Wednesday, December 09, 2009

je suis un auteur

Big Little Wolf has pointed out to me that Saint Nobody (aka Ste. Nadie) is available on Qui sait?

She's also graciously included me on her "holiday book pick list" along with The Shipping News, Jeffrey Eugenides' short stories, and Francis Ponge, published on the fabulously titled a Femme d'un Certain Age.
Joyeux Noel, vraiment!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

that can't-do attitude

It happens every semester. The Overload. The Swamp. The crush of student writing to respond to, all of it deserving of careful time and attention. I don't want to let them down, which adds to the sense of impossibility. But it does always get done somehow...

Now, though, it's a battle against the forces of Can't. The militia of What Were You Thinking? The special forces of Here We Go Again.

Reinforcements welcome!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

my first interview...

Last spring, Samuel Lloyd interviewed me for the online version of Southeast Review, published at Florida State University. It's very cool to have it published--now everyone from students to my parents can see what I have to say about the writing life (for what it's worth). And I admit I'm hoping it will bring a few more book sales--keep them trickling in! I thank Samuel for his patience (he had to wait four months for me to answer his questions), as well as Julianna Baggott (the online contributing editor and one of my writing heroes), for setting things in motion.

You can read it here.

Friday, December 04, 2009

back on track

It's time I reminded myself how essential writing is to my general well-being. Not just because it can be therapeutic to "journal," but because writing is my medium, my passion, my vocation, the art form I am trying to master or at least practice consistently.

While I haven't been posting here, I've been reading other blogs and marvel at the consistency and clarity of these writers. One of them, Big Little Wolf's Daily Plate of Crazy, is like a magazine with posts that are funny, touching, helpful, and cogent every day.The author D.A. Wolf's post from yesterday is amazing in articulating the fear of not being able to articulate. I have read few accounts that are so honest and accurate about writer's block, guilt, grief, fear, self-recrimination, being overwhelmed, the power of rage to sidetrack us, and trying to parent--because we haveto parent--despite it all.

It's hard for me to put my inchoate thoughts and feelings into a form that I feel comfortable sharing with "my public" (however small that may be). It's not just about privacy and self-disclosure, it's about the writing itself, the feeling that it must be of a certain level to post here, and the inability at the moment to put in the time or effort that it takes.

Right now, it's crunch time at FIT (as in most academic institutions), and for me that means a desperate attempt to catch up on the seemingly insurmountable responding and grading that the students in all four of my writing classes need right now. It doesn't help that I've been dealing with a difficult Personal Situation (sometime I'll post about it on my new blog, which hasn't really started up yet) that has sucked up my energies and added to the sense of behind-ness.

This morning, looking out at the trees outside my "study" (first ever! my own little alcove for working, writing, dreaming, filing--urgh) and the brick two-family attached homes across the street (so like the one that houses my second-floor apartment), I actually got out the pink spiral bound notebook I'm supposed to be using for the erstwhile morning pages. I had been gearing up to write about the Personal Situation, to explore, get down, and somehow unravel all the roiling, looping thoughts and feelings that have washed around my brain for awhile. Yes, it helps. Yes, as I always tell my students, I discovered things I didn't expect to. Yes, it is a key to health and peace and productivity.

But yes, Stella is home from school for the fifth day this week--she has been suffering from a nasty cold, and I thought she needed an extra day to recover--so I could very easily be waylaid. Right after I put Bobby on the bus, I poured my coffee, went to my desk, and started writing. I put aside the dozens of students waiting for my comments on their poems, essays, and short stories--the screaming, steaming pile of guilt, and wrote. I knew I would be much better able to concentrate on the teaching if I got this out of the way first. I had a good hour or more before I heard her footsteps.

I have to keep at this process no matter what. I must prioritize it again, start over with the good intention, daily if possible, we shall see, we shall see.

Now to my students! (who are wonderful and have been extremely patient)

Friday, November 20, 2009

in need of chocolate

Here's why:
*Work stress is hitting an all-time high; I will not even begin to go into particulars.

*YAI just informed me that they can no longer pay for Krystal's in-home respite services until a Medicaid waiver is on file. Earlier in the year we were informed that the agency was having to use funds from Medicaid for the clients' services (due, I believe, to state budget cuts). I thought we had done all the paperwork for this in the spring, but apparently not. Krystal called and said her supervisor told her not to come today--I am going to pay her out of pocket until I regroup and figure it out.

*Bob is taking the kids to be with him family for Christmas. This will be the first Christmas in their lifetimes that they have not been with me. I suppose it goes without saying that divorce sucks.

