Les Semaines


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


Another Clarion West Begins

I must admit, trying to keep my head around all the details, the little things, has been hard for me this week. For the early part of the week I mostly felt overwhelmed and anxiety-ridden. It made me realize that having a lot of little things to do that I can't do immediately and get them over with bothers me. I like to get things out of the way. And when I have to wait until the right time to do them, I get terrified I'll forget them in the meantime or it will be too much to do in the time allowed, or something. Anyway, having the Handspring with me and being able to take it with me wherever I was really helped me keep track of things and feel that nothing I knew about at least would slip through the cracks.

I also, temporarily, became one of the cell phone generation. I got it because it will be (and has already proved to be) excessively handy for Clarion; however, it's incredibly expensive (I don't intend to get in the habit of using it much after this) and after the workshop it will become Jim's commute phone, so I don't worry about him when he's late and I've heard there's an accident on the 520 (the freeway he takes home). Or so I can phone him and let him know we're out of milk. Heh.

Work was a little crazy, as I frantically tried to wrap things up for the year. I'm not officially off until the end of the week (which is the end of the month) but I'm taking three days off in the coming week to be in the Clarion West classroom, so effectively, I have two more days of work. It was the week between Spring and Summer Quarters, and so it was very quiet and I did get a lot done, which is a relief.

A zillion last-minute errands, picking up classroom keys and parking permits and dropping off lists, and making sure this and that was settled. I'm glad I got so much out of the way, because the end of the week was crazy. Thursday night was Jim's book launch (see below) which was wonderful and exhausting and triumphant. We stayed up late with friends, talking and celebrating. Friday Jim picked up his nephew Mark from the airport, they went out to breakfast then came and moved furniture, because shortly after I got home, the furniture delivery people came and left us with a new khaki-green chesterfield (couch or sofa for you Americans) and loveseat. New furniture. Yay! And they fit in our living room and look quite nice and match and aren't all torn up by cats (who happily are showing no interest in tearing). Jim and Mark went for a walk in Carkeek Park. A friend came over and we got too much sun while picking lavender in the garden, then sat around talking. Then got take out (mmmm, ribs) for dinner.

Saturday Jim and Mark went to the Fremont Fair, and I had to miss it yet again to set up the classroom. John, who was in my Clarion class and recently moved to Seattle with his wife and daughter, helped me haul things from the office and into the classroom and then move all the tables and chairs around and set everything up. We even got out of there before the building was locked for the day!

Then I dropped him off at a friends so he could meet up with them (they and his family had been to the zoo) and went home. Jim and Mark brought home Copper River King salmon from Pike Place Market, and we baked it and Tamar came over and made her excellent pilaf and Jim made a blackberry/apple pie. We sat out on the deck and ate dinner, then came inside and talked and later ate the pie. A lovely, busy day.

Sunday, while Mark and Jim slowly got ready to go to the Experience Music Project (they were disappointed with it), I got the Clarion West student packets ready, stuffing them with the wealth of writing advice (we sent stuff earlier, but we had more), Clarion West info, tourist brochures, and reading posters and tickets. Then a couple more errands (picking up a phone for the instructor and a new stopwatch for the classroom, then to pick up copies of Locus for the packets) and then went to the lobby of the residence building to wait for Leslie and Paul Park.

The students paid their tuition, and then Leslie and I gave our talk about the workshop and critiquing rules and conflict resolution and scapegoating. Then Paul came up and talked about setting--read a wonderful Italo Calvino story (that I vaguely remembered reading years before) about people on an ocean harvesting a substance from the moon and how they could move back and forth until the moon went farther away. A lovely, vivid story. Paul then gave the students an assignment to write a brief story emphasizing setting. Making it vivid.

Afterwards, Leslie and I and a group of students went out for dinner with Paul at a Mexican restaurant on Broadway, chatting about writing and life and fun. Then I dropped the students back at the dorm so they could get to work on their assignments.

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


New Robin Holcomb disc that we're just beginning to get a sense of. It's lovely, subtle and complex and will take some time to know well. So we're listening to it a lot.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Reunion is the second in Kara Dalkey's Water trilogy, of which I read the first last week. In this a young man finds himself running from the king. On the beach, trying to gather shells to sell to the buttonmaker for enough food to feed himself, he discovers a dead strange creature on the shore, and plucks a shell from its tentacles. Something bites into his hand, and he begins to hear voices, and is pursued by a very strange monster. An intriguing read.

last week's reading § next week's reading


Jim's book release reading was Thursday night. It was also our 19th wedding anniversary and I was his opening act and so I read all love poems. That was fun. I didn't realize I had written so many.

