Thursday, November 19, 2009

My newest news

Yesterday, I was notified that I won a prize. It's the 9th annual Erskine J. Poetry Prize from Smartish Pace. I get $200 along with publication of my poem.

Yeah, it's only $200 (and the funny part is, I can't even remember entering this competition—I'm not exactly spending money these days; I can't) but it's very nice. It's especially meaningful because, as some of you know, I won second prize at the Nimrod and National Writers Union, been finalist at Discovery/Nation and numerous manuscript competitions, including the National Poetry Series, but I've never actually won anything — unless you count first prize for fifth-grade girls in the Yonkers science fair. So, yay me!

Other than that, well, I had plenty to say until now, but I can't remember what was so important. John is out at some Opera Guild cocktail party or some such thing but will be back soon. I am thawing out from my walk with the dog (okay, it was actually 52°, but I'm sensitive to cold) with a large glass of Charles Shaw cabernet. There are sweet potatoes roasting in the kitchen.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Rationale

I needed to provide a writing sample today for a possible job. Boy do I hate that, having to prove myself. Well, I came across this, and I like it. I needed to update it, but I thought I would post it here. It concerns my book that is due to be published this spring with Dream Horse Press.

Conjugated Visits is a book of poems that, for the most part, is concerned with passion and point of view, with relationships that sometimes work and sometimes do not, between partners, among family members, among strangers, in a world that is not always face forward and can’t be taken at face value.

I group poems that seem to belong together. Although this statement is a “rationale,” it’s not always a rational thing; sometimes it’s intuitive. Sometimes the poems in a group have similar themes or ideas, are involved in one or another of my preoccupations. Sometimes they share mood or attitude. On the other hand, sometimes they work to contrast with others or another, a palate refresher, so to speak.

I’m aware that one is supposed to start out strong and end with a bang. I’m not sure of my bang ending. I put what you might call my Yonkers poems in the middle because I’m trying to work against the cliché of chronology.

Conjugated Visits

Conjugated Visits (the section) begins with “Conjugated Visits” because I think this poem sets up the first section and the book well. This poem goes from I to you to she to he to they and then broadens out, and I think that sets up a workable strategy. It’s a strong poem that was published in both Field and on Poetry Daily.

The second poem in this section (“Sonhar”) takes the “I” a bit further. (I’d like to state at this point that all “I” poems in the manuscript and, indeed, all poems that seem personal are fictional, not autobiographical. They may partake of personal experience, but move beyond those experiences, I hope, and are true to the experience of the poem, not to “what actually happened.”)

The next poem in the first section is “Demimonde,” and I like a lot about it although I�Proxy-Connection: keep-alive
Cache-Control: max-age=0

9m not sure that it was ever 100 percent successful. It sets up a story about a fictional world from the poet’s point of view, and it’s supposed to sound very “noir.” This was the title poem of the manuscript for years, but I no longer think it works as a title. Still, the relationship implied in the poem — or the possibility of the connection between the woman and the man in the poem together with the weather connection, well, I think that follows well from the poems that precede it.

Darkness Visible

Darkness Visible is a section of very dark days and includes “Was You Ever Bit By A Dead Bee,” the pet quip of the Walter Brennan drunk character in To Have or Have Not. The section ends with the poem, “Darkness Visible,” whose title comes from Milton and which addresses Johnny Cash.


In the ShBoom section, which I think of as sort of “pop,” we segue into the “Lorraine Asks” poem, which, in the guise of a casual discussion, brings up “the one thing they will hold over you.” In Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother knew the one thing that you feared most. I think loving is by far more dangerous — outright scary — than being loved. You are just never the same after opening yourself up to loving in this way.

The next poem, the title poem of this section is “ShBoom.” It’s kind of a memory piece, an imagistic poem about summer in Yonkers, just a picture of the way it was. The song “Life Could be a Dream,” was both a pop song and something my mother used to say, in regard to how fast life passes. The sounds, my sister’s naked dancing, the fireflies, the women doing dishes at night, the piccolo (I used to play) — are all very dreamlike.

The next one, “Back in Yonkers,” is also dreamlike, but pretty graphic. It’s meant to be more than a confession. It’s meant to restate that you can’t go home again, and if you do, you’re not the same person who left. It’s also meant to show what Yonkers was like during a certain era. It’s written in Yonkers-speak.

