Wednesday, August 31, 2005

2005 PEN USA Poetry Awards

Martha Ronk is the winner of the 2005 PEN USA Award in Poetry for her book In a Landscape of Having to Repeat(Omnidawn)

The Judges say: “Martha Ronk’s In a Landscape of Having to Repeat is a collection of poetic meditations on repetition. In these lean, clean blank verse and prose poems, Ronk plays with how creatures of habit (dutiful as we are to necessary repetition (say, bodily functions, memory) and selective repetition (say, watching TV), attempt to repeat once-and-only-once experiences that cannot without difficulty be repeated. The poems are narrative and semi-narrative views of landscape, moving toward, away from and through Ronk’s linguistic flora, Freud’s dream theories, Eva Hesse’s intentionally deteriorating props and sculptures; delightful.

Once and again, In a Landscape of Having to Repeat is an addictively liberating poetic exploration of repetition in familiar and new language we are honored to select Martha Ronk for writing. Word for word, right down to the title askew and the two poems of the same title, Martha Ronk’s In a Landscape of Having to Repeat is a delightful addition to our contemporary literary canon.”

Rae Armantrout Up to Speed: Poems (Wesleyan University Press)
Norman Dubie Ordinary Mornings of a Coliseum (Copper Canyon Press)
Claudia Keelan The Devotion Field (Alice James Books)
D.A. Powell Cocktails (Graywolf Press)

Merilene Murphy (chair), Timothy Liu, Susan McCabe

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Can’t See the Trees For the


Sunday, August 28, 2005

The summer's first picking of romas. And a fallen pear. Posted by Picasa

Our back yard . . . how gay is that flag? Posted by Picasa

Pear tree full of fruit . . . we are going to pick early this year. Posted by Picasa

Dean making baked tomato sauce . . . yummy! Posted by Picasa

The back yard of our friends Kevin & Bob's on Vashon, as we are getting ready for dinner. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Dean and I went to the Harvard Exit to see 2046 last night. What a fascinating movie. A bit long. Incredible music and images. It takes place over four Christmas Eves in Shanghai from 1966 to 1969, and follows a man's relationships with three different women: none of which are fated to work out. The male lead, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, is a real hottie, but a bit of a heartbreaker. Though it is all so gorgeously shot and scored, the message of this movie, I think, is ultimately so sad and fatalistic. It seems to say: We have one chance for true love in this life, and that's it. Even if we meet the right person, if the time and the place are wrong, forget it, end of game. All that's left is this long lonely train ride to 2046 (you have to see the futuristic scenes, set on this world-circling train, full of android attendants). I just don't think life is that way. Only the movies are.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Check out Lorna and Pamela's riff on "sincerity": "sine cera: without wax & sincerus: genuine and not adulterated."

Ars Poetica

would it wake the drowned out of their anviled sleep —
. . . would it slip the sun like a coin behind their eyes —

The idea, the teacher said, was there was a chaos
left in matter — a little bit of not-yet in everything that was —

so the poets became interested in fragments, interruptions —
the little bit of saying lit by the unsaid —

was it a way to stay alive, a way to keep hope,
leaving things unfinished?

as if in completing a sentence there was a death —

— Dana Levin, from Wedding Day (Copper Canyon, 2005)

This is a wonderful poem, I think. The opening two line epigraph can be taken as a kind of litmus test for poetry: could it "wake the drowned from their anviled sleep," or put the light back in the eyes of the dead? And then the idea of chaos and fragments, and how what is left unsaid is the heart of the poem, is what gives light to the rest of the poem. (My favorite line is "the little bit of saying lit by the unsaid —"). I wonder if the "teacher" being referred to is Lousie Gluck, who has been a mentor to Levin.
I am not fond of the last line. I think it's a little pat; tells us what we already know. A riskier last line might have been more fragmentary; as is, it is masquerading as a fragment, by ending with a dash. Still, it's a fine poem. Now I need to go write one . . .

Thursday, August 25, 2005

826 Seattle

How Cool is This!

826 Seattle is an exciting new nonprofit organization, located in the groovy Greenwood neighborhood of North Seattle, dedicated to supporting young writers, ages 8 to 18, by offering free drop-in tutoring, mentoring, and workshops.

As a chapter of 826 National, founded by acclaimed author Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), 826 Seattle will provide youth writing programs, modeled after the highly successful 826 Valencia in San Francisco (which serves 3,000 Bay Area youth), all free of charge.

To learn more about 826 Seattle and how you can support the organization, please visit the following sites:

826 Seattle

Support 826 Seattle at Bumbershoot

If you are interested in volunteering for one of the opportunities listed below, please complete our online Volunteer Application:

Homework Tutors: Our after-school tutoring program invites students of all ages to bring their school work for one-to-one help from a trained volunteer.

