Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Dream of the Cancer Cure

Imagine: instead of fighting the tumor
with knives, radiation, chemicals,
we feed it — like summer picnickers who,
tired of swatting the buzzing swarm,
lay out a separate plate of meat
and cheeses for the bees.

While the tumor calmly swells
onto its bedside petri dish of food, nourished
by everything it needs and wants,
you lie in bed — read People, knit a scarf,
chat with your aunt Ezgi on the phone.

Until one day the cancer is no longer in you
at all — but a pulsing mass grown separate
on its tray. That now the surgeon will cut free,
severing veins and arteries that once
bound it to you like a baby. Deliver you of it —
carry it howling and dripping away.


Monday, May 30, 2005

Music Meme

1. The person who passed the baton to you?
Emily Lloyd, of Posey Galore fame. Librarian and poet extraordinaire.

2. Total volume of music files on your computer.
I don't think I have any music on my computer. How do you do that? (grin) Actually, I buy songs on napster sometimes, and burn them onto mixed music discs. The lastest was a bunch of R&B classics: Al Green, Smokey Robinson, WAR, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations.

3. The title and artist of the last CD you bought.
This is really embarrassing: Rod Stewart: Stardust: the Great American Songbook Volume III

4. Song playing at the moment of writing.
I have been stuck on Blondie's lastest: "Good Boys" from The Curse of Blondie. I just love this song, it gets me dancing around the living room. Here are the opening lyrics:

Satellites are falling down tonight
I see you far away
I'm floating into this inescapable bliss

Changing light, I know the symptoms of
I got myself to blame
I'm needing you, I just don't care anymore

Good boys never win
Good boys always follow
Good boys never win
They all fall away and you remain

5. Who am I passing this too? Deborah Ager, Jennifer Drake Thornton, and AD Thomas. Enjoy it!

How to Start a Writers Group

AD asked for tips about starting up a writers group. I wrote this article a while back, for a magazine that ended up not using it (so maybe the advice sucks? hehehe . . . you decide.)

How to Start (and Maintain) a Writers Group (I decided to go back and pare it down to just the bullets . . . if you want to see the full article, just let me know.):

1) Choose your genre
2) Advertise in appropriate places
3) Screen applicants
4) Do a telephone interview
5) Do a trial meeting
6) The ideal number of members is 6 to 8
7) A balance of members keeps a group interesting
8) Meet on a regular schedule
9) Meet in a comfortable place
10) Eat and drink together
11) Choose a process for reading work and giving critique
12) Have a time-keeper
13) Always begin the group with a check-in
14) Chose a name for your group
15) Have fun

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Word Wars

The 17th Annual Seattle Scrabble Tournament is happening at the downtown Red Lion Hotel this weekend. My favorite Scrabble word? It uses all the vowels (AEIOU), a Q and an S. Do you know what it is? Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Gettin' Cranky on Tarantella

There is a review of our own Rebecca Loudon's book Tarantella in the new issue of Cranky. Check it out now (I'm not sure you can view it online yet, so you may just have to buy an issue to get the full scoop).

"Because I so enjoyed reading the book, I'd like to have you beside me as I exclaim over Loudon's subtle, smart turns; her tight rhythms . . . her images . . . "

Ahh . . . spring peonies. My favorite. Posted by Hello

Friday, May 27, 2005

Hot, Crush

It's hot in Seattle. A high of 89 yesterday, and might hit 90 today. We are not used to this kind of weather in May! Dean and I sipped ice cold lemon drops on the back patio in the shade last night after work, and cooled off while the salmon cooked in the too hot kitchen. Today we hope to get some work done in the yard before the heat becomes too unbearable.

I've been reading Richard Siken's Crush, winner of this year's Yale Series of Younger Poets award (see Emily Lloyd's GAP review here). I was trying to explain to my writing group Wednesday night what I like about this book, and I couldn't really put it into words very well. I guess it is the voice: it's a young, brash, cocksure, yet vulnerable voice. And it's also the look of the poems on the page: the long flowing cascading lines, with a wonderful music to them. And it's also the imagery: sensual, visceral, sexy, and at times dangerous and violent. And finally the humor: amid the darkness, he can make me laugh out loud, as in the long series of prose poems, where all the characters in it are, ridiculously, named Jeff!

