Friday, May 31, 2019

Chestnut Ridge, available for preorder

Adrian Blevins writes:
William Faulkner is famous for mining “his own little post stamp of native soil” for what he called “the old universal truths.” In Chestnut Ridge, Dawn Potter is following Faulkner’s wise path, giving us a polyphonic portrait of southwestern Pennsylvania in an impressive range of voices, pitches, and forms. She starts with the region’s tragicomic history—“the undiagnosed roads littered with sorrows”; “the pale and ruminating / heifer”—moving gradually through time to the present. All along, mining the full possibilities of persona, our intrepid author takes possession of her own origins as melancholic witness to a bygone America whose history it would be a terrible mistake to lose. This sad, moral, and really smart book is essential reading for anyone interested in hearing a master poet sing an indispensable bereavement song.

Betsy Sholl writes:
Dawn Potter’s rich and remarkable Chestnut Ridge gives us voices and artifacts tracing the development of southwestern Pennsylvania, from 1635 to 2013--from missionaries to racial conflicts, mining disasters to the way changing times can leave us adrift.  Potter makes history alive and compelling.  These poems hold up a mirror to the way assumptions and pressures shape our lives, as they trace how the land changes from wilderness, to commercial venture, to the aftermath of industry. It’s hard to know what to praise more:  Potter’s deft and supple forms, the rich empathy through which she creates the voices of others, or the way her poems make the past alive in all its complexity.   In a time when history and truth are under attack, these poems are not only beautiful and profound, they are utterly crucial.

Books available in late June . . . preorder here.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

I've been thinking about trees lately . . . how, in large and small ways, and wherever I live, they seem to have an outsized effect on my days. In Harmony that was no surprise. We lived on 40 acres of old-growth timber, mostly pines, firs, spruces, tamaracks, interspersed with smaller hardwoods--maples, cherry, poplar, ash, birch--and cedar along the streambed. Our acreage was just one small patch in the enormous stretch of woodland that cuts across northern New England, into New York, up into Canada . . . the Great North Woods, the forest king. Every time I cut anything from the garden, I had to pick pine needles out of it. Every spring I tore pine saplings out of the cultivated beds. If Tom needed to side the barn, he cut a tree for boards. We heated our house for more than two decades on culled trees, without doing any damage at all to the woods. The trees were our skyline, our fort, our weather. They surrounded us, and we were small.

Now I live in the city, but still, the trees have not ceded their power. Instead of mammoth white pines, we now have mammoth Norway maples. They loom dangerously over the houses . . . huge, beautiful, crowns of shade and green, and terrifying in a wind storm. Every time I cut anything from the garden, I pick out bits of maple flowers and maple seeds. Every spring I tear maple seedlings out of the cultivated beds. The trees are glorious and unstable. They surround us, and we are small.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Yesterday was one of those surprising days when I got a good-sized paycheck in the mail but the guy at the garage said I didn't need a brake job. Imagine! Money not spent on the same day it was acquired!

Plus, I got a lot done at my desk (a chunk of novel-editing, two Frost Place intros drafted), and I washed the floors. That's what happens when pouring rain keeps me out of the garden.

Today will be cloudy and cool, but the downpours are over for the moment. I lit a fire in the stove last night, and I may again tonight. But the plants look happy nonetheless. I think my chard and kohlrabi grew twice their size overnight, and soon I'll need to stake the tomatoes. The peas are climbing the trellis; the beans are thick. Columbine buds are unfolding. Thyme flowers blaze between the stones, and the backyard is pretending to be a lawn. After I finish my desk work, I'm going to the hardware store to buy a hummingbird feeder.

Last night, as dark was settling over the neighborhood and the rain was sluicing down, I stood at my study window staring out into the backyard. The green was so intense; my eyes drank it in, greedy for every drop. I don't love this little patch in the same way I loved my Harmony woods. But I'm learning to love it for itself.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

On the spur of the moment, Tom and I decided to take the ferry to Peaks Island and spend a few hours walking along the beach road. Peaks is one of the Casco Bay islands, the closest to mainland Portland, a 20-minute ferry ride from downtown. Though it's technically just another city neighborhood, it feels like a different place entirely: beach cottages, rocky ledges, grasslands, even an oldish forest in the center of the island. And yet it's so easily accessible: just a cheap short boat ride away.

After strolling and climbing on rocks and staring out to sea and looking at eiders nesting on spits, we came back to town and ate fried clams, then drove home and took a nap, then did nothing much for the rest of the evening except listen to a baseball game. It was a fine summer play day.

