November 26th

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Today we went to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. 
I saw this Italian Futurist dog.
I ate a cup of vegetable bisque, half a brie panini, and some chocolate lava cake in the cafe. 
The baby fretted for a bit, and then he fell asleep in his carrier and I draped a napkin over the carrier while I ate my food.  Then he woke up and we went to look at the Anselm Kiefer exhibit.  He liked it pretty well.  A couple of the large pieces we bent over and looked at upside down, which he seemed to especially like. 

November 25th

Monday, November 25, 2013

1.  Sometimes a person may say they are doing a blog post for each day in November, but what they are really doing is a blog post for many of the days in November.

2.  The synchronicity thing:  My mom and I often reported to each other from my childhood on that we had read and heard a word at the same time.  Or wrote and heard.  We each do this separately and fairly often.  These synchronicities come in clumps for me.  Mid-November contained a clump of synchronicities.  I used to write the words down in a notebook [with brackets around them] but I have since ceased this practice.

3.  Did I ever tell you that I sometimes explain things to Ben Franklin in my head?  The other day, I was telling him what sushi was.

4.  The Indian buffet I had for lunch was ok/pretty good, but the dessert was especially good.  The baby tried some small bites of my samosa and then he got antsy and we had to go look at the statue of Ganesh while Clif finished eating.  Then we switched off, and I had some awesome rice pudding and chai.  I mean, it was sustaining

5.  "If your toothbrush is giving you vertigo, you may have bigger fish to fry," is what I thought to myself when my new toothbrush gave me vertigo.  It has, like, rubber whitening cups that threw me off balance.

6.  There's nothing wrong with taking your own life and work seriously and also finding joy in it.  Your own life and work can stand on their own four feet in front of a berry bush on an old wooden sign and delight everyone for miles. 

7.  Someone who used to sell suits for a living may enjoy putting on your coat at the end of the evening and then patting you on the shoulders.  This will be cheering, with a touch of pathos.

8.  "Life is short.  People die.  It's not cool."  I am trying to know this and just be here.  Be grateful.

9.  A flock of starlings doing their geometric swooping thing, but very close to the ground and as they are landing in a field near the highway-- it's a wondrous and terrible sight.

10.  When I was a child, I thought as a child, and when people drove me around town, I read signs out loud in a sing-songy voice.  When I became a (wo)man, I put away childish things.  Now I just do it in my head.  ("Suburban Veterinary Hospital . . .  Ideal Image Store . . .  Ideal . . . Image . . . Store.")

11.  Wait, there's a snowstorm coming?

12.  Welcome to Buffalo.

November 22nd

Friday, November 22, 2013

Well, I skipped another day.

Today I went to Cobble Hill to go to BookCourt. 

On the way, I saw these solid gold shoes. 
After the bookstore, it was suddenly dark.
And I saw this sad rabbit.
So I bought these brownies.

They were pretty good. 

On the way home I talked to a woman with five kids who told my baby that all her problems began when she spilled tuna in her backpack.  And I asked another woman where she had gotten her shoes (tan oxfords).  Shoegasm, she said.  I hadn't even eaten a brownie yet, but somehow I was talking to all these (two) people.

November 20th

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Occasional Poem for Wednesday

I wake up to someone in mid-conversation with me
about the conspiracy theories surrounding The Shining,
how Jack Torrance is the Minotaur and Kubrick reversed 
the carpet in some scenes and what about the moon landing?
If I had a nickel for every time someone close to me doubted
the moon landing, I'd have at least ten cents, and I'd put it
in the wobbly-looking handmade bowl on the kitchen counter
that I bought in Asheville.  "Wabi-sabi" is a term for that wobbly
kind of beauty or "I never know what to buy at craft fairs,
so I'll buy this."  I like the bowl, though, with its cream-colored
glaze, the slight jade-green tint.  And what if someone gave
you a green stone necklace in the shape of a heart when you
were, say, eight years old that you promptly lost because
you lost most jewelry given to you up until the age of
thirty-five?  Would you sometimes think of it and think
of the vibrations it emitted on your small little sternum,
which at the time was the only version of your sternum
you had ever known?  Would you wonder if it was buried
under a tree in your old apartment complex or buried in
the back of some strange person's drawer, and whether
it emits those vibes without you or needs your body
to activate them?  Would you then wonder why you're
thinking of "vibes" and "energies" and "emanations"
so much lately, wonder what kind of hippie you were
becoming?  There's too much wabi-sabi in any one
person's invented mythology, all wobbly and beautiful,
slipping on impermanence like ice, grasping at stars. 

