The moment when it all seemed possible.

There was a moment when it all seemed possible.

That was a long time ago when I was very young.

Then there was a moment when it seemed far away.

There was a moment where I didn’t know what “it” was.

There was a moment when I had no idea what I had wanted.

There was a moment when all I felt was want.

There was a moment when I couldn’t make it happen, all I wanted to do was sleep.

And there was this moment when I go off to figure it out.

What do I want? What can I do to make it all work? What can I do to live with compassion and integrity? How can I make the world a better place and myself a better person?

There was a moment when it all seemed possible.

Published in: on May 15, 2016 at 9:15 pm  Comments (1)  

What makes life complicated?

Your life is more or less complicated based on the number of people with whom you are friends and the number of people you know. In Greece there are many hermitages, and it would seem that life in a hermitage would be pretty simple.  You swim in the ocean.  You go to the market for fish, bread, tomatoes, and onions.  You make yourself meals and you swim and presumably you do some contemplative work—you read, and think.  No one is going to ask you for anything.  No is disappointed with you if you don’t do something right.


Having friends is a good thing.  Doing one’s work well is a good thing.   We are going to Greece and while we are there, life will be simple.  We will eat tomato cucumber salad.  We will write and swim.


When we started the press, I thought it would be like having a family, the authors and the working on the press.  I am amazed every day at the hard working Red Hen staff.  Life is complicated and wonderful, and I am ready to think for a bit.

Published in: on May 14, 2016 at 9:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

The sea is rising.

I hear a sound.

An odd sound.

The sound of my orange yoga mat being used as a scratching post by Thomas.

I hear a strange tapping on the roof like fingers.

That’s the bougainvillea getting ready to lift my roof shingles peer underneath, let rain in.

The scuffling outside? That’s the squirrels eating the cat food.

Sound brings change.

That’s the ocean coming over the barrier.

That’s the river rising.

The continents shifting.

The light falling.

There are things you cannot change.

We must focus on what we can change.

Published in: on May 13, 2016 at 6:07 am  Leave a Comment  

The cat is on the skylight.

The cat is on the skylight.

One of us is in the air.

The other cat in the living room.

One of us is grinding away at writing.

The cat on the roof only sees sky.

One of us is on book tour, sailing the silver seas.

The cat in the living room is writhing in agony.  He sees the cat on the skylight.

When you’re out promoting a book, you can hardly hear because there’s so much noise.

The cat in the living room is losing his mind.  That other cat is on the skylight! What about that? Up there in the air and the birds and the light pouring on him. Unacceptable. All the cat in the living room can think about is this. I’m in the living room. I’m not on the skylight. I. I. I.

The cat on the skylight is just at the sky stage.  Later, he’ll be in the living room. Later he’ll be in the basement. Later he’ll be in the attic. Later he’ll be chasing squirrels. Later he’ll be cooking dinner. Later he’ll be making love to his cat wife/wives.

The cat in the living room can’t see any of this.  All he can see is himself in the living room and he believes this moment will last forever.

Some friendships last your whole life.  But many friendships end. The part of your life when you are writing a book ends. The book tour ends. The teaching semester. Then something new begins. Eventually you are on the skylight too.  Up there in all that air.

Published in: on May 10, 2016 at 6:19 am  Comments (1)  

Judy Grahn is a rock star

Judy Grahn gave a talk at Ms Magazine’s Beverly Hills space yesterday on the idea that every woman deserves to have a room of her own.  She read with Lory Bedikian, Nicelle Davis, Adrienne Christian, Eloise Klein Healy and Jenny Factor. Such an amazing lineup of reading and I loved Judy’s talk on having a room to write and think in.

We had dinner afterward, and Eloise sat beside me and we shared fries.

Today was Mother’s Day.  We had brunch at the Huntington and then Tobi and I went to Skylight Books for an event.

We leave a week from tomorrow and I am ready to go.  I need time to rethink my life.

I like the warp and weft of dream of space/time that one can flow into while on a writing retreat.

Published in: on May 8, 2016 at 5:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

New piece in Huffington Post!

