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Wednesday, August 27, 2014


A monk isn’t supposed to need all kinds of surroundings. We’re supposed to have a beautiful inner landscape. Watching a storm pass from horizon to horizon fills your soul with reverence. It makes your soul expand to fill the sky.   From Kathleen Norris’s Dakota: A Spiritual Geography

Genesis                 Herman de Coninck, tr. By Laure-Anne Bosselaar and Kurt Brown

It 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.


The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second;
and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end.
It is the highest emblem in the cipher of the world.
 Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series, "Circles" (1841)

I Trade My Family for Junk                     Travis Wayne Denton
The older I get, the more of my family
I trade for junk. This rusting lawn chair
belonged to my wife's mother
when she was a child.
We've had it ever since she sailed over the horizon.
I've spent hours in discomfort,
watching ground squirrels hiding pecans in the weeds
or listening to the neighbors party on their deck.
Crossing one leg, then the other,
leaning forward and back.
I can't bring myself to throw it away.
Like the half-sister I used to have,
strange, insane they said—
perhaps involved in the occult,
but oddly a part of the family.
We didn't get anything for her.
On a hot day, March of `9S,
we traded my grandmother
for a purse full of used kleenex.
In the shed is what we got for
grandad, a hoe with a broken handle.
Before long, the house and yard
will be covered in junk.
We take what we can salvage
of their lives. The stuff of rummage sales—
jars of buttons, knitting needles,
three-legged chairs, polyester pant suits.

The relics become oddly a part of the family.

Certainly it did not matter to me where I was when I read such a book as The Expanding Universe. The greatest success of this enterprise, which I call my vertical search, came one night when I sat in a hotel room in Birmingham and read a book called The Chemistry of Life. When I finished it, it seemed to me that the main goals of my search were reached or were in principle reachable, whereupon I went out and saw a moved called It Happened One Night which was itself very good. A memorable night. The only difficulty was that though the universe had been disposed of, I myself was left over. There I lay in my hotel room with my search over and yet still obliged to draw one breath and then the next. But now I have undertaken a different kind of search, a horizontal search. As a consequence, what takes place in my room is less important. What is important is what I shall find when I leave my room and wander in the neighborhood. Before, I wandered as a diversion. Now I wander seriously and sit and read as a diversion.  Walker Percy, from The Moviegover
The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.  Ralph Waldo Emerson


Former Automotive Plant     Alison Titus
What poor moon deserves this night,
drab corset of grief.

I know there's a harmonica
somewhere, some chicken

feathers and cord grass that might hold
the dark apart from the body.

But tonight the twilight tethers its husk
to October's horizon and bears down, until even here

at the edge of this concrete field,
epic maze of rust and chain link,

there is nowhere to go
that isn't slowly subtracting its ache,

each long white hour,
from decades of unribboning.

Art Class by James Galvin

Let us begin with a simple line,
Drawn as a child would draw it,
To indicate the horizon,

More real than the real horizon,
Which is less than line,
Which is visible abstraction, a ratio.

The line ravishes the page with implications
Of white earth, white sky!

The horizon moves as we move,
Making us feel central.
But the horizon is an empty shell--

Strange radius whose center is peripheral.
As the horizon draws us on, withdrawing,
The line draws us in,

Requiring further lines,
Engendering curves, verticals, diagonals,
urging shades, shapes, and figures...

What should we place, in all good faith,
On the horizon? A stone?
An empty chair? A submarine?

Take your time. Take it easy.
The horizon will not stop abstracting us.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Help for Homeless Poems

A. (Help for Homeless) Poems? or, B. Help for (Homeless Poems)? you might be wondering. It's the latter, though if anyone has news of the former, let me know.

Christina Veladota at has a new idea called The Homeless Poem Project. It's a call for submissions for poems that the poet believes strongly in but nonetheless can't seem to find a home for.

In Christina's own words: "My intention with The Homeless Poem Project is to publish on maybesopoetry those interesting and quirky poems you can’t seem to place with a literary journal; those poems currently without a home that deserve to be read and appreciated. So find that one poem that’s been kicking around in your submissions folder and send it my way."

Got one of those? Check out Christina's guidelines for submission.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Not Writing While Writing

I've been participating in the August Poetry Postcard Fest 2014. It's my third year participating (not consecutively) and this year I've learned something interesting about writing due to a combination of the rules of the postcard fest and my travel schedule.

The relevant rule is that the poem is to be written directly onto the postcard, not first written in a notebook or on paper and then transferred to the card. I've always done this, but it has resulted in crossed-out words and slashes indicating improved line breaks. All that editing can get messy on the back of a small postcard, but I've stuck to the rules.

This year I was traveling abroad while participating, and I repeatedly found myself with jet lag in the middle of the night, lying awake in bed not wanting to get up and reinforce my errant inner clock. So I decided to think about the image on the postcard that I was currently working on. I always begin thinking about the next card image as soon as I finish the current day's, to give my unconscious a chance to weigh in .In general, I have written poems in response to the card image, to the name and location of the card recipient, to things I've seen or heard that day, and to any cards I've already received (although traveling has made this last component largely invalid for much of this year's postcard poems).

