Sunday, May 28, 2006

NCAA Nationals: Day 3

2006 NCAA Division II Women's Team Champions, Women's V8+ Champions, Women's V4+ Champions posing for photos on the trophy presentation stage beside the course at West Windsor, New Jersey, May 28, 2006.

Friday, May 26, 2006

NCAA Nationals: Day 1

Here's the WWU varsity 8 boat immediately post-heat. They won. See some hand grabbing, general happiness. They will race in the grand final on Sunday. Boat personnel, from photo left: little white shirted one is the coxwain, Liz, 8 seat, Stacie, 7 seat Julia, 6 seat, Jordan, 5 seat, Lindsay, 4 seat, Meta, 3 seat Rebecca (Rebe), 2 seat, Sammie and bow (sounds like as in take-a), Amelia. Seven seat is now asleep on the bed at parental hotel, 3:30 pm eastern time.

The race is on Mercer Lake, where the U.S. National Team practices. This was a little bit intimidating. Princeton too practices here. It is Rutgers University's race course. Probably not all simultaneously. Note: yellow boat is demo loned by Vespoli for use at nationals. Coach put team initials on boat side with plastic transfer letters. The four has a banana boat loaner too.

The boy scout camp ambiance of this place surprised me, here as we are in the Ivy League east. These are the national finals for Division I and III as well as II. Brown formidible, Yale feeble last in their heats. True, the sanicans were difficult to locate, behind a copse of trees rather than set directly beside the officiating stand at Lake Natoma, but we parked in a ratty patchy grass field as for concerts at the Gorge at George. The field is at least occasionally used (and signage declares it) as a cricket pitch. We walked down a dusty dirt track to the lake front set about with scrubby bushes and a pair of little league bleachers. Lake Natoma has a heck of a lot more paving. We walked through a little forest to get to the chained off team only area and waved to the team. Yesterday we hung out in the team area and saw the dual sets of two docks each, one set labeled "Launch", the other "Returns". So there are some slightly pinched ass touches, not to betray my expectations here.

Western, Nova and UCSD 8's were together in first Div II 8+ heat. All three boats got off to a clean start with Western ahead, then when Western dropped cadence for the long haul, Nova stayed at their start rate, about 38 strokes/minute, and was up to the bow ball of the WWU boat before they began to waiver, about half way (1000 meters) down the course. WWU stuck to their race plan - watching on the Jumbo Tron (huge screen) we could see that Nova's stroke was fast and a bit frazzled while Western was strong and steady. Still, this was unnerving to watch, though we were far happier parents than the parents of the Nova girls whose team started in front only to be walked through.

Nova's four started fast too, but WWU's four held to their race plan and moved ahead seat by seat so that they had passed Nova with something like 300 meters to go. The Four was ahead by a boat length when two seat in the Nova boat pulled something in her knee and doubled over - that boat limped to finish, stern pair rowing, bow seat sitting out since two seat could not row, and our boat stepped neatly down to a lower stroke rate to not unduly humiliate the other team (WWU and Nova the only two boats in that heat.)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What is that you say?

I'm Pippi L. now, so get over yourself, I could knock you down.

Poems of mine I've committed to memory:

There's Nothing to Hold Onto
Beneath the Surface
After the Primate House Demolition
At Medgar Evers Pool
What You Can Do
Tips for Painters

Dinner Table Conversation

And now to another topic which is poetry and the Skagit River Poetry Festival, where the community of La Conner takes poets to its bosom and into its schools. The Next Chapter Bookstore carries all participants' books on consignment (70/30 split, which is generous and which I misunderstood as 30/70 when I left my books so that I made the wrong facial expressions but corrected that later when the owner handed me my check on the spot and I fainted with happiness.)

Kelli Russell Agodon, Kathleen Flenniken and I were on the Women Poets Rock panel for students Friday morning at MoNA (Museum of Northwest Art). In celebration of poetry and the festival, the museum had art of a word related nature on display. Soaring ceilings, lots of light, great space to give a panel. To make this a multimedia presentation, I brought my "A Room of Her Own" totebag I got at the retreat for committed women writers held at Ghost Ranch in 2003 and which my roommate and I had altered to read "A Room Mate of Her Own" because neither of us had gotten a room of her own, nor a workspace of her own, which rankled, even while the concept and rest of the retreat, including my workshops with Kim Addonizzio, were challenging and great. But back to our panel: we rocked. Students in high schools and community colleges from all over Skagit County, including the San Juan Islands, were selected to participate in Friday's Festival.

