In a weary world, why write?


 Reality has so 

good and bad 

you have to

shape it to

live in it. 


Penelope Scambly Schott

Answer to the question, "Why write?" in a conversation at The Wild Pleasures of Writing, a writing workshop in Parkdale, Oregon in September 2017.  





Who will save this town?

The examined life is

everyday reimagined.

What we cannot see is

the new normal, designed

for a more spirited drive.

When remaking change

keep it loose, be moved. 

Artifice is so unpretty.

Our most important mark

is this wild kingdom.  

— Drew Myron


Lost, found, reconfigured. When words don't flow, I dip into those already composed. This poem is created entirely from headlines and adlines in the latest The New York Times Style Magazine. I've added is and a when for transitional purposes. 

I like to play with words, and found poems reduce the pressure to write "good." Sometimes the path to good is a road near borrow (with attribution).

Want more? Check out these excellent visual found poems: 

Sarah J. Sloat - poems in the pages of Misery, a novel

Judy Kleinberg - cut-n-paste poems 

Mary Ruefle - a master of visual poetry

Austin Kleon - king of the blackout poem 


See some of my found poems: 

Instructions, exactly

Getting Lost

See Me






Not Thankful Thursday

It's Thursday. I should be thankful.

This is the one day each week (I can only muster one?) in which I gather up my gratitudes and express appreciation for people, places, things and more. 

But I'm not feeling generous. 

The West is on fire. The East is in floods. An old man is deporting children. And I haven't written a good poem in months. To say I'm cranky indicates a temporary state. Let's just give up the look-on-the-bright-side banter. 

For years I've believed wholly, deeply, not-quite-religiously in the power of positive thinking. What you focus on becomes. What you resist, persists. I really do believe that gratitude is a powerful and valuable way to pivot from despair to repair to release to rejoice. Sounds corny, I know. But the weekly pause for gratitude helps to counter my small self and petty complaints, along with all the big world aches that crush the spirit. Until now, when the big and small overwhelm my ability to "find the good."

Turns out, I'm not alone. Writer and comedian Liz Brown says she was saved by the Ingratitude List.  

"Gratitude lists didn't help me one bit. Writing them was a practice that drove me deeper into shame and self-loathing when I was already in a very dark place," she writes. "Gratitude lists imply that those of us who are in pain are choosing misery and just aren't working hard enough and that if we just think happy thoughts we'll float up above our problems like the kids in Peter Pan."

Ron Lubke, writing for the Dallas News, has been called "entertainingly grumpy" in his disdain for the gratitude list. Among the many things he's not thankful for are "bathroom stall talkers. I just want to play Yahtzee on my phone in peace." 

Today, I am thankful for my bathtub. That's all I got.


It's Not Thankful Thursday, how are you? 





Dear Readers, Writers, Thinkers, Feelers.

A name has been chosen (eyes closed, hand-picked) and the winner of the book giveaway is . . .  Lisa Carnochan! 

As always, thank you for reading this blog and taking the time to respond & interact. While we couldn't all win the drawing, I urge you to find, borrow, or buy this book. It's that good. 

Already read it? Consider these other books I've found helpful: 

A Bittersweet Season: Caring For Our Aging Parents — and Ourselves 
by Jane Gross

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gwande 

God's Hotel: A Doctor, A Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet

Bettyville: A Memoir by George Hodgman

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir by Roz Chast

 And now, your turn: What books on the topic — end-of-life, aging, slow medicine — do you recommend?  



Love that line! Win this book!

Dying is hard on the dying.

Death is hard on the living. 


Blending medical history with personal story, writer Katy Butler explores Slow Medicine — a new, yet ancient, way to embrace dying and death. She masterfully integrates a reporter’s skill with a daughter's love and a poet's heart to share the story of her parents' long illnesses and eventual deaths. 


Of course we don’t want to die. We don’t want to say goodbye to those we love. We certainly don’t want to be the one who says to a doctor, “Enough.” In this we are not alone. . . Perhaps if we find ways to make the pathway to natural death sacred and familiar again, we will recover the courage to face our deaths. If we don’t, technological medicine at the end of life will continue to collude with our fear and ignorance and profit from it. Unless we create new rites of passage to help prepare for death long before it comes, we will remain vulnerable to the commercial exploitation of our fears and to the implied promise that death can forever be postponed. 


In the last few years, by chance and later by pursuit, I've read many books in what is known as the "End of Life" genre. The most compelling I've found are Being Mortal and God's Hotel.

Published in 2013, Knocking on Heaven's Door is now at the top of my list. Written with such skill and heart, I'm baffled this book has not received the attention it deserves. But I'm grateful to have found a handbook that reflects my heart and hope. 

In fact, I like this book so much I'm giving it away! No tricks or gimmicks. Just provide your name and contact email in the comment section (for blog readers) or by email (for blog-by-email readers).

I'll close my eyes and draw one lucky name on Sunday, September 3, 2017.