If I hadn’t had to work at the winery on Sunday, I wouldn’t have been driving home in my car, and I wouldn’t have heard this: DEAR SUGAR, The Rumpus Advice Column #64: Tiny Beautiful Things.

It made me feel happy.

One of my favorite parts:

Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.

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I’m sorry it has taken me so long to post the first monthly poetry pick of 2015, but I bring you Late Wife, by Claudia Emerson.

In plain language, with tense and haunting imagery, this book stitches together many losses. There’s the dissolution of a marriage, the distances felt inside it and the gaps it leaves in the time since. There’s the loss of a lover’s first wife, the imprints of death and memory that shape a room, a house, a shared life going forward. And then there’s the loss of Ms. Emerson, her much-too-soon death last year.

I leave you with “Eight Ball.”

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I stopped posting the weekly gratitude journal a while back, but today on my 55th birthday I am grateful for another year on this planet, grateful for learning new things and for getting nudged out of my comfort zone.

And then there’s this football game today. Walking around town, it’s been a joy to see all the energy, the excitement. Go Hawks!

Also, there’s the excitement of spring–longer days, and all the green shooting up from the ground. Crocuses and snowdrops. Those first leaves remind me of this older poem:

Between Worlds

Her hair could be the green
of new shoots, the anemones,
the young leeks that first push
through winter’s crust

as though she is being pulled head-first
from the earth’s world of hearts and bulbs,
from the cool solitude of underground
and the constant dead.

Dirt clings to her eyes
and hoar diamonds glint in her tresses,
but the plum trees are ready to bloom,
the vernal rains persist,

glistening on leaf and palm.
Slowly, willing or not,
she enters these lengthening days.

(“Between Worlds” originally appeared in Weathered Steps.)

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How, as a writer, do you not read?

This question comes up often on forums (Do you need to read in order to write?). For my own writing life, I come down squarely on the side of “yes” to reading. Often, reading helps get me revved up to write, gets me into the poetry zone.

Week 4 of The Artist’s Way, the week that includes Reading Deprivation, has felt like getting a part of me chopped off. And I cheated–I read for the class I’m taking, I read for work, I read emails–some pertaining to upcoming family events. I had one major slip reading about some books online; I now know I don’t want to buy them, but I could have waited to find that out.

I did not use that extra time to clean out closets or unpack boxes left over from moving out of my office over a year ago (!). Instead, I watched TV with less guilt. I don’t think this is a good trade-off.

But I did become more attentive to what I was reading, or not reading. Do I need two email messages of news headlines when I’m already listening to NPR on the way to work? What do I choose to read? What will feed me?

That said, I now have a terrific backlog of poems to read. Let’s go!

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I am a huge fan of the new beginning–every Monday, every month, and especially the new year. I look at resolutions not as a make or break but as a constant resolving. If I break one, it’s time to recommit. But this year, I’m looking at them a little differently. What are habits–the things I want to do every day or every week? What are goals–the things I want to get done at some point during the year?

The habits look a lot like traditional resolutions, so we’ll see how that goes.

I also decided that for me this is a year of themes. After thinking up a whole bunch of possibilities (the Year of Lists being among them), I came up with five: Be, Choose, Learn, Do, Feel. Sure, there’s some overlap, but the emphasis is on presence, on making choices (that align with the other themes). Maybe this is overcomplicating things, but I feel like I have direction–without feeling pressed. (If I can let go of feeling rushed all the time, that will make this a fabulous year.)

To get a jump on all of this, and inspired by Bethany Reid, last week I again embarked on The Artist’s Way. It’s been a few years, but because I keep feeling like I can’t write a poem, I figured some help is in order.

So far, the morning pages are taking longer than expected. But writing them long-hand, getting away from the computer, has felt like a door opening. Then there’s that Artist Date. In the past, I have struggled with this. It seemed too hard to take time away from my family when I’m already away at work all week. And it is hard to take time away from the writing I want to do (as I stare at the dust motes and often get little done). But I began my journey by creating a vision board on New Year’s Day.

vision board

And I learned that the new issue of Cider Press Review has come out, with my long(ish) poem “Having Made My Beds.” A nice start to the year.

Here’s to 2015, to all our habits, goals, and dreams.

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