30 April 2009

Poem in Your Pocket Day

Remember, ladies, gentlemen, and poetry-lovers!

Today is the day to carry a poem in your pocket to share with anyone who will listen!

This year, I'll be carrying "There is no frigate like a book (1263)" by Emily Dickinson.  What are you carrying?  Reply to this post or email with your name, and the info about your poem, and I'll add it below.

Happy poem-sharing today!

NP is carrying "There is no frigate like a book (1263)" by Emily Dickinson

Poetry by Marianne Moore

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond
       all this fiddle.
   Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
       discovers in
   it after all, a place for the genuine.
       Hands that can grasp, eyes
       that can dilate, hair that can rise
          if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
       they are
   useful.  When they become so derivative as to become
   the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
       do not admire what
       we cannot understand: the bat
          holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless
       wolf under
   a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse
       that feels a flea, the base-
   ball fan, the statistician--
       nor is it valid
          to discriminate against "business documents and

school-books"; all these phenomena are important.  One must make
       a distinction
   however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
       result is not poetry,
   nor till the poets among us can be
       "literalists of
       the imagination"--above
          insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, "imaginary gardens with real toads in them,"
       shall we have
   it.  In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
   the raw material of poetry in
       all its rawness and
       that which is on the other hand
          genuine, you are interested in poetry.


Born near St. Louis, Missouri, on November 15, 1887, Marianne Moore was raised in the home of her grandfather, a Presbyterian pastor. After her grandfather's death, in 1894, Moore and her family stayed with other relatives, and in 1896 they moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. She attended Bryn Mawr College and received her B.A. in 1909. Following graduation, Moore studied typing at Carlisle Commercial College, and from 1911 to 1915 she was employed as a school teacher at the Carlisle Indian School. In 1918, Moore and her mother moved to New York City, and in 1921, she became an assistant at the New York Public Library. She began to meet other poets, such as William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens, and to contribute to the Dial, a prestigious literary magazine. She served as acting editor of the Dial from 1925 to 1929. Along with the work of such other members of the Imagist movement asEzra Pound, Williams, and H. D., Moore's poems were published in the Egoist, an English magazine, beginning in 1915. In 1921, H.D. published Moore's first book, Poems, without her knowledge.

Moore was widely recognized for her work; among her many honors were the Bollingen prize, the National Book Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. She wrote with the freedom characteristic of the other modernist poets, often incorporating quotes from other sources into the text, yet her use of language was always extraordinarily condensed and precise, capable of suggesting a variety of ideas and associations within a single, compact image. In his 1925 essay "Marianne Moore," William Carlos Williams wrote about Moore's signature mode, the vastness of the particular: "So that in looking at some apparently small object, one feels the swirl of great events." She was particularly fond of animals, and much of her imagery is drawn from the natural world. She was also a great fan of professional baseball and an admirer of Muhammed Ali, for whom she wrote the liner notes to his record, I Am the Greatest! Deeply attached to her mother, she lived with her until Mrs. Moore's death in 1947. Marianne Moore died in New York City in 1972.

29 April 2009

Prayer Request

Please pray for "Pinkyyy," who is gathering the courage to leave her emotionally and physically abusive husband.

She's tried to get things to work, but he's the type of person that only wants control over her, and refuses to seek help.

Pinkyyy, I pray that you and your children can find a safe place today.

Wordless Wednesday: This Week's Schedule

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.


I was of three minds
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.


The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.


A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.


I do not know which I prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.


Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.


O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?


I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.


When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.


At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.


He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.


The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.


It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.


Wallace Stevens was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, on October 2, 1879. He attended Harvard University as an undergraduate from 1897 to 1900. He planned to travel to Paris as a writer, but after a working briefly as a reporter for the New York Herald Times, he decided to study law. He graduated with a degree from New York Law School in 1903 and was admitted to the U.S. Bar in 1904. He practised law in New York City until 1916.

Though he had serious determination to become a successful lawyer, Stevens had several friends among the New York writers and painters in Greenwich Village, including the poets William Carlos WilliamsMarianne Moore, andE. E. Cummings.

In 1914, under the pseudonym "Peter Parasol," he sent a group of poems under the title "Phases" to Harriet Monroe for a war poem competition for Poetry magazine. Stevens did not win the prize, but was published by Monroe in November of that year.

