• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Holly Came From Miami FLA

When I was young, I just wrote and wrote and wrote. I have twenty-seven diaries and countless others lost along the way. My diaries also served as scrapbooks. I’d tape in ticket stubs, important letters, lyrics, poems. Most of the tape now yellow and brittle like the fingernails of the dead. I did’t imagine any future for myself as a writer. WHen I started writing poems, I never imagined getting them published. Only then I started sending them out, typing my nervous letters on onion skin letters to places like The Antioch Review and Crazyhorse. Then my disastrous MFA. I remember putting my manuscript together in my robe, chain-smoking, believing there were correspondences, rhythms, wit. I never dreamed that I would carry a tote bag filled with manuscripts. I never dreamed I would receive flowers from young writers. People ask me if I still write poems. The answer is still no.

What was the last poem you read? Wrote?

p.s. Back on Monday. I didn’t have time to twist August’s arm or find a phantom tollbooth to fill in. Love you and leave you, Betsy

50 Responses

  1. Green Sees Things in Waves by August Kleinzahler.

  2. Jotted down some verse a few days ago . While shopping, I overheard a woman involved in a cellphone conversation that was so surreal and sad – especially in the context of its delivery via cellphone – that a poem seemed most fitting.

    Safe journey, Betsy! You are already missed.

  3. Probably a Hallmark card. I admire good poetry but it’s been years since I read any seriously. My favourite when I was young was Bronwen Wallace.

    I was thinking more about your scrapbooks. I wish in a way I still used them but I’m all electronic now. Two weeks ago I was cleaning up my computer and accidentally deleted a bunch of old writing projects from my hard drive. I nearly died. I lost a ton of work related files too, but screw them, what about the novel ideas I was noodling around eight years ago ? Damn ! Fortunately I was able to cobble together copies from various backups. I miss scrapbooks – you can’t back them up but at least they don’t disappear into the ether when you hit delete

  4. On my blog a few weeks ago. An atrocious effort.

  5. 1. Love that song.
    2. Read: For My Niece Sidney, Age 6 by Amy Gerstler. I love it and it loves me back.
    3. Wrote: Two submissions to two different journals. I’m imagining all the different ways these particular rejection notices will be worded (variations on a theme) as if that’ll prevent the lip-bitten disappointment when they actually do come through.

  6. Stephen Dunn. The Reverse Side. http://lawandletters.blogspot.com/2007/04/saturday-poet-stephen-dunn.html
    It’s a poem I adore and reread often.

    However, most poetry feels to me like an invitation to tour someone’s colon.

    Have fun in Miami, Betsy. Love the bizarre Doublemint Twins in the pic.


    The crows are flying above the foyer of summer.
    The winds batter it. The water curls. The leaves
    Return to their original illusion.

    The sun stands like a Spaniard as he departs,
    Stepping from the foyer of summer into that
    Of the past, the rodomontadean emptiness.

    Mother was afraid I should freeze
    in the Parisian hotels.
    She had heard of the fate of an Argentine writer.
    At night,
    He would go to bed, cover himself with blankets –

    Protruding from the pile of wool, a hand,
    In a black glove, holds a novel by Camus.
    She begged
    That I stay away. These are the words of Jose….

    He is sitting by the fidgets of a fire,
    The first red winter, winter-red,
    The late, least foyer in a qualm of cold.

    How tranquil it was at vividest Varadero,
    While the water kept running through the mouth of
    the speaker,
    Saying: Olalla blanca en el blanco,

    Lol-lolling the endlessness of poetry.
    But here tranquility is what one thinks.
    The fire burns as the novel taught it how.

    The mirror melts and moulds itself and moves
    And catches from nowhere brightly-burning breath.
    It blows a glassy brightness on the fire

    And makes flame flame and makes it bite the wood
    And bite the hard-bite, barking as it bites.
    The arrangement of the chairs is so and so,

    Not as one would have arranged them for oneself,
    But in the style of the novel, its tracing
    Of an unfamiliar in the familiar room,

    A retrato that is strong because it is like,
    A second that grows first, a black unreal
    In which a real lies hidden and alive.

