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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Patron Saint Against Writer's Block

Sometimes I just have to remember that everything I do is writing. It may not look like it to anyone else (it doesn't even seem like it to me!), but what I am doing when I'm doing nothing is writing. And when I'm doing something other than writing, somehow that is writing too.

Take this week, for instance. All week I tinkered with the wording of two lines of a poem that is essentially finished. But I just kept messing around with it, because trying to start something new was getting me nowhere. The notes I had jotted down in my notebook didn't connect, didn't start any synapses firing. So I tinkered with the old poem. And felt frustrated, like I am getting older (which I am) and not getting anything done in the meantime (which I wasn't).

Then I did have an idea. It involved the Patron Saint of Gravel, something I had jotted down in my notebook. So I thought about that awhile, and went online to get some background information that might inspire me. That's when I learned that the actual title was Patron Saint Against Gravel. Well, that was problematic. I mean, who is against gravel?

So I took some time looking into the matter. I never did find a definitive answer, but I did notice that the listing was often Patron Saint Against Colic, Fevers, Gallstones, Gravel and Kidney Stones. Which led me to believe that we aren't talking about gravel, as in gravel pit or gravel road. I'm guessing that this gravel is the tiny stones or sludge that builds up in the kidney or the gall bladder prior to the actual formation of kidney stones or gallstones. (But I'm just guessing, so if anyone knows, please tell me.) Anyhow, it did seem likely that this gravel was a medical condition.

Needless to say, there went the poem.

However, sitting there at the computer rueing the loss of my gravel inspiraton, I suddenly recalled the Facebook status of a friend this week that had involved a fox. I don't know why it popped into my head just then as I was despairing over gravel, but it did. And it reminded me of my own two incidents in life involving a fox, and then I was suddenly writing one of those down quickly in verse and it paired with a line in my notebook that I have been saving to build a poem around, which had nothing to do with foxes but still fit perfectly. And then, after a week of feeling like I was spinning my wheels, I suddenly had the first draft to a poem about foxes but not about gravel.

And that's how writing goes. I can't get to what I need to write without periods of being unable to write, without days (or weeks) of being stuck first. So being stuck is part of the writing process, which means that when I'm not writing, actively not writing as opposed to avoiding writing, I really am writing.

Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

(And I saw the funniest quote about writer's block this week too, from Quotes4Writers on Twitter: "Writer's block: when your imaginary friends won't talk to you." Anonymous)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Who Writes Short Shorts?

Here's a post on writer Simon Kewin's blog, in which he lists Twitter Fiction markets. Many of these are also Twitter Poetry markets, since when you are limited to 140 characters, the difference between poetry and prose does tend to shrink a bit.

I actually have two poems (and a third forthcoming) from one of the venues listed, Cellpoems. Check my two poems out here and here if interested.

So if you dare write short shorts......

(And if that song is stuck in your head now, here it is on YouTube.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Last week I tried a writing prompt with interesting results. I think I got this prompt from Diane Lockward's excellent monthly newsletter (which you can sign up to receive at Diane Lockward's blog here), but I'm not entirely sure, since I jotted the exercise down in my notebook but failed to cite the source (sorry!).

Here's the deal. Choose a poem you admire or like, or one that has huge leaps in it (that last suggestion is mine). Delete every other line, as in, delete all the even-numbered lines or all the odd-numbered lines. Fill the emptly lines in with your own  words.

Next, delete the lines which you did not delete before, the ones that remain from the original poem. If you deleted the even-numbered lines before, now delete the odd-numbered ones, and vice verse. Now fill in those lines with your own words, so that the only lines that remain are ones which you have written. Voila, you have a new poem, which should have the same number of lines as the original, but contain none of the original lines in it at this point.

