Monday, April 30, 2012

After the party.

There may be leftover pasta. Leftover fattoush and roasted potatoes and fruit. Leftover brie-and-blue, and leftover crackers. Leftover whipped cream, cookies, angel food cake.

The house may still be clean, the lawn may still be mowed.

The wooden beads may be mixed in with the wooden blocks, and there may be a stray pistachio shell or two on the floor.

The kitchen table may still be bare. The summer table with its umbrella sits under the cherry tree.

The Sunday paper may not be fully read.

There is doubtless still grading to do, but less and less.

The back door may still be open, and the breeze that ends April and welcomes May breathes and breathes.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Things we didn't do.

Yesterday, I did not buy this book:
Denise Levertov, from
Oblique Prayers

nor this:

Franz Wright,
God's Silence

--not this either:

Ted Hughes,
Birthday Letters

I didn't really seriously even consider this, because I think I already have it.

Federico Garcia Lorca,
Poet in New York

I am now regretting all of them.

We went downtown because the historian and his co-author were going to speak at a series of events arranged to celebrate May Day, organized (loosely) by two Socialist groups. Somehow the wires got crossed (I am particularly proud of my mot for this occasion: "For Socialists, they're not as organized as you might think." BAM.), and we did not, in the end, find ourselves at the location of the actual events. So we had lunch with our friend, the co-author, and then, because our movie was not starting for a couple of hours, we stopped into Ken Sanders'. That's where I picked up each of the above books and read in them for a little while. I should have bought them. They are all right up my alley, even the Lorca that I think I have, may or may not have.

I hate refusing things that present themselves. I hate saying no. Most of all I hate recalcitrance in myself. What am I saving myself for? What, exactly?

What we did do was come home and read this and that. We watched a thing or two and ate some food that happened to be lying around. We walked the dog and admired the beautiful cool weather.  We both slept a little in various nooks around the house. I made cookie dough and let it cure. It was quiet. Quiet seems to be the thing I need to say yes to right now.

Couplet. This may actually be the last one. The very last one.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

We decided we couldn't be bothered to see a movie.

On our way home from downtown:

Me: ...and maybe I'll hang up my clothes, and then I will make these cookies--they're supposed to be, like, the best chocolate chip cookies in the history of cookies.

The historian:  Why's that?

Me: Well, they have some special ingredients. Like cake flour and bread flour.

Historian: Is there butter?

Me: Yes. And really good chocolate.

Historian: Lots and lots of butter?

Me: They are, in fact, an all butter cookie. But the real secret, apparently, is to let the dough rest a long time. Because--

Historian: (interrupting) --because if they don't get, like, twenty-three hours of rest, they're just no good the whole next day.

(this is the last couplet, but it is not the very last couplet.)

Friday, April 27, 2012


For my poetry class, a student and I spent some time today, looking for cover images for our class chapbook. As a title, the students nominated Unanswered Questions (or, technically, Questions Unanswered) to signify their interaction with my pedagogy. Which I am choosing to find hilarious.

Here are some images we found (creative commons > flickr > "question mark graffiti"):

by Brandon Giesbrecht

Question Mark Graffiti
by Bilal Kamoon
Question mark
by quinn.anya
by Trois Tetes
If not now, when?
by shaggy359

...and here's a couplet. No, here are two.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dear last week of teaching,

You seem, like, maybe two weeks overdue?  I'd say "not that I'm complaining," except, honestly, I am complaining. The semester is long. The academic year is long. If I felt like a better teacher, I would feel like wishing I had just a little longer with the students--but I don't feel like a better teacher, and I don't feel that way.

Except for you, dear student. You, and you and you and you. You know who you are. I'll definitely miss you, and I will always wish that I had just a little longer with you--at an infinitely slow pace of "just a little longer."

But as for the rest of it--the very last meetings; the proposed meetings for which I sent out e-mails a week, two weeks ago, that by now seem like a doom, still out there withholding their replies; the last class and the other last class; the layout/printing/binding; the students I'm still helping with their projects--could it not just be folded into one of those wrinkles in time you hear so much about nowadays? and in that tidy little pocket, everything still clinging to the next few days could just tumble? and I could walk right across that neat fold, into the week after graduation and onto an airplane that will take me to a foreign land?

