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Monday, December 26, 2016

Candles & Poetry: Against the Dark

This holiday season, may I recommend sandalwood candles, and poetry. Here's a poem to start with:

Traveling Light   by Dabney Stuart

Moving through still time, its opposite,
it creates no friction. They are both gifts,
one the infinite eye of the needle
the other threads. Occupies.
Emptiness is full of itself,
a never air, the lens for being.
In the long way of this place,
the afterthought of gasses becomes
what we tune in, its tickless
preoccupation and amaze our present.
If such light made a sound
it would be as if the wide spacewind
formed a bell of itself,
and a smaller wind within, and rang.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Admiration for the Northern Lights and More

Christmas Day in Japan.

Here are two things I have a new love for this season: sandalwood candles. And the Northern Lights, which I watch obsessively. And you can too. 

And now, a poem I admire.

In a Field                                                          Elizabeth Spires


Like stones
in a field.
Small. Large.

There to be used.
To make walls.
To be thrown.

To be held
in our hands.
Light as air.

Or a big thing
that weighs
us down.

I can hide on
the dark side
of this one.

Or tell all.
When I do,
it is not a game.

I pick one up.
Which one is it?
you ask.

I will not tell.
Come here, I say,
and you will see.

You pick one up.
Then I do. Then you.
Then me. Soon

the field is clear.
We have used
each one.

there is
only silence.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Admiration IV

No Encores. No Autographs.                         J. Gallagher
When I was little, and could float,
I made up my mind to touch everything
on the way. Here I go and

Yes into the red leaves, the winter logic.
Waving seemed so sad
when I was mild, and could hear

the sounds of the house
growing into the hill. The eternal workings
of the going to be,

while out to the left
there's a hole in the overcast. A little hole.
It may be growing,

it may be shrinking. Hard to tell.
Either way, it comes back now
without meaning.

It comes back as people I knew once,
fading in and out of buildings and trees
in a north wind,

while, full of spider webs, the porch
glistens in dew and first light.
A foggy translucence covers the world.

You can go out and read the argument
in the grass.
Just take off your shoes.

You can call yourself a pilgrim,
noting the texture of matter.
You can go from here to here. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Admiration III

        After the Moon                                                                      Marianne Boruch

     eclipsed itself, the rumor or darkness
     true, the whole radiant business
     almost over, only a line,
     an edge, like some
     stray part of a machine
                                                             not one of us
     can figure any more:
     what it thrashed or cut, what it sewed
     quietly together, what it scalded
     or brought back from the dead. After this,
     I came inside to sleep.    
                                                But it’s the moon still,
     pale run of it shaping
     the door closed against the half-lit hall.
     The eye is its own
     small flicker orbiting under the lid
     a few hours.
                              Not so long,
     bright rim,
     giving up its genius
     briefly, mountains under dark, craters
     where someone, then no one
     is walking.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Admiration II

Anatomical Angel                                    by Averill Curdy

L’ange Anatomique, by Jacques-Fabien Gautier Dagoty, 1746

                        Unfastened avidly from each ivory button
          of her spine, the voluntary muscles open
virtuosities of red: Cinnabar

                        the mutagen, and carmine from cochineal
          born between fog and frost, so many little
deaths Buddhists refuse to wear

                        robes soaked in its thousands. Sunsets

          of other centuries fade in galleries to ash. 
Red is fugitive: As the voice, the blow

                        of gravity along a nerve opening to an ache
          the body can’t unhouse: As the carnation
suffusing cheek and haunch like saucers

                        from the king’s porcelain rinsed in candlelight.
          Gratuitous as the curl, the urn-shaped torso,
the pensive, brimming gaze of pretty

                        post-coital thought she half-turns over one
          excavated shoulder. As if to see herself
in a mirror’s savage theater as elegy

                        to the attempt to fill an exhausted form,
          to learn again the old ordeals of wound
and hand and eye. To find the source of burning. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Admiration I

This is a poem I admire. I wish I could tell you which book it came from; at this moment I cannot.

