Saturday, March 30, 2019

Up, finally, after a congested coughy snorey night infested with unpleasant dreams. Bleck.

I'll be back on the road today--teaching in Bangor all afternoon, then spending the night with a northcountry friend. This head cold is making me stupid; I hope it won't show too much during class.

Tiny blue scylla is beginning to bloom in my front garden. The garlic shoots are sturdy. Daffodils are pointing along the house-edge. Tulip leaves unfold, uncurl. A dim haze of green flutters in the roots of the brown grass.

A big short-tailed possum scuttles across the backyard and into the neighbor's garage.

I sit in my red bathrobe in a darkened living room, drinking black coffee. My sinuses swell against my cheekbones. My nose feels like an elephant seal's. Fortunately it does not yet look like one.

Friday, March 29, 2019

The squirrel-proof clothesline is up. Now I just need to wait for a few rainy days to pass through, and then I can celebrate my inaugural spring washload. In the meantime, there's always housework to do and garden paths to lay. I'm feeling somewhat squelched under the pressure of a brand-new head cold, so I'm not organizing my energies too well. Plus, I need to drive to Bangor tomorrow morning, and then teach all afternoon, and then be a tolerable houseguest all evening. Here's hoping that the head cold stays home.

Anyway, today: classwork, and then yoga (if I can breathe through my nose), and then maybe that aforementioned garden path, if the rain behaves itself. Last spring, as a quick measure, I used some old floor tiles as stepping stones in my new beds, but they are ugly and now crumbling, so I'm slowly replacing them with stones from the reclaimed side yard . . . an early spring chore before the plants start taking up space and time.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

After a long weekend of late nights, early mornings, and two time-zone switches, I think I've managed to reset my internal clock, though it did require sleeping through the alarm. Now I'm groggily peering though the downstairs windows . . .  thinking mostly about coffee but also a little about George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss, which I'm rereading because the volume was the perfect size to bring on an airplane and also because I adore it, though lately I've given up rereading the ending because it upsets me too much.

I'm back on the classwork train--online poetry class in full swing, Saturday's essay workshop to prep, next Friday's poetry workshop on the horizon--but I have a brief editing hiatus. Yesterday afternoon I went out into the barren muddy back yard and began to mark the borders of perimeter beds--using old bricks, broken limbs, rocks. The future beds are layered with last fall's leaves, and now I am beginning to sprinkle them with the compost I've been saving all winter. My plan is to sow shade wildflowers and plant some annual seedlings as I gradually build the beds into viable ground for perennials and shrubs. I can't do much more back there until Tom gets the deck built, but something is better than nothing. Meanwhile, scylla is budding in the front gardens, the first lily sprouts are up in the side garden, and I am getting excited about my second spring here. What I need to do today is buy squirrel-proof clothesline. No more clothes in the mud. I've had enough.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

On Monday, our last full day in Chicago, we went to the zoo and the conservatory, ate Ethiopian food, played pool, listened to a jazz quintet at the Green Mill, once a favorite hangout of Al Capone. It was one of those slow busy days, filled with long saunters, watching and wondering, getting cold and getting warm, walking first with one person and then another, a friendly desultory ease. My son's partner is as simple to love as he is.

And then yesterday, after riding on every kind of transportation except for boats, magic carpets, and dragonflies, we finally bumbled up our Portland back stoop, greeted our annoyed cat, ate dinner from our understocked fridge, and watched a Hitchcock movie under our couch blanket. The visit to Chicago was so sweet; I cried, as always, when I parted from my son; but being home is its own denouement, and it should be.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Sunday in Chicago: Blueberry pancakes accidentally spiced with hot sauce. A walk through a foggy glass city. An invisible neighbor practicing the tuba. Teeny-tiny dioramas of the ancient Egyptian embalming process. The best banh mi sandwich I've ever eaten. An addled man urinating against a giant mural of Frieda Kahlo. An elegant glossy theater containing a play about angry drunken steelworkers. Spatters of cold rain. A family at midnight in a dive bar, drinking surprisingly good beer and shouting happily at each other over a dreadful jukebox soundtrack of death metal.

Monday in Chicago: Me getting up too early because I have to work. Wishing for more coffee. Listening to traffic and trains. Watching the clouds scud over the churches. Blue sky.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

After getting up at 3:45 a.m. and subsequently spending many hours spent sitting in tight plane seats on the tarmac and not going anywhere (because of broken bathrooms, another plane hogging the gate, etc.), we finally managed to arrive in Chicago. And now, after a giant taco dinner and a long night's sleep, I am staring out of my older son's third-floor into a wilderness of roofs, facades, steeples, scaffolding, crosses, mysterious metal things that might be old cisterns, and beyond them the glass and steel monsters of downtown. The flatness of the landscape is apparent even from up here; the view through the wavy window glass almost seems to be two-dimensional.

