Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Thank the heavens

the CWPW is, as Brandi says, "just going through a period of adjustment," and is still, in fact, quite alive, no thanks to me! Some recent spurring on by our blog gave me quite a productive day- I assembled ten poetry submissions to various journals around the country. I haven't recieved a rejection in weeks. . .i definitely feel a void. :) I'm used to rejection on a daily or at least weekly basis; junk mail just doesn't do it for me. I need the extremely light, almost transparent envelope with my familiar address label to leap from my mailbox and say, "try again! try again!" over and over. I'm at a loss without it.

I'm feeling better and not so tired today. I think I need more calories- I crashed and burned yesterday. It wasn't pretty. Unfortunately, Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass section 53 (I think. . .) was the only casualty. Somehow, while reading Plato's Book X of the Republic, however, things were much more clear than ever before. Loonginus' "On the Sublime" wasn't half bad either, the part that I wrangled through anyway. Bizarre, though then again, not really.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Random scatterings

I can't get my thoughts in order enough to write an actual post, so I'll post some random things that are of interest to me lately:

  • I've seen two dead pigeons in as many days, just lying there on the sidewalk as if they're sleeping. Not sure why or how.
  • We took my dog, Clover, to get groomed on Saturday. She looks great but got an infection in her you-know-where and it's extremely disturbing. She's on antibiotics and has to wear one of those funny collars so she won't lick herself. Poor puppy.
  • I haven't had a decent run in weeks and am starting to doubt whether or not I can pull off this marathon. I wonder (this may sound strange. . .) if it has to do with pollution. In a nine mile run, I can only imagine the abount of car exhaust I suck on, especially because I run next to a main throughfare during the early part of rush hour. My brother once told me that running the LA marathon was equivalent to smoking three packs of cigarettes. Consideraing the fact that I've never smoked a cigarette in my life, this is pretty disturbing.
  • Eliot threw himself out of the crib onto the floor yesterday. I suppose it was bound to happen, but it's definitely a cause for some major anxiety. He's not hurt or anything and I removed the bumber form the crib (which I surely should have done weeks ago. . .duh) but let's hope it doesn't happen again.
  • Eliot has six teeth coming in all at the same time, and he has been kind of a nightmare for a few weeks (can we blame him?). He's going to look really wierd with teeth; I'm actually kind of scare of him having teeth. It seems at that point, he's not really a "baby" anymore. Crazy.
  • The once-powerful and spectacular Chicago Women's Poetry Workshop seems to be petering out and losing some steam. I feel bad because I've missed two meetings in a row, but I hope we can regroup and recharge. It would be a bummer to dissolve.
  • I saw the same guy twice in the past week in two cpmpletely different places. I know it's the same guy because I had a class with him the first semester I was at UIC. I remember him being a film student or something like that. I saw him in the tunnel at Jackson between the red line and blue line as well as on the LSD bike path this morning, he on his bike, I breathing in polluted air and dying of exhaustion. It's a bit wierd to me.
  • I just can't seem to get it together. I always feel tired and like I'm about to self-destruct. I couldn't even say a coherent sentence today when I was teacing about one of my favorite Walt Whitman poems. I feel like I'm losing my mind.
  • Our nanny broke our door down a few weeks ago because she accidentally locked Eliot inside and herself out in the hallway (we live in a condo on the 3rd floor). We totally need a new door and lock but just don't even have time to deal with it. Unreal. I can't believe she knocked the door down.
  • I'm fitting into a lot of my pre-pregnancy clothes, which will save me some money come fall. Most of then don't fit so well, though, cause my body has changed a lot. A good excuse to shop. . .too bad we're broke.
  • I'm constantly tired. I need a vacation and it's only the second week of classes.
  • I've done nothing to work on my lists for my exams. I have so much work to do I can barely handle it. I haven't been this stressed out in a really long time. Training for a marathon may not have been the smartest thing I've ever done. . .

Friday, August 26, 2005

Spear Atmosphere

I dare to say (as the approaching comet
dares) that you have given
sound a spine, brought

me given me
into stitches of hair,
dust, wool. Clay is red

your tongue is red
clay in a river bed awake
and speak. Clouding

over, the black thread
lifts my eyelids,
pupils and Saturn

unlike any moon. We carve
ecstasy out of lime
seeds, small yellow

breath-puff, a crystal
city on your breastplate.
Begin again

as the rain comes. It’s perfection
and collapse, a spitting
wind in a slew

of lightning bolts mistaken
for flashbulbs. Pop. Smoke.

