Friday, May 24, 2013

Sad Day

The German poet Sarah Kirsch died earlier this month, all of Germany just found out today. I liked her work, and when my daughter became interested in reading poetry, I gave her one of Kirsch’s books (Erlkönig). When I started writing poetry, I received a kind rejection from some journal or other with a note from the editor saying I should send them more work when I’d written a poem as “edgy” (their word) as Kirsch’s poem “Sad Day,” her best-known poem. 
Here’s a short poem of hers I like with my translation.


Die alten Frauen vor roten Häusern 
Roten Hortensien verkrüppelten Bäumen 
Brachten mir Tee. Würdevoll 
Trugen sie die Tabletts zurück, bezogen 
Horch- und Beobachtungsposten 
Hinter Schnickschnackschnörkel-Gardinen. 


The old women in front of red houses 
red hydrangeas crippled trees 
served me tea. With dignity 
they carried back the trays, resuming 
their posts for eavesdropping and observation 
behind frilled, flourishing curtains.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


I figure if I have been turned down by a journal two or three or more times, I am going to have a slender chance of winning its poetry contest. I appreciate journals get revenue from charging a fee for their contests, and that’s fine. One could also subscribe. But to enter a contest in which you have little chance of winning and lots of chance of tying up some of your best poems for months seems a waste of time and money.

Elsewhere in $poetry$ land, I have given in and subscribed to Duotrope. I stopped when they began charging, but find that it’s motivating to see which journals are answering submissions, who’s got a call out on a theme, where “people who submitted to this journal also submitted to.” Until two days ago I hadn’t submitted anything for going on 90 days. 

This was a very boring post. To spark up the experience, listen to my brother read about bikes in this short animation.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


I’ve looked with longing at those bath bombs of dissolving soap you dump in a tub of hot water. They fizz into a scented, soothing foam that must be really pleasant to surrender one's nakedness to. Too bad I invariably lose interest before purchasing one. I don’t know - the perishable pleasure, so what? My inner protestant is like, $6, for one bath? Uh, no. And the ring around the bath tub.

Sadly, my son recently gave up piano. 

The blank wall where the upright used to stand made me frown, exposing the promise wrenched rudely from my life. There was only a faint dust-line along the wall at the height of the absent instrument. Then I had an idea that exploded like a bath bomb on the brain: bookshelf. I know this appears a pretty obvious idea. It is. But like time-released pain reliever it took a while to dawn on me what my son’s giving up piano might mean. Getting some empty shelves was like the swooniest jasmine bath I’ve ever had. And they’re all mine. Don’t tell my husband but I arranged the books so the shelves look full, when actually there’s room for 10-14 more, depending on which books my new books turn out to be.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Automatic Friend

I remember various times being abroad and resenting “the automatic friend.” The automatic friend is a person who, for reason of origin or language, is just assumed to be your close buddy. For example, you are both Americans at a hostel in Sichuan. Or you both are native English speakers and find yourselves, separately/together, in Tical. Or, in extreme cases, you are just two white (black) faces on an unfriendly street in Ghana (Norway). In the best-case scenario it isn’t the automatic friend making the assumption you’re best pals, but everyone else, who abandons you to each other.

You two must have a lot to talk about! 

The imaginary friend is much better. And even better than the traditional “imaginary friend” who’s a companion to the lonely is the imaginary imaginary friend, who’s completely fictional and gets you out of awkward time with people you don’t want to be with, i.e. who delivers you back to your loneliness, or rather, your solitude. 

“I’m sorry I can’t come to the cocktail reception but my friend K. from Novosibirsk is coming through town and we'll be having cocktails in my apartment with the door locked!” 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Your Mother Should Know

Rainy Night House (we took a taxi to your mother’s home / she went to Florida and left you with your father’s gun alone) 
Joni Mitchell, in a song supposedly about Leonard Cohen 

Your Mother Should Know (though she was born a long long time ago) 
The Beatles, a Paul song, obviously 

It’s Alright Ma (I’m only bleeding)
Bob Dylan 

Mother and Child Reunion (only a motion away) 
Paul Simon, supposedly the name of a dish at a Chinese Restaurant, I imagine with eggs & chicken (yuck) 

Mother’s Little Helper (what a drag it is getting old) 
The Rolling Stones 

Mama Said (there’d be days like these)
The Shirelles 

Sweet Jane (and there’s even some evil mothers / well they’re gonna tell you that everything is just dirt) 
Velvet Underground, in a song probably not referencing the relevant mothers here

Sylvia’s Mother (says, Sylvia’s busy, too busy to come to the phone) 
Dr. Hook 

Little Green (you’re sad and you’re sorry but you’re not ashamed) 
Joni Mitchell, in a song about giving her baby up for adoption 

Wayfaring Stranger (I’m going there to see my mother) 

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

All my brave arrangements

My poem Kansas is up this week at Heron Tree. I lived in Kansas in the late 80s. That's me, driving my tin can past some vast nothingness eons ago.

With the Pulitzer Remix occupying so much of my time over the past weeks, I haven't submitted anything, or really even written much of anything, excepting the 30 found poems I wrote for the project. I know they count as writing, and yet often they felt like busy-ness...

So it was good to have a poem accepted yesterday to Prick of the Spindle, too. Clementine. The fruit, rather than the miner's daughter. I'll tell you when it's up.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Before I read a book

I ask myself, am I in the mood for this book? 
Is this book in the mood for me? 

Are there any indications I might hate this book? 
Will I hate myself if I hate this book? 

Does this book have too much in common with the book I just finished? 

Does this book suffer insufferable blurbs? 
Am I simply in it for the plot?
If it requires a long list of characters at the start, am I up for such a book? 

Where did I get this book? 
How & why did it get into my to-read pile? 
Whom do I know who dis/liked this book? 

Are there Nazis in this book? 
Is this a miserable old Europe book? 
Is this a smarmy America book? 

Is this book too huge to take back and forth to work? 

Does this book have a cover I can live with? 
If the cover were translated into an outfit, what would it be?

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

We now resume our regularly scheduled programming

To the people who think poetry month is a can of crap, and complain it’s a way for people to get attention, or atone for not writing poetry the rest of the year, or for people who don’t really care about poetry (reading or writing) to pretend they’re literate, I would say when I was a kid I went to Quaker meeting with my family and I remember being told that in “the olden days” Quakers didn’t celebrate Christmas because one should honor God every day, in all humility, without singling out one day to be especially pious and boy was I glad to find out that the Quakers had since given that up.

Also, when it’s talk-like-a pirate-day I don’t get teed off about people talking like pirates, or complain that they’re neglecting to talk like pirates all the other days. I have no desire to talk like a pirate on any day but I don’t begrudge those who do as long as they aren’t harming anyone else and are considerate of those who prefer not to participate. 

I now go back to my slow ghazaling. 
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