Today will be less fun: there is nothing enjoyable about having to take my car to the shop to discuss a brake job and a reluctant air conditioner. And it's going to rain again, and get chilly again, and I still haven't managed to vacuum, and I've got a stack of desk work and no idea what I'll be making for dinner.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Perhaps you remember my mentioning the two Alice Waters cookbooks I acquired at a weird yard sale on Saturday? Well, I made a lemon tart from the dessert volume, and it was hands down the best lemon tart I've ever cooked. I believe the secret lay in (1) Meyer lemons, which have a wonderfully complicated flavor, and (2) a short-crust pastry flavored with lemon peel and vanilla. The result was simple, fresh, and bright, plus it sliced beautifully.

I have no particular plans for the day, other than vacuuming. I've finished the Munro and Stafford story collections and am now rereading Diane Middlebrook's biography of Anne Sexton. I don't know that I'll make my way through all of it again, but maybe. Tom has started refurbishing the cellar door, so at some point we will no longer have a giant black maw in the back hallway. I washed windows yesterday and now, in the morning sunlight, I can see all the spots I missed. Today I'll harvest the last of the bok choy, probably most of the rest of the radishes. It's been a wonderful growing spring for both of them: cool dampness is apparently their secret ingredient.

Writing-wise, I feel like an empty box. But given how much I've written during the past month, that's a comfortable sensation.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

It rained all night and now, in the pre-dawn gloom, the white hostas loom like predators, and the deep wet green of trees and grass swell and threaten. Across the street, our neighborhood possum, a pale bustling chunk, scoots through the waning daffodils. Through the rain-soaked window screens the empty street looks like a Renoir setting, all running colors and flat light.

Supposedly the rain is ending now, and then the sun and heat will set in . . . or at least as much heat as we've seen this season. Yesterday didn't quite reach 70 but it still felt like our first summer day--warm and humid, with the top-heavy glare of July--and Tom and I walked to the farmer's market and bought pork chops and some celery seedlings, then stopped at a yard sale advertising itself as "Awful; Everything Is Broken" and bought four books (Milosz, Munro, and two Alice Waters cookbooks) and a stack of old postcards. Afterward Tom spent the rest of the day working on photographs, and I ran the trimmer and did some weeding and cleaned bathrooms and planted celery and talked to my kid and sat in the yard drinking ice tea and reading most of the Munro stories.

Today I might wash windows. I'll certainly finishing reading the Munro stories. I'm considering making a pie.

It’s hard to guess where that pride of poets comes from,
when so often they’re put to shame by the disclosure of their frailty. 
--Czeslaw Milosz, "Ars Poetica?"

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Sunshine and Saturday morning. Somewhere a mourning dove is cooing--repeating her slow querulous demands like a mixed-up lady at a bus stop: "Where do I go, go, go?" From the living room window I am watching two squirrels skitter back and forth across the neighbor's driveway, apparently in search of nothing but trouble. Now Ruckus's pal Jack trots by, jaunty in his tuxedo, and the squirrels vamoose up a maple tree, jeering as they go. They are entirely scornful of cats.

Though I have plenty of stuff to keep me busy this weekend, there's nothing urgent. The garden is in decent shape; the housework is manageable. If it were really warm, I might wash windows, but the forecast is only for modest heat. Given that we traveled last weekend and that I'll be fetching P from school next weekend, we've made no plans to go anywhere in particular. I'll do some mowing and trimming, some weeding and cultivating. I'd like to find a celery plant for a garden box and maybe some annuals for flowerbeds. But all of this is puttering.

In the meantime, I'm still thinking about my new collection, A Month in Summer--fretting over whether it's actually done, actually cohesive; beginning to send queries to a few publishers who've previously been friendly about my work; researching contests to decide which few I might want to enter. Another collection, Dooryard, is already sitting on various editorial desks. And I have good news about Chestnut Ridge: it has a cover now, and cover blurbs, and with luck I'll have a few copies ready for sale at the Frost Place, though the formal publication date will be scheduled for early autumn. As soon as I have a jpeg of the cover, I'll share it with you.

But dealing with three manuscripts at once! No wonder my desk was such a rat-hole.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Yesterday I reorganized my study so that it is now tidy and even well lit, plus I received a beautiful asparagus fern in the mail from my Chicago children--an unexpected gift that made me get all weepy on the front stoop. O my young people. They are nectar.

