Monday, March 31, 2008

Let's Not Talk About the Final Four

Okay, so I got two out of the Final Four in NCAA basketball, but so did everyone. I have embarassed myself in public once again.

But it's Opening Day in the 5th inning and the Tigers are leading the Royals, 2-0.

Yeah, baseball. That's my sport.

UPDATE: Ding Dong!

Miguel Cabrera just hit his first homer as a Tiger.

We lead, 3-0.


Got out of class and found out we lost, 5-4 in extra innings. The Royals are always so pesty when they play Detroit, and our relief pitching...ouch.

On "Human Smoke"

I spent the weekend reading Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization ( Simon & Schuster, 2008). It is a fascinating book and I highy recommend reading it, though I do not agree with what Baker seems to be saying––a point that becomes express only in his Afterward, where he writes:

"This book ends on December 31, 1941. Most of the people who died in the Second World War were at that moment still alive.

"Was it a 'good war'? Did waging it help anyone who needed help? Those were the basic questions that I hoped to answer when I began writing. I've relied on newspaper articles, diaries, memos, memoirs, and public proclamations, each tied as much as possible to a particular date, because they helped me understand the grain of events better than secondary sources did."

He continues:

"I dedicate this book to the memory of Clarence Pickett an other American and British pacifists. They've never really gotten their due. They tried to save Jewish refugees, feed Europe, reconcile the United States and Japan, and stop the war from happening. They failed, but they were right."

I'm not so sure. I find it difficult to believe that had we only further accomodated Hitler and the Japanese, we could have avoided World War II and the Holocaust. Although Baker does not expressly say this, he accumulates the evidence (and, essentially, only the evidence) to support such a conclusion. Largely missing from his book, for example, is any discussion of the The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, also known as the Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, signed in Moscow in the early hours of August 24, 1939. The treaty included a secret protocol dividing the independent countries of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania into Nazi and Soviet spheres of influence, anticipating "territorial and political rearrangements" of these countries' territories. All were subsequently invaded, occupied, or forced to cede territory by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, or both. The Pact remained in effect until June 22, 1941, when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. The signing of the treaty goes unrecorded in the day-to-day narrative of Baker's book (it is obliquely referred to on page 129), and Baker's lack of attention to this crucial event does a great disservice to his book and his argument. The world looked profoundly different in England when Hitler and Stalin became allies in dividing eastern Europe in the early days of the war. And since the "legitimate aspirations" of the Japanese included the subjugation of all of the Far East under the "Co-prosperity Sphere" (think, The Rape of Nanking), it is difficult to imagine what actions the United States could have (or better, should have) taken to avoid confrontation with the Japanese. As for suggestions that Roosevelt knew about the attack on Pearl Harbor beforehand and deliberately let it proceed without warning--better historians than Baker (or certainly, me) have already refuted such claims.

Which is not to say that we could not have done a great deal differently; better and with far more compassion and urgency, particularly in our treatment of the Jewish refugees in the days prior to America's entry into the war.

Still, Human Smoke is a compelling piece of work--well worth reading; worth discussing.


NOTE: The top photo shows Molotov signing the German-Soviet non-aggression pact. Behind him are Ribbentrop and Stalin.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Coming Soon...

24" of screaming fast goodness.

Oh, yeah.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Happy Birthday, Robert Frost

Almost went right by this one!

Robert Frost was born on March 26, 1874 in San Francisco, California, where he lived until he was 11. Frost was recognized as an important poet upon the publication of his second book, North of Boston, in 1914. "While Frost's poems continue to be popularly interpreted optimistically within the frame of an idyllic pastoral life, most modern literary criticism is preoccupied with their frequently pessimistic, menacing, and disingenuous undertones. A popular and often-quoted poet, Frost was honored frequently during his lifetime, receiving four Pulitzer Prizes."

Frost died on January 29, 1963.

Here's one of his most well-known poems.

Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'

Hopeful Words from Daniel Pink

Yesterday afternoon I attended a lecture in Holland by Daniel Pink, the author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future (Riverhead Books, 2006). Pink argues that the days of "left-brained" lawyers, accountants and software engineers are over in the Western World, and that we are now entering the "right-brained" age of designers, inventors, teachers and storytellers. The talk was sponsored by the Holland Area Arts Council (right-brainers funded by left- brainers) and the Harbor Lights Middle School auditorium was full of an interesting mix of English teachers, artists, and earnest young engineers.

