Saturday, May 26, 2012

Five Poems and Counting

Working at Tahoe: OK, I exaggerate a little since 2 1/2 of those poems were substantially begun before I came to Tahoe. But one of those poems is for the book I had thought was done which is good.

So far this week, I also made a long list of possible ideas noting where some thing might dovetail with each other. And I did some good free writing on "American Jobs" so that I have at least a base from which to think about what else I might include. Maybe a little homage to Mark Nowak in the form of a haibun.

I also wanted to think about my writing. I've begun reading Talk Poetry: Poems and Interviews with Nine American Poets. A quote I would like to consider in relation to my own work is from an interview with Linda Gregerson: "how to locate the hard edge, the limits, the embodied grammar that will give this new work its own center of gravity." I'm especially interested in that hard edge.

Friday, May 18, 2012


I feel a little fizzy, but in a good way. I'm going away for 8 days to Lake Tahoe with four writer friends. This is something we've done before, and it is a little piece of heaven (except for the bear part). It is the kind of undirected time that writers long for. My quandary for the next few days before I leave is deciding what is my writing plan (and what clothes to pack since it might snow one day!).

  • I really want to write some new poems, especially maybe in the new series I'm thinking about that has to do with jobs, working, the economy.
  •  But I also am drawn to completing more of these extremely atypical funny aphoristic poems about men and women that I started when I was a little more bitter. 
  • Also, I want to perfect the ms. I think it's the right order, been edited, been concentrated on plenty. But maybe a couple more walk-throughs.
  •  And I've printed out an interview by Anne Carson that I think might direct my thinking--maybe not direct, but provoke--to new ways of making a poem.
  • I'd also like to make a list of still viable poem ideas, reading through my jottings and notes that get left behind to see what might still be valuable.
Often, I'm an undirected poet working from the things that fly into my head from the world or that rise from my murky creative depths without conscious pre-planning. Note that I did say conscious since even when I'm just writing what occurs to me, there are clusters of themes and similar registers. But I don't want to waste this time.

Other years, I've written two long poems there (you know, numbered sections long). I also put a chapbook together there one year. And I think the link between these tasks and the week is how close to the matter I can remain, untroubled by electricity bills and commutes to work.

But also, other years, I've lain on the stone steps in the sun and just felt. But then I wrote a poem about that.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mother, May I or Against Permission

I'm feeling a little wiggy and free, like bouncing in my seat although the wildest thing I might do is have a shot of bourbon or not wear sunscreen when I go out in a few minutes to mow the lawn. I just turned my grades in! Huzzah! No more wrestling over quality and quantity and revision bravado and surprise inspiration and the good plain luck of having a talent.

So why did the above title suggest itself to me. (Do you remember that game--"Mother, may I?" "No, you may not!) I'm at one of those rare times when there are no expectations for a few hours or days. Why am I thinking about permission and rejecting that stance? I was a very dutiful child always conscious of obligation and ritual--quite frighteningly so for a little while.

Are all moments of freedom/release related to each other? This small soaring away from the gradebook reminding me of all other flights?Maybe it's the students reminding me of the thrill of abandoning syntax and punctuation to see how that makes language on the page different. Maybe they remind me of myself when I first stopped rhyming or using question marks or using line breaks. The necessary hubris that allows a writer to walk the plank over the unknown. What's keeping me up in the air?

Let me just say that I never tell my students something has to be earned. I find myself quite scornful of this sentiment.Maybe it's not the sentiment but the language. Just as epiphany seems to have fallen out of style, or at least out of mine. A poem does not have to have a little peak at the end--our own personal Himalaya (although put that way it sounds kind of fun).