16 December 2009

Words and Art for Sale!

As previously promised (in the post before last), copies from the 50 volume edition of Sleight are now available for sale in Emily's Etsy shop! There are pretty pictures and all. Also, if you happen to live in the Chestertown area, our handmade book project is available locally at both Bookplate and Chestertown Arts League.


10 December 2009

Words I want to use in a poem

gut
gaudy
glow-worm
plumb
itch
wallpaper
organ-eyes
margin
mantle
fortunate

18 November 2009

Let me count the ways

So, the festival was amazing. It was everything we wanted it to be and more. Thank you to everyone who came out and an extra thank you to everyone who made it to the Small and Independent Press Panel at Bookplate--we were certainly feeling the love. A whopping 47 warm bodies! (as Secretary for the Book Festival, I have access to such statistics) Emily and I had a great time and actually managed to sell 9 books on Saturday--more than I was expecting, to say the least. I hope that soon we will have them available for purchase in Emily's Etsy shop.

We also got to discuss some of the things I write about on this blog: what draws us to printing and bookmaking, what are some problems we have encountered along the way. One well-intentioned audience member even suggested "professional help" for us poor, misunderstood creatures and my answer to that was that working out these problems on our own is part of the thrill of this field of work. I am so happy that we had the chance to debut this project, the very first from Thread Lock Press, at the very first Chestertown Book Festival. It felt so fitting. Emily and I do not yet have any specific ideas for our next project--but we know that there definitely will be a next one. We can't sit still for too long, that's for sure.




11 November 2009

Only three more days to go

We have now completed 36 books (including their fashionable fabric slipcases). They're so beautiful side by side by side on the shelf, I think. We need to finish the last 14 to complete this edition, but it's alright if they're not done in time for the festival. Hooray for paper, ink, thread and glue!

P.S. This gorgeous fabric came from Buttercuppityfabric's shop on Etsy.

04 November 2009

Fall is for festivals

Emily and I have just about finished the 50 book edition of Sleight, a book of three poems and three paintings.  For the past month we have been sewing and gluing whenever we get the chance.  After the book signatures are sewn together, we then tip-in the prints of Emily's paintings on the assigned pages with small amounts of acid-free adhesive applied to a wide strip along the top of the paintings' reverse side, and glue the fragile end papers to the backs of both the front and back covers.  About 20 of the books are completed, only requiring their protective (and fashionable) fabric slipcases.  We will be presenting our first book project at the Chestertown Book Festival on Saturday, November 14th.  We will be participating in the Small and Independent Press Panel, moderated by local printer-poet Jim Dissette of Chester River Press from 12:00PM-1:30PM in the back room of Bookplate on Cross Street.  Emily and I will be sitting on this panel with our illustrator-author friends Robbi Behr & Matthew Swanson of the wonderfully satirical Idiots'Books and local poet Dawn L.C. Miller who publishes her poetry collections under her press name, Blue Kettle Books.  If you actually read my blog, I would love to see you there!  We are very excited and hope this book we have made is only the first of many biblio-centric adventures together.

07 October 2009

PMS-197: Girls and Ink

The Pantone Matching System--not the PMS you were thinking, right? This is the system that assigns numbers to letterpress ink colors (and also identifies the components of standard ink colors that make up each numbered shade or tint). Emily and I finished our printing on Sunday, which required delving into more than just standard black rubber-based ink we've using to print Sleight's text. To print the lovely logo Emily carved on our full title page, we needed two colors. The first and lighter color would be applied to the uncarved linoleum block of the same dimensions as our Thread Lock logo (PMS-197). The second, much darker color would be applied to the carved block (PMS-202)--so the carved-away recesses show up in the first color and the uncarved background in the second. Now the deep maroon ink that is PMS-202 we actually found pre-mixed on Mike's print shop-shelves, but the elusive PMS-197 we had to mix ourselves. Sadly, I am an idiot and forgot to bring my camera to the shop that day, so I have no pictures to show of the actual ink-mixing process which is quite pretty and, of course, very colorful. But let me try my poetic powers at this and attempt to describe this ink-mixing experience.