Here's a poem from the book (it can probably speak for itself better than I can speak for it) (sorry I had to reduce the font to get the line indentations to fit). It's the opening poem, and I read it as an invocation of sorts, to Scheherazade, who told her stories to keep alive, just as Siken seems to be telling these urgent poems: "just one more, just one more . . . . "

Tell me about the dream where we pull the bodies out of the lake
and dress them in warm clothes again.
How it was late, and no one could sleep, the horses running
until they forget they are horses.
It's not like a tree where the roots have to end somewhere,
it's more like a song on a policeman's radio,
how we rolled up the carpet so we could dance, and the days
were bright red, and every time we kissed there was another apple
to slice into pieces.
Look at the light through the windowpane. That means it's noon. That means
we're inconsolable.
Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us.
These, our bodies, possessed by light.
Tell me we'll never get used to it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Self vs. Nature

I had a wonderful lunch conversation today with John Wright, a poet-physician friend of mine here in Seattle. We were discussing (among other things) how he is trying, in his poetry, to erase the line between self and nature. It's a very Western worldview, that humans and nature are different. I think the Eastern worldview is much more comfortable with the oneness of all things, and that the human is just another aspect of nature, and not separate from it. I was reminded of one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems. I love how she sees even the act of wanting to write a poem, as part of nature. (the line indentations are not carried over . . . .sorry):

The Lilies Break Open Over the Dark Water

that mud-hive, that gas-sponge,
that reeking
leaf-yard, that rippling

dream-bowl, the leeches'
flecked and swirling
broth of life, as rich
as Babylon,

the fists crack
open and the wands
of the lilies
quicken, they rise

like pale poles
with their wrapped beaks of lace;
one day
they tear the surface,

the next they break open
over the dark water.
And there you are
on the shore,

fitful and thoughtful, trying
to attach them to an idea —
some news of your own life.
But the lilies

are slippery and wild—they are
devoid of meaning, they are
simply doing,
from the deepest

spurs of their being,
what they are impelled to do
every summer.
And so, dear sorrow, are you.

-- Mary Oliver

Monday, May 23, 2005


From Charles: If you could turn any room or building in the world into your writing studio, what would you choose and why?

I love to pack up my laptop and go out into the world and write. So I'd choose Cafe Florian, in Venice, the oldest coffee shop in the world (est. 1720). Dean and I were there in Spring of 2000: It is gorgeous, stunning, historical, and inspiring. And the cappuccinos aren't bad, either. Check out the link to see a slideshow. Starbuck's: Eat your heart out.

Cafe Florian: The oldest cafe in Venice is situated on the Piazza San Marco and has been the meeting-place and rendez-vous of artists and poets, writers and politicians. The prices are very high but it's worth a visit. Address: Piazza San Marco, tel.: (+39) 41 520 5641 http://www.caffeflorian.com/

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Poetry on NPR

This morning there was an interesting story about Poetry magazine and its Ruth Lily endowment, on NPR's Weekend edition. One of the issues brought up was about how the board of Poetry decided not to use the endowment for monetary awards to individual poets; instead they chose to use the money to increase the "audience" for poetry. Of the projects started so far: a research study to learn about America's poetry reading habits; and a program to have children once again learn to memorize poems in school, in a format almost like that of a spelling bee contest. Philip Levine (?) was interviewed saying how awful he thought it was that children would have to learn to memorize poems again; but I do not agree at all. Done well, memorizing a favorite poem is a fantastic way to make it a part of you. My partner Dean, who is not a poet but still enjoys reading poetry, still fondly remembers Robert Frost poems that he memorized in grade school, and can still recite them word for word! I wish I had the memorizing of poetry as part of my early education (we were made to memorize state capitals and multiplication tables, why not a poem?). As it turns out, it wasn't until my first year of college that my first literature professor had us all memorize the prologue of The Canterbury Tales. It has stayed with me ever since; I try to memorize a new poem once a year or so (but it gets harder as you get older to keep the new ones: there is only so much room left in the brain!). I can't think of a better way to get younger students to care about and really understand poetry again. My only concern is how the poems would be chosen. Would it be contemporary poems, or poems from the "canon?" Who decides who will be this generation's Frost or Dickinson or Auden? Does it matter?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Which Major Romantic Poet Would You Be

Got this from Kelli's blog. How fun. I love Blake.

