30 / 30 Project – March 2013


Dear Friends,

I confess I have not been the best blog keeper.  I confess in my mind I have a daily writing practice, but, in reality, it is more like a weekly writing practice.  I confess I do not like asking for help, for money, for favors (of any kind :).  To that end, please join me this month as I begin a daily writing practice and ask for money and favors!

Say what, Jilly?  Let me explain.  This month I am running (Oh, yes, I also confess I dream of running) what is basically a poetry marathon.  I will be writing 30 poems in 30 days.  Hey, wait a minute, those of you who know me might say, You’ve written a poem a day for a month before.  What’s the big deal?

Yes, what is the big deal?  Why don’t I let my friend Jeffrey Levine from the awesome and amazing Tupelo Press explain:

Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press.

One poet per month will run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage her or him every step of the way.  For December 2012, our first volunteer was Rebecca Kaiser Gibson. You can read her full month of poems here. For January 2013, we had 9 volunteers: T.M. De Vos, Shannon Hardwick, Lindsay Penelope Illich, Mike McGeehon, Janie Miller, Nina Pick, Katerina Stoykova-Klemer, Allyson Whipple, and Margaret Young. You can read their month of poems here. For February 2013, we also had 9 volunteers: Alison Cimino, Kate DeBolt, Lené Gary, T.J. Jarrett, Jacey Blue Renner, William David Ross, Joanna Solfrian, Dan Thomas-Glass, and Nina Israel Zucker. You can read their month of poemshere.

This month, we again have 9 volunteers: Serena Chopra, Jill Crammond, Rachel Fogarty-Oleson, Brett Elizabeth Jenkins, Kali Lamparelli, George McKim, Luisa Muradyan, Dan Nowak, and Emily Rudofsky. Read their full bios by clicking here.

Please follow their work (by clicking “Follow” on the bottom of the page), and feel free to acknowledge their generosity and creativity with a show of your admiration and support by donating on their behalf to Tupelo Press. (Click here to donate, scroll down to the form at the bottom, and put a contributor’s name in the “honor” field.) Just imagine what a challenge it is to write 30 new poems in 30 days!

So you see, dear friends, this is a big deal.  I will be writing for a cause.  Writing to help a small, indie press keep publishing great poets like Aimee Nezhukumatahil, Ellen Dore Watson, Kathleen Jesme, and others.  Because I believe in poetry.  And you should, too.

What’s in it for me? you might ask. Well, other than the satisfaction of supporting an independent literary press, how about the opportunity to tell me what to say or see your name in print?

  • For a donation $5, I will dedicate a poem to you!     A poem which will be posted to the Tupelo Press website and which you can see for days and months to come!  Just imagine!
  • For a $10 donation, you can give me a theme to write my daily poem about.  AND I will dedicate it to you.
  • For any donation of $20 or more, I will dedicate a poem to you AND write it on the theme of your choosing, AND plaster your name and your awesome contribution all over the book of faces and Twitter.

Many, many thanks!

flirting with gratitude


when i graduated from the college of st. rose with a master’s degree in english and not one company answered my exquisitely written cover letter offering me a job, i had to do some serious soul-searching.  i was almost 24, single, and, with 25 looming on the horizon, ripe for a quarter-century crisis.  i dove into julia cameron’s the artist’s way.  i wrote morning pages and discovered just who in my life was supporting me (my mom and my favorite professor) and what in my life was holding me back (self-doubt.  i think…)

desperate for answers, i turned to oprah.  oprah pointed me in the direction of sarah ban breathnach and her pretty pink book, simple abundance.  between those pages i learned the value of gratitude.  i began keeping a gratitude journal.  i discovered i was thankful for warm socks on a cold night, thankful for the braying of wild dogs outside my window, thankful for a single cucumber (i grew it myself).  the more i was thankful, the happier i became.

fast forward a few years.  i got married.  that is a whole other story. (see previous eleven year’s worth of poems.)  happy, i was not.  i tried a gratitude journal.  it didn’t work.  or perhaps, i didn’t give it a chance to work.  maybe i didn’t work hard enough.  maybe, just maybe, even gratitude couldn’t save me.  whatever the case, since my separation (nearly two years now), i have been eyeing that journal.  i have been flirting with gratitude.

today, my long-time poetry mentor kelli russell agodon spoke to me.  not in real life.  i didn’t hear her voice.  still, she sent me a coast-to-coast message, a bi-coastal s.m.s. (save my soul).   in need of poetic inspiration, i dug out her book, letters from the emily dickinson room.  a few minutes later i received an email update from kelli’s blog, book of kells.  today’s post: what are you thankful for?

i am a big believer in synchronicity.  i have been thinking a lot lately about gratitude.  i have been thinking a lot lately about moving further along my poetic path.  that one of my favorite poets is writing about gratitude the same day i am looking to her poems for inspiration is enough for me.  i am going to start being more grateful. 

let the happiness begin!

what i am thankful for:

1. the story my son told me about getting a girl’s number in math class.  it was the answer to a math problem.

2. not one, but 8 hugs from preschool drama students.

3. making coffee for my sweet baboo.

4. having a sweet baboo.

5. having sally brown to steal a pet name from.

6. reading the american academy of poets awards list and NOT thinking “i will never be on this list.”

7. the sun coming through three layers of trees.

8. playdates.  my children’s.  plus the fact that i am still able to be home for these moments, and not working a 9-5 job.

9. a necklace made from a zipper.

