Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Manuscript Musings

I have to say, I've been enjoying my summer vacation so far. 

I know, I know, I'm only about a week in, but so far, so good! I've been writing everyday. Every. single. day. I get up, make coffee, write. And everyday that writing has been fruitful. What an amazing feeling! Most of what I've been doing is sifting through and cleaning up my Napowrimo poems from last month, but also generating some new material along the way. For the past two days, I've been working on a new mini series of poems about Lobo Girl, the feral child legend of southwest Texas. I think her narrative will fit nicely into my Slue Foot Sue narrative, braided together so to speak. They're both feminist reimaginings of masculinized folklore, that celebrate "wild" women who defy the rules. 

Speaking of my book... this week I've also taken a critical look at it, reorganized it, and trimmed it back a bit. I like its new shape. I decided to take out the "body" themed poems from the mss. and save them for the next book entirely. That way, when I finish "Lost Chronicles" I'll already have a little head start on my next book, "Love Poems to Desdemona". So, I've rationalized this move to myself, and I'm fairly satisfied with the results. This sets me back a bit on the "Chronicles" project, but I still expect to be done by the end of the summer, and, well, I think it will make for a more cohesive, stronger narrative arc to both books.

So the state of the manuscript? Pretty darn good.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Summer Starts... Today!

Oh summer vacation, you couldn't come soon enough :)

Today was my first "official" day of summer vacation. Yesterday, I spent the entire day (literally) finishing up grades and posting them. I went to bed so exhausted, so spent and grouchy that when I awoke this morning, I didn't quite realize what that all meant -- that I'm now totally obligation free for the next month.


It really hasn't sunk in. Maybe on Monday morning I'll wake up and feel free...

So what do I have going on this summer?

A few things.

Actually, tomorrow I'm really excited to visit my old high school and serve as their "keynote" poet for their poetry night. It's kinda special to me, actually, because, like so many youngsters, I did my very first poetry reading at this same poetry night in 2003... that's... too many years ago to count. Lately, I've actually begun really ENJOYING school visits. In the past, I really hadn't and only did them because it's something I should do, but now, they're growing on me. I see them as purposeful, and perhaps the most significant thing is that I always leave inspired by the kiddos. So I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

I'm also teaching Summer I session. I'm teaching two reduced seat time 1302 rhetoric courses. This will keep me busy for the month of June and shouldn't be too terribly painful.

And then, I'll be doing a reading in Austin in July. Woohoo! I don't have a specific date yet, but hopefully soon.

Of course, with every scrap of time in between, I'll be writing. My main goal for the summer is, by the end of August, to have a draft of my next manuscript in Publisher's hands. I've got about 90 poems in good shape right now (not great shape, but good shape) but the main problem with them is that it feels like there's two manuscripts in them. I've got Body poems (tentatively titled Self Portrait as a Ghost Town) and Relationship poems (tentatively titled The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue). Bleh. The good thing is that I've seemed to recently have hit a vein, so to speak, in my writing, so I've been generating new material -- on both subjects -_- Wouldn't it be awesome to have BOTH manuscripts done by the end of the summer? Uh... keep dreamin' Katie. I keep telling myself, pick one and run with it, girl! But then I get a new idea for a poem and away I go. I have a few months to figure this mess out.

I think what's REALLY keeping me from feeling all summery and free is this health b.s that's dangling over my head. Thanks to my epic grading marathon yesterday, I spent wayyyy too much time in a chair and hurt my back. So that's depressing. And then, even heavier on my mind, is my weird brain issue. My wonderful neurologist is on vacation, leaving me in suspense about the results of my recent scans. She returns in two weeks. So for two weeks, here I am, biting my nails, pulling out my hair, and just in general obsessing about this whole mortality thing. Which, believe it or not, is a pretty good obsession for a writer to have.

So, goals for summer 2016:
1. Don't die.
2. Finish poetry manuscript -- either split it up or make it work. Either way, send to Publisher by end of August!
3. Write two book reviews
4. Submit to residencies
5. Submit poetry packets out at least once per week -- so, let's say a goal of 15 by the end of summer. I did two yesterday, so I'm off to a good start!
6. Do at least one public reading a month. I've got May and July squared away, so figure something out for June and August
7. Successfully teach summer course while keeping my writing schedule going
8. Practice Spanish
9. Exercise five times per week, keep it a priority
10. Enjoy and savor the extra rime. Bake cakes. Play video games. Snuggle the cats. Take a long, frivolous roadtrip with B. Enjoy and life life to the fullest everyday.

