Friday, June 25, 2004


i'm not very good at it, but i'm going to do an internet deprivation this week. i've been causing trouble lately and it's just time for me to pull back and try to figure things out.

i'll blog again in a week or so.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

minority opinion

i am not white. there i said it. if i was at my computer instead of my husband's i'd put that poem in here for you. but i'm not, aren't you glad?

we need diversity folks. it is a good thing.

today i happened upon some ebonics in conjunction with a dearly beloved author, dr. maya angelou.

it felt like someone had just slapped my mother. i wanted to lose my lunch, toss my toast, you get the idea. hurl.

i felt all queasy and just wanted to cry. have you noticed a theme here? i cry a lot. but that is okay. crying purges the body of toxins. i eat a lot of junk food, i have a lot of toxins, so let me cry it out already. geez man.

but if you are a writer and don't want to offend, even if you do want to offend, ebonics and african americans in the same breath, page, sentence, work, do not mix. it's like kerosene and fire. it only takes getting burned once to figure that one out.

so here is my brilliant solution. as dr. maya angelou says, "realize that people who differ from you can be founts of fun."

meet a minority. let them infect your world with their color. their foods. their crazy ways of having fun. their big families.

don't stay locked in your little world any longer than you have to. if you have to meet them over the internet, so be it. cyber minorities are still minorities.

and remember this, just because you don't think you're being racist, doesn't mean minorities won't agree. painful truth but true.

i had a beloved white friend who told me what it felt like to be the only white woman visiting an all black church. she described it in vivid detail. how uncomfortable it was. how difficult it was until worship started and she forgot her color and worshipped God.

i asked her, what if you had to live your whole life that way?

think about it.

just because you are a majority doesn't mean you got it goin' on.

besides, everyone needs a little color in their life.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


the other night i cried myself to sleep. the only thing that calmed me down was a breath prayer, i trust You, have mercy on me. i trust You, have mercy on me. and finally my heart stopped feeling like it was going to fly out of my chest and i fell asleep.

deb says i am on the verge of a breakthrough.



so i keep on. i keep hoping today i'll have courage to face my fears and doubts of never being cba fare.

of never making a penny at what i love to do.

but i wouldn't be alone in that. van gogh is there with me. many others whose names and stories now escape me are there with me. you get the idea.

so i awoke after a very sound sleep, i always sleep well, praise God. and my beautiful apache girl hands me a card.

"here mom, a late mother's day card."

the cover read


i opened the card and moses popped up.
flanked by red tissue paper, the red sea.

"yes. baby. thank you."

i simply need courage.

i hadn't planned on putting a poem in here, but i will. for whatever courage looks like in your life. here it is:

Joshua 1:9

is this courage?
this lip quivering
hand trembling
tear streaked
is this courage?
this knee knocking
tentative stepping
is this courage?
this mind numbing
faith stretching
is this courage?

may your courage be much. may your strength be unfailing. may your God be almighty.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

the f word

is God f with us?

no way!

if He did that, then we'd learn the true meaning of the word f.

it'd be f and there wouldn't be anything we could do about it.

i don't think we're ready for that yet.

too shocking.

too horrifying to even contemplate.

i don't want God to be f with me.

i want mercy.

i want grace.

i don't want to learn the true meaning of the word f.

of course you know what i mean when i use the word f, don't you?


what did you think i was talking about?

"to the pure all things are pure." titus 1:5

Monday, June 21, 2004

anguish as art

dave long commented on a movie, 21 grams, that anguish was mistaken as art.

of course that got me thinking. my anguish is usually a catalyst for my art. i can't wait until that is no longer the case. i have doubts that i will understand or function in the elation as art category. i will try though.

now i am contemplating art in general. it will be stuck, as fulghum says, like a burr on my mental socks for a while.

clearly i have a lot of growing to do.

what is art?

who decides what is merely anguish and what is art?

i am reminded of a recent comment i made, to some other brilliant person i unwittingly am in communication with, i said, from pain are wrought the greatest poems. i've read some horribly painful stuff from others and it was beautiful art in my opinion. where is the line, what is the distinction?

it must be another one of those totally subjective factors in art.

it reminds me of the blind man, bartimaeus i think his name was, he was screaming, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of David, have mercy on me (my paraphrase).

and everyone around him was going, shhh. you're embarrassing us!

when Jesus stopped and said, "who is calling?" (again, my paraphrase)

all the people around him were patting him on the back as if they'd been supporting him the whole time. "look, the Master calls for you."

i hope i don't kick any blind bartimaei in my path. i probably will, i probably have. but i hope i soon learn to stand beside them and scream with all my might for mercy.

because i sure need it.