November 19th

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Today was cold and sunny, and Elias was in a good mood, except when he got his flu shot.  I'm thinking about how much of our discourse now is made up of little jokes and a sort of call and response.  I'll have to think more about how to describe the quality of that.  After the shots, we (well, mostly I) went for banh mi and bubble tea, and I had a long conversation with the pregnant woman sitting next to me, who said she's a singer and actress and sometimes a writer.  I didn't recognize her, but I think I've seen her husband before.  Or maybe not.  He's either this one actor or he isn't.  The woman, Adelaide, and I were given free chocolates by the guy behind the counter because "Happy Tuesday."

November 18th

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Three from Monday.

It was unseasonably warm on Monday, and we went to the playground and went on the swings.  The sky was beautiful, and I took pictures of trees coming and going.  (The middle picture is not at the playground, obviously.  This guy is serious about his kitchen implements.)

November 17th

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Today I met with two friends and did writing exercises, which was fun.  I get some good material for poems that way.  And some human contact, which is a good thing.  Today was cloudy and a little drizzly and oddly warm, but I didn't go out, even though Clif took the baby on two walks.  I ate cookies and drank tea.  I met with my friends.  Later I made some beans and rice and played with the baby and put him to bed. 

The exercise for the piece below was that we read a poem out loud and then had to incorporate some of the words into our own piece.  (For this one, the poem was from Notley's The Descent of Alette.) Here it is:

Attempted Dispatch 

I wish I had more to report, a dispatch back from my journey,
but I'm in it now and now hovering and now living it
but also an image of myself projected onto myself
by a movie camera, something from a Charlie Kaufman movie--
marionettes, tunnels, rebirths, dioramas, a warehouse containing
my life and all the paths I walk in Brooklyn with the baby
in the stroller or the baby in the Ergo carrier.  When I found out
I was pregnant, my mother remarked that we had embarked
on an alternate reality and we had.  We had all boarded a ship
or walked down into a narrow trench, or I had, walking willingly
and with interest and then with trepidation, and then it opened
out into a colossal cavern, and that was the night he was born,
when I floated there alone even though I wasn't alone,
eating pellets of ice and watching the window for some kind of sign
of attendant angels or of a soul cohering.  Really I was listening
to a comedian I don't know being interviewed on a podcast
I kind of like until they had to break my water and it was dirty
and they had to increase the pitocin to get him out, until I was vaguely
 threatened with a caesarean, until I began to complain of all
the pressure breaking through the epidural, until it was time to push. 

November 16th

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Often I find myself longing to be another sort of artist, so that my thinking would happen while drawing or moving clay about with my fingers.  The other night I dreamed that I was helping excavate a trench that was had been dug into some clay ground.  Buried in the side of the trench, I found the perfect book.  But I don't remember what made this book perfect, just that suddenly there I was, holding this perfect book I had pulled out of this wall of clay while sitting in this hole in the ground.  It's all very Jungian, right?  (I'm sure we could make something Freudian out of the clay.  But whatever.)  Also, I read the James Joyce story "Clay" in ninth grade and didn't really get it, but then later I read that the clay was about mortality and that's why it was so cruel to play a trick on the aging woman involving clay.  Or what?  I need to read that again.  Clay is what we are and what we'll return to.  It's the muck and it's also what grounds us and proves we're both of the earth and humble.  There's this passage from Their Eyes Were Watching God: 

When God had made The Man, he made him out of stuff that sung all the time and glittered all over.  Then after that some angels got jealous and chopped him into millions of pieces, but still he glittered and hummed.  So they beat him down to nothing but sparks but each little spark had a shine and a song.  So they covered each one over with mud.  And the lonesomeness in the sparks make them hunt for one another, but the mud is deaf and dumb.  Like all the other tumbling mud-balls, Janie had tried to show her shine.     

Well, it isn't always easy to show one's shine.  But that's all we have, right?  There's something to the mud itself, though.  The mud is also home.   

This is what I was thinking when I was putting the baby down for a nap just now and trying to "sleep while the baby sleeps." 

November 15th

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Oh, oh!  My blog-post-a-day project is getting away from me. 

Well, ok.  Here's Friday night:

November 13th

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Oh!  I missed a day.  OK, this falling darkness in the afternoon isn't so cute anymore.  A friend wrote me this email:  "This darkness is unworkable."  My thought yesterday was, "I need a butler and a fireplace to get through this."  But instead I made my own cambric-- half Lady Grey tea, half almond milk, a few drops of vanilla extract.  That revived me somewhat, as in a Victorian novel when one finds oneself wandering the moor all night before seeing a lit window in a lone house and being taken in by one's long-lost cousins.  One is welcomed in and given a warm cup of tea, only to realize that tea assuages 60% of one's angst.  Maybe 70%.

(I should write tea blurbs for the J. Peterman catalog.)

And here is some art inspired by Jane Eyre by the artist Paula Rego.