Beans are up, columbine is about to bloom, lilacs are bubbling and flowing. Last night I served seared bluefin tuna with wilted bok choy, roasted baby potatoes, cucumbers in yogurt, and diced marinated cherry tomatoes, garnished with a big pinch of baby salad greens and topped with minced garlic chives and cilantro. I love kitchen-garden cooking so much.

Now the rains are over and the sun is shining. I'll edit this morning, then go to yoga and run some errands, then amble home to hack out some weeds and maybe submit some poems. I'm still reading Jean Stafford's stories; she is very good at endings. I'm still reading Frost Place faculty poems and mulling over the intro essays I'll be writing about them.

Open windows. One of the best things about spring.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Yesterday I managed to submit not one, but two, editing invoices with significant errors, and then I forgot a bag of groceries in a cart. I am beginning to understand that I am exhausted. I'm not exactly sure what has caught up with me--outdoor work, juggling too many jobs, writing too many poems, broken sleep, seasonal allergies?--but I was barely propping myself up at the stove when I was making dinner last night.

This morning I feel somewhat refreshed but still sort of squinty and wizened around the eyes. I'm hoping to avoid sending any more apology emails to managing editors and to keep better hold of my grapefruit juice, but I'm not highly confident. In my mind I resemble one of those Raggedy Ann knockoffs, with my acrylic yarn hair coming unraveled and my printed-on nose fading into a grubby smudge.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Yesterday was a long editing day, followed by mowing and trimming, followed by an evening meeting of my poetry group. I brought a batch of work from the new manuscript--the first of its four weekly sections--and the response was cheering. Really, the response from all of the early readers has been so extremely positive that I am nonplussed, giddy, and embarrassed, all at the same time. Apparently I've somehow managed to not only write an entire manuscript in a little over a month but also to have finished it. This seems illegal, in the world of art.

The looming issue now is submission. Contest fees hover around $30 a pop, and I can't afford too many entries at that price. So far I've only brought myself to pay for one. I wish there were another way, but the contest model has taken over independent poetry publishing. And spending money on a gamble makes me extremely anxious.

Anyway, enough of this dither. I've got another long editing day, followed by something or other--gardening, housework, Frost Place prep. . . . The sun is shining, and the wind has died away, and the lilacs are blooming, and the tulips are fading. Here's to being alive.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

We celebrated our first few warm hours yesterday. Though the day began chilly, by midafternoon the temperature had reached 70 degrees, humidity was heavy, and thunderstorms were on the way. Now, this morning, the sun is shining on the wet trees and grass, and the garden plants look plump and self-satisfied. Beans and morning glories are breaking out of the soil; lilacs are rioting into color. Last night I harvested two chubby bok choy plants for chicken stir-fry, and greens are abundant enough for sandwiches and small salads.

This afternoon I'll be mowing and trimming, if I can climb out from under my editing pile. I'm still reading Jean Stafford's stories, and I'd like to copy out some Dante, though what I really need to do is start composing intros for my Frost Place faculty readers. Actually what I really need to do is clean my desk. Every other place in this house is tidy, yet the desk remains a tar pit. I hate it but I have no storage space--not a single drawer--so things get out of hand easily, especially when I've been writing. And I certainly have been writing.

Monday, May 20, 2019

We got back to Portland from Vermont mid-Sunday afternoon, and immediately I started transplanting. While Tom had spent the weekend helping my dad cut down trees, I spent it trekking to the local nursery and then moseying around my mother's flower gardens as she kept encouraging me to dig up various shoots and sprigs. As a result I ended up with maybe 25 plants: all of my hot-season vegetables plus various shade and sun perennials. It was a garden bonanza.

The timing was good as today we'll see our first temperatures in the 70s as well as high humidity and thunderstorms, and all week the nights are forecast to be mild. Still, I managed to wake up at 3 a.m. filled with anxiety about all the things I need to get done at my desk, in the house, in the garden, at the Frost Place, in workshops I'm supposed to teach, with house guests who will be here in a few weeks, on my next trip to Vermont (to pick up the college boy). Ugh. I don't know why my brain can't leave me alone.

I've been rereading the collected stories of Jean Stafford, which continue to be both wonderful and strangely dated (which I don't mean in a pejorative sense at all). I'm still goggling and gulping over my diary-poem project. I feel fizzy and a little overwhelmed, and I wish that didn't lead to insomnia, though it always seems to.