Saturday, Kathleen, Gloria Burgess and I gave the Women Poets Rock panel for adults. We also rocked, but in a far more mature manner, which for me included a wee tirade based on the visual art to our left which had the word "EVE" surrounded by text blocks, the word "ADAM" surrounded by text blocks. The textblock which set me off was "VEGETAL" as one of the attributes of Eve, whom I imagine we are to take as the archtype for woman. Linden Ontjes, a fine poet in the audience, declared later that had I given the signal, the audience would have torn the display from the wall.

This was the fourth incarnation of the biannual festival, brainchild of Tim Bruce, the Superintendent of La Conner Schools. Tim, his wife, Chris, and their family opened their art-filled home for a cocktail party for poet participants Friday evening. Did I mention he is a patron of the arts AND superintendent of schools? A quintessentially northwest Philip McCracken sculpture stood in the center of the living room. Big wow. Poet and caterer Georgia Johnson made fabulous dinner for us both evenings.

The Next Chapter Bookstore & Coffeehouse, second shoutout. The owners of the bookstore cleared out their living space upstairs so it could be used as a festival reading and workshop venue. I had the privilege of holding my Saturday afternoon poetry workshop there. Big thank you. They hold all sorts of events in that space, including silent meditations on a regular basis. Here's the url to their website so you can buy zillions of books from them:

What else? What more? What not? So many poets and events swarming the town, so little time to take them all in - always the downside of this kind of event for me at least. I cannot go to every session or even most sessions without suffering overload, but I regret missing what I cannot take in. If you attended the festival or intended to attend, or love its existence in any way, let them know. Saturday evening's closing felt ominously uncertain as to the future of this important project. Go to and offer whatever support you can.

Monday, May 15, 2006

To Be Of Use

Not carrying jousting sticks but oars.

Committing My Poems to Memory

I admire poets who know their own work and others' work by heart and have resolved to commit more poems to memory. A few weeks ago, I memorized William Stafford's poem, Yes, which goes like this:

It could happen anytime, tornado
earthquake, armaggedon
it could happen.

or sunshine, love, salvation,
it could you know
that's why we wake

and look out - no
guarantees in this life
but some bonuses:

like morning,
like right now,
like noon, like evening.

(I am not positive about line breaks, but I'm sure of the words which are now mine to call up whenever I want them.)

Today, I gave myself two of my poems:

Tips for Painters

Concentrate on distances and light.
That hidden matter you want
to run from, depict it

definite as a new roof.
Rescue is as visible as despair.
Even if you forget to paint it

there is a door.


I love that poem.

While driving, I memorized my poem "Summer Job":

Summer Job

Last tree in the orchard and rain is coming.
Heavy drops will drum, split cherries.
You and four Mexicans climb ladders.

Your fingers are cracked and black, bleed
when you open your hand. Your bucket clipped
to the canvas strap you wear like a bandolier.

You have labored for weeks to match
their speed. You're up to four bins a day.
They pick ten. They don't pick leaves

and they don't pick green fruit. They joke
and sing. They tell you stories like you're
three years old and slow, as much Spanish

as you understand. You watch their fingers
to teach your own to pluck as you reach
from your rickety rung. Thunder threatens

from over the hill, lightning lunges from
the side of your eye - you're so young you
see a flock in the strobe of a new kind of bird.


If I'm not going to be loyal to my work, who will?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Western Regional Championships, We Won

Race Start, 11:40 am, Saturday, May 13, 2006. From left the line up is: Seattle Pacific University in Lane 4, Humbolt State in Lane 3, U.C. San Diego in Lane 2, and Western Washington University in Lane 1.

