Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dear Dr. Freud,

Did I ever tell you I have recurring dreams about bathrooms in public places?  Sometimes it's a public pool, sometimes it's a labyrinthian public school, but whenever I find the bathroom, and finally find a stall that's not broken or disgusting, I lock the door, turn around, and realize there are a bunch of open stalls in the same space, or there is a window so the whole outside can see in... there are always people watching.  Last night (in my dream), I found a stall, locked the door, and dropped an open box of Gobstoppers.  When the Gobstoppers disappeared, I heard them plinking, so I looked beneath the stall wall, and saw stairs.  The stairs were eye-level with the inside of the stall, so anyone walking down the stairs could see me. 

Right now, I'm reading Brain on Fire, and I'm nervous about what this will do to my mental fortitude.  On deck are The Breathless Zoo, On Longing, and Water Puppets. I am a lucky girl to get books for Christmas.

A tattooed man lets us off the Octopus.
The holidays are always like a Tilt-a-Whirl.  I approach the Tilt-a-Whirl having some fond memory of it. I get in, pull the bar down over my head, and I am SO excited that I squirm and giggle as though I'm 5 again.  It starts moving, and I lean one way, then the other way, then back until I get that son'bitch spinning like mad... and then I start feeling ill, and things start to blur together, and I wonder why I'm putting so much effort into spinning.  A sudden halt, then some man lets me off the ride, and I'm dizzy and exhausted and swearing I'll never do it again.  And then, alas, it's January.  I have spent two months spinning.

This is the first day in the past month that I have actually been home.  The first time I have been still.  The last time I wrote a poem was Dec. 1st, when I enthusiastically committed to writing a poem-a-day with another wonderful group of poets.  I'm not letting the lack of follow-through bother me, though, because during that time I finished & submitted a chapbook manuscript instead. Finally.  That is a nice feeling.
Beet, Chard, & Goat Cheese, Grilled

Also a nice feeling? I have time to clean my fridge today and to roast some beets. I will ask Matthew to make me a rosemary bread and we can eat this amazing sandwich. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

"We must have/ the stubbornness to accept our gladness/ in the ruthless furnace of this world."

So much terrible has happened on levels large and small.  And even normal things that happen to everyone, like babies with a cold or the sweet old lady sitting in the waiting room at the Mental Health clinic, are terrible...  

A friend shared this poem by Jack Gilbert recently.  It feels so much better than other poems circulating on facebook.

I wanted to come here to be happy, and it felt terrible to want to be happy.  But what else is there?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Poem on Linebreak (and pre-Christmas notes)

My poem, "Unfurling," is this week's featured poem on Linebreak!  Check it out! It's read by David Welch, which makes publication more like an event than just a publication. (I clapped after he read it...) 

'Tis the season and whatnot, so I've been tuning into my local stations to  listen to Christmas carols on my way to work.  When I was in high school, we had a Christmas carol trivia contest, and I won.  Sadly, this is something I'm still quite proud of-- a testament to my appreciation of Christmas carols.  So, when I heard Dean Martin's version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer yesterday... well, I kind of lost it.  Santa has some false German/Russian accent and calls Rudolph "Rudy?"  I don't think so, Dino. Really, you're going to f* with a Christmas carol? Why?  What's wrong with you that you think this is ok? (Drinking is not a good enough answer here.)

Smarter-- make up your own Christmas carol if you want a Russian Santa. "I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas," for example, is a wonderful song that doesn't ruin any other song.  That's ok to do.  That won't hurt baby Jesus's feelings. That won't make me scream at the radio in the cold, over the sound of the heater blowing full-force, while waiting for the lady in front of me to pull ahead a bit so we can both turn left before the light changes back to red... ugh.

And on that note: heading to work. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

As I Put a Book Together

So far, my book is like a series of fun house mirrors: I recognize me, the poems recognize each other, but it's hard to figure out where all of it starts or how to pull it all back together into one mirror--the concave kind that reflects the whole of a person in some distorted, otherworldly way.

In addition to how I want to arrange my first book (in a way that surprises me as much as the reader) and which poems I'd like to include in it (poems that surprise me as much as the reader), I've been thinking a lot about the poems I want to write going forward.  It'd be good to write some lighter poems so the few folks who read them don't want to fill their pockets with stones and go wading.  But I don't write much that is good when I want to write it.  Let's say, for instance, I want to write a Dickinson-like poem. I'd suck at writing that.  It'd be a terrible poem.  I need to lighten up.

I'll admit now that I struggle to read through a whole book of one person's poems. I can read an anthology, but I tend to get bored with one consistent voice, one story.  Another thing about me and books of poems: it takes me a LONG time to read a poem.  A book of poems 50 takes about the amount of time I spend on a 200 page novel.  So, maybe this is why I'm struggling to put a book together?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

When is a Prose Poem Not a Poem? When it's ajar?

I subscribe to the Academy of American Poet's Poem-A-Day and therefore receive a poem each day in my inbox.  Somedays (ok, many more than some), I delete them. If I have 10 minutes to read a poem that day, it will be a poem I want to read, not one that mysteriously appears.  Other days, like yesterday, I'm  in the mood for poems and have nothing particular in mind, so I'm happy to be surprised.

I'm usually not too disappointed in the poems I get.  For instance, one day, I received Gergory Sherl's poem, "Two Minus One,"which happened to be the exact poem I wanted to read that day.  Another nice thing about the AAP brand of P-a-D is that you can click on "Related Poems," and they will point you to other (sometimes) great poems, like "Beach Walk," by Henri Cole. WOWZAH.

Some days, I read the day's poem and think: "Oh? Someone likes this?" 

Yesterday, I didn't get a poem in my email. I got a story. A good story, albeit, but I'm struggling to find the poem in it. "A Fairy Tale," by Jennifer L. Knox. It's is a terrible, sad story (terrible & sad in the best way possible).

Of course, talking about the problem of prose poems is boring, so I won't.  My first time at AWP a few years ago, I sat in on a (surprisingly entertaining) panel in which Tony Hoagland and a few other poets & writers discussed the matter for an hour without any sense of closure. Now, I'm exhausted by the matter and don't care.  I like very few of them.  In general, when I look for a poem and find myself inside a big chunk of text without room to breathe, I look around for the nearest exit.

Once, at a party, I was telling a writer I'd just met about this fantastic panel I'd attended at Harvard on sentiment in poetry.  Rachel Zucker was there, and she was amazing, and she hugged me because I was crying... it's a good story. I'll tell it sometime, but not now. The point is that I told this fellow about how much I loved Rachel Zucker, and he asked, "Oh, so you like (what did he call it? Confessional? No... I can't remember) such-n-such kind of poetry," and I was confused.  If I like a poet, does it mean I like a style of poetry?  Definitely not. (She, by the way, is my favorite one-person poet.)  If I like a prose poem, do I like prose poems?  No. I like that one prose poem.