I don't know what we'll be doing today, but apparently there will be big waves on Lake Michigan, so maybe we'll go look at that. There's been talk of the aquarium, museums, a plant conservatory. Tonight we're going to the theater to see Lynn Nottage's Sweat, which I've looking forward to seeing for a long time. If you haven't heard about this play, you should check it out. My younger son, the apprentice director, calls Nottage the best playwright working today. He's quite excited we're going to get to see her work onstage. I wish he could be here with us.

Friday, March 22, 2019

My desk is clearing, thank goodness. Just a few more project-threads to snip, and then I can leave for Chicago with a cleanish conscience.

I appreciate all of your enthusiasm about my new gig. The funny thing, of course, is that what for me is great money is, for real employees, spit in a bucket. However, I refuse to let my spirits be dampened by comparisons. In my world getting paid for anything is not so easy.

Today I'll do some online-class prep, write an intro for the student poems completed during my recent high school residency, go to yoga class and the grocery store, watch a little tournament basketball, wash clothes, pack suitcases, read a Trollope novel, take a walk. It will be a mild-mannered day, unlike tomorrow. If you don't hear from me anytime soon, don't worry. But I'll try to check in by Sunday.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

After a day of editing and errands, I went for a long saunter through the neighborhood and into the cemetery. Everywhere, puddles: the wet scent of melt: handprints of sunlight on headstones: sloppy streaks of sun along the sidewalks: a burst of snowdrops in a shaggy garden.

I'd just gotten an email offering me a miracle job. Would I create a year-long writing residency for high school students at a new arts center in central Maine? The plan is that I would lead bimonthly day-long sessions for a cadre of kids from the homeland . . . and get paid very well to do so.

When I lived in Harmony, I couldn't give away my services for free. For the most part English departments were suspicious, defensive, indifferent. Now I will be getting real money to create a class for young writers, who will be bused to the arts center twice a month to work with me. There will be a parallel program for visual-arts students.

I can barely keep myself from crying. Here I am in Portland, finally able to do work in the homeland. That's ironic, but also deeply emotional. To get a note from an artistic director that closes with "I think you'd be the perfect person . . . " All those years of driving kids back and forth from school, listening to their hopes and dreams and foolishness and half-baked plans and tears and laughter. All those years of being a mother in the backwoods. It turned out to be job training, I guess.

Anyway, a new page. A new experiment.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

I'm really enjoying my monthly poetry group. As you know, I was nervous about accepting their invitation to join. After all of my years as a solitary, I had a hard time envisioning what regular group review might be like for me. But as it turns out, the group is both useful poetry-wise and nourishing friendship-wise, and I've relaxed into being a more social poet than I ever was before. I know the success of these things depends entirely on the temperament of the members. Not every group is going to be able to combine rigor with open-heartedness. So I've been lucky to fall into these hands.

I'm editing hard this week, trying with all my might to get this project done before flying west. If the footnotes behave, I may manage it. But it's also a week of appointments--dentist, haircut, niggling phone calls and paperwork . . . those itchy necessities that take bites out of a day.

Students continue to sign up for my classes; Frost Place applications are starting to show up in my email. In stray moments I'm sewing on my dress and reading Trollope, a little sugar and cream to slip in around the edges of all of this prep. I want to write. I want to work in my garden. But I have to wait.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A couple of weeks ago a former student asked if I'd be interested in leading a private master class for a poetry group in southern New Hampshire. She said each participant would chip in to pay my fee, they'd arrange a meeting space in a local library, and we'd work out preferences for class content beforehand (e.g., workshopping, writing prompts, or a combination). I said yes! of course! and now I've got this fun date marked on my calendar for June.

But it made me think. This method seems like an affordable way to gather people who want to spend a day together talking about poems. So if you have been wishing for a face-to-face poetry day, and you have a few friends who might want to participate, let me know. Obviously distance, meals, lodging would add complications, but they're solvable. How can we make this work for all of us?