Blue spots with trails among
the planets.

((Another poem from the collaboration.))

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

It could be worse. . .

Inspired by Eduardo's reply in the comments of my last post, I thought it would be fun to play the "at least it wasn't . . ." game to see what kind of interesting substances we can come up with. What is the most horrifying substance you can imagine to be slathered all over your rejection slip AND rejected poems? Here are a few that I thought of:

at least it wasn't. . .
10. vomit. I suppose it's one of the more expected answers, but I'll say it because other's mught not want to insinuate that my poems are bad enough to make someone vomit. . . Also, I've passed back student poems with slight traces of baby vomit on them, but was greatly embarassed and apologized at gret length.

9. pineapple juice. I hate pineapple. I even make a face when something is disguisting to me which my family calls my "pineapple face".

8. Red Ink. That's just obnoxious. :)

7. Snot. Eduardo is right. This is just wrong.

6. Breast milk. Keep it to yourselves, sisters.

5. anthrax. I suppose I should be thankful for an unidentified food smear.

4. spider guts. Though it would make for a more interesting story.

3. blood, urine, feces. The usual suspects.

2. toe jam. Eeew. Maybe that's what it is!?!

1. an apparition. Imagine if the smudge was shaped like the virgin mary? Yikes. But at least then I could sell it on ebay and make some money from it.

Feel free to play along. I know I've forgotten a few goodies. . .

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

An astonishing discovery

To add insult to injury, the Beloit Poetry Journal not only rejected my poems, but sent them back to me caked in some sort of food-type substance. The rejection slip is complete with actual crumbs and an oily finger print- I wish the photo's did the food smear more justice, but you can barely see the juicy goodness. Of course, only the first page has the nasty, stucky film, and I can deduce law-and-order style that the rest of the pages were never even touched.

This is a first for me, I must admit. I like this journal a lot and have been rejected several times, but this is the first one with a gift inside :) Maybe next time, they'll cushion the blow by sending me a whole piece of cake, not just the crumbs. There's definitely a poem in this.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A quick update

I've been in Colorado since Friday morning, unable to access the internet, which is sometimes more of a treat than an inconvenience. We had a nightmare flight back, delayed nearly 3 hours, and they lost our stroller, so we had to carry Eliot along with all of our luggage home on two different el-trains. Don't fly Ted; it's terrible. When we went to fill out a ticket or whatever about our lost luggage, the baggage office was closed as was the ticket counter upstairs. Unbelieveable. I knew we should have just stayed in Colorado :)

But we're home now and I teach tomorrow morning at 11am, which is just crazy. I'm feeling extremely unprepared and over exhausted. My hubby reminded me that the first day of classes is a blow-off day anyway, so that made me feel a little better, but mostly just like I need one more day to prepare. . .

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A new poem

I'm posting from my *new* and fabulous office at school today, which is wierd. I needed a break from syllabus writing, so here's the latest fruit of my collaborative project with scott. He has a great poem up as well!

Carnage, Pixels
inspired by Roy Lichtenstein's "Brushstroke with Spatter," 1966

You blur into drear, stigmatism focus on fake drips,

on fake intermittent light smear, on callous

glamour smear, shaken hand in bountiful sinews.

You give me a filled carcass, a shaken boxcar, a forest guile,

a hidden smile, more guile for the long trip through briar bayou.

Blue briars into you, slick martini eyes. The drag,

the influence of drag, the martini gleam effluvium taking over

squirrel-tooth effluvium. Come in bold, balance, entitled

rails we ride on, entitled something it wears, killer sari button

on the move down. So sorry for your hands.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

an even later response to Mary's tag

Mary blog-tagged me to do the following assignment on Monday:

List five songs that you are currently digging - it doesn't matter what genre they are from, whether they have words, or even if they're not any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying right now. Post these instructions and the five songs (with artist) in your blog. Then tag five people to see what they're listening to.

here's my totally terrible list:

1. "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt (it's the song I sing to get Eliot to sleep every night!)
2. "Ghetto Music" by Outkast (cause it makes me run really fast when it comes up on my ipod)
3. "All That We Let In" by the Indigo Girls
4. "Weight of the World" by the Samples
5. "Blackbird" by the Beatles (always one of my faves)

I think maybe only two of those were written in the last ten years. What can I say. . .I don't get out much.

