new moments need many forms of writing

I am Sparticus — are you?

I’ve got a non-fiction piece up at JewSchool about standing strong in my Jewish values in this post-election moment. Any day I get to reference Sparticus  — the second movie credited with ending the Hollywood Blacklist under/after McCarthy —  is a good day!


“An unassuming grace”

Of [my] poem, BK, AM, Randall Mann wrote: “‘There are so many things to admire…a delicacy; a charity of things left appropriately unsaid; an ease that looks easy, but isn’t.””

My poem and the lovely things Randall said are here, on the Podium site. I’m very honored he chose it for a prize named after a new poetic foremother, Rachel Wetzsteon. Here is one my favorites of hers.

An ease that looks easy, but isn’t, sums up these last years since the poem saw print. I’m glad, after a long silence, to have words back again, arranging themselves.


April showers, May flowers…

After a long, long fallow period, I feel super sunny that my byline has popped up twice this spring. 

Fruit: New Year’s Instructions, in Alimentum’s 2014 Menu Poems — my first foray into published poetry. I’m thrilled my new little lyric found a perfect home, in a journal I admire so often. 

Cold water holds 
Spilled sweetness

Bean: Cloudy Coffee, part of Killing the Buddha’s India focus. A love letter to my little-mom auntie, so far away, and to my morning (and afternoon) coffee, so close at hand. 

I slip into her kitchen to do what women do, our everyday work its own prayer, its own dribble of connection. Carefully, I inhale, and then blow the creamy cloud across the surface of the milk.

I’m basking in this summer city heat. Thanks to it, and no shortage of fertilizer lately, I’ve got lots more creative stuff sprouting, more cooking. Hope you do, too. 


My Writing Process Blog Tour

Thanks to Esther Cohen, poet, book doctor, and badass organizer for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. Esther and I have been labor-organizer/worker-arts friends for many years. Lately we are poet friends and drinking friends and friends who frequent hat sample sales, in addition to our ongoing political commitments. 

Esther answered these questions last week, and next week three fabulous writers — Lia Eastep, Kelly Martineau, and Lori Tucker-Sullivan will offer their answers. And then three more, and so on. 

So, the questions: 

1. What am I working on?

I’m writing a bunch of poems. I’ve got a creative nonfiction book idea, inspired in no small part by Molly Peacock’s beautiful biography-memoir mashup The Paper Garden.  And, lately, I’ve also been typing odes to Brooklyn and my expanding love and appreciation of this County of Kings.

I’m always working on food and drink, on the page, on the plate, in the glass. Currently I’m stacking up layer cakes, simmering down many a bone broth, and stirring Scotch cocktails.

2. How does my work differ from other of its genre? 

Mostly, I write straight-up CNF. I like to make unexpected connections, engineer unusual juxtapositions and fit in food.

3. Why do I write about what I do? 

I love to eat, I like to cook and bake, and I really like to theorize. Food and drink offer unending sort details, meanings, and metaphoric possibilities. 

I write about politics and social movements because we’re all buffeted by forces bigger than those in our individual lives. They’re forces we can only partially shape. To the extent we can exert control, and bend the arc, we do it by acting in concert — I believe that’s true on the page and in reality. Besides, race, politics, gender — it’s all there. Leaving it out is distasteful.

In that vein, I’m a woman, and a feminist, and I am drawn to writing about women’s work — the invisible emotional labor, the unpaid domestic labor, the unappreciated cultural labor, not to mention the seventy-seven-cents on the dollar workplace labor… all the kinds of ways in which women’s work keeps everything together. And, as a worker-justice woman, I’m always fascinated by what falls apart when we strike.   

4. How does my writing process work? 

I like to work out my ideas aloud, in community with others. I like to glean others’ smarts, to incorporate new influences, to generate better ideas in collaboration. 

When I’m working on something really narrative-driven, I find reading political theory offers a respite from the characters knocking around in my brain. When, as now, I’m writing a bunch of poetry, I like to read relevant historical nonfiction and lots of plot-driven novels. 

Just now, my work is spreading like dandelions across a suburban yard, swelling and sprouting as grains and beans after an overnight soak on the counter. This new work is the result of a long, fallow, wet period, and now, I’m happily tapping the sugars and seeing new stuff pop up all over. I’m soaking and tossing salad-like combinations of blossoms and roots, seeds and stems, bitter and bright. Stay tuned. 

 

Speaking of tunes — up next are Lia, Lori, and Kelly, all of whom I met through the MFA program at Spalding University. All are amazing women in their own right, and write especially brilliantly about music, among many other subjects. 

