To see the announcement for my poetry book, Sparrow, selected by poet Dorianne Laux for the Kenneth and Geraldine Gell Poetry Prize at Writers & Books, go to

You can find a review by Kathleen Kirk at EIL:

Thursday, December 31, 2009

At the Choral Concert, by Tim Nolan

I happened across this poem in Ted Kooser's daily column, and wanted to share it.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Talking Back

What does a mind of winter
look like--
isn't it only carrying your perspective
with you, a pane of ice
you've lifted from some puddle?
What other mind
can mind you once fall
and summer sit down
beside the path like tired travellers?
You have to keep walking
though spring isn't even a dot
on the horizon.
Without a mind of winter,
how on earth (and why)
would you keep trudging?

image from

Monday, December 21, 2009


Something for the solstice --


One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Imagining the poem I will write,
I remember that I haven't hemmed
my daughter's choir dress.
It has to be done this morning.
What was the poem?
Did it have a hem in it?
Would I have stitched it carefully,
making a fine line like embroidery
at its edges? Where does a poem go
when chores startle it away?
To the mending basket to wait,
torn or frayed, until my needle
finds it again?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Siblings, Strangers

One of my students slipped this quote from Clara Ortega into her final essay. I've been thinking about it all morning.

"To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each others' hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


"Even if inspiration seems to do almost everything, writing is still work, like the 'effortless' leap of the dancer who has been practicing every day for years." -Kenneth Koch

"Inspiration is another name for knowing your job and getting down to it." -Joyce Cary

"It is evident that no professional writer can afford only to write when he feels like it. If he waits until he is in the mood, till he has the inspiration as he says, he waits indefinitely and ends by producing little or nothing. The professional writer creates the mood." -W. Somerset Maughm

My friend Carla recently challenged me to fine tune what I meant when I used the word "inspiration." Ever since, I seem to see definitions every where I look. It's inspiring!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


"If you hate it, there's bound to be something there you need." Heather Sellers

All day I have been Jane Eyre,
feeling orphaned and ungoverned.
In a dream, I sat talking
with Chaucer's Wife of Bath,
interrupted by the snake and Eve
out of an old copy of Paradise Lost.
Late last night on television,
Hester Prynne and Robinson Crusoe
held hands and waited for passion
to rescue them from obscurity. And just now
it seems my brother, two decades dead,
has found a way out of my mother's
photo albums and is sitting
at a table across the room,
his blue eyes trained on a book of old poems
as if by concentrating he can catch
Rilke before he slips away.

image from