Saturday, November 27, 2010

*Poem: "Devoted"*

There are people devoted to a cause,
a talent, who abandon their homes, families,
go sleepless for weeks perfecting a move,
filling a canvas, and I wonder,
what I’ve ever done for love?
I drew in high school, but it was too easy.
I could see it and copy it, line for line,
and there it was.
I sang in the chorus, too shy for solos.
Ditto for theater, my single performance
the role of a nameless villager
in Fiddler on the Roof,
on stage without glasses to
manage my fright.
I was never an athlete or dancer,
and writing, writing was breathing,
just notes stuffed in bottles
thrown out into the world.
There are no Help Wanteds for poets.

The only thing I can think of,
my desire, my passion, was to get out.
I wanted to make my own home,
come and go as I pleased,
create my own space, not an eggshell in sight.
It's the only thing I've accomplished,
created here among books written by others,
other people’s paintings, movies, CDs.
I have crocheted the odd baby blanket when necessary,
cook avant garde meals depending on my food zone,
but the only thing I've actually completed
was escape into my own
solar system of existence.

And having gotten out, all I remember
is being in, and I can't get that out.
I can't get away from that.

CAR  5-5-10

Thursday, November 11, 2010

*Thanksgiving & Grandma Mi*

In honor of my Grandmother, Marcella Kozloski Mihovilich, on what would have been close to her 100th birthday:

Thanksgiving Too

Her funeral priest spoke in general terms,
but we knew from experience that with two sticks of bread
Grandma made a fire of feast,
a little anise behind her ears,
dear roast held over obedient flame,
soup from the bones of leftover  husbands,
sugared hands that sweetened the meal,
poisoned her own blood,
snow pudding melting in waves of green foam
on the tongue, custard avalanche behind. 
Even small Arnold's slices at her breakfast table
morphed into something better than bread.
At Thanksgiving, perhaps, my mother won,
where my father, with his low drunk tolerance
for sentiment or hors d'oevres,
would rather have spit it out, destroying the evidence.
My mother and her own oven won a little those days.
It was a bird bigger than eagles in this world
that flew from our forks to paradise of stomachs,
then to the sewer's afterlife, and the journey
was olive sweet, cranberry bright, carnival shimmer
in the nut bowl's glory, crackers at rest.
And the bones rested after in a hot bath of boredom,
surrendering to noodles their last bit of light.

CAR  1/5/04

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

*College of Poetry!*

     I have been asked to teach in the spring of 2011 at the College of Poetry in Warwick, NY, a relatively new endeavor that bodes well for the future of poetry in the Hudson Valley and beyond. The current format includes three eight-week courses and one or two guest poets per semester, and past participants have included such heavyweights as Ed Sanders and, upcoming on November 13, Janine Pommy-Vega. I am unbelievably flattered to have my proposal accepted, and I'm probably most excited about being involved in the College so that I'll be able to say I was there "when".
     The board of advisors consists of several poets whose work and personas I have been familiar with for years. William Seaton is a brilliant man, with an intimidating joy that he finds impossible to repress. Steve Hirsch is the longtime publisher of Heavenbone, a spiritually oriented literary magazine whose staying power is a miracle unto itself. Robert Milby is the hardest working man in Hudson Valley poetry, now hosting a mere three open mics every week but who has managed many, many more. He also keeps us up to date on who's birthday and death anniversary it is, and those juxtapositions alone are often intriguing and thought provoking. I am less familiar with the other members: Steve Calitri, Janet Hamill (who will also be offering a course this spring), Lynn Hoins and Mona Toscana, but their devotion to poetry is apparent by their very presence.

    There is no great financial reward at this point for teaching at the College of Poetry, about an hour and a half from my home. There is rarely any financial benefit to poetry, unless one counts the money saved on therapists and bullets. But the satisfaction of participating is what excites me. An entire school devoted to just poetry! Sounds almost illegal, doesn't it?

     I'll be teaching a version of my RANDOM WRITING workshops, which in themselves are intended to show poets where to find inspiration around them. A sort of planned obsolescence. Check out the website for more information, and contact Seaton on how to register at  The College of Poetry is at

Monday, November 1, 2010

*November Inventory*

Over the last couple of months I've taken on a task that some days seems like a cowardly escape from the business of writing poetry, and other days an ingenious excavation into my archives, mining for forgotten gems and possibly a chapbook or two based on themes instead of chronology, my usual format. I have been sorting through 20 years of poetry, year by year, file by file. As disorganized as I
often feel, I have at least been throwing my work into folders each year, and dating each poem as I write it. With open mics and submissions, I've begun to accumulate multiple copies of certain poems, and scant few of others. Tossing these extras is always good; my file drawers are somewhat limited, and since I expect to continue to write for a few years, every inch of storage space counts.

Another goal is to create a master list of titles from which to draw from for chapbooks and readings. I had a large stack of what I thought was a good variety of work, but now seems limited to more recent, and perhaps more currently meaningful pieces. I am assimilating these poems into the general file, and within each file, organizing poems alphabetically by year. The master list will cover
the years 1990 through 2010. Work prior to 1990 I still consider somewhat immature (even for me), but some nuggets may be found there yet. For now, 20 years is quite enough to deal with.

Since my poems have always been very personal, traveling back through the years this way is somewhat unnerving. Some years were more prolific than others. In 2001, I wrote something like 74 poems, most before the Towers fell of course. Although I have always said 9/11 left me speechless, poetry-wise, for months, my files tell a different story. I was up and running a lot more quickly than I recalled. Survival, I guess. I was also hearing too many bad odes to the victims, etc., things you would typically expect poets to write after such an event. That alone must have driven me to try to capture the mood, my reactions in a different way. In part I succeeded.

In 1993, I was in grad school in Albany, and taking a poetry workshop with Judith Johnson. It was a tumultuous year which ended with my moving back to the Hudson Valley and quitting school. In that year, I counted 7 poems that began with the word, "I", a record for even me. It is not my best year of work by a longshot. I moved in part to escape a failed romance, and started one in Albany that was doomed from the start. I worked in a chain bookstore at the Crossgates Mall (with aforementioned doomed object of affection) and barhopped most nights. From what I can see now, little of that material is salvageable, but I'm sure it helped me to stay functional and make the good choice of returning to Ulster County, where many longtime friends were and are. It was an experience and I still go to Albany for the active poetry scene there. Not so much for the romance...

In fact, one of the blessings to come from this sorting is the amazing realization that I can no longer name every lover obliquely referred to in a poem. Ah, thank goodness for that middle age forgetfulness!!

I am in the home stretch of this project. I have 1999 to sort through, alphabetize, discard extras and remove the many staples I must have felt were vitally necessary the last time I tackled this. I have the rough drafts for many poems, and I hope these will help in rewriting. Is this a worthy activity or just a way to hide from the subjects I have yet to explore? Both, I think. I can go back and confirm that I have accomplished something over the years, that I have at times written poems that satisfied me somewhat. It is reassuring at a time when I am a bit tongue-tied. I always have things to say, but not always the balls to do so. And yes, women have balls too, according to Joan Jett. They're just higher up.

I need to find my balls again. Reassessing my past is one way to invigorate my future.