Reading tonight at Mrs. Dalloways with Douglas Kearney!

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Reading Thursday night, April 24th in Berkeley at Mrs. Dalloways with Douglas Kearney and Peter Kline at 7:30 pm.

Then I fly home and Mark and I will go off to Santa Barbara to celebrate our birthdays! We like staying at nice cozy little places and walking around town. I like going to Lush; there used to be art galleries and bookstores, but those are long gone. We go to some of the shops, and my favorite thing is to go down to the docks and look at all the boats and choose which one I would have if I were going to have a boat. Of course, there is the matter of taking care of the boat, sailing the boat etc, but I think I would love all that in my next lifetime when I have more time.

I’m at the Brentwood Country Mart and I like this little area. Maximum quaintness. The women are sleek as antelopes. They all look they do yoga/Pilates five hours a day. Their faces are perfect, their skin is flawless, their shoes are expensive, they look like they all stepped out of catalogs. Their hair is wonderfully shiny and has its own little bounce. The shops are pricey, so I never go into any of them. There are all these little yoga places and salons. The funny thing to me is that you cannot get any booze around here. I just want a glass of wine before the reading, but I am S.O.L. What they have is fresh pressed juice. What if I want Jack Daniels? Or even Makers? People around here keep their bodies pure and lovely, they put green things into their body, not brown things or red things. Their bodies are leafy. I’m not knocking green. I eat an avocado every day because Angela said it would improve my skin, and she should know. Her skin looks like a fourteen year old’s. Mine looks like I started using sunblock at forty (which I did) and what can I say, some people never started using sunblock, so I’m ahead of those guys. I like the Brentwood Country Mart. I like the fountain and the people watching. I like entering a world in which I am ill equipped to live but can visit for a moment. I couldn’t look this good all the time, it would exhaust me.

Before Mrs. Dalloways, we are going to dinner at a restaurant called Revival in Berkeley. They are dedicated to the farm to table kind of sustainable food. From snout to tail, root to shoot, toes to nose. I don’t eat meat but I will be interested to see what the place is like and the food is supposed to be great. I’ll let you know. I do think people are a little too excited by food these days, foodie culture gone wild what with all the cooking shows and fine dining places here and there. I’m not a fan of the Better Homes and Garden garbage that included food products, but I’m also not opposed to seared fish and salad as a dinner. Speaking of which, I’m starving, and I have a reading in twenty minutes.

Note now that the reading has happened. A great crowd, a good reading. Robin Coste Lewis and Alice Quinn came and I was so honored to see them. We went to Rex’s place afterward and he heated up pizza for us! Great times in Venice.

Published in: on April 24, 2014 at 6:42 am  Leave a Comment  

Beautiful and Pointless by David Orr

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The sun is setting over the Pacific, and I am watching it from the train. I just finished reading again Beautiful and Pointless by David Orr which is about the whole poetry world and how weird it is. It feels like the sun is just hanging inches over the horizon. I can see surfers in the ocean in their suits, the ocean must be cold. The waves are big but not so big as to be ridiculous. We are passing Del Mar which is a lovely little seaside town, the kind of place you wish you never had to leave. My friend’s house in Del Mar has a purple door and somehow reminds me of Winnie the Pooh’s house which was very welcoming and had nasturtiums planted out front although he could never pronounce the name. Winnie the Pooh’s house would be worth visiting because there would always be plenty of honey and probably bread to spread the honey on. My friend’s house is very welcoming too, like a seashell whooshing your own heartbeat.

On the train, the conductors like to say things like “Solano Beach is an adventure,” and, “It would be a shame to bring you safely to San Diego and have you get smashed by a trolley, so be careful when crossing the tracks.” These phrases do nothing to lighten my mood. Once when I was flying from Denver to Omaha, the stewardess said, “In the highly unlikely event a water landing between Denver and Omaha… “ I don’t like to hear about water or landing when I’m supposed to be staying up the sky.

But let’s get back to David Orr’s book. He chews through the poetry world in the most delightful way imaginable. His writing is funny and engaging. I like his part about the blurbs people write that seem to suck up like the tentacles of a squid. I like the section on ambition. Poets are ambitious. They want to be Noticed and they/we are in such a tiny bubble that there is hardly anyone to notice us yet we ardently wish for our tiny group of fans –if we have any—to be raucous and unnerving loud. I like his section on The Fishbowl, which pretty much sums up the strange world we find ourselves in. Yes, poets do get published because they are running in a crowd/gang and someone in that gang is a maker and make it happen for the others. Sometimes that maker goes unappreciated and unseen and nobody really cares whether that person is living indoors or is OK. But that’s the way that little world ravels and unravels.