Sunday, June 20, 2004


one of the first books i've ever edited arrived in the mail yesterday. i'll tell you, i thought i'd get more lift out of the experience.

i searched the resources in the back where the author said he would put my contact info, but it weren't there. that deflated my balloon quite quickly. why say you are going to do something and not do it? i didn't ask to be in the resources, he offered, quite generously i might add. but it just wasn't meant to be.

so i keep waiting on God and wondering, when do i get a chance?

no matter how you slice it, that ain't my book.

while it is nice to have a thank you in the acknowlegements, it would sure be nice to have my name on the cover.

editing is a gig, which i can do and not feel like i am prostituting my gifting. it is so hard to know how to "make a living" when all i want to do is write.

it seems obvious, but i don't want to eek a miserable existence of wretched poverty (those words all go together, even if they don't make contextual sense! i love the sound of them) ... as i was saying, it seems obvious i need to do something "writerly" but what?

i've been contemplating the sell-out question, quite publicly it seems, for some time. and i still am undecided. although dave long's heading up a discussion on "my name is asher lev" by chaim potok, and he deals with this question too.

he says, essentially, i can't avoid being completely honest because then it would be easier to do it next time, i would be a whore to my own experience. hmm.

who knows. i wish i could say i edit to pay the bills, but that ain't even happening yet. what is an unknown artist, editor, poet to do...except keep blogging her little heart out?

i have made great progress on my poetry and prose manuscript, thanks to a dear friend named Joie.

and if you get anything from today's blog, let it be this: let your yes be yes. don't say it if you don't mean it. it is easier and kinder to say nothing at all if you don't intend to follow through.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

breath of God

i wasn't going to blog until deborah got back from her Write! Canada conference, because i think she is the only one who reads this.

but i am sitting here, tears streaming down my face and i thought i'd share this with you, since this is how i write, when i am moved. not when i "find" a market to write for.

i have a great many doubts about my work ever getting published. it is edgy, raw, passionate. kind of like my blog. maybe more like me than anything i've ever written. i debate on self-publishing all the time. i sit there and list the merits in my mind, i must admit TOTAL control over the product is huge on my list.

today i was asking God, so if i have a lame cover and just produce the thing, can you bless it?

of course He can.

then i get an email from a new friend who has seen a sample of this piece i am compiling. as i am reading her words, i am seeing glimmers of my own. at the end, she told me God has been using my words to speak to her.

astounding. humbling. thank You God.

all i want to do is catch the breath of God on a page. then i realize, i want to catch the breaDth of God on a page as well. He is unmanagable. He is uncageable. He is more than i can think or comprehend, so how can i ever accomplish this? in bits and pieces i hope.

i wrote back to my friend and said. "He is a furniture rearranger." it was weird. but so am i. so i left it. and pushes send. all my doubts about my weirdness plagued my mind at that moment.

then she emailed back, i used those very words in praying to God years ago.

coincidence? or God?

i do not feel so yielded, so given over to God that He makes me write the things i do, but i pray every day to yield more. to listen more. to give myself over to Him more. in these moments, when He speaks to His child through me, i hope again.

who knows what tomorrow holds. but if obscurity is it for me, may it be a yielded, God praising obscurity. may i pen the words He gives me and send them to those He wants to read them.

the rest will take care of itself. i serve a big God and catching His breath on a page is all i ever want to do. may i comprehend and begin to catch His breadth as well.

Monday, June 14, 2004

will morning come today?

will morning come today?
will the black of night
fade to blue
illuminating the sickle moon
iridescent dark face
will the blue give way to orange?
amber to rose?
pink to turqoise?
will the firey star shine today?
blinding lookers on
casting a warm hue
over saint and sinner
slave and free alike?
will the chorus of birds
call out in the
predawn darkness
cows lowing bass lines
frogs in percussive accompaniment
a mighty Conductor indeed
can harmonize these many voices
have i heard the symphony?
or merely the cacophony
of preparation?
will morning come today?

first-drafter, part three

a bit of housekeeping before i get into today's aspect of this issue.

as soon as i hit publish on yesterday's blog, i realized my statement about never getting a B in my major was inaccurate. a certain ms. mcdonie, english lit. she taught it like a history class and we'll you know of my challenges there. i didn't get history then. God is a trickster (another topic for another time), and it is funny that the other B i got was in studies in poetry. HA! first semester, i was a knucklehead and underperformed, no excuses. moral: be careful when you stand, lest you fall!

i do want to mention one other class before i hopefully get off this subject forever, college algebra. i don't even remember the prof's name. and that is probably why i liked him so much. it was all about the math. he loved math. he loved teaching math. it was like watching a virtuoso on the guitar, or as joseph campbell says, "watching someone pursue their bliss." (there i go, mentioning him again, well, he said, by watching others pursue their bliss, it helps you along the road to your bliss). i am mathematically challenged, but this guy loved his subject. he taught it like he was teaching literature: and in a sense it is the only language common to man, so doesn't that qualify as literature? the passion for his subject was infectious. i would have taken more classes from him, but i just needed a check in the math box and once i got it, and my surprize B (i thought i was getting an A), i was done.

