My new book CONFESSIONS is featured at Powell’s City Of Books, Portland

My new book is featured at Powell’s City of Books in Portland, my favorite bookstore in the west! CONFESSIONS is on the Lit Local shelf run by Dianah Hughley.

Rants, lists, and worthless opinions:

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Rest In Peace, Mary Oliver

Photograph of Mary Oliver raising a glass at her home, Pembroke Lodge, Richmond [1930s] by Eileen Agar 1899-1991

Although Mary Oliver won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, she was never respected by serious critics the way she deserved. For example, she was never given a full-length review by The New York Times. She earned a full-length review from the Times but did not receive one.

To be clear though, Oliver wouldn’t have cared about this. She wasn’t in love with mere things. Instead, she loved the natural world, geese, the sun, grasshoppers, and – of course – her dogs (I’ve gone through her poems and attempted to count her dog companions, and it’s impossible. She rescued too many to count).

Mary Oliver passed away today at the age of 83. What she left behind is incredible.

For people who don’t know much of her work, here’s a short poem called “Praying”:

Praying

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

– Mary Oliver

oliver

And for readers who don’t know her work at all, here is her most famous poem:

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

– Mary Oliver

Don’t Listen To The Negativity

As you finish writing projects, you’re going to hear a lot of negativity. Even in the most exciting moments, when a draft is out to editors for example, or when there’s interest from film producers, people are going to talk to you about their concerns. They’re going to ask a “serious question.” You’re going to get rejected, or face delays, or told what doesn’t work.

But don’t listen to any of this. Don’t focus on the negative.

I always make a goal of one in ten. If one in ten editors loves something, that’s great. Or as my agent – Adriann Ranta at Foundry – always says, “We only need one.” And it’s important to remember that goal.

Because in the gate-keeper moments, it’ll feel like most of what you face is negativity, sometimes even from friends or family. But remember that your fans, your readers, the average people out there, they love your work. They think you’re a good storyteller, or an interesting poet, or an engaging essayist, or whatever.

Also, you can only control what you can control. You can’t worry about other people’s concerns. You can’t worry about other people’s strong opinions. You can’t worry about what bothers people who aren’t making art.

You simply have to create your best work. Draft, revise, edit, and produce.

Then move on to the next thing.

Haiku Death Match – Come To Tsunami Books Tomorrow Night!

Scott Landfield and Tsunami Books are hosting an open haiku tournament tomorrow night, Wednesday, October 17th, and 7 PM, Eugene, Oregon. Come watch or compete!

The open tournament will be followed by a 19 haiku death match between Virginia’s haiku poet Raven Mack and me (PS – I’m hoping not to embarrass myself – maybe do some pop-culture haikus?):

New Poem – Sonidos En El Oscuro (plus translation)

Here’s a new poem I wrote (in Spanish – with my translation following):

Sonidos En El Oscuro

Ya té extraño en
Este mundo en donde
No hay que decir nada
Porque el agua
Se desliza pasado nosotros
En la noché, se susurra,
Sueños, cantos, los sonidos
De pies descalzos sobre la suciedad.
Las alas de insectos largos,
El momento antes de
Una danza, la vibración
De fruta pudriéndose
En el suelo.

 

Sounds In The Dark

I miss you already

in this world where

there is no need to say anything

because the water

slips past us

in the night, it whispers,

dreams, chants, the sounds

of bare feet on the dirt.

The wings of insects,

the moment before

a dance, the vibration

of fruit rotting

on the ground.

THIS WEEK’S POEM, MY ATTEMPT AT POETRY

I’m continuing to write weekly poems. Here’s this last week’s first draft:

LO QUE DECIMOS DESPUES

Como narcos, lenguaje en tu boca,

mentiras, fragmentos de lengua, o

fraccíones de vidrio,

espejos oscuros en uno cuerto

de crepusculo.

Digame, niña, ¿Que te quieres?

Te quiero, pero…

Tiempo no es fáctico, no es lineal,

en mi cerebro los círculos

tocan, se besan,

con labios secos, poco de

sangre, pies descalzos y manos

abiertas.

Despues, puños cerrados.

 

I wrote it in Spanish, but here’s my English translation:

WHAT WE SAY THEN

As drug traffickers, language in your mouth,

lies, fragments of tongue, or

fractions of glass,

mirrors, dark in a room of twilight.

Tell me, girl, What do you want?

I love you, but…

Time is not factual, is not linear,

in my brain the circles

touch, they kiss,

with dry lips, a little bit of

blood, bare feet and hands

open.

Later, clenched fists.

 

 

 

Works In Progress – Spanish Poetry: La Pregunta

I’ve been writing poems in Spanish lately, then translating them back into English.

Here’s an attempt – a work in progress – a rough draft of a recent poem:

La Pregunta

Eres como un eclipse,

oscuridad del sol, día

muerte un poco

una sepultura, yo camino

y veo el cielo,

giró violeta, se sombra.

Un cuervo talla los cosmos,

confesor negro, pajaro

sacerdotal, y yo pregunto

mi consulta.

 

And in English:

 

The Question

You are an eclipse,

obscurity of the sun, day

dying a little

a tomb, I walk

and see the sky

twist violet, shadow itself.

A crow carves the cosmos,

black confessor,

sacerdotal bird, and I ask

my question.