This exercise was tons of fun for me as, having chosen a poem with big leaps in it as the original, I had to make tremendous leaps of my own to fill the alternating lines in. It was challenging and exciting and much out of my comfort zone, which often elicits interesting results. I highly recommend this exercise to you. In fact, I've chosen two more poems to work with next, as this was such a fruitful exercise for me.

So go write.

Or, if you have a favorite prompt of your own, do tell.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Shakin' It Back: Fundraiser in Tokyo

This Sunday, May 1st, Sun and Moon Yoga is hosting a fundraiser in Tokyo called Shakin' It Back: Writers for Charity for Tohoku. It will feature readers including Sawako Nakayasu and Leza Lowitz, plus music and an open mic.

The event will run from 4:30 to 7:30 at What the Dickens in Ebisu. Admission is 2000 yen. Check out their Facebook event page for more details.

What Editors Want

Here's a very good article by Lynne Barrett in The Review Review entitled "What Editors Want; A Must-Read for Writers Submitting to Literary Magazines." The first two sections are specifically about short stories, but starting from the third section "Submission" and following through "How to Receive a Rejection," "How to Respond to a Minimally Encouraging Letter," "How to Respond to a Longer, More Personal Rejection," to the concluding three sections, there is a plethora of excellent advice for anyone submitting to literary mags, including some specific, brief and appropriate language to use when it wouldn't be advisable to say what you really feel.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Four Stories Fundraiser for Japan

I'm not sure how many Boston readers visit this blog, but just in case, the famed Boston-area Four Stories reading series is holding a fundraiser on May 23rd for children orphaned by the earthquake/tsunami in Tohoku, Japan. Founder and host extraordinaire Tracy Slater has planned an auction in addition to a reading by internationally acclaimed writers. Click on the link for more details.

Tracy will also plan fundraising events in Tokyo and Osaka at later dates. Sign up to be emailed when more details are available by following the link above.

Friday, April 22, 2011

32 Plus 5 (or maybe 6 or 7 or...)

In celebration of National Poetry Month, the 32 Poems blog has been featuring the five favorite poetry books of a given poet, as listed by that poet. Each day of the month features a different poet's list. I've been finding these blog entries useful in extending my already massive to-read list.

I also began to wonder what 5 books of poetry would be on my list of favorites (not that anybody has ever asked me, but as we all know, I love a list), so I have compiled today's favorite 5. I say "today's" because the list is ever-evolving and so dependent on my mindset at the time of compilation.

Anyway, here it is:

Jessica's Five Favorite Books of Poetry (as of April 21, 2011), in no particular order:

1. Cole Swensen's The Book of a Hundred Hands: Poems
2. W. B. Keckler's Sanskrit of the Body
3. Stefi Weisburd's The Wind-up Gods
4. Corinne Lee's PYX
5. Chad Sweeney's Parable of Hide and Seek (and just about everything else I've read by Chad Sweeney)
6. Anne Michaels's The Weight of Oranges/Miner's Pond
7. Almost anything by Charles Wright, Anne Carson, and Jack Gilbert

Okay, it's not that I can't count to 5, it's that I can't stop listing great poetry. But I am stopping now. These titles came off the top of my head without even consulting my bookshelves. If I did that, I'm sure I'd have more more more. And I only added #7 because these are my tried-and-true favorite poets that I couldn't NOT include, but I really wanted to give the names of some poets you might not have heard of, so that's #1-6.

Please feel free to list your favorite 5 or so in the comments section below. I'd love to learn the names of some poets I don't already know.

Happy Poetry Month.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reading by Ryan

Here's a very charming reading followed by an interview with Kay Ryan, newly-named Pulitzer Prize winner. The inimitable Atsuro Riley introduces and interviews Ryan in this Lannan Foundation podcast that was taped only last week on Wednesday the 13th. Don't miss Kay Ryan's thoughts on lightness and coldness in poetry, as well as her delightful discussions of her own uses of rhyme and humor.

