Friday, December 28, 2007

There goes my license to grumble about other people's purchasing habits for another year. Kids at St. Joe's will recognize the wrapping paper from their fundraiser. I keep claiming not to have a teaching blog, but I keep losing my license for calling it other than that.
Last night I dreamed that I was a new teacher at a Scottish boarding school. My information packet had been partially shredded so I didn't know important things like what time the classes were and what I was supposed to be teaching. The new teacher who moved in next to me - we lived in dorm accomodations on campus - saved her poop in paper bags wrapped in white cloth towels. What the heck was this about?
After a week of normal walking I'm back to the gimp crumple and a tad peeved about it. Blah blah blah. I watched my mother at Christmas, broadcasting her discomfort, never able to keep one tiny feeling to herself, physical or emotional, and I know where this can lead so that's it for that.
I've got bills to pay and the pantry partly cast upon the counter and table tops downstairs. I've got a workroom that needs my attention to organize and clothes to wash, dry and fold. I have poems to write and revise and send out and student books to collate. I have too a family holiday letter to compose to go under the above photo. The rest of the family is counting on it so I'll do it.
In 2007 Shawna went from a job she hated in Boise to a job she loves in Seattle, reporting for the oldest continuously publishing daily newspaper in Seattle, the Daily Journal of Commerce. Her beat is architecture and city government. Since he is a web designer and graphic artist, Todd is able to work anywhere, which now includes downstairs, right next to where Jim works. They've sold their house in Boise, but yet found a place over here.
Julia has moved from Seattle to Miami Beach, where she is the Assistant Women's Rowing Coach for the University of Miami Hurricanes. She loves her place on Miami Beach, four blocks from the U of Miami boathouse on the bay side and four blocks from the beach on the Atlantic Ocean.
Jim and Laura went to Greece in April where they fell in love with the island of Crete.

Monday, December 17, 2007

At the risk of sounding like this is a teaching writing blog, I need to sort out what I'm doing today with the 7th graders. Thursday, I slightly tortured them with 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, the first class anyway. They didn't talk! Since they wouldn't talk, I talked, which was a teensy tad bit deadly. Sort of like that last sentence. A few people jerked awake when I cawed being a bawd of euphony reacting to the beauty of blackbirds flying in green light. Things went better in second period, where I had kids do the pantomiming, including a man, woman and blackbird, all of them boys, one of them a good sport wearing his female teacher's hat and scarf for his role. In third period, my favorite act out boy acted out the blackbirds being beautiful for my cawing bawd of e. I like to enlist his acting out for my cause.

Last week we spent a day saying hey and writing lunes with strong nouns and verbs, then two days with an I am related to nature idea and two days with Wallace the insurance vice president. I told the kids about how his insurance company colleagues had no idea he was a poet, that he had a secret identity like a super hero. Poet,super hero. Same diff.

Today we might, it being 6am and my teaching at 7:40 it is rather disingenuous to put a might, but it makes me more comfortable to imagine my having all the time in the world to get this worked out. I am thinking of having them write personifications of qualities which they can then illustrate if they want, ala Ruth Gendler's The Book of Qualities. Okay, that's what we'll do. I have some great student examples and a decent handout that triggers thoughtful, engaged writing. We can start by brainstorming a list of human attributes - I like to start with something like attributes you'd look for in a friend, a leader, etc. Inevitably we'll get to evil, death, destruction, envy, greed, sloth (okay not sloth), and their ilk, but I like to give the kids a chance to imagine in a positive vein without beginning with some teacherly positivity lecture. And some people have knowledge of and need to write about those attributes that aint so fracking cute.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

(photo caption: Beethoven at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, readying for his birthday)
Friday night I read with Beth Coyote, Kelly Boyker, Martha Vallely, Pat Hurshell, and Marta Sanchez at Phinney Ridge Community Center as part of the Intersections series. As I listened to each poet read, it was like adding an entirely different variety of flower to my bouquet, each vivid and particular to itself. A great evening! Thank you to Rebecca Loudon, master weeder, pruner, soil enhancer and deep listener! The musician, Helen Parsons, grew on me. Her lyrics were hilariously weird, her guitar plucking accompaniment spare and sometimes silly, her self presentation elfin. My son in law saw her get a glass of wine before the reading and thought he should grab it away from her, since she looked about 11. Now he wants her CD.
As for myself, not the reading or the poetry, which are fine, really, I have at this point to admit that somehow I am wired backwards because I always always always have the experience after a reading of becoming distracted, frantic, nervous, nervous, nervous and having to leave. Friday night I was convinced I had lost my cellphone, had a vivid image of myself picking it up and turning it off while talking with Rebecca and Martha before the reading. I went through my big bag three times, Jim went through it, taking out item by item, which was a bit embarrassing. Luckily I hadn't changed my underpants, just pants, shoes, socks and shirt, all of which were sitting on a folding chair for awhile there. No cellphone. I talked to a couple of the other readers, not to Rebecca, not to Mimi. I kept getting more wired and strange as though a cellphone disappearing was more important than anything in the fracking universe. By the time we got out to the car and found the cellphone sitting in the cupholder, I just needed to go home and lie down. When I got home my frantic upset self couldn't lie down. Eventually it was the next day and I felt embarrassed and regretful for missing out on celebrating everyone's success. Luckily I did tell Martha how wonderfully she read.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

That's the luxuriantly tressed young Falstaff of Santa Cruz on the left, watching the cardboard tube caber toss outside the de Young Museum last Saturday.

Today I worked at middle school with 7th graders.
A fellow poet wondered from my blog if it is written for middle school students which certainly has me wondering about my level of deep thought and fine prose. I spent years trying to sound like a 19th century don while feeling like an imposter. These days the inner and outer are more accurately aligned, which means I dazzle far less often with my amazing mispronounced and hazzily grasped vocabulary words, am more adept at writing what I'm truly feeling and thinking, and am more frequently imagined to write for the young young adult. I'm having a fine inside the cranium fight about how flip to be about this.

I will quote instead David Bayles & Ted Orland, from their book ART & FEAR: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking:

Q: Aren't you ignoring the fact that apeople differ radically in their abilities?

A: No.
Q: But if people differ, and each of them were to make their best work, would not the more gifted make better work, and the less gifted, less?
A: Yes. And wouldn't that be a nice planet to live on?

Talent is a snare and a delusion. In the end, the practical questions about talent come down to these:
Who cares? Who would know? and What difference would it make? and the practical answers are: Nobody, Nobody, and None.

So there we are, I am, anyway. I'm about to print out some poems, always a heady and scary moment particularly in the wake of a rejection letter. I was going to quote the one I received yesterday from The St. Lewis Poetry Center's Best Poem Contest, but I seem to have bitten it into tiny jagged pieces and burned it, which may explain the rug's absence. The form letter said what many say these last months, that the group in question (anthology, magazine, small press) has received an astonishingly large number of superior submissions it has taken rubber gloved professionals months to mull over, to leave me and my fellow rejected the comforting and simultaneously disconcerting sense that we are good, possibly very very good writers, and, with chins high and checkbooks open we may yet or yet again enter the holy citadel/Charon's vessel. Refer to book quote (page 28, A&F) for clarification.

And I saw my sister, James Turrell's "Three Gems" the view from 9th floor viewing deck at the de Young Museum, and kilted young men hurling a cardboard cylinder all in the same weekend. Amen.