Friday, May 17, 2019

We're heading out today for a weekend in Vermont--a work visit, helping my parents with their garden and woodlot chores. It's not everyone who packs a chainsaw and a come-along for a weekend away, but apparently we do. You probably won't hear from me for a couple of days, but I should be back to my regular doings on Monday.

This morning I'll finish up my 8-week poetry class, deal with various paperwork things, do a rush load of laundry, and reread my new manuscript a few hundred times. I can still hardly believe it exists.

If any of you friends might be willing to glance at it and offer your opinion, I'd be grateful.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

So it seems that I have the first draft of yet another manuscript.

Yesterday I compiled my diary poems into a 60-some-page document. To be clear, these poems aren't Whitmanesque. They are tiny--most no longer than four lines each--and are interspersed with prose fragments. The amount of text on each page is negligible. Nonetheless, I can hardly believe I've compiled an entire manuscript in such a short period of time.

For the moment I'm calling it A Month in Summer, and it's broken into weekly sections, each of which is broken into seven days. Every day includes an exterior entry (a prose record of events, conversations, complaints, etc.) and an interior entry (a verse record of a state of mind). It's set in midcoast Maine in 1868, and is the voice of a woman, an occasional schoolteacher, who lives with her brother, a farmer.

Undoubtedly I will revise it. But for the moment there it sits, a fat stack of paper on my desk--record of a whirlwind.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Big moments in freelance: I realize it's okay (1) to say no when school employees I don't know ask me to teach a class for free; (2) to say no when I've gone out of my way to explain to a client that the way in which they're producing their journal means that it will inevitably be filled with errors, and then that client offers me a job proofing the next issue, which they have continued to produce in exactly the same error-filled way; (3) to be amazed when, after I've been hemming and hawing and wondering if I'm charging too much for a service, people say Yay! and pay me exactly what I hemmed and hawed over.

Issue 1 may seem like the smallest one, but over the years it's been by far the most difficult to negotiate. When I first began working in classrooms, I was grateful for any chance to practice and learn, though I also did this at a time when my children were young and I would have been volunteering in their classrooms in any case. Occasionally other schools and organizations would ask me to do something poetry-related, and mostly I said yes. It seemed impossible to get paid in central Maine to do that work, and I needed the practice. I was flattered at being noticed, and also nervous and humble about my skills. Flash-forward 15 years, and I find myself continuing to struggle with the right and wrong of the matter. Is it right for me to spend several hours working in a local school for free, when I don't know the kids at all and the school system has a budget for visiting artists? Maybe yes, maybe no. In any case, I have to talk myself through saying no.

Of course I always think: Maybe there was a kid in the room who needed a poet. Most likely there was; there almost always is. So I continue to be guilty, even though I always feel a strong wave of relief at having had the wherewithal to politely decline. It is hard to think of oneself as a professional when people don't want to pay you for the work you do . . . or maybe don't want to pay you is the wrong construction. It's often more like if you love your art, of course you'll give it to us for free. That's the rub. The kids don't know one way or the other about whether I'm being paid. But the schools do, and the teachers are often embarrassed and regretful about the matter. And that puts me in the position of having to make them feel better because their employers are taking advantage of both of us. It's a mess.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

This morning, a slow cold rain.

Last night Tom and I went out to see a 1947 noir film called Out of the Past, starring a very young Robert Mitchum . . . who looked shockingly like Ted Hughes. That resemblance had never occurred to me before. Poet noir.

On these dark heavy days the flowers and trees seem to hold a sort of glowering light. Their own green fire.

I'm still writing.

Monday, May 13, 2019

It was a long weekend of labor, and my back is weary, but I'm pleased to have the wood stacked, the tree saplings cut out of the stone wall, and two Red Sox wins accomplished as I worked. Today I return to my desk: mostly editing a poetry ms, but also choosing among cover possibilities for Chestnut Ridge and beginning to sketch out intros for Frost Place readings.

I've started reading a novel I've never read before: Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance, set in an unnamed city in India in the years surrounding Partition. I picked it up in the Goodwill because something about it seemed attractive, and now I'm dreaming about the characters, which is always a sign of reader commitment.

Otherwise, nothing new here except for dirty fingernails, blisters, a few bruises, and a hankering to get back to my diary poems.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

"Conversations and jokes together, mutual rendering of good services, the reading together of sweetly phrased books, the sharing of nonsense and mutual attentions."

