Auld Lang Syne

Saturday, August 6, 2011


I love a good parade. I enjoy all the kids running around with candy they got from people on floats, love the music, the excitement of it all. I think I have oop-pah-pah music in my blood. I might have run away and joined the circus if I'd had the chance, just to be a part of the circus parade. I used to be the drum major in my high school band and it was thrilling to lead the whole parade down the streets of our town. I loved my white and gold uniform and the tall shako and the big baton I carried to keep the band in step and in rhythm.

Here in Maine, parades are a big part of any kind of public occasion. Today is the HUGE lobster festival Parade here in Rockland. Last year it took over and hour and a half. Last year I marched in the parade. (Not this year...pure spectatorship is the thing for me in 2011) The street will be jammed, waiting for the giant lobster (Rocky) and the Sea Goddess and her court. I will be sitting under the new awning at the new and IMPROVED Rock City Café with a fall iced coffee and a notebook (of course). Ahhh, it just doesn't get any better!

What will REALLY annoy me however (and it WILL happen) is seeing how many people do not stand as the US Flag passes by them. It makes me crazy. I am used to the normal patriotism of standing in respect (not worship mind you) as the flag goes by. I was raised right. I will grumble and grouse about this.

Still, I will be there, coffee and notebook and all. I will feel good to be alive and living in Maine where somehow there are still parades and balloons, and lobster festivals. I will end the day with a good feeling. I will end the day remembering all the times it was ME at the head of the parade, me leading the music and the marching. I will celebrate the fact that parades can make us feel special and happy even in the toughest of times.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

And then there was someone other than me

OK, so I am taking a new approach to this blogging thing. Once a month I will do a DETAILED blog on another writer (poet or otherwise). I will bare it all for the sage of art. I will take a workshop approach to the thing. Up first:

Larry Kramer

Suggested Reading:

Brilliant Windows (the book AND the poem)

Stay tuned. I'm off to re-read and take notes.

Sitting the Book Signing Table

It's a bit like a family reunion or a wake or any other gathering where polite conversation and smiling are expected. You have the book (books) and a great pen. You might even have change and a mailing list sheet. You've chosen an outfit that looks "poet-y." And of course there is the required bottle of water. You hope a few people will stop by to say hello, and that they will be duly impressed that you have WRITTEN a book. You wonder if they are lookie-louing their way from table to table, trying to look literate and upscale. You wonder if they actually read and appreciate poetry (you PRAY that they do!) You want to chat with them about poetry. You want them to want your book.

You think that they probably fall into one of three categories:

1. They have written a book too and want to know how to get theirs published
2. They are also poets and trying to be supportive by stopping by to say hello
3. They are trying to impress someone (the man they are dating, their children, themselves)

What you HOPE is that they fall into one of three of the OTHER categories:

1. They have written and published a book too and want to buy yours because they know it is hard work
2. They are also poets and want to be supportive AND they want to add your book to their libraries
3. They are impressed with your work and want to buy your book to learn from your writing

Personally, I love book signings. I want to see the faces of people when (if) they open my books and read a few lines. I love talking with people about writing and hope to find a new writer or two. I love signing a book and the feel of the ink smoothing itself onto the title page as I come up with a (hopefully) insightful message.

I'd be crazy not to admit that I also love it when I don't have to pack up the books and take them home afterwards. I want them OUT THERE. I also want to be able to go to the bank and deposit the few dollars into my account, feel like I do actually DO THIS as a means of supporting my book and paper and pen habit!

So here's the thing: buy books directly from authors. Don't say "Oh I love your book, I'll order it from Amazon." Get the books directly and the authors make a few bucks more. (Book sellers take 40%) It is heartening and feels good to see a person walk away from the book table with my book in hand.

So, enough with the commercial. Off to my book signing. Really. Today, 10 AM - 1 PM Marine Tent, Maine Lobster Festival. See you there?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sun-baked Wood

What are the smells associated with the various seasons? My friend Don (who used to be my high school boyfriend)  reminded me how powerful smells are when he commented to me that whenever he goes to the beach, the smells of tide and sand and sea make him think of me and summertime. I recently read a comment on another blog that the smell of sun-baked wood made the author think of summer. These two comments are lurking now in my margins. I think I will have to do some serious thinking on this and write a bit about sensory details that speak to the seasons.