High Country Canticle                                                by Charles Wright
The shroud has no pockets, the northern Italians say.
Let go, live your life,
the grave has no sunny corners —
Deadfall and windfall, the aphoristic undertow
Of high water, deep snow in the hills,
Everything's benediction, bright wingrush of grace.

Spring moves through the late May heat
as though someone were poling it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

New Book News

I am thankful and excited to announce that Whiteout, the manuscript about my uncle who died climbing Denali, the manuscript I've been working on for the past few years, will be published by the University of Alaska Press in July 2017.

This is the perfect fit of press and manuscript--the people a the University of Alaska understand so well the background incidents and accidents that this book is based on, and have firsthand knowledge of the climate and weather that made the storm that devastated the expedition--I couldn't be more grateful to Peggy Shumaker, Amy Simpson, Laura Walker, Krista West, and everyone else over at the press who have helped me along this process.

Stay tuned for developments.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Hunger No More

Have you wanted to read Hunger Mountain's Body Issue, which was previously out only in print?Well, hunger no more. That special issue is now available online, including my poem 'Theories of Flow' (which appears in my manuscript Whiteout). There are also poems by Frannie Lindsay, Joel Brouwer, francine j. harris, and more Frannie Lindsay. Plus others. Check out this controversial issue (controversial because of the artwork and cover).

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Nominated by DMQ

I'm thrilled to announce that the poem 'Across a Crevasse, My Uncle' from my manuscript Whiteout has been nominated for the Best of the Net by DMQ Review editors Sally Ashton, Mary Donnelly, Anne Doe Overstreet, & Marta Svea. I am honored and humbled.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Denali, Okinawa, Nogues, and a Surprise

I've been dreadfully unforgivably remiss in reporting on my residency at Denali this summer, and my excuse is that I'm busy working on a donation of poetry for them instead. I will link to that once the donation has been made, but that won't be for awhile. Maybe I'll get a chance to write up my visit, and maybe not. We'll see.

In the meantime, here is my review of Collier Nogues' The Ground I Stand On Is Not My Ground over at Tinderbox Poetry Journal. Nogues writes of growing up in Okinawa, an American with an attachment to the military base there. The questions that arise due to that experience are expressed via erasure poetry using thoughtfully chosen source texts. I travel to Okinawa every summer, so this was a fascinating book for me to consider, and I'm fairly certain you'll find it fascinating too.

And now, for your surprise: this link to "Fish Recorded Singing Dawn Chorus on Reefs Just Like Birds" from the New Scientist blog, which I liberally borrowed from poet Jennifer Sweeney's Facebook feed. Thanks, Jennifer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Preparing for my artist-in-residency at Denali National Park and Preserve, then going there, and now coming back and coping with jet lag, things have gotten away from me. For instance, my poem 'Souvenir of the Gilded Age,' about model Audrey Munson, appeared in the new online journal Alyss during my absence, alongside work by Jen Karetnick, Alexis Rhone Fancher, and Katherine Hoerth, among others. Thanks to editor Amanda Faye for that!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Bear with Me

I'm getting ready for my trip to Alaska, my artist-in-residency at Denali National Park and Preserve from August 9 - 19. If you happen to be in the vicinity, I'll be doing an outreach program open to the public about strategies for nature writing on August 18, from 3:00 pm. Please come and join us if you can.

Along with reading about Alaska and the park, here's something I've been doing to prepare for the trip: watching this brown bear cam in Katmai National Park in Alaska (nowhere near Denali, but lots of fun). The salmon are swimming upstream, and the bears are there to take advantage. So far, our family has watched mothers and cubs, seen mating, and fighting, along with regular feeding behavior. And there are bears almost at any time we check, up to nine bears at once. Give it a try! It's quite addictive.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A Relief Map

My poem The Relief Map Fails to Relieve, included in the latest issue of the Valparaiso Poetry Review, took a little longer to place than others have taken. I really believe in this poem, and was so gratified when editor Edward Byrne did too.

