Monday, March 26, 2012

school work and recovery

writing about a Laura Kasischke poem today for one of my "critical papers." Writing about "Fatima," which is a poem I love so much I dreamed it last night. I almost could have written the poem (and i can be self-deprecating here where I'm not in class (which is just a discussion board) and won't annoy anyone but you, and you don't read, really, so it's all right) except that I don't yet have her skill.

Every time I read this poem, I crawl inside it like I'm crawling into the back seat of a car that a friend is driving. I'm going on a journey with a bunch of drunk girlfriends. Have I ever been on a journey with drunk girlfriends? Kind of. I've been to plenty of seedy carnivals, and I have carnie stories to tell, but none of these stories is as interesting as Kasischke's story, and I know this isn't true because what seems uninteresting to me about my life might seem quirky and astounding to someone else, especially if I write it well.

She writes it well.

She twists me around throughout the poem, starts with what seems like a theological statement, "God exists," and then completely leaves the church and enters the "festival of mud." Which could be a ritual of mud, a liturgy of mud (I know I'm rather fond of the word "liturgy"; it seems to be one of the things that keeps me grounded even though I don't go to church).

"Instead/we are a group of teenage girls, drunk/at one of those awful/carnivals in a field..."

Instead of staying home and thinking about the fact that God exists, the girls decide to get drunk and live recklessly in the rain. I know something awful might happen because the poet tells me something awful might happen. It's an "awful" carnival. I have been to plenty of awful carnivals. I've had toothless ride operators flirt with me and tell me they like my hair while I'm standing there with my 3 year old. I've had cute, smoke saturated game hawkers propose marriage to me while I'm surrounded by a group of friends. Why? I don't know. It doesn't really matter. It's the scene that matters. It's what could happen in the scene almost more than what does happen in the scene.

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I will steal the above for the essay and continue writing on it, at least until noon when I'm tired of it and just need to let it go. At 4:30 p.m., my professor will call, and we will talk about my third packet of poems. I just read through it for the first time since I sent it last Wednesday. It's not as dreadful as I thought, and I think that if I can get myself to avoid being frozen or distracted or fucking lazy, I'll be able to take what I've done and make it all into work that would be thesis-worthy.

I like this idea of a poem being "thesis-worthy." The thesis will be a collection of my best.

It's still only March, and we have weeks left of class, but I feel it winding toward an ending. I am looking toward those two and a half months in the summer when I will add to my stash of poems. So many poems. I'm proud of myself for writing so much, for continuing to write even when I feel like I'm failing. When one is a poet, failing doesn't seem to matter in the process. I write anyway because I have to write.

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I am damned tired though I went to bed before 1 a.m., took a nap yesterday afternoon, even slept for a bit this morning after my daughter went to school. So much stress in our lives right now. It's not huge, ugly stress, just ordinary stress, the kind that builds up until little things like getting lost in a city we're trying to leave makes me cry in front of my 17-year-old daughter.

I fear I've turned her more neurotic than she might have been if I'd been a "stiff upper lip" sort of person.

But I decided many years ago to be who and what I am even if who and what i am is sometimes a neurotic, self-deprecating asshole.

Monday, March 19, 2012

like no one is watching

three-minute shower
dash to the band room
pizza parties to treat kids for their hard work and excellent contest scores

I don't have time
but I don't have a "real" job
so they call
me
even though I have hours
and hours and
hours of work to do toward this week's poetry packet for school

and hours

power nap refreshed

I'm better

but I need to take that three-minute shower starting right now

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

just a post between posts and things

I should be writing poems or posting responses to books or thinking up my next critical essay topic.

or

I should be stripping beds or running to the store for fresh raspberries (my girl's favorite fruit right now) or vacuuming the living room around her stacks of art supplies and drawings.

But I am distracted and can't seem to focus.

I started writing some drivel that i thought would become a poem that I might have posted on my class discussion board, but it's overwrought and over-written.

This morning I piece together a lunch for my daughter while she still sleeps.
The raspberries are spoiled, green-rot etched into their floral edges.
This early spring reminds me of death, and I smell the decay in my flowerbeds and on my own skin.


I am not a fan of spring. Spring overwhelms me with things growing too quickly, the asthma it triggers, the mud and dirt and need to pay someone to mow since I am allergic to grass. Life is too busy, and I always have insomnia in the spring.

By the anniversary of my father's death in early June, I'll be exhausted and sad.

or not.

I have opportunities coming up that make me happy though they don't make me any money. On March 31, I'm auditioning to read poems at the Columbus Arts Festival in early June. I just need to pick five minutes worth and start memorizing around writing poems for class, around reading, around house and child and volunteering and out-of-town trips.

It's so sunny today, so warm. I missed winter. We didn't really have one here. When we lived in Texas, winter was a rarity, but here, I've gotten used to the idea of hunkering down under blankets and wearing socks to bed. My skin needs to be frozen before it can thaw. It does feel as if I'm rotting from the inside out.