The recipe for PMS-197 was something like 14 parts Transparent White (we substituted Opaque White here because we couldn't find any transparent--no pun intended), 1.5 parts Rubine Red (as opposed to Warm Red which is more orange-ish), and 0.5 parts Yellow. Once I had slopped these approximate amounts on the glass palette with my ink knife, I began to stir them carefully. It looked a bit like globs of thickened mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard swirling together, almost taffy-like in texture. The yellow ink kept seeming to streak through my mixture after I was sure I had thoroughly redistributed all three colors. I would turn over a fold of bubble-gum medicine concentrate and there would be hiding another independent-minded stream of yellow ink. Emily actually suggested adding a bit more than the recommended half part of yellow to get a more ideal color--I guess it's persistence won her over. In the end, we got a creamy strawberry-medicine color of ink (I always preferred that flavor to bubblegum, but sadly I was allergic). I did manage to get pictures of the results of our ink-mixing experiment.


Next week, we will begin folding pages and sewing our books. We will be using the coptic stitch method, sewing the front and back covers to the text block so that we can have that raw exposed spine. Who wants to do all that intricate sewing if it's just going to be covered up with paper and glue? Here's a practice book I did:


I suppose it's kind of girly for me to actually like sewing, but I can't help it. It's relaxing and creative all at once, and I guess I am a girl after all.

23 September 2009

Thread Lock Press

We're just about finished printing Sleight now. The only bit left is the run with colored inks (red and pink, we think). That is only on one page though: the full title page. Emily carved a logo design for Thread Lock Press (and Sleight, as the first production from TLP) in a linoleum block--which means we can put this image in the Vandercook and print it just like letterpress type! I can't wait to see how this turns out.

09 September 2009

Labor of Love

Monday was a day of productivity in the Lit House print shop. Emily and I were hard at work on our beloved book project all the cloudy, rainy holiday afternoon. Although our end and cover papers are on backorder, for our text paper we are using a lovely mold-made creamy white German paper that we found in Master Printer Mike Kaylor's personal stores in the print shop and purchased from him. So that was at hand and ready to be printed, as soon as we could cut it down to size: 7.5" x 12". Mike had just had the blade sharpened on his enormous paper guillotine, so he helped us with that. Then we moved the poem type (which had already been set over the last few weeks) to the beautiful Vandercook press that we would be using for printing. We managed to run off all three poems in their batches of 50, except when I got home, I discovered to my disappointment that even though I thought we had thoroughly proofed them, the 50 sheets of "Jack" still managed two delinquent letters: a "d" instead of a "b" and an "n" instead of a "u". I guess I let my excitement get me carried away. Oops. So now we have to print those 50 all over again, and the faulty pages will have to be put to use somehow--we can't just waste that good paper. But we still made some progress. We finished printing both "Childling King" and "Queen of Clover" with only a slight punctuation error (a semicolon in place of a colon, but that's not enough to matter, really--this perfectionist is still satisfied with that run).


Here's Mike at the massive paper-cutter (that he bought on eBay for only $20! He just had to move it himself):















A poem in the Vandercook and the ink rollers good and blackened with our ink:















Two proof pages (we decided to print the correlative card-suit symbols in the place of page numbers in the bottom left corners):















And here's Emily taking her turn cranking the press:



















A printer's hands at the end of a good day:

02 September 2009

Gone Paper-pickin'

All three poems have been set now. So we shift focus to what they will be printed on (I tried this sentence without ending in a preposition and it just didn't work for me--so excuse the grammatical error). For the text paper, Emily and I searched the bowels of the print shop at the Literary House (Mike always some great extras laying around). We decided on a creamy white handmade paper with soft deckled edges. For the cover and end papers we went to Paper Mojo. They have some absolutely beautiful paper! After ordering some samples and having a look at them in person, we decided on the Mauve Unryu Thread paper for the end papers (figuring that the delicate translucent quality of the paper goes well with our "sleight" theme and the reddish threading follows our color scheme) and the Ivory Linen Cardstock for the cover paper. We will be printing on the covers with a deep red ink (similar to our thread color). Now we are just waiting for our backordered paper picks to arrive.

