Tuesday, March 31, 2015

On Sharing Process and Work-in-Progress

In many ways, “share” has become the default verb for how we put material, ideas, or images online. On Facebook, if you click “share,” you will duplicate and repost another person’s post.

When we use “share” to describe information, we are divulging, disclosing, or confiding. “I want to share this news with you,” we might say, or “I’m not sharing this with everyone yet.”

When we apply “share” to the material, to food or toys, for instance, we usually mean “to give some/half to someone else” or “to divide equally.” There’s Share Bear, the Care Bear whose stomach had an image of an ice cream float with two straws in it. Let’s both have some of this together, at the same time.

Even in this digital space, I want to borrow more from Share Bear’s definition. Sometimes, people ask me if it’s odd to share my work-in-progress, to share creative work that’s unfinished. I’ve realized that I don’t do that, exactly (except for maybe in my process videos). Rather, I share the first version of a finished draft.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Beautiful, Legible, Joyful: Calligrapher Martin Jackson

In addition to being a gifted, experienced calligrapher, Martin Jackson is ridiculously effervescent and charming and joyful. “We should try to make our letters dance,” he explains, and absolutely, he does.

Stop whatever you are doing and enjoy his talk at Creative Mornings. He does some live calligraphy, and it’s just beautiful to watch the letters blooming under his fingers. I so admire his playfulness and deep love of his craft!

I have notoriously horrendous handwriting (it’s always a joke to my friends, family, and students—they get the worst of it!), but I certainly appreciate the art and value of language contained by the human hand. This week, maybe I’ll even try to do some writing longhand. It won’t be pretty, but it might be useful.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Current Obsession: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Nope. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is not that kind of movie.

Well…it is just a little. But the Girl is a vampire. And it takes place in Iran. And she skateboards. And has great taste in music. And is such a badass…

Such a fabulously feminist, quirky, beautiful film. Director Ana Lily Amirpour is fascinating. In this interview, she says, “A film is like a dream. It’s the opportunity to work inside of a dream. A film is really a place of the mind.” Her movie has absolutely returned to haunt me, in the best way possible, throughout the last week.

What's playing the part of your muse this week?


Thursday, March 26, 2015


"Temple of Dendur, papyrus and wishing well, The Met," 2015, by Paul Metrinko


Head out on foot Be unburdened
by key or car Leave all of the house
inside of the house If you slither inside
the locks they can rotate their innards
May we never forget the flame
that we stuck into the candle
May we never set our houses on fire
May we never let the cats get out to starve
or freeze May no strangers pass through
this door to do us harm

Now that that’s out of the way
perhaps we can leave in one effortless motion
out into the air which is not threatened by us

[Image above by Paul Metrinko]

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Poetry Prescription from Tracey Cleantis

When The Next Happy: Let Go of the Life You Planned and Find a New Way Forward arrived in my mailbox, I shrieked with glee, and then teared up a little. I’ve known the author, Tracey Cleantis, from blogland since the earliest days of The Storialist. Some of you may know her column, “Freudian Sip” (at Psychology Today) or her former blog, La Belette Rouge.

In all of Tracey’s work, she writes about meaningful concepts and experiences in a voice that is warm, inviting, authentic, and wise. (This is exactly who she is as a person and friend—someone who is caring, truthful, funny, and so damn smart!)

This book is no exception. In The Next Happy, she gives beautiful and real advice for helping others discover and create joy in their lives. I love how she prompts self-reflection, asking readers to look at and question what we so desperately want. Her perspective is so refreshing and helpful—she advises for us to run away from potentially hurtful adages like “Never give up on your dreams” and “If you want it bad enough, it’ll happen,” and to instead, be thoughtful and honest in our own evaluation of the goals we’re pursuing. If you’re feeling stuck, drained, or would like a little more insight into why you’re doing what you’re doing, this is the book for you!

In the book (and in her practice as a therapist), Tracey makes recommendations of books, movies, and poems that she thinks could benefit clients and readers. Tracey has graciously prescribed three poems for us here--you can enjoy them below, along with her thoughts on each!

Tracey says: In The Next Happy I teach people what to expect when they are grieving and the absolute importance of making room for whatever feelings that arise. We should not reject these feelings, but should make space for all of them, the good, the bad, and the unwelcome---all the while knowing that this joy, meanness, envy, sadness, fear will not stay forever. This is a poem that therapists everywhere love. Truly, I almost feel like this poem is as important to have for therapists as the DSM-V. This poem instructs, "Don't push feelings away; welcome them and learn from them.” 

