Les Semaines


what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout


Taxes, Snow, and Snapshots

So I spent most of the early afternoon avoiding doing taxes and most of the evening doing them today. It's annoying and complicated doing Canadian and U.S. and self-employment for my writing and Clarion administration income (better than having no writing income, of course). It wasn't too bad overall as I could mostly follow what I did with them last year, though Canada changed forms and regulations so that set me back a bit while I painstakingly figured then out. We owe some. Not a horrible amount but it would hurt if we hadn't already realized that we probably would owe. Next year is really going to hurt as there will be Jim's grant and my grant and his fellowship and his book prize to deal with. I wish I felt like I could find an accountant who would understand all this, but I rather doubt it would save us any money in the long run. I already do itemized deductions because of the house and deduct everything appropriate from my writing income. No, anyway, now we know how much we owe. Jim's going to check my math and then I'll copy them out cleanly and get them all ready to send but I won't send them until closer to the deadline. No reason to give the governments money any earlier than they already get it. Oh, and I know I could do all this electronically, but somehow I feel I can keep better track of it all writing it down methodically. Besides, I see things better on paper than on the screen.

We had snow again yesterday, first thin little dry flakes and then later fat wet ones, a little of which stuck to the lawns and then disappeared. Twice. First in the morning and then again around 5:00. Are we still in the Pacific Northwest? Has the world tipped on its axis? Is it still January and not March like the calendar says (which would make a whole lot of sense considering how quickly this year is zipping past).

Another thing we spent much time this weekend doing was taking photos of Jim for publicity for his forthcoming book. Our friend Bob came over and took photos with his digital cameria, and I took photographs with our 35mm camera and raced over to the 1-hour photo place in Ballard and had that roll developed and two others that were hanging around the house, so I will add a few photos here. These go all the way back to last summer. Oops.  






photo of JimJim's publicity photo.


Tamar singingTamar performing with Russ last summer.


Zach and SophiaObligatory Cat Photos #1: Zach and Sophia.


ZachObligatory Cat Photos #2: Zach as The Uninvited Guest at the table.


SophiaObligatory Cat Photos #3: Sophia as bag snail.


Londo & G'KarLondo and G'Kar victorious! (Yes, we own 2 action figures! We be geeks!)



last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing


The same as previous weeks, plus Solex's Low Kick and Hard Bop, which I bought a few week ago, was in the wrong mood to listen to, and set aside. Today the stereo is silent, first because I was doing the taxes and didn't need any more distractions thank-you-very-much and now because I've got the edge of a headache, most assuredly from doing the taxes. Solex is odd and kind of wonderful. I bought it because I got totally stuck on the sample song available on the Matador Records site, "Shoot Shoot".

last week's listening § next week's listening


Dan Simmons' Hyperion is wonderful. Pilgrims on their way to meet a power that will likely be the death of them tell their stories in a Canterbury Tales way. Each tale is interesting in and of itself, as is the tale of their journey, and they all add up to a fascinating tale that builds to a crescendo--and then the volume ends. I wish I'd known when I started it that it wasn't a stand-alone novel. I knew there was another volume, but didn't realize it was an integral part of the first. Well, I have a copy of The Fall of Hyperion in hand now, and look forward to reading it, too. This is a novel that rewards careful reading, though it's hard to read it slowly as the plot is so compelling. There's all kinds of fascinating stuff about poetry in here, as well as typical SF tropes and fascinating singular inventions of Simmons'. I'm loving this.

Patricia C. Wrede's Mairelon the Magician is a romp through a magical English Regency period, starring a street thief named Kim who is actually a girl disguised--of necessity to protect herself in the mean streets of London--as a boy. Hired at a suspicious rate by a suspicious toff to see if a magician has a silver bowl in his possession, she finds herself taken under the wing of the magician and whisked away into the middle of a mystery about who stole a set of magical dishes that Mairelon has been accused of stealing. A fun, quick, entertaining read.

Followed that with the sequel, Magician's Ward, where Kim has been made Mairelon's ward and must make her way in Regency society, but someone tries to steal a book from their library and there's a renegade wizard abroad. Another fun story, if not quite as fun as the first. The romance part of it also didn't really work for me--not enough build up.

last week's reading § next week's reading


I read Mo Pie's comments about writing poetry and revision and I couldn't disagree more. Well, I could, because I probably have a midpoint viewpoint between Mo's which is saying that it's all about inspiration and the concept of crafting each poem word by word for months (which I sometimes do but not so very often).

