Thursday, September 30, 2004

why i love poetry workshops

i don't know what the protocol is for posting other people's poetry on the internet... this is by someone in my poetry workshop. and i've just fallen in love with it. i can't get it out of my head. i memorized it, i read it so many times. and i have to share it. it's by a woman named susan riddle-mojica, titled "My love"

He brings me

Each bloom precisely

And a card
That reads:

I cannot love you
With my soft, pink heart

I love you with my bones.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

make use of all those poetry books on your shelf

well since i begged you all for help, the least i could do is offer my own writing prompt. so here it is: take a poem written by someone else. (not sure if it would be better to use one you know very well or one you hardly know at all...) type or write it out skipping a line between each of the poem's lines. then go back and read each line, continuing it with your own writing on all the blank lines in between. finally, take out the original poem and play with what you wrote, revising it into a complete poem without the prompt poem. i've only tried this once, but what i turned out with was nothing like the prompt poem i used! (and it turned out pretty well too!)

Saturday, September 25, 2004

I'm Alive

Sorry, I haven't done shit for shit with this blog thing yet...but i figured now is as good a time as any to hop on board.

I too have been struggling rather mightily for inspiration. I emailed the Captain (Jack) a couple of months ago telling him that my new plan was to write one poem a week...needleass to say, a couple months later I had written one half of a poem. HA! I suck. Anyway, recently, I caught some kind of bug, and have written three poems in a week, and started two others. Call me crazy. As soon as I can get to a computer that isn't shit (one that isn't at the public library) I will post a couple of them...until then I'll try and come up with a good prompt for you...

She floated out into the icy air and the reality of snow...

there's a little somethin' for all you drunken poets in need of a push. Maybe it will produce crap...maybe it will produce beauty. You wont know till you write. Good luck. Drink up.

It's a good thing my friends are reliable poets

Ok, so I haven't posted a thing--until now. I'll admit I've been right alongside of those of you who feel stuck, without much inspiration to write a poem at all, let alone a good one. I'm doing my best these days to get myself back on the creative bandwagon. In the meantime, a prompt for KTB (and all the rest):

Take an event or process or memory and write a poem about it working backwards. Make it as basic as the hour you spent baking a batch of cookies last week, or as complicated as the process of transferring schools 3 times in your undergraduate career (call me on that one if you need any help:) ). Play your life in rewind for a few minutes and see what you can make of it.

!gnitirw yppah

Thursday, September 23, 2004

a plea for help!

alright poets, from the little bits of personal conversation i've had with many of you i'm guessing we're all struggling with the same thing: we don't know what to write about.

and i know, jack always told us to stop worrying what to write "about", not to write "about" anything... but it doesn't change the fact that summer has come and gone and we have little more than half a poem each to show for it (if we're lucky).

so my proposition. about once a month i'll post a plea for help. everyone comment on this post with a writing prompt. whatever sort of prompt you'd like. a first line, a topic, a set of words to use, a feeling, whatever. i figure, if we each put up one prompt that gives us all a whole bunch to choose from!

and of course, make good use of the prompts and when you come up with a poem you feel is worth working on, post it for the rest of us to enjoy and help with and see what wonderful things you did with our ideas. good plan? well prompt away my drunken friends! this will only work if we all contribute!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Wait for it to become part of who you are...

I'm a week and a half away from officially starting my student teaching placement at Hamilton High School, and I've spent all of 3 days in Mr. Moreau's classroom. The last two times I went, I was able to work with a 12th grade student (Amanda) on her independent study on creative writing. She's great! We get along so well, and it's so easy to talk to her for the whole hour about poetry and writing ideas. This finally feels worthwhile! Yesterday, after introducing her to Naomi Shihab Nye, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, and (of course) Jack Ridl, I asked her if she'd been working on anything since I saw her last time. She ran over to one of the library shelves, pulled out this huge book on the holocaust memorial in Washington D.C. and proceeded to show me all these pictures she had marked to spark her writing. (We had talked about our mutual love of WWII history last week, and how that can be a good spark for writing.) The two of us spent the rest of the hour writing from what we saw in the book, and we're going to bring our poems back to each other next week.