    Day’s arches are crumbling into the autumn night.
    The fire falls a little and the book is done.
    The stillness if the stillness of the mind.

    Slowly the room grows dark. It is odd about
    That Argentine. Only the real can be
    Unreal today, be hidden and alive.

    It is odd, too, how that Argentine is oneself,
    Feeling the fear that creeps beneath the wool,
    Lies on the breast and pierces into the heart,

    Straight from the Arcadian imagination,
    Its being beating heavily in the veins,
    Its knowledge cold within one as one’s own;

    And one trembles to be so understood and, at last,
    To understand, as if to know became
    The fatality of seeing things too well.

    — Wallace Stevens,
    in The Auroras of Autumn (1950)

  8. Last poem I read was God Says Yes To Me
    by Kaylin Haught, which a friend posted in a forum. It brightened me …

  9. I still write exactly these kind of journals, and I write poems again. I recently read Mark Strand’s collected poems volume 2 and Erica Dawson and a ton of Greek poetry. But Miami–mehopes you stay in the Raleigh and get lots of rubs and tropical drinks. That’s how you roll, isn’t it?

  10. My daughter brought one home from school yesterday:

    I found my shoe.
    It is blue and very new.
    I wish there were two!

    (So do I — it has to be in the house somewhere . . .)

  11. Read, omitting The New Yorker, where I read them all but recall few: probably Wallace Stevens, “The Snow Man.” (“One must have a mind of winter…”)

    Written: probably a short piece following my mother’s death, two years ago.

    Memorized: Marina Tsvetaeva, “A kiss on the head.”

  12. The last poem I read or wrote was a re-read of a re-write of a book-length work of poetry I re-posted to my website this past Saturday. It is a work that troubles me about a subject that troubles me. The issue of publishing it or not publishing it also troubles me (it may not be any good; it may be a violation of decency or an unwitting exploitation of grief). I had posted it to my website before and had taken it down and put it back up and taken it down again. But it wouldn’t leave me alone, wouldn’t sit in my archives unpublished. Not that posting it to my website is what a reasonable person would regard as real publishing–my average site traffic is two or three visitors a day, and for all I know it’s the same two or three people (my wife, my fan in Britain, and Boris the Russian porn dealer)–but there it is, on the world-wide web, for all with electronic eyes to see (be the viewer’s eyebrows plucked or unplucked, legs shaven or unshaven).

    • You have a fan in Vegas, too, who would really like to see The Book of Lamentations between covers. There’s this remorseless, hypnotic progression to the poem, as the roundness – the humanity – of each individual is flattened by sheer numbers. It’s very good. I’d say so on your blog, but am defeated by the comment log-in thingy.

    • Yeah. And hear hear. It wouldn’t let me coment either, but don’t take it down. It is a great work.

      • Thank you, Virginia, and thank you, Averil, for your kind and generous words. I’m computer-literate but not computer-fluent; there is much of WordPress I haven’t grasped. I have the bullshit deflectors on the comments set at high, but it looks like I’m deflecting effectively all comments, not just the scams (though Boris the Russian porn dealer did get through). I’ll see about adjusting all that at my earliest opportunity.

  13. I don’t usually read poetry, but this morning I idly picked up Leaves of Grass and read a few pages. All that energy.

    “Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!
    Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,
    But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than before known, arouse!
    For You Must Justify Me.”

    So there you go then.

  14. Yesterday, in a most bizarre and lovely exchange with a radio show host I’ve never spoken to, we found ourselves trading bits of memorized poetry — he quoted Frost, I quoted Shelley. A good time was had by all.

    I still have the paper journals from my 20s. They are sometimes sad and sometimes eerily prophetic of what happened next.

  15. Considering recent events, dear friend,
    I shouldn’t admit I’m not glum.
    My modest warm glow is a personal matter,
    And not a tragic one.
    I’ve written this poem, you see, and it rhymes,
    For goodness sakes!
    Who rhymes their poetry these days?
    Or pens humor where hearts might break?

    I don’t suppose my wee small joy
    Would be the same for you;
    A simple pleasure, such as this
    Would possibly occur to a few.
    This simple pleasure, I must admit,
    Is really quite a corker:
    Today, I understood a poem
    I read in the New Yorker!