November 12th

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tuning into Your Day in Almost Mid-November

What do you do with a wintry mix and a tiny human
who won't keep his socks on is a question your PhD
might help you with.  Gothic moments in American realism
is what your dissertation was on and also what happens when
you lean in at 4:30 a.m. to check on the baby and he's there
staring back at you with wide-open eyes.  Redeployment of Freud's
concept of the unheimlich is helpful in literary study and also
in thinking about how the baby looks when he's suddenly sitting
up looking around at the air above his head, when seconds before
he was deeply asleep.  Are families uncanny?  Only when
you can't fall back to sleep and start thinking about Salem witches
and spirit orbs and the job market. Whether you ever grew a small
human in your body or cared for one or regarded one with interest,
think about the strands of the Marvelous and the Real.  Think about
the cloud cover; the interplay of consciousness; the slowing down
which precedes a quickening of the imagination; a onesie made of stars.

November 11th

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I'm looking at this European toy website and talking to Clif like I'm Rain Man.  "I like the Color Tower Stacking Game.  You can make a wish list.  I'm making a wish list.  You can even share it.  I put the Color Tower Stacking Game on the wish list." 

November 10th

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Is it too soon to start playing holiday music?  This morning, I put on Pandora and realized I have an "indie holiday" station (which-- ha, but I kind of wanted to put it on).  What I played was Bach and then some jazz and then the Smiths and Duran Duran, in case any of that helped the baby organize his mind.  He hopped in his jumper along to "Girlfriend in a Coma."  Oh, gosh.  When he was a fetus, I played him Talking Heads and Erik Satie, and I played him some Satie again yesterday to see if he remembered it, which maybe he did.  I have this feeling he remembers me eating tomato sauce when he was a fetus.  I love spaghetti sauce and so does he.  When I give him tastes of it, he shouts for more and twirls one hand about in the air for emphasis.

Today I stayed inside mostly and ate different foods, like French toast, honey crisp apples, Bloomsday cheese from the farmer's market (which I guess is actually named after James Joyce).  Then I took a nap with the baby, and when I woke up, it was getting dark.  Now I'm at a cafe alone and darkness has fallen just like that.  I like the idea of darkness "falling."  How interesting to think about the original metaphorical impetus behind cliches, and to think about how the over-used language of one time and place might be novel to people in another time and place.  For example, near the poles, darkness does not suddenly "fall."  (I've been reading a book that mentions this, but I will have to go home and look at the author and title.  They are utterly escaping me.  "Escaping me.")

The older I get, the more interested in seasons I am?  (I just put a question mark there without thinking about it.  Because-- really?  Maybe.)  I will just come out and use the word "energies"-- I like watching and feeling the shift of seasonal energies.  This is the time of year when I like to think about and write drafts of poems about going underground.  In yoga yesterday, one thought that floated up was the time a massage therapist in Asheville told me that New York City was a vortex of weird energies.  This is for metaphysical reasons that again "escape me" . . .  I think it had something to do with the city being built on rock and with water running underground?  (Question mark.)  And how weird, she may have remarked, that people pack into subways and ride around under there, right where the strange energy is congregating.  Then, back in yoga, I started thinking about The Descent of Alette and how I would like to read it again.  Perhaps I think too much during yoga.  Or perhaps I pay too much attention to the thoughts.

Last night, we watched The Conjuring, which didn't scare me as much as it scared Liz!  This morning I was thinking that it was because I am tired of people blaming Salem witches and their sisters for everything.  It was scary, though.  I like how families are always moving into large old creepy houses in horror movies set in and/or made in the '70s.  And how either the father or the mother or the teenage daughter begins soaking up the bad vibes and showing the cracks in the shared dream of the Family Romance.  Perhaps soon I will listen to indie holiday music and write an essay called "Are Families Uncanny?"  But first I'll go home and make soup.   

November 9th

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Two things from today:

1.  This morning I was having a dream that I found the perfect shoes.  They were like old-fashioned black leather men's shoes with laces and leather soles, and they fit me perfectly.  They completed my outfit.  They completed me.

2.  At Restorative Yoga class this afternoon, I was instructed to let go of any thoughts or emotions that arose as we did the poses.  What arose then was the sentence, "This aggression will not stand, man."  So, my inner yogi is the Dude from the Big Lebowski? 

November 8th

Saturday, November 09, 2013

A walk at dusk.

A book I found on the sidewalk a couple weeks ago.

Something that was in the book.

Shadow puppets.