Stevens moved to Connecticut in 1916, having found employment at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Co., of which he became vice president in 1934. He had began to establish an identity for himself outside the world of law and business, however, and his first book of poems, Harmonium, published in 1923, exhibited the influence of both the English Romantics and the French symbolists, an inclination to aesthetic philosophy, and a wholly original style and sensibility: exotic, whimsical, infused with the light and color of an Impressionist painting.

For the next several years, Stevens focused on his business life. He began to publish new poems in 1930, however, and in the following year, Knopf published an second edition of Harmonium, which included fourteen new poems and left out three of the decidedly weaker ones.

More than any other modern poet, Stevens was concerned with the transformative power of the imagination. Composing poems on his way to and from the office and in the evenings, Stevens continued to spend his days behind a desk at the office, and led a quiet, uneventful life.

Though now considered one of the major American poets of the century, he did not receive widespread recognition until the publication of his Collected Poems, just a year before his death. His major works include Ideas of Order (1935), The Man With the Blue Guitar (1937), Notes Towards a Supreme Fiction (1942), and a collection of essays on poetry, The Necessary Angel (1951).

Stevens died in Hartford in 1955.

28 April 2009

Scam it All!

As a freelance writer, one of the things I always have to consider when hunting for projects or applying for gigs is the prospect of being scammed.  Is this a legitimate writing opportunity, or will it be one of those sites where I have to sign up and pay every month for the chance of maybe writing articles?  Can I really get paid this much for these articles, or will the client claim at the last minute that they're not publishing them, so I won't get any money?

Unfortunately, the Internet provides people the easy opportunity to take advantage of others, so there are as many people offering help for how to avoid scams as there are people offering help in organizing your writing portfolio.

It's great to have advice to avoid scams.  And, really, the easiest way to deal with scams is to avoid them.  But as writers pick up on things, scammers will develop new techniques, and even seasoned writers may get taken at one point or another.  Then what?

Allison Boyer has an article that explains what happened to her when she got scammed (in a big way), and how she handled it.  There's good advice in this article for anyone who's been scammed, and Boyer will be posting advice to avoid scams in the first place, which can also be helpful.

Read and enjoy!


27 April 2009

The Bard in the White House

In light of Shakespeare's birthday last week, I thought I'd share this interesting article with you.  I particularly like the graphic.


Staying True

Miss California, Carrie Prejean, stood up for her belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman, and it probably cost her the title of Miss USA.

Regardless of your opinion on this issue, you have to admire Prejean for staying true to her beliefs, particularly as someone running for Miss USA, and particularly for someone who lives in California, where this issue is particularly hot-button right now.

It's important to have faith and values, and even more important to be strong enough to stand up for what you believe in when you get pressure from the opposite side.  There are many people who, in the privacy of their homes, among the support of their church families, or behind the veil of the Internet, claim to feel a certain way about issues.  They stick to their guns in the safety of their bubbles.  But when approached by someone who feels differently, or when engaged in a debate, they often falter, or diminish their beliefs to avoid being persecuted, or to protect their own feelings.

Perhaps they fear that if their true beliefs are challenged, their hearts and minds will be changed.  I think that's a shame.  Any time my beliefs have been challenged (and they have been!), I've come out on the other side of it with even stronger convictions.  If you're that afraid of being challenged, maybe your values aren't as strong as you thought.

(If you're interested in seeing Prejean's answer to the question of same-sex marriage, it's here.)

The Debate Continues...

In a recent article by Joanne Kaufman, the issue of digital books and the publishing industry rages on.  However, she adds a new depth to the discussion:

The publishing world is all caught up in weighty questions about the Kindle and other such devices: Will they help or hurt book sales and authors’ advances? Cannibalize the industry? Galvanize it?

Please, they’re overlooking the really important concern: How will the Kindle affect literary snobbism? If you have 1,500 books on your Kindle — that’s how many it holds — does that make you any more or less of a bibliophile than if you have the same 1,500 books displayed on a shelf? (For the sake of argument, let’s assume that you’ve actually read a couple of them.)

The practice of judging people by the covers of their books is old and time-honored. And the Kindle, which looks kind of like a giant white calculator, is the technology equivalent of a plain brown wrapper. If people jettison their book collections or stop buying new volumes, it will grow increasingly hard to form snap opinions about them by wandering casually into their living rooms.


It’s a safe bet that the Kindle is unlikely to attract people who seldom pick up a book or, on the other end of the spectrum, people who prowl antiquarian book fairs for first editions. But for the purpose of sizing up a stranger from afar, perhaps the biggest problem with Kindle or its kin is the camouflage factor: when no one can tell what you’re reading, how can you make it clear that you’re poring over the new Lincoln biography as opposed to, say, “He’s Just Not That Into You”?