19 August 2009

Back-words and Upside Down

I've been making weekly visits to Mike Kaylor's print shop at the O'Neill Literary House to start working on the Sleight book project. So far I have the type for the first two poems set and have begun setting the type for the last one. Setting type letter by letter by space by punctuation mark is a tedious, slightly disorienting, but oddly relaxing task. Lines of poetry are set in the usual order: from top to bottom, from right to left (on the page)--with type that means that one places the character sorts (pieces of lead type) in this same order, but backwards and upside down on the composing stick. Even the character sorts themselves are the reversals their printed selves. So when searching around in the job case, 'b's look like 'd's, 'd's look like 'b's, 'p's look like 'q's, and 'q's look like 'p's. Sometimes we don't even realize we've switched these letters until we print the first sheet and proof it. This could possibly be the origin of the proverb: "Mind your P's and Q's." It can be confusing, but after a while you learn to read your words and sentences backwards.

Here's my progress:

"Jack"




















The job case from which I've been working




















My small workstation
I'm looking forward to going back for more next week!

04 August 2009

Sleight: A Trio of Duets

Emily has finished her beautiful watercolor paintings illustrating my three poems: "Jack," "Queen of Clover," and "Childling King"--and I am in love with them. You can read the poems here, if you wanted. Now it's time to get down to the actual makings of the book. I am so excited!

First, we need a press name. My press name for my solo projects is Goose Hill Press (could've guessed that one, right?); for my projects with Emma it is Chester Cat Press; and I'm still thinking about what to name my collaborations with Emily. Right now, I'm favoring Thread Lock Press, but we'll see what she thinks. And we've already got a title for the book itself. It is to be called Sleight. This title was decided upon because of the many ways in which this word naturally draws upon the themes inherent in the poems and paintings: Sleight as in "sleight of hand" card tricks (as explained in an earlier post, these three poems play with the Calvino-like idea of folk & fairy tales and playing cards); Sleight as in sounds like "slight" as in a slim volume of work (not even long enough to be a chapbook really), as in small children protagonists, as in the underestimation and marginalization of folk and fairy tales in the literary world. As you can see, quite a bit of thought went into this title selection.

Next, the design and layout of the book. I've decided that the text block itself will be one signature (it's only ten pages long including the half title, full title, dedication/acknowledgements, and colophon pages). But the end papers and the front and back covers will make it more like five signatures (as far as the sewing is concerned). I've chosen to use a coptic stitch for the binding for two reasons: 1. Because it is a natural choice for books with exposed spines (the red thread is an important thematic element connecting the poems and paintings so Emily and I want it to show); 2. Because it also has a beautiful braided effect. The covers will likely be a heavy sort of paper. I'm not quite sure about the dimensions of the book yet--probably somewhere around 4.5 inches x 7 inches. I don't know yet.

I will be printing the text of the book on master printer Mike Kaylor's antique letterpresses (housed at the
Rose O'Neill Literary House). I've already started to set a bit of the type for the first poem. I've chosen Garamond for the font--nothing too flowery or decorative. It's plain but elegant--simple and subtle. Emily's watercolors will be scanned onto her computer and then printed out separately as full-color, photo-quality images. We will then attach them to the appropriate pages by tipping them in. We decided that this was the best method because the extra paper layer will keep the colors from showing through onto the other side of the page; and it was going to be difficult enough printing the text and images separately and using two totally different machines (It would have been extremely difficult to letterpress-print Emily's paintings, not to mention, expensive; and laser printing the text just seems like a cheap imitation when you have the practice on and access to a real live letterpress). This same generational tension (i.e. antique letterpress printing v. digital printing) is another theme that plays out in both the paintings and poems, so we knew we were going the right way about it.