November 7th

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Today was drizzly and chilly in Brooklyn.  We walked to the grocery store before afternoon naptime, where a woman looked at my baby and said, "So serious."  I thought she was going to say he was cute, so first I said, "Thanks."  Then I said, "Oh, serious.  Are you serious, baby?  Are you ready for a nap?"  The baby had no comment.  (Later we played, and he laughed and showed me his new teeth, so it wasn't all seriousness.  He is also talking now.  He punctuates our conversations with assertions like, "Ba!" and "Da!"  "Ba" seems to mean any object that he's intensely focused on.  "Da!" means "yeah!" or sometimes, I think, "Daddy."  Once he said it when he saw Barack Obama on TV.)  At the cafe, they were out of chai, so I had Earl Grey tea with steamed milk and vanilla, which they were calling cambric.  It sort of reminded me of a grooming product you'd buy at Crabtree and Evelyn, but I liked it. 

Here are the pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip walnut cookies I made today.

Here is a Name Game I made for you. (Wait. Who is EF?  I suppose I knew at one time.) 

November 6th

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Today we took a long walk to Unnameable Books, where I bought the following books. 

Then, suddenly, it was getting dark.

November 5th

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

On the fifth, we played with a hand me down riding bee from my friend Catherine. He's not quite old enough to ride it yet, but he quite likes using it as a drum.

November 4th

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

On the fourth, I posted about my admiration for Winnicott.  (See below.)  On that day, after exchanging a series of messages about education with two old friends, I also found this piece I wrote a few years ago.

On Forming Questions

When I was in the third grade my mother and/or the school system decided I was “Talented and Gifted.”  This meant that a special teacher would come to my school and sit with me in a very small room—what looked like a converted broom closet—and have me fill out mimeographed worksheets.  The worksheets asked me to make lists and to draw pictures based on instructions.  I found some of these sheets in my mother’s garage recently, and the tasks I was asked to perform seem meaningless and potentially baffling for an eight year old.  “List foods you would cook on the stove.  List foods you would cook in the oven.  Which foods would you keep in the refrigerator?”  Perhaps there had been a mix-up.  Maybe they thought I was a cooking savant.  I wasn’t.  My mother was a graduate student.  We ate a lot of spaghetti, as far as I can remember.  The special teacher once asked me to draw a picture of anything.  Anything!  I drew a cow that had a town of small people living in its stomach.  She told me that I should have drawn something that made sense, something that could really exist.  I told her I felt a little sick, like I was going to throw up.  She wrinkled her nose at me and told me that it wasn’t polite to use the word “throw up.”  What word was I supposed to use, I asked.  She seemed exasperated by my question.  (I wasn’t used to this.  My mother was good at answering questions.)  “Oh, I don’t know!” the special teacher said.  “Vomit.  Upchuck.”  That made me want to throw up even more.   

Does this answer the question?

November 3rd

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

On the third I watched the marathon go by a block from my house.  I took the baby out to see the marathoners, and as they came by, I thought about how they each had a particular story of training and possibly of traveling to New York, or at least preparing to be at the appropriate place on the morning of the marathon, and, then, of running.  Some people had their first names or the names of their countries of origin written on their shirts.  A woman near me shouted out encouragement to the runners with names on their shirts, which I guess was the point.  "Come on, Gary!  Way to go, Gary, whooooo."  That made me tear up again.  I pointed out the different nationalities to the baby, "Look, bubby, France!  Denmark!  Look, a whole group of Italians."  The baby looked, scowled, then reached up and pulled off his hat.

November 2nd

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

On the second, I went out by myself (!) to Berl's Poetry Shop's grand opening, where I saw various poets read.  They each read one poem of their own and one by someone else.  Bianca Stone read a short prose piece by Elizabeth Bishop that I love.  It's about a fire at a neighbor's house when she was a very small child.  It made me tear up for some reason.  In it, Bishop describes being in her crib and seeing the flames reflected on the bars of her crib as her mother stood on the lawn handing out refreshments to the firefighters.  Bishop recalls being suddenly very thirsty and writes that her thirst persisted throughout her life.  (I have this somewhere.  It doesn't look like it's in the Collected Prose. I need to find it.) 

November 1st

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Oh, shoot!  I thought of doing a blog post a day in November, but am already behind.  Now I found out from my friend Liz's blog that this is an actual thing.  (OK, I've never actually met Liz, but we are internet friends, m'kay?) 

Here's my first make-up post.  On the first, I . . .  what did I do?  I don't remember.  Oh, I went to my pal Jen's house, where she watched the baby for an hour so I could finish a job application.  Jen and Elias played the guitar and harmonica, and then Elias fell over backward taking off his sock and started laughing.  That's a good way to start a month.

Here is a picture of E. playing a drum from India.  I think that was the same day.