I love VPR every issue, and this one is no exception. Byrne's eagle eye also found terrific poems by Kelly Cressio-Moeller, Veronica Kornberg, Susan Terris, Athena Kildegaard, Carol V. Davis, and others. If you are in need of a poetic treat, this is the place to satisfy your craving.

Monday, May 23, 2016

One For All

Richard Krawiec has put out another dazzling issue of One, the journal that features one poem each by twenty-one poets. I'm thrilled to be in that number this issue, alongside talented poets such as Rachel Dacus, Jen Karetnick, Anita Olivia Koester, Renee Emerson, Cynthia Huntington, and more.

The accompanying artwork by Maria Kreyn is haunting.

Please take a moment to check it out.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

English Lessons

My sons go to a private Japanese school (in Japan). They are required to take English classes, and the fact that they are fluent in English is not taken into consideration; they take the regular class with the other students. This leads to some funny and many frustrating moments for all of us, for example when my sons are marked incorrect for not using exactly the same wording provided by a teacher, although they are nonetheless equally correct. It drives them crazy, having to memorize the one and only way they can respond in order to do well in class--a kind of unlearning, almost.

But there are the funny moments as well. For example, this week my son in junior high is learning about the passive voice. He brought home a worksheet with the title "Let's Speak Passively!"


Recently I re-read the following:

"Fear is the greatest motivator of all time. Conflict born of fear is behind our every action, driving us forward like the cogs of a clock. Fear is desire’s dark dress, its doppelgänger. “Love and dread are brothers,” says Julian of Norwich. As desire is wanting and fear is not-wanting, they become inexorably linked . . . "

~ Mary Ruefle in “On Fear” in Madness, Rack, and Honey

And I thought to myself, Fear is often for me a huge de-motivator. I become absolutely paralyzed by it. It drives me around in circles, never going forward at all, like the cogs of a clock.

And yet we are both correct.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Collision with Coins

I'm working on a poem about Audrey Munson, an artist's model from the early 20th century with a tragic story. Among many other things you very well might have seen, she posed for two different US coins, as the face on  Mercury Dime and the figure on the Walking Liberty Half Dollar.

My younger son is a coin collector, so I asked him if he had either coin, and he said he didn't think so. "Can you check anyway?" I asked him, knowing that since we live in Japan, his US coin collection is less robust than some of his stashes from closer countries.

But he checked, and he did in fact have a Mercury Dime. And I held Audrey Munson's likeness in my hand, and my son and I marveled as our passions collided.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Work in The Baltimore Review

The new issue of The Baltimore Review is out, featuring work by Leila Chatti, Peter LaBerge, and me. Editor Barbara Westwood Diehl has put together a gorgeous issue with poems that are spare and lovely. Check it out.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Spring and the Arsenic Lobster

Thanks to Susan Yount for publishing three poems from my manuscript-seeking-representation WHITEOUT in the Spring Issue of Arsenic Lobster. My work is in great company, along with work by Nicole Rollender, Kathleen Kirk, Danielle Barnhart, Flower Conroy, and more. Please have a look.

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Way with Words II

It's here! The A Way with Words episode that includes host Martha Barnette giving a beautiful reading of my poem "Chance of Precipitation." Please enjoy it here, where you can scroll down to the segment with the same title as the poem; OR (and I recommend this) listen to the entire show. Interesting segments about how a pink slip got its name, what a crumb-crusher is, and more (including hairy panic!).

But if you need the segment alone, here it is.

Thanks, Martha and Grant, for weekly bringing us linguistic extravaganzas!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Way with Words

I started listening to the public radio podcast A Way with Words, with hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, a couple of months ago, madly enjoying their banter as well as their extensive knowledge about etymology, neologisms, colloquialisms, slang, sociolinguistics, and more.

