Who Are the People in Your Office Suite?

Yesterday we had a wonderful reading by the staff who work with me at The Writer’s Center. Although we see each other on a virtually daily basis and though many of us talk freely about writing and art (including, sometimes our own), for many of us, it was our first opportunity to encounter each other as writers. It did not disappoint.

The event renewed my sense of luck at having the kind of job I do, where I’m surrounded by people who love and care for the art I do as much as I do.

There was great variation among our readers, from a genderless short story narrator to a Kafka-Vonnegut blend of paranoia and humorous insanty to a Danish story in translation. It’s encouraging for me to know that among their many workday talents are mad writing skills too.

I read three new pieces, two of them for the first time, and I felt they worked well. I’ve had a terrible insecurity about a lot of my new poems, but I did some revising over the holidays and feel slightly better about them. My poems in the voices of Dorothy Gale, Omm Sety, and Joseph Smith all felt like they’d come together when I read them.

And I suspect, deep down, the three of them are culminating in a book that examines the nature of faith. In ourselves, in our memory, and in a higher power.

The Women

A little something I’m working on, poetically speaking, right now. This not a finalized list but a brainstormed list. I think more are coming. Some will not be invited.

Dorothy Gale
Dorothy Eady
Ophelia
Joan of Arc
Karen Allen

What the hell is a poem, anyway?

Uh oh, I’m lost again. I haven’t been able to write a poem for a bit because—literally—I can’t remember how.

This happens to me regularly, usually after finishing something and feeling like it’s time to move on to something new. I feel more and more like the first thing I have to do is provide myself with a structure (not a form) for conceptualizing what a poem is, and then I can begin to write them again.

When I’m not writing, I try to tell myself that I am in a “receiving” mode. Things in my daily life will stand out to me, stick with me, yank on my ear a little bit. Or, if I am trying to write in the “old structure” still, new themes will start to emerge, things I’m currently concerned with, working through, thinking about. Before writing RISK, I was writing weird little poems about landscapes, about being lost in landscape and sensing danger there, about moving on from a death, and about what it is that separates humans from machines. All of these themes ended up—somehow—playing into the book, but in a more succinct and more refined way.

I wrote a sad poem last week. It had a lot of physics in it, which means it’s a carryover from RISK. Someone was splitting atoms. This is a garbage poem (meaning I was just tilling up some subconscious muck), so I’ll post it here:

Tell me what is the purpose
for causation————

The physics
of being disappointed
has too many vectors


and collision————well, I’ve known so much of it

I’m just awfully broken now.


Energy is conserved. The sum total of all things in the universe
is nothing


And I hear the word “nothing” in your voice,
your gravelly, cracking voice


I want to touch something of you.
I want to be touched by something of you————a molecule, perhaps.

This lonely world is full of sham laws
and broken bodies, broken promise. Broken atoms.


When the first human split the atom
tell me————
why did we stop there?

There is bomb enough now
that no one need be lonely alone.
I can take this world with me————
It is a poor substitute

for the world
where living with you, happily,
broke every fucking law you could think of.

I’m interested in those long caesuras. I think I will keep those around. I’m thinking a lot about physics because of that Buffy book I’m reading.

I am also thinking a lot about movies (shocking). I’m thinking about unspooling narratives and cause-and-effect. That for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I’m thinking about Newtonian physics and relativity. About how time passes. Here is a fun tidbit I learned about time:

Let’s say you are in London. Your and a friend set your watches to the exact same time, down to the second. You get on a plane and fly to San Francisco, then get on another plane and fly back right away. When you get back to London, your watch and your friend’s watch will read different times because time has passed more slowly for you due to your rate of travel (and since the fact that the earth’s rotation is a constant speed—the speed at which your friend traveled).

I also learned that planetary orbits are not elliptical, they are straight. Work that one out.