Book Launch 2 @ Lighthouse Writers

Thanks so much to everyone who came to my October 15 book launch at Book Bar! A few photos from it are above. I wish I had remembered to take that post-it off the book cover!

Since the October 15 event sold out (gasp!), I’m so happy to announce another reading and celebration at Lighthouse Writers on November 5. This one has a Zoom option! Register here.

Save the date for a book release!

Wow, I can’t even say how many times over the past decade I dreamed I would be able to announce this:

At long last, White Lung will be released by Saturnalia Books on October 15, 2021!

I’d love to have you join me to celebrate with a party and reading on October 15, 2021, at 7:00 PM MDT at Book Bar in Denver. This will be a real, live, in-person event! I’ll also stream the reading over Zoom for those who can’t or don’t want to join in person.

I’ll be scheduling other readings in the Denver area throughout the fall, as well as in the D.C. area and in North Carolina.

To the followers of this blog especially: thank you for your support, and for being of the path that led me to get this book out in the world.

Write and read with me this summer!

I have a few exciting announcements!

First, I’ll be teaching a seminar called Poetry and White Supremacy: Fighting Racism in Your Lyric Poems at Lighthouse Writers Workshop’s Lit Fest on Saturday, June 12, 2021.

Check out and register for my class here.

And I’ll be reading “at” Lighthouse on Saturday, June 5. Register here!

Next, in July 2021, I’ll lead a group of white readers who are ready to tackle Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad.

Check out the book here. If you want to join the group, email me by June 30, 2021.

As we read, write, and discuss, we’ll be following The Circle Way.

Here is the schedule:

Wednesday, July 7: Introduction and begin week one
(Readers independently complete week one July 7-13)

Wednesday, July 14: Discuss week one, begin week two
(Readers independently complete week two July 14-21)

July 21-28: Catch up, reflect, renew

Wednesday, July 28: Discuss week two, begin week three
(Readers independently complete week three July 28-August 4)

Wednesday, August 4: Discuss week three, begin week 4
Readers independently complete week 4 the week of August 4-11)

August 4-11: Catch up, reflect, renew

Wednesday, August 18: Discuss week 4, conclusion and looking ahead

Meetings will be held over Zoom. Participants will help choose a meeting time through a Doodle poll the week of June 30. If you want to join the group, email me by June 30, 2021!

Dog Park, January 20, 2021

Oh fellow Americans at the dog park,
we are united in our love of dogs

and our lack of fenced backyards,
and so we come together on this evening

in the 13th month of 2020 under the light
of a single street lamp and a half moon rising

to let our happy animals romp and woof
and chase each other and drink heartily

from shared bowls and attempt to hump
one another and get snapped at

and sometimes to bare teeth and growl and
sometimes to pee on deflated soccer balls

and to play tug of war with filthy rags,
while we the dog owners watch and chat

and exist as part of the masses, you a teacher,
you a truck driver, you a father, a geologist,

a musician, a student, a retired engineer, a retired
insurance agent, you unemployed, you laid off

since March, you with a complicated job
no one understands, you a regal lady

with, no joke, a tiny Cocker Spaniel
who wears a coat and watches from outside

the fence our pit bull mixes, our hounds
and retrievers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks,

German Shepherds, beagles and huskies,
our Goldendoodles, Corgis and terriers

gallop and roll in the dust. We become
in the darkness a single being,

dog and dirt and human, trampled grass.
Our voices one bark toward the sky.

Now What

I was pleased and honored to be invited to write a poem around the theme “Beyond the Voting Booth” for Anythink Libraries Civic Saturday. Writing a poem on this topic was beyond difficult; no one likes a preachy poet. In the end, I kept coming back to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, so eventually I invited Whitman’s words to thread through my own (less perfect) ones. His words are the italicized lines below. And I decided to add hyperlinks to each of my original lines; these links are meant not as an endorsement or final word on any subject, but are simply some of the links I visited while spending a week trying to get at the question, “what does it mean to be a citizen?”

In my story, I was a white woman asking now what?
This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals

What does it mean to be an American?
despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks

Loving our neighbors isn’t one of our founding tenants.
stand up for the stupid and crazy

Here I stayed silent when I should have spoken, here I spoke when I should have shut up.
devote your income and labor to others

My ancestors stole this land.
hate tyrants, argue not concerning God

I say yes to it.
have patience and indulgence toward the people

I let the shame of it sit till it lifts me out of it.
take off your hat to nothing known or unknown

I seek the stories of those different from me and those the same
go freely with powerful uneducated persons

to find that no one is the same as me and no one is different
and with the young, and with the mothers of families

I find out where my orange juice comes from.
re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book

I drink the 5-hour empathy.
and dismiss whatever insults your own soul

I remember it was love that made me.
I will accept nothing which all cannot have

And though the earth is burning under my feet,
All truths wait in all things

and the rivers have burst to flame,
every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you

the sunset behind the mountains
is a spool of gold unraveling.

Clear and sweet is my soul,
and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul

If we are driving west into darkness,
let us love each other while we travel.

On Louise Glück

Reading the news that Louise Glück won the Nobel Prize this morning was the first time in a long, long time that reading the news made me smile. I wish I had time to write a winding, beautiful tribute to her; she is one of my very favorite poets. But for now, here is a fragment.

Every October, I think of Glück’s long poem “October,” which begins the award-winning Averno. It was also published on its own as a chapbook. I once had a teacher (the wonderful Jim Seay) who forbid his college poetry students to write about “fall leaves” or “spring flowers” because writing about these changes of seasons, the death of fall, the birth in spring, often (or inevitably) leads to cliche. “October” shows us what a master can do when she writes about autumn. The poem’s first stanza unfolds in what feels like one astounding, long sentence:

Is it winter again, is it cold again,
didn’t Frank just slip on the ice,
didn’t he heal, weren’t the spring seeds planted

didn’t the night end,
didn’t the melting ice
flood the narrow gutters

wasn’t my body
rescued, wasn’t it safe

didn’t the scar form, invisible
above the injury

terror and cold,
didn’t they just end, wasn’t the back garden
harrowed and planted–

I remember how the earth felt, red and dense,
in stiff rows, weren’t the seeds planted,
didn’t vines climb the south wall

I can’t hear your voice
for the wind’s cries, whistling over the bare ground

I no longer care what sound it make

when I was silenced, when did it first seem
pointless to describe that sound

what it sounds like can’t change what it is–

didn’t the night end, wasn’t the earth
safe when it was planted

didn’t we plant the seeds,
weren’t we necessary to the earth,

the wines, were they harvested?

Every fall, her words echo in my brain: “Is it winter again, is it cold again, didn’t Frank just slip on the ice?” And from later in the poem: “This is the light of autumn, not the light of spring. / The light of autumn: you will not be spared.”

Damn. And later in that section:

You will not be spared, nor will what you love be spared.

Averno uses the myth of Persephone throughout the book; Persephone feels at times like the speaker, but she is also written about. One of my favorites is this almost laugh-aloud passage:

Persephone is having sex in hell.
Unlike the rest of us, she doesn’t know
what winter is, only that
she is what causes it.

What I love about “October” is what I love about much of Glück’s work: how it can weave the personal, the natural, the mythical, and the flat-out banal into poetry:

My friend the earth is bitter…

I think we must give up
turning to her for affirmation.


I was young here. Riding
the subway with my small book
as though to defend myself against

this same world:

you are not alone,
the poem said,
in the dark tunnel.

October, the dark tunnel in the darkest tunnel of years. Order the chapbook October here. And congratulations, Louise Glück.