Fortunately, I picked up a B.T. McElrath Dark Chocolate Bar ("our proprietary blend of European and Columbian chocolate, 70% cacao") yesterday at my Thursday morning coffee place. It is truly the smoothest, silkiest dark chocolate I have experienced in a very long time. Goes well with the Guatemalan dark roast I purchased as well.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

american tune

one of the best songs EVER. Ever.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

separated at composition?

NOTE: I have given up on being able to write a coherent, cohesive blog post for the time being. I managed to completely miss National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, the Buddy Walk, and even Stella's birthday--all of which I will catch up on. I promise.
For now, allow me to play a little musical "spot the similarity." One of my favorite random selections on (which comes up on the "Alexei Murdoch Radio" station I created) is David Gray's "Babylon." The song's delicate acoustic guitar flourish and sweet mellow mood remind me of an oldie from my childhood. See what you think!
You're gonna go....I kno-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ow...

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

found: poem

Will the wonders of the world wide interweb never cease? Doing a random google search for examples of found poems for my students, I came across "," which offers a program that will randomly generate poems and song lyrics for the low, low price of $11.99. I downloaded the trial and gave it a shot. It isn't really "found poetry," which takes text from another source and arranges it in lines, for dramatic (or humorous) effect. Rather, it selects phrases, presumably from a database, and arranges them in lines, with a title and everything. The pieces generated by this process would be pronounced bad bu even the most devoted dadaist, but this one I like quite a bit (probably because of the word "chorister" in the title):

for the chorister who admitted it

everything i appreciate
caves in
a zillion to one
a time check

with these chaperons telling me what to think
feeling nothing
i have lost my passion
what i want is all of september
what i want is apples
i am archetypal with another
i imagine
in twenty-two different ways
these evils
clowning around
murder in the nick of time
as the rain falls

i advertise agreements
as part of bickering
don't i know

Monday, September 21, 2009

from dad

Since I seem to be having trouble doing writing of my own here, I will continue to borrow the words of others. From an email this morning that brought some much-needed encouragement on a very Monday-ish Monday:
I must say that in view of the tough problems (not "issues," not merely "challenges") that you often face, your resilience and ability to manage the things in your life are quite remarkable. You should take a minute from time to time and just remind yourself of that, and draw some well-deserved confidence from the way you have overcome these difficulties. A truly exceptional young woman, as we have known for all these __ years.

Friday, September 18, 2009

birth story, big brother's version

Still in the process of unpacking some of the detritus left in the wake of the move. I came across this draft in Bobby's inimitable handwriting--which in another century might have been called "crabbed." It's undated but I suspect it's from last fall, when his teacher had them work on a "personal narrative."

When my mom told me that she was going to have a baby I was so exited. I hoped that I had a Brother Because we could play legos together. Every day I would ask Mom if the baby was here but she would always answer no. A couple of months later my mom told me that I was going to have a sister. It was ok but I still would love to have a brother.

The 7 to 9 months past really quikly and before you knew it I was a home waiting for Mom to come back from the hospital. I was watching TV eating crackers. Then the phone rang. Dad said we had to drive to the hospital right away. Dad told me that the baby was here and we drove to the hospital in about 100 minhits. When we got there dad went to a room while I waited on a bench. A couple minuits later Dad came out. He said that my sister was going to stay in the hospital for a couple of weeks.

A couple of weeks later dad said that my sister needed surgery because there was a problem with her heart. When she came home I was so happy even if she was a little different. She had somthing called down syndrome that is a problem with her brain. She can still walk and talk but sometimes she just acts weird but to me she's just the same as all of us and she's my sister.

This is, of course, a work of fiction, with the concomitant inaccuracies and reworkings of time. Bobby was all of 22 months when Stella was born nearly 8 years ago. Yet somehow he chose to write about this event that he couldn't possibly remember in any sort of chronology or detail. I do recall his coming to the hospital, but he wasn't left sitting on a bench unattended. He was in a small "family room" watching a Schoolhouse Rock video, his latest obsession, while parents and grandparents took turns donning the pale yellow gowns and scrubbing up with acrid-smelling soap to enter the NICU.

Now that I'm starting a new season of Creative Nonfiction, my students and I are once again talking about the unreliability of memory, about truth vs. fact, about our version vs. someone else's. Somehow, I think, despite getting the "facts" mixed up, my son has captured a certain truth about his sister's birth and its impact on his life.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

my friend, superwoman

I mentioned briefly last month that Vicki Forman's stunning memoir, This Lovely Life, has been released by Houghton Mifflin/Mariner. She has a fabulous website for the book here that mentions all the reviews, public appearances, and other attention it has garnered.

