Sunday Morning Muse // Reviews // with a Create-your-own MFA

tyg on keyboard

I work as a nurse practitioner in a cosmos of sick and dying people who are called “patients”.  I couldn’t do this work without (my cats, and) an immersion in poetry. So, mostly to cheer myself up,  here is — What I’ve been up to in poetry: 


  1. Reading poetry blogs! I love reading poetry blogs, and am so grateful to Dave Bonta, who puts together a digest of them every Sunday. And, if you don’t read his daily “morning porch” (short observational poems from his front porch that he has been writing for  years, which show up on Twitter these days) you’re really missing a treat.
  2. Writing Reviews of Poetry Books– I told a friend that doing this is my own private MFA, which expresses how much I am learning from doing it. You can read my latest review, of Killing Marias, at the Rumpus. I have upcoming reviews of Lynn Melnick’s Landscape with Sex and Violence at the Rumpus, and Jennifer Martelli’s The Uncanny Valley at Broadsided Press. I also plan to start reviewing chapbooks at a new site. Check back for details. Send me your chapbooks! 
  3. Hanging out with poets– my poetry workshop group is happening! Another create-your-own enterprise. What a gift to have poets to talk poetry with, in-person, with coffee.
  4. Registering for a summer workshop with Carl Phillips at the Port Townsend Writers Conference . Since I moved to the PNW, I have gone to this conference every summer and have workshopped with fabulous poets and started some meaningful friendships. And, it’s right down the road from where I live. How amazing is that!
  5. Editing my new manuscript, as yet multi-titled. I decided to follow Ilya Kaminsky’s advice, “less is more by cutting 15 poems from the manuscript. It’s still a pretty new manuscript, but I have started sending it out there . . .
  6. Running a press! Everyday I do something that helps keep Headmistress Press afloat! Mostly bookkeeping and fulfilling book orders. Also planning for AWP, where I will be staffing a table for Headmistress with Lana Ayers of MoonPath Press.  It’s in Portland! Big YAY for so many reasons.
  7. Planning to Attend the upcoming Palm Beach Poetry Festival  in January to see the sun, and do a workshop with Aracelis Girmay (excited!), and visit my kiddos in Miami (also excited!)

Can I take a nap now? 


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Sunday Morning Muse with Powers that Be

After describing storms in my last week’s blog, a wild wind storm knocked down trees and cut off power to most of the Olympic peninsula on Friday morning, with rolling restorations throughout Saturday. Sudden power outages occurred for about 10,000 homes. Not surprisingly, the point of land I live with and love, with its stunning views of Discovery Bay and Mount Baker, was last among communities to get our power back. But this was sooner than predicted, at one point the rumor (after all, what else do you have without power except rumors?) was that it could be 2-3 days without. We had to send some patients away from clinic, despite our generators, because at one point there were so many outages along the mainland that our electronic medical record was off-line. We  can barely provide the most basic medical care without our EMR, and yet, we are totally unprepared to do without them. Eerily, on darkened roads, my work team all went to the Christmas dinner that our employers (the Jamestown Klallam tribe) puts on for us every year at the casino, where the generators were in full force, colorful lighted trees making an uncanny bright spot on the darkened highway. We all ate well knowing that another warm meal might not come for a while, and reviewed how prepared we are (or aren’t) for more than 2 days of going without power. And then beyond, how prepared we aren’t for an earthquake.

I’m vaguely prepared for outages at my home, although I drove to another county yesterday morning to get coffee and pick up firewood for the small wood stove I use only  for these occasions. Even the furry beings were cold, and more cuddly than usual.

Today, I’m sitting at my desk, watching the sky. We are expecting another storm this afternoon. I love the cloud formations here, even when it is overcast, there are so many cloud layers that there are always spots of clear blue and cumulus fluffs beneath gray strato-fractus columns. I am grateful for a warm home, running water, coffee, a working computer and my snuggly cats.

I moved out to the west coast 11 years ago, feeling empty-hearted. Today I feel very much at home here.

When I'm not thinking about you, I learn the names of trees

I've learned to tell the fir from the yew; the silver
from the red cedar. At sunrise, there is a thin glint of light
northeastward where I await Mt Baker's frozen specter

careening over Discovery Bay. The lamps of Port
Townsend blink; strands of fog hang over fields.
Peckish deer nibble dandelions. I spare my lawn

for their graze. The squirrels, miniature and rust-bellied,
easily reach the hanging bird seed. I don't try to learn
bird calls, they come to feed and that's enough.

There are rumors of big cats. I've seen two elk—
one stared through me as if she knew my secrets, the other,
roadkill. You once told me my poems are too grim

and I should try my hand at something more pastoral.
I've seen powdered snow on Cedars, and I've grown
passably fond of rain. Everyday, the clouds amaze.