Last week of teaching, I know you are pursing your lips at me and shaking your head. But just shut up. I am still in the middle of you, but I am already tired of you.

I renounce you. I renounce you. I renounce you.

With respect,


part of a couplet. it's all I've got.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Not much knowledge of the laws of physics, though.

We're walking the dog. I have the leash:

The historian: (facing me and Bruiser, runs a few steps backward) Just like Jimmy Piersall.

Me: (hoping for no backward running mishap, especially since it's dark out--) why were we remembering Jimmy Piersall, again?

Historian: It's the 50th anniversary of the Mets. Remember? he celebrated by running the bases backward.  (pauses, remembering:) Of course, Boyd, who we used to play doubles with, used to run the track in the field house backward, so he'd be in practice for running to get a ball. He tripped and broke his ankle.

Me: [remembering another one of the historian's acquaintances who did something else nutty like this...who was it?]

Historian: ...and also Craig T., who broke something or other when he was demonstrating to his wife how he could change directions in mid-air.

Me: (chuckling on the inside)

Historian: ...had a Ph. D. in philosophy.


Sunday, April 22, 2012


we got up early-ish this morning.

I am loving the green but also the red of the leaves as they break through.

We lingered outside.

Light filtering down through the branches.

a white carpet springing up under the rosebushes.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Megastore recommends.

an internet reenactment
of my breakfast.
1. Eggs for breakfast. Eggs and I had a parting of the ways, early in life. I had been a happy scrambled eggs girl, then one day I looked at my plate and the eggs upon it and thought, never again will your scrambles cross my lips, you curdled thing. And they did not, lo, not for many many years. Custard, yes. Quiche yes. Souffle, even--yes. But frittata, tortilla, omelet: no. Until one day I saw a plate of frittata pass me by at a restaurant, and I thought, okay. And from then on, eggs and I were friends again after forty years. I can't explain it, but this morning, after yet another long week, I dallied around in the morning with some juice and crackers--why crackers? because they were left over from a big event, and they were sitting on the table. But the moment came when actual breakfast had to materialize or the day would be compromised. There were green chiles in the refrigerator and cheese--leftover from the same event as the crackers--and a tortilla. Eggs, chiles, cheese scrambled up, the tortilla placed on the warm pan. That is a good breakfast, my friends. A breakfast like that will stand you in good stead all the day long.

lettuce. for a salad.
2. The contemplation of salad. Over the last month, I made and/or ate fattoush several times. It was so delicious. The first time I ate fattoush was at a lady-style luncheon at the Nieman Marcus on Union Square in San Francisco. It was as perfect as you might imagine a salad that Nieman Marcus would make, and so easy--a lemony dressing, lots of lettuce, this and that and feta and pita and olives and so on. Mint, cilantro, parsley.

Well, I happened to have a fair amount of leftover fattoush on two separate occasions, leftovers which I took to work and ate with relish. So today, when I was at the store, I thought about that fact, and bought lettuce and this and that and feta and pita and olives and so on. Mint, cilantro, parsley. Contemplating this future salad, which I will take to school and eat with relish, is highly satisfactory.
Talmudic scholar dad.

3. A very good movie. Tonight we saw Footnote,  an Israeli movie that hinges on a national award for Talmudic Studies, and a father and a son who are both Talmud scholars. This movie was mordant, funny, and sharp, and also startlingly sad. It was fully of great characters and two very fine performances. There's a scene, set in a very small conference room full of Talmudic scholars and a billowing argument, that is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. It also has a startlingly ambiguous and unsettled ending that the historian and I talked about all the way home. That's how good the movie was.

snippet of my freewrite.
4. Finding a weird freewrite that might, just might, become the basis of a poem. The actual writing of poems during this academic year has been so very sporadic it could make one weep. But here and there, a little writing got done, and tonight, the night before my writing group, stumbling upon this one freewrite I did back in the fall may prove to be the stumble that nets me a draft. Or not. The freewrite hinges on a story I heard on NPR about how bats and horses share some small piece of DNA. Morning will tell if it can be turned into something other than a piquant mess.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Visit to the Book Arts Program/Red Butte Press.