Mentors: We match a professional writer to any student who aspires to become a writer and would like a mentor on a one-to-one basis.

Workshop Instructors: We invite local authors and writing teachers to share their expertise in evening and weekend workshops on different writing-related topics.

Other Opportunities: Legal services, graphic design, administrative and computer/technical support, event planning support, and renovation skills (construction, painting, mechanical, electrical, and so on)

If you have any questions about volunteer opportunities, call us at (206) 725-2625 or send an email to

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


They say I mope too much
but really I'm loudly dancing.
I eat paper. It's good for my bones.
I play the piano pedal. I dance,
I am never quiet, I mean silent.
Some day I'll love Frank O'Hara.
I think I'll be alone for a little while.

-- Frank O'Hara, The Collected Poems

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Too Busy

Too busy with clinic this week. And no new poems in a while now. Just working on revisions of old discards that didn't work before, and still don't work now. Not fun. Grrrrr . . .

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Six Feet Under — RIP

Wow. What a great final episode.

 Posted by Picasa

Fun Weekend

Dean and I just got back home from a whirlwind tour of the South Sound area. We left Saturday afternoon for Gig Harbor, to help celebrate our friend Erika's 70th birthday. A wonderful party at her daughter Kathy's house, on a bluff overlooking Point Defiance, and South Vashon. Dean has known Erika for over 30 years, since they were nurses together at Cabrini Hospital in the early 70's. But I have known Erika even longer, over 40 years, as she was my second-grade best friend Ernie's mom! (small world). Needless to say, it was great to see her and she looks fantastic.

After the party we took the Tahlequah Ferry to Vashon Island, to spend the night with our friend's Kevin and Bob, and to join them and several other Vashon Islanders the next day for the Annual Cruise Around Vashon, on the historic Virginia V steamboat. What a hoot! The weather was fantastic (I am sure I am burned all over). We ate cheese and tampenade sandwiches and drank mojitos and watched the lovely island scenery glide by.

Afterwards we caught the Fauntleroy ferry home, and we are just now getting settled in for the night. The final episode of Six Feet Under is on tonight (at least I think it's the final episode). And we don't want to miss it for the world.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Dean's Birthday Stone Posted by Picasa

I drove Dean out to Marenakos in Issaquah the other day, to help pick out a natural stone birdbath for the garden. It's what he said he wanted for his birthday. This one weighs over 300 lbs, and had to be loaded by a tractor into the back of our truck. We didn't think about how we were going to get it out of the truck until after we got home. I was amazed that the two of us were able to slide it off the back of the truck and into the wheelbarrow. But I did not think we would be able to get it from the wheelbarrow into the bed without one of us straining our back, or getting a hernia! Fortunately, it slid off the wheelbarrow and right into place. And I think it has turned out quite lovely. Don't you?

Happy Birthday Dean! You are my love and my light. And one helluva swell guy.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Don't Come To Me With the Entire Truth

Don't come to me with the entire truth.
Don't bring me the ocean if I feel thirsty,
nor heaven if I ask for light;
but bring a hint, some dew, a particle,
as birds carry only drops away from water,
and the wind a grain of salt.

— Olav Hauge 1908 - 1991

I love this poem. It's from Robert Bly's book of translations, The Winged Energy of Delight. I was turned on to it by Virginia McIntrye, one of my Centrum students. Thank you, Virginia!


thank goodness I missed the Geek quadrant . . .

More Emotional
You have:

The graph on the right represents your place in Intuition 2-Space. As you can see, you scored well above average on emotional intuition and above average on scientific intuition.Your emotional intuition is stronger than your scientific intuition.

Your Emotional Intuition score is a measure of how well you understand people, especially their unspoken needs and sympathies. A high score score usually indicates social grace and persuasiveness. A low score usually means you're good at Quake.

Your Scientific Intuition score tells you how in tune you are with the world around you; how well you understand your physical and intellectual environment. People with high scores here are apt to succeed in business and, of course, the sciences.

My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Scientific

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Interpersonal
Link: The 2-Variable Intuition Test written by jason_bateman on Ok Cupid

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Forearm Dissection

Read this poem from Timothy Kelly's wonderful chapbook Toccata & Fugue at the Verse Daily Website.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Collage of Muses

For Eduardo: my collage of muses. Bonus points if you can name everybody. Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 15, 2005

Rose Petal & Champagne Sorbet

This is the most yummy High Summer dessert ever. It has an amazing pastel color, and tastes like roses, with a hint of citrus, sugar, and champagne.

