Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Poems....by RHE


I don't like much that I read by live contemporary poets. That's sad, I'm sure, and I've equally sure that it's my fault and my fault alone. It's just that nothing seems to say much and it doesn't even say nothing in an interesting way. I like the "old" stuff. I like the archaic and the twisted and the heavily rhymed and metered. There's not much of that being written nowadays. And so, I keep looking for another "Tyger Tyger" or another "Had we but world enough, and time," and of course, I never find it. I find a poem here or a poem there by various authors and I fall in love, but it doesn't last. It ends up being one poem or maybe two poems and then they fall out of favor for one reason or another.
I did find Richard Epstein, though, and to my amazement I find that I'm pretty consistently smitten.

I'd first met Richard years ago, on a now defunct poetry board. He was cantankerous and opinionated at the time and he scared me to death. That much doesn't seem to have changed with time. I don't even know if his poetry has changed all that much. I didn't read it too carefully years ago. For one thing, I didn't know squat about reading poetry - and for another, I was too busy trying not to attract his attention with my own poor first attempts at writing it. Luckily for me, I rediscovered him a few weeks ago on his very own blog.

Either he's gotten way better at writing it or I've gotten way better at reading it, but regardless, his poetry rocks.

Go read it for yourself. Don't tell him I sent you, though, tell him Iris did it.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Take a moment for Sheryl Crow -


and for my Aunt Marge, for my Aunt Violet, for my cousin Jill, for my friend Nancy, for my former co-worker, also Nancy, for my best friend's sister, for Sharon who worked in radiology, for my boyfriend's ex-wife, and for all of the women across the world who have fought, who are fighting, or who have, unfortunately, already lost their battle.....and then ask yourself, how many "moments" have they lost....and how many more do we all have to give up before a cure is found and the war won.....and then ask yourself what you can do.



benevolent garden
one foreign seed draws first breath
inhale - divide

three spores are scattered
six cells seek sanctuary
exhale - multiply

malignant conception
each silent new spawn mutates
inhale - exhale

Happy Birthday, Jason

I know my children are all grown up because they acknowledge one another's birthdays with either a card or a phone call without my reminding them beforehand.

After years and years of listening to arguing and often muttered whines of "I hate him" or screaming hissy fits of "I'm going to kill him"....they finally LIKE each other - they really really LIKE each other. YAY!!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Depressing New About Poetry Sales


This is not the whole article reprinted here - it is one excerpt which shows holiday poetry book sales for one specific bookstore. The others, however, are depressingly similar in their tallies.

Open Books: A Poem Emporium 2414 North 45th Street Seattle, Washington 98103 (206) 633-0811 www.openpoetrybooks.com Bookseller: John Marshall TOP POETRY SALES 1. Tao Te Ching translated by Sam Hamill (Shambhala) - 13 copies 2. Solar Prominence by Kevin Craft (Cloudbanks Books) - 12 copies 2. Wild Braid by Stanley Kunitz (W.W. Norton) - 12 copies 3. Funny by Jennifer Michael Hecht (University of Wisconsin Press) - 11 copies 4. Poems from Ish River Country by Robert Sund (Shoemaker and Hoard) - 10 copies 5. Enter Invisible by Catherine Wing (Sarabande Books) - 8 copies 5. Niagara River by Kay Ryan (Grove Press) - 8 copies 6. New & Selected Poems Volume Two by Mary Oliver (Beacon) - 7 copies 7. Pieces of Air in the Epic by Brenda Hillman (Wesleyan University Press) - 6 copies 8. Say Uncle by Kay Ryan (Grove Press) - 5 copies 8. Elephant Rocks by Kay Ryan (Grove Press) - 5 copies 9. Migration by W.S. Merwin (Copper Canyon Press) - 5 copies 9. A Family of Poems edited by Caroline Kennedy (Hyperion) - 5 copies 9. Dangerous Astronomy by Sherman Alexie (Limberlost Press) - 5 copies 9. Winter Morning Walks by Ted Kooser (Carnegie-Mellon University Press) - 5 copies 10. Facts About the Moon by Dorianne Laux (W.W. Norton) - 4 copies 10. The Trouble with Poetry by Billy Collins (Random House) - 4 copies 10. Dog Language by Chase Twichell (Copper Canyon Press) - 4 copies 10. Jejuri by Arun Kolatkar (New York Review Books Classics) - 4 copies

Pretty sad, yes? The 10th top selling poetry book, written by none other than Billy Collins who is one of the top selling living poets, sold a whopping 4 copies. I wonder how many a book of poems by (oh say) me would sell?

