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:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Writer's Block

I have been writing comments on student papers all day, in fact, for several days. This morning when I returned to my office at the college, I found a strange little book on my desk, Writer's Block, and a cryptic note, signed, I think, by my friend Marianne. Here's a quote from the book:

"Ironically, when asked to write about writer's block, I'm at a loss for words," says Phil Gulley, a Quaker pastor as well as the author of the best-selling essay collection Front Porch Tales and the fictional Harmony series. "Fifty sermons a year for the past 18 years, 9 books in 11 years, and not once have I fallen silent. I sit at my desk and the words come, sometimes slowly, but they eventually arrive. To be sure, some of my efforts lack a certain sparkle, but I've never missed a deadline.

"Writer's block, I'm coming to believe, was a myth begun by underappreciated authors who wanted to make their craft look harder than it is. I once picked up road kill for a summer. After a week on the job, I developed road kill block. I did all I could to avoid the task. Phoned in sick, vomited in the boss's truck, and spent evenings looking for another job. But this was in the early Reagan years, jobs were scarce, so I returned to the road kill.

"Since then it has been etched in my psyche that if I fail as a writer, I would have to return to my road kill job. With an incentive like that, I can't afford writer's block.

"My biggest worry isn't that I'll run out of things to say, but that I'll run out of time to say them, that God, in his peculiar way of doing things, will yank me from this world before I've thrown in my two cents.

"I have a friend who writes for a living who is regularly cursed with writer's block. He's lived a pampered life, is independently wealthy, and can easily afford such luxuries. When words fail him, he goes to Tuscany for a month to play golf. Someday, I hope to be able to have a writer's block like that."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rereading Abigail Thomas's Thinking about Memoir

...and this advice caught my eye:

"Sometimes you wake up at four in the morning with all this energy and no cows to milk. So you just have to get up and figure out what it's there for. Use it or lose it. If you're lucky some part of you will know what to do, but it's not the part that thinks it's steering. Make sure you have your notebook and a pen."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On the Seventh Day

On the seventh day, tired of being the only grownup,
God rested. He'd carried infant creation
on his back all week long, every decision,
every jot and tittle his own design.
Just for one minute, he thought,
Could they stop asking, "Why?"
Could they just be grateful for breath,
for cold water, for warm bodies?
On the seventh day, God bathed his feet in the river.
He watched the sun go down behind purple mountains.
And he couldn't help but feel a little sadness then,
having created the hearts of these beings,
already knowing how they would rail against every end.

Friday, November 12, 2010


"Maybe the most sacred function of memory is just that: to render the distinction between past, present, and future ultimately meaningless; to enable us at some level of our being to inhabit that same eternity which it is said that God himself inhabits." -Frederick Buechner, Keeping Secrets

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I was telling my students about Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five and its main character, Billy Pilgrim, who has come "unstuck in time," when I mentioned that we all do that sometimes, we all time travel in our heads. Don't we? They looked at me as though the men in white coats would arrive shortly. Oh, well.

My brother's white and brown dog
runs up the hill path ahead of me.
Our cows in the muddy barnyard--
looking patient and troubled
as Old Testament prophets.

Juncoes in the spent briers--
their black heads like monks' cowls.
November's one ripe blackberry
holding itself out to me
like an offering.

Saturday, November 6, 2010 make the naught resound...

"For if poetry has the power to make the naught resound, if it has the power to house, bury, and commune with the dead, it is because its rhythms, accents, and elegiac tones have their elemental source in human grief. If the transmutation of the earth into invisiblity is at bottom a poetic task, and if we have the ability to undertake such a task, it is because human beings are veterans of mourning." -Robert Pogue Harrison, The Dominion of the Dead

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


"The way to find your true self is by recklessness and freedom." Brenda Ueland