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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Not About Mothers

ABOUTAWORD, a weekly literary blog for writers and readers, has an excellent post today from the amazing poet Sarah Vap. About literary influences and fathers. Or Vap's father anyway. And not about mothers. Most specifically not about Vap's mother. Go have a look.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vroom Vroom, A Pantoum

I've been stuck in the middle of three different poems for weeks. I don't usually have this many poems going at once, and being stuck in such an array of them at the same time is not a pleasant feeling. So much so that I have found myself recently avoiding writing by doing anything but.

So it was time to pull out the big guns: my secret weapon for resistance to writing. And here it is: Form. Yes, that's right. The less I feel like writing, the more constraints I put on the writing. I turn the poem into a puzzle, a problem to solve. I take myself out of my feelings and put myself into my head; it's a distraction. It almost always works.

This week I needed a lot of formal constraints, a lot of distraction, so I went for the pantoum. (Rules for the pantoum can be found here.) Villanelles, sestinastriolets and sonnets work fine too, in decreasing order of need for formal distraction. But this week I needed the mother of all formal distractions, the pantoum.

Every line in a pantoum is used twice, according to a strict ordering. For example, the second line of the first stanza is the first line of the second stanza, and on an on (see the rules above). The last stanza is especially tricky, since it is made up of two lines from the pentultimate stanza and two lines from the very first stanza, and they have to fit together. Going backwards and making a change here or there means making two changes, and it can get complicated. Very good distraction, don't you think?

Here are a few things that I do to have even more fun with a pantoum, to make the game even more versatile and the poem not quite as repetitive, but still keep the distraction level high.

1) I like to use homophones so that the words sound the same but have different meanings and spellings in the two corresponding lines. For example, this week I used "hear" in one line and "here" in the same line when it was repeated later. It takes a little manipulation to make such different words fit in the same line, but it's all in the name of distraction.

2) I experiment with words that are near rhymes or simply similarly sounding words in the paired lines, instead of directly repeating a line. For example, in this pantoum of mine (first published in the Beloit Poetry Journal, and also in my book The Insomniac's Weather Report,") called "Flood," the fourth line in the second stanza, "who were washed away and never seen again." becomes in the following stanza "who were wished away and never seen again." If you keep many of the key words and maintain the rhythm, you can change quite a lot of words to similar-sounding ones, as in the second line in the third stanza of "Flood", "the thundering churn and thrust of the Broken Arrow River", which recurs as the first line in the fourth stanza as "The wandering Sturm und Drang of the Spoken Sorrow River". Although very few words are directly repeated, it's clear that these are paired lines.

3) I also like to break sentences  in different places in each line, often mid-line, so that the word that ends a sentence in one place becomes the beginning of a sentence in the repeated line. For example, from the poem I worked on this week, the line "is overkill for remembering embers in the snow, balance of fantasy" becomes later "is overkill for remembering. Embers in the snow balance fallacy". Embers is the object in one sentence and the subject in the echoing line.

4) I also add and subtract small words in lines, keeping the bigger, more powerful, attention-getting words. From "Flood," the last line in the pentultimate stanza, "like father’s trombone-emptied basement, like the heart." goes from being a comparison to being full sentences in the final stanza, as "We like father’s trombone-empty basement. We like the heart".

The trouble with the pantoum is that it screams out to be admired for its cleverness. For that reason, writing a pantoum is a lot more fun than reading one.

But that's okay. You don't have to go all the way to the extreme of a pantoum when you are dreading writing. Setting your own arbitrary constraints will do. For example, you might choose to write a poem that is composed entirely of one-syllable words. Or you might mention a color in every stanza. You could even put a bunch of these random constraints on yourself. The point is to distract yourself with rules and constraints, making the poem word play, a way of playing, making it enjoyable to write again.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Worth Sharing

Here are a few things I've run across recently that are worth sharing. First is "The New Writing Rule," post by Claire Guyton on the Hunger Mountain blog. (LOVE Hunger Mountain, by the way, both for their poetry and for their support of YA and middle grade writers. Also be patient when clicking on their link; it takes awhile, at least on my computer).