This is Robertson Davies's translation of a passage from St. Augustine's Confessions, which Davies borrows (in his novel The Rebel Angels) to describe both a good class and a good marriage. Really I think the motto might serve to describe, in the ideal, almost any benevolent communion: friendship, parenthood, playing music together. Even the marathon of moving two cords of wood from a pile in the driveway into a neat stack behind the shed might be considered the "mutual rendering of good services." For the job is now done: the stove-wood is covered; the kindling is collected in baskets and pails; the bark pile is raked against a fence corner; the odd-shaped chunks are heaped for summer fires on cool evenings; the neighbors have made their friendly comments. . . .

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Because it's Saturday, the cat felt that he had to hoick me out of bed way too early. So here I am, limp and bleary, staring out the window at the two cords of rain-soaked firewood I'll need to spend the rest of the day moving. Tom and I had a very comic conversation last night, in which we realized that our finely honed firewood-moving system was no longer going to work for us here. In Harmony one of us would run the splitter (mostly Tom but sometimes me and, later, both of the boys), and then the rest of us would take shifts stacking as quickly as we could. Everything was set up right outside the woodshed, so the stacker could work as fast or faster than the splitter. Now, however, we have to haul this firewood from the driveway, carry it around the back of the house, and then stack it against the shed. Moreover, we have no woodshed, so we have to stack it in the open air, without walls to automatically hold it--which means we have to make solid criss-crossed row ends, which Tom (with good reason) does not trust me to do skillfully. So who moves the wood, who stacks it, who runs the wheelbarrow, what will the pace be like? These may seem like unimportant questions, but two decades of GET THE WOOD IN NOW have trained us to treat the task like an assembly line. When my son phoned and I explained our dilemma, he laughed but also immediately understood it. There was never any messing around when it came to getting that wood under cover.

But at least the weather will be beautiful and springlike. In Harmony we seemed to always be doing this crazy marathon in November, trying to beat the snow, or maybe not quite beating it so getting our gloves soaked with snowmelt, and then having to take turns thawing out in the house because we were losing feeling in our hands.

Friday, May 10, 2019

A slow rain this morning, and I am waiting for a truck to dump two cords of firewood in my driveway: the first firewood I have ever purchased. For more than two decades we heated a house entirely on what Tom culled from our forty acres. It's amazing, really, how perfectly that piece of land kept us warm, and yet the woods remained beautiful, even pristine, for all of our tenure there. The year revolved around wood: finding it, cutting it, getting it out of the forest, cutting and splitting it, stacking it, carrying it into the house, stoking the stove.

The little stove here in the Alcott House is hardly more than decoration: nostalgia-warmth, not a life protector. And a Saturday spent stacking firewood is only a pale reflection of the anxieties of heat.

I miss that world; I don't miss it.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

It was a cold night, but our neighborhood escaped the frost. Now sunbeams slant through maple-tree lace, two little dogs on the sidewalk strain at their leashes, tulips prick their sharp noses skyward, and I turn away from the headlines with loathing and fear.

This will be a day of small poems, of sharp stones, of folded sheets. Metaphors are blisters on the hand.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Here's how the garden boxes are coming along: arugula up, bok choy seedlings thriving. Beyond them is the new flower garden.

Peas are thick; radishes and lettuce are sprouting; strawberry plants are peeking out among the tulips. Eventually there will be a cucumber under that trellis.

Sun today, patchy frost tonight. I've written seven little diary poems thus far, and later today I'll trudge off to the archive in search of more material. I've been doing classwork/writing/editing manuscripts/writing/cleaning bathrooms/writing/weeding/writing . . . the little poems are seeping into everything.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The tiny diary-poem drafts are bursting forth, but so quickly that I'm suspicious. Still, I've now shown them to four different people, at least one of whom is not a fan of my writing, and all declare that I need to keep at it. So for now, the diaries and I will stay in harness.

The day is dawning blue, but rain is supposed to move in later this afternoon . . . a chance to catch up with housework, boil chicken stock, fiddle with new drafts. As my younger son pointed out over the phone yesterday, the whole family is on a creative binge. Tom is printing photographs; Paul is writing a play; James is working on a video installation; I'm writing persona poems. Art-making is a dominant gene in this family.

Monday, May 6, 2019

I did zero housework this weekend, other than laundry, so I guess I'll be catching up on that all week. But two whole days without rain: I couldn't resist spending them outside. I weeded, put in a few seedlings, sowed many kinds of seeds, moved some firewood, relaid a stone path, chit-chatted with neighbors, wandered acquisitively through a nursery. Meanwhile, Tom began measuring and cutting for the new kitchen spice cupboards. In Harmony he built us a beautiful shallow spice cupboard against the back of a chimney. These will tuck into the turn of a corner cabinet, so they involve much persnickety fitting. But he is nothing if not a persnickety fitter.

