Archive for July, 2011

So Many Questions

Matthew Yeager wrote a poem made up entirely of questions, maybe a thousand or more.  He lost count.  It’s called “A Jar of Balloons, or The Uncooked Rice.”  Here is a sample from an exerpt printed in the 2010 Best American Poetry anthology.

Have you ever had a haircut so bad

you cried?  When you open the dreawer

after having poured yourself a bowl of cereal

do you reach for a small or a large

spoon?  How conscious are you of your

posture?  Will you agree to let a lover use

your toothbrush?  Which chemical?

This goes on and on.  BAP published about 10 pages of it.  I tried to find the entire thing on the internet, but it’s gone.  Or I can’t find it.  But the questions, which Yaeger said he wrote on a tablet while commuting, are hysterical.  They are like the stream of consciousness of a 12 year old with an adult’s sense of rectitude.  You know there is a “correct” answer, probably, and you probably won’t like it.  As in:  “Are you punctual?  Is your signature legible?  Showers or baths?” which are more Yeager questions.

I am going to start a page in this blog of questions.  I do not plan to determine whether they replicate Yaeger’s questions or anyone else’s.  Here is the first one, prompted by instructions on a label: 

What happens if you put Nutella ®

in the microwave or the refrigerator? 

Will it melt and not be spreadable anymore?

Or will it harden and not be spreadable? 

If it is no longer spreadable, is it still Nutella®

or is it just….chocolate?


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Debt Ceiling Blues

Debt Ceiling Blues

Those boys in Congress,

 they’ve made a big mess.

I gotta confess,

I got the debt ceiling blues.


I wanna feel fine,

but no one’s got any spine,

all that posturing’s more like a whine.

I got the debt ceiling blues.


They gotta take a vote

to keep the country afloat.

The chance of agreeing is getting remote.

I got the debt ceiling blues.


The country’s in debt

but you can bet

whatever they do, we’ll still be upset

I got the D.C. blues.

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Exasperated with the Heat

The announcer

said a man died

when the heat


his underlying

health condition. 


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Beautiful and Pointless

I just finished reading Beautiful and Pointless (A Guide to Modern Poetry) by poetry critic David Orr. His audience is, ostensibly, the uninitiated, casual poetry reader. He takes such a reader from his or her naïve expectations about poetry being a personal story, for instance, to an understanding of the poet’s mind when exercising the craft of writing a poem. He leads the reader through the enormous changes in poetry writing during the twentieth century, from abandoning form to democratization via the GI Bill. Poems are no longer for the elite.

Most amusing, perhaps, are the chapters on Ambition and The Fishbowl. He compares Robert Lowell, Ambitious to Be an Important Poet, to Elizabeth Bishop who was, well, not ambitious, but who is more respected and influential today. And The Fishbowl takes poetry into academe and the spider’s nest of relationships between student and teacher, teacher and critic, poet and judge…it’s enough material for a good murder mystery.

The last chapter, Why Bother?, is mostly about Orr’s own affection for poetry instead of all the other possibilities out there. Early in the book, he quotes Robert Browning, from “One Word More,” 1855, writing about an artist’s interest in another art form: poets for painting, painters for words. Orr says Browning’s point is that it’s too easy to do what comes naturally and the artist wants –needs – to express what is beyond what he has expressed before.

I myself am a victim of desiring one art form while practicing another. I observed that the thing I do most often, most easily, is writing, so I decided to make writing my priority. This blog is intended to help me keep that focus and reinforce it. And yet…and yet…I am distracted constantly by my other interests and I long for more time – more time! – to pursue all of them. Still, even as I try drawing or painting, designing or dancing, I know that the thing I do most often and which is easiest for me is…writing. So writing will remain the core of my expression. I do not expect it will be the only claim on my attention, just the most important one.

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Emma and Dorthea

Emma and Dorthea try to stay cool.

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Colorful Stackings

 I dreamed I was in Milwaukee, lost on the Marquette Interchange.  This is a recurring dream.  It just loops and loops and I cannot get to where I want to go.  In this dream, I got off the freeway downtown and went to a bookstore where people were playing games.  I picked up a book called, Poetic Words.  I flipped through it and saw this chapter: “Colorful Stackings.” 

Colorful Stackings is not a poetic term, sadly.  When I tried to find it on the internet, the search engine switched it to “Colorful Stockings.”  Not quite the same.

Colorful Stackings could be names of colors:

Pink / Red / Red Orange / Orange Red / Yellow Orange

Or things that are a color:

Apple / Cherry / Tomato / Raspberry / Radish / Blood

Or words that we associate with a color:

Rose / Sunrise / Cherry Popscicle / Hawaiian Punch

Here are some great paint chip colors:

Lady in Red / Custard Cream / Spicy Curry / Autumn Sunset / Dried Hydrangea

I tend to think of colors seasonally.  Because I live where there are definite Green, Brown and White seasons, I often seek the opposite of what is “in season.”  In winter, I look for red to cheer me; in summer, I look to white to cool me.   Right now, my deck is full of white impatience, enjoying our tropical summer.   In the fall, I just enjoy the orange and yellow and try to carry it over the browns that follow.

I see signs of early autumn already – the sunset is a bit earlier, sweet corn is coming into the market, the lilies are nearly finished – but I try to stay focused on this….this peak of summer warmth that will vanish in three short months, the turn of a season.

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Zentangles ®

Zentangles® is  … well, it’s doodling, but with a structure and purpose.  I took an introductory class the other night and finally know what it’s about.  I thought it was just doodling, and it is that, but instead of random patterns, there is a set of patterns to choose from.  In addition, the doodle starts with a “string,” which is simply a line that divides the 4×4 inch card, or “tile”, into four spaces.  Each space is filled in with one of the patterns, then the patterns are shaded with a pencil. 

Zentangles is an art form and method that was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas.  Their web page is at

It is a meditative process, which was the whole Zen-ish point of the exercise, and the cards are small, so it’s easy to finish a design in a few minutes, and even feel a sense of accomplishment.

However, part of me thinks this is silly:  take a simple act like doodling, then standardize it and make it costly and competitive.  There is a process to become a certified teacher, there are special supplies and DVDs, there are challenges to create more and more wonderful designs, etc., etc. 

Still, for someone who is not naturally artistic, it is easy to learn and execute, and it is relaxing (as long as you do not compare your weak-kneed design to some of the almost professional designs you can find on the internet).  My teacher kept saying there are no erasers in Zentangles because you can’t do anything wrong, but that’s not true.  I had trouble with one of the patterns, Cadent, which draws a line clockwise around a dot, down and counterclockwise around another dot.  My  little clocks would not reverse themselves with the required consistency. 

Will I spend $29 for a stack of little tiles, pre-cut and of a special Italian paper that absorbs ink beautifully?  No.  Will I do-odle using the Zentangle patterns?  Yes.  And I may create a few of my own.

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