I've revised my Sapphics poem for her, and am in love with it again. I'll read it Friday night at The Phinney Ridge Community Center. Fabulous poet, violinist and mentor Rebecca Loudon will introduce the fabtabulous eight of us.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"Three Gems" by James Turrell

My sister told me only that we needed to wait a minute. A group of kids ran towards and past us and we walked down a path and around a bullet shaped structure through a rose colored outdoor hallway to the entry door into the space. It could be a rocket ship capsule, the earth visible as the round stone set in the center of the floor, our destination somewhere out the view hole above us as we sat on the concrete bench built into most of the circumference. It was instantly a peaceful enclosure. We sat and breathed deeply, leaning back. When I started speaking I discovered the sonic quality - the undertones of my voice rang around us as though the space was a Tibetan Buddist bowl and I was moving a pestle round and round to create the resonance. Lyn said she'd never been there on a sunny day, never seen the light blob on the wall above us near the sky hole which moved and morphed as we relaxed into our bodies.
The new copper clad de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park has handsome angles and textures. The fissure that opens as a crack in the brick and fractures to crack rocks in the courtyards is a permanent installation by Andy Goldsworthy. I liked the installation, which is called "Faultline" though I've been rather off my Goldsworthy adoration since watching him ignore his family in the Goldsworthy documentary. Which gets us into the art vs. artist debate, which isn't so interesting really, is it? My husband got so mad at T.S. Eliot from watching the movie "Tom and Viv" that he refuted any idea of T.S. Eliot as having a place as a poet, to his poetry having any value or beauty. Which I love about Jim while still loving The WasteLand and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.
In front of the lawn outside the de Young as we approached was a line of motorcycles and on the lawn was a group of mostly guys apparently involved in caber tossing. They wore skirts, from midi to mini. A couple of them wore kilt skirts, and one, who had dark brown hair luxuriously curly as The Cowardly Lion's mane in The Wizard of Oz and Robert Downey Jr.'s beard in Fur and reminded me of a young Falstaff, even sported a dagger in his sock, though nobody wore a sporan. Their caber was a hollow cardboard cylinder. Do not think paper towel roll. Think ten feet long and walls 3/4 of an inch thick. Not a tree trunk, but still heavy and awkward to manage. They were a Santa Cruz motorcycle club who'd asked permission of someone at the museum in order to put on this brief goofy contest that set my mood for our whole free museum experience.
The sculpture garden also includes work by Claes Oldenberg (a huge diaper pin) and Zhang Wang (a shiny metal sculpture that mimics though is even better than Chinese stone I've seen displayed as art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 2001.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Going to SF to visit my sister this morning. We're meeting at SF MOMA where there is a show of Joseph Cornell boxes. Very exciting.
I have not yet written out my proposed syllabus for seventh graders. Maybe I never will. My friend who teaches sent this poem from a 6th grader she's working with. Maybe I'll just show them this poem and stand over them with my hands in fists on my hips and my head making a shadow on each of their desks and say things like, "why can't you ever write something this good? You're OLDER," in a growly slightly needy voice.
I am the Queen of History

With a voice like crackling wood
My hair is fine silver dust
My eyes are golden marbles
My hands are crinkling paper
My feet are the fossils of dinosaurs
I float about King Tut’s tomb
I play with the triceratops
Dance with the Incas

I know everything about a person before I meet them
I know everything that has ever happened to them
I can read their past like a newspaper

With my sparkling blue book
I offer the gift to let creatures see the past
But I will only let people who need
To see the past read my blue book
If somebody writes a question
In my blue book
The answer will come to them

When I cascade over a town
Everyone knows that I am there
They sense the past wherever they are
And they are flung back to childhood
They get together with old friends
Heal old quarrels
Cherish old memories

Everybody begs for me to let them see the past
I don’t let anybody who begs
But I would let a poor man struggling to survive see the past
If he needed to
My life is one of giving and moving backward
Watching and holding back
Waiting and listening
by S. S.-S., 6th grader
Bye now.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


And in this morning's paper we discover that it rained five inches in the 24 hours of Monday. I asked Jim how much snow that would have been. He said multiply by 12, which would have been 5 FEET of snow. "Too bad we don't have global cooling," he said as we watched the gunnite truck with its long long snow crab leg lounging over the neighbor's new garage putting in what looks like a property line to property line cement patio. Yesterday I heard on Steve Scher's weekday show that city planners are thinking what we need to be doing is restoring to each plot of ground, especially in built areas ie my neighborhood, the ability to deal with its own water, which is to say eliminating runoff by such means as increasing permeable surface, like the new Ballard Library did by planting grass on their roof, collecting water for irrigation, laundry, flushing and filtering it for drinking. Part of the problem the planner said with our Puget Sound storm sewer system is also that it is tied to the sewage sewer system so that when we get for example five inches of rain in a 24 hour period raw sewage flows directly into the Sound.

Momentarily I leave for my osteopath appointment which I hope will shed some light and relief on my irritated nerve. Actually I don't care if light is involved. I want to walk like a person and not jerk to a halt while my after surge of nerve pulse calms down to a walkable normal.

Later that same day, when she was supposed to be putting together a syllabus for a ten day poetry workshop series for seventh graders, Laura encountered a thank you to a list serve which had the phrase "in this era of Pop Tarts and Little Debbie" which she felt compelled to copy into this blog.

In the Era of Pop Tarts and Little Debbie

where all is sweetness and flouncy dresses
even what is tart is sweet
comfort warm as a gag reflex

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I have not died or produced coffee ground looking puke so the Aleve tm overdose crisis is behind us. Today's topic: should I go to the osteopathic physician whose office is behind the Quizno's which is located across the street from the Erotic Bakery? Sit with that a sec.

Having never been to an O.P. (or maybe it's O.D., which'd link thematically,) I am leary of the two hours the OP promises to meet with me. I want the irritated nerve or plastic insert issue to resolve and fast. I think what I need to do is make an appointment with an orthopedic person who can x ray the hip and see if there are broken off bits of plastic socket liner. Probably I should do both. Pursue both courses and see. Possibly. The O.P. doesn't take insurance, but is she covered by insurance? Can't I submit a form and see? Yes. Insurance crap makes my eyes have major major astigmatism. Also my brain.

Yesterday was an emotional fiesta of fun as my daughter and I confronted our miscommunications regarding going on a trip together, she waiting for me to discuss money, me waiting for her to tell me if she wanted to go. Then my husband and I confronted our miscommunications regarding money.

Emotions irritate my nerves.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Cascades Train from Seattle to Portland on Friday and from Portland to Seattle on Sunday arrived on time. The Sunday train even departed on time. Probably because they didn't clean the bathrooms while the train was in the station. My friend Carol said, "Ah, the third world experience," and then she took it back. Her younger daughter is travelling for six months with her boyfriend from Mexico into South America working on farms for room and board as they go. Carol and her husband paid for airfare so they can bypass Colombia, but other than that Carol's (poet dancer) daughter and her boyfriend are doing this on their own. The boyfriend uploaded some photos onto the internet while we were together so we got to see some Mexican adventures - coconut palms, sugar sand, Spanish language billboards "La Mujer es Poder" por ejemplo, how cute this couple is.

Three of us stayed with our pal who moved to Portland from Kirkland about 11 years ago (note the land suffixes, hmmmmm.) Her younger son, age 23, was home to put in some time at American college so he can transfer to college in Holland where his girlfriend lives (who he met while seriously seriously taking flamenco guitar lessons in Grenada, Spain.) He's going to school for classical training including music theory, this boy who barely graduated high school he was so disinterested. His girlfriend is a flamenco dancer and about his height (6') in other words sorta a short girl in the Netherlands where they (there they are again) are building houses with taller doors and ceilings due to the upward trend due they (aha, them) think of better nutrition, which is not based on processed foods based on corn because unlike here in America they (!) do not subsidize the corn production industry. Coincidentally they (!) are not big drivers of big cars. Huh.

I was hobbling around due to my irritated nerve probably due to the last regatta of the year, The Head of the Lake, which had us sitting around in boats in the cold wind for 45 minutes while organizers forgot to communicate with one another resulting in my being out on the water cold and cramped up and probably sitting with my back torqued. It could also be due to structural disintegrity of the plastic cup of the ball joint part of my hip replacement or (less likely I'll admit) my titanium shaft working its way out of the remaining part of my femur through my quad muscle. One of my friends who has various unhappy making symptoms doctors have been puzzling over and experimenting with over the last few years said she has friends who use Aleve TM and so we got me some. It worked. I took two every four hours and I know if you're literate and or have taken Aleve (and maybe they have ads on TV?) you know what's coming next. Last night I was home and less distracted and actually read the use instructions of Aleve TM. One pill every 8-12 hours. I put the two blue pills I was going to take at 8pm back into the bottle and went upstairs to check for OD symptoms on the internet. One of the OD symptoms is barf that looks like coffee grounds. I didn't have any of the symptoms and I had all of the symptoms. I was afraid to sleep. My husband said he checked on my throughout the night. Throughout the night and now and now and now it has been raining like mad. Probably with intent to supersaturate the ground so the wind can come and knock down more of Seattle's trees, if you believe in the perversity of the weather gods.

Jimmy is on conference call or whatever they (uh huh them) call group call with simultaneous computer linkup so they can chat and maneuver each other's mouses without having to get dressed and go to an office together. In this case this is good because Jim is in Seattle, some folks are in Salt Lake City and others are in Pennsylvania. This is bad because the head honcho who called the meetings is in Pennsylvania so the meetings are at 6am from this morning through December. I assume they won't meet Christmas day though I realize this is Christian commerce centric. I don't mean to say the meeting is continuous from now through December, just that each day M-F they'll e-meet (I know this is the wrong term. Sheesh) at 6am Pacific time.

