August 31, 2007

the end of summer

Hello all:

I wanted to share the news that a poem of mine, "Harry Houdini" has been accepted by Yes Press. I am mentioning this, not just to say HUZZAH! but also to point out a really great new place to submit poems. My friend Eireann and two other people I have met and find fabulous, Zach and Brian, have begun a letterpress broadside venture where the poetry appears on post cards. You can find submission information here.

Also, I've mentioned before that I like taking pictures. I have a picture a day project, and my sister (who is studying photojournalism) and I have recently started a new push for a duet photo a day project.

I think this is one thing that has sprung from my interest in words and experience: being more observant.

Hope you are all well! Gros bisous.

Where have all the bloggers gone?

For days I have been checking, and nada- you've disappeared. So I started my own blog- this is all your fault. Now I have to learn how to add links, etc. But I feel the class blog has been abandoned. Where are you all? Missing you.

August 27, 2007

From Milwaukee

Molly - amazing pictures! I was trying to decide if I should take time for a digital photogrraphy class through UW's Adult Ed this fall, and looking at your pictures tipped the balance in favor. Looks like it was an auspicious start to your marriage. I have laid aside my manuscript for the time being to try and re-enter the "generative" mode. In short, fishing for the next poem! At least the Local 1091 News is done. Best wishes to all.


August 25, 2007

The Rabbi's Plea

(This is a poem I would like to use during the High Holy Days Service if you think it worthy- please comment)

Tonight the mystics are about.
I feel their presence,
like ravens hovering around their prey,
black wings whoosh from limb to limb
looking for what God tells them to do, I suppose.
They have their voyage, as do we.

But we must be our own guide,
looking to the Machzor for direction
to a trip taking us into an interior
that no one else can know, except
for the Holy One, an obvioulsy busy
night for Him.

It's a bumpy ride into the interstices
of our lives, reaching back to discover
what has been hidden, actions and decisions
we'd rather forget, according to our American
values, which are now clashing with our Jewish ones,
sometimes ignored or conveniently "forgotten".

Think how much better we'll feel to offload these
distracting burdens, something only we can do.
It may be comforting to think of our dogs resting
comfortably, waiting for our return to wag their tails
in purity, living out their lives without such struggles,
or the gerbil, circling the world round and round
on his wheel, stopping to be fed and taken care of.
Or even animals in the wild, who must hunt to stay alive,
do not have to struggle with these internal issues,
yet it is we who live in abundance for the basics.

Yes, there is a mystery to life, especially at this season
when it is decided "who shall live and who shall die".
I pray for the whole congregation to wrestle with their
own demons as I wrestle with mine. Dealing with your
interior life matters, takes work, reflection, painful
absolution from people we know and love before
approaching the Holy One. That is the mysticism that
rides upon our backs.

The cold weight descends upon my body like an ice pack
covering my clothing, reaching my extremities. At first,
I feel nothing, until the cold seeps through my fingers and toes,
urging me on to action. And if I do nothing, I become numb,
not really alive anymore, insensitive to the needs of others,
reasons enough to continue to recite prayers, to try for redemption,
to pray for one more year. Amen.

Note. Machzor is the name of the book used on the High Holy Days only, which contains special
prayers-piyyutim from the 11th century often in acrostic forms.

August 24, 2007

honey love moon

I suppose it's only appropriate that I admit I have a regular blog. And while I love words, I also love my camera (not as much, of course!). So there you are. Feel free to visit my blog, tease me during those workshop posts, etc. :)

We had a wonderful honeymoon. The full post is here, with many, many more pictures.

And with Carolyn's advice, I kept many copious notes, during tours and other little whatnot bits of information, of which I may not have taken, save her urging. There are some snippets and a poem or two. Tomorrow I start my new school year, but I plan to put together a few poems shortly!

But for now, some images:

August 23, 2007

Ode to the D7

Standing at the behemoth to progress

glassy-eyed, stomach-rumbling beyond help,

I stare in confusion at numbers and letters

written like a Chinese menu.

Starry-eyed and in a trance, I am having

a mystical experience as I'm forced to choose.

Searching for coins produces crumpled dollar,

when inserted face up, rolls back and forth,

back and forth, unwilling to cooperate.

Frantic, devoid of patience, I empty my bag

in search of coins, dumping out the myriad contents

on the floor. I stoop and grab and count till I arrive

at the precise amount, while my stomach continues

to utter disgraceful words in public; students rush by,

some give strange looks.