And here Seattle Magazine interviews Jennifer Borges Foster about her commitment to hand-binding Filter Literary Journal so that it's a tactile piece of art as well as a literary endeavor (see my earlier post on this journal for more information).

I thought I had more, but I guess that's it for today. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Worth Filtering

Filter Literary Journal out of the Seattle area is a journal unlike any other. Made entirely by hand, each Filter volume is a handheld work of art, an art object, as pleasing to look at as it is to read.

Consider Filter Volume III, which is about to be issued next month. At Filter's blog, the forthcoming issue is described as "box of wonder: The cover has a paint-by-numbers theme, and the box structure is letterpress printed by Kate Fernandez of Fernandez and Sons. The book will be filled with brilliant work in individually bound chapbooks of prose and poetry, with art postcards and posters that you can remove and display." Go to the blog to have a sneak peak at the cover too! You've never seen anything like it, I guarantee.

So would you like to purchase a copy of this unique journal? Go here to order copies of Filter, or to see handmade original journals made by Jennifer Borges Foster, one of the Filter masterminds and a truly creative craftsperson.

If you are in Seattle, consider attending the release party, details here:

Filter Vol. III Release Party

An evening of readings from Zachary Schomburg, John Osebold, Stacey Levine, Maged Zaher, Karen Finneyfrock, Ed Skoog, Elizabeth Colen, Elissa Washuta, Susan Rich and Sarah Bartlett . Freshly letterpressed copies of the book will be available for purchase.

Friday, June 17th, 8 the Fremont Abbey, 4272 Fremont Ave North, Seattle, WA 98103

The contributors in Filter III are:
Yusef Komunyakaa, Zachary Schomburg, Stacey Levine, Amanda Manitach, Maged Zaher, Sharon Arnold, Martha Silano, John Osebold, Rebecca Brown, Counsel Langely, Ed Skoog, Karen Finneyfrock, Sean Ennis, Sarah Mangold, Gala Bent, Rachel Contreni Flynn, David Lasky, Elizabeth Colen, Sandra & Ben Doller, Brandon Shimoda, Ben Beres, Brandon Downing, Sarah Kate Moore, Dan Rosenberg, Susan Rich, Susan Denning, Sid Miller, Sarah Bartlett, Shawn Vestal, Marie-Caroline Moir, Lucy Corin, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, Jill McDonough, Jessica Goodfellow, Jessica Bonin, Friedrich Kerksieck , Erika Wilder, Elissa Washuta, David Bartone, Chris Dusterhoff, Britt Ashley, Becca Yenser, Anne Gorrick

And if you like one-of-a-kind journals, visit Ex Libris Anonymous, where journals are made from vintage books. Great for gift ideas, and just fun to peruse.
Tickets for the Filter release party are on sale now through Brown Paper Tickets.

Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door, and $5 for students and seniors.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ocean's Process

So you've probably heard all your life that writers should get up early, every day, day after day, and write. This is the discpline most often cited as eventually leading to great writing. Just being there in the chair, making the commitment, that's the key--it must be true, as everybody says so.

Well, almost everybody. In stark contrast to this conventional wisdom, poet Ocean Vuong describes his own process during an interview on Blog Talk Radio's Blood-Jet Writing Hour with Rachelle Cruz.

Vuong discusses his earliest attempts at writing on a daily basis, which he found to be a difficult method. Eventually he learned that, for him, "...writing a poem is a very rare occasion. I write very poem every two or three months." In fact, Vuong says that for him, writing more than often than this is a distraction that dilutes the strength of his work. (And anyone familiar with Vuong's intensely evocative work knows the potency of his lines, which in no way could be described as diluted.)

Vuong compares writing a poem to pregnancy. For months he walks around with the poem inside him, nurturing it constantly without bringing it into the world, without putting anything on paper, until the right day comes and he is seized with "a frenzy of creativity after months of idleness." At that time, Vuong writes 10 to 25 drafts in the first sitting, which can last for hours, and within about three days, his poem is complete.