I believe there is more than inspiration involved in writing well. There is craft involved in making a poem work, and that not every great poem is all there in the first iteration, in the way it pours from your head in a first draft. Sometimes it does and that's a gift and you can be grateful and happy. It sometimes happens for me like that. But other times you craft a poem and tweak it until you get it just right. Or you drastically re-shape it, over and over. My poems vary between only having minor revisions of punctuation or lineation to taking ten years to get each word each space each line just right.

I remember thinking similar things to what Mo says in her piece. Inspiration is an integral part to writing a poem. And if you learn to rely on that alone you can do just fine until the words stop pouring from you, which they sometimes do, and then you realize you don't know how to write. You have to teach yourself to write something less than perfect and then learn how to make it better. If you believe that a poem is either perfect or you toss it, you're not learning much from writing each poem. You're learning how to write lots of poems and quickly and to trust your instincts, all of which are good things for a writer, but you're not learning craft and patience and that urge toward Getting It Right, which are equally--are perhaps more, over the long term--important. You're not learning how to write; you're learning how to channel your streams of consciousness onto paper/screen. But what happens when there is no stream? Are you not then a writer? Well, you're not if you don't know how to write without that stream.

At least that's how I think about it these days, which is a far cry from how I thought about it in my 20s, as you can see from some of the poems in The Phonosnout over the last year's entries. I think it was learning how to write prose that finally got me over that magical thinking about poetry. That and discovering how much more I could do with my poetry when it wasn't just all a stream of consciousness. When I learn how to use that stream and make it better, and when I learned how to write a poem from scratch.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

February 1982

1270. Underground
February 1 1982

Weeks ago I dreamed I lived underground. That was when such things were possible. Here, I thought, my world is larger. All the trails to reach there, all the directions to miscalculate, designed to teach me the folly of looking. Distance, I learned is not always farthest from the surface. My voice became larger, and I spoke less frequently. Night was something eternal that did not exist. The bones of our city were the earth's ribs and shook with breath. My hands were nearly always covered with dust. The ceiling closest was always the nearest sky, and the stars were touchable, sparks that slid from my arms to my belly. Light was magic, and always it held me. I made light with small fire, and it always held me. [1]

1271. February in Missoula
February 8, 1982

This is a month that would drive me underground. A month of ice and blowing snow, frozen fingers and ears. The river is half-covered. All the ground is, and even the clear sun isn't enough to uncover it again. At least the sun does come out, and makes it bearable. Today I fell asleep in the sun in my living room. I am all emotion today, and raw nerves. I am ready to be broken. The wind rocks doors in the building. This room should break with light when you enter. I've lost my chance to break away, and the night has entered my home through the windows and the drawn shades. Ah, love....

1272. Stuck with a Bear Going Nowhere
February 8, 1982

Night comes to my window
like a shy bear, his bulk
a dawdling, shuffling eclipse.
And he's hungry, bawls
like a cub for its mother
and I want him gone. I
don't want to dare feed him once
in case he comes back.
It's not as though he means
harm, in fact he came rather
by chance accident, fear and chance
drove him from the binding forest. [2]

1273. Swutlak builds false spring
February 15, 1982

Sky naked as flesh [skin?]. The air
cracked and cold as stone,
chipped like obsidian
into an awkward primitive cunning blade.
Days like These days strip you
till you're raw as a man
just only just one direction,
And you hold the wind
like ice, until it melts in your hand.
You watch the skin
of the river peel and break flake,
watch the river bleed
with mud from the hills.
Light pours from your skin flesh
pretending to be warmth whole complete.
while clouds darken and shuffle in
from the west east. And now
at your window, the night is a bear.
his bulk a shy eclipse, by yet near morning
his fur is black, and clear as obsidian
his purpose never blunted.
Wind shaves your hands. [3]

1274. Tell her
February 20, 1982

Tell her: woman, you smell like of meat,
    your name is a lost name,
    your blistered feet mind
    their own way through the forest.
You can't guide her any longer.
I've run ahead painting yellow arrows
on all the right trees:
every third fir, every dogwood,
no alders. Tell her
there are bear in these woods,
wolves that will love,
the smell of her. She can live
of the red berries for days,
but don't tell her which ones.

Tell her: woman, you hair is tangled     with memories I no longer
    love, your hands are not the hands
    that can hold me in the forest.
Hers is the broken spell, mine
the binding, and there's no undoing
of my craft.
There are broken
bottles hiding in the moss
and leaves, waiting for her

She only wanted the naming: your ring
at the base of her finger, your hand
at the base of her thigh. [4]


1. Bits of this were swiped to make a poem, "The Man's Dark Voice," which eventually appeared in Blood Memory.

2. This never went anywhere, though watch the next entry.

3. This one appeared in a slightly different version in Spells for Clear Vision.

4. Damn, but I kept trying that ending on poems. This is another poem (and of course the ending) that never went anywhere.

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