I shove the coins in the machine, pushing the buttons

for D7... and out comes Three Musketeers. Damn Machine!

Give me my Baby Ruth! No returns, no refunds.

Always choices: eat the Three Musketeers or eat nothing.

No choice at all-- peristalsis has begun before the candy hits

my palate.


Haikus from Visiting Poland

Echoes of past lives
whisper through verdant fields
worlds made foul by man.

Ashes, pyres and graves
no psalms, Kaddish or mourners
with progeny dead.

We must remember
the nameless, faceless millions

Poland, land of death
where neighbors killed for pleasure
weeps for loss of self.

Mikki Mendelsohn

August 20, 2007

en route

Dear ones,
I have just returned from a lovely stay on the sea with my sisters, a week that seems fleeting now, and tomorrow I leave for Macedonia (The Struga Poetry Evenings) and the Vilenica festival in Slovenia after that. You can google both, and maybe someone, more adept at this than I am, could post the links? I am a bit apprehensive about the journey, but I think it will be good for me. I have so enjoyed your posts since my week-long absence, and what a beautiful bride is Molly!
Split Rock sent me your evaluations of my work with you, and I read with an elated heart. Thank you so much for buoying my spirit as you have. I will try to post from my journeys if there is internet.
Much love and good wishes for your poems,

August 19, 2007

part of the new poem

I’ve come to claim everything
is beautiful and if you wake to this
in the morning, as if someone has turned
the knob or allowed your retina to receive
more light, just a small millimeter
so that all the world is brighter somehow,
it seems, this could be the definition
of joy. Nothing has changed;
paint falls away from the yellow door,
weeds grow between the uneven slabs
of concrete and it breaks open

the place which once believed
in goodness or the clean face of god.

For those of you who wanted to see the New Yorker poem (here)

Yes, it is brilliant and beautiful.

The Sun

Beautiful reading in The Sun this month and I really respect Sy Safransky, the founding editor—everything flows smoothly, yet diverse enough to still be interesting. He wrote me a note once when I first started writing and all I sent him was crap, he didn’t like it but he was very kind. He was human.

I love the idea of this journal, little bits of everything and I read it front to back and now I am reading it again. My favorite by Harriet Brown:

At 43

Awake in the dark, again,
I want each looming thing—

night table, dresser, chair—
to set its demons free,

settle for being ordinary.
Beside me, my husband

grinds his teeth,
damned like the rest of us

with the curse of breathing.
What I didn’t understand

On the other side of 40:
Despair, too, is something

to hold on to. I’ve got
my dead: a ribbon’s worth

of rabbit-soft gray fur
from the cat who was

my best friend through my 20’s
her name the first word

both my daughters said.
We buried her last winter,

Boiling pot after pot of water
from the frozen ground,

trying to dig deep enough.
We did.

I will make you all Jews- Happy Holidays! Shana Tova

I will be the one who'll be behind in everything right now as our High Holy Days begin shortly. But for Selichot- the nearly midnight service on Sept. 8, after viewing and discussing a film (West Bank), I wrote my own short service in poetry form. It is supposed to be a prelude to the hymns and psalms and themes of asking God for forgiveness and being able to look into ourselves and repair ourselves. Now I just have to write my five sermons and I will be ready, order and pick up the school textbooks, meet with the teachers,etc. Then I can get back to writing. Breathe-in-breathe-out. I miss you all.

August 18, 2007

Hello From Sue B.

Hello everyone! I got home from Boston/New Jersey/Connecticut last Monday night but it's been a busy week. I wish I could take the rest of the summer off to read all your postings carefully (at leisure, not on the fly), WRITE, try some of the exercises on the site and just walk while the summer deepens and wanes. But I only have 3 1/2 vacation days left, a local union newsletter to get out and have to work this weekend too, at a festival.

I absorbed so much this summer, at Nebraska and during our wonderful week, but have had very little quiet time to renew the state of mind that generates poems. Well - it'll come. Follow this link - to the Blue Fifth Review, where the poem "For Su Tung P'o" appears. I'm so glad we have this blog. Be well, everyone.

August 16, 2007

Well here is a wonderful photo of us all. Why does it seem so very
long ago? I'm sorry I've been out of contact but I've been doing
large scale sculptures with kids and all I am doing is sleeping, eating
and getting very messy. I hope you all are doing well.... Teresa

Posted by Picasa

August 15, 2007

Shakespeare, Neologisms

"Shakespeare's language is primary to his art, and it is florabundant. He had a deep drive to coin words anew, and I am always astonished that he employed more than twenty-one thousand separate words. Of these, he invented roughly one out of the twelve: about eighteen hundred coinages, many of them now in common use. Racine, superbly practicing an art antithetical to Shakespeare's, used two thousand words, not many more than Shakespeare coined."