I suppose it's a similar point that was raised as MP3 players became more popular, and people no longer had stacks and stacks of albums in plain sight by which people could judge their music tastes.  (After all, it's much easier to hide your secret love of bad hair metal on an iPod than in your living room!)

Kaufman goes on to raise other issues that will concern the literati, including the image that comes with toting, say, Anna Karenina vs. a digital book reader.  And where will it leave the faux-intellectual college students who listen to punk music, drink coffee, and read Jung, whose personalities and popularity depend on the intrigued smiles they get from girls (or guys) who notice the weighty text they're reading "for pleasure" (they don't say what type of pleasure, do they?) in the coffee house, student union, or library?

I encourage you to read her article, whether you're a literati or not.  No matter how you feel about the technology, and no matter how you feel about the issues it raises, it's a good read, and I'm interested to know your reaction.

If you have or will have a digital reader, will you still peruse brick-and-mortar bookshops?  Will you still relish the weight of a book on your lap, or the smell of ink and paper when you open your favorite paperback for the thousandth time?


This Week's Task List

Relatives have gone home, so now I have the task of getting back to a "normal" schedule.  This task list doesn't look too overwhelming for this week, and I sincerely hope it stays that way!

  • Write May writing goals/deadlines for CSW
  • Balance my checkbook
  • Send May birthday cards
  • Send Mother's Day cards/gifts to the mamas in my life
  • Work on my father-in-law's retirement scrapbook with my mother-in-law

Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked,
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich--yes, richer than a king--
And admirably schooled in every grace;
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

[NP'S NOTE: And for your viewing pleasure, thanks to Dana Hunter of En Tequila Es Verdad:]


Edwin Arlington Robinson was born on December 22, 1869, in Head Tide, Maine (the same year as W. B. Yeats). His family moved to Gardiner, Maine, in 1870, which renamed "Tilbury Town," became the backdrop for many of Robinson's poems. Robinson described his childhood as stark and unhappy; he once wrote in a letter to Amy Lowellthat he remembered wondering why he had been born at the age of six. After high school, Robinson spent two years studying at Harvard University as a special student and his first poems were published in the Harvard Advocate.

Robinson privately printed and released his first volume of poetry, The Torrent and the Night Before, in 1896 at his own expense; this collection was extensively revised and published in 1897 as The Children of the Night. Unable to make a living by writing, he got a job as an inspector for the New York City subway system. In 1902 he published Captain Craig and Other Poems. This work received little attention until President Theodore Roosevelt wrote a magazine article praising it and Robinson. Roosevelt also offered Robinson a sinecure in a U.S. Customs House, a job he held from 1905 to 1910. Robinson dedicated his next work, The Town Down the River (1910), to Roosevelt.

Robinson's first major success was The Man Against the Sky(1916). He also composed a trilogy based on Arthurian legends:Merlin (1917), Lancelot (1920), and Tristram (1927), which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1928. Robinson was also awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his Collected Poems (1921) in 1922 and The Man Who Died Twice(1924) in 1925. For the last twenty-five years of his life, Robinson spent his summers at the MacDowell Colony of artists and musicians in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Robinson never married and led a notoriously solitary lifestyle. He died in New York City on April 6, 1935.

26 April 2009

Prayer Requests

This week, please pray with me that:

  • Angie's friend Heather, whose baby was born at 30 weeks.  Angie says, "While he's small and breathing on his own, he'll be in the hospital for quite some time. She and her husband are optimistic, but it's still a scary time for them."
  • my grandmother will find relief from her arthritis pain
  • my sister-in-law hears soon about her internship opportunity so she can finally make her summer plans
  • my sister-in-law has a good ending to her school year, and gets the grades she's hoping for in her classes
  • my mother- and father-in-law have a safe trip out of town this weekend
  • I'm able to get good news about recent resumes/samples I've sent for writing opportunities

Tears, Idle Tears by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

   Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

   Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

   Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!


Born on August 6, 1809, in Somersby, Lincolnshire, England, Alfred Tennyson is one of the most well-loved Victorian poets. Tennyson, the fourth of twelve children, showed an early talent for writing. At the age of twelve he wrote a 6,000-line epic poem. His father, the Reverend George Tennyson, tutored his sons in classical and modern languages. In the 1820s, however, Tennyson's father began to suffer frequent mental breakdowns that were exacerbated by alcoholism. One of Tennyson's brothers had violent quarrels with his father, a second was later confined to an insane asylum, and another became an opium addict.

