I didn’t blog last Sunday, so I’m already down one blog post that I committed to write. This is a make-up posting.
Last weekend I was in Atlantic City, NJ attending a poetry gathering where I was able to be in a workshop with Gregory Pardlo- an amazing poet and human being. I enjoyed the crispy-cold NE air, so different from the damp-cold winter fog out here on the Olympic Peninsula, which I also love, but differently. I ran into two poets I knew there, and met another writer that I now count among my fussily small group of friends. I didn’t write much, but I close-read three books of poetry that have been patiently waiting for my eyes. All in all, a good trip.
Let me just say that I had a rough year, along with the rest of the thinking world, in 2017, but with the added joylessness of feeling beleaguered at my workplace. Today, pulling clothes from the drier and rolling socks, I remembered a time period in my 40’s when I would roll socks with the image that someone was standing behind me with a gun pointed at my head, giving me a time deadline for getting the chore done, or be shot. It reminded me of how bad things can get emotionally, while still making the effort to go to work every day, and roll the socks every weekend at the laundromat. I had moments like that over this past year. And murderous dreams.
I’ve consciously planned to take time away for writing this year, the conference this past week, and a week-long retreat coming up next month, more in the summer. I am secretly planning a better year for myself. I am openly wishing a better year for the planet. I don’t know if it’s possible, but if all those women out there marching today have anything to say about it, we might make a little progress. A step or two.
Started this morning reading pages from an old journal, something I invariably do at exactly the right and wrong moments of life. The year was 2008. I had just left a home, job, friends, and one of my cats behind to move my life out to the west coast, to Seattle. In 2008 I hadn’t learned to call myself a poet, even though I had been reading poetry and writing poems since childhood. That came later. At the time my truest self identifier was “palliative care nurse practitioner”, a mouthful, and not very revealing of the deep attachment to death I had developed from years of taking care of people with HIV/AIDS in the South Bronx, and working politically with people with AIDS in ACT UP NY.
Shortly after moving to Seattle I wrote:
“Perhaps the sense of choice now is a culmination of all the past choices. Perhaps I am simply taking responsibility . . . credit . . . for my new life. It’s not as though I have an over-determined belief in choice. I do not. I know how little I have, we have, control over. I know how swift the current, how far from ordinary life the river can drag body and soul. I know and I choose to know. That is one sort of choice. I also wish to be able to love my life, to know it, and to feel gratitude for my being. And when I face a lack of this deep within my daily life, I (eventually) find the strength to search it out in a new place.”
Today I do call myself a poet. I still work as a nurse practitioner, still work in end-of-life care, but envision retirement in a couple of years. I probably will continue to work in that all-encompassing field beyond retirement –the identity feels profoundly internalized– but the balance will shift away from caregiver and more towards witness, and as witness, poet.
Of many things that struck me in the journal entry was finding the legs of a poem I later wrote. Turned out to be fortuitous, the poem, “Ice Would Suffice” was published in Poem-a-Day/Poets.org last February. I love that my own deeply personal thoughts about my own life have traveled so far from the pages of a journal.
I have committed to posting a weekly blog in 2018, along with dozens of other poets/writers. I appreciate the push from Donna Voyerer, and particularly have loved reading regular blogs from Kelli Agodon, Molly Spencer, Jeannine Hall Gailey, and Dave Bonta. I have blogged off and on since 2007. Like exercise, I tend to blog with an initial momentum, then typically fall off. I’ll try to do better this year. Looking forward to seeing what everyone is thinking, writing, and doing. I love being part of a community of poets!
May we all have moments of peace and joy in 2018. Wishing everyone good health, fabulous poetry, dear friends, and safe passage.
Here’s a list of poets who have committed to blogging at least once a week in 2018.
Erin Hollowell – . T
James Moore –
30/30 Project I am one of 9 poets writing a poem-a-day in July for Tupelo Press. And you, my friends, are my beloved sponsors. I love Tupelo Press for it’s amazingly gorgeous books of poetry and the generosity of … Continue reading
This is a lovely journal with lesbian sensibility.
and here is one at the New Verse News, a site with a political bent. See 12/03 for my poem …
And, Harlow’s Monkeys, at YB
My poem, Eating the Seed Corn, is up on Mudlark, an electronic journal that has been publishing poems on-line since 1995, and was an early exemplar for internet poetry. I’m delighted to be on Bill Slaughter’s site again, a decade after he published The Conversion of Saint Jon, my poem series about my friend, Jon Greenberg, who died of complications of HIV in 1993. It’s really a thrill to see these two poems featured on this site; Eating the Seed Corn felt like a sequel to the Jon poems. It is also in tribute to Ben Lerner‘s book,Mean Free Path, published in 2010, which I totally fell in love with, so much so that I consciously tried to capture his style in my work. Seed Corn is a very long poem, a memoir, and dear to my soul. I hope you will read it.
Two poems at a brand new Journal, Ithaca Lit.
And a poem at This Literary Magazine.