how does this technique apply to my writing process:

perhaps i can blame it for my lack of interest in writing FOR publication. i have a list of rather unimpressive publication credits, but i am fine with that. i don't know how not to write. it is the stage i live my life upon. it is where all my hopes, dreams, and despair are captured. it is where i commune with God.

i have inadvertently written a book, chronicalling the dark night of my soul, and i hope to punctuate the 300-800 word essays with poetry.

each of these essays, and poems, came about as a great utterance from my mental parts. i didn't plan to write any of it. it was written out of angst, elation and drudgery. people respond to it though. i've heard more than once that it is something "i'd want to read every day as a devotional."

it is an unlikely devotional though. stemming from my dealings with God. each piece penned in 5 to 10 minutes using my technique. i guess that book more than anything will determine if this technique is garbage.

i've shared an excerpt i've compiled with a few people (along the way i shared all of it with a group of long suffering friends, to them, i am indebted beyond measure). recently, i've waded through the whole thing with Life Sentence, my critique group. i keep asking, "are you sick of reading it yet?" and surprizingly (i like Zs btw), they say no.

so when i write, i write one draft only. i would rather write an entirely new poem than substantially edit one i've written. because like a chicken popping out eggs, shoving them back in the hopper isn't an option. i just have to let them go and see if they fry up well (my grams used to make nest eggs when i was little, they are one of my comfort foods for sure!), or produce a fluffy yellow chick of my intellect.

it is all a mystery to me. the technique is one stumbled upon as it were. when i explain it to other writers they look at me like i am weird. i wonder how you look after reading all this, but i figure, i've probably seen THAT look on someone else.

give it a shot. i've spent years doing it. i started practicing this method in 1994, and i would be lost if i actually had to THINK of what to write. and some witty way to write about it. let me know how it goes.

there is an iridescent sickle moon out, it is just before the sun rises, and my cat is beckoning me out of doors to enjoy it with her. i think i will. have a great day! (i wrote a poem about it, but i'll share that with you tomorrow).

Sunday, June 13, 2004

first-drafter, part two

you may be wondering, if the technique is so good, why did she get any Bs at all?

well, i chose to take Bs in subjects i didn't care to expend my full energies on: statistics, astronomy lab (did you know it is all math, NOT stargazing, what a wake up call that was!), history (i've recently, just recently, developed an affinity for history, it was too linear for me, too abstract), government 201. in the subjects i either didn't really care about, or was saturated with and couldn't study any more (history), i opted for a B instead of belaboring the subject. it was a conscious choice. i didn't get any Bs in my major.

a brief aside about abstract teaching:

since i homeschool my kiddo, one brilliant parent said, to help your kid grasp history, string a line on the wall and attach a post-its or some note to the line for each corresponding event, so they can SEE how things have a place in time. this concept blew my doors off. i realized i can string a mental line to hang all "my historical notes" upon. before it was just a jumble of numbers and facts, i couldn't grasp it. i couldn't make sense of it all.

history was taught much the way math was taught to my generation: memorize facts and figures, regurgitate them onto a test, done. next subject. learning abstract concepts has never been that easy for me. i can know the facts and figures and still not have a clue how the process works.

it's like having a whole bunch of legos and they are all over the floor. teachers used to say, these are legos. you are now to construct a disney castle. but without any instructions or pattern to follow, i couldn't make the mental leap from a pile on the floor to a disney castle. (my artistic brother incidentally, built an entire sleeping beauty castle from legos, no pattern, nothin' but he is exceptional).

so when i teach my child, i teach tangibly. i move things from the absract to the concrete. visualizing a line where all the historical facts and figures are assigned a place makes more sense to me than a "time line." i knew what a timeline was, but i never saw one in 3D. until i did, i couldn't grasp history.

back to first-drafting:

deb commented on delving into the depths of the subconscious. i see why she would say that, but my technique is nothing more than using what you got.

it's like having a race car sitting in the driveway and only driving in 15mph zones. sometimes you've gotta go to the track and open her up. that is what i do. i no more delve into the subconscious, or labor over my process than a cook labors over the meal prepared in a crock pot. plop food in, go about your business, at the appointed time (you can usually smell it, in my case you can "hear" it), the meal is plated and served.

i don't try to "attain" any level of subconcious awareness or anything like that. i just pay attention to what is going on. i quiet myself and listen. i lie in bed a few moments longer just as i am waking up to see if there is anything my mind wants to say before i get up. i call this listening, because i am just tuning into the traffic of my brain. that is how i heard, "yellow corn maidens." this morning i heard the dealio about the crockpot. nothing scary about that.

it is just a foreign concept. pray about it. see what the Lord says, His blessing is all that matters anyway.