Rose Petal & Champagne Sorbet
— from the Herb Farm

2 cups rose petals, gently packed, from fragrant thin-petaled roses (pesticide free)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
3 cups water
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup champagne
1 tablespoon rose water (optional for a more intensely perfumed flavor)

Process the rose petals with the sugar in a food processor until the mixture turns into a smooth paste, about 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Add 1/2 cup water and continue to process for about 10 seconds. Add the remaining water, the lemon juice, champagne and the rose water, if using. Pour the liquid through a fine strainer. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. Makes 5 cups or 10 servings

Sunday, August 14, 2005

 Posted by Picasa

Fun With Dick and Jane

Come, come. Come and see. See Spot. Look, Mother, look. Look and Dick. Oh, Father. See Father. Dick can play. Oh, Father. See Spot. Spot can play. See Father is big. Tim is little. Look, Mother. Oh, Father. Dick can play. Look, Father. Jane can play. Oh. Mother. Look, Mother. Look, Jane. Father is big. Dick is big. Mother is big. Big, big Sally. Oh, look, Jane. Look, Mother. Look, Sally, look. Look and Mother. Father and Dick. Oh, Father. Dick can play. Oh. Mother. Oh, look, Jane. Look, Jane. Look, Dick, look. See Spot. See Father. Come, come.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

 Posted by Picasa

On Call

I just started a week of call. The docs in our practice take turns being on call 24 hours a day for 7 days straight. With eight of us to share, it's about every two months. It's really not as bad as it sounds: the worst part is being chained to that confounded beeper, knowing it can go off at any time. I've set mine to ~vibrate~, so at least I get a little thrill when it happens.

Today has been pretty mellow so far. Just two newborns to round on in the nursery. A boy and a girl. Welcome to the world little ones! Aren't newborn babies the best?

Our clinics deliver about 250-300 babies a year. Imagine: that's the equivalent of 8-10 first grade classrooms every year. Yowza!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

What Is Your Humor Style?

But I wanted to be a Pot Roast . . .

the Ham

(19% dark, 50% spontaneous, 21% vulgar)

your humor style:

Your style's goofy, innocent and feel-good. Perfect for parties and for the dads who chaperone them. You can actually get away with corny jokes, and I bet your sense of humor is a guilty pleasure for your friends. People of your type are often the most approachable and popular people in their circle. Your simple & silly good-naturedness is immediately recognizable, and it sets you apart in this sarcastic world.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: Will Ferrell - Will Smith
Link: The 3 Variable Funny Test

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Is This a Poem? Does It Say (or Mean?) Anything?


the of and a to in is you
that it he for was on
are as with his they at
be this from I have or by
one had not but what all were
when we there can an your
which their said if do will each
about how up out them
then she many some so these
would other into has more
her two like him see time
could no make than first
been its who now people
my made over did down
only way find use may water
long little very after words
called just where most know

Sunday, August 07, 2005

CD Wright as the Love Child of Ron Silliman & Dolly Parton

A fascinating essay by Joel Brouwer, about the work of poet CD Wright, in the current issue of Parnassus. Here's a quote:

" . . . thoughtful readers of Wright's work fall roughly into two camps, with an epistemological line in the sand drawn between them. One side claims that Wright is at root a Southern storyteller who, regrettably, caught a bad case of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry in San Francisco and has never fully recovered. These readers see Wright's more difficult poems as encrypted narratives, and suggest that the reader's task -- the reader's only choice, really -- is to fit the poems' shards back together into coherent stories. In a review for Poetry, David Orr calls Wright's poems "willfully odd," and accuses her of "dropping obliquities," but finds her warm and welcoming on balance: "her head might be full of Ron Silliman, but her soul is pure Dolly Parton." Adam Kirsch, writing in The New Republic, also believes in that Dolly Parton soul, but is deeply irritated by the Silliman superstructure that conceals it, and furthermore isn't much of a Parton fan. He argues that Wright's deliberate derangement of what he perceives to be perfectly good narratives is gratuitous and "discourteous," and, further, suggests that the disjointed surfaces of Wright's poems are designed to obscure a crucial secret: Wright has nothing particularly interesting to say." page 201-202

Check out the whole essay. It's an interesting read. And I have to agree with Brouwer on some level: when I don't think I have "anything interesting to say" is usually when I resort to word play, ellipsis, disjunctive narrative and other fun in a poem. But where I disagree is that there is a willful "concealing" that is going on. What I find to be the case is that the word play and disordering often help me find something new (and interesting) to say, that I didn't know I could say, and only found I could say once I started writing the poem.

Nursery Rhyme

Three men in a tub
A priest, a poet, a physician.
I'll scrub his back
While you scrub mine
And so on ad infinitum.

