Bad Air Days

I haven’t felt this cooped up since Chernobyl. I was a kid and hid from radiation behind the couch all summer. My parents told me there was a radioactive cloud, and I imagined an invisible but poisonous cloud beaming death at anyone who dared to go outside. As I understand it now, it was a plume of smoke with particles of radioactive dust. That’s what fallout is: radioactive dust. The air went bad on Thursday evening, right after I got some bad professional news, which has been piling on since. Nothing out of the ordinary if you’re looking for a […]

What the Herb Girl Likes: An Old Poem, with Backstory

1997 was the year of my greatest poetic recognition, and I’ve never lived up to it since. It’s a bit tough when that happens at age 18 to ever feel like you’re good enough. To begin with, I was chosen to read at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, which is held every summer in Connecticut in a beautiful sunken garden and attracts crowds of 3,000 people. No kidding! 3,000 people come to hear poetry. Complete strangers come on a weekend evening and sit in humid Connecticut outdoors, risking mosquitos, just to hear some poetry. I, along with four fellow Connecticut […]

From Composing on the Computer to Writing by Hand

When I was young, I sometimes wrote poetry at my computer. That was when you could be on the computer without being online, and being online meant tying up the house phone line. Now I mostly compose new poems by hand, because it’s how I can get away from flow-breaking distractions. As a result I’ve been motivated to maintain a legible hand. From the outside it might look like some kind of poetic preciousness. Ahh, she writes by hand, in a special notebook! But it’s all about the practical considerations of the work. If there is anything romantic about it, […]

Advice for Aspiring Writers: Learn Dog Language

A small terrier sitting on a Muni train

Take a walk every day.
Stop to smell the roses, jasmine, and angel’s trumpets.
But don’t bother to smell the camellias; they don’t have a smell.
Get a guidebook to local flowers and find out which ones are worth smelling.
Get to know people who aren’t like you.
Befriend them.
Eavesdrop on your neighbors.
Find out about your neighbor’s dog’s health problems.
Make friends with dogs.
Learn dog language.

We Have Come to a Mutually Beneficial Agreement

Plumeria (Frangipani)

There was a classic orb spider web on the upper crossbeam on the deck roof. In the middle presided a fat-bodied araneid with distinct yellow markings on her back.

“You could make yourself useful and move over closer to this plumeria and evict these ants for me. I don’t know if you eat ants, but I bet they don’t know that either,” then I thought I ought to be more polite since I was asking for a favor, and said “I mean, I’d really appreciate it if you could come over here and help me out.”

Meeting Dionysus in San Jose

A young woman in a white chiton sat on a chair in front of an entrance to a hotel room. “Would you like to meet Dionysus?” she asked me. A priestess, then. I wasn’t planning on it, not so literally, but why not? Catching up with old friends and meeting new ones is the best thing about Pantheacon, so why not say hello to a God who favors poets? The priestess said Dionysus only sees one person at a time, so I had to wait until the previous supplicant or visitor or worshipper left. It wasn’t long. Another priestess opened […]

Home-Made Glue and the Creative Process Behind “Night-Time Skin Ritual”

words pasted onto paper

After doing a cut-up last week using my own work and the WIPP nuclear waste warning poem, I decided I really enjoyed the cut-up process and the kinds of work it generated. I wanted to do something playful for Valentine’s Day using whatever advertising I could get my hands on. Unfortunately I didn’t come across any fliers or other paper ads in the wild, so my only source was the SF Weekly. I hand selected the ads for events happening on February 14th in the SF Weekly and then cut out interesting phrases with scissors. I wasn’t satisfied with the […]

A Pan That is Cake Sized: Recipe for Shrove Tuesday

My child demands a loud noise an oil a Lent a flour cake made of flat, white, and spongy; a very loud noise, eggshells, compost, of course. My child is a picky eater so of course greasy small fingers. Cake demands: my child, my child is flour, eggs, milk, butter, preheat the oven to gasmark 3, you’ll need this later. Of course my child is flat, white, and spongy. My pancake is my pancake is my pancake. Of course the pan, well seasoned. My child is well seasoned. And here is that recipe! Three hundred grams Compost bin liner, OK […]