I'm not going to tag people, but if you read this, consider yourself tagged. leave a comment so we know to check out your list.

about the body. . .reader beware

First and foremost, though I am a day late, check out poetry (yester)daily featuring my home-girl Simone. If this poem doesn't do it for you, well, you're dumb. Sorry, but it's the truth.

I had a strange experience yesterday while darting around Chicago, doing various errands, mostly to replace items from the lost/stolen wallet. While I was looking at new wallets, a woman with two teenage sons asked me where a Target is. We started conversing and her son said something about being happy that I was pregnant. I about fell over. "I'm not pregnant!" I said, probably embarassing him more than me at the moment, as he literally ran away and hid among some nearby clothing racks. "I had a baby about a year ago," I explained to the mother, calmly-- I could see the look of horror on her face and wanted to assure her that it was OK. She apologized about ten more times and I said don't worry about it. But, of course, I did. Then on to the DMV, a nightmare on wheels. I had to wait in line to get a number to wait in line to talk to someone to tell me to get in line to pay to get in line to get my license. Unreal. But the lady I actually talked to was really nice and called me "cute". I said thanks- It was better than being mistaken for being pregnant, that's for sure. But we had to "revise" the weight on my license from 110 lbs to 125 lbs because of my pregnancy weight gain. Another blow to the ego. Off to campus I went, feeling cute, pudgy, and pregnant. I saw a professor in the hall who I've been meaning to get in touch with- I'm working on an exam list with her. I said hello and she looked at me like I was a freshman asking for directions. She said, "Remind me of your name. . ." I said "It's me, Mackenzie- we're working on an exam list together. . ." I guess it had been a while since she's actually seen me in person- so much of this stuff happens over email. She remembered me then, but felt it necessary to explain why she didn't recognize me. . ."Oh, you've gained some weight! It's good weight, I mean, but you look so different!" Hmm, there it is. The New Sincerity has claimed another victim.

Apparently I'm a fatass, and people, even complete strangers, aren't afraid to tell me about it. It's been more difficult than I imagined gaining weight with the pregnancy and not being able to lose all of it quickly. A big part of my pre-pregnancy identity had to do with my thinness, my obsession with thinness, hence my bout with an eating disorder in college and some of early grad school. (Most people assure me that I was too thin before, and have gained "good weight," like the professor said, but that's a hard perspective to buy into.) I'm much better now, but it never totally goes away. How does this difference in weight affect me- my image- my images- my writing- my thinking-my parenting? Not only am I having to deal with a new identity as a parent, but also as a physically different person. Along with the 3 inch scar on my abdomen from the c-section, there are 10 pounds that I will just never lose, and it's changed me.

It's a selfish and ridiculous worry, I know. As my husband constantly reminds me, most women would kill to weight 125 lbs shortly after having a baby, being in school, etc. People are starving all over the world and I'm worried cause I have some extra love handles that I can't get rid of. It's ridiculous. But it's my reality, even though I try to keep it supressed inside as much as possible, days like yesterday, when everybody felt the need to comment on my physicality, it bubbles to the surface and makes me nauseousfor the rest of the day.

Monday, August 15, 2005


I've been a busy girl, some good production, some unfortunate occurrences.

I met with my esteemed friend and colleague, Simone Muench, on Thursday evening for margaritas, spinach crepes, and discussion of my manuscript, which she was gracious and kind enough to read and comment on. I got some great and in-depth feedback which I've really been needing, and have been reworking the manuscript ever since. Since the meeting, I've changed and rearranged many of the poems, including the first poem in the manuscript, which was "cata strophe" but is now "Misspell," which I think really works to introduce this collection a lot better. I'm SO happy with the changes- I feel like it's a completely different manuscript and I feel a lot better about sending it out. I think I'm pretty much ready to leave it alone for a while. The new title, you ask?

leave, light, entropy

(the picture above is my brother's (Chris Carignan's) painting. . .I would love to be able to use it as a book cover when it gets published, though I know this may not be my decision to make. He painted this for our grandmother after she died in November, and I feel like the tone fits with a lot of the poems in the collection. . .the first section is called "leave," after all. . .)