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Sunday Morning Muse in the Rain

lightningIt’s raining on the peninsula. There is a difference between rain and showers out here; with showers we get a little wet but usually luck out with a glint of sun here and there. You don’t cancel your usual walk because of showers, since they happen most days for ten months of the year.  I live on a promontory of the peninsula, and when it rains, it storms. We often lose our electricity.  I’m fairly well prepared for these events with a kerosene lantern, candles, flashlights and a radio that I can crank to make work. I also know it’s rarely for more than a few hours, so graham crackers with nut butter will do if I get hungry. I know that the computer has about 22 minutes of  charge, and my phone will work until however much charge it happens to have at the moment. The winds rock my house and scare the cats, and me too, since I tend to expect an earthquake at every shiver. And, more’s the pity, I’m not at all prepared–not even shoes-by-the-bed prepared.

Many of my neighbors have generators and I hate the sound of them coming on, cutting into the sounds of storm. I’m pretty much a nature lover from windows and when we get storms, I have a great view  of the choppy bay and the tall firs and cedars swaying. It’s a mystery to me that they grow so tall and can withstand the winds in this rocky outcrop of land where I can’t get anything to grow in my yard.

I’ve lived in so many different climates and topographies, the US has some of everything. Other than expecting the big one out here, our weather is mild and less fraught than other places I’ve lived–with their episodic hurricanes, water-spouts, ice storms, blizzards, Nor’easters, and of course, wildfires. I’ve only hugged the two ocean coasts, so I’ve never lived through, or seen, a tornado, but I know folks who live in those zones. I also know how much these natural events have been intensified by human hands. I stew over how this is happening to all of us, how the very earth’s crust is changing and making mass human migration inevitable. I worry about my kids who live in Miami, which is already at sea level and going under. I selfishly hope the Cascadia Subduction Zone holds until after I die. The last earthquake that occurred along this fault was about 300 years ago and was estimated as a 9 magnitude.

Funny how I got here. I woke up thinking about the earthquake that just hit Anchorage Alaska, which was a 7 magnitude with all-day aftershocks and how quickly these life-threatening events dissipate on the news “cycle”. Amazingly there were no deaths reported and no tsunami. I was also thinking about how magnitude is reported in logs. I’ve felt a couple of distant 4-5 magnitude quakes; a 7 magnitude is 100 times stronger than a 5; and a 9 would be 10,000 times stronger. Although I’m not sure that magnitude equals strength exactly, so I’ll just think : ten thousand times worse. 

But there is still poetry. For now.

Here’s a poem about rain:


Most days, I no longer long 
for you. The rain has become
my welcome mat.

I soak clothes and skin in it,
bleach these personal stains, 
staunch my body's needs.

I dream in haiku
as it taps at my window
in tart syllables.

Nowhere is it fully documented
how terrifying it is to be me.

originally published in blinded by clouds (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2014)


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Another Monday Sunday

I’m a bit late with everything this week, so it’s another Sunday Morning Muse on a Monday Morning.

Wanted to share that after 7 years on the Olympic Peninsula, I now have an real-life poetry workshop group, and what a fabulous group of poets it is! We met yesterday and if you don’t know this, I can’t really tell you how much it means to meet in person with poets that you admire and have them read a draft of your poem and seriously tell you, not so much about what is right with it, but what could make it better, better, best. And have such silly fun together.

And here’s a big shout out to The Writers Workshop for giving us the lovely space to meet, for shelving our books, and with coffee, yet !

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Sunday Morning Muse with Thoughts of Chapbooks, New Work, and a Survey

Did you know that Laura Madeline Wiseman hosts a wonderful website called “The Chapbook Interview: Talking all things chapbook” ? I recently did an interview with Wiseman which is published on her site, here. If you are a chapbook aficionado you will want to spend some time reading her scores of interviews with like-minded chapbook fans- writers, editors, publishers. I have published three poetry chapbooks, and am an editor at Headmistress Press, a press that primarily publishes chapbooks, but oddly, I don’t think I had spent much time prior to this interview thinking about the chapbook as a specialized art form, not just a short book. It definitely is, and I was grateful for the opportunity to have a conversation with Wiseman about it!

On another writing front, I have a new manuscript that I’m shopping around now, even though most of the poems are  only about a year old,  and I’m still revising them every day. My thought is that it will take a while to find a publisher and then a longer while,  waiting for publication. The interval between acceptance of  slight faith and publication was almost two years, during which time the manuscript improved significantly.

