Friday, January 27, 2017

Many and various

There are so many people, so many opinions. Too many. Cacophony. It's difficult to focus one's attentions on what really matters. Memory. Connection. Compassion. Empathy.

These are the stock and trade of writers, particularly of poets. I can't not rally behind those who champion these virtues and fight tooth and nail all who oppose them.

Yet. I find myself in the somewhat unique position among so many of my liberal peers of coming from a purple world. In which there are people for whom I care deeply whose views and values do not make sense to me, and are in many instances antithetical to everything I hold dear. How do I continue to love these people? How to have a cordial conversation, even? We hold a tacit agreement for now to not challenge one another on politics, to not name the orange-headed elephant in the room. How long can the dam hold? I am uncertain. But things will break down eventually. And then we'll find something else to hold onto. Because that's what people who love one another do. They fuck up. They try again.

We can do better.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

I am not a spambot

How does one condense six years into one post that nobody will ever ever read in the history of reading, ever? Bullet points, friend. Bullet points.

Since 2011, in no particular order, I have:

  • Moved several times. From the mtns. down to the foothills. I am currently still in the foothills and enjoy the easier proximity to Denver. Less culture shock here, but living in the mtns. was an experience I wouldn't trade. I will probably fall into some reverie about this from time to time, as is my wont.
  • Relaunched my participation in music, mostly by singing with numerous choirs. I started with a local volunteer choir and now find myself a staff singer for a Catholic church. Which is fulfilling musically and happily remunerative, but (often) politically frustrating. There will also be more on this, I am certain. 
  • Begun pursuing my childhood dream of learning to play the piano for real. I insult Bach daily.
  • Come out of my crab-shell somewhat, from a poetical standpoint. I have a chapbook coming out this spring from Finishing Line Press (The Naughts) and have gradually begun submitting to journals and presses on the regular once again. But this alone cannot nourish or guarantee me a seat at the table. Simply, I need to speak out and get out more. Goals.
  • Gotten married! M. and I finally made it official last summer. More than a bullet point's-worth of joy, but you know. Brevity is the soul of wit. 
  • Bought a modest townhouse. A miraculous thing, as the Denver metro is swarming with newcomers and consequently very low on housing inventory, esp. in our modest budget. But with the help of an amazing realtor and some patience, we persevered. It's nice to not have a landlord anymore.
  • Gotten a dog. 
  • Retained a cat. 
  • Become vegan. Yeah yeah, I know. How trendy of me (I hate being trendy.) Look, it's not a religious experience. And I will not bash my hypothetical readership over the head with it. But, as with any conversion experience, religious or otherwise, it has had a huge impact on how I feel, look, and interact with the world (of food.) You just don't realize just how much people want to love you with meat and dairy until you start refusing them. They tend to get really confused and microaggress like all get out. However, discomfort has ever been my catalyst for creativity, so I say bring it.
OK. Now that that's out of the way I feel like I've more or less explained my absence from this space. Life happens. But I feel compelled to return to it because - well, reclaiming space for creativity, critical thought, &c. is important in general and particularly in the age of Tr*mp. I feel like I've missed out on opportunities to practice and partake in community, and support my fellow artists and thinkers in their (re)claiming similar space. And, finally, I recognize the need to diversify my writerly output. It will take me a minute to stretch my brain muscles. No apologies. Brains are for epic responses. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Strangers on the Bus

I admire people who can chat up strangers; I am not one of them. No, I am abysmally awkward around strangers. I cannot connect on the weather, sports, or hangin out in hot tubs. I suppose, when it comes to social interaction, I want the forest, but can't stand all the damn trees. You, kid, scarcely 20, who tried to chat me up on the bus, have tossed me into a whirlwind of inadequacy. And you just wanted to hang out, you know, just as, like, friends. Dammit.

I'm not sure why I'm saying all this here and now, suffice to say the internet has become a virtual bus, as well (which was not always so.) 

So, hello, stranger. How's the weather where you are? I am here, in Summit County, Colorado, where this morning I woke to snow dusting my deck. Welcome to the high country, they say. Well, you kind of have to be a little high to live here for any extended period of time. It's the thin air, the dry climate, the feeling of being in a massive, alien environment - either funneled into valleys or exposed on mountainsides. I feel isolated, but brave. Illinois is a comparative swamp, humid and teeming with every imaginable creature. Here, life has to be big to subsist. I have tried to find little things of little account, such that I was able to find so easily back in the midwest and have really found only big. Lots of big. Which makes it difficult to write poems. I realize, I need to start small with my literary endeavors and having the small quashed in my environment has stymied my ability to write much of anything. 