The economic future looks hopeful for poets. Here's what Pink writes about us:

More and more employers are looking for people who possess this aptitude [the ability to "understand the relationships between relationships"]. Sidney Harman is one of them. The eightysomething multimillionaire CEO of a stereo components company says he doesn't find it all that valuable to hire MBAs. Instead,

I say "Get some poets as managers." Poets are our original systems thinkers. They contemplate the world in which we live and feel obliged to interpret and give expression to it in a way that makes the reader understand how that world turns. Poets, those unheralded sytems thinkers, are our true digital thinkers. It is from their midst that I believe we will draw tomorrow's new business leaders.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Singular Days in American Fatherhood

Surely I was the only father in America this morning whose 4 year-old son asked to listen to Southern Culture on the Skids playing "Voodoo Cadillac Blues" so that we could all bunny hop around the house before breakfast.

You can't buy fun like that.


Letter to Harriet Beecher Stowe

-From the American Painter Martin Johnson Heade
in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October 24, 1863

Your letter arrived two days past, aboard
the frigate Sabine, under the command
of Lieutenant Robert Adams, late of Hartford.
My guide and companion,
Capitao Gonzales of the Brazilian Imperial Navy,
asked that I go with him to the docks
to greet the visiting warship.
Brazil, of course, remains neutral
in the great American conflict,
though it is difficult to assay the feelings
of the populace, who follow the dispatches
with great and voluble interest. There is
a fair-sized American community here,
with both Union and rebel sympathies.
Spies and rumors of saboteurs abound;
the port is open to provisioning
by both sides. To walk the docks before dawn––
weaving through dark bundles and nameless casks––
is to know considerable risk. One hears American voices
urging the lethargic porters––Work faster! Faster!
Mais rapidamente!
The masters of these ships––
southern, northern, or mysteriously non-allied––
hope to slip their berths and vanish
on the next outgoing tide.

My cause here is mundane.
My goal––to paint the hummingbirds of this vast
jungled land, then have these paintings
lithographed on the great presses of London,
where they might be subscribed to
in elegant limited editions,
in the manner of Audubon and Gould,
and thereby to secure, if not my fortune,
perhaps a lasting name. As title for this volume,
I have settled upon Gems of Brazil, for that is
what these hummers are. One thinks of jewels
when watching them sip nectar
or in buzzy, ecstatic flight––
of honey-rich ambers, of bright sapphires,
of rubies and purple amethysts, bodies fired
by the dappled light of this riotously fecund land,
where every swale is decked with passion
flowers, with gardenias and sweet orchids.
One must recall that admonition
written in Proverbs, echoed in the Book of Job––
The price of wisdom is above rubies, and pray
my unbridled enthusiasm for this work
does not bring a tragic end.

I am saddened to learn of your son’s injury
at Gettysburg, and heartened by word of Frederick’s
progress. I pray for his good health. News
of the valiant hours of the Massachusetts artillery
before Pickett’s charge at that fateful ridge,
reached us in a packet of Boston dailies
delivered aboard The Golden City.
The descriptions of the rebel barrage
on the day of Captain Stowe’s head injury––
“Splintered shells and fiendish wailings,
like the predatory howls
of demons in search of their prey,”
astonished the Americans here, and the Union
owes a great debt to Captain Stowe’s bravery.
My best to Frederick. Remember me to all.

As you know, Brazil still suffers the curse of slavery.
Through the intercession of the Reverend Fletcher
and the American consul, the Honorable James Monroe,
I was introduced to Emperor Dom Pedro II.
Upon learning that you were a friend, he asked
if I might secure on his account a copy of your great
and famous book. If you could send one, inscribed,
through American diplomatic channels, I will assure
its delivery to his Excellency, in the hopes your work
will bring as much benefit to this benighted land
as it has to our United States. Until that day, I remain,
your devoted servant, etcetera.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Briefly Noted

I haven't yet read Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization (Simon & Schuster, 2008), but it certainly has gotten a lot of attention, including the cover of yesterday's New York Times Book Review (March 23, 2008). Baker's theory seems to be that there is a equivalency between the actions and attitudes of Germany, Great Britain and the United States that makes each of them morally responsible for the events of World War II. I have a difficult time buying that premise--the "moral equivalency" part--and it isn't entirely clear what role Baker assigns to Stalin and the Japanese leadership,--but the book does sound interesting, particularly Baker's method.

