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:

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On finding a great writing group...

"This is joy--the kind that comes from expressing the most intimate part of our lives and having it valued and known. Awakening such joy allows us to love." -Peter Levitt, author of Finger Painting on the Moon: Writing and Creativity as a Path to Freedom

(image from

Friday, September 25, 2009


If you opened a box and found it, would you lift it out?
If you held it in your hand, how much would it weigh?
If you looked at, would it look back at you?
Would it have fur, hair, skin?
If it had a name, what would that name be?
Is it more like a bird, or more like a fish?
Does it have a mouth?
What does it like best to eat?
What sound does it make when it cries?
What color is it?
Is it more than one color?
If it were your size, would you ask it to play?

found this in my notebook, written one year ago this month...I think under the influence of Parker Palmer's Clearness Committees.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Bad" as in really, really good

This poem by Louise Bogan (1897-1970) has been on my mind lately, so I thought I'd share it. Her last line -- "Now that I have your heart by heart..." is so amazing.


Now that I have your face by heart, I look
Less at its features than its darkening frame
Where quince and melon, yellow as young flame
Lie with quilled dahlias and the shepherd's crook.
Beyond, a garden, there, in insolent ease
The lead and marble figures watch the show
Of yet another summer loath to go
Although the scythes hang in the apple trees.

Now that I have your face by heart, I look.

Now that I have your voice by heart, I read
In the black chords upon a dulling page
Music that is not meant for music's cage,
Whose emblems mix with words that shake and bleed.
The staves are shuttled over with a stark
Unprinted silence. In a double dream
I must spell out the storm, the running stream.
The beat's too swift. The notes shift in the dark.

Now that I have your voice by heart, I read.

Now that I have your heart by heart, I see
The wharves with their great ships and architraves;
The rigging and the cargo and the slaves
On a strange beach under a broken sky.
O not departure, but a voyage done!
The bales stand on the stone; the anchor weeps
Its red rust downward, and the long vine creeps
Beside the salt herb, in the lengthening sun.

Now that I have your heart by heart, I see.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Poem for a Fall Day

Written on a fall day several years ago, and published 2 or 3 years ago in Stringtown.


The dog caught a snake and my girls forgot
about picking blackberries. A garter snake,

ten or eleven inches long, green,
a pair of brown stripes down its back.

They teased the dog away and captured it,
all nerve, its single tendon tight as a blade.

It wrapped itself around their wrists, flicked
its tongue. They carried the snake

all afternoon, trading it from arm to arm
to arm, the most tempting of bracelets.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


"’Keeping busy’ is the remedy for all the ills in America. It's also the means by which the creative impulse is destroyed." –Joyce Carol Oates

At our first informal writers' group meeting today, I handed out this quote. It guilted at least one person into staying when he had intended to drop by to offer his excuses. And then we all sat down...and wrote!


Monday, September 14, 2009

What Are Your Plums?

Today is my first official day back to work. Classes begin in one week, but this week -- meetings, meetings, and more meetings. Here's an older poem, included in the Bellingham dance and poetry performance, Phrasings II .


"What are your plums?" the note asked,
Speaking of the upcoming schoolyear, of meetings, of classes.
It must have meant, "What are your plans?"
But I reread the note and, no, it said, "What are your plums?"

It is the end of July and my plums are green,
Hard and sour. By September they will be a purple
Almost black. On one tree, the plums
Ripen to gold, and so quickly
Bees find them the same moment I enter the orchard.

If you meet me there, I'll show you how sweet
Their flesh. So moist the juice will drip from your chin.
So moist you will have to wipe your hands on your plans.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When you are writing...

"For me writing has always felt like praying, even when I wasn't writing prayers, as I was often enough. You feel that you are with someone." Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Making Money vs. Making Poems

"Artists have to please whim to live on their art. They stand in fearful danger of looking to this taste to define their working decisions. Sometime during the course of their development, they have to forge a character subtle enough to nourish and protect and foster the growth of the part of themselves that makes art, and at the same time [be] practical enough to deal with the world pragmatically." Anne Truitt, Daybook

trying to be thankful for a job that allows me to do the art for its own sake

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Soul Mates

My friend Glenda just this morning shared a story about the soul, which set me thinking about John O'Donohue's wonderful book Anam Cara. Here's a quote:

"Love is also a force of light and nurture that liberates you to inhabit to the full your own difference. There should be no imitation of each other; no need to be defensive or protective in each other's presence. Love should encourage and free you fully into your own potential." (p. 29)

Not that it's easy!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I dropped my daughters and friends at the Evergreen State Fair yesterday afternoon for a few hours at the Carnival before it closed. Wouldn't you know, as we drove into the foothills of Monroe, rain was falling. It didn't let up either, and after two hours my drowned rats called me to be picked up.

Meanwhile, I've been working on my September send-out (the goal is to submit a packet of poetry somewhere every day for a month) and trying to decide what poems from the last year are worthy of being revised. Here's one that might be, but I think this version is raw enough to self publish on the blog, and won't too much resemble the final.

The rain that isn't already lost
is quickly losing its way. The leaves
mutter directions muddled
as wet maps. Up becomes down,
down, up. Right and left
are no hands you can count on.
The rain falls sideways.
Umbrellas point away from home.
What did rain ever know?
Wasn't it lost as soon as it took on
a body? Weren't we,
coagulating out of ether,
willing ourselves here, pell mell,
yowling like cats, our necks
scrunched against rain's cold hands?

Thursday, September 3, 2009


My daughters have headed back to school, which means, inevitably, that I, too, am headed back to teaching for another year. This year, however, I hope to stick to teaching only two classes per quarter, and pay attention to things that matter most to me: my girls, my marriage, my writing life, my parents. We'll see if I can persevere in the face of my husband's fears about money, not to mention my college's needs. Here's what I want to keep in mind:

"I pay a steep price when I live a divided life--feeling fraudulent, anxious about being found out, and depressed by the fact that I am denying my own selfhood. The people around me pay a price as well, for now they walk on ground made unstable by my dividedness. How can I affirm another's identity when I deny my own? How can I trust another's integrity when I defy my own? A fault line runs down the middle of my life, and whenever it cracks open--divorcing my words and actions from the truth I hold within--things around me get shaky and start to fall apart." -Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Poetry Postcard Month

Our August Poetry Postcard blitz is at an end. Here's my one-bad-poem from yesterday. I need a picture of wine glasses, but don't have one.

This Afternoon

I met my friend Ann at the waterfront
restaurant for a glass of wine,

two glasses, and Tuscan bread
which is French bread (incongruously)

draped with tomato and basil and mozzarella.
We talked about writing,

about writing students, and how a teacher
if not careful (if her students are lucky)

can pour her whole self out
into a single class. We ordered

another glass of wine. An osprey
sailed over, looking for prey.