Wednesday, November 30, 2016


I spend a good part of each week helping students fix sentence fragments in their essays, and another good part of each week creating my own sentence fragments disguised as haiku. I have always loved the "know the rules so you can intentionally break them" aspect of the craft of writing. This includes breaking all the laws of physics, which might be a little out of the scope of this blog entry, but I promise I'll return to it in the near past.

Those of you who know my work know that "shards" of things often make an appearance. A haiku is a shard of image, a shard of moment, a thing whole unto itself that is also a piece broken from a larger whole. This is part of the allure of haiku, how it so blatantly allows the reader to "fill in" all the space around it.

It also describes haiga, which offers in visual form the image broken from its context, becoming self-contained yet evocative of something more, something at once known and unknown.

On this last fragment of the month, a fragment of image, a fragment of moment, in which may or may not be contained all of something, to begin us on the journey of today...



Monday, November 28, 2016

A Word from Our Sponsor (Poetry!)

A few days ago, I read some sad news from a small press. Sales were almost non-existent, and the press had decided to stop reading new submissions, at least until the spring of 2017.

Poetry (and all art) is the LAST thing we should let slip from our lives, especially in this disturbing world wherein lies and hate and an overall lack of critical and creative thinking are gaining ground.

Please support poetry presses. Please buy books. Please buy art from local artists. These are the only things that last. And while we last, poetry and art give meaning to our lives. Please shop on Main Street or Spring Street or Broad Street or wherever the small, locally-owned shops are located in your town.

I have brazenly included my own books to illustrate this plea, but I'd be just as happy if you buy the books of other poets and writers (there is some wonderful fiction and memoir and biography out there, too).

Give the gift of poetry and art. Buy some for yourself while you're at it. Splurge on poetry. We need poetry. Poetry needs us.


For people in the vicinity of Sussex County, New Jersey, two local bookstores go out of their way to support local authors. Please visit Black Dog Books on Spring Street in Newton and Broad Street Books in the very center of Branchville for books by local authors and other wonderful gifts.

Feel free to post a comment below about other great bookshops and local artists and craftspeople. Support a neighbor and a community as you do your holiday shopping this season.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Outdoors Again

My innovation today was photographing this collage before I glued it. I like the three-dimensional quality of the scraps just resting on the paper.

A walk yesterday and today along one of my favorite railtrails provided the inspiration I needed to see colors anew. Thanks to this morning's flock of bluebirds, I even remember there are colors other than brown.

poor posture
in this wind-swept place


Friday, November 25, 2016

More Broken Shells

Geez, what is with the earth tones? Even as a kid, I loved all the names for the shades of brown pencils in my father's Prismacolor collection: terra cotta, sienna, burnt ochre, light and dark umber. This time of year, the browns come into their own, as if to say, Appreciate me while there's time, before the world goes white.

You might not think of brown when you think of seashells, but as you can see from the moonsnail pieces in the haiga to the left, there's umber, and copper, and a grayish mauve that saturates into terra cotta in the topmost whorl. You can't stop staring at those three gorgeous broken shells, can you. You aren't even reading this. I could write "the" six times, and you won't even notice: the, the, the, the, the, the.

You want them, those shells, don't you? Heck, I want them,  and they're right here on my desk in front of me.




I desire colored pencils in all the shades of brown I saw in the woods this morning: oak-tannin, wheat-field, November phragmities, cattail, coffee-bark, hopping wren... know that's going to be a poem some time soon...





Broken Shells

Yesterday's three posts about collage and the brain are with me still, as I think about the difference between collage--disparate elements working together to form a whole--and chaos. In this time of chaos, I have turned to collage to try to make or find sense. It's a great strategy, if one concentrates on six or seven square inches of notebook page and doesn't look up.

The seashore is an example of a "natural collage," a random (laws of geology, hydrology, physics, meteorology notwithstanding) collection of stone, sand, shell, patterns of water, wind. Broken shells defy the adjective "broken," being almost as beautiful as they were when whole, sometimes more lovely for revealing the inner whorled column.

Can we defy the adjective "broken"? I think this is what artists do in every work of art: either celebrate the broken or take the first steps toward mending the break, forming the broken thing into something new.

