Non-Red-Letter Days

  1. Some times you’re in synch with the world, and sometimes you know you’re not.

    This would be a not day, or a knot-day. Brain’s a clattery train yard. Nerves on edge so any unexpected sound makes my skin leap. I’m officially tired of being me. I’m accepting CVs for people to play the role of me instead. I’m not sure who will handle the auditions. Ah, right, also taking CVs for a casting director.

  2. I’m taking stock.
  3. That does mean pilfering goods from the office right? (Of course, working at home, it means going from one pocket to the other. But get rebellion where you can.)
  4. I’ve concluded time is going quickly. That may be just confirmation bias since I concluded much the same at age 8.
  5. It’s the 10th year of my being at the Poetry-W listserv. How many dozens of people have been thru over the years? I was in a couple other face-to-face poetry workshops at the time which have fizzled since but that one keeps on. Now I’m more mentoring and sharing theory posts instead of being an omnidirectional fuzz looking for guidance.

    It’s funny that it works for me because it’s pretty consistent for me to write poem drafts constantly then binge edit in rapid cycles of substantive edits. With a workshop that allows only one per week, that means I have nothing or more than the group can accommodate. Still, I often can tell if I broke a poem. But close edits can be myopic and I tend to forget the reader needs to be oriented before I leap in mid-way. I like poems with gaps that don’t spell everything out.

  6. Charles Tumbrull said at Frogpond, in talking about juxtaposition,

    […] when the gap between the two parts is set exactly right by the poet so that with a moderate amount of effort the reader is able to experience an “aha!” moment and suddenly be smothered in extra meaning that was not present in either part. The proper regulation of the gap in a spark plug is often used as an analogy to the mechanics of the haiku. A functioning gap will vary for various people, of course.

    Some people have to be led by the nose. That’s fine. I don’t need to be the one with the shank lead. Other people already know what I’m saying. They can go off and speak to others rather than us both wasting time affirming each other. It’s that slim overlap where the gap is a productive one that is the sweet spot.

  7. One does what one does. As Marvin Bell put it, “Everyone needs something to do in his or her life that they would do even if no one paid them to do it.”
  8. For poetics I’m characteristically spilled water – spreading out in all directions, and wetting socks. That’s a kind of niche too. It worries when people say to be developed you must be a specialist in one thing. It nearly convinces me that one increasingly narrow path is an ideal.

  9. I know I lose out by being a generalist with gaps. But so do people who don’t read or perceive broadly. Not that there is anyone who is not a specialist or anyone who is not a generalist. The depth, widths and overlaps just vary. Talk to me about species or poetry or architecture or let the steering go any random direction and I probably can go somewhere. (Don’t talk to me of sports or movies or music or anything invoking the word hegemony. I will have no idea. I will glaze over. And you’ll just frustrate yourself.)
  10. While I was busy gadding about, it seems I missed another anniversary.

    Feb 22nd, 2003 I started blogging at Humanyms. I missed my own 10 year anniversary. Oops.

  11. In 2008 I pointed out I had 1200 posts here, and 4000 comments.

    I can’t exactly count anymore. A couple years ago I thought I was making an archive of older posts, but was backing up and overwrote the backups, and didn’t realize for some time. (Lost, lost.)

    Of those posts I can still see, those since moving to WordPress (the third platform), I have 1900 posts (murky estimate: about one every second day on average). I used to do daily and have switched to 1-3 times a week.

    There have been 6,525 comments. I’d like to thank you all, even if some, in absentia.

  12. People who started to write withdrew into less-traceable offline. Or decided to photograph or have babies or write cookbooks or change careers. Or outlet their lives at FB instead. But mostly just ghosted away and deleting blogs as they left.

    Blogging is often such a interstitial state – the old haunts are ghost towns. I suppose that makes it a mandala of life.

    As with anywhere, you can’t stay only with your cohort because they drift off or die off. You need contact with every generation, a continual stretch of neurons to novel challenges. To begin again. And again. And. New births of relationships to offset the constant loss.

  13. go fish
    There’s more fish in the seeing.

