Tuesday, October 27, 2009

As a teacher...

It's hard to always be positive. The more I challenge students, the more the parents challenge me about grades. The more time I spend working on things for the classroom, the less time I have on my own writing.

I confessed to Mark Doty (a few weeks ago at his reading/craft talk) that teaching at the high school level sometimes, many times drains me. He said that I have to be able to on occasion say, "Make this. Okay good, now go make another one."

And then there is Facebook, and being department head, and....you get it. I'm always so friendly and optimistic. I'm full of ideas and help.

I'm not sure where I can really be myself. I don't even allow complaints on my blog either, really.

The truth is, I am mostly optimistic and I do truly love helping students, but somewhere in the past near decade I have lost the ability to allow myself the once-in-a-while public sigh. Or the, "I'm sorry, I just don't have time." As a result of this public image martyr syndrome, the people closest to me suffer.

For me, being a great teacher means being an okay writer, a sometimey friend, an unfocused girlfriend, and a distant daughter. Add running into the equation and time is even more scarce. I must find balance. There are so many wonderful teachers who are also wonderful at their other roles in life. I must figure this out.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


When I was a little girl, I used to get my cousin's hand-me-down clothes. I was always so excited to sort through the boxes that my aunt would send.
Now Edith gets my cousin's dog Gracie's hand-me-downs. Gracie is an adorable Boston Terrier, and lucky for Edith, Gracie must have had a growing spurt. My cousin sent Edith at least ten new outfits, some still had a tag.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Iron Spine: A Review

New Zealand writer Helen Rickerby’s second book, My Iron Spine, is poignant, witty, tender, fun, and moving.

Rickerby has organized the book into three sections. The first section, Flashes of déjà vu, is compiled mostly of autobiographical pieces. A charming voice waltzes through the narrative, saying things like, I was playing hungry / hungry hippos / when my grandmother died or I wonder / if the Kingdom of Heaven / is like the Titanic- / not enough lifeboats.

A striking poem in this section is Eleven Fragments of God. Rickerby poetically meanders through questions, stories, and dialogue, pertaining not only to metaphysics, but also to personal grief. Corsets and comforts titles the second section of My Iron Spine. The poet writes in the persona of several women, including Artemisia Gentileschi, Mary Shelley, and Sylvia Plath.

In the third and final section, Laughing at Ophelia, the poet invents a world where she spends time with an array of historical women. Check out a few of the titles: Burning with Joan of Arc, Swimming Lessons with Virginia Woolf, Housework with Linda and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Kate Sheppard and I go for a Ride. In the final poem, Rickerby hangs out with New Zealand born writer Katherine Mansfield. The poem, titled Partying with Katherine Mansfield starts out ‘Don’t be a bore,” says Katie / as she pulls me up by my arm / to the dance floor.

At times My Iron Spine is akin to Anne Carson’s The Glass Essay. Rickerby seamlessly layers her work with research, autobiography, and imagination. What more could a reader want from a book of poetry? Rickerby is a poet who celebrates women and their lives. Most of all, she celebrates their voices.

My Iron Spine is available through Amazon.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gettin' paid for poetry

This is a milestone, I suppose. Aside from winning money for contests, I have never been paid for publishing a poem. So here it is, my first check from a magazine. I hope Firstmerit can cash checks from New Zealand. What is even better than receiving a check? Seeing your poem in JAAM 27. The magazine looks gorgeous. Thanks to the editor of JAAM, Helen Rickerby. My next post will be a short review of Helen's stunning, new book, My Iron Spine. I am currently savoring each poem.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Faces only a mother could love?

Of course not! Everyone can see the striking beauty in these two faces. The top picture is Telemachus; the bottom picture is Edith.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Writing as Excavation

In his craft talk at The University of Akron last week Mark Doty said that there is a tendency for poets not to reach far enough in their poems. We get swamped by our own craft and somehow that attention to craft prevents us from truly exploring our poem and its possibilities.

Here are some of the tips Doty shared:

  • Get better at tolerating your own messiness.

  • Suspend the need to judge yourself during the process of writing.

  • Practice not finishing a poem.

  • Excavate and explore before polishing.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Inspiration Isn't Quite Enough

Inspiration was always easy to find, sprinkling itself across the surface of the strangest places and people.

Then craft was born, largely because of a few professors who took me and my writing under their writer wings.

With grad school came deadlines which disguised themselves as the developing of a writer's work ethic.

And then I graduated and somehow became so obsessed with what I deemed to be perfection in my own craft that I had lost the ability to actually sit down and allow myself to make things with words.

Mark Doty reminded me last night that inspiration arrives first. Then comes the push. As writers we must learn how to marry what is given as inspiration with the will to see what we can make of it.

I practice this marriage as a runner. Honestly, without the push, the inspiration is useless. If I didn't push myself to run, I wouldn't even be a runner.

Now I must do the same with writing.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I've not been moved lately. Tonight, I was.

I saw Paul Lisicky and Mark Doty at The University of Akron. They gave a craft talk.

It was just what I needed. I will spread some of the brilliant things they said throughout my next few posts.

I need to go to bed soon. Tomorrow I am running a 4 mile race. This will be the longest race I've done. When I come home from the race, I am going to write, for the first time in quite a while.

Paul Lisicky said that when he doesn't write, he's sick. Me, too. Post-MFA has been a constant case of the writing blues sniffles. Paul also said that he allows himself to sit down and attempt to make something rather than actually make something. I like that.

Tomorrow I am going to ATTEMPT to run 4 miles. Tomorrow I am going to ATTEMPT to make something with words.