And as if that weren't enough, Ms. Forman has just completed a very strenuous certification program and exam, and is now a certified phlebotomy technician! Go over to her blog and congratulate her!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

absence makes the...

blogger feel guilty. i am not going to even use capital letters in this posting because i feel very, very small as a blogger right now! it's been a full summer: three classes, four conferences, two rental cars, one new relationship (!), one new apartment (!!), one fantastic classic rock concert, a couple dozen books sold (i think), lots and lots of miles and not enough hours of sleep.

i am still surrounded by boxes, slowly settling in, just in time for things to start up at school again and take over my brain entirely!

some links to show what i was up to:

conferencing and communing:
west chester poetry conference

ocean state writers' conference
antioch writers' workshop
sewanee writers' conference

addictions, libations, birthday celebrations
brother bear's coffee cafe
young's jersey dairy
stirling's coffee house
lombardi's pizza
sugar sweet sunshine

romance, excitement, tlc
new jersey transit
ferguson / commonhealth
look see chinese restaurant
bottle king

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Vicki's wonderful book is finally out, and here she is talking about the experience of premature motherhood on "A View from the Bay."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

i'm still here!

I've been totally swamped. I will try to bring you up to date little by little. Right now I'm desperately trying to finish a bunch of comments for my online students, while preparing to give the "First Books" talk at the Antioch Writers' Workshop in lovely Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Many thanks to the good people at Brother Bear's Cafe for the righteous java and unlimited wifi (I was literally there for seven hours nonstop yesterday, after a nice yoga class--that's a lot of Grateful Dead tunes)!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


A stunning new version of a song I love--originally by the psychrock groovers Love, remade by the Damned in the neopsych 80s...this is Calexico. Rock away that stress. Yes.

Monday, June 01, 2009


Taken by our friend Ceren, who babysat with her husband Dave last week so I could read at the Bowery. Bob is in South America for a four-week tour.

Friday, May 29, 2009

i love wes, and wes loves me

On Monday, May 18th, I dropped off the signed retainer letter (with the all-important checks) at the mediator's office. This is the next step in the divorce process--she will now draw up the agreement, we will each have lawyers review it, then go from there (hopefully no more changes after that).

Afterwards, I took myself out for a cocktail at my beloved Flatiron Lounge and sent text messages to any of my friends who might be remotely interested in what had just transpired. Having enjoyed a "404" (named, apparently, for the Atlanta area code, in honor of some out of town patrons) and a "Blue Moon" (so named because it is, um, blue) I headed east to Punch for a little dinner. On the way I saw two men standing on the sidewalk talking and realized that one of them looked very familiar. It was none other than Wesley Stace, aka John Wesley Harding, one of my all-time favorite musicians and now a celebrated novelist. I stopped right in front of him and declared, "I love you!" Without blinking, he replied, very matter-of-fact, "I love you, too!"

Then I went along my way, grinning and giggling. As long as Wes loves me, all must be right with the world.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

reading tonight at the bowery!

Tonight I'm reading with three fantastic Red Hen chicks--er--women authors at the world-famous Bowery Poetry Club.

Excited to share the stage with the illustrious Judy Grahn, the celebrated Sarah Goodyear, and the prodigious Erinn Batykefer, all introduced by none other than Red Hen goddess Kate Gale herself!

Just made some last-minute babysitting arrangements so I will be there for showtime at 6! (Draw me a pint, Shappy!)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

for those new grads and [single] dads?

Thinking about finding a new apartment and some new furnishings (including a replacement for the found-on-the-sidewalk kitchen table with instant removable legs)...I have to admit this little power pop tune gives me a grin.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

old saint nick's

Last night I went with a couple of friends to Saint Nick's, a historic jazz club in Harlem. My friend and FIT colleague Praveen lives in the neighborhood (his apartment has the most incredible view) and is a regular at the pub. The band for African Night was large and lively, as was the crowd. Standing room only, jostling required. After awhile, I figured out how to avoid getting jostled by the bartenders shuttling six-packs back and forth to the bar. Before I knew it, it was one a.m. and time to head back downtown on the A train. Good to have a night out.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

sweet girl

My 13-year-old niece Mary is a young poet. Her dad, my brother David, just sent me a link to some of her work, which she's put on her school's website. She wrote a wonderful poem about Stella and used a cute photo as background for the page. Still wringing out the kleenex...

Meanwhile, the sweet girl is home with strep (here we go again). At least it was not flu (they tested her) and will be dispatched with amoxycillin forthwith.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

love (two takes)

"Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other."
--Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage."
--Lao Tzu

(Thanks to Kim Addonizio for pointing these out in Ordinary Genius, a book I cannot put down!)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

craig arnold, 1967-2009

A bright bright light has gone out.Wish I had been able to spend more time with you, Craig.