  14. I suppose that I seem sad. I’m not good at rah-rah hop-up the excitement. I don’t trust excitement and whoop. That seems a sport for the young and excitable. I don’t know about excitable, but I’ve never been young. Or maybe that’s just my shoulder talking. (Shh, shoulder, watch your language – this is a Family-Friendly Space.)
  15. I don’t seem to post poems here much anymore so here’s a draft being wily about getting done.

    a couple going down the canals

    when my hearing clogged I stood, s_t, in dad’s
    head. birdsong shut out and conversation

    became more in_erence th_n usual,
    reliant on hands, say again?, helpers.

    fatigued anger. strained, withdrawn, pretending
    that I know what was said because I’m tired 

    of being accommodated, or not.
    how much of his irritation was ‘him’?

    or about ‘them’? how much, daft vs. deaf?
    how much m_re would golden-years marriages

    flourish with hearing aids? ads: “hear the vows
    you renew daily.” “get him back.” “turn up 

    those sweet nothings.” photo ops: jammed
    restaurant, two deep in conversation,

    walking thru the door of a party, “that
    whistle didn’t come from your hearing aid,”

    “the fun back in functional”; a coup
    with a couple, their 5000 buck ears.

pea blossom
Quiet as a pea blossom? Yes. Sometimes.

Another episode of my sporadic participation in Thirteen Thursday.

Noteable Quoteable: “Word of mouth comes from intermittent delight. Things that work all the time are harder to talk about.” Seth Godin

20 Aug 2012, 3:52pm
Arts Link Dump Photos Poem Drafts
Comments Off on How it Goes

How it Goes

Everything isn’t coming up roses: there are mixed bouquets of flowers too.

Rick came up from NY for a haiku meeting and gave these with a flourish for us for hosting. It was a good mellow gathering of haiku poets from all over region. A compelling thing about haiku is that there isn’t room to allow a weak syllable or not the quite right word. Nothing maudlin or overstated or editorial. We can round table a single poem of a dozen syllables for 10 minutes or so.

There’s a balance of work and play, however fragile the balance is. There’s busywork around here: cooking, doing house maintenance, painting outdoors, weeding, seeding, watering grass and catching up on emails.

It’s hard to think that a year ago we were living in a condo and on vacation staying at an apartment in Paris for a month, checking out the lively literary scene and absorbing as much pastries as viable.

And here, a year later, we have a yard, a barbecue and wicker. (What next, a puppy?) (Please, no one drop me off a puppy.)

There’s something about a house that domesticates us. Something about being able to putter in dirt. There’s a gift in not being able to overhear whatever street ruffians are raving high and loud about. A flock of darling starlings seems far saner place to situate oneself. It feels useful to grow some of our own food. Swapping herbal tea for cocoa does a part in de-rattling myself too.

There’s a seriously messed up system of cutting health care from immigrants and refugees, and worse protection of environment, but outside this box of country, 1 guy has spent 25 years trying to decode Prairie Dog communication and Madagascar has made a step to protect 1/5 of the species of lemurs with a special zone. And people are banding together in to create a network to report, spread word and find horses that were stolen and get them reunited with who they used to live with. There are moments when one is cautiously hopeful. After all, grassroots is often another road of marketing so its worthwhile keeping cynicism alive. Good there are moments of feeling more informed. This article on gluten as a poison is fascinating. [Via Rowdy Kittens] And this list of inflammatory vs safe foods for not exacerbating physical and mental health.

Here’s 2 minutes of 2 poems of mine from last week at the Tree Reading Series. I hadn’t planned on reading but my usual excuse that I didn’t bring anything hardly held water. More than half a dozen people in the room saw the poems I brought to workshop in the Tree Seed Workshop right before.

There’s now 500 videos on site from open mic, feature readers, poet and poetics talks. If you want to start in to peruse the new, catch these two: David Blaikie and pithy Shai Ben-Shalom from last week as well.

Quote: “He who never made a mistake never made a discovery.” ~ Samuel Smiles

17 Jan 2012, 12:20pm
General Photos Poem Drafts

Right as Rain, Sure as Snow

snow in our tree
If one can be right as rain, what would it be, to be snow? Sure and steady?

A poem draft from this morning:

down feathers without the coat

fallen for a mile and caught
feet from the ground by a noose
of tips of limbs. the implausibly thin
stacked snow is piled, looking
something like peace or like
at least, containment, almost
contentment but not quite.

it is what the squirrels will
knock off as they chase off
their frisky season, their
forty four days of gestation.
they’ve each only got two dozen
shots at this breeding thing.
better scatter the snow faster,
hop, hop, hop to higher branches
until the whole tree is knocked
as clean as a rain might do.

My newest post is up at Local Tourist Ottawa on the SLOWest Coffeehouse SLOWest (Sustainable Living Ottawa West) on music and community.

Quote: “Mix a little foolishness with your serious plans. It is lovely to be
silly at the right moment.” ~ Horace

Return to Ever New Normal

Rideau street Monday afternoon
Back to workaday world.

