Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Beautiful things.

The Willamette River Historical Stream Channels

"This visually replaces the relatively flat landscape of the valley floor with vivid historical channels, showing the dynamic movements the river has made in recent millennia."

This poem:
...For once the shells split and sapphire 
And fire-opal fledge in their filth  
And six or seven small spurts of flame  
Are tumbled out into the dazzle

micro press with approximately the most beautiful landing page ever:

This little glory of bookmaking:

(Charlotte's picture of things in progress)

A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

Today I walked into my building at 10:30 a.m., and walked out at 7 p.m. In between, I graded and talked to many many students. Waited in vain for a few of them. Talked to colleagues who were cheerfully doing the day-before-a-holiday work of talking and waiting. Worked with Charlotte on the book project--so many steps!

I feel lucky about my work, all of it, the teaching and the planning and the writing and the dreaming. I am lucky in my friends, the ones I have known since I was a half-formed girl, and the ones I am lucky enough to work with every day. I feel lucky in my family: the big, beautiful chaos of it, the history of songs and movies and love and argument, the people from whom I come and the people who come, in part, from me. I'm lucky in love, in my marriage, in my home, in the solace and shelter I find there. The world is unendurable and unbearably beautiful. It's mystifying, it is terrible, it strikes awe. I am tired, I am impatient, I am alive.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Conversations that must be had.

It's late in the semester. That means there are projects to bring to fruition, or closer to fruition, or, you know, not as far from fruition as they were, like, yesterday. Projects. Today, we had a meeting to talk about projects and I took loads of notes, both digital and mental, including this one: holy shit, I have a lot to do. Then I rambled with my people down to the Publication Center to check up on another project. Whew. It's moving along, and it will keep moving along, and we will finish it, and then it will be grading/wedding/Christmas whoa!

Meanwhile, as I left the building in the dark and light, fading, and I saw the lights still on in the historian's office. So I went back in to say hi/bye.

We talked for a few about the thises and thats of our respective days, and then I got this text from my youngest son, on his way to Vegas to have Thanksgiving with his dad:

'Walker just texted me and asked me who is my favorite movie director,' I said, casually, as if I didn't even care whatsoever.

My thought process, from this moment forward, was like this:

1. [rubs hands together with glee]

I began:

I had to think about Paul Thomas Anderson. My thought process was

2. [what's that guy what's that guy what's that guy There Will be Blood Inherent VICE!!!]
3. [starts texting again:]

I looked up. "This question is, like, crack to me. Irresistible," I said.

And the historian laughed.

n.b.: if anyone wants to know my complete list of favorite movie directors, I will have it ready for your perusal tomorrow. by noon. there will be mexican directors, and chinese directors, fyi.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Snapshots of work at home day.

1. Did the same core workout that, last week, made my abdominal muscles complain for days. 

2. Ate buckwheat pancakes, the breakfast of the righteous.

3. Read and graded student work in preparation for

4. Two hours of online conferences. 

5. Worried about students who are still hoping that I can provide them with the magical words for finish the semester when they haven't really finished the work. 

6. Second workout.

Son: Why are you going to work on work at home day?
Me: I'm going to work out. [pause]  Also, I'm going to work.
Son: Seems like you always go to work on work at home day.
Me: It's the end of the semester. So there's projects to finish.
Son: PROJECTS? (may or may not be what he actually said)

7. School. For projects:                                                                          

...with The Charlotte. These are carefully assembled covers for books.
Oh the meticulousness and the glue!
8. Read ten poetry manuscripts, as I'm pre-screening for a book contest. Felt the despair and nihilism of this effort.
9. Lay down to contemplate my muscles and also the Sundance Catalog. AND the last part of Home Alone, the part with all the ouches but also all the gut laughs. AND Remember the Titans, what? #footballmovie  P.S., Also, does anyone remember that Ryan Gosling and Wood Harris, aka Avon Barksdale,  are in this movie? And Hayden Panettiere? 

Friday, November 20, 2015

the light.

 Yesterday, I drove home in the gloom. The gloaming, I guess they sometimes call it.

We're in it now--the late fall, just a month away from the solstice, the light getting dimmer earlier. Leaving work and walking to my car as it gets colder. 