Vuong doesn't "believe in writer's block." He thinks what passes for writer's block is really just fruitless attempts at writing under the wrong process. Vuong encourages writers to experiment with various methods until finding what works for them.

Check out the entire interview (with readings of poems) here.

And read some of Vuong's poems here at Vinyl Poetry, here at Diode, and here at PANK Magazine.

(And by the way, despite the familiarity of the title of this post, I don't know Ocean Vuong personally; I was just enjoying his gorgeous name.)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Boxcar Up and Running

The Boxcar Poetry Review Spring Issue is now available online. It kindly features a poem by me called "November Nocturne." Not a very spring-like title, sorry.

Winning Words: Traci Brimhall

Poet Traci Brimhall, whose manuscript Our Lady of the Ruins recently won the Barnard Women Poets Prize, has a history of winning contests, and some haunting poems to back up her legacy. She is interviewed here at Poets and Writers online concerning her advice and experience with entering contests. Enjoy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cooking the Books, Part II

It's the 20th in Japan, although I know it's still the 19th in the States. I have a busy schedule tomorrow so I'm going to go ahead and post my recipe for the 32 Poems Blog Recipes for Poets Project today. Readers of my blog may also see the recipe posted on my original post on this topic, since that is where 32 Poems editor Deb Ager reqested the recipes be put. But I'm going to paste it here as well for the convenience of my blog readers.

I had said that I would post a crockpot recipe that takes only 20 minutes to prepare, but the weather has warmed up here, and I no longer feel like using a crockpot. So instead I am posting a very quick and delicious fish recipe that I like to use in warmer weather. So here it goes:

Foil-baked Mackerel
Serves 4

4 mackerel fillets (use Atlantic or Chub mackerel to avoid high mercury levels; do NOT use King, Spanish or Gulf mackerel for the same reason)
black pepper
vegetables of your choice: thinly sliced onions, thinly sliced green peppers, shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, cherry tomatoes halved, broccoli florets, etc.
2 tablespoons olive oil
lemon juice or ponzu sauce

1. Prepare four squares of aluminum foil, about 8 or 10 inches per side. Place one fish fillet in the center of each square of foil, skin-side down if there is skin. Sprinkle fish with pepper to taste. Drizzle each fillet with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.

2. Arrange vegetables of choice on top of the fish. (I let my kids select their own vegetables for their personal packets.)

3. Fold the ends of the foil up until you have a closed package with the folds on the top.

4. Place the foil packages (folds up) in a fry pan (do not grease or oil the pan). For 12 - 15 minutes, heat the fish packages over medium heat, or until done.

5. Be careful when moving the packets to serving plates since they will be hot. Each person can receive a packet on his or her plate and enjoy opening it up (carefully, they are hot!) and eating it.

6. Serve with lemon or lime juice, or ponzu sauce, which is a Japanese citrus sauce that you can get at many Asian markets. You can also mix soy sauce with lemon or lime juice to simulate ponzu sauce.

This is a quick recipe with vegetables included. Mackerel is a mild fish which almost everyone can enjoy. I usually serve this dish with rice and a salad. Clean up is quick because usually there is no leakage from the aluminum foil packets into the fry pan, so a quick wipe of the pan is all that is needed. Enjoy!

And check out the other recipes offered by other poets on the 32 Poems blog.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


When I was growing up, there was a three-acre field of long grass behind our yard. In that meadow we found snakes and pheasant, and deer could sometimes be seen cavorting in early morning or near dusk. Behind the field was a dirt road that you had to climb over a wooden fence to access. Across the road was a cemetery, a small and very old cemetery with the many of the large headstones laid flat across the ground. General "Mad Anthony" Wayne, hero of the Revolutionary War, was buried there. When I wanted to be alone, I would walk up to that cemetery and sit near "Mad Anthony" Wayne and think.

I've always liked going to cemeteries, something many people find creepy. Japanese people seem to find my penchant especially disturbing. Land next to a cemetery in Japan often has a lower market value than the otherwise comparable plots in the same neighborhood. Once when we were house shopping, a real estate agent apologized to us for showing us a home near a cemetery, which caused my husband to laugh and assure the salesman that such a feature only made the place more attractive to me.