Colm Toibin writes:

There is, it seems at first, a sort of madness in [Baker's] method. He does not offer a straightforward narrative as a historian or a polemicist might do, but instead his book is made up of a set of vignettes, each containing a fact or a quotation from one of the main participants, or from someone who kept a diary. Most vignettes carry a date. Sometimes these entries come three to a page, sometimes they are slightly longer. Slowly, as you read, because of the variety in the tone and the shocking or tragic nature of the quotation, and because of how well chosen they are, “Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization” becomes riveting and fascinating. It is as though a brilliant film editor, with an urgent argument to make, began to work with gripping newsreels.

The main figures in the book are Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt; members of the pacifist movement including Gandhi; Hitler and his entourage; and diarists like Victor Klemperer in Dresden and Mihail Sebastian in Bucharest. But sometimes it is the simple stark fact that makes you sit up straight for a moment, like this one from early in the book: “The Royal Air Force dropped more than 150 tons of bombs on India. It was 1925.” This, coming soon after an account of the proposed bombing of civilian targets in Iraq in 1920 (with Churchill writing: “I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes”), sets a theme for the book, which Baker will skillfully weave into the fabric of events mainly between 1920 and 1942 — that the bombing of villages and cities from the air represents “the end of civilization.”

Also noted in yesterday's Book Review was Samantha Hunt's novel about Nikola Tesla, The Invention of Everything Else (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008). Reviewer Louisa Thomas writes that the book "fairly pulses with life."

Congratulations to Samantha.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


I hope you all have a wonderful Easter.

More later!

I have a poem to attend to.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Saturday; after the Snowstorm

Today is one of those sunny, snow covered spring days that perfectly explains why the rich people bought Colorado. Unfortunately, I am in Michigan.

My NCAA brackets are in trouble after last night's debacles. I did have Villanova winning, but all of the other upsets were...uhm, upsets to me, too. Still, all of my Final Four teams are in play.

I am working on a poem.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Status Report

That is quite enough, thank you.

No, really. Thank you so much.

Bad Weather...

We all but missed the great March rain event, but not this, I am afraid––the last (I hope) snow storm of the year.

Michigan grows tiresome.

In writing news, Project 9 from Outer Space is finished and in the mail.

I had Kentucky over Marquette, but otherwise I am golden in the NCAA's.*


*Oops! Upon further checking, I also seem to have picked USC over Kansas State. My bad. But I didn't have USC getting by Wisconsin in the second round, so this isn't a big loss for me.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

For the Record...

I have Tennessee, Kansas, Pitt and UCLA in the Final Four.

Tennesee over Kansas.

UCLA over Pitt.

UCLA Over Tennessee for the Championship.

I'm just sayin'...

Happy Birthday, Ovid!

Ovid, or more formally, Publius Ovidius Naso (March 20, 43 B.C. – 17 A.D.) was a Roman poet who wrote on many topics, including love and sex, abandoned women, exile, and mythological transformations. Ovid was born in Sulmo, a vilage east of Rome. He was trained as a lawyer, but gave up that profession to be a poet and is therefore, in my mind at least, the patron saint of all recovering attorneys.

Perhaps Ovid's best-known work is The Metamorphoses, completed around 8 A.D., which retells much of Greek mythology and Roman history.

Soon after the completion of The Metamorphoses, the Emperoror Augustus banished Ovid to the fringes of the Empire--a region north of the Black Sea. It is not clear what the poet had done to merit this punishment; one of the more popular legends is that Ovid either facilitated or gossiped about the extra-marital affairs of Julia the Younger, Augustus' granddaughter.

Ovid wrote two more collections of poems, titled Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto (Letters from Pontus), that are particular favorites of mine. These poems are largely concerned with Ovid's sadness at being exiled from Rome and constitute an ongoing plea to Augustus to allow the poet's return.

Ovid died in exile in 17 A.D., after nearly 10 years of banishment.