Photo taken by father of seven seat in WWU womens' 8+, who then threw himself onto his rental bike and raced to the finish line in time to record the last 20 seconds of this 2000 meter race. Western won, hurrah, which means we go to NCAA Nationals in New Jersey in two weeks to watch them defend their national title.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


English pronunciation variables interest me. Someone on the radio yesterday pronounced "tour" to rhyme with "four". Hmm, I pronounce "tour" to rhyme with "your". "Hour" and "our" and "flour" share the third pronunciation for "our". What does this mean?

X Ways of Looking at Trees


Below office towers
the only living thing
was a line of sycamores


I was of many minds
like the profusion
of volunteer sumac


quaking aspen leaves
applauded wildly, a tiny
part of the approaching storm


the lavender and the lambs ears are one
the lavender and the lambs ears and the cherry tree are one


I can't decide which I prefer,
solace of shade or sight of falling leaves,
the big leaf maple in August or October


I quicken my pace to walk
through the threatening gestures
of the cedar trees


O City People's gardeners
why do you plant mature trees?
Do you not see the maple starts
under your work boots?


I know your scientific names
and can follow your taxonomies
but I know too
that you are oblivious
to all I know.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

In-Class Pantoum

The photo is cracking me up because I have a brand new computer which has a folder called "My Pictures" none of which are mine. This here is one of them. It is not a photo of a pantoum, a big leaf maple nor a madrone.

We hunched over our papers in a circle on the shiny blue shag rug as the electricity project trifold displays made working at desks impossible. It amazes me how much writing happens at school under such constrained circumstances.

Here's what I did:

Pacific Madrone Pantoum

Children's Tree of my childhood
in woods behind my house
branches like ladder rungs
bark peeled, revealed smooth butterscotch.

In woods behind my house,
refuge from yelling and chores,
bark peeled, revealed smoothness.
I longed to write messages there.

Refuge from yelling and chores,
I liked you best when we were alone,
longed to write messages on your bark
in the bird-loud shelter of your shade.

I liked you best when we were alone,
branches like ladder rungs
in the bird-loud shelter of your shade
oh Children's Tree of my childhood.


My neighbor Debbie Mansergh named that madrone "The Children's Tree". I remember thinking that was a too dumb too common name for it. I of course did not share this thought aloud. I also did not come up with a better, more appropriate name, for fear of being laughed at, meanwhile (see above) inwardly laughing at braver bossy Debbie, who had Archie comics piled four feet high in her closet. My mother did not approve. I thought Debbie was glamourous and daft, especially when she went on a diet when she was nine and I was eight. She held grudges. One winter I hit her with a snowball that had a rock in it during a neighborhood snowball fight. I did not know the snowball had a rock in it. I apologized. One day that summer I rang her doorbell, opened her screen door and she whammed me in the face with a freezer frozen snowball from winter. Jeez. Work with fourth graders return to fourth grade. Next year I have been threatened with the possibility of working with kindergartners. Watch this space.

Tree Project with Fourth Graders

The Pantoum Presentation, starring trees, since this is a granted poetry writing project about trees, who we adore because of their persistent photosynthesizing and general stability except in high winds in bog areas or on top of clay when they blow down, exposing the dirty fingers of their flat root systems. A few too many adjectives back there but we must press on.

Here are my model pantoums:

Model One, Drafted 5/10/06 about 10 am

Pantoum for Acer macrophyllum (Big-leaf Maple)
Hey you up there, stop throwing smutz on my deck!
-Laura Gamache

Hey you, big leaf big tree in the back yard!
Yeah, you, standing there, I hear that rustling.
You're the one sending down that smutz.
The squirrels, robins, flickers -- they're not to blame.

Yeah, you, standing there, I hear that rustling.
In May, yellow flower chains splat the deck.
Squirrels, robins, flickers -- they're not to blame,
you send me something to sweep all year.

In May, yellow flower chains splat the deck,
samara helicopters dive bomb us in August.
You send me something to sweep all year.
In fall your leaves set like yellow suns.

Samara helicopters dive bomb us all August.
You're the one sending me that smutz.
In fall, your leaves set like yellow suns,
Hey, you, big leaf big tree in the back yard!


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

On Poetry Workshops with Fifth Graders

The day after this photo, I came upon the same girl in the school washroom, her face two inches from the mirror, bedazzling herself with her beauty.