Cemeteries in Japan are often in remarkably pretty locations, such as mountainsides. Given my husband's liking for living in woody mountain areas, we have lived near one cemetery or another most of the years we've been in Japan, and now is no exception. There is a cemetery only two-minutes walk up the road from our house, and I still find myself  wandering around headstones when I want to be alone. The gatekeepers no longer gawk at the foreign woman coming to roam around, but nod at me companionably.

Recently I dragged my husband up to the cemetery on a walk (and that the gatekeeper did gawk at). I wanted to show him two of the graves in this sprawling graveyard that I like to visit. Going row by row, this cemetery takes hours to get through, a leafy uphill climb all the way, but since I knew right where we were going, it took only ten minutes. We were on our way to visit the grave of "Walter H. Witting / London 1880 / Kobe 1967 / great spirits never / with their bodies die".

The first time I stumbled across Walter H. Witting's grave I actually was startled enough to cry aloud audibly. Kobe was one of the first Japanese cities opened to the west and has a famous section of the city full of old foreign houses from that time (this section being in my own neighborhood), so it shouldn't have surprised me to find a foreign grave in the local cemetery. But I was surprised, since all the times I had wandered around up there, I had not ever come across any English before. But there it was, on a western-style tombstone right in the middle of the Japanese family markers.

I'm not sure why I was so pleased to find Walter H. Witting's final resting place. But I was, and continue to be. Unaccountably I feel less alone knowing that Walter H. Witting is right up the road from me where I can go visit when I want to. And it's comforting to imagine that before I ever knew of Japan or the concept of nations, he had lived out his old age and even died here in Kobe (presumably), two notions which terrify me, but less so now that I can go and visit Walter H. Witting (though oddly death itself does not bother me, just dying here).

I've also found a stone near the top of the cemetery that isn't well cared for, is difficult to read, dirty, and obviously not visited by anyone but me. In English it reads "in memory of Katie Kirby". Underneath that there is a Buddhist name in Japanese. My guess (one my husband shares, now that he has been dragged up there to have a look) is that Katie Kirby was a Buddhist nun, probably some long time ago. I don't know who it is that memorialized Katie Kirby but does not see to the upkeep of her memorial, perhaps someone in her home country wherever that is, but at least I can be sure she isn't forgotten now that I've found her stone.

I'm having today one of those days during which I feel bereft about living in Japan. These days don't come to me all that often, but recently I have had a spate of them. Days of being tired of being treated like a moron by mothers at the PTA or the gas meter guy because I don't know a word or two used in a ten-minute conversation, even when I've understood the gist (I mean, really, is it so awful I don't know the words for certain kinds of government paperwork or for kinds of gauges?). Days of being tired of people deciding they cannot understand me even before I have begun to speak, days when my husband repeats word-for-word what I have just said and suddenly people can understand (causing me to rant, "What did I say wrong?" and my ever mild-mannered husband replies, "Nothing. You made perfect sense." and it doesn't make me feel any better to have that confirmed.) Days when I cannot see what kind of personal or professional growth there is for me here.

Those are days I go and visit Walter H. Witting and Katie Kirby. To be reminded that other foreigners have made lives and gotten comfortable enough here to even be buried here. And it could happen for me. Maybe.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Aid Worker Blogs from Tohoku

Thanks to Janina in Kobe who introduced me to a Japanese medical aid worker's online blog that has been translated into English. This volunteer nurse relates heart-breaking experiences from her work in  post-earthquake post-tsunami Tohoku. Here's the translated header to the blog:

JKTS: A Japanese medical aid worker's diary

The following is the first English translation of the entries in a weblog by a Japanese nurse who was dispatched to Rikuzentakata, Iwate, Japan as a member of one of the first disaster medical assistance teams to be sent from Tokyo just several days after the earthquake and tsunami that struck the Tohoku region on March 11, 2011.


We cannot forget how much suffering is still going on there.

