Sunday, May 8, 2016

Here's to all the Mothers - past, present and future!

Happy Mother's Day!

Panoply Magazine just published my poem "subterfuge" in which our heroine fiercely and subtly protects her privacy and dignity on a random weekday in high school.

If you are a nurturer of any kind, but especially the mothering kind, you are no doubt aware of the need to take care of yourself first. We learn this as we grow, regardless of sex, regardless of gender. But there are some very particular ways in which women learn; one of which is what our heroine does here.

I wrote this poem as a mother of teens, reflecting on the particular challenges girls face out in the world as they journey into womanhood. There are tangled, prickly primeval forests to navigate, and friends are not always as they seem. Girls must walk alone on some parts of their paths.

Many thanks to Jeff Santosuosso, Andrea Walker, and Ryn Holmes for publishing "subterfuge" in Issue 3 of Panoply, A Literary Zine.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Day 8: I, of the Grain—a quatern published in The Rat's Ass Review #NaPoWriMo #NationalPoetryMonth

Happy to announce that on this Day 8 of National Poetry Month, my quatern about Demeter, goddess of the harvest, entitled I, of the Grain has been published in The Rat's Ass Review. Many thanks to Roderick Bates for selecting it. You can read it here!

Demeter is the food bringer, the law bearer, the mark of agriculture upon civilized society. She's not to be trifled with. She is in charge. I imagine her as a goddess who provides swift punishment if her strict rules are not carried out to her exacting specifications. Don't bite the hand that feeds you.

A quatern is a French form with a refrain. 16 lines of 4 quatrains. Each line is 8 syllables. The first line serves as the refrain and migrates to the second line in the second quatrain, the third in the third, and the fourth and last line in the fourth. There are no particular rules for rhyme or meter. Play with it, and post your results in the comments section so I too can enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Day 7: Order Up! —#NaPoWriMo #30in30 #NationalPoetryMonth

Mr. Breakfast Face
There is some ridiculously delightful pancake art out there.  So many faces! Some are intentional like this lovely Mr. Breakfast Face here. Others evidently are crafted to perfection through divine intervention, like when Jesus' face made an appearance on a California pancake (and also a piece of naan at a curry house in Essex. He gets around.)

This all got me thinking about what kind of pancake I would be, if I were so lucky.

Order Up!

I am a pancake in need of frequent flipping.
Leave me to cook too long and I 
burn and harden on one side
and remain soft and raw on the other.
With the proper amount of attention
I don't need buttering up.
I don't need any syrup.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Day 6: a diamante for my sister and her new baby—#NaPoWriMo #NationalPoetryMonth #30in30

Day 6: I have a new nephew today! My sister gave birth to a healthy baby boy this evening and in honor of them both, here's a little diamante. Congratulations!

kind compassionate
nurture grow attend
pain laughter pleasure adventure
explore attempt lie
selfish innocent

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Day 5: spring haiku #NaPoWriMo #NationalPoetryMonth #30in30

Cherry blossoms at Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon
Day 5 will be a simple haiku.

I know what you're thinking:


Anyone can write a haiku, right?

Yep. Right. Anyone can. But a good one?

 Did you know that haiku are traditionally written in the present tense and play with associations between images. They also contain a pause at the end of the first or second line as well as a kigo—a seasonal word that signals the time of year.

Here's mine for today:

sakura petals
carpet the pathway towards home
even in the rain

Haiku are simple, aren't they? Simple yet profound. Write one. Share it with me.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Day 4: Fickle Tease—my thoughts on April #NaPoWriMo #NationalPoetryMonth

Salmon River Hike

In T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland," Eliot famously called April "the cruelest month." This might seem unfair to some, but I think it's spot-on. You can be cruel without knowing it. The NaPoWriMo Day 4 challenge is "to write a poem in which you explore what you think is the cruelest month, and why." I'm all too happy to explain it to you.

April can be gorgeous. Just look at these pictures from a hike I just took with friends near Mt. Hood. How can I not be seduced by the power vested in spring? Oh, but April can be flighty and capricious! Difficult for me to accept and understand. And I won't even talk about taxes. What a let-down!

A trickle

Fickle Tease

April stinks of dirt and wet dogs
leaves blossoms on the ground like used gym shorts

April is too young to show his colors
to bleed petals and face all that the wind has in store 

April needs a hand to hold to tease
he doesn't yet understand his orientation

April texts you madly
then goes quiet

April says he'll be right over you take your clothes off and wait—
he doesn't show up

What's your "cruelest month?" Why? Share in the comments.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Day 3: tell me how you really feel— a concrete poem #NaPoWriMo #NationalPoetryMonth

Today, my inspiration comes from The Daily Poet, a calendar year's worth of writing prompts by Kelli Russell Agodon & Martha Silano. I highly recommend you pick up a copy if you're looking for a prepared daily bundle of fuel to ignite your imagination.  Today's challenge? Write a concrete poem. Sometimes called pattern or visual poems, they are written and presented in the shape of the subject of the poem itself.