Several months ago, I bought a cologne that smells like summer to me. Bobbie Brown's "Beach" is as close to what I recall about beach summers as I can come. When I spritz a little on after a shower, I am transported back in time. I wonder if Don were to smell that scent, would he think of summers at our favorite beach? I do think of that exact place, and can almost feel the sand under my feet, the splashy cold of the surf.

It is not just summer that carries scent. There is a certain aroma after a fresh snow that I sometimes experience when doing laundry. There is also the way the air smells after a rain, REALLY strong after a thunderstorm. My daughter calls it the wet dirt smell. It is more than that. It is the smell of spring. We writers are fortunate to have these olfactory experiences to make our poems more embodied. When I read "sun-baked wood," I was immediately aware of how driftwood smells wrapped in seaweed, cooking in the sun on the rocks. Oh and how those rocks smell too. I wonder sometimes if I am REALLY sensitive, or if I am a little bit nuts. (both?)

Did you know that some people are not able to smell skunk odor? It's true. My ex-husband cannot smell a skunk. I used to laughingly say that of course one doesn't smell a skunk if one IS a skunk... a slightly bitter comment to be sure. But I have discovered that the "ability" to smell certain things (skunks being one of these) is a genetic thing. True! What a blessing to NOT smell skunks! I have an unusual "sniffer" myself: freshly brewing coffee smells like tuna sandwiches to me. Yes, like TUNA. Who ever heard of that? Is that a genetic thing?

Scent is a powerful thing. We are both blessed and cursed by it. Time to go write about this myseterious sense.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

I've been an AWOL blogger... sorry!

So sorry to have been AWOL a bit. I am not at home, am in Vermont for a long weekend (see blog on Bear Pond and other indie bookstores). But the blog in my head continues daily. I am not without thoughts to share or lessons I need to learn as I type. But really, when I am at someone else's house, can I actually break away to blog? Not so much.

Today is a low key day, both my friend and I lying low and doing our own thing. So I am at the keyboard and ready to chat about poetry. I've been thinking a bit about the issue of so-called "confessional" poetry and wondering what you think about that. This designation of the personal as somehow off limits or "less than" certainly has made the rounds. Some people think the poet should be totally absent in his or her poems. I can't say I agree with this, although I do not want to be dragged in to anyone's personal drama if it is not meaningful in a universal sense. I guess that is the distinction I would make. AND the poet should keep enough of an emotional distance to be able to see and write without artifice. "Accessible" and also discerning is my mantra when writing poems that have a basis in truth, a connection to my own experiences. I want to be close enough to my own life to KNOW, and distant enough to include more than just myself in the activity of the poems.

This brings me to a myth that exists in poetry, experienced by attendees at readings: that every poem is the poet writing about him/herself. Not at all.  Do I need to be IN every poem I write in order to write with authority? I do not. It's called observational research. I cannot tell you how many times people will come up to me after a reading and comment on a poem, thinking I was writing about myself when I really was not. There are more than one voice possible in any poem. I refer to the "inside" voice of the poem or the "outside" voice of the poem. The voice INSIDE is the voice of the character performing or experiencing the action of the poem. The OUTSIDE voice is that of the poet, the observer or chronicler of the action. Sometime these are the same voice. In that case, the poem can be "confessional" in nature. Does that mean this kind of poem is not good, is somehow less adept or successful? No. But clearly, the confessional poem runs the risk of artifice, of self-important posturing. I do not want my writing to be that. But if one is to write from a position of knowledge, particularly on sensitive topics, one must take the risk. Of course the editing/revision process can be a place of removal of the too personal information or tone. We are always able to revise.

So go ahead and write about what you know and/or have experienced. Take the risk. After all, if you do not care deeply about what you write, no one else will either. But look at what you have written and ask: will my readers CARE about this? Will they CONNECT to this? Who is the voice inside and the voice outside the poem? Are those voices one and the same? Is this poem accessible to your reader? Will your reader feel as if he/she had just barged into a private moment? The answers to these questions will help in the revision process.

Confess if you must. Share if you think it will help others. Tell all if all needs telling. But remember that writing is for OTHERS, not just for ourselves. If you are writing for yourself alone, maybe you should just keep a journal.