Here's an excerpt from Letters from Pontus:

From Book EIII.I:1-66
To His Wife: Her Role

Sea, first struck by Jason’s oars, and land,
never free of savage enemies and snow,
will a time come when Ovid is ordered away
to a less hostile place, leaves you behind?
Surely I ought not, living on in this barbarian
country, to be buried in the soil of Tomis?
By your leave, Pontus, if you’ve any leave to give,
land trampled by swift horses of nearby enemies,
by your leave I’d seek to call you the worst feature
of my harsh exile, you that aggravate my trouble.
You never experience Spring wreathed in crowns
of flowers, nor see the naked bodies of the reapers.
Autumn never offers you its clusters of grapes:
all seasons are gripped by the immoderate cold.
You hold the waves ice-bound, and the fish,
in the sea, often swim roofed-in by solid water.
There are no springs, except those that are almost brine:
drink, and you’re dubious whether they quench or parch.
The odd barren tree sticks up in the open field,
and the land is merely the sea in disguise.
No birds sing, unless they’re ones from far forests,
drinking sea-water here, making raucous cries.
The empty plains bristle with acrid wormwood,
a harvest appropriate to this bitter place.
Add our fear, walls battered at by enemies,
their arrows soaking wet with fatal venom,
add how far this region is from every track,
to which none travel on foot, securely, or by boat.
No wonder then if, seeking an end to this,
I ask endlessly for a different location.


Shown are pages from the George Sandys translation of The Metamorphoses (1640).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Five Years in Iraq... five years too long. Work and pray for peace. Bring the troops home.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hectic Weekend

The Walden Green Montessori auction was a lot of fun, though it did go past my normal bedtime. The broadside went to someone who loved it, the books sold, and we came home with a basket full of games for the boys (Uno, checkers, chess, Sorry!, Twister, etc.), a wooden truck for Liam, and a certificate for Carlos to visit a museum in Grand Rapids with two teachers and two of his friends.

Carlos was sick all weekend and last night we had to bring him into the emergency room in Muskegon. I'm afraid he has what we used to affectionately call "barfalonis of the blowhole." They pumped some fluids into him, gave him something to calm his stomach, and sent him back home with us. He slept through the night, so we may be past the crisis.

Poor guy.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Ides of March

Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry "Caesar!" Speak, Caesar is turn'd to hear.

Beware the ides of March.

What man is that?

A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

Julius Caesar Act 1, scene 2, 15–19

Every year I get involved in judging a local high school writing contest and screening the Hope College entries for the Academy of American Poets Prize. I have on a couple of occasions--not this year--also been one of the judges for the Great Lakes Colleges Association First Book Prize. This is fun and worthwhile work; something I think poets have a duty to do when called upon. Like the obligation I feel to write blurbs; it's an honor to be asked and a small way of giving back to the art.
But it can also add up to a substantial time commitment. I am in the middle of several of those sorts of projects right now, which is a long way of explaining why I haven't been such a dutiful blogger as of late.

Mea culpa.

I had one of my recent broadsides framed and it (along with a couple of my books) will be available for purchase tonight during the annual Walden Green Montessori School Benefit Auction at the Grand Haven Community Center. I can probably buy the broadside back at the Auction more cheaply than I can get another framed, so I will be one of the bidders. Okay, perhaps the only bidder.

The festivities begin at 6 p.m. Hope to see you there. Please don't bid up the broadside just so you can watch me squirm.

I have also been revising the poem I posted earlier in the week, and am pretty happy with the way it turned out. This weekend I will be working on the second poem of the six I've pledged myself to in the Great Poetry Leap Forward. It has been quite a while since I sent anything out, and I only have a few things being published this spring--in Prairie Schooner, The Dunes Review, and the Bellingham Review. Unless something pops up on my radar screen, I probably won't send poems out again until next fall.

I used to feel a great deal of pressure to keep my work in the mail; not so much anymore.

As promised, I will be updating my blogroll later this weekend.

I hope you bloggers and readers in the Atlanta area are all safe.


NOTE: The painting is "The Death of Caesar" (1867) by Jean Leon Gerome.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Yesterday was the last day of class for a week (spring break) so I hope to make a bit of progress, writing-wise.

Too busy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


If there is anything worse than working all day as a lawyer, it is dreaming all night about being a lawyer. One tries so hard to redeem the soul and the world still claims a lien on it.