about other mythologies:

i was nervous when i took mythology. i was nervous when i took anthropology. i didn't want to hear about other "religions or beliefs" or God forbid, "evolution." my anthro prof, on the first day of class said, this is evolutionary theory. there is a place for creation theory, but this classroom is not it. we are learning about evolution. i understood at that point and learned so much about evolution and why people are so convinced. that professor won me over in that moment (even though i was a staunch creationist, my astronomy paper lauded God's flinging the stars across the sky, that'll win professors over!). but i got to learn a subject i would not have been exposed to, only because i prayerfully listened. i would walk in and bring my Bible and set it on my desk, and i was getting to know an athiest at the time, and he was mortified by the Bible on my desk. but it was a great learning adventure and God taught me a great many things.

we don't have to be afraid. our God is a mighty God. He can handle scrutiny. He can handle questions.

back to mythology:

i prayed through mythology as well. i was certain there would be blasphemy there. and perhaps there was, but i wasn't there to convert the teacher or the class. i was there to learn the mythologies of other cultures. and i agree with C.S. Lewis, there are types and shades of God in other mythologies. it all points to God. i couldn't decide about it though, it was a prayerful time for me, then i encountered a name of God in a cherokee prayer book, His name was Yohweh. it blew my doors off. the name of God was Yohweh. that is too much like GOD to be anything but God. so i stopped fearing, and asked the Lord to show me where He has hid Himself in the cultures of the world.

read this quote from brennan manning's book, the signature of jesus:

"One day Rabbi Barukh's son Yehiel was playing hide-and-seek with another boy. He hid himself well and waited for his playmate to find him...After waiting a very long time, he came out of his hiding place, but the other boy was nowhere to be seen. Then Yehiel realized that his playmate had not looked for him from the very beginning. Crying, he ran to his grandfather and complained of his faithless friend. Tears brimmed in Rabbi Barukh's eyes as he realized: God says the same thing: I hide but no one wants to seek me."

seek Him and He will be found.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

confessions of a first-drafter

in college, i tutored writing, psychology, and philosophy (i wasn't very good in that subject). when i do something, i read everything i can get my hands on. there were various handouts on learning styles and techniques, test taking tips, etc., which i accumulated and read. one of the handouts was about mnemonics, using letters to form a word or sentence to remind you of a series of things. another was about the subconscious and the studies by a certain doctor who detailed how the brain works in test taking. essentially, he said, trust yourself. if you have attended to your studies, then trust yourself for the answer.

i tend to over think tests. when i was taking astronomy, i got to the "helio-centric" definition question. i immediately picked, "sun-centered." but then THOUGHT, that was too easy, it must be wrong. well, as you know, it was right. my brain and instinct had picked the right answer, but my doubts about myself and abilities caused me to dawdle over the question i had instinctively answered right and (since i hadn't read the good doctors notes) i got the question wrong as i picked a more "difficult" thus correct answer. wrong! way wrong.

once i had the "trust thyself" notion down, i took a mythology class. we viewed joseph campbell's, the power of myth series with bill moyer on pbs. it was powerful to me. it quickened my mind, and intrigued me because he was comparing all the myths of all different people groups and coupled them with imagery, music, and very interesting dialog.

some fear campbell, he is not christian, therefore he is not good. i don't think that way. i think, anything that is truth is from God. whether a donkey speaks it (why are you hitting me?), or a man who happens to be unchristian.

campbell said, "the most creative state is your alpha state. those moments just before falling asleep and those moments just before waking up. pose a question to your mind before you drift off to sleep and you will wake up with the answer. your mind will figure it out for you." i scribbled it down in my notebook.

it was an intriguing thought. i began to play with creativity and the alpha state. i began to attend to my alpha state moments. i began to write papers only when i "heard" a line from them. this coupled my knowledge of the good doctor's theory with joseph campbell's statement. here is what i began doing:

when i had a paper to write, i would do my research, attend to all the details well before the paper was due, then pose the question to my mind (what am i going to say about native american mythology?). then push the topic from my conscious thought and literally forget about it. the first time i did this, it was quite unnerving. i was experimentally risking a grade on a paper, on some words and ideas from two strangers. what the heck, i'm a risk taker. so i went for it.

one morning as i was waking up, i heard, "the yellow corn maidens." i knew i had it. that was a line from my upcoming paper, i knew it was, because i typically don't think of the yellow corn maidens. and my research had included pueblo myths and legends of the yellow corn maidens.

i sat down to write. while i don't remember that first paper, i can tell you i wrote my college papers in ten to fifteen minutes each, first drafts. i don't do second drafts. i edit a bit, for example on this piece, i would read back through and find the good doctor's actual name (opted not to, i'll do it later) and plug it in, check the spelling of mnemonics. but i would not revise my work. i would hand it in.

as far as tests go. i ATTEND to my reading assignments, this is essential. if you don't attend, if your mind is wandering and you are tired, stop reading, stop studying, stop doing research. this is the most important thing you can do. because the whole theory i developed says, put everything into your brain (like loading a crock pot, if you forget the meat, your stew will be a vegetable soup). once you've read everything, pose a question to your mind (or you can pose the question along the way, what am i going to write about, what is my thesis going to be?) and your brain will figure it out.