Throughout this experience, I kept thinking of Jack, and how he once told us that we have to wait for some experiences to become part of who we are before they'll come out naturally in our writing. So here, without further ado, is the poem I've been trying to write in my head since we visited Mauthausen (a concentration camp) during Vienna Summer School last summer.

what i would say to you if your walls had ears

Here is the poem I couldn't write
a year ago when I stood before your gates;
here are the words I couldn't speak
when your deathful stare rendered me silent:
You held her here, someone's mother, sister,
daughter, wrote Arbeit Macht Frei above your doors
so she believed she could work for her freedom, earn
her way home. Instead, you stole her shoes
and their journey, stripping her eyelids
of their yellow-painted house, geranium box
on the window sill, mailbox with letters inside,
as easily as you stole her coat from her
arms, the strength from her voice. Don't lie
to me, telling me you mistook her for a monster
speaking a foreign tongue. Her hair was gold,
her eyes blue, her only crime a yellow star hanging
from her neck. I hold you
responsible for the cracks in her heels, the jaundiced
tint of her thin skin, the barbed wire encircling
her wrists, her scalp. Her hair lies in piles
at your ankles. Who could believe in God
in a place like this? And yet who could survive
if they didn't? You took the time to paint the walls
that held her, load your camera with film to imprison
her image in my mind. And I can't forgive you
for the hollow cheeks of her sisters years later;
they sing Slovakian hymns to the skeleton brazen in stone,
the bones raised up in her name, their shadows casting
themselves in stripes across lawn now too green with life.
Can't you hear them singing?
Can't you hear them singing?
C a n ' t y o u h e a r t h e m s i n g i n g ?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

"If it's in another country, it doesn't count."

At least that's what my friend/housemate said about it. In Africa, I had a bit of a romantic fling with this guy who was sweet and amazing to talk to about life, love and all those mysteries. He was more honest with me than most people in his situation would have been to someone they'd known for a mere 3 weeks, about his family, his dreams, his tragic flaws, etc. It continued a few precious weeks after returning to Holland, but things just weren't the same. He went away for the summer, I went home, and now it's akward. We run into each other sometimes, and it's like nothing ever happened. I've heard through the grapevine that he is an ass (and "sketchy," as Sarah says) and feel like a romantic fool. (Hey, we did walk the white sand beaches of Zanzibar and see 15+ shooting stars AND 2 meteors in 1 hour! Give me a break!) Anyway, this is my funny/sarcastic poem to this guy... who I heard from a friend said I was a big pain in his ass. We had a real connection, then it disappeared. Is it so wrong to at least try for a friendship? Tell me what you think.

I want you to know how
stupid you are for letting
me slip by. You're missing thousands
of smiles, glances, touches, my
fingers on your skin. And kisses.
How could you pass up
my kisses like you do turkey
sandwiches in the afternoon? What
makes you forget my lips, your
lips, four lips -- tulips all around--
the way we pressed gently and sucked
juices from each other's mouths? How
dare you forget the stars, the same
stars you told me to remember always like
you were romantic or something.
I could have shown you what love
really is.
Don't look at me with excuses.
I've got ears, man.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

what do you do when you're still here but you want to leave?

You go to places (NHB) where you know you will see people (DPS) you know and love and who remind you of the good you used to know, of the beauty still in you, and who say, hey, it's ok, I'm living with my parents, too.

-long live DPS-

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

why does it seem the oyez office is the only room with no a/c?

imagine my excitement on a sticky tuesday afternoon sitting at the oyez review desk, sun streaming in through the open windows, el screaming by every 5-7 minutes... when i flipped through the submissions log book to see what i should be reading next and found... a fiction submission from our very own phil waalkes! yay! :) and this just makes me wonder... where are the rest of you?! come on poets! we have found only a handful of good pieces in the 90+ submissions read thus far, and the mail bins are empty, only bits of mail rolling in each day. you've got two weeks... get those poems in the mail!! :)

submission guidelines:

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Reflections from an Army brat

Though really, I'm not the traditional Army brat--I don't know if there's a nickname for children of Active Reservists. These kids don't move around from base to base but rather say goodbye to parents one weekend every month, a backwards joint custody agreement.

And yes, it's September 11. My father is spending his weekend in Wisconsin for his monthly duty to the government, and I found myself forgetting the date altogether. I spent the afternoon laughing over a family dinner, foreign foods and a different language altogether. While I don't take the events of September 11, 2001, lightly, nor do I want to disrespect the lives lost, I feel like my day was entirely appropriate. It was a celebration of humanity, of America's diversity, of hope and future and for a few hours I forgot about terrorism. I sat next to a woman who floated to the Keys in a boat, who is thankful for her freedom but who still shudders at the sound of overhead aircraft.

