I’m grateful that today my poem Sketch in Blue with Darker Water appeared online at Glass: A Poetry Journal.

It began as a color study, and became something else. It began as a way to thread color through a manuscript, and I ended up (so far) with five colors—red and yellow forthcoming; green and purple still seeking homes.

It went through many drafts in April 2015, when I decided to work on an exercise a day.

The lesson for me? Keep working. Keep exploring.

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My cat is very good at self-promotion. He will announce his needs with authority at 1:00 in the morning or at 4:00 or right this minute. He will sing his presence just to hear his own voice.

I could take a hint from him (he says, yes and give me more food). I am terrible at self-promotion, but here goes:

Tuesday, September 20 (yes! a mere two days from now!) I’m driving across the lake to read at Island Books, along with the wonderful poets Michael Spence, Donald Kentop, Laura Totten, and Jeannine Hall Gailey–who has a brand-new book out!

Plus snacks! Plus wine! On a Tuesday!

Here are the details:

Tuesday, September 20th, 7:00 p.m.
Island Books
3014 78th Ave. SE, Mercer Island
206-232-6920

I hope to see you there. For now, I’ll feed the cat.

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From today’s Advice to Writers:

“Creativity is inexhaustible. Experiment, play, throw away. Above all be confident enough about creativity to throw stuff out. If it isn’t working, don’t cut and paste – scrap it and begin again.” JEANETTE WINTERSON

I confess: I cut and paste. Mostly cut, although I’m trying to learn new ways to paste—or to move and transform. But start completely over? Maybe sometimes, but then I mine all versions to patch something together—and sometimes that works, or I think it does.

I play at pushing words around, play at line breaks, but that play could become pushing past my boundaries. And even though everything is saved on paper or on the computer, I still feel like I’m stepping off the cliff. I guess that’s the point—step of the cliff.

How about you? Do you experiment with a deleting there, inserting here? Or do you sweep it all away and start fresh? Does it depend on the project? Or the mood you’re in?

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For years I’ve let the rambling roses ramble. They grew wild and snarled, like the brambles covering Sleeping Beauty’s castle. As of late July, they looked like this:

roses covering the car port

For years, they’ve grown into my poems, as all that bloom and cane was becoming the yard, green growing over the a thicket of dead cane and thorn. For years, I tried trimming all that old growth out.

Then I realized that even if, decades later, I were successful, in the meantime, the roses were overflowing, and they would still take up more and more room.

My daughter was looking for a project and wanting to grow vegetables. I explained that the roses were blocking necessary sunlight—and thus, a landscape revision was born.

Here’s what it looks like now.

garden without roses

I’d say Before and After, but the photo above is more like During.

My daughter said she had thought of this as a secret garden, and now she was uncovering some of its secrets—like the wall plaques that have been hidden for years. But gone is the Paul’s Himalayan Musk that I brought from the old house, and the California Plena, which started as a sucker from a friend’s bush, just a stick in the dirt, and the climbing Cecile Brunner. I’ll miss it’s pale pink blooms in early spring. We will plant some smaller, tamer roses—maybe in time for next spring. Then we’ll take the After photo.

For now, I am in this negative capability, this uncertainty of what the yard will become, what together we decide to make of it. It’s hard to see the end of something, even if I know it had overgrown desperately. It’s hard to imagine the next thing before it has started. And this, I’ve heard, is where poems happen.

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I still think about Benjamin Grossberg’s comment that, as I heard it, paraphrased, the writing reveals the subject (I’m always struggling with what to write about). This afternoon, an epiphany. It’s not that the writing, in one session (I’m so naïve) brings up the subject, but that the writing brings up more writing. Whatever is revealed comes to the surface over time.

So long, instant gratification.

After getting off work, I slipped out to the front porch and tried to write. It was mostly “meh” (if that’s dated already, you probably know what I mean anyway). But when I came back inside, I got two more ideas and something to research.

The act of writing—wait, I also read from the newest issue of POETRY before I even started, and I will say any day of the week that reading inspires writing—the act of writing might just be a warm-up, but it can get me to the real writing. It’s writing as throat-clearing. And when it doesn’t feel good, when it doesn’t jumpstart something wonderful, or something that can become wonderful, it might contain an image, a line, that will shine elsewhere, later.

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