The Guest House
Jalal al-Din Rumi (translation by Coleman Barks)

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

In Every Closeness a Pushing Out to the Edge

"Branch, branch, creek," 2004, by Heather Smith Jones

In Every Closeness a Pushing Out to the Edge

If you miss a place take up its map
and let your finger dawdle along streets
and blue streets of rivers

This is not completely dissimilar from visiting

in the way that oh
going to library approximates some fragment
of what it is to read a book

[Image above by Heather Smith Jones]

Monday, March 23, 2015


from "Private Sacred Place," 2009, Lee Jeong Lok


Windshield wipers clearing a half moon
for you to look through a cuticle moon
in the rain Bringing you the moon here
to say you will be fine

Where there is water you can still be dry

The fact that this isn’t a miracle
is a miracle

Later in my dream I write these words
for a friend’s wedding

Sometimes you are the ocean
and sometimes you are the person
in it and love depends on if you
can trade spots

When the water comes for us all
Beloved you are there and I am over here

but between us is a leash

[Image above by Lee Jeong Lok]

Friday, March 20, 2015

Bookmarks List/Bedside Table

Currently reading and enjoying:
  • Authority, book number two of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy. Shades of Watership Down, Lost, and The Bourne Identity—perhaps even better than the first. The third book, Acceptance, is already on my shelf…
  • The Next Happy: Let Go of the Life You Planned and Find a New Way Forward by the wonderful Tracey Cleantis! Tracey and I have known each other through blogging for quite some time; I am thrilled about her amazing book. More on this soon…
  • These poems by Ivy Alvarez in Entropy Magazine.
  • This excellent illustrated essay (essay-in-comics? Just comic?) about color and racism in cartoons, “Lighten Up,” by Ronald Wimberley.

And you, friends?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Bower Quiet

Painting by Paige Jiyoung Moon

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

-John Keats, from "Book I" of Endymion

You might have noticed that this site has undergone a few changes. I’ve been asking myself, what is this site? I often think about the idea of the site as a place (that’s what a “site” is, isn’t it?).

More important to me than writing and posting a poem of my own every day is the idea that this site provides access (for me, and hopefully, for others) to inspiration. My writing practice is not only about completing work—it’s also about seeing in a more open way. Writing and looking at art is about training myself to be more attentive and empathetic.

It’s about a letting go of the self, in some ways…a letting in of the world, of others, of the other.

Toward that goal of letting you in, you’ll be seeing new kinds of posts here. There will still be poems, of course, though perhaps not every weekday. There will hopefully be more of that which provides access to inspiration. Maybe we can share muses.

Today I thought I’d share a piece or two of art that moves (and amuses and intrigues!) me, in the hopes that it moves you.

Let us now adjourn to those sites of stillness and joy within ourselves, shall we, escorted by those alpacas in Paige Jiyoung Moon’s paintings.

Painting by Paige Jiyoung Moon

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Another Life

"Original Collage," 2015, Mary Jo Hoffman

Another Life

And where your skin has been stretched
thin this is an occasion to love you more

says the light to what it permeates
I puppet the light to help me hear it

Whenever I see a notch in the reptilian skin
of the tree pooling into the ground I see

the perfect place to call home if you were
a chipmunk If the tree were less blemished

fewer animals could survive within it
How did the word blemish arise Was there

ever a sound untouched thing Smooth and
intact The golden curved cheek or lip

lustrous under a Flemish painter’s hand
Nowhere on this earth is there a creature

an object a speck a cell without flaw for
it is existence that damages us into being

[Image above by Mary Jo Hoffman]

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


"Ten Weeks by the Sea (Recollection of Parallel Intervals)," 2014, Mikko Rikala


I forbid you from talking of weather
Let us rid ourselves of skin within temperature
mood within flesh husk

Let us scoop out with a rough spoon
from our language
what day it is
what time alights on us and sparrows past

We will disseminate all encyclopedias
all bus timetables and maps
They must lose their modesty for our sake

If we could say
what we wanted to say
how would that sound

[Image above by Mikko Rikala]

Monday, March 16, 2015

Parts Per Minute

Untitled, Rome, 1960 by Cy Twombly

Parts Per Minute

Here there were flowers and here there was a path
and the cadence of the people carrying themselves
along the pavement informed the way they spoke

how many words rationed out per minute
per street

In turn the town became a place where daylight
meant voices to tie the objects to stories
to help plants wrap arms around the softened ground
to put buildings down decisively

And in the night when there were quiet voices
the town would let them turn around and settle
within their individual darkness like dogs circling
to locate sleep

[Image above by Cy Twombly. View more of Twombly's work here.]

Friday, March 13, 2015

On Spring Break and Being Present

"Toward an Unknown Mountain," Clive Powsey

Recently, a friend and I were talking about poetry readings, and what makes for a strong reading. The thing I’m always craving when someone reads their work is to see that they are present—that they are here, with us, bringing their words to life in the space between us and them. It’s harder to do than it seems, I think. It’s easy to allow ourselves to get distracted or to switch into autopilot, especially if we feel nervous. (This is true of life in general, isn’t it?)

