Bad Poem


Olbrich GardensSpring Flower Show

A poem by Calvin Trillin, “Have They Run Out of Provinces Yet” in The New Yorker triggered a huge reaction among poets, writers and especially Asians.

It is not a good poem.  I can imagine the scenario:  The New Yorker is doing a foodie issue and someone says, hey, we need a poem.  Call Cal, he’s good for it, and Cal complies, thinking – I believe he thinks – I can write something funny, about how easy it used to be to pick up Chinese and how it’s complicated now with all the different regional choices.

I will not summarize the Asian reaction other than to point to an article in the Asian American Writer’s Workshop, whose title is, “We Are in the Room, Calvin Trillin.”

Instead,  I started to think about what if someone wants to write a poem about food and thinks, gee, there are so many varieties of Chinese food.  I could write a funny poem, exaggerate the problem of too many choices.  Like when my husband goes to the store for Cheerios© or boxes of Triskets© and I say, just get Original – because there are too many choices.

I have a list of eight signs you’ve written a good poem.

The first sign is, “You’ve Tackled a Big Idea.”  I think that’s where Calvin went wrong.  His big idea was that “they” haven’t stopped generating provinces, each with a new kind of Chinese cuisine.  The word “they” immediately puts him in opposition to “we”:  non-Asian Americans.  And asking whether “they” have run out of provinces suggests the number of provinces are growing – and running “us” over.

I want to glorify the diversity of Chinese food, food we all enjoy, no matter how many or few provinces it comes from.  Chinese food is interesting, it sings with flavor and its textures are wonderful.

Could such a poem be written?  I don’t know.  Maybe no one can write about someone else’s culture anymore, including cuisine, without raising the question:  how do you know?  How do you know what it’s like to be me in your world?

But, if anyone ever asks Cal to write another poem about food, I hope he at least considers the joy of it.


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High Wind Warning

Blog Photo

Spring Garden Show at Olbrich Gardens

Gusts to 55 mph.  Even for a girl from North Dakota, that’s an impressive number.  Well, if this is the March lion, then April should be lovely.

I spent the autumn studying metaphor and other things poetic in a couple of on-line classes and by December I was in a really creative period.  Then on January 4th my husband was diagnosed with a detached retina.  It was a little like this wind, it came out of nowhere, upended everything for two months and is fading away, leaving just a memory of turmoil.  Unfortunately, the retina also stopped my creative renaissance in its tracks.  But only for the time being, I hope.

I had a poem accepted by the Ariel Anthology, Solitary Plover, the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets 2017 Calendar, Postcard Poems and Prose, Portage Magazine, Origami Poems, and Poetry Speaks, a celebration of arts in the community coming in April.  Homes for poems.

My husband says I should write for myself and not worry about publishing.  But if you write and think it’s good and speaks to something that will resonate with a reader, you want to share it.

I listened to the artist Manabu Ikeda talk about his work this week.  Manabu is artist in residence at The Chazen Museum of Art.  He opens his studio four afternoons a week to visitors and recently indicated he wants to invite people to come on the weekend as well.  His work is so focused and solitary that I was surprised he wants more visitors.  But in the video he talks about how he thinks about viewers as he works – how they might enter his work or a viewpoint that might interest viewers.

All creative people want an audience, I think.  Partly it is ego and accolades, yes.  But also to invite viewers and readers into your world as welcome guests to be greeted with gratitude and respect.

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Two girls discuss penguin gender and family structure

Tagged Penguin

See the red band on the penguin’s flipper?  Apparently, the color signifies gender and position in the family, e.g., mom, dad, child. I listened to two little girls discuss the banding among about a dozen penguins yesterday at the Vilas Zoo.  They went on about the relationships between parents and children and speculated on the sibling matches.  I thought, wow, here are two budding sociologists and they don’t even know it!

What I know is that three of my poems found homes in Solitary Plover, the newsletter of the Friends of Lorine Niedecker, Wisconsin nature poet.  Here is the link to the publication.

The poems are:  Cityscape, Dropseed and Spring Walk.    The editor left off my bio by accident, in case you are looking for it.  But I know who I am.

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Pope Farm Conservancy

Pope Farm Conservancy


The sound of ringing hand bells and laughter.

Around a corner in the Rijksmuseum,

with as many twists as a licorice rope,

a tall woman stands in an apron and floppy hat.

Her hand points there.  A clutch of seated

children wearing gold paper crowns raise their bells.

Her foot points here and the ones in front ring away.

Next door, brother Theo’s collection of Vincent’s

late paintings are hung, each canvas striped with,

slashed with, swirled with paint, thick as ripe

and hairy sunflowers stalks in mid-August,

petals dripping sunshine, grotesque and grasping

pinwheels, scary to someone whose ears

still hum with chimes of innocence.

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Six Months Later: Blogging versus Life

Cajas National Park

Cajas National Park

Travel – Columbia, Ecuador, London, Amsterdam, New York City, Pittsburgh – requires time.  Time to plan, time to go, time to recover.

The Saint John’s Bible exhibit at the Chazen required study and time to conduct tours between travels.

Writing and submitting poems takes time.  And has about a ten percent success rate.

Waiting for workmen to install water heaters and softeners, furnaces and air conditioners takes time, and is boring.