Our border collie stood watching in disbelief this morning as four dark shapes ran by her and into the woods behind the house.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Good Morning...

I get up early--hence, the name of the blog––so I am not sure why the first few days of Daylight Savings Time always seem so debilitating. Were it more spring-like here, it would be helpful.

It's Monday; with meetings and class I will be busy.

This weekend I finished up work on a broadside and also wrote a poem---start to pretty-much finish. I will post it here for a while. If not actually "Leaping Forward" yet, we are taking those first sweet baby steps.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Note to Self

Hey, here's an idea: when you take a book off the shelf, put it back.

I cannot explain why it is impossible to write a poem because I cannot find a book about vegetables, but there you have it.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

On Reading & Writing; On Revision

I recently made a factual mistake in something I wrote. Not a major mistake, in the sense of having real-world consequences; not something that cannot be corrected. Look; I have already corrected myself and perhaps only a person or two will ever know––let alone care–– that the mistake was made. Still, it is unnerving to be sure at this point in life and to find oneself so wrong.

Here’s something Susan Sontag wrote that I found consoling:

What I write is other than me. As what I write is smarter than I am. Because I can rewrite it. My books know what I once knew––fitfully, intermittently. And getting the best word on the page does not seem any easier, even after so many years of writing. On the contrary.

Here is the great difference between reading and writing. Reading is a vocation, a skill at which, with practice, you are bound to become more expert. What you accumulate as a writer is mostly uncertainties and anxieties.

All these feelings of inadequacy on the part of the writer––this writer, anyway––are predicated on the conviction that literature matters. “Matters” is surely too pale a word. That there are books which are necessary, that is, books which, while reading them, you know you’ll reread. Maybe more than once. Is there a greater privilege than to have a consciousness expanded by, filled with, pointed to literature?

Book of wisdom, exemplar of mental playfulness, dilator of sympathies, faithful recorder of a real world (not just the commotion inside one head), servant of history, advocate of contrary and defiant emotions––a novel that feels necessary can be, should be, most of these things.

As to whether there will continue to be readers who share this high notion of fiction, well, “There’s no future to that question,” as Duke Ellington replied when asked why he was to be found playing morning programs at the Apollo. Best just to keep rowing along.*


My sympathies to those of you battling the latest blizzard. Please don’t blame the Great Lakes State for this one––it came out of Oklahoma and up through Ohio, missing all but the easternmost portion of Michigan. Here, it is windy and cold (20 degrees F) and sunny blue skies. When I took the dogs out and stood back from the wind, catching the light and heat reflecting off the lapstrake siding, it was almost balmy.

I must clean up my work area, and––with no papers to grade this weekend––should be able to make some progress on a new poem.


*From “Writing as Reading,” by Susan Sontag, Collected in Where the Stress Falls: Essays (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001). The painting is "Kissing the Moon" (1904) by Winslow Homer.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Thought for the Day

So I read. Angels, I read, belong to nine different orders. Seraphs are the highest; they are aflame with love for God; cherubs, they are second, possess perfect knowledge of him. So love is greater than knowledge; how could I have forgotten? The seraphs are born of a stream of fire issuing from under God's throne. They are, according to Dionysius the Areopagite, "all wings," having, as Isaiah noted, six wings apiece, two of which they fold over their eyes. Moving perpetually toward God, they perpetually praise him, crying Holy Holy, Holy...But, according to some rabbinic writings, they can sing only the first "Holy" before the intensity of their love ignites them and dissolves them again, perpetually, into flames. "Abandon everything," Dionysius told his disciple. "God despises ideas."

-Annie Dillard, from Holy the Firm (Harper Perennial, 1988)


The top image is from Wim Wender's 1987 film, "Wings of Desire."

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

For the Record

Dear Heather:

Remember how I sneezed in that meeting with the Department Chairperson on Monday afternoon and you asked me if I was sick and I said I wasn't?

I lied.


Your Friend,


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Not Again

I was afraid of this when I read the review in the New York Times.

Gang Memoir, Turning Page, is Pure Fiction.

The article also links to the original NYT review, and another story about the author.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Busy Day!

Finished. I'd been kicking around that mini-essay--only 1,000 words about a poem--for several weeks. It's strange to write down everything that you know went into a 24-line poem. Let alone to figure out what came into the poem unbidden.