For the origin of Mother Goose's "Rub-a-dub-dub" click here.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Two Heads are Better Than One? Posted by Picasa

Overheard Through The Walls Of The Invisible City

by Frank Bidart

. . . telling those who swarm around him his desire
is that an appendage from each of them
fill, invade each of his orifices,—

repeating, chanting,
Oh yeah Oh yeah Oh yeah Oh yeah Oh yeah

until, as if in darkness he craved the sun, at last he reached

—Until telling those who swarm around him begins again

(we are the wheel to which we are bound).

from Desire (FSG 1997)

*Note the perfect iambic pentameter of the fifth line. Yummy.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Toccata & Fugue, by Timothy Kelly.
Read about it here, or order online at the Floating Bridge website. Posted by Picasa

Having fun in Hawaii a couple years ago, when I had a beard.  Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Welcome Jeff Walt: Poetic Life

Everybody welcome Jeff Walt to the blog world. He's a wonderful poet living in Tacoma, who I met last month at Centrum. We have the distiction of having been "between the covers" several years ago (along with Rafael Campo, Reginald Shepard, and others) in the anthology Gents, Bad Boys, and Barbarians.

Blog Anagrams 2

Just playing around this morning before work:

Poetry Hut: Pert Youth
Posey Galore: Gooey Pearls
Lorcaloca: Coal Carol
Ivy is Here: Irish Evey
Gila Monster: Angel So Trim
Dumbfoundry: Buddy From UN
Relieable Signs: Seeing Liberals
On Your Nerve: Nureyev: or no?
Notes From Qatar: Name Sq Ft Orator
The Wendy House: Honey-Sweet Duh
Geneva Convention: Give None Covenant
Of Looking at a Blackbird: Kicking Football Abroad
Sturgeon’s Law: Lust Rages Now
The World According to Ess: Disgrace to Red-Hot Clowns
Pamela's Musings: Amusing Samples.

And for those of you who missed the first set of blog anagrams (including "Asleep Inside an Old Guitar's" Odd Pleasures in Genitalia) check 'em out here.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Tremor — JAMA

My good friend Ted McMahon brought the latest issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) to our poetry group last night, and I was so delighted to see my poem "Tremor" appearing there. Charlene Breedlove had accepted it a while back, and I had forgotten it was due out this month.

The poem arises from my work with Cambodian refugees, and is really well-placed, as this issue contains research articles about Cambodian refugees, refugee mental health, PTSD, somatization disorder, etc. Here are the first few lines (I'll try not to scoop JAMA by posting the whole poem):


Because she took an extra scoop of rice
the soldiers made her watch
while one of them held a machete
swung it into her uncle's neck.
Don't close your eyes or we'll shoot you!
they said. She remembers how his face
grimaced, his eyes still blinking
as his head tumbled toward her . . .

Read the rest at a doctor's office near you! (Or at JAMA's website).

Monday, August 01, 2005

Oh Rafael, say it isn't so! Posted by Picasa

Doty: School of the Arts

I've been reading Mark Doty's new book of poems, School of the Arts. Though it is not as strong as Atlantis, or Source, two of my faves, there is much to admire here. For instance, the series of five "Heaven" poems, which give a subtle structure to the book. Each is written as an empathic look at what "heaven" might be to a special someone in his life: three of them are written for human friends ("Heaven to Helen," "Heaven to Stanley" (as in Stanley Kunitz), and "Heaven to Paul"); and two of them are written, I believe, for his dogs ("Heaven to Beau," and "Heaven to Arden").

There are, in fact, many poems about Doty's dogs in this book, and though I am not a fan of dogs, or any pets for that matter, I felt that these were perhaps some of the strongest poems in the book. Particularly "Ultrasound" which dramatizes a visit to the vet for his ailing pooch, and which has all the caring and affection one would expect to see for an ill child, partner, or parent. Also "The Stairs," about Doty's aging dog Arden — who is unable to climb the stairs and sleep at the foot of the bed any longer, and is now sleeping outside in the garden, under the stars — is wonderfully understated and arresting.

There is an intriguing long poem, "The Vault," which explores S/M and B/D attraction, and opens with the lines: "What can be said of this happiness?/The bootblack boy on his knees/in the dim of the bar gives himself/completely to the work of polishing." Of course, the boy is polishing, with his tongue, the boots (and body?) of his master.

One of my favorite poems is "Heaven for Paul," about Doty and his partner being aboard a plane that must make an emergency landing. Doty is in terror, afraid of loss of control, of life in the face of death; while Paul becomes "increasingly radiant" and calm.

The title of the book is ironic, I believe, meaning that we are, in the end, "schooled" by the arts rather than master of them. The poem "The Art Auction" is about being at a community art sale/fundraiser, and gazing at the ghastly dated offerings, and wondering "Who'll by this stuff?" And coming to the conclusion: "Art's all bad, isn't it; what doesn't fail?/And thus there's something noble about the crap, too,//and hopeful and misguided, as much a part/of this town's soul as any achievement is. We live/by our intentions, after all."

And Doty's intentions, here, are admirable.