I think this title fits the manuscript best, which is what really matters (thanks to Melissa Severin in my poetry group for saying, bluntly, "Which one works best for the BOOK???"). Thanks also to everyone who weighed in a few weeks ago- it really helped to have such a broad palate of perspectives. I'm happy with it, and have titled each of the sections appropriately with one of the words from the title. It all works out quite well, really. Gives a continuity I feel the book was lacking- ties it together nicely, but not too nicely.

The unfortunate outcome of my meeting with Simone is that my wallet got lost/stolen the night of our meeting. It's a weird feeling to exist without identification or plastic- it's a kind of weakness and vulnerability that I'm really enjoying (masochist, who?) though it's not altogether the safest thing with a baby and all not to have any way to access money or tell people who I am! I'll go on Tuesday to get a new license, student ID, etc. Till then, I'm incognito :)

I start school next week, the reality of which is finally starting to sink in. Ugh. I had a small revelation that I will miss my little Eliot very much- I have been spoiled this summer spending all my time with him. As he embarks on walking, I'm sad about the fact that someone else could see his first steps. But the academic awaits- exams are no small feat, especially since I've taken the last three weeks off from reading! I have too much work to do.

some happy thoughts on a few good journals

On Friday, I got word that my poem, "Reaching into the Same Pockets," has been accepted to a journal called the Chaffin Journal, out of Eastern Kentucky University. I'm excited about this publication because of how classy my correspondence has been with Mr. Robert Witt, the Editor of the magazine. Back in March, I sent them some poems. Mr. Witt promptly sent them back to me with a detailed letter, (my name and address printed on the letter, nonetheless!!) telling me that I had missed the submission window and to please try again in June. He signed the letter and everything; I was very impressed by his attention to detail and the way he treated me like an actual human being, a luxury many journals are not afforded because of their extremely large submission pool (though I suppose it's possible that Chaffin has just as large a pool, but just assigns a priority to being respectful and gracious to their patrons. . .). So I resubmitted in June (response time was only like 8 weeks!) with the unusual expectation that my poems would actually be read and considered thoroughly before sent to the slush pile, or maybe, even, that someone would like one of them enough to publish, regardless of the fact that I'm still a "young poet". I'm honored to be in a classy publication like this-- it renews my sense of determination to start my own journal in the next several years (as soon as I finally settle into a locale) and gives me some ideas of what the priorities of that journal will be.
I'm not trying to knock other journals, either-I've worked on enough lit mags to know that time is as limited a resource as money- and what most journals lack in "personal attention" to their contributors (unless, of course, you're famous. . .) they make up for in content, layout, distribution, artwork, thoughtful reviews, website design, etc. It was just refreshing to be respected by an editor for a change, based on my POETRY instead of on my list of publications, lack of a published book manuscript, and (for now) lack of a PhD. It'll fuel my fire for a while.

I'm VERY impressed with the journal, the Canary, which I ordered more out of curiosity than anything. I mean, it's the best journal I've seen in a long time- a very ecclectic and lively assortment of voices. It's a lot more experimental than I expected, which I appreciate. In fact, I've yet to read a poem I don't appreciate on some level- and the great thing about it is that I often appreciate the poems on different levels- some intellectual, some because of narrative innovation, some because they relate experience adeptly, some because the language is just rocking. I love the Cole Swensen pieces, though that's not a surprise to most. She's one of my all-time faves (and one of the nicest poets ever to walk the earth, may I add. . .). I love the Dan Beachy-Quick poem, too- "Difference in Triplicate". The way it confuses narrative and perspective is astonishing, doubling/tripling of tree imagery. . .very cool.
I would have liked some sort of editorial preface to the journal, but I'm entering the series at #4, so I'm not sure what the history, mission statement, editorial goal of the journal is, unless there just isn't one, which I doubt. The journal is too intelligent for that.