This couldn't have come at a better time. I'm attempting to pull together enough poems to create a manuscript for a poetry contest being sponsored by AWP. The Association of Writers & Writing Programs -- Serving Writers Since 1967 Well, not exactly "enough" poems, I have more than "enough" - I just don't have enough good poems to qualify for inclusion. Funny how a poem you wrote a year ago sounded so good a year ago but doesn't stand up to today's test of time. I'd like to think it's because I know more now and I have higher expectations of myself, but I fear the truth is - it isn't very good now because it wasn't very good then. Sometimes, after working and working to write a poem and then revising and revising that same poem 50 or 100 times, you become so close to it and you have so much invested in it that it HAS to seem good. But give yourself enough time to forget the work and to forget the agony and it's just a poem, and, unfortunately, it's not even a very good one.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Do I really think I have something to say that no one else has or will say as well as I can say it? Do I really believe that I have the talent and the intelligence and the utter nerve that it takes to write even one poem, never mind a whole book of poems, that someone else will want to read?

Besides that, Dan is making me switch from my familiar and hopelessly outdated and incompatible-with-virtually-everything word processor to his widely-used but Geek-to-me Microsoft Word program.....and I can't figure out how to get the damn page number thingie to work. There - I've got an excuse. This particular contest will have to pass me by.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Happy Birthday, Megan!!!!!

Milk Dreams

Once I knelt as mere chattel, bought cheaply
at the marketplace for the price of a thin gold finger ring
and invisible chains around my heart. (In China, feet
are bound and women trip tightly. Possession
is somehow stated in stunted toe tips.)
I endured a fashionable slavery - stunned and staring
like a steer anticipating slaughter, (only not in India, where even
beef is more revered)
my heart forever measured in China feet.
I gave him nothing, keeping the secret of the Indian cow.
I took instead, his male children and feed them milk dreams.

My sons shall not grow chains which masquerade as thin gold
finger rings (my joy shall be the women - dancing on bigger feet.)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Can Somebody Please Tell Me What "Uttering and Publishing" Is....And Why It's Apparently a Crime?


Man Sentenced in Sheep Abuse Case
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (Feb. 14) -
A man who pleaded no contest to a sodomy charge involving a sheep says he should not have to register as a sex offender.
Jeffrey S. Haynes said the state registry is intended to keep track of people who have committed crimes against humans.
But Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge Conrad Sindt told Haynes at his sentencing hearing that once he is released from prison, he must register with the Michigan State Police Public Sex Offender Registry.
Haynes, 42, of Battle Creek, was sentenced Monday to 2 1/2 years to 20 years in prison. He entered the plea in January. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing purposes.
Tamara Towns, an assistant prosecutor for the county, argued that Haynes should be ordered to register as a sex offender because once out of prison, he could prey on children or vulnerable adults.
Haynes said he is not a violent person and would not assault children.
"The prosecutor is being real hard on me for what I did," he said. "But I should not be treated as a child molester."
A telephone call seeking comment was left Tuesday at the Marshall office of defense attorney John B. Sullivan.
Police said Haynes had sex with a sheep at a Bedford Township farm on Jan. 26, 2005. The animal's owner caught him on the property and the sheep was found injured.
Haynes was arrested in June after a DNA sample taken from the animal matched Haynes' genetic material.
Haynes has prior convictions for burglary, home invasion and uttering and publishing, and was on parole for burglary at the time of the sex crime.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Nobody Says It Better

Than Seth:


What I wanna know is twofold. Did the hospital ER report the gunshot wound to the local authorities, and if so, why wasn't the investigation immediate? It appears from all reputable sources that the local police were apparently not "allowed" to interview anyone (read: Cheney) until the morning after the night before - and so - did anyone actually get a blood alcohol level drawn at any time even remotely near the time the incident took place? Both things should have been standard ER procedure from what I know....but, hey, what do I know? I only worked in an ER and on an ambulance for 13 1/2 years....and I'm barely old enough to remember Chappaquiddick.....not that there are any similarities or anything. Maybe Texas just does things differently than Indiana does.