I have learned to ski, have hiked 14ers, bike 14 miles to work (on days without snow), play music. But I often fear that I have turned my back on writing and that those friends who write have moved on and forgotten about me, if I was ever really there in the first place (debatable.) Still, changes are afoot. Good ones that will bring me to a different place (down the hill towards Denver come August) and hopefully a different mindset. I cannot wait until I can hold my little chapbook in my hands and have a tangible reminder that, yes, I am poet. I am poet and, yes, socially awkward is its own adjacent milieu.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Would rather have the living make me

Wishing I didn't have to wake up with the inevitable long weekend hangover (not literal, mind) and force myself in to work. However, work has a new place, portent and feeling for me now that I have left after the briefest stint in civil service. Suffice it to say, my heart wasn't in telecommunications, and I could not force it to be. That's the diplomatic version. If you'd like to hear the undiplomatic version, this isn't the place for it, I'm afraid. I've never been a fan of self-censorship, but there are just some things that need not be aired in a public forum. If I'm happy, so should you be...or something.

I have about 10 minutes more to chug my coffee before I start my bike commute (it takes about an hour to get where I'm going), so I'll leave it at that for now. I just wanted everyone to know that I've not fallen into the void. Just the 9-to-5.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rock Lobster

Rock Lobster fashioned by M. and I, 13 June 2010
(Rock garden alongside Frisco Rec Path en route to Copper Mountain)

If doing nothing is merely the musing of the poet, then I have not been at much leisure to muse. The Romantic MO often appears self-indulgent and contrary to that industrious spirit that is ordinary to the American condition, that is its standard, even. But I find it to be a work that is dear to me, to muse. There are aspects of every experience, every situation, that must bubble up from under the basics of who, what, when, where and why. To write, I must give those aspects time and space in which to bubble. For me, therefore, writing is not about the writing, but what's done between writings, in those long stretches of pen absence.

I am about to embark on one of the most rigorous and trying training periods in all of civil service. I must shield and guard my "nothing" time, my time spent contemplating the proper size and shape of rock for lobster claw. There is nothing finer than pulling something out of that nada, being pleased with it, flinging it off into the world.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cultivation, Rumination, Inspiration, Other -tions

So that job I mentioned in passing ended up panning out - I will be starting my preliminary, super-probational training on the 1st of June. I've never had to jump through so many hoops to get a job before, but I've also not had such an important job, so it makes sense. I'm nervous, but happy-excited, nonetheless.

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting with Nancy of Next Page Books in Frisco to discuss the possibility of including a mini-unit of poetry in her fledgling writing group. I have no loftier goal than to cultivate new poets and readers of poetry, so it was really exciting to sit and talk about our approaches to the art of writing and our philosophies of teaching writing. It was so inspiring to go back through the gems I had accumulated through my grad years in preparation for the meeting, realizing that I have accumulated a lot over the years and now's the time to pay it forward. August cannot get here soon enough!

Now, I'm just sitting here, watching VH1 for no particular reason other than the fact that I'm paralyzed by the uber-spicy chipotle cream sauce I've just consumed with my pasta. Spicy food is a bit like hiking. It always sounds good but once you're in the midst of it, you usually wonder why you thought it was such a great idea. But it's still so gooooood.

Monday, May 10, 2010


M. and I went on our first geocache adventure yesterday. I only recently discovered this past-time myself and have since been chomping at the bit to get out and partake of it. In researching our proximity to geocaches, we found that there are numerous caches within a mile of our condo, so we hiked out to find a couple of them yesterday.

This was the first of the two, which M. spotted. I won't divulge the exact name or coordinates, in case any of you are inspired to become cachers yourselves, but it was little ways off the trail (not more than 10 yds. or so). Basically, we didn't bring anything that we could leave, so we just took stock of the contents of the boxes, took some pics, and left a note in the log books. The general rule seems to be that if you take something from the cache - usually something kitschy, a little dollar store bauble or similar - you should leave something behind. Although, I did think that for future outings, I might bring weatherproofed (laminated or bagged or somesuch) copies of favorite poems to leave for others to find.