Another poem in this section is “Gal Friday.” Much of this section is involved with old ideas about what it meant to be a woman. This poem hearkens back to the time when classified ads in newspapers were divided into positions for men and jobs for women. A Gal Friday was the name of the job whose responsibilities included doing whatever was necessary to please the (male) management. Both acquiescing and refusing were equally demoralizing.


The ten poems of Bequest are all about death. It’s hard to explain why I think poems about death belong in a book about relationships — maybe because we all have to deal with it some day — and not just our own death, but our loved ones’ deaths too.

Hue and Cry

The final section is both more “political” — though I’m not sure what I mean by that — and less logically or narratively inclined, so more experimental. “Five Days on Twenty” is about working on the 20th floor of an office building in Oakland, but the speaker, rather than being removed from the surrounding environment, is overly affected by that environment. Maybe she is on her way to a breakdown.

For “Hue and Cry,” I borrowed the beginnings of lines from a poem I encountered in APR. I just wanted to do what I could, sacrificing semantics to syntax, although I love the meanings that happened as I continued. I really enjoyed the variations-on-a-theme aspect of this — both the writing and the result.

The poem that follows is “Night Vision.” It’s a rebellion against high tech, not really any specific person or product, more a rejection of the idea that the next new thing is going to perfect us. It’s somewhat antagonistic toward a male vision of things, I suppose. In many ways, it is sound driven. This could be considered a bad thing by some.

The penultimate poem in the book is “Fraught With Danger.” The image this poem begins with is conception. This poem is about entropy, about things falling apart.

The last poem in the book is “As It Never Was,” which comes from a dream I had about living in the rhythms of the seasons, in a more traditional way of life. It feels like an ending.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Update on update

Congratulations to me! Today's my 33rd wedding anniversary, as I've plastered all over Facebook. Well, maybe I'm overdoing it, but whoever heard of anyone being married this long! :]

I'm working full time down at NASA Ames until the third week of October, then going half time. Though we almost left The City in terror (on the theory that it's cheaper to live anywhere but here), we're going to stick it out after all, cutting back on EVERYTHING. Truth is, I'm almost looking forward to my new schedule. I will only have to drive down to Moffett Field two days a week! Woohoo!

'Course it will be great if some contract work happens (especially telecommuting). My resumé has been well received, but who's hiring? But won't it be great to have more writing time? I need a lot of time by myself to write. Though I can scribble bits and pieces on the go, I need to be not distracted to make something of it, and lately, I'm just exhausted.

So we'll see.
Also, I love fall, its negative capabilities, the putting away of light things. Besides, the weather is spectacular: crystalline days, luminous nights. If you (whoever, wherever you are), ever plan to visit Northern California, by golly, now is the time to do it!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Big Decisions

I don't know what to do. Should we, in the space of a month, sell our house, move an hour north to a tiny but cute place in Sonoma County? I'm not kidding. My job is going to (maybe) 50%, and John's work is here and there, dribs and drabs. In order to retain that 50% and the (very expensive) health care that comes with it, I will have to commute an extra hour and a quarter. This will only be two days a week, for now, but I don't know how long now will be. And if work expands? How would I deal with a three day commute schedule of that nature?

I'm trying to get other work, of course. I get very positive responses to my resumé.

We could delay the decision, but the pristine little cottage could go. And October is the prime month to sell a house in San Francisco. We have lived in our house almost 21 years.

Any thoughts? My dear sweet friend and manager says not to do anything hasty, and I promised her I wouldn't. But then, I don't know.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A drag

It's always an exercise in some sort of faith to write here. I imagine it's like praying for those who pray, the need to believe that there is something out there. Partly that's the reason I write here so rarely. Also because this was supposed to be a team blog, for the poetry group, and it's so obviously not. So on top of wondering if anyone is actually reading this, I feel guilty that what they (you) are reading is just about me.

But the truth is, I'm pretty scared. My job is being cut back to 50%, even though they love me there. Work comes in dribs and drabs for John. Of course things could change. We're scrambling. I don't want to be one of those sad woe-is-me stories. I want to be a happy ending.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Not Business as Usual

Looks like life is throwing me another curve. Probably, in a little more than a month, I will have 25% of my job. That's all the money they're allotting for overhead in the Division, and writing and editing are overhead. I know it's not personal — I do my job really well, and everyone seems to like me — and need me. They just don't want to pay for it!

We have already downsized at home, closed the studio. But now the Healthcare discussion becomes personal. John is self-employed. How will we pay for health insurance? COBRA is expensive!

