Proxy, Poem, Daughter, Denizen


Proxy, Poem, Daughter, Denizen

is the title of a new poem I am drafting. I think it’s finished. But a rule I try to follow with my writing is to not mentally stamp “finished” on a piece until a reasonable amount of time–a couple weeks at the least, more often a month or a few months–has passed. If it passes the test of time, if in the end I can sit with it and my intentions still resonate, then, well, it’s done.

That said, I feel on to something. Maybe because the poem is deeply personal. Maybe because I see its niche in the larger project I’m working on (a poetry collection that is coming along at a lovely snail’s pace). Maybe because I stepped outside my comfort zone to write it. It says things I want to say, Maybe with a little work-shopping, I can learn it to say them better, but I’m happy to be writing again.

I spent several days last week with my family. We remembered my grandmother, who passed away earlier this month. It was a difficult time, but also rewarding. The siblings have grown up and scattered themselves far and wide, but we were all together for awhile and that was nice.

Sometimes the passing of a person brings out that person’s influence in others. It’s remarkable to me how individuals in a family rub off on one another, how we’re the products of others decisions, others motivations, others great loves and hates, happinesses and heartbreaks. That sounds pretty deterministic (a case in point, coming as I do from a lot of staunch regular baptists!) but I don’t mean we aren’t free agents or that we are somehow incapable of steering our lives. I just mean that families are guiding factors for all of us, for better or worse.

I’m learning, with poetry in particular, to embrace shaping influences. Guiding factors as it were. It’s a little leap that I feel I’ve been waiting to make for a long time.

I hope my little poem someday finds a home somewhere. But I’m content for now just to sit with it’s intentions and parse them out a little more for myself.

What about you? What guides your art these days?



eddy.jpgI do some of my best thinking while driving. This makes driving sort of an occupational hazard for me, I guess. Nonetheless, I would like to (and must) continue to be able to drive. So one of today’s tasks was to renew registration and get an emissions check on my Volvo.

I got to the DEQ office, however, having failed in multiple ways to ‘adult,’ including:

  • having decided to wear a dress that was  1.) “twirly” and 2.) just a smidge too short, thus having to awkwardly “manage” my person in the weirdly windy DEQ drive-through thing.
  • not having properly filled out my registration renewal form.
  • not having my insurance card on my person and having to call my husband at work to get the policy number

I was a hot mess. Life has been a little stressful lately, and this was just hilariously (but not) icing on the cake of my week, thus far.

Grocery shopping happened after that. The hubs met up with me and we partnered up for this adventure, since I had the two kiddos. No harm no fowl in the isles, thankfully.

On the way home, though, I found myself thinking in an almost meta way about the process–my process–of cycling through a day’s events. This image popped up in my mind of eddies. In water. In a river, specifically. An eddy is that thing that happens when water in a current hits something like a rock or another obstruction; there’s all the expected movement (sometimes urgent, aggravated) of a traveling body of water–until that water collides with something, at which point it slows quite suddenly, quiets, and takes a moment to decide what to do next. I thought while I was driving, the kids hot and tired and hitting their own eddies of almost-sleep in the back, that this “deciding” can have positive or negative implications. On one hand, a space to stop and feel and go ’round a few times for clarity is good. Everybody needs those pauses. On the other hand, sometimes an eddy can becomes something else–indecision, insecurity, a distinct failure to move forward. The past few weeks have shown me how my eddies do both. I often pause and decompress in what I hope are healthy, thoughtful ways. But I also stay too long in certain places, out of fear, insecurity, self-doubt.

I might be in an eddy now. With this blog, among many other things. Be patient with me. I hope to make good decisions. I hope to make more courageous, more self-assured decisions. I hope to make more magical mistakes–where before I might have made only bummer ones out of a ‘perfection or bust’ mentality.  I’m taking it just one bend in the river at time.

Until the next one, friends.



Cutting myself loose

I read a thing today that I thought was kind of brilliant. The gist of it was that women, at some point in their lives (different for every woman, of course) realize that they don’t have to do everything and be everything all the time. When they realize this, they stop being afraid of what will happen if they drop all the balls and become free to be exactly who they are, without apology, without caveats.

I’m not sure I’m there yet, honestly, but I think I do need to drop some balls.

I need to post on my own schedule, here, not one I’ve imposed on myself. The Sunday post and the ‘Say What’ posts need to fall by the wayside because it’s begun to feel too forced for me, to be totally honest. I love ruminating on the lit life here with you all, and I will continue to do that. I love reading and reviewing books and will continue to do that too. Just not with as much frequency. Please keep me on your radar; just know I needed to slow things down…for me.



Say What| My notebook


I’ve got something a little different for you today. I was going to post some word cluster prompts, but I thought of something a little more idiosyncratic, if that’s possible. I thought I’d let you peek into the randomness that is my writing “notes” from, oh let’s see…two days ago? See above photo!