Melodramatic? Perhaps. And I don't know exactly what I'm saying: former conservative turned liberal (at Hope, of all places). Army kid who disagrees with the war. But in all of this, I am glad to be a poet, because I find a way to express these idiosyncracies, to give voice to the confusion.

The following is a first draft that's been running through my head for awhile. I finally put it down today, not realizing the date until after I finished archiving it (I try to write the date at the bottom of each draft to keep them straight). For clarity: this is not about my father, but a friend in the Marine corps. He recently returned from a second tour in Iraq.


You lost your bible to the Tigris
when your pack slipped. Everything
was lost. You tell this to my sister,
who sent the book with cookies

while you were still in boot camp,
assure her you carried it with you to distant
shores with a faint promise to read,
like you told your mother you slipped

while sharpening your knives.
You knew not to tell her, confided
instead in me the story of the Iraqi
dissident in Baghdad crowd charging

with bayonet drawn, how you
took care of him (at least,
that's how you worded it). Offhand,
you once mentioned killing bodies.

I wonder if you do believe this,
believe that your pack fell, believe
you slipped, believe in a body without
a soul. I can see you on the edge

of the Tigris, gripping the sword high above
your head before casting it into the water.

11 September 2004

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Back Label Poetry

You are all so kind. I love you all. So I'll share another fund Red Hat bit: the back label.

In creating back labels (which I must submit for approval very soon) this is the final text for our retail wines. Let me know what you think. I know these are not poems, but I hope they come close.

Red Hat Wine is a table wine but is equally welcome on sofas, boats, and beaches. The wine is reminiscent of autumn leaves, the sounds of skates on backyard ponds, and long days at the swimming pool. When uncorked at home it can release tension caused by rush hour traffic and long days at work. Fine to drink alone, but is complimented nicely by friends, family, fireplaces, patios, and porches.

And my door is open when every you all want to come and drink wine with me!

Free Wine For All Drunk Poets Society Members *

Yesterday, my dad and I officially became Federally licensed winemakers. In celebration I offer everyone here free wine, BUT *you have to drive to St. Clair Shores MI. I have moved into an apartment one mile down the street, and one of the the most comfy futons in the world with a (somewhat) beautiful view of the lake; so you have free lodging in addition to wine. Not to mention if you need poetic inspiration, I have a few sites for y'all to see. Make a day or a week of it, there is plenty for poets. ;)

Peace, Poems, and Pinot Noir,
Hadji "The Grape Stomper" Nickel

ps. the website is

David Swanger: What the Wing Says

i just read an article for my lit mag class on poetry that included this poem, and i love it. and the whole class agreed it is a fabulous poem, and i just wanted to share it with you fabulous people. (p.s. class on the 6th floor of a very hot chicago loop building with the el flying by out the window every 5 minutes is great... but it's no dungeon)

What the Wing Says

The wing says, "I am the space behind you,
a dent in the fender, hands you remember
for the way they touched you. You can look
back and song will still throb. I am air
moving ahead, the outermost edge of desire,
the ripple of departure and arrival. But

I will speak more plainly: you think you are
the middle of your life, your own fulcrum,
your years poised like reckonings in the balance.
This is not so: dismiss the grocer of your soul.
Nothing important can be weighed, which is why
I am the silver river of your mornings and
the silver lake curled around your dark dreams.
I am not wax nor tricks stolen from birds.

I know you despair at noon, when sky overflows
with the present tense, and at night as you lie
among those you have wronged; I know you have failed
in what matters most, and use your groin to forget.
Does the future move in only one direction?
Think how roots find their way, how hair spreads
on the pillow, how watercolors give birth to light.
Think how dangerous I am, because of what I offer you."

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

as always, I'm a few steps behind

Well hello all. This is Meridith and I found this blog earlier in the summer and meant to join, and between yesterday's stellar representation by Dan in the Sentinel, and an email from Katie reinviting me (don't remember receiving the first one, sorry!)....well, yes, here I am. And it's encouraging to join this space again. It's not quite like meeting in the Dungeon, but appropriate for our lives now.

I've talked to most of you on and off, but for the requisite life update: I was in town for the summer, attending the wedding circuit, trying to prepare for a move down South, eventually breaking my foot. Yes, so, you all of my recently graduated friends: purchase health insurance. I am still in Holland, working for now, and happily TAing for Dr. Trembley's 254 course. I am living in my dad's basement with my kitten and a walk-in closet crammed with books (and that special shelf of 455 chapbooks). I've stopped kicking and screaming about being here and instead I'm lighting candles and writing poetry and trying to make the best of this time, of this place. It's what I'm given now.