33 degrees (37 degrees with humidex or 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit), 10 UV index, smog and thunderstorm advisories.

Rideau Street
This was the same street on Canada Day.

Ottawa’s kids ride on shoulders

all the heat is too damp
to break crisp. every clock
is Dali’s dillying dings

all the matchbox houses
emptied onto sidewalks,
lawns, full of popsicle grins

the dog’s tongue risks
road burn. chips, as much use
as a salt pinch to the sea.

and an evening of long spoons
a month of begged-for sundaes
almost as long as the traipse home

after the night’s loud rainbows
of Canada Day, the red group,
the country, is one curled siesta

Rideau Street
On Canada Day

Rideau street Monday afternoon
And back to normal.

What’s our cutoff for normal?

For Shame the way potential protesters were treated. Hundreds being met with a official/policing fist dispersed the issues actually being protested by thousands: right to access to abortion and options, troops out of Afghanistan, environmental protection laws (there is no planet B), Unseat Harper, remember local autoworkers, steel workers, and the genocide in Tibet.

The idea that only one issue per protest so we can’t possibly pay attention seems weak.

It is good to see people come forward in a show of support when a few of the herd are hurt. It reminds me of the Day of Pink. One kid was harrassed on the excuse of his wearing a pink shirt. By word of mouth the next day, hundreds of students in a mass solidarity action wore pink.

It’s easier to control a miserable threatened person than an energied one. At the same time as G20 meltdown, hundreds did an experiment in human evolution called the Human Summit Project an hour-long meditation ceremony in Woodbine Park. Not fear and disruption driven to react but to cause conscious civil act to set up different rules of engagement.

Quote: “Shut up and Listen. Witness” and know, that to do so, is not the same as remaining silent. ~ Mae Callen

Firestarters: Giving a Spark to your Inner Pyro

Sean, one of the organizers in session as they compare how the same prompt went in different directions for each person.

The workshop went really well. People enjoyed and seemed to have taken away ideas and exchanged some at the table. it was hands on with 4-5 poems drafted per person. It was a great group that fell into easy rapport and contributed ideas as well as some great poems.

We also brainstormed about what prevents us from writing poetry and what some solutions are. The wisdom of crowds came up with these:

Issues and Solutions


  • get into an inspiring groove with something else you love, eg. music or running
  • do your worst possible poem
  • change the scene, go for a walk, distract yourself
  • throw yourself at a deadline, for submission or performance; getting them away from you helps, getting them back with some affirmations of acceptances helps
  • give poem to a writing group for another set of eyes, can correct your vision
  • Caught in same-same writing habit

    1. set up an artist date to go to a museum or concert for new input
    2. read other poets
    3. take up a challenge of a prompt or workshop that asks for ideas you wouldn’t normally choose or default to

    Perceived Value of Writing vs. Important things in rest of life

    1. commit the time and find it
    2. literally lock the door, even for 5 minutes or 15


    1. as above and simplify the routine and write where ever, on the bus, in scattered moments, like the poet who wrote a collection of prescription pads between patients
    2. go on a writer’s retreat
    3. simplify; embrace the game of so-whated-ness

    Peer and Pro Support

  • go to events and talk with other writers who know where we’re coming from
  • speak to people whose stuff you like and see if workshop or know of any
  • contact established writers and see when they give sessions and where
  • There were a number of exercises to shake out of the normal habit of what you think about or how. We did a couple group exercises.

    In the workshop I mentioned I had a rubric for poems as an editing aide. That links to the Pesbo post, or directly, here’s the pdf.

    One of the group exercises led to free writing from the word chains and then was sampled to produce a cento, (a sort of verbal quilt) made out of the (surprise) 4th line of each person’s piece being strung into one collective poem.

    The pain is a lab coat-like paper before me
    a cold stick, ice snapped
    help to to shed chaos amongst the poor sods
    she sleeps with her bedroom window open wide
    x-rays and other fancy tools
    your speaking
    with the pen, the paper
    does the moon steal your light at dusk?
    eyebrows dropped and lipgloss dimmed
    swirling gritty in my mouth
    the “I can’t be bothered to care but I’ll watch nonetheless”
    encoded in the French DNA

    One of the sheets I gave out about getting around mental writing blocks is now a post here and the list of links for prompts and writer resources is a post here.

    As I mentioned, the next Dusty Owl Workshop (apart from the weekly Tuesday nights) will be in May with Oni on slam poetry, then in June with Ian Roy on sketching the short story.

    Quote: “If nothing of value isn’t caught, it doesn’t mean that nothing of value was thrown.” – that’d be what I said.

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