Reveal. Withhold.

I'm old-school. I grew up drawing distinct lines to divide professional me and personal me.

As a young reporter, I didn't complain about covering a city council meeting that would stretch late in the night and leave little time for a romantic dinner. I didn't talk about my health, my debt, and things that kept me awake. I was a professional and didn't reveal much.

But technology changed me. Facebook, Flicker, Blogs — these forms of communication have blurred the lines between personal and professional and I am not navigating well.

Each day I question How much to reveal? How much to withhold?  In these expanding forms of connection, and these widening circles of 'friends', sometimes it seems we're all trying too hard to be heard. Look at me! Look at me! Is all this sharing just self-promotion in disguise?

Last year, exasperated and overshared, I quit Facebook. I didn't miss it, really, but I did migrate back.

And yesterday, for my husband, on our anniversary, I baked a pie and wrote a poem. I wanted to share  the poem here but all night I tossed and turned and wondered why. Why do I want to share something so personal? Wouldn't doing so diminish the fragile, intimate space where our real lives thrive?

Sometimes on Facebook, when I see photos of babies or airing of struggles, I cringe. It's too much, I think. Keep it safe in that secret place where only you have access to the details of your heart. Other times, I  am greedy for those nuggets of personal information that will give me a glimpse of who you are, what makes your life.

How much to reveal? How much to withhold? The questions press at me more each day.



Scissors, Paper, Poem

For years, I've loved Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I've given away copy after copy as a go-to guide for writing practice. With all my ardor, I don't know how I missed Wild Mind, Goldberg's second insightful book on building a writing life.

Thanks to a friend's suggestion, I'm immersed in the book. To both loosen and limber up, sometimes I simply need a nudge. Her suggestion of the Cut Up Poem is the perfect push.

How to Make a Cut-Up:  Take some old poems or journal entries and copy them onto a clean sheet. Cut apart the lines with scissors. Now mix the lines and arrange in a new order. Throw in additional lines from other sources. Play around with them, shifting lines, discarding some and adding others to make your own poem.

"It's good practice," writes Goldberg. "It breaks open the mind."

I agree.  And while I usually let poems settle and breathe before I edit and share, these exercises are so liberating that sharing fresh off-the-pen words feels just as good as writing them.


Instead of a letter

What will sustain this scattered joy?
This morning I woke to the word remote.

Perhaps you just need permission
for a do-it-yourself dream that will blossom.

Like the drive-in movie theater once novel and grand,
now dusty and sagging on bitten back roads.

Big Macs replaced smokestacks as an icon of American prosperity.

It takes so little to dream. It takes so much to love.

Instead of a letter, you text me, send a smile made of punctuation.

I’ve never needed much.


How to Breathe

Here, in my lungs, in the tight narrow space
where breath is taken and given away

I’m trying to learn something about love,
how it gives what cannot be seen

We can’t sense space without light, and
we can’t understand light without shadow and shade

I’m trying to learn something about faith,
like a farmer, a fisher, a lover wounded and waiting

Memories lodge in orchards, platforms, docks
Things we make, break, mark

The natural world has much to teach about order —
not the repetitive and simple sort
but the complexity of how we live
in storm and sun, in ebb and flow

As we move through days,
geometry holds the mind,
faith the heart,
and this land
where it juts, retreats and recovers
shows us how to love in the darkness,
how to breathe


These poems were composed from random journal entries, combined with lines extracted from Chambers for a Memory Palace, and Main Street To Miracle Mile: American Roadside Architecture.

Have you tried a Cut-Up Poem? If not, please do! If yes, please share!



Thankful Thursday 

Bandon, Oregon - Autumn Walk with Alyssa

It's Thankful Thursday!

Gratitude. Appreciation. Praise. Please join me in a weekly pause to appreciate the people, places & things that bring joy.

This week, I am thankful for:

1. Autumn Light (see above)

2. Blackberry pie, made with berries picked along the Yachats River on a sunny afternoon.

3. Barbara Hurd, for writing Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination

The one essential quality of the imagination is that it moves— in wide sweeps, in pinched steps, out to sea, down into the interior. The imagination is polytheistic and polygamist; its groundspring is multiplicity, not singularity. Trying to press a single meaning onto imagery is like asking a river to hold still. It will squirm out of your interpretation, jump its banks, form new rivulets and bayous in its relentless churn toward the open ocean.

4. Cashmere sweaters

5. Lou Grant, the late 1970s television show that shaped my desire to become a newspaper reporter. The cable reruns, featuring fictional news staffers Billie, Rossi and Animal, still delight me. Do kids still grow up wanting to be reporters? In our new media age, does journalism still shine?

6. Garlic simmering in a pasta sauce.

7. Sharpie - Industrial Super Permanent Ink - Marker


When you create

I think anyone who practices an art, whether they are a saxophonist, or a watercolorist, or a poet, when you are writing or creating art, you are exercising a very innate freedom. You are your most free when you create.

Major Jackson
from an interview in Poets & Writers


In unexpected places

Corvallis, Oregon

The Thing Not to Forget

Stepping outside, you neglect
once again to drop your jaw
and lift your face, flower-like,
to the great blue beauty, to launch yourself
into the dazzle that is gracing you
with this one more chance not to forget

- Rick Borsten


I was so happy to stumble upon this poem. Really, I did stumble. Out of a cafe, into a parking lot and upon this poem. I like the poem as much as I like its placement: in public, above asphalt, in an unexpected place. I love when poems crawl out of books and into the world.

How about you? How and where are you finding poems?