If you’re wondering if all of these scraps and snippets of things become quality pieces of poetry or prose or…something, I’ll just tell you: no, not always. I started doing this because of something one of my all-time favorite poets, Robert Hass, said about how poems “come” to him. He said that sometimes a poem will spring from something as simple as a single word or a turn of phrase that is either musical in some way or triggers another chain of ideas or thought processes. So when a word or a phrase is used in a way that makes me happily exclaim “language!” I write it down. And in a future writing sesh, I might return to these and use them for inspiration.

What about you? What do you do to keep your writing weird? (wink)


Say What | The Tulip Flame

tulip flameI love that I follow some really cool people in the literary community on social media. Not only do I get to follow these peoples’ work, but I get the scoop on what they’re reading. Poets reading other poets and pushing the literature–it’s a beautiful thing!

A few weeks ago, I read a review of Chloe Honum’s book, The Tulip Flame and was intrigued. More than one person has said of this woman’s collection, that you can’t just read one poem. The work compels you to continue until the last page is turned. So dutifully, I purchased a copy.

I found my friends’ statements to be true.

Honum’s poems are singular in their simplicity. Linguistically, her style is deceptively minimalist ; The Tulip Flame deals with loss, grief,  self-image, and art with such astounding nuance and honesty that this reader felt the poems burgeoning, demanding not just attention, but meditation. So I read slowly, quietly over each piece, sometimes reading a poem two or three times before moving on. There is nothing contrived whatsoever about these pieces; they lay everything bare and name sadnesses in a sort of periphery–like when you you’re sitting in a dark room and can only make out the shape of an object by looking slightly away from it.

Please read this book. I’m not sure I’ve read a poet with such a quiet, desperate need to speak her healing.



This week:


flowers, poetry prompts, thrift store visits, new books and journal issues in the mail.

Also, a house I can’t seem to keep ordered or clean to save my life, restless children, pent up on rainy day after rainy day, and overtime for the hubby.

Words slide in, get folded up in, fall out of all the myriad interactions and tasks. Written words. They always appear, are suggested, or remembered at least expected moments.


Like the words of Oscar Wilde, who once said that good writers borrow and great writers steal.

My thoughts are:

I wonder if Wilde realized that it is actually impossible to “steal” another’s work (short of actually plagiarizing it, obviously), meaning that once a writer goes about trying to do what another writer has done, his individual talent and impulses and experiences and what have you kick in and what is produced is, inevitable, different. Original. A sort of subconscious dismissal and adoption happens in the act of writing, even though intentionally, you are “taking” another’s cues.

Jim Jarmusch sad a similar thing about originality and his quote is included in this great blog post by Austin Kleon. Check it out.

Is there nothing new under the sun? Write and see.



Say What | Word Cluster Prompts

peelingHere they are again! Word Cluster prompts! Without more ado–

  1. zig, lust, coastal, viscous, twenty, globe, adroit, emerald, april, stand.
  2. hurt, grey, tines, whorl, hope, three, smooth, drink, lasting, tenderly
  3. spice, over, mountain, extra, parenthetical, early, said, feature, friend


Say What | Incendiary Girls, by Kodi Scheer

When I go on trips, I make sure to put some audiobooks on my Kindle. I can’t really read in the car. Looking down at a page for longer than 20 minutes or so always makes me feel vaguely ill, but I can slip in a pair of earbuds, stare out the window, and listen to a story unfold, no problem.


Before our trip to see family last month, I browsed Amazon for a long time before settling on a book I kept encountering in search after search: Incendiary Girls, by Kodi Scheer. The description of this collection of short stories kind of threw me, at first. Several of the stories apparently incorporated some heavy, Kafka-esque elements of magical realism, according to the reviews, and I waffled. I love magical realism at such heights as Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude, or Rushdie’s Midnight’s Chilldren, or even Castillo’s So Far From God. Notwithstanding, I sort of shy away from suggestions of magical realism, because it can be a very tricky thing to execute. It must be excellent or bust.

I’m happy to say that Incendiary Girls was excellent! Scheer incorporates the fantastical and the illogical in perfect balance, folding these dazzling elements into the lives of her protagonists in such a way that the reader (at least this reader!) never once had to suspend her disbelief. The many lovely and sometimes macabre implausibilities in Incendiary Girls mirror the female characters’ struggles to makes sense of some of the all-too-mundane aspects of their lives, becoming almost extensions of those difficult circumstances.

More importantly, the magical realism never once inhibits the reader’s empathy. Scheer’s stories are all of our stories, really, in that they deal with themes we can all relate to. Insecurity, fear and anxiety, loneliness, grief. More than once, I was crying. In the car! Along with my two sons in the backseat, who were OVER IT, after three hours on the road.

If you have a chance to pick up this book, I highly encourage you to do so!