Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I love Merlin Mann over at 43 Folders. Here he is giving a lecture about keeping the email box at zero. It’s fantastic.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Trees by Merwin

Poem: From "Trees" by W. S. Merwin, from The Compass Flower. © Macmillan Publishing Company. Reprinted with permission. (buy now) 


I am looking at trees
they may be one of the things I will miss
most from the earth
though many of the ones I have seen
already I cannot remember
and though I seldom embrace the ones I see
and have never been able to speak
with one
I listen to them tenderly
their names have never touched them
they have stood round my sleep
and when it was forbidden to climb them
they have carried me in their branches

Monday, July 09, 2007


I’m taking a yoga class this summer. That’s a stretch. Pun intended. It is a six week class so it is hardly the whole summer. I’ve completed week four as of this evening. I actually like the athleticism and stretching of yoga. What I do not connect with is the meditative practice. The first few classes, when we reached the meditation portion at the end, I tried to relax my palate, though it is a hard part of the body. Then this class, I realized, this is a five to eight minute nap. So I slept. I now believe that every activity should conclude with a five to eight minute nap.

I also am filled with energy after the classes. This always reminds me of the Seinfeld episode in which George is constantly screaming SERENITY NOW! I love this episode and “Serenity Now” is a regular part of my verbal repertoire. Though after the yoga class, when I am supposed to be feeling stretched and meditative, wanting to holler Serenity Now is contraindicated. That’s me though. I don’t think I’m a candidate for a serious long term practice. Oh, well! SERENITY NOW!

Friday, July 06, 2007


Wedlock: A Satire

Thou tyrant, whom I will not name,
Whom heaven and hell alike disclaim;
Abhorred and shunned, for different ends,
By angels, Jesuits, beasts and fiends!
What terms to curse thee shall I find,
Thou plague peculiar to mankind?
O may my verse excel in spite
The wiliest, wittiest imps of night!
Then lend me for a while your rage,
You maidens old and matrons sage:
So may my terms in railing seem
As vile and hateful as my theme.
Eternal foe to soft desires,
Inflamer of forbidden fires,
Thou source of discord, pain and care,
Thou sure forerunner of despair,
Thou scorpion with a double face,
Thou lawful plague of human race,
Thou bane of freedom, ease and mirth,
Thou serpent which the angels fly,
Thou monster whom the beasts defy,
Whom wily Jesuits sneer at too;
And Satan (let him have his due)
Was never so confirmed a dunce
To risk damnation more than once.
That wretch, if such a wretch there be,
Who hopes for happiness from thee,
May search successfully as well
For truth in whores and ease in hell.

Address to Her Husband

The ardent lover cannot find
A coldness in his fair unkind,
But blaming what he cannot hate,
He mildly chides the dear ingrate;
And though despairing of relief,
In soft complaining vents his grief.

Then what should hinder but that I,
Impatient of my wrongs, may try,
By saddest softest strains, to move
My wedded, latest, dearest love,
To throw his cold neglect aside,
And cheer once more his injured bride!

0 thou, whom sacred rites designed
My guide, and husband ever kind,
My sovereign master, best of friends,
On whom my earthly bliss depends;
If e'er thou didst in Hetty see
Aught fair, or good, or dear to thee,
If gentle speech can ever move
The cold remains of former love,
Turn thee at last—my bosom ease,
Or tell me why I cease to please.

Is it because revolving years,
Heart-breaking sighs, and fruitless tears,
Have quite deprived this form of mine
Of all that once thou fanciedst fine?
Ah no! what once allured thy sight
Is still in its meridian height.
These eyes their usual lustre show,
When uneclipsed by flowing woe.
Old age and wrinkles in this face
As yet could never find a place:
A youthful grace informs these lines,
Where still the purple current shines;
Unless, by thy ungentle art,
It flies to aid my wretched heart:
Nor does this slighted bosom show
The thousand hours it spends in woe.

Or is it that, oppressed with care,
I stun with loud complaints thine ear,
And make thy home, for quiet meant,
The seat of noise and discontent?
Ah no! those ears were ever free
From matrimonial melody:
For though thine absence I lament
When half the lonely night is spent,
Yet when the watch or early morn
Has brought me hopes of thy return,
I oft have wiped these watchful eyes.
Concealed my cares, and curbed my sighs
In spite of grief, to let thee see
I wore an endless smile for thee.

Had I not practised even art
T' oblige, divert, and cheer thy heart,
To make me pleasing in thine eyes,
And turn thy house to paradise;
I had not asked, 'Why dost thou shun
These faithful arms, and eager run
To some obscure, unclean retreat,
With fiends incarnate glad to meet,
The vile companions of thy mirth.
The scum and refuse of the earth;
Who, when inspired by beer, can grin
At witless oaths and jests obscene,
Till the most learned of the throng
Begins a tale of ten hours long;
While thou in raptures with stretched jaws
Crownest each joke with loud applause?"

Deprived of freedom, health, and ease.
And rivalled by such things as these,
This latest effort will I try,
Or to regain thy heart, or die.
Soft as I am, I'll make thee see
I will not brook contempt from thee!

Then quit the shuffling doubtful sense.
Nor hold me longer in suspense;
Unkind, ungrateful, as thou art,
Say, must I ne'er regain thy heart?
Must all attempts to please thee prove
Unable to regain thy love?

If so, by truth itself I swear,
The sad reverse I cannot bear;
No rest, no pleasure, will I see;
My whole of bliss is lost with thee!
I'll give all thoughts of patience o'er
(A gift I never lost before);
Indulge at once my rage and grief,
Mourn obstinate, disdain relief,
And callk that wretch my mortal foe,
Who tries to mitigate my woe;
Till ife, on terms as severe as these,
Shall, ebbing, leave my heart at ease;
To thee thy liberty restore
To laugh when Hetty is nor more.