Recently I listened to an archived episode about palindromes, which those of you who know me well will remember is a passion of mine. I'm also going through one of my insomniac periods, and their archives have been my go-to listening in the middle of the recent interminable nights. It's from them that I learned the word triboluminescence, which recently showed up in a new poem of mine.

In a surprising development, Martha will be reading one of my poems on the upcoming episode this weekend. If you want to listen live, you can find a radio station here. If you'd like to listen via SoundCloud or iTunes after the fact, I will post links once they are available. So keep an eye out here, and I'll get back to you soon.

This is a fun podcast. This is how they answer the phone when callers ring them to ask their word-related questions: "Hello. You've got A Way with Words."  And it just gets better and better. If you love langauge, you'll want to listen and support the show. Try it--you won't be sorry.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Savvy Verse & Wit

"Goodfellow carefully crafts each poem with a larger picture in mind . . ." Thanks to Serena Agusto-Cox at Savvy Verse and Wit for reviewing Mendeleev's Mandala.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Learning to Drive

Silver Birch Press is doing a series on learning to drive. I had tried different several times in my life to write about some advice my dad gave me when he taught me to drive, but it never worked itself into a coherent piece. When I heard about Silver Birch's call for submissions on the topic, I gave it another shot. What do you think of my poem 'Driving Lesson'?

The Cloudy House

The Cloudy House is a website all about 'the poetics of building a project book,' curated by Cynthia Marie Hoffman and Nick Lantz. It features interviews with Julie Carr, Shane McCrae, Simone Muench, Jesse Lee Kercheval, Sarah Blake, Nicky Beer, and more, all talking about their project books. If you love project books, like I do, you've probably been following this website for some time now.

Today The Cloudy House introduces a new feature, called the Spring Round-up, discussing book projects in progress. They have showcased the work of six poets with books in progress (and for the publishers among you, that means these manuscripts are looking for presses). This includes the work of Maggie Smith, Vandana Khanna, Joni Wallace, Victoria Chang. J L Conrad, and me. You can learn more about the projects of each of these poets and their current projects, including my current project WHITEOUT, about the death of my uncle on Denali.

Thanks, Cynthia Marie & Nick!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Writing Advice

Authors Publish has collected a list of 29 authors' writing rules and advice. Here are a few of my favorites:

From Jack Kerouac
19. Accept loss forever 

From Geoff Dyer
6 Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire.

Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it’s a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It’s only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. I always have to feel that I’m bunking off from something.

10 Never ride a bike with the brakes on. If something is proving too difficult, give up and do something else. Try to live without resort to per­severance. But writing is all about perseverance. You’ve got to stick at it. In my 30s I used to go to the gym even though I hated it. The purpose of going to the gym was to postpone the day when I would stop going. That’s what writing is to me: a way of postponing the day when I won’t do it any more, the day when I will sink into a depression so profound it will be indistinguishable from perfect bliss.

From Henry Miller
5. When you can't create you can work.

From Hilary Mantel
7.  If you see a habit forming, break it.

From Andrew Motion
2 Think with your senses as well as your brain.
5 Remember there is no such thing as nonsense.

From Annie Proulx
3 Write slowly and by hand only about subjects that interest you.

From Zadie Smith
  1. Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can't do aren't worth doing. Don't mask self-doubt with contempt.
  2. Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.
3 Stay in your mental pajamas all day.
7 If you have to read, to cheer yourself up read biographies of writers who went insane.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Rewinding the Clock At Tweetspeak

Every Day Poems, a feature at Tweetspeak Poetry, is featuring a poem from my first book, The Insomniac's Weather Report, today. Thanks to Richard Maxson and everyone at Tweetspeak  for rewinding the clock to bring back "What You Measure If You Use Water as a Clock."

Call for Travelling Moms

The Mom Egg has posted a call for submissions from Demeter Press. It's an anthology called Travellin' Mama: Mother, Mothering, and Travel. 

