Check out the May 2014 Issue of Thrush Poetry Journal, featuring work by Anne Barngrover, Michael Bazzett, Jamez Chang, Rae Joyce, Adam Chiles, Lawrence Eby, Christine Gosnay, Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick, Rustin Larson, Thom Norgang, Nina Puro, Nicole Rollender, Jenny Sadre-Orafai, Robert Schultz, Ciara Shuttleworth, Jay Donald Smith, Carleen Tibbetts, and me.
Also, you can now get the anthology of the first two years of work published in Thrush Poetry Journal. This is one of my favorite online journals, and so worth it!!!!!
Judy Halebsky, poet and sometime-dweller-in-Japan, invited me to join her in this Writing Process Blog Tour. You can (and should!) read all about Judy's writing process here, where she answers the same four process-related questions that I will answer below.
And here's some information about Judy: Judy Halebsky’s book of poems, Sky=Empty (New Issues, 2010) was chosen by Marvin Bell as the winner of the New Issues Prize, a first book award, and was also a finalist for the California Book Award. Her chapbook, Space/Gap/Interval/Distance (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2012) won the Poets-Under-Forty Chapbook Contest from Sixteen Rivers Press. She teaches at Dominican University of California.
Now, I'll answer the same four questions that Judy did.
1) What are you working on?
My book, The Insomniac's Weather Report, which had gone out of print, recently found a new publisher Isobar Press, so I'm busy preparing for a June launch. I'm working with a different publisher on another manuscript as well (and will make an announcement about it soon).
What I'm writing these days are poems based on my mother's only brother, who at age 22 was lost on Denali (Mt. McKinley) in a mountain-climbing accident. For a number of reasons, speaking of the accident in my family was taboo for many years , and I am writing about growing up with that unarticulated loss.
2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
My education has been solely in analytical (not literary) fields, and I can't help but use my "quant" schooling to inform my work -- I hope in ways that are deeper than merely the choice of technical wording, playfulness with logic, etc.
3) Why do you write what you do?
I always want to do something I haven't done before to reach the truths I am afraid of. I'm also a big believer that form and voice should serve the poem. I'm less interested in consistent voice and style than effective use of voice and style. 4) How does your writing process work? I am a compulsive list-maker, in my writing life and in every other aspect of my life. I tend to think about a topic or theme, and make a list of all the images, ideas, and phrases that come to mind. Then I start working on one or several that seem related, or that seem to resonate, or are interestingly disparate. Always, writing the poems generates more items that should be on the list, which gives me more fodder for new poems, so it's a self-perpetuating method. (This is when I'm lucky and have a theme in mind. When I don't, it's anybody's guess what the process will be.)
***Next, I'm pleased to present Tara Mae Mulroy to continue the blog tour here.*** Tara Mae Mulroy is a graduate of the MFA program in poetry at the University of Memphis and currently teaches middle school Latin at a private school. Her poems, stories, and essays are published or forthcoming in Third Coast, CutBank, and others. Her chapbook, Philomela, is out from dancing girl press. Her blog can be found at taramaemulroy.wordpress.com. ***Also, Drew Myron accepted my invite to the blog tour here.*** Drew Myron heads a marketing communications company, and as a journalist has covered news, arts, entertainment and travel for numerous publications. She lives in Oregon, where she leads writing workshops for disadvantaged and homeless youth. She is the author of Thin Skin, a collection of photos and poems. www.drewmyron.com ***Finally, in a poetry boon, we also have Shawnte Orion's responses here.**** Shawnte Orion is anArizona poet frequently invited to read at bookstores, bars, colleges, hair salons, museums, and laundromats and published in Georgetown Review, Juked, DASH Literary Journal, New York Quarterly and many other literary journals. He hosts a monthly reading series at Glendale Community College.
I don't know how old I was when I first read Gabriel García Márquez, but I do know that it was in parents' house, the one they lived in before their current house that they've lived in for 26 years now. I was in either high school or college. I remember that after I finished the book I walked around the house aimlessly; I wandered into my parents' room and looked at their bookshelf, their bedspread, and wondered, "How can everything look the same when nothing will ever be the same again?"
I had just read One Hundred Years of Solitude. I had picked it off the library shelves because I had liked the title. I had not before heard of García Márquez, had not been assigned to read his work. I actually thought I had discovered an unknown writer and that I must tell everyone. I thought either he was brilliant or I was naïve. Turns out I was right on both accounts.