And if you are frustrated trying to get published, you don't want to miss the conversation part of this event. Available as downloadable podcast, and also as direct online listening.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bikes for Japan

Do you have a bicycle sitting around unused? Would you like to send it to Tohoku to help survivors of the earthquake/tsunami gain a mode of transportation to get to work, find work, get to school, whatever? With many cars disappearing in the tsunami, a gift of a bicycle can offer some independence to people with very little right now.

Check out this link: Bikes for Japan. Someone will actually come to your home and get the bikes you are willing to donate (looks like this program is for the Tokyo area only though).

This is a terrific grass-roots program organized by a bicycle mechanic. Please look into it if you have any bicycles to offer.

Go here for pictures of volunteers and a count of how many bikes have been gathered so far.

Thanks to Eucharia from MIJ for making me aware of this program.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Asking the Prose Pros

So I've been trying for months and months to write a prose poem. Why? Because I like reading prose poems, and because I wanted to write something that felt as modern as the prose poem (though yes, the form goes back as far as the Bible, but still its resurgence makes it feel modern). And because I wanted to do something I'd never done. And so, a prose poem.

But every time I wrote a few lines of what was meant to be a prose poem, I would see a place a linebreak would add a double meaning or increase tension or serve some other function particular to the linebreak, and I would end up lineating what I was working on.

I felt about prose poems like that famous quote about pornography: I can't exactly say what it is, but I know it when I see it. Well, it turns out I was wrong. Because in desperation at failing once again at writing a prose poem, I decided to gather some information about them in order to focus my thinking.

Searching around online, here are a few things I read about prose poems that I ALREADY knew, but which are stated interestingly enough to catch my attention:

As quoted on the website, here is Peter Johnson's explanation of a prose poem (Johnson is editor of The Prose Poem: An International Journal), "Just as black humor straddles the fine line between comedy and tragedy, so the prose poem plants one foot in prose, the other in poetry, both heels resting precariously on banana peels."

Here's what Robert Hass, in an interview with the Iowa Review, had to say: "I was working in these forms because they had a certain outwardness that verse didn’t have."

Anya Groner's review of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice edited by Gary L. McDowell and F. Daniel Rzicznek on Bookslut contained the following paragraph:

The power of the prose poem, many of the contributors suggest, comes from the tension inherent to concision. Tung-Hui Hu comments that “Nothing stops a lyric poem from going on indefinitely… But a prose poem has to stop; too long and it turns into a short story.” As Carol Guess points out, in prose poetry “what’s unsaid matter as much as what’s said.”  It’s precisely the constraints of size that, like a reduction in cooking, produce the prose poem’s zany power, the pull between urgency and irreverence (Keplinger) or “the impulse to make meaning and the impulse to focus on sound alone, on letters as musical notation” (Guess). Writers need not choose between narrative and lyric. The sentence is the drum, and the subject matter is limitless, as long as it fits in the box. It’s like Pandora’s box, but in reverse.

Yes, yes, yes, I could recognize a prose poem. The problem was I couldn't write one. And then I came across something I DIDN'T already know in this almost prosaic description by J. Zimmerman at

Prose is the ordinary language that people use in speaking or writing. It does not treat the line as a formal unit. It has no repetitive pattern of rhythm or meter.
In a prose poem:

  • The writing is continuous and without line breaks.
  • The piece may be of any length and may be divided into paragraphs. A single sentence or sentence fragment can be a prose poem, as can multiple paragraphs.
  • The natural rhythm of thought can lead to rhythmical cadences in a prose poem.
  • Internal rhyme and alliteration and repetition can be used. Some such trait of poetry must be present. Otherwise it is prose, not a prose poem.
  • It lies between free verse and prose.
  • Usually has compressed thought and intensity.

Wait a minute, what is the 2nd bullet point? A prose poem can be divided into paragraphs? It doesn't have to be a single Russell Edson-style block? But I've written four or five of those. Pieces that started out as poems but in which it became clear linebreaks added nothing, despite the poetic devices otherwise used. Short paragraphs of 2 or 3 lines each, which organically wrapped around at the end of the line to the next line, so that stanzas ended up looking more like.....really short paragraphs.

