Monday, May 30, 2005

Happy Oriole Day...

... from my daughter to you.

Coming next: Recognizing character voice, or Why no muppet should ever say "nipples".

Friday, May 27, 2005

"Well, he IS the Imperial Dark Lord..."

In 1978, the second-graders at Maplewood Heights Elementary School had a complex system for determining one’s place in the social hierarchy, an algorithm that took into account height, athletic prowess, popularity, sense of humor, intelligence, affluence, and a myriad of additional variables.

A year later, though, all of that had changed. By the time we entered third grade, social standing was solely determined by one factor: the level of one’s devotion to Star Wars.

From "
Darth Vader Made Me Cry", by Matthew Baldwin. Curently darkening the doorway of the archives at The Morning News. While you're there, check out the archives of The Non-Expert, the column with the best motto ever: "Experts answer what they know. The Non-Expert answers anything. "

Friday, May 20, 2005

A New World Of Geeky Goodness

Ubergeek, underappreciated actor, and excellent writer Wil Wheaton celebrates the end of production on the Star-* (Star Wars, Star Trek) franchises as the beginning of a new era in intelligent geekdom. You should go read it - I can't do it justice - but I have to quote this line:

"If you've never tasted the sting of a dodgeball on your face, you're not a geek."

Oh, man. It's so true, it hurts anew.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Until we do so every day....

In the weeks leading up to and since NatPoMo, I've seen or heard a number of comments that the idea of a national poetry month is actually contrary to the idea of celebrating poetry. That it somehow makes poetry less necessary the rest of the year. Diann Blakely made this comment recently:

"Just as our celebration of women and black history shouldn't be confined to a single month of the year, we shouldn't ghettoize poetry to a 30-day block on the calendar"

Well, now. I do respect the sentiment that poetry shouldn't be confined or debased (the implication in the word ghetto), but I think it's terribly misguided. I think it's useful and natural to have celebrations from time to time. Birthdays. Holidays. Days of recognition. Anniversaries. Sure, I agree that you'll be the same age for the 364 days following your birthday as you are on the date itself. But the commemoration gives your friends - who won't love you any less on those 364 other days - a good reason to stop what they're doing, and take special note of you on that date.

Same with poetry. While it touches me every day, in April I made stopped my normal routine and took special note of poetry in my life. And to pass that note along to other people - notably, grammar school children for whom I crafted a series of workshops. Certainly, I could have made these school visits on October 9 or January 15. But I don't see the harm - the "ghettoizing" - in setting aside a few days each year in which we can plan for such events.

Like birthdays: until we learn to celebrate each other every day, let's celebrate on birthdays. Until we celebrate poetry every day, let's celebrate in April. It can only help.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A Gift of Red

The first blossom is on our rhododendron. There's a new cardinal nest at the foot of my driveway. The main thoroughfare through our county is about a nine iron away. Somehow, this puts me in a haiku mood.

Spring motion sensor:
cardinal nest at head height
in the forsythia

Monday, May 16, 2005

A Highest Point. A Culmination.

(Note: The title for this entry is a lesser-known definition of the word "solstice". You'll see why in a minute).

If you are looking for a conference experience to accelerate your writing this summer, I recommend you consider the
Solstice Summer Writer's Conference of Pine Manor College. Directed by the estimable Meg Kearney, this conference invites you to pursue poetry, fiction, or creative non-fiction with an accomplished faculty, including a poetry workshop lead in part by the editor of my favorite and most-often-reached-for anthology (Verse and Universe): Kurt Brown. Check out the conference site and you'll see how aptly named it is. But hurry: applications must be postmarked by May 28, and "the earlier you apply, the greater your chances of earning a place in the workshop you most want to attend".

A note on the director: Meg is a talented (and generous) poet and editor. If you can't get to Massachusetts for Solstice, try to make it to
National Arts Club next month. Meg recently helped helm the collection Blues for Bill: A Tribute to William Matthews, which she, her coeditors and selected contributors will read from on June 2 at 8 PM. Go!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Not Necessary Useful

The History Channel's This Day in History feature informs us that today is the birthday of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. About Rossetti, it says:

"Dante Rossetti, put off by his father's passionate politics, came to believe that art and literature should pursue beauty for beauty's sake and not try to be moral, instructive, or politically useful."