Lia Eastep makes her living as a writer-for-hire, mostly educational content and retail copywriting. Her essays have been published in the Santa Clara Review, the Louisville Review, TinType Review and the Columbus Dispatch. Her short plays and sketch comedy have appeared on various blackboxes and basement theaters across her hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

Lia’s 365 Facebook posts about her vinyl collection made me listen to more cool music last year than in any year previous, and possibly all previous years combined. 

Lori Tucker-Sullivan also has killer music taste and serious writing chops. At her blog, a Widow’s Apprenticeship, she spins the every day — and sometimes meaning — of her life after the death of her spouse into luminescent prose. Lori’s work has appeared in The Cancer Poetry Project, Now & Then Magazine, and The Sun. Lori lives with her son and daughter in Ann Arbor while plotting her return to Motor City.  

Kelly Martineau is a knitter, mother, and essayist extraordinaire. She writes memoir and essays that explore creativity, time, and the fiber of family. Her work has appeared in Quiddity, Front Porch, and Barely South Review. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Seattle, Washington. 

 

Don’t miss their process musings, their expertly crafted prose and poetry, and — if you should be so lucky — a chance to sip fine Kentucky bourbon in their company. 

 


Oulipost #11

The catch up is a cheat, as is using an article dated yesterday on the web but in today’s paper. My excuse? The paper wasn’t delivered yesterday (or was stolen). Also, it was Shabbos (still is, nonetheless). here is a univocal poem. All the words must be sourced from the paper; I tried to keep it to just one article. The words in hard brackets were imported from other stories. I chose the “o” from the best word in the headline. It’s not univocal but, in keeping with this afternoon’s secondary theme, I cheated. (But just for the title.)

 

Soar

 

Do old loves block

Growth? Odd [how]

most [don’t] long.

Or work to show

Only now. Not So. Not

How to love lost,

love lots, love most, love

worlds. Or, who knows? 

 

Johnson, Kirk, “Bookstores in Seattle Soar, and Embrace an Old Nemesis: Amazon.com,” NY Times, 11 April 2014. 


Oulipost #10: Snowball

On this first day of real spring I am struggling with “snowball” on many levels. But the show must go on: 

 

“oy”

 

A

On

Far…

Poof?

Verge

Future,

[Verge]

Discuss

Appeared

Jerusalem

Insistence,

Authority

 

Kershner, Israel, “Israel Says It Is ‘Deeply Disappointed’ by Kerry’s Remarks, New York Times, 10 April 2014


Oulipost #9: Headlines

The prompt: Compose a poem whose body is sourced from the headlines in your newspaper. 

 

I used most of the headlines in the front section of today’s Times. Paper edition. Plus an ad for Land’s End. 

 

A Deal with the Devil, Or, Poachers Attack Beloved Elders

 

Beloved Elders, Panicked

Pension Woes Are Stolen Scare

Tactics. The Older

Deplore Capital’s Tearful Drama.

 

No Work, No Base,

No Advocate, No Share,

No Limit Risks, No Ease.

 

Details Settle: Banks Get Big Share

(Thieves.) Rounding Up the Charges,

No Review. The bigger Project,

Better Bomb. Baby, Cancel California, Illinois, North Carolina.

Say, A varied life, failed. Made to Work. More. Better.

 

the headlines:

Banks Ordered To Add Capital To Limit Risks

Tearful Drama as Pistorius Says He Panicked

Sliver of Medicare Doctors Get Big Share of Payouts

Two More Sets of Signals Detected, Australian Officials Say

A Deal with the Devil

Rounding Up Suspects, Pakistan Charges a Baby

Parti Quebecois Failed to Renew Mandate, Analysts Say

Bomb on Train In Pakistan is Fatal to 14

Cuba Social Media Project Was No Plot, Agency Says

Among Ukraine’s Jews, the Bigger Worry Is Putin, Not Progroms

Lands End Made to Work

Poachers Attack Beloved Elders of California, Its Redwoods

Brandeis Cancels Plan to Give Honorary Degree to Rights Advocate, a Critic of Islam

Marine Shoots Fellow Guard at North Carolina Base

California: No Charge for Ocean Rescue

Illinoi Moves to Ease Chicago Pension Woes

What Would Lyndon Johnson Do?

Speaking at Rights Event, Carter Deplores Disparity

Democrats Use Pay Issue In Bid for Women’s Vote

Notes Found in Review of Police Work Could Exonerate 2 Convicted in Killing

For Car Thieves, the Older and Heavier the Ride, the Better

DeBlasio Picks Immigrants To Lead Two City Agencies

Details of Sharpton’s FBI Work Show a Varied Life

City Settles Lawsuit by Detective Called a ‘Rat’

Closing Ports to Stolen Fish

Global Warming Scare Tactics