William Blake
You are William Blake! Wow. I'm impressed. Not
only are you a self-made artist and poet, but
you've suddenly become a very trendy guy to
like. It's not that we doubt that you have all
your marbles, it's just that we're not quite
sure what you did with them to come up with
those terrifying theological visions. The
people of your time were nowhere near as
forgiving as that, and all your neighbors
thought you were a grade-A nut job. But we
love you, so rest happy.

Which Major Romantic Poet Would You Be (if You Were a Major Romantic Poet)?
brought to you by Quizilla

Friday, May 20, 2005

Off to Longview

I'm off to Longview, WA, this morning, to give a workshop and a reading at Lower Columbia College. It's a 2-3 hour drive, and I'm hoping the unrelentlingly unsettled weather we've been having (rain, wind, and leaden skies one minute; sunny, blue, and clear the next) finally settles down and decides which it is going to be. I love driving or road trips, and often get a poem or two written in my head as the scenery floats past. It's this weird trance state that driving induces, I think. At some point I usually end up pulling over on the side of the road, or into a rest stop or diner, so I can jot things down on paper before I lose them.

I have 4 workshop exercises planned: lyric/sensory poem first; then Scrabble poem, Abecedarian, and Tabloid poem. We'll all do the lyric poem exercise; and then the attendees will be able to choose one of the last three to focus on. I say attendees as I don't know if this will be mostly students, teachers, general public, or a mixture of all three (I'm hoping for a mix).
I'll give a short reading in the evening, to help launch the new issue of the school's lit mag, The Salal Review. And, best of all, I get to visit with old friend Joseph Green and his wife Marquita.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

My friend Ly Sieng Ngo and I at the Portland Chinese Garden. Ly Sieng is our clinic's Cambodian interpreter, and a Pol Pot survivor. Read about her amazing life story on the Robert Wood Johnson program website.

Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Nuclear Medicine

From Steve Mueske's chapbook, Whatever the Story Requires, which I received in the mail the today. I opened it to this poem (see below), and was totally blown away. The image of the angel reminds me of Nicholas Cage's character in "City of Angels." I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book, including one poem titled: "After Reading of an Amazing New Device That Brings Back the Dead in Lifelike Holographic Images." Great title.

Nuclear Medicine

The angel has grown weary.
No one has made a run for eternity
since the days when the garden was young,
and the effort to stand ready
has made him mortal.

Bodies on white-sheeted gurneys
are lined up in the house of fear:
an old man, placid, nearly transparent;
a baby in a plastic tub, eyes taped shut,
tubes running along both arms;
others, spilling into the hallway
like oil at the scene of an accident.

In the lounge four hours later,
a boy watches TV, shivering
beneath a blanket. A nurse pops in
to ask how he is doing. He ignores her.

A man who's pissed a toilet full of blood
watches from the corner, wondering
whether the boy has just had a dose
or is merely cold from the air circulators
and the press of long hours.
He will come back soon,
and has begun to practice
naming shadows.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Franz Wright at SAM

Dean and I went to hear Franz Wright read at the Seattle Art Museum tonight, where he was presented the second annual Denise Levertov Award, by Image magazine and Seattle Pacific University. We had a yummy dinner at the Brooklyn first (Cosmo, Caesar, Carpaccio, Crab Cakes . . . I guess everything had to begin with a C?). There was a brief slideshow about Denise Levertov's life, and a so-so recording of her reading a poem. Franz Wright read fairly well; his poetry so dark and heavy and spare; his voice a thick mixture of anguish and defiance; with these brief moments of utter radiance that really catch you off guard.