It's important that a poem knows me well enough to be willing to crawl into bed with me and try to spoon me, knowing I might elbow it in the teeth.  It has to want to hold my hand in public.  When I read Museum of Accidents, I wept and laughed for 1/2 hour on the T in Boston.  I never noticed anyone else was on the train with me until I got to the end of the line and realized I'd missed my stop.  The same for Brigit Pegeen Kelly's Song (but that was on the bus). 

Each year when the sun starts setting before I've started dinner, I go through a poetry identity crisis.  I reconsider poetry's place in my life and in the world and why it matters.  (Note: it is also rejection & acceptance season.)  Each fall, I start over by reading the poets who raised me & the poems that spoon-fed me when I was sick in bed, or stranded on a beach, or in love while walking on a sidewalk in some strange city.  And I feel good again.  I feel like the Grinch at the end of when he's stealing Christmas, and his heart busts out of its little cage.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

So Much to Do, So Little Headspace

I participated in another round of poem-a-day last month. Have I already mentioned this?  I was in a bit of a fog about it (last month was a bit foggy in general), but it was my most successful stab at it yet:  I wrote about 20 poems and a few starts of poem-like things.  I honestly don't remember writing half of them, so it's a little disorienting to read them now. But in a good way. Like someone else dug around in my head, pulled out some strings, and knit them together.  I'm happy about these poems I didn't remember writing. They're like $5 in the pocket of my winter coat.

During poem-a-day, I was looking through my old notebook for snippets I could use, and I stumbled upon this AMAZING poem, and thought, "Woah. When did I write this?!" Then I realized I hadn't written it. It was a poem by Zach Savich that I loved so much that I wrote it in my notebook.  At least I realized it before I started sharing it with people...

So, in addition to writing poems and recently having some poems accepted (hooray! details soon), and going to the Wisconsin Book Festival (which has been amazing) and the WFOP conference, and writing so much, I've also been DIYing like a home-schooling mom on speed. I went through this compulsive stay-at-home-mom-blog binge, and pinned the hell out of tutorials. Then, I spent days creating things.  I've macramed plant hangers, made clay beads, sewed together these adorable alphabet magnets for the twin baby nieces... my house is a disaster.

On that note. I just got an email from America's Test Kitchen reminding me that Thanksgiving is only 2 weeks away.  Hooray! I'm so excited it makes me want to nap!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When the Lights Go Down in the City

I'm happier now that we've fallen back than I was when we sprung ahead. It's wonderful to wake up with the sunshine. How strange to spend so much of my free time after work in the dark, though.

Last weekend, I went to the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Fall Conference in Stevens Point.  It was great to see so many poets in one place!  There were "serious" poets and weekend poets and divine-intervention poets. Old poets, (a few) young poets, funny poets, lofty poets... it reminded me that poetry plays a different role in people's lives.  How great that poetry is important enough to so many people that they'd drive to Stevens Point for the weekend! 

Oh! and I won this little book as a door prize, Out of the Black Forest, by F.J. Bergman, published by Centennial Press.  They had the most beautifully designed chapbooks on display.  Not only are the covers wonderful, but the detail inside blew my socks off. This isn't your grandma's small press!

Speaking of books: Wisconsin Book Festival kicks off on Wednesday, and I actually had to call in reinforcement (my mother-in-law) to help keep things in order at my house while I stay out every day/night book-festivaling.  Hooray, Book Fest!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dear Attention Span,

I have a pumpkin. I have a small glass of bourbon with an ice cube. Michael Jackson's Thriller. So many knives, not enough hands. So many trumpets, not enough patience.  I've heard the piper calling.  I'm no smooth criminal, but I've smooth hands. That's a lie: they're very dry. It's seasonal. It's all this hot water I've gotten myself into. From Canada, a woman intercepts my words.  She teaches me to eat everything with peanuts.  I soak cashews to grind into cheese.  I polish the clay, twist the silver, check the flyers for the cheapest canvas.  Someday soon, I will need to write this list. After a while, all of the monster voices sound the same.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

There hasn't been a bat in the house for weeks

The heat has been on for a while now, but only because sunshine doesn't reach all of the house's insides. Last night, in the woods, three Barred Owls bantered. If you haven't heard such a a thing, you should: listen to it here.  It's haunting.  And in real-life, it echoes deep in your lungs and makes you feel hollow.

Until today, I haven't really considered fall.  I was reluctant, perhaps, to acknowledge that I hadn't really considered summer.  But now we're in full swing.  My pockets are full of acorns.  For weeks I've come home to find the cat curled and tucked into himself on the back of the couch. My sewing machine has replaced my computer on the desktop. There are fabric scraps everywhere.

Yesterday, the starlings started kicking up leaves in the backyard. I will fill the bird feeder again.  I am still afraid of the possum I saw near the compost bin at dusk.  My fridge is stocked with whipping cream and smoked gouda. I've preserved nothing.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Dear Husband, I promise never to brag to people that you've watched our children while I went out to eat, shopped, or watched a movie

I'm all sorts of upset about mothers lately.  As the big gold letters at the top of this blog suggest, I'm all about being a person. I think personhood is the greatest personal success that anybody can achieve. And it's somehow more difficult to do than you'd imagine!  This is why I was so excited yesterday to read "I'm Not a 'Mother-First'" in  The Nation and consequently so disgusted to see a facebook post from someone thanking her husband, aka her baby's father, for being so wonderful and taking care of their child while she went shopping. Apparently, it just takes a few hours of baby-minding to be husband of the year?

Anyway, what makes me most cranky is that the article in The Nation, though wonderful in its honesty, fails to mention any of the less-political consequences of a world of "mother-firsts."  What happens to these ladies when their children grow up and move out?  If you haven't had a life of your own in 18 years, if you haven't been a person, what in the hell will you do with yourself?  This is dangerous. This is when ladies have affairs or run away to read some books and meditate.

I work in student services, so I know what the other mothers do: they continue to mother their should-be adult children. I talk to so many mothers of people over 20 on a regular basis...  "My son, Johnny, forgot his password." "My son, Brandon needs to know his professor's name..." I want to shake them and scream: WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?! TELL JOHNNY TO CALL ME! "But he's a full-time student." Of course he is, and you have nothing better to do than call me, right? These women turn out to be the mother-in-laws that the next generation of mother-firsts dread. These women try to nurse their grandkids.

You'll notice here that "Johnny" and "Brandon" are boys' names.  When we live in a "mother-first" society, we praise our fathers for giving up 10 of their precious man-minutes to take care of their own children. We expect women to be "mothers-first," but we also expect them to clean the house, have a job, take care of their husbands...  Why can't we all just be people?  Why should this be so difficult?

Monday, October 1, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

This is not true. It's in the 70's and lovely outside. Half-Price Books, however, would like me to think Christmas is approaching-- I walked into the store and found myself surrounded by snowmen and Santa cards.  I don't doubt that if I went to any other store today, I'd also find Christmas trees and ornaments, stockings, etc. With Christmas 4 months away, I guess it's never too early to start buying things to prepare?  It's like the Christmas-pocolypse: Stock up today on cards or you might not survive! 