I have a busy day, finishing with my late afternoon class.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

What Next?

It's the beginning of March and I haven't written a new poem since December, so it's time to get to work. I am going to set a small goal for what I want to accomplish writing-wise by the end of April. Let's say 6 new poems, substantially complete by May 1. I'll be mobilizing cadres, re-educating counter-revolutionary forces, doubling rice production through strategic acts of Marxist self-criticism, and calling it The Great Spring Leap Forward.

Onward to May Day! Onward to the ultimate victory of Poetry!

But first, a short essay.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Figured Dark Noted in Michigan Today

I am not quite sure how this happened (I didn't send it to them--though I should have), but Figured Dark has a notice in the most recent (February) issue of Michigan Today, the alumni magazine of the University of Michigan.

Here's a link.

Go Blue!

My Life in Six Words

I've been tagged by Diane Lockward of Blogalicious for a six-word memoir.

Here are the instructions, from Bookbabie to Blogalicious to me:

What would you say if you had to summarize your life in only six words? Bookbabie got the idea from a book written by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser, Not Quite What I was Expecting: Six Word Memoirs by Famous and Obscure. It's a compilation based on the story that Ernest Hemingway once bet ten dollars that he could sum up his life in six words. His words were—For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Here are the rules:

1. Write your own six word memoir
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere
4. Tag five more blogs with links
5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

My 6-word memoir is:

"Admit it; the bastard could dance."

Like Anne Haines, I am a bit leery of tagging some and leaving others out, but if you are in the mood (C'mon, IUSB people!), consider yourself tagged. It is a fun exercise.


I had a great time Thursday in South Bend, and met some wonderful people there. I got into town early--I had been worried about the snow but didn't encounter any on the way down--and passed the afternoon in the coffee houses of South Bend, including the legendary Chicory Cafe. Around four, I checked into the Cushing Manor Inn, a really nice--and very quiet--bed and breakfast on the edge of downtown. Kelcey Parker from IUSB picked me up for dinner (at a restaurant/jazz club called, if I remember correctly, Trios), which was very good. I had a great time with Kelcey, Sally Smits, Nancy Botkin, and David Dodd Lee--talking and laughing about poetry, teaching, blogging, and a surprising number of friends-in-common.

As you can see from the the IUSB Creative Writing Blog here and Talia's blog here, there was a good turnout for the reading and it went well, I think. I read "Homer, Faulkner, Noir" from A Path Between Houses and then a number of poems from Figured Dark, including "In the Great Field at Mount Holyoke, Under a Dome of Stars," "Lost-Love Ghazals," "Exile Valise,"* "Figured Dark," and "Discontinuous Narrative" (my vasectomy poem), which prompted a discussion of William the Conqueror and the Bayeux Tapestry.

It is a bit hard to explain the William the Conqueror part, but I did my best. I finished up with "Studies for the Blue Morpho" from my Martin Johnson Heade series (prompting my second book report) and a short poem about exile, set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Afterwards, I answered a few questions, signed books and had a chance to talk with audience members. I met (for the first time) bloggers Talia Reed, Charmi Keranen, Chad Forbregd, Rachel from "The Confessional," Neil Kelly, Nakao Fujimoto, the blogger "Psychoflowers," and IUSB faculty member Joseph Chaney.

NOTE: If it's okay with you guys, I will be adding those of who are bloggers (and who are not already there) to my blogroll.

The profs at IUSB are doing a great job. They have their students not only excited about creative writing and poetry, but also writing so well. Many of the students are already publishing in great places--both print journals and on-line.

It was snowing when I got up Friday morning. I waited around a bit and (rather than drive straight north through the lake-effect snow belt of Michiana), headed east on I-80 on the theory that I could outrun the worst of the snow and come north into Michigan on I-69.

So much for my theory. There were many cars in the ditch on the Indiana Turnpike.

As long as I was headed east, I also went on a Secret Mission. More on that anon.

And I did get home, safe and sound.

My special thanks to Sally Smits and Kelcey Parker for putting all this together and to Talia Reed for both the interview and the wonderful article that ran in the IUSB student newspaper. If you ever get a chance to read at IUSB, go. It was a great, great experience.


*Featuring Tobias, the Archangel Raphael, and the dog (below) from the Book of Tobit.