Tuesday, April 23, 2013

See me reading online!

Event link

Come see four poets from around the United States share their poetry and thoughts with one another. Poets include Amber Nelson, Gina Myers, Jared White, and Greg Bem. This reading will last an hour. The Youtube link to the live stream will be posted here roughly five minutes before the Hangout reading begins.


Greg Bem is the author of Black Hole Revisited, a digital chapbook of Twitter poems, available for free at gregbem.com. He lives in Seattle where he co-hosts the Five Alarms Greenwood Crawls, the Breadline performance series, and the Seattle Poetry Panels (with Amber Nelson).

Amber Nelson edits alice blue review and alice blue books. She has several chapbooks available. Her first book, In Anima: Urgency is forthcoming from Coconut Books.

Jared White is the author of two chapbooks: YELLOWCAKE, published by Cannibal Books in 2009, and THIS IS WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE LOVED BY ME, just published by Bloof Books this March. A third chapbook, MY FORMER POLITICS, is forthcoming from H-NGM-N Books. His poems and essays have appeared in Harp & Altar, Sink Review, We Are So Happy To Know Something, among many other publications. With his wife Farrah Field, Jared is the owner of a small press bookstore, Berl's Brooklyn Poetry Shop, co-curator of an event series, Yardmeter Editions, and parent of a baby, Roman Field White.

Gina Myers is the author of Hold It Down (Coconut Books, 2013) and A Model Year (Coconut Books, 2009). Originally from Saginaw, MI, she now lives in Atlanta, GA where she is an editor for Coconut Magazine, a staff writer for Frontier Psychiatrist, and the book review editor of H_NGM_N.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Poem up at The Far Field

Kathleen Flenniken, Washington State Poet Laureate, asked me to send a poem (published or unpublished) to feature on her blog. I was happy to do so and she selected my piece "Unheeded as a Threshold Brook" (previously published in TAIGA A) to feature.

You can read it online here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I Wrote My First Yiddish Poem

Obviously I have only been taking yiddish a short while and my vocabulary is limited. And I can't make the hebrew alphabet on my computer. So... transliterated it is!


Iz doe lichtik in der friling

Iz doe lichtick en der friling. Es iz varem un lichtik. Ich loyf en der friling. Ich loyf en der zumer. Ich loyf tog un nacht. Ich loyf imer by barg un vald. Ich loyf en devkut un devekut krechts. Ich loyf fun fintster, yogt der lichtik, yogt friling un zumer. Ich loyf veit tsu davent en der lichtik. Ich loyf a gain haim.


There is light in the Spring.

There is light in the spring. It is warm and light. I run in the Spring. I run in the summer. I run day and night. I run always by hills and forest. I run in my unity with god, and my unity with god is caught in my throat. I run from the dark, chasing the light, chasing the Spring and Summer. I run far to pray in the light. I run to go home.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Kill Your Darlings-- an Interview with Katherine Baluta on Our Relationship to Things

I was recently approached, rather obtusely, about publishing interviews. And when I learned why, I was so excited. Katherine Baluta is a great friend of mine--she is an exceptional and generous person. I have been following her blog for a long time, and it always leads me to reflect on my own life, and my own relationship to things. And I think what she has to say is super relevant to everyone. Even now, as I write this, I know I have things that I should probably be parting with.

As a writer, it's also interesting to think about. I find myself thinking about the phrase "Kill your darlings"-- and how in writing, sometimes we do have to recognize that some things just don't belong. Some things don't fit. Sometimes, we don't need some things. It's never easy. But, it's important to see.

So read the interview. Read her blog. And deal with your stuff.

Dave Welsch is a software engineer, technical writer, and quality improvement analyst who reads a lot and who, like a battalion of keyboard-equipped chimps, occasionally writes something worth reading.

Katherine Baluta is a mutual friend who has spent many years working as a professional organizer and housekeeper. She is writing a book based on her experience that explores our relationship to our possessions: Our attachment to them, how to let go of them, and how they're often a proxy for underlying issues. She also discusses these things on her blog, Melancholy Hammer http://melancholyhammer.blogspot.com/. She is lately inspired by the work of Clare Cooper Marcus (http://www.pps.org/reference/ccmarcus/), especially her book "House As a Mirror of Self: Exploring the Deeper Meaning of Home".

On April 7th and 8th, 2013, I [Dave] interviewed Katherine for a leadership course I'm taking at the University of Colorado, Boulder (disclosure: some of the questions I ask were suggestions from the assignment description). Following is an edited transcript of the interview with Katherine, conducted via email and in person on 4/7 and 4/8/2013.

What's your favorite part of what you do now?  And Why?