Monday, March 18, 2019

Another entry in Dawn's foraging-from-the-fish-market chronicles: Last night I made a salt cod salad for dinner. It did involve some planning: two days of soaking the cod in multiple changes of water; then boiling it for 10 minutes, cooling, and breaking it into chunks. I mixed it with sauted rapini, garlic, and cherry tomatoes; preserved lemon peel; a diced pickled hot pepper, and capers. The cod was excellent--the perfect base for future summer salads mixed with this and that from the garden. And cheap!

Today, I'll be back to editing and syllabus planning, and eventually I'll undertake some extreme vacuuming to clean up after all of this trim installation. Tom's still got a threshold to urethane and fit, and then a batch of door trim to put up inside the bathroom. But that's the only ugly framing gash still glowering downstairs. Given that five doorways open into the kitchen and hall, this trim project has made a huge difference in the house . . . a giant step forward toward done.

I doubt I'll have much chance to write this week--I've got so much work to muscle through before leaving for Chicago. I do have a poetry-group meeting tomorrow night, though, so that's something, I've been feeling Merwin's loss deeply, pondering his long apprenticeship to the art, his deep sense of obligation to place. He has been a model for all of us, in those ways.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Garlic, tulip, hyacinth, and crocus shoots are poking through the rimed earth. The shrubs I planted last fall--blueberries, hydrangea--are greening. The snow is melting rapidly from the bed of iris and lilies I laid out along the driveway. In the barren backyard mud season has arrived, and I watched a flicker scream wick-wick-wick-wick from the tip of a Norway maple. All day long gusts whipped leaves into eddies. I raked out flowerbeds wearing a winter hat and gloves. Early spring in Maine is a long drink of ice water.

Inside, Tom has almost finished putting up the kitchen trim. It's beautiful, even in its unpainted, uncaulked, scatter-spackled state. He's carefully cut and fit the pieces to replicate the original 1940s trim in the other rooms. This is such a funny little house: a workingman's cape that is both a throwback to its Puritan forebears and a mid-twentieth-century miniature. Watch any noir movie and you'll see a version of our pebble-glass bathroom door, maybe in the detective's office or in the jewelry store before the heist. It's strangely timeless, strangely modern.

It was a good day yesterday. We gossiped with both of our boys on the phone. I sewed and read poems and worked in the garden, and then in the evening lit a fire in the stove, reheated minestrone, hugged the cat. Happiness is so small, so easy to step on.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

I spent yesterday afternoon in my study working on the syllabus for my 24PearlStreet poetry class. Outside, little kids raced up and down the sidewalks on their scooters, chattering and shrieking. It was a lovely sound of spring, and I think their happiness made my syllabus better too.

I've broken the eight-week class into two sections: four weeks focused on creating new work, four weeks focused on revision. Each week will center on a theme. The creation weeks will move through this pattern: generating first words, framing emotion, following sound, discovering character. The revision weeks will concentrate on honing word choice, constructing space, digging for details, finding closure. I think each of those categories will allow me to consider a number of craft issues but also, I hope, help students see how such technical concentrations coalesce into larger movements within a draft.

Anyway, I'm excited about experimenting with this structure. We'll see how it goes.

Today I've got to read poems for a contest, and thoroughly clean the house, and figure out what to do in Chicago. This time next week we'll be flying west to see our young ones!

Friday, March 15, 2019

And so we wake up to yet another mass shooting, another furious annihilation, another rampage crushing eloquence and faith and community.

It's impossible to write anything that frames the hole of wordlessness in my chest.

Meanwhile, here on sedate Concord Street, neighborhood organizations are posting anxious social media warnings of the "we never thought we'd see it here" sort because someone found a needle on the sidewalk two blocks up from my house. Of course it's here. What makes these people think that a street composed of cute well-kept houses equals immunity?

Meanwhile, rich parents cheat to get their children into college, while my Pell-Grant kid washes dishes in the dining hall and worries that going to the infirmary will cost too much money.

Meanwhile, tiny plants struggle to sprout in a cold wind. The first robins hop over the snow crust.

I send my love to you. Send me some back.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Woke up to a few blots of snow, but I can already hear the roof melt dripping from the eaves. The air smells wet and new, like someone has just let the south wind out of a box.

I spent yesterday morning with Euripides, then sewed a sleeve onto a dress, then went out for coffee and a walk with a writer friend, then bought two mackerels and a pound of salt cod, and then came home and fried up those mackerels. I served them on a bed of chard (from last summer's garden), alongside pilaf with basmati, whole-wheat orzo, fresh chicken broth, and basil (from last summer's garden) and roasted fennel with muscat grapes. It was an amazingly delicious meal. (The salt cod I'll deal with over the weekend because tonight I'm going to do something or other with corned beef.)