When I read my poems out loud, before I begin, I imagine poking myself in the shoulder and saying “WAKE UP! Are you here? Be here!” I look at people in the audience. If there’s natural light coming in from the windows, I look at how it already looks different than when I entered the reading. I feel the paper between my fingers. I change the order of poems as I read. I share something brand new that I feel a little scared of. I want to keep myself on my toes.

I value this quality of being present so much in others. I love people who are alive to their surroundings. This is a mood-altering quality, isn’t it? I think about the driver, Luke, on the route I used to take in college. He was notoriously cheerful and zany, yelling faux-siren sounds out the window while rushing through a yellow light (“WEEEEEOOOOOO WEEEEOOOO!!”), laughing uproariously, and greeting every person like he knew them. I remember that when stopped at red lights in the freezing winter, he would sometimes open the bus door, letting the heat out over the shivering pedestrians, and shouting, “FREE HOT AIR!!”

Sometimes I play games with consciousness (my philosophy minor is showing). Being present, seeing a moment (from the inside) happen as it happens—this is a game, in some ways. One morning this week, I was stuck in an awful traffic jam on my way to teach. I stared at the time going past, minute by minute, but for some reason, I didn’t care. I knew I was running late, but I had no alternative. I realized that I had Paul Simon’s Graceland in glove box, and popped that in. Somehow, I was suddenly having FUN.

It made me wonder…how much of the stress we feel is somehow self-imposed?

It’s a hectic time in the semester, but blissfully, it’s spring break at one of the schools where I teach next week. The relief in the room was palpable as class let out yesterday, out into the March air which has thankfully turned mild.

In just the last few days, the snow has evaporated. I saw a patch of white in the park yesterday, and I looked at it, trying to identify it (poodle hair? paper?). I realized it was a tiny patch of what had (only days before) been stubbornly piled up there, loitering.

This weekend, I will try to extricate myself from the piles of busy-ness. I will switch the autopilot firmly off. I will play a game called “be here now” and see every place where there is no longer snow.

And I wish the same for you.

[Image above by Clive Powsey. View more of his work here.]

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Not Very Hungry

"Rim-Drift," 2014, by Elizabeth Gilfilen

Not Very Hungry

Rocky outcropping you are
the bright twin of the cave

Your mind wants to clamber over all places
to own these places

You want to eat but feel no hunger
Cave can wait until it is right

The cave she dreams and swoons
over images she invents

She tosses them out into the dark
like sonar She can hear the world’s clock

[Image above by Elizabeth Gilfilen. View more of Gilfilen's work here.]

Tuesday, March 10, 2015



What gives you the ability to maneuver your body
over the dirt

What garb have you found in this slippery room
How did your hands pluck it from the slimy weeds
and moss

When you stomp the boot of your foot
I know you mean stillness

Together let us kick away the last of the ice
that dares to slick the brick

Weather will lick us Its ice cream cone
Every minute we are the going away sweetness

so whatever power has brought your body here
to me
I bow before it

Monday, March 9, 2015



If the song will let you crawl inside its mouth
and down its throat

you can find the place where the words trickle and form

You will come upon the stalactite that they fall from
These are not tears

These are not exactly secrets

inside of the song
but the clutched particles of true things that
because they cannot be spoken

alter the voice into song

Friday, March 6, 2015

Bookmarks List/Bedside Table

Currently reading and enjoying:
How about you, friends? What are you reading?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

All Ears

All Ears

The hanging around snow won’t let itself
be kicked out of the party

and in the tumbling rain becoming cactus barbs

the sharp, clear voice of a bird
pissed off but singing

Even the garbage truck’s cough won’t drown it out

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Waiting Place

Waiting Place

The waiting place is sacred
because here there is only a stillness-until

You can opt not to move
or you can pace along the perimeter

but let the land help you

Let it push up into your mind
as a foot pushed down into sand

Your name will be said loudly into a room
Your train will show itself
The dusk will take one big step toward you
without asking

The future will become what happens to you
now but until then you can let the time out of the room
and hand over what you need

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Let’s Just Say

Let’s Just Say

All meaning derives from earth

the name for dirt and for our shared house

and science is a metaphor for truth

as every metaphor is a metaphor for
the boundary of a body being breached
to let in what allows it to live

If someone asked me to point up or down
to indicate where there was more

some days I would point down
to the old old ankles of a big tree

and others I would gesture up and out

and know we are a sandwich on a plate

Is there more in this world
eaten or uneaten

Monday, March 2, 2015

Old Light

Old Light

The same light in three places
at once

the window the other window the floor

which shows
how generous it is with itself

and then the glossy back of the cat
settling into this puddle of light

I take it back
the same light in all places at once

even before I became a person

even after the generation not yet generated
further clutters these warm acres
The Storialist. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.