So there I would be, lying in bed, thinking about the postcard and whatever else entered my head, and I would write a line of poetry in my head. However, instead of immediately jotting it down in a notebook, as I normally would have done, I just tried to hold it in my head while working on the next line, so that I didn't have to turn on the light and move out of a supine position, encouraging my errant inner clock to believe it was time to get up.

I found that not only could I easily hold 3 to 5 lines of poetry in my head at once, I could revise them in my mind so that by the time I did get up and write them down, they didn't need any more editing. Plus I found that I could fall asleep and still wake up and write those lines that I had worked so carefully on.

But the important discovery was this: by not writing lines down immediately, I was less committed to them and more open to editing them more radically than I would have been had they already existed in paper. This I did not know: how attached I become to lines that were physically written down, already born into the world. I revise often and deeply, but still I found I could do it with less emotional confusion when the lines were only in my head and not in my notebook.

So I will try to transfer this technique to my usual writing life. Instead of writing down little fragments and half-lines as I normally have done, I will try to hold them in my head and see what I can do with them there. Obviously when I am not in a place of concentration, I'll have to write things down that come in fits and starts, but when I am sitting down to write, I'll be slower to put pen to paper for each thought.

This comes counter to a lot of writing advice which suggests that you should just write and write and write and not censor yourself, and then go back and see what nuggets you can find. But I think that it is not dissimilar: I am thinking and thinking and turning things over in my mind and will only keep what is best. And I'm not sure this will work (though I know the uncensored writing technique has been for me, nearly useless--I can write pages and have none of it yield anything), so it's just an experiment. So stay tuned to see how it goes.

Friday, August 22, 2014

JWC 2014: Presentations Announced

The 2014 presentations for the Japan Writers Conference, to be held on October 25 & 26 at Iwate National University in Morioka, Iwate, have been announced. In collaboration with novelist Peter Mallet, I'll be presenting "The Writer's Notebook: Strategies for Creativity."

Please join us for this and other great workshops, including Lauren Shannon's "Writing with Others and All By Yourself -- Tips on Writing Practice, and Leading and Participating in Writer's Groups", Paul Rossiter's "How to Start a Small Press in Tokyo", Percival Constantine's "Scrivener -- What It is and How It Can Make Your Writing Process Simpler", Tom Baker's "Brevity", and Bob Tobin's "Dreams and Demons."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


The Body is the House, and                                     Kim Addonizio
according to the spiritual teacher,
you are the open space inside the house.
Also, you are already dead.
This is good news.

Being the space inside the house
is infinitely better than being the house;
this is definitely good news,
because the walls are collapsing, and the floors,

so it is definitely infinitely better.
The foundation is dissolving to concrete dust,
the roof is collapsing, but no matter;
there's the sturdy blue flame of you

as the concrete world dissolves to dust.
Don't you feel better now—I mean
the sturdy-blue-flame-you,
the you that is not a condemned home?

Don't you feel better than when you learned
that you were already dead
and condemned to be homeless,
according to the spiritual teacher. 

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

Where cutlery shines on plates,
a voice lowers.

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

Outside, the rain formalizing.

When we leave we are replaced.

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

Then the small passage for sleep.

How green and spidery the sky.

In its net, the dead bees of memory. 


Saying It to Keep It from Happening                            John Ashbery

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

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


Sacrament of the Moths            Penelope Scambly Schott 
Dust from a moth's wing is lint from a prayer.
In a vault in the Vatican, they collect that lint.
The Vatical Vault of Sacred Moth Lint
opens second Tuesdays from three until six.
Lines of the pious spit-shine their coins
as they wait to kneel upon sanctified lint.
The tonsured Father who samples the lint
reports that it tastes of flute. He also tests
bicycles, beatitude by beatitude. This chain,
he intones, hath snagged another angel.
You've heard him: he pedals through dusk
as if it were moth gauze, dinging his final
crepuscular bell. 

The Envoy      Jane Hirschfield

One day in that room, a small rat.
Two days later, a snake.

Who, seeing me enter,
whipped the long stripe of his
body under the bed,
then curled like a docile house-pet.

I don't know how either came or left.
Later, the flashlight found nothing.

For a year I watched
as something -- terror? happiness? grief? --
entered and then left my body.

No knowing how it came in.
Not knowing how it went out.

It hung where words could not reach it.
It slept where light could not go.
Its scent was neither snake nor rat,
neither sensualist nor ascetic.

There are openings in our lives
of which we know nothing.

Through them
the belled herds travel at will,
long-legged and thirsty, covered with foreign dust.

from 32 Statements about Writing Poetry by Marvin Bell

 19. You need nothing more to write poems than bits of string and thread and some dust from under the bed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Insomniac Painted Red!