Poets don't explain, but I'm prosing here so lighten up. My l has gone out on my keyboard, not all the way out, but I have to go back and add the l's in a self-conscious manner. Ditto with commas. It is already the case that my on button does not exist in the way most people's on button does. A few years ago my screen light went out - the computer worked fine, but there was no visible evidence. My very tech-savvy partner took the machine apart and replaced the little phosphorescent beetles and yea there was light. He broke the on button in the process of reattaching the screen unit to the keyboard base. In the circular depression where the on button used to be are four metal prongs that stick up in the identical size and pattern as the pokey thing medical people use to give TB skin tests. They (prongs not medical people) were having some difficulty remaining at attention last year so they now live in a pool of epoxy. This is elegaic musing as we have placed an order for a new laptop which costs about $200 less than replacing the screen unit would have two years ago and will also feature 200 times the memory and the ability to cut CDs though not paper dolls which brings me to why I enjoy working with fifth graders.

I love working with fifth and sixth graders because when I brought in the many magazines for them to cut up for self portrait collages to go with and be influences for self portrait poems they are also writing I had several Weekly World Newses I had forgotten about in the bottom of the box. Two of the kids could not stop reading the articles aloud to the rest of us, as we laughed, snipped, and glued images. One asked me why I had them and I said they were staples of entertainment and that my two favorite covers are: "B52 Found on Moon" followed two weeks later by "B52 Disappears from Moon". "You are so cool," the kid said. These are my people.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

All Night Knitter, a Triolet for Tricoter

Because I have a deeply satisfying and stultifyingly busy life, I was just noodling through the Blogs - the whole concept "Next Blog" being not a concept at all - will it be alphabetical? I wondered, left the spectacularly ravishing Radish King for a horrifying photo of a furious looking man with an enormous firearm text in a language I do not read, then a lovely sunset and perhaps Persian, and then the All Night Knitter with a photo of a skein of yellow yarn in a formal pose, stark background, back lighting. Text below did not appear ironic, and so I skedaddled out of there and back to here where I can post and pass time all by myself as my work seems to have less audience here in blogland than there (or here) in real life land where the people are. Still, the act of publishing via one button push attracts and pleases me.

The Triolet (rhymes with Chevrolet and so is French just like the car) is a poetic form I have never before attempted but will now (sans net) because I want to and because I have to experience it before teaching it to fourth graders. Why would one do such a thing? Ah, I am in the class to combine the botany of trees and poetry, as per grant proposal. The TREE-o-LAY has the word TREE in it silly.

Tricoter (TREE-co-TAY) is the Manolo Blanik (sp) of knitting stores.

All-Night Knitter
A Triolet for Tricoter

I fondle skeins all day
attached flags, confetti, fur
I don't know how to knit anyway
I fondle skeins all day
silk shiny, fuchsia, wooly gray
I stare so much the colors blur
I fondle skeins all day
attached flags, confetti, fur

So that's the form. It isn't Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night, but it also isn't a Villanelle.

Here is a poem-like utterance in contemplation of my panel in a couple of weeks on women poets, as in being one: its effects.

Brief Bios of Five AMEricaN Poets

Full-lunged America singer, grandfather of us all
Insurer of insatiable imagination
Physician's clear vision, brevity
(us) up he shook far and wee
cats could not declaw him
we still come and go

Sometimes we shiver in their shadows,
admit it grrrls.

A Little Mythologizing Never Hurt Anybody

One year on the 4th of July, Jim and Paul climbed 4th of July Mountain, 6 am as the rest of us slept.

The year Shawna turned 16 Jim took her boyfriend and his friend across the lake to the base of the mountain. He told them it had taken him and Paul two hours to reach the top and come back to the water, an underestimation in the vicinity of two or three hours. We scanned the hillside from our deck with binoculars until a former neighbor boated across to tell us he'd seen them.

I've never put a foot on it, would rather stare across and dream of it than have it sweaty scratchy and real.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Eight women in blue unis with a lighter blue stripe, blue Vespoli shell, sweep mightily. Seat seven (count up from the left which is the bow seat) has my heart.