I like the part on the form wars and on personal poetry. In short, everything about this book gives you a real feel of the game playing and yet real seriousness of the poetry world. Those of us inside it take it seriously; it matters to us to write well, to read each other’s work, to understand the art form and yet there are little camps that exclude people, there are poetry wars, there is nastiness, there are people, I am sure, who would accuse me and Red Hen of doing a very bad job, yet, they haven’t made the sacrifices we have made. And if they had made those sacrifices they would have their own long list of mistakes. That’s not to say they aren’t right. We have made mistakes, but it is to say that it is like people with no children telling you how to raise yours. You want to say, “Shut it. Make your own children, and if you don’t know how. Go online, I hear they have videos.” I’ve gotten dirty and messy making poetry and it’s been a good time. Reading this book reminded me of the good parts and the crazy parts. Orr’s written something wonderful here and I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the poetry world. I want to give it to everyone on our board.

Published in: on April 23, 2014 at 9:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Should you sleep with your baby?

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Alicia Silverstone’s net worth is 185 million. And growing. She’s also vegan. And she has her own brand of vodka. I would so much like to launch the Kate vodka which would be the best vodka for making a dirty martini. You can drink the Kate vodka up or on the rocks, you can drink anyway you like it and it’s great, it would be a multi-faceted, multi-gendered vodka.

Alicia has a book on birthing and parenting called The Kind Mama which offers some fresh ideas. One of them is that after the baby is born, you have a “lying in period” of ten days. I love that idea! Yes, I had to go back to work two days after my first and one day after my second child but that was because I had such a shortage of servants. And who can get good help these days? Probably with 185 million, lying around in bed for ten days is an option, but sorry Alicia, some of us have four letter words in our vocabulary, like work.

Another idea that makes me laugh is her suggestion that babies should sleep with their parents in bed. I admit that my primary reason against this is that the King Solomon story frightened me terribly as a child and since I am a violent sleeper and pretty much everyone I’ve ever slept with has been a violent sleeper as well, having a baby in the bed has always been a bad idea.

But let’s just go to the obvious: You pretty much never hear men begging to have the baby in the bed or even in the bedroom. Why? Let me give you a little hint. The man wants to have sex. Yes, he does. Women may fall in love with the baby and not need any sex for a while, but those same women are going to be super angry if their spouse starts to cheat on them. Sure, in the Middle Ages you had to sleep in the same room/bed while the pigs and chickens roamed the floor but let’s face it, we’re not in the Middle Ages. I doubt Alicia has ever been up close to a pig or a chicken since she’s vegan.

Which brings me to another point. Why do celebrities like to tell the rest of us how to eat and exercise. I like my booty, I like my jump meat. I don’t want to be vegan. I don’t want to drink juice for breakfast. I like coffee. I don’t want to give up sushi. I doubt I will look like Gwyneth Paltrow or Alicia Silverstone no matter what I do. Where’s my celebrity chef? You guessed it. I’m sleeping with him.

Back to Alicia. After birth she ate pills made from the placenta. Now, that’s just gross. She suggests giving your kids blueberries and that way they’ll never miss candy. I wonder how that will work when her kid grows up? The fact is, most kids like candy. And guess what? It doesn’t kill them. My kids grew up strong and glorious and they ate a lot of candy. I ate no candy growing up and that’s why I need so much of it now.

One thing she said that I agree with: What you eat when you’re pregnant will affect what your kids like to eat. I ate lots of fruit, vegetables and a ton of sushi. My kids love fruit, and they are so crazy for sushi it’s ridiculous. My daughter loves spinach, brussel sprouts, beets, all kinds of vegetables. My son likes French fries and whatever vegetables are on pizza, so there you have it.

My point is this, no celebrity knows better how to live your life than you do. Some people tell me that therapists know a lot about how to live your life. Probably. If I ever become a celebrity, I’m going to have a therapist too and then I’ll have it all going on.

Published in: on April 22, 2014 at 11:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Reading this week in Brentwood and then in Berkeley!

Reading at Diesel Books on Wednesday at 7 pm with Rex Wilder and on Thursday at 7:30 pm with Douglas Kearney and Peter Kline at Mrs. Dalloways.

We are going to rock it! I hope you will be there! I will wake up on my birthday on Friday at Tobi and Molly’s place and hopefully they will sing! And then I fly to LA and Mark and I will get this party started.

Published in: on April 21, 2014 at 8:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

We all do things differently.