In response to the comment that my poetry is "too intellectual," I've submitted to the Harvard Review. Mostly as a joke. I think it's funny anyway. I'm sure I'll get my rejection in record time :)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

another poem. . .

after the likes of Scott Glassman and Lorna Dee Cervantes (a collaborative effort, whether they like it of not , hehe). Scott and I have decided that great poets don't cheat, they lie. (Careful, it's copyrighted.)

glow paper
a red match

finding glitter
bringing me there

denim eyes
hook and eye

your eye
stay the white

your pockets
emptied and gone

sell me
sell me fire

garlic quilt
you sweat clean

strips in
flowers, purple bundles

hates smallness
wants to taste

and find
fabric and taste

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A new poem from my collaborative project

this poem came out of my collaborative project with Scott Glassman:

Anatomy of a Scream

Cave glass, you take my breath
to go, flung and baited but crisp

in blue birth. To stretch lightning,
isolate the green, bleed it

dry until he dreams jagged
faces onto you seems

like it already happened. I am glad
for your sadness, for its delirious

conflict, for the flecks
of silver that motor, that curtain,

that call from a closed room
we can never enter. The sea

is in there, boiling and still,
asking us to swallow its name.

I'm a bit confused. . .

by other blogs I've read recently that seem to belittle everything I'm trying to do as a poet right now. I never imagined that wanting to publish one's poems in a journal would be a controversial issue, but apparently it is. I understand the principal beind the idea that entering first-book-contests is a bit shady, but I never thought of it as a mark of shame, which is how Ron Silliman characterizes it in his most recent blog. Is it realistic to think that one can be "successful" as a poet without playing the game? I supose it's all about how you define success, and the bottom line is that others will judge you by whay you define as success. Right now, my goal is to publish my manuscript, probably by means of a contest if possible, but I am definitely open to a more "community" oriented mode, if I can find one or one presents itself. I want people to read my poetry, and not just on my blog, which means that I need to publish it in journals. To me, success is sharing my poetry with others, seeing how the world responds to it, and building off of that (to a certain extent). In order to enter a community, one must build their own community or be accepted by another, and while being in a community is a ideal place to be, it's not always so easy to find one, especially one that offers the opportunity to publish and help one's poems BE SEEN. BE read. I don't write poetry in a vacuum. Surely I will be called arrogant for wanting to be read, but I don't care. I write to be read, and success to me is being read.

On the other hand, I would not be the poet I am today without the community I have found here in Chicago. Friends like Simone Muench, Mary Biddinger, Anna Marie Craighead-Kintis, Brandy Homan, Jackie White and new web-friend, Scott Glassman, have inspired me and shaped not only what I write but what I do (where I submit, how I construct syllabi, which book contests might actually read my manuscript before throwing it in the recycle heap). I am amazed on a daily basis by how much people will go out of their way to help me, to guide me, to share with me the difficult lessons they've learned and help me avoid the pain, or just to make the blow less painful when it comes. It is because of this community that I have truly taken ownership of my poetry, come to believe in it, come to actually like the majority of my poems as well as the new direction(s) my poetry is moving. Does this make me arrogant? That it's taken me 15 years of poetry writing to finally believe in myself and believe that I should be being published seems to me an OK place to be. It's the belief that my poetry has something to offer my readers, that I have come here, to this place poetry, to share this.

I feel like I've lost grasp of the "reality" of the situation. Curtis Faville makes a good point in the comments on Ron's blog when he says: "The contest system is designed to provide a means by which, One) Taste can be used to control the structure of literary hierarchies, in their various forms; and Two) Professional discrimination can be made public, enabling literary careers, jobs, and reputations. It is demonstrably NOT about disseminating good writing, or husbanding in avant-garde technique, or furthering "communities" (Ron's favorite pet)". It takes only looking at how boring and mainstream most of the prizewinning books are (aside from a few, of course, like Saturnalia, Alice James, Helicon Nine, Slope Editions)-- nothing innovative or interesting at all going on. Just the same poem, over and over again. No envelope pushing, no paradigm shifting. But where does that leave poets like me and many of my friends (Erika Bernheim comes to mind, an astonishing and amazing poet) who are trying to do something different. . .which more than not is construed as being "too intellectual" even though we're just trying to EXPLORE? Trying to NOT write that same, dry, lyric ego-jacked crap? Any ideas?

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself." Walt Whitman. At least I can be comforted by that.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

A publication in the house. . .