Tennyson escaped home in 1827 to attend Trinity College, Cambridge. In that same year, he and his brother Charles published Poems by Two Brothers. Although the poems in the book were mostly juvenilia, they attracted the attention of the "Apostles," an undergraduate literary club led by Arthur Hallam. The "Apostles" provided Tennyson, who was tremendously shy, with much needed friendship and confidence as a poet. Hallam and Tennyson became the best of friends; they toured Europe together in 1830 and again in 1832. Hallam's sudden death in 1833 greatly affected the young poet. The long elegy In Memoriam and many of Tennyson's other poems are tributes to Hallam.

In 1830, Tennyson published Poems, Chiefly Lyrical and in 1832 he published a second volume entitled simply Poems. Some reviewers condemned these books as "affected" and "obscure." Tennyson, stung by the reviews, would not publish another book for nine years. In 1836, he became engaged to Emily Sellwood. When he lost his inheritance on a bad investment in 1840, Sellwood's family called off the engagement. In 1842, however, Tennyson's Poems in two volumes was a tremendous critical and popular success. In 1850, with the publication of In Memoriam, Tennyson became one of Britain's most popular poets. He was selected Poet Laureate in succession to Wordsworth. In that same year, he married Emily Sellwood. They had two sons, Hallam and Lionel.

At the age of 41, Tennyson had established himself as the most popular poet of the Victorian era. The money from his poetry (at times exceeding 10,000 pounds per year) allowed him to purchase a house in the country and to write in relative seclusion. His appearance—a large and bearded man, he regularly wore a cloak and a broad brimmed hat—enhanced his notoriety. He read his poetry with a booming voice, often compared to that of Dylan Thomas. In 1859, Tennyson published the first poems of Idylls of the Kings, which sold more than 10,000 copies in one month. In 1884, he accepted a peerage, becoming Alfred Lord Tennyson. Tennyson died in 1892 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

25 April 2009

My Last Duchess by Robert Browning

That's my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive.  I call
That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf's hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will 't please you sit and look at her?  I said
'Fra Pandolf' by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus.  Sir, 't was not
Her husband's presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps
Fra Pandolf chanced to say, 'Her mantle laps
Over my lady's wrist too much,' or 'Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat:' such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy.  She had
A heart--how shall I say?--too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, 't was all one!  My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace--all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least.  She thanked men,--good!  but thanked
Somehow--I know not how--as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody's gift.  Who'd stoop to blame
This sort of trifling?  Even had you skill
In speech--(which I have not)--to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, 'Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark'--and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
--E'en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop.  Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile?  This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together.  There she stands
As if alive.  Will 't please you rise?  We'll meet
The company below them.  I repeat,
The Count your master's known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretense
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object.  Nay, we'll go
Together down, sir.  Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, though a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!


Robert Browning was born on May 7, 1812, in Camberwell, England. His mother was an accomplished pianist and a devout evangelical Christian. His father, who worked as a bank clerk, was also an artist, scholar, antiquarian, and collector of books and pictures. His rare book collection of more than 6,000 volumes included works in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish. Much of Browning's education came from his well-read father. It is believed that he was already proficient at reading and writing by the age of five. A bright and anxious student, Browning learned Latin, Greek, and French by the time he was fourteen. From fourteen to sixteen he was educated at home, attended to by various tutors in music, drawing, dancing, and horsemanship. At the age of twelve he wrote a volume of Byronic verse entitled Incondita, which his parents attempted, unsuccessfully, to have published. In 1825, a cousin gave Browning a collection of Shelley's poetry; Browning was so taken with the book that he asked for the rest of Shelley's works for his thirteenth birthday, and declared himself a vegetarian and an atheist in emulation of the poet. Despite this early passion, he apparently wrote no poems between the ages of thirteen and twenty. In 1828, Browning enrolled at the University of London, but he soon left, anxious to read and learn at his own pace. The random nature of his education later surfaced in his writing, leading to criticism of his poems' obscurities.

In 1833, Browning anonymously published his first major published work, Pauline, and in 1840 he published Sordello, which was widely regarded as a failure. He also tried his hand at drama, but his plays, including Strafford, which ran for five nights in 1837, and the Bells and Pomegranates series, were for the most part unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the techniques he developed through his dramatic monologues—especially his use of diction, rhythm, and symbol—are regarded as his most important contribution to poetry, influencing such major poets of the twentieth century as Ezra PoundT. S. Eliot, and Robert Frost.