Topics may include but are not limited to: Traveling with children/Leaving kids to travel; Expatriate mothers; Nomadic mothers; Immigration; Refugees; Different places, different mores; Modes of transportation; Regional delights—food, culture, music, scenery; Kerouac, Boxcar Bertha and me freedom of the road; Touring band, literary tour; Business travel; Rest stops, roadside joints, refreshment on the road; Detours, planned and unplanned; The saloon to skip--traveling safety, 
traveling in a woman’s body; The business trip; Educating children through travel; Interpreting
other cultures for children when traveling; The pleasures/challenges of hotels; Going home;
Transnationalism; Traveling and children’s language; Traveling mothers and online communities.
Creative work: Send completed manuscripts (up to 5 poems of no more than 10 pages or up to 15
pages of fiction or creative prose) with 50-­‐word biography due: April 30, 2016. Acceptances
made by September 30, 2016.

Please send inquiries and abstracts to editors: Charlotte Beyer, Janet MacLennan, Dorsía Smith
Silva, and Marjorie Tesser at:

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Reb Livingston at Queen Mob's Tea House has an odd corner called Misfit Docs, where my strange collage piece "Madonna and Particle Child : My Grandfather Outlives His Son" can be found today. If you are in the mood for something a little strange, check it out!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Pi Day 2016

It's Pi Day. I haven't forgotten. Please see past years' Pi Day posts for funny cartoons. Or pi songs. Or a personal anecdote about Pi Day in Japan.

This year, let me just say: Pi Day is also the birthday of Albert Einstein.

(Also birthday of Billy Crystal and Quincy Jones.)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Comedy & Poetry

I listen to podcasts. So many podcasts. I tell myself I am working on my creativity. And I am. I listen to many podcasts that feature interviews with writers, analysis of poems, the reading of poetry, etc. I listen to science podcasts that give me new images, vocabulary, and metaphors. I listen to history podcasts that give me narrative ideas. I listen to a podcast on word usage, etymology, and slang. I listen to crime podcasts just because I'm morbid.

But the podcasts that help me the most creatively tend to be comedy podcasts.

Really. Comedy podcasts. Perhaps it's because comedians have to work so hard on having the perfect wording (word choice). And good timing (stanza breaks, forms, where to start and end a poem). Or because comedy writers are so in touch with their angst and self-loathing.

Today I heard the comedy writer Marc Jaffe say " Comedy = pain + time."

Ohhhhh, I thought. There's the connection.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mind 6

"Carson believes that thoughts themselves matter less than the routes one takes between them. 'I don't know that we really think any thoughts; we think connections between thoughts. That's where the mind moves, that's what's new, and the thoughts themselves have probably been there in my head or lots of other people's heads for a long time. But the jumps between them are entirely at that moment.' She says, 'It's magical.'"    ~an interview with Anne Carson in the U.K. Guardian, 12/30/06


"To Forget Its Creator Is One of the Functions of a Creation"
                                                                                          —E. M. Forster
(Poem by Gilbert Allen)

So memory is the absent
letting things slip
out of mind and sight
to make discovery

And God is no
which is the why
of these strange, awful creatures
whose creator would envy
their lost footprints, if He could. 


"A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it."

~Sir Rabindranath "Tagore" Thakur


"Choosing is the sickness of the mind." 6th century Chinese sage, according to Frederick Franck

"The perfect man uses his mind as a mirror. It grasps nothing, it refuses nothing. It receives but does not keep."  Chunag Tzu, 4th century B.C.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Mind 5

