Friday, December 13, 2019

Here's a recent poem, "The Regret of the Poet after Sending Work to a Magazine," that's up at the Cafe Review. Yesterday I posted a link to the poem on Facebook, and among other kind responses I received a "Lovely!"  from the great poet A. E. Stallings, which completely made my day. I hope you pardon my small crowing.

Except for a couple of loose author ends to tie up on an editing project, I am now closed for the season: no teaching, no editing until January. Today I'll go to a yoga class, and then maybe do some Christmas shopping, maybe read some books, maybe sort through some poems, maybe bake some cookies . . .

Yesterday I whipped up a syllabus for a poet friend who is struggling with his work and thinks that a crash course in form might help him out. I had a really good time coming up with a three-month plan. I'm wondering how many other people would like such a class. I've conceived of it as a kind of exercise program for writers who automatically reach for free verse.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

I've got one more editing project to tackle, and then I can slip into my holiday recess. I love that the word recess connotes both a "break" and a "hole" because that's exactly what I want from this holiday.

Last night my son messaged me with the question "Is the adjective version of Barbie barbaric?" And now you know why I am so fond of my children.

Words, words, words. I bumped up against two lines from the Inferno and I thought I might have a heart attack: they are so beautiful and bossy and mysterious--

But look down now and pay attention.
The river of our blood draws near.

Add in that they were translated by a poet I've always struggled against--Jorie Graham--and the bossy mystery deepens.

Yet in the realm of wordlessness, let us celebrate sleep . . . which I finally achieved last night: a full 9:30-to-5:30 dive into the watery unconscious after days of one-armed dog-paddling.

And now here I sit in the dusk of morning, busily transmitting words and no-words, dredging them up from my silent swim.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Driving to my class up north can feel like embarking on an Arthurian quest . . . my faithful steed Tina the Subaru and I pricking the plain, through fog and sleet and terrible roads, as the black night draws in and lurking spirits crowd against the road edges, their pagan eyes glittering . . .

And once I get there, it's like being in a castle in the wood. A giant furnished apartment, shining with newness and amenity. Nothing to do but read and write and stare out the window. Then the next day, a room filled with brilliant young people.

. . . And then the Arthurian quest in reverse: wind, rain, fog, terrible roads, and the lurking darkness.

The class itself was wonderful. We worked on exercises for stripping down poems, read work by Nezukamatathil and Akhmatova and Nigliazzo, listened to Stuart Kestenbaum talk about his blackout-poetry project, discussed hard questions about the ethics of art. These students are so thoughtful and funny and honest, and they are dead-serious about the power of the vocation.

Today: Back in the editing saddle. Walking alone in the cemetery. Making chicken curry for dinner. Hoping to sleep.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Now and then there are readings that make the hairs on the neck, the non-existent pelt, stand on end and tremble, when every word burns and shines hard and clear and infinite and exact, like stones of fire, like points of stars in the dark--readings when knowledge that we shall know the writing differently or better or satisfactorily, runs ahead of any capacity to say what we know, or how. In these readings, a sense that the text has appeared to be wholly new, never before seen, is followed, almost immediately, by the sense that it was always there, that we the readers knew it was always there, and have always known it was as it was, though we have now for the first time recognised, become fully cognisant of, our knowledge.

--A. S. Byatt, Possession

* * *

I've been sleeping so badly these past few nights: waking abruptly in the black hours, my mind churning over unsolvable conversations, dull to-do lists, mortal terrors. At that time of night, dread is the identical twin of tedium. "Did I forget to buy lettuce?" carries the same weight as "What if I'm dying?"

* * *

Whoever's homeless now, will build no shelter;
who lives alone will live indefinitely so,
waking up to read a little, draft long letters,
and, along the city's avenues,
fitfully wander, when the wild leaves loosen.

--from Rainer Maria Rilke, "A Day in Autumn," translated by Mary Kinzie

Sunday, December 8, 2019

I spent most of yesterday cleaning house, a job that I'm usually rigorous about but that I'd let slide a bit since before Thanksgiving. Cat hair was starting to build up, dust starting to film, weird bathroom grime starting to surface.

I hate clutter and accumulated dirt, and I'm much better at working and writing and keeping my temper if my surroundings are clean and neat. So allow me to complain about those stupid mantras aimed at women: "Every hour you spend on housework is an hour away from writing" and similar kinds of crap exhortations. Every hour anyone spends on anything is an hour away from writing. Why zero in on housework? And why assume that housework can't be a creative trigger? Who says, "Don't go for a walk! You should be writing!"? Housework is like any other physical-observational task: you can mine it for material, and you can use it as a contemplative space. To me, those anti-housework screes are borderline classist (artists are too high-brow to scrub a floor?), not to mention a historical insult (who's been cleaning our houses for generations?). This should not be only a woman's issue either: those generations of servants included the men who filled the coal cellars, the boys who blacked the shoes. Nonetheless, today's "Don't waste precious time on toilets when you could be writing!" memes do primarily seem to be aimed at women. Are there equivalent public service announcements for male writers--say, "Don't be playing hoops in the driveway when you could be working on a sonnet!" or "Put down that TV remote and think about characterization instead!" or "Fixing that broken pipe will destroy your novel!"?

Ugh.

Thus ends today's rant. Thank you for your patience.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

"All of us have things in our lives which we know in [a] brief, useful allusive way, and neglect deliberately to explore."

                           --A. S. Byatt, Possession

* * *

I've been thinking about Byatt's remark for the past couple of days. This deliberate gap in focus has worried me deeply as a poet. I know I purposefully avoid writing about certain things. For the most part this isn't because of prissiness, or fear, or laziness. The reasons tend to involve (with sex, say) an interest in the power of wordlessness: I like having a few things in my life that aren't framed with language. My elisions also relate to other people: e.g., whether or not I have the ethical right to publicly explore a situation that living participants may prefer to not share.

Nonetheless, these gaps become a habitual slip in concentration: "Oh, I'll pay attention to that later" risks becoming "I never figured that out." Word silence about physical matters risks a deeper inattention to cause and effect, to longing and weariness, to fervency and making do.

So I'm anxious about these neglected avenues, and my rationales for elision often feel inadequate, even false. Yet a mind cannot encompass everything, can it? There are days when I feel I have to stop looking at the world . . . the pressure of observation becomes so painful. And then, words themselves are a knife. Sometimes that knife opens a surgical route into truth. But sometimes it's a tool for slicing off the toe I can't cram into the glass slipper.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Success! I not only finished the entire editing project, but I also wrote and submitted the book review, and even found time late in the day to go for a slip-n-slide walk around my snowy neighborhood. This morning, after yoga, I'll ship the editing project, prep for next week's Monson class, and maybe, just maybe, steal a little time for my own writing. That would be a sweet end to a hard-pressed week.

In the meantime, I've started rereading one of my favorite books of all time: A. S. Byatt's Possession. And I've forked the Inferno out of my to-do stack and am ready to get back to copying it out. Monday, I'll be on the road again, and then the holiday season will start tumbling down like boulders on a highway . . . cooking travel boys travel shopping cooking boys . . .

Thursday, December 5, 2019

It's a cold morning here--down to 18 degrees after a dripping, snowmelt day. Surfaces must be slick out there, but all I can see through the pane are streetlights and gray shadow and heaps of pale shoveled lumps edging driveways and sidewalks.

Inside, my Christmas lights are shining and the cat is sleeping and the furnace is growling, and I'm girding my loins for another forehead-to-the-editing-grindstone day. I've made such good progress this week that I might even be able to switch desk chores and finally get started on that book review. Or maybe I'll just keep muscling through the editing project.

I'm still thinking about my embryo manuscript, still thinking about poems, feeling wistful about it all, as if I'm pressing my nose against a shop window. This not-writing is entirely different from writer's block. It's an embargo on letting myself go, until I get the paying work finished, and there's just no way around it.

Still, there's happiness in knowing I've got something waiting for me.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Despite having to shovel out the driveway twice, I did get a chunk of work done yesterday--not only editing but also some reading/commenting on other people's manuscripts. Today maybe I'll manage to slip in that book review as well.

We ended up with a total of about 8 inches of snow, but most of it arrived during the day. So I did some before-work shoveling and some after-work shoveling, and this morning my out-of-practice back is weary. But the snow glitter was lovely, children rushed by with their sleds, shoveling neighbors waved to one another, cats were horrified . . . and, according to Tom, the streets were treacherous and even his weighted four-wheel-drive pickup was fishtailing around corners.

I'm almost done with Woolf's Night and Day, which has been kind of a slog. It's a very young book, and there's something wrong with the character exposition: not enough early in the novel, too much crammed into the later action. I'm no fiction writer, but it feels as if there's a lack of balance in this book. So that in itself is interesting: to be noticing craft-wise what doesn't seem to be working, and then considering the complexities that this particular writer learned to probe later in her career. She fixed her mistakes, exponentially.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

My plan yesterday was to hunker down at my desk like an editing mule. Instead, the phone kept ringing, I stood in line at  the bank for eons, the cat would not stop pestering me . . .  Maybe today will be more productive.

The snow is arriving slowly. Overnight we got another inch or two, and it's supposed to keep snowing all day. Schools are canceled, plow trucks are bustling, but not much is happening as of yet. If I can get enough done at my desk today, and am not overwhelmed by shoveling chores, I'll take a walk out into the snowy streets and admire the scenery. This neighborhood has a lot of early twentieth-century houses that look postcardy in a fresh snow.