After reading Elizabeth Barrett's Poems (1844) and corresponding with her for a few months, Browning met her in 1845. They were married in 1846, against the wishes of Barrett's father. The couple moved to Pisa and then Florence, where they continued to write. They had a son, Robert "Pen" Browning, in 1849, the same year his Collected Poems was published. Elizabeth inspired Robert's collection of poems Men and Women (1855), which he dedicated to her. Now regarded as one of Browning's best works, the book was received with little notice at the time; its author was then primarily known as Elizabeth Barrett's husband.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in 1861, and Robert and Pen Browning soon moved to London. Browning went on to publishDramatis Personae (1863), and The Ring and the Book (1868). The latter, based on a seventeenth-century Italian murder trial, received wide critical acclaim, finally earning a twilight of reknown and respect in Browning's career. The Browning Society was founded while he still lived, in 1881, and he was awarded honorary degrees by Oxford University in 1882 and the University of Edinburgh in 1884. Robert Browning died on the same day that his final volume of verse, Asolando, was published, in 1889.

24 April 2009

Want a job with a sense of humor?

Check this out.

(Thanks, Dana, for tipping us off on this one!)

The Hour and What is Dead by Li-Young Lee

Tonight my brother, in heavy boots, is walking
through bare rooms over my head,
opening and closing doors.
What could he be looking for in an empty house?
What could he possibly need there in heaven?
Does he remember his earth, his birthplace set to torches?
His love for me feels like spilled water
running back to its vessel.

At this hour, what is dead is restless
and what is living is burning.

Someone tell him he should sleep now.

My father keeps a light on by our bed
and readies for our journey.
He mends ten holes in the knees
of five pairs of boy's pants.
His love for me is like sewing:
various colors and too much thread,
the stitching uneven.  But the needle pierces
clean through with each stroke of his hand.

At this hour, what is dead is worried
and what is living is fugitive.

Someone tell him he should sleep now.

God, that old furnace, keeps talking
with his mouth of teeth,
a beard stained at feasts, and his breath
of gasoline, airplane, human ash.
His love for me feels like fire,
feels like doves, feels like river-water.

At this hour, what is dead is helpless, kind
and helpless.  While the Lord lives.

Someone tell the Lord to leave me alone.
I've had enough of his love
that feels like burning and flight and running away.


Li-Young Lee was born in 1957 in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents. His father had been a personal physician to Mao Zedong while in China, and relocated the family to Indonesia, where he helped found Gamaliel University. In 1959, the Lee family fled the country to escape anti-Chinese sentiment and after a five-year trek through Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, they settled in the United States in 1964.

Lee attended the Universities of Pittsburgh and Arizona, and the State University of New York at Brockport. He has taught at several universities, including Northwestern and the University of Iowa.

He is the author of Behind My Eyes (Norton, 2008); Book of My Nights (2001), which won the 2002 William Carlos Williams Award;The City in Which I Love You (1991), which was the 1990 Lamont Poetry Selection; and Rose (1986), which won the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Poetry Award.

His other work includes Breaking the Alabaster Jar: Conversations with Li-Young Lee (Edited by Earl G. Ingersoll, BOA Editions, 2006), a collection of twelve interviews with Lee at various stages of his artistic development; and The Winged Seed: A Remembrance(Simon and Schuster, 1995), a memoir which received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.

With regard to Lee's work, the poet Gerald Stern has noted that "what characterizes [his] poetry is a certain humility... a willingness to let the sublime enter his field of concentration and take over, a devotion to language, a belief in its holiness."

He has been the recipient of a Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets, a Lannan Literary Award, a Whiting Writer's Award, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award, the I. B. Lavan Award, three Pushcart Prizes, and grants from the Illinois Arts Council, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. In 1998, he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from State University of New York at Brockport.

He lives in Chicago, Illinois, with his wife, Donna, and their two sons.

23 April 2009

Reading for Writers

For anyone who's been thinking about the explosion of ebook readers lately (thanks, iPhone) and wondering how it will affect writers and the publishing industry, you may want to read this article by author Steven Johnson.

Grammar lovers may want to raise a toast to the 50th birthday of The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White.

In sadder news, author J. G. Ballard passed away this past Sunday in London.  He was the author of the 1984 novel Empire of the Sun.