Having exposed my inability and unwillingness to retain terms having to do with electronics, I will move on into my morning which will include taking one blue pill and hoping I have not induced peptic ulcer or coma by doing so. Don't call the masochist protection agency as I am only joking in an off hand aren't I clever sort of way to prevent my thinking about anything I have to do which I feel constitutionally opposed to doing.

It helps me to be with people who are similar to me in ways that Jim is not, for example who are women.

I hope I am done having an irritated nerve by Thursday so I can enjoy San Francisco with my sister without worrying her and myself. I love the term irritated nerve. It's really annoyed, my nerve, and it's trying to get back at me.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Alligators, alligators, alligators
Just go there metaphorically
and I'll see you below in a minute.

Thanks to everyone in the writing group last night for
confiding your insecurity and reluctance
and exposing your brilliance, wit and poetry
and making me feel so much less alone
and more alive
also the laughing was good.

I've sent in my manifesto for my December 14 reading. The one I didn't send went like this:

Artist Manifesto

This is just
to say
there never is
a perfect time to write
so I have to do it now
even though I don’t want to
I’m not good enough
my pen is out of ink
and I have a fever
and chilblains.


Boy do I like the word "AND" and the run-on sentence. Check out Gertrude Stein's "Paris France" and know I'm in excellent company. Of course she's writing in a child voice. I worry I mostly write in a child's voice also, but big whoop. Keep writing. That is also my poetry manifesto. Amen.

Right now I am supposed to be packing. Who is supposing I am packing you ask? Two friends who are arriving at my house this morning so we can carpool to the train to take us to Portland where I guess it might be snowing. I am sitting here on assignment, my own assignment, I have pledged better dilligence and to stop already with the discouragement and just jazz away at the keyboard and f**k em if they can't take a joke. I'll be happier. It's obvious I'm never going to be any kind of productive in a USA sense (cue flags not fiddles) or for that matter in an instrumental sense (now cue violins, pianos, congas and recorders. an odd assortment but I've played them all and am going for accuracy here.) What the heck was I driving at? I guess that I have to quit with the worrying about my worth and just do what I do - write and cut and paste and read and work with kids to say it's okay to dork around with creative stuff. I want me for a teacher actually because in the classroom dang it I am convincing and convinced that this life I advocate is worthwhile. I hate the word and concept worthwhile. We're all rooting in the turquise mud its just that some of us are wearing Keens and some of us are wearing Manolos and some of us are barefoot and there's that and again, which I really really like. I also like the word really and the word so and the word anyway. I like to write anyway as anyways, which I think is hilariously funny.

Here is an edit of my poem I wrote in 6th grade last week:

Eulogy for Mesopotamia

O once magnanimous land,
irrigation pushed
history's heavy plow
through muscled soil
steady dowry for generations
stylus cut metronome
free-writing language
altered earth carrying
civilization into mist
as silt lifts skyward,
topsoil gone to myth.

My daughter says she is often disappointed at how dull people are who she's met through IMing - she imagines the attitudinal slant she would put on phrases like "LOL" and discovers lots of folks are happy to exist on the boring straight ahead level. I hate IMing though it has made introducing the game Acronymble in school much easier because the kids know zillions of acronyms now.
I am all over the map as I ready (or delay readying) to go south a bit on the map.

Two books on my must-read list:
Set this House on Fire by Matt Ruff
Where the Sea Used to Be by Rick Bass

Have you seen Darjeeling Limited yet? Ah
Wes Anderson Wes Anderson Wes Anderson.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thinking about an artist manifesto instead of preparing to teach

Two days more, counting today, with the eighth and sixth graders. Today we're revising. I'll bring my bucket'o thesauri and my handouts. Some of the eighth graders will bring their vast aleoli wiggling lungs and some will bring their quiet writing selves. All the sixth graders will wiggle. And write. Meanwhile I will think about what I believe as an artist. Not what I believe as a teaching artist or a teacher or a mother or a wife or a homeowner or a gardener or driver or political being or coxswain. What does my artist believe?

Joy exists in, among, between, under, inside and through words.
It doesn't matter if I'm good or published or part of a movement when I am inside my work.
What is beside the point is the point.
The truth lies in the gaps.
Seek and ye will find diddly squat, keep writing.
Read, read, read, read, read, read.
Write, write, write, write, write, write.
You won't always know art when you see it, keep writing.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sheffer Crossword Puzzle for Thursday, November 8

Pass the pita, mash the yam. Byte
me. Ono bounced like Roo above
Lennon's sour mood. Kid, whose egos
ache indigo? Elaine's?
Ooh, but OTB means nothing - B for
Boys? Can't, he says, take me anywhere. So much ado, wacka doo. Moo cows moo, we ail
like redcoats surrendering arms.
age like eons, ebb like tides,
eat halves, stare at menus, myopic.
What brings you to Erie?
The lei speaks to my ulna.
Where was art last noon?
Sigh and measure sag in dynes.

Today at School and more

Today I taught the Pantoum form. Kids began with their "My Name" poems from yesterday, their homework notes if they had them and the handout with hundreds of icons radiating out mandala style from a central giant word YOU to make pantoums. All three classes got the pattern and got to work. Here are a couple of the pantoums:
Glorious soldier
that’s what my name means
nice and cool on a hot day
comforting and warm on a cold nite

that’s what my name means,
my name is sometimes angry, but
comforting and warm on a cold nite
my name is sometimes sad

my names is sometimes angry
my name is dumb once I think too much
my name is sometimes sad
but I love my name

my name is dumb once I think too much
nice and cool on a hot day
but I love my name
Glorious soldier
My name makes me famous
it is pure and will never get old
it has no regrets
my name is always being talked about
it is pure and will never get old
my name is a fairytale story with a happy ending
my name is always being talked about
it will never break a promise
my name is a fairytale with a happy ending
my name is rock -- it will never be broken
it will never break a promise
it echoes through your mouth just so it can be heard
my name is a rock and will never be broken
it has no regret
it echoes through your mouth -- just so it can be heard
my name makes me famous

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I've just spent too many minutes looking through a bunch of stock images of middle school online. Lord it is entirely too easy to waste time pretending to do something using the internet. The site is sorta hilarious, with such photo titles as "Asian teacher with middle school students", "African American woman teacher with middle school students," etc. And what is my theme?

Today at School with the 8th and 6th graders
by Laura Gamache

At the end of my teaching, MK and I discussed the student who had the cell phone AND digital recording device up his right sleeve in class. When I had engaged him in brief conversation, he being new to me (not at school this week till today) I asked if he had notebook paper. Yes, he did. I asked if he had a pen. Yes, he did. I asked if he was left handed (since his sweatshirt sleeve was wrapped over his right hand. No he was right handed. How can you write? I asked. The girl across the table, who he had recently whacked in the wrist with a calculator, said he had a cellphone up his sleeve. I asked for it. He refused. I tattled to the teacher who took him into the hall and had him take everything out of his pockets, and confiscated his cellphone, digital recorder and some little toys. She says he cannot read or write. The kid was sharp, calling out hilarious acronymble solutions which I encouraged him to write down. I noticed he did not, which had me suspicious he couldn't write. MK said his mom thinks MK is singling her kid out for bad treatment. MK thinks that recorder is to document possible MK singling out of the kid, whose little kid, dorky glassed self radiates hostility. Lordy. As we were talking, MK said, "Are you wearing two different earrings?" I felt my ears and yes I was unintentionally wearing a yellow beach glass dangly in my left ear, a silver heart with large red something stone in my right. I laughed. I'd had about five minutes at home to eat something and change from crew layers and layers into school attire. I was especially rushed since I had promised to meet the person from my arts organization who was coming to observe my teaching in the office before class which meant I needed to allow more time for photocopying. Photocopying is my rhythmic zone out from day to day poet/coxswain to teaching poet. I love choosing colored paper from the office stash and walking into the copier generated warmth of the copy room where nobody ever seems to be but me. I love entering the "1234" code and pushing "ID", and I love the photocopying choices - 1 to 2 sided, 2 to 2 sided, paper drawer #. I even love the jammed paper alerts which force me to open the door shown on the front of the copier and clear paper by pushing down on the levers and pulling out drawers as the copier instructs me. Inside the copier is a warren of possible paper jam locations, very Rube Goldberg, and entirely solvable provided you are not late for class.