-Harold Bloom

August 13, 2007


Thought you all might like a glimpse of the big day!

August 10, 2007

AN Exuse from Mikki on sloppy typing:

please excuse all the typos in the poem- I think you can figure them out. It was late at night - another sleepless night. Mikki

New Poem- written at conference-1st draft

TITLE: How it Used To Be: 1967

Years ago, before a wall was ever thought of--
when villages rewe reached and visited by Jews and Arabs,
and hate was not as palpable as today,
in the giddy days after emotional walls crumbled,
Jews visited Arab neighbors.
Most were welcomed with coffee, fruits and cakes;
not eating, would be offensive,
we has new sources for products and flow of goods--
unprecedented before. Relationships formed as times were different.

A young Arab and Young Israeli Sabra fell in love.
Impossible, you say? Not so. Happened many times then,
though still discouraged. The couples kept silent about the depth
of their involvemnets. Visitations were easy by open roads without
checkpoints. Those who saw and knew, said "Kif Allek" in Arabic,
or "lech leshalom" in Hebrew--wishing them luck or Godspeed--
not bullets, jeers or angry protestations.

They made love as couples do, went home
to families and lied as couples do. If it became serious,
families had to "fight it out" peacefully to satisfy the couple.
Of course in such families, everyone would never be satisfied.
Sometimes there were battles- where to live-Israeli town? Arab town?
or jointly populated area? Most chose places such as Haifa--large cities
with joint populations, or places near where there was work.

Yes, Israel--a difficult state who knows how to take even an easy problem and complicate it,
often to its collapse. Some left the countrey exasperated by not being able to satisfy all.
Trying to bring peoples together can be life-consuming.
But now it's a non-issue.
Too much hate.
Time hath brought out the worst in all of us--not healing,
not understanding, not compassion, but hate fueled by
suicide bombers and the building od concrete walls.
What we have done, will not easily be undone.
And life goes on
And couples get together
though danger increases
often one gets shot
for no reason at all
in the name of love.

Mikki Mendelsohn

August 9, 2007

Wednesday Evening, Down by the River

Tall chicory, Queen
Anne's lace, green grass growing, here
down by the river

Brown-eyed Susan,
big blue stem, large bee bouncing
down by the river

This sumac turning
orange-yellow, one small willow
down by the river

--CX Dillhunt
(August 1, 2007, East Bank, Minneapolis)

Micah's Writing Technique

Micah was going to get all of Carolyn's exercises done yesterday, but he thought just a little rest first....

August 8, 2007


I thought this was a wonderfully true interview (here)

What does everyone else think?

And I miss you all....hope you are well, T

File Under: Quotes

"When one has much to put into them, a day has a hundred pockets."
-Friedrich Nietzsche

File Under: Quotes

"Nietzsche was stupid and abnormal."
-Leo Tolstoy

August 7, 2007


Photo: from GRSF website

For those of you who live in the area, keep an eye out for the Great River Shakespeare Festival, for which I've done a small amount of volunteering. Every summer, for one month, they put on two productions, generally a tragedy and a comedy, in Winona, alongside some great music and discussion series. The Winona Daily has an article about the event here. I love that you can sit in a cozy chair and read Shakespeare on a rainy day, but you can't deny the magical experience of actually witnessing a play well performed.

The season is over for this year, but it looks like Love's Labours Lost and The Merchant of Venice is on for next year.

I've also been to the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, and there really is little compared to having a picnic basket and wine with people you love, your toes dug into the sand, overlooking the many-blued Tahoe and peering down onto the stage, the sound of surf and Shakespeare wafting up.

August 6, 2007

poets forum

There is a poets forum in New York City (Thursday) October 18 through (Saturday) October 20th, which happens to be that long weekend (MEA?) break teachers get (I wouldn't even have to use personal days). This is very tempting...

Especially with these names : Frank Bidart, Rita Dove, Robert Hass, Lyn Hejinian, Galway Kinnell, Nathaniel Mackey, Sharon Olds, Carol Phillips, Robert Pinsky, Kay Ryan, Gerald Stern, Susan Stewart, James Tate, and Ellen Bryant Voigt.

Has anyone heard about this? Is anyone thinking of attending?

