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Showing posts from 2018

Napo 18

Today was a little tough. I encountered some mild writer's block at the keyboard today. I just didn't know what to write about. I thought about abandoning these prompts altogether, but even then I hadn't the faintest idea of what to do. So I returned to the prompt (sort of), which, today, was to write about morning rituals. Mine are painfully boring. So instead, I thought about the morning rituals of hummingbirds and how they kind of wake from the dead each morning. That's miraculous! Amazing! I want to think more about the metaphoric significance of this, this idea of a daily rising from the dead, a daily resurrection. And how it happens everyday, and we still call our world a mundane place.

Here's what I got down:


Miracle, Wednesday Morning
They can teach you a lot, those hummingbirds, Spring visitors to my porch with rufous faces, Buzzing wings and ever-beating hearts, A blade for a beak.
These tiny bursts of beauty And toughness Know how to fight For a miracle,…

Napo 17

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Today's prompt asked: Who shines in your city? My mind immediately thought of one person--the cashier, Courtney, at Willy Burger. She's always so amazingly happy, cheerful, and kind, no matter the circumstance, even after Harvey when it felt like the world was ending. It probably also helps that Willy Burgers are, well, miraculously good. And I say that as a vegetarian!  

Willy Burger. After Harvey

Do you ever wonder How Noah and his wife Felt getting off that ark For the first time after the flood— Looking up at God?
You sink into the dark wells of her eyes, Relieved. So many refuges of comfort Here in Beaumont have flooded, Been washed out, destroyed.
But Willy Burger stands. A beacon of bacon, A sanctuary made of onion rings, Dripping grease, malts, A shrine to joy and comfort For the weary survivors Of this unholy flood.
The cashier’s eyelashes Bat as she anticipates your order And you let it fall from your lips In prayer. Courtney nods. She understands. She’s been th…

NAPO 16

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Today's prompt was to write about a list. I decided to write a to-do list for Demeter trying to get out of bed in the morning, reckoning with a sort of existential crisis. This needs some development, but I like the idea.

Demeter's Morning To-Do List, April


Get out of bed. That’s harder than it seems, you know. The barren winter Of my mood Pulls me here, keeps me in a kind of stasis. Think of all the millions of reasons I should thrust the covers from my body, Ignite the morning— The hungry bees, The slumbering bears, The sweet, sweet, sweet Smell of pollen filling the breeze.
Think of all the million reasons I shouldn’t. Another cycle of loss begins. Another spring to create. Another set of blossoms that must die.
Reason with myself. It’s for the greater good. Imagine all of the people out there Depending on my joy— The farmers, sunbathers, Children still stuck in their winter coats. All I have to do is get up. All I have to do is force a smile. All I have to do is try.

NAPO 15

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Today's prompt was to write about an object from a well-known story and personify it. I, of course, chose Adam's apple. He's trying to blame the apple for enticing him, much like rape culture tries to place some blame on women for the actions of men. I'd like to work on this a bit more. I like this idea very much because it gets to the hahaha core of some of our problems.


Adam Blames the Apple
When you sprouted from the branch, At first a blossom, did you know How much chaos your flesh could cause?
Do you feel guilty? If your skin wasn’t quite so rubescent, Your curves so lovely, The scent of your ripening so sweet, If only you didn’t fit Snugly in the palm of a hand, If only you didn’t hang so low, Enticing more than the bees, Maybe history would have played Out a little different.
Were you asking for it— To be plucked from the vine, to be held against the nose pressed against hungry lips, nibbled by teeth, penetrated by my hunger?
If only you’d hung on a little lon…

Napo 14

Today's prompt was to write about a bargain, an exchange. I don't eat doughnuts because I want to be pretty. Oh what a Faustian bargain I make everyday! :)


Ms. Faust
If you ask me what the soul is made of, I’d say it’s probably doughnuts. Glazed. Fresh and hot From the oven of some tiny bakery In some East Texas town, The oil still glistening, The dough dissolving on the tongue.
The smell wafts down the street, Into my bedroom, my dreams, Beckoning me into some kind of promise Of a paradise of sugar, Full bellies and joy.
And every morning, I’m Faust, Turning up my nose the heaven In exchange for this—my own flesh, A Mephistophelean bargain Called a diet, in which the soul Is sold for price of a waist.