Today's lesson began, after Acronymble of course, with having six students read the six paragraphs of the "My Name" chapter of The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. In my first class one of the kids read HOMS this summer in Spanish. He's bringing it to school for me to borrow. Ya-hoo! Another thing I love is how middle school students, even my second group of squirrely chatty 8th graders, quiet and listen when their peers read. We talked a bit about the chapter, and then I read them a poem written a few years ago by a then-8th grader at another school:

My Name

My name tugs at your shoelaces
it springs out of your mouth faster than a shotgun
listen sharp or you'll miss it
My name is a hero of the stars
It is a bright light, breaking up the darkness
My name won't make you trip
But if you fall, it will help you up again
My name is mischievous like a fox
It will sneak up on you when you least expect it
My name will laugh when you tell a joke
It will make you happy when you're feeling down
My name is Batman
Or at least, it is his bat symbol searchlight
My name is like a happy summer
It is warm with a cool breeze upon entering your ears
My name is like the feeling when your foot falls asleep
It actually kind of feels good
My name is not meant to be whispered
It's meant to be screamed!


Yowsa, but that is one personified, metaphorically, sensorally alive piece of writing! Between that and the Chinese zodiac I put next to it on the back of the page with the chapter from HOMS, the kids had lots to work with to begin their "My Name" pieces. Lots of them found great directions to go, and some shared with the group. My focus in that last group is to get other voices than the six always-talkers up in front of the room. Successful today!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Monday Monday

So anyways I taught today. A class of 8th graders, a class of 6th graders and a class of 8th graders. The last class could not would not stop chattering. They come straight from gym and ordinarily I found out from the teacher during the uprising they have a half hour of SSR (sustained silent reading - so weird and funny that 13 year olds have the idea this is torturous.) I said I'd like to have them return to their usual routine after she (the teacher, M.K.) told me they really settle down during that time. Why didn't she tell me this before? I have an idea it's because at the planning meeting (8 or 9 teachers plus me so the one on one was a bit on the lighter side,) there seemed to be a drive to get me in and out with no breaks, have me push through quickly. I can understand their reasoning, but I'm going to dig having 30 minutes breather after two classes and before this one that did not gel at all on the first day and which I'll need to do a bit of remedial work with towards our community and group project.

Well, sheesh, the group project is the 8th grade class project which is (and here I hope you have the image of the mirror image inside the mirror image inside, etc.) based on Georgia Ella Lyons' poem, "Where I'm From." "Where I'm From" is a fine poem but has become a nearly universal poetry prompt in middle school so that say for example today a girl said, "oh I did that last year." I remember being in middle school. If you have done a thing, a sonnet or a book report or an algebra proof, you have done that thing and have no further interest in exploring another facet of that project, your mindset being, "Next!" cuz you're 13 and damn you have lots of new things to get to.

I am not entirely sure what the teachers meant when they said to me, "We want you to do that "Where I'm From" project. I do not hit up one poem for multiple sessions and have decided to keep my own counsel on my approach. I'm taking it as a broad theme. I read the poem to them today along with a poem I wrote influenced by it which felt badly in need of music as I read it to them. I veered mightily off course and read them my poem in my own made up language along with the translation. In both 8th grade classes a boy in the back right corner asked, "How did you do that?" about the translating piece which I thought was an interesting question. The first class I waved my arm and made a "psst, pffft" response, but I tried to answer the second boy. I realized I had gone too far when he put his head down on his desk.

After I read WIF to the first class a boy said, "she never said where she comes from!" And she didn't tell us where geographically she came from so his question let me open the topic of what she did tell us and the topic of being poetry sleuths trying to discover what a poet is doing so we can copy and move forward or "embrace and extend" which is business lingo, at least coming from Jim.

I felt back in the saddle after the first two classes but the third class wore me down and sored up my throat since I mistakenly attempted to talk (yell) over them which everyone who has ever worked with eighth graders knows is an invitation for them to get louder. They got louder and louder. At one point I said, "Do you know what your job is at this age?" One of the boys said, "To be quiet?" I said, "well yeah, but I mean developmentally," which was kinda passive aggressive because kids never want to think of themselves as incomplete evolving beings. Then I said, "At your age, your job is to bond with your peers," and then I paused and said, "and you guys are really got at your job!" and then asked them to can it anyway. I said, "Just for these few minutes, while I'm meeting each of you, you can decorate your file folder, write your secret name inside your name plate or pass notes to each other, just don't talk. They talked. Loudly. This was a test. MK was stepping in ineffectually every few minutes to tell them to be quiet, then I would step in ineffectually to make my plea and it just wound up and up and up ridiculously. Even so, several kids got up and read their poems to the group at the end. The rules for the poems were: write a poem in a made up language with no words in any language you know, the poem has to be at least three lines long and has to have at least four made up words per line, and it cannot make any sense whatsoever. I wrote this in my notebook which I'd set so the document camera would display its image on the screen for all to see. One boy asked, "What does the poem have to be about?" "You can't make it be about anything," I said. "I can't rhyme," another kid said. "Don't rhyme," I said. "Oh!" both boys set to writing.

The eighth graders come in sizes from four feet tall and 80 skinny pounds to 5'11" and a lumbering 200 or so pounds. Some of them look 10 and others look 18. Standing outside the door waiting for MK to come unlock it, I was in the shorter third of the class, which I forget when I only work with 6th graders.

I returned to the 6th grade classroom of a teacher, SM, I worked happily with last year. One girl came up to me before class and said, "I'm going to be your biggest fan!" We had a blast in there, everyone including SM writing own language poems of twice plus the length of the 8th grade assignment. 8th graders are far more easily exhausted than 6th graders. SM, who lived in Russia for a couple of years, read her poem along with several kids. Hers had a slavic growl to it.

The sky is blue above and through the branches of the big alders across the alley above the white house of my urban chicken farmer neighbors. Light falls on my three orange pumpkins which I will soon pitch into the yard. The first year we lived here I had the most fortuitous lovely pumpkin vines that grew pumpkins all through the landscape in a charmingly haphazard way as though I'd orchestrated the composition. I tried the year after that to orchestrate a composition but as you already must know nothing of beauty came of that. Now I pitch the pumpkins onto the hillside once they begin to sink into themselves and pretend not to hope.

Thanks to no more daylight savings time we had light on us for rowing practice this morning. When we loaded into the boat I could see the expression on the face of the stroke, and expressions not to mention faces and oars of the other rowers and oh yes out on the water, buoys! My eight which according to the regatta central website will row together for Head of the Lake this Sunday, November 11, went out with Eleanor. I haven't gone out with only Eleanor before and was a tad nervous. Before Head of the Charles we were out in the fracking dark one morning and, after I'd run my two seat's oar into a buoy, Eleanor said, "You are not taking into account the oars sticking out from the boat," which I let lie. The fact was I had not seen the buoy in the dark. I was fit for glasses soon afterwards. Eleanor said quite gruffly that morning after I thanked her for her help with wind direction, and other things, "Your crew has to be able to trust you." She was right of course but not very kind about it. This morning as I came up on the inside of a visible buoy I had my eye on, Eleanor said, "It looks like you're going to hit that buoy." I said, "I've got lots of room. Trust me." I did have lots of room. There was a bit of rower chat in the boat. Perhaps my little head will be popped off the next time I goof up.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Today's Sheffer Crossword Puzzle, A Poem


Drink your Tab. Other wits learn Arabic,
punch awls into idols, identify novas.
We watch The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, turn to
Zoroaster for our news cycles, paw
ones like helots dig soil below
the zeppelin. Ah what we might redo.
Ono meets Lennon on that ladder,
they dine, vin santo toasts and a
list of what not to. No zucchini,
adhoc street walks, squa sightings.
Fie on all and any lying. Refill my
zinfandel and see what we can redefine.
Erie, isn't it? We vote with our ova,
Pen dele a year, think our now is new.