In the past, I've typically scorned those who start thinking about Christmas as soon as the leaves change color. This year, though I'm crazy-lady-excited for the holidays. Heaven help me. It might be my new cubicle lifestyle or my new passion for pinning DIY projects... I won't pretend I'm not looking forward to Christmas carols.

In the meantime, to keep myself busy, I plan to make all of the things I've pinned. Ok, probably not all of them, but lots. And I'm starting with a trip to the thrift shop tonight. There are also a few wonderful events going down soon to keep my holiday excitement at a reasonable (for those around me, hopefully tolerable) level. I'm especially looking forward to:

Kathy Park Hong reading (Oct. 4)
Literary Network Run/Walk (Oct. 14)
Wisconsin Fellowship of Poet's Conference (Nov. 2-4)
Lorine Niedecker Festival (Nov. 2-4)
Wisconsin Book Festival (Nov. 7-11)

Then, on to Thanksgiving! Then it's Christmas! Then Boston & AWP!

Speaking of October-- why is Vegan for a Month in October? October is the time of year I most want to eat cheese and warm, baked things. Why not in August, when I can just eat tomatoes all day long? I don't know, I might try it anyway. In the name of solidarity or good health or environmental happiness...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The worst advice to give a mother

Nothing bothers me more in the history of the world than when people tell a parent "Don't let your kids grow up too fast." Besides the grammatical issues with the phrase, I'm sorry, but what does that mean? Don't encourage them to learn new things? Don't expose them to as much of (the decent parts of) the world as possible?  "Hold your kids back, my friend!"  I don't get it.  Watching kids grow is amazing. Participating in growth is living, right?

Yesterday, Carter and I were driving from Waupun to Madison and saw a speck in the sky in the distance.  We guessed it was a hot air balloon, but we couldn't gauge how far it was from us, so we weren't sure. We kept moving, constantly adjusting our visors to block the sun from our eyes. Abandoned corn crops stood limp and golden in perfect rows on both sides of the highway.  As we drove, Carter asked if I saw the pictures shifting in the corn.

When I was a kid, my family went up north each weekend to visit my grandparents and hunt or snowmobile or fish or swim... I grew up in the backseat while my parents bobbed their heads to Classic Rock.  I remember resting my head on the cool window, watching the sun cast shadows on the corn, and those shadows shifting in the rows as we moved.  I remember trying to understand how the shadows in the straight rows could bend and make pictures.  I wanted to ask, but I could never find the words to adequately describe what I was seeing.

So now, I was so excited-- Yes!  I did see the pictures.  Carter and I watched the shadows shift, and waited for the clouds to block the sun.  And isn't that growing up?  Isn't learning to pay attention what people do (or should be doing)?  Isn't it amazing that a farmer can plant corn in such perfectly straight rows and that the sun can be shining in just the right way to create these shadows that move with us?

As we approached Sun Prairie, Carter spotted the hot air balloon first. It wasn't very high and was a lot smaller than I'd imagined it would be.  Carter and I talked about how funny it is that when things are far away, it's hard to tell how big they really are.  And I told him about the head-crusher.

When we got home, before bed, we watched the first 2 episodes of Kids in the Hall.  After every clip, Carter said, "What?" and shook his head.  He loved it.  I'd told him in advance about the head-crusher, the 30 Helens, and the Chicken Lady, but nothing I could say would really have prepared him.  It's something that needs to be seen.

Now, if you've seen Kids in the Hall, you know that some sketches can be a bit... iffy? for a kid.  Each time I watch anything with Carter, I'm constantly questioning its level of appropriateness, which is tiring.  And since K in the H is late 80's/early 90's, the taboos they exploit are a little less-taboo today, so it was trickier to know whether or not he understood why some of it was funny and not just crass.  After watching the show, I had to ask myself-- is this what people mean by letting him grow up too fast?  Am I encouraging him to grow up too fast when I turn on Kids in the Hall to illustrate a point?

Growing up, it seemed nobody's mind worked the way mine did.  And while I read a lot, it was mostly books in R.L. Stein's Fear Street series.  The people I understood best were on TV.  The more random the show, the more OK I thought I was (I was a huge fan of You Can't Do That on Television and hated Full House).  So I'm glad Carter talks to me about what he's thinking. And I'm glad to be the one who introduces him to Kids in the Hall.  And I'm happy he's grown up enough to know not to repeat much of what he hears on Kids in the Hall to his friends at school or his grandma.

Do I let him grow up too fast when I say it's ok to ride his bike across town to a friend's house or to get ice cream?  Is he growing up too fast if he takes the city bus downtown for guitar lessons or sailing camp?  The truth is, I swear I had a baby only 3 years ago, and now he's 13. In 2 years, he'll be 20. Kids grow up fast, no matter how much other people tell you not to let them, because they are people, just like the rest of us.  Only rocks and dead things don't grow.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Well, I'm Still Here

It's almost my blog-birthday, and I haven't been to visit in about a month! I don't feel bad, though. I've decided not to. So, to catch up, after the GRE: my dad got married, my twin baby nieces had their first birthday, I made a one year plan and revised it numerous times, I submitted some stuff, I finished reading Wind-up Bird Chronicle (it took so long, but it was worth every lost hour), I read things in literary magazines, went to the Willy Street Fair, watched Date Night, watched a "My Cat from Hell" marathon, had a crazy migraine and went to the ER where I got an IV and CT Scan, got a hotel room for AWP (thanks, Bri!), made plans for drinks and/or cupcakes with friends, and now I have a cold or a sinus infection. I also went to work, made a lot of dinners and cookies and breads, and I'm planning the Fall Picnic at Carter's middle school.

I've been busy! And, in addition to my blog-absence, I haven't written a poem in about a month. I feel very happy about it, though. Like I'm starting to wake up from a long, deep sleep full of intense dreams.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I Made the List

I got an email from AWP letting me know my panel wasn't accepted. I was very OK about it. I mean, with so many panel proposals, I wasn't too surprised. My dear friend Danielle Jones-Pruett's panel on poetic form made the cut, so I was happy anyway, and I sent her a message to be excited with her.

THEN. She had been going through the list of accepted events, and there was my name! It's not for the panel I proposed on the good things you can do for the world with your MFA, but for a panel I'd forgotten I'd signed up to participate in! I'm excited about the panel-- it's on "The Post-MFA Hustle." If I've been doing anything since my MFA, it's hustling. I feel like it's something I know well and can talk at length about:

The Post MFA Hustle: Surviving (Literally
and Creatively) in the Current Climate.
(Christine Utz, Bradley Warshauer, Angela
Voras-Hills, Jon L Peacock, Robert Walker)
Emerging writers write; they also work as
adjunct professors, editors, high school
teachers, arts administrators, performers,
librarians, and volunteers. Many have
multiple income streams. On this panel, MFA
graduates from diverse programs will provide
practical information on career paths and
employment options; offer reassurance that
the MFA remains a viable pathway to a life of
letters; and discuss ways to clear space for
meaningful creative work amidst the
demands of the hustle.

See you in Boston!