So far, nine of the new poems have been accepted for publication in journals, which has given me some confidence about sending it out. I am prepared, as I should be, for many rejections along the way, along with the cost of submission involved in this endeavor.

I have been sending it out under different titles, because I can’t really decide which one I will settle on. So I’m asking poetry friends here which one of these do you like best? (The poems that they come from are linked. ) Let me know in comments if you have a thought about it.

  1. Why I hate to cry
  2. Petless and Unwed
  3. Goodbye, I’ll Never See You Again 

And by the way slight faith seems to be on sale at Amazon today for $4.58, which sounds like an incredible deal, and which clearly  shows that it hasn’t sold very well on Amazon to date. Consider buying a copy? Boost sales? Make me happy?

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Sunday Morning Muse with Topical Memes

On Climate Change

Now we have thousands of displaced refugees from Paradise, California. Noticing how climate change, perhaps even more than war, is a global crisis which we are so fucking unprepared for.

On Memory

My memory has become so bad in the past couple of years. Names of people I used to know. Names of people I work with. Names of artists and musicians. Medical terms. I’m not sure I could continue to work if I didn’t have Google. I still can problem solve as well as ever. I do all kinds of tasks and make all sorts of decisions every day without making mistakes. Of course I am hoping that my memory failures are simply the overworking of an aging brain. I still have so much that I want to get done using this brain. The solace is that I can still write. The words come, if not so much the spelling. I can still write poems. All I’m asking of the universe is a few more years to write.

On Submissions

I hadn’t submitted in a while, waiting for the rejections to settle. But over the past month I have submitted my new manuscript to several long-shot presses and poems to several journals. Now I remember why I hate submitting. Instantaneously I become obsessed. Checking Submittable instead of Twitter. Watching for every “received” to turn into “in progress” even though I know it has nothing to do with what or when I will hear from them. Recently a poem was accepted by a longed-for journal. Unfortunately it had been accepted by another journal hours before. I would say I was heartbroken, but I don’t think that has much currency given the depth of real world problems. I’m not keeping track of my submissions these days, and not all of them are in Submittable. Still I’ve sent out a packet of the same 3 poems to 6 different journals, without equal aspiration for who might accept them.  I’m not sure what any of this has to do with poetry.

On Aspiration

I guess I still believe that there is a poetry cabal out there that I am trying to earn my way into. And the more successes I have, the more impenetrable and mysterious it becomes.

And here is a poem for a friend:

I first saw cancer

I first saw cancer in winter, rocking gently
as if to mollify a small child by keening 
a lullaby. She murmured a promise,
a truss of blossoms.

After a chill, in the thaw of spring,
wisps of hair returned, a limp corkscrew crown,
while pain cracked open bones and shred
them into lacy stalks.

Cancer rocked gently again in autumn, smothering
the lumpish soil with a thin coat of saltpeter.
And when it dried out like a codfish on the shore,
she offered her caress.

This was first published online on YB in 2009. YB is a no longer available journal, produced by Rose Hunter and Sherry O’Keefe– both wonderful poets, who were some of the very first poets to publish my work.

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Sunday Morning Afternoon

Ten Reasons for (not) writing:

  1. California is burning.
  2. Our white nationalist president is blaming California for the fires.
  3. There is a civil war going on in this country, and the right is better armed.
  4. Mass shootings r/t #3.
  5. Refugees walking hundreds of miles to be greeted by armed troops at the US border.
  6.  Initiative 1631 (a policy to combat climate change) failed to pass in Washington State, funded by big oil, so we may as well just prepare for the worst.
  7. It’s a big season for deaths. I attend deaths, hence, I’ve been busy.
  8. Prop 2 failed. No new library for Sequim, Washington. Property owners win.
  9.  Promises to keep.
  10. The new kitten is eating all of my plants and then taking naps on the keyboard.tyg on keyboard


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Sunday Morning from Moue to Musing

tyg.jpgIt’s been hard to keep up with blogging the past few weeks because of computer troubles, and a new kitty who got dehydrated and had to go back to the vet on Wednesday after her spay on Monday. And green eyesBo, who decidedly doesn’t want to share me with Tyg. And other annoyances.

I work as a nurse practitioner at a rural family medicine clinic. Although I call myself a poet, I have worked all of my adult life in the health care system. We had a staff retreat yesterday, which turned into an emotional event, changing (at least my own) irritation at having to go to a early meeting on Saturday morning to gratefulness that I have a job that matters and work with people who matter to me. It could have been a gripe session– as medical providers we are, of course, very privileged economically, and yet find plenty to gripe about in our work settings. So it was heartening to find that our strongest consensus concerned asking leadership to be more generous and more committed to our support staff– the nurses and medical assistants, the front desk and call center staff– without whom nothing would happen at the clinic. There has always been something family-like about working in health care, whether in the ER at Beth Israel Hospital in NYC; doing abortions in Tallahassee, Florida; providing care to HIV positive women in the South Bronx; or providing palliative care to trauma patients at Harborview in Seattle. There is the sense that we understand what’s at stake and therefore, are able to look beyond our differences and actually care about each other, take care of each other.