I woke up in the night feeling oppressed by not writing, and I am trying to push that fret away. What I need now, really, is some open time to sort through poems and tinker with a manuscript. I've got an enormous stack that needs to be winnowed and thinned into something readable. But there's no open time on the horizon. I've got lots of editing to do, teaching to plan, a day up north next week, and then the college boy comes home for Christmas. I may or may not need to drive to Vermont to fetch him; I'll certainly need to get him back after the New Year. And in the meantime we'll be in Massachusetts for the holiday . . .

In short: poems do not fit into the schedule. But they are kicking and screaming and complaining about it.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Last night, as I was heading to bed, the first flakes began to sift from the sky, and this morning there's an inch or two of accumulation coating sidewalks, cars, and roofs . . . not an impressive amount, but our first. The storm is supposed to ramp up again tonight and tomorrow, with wind and heavier snow--maybe up to eight inches, maybe less. I'm looking forward to it.

Yesterday I bought a tiny cypress, repotted it, and ensconced it on the Victrola as this year's Christmas tree. Though you can't tell from the photo, it's a dramatic reenactment of Canada: Mountie performed by trumpet-blowing tin soldier; Sasquatch performed by a lurking rubber King Kong; a cameo appearance by famous Canadian resident Santa, who is playing soccer because I couldn't find anything resembling hockey in the ornament box. Below are a canoe and a polar bear. I am considering adding a pin that says "Nice."

Later in the day Tom decorated the fireplace with lights--including the wood box. I call it the Temple to Heat and am sham-threatening the cat with talk of augury and animal sacrifice. Thus are the holidays celebrated at the Alcott House.



Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Champlain Valley was lovely, draped in its frost cloak, with the Greens and the Adirondacks glittering on each horizon, and I had an especially good time with my hilarious nephews. But I am so tired of traveling, and so glad to have a full week at home before I head north again.

It's good to be back in the little house, ensconced on my comfortable familiar cat-scratched couch, with my white cup and saucer, and my black coffee, and my clingy housepet. The furnace is breathing and the clock is ticking and the sky is whispering snow. Today I'll do the grocery shopping and tidy the house and unpack a few Christmas decorations. I'll start working on a book review, and help Tom replace a window in his truck cap. I'll read Woolf's Night and Day, and carry in firewood, and admire my neighbors' holiday lights. I hope I'll talk to my sons.

Heat. Light. Food. Safety. Affection. I never want to forget how lucky I am.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

"For some reason, no one likes to be told that they do not read enough poetry."

                                                      --Virginia Woolf, Night and Day



Five Meyer lemons sit in a porcelain bowl on a slab of bluestone on my kitchen counter. A shy spaghetti squash lurks in the corner.

* * *

I meant to take Vita out for a ride yesterday, but editing and housework got the best of me. Today, maybe. The temperature is supposed to climb into the 50s, and I am almost done with a chapter. I need to run some Thanksgiving-related errands and clean the bathrooms, and then I'll be free to slowly pedal among the graves, alongside the silent frog ponds, past massive oaks and maples.

Tomorrow we'll head west for the holiday, and I'll be intermittent here. I hope you have a day of comedy, good cheer, and comfortable digestion but also breathe a whiff of melancholy for past and future.

This will be our first Thanksgiving, since their birth, without either of our boys. Sadness has its stories to tell, and time wanders a twilight road.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Yesterday was a beautiful, cold, damp, sleety, rainy day, which I mostly spent in front of the fire reading Virginia Woolf, doing a crossword puzzle, playing cards, and wrapping Christmas presents. Other than a brief foray out to the grocery store, I went nowhere. I did wash a thousand pounds of laundry, but I did not do any housework. I took a two-hour nap. I made a batch of preserved lemons, and cooked Moroccan chicken with lemon and olives for dinner. I watched part of a 1950s sci-fi flick called The Forbidden Planet, which was a sort of Star Trek-plus-Doris-Day mashup. It featured a robot named Robbie who arranged flowers. So handy around the house.

As a result of that nice day, I am now feeling rested and energetic: ready to edit and answer emails and run errands and get all the stuff done that I didn't do yesterday. And I've just found out that a reading group in Florida is going to be focusing on Chestnut Ridge this spring, which is exciting for me. If you belong to a group that might be interested in reading it too, please know that I'd be happy to share thoughts, answer questions, etc.

Sunday, November 24, 2019



On Friday night Tom and I went to Bennington College to watch the opening performance of Sam Hunter's play Lewiston, directed by our son Paul Birtwistle. This weekend's performances are the culmination of his advanced work at Bennington--a project that's been almost a year in the making, from discovering the play to finally presenting it on stage.

It's difficult to describe how moving the experience was. In many ways the play feels as if Paul could have written it himself. Its themes revolve around land, legacy, history, loss, class, family . . . all of which are touchstone concerns for him, as they are, of course, for me. The apple don't fall far from the tree with this one, though our methods are very different; and that in itself creates all kinds of emotions: pride, recognition, self-doubt--and I mean self-doubt in the best sort of way: a perpetual wonder: how and why: staring at a map of the forest floor and suddenly remembering the canopy.

The play was beautifully staged: a gorgeous set that was stark and spacious yet homelike; really fine acting from a top-notch cast; and behind it all the eyes and ears of our son, coaxing it forth.

Bennington's drama program regularly shows up in "best of" lists, and it attracts students who often have significant prior experience in the art. Many attend arts high schools such at LaGuardia in NYC.  That wasn't the case for Paul. He went to a mediocre high school in central Maine, where theater was treated as a second-tier extracurricular pastime. He did have kind teachers who mentored him, but the school placed no particular value on the endeavor.

So naturally there was anxiety and fear. But now, four years later, he has constructed this performance, in a theater filled with friends and colleagues from so many places and backgrounds. To watch him be lauded, be so respected within this rising cohort in the art: I felt as if all of us had walked a thousand miles to get here.

And yet others have walked farther, much farther.

The Natalie Diaz excerpt above appeared on a display Paul had put up in the lobby outside the theater, and I took its picture to share with you. Because maps are ghosts. We travel them, and they are veins and arteries, and our terrors, and they are the thin wail of a gull in a winter wind.

Friday, November 22, 2019

It's a grey morning, but damp and warmish. I slept in slightly late today, until the cat began using my chest as a trampoline. Strange dreams all night, involving terrible characters from the impeachment hearings. I was implicated in everything. There's nothing like waking up with a loaf of dread on your plate.

At least coffee and daylight can wash away dream crimes.

Yesterday I took Vita out for a brief spin to the library. I went for a walk with a north-country friend. I made minestrone and tried to force myself not to work, though I did edit for a couple of hours anyway. Today I'll be on the road again, off to celebrate my college boy's directorial debut. I am full of happiness and pride, and when I see him all of the tiredness/dream dread will vanish, and everything will be good.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Yesterday was an ordeal, driving-wise. Because of bad weather on Tuesday, I ended up driving north on Wednesday morning, running into some terrible roads toward the end. Then I taught all day, and then I drove home again. So 6 hours in the car, 4 hours in the classroom. Not an ideal proportion.

Today I'm pretty tired, but at least I have a break before I get into the car again tomorrow. And of course the kids were wonderful, especially when they were talking about some poems I'd brought in for them to read. They agree and disagree, get excited about characters and metaphors: they have such strong feelings, and it's incredibly gratifying to watch them get so hepped up about what they're reading.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Last sentence of James Joyce's "The Dead":
His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.
Never, ever tell me that adverbs are waste words. Joyce will prove you wrong every time. I mean, "swooned slowly"? Just copying it out makes my hands tremble a little. It's so strange and exact and familiar and incomprehensible.

But of course the story itself is one of the most remarkable things I've ever read: how it begins as a portrait of a family holiday party and then, almost invisibly, morphs into a dense, delicate, charted journey into marriage and loss and young love and fear and devotion and self-doubt and time. Every time I finish it I feel as if I've been to the underworld, or to church.

I've loved "The Dead" since I was a teenager. I love it just as much now. It is the best story I know.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Today is girding-my-loins day. Tomorrow I'm off to Monson; home on Wednesday; then off to Vermont on Friday for my son's senior show; home the next day; then back to Vermont on Wednesday for Thanksgiving with my family; home the following weekend; and then back to Monson. I'm sure, in reality, this traveling will involve plenty of sitting-around-doing-nothing time, but at the moment I feel as if I'm preparing for battle.

So today: class prep, editing, yoga, cleaning bathrooms, going to a meeting of my poetry group. The weather is supposed to be nasty--cold rain, freezing rain. Already the cat has given up on the outdoors and settled into his yellow chair.

By the way, I finished Mary Poppins and now I'm reading James Joyce's "The Dead." Don't ask me why one seemed to lead to the other.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Up early again, though this time I can't blame it on the cat. On the whole I like the idea of sleeping late more than I actually like sleeping late.

I finished The Ambassadors yesterday afternoon and rewarded myself by inhale-reading, of all things, P. L. Travers's Mary Poppins Comes Back, while lying under a couch blanket and drinking a giant mug of tea.

Let me clarify: I loved The Ambassadors, and certain James novels--The Portrait of a Lady, What Maisie Knew, The Spoils of Poynton--are perennially important to me. I've read all three multiple times. But I've always struggled with the late novels: The Golden Bowl, The Wings of the Dove, and the like. The sentences are so serpentine; so many words framing a shrug or a glance. They wear me out, like Proust wears me out.