Stop Reading This Blog

This weekend I was reading the blog of the poet Julianna Baggott, who also writes novels and young adult fiction under the pen names Bridget Asher and N. E. Bode, and I realized that nobody should waste time reading my blog. You all ought to just go over there and read hers. Really.

For example, this weekend Baggott published a post entitled When Do You Sleep. The Truth about being a best-selling author of 17 books and mother of 4 kids (see, right there you know you should be over at her blog, not here at the author-of-one-chapbook-and-one-not-best-selling-book-and-mother-of-only-two's blog), in which she gives specific advice about how to make time for writing which includes timing your caffeine consumption, writing through exhaustion, and noticing patterns of what gets you fired up to write so that you can replicate these conditions later. Plus plenty more specific tips (compared to the one tip I have of not wearing your glasses in the house so you don't see the dust) for finding extra minutes to write. Stop reading my blog right now and go over there and read hers.

So I keep POSING QUESTIONS about how to write better (like asking how to harness your unconscious to write for you and how to write when you are not writing) but Baggott ANSWERS those questions in her post entitled Efficient Creativity. How to Write While Not Writing and Other Tips. Quoting Norman Mailer:

"Over the years, I’ve found one rule. It is the only one I give on those occasions when I talk about writing. A simple rule. If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write." (The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing, Random House, 2003)

Baggott goes on to give specific tips, including reading through a list of characters (she's talking about writing fiction here) on mornings when you aren't going to or can't write first thing, so that they are your mind's companions during the day, giving you a jump start when you finally do sit down to write. This can work for poetry just as well. First thing in the morning, or before bed last thing at night, read through the poem you are working on and let your unconscious do some of the work.

Follow Mailer's tip and make an appointment with yourself to write. Trust in your unconscious to prepare something for you in the meantime.

And most of all, stop reading this blog, and go read Baggott's, or read Mailer, or better yet, just go write!

(Oh, and Julianna Baggott offers a free pdf download of her first book of poetry, This Country of Mothers (Southern Illinois University Press) here, if you scroll about halfway down the page. This will inspire you to purchase her other collections of poetry, Compulsions of Silkworms and Bees (Pleiades Press, distributed by LSU Press), and Lizzie Borden in Love: Poems in Women's Voices (Southern Illinois University Press)).

Now, seriously, stop reading this blog!

A Blessed Unrest

Michael Nye at the Missouri Review blog has posted and discussed the following quote by Martha Graham:

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

Nye's post his reaction to this quote (which differed from mine, by the way), as well as comments on the artistic process and the many changing emotions and thought processes that accompany it. It's thoughtful inspiring writing. Well worth a read.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Recently I've become aware that two popular big-name print poetry journals are offering their current issues online in their entirety. Poetry Magazine and the Beloit Poetry Journal have each begun to make available the complete contents of their current print issues on the web. For instance, you can read the May issue of Poetry here, and the May issue of the Beloit Poetry Journal here. Both magazines also offer archives of decades of past issues.

While this is great news for all poetry lovers, it is especially wonderful for those of us living abroad who have to pay international subscription rates. I happen to suscribe to both these magazines in their print versions, and will continue to do so since I want to support them, but I applaud this trend.

Does anyone know of other print literary journals offering their current issues online? I'd love to hear about it. Please share if you do.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Rag Man

Or, A Nag Mar. This and the title of today's post are two anagrams of the word anagram. (An anagram is a rearrangment of a set of letters into a new set of words. For example, the letters in the name Clint Eastwood can be rearranged to read Old West Action.)

Such wordplay seems a natural for use in poetry, doesn't it? Well, it never occurred to me to try it until I ran across some poets who already had.

My first experience with anagrams used in poetry was when I read Peter Pereira's Anagrammer, which you can read and listen to at the link, and I strongly recommend you do.

My next experience was with the many anagram poems in Kelli Russell Agodon's book Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room. Here's a poem of hers I found online, called Believing Anagrams, but you have to scroll down, click on the correct interview, then scroll to the middle of the interview to find the poem, and even then the formatting looks to be off. Anyway, you can get the idea.