Friday, May 08, 2009

poetry in sleepy hollow

I'm excited! I am reading tonight at the Hudson Valley Writers' Center in Sleepy Hollow, New York (yes, there really is a Sleepy Hollow) with my dear friend, the brilliant Stephanie Strickland. We're taking the train up the river, and the Center is actually in the old train station. Can't wait can't wait can't wait! Perhaps Ichabod himself will be in the audience...if he looked like Johnny Depp, well, I wouldn't complain. See you there?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

may showers

O western wind, when will thou blow,
the small rain down can rain?
Christ! that my love were in my arms
and I in my bed again!

We're in the middle of a wet stretch. The past few days have been dreary for a number of reasons even beyond the weather. Uncertain finances everywhere. The specter of swine flu--excuse me, H1N1 flu. End-of-semester piles of ungraded, unmarked student work. Other dramas at work. Taking the kids to church a continuing challenge, even a chore. Stella's bus matron, batty and difficult as ever. Bobby's frantic hyper bedtime behavior, draining. A budding romance burst and dropped from the vine, a shower of shed petals in its wake.

But the flowers of May are here. Tonight on the way to the track (during a brief respite from the rain) I put my nose in a peony for the first time this season. It smelled like hope, like sunshine. Yes, the flowers are here. The rains will subside. This is spring. The wind blows from the west again.

Monday, May 04, 2009

find craig arnold

A friend of mine, a brilliant poet and lively light, has been missing on a small volcanic island in Japan for over a week now. Here is an article on the ABC News website about his situation. A fund has been established to make sure that the search is continued until Craig is found. Please go here for more information.

online broadside and commentary

I have probably mentioned a wonderful poet and editor, Sam Rasnake. (If I haven't, I have now, and sorry I took so long, Sam!)

Sam is the one who selected Fine Motor for the Sow's Ear Poetry Review chapbook contest, and he has also published some poems in his online journal Blue Fifth Review. He also publishes and online broadside series, and selected "Fantasy for Cello and Orchestra" for the current issue. He also asks poets to write a commentary about the composition of the poem--a deliciously torturous thing to do.

Thank you, Sam, for your efforts on behalf of poets and poetry!

Friday, May 01, 2009

wouldn't it be nice

This is where my head is at right now: the Beach Boys' classic of teenage love and longing. I don't know why, but the little toy-piano-calliope-sounding tune at the beginning always makes me want to cry. I remember the way Michael Moore used this song in Roger and Me over a montage illustrating the lost hopes and dreams of people in Flint, Michigan. Heavy irony, anyone?

I'm thinking (and writing) about the way in which, in midlife, I have become a lot like a teenager--constantly changing, prone to hormonal surges, wondering about my future, alternately exuberant and discouraged, despairing and hopeful, impulsive and cautious, foolish and wise. Lately, I have been talking to my parents a lot, leaning on them for advice as I haven't done since high school, when I subjected them to a nightly litany of my hopes and dreams and insecurities, and they struggled to comfort and counsel their complicated and perplexing eldest child. How lucky I am that they are here for me as I navigate these treacherous seas.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

and now for a word from Nobody...


"Hope" is the thing with feathers --
That perches in the soul --
And sings the tune -- without the words --
And never stops -- at all --

And sweetest -- in the Gale -- is heard --
And sore must be the storm --
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm --

I've heard it in the chillest land --
And on the strangest Sea --
Yet -- never -- in extremity,
It asked a crumb -- of me

Sunday, April 26, 2009


I was eleven, a very fragile age. I didn't feel well-liked in school. I ended up being home-schooled the second half of my sixth grade year because I didn't want to deal with the other kids. My family was going to a Missouri Synod Lutheran church in Fairborn, a 25-minute drive away. Those mornings, slightly carsick--little breakfast, curving roads, smoke from Dad's Lucky Strikes.

I was in confirmation class. I remember the booklet--an illustration of Martin Luther on the cover. I don't remember what I learned, or how far I got. All I know is our family left the church before I could finish. I'm sure Dad had his reasons--I have only a vague sense of a difference of opinion with the pastor. But the result was, I was never confirmed. I could not take communion, according to our tradition.

The first time I went to Saint Bart's, I knew from reading their website that I would be welcome at the Eucharist--they only ask that you be baptized in a Christian church--but I was nervous. Luckily, a friend was with me, a lifelong Canadian Anglican who showed me how to hold my hands for the wafer and took a sip of wine before me, kissed my cheek when we exchanged the peace. It was New Year's Eve and a very small group congregated in the chapel while the main sanctuary was being set up for a festive concert. The priest spoke with a southern accent about his memories of Christmas, and his associations with the passage that tells us "Mary kept these things and pondered them in her heart." It was my first communion.