Saying It to Keep It from Happening                            John Ashbery

Some departure from the norm
Will occur as time grows more open about it.
The consensus gradually changed; nobody
Lies about it any more. Rust dark pouring
Over the body, changing it without decay—
People with too many things on their minds, but we live
In the interstices, between a vacant stare and the ceiling,
Our lives remind us. Finally this is consciousness
And the other livers of it get off at the same stop.
How careless. Yet in the end each of us
Is seen to have traveled the same distance—it’s time
That counts, and how deeply you have invested in it,
Crossing the street of any event, as though coming out of it were
The same as making it happen. You’re not sorry,
Of course, especially if this was the way it had to happen,
Yet would like an exacter share, something about time
That only a clock can tell you: how it feels, not what it means.
It is a long field, and we now only the far end of it,
Not the part we presumably had to go through to get here.
If it isn’t enough, take the idea
Inherent in the day, armloads of wheat and flowers
Lying around flat on handtrucks, if maybe it means more
In pertaining to you, yet what is is what happens in the end
As though you cared. The event combined with
Beams leading up to it for the look of force adapted to the wiser
Usages of age, but it’s both there
And not there, like washing or sawdust in the sunlight,

At the back of the mind, where we live now.


Postscript                              Jennifer Chang

We did not marry, cross, or fasten
forest with field. We split,

lightning-struck trees, splintered
raw, a natural Y,

two arms of wanting. Love,
we broke

and found the stones coreless,
gone wild with error,

gone. Tonight the field disentangles
the night's creature

concert, insect hymn. Holy shine
that webs the sky

unwebs our sight: I have a vision
you don't see,

a mind's pastoral, not secret
but unreachable

by road, sea, or thought: the lamps
sprout gorgeously,

the wheat is strange. You don't see
sorrow burrowing

in coupled roots, how the forest
finds its way

down here, bone-cold dirt, dendritic
tangle, my wish

to grow old in shadow—must I
die alone?

We did not unearth this rude radical,
we burst. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Mind 4

"What makes form adventurous is its unpredictable appetite for particulars. The truly creative mind is always ready for the operations of chance. It wants to sweep into the constellation of the artwork as much as it can of the loose, floating matter that it encounters. How much accident can the work incorporate? How much of the unconscious life can the mind dredge up from its depths?" ~Stanley Kunitz


"Your eyes are on your side, for you cannot see your eyes, and your eyes cannot see themselves. Eyes only see things outside, objective things. If you reflect on yourself, that self is not your true self any more. You cannot project yourself as some objective thing to think about. The mind which is always on your side is not just your mind, it is the universal mind, always the same, not different from another’s mind. It is Zen mind. It is big, big mind. The mind is whatever you see. Your true mind is always with whatever you see. Although you do not know your own mind, it is there—at the very moment you see something, it is there. This is very interesting. You mind is always with the things you observe. So you see, this mind is at the same time everything." ~Shunryu Suzuki, Zen’s Mind, Beginner’s Mind, p. 134

208. If you change your mind, you are free. Or you were.

From Vectors: Aphorisms & Ten-Second Essays by James Richardson


The Woman Who Is Early        Nin Andrews
The Woman Who Is Early is always at least one step ahead of
time. She is always rushing and rushing. Where-ever she goes,
she is already there long before she arrives. Whatever she is
saying, she has already said it before the words leave her lips.
Whatever song she is singing she is already so sick of it, and she
wishes she could get it out of her mind. Whatever meal she is
preparing, she has eaten it before taking the first bite. Whatever
man she desires, she had made love to him a thousand times
before he ever undresses her. A man can never make love to her
the way he did once upon a time, before he made love to her. Of
course therapists tell her she should slow down and rest a spell.
Relax. She has heard those words long before she ever sees
therapists. Does she have to explain it to them again? How a
great wave is chasing her? It is rising above her head even as she
thinks of it. If she looks back, just once, it will wash over her.
She will instantly drown. Of course, she is right. That's why she
has already drowned. 

The Storm                                                                                Jennifer Moss
Where one mind stops,
another begins.

Where cutlery shines on plates,
a voice lowers.

One length of forgiveness,
round and round like a child's game
in the dust.

Outside, the rain formalizing.

When we leave we are replaced.

Shaky clouds in lightning,
my shadow alive on the floor.

Then the small passage for sleep.

How green and spidery the sky.

In its net, the dead bees of memory. 