Maybe there were special circumstances that I don't know about.

Maybe pigs fly.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

On Being A Woman

I'm mulling over being female this morning. I've been preaching to anyone who'll listen about how my sex does not matter in my poetry. Then I stopped and remembered all the poems I've written about that very thing. The question now is.....and I writing about being "me" and "me" just happens to be a female, or am I so much of a closet-militant that I can't even see it?
You be the judge:


There is no safe tomorrow, only fear
which follows night. Anticipation waits
Behind the sun, beneath the moon. I hear

the voice of God each time the wind abates -
each time a shadow falls - each time the rain
revives a drowning ghost then dissipates

to bonelesness in soft tearstained refrain.
I've been insane. I've been the woman, frail
and wan, with parchment skin. I've been restrained.

I've traced my name in raindrops on the pale
soft flesh of strangers until God foretold
the danger and the downpour turned to hail.

I've been afraid. I've watched the storms unfold
around me while my lover's lies grew cold.
I talk to God. He leaves the truth untold.

Milk Dreams

Once I knelt as mere chattel, bought cheaply
at the marketplace for the price of a thin gold finger ring
and invisible chains around my heart. (In China, feet
are bound and women trip tightly...possession
is somehow stated in stunted toe tips.)
I endured a fashionable slavery...stunned and staring
like a steer anticipating slaughter - (only not in India, where even
beef is more revered) - my heart forever measured in China feet.
I gave him nothing, keeping the secret of the Indian cow.
I took instead, his male children...and feed them milk dreams.
My sons will not grow chains which masquerade as thin gold
finger rings (my joy will be your daughters, dancing on bigger feet.)


The Artist

You're painting me in chains - my aching arms
held high above my head, my hands restrained,
my legs spread open wide enough that worms
can crawl between the crevices and gain
control. Your dragonflies sew shut my eyes
while seven snakes sleep nestled in my hair.
Wild bees wax close my lips, my ears. My thighs
and hips are stilled by spider-webs. You prove
you're worthy to be hung in a museum while I -
I wear indignity as easily
as if it were a dress I could remove.

The Death of the Infant Sun

Perhaps we women laughed too loud, too long,
or not enough. Perhaps our sins were far
too large for God to overlook. How wrong
the darkness has become - how midnight-marred
each day begins and ends. There is no joy
in walking half the night - or counting stars
or dreaming back or looking straight ahead.
There is no daytime ruse we can employ -
no sleight of hand has ever brought the dead
sky back to light, concealed our scars, or paused
the anguish long enough for us to cry.

We women know that we alone have caused
the dark to fall - the light cast out our wombs to die.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Level of Hell to Which I'll Descend

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)High
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

Women and Metrics and Forms, Oh My!!!


Robin is starting a new discussion forum based upon, well, upon discussing the use of form. It's geared towards woman and metrics, but it also appears as if it will be friendly to metrically-inclined males as well. I'm not a big "joiner" but after some serious thought, I've decided to give it a go....there aren't enough people around to discuss "form" with and who am I to diss something based on a possible slant/bias towards one sex or the other?

Truth is, I don't know how many times my poetry's been dismissed:
A. because I am female
B. because I write mainly in metrics and rhyme.

I'm hoping the number is small on both counts. At the risk of showing my own ignorance/ego, I've never really thought about either as a possibility. I generally figure if people don't like something, it's because it's just not good enough to like. End of story - promise do better the next time.

My favorite poems are not specifially written by men or women, but they are specifically written in metrics, which leads me to believe I might find something of value in Robin's new group. Lord knows there is little enough of contemporary formal poetry around anymore. (My bias, no one else's)

That being said, I don't think women poets bring anything to poetry that their male counterparts do not....other than an inevitable woman's point of view, of course. What they do bring, what we all bring, is our own unique view of the world. I can't speak for anyone else, but what I bring to the table is what I've seen and done and observed, not as a female, but as the kind of human that I am...what I've done for a living, where I've traveled, what I've seen and observed. I can't not be a woman, of course, but I also can't not be a medic or a firefighter or a mother or a neurotic hermit. I don't write as a "woman", I write as a "me". I read poetry the same way.