We talc away, parent bloc wizened
from I do to the Tor of baby slop.
We answer rot with Ave! but never
pass a bar. Aah! How lop comes
to shove. Even Zola had his Enid,
posh-necked Levi? Odin found
not Toni but Greenland. Hail sculler!
Hay or toffee? The CIA asks. Envy
follows zed like ire becomes nil.
Doe contains that long long O and eta.
Icon in the far nave, we grin you gnaw.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tigerlillia Terribilis from Edward Lear's Nonsense Botany
The explorers of the 1500s brought plants from all parts of the world to the attention of European botanists.... One of the more remarkable naturalists of this period was Andrea Cesalpino (1519-1603), an Italian philosopher and botanist who directed the botanical garden at Bologna and taught botany there in 1555. He was one of the first persons to make a collection of dried plants mounted on sheets of paper. This collection, called a "herbarium," was bound together as a folio of 260 pages, containing 768 plants listed with both Latin and Italian names. His chief work, De Plantis (published in 1583) was the most accurate botanical treatise since the days of Theophrastus... Cesalpino accepted the old Aristotelian idea that plants have no sex and followed the view that leaves were merely protective organs for buds and fruits.
-taken almost verbatim from my college text, BOTANY, by Michael Neushul, published by Hamilton Publishing Company, Santa Barbara, CA

Jinglia Tinkettlia
from Edward Lear's Nonsense Botany
Love Letters
To Plant Taxonomy
I placed your syllables on my tongue
Acer palmatum, Pseudotsuga,
tasty as white truffle oil.
I thought you my calling,
pressed leaves between pages
of my taxonomy tome,
kept crumbling testatments
odor of rot in a shoe box
plant stained notecards
blue in a cramped hand
for twenty years.
I stroked leaves in the arboretum,
called to you in code.
You didn't acknowledge me
I embraced a tree and longed for you,
your gossip and Latin, how it felt
to enter your intricate hierarchies.
I never questioned your motives,
would have lit a votive to your
perfection if you had called me yours.
To the Head of the Charles
Railroad, BU, River Street, Western Ave.,
Weeks Footbridge, Larz Anderson, Eliot
I learned your turnings and timings, sought
your orange buoys and your green,
kept watch for the blue dome where
Weeks meets Cambridge shore.
My voice over the cox box speakers
enchoed inside bridge arches.
Last year I wasn't ready to meet your needs,
I am glad I waited. You were too grand,
too impressive. I mastered
some of your complications, recognized
my limitations in passing - others
passed me but you stayed,
your steady flow every call and stroke.
We swung together through The Big Turn,
my rudder and rowers sure.
You favored others more.
I know what it is to feel unworthy.
You took me on,
the moment to moment calls,
sun across your surface,
our time so sharply gone.
To the Dead
I'm a sap for you, clumsy
in my breath, sweat, my
bloody corporeal form.
Let me slip out of this skin
and show you who I am.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Head of the Charles Race Report, Part II: The Race

After the first segment of our warm up down river we rowed the outside perimeter of the warmup area between B.U. Bridge and MIT Bridge, the corners marked with giant orange buoys. We rowed at half slide, 10 strokes at half pressure, 10 at three quarters pressure, then 10 at full pressure, with a coordinated return to full slide rowing for another 10 strokes, then back to half slide, to reinforce rowing as one, which is after all the immense grace of this sport, that eight bodies can come together as one smooth series of movements that propels a 60 foot long hull through water. Rowing is no sport for the individuated hot shot who must stand out and be recognized. If anyone stands out in the boat, the grace and thus the race is entirely lost. Every stroke presents its opportunity for grace. As one of the rowers said to me, rowing is an ongoing act of forgiveness. To dwell on a bad stroke, bad catch, rushed slide takes attention that is badly needed, immediately and repeatedly essential to the boat. Forgive and row. Lock, send it. Lock, send it.

I began to look around for boats that would be in our race. The eight with forty year old men? No, those guys were late lining up for their race. The fours? Uh, no. On the back side of the warmup area I saw boat number 6, and then 9 and then we were with our group, looking for our line up slot to move into the chute. Our boat was odd numbered, 23, so we needed to find our line up on the left, the Boston side. Boat 11 was behind and a huddle of us let them pass. The creep forward was long. The marshalls seemed to be spacing boats closer than two boatlenghts. The marshall standing with megaphone on the stake boat to starboard of us asked for my attention. I gave it and he thanked me. I took that as a good omen. We went on the paddle, were called to half pressure, the boats ahead of us closer than I wanted them, but I called us to half pressure, then, on the marshall's call, full pressure, and we took it up, passing between the yellow triangular start buoys. "We're on the course," I said, and then took us into a focus 20, as boats in front pushed through BU Bridge, and everyone appeared to have seen the same video I had, all of us hugging the green buoys to starboard around Magazine Beach, where the singles and doubles launch. A boat went to port and passed us as we eased to port to line up with the center arch openings of River Street and Western Avenue Bridges, the powerhouse stretch where the race came into focus as a race. Head of the Charles no more an institution or some kind of ediface but a contest we should not be content to meander through. My job was to call and encourage, to steer and keep us safe from bridges and other boats, the rowers' job was to row, which they were doing, at a steady race pace of 30 strokes per minute.

We did another focus 20 that took us through River Street Bridge and towards Western Ave. I talked our agreed mantra, "Relax, Ratio, and Rhythm" in various forms. We had rhythm, we had ratio, and we had a set boat, leaning neither to port, as we often did, nor to starboard. Everyone was working for the whole.

As I changed point for Weeks Bridge, from where the bridge meets Cambridge shore to the starboard abutment of the middle bridge opening, boat 26 moved in and tried to pass us. They did not announce themselves a half length back, as the rules said they should, and when I turned to look, saw their bow pointed towards our hull. They had not begun their turn. I gave way, but had I given as much as the cox wanted, we would have been forced to go through the far right bridge opening, where the possibility of going off course was one hundred percent and the possibility of hitting rocks was likely. Their bow seat was yelling at us the entire time to move over, which was unnerving. I moved to starboard, but I was going to take us through that middle opening and their cox was going to have to turn her boat, which, thank god, she began to do. We clashed oars inside the bridge opening, their bow seat still yelling, my crew and I intimidated, but feeling, at least I felt, wronged. I had had them ease off the whole time, and we weighed enough to allow boat 26 to pass us, immediately taking it back to race pace, which everyone so strongly did. Watching that boat head off in front of us was the nadir of the race for me. I knew I needed different tools, a strategy, a voice to yell back and assert our right to space on the race course, to call that cox on her unsafe decision, call her to take her turn and take control of her rower. We went into a focus 20 during which we let go of the bridge and pulled ourselves back into the race. Everyone got right back on pressure, to the 30, to sending the boat, taking control of the Doris and moving her forward. I set our point to the right edge of the white apartment building and Doris's rudder did most of the work turning us port around the Big Turn. We stayed on the orange buoys, inside, and then eased starboard to give us that sharp turn through Eliot Bridge. We came through lined up perfectly towards Belmont Hill Boathouse. Ahead of us about four boats clustered together. I thought we were moving up on them, but by the time we passed the green buoys and hugged the shore around the turn, easing to port for the last forty strokes of the race, those boats were too far ahead to catch. I'd tried a couple of times to go for power twenties, but the speed we were going seemed to be the speed we had. I opted not to take us to a sprint for our last 20, though I sort of left it to Nora, our stroke, saying, we were taking our last 20 "on this one," so that if she wanted to take it up two, she still could. We crossed between the finish buoys with good rhythm and ratio, having held off the number 24 boat the whole race. Suddenly I wanted back on the race course, knowing what I now knew, in that flood of relief for having made it unscathed and unhumiliated, the adrenaline rush of the race done. "That's it? That's the whole thing?" I thought I thought but said aloud. "You guys must want to kill me," I sort of apologized. "You could have waited a few more strokes," Marcie said. We paddled slowly along another several hundred yards to the turn around point, a mass of eights, two or three motorboats with orange jacketed marshalls with their megaphones. After our turn, we had to paddle past several connect a docks before we approached ours, our teammates on shore to help us lug Doris from the water, carry our oars and seat pads and water bottles. It was all congratulations and relief, earned fatigue. We brought the boat back to the slings, and ran back to the shore to try to see our 40+ four finish their race. We missed seeing them, but helped them in on return. We derigged boats and I called my eight together for a tiny meeting, where we sang "Que Sera, Sera" and I passed out "medicinal" chocolates with the word "Renewal" on their wrapping paper, as well as our car window stickers that announced we were 2007 Head of the Charles Race Participants.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Race Report: Race V (22) 2007 Head of the Charles, Part I: Pre-Race

