Auld Lang Syne

Friday, May 20, 2011

and now fog

Don't get me wrong, I love fog. I love the sound of the foghorns boop-booping. But come on... we deserve a little sunshine after the CRAPPY winter we had.

But I tell myself this may be a sign that I should be writing some fog poems. My friend Gayle has a whole collection of fog poems in her new book "fog and other atmospheric conditions." It's a splendid book, her first. If you want to order a copy contact me. At any rate, I think a few fog stanzas might be in order. Or a fog sonnet. OR.... maybe a fog pantoum or villanelle. Those are forms well suited for obsessive situations. This weather is obsessive on God's part I think. Is He in love with adverse weather? Is there a plan in all of this?

[OK, those of you who eschew God talk (you know who you are) can call this power "Mother Nature" or "the cosmos" or whatever you please.]

For me though, I am serious about fog and weather poems. I do think it is a sign. Drat! Just when I was getting up a good head of steam in "The Boyfriend Project!"

Ooops. Time to get dressed and ready to go to book group. I can't for the life of me recall which book. I know I read it right away after last month's group so I will be able to hold up my end.... brain cells are probably too WET from all this weather to work properly.

Later Gator.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

and still it rains

This is starting to feel like June 2009. I am well and truly getting annoyed. I need to plant my veggies. Can't tolerate the thought of store-bought, engineered tomatoes.

So guess I have to write some more rain poems. Aaaaargh!

I actually do have rain poems in my new book... have you ORDERED my new book yet (shameless self-promotion here). Contact me by email ( for ordering info. I have a couple dozen here at home that I can ship out to discerning readers (LOL).

So here is one of the poems about rain. It is a "perfect reversing sonnet," a form I invented a few years ago. Notice the interesting rhyme patterns.


Rain is my enemy, I shall not forgive.

I am ever at his mercy just to survive.

I get so wet I may as well grow gills

for breathing in water like this. I’ll not likely survive.

Oh where are you sun, why won’t you arrive?

I feel I will at any moment grow ill

from all the water upon my sill.

From all the water upon my sill

I feel I will at any moment grow ill.

Oh where are you sun, why won’t you arrive?

I’ve breathed in too much water and won’t likely survive.

I’m so wet, I think I’ve grown gills.

I’m at the mercy of rain just to survive.

Rain is my sworn enemy and I won’t forgive.

You can see how rain annoys me. That said, I do love rain when it is not every day. Ahhh, how we want to manipulate nature for our own purposes. Guilty.

Must say I am in total appreciation for how green everything is getting. Flowers are popping awake, birds that have been gone all winter have returned to our feeders, the dirt smells so good right now. But sheesh... a little sun already!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

more rain and more poetry

I am okay with rain, but would love a bit of a break to plant my garden. However, the rain which keeps me indoors has a side benefit: more writing time without guilt or distraction. So, you'd think I'd be hard at it... NOT. I am distracted anyway.

I should be working on The Boyfriend Project. I am THINKING about it. How many poems do I need? What is the end part of when these "boys" cease to be beloved and start being annoying or dangerous? So, here's my thought on the actual construction: boyfriend project poems and love poems in the same collection, but as a flip book. Read through all the boyfriend poems, reach the middle of the book, flip and there is a new cover and more poems heading back toward the middle. Tentatively two separate covers, two different titles. The flip side would be "The Heart as Phoenix" or something indicating a resurrection of sorts where the boyfriends are left behind and more mature themes of love, rejection, dangerous love come into play. And do the married years enter in at all as distinct from the rest, or not at all, or embedded in the love section? A few of the married poems are not so loving or tender....

I have so many poems that would fit the love part... I kinda like the notion of two books in one. But is it too childish a construct that might detract? I can simply end one part, have a second section for the others. What thinkest thou dear blog followers? This is an important decision for me as the book itself is important to me.

Here are sample poems from each "side" of things:

From The Boyfriend Project side:

3:30 a.m.

for FB

Awake since the news

of the crash, you

in the hospital, pasted together —

your parents in chairs by your bed.