I love the satisfaction of hearing I've been part of the solution to a problem. I really enjoy discussing the problem and looking for some creative solutions, ones that mean something to the individual client, ways to integrate something as ordinary as housecleaning or downsizing into a greater good (mental health).

What gives you the greatest satisfaction?

When people say they *feel better* after I've been there. Especially if they mention their house feels more like the home they wanted.

So is it solving a problem that gives you satisfaction? Helping people? Something else about this process?

Feeling like I've been a catalyst. I don't expect the job is finished; it's a process. I hope I've given them the tools to continue the process. I feel like the sheriff in town--I've restored order; get in, get out.

It's satisfying to work on the same problem over and over but it's always different. Two identical houses with the same stuff will have be completely different because people are attached to different things.

I consider it a learning experience for both of us. Every house is its own course. Trust, respect. I'm seeing everything from their tax documents to their sex toys. There are not a lot of things hidden, and I feel that trust palpably. I get a lot of pride from that.
Tell me something you're proud of.  What is one of your most meaningful successes?

I once worked with a real hoarder, someone whose house would have been condemned if a health official had come in to see it. I got it to a state where social services could be called without any risk that the person would lose their home or other horrific negative consequences. I felt heroic – exhausted and like I never wanted to do anything so awful again, but it was a great way to test my limits.

You mention heroism--is that the source of your pride in this? What does testing you limits have to do with it? Can you elaborate on how/why you're proud of this?

I probably should not have taken that job. There were vermin, pests, mentally ill people. It was way over my head, and I rose to the occasion; I didn't know what else to do. I'm proud that I stuck to it. I felt strongly that I couldn't abandon them. It was the beginning for me of thinking "How could this have been prevented?" How could I prevent this from happening to anyone else I love?

I'm proud that I have applied all this research to myself. It's ongoing and very difficult. I'm very conscious of not feeling superior to the people I work for; this could happen to anyone at any time. My compassion has to be there or I should not be there. If I'm not engaged in an authentic way I shouldn't be there. I've turned down jobs [for that reason].

I'm proud that I've figured out a way to do this in the future that will provide me a good living.

What would you choose to do if you didn't have to work for a living?  Why?

I would tend a small house on a medium size property, landscaping the whole thing with food and flowers and a few chickens or ducks, trade the fresh food and flowers for non-food items, and donate the rest of the flowers to various social services and the food to food pantries.

Do you envision living "off the grid", or just a more sustainable life? Or is there another motivation here?

I'd like it to be a semi-urban location. So not necessarily off the grid. I would put in solar panels, that sort of thing.

I would live simply. Just enjoy the growth and cycle of a garden. Getting back to community which is most important to me. We don't stop to assimilate things, we just suck them in. I would devote myself to homesteading. I love to provide my friends with flowers and fresh food.

When do you feel at your best?  Like you're doing what you're meant to do?

When I'm talking about stuff to someone and they're telling me the stories of various objects (and letting go of some of them after we honor the story).

So you feel at your best when you're interacting with someone in a particular way. Can you elaborate on the idea of honoring the story of an object? That's interesting. What's it about for you?

I think it's handy not to just concentrate on getting rid of things but to make wish lists as you go along. "I have this [particular object] because it has a story, but [given the choice] I would  prefer a different one." People desire to share. The stories get stuck in the objects, they don't move.

So it's like the model of emotions as a call to action, and they get stuck if not acted upon?

Yeah. Say there were six different coffee cups and I ask "Do you want these six or would you rather have a matched set?" And I might get an angry response like "I used to have a matched set but my ex broke them." They're stuck. We don't have time for this. So you pay me to come listen, which seems awful, but I try to make it a valuable experience. People will tell you they have no emotional attachment to a thing, but they have an emotional attachment to something associated with it.

What would you do more of if you could?  Why?

Write out the stories of objects, and of people who shared them with me; do more talking and less lugging. Talk about how it feels to have a home, what home means, where we feel most at home, where we go when we "go home."

Why would you talk about these things? Most people would answer this "if you could" question with something they "don't have time to do". Is that the case for you?

Chaz [a mutual friend who's a writer] and I were exchanging anecdotes last night. I feel so full of these kind of stories; how can it be that I'm not writing more?

It's fascinating to me why people have the things they do. Everyone is so unique. It makes people animated to talk about things they think of as theirs. You get a glimpse of their interior world.

What is it about seeing "inside" people that's appealing?

I'm so tired of the ugliness of the world. You get to see the best of people. Sometimes you see the worst. It's kind of like being a bartender and talking to people. You only get their version, but you get the truth, too.

So the truth restores your faith in humanity?