Napo 13

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Today's prompt was to write about something that's different from what it seems on the surface.
I decided to write about Big Thicket's longleaf pine trees. These guys are so tall and sturdy that you'd think they'd last forever. They're a keystone species in the forest, too. So much depends on them. But the reality is that they're vulnerable and endangered. The forestland is being taken over by commercially farmed lumber pines. Only 3% of the longleaf population exists today.

I want to talk about the pines, but also, I want this poem to reach beyond into a metaphor for people we admire, who seem invincible, who are the keystones of so many around them. The giants of our lives. I'm thinking of my mentor who loves the thicket and the pine trees. He lives out in the forest, and when I visited him last summer, he told me exactly how many pines had to fall to build his home. He knew and acknowledged their sacrifice. He's my longleaf pine in so many ways,…

Napo 12

Today, it was a little tough to write. I had a really busy day at work, and I feel so far behind with everything. I feel like I'm spinning and spinning and getting nothing done.

My mind's been a little fuzzy since yesterday. I'm seeing a specialist for my recurring ear infections. I've had one that comes and goes since the beginning of the year, and it's done a ton of damage to my ear, destroying my ear drum and, I learned yesterday, some of the bones in my middle ear, too. My specialist is now referring me to another, more specialized specialist (I had no idea that was a thing) in Houston, to take over my case since it's gotten more complicated. So that sucks. Houston is an hour and a half from Beaumont. And he recommends surgery.
So I feel like I'm in a bit of a funk. I hate being sick all the time. But hopefully, this is what I need to finally get on the other side of this. We'll see. The saga continues.

But, I found a few moments this evening to at …

Napo 11: Elegy

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Today's prompt was to write an elegy. I decided to write one for Proctor Street, the main drag in Port Arthur. It's a really surreal sort of place. It's essentially abandoned, though it clearly was once a very prosperous place. In doing a bit of historical digging, it looks like it became abandoned due to a multitude of reasons--hurricanes (it's literally on the coast), white flight after segregation ended, and its neighbor, the nation's largest oil refinery. I want to write more about this place. I need to return and take some notes/pictures and such. I also want to incorporate Palmer's quote somehow. We remember and relish and wax nostalgic, but in the middle of it all, we're sick. Sick. Physically because of the pollution. As a nation because of our racial divisions and economic disparity. Spiritually because we've come to see a miracle as commonplace, expected. Anyway, this needs work, but I at least got a start this morning.
Elegy for Proctor Stre…

Napo 10: Magnolia Street

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Today's prompt was to write about a place's geography and its names. I decided to write about Magnolia Street, Port Neches, which is close to where I live. It's a really quaint and cute place filled with cute shops, an adorable bookstore, some kickass BBQ and a brewery making the most fantastic local beer. But an oil refinery looms just in the distance, looming like a shadow over the place. It's trying to be beautiful. It really is. That's the impulse of this poem.
Magnolia Street, Port Neches
If you call something “magnolia” it must be beautiful. This quaint street invites a stroll—a charming bookstore, a funky brewery, a downtown filled with the scent of bbq smoke wafting. Magnolia, the name blooms with beauty and baggage— the scent of flowers following this street like the lovely, troubled past of a belle returned to town after years of being away, her absence inspiring rumors of all kinds.
Here, Magnolia bloomed before this street As built, before Dixie had me…

Napo 9

Today's prompt was to imagine the large and the small coming together. I had a little fun. I want to keep working on this poem yet. I imagine a poem about God baking a cheesecake and being disappointed with the results, the cracks, like the cracks and fractures that exist within our own society.


The Cracked Cheesecake of God
What the fuck? I tried my best, Followed the steps laid out By centuries of wisdom— Warm everything in your palms With love, crack the eggs With a certain gentleness Into the bowl, mix slowly, Slowly, slowly, let the batter Come together gradually Before pouring it into that spring foam pan Of a nation that will mold it into something Everyone agrees is a masterpiece.
But no. I slid it into the oven, Put a low heat, and still— I leave it there for a moment, Step away to fix my tempest In a teacup just to find Those hairline fractures in the surface of its skin, Separating, deepening as it bakes Into faultlines that mar What should be perfection.
Shit. I did m…

Napo 8

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I love this picture so much. That's me and my amazing colleagues, from left, Jerry Craven, Jerry Bradley, and Jim Sanderson. I don't think I need to tell you which one is me. We're at the Texas Institute of Letters Banquet in San Antonio. It was my first banquet as a newly inducted member. I owe these men an enormous debt of gratitude for believing in me, empowering me, and encouraging me. Plus, they're just plain fun to be around!