The Rossetti Archive has a ton of interesting stuff on him. If you haven't studied him, which I haven't, it's all recommended reading.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Did you know Muses made bracelets, too?

Confidential to the Muse of the Northway: Happy Birthday!

For you ladies with wee lasses: Check out My Tiny Baubles, an online jewelry source for those of you who find your genteel little ones bedecked in the finest from the House of Gymboree. Also offers nice custom pieces to celebrate your child's princessitude and your own proud parenthood.

Monday, May 09, 2005

What The Book (Draft) Tells You

Things putting an actual manuscript together taught me:
  • There are some words I use a lot. Surprisingly, orbit seems to be one of them. When you're submitting poems 3 or 4 at a time to magazines, that's easier to miss. When you line all your poems up, those words line up with them. I rewrote some poems just to not beat those words and images to death.
  • Poems can look different in different light. At least 2 poems I liked as individuals couldn't find a home anywhere in the collection. But at least 2 poems I've never really cared for (and never thought of as "done") fit for some reason. I think it has something to do with pacing. Are there such things as "pacer poems"?
  • Mercy does not make the final edit. I felt more desire to trim the final product further than to put my darlings back in. I wonder if this is typical - to readjust your bar significantly higher when it comes time to risk an actual book.
  • Yes, Virginia, I do have a "voice". People have said this to me for some time, but I do start to see what makes one of my poems particular to me. I can't say "unique" - there are a lot of poems I haven't read yet - but I can for the first time detect the rhythms and sound patterns and basic vocabulary choices that are common throughout my work. And it makes it all the more pleasing when I surprise myself - hopefully that surprise reaches the reader in the collection, too.

As I said in an earlier post, this is my first contest submission, and my expectations are (I think) appropriate to my level of experience. But these new ideas (and the dozen other learnings I don't yet see clearly) were worth the hours of preparation and the $3 postage. Easily.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

"Sorry this is so long...

"... but I lacked the time to make it shorter." (apologies to Blaise Pascal)

Thanks to all who sent good wishes on my manuscript submission. I'll talk more about that process and what it made me confront about my writing as soon as I start to feel objectivity returning. In the meantime, lots of good stuff worth calling attention to:

If you like assignments or writing prompts, Maureen Berzok is someone you should know. Today's is one I found very interesting: "Pick a month and personify it in a poem. other months broken up with May because it is unwilling to commit? Is October fun on a date or just a little bit scary?" It goes on from there, check out
NJ Writers for more.

In case you haven't already heard this elsewhere,
Poetry now has online features. The first of these, by Daisy Fried, is about... poetry online. It covers resources, online journals, blogs (including part of a rant by C. Dale Young), and poetry forums (with a disassembling of the commentary at Slate's poetry Fray that would make an 11th grade English teacher proud).

Peter Pereira and Kelli Agodon (and, I'm sure by now, others) have dusted off their first published poems for the world to see. I thought hard about joining them, because I started off so far behind them on the poetry learning curve (go read their first poems and you'll see what I mean), but I ultimately decided that if I'm comfortable where I am today as writer, then there's no harm in admitting that this is where I started:


A light rain falls
refreshing the daffodils
feeding the dandelions.
The garden has its weeds
and the day its clouds
but the children still smile
at the pretty colors
and I am amazed
by the pretty colors.

The mist kisses my face
and I am a dandelion
growing yellow and straight
in a garden of my own.

I couldn't stand to post this without updating the punctuation and eliminating the initial caps, so if you happen to be one of the twelve people who saw this in
the little upstate NY newspaper in which it first appeared, please accept my apologies. Actually, this poem's proven quite useful in my 4th-6th grade workshops, both on its own and in comparison to other dandelion poems.

For the first of my published works that doesn't make me itch to apply the red pen even more vigorously, go here and read "History".