Reassuringly enough, there are as many bad male poets around as there are female ones.....there is no sexist line drawn which protects one sex or the other from writing bad verse. (I just threw that in there because I am increasingly distraught at the number of bad poems I've been reading lately...pay it no mind, it's irrelevant to the current rant)

What is relevant is the fact that I do believe in my heart-of-hearts that the reason so much poetry is bad is because it is not metrical. To me (and I realize I am in the vast wasteland of poetical minority here) poetry should sing - and in order to sing it needs rhythm - and in order to have rhythm it needs to be metrical....(wheels go 'round in circles)

I've heard it argued that meter is constricting - Meter is not constricting, quite the opposite, it opens up the world of writing into all sorts of beautifully constructed things. The ebb and flow of poetic language itself can only properly unfold in metered precision. Just as there is no "random" in the tides or in the sun's rise and set, neither is there random in word choice or placement in a good poem.

There, I've said it.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Me Me Me and the State of Virginia DMV

I am beginning to think it would be easier to regain Virgin status then it will be to gain Virginian status.
I was pulled over by the County Police again last night.....same cop as last time, in fact. He was more irate this time, however, not only did he make me put my cigarette out, his partner wouldn't allow Dan to open the passenger's door so he could put HIS cigarette out before he got yelled at, too.
The problem is this: My car is registered, licensed, and plated here in Virginia. My drivers license is from Indiana. Apparently that's illegal in Virginia. When I first moved here, I got pulled over for having out of state plates....no problem, right? I'll just get plates.....Easier said than done. First I had to get emissions tested...I flunked. Then I had to get a state inspection, and once again, I flunked. Then we had to pay hundreds of dollars in needless repairs to pass them both a second time....Which I did. So far, so good. Then I had to get an Arlington County sticker...which I did, only then we moved to Alexandria and I had to get an Alexandria sticker...which I also did. I fully expected to get a new drivers license at the same time I titled and plated the car, but the DMV had other ideas.
I failed the "prove who you are" part of the quiz. Apparently the only acceptable forms of ID are

1. A valid Virginia license
2. A birth certificate
3. A passport.

Did I have any of those things? Of course not.

Getting a birth certificate from the state of Illinois turned out to be one of the hardest things I've ever attempted. They don't take phone requests - they do allow you to request one on the Internet, but you have to pay for it by credit card. Not a problem, right? Wrong...because what they don't do is take someone else's credit card as payment. Unfortunately, I don't own a credit card. So, ok, no biggie...altho I wasted 4 weeks waiting for them to inform me of this little bit of information.....So now I try it by mail...only they don't take someone else's check, either.....so I have to open a checking account simply to write a $8.00 check to the State of Illinois. All this just to prove I am who I say I am, even tho I already have 150 other pieces of identification which say I am exactly who I say I am.

Very recently, after an eight week wait, I got the required documentation back from Illinois. Meanwhile, last night, I get pulled over AGAIN for having Virginia plates and an Indiana license. I mean, why is this guy running my plates every other week to begin with? Not once has he given me a ticket or even a warning for anything else. I'm not even sure that what I'm doing is illegal. My plates are valid, my sticker is valid, my driver's license is an Indiana one, granted, but it's unexpired and it's also valid.

Last time he pulled me over, I explained to him the wait for the birth certificate and he let me go with a warning. Last night when he pulled me over, he let me go, but he told me that the next time he sees me on the street he will write me "a bunch" of tickets. I'm not sure what FOR exactly....but I suppose he can think of something if he really wants to. Smoking in a private vehicle, maybe. Or mumbling...which is also something he accused me of at one point last night.

So this morning found me at the DMV with my documentation in hand. I brought everything I could think of with me. Drivers license, birth certificate, insurance policy, divorce decree, papers from Social Security, the condo documents, the title to my vehicle and a few stubs from unemployment with my address on them. I was loaded for bear this time.

And DAMN IT....they STILL won't issue me a driver's license.

Now that I can prove I am who I say I am, I can't prove (to their satisfaction, anyhow) that I live where I say I live. Seems the ONLY proofs of residency they accept are the things I don't possess. Like a

1. Lease agreement or a mortgage payment book (Dan's house, Dan's name, Dan's generosity. I just live here as irresponsibly and as freely as a lark)
2. A utility bill with my name on it (see above explanation)
3. A voters registration card (which you can only get if you have a Virginia driver's license first)
4. A payroll stub with my address on it (God help the unemployed such as myself)
5. A cancelled check (my bank doesn't DO cancelled checks)
6. A Virginia drivers license (here we go again)
7. An auto insurance BILL (the policy I that I had with me is not considered good enough)
8. A current homeowners insurance policy (ok, here they we'll take the policy, but there, on the auto insurance part they won't - go figure that one out coz I can't)
9. Current school records. (Duh....)