I have to say, though, that I'm a little glad this weekend is over. B and I are driving back to Beaumont now, and I can't wait to sleep in my own bed again and return to my routine. Also, I miss my cats.

So, being on the road and not driving, I have some time to write. So, I got this little draft of a poem together. What's infinity? That was today's prompt. I think that most things, when we understand them, we learn they're not really infinite. The ocean has a bottom. We know the sun will eventually putter out. Texas sum…

Napo 6, Napo 7, and TIL!

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Howdy from San Antonio! There I am, giving my reading at my induction to the Texas Institute of Letters. Last night, I read my poems beneath the stars in La Villita to a crowd of supportive and inspirational writers. It was amazing. My former professor, Steve Schneider, was also inducted into the organization, along with another talented poet whom I just met, Sheryl Luna. Last night was the poets' ceremony. This morning, we had a delightful breakfast and a ceremony for the children and young adult authors. Tonight, the main event will take place, a banquet at The Menger Hotel. Needless to say, I've been busy.

Fortunately, I had written one "extra" poem on April 1st, so I'm counting that as my poem for yesterday. I'll paste an excerpt of it below. At some point soon, it will be posted on This City is a Poem in its entirety.

And today, I slipped away from the festivities into my hotel room for some much needed peace, quiet, and reflection. And a nap. And some …

Napo 5

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I love Houston. It's a "real" city. It doesn't pretend to be anything it isn't It's the kind of city that takes a beating and rises up anyway. It's the kind of city that's strong because it's so diverse. It's industrial and dirty and tough. It's urban and sophisticated and cool. And it's art scene? Amazing.  I drive through/to Houston often now that I live in Beaumont. It's skyline IS almost charming. The city really is an urban sprawl, though, and I was thinking about that today. It's a jungle of a different kind. So, this is my poem to Houston. 
Urban Jungle
You pronounce the Houston skyline “charming,” How the buildings rise like cypresses From the swamps of yesterday. Below, Pedestrians like fire ants march along The sidewalks on a mission to expand This forest made of concrete, glass and steel, While others buzz around like honey bees Emerging from their air-conditioned hives To sip the nectar offered at the bars That blo…

Napo 4: Put a Dog in There

Today, I followed the Napowrimo.net prompt about describing something abstract (anger) as something concrete (in this case, a mean mutt). I followed the craft advice from  "Put a Dog in There: Poetry and the Power of Concrete Nouns"
Julie Marie Wade perhaps a little too literally :)


Anger
Your anger is a barking dog That won’t shut up. It yips, yips, yips. It bares its little teeth As a growl grows within its heart.
You keep your anger On a short leash, Or lock it behind a chainlink fence. You don’t want your anger To bite the neighbor kid, The mailman, a lover. You don’t want your anger To escape at the wrong moment, Run out into the street, Eat a small child or a cat.
Sometimes, your anger Slumbers in a plush bed, Her eyelids twitching, Her lips lifting, And you know She’s dreaming of sinking Those white teeth Into someone who really deserves it. You tiptoe around your anger As not to disturb it. You stroke Its head, keep it well-fed, And do a lot of praying. Sometimes y…

Napo 3

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The Naming of Darkness
How could Adam name the one thing He’d never understand? The light Bathed his body, nourished it, Filled it with everything he was, Everything he thought was just.
And here he stood, staring Into another world as the sun set, At the shadow her body cast, At the deep shade of her hair, Into the depths of her eyes. How could he name what he couldn’t see, touch, embrace, and call his own?
Eve, even her name suggested She was born of night, and brimmed With it still now, standing before him. She closed her eyes. He wanted to know what she saw behind those lids, the umbra cast within her mind.
This woman lying next to him, A universe within her that he’d never get to name. He called that place darkness, And it cradled them that first night.