Mother’s Day, An Evolution


When I first hear about Mother’s Day, it seems like a silly holiday invented by Hallmark.  I didn’t grow up with Mother’s Day.  I grew up in a cult and we didn’t celebrate any holidays there.  By the time I hear about it, I am a mother and too exhausted to celebrate.  My ex-husband isn’t much of a roses and champagne person, but he is willing to take the kids to the park and let me get caught up on sleep.  Sleep is a great gift for a new mom.


My new mother-in-law likes brunches where we all wear white and as my sister-in-law says, she can play Rose Kennedy. These brunches last hours.  My kids finish eating and then start to tear up the place. I shut down our family going to the fancy brunches.


We try brunch at our house. I can see that my mother-in-law doesn’t like the yogurt and bowls of fruit.  She loves the pomp and circumstance of restaurants, waiters, linen, silver.


We start to separate for the day.  I tell my husband, What she really wants is you. I take my kids and we go out to celebrate.  We go to Venice Beach. We go out on the paddle boats in Golden Gate Park. We walk through the Haight. When they get older, we have Bloody Marys.  I love having  a day to spend with my kids doing whatever we want. My husband takes his mother to restaurants where I make reservations six weeks in advance.


This Mother’s Day we are going as a family to the Huntington.  My mother-in-law, my husband, my daughter and me.  We are going to have high tea, see the gardens and have champagne.  It will be crowded, but the Huntington is a big place.  Lots of ladies wear hats there.  I’ll encourage my mother-in-law to bring a hat.


At Red Hen, we love mothers, and we love giving books to mothers.  We have two books that are hot gifts for Mother’s Day:  Poems from the Pond by Peggy Freydberg who wrote these poems from ninety to one hundred and seven.  What mother doesn’t want to believe she can be inspired at any age? These poems ask you to slow down, to relax, to think about your life and what’s beautiful about it.


When the World Breaks Open, is Seema Reza’s story of running the writing program at Walter Reed Hospital while going through a divorce.  She’s raising her two sons, juggling the vets’ needs and taking care of herself in the cracks. That’s motherhood; mothers get what’s left.  Seema makes her own dive into single parenting an adventure and a dream of awakening into living life on your own terms.


Mother’s Day is coming.  Buy the mother in your life a book, a flower, a bagel, a glass of champagne.  Remind her to keep the windows open, let opportunities fly in.   When I think of big accomplishments in my own life, I think of my two kids.  The two of them turned out to be so amazing even though I didn’t know anything about being a mother.  I was running through the sprinklers with them to Leonard Cohen’s “Take this Waltz;” and giving them Otter Pops.  You could do worse, I tell them than a Leonard Cohen Otter Pop mom.


Published in: on May 6, 2016 at 12:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Meeting Erica Jong

Erica Jong wrote to me after the reading with Kim.

She loved my poetry.  She loved my memoir.  My agent Deborah was there!

It was one of those rare moments, like wow, I feel like a shining star.

I wanted to hug Kim and go dancing with her. I wanted to hug Erica.

Kim’s generosity is staggering.  Thom was there being adorable and their son

Adam who I love.  Erica, you changed the world.  And that’s all

I ask of myself. Change yourself. Change the world.

Published in: on May 6, 2016 at 7:41 am  Leave a Comment  

New York in springtime

New York is all in bloom, we green, and today, I walked everywhere with no umbrella and arrived wet to meetings.  But it’s cold here, and I don’t have a sweater or tights or gloves, so I’m enjoying the rush of wet cold air.  Tomorrow a great event with Kim, and then I wake and fly home.

Published in: on May 3, 2016 at 7:40 pm  Comments (1)  

The Inner Life of Bees

“I’m king of the mountain,” I used to say as a kid.  “You may think you’re king, but you’d be dead wrong. I am the king of the mountain.” Usually when I said this, I was on top of something, a table, a bench, a rock, a stump, a hay bale, and from there, I surveyed my land and subjects.

“You realize,” my friend Lois would say, “that you are king of a barn?”

“Hey, some people aren’t king of anything.”

“Good point, well, bye king. Adios.”

“Come back, if you’re not here, then I have nothing to be king over.”

“You can be king of the goats.”

The goats were unsatisfactory subjects in that they ignored me.