From broken to new. It's what we are working towards in these difficult weeks, holding on even to broken things, because broken is still better than surreal. Collage is better than chaos. Even a few square inches here and there.


broken shells
complaint echoes complaint
throughout the night

Thursday, November 24, 2016

From Brain...part trois

And so it continues, the creative energy of the morning of the first day of a long weekend.


every brain
a collage of


From Brain...part deux

And then I thought (this is continued from my previous entry, so it really isn't as non seq as it looks), of course, the brain itself is a collage, one to which we keep adding fragments of impressions of images and tearing away some fragments and superimposing all. the. time. or so neuroscientists tell us, creating a new memory each time we recall something we call a "memory" even though it's never the same memory twice.

(Can you image what these posts would be like if I drank coffee?)

The brain itself is a collage. Of course, then, we are drawn to collage as a means of expressing all the simultaneous, important, beautiful, worrisome, haunting, haunted bits of information we want to impart.

I wonder if we process stuff better when it is presented in this aggregate. Certainly we make connections when we have stuff to connect. Can you look at the above collage with an awareness of how your eyes are moving up, down, around, across; how you are reading some words and forming others to tell yourself what it is you are seeing? I sort of do that in slow-motion as I am creating the collage. Then I let it take me in new directions as I write the text that will "complete" (wrong word for a collage) it.

Then I start thinking of the next one...

pieces of
the memory of
speaking of
a feeling of
not enough of

From Brain to Bird

As I was making this collage, I thought about why our brains love collage. From cave paintings and petroglyphs  around the world that are collage-like, to quilts, to the way collage techniques are used in advertising, to montages and other moving-collage techniques in video...there are endless examples of this paradox of chance and design that goes into collage.

And of course, a poem is a kind of collage, and haiku and tanka incorporate the power of the seemingly random juxtaposition of disparate elements in order to make or present or suggest meaning(s).

The order of disorder. Guided serendipity. Beauty from a mess. Fun.


a measure of sky
that isn't sky
from brain to bird

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Look Up

This is an unsatisfying haiku--it's a grammatical sentence, for one thing, and I've had haiku rejected by editors for such an infraction. But I was playing around with the image, and I'll consider this a first draft to return to when I have more time. Take some time to look up at the'll be amazed at how easy it is to see oneself.

Long weekend coming...If the cranberry mimosas don't slow me down, there will be haiga!


when we see the sky
we seldom recognize

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Magpie Indiscretions

I was just reading about gendai haiku, which always makes me long to write gendai haiku. This means, depending on whose translation/explanation one trusts, haiku that is modern, post-modern, surreal, avant-garde...rule breaking, to be sure, but not in a way that is disrespectful of the original "rules" of haiku (not that there were any such "rules" to begin with, but the myths surrounding haiku are hard to shake). And so, the above "magpie indiscretions," found haiku, collage, erasure...a rough draft to send us on our way...

(...and wouldn't "magpie indiscretions" be a great book title? Hmmm...)


magpie indiscretions
Sunday in the ark
contrary problems

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Paradox of Place, part deux

I love the word "center." My writing place is my center, the unchanging (well, sometimes I vacuum) center of a too-susceptible-to-changing world. My notebook is the center of my center.

I think one of the reasons I love visiting historic homes--especially the homes of writers and artists--is because I like to glimpse the outward evidence of that creative center. Edith Wharton's library at The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts. Emily Dickinson's room in her Amherst house. Thomas Cole's studio in Catskill, New York. These are places that inspire me. I love the light, the gardens, the trees, the stuff of everyday life around the center of extraordinary creation.

To find and re-find, fine and re-fine, one's center is a daily practice.




Paradox of Place

A room of one's own, as Virginia Woolf called it. That place in which to do that thing--writing, painting, thinking--that is the means by which one can process and explore and describe the world.

That place in which one can, in some small way, begin to traverse the rift between the world that is and the world that could be.

That place to escape and, in escaping, fully engage.

The place where, in all comfort and solace, the lack of comfort and solace is contemplated and formed into something meaningful.