I DON'T GO TO SCHOOL --- I DON'T OWN A HOME --- I DON'T HAVE A JOB -- I DON'T PAY UTILITIES. Apparently, all of this means one thing: I don't EXIST....at least not so far as the State of Virginia will recognize.


I made the woman supervisor at the DMV write me a damn letter to give the damn cop when he pulls me over again tonight.....


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Oh Dear....

Apparently I've been "tagged" by Michelle over here:
  • Headlines and Poetry

  • and now I have to tell everyone how "weird" I really can be.

    5 things, huh? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm

    1. I was recently filmed as part of a "docu-drama" tentatively titled "Beautiful Women - It's Not Easy To Be One". Unfortunately, I was not one of the "Beautiful Ones" but had a bit part in one of the segments...If it ever gets air-time, I will be the one rolling her eyes while slathering tan-in-a-bottle on my friend and neighbor, otherwise known as "The Stripper." (She, by the way, IS one of the "Beautiful Ones"). Against my better judgment, I did end up getting interviewed both on and off camera, however, and it'll be interesting to see if it makes the final cut or not, as I wasn't too complimentary on the whole "beauty is truth and truth is beauty" idea. I've mixed emotions about women (or men) who use their appearance as a means to an end. There's just got to be something more to life, yanno?

    2. I love salt, red meat, and grease. I can't help it, I came from the Midwest and it's what we eat there. I hate veggies and fruits. My diet is easy enough to follow...I just refuse to eat anything which is either green or orange. My mother insists that some day I will wake up and weigh 200 pounds. Her original target disaster decade for this to occur was 30, which she moved to 40 when I turned 35 without gaining an ounce and now she's aiming for 50.

    3. I'm addicted to the following:

    A. Law and Order (the TV show)
    B. Pogo OnLine Poker Games
    C. Cheese Curls
    D. Fantasy Football
    E. Jonathan Kellerman novels.

    4. (Aren't we DONE yet???) I really LIKE all of my son's life-choices, most especially their respective spouses/fiancees/girlfriends. I couldn't have picked better ones myself.

    5. I may not be fat yet, but I am lazy. I am a stay-at-home mom without children and I make no apologies for it. It is what it is, and it's fun.

    6. When Dan tells me to "Shut-up" I do.

    Sunday, February 05, 2006

    The Raintown Review

  • Raintown Review

  • I received my contributor's copy yesterday. I made the "cover"!!! Probably not a big deal to anyone but me, but there it is and I'm unexpectedly excited. There are 21 names listed on the cover - along with "and 20 other poets" so I made an almost 50-50 cut. Not being an editor, I have no idea how things like this are decided, or if it's even a "statement" of sorts, but I have spent the night deluding myself into thinking it matters.
    Anyhow, it's my claim to fame today, and we all know how short-lived that can be, so I'm enjoying it for now.
    The magazine had gone dormant for a bit, but Harvey Stanbrough is back as editor and the publication looks great. Very elegant and understated and I was enthralled by his choice of poets and poems. It's a form-friendly journal, so for me at least, it was a true pleasure to read through. There were some familiar names - William Baer, William F. Doughtery, Joseph Salemi, Richard Moore, Michael Burch, Anna Evans - and some unfamiliar ones, as well, but the poems and the poets (recognized and unrecognized) knocked my socks off and that's fairly rare.

    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    Trying Something Out

    Poems removed for rewrite....maybe.

    Not sure what I want to do with these. They were top-heavy with the introductions, but not strong enough to stand without them. I'm actually kicking around the idea of trying my hand at short-story writing - with the poems as either opening or closing statements. Pretty lofty thinking for me, since I've never written a story in my life. But then again, 6 years ago I'd not written a poem, either.
    I don't know....no real plans at this point, only the smallest glimmer of a thought/wish.

    Wednesday, February 01, 2006


    "No peace in retreat"

    I hate to be the one to tell him this.....but there's no win in spin, either.

    Taking Back the Night