Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Update on job situation below: I found out that I am at least still in the running for the perfect job, mentioned below-- although they continue to interview more candidates. So, still waiting and hoping here.

I'm playing a waiting game here -- hardly an exciting thing to blog about, but I don't have much of anything else to say. What am I waiting for? At least three things, at the moment....

I'm waiting to hear about a job that I interviewed for yesterday. I would be soooo perfect for this job. If you people who interviewed me yesterday are reading this, I really would be awesome, despite my possibly dorky interview answers. Unfortunately, rest of the world, I can't give any more details, lest I blow a really good thing, but stay tuned.

Also, I'm waiting to hear about my manuscript. Yes, I know that's not exactly news. But above and beyond the multiple competitions I've entered and open submissions I've submitted to, Demimonde is being considered now at a publisher that asked to see it. How cool is that? And I'm a finalist (again), one of 25, in one of the aforesaid competitions. (This is #17, folks.) So I may yet see this book published before I die!

I've also submitted a review I've written, on spec -- not an earthshaking thing, but interesting, and I'm waiting to hear the outcome of that.

And that's all the news, or most of it. I wrote a check today for the high school reunion I'm going to in September. Lord help me. It's a 38th high school reunion, and across the country from me. It's costing me money I don't have, and I just hope it isn't too horrible.

The weather here may be the best anywhere, now. It's been pushing 80° or maybe 85° during the day, but a blessed fog is in this evening, and the mornings have started cool as well. My house is high on a hill and faces west. With one window open there (the only one that does open at present) and the back door open to the deck, it's been just lovely all day The dog has stayed with me, rather than go up with John to San Rafael where it's been in the 100s. She's eleven now, and moves slowly enough. In the heat, she moves so slowly, she might as well be going backwards!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Unformulated Experience

I've gone missing from poetry for a while, a pretty long while for me. Needed to be away, for various reasons, but mainly the pot has just felt empty. What I'm full of late is, not poetry, but a project exploring the nature of unformulated experience, (a term from psychoanalyst Donnel Stern). Rather than thinking of the unconscious mind as attic space, where unwanted, hated, repressed, discarded parts of experience stay stored away, the unconscious is what one has never been able to experience because it's never been constructed linguistically. The mind being primarily a linguistic organ, we require words to think. We can't make anything conscious or available for reflection without language. People in therapy, whether they realize it or not, are reaching for ways to create new emotional experience rather than to recover it.

The connection with poetry is clear. What people do in therapy is, in some ways, a loose, uncrafted version of what poets do, i.e., create something new through speech. What stops us is the limits on our ability to think and create. Experience becomes restircted to old, familiar linguistic pathways. We may know other possibilities exist but like ultraviolet light we don't have the equipment to experience it directly.

People come to new understanding & experience in therapy (freer understanding and experience) by creating words for it. These experiences may be just out of reach or far out of reach. Even close to awareness they can't make the leap. Speech in therapy is encoded, requires another mind to read between the lines, so to speak. There's a distinct aesthetic to clinical work.

Psychodynamic training plays with theories of the mind, but the effort of learning to listen & grasp elusive qualities of clinical expression is similar to learning to read poetry (and other writing than relies on linguistic devices like associative leaps, word play, imagery, etc). Like being able to understand, appreciate atonal music or contemporary art, it takes exposure and reflection on one's experience of it. Otherwise these things seem crazy and alienating (like some of contemporary poetry...).

I'm going to teach a class on this eventually.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Those darn Irish

Poetry Daily has posted a really interesting interview with Eamon Grennan, which is from the current Kenyon Review. I often joke with John (my husband), whose mom is from Dublin, that the Irish poet could say, "Pass the salt," and sound good. And that's not even counting their influences and education, which seem to give their poetry a great advantage. But Eamon Grennan has spent as much of his life (or more of it) here in the States, so there are those influences too -- though he admits to insulating himself quite a lot from popular culture. Here's a bit of the interview, just to tease you and get you to read the rest:

"...The whole issue of lyricism is about fragmentation, for me anyway. The moment. The fragment. Fracture. The things seen in passing. The notion that things halt but only in our imagination for a half a second and poetry is an attempt to slow things down a bit and hold on. ...

