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This is a poem I've just written, which I plan to read at the open poetry reading at the Yellow Sofa in Northampton Tuesday, 1/20/09. The reading starts at 6:30 pm.

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Praise for the fat old ladies.
Praise our bristles.
Praise our groaning in the morning
as we negotiate our nightgowns,
appliances and pills.

Praise the unquenchable carnality
of our coughs, full of moist depths,
and the way our mouths hang open
and our faces converge in gatherings
of ineffectual concentration
as we give another round of dominoes
our (impure? because, after all,
competititive and human) best thoughts.

We lose, of course, but play again.
The nightgown tears on the seam above the breast,
but we wear it, still, unmended,
while young women make big curls
in their hair with juice cans,
the results glossy and time-consuming,
as if the war were never over and
victory gardens were all lucky girls might sow.

Lake Buchanan, TX 2006

Speed LJ

Sep. 24th, 2005 09:47 am
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Am I constitutionally capable of doing this quickly?

  1. The reading filled me with energy. I read after Sally, who is writing a series of funny, wrenching pieces about her father's intense illness, and if I hadn't known that I had to read, I would have been crying. Almost was, anyway. It felt so good to get a piece of the new novel out in the air, and to get response back that let me know that people were getting it.

  2. I made a lasagna (from scratch! with all of the vegetables from my love's garden! started the sauce the day before!), pulled it out of the oven all beautiful and bubbling and golden in its big glass pan and set it on the stove, went into the bedroom to change -- it was half an hour before I was getting picked up for the reading. I was naked when I heard the explosion, ran into the kitchen, and the pan (which I had set on a hot burner), had literally exploded. There were shards of glass everywhere, and the lasagna itself was still burning and sinking down through the burner. I reached from my mop handle -- glass stuck to the handle with tomato sauce. Looked down -- hunks of glass in my onions in the hanging basket. Much glass in the stove, lasagna starting to drip down the front of the over. Glass all over the vacuum, all over the floor, tiny cuts in my hands when I touched a surface. Eeeek. Didn't get it cleaned up until after midnight, but eventually did. Luckily, Sally had tons of salad and shrimp and Janet brought bean salad, so Toni and Janet from Philadelphia -- and the rest of us -- were fed.

  3. I have a beautiful new, bright red, three wheel bike, with a huge white basket in the back and pedal brakes. It's an early birthday present -- I'm turning forty-five on October 17 -- since I was totally shaky getting on and off my old bike (and just got a minor but scary bite from a lunging dog when I rode by.) It is miraculous. I rode all the way to Florence yesterday. I can bring home heavy bags of catfood from the store, no problem. It makes me feel adventurous.

  4. My parents cut down the desert willow in front of their house that my grandmother always loved because it was old and they were worried about it causing damage in winds from Hurricane Rita. They say it needed to be cut down anyway. It's such a small thing in the context of so much loss. My grandmother would sit on the couch in the living room in front of the enormous window and look over the porch at the tree, and down the lane, to see whose truck or car was going by on the road.


May. 26th, 2005 01:19 pm
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A twenty year old photo of me is now up on my website, along with the short story, Drink.

My brother Don, who is a landscape painter took it with his polaroid in his studio in Waltham in the early eighties when he was working on some drawings of me. The setting was so dusty and prosaic and family and every day, and it looks so elegant.

It's six days to the Benjamin Franklin award ceremony, and exactly one week to the Lambda Literary awards.


May. 24th, 2005 11:41 am
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I went to Montreal for with first time this weekend, travelling with my parents, who I love very much and see too rarely, since they live in Texas and I live in Northampton, Massachusetts. While we were there, we saw Saint Sebastian, a dvd by Fiona Tan at the museum of contemporary art. There was a big screen in a darkened room, and the side facing the entrance showed the backs of the women doing the archery, their hair and necks and clothes, with an occasional sudden profile as someone looked towards the target. This was unbelievably intense and beautiful. On the other side of the screen, we could watch their faces as each woman in a long line prepared to shoot, let the arrow go, and watched it reach the target. It was amazing. We all watched a long time.