Many thanks to Jesi Buell of Red Paint Hill Publishing for a new review of The Insomniac's Weather Report. It's  wonderful to be supported by great publishers and presses, and other women writers.

Check out Red Paint Hill's journal and book list, including Suzanne Burns' Siblings.


Exile is a condition of the redeemed life.  Joni Tevis, The Wet Collection, “A Field Guide to Iridescence and Memory”

from Fragments of a Broken Poetics
Disembodied, the poem provokes longing. Its incorporeity is inscribed in myth: the severed head of Orpheus adrift on the Aegean Sea. Though separated, the head continues to sing. The song it sings is either a lament of exile from the body or a celebration of freedom from its material prison, depending on the direction of the winds. 


Inlay (Elaine Scarry)                                     Donna Stonecipher

  If only our troubles were those of the architect. In which the solution is born at the same time as the problem. The architect has simply to work her way toward it, through a dark tunnel or a prescribed maze. Which proves the marvelous fact that there are cases in life where ingenuity is not the primary virtue --- but rather tenacity.

   You keep doing it, he said to her one night. You keep moving across town and then feeling the “lost” streets pulling you back like a siren song, all disfigured by hope. This time let it be the swan song. Let the dying swan glide through your canals and then sink to the bottom like a piece of Cleopatra’s dysfunctional bateau.

   You can know the aristocratic pretensions of a scene by the proportion of sky to landscape, she ruminated in the museum. The more sky, the more elegant the tiny Russians strolling along the embankment twirling parasols. If a sky can be profligate, what limit the bankrolls nestled in fustian pockets?

   Which would you rather your head be full of, facts or ideas? (Clouds, riposted the cosmopolitan.) Facts are finite, said the dreamer. Ideas reproduce exponentially, said the monkey. But inside every fact is an idea, said the beautiful girl. But inside every idea is a beautiful girl, said the man in a brown study.

   The voluntary exile dreamed of the clouds that form over her native city. There she knew the names of all the birds. She had learned this voluntarily, by application. But all kinds of knowledge collects like sediment in local minds, useless but for ballast --- which, as all exiles know, should never be underestimated.

   If only our troubles were those of the town planner. On our freshly prepared grid, where to position the park, the town hall, the elementary school, the bored housewife fucking the plumber? The town is a given. The town waits like a fate for the town planner, who slowly reveals it with a blue pencil.

                                 “Daydreaming originates in the volitional”

   “Ideally, I’d look like a Spaniard, fuck like a Serb, and make money hand over fist like an American,” said the cosmopolitan sitting in Hong Kong, drinking a caipirinha. Only the American bristled. The reflective man, the genius, the seer, the torchbearer, the radical, the spiritualist, the moral high-hogger

   She had climbed all the stairs of pleasure and was shocked to find no issue at the top. So pleasure has a glass ceiling: or, the idea of more pleasure can form in the mind, but the fact of more pleasure in the body can not. The girl lying next to her bed could not stop putting her hand into the bag of little candy hearts.

   The citizen has ideas about the architect, but the architect has ideas about the citizen. The architect needs the citizens to people the plaza. But do the citizens need the architect? Yes, for the architect tells the citizens precisely how far they are willing to trust modernity --- and precisely how far they are not.

    If only our troubles were those of the bellboy. In which the world shrinks to a glowing pageant of installation and abandonment. The problem of the polished permanence of the temporary. And the vicarious thrill of holding all that has come under another’s sphere of influence in one’s own gloved hands.

   For years, she admitted one night, my greatest fantasy was this: buying a house, arranging it with my things, shopping for sofas and hassocks, and then locking it up and renting an apartment in a neighboring city. In the apartment I would always have flowers on my kitchen table: dahlias in September, and peonies in late spring.

   Facts are finite, but ideas feed on facts to achieve infinity. The architect sat down to his plans. The voluntary exile never learned the names of the birds in her adopted city. Each bird was a foreigner, flitting through trees and signing a beautiful mysterious song she hadn’t the remotest desire to comprehend.

from  A Poet's Alphabet       by Mark Strand, in The Weather of Words

O is for Oblivion. I feel as strongly about it as I do about nothing. Forgetfulness, the fullness of forgetting, the possibilities of forgottenness. The freedom of unmindfulness. It is the true beginning of poetry. It is the blank for which the will wills. And O, lest I forget, O is also for Ovid, II Naso, the first of the great exiles, whose book of changes, whose elevation of changing to a central place in the kingdom of the imagination, has made me wish to mention him, even if he has not directly influenced the poems I write. After all, what could I take from his beautiful telling of Echo and Narcissus or Jason and Medea? How could I duplicate the Song of Polyphemus? Maybe if I worked very hard I could produce a stumbling version of his fluency, and maybe a pale likeness of a few of his monstrous particulars, but never the two together. He was an effortless surrealist, a poet of boundless charm. And all it got him from the puritanical Augustus was exile to the shores of the Black Sea, in a place called Tomis.