* Robert Hayden & the friday influence

Those Winter Sundays – Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early

and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,

then with cracked hands that ached

from labor in the weekday weather made

banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.


I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.

When the rooms were warm, he’d call,

and slowly I would rise and dress,

fearing the chronic angers of that house,


Speaking indifferently to him,

who had driven out the cold

and polished my good shoes as well.

What did I know, what did I know

of love’s austere and lonely offices?


This week on the Influence – Robert Hayden!

*the man*
*the man*

This poem gets a lot of love – on the internet, in anthologies, in classes – and deserves every bit of it.

I opened up my reading this past Tuesday with this poem, reciting it from memory.  It is one of those poems I’ve carried close to me for years now.  The poem never stops teaching me something.

Here’s what I said about it at the reading:

This poem opened up a lot of doors for me.  It is a poem of presence: blue black cold – splintering breaking – there is presence in the very sounds!  But the poem ends with that question – What did I know, what did I know… and that question comes from a place of absence.  The origins for my book The Wall started from a similar absence, from not knowing my father at all growing up because he died when I was six and spent most of those last years in prison.  The poems start from absence – like a blank page, and the poems fill it up.

This week was a big week for me – I don’t get them often.

Thank you to everyone who was a part of it.

See you next Friday!


p.s. A little more love for Hayden from the Poetry Foundation can be found here.

* update: the reading

Happy to report that the Windfall Reading last night was a great success!

The evening started off with Tim Volem introducing Eliot Treichel who read from his collection of short stories, Close Is Fine (Ooligan Press).  He read “The Golden Torch”, the last in the collection, a story about the trials and tribulations between father and son.

More about Eliot can be found here.

Anita Sullivan, poet and editor of Airlie Press, then gave me a generous and warm introduction, after which I proceeded to go through poems from The Wall with their own take on the trials and tribulations between father and son.

There was a theme.  Sort of.

Want to take a listen?  Go here.

Here’s me kicking the poetry jams:


All in all, the night went well.  Thank you to all who came.

A special thanks again to Anita Sullivan for a great introduction.  More about Anita’s work can be found here.

ALSO: please note the new tab above for Audio – there are links to both the KLCC radio interview from Monday (Thank you to Eric Alan and Michael Canning!) as well as to last night’s reading.

See you Friday!


* on poetry readings

If poems are children, poetry readings are PTA meetings. 

— Vera Pavlova

PTA welcome

You don’t go to poetry readings for the poetry.

Mind you, this isn’t a remark from a cynic, far from it.

I am a believer in the poetry reading, both its flaws and magic.

From the rambling what should I read next talk to the front row while shuffling papers folks to the stand-up-comedy folks who make an open mic a little bit more bearable (when they’re funny).

From the rhyming love poems about a fickle ex that will charm a smile out of you if you let them to the angsty, blood-dripping love poems about a fickle ex that will make you go back to your angsty teenage self and give them a hug.

From the slam poets who do it right and fill the room up with duende ala Buddy Wakefield, Roger Bonair-Agard, and Patricia Smith (the latter of which I heard about word of mouth at poetry slams for years before the rest of the poetry world caught up with her!), to the would-be slam poets who rant, cuss, and flail to no avail.

(sidenote: if I hear another variation of the line “eyes have eyelids to close/but ears don’t have earlids/so they can always hear” I will consider the trope public domain).

From the poets who preface their poems with stories more compelling than the poems themselves to the mumblemumblemumblemumblemumblethankyou poets.

You don’t go to poetry readings for the poetry – you go to see people try.


fiction writer Eliot Treichel, and poet José Angél Araguz. 

Tuesday, February 19, 5:30, Eugene Public Library–Free!

Eliot Treichel

    José Angél Araguz


I have read my poetry in front of people for thirteen years now – which means I’ve gotten up and tried for thirteen years.

As I have previously mentioned, I count age 17 as the first year of my taking writing seriously, seeing as it is the year where I first typed up poems of mine, submitted them, and got them published.  I realize now that I forget to factor in my first open mic readings and poetry slams into that year.

In the time since that first year, I have slammed, ranted, shuffled papers, told compelling stories, worn army fatigues and a sari (not on the same night!), and, occasionally, done a good job of reading a poem.  I have also hosted several open mics – from my days with the Student Writer’s Association (SWA!) at the College of Santa Fe to monthly open mics at Del Mar College where I taught.