This is how I want to approach my writing, with that kind of focus, concentration, and strong emotion, strongly controlled, with that much very specific humanity and beauty. I want to have the courage to let the arrow go and to watch where it lands, look down, and then go on.

I also loved standing across the room and watching the faces of my parents as they watched the archers. And also watching from up close as they wrote post cards, did cross word puzzles, and looked out the window of the train.
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Hey, thanks to my brother Mike, there's now a mailing list option at my website, and I'm planning to do an occasional newsletter, so if you'd like to get one, go here to give me your email address. Even if you think I already have it!

I've added a bunch of quotes about my earlier work, especially Martha Moody, a book that has a particularly tender place in my heart. And, soon, if I can figure out a good safe way to get a digital version of it, we hope to have up a beautiful picture of me that my older brother, Don, who is an artist and was doing some charcoal drawings of me at the time, took in his studio when I was in my early twenties. And maybe even a picture from the recent Oakland reading, when my friend Lynne has time to send it.

Technology. Who knew?
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WAMC 90.3 FM is airing an edited version of the piece I wrote for my parents' 50th anniversary on Monday morning between 10:20 and 10:50 eastern time. I'm going to have to miss it, but if you're local or in the range of this Albany station, you can tune in and hear it, if you like, or, if you've got a high speed connection and are interested, you can listen to it then at the station's website.

It won't be archived, so can only be heard on Monday morning at this time. My parents are very lovely -- I hope that this isn't making them nervous.

I'm off to New York City to read at the Millay Colony benefit in Brooklyn this Sunday. I'm excited about it. I got in touch with Alice Sebold, who I met there in 1991, and she brought up embarrassing stories that I had forgotten (and am not repeating). I've matured, I swear! She also said to remind folks of the importance to writers of places like Millay that don't demand instant product, because, for example, when we were at Millay she was working tremendously hard on a novel that hasn't been published.

From reading my friendslist, I've realized that I might get to see Christo's gates up in Central Park, which are especially interesting to me because my brother, Don, is a landscape painter who has been painting land art sites, and he's helped me see a little bit about how much emotion, history, information and specific human identities are visible in landscape -- and then, there's the whole question of ego and public spectacle, public pleasure -- anyway, I'm interested. And to see friends.

And one more reading has been added to my West Coast trip: A Different Light, San Francisco, Thursday, March 17 at 7pm.
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Hey, I've got a brand new web site! It's my first ever! Although, I've got to say, that the work [ profile] beccawrites put in on helping me think through what I'd like to have on a site was enormously helpful in pulling this together quickly.

My brother Mike did it for me, and he's put a picture of my parents and siblings on the home page (he's the one on the right, my brother Don, the painter, is the one on the left) along with the short essay about my parents' fiftieth anniversary that's going to be on the radio next month. My niece took the picture on while we were all in Texas for the anniversary.
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I recorded the piece that I wrote for my parents' 50th anniversary for WAMC, the public radio station in Albany, which can be heard in Western Massachusetts and a bunch other places, too. They're going to get back to me with the air date, but the producer said that she was thinking of holding for around Valentine's Day, which never would have occured to me as relevant. They don't post commentaries on their website, though, so, no listening from other continents or time zones this time.

I'm taking a great $5 poetry class at Smith College -- it's every afternoon for a week, and the instructor, Patrick Donnelly, is giving this really lovely, beautifully structured and inspired overview of what poems are and do and various strategies for making them work, backed up with all of this great poetry as examples, and it is all blowing through me like a good stiff wind, all that heightened language and those lyric leaps and the beautifully rendered impulse to get things said.

And I'm going for a week to a writer's retreat on Lake Superior in Northern Minnesota in August. I've never been to Minnesota before.

the first

May. 6th, 2004 09:01 am
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The reading touched me in ways that are hard to describe.