P.S. GRE is in 2 days. No matter how much I study, the Quantitative Reasoning section and I DO NOT get along. Grrr...

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Best Poetry Reading in Town

is at the prison where I teach. Granted, it is a bit out of town, but each week I go, the guys' poetry kicks me in the jaw. I'm often left short of breath. I often leave with more love in my whole self for poetry than I can remember having for so long.

The poetry read is so rich because it's read without pretension, and without ego, and sometimes it's even read without confidence, and all are equally perfect. And if poems are read with confidence, they are aways gracious and grateful. In fact, it may be simply gratitude in each poem and joy, even when the poems aren't joyful. When the poems deal with the terrible, they are still alive. And maybe, then, I appreciate the life of it. The poems read at prison are alive. How rare to find living poems.

By which I mean poems that are at once of a person and of themselves. Because many poems are lively, but I have a hard time finding poems that communicate between the writer and the poem written in any concrete way... those are the poems that live. Poetry as survival.

I've stopped reading lit mags, I've been avoiding facebook, I've stopped submitting things and looking at Duotrope. And now, finally, after giving up those things, I remember poetry, and I miss it. I want it back.

Hopefully the birds haven't devoured my trail of breadcrumbs... 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

These are all things to talk about:

First, I need to mention that I am officially a member of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, which is super fancy AND especially so because a student in one of my Rhinelander courses anonymously gave me membership as a gift! I am incredibly grateful and excited to go to the conference in Stevens Point this Fall! I heard Matthea Harvey was there last year, and I'm pretty sad to have missed it.

I met so many lovely writers and friendly artists at SOA. And Rhinelander was so wonderful that I constantly declared that I planned to move there.  Now that I am home, my plan seems sadly a little less realistic than it did at the time... I want to teach! 

Tomato plants taking over the back porch.
Thirdly, my friend Hannah Baker-Siroty is a Best New Poet! And my friend Rebecca Hazelton just had her second book snatched up by CSU Press minutes after (in Poet-Years) her first book won the Ohio State Poetry Prize. So. I'm happy to know such wonderful poets.

Another thing to talk about: I've been feeling sad about my garden. Matthew says this is just a trial run-- we've learned from our mistakes and will know better next year, but I wanted lots of peas and things to eat this year!

Earwigs have eaten much of the basil, all of the carrots, all of the chard, and all of the peavines. I have planted more peas in a hanging basket and transplanted tiny chards to a container. We'll see how it goes.

My tomato plants are lovely, huge, and bearing little fruit. I believe they'll grow luscious, red tomatoes in Fall, when the leaves are off the trees and the sun can shine into my yard. And in the Fall, if the past is any indicator, it will still be hot.

Also, where have all the spiders gone?
This guy matches my tomatoes.

In other news: it's Hippie Christmas
and I officially have a corner of my own!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Who's the speaker of this poem? Who. No, Who's the Poet.

Last night while discussing poems with my lovely poetry group, I heard myself say, "the speaker" and felt confused. I have long been the champion of keeping things impersonal-- something I think especially important in an undergraduate workshop. But poetry isn't impersonal. Maybe it should be ok to want to cry when someone hates your poem?

This struck me particularly when I was talking about the speaker in my own poem, and I almost accidentally said "I." The speaker was first-person, and though only 1/2 of what I'd written had actually happened to me, I'd imagined the other half, so that had happened to me, too, right? I was conflicted.

I might stop talking about speakers so much if I can help it. I've been trained, of course, but it seems silly to try to intentionally distance the poet from the work when "the speaker" closely resembles the poet. If I write about a 30-something mom who likes goats, chances are I'm writing at least 25% of my own business topped off by 75% of stuff (hopefully) nobody else would think to write. So, from now on, I am the me of my poems-- even if I'm not...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Shh... I'm studying for the GRE...

This is why it's so quiet here. I'm also working on poem-a-day. Because I prefer my swords double-edged? Yes.

I've been meaning to talk about how great my time in Rhinelander was and about the Langlade County Fair, AND I have this small essay on 2 poems I'm working on... all of it is kind of on hold. Hopefully I can get the essay done soon at least! I can count it as GRE study time?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rhinelander or bust!

I've been crazy-busy preparing to teach at Rhinelander School of the Arts! In addition to making handouts and finding great online things to share, I decided a week ago to make chapbooks and order a bunch of copies of my poem, "The Spider,"which was printed on lovely postcards by the kind folks at ripple(s).  Quite frankly, they are wonderful people. If you haven't submitted there, you should. If you don't subscribe: wouldn't you like to receive poems in the mail? Sure you would. You should subscribe!

As for the chapbook, I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am. I have always been hesitant about "self-published" books. I thought, "What, nobody will publish your book so you're just going to publish it yourself? That's cool." Yes. That's the kind of girl I was. How did this change?

Well, I considered making a chapbook for my table at SOA. I also mentioned to a recently-made-friend, Daniel Goscha at Red Kite Press (in Rhinelander) that I'd be in the area and would be happy to display some of his stuff on my table. (He'd been working on a Lorine Niedecker project, which I'm excited to learn more about when I visit the studio on Tuesday!) Anyway, long story short, he pressed some AMAZINGLY perfect covers for my chapbook, which raised the bar on my chapbook making. And he made them in like 2 minutes.  I overnighted some teal waxed linen thread for the binding and am on my way to buy paper to print the poems and an awl and a needle... so. I suddenly realized I was self-publishing a book. It turns out self-publishing is just an art project. I love art projects. I'm happy to self-publish if it means I get to cut up a Wisconsin Road Atlas and sew things together!

In addition to all of this, as of this week, my son is officially a teenager. We are still eating leftover ice cream cake. I'm so tired! But I can't wait to get into the classroom next week and share poems with people!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

There is hullapaloo

in the small world of facebook to which I belong, centered around a blog post that Sean Bishop wrote for the Ploughshares blog.  Maybe you know about this hullapaloo because you read the New York Observer or H_NGM_N's blog, "th_gallo_s." Most-likely you don't know about it,  so if you'd like to know about it, you can read all about it here and here.

I mention it with no intention of getting into it with anyone, but only because through Bishop's article, I discovered Born Magazine.  This is exactly what an online journal should do. While I'm not a huge fan of the "mother" page, the individual projects are generally spectacular. Check it out!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dead Sea, Seaweed, Sea Scallops (It's hot. I've lost my marbles.)

My head is above water! I'm waving to you from the middle of the sea (which is so much more romantic than the ocean, right?).

It's not so much that I'm busy or bogged down or stressed out or any of those words. I've just been swallowed a bit by the summer haze. It's that hot outside.

Inside my house, it was 92 last time I checked the thermostat. Since then, I hopped a bus to the library to pick up The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and return a book that I never read (The Tiger's Wife) because I was too busy reading "The Turn of the Screw" and Lucky Jim. I'm about 1/2 way through Lucky Jim, then onto this 600-page beast of a book. I hear it's good from people who like good books, so, I'm hopeful.

Now for something completely different.

It has been almost a year since I've seen the ocean.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Some days I'm in love with poetry.