I Heart Winnicott

Monday, November 04, 2013

I'm going through some writing I did in the past couple years, and I ran across this:  "Winnicott (1971) describes an area of experience that belongs neither to internal reality or to external reality. It encompasses all forms of play and cultural experience, and extends to the magic of love and intimacy, and to dreaming. Winnicott describes it as the place we are in when we are listening to a symphony, looking at art, reading in bed, playing, enjoying ourselves. At the negative extreme it extends to fetishism, lying and stealing, the talisman of obsessional rituals, and may even become the hallmark of madness."
                    --“The ‘Intimate Edge’ and the ‘Third Area’” Journal of Psychoanalysis, vol. 12 (1976): 489-95, Darlene Bregman Ehrenberg, Ph.D.

The Dog and Cat Circus

Sunday, October 20, 2013

1. I was less than successful as a teenage calamity. Too much moping, not enough whiskey. Too much Morrissey, not enough conflagration. That was later, for a time. The conflagration, not the whiskey. (No taste for brown liquors.)

There's a word about fear of a regular pattern of holes-- the fear of a honeycomb, for example-- trypophobia. What's the word for fear of holes in the narrative? For fear of lack of narrative? What's the word for not knowing if your memory is yours, for, "Did I imagine it, or did we try to make jello shots using the chilly crawl space of her attic bedroom as a refrigerator? Why would we do that?" Certainly the French have that word.

It's dwindling down to discussions of sweaters and chill, of embarrassing pains and, like, whether the root vegetables taste fresh. By "it," I mean "all of it." Beckett did the dwindling better.

Limerence is also a word. A person from 1979 coined it.  Limerence is obsessively wanting your eros reciprocated.  Limerence is not to be confused with liminality, but when I think of writing a novel, I think my only interesting plots are limerence and liminality.

Conflagration and drift. An oarless boat on fire.

"Why does the dog need so much love?" is what I once asked my mother. "We all do," is what my mother said back.

We all want the Taj Mahal. If we're lucky, we get 1000 square feet and a dishwasher.

The moon. Someone once called on his night away to tell me to look at the moon.

I have drifted from conflagration to moony, dog-like love.  As I am wont to do.  Someone must have a word for that.  It may be a word in one of those languages with only 14 speakers left.

Mothertruckin' essay

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I am pleased to have an essay on motherhood featured over at Rattle & Pen.  Many thanks to the editor.  I am in some great company over there! 

Text from Mom: "Never defy a witch."

Monday, September 16, 2013

(It wasn't directed at me.  She was referring to using her mind powers to get a flight canceled when she didn't want to travel.  Once when she was younger she said, "I'm going to make that streetlight go out," then pointed at it, and it went dark.  So.  You know.) 

Publication news

Monday, September 02, 2013

I'm pleased to announce that my second full-length book, What Is a Domicile, will be published by Noctuary Press in spring 2014!  I love the mission of this press, and I'm very excited to be working with them.  (My first full-length book, from Brooklyn Arts Press, will appear in early 2014.)

And in chapbook news my collaborative chapbook with Todd Colby, I'm Glad I Know You, is now up online as the first digital publication from Poetry Crush.  Yay!

Five for Wednesday

Thursday, July 25, 2013

1.  This episode of the Waltons.  It scared the bejeezus out of me when I was a kid.  I wasn't sure it was real.  It's real

2.  This Mary Ellen Mark picture of Lily Tomlin and Tom Waits, which I continue to find oddly heartening. 

3.  The New York Poetry Festival is this weekend.  Stain of Poetry has some wonderful readers appearing at the festival on Saturday:  Emily Toder, Monica McClure & Gregory Crosby.  Yes!

4.  I'm happy to announce that Todd Colby & I have a collaborative online chapbook forthcoming through Poetry Crush!  Details TBA soon. 

5.  My Florida sojourn is coming to an end.  Goodbye and hello from me & E. from Florida and soon from Brooklyn again.  

Word Balloon

Monday, May 20, 2013

by Joanna Penn Cooper and Todd Colby

Some days you learn a lot about eye shadow or about how
the medication inherent in cosmetics makes the heart grow fonder,
or softer, or more medicated.  If you really believed this was your life
and not an ever-evolving state of emergency, you might blend into
the horizon like a warm knife into butter on a boat in the Indian
Ocean. But I digress. There are programs designed to help you lift
weights while buying fruit or to help you smooth out your fear of death
with a straightening iron.  In my own program, I loom for hours
over the advertisements in the back of The New Yorker, which
is sort of like stabbing myself in the face. Don't forget the world
is full of things like overly tall trees, impudent starlings, toxic puddles,
and, when you really get down to the brass tacks, some rather molten
leftovers from the time of the burnt wafer. I mean I'm all over
the enlightenment tip, pausing in doorways to die and be reborn
108 times a day. It's only fair to tell you how far I've come to tell you
of the odd course at our flanks, jumping from year to year.  In fact,
I've come from the the past to tell you. You are hearing the voice
of someone who no longer exists or never really did. You are filling
your shoes with sand in an attempt to appear more carefree and
useless. My advice: Take off your angst like taking off a coat made
of angst. I'll meet you there or anywhere they still let me in.