Highway shrine
of time

in the bleached-
gold winter
wheat —

listening in
another tongue, I

walk here

Come help me through
the long hour
of our death

from Walking to Martha's Vineyard

Monday, May 16, 2005

Which Existentialist Philosopher Are You?

You scored as Albert Camus. You are Albert Camus, so you are one sweet existentialist. He built largely upon the framework of existentialists before him, and introduced the concept that life is absurd, but that we should continue living anyway. You have strong liberal leanings, although you annoy the Communists. You are susceptible to driving fast, and possibly crashing into a tree.

Albert Camus


Martin Heidegger


Friedrich Nietzsche


Not An Existentialist


Soren Kierkegaard


Jean-Paul Sartre


Which Existentialist Philosopher Are You?
created with QuizFarm.com

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Siberian Iris: Blue I want you blue. Posted by Hello

I love to eat cashews. This morning I found one shaped exactly like a high-heeled shoe. (A ca-shoe?) It's not quite like seeing the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese; but I thought it would be wrong to eat it. I have saved it on a shelf in the kitchen. Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Possession Sound

Off this morning with Kathleen Flenniken, to the Possession Sound Writer's Conference, where Floating Bridge Press will have a book table. Stanley Plumly, Richard Kenny, and Kary Wayson are among the presenters. Kathleen will represent us on a small press publishing panel. And who knows, maybe I'll join in on the open mic after lunch (and I will try to behave myself this time . . . hehehe).

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Prufrock: a decompostition

you and I
spread out against the sky

What is it?
our visit.

a talking angel

yellow fog

there will be time

to prepare a face
murder and create

the women come.

I have known
the voices
the eyes

I have known
Arms braceleted
with light brown hair

lonely men in shirtsleeves

Asleep tired
stretched on the floor.

I have seen the eternal
and was afraid.

Prince, lord

I grow old

The mermaids
sing to me

in chambers
wreathed with seaweed
we drown.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

What is Your World View

Found this quiz at barbara jane's blog . . . .

You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.



Cultural Creative














What is Your World View?
created with QuizFarm.com

Twenty Year Marriage

After Jenni's post; one of my favorite old Ai poems, from her book Cruelty:

Twenty-Year Marriage

You keep me waiting in the truck
with its one good wheel stuck in the ditch,
while you piss against the south side of a tree.
Hurry. I've got nothing on under my skirt tonight.
That still excites you, but this old pickup has no windows
and the seat, one fake leather thigh
pressed close to mine is cold.
I'm the same size, shape, make as twenty years ago,
but get inside me, start the engine;
you'll have the strength, the will to move.
I'll push, you push, we'll tear each other in half.
Come on, baby, lay me down on my back.
Pretend you don't owe me a thing
and maybe we'll roll out of here,
leaving the past stacked up behind us;
old newspapers nobody's ever got to read again.


Sunday, May 08, 2005

Cyrus Cassells reading

Dean and I went to hear Cyrus Cassells read last night at Elliott Bay from his new book, More Than Peace and Cypresses. I loved his second book Soul Make a Path Through Shouting, with it's amazing title poem about the young black girl walking through the heckling crowd of racists on the first day of school integration, and I had read parts of his new book in the bookstore, but hadn't yet connected with it; his reading took care of that. More Than Peace and Cypresses is a heart-felt exploration of spiritual and artistic fathers, incited by the recent death of his own father. Cassells writes about the spiritual/artistic "fathers" he has found in Lorca, Van Gogh, Pavese, Pasolini, etc; and has many lyrical moments exploring the countryside in Italy and Spain. The seven poem sequence "Sons and Violets," which recounts his father's illness and death from cancer (sounds like he was a stern military man whom Cassells both feared and admired), is stunning. And the live reading of the poems (Cassells, who is also an actor, has a deep, throaty resonant voice), along with the brief asides about their origin, really helped the poems come to life for me. There was a small intimate audience, so I was able to chat with Cyrus a little before and after the reading; and he is a truly warm and sensitive man. He is working on a new book, with a working title of "The Gospel According to Indigo" (what a title!) and told me he has a Kafka poem in it inspired by my "Kafka's Grave" poem in Saying the World. I was so flattered.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