It was so great to be coming down the sidewalk to the store, limping more than usual because I’d just sat on a bench and changed into my flimsy little slippers, and see [ profile] bearsir coming up the sidewalk, looking resplendent, tie and all. [ profile] bearsir had a bag of mysterious eggs for [ profile] beatgoddess and ze had been recently discussed at the store, we heard from Mark of Pride&Joy. We don’t know why. I bought a copy of Pinned Down By Pronouns, in which I know that [ profile] bearsir has at least one beautiful, moving poem.

[ profile] beatgoddess was there, of course – having drummed up maybe half the crowd, full of intensely engaged presence, nodded when I spoke about the importance of reflecting fat people as full sexual beings, made an announcement about the Flaunt It fat organizing that’s going on in the Valley right now, was one of the faces I liked looking at during the reading, is going to bring me some zines, bought all my books, two of Venus of Chalk,and a copy of The Boy Who Cried Fabulous by Lesléa Newman. Wow.

other ljers I know were there [ profile] papabearyg and [ profile] somechicksings -- lovely, lovely faces to see. Dang, I’m wanting to try to list everyone who came – about thirty people, Mark said – can’t do it, but the fabulous Kelly Link and Gavin Grant of Small Beer Press and great books and all told me to wear comfortable shoes to the BEA in Chicago – they are so cool and nice. Janet Aalfs, Northampton’s Poet Laureate, head sensei at Valley Women’s Martial Arts, and my old friend was there, and so was CJ, who helped us do a body painting banner for the Speak-Out Against Fat Hatred years back. The amazing P, the bus driver who donated some of his good qualities to the character of Tucker in the book – Tucker contains strong elements of other folks, too, and some difficult characteristics that don’t come from anybody I know, but were important to the character and the story. My downstairs neighbors. And all.

My beloved looked around and said, “Hey, pretty young crowd.” I said, “Yeah, it’s because of lj.” (I might have said, “because of [ profile] beatgoddess.”) Sally Bellerose, fabulous novelist and champion critiquer who is going to get her own post sometime soon because I’ve been SO itching to sing praises of her and her work, said “LJ? As opposed to LBJ?”

It was that kind of mix – the sixties were there, too.

Reading itself is so emotional for me. It’s vulnerable and a deep, deep pleasure; a contact in tender places, polished by language to surfaces that are okay to touch. I chose intense work – the prologue and the first chapter – and I could feel folks responding, moved, maybe a little scared at some points; surely, truly there. I love books so much I could burst. I love getting to offer this one. Oh, I wish you could have seen the gorgeous array of faces – some of you did, some of you were among them, along with the beautiful flowers that my parents thought to send from Texas, with that simple and huge gift of a card:

Congratulations on Venus of Chalk. Love, Mom and Dad.

So, a good start. Got to hustle to get ready for going to New Orleans tomorrrow, but wanted to say how it went. And hey, don’t miss the Fat Girl Flea in NYC this weekend! [ profile] bounce_n_jiggle says they’ve gotten great coverage in Timout New York!!!! (E., who was there last night and very sweetly introduced herself, is bringing clothes from Northampton! )
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[ profile] misia's review is lovely, lovely, lovely -- specific, attentive, and gorgeous. She starts with the language, the writing, which makes me feel -- sure enough -- as if magic has occurred, as if what has seemed invisible has been made visible, has been seen, acknowledged, and praised. Hard to say how much that means to me -- a lot. It'll be in the summer issue of Bitch.

My father has sent me beautiful letter about the book, in an envelope also stuffed with his account of the early roads of their county in Texas, complete with Polaroids of an old railroad underpass on the old Fort Worth line, and two former filling stations which have been converted into houses; a family history by my mom; and a bunch of newpaper clippings: a cowboy riding a bucking horse at the annual rodeo at the junior college across the street from their house, an ad for a Willie Nelson concert (he'd shaved his beard), and a bunch of articles about the poor officiating at the end of the last game of the season by the Baylor Lady Bears basketball team. Hard to imagine anything better.

And here's an old poem of mine for fat girls and also for anyone willing to take the sweet, reckless leap to identify with a fat girl:

A Practical Guide to Successful Living

Fat girls let your shirts ride up
Lie down on the cold spring dirt
and get mud on your fat backs.


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May 2009



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