We still need to pick out and purchase the paper we will be using for this book-project. This is going to be a very difficult decision for us both. But once that is arranged, we just need to cut it to the right size (still to be determined) and print! Once the type is set, that is. Then we attach the painting prints; bind the book and wrap it in some sort of heavy-paper protective slipcase. And if we finish in time, Emily and I could present it at the inaugural
ChesBookFest in November! It's a great time to be a book-artist.

31 July 2009

It's been a while...

So it's now nearly August, my basil plants seem to be thriving and the rosemary is still green. The garlic bulbs have grown shoots and gone a bit brown but they're still too young and small to dig up, so I think harvest-time will come in a few more seasons.

I have also gotten two poetry submissions together for literary magazines. Three poems each, I have submitted one set to
Weave magazine, a great small-press magazine to which I just began subscribing; and the second set I plan to submit to Ecotone, a university-press journal (to which I am also a recent subscriber) with the awesome tagline: "reimagining place." How cool is that? I am hopeful but I don't expect publication. We'll see. This may be my lucky break.

I was also recently offered to come aboard the newly-created Chestertown Book Festival, to be known as
ChesBookFest. I was nominated to the position of secretary of the official planning committee and I have to say that I am very excited to be a part of this huge and well overdue project. Check out the above blog link for a little more info on the festival.

It's been quite a productive summer, I think.

13 June 2009

When good garlic goes bad

it grows? Apparently even my refrigerator is better with botanicals than I am. I've had these huge clumps of garlic that I bought at Super Fresh since last August maybe. I obviously bought more than I needed at the time and so never used that much of it. When I looked in the veggie drawer a while ago, I noticed my garlic had begun to sprout some green. I was at my friend Annie's yesterday and we were looking around in her garden. What I thought were onions, she informed me, were actually little garlic shoots. She said that instead of just throwing out her garlic when it had begun to go green, as mine were, she planted them instead. What an absolutely obvious and wonderful idea! Of course, this had not occurred to me.

So last night, I peeled every single garlic clove in those huge clumps. I now have 32 garlic babies to plant. Wow. And now that I am actually beginning to embrace the cooking-at-home thing, I may actually be able to use what I harvest. Mmmm... and my herb garden expands.

05 June 2009

Getting down to business

Well, the basil and rosemary have been transplanted from their plastic pots to the tiny herb garden by the back door. The only problem I can foresee is that, now that trees have filled out for summer, they might not get as much sun as they want. All my research tells me that both basil and rosemary like LOTS of sun. So, we'll see, I guess. I inherited my mother's brown thumb, so I have a bit of a curse to work against when it comes to nurturing plant life, something I'm hoping to overcome.

I also managed to break out of this latest writing slump. I actually managed to come up with a poem fragment last weekend that, I think, has quite a bit of potential:


Rainy Evening from the Chester River Bridge

Street-light runs down the
riverside like mascara

her inked-up winking
streaked and ...


And that's all I've got so far. But it's something! I feel refreshed now. Maybe I'll even manage a little something this week.

I've also been developing more ideas for the collaborative illustrated poetry chapbook project with my friend Emily. I'm dreaming about a one-signature text block bound in red thread with an exposed spine. There will be paper pockets tipped-in and a paperboard slip case like a box for a card deck.

27 May 2009

To-do, to-do, to-do

Inspired by poet-professor Jehanne Dubrow's blog post "Someday Soon", I've decided to create a new list of my personal goals for the near future. I also did this last summer, but with pen and paper, and it really can be helpful:

* to plant (and not kill) the basil and rosemary seedlings I have waiting out back in their temporary containers.

* to write one poem a week even if it's crappy (although I'd rather it be wonderful and fulfilling).

* to get Chester Cat Press started with
Emma.

* to find some suitable, non-plastic lawn furniture.

* to make some more pesto (hopefully, with the basil in my tiny herb garden), and pesto mayo. Mmmm...

* to make something tangible of my collaboration with my painter-friend
Emily, maybe a handmade chapbook, poems and illustrations, bound with red linen thread. Hmmmm...

* to submit more poems to literary magazines.

* to get my grandmother's 1950s Smith-Corona manual typewriter fixed-up and unstuck so I can use it to type poems and other such things.