we are folding an accordion book

random piece of letter press, laying around

having printed

like lightning, Kati removes her paper from
the press

word image text object

big hand press


The Columbian

Book Arts


accordion folding

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Last night, I worked on the program for the Folio issue launch. Today, I finished it, in between meetings and lunches and writing center tutorials. I sent it to the editors to review--it looked great. I polished it up some more. And just when I had printed 100 copies, double-sided...I found a typo, where I'd substituted "Tributes" for "Tribes" in the title of an audio piece.

This was not the only error we found as we looked at the finished book and website. We found a few. It was a moment when we all acknowledged our capacity for error, a good thing to remember from time to time.

This semester has felt, perhaps, a little more rushed, a little more harried, than usual. I think I might be making that up--I think I might just be more tired, but I've felt details slipping away from me with greater regularity, the consequence of which is that I forget more things, I let things slide.

I admire people who know how to stay on top of the details. This is not, generally speaking, my greatest area of expertise. I admit that I can be attentive to detail here and there, and I'm intermittently better and worse at it in general. Tonight was a night where I found myself sweating a little on this account.

And yet: the book is so beautiful, truly. I find it exquisite. And it is full of the voices and the vision of the people who are educating themselves at our college. The evening was full of lovely surprises, including a gorgeous, transcendent bit of performance poetry. It was like ending the evening on a blessing.

Yet again, I am so grateful for the chances I've had to make something like this with others--to play my little part with everyone else, with the result being joy, errors included.

Check out the website for a look at the cover image and the superb web content:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rainy day letter.

Dear rainy day,

The other morning--Tuesday--when I woke up and you, rainy day, were happening, I was taken aback. I had a plan for what I would wear that was now rendered, entirely, moot. And the new plan wasn't all that helpful--while I had a raincoat, I did not have a hat nor an umbrella. In fact, out of all the clothes and accessories and accoutrements I have for weather, I have never really accounted for the way that rain gets one's head wet. Which meant, rainy day, that I walked to class carrying books and sheafs of poems, not to mention my regular purse and so forth, getting soaked and more soaked. Plus, that morning I treated my alarm like it was just a suggestion, so I was late. Late, panicky, and soaked.

Let me pause to ask: where is my umbrella? My hypothetical umbrella, which I contemplate purchasing every year. There are endless stylish umbrelli, umbrelli aplenty. You'd think I'd have bought one about ten times--but no, I have no umbrella, and thus I find myself periodically in a soaked frame of mind, questioning my judgement and also the weather.

But truthfully, the weather-questioning happens only briefly. I love rainy weather. In fact, rainy is the weather I carry around inside.

Periodically, one of the women in my writing group gets after me a little because--and this is absolutely true--much of what I write is melancholy, too melancholy from her point of view, like a moody teenager's work, except about grown-up subjects, and maybe the subjects are a moody teenager's too. I can't disagree with her. Sometimes I point this out to myself. But to rain and to melancholy I always find myself returning.

I had a big break in my work day today, and because the past few weeks have been full of long, long work days, I decided to leave campus for an hour or so. As I drove, the sky pillowy and pearly, I thought how lovely, how perfect, really. It's mid-April, the weather is cool, the weather is wet. The weather is not sunny, at least not commitedly so. It is the weather I want to be out in, or looking out upon. It is my best weather, and maybe that's why I do such a lame job of sheltering myself from it.

Rainy day, I am looking forward to a great, extended swath of you, with or without a hat.

Please don't let me down,



Tuesday, April 17, 2012


To our taxes:
Taxes, I can hear the kazoo of the Treasury, 
The tumbrils toiling up the terrible way; 
Even to-day my bank account may fall, 
But I think we will survive you anyway.