Also: I ordered the Vendler book; perhaps it will arrive in time for our trip to Alaska. I'm working my way through Will in the World, which is an incredibly smooth read thus far. I'm a voyeuristic reader; I love to delve into the personal worlds of the poets (perhaps this is why Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton fascinated me so much as a high school freshman). And Carolyn, I love this list that you gave us--what a treasure! I can't wait to try some of these things out and see where they take me. Thank you so much. And Wallace Stevens this winter--how lucky it is that we all came together--to have this community!

Looking forward to hearing from all of you as this blog grows! I keep seeing new people sign up in the sidebar!

[Also, I had to add my requisite dog companion pictures--these, taken yesterday, on a typical gloomy Minnesotan day. The golden retriever is Penelope (a faithful unweaver, she is) and the black lab mix is Zephyr (a messier wind-runner, I believe). And the guy on roller blades is my fiance, who isn't named after a character in mythology, but roller blading with two full grown puppies seems fairly heroic to me!]

Postcards from Carolyn

Dear ones, I have finally located one of my exercise lists, and hereby share it with you. some of these are mine, some come from friends, but all have been found useful. Here it is:
love, carolyn

Try writing poems using these exercises:

1. Write an “epistolary” poem, (the word is the same as the “epistles” or letters from the apostles in the new testament). This is a poem in the form of a letter to another person, often omitting the salutation (“dear....”) but in other respects, resembling a letter. The poet Richard Hugo wrote a number of these.

2. Write a poem in answer to a letter you receive from someone (or, if you read some interesting published letters, try answering one of them in the form of a poem).

3. Write a “persona” poem, in which you become someone else and speak in the poem as that person (Amelia Earhart? a Civil War nurse? a trapeze artist in the circus? Sir Walter

4. Choose eight or ten words at random from your “loved words” list and try writing a poem, quickly, in ten or twelve lines, using these words. Then check your list to see if there are any interesting substitutions you can make.

5. Take two poems you have written which are related in some way, cut the lines apart, and splice together a new version, then re-write the poem according to the new version, so that you produce one long poem.

6. Try writing a poem that provides instructions on how to get somewhere or do something (recipe, directions, assembly, or how to recover from a death, a lover, an addiction, etc.)

7. Write a poem that re-tells, or “transforms” a story or myth. (Try biblical stories, classical myths, fairy tales, etc.). Anne Sexton’s book “Transformations” might be a model for this.

8. Write poems “in the style of” poets from your anthology (that is, the private anthology of favorite poems you make as you read). (There should be a little italicized line, indented between the title and the text of the poem, saying “after so and so”.

9. Write a poem in which you tell what happens in a dream (without telling the reader it is a dream).

10. Write a series of short, linked poems, illuminating (without commentary) episodes from your memory of childhood.

11. Keep a travel diary on a trip (jotting down words, phrases, place names, events), and when you return write a sequence of poems which are dated in the form of a diary, and which illuminate your journey in some way.

12. Choose a work of prose that you especially admire, and, pulling phrases from that work, compose a poem from the phrases. Between the title and the text of the poem, insert an indented, italicized “credit line”--from “ “ by so and so”

13. Write a poem in which you begin by situating yourself in a particular place (on the roof of your house, in your room, etc.), describe that place, and then, by association, “travel” imaginatively somewhere else, and end the poem by returning to the place you are. The poem should be long enough that the reader is surprised to come back. John
Ashbery’s poem “Guadalajara” is a good model for this.

14. Write poems based on interesting black and white photographs from the past. Look
at photography books by Atget, Lange, Weston, Bourke-White, Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, etc.

15. Research the history of your current home or hometown, and write a poem based on an interesting historic event you learn about. I once wrote about a fire which burned my town completely in 1872.

Revision suggestions:

1. Read each line of the poem separately, to be sure that it is interesting by itself. Cut words from the end of the line or add words from the beginning of the next line if you think it would improve the inherent meaning of the line.

2. Look at each word in the poem, and see if you can substitute a more interesting, specific word. Tree might become sycamore. River might become the Shenandoah. Bird might become gull, cardinal, finch, vulture.

3. Eliminate unnecessary commentary and description. If you have the word “snow,” then you already imply (and can eliminate sometimes) “winter,” “cold,” “icy” etc.

4. Be careful not to eliminate important articles (a, the, an) or conjunctions (and, but).
Or you your poem will read like a newspaper headline.

5. Check to see if the opening lines and closing lines are necessary. Sometimes the true poem begins most interestingly with the third line, and ends with the third from the last.