For Mother's Day

A lighter look at the "dark side" of mothering (sorry mom . . . hehehe):


And where do you think you’re going?
Because I said so, that’s why.
Come back here this instant.
Don't ask me WHY. The answer is NO.
Eat your vegetables, they're good for you.
For crying out loud.
Go ask your father.
How many times do I have to tell you?
I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.
I don't have to explain myself. I said NO.
I said CLOSE the door, I did not say SLAM it.
I'm not going to ask you again.
Just wait till you have children.
Keep your mouth shut.
Leave your brother alone.
Mother is going to count to three . . .
Now, look at me when I’m talking to you.
Oh come on, a little soap and water never killed anybody.
Pick it up! I don’t care who put it there.
Quit running in the house!
Running away? I'll help you pack.
Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.
Too sick to go to school? Then you’re too sick to play outside.
Uncross those eyes before I slap you silly.
Very funny — watch your language.
What part of NO don't you understand?
XYZ — examine your zipper.
You better not be chewing gum.
Zip it.
. . . . . .— Verde que te quiero verde.
. . . . . . .Federico García Lorca

Does a greenskeeper have a greenbelt,
a green thumb in his green jeans?
Does he have a green-eyed green heart,
a green horn on his green head?
Does his greenhouse have a green room
growing green stuff for the greengrocer?
Are salad days for greenlings saving greenbacks,
a choir of green men singing “Greensleeves?”
Green paper, green card, greenmail, green light.
Green tea, green soap, green pepper, green corn.
You can be green from knowing too much,
not enough, nothing at all. You can be green
with envy, or worse — gangrene
from a green arm’s greenstick fracture.
Greening greener, greenest greenish.
Greenwood, greenstone, greenwing, greensward.
It’s all green, green, green, green.
Greener than the other side’s greener grass.
Greener than greenest of greeny pastures.

Friday, May 06, 2005

What is this avant-garde, and where are they going?

An interesting post over on Josh Corey's blog, quoting a Reginald Shepherd email, regarding the current debate in the blogosphere (and elsewhere) about what is (and is not) avant-garde. Here's a brief quote (I like the handy list of things "done by the Modernists"):

" . . . I don't see anything--and I do mean anything--in so-called avant-garde work that wasn't done by the Modernists: collage, montage, pastiche, quotation, parody, juxtaposition ironic and non-ironic, fracture and fragmentation, ungrammaticalities and syntactic deformation, decentered subjectivity, non-referentiality (whatever that can mean as applied to language, which only exists as such as the nexus of concept, sound, and physical mark), critical or celebratory incorporation of popular culture, critique of mass society and capitalism, critique of art as a social institution, etc. There is nothing in the so-called avant-garde, from the New Americans to the Language poets to whatever the contemporary crew wants to call themselves besides "too good for everyone else," that wasn't done by the Modernists. There's nothing wrong with this per se (as someone said once, there is nothing new under the sun)--after all, none of us invented the English language either, or the Roman alphabet, which doesn't mean that we don't have the right to use them or the potential to do interesting things with them. But as I said in one of my previous emails, there is a lot wrong with pretending that one came up with these techniques and approaches oneself, especially when one then goes on to congratulate oneself for one's daring and perspicacity.

"If one is in the "avant-garde," then one is part of the leading formation of some army or another. Besides questioning at the teleological nature of such a conception (toward what goal is one moving? what exactly is the goal of poetry in this progressivist conception? I feel a grand narrative coming on), I also wonder just what one imagines oneself to be in the vanguard of? . . ."