(adapted, barely, from G.K. Chesterton)


Monday, April 16, 2012


Some observations:

Watching a Jazz game, which I almost never do deliberately because now, like so many pleasurable things, it stresses me out unless the conditions are just right. Triple overtime. The Mavs. The Jazz are playing with skill and joy and, it must be said, a little bit erratically, because they are the Jazz at this moment in their history. But they're up by 5 with 1:08. Jason Terry is ridiculous.

I finished a truly epic bout of Big Responding in my composition classes. In the history of responding ordeals, this is one of the most ordealiest. But I have prevailed over it. I feel the better for it.

As I drove to work this morning, I found myself listening in, as it were, on my own inner discussion with myself. I found that I was happy.

Soon I will be talking to students only about small scale revisions. And poetry. Soon I will be accepting the final version of their work. Soon I will be finishing this and moving on to that.

There is a full-on riot of tulips in my front yard.

I have loved writing the couplets for this month's gesture at poetry every day. It has felt increasingly like a meditation.

And the Jazz--on this beautiful Monday, the Jazz win it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Megastore recommends.

1. a rainy spring day. Okay, it would have been better if I had had a hat or a coat with a hood when it started lightly hailing as I walked briskly, then brisklier, from my car to the movie theater. But I maintain a rainy day makes the flowers really gleam. And it's not spring, in my opinion, if there aren't rainy gray days. Spring without rain is technically "summer," and I am not ready for that, and no matter what you think, you aren't either.
maple tree

2. two movie Saturdays. Nothing quite makes a Saturday feel like a Saturday than two movies. They could be in a row, as in you don't leave the theater, or they could be two separate movie dates, as occurred today. With my daughter and my grandson, I saw Mirror, Mirror, fully of vivid colors and gorgeous images. With the historian, I saw The Kid With the Bike,  heartrending and hopeful and French/(Belgian), an excellent combination. In between, I came home and read some of Half Empty  by David Rakoff for my book group. Perfect.

3. Scott Carrier. Last night at the faculty convention, Scott Carrier came to speak movingly about, well, a lot of things, but centering around and circling back to a story about becoming a teacher and shepherding one young Afghan man through a college education. So great. Middlebrow and another colleague recommended him, and it worked out splendidly. In an e-mail this morning, though, Middlebrow said that he probably wouldn't go to next year's convention because the committee would no doubt "over-correct with some self-help speaker." The gods forfend!

4. students who make things like this: (and this, and this, and this, and this...)


Friday, April 13, 2012

Agenda for a crash.

1. sleep till I wake up
2. pancakes?
3. grade
4. see Mirror Mirror with my daughter, which is either (a) the new movie by Tarsem Singh, who directed The Fall, one of my all time favorite movies, or (b) a Julia Roberts movie based on "Snow White" or (c) all three, what's it to you?
5. sleep till I wake up (did I already say that?)
6. maybe check in with Target?
7. take a walk with the B
8. see another movie, this one with the historian
9. sleep again
10. fast forward: the semester is OVER.

fast forward fast forward fast forward >>

tomorrow, I will eat like this:

you know, pictorially. like, a picture taken by an Android camera app.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Amazing ordinary sad.

 It started early. Early, cold, wet.
 I have what appears, to the naked eye, to be an infinite pile of drafts yet to respond to. I did some of that in a room full of rainy day light.
In class we talked about how you get from an idea to a poem. There are a lot of ways. Sometimes, actually, you go from the poem to the idea, for instance.

 The students had poems to workshop. I prescribed the read-aloud protocol.
 After class, after my tutorial hours in the Student Writing Center, I loaded up a box of the new chapbook into my car and went off to prepare for the launch and reading. This involved some expensive-ish groceries.
While I was out and about, I talked with my son, who told me about a friend from his high school circle who had just died. I remembered him--a hard upbringing, a really talented musician. That young, it's hard to believe.
The reading was splendid. The author, Hana, read beautifully and movingly.
We all felt so proud of her, and of the students who collectively published her book.
People talked and lingered as she signed books.
Life is full of breathtaking sadnesses pressed up against the celebrations and the moments when you're just buying grapes or preparing dinner, moments that seem ignorant of each other, almost. Tonight was a great night and a mourning night. Ordinary rain and blossom and sunlight breaking through.



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