back to tests, i had friends in college who would tell each other, she tests fast, don't let it unnerve you. after the astronomy shenanigan, i learned to trust my studying. i took all tests in college from that point on in 10-45 minutes. even the hard ones. i went through on a first past, bang, bang, bang, if a question couldn't be answered in a moment, i skipped it and went on. then i returned to the beginning of the test focusing on the skipped ones, and spent a minute or two on those. done.

i graduated summa cum laude in english literature, i have never gotten a C in college. i am still working toward my elusive bachelor's, but will continue to use my theory and get As and Bs.

i have more to say about this topic, but i'll leave you wondering how it applies to my writing now. think about what i've written, try it out. more later.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

fires of heaven

smoke. i've the smell of smoke in my nostrils. i typically don't smell anything. my sniffer stinks if you know what i mean. but i've been smelling the fires of heaven the past two weeks.

i asked a prophetic friend, why am i smelling smoke? because deborah asked me, is it a sweet smell? and i knew it was not.

my prophetic friend said, the sweet smells are the praises of His people, the sacrifice of praise, the prayers of the saints.

the smoky smell is the gutteral heart cry, the gut wrenching sacrifice.


she said, i believe you are right where the Lord wants you to be and the smoke is the confirmation.

yes. i agree.

think me strange if you will, but life has become a great metaphor for me. the more days i log, the more otherworldly i become, the more aware of intangibles i am. i know it sounds strange. if i were you reading this, i would think, she's mad. she's gone off the deep end.

believe what you will.

i smell the fires of heaven, the burning of my heart's cry, the smoke rising up to God. i smell it everywhere i go. i smell it when i rise, i smell it when i lie down. it has become a comfort to me.

prayer has long since left my lips, i've lost the ability to communicate in ways other than tears and silence. but the smoke, the smell of the sacrifice. that is a prayer wafting up to God most unexpectedly.

my heart groans within me, and i've no words to convey this place, to capture it for you and help you see through these darkening eyes, or to smell through this woefully ineffective nose. i've no words.

but i can smell the fires of heaven burning, even now.


in brennan manning's book, which i mentioned the other day, the signature of jesus, he says, "the words celebrity and christian do not belong in the same sentence." he also laments the fact that we must earn money and therefore write books and sell them. he is caught in the cycle as much as anyone else.

can we escape the cycle?

i am uncertain.

i had this thought today as i was driving, we approach art as if we were creating THE final piece of art. the period at the end of the sentence. this is a problem. perhaps this is THE problem.

it came to me today that we are not creating the destination, but rather a crumb on the bread trail of life. not an answer, not a solution, but a clue, something to lead a reader, a sojourner onto the next inevitable bread crumb. our work is essential to someone's path, but it is not THE destination for anyone.

perhaps we wouldn't get lost in our purpose and mission (hear "sell out") if we could see our work as a dabble of paint in God's pointillistic perspective, hmm. an interesting thought and hopeful.

i had wondered why hope had abandoned me, and perhaps i abandoned it when i could not be THE destination or create THE piece of art that would define anything in particular.

i don't want be a celebrity. i just want to provide my small crumbs of wisdom for some hungry soul along the way...

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Romans 9:33

The pain of holiness
The crushing embrace

Sin into forgiveness

The glory
Frail man

Holy God

The sweet agony
The painful embrace

this poem came about after hearing a woman speak of her son's broken collarbone. they were vacationing and swimming in a lake. the husband picked up the large, teenage son, and carried him. it was such a beautiful image of our broken bodies borne up by the loving Hand of God. it remains a testament of how God loves us enough to crush us. "if you fall on this rock, you will be broken, if it falls on you, it will crush you." we cannot escape the crushing majesty of God, Kabod Yahweh.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

signature of jesus

i will stop and pick up anything by brennan manning i can get my hands on. it is the kind of writing that nourishes my soul, that gives me hope that there are publishers out there who will publish the often cold hard truth of life. these passages below are mostly the introduction.

From The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning

"...this word [referring to the first word of God in our lives] is the gift of ourselves to ourselves: our existence, our nature, our personal history, our uniqueness, our identity. All that we have and are is one of the unique and never-to-be-repeated ways God has chosen to express himself in space and time. Each of us, made in his image and likeness, is yet another promise he has made to the universe that he will continue to love and care for it. However, even when faith persuades us that we are a word of God, we may remain ignorant of what God is trying to say through us. Thomas Merton wrote, 'God utters me like a word containing a partial thought of himself. A word will never be able to comprehend the voice that utters it. But if I am true to the concept that God utters in me, if I am true to the thought in him I was meant to embody, I shall be full of his actuality and find him everywhere in myself and find myself nowhere. I shall be lost in him.' With endurance and patience we must wait for God to make clear what he wants to say through us. Such waiting involves patience and attention, as well as the courage to let yourself be spoken. This courage comes only through faith in God, who utters no false word. One of the stunning lessons of the bible is God's free use of fragile human beings to accomplish his purpose. He does not always choose the holy and devout or even the emotionally well-balanced."