Today, I will be officially confirmed--go up front, speak the words, receive a blessing from the Bishop. I'm nervous, excited, probably no less so than I would have been at twelve. It feels strange to be doing this at my age, although I will be in the company of many other adults, all of us settling on this particular spiritual home. But it feels very good, finishing what I started over three decades ago, becoming an adult in the faith, belonging somewhere at last.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

poetry is central

The week before Easter was FIT's spring recess, and on Tuesday, I went up to visit Ravi Shankar's poetry writing classes and give a reading at Central Connecticut State University. Ravi, not to be confused with the legendary sitar player (whose 89th birthday happened to be that very day), is a brilliant poet, editor, and teacher, and a generous host.

I gave the students a couple of exercises, including a "common objects" prompt I stole from Kim Addonizio's Ordinary Genius (and Kim admits she adapted from one used byRebecca Brown). Basically, you find two ordinary objects in your sight and write about them as if one object is in love with the other. I was fortunate to have some perfect examples to hand, from Brendan Constantine's Letters to Guns. As the book's title implies, several of the poems are framed as letters to guns from another object, once closely related, now separated. Example: "to a Taurus model .38 special from a woman's flannel night-gown, San Bernardino, California, 1999.

Ravi reported back that he was delighted with the work students turned in the following week--I'm hoping he will send some of their poems my way!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

a few words i don't want to forget because i will most likely never hear them from these particular sources again

"You are beautiful and wonderful and special, and those things are all true all the time."
"You're a bad-ass!"
"Brilliant, beautiful."
"You rock!"
"Your poems rock as much as you do!"
"You are perfect just the way you are."

They said it; I didn't. They must have meant it at the time. Maybe it is actually still true, even though these people are not saying these kinds of things to me anymore. (And maybe, just maybe, they still think them even though they are not saying them.) I know I said a lot of similar things about them, which probably are still true (although I hate to admit it right at the moment). In an article entitled "Love Lessons," Martha Beck writes:

The really potent part of love is that it allows you to carry around beliefs about yourself that make you feel special, desirable, precious, innately good. To graduate from Heartbreak Academy, you have to learn that neither your ex-beloved nor the fact of being in love invested you with these qualities. Your lover couldn't have seen them in you, even temporarily, if they weren't part of your essential being.

I've been reading a lot of self-help literature these past few months (actually, my intake of the genre has increased markedly since October 2007). Most of the authors who really speak to me emphasize a lot of the same things, including the importance of letting yourself believe the good things you felt about yourself while you were in the sweet, cushiony-soft center of an intimate relationship, even after you've been soundly ejected into the mucky, foul-smelling, thorn-riddled Slough of Despond (aka Breakupland). It makes a lot of sense. Truly absorbing it emotionally is, of course, another matter entirely.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

stumbling through the dark

The chorus of this song never fails to give me goosebumps. And the Jayhawkers are back together again.

Stumbling through the dark
Seems I'm stumbling through the dark
Eveybody's stumbling through the dark
--by Gary Louris/Matthew Sweet, perf. the Jayhawks Rainy Day Music (2003)

some quotes

"A musician must make music, the artist must paint, a poet must write, if [s]he is to be ultimately at peace with [her]himself. What a [wo]man can be, [s]he must be."
--Abraham Maslow, Motivation and Personality (1954)

"I therefore...beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
--Ephesians 4:1-3

"Transformation happens through the awareness of oneness, not through struggle. When you fight to gain control over yourself, you have already lost. Nonresistance to our passions and feelings without the need to do anything is the path to awareness, awareness of the absolute oneness beyond duality."
--David Richo, When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-less and Resource-full

"Emerson says that the voyage of the best ships is a zigzag of a hundred tacks. So if you careen off a time or two more, give yourself a break. Just keep the needle pointed towards home (wherever that is for you), and you'll be OK."
--C.A., email to author 3-30-09

Monday, March 30, 2009

maybe that's the problem...

Looks like I missed the boat on Get Over It Day...apparently, it is exactly midway between Valentine's Day and April Fool's. I certainly could've used it this year--next year for sure!

a time to forgive

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil. 28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, F22 as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you

--Ephesians 4:25-32

a time to forgive

25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

--Ephesians 4:25-32

Saturday, March 28, 2009

me and the kids

Taken at Katy and Don's wedding. Attempt at cropping to remove wedding cake...I sooooo need to get a Mac. And a tailor (to alter that lovely but ginormous dress so it does not make me look a size or two larger than I actually am)!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

back to the BAP blog

I'm an occasional (very occasional) guest blogger again this week on the Best American Poetry Blog. I finally was able to put together some of my thoughts and feelings about the use of the "R" word. I won't post again about it here...please go, Dear Indulgent Reader, to this link to read more.