So unlike the way the world seems to be working these days.

On the poetry front, I have a review of Robin Becker’s The Black Bear Inside Me up at the Rumpus.  

Here’s a teaser:

I seem to have a lot in common with poet Robin Becker, who recently released a new poetry collection, The Black Bear Inside Me. We are both Jewish lesbians, post-war baby boomers, raised in large East Coast cities (Becker in Philadelphia, me in Washington DC) who knowingly present with “East Coast Jewish” attitude. One difference: Becker is strikingly butch, and I lean femme.   


Things I think I know for sure: 

I'm voting against tyranny and hatred.
I'm working, at least until I retire, which I expect to do in 2020
    when I turn 70.
Poetry has saved my life. More than a few times. 


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Sunday Morning Musings

DSCN2463The morning sears its way into my day. There is the sparkling glint of sun on water and across Discovery Bay I can see the snowy top of Mount Baker and the backside of Port Townsend off to the East. I am blessed with this view when it appears out my window as I sit at my desk and wonder what to do next. How different life seems to me on a day when no fog rises up to obscure my view, no rain smacks at the glass. And yet, some days I can convince myself that Port Townsend, Mount Baker, the whole damn universe, is still there, even when I can’t see it. Or feel it. Or find it. Or be a part of it.  My own fear of death seems easy to overcome with the thought that this, all of this, will all go on with me or without me.

Embracing death, notwithstanding, I am able to feel anxious about my many failures. I’ve fallen behind in promises, and nothing feels worse to me than not meeting deadlines, failing to fulfill a commitment, or having a dirty house. These are things to get over. The universe is made of dust, as I was recently reminded, and moving the dust around is not always a productive activity. Determining what is really worthwhile can be debilitating. So much seems worth so little.

Writing a Sunday blog joins me with others in a way that helps me to connect with a common purpose. I seem to be able to continually write poems. I’ve started meeting with a small writing group in my rural area that is proving to be a remedy for the sense of isolation I feel most days.

I’m sick with worry about our planet, but I guess that’s nothing new. Just because I am a nihilist at heart does not mean I am disengaged. I am trying to uncover meaning, step up to the plate, look for opportunities to serve, seek crevices of hope.


Until Another Summer

Today. Ash sky followed by lemon sorbet.
The way it began: dogged and bowed. And how it turned:
to mirth, rebirth. Buttery hungers. It’s trite to say
I long for sun and vitamin D. I can’t remember
when a summer licked me so utterly
with forked tongue, so soothingly
cuddled my head and testified
there is another there, there.



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Monday Morning Look Back

It’s not that I didn’t write a blog yesterday, it’s that I didn’t post it. I felt, more than usual, at a loss for putting my thoughts down in any way that might make sense. My Sunday morning was blemished by dropping one of a set of my beloved Frida Kahlo earrings down the sink drain, gone forever, and then having to tell a coveted journal that the poem they wanted had been accepted the day before by another journal.

I reminded myself (as I did when I lost my dead best friend’s amethyst ring on a Greyhound bus) that the ring (the earring, the lost object) is not really lost, just no longer in my possession. I reminded myself to be very grateful for the acceptance and to resolve to submit again to the longed-for journal. I composed myself, in much the way I might compose a poem. Made the best meaning of it that I could.

Then I went to a death, which reminded me how everything matters, but different things matter differently. I volunteer to assist people who wish to use Washington state’s death with dignity law, meaning I guide them through the process and am with them when they swallow lethal medication and die peacefully. If you are curious, you can read about our law here.

My feelings, thoughts, impulses are all quite confused today. I found a poem of mine that took me a good while to remember the title of, that might belong here instead of any clarity on my part. Something is found, in that case.

Things go missing

Odd things, like my duffel bag —
where could it be
when I need to unpack it?
Strange things like words
I’m sure I know,
swear I love,

You are gone
and I don’t even remember your name,
although faces are never gone. Although never
is a word to never use.

These things I seek are not vanished, just mislaid,
not here, not there, not where
I will ever meet them again. In flesh.
Matter/energy and all that.

There is a finite beyond
which I never question and there is that word
never again, because I can’t find a better one.

In my limited, limited, lost brain’s ability
to withstand all the things that are here,
I am pleased to announce:
things go missing.

from blinded by clouds, Hyacinth Girl Press


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