"What Jesus longs to see in radical disciples is what he saw in little children: a spirit of sheer receptivity, utter dependence, and radical reliance on the power and mercy and grace of God mediated through the Spirit of Christ."

"However hidden and undramatic your witness may be, I pray that you will be daring enough to be different, humble enough to make mistakes, courageous enough to get burnt in the Fire, and real enough to help others see that prose is not poetry, speech is not song, and tangibles, visibles, and perishables are not adequate ultimates for beings signed with the blood of the Lamb."

Monday, June 07, 2004

more thoughts on poetry

a poet on my circle of poets list asked if poetry needed to be punctuated as prose. my reply embellished below:

i don't think a poem needs to be punctuated as prose and it is one of those ridiculous "rules" we poets must break. poetry is by virtue of everything it is, not prose. why then would it be only punctuated as prose.

i view punctuation as a poetic device, a comma lends a gentle pause, a period a full absolute stop, an enjambed line offers a hesitation slighter than a comma and an indentation a breath. that is why reformatting poetry is absurd. negative space is as integral to the piece as the punctuation even if it does stray from the rules of prosody.

it was commented to my piece "unjustified" on the master's artist blog, that some professor said, justification doesn't matter because the words should stand alone. that is perhaps one of the most illogical teachings i've heard.

i am unable to recreate negative space in poems on this blog, but look at the works of e.e. cummings, ginsberg's wales visitation, w.s. merwin's some last questions, lawrence ferlinghetti's the changing light ,
charles olson's maximus to gloucester, letter 27 [withheld], just to name a few. these poems with their unique use of negative space are all examples of reformatting poetry detracts from author intent.

visit ferlinghetti's link, then consider doing this to ferlighetti's poem:

The changing light
at San Francisco
is none of your East Coast light
none of your
pearly light of Paris
The light of San Francisco
is a sea light
an island light
And the light of fog
blanketing the hills
drifting in at night
through the Golden Gate
to lie on the city at dawn...

what a disaster that is! the elegant waves the eye makes as it rolls to and from one line to another is reflective of the tone and subject itself. now tell me justification doesn't matter? aligning the words in one column or (God forbid) center justifying them would lead to a leaden heaviness, not akin to rolling waves at all. not doing justice to the elegance of ferlinghetti's poem.

can you see now how negative space contributes to a poem?

i would argue, punctuating poetry as prose detracts from a poem as well. unless it is a prose poem or some form which lends itself to the conventions of prosody. unless the poet chooses to punctuate it as prose. i leave all judgments of punctuation and style to the poet alone. let the "experts" and "rule makers" find something else to do.

that is all for today, i am still tired. blessings.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

good/bad poetry

a poet on my circle of poets list asked a question about what makes a poem good or bad. here is my opinion:

i have very strong opinions. i verbalize them without hesitation. does this mean
i am right? or my opinion of good/bad poetry is to be heeded. not necessarily.
i think poetry is totally subjective.

a particular university professor essentially said my work sucks. others (the vast majority) don't agree. does the one "educated" opinion outweigh myriad voices over the course of my life, no. i don't think so, unless i let it.

having said that. there are certain qualities to good poetry. syntax, diction,
spelling. if a poet uses a word that is utter and complete jibberish i tend to
think, this is bad poetry. although, gertrude stein used complete gibberish (in
my opinion) as a device. (consider stein's opening of one poem: "sweet sweet sweet sweet tea" i have read this likened to a flamenco dancer. i didn't get that when i read it, but maybe that is just me).

sometimes what is lauded in mags as great poetry, causes me to yawn and scratch
my head. go figure. it rambles on and on about nothing in no particular voice other than that of a fly upon the wall. i was told by the aforementioned professor that i should use language of common speech. sure. you do that if you want, but i will write the poetry that makes my soul sing. that is how i do my poetry. conformity is not necessarily a good thing. sure i can write for that professor but why?

so i don't ever surrender my judgment on what i think is great poetry, neither do i surrender my judgment of bad poetry. i don't care if the person has awards and published works. if i don't like it, to me, it is bad poetry.

i like poetry to have an internal rhythm, an elegant diction and unforced rhyme
or buried rhyme. let's face it, rhyme is dead, so let's bury it! HA! i like clipped lines, each word meaningladen, and not rambling on for days to tell me something in a mediocre fashion. (but then again, what is mediocre?).

center justification is amateurish to me. unless it is clipped and trimmed like a gumdrop hedge in a perfectly manicured garden i struggle with it because the eye has to find the first word, it has to read between the lines in a sense and that diminishes my enjoyment by my glimpsing the next lines while in search of the line i am in. it is akin to playing poker with your cards all splayed across the table. it just doesn't work for me.

i have described mediocrity as lacking the force to drive me through the poem,
to call me to it's conclusion, to keep me captivated.

