Category Archives: Amherst writers method

Incoming edits this week

And hallelujah! Will be watching for the Fed Ex truck eagerly. Consultant is sending marked up pages — 200 to start. Very old school.

For editing, honestly, I prefer working on paper.

Attended an Amherst Writers and Artists Northeast Chapter meeting yesterday which was great (writers from Maine, NYC, upstate NY, Connecticut, and Massachusetts), but it means today feels like Saturday and it’s not.

Found a yummy looking recipe for roasted pumpkin wedges. Gonna give it a whirl. The same cookbook inspired breaded and fried leeks last night. The leeks didn’t hold together quite well enough but they were tasty.

I’ll report back on the pumpkin.

Update.

Well, I didn’t like them. Maybe you shouldn’t use a pumpkin that’s been sitting on your stoop for a couple of weeks.? The flesh was stringy and bland. K thought they were good, but my feeling was: I can think of better ways to eat bread crumbs and Parmesan.

And I did! Added an egg to the leftover cheesy grits from last night and coated them with what was left of the herb, bread crumb, garlic/herb mixture. Delicious! A crusty exterior with a smooth creamy inside. Yum.

PS I made a Tarot pouch this afternoon from the sleeve of an old jacket — big enough for the Voyager deck.

Rainy day after Address

This post/poem is in response to the prompt: “some days disappear like…” courtesy of Kathleen Olesky. Also, though it’s presumptuous, Rumi also deserves a credit here.

(Above: writing room as seen in mirror)

Some days disappear like

Some days disappear like snow on an
outstretched tongue, quietly, others
like butter in a hot iron skillet
with a froth and a sizzle.

Some nights land like a stranger
lurking in the bushes, leaving
us shaken and afraid, others

come on us like Magi
to the Christ child, bearing
fragrant and precious
gifts, unexpected.

An afternoon can drawl
or contract, lounge
or catapult. Is the rhythm a
function of what we had for breakfast and
the dreams that visited overnight?
Or are they perhaps their own
small kingdoms, with rules external?

My favorite times are mornings
born of rest when the pulled
curtain reveals a lovely
soft wash or a hearty
glare of eastern light. A
new day, no matter what.

Let’s meet there, near the
windowsill and pull it up,
the sash, and lean, together,
and breathe, then shout, “Thank you!”

 

 

 

Here’s the Rumi poem I was thinking of.

Writing about writing

This post is a prompt response from yesterday. Of five provided images, the one I responded to was of a piebald horse (not unlike the one above). I quote two poets: Gerard Manley Hopkins and Joyce Kilmer and for your enjoyment include the entirety of the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem, Pied Beauty, at the end.

It helps to know that I am ten years plus into writing a novel in which one of the central characters is Eliza Lucas Pinckney (b. 1722) and that the other three main characters are enslaved Black women.

 

Rhombuses of Light

The morning light is sectioned
mintons and mullions
through the glass, hitting floor and
wall, bending at baseboard.
She often referred to light
as “lozenges.”

It’s the glow we like
especially when April
breezes seep past sills
and chill. But what about the
bend at the baseboard?
An easy compliance.

“Glory be to God for dappled
things,” said the poet.
Rhombuses of light
are not pied or
dappled, but when created
by a window speak
to the relationship between
solidity and light.

She repeats herself. All
those references to clouds!
It’s time to find and replace.
Thunderclouds with slate
grey bottoms, slants of
rain like an etching against
the horizon. Again, Eliza,
really?

Her friend rode a dappled
grey sixteen hands high. How I had
to look all that up, authority running
to cats and dogs and at a stretch to
the way the interior of a barn
smells and how light catches
dust and particles of hay
drifting below the rafters.
How light and gravity inform
a moment.

Imagination as authority,
not a popular position
these days.

Ripples of clouds above
the marsh, liked ruched
silk. Sunlight on creek
shining like pewter. God
in nature. We get it! Eliza
got it.

Gerard Manley Hopkins
got it.

Light will slide up the
wall as day goes on.
Sometimes the miraculous has
a predictable element to it.

All those author interviews
and how they make her
shrink. What’s on HER
bedside table? Did she
even read as a child?

The Case of the Hidden
Staircase.

But it occurs to her now,
more memory than thought,
that reading Gerard Manley
Hopkins as a teenager
opened a previously
undisclosed chamber in
her heart.

You can do that with
language? Light can
bend at baseboard
and be celebrated and in
strange syncopations?
Why does one element
mimicking another thrill
the senses? Light like
water. Sedimentary rock
like ripples of corduroy.
Memory like glass.

As a priest, he told
himself to shut up.
Figures an early hero of
mine would go to such extremes
and for all the wrong
reasons. Virginia Woolf with
rocks in her pockets.