I long for this place, even when I'm here.


small talk
having been broken twice
into shards of shards

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Conversation

A lecture on the history of modern art yesterday by my brilliant colleague Michael Hughes now has me wanting to revisit every museum I've been to, to see anew all the paintings that might indeed have something to say to me but for which I previously did not have the words with which to hold up my end of the dialogue. "Art isn't just for the eyes; art is for the mind," Michael says.

"Now it's time for your contribution to this dialogue," I wish I could add as a little tag at the end of my poems. It's your turn, reader, to make this collection of words a conversation.

Even in silence, lots needs to be said.
Especially in silence, lots needs to be said.




Friday, November 18, 2016

Somewhere Else

I began today with normal (see previous blog entry) and now I'm at somewhere else. Just thinking about where ideas come from; "somewhere else" seems as good an answer as any. The small collages I do in my notebooks are a way to invite ideas that originate "somewhere else" to put in an appearance. This technique seems to work almost every time. Which is pretty amazing, now that I think about it. Hope I haven't jinxed it.

I really do need to get that haiku collage workshop organized, don't I?





A heron in November, a chance to talk to an elusive student about her writing...two moments that I am tempted to call "normal" in what surely feel like abnormal times. A poem about that "normal" moment that proves noteworthy. A poem about the "ordinary" being extraordinary. The quotidian, the everyday. A guy walks into a bar and everyone shouts, "Norm!" There's a poem there.


lopsided syntax
recalling the heron
at dusk


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Reflections, Shadows

Those of you who know my photographs know I love reflections and shadows. Sometimes I think I love the reflections of things and the shadows cast by things more than the things themselves. I do this in my poetry as well, portray not the thing but the reflection of the thing, the shadow of the thing, the absence of the thing. That may get to the essence of art in any medium.

What is it about a reflection or shadow that so intrigues us? Both are the result of light; without light, there would be no reflection, no shadow. The absence of the thing is the thing after all. This, too, may get to the essence of art in any medium.


between galleries
her shadow
a masterpiece


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What Does It Mean?

as if by her own dreams
the traveler at rest


This past week, as I've looked back over some of my work, I see new meanings...and new is not always better, especially when warped by the filter of despair, discouragement, and disillusion that has permeated recent days.

Were we being "framed"--set up, betrayed, tricked--by our own dreams? That was the furthest thing from my mind when I made this little notebook sketch in the lobby of the Paramount Hotel near Times Square this past summer. But now that I look back, George and I were in the city to see The Crucible, so perhaps the idea of being "framed" was lingering there in the space between the subconscious and the intentional. All I perceived at the moment was the lovely not-quite-profile of this stranger sitting in the lobby, with the oversized piece of generic hotel art behind her, the art more lovely for her face in front of it.

A colleague of mine--a computer science instructor who also loves poetry--just appeared at my office door to ask me about a stanza of one of my poems. "What does it mean?" he wanted to know. I cannot usually quote my own work from memory (that's why I write it down!) but I knew exactly the lines to which he was referring, and I also could tell him the precise inspiration for those lines, and how I used a painting technique as a metaphor for how to live one's life.

Our conversation probably didn't last longer than 45 seconds, but we covered the power of metaphor, the relationship between poetry and painting, the mind of Vermeer, how artists know when a piece is "finished," and why a line or two of a poem can stay with us. And, of course, what it all means. Maybe.

Monday, November 14, 2016


This haiga collage/found poem is from a couple years back.
As I look at it and read it, I contemplate the power of the phrase, something that is the basis of short-form poetry such as haiku.
Choice is the memory of all.
Ah, well. Go forth and try to create something good and lasting despite Monday.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Notebook

Or should I say, my notebook. Yes, that is what I should say. A combination of stream-of-consciousness, found poems, doodles, tear-outs, all arranged or dis-arranged into a general collage-ishness on the page...a satisfying morning's work, and a haiku or two to be culled at a later date, when I look back at what looks like a mess but was really a beginning, two beginnings, three...


staring at something
that was never there


no faces here just the sun and shadow
a use for these forgotten words


p.s. And at last, eureka yes, voila, merde, yay: a use for the old edition of the MLA Handbook. O blessed rage for order!


the closing
appears to quote
the begin-


Friday, November 11, 2016

Going Dark (It's Not What You Think)

Why is this collage so dark, I wondered. Then I realized, I didn't include any text. I had the tanka written before making the collage, so knowing the original text I would be adding made me forget to incorporate "found" text into the mix. I kinda like it, but jeez, I need to remember that there are colors other than "earth tones" out there to be explored.