Monday, March 23, 2009

katy and don, married 3/21/09

On Saturday my baby sister was married to Don Church, a wonderful man who will be a great dad to her two little boys. The kids and I had a lot of fun (although Bobby was mortified when his sister and mom danced at the reception), and I'm so glad we were able to help welcome Don into the family.

At the beginning of the ceremony there was a brief remembrance of her first husband, Gabe Custer, who was taken from us suddenly and much too soon. His family was all there, too--very touching. I'm so impressed with his parents--who have two young sons with Down syndrome and run a dayhab for adults with developmental disabilities in their home--for their support of Katy, Don, and the little ones, Sammy and Seth.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

100 days of audacity

Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker, who have collaborated on so many wonderful projects, created this blog, which posts a new poem, by a different poet, each of the first 100 days of Obama's administration.

I'm honored to be the poet for Day #61--a special request on my part, because today is World Down Syndrome Day (3/21 = Trisomy 21, get it?).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

on the road again...

We're heading to Ohio today--my sister Katy's wedding is Saturday! We've got miles to go, but a nice white rental minivan (and portable DVD player) will get us there safely and soundly.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

trouble (jayhawks)

Trouble, that's what we had
And everything that goes around
Comes around in a bittersweet lament
Well my heart's already broken down
Looking for a sweeter sound
Looking for a brighter day
I'm face down on the pavement
Step aside, see the light, close your eyes
And let us live our lives
As they rally 'round the sinking ship
Looking for a better way
It was just the blind leading the blind

Oooh, yeah
I got my feet back on the ground
It's better than being alone
It's better than being alone

Jayhawks, Sound of Lies (1997)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

closer to fine

Heard this Indigo Girls classic on the radio today--it never fails to give me a sense of hope against hope.

Well darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it
I'm crawling on your shore....

There's more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine

Saturday, March 14, 2009

bar napkin poems

Many words (all of them not necessarily literary) have been penned (and penciled) on bar napkins. My friend Moira even has a stunning sequence of Bar Napkin Sonnets, which she printed in a limited edition on paper that looks like actual napkins. So it was natural that, when a poet friend and I stopped by the Silverleaf Tavern on Mardi Gras, we were inspired by Carly to collaborate, drawing a traveling economist/improv comedian into our circle. The result, a rather fun and meta-poetic limerick, is on Carly's bartending blog.


Friday, March 13, 2009

sunday morning (with apologies to wallace stevens, dylan thomas, and w.b. yeats)

It was a sacred space and a profane, holy and wholly of this world. It was Adam and maiden, the Garden and the Fall. It was bells in steeples and waxy smell of snuffed sacramental candles. It was comfort and joy, fear and lust, virtue and sin and swelling of music over the heart’s membrane. It was touching tongues and touching souls. It was you and me, it was an us, the beginning of a brand-new Us with all the pain and pleasure that entailed. It was my dark heart, your warm arms, your declaration clear and brave and not at all dramatic—but yes, it was drama, too, no doubt about that, all the risings and fallings of a complicated plot. O man who found me who I found, o body swayed to music how could I tell the dancer from that dance of tangled limbs, that warm and smarmy swarm of lips and fingers, that Dylan Thomas Wales of a preternatural supernatural all-too-natural sort and sorted?

It was coffee and oats, cream and sugar, yin and yang, on and off. It was rain, gentle enough to break your heart. It was me--you--an us that did not yet exist and how could it though now it seems (illusionary brain!) it always had been and never was. These two, these rueful soldiers limping along the road, wondering when Damascus would call us up and lightning strike. Sunday morning was new, was true. Was me. Was you.

Avery's surgery a success!

Sounds like all is well with this little one in Seattle...

I remember how amazingly quickly Stella recovered from her surgery, at nine months, to repair a ventricular septal defect (VSD). I think is took her parents awhile longer.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

prayers for Avery

It had been awhile since I had caught up with Jennifer and her family. So, embarrassingly enough, it wasn't until Vicki told me that I knew Jennifer's son Avery was scheduled for surgery to repair a heart defect that had worsened in the five years since his birth.

Today is the day; they traveled to Seattle Children's Hospital for he procedure (read more here, in Jennifer's beautiful prose).

I know all too well the sense of helplessness when you give up your child and put her in the hands of others, and the tremendous fear, no matter how accomplished and celebrated those others are. I know many prayers and good thoughts are being sent their way, and many of us are waiting to hear how Avery is doing.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

the nose knows

Stella has started doing the cutest thing: when you give her something to eat, or when she's around and you've gotten some food for yourself, she sniffs. Loudly. Sometimes she'll lean over her plate to test the aroma, even scrunching up her face in an exaggerated way.