There have not been that many writers whose work has changed me as fundamentally as García Márquez, whose writing has made me look at what is possible to do with words, who have caused me to step back from reality in order to describe reality.
I immediately returned to the library to get Love in the Time of Cholera, which was published in 1985. So I was in college. Solves that mystery.
Gabriel García Márquez was a brave writer, an endlessly moral person, a strong believer in his own work and what it could do for his region though he refused to sacrifice fine writing for political content (rejecting that false dichotomy), and there is as much to learn from his life as there is from his writing. I am grateful to him for his body of work, one that makes it easier to live in this world and make sense of it all by letting go of sense. And now we have to let go of him, and that too makes no sense. As it never does. Thank you, Gabriel García Márquez.
isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life
into it and make something out of that. Mary Oliver ****** Love Song: The Reproduction of Mothering (1)
Making of the Mother: PortraitsMarcia Aldrich This is
a mother who still holds her daughter's hand when they're walking down the
street. Her daughter is 18 years old. This is a mother who wants her daughter
to look and act and be just like her. This is a daughter who does not resist
what her mother wants. As the years pass this is a daughter who is becoming her
mother. This is a mother who is always receding into the background. This is a
mother who is always refilling platters, emptying trash, washing dishes. This
is a daughter who with each passing year is receding into the background,
watching her brother from the wings doing his tricks, clapping along with her
mother and others. This is a mother who wears little Sunday school white gloves
to bed to keep her hands innocent. This is a daughter who in time will too.
The head, the mouth, the fruit, the
The pit, the teeth, the branch, the
The wet, the swollen, the light,
The picking, the washing, the
cutting, the quartering.
The sweet, the having.
The juice. The holding it in your
beautiful and then ruined. The
forms of devouring. The remaining empty.
The excitement of the definite article.
one thing is analogous to what’s
The ceremonial names
of what is done to them. What is
unknown requires a new way of cutting.
What we’re left with.
How we make an object ours, make it
How we become the object and are
How we are delicious and dead at
the center in so many ways.
How that is wrong and it is
stillness, moon-like at the core.
How what we are is what reflects
off it. How we are light produced earlier
by other things.
A poem is an empty suitcase that you can never quit
emptying. Kay Ryan
"For What Binds
There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they've been set down --
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.
And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
than the simple, untested surface before.
There's a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,
as all flesh,
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest --
And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.
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
by Joseph Fasano
You sit at a window and listen to
crossing the dark grasses of the fields
toward you, a moon soaking through his shoes as he shuffles the wind
aside, the night in his hands like an empty bridle.
How long have we been this way, you ask him. It must be ages, the wind answers. It must be the music of the wind
turning your fingers to glass, turning the furniture of childhood
to the colors of horses, turning them away.
Your father is still crossing the acres, a light on his tongue
like a small coin from an empire that has always been ruined.
Now the dark flocks are drifting through his shoulders
with an odor of lavender, an odor of gold. Now he has turned
as though to go, but only knelt down with the heavy oars
of October on his forearms, to begin the horrible rowing.
You sit in a chair in the room. The wind lies open
on your lap like the score of a life you did not measure.
You rise. You turn back to the room and repeat what you know:
The earth is not a home. The night is not an empty bridle
in the hands of a man crossing a field with a new moon
in his old wool. We abandon the dead. We abandon them.
like the exact
shape of a cloud
or the exact shape
of a hand waving
in the sunlight
to another hand
that waves back. Come to think of it,
everything up to now
And I have also already left
I still ride
through the outskirts
of the city. And I still sit
by the window,
while what is left
of the demolished
and the empty
and the transitory
architecture. It's amazing
but then it's gone
like a wave
other waves. Or like
the delicate white
of the Dogwood
as if there were
as if there were
Everything that seems empty is
full of the angels of God.St. Hilaire, fourth-century bishop (and patron saint
against snake bites)
standing in front of a woman who says thank you
when you tell her you love her, that stuck
of a crow, pulling the one nail from its voice
outside your window and you
down to the sea too late, where it was
three million years ago, waving your little towel
at the shadow of waves, like dropping
stomach when you drop the phone,
a voice spinning at the end of the chord, your mother,
even the person telling you
gone and you
waving your metronome arm, and time
the trees making clocks we check
by cutting them down.
GenesisHerman de Coninck, tr. By Laure-AnneBosselaar and Kurt Brown
was the sixth day. Adam was ready.
He saw the oaks firmly rooted
in the void. Power is a matter of branching.