A lot, yes! Because I read the news and I just hate people. They're so mean, so awful. They're just nasty monkeys being cruel to each other. [That's not present in] the everydayness of objects that are used and loved. Not the most beautiful, but the things that have become familiar. The squeak of my grandfather's coffee grinder.

What part do you like least?  Why?

Lugging stuff, doing menial housework. It's exhausting and my hands and back hurt, and I feel like anyone could do my job. Sometimes I can jolly myself into a Zen state, but not very often.

I can understand that. This part of your job has little satisfaction for you.

Right now because I need the money, mostly I'm just a housekeeper. I'm concentrating on writing the book and going to school. I go clean other peoples' houses because I need the money, but I'm so glad there's an end to it. That's not worth it to me.

Even though I'm exhausted I'm able to do mental work. I can do a lot of thinking while I'm scrubbing a toilet. It would be much more in my interest to be sitting behind a desk rather than poisoning myself and risking an accident.

And I do feel tired of being a housekeeper. I do feel that [economic and social] competition; it's there. People who don't know me say "Oh, you're a housekeeper." Having been an academic it's a little thorn in my side.

Who are your role models?  What is it about them?

My friend Karen Majewski was a librarian at a Polish institution who became a long-term Mayor of a small disadvantaged city in Michigan. She still works as a librarian, but her humanitarian work and political work affect thousands of people; she's been involved in policymaking that changed the world! She married her long term partner (acclaimed comic book artist Matt Feazell) when they both turned 50. They own one of the most beautiful, eclectic homes I've ever had the pleasure to stay in. She has style, grace, the power of her convictions – she embraces her idiosyncrasies, she isn't ashamed of her paradoxes.

Her hobbies such as photography, history, Polish studies, vintage collections, and folk dancing add character and fun to her life's work. As she's aging she only becomes more interesting and beautiful. I haven't even seen her in person in years, and I still feel proud and excited to see her name in print or read her posts. I am inspired by her idealism and by her practical nature, by how she applied what she knew to a whole new field and flourished - and hope to apply mine as effectively in my future endeavors, even though I probably won't go into politics.

She sounds great. Any other role models?

I guess I admire Laurie Anderson for a similar reason. She never let anyone pigeonhole her. She changes through time. She's always been vaguely political and wry. Her work addresses human problems.

Henry Rollins is the same type of role model for males, yes?

Yes! What I admire about them is we're taught to be so helpless, and what they do is address things very personally, like "That's baloney, I can write this song about it, I can do something about it." Instead of saying what we can't do they're saying "What can we do?"  You can walk away from almost anything. You can make choices even when you're in prison. What you're going to think about. Even when we're desperately ill and dying, we still have tons of choices.

... I was making choices that weren't getting me closer to my goals ... I want to go somewhere I'm not worrying about money. I don't need to be wealthy, but I need to go to school. I'm told I could hang my shingle out now, but I feel I'd like to do some hard-core studying without worrying about paying my bills. I'm constantly worrying. I'd like the credentials for me. Credibility is good, but [the degree] is for me. And I'm impressed by doctors and those initials after the name, I think it inspires confidence. When you're feeling hurt and worried, anything that will help you relax and feel confident in your choices ...

Is education important to you?

I can educate myself; I'm doing it all time. Trying to be a better listener--that's an education in itself. Trying to be more articulate so that I say what I mean. I thinks that's a kind of academic honesty to see that your critical thinking skills are always engaged. I've never felt like a sham. That's very important to me. I never felt I was misrepresenting myself.

What do you want to do in the future?  What type of assignments would help you move toward fulfilling your goals?

I want to get my degree in Psychology and really start applying some of the research I've been doing, the informal data I've been gathering, to a career where I'm not physically active in the workplace. I want to conserve my physical strength for leisure; I find I'm less able to do the things I enjoy on the evenings and weekends because I'm just too tired from working during the week. I would like to maintain the level of enthusiasm I feel when I'm really making headway with someone I am working with, when she gets caught up in the excitement and the magic of changing her physical surroundings to reflect who she is and who she wants to be rather than the museum of who she once was.  I'd like the physical time to be able to write down what I discovered in a day, rather than trying to carve out a moment here and there and the story not being so fresh or my energy too low to get the insight in. I would like to find myself an office job that gave me enough money/benefits that I could quit the housekeeping and go back to school in the evenings. I'm working on that now.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

You can pre-order my book!

HERE.  In Anima: Urgency

Plus, you can do it as a subscription with other wonderful poets: Gina Myers, Nick Strum & Wendy Xu, and Serena Chopra.

It's the spring, and everything is shiny and beautiful out.