Friday, December 25, 2009

tattoo on christmas

Happy Christmas! I had my mother take a shot of my tattoo, all healed, while visiting for the holidays, and I thought I would share it here.

I've also submitted the tattoo to this literary tattoos book, which is still accepting for the next week. Several people have pointed out the project, and I'm also sending it along to Contrariwise. May as well pass along the tattoo love, but I wanted to make certain I had a healed picture for sending it out.

As far as presents are concerned, I am now swimming in more books--books on Elizabeth Bishop, essays suggested by Ellen Bryant Voigt, plenty to keep my mind turning over for months.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

good-bye office

Oh, little cubicle space. I did a little swishing of the 2009-calendar, a little finger running along the tabletop--just before I went out for coffee with one of my favorite MFAers. The little quote is actually on the third floor bathroom wall, something I find charming.

Monday, December 21, 2009

the last memoir

There were people there too, I promise:

A few images from our last memoir class, which met at Trish Hampl's beautiful St Paul home. I will share some of my best notes from the class, many of which will not live up to the experience. My honest opinion? If you have the chance to work with Patricia Hampl, do so. (Don't tell, but a good handful of these people aren't in the class due to a passion for memoir but for a realization that she is one of the best professors in the program.) (Of course, a great appreciation, if not love, developed from our studies.)

For me, it was a crucial class; my own work, poems and prose, have been approaching the self in such strange ways, so it was good to discuss and dissect from this perspective.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

joyce sutphen at the anderson center

Among others, here is one reason I am explosively blessed: I live in the same town as the Anderson Center. One of those coveted retreat-places, one that draws in talented writers and artists, and this winter, a few weekends ago, Joyce Sutphen graced us with her presence at the winter celebration of the arts, reading from her new collection, First Words.

She recognized me, from the Zagajewski event, from others, and we spoke of the toughness of getting into MFA programs, the retirement of Michael Dennis Browne, and she urged me to say hello when I saw her next. I will, and perhaps, I will gather up the bravery to tell her how much her books meant to me when I was an undergraduate, how much her memoiristic voice means to me now.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I fell in love with Marie Ponsot at AWP last February, and whilst wandering strange places on the web, I found the above video from The Mom Egg.

This conversation is particularly interesting in how Ponsot speaks about rhythm and rhyme, particularly after my last independent study meeting with MDB and how I spoke to him about my aversion to the Dickinson and the Bishop poems that were most "sing songish." MDB loved Bishop's triple rhymes while I did not; I think learning to love that kind of controlled versification is something I'll have to put on my to-do list for the last year and a half of my MFA. I will learn to appreciate, if I cannot love. Admire what one can do with foundations.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

on the occassion of emily's birthday

illustration: isabelle arsenault

One hundred and seventy-seven is the rumor: and she looks so good.

Birthday of but a single pang
That there are less to come --
Afflictive is the Adjective
But affluent the doom --

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

We had a blizzard all through the night, making driving after thesis seminar stretching time in strange ways, but I'm fortunately listening to a Benjamin Franklin biography that kept my mind contented.

At home, I've been reading through a book of poems a day, similar to something I did in May (oh, but May rhymes so much nicer than December!), and reading through Sophie Cabot Black's The Descent, reminds me of something I read in another book I'm paging through this week, The Wounded Surgeon: Confessional and Transformation in Six American Poets (Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Randall Jarrell, Delmore Schwartz, and Sylvia Plath)--something I should have already realized, but the concept of capitalization of that first word on each line, as in this dead bird poem in the collection, and how that act of capitalizing then emphasizes the line as opposed to the sentence.

I had always eschewed that capitalization as something basic, or Microsoft-Word-lazy.

I love having my eyes opened, even when those concepts seem elementary.

Friday, December 4, 2009

In my thesis seminar, all of the second year students are to turn in five poems every handful of weeks, while the third years present us with a full manuscript on the first day. I was much more dry this summer than I anticipated, not leaving me with an arsenal of quality work to begin with, and here, at the end of the semester, I find myself veering into new territory: from that of the elderly body flattened by Alzheimer's and into the infertile woman's body. The poems are a bit more vulnerable, more teetering and uncertain.

I wonder if I am the kind of writer who writes in cycles--I have my chapbook-sized collection in one series and now, I embark one what could be a book-length intrusion. With this, I have no full-plan, no handrails. And there were some disappointing moments about critique, but I've got so much buzzing in my mind that I won't let anything not-so-helpful trip me up--not too much, anyway.

Right now, I'm working at a series of figures, coming mostly from the reproduction gallery at Bodies: The Exhibition at the Mall of America {shudder}, a place I've visited twice now. This recent visit was with fellow-MFAer Meryl, who also paused and wrote alongside me on the scattered benches and wore our pens weary. It's a good day when my pen-callouses throb.

Also fun in the world of poetics: I've started a collaborative blog called i love dead bird poems, a response with a back-story, but for now, you can enjoy a little Bishop and Zagajewski (and if you want to join in the fun, please let me know and I'll send along an invite!).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I returned from Thanksgiving break to learn that one of my friends in the program lost a student yesterday--suicide. This friend teaches freshmen comp too.

My heart aches a bit for her, a fellow second year, a talented writer with a bright sense of humor. How does one begin to process this kind of blank spot?

I think to my own group of students and how incredibly blessed I've been. I have a group of charming, eager, willing students, students who, today, asked me what I was teaching next semester because friends and room mates were looking for a "good" first year writing studies teacher; apparently, I've already got at least two room mates enrolled for next semester's time slot. This makes my heart swell; I've tried to be fair and tough and laid-back and honest and caring, and though I know I've had plenty of weak points in teaching, I know it's the best job I've done since teaching at the university level. I don't know if I'm finally picking up a rhythm or if it's because I really adore teaching writing (of any sort), but at the close of this semester, I don't feel that cloud of guilt surrounding me, only, perhaps, a little wisp of fog, that says I could have done better. I actually feel complete and full: sad to see them go, but also glad, because I know they've worked hard, and they're ready to move on and move up. It's amazing how that feels.