Some days I'm in love with poets. Today, this interview with Jorie Graham in The Spectator is exactly what I needed. Incredibly satiating.

A Weekend in Madison

Well, this is the first (and sadly one of the last) weekends in Madison for a long while, so I will brag about all of the great things there are to do in Madison on a summer weekend.

My weekend kicked off with an evening of sitting around a little living room with people excited enough about poetry to spend an evening reading it aloud.  My friend, Chloe (who makes wonderful jewelry and is a wonderful person and also a wonderful writer), read from Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red. I'd read it as an undergad, but I'd forgotten why I was so excited about it.  So, I'm glad to have remembered and will be reading it again soon.

Saturday started with a little bike ride to yoga, followed by a bike ride to pick up the CSA, followed by a few episodes of Lost, followed by the Summer Solstice Bonfire and Procession of the Species at Olbrich Park. We didn't actually stick around for the bonfire, because we forgot to eat dinner, but the Procession was good fun. I'm a sucker for community gatherings. 

And today I'll be at Absolutely Art, trading in all of my old paper and beads and fabric for someone else's old craft-things at the Re-Art Swap.

There should be more weekends in the summer, so one can do all of these things AND spend a day hiking at Devil's Lake.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

And so concludes my brief investigation of the paranormal

I've returned all the paranormal books. You can only read so many before you realize they all say the same thing about being human and little about anything real. The most interesting book I happened to grab was a book of photos by a woman who found "ghosts" in the shadows of "haunted houses." The way she captured light and color in some of the spaces emphasized the formerly living occupants of the space, so while there was nobody in the picture, you could almost see someone in the picture. (I mean, she made it easy to imagine someone in the picture if you were looking for someone-- and this was what these books say about being human).  I like that sort of thing. (Though there've been many times I thought I'd found Waldo, but it turned out to be a barber pole...)

I traded the books in for 8 books on vegetable gardening, 2 DVDs of short films, a book about Mary Shelley (who is my favorite person/writer), The Tiger's Wife, and Lucky Jim.  After reading Hardy's Jude the Obscure last summer (fall? Was that just this spring?), I've been desperate to find a funny book that might pop up on a GRE English Subject Test. Alas! I've found one. So far, the best line comes after Dixon kicks a stone and it hits an English professor: "At the moment of impact he'd turned and began to walk down the drive, but knew well enough that he was the only visible entity capable of stone propulsion." Such good stuff! The book also cashes in on a significant number of GRE vocab words for which I recently made flashcards, so I feel like I'm killing 2 birds with one stone as it were.

Today, I could talk about books until dark. But, off to work for me, where I will think about reading books and then come home to read them. Or read them on my lunch break...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Northern Harrier vs. Bunny

Carter came out of his room yelling for me. He'd heard squealing & screeching, then a thump against his bedroom window-- A Northern Harrier had dropped the tiniest baby bunny. It landed in the neighbor's driveway.

We went outside to urge the bunny into a safer, less-concrete place. The Harrier watched from a tree 20 feet above us. Then, the bunny was beneath the porch. We went for a walk.

I couldn't help but wonder if we'd done the right thing. As noted previously, the abundance of bunnies in my neighborhood makes me uncomfortable. I don't think there is an abundance of Harriers. Maybe the Harrier had little bills to fill...

After the walk, a bunny lay in a suspicious way on the side of the house. I assumed it to be the baby's mother. But what do I know about bunnies?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Poem "Itch" Reviewed a Little at New Pages!

Hazel Foster mentions my poem, "Itch" in her review of Cimarron Review at New Pages-- check it out!

Cimarron Review coverCimarron Review

Issue 178
Winter 2012
Review by Hazel Foster
Cimarron Review, with its clean, slim design, wants to be read. The cover art speaks of rural America, and the pages blister with the richest poetry. The fiction and nonfiction, while skillful, act like a gap-stuffer, filling out the space between poems... 
“Itch” by Angela Voras-Hills, another spectacular poem, steps away from the literal. In these lines, bugs swarm and devour apocalyptically...

Hello Books, I'm Home

I went to the library a half hour before they closed to pay my over $20 fine so I can check out books and put them on hold again. Of course their computers were down when I got there, but they let me check some out anyway. This was nice of them, but what does one grab in the final fifteen minutes of library hours? Lots of books on the paranormal, apparently. I picked up a book of real-life stories of haunted houses, Haunted America, that I had to stop reading.  At this point, I only have one book left in my pile of 20 that is still appealing to me: The Girls' History and Culture Reader. This isn't paranormal, but has a pretty cover. I went straight for paranormal or pretty.

Mostly, I wanted to pay my fine.  I love having books in my library cart & in my hold queue-- I feel very empty without a long list of books knowing they are wanted.  I'll have to go back tonight to return these paranormal books & pay my fine.

I miss books. Good books. Especially good books with poems inside.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I can never keep it together in the beginning of summer. All of my sentences trail off. A baby bunny chews the grass I just planted. A hot pink poster-board sign tells me to say goodbye to the old oak, the one in which the Screech Owls live. A cat digs up the pansies I just planted and shits in their dirt... See? Before one thought ends, something happens, and I've alighted onto some other branch, someone else's front porch.

Yesterday, I bought a new notebook and registered for the GRE.  All of this and rhubarb crumbles and crisps and strawberries. I've been meaning to write about my CSA produce, because it's wonderful, and, let's face it, some kind of blogger right of passage.  But each time I sit down to talk about my amazing fruits & veggies, I end up in the backyard, staring at things. Or suddenly I'm on my bicycle. Where am I going all the time in the sun? 

Well, today I went to the polls. I can't even talk about it yet. There is all sorts of good yelling going on in Madison. I can hear it from the Square. It makes me want to sit in my car & honk... it also makes me nervous. 30 minutes left.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

School of the Arts

I'll be teaching 2 writing workshops at School of the Arts in Rhinelander July 22-27th. You should go! I'll also be taking an art class (if I can ever decide which to take...). Tell people!

                                                                            Rhinelander is in the northwoods. See:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Do over.

Like the moment the puppy is dropped from the grip of a hawk, no: like the moment he lands after falling and finally shakes off the shock and looks around. And like the red barn he sees, smoke rising from the hayloft, the air around him still smoldering with the ash of cattle. Mostly, though, like the hawk perched in the tree considering what comes next.

Do over? Yes. I've been eating crackers in bed at my own discretion.  All of the ads I see are for shoes I want. If this is America, why am I so tired?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Some days, I feel like Cindarella, but only because I am surrounded by animals.

For the past month I've heard the most ridiculous bird call and have been running around the neighborhood (sometimes barefoot or in pajamas) trying to find the bird responsible. Luckily, last week, I decided to buy more bird food, and I lured the bugger in!  Turns out the bird I originally thought to be a red-headed woodpecker (when I saw it in trees) was actually a red-bellied woodpecker. Want to hear it? It's a pretty cool sound (the kwirr, but with no drumming, which was why I didn't assume it was a woodpecker noise).

