabble. As a footnote to yesterday's royal laziness on my part, I played in a Scrabble tournament locally. It was a bit frustrating due to some rules that did not make sense. But it was a charity event, raising money for the Literacy Project. So... how did I do? WON it with my teammates, AJ, Katherine, and Diane. I had never met these girls before, but we hit it off well and obviously DID well. We beat out 7 or 8 other teams by more than 300 points over the closest competitor. Whoo hoo! The prize was tickets for two to a Bay Chamber Concert on the 8th of May. Nice prize, nice people, good time had by all. Thanks to the Lincoln Street Center for hosting.

What to do now that poetry month is ending? Get back to work on the work at hand and do a little gardening. Oh yeah, maybe some actual SPRING CLEANING... that's all for now.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

up late, too late

Well, it is late and I am still awake. My head is busy and won't settle. So a list:

no caffeine so no excuse
head busy but no writing on the way at this point
want to clean house but too noisy to do that (hate to disturb hubby)

One great thing, but sad:

Jack Myers' new and LAST book is out. I have ordered it. Jack, I miss you and your great advice as a mentor.
There is no one like Jack. He was a huge influence on me and my view of myself as a poet. I can count on the fingers of ONE hand those who have had lasting (and direct) influence on my work:

1. BH Fairchild
2. Jack Myers
3. Henry Beston
4. Richard Wilbur
5. Steve Kowit

OK you feminists out there, I KNOW these are all men. I am unapologetic here. I am a woman and it just seems normal to have the OUTSIDE influences of men to balance that. I think it makes me more FULL-bodied as a poet. But I will list the woman influences just for sake of, well for the sake of not getting into a fuss with my woman friends:

1. Dorianne Laux
2. Elizabeth Bishop
3. Marie Howe
4. Laure-Anne Bosselaar
5. Edna St Vincent Millay

So there they are, the two fists of poets I need to stay focused.

Might think of taking a pill right now to ease my insomnia. A tylenol PM. That seems to do it on these odd occasions when I am too revved up to snoozle.

Poetry Month has bee very very stressful for me this year. But there is nothing I could do about that. I will be glad for it to be done and gone in a few days and then I can get back to the REAL world of my poetry.

I submitted to a book-length contest today. That feels normal to me. I have a couple other submissions to do by the 30th. I have 3 complete manuscripts and they need homes, shelves, reviews, (public acclaim?) Funny, I am happy about the new book being out and all the readings, the launch, etc. But I am itching to get another project going, finished, OUT THERE.

It is wonderful to see the work keep on flowing. I am grateful for this opportunity to say what I see in the world. Being a poet is like childbirth... the pleasure, the waiting in pain, then a final effort, then a good meal and a glass of wine after.

Wait, is it like childbirth or like sex? Wait, is it like sex followed by childbirth? Wait, is it like sex, followed by childbirth, followed by ....... ?

Now I am starting to get a bit tired. No pill for me. Think I will put on some perfume and go cuddle with that cute husband of mine. Pure poetry.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

bio in verse

OK, so I think it might be a good thing to put in a bio I wrote for myself, part of which appears in the new book, I Write in the Greenhouse. Awhile back, I thought: why write all these little 50 word bios every time I submit and never do the thing AS a poem? Each publisher wants the 50 words. Oh, I get that. I ask for those too when I accept poems for Pulse, my online literary zine. BUT ...

I am a poet, so why not:

Bio, Schmio

When I was five, alive

in a little body, when I was six

picking up sticks, when I was seven, seventeen

maybe, eighteen, no seventeen, I was a version of me.

When I sat at the kitchen table, tabling

conversations too hard for my parents to accept,

tables like arithmetic were hard

for the me I wanted to be. No bright star shone

over the place I called home as I left,

no one waved good-bye, come again soon,

you’ll always have your room here. No one

but me on that bus, fishbowl in my lap

watching the mama fish eat her babies one by one.

Where did I go then

instead of off into normal?

When I was seventeen, seven, five,

alive meant towing the line,

sitting straight, being seen not heard,

kleenex bobby-pinned to my head

like a hat for church,

rain pounding the windows,

caterpillars raining on the tent at Sebago Lake.

When I was 35, I’d reached my five year old’s goal:

to be 35. What was left? A world of other people

thinking they knew me, thinking they were right

about me, and me thinking the five year old me was still

sitting under a tree on a smooth white sheet

playing teacher, making the dolls write in verse.

April 26, 2011 Wandering in the Mud

Rain again this morning as I drink a cuppa (Earl Grey, decaf) and wonder how much time is actually going to my writing today. I have (perhaps) too many writing projects in my head right now, and political concerns crowd my brain too. Plainly, the state of things politic is drastic and disconcerting. I want to get through to those who are just not being logical, helpful, kind, thoughtful, and/or reasoning. So I ask myself is this the role I have as poet? Is it at least partly up to me to write things that will make a difference. Truly this once was the actual role of a poet.

But I'm thinking that the role of poet is watered down to some kind of entertainment provider. No, this is not a happy thought whatsoever. It stinks like last week's fish. I am not in the entertainment business. Of course I want my poems to strike a match, to burn. I don't want to hear "cute, nice, pleasant," etc. I want to be a bearer of something hard to hold. I want to tell something that stays for a long time.

I guess that's why I don't write humor. I have been told I'm funny by people who spend time with me. I prefer to think that I am ironic and wry. I have been told all my life that I am "far too serious" or that I need to "not take things so seriously." Which is it? How do I see myself? When I clean the layers of dust off my mirror I will let you know.

I wish I had more time to write. But I do waste time, so I am inconsistent. Back to my old dreams, dreams of living in a lighthouse with nothing to distract. Or maybe I just need a long residency somewhere.

Back to today's dilemma: I need to narrow my focus, get into one project (two?) and run it out to the horizon. someone said (was it Donald Hall or robert Bly?) that one ought to have three things going at once so as to not get bored.

I'm reading (again) Savage Beauty, a wonderful biography of ESVM (aka Vincent) with the idea of writing a book of poems in response to her life and poetry, commentary and persona poems. Her birthplace is down the street from me. I visit her statue in Camden frequently. I read her poems, especially her sonnets, whenever I am stuck in my own writing. So is this the project I ought to keep at the fore? Then there is The Boyfriend Project. I am drawn to this repeatedly. Why? I think that, as I am getting "not younger," I have a particular attraction to those boys or men I dated, most particularly the boys who impressed themselves hotly on my memories. I am way farther along on this project than on the Millay project. What does this mean? Is it a sign

Of course the other part to this conundrum is my fickle nature around writing. I am like birdshot, all over the place, fascinated by the "stuff" of writing, craving fresh projects, working like a fiend on one thing and then another. Can I settle myself and center myself on something that I see all the way through?

The new book is out. I am ready to move on. BUT, there are other manuscripts that want to be let out of the binder clip: a collection of coming of age poems (persona poems), a collection of psalms, and a manuscript of writing that embraces the Native way of looking at time (days and months). I feel uneasy about these being "out there" in some kind of drift, like seaweed at the mercy of the tide. I should just give away my worry over these and move into the projects at hand. I should. But....