I was determined our race day launch would not be a repeat of the dangerous and frightening experience we had Friday attempting to launch the Pocock 8 from the plastic Connect-a-Dock squat T . I scouted for nearby permanent docks and came up with zilch, both up and down river. Carrying the boat would be stressful too. It's heavy! I asked the coxswain in the orange jacket bbeside our nearest nightmare formation if they'd made any structural changes, which they had not. The cox the previous day had offered me one bit of advice about launching. She held up a stick and pointed 6" - 8" down its length. "That's how deep the water is off the dock," she said. I hoped for 8" and an intact rudder. This cox remarked that the previous day's helper was very inexperienced, and proceeded to give me a workable plan for getting the boat safely onto the dock. We followed her directions, spun the boat so the stern faced the water, took the boat up and overhead, and rowers slid so they were bunched between 2 and 3 seat and between 5 and 6 seat. Only then, boat still held high, did the stern group mount the connect a dock blocks that formed the stem of the T, angle up river and walk towards the end of the left side of the t-top, at which point it was workable to get the rowers holding the bow onto the T stem and over to the right side of the T top with nobody having to assume the Atlas-position, as Becky had done Friday. Rowers took the boat (borrowed from Navy, who had named it the St. Joe's, renamed by us "The Doris" in honor of Doris Day and "Que Sera, Sera" which was our fight song,) around and down and pushed it out a little as it landed on water, my hand on the stern by the rudder (a larger turnier rudder attached by and borrowed from John Titus of Pocock the previous day) which did not touch bottom or break off. The rowers got their oars and I attached my borrowed cox box (from the kind folks in the NK booth) and borrowed speed coach (from kind Nicki of Pocock). I called "Oars across," waited as the port oars went out to steady the boat like outriggers, called "one foot in," and then "Down." As they tied in to the mostly giant size 14 shoes on the foot stretchers I crawled into the stern cox seat, attached my headset to the coxbox in its round cradle, turned on the speed coach, we counted up, pushed out into the Charles River and joined the parade of mostly 8's on the down river journey to the starting chute.
No stroke rate registered on the cox box, though the amplification system worked. Two thirds of the way through our warm up, after turning the stroke coach on and off half a dozen times and just as I was about to have us weigh enough so folks could get a final drink and rest a minute the stroke coach gave me a rate of 19. I asked them to take it up two in two and lo the stroke coach registered 21. Nora, our stroke, shed her cowl of worry, dropped her shoulders three inches, and we were ready to do it for Doris.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"Nobody told me how fun this would be!" - Shelley (AFTER we raced)

Conibear 40+ 8 plus cox (that would be me, which is to say my arm in this photo) rowing the Head of the Charles on Saturday. We more than made our goals, which were:
1. do not dfl
2. do not hit bridges or other boats

The reindeer pulling this sleigh:
Nora, Denise, Marcie, Paula, Beth, Shelley, Becky and Jen.

Cox yells, "On Dancer!" and etc.

Average age: well above 40, except for Jen who is way, way under.

I am in a period of mourning for the anxiety and anticipation of the big event. I have downloaded the course map for the Head of the Lake, which will be November 11. Twice, but the second time it was accidentally. I also have played the Coaches & Coxes Video, both parts one and two, for this race. At the cox clinic Friday I bought a HOC "From the cox's seat" video, which shows Yas Farouk, former #1 cox in US, coxing the 1992 US Olympic Team Reunion 4 through the course last year. We saw a "do not try this at home" section of the video at the clinic, involving almost but not quite cutting off another boat just before the Weeks Bridge, which apparently the cox of boat 26 in our race took to be the way to take that bridge, so that we had a near collision with this boat that failed to announce itself before coming inside and attempting to pass us as I was setting up our turn, so that we clashed oars within the middle arch of the Weeks Bridge while the bow seat yelled at us in an intimidating manner. I had given and did give way for them to progress, but dammit was not going to let her make me go through the right hand arch which would have put us off course and possibly into the rocks. Oh! Did I mention that this boat also didn't seem to be taking this necessary turn? Neither of the boats got a penalty and I got a lesson in learning to be more aggressive. AT THE TIME, IN PROGRESS. SHEESH but sports are an in the moment activity!

Monday, October 15, 2007


We went fast, beating all 8s including the Mt. Baker Men's 8 by 26 seconds. We even beat the 50's 4 boat's time. It being a head race beating doesn't equal passing a boat, but we did pass the Mt. Baker Women's 8 along the wall before the finish line, which was extremely exciting and encouraging. After waiting three hours and warming up on the ergs four times as the fog pranced around on its little cat feet teasing us - now we could see the police boat, now we couldn't see the launch dock, now the entire bay was clear but the starting sailboat was invisible, etc., the water was glorious, sun bright, sky blue and our boat as I may have mentioned before performed the best ever.

Maybe I should (pardon the pun) launch a coxing blog?

note: archive scenic photo from Conibear's website .

Saturday, October 13, 2007

One Week to Go to Race Day

But first I will veer wildly from course, cutting buoys with my thick hull. I have just finished and returned to its owner a bad bit of my dog and me memoir which number one makes me mad, this being the woman's seventh book, and how the he** does she get her work published when what my work receives on my meager enveloped outings into the world of publishing is mostly a typed reply with no ink from a human being? Number two was going to be that I too had a full and charmed relationship with my dog, but I ran out of steam as I began tumbling into my actual first topic of the day which is that I got an envelope in the mail yesterday from Artist Trust. It was a thin envelope, which was not encouraging, but I still hoped I had received one of the bi-annual fellowships. As I opened the envelope, I could see that it contained a photocopied list of recipients rather than an individually addressed letter. There were three hundred something applicants for 22 fellowships, in crafts and I don't know domino balancing, as well as literary, which was my, and I do mean that I thought it would be my, category. I had told friends that I felt winning the fellowship would validate me as a poet in a way that I need.

I'm in a disappointing place in my teaching career what with the leaving no child untested climate of WASL and the direction my main artist in the schools job source has taken. With writing, I think what is important is what happens in the gaps. That's where the astonishment lives. I once had a novice writer in the schools shadow me. When I checked in with him during a lesson I saw that his notes tracked my actions minute by minute. 11:23: Laura holds up funnel and says, (whatever the h#@ I said.) He wrote down everything but had no sense whatever what was going on in that room. The Seattle School District has gone to a writer's workshop model that comes from Columbia University's Teachers College. Swell and good. But not for those who work as I do, which is not to dependably travel from point a to point b in a straight and predictable line. My teaching credo holds that I resist such certainty in service of surprise, which I believe is essential to creativity. I hold to joy in the work. The writing and the teaching. I want to be where the juice is, pulp is, rich and squishy, smelly and alive. Opening that Artist Trust envelope, I felt flattened and dead.

So peeve number two after the big rejection and the competently written but not so scintillating dog memoir is the novel I picked up at the lady store based on a blog its author wrote after a big break-up. It too contains okay writing. It also adds page count through expanses of text from the blog, which I guess was famous and that's fine. I just don't understand why she's published and the dog lady is published and I'm rejected for the big fellowship that was going to buoy my confidence and instead I have to buoy my own confidence with the usual why care what others think write for and from yourself blah blah blah.

To punish myself I will now write that my output has nothing like the page count of dog memoir lady or blog babe. Okay, okay, they write prose. I'm writing prose this minute! Could I scissor it into a book-length manuscript about me and what is important to me and how everybody wants to know what is going on with me including my wardrobe, at this moment orange cashmore fleece top (Title Nine, no idea of price as Julia worked there before she went to coach women's rowing at U of Miami, leaving the top here because it is 90 humid degrees there in October), brown cords (Fury Consignment $16), brand new vintage glasses (Ottica $150 plus lenses covered by my insurance), Smartwool socks (Mirage Shoes, $8), and Keen green sandals (Mirage Shoes $82 with $5 off coupon because I buy lots of shoes there)? Does anybody remember why there is a question mark at the end?

There may be something age appropriate in all this behavior. I've been reading The Wisdom of Menopause which has its appealing moments even though its author reads a bit smug for my taste. "When I can't sleep, I go downstairs and brew myself a pot of chamomile tea, then pop back into bed," which, along with skin of gherkin and three butt hairs from a Tibetan rat is about what I do. The fifties, when I was born and the age I am. That's all. I just wanted to write that phrase. But back to the book which features I may have mentioned in a previous blog a ginormous photo of its author as I don't know free mountable photo for over the fireplace maybe. I've dropped reproductive hormones and with them the scrim of happy attachment to going along, getting along, a state of being I had a tad tentative hold on in the first place if you ask anyone in my family. The angry "now I see life as it really is" clarity of PMS has hit the fan all month long for me at fifty five.

There are themed blogs and then there is mine where I get to rant into the ether and push PUBLISH POST which since I read the world is publishing to me. By the way, I have foregone any attempt to punctuate in a standard manner. I blame this on the fact that I am in the middle of reading through and grading eighth graders' short stories. Notice we have now entered a fifth or sixth topic which is not the Head of the Charles Regatta.