On number 10, to be completely honest, I actually find great joy in being productive, in writing, in teaching, and in doing what I do. But, I need chill time too. I'll work on that this summer B-)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Napowrimo 30

I think this is the first time I've ever successfully completed NAPOWRIMO! Woot woot!

The Goddess Washes Dishes

She washes them by hand – she wants to feel
This quintessential part of life, this scrubbing away
Of assemblages of coal, garlic, potato skin,
the peeling of of gossamers of grease,
this unraveling of everything
that baked inside the bottom of the pan,
refused to let go. She scrapes it all away,
she lets it soak, she hums along with the tintinnabulation
of water meeting water, pooling redolent, scented
with the dulcet smell of pomegranate soap.

She breathes it in, finds peace in this dance
Of hands and sponge and dinner plate,
And salad bowl. She sighs with satisfaction
As the flip on the garbage disposal
swallowing everything that ever ailed her

Down its hatch with a mellifluous groan.

I can't say I'm incredibly proud of any of my poems, but some do show promise. Let May be the month of picking up the pieces, of finding something beautiful in these shards. 

Napowrimo 29

Today's task, the day 30 prompt, was to translate a poem. I've always been afraid of translating, but I took a swing at it today.

The Rainy Day

At least that was the story, shit.
The headlights and fender were torn off –
Clean. The adjuster came, two hours
Later – the
Arrived. What shit, what money, these things of life create --
The deductible, the rain and the train,
when I would go to yoga with serene karma, a Tibetan monk

The rain, days of rain-soaked plumage,
What is it going to create? A café, three readings, receptions,
Concentrating on the money coming and going between buses that stops

Books, breath

Rain of grammatical indulgence,
Words that fall closer
To the adjuster that faces the headlights

What a defense 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Napowrimo 28

This is in response to the backwards story. Whenever I'm at a loss for words, I write about Eve. She never fails to inspire me. Here's her story, backwards. It might be interesting to play with this further.

Returning to Eden

She never looked back.
She regretted nothing,
knew it had to end this way
as her bare feet stepped from carpet grass
to brambles. She felt pleasure blossom
in her heart as it fluttered.
Her lips stained with mauve,
She licked them clean.
Juice dribbled from mouth to chin,
Down her chest, marking her beautiful
To herself. She brought the fruit
To her lips, a plum, a pomegranate,
An apple, a pear, the details
Depend on who’s doing the telling,
But always it was juicy, always
It was sweet, always it was red
Red, the color of fire and flame,
Desire. She plucked it from the tree
In a single tug. It fit perfectly
In her palm, designed for her.
The color red flashed against the green,
So much green, so little of anything else.
She could smell the ripened flesh,
About to fester underneath
All that perfect sunshine.
She felt a slithering across her feet,
A whisper in her ear, a hiss
In her heart. She didn’t know
Her own face from his, her own name
From his, her own body from his.
She was the darkness to his light,
The silence to his noise,
The night to his day.
She was made to be small,
To obey, to nod her head,
Her lips made to be sealed
Like an envelope, addressed
To him. She was born into a world,
Forged from a rib of someone else,
Determined to define herself
In terms of her own body,
Her own flesh, her own mind.

At first, she was an afterthought. 

Napowrimo 27

Will I get caught up?! Maybe! My weekend looks pretty free :)

Today's prompt was to write a poem about something you remember.
I remember as a kid my dad always had cut fruit ready for snacking on the kitchen counters. Always. Without fail. I'm a fruitaholic, though I'm also a very lazy person. This typically results in me wanting fruit but not wanting to go through the work of washing, slicing, and storing. I know, how ridiculous, right? So I thought of that this afternoon while prepping a melon.

Slicing a Melon One Spring Afternoon

I remember eating melon as a child,
How miraculous the slices appeared
On the kitchen table, the color of sunset,
The color of meadow, the color of blush.

Always fruit on the table. How did it get there?
My father, standing at the kitchen counter,
Always chopping. How blissful to live
In this land of plenty. I remember this today,

As I stand at my kitchen counter,
Halving the world of a musk melon
Along its meridian.

