Sunday, December 31, 2017



I don't make them.
I make them every day.
I keep them to myself.
I break them all, then remake them.

The core ones never change:
Take more walks.
Chase dragonflies.
Do art stuff.
Find wildflowers.
Watch birds.
Study the interplay of light and water.

Onward we go.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Joy of Crappy Photos

Of course I love having taken a photo that is clear, sharp, focused, perfectly composed—a photo that makes people ooh and ahh as they flip to the next month on the calendar and see it (the photo) as the image for a bright and promising thirty days of prosperity and good fortune.

I've taken approximately five such photos in my life.

So this is to celebrate photographs that are not simply out-of-focus, but had no chance of ever being in focus: photos taken from a moving car; photos taken at night from a moving car; photos that just look like the proverbial waste of film but which, thanks to digital photography, I can amass by the thousands. And of those thousands of blurry, grainy, compositionally-challenged, and just plain odd little moments, I find gem after gem.

These photos often inspire me to stop and write a haiku; when added to the photo image, they make a haiga. The two included in this post are from photos I took just last night, from the car, as my husband was driving with great skill and patience through the streets of Manhattan. The mannequins in the window I knew I loved; the man pacing in the foyer of a building waiting for someone, perhaps dreading having to go back out into the cold, was a gift. I just love photo ops such as these. Postcards of real life, out-of-focus, hurried, compositionless, ephemeral, beautiful, gone.

Sometimes I cheat a little and crop the photo. So a wee bit of composition may happen later. Like a memory, new with each remembering.

I included some of my crappy photos—which I guess I should call (for promotional purposes) "accidental postcards of real life"—in a small book I made several years ago. If you are interested, go to and perhaps order a copy of Images for your very own.

Accidental, ephemeral, beautiful, gone. Life imitates art, yet again.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Winter Memory

Just a haiga for today's post, to get some color and visual stimulus into these arctic days...

Go see and create!


winter memory
the snow a little deeper
with each hawk

Friday, December 22, 2017

Principles of Design

Balance, emphasis, movement, pattern, repetition, proportion, rhythm, variety, unity: the principles of design used by artists in the process of creating a work that feels whole, a work that offers each viewer a path toward meaning without distracting paths leading in the wrong directions. It’s not so different in poetry, these principles. 

The guiding principle that unifies all these is, I think, order—art (visual, verbal, etc.) takes chaos and puts a little corner of it into order.

For almost a year now, I’ve been using collage as a parallel to poetry, to see if I can make visual on the page some of the meanings I explore through words. It has been an interesting journey, only successful now and then. I am a lot more comfortable creating images with words than I am with, well, with images. I am afraid of color; my comfort zone is earth tones. My collages tend toward cliché. In other words, I’m a beginner in one medium, while exploring new realms of proficiency in the other. I’m in two places at once, artistically.

And really, that’s kind of cool!

Go create lots of beautiful art in 2018.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Drench with Your Splendor Me

Perhaps because this semester seemed to go by so quickly, the span in American Literature I between the  worldview of Cotton Mather and that of Walt Whitman stood out strongly and rang with possibility. We traveled from a narrow little world where evil reigned, empowered by leaders and followers who could see no other option but that we cavort with the devil and become devils ourselves. The "invisible world" wherein evil gets the upper hand becomes the only world we know, and guilt by association, guilt by coincidence, guilt by the jealousy and greed of one's accusers, and guilt by accusations of children and childish-minded adults becomes the law of the land.

The irony, of course, is that, if we believe we are possessed of evil, we are possessed of evil, and will act accordingly. How did we survive that narrow little world? Salem was not Washington, D.C., but perhaps there are lessons we could go back and study and relearn about how not to allow magical thinking undermine our capacity for rational thought.

And though there were many weeks remaining after reading Mather, it seemed as if suddenly we felt the wind and sun and salt air on our faces as we ferried from Brooklyn to Manhattan alongside Whitman. "Gorgeous clouds of the sunset! drench with your splendor me, or the men and women generations after me!" Whitman exclaims. In our final class, as we read "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," we wondered at that hyperbaton—a use of unusual word order—"drench with your splendor me." It's one of my favorite lines of American poetry, and I consider "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" the great American poem. We wondered at Whitman's capacity to contain all—to acknowledge the dark side(s) of human nature while still celebrating human nature and life and all the possibilities therein. 

Whitman's is a voice we need in these dark times, as stupid people turn loose the demons of greed and self-righteousness and hypocrisy and all the other nasty little inhabitants of their invisible worlds upon the rest of us. Each of us, Whitman reminds us, contains all. It is our blessing and responsibility to choose what part of that "all" we will allow out into the visible, communal world.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Study in Grief

Good people are prone to grief. To feel a loss so deeply as to grieve is the lot of anyone whose worldview comes from a place of empathy, intellect, and imagination. We are students of grief, grief of various hues and hefts: loss of a loved one, loss of a friend, loss of a beloved place, loss of an ideal.

Last night I listened as colleagues and students said thank you and good-bye to four retiring professors from my already-bereft institution. We have known only loss for what seems years now, and our grief has all too often been partnered with anger at the incompetence and pettiness and coldness that precipitated some of those losses. Last night was more of a celebration of the ways these colleagues have enhanced countless lives, and there was laughter, but there were also tears. I know my tears were tears of grief.

I think of Elizabeth Bishop's sublime poem "One Art." She uses the word "disaster" to describe the loss that precipitates grief. For more than a year now, my country has been in the grip of political disaster. Each new disaster leaves us wondering, when will this end? That grief is inextricable from the personal. It is personal. To see and hear it plotted and planned and shrugged away every day by people whose capacity for empathy, intellect, and imagination has somehow been excised—to watch what seem like fully-functioning human beings design and facilitate and celebrate disaster...well, we grieve.

Ah, I had such big plans for this post. I was going to praise grief as a reminder that what was lost has transcended any verb tense. What was lost is lost and will always be lost and yet is, in memory, in imagination, in intellect, still very much present. But I can't do it. I can't quite believe that, as Wallace Stevens wrote, death is the mother of beauty. Beauty is the mother of beauty. We celebrate it despite knowing that we will also grieve its loss one day. And now, we live in times when to breathe is to grieve. At least that means one is still capable of empathy, intellect, imagination. At least.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Once upon a Time

Once upon a Time

how every story starts in media res and has no end [ just a place after which there are no more pages ( and yet you can go back and reread { or can you } ) ] and even in the middle of the middle another story { tangent } starts [ in its own middle ] and one might conclude  [ and never ends ] that one is never in the same story twice or it may be that it’s all one [ never more than ] all connected if you read long enough and find those pages that pick up after the seeming ending { hint: they all do } continuing finding the thread and you are the needle you need to be always upon a time you need to be making ( while part of ) your { [ ( our ) ] } visible / invisible garment yes you { [ ( we ) ] } need to be that sharp

Friday, November 10, 2017

because poetry

because poetry can happen in line at the supermarket and (sorry sculpture) only a modest scrap is needed to have this new thing appear in the world (a world desperately in need of new things) 

because poetry can be seen in the sky a vee of geese for example or the letters in the crossed branches of november trees 

and it may not seem like much (and ballet too can happen in line at the supermarket I hope I’m there one day when it does) but it is especially in these unpoetic times 

and do you want to talk about the stained glass window at dawn that relinquishes its colors to soak in the gray of these clouds because poetry