Monday, November 28, 2011

Cat Wants

He wanted to quit with comparisons.
He wanted a healthy new English.
He gurgled like a strangling victim,
he pawed his ears.
He wanted their smut to be impossible to translate.

When he kissed her stomach
only those two knew
what a kissed stomach was like.
He started to speak about her skin
in pithy ancient Greek.

He knew more than anyone.
He wanted to be a menace.
He hissed and spat.
He thought if this was human
he wasn't having any of it:

When they whored themselves out
a second time over filthy coffee
on the morning after,
he wanted to rip out their throats.
He just wanted to protect himself.

(The Cat poems are being published in the university magazine next year!)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

a book for Grace

My little sister Grace is a fantastic writer.

And though I feel a smidgen of guilt that the book I've made for her is possibly too pretty to want to mark up,

nothing else will quite do for her Christmas present.

I may have to buy her a practical Hilroy coil bound as well.

But sometimes surely everyone thrives under the pressure of potential and the blank white (peacock blue) page?

Merely agonizing over how to fill a notebook can be a creative exercise.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

In case you wondered,

this is the coffee company I work for.

And this is the magazine of which I have recently become associate editor.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Can I just say outright that on this, the 20th day of November, I have not completed 19 poems? I have completed 13, if I count the each of the 10 in "An uncharitable sketch". You could also say that I've completed 4. Two of them are very good. I've wanted to loathe myself for this output, but I can't.

Because I no longer hate every minute that I am writing. To snatch an image from Anne Lamott, I sit quietly, stringing beads on a string. I do not panic when I leave a piece unfinished for tomorrow. (I am not so eager to force the process.) It is very good. It is so slow I hardly feel like I am working, more like I am mindlessly, stupidly incubating.

But still, part of me wants to write as many poems as possible before the end of the month, to make good on my plan.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

the goose is getting fat

~ Knit three Hogwarts house scarves, and at least one pair of socks.

~ Sew two canvas chisel rolls.

~ Design, fold, and stitch two, possibly three or four books.

~ Make more cards and mail them.

~ Bake gingerbread, fudge, shortbread, marshmallow squares, cinnamon buns.

~ Make a pile of these.

~ Make an Advent wreath, paper chains.

~ Buy candles, pfeffernusse, stroop waffles, chocolate, board books.

~ Copy nostalgic music from parents' CDs on to computer.

~ Send off a parcel.

~ Learn to fold origami stars.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Tim opened at Transcend Saturday morning, and I arrived there soon after him. It had snowed for the first time during the night. I had a bath as soon as I got up, put chocolate-coconut rice pudding and applesauce into small mason jars, got dressed, put on my fur hat and put my handwarmers in to my mitts and walked.

I feel my attention span is getting better. Two triumphs yesterday: the whole morning at Transcend spent on "Thirteen Houses", and part of the evening spent quietly and calmly sanding down the white cube - a task I'd been dreading. Similar projects have not gone well in the past. I've lost patience and walked away from an incomplete job. Actually, last night was one of the most pleasant I can remember. We had garlic-cheddar-tomato toast and chickpea-leek soup for supper. I sanded the cube, then we watched the Star Trek movie. I knitted on my sweater, and Tim carved me a (wooden) "bone" folder. It's beautiful - almost weightless, smooth and silky.

But, as I was saying, my focus continues to improve. It shows up in my conversations with Tim*, and in the demonstrable fact that many or most of my current projects are not ones to deliver instant gratification, and instead must be spread out over weeks or months. And yet I plug on.

* Notes from such a conversation:

Explore the connexion between self-consciousness, the self-preservation instinct/desire, duration of life, analogous duration of personal meaning/reasons: could a engineered, non-evolved self-conscious being be truly apathetic toward its own survival, or would self-consciousness tend to/inevitably result in the will-to-live?

Friday, November 11, 2011

journal excerpt: November 10 (Inger Christensen)

The Inger Christensen poem was shocking to discover. It could be one of mine, just as easily. I couldn't even resist re-writing the second-last stanza. Who do I think I am?

"It's very strange" - Inger Christensen, translated Susanna Nied

It's very strange
the eggs are everywhere

There must be some mistake
the eggs are so close together

There seems to be no room for us
Push the eggs closer together

It's impossible
We must get closer together

but beloved what will happen
with all the eggs everywhere

What will happen everywhere
to us

[What will happen to us
It happens everywhere

There must be some mistake

The lovely Justina wearing her new sweater
I make too many lists. However, yesterday I spent most the day sleeping and storming and making cruel remarks. Today needs a list.


wash face
brush teeth
get dressed in pretty, cozy things
fix hair
wash bedding
fold laundry
clean bathroom
put a spaghetti squash in the oven
take out trash
do some planks/boat crunches
start I Am A Strange Loop


practice the violin
work on newest poem
revise "An uncharitable sketch"
work on second-newest poem
submit paper and poems to English conference
go for a walk

(P.S. It is supposed to snow tonight.)

(P.P.S. I have started a new sweater.)

(P.P.P.S. We are watching David Attenborough documentaries compulsively.)

Monday, November 7, 2011

daylight savings daylight

journal excerpts: November 5 and 7

November 5

I've been reading chapters 5 and 6 of The Selfish Gene.

Last night I finished the 3DS sleeve I was knitting for Tim. I am proud of it--in some ways, it is the nicest thing I have ever made. I had to begin by learning how to knit in the round on double-pointed needles. Once I'd figured that out, and determined the number of stitches that would result in the prospective sleeve fitting snugly around the 3DS, I knit in green yarn (leftover from Justina's sweater) and stockinette stitch. The fabric is beautifully smooth and tight. I finished by sewing one end up, and tidying the join in the open end. (For the first time, I attempted to "weave in" my ends with a darning needle, rather than leaving lumpish and tenuous knots cut to the quick. I discovered that it can be done almost invisibly. This small detail feels like the greatest accomplishment.)

