The Breakup Poems

I don’t know how other writers proceed, but my own process is a circuitous one that winds along rivers and wanders through woodland and ends up in back yards, usually my own. I seldom know where I’m going until I get there, and even then it takes time to realize this is the place.

My new collection of poems is available now. Wander with me, if you like.

Breakup Poems

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Scratch

What do you do when the thing you’ve been doing doesn’t work for you anymore? If it ever worked at all. This is what I’m wondering.

I like the word “scratch.” It’s a noun: what the cat will give you when you annoy her. It’s a verb: what you do to get relief from an itch. It’s a slang term for money. It connotes beginnings and basics, as in starting from scratch, and baking from scratch.

I was making up a little recipe book the other day, a gift for a friend. A couple of the recipes I included require a food processor, and it occurred to me to wonder, does she have one of those? Another one calls for an immersion blender. Hello?

Even in recipes there is privilege, there are assumptions.

I have a food processor, an immersion blender. So I’m not starting from scratch, per sé. But I am leaving a work situation that has pulled me for the past two years down a path of depletion. The predictable end is less a bang than a whimper. My finances are exhausted, my energy is spent.

That’s another word that resonates: spent.

I wrestle with the fallacy of sunk costs. Also called throwing good money after bad, and, in gambling circles, chasing your losses. It refers to the often-inexplicable human tendency to keep on keeping on, even when every indicator says you really need to not do this anymore.

(cf. climate change; also, bad romance.)

So I’m not going to do it anymore, that job that doesn’t work, that never really worked except in my Palace of Magical Thinking.

Now I’m in the other part of the castle, the less lovely part, where it’s a bit damp and full of shadow and uncomfortably close to starting from scratch, and I’m not liking it so much.

Still, I have two books that are approaching completion. One is a new poetry collection, tentatively titled The Breakup Poems and Other Attempts to Address This Ridiculously Dysfunctional Life (jk, sort of). The other is a book about my coffeehouse, the one I started when I first moved to the Midwest. I’m calling that one Mud River, which is the name of my publishing company, which was itself named after the little newsletter I used to print (on paper! c’est vrai!) when I ran that coffeehouse.

All my life’s a circle. Harry Chapin said that.

If you’d like to help me get these books across the finish line, you can make a donation to the Fund to Keep the Poet Fed, for which I will be most grateful. You can also leave a comment on this post, which is nourishing in its own right.

Thank you.

It’s Very You

I sent a copy of Beautiful Terrible World to my mother. Today she called to tell me what she thought of it.

“It sounds like you. You always did care about the environment, and you never liked war. The one about the school shooter was sad. I laughed at the line about not liking ballroom dancing because you didn’t want some boy to push you around. It’s very you.”

Best. Review. Ever.

This is My Radio Voice

I hung out on the radio for a bit last month with my buddy and local npr-affiliate show host John Gibson, talking about Beautiful Terrible World and reading a couple poems from it. You’ll find me in the last 10 or 12 minutes or so of the hour.

The big celeb of the show that day was author Brian Kimberling, whose book Snapper was just released in paperback. He gets more time than I do, which is only right, but I do think I have the better radio voice.

Beautiful Terrible World is available in print and ebook. (No audiobook yet. But I’m thinking about it…)

Poets at 50

Poets at 50 remember the anger and know how it (still) feels to poke with a
stick at the unflinching world.

Poets at 50 quote Ginsburg and Snyder and maybe May Sarton and
if you’re a woman you’ll channel Mary Oliver and wonder over and over
what you’re doing with your one precious life.

Poets at 50 remember the sadness of inexcusable love and loss
and the way the sidewalks looked the morning after and how it enraged us.

Poets at 50 know fear and all its arthritic crippling and how it turns
our hands to ice on the keyboard, freezes our pen in our palm
and leaves us voiceless.

But poets at 50 know that if the hand holds tight its very heat
will thaw the pen, and the voice is as potent served cold as hot.

And the anger will propel us because that’s what anger does, and love,
and sadness, too, and Mary Oliver, asking us (over and over again)
what are we doing today with our one precious life.