I have never been a prolific poet and I can’t write a long poem to save my life. In grad school, my poems got shorter and shorter. I was only too happy to cut cut cut. It was as if I’d taken Imagism to an extreme. After grad school, I don’t think I wrote for almost two years.
Two years ago, I decided to try and write a long piece. A year later, through weekly blogging, I accomplished my goal. Essentially, the experimental novella that I ended up writing was a series of smaller pieces strung together. I haven’t been able to determine if the novella itself is any good, but I am still proud of myself for finally writing a longer piece.
It wasn’t easy—there were many times that I wanted to give up, but my friend, Eric, wouldn’t let me. Whenever I had a lapse in posting, he would always hit me up, Hey, what’s going on with the story? He was a writer, too, so he understood.
Six months ago, Eric died. I didn’t know for almost two weeks. We had not seen each other for years and he had relocated to a different state with his wife and kids. However, we had always maintained a fondness for each other and reached out through email every now and again. When I started my project, our correspondence became much more frequent. The novella I wrote takes place during a critical period in my life, a time during which Eric and I had been very close.
I had emailed to confirm his mailing address so I could send him the finished product. His wife emailed back: I’m sorry, I didn’t know how to tell you—Eric passed away.
I couldn’t bring myself to ask her what had happened. At that point, I was on the floor not able to breathe correctly; I couldn’t imagine what she must have been going through.
I know he was proud of you, she wrote.
After the initial shock, I got the strangest impulse—I started submitting poetry to literary magazines again. I hadn’t regularly submitted since grad school. I went on a streak. I told myself I was doing it for him—because he had been proud of me, proud of my writing.
In the first few weeks of grieving, I looked through everything I could find—old paper journals, notebooks, hard drive folders, old email accounts. I was looking for him.
I even reactivated an old Instagram account so I could reread our chats. It was a profile I’d created for my pen name and I gave up on it after getting frustrated. After reading our chats, I decided to give it another try.
I’m glad I did because I reconnected with another old friend, a photographer, and now my photographer friend and I regularly hang out again. Our conversations about art and my pledge to post daily have generated some serious creative energy as of late.
If Eric and I had never met, I can say with certainty that my life would have turned out differently. And now, even after being gone, he is still there, helping.
Recently, I attended a poetry workshop in which we were asked to prepare a list of 20 of our favorite poems. The exercise was challenging, but rewarding. Below is a list of SOME of my favorite poems.
The Ache of Marriage Denise Levertov
Bad Usage Tony Barnstone
Couscous by Suzanne Allen
Even as I hold you by Alice Walker
The Flea John Donne
Flowers, Always Cate Marvin
From the Telephone Florence Ripley Mastin
Fuck by Tamara Madison
Gravity Donna Hilbert
In a Station of The Metro Ezra Pound
Litany Billy Collins
the lost women Lucille Clifton
My Tattoo Mark Doty
نوم by Zeina Hashem Beck
One Boy Told Me Naomi Shihab Nye
Ode to the Belt Sander & This Cocobolo Sapwood Matthew Nienow
Ode To The Cat Pablo Neruda
Review #347 for the California Exotic Novelties Butterfly Kiss Vibrator on Amazon.com Rachel Mennies
Samurai Song Robert Pinsky
Sex Without Love Sharon Olds
Tattooed Girl by George Hammons
Umbilicus Karen Pojmann
Unfinished Letter to Death Connie Voisine
Unknown Girl in a Maternity Ward Anne Sexton
View at 4 A.M. Sarah Thursday
Why are your poems so dark? Linda Pastan
My new chapbook is out from dancing girl press, and I am really excited! However, I am going to be honest: it’s a book for the bedroom. Maybe some of us don’t need that right now, and maybe some of us do. Either way, the editor, Kristy Bowen, makes beautiful books, and I am beyond lucky that she’s published mine.
Support indie presses!
I had a student from Montenegro once. I told him that his accent was thick and he asked, What is thick? At first, I gestured to show the difference between thick and thin, but that was not useful. Then I asked him if he had ever had Guinness beer and I compared it to a lighter beer. After that, he understood what I meant when I had described his accent as thick.
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