Apparently, however, James was perfectly aware of this. Writing to the Duchess of Sutherland, he advised:
Take . . . The Ambassadors very easily and gently: read five pages a day--be even as deliberate as that--but don't break the thread. The thread is really stretched quite scientifically tight. Keep along with it step by step--and then the full charm will come out. . . . Besides, I find that the very most difficult thing in the art of the novelist is to give the impression and illusion of the real lapse of time, the quantity of time, represented by our poor few phrases and pages, and all the drawing-out the reader can contribute helps a little perhaps the production of that spell.
Inadvertently, it seems, I was following HJ's advice. And while his letter to the duchess is certainly smug, I think it's also wise. My slow, steady reading did spool out the thread, did contribute to the illusion of the lapse of time, did reinforce my belief in aging Lambert Strether's innocent blindness to the "sin" around him.

And I also found this, near the end of the novel, spoken by Lambert's lonely friend Maria--
What woman was ever safe?
--a question that makes my skin crawl and my eyes fill, but also makes me grateful for James's deep, strange comprehension of what women endure.

What woman was ever safe? The question is too sad to answer.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Of course the cat raked me out of bed at 5:30 on a Saturday sleep-in morning when I was in the midst of a complicated dream involving a farmhouse, some mysterious visitors, and a vegetarian who suddenly started eating meat.

Now here I am, awake in the prosaic light of day, such as it is, unable to discover why that dream kitchen was so murky and ill-lit (are there no overhead lights in dreams?) or what we were going to do with all of those onions I was chopping up.

Well, at least my real-life coffee is hot.

This weekend I must do housework, and I must start Christmas-shopping, but otherwise who knows? Yesterday it warmed up, briefly, into the 40s, so Vita and I went for a quick bike ride until my ears got too cold. Today I might have to stick to walking.

I'm thinking of making chicken paprikash and dill dumplings for dinner. I'm thinking about what I ought to read once I finish The Ambassadors. I'm thinking about how Tom and I wandered down to the docks yesterday evening, after consuming a giant delicious Greek meal, and took a gander at a hulking container ship a-glow in the harbor. I'm thinking about the cheerful Uber driver named Mohammed whose car radio was blasting Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" as he drove us home. I'm thinking about the Star Trek episode we watched after we got under the couch blanket: the one where Spock has a romance with Mariette Hartley in a sexy, red-lit Ice Age cave, and I'm like "Ew! I can't look!" because Mr. Spock kissing girls is just wrong.

Life is so funny and strange.

Friday, November 15, 2019

All of my desk plans actually came to fruition: I did finish that book review, and I finished editing a chapter as well--a surprising turn of events in this week of slow plodding. Also notable: I deposited a paycheck in the savings account. Yes, shocking but true--I earned money that we do not have to spend instantly.

Today I'm going to a morning yoga class, and then I'll turn my thoughts to a smaller editing job and then maybe to school prep. Or maybe I'll clean the house and let the school prep stew a bit longer. Or maybe I'll stare at that Descartes poem I've been working on. Or maybe I'll just take a walk.

I've got another poetry collection to read and review, and I'm on the home stretch with The Ambassadors. And this morning I'm mulling the possibility of writing an essay about Margaret Dumont, a regular Marx Brothers sidekick, famous for her repeated roles as a stately, obtuse, middle-aged moneybags with an inexplicable crush on Groucho. Her acting is reminiscent of Mr. T's--which is to say, it's not really acting at all but is ridiculously perfect for the situation at hand. I think she'd be a fine subject for a meditation.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Another cold morning. I haven't driven my car in two days, and it is still filmed with icy snow: we haven't had enough sun-power to melt even a thin layer off a windshield. But the house has been warm. Now that I'm not rationing firewood, I can light a fire earlier in the day, and keep it going into the evening. Someday we might be able to afford a better stove--e.g., one with a bigger firebox and more subtle draft control--and seriously cut down on our furnace use. For now, this tiny one lets me keep the thermostat low-ish while reprising the Harmony pleasures of winter basking. A psychological aid, one might call it.

I've barely seen anyone other than Tom all week. Instead, I've been head-down, snout-to-the-grindstone at my desk-- edit edit edit, edit edit edit. This morning, as a change, I'll be switching over to book review book review book review, in hopes that an early morning start will give me the oomph to finish the piece. The process is turning out to be a challenge--mostly, I think, because I haven't been in a prose state of mind for a very long time. I'm having to reconnect the essay synapses, and that's been slow. Still, I'm sure it's good for me, as I'm sure engaging with new poetry is good for me. So I'll keep clomping along.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Yesterday, as I was chunking through my editing hours, I got a phone call from a friend who runs a large annual poetry festival in the state. Generally the day hours of the festival feature local poets as panelists, workshops leaders, etc. Then a big-name national poet reads at night. But given that 2020 is Maine's bicentennial, she had the idea to keep the focus entirely here: on our history of poetry, our current state of letters, our hopes for the future, that kind of thing. So instead of a big gun at night, Baron Wormser, Betsy Sholl, and I will read and speak about our own histories together as well as the history of poetry more generally.

Both Baron and Betsy are former state poet laureates; I am the baby of the group (a comic note, don't you think?)--a former student of Baron's, a long-admirer of Betsy. It will be, of course, intensely sweet to share a stage with these two friends, and I hope my perspective of them, as an apprentice to their art, will be a way to celebrate everything they've done for Maine poetry. But I also feel tremulous--as if I'm trying to climb stairs while wearing someone else's unbuckled galoshes. It's a manifestation of the "who am I anyway?" question, the one that jabs me in the kidneys every time I start to get above myself. Ye olde Puritan shiv.

Enough of these maunderings: let's talk about weather. It's 14 degrees here this morning. Stoops and roofs and cars and grass are coated with a sugar-crust of snow, but the house is warm and bright. I do like winter, once I get used to the idea.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Here I am, sitting on a grey couch, wearing a thick red bathrobe, drinking black coffee from a white cup, and thinking about winter and the muscles in my back I seem to have yanked at yoga class. So far the precip is just a haze of cold rain, a few fat snowflakes, a skim of ice on the back stairs. Nonetheless, the air is cold, and will get colder, dive-bombing into the teens tonight--a sudden taste of February in November.

Not velocipede-riding weather, that's for sure.

Well, no matter what plops, drips, or flutters from the sky, I've scheduled today as a cooking day: e.g., simmering a giant pot of chicken bones and roasting a couple of whole squash to strain for pies and pumpkin bread. And maybe I'll light a fire early and move Editing Central down to the couch, where I can soak in the heat and coddle this ornery back. I've got a library book to return. I've got that book review to wrangle. I've got that draft poem to suspiciously revisit.

I'm still working my way through The Ambassadors, slowly but apparently surely. Late Henry James is such a project.


Monday, November 11, 2019

I guess we'll have some snow later today . . . or sleet, or freezing rain, or plain old rain. Nothing seems clear in the forecast other than cold mess.

It's a standard Monday in our household: work day, not holiday. I'll be grinding through an editing project; Tom will be building cabinets for a new house. Yesterday I managed to get some raking done, bagged up sticks and limbs, more or less prepped the place for winter. The garden is still producing arugula, parsley, and cilantro, but any kind of snow weight or stark temperature plunge will doom them. We're approaching the end of the line, harvest-wise.

I've been fretting about a poem draft--a piece a reader loves but that is giving me the heebie-jeebies. I understand that poets know nothing about what they're writing, but still: I'm having a hard time trusting his enthusiasm.

I need to start working on a book review this week: and prep for Monson next week: and get this editing project moving: and do the housework I ignored over the weekend: and, ugh, Christmas-shop. The next two weeks will be insanely full of driving--once up north, twice to Vermont--and I am starting to feel my jaw clench up and my teeth rattle. I need to figure out how to be a relaxed person.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

I had such a good visit with my sister . . . an uplifting one, really--those deep constants of childhood that resurface without effort. My sister and I don't have the same sorts of adult interests; we don't keep in constant contact when we're apart. But when we're together, we're happy to be together.

Well, today will be Emily Dickinson's black cake day: yes, the annual event has rolled around once more. I'll have to make some recipe adjustments as, for some reason, I couldn't find any golden raisins at the store. So I'll use dried cranberries instead, which I've done successfully before. Last year I candied my own citron, and I still have some left in the freezer, so that's one step done already. The cake itself is extravagantly full of ingredients but not difficult to put together. The most boring part is cutting parchment paper to fit the baking pans. Last year I tried to pretend that the paper wasn't necessary, but the cakes crumbled more than they should have. This year I won't skip that step.

After the cakes are done I'll rake a few leaves, and then Tom and I might try a second bike outing together. Yesterday we took the velocipedes up to the cemetery; today we are considering the loop around Back Cove. He rides much faster than I do. He never decides to walk his bike up hills. As cyclists we are not a match made in heaven, but we knew that already. Yet another marital adjustment.

Here a poem for autumn--"Canto"--set in beautiful, mournful Evergreen Cemetery, ringing changes on Dante, sending to love to my favorite headstone--"Our Darling Ralph."

Saturday, November 9, 2019

It's 20 degrees here this morning. Winter has arrived with a thud. A few days ago I was riding Vita in a sweater. Yesterday, out and about with my sister and a friend, I wore a heavy coat, a hat, a scarf, gloves. Today I might consider long underwear.

