Ready, Set, Write


For me there is magic in writing with others.  A group of my poet friends and I gather every month (or try to make it every month) to generate poems together.  PoGens we call ourselves.  We each bring a poem by someone else to read, then offer a prompt.  I set my meditation timer for 10 minutes, we all write, and when the bell chimes we stop.  We go around and each read what we’ve written. Then we do it again.

At the end of the two hours we spend together there are 16 new poems in the world. During the sessions, themes and images and vibrations start to move among us and the writing deepens and builds.  Being in the physical presence of others who are writing creates an energy of its own that makes its way on to the page.  The opening poem and prompt light the fire, but the commitment to expression, and to sharing the process of expression, is what feeds the flames, what keeps us all burning.

This week I’m at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown in a workshop led by Joan Wickersham, the author of The News From Spain and The Suicide Index.  If you haven’t read them, do so.  Her writing is honest, authentic, searing, tender and brilliant.

She’s also a terrific teacher and so far the week has been instructive, supportive, and magical.  The 10 of us in the workshop all have a piece that’s being critiqued by the group, and even when it’s not my piece being discussed I learn a lot.  What I learned from the group’s response to the beginning of my memoir, which I brought to be workshopped, was invaluable.

But most magical is the writing we’re doing together.  Joan gives us a reading every night which we discuss the next day.  Then she gives us a prompt and we write for 20 minutes. Like PoGens, after the writing we all share what has come out in those 20 minutes. Everyone in the group is a good writer so what’s been produced through the prompts has been predictably good.  And getting better.  The pieces we wrote this morning were excellent, every one of them.  The energy we create talking to each other about our writing, being honest with each other about the piece we’ve brought for critique, bending our heads together over paper for 20 minutes to respond to a prompt is pulling us all into our most creative and expressive selves.  Magic.

Or maybe not.  Maybe it’s chemistry and how being with others who’ve arranged their lives in order to spend a week in Provincetown, bending their heads over pads of paper to write about an object or a photograph or a memory allows us to write at our best.  We’re not alone. We’re not crazy.  We’re writers.


Summer Time


Once again, more than a week has slipped by without time to write a blog post.  What have I been doing?  Playing Chutes and Ladders and Match game, and spending a bright, windy day on Governor’s Island, a former army base and now a 173 acre island park just off the southern tip of Manhattan where I watched Emilio scamper over climbing structures and spent only a moment on the long stretch of criss-crossed logs myself and ended up with a splinter in my thumb that throbbed and seeped and shot pain under my nail for a week.

I spent a day with Ava who spent an hour going through my purse, taking out everything and putting it back, mimicking putting on chapstick (“open, open”) and holding up an appointment card and pen (“color, color”) and scribbling and who helped me walk the dog at the end of the day but not until she’d gotten properly set for the walk (baggie, baggie”) which meant hoisting an empty handbag almost as big as her over her shoulder and dragging it along the sidewalk, taking the longest two block walk in the history of dog walking, averaging a step every 30 seconds or so because there was the bag to drop and readjust and neighbors front steps to try and a driveway to run up and flowers in the grass that needed to be touched.

I went on a carousel and roller coaster and spinning cars and bumper cars at Adventureland with Emilio, and we make a good amusement park pair because neither of us like scary or twirling rides.  The ferris wheel was my favorite.  By the time we left I was with batman.


I got to watch Emilio figure out how to cross a line of monkey bars and then experience a 6 1/2 hour car ride from Long Island to New Hampshire with a five year old and one year old in the car (very long).

This weekend we had a full house — family, friends, peonies, strawberries, teaching Emilio how to make whipped cream, swimming, visiting the cows across the street and counting motorcycles everywhere we went because it was motorcycle weekend in NH and we saw 70 in a 5 mile trip to the store and back.

Finally, last night, I stopped being a baby and let Melia take out the splinter that was plaguing my thumb.  Good thing — that 1/2 inch of wood wasn’t going to pop out on its own.

So, this is a very long introduction to a substantive blog post I did write, for the Prevention Innovations Research Center blog.  Given the Orlando massacre and the previous attention to a too-lenient sentence in the Stanford rape case the topic of this blog — child sex offenders ending up on lifetime registries — may seem mild.  But it’s another example of how we need to make sure our intentions line up with our actions.

Onward into summer.


The Elasticity of Time photo photo












Time moves horizontally, a train that passes on tracks and drags along minutes then weeks and months and years.  A station approaches, a dot in the distance at first, then gets bigger until it fills the entire window when the train stops.

Time stretches into a balloon of stillness then unfolds into a fan with a story on each rib.

A rocket shoots past the gravity of time and moments pass so quickly we don’t inhabit them, we only know time has passed by looking at an outside measure, a clock.

What if we didn’t measure time?  If the passing of the sun across the dome above us meant only what angle of shadow we could expect, and when it would be warmest, when our skin could burn and when we should rise and go to sleep?

Time?  How can the dimension of life that rules everything be nothing?  It’s consciousness itself, only the awareness of is and was and will be that moves the train, inflates the balloon, fires the rocket.

So it’s been a week and a half since I’ve written here and what is it that’s kept me away? I’ve been right here, just not in this definition of this time.  We work hard to be here now, in this moment, because we know it’s all there is.  But is it?

The wind was fierce yesterday and I felt sorry for the potted flowers on the porch, the onion greens all bending to the east, the zinnias putting out their first leggy blossoms into such a powerful force.  Today the branches of the old maple in the front yard are still twitching and the grass of the pasture across the street ripples with wind, the seed heads bowing and rising in waves that move on and come again.

I’ve been writing, I’ve planted vegetables and flowers and mulched the garden beds.  I ran for a long time in the rain and sucked up the endorphins.  I drew vessels and peonies and worked on shading, then scribbled the creases in my cupped hand without ever looking at what I was doing.  I glued and colored.  A lot of time has been spent with friends and seeing people I haven’t seen for a long time.

A long time?  What is that?

A poem from 2002.  So much time thinking about time.

South Twin Mountain

The land has a lot to teach –
rocks, roots, gullies, water’s
effect visible everywhere; land
hauls us into the exact
moment we are in, musings
about the nature of time gone,
how the asymmetrical arrow
measures in only one direction,
how time cannot be experienced
by any of our senses.
What would time smell like,
how would it feel
in our hands? For now, we can see
light, taste the wind, hear earth
crash as we walk along its borders
in to the next valley.