with Tobi Harper, Molly Frances Wingland, Maureen Alsop, Alexis Vergalla, Lauren K Alleyne, Katie Manning and Cindy Rinne.
with Tobi Harper, Molly Frances Wingland, Maureen Alsop, Alexis Vergalla, Lauren K Alleyne, Katie Manning and Cindy Rinne.

AWP. AWP. What to say about AWP? It leaves us all spinning. If you haven’t left a piece of you sanity in the assigned city, you haven’t really been to AWP. This year I left crazy umbrellas wherever I could. In retrospect, I wished I had brought more umbrellas, more poetry. It is always an issue of more with AWP. 30 umbrellas are swallowed quickly by 10,000 writers. Being swallowed is a good way to describe AWP.

 photo 1

This year I convinced a few of my writing students (the very talented Trish Donahueto and Andrea Thamm) to attend. They fought with themselves over time and money spent—it’s just a conference, they objected when I described the whirl of energy, lack of sleep, and the effect that three miles of books has on a word lover. Eventually they resigned to go (maybe just to shush me up for a moment). I was delighted when we eventually crossed paths. They could no longer blink. You tried to tell us, they said. Yes, I can try but there is no way to describe what it is about this event that allows for—I am going to say it—transformation.

 photo 2-3 photo 3-1

The transformation is never expected; in fact the best way to attend AWP is with zero expectations. It is never the same; what you hate one year you may love the next. Some people walk away with the full recognition that life is larger than words. Some fade deeper into the folds of imagination. All is good, even if it feels like hell.

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In our own AWP troupe there was a trip to the E.R. due to exhaustion. I heard feet where broken on the giant escaladers and I witnessed several first time attendees break into spontaneous tears. Had I not been saved by Jason Cook and Maggie Hess (with their magical cup of coffee and hot crêpes) I may have entirely lost my mind in Seattle. I wish I was joking. No. This is no joke. This is AWP. But it’s not. Not really. I mean, it’s just a conference. Right?

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Okay, it’s a conference. But I don’t know of any other conference where a person’s ethics, desires, and ideas (/ bodies) are pushed to a breaking point. If you’re lucky, this four day conference strips you to your most primal self. It gives you permission to be what you want—a writer. Even more profound, it reveals who you are—the reason you write. Such epiphanies are not easy to weather.

photo 2
I find it extremely important to keep your friends close when traveling in the storms of desire. I love my Red Hen Press / LAR Family. I love the Pie Bar and karaoke nights; I love feeling like a posse of book slingers. I am extremely proud of Kate Gale, whose new book The Goldilocks Zone launched at this year’s AWP.

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I was also proud of my URC family. My UCR sister Alexis Vergalla organized a reading on a glass bottom boat that included a city race. (What?) Yes. So good. photo 3-2In an ideal world, we would all return home with three solid days to dream away the after-blur of being with 10,000+ people. It isn’t the size of the event, nor the scope, it is the whirling descent of having to face off with what and who we are.


There is more to be said, shared, posted about all of this. Yes. I am hopeful that those of you who received umbrellas will send me photos of where the words traveled. I would love to mail umbrellas to those who wanted the extra shelter but couldn’t find it.

There is more out there…so much more. I am deeply grateful for this–this something more. Love, gratitude, and most importantly poetry to all.


Please submit to The Living Poetry Project’s RAIN


I am in New York; I’m in love with New York.

New York has been teaching (or rather, reteaching me) about weather. It is giving me great lessons such as, it rains. Unlike California, where it only rains sunshine, New York gets wet.

I’ve been enjoying the grey sky and moving colors of the city. It is a lovely contrast; one that makes any rain (literal or figurative) endurable–even endearing.

This has me thinking about Seattle, the home of rain. AWP this year will be in Seattle. People will need coverings. Lets cover them in poems, yes? Please send me your poems and I will paint them onto umbrellas to give away at this years AWP. I’m sending out the call early this year, because I’m hopeful to bring a suitcase full of shelter to AWP.

