Poetry Stuff

This afternoon I sat down to write and the first thing I wrote was a rather scathing free write addressed to myself. In this free write the words “shame,” “fraud,” “lazy,” “unfocused,” and “cowardly” came up. I didn’t realize how pissed off I was at myself until I started writing about pissed off I was. The simple truth of the matter is that I have not written anything that remotely resembles a poem in about 5 months. It’s despicable. I internalized my feelings about this lack of productivity but whenever I would stand in front of my creative writing students and  talk about revision and the only way to get better is to keep writing, well, I felt like a jerk. Because was I doing any of that? No. I was reading a lot and I did have a lot of ideas for poems floating around in my head, but who cares? Nothing was making it to paper.

It felt good to get it out on paper, and once that was out of the way, I felt renewed. I always feel better after working on a poem for a few hours, even if it isn’t any good and even if it doesn’t go anywhere, so I turned the page from my angry free write and started to draft a poem.

Last fall (sigh) I took my creative writing students to the IMA and found myself meditating on the painting Hotel Lobby by Edward Hopper. I blogged about the experience here, but here’s another look at the painting:

And here are the notes I made:

Oil on canvas. “Though this looks like a scene from a story, it’s not clear there really is one.” Two women and two men. Two older and two younger. Point of view seems to be from the doorway. Hopper’s paintings are always “busy” in terms of people but they are so lonely because the people always seem to be ignoring each other. Even in conversation they are lonely. Women are always young, blonde. There is a darkness in terms of color that seeps into the atmosphere as if something horrible is just below the surface. 

I’ve done a little more reading since then about Hopper and the painting:

* Robert Henri, Hopper’s mentor/teacher, once told him “It isn’t the subject that matters but how you feel about it.”

* Hopper placed his characters as if they were captured just before or just after the climax of a scene. The characters in this painting could be based on Hopper and his wife, Josephine. There is a contrast between the two older individuals in the painting and the two younger people.

I wrote out a couple of drafts of this poem and then thought about maybe working it into a villanelle but after about an hour it occurred to me that the villanelle wasn’t the form for this poem. Mostly because as Strand and Boland say in The Making of a Poem:

“…the form refuses to tell a story. It circles around and around refusing to go forward in a any kind of linear development, and so suggesting at the deepest level, powerful recurrences of mood and emotion and memory.”

My poem was trying to tell a story, so the villanelle wasn’t going to work. I’d already put myself well into the narrative. Anyway. This is what I came up with after about three hours:

Draft #5

His brown wool overcoat drapes 
heavily over his one arm, close 
enough so that the hem brushes
the green brocade armchair. She looks
up, the peacock feather on her hat whispering
against the mahogany molding at her back.

Together they arrived with their monogrammed
luggage packed with diner dress. This lobby is known
familiar in its overstuffed chairs, rich wood and shadow.

It is empty, save one golden haired girl reading
a book. She is oblivious to the young clerk, who stares
at her long legs from behind his desk.

The dining room is now dark, deserted. It is late.
The lobby cast in shadow and the young clerk’s face
illuminated by one lone lamp. 

It is 1943 and the war is on. Yet hotels still
run, guests still dine, clerks still stare at young girls
who still read. He still stands up and she still
looks to him in question. 

I’m not in love with it because it doesn’t work towards that final stanza like I want it to. As per usual, I’ve got too much going on in my brain and it didn’t quite make it all onto the page, but I think it might be worth working on it some more to see where it goes.

Rainy Days

While I believe that rainy days are good for my garden, I would like to see some sun in the next day or two. I went out for a walk with Kweli yesterday morning as a sort of protest. I wanted to start a walking regimen and I’d be damned if the weather was going to screw it up. We had a nice walk but by the time we returned my sneakers were soaked through and Kwe was shaking his head to get the water out of his ears.

Yesterday I went to the store and then came home and cooked. Below are the fruits of my labor:

These are power spheres. They’re made up of dried apricots, dried apples, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, peanut butter, and apple juice. They’re delicious, easy to make, and a great snack.

This is honey wheat banana bread. Courtesy of my beloved bread machine. This particular bread is great with lemon curd or nutella.

This is sun dried tomato hummus. It occurred to me the other day as I bought hummus at the grocery store, that I had a perfectly good Cuisinart at home and that garbanzo beans cost about 88 cents…

After I returned from my conference on Sunday morning, RJ and I went to the Broad Ripple Art Fair. We purchased a piece of student artwork pictured below:

It is by a local artist by the name of Lisa VanMeter and this is the blurb she attached to the painting:

This is a multi-color woodblock print from a single block. The colors were printed in the reduction method on Mulberry paper.

We’re going to hang it in our kitchen where we have some empty wall space. I would like to continue adding the art of local artists to our walls as we continue to put our home together.


Another benefit to rainy days is that I don’t feel guilty about getting completely caught up in a book. I received Mary Karr’s memoir Lit for Christmas this year and it has been sitting on my coffee table since January. Today I read all three hundred plus pages of it in one sitting. I read Karr’s Cherry and the Liar’s Club and it was her writing that sparked my interest in non-fiction. She came to Butler a few years ago to read from her poetry collection “Sinner’s Welcome” and I got a chance to listen to her read her work.

Her memoir Lit is essentially about her journey into and out of madness. It’s a provocative and haunting read and I’ll have more to say about in a few days when I’ve digested it all…

Monday (A Week Alone) Musings

It was a busy but fun weekend. My sister came in from out of town and we went to the bar, shopping, and a few other local events around town. She left this afternoon and RJ left this morning for Buffalo. He’ll be gone for a week for work, so I have a quiet week and weekend to myself. It seems a little weird to have all this quiet after the excitement of the weekend, but I kind of like it too.

Let Birds

Eight deer on the slope
in the summer morning mist.
The night sky blue.
Me like a mare let out to pasture.
The Tao does not console me.
I was given the Way
in the milk of childhood.
Breathing it waking and sleeping.
But now there is no amazing smell
of sperm on my thighs,
no spreading it on my stomach
to show pleasure.
I will never give up longing.
I will let my hair stay long.
The rain proclaims these trees,
the trees tell of the sun.
Let birds, let birds.
Let leaf be passion.
Let jaw, let teeth, let tongue be
between us. Let joy.
Let entering. Let rage and calm join.
Let quail come.
Let winter impress you. Let spring.
Allow the ocean to wake in you.
Let the mare in the field
in the summer morning mist
make you whinny. Make you come
to the fence and whinny. Let birds.

Linda Gregg

This was one of the local happenings that we enjoyed this weekend. I bought a cool pair of earrings made from all vintage materials. I also bought a cool little denim pouch that can hold cosmetics. RJ also bought an excellent tie and some fun letter press items. Pictures of earrings and pouch displayed below displayed below.

Sunday (Art Fair) Musings

These photos are not the best quality because RJ took our lovely new camera to a conference, so I took these with the old camera.

These are some of the artists I liked but couldn’t afford. Yet.

Nancy Nordloh-Original Oils and Watercolors

Martina Celerin-Dimensional Weavings (one of my favorites)

The Perfect View/Patti and Bob Stern-Architectural Artificial Into Art

Dolan Geiman
-Contemporary Art with a Southern Accent