  16. Last poem written: an anniversary poem to my husband on our 25th. That was two years ago and I think I just saw it stuck in one of his piles of chits, letters, phone memos on his dresser. Last poem read: Sylvia Plath poem from high school from Letters Home, which I debated giving away to church fair but decided to keep.

  17. On Monday I was flipping through James Wright’s collection, Shall We Gather At The River. A rediscovery…

  18. Tennessee Williams’ pre-apocalyptic sigh: YOUR BLINDED HAND.

    Poetry can be so cheerful.

  19. I just heard a beautiful poem by Tara Betts called Gone, Daddy, Gone. What a treat to hear an artist speak her own words.

  20. Saw the photo and thought of Diane Arbus at Coney Island, remembered Lawrence Frelinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind and read some of my old favorites–“It was a face which darkness could kill in an instant”, “Johnny Nolan has a patch on his ass” and “Junkman’s Obbligato”
    Mostly though, it’s Dr. Seuss, read out loud while I chuckle or groan; it seems to me I’ve met many people reminiscent of his characters, and it’s never been too far a stretch.

  21. I read a poem pretty much every day. Get one with the Writer’s Almanac in my inbox every morning, and since a friend sent me a pretty little copy of Everyman’s Library Garden Poems, I’ve been reading one every night before bed under the superstition that it will somehow help my garden grow better while I sleep. Dream fertilizer… why not? Last poem I read in public, as it were, was Eleanor Lerman’s wonderful The Mystery of Meteors on the blog for Poem In Your Pocket Day. Yes, I like corny shit like Poem In Your Pocket Day, so sue me — I copied it out by hand and folded it up and walked around all day with it, in fact, in my pocket.

    Last poem I wrote was in August, when I did the Postcard Poem Project — a poem a day sent on a postcard to 31 people on a list. That was about a year’s quota, as far as I’m concerned, since I’m not a poet — I write rhyming-type doggerel, much of it, come to think of it, about my dog. Some of them were terrible, but some were kind of good for what they were. Writing a poem a day for a month was total boot camp, but it was good.

    Jeez, all of the above make me sound so flakey, and I’m like the un-flakiest person in the world. I guess poetry will do that to ya. I love the stuff. Love it.

  22. Wallace Stevens does go on and on at times, but The Plot Against the Giant, as I have previously mentioned, is the best.

  23. In a writing workshop, I got suckered into writing a poem about the good traits of a celebrity I didn’t like so I wrote about Tiger Woods . It was a challenge but I did it. It was decent.

  24. >What was the last poem you read?
    The one by Wallace Stevens that Vince P posted.

    “Svarga-Dvara,” which just kind of popped out on May 3rd. It’s about the cremation grounds by the ocean in Puri, India. I’m intimidated by poets and poetry, not convinced I can write it, but every so often something wells up and I just gotta.

  25. Somebody please write me a poem this morning! My fridge just broke. Did I mention I have four children to feed? Feh.

  26. Oh fridge repair guy, handsome man
    With white coveralls and a year-round tan
    God of appliances; freon confessor
    Please fly like the wind with a new compressor
    For now, dear children that I cherish
    Eat up! Eat up! What food might perish
    More milk, more juice, some chicken thighs?
    That jar of mayo might go nice
    Check out the pantry, eye those cans
    Of beans, of soup, and make some plans
    Soon, soon, our food shall bask in cold
    But in the meantime, check for mold.

  27. You are my new found hero. From the bottom of my rotted soul, I thank you.

  28. I’m available for just about anything except romance. And I’m not really any good at fridge repair… I was just bluffing there.

    MacDougal St., I hope your stuff is fixed…

    • Alas, no. Monday that (hopefully) tanned and handsome man will right the wrongs done to my controlled little life. For now, I lay my trust in the supermarket located just a few feet from my home. In times like these I’m just grateful I’m not knocked up or with a newborn. It really is all about perspective.

  29. Oh and I forgot to say You’re Welcome — where are my manners?

  30. Read: Hardy’s “A Broken Appointment.”

    Wrote: Can’t remember, though it wasn’t that long ago.

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