Please send your poems to by February 25th, 2014. I will give your poems out here:

2014 AWP Conference & Bookfair

Washington State Convention Center &
Sheraton Seattle Hotel
February 26 – March 1, 2014

Also, if you are in New York this week, please find me at:

Red Hen Press at Cornelia St. Cafe

Thursday, Sep 19 6:00p
Cornelia Street Cafe New York, NY

Red Hen Press presents four annual reading series in New York City to parallel its own four in Los Angeles. The press hosts events at Cornelia St. Café, KGB Bar, The Players Club, Bryant Park, and Poets House, bridging the gap between the nation’s coasts. – See more at:

Laurel Ann Bogen, Nicelle Davis, Morgan Parker, and Chris Tarry.

The Poems of The Living Poetry Project AWP: Melanie Huber

It is my goal to respond to the work of each poet who generously gave poems for The Living Poetry Project-AWP before the month of March is over.  I’d like to begin by saying a little about a talented poet (who is also a generous, funny, and kind poetry friend).

I was very excited when Melanie Huber sent me her work with a message that read:

I have a mission assignment for you, should you choose to accept.

I accepted her poetic challenge.

Melanie sent me 21 amazing poems–ekphrasis poems! In good guerrilla poetry fashion, I have been trying distributing her lovely words to the world.

(O, how I love these poems by Melanie; let me count the ways…) I made 3 copies of the manuscript. The first copy, I left randomly around the hotels hosting AWP. The second copy, I left randomly on buses and taxis in Chicago.

That left me with one more copy to share once I made it home.

I needed to drop off some books to Red Hen Press, whose office is conveniently located behind Vroman’s Bookstore. While I was there, the Red Hen staff generously donated boxes (I mean BOXES) of books for the Living Poetry Project to distribute to local high schools. (Yet, another reason to love Red Hen Press!)

From the Red Hen office, J.J. and I traveled to Vroman’s Bookstore, where we hid the final copy of Melanie’s manuscript in the various free city journals. (We also left mini books that showcased works from the great and generous journal,  A cappella Zoo).

I hope the poetry of Melanie Huber finds you–makes you cry, laugh, and think. I hope you find A cappella Zoo, where hundreds of poems and stories wait for you!

Blogging On The Flight Home

The cloud cover is thick over Chicago—our plane is just above the expanse of reflective light—it seems our aircraft is held up by the storm falling below us. It will be good to return to the ground, my son, and sun of the west coast.Chicago is beautiful, vivacious, and fun—but I miss the canvas of desert sky and the erratic travels of tumbleweeds.

My son loves tumbleweeds; he thinks of them as pets. He claims they follow him home. My car is often overflowing with tumbleweeds. People throw looks at my little vehicle crammed full of sticks, but I continue to collect these runaway orbs because my son loves them (and with imagination) tumbleweeds love him back. This interplay between place and imagination is what makes the A.V. interesting—my home is an active mirage.

Perhaps building a home inside illusions seems strange—perhaps I should self-assess if my own personification of tumbleweeds is insane—or perhaps the joy found in an act of love is worth more than the sanity of not keeping tumbleweeds as pets?

Joy placed above sanity is my best description for AWP. This year, over 10,000 writers were contained within four Chicago blocks—making a momentary dream scape: miles (I mean MILES) of books to buy, bars packed with concepts and plot outlines, hundreds of poetry readings around the city. I never sleep at AWP—how could I?—I’m already dreaming.

It is the love affair between reader and books that gives birth to writers.Reading(like other biological impulses such as “s” “e” “x”) is a process that is constantly demanding a larger family. Once a person finds themselves in the recursive practice of reading, writing, reading, reading, writing, writing, rewriting, rereading, there is no way out. This process creates an urgency within a writer that never concludes—it is relentless, shrewd, and exhausting—yet without it…(I can’t even say how lost I’d be without process—to think of losing it brings me to tears quick as imaging the death of my son—which, ironically, the process has trained me to envision in concrete detail). It is a sweet torture that makes me appreciate what I have—while at the same time drives me crazy.

Welcome to AWP—welcome to insanity—welcome to four days of exhausting joy.