A couple of weeks ago, I was showing my Creative Writing students paintings by Andrew Wyeth as prompts. "The man never bought a tube of blue paint," we concluded.

These haiga collages are making me think of my poetry in terms of color theory. I don't quite know what that means, since I know nothing about color theory. But I'll come up with something.


the wind
having been painted clean
all that's left
is this little speck
of poem


What does it mean?

It's okay to not know. It's okay to think you know, and then to think again. It's okay to think of several possibilities. If two or more of the possibilities contradict one another, that's even better. It's okay to not know, and allow yourself to feel somehow moved, changed, intrigued. It's okay to look away and then look back. It's okay to return again and again.


not since
a cobbled path
an ivied wall
the paper beneath
an artist's hand

Thursday, November 10, 2016

When Things Go Crazy Big, I Go Sanely Small

Art is about control and order—the moment of control, the square centimeter of order in the face of the random unpredictability and indifference of the universe. The choreographed dance upon the stage; the painting within the frame; the sequence of notes emerging from the flute; the poem on the page. Order. A moment of control. Not without depth and layers of meaning and ambiguity,'s that "layers of meaning" part that's significant, that is the opposite of the "indifference of the universe"—this is why art survives, why we return to it, why its loss feels like a loss of life.

In a way, creating a work of art (or appreciating a work of art) might be analogous to casting a vote. But that metaphor can be saved for another day.

And the crazier the universe gets, the smaller I go. The power of crafting one haiku, one haiga, on one little corner of the page of a notebook, is a rearranging of the stuff of matter and thought into something that matters, something thoughtful. And around the haiku, there's that aura of silence in which the imagination happens...that's also a place of healing, of resolve, of moving in a direction that feels like forward. Visit that place early and often.


life's square centimeter of question

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

But is there any comfort to be found?

The title of this post is a line from W.B. Yeats.

I need to tell myself there is still poetry in this world. As much poetry, in fact, as there was yesterday, and perhaps more. And art in all its other forms.

Small consolation at the moment, when all that was good seems to have been broken. But...poetry.

That might get me through the day.


a mirror for
implausible today

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Dance of Haiku

Several weeks ago, I sat and watched a dance competition. The swirls of color, the music, the bodies in was captivating. Each dance was brief, but they followed one after the other so that it began to seem like one continuous dance.

I began to ponder the connections between dance and poetry, and since each dance segment was so short—just enough time, to my untrained eye, for each couple to maybe make it around the dance floor once, showing their skill to the judges—that I thought specifically of haiku and dance. One little waltz of words, a quick-step of image, a tango of emotion...I came home inspired.

Thank goodness I took a lot of blurry photos, because I realized there were haiga here, in which I could try to partner the images and poems and keep with me a little of the magic of that day.

between partners
a constellation of pearls
on the dancer's back



Thanks to Noelle MK and all the dancers.

Sunday, November 6, 2016


Okay one more for today, because, you know, I have papers to grade. Another haiga from a couple years back. I love photographing interiors; this one is taken from outside through a window, I think, if I'm recalling the location correctly.

asking of it only what it is light

Haiga Collage

is it her touch
or the lily I miss
now that the sky
is empty

Haiku or other short-form poems (such as the tanka above) with a collage, forming a haiga...This is one of my favorite creative outlets these days. Maybe it's the satisfaction of tearing magazines to shreds, or the search for the perfect image, or the writing of the poem itself (which usually happens as the collage is taking shape), or the smell of the glue stick...well, okay, not that last one. I may offer a workshop on haiga collage soon (perhaps in January, between semesters). I think my Creative Writing students enjoyed this; it seemed like a productive way to ease ourselves into the Fall semester.

First Post on the New Blog!

November 6, 2016...Wow, a blog! More freedom than a website, and (one hopes) less hassle for a technophobe such as I. A blog about poetry, for poets and friends of poetry. Let's see how much fun this can be!