No matter that you ditched me

just yesterday, another girl

wearing the ring you made in shop,

the one I hid from my father.

No sleep for me tonight, love not

a switch to flip because some girl

with a laissez-faire father

lets you get to second base.

Tomorrow, at your bedside,

your new girl on a date

with your best friend, I promise

to find you again when we’re 50.

5:30 a.m.

for BB

Daddy says I have to get up,

go to church,

do my best not to look

like I’ve been out all night.

He suggests confession.

Make it right he says.

I say no.

You’ve disrespected your mother.

I say she wasn’t there and wouldn’t know

love if it walked up and introduced itself.

It’s not rouge I wear to Mass on my left cheek.

From The Heart as Phoenix side:

There Was the Year

of learning to kiss,

positioning noses and closing

eyes. I admit to sneaking

a look to see if his eyes

were properly shut. Brown

eyes laughing, soft lips breaking

into laughter at my dare.

There was the year

of foreign boys, well a summer

that wanted to be a year.

Dark-eyed boy from Columbia,

a prince from Persia,

and a boy who spoke German

or was it Russian?

Years gone by lurk

like ghosts on the beach

and in the town. Movies

in my head, like Exodus.

The theater burned, we got fire

checks for when it was safe

to kiss in the balcony another night.

There hasn’t been a year

when I was not in love, not close

to losing myself or finding myself

because of love. Boys

became men and I loved them for it.

My eyes stayed open during kisses,

my lips a map of kissing.

But I wanted to ask,

if you don’t mind, where did that year go

when I learned to love you?

The Year I Loved You

I loved you a year

when I thought love a lie,

thought love a star

embroidered on black,

unreal as marriage vows.

I didn’t love you before

and then I did, and then not

in person, but like a star

zooming to its death

vowing to return.

I loved you with magic

and you pulled rabbits

out of hats made of stars,

cutting me in half

finally, as I knew lovers do.

I didn’t love you again

until a bus station opened

to you in the doorway, a star.

Then I loved you for three days

as if I were going to die.

I loved you like a stone

wrapped in my own skin

tossed into a pool of stars

sinking, spinning rings

of vows we never made.

I didn’t love you well

enough to make you stay.

So, you tell me: flip book format or meet in the middle with a divider format?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pillars of Poetry 2

Day two of thinking about my "pillars of poetry" and I turn to BH Fairchild. Yes there is a bit of a theme between yesterday and today: teachers who taught me directly, plus by their poems. Eventually I will switch to indirect teachers (learned from their writing, not in classes with them). So look for Henry Beston next, followed by Bishop, Millay, and others.

Today I am focused on BH Fairchild who was my professor in my undergrad program at Cal State University at San Bernardino. I attended later in life due to a series of personal snafus (my own doing) and raising a family. I has just been laid off from a LUCRATIVE freelancing job (writing online music profiles... wrote the first one ever on Jessica Simpson by the way). I sat at my desk boo-hooing about the layoff, and the total lack of $$$$ facing me, and decided to return to college and knock off the last two years. CSUSB has a creative writing major within the English major so it was a perfect fit... and a 30 minute drive from my house. First thing I did was to sign up for three classes with Fairchild. The dept. chair worried over this, saying I would either be right in my element or rue the day I put all my eggs in this one basket. He was worried I would not get along with this man and quit. Ha! The guy did no know ME! From that point onward I was on a roll, headed toward the greatest college experience one can have: totally focused on the work, brilliant guy leading the way. Enough of that part.... on to what I learned.

Yesterday I mentioned that Jack Myers gave my confidence a jolt.... should have started with Fairchild. Confidence increased here too, but in a totally different way. I was on a mission to demonstrate competence, and in fact for some reason wanted this man to see me as VERY competent. So I dug in and did everything he suggested to a fare-thee-well. If he suggested we write ONE poem in a certain way, I'd do three. I practiced every technique he mentioned, over and over. I read every author/poet he mentioned, even those I'd already tackled before. I took more notes in his classes than I had taken cumulatively before. Simply put, I became the student I had always meant to be. This splashed off in my other classes too. I was back in love with the lover I'd abandoned: learning.