of course there are some works we buckle down and force ourselves to read (for example, ginsberg's howl is quite a lot, and one can get discouraged with the unfamiliar allusion and sheer breadth of the poem), so my dull-wit some would say could contribute to a lack of driving force. i am ever sharpening my wit then, and returning to works once thought dull and trying them at different seasons of my life (although i wouldn't do this is with just any author only the ones lauded as great whom i think suck).

poetry is wholly subjective. what i like, what i don't like are my opinions alone. some agree, some don't but i don't put too much stock in other people's opinions of my work, i just keep at it, listening to the voice of God and trying to capture something living, something grand. i've a poem about that. perhaps i'll post it someday.

you tell me what good/bad poetry is to you. i am curious. i think we might have some common ground, if nothing else, we'll have an interesting discussion. that poem i mentioned is a performance piece and will undoubtedly be flubbed in this formatting situation, but i'll paste it here unless it is unbearable (to me, the formatting that is).

mistaken identity

i no longer look at the keyboard when i try to log into my email account
when the words invalid password flash on the screen in reprimanding red
my heart pitter patters and i think they finally did it stole my identity they
wanted to be a short hispanic woman who writes poetry that doesn’t sell
and edits books and doesn’t get paid. they wanted to read all the boring
replies to my witty inquries and see for themselves how many rejections
i get in a month. they went in and changed my password and shut me out
of my own email account, how dare they? i wonder as i rekey the password
carefully spelling it out this time, still nothing i'm locked out of my own
boring and unknown life by some hacker by the name of lemonjello who spends
his evenings war dialing to find my computer dutifully answering the phone
sharing myriad secrets with him and his room full of buddies. they are looking
through my pictures and seeing smiling faces i know and love so well.
trying again with concerted effort, b-o-, wait, i can’t tell you because you may
get into my account and lock me out of my own uninteresting life and rifle
through my inbox, reading torrid passages from my hard drive, circulating
rumors of my failed attempts to capture something grand, something living
and commit it to paper. reprimanding red again. oh no, what i feared has
happened and i am locked out of my own uninteresting life and have to fight
with yahoo! to let me back into my near empty box to read my boring emails
from friends and relatives who could not care less about my obvious need to tell
all about my uninteresting life. wiping my sweaty brow i type in, siouxsiepoet tab
b-o-s-*-* enter, and there it is, hello kitty in pink then my inbox. whew. i made it.

ah, there’s nothing interesting there.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

was that You God?

i've been sick for about three weeks now. coughing, tired, out of it, the whole bit. i haven't driven my car, or even left the house without my husband in about a week. over the past three weeks, i've only left the house about five times total. i've just been ill. off. not right. you know what i mean.

yesterday, i ventured out to meet with my focused writers group, Life Sentence. driving along my girl mentioned a couple hawks circling above. we usually talk and appreciate birds, trees, whatever happens to be along our nature lined roads.

i had the cruise control set on sixty. i live in the country, so we were on a winding farm road (which i can usually handle no problem).

at the final, large sweeping turn, my girl mentions the hawks, and i turn to look at them. i look back and we are on the grass going down the enbankment. it was surreal.

"we're off the road, Renee." i said relatively calm.

i tapped the break gently to turn off the cruise control (going sixty mph into a ditch is not a good thing). then, i turned the wheel so we were no longer headed toward the fence holding cows at bay, and were driving along the ditch. as the car leveled out, i turned the wheel again, we're still traveling about 45 mph, perhaps 50, and the car started ascending the hill. i looked over my shoulder to make sure we weren't going to hit anyone who was taking the turn after us, and pulled right back onto the road."

"whew. we're okay bug, we'd better pray for travelling mercies." i said, still calm.

"shhh. i'm praying." renee doesn't like to be interrupted when she prays silently (neither does her dad).

"we went off the road bug. i'm glad the car is okay. i'm glad we're okay." i said, still shocked.

we arrived at our friend's house a half-hour early and i apologized for my bad manners, explaining the situation.

all day, i drove wide-eyed and cautious, hoping i would not end up off the road again. perhaps the most troubling thing about it was, my reaction time was severly delayed. i didn't even realize i was driving off the road. i didn't ever react either. except for a bit of gratitude that we emerged unscathed.

we arrived home and told danny what happened. he was glad i didn't hit the breaks. he said, "that is where most people get into trouble."

i still don't really understand why things happen the way they do, but an old amy grant song has been going through my head since it happened. the lyrics don't really apply but the message does:

God only knows the times my life was threatened just today / a reckless car ran out of gas / before it ran my way/ near misses all around me / accidents unknown / i'll never see with human eyes / the hands that lead me home/but i know they're all around me / all day and through the night / when the enemy is closing in / i know sometimes they fight / to keep my feet from falling, i'll never turn away / if you're asking what's protecting me / then you're gonna hear me say, 'got angels watchin' over me / every move i make / angels watchin' over me / every step i take/ angels watchin' over me'

i am grateful for the hand of God upon my life, upon my child's life yesterday especially. i have to drive every day next week. i trust the Hand of God upon my life.

now if i could just shake this cold...