Many of our friends showed up and a lot of people we didn't know, and most of them bought books. Jim was very happy, and it felt like a good launch for the book out in to the world, where we hope it will continue to sell with such enthusiasm. Yay!

I also got a rejection slip for a submission of poems I didn't actually remember sending out. A nice rejection saying they liked the poems but still couldn't use them. It's a bad time of year to send work out, so home the poems stay until September.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

October - November 1983

1350. Salamander
October 23, 1983

Night is a red and black beetle caught in my hair.
Stars are its million eyes.

Clouds its wings; the moon its frozen heart
If I were the a child I wish I were
I'd tug at its cloudy wings,

I'd squeeze its body like household warmed wax.

I'm a woman who knows ordinary men
the kind you might look at twice in passing
for their regular, undefined beauty.
A child outside calls a lots animal
her voice regular as a birds, decoying
cats from the nest. Maybe it's her beetle
I've stolen and begun to dismember
into all its irregular hours.
This is my feminine anger--reducing
night, of the lovers therein, ah
lover: A clue to the hidden story.

A deeper voice takes over in the street.
If I were an animal, I'd follow.
maybe the voices are looking for a lost child;
they are so insistent, like a thorn caught
in my clothing.
O where is this going would a child go?
I wear salamanders on my chest:
they sleep until they near fire. Zuni
salamanders stiffed by darkness
the kind of darkness ordinary men
can leave you in. Even in side your own
room, with the night glued against your
windows, even seeping through despite all the candles
you can ever burn. But And this beetle, this like a man uses the moon
as its for a scarred and frozen heart. Night's beacon in blackness
a whole torn through into the light whatever lies beyond.[1]

1351. Hello. Depressed
November 6, 1983

and wandering. Wondering. Reading about H.D. and her young life (The Gift and HERmione). Wonder and beauty and lost. I feel very lost tonight, and angry at myself for not being able to control myself, and not being able to stick to any resolutions about food and exercise. It is all too boring and irritating and silly and important. Why haven't I got the power to say no. Because I can't deny myself the easy pleasures. Sigh. I could rant and rave forever, but uselessly. What more have I to say tonight? Rain and dark and winter's pretty well come. Cat's curled in a wonderful ball in the living room chair. Jim in his study writing, or trying to write. I'm thinking/not daring to think about it.
No excuses: it's time to
telephone six strangers
and make them dance.
What shit. No excuses:
time to grease the cat
for winter. Tape him
up to stop drafts. No
excuses: rambling
nonsense all over the
page, but having a
bit of fun. No excuses:
you're drifting out
over the living room
dreaming your camera's
gone wild in Moscow,
Idaho. Why not.

1352. Note to Remember
November 17, 1983

Robin's "portmanteau" words--the focuses. How the context both narrows and expands the word in the poem
     Last night I dreamed about my grandmother and my car being towed away in Victoria and there was no way to get her home and she was tired. I realized it bothered me that I can't contact her by phone or letter. She is out of reach. Probably even to the people who are there and who see her.

1353. What to I think I've got to say?
November 18, 1983

I want to write, to make that last line work that's been hanging around so long. I want to do it, and so I'm aware how I can't. I keep putting this book away, start to do something else, but can't. I'm stuck in between it. I should at least begin the attempt.
Hero at the Gates of Hell

I'm afraid to ask the wrong right questions.
The ones that elicit instruction and
guidance. How to hold a tree against
the weather; your my hands against
time. If only I hadn't come to this,
point seen how shadows hold a greater light
across the darkness. No one will believe me.
And when I return I will invest everything
there with strange new qualities.
the morning sun will brighten my room
in a new way that will seem new, and when
I wake to it, leave my bed
and cross the cool floor to hold
the pitcher, feel the good clay
and how full of water it is
and its weight of clear water,
I will think how the moment
is so beautiful no one
would ever know it's not perfect. [2]


1. This was quickly revised into a poem, which eventually appeared in Spells for Clear Vision.

2. With minor revisions, this eventually appeared in Spells for Clear Vision.

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