Mackerel is such a good deal. Two small ones are perfect for two people. They fit into a frying pan and are relatively easy to turn. The bones aren't too thorny, and the flavor is moist and mild but not bland. And they are cheap. Every time I buy them I feel wise.

This morning I have to bring the cat to the vet for his annual shots and such. He will scream his head off in the car, and purr and flirt as soon as we arrive. Thank goodness the vet is only 10 minutes away. In Harmony I had an hour drive filled with nonstop hysterical shrieking. Another plus of city life.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

My high school visits are done, for the moment, and I'm back on home time. I hope to finish up the Euripides' translations today and then glide into syllabus planning. 24PearlStreet tells me the poetry master class will definitely run, though there's still space if you're thinking about joining us. However, my Bangor essay workshop and my Augusta poetry workshop are now both full.

There's been a lot of melting this week, and the tulips and hyacinth shoots in the bare patch by the house are looking happy again. Most of the yard is still covered in snow, but the piles are shrinking fast. Middle schoolers race down the sidewalks, crashing and stomping through puddles of snowmelt. The cat has managed to find the only muddy spot in the yard and has now tracked most of it across the kitchen floor. Last night in my dreams I lugged armloads of hay to goats and cows, worried about barn cleaning, hoped I hadn't forgotten to feed anyone, fretted over thinness and shabby coats. Teaching, writing, caretaking: they seem to be all tangled up in my subconscious.

Last night, while I was sewing on my dress and cooking dinner, Tom made the casing and sill for the kitchen window. Every little step of renovation enchants me. Instead of raw lumber and bare insulation, we suddenly have a pale simple frame: so clean and smooth, so precise. He is stunningly good at what he does.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Today is my last day of high school. Much as I've enjoyed the kids and the teacher, I'll be glad to delete that drive from my life. I never did like cars.

Last night Tom and I went out for Chinese food and a nice old-fashioned showing of Double Indemnity, the sort where something goes wrong with the reel in the middle of the movie, and the actors' voices start sounding like they've been swallowed, and Fred McMurray hops backward down a train aisle on crutches, and all the lights in the screening room come on, and a gaggle of young men fret and bustle around the projector, and the movie reel spins whap whap whap as they fret, and audience members giggle and take advantage of the hiatus to go to the bathroom. More movies should be like this.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Cutting and fitting trim is a slow project, but Tom got a lot of it done this weekend. Most of the raw, spiderweb-prone, 60-year-old framing that had been leering from around the kitchen and hall doorways is now hidden . . . though there's still the window to do, and all of the top boards across the doorways, and all of the edging along the floor. Someday we'll even have a cellar door, and countertops, and cabinet doors. But do not think I am nagging. I am still excited about having plumbing.

It was a good day to go nowhere. Though the rain tried hard to take control of the storm, we ended up with a couple of inches of sodden snow, enough for me to shovel while Tom was working on the trim. Let's hope this is the last of it. Today the temperature is supposed to climb into the forties, and the snow will start melting in the sunshine, and I'll be driving to school for a student reading celebration, and it's time for spring to settle in for good.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

First 6 a.m. of a new season. A slate sky, etched with bare branches, jutting chimneys, a jumble of roofs.

Yesterday was a bright, balmy, spring-is-coming day. Close to the house, where the snow has melted away, I found a hyacinth in bud; I uncovered peony shoots. Even though today's forecast is for sleet, rain, snow, the week promises a stretch of sunshine and mild air. I think we're crossing into new territory.

Tom and I had a good Saturday. He bought boards for the kitchen trim, and then we drove out to the Eastern Prom and walked along the bay into town. We stopped for a cup of coffee, we bought croissants to eat on our walk, we went to the fish market. Then we drove home and Tom went to work on his trim project and I went to work on my sewing project. I made chicken stock for the freezer. Tom played Rolling Stone records. We ate seafood salad for dinner and watched Chinatown for the thousandth time. It was a companionable day.

Today will likely be more of the same. I can't do much housework or concentrate on deskwork when the kitchen is a construction zone, and the weather will be nasty. So I'll sew and play with the cat; we'll listen to music and talk about this and that in the interstices between the hammering and the sawing. It will be boring and friendly, and we will both enjoy ourselves.

A long marriage is a strange thing, don't you think? So predictable. So refreshing. So disappointing. So surprising. So happy. So aggravating. So comfortable. So itchy. Who knew?