I can't really wrap my head around this yet. I'm still hoping for miracles. If you've got any great ideas, let me know.
Probably will not have 25% of a job, whatever that is. Probably will have all (less likely) or none (more likely). No one really believes this, let alone me. Everyone continues to give me work. I continue to do it. We talk future -- later and so forth. Magic? or denial.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

C'est la Vie

My claim to fame denied again — and that's all that I will say about that. It's okay, although the visions of glory were entertaining, on occasion. Life goes on.

But apologies for not posting more frequently. It was hard for me to write around the elephant in my brain/room.

Not much of a summer here, but that's the way it is too. In the City, the sun comes out briefly, and just when you think you could seriously get used to it, it's gone.

Work goes on. I'm lucky to have a job, everyone says. And I'm making tremendous progress in my French, which I study during the commute. Paris, here I come (springtime in, depending on work and AWP, if I go).

Here's some news: the poetry group 13 Ways will be reading at the Madrone Lounge in San Francisco on September 20. More info as the date nears.

Wednesday, August 12, is the Perseid meteor shower. It's not going to be too spectacular this year, due to moonlight, but we're trying to find a fog-minimal, city-light-free spot to view it. Years ago, when the boy was small, we would drive from Camp Mather and throw the old Army blankets down on the still-warm concrete of the Hetch Hetchy dam and watch the show.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Bit of an update

I apologize for the dearth of posts these days. It would seem to be a good thing — that life is too busy to take the time to talk about it -- but most of the busy-ness is just the business of living, working, driving to work and back home and staying awake, evenings and weekends busy with meals, laundry, po biz, and so forth. Rarely do I get the luxury to just read or write. Sometimes I write in my sleep, restlessly composing, waking up so tired I can hardly drag through the day.

Work has fallen off for John, as it usually does during periods of economic difficulty. Who wants to pay for photography when they can have their brother-in-law take the picture? Someone actually called John the other day, balking at his day fee and threatening to go to Sears. John tried to explain that they wouldn't get the same quality from Sears. I told him to just tell the caller to hold up their cell phone and smile. Sure. Why not? Meantime, we've closed the photo studio and saved 2K a month. John is attempting to work from home, his workstation set up in the dark basement!

And I've got too much work at work, while the management encourages us to take unpaid vacation. Facebook friends in academia talk about summer vacation. We contemplate the San Francisco summer — unrelenting fog. For that reason alone (well, aside from a paycheck), I don't mind the long commute south each morning. At least I see sun, smell the jasmine blooming outside the office.

We are set to go away for four days next week, however, for John's mom's 90th birthday. There will be a big party in the Boston area, relatives flying in from Ireland and all. Except the young man who was supposed to dogsit has bailed. Our dog is 14 years old, sweet and delicate, and John and I baby her night and day. Greta is on painkillers, can't do stairs or hills (and we live on a 14° hill), and needs to be assisted in and out of a car. So I'm trying not to panic as we contact everyone we know, hoping that someone will want to stay here for four days, high on a hill in San Francisco, with a sweet little mutt.

This morning, yoga class (with a substitute) was cancelled. I tried to do yoga at home (and did eventually), but first I had to deal with downward facing dog — actually more like dog in relaxation pose. Cellphone picture below.

Now you see why I don't post more often. Maybe I will have something interesting to say sometime soon.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Some News

Some news has been brewing for some time. I've been shy about hinting, but today the announcement has been made. My book, finalist yet again, has been selected for publication by Dream Horse Press. I'm happy, feel they will do well by my book, as well as a (very) small press can do, and I'm happy to save those godawful contest fees for a while. (Though actually, I have another --new-- book -- that still needs work, waiting in the wings, though I have already sent it to two places.) But Conjugated Visits, formerly known as Demimonde, which will be published by Dream Horse Press in 2010, is my first, for a long time my only baby, and I feel funny, no longer wondering and worrying about its future.

Not counting putting together the final manuscript, deciding on a photo for the cover, and then learning all that publicity stuff, which I've never had to pay attention to.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shoulda, woulda, coulda

I miss Fella!

I meant to post something after leaving VCCA that summed up my experience there -- a wonderful place -- fun, pretty, inspiring, and the only time in my life that I've had 18 days (minus the travel and acculturation time) to just write. I left on a high after a ten-minute reading the night before that even offset a quiet departure and a very long flight, one leg of which was between two large men who could have benefited from showers.

I miss Eduardo, my VCCA buddy. Despite his remorseless teasing, he introduced me to place and people and helped this introvert fit in. And we had a lot of fun snarking about fellow fellows, fellow poets, fellow bloggers, and whatnot late at night.

