Tuesday, December 27, 2005

If Broadcloth Hearts are firmer--
Than those of Organdy--

Who is to blame? The Weaver?
Ah, the bewildering thread!
The Tapestries of Paradise
So notelessly -- are made.

--Emily Dickinson (from #278)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I just made the most interesting discovery while I was studying for exams yesterday! Emily Dickinson's sister's name was Lavinia. What a strange coincidence! Emily and her strange isolated writing, and her binding of her poems, and Shakespeare's Lavinia (from Titus Andronicus) based on the tragic Philomela (who after being raped and having her tongue cut out by her sister's suitor wove her story into a tapestry) who also had a sister Procne. Philomela was transformed into a nightingale at end of the tale and that's partly why the nightingale came to represent the inspired poet in the middle ages and renaissance. What a cool coincidence. There is just something about the figure of Philomela/Lavinia that haunts me. It's a horrific story. But that motif, of a woman who losses her voice, and (in Lavinia's case her hands as well) is symbolic of the woman writer. The brother's Grimm also told a story of the miller's daughter who losses her hands and is no longer able to communicate.

Monday, December 19, 2005

I just found the most amazing used bookstore. It's cavernous and its poetry section is solid. There was an entire shelf of Ezra Pound! It was like bookshopping in Berkeley again. There is nothing like the high you feel when you find a new, perfect bookstore. You don't even have to buy anything. You just have to go and absorb all those texts surrounding you.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

I actually said to my husband today that I understand why Sylvia Plath put her head in an oven. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not suicidal. I was joking. But, to be a writer and a mother of two young children that won't take naps and won't listen is enough to tug and pull at the most iron of nerves. That quiet desperation that every mother feels when the kids are crying and the laundry needs be done and the clutter of the house is pushing in on her is real and often unsaid (or unheard).

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Snow, snow, and more snow. I haven't worked on a poem in two weeks. But I did have my Dad do some research for me. I was looking for the name of this old haunted house in the town of Bodega (it's the town where Alfred Hitchcock filmed the film, The Birds and also the town where I was married -- the church was actually in the movie). I've been waiting for him to send me the name of the building and I guess I've been using that as a reason not to sait down and finish the poem. Now that I've got it, I'll have to get back to work. It's called the Duran House. When I was growing up (in the outskirts of Bodega) a story was being passed around about a ghost who frequented the Duran House. A girl, with a blue glow. WHo'd just sit at the top of the steps and look down. She may finally make an appearance in one of my poems. We'll see if she fits.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Writing as Sappho wasn't as successful as I would have liked. It was hard not sound forced. She is one of my favorite poets, so maybe that's what's holding me back? By getting frustrated about sappho's voice, I did, however, think of a new angle for my piece on Donne's wife. I'm going to write two scenes - one from the perspective of when she is living and the other literally spoken from her grave. We'll see how it goes.

We 've gotten a lot of snow here today. I broke down and bought boots for the first time. I had to buy them for my son. So, I tried on a pair for myself and I must say, they are nice! I like having dry feet in the winter! Does this mean I am finally embracing the Cleveland winter? I'm also craving one of those foot-length puffy jackets. It would be like walking around in a comforter.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Well last week I was worried about writing in the voice of Anne More Donne (which actually turned out OK. I wrote 724 words, which is a lot for a poet!). Today, I've got to write in the voice of either Sappho or the Muse. Or, I guess I could take a whole new spin on Anne. gulp. I'm surprised at how much fun this prose writing is! Don't get me wrong, I don't think I'm up for a novel or anything quite yet, but this dabbling is fun.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving. I survived a 10 hour drive to Richmond, VA. with my 3 month old, my 2 and 1/2 year old and mother-in-law. I'm surprised at how smoothly the drive went. Long drives (when the children are sleeping) are refuges for the mind. At home these types of rare moments (both children sleeping at the same time) are polluted by my duties to housework and laundry and cooking. But, on the Pennsylvania turnpike, my husband driving, I can sit back and let the images of a poem gather like little duststorms in my mind.

While we were driving, I saw a little kid stuck in the way-back of a hatchback. He looked lonely and tired. That used to be my seat when I was little. My mother loves to tell a story about how I was miraculously saved as a child. We were driving to my cousin's graduation from high school in a blue hatchback and I was all nestled in the way-back, but I got lonely and crawled up through the seats to the front passenger side where my mom was sitting to sit on her lap. Just then a man rear-ended us and my little seat, the hatch, was crumpled up like an accordion. You would have been killed! My mother would always say. She kept a Polaroid of the crumpled car in an album and each time we'd look through, she tell me the story again. She'd ask what made you decide to crawl up to the front? and I'd want to tell her something miraculous. That I'd heard voices like Joan of Arc, or I'd seen a vision. But, I'd just smile and say the truth.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Today I have to write from the voice of Anne More Donne. It's an assignment for class. We are writing a play (or a series of dramatic monologues that are intertwined) and you'd think as a creative writer I'd be excited about it. But it's just daunting. There is no record of anything every having been written by Anne and so everything about her has to be compilled and filled in from what is said (and what is not said) in her famous husband's letters, sermons and poems. What's more, he never mentions her name in any of these texts (the only text which can truely be attributed to having been written about her is her epitaph). Plus, it's not poetry! So, I am procrastinating by blogging. I am not only writing the voice of Anne, but I'll be taking on the voices of Sappho and the Muses as well. No small feat. Wish me luck.