So how does a poet come up with anagrams for poems? I can't imagine doing it myself, even though I'm pretty good with palindromes (words or phrases that read the same backwards as forwards, like the infamous Madam, I'm Adam). So it seemed to me like anagram poetry was out of the question.

However, I recently found out that there are online tools which create anagrams for you (not that I'm suggesting that the two poets above used tools like this; they may have worked them out with their heads--I don't know). Here's one online tool called Internet Anagram Server (and there are many others you can find using your favorite search engine). You just type in the word or phrase you want an anagram for, and the anagram maker spits out a list (you may need to be patient for a few seconds though). Sometimes a list of hudreds in fact. And here's a hint: I read somewhere that at least 11 letters are recommended for optimal anagram building.

You can even get anagrams for your own name. I just found out one for mine is Cajoled Egos If Owls.

Even with the help of online anagram finders, I still haven't managed to write an anagram poem. If you do, feel free to share your success with me here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Matryoshka: Women in Science in Poetry, or Vice Versa

When I was growing up, I used to do the quizzes in my parents' copies of The Reader's Digest. There was one in which a number and the first letters of two words in a phrase were given, and you had to fill in the phrase. For example, 52 w____ in a y____, or 88 k____ on a p_____. (The answers are 52 weeks in a year, and 88 keys on a piano.)

One day my sister picked up the magazine after I had filled in the quizz, and she burst out laughing. "Who did this quiz? It had to be Jessica! Everybody listen to this!" she called to our family. "Jessica answered 4 q____ in a g____ with 4 quadrants in a graph!"

My whole family started to howl. I couldn't figure out what was so funny. Unless it was that I had assumed a graph with Cartesian coordinates in two dimensions instead of three, when that hadn't been a given.......

It's only natural for the specialized vocabulary you use every day in your work, in your hobbies, in your pursuit of health and wisdom, to pop up regularly in your thinking about other things, and therefore in your writing. In fact, I LOVE it when a writer uses jargon that I am unfamiliar with, but which can easily be understood from the context. Doing so gives readers new words to try their tongues on, without being exclusive or obtuse (when done skillfully). I remember my pleasure the first time I read Chris Forhan's Gouge, Adze, Rasp, Hammer. From the context, I understood that the words in the title were tools with fascinating names I had never heard before (well, I'd heard of gouge and hammer and had a vague idea about a rasp, which helped me know that an adze was a tool), but I did not need to look the words adze or rasp up in the dictionary to enjoy the poem (I did look them up though, being obsessive and all).

Since I was trained in mathematics, it is only natural that I am particularly enamored of poetry that uses mathematical and scientific vocabulary and concepts. I read a lot of that kind of writing, and today I'd like to recommend the three of the very best poetry books of that type I have read. They all happen to have been written by women, which pleases me further, but it was not a criterion when looking for the best books using math/science vocabularly in poetry that I could find. It just happened that way.

The first book I'd like to recommend is Stefi Weisburd's The Wind-Up Gods (Black Lawrence Press). Newtonian Girl is a character who reoccurs throughout the entire collection, a sure sign that we are on the right track. Poems entitled "Memoir of an Electron" and "Rodeo: Saddle Point" are further indications, especially for those who know that a saddle point is a mathematical term for a key balancing point on a certain family of curves (in graphs that often have four quandrants, but not always!) "Either/Ors in Neat Cat Boxes" gives a nod to Schrodinger's famous cat, who appears a lot in poetry, but never as successfully as in this piece, in my opinion anyway. "Natural History of Ether" delves into the history of scientific and philosophical thought, and we are just scratching the surface of Weisburd's clever and compelling use of science and math here.

The second book I love that mixes analytics with poetry is Kate Gleason's Measuring the Dark (Zone 3 Press). Particle physics is used as an extended metaphor for love in "The Velocity of Love," one of my favorite pieces in this book. The dying of a parent is compared effectively to the theory of gravity in "Reading in My Mother's Hospital Room." "Morning Walk on My Fiftieth Birthday" mixes up aging and the losses that accompany it with the Hubble constant and the Milky Way. For a particularly accessible confluence of science and poetry, you'll want to check out Kate Gleason. And don't miss the breathtaking cover by artist Graceann Warn, examples of whose work you can find here.