April 30th poem

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Poetry month news

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Thanks to the NaPoWriMo site for featuring my blog today!  I can't believe it's almost the end of poem-a-day month. 

Check out the blogs of my friends Lauren Gordon and Annmarie O'Connell, who totally killed it during NaPoWriMo. 

Also, poetry will continue after April.  This Stain of Poetry reading on May 31st featuring Lee Ann Roripaugh, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Kathleen Rooney, and Lynn Melnick stands to be amazing!  It will be my first time back hosting (with co-hosts J. Hope Stein and Jenny Zhang) since the baby was born. 

April 29th poem

Monday, April 29, 2013


April 28th poem

Sunday, April 28, 2013


April 27th poem

Saturday, April 27, 2013


April 26th poem

Friday, April 26, 2013


April 25th poem

Thursday, April 25, 2013


April 24th poem

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Cathlamet Prize

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I'm pleased to announce that I've won the Cathlamet Prize from Ravenna Press, and my chapbook Crown will be published as part of their Pocket Books series.  I'll keep you posted on when the chapbook will be out.  I'm really happy that this manuscript has found a home with Ravenna Press!  

April 23rd poem

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


April 22nd poem

Monday, April 22, 2013


April 21st poem

Sunday, April 21, 2013


April 20th poem

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Elizabeth Bishop

Friday, April 19, 2013

Elizabeth Bishop House, Great Village, Nova Scotia

The blog of the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary has linked to my April 11th piece about staying at the Bishop House.  What an honor.  Check out the blog for interesting posts about Bishop and Bishop scholarship, like the Wonder Questions, posts exploring the connections between the work of Elizabeth Bishop and other writers, artists, and musicians, including people like Orwell! and Nabokov!

April 19th poem

Friday, April 19, 2013


April 18th poem

Friday, April 19, 2013


April 17th poem

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


April 16th poem

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


April 15th poem

Monday, April 15, 2013


April 14th poem

Sunday, April 14, 2013


April 13th poem

Saturday, April 13, 2013


April 12th poem

Friday, April 12, 2013


April 11th poem

Thursday, April 11, 2013

While the Baby Sleeps

I read an Anne Carson poem about walking before dawn in Iceland.  I'm envious of Anne Carson then.  I want to be in Iceland doing things like that, seeing crows as big as chairs.  Ravens.  Or in another place, Nova Scotia, maybe, where I went once to stay at Elizabeth Bishop's childhood home and write because one of the house's owners told me I should.  Or could.  I did more revision than writing there.  I read a book of prose poems by Anne Carson there that I liked.  I also read the beginning of Anne of Green Gables, a couple of books by Canadian authors I hadn't heard of, some old National Geographics in the sitting room that was lonely to go into, some files of photocopied archival materials about Bishop.  I got my feet stuck in the red-purplish mud of the Bay of Fundy.  I walked down the middle of the road with my friend Douglas at around midnight.  There were so many stars I didn't know what to do.  I thought of Bishop's poem about Robinson Crusoe, and I kept telling Douglas that we should move over to the side of the road in case a Canadian redneck came peeling through the village in a pickup truck in the dark.  Every night we would meet in the kitchen and ask each other if we thought the house was haunted.  Neither of us would stay in the largest bedroom.  I think that's where Bishop's mother screamed that time before she went back to the sanatorium for good.  The house got very sad around dusk and stayed that way for a while, but I loved it. 

April 10th poem

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


April 9th poem

Tuesday, April 09, 2013


April 8th poem

Monday, April 08, 2013


April 7th poem

Sunday, April 07, 2013


April 6th poem

Saturday, April 06, 2013


April 5th poem

Friday, April 05, 2013


April 4th poem

Thursday, April 04, 2013


April 3rd poem

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


April 2nd poem

Tuesday, April 02, 2013


April 1st poem

Monday, April 01, 2013


Opening Day

Sunday, March 31, 2013

[Tomorrow NaPoWriMo begins!  Here is a prose poem from my 2012 poem-a-day efforts.  See you tomorrow!  Don't forget to say "rabbit, rabbit."] 

OK.  First of all, it's warmer out than I thought, and so I'm overdressed.  Second of all, even with sunglasses on, I'm squinting.  Thirdly, when a bird goes, poo-tee-weet, I direct my next thought toward it, thusly:  "Petulance.  We like the sound of the word petulance, don't we, birdie?"  Then I pass three separate teenagers, still young, still forming, looking elastic in spirit like fourteen year-olds mostly do.  I wish them the best.  I  begin to worry.  They look so full of potential.  As the third one passes, I sigh loudly in his direction, and he politely looks away, ensconced in his own hat like that.  When I get on the subway, all the adults look vacant and spiritually sparse.  At least there's one kid.  At least he's scowling with his hands jammed into the pockets of his jacket and thinking what look like serious thoughts.  At least he's swinging his little feet.  His socks are black and white striped.  His Adidas are the same ones my 25 year-old brother has.  Welcome to opening day, little boy.  Play ball, I guess.  