* to watch less television (which will be made abundantly easier once the analog signals officially shut off in a couple weeks).

* to have more tea parties with friends.

* to make.

02 May 2009

There is no such thing as writer's block

So says Neil Gaiman. And I agree with him, but he also clarifies that statement saying that we do in fact get stuck on occasion. It's not as serious a situation as the term "writer's block" suggests with it's clinical sounding name, kind of like "tennis elbow" or "library knee" (which is when the knees audibly crack every time one bends them due to years of book-shelving--so, I made that one up, but I definitely have it). The point is, that kind of hypochondria won't fly around here anymore. But I have been stuck in my writing for quite a few weeks now, which tends to be a bit depressing and frustrating. I think my problem right now is more a lack of focus. I have all this pent up creative energy, this great urge to write, but I am really struggling with the ability to focus this energy on a particular subject. I want to write, but I don't know what I want to write about and that doesn't really do much good. My hope is that, by essaying this out, maybe I'll find my focus. I feel that this always happens after I've finished a particularly long, but satisfying poetic project (like the Jack, Queen, King series I finished up more than a month ago now). (sigh)

18 April 2009

New friends are like honey in my tea

Lately, I've been considering the fun of collaboration. My new friend Emily is a painter who has similar obsessions with folk and fairy tales and the like; and right now she's mulling over a few poems of mine to illustrate. I can't wait to see what she imagines visually from my words. Not to mention how flattered I am that she even wanted to use my poems as inspiration. I've often said that one of the reasons I was drawn to poetry as far back as I can remember is that I have no talent for visual art. Poetry allows me to express these often very visual ideas that I have, but with words rather than line and color and texture. I'm excited to see the reverse of this, to see what someone else sees when they read my poetry, to see what I could not draw or paint on my own.


While I'm waiting on that project, I decided I'd try it the other way around: write a poem based on one of Emily's paintings. Ironically enough, I had actually started a poem a few months ago that corresponds perfectly with Emily's painting "Tomato Birth" (I think, anyway). So, I took that forgotten fragment back out and worked on it a bit more.


Haematopoeisis

"I'd like to mention my rag time."
-Sandra Cisneros, 'Down There'

Bone marrow,
the earthen red
of an old wheel barrow,
an empty flower pot.

Then the blood
like tomato soup
from the mad-sad spleen,
pulpy and hot.



Well, it's still just a fragment, though a bit more substantial now. I've hit a block with it again, and I think it might be that I don't really want to work on that one right now. But I have had some fun with it. The title is the term for the biological process of making blood. I found it a fun word to play around with and it worked so perfectly with the images from which I was drawing. Inside haematopoeisis is "mato" (as in "tomato") and "poeisis" (as in "poesy"). The inscripted line just below the title is from Sandra Cisneros' poem
"Down There" which is a wonderful exploration into the imagery of menstruation. Lovely and gory and unfeminine.

08 April 2009

Adventures in bibliophilia

Bookmaking is another activity of mine. Put that together with the writing, reading, letterpress printing, and library-work and I'm a very well-rounded bibliophile. A recent project of mine was making reversible poetry journals. By reversible I mean that the cover art allows for either end to be the front. It could even end up being a two-headed notebook; it's just full of possibilities, as most blank pages are. This "cover art" though is actually segments from "At the Fishhouses" by Elizabeth Bishop (one of my favorites).

04 April 2009

Maybe I should introduce myself

Everything in the apartment is just a bit crooked. The false tile lines in the kitchen linoleum slant into the bottom borders of the cabinets and the sink. The slight diagonal of the light switch in the spare room is exaggerated by the decorative switch plate. And I don't think the ceiling and floor run exactly parallel either. But it's all somehow fitting.

My cat is a found cat. My friends discovered her outside of their dorm and gave her tuna fish and named her Kione (meaning "the one who came from nowhere"). But eventually we had to take this refugee off-campus and my place became her sanctuary. That's been nearly a year and a half ago. Now she's a luxurious housecat, although in some ways she seems to be part dog. She always greets me at the door, she wags her tail when she is in full purr-mode, and she drinks out of the toilet. She's perfect.