(Wr. c. 1730; pub 1825)

Mehetabel Wright (1697-1750) was sister to John and Charles Wesley and one of the most talented and tragic members of her family. She inherited a considerable talent for writing poetry from her father and several of her works were printed in the Gentleman's Magazine and other publications. After giving birth to an illegitimate child in 1726, she was pressured by her family into marrying a plumber named William Wright. The marriage was not a happy one. She died in London after a long period of ill health.
Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974) and Wesley family papers (MARC)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

George Bernard Shaw - from The Writer's Almanac

This from today’s The Writer’s Almanac:

It was on this day that in 1880 that George Bernard Shaw quit his job in order to write full time. He followed his mother to London when he was 20, hoping to make something of himself. His aunt got him a job at the Edison Telephone Company. He tried to write in his spare time, but eventually decided that he couldn't write and work at the same time. So on this day in 1880, when the Edison Telephone Company announced the consolidation with a competing firm, he used that as an excuse to quit. It was the last non-literary job he ever had.
At first, his decision seemed to be a disaster. He had to live on one pound a week from his father and whatever his mother could spare from her job as a music teacher. He spent his days in the British Museum Reading Room, reading and writing, but his first five novels were all rejected. He finally gave up on fiction and began to focus his energy on becoming a critic. It took 10 years after Shaw quit his job before he began to make a living as a critic and then began to produce the plays that made his name as a writer. He lived with his mother all that time, and she never complained about supporting him. He later said, "My mother worked for my living instead of preaching that it was my duty to work for hers; therefore take off your hat to her and blush."

This seems like a good validation of the work to be a critic.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The View from My Bicycle

In late April, I had my bike tuned up and repaired. Since then I have been whizzing around my neighborhood on two wheels. It is fantastic. Yes, in the humidity I return sweaty, but I always return from a bike ride energized and amazed by the power of my own body to move me from one place to another. Biking I’m aware of the nature of the land on which I live. From my car, I think that I live someplace flat, but on my bike, I realize that I live atop a small hill that overlooks a creek. I know that I am at the bottom of a small valley from either of the main roads that bound my street. To get to the gym, I have to ride uphill most of the way there, and on the way home I can coast. In the early mornings, I can bike to the bank and the post office if I leave before 7 a.m. and never encounter traffic from the morning commute.

There are challenges to bike riding, though. Cars are not comfortable with bicycles. They do not estimate how long it takes us to move and how to accommodate our sharing of the road. I joke each time I return that I have narrowly escaped the tattoo of a Lexus or Toyota on my side or face or leg. There is something dangerous about bike riding on city streets. I talk though to cars with open windows and my brakes make noise, which helps when cars cut me off. At least there is a realization that we almost had a collision and perhaps the driver will look more closely next time.

Since the first of March, however, I’ve put just 750 miles on my car. That to me is worth each close miss between people’s cars and my bike. Fewer car miles and stronger legs. That’s what things look like from my bicycle.

The Donald Hall Standard - Mid-Year Review

I wrote about my devotion and adherence to the “Donald Hall standard” last year in this “Bibs and Bobs” entry. Well, it’s six months later and I just finished reading The Best Day The Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon by Donald Hall. It is an extraordinary memoir. The Best Day The Worst Day is both the chronicle of Kenyon’s leukemia, but more importantly it is a writer writing about his life as a poet and the development of Jane Kenyon as a poet. It is also the chronicle of a twenty-three year relationship. If found it deeply satisfying to read.

I’ve ordered three more Hall books. He is so prolific that I may be able to spend the rest of my life reading his work. Meanwhile, I assess my own writing. The “Donald Hall standard” is to publish on average one thing a week. For the first six months of this year, I published:

2 poems in print journals
2 poems in an anthology
2 essays
6 columns
12 reviews or interviews

That’s a total of twenty-four things. Two short of the goal, so I must confess, in my mind, I’m counting the two papers that I wrote for school as the other two things produced, though, of course, not published. I have to save some face.

It’s interesting, of course, that fully 1/2 of my publications are reviews. Sometimes when I am spending the time writing reviews or doing interviews, I am cursing myself for the investment of time and energy that they require. I wonder if they take away from my time writing. Then when I step back and assess my writing over a particular period of time I realize how important it is to read intensively and write reviews. This is good as I have a stack of books on my to be reviewed pile right now, though I have a commitment to myself to cut back over the next six months. I’d like to focus on getting a few more essays completed and I am thinking and reading around a larger book project. It may mean that I struggle with the “Donald Hall standard” though the numbers are only a piece of it. The essence of it is this: Writing every day. Reading. Turning inward. Dedicating myself to the page.

***N.B. I just realized that I didn’t count the four new columns - which were published as three on Out In Perth as a part of CIVILesbianIZATION. So I think I met the standard quite handily.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Poem: "Postcards" by Wendy Cope, from If I Don't Know. © Faber and Faber, 2001. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)


At first I sent you a postcard
From every city I went to.
GrĂ¼sse aus Bath, aus Birmingham,
Aus Rotterdam, aus Tel Aviv. Mit Liebe.
Cards from you arrived
In English, with many commas.
Hope, you're fine and still alive,
Says one from Hong Kong. By that time
We weren't writing quite as often.

Now we're nearly nine years away
From the lake and the blue mountains,
And the room with the balcony,
But the heat and light of those days
Can reach this far from time to time.
Your latest was from Senegal,
Mine from Helsinki. I don't know
If we'll meet again. Be happy.
If you hear this, send a postcard