Finally, American authors Marilynne Robinson, Ellen Feldman, and Samantha Hunt have been short-listed for the Orange Prize, a British award for best novel of the year written by a woman.

Happy Birthday (and death day), Mr. Shakespeare

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought (Sonnet 30)

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.


William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564, in Stratford-on-Avon. The son of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, he was probably educated at the King Edward IV Grammar School in Stratford, where he learned Latin and a little Greek and read the Roman dramatists. At eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, a woman seven or eight years his senior. Together they raised two daughters: Susanna, who was born in 1583, and Judith (whose twin brother died in boyhood), born in 1585.

Little is known about Shakespeare's activities between 1585 and 1592. Robert Greene's A Groatsworth of Wit alludes to him as an actor and playwright. Shakespeare may have taught at school during this period, but it seems more probable that shortly after 1585 he went to London to begin his apprenticeship as an actor. Due to the plague, the London theaters were often closed between June 1592 and April 1594. During that period, Shakespeare probably had some income from his patron, Henry Wriothesley, earl of Southampton, to whom he dedicated his first two poems, Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece(1594). The fomer was a long narrative poem depicting the rejection of Venus by Adonis, his death, and the consequent disappearance of beauty from the world. Despite conservative objections to the poem's glorification of sensuality, it was immensely popular and was reprinted six times during the nine years following its publication.

In 1594, Shakespeare joined the Lord Chamberlain's company of actors, the most popular of the companies acting at Court. In 1599 Shakespeare joined a group of Chamberlain's Men that would form a syndicate to build and operate a new playhouse: the Globe, which became the most famous theater of its time. With his share of the income from the Globe, Shakespeare was able to purchase New Place, his home in Stratford.

While Shakespeare was regarded as the foremost dramatist of his time, evidence indicates that both he and his world looked to poetry, not playwriting, for enduring fame. Shakespeare's sonnets were composed between 1593 and 1601, though not published until 1609. That edition, The Sonnets of Shakespeare, consists of 154 sonnets, all written in the form of three quatrains and a couplet that is now recognized as Shakespearean. The sonnets fall into two groups: sonnets 1-126, addressed to a beloved friend, a handsome and noble young man, and sonnets 127-152, to a malignant but fascinating "Dark Lady," whom the poet loves in spite of himself. Nearly all of Shakespeare's sonnets examine the inevitable decay of time, and the immortalization of beauty and love in poetry.

In his poems and plays, Shakespeare invented thousands of words, often combining or contorting Latin, French and native roots. His impressive expansion of the English language, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, includes such words as: arch-villain, birthplace, bloodsucking, courtship, dewdrop, downstairs, fanged, heartsore, hunchbacked, leapfrog, misquote, pageantry, radiance, schoolboy, stillborn, watchdog, and zany.

Shakespeare wrote more than 30 plays. These are usually divided into four categories: histories, comedies, tragedies, and romances. His earliest plays were primarily comedies and histories such as Henry VI and The Comedy of Errors, but in 1596, Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, his second tragedy, and over the next dozen years he would return to the form, writing the plays for which he is now best known: Julius CaesarHamlet,OthelloKing LearMacbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra. In his final years, Shakespeare turned to the romantic with CymbelineA Winter's Tale, and The Tempest.

Only eighteen of Shakespeare's plays were published separately in quarto editions during his lifetime; a complete collection of his works did not appear until the publication of the First Folio in 1623, several years after his death. Nonetheless, his contemporaries recognized Shakespeare's achievements. Francis Meres cited "honey-tongued" Shakespeare for his plays and poems in 1598, and the Chamberlain's Men rose to become the leading dramatic company in London, installed as members of the royal household in 1603.

Sometime after 1612, Shakespeare retired from the stage and returned to his home in Stratford. He drew up his will in January of 1616, which included his famous bequest to his wife of his "second best bed." He died on April 23, 1616, and was buried two days later at Stratford Church.

The Luxury of Hesitation [excerpt from The Proof of Motion] by Keith Waldrop

I could

burn in hell forever

set the glass
down, our
emotion's moment

eyes vs sunlight

how removed
here, from

towards the unfamiliar and

frankincense forests
against the discerning light


frightful indeed, the sound of
traffic and
no appetite

the crowd

I would like to be
beautiful when


Keith Waldrop was born in Kansas and served in the United States military. In 1954, he met his wife, the poet and translator Rosmarie Waldrop while stationed in Kitzingen, Germany. He studied at Aix-Marseille and Michigan Universities, earning a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature in 1964. His first book of poetry, A Windmill Near Calvary(University of Michigan, 1968), was nominated for a National Book Award.