I think "An uncharitable sketch" has promise, but needs work. Today is not the day, though. I will copy what I have now into my poetry notebook and then move on. I have decided to dedicate the first week of December to revisions (which will give me some necessary retrospect and perspective). For now, I am behind on my one-a-day quota, and would like to start closing the gap today, before it grows any wider. There will be time for perfecting.

November 7

There were hardly any pages left in it, I'd torn so many "final" drafts out to make edits, but the final drafts notebook for poems which I started in August 2009 is now full. They aren't even all final drafts any more. No, they never were. I won't use a notebook again - a binder or folder for looseleaf is more realistic.

It is the 7th of November and there are only 2 items on my "November poems" list. "An uncharitable sketch" had me hung up miserably for days, and turned into 10 weak poems to be read together in sequence. I am not satisfied, but I am washing my hands of them for now--they were the last things to go into the old notebook. I may re-work them later.

Was wholly absorbed in constructing a gluten-free, black bean chocolate birthday cake for Kathy yesterday. On a bit of a "cleanse" from the fat and sugar I ate: fruit, vegetables, tea, and yogurt mostly today. I operated on my first pomegranate of the year first thing this morning, and ate a bowlful of the seeds in milk for breakfast. Coleslaw and broccoli and carrots for lunch. The crunch and sweet spiciness of fresh green cabbage is so deliciously winterish. Tim thinks coleslaw is the worst combination of '50s "salad" mania and peasant food, but sometimes a girl can't get enough of it. I do not use Miracle Whip. The dressing is mustard, salt, sugar, olive oil, pepper, and lemon juice. It makes a meal feel like Thanksgiving.

I'm nearly finished The Selfish Gene. Hofstadter and Hawking are up next, and the end of my list is in sight.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

bonfire night

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder, treason, and plot.
I can think of no reason why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

We had a Guy Fawkes winter picnic last night. As soon as Tim got home from work, we packed up candles and matches, one tin can, two mandarin oranges, three pumpkin muffins, a thermos full of hot chocolate, and a blanket, and plunged down into the river valley.

It was cold. It was so cold, Tim told me, he thought it would be best to give me one of my Christmas presents right then. It was a good time to talk about thermodynamic phase changes, so we did, sitting on a log at the bottom of a little ravine until it got even colder, and then walking up a hill in the river valley proper to settle right at the feet of downtown.

Sometimes I am proud to live in this cold place, proud of my insider knowledge, my whipped blood, my red hands, my candles for dark nights, my chemical handwarmers, electric cupwarmer, fur hat, stoic husband.
(An aside: Is Tim not incredibly handsome?)

The fire was unruly - dry grass feeding on candle wax. The hot chocolate was sweet. Our hands and feet ached. For the first time all year, we felt the temperature dropping by the minute, and though I don't know why, it was exciting.

We hurried back home to start on a birthday cake for Tim's Mum and to make risotto.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"In his preface to Akhmatova's first book, Evening (1912), poet, playwright, and critic Mikhail Kuzmin grasped the dramatic turn Russian poetry had taken with the appearance of these 46 poems. He compared Akhmatova to members of an ancient Alexandrian society, who each day pretended they were condemned to death, in order to make their everyday impressions more poignant."


First thing when I got in to work at 7 o'clock yesterday morning, Justina handed me a brown paper package with my name on it - evidently dropped off at the cafe the day before. Inside: a blank, handbound journal with cartoons from China, a chapbook, and a note from Jocelyn.

what's left on the reading list

Le Ton beau de Marot - Douglas Hofstadter
The Bit and the Pendulum - Tom Siegfried
Atonement - Ian MacEwan
The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
A Brief History of Time - Stephen Hawking
I Am A Strange Loop - Douglas Hofstadter
The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins
Little Dorrit - Charles Dickens

I've finished these (as well as the miscellaneous non-list books in the column on the right) :

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
Freedom Evolves - Daniel Dennet
Skybreaker - Kenneth Oppel
The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Godel, Escher, Bach - Douglas Hofstadter
Godel's Proof - Newman and Nagel
To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
Dr. Zhivago - Boris Pasternak
The Diary of Anne Frank
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

angry goose Christmas cards

30 Days Hath November

It is the first of November. It is getting cold and dark. The winter does not seem like a harbinger of death this year, only an incubator of life-inside. Everyone is embarking on some project or another - whether growing a mustache (or, like my friend Gustavo, half a mustache), following a charming blogging schedule, or writing a novel. If I am perfectly, perfectly honest, I woke up this morning convinced that I should write a novel, myself.

The idea was tantalizing. And perhaps I am just under-confident, perhaps I am stifling myself, but while I sat in bed considering, one half of me couldn't help reminding the other half of what we set out to accomplish this winter: a fat collection of poems. I think there is a place in the creative life for this kind of self-denial, this wrenching back to the plan one knows is good, one knows could be fruitful. There will be no novel. Instead, over the 30 days of November, I will write 30 poems. Yes indeed, that's exactly one poem a day.

And at the end of the month, this autumn's work will be compiled in a felt-covered booklet - some evidence that I actually do the work I constantly mention. (I cannot publish poems anywhere on the internet if I want them to be accepted by a magazine. Hence the closure of my Etsy shop.) I will stitch the covers in scraps of wool, and print the words on creamy paper. The work is already piling up. Before the year's end, it will turn out that the year will not have been wasted.

How are you spending this darkening month?