Thursday, June 03, 2004


"art is prayer" (source lost in the bowels of my journal)

if art is truly prayer, then i am a monk.

i've long thought to be a monk one of the great privledges in life. i like quiet. i like to read a lot. i like to write. i wouldn't mind bare essentials. communal living just might suit me (at least i imagine it would). i wear sandals anyway and long dresses are just my cup of tea. don't know about the funny hairdo though, that might cause me a problem eventually and i would miss jeremy camp and dancing.

but i've been in a hard place for a very long time now and had forgotten how to pray. i know it is just a conversation with God, but you can only say, "we need a job" in so many ways, so many times then it becomes meaningless (to me that is). so i fell silent. penning my words and sitting quietly before the Lord. unable to pray.

when i saw that quote, it struck me, yes, i have been praying as i compose my works. i pour out my soul on a page, just like i used to when i had words to speak in prayer. sweet relief. i have not forsaken prayer after all.

as an artist, my prayerworks are sacred to me. they are the portraits God paints of Himself in my life. they are my musings and revelation. they are my prophetic eyes painting a portrait of hope, faith, and perseverance. these works, the prayers, they are my tangible worship of God.

am i a monk then? a modern day mystic, plodding through the land, sandal footed. living in commune with my family and friends. in the technical sense, no. but God has never held me to technical anything. so i can say, yes. i am a monk and these my prayers are forged daily upon the page.

Sovereign of my soul
Eternal glory
Lighten the darkness
Within me.

Sovereign of my soul
I yield, I trust
I delight
In Thee.

Sovereign of my soul
Use my arms to embrace
My strength to uphold
My words to encourage

Sovereign of my soul
Delight Thyself in me
I abandon my will for Yours
Give me courage.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

a good father

something from my journal:

there is the cutest little girl here at the park with her dad. he is teaching her how to rollerskate. he goes about three feet then circles back, calling to her, encouraging her. his voice is gentle and he says, "yes, sugar."

they skated a while and she says, "i can't."

the dad goes to her and they skate on together for a while longer. they go to a table and the little blonde girl in her innocent voice says, "i want this to be our table daddy."

and he says, "okay."

they sit for a while and she is turned loose on the playground. she goes to the swing and says, "daddy."

"yes, sugar."

"i want you to push me."

"i think i can do that."

he goes to her, an attentive father and she says, "swing with me."

he does.

my child calls to me from the jungle gym, "mom, come play with me."

"in a minute," i reply i am writing this.

"daddy," jordan says, "watch me."

"okay." he doesn't just watch from a bench or read a book, or write like i do, he goes to the jungle gym and talks to her as she plays. a good father.

later, jordan, her daddy, and my girl, went fishing for crawdads. my girl has always wanted to do that, but i'm not a native texan so those things gross me out. a good father teaches others, not just his own. and i sat reading on a bench nearby.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


have you ever seen a native american warrior, in full regalia, dancing, praying, feather fan extended, face painted, silver flickering in the sun. it is an awesome sight.

i've spent the better part of last week watching movies (i've been sick, this is not a luxury i allow myself every week).

band of brothers is a HBO collection of shorts that are the stories of 101st Airborne Division, Easy Company in WWII. the paratroopers jumped through gunfire and peril right into the fray of battle. many didn't survive the jump. at one point in the stories, someone says, "you'll be surrounded." and capt. winters replies, "we're paratroopers, we should be." wow. that is heroism. that is selflessness. and we think not driving an SUV is so commendable.

i was touched and saddened by the horrors of war (which i do not know, a movie pales in comparison, that i do know). i was captivated by the courage of the brothers who fought and died for each other, trying to keep each other alive. forget about freedom, forget about America, those are all grand and noble things, but warriors fight the battle for their brother--whatever his color, wherever he comes from.

when i was tired, i turned it off. i padded off to my nice warm bed, and slept in peace. my mind kept returning to the easy company in bastogne, freezing from lack of winter clothing, grappling with the terror of war. and of course they didn't need to be rescued by Patton, but i was glad to know some of those brave souls made it home alive.

it struck me, as i was watching, we have men and women fighting battles--very real battles today, tonight, around the globe. we know nothing of their sacrifice and besetting fear, we don't even know the reasons for their deployment in some cases.

regardless of how you vote, if you are living in this country, our men and women need support. let the bureaucrats fight. let the media say what it will about who's to blame for things that go wrong. each and every soldier, and veteran, deserves a great deal of thanks and praise.

i want to go up to uniformed servicemen and women when i see them, but i don't. i get these pangs of self-consciousness at times. but i must remember, the sacrifice made on my behalf and say a kind word. it is the least i can do. it is the least we can do, let's thank them for their sacrifice. they are, after all, fighting on our behalf. what brave souls.