It's been such fun having my sister here. Last night we planned an Eastern European meal: a nod to our Polish roots, and heightened by chatter with our Hungarian friend and the sight of Lithuanian kielbasa at the meat market. I fried some fresh cheese pierogies I bought at the Polish deli; whipped up a casserole of sauerkraut, kielbasa, apple, onion, potato, and caraway seed; and shredded carrots and radishes for slaw. It was simple and fun, and next time I'll make the pierogies myself.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Puddles filmed with ice; leaf litter, brittle and thick; and now the day opening into brilliant blue . . . into the kind of sky Keats might call a firmament.

I'm still reading James's The Ambassadors, now adding a pair of collections I'll be reviewing for the Beloit Poetry Journal, itching to return to Dante . . .

This sky is made for poetry . . . chill and bright, cerulean, gleaming with rime and glory.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

It's November, and it feels like November. Trees stretch their bony arms into a grim sky; each dim morning portends snow. Up north the maples and birches are mostly bare now. Here, in southern Maine, the canopies have thinned, but leaves still cling. Everything is more transparent, though. Steeple glimpsed through maple limbs. Train lurching through ash twigs. Here and there are shifting. What was distant or invisible is now the landscape.

My sister arrived yesterday afternoon, and we went for a long walk into the cemetery. Later we spent the evening with Tom laughing over a hotpot meal at Sichuan Kitchen, where I also ran into one of my favorite local teachers. Portland sometimes feels like a small town masquerading as a city.

Today my sister will head off to her conference, and I will muddle around with desk work, and Tom will side a house. Rain will start to fall. We'll reconvene for dinner. I'll make steak and mushrooms, and fried kale, and maybe Yorkshire pudding. And later we'll watch the first fat wet snowflakes puff and vanish on the streaming pavement.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

My trip up north turned out to be quite unrelaxing as (1) my living quarters had no heat for much of the evening, (2) my dad ended up in the emergency room so I was teaching while monitoring updates all day, and (3) I had to drive for 3 hours in the pouring rain. The kids themselves, of course, were magnificent: no worries there. They are a dream team, for sure.

The good news is that my dad is fine. And while my parents won't be visiting after all, my sister will still be coming, so that's good too. However, I have a splitting headache and a general sense of having been buried up to my neck in an ant hill. Here's hoping a coffee/ibuprofen cocktail will soon do its work.

In other good news, Tom bought a bike while I was up north. So now Vita has a friend: a pleasant older gentleman of late-1980s vintage. Naturally, it's forecast to snow this weekend. But maybe they can squeeze in a date or two before the terrible weather really sets in.

Monday, November 4, 2019

I fell asleep on the couch at about 5, woke up at quarter to 8, ate some takeout pizza, and then went straight to bed and slept the entire night. True, I stuffed a lot of yardwork and housework and biking and walking into this weekend, but still.

Anyway, I feel well rested this morning. It's cold out there--low 30s, with a granite sunrise stretching over the roofs and chimneys. I'll be heading north later today for tomorrow's teaching gig, and I'm going to try to treat my overnight stay as a small writing residency: bring books, bring intention. I'll have a whole apartment to myself, and I may as well let myself enjoy the luxury.

In the meantime: editing, laundry, all the regular things. It will be a crammed week as my parents and sister will be arriving on Wednesday. I am trying to pretend that everything will be accomplished smoothly and cheerfully, but mostly I am just aiming for cheerfully.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

I've got a Ruckus poem out in today's Portland Press-Herald, and here is Ruckus, ready to take your applause.


Yesterday turned out to be an excellent day for getting stuff done. I picked up sticks, raked, tore out exhausted plants, coiled hoses, stacked flowerpots, brought freezables in from the shed. Tom chainsawed limbs and repaired the busted fence. Ruckus and his best friend Jack jumped cutely in leaf piles. Later I went for a bike ride with my new basket and mirror, and Tom went bike shopping, without success. We're feeling as if we were unwontedly lucky with Vita, given how hard it's been for Tom to find anything similar.

Late in the afternoon I lit a fire in the stove, and we drank stout and played cribbage; and eventually we ate tuna steaks, buttered chard, and carrot and couscous salad for dinner. And this is why I love to be home.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

It's November 2, and we've had our first frost. I'm still not accustomed-enough to southern living to know if that's normal, but it feels very late to me. I keep expecting the early-October rime of the highlands, not this long seaside idyll of late flowers and clinging leaves.

So I'll spend today tearing out the finally-withered nasturtiums and cosmos, bagging up the latest batch of fallen branches, dragging the giant limb off the collapsed fence in the backyard, and other such chores. We're supposed to have a high in the mid-40s, a jolt after yesterday's humid 60s.  Suddenly snow seems possible.

As a respite from yard work, I'll offer you a bit from Henry James's The Ambassadors--a taste of why it's worth slogging through these late novels: because you can run into a gem like this:
Gloriani showed him, in such perfect confidence, . . . a fine worn handsome face, a face that was like an open letter in a foreign tongue.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Ugh: one of those mornings when Tom forgot to set his alarm and forgot to run the dishwasher; when I forgot where I'd stored the spare parts for the coffee pot that's not in the dishwasher; when the cat was horrified by rain and kept screaming in and out of the house beneath my slippery feet as I tried to drag trash to the curb in a windstorm. Suburban angst, c'est moi. I should move back to a place with real trouble. I'm getting soft.

Anyway, here we are at Friday again: first day of November: mild and humid, windy and watery: maple leaves stuck on windshields like Post-it notes: dogs trotting by in embarrassing raincoats: half a bowl of Halloween candy playing come-hither on the kitchen counter: wet pavement and old tea leaves perfuming the air.

It feels like a day for spirits, of the Dickensian sort, or the Wrinkle in Time sort--the blowsy kind who buffet the parlor ceiling and trail scarves and shawls, who can't stop jingling their keys and clanking their shoe buckles. Their hair is rat-tails and frowst; their noses are red; they tip over tables and clonk into doorframes. Some are apologetic; some never notice their mayhem. Unromantic ghosts, with baggy trousers and shapeless house dresses and holes in their pockets. They're all over the neighborhood this morning.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Baseball season is finally over. And now winter is looming. Long months till April, but wood-fires and lamplight are a solace.

Today will be another onslaught of rain, and the wind is supposed to kick up to gale-force again tonight. What a blustery season we're having. It's a good thing that Vita and I went shopping for Halloween candy yesterday. Otherwise, Tom and I would have nothing to snack on while trick-or-treaters aren't showing up at our dripping door.

Yesterday I hauled firewood, did some garden cleanup, raked, picked up sticks from the last windstorm. Today I'll be limited to inside tasks, mostly desk work, but maybe I'll make a pear pie too. I'm progressing with the editing, progressing with my poem draft; and I've got a lot of reading to do. A journal editor reached out to me yesterday, asking if I'd be interested in doing regular book reviews for their website. I'm thinking about it. I need another unpaid job like I need a spike in the head, but I still might say yes.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

It was dim and cloudy all day, with an occasional overlay of raw drizzle. Nonetheless, Vita took her first shopping trip and came home with ham, bagels, and milk stout. Yard work was a different story: which is to say, I didn't do it because cold wet leaves equals cold wet gloves, and blah. Instead, I lit a fire and read Henry James and edited a manuscript and messed around with a poem. Without the lure of Vita, I would never have left the house. See how good she is for me?

I'm slowly, slowly working my way into The Ambassadors. Although apparently I'm halfway through the book, I still feel as if I've barely got a handle on the portentousness. Every half-smile, every slight nod is a moment of magnitude--or, at the very least, a glimpse of the abyss. It's maddening and also kind of like having a rash: every twitch is an itch. But of course I'm enjoying it too. Henry James drives me nuts but I love him anyway. His sentences are life forms, coiling across the page, stretching their antennae, hesitantly moving this way and that. I may not know why or where, but I delight in the syntactical animal.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

I took Vita up to the cemetery yesterday afternoon, and we had a beautiful ride on the small roads among the plots. Now my legs are sore from using bike muscles I haven't really bothered with since I was 15. But that's good; and the uphill climbs are good too. Biking is so much better than running because the uphills are balanced with downhill coasts--a sweet reward, to feel the wind in my face and the street fly under me.

And I did manage to ship out another editing project, which leaves me (for the moment) with just one on my desk. Today I'll finish the vacuuming, and start editing the new manuscript, and, I hope, work on my Descartes draft. I'd like to do some yard cleanup and ride Vita, of course. Dinner tonight will be beef-noodle soup and warm apple-cabbage slaw. Then baseball . . . maybe the last game of the season, if the Astros win. I don't really have a dog in this race, but I'm finding myself leaning toward the Nats--not least for their fans' fine taste in impeachment.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Yesterday was rain and rain and rain, so I couldn't show Vita around the neighborhood. Today I should have better luck, as long as I can get my editing project finished in time.

And today is my younger son's birthday: 22 years old; tall and strong and bearded; sweet and funny and sorrowful; brilliant and driven, with a memory like a trap; a lover of small animals and, like his mother, an inveterate second-guesser of his own motives. I send him surprise and joy and so much love.