A paragraph about the Head of the Charles. I am scared though I prefer to frame it that I am excited about and giddily anticipating the challenge of coxing my eight through this three mile head race course. Last night I hosted a movie night for the boat. Four starboards and two ports attended. We ate pizza and popcorn, drank wine and beer, ate brownies from a heart shaped mother brownie and sweet spicy pumpkin muffins, talked about the race, watched the HOC safety video and then Bend It Like Beckham to inspire us to great girl athletic action. As one of the starboards (who had to leave early) noted, we could very well do very well in the race. We have no idea who the other competitors are. Nineteen of the thirty-one were invited, the other teams, like us, were chosen not for prowess but by lottery. Last year our 40 4+ boat, who came by lottery, was surprised to come in third. We could do that!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

To Cox the Head of the Charles

not actually a primer, more an attempt to write down what I need to remember so as not to:

1) run into anything such as another boat, the shore, a bridge arch

2) come in dfl*

This morning the HOC (Head of the Charles) 8 practiced with the two 4's that will be going with us to the HOC Regatta. Very exciting in the dark dark predawn. For example, Eleanor said, "Laura, aim at the fishing pier." I looked into the murk and pointed the boat where I thought the fishing pier should and turned out to be. And lo the light increased and by the time we were to 50th street I could see the division between land and sky, water and land, and I saw it and it was good. Strange large rollers this morning, but these calmed down as we headed south into the bay within Seward Park's thumb. We were concentrating on easy speed, on pulling together so that we can pick up the pace again moving together to send the boat rather than tightening up, shortening up and rowing at individual times and elevations to cause the boat to lurch back with each stroke. What we're looking to do is to send the boat forward with each drive. Yes!

We practiced pause drills, pausing at arms away and at body over in order:

1) to move arms and body BEFORE legs

2) to have all 8 moving together when we resumed regular rowing

We continued to have the issue of being low to port, with immediate corrections of having ports raise hands and starboards lower hands fixing the problem which then reemerged when rowers went back to comfortable defaults. We worked on returning again and again to what works best for the boat.

I've watched the safety course video two times. There are six bridges, it is a buoyed course, there will be folks rowing back on our port side, outside the course buoys. There are places where the river is very narrow. The marshalling point by Boston University Bridge is huge. The first thing the guidance video says is that the first rule for the race is finding the beginning of the course. I think I've got it. I wish there were many videos, one for each sort of light we might encounter.

* dead fucking last. an official racing term.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thirteenth and Final 13x13

ed & of of no be he so us an an do by

kale dark heliotrope in terra cotta weighted
with Martha Washington geraniums &
the hanging pot that offered its bounty of
languid lobelia as down the alley men of
rhythmic insistence pounded plastic pails of
drywall mud and too wide trucks with no
consideration blocked my car but I had to be
gracious as I was brought up to be unlike he
who pounded oblivious as flowers so
I stared at leaves and blooms, no us
to intrude on solitude this pounding an
irritation like drizzle or an
unlit road where there's nothing to do
so you wait, wait, wait, stand by.


I am not entirely pleased with my 13x13 experiment but committed to it and now am done and truly. There's something to tout, shout about, whatever clever me.

House of women this week, husband in another city at his company's monthly "Programmathon" for extended time, my sister here this week to begin her distance learning information science masters program at the UW, my daughter here to work till her husband sells or rents their Boise house so they can move here.

Today is my planning meeting for a big teaching residency that will determine my holes for the year I can then fill with writing, including residencies elsewhere, which I crave.

A little dulled and padded in cotton wadding, mirroring this Seattle fall day of bland cloud and muffled sounds out the window, dreary with the waning light. This far north the light wanes early, all day on a cloudy day like this one.

Tonight is poetry writing group. Do I have a poem to take? I have these 13x13 pieces, one of which might do. Or not. I don't recall there was an assignment, haven't gone to group nearly all summer, but I'll go with whatever I have that's new if not all that good. What is my fricking project now?

Waiting to hear back about my two chapbooks, and about my fellowship application.

Ah and in other news, I went to the optometrist yesterday. My sister wears glasses that correct for astigmatism and distance vision. When I tried them on, I saw more clearly, which led me to make the optometrist appointment. As I have uncorrected lazy eye in my left eye, which as I recall from my childhood has 20/400 vision whatever that means, I did very badly on the left eye eye exam and took it as a personal failing. I could not tell the very nice technician which of the lenses between my eye and the vague wall sharpened my vision. I had to bring my adult to counsel my inner child that I need not feel ashamed not to be able to see, even to fuzz to black (not Amy Winehouse's black) most of the grid I was supposed to see with or without wavy grid. I saw a black circle instead of most of the grid with my left eye. A brain tumor, obviously.

The kind tech left the room to consult with the optometrist. When she returned she told me he'd explained that the condition I have made further exploration of my inadequate vision unnecessary. I hadn't been able to accomplish binocular vision while reading a card of poorly constructed and predictable sentences of decreasing size through the giant owl eye device. She then put yellow eye drops in my eyes to numb them so she could put the glaucoma testing devise to each eye. I didn't believe her when she said she had touched the surface of each eyeball with it. The cylinder shape that approached my retina was fascinatingly blue. I am easily amused. I had enjoyed the air balloon in blue sky scene she showed me at the beginning through the owl eyes device. There was a flattened polaroid camera with two eye pieces I held at one point, as well as the plastic spoon disk to cover one eye and the 3d movie glasses with pinpricks and a little lever to close the pinpricks off one eye at a time. I also looked through something that had a series of red concentric circle circumferences like a portal to another dimension in a sci fi movie.

When the optometrist met with me he pooh poohed any weirdness about my left eye, focusing (ha) on the very little correction I might need to see better with my right, which does have mild astigmatism and a bit of distance vision difficulty. He said my problem with blurry vision after reading with my reading glasses (1.25, from the drug store) is not due as I thought to aging lenses unable to adjust quickly (I imagine attempting to adjust a rusted old fashioned camera lens)but to my straining my eyes with too little correction and suggested I try 1.5 reading glasses. "I think you'll be amazed at the difference," he said, adding that I will feel far less fatigued. I think he was talking only of my eyes, but I have a certain zesty hope that I'll feel more bouncy overall.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

13x13, Day 12

You led with both ursas. I thought not
bad, showed you orion's belt. I stared
beyond for effect, which wasn't what
did you in. You had to have me always,
my honking laugh, bitten nails, odd gait,
and lazy eye my mother mentioned
and you smiled out of politeness
her eyes on you like headlights to your brain.
you had no idea where we would take
you nor had I, who thought only of myself,
fly on fire on the dashboard
none of my business.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

13x13, Day 11 plus Alice Walker heals what ails you

only then here will have take than they feel were who him fall
Only when our feet touch earth
then we breathe and remember we are
here and see green and babies, have
will to wonder at willows that
have a place here with us though we
take ourselves more seriously
than eternity calls for given
they sway with underground water
feel atmospheric pressure and
were here before us
who think we are precious, me,
him, you, all of us so puffed up who
fall down so soon so soon
Alice Walker read her new children's book WHY WAR IS NEVER A GOOD IDEA at Town Hall last night as well as her last children's book THE FLOWER ON THE END OF MY NOSE IS SMELLING ME as well as being being being in our presence so that I relaxed and spent those hours there with her, crying when she talked about walking with her overweight lab and many other times from being touched not tough, my sister beside me here from San Francisco to begin a distance learning graduate program at the UW, and so apprehensive about it. Both of us nervous about how to be with one another, both of us given this lovely lovely oasis of calm and presence in experience of joy and of difficulty. Who cares if I sound frickin newage?

Monday, September 24, 2007

13x13, Day 11

only then here will have take than they feel were who him fall

Only you and I rise at five

then as cars drowse

here and no birds sing but

will for joy of new light

have a place on this lake

take fish rather

than frogs from shallows

they dive as we

feel to avoid where geese

were as you who shoulder boats

who lug armfuls of oars no

him among us breathe

fall adjust stretchers and row


guten morgen and off to find an optometrist covered by my new insurance

Sunday, September 23, 2007

13x13, Day 10

Can doesn't mean will

but won't is unsatisfying.

Say you want

but you don't know what.

Hot resentment burns

sun-like and you

see everyone so clearly

for what they short shrift,

the unfit shirt gift,

ant trail on the counter verge.

Was this what you hoped?

Get your own life going.


Happy Sunday of marshmallow sky above the big leaf maples beyond my urban chicken farming neighbors' white house.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

13X13, Day 9

Almost makes me want more, or less
though I'm prone to temporizing though
always makes your reader confident
through your certainty
behind which who knows who they
believe you are not waffling
woman of bitten inner cheek but
bloom of hothouse
season immune
flower of
eternal persimmon
tomato gorgeous harvest


off to breakfast

Friday, September 21, 2007

13x13, Day 8

Between is not
morning. I want
summer sandals,
birthday candles,
freedom from ghosts.

Another says
weather passes,
puddle famous
goddess of my
promise, promise,

murmur sweetness,
together or
monster, be. BE.