Yes, it's wonderful and exciting. The irony? It's my husband's publication. And it's in a computer magazine: Dr. Dobbs something or other. I can't even read it because it's written in another language, namely Geek :) Another stinging reality? He made $600 from it, which is like twice what I've made from prizes, publications, etc. in my entire poetry career (unless you count the essay contest I won in 8th grade, for which I got a $500 savings bond, but I'm not sure that should count. . .). I'm not bitter, not at all.

The sting turned into a terrible burn because on Friday, the day Dr Dobbs hit newsstands, I recieved two very strange rejections in the mail. One from a publication who solicited work from me but wrote on the rejection that my poetry was "too intellectual," to which I reply, "good! I must be doing something right!" They asked me to send more poems, but I'm not sure I want to send "dumbed down poems" just so the editors don't have to think too hard. Probably just not the happiest place for my poems to find a home. The other rejection was the most bizarre I've seen so far, as a form letter, nonetheless: "We appreciate the poems you sent to 'X'. Our editorial staff carefully considered and discussed your work. At this time, we could not come to a consensus that allowed us to find a place for your work in our magazine, but we hope you would consider sending us more work in the future." I happened to be having coffee with a friend who used to be an editor/reader for this magazine (what are the chances!?!) and she said this rejection means they liked the poems but couldn't find a place for them in that issue, which I can totally appreciate and find EXTREMELY helpful, both as a specific comment on this poem (I actually only sent one poem. . .it was a themed issue) as well as a comment about the business of journals in general. This is yet another reason why simultaneous submissions seem the only way to go: while three out of ten journals might like my poetry, it doesn't mean they all have a place for them in their current edition. Important lessons learned.

I'm proud of my hubby, of course. But the fragile ego of a poet can only take so much beating in one day.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A collaborative effort

I've been lucky enough to have been collaborating with various artists, poets, dancers, musicians, and circus performers (no, I'm serious. . .) for years now. My friends and I in Boulder started a collaborative organization called the fuzion project through which we created, produced, directed and performed in a show which fuzed all sorts of genres in very amazing ways. I think my favorite piece of that show was the finale where I got to dance hip-hop with a large group of dancers and recite an original poem while another performer did gymnastics across the stage. It was amazing. And a lot of fun. My friend, Sarah Leversee, continues the legacy of the fuzion project, Boulder through her collaborative organization, Art As Action, which takes performance to another level by donating theproceeds of each show to a philanthropy. She's been quite successful and really has a great thing going.

Sarah's Sister, Jill Leversee, and I have been close friends for years. Jill is an amazing dancer with a very creative and open sensibility. When she lived in Chicago (now she is in Seattle), we collaborated on another show, which was mostly dance and poetry, but also had musicans, martial arts, and photography as some of the showcase items. Another great time, though also a lot of work. I greatly miss collaborating with artists-- for me it is an essential connecting point in my own art-- there's no denying that this creative world truly is a big web. (As a side note, I have many, many left over chapbooks from this performance, which also served as our program. It features amazing poets such as Cole Swensen, Simone Muench, Garin Cyncholl, and Duriel Harris. I'm happy to send these to people who would like one- just send me an email through my blog link on my profile page with your address and I'll happily send you one!)

So when a fellow blogger and newly-made friend of mine, Scott Glassman, agreed to collaborate with me on, well, we're not really sure what yet, but we're collaborating, I was extatic. Right now it looks like an experiment with language and association: check it out here. It's still in it's early stages of infancy, but hopefully it'll keep building. . .and we'll see what it turns into. In many ways, it doesn't really matter what it turns into. What matters is that it pushes me outside of my personal shroud of poetry and opens me to someone elses voice in a very intimate way. I'm excited about the possibilities of this experiment. We'll see where it goes.

(Bottom picture courtesy of Jonathan Friedman)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Three years and counting


is this very moment with it’s eyes
open, the man I love escaping,

the twitch of his heartbeat
in the bowl of his throat. His sleep-

That between him and words
is my world- the only place I let things

happen. The petals we used to put in
our drawers, the summer opening.

We searched all night
for gardenia, where the smell

was coming from, what I tasted
in the cake. His eyes

not opening, but when we found the flower,
I took it, brought it with me,

can still smell it now. His hair is miniscule
and strong, his body-the white

of clay. Everyone should die
with questions, leaving that door

open, to remain, to hold the space

between what we want
and what we want to open.