April, almost!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

OK, so I'm going to write 30 poems in April again for Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo.  I'll post them here.  This is my fourth (!) time doing it.  First time with a newborn.  zomg.  Imagine me singing this part in a high-pitched quavery voice:  "Aaaaah!"

My 2010 and 2011 efforts are still archived on my blog.  I removed the 2012 poems in case I wanted to submit some of them to journals, and I will likely do the same thing this year, once April is over.  Here's one that was published in RealPoetik.  

The 30 poems in 30 days challenge is just that-- a challenge.  It's a good way to feel connected to poeminess and process and one's everyday observations.  It's also a good way to feel a bit crazy and vulnerable.  (Because, you know, I need more of that right now.)  Anyway.  I'm doin' it.   

Stay tuned also for a new drawing-poem collaboration by me and my brother at the Malfeez blog. 

In the meantime, here is a picture of the baby to tide you over.   

Elias is here

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

After three days of labor, he decided to be born.  We regarded each other.
In the hospital, Clif and Elias tried with mixed results to catch up on lost sleep. 

Once home, he gave me this look.

And this one.

We can't believe our good fortune in having this person in our family.  There is much to learn.  Meanwhile, Elias sends you  his blessings.

On the Delicate and Non-Delicate Movements of Weather and Time

Friday, February 08, 2013

At 2 a.m. the humidifier sounds like crickets and then I know I should move to the country.  

I let my large gray yoga ball sit on my reading chair, even though in times past that would have meant something ominous if I woke up wrong.  But I know I’m undergoing a transformation because, when they do show up, the ghosts in this room keep me company now.  One will hang around all matter of fact and affable, like a wise old dog, before leaving again, and then I’ll just go back to sleep. 

My boyfriend tucks me in for the second time and tries to sneak away to do more work.  “Goodnight,” I say, then hold up my arm and make a beak.  Then I say, “Remember shadow animals on the wall?”  He laughs and turns to go.  He knows I’m always trying to start conversations about shadow animals when people are trying to say goodnight. 

What do you expect?  One lifetime is very short, but it’s hard to realize when it’s happening.  Except sometimes it’s easy to realize.  Sometimes you’re almost a year later in a room in Brooklyn waiting for a blizzard, when just a second ago you were almost a year earlier in a different room in Vermont sitting on a bed with a Vanity Fair, a pregnancy test, and an empty bag of M&Ms you don’t remember eating.  

My friend tells me there’s a word for this made up by a theorist.  She can’t remember the theorist’s name or the word.  My friend is very intelligent, but we like to half-remember things when we talk.  It’s just what we do.    

Physics calls it “everything happens at once and all the edges touch.”  I believe I read that somewhere or heard it on PBS and didn’t just see it in a movie.  
I will be the theorist and I will call it effleurage, which actually means “a delicate stroking motion.”  In my theory, it means that and it also means “the mind and body’s flagrant disregard for notions of the consistent forward movement of time.”  A delicate and non-delicate motion. 

The Next Big Thing

Saturday, February 02, 2013

The wondrous J. Hope Stein has tagged me in this self-interview series.  As she explains it, "The Next Big Thing is a neat, pass-it-on, chain-letter-ish interview series in which you conduct a brief interview with yourself and post it on your blog & at the end of the interview tag 2- 5 [writers]– thereby passing it on to them . . .  just like influenza! or birdsong!"

I believe these are supposed to come out on Wednesdays, but I'm doing it today!  Here goes.

What is the working title of the book?
How We Were Strangers.  I've gone through a series of other titles-- including A Girl's Guide to Self-Hypnosis-- before returning to this original title.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
The book didn't emerge from one specific "idea" so much as it represents a few years of writing poems, prose poems, and short prose vignettes and watching a voice and themes emerge.  One memory comes to mind, though, when I think about having an idea that I could write a book like this.  When I was getting my Ph.D. (in American literature) at Temple University, I was "secretly" continuing my life as a creative writer, which included writing brief prose vignettes that fell somewhere between prose poem and short short story.  Anyway, I showed some of these to my friend Ross Gay, and he commented that he "could read a whole book of these."  I tucked that away in the back of my mind to return to later.     