I wanted to let you know that my mother, Janice Miller Potter, has a new poetry collection out-- Thoreau's Umbrella, a verse biography. I've been reading it this weekend, along with Murdoch's Nuns and Soldiers. I haven't yet finished James's The Ambassadors, though I'll get back to it. And Natalie Diaz's When My Brother Was an Aztec just showed up in the mail, so now that's in the pile too. So many books . . . so little shelf space . . .

Sunday, October 27, 2019

I am now in proud possession of the first bike bought for me since I was in high school. That one was a cheesy imitation racing bike from Sears. Later I had my mother's cast-off Schwinn, but I hardly ever used it because it was heavy and too small; plus Harmony, land of speeding log trucks and pitted gravel roads, was a terrible place to ride a bike.

But now I have Vita! She is purple with black trim, a plain and basic bike for city riding, and I am smitten. I can't wait to get a basket for her: she is the kind of bike who will go on picnics and quick trips for bread at the market. I will ride all around the cemetery with her, and explore shady neighborhoods.

Unfortunately the used-bike shop (a fine emporium) did not have a bike in Tom's size, so he will need to keep checking back in as fall consignments arrive. In the meantime, I will get used to an activity I have not done much of since I was 15. And maybe, by the time he gets his, I'll be brave enough to venture out of the neighborhood.

Perhaps you are wondering why her name is Vita. Well, her brand is Specialized, and her model is Vita, and that word is painted right on her frame. A convenience in naming, certainly. But in adopting such an obvious monicker, I am, of course, nodding to Vita Sackville-West--novelist, blueblood, gardener, and lover of Virginia Woolf.
On gardening: “I like muddling things up." --Vita Sackville-West

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Did a session of hard yoga, bought a cartload at the grocery store, mailed two loaves of banana bread to the college boy (he turns 22 on Monday), drove home, edited, worked on my Descartes project, fell asleep for an hour, made lasagna, watched some baseball, fell asleep again, woke up blessedly late, made some coffee, fed the cat, and here I am again.

Today I'm hoping we'll get a chance to go bike shopping. But it's supposed to pour rain all of tomorrow and I have lots of yard work to do, firewood to move, etc., so maybe the bikes will have to wait till next weekend.

I'm slowly, slowly catching up on my editing: I've had so much of it lately, and there's more waiting in the wings. Now I'm getting requests for some winter school gigs, at a site located an hour south of me. But Monson is more than two hours north of me, and I don't know how I can fit all of this driving into my days. I like teaching but I dread the driving, especially in bad weather. I've been meaning to design another teach-from-home 24PearlStreet class, maybe a shorter one this time, but I haven't figured out how to schedule it among all the rest. I guess this accounts for why I slept so much yesterday.

Ugh. That paragraph is a mess. Kind of like my calendar.

Anyway, today: Sticks, leaves, firewood, garden cleanup. Maybe a bike. I'll be happy to do nothing more than muddle.

Friday, October 25, 2019

I did do some writing yesterday, and I did use the trigger I'd bought in Chicago: of all things, a slim copy of Rene Descartes's treatise Rules for the Direction of the Mind (written by 1628, published in 1701). I am the world's worst philosopher. Under most circumstances I am actively repelled by the anti-physicality of philosophic prose, and my mind wanders off into distraction as soon as I bump up against those sentences. But I was at a used bookstore with my son: he was buying a book of Dali paintings and The Golden Bough; I was buying a Murdoch novel and . . . wait, what's this weird title? I dug out the slim tome and we peered at the cover. Well, I thought. I might be able to use a title like that. And so I bought it.

Rules is broken into 20-something sections, each of which opens with an abstract of the rule under consideration and then proceeds to horse around with not only/but alsos, ergos, and therefores. Yesterday I started copying out each rule, deleting the abstract nouns and adjectives and filling them in with gaudier talk. And after an hour or so, I found myself outlining a list of instructions titled "Rules for the Direction of the Chambermaid," most of which involve (1) how to figure out if your mistress is having an adulterous affair and (2) to whom you should be loyal (mistress, master, visiting lothario). Of course this is a silly project, and it will likely go nowhere, but inventing it is fun.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Yesterday was another beautiful day with my high schoolers, but a two-and-a-half-hour drive home after a day of teaching is not relaxing. Still, when I got back, there was Tom, with a baguette and two bags of local mussels. A magnificent dinner; a good day spent with thoughtful, giddy, curious, engaged young people; plus baseball on the radio. Things could be worse.

Today will be a regular home day--editing, laundry, garden cleanup, and such--though I'm hoping also to do some writing. One of the poems I wrote in Maudelle Driskell's workshop last summer just got picked up for publication--the piece about Ruckus: my first public cat poem. When I submitted it, I wasn't quite sure what I thought of it, and I'm pleased, and a little surprised, that someone else liked it.

So, on they go . . . the days and the weeks, the months and the years. Chore and gift. Dread and innocence. Comedy and terror. Love and consequences. The deliciousness of sleep.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

I'll be on the road again this afternoon--heading north for tomorrow's teaching gig. This time I'll be staying overnight at the artists' residence and also having dinner with them, so that will be interesting. I'm looking forward to learning about what they're all working on in their studios.

Till then: some desk work, some vacuuming, maybe some more yard rescue. I've been reading James's The Ambassadors and Murdoch's Nuns and Soldiers and catching up on things around here-- mostly just trying to pull myself together. I'm not that good at traveling; the transitions wear me out. Last night  I was scheduled to go to a poetry-group meeting, or I could have gone to the movies with Tom, but no: I spent the evening on the couch. I think it helped. Sometimes I have a hard time giving in to physical laziness. But then it sneaks up behind me and grabs me by the throat and says, "Couch blanket."

Monday, October 21, 2019

Yesterday was an intense travel day, compressed between 3:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. and involving no coffee or real food. But I made it home, fell asleep, woke up, made dinner, fell asleep again, and here I am, still groggy but at least I've got coffee now. There are a million things to do today: desk work, housework, grocery shopping, and the mess that is my yard. You may recall that I left home in the middle of a cyclone? Well, on the bright side, all of the branches that came down were relatively small. On the pain-in-the-ass side, many, many branches came down, and the gale whipped them everywhere. My garden is knitted with tree parts, the dahlias are flat: the place looks as if we were hit by a hurricane, which I guess we essentially were.

But my trip to Chicago was completely lovely. I think I haven't told you about Jane Eyre yet. It was enthralling. The Joffrey performs in a gilded, doo-dadded, muraled hall built in the 1890s and kept in tip-top shape. The acoustics are wonderful. We sat in a box, which made us feel fancy even though the tickets were cheaper there than other places.

And the ballet itself was stunning: not just the dancing, but also the sets (mostly scrims with Yorkshire-ish abstractions) and the lighting design. The choreographer did an amazing job at storytelling, and also maintained that strange Brontean mix of melodrama, anachronistic female agency, and sex-versus-God tension. The cast was enormous, and included a strange but effective troupe of male dancers who served as representatives of Jane's internal demons--an extremely elegant way to deal with the wordiness of the novel. The result was both spare and lavish, enormous and minimal. I am a person who usually hates movies based on my favorite novels, and I loved this ballet.

And what else happened in Chicago? Exhausted teachers on trains, carrying picket signs and holding the hands of their children. A small girl singing songs on the bus. An aging mariachi band, in full black and silver regalia, packing up their van after a show. My darling young people, walking together alongside a windy lake.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

We spent most of the day north of the city, at the Chicago Botanic Garden, glorious and fading in its October mantle. I got to ride on one of those double-decker commuter trains, which made me happy as I am a hick who has never been on one before. Afterward we went back to the same comfortable bar we were at the evening before, where we listened to Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and ate, of all things, tater tots, which are a strangely compelling poison.

Today: the ballet. And then tomorrow: the airport at 4:30 a.m.

Friday, October 18, 2019

I left our house at 5:15 a.m., in the midst of a cyclone. Tom had to drag downed trees out of the road to get me to the bus station. Needless to say, I was terrified of this trip. However, the bus driver managed to calmly pilot us to Boston, where the wind had died down considerably. My flight wasn't delayed at all. And now here I am in Chicago.

Yesterday we walked all over the neighborhood, went to a used bookstore (I bought Murdoch and Descartes), drank beers at a beautiful dingy bar with a Merle Haggard soundtrack, ate cactus tacos from the church food truck, and fell asleep watching The A-Team. A fine day with a fine son.

Today: botanical gardens and double-decker trains and who knows what else.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Well, I did it: I finished that editing project, meaning I can leave for Chicago with a semi-clean work conscience. Picture me catching an early, early bus to Boston, in the black and pouring rain, and fretting that the storm will be messing with my flight. Whatever the case turns out to be, you'll hear from me only intermittently for the next few days. Let's hope it's not during a 24-hour stint in an airport lounge.

Today: an olio of desk, house, and packing chores. But for now: black coffee, grey couch, the rumble of a furnace, the squeal and hum of a passing train.

I have not spoken of current events here lately, other than my own. But I am horrified about the Kurds, so much so that I can barely frame words to speak of them. Our so-called president is a stupid, lying, vicious, impulsive bootlicker with a thug-crush and a maggot soul. Not one of these epithets is an exaggeration. America cannot go on like this.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

My white geranium is blooming bravely at the window. It's been an outside plant all summer, and I'm hoping I can keep it alive in the house over the winter. I get so lonely for flowers during the off-season. Meanwhile, the outside flowers just keep blooming. No frost yet, so dahlias and cosmos and marigolds continue to riot in the front yard. Here in the little seaside city, summer is refusing to wave good-bye.