In London, we went out to eat and there were many Muslims. On the street and in the restaurant. The women fully veiled. They did not eat. The men ate their food. The women watched. We could not see these women, they were all covered up. Perhaps they were enjoying being all out in the open except for their face. We can say that this is wrong, but that is a personal opinion. For all I know, these women might be as happy as clams. (Clams in the ocean that is. I doubt clams are happy when they are about to be made into clam chowder.)

Women in Southern California. There is a look I find scary. It’s the look where the woman is super skinny and wears a baseball cap, she wears long pants and covers up her thin arms and legs, but all the time she thinks about how fat she is. The Los Angeles woman thinks day and night about how fat she is. I think the Muslim woman is probably more comfortable than the Los Angeles woman. She can’t eat with her husband but sometimes she gets to eat, surely. But to each his own. We all get to be excruciatingly thin if we want to be. That could be your whole life work: Just being thin.

There are people who do all kinds of things in the world. We are all different. Some of us wear short skirts, some wear long. Some have shoes with very high heels, some wear skanky clothes, some wear skinny jeans. Some people make buckets of money. Some don’t seem to care about money at all. The thing to do is to accept people for who they are.

But the freaking skinny women with their baseball caps scare me. I try to say to myself, to each his own, but I can’t help thinking how freaky it is to be in a country with plenty of food and to choose to look like you are dying.
We all have something we don’t understand.
Today, Mark’s birthday, I went for a run and then made him breakfast after I walked to the store to buy the food. We went to Eloise and Colleen’s house and Eloise read us her poetry. We went to the plant store and bought plants and did some gardening, and I bought groceries and made a Chinese chicken salad. We like to stay with the non traditional, so with our salad, we had tequila. The first plan was white wine which might have gone better, but Mark wanted margaritas so we had them.

I am reading with Rex at Diesel Books on Wednesday and on Thursday with Douglas Kearney and Peter Kline at Mrs. Dalloways in Berkeley. This weekend is my birthday weekend. At the end of this, three is a breath of air. And that air moves in huge circles. Breathe in and breathe out.

I understand love, clouds, joy, books, dreaming, the imagination. I understand happiness.

Published in: on April 20, 2014 at 8:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hollow People


The Harlow monkey experiment is about monkeys who are not taken care of by their mother. The monkeys who had the wire mesh mother and no love grow up to be very strange. They do not know how to love; they do not know how to care about the other monkeys, some of them cannot even mate. My students read this and they wonder. Some of them have no loving parents. Does that mean that they will grow up and be unable to love? They wonder.

Because many of us grow up without love and we want to love anyway. Everywhere I see parents who stay with their children, who stay with their spouses and family. People who love wildly and dream big.

But I also see hollow people. Something is missing from many of us in America. You see people who don’t understand that the greatest of these is kindness. Just being kind seems to be missing from the DNA of way too many people.

Hollow people can leave their children. Can fail to take care of their wife and children. Can push past you on the street. Can cut off old ladies in traffic. Can come up to pregnant women and say, I hope it’s a girl, they’re so much easier. Can say to a pregnant woman, I hope it’s a boy, a man needs a son. Can say to a pregnant woman, I hope it isn’t autistic; autism is such a curse.

Can say to a parent of an autistic child, How can you bear it? Can say to a parent of a disabled child, Are you in mourning? Do you feel that God has abandoned you? Can say to the parents of a gay kid, Is there any chance that your kid will get better? Can say to the parents of a lesbian, Is your daughter the boy or the girl; I’ve heard the boy lesbian likes breasts and the girl lesbian does not. Can say to the mother of a child who is “different,” Maybe he’ll outgrow that.

Can say to a person who is underemployed, Just work harder, do what I do. Can say to a person who is poor, Why do you choose to be poor? Can say to a person who hasn’t found love, If you looked harder, love would find you. If you tried harder, love would come to you. If you were a different person, you would be loved. If you were normal or could pretend to be normal, you would be loved.

If you were thinner, you would be loveable. If you didn’t have that crazy kid/kids, you would be loved. If you didn’t have that shitty job or live in that shitty trailer park, you would be loved. If you walked in the world like a Ralph Lauren model, you would be loved. If you cleaned up your act, you would be loved. If you were somebody else entirely, you could be so happy and loved. Everything would be so perfect, but you’re not.

And what I say to the hollow people? I am. Indeed, I am. I inhabit the I am.

Published in: on April 19, 2014 at 4:29 am  Leave a Comment  

What I want to tell my friend about her husband

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The reason the scorpion stung the turtle who was carrying him across the river is that it was in his nature to sting. It is very difficult to change a person’s nature unless they are still growing. (As in, ah, you, young man, bi now, gay later.)