Saturday, March 9, 2019

I slept until almost 6 a.m., a triumph after a week of insomnia. Such a novelty to wake up to the sounds of neighbors being awake before me.

Now a gull flips past in the white sky. The air is very still. I am sitting in my corner of the gray living room, drinking black coffee from a white cup and saucer and considering with pleasure the unstructured day ahead of me. I want to walk by the water. I want to go to the fish market. I want to sew the neck facing onto a dress I'm making. Meanwhile, Tom is preparing for another plunge into renovation land: putting up trim in the kitchen and hallway. It will be that kind of weekend: sawing, hammering, admiring.

I've been rereading Kate O'Brien's That Lady, a tragic historical romance that I loved passionately when I was in my twenties. I've been roasting a chicken and making biscuits and gravy . . . I loved gravy passionately when I was in elementary school. Nostalgia Friday, I guess. Read a sad book about a beautiful Spanish aristocrat. Eat hot bread with sauce. There are worse ways to spend an evening.

Friday, March 8, 2019

I just got the good news that my Bangor essay workshop (March 30) is full and that my poetry-for-teachers workshop in Augusta (April 5) is almost full. Almost a dozen people--including several newcomers--have reserved space at the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching, and applications aren't even formally open yet. This all seems very positive, and not just for me personally. It feels like a sign that people everywhere are eager to read and write together.

Even the high schoolers are excited. Yesterday, during performance practice, one shy young man offered to read his poem in front of the class so that they could critique his delivery. What he did was blow them away . . . he delivered a poem full of emotion, using voice and body language that reinforced that emotion, and the class was floored. After weeks of work, the students were suddenly discovering how the synthesis of page and presence can change everything. It was a glorious moment--for the poet, for the audience, for the teachers.

Often, as a visiting artist, I have doubts about what kind of impact I'm making. I sweep in, put on my poetry show, and sweep out. All I can do is hope that a bit of the wonder sticks. Yesterday, I felt like maybe it was going to.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

There's a thin blue sky this morning, the color of a husky's eyes. It's 3 degrees out there. Inside the cat is humped sweetly on his chair and I am sitting by the dark fireplace wishing I had enough firewood left to start a blaze now. In Harmony, on these cold mornings, that was always the first chore. But town life is different, so I am saving my last wood for evenings. I sometimes think these evening fires are what has reconciled me to living in the city. Spending a year in that apartment without a wood fire: it was like an empty place at the table. Firewood was such a massive part of our lives up north. Cutting, hauling, splitting, stacking, filling woodboxes, stoking the firebox . . . day in, day out; day in, day out. No matter what else was happening in our lives, we had to remember the stove.

My week of teaching every day is going well. The drive is long, but the roads are clear and fast, and the kids are cheerful and engaged. The residency ends next Tuesday, and then I'll be diving back into editing and beginning to seriously prep for my 24PearlStreet poetry class. If you're thinking of signing up for it, feel free to send me a note with any questions, ideas, or preferences. I want to create a workshop that's as useful as possible.

In the meantime: I'm reading Iris Murdoch's A Severed Head; cutting out a pattern for a shirt; keeping up with meals and errands and laundry; not writing much, given my current work schedule, but I can feel the words sifting and sighing in the dark. They're waiting for me.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

It's cold outside. I won't say I've lost my spring optimism, but I will say that digging seems farther away than I'd like. I'm itching to be back in the garden . . . to learn how the iris and lilies I planted last fall survived the winter, to lay out my new garden boxes, to scrape back the mulch around the garlic sprouts, to breathe in the scent of thawing soil.

Instead, I'm slipping on the ice and listening to the furnace burn up our paychecks.

But I will not repine. Good stuff is happening, despite the furnace. I'm still immersed in my high school poetry residency. Lots of people have signed up for the workshop-for-teachers class I'm leading in Augusta early April. I've been invited to teach a poetry master class in New Hampshire in June. I'm leading an afternoon essay workshop in Bangor at the end of March, and that, too, looks like it's filling. I hope, hope, hope that my poetry master class for 25PearlStreet will run, but I won't know the class size till we get closer to the start date.

The fact is: for the first time ever, I'm actually working steadily as a writing teacher. It's a blip on the chart, no doubt. But it sure feels good.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Yesterday's snow, while indubitably snow, also felt like spring. It was a glittering, fat-flaked storm followed by bright blue sky and running gutters and snowballs plopping from trees. Though my son tells me it's 5 degrees in Chicago, he can't squelch my optimism. A month from now I'll be digging.