Ah well.

Back to work with me. I've got a poem spinning around in my head so fast that I can't quite make out its words, though I think I see its structure.

It's a pretty structure. I just hope it doesn't suck as much as I always think my work sucks (my work doesn't suck; it's just part of my process to think it does).

Later, I might try to tackle the second Scintilla prompt for today though I'm feeling so old that I can't remember any of my "firsts." Hm. That's a lie. I've had some recent firsts that I could ponder.

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In case you are wondering, I do not consider this a real blog; I consider it a journal.

Scintilla, Day 1, prompt 1

The Scintilla Project


Who am I?

I am sagging breasts and age-spotted face. I am white hair, chin hair, elbow hair.

I am 16 in my taste buds.
I am motherless at 35.
I am orphaned at 40.

And now I am 53.

I am dust and pasta sauce, socially-awkward-pansy-pinko-liberal-pacifist-recluse-shy-girl-celibate-happy.

I am memory of grassy hills and the itch that came after rolling down one just before it was time to bathe at night in spring in Maryland, still my 8-year-old self under my skin, skin still allergic.

I am mother.

I am poetry student, editor, writer, laughter, volunteer.

I sing psalms to my empty house, but only when I believe. I don’t always believe.

I am maple tree and clover and wild onion and broken branches scattered over a muddy, thin-grassed yard.

I am dirty siding and Greek meatballs and the word “Yes.” Too rarely the word “No.”

I am never spring.

I am often late.

I am phone-phobic and bad with money, and I like your mouth and the color of your eyes and how you tilt your head to the side when you listen to me listening to you.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

do-nothing

It's Thursday of my spring break week, which means my professor is likely to start posting assignments and suggestions as early as Saturday to get us back into the semester.

Here is what I've done this week of rest:

- I've read more fiction than poetry (what a lovely indulgence!)
- I've written bilge
- I've slept
- I've watched a couple of films I hadn't seen
- I've hung out with my daughter when she's been home
- I've clipped the cat's claws
- thought about scrubbing down my bedroom
- thought about tackling the mounds of paper in my study
- thought about the fiction book I will write on when I'm finished with my MFA
- thought about a project that I hope won't cost me too much money but might be a grand way to get the area youth interested in poetry without forcing them to sit inside and write with a "practicing" poet though maybe they won't feel forced if they understand that when I say writing with a practicing poet, I mean, I write with them and share my process with them and show them how I - personally - get from A to C to M to Z (though Z is usually a hard destination for me to find)


So far, I haven't submitted poems to the two journals I vowed I would target, but I have the rest of today and tomorrow. If I'm going to take my work seriously, I have to send it out. I have to give the work and myself the respect we deserve.

So I will.

I also haven't read the next collection on our syllabus by Robert Dana (well, I've started, and I feel kind of terrible, but I don't like his poems at all, and he is gone from us and has a prize named after him, and from everything I've heard or read was a really nice guy. Makes me feel bad that I don't like his poems so far), nor have I read the next chapters in our "text" book, though I have read a few more poems in the "Next Generation" anthology.

I've been a sloth.

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It's pretty much spring here, which means I feel like crap physically but am energized mentally. Once the clock changes over on Sunday, I will fall into Insomnia Land. Because this is an Annual Event, I'm prepared and won't fight it. If I don't fight it, I might find that I can sleep. If I can't sleep, I have other things I can do in the middle of the night that will keep me productive and happy.

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I have been writing poems about my father, about grief, about family (? - liar). I'm drafting one in my mother's voice. Or - hm. I'm not sure whose voice it's in yet, but it promises to be both sad and funny if I can make it work. I'm worried it will be too "big," that I'll lose the vision, that I'll try to toss in the kitchen sink.

Here's my next step in the writing of this poem: take out the word "worry" and emphasize the word "write."

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I'm going to participate in a very cool prompt project starting next week (Wednesday, March 14) that a friend dreamed up with two of her friends. I don't have time, but the prompts aren't poetry-related from what I understand (though I'm sure I could make anything into a poem if I felt like it since I'm so much in poetry mode). They are story-telling prompts. Since I write every day whether I'm writing poetry or not, I thought I'd take my daily free write time and hand it over to The Scintilla Project: a fortnight of story sharing. (Now, you have to love anyone who uses the word "fortnight" and "story" on the same line and gets away with it.)

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It's raining.
I hear a siren.
I hear my mother's voice telling me a story about her dating days.
I want to get out her costume jewelry and lay it out on top of my quilt, touch the shoe clips, imagine what sort of dress she might have worn to go out, whether the story she tells is from before or after her first husband died (before, I'm almost certain. Since I can't ask her, I'll just decide that is so).

Sometimes I forget my parents' faces, but I rarely forget the sounds of their voices.


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(Just in case you were wondering, and in the interest of clarification, I do not consider this a true blog; I consider it a journal.)