He had seen the mountains, vast storerooms holding
only themselves, high empty cellars.
And deer. With legs as thin as stethoscopes
they stood listening to the breast of the earth,
and as soon as they heard something, they ran away,
inventing pizzicato as they fled the horizon.
And he had seen the sea, the busy swelling and receding
that makes one calm. And the empty, provocative gestures
of the wind, come along, come along, though no one followed.
And the depths, gulfs that make one uneasy. And being silent,
because that's what everything was doing, and being too big.
Then God said: and now you. No, said Adam.
unveil themselves in dark.
They hang, each a jagged,
silken sleeve, from moonlit rafters bright
as polished knives. They swim
the muddied air and keen
like supersonic babies, the sound
we imagine empty wombs might make
in women who can't fill them up.
A clasp, a scratch, a sigh.
They drink fruit dry.
And wheel, against feverish light flung hard
upon their faces,
in circles that nauseate.
Imagine one at breast or neck,
patterning a name in driblets of iodine
that spatter your skin in stars.
They flutter, shake like mystics.
They materialize. Revelatory
as a stranger's underthings found tossed
upon the marital bed, you tremble
even at the thought. Asleep,
you tear your fingers
through your damp neck hair
and search the sheets all night.
Future Tense Charles
All things in the end are bittersweet—
An empty gaze, a little way-station just beyond silence.
If you can’t delight in the everyday,
you have no future here.
And if you can, no future either.
And time, black dog, will sniff you out,
and lick your lean cheeks,
And lie down beside you—warm, real close—and will not move.
should be rushed towards. Rejection has to be faced.” Dan Savage
There’s no art in giving what you have. The
art is giving what you haven’t got. The gift of empty hands.Anna Kamienska, Industrious AmazementOkay, so this advice from Dan Savage was about relationships, not writing, but there's still validity here.
Rush towards rejection in your writing. Face the hard subjects, the demons, the projects that are going to make you uncomfortable, and make those who love you uncomfortable. (And, by the way, get over yourself--they probably won't be as uncomfortable as you think they will be; your writing is not the center of their life just because it's the center of yours.)
Rush towards rejection in submitting. Dare. The worst that can happen is that you are told No. That's it.
Rush towards rejection in other opportunities you are offered. This where I am weak. I write boldly, submit fearlessly (submitting is a relatively private matter after all), but other opportunities that come my way I am timid about accepting. Because I'm afraid I will let down those who ask me. Or embarrass myself in front of a readership or listenership. This is definitely the area that I need to learn a sense of abandon, a sense of rushing towards rejection.
Rush towards rejection. It might not happen, but even if it does, you'll probably (in the long run) be glad you dared instead of endlessly wondering if you should have.
Kansai poets, writers, artistic types -- poet Steven Breyak is hosting a open reading event on Wednesday, April 16th, from 10 pm, at Café Absinthe in Osaka.
The event is called 3:1, because, in Breyak's words, "[there is] one rule of this event. Simply, for every one poem of your own that you read, you need to read 3 other works by other poets. Any language, any time period, just something that's been published. I want this event to be more about share our reading than our writing. (Though I want us to share our writing too!)"
Control was all
I wanted: a handle
on the day, the night
when it curved,
when it swayed,
when I could sense
the teeming stars
in light, in dark
the sun's bare wire.
to turn it off:
pinned to each tree
like a radius
of some infant's
milk it spilled.
And the leaves,
of claw and beak
and wind and heat
and wing. Tether
lake to bank and
cloud to peak.
And weather it.
Weather it. All this
to say I've
taken off my ring.
"Just do your work. And if the world needs your work it will come and get
you. And if it doesn't, do your work anyway. You can have fantasies about
...having control over the world, but I know I can barely control my kitchen
sink. That is the grace I'm given. Because when one can control things, one is
limited to one's own vision."
give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him. So
it is with people: first, let them do what they want, and watch them. This is
the best policy. To ignore them is not good; that is the worst policy. The
second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to
watch them, without trying to control them. Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind,
Beginner’s Mind, p. 32
Ars PoeticaHenrietta Goodman
Why do we think we have any control
at all? My breasts are soggy cartons.
The baby is greedy. He grabs
my skin in his fists, twists my hair.
He seems to know everything
already, the checkbook, balanced wrong,
the ignorance I'm not supposed
to confess—my friend says Giotto
and I hear Choteau, tiny town not far
from here. Clearly, I can imagine
no farther. The valley's a funnel,
skyline blurred by charcoal clouds,
the valley's a tornado and I'm
the eye—doodlebug, doodlebug
your house is on fire—
the room spins and spins
until the floor drops away
and I'm dizzy, frescoed to the wall, Madonna Defying Gravity.