So I've written prose poems? I've actually published some, not knowing it?

It turns out that despite my previous confidence, I couldn't recognize prose poems, or not all prose poems, because I was stuck on the blocky single-paragraph form as an identifying feature. Which it isn't necessarily.

And even better, I didn't even know a prose poem when I'd  written one, not out of a concerted effort to do so, but because the poem took on the form that naturally suited it as it developed. Which is the best way for a form to turn up in a poem. For me anyway.

I'll never be a prose poem pro myself, but I'm glad I've got a few prose poems in my repertoire, however unwittingly they came to be there. And now I can stop trying so hard.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Rejection Jar

So my post on rejection apparently hit quite a nerve, judging from the number of hits to my website immediately following its posting. Naturally rejection is quite a popular topic, an obsession really, among the writerly type. Recently I read Michael Kardos's strategy for coping with the big "Not today, dear" by creating "a rejection jar." Check out his post at the Missouri Review's blog for more details. You might as well; those rejections just keep on coming, and having a way of coping is a healthy thing.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

4 More A-4-isms

Spring has finally come to Kobe. We have been celebrating with cherry blossom viewing all week. Now let's celebrate with 4 more aphorisms from James Richardson's Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays.

23. All stones are broken stones.

171. To know, you just have to know. To believe, you have to make others believe.

207. Sometimes I hate beauty because I don't have a choice about loving it. I must be wrong in this, but whether because I take freedom too seriously, or love, I cannot tell.

374. I trick myself into sins I could not forgive myself for intending. If I could depend on myself for a little mercy, I would perhaps not have grown so expert in the self-deception that makes it so difficult minute to minute to know what I am really doing.

Hope you are enjoying spring too, wherever you are.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Buddhist Poets: Call to Submit

Rattle Issue 36 (Winter 2011) will feature poems by Buddhist poets (poems need not necessarily be about Buddhism though.) Also wanted are essays about the interplay between poetry and Buddhism. Check out the guidelines here. Submission period closes August 1st.

Give It Up For Rae Armantrout

Or rather, she gives it up for you, free. A free downloadable copy of her first book Extremities here.

(And apparently, it's her birthday......)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New three candles Winner: Jackie Bartley

Copied from the three candles press news page:

Congratulations to Jackie Bartley for winning the third three candles press open book award. Her manuscript Sleeping with a Geologist was selected by Paul Guest. While there were no additional finalists, the remaining semi-finalists were Michelle Bitting, Matthew Thorburn, Beverly Burch, Adam Tavel, Pamela Sutton, Derek Pollard, Mark Terrill, Liz Robbins, Lynn Doyle, Elizabeth J. Colen, and Emily Toder Posted 4/12/2011

May I add my congratulations to Jackie Bartley too!

Post-Publication Book Contests

So you've published your poetry book. What next? Here are some contests for already published books of poetry. I've borrowed very heavily (actually COPIED ENTIRELY) from lists posted on the blogs of Bernadette Geyer and Sandra Beasley. Some of these are for first (or first or second, or not first) books only. Check out the details for yourself, particularly since dates and requirements to enter change year to year.


ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards – poetry category
sponsor: ForeWord Magazine
submission/entry by: publisher
deadline: January 15

Levis Reading Prize (1st or 2nd book of poetry)
sponsor: Virginia Commonwealth University, Dept. of English
submission/entry by: author or publisher
deadline: January 15

The Balcones Poetry Prize
sponsor: Austin Community College
submission/entry by: publisher, author or others
deadline: January 31

Eric Hoffer Award for Independent Books
sponsor: Hopewell Publications
submission/entry by: anyone
deadline: January 31

Paterson Poetry Prize
sponsor: The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College
submission/entry by: publisher
deadline: February 1

Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in Poetry
sponsor: Southern Illinois Univ. Carbondale & GRASSROOTS
submission/entry by: publisher or author
deadline: February 1

Library of Virginia Literary Awards (VA writer)
sponsor: Library of Virginia
submission/entry by: publisher or author
deadline: February 5

Milton Kessler Poetry Book Award (book by poet over 40)
sponsor: Binghamton University
submission/entry by: publisher
deadline: March 1

Grub Street Book Prize (for a 2nd, 3rd or beyond book)
sponsor: Grub Street, Inc.
submission/entry by: author or press
deadline: March 15

James Laughlin Award (2nd book)
sponsor: Academy of American Poets
submission/entry by: publisher
deadline: May 15

Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize
sponsor: American Academy of Poets
submission/entry by: publisher
deadline: May 15

National Book Award
sponsor: National Book Foundation
submission/entry by: publisher
deadline: June 14

Towson University Prize for Literature (for book by Maryland authors)
sponsor: Towson University
submission/entry by: author
deadline: June 15

Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award
sponsor: Great Lakes Colleges Association
submission/entry by: publisher
deadline: July 25

Kate Tufts Discovery Award (for a 1st book)
sponsor: Claremont Graduate University
submission/entry by: author
deadline: September 15

Pulitzer Prize
sponsor: Pulitzer
submission/entry by: author
deadlines: Oct 1

National Book Critics Circle Award
sponsor: National Book Critics Circle
submission/entry by: publisher
deadline: December 1

Pushcart Prize (for individual poems from published poetry collections)
sponsor: Pushcart Prize
submission/entry by: publisher
deadline: December 1

Norma Farber First Book Award (for a first book)
sponsor: Poetry Society of America
submission/entry by: publisher
deadline: December 22

William Carlos Williams Award
sponsor: Poetry Society of America
submission/entry by: publisher
deadline: December 22

American Book Awards
sponsor: Before Columbus Foundation
submission/entry by: anyone
deadline: December 31


Sunday, April 10, 2011


Cellpoems is a tech-savvy journal that text messages poems to your phone once a week. Or if you are like me and don't like text messages, you can follow them on Twitter. You can also check their archives out at their website.

Following Twitter's lead, the poems in Cellpoems are all limited to 140 characters or less. That hasn't stopped them from attracting work from well-known poets such as Sherman Alexie, Dan Beachy-Quick, Erika Meitner, Matthea Harvey, Todd Boss, Billy Collins, Charles Simic, Kimiko Hahn, and on and on....

This week's featured poem is by me. I have two more in the queue for future texting, so if interested, be sure to sign up.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Thanks to everybody who sent letters to the workers in Fukushima. They were handed over on Thursday to a representative worker who has probably already distributed them to the others. The rep was stunned to receive the good wishes of people from all over the world, truly moved by your concern and care.

Thank you all.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Richardson Takes Jackson

James Richardson, whose aphorisms I posted about last Friday, has been awarded the Jackson Poetry Prize, worth $50,000. Go, James!

To celebrate, I'll post 4 more of the aphorisms for which he is so acclaimed.

250. The wounds you do not want to heal are you.

454. What’s thinking? You live in a grandly appointed house, but spend all your time rummaging in the attic for any little trinket you hadn’t known was there.

471. If you never do a thing you may regret later, later will never come. As Eve proved, shame is time.

492. Writing a book is like doing a huge jigsaw puzzle, unendurably slow at first, almost self-propelled at the end. Actually, it’s more like doing a puzzle from a box in which several puzzles have been mixed. Starting out, you can’t tell whether a piece belongs to the puzzle at hand, or one you’ve already done, or will do in ten years, or will never do.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rejecting Rejection

A number of my writer friends have recently been mildly depressed due to having received rejections from literary magazines. I have gotten my fair share of rejections lately too, but it doesn't bother me the way it used to, and here's why.