Finally, I'd like to recommend Michele Battiste's Ink for an Odd Cartography (Black Lawrence Press, again). Any poet who references a sine curve in the title of the first poem of her collection has my vote. "Chaos Theory of Travel Advice" is a poem that mentions decimal points, meterologists, computer programs, Cassiopeia, intial conditions, and orbit (not to mention the eponymous chaos) all in a single page. And "A Body in Motion" delights with double meanings from the title on through. I could go on and on.

Recently Jackie Bartley won the three candles press Open Book Award for her manuscript, Sleeping with a Geologist. Looking online at her work, I am guessing that I will soon have another woman in science in poetry to admire.

So whatever your specialized vocabularly is, use it to enrich your writing. And let me know of your favorite examples of poets using jargon to delight.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

This week I listened to Krista Tippett's On Being podcast in which she interviewed Sylvia Boorstein, Jewish-Buddhist teacher, mother, and grandmother, about parenting in today's world, in an episode entitled What We Nurture. You can download the entire podcast from the website, or listen to it there.

Besides finishing with a poem by Pablo Neruda, which is a wonderful testimonial to her thinking, Boorstein said something that has been on my mind ever since I heard her interview. I paraphrase here, but basically she said that as a measuring stick of how clearly she is thinking, she looks to how kind she is able to be. (Which doesn't mean a person can't be both clear-thinking and cruel; we all know they can. But a generally well-intentioned person is probably not being clear-thinking when being unkind.)

That really hit home with me. When my thinking and emotions are muddled, I tend to lash out at anyone who approaches me, generally someone who is innocent but who ends up bearing the brunt of my unclear thinking. Ex post facto, I always know immediately that I have unfairly been cruel to someone else because I am feeling bad about myself. Still, it never occured to me to use my ability to be kind as a gauge of how clearly and sanely I am thinking. This is a very useful concept for me and one that I hope helps me break a destructive pattern.
Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Vinyl Poetry

It's embarrassing to do two self-promoting posts in a single day, but on the other hand, let's get it over with.

Vinyl Poetry Issue 3 is up and running. It includes some beautiful work by Ocean Vuong, Anna Journey, Jehanne Dubrow and many more (including four poems by me.)

One thing that attracted me to Vinyl Poetry is its interesting submissions policy. Most of the poems it publishes are solicited, but if you want to submit anyway, you send them links to your work online at other journals, and if they are interested, they will contact you to see new work.

Wave Books is a book publisher that used to have a similar policy, in which you sent them your latest book and they kept it on their bookshelves for a year. They'd contact you if they wanted to see new work. Recently it seems that they are closed to submissions, but I thought it was an interesting way to go (and they say to stay tuned for updated information concerning submissions.)

Wave Books also has an interesting section on their website devoted to erasures, which is a recent interest of mine (see an earlier post on February 13). You can make an erasure online using texts they've prepared, and you can also access a list of erasure poetry books.

Anyway, back to Vinyl, I sent them links to my online poems after a poet whose work I love appeared in their second issue, and they did contact me. So give it a try.

Check it out if you are so inclined.

Insomniac in Japan

For people living in Japan, I'd like to offer another way to buy my recent book The Insomniac's Weather Report. It is still available at Amazon Japan for 1365 yen, but you can also buy it directly from me for 1300 yen (which includes shipping).

If you are interested in buying from me, I'd be happy to sign and/or inscribe the book, if requested.

Here's what to do if you are interested:

1) Click on "View my complete profile" on the right side of this page.
2) In my profile, under my picture, it says Contact. Click on "email" to send me an email.
3) In your email, including the following information:
          Your name, email address, and physical address
          Whether you want your copy signed
          Whether you want your copy inscribed (as in, To So-and-so, and a personal message or not)
4) I will email you back with my postal account information.
5) Email me once you have made a deposit to my postal account, and I will put the book in the mail to you.