Napo 2

I got up early today with the idea of writing a poem. And it worked! :)

This is a little poem about my Easter Sunday.


Resurrection, Easter Morning
It’s Easter morning and the car won’t start. I’m just a woman witnessing this hopeless Scene as spring buzzes around me, as the wind billows my pastel dress, as the flowers make the world move, pushing winter’s frowns into smiles, pushing the laziness of hibernation into action, pushing the barren world to life again. But without a pair of wheels, I’m stuck, a bud that won’t open, A broken child of spring Who can’t make her way To witness the ritual of miracle Of a man rising up from the dead.
I imagine now, the service is beginning. The plate is sent around. My husband cusses, Rolls up the starched sleeves of his last good shirt, And leans beneath the hood, settling in For the long morning of finding out What the Hell went wrong with this Bucket of rust and sin. Together, He thinks that we can make this right. He has faith. I have my dou…

National Poetry Month, Updates, and a Poem

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Oh dear.
It's been awhile since my last update again. I hope you'll forgive me. 
This month, I will be participating in This City is a Poem, a NaPoWriMo poem-a-day type of event that provides daily prompts and a writing community to share works. They will be sharing one of my poems as a feature, too, though I'm not sure when!
Before we delve into NAPO, though, let me give you a quick update from my little neck of the thicket. Of course, AWP happened. It was the usual whirlwind, though enjoyable. A health scare ALMOST got in the way of my trip, but just the day before, I got the A-O-K from the doc to make the trip by car (not plane!) all the way from Beaumont to Tampa. B and I tag-teamed the 15 hour drive and made it in a day. I was extra grateful to be there, given the circumstances! I got to meet my all time favorite living poet, though the experience was perhaps a little anticlimactic. I presented on a panel about publishing. I wandered the book fair aimlessly. I attend…

Contests, Submission Fees, and Lamar University Literary Press

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Next month, I'll be heading over to AWP and speaking on a panel about book contests and small press publishing. I'm gathering together my notes for my little talk, and it's actually been a great learning process for me to think through some of the practices that Lamar University Literary Press has. I also realize that there's a lot of mystery and perhaps misconception about what happens at a university or literary press. How do we choose our manuscripts? How are we funded? What all goes into the process of making books? And who's involved?

I thought a little blogpost might help shed some light on what we do, why we do it, and how it all came to be this way. Also, it will help me figure out what I want to say!

First of all, the panel. We'll be talking about why we DON'T use contests to generate revenue and find manuscripts. I feel that, in the literary landscape today, we are far too reliant on the contest model for both the generation of income for small p…

An Embarrassment of Good News

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Oh my.

This is ridiculous. I have been elected into the Texas Institute of Letters!

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I am still in a bit of shock, to be honest. Joining TIL is one of those "bucket list" career goals of mine, something I aspired to do some day when I'm old, wise, and gray. The writers I admire most are a part of this organization, and for me to be joining them? It's an honor above just about any honor I can think of. I'm truly humbled by it. And not in that humble-brag sort of humble. The real kind where I wonder how on earth this has happened to me.

This news came at the best/worst imaginable time. I first received unofficial news about two weeks ago, on what was supposed to be the day B and I would celebrate our 13th anniversary. Unfortunately, that morning, I had gotten terribly ill with a horrific ear infection, and we ended up having to cancel our dinner reservations so I could stay home and try to get well. I didn't get well. In fact, my infection got so bad that I…

Writerly Goals for 2018

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Well, there she is! My next book will be out any day now. This book has been a few years in the making, and I'm incredibly grateful that it's finally coming to fruition. And will you look at those amazing blurbs?

Before I declare my goals for next year, let's take a peek back and see how I did to keep myself accountable:

1. Find direction for new poetry manuscript in the works. I don't need to complete it, but I'd like to have an idea before the end of the year as to how it's going to all come together.

Well, I DID complete my "next" poetry collection, An Iliad of Bones. I mean, it's ready to go. So I blew this one to smithereens. I didn't submit it anywhere because I didn't want to have two books coming out so close together, so it's just sitting on laptop now. 

2. Stop being afraid to try new writerly things. I'm a poet, but I'd like to try writing fiction, criticism, memoir, children's lit, SOMETHING ELSE to diversify. Le…