(Written by me, for my husband, some many years ago. . .)

Today is my husband and I's three year anniversary. Pretty exciting, though the fact that it's Wednesday makes it slightly anticlimactic. But it's definitely a big thing to celebrate, especially because many marriages these days don't see the other side of the three year anniversary. In many ways, it's hard to believe that it's been only three years. We packed a lot into this time: moved from Colorado to Chicago, a PhD program, bought a condo and moved within Chicago, had a baby, suffered the death of three of our grandparents, my parent's divorce and three of the most brutal winters I've ever seen. But in many ways, of course, it seems like only yesterday I was standing next to him, holding my purple flowers, thinking "wow. we're actually married!"
But boy is my Brian a trooper. He's made so many sacrifices for me over the last three years, sacrifices that most men would scoff at and walk away from. But he's still here, and sometimes I even think he might still like me. It will surely be my turn soon to "pay up," but that's OK. That's what it's all about. The give and take.

The poem I posted is very old and different from what I write now, but the lines, "but when we found the flower,/I took it, brought it with me,/can still smell it now" resonates with me today. Love is like a memory: very strong and powerful at first, but it dissipates and settles in, the intensity fades, but it's always there. The stronger the love, the stronger the resonance. Hmm, how sentimantal of me. But true.

I knew it three years ago and I know it more than ever today- I'm am blessed to have Brian as my hubby. He's a keeper.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

An experiment with shorter lines

Something I don't do often. . .

What then, the burn?

Maybe the spattering
of cloves
on the counter

is a way
to believe
in strength. Chew

on one, suck
oil until it crumbles
into dust between

your molars.
Does it taste
like heart?

Does the squeal
of foreign light
make its way

to you now?
Burn hole in your tongue
eyes tongue.

Maybe years ago
the source
was clear, the sting

was a yellow puss-flower
on your skin
between your fingers.

What now?
What if I am leaving?
What burns then?

Taking poetry (too?) serioulsy

Poetry group last night brought up a lot of issues in my mind, some unsettling, some just open. Unlike most of our meetings in the past year, last night was all business (which after an almost 45 minute ride there and not being able to find parking, was OK with me, I suppose. . .) but I did miss the nitty-gritty poetry issues that we often discuss before workshopping. They seemed to insert themselves, somewhat, into discussion anyway. The first poem to be workshopped was a whopper, a single spaced prose poem, tight font, which covered an entire page. For me, this is an intimidating and daunting prospect- to read a poem of this magnitude and respond in five minutes or less is outside of my comfort zone. When faced with poems, especially of this magnitude, I need to THINK about them. Let them sink in and experience them. So I suggested that in the future, maybe we could post longer pieces on the blog page I set up for the workshop with a few hours to spare so those of us who are "a little slow" and pensive can have time to ingest it. The poet in question responded by saying that in the spirit of Dan Flavin (an artist who was discussed moments earlier) she was OK with an instantaneous response because the average time a museum-goer spends looking at a piece of art is something like 15 seconds. This is the kind of response she wanted to her poem. So we gave her poem the alloted 15 seconds and moved on Flavin-style through the rest of the night, workshopping 4 poems in about 1 1/2 hours (total actual workshopping time).

The more I think about this approach, the more I realize that I'm not OK with it. Maybe it's the poetry-idealist in me that thinks this art of poetry deserves a serious looking-at, that this is a serious art even if we want to trivialize it as a sort of "statement," aka "I hate Poets, capital 'P.'" I decided a long time ago to dedicate a large portion of my life and energy to this thing that has, in a sense, become my religion (hey, something had to fill the void and I've never been into drugs or heavy drinking. . .). And now, the time I spend with poetry has taken on a whole new meaning-- the time I spend with poetry is time I don't spend with my son, so I can't help but treat it as a serious subject. Maybe I do take it too seriously, but for me, that's the only way to take it. It's the only way I can see myself ever getting some major publications and eventually getting a book out so I can teach somewhere in Colorado close to where we'll be living. So when a poem is put in front of me, I want to take it serioulsy and give it the attention I think it deserves, which is more than 15 seconds.