Even if you haven't heard of concrete poems, you've probably written one. They're a favorite form for elementary school teachers to introduce to young children in hope that the shapes will intrigue students enough to pay attention to their meanings. In 6th grade, my teacher had us write poems in the shapes of our Chinese zodiac symbols. Mine was in the shape of a pig. (Now you know how old I am!)

Here's mine for today. I never learned the Palmer Method, so I have provided a typed version below the picture. My daughter says it looks "like a box with a bunny nose" so I'm glad I decided to take a picture of it next to the object it represents. For clarity.

tell me how you really feel—a concrete poem by Amy Baskin

tell me how you really feel
goddamn this thin digital
piece of shit encased in a plastic box
is a vortex you slip through
a wormhole that exacts a monthly charge and
your attention from the now

—Amy Baskin

 The form has been around for awhile. Check out the poem above. George Herbert's concrete poem "Easter Wings" (1633) was printed sideways on facing pages so that the shape resembled angel wings outstretched. Not that there's anything "concrete" about angel wings. You can write about the ethereal, too.

Got an object you'd like to write about concretely? Share it in the comments!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Day 2: Family Portraits— 2 cinquains #NaPoWriMo Day 2

My grandparents, before deployment, WWII

 Look at this photo. The gorgeous knockout and that strapping young soldier are my grandparents.

Today's NaPoWriMo prompt challenges us to "write a poem that takes the form of a family portrait."

I wrote two. One for each of these people who are larger than life to me.

The thought of encapsulating all that they are and everything they mean to me in one poem is laughable. Instead, I offer up small, quick brushstrokes that only hint at the full picture.

One cinquain for my beloved grandfather who passed away with honor and dignity after his final battle with an unfair opponent: Alzheimer's.

remember this?
Thick vats of chocolate fudge
we stirred each Christmas when you still
knew us?

And one for my grandmother, the delight of my life, who is 93 and underwent heart surgery this week. I spoke with her tonight and she sounded so good, if understandably tired. Before surgery, she mentioned to me that one of her children told her she has to stick around; she's the glue. With 7 children, 28 grandchildren, and 35 great-grandchildren, I know of no stronger bonding agent than Mary McBride. But I want her to lighten her load and unburden her with this wondrous truth:

recognize this—
you joined us together.
Showed us all how to be glue. We

 Together, my grandparents taught us how to love each other unconditionally, laugh together, cry together, and sally forth no matter what comes our way. Through an act of grace and molecular physics, I landed in this united, adoring family. I could not ask for more. My cup is full. Thank you Grandma. Thank you, Grandpa.

My grandparents and their beautiful children

Friday, April 1, 2016

Day 1: Two lunes - #NaPoWriMo #NationalPoetryMonth

Backyard cherry blossoms on this gorgeous April Fool's Day
It's April again–the month when this fool engages in public acts of exhibitionism. Beware! I like to skinny-dip in pools of words.

I'm daring myself to write at least one poem draft a day and am inspired by a private writing challenge and safe forum that poetess Jennifer Givhan has offered up. (I recommend you keep an eye out for her upcoming poetry collection, Landscape with Headless Mama.) The poems I work on there will remain secrets. Rough-hewn on the edges, I will tumble and polish them to my liking before I decide whether to share them.

For now, I think I'll stick to amusing myself with fun form challenges such as this one from Maureen Thorson's generous
NaPoWriMo /30 Poems in 30 Days site. Her prompt today is as follows: 

"And now, our prompt (optional, as always). Today, I challenge you to write a lune. This is a sort of English-language haiku. While the haiku is a three-line poem with a 5-7-5 syllable count, the lune is a three-line poem with a 5-3-5 syllable count. There’s also a variant based on word-count, instead of syllable count, where the poem still has three lines, but the first line has five words, the second line has three words, and the third line has five words again. Either kind will do, and you can write a one-lune poem, or write a poem consisting of multiple stanzas of lunes. Happy writing!"

Here are my two attempts, both inspired by my view outside today:

cherries blossom and
petals bloom
too high for my grasp


clumps of flowers advertise health
summon the bees
dead branches obscured in lichen

Want to join me? Post your poems in the comments!