Today: back to the desk. I've got a stack of poetry manuscripts for copyediting, prize winners in a big contest. But the sky is waxing blue already. It's going to be hard to stay inside.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

I ended up planting yesterday: not only beans but also most of my flower seeds--cosmos, nasturtiums, sunflowers, and some ornamental grasses.

The tulips are glorious this year; I never had nice ones in Harmony, so these are a surprise and a delight, and I can't resist spreading them all over the house.

But the gray skies continue to cling. Spatters of rain erupt and pass. The weather is so odd, such perpetual cloud. Perhaps this is what it's like in the Pacific Northwest, but I don't know: I've never been there.

In between my gardening stints, I'm still devouring novels. I feel like a bottomless novel pit, which is to say I'm reading like a book-drunk 12-year-old. Just like always, being a novel pig is both embarrassing and magnificent.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

The green is becoming intense. Against the foggy sky enormous Norway maples crane their lacy arms. Single bright daffodils rise from a sea of scylla leaves. My eyes can't stop drinking in color.

But it's still cold. Windows are shut tight, and we've lit fires in the wood stove every evening this week, and I go for walks in hat and gloves. I'm anxious to plant beans and sunflowers, but the soil is too dank. So I just wander from window to window, staring out at the empty beds.

I've been reading a fat Robertson Davies trilogy: a reader's version of guzzling a dozen doughnuts at a sitting. I don't know why I'm glutting myself on busy, plot-driven, character-spewing novels while writing tiny spare poem drafts, but it seems to be the way to go, at least for the moment. I think my mind is weary: so much teaching and planning; worry over whether classes are going well, or will go well. The Frost Place conference is looming, I'll be co-directing another high school writing seminar this summer, my third 24PearlStreet poetry class begins in July, I'm teaching a day-long master class in Portsmouth in June, I'm starting to work out details for a three-day residency at a midcoast writing center for late fall, and then there's the giant Monson Arts project. . . .

I'm so grateful to have these opportunities, but they are a mountain too.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Another glowering morning in the 40s. For weeks we have been trapped in this chill cloudbank, yet somehow spring continues to unfold. Along the side streets redbuds are bursting into bloom. Much to my surprise, the sweet pea I planted last summer has re-emerged: I had no idea it was a perennial. Columbine rises in a swirl of tender leaves; the hydrangea and lilies are bright with new growth. I planted all of these last fall, so it's sweet to watch them take hold.

I spent a chunk of yesterday afternoon at the archive filling a notebook with diary source material. Here's hoping I have enough to play with for a few days. I'm happy to be writing again, but unsure about what this material will ultimately mean to me. It's like having a cupboard full of ingredients that don't quite add up to a cake.

Anyway, I should stop worrying.

Today: teaching and writing in the morning; a yoga class at noon; errands; an afternoon in the garden; an evening in the kitchen. A life of small things.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Rain again. It doesn't feel much like May out there. I'd like to plant beans, but the soil is nowhere near warm enough for that. Still, the trees are budding, the grass is green, there's no snow, and I don't always need to wear a hat. This is Maine, after all. I can't expect a Philadelphia spring.

Classwork in the morning, and then I'll set yeast dough rising for cinnamon buns (college boy care package) and walk up to the archive to spend more time with my diary mis-copying project. I spent an itchy and unsatisfying afternoon yesterday not figuring out how I might handle these pieces in any sort of future collection. In some ways that's jumping the gun, I know; but I want to open myself to any possible narrative or dramatic options, and for now everything feels muddy and impossible. So I guess I will force myself back into the present tense and just chug along with the individual drafts. They seem to be finding themselves without trouble.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

In a cool spring the tulips stay crisp and sharp for a long time. I planted a lot of bulbs last fall, and most of them seem to have survived the squirrels. And in the gardens I'm resurrecting along the driveway, tulips squelched by years of neglect are suddenly appearing. Not all will bloom this spring, but their leaves are a sign of hope.

Today I'm teaching in the morning, but the rest of the day belongs to me. It's been months since I've had a long stretch of unstructured alone time, and yesterday's poem experiments felt like being six years old and eating candy before breakfast--greedy, joyous, and illicit. I've got a stack of editing on the way, so I'd best hurry up and gobble as much sugar as I can before the manuscripts arrive.