As I drove south on the long road before I turn onto my street, I glanced to the east. I saw light on the Wasatch. I looked west, and saw the sun sinking into the Oquirrhs. East, the high peaks white with snow, white with last light. West, the orange pink coral streaking the clouds. 

I thought, in two minutes, that light on the Wasatch will be gone. I thought, I maybe can grab my camera before it disappears. I raced into the house, threw down my stuff, grabbed my camera.

By the time I got back outside, the light in the east was gone. But the pink in the west was still tangled in the trees.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Dear megastore,

I think I have too many books. Well, they can't fit on my shelves.


Needs More Shelves


Dear Shelves-y,

You probably do have too many books. We can't all live in the Library of Babel, which, as a fictional construct, has an infinity of shelves and thus an infinity of books. You, my dear Shelves-a-lot, are not a fictive construct. Well, maybe you are, but you are not infinite. Well, who knows, maybe you are infinite, but I think it's unlikely, because you're writing to me. Well, maybe you're not actually writing to me.


You probably do have too many books, Shelvesford. The problem is, which ones to get rid of. The other problem is, which books not to buy. Have you heard of the public library (not the Babel branch)? The books at that library are, whilst in your possession, only temporary. Temporary books is one solution. Put them on a table, and you avoid the shelf conundrum.

My dear Shelvesmore, of all the things to have too much of, books are not so bad. To have too many of, you see, you see where I'm going, right? It's not like shoes, which are clearly a vanity. Well, sure, books, too, are a kind of vanity. Sure, of course you've read all those different versions of Proust AND Moby Dick.

Shelvesniss Everdeen: just, I don't know. Just put your books in stacks on the floor like a normal person.

And may the volumes be ever in your favor,



Dear megastore,

How do you say no when people want you to do things that you don't want to do, you don't have time to do, it's wrong of them to ask you to do, and also you're really tired both of being asked and of summoning up your inner strength to think, then say, no?

So, so tired,

Ms. Yessayer


My dear Miss Yesmonger,

Like most things, saying no is a matter of practice. Just look in a mirror, knit your brow ever so slightly, and say it. It's easy, just one syllable, the n with its Proto Indo European history of negation vibrating between the tongue and the back of the teeth, the o the universal sound of indescribable wonder. The Wonderful No. Say it.

Come on: say it like you mean it, Mistress Yes-to-all, you aren't getting anywhere if you don't put your back into it.

What, are you afraid people will be mad at you? Are you suffering from the Indispensable Man Complex? wherein you believe at some level of madness that nothing, not one thing will get done if you, the Indispensable Yes Monkey Man, do not show up (saying YES I said yes I will YES) to do it? 

Fine, Yeswhillikers, go ahead. Just say yes to everything. But don't expect me to feel bad for you when you're ranting about your too-much-to-dos or your I'm-so-stressed-out.

Are you ready now, Yesterday's News? It's really the only way. Say it with me now:

No I mean it No I won't NOoooooooooooo.  

Yours in the negation of the negation, whatever that means,


Until now.

All  through the fall, I've found myself with a crippling bout of longing. My friend Gail says you should identify your core desired feelings. Elation. How about that. Or exhilaration?

Our trip to Scotland was, this last time, magnificent. When we came back, we had to dive into school like doing a turn at the far end of the pool. A poorly executed turn, where you predictably but not purposefully inhale a lot of water. And you still have to swim, sputtering and coughing.

Not rage. Not can't come up for air. Not who do I think I am, anyway?

Last night, after a series of student conferences--online, at night--where half (not an exaggeration) of the students did not show up, I came into the bedroom where the historian was half resting, half watching television. Bruiser was, of course, aligned, both in purpose and in body, with these activities. I got under the covers, just to, you know, relax. I don't like being stood up by students for evening online appointments. It feels rude and maybe a little weasely and it invites all the thoughts, like, what am I doing wrong, that my students can't remember their appointments? and why am I so dumb, that I allow this to happen? and so on. Unproductive. Anxiety, and rage, producing.

But last night, I let it go. I thought, I did my part. And I did. I was prepared for those conversations and the students have my written feedback. I thought, time to breathe.

And I did.

This morning on my way to work, I started to think about a poem I'm nominally working on. I came up with a line and a half, and I thought, I'm on my way in. And now is the time I should be writing. And although always is the time I should be writing, I felt just a tiny taste of a core desired feeling. I felt elated.


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