In two days I fly to Chicago, and till then editing has me by the throat. Still, there's a chance I might get this manuscript done before I leave. I think my plans for next week's Monson class are mostly set (a Jane Austen-based writing exercise; a Natalie Diaz/Kerrin McCadden-based writing exercise; and, I hope, a guest poet visiting the class).

I've been imagining that I'll write a bit while I'm in Chicago, but I know that isn't likely. What I'll actually be doing is loping around the city with my dear boy, and that will feel like the best thing in the world. I bet I won't even think about poems.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Island weather. The cat steps out the back door and vanishes into cloud. In this still-black morning the fog is nearly invisible, except where headlights and window-lamps quiver like bog-beacons.

I have a good housewife feeling this morning because I got all of the things done yesterday that I meant to do. I cleaned out dresser drawers and closets, I planted bulbs, and I put away the outside furniture. I made an apple pie and froze a batch of endive and roasted a chicken. I updated my resume and cleaned up the pages on this blog. Meanwhile, Tom installed a new dryer vent, tore out a bunch of strange old wiring (at least two generations of ancient landlines, plus other mysteriousness), put up  basement clothesline, and filled my car tires with air. All if this sounds dull on the page, but in fact it makes me feel accomplished and orderly and ready to turn my attention to desk work.

Today will be a regular work day for both of us: no holiday in this household. I'll be editing and working on my Monson syllabus, and then running errands in the afternoon. My Thursday trip to Chicago is looming, and I'm anxious to get this project off my desk before I leave . . . though I fear I may be editing on buses and in airports. Ugh.

I think I forgot to mention that, on Saturday, Tom and I watched The Heiress, a late-40s film starring Olivia de Haviland and Montgomery Clift, and based on Henry James's Washington Square. It was compelling, and I can't stop thinking about it and wishing I could read the novel. I don't own it, however, so instead I've started rereading James's The Ambassadors. It's been a long time since I've been in a Henry James mood, and I'm glad he came around again.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

On the weekend of November 1-3, I'll be leading a poetry workshop at the arts center 26 Split Rock Cove in Thomaston, Maine. The title of the workshop is "New England Bards: Discovering Voice, Discovering Place," and it will center around work by the poets Jane Kenyon and Hayden Carruth, which we'll use to jumpstart our own conversations, writing, and revision.

The cost with lodging is $475, $325 without, and the workshop is limited to 10 participants. Events will begin Friday evening at 5 pm and continue through lunch on Sunday.

Included in the weekend are two classes and two revision workshops, as well as plenty of writing time and group sharing. Friday dinner, Saturday and Sunday breakfasts and lunches are included in the price. For a more detailed schedule, please contact sandy@26splitrockcove.com or call 207-596-7624.

Thomaston is a beautiful coastal town, late fall in Maine is stern and glorious, and it would be such a treat to spend a weekend with you.

* * *

Today I'll be planting tulip, alium, and daffodil bulbs; reorganizing closets and drawers; roasting a chicken; maybe going bike shopping. But this is what I did yesterday.



Saturday, October 12, 2019

from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

[H]e laid on the table a new publication--a poem: one of those genuine productions so often vouchsafed to the fortunate public of those days--the golden age of modern literature. Alas! the readers of our era are less favored. But, courage! I will not pause to accuse or repine. I know poetry is not dead, nor genius lost; nor has Mammon gained power over either, to bind or slay: they will both assert their existence, their presence, their liberty and strength again one day. Powerful angels, safe in heaven! they smile when sordid souls triumph, and feeble ones weep over their destruction. Poetry destroyed? Genius banished? No! Mediocrity, no: do not let envy prompt you to the thought. No; they not only live, but reign, and redeem: and without their divine influence spread everywhere you would be in hell--the hell of your own meanness.

* * *

It was windy and rainy in the night, but not unduly. This morning, the streets are streaked with wet leaves. A steady, lingering breeze ripples among the maples, taps the bright dahlias, skids twigs along the sidewalk. Passing dogs pause to lift their noses. An airplane coasts upward, invisible behind cloud.

I'm thinking about the staunchness of time, the mutability of space, the evanescence of ambition, the rigors of love . . . but not in any Great Man sort of way. Despite the bigness of the words, the sensations are modest, even meek. I bow my head to them, let them take charge of the story. I sweep the kitchen and fold the shirts. I don't know what else to do, or how else to do it.

That Bronte passage I just quoted:  Yes! I want to say. But also, What are you really telling me?

Friday, October 11, 2019

We've got a big storm brewing off the coast today--already the wind has picked up and the air smells of excitement. I'm hoping this won't make trouble, as our trees are loaded with leaves and gusts will be high.

I'm still reading Jane Eyre, and there's so much wind in the book. It's like Wuthering Heights that way: weather as emotional state. O, those sisters on the moors. Narrow and pale, faces opening into the gale. They seize my heart.

My son is having a love affair with a book of poetry: Natalie Diaz's When My Brother Was an Aztec. I'm so happy for him. A love affair is a glorious thing.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Yet another wondrous day with my Monson kids. It was only our second session, but already the bonds are strengthening. Kids are laughing and talking and sharing, playing games, speaking seriously of craft and hopes and dreams, writing hard, cheering each other on. I am thrilled.

And I had a beautiful birthday celebration with my friends in Wellington. We picked raspberries and wild mushrooms in the gloaming, as the maples arched brilliantly against the dimming sky. My heart overflows; this life is so sweet; my dumb-luck is so lucky.

There was one more good, good thing. While I was away, I got word from the editors at the Beloit Poetry Journal that they're going to publish the entire first section of my diary manuscript, A Month in Summer. That feels huge to me: a quarter of the book will appear in the journal. Crassly, of course, I am hoping that full-length publishers will take notice. But more importantly I'm really, really pleased that editors of this caliber saw these verses as something more than tiny, quiet, feminine maunderings.

Today, I'll charge back into the editing stack, and also try to catch up on all the housework I didn't finish last weekend.

"Poet Cleans Toilets." Someone has to do the dirty work.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Yesterday, despite all prior arrangements, ended up being weirdly hectic, though nice. Scoundrel Time happened to release three of my poems that morning, so in addition to getting many birthday greetings I received a number of poem greetings. And the phone would not stop ringing. Still, I did manage to write a small lyric that wasn't terrible, and I felt surrounded by affection. Both those things were good.

Here are those poems, in case you're interested. The journal's poetry editor, Daisy Fried, referred to them as "startling." That feels like a review anyone might want to receive.

This afternoon I'll be heading north, and tomorrow I'll be teaching all day in Monson. My intense over-busyness is returning. I still have piles of editing on my desk, and next week I'm flying to Chicago, and I've got so many teaching obligations lined up . . . At least things are pretty well set with Frost Place planning, finally. But everything else feels liable to crack my skull open.

Anyway, enough of this repining--which isn't even repining so much as trying to whip myself into order. I'll talk to you on Thursday.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Well, today is my actual birthday, but yesterday felt like my ceremonial one, as Tom spent most of the day concocting a glamorous feast, and I spent most of the day happily flopped on the couch reading Jane Eyre. I did a few other things, too, like go for a walk in the cemetery (I found some beautiful puffball mushrooms) and concoct plans for my Chicago trip with my older son (we've decided to buy tickets to the Joffrey Ballet's performance of Jane Eyre; are you sensing a theme?).

But today is the real day: I'm 55 years old, with a bit of incipient arthritis in one finger, and chronically sore feet, and trifocals, and a fat streak of grey hair . . . but, on the whole, pretty lively--still able to do planks and walk for miles and dote on my children and invent stories about the cat and make my husband laugh.

I'm 55 years old, and so far I've accomplishing nothing and everything, which I guess is the regular human condition.

I live in a little house in a little city, with hot and cold running water, and heat, and windowpanes, and clean sheets, and trees and flowers, and snow and rain and wind and sun, and a tea kettle.

I've written a lot of books which hardly anyone has read, but mostly I've grown out of being distressed about it, and that seems like progress.

I have a circle of friends, people like you: generous and comical, quick to sadness and joy--a gift of the finest sort.

I'm glad to be alive.

I love being alive.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Close, but no frost yet . . . the pink dahlias are still bravely blooming along the roadside. Yesterday, while I was ripping out detritus, two cars and a bicycle accosted me: "Hey, those are the most beautiful dahlias I've ever seen!" One driver was so excited that she almost caused an accident. Beautiful dahlias may be too dangerous to grow.

When I'm not wearing my bathrobe, I'll go outside and take a picture of the autumn garden for you. The sunflowers are gone, and the tomato jungle, and the destroyed Brussels sprouts (damn you, sassy groundhog, for wrecking my fall crop), but the greens and most of the herbs are still cheerful. I managed to plant garlic and shallots, harvest a batch of kale for the freezer, finish reading Gatsby, spend some time with Cavafy, make chicken-and-tomato soup, listen to the Yankees trounce the Twins, and open some birthday presents early because I am bad at waiting. (Present update: Tom's getting me a bike!)

Today I'll be hovering around the kitchen while Tom makes a feast, and maybe I'll be planting some daffodils and tulips, and doing some chores, and finding another book to read. Tomorrow will be my writing day, and I'm looking forward to turning on the word faucet again. But today I just want to be happy in my house.