I spent the whole day outside, which is silly, because I'm terribly allergic to outside right now. But, I've taken a medicine just to hang out with all of the animals in my yard, including a few bunnies, some chipmunks and squirrels, 2 cats, 2 pairs of Cardinals, some sparrows & house finches, the Red-bellied Woodpecker, a Downy Woodpecker, a Blue Jay... never a dull moment.

Carter & Matthew left for the weekend, so I've been busy enjoying life in a very quiet way.  I woke up this morning and revised some poems, then went to Lazy Jane's for breakfast and wrote there and read the Isthmus for the first time in a very long time.  Then, I stopped by the Children's Benefit plant sale and bought all of these plants!: 2 Peonies, 4 Cherry Tomatoes, 8 Romas, 1 Brandywine Red (heirloom), 1 Lady's Mantle, 1 spider plant, 1 large quantity of some kind of vine-like succulent, 1 Iris, and 1 Wild Geranium (pink).

So for Mother's Day?  I will get dirt and pots and gardening gloves and a small shovel. Perfectly domestic. Best Mother's Day ever. Also, we're going out for dinner or lunch, but I haven't decided where.

Last weekend, I visited my mom and she gave me this lovely columbine and some other pretty things to plant. Side note: We went out for dinner, and I had the most brilliant drink, the Octopus Margarita: sangria topped off with frozen margarita. When the Margarita hit the Sangria, it started to form tentacles. Funny and delicious.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

An abundance of bunnies (and other things that scare me)

Don't get me wrong-- I love bunnies. But last night, I passed a yard with 2 bunnies chewing  dandelion greens on one side of the sidewalk and 3 more on the other side of me. I was outnumbered by bunnies in a frightening way. They all looked at me with their large eyes and kept chewing... I get nervous when animals who should fear people keep eating when people approach them.

I also get nervous about large quantities of little things: minnows swimming in the bait shop tub, a swarm of ants around a small mound of dirt, a tangle of snakes mating in a giant ball of love...

On their own, of course, I'm not afraid of these things. A bunny? Cute. A snake? Fascinating? An ant? Also cute (think "Anty" on Honey I Shrunk the Kids). What is not cute and fascinating? Lots of those things at once. Also, centipede/s. Singular and plural. Not cute. Terrifying and upsetting.  I just can't deal with that many legs.

Upon waking yesterday morning, I turned the bathroom light on, and in the sink: a centipede. I let out a small shriek/scream and considered whether there was enough pressure in the faucet to wash the thing down without it running at me or disappearing (their ability to disappear is also disconcerting). And whilst considering, I noticed that my sink was littered with dirt and hair. Dirt and hair? No. Centipede legs. I had a mostly-legless centipede in my sink and a very proud kitty (who slept all day after his intense night of hunting). Needless to say, the centipede went down without a fight.

(Well. I had to pull the drain stopper out to get him down.)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The End of Poem-a-Day and Other Complicated Systems of Time Measurement

As you may recall, I was writing a poem each day for the month of April.  How long did I last?  I made it about halfway through again.  What happened then on May 1st?  I wrote 3 poems. It's good.

Matthew planted grass last week, and now we have more grass!  And we have a pretty little patch of lilies of the valley, which are friendly to look at.   It's nice out today, so I'm sitting on the back porch collecting fruit flies in my wine and letting the mosquitoes chew on me a little. Yesterday, it was not so nice, and I watched a black-striped cat army-crawl through my yard toward a bunny.  The bunny decided to approach it, then sniffed the cat's face a bit.  I didn't want to know what happens next in that kind of situation, so I went outside to intervene and they took off in opposite directions. Now I may never know what happens in that kind of situation.

Today is Wednesday.  Each day toward the end of a semester, I say to myself "Today is _____, that means tomorrow is ________" so I can remember what needs to get done.  How is this still a problem if I have no semester?  I'm not sure.  But tonight, I told Matthew, "After May 15th, everything will be settling down again, and I'll go back to yoga regularly, and I'll cook nice things, and we can plant chard and beans and basil.." And I realized that I've said the exact same each May for 7 years.  (Well, the vegetables have changed over the years...)

I need to learn about moon-time-- something more reliable than poem-a-day and semesters to track my days.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Writing Community

When I defended my thesis, someone asked, "Now that you've finished your MFA, where you've been working closely with the same folks for so long, how will you keep writing?" If you've ever talked to me in real-life, you know my face says what I'm thinking before I can lie about it, so I gave him the look my teenage son often gives me ("Are you really asking me this question?"), and I told him I would just keep writing all by myself. I'd wake up, and then I'd write at some point during the day as I'd been doing since I started writing... Like Emily Dickinson.

Why would I stop? (Though many people do after an MFA, which is strange to me.)

And I didn't stop! I got an MFA, and I moved away from my place of MFA, and kept writing (because why move a family across the country to just write for 3 years then stop?)! I wrote alone for months and submitted my work in a frenzy of submishmash account-creation. I wrote good things and bad things, and it was perfect.

However, as can happen, I met some poets. (Some amazing poets, click their links and read their work!) And now that I have a full-time job, I'm glad I have them. My poet friends keep me on my toes. Not only are we doing poem a day, which is fantastic, but we also talk about poetry and other poets and publishing and awards and residencies... Sometimes they talk about poets I'm unfamiliar with, which means I'm learning about new poets. We're learning from one another. (Well, I learn from them and contribute to the conversation, so hopefully this is a mutually beneficial poet-relationship.)

My MFA Workshop at UMass
Always a good time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Kites are letters (and other things I recently figured out by spending time with a variety of people, which is to say, people)

Each time I come home from teaching in prison, I wonder why I enjoy it so much. Is it that I love teaching? Or that I love talking about poetry so much that even in prison it's a good time? Maybe all of that, but mostly, when people talk about poetry, I feel like a grandma who's just baked molasses cookies.  And all the kids in the neighborhood come over and are like, really? Molasses?  You think I'll like this?  And then they're eating them and "mmmming" and want the recipe.  Then they go home and try to make them, and then they want you to taste their molasses cookies, and sometimes they taste BETTER than your granny cookies... I love teaching poetry.  I love grandmas and kids and molasses cookies. 

But teaching in prison is different somehow than other teaching of poetry. The guys who take the poetry class in prison realize they will learn as much from one another as they will from us. The community is so energetic and encouraging and thoughtful...  Yeah.  I like it.  I like the deer in the parking lot, too.  (Last night, I thought I saw a badger! But it was a cat. Wishful thinking, I guess.)

Anyway, to the point-- yesterday we talked about epistolary poems and many of their poems referenced "kites."  At first, I was thinking "Hey, cool metaphor."  Then, when it came up again, I was like, "Hey... kites? That's what that last guy said!"  I asked about it, and it turns out kites are prison lingo for letters.  Who knew? (Well, I'm sure lots of people did.)  I also learned about moon time and (not first-hand) how acid is ingested with sugar cubes (the drug kind, not just any garden variety).  All-in-all, an eventful week. 

Wait. It's Tuesday?  On to Wednesday! (Insert picture of me running with a flag into Wednesday.)  