He is the author of numerous collections of poetry, most recentlySeveral Gravities (Siglio, 2009), a collection of collages; Transcendental Studies (UC Press, 2009), a trilogy of collage poems; and a translation of Charles Baudelaire's Paris Spleen (Wesleyan, 2009). His other work includes The Real Subject: Queries and Conjectures of Jacob Delafon: With Sample Poems (Omnidawn, 2004). His other collections of poetry include The House Seen from Nowhere (2003),Haunt (2000), Well Well Reality (1998, with Rosmarie Waldrop), and the trilogy The Locality Principle (1995), The Silhouette of the Bridge, which won the Americas Award for Poetry (1997), andSemiramis, If I Remember (2001).

He has translated several contemporary French poets, such as Anne-Marie Albiach, Claude Royet-Journoud, Dominique Fourcade, Jean Grosjean, and Paol Keineg. In 2006, he completed a translation of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal(Wesleyen University Press).

According to Waldrop, collage is a major mode of composition for him. He explains the process as: "a way to explore, not necessarily the thing I am tearing up, but the thing I am contriving to build out of torn pieces. To the extent that there is a purpose to what I do, its end is the 'enjoyment of a composition'—a concern, as A. N. Whitehead notes, common to aesthetics and logic."

About his work, the poet Michael Palmer has said, "As we would expect from Keith Waldrop, it is suffused with a particular humanity and an appreciation for the absurd, even the grotesque, in daily life. The rhythmic apposition of prose and poetry brings to mind the freedom, alertness and quality of distillation in Basho's classic travel sketches. With his quietly precise sense of modulation and his unerring gaze, Waldrop remains one of the vital and requisite, semi-secret presences in American letters."

Waldrop has received an award from the Fund for Poetry, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Berlin Artists Program of the DAAD. In 2000, he received a Medal from the French government with rank of Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters, for lifetime contribution to French literature.

He currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where he teaches at Brown University, and has served as co-editor of Burning Deck Press, with his wife Rosmarie Waldrop since 1968.

21 April 2009

Poem in Your Pocket Day

There's a great list of ways to celebrate National Poetry Month on the Academy of American Poets website.  I didn't post it (though there is one celebration for each day), but I do want to share one item from the list with you.

On Thursday, April 30th, people all over the nation will be celebrating the second annual Poem in Your Pocket Day.

To participate, all you have to do is carry a poem with you all day to share with coworkers, friends, family, classmates, or whoever you want to know about this great poem you love.  Last year I carried "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams.  I have yet to select my poem for this year's event.

If you can't think of a poem, you can browse the 25 pocket-sized poems Poets.org has all ready for you.  Just print, cut, and pocket!

Be sure to let me know what you're carrying so I can post a list here on April 30th of the readers who are pocket poem-friendly.  It'll be a great way to say farewell to National Poetry Month for another year.

Want to Read More Poetry?

Mike over at The Big Stick is on board and posting poems!  Be sure to check it out and let him know what you think!

Remember: there's still time!  I'd be happy to post your poems here (whether they be original or published poems you enjoy), or link to poems you're posting on your blog.  Just let me know!

to do by NP

As promised, here is the poem I wrote using the writing prompt I gave.

I have a list of
things to do today

of tasks needing completion
errands needing run
chores needing accomplished

but as the morning

I find myself
from what needs to be done
in order to

update my list of
things to do today

so I am organized
and know exactly what it is
I'm not doing

instead of writing articles
I list the articles I need to write
and make notes about research to be done

instead of running errands
I rearrange the order of errands
for the most efficient gas use

instead of completing chores
I take an inventory of cleaning products
in case I need to run to the store first

at the end of the day,
my list will be complete

and it will be
a damn good-looking list

Naming Characters

Think coming up with names is as easy as flipping through a phonebook?


A character's name tells a lot about the person.  What connections do you want to draw?  What character traits do you want to emphasize?  What do you want your readers to know about your character simply by looking up the meaning of his or her name?  These are all things that go into naming a character.  For example, Dana of En Tequila Es Verdad says:

What's in a name? A hell of a lot. Deciding to use the link to Shakespearean names shows me that his parents are cultured and a little loopy. This guy's either going to be super-confident or a bundle of complexes from a childhood of dealing with schoolyard taunts.