I've got a new sonnet sequence up at Split Rock Review, which you might like to read if you're in the mood for some fiction about arson. I feel itchy about calling these poems sonnets because they don't rhyme even though I know how to rhyme and often do. But the form is the form, and we can pretend the arsonist burnt off the rhymes.

So I'm off to teach poetry to kids today; I'm copyediting a new translation of the Bakkhai; I ought to wash a floor. That about sums up my rubber-band life. But as Jane Austen points out in Persuasion:
She ventured to hope that he did not always read only poetry, and to say that she thought it was the misfortune of poetry to be seldom safely enjoyed by those who enjoyed it completely; and that the strong feelings which alone could estimate it truly were the very feelings which ought to taste it but sparingly.
Good thing I have that floor to wash.

Monday, March 4, 2019

This was supposed to be the first morning of my go-to-school-every-day, last-push-of-the-high-school-residency schedule. But no. I have a snow day. So I guess I'll be editing instead, and beginning to prep for my 24PearlStreet poetry master class. And shoveling. At risk of betraying my childhood self, I am kind of wishing I were just going to school. The residency is two-thirds done; the kids are really engaged; today was the last day my co-teacher could be on the job with me. But c'est la vie en March.

I spent the weekend rereading Jane Austen's Persuasion, and adoring it all over again. Remember that it was published in 1817, soon before Austen died. And now think about the writer who could insert this declaration into the mouth of her female heroine--a gentle, non-pushy woman who is speaking to her beloved's best friend about whether men or women are more constant in their love. It's a feminist trumpet blast, one that also echoes with the strange meta-implications that arise when a novelist suggests that people shouldn't trust books.
Captain Harville: "I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say about woman's inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman's fickleness. But, perhaps, you will say these were all written by men." 
Anne Elliott: "Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything."

Sunday, March 3, 2019

I am now a cook with a grouted kitchen floor. No more food stuck between the tiles! My mediocre photo-taking skills are not capturing how pretty the finished floor looks, so you'll have to take my word for it.

We also now have art in the dining room--two big prints from Tom's canning-and-freezing series--and you can see a glimpse of a Hopi rug hanging in the hallway.

Tom's got only two more interior doors to rehab: dining-room closet and cellar. Countertop is on the way this spring, along with (I hope) a deck so that we'll have a place to sit outside this summer that isn't the front stoop. Someday the kitchen will have trim and cupboard doors. Someday the living room will have shelves for Tom's records and stereo. Someday we'll have upstairs storage space, and better closet options for visitors, and a bathtub that works. Someday we'll have a not-falling-down shed, and decent exterior siding, and a backyard that isn't bare dirt. Someday.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Yesterday my online essay workshop wrapped up. It was a lovely first foray into that teaching environment, and I'm looking forward to starting the next one: 8 weeks of poetry, beginning on March 25. Sign up! It will be so fun! Just ask the essay writers!

This afternoon I'll be reading with a group of other women poets at Alumni Hall at the University of New England's Portland campus, 3-5 p.m. In the meantime Tom will be grouting the kitchen floor--yet another exciting homeowner development.

In other news: sauce bolognese, hot black coffee, Jane Austen's Persuasion, a crossword puzzle, four daffodils, a dissatisfied cat, a red bathrobe, a stopped clock.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Last night's reading was packed for the launch of Betsy Sholl's latest book, House of Sparrows. The crowd in the bookstore was no surprise because Betsy is, deservedly, one of the most beloved writers in Maine. She is a former state poet laureate, but is also a local presence: a friend and supporter to all. So it was a joy to see a standing-room-only crowd prepared to celebrate her.

Betsy is a member of my poetry group, and naturally most of us were there to support her. My friend Linda and I came together, and as we were drinking our plastic cups of wine and talking about this and that, we saw the bookstore door open and in walked (as quietly as one can with a bodyguard) Governor Janet Mills. Betsy did not expect her; there was no hoopla. Just one poet stopping in to listen to another poet.

Meanwhile, our ex-governor, Paul LePage is making headlines this week, defending the existence of the Electoral College because otherwise "white people will not have anything to say." This is the same man who, when he was planning his first inaugural celebration, refused to invite the sitting poet laureate (Betsy) to read a poem because, he claimed, no one wants to hear that stuff.

The political schizophrenia is hard to exaggerate. But, blessedly, we are, for the moment, in more humane country. There was something extraordinarily touching about the governor's appearance: that after a long day of policy and polemic, despite a long drive back and forth from Augusta to Portland, what she wanted to do most on a Thursday evening was to listen to poems.