"The mind wants to live forever, or to learn a very good reason why not. The mind wants the world to return its love, or its awareness; the mind wants to know all the world, and all eternity, and God. The mind’s sidekick, however, will settle for two eggs over easy.

The dear, stupid body is as easily satisfied as a spaniel. And, incredibly, the simple spaniel can lure the brawling mind to its dish. It is everlastingly funny that the proud, metaphysically ambitious, clamoring mind will hush if you give it an egg.

Further: while the mind reels in deep space, while the mind grieves or fears or exults, the workaday senses, in ignorance or idiocy, like so many computer terminals printing out market prices while the world blows, up, still transcribe their little data and transmit them to the warehouse in the skull."

~Annie Dillard, in Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters, p. 99

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mind 3

"The true contemplative is not the one who prepares his mind for a particular message that he wants or expects to hear, but who remains empty because he knows that he can never expect or anticipate the word that will transform his darkness into light. He does not even anticipate a special kind of transformation. He does not demand light instead of darkness. He waits on the Word of God in silence, and when is “answered,” it is not so much by a word that bursts into his silence. It is by his silence itself suddenly, inexplicably revealing itself to him as a word of great power, full of the voice of God."

~Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer, p. 112-3


"Writing fiction is like remembering what never happens. It mimics memory without being memory. Images appear as textual ground, because this is how the brain works. I am convinced that the processes of memory and invention are linked in the mind."
~Siri Hustvedt, from 'Yonder', an essay in A Plea for Eros


The Plan is the Body               Robert Creeley

The plan is the body.
There is each moment a pattern.
There is each time something
for everyone.

The plan is the body.
The mind is in the head.
It’s a moment in time,
an instant, second.

The rhythm of one
and one, and one, and one.
The two, the three.
The plan is in the body.

Hold it an instant,
in the mind—hold it.
What was say you
said. The two, the three,

times in the body,
hands, feet, you remember—
I, I remember, I
speak it, speak it.

The plan is the body.
Times you didn’t want to,
times you can’t think
you want to, you.

Me, me, remember, me
here, me wants to, me
am thinking of you.
The plan is the body.

The plan is the body.
The sky is the sky.
The mother, the father—
The plan is the body.

Who can read it.
Plan is the body. The mind
is the plan. I
speaking. The memory

gathers like memory, plan,
I thought to remember,
thinking again, thinking.
The mind is the plan of the mind.

The plan is the body.
The plan is the body.
The plan is the body.
The plan is the body.


From Why I Write, by Joan Didion

Of course I stole the title for this talk, from George Orwell. One reason I stole it was that I like the sound of the words: Why I Write. There you have three short unambiguous words that share a sound, and the sound they share is this:
In many ways writing is the act of saying I, or imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its aggressiveness all you want with veils of subordinate clauses and qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasion—with  the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating—but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, and imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Mind 2

"My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it. (The famous example of Kekule working out the structure of benzene in his sleep is well-known.) Creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.”  ~Isaac Asimov


"Inspiration is there all the time. For everyone whose mind is not clouded over with thoughts whether they realize it or not." ~Agnes Martin


"When you look in your mind you find it covered with a lot of rubbishy thoughts. You have to penetrate these and hear what your mind is telling you to do. Such work is original work."  ~Agnes Martin