The best thing about readings is afterwards, when people go up to the poet and recite a line they really liked, that caught on them like an electric burr on the air of the evening.

On those nights, the poet can say they tried, and did well.

Next Tuesday, come see me try!


p.s. Just confirmed that Eliot and I will be doing a radio interview Monday afternoon on the local station KLCC!  Mas details later!

* Eugene Gloria & the friday influence

This week on the Influence: Eugene Gloria!

I have only recently become acquainted with Gloria’s work through his second collection, Hoodlum Birds.  Through the collection, he displays an ease and elegance with the line that is both admirable and engaging.

In the poem below, I’d like to point out two dynamic parts (among others) to watch out for while reading.

First, there’s what the word hat does in the fourth stanza, how it embodies a sense of loss, its suddenness and its power to shake us from the day to day.

Second, these lines from the penultimate stanza:

Fugitive as watercolor, 
the short walk to my maple trees dials light.

These two lines could be a poem on their own.  I pored over them when I first read them, engaged with just what the words were doing, what they evoked inside me.  How light can change subtly in even the shortest of walks – having the eye to notice that and then to put it into words is a gift.

More info on Eugene Gloria’s work can be found here.

check out them maples...
check out them maples…

Suddenly October * – Eugene Gloria

His wife had died from cancer. 
There weren’t enough details, 
only this reason to wear a dark shirt.

In February, you would’ve found him, 
hunchbacked, finishing nothing, 
warming his hands over a meager fire.

Then in March, 
pruning the vineyards. By September, 
making wine.

In my dream, I see him as my autumnal
father with a gray fedora, doing his chores, 
and then a big wind comes and steals away his hat.

The world is vast, 
more boundless than all that birds inhabit. 
It is a graspable earth where larks imply the sky

entire cities of breaths and vistas. 
Fugitive as watercolor, 
the short walk to my maple trees dials light.

What is October but the smell of bonfire smoke, 
when fathers leave and carry with them 
their scent of mild decay.


Happy scenting!


* previously published in Prairie Schooner & Gloria’s second collection, Hoodlum Birds.

** photo found here.

* some words from Ram Dass & the friday influence

This week on the Influence: some words from world renown American spiritual teacher Ram Dass!

But first, a confession: there isn’t much that I read – be it novels, essays, cereal boxes, texts, etc. – that doesn’t get filtered through my how-does-can-this-relate-to-poetry filter.  I read everything with eyes looking for a symbol, a metaphor, or simply a set of words that captivates.  I end up thinking (and saying) some goofy things but ultimately I am kept engaged and interested.

I say this as preface to today’s post in order to make it clear that I am no expert on the works of Ram Dass or meditation – I have simply read through his book on mediation, Journey of Awakening, and found in it many things that relate to poetry.  Or at least my sense of it.

Dude, c'mon: there'll be chicken wings!
Dude, c’mon: there’ll be chicken wings!

In his book, Ram Dass exhibits a great gift for sampling works from various cultures and beliefs.  W.H. Auden once said that a sign of a writer’s strength as an essayist isn’t what he says but what he quotes.  In this spirit, Ram Dass rocks.  Case in point:

There is a story that as God and Satan were walking down the street one day, the Lord bent down and picked something up.  He gazed at it glowing radiantly in His hand.  Satan, curious, asked: “What’s that?”  “This,” answered the Lord, “is Truth.”  “Here,” replied Satan as he reached for it, “let me have that – I’ll organize it for you.”

I read the above as a parable on poetry workshops as I have experienced them at times.  There are at times two kinds of readers in a group: one willing to be astonished in their consideration of the words before them, and another who feels compelled to say something, to fix, to organize.

Ultimately, both kinds of readers, like the ideas of good and evil, help make the world go ’round.

Here are two more:

If you do not get it from yourself

Where will you go for it?

(Zenrin, The Gospel According to Zen)

It is all an open secret
(Ramana Maharshi)


I see the last two quotes as having to do with generating work: the first, an idea Philip Levine shared once: It won’t get written if you don’t write it.  The second, how inspiration is seemingly endless while at the same time being impossible at times to get at – but once you tap into it, that thrill, like learning a secret if only for a moment, a few lines.


Happy secrets!