Monday, November 28, 2011


A lovely time, thanks-giving: family and more family and walking, babies held, potatoes and fake turkeys eaten...

It's not snowing yet, but the air has white in it.  Did it always wait this long to snow?  Soon, we'll have to wake early to move our car to the other side of the street depending on the evenness of the day.  We'll let the tree into our house and its sap will cling to our arm hairs and flannel.  Yesterday, we switched the fans to spin in the opposite direction, let the heat move.

Only something like lentil curry will cure our overly-potatoed bellies. I need to go to the basement for decorations...I'll dig up good ol'Rod while I'm down there. And start a load of laundry.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Do Mode & Be Mode

While walking the other day & thinking about Rod McKuen, I was in Be Mode.  My antennae were up, my ear was to the ground, eyes in the trees and water.  I took notes like a photographer, composing what I saw, skimming and focusing on the periphery... I collected and gathered and walked.  That was the last day of Be Mode.

During Be Mode, I do fun things, like take pictures of spilled milk, as if it had spilled in the shape of the Virgin Mary... During Do Mode, I do similar things, just in a different way.  For instance, I take pictures of what I have done or what I am doing. If I spill the milk in Do Mode, I just grumble and wipe it up. 

Since the day of the walk, I've been in Do Mode.  Here's what I've been doing (Note: I work in Lists while in Do Mode, so that's all you get):

I took C & my mom to see my amazing cousin perform in Phantom of the Opera.  I’m not the kind of person to talk things up if they’re not worth talking about.  My cousin Josh is worth talking about, and he's just in high school.  After the performance, he was surrounded by a gaggle of girls asking him to sign their programs, one of whom said she was his future wife... Ah, to be a kid again... I promise he’ll be famous some day.  There is, oddly, well, maybe not so oddly, a review of the performance here, so you know I'm not biased, he is really a bit genius.  (He's discussed a bit later in the review and when the reviewer says he's genus, I think he/she means genius. Not to be a snob or anything, I mean, high-five for reviewing a high school musical...)
My mom and I spent the weekend with the twin baby nieces so my sister-in-law could go out with her friends.  My brother was hunting.  He didn’t get a deer.  Needless to say, there was little being, lots of doing.

Thanksgiving menu is set, its execution planned, and cleaning/cooking time scheduled.  Matthew’s family is coming. Tomorrow I will go to the store at 7 am to avoid people.  I’m sure Thanksgiving will be all I think/talk about for the next 2-7 days...

I updated my submission spreadsheet with a list of journals I’d like to be published in & then made a list of which poems to send them.  There are 33 new submissions to send.  That’s a lot of doing. 

I went to H&M (see previous post).  What I didn’t mention is that I also went to Jo Ann Fabrics & Hobby Lobby and bought glittery things with which to make Christmas tree ornaments. And a pheasant, a quail, and pine cones.

Food while in Do Mode: pumpkin waffles with spiced whipped cream and maple butter; enchiladas; 4 loaves of Italian bread for stuffing; a delicious butternut squash, potato, &caramelized onion gratin (I caramelized while slicing and subbed the onions for the tomatoes) ; and pizza from Glass Nickel (because I was too busy doing other things that day).  They were all so good that C went back for 3rds.
Do Mode is all right.  I've been reading about the habits of "prolific writers" for a workshop I'm teaching this spring called "Secrets of a Prolific Writer."  I found a blog talking about how Joan Didion needed to hang out with the dishes and laundry while writing in between these chores.  I can't find the actual essay in which she actually says this, but it feels good to me to believe she said it, so I do.

One day, Be Mode and Do Mode converge and then there are poems. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

the Mediums & I go to H&M

I needed an interview outfit.  No, I don't have an interview, but I decided that if I act like I have an interview coming up, I might get one.  This is the sort of thing I believe some days.  When I was a kid shooting hoops alone in the driveway, I'd say in my head, "If I make this shot, so & so likes me," or "If I make this shot, we'll have pizza for dinner tonight."  It was like my own version of PIG or HORSE.  I can't remember if my basketball skills ever paid off in the way of boys or dinner, but I guess the thinking has become a habit of sorts.  Like prayer.

So, I went to the mall, which generally makes me feel cheap and a bit icky.  In the parking lot, a Cooper's Hawk flew from the blacktop to the lamppost and I wondered if anyone else had noticed it. I passed jewelry counters and kiosks.  I made a wrong turn and came back down the hall passing a kiosk for a second time, and when the guy holding a bottle of lotion said, "Ah, you came back!" I laughed, rolled my eyes, and said, curtly, "no."  It was something that maybe I had seen on TV once?  I'm not sure, but it happened quite fast.  It was as if somebody had taken over my face for a minute.  After it happened, I starting laughing (by myself in the mall).