Friday, March 25, 2016

shed no drop of blood— published in NonBinary Review, The Zoetic Press Journal of Literature #BirdieSanders

All leaders have known this for millennia:  there is skill in battle. (Just ask millennials.) Subtle nuance can propel a cause and fuel a movement or sink a campaign. Just talk with Howard Dean about his scream. Or ask Mitt Romney, "Who let the dogs out?"

I was thinking of this when I wrote a poem inspired by Sun Tsu's The Art of War, recently published in NonBinary Review.

Sun Tsu, the elusive military expert whose work has influenced diverse leaders ranging from Douglas MacArthur to Mao Zedong, explains the importance of  recognizing strategic opportunities.

In his fourth chapter, Sun Tsu focuses on dispositional tactics and shares a path in which true leaders avoid creating opportunities for their opponent. This requires reserve, strength of character, and the ability to pause and reflect.

Today, I could not help but notice that Bernie Sanders was awarded a strategic opportunity that landed on his podium and commanded the attention of the Moda Center and the world.

Here's the poem I wrote, entitled shed no drop of blood. Grateful to Lise Quintana and Ali Marini for publishing it.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Temporary—Sein Und Werden

Evelyn evolving into a microscopic Amoeba image ~ Rick Hutchinson
Happy to report today that "Temporary," a poem I wrote about a piece of me gone missing, is featured in the current Spring 2016 issue of Sein Und Werden. 

The theme of this issue is "Corpus: The body whole and the body dismembered, idolised and idealised. Replication... labour. The flesh of the fruit; the fruit of adolescence. The body as prison, as a vault for secrets. The body reclaimed and the body disfigured. The carcass, the new-born... the meat factory." 

Be sure to examine all of the viscera in detail. These poems leave no cavity, muscle, or blood unscrutinized. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Nesting Dolls—featured at Mothers Always Write

The original matryoshka set by Zvyozdochkin and Malyutin, 1892
I'm grateful to Mothers Always Write for publishing my poem "Nesting Dolls" today. It's my reflection on all that parenthood contains as well as its outgrowths. Please check it out here and then explore the site. It's filled with meaningful accounts of what it is to be a mother from a talented assembly of writers.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Rib —a fractured fairytale

Adam and Eve Claude-Marie Dubufe, 1827
I always thought that Eve got a raw deal in the Judaeo-Christian creation myth. She makes one misstep and is punished unduly with menstrual cramps and the pain of childbirth. Sucks, right?

But in retrospect, someone else may have suffered unduly from the start. Before the snake and the apple make their way into the story, did Adam have agency in any of his actions or decisions?

I don't think so.

What if Eden was less a garden of earthly delights and more a pen where God kept his tortured playthings under force? When I started questioning certain premises in this tale that serves as the foundation for much of modern western culture, I didn't like what I found. In a certain slant of light, the God in this story strikes me as an abusive, negligent parent. Like the kind of entity who shouldn't be allowed to adopt a pet from the SPCA, never mind design all life on earth.

It makes me feel sorry for Adam, Eve, and all of us, really.

I wrote a poem re-framing this myth. The Rat's Ass Review recently published it in their Love & Ensuing Madness series which features "poems from all points of view on the broad topic of love." My poem is entitled The Rib—a fractured fairytale, and you can read it here.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Runoff—a poem featured in The Gorge Literary Journal

Me and my son enjoying Hood River.
Time is slippery. We can't grasp it, will it to speed up, or force it to slow down. My son is now 6 feet tall and 14 years older than when this picture was taken. While I enjoyed that day and many others like it, I remember how slowly the hours crawled by when my children were in diapers. That the years have hauled ass in comparison makes no mathematical sense, but is a concrete fact, nevertheless.

Once my son was dependent upon me for everything, and he didn't mind it in the least. Now he's dependent upon us for much, and it irritates him to fess up and admit it. This is only natural and good. I would worry if he seemed content being waited upon. He neither needs nor wants hand-holding now. He often makes it clear that he'd prefer if I made myself scarce. I thank him for his honesty, tell him that I believe him, and also softly suggest that while this may be the whole truth of the moment, it may not paint a picture that accurately characterizes our entire evolving timeline. Occasionally he still needs me. Sometimes he still likes me around. And, perhaps as important, I depend upon him and am grateful each day that he is part of this world. With time and maturity, I imagine he will come to see these factors as self-evident. Wondrous, even. I have.

I wrote a poem reflecting on the circuitous route we take towards and away from our family. And back again. Many thanks to Julie Hatfield and John Metta at The Gorge Literary Journal for publishing it. You can read "Runoff" here.