You can't tell it yet,
but I'm slipping, scratching the days
in my skin with a dull blade,
too afraid to just cut clean
and deep. This is how prisoners do it,
one scratch for each day
on the wall that holds them in,
one for each day I've lost
in half-sleep, the baby curled
like a snail on my chest, my hand patting,
patting, stomach bulging
over the top of my pants—
what is restrained in one place
escapes in another—
"I cannot seem to feel alive unless I am
alert," Charles Bowden writes in his recent book, "Some of the Dead
Are Still Breathing", "and
I cannot feel alert unless I push past the point where I have control."
To Mirah: In Utero: On Being Named Jennifer Perrine
I lost control of my car one summer, blacked out
on the way to work: when I woke, I’d lost
a random taxonomy: paper, sieve, sand dollar:
stuck in some synapse between mind and tongue:
others lost in their fumble of letters: I found
driftwood on the river and called it derby:
my doctor gave me a name: aphasia: like Adam
knowing he’d gotten it right when he found
gecko or ant lion under a dead leaf: no doubt
there’s a purgatory for lost language: the dark
burning-off before ascension: a lexicon
shaken loose from etymology: uprooted
rhizomes shucking their dirt: and you: swathed
in the hum of your name: all the world your alias.
Betray the RiverDionisio D. Martínez
Did we betray the river or did the river betray us? You've noticed, I'm
sure, how, under certain conditions, a ladder leaning on a wall is a draw-
bridge waiting for a sailboat that keeps delaying its journey, calling
the man who operates the bridge, layering elaborate excuses so neatly
that the man only hears one excuse: the boat's coming, just not yet, not
while the water's in control of the situation. The man waits—drawbridge
up, traffic on hold. Sometimes the world is all patience and silence
and there is nothing you can do to stir up trouble. The driver who keeps
a knife beneath the seat is tapping on the dashboard a song coming from
another car. This is an exception. Others are praying to their private
rivers, as if the one just ahead were not there: seeing is too easy: one
acquires increasingly complex needs, like the taste of earth just
turned by oxen who know the plow as well as a man knows his river. We
know this blue's an illusion: the things that shelter us are colorless and
hover just so, not quite halos and not quite hats, and they can all be named
even if the names are arbitrary, even if they're not quite words. Our boat
waits for the water to go from blue to brown to ocher, as in a Turner
vision—a realism so crude it borders on beauty, the way beauty
was meant to touch us: with its repulsive allure, its unwashed mirrors of
heavy morning fog. We have to look head-on, and learn to forget again.
UpdateJ. Allyn Rosser
Look there, a man caught smack in the middle of his
and almost aware of it; not quite yet resigned
but past most of the old impatiences,
developed a consciously casual walk, not quite
the swagger of yore, nor the dignified limp
to come; rather like a man carrying a long heavy plank,
glad of his hard-won, admittedly
calmly dreading several varieties of misstep
such as tipping the future a little
too far forward or
letting the past plunk down heedless behind; or merely
looking down; or turning so quickly
to look back as to
whack the one just now bending to pick her own burden;
still staunchly bearing it onward in splinterless grip
across the rooftop lifescape—bicep,
thigh muscles in play, also those of the spine, the upper lip,
he is at last in control, yes, in his element, in his
of hearts wondering how long he will
bear it, where to
and, as ever, what for.
I have some exciting news: my first full-length poetry collection, The Insomniac's Weather Report, is back!!!!!!! After winning the three candles press First Book Award, The Insomniac's Weather Report subsequently went out of print when the publisher suddenly closed down (after more than 10 years of service to poets and readers). It was a devastating setback, but happily fortune has reversed itself with the following good news.
Thanks to Paul Rossiter's Japan-based Isobar Press, a brand new edition of The Insomniac's Weather Report will be available in June 2014. Anyone wishing to preorder a copy can send me an email from my website. It will also be available on Amazon at a later date. I'll give you more details as the project progresses.
Isobar Press is, in its own words, interested in "work in English by Japanese and non-Japanese authors who live (or have lived) in Japan, or who write on Japan-related topics. The focus, at least initially, will be on poetry, including both original writing and translations from the Japanese." This is a welcome addition to the poetry universe, and an exciting development for me. Three cheers for Isobar!