Heroes, heroines, perhaps
best not to have them —
but how else learn how
to write, how not to panic,
how to pick at a scab and
move on?

Just once, she’d like the column
to soberly reveal an author
that didn’t read until she
was seventeen or so. Too busy
mucking about in creeks and
negotiating with terror. Why
sit still?

Music floods the chest.
A good reason for silence,
she thinks, a single window
at a time being enough,
the light passing through
glass from the east,
inching toward the center of the hall.

You mean to tell me
the rhombuses of light float down the wall
and not up as morning progresses?
The unreliability
of observation. What motes?
What barn? Memory like glass.

Eliza’s daughter was about to
turn eleven when he died. Eliza’s
husband. Harriett’s father.
The dates are there for the finding.
July 12, 1758 and August 7, 1758.

What I make of turning
eleven just after the death of
a parent is not what you will
make of the same.

Even Harriett, poor dear,
would have made several
things of a singular devastation.

She had wanted to read
“Pied Beauty” at her father’s
funeral. The altar boy
turned atheist would have
appreciated its point, even
if Longfellow and Poe were
his favored fare.

Her sister overruled the selection.
Longstanding habits
of bullying that can’t even
be attributed to grief.

“I think that I shall
never see a poem as
lovely as a tree,” he
wrote in my autograph
book — remember those? —
“But with his help, I’ve
made a Dee.”

“He fathers-forth whose
beauty is past change.”

Swapping out an altar
in the Catholic Church for the
Kinderhook Creek doesn’t mean
one has no god.
Trout fishing as sacrament.

Harriett was ten about to turn
eleven. I was 24 or 26 and the fact that I can
never remember without adding age-at-death to
one birth year and then subtracting another
birth year speaks to loss.

 

*     *     *

Poetry Fdtn link here.

Get Me Out of Here

A prompt response to “get me out of here.”

Short version — life sucks, but there are pockets of joy.

1) Horse hair lath. Dust of decades. Darkness. I scrabble away. Can anyone hear my frantic efforts?

2) The leg, it is broken. The well, it is dry. I watch the sun fall off the rim of the stone like it’s the end of the world.

3) I cannot see myself in the mirror. He has smudged me out with benign disregard. “Oh,” he says, “I didn’t tell you?”

4) The legs crowd my relief. Chairs, staid and those that rock, ladies feet, socked and shoed. Get me out of here!

5) Twelve at the table. Eating. Pass this. Pass that. Nine people tied for saying nothing.

6) It would’ve been funny if it weren’t tragic. Abominations launched. Lies tolerated and worse. Quick! Change the channel.

7) In the dusty cellar, the ten year old clutches the Bible recently purchased at a flea market for ten cents. Fifty years later she wonders, ‘do fallen Catholics have any protection during tornadoes?’

8) Sandy wore pigtails, ate her boogers, and laughed at all her father’s dumb jokes. ‘Will childhood never end,’ her brother wants to know.

9) Ronnie slobbered because of cerebral palsy. Ronnie leaned in for a fourth grade kiss. Wet. His mother where? Sandy called home. Her mother would not come.

10) At the will signing, Jennifer thought her head would pop off in panic. ‘Was it the business of witnessing,’ her therapist later asked.

11) Brad sat in the corner of the lodge, cold French fries on a plate, his wrist broken. His mother couldn’t be reached.

12) The uncle that declares ugly predictions as if doing a service. “Most don’t live for more than three years,” he opined. Her father’s staples not even out.

13) There’s Robert De Niro acting as if he’s a young thug. Only problem is, he’s got an old body. Is this ever gonna end?

14) Herculean restraint collapses and spite retaliates agains the crazy that is her sister. The silent tolerance never credited.

15) It’s 10:30 am. Her boys have been rocketing around the house since before six. Time is a liar — surely it’s dinner time?

16) She wept by the tomb, her blue robes darkened by tears. Three days is a long time to wait.

17) And behind that rock? Waiting, why exactly? Was God the Father brewing up some special elixir to elevate His Son or was the Holy Ghost off on a distracting mission in Egypt, perhaps, or Mongolia?

18) Even 47 minute masses are too long.

19) Why not give them sacks of grain? The potato blight did not cause catastrophic death and emigration anywhere else in Europe. Genocide, an old game.

20) What was her name — the girl in the well? Now we remember the scuba diver who didn’t make it out trying to save that trapped soccer team.

21) ‘Get me out of here,’ thought every single one of those boys. How polite their desperation!

22) Hamburger grease and twitter thumbs do not go well together. Can no one stop the man?

23) All the saviors fall down. They, too, might as well be trapped in a damp cave in Thailand with a flooded egress. We holler and holler for their help when they are the ones in need of rescue.