(In other news, my last day of my new job is on Friday, and my new-new job will start on Monday.  Eek! So much change, so little time!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

To do

I am a diligent to-doer.  I have post-its on top of notecards taped to lists of things to do.  So, here I am, crossing "blog" off of my list today.  I should've made a list of things to write about on the blog in a small amount of time.

If you were at the UW-Writers' Institute-- thanks for coming!  I had a fantastic time talking about writing, and I'm so glad you stopped by.  If you weren't at the UW-Writers' Institute, you should go next year-- it was pretty great.  Talk to me if you want to know more about it and what to expect and whatnot.

Did I mention that I finished The Hunger Games?  I've almost started fights with strangers who I've overheard say, "Wah. The movie/book is so violent! I couldn't even read/watch it! There's no point but violence!"  Blah to you and your lack of interest in/attention to morality and thinking.  C is reading it now, and I plan (surely to his chagrin) to engage him in big philosophical conversations about survival and justice and love.  Any book that can start conversations like these are worth reading.  Now, I'm reading Bossypants.  There's not a whole lot of philosophy, but it makes me laugh aloud on the bus, which is good for living.

Poem-a-day and I are getting on surprisingly well, considering our sordid past.  I can remember the title of 1 poem I've written over the past 17 days.  I don't know how many poems, in fact, I've written... Is it at least 14?  Perhaps.  Maybe?

Of course, none of this is what I wanted to talk about.  I wanted to talk about something with progression.  Something that moved from point A to point C with a little B stop half-way through... Alas, here I am: 9:30 and ready for bed. I'll just insert some pictures to tie all of this together in a way that makes no sense.

I took a picture of this Cabbage Patch
Kid in NY.  I don't understand it's pink
eye & nose.  Nor do I understand its blue
cheek-dots. Hmph.  

Roger, all-pupil.  

<< This little fella was in a strange, metal box attached to a telephone pole also in NY.  If you know what it means, please tell me!                                             ...I miss NY.            

OK. I'm allergicking all over the place.  I will eye-drop and sleep.  Bis bald...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Well, week, you have gone by.

This is the first time a full week has passed before an update.  In my defense, I got a day job a few weeks ago, so I've had 40 hours fewer per week to do so many things.  This week has been particularly crazy-- I've been planning the middle school Spring Picnic, going to poetry readings, teaching in prison, and it was my birthday on Wednesday.  Also, today, I'm on a panel at the UW-Writers' Institute, & I'm teaching "Secrets of Famous, Prolific Writers" tomorrow, & then I'm finally celebrating my birthday.  Phwew!  AND. I've been writing a poem each day and cooking actual dinner almost every day (click here for my new favorite fast recipe).  Believe it.

So, to follow up with some previous posts:  I'm continuing to get wonderful, friendly rejection letters-- even on old poems I'd forgotten I'd submitted.  My cousin, Josh (see last post), only made it to round 2 on The Voice.  I've never seen the show, but I assume it sucks more now than I assumed it sucked before. There are bunnies mating in my backyard.  The identity of the green plants growing where they play is still unknown to me, but I'm hoping there will be baby bunnies sleeping in it soon.  And speaking of babies, I got to see my sweet-baby-nieces this weekend, and they are getting so big! 

I have a list of 5 things I actually want to write about here.  Stay tuned.  I will have some time to write them soon!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

12 eggs in a dozen, 16 oz in a lb, how many hours in a day?

I'm finding it difficult not to succumb to the desire to eat fried cheese curds all the time.

Hey! Did I already mention that my cousin, Josh, who I brag on all the time without his knowing, has made it to round 2 on "The Voice" auditions?  Pretty fabulous.

And, I got a very nice rejection today from G.C. Waldrep at West Branch.  Now that I have a 40 hr/week job, getting rejections reminds me that I'm still a poet in real-life.  And real-life is my favorite kind of life.

There are three bunnies who play in a patch of green things sprouting from bulbs in our backyard. I can't wait to plant things that I can identify!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hello, yes, I wrote a poem.

Thanks for asking.  I wrote it right after brunch with a friend (we went to Lazy Jane's, which somehow always gets me in the mood to get junk done).  Then, I took nap, took care of all of this Spring Picnic stuff for the Parent Teacher Group, then I worked on some revisions, then I updated my CV and thought of AWP panel proposal ideas and about this reading series I'd like to start this summer, then I took my movies back to Red Box while talking to my mother-in-law (hi Lisa!) and stopped by a friend's house on my way home to borrow a copy of The Hunger Games, then I watched Great Expectations on Masterpiece Classic, which I haven't read since I was a wee lass of 15ish, and this PBS version was the most amazing PBS version of anything... now I'm here, writing on my blog AND watching a show about Abe & Mary Lincoln. OH! And I did the laundry and made dates to meet with wonderful poet/friends this week. I crossed so many things off my to-do list, so I'm pretty happy that I also wrote a poem.  Now, popcorn, a small drink, and sleeping...oh no. Willy Lincoln has typhoid...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chipmunks, Gardens, & Back on the Wagon

The chipmunks were rustling in the backyard this morning.  They must've just defrosted-- it was the first day I heard them.

                     Also, this:

Poem a day.  I'm doing it again in April.  Why?
     A.  It's National Poetry Month. Duh.

Because I didn't see a Snowy Owl

My mom sent a phone-taken photo the other night of a bird and asked me what it was.  It wasn't a very good shot, so I kept guessing smallish birds of prey.  Finally, somebody there told her that it was a Snowy Owl.  Why did my mom get to see a Snowy Owl across the street from the dive bar where she was partaking in happy hour when I've been driving all around the state looking for them?  That is the way of the Snowy Owl. Grr...

In a jealous rage, I went outside and looked for my friendly neighborhood Screech Owls.  I got a few nicer photos of them.  They don't have eggs yet, but, eh-hem, they're working on it...  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Catching up on things, Part 3: Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

Look who lives across the street from me!  Matthew & I were out walking and saw a couple taking pictures at something in the sky.  It was this guy-- an Eastern Screech Owl.  He lives in a large tree across the street.

Last night, I heard him whinny, so went to check him out again.  His partner came out, too, and they sat on a branch together for a while before she disappeared back into the hole.

About a minute later, a squirrel skittered down their tree, and the male went after it, missing.  Then, the female came out of the hole and went after it, also missing, but I didn't see the squirrel after that, so I'm not sure where it ended up.  I love my neighborhood!

Of course, it's hard to get a good photo of him, because he only hangs around at night, but I'll keep trying!

Catching up on things, Part 2: The Gas Guy

As you may recall, my CO levels were a bit out of whack last week.  The furnace guy came, built us a shiny new furnace, and all was well.  Except the furnace wouldn't turn on.  So, I told the landlord, and he said he'd take care of it.  Then, around 8pm, I thought it would be good to tell the neighbors that the heat wasn't working.  We agreed-- it was in the 80s, so not a huge problem.