A husband who loves you will want you to feel safe. Will want you to feel shelter. Will want you to have a life that feels like a dream, a party, a song, a river in which you are in a canoe with no holes, like your life is a picnic when it does not rain and when it does rain, you have a huge tent to walk under and in that shelter, you are both womb safe.

A husband who will want to make sure always that you are not afraid and that you want to come home. A husband who changes diapers. A husband who is willing to tell your parents that he will take care of you. A husband who is willing to make good on that promise. A husband who takes care of his son and of you and who sees you. Who sees you completely. Who sees you not just as a body, but as a whole person, your energy, your being a mom, your voice, your spirit, your wild lovely self.

There is a story you enter when you decide to have a son. The boy is your son, but he is also his father’s son. You want the father to see you as the giver of his son but also to see you completely as a separate person. You are not just a story of someone who produces his heir. You are not just a beautiful girl/woman. You are a person. Your own person.

In the bullring, there is a place for which the bull will fight, a place in the ring where he feels safe; it’s called la querencia. It’s his safe place. We all have or should have a querencia, a place where we feel safe and the husband should help you protect that safe place, should understand it.

For most women, once you have a child, the safe place is fairly simple: It’s your kids are. And it’s living somewhere with your kids that they are taken care of and you aren’t sweating blood. When my kids were small, we had a yard and in that yard a slide that went into a small wading pool, a cocker spaniel and a lot of trees. I wanted to know my kids could grow up in that park space, have enough bananas, be able to go to the beach. I wanted to know the bills are paid, and that I could enjoy being a mom without sweating the small stuff and that I could still have time to write.

It isn’t too much to ask. It isn’t too much to want. It isn’t too much to reach for. Ask for a place in the world where you can raise your child and be loved. Ask for him to fight for you. Give love and ask for love in return. I wish you well. I wish you love.

Published in: on April 18, 2014 at 2:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chicago Dreaming

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Chicago is a very male city. Unlike Savannah, San Francisco or even Los Angeles, Chicago is male. It will steal your stories and carry them off into that wind. I think of the migration from the South, talented young Black men and women moving north to escape Jim Crow laws, coming to Chicago, New York, St. Louis and making music there. I like the jazz of Chicago, but the pizza is too thick for me.

Nicelle and I landed at 11 last night on Virgin. I was exhausted when we got here. I plan to catch up on sleep a bit. We’re here for a conference which is happening one mile away. I may not get to the conference today, but I plan to be there tomorrow. Nicelle is going to speak on Friday, I am speaking Saturday. We are speaking about poetics. I’m sure we’ll be electrifying whatever it is we say. I look forward to it.

Tonight we are reading at Seminary Coop. This Hilton on Michigan is surrounded by stores I’ll never step inside like Coach and Fendi and women’s clothing stores that have real clothes for real adult women. I did see H& M though, that was encouraging. Right near the Poetry Foundation there is a Trader Joes which is cool. It’s across from a great looking church and a sign for Goose Island beer. In Chicago, all this stuff works together.

It’s not too cold here, the sun is shining on the lake, and I played my trusty hotel iPod in the room while getting ready to go down to the ALA and to the Poetry Foundation. I love going there. I like seeing Emily Dickinson’s white dress in its case, I like the poetry books and the hum of poetry when you’re there, I like the feeling of drowning out the cacophony of commerce for one hushed breath when poetry can whisper to you.

Tonight after the reading there is a dinner at the Nile Restaurant. There are twenty-five people going to this dinner. Probably going to be very fun. What I hope I can do is have a drink with everyone. I want to meet the twenty-five but unless it’s your family, massive restaurant dinners lead to you getting stuck with a large bill and you can’t even remember what you said or who you talked with. They know each other, so they’ll have a good time. I can just drop in, I think. I am going to become more social and extroverted in my next life. Like my friend Darlene.

And if you are going out to dinner with twenty-five family members, that could be crazy too. Our family going out is usually my two kids, their significant others, Jared and Kelly, and Mark and me, that’s eight. Mark’s other son lives in Portland, but if he were around, that would still only be ten. Maybe sometime they’ll be grandkids and we’ll get up to twenty-five. Who knows?

I’ll let my blog readers know what I think of the Nile Restaurant when I drop in tonight. Sounds Egyptian. Or at least Middle Eastern. Russian food tomorrow night. The sun shines on Chicago.