Obviously it is simpler to order for Amazon Japan, but I just wanted to offer another option.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A New Way to Cook the Books


Scroll down to see my original post about the 32 Poems blog Recipes for Poets project below. Today I am updating my blog to include my recipe. I had intended to post a crockpot recipe, but in the warmer weather we have been enjoying recently, I don't feel like using a crockpot. So instead I am posting a delicious, health and quick fish recipe below. Enjoy!

Foil-baked Mackerel
Serves 4

4 mackerel fillets (use Atlantic or Chub mackerel to avoid high mercury levels; do NOT use King, Spanish or Gulf mackerel for the same reason)
black pepper
vegetables of your choice: thinly sliced onions, thinly sliced green peppers, shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, cherry tomatoes halved, broccoli florets, etc.
2 tablespoons olive oil
lemon juice or ponzu sauce

1. Prepare four squares of aluminum foil, about 8 or 10 inches per side. Place one fish fillet in the center of each square of foil, skin-side down if there is skin. Sprinkle fish with pepper to taste. Drizzle each fillet with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
2. Arrange vegetables of choice on top of the fish. (I let my kids select their own vegetables for their personal packets.)
3. Fold the ends of the foil up until you have a closed package with the folds on the top.
4. Place the foil packages (folds up) in a fry pan (do not grease or oil the pan). For 12 - 15 minutes, heat the fish packages over medium heat, or until done.
5. Be careful when moving the packets to serving plates since they will be hot. Each person can receive a packet on his or her plate and enjoy opening it up (carefully, they are hot!) and eating it.
6. Serve with lemon or lime juice, or ponzu sauce, which is a Japanese citrus sauce that you can get at many Asian markets. You can also mix soy sauce with lemon or lime juice to simulate ponzu sauce.

This is a quick recipe with vegetables included. Mackerel is a mild fish which almost everyone can enjoy. I usually serve this dish with rice and a salad. Clean up is quick because usually there is no leakage from the aluminum foil packets into the fry pan, so a quick wipe of the pan is all that is needed. Enjoy!

And check out the other recipes offered by other poets on the 32 Poems blog.


I actually complain about cooking quite a bit (ask my family) but when I really consider it, I don't hate it as much as I claim to. I just hate the amount of time I spend doing it every single day, hours when I could be writing. Or reading. Or playing with my kids. Or doing work for a client to bring in some cash.

Deb Ager of 32 Poems is addressing just this issue in her Recipes for Poets project. Here's an explanation of her plan straight from her website:


Time management is one of the most important (yet seldom discussed) aspects of being a poet or any kind of artist. Are your eyes glazing over because I wrote “time management”? Stick with with me a for a moment, please.

Since most poets have other work that takes their attention away from art, it’s important to have time management skills. One of the many ways I save time is by cooking healthy meals that do not take long to prepare.

For that reason, I invite you to join me in posting your favorite 20-minute (or so) recipe on May 20, 2011. Post your recipe to your blog or website. I will share all of the links in a big post here on the 32 Poems blog.


For the exact details of how to participate, go to Deb Ager's post Recipes for Poets here.

I am planning on sharing a recipe myself on the 20th of this month. So look for that. It's going to be a crockpot recipe, since that's the best method I have of saving time while still offering my family a hot meal.

If you've got a healthy recipe that takes 20 minutes or less, and you'd love to share, click the link above to join in the bonanza.

Poetry Reincarnations

Thanks to my friend Mary from Florida who introduced me to Poetry Reincarnations on YouTube: recorded readings by writers no longer among us along with their pictures, animated to seem as though they are reading their own works.  Look to the right for a list of many choices of readings. I have chosen Edgar Allan Poe's "Annabel Lee" to link here, because my father used to recite it to me as a bedtime story.

Partly fascinating, partly creepy. Enjoy!

Monday, May 2, 2011

100 Years of Poetry

Did you know that Poetry Magazine has put its entire archive online? Now you can access every issue from 1912 through March 2011. That's 100 years of poetry! They even have a search bar. So drop in and enjoy an American mainstay.