Archive for February 2014

Against All Odds

February 27, 2014


Against All Odds

If one is very lucky and wins
the roulette of the heart,
then, after the wheel’s ticked start-stop,
the slow flap
onto one’s red or black,

and after, too,
click’s echo,
the split minute’s search for perched chips,

one slips into the knowledge
that there is no scoring
against the beloved,
that everything, like day,
just as all, like night,

and there is no point in weeping
whipped wilfullness,
but only in saying
‘I love you,’
when turning about and again
in the depression hips make
in a mattress,
those words a sum
of received forgiveness.

All one need do
is look up to a wire
of spaced sparrows
to see the perfection that is
the universe, often two warming
like you, my love,
with me.


A new draft poem!  I call it a draft because I’ve been revising up to a minute or more before posting.  It may be weird or rough but hurray! 

Further update– self-sabotage and cover-up

February 25, 2014
From "1 Mississippi"

From “1 Mississippi”  (Used For Cover)

A friend kindly wrote that he liked my novel-writing posts. Since it is also very nice for me to have an excuse to kvetch, I will burden you with another.

Some of you may be wondering why I am finally now focusing on one of the old manuscripts that has been kicking around (make that, laying comatosely in) my closet for years,  Especially since periodically over the life of this blog, I have threatened (promised) to go back to one of these novels and haven’t.

The truth is that I’ve succombed to the power of a deadline.  In this case, the deadline has been the submission date for the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

Believe me, I have no illusions about the possibility of my winning, or even placing or showing in, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (called the “ABNA”).

This is partly because I’ve entered the ABNA a few times already,  possibly even with a rougher version of this same novel, which due to its subject matter (kind of grim), writing style (would-be literary) and pace (not action) is not in any way likely to even make the semi-finals.

Nonetheless, a deadline, if one can convince one’s self to believe in it, has great power.

In my case, what this deadline did was make me take a practical look at my nearly comatose–make that anxious-to-start-kicking–manuscripts, and decide which one could most easily be made acceptably publishable in a few weeks time.

The deadline then also has gotten me working on the improvement/revision of that chosen manuscript.

Unfortunately, however, I am someone who is about as self-defeating as ambitious.    (I calculate that my personality holds one part self-sabotage for every one-and-a-half parts grandiosity.)

(Okay, okay, how about one part self-sabotage for every part self-disciplined?)

The self-defeating components make it very difficult for me to buckle down to any truly systematic, effective, eye-on-the-likely-audience revision process–a process that would involve, for example, reading the book aloud or at least on the printed page.

Instead, I have found myself endlessly rereading the manuscript on the computer and iPad–yes, I know, this is bad bad bad–making little edits here and there–oh, and back there again–checking one narrative thread for repetition, another one for gaps, gently rearranging scenes.

But still missing, I am sure, loads of errors, and worse, boring run-on paragaphs—to the point, that I will sometimes read a section with something approaching shock–that, after all this time–it is still so awkward.   Or even lacking a period at the end of a sentence.

The self-sabotaging aspects of myself have also made it very hard for me to focus on certain ancillary efforts that actually matter in the ABNA contest.  For example, the “pitch.”  This is a three hundred word invite into your novel–a sales pitch, as it were–a blurb–that will be the sole basis of the first round of judging.

I hate sales pitches.

I hate them so much I don’t even allow myself to learn how to post pictures of the covers of the books I’ve already published on the side bar of this blog.  (And I love my past book covers.)

So, what do you do when you are one part self-sabotaging and one part self-disciplined?

Whatever you can manage.


P.S. in honor of sales pitches and loving my past book covers, I am posting the painting that was used in the cover of my book “1 Mississippi” above (painted by me–I can’t seem to find a good photo of the cover)  and below, the covers of my book “Going on Somewhere” (painting by Jason Martin) and “Nose Dive” (painting by Jonathan Segal) below.

PPS  in honor of self-sabotage and hating sales pitches, I will not post the links to purchase details for any of those books.

Haha!  (Agh.)


Novel Update–Hi All!–Criss-crossed Tracks

February 23, 2014


Hi all!

An update from novel land (that is, the Great Mo-heavy Desert of the not-quite-finished manuscript.)


I am, at least, in the clean-up process.  I’ve fixed, as well as I can, the weak beginning–that is, I’ve brought in, at an earlier point, threads that are important to the story and its context (1968) that I hope will make the beginning more compelling.  Also reduced the “ick factor.”

Shortened the end–the last bits had dragged on endlessly.

Given up the idea of major structural revision, i.e. let go of aiming for a scintilla of momentum.

Now, I’m stuck in almost random, despairing, desultory, always looking for distraction, copyediting.  (Also trying to weed out extra words–all those, oh’s, wells, so’s, that people actually use in speech but that weigh down dialogue.)

This involves, among other things, some application of the rules of comma usage.  (Yes, I know a lot of people don’t bother with comma usage in poetry for all kinds of artistic reasons, but this is not that poetic a novel.)

Which means I have to remember the rules of comma usage.  (God forbid I would just look them up.)

Comma usage makes one (if one is me) acutely conscious of the seep, like that weird maroon or yellow liquid that sometimes leaks out from under a refrigerator,  of dementia.

As in, comma usage seems to be one of the first things to have totally gone.

Perhaps this is because I never truly had comma usage under my belt.  Unlike certain parts of the multiplication tables, which I drilled enough to be able to spit out in my sleep.   (Unfortunately, I have not been able to fit six times six anywhere into my text.)

When it comes to comma usage the whole thing feels more like, let’s say– eight times seven— a multiple I always had a hard time with, or fourteen times four, which is one I never even tried to learn–this is all quite remarkable because when I do fixate on those multiples I end up with–.