Saturday, October 5, 2019

36 degrees here this morning . . . not quite a frost, but close. It's still strange to me to listen to the furnace run; it's still strange to realize I own a furnace. Automatic heat. What a concept.

I guess today is the day to tear out the rest of the sunflowers, though I'm hoping to hang on to the dahlias for a bit longer. I've got garlic, shallots, and flower bulbs to plant: maybe I'll manage to get that done too. Or maybe not.

Yesterday I finalized the 2020 Frost Place conference lineup. I'm pretty excited about our faculty, and am anxious to share the names with you, but I'll refrain till contracts, etc., are worked out. I prepped for my Monson class, and finished editing a chapter, and made it through power yoga, and bought a bus ticket to the airport--all in all, a constructive use of a Friday that I really wanted to spend under a blanket with a book.

None of my favored baseball teams are doing very well in the playoffs so far. Apparently I am bad luck in that regard.

Tom's making me a birthday feast this weekend. I wonder what I'll be having. He's also discussing upgrades to our basement laundry situation, which is currently slapdash and/or grim. Maybe I'll be getting clotheslines and a new dryer vent for my birthday. How exciting! Or perhaps I mean: How exciting.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Rain, rain, rain . . . After so many arid months, it is a delight. First thing this morning, I lugged the compost pail to the curb, and the dark air was heavy with the dense, tea-leaf scent of wet autumn. Now, back on the couch with my coffee cup, I listen to drops clatter against windows and vents, as the cat stalks past me, shaking his metaphorical fist at God.

It's been hard to take my eyes off the newsfeed. Finally, it seems, the emperor's clothes are shredding, and the rats are running from the ship. Funny how well he suits a pack of mixed fairy-tale metaphors. He's an ogre, and I wish Puss 'n Boots would hurry up and eat him.

My editorial slog is paying off, editorially at least: I've gotten a lot more done this week than I dared to hope for, but my brain feels like a slug trail. I think I'll go to my hard yoga class this morning, the one that requires all kinds of weight-bearing, core-tormenting, difficult-to-accomplish poses, and then come home refreshed enough to finish editing footnotes and close the manuscript for the weekend.

I want to start reading the book of Cavafy poems I bought at the library sale and finish reading Sam Hunter's play Lewiston, which my son is directing this fall. I need to prep for next week's Monson class and do some Frost Place planning. My brain is a juggler's paradise.

The other day, as I was standing in the checkout line at the grocery store, the woman in front of me turned around and said, "You are just glowing!" I, of course, was taken aback, being about to turn 55 and distracted by thoughts of whether or not I'd bought enough toilet paper. Perhaps the lights at the Whole Foods are specially designed to be kind to middle-aged women. Or maybe I'm radioactive. Anyway: feel free to imagine me with an aura . . . maybe one of those Glenda-the-Good-Witch bubbles. Old poet waves wand, sends cute dog back to Kansas.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

The furnace kicked on last night. I guess that means winter really is coming. Already I've been lighting evening fires; already I'm remembering how much I love to watch flames flickering behind glass as night draws its cloak around the house.

The freezer is full of peppers, corn, chard, tomato sauce. The woodpile is stacked high. Let the grim months begin.

This has been a slogging week at the desk, but I'm making progress, and I'm still managing to tamp down my longing to work on my own stuff. I'll save that for Monday, my birthday. I'll give myself the present of the day. I know it sounds terrible to say "tamp down my own longing," but that's the only way I can earn any money. Otherwise, I'd do nothing all day but chores and poetry, which in my life, at least, are mutually supportive: scribble, read, scribble, stare out windows, hang laundry, scribble, sweep a floor, read, stare out windows, wash windows, mow grass, weed, scribble . . . That might have been one of my problems in the apartment, when I was slowly and painfully writing not-good poems: I didn't have enough chores.

I've started rereading Gatsby again. Such a book. It's like Mozart.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Rain, drizzle, and fog made it a fine night for potato pancakes with fresh guacamole. If only the Brewers had managed to win the Wild Card game too. I like listening to Bob Uecker do the call, plus the Brewers have fine (by which I mean silly) local radio commercials for things like sausages. Last night's absurd jingle for Speedy Metals will be hard to top. Tom and I laughed very hard. But unfortunately the Brewers lost to the Nationals, so excellent radio is over for the season, unless I grit my teeth and listen to the Yankees announcers . . . which I probably will. But Yankees. Ick. Go Twins.

Enough of this baseball maundering. I've got a sinus headache this morning, and I'm wishing it would go away. My editing stack is enormous, but I need to dig out some real writing time this week so I don't lapse into automatic word pilot. That's the danger of editing: it's like playing scales and etudes over and over again--lots of practice without any adventure. And my imagination gets skittery, and then I have to tamp it down, and then I get gloomy and resigned, and who needs that?

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

from Object Lessons by Eavan Boland

The way to the past is never smooth. For a woman poet it can be especially tortuous. Every step towards an origin is also an advance towards a silence. The past in which our grandmothers lived and where their lives burned through detail and incidence to become icons for our future is also a place where women and poetry remain far apart.

* * *

It's raining now, and it rained all night. I woke and slept and woke and slept to the click of drops on roof and window. Cloud and darkness still weight the earth; I barely glimpse the shadows of trees and sky. The invisible day is a blanket snugged around my lamplit room as the slow water sluices down and down among the stones and roots.

* * *

I Stop Writing the Poem

to fold the clothes. No matter who lives
or who dies, I’m still a woman.

--Tess Gallagher

Monday, September 30, 2019

I spent a chunk of the weekend tearing out my tomato plants. The fruit had stopped ripening, and it was time to fill a bushel basket with greenies and say goodbye. This week I will slowly tear out the peppers and the eggplant and, sadly, the rest of the sunflowers. They have been a delight all summer, and the garden will be lonely without them.

This morning it's cold, and dark, and a freight train is rumbling north. The Red Sox have played their last game of the season, and winter is on the way. I'm grateful for lamplight and hot coffee and a thick red bathrobe. I have much editing to do, and next week's Monson class to prep, and all of the housework waiting for me that I ignored over the weekend.

I think I'll make clam chowder for dinner. I think I'll pick a giant bouquet of the last of the dahlias.

I'm reading Eavan Boland's Object Lessons, just beginning Leah Umansky's The Barbarous Century. I'm washing hats and scarves and sweaters. I'm nervous about the fate of our nation. In one week I will turn 55.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Last night I dreamed I moved into a different house, and then, suddenly, into yet another different house. Each one was progressively larger than this one. The last was so fancy that it had a bathroom patio. I apparently had children living with me, but they were not the children I really have: they were  a boy and a girl, about high school age, who, like me, were completely confused by the constant moving. Meanwhile, I was trying to make dinner without any kitchen equipment, Tom was trying to find our missing stuff, and the two children were staring at us like deer about to be shot. It was all very unnerving.

This morning I'm in a post-dream hangover, which I hope will wear off soon. Everything feels extra-ominous, and the half-clear events of the dream scratch at my memory. For some reason I was very worried about interior doors--their quality of workmanship, not their imprisonment uses. Did this new fancy house have cheap modern hollow-core plywood doors? I'd just moved away from a house with vintage fir doors. How could I? Shouldn't I rethink everything?

I was relieved to wake up in the Alcott House, with its small familiarities . . . and its fir doors. I have no idea why they mattered so much to me in my sleep. But the truth is, the Harmony house had nothing but cheap hollow-core doors and I certainly did not want to leave them. So what's with the door fretting? And what on earth is a bathroom patio? And who were those anxious borrowed children?


Saturday, September 28, 2019

Lately I've had the oddest sensation: I feel as if people are actually reading my poems. I don't mean I'm selling more books or getting more acceptance letters, because I'm not. But the few poems that are out there, the ones eddying downstream, are being fished out, examined, considered, before being dropped back into the brook. Only now and again, of course. I'm not talking about a trove of readers. Still, something is different.

Anyway, I feel different, which I suppose is the point. Not being read has been, for me, a basic fact of the endeavor. I've been published, repeatedly, but I've never had an audience. So even this small shift is surprising. I recognize that it's a social media phenomenon, but that doesn't make it less surprising to me. I've kept this blog since 2008, and only now has the shift happened. Clearly, social media recognition is no more automatic than anything else.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Yesterday I bravely (for me) invited a poet I hardly know to have coffee together, and we actually enjoyed each other's company, and I think we might do it again. So that is something. As you know I can have high anxiety around writers who seem to have everything together (networks, jobs, prizes), which is stupid of me but nonetheless real. So it felt like a step forward for me to be taking a step forward with her.

Plus, it rained all evening!--a beautiful, gentle, steady rain--and this morning the air smells of leaves and water.

I have been (maybe like you) pinned to this Ukraine business. Finally, can we hope? I feel such desperation to get rid of this wretched marionette and his thousand evil strings.

Why does the page lie on the table by the window? Why are the table deserted and the pen to one side of it? Why am I about to make an unwritten poem into this small biography of the silences it retreated into? 
--Eavan Boland, Object Lessons

Thursday, September 26, 2019

On editing days, I'm mulish and habituated: desk work in the mornings, other stuff in the afternoons. So whenever that pattern is disrupted, I feel as if I'm getting nothing accomplished, even if I am. Yesterday, a morning dentist appointment threw me entirely off-balance; my Friday-morning yoga class drives me crazy, though I also love it. It's dumb to be so habit-ridden, though I guess it's not so dumb that I've figured out how to get stuff done.