We also happen to have a dog lodging with us for the moment. She is (or was) my brother's dog, whom he named Karma, ironically enough. When circumstances found her fatherless, I scooped her up (she was much smaller at that point) and brought her to Goose Hill for what I thought would be a temporary stay. She is a beautiful hybrid: half pitbull, half rottweiler. And so unbelievably sweet underneath all of that equally unbelievable puppy-energy. She is now just short of one year old and has been with Kione and I for four and a half months. The only reason that she is not in my blog description is that I don't know how permanent a resident she will be here. But I have a feeling that she is mine now for good. Kione's not too happy about that, having been forced to camp out on top of the refrigerator for the past season and a half, but she's a survivor. And Karma is confined to the kennel when I am at work or asleep.

As for myself, I've wanted to write poetry since I was eight years old. And right now, life is pretty good.

02 April 2009

In the name of poetry

Not only is April National Poetry Month, it is also the month of my birthday. So exciting. Seriously. I also like to boast every now and then that I share my birthday (April 23rd) with Shakespeare. Granted, I'm sure LOTS of other people have this same birthday, but it makes me feel special sometimes. Oddly enough though, for someone as poetry-obsessed as I am, I don't actually have a favorite poem. I know, weird. Someday I will sit down and think about it and maybe then I'll decide. Or maybe not.

27 March 2009

The last word

Since December I have been working on a particular poetry project. This summer I wrote a poem of which I was really proud called "Jack." It took bits of the Jack and the Beanstalk fairytale and mixed them up with a child learning how to speak. I began with an image and just elaborated on it until I had a bit of story (which seems to be my primary poetry-writing method). But I think it became more than elaborated image when I made a little discovery through the writing of it. I had been stuck for a while smack dab in the middle of the poem; I needed some direction. Then one day it occurred to me: "Fe, fi, fo, fum." What is particularly of note, linguistically-speaking, in this folktale refrain? It contains mono-syllables using all the vowels in alphabetical order (excluding "a," of course). Silly or not, this was the point at which the poem really began to take shape and become one of my favorites:

Jack

for little Anna Sovich


Lips full as lima bean pods,

a pair of cocoons where

words are waiting.


I have to pull them out

like a string from the bowels,

viny vowels and all:


biting your bottom lip in frustration,

fay, fee, fie, foe, and fum

tumble onto the table

like soggy breadcrumbs.


Now you look up at me,

parenthetical eyebrows gathered

like overgrown hedges around

your stubborn frown:


silence has so many definitions

and your eye-language is

ambiguous as poetry.


So now, all that being said, I wanted to submit this poem of mine to literary magazines, but there are certain ways to go about these things (many of which, I am still learning). One bit of wisdom was something I overheard at a poetry reading at my alma mater. A current student was asking the new poetry professor for some advice about submitting poems for publication and what she said was something along the lines of: "Many magazine editors these days are looking to publish multiple poems from a particular poet at a time, particularly poems that have some sort of connecting thread." Now the problem was that I didn't really have any poems that I liked enough to send out that would fit alongside "Jack."


So... after that lengthy preamble, I come to the actual project mentioned in sentence one: of all the ideas I came up with, the one I most wanted to try was one that was based in fairytales and playing cards, sort of similar to the idea behind Calvino's fairytales and tarot cards in The Castle of Crossed Destinies. I already had "Jack," next would come a Queen poem and then a King poem. This was so exciting! After having a long hard think, around the end of December, I finally had my Queen poem. Mind you, the idea I had for this project was to have three loosely connected poems, not a numbered triptych, so I didn't want them to be too similar to one another. For Queen, I drew more from the Jack-pot (excuse the pun, I can't help it sometimes), using other fairytale and even Mother Goose Jacks: Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack and Jill, Jack be Nimble. In the end, I even decided on using a Mother Goose-type rhyme and meter as a change from the free-verse style I am more apt to use:

Queen of Clover

Come over, Green Jill,

from your house on the hill


nimble as a thimble

and down through the still.


