Friday, June 26, 2009

"Ritual at Dusk"

I discovered "Ritual at Dusk" is also up--I'm grateful to The Daily Palette (out of Iowa) for posting it this month ( This poem originally appeared in 1998 in the print journal 100 Words, edited by Carolyn Brown; this particular volume took poems (limited of course to 100 words) on the theme "Garden" and featured poetry by writers attending the Iowa Writers' Workshop, visiting writers attending the International Writing Program and others.

Seeing "Ritual" again acutely brought back those cool Iowa City evenings...the crows in the poem were settling in a tree outside of poet Jocelyn Emerson's apartment as, after yet another rambling discussion about our work, we parted ways. She to work on early drafts of what would become “As Slightly As the Routes of Stars” with its luminous images, “A week before she died,/I dreamed we were rowing./She pulled with an oar of light/wood” along with other beautiful sea meditations later published in Sea Gate.

And I, to my high-ceilinged room at Black’s Gaslight Village in the quiet, expansive life of a grad student (before the birth of my daughter, in the days before... “My world shrunk to the size of her [infant] body” as Nora Okja Keller so aptly writes in You’ll Get Used to It from the collection Mothers Who Think: Tales of real-life parenthood edited by Camille Peri and Kate Moses of Salon Magazine). I wouldn't change the experience of having had my world so reduced--to circle the needs of a newborn--but as my youngest inches towards 4, I can afford to look at the stars again.

And, after all these years, I have to right a line from "Ritual at Dusk" could it matter to leave out "to?" But, you know how poets can be...

Odd flowers

who remember their stems at dusk,
and only to sleep, immaculately folded.

There...that's how it should I can sleep.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"The Painter's Wife"

Pleased to announce my poem "The Painter's Wife" is up at Linebreak ( Their format features a text version as well as an audio version (a collaborative approach as the audio version poems are read by other poets). Enjoy--and submit your own poetry. New work appears every Tuesday.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Down-spires, Missing Grace, and “Stories Seldom Told”

All day I listen to a steady stream of pick-ups spurt their way up our steep gravel drive past my cabin on their way to view the foreclosure on the hilltop (while I attempt to revise a couple of poems). I could easily blame other physical and psychic invasions: a stack of winter rejections, my husband painting the bathroom, the smell of the primer pervading the house when I come in to dose my coffee with whipping cream and brown sugar, the plaintive cries of our feral cat Emma ascending the trail. But really it’s just the tailspin of the school year’s demise (with its attendant overwhelming list of activities to perform before summer begins).

Fortunately, I’m in the middle of reading Lewis Hyde: “You work at a task, you work and work and still it won’t come right. Then, when you’re not even thinking about it, while spading the garden or stepping onto the bus, the whole thing pops into your head, the missing grace bestowed” (The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, p. 62). Catnaps and down-spires, then, are just as valid as chair time (writing time), so I eventually give in, turn off the light and rest on the futon. Hyde also asserts, “There is a reciprocal labor in the maturation of a talent. The gift will continue to discharge its energy so long as we attend to it in return (p. 62).”

Attending to my writer’s calling means rest as well as escaping to view the work of others. Last month sculptor-Mom Sandy spirited me away to see Stories Seldom Told: A feminist retelling of some familiar and not-so-familiar Biblical stories (written and directed by Lizann Bassham) featuring powerful monologues threaded together with a song titled, “Someone Ought to Know.” The cast wore long vibrant silk dresses (each had her own color) and the singing served to soothe the gravity of the tales; a few vignettes provided comic relief (Pamela Tinnin turned in exceptionally humorous performances as an aunt and as the woman at the well).

I came away thinking: what would it be like to be the sister of Judas? Actress Krissy Campbell movingly portrayed the sister’s sense of culpability...should she have foreseen? shielded? brother Judas from his fate? And what of Irid, Lot’s wife, turning back for one last glance at her daughters? What of women who gave of their bodies in exchange for the safekeeping of their families in times of war? (Could we extend our blessings, rather than our scorn, for their ingenuity to use the currency of skin?) Such anecdotes of hardship abound not only in our past, but in our midst, the director conveyed—and then gave the audience several ways to take action: lighting a candle in honor of a seldom-told-story in one’s own lives, or making a donation to The Living Room (a support group for women who are homeless as well as their children).

Perhaps this otherwise free performance enacted Hyde’s theory on giving one’s gift for the benefit of others, though I’ll be sure to update you once I’ve caught up on sleep (and am able to finish, without nodding off, The Gift with its back cover blurb promise: “...A brilliant defense of the value of creativity and its importance in a culture increasingly governed by money and overrun with commodities”). Do the words “poetry”and “money” belong in the same sentence? I didn’t used to think so, but now I have three children and a husband working like a madman to feed us. I want to feed us too. Help, Hyde, does such a theory of unpaid gifts apply to poet, musician, and artist mothers circulating their gifts right now, today?