Me hiding behind cache #1

After our first cache, we weren't exactly bent on finding another, but M. fiddled with his GPS-enabled phone (jealousy ensued, as my phone is from the stone ages, comparatively) and discovered a second cache within a 1000 meters. Of course, 1000 meters as the crow flies can be vastly different from the constraints set upon us by trail design. That was a huge part of the fun, though! We almost gave up on the second cache, as our GPS pointed us 350 meters into dense woods with no obvious sign of a trail on the map or before us. Upon backtracking, however, we ran into a promising path and decided to give it another go.

And we were rewarded with cache #2 (which I spotted)! (Man, I really wished I could have taken that Spider-man sandwich caddy.)

M., surveying the log book of cache #2.

In all, I found my first geocache outing to be a really rewarding way to interact with my new sub-alpine environment and quite possibly my new favorite obsession. Next time, we might try and find some of the caches hidden in town - there's apparently one at the Dillon ranger station and another at the outlet mall! It's truly inspiring what can be found in plain sight, if one only endeavors to look.

Friday, May 07, 2010

A Case Study In Cognitive Dissonance

The smells, the sights, even the mildly prickly temperatures with the redemption of a closer sun - it all seems so lovely, but for this damp cold blanket on the ground! Well, it is not to be bourne, saith Alphonsus.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Changing the Clock to Mountain

I am now an official Chicago ex-pat. M. and I have rented a lovely little condo in the Wildernest section of Silverthorne, Colorado. Currently, I am nursing my morning coffee and staring out our deck at nothing but mountains, pine and aspen trees, dappled with snow (Snow!? That's April at 9,000 ft.) Better than staring at the brooding boxes yet to be unpacked. We arrived after a grueling 20-hour trek and I am now convinced that Kansas beats Texas in the Worst State In the World competition (condolences to you Kansans). I also have a new-found appreciation for what that little 4-cylinder Subaru Forester can accomplish, after towing the most fully-loaded 5'x10' trailer imaginable 1,000 miles with only stops for fuel. We pulled into the parking lot around 12:30 am (MTN), promptly off-loaded our incredibly pissed-off cat (who retained his lungs for crying despite the altitude), let ourselves in and collapsed on the naked king bed (thank god the place is partially furnished). M. got cold and since all our blankets were trapped in the trailer, had to resort to pulling down the curtain covering the closet. An auspicious beginning!

Still, it has always been M.'s dream to live in the mountains. And something peculiar happens when you love someone - you find yourself adopting their dreams, having your dreams adopted. I can't say I blame M. for wanting to live here, either. Even after having grown up in tiny town Iowa, I retain my naive preconceptions about small towns. Always friendly, always quiet, where things happen in their own time and not one minute sooner. I've yet to have any of these preconceptions blasted by this place. Now, I am certain that there will be a little bit of frustration at some point and likely it will be snow-related. For the time being, however, I greatly prefer Colorado frustration to Chicago frustration. If nothing else, I can turn out my door and go for a good long hike to blow off steam. In Chicago, so often, I was forced to keep little bottles of frustration everywhere in the apartment. I left a lot of those little bottles behind in the alley and will likely be fined for it (damn vindictive condo board).

I have an interview this afternoon and am in the running for a job with the county - I won't go into details to avoid breeching confidentiality regarding that process. M. will be cleaning carpets for the time being, as the Forest Service (his ideal place of employ) had hired all their staff by the time we began making our inquiries. I hope to volunteer some time at the library and have a tentative appointment to sit down with a local bookstore owner to exchange ideas about poetry and making some poetry-related things happen in the area (writing group, reading series, ?). Mostly, I would like to be a poetry beacon. That would be excellent.

Monday, March 29, 2010

H_NGM_N X y'all

I'm in there, and in GREAT company. All around, really really proud of this one.

Go thou and read!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

How Now

Brown Cow! Leave it to Eddie Izzard to actually try to SPEAK serviceable OE.

Last weekend, I purchased a used copy of the Chickering translation of Beowulf, in the interest of bein groovy and learning to recite in OE. I still remember the first sentence of the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, as it is (and well should be) a rite of passage for any English major worth her salt (many thanks to Prof. Narveson). Before I got blinded by the Broadway-worthy lights of poetry-writing as my primary focus, I had an inkling that I could be good at OLD texts. It's a thought that lingers, but more palimpsest than is an actionable thought at the moment.