I grew up in a cult in Southern New Hampshire.  The adults lived in one compound, and the kids were raised on a farm where we spent most of our time doing farm labor.  I try to remember what my inner life was like then.  What made me happy or sad?  It’s hard to remember the inner life of your past self.  What I mostly remember is being ashamed of being badly behaved but not ashamed enough to behave well.  I remember fear and shame every day of my life, and when something happens where I act badly and am punished in some way, I feel myself reenter that childhood self who was always down an emotional dark well.


But I wasn’t always in that dark place. Sometimes I claimed to be king of the mountain, sometimes I told stories.  As children, we figure out what coping methods will sustain us and those too become our thinking lives as adults.  You learn that you can claim to be king of the mountain but if nobody is there to appreciate it, then you’re just talking to yourself.


You never really know a person until you know who they are alone.  When my husband is alone, he’s happy.  He’s writing and reading, thinking and breaking his diet to eat grilled cheese sandwiches.  He isn’t wishing for applause or someone to listen to him.  He’s deeply involved in a creative and intellectual life.  When he is around other people, he can sit quietly or he can talk.  We all know men who can dominate the conversation and go on and on seemingly unaware that everyone at the table is bored to tears.  Mark rarely goes into long rants except perhaps at the office because his inner life doesn’t demand an echo.  He had as hard a childhood as I did, but he came out of that and developed an inner life that focuses on thinking and contentment.


When I met Mark, I needed encouragement. I didn’t want to say, “I’m king on the mountain” and have no one there to hear.  I relied on a network of girlfriends to let me know that I was okay. My inner life as a child was all about the dark. I saw myself as a damaged person going nowhere, but with an amazing capacity to have fun on the road to nowhere.  When I met my husband, I liked his centered way of being and slowly I reworked my own inner life as I imagine people do in therapy.


Like my husband, I don’t spend much of my life thinking about myself.  I think about books I want to write, books I’m reading, ideas I’m tossing around, I think about teaching and the business of the press, but I like to think about big ideas. Having just had a birthday, I’m thinking about some life goals, but I don’t talk down to my little self.  I don’t need to any more.  I can analyze something I’ve done wrong without thrashing myself to bits.


Like many kids raised without loving parents, I used to do my own extreme inner parenting.  I was always either the king of the mountain or the village idiot.  There was no room for growth.  Many poets have an inner life that bounces between self loathing and self aggrandizement.  Neither is particularly helpful because they don’t go anywhere.  Added to this, I have a tendency shared by many children from abusive backgrounds of catastrophizing.  That’s a great word that covers a lot of strange behaviors.  Everything is the end of the world.  Oddly, I grew up being told the world was about to end, and literally when things go wrong, my inner conversation used to be, “It’s over!”


I’m still working on the stories I tell myself.  I’m writing a new story.  Your inner life is how you see yourself based on the conversations you have with yourself, and it becomes how other people see you as well.  We project our own inner life and it becomes a reality.  At my most despairing, my son and daughter message me, “You’re going to be fine.  You’re amazing,” and I remember that I can continue to learn from my mistakes, practice integrity and compassion.  I tell myself, I got this.


I think about the inner life of bees.  Just as they sting you, they know it’s over, they will die, but still they sting you in the hot sunlight because that’s their nature.  We are not bees; we can divide by ten.  We can change our inner life so we do not die in the bright sunlight needlessly.  “This is a problem,” I say to myself now.  “What’s the solution?”  Future Kate will have an even more amazing inner life.


Published in: on May 1, 2016 at 8:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

I climbed the sky; I found the morning.

Last night’s reading with Percival Everett, Brynn Saito and Maxine Hong Kingston at City Lights was packed, and it was a rumble of beauty.  Percival starting off with protest pieces, Maxine reading about old San Francisco and then lovely Brynn reading from her launch book, her Keatsian poems unfolding like a fan.  We went with Maxine to dinner at the Stinky Rose and some  had the 40 clove garlic chicken, and we drank wine and then I flew To Chicago where the plane stumbled down through thick clouds into this cold thick air and then the sales meeting where I am heading shortly.  With enough coffee, you forget sleep.  I climbed the sky, I found the morning. I need to write and sleep and work out.  What am I doing?

Published in: on April 28, 2016 at 5:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,025 other followers