But let’s not go there.

Anyway, I thank you all so much for your encouragement.

PS — the despair also comes from the fact that one gets so bored, tired, can never be pleased, finds so much awkwardness,  whole damn passages that can’t even be fixed by corrected commas!

Also, if you can’t remember or never knew the rules of comma usage, you keep changing them in your mind–does that mean you have to go back and change what you’ve already finished?

PPS – (Can’t stand to look at it any more; must go through it one more time.)

(Oh come on, shouldn’t you just scrap the whole thing!?)

(Maybe you should just scrap the whole thing?)

(Oh stop it!)

(Should there be commas before those ‘ohs?’)


(Hey, shouldn’t that be ‘ugh?’)

(But I like ‘agh–’)

(she says, in anguish.)

Photo above is of two different kinds of animal tracks crossing in snow.  As always, click on it if you can’t see it all–also all rights reserved.

Blog Update

February 16, 2014


I’ve been terribly absent from this blog of late and I wanted to send a little heads-up especially to those of you who have been kind enough to wonder and worry.

I have been very busy with work and travel.  But, when I’ve had free time, I’ve finally been able to get in touch with one of the old novel manuscripts I am forever trying to finalize. It is a very old manuscript–first written probably at least fifteen years ago.  This has made it very hard to pick up again, as there are many things about the style–the pacing and scene choices–that I would not adopt if I were writing it fresh.

My embarrassment about the stylistic choices has been intense enough that for years it has been hard for me to even look at this particular manuscript.  At the same time, I could not bear the idea of massive structural revisions (though earlier on I did try some.)

But somehow now, I’ve just accepted the book, more or less, in its basic format.  Yes, it has an older-fashioned pacing.  Yes, it is very internal, probably a little static.

The content is also difficult.  It is about child sexual abuse.  No, it is not, thankfully, about me.  But, because one colors one’s writings with the palette of one’s life–and I have definitely used elements of myself and of persons known to me to make the characters more real–it has long worried me that readers will assume that the content is true, that it is memoir rather than fiction, and that the book presents accurate descriptions of the real persons who bear similarities to the characters.  (It does not.)  Of course, I’ve worried that publication could inadvertently cause pain.

So, it’s been a struggle–all these issues still make me very uncertain as to how I will handle the completed manuscript–but I am almost there.   The first five to ten pages are not quite right–probably the rest of the pages are not quite right either (!) but beginnings are always incredibly hard for me and especially here where the actual, true first pages were written before the story found its way.  Nonetheless,  I feel certain that pretty soon, I will either get these pages right, or just accept their current revised form.

Anyway, I want to thank all of you who’ve checked in to the blog.  I wish I had a little more mental space as I really miss the wonderful engagement of writing poems, and the friendly back-and-forth of the online poetry community, but for now and a little bit longer, I just don’t have that reach.

Thanks again.


The photo above is posted from my iPhone–you may need to click on it to see the whole thing. 

Central Park (And Into the Bardo)

February 11, 2014


A couple of notes! I’ve been in New York City a fair amount of late, which has been beautiful in the snow. Central Park at dawn above.

It’s not been a time for writing new poems, but an older poem and drawing of mine have been posted on Into the Bardo here– New MotherTurning To The Kora. Check it out if you have a moment.

Miss you all!

To The Coyote Tracks

February 3, 2014


To The Coyote Tracks

I would not hound you,
But I feel like I might fool
a bear,
bulk with raised arms
a strait-jacketed pretense
of harm–
while you, I fear, or one of you,
would see through my tented roar,
would, from the collective cower,
Just understand,
I can hold rocks in these here hands–
you too, Bear.


A little poem to my friend, the coyote, who left the tracks above.  I’ve seen him/her a couple of times in the past few months, but always, thankfully, on his (or her) lonesome.  Apparently, you can tell it’s a coyote track by the distinctive X, which is most visible in the bottom-most track. 

The bear up here should be hibernating for now.  But we saw at least eight or nine of them last year.   (Yes, they are absolutely beautiful and yes, they freak me out.) 

Walking With My Mother

February 1, 2014


Walking With My Mother

So, I have to go
right left,

she tells me–

you know, sergeants–they shout
left right–
did you ever think of that?
But I have to go–
right left–

This, after fracturing
her toe, the right-
most digit, left

To re-mind
herself, to keep right
her crabbed left step,
to keep up
right left
the forced march.

But I would like
to actually talk to her,
this short time maybe all we have
left, she murmurs–

To talk of longing–
you know how soldiers, she says–
and to talk of (right)

But I have to, she says
and right left, she says again,
for increasingly,
she must say something right–
her own words what her ears have

And, yes, I say,
though what I want is something
more, something like a blue bell
that could hold us as
a sky, roll us down
its sides together,
not need
the toll of words–
and she says, right
and I say, wait,
and she says, left
grasping her–
and right, she says
and we walk on
right left
trying somehow
to get closer.


Here’s a poem for my prompt on Repetition at dVerse Poets Pub.  I am also linking it to With Real Toads open link night.  It’s fresh off the press (my brain) more or less, so I’ll call it a draft for now, meaning that it’s still shifting around.    I am using my mother as a character in the poem–but please note that all poems have a largely fictional quality–and characters are used to some degree as archetypes. (Okay, mom?!)  

Here’s is also a reading of the poem for any interested:

Check out all the great poets at dVerse, and thanks much, as always, for your visit.  

PS = the picture does not really go with the poem, but I took it on a recent visit with my mom, and I like it.