There is a part of me that longs
For that simplicity, the savoring of sweetness
By itself, no separating flesh from rind,
No sharp edges, no blades, no counter top
To wipe clean, no chunks to pack away.
A part of me that wants to return
Back into the garden of plenty
Where everything was provided,
To cling back to the vine.

As I split the melon open, the seeds
Glisten in a slant of sunshine
Streaming in through my kitchen window
That could really use a wash.
I spoon them out with the membrane,
Gobs of ginger flesh, soft like the feathers
Of a baby bird about to leap into sky.

I wriggle the seeds free;
a few resist the loosening
as I spoon out the membrane,
cube the flesh into chunks
that will fit snugly inside

my watering mouth. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Napowrimo 25 and an update

Life. It's got me again.

I've had some health issues again this week that have got me sidetracked, more mentally than anything else.

On Sunday evening, I had the strangest experience. For about fifteen minutes, I lost my ability to speak in full sentences, my ability to see out of one eye, and then the feeling on the same side of my face and arm. It was incredibly scary. The feeling passed and I was ok (I'm still ok) but it scared the crap out of me.

If you know me, you know I hate going to the doctor, so I went home and hoped I'd feel normal in the morning. And I did, only, I was really worried and scared, and I couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong with me. I put off going to the doctor until Tuesday morning and went to my family doctor, who scared the bejeezus out of me by telling me I'd had a stroke. A mini-stroke. He didn't want to alarm me, he said, but it is very serious. He said if anything, anything like that ever happens again, it's immediate ER. That's not something you go home and go to sleep with, apparently (who knew?? ok I did...).

I got set up with a neurologist appointment, and MRI, and some blood work. Today, I had my neurologist appointment, and she actually was quite reassuring to me and took my freak-out mode from 9 to about a 2. She thinks it wasn't a mini-stroke and cleared me to return to normal activity. Her best guess is severe migraine headaches (my super power is a tolerance for pain, so this makes sense that I'd have ignored that), but I'm scheduled in for a bunch more tests and scans to check out my brain to rule out the TIA stroke and brain aneurysms, which run in my family. Fun. Guess what I'll be doing this summer?!?!

So, because of this brush with mortality, the idea of being vulnerable comes to my mind again. Today as I was at work, I thought to myself, what if I died? Would I be happy with how my life's played out? Would I have any regrets? What would I be most proud of? Most ashamed of? Time is precious, and this is a reminder to make time for what really matters. To write poetry that matters. To teach like it matters because damn it, it does.

I think Hell for me would be a life without words. I can't imagine that life. Words are how I find meaning, they're my resonant source of power, my strength. What if I didn't have that anymore? What a gift it is to have them, still, today.

I'm thinking about a lot of different things today, trying to make sense of this experience and put it into words. Words.


As a child, I feared him –
The heavy clanking of his walker,
His heavy breathing, his heaving,
The way he carried himself across the living room,
A globe filled with frailty on his back,
The way his eyes narrowed on me,
Hinted that he saw me, really saw me,
his mouth, an open lacuna,
that only silence and spittle stumbled from,
no words, no, never any words.

This was my uncle, a man who once
Ran marathons, delivered babies
Into this great wide world, laughed
A vivacious laugh, played guitar, sang
With my father around a campfire,
Could make the most delicious s’mores
Before he’d had a stroke.

And today I fear him still
Even though he’s miles away,
Tucked safe in some nursing home.
He’s what I fear more than anything
Else in this great wide world.

I sit in the doctor’s office,
Cold and looking for something
To do with my fumbling hands
As the doctor’s worried eyes
Settle on my face, as he delivers
The news – a mini-stroke,
A warning stroke. Does it run
In your family? My body goes limp,
A heavy stone, the weight of mortality
Heavy on my back. I’m not even thirty
Fucking years old.  I run marathons.
I’m a vegetarian.  I laugh. I sing,
recite poems, create worlds
with words, but now I imagine them,
Piles and piles of words,
every one I’ve ever written or spoken,
One by one, dripping like honey
back into my mouth, an open lacuna 
swallowing everything past my lips, 
over my limp tongue, down my throat 
and into the fire of my belly in silence.