On the count of three,

grass-stained and weak-kneed


quickly and prickly,

honey, sticky with bees.


Love caught in brambles

left in unspoken shambles,


not broken but folken,

another losing gamble.


Wanting something for which to fall

wallowing and weeping,

crooked crown and all:


a king worth the following,

a kingdom worth the keeping.



So that one could probably still use a little more work. I'm not sure quite yet. I know some of the rhymes seem to trip over themselves a little bit, I haven't decided whether that adds to the falling-down-hill dramatic action of the poem or just gets in the way. Any input on that matter is welcome. Once that was done, I had only the King poem left to mull over and create. Hmmmm.... I came up with the general idea in January; but the actual writing of the poem took until today. So far, both "Jack" and "Queen of Clover" had ended up being exactly 17 lines (coincidentally), so I knew that that was the general length I was looking for it to be, if possible. It dragged along one stanza, sometimes one line, at a time. This week, the only thing holding me back was the last word of the whole poem. It had to be the exact word that was needed there, nothing else would do; the diction demanded it be so, anything slightly off would make it archaic or cliche or something worse. But in the shower this morning, I knew what it had to be and it was so obvious that I couldn't believe it had taken so long for me to realize it. It was simple, fit the diction and voice, and also hit on the theme tying all three poems (loosely) together. So without further delay:


Childling King


The day you were born

they cut the umbilical cord


with giant silver scissors

like a grand red ribbon:


opening for a fable boy,

both feet on the kitchen table.


Your father had the honor

while the midwife made sure


you had two of each

of the necessary parts:

lips, lungs and all.


Made of neon light

and everything bright


mosquitoes and moths were

smudging up the window glass,


those black disco ball eyes

reading our fortune in your cards.

25 March 2009

They call me Chart Girl

One of the great things about those creative writing workshop classes was that they made you write, even if you didn't feel like it. Now that I'm out of school, I find it hard to create my own writing schedule, and even harder to stick to it. After a long hard think, I realized what part of that problem was about for me: accountability. In class, even creative writing, I had to turn in something even if it wasn't my best work, or I'd get a bad grade. The thing is, when there's no one to expect anything from me (except me), I discover that I am a big push-over and so I don't do my own homework. But then, I feel that awful guilt and uselessness that comes with not-writing; it's a very uneasy state of mind.

Then came: the chart. The objective: write one poem a week, even if it's crappy. By creating a physical log of my writing progress, I've made that accountability a palpable thing demanding evidence of time well spent. It's similar to the power of the list: crossing a to-do off of a list makes one feel that something has been accomplished or more-than-attempted. Granted, since I started this chart-keeping last May, I have met the required goal... well, every now and then. But even on the weeks that I don't write a new poem, I at least crank out a new fragment or add a few lines to an in-progress poem or revise something to be sent out for rejection. There are a few weeks that just have a line drawn through them because, well, life happens. But I can look at this chart (which is stuck to the side of my refrigerator) and see what I have done thus far.

I'd have to say that overall, this chart-business has been a success. I have been more prolific in the last year, than I have in all the other times I have been out of school (granted they were for shorter periods of time) and I'm also happier with the work I am doing because, despite the aforementioned objective, I find it hard to record the unworthy bits on my sacred chronological chart.

21 March 2009

I love daffodils

But I'm not really a fan of that Wordsworth poem. I don't mean to offend any devoted followers of Romanticism. It's just that the combination of flower-imagery and "dancing" tends to activate my gag reflex. And spring is such an archetypal poetic subject that it's hard to get beyond those, now, very over-used images. But spring, the actual experience of it, never gets old. The period of transition between seasons is always refreshing, though all around is rather vulnerable and exposed. This is a draft of a poem I've been working on the last couple weeks:


March (märchen)

The frogs make their purple sound,
Crocus. Crocus.

with the focus of crickets.
In the rain, the whole

town smells like swamp—
river-thaw and moss-musk.


*****
Well, so far it's just a fragment; but we'll see where it goes.