Friday, November 18, 2005

"Islands" Muriel Rukeyser

O for God's sake
they are connected underneath

They look at each other
across the glittering sea
some keep a low profile

Some are cliffs
The bathers think
islands are sperate like them
The first snow is always a novelty. The chill. Finding your winter coat. Having an excuse for tea and cookies in the afternoon. New snow makes me think of a clean slate. A new, crisp, white page to start the year over again on. Fall just feels like it is waiting for something to happen. The impending leaves, their darkening. The whole landscape is waiting to be covered in snow and you can feel that anticipation in the air. My mother-in-law needs this snow. Perhaps it'll begin to whiten the dark grief she's been shrouded in. Someone was reminding me how it used to be when someone died that you bought a dark suit or dress when your spouse died and you wore it every day for a year. Literally, every day. She said by the end of it you were so sick of the clothes, you threw them away, and with them you threw away your grief. What a metaphor. The physicallity of it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I'm having a hard time getting a poem together that I've had brewing in my mind for a few weeks. I think about it everything I drive to my in-laws house. There's this lake we pass over -- Lake Meander. It's a recovery with a town underneath. Literally, underneath the water. Like a steeltown Atlantis or something. The town was deserted and then submerged. In my mind I like to think you can look down and see tables set for dinner and tattered curtains blossoming from the windows -- but probably not a Pompeii. The lake is freckled with all of these cement pilings that are covered with cormorants. It's a full-deck kind of image that just sits on your sub-conscious (like those sea-birds!). I started relating it to John Donne's metaphors about shadows: "As all shadows are of one color, if you respect the body from which they were cast (for our shadows upon clay will be dirty and in a garden green and flowery)." Then, yesterday my mother-in-law told me she and her husband (who just passed away two months ago) used to talk about the cormorants every time they passed over Meander to come to our house. So, when she was driving over yesterday she asked him to take the form of a cormorant and to lift off up from one of the pilings to prove to her he was listening. She said one of them did alight.
Now I just need to sit down, shuffle the deck, and write.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Today, after a hard day of Ph.D. work, I strapped Max into the baby Bjoern and walked to the local stripmall. It was a perfect fall day. It was even warm. I kept thinking about what Kurt Vunnegut had said at a reading I saw him at a few years ago (actually, it was on the day I turned 30, so I remember the day vividly). He was talking about the "writers process" and how stepping out into the world say, to the post office or the Office max, and mingling with the rest of the world is just as important as sitting down to write. Anyway, thinking about what Vonnegut said made me feel quite "literary" on my errands (just as cooking sometimes makes me feel the same after having washed lettuce with Galaway Kinnell -- but that's another story).

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Another day, another poop blow-out. My son is an amazing pooper. For his size, he seems to create an amazing amount of poop. But enough about poop. I'm really just procastinating a paper I need to write (and a reading list I need to create for my exams this Spring). I realized today that the title of this blog is in the past tense - like I'd already survived it. When in reality I'm knee-deep in it.

The day is gray and worrisome because winter is already on it's haunches waiting to pounce. I'm not a big fan of snow. Especially city snow. The grey weight of it kind of overwhelms me. Winter is a good time to be a student though - you don't have a lot of distractions (I already have enough of those.)

Monday, October 31, 2005

The grand permission - the second adolescence of becoming a mother. Let's just say the last two and a half years of my life have been a transition. Being a writer and a mother is amazing and daunting at the same time. Being a writer, a mother and pursueing a Ph.D. at the sametime is insane and it is here that I will be venting that stress/anxiety/etc. (I say this as my littlest one is wailing in my arms) Ahh...the quiet writers life.

When I was twenty-four I went up to Vermont to a writers retreat to finish up my thesis. I was living in New York at the time and just that transition from city noise, to the deafening quiet of solitude was intense. But the cabin I lived in for one week was one of seven on a wooded hill. Every day, madened by my solitude, I'd venture out and meet a new woman in her own seperate cabin. Each had a story.

The first, was in her forties, with hennaed hair. She was sitting by a blazing fire when I walked in and the air was soft with frech love songs. When I asked why she was there she said she just need a break from her kids and her husband. I couldn't understand it at the time. (I had nothing but time to myself to write -- in fact my life was swollen with it) But now, as I sit here years later trying to write in between nursing and groceries and cleaning and laundry and did I brush my teeth today? I get it.