At around 10:30, Matthew & I were in bed and thought we heard a knock at our door.  We decided not to answer.  Then, we heard some loud noises outside and the backing up of a large vehicle (the kind that beeps to let you know it's backing up), and we thought maybe someone was coming to tell us we were being towed.  I decided to check, and saw that the neighbor upstairs was letting the gas guy into her apartment.  Apparently, she'd heard the furnace kick on and thought she smelled gas.

The gas guy wanted to look at our furnace, which is easiest to access through our apartment.  I let him in, showed him to the basement, pointed him to the light, and as soon as he pointed his flashlight into the furnace, a bat started swarming his head.

Me?  I said, almost calmly, "bat!" and went back upstairs.  The gas guy? "F*ck!, Holy Sh*t! Oh my god!" and he ran up the stairs, slamming the door behind him.  It was pretty hilarious.  I told the gas guy he could head on out since his gas meter was reading zeros, and that I'd call the landlord about the furnace.  The next day, the furnace was fixed (eh hem, the thermostat apparently just needed a new battery...).

And the bats?  Well, I wanted to go down there and get rid of them humanely, but just kicking them out won't solve the problem.  The critter people will need to come and figure out how they got in and fix it.  So, that will happen today or tomorrow.

There've been tons of bats flying around our neighborhood lately, which makes me happy.  In theory, I think bats are adorable and important to the ecosystem.  In my basement, I think otherwise.

And after the extensive google image search I just conducted, I'm not sure I find them all that adorable.  I'm officially a little creeped out by them. 

Catching up on things, Part 1: Arts Day

Last week was ridiculous.  My schedule was so flooded that I can't believe my head's still above water.  But here I am, breathing still.  Many of the things I've been up to seem worth mentioning, so I will give them each their own post, starting first with Arts Day, because it happened first in the week (kind of).

I stumbled upon Arts Wisconsin, a state arts advocacy group, through facebook, through which I found their website, through which I learned that Arts Day was approaching.  What is Arts Day?  Well, I had no idea, but it sounded like something I needed to be a part of, so I signed up and went to both the actual Arts Day and the pre-day arts leaders' advocacy conference.

Here's what Arts Day is all about:  It's a day when artists and arts advocates (people in charge of non-profits, teachers, patrons, etc.) come to Madison from around the state to speak up for the arts.  You make appointments to meet with your legislators and tell them why the arts matter.  Not to you, but to your community-- their constituents.  A lovely idea.  Sadly, most of the legislators were tied up with bill-passing and such, and not many of us got to meet with them.  We were encouraged to keep in touch with our legislators regularly on our home turf.  This sounds like a good idea to me.

If you'd like to know more about how you can speak up for the arts, no matter where you are, learn here: Arts Action Toolkit.

A selection of arts advocates enjoying
muffins and listening to speakers talk
about the role arts play in communities.

If you're in Wisconsin and are associated with the arts in any way-- you have a kid who likes to dance, a parent who writes, a friend who paints, you stop by a community art store sometimes on your way home from work, etc.-- you should go to Arts Day next year.  The pre-Arts Day event was more intimate, and I got to meet amazing people who are doing great things for the arts in places like Rhinelander and Woodruff, WI.  If you can, I urge you to go to both. You'll meet amazing people and learn why the arts matter in your community and their importance throughout the state.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Well, at least we're alive.

A few days ago, I thought I smelled gas in our backyard, but what do I know about how gas smells? Then I thought I smelled it the next day in the front yard, so I sent Matthew thither, and he didn't smell it.  On Saturday, a very nice person walked by our house and smelled it, so he/she called the gas company, who sent a friendly man to investigate. He informed us that our carbon monoxide level should be in the hundreds at most, and it was in the thousands.  (Now we have a new furnace.)

At the time of this discovery, I was heading out to see my cousin, Josh Lepak, perform in Titanic, the Musical.  It's not the movie version, but a more historical telling of the story.  I started crying as everyone boarded the ship (some of them carrying children or puppies), which happened in the first five minutes.  It was a bleak way to spend such a blue-skied afternoon (it was in the 60s!). However, after having seen  my cousin Josh's performance as the Phantom of the Opera, I wouldn't have missed seeing him again.  (I'm sure I'll have to spend much more than $10 to see him perform in the future.) Here's a clip from Appleton North's Phantom performance.

I've been more visually inclined as of late.  I watched Bridesmaids, which I enjoyed primarily for the mom with teenage boys-- there should be more films that make fun of raising teenage boys-- and Contagion, which was good only because they didn't try to make me empathize with characters before killing them off, which meant way-less weeping and panic than I would have expected from myself.  (Although, I'll admit, I did almost cry about the monkey in the cage and was near hysterics during the preview for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.)

Despite my occasional teary outburst, the sun is shining, the cardinals are singing, and the backyard bunnies are getting busy beneath my bird feeder, so things are wonderful.  Or actually, maybe reverse that: Because things are wonderful, there are occasional fits of weeping.  

Saturday, March 10, 2012


There was that half-month of writing, during which I wrote everyday. Since then, my word input-output ratio has been way off.  So, to catch up with language, I'm reading The Sociopath Next Door and finding it easier than usual to read non-fiction.  Yesterday, I read this wonderful article about teenage hysteria in New York Times Magazine.  You should check it out for the beautiful photos if nothing else (taken by Gillian Laub, who has a remarkable sense of person and color and composition).

Friday, March 9, 2012

Speaking of trying to be one person. 

Sarah Kay: How many lives can you live?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

To all the girls I've loved before

I have this song in my head and it's relevant to nothing in real life except that I'm so busy that I can think of nothing but Willie Nelson.  Except also, I think a friend recently told me she dreamed he was trying to hook up with her.  (Upon further consideration, I think she actually said Lenny Kravitz.  I don't know how I would confuse the two...the confusion might be syllabic in nature.)

Finally, I've recovered and caught up with life after AWP.  I would talk about my AWP experience, but the only people who really want to know about AWP go to AWP, and if you've been to AWP, you don't need someone to ramble on about it, so I won't.  I will mention that I sat in on some good panels and some bad panels.  I heard D.A. Powell read, which was fantastic, and went to a great reading by folks from Black Lawrence Press (check out Lisa Fay Coutley's chapbook) and Devil's Lake (check out everything in this magazine).

As part of the recovering process, I spent all day yesterday cleaning out my closet.  It's a large closet-- it doubles as Matthew's office-- so there was quite a bit to organize.  I still haven't gone through any of the maybe 30 books and magazine I collected at the bookfair.  I just finished unpacking yesterday.  It's been slow-going, but I'm getting there.

I mentioned before leaving for Chicago that I wanted to live there.  When I got to the city, I was gung-ho, looking at apartments and such (by which I mean looking in apartment windows and dreaming about living in said apartments).  On my last day in city, I was packing and watching this show on HGTV where this guy went to fix a house on a lake in Canada.  I decided maybe we should move to a lake in Canada instead.  And own goats.  (Notice a pattern here?) Of course, this means we're in the right place now.  Madison is a nice mix of Chicago and Canada... if only there were the sunshine of San Francisco.

equals Madison
plus Chicago