Some years ago, when I had just begun to send my poems around, I received a rejection letter from a journal sponsored by a university in the midwest. The letter said that because my work had come so close to being accepted by them, they felt that I might benefit from the notes they had made in their consideration of it. Which I thought was very generous of them.

Attached to the letter (with a rusty paperclip) was a business-sized envelope on which notes were written on both sides. It appeared that the envelope had been attached to my poem and circulated among about 8 people prior to (or perhaps in lieu of) a verbal discussion on submissions. Each person wrote 2 or 3 lines and apparently passed it along, signing only their first names, since obviously they worked together and knew one another.

The first comment miffed me since it criticized my line breaks, and if there is one thing I am scrupulous about, it is line breaks. The second comment hit home when it mentioned the lack of imagery. The third thought some wordplay was just a little too precious. Both these comments were dead on, and I knew it immediately when I read them. And indeed, each succeeding comment had something worthwhile to think about.

On the back of the envelope there was this comment: "This is a brilliant poem. We should publish it." And it was signed by an unusual first name. An unusual first name that happened to be shared by a poet who is extremely important to me and whose books are all lined up prominently on my top bookshelf. What kind of coincidence is that, I wondered, such an unsual name. But I knew my beloved poet was teaching elsewhere, so that's what it was: a crazy coincidence.

Days passed, and I continued to be bothered by the line break comment (see, I'm as obsessive as the next guy), so I finally went online to journal's website to look at first names of the staff and see who it was who had written the comment (see, I'm as petty as the next guy). And guess what? It was an MFA grad student who had even fewer publication credits than I did. Furthermore I knew she was wrong, and was probably just trying to impress her colleagues and classmates with her criticism, especially since she was first to comment.

Since I was already online, I decided to look for the person with the unusual name. And guess what? My beloved poet was doing a year as a guest lecturer at this university. It was indeed him.

Nothing could have pleased me more. Needless to say, I still have that envelope. It is more important to me than any acceptance ever could have been. A brilliant poet important to me had loved my poem. And wanted to publish it.

And still it hadn't been published. Why not? Because one of the functions of literary magazines sponsored by universities is to teach grad students (and in some cases undergrads) how to run a magazine, part of which means making editorial decisions. Sometimes good ones, sometimes bad ones. So that is one reason you should not be upset when rejected by a university-sponsored journal. In all likelihood, you are being rejected by students with less experience writing than you have. Which doesn't mean that their judgment is always wrong, or always at odds with more experienced writers', but it could be. You just don't know.

And you have to keep  in mind with all journals what their functions are. Publishing the best writing they can is only one of their goals. They have to stay solvent (or try to get solvent, more likely). If that means publishing a more famous poet than you, when your submissions are of roughly equal quality, then that's what it means. And that's no criticism of the less-well-known writer. It's just a fact of life. So don't feel criticized.

And there's cronyism, nepotism, and all that. If your poem is as good as an editor's old classmate's poem, but there's only space for one, you might lose out. There are so many reasons not to take rejection personally.

But remember, as William Stafford said, "Editors are our friends. They keep us from embarrassing ourselves." And indeed, many times when our work is rejected, it is for our own good. Maybe we sent something out that wasn't ready yet. It's hard to be objective about our own work, so be grateful to editors who reject you. It gives you another chance (and often another and another and another) to evaluate your piece with the objective eye that has had some time and distance apart from work. We've all heard the story of Louise Glück going from bookstore to bookstore trying to buy back all the copies of her earliest (or one of her earliest?) books, having decided post-publication that it was not good enough to put out there in the public eye. If it can happen to Louise Glück, it can happen to anyone.

So don't be bothered by rejection. Or (more realistically), be less bothered than you were by rejection the last time. Just keep on writing, which is really its own reward anyway.