What genre does your book fall under?
 I'm glad I asked myself that.  I actually submitted the manuscript to publishers as a book of poems and prose poems, and the editor who showed interest, Joe Pan at Brooklyn Arts Press, explained that he would like to work with me in publishing a book of the prose pieces.  So, after some reorganizing of the manuscript in which I reworked some of the pieces and swapped out others, the book is now all prose vignettes.  I believe we're publishing them as "lyrical shorts."

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Hm.  Interesting question.  The book is more about voice, mood, and thematic threads than it is about plot or characters, but I suppose there are some recurring characters.  I guess the speaker would have to be played by a few different actors, like in that I'm Not There movie about Bob Dylan.  One would be a Blue-era Juliette Binoche.  One would be Winona Ryder from Beetlejuice.  And one would be this kid:

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

I wrote this in a job letter:  "The pieces in the book explore the liminal spaces between the lyrical and the surreal, and also between genres of the prose poem, micro-essay, and short fiction, ultimately seeking to depict the fine shadings of individual consciousness as a way to honor that which we share as human beings—mystery, wonder, existential struggle, and a desire for understanding and love."  An even simpler way to say it would be:  How We Were Strangers explores the speaker's longing for solitude and simultaneous longing for connection.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I did an MFA after the PhD, and some of the pieces in the book appear in the 2009 thesis version of the manuscript.  The book has really evolved since then, though, and I've included many pieces that I've written in the last three years or so.  
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
 I'm inspired by writers who have an appreciation for the rhythms of speech and the way that odd or piquant observations intersect with individual consciousness.  For me, this includes writers as different as James Schuyler, Eudora Welty, and James Thurber.  Some of my appreciation for colloquial speech and strange/delightful observation also comes from listening to my mother and grandmother speak.  They're like walking found poems.

I've also been thinking a lot about works that exist at that intersection of genres.  I'd love to teach a class in prose poems, short short stories, and micro-essays, just to explore the blurry boundaries between those genres.  We could read prose poems by Charles Simic and James Tate; fiction by Lydia Davis and Amy Hempel; Abigail Thomas's memoir in vignettes, Safekeeping.  Also, there seem to be many women who identify as poets and write in a form that's somewhere between poetry and essay-- Brenda Coultas, Bernadette Mayer, Claudia Rankine, Maggie Nelson, for example.  I'd like to explore that more.  That could even be its own class.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Below is only one of the three pieces I've written that mention Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  (Well, ok, it's the only one in the current version of the book.)

Everyone’s a Winner

Take me out to the dream stadium, the contest of great minds where players beam down from on high-- all men-- but I find myself in the mix, learning to leap and float above the green green turf. We all contribute something, me, Einstein, the Gandhi-Nehru guy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and the poet-athlete from my early years. Our mascot tells us things with his eyes, listens for me during the medal ceremony, as I squat there, falling into a trance to the sound of a weed whacker, picking up small animals, setting them down again.

Is your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be published by Brooklyn Arts Press in late 2013/early 2014.

My tagged writers for next week are below.  They may or may not have time to complete the self-interview, but I urge you to check out their work!
Todd ColbyKaren DietrichAnnmarie O'Connell. Lee Ann Roripaugh. Shanna Compton (who's already been tagged five times, but who says she'll do it soon!).

Delirious Hem

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My piece on the movie Bell Book and Candle is today's featured essay in the Chick Flix series over at Delirious Hem. 

You can see an overview of all the essays posted so far on Becca Klaver's blog.  I'm happy to be in such fascinating company! 

You May Be Approaching a Developmental Milestone

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Today is late January and you'd sooner fling your dinner
than eat it.  You are pale and careworn around the eyes
and hair.  It's been a day.  And all day of it you've needed
a nap.  Instead you lay there whimpering, somewhere
in the recesses of your delicate skull knowing it won't be long
before you hold up your head, sit up of your own volition,
and grasp what's right in front of you. 

Recently and Soon

Friday, January 18, 2013

1.  I went to the MoMA recently and stood in front of this Jasper Johns piece.  It was the last day of the Quay Brothers exhibit.  The most striking part to me were the portraits of their mother at the beginning of the exhibit which showed that they looked almost exactly like her.  (Somehow I didn't realize the Quay Brothers were twins.)  I was also struck by my response to the set from their film of Kafka's The Metamorphosis.  "Poor Gregor Samsa," I thought.  And I meant it.  Then I had to leave because there were too many people in the Quay Brothers exhibit.

2.  The all-prose version of my book, How We Were Strangers, has been officially accepted at Brooklyn Arts Press, with publication in late 2013.  If you have ever wanted to read a book of "lyrical shorts" by me, it will soon be possible!  

3.  In the past several months, I was also a finalist for the St. Lawrence Book Award from Black Lawrence Press and a finalist during the open reading period at Trio House Press.

4.  Oh, and . . .  my due date is two and a half weeks away!!!  Yes, we have chosen a name.  We'll tell you later.

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