Sometimes I wonder if that's the primary adult goal: learning to finish what you start.

Anyway, enough of this boring talk. Look outside! An edge of sunrise is lifting over the roofs of the houses--pale lavender-grey, the color and sheen of a silk gown that Jane Eyre would refuse to wear.

The clock is ticking in the kitchen; in the distance traffic rumbles over the bridge.

I'd like to write today, but I know I have to work on other people's manuscripts.

But enough of this boring talk. Look outside! The silk gown has vanished, and now the white sky is fingered with slate, and the chimneys point heavenward like characters in a Dickens novel, and the sad leaves on the trees cast invisible shadows, and far away an ambulance wails like the speaking dead.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Well, day 1 in Monson was a dream. Two dozen Central Maine kids appeared in the studio doorway at 9 o'clock sharp, nervy and smiling, and also deeply unsure about what they'd gotten themselves into. Half of them went off with the painter Alan Bray; the other half stayed with me (and my friend Jaime, who has  kindly volunteered to help out with the program). And so we spent the next few hours getting to know one another, writing some letters, reading some Lucille Clifton, looking at photographs, imagining our own prayers for ourselves and the world. The students were wonderful: eager, curious, concentrated, funny, open. And this was just the first day! What luck!

And now I'm back at the Alcott House, getting ready to waste a perfectly good morning at the dentist.   Ugh.

In other good news: impeachment proceedings. Finally.

Monday, September 23, 2019

This morning I'll be editing academic manuscripts; this afternoon I'll be heading north for an overnight with friends; tomorrow morning I'll lead my first class at Monson Arts; tomorrow afternoon I'll be home again. Thus begins a new bi-weekly cycle in my work life.

Along the way, maybe we'll get a little rain. We sorely need it. And maybe I'll figure out how to enjoy driving. At least there won't be any night travel; that was the hardest thing about my band commutes--so much driving at night.

Yesterday I cleaned house furiously in the morning, then had a slow lunch out with Tom, then cooked/gardened/did laundry furiously in the afternoon and evening. I talked to both of my boys on the phone, sat on the couch reading a novel, fell asleep hard at night. I feel as if I have nothing to write that would tell you anything new . . . and yet the quotidian round is, in itself, a kind of writing practice: I do this, and this, and this, and this, and all of them are small, and few are noteworthy, yet they force me to watch and listen and be patient, to take the comedy and tragedy where I find it.
Let me look back again. The table is round and drab; the worn linen stays on the armrests; the sky is full of the light and danger of spring. The same gulls. The same pupils walking and laughing below the window, the same slight and irritating grinding where they walk on the gravel. The usual text is spread out, creased at the edges.
--Eavan Boland, Object Lessons

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Portland Public Library book sale yesterday! Here's my haul:
The Complete Poems of Cavafy, translated by Rae Dalven, introduced by Auden 
Eavan Boland's Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time 
Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems (which I already own but it's in that adorable City Lights edition, a 1968 printing, and in perfect condition, so I couldn't resist) 
John LeCarre's The Little Drummer Girl 
plus a birthday present for my son which I'm not going to reveal here because sometimes he reads this blog
And I picked up my new compost bin and assembled it, and I did a lot of work in the flowerbeds, and I made an apple pie and chicken-and-rice soup with fresh salsa, and then Tom went out to see a band and I stayed home happily on the couch.

Today is housework day, though we're also planning to go out for lunch and take a walk beside the water. The weather is dry and weirdly warm. I'm struggling to keep the garden alive in this drought, and the backyard is downright crispy. The light is autumnal, yet I'm back to wearing summer clothes.

Here's a bit from the Boland book, which I've just opened. I don't entirely buy into this reading, but I'm intrigued.
In an odd and poignant way these two lives, of a poet and a woman, have proved to be formidable historical editors of each other. In previous centuries, when a poet's life was an emblem for the grace and power of a society, a woman's life was often the object of his expression: in pastoral, sonnet, elegy. As the mute object of his eloquence her life could be at once addressed and silenced. By an ironic reversal, now that a woman's life is that emblem of grace and power, the democratization of our communities, of which her emergence is one aspect, makes a poet's life look suspect, can make it appear, to a wider society, elite and and irrelevant all at once. Therefore, for anyone who is drawn into either of these lives, the pressure is there to betray the other, to disown or simplify, to resolve an inherent tension by making a false design from the ethical capabilities of one life or the visionary possibilities of the other.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

I have a new poem up at Vox Populi--a longish piece titled "A Listener Sends Six Letters to God, in Autumn." I wrote it last fall, and now here it is this fall, reminding me of the way in which this season always makes me linger and listen along the water's edge.

Last night I went up to Hallowell for a really sweet reading: happy to see friends in the audience, to visit with my co-reader friend Adrian Blevins, but also realizing I hadn't driven on the highway at night for quite a long time . . . probably since I stopped going up north for band practices. I can't say I miss that part of the project.

Today, though, I magically slept an hour over cat-time, and later Tom and I are going to a library sale, and then I'll set up my new compost bin, and also maybe make an apple pie, and definitely make chicken soup. For some reason I feel in need of the pleasures of the weekend, maybe because I know I've got to travel on Monday.

I'm reading William Trevor's Last Stories and of course Dante is always on my mind. Regret and loss: The autumn tales.

Friday, September 20, 2019

I spent all of yesterday out of the house, much to the disgust of the cat. Today, I'm back to editing, and maybe a yoga class, and prepping for tonight's reading in Hallowell.

My meeting yesterday was on Commercial Street, a busy artery tucked against the Portland waterfront. Shops, wharves, fish merchants, restaurants, kitsch stands, tourists, cruise boats, office workers, homeless people, ferries: the street is always a scene. Also, it's really hard to park there, so I stowed the car about a mile away, at the end of the Eastern Promenade trail (near where I used to live in that apartment that made me cry all the time), and walked into town along the bay. The day was beautiful and bright, the water blue and full of pleasure boats, and I wondered, yet again, why I hated living down here so much. I do enjoy visiting it.

But, really, it seems like someone else's world: all these fancied-up Victorian condos, and steel-n-glass apartment buildings, and giant shiny-wood sailboats, and even a little yacht moored among them like a fat bulldog.

Meanwhile, a woman sleeps alongside the pretty path, huddled up over her backpack, her pants sliding down, her breathing rough.

She's wedged up against a crabapple tree. Probably the crew can't see her from the yacht.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The temperature is currently 41 degrees, so cold, yes, but no frost. Nonetheless, yesterday afternoon I picked all of my big peppers, all of the tomatoes that showed any signs of ripening, the eggplant, the okra, and I pulled the rest of the carrots (not for frost reasons, but for making-space-for-garlic reasons).

I'll be at a Telling Room curriculum meeting all day. I doubt I'll be teaching for them much this year, given my Monson Arts schedule, but maybe I'll figure out a way to fit in a few sessions. At the moment I'm finding it hard to believe I'll have time to do anything more, though I'd also been hoping to propose another 24PearlStreet class this winter. I've got so much editing, and boy stuff to fit in as well--a trip to Chicago, a directing debut at Bennington--and I wake up in the night wondering, Oh, how will I do it? And then I fall into strange and distressing dreams about trying to find an apartment in Houston (where I've never been), and both the boys are small again, and Tom is nowhere to be seen, and we end up in a horrible place beside a highway off-ramp, in which the kitchen counter is also a bike rack and all three of us have to sleep in a room weirdly littered with tawdry princess decorations.

But in daylight hours I'm more or less keeping myself calm. Last night I lit the first fire of the season in the wood stove, climbed under the couch blanket, and began reading Ilya Kaminsky's Deaf Republic. The cover design is terrible, but don't let that distract you because the collection is completely stunning. It's the best book of poetry I've read in quite a while. If you've read it too, I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The autumn busyness is descending upon me again, and I hope I can keep up. Fortunately, my car is healthy again. The horrible noise was created by a slightly bent rotor backing combined with normal sitting-still rust. The garage fixed the backing and charged me nothing. But heavens! What a noise it was! Anyone would have been appalled.

I managed to get a large chunk of work done yesterday--editing, manuscript review--which is good because I now have twice as much editing on my desk, plus class planning today and an all-day curriculum meeting tomorrow. The Monson Arts high school program begins next week, and I am nervous--for no good reason, I guess. Just the usual jitters about the unknown. I expect the kids are nervous too.

I've been reading Alice Munro's Runaway, a 2004 collection that includes a number of stories I've never seen before, though I thought I'd read just about everything she's written. And I have two poem collections in my stack: Ilya Kaminsky's Deaf Republic and Leah Umansky's The Barbarous Century.   There's a frost advisory tonight, though I have a hard time believing that coastal Portland will be hit this early. Still, it's possible we have reached the end of the summer garden. Farewell, bounty.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

On Friday, I'm reading at the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell, 7 p.m., alongside the poet Adrian Blevins. And it looks like my car is getting fixed today, so I'll actually be able to drive there. If you're a Portland-area person in need of a ride up, let me know. I'd welcome the company.

It's cold out there this morning, high 50s, and dry as dust. We're in desperate need of rain. This morning I have to bring my car to the garage; then I'll be back to editing, manuscript reading, a phone conference about teaching. . . . At least there are three new poems to add to the sheaf, after my weeks of no-writing. And I think they're not too bad. So that's something. That's a lot, really.