H&M understands that people who don't have jobs can't spend a lot of money on interview clothes, so that's where I was headed.  I'm surprised H&M isn't more well-known in Madison.  A lady once asked me where I got my leggings, and I told her "H&M" and she asked if that was the store that was made after Madonna?  I said I didn't think so... A store made after Madonna?  It was confusing to me.  Anyway, at the store, there were no mediums to be found on the racks. Apparently, only medium-sized ladies know about H&M (the lady asking about Madonna was definitely a small).  Their sizes tend to run a little bigger though, and flowy and over-sized are in style, so I got smalls to work for me.  I got an interview outfit, two, actually, then looked for some shoes and came to a starting/sad realization: I really like shoes.

People are always making jokes about women's shoe collections and, quite frankly, I'm not sure how anyone can wear so many pairs of shoes.  Throughout my life, I've had 5 pairs of shoes or less at a time, and I wear them until they are unwearable.  I'm also stuck on the price-tags of my childhood and refuse to buy shoes that are more than $40 (with the exception of Born shoes, because they last forever), which means a lot of shopping around on clearance racks and online for the best price on exactly what I'm looking for. (I can't believe I'm even talking this much about shoes right now.)

Born Birdie
Anyway, turns out, if I had lots of money, I'd probably own more shoes. Not a ridiculous amount of shoes, but maybe I'd buy two pairs of shoes each year.  Great shoes. Like these:

My desire to own more shoes, heeled and lovely, adds to the cheapening-feeling I get at the mall.  Of course I want to own shoes while I'm there: that's what they want me to think.  So, I left the mall with a bag of interview clothes and a sick feeling of want in the pit of my stomach.  Want tastes like bile.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

acorns and Rod McKuen

I had this swell idea to make felted acorn ornaments for my Christmas tree, and I bought a nice roll of wool roving at the farmer's market.  Today I realized I never found acorn tops for said project. As it is already snowing sometimes, and things are damp and raked up, my chances of finding acorn tops are small.  I went out today and found a handful of tiny acorn tops, a Northern Flicker, Two Downy Woodpeckers, a bunch of Pie-billed Grebes, a Bald Eagle, and a loon.  There are a lot of walnut trees in the neighborhood.  Many birds, many walnut shells, not enough acorn tops. And of course, I was only armed with a notebook & pen. No camera.

A Northern Flicker I saw in Boston

Somehow, all of this walking around looking at the ground got me thinking about Rod McKuen.  I've been thinking about him a bit lately.  He was the first "real" poet I'd ever read (the quotes are meant to exclude nursery rhymes, prayers, and framed embroidery works about Jesus).  When I was in high school, I stole one of his books from the library-- a small, hardcover collection.  There were maybe 10 poems that I loved, and I ripped out some of the poems I didn't love, then I collaged the life out of the other not-great poems.  I have fond memories of sitting around a table at the Moasis truck stop drinking coffee with friends and inhaling second-hand smoke while reading Rod McKuen aloud.  I can't remember if anyone else was into it the way I was, but I was super-into it.  Rod McKuen and "My So-Called Life:"  There's me at the truck stop, 1996ish.

So, imagine my surprise, alarm, shock, distress, when, 4 years later I'm in "American Lit after the Civil War," and we're reading "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," and the professor says something, I can't remember what exactly, about the awfulness of Rod McKuen.  I was just a kid! I took his word for it without hesitating and felt so ashamed that I had loved Rod McKuen and worse that I HATED reading Eliot.  It made me despise Eliot and all poets I read in that class.  Especially Whitman.*  I had long packed away my Rod McKuen-collage-books (that's right, I went on to pilfer more), but I was disheartened to be told that what I loved was terrible.

So, why am I bringing this up now?  I'm older, wiser, better read, and I've been wondering, what was so bad about Rod McKuen?  When I tell poets about my introduction to poetry, I still get gasps of horror in response (Although one poet I know told me his dad slept with Rod McKuen... is that better or worse than a gasp of horror?  the same? I'm not sure.).  All I can remember of his poetry is this:

"Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows" begins: "I've come as far away as means and mind can take me, trying to forget you." And it ends: "Stanyan Street, and other sorrows."

I'm unsure about the punctuation there or where the lines break, but this doesn't sound too bad, right? I mean, it was the 70s/80s, right?  But, I'd like to find my books and see what I really liked about this poetry and if it holds up to a much more critical eye. 

And on considering perusing through my old boxes of junk in the basement, I realized that my accumulation of junk-in-storage has significantly decreased over the course of 3 moves.  When I moved to Madison from the Appleton area, I left tons of stuff in storage at my dad's house, even more boxes at my mom's... We now have maybe 8 boxes of stored stuff downstairs.  So, finding the books might not be too challenging, but there are lots of centipedes in the basement, so I'll have to put my brave-pants on.

I'm guessing that once I find them, I will still love them.  Love, as in: the way you love your best friend from childhood who makes you buy dinner every time you get together, and then you go home and complain about her to your husband, and he's like, "Why do you still talk to her if she's so awful?" and you're like, "Because we were best friends!" And of course you get together with her again.  Of course you do.

*In my (and Eliot's) defense, now that I understand how to read a poem, I love "Prufrock" most particularly.  "I shall wear my trousers rolled..." (Insert dreamy sigh and far-away-look here....)