This month (and a little of last month), I'm also working at producing a serviceable poem every day. This time around, however, I was invited to participate in a group emailing of said work. So, in addition to having to write something every day, I have to actually share these things with other human beings. More terrifyingly, other poets. I've already experienced numerous embarrassments. I'm not good at first drafts. But, I think the more important point is - no one is good at first drafts. It's nice to see such fits and starts from several very fine poets I know. It's been revealing - what level of polish are we willing to forego before hitting send? For the sake of laziness, I am willing to forego ALL polish.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spinning Jenny 11ses!

I just received my contributor's copies yesterday and IT IS LOVELY. I've only had a chance to read my own offering (about 10x) and Joshua Beckman's Tomaz Salamun translations (excellent, of course), but it promises to be a good train read. Best line thus far: In bars, it smells like Colorado. Thank you smoking ban for making that line plausible.

Anyway - go thou and buy buy buy it!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Martyrdom of St. Valentine (and other romantic stories)

You can thank Geoffrey Chaucer and Hallmark for Valentine's Day. Really, he was just a guy, maybe a bishop, maybe a number of bishops, who got his head chopped off maybe for refusing to adore a false idol, maybe? Anyway, the Catholics phased him out in 1969 but as with many things Catholic (ironically Catholic means universal), no one else really seemed to take note.

You might say I loathe Valentine's Day, but honestly, it's not as bad as Sweetest Day. At least the former has both bloody and confusing elements to its origin. The latter was invented by candy companies. And it's in OCTOBER. As though Halloween was not enough revenue for those people.

All of this is to say, it is entrancing and frightening both just how much perceptions can be altered by the course of centuries and a lot of deceptive marketing.

Love should be neither obligatory nor heart-shaped - nor should it be confined to the various ceremonies of jewelry and roses (delivery by Feb 12 only.) I will never refuse a good box of chocolates (Vosges, preferably), but would like to have them any day but the 14th. I'd rather meditate on the possible decapitation of that guy/guys. It seems more visceral and more true than chocolate.


Another lovely thing of which I am proud: my chapbook, Signs Point to Yes, is officially officially on the docket for fall of 2010 from Dancing Girl Press! Huzzah!

I also just got a couple more poems picked up by Puerto del Sol for their upcoming pop culture theme issue.

I think I've finally (after a few years out of grad school) found a good rhythm for submitting poems. I have to get them out while they're hot, kids, and pay careful mind to where I'm sending them. It seems like a no-brainer, but the kind and amount of attention that I need to pay is a delicate thing to balance - while I can't be too cautious and get fear-stymied, I have to evaluate certain criteria both on my end and theirs before I submit, and I find that those criteria are ever-shifting, from experience to experience and from journal to journal. Editorial expectations are mostly elusive and sometimes it feels like luck of the draw; however, I strongly feel that trying to get my work published is more than just an odds game in the end.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The future is now

2010 is here, Dick Clark is very shiny and orange and people are still trying to get away with wearing those doofy 200_ glasses, despite it being a new decade. Get the net, folks.

M. and I spent NYE in Iowa for the second year in a row. Oddly, I saw more people that evening than I usually do on any given weekend in Chicago. I don't know that I should be admitting that in a public forum, but this is the internet, so you all know about introversion.

While I find the whole resolution-making thing passe, I will say that generally I resolve to be bigger of heart and smaller of butt. Also, to put some more poems out into the world. And maybe finish reading The Faerie Queene.

Each succeeding year sounds more and more like science fiction. Remember when 10 years seemed like an impossible increment of time? I'm old enough that I remember the 90's fairly well, but the oughties was my first adult decade, so I'm waxing nostalgic. Two degrees, one divorce, and precious few moments of triumph later - for the first time - I do not have a clear path ahead of me. I highly recommend that.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A wise woman (not me) once said

You need a leg to stand on so the other can kick ass.

And so, after a month of jobless freaking out, I've finally landed a gig! It's only part-time to start, but eventually, provided the economy cooperates, will become full-time.

Other things are coming up roses as well, but I'll keep mum for the time being.