...I'm very interested in the nonreductive, not forcing the thing to make sense, but allowing it to hover with a number of senses. That's some of the work I've done. You don't do these things consciously. When I read my own work, I see that I'm trying to get many things to move around one another centrifugally and centripetally at the same time. To shoot off and come in. What did Frost say a poem was? "A momentary state against confusion." That's what interests me – the attempt to bring many things into some balance, into a kinetic equilibrium. It's what atomic theory tells us is the case. I know nothing of that, really, but the little picture we are given of the atom and the molecule and the things inside the atom, the whirl of things that make the desk, your hair. If you slowed it down you'd start to see the everything start to disintegrate, but it's held together. That seems to be what lyric poetry is all about, holding together the stuff that is flying off. That would be my metaphor for it anyway – sort of molecular activity. ..."

I very much like this.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


I’m not a ballet fan, but I happened to read Joan Acocella’s review of “Giselle” in The New Yorker and was struck by the opening paragraph:

Diana Vishneva, a principal dancer at the Kirov Ballet and at American Ballet Theatre, once told Francis Mason, of Ballet Review, that in any ballet she always tried to find “a particular thing that allows me to know what I am doing with the role, not just to do it beautifully.” She needed, she said, to find her own “secret.” Sometimes when you hear such words, you tremble. Many theatrical absurdities—chaste Carmens, happy Hamlets—have been perpetrated by people on similar quests. But, in a performance of “Giselle” . . . at A.B.T. in mid-June, Vishneva . . . did find her own secret to that ballet, and the result was a show that left people sitting dazed in their seats afterward.

That’s just how I feel when I’m writing a poem! I can work and work on a poem but it never quite comes together until I feel that I’ve found the poem’s secret. Not that the poem needs to reveal its secret in some corny epiphany—in fact it’s probably better if it does not!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Chain Link

Giving credit where credit is due department: David Galenson "discovered" it, Daniel Pink wrote about it, Wired published it, Jilly Dybka (Poetry Hut Blog) posted it, C.Dale Young linked to it, Robert Thomas pointed me to it. I'm talking about this theory that there are two kinds of geniuses, the ones whose brilliance flowers at an early age (the Conceptualists) and the ones who slowly come into their own later in life (the Experimentalists). Wow! You can see right off why this excites me; it means hope for those of us who have gray hair as well as gray matter (heh, heh -- figuratively speaking, because I'm not gray) and have more lines in their faces than their bios.

I'm actually interested in the whole concept of creativity and genius, beyond the need to prop up my perennially sagging self-esteem. I've always wondered how much opportunity, encouragement, and, well, luck has to do with the making of genius. You may think I'm finding excuses yet again, but take, for instance, everyone's favorite example of genius: Picasso. What he painted at fourteen just totally boggles the mind. But. Picasso's dad was an artist. No genius, he was a competent painter who was also a teacher. He recognized young Pablo's talent. (In fact, it is said that he gave the 16-year-old Pablo his brushes and he himself never painted again.)

What if Picasso had a dad like mine? My dad refused to let me apply to a liberal arts college with a creative writing department because, he said, no self-respecting man would ever go there. Note: I'm not now nor ever was a man. But Dad was sending me to college to get married, and the kind of man that filled the bill didn't apply there.

I'm just commenting. This is light years away from the article referenced above. But it ties in with it in my mind as well as to other reports I've been reading about young women who don't consider themselves Feminists (and, bless 'em, don't need to).

Over and out, for now.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Something Uncontrollable

In case I’ve been missed, I’ve been working on a series of poems about this woman, La Donna Velata. With any luck, I’ll be finished sometime in 2008. I saw this portrait in Rome over 25 years ago, and though I’ve never been back, it’s haunted me ever since. Painted by Raphael about ten years after Leonardo painted Mona Lisa, for me it has all the mystery and force that I imagine people found in Mona Lisa before it became a cliché. As this article in The Guardian says about the painting:

Something uncontrollable is happening under her rich clothes, as the silk of her sleeve goes into convulsions, but she looks back at you boldly. Vasari thought this was the woman for whom Raphael lusted to death. Others say it was a baker’s daughter. All that’s certain is that this is a different Raphael, painting like an open-hearted Venetian and not a Roman careerist. Pity he didn’t do it more often.