You want to know what this did for me as a poet. I started paying attention to EVERYTHING. I started really SEEING the world and grew a desire to find ways to pass that on in my poems. I was an okay poet before that, but as I read and listened and took notes, I was challenged to find much better, more interesting ways to put the world I was inhabiting on paper. I wanted desperately for other poets to say about my poems: gee, I wish I'd written that."

Fairchild showed me something new in that I saw the ordinary as beautiful, the gruesome as lovely, the mundane as miraculous. I will never again look at ordinariness as ordinary. (so, thanks for that, Pete). I learned too that we live in a world of sound bytes, cliché, and overuse of practically EVERYTHING. I no longer wanted to be in that world, coming to realize I needed to create another world in my poetry. I can make that world available to others through my poetry. I can enliven, explore, explain and not visit the same place twice, or visit it twice with a new eye to it. I learned about SOUND and discovered that, although I am completely deaf in one ear, I have sound INSIDE that is not deaf-oriented. I can hear with my eyes, with my body, with my PEN. Pete showed me that.

One great thing about studying with him that most new writers might not think so great: oh man, could he criticize, and boy oh boy, did he not sugar-coat. There were those moments when I cringed at what he said about a poem. I remember writing a "Christmas" poem and hearing the words I hated: "This poem is WAY too sappy. Can you write about Christmas without so damn much Christmas in the poem?" The hairs stood right up on my neck and I felt my face get hot, not with embarrassment, but with ANGER. Oh baby, I did not like that. Who could fault Christmas? Why is that sappy?

Well, the gauntlet was thrown down. So, I determined to write a "holiday" poem without mentioning the holiday at all. It is all about "is-ness" as Pete will say, EMBODY things, don't just put them on the page. ANYONE can do that. Result: a poem that has an amaryllis as one of the images. Nothing says Christmas season more than an amaryllis. Ta-Da! From that point on, I have striven to make things show what they are: concrete images are my best buddies.

You want to know what this did for me as a poet. Well the biggest thing I suppose was that I started paying attention to EVERYTHING. I started really SEEING the world and grew a desire to find ways to pass that on in my poems. I was an okay poet before that, but as I read and listened and took notes, I was challenged to find much better, more interesting ways to put the world I was inhabiting on paper. I wanted desperately for other poets to say about my poems: gee, I wish I'd written that."

But as Pete aways says about teaching and learning about poetry, it is the poems themselves that do the teaching. So it is here. I look to his poetry for details and find a stunning teacher there. The greatest learning in his poems is the employment of fresh language in illuminating the magic of ordinary life and ordinary human interaction. In narrative poetry there is the danger of losing the poetic in the mundane, the "this happened, then this happened" thread that threatens to turn poetry into "reportage" or simple scene setting. Fairchild's poetry shows there is another way to tell a story. This is important for my own work. But his poetry is not simple storytelling. It is always about embodiment. This keeps ordinariness from being ordinary, pushes the boundaries of simple. Look at the poem, The Woman at the Laundromat Crying "Mercy" for evidence:

And the glass eyes of dryers whirl/ on either side, the roar just loud enough/ to still the talk of the women. Nothing/ is said easily here. Below the screams/ of two kids skateboarding in the aisles/ Long white rows of washers lead/ straight as highways lead to a change machine/ that turns dollars into dimes ... In back, the change machine has jammed, and a woman/ beats it with her fists, crying "mercy, mercy."

This very ordinary scene becomes more of a life look lesson because of the unique look at this microcosm of domestic duty through the glass eyes of the dryers.

I want to do this in my poems. I ask myself constantly if I have made my poems live on the page. I use what I call the "Fairchild Test" to check my work. If a poem fails this test, I go back to work. I often go back to work. But once in awhile I am successful.