Great food for thought (or not, depending on your mood and point of view). Go visit and read the full text.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Centrum Port Townsend Writers Conference

Please excuse the self-promo:

This summer, I'll be leading a ten-day poetry workshop at the Centrum Port Townsend Writer's Conference , along with other faculty including:

Fiction: Rikki Ducornet, Michael Collins, Michelle Cliff;
Poetry: Kim Addonizio, myself, Bhanu Kapil;
Nonfiction: Lesley Hazelton;
Open enrollment (single class sessions) Fiction:Debra Magpie Earling; Poetry: Alberto Rios; Nonfiction: Paisley Rekdal;
and Visiting Writers (Will give readings and participate on panels, no workshops): Ilya Kaminsky, Amy Bloom

If you or anybody you know is looking for a fun writing retreat experience, I highly recommend Centrum. I have been there three times in the past 12 years, as a student, and now will be leading a workshop as faculty. There are still spots open, so feel free to go to the website to find out more, or pass this information along to your writing friends. At Centrum, there is a great mix of daily workshop, morning lectures, and evening readings; as well as plenty of free time to explore the beautiful surroundings, get some new writing done, or some existing writing revised.

In my workshop, we will take a serious look at your poems, as well as have fun experimenting with a few word play exercises (like you have seen here on the blog) designed to stimulate creativity and new writing. Go to the Centrum website for full details.

Me at work. From a Seattle newspaper article that appeared last year, about poetry and medicine. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Margaret Hodge RIP

Seattle poet Margaret Hodge died April 28th, from complications of TTP (Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura). Margaret was a kind and gentle soul, and a wonderful poet, with three books published by Bellowing Ark Press. She was a founding member of Floating Bridge Press, and a member of South Grand poets for several years. She is survived by three sons.

Here's a poem from her book How Fur Seals Keep Warm:

The Mother and Son Flute-Piano Duet

-- for Randy Nordfors, 15

Let me play that one note
again I said was not enough.
I want to dangle it from my
index finger, over and over
with the rhythm you wanted
from me as you ran muscular
and light around its track
on the flute melody you wrote.
I'll be constant as breathing.
Count on my smooth ground.

A memorial service will be held at Bethany Presbyterian Church 1818 Queen Anne Avenue North, on May 11th, at 7:30 pm.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Ravenna at Dusk

Today when I looked in the mirror
I saw my father looking back.
I like walking alone at night.
One can be happy not only without love,
but despite it. It’s best to fertilize roses
in March, plant gladioli bulbs in October.
I love the sound of thunder before rain.
Country Western dancing can be fun.
Oak floors with a Swedish finish last longest.
Espresso after six will keep you awake
past two. Antique floor lamps are cheap
at Capitol Hill garage sales in summer.
What can you do to give your life meaning?
It’s useless to repair socks once the heels are out.
My married friends make babies because they can.
Bath towels stack best when folded in thirds.
I have always found the lives of mystics
and clerics more appealing. I still read
the funnies and sleep in late on Saturdays.
Life is not so much invented as composed.
In high school I loved my English teacher
and wrote my first poems for him.

Burning Word redux

Burning Word was fun. Sam Hamill received a lifetime achievement award, and gave a nice reading from his New & Selected. The house was packed for his reading, and I think he really appreciated the recognition.
Floating Bridge did OK at the book table. Not great. But it was fun to see people, and chit chat. Copper Canyon was there, and Cranky, Fine Madness, Pongo, Wood Works, Rose Alley. And, of course, Ravenna Press with Rebecca signing Tarantella (wonderful picnic basket!)
My reading went pretty well I think (I had fun giving it, at least, lol). And I enjoyed hearing many of the other readers. Quite a variety from slam to confessional to academic and everything in between. And a fair amount of cultural diversity as well.
There was good food (especially the bruschetta with prosciutto) and wine tasting ($2 for four tastes . . . what a deal). I'd go again, I think.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Sky Burial

Sky Burial

. . . — Tibetan funeral ritual

He unwraps the corpse,
arranges the body upon the altar rock.

Saffron-robed monks begin to chant.
The burial master lights the sandalwood incense,
claps his hands three times,

calls Shey, shey! (Eat, eat!)
to the sacred vultures,
waiting among the pines.

Oh, to be released
to the sky this way.
Bones picked clean.

Not dust into dust,
but flesh into flesh.


path to the secret garden in the front yard . . . Posted by Hello

Cerinthe in the shade . . . . yummy blues and greens. Posted by Hello

Dean and the side yard after a rainshower. I'm glad we got most things mulched. Posted by Hello