And by the by, I do think it is possible to give a good response to a poem in 25 minutes or so even if you haven't read it before, but the longer and/or more complicated pieces , in my mind, do require more time.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe nothing any more is sacred in this world of soundbytes and headlines. Maybe the average reader only allots 60 seconds to the reading of a poem. But for me, poetry is a retreat from that quick and flashy synapse-triggering, migrane-inducing clip of the chaotic everyday life. It's a slow-down, a sacred space. And while I prescribe to a lot of post-modern idea(l)s, I hold this as a truth, which may make me a Poet, but I guess I'm OK with that. I'm OK with taking myself and poetry serioulsy, because if I don't take myself seriously, who else is going to take me serioulsy?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Run for the hills. . .

I don't often get pissed about things. On occasion, I get a little "amped up" as my husband likes to call it. Sometimes I get moody. But today I'm pissed, mostly fueled by a disappointment that could have been avoided.

I ran 16 miles this weekend, kicking my marathon training into full gear. I found some great girls to run with (one a MA student in Lit, one a chemistry/algebra teacher here in Chicago) and we had a great time. I finally felt like I can do this thing- that actually completing the marathon is not a pie in the sky. I've been running competitively since high school track season of 1990, which puts me well into my 15th year of running. I ran in college to fund my education and since, I've trained for and competed in 4 marathons, qualifying for Boston each time (but never actually running it. . .hmmm). My last marathon was the 2003 Chicago Marathin where I logged a slightly impressive 3:36:36 (though my marathon PR is 3:29 as a younger pup). Then only about 6 weeks later, I got pregnant and the priority to run became a quick second to taking care of myself and resting. I ballooned to a unbelieveable monstrosity of a pregnant lady, even though I continued to run up until about the 6 month mark. Because of the c-section (what a nightmare) I ended up taking about 6 months off of running, total. I started running again (using the term "running" very loosely here. . .) in November and have been working hard ever since. I got the idea to train for Chicago again because I needed an external motivation to continue to run and get in shape- and it's been working! I feel great and even look forward to getting up at 5:30 am to run because I have something to train for. It's been great and really given me something to focus on.
So why am I pissed? Well, I have been a little wishy-washy about whether I REALLY thought I could do the marathon. I mean, it's a grueling experience, both the training and the actual running-of. I've been putting off shelling out the nearly $100 to register for the race. . until last night when I decided I could really do it. I could commit. But guess what? Registration is closed. 40,000 crazy mo fo's already shelled out their $100 and the marathon closed in RECORD time- 1 month earlier than last year and much, much earlier than the year before (when I ran it). I guess I should have committed earlier, taken the gamble and just plunged in. I should have payed closer attention. But I wanted to be sure, and now I'm screwed. I'm pissed for a lot of reasons that are selfish and surely have to do with issues of entitlement- like I've been running for a long time, paid my dues, and this marathon really meant a lot to me while joe blow is trudging his fat never-run-before ass and taking up all the room in the marathon. (I know, I'm a bitch, but I'm mad. . .) I feel like I deserve to run this race, even if I missed the deadline. But there's just no way. So what now?
I think I might run the Portland Marathon, which is the same weekend, so I can maintain my training schedule and still run on the same day (just not in chicago). My best friend is working a contract in Portland and will hopefully still be there on October 9th, so hopefully I can just stay with her and run a smaller, more relaxed, cooler, and less congested race. The Chicago Marathon really is a nightmare. I was forced to walk the first few miles in 2003 and then when we finally could run, it took so much energy dodging people and trying not to trip that it surely affected my time. When all is said and done, I'm probably better off doing something smaller anyway. But I'm still pissed because now I have to race all by myself, which is excruciating for 26.2 miles (especially the last 4.2 miles or so. . .that's when the pain really seeps in.)

I can't wait to move from Chicago, and this just really is the icing on the cake. I've lived in Wrigleyville for 3 years and have only been to one Cubs game because the tickets were given to me at the grocery store. We've tried for years to get tickets but they sell out on the day they go on sale-- for the WHOLE season! Even trying to get tickets the day they go on sale is a nightmare, so we watch them on TV with our windows open and listen to the crowd a mere two blocks away. I'm not going to watch from the perifery for this race, though. It means too much to me. I'll run a marathon on October 9th, even if it's on a treadmill in my gym or as a "rogue runner" numberless in the Chicago marathon. But most likely it'll be somewhere else. . .maybe I'll pick a city that has a baseball team and actually go see a game!