Thirteen four-syllable lines. After grading two classes worth of setting descriptions from the five senses. By eighth graders. Oh, and ordering Sally Foster Fundwraps on the internet to benefit the school. And depositing my first teaching check of the school year. And having lunch with my daughter. and especially after sitting in the stern of a long narrow boat steering and talking while eight other women rowed. That was pretty glorious as the sun rose through the partial clouds over the sleepy lake.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

13x13, Day 7 plus hairtastrophy

Echoed Hit Parade

sweet the singer and the song they say of
spring or said so long ago we've only read
would love we thought to live with no
winter of word solace to rue
which we do as when we're rude or
dream of being who we're not in that
garden of perfection we wouldn't have to weed
nature of our nostalgia no scent of dung
happy love more happy happy love or
month of merry may with flowers this
world will never seed you
laugh and I as summer verdigris our
shrubs as grubs fatten in loam shade


whoopie and hydeho she's still got it I crow for no
one this felt sky morn as another prius this one red
rattles out the alley for the owner's day away
and I prepare my fiction lesson for 8th graders and now this is prose and I'll continue in this vein till I have to quit and enter figures in quicken, pay bills online from my bank's website, take a moment to book travel to Boston because I have committed to coxing the Head of the Charles race, the 8 we've added having won the lottery so that there'll be three Conibear boats on that river, two bow coxed fours and our eight and I'm not yet mentally or physically prepared for this rash leap of rashness rashly promulgated entered into etc by me yesterday morning when I was so happy to see everyone at the boathouse and they were happy to see me and there we go I do still and all want to be within the web. We're spiders now, but in the next paragraph we'll go back to I singular who I hope will morph human.

I want to quote Shawna coming up the stairs this morning who lamented "my hairzaster" and then in front of the bathroom mirror, "this morning's hairtastrophy," because she's off to an architects' conference on green building and all the architects are cool. And then she explained they're effortlessly cool, don't care if they're cool, just are cool. Except they like to keep building more buildings higher and higher all over the city, that's not so cool. The conference is going all day at REI Headquarters which may or may not be a great example of green building what with all the tearing down and building new and not reused and also grand vast and humongous. Shawna by the way is cool.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

13x13, Day 6

green, please, never, above, about, warm, party, juice, peace, name, rattle, moon, work

green paint chip reads "wild asparagus"
please make me gallons, let me
never lose my love for paint names
above all paint fan decks, let me dream
about evening primrose,
warm my roller with Empire Yellow,
party puce,
juice my appetite for Parisian Rouge,
peace rose, cape blue. what's in a
name smells sweet as
rattle of rhubarb russet, sooth of
moon beam on brush, names to
work my imagination away from hock

Monday, September 17, 2007

13x13, Day 5

make, want, when, light, snow, some, cake, from, their, there, leave, grow, relax

make you a bet what I
want and what you want
when night follows
light with shadows across
snow never hail or
some kind of cold
cake smearing
from your mother or
their mother as long as
there is cake we want
leave to be loved and
grow wings we can
relax under

but anyway I feel sadness in this testing and new processes for success climate in schools where who knows if what I can do is raise test scores? I thought the purpose of artists in residence was for kids to see another way to see the world, another way of being, somebody with a passion for something other than rubriks and spelling competencies, someone in my case who doesn't much give a passel what grades you're good for, what portion of the raised wasl scores you have proudly plugged away to earn for teacher and primarily principal to keep her job. I thought what I was good for in a school was a little charge of an undiscovered outside world, the fact there are always undiscovered outside worlds and all you have to do is look out there, all you have to do is live and open yourself to possibilities you have keys to, not teacher, not schoolbook, not laptop or tool. You. Inside that vast mind that everybody is so afraid you'll discover on your own and flee into so you won't buy video games, cell phones, gap jeans but lean into your dreams and into the future you can oh still and yet create.

how much of a future do I have as a writer in the schools? I mean if I don't collaborate unto cooperate unto plough under my own fields and become a member of the borg, another set of feelers touching feelers all of us getting our instructions from the queen who is the only one of us fully sexed and sentient. how sad and wasteful.

I don't feel so much used up as ill used and poorly understood. but it is not the misunderstanding of me that daunts me and makes me crabby, what I dislike unto loathe is the removal of the child from the education, the removal of education from the school, the removal of teacher even for children not disposed to do well with people. set them in front of screens at home and that will be the same and oh dear what is this future going to look like even as I yada yada about disappearing into one's own dream. See I don't much believe one's own dream can emerge from a mass produced anything, even book. Perhaps time alone under stars in a (pervert free) night field would do as much for a child as I can.

and then there's my developmental stage in which I feel uninspired to nurture teachers, administrators, even children. I have little inclination to accomodate. I never much liked the real feel of real public schools though I like many public school teachers and kids. What is it I bring that I can articulate so they can say yea or nay and stop with the prodding of my offering into distorted shapes not so conducive to my communicating what it is that makes it worth anyone's time that I'm there taking time and money from what else they could be doing in classes. I am in danger of waxing nostalgic for the days when there were unworn down un threatened teachers who got what I brought asked for it and thanked me when we were done and kids lifted pens, pencils, crayons and wrote/drew/enthused/woke up/questioned/thrived on a moment's brush with something in themselves that sparkled dazzlingly - and we all saw it, recognized it, prized it, wanted more and more of it. It, babies, is what I offer and what schools don't so much want anymore as it distracts from writers workshop which works so wondrously well with writer testing within the comfortingly uniformly shaped grid of lockstep expectation and realization and I am being unfair here and mean and am guilty of oversimplification but mostly I am bruised and sad and disappointed and not so very driven to fight anyone. we watch as our country, pawn of commerce, descends to third world status, the rich unimaginably towering over the rest of us who toil in shadow and live those lives of quiet desperation while infrastructure collapses and so many toto's tug at the curtain we ignore them and lie under our thinning blankets and mutter our impotent rage into pillows crowded with kapok and dustmites. Can we be stirred by language like Melville's? Bishop's? I say yes, but cautiously. I can be, am stirred by stories, by poems, and believe as my necklace says that reading and writing can save your life, also that reading and writing can be a life. I believe these things even as I feel sad this is not what schools want me to deliver. It's all deliverables, baby.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

13x13, Day 4

grass, come, night, could, bring, shine, every, grow, more, little, good, hope, child

Grass close the stars we
come away from captivity into
night to view, so dark Galileo
could feel at home
bring that crude telescope and
shine wisdom down the future so
every one of us would
grow minds
more free from commandments with
little to do with life, universal
good too vast to grasp in books in hand like
hope in the fist of a

Friday, September 14, 2007

13x13, Day 3

like, cold, how, bird, why, with, time, like, give, blue, dark, that, gray

Like you, I lack life force on

cold mornings, no socks.

How do cougar, salmon,

bird wake with verve?




like us they'll

give way in


dark that fades



onward and upward into day we scrabble.

"Are good writers good at Scrabble?" an eighth grade boy wanted to know on my first day at St. Joe's.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

13X13, Day 2

The Magnetic Poetry word block is 13 words down by 13 words across. Today's list:

our, out, use, you, live, she, are, has, day, this, rain full, ask

Our father who, but listen, there are chickens
out there, across the city alley, and we
use their eggs just like
you who
live in rural places or
she who sells them in a far country where they
are starving, you know, them, and no one
has new anything but all the time each
day to starve never think
this is the first day of your but
rain will fall again and
full the earth might offer what we
watercolor by Sarah Sutro

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Poem from

First Column, Magnetic Poetry block from 07 calendar given to me by teacher friend:

love, keep, year, must, easy, after, hard, work, look, sing, melt, man, turn

Art by Don Fels

SAM Gallery Artists on Place, Artist Reception Thursday Sept. 13, 5-7 pm

Love thy neighbor as thy self cannot
keep youth in thrall, as year after
year those happy times ago when
must ran higgly piggly with shall as
easy as milk and mama as salmon
after milt when the world pulsed
hard with crisp apples, a
work in upward progress. We
look now to nostalgia, wanting to
sing for once was. As ice floes
melt we buy away our guilt,
man we bray to muted sky,
turn another sway around the sun.
-Laura Gamache

Rebecca Loudon, Peter Pereira and Jared Leising will be reading at Elliot Bay Bookstore on Friday (THIS Friday, Sept. 14). Read this blurb and GOOOOOOOO! :

Tonight we feature what should be an engaging trio of poets, both established and emerging, creators of some of the better work coming out of this corner of the country. Physician and poet Peter Pereira, founding editor of Floating Bridge Press, will read from his newest collection, What's Written on the Body (Copper Canyon Press). Joining him is Rebecca Loudon, here with two new books, Radish King (Ravenna Press) and Navigate, Amelia Earhart's Letters Home (No Tell Books). Also on tap here is Jared Leising, who teaches English at Cascadia Community College, volunteers for 826 Seattle, and has a chapbook out, The Widows and Orphans of Winesburg, Ohio (Pudding House Publications).