6. Check to see if all the stanzas or strophes are necessary. Sometimes you can cut the whole stanza, and strengthen the poem.

7. If the poem is in stanzas, sections, or parts, cut them into individual pieces and play with their arrangement. Sometimes the poem is better if arranged a different way (while keeping all the sections). Sometimes this is how you discover whether any can be cut.

8. Subject all adverbs to intense scrutiny (as to whether they are necessary) “ran quickly” might be better expressed as “hurried.”

9. Subject all adjectives to strong scrutiny (as to whether they are necessary) “white snow” is redundant. “Snow” would suffice all by itself. (“Black wind” , however, is interesting, because unusual, unexpected...)

10. Read the poem aloud several times, and mark with a highlighter pen those places which were more difficult to read (tongue-twisters). Examine them and see if you can improve them.

11. If you are not certain whether your poem is in proper syntax and is grammatical, type the poem out as prose and check the sentences for completion and proper usage, then re-line.

12. Check to see that the sentences within the poem (which might go on for several lines), are, in fact, complete sentences (or have a good reason why not).

13. Try writing the poem in a different “person”— switch from “he” to “I” or vice versa.

14. Check the verb tenses to see whether they are consistent and/or correct.

15. See if compound verbs can become simple verbs (for compression) “I would run” might be able to become “I ran”, etc.

16. Check for spelling errors.

17. Check for consistency in spacing between lines.

18. Check to see whether the poem is well placed on the page.

19. In sending poems out to be published, always send clean, correct versions.

20. Break any of the above rules except #19 if you think it is necessary to the poem.

Postcards from Carolyn

Dear ones, the journey home was smooth and light, my spirit suffused with gratitude for all of you, the lotus blossom still close to my heart. I think the autumn choice of William Shakespeare is wonderful, and may I suggest that as our text we choose "The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets" by Helen Vendler? She writes most insightfully on the sonnets, illuminating the form structures and amplifies the meaning (in each poem). A most enthusiastic yes! I'm thinking about Wallace Stevens for winter, whom my friend Marilynne considers possibly the most important poet of the 20th century.

I'm off at the end of the week to visit my sister at the beach in N. Carolina, and will write upon waking each morning as I have urged others to do! Here is a photograph of my dogs, Puck (left) and Lyra (right) with their friend Max in the middle, playing frisbee on this very beach two summers ago. I thought, while we were sharing pets...

More soon! I will try to find and send a list of suggested exercises.

Much love, Carolyn

August 5, 2007

shakespeare: major poet for fall

I know this seems cliche, and I know some people may resist or be tired of him, but I am going to suggest Shakespeare as our first poet to take a look at together. I am suggesting him because he does seem so big, because so many allusions arise from his work (though, to be fair, then we ought to really study the Bible and mythology vigorously too), and because (and this is a teacher thing) I want to pull double duty as I am teaching him again this year. I'd like to do a better job, even if the kids might think it's just weird Miz S again, doing her nerdy obsessive thing with Shakespeare (or Dickinson, or whomever).

So tonight, I go to bed, after we have painstakingly arranged seating charts for the reception, with Will in the World, a relief from all that is preparing for a wedding (and cleaning of the house for those guests who will have this one time to see where we live, this one visit to sear it into memory, and no matter how we change the wall colors or get rid of the ratty furniture, this is what they will call up when they imagine us in our home).

Perhaps someone else can suggest our winter poet?

Also: Just finished The Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson. If you have not yet read it, I strongly recommend this story in poem form. Very moving; I am thinking this will be one of those books I'll have to buy for other readers.

August 4, 2007

required reading, seasonal

Photo: From this site.

I have been thinking about how Carolyn mentioned we should study a poet, in depth, each season. I am thinking about fall, about school starting, about motivation, and I am thinking about this great community we could build here. I am also thinking about which poet to start with... what if we did this together? What do you think? We could send each other all kinds of neat reference sites and little tidbits of information, have book discussions.

Just a thought.

I also have a question for the group: I'd like to bring some books of poems along with me to Alaska. Any suggestions for good travel companions for my honeymoon? I'd love something that will root me in the geography and in the water. We're cruising along, stopping on occasion to ride horses, kayak, explore microbreweries, and possibly gather the courage to zip line (he's ready; I'm still working on that fear of heights bit) through the forest. Let me know what you think! :)

A Dog's Goodbye

Micah, seen here waiting for his conference with Carolyn in Coffman and at home in his favorite reading chair, would like to point out that it's not his fault he didn't get to say goodbye....

August 3, 2007