10. love, love, love.

now, here’s the amazing part of gratitude.  just the act of writing it down can have immediate effects.  take the colored pencils, cat hair and popcorn kernels spilled all over the carpet, for example.  and the homework on the couch.  i’m not one bit annoyed by any of it at the moment.  that’s what gratitude can do for you, people.

The Second House from the Corner, the One Falling Down


Love is in charge of lightbulbs.  Standing in darkness, unscrewing and screwing, licking filaments.  I am in charge of seeing.  I see the light through half-shut eyes.  I see in the half-light. I see the door shut behind him.  Love does not wash the dishes.  Love remembers how to boil water, how to add oil, how to stir the pot.  I am in charge of peeling the explosion from the ceiling, of returning what is missing to what has boiled over, of making a meal out of an abandoned kitchen.  There are children who eat here.  There are children who wear headlamps to avoid getting bruises.  When we all sit on the couch in the light and eat warm pasta we are full. 

making the most of my free time: or how i took all day to write two poems


My kiddos are still vacationing at nana’s spa & retreat. They return tomorrow, with nana! I had planned to spend all day writing poems to catch up with my napowrimo pledge. Various and sundry distractions (curse you, facebook, dumb dog, and kingdom of Crammond cats!) served to limit my productivity, but I did manage to write a 2nd poem. And who knows, there could be more…the day is young!

This poem was inspired by a prompt from Laura E. Davis’ blog.  In a random act of poem choosing, I opened It’s Not You It’s Me: The Poetry of Breakup, and found “The End of the Affair,” by the late Steve Orlen.  I (tried to) turn (most of) the words on their heads. I kind of like the new poem. I really love the prompt!

The Beginning of the Affair

They pick up their guns, back up, air kiss
for the first time, agree, as they will for a time,
to say hello, and enter the empty playground
by the same public entrance. No-one drives
away–on the same streets or on-purpose
opposite ones–suburban sidewalks
as indistinguishable as the feather-weight
of their first last embrace. His car lights left on.
Her car radio tuned to a different station.
Not one detail is perfectly arranged.
The sky clouds.  Thunder distorts their words.
Somebody’s voice. Hey you.
This is not me. I want to say goodbye.

Some god pulls their strings like puppets.
I knew you were going to say that,
he answers in sign language.
One hand reaches for his gun,
one hand makes the sign for love.

i speak for the trees


I have been lucky enough (when I am kid-free…which isn’t often) to take part in a writing workshop offered by Bernadette Mayer. One assignment was to write a poem substituting one theme/idea for something else. That is a poorly-described interpretation of the assignment, mind you. I was given a gorgeous, ancient guide to trees of the eastern and central united states and canada (c. 1946) to work from. Here, months later, is my attempt at that assignment.


The Lumberjack Plans His Wedding

He carries A Guide To Trees
in his great hands
like a bible,

begins on page one,
substitutes beautiful girl
for tree.

What is a bride?

To the forester she is a factory

producing the most good timber
in the least possible time
at the least possible expense.

He takes notes on her bark.

Plant a bride where you live,
in ten years you will become so attached
to the young oak
you won’t want to leave her.

His shovel is always at his side.

Once unwed women grew in forests—
reed-like and pliant,
saplings stealing the light
in some places so thick
men could hardly see the sun.

Then came the cry:
let daylight in the swamp.

A generation of pioneers felled
the great brides, burned their magnificent gowns
to get them out of the way.

That era is now past,
the wise botanist tells him,
and the lumberjack, almost a groom,
bends to praise his bride’s persistent stem.

napowrimo #3 (a day late)


Yesterday’s napowrimo.net prompt was an epithalamium. What ex-wife can resist the temptation to write one of these, I ask you? It’s a draft, I keep reminding myself. Just a draft. Like most everything in my life, it needs revision & re-organization. But the words are almost right, and the notion is there…

One thing I love about napowrimo, aside from forcing myself to write a poem every day, is that it falls during Easter time. I find the story of the crucifixion fascinating, in that I can not really, fully wrap my mind around killing someone so that someone else can live. On the other hand, that’s how my marriage felt. (oh goody…a poem prompt…)


 Too Late, the Ex-Wife Learns that April Marks the Beginning of Wedding Season

and she removes her mosquito net,
poor substitute for a veil.

When you are knee-deep in a clear pond,
trout buzzing at your feet
the best-case survival plan
is not wait for the sting

but cover your face.

She considers the wedding.
The preacher with
the sign of the fish
at his waist–
two intersecting arcs
like gold lips.

The groom with fists
balled, eyes dark as black flies.

The bride, a poor fisher of men,
refusing to hide her eyes,
leaving the veil in the vestibule.

When he reached for his new wife
it was like drawing in the net—
he the fisherman
she the good fish saved for gutting and frying.

napowrimo #2


Icarus Takes Off the Wings, Puts on a Skirt

You tell me I am flying too close to the sun.
I shake my feathers,
remind you
I am not flying
but fleeing
the burning house.

Embers cling to my toes,
men with rubber boots and hoses aim,
but no hero’s blast can reach me.
Someone puts out nets,

but I rise
like chimney smoke
and disappear.

Even without binoculars,
flocks of displaced songbirds can be spotted
racing from forests on fire
nests left behind,
and a clear pair of eyes
their only baggage.

Too late,
I realize you did not say
flying too close.

You said I am the sun.
You said Beware.

I watch wax drip from my bare shoulders,
prepare for a painful landing.