At another table… in another chair…

The wonderful caretaker of this charming house where I’ve been offered sanctuary, a 65-year-old man from the outskirts of Chihuahua, Mexico, calls me “Loren-ita.” I’ve known him one day.

I have already sat in many of the chairs in the house, finding right spaces to be creative. I like the view from the bedroom window, out to a deck and the tops of trees. I like the light of the day, rupturing the breeze. The clouds have rolled in, somewhat double-dipped gray.

There’s a joy to getting away on this sort of retreat, of finding space in one’s own head. I am grateful to the institutions and organizations that offer me such spaces to create. Continue reading

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Progress Sometimes Means Doing Less

I’m heading off along the backroads for a weeklong residency in the northern highlands of this beautiful state. I’ve packed several folders of poems written by others that I’d like to reread, two extremely unfinished manuscripts, some homemade cornbread, a half dozen eggs, a camera, binoculars (I want to see raptors), and a map to a trail that’s not too far from where I’ll be.

In other words, I’m hiding out for a little while: Focus time. For me. Let’s hope that I neither go mad, nor hungry, and that I am somewhat inspired to revise either of those manuscripts, and not just read the two novels I’ve just now tossed into my bag.

I may post here as a way to process. Or I may not. (I’m not even sure I’ll be able to connect to the internet, and if so, I may not want to.) Doing less is a sacrifice of immediacy. I think I’m ready.

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Enter Button Anxiety

I keep encouraging my students to submit their most beautiful pieces, the poems and stories that rip at emotions. And some are doing just that.

One student, submitting for the first time, had what she calls “Enter Button Anxiety.” If you haven’t experienced it, you probably will. It’s when your finger hovers on the “Submit” button (or “Send” on an email) as you wonder if you could possibly have anything worth sharing. As your entire confidence wavers. Continue reading

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Wise Words from William Stafford

William Stafford was a poet of great literary achievement. I drew this interchange from an interview he did with Nancy Bunge in February 1981:

~Are there ever any days you can’t write?
There are no days I can’t write.

~Are there ever any days you don’t write?
There are days I don’t write. For instance, I’m headlong from somewhere to somewhere else and full of distractions, and I forgive myself for those days; it’s not a fetish, I think, but most days I do write.

~Does that change the day at all?
Yes. It changes the day a little bit. For me, for analogy, it’s sort of like jogging. If I’ve done my jogging, it’s an OK day. If I’ve done my writing, it’s a really OK day. It’s a confirming, satisfying activity to do. And it’s almost devotional.

— from Master Class: Lessons from Leading Writers (University of Iowa Press), which collects interviews with authors on theory and practice

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There are Words. There are No Words.

“Words are Sweet Sounds for Objects Unreal” (oil with pencil, pen and oil pastel on canvas, 2003-2004) by Justin Simoni

I was on the phone with my sister the other day. My sister doesn’t quite understand my creative impulses or my lifestyle. She is a pre-K teacher and very good at her job. In fact, I envy those kids the chance to focus on the letter H and the number 4, or whatever the game plan is that day.

My sister gropes for the right questions to ask. In that conversation, she queried, “Do the words ever run out?”

“Not yet,” I said, and left it there, though that answer is by no means complete. I cannot always, or even often, write something new, but the words are there to revise. The direction is there. The clarity is there, even if it is — ultimately, the not-quite-right direction or clarity.

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Tragedy, a Powerhouse and a Prompt

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Such a week. I’m absorbed in all sorts of thoughts, good and sad. The lizards are out, and summer seems to be almost ready to set down roots. I’m watching the sky for clouds, and the ground for shoots. It is a good time, but one with strange concerns.

How can I not be hurt by the UC-SB massacre, and by the suicide bombers, and the people who turn to shooting in schools and movie theaters, the people who don’t value life? Continue reading

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