She is definitely our foodie--her palate is much more adventurous than her brother's, and her appetite knows no time frame--she regularly demands pasta for breakfast, and this morning, I awoke to find her in the living room, chewing on something--"Chicken!" she declared. In the kitchen was an open container with the remains of a roasted chicken I'd gotten for yesterday's dinner, with some suspicious traces of ketchup on the lid.

She's also gone through a bit of a growth spurt and is quite a "solid" kid. Now is the time, I realize, for us to encourage her to eat healthy foods in healthy portions, and to exercise regularly. Fortunately, she's always up for an impromptu dancing session with Mom--or to her favorite Wiggles DVD!

Friday, February 27, 2009


I've gone and done it. Saint Nobody is officially a member of Saint Bart's--a wonderful Episcopal church in midtown Manhattan. I'd been looking at the Episcopal church for a few years and found myself drawn to the Anglican tradition--the church of John Donne, George Herbert, and Auden, and C. S. Lewis--what's not to like?

I attended for the first time on New Year's Eve (with a little help from a friend), and have gone regularly since then. I got to know my way around a bit thanks to a four-week membership class taught by the Vicar, Buddy Stallings, and an orientation session given by the Rector, Bill Tully, and the Rev. Lynn Sanders, who is in charge of shepherding new members.

I brought the kids for the first time last Sunday, which was a challenge, but manageable thanks to the very caring people there. They had a special ceremony for new members during the 11 o'clock Choral Eucharist service. I feel very welcomed and am looking forward to finding out how I can contribute my time and energy to St. Bart's many good works.


I've gone and done it. Saint Nobody is a member of Saint Bart's--a wonderful Episcopal church in midtown Manhattan. I'd been looking at the Episcopal church for a few years and found myself drawn to the Anglican tradition--the church of John Donne, George Herbert, and Auden, and C. S. Lewis--what's not to like?

I attended for the first time on New Year's Eve (with a little help from a friend), and have gone regularly since then. I got to know my way around a bit thanks to a four-week membership class taught by the Vicar, Buddy Stallings, and an orientation session given by the Rector, Bill Tully, and the Rev. Lynn Sanders, who is in charge of shepherding new members.

I brought the kids for the first time last Sunday, which was a challenge, but manageable thanks to the very caring people there. They had a special ceremony for new members during the 11 o'clock Choral Eucharist service. I feel very welcomed and am looking forward to finding out how I can contribute my time and energy to St. Bart's many good works.

Friday, February 13, 2009

one more reason to love my press

Imagine how delighted I was to arrive at the Red Hen Press table at the bookfair today at the AWP Conference to find that they had chocolate bars printed with the cover designs for all their new books. Here I am demonstrating this fabulous promotional stategy (courtesy of Carly).

Monday, February 09, 2009

it's heeeeeeeere!

I am holding in my hands the first physical copy I have seen of Saint Nobody, the book. It is not even my own--my colleague Michael pre-ordered it, and it arrived Saturday. He brought it to work today and let me have it to tide me over until I get home (mine has just arrived at home via UPS). I'll be getting more copies at the AWP Conference in Chicago later this week, and will be signing at the Red Hen table on Friday from 2-3pm and Saturday from 1:30-2:30pm.

I am overjoyed, and more than a little stunned. This slim volume represents 18 years of work--as long as some of my students have been alive. I am so grateful to Red Hen Press for taking it on, and for doing such a bang-up job of it. Cover design by the fabulous Mark E. Cull; layout by Sydney Nichols. What a Valentine!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

rhyme and reason

"You must never feel badly about making mistakes," explained Reason quietly, "as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons."

"But there's so much to learn," Milo said, with a thoughtful frown.

"Yes, that's true," admitted Rhyme. "but it's not just learning things that's important. It's learning what to do with what you learn and learning why you learn things at all that matters."

"That's just what I mean," explained Milo.... "Many of the things I'm supposed to know seem so useless that I can't see the purpose in learning them at all."

"You may not see it now," said the Princess of Pure Reason, looking knowingly at Milo's puzzled face, "but whatever we learn has a purpose and whatever we do affects everything and everyone else, if even in the tiniest way. Why, when a housefly flaps his wings, a breeze goes round the world; when a speck of dust falls to the ground, the entire planet weighs a little more; and when you stamp your foot, the earth moves slightly off its course. Whenever you laugh, gladness spreads like the ripples in a pond; and whenever you're sad, no one anywhere can be really happy. And it's much the same thing with knowledge, for whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes that much richer."