Diversions into spring and summer yard work take a lot of time.

So, one small success.  A poem called “Dad” was published in Blue Heron Review.


I can see you sitting at the desk that’s now in our den and you’re bending, bending to write a letter on Sunday after midday supper of roast and carrots and potatoes from which you’ll make hash and bending you write the weather is fine, or not, your health is fine, or not, Mother is…probably not, and then you get up and put on your cap and drive to the Post Office to mail it on Sunday so I will receive it on Tuesday.

Every Tuesday, a letter.  You probably hoped if you mailed a letter on Sunday that I received on Tuesday, I would have time to write a response on Wednesday, mail it on Thursday and you would receive it on Saturday and then you could reply on Sunday.  But I never did.

One day in another of my attempts to get Mother to understand me, to see me, to love me, my husband said, Your Father loves you. 

He writes every week.

Blue Heron Review / Issue 3, Winter 2015

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A Long Year Already

Cape Cod Beach

Mid-January and already my New Year’s Resolution is being tested.  I resolved to worry less.  Worry – disquiet, unease, anxiety.    In the first six days of the year I celebrated my birthday and was involved in a minor car accident.  Then, on the 7th of January, gunmen attacked Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

Today, I read a poem about an injured deer that finds shelter in a shed and is found in the spring.  It ends like this:  All deer die. / This one is a testament.

Does the poet mean that deer is a metaphor for testament, which is a covenant between god and humans?  Or is the deer a metaphor for god?  As though the human-made shed was not for wood or tools, but for a god, a creator or a spirit.  I will shelter you.

Yesterday, trying to identify a building in one of my photos from our trip to Boston in September, I found the image: Site of the Boston Massacre.  Five colonists were killed by British soldiers on March 5, 1770.  The Brits were occupiers and the locals didn’t like it.  The colonists provoked the soldiers, then attacked them.  The soldiers fired.  Later, most of the soldiers were acquitted because they did not fire until attacked.

Today, a Saudi Imam banned the building of snowmen because nothing can be built or drawn by man that has a soul; only god can do that.

Massacre – an indiscriminant and brutal slaughter of people.  How many deaths equal a massacre?  One black man?  Five colonists?  Twelve cartoonists and staff?  The 66 journalists killed in 2014?  The list is long and historic.

If the image of man cannot be made by man, how then is it souls are so easily destroyed?  How do we remember the dead without names and faces, without knowing their histories?  If a deer is a testament, what are people killed by man?  Testaments to their beliefs?


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One Hour, Eight Minutes

Boston Library Cat

Boston Library Cat

One hour and eight minutes was all it took to receive a rejection email after submitting to a publication seeking material for a triptych, a poem in three columns, commenting on itself on the side.  I was certain I had the right stuff, but the reply that zipped back said the readers just “didn’t love it enough” to pass it along to the editors. Scamps!  Judge for yourself.  (I cannot show columns in WordPress, so use your imagination!)

Column One

Qualities of a Body Parts Model

 Long fingers,

   no veins showing

 Skin free of blemishes, scars or large pores

 Legs free of cellulite

The industry’s most comprehensive catalog of Bumpers, Grilles,Fenders, Hoods, Door Handles, Window Regulators, Bumper Covers, Radiator Supports, Mirrors, Headlights, Tail Lights, Cornering Lights and more!

Whoops.  Wrong type of part!

Unusual Parts – photo of a Jack Russell Terrier.

Click here to apply:

Dear Potential Talent,

Thank you for your interest…

We are a catalog of parts to the industry. What industry, you ask? THE industry-that includes television, film, commercials, movie posters, print ads, multimedia, and just about any industry where a perfect part may be inserted.

Column Two

Body Parts Model

I have a perfect body part I want to put on where the best feet, hands, legs, eyes and necks are showcased, each part hoping to be chosen to model hand cream, leggings, shoes, watches, rings or mascara.  I post my part, a long, smooth-skinned white neck well-defined clavicle the perfect landscape for a necklace studded with diamonds.

Next to my photo I see even longer necks in deep shades of brown and ebony and shorter necks with creamier skin.  My perfect part looks perfectly ordinary.  Rejections appear in the comment section:  We are unable to use…our selection process is very competitive…  We want you to know each part was carefully examined by at least three members of our staff…We appreciate the chance to review your part.  We really do.  A flashing sign on the side of the screen catches my eye. offers to put a temporary tattoo on my forehead:  Logos, Brands,  Directions.  Someone will pay me to strut a swish, an ad or an icon that is even more desirable, and lucrative, than my ambitious body part.

 Column Three

For rent: Your forehead for $5,000

Our Participants agree to wear temporary tattoos (logos) supplied by Advertisers. By doing so, YOU can earn BIG $$$$$.In exchange, Advertisers (companies) can gain novel exposure for their business.

You will be sent a temporary tattoo that you can apply yourself at home. Once applied, you take a picture and send it to our administrators. Once the picture is received, you will be paid half the amount (minus the Lease Your Body fee). Once your assignment is half-way through, you are required to send an update picture showing you are still wearing the tattoo. You will then be paid the rest of the money.

Woman tattoos forehead for $10K

Auctioning space on her forehead brought one young woman $10,000 and a permanent tattoo.  Claiming to love to be the center of attention…oh, well, that’s just sick.



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