Pantoum Quilted from Agnes Martin's Writings by Carol Moldaw
Composition is an absolute mystery.
To penetrate the night is one thing
(you get light enough and you levitate),
to be penetrated by the night, another.
To penetrate the night is one thing, 
the mind knows what the eye has not seen;
to be penetrated by the night, another.
Overtaken, we feel a certain devotion.
The mind knows what the eye has not seen.
Perfection, of course, cannot be represented.
Overtaken, we feel a certain devotion.
Think of a shibori-dyed silk organza quilt.
Perfection, of course, cannot be represented
pieced and layered, a little bit off the square.
Think of a shibori-dyed silk organza quilt
but without batting, transparent, floating,
pieced and layered, a little bit off the square,
the layers hand-tied together with horsehair
(but without batting, transparent, floating).
Try to understand, court misunderstanding.
The layers hand-tied together with horsehair,
the grids of the layers overlap like voices.
Try to understand, court misunderstanding.
The seams, like leading, show through.
The grids of the layers overlap like voices.
One thing I've got a good grip on is remorse.
The seams, like leading, show through.
Before it's put on paper, it exists in the mind.
One thing I've got a good grip on is remorse.
Technique a hazard, interruptions a disaster,
before it's put on paper, it exists in the mind.
Rectangles lighten the square's weight.
Technique a hazard, interruptions a disaster,
composition is an absolute mystery.
Rectangles lighten the square's weight.
You get light enough and you levitate.


"To progress in life you must give up the things you do not like. Give up doing the things that you do not like to do. You must find the things that you do like. The things that are acceptable to your mind." -~Agnes Martin


"There are two parts of the mind. The outer mind that records facts and the inner mind that says "yes" and "no." When you think of something that you should do, the inner mind says "yes" and you feel elated. We call this inspiration."  ~Agnes Martin


“The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
~Wendell Berry

"Two is the rhythm of the body. Three is the rhythm of the mind." ~Leonard Bernstein

"My mind is a church." ~Thomas Jefferson

Logic               Richard Siken

A clock is a machine. A gear is a tool. There is rarely
any joy in a frictionless place, so find your inner viscosity.
The mind says viscosity is resistance to flow. The body
puts glue on a twig and catches a bird. Glue is a tool,
unless you are a bird. If you are a bird, then glue is
an inconvenience. A tool does work. A bird flies away
from danger and lands where it can. All thinking is
comparison. A bear is a weapon, a bear claw is a pastry.
A bear trap, if you are a bear, is an inconvenience.
Logic is boring because it works. Being unreasonable is
exciting. Machines have knobs you can turn if you
want to. A hammer is a hammer when it hits the nail.
A hammer is not a hammer when it is sleeping. I woke
up tired of being the hammer. There's a dream in the
space between the hammer and the nail: the dream of
about-to-be-hit, which is a bad dream, but the nail will
take the hit if it gets to sleep inside the wood forever.
I taped a sword to my hand when I was younger. This
is an argument about goals.


"The human mind always makes progress but it is a progress in spirals."  ~Madame de Stl

"The rational mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master." ~Ram Dass
"The man who never alters his opinions is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind." ~William Blake

Unveiling, Wakefield                                          Gail Mazur

I say to the named granite stone, to the brown grass,
to the dead chrysanthemums, Mother, I still have a
body, what else could receive my mind’s transmissions,
its dots and dashes of pain? I expect and get no answer,
no loamy scent of her coral geraniums. She who is now
immaterial, for better or worse, no longer needs to speak
for me to hear, as in a continuous loop, classic messages
of wisdom, love and fury. MAKE! DO! a note on our fridge
commanded. Here I am making, unmaking, doing, undoing.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Going Formal

Quarterday Review, out of Scotland, publishes formal poetry. Their latest issue is out, and it includes a haibun by Sharon Suzuki-Martinez, a poem in rhymed stanza by Marcus Bales, a ghazal by Catherine Wald, prose poems by Lisa Mangini, and a pantoum by me, among other works. You can download it here, and next month hard copies will be available.

Thanks to editor Lucy Johnson for providing such a beautiful home for formal poems.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Meerkat Press is sponsoring a Goodreads Giveaway of My Cruel Invention, the poetry anthology about inventions of all kinds, edited by Bernadette Geyer. This anthology includes two poems by me, as well as work by Karen Skolfield, Kelly Cherry, Holly Karapetkova, Joel Allegretti, Kristine Ong Muslim, Marjorie Maddox, Mia Leonin, Shelley Puhak, Julie E. Bloemeke, and more.

Clink on the link above to enter and win a copy of your own.