Since coming back, I've had some second thoughts about the manuscript I put together there -- although I'm still glad I did it. Being back to work has been relatively easy. My sweetie, who missed me while I was gone, has been tres sympathique. My dog has been her quirky doggie self.

I have managed in the last two months to lose my watch, break my glasses (at VCCA) and today, spill a cup of coffee on my iPhone. I don't know what all this "means" but I hope I'm done with it.

My windowbox also greeted me.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

More from VCCA

More from VCCA

I keep on thinking I'll post the blog at night and then don't, so I'll make an attempt now. It's 9:30 in the morning and I'm eager to get to the studio and see what disaster I wreaked last night when I started reordering the new manuscript. One of the new poets here asked me the manuscripts title, and it was the first time I said it aloud, and it was weird. See, I'm too unsure of it to even post it here.

Well, as some of you already know, we had snow on Monday (?) and since then it has been melting and freezing and so forth. I've taken some pictures with my iPhone so will post them here now.

Monday, February 23, 2009

VCCA post

I've been here for four days and I haven't posted -- but I've been having a great time and getting a lot done. Right now, I'm sitting around, post dinner, post ping pong, with Eduardo Corral and Deborah Ager.

I'm going to post some photos:

Monday, January 26, 2009

What's on Your Desk?

Here are some of the things on my desk:

1) A glass paperweight that used to belong to my mother, weird but unique
2) No fewer than five notebook / journals hardly written in
3) Squiggly dry seaweed driftwood
4) Two pieces of other driftwood
5) Two fabric lizards, lounging
6) Files and paid bills and letters held up by a pair of spherical wooden bookends that belonged to my father.
7) A black Santa Clara pottery bowl filled with shells and stones
8) A metal candy box filled with same
9) A small black plastic dog -- were two, one has gone missing
10) A glass jar filled with batteries to be recycled
11) Stationery boxes
12) Stapler, pens, pencils, and assorted crap

If you want to enumerate what is on your desk, consider yourself tagged.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Forgot a title

So much has happened in the days since my last post, but not much has happened to me. I resist posting here the same news everyone posts. And my own life is boring. So what does that leave? Good luck, every last bit of it, to our new leader. I have faith in you and know you will work hard for us.

Work has been very busy, and I struggle to stay awake on my long drive home, often waking with a jerk after I've swerved out of my lane. (Yeah, I know that's awful. I'm working on it!)

I look forward to leaving (on the red eye) for VCCA in less than a month. I've been through Virginia but never to Virginia, so I can't visualize it, don't know what to expect. I plan to shape a bunch of poems into BookNext (which also needs a real title) and make some decisions about Conjugated Visits. For two and a half weeks, I will answer only to myself.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Self Centered

This post is fairly selfish. That is, it's more pertinent to myself than the rest of the group. Bear with me, please.

I'm going to VCCA in about a month's time. I'm excited about having 18 days or thereabouts to do my writing and not be required to go to work or cook or clean or socialize if I don't want to. They're giving me the residency for practically nothing, and by using my Discover card I can whittle down much of the plane fare.

But I will be missing twelve days of work that I can ill afford to miss. Other people I know who have gone hither or thither have gotten fellowships to help them cover expenses. I don't know the first thing about this -- well, I know about it but I don't know how to apply that knowledge specifically to my case.

Does anyone know of any grants or fellowships I can apply to. How do I go about doing this?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year's Day, Some Assembly Required, Resolutions Included

Happy New Year to anyone out there reading this, though I very much wonder if anybody is. I am having a lovely afternoon after a hectic holiday. John and I are sitting in the living room. Sun is pouring in on us and on the dog, the kind of winter light that feels redemptive, perfect for the first day of the New Year. We are drinking tea and eating cheese and crackers, dried fruit and nuts, and biscotti and listening to a new Sonny Rollins CD, "Road Shows" -- thanks Robert and Cheryl!

Here are some of my New Year's resolutions, in the order that they come to me, to be refined, I'm sure:

1) (Verily paradoxical), I resolve to spend less time on the computer, more reading, exercising body and mind.
2) Get my book taken this year, and if there are no takers, take stock of its worth, whether it is meant to be or not, possibly making revolutionary changes.
3) Finish the prose memoirs (essays) that I've talked about more than written.
4) Be less of a hermit and keep in touch with those who are close to my heart but may be far away.
5) Try not to make resolutions for anyone else.
6) Try not to worry, at least late at night when I should be sleeping.

That's all for now. Namaste!