Cranes for Clothes: Oshkosh

For every origami crane Oshkosh receives, they will donate one article of clothing to a child in Japan who has lost everything in the recent disaster. This is a great way to contribute to the efforts and practice your origami skills at the same time. Oshkosh even provides directions for making origami cranes on its website. Give it a try!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Insomniac on Amazon Japan

My book The Insomniac's Weather Report is now available on (Amazon Japan for those of you in other countries). Whoo hoo!

Steal Like an Artist

Austin Kleon, about whose book of erasures, Newspaper Blackout, I posted last month, has an edited version of a talk he gave posted on his blog. It's called How to Steal Like an Artist (and 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me). Lots of fun to read and well worth the investment of your time.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Poetry Everywhere

Poetry Everywhere, a series of short videos of poetry to be aired on PBS and on the web, produced by David Grubin Productions in association with the Poetry Foundation, and hosted by Garrison Keillor, has as its aim "to expose a diverse audience to a broad spectrum of poetic voices, build an appreciation and an audience for poetry, and increase the presence of poets and poetry within the two most ubiquitous media in American popular culture–the Web and TV."

Enjoy this great series during April, National Poetry Month. For something wry, try Robert Hass or Billy Collins. If you want your heart broken, then listen to Marie Howe or Yusef Komunyakaa; for a love poem, Maxine Kumin; and for wisdom, Jane Hirshfield or Mark Strand.

Write to the Workers in Fukushima

If you write Japanese and would like to send a letter of encouragement to the workers who are at the Fukushima nuclear plant, risking their lives, I have a venue for you. A woman who belongs to an international group I also belong to is married to the man who runs Putzmeister Japan, the company supplying the huge pump that's pumping water into reactor #4. Two even larger Putzmeister pumps have been brought in very recently from Germany and the US, and when more workers transport this improved equipment into the plant later this week, they would very much like to bring letters of encouragement from the public to the workers currently in the plant who have not been able to leave since this whole event started.

These workers are suffering under poor conditions and great stress, and even a few words from the people of the world, showing their appreciation, are bound to do much for their morale. However, timing is of the essence, so you need to do this soon, and to prepare the Japanese yourself, if translation is required. If you are interested, please paste your message into the comments section below, and I will forward it. Otherwise, email me your message (in Japanese) by going to my website's contact page and I will pass your message along. Even a few sentences would be appreciated. Don't forget to include your name and where you are from, and don't forget, these letters will be handed directly to one of the 300 workers in Fukushima. And most importantly, get these messages to me by tomorrow evening at the latest (that's Tuesday evening in Japan time.)

Also, there is a Facebook page where you can post your encouragement in English, Fans of the 300 Silent Samurai in Fukushima. (I'm not sure what will be done with these messages in English though.)

And here's an article about the executive at Putzmeister I mentioned above, and about how his initiative is helping us all.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

4 A-4-isms

So I saw James Richardson's Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays on a must-read list, and then I heard the author interviewed the Joe Milford Poetry (radio) Show, so I made sure to get my hands on a copy of the book.

There are 500 aphorisms/short essays/entries in the book, and in the three days I took to read through them, I ticked off 28 of them as remarkable, although this is the sort of book that I can tell I will read again and again, and I will find something different and remarkable each time, I'm sure. (As aphorism #369 says, "Why shouldn't you read this the way I wrote it, with days between the lines?" Exactly.)

So today I am going to present 4 of the aphorisms that struck me during my first reading.

204. By looking for the origins of things we deceive ourselves about their inevitability. Things that did not happen also have origins.

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

243. I believe in nothing. But I'd prefer that you did not agree with me.
(As a mother, I find this one particularly poignant.)

383. A screwdriver is for screws. When you pry open a paint can with it, you have committed metaphor, which is the second use of things, their will gone. As for us, since we don't know what our purpose is, all we do is metaphorical.

Wow, that's four already, and there are still more I want to share. Okay, I will have to do this again some time, obviously.