You know a writer when you see them. There is a uniform of unexpected color combinations and fabric choices—there are ink stains, laptops, and “the waddle” (every writer, male or female, has the gait of pregnant creature from the weight of the books they carry). Not even the Kindle can save us from the bulk of print because we writers love books. To illustrate such book love, I offered to hand-carry a large bag of books for Red Hen Press on my return flight. While at the Chicago Airport, I found it best to hold the load close to my chest (as I do my son). The bag in fact is heavier than my four-year old son, but rests like a well behaved child in my arms. I found myself clutching the bag tightly on the descending escalators—I must not drop them, I told myself. I must not drop them.

Cradling these books, I remembered how as a child I would call the library hotline—where a recording would read me a story. I would call and call and call and call—hearing the same story over and over again. My favorite story was of a boy who reaches into to a tight-necked bottle for some candy, but takes too much—after a painful struggle with many tears, the boy realizes that by letting go of a few candies his hand will again fit through the opening. Once he realizes this, by process, the boy can take as many sweets as he wants (for this story is not a morality tale against greed)—this story is about process. Then and now, this story mirrors my personal struggles—I must learn to let go, take less, and work harder. I need to stop feeling sorry for wanting and start looking for more productive ways to pursue my desires. This is difficult work—but I have the story from the library hotline giving me hope and guidance.

With an arm full of books, I wonder what potential beckons I might be bringing to their fate- intended readers. I can not drop them, repeating in my head like fear turned to mantra. All that hope and potential in our arms—in this way, books are like children—We can not drop them.  AWP is a good remind of the work being done to “take care” of books—it is a visual representation of book-love.

In truth, it takes a lot of work to write a book. It takes a lot more work to publish a book (both for publishers and writers). It take even more work (far more work than writing and publishing combined) for a book to find its reader. But all that work is part of the process—and that process offer’s a small glint of hope that potential can actualize—conversations (like humanitarian growth) continues throughout generations—and somewhere in a far-off desert, there is a little boy who is reading your story to his beloved tumbleweed*.

*It is important for my to thank Charles and Abbey Hood, as well as Red Hen Press, who made it possible for me to go to AWP this year. Thanks also to Pavi Janssen for her beautiful visual art / costume. Great thanks as well to Matt Ryan and Ken Robidoux— who made this AWP an unforgettable experience. And love to my new friend Deanna Plummer. I love my writing family.

*Please consider giving my book Circe a home–she is a voice who needs a little warmth and kindness. You can find Circe on

AWP: Getting Ready To Poem You

While getting ready to pack for the Living Poetry Project at AWP, J.J. found a few poems he couldn’t part with (sorry and thank you Kathleen Flenniken for you poem “Radiation!”–I’ll be sure to make new poem objects to bring to Chicago).  J.J. was happy to color his Godzilla-poetry hand puppets while I stressed over the best way to “have a good time” at AWP. (This is the crazy part of happiness–the worry it generates. I should just enjoy the words without worry…I should…)

The more poems I turn into gifts that more gifts I want to give, so if you are still interested in “poeming” someone at AWP please send me your work. (

As I joyfully find poems in my email for the Living Poetry Project (AWP), I am struck by the kindness of the authors and also moved by their stories. Every writer WANTS to go to AWP, but not everyone can afford it. Like any art, writing is expensive. I must confess, the only reason I’m able to go to AWP is because of the generosity of others. Every artist works very hard to be with art. (The idea of profit for art is foreign as an unnamed planet). Artist give to artists in hopes that art will happen. It is a terrifying exchange; the closest resemblance I have found to being a practicing artist is a professional gambler.)

I am very fortunate to be reading at AWP this year, thanks to Matt Ryan and Ken Robidoux. These two gentlemen are great publishers and even greater people. They risk much for artist to have a platform. Amazing.

I’ll be reading in costume—which seems risky to me—but I’m in love with performance and illusions—the overlapping of worlds.

Here is the rough draft of the dress—my son and the very talented Pavlina Janssen turning me into a jellyfish woman. (Are those tentacles or umbilical cords? You decide.)

See you inChicago.

Lowbrow Press Reading
Wednesday, February 29, 2012, 9:00pm until 11:00pm

Connotation Press

Weeds Tavern: 1555 N Dayton St(between Clybourn Aveand North Ave).
Nearest transit: North/Clybourn (Red line). 312-943-7815