Dana has just gone through the exciting and exhausting process of naming a new character.  Not only did she post this awesome link to naming resources for writers, but by sharing how she arrived at the name, she's given writers everywhere just a little insight into what's involved.

Read her post.  Learn from it.  Then go forth and name your characters with the same care you name your children.  Or pets.  Or spider plant.

Morning Song by Sylvia Plath

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival.  New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety.  We stand round blankly as walls.

I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses.  I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mother opens clean as a cat's.  The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars.  And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.


Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 27, 1932. Her mother, Aurelia Schober, was a master’s student at Boston University when she met Plath’s father, Otto Plath, who was her professor. They were married in January of 1932. Otto taught both German and biology, with a focus on apiology, the study of bees.

In 1940, when Sylvia was eight years old, her father died as a result of complications from diabetes. He had been a strict father, and both his authoritarian attitudes and his death drastically defined her relationships and her poems—most notably in her elegaic and infamous poem, "Daddy."

Even in her youth, Plath was ambitiously driven to succeed. She kept a journal from the age of 11 and published her poems in regional magazines and newspapers. Her first national publication was in the Christian Science Monitor in 1950, just after graduating from high school.

In 1950, Plath matriculated at Smith College. She was an exceptional student, and despite a deep depression she went through in 1953 and a subsequent suicide attempt, she managed to graduate summa cum laude in 1955.

After graduation, Plath moved to Cambridge, England, on a Fulbright Scholarship. In early 1956, she attended a party and met the English poet, Ted Hughes. Shortly thereafter, Plath and Hughes were married, on June 16, 1956.

Plath returned to Massachusetts in 1957, and began studying with Robert Lowell. Her first collection of poems, Colossus, was published in 1960 in England, and two years later in the United States. She returned to England where she gave birth to the couple's two children, Freida and Nicholas Hughes, in 1960 and 1962, respectively.

In 1962, Ted Hughes left Plath for Assia Gutmann Wevill. That winter, in a deep depression, Plath wrote most of the poems that would comprise her most famous book, Ariel.

In 1963, Plath published a semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. Then, on February 11, 1963, during one of the worst English winters on record, Plath wrote a note to her downstairs neighbor instructing him to call the doctor, then she committed suicide using her gas oven.

Plath’s poetry is often associated with the Confessional movement, and compared to poets such as her teacher, Robert Lowell, and fellow student Anne Sexton. Often, her work is singled out for the intense coupling of its violent or disturbed imagery and its playful use of alliteration and rhyme.

Although only Colossus was published while she was alive, Plath was a prolific poet, and in addition to Ariel, Hughes published three other volumes of her work posthumously, including The Collected Poems, which was the recipient of the 1982 Pulitzer Prize. She was the first poet to win a Pulitzer Prize after death.

20 April 2009

Work (at home) Scheduling

One of the things I still struggle with sometimes as a work-at-home writer is my daily/weekly schedule.  I feel I'm a productive, organized person, and I meet my deadlines, of course, but I wish my schedule was a bit more structured so I can walk away from my office space at the end of my writing day and actually be done for the day.

So I've been reworking my schedule a little, tweaking things, and shuffling my tasks/activities to try and find a schedule that works for me, and that lets me get things done by the time Hubby gets home in the evenings.  I think I have a new schedule that's going to work for me, but I'm going to try it for a couple of weeks before I say for sure.  Here's what I've come up with:


9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.  Writing time (articles, pitches, etc.)
12:00-1:30 p.m.  Lunch
1:30-3:30 p.m.  Project-hunting, follow-ups with clients, story ideas, etc.
4:00-5:00 p.m.  Blogging

9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.  Writing time
12:00-1:30 p.m.  Lunch
1:30-3:30 p.m.  Administrative work (filing, updating financial records, general paperwork, etc.)
4:00-5:00 p.m.  Blogging

9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.  Writing time
12:00-1:30 p.m.  Lunch
1:30-3:30 p.m.  Project-hunting, follow-ups with clients, story ideas, etc.
4:00-5:00 p.m.  Blogging

9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.  Writing time
12:00-1:30 p.m.  Lunch
1:30-3:30 p.m.  Administrative work, if needed (if not, whatever needs to be done)
4:00-5:00 p.m.  Blogging

9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.  Writing time
12:00-1:30 p.m.  Lunch
1:30-4:00 p.m.  Fiction-writing
4:00-5:00 p.m.  Blogging


What's your writing/work schedule?