To see the announcement for my poetry book, Sparrow, selected by poet Dorianne Laux for the Kenneth and Geraldine Gell Poetry Prize at Writers & Books, go to

You can find a review by Kathleen Kirk at EIL:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

And for years after...

A prose experiment inspired by Ted Kooser, and by my friends Paul and Kathryn (and our conversation yesterday about why a sentence would begin with and.)

And for years after she died, I would wake in the night, shocked with a clarity stark as a lightning strike: Oh, her, that girl, she died.

As though, most of the time, in daylight at the very least, I could imagine her death impersonally, something that happened to someone else, no one I loved, nothing to do with me. As if she had hired someone to die for her, or to enact her death. Not one of those rich men in the Civil War hiring a poorer man to take his place in the draft. Something more like hiring a body double, or a stunt double for a role in a movie. My cousin, that sweet girl, freshening her makeup in the star's trailer, while her double plunges from the cliff, rams the Mustang convertible into the wall, kickboxes with the villain.

And after the shock of it, lying there, wide awake in the dark, I would begin to make again my compromise with her death, sinking back into disbelief, and sleep, a leaf very very slowly falling from a tree to the ground. Soothing myself back to sleep. Not her. Not her. Not her.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Over at The Writer's Alchemy (my active blog), I'm posting a poem by a different poet every day this month. My plan is to use the poems as inspiration, and possibly as actual models, and so to write -- er -- draft a poem each day. I don't expect more than to simply wake up a dormant muscle, to see the world through poetry again.

So, in the spirit of One Bad Poem, here's one of my experiments. It corresponds to the Tomas Transtromer poem, "Slow Music," posted on April 6.


Beyond a garden of blossoming plum trees,
the cathedral's wide steps beckon. Narthex and nave,
a burden of old pews, a baptismal font ringed

by stained glass, sunlight blessing Jesus
blessing the children. Sometimes, out of nowhere
I recall standing as a child at the ocean,

digging my toes in, unable to hold my place on the earth,
tide tugging the sand from under me,
a pane of frothing water washing my bare feet.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

New Poems -- or drafts of poems

This month -- April, 2014 -- I have a goal to write one bad poem every day, all month long. To see the results, go to my A Writer's Alchemy blog.

To read my craft essay "One Bad Poem," click here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Writing Warrior

Here's Laraine Herring's book, which you can read more about at

This morning I used to time my shaking. Tomorrow I'll use it for the breathing, too.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Maybe you buy six hundred books on writing...

"The beginning always starts off easy. 'I want to write a book,' you say. So maybe you take a class or two. Maybe you buy a book on writing." -Laraine Herring

So I'm blogging about how to begin. What I tell my students is that you have to begin over and over again, sometimes more than once in each session, at a bare minimum once per day (even if only for fifteen minutes). Knowing how to begin is important. Nothing happens without beginning.

I don't think I can dictate for anyone else how to begin, though I can make suggestions. Laraine Herring suggests breathing, shaking (yes, shaking!), and writing -- each for five minutes. I like how five minutes of practice demystifies the process. Oh, five minutes, I think. I can do anything for five minutes. On day two of this practice, I found the breathing boring. (This fits with what my friend Glenda says about my not breathing.) The shaking? I almost hate to admit it, but it was fine. It was funI am all too aware that I'm not in touch with my body. I live in my head. The five minutes of writing? It turned into two journal pages, then an hour and a half on poetry, a million ideas, and now this blog entry.

The main thing wrong with saying "I want to write a book" is that it's too big. Recently a colleague told me that she and her father -- many years ago, before his unexpected death -- had planned to write a book together about their teaching. "You should write it," I said. "You can dedicate it to him." She shook her head sadly. "I'm not a writer," she said.

At the risk of sounding like the ghost-chef in Ratatouille, ANYONE CAN WRITE. Just don't set your goals so high. No, you can't write a book, not this morning.

Buying a new book about writing, by the way, is an excellent way to procrastinate on your writing.

This morning write a paragraph. Write a sentence. See if you can stay with it for five minutes.

And now, for me, breakfast.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


"The ideal expression of reading a poem is, in many respects, close to the experience of writing it: one goes through uncertainty, flashes of perception, small satisfactions, puzzlement, understanding, surprise." -Kenneth Koch, Making Your Own Days (14)

Various things (Emma and the Earache, primarily) have kept me from my writing time for a couple of days. Today, however, I was up at 6 a.m., and out in my cabin, writing my heart out. I have decided to -- finally -- take seriously Laraine Herring's book, The Writing Warrior, and the practice she suggests. You should do it, too. Today is day one.

My goal this summer is to be FEARLESS in my writing (thank you, Margaret, for helping me to articulate this).