(and as I write, I just heard my voice again on the old id for WTHS...a strange confirmation of my presence in this town?)

I am finally, finally getting my act together for submissions to literary magazines (that's the first project this fall, then grad school apps). I'd like to leave a few lines here--this is my most recent work:


Abuelito will not return
to see his mother
buried in Santiago.
He already regrets

the visit two years
ago, when the mango
began to grow
under the skin of her neck.

In his nightmares, he still sees
the way her head tilted,
a forced question
no one could answer.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

What 2nd Graders Know

This is for everyone going (back) to school this fall, or for the rest of us that need a quick smile. There is a link to the story, or (since the Tribune requires an annoying but free registration) I have also posted the text as a comment (click below).,1,7093671.story

Yay for 2nd graders!

DPS is Famous!

Bloggers of the DPS excite!

Yours truly is quoted in the Holland Sentinel today where I talk about blogging and the DPS. They talk a lot about Julie Ridl (who we know is famous) and eventually me (making this site famous)!

Hopefully, we'll see some more people get interested in our little blog niche. I'm also excited to see new contributors added to the list. I hope we hear from all of you soon!

Now that we're famous, everyone raise your glass. I'm raising my cherry green tea outside JPs, though I had to pluck a drowned hornet out of the mug. I love the outdoors!

Monday, September 06, 2004

Loose Ends

ok, so I know I kinda fell off the face of the planet for a while due to Orientation (it was fabulous, in case you were wondering!) but I'm back (back in the sense of getting-ready-for-student-teaching-so-I-don't-actually-have-my-life-back) and I thought I'd contribute something. So here it goes.... *the title was provided/inspired by will*

Loose Ends

I have no idea what I’m doing, what I want
for my life, but I do know that someday (if I ever
have kids) they'll call you “Uncle Will.” You’ll pull
into my driveway at 3:00 am, ask why
they’re already asleep, and want a cup of coffee –
black. You’ll sit with them for breakfast at the kitchen
table, tell them over waffles why you have a tattoo
on each leg, behind each ear. They will see the world
in your hands, cracked and earthy and pulling farther
away from its center with each mile on your car.
And when my driveway is empty again, I’ll see
headlights in my window as I fall asleep at night,
hear Counting Crows sing “maybe things are different
this time” in the back of my mind, and swear
that I hear the sound of tires on gravel
as the coffee beans grind when I wake.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

A Very Rare and Special Gift

My dear Hope College friends. I have a rare and special treat to offer all of you for free. It is a reproduction of an amazing work of art that was found in the crevase between Jack Ridl's desk and bookshelf on the third floor of lubbers. Truth be told, it is even old, from the early seventies that is.

It has Jesus and Mary Magdeline (my interpretation) but others I found the possibility of other biblical stories to apply it to. This fabulous piece of poster art will be sent to you FREE of charge if you email me your address. This is a ONE time offer (yeah right I found about 40 of them in my closet and need to get rid of some).

At the moment I know of 8 people who have a copy (because I made copies for Jack and them) and the rest never picked theirs up. You will gaze longingly for insperation into this fine art department creation will your poetic genius wells up and bursts all over the page.

Send all inqueries to

Please no po boxes, we do not accept CODs, credit cards, or any form of currency other than poetry. Sorry, all purchases are FINAL.

hear ye, hear ye! submit to oyez!

the oyez review is published by roosevelt university, where i am a grad student taking the lit mag class. (oyez means "hear ye!" and is pronounced oy-yay). we accept submissions from all over, whoever, however old, young, published, unpublished. last semester's magazine has works from recent college grads and from the poet laureate of colorado.

you should all submit! no joke, i'd be real excited to be putting in my time outside of class logging in submissions and to run across some familiar names.

deadline: october 1st (short notice, i know, but you can do it!)
typed and double spaced. no strict length restrictions, but try to stay under 15-20 pgs of prose. fiction and creative nonfiction accepted. 3-5 poems may be submitted, not to exceed 10 pgs total. for art, send slides, high resolution jpg images on cd, or other reproductions (no original work please). art will be printed in black and white only. include SASE, simultaneous submissions discouraged, previously published work will not be considered. no email submissions. send to:

oyez review
school of liberal studies
roosevelt university
430 s. michigan ave
chicago, il 60605