24) Can no one stop the man?

25) Traffic on the Bourne Bridge crawled to an absolute halt. There was no way out. An existential crisis. Would Jennifer eventually slide forward past the narrow rails and be reborn. Get it?

26) If I count to ten or a hundred will it go away? If I count to ten or a hundred will I go away? If I count to ten or a hundred and vanish, who will I be after?

27) The Committee chairs bored even themselves. Why keep talking?

28) The partner in the corner office humiliated her with a guffaw at a department lunch. Much later Jennifer will rail out loud: “I’d rather be a decent person than a good lawyer.” Fucking boilerplate!

29) Interminable wait. Wooden benches. Dead, hostile faces at the counter. 84. Oh god, I’m 110.

30). Wait for it. Wait for it. She’s still waiting for it.

31) Her apartment smells rank — a vile combo of garbage and urine. There are so many boxes and piles of crap everywhere, there’s no where to sit. ‘Did I want to watch CSI-Los Angeles reruns?’ she asks as if everything was normal.

32) At some point, we all shed the body.

Finally, well, there is no finally — just strings of intolerable moments punctuated by sweet spring air, a perfect omelet, the well-timed embrace, passionate release, the just-right pocketbook, friendships that endure, a cool glass of bubbly water on the deck in July with a good book, oak trees that rattle all winter, catalpas that litter the ground with orchids in spring, the devotion of dogs, the quirky affection of cats, a difficult catch made, dancing into remembrance, the blues, rock and roll, the sound of pounding surf, the smell of pounding surf, foaming surf on ankles and knees, a dip in the cold Atlantic, his clever wit, my laughter, your beauty, purple shadows on snow, the old dog relaxing in his bed at last.

Writing Prompts, Collection I

“That joy you’re experiencing is not only contagious, it’s necessary and urgent and irresistible.”

Wesley Morris talking about Black music / Sept 7 episode of The Daily, a #1619 episode

“The ghosts shudder, but they do not leave.”

“We hold hands and pretend at forgetting.”

“There is soft yellow sunlight and drifting pollen where he was, and me and [Pop] embracing in the grass. The animals are quieting in grunts and snorts and yips. Thank you, they say. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, they sing.

Jesmyn Ward, Sing Unburied Sing

“… All the patience lost with holding on and finding out the cost of being strong.”

Amy Wedge, “Not Enough” — soundtrack to “Keeping Faith” TV program

“Where is the ground we can stand on?”

A friend, about the current state of American affairs

“She slid like a seal out of any old sadness she carried.”

“Why does death catch us so by surprise?”

“The slightest clue can give us away.”

“Dizzy, I eventually found the car…”

Colum McCann, TransAtlantic

“She didn’t tell me anything until we were standing by the river.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the #1619 project speaking on one of The Daily shows

“And that is the way she saw the land, with no difference between the different kinds of yesterday.”

Anne Enright — sorry not sure which novel

“There is no full circle, tidy conclusion, or simple solution to any of this.”

Suki Kim, Land of Darkness, in The Best American Essays, 2018, talking about N. Korea

After reading Maureen Jones’ poem titled “Nuptial” (blessed are the menial chores) and Robin Greene’s poem titled “This Old Dress I Call Jewish,” (Illuminations, Expressions of the Personal Spiritual Experience) the prompt was simply: write about a dress.

“… in the next age, the forests will prevail, not you humans.”

Goddess Alchemy

“… a shard of ice shivered through me. I was aware of a terrible voice.”

“His voice — his beautiful voice — rang high and light.”

Geraldine Brooks, The Secret Chord These two voice prompts worked well one right after the other.

“Nature has the talent to soften, forgive, and remake, to create something beautiful out of our mistakes, paradoxes, and counterpoints — even when it comes to you invisibly.”

Mark Helprin, Present Tense in Paris

“My soul. She was eating my soul.”

Mather Schneider, “Suicide Lane,” Rattle, Vol. 61, page 35

These next seven prompts were given at six minute intervals. I was worried about interrupting the writers’ flow, but it worked marvelously. These are headings from one of the fairy tales in The Complete Fairy Tales of George MacDonald. With each heading I supplied a few words from that section of the fairy tale, to use or not.

1. Where is she? (rose bush, sultry, ethereal, mischief)

2. She laughed too much (awkward, abandoned, consultation, peculiarities)

3. Try metaphysics (ecstasy, mineral, imponderable)

4. Try a drop of water (condescended, balcony, wind)

5. Look at the moon (canopies, knot, trembling)

6. Hiss (horizontal, unlocked)

7. This is very kind of you (fate, joy)

Enjoy!!