"And remember, also," added the Princess of Sweet Rhyme, "that many places you would like to see are just off the map and many things you want to know are just out of sight or a little beyond your reach. But someday you'll reach them all, for what you learn today, for no reason at all, will help you discover all the wonderful secrets of tomorrow."

Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth (1961) Illustration by Jules Feiffer

Monday, January 26, 2009

back to school

It's the first day of classes for spring semester at FIT, and I'm starting right at 9 a.m. with Creative Writing. I'm excited to meet my new students and get into the swing, but it's been a real challenge to prepare amid some pretty serious personal tumult. Among other things, Bob has been out of town for over two weeks (he returns Friday), which means that I have truly been a single mom with all that entails. (Jenn M. et al., I don't know how you do it!)

Stella's sleep patterns have been even more erratic than usual (and there have been numerous poopie incidents), and it has taken both kids awhile to adjust to their dad's absence. But so far we're surviving and have even managed to have a little fun, like when we went into the city to get Stella's hair cut at Cozy's (the only place that can actually cut her hair) and afterwards to Patsy's for pizza. The spiritual work I have been doing has really made it possible for me to handle everything, along with the support of my parents and a couple of extraordinary friends. OK, time to finish the syllabus and head to class!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

in dreams begin responsibilities

It is an historic day, awesome in the original, true sense of the word. A day worthy of Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" (which just happens to be on WQXR radio right now). But, as the president-elect reminds us, the responsibility for change lies with all of us. I came across a passage by C. S. Lewis recently that expressed a similar concept in theological terms. Of course, I have been completely unable to locate it right now. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


This video taught me how to make one of my favorite Greek delicacies. Fried cheese? What's not to like? It really works. I should know, I live in a Greek neighborhood. (I recommend dipping it in flour again after the second dip in water.) Serve with ouzo over a little crushed ice, and your favorite bread.

Friday, January 16, 2009

for small (?) favors

Bobby left yesterday for a Florida vacation with his uncle, aunt, cousins, and grandparents. Feeling extreme gratitude right now that I did not find out about the plane that crashed into the Hudson River until after I got the call from Uncle Mike saying that their plane (which left from LaGuardia) had landed safely. Also that at least one member of my family is able to avoid the frigid weather (not to mention going to Disney World)!

I was shopping in the Flatiron District and wondered why the streets were clogged with firetrucks and other emergency vehicles. Went blissfully on my way in search of warm clothing and a much-needed replacement for my shredded, ancient comforter. I was in Bed, Bath, & Beyond, as a matter of fact, when Mike called. And it wasn't until hours later, after lugging my parcels home and getting Stella off the bus, that I turned on the radio and heard the terrifying news. Unbelievable. What a miracle that all those on board survived.

Not even thinking about that flight to Chicago I'm taking in a few weeks...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

100 days

Who is Sharon Jones and where did she come from? (Georgia, by way of Brooklyn, apparently.) In any case, I want to be her when I grow up. A fantastic song with lyrics that strike just the right balance of bitter and sweet. An interesting concept that it takes 100 days "to know a man's heart" (and "a little longer...for him to know his own"). That is, of course, a rough estimate. Actual results may vary.

Friday, January 09, 2009

abyss of love

I ask no one to pronounce, for I dare not pronounce myself, what are the possibilities of resistance in the human will to the loving will of God. There are times when they seem to me--thinking of myself more than of others--almost infinite. But I know that there is something which must be infinite. I am obliged to believe in an abyss of love which is deeper than the abyss of death: I dare not lose faith in that love. I sink into death, eternal death, if I do. I must feel that this love is compassing the universe. More about it I cannot know. I leave myself and all to him.

--Frederick Denison Maurice, from Theological Essays, rpt. in Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality by Richard H. Schmidt.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


The hanging of the stockings, and me and my boy Christmas morning (note Granddad in mirror, and the lovely piece of furniture behind and to my left--my secretary, which I will install in my own home when I can find a place for it).

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Just heard a lovely version of this on by Chris and Meredith Thompson. It seems apropos for a lot of situations right now.

There Is a Balm in Gilead
African American Spiritual

Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.

If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus and say, "He died for all."
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.

Don’t ever feel discouraged, for Jesus is your friend;
And if you lack for knowledge, He’ll never refuse to lend.
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.

Monday, January 05, 2009


Not feeling like much of a blogger these days. And I'm tired of worrying about who's reading my blog and what they make of it (and of me, my family, friends, etc.). Feeling like not being so public right now. And I need to see if I can actually remember how to write a poem. I'm taking a break for awhile. See you later.