Published in: on April 17, 2014 at 8:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Watch out for flying monkeys


I do not want to become a flying monkey. Flying monkeys fly all over doing bad things. They work for witches and they kidnap young girls with small useless dogs. (By the way, speaking of dogs, I’m going to digress here for a moment and say, I am really tired of people who talk about their dog’s illness as if it were a child. It’s not a child. I understand a little grief when the canine hits the dust, but come on people. You missed a meeting because of your dog? You missed dinner because your dog was queasy? People get way too emotional about their pets. I like all 20 parakeets, all three dogs, both cats, the eight nameless chickens, I even said a prayer for chicken number four may she rest in peace to the Great Chicken God in the Sky, may her feathers ever keep her warm, may her eggs come out with ease. I am just sick of people making out like their pets were people. They aren’t people. They’re creatures.)

Back to flying monkeys. There are a lot of ways you can be a flying monkey. Travelling around all the time and not getting anything done. Travelling on vacation and leaving your spouse behind. I spoke with someone the other day who is going on his summer vacation and leaving his spouse behind. That’s flying monkey behavior. Zipping around on weekends and never being at rest: Flying monkey behavior. Never really listening to anyone because the voices in your head are too loud? Flying monkey. Not keeping promises to friends of things you said you would do but then just didn’t bother to do? Flying monkey. Complaining that you can’t show up on time because your dog is sick? Flying monkey. You aren’t getting along with your kids so you decided to just leave them with the other parent and get away and live your own life? Flying monkey.

Flying monkeys are the opposite of Buddhists. Flying monkeys do not live in the present but are always rushing to the next thing. They do not live life mindfully. Sometimes they forget where they are. Sometimes they forget who they are. They forget what matters to them. They lose their moral center. They start crying that friends don’t understand them, that nobody likes them, that they’re starting to feel misunderstood. Pretty soon, they’re right.

As I said, I am concerned about myself. I am travelling way too much for me at least. I’m starting to lose track of where I should be and I’m not listening well. Those are definitely the dirty signs of flying monkey, but the good thing is I see this, I’m paying attention and I plan to get myself back with my feet on the ground. Watching the coffee grounds as they fall around the roses. Watching the rose petals as they fall on the grass. Watching my Japanese maple, the leaves opening and opening. Watching the figs ripen. And running into all that air.

Flying monkeys lose track of who they are. I’m remembering.

Published in: on April 16, 2014 at 2:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

She had to beg for underwear.

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Don’t try to convince other people that your way is right. In my first marriage, my ex had two guy friends who were married to these women who were completely squished. Stomped. Walked on. Walked over. Walked around.

I remember we were over at this guy’s house we’ll call Jimmy. I wanted to go out with the wife and get pizza while the men were going to stay with the kids, and my ex said, Sure, Jimmy and I can watch the kids and give them a bath.

It turns out Jimmy had never been left alone with his children let alone give them a bath. My ex had to do the bathing and getting them into the jammies. Jimmy gave his wife $5 a week spending money and sometimes he asked for it back. He did all the grocery shopping. He was a marathon runner and they were super Christian so they had this idea that he should be able to do anything he wanted and she should have to just bow to his wishes.

The other guy was Mormon. His wife had to beg for underwear. I think I gave her some of mine at one point. She was a beautiful blond girl and they lived in, you guessed it, Utah.

Here is the funny thing: At the time, neither of these women seemed particularly unhappy. Sure they complained a bit, but don’t we all? They were in their twenties, they thought they were in love and they were living out their lifelong dream. A male had asked for their hand in marriage. They now had a husband and children. They were inside the right story doing God’s will. They were inside the story they had always aspired to be in.

I wanted to tell them that they were wrong, that they were actually miserable, that begging for panties was a bad thing. My ex agreed with me that this treatment was wrong, but even in our idiocy then, and it does amaze me looking back to think of what we did not see, even then, we knew that pointing out to someone who is happy with her life that you would hate her life is not helping to make her life better. Both those women eventually grew up and left those men. In their own time. Having too much information dumped on at once just gives you more than you can process.

I know a couple women now who I want to walk up to and say something. I want to say, Every time he takes a trip without you and leaves you behind, take a trip of your own and leave him behind. Go out in the world, get the job you dream of. Fix up the house the way you want it to be. Cook the food you like. Take time to take care of yourself: Get a massage, a manicure, a pedicure, a facial, a new hairstyle, flying lessons, trapeze lessons, go fishing, go ice fishing, never let a man be the hero of your life. Be a hero in your own life.

But I don’t. Because being a hero requires finding the hero in yourself. I am a hero, I left the cult when I felt God rising in me. I cannot give you hero. You have to find that for yourself.

Published in: on April 15, 2014 at 11:42 am  Comments (1)  

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