Sunday, October 22, 2017

Candy Canes & Apes

Archaeologists have discovered two teeth from 9.7 million years ago. The teeth belonged to a great ape (can’t a gentler appellation be found for a beings who took such marvelous care of their teeth?). The following is an archaeologist’s description of one of the teeth when asked what an almost 10-million-year-old tooth looks like. “It’s perfectly preserved. It actually looks like a new excellent tooth; however, it’s no longer white. It’s shining like amber.” I can almost imagine these teeth resting on dark velvet in Tiffany’s.

I could have enjoyed several world cruises with the money I’ve spent on dental work over the years – a cap for a tooth broken on a candy cane; several root canals; a bite guard to prevent teeth grinding (TMJ). The last two treated by an orthodontist. His office is the one with the Ferrari parked outside. Great apes didn’t munch candy canes, grind their teeth because of office supervisors or ex-spouses, or have money woes about dental bills but surely, they had other stresses. And yet, their “perfect” and “shining” teeth exist.

Americans spend over $100 billion dollars a year on dental care and we’re still losing our teeth. What dental hygiene secrets did the great apes possess? And more importantly, what toothpaste did they use?

Image: © Marietjie Opperman/

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Rejecting Rejection Letters

I received two rejection letters this week, both for new poems of mine. Writers need to be able to take it on the chin and I do but that doesn't make rejection letters any easier. I've stopped reading past the "Thank you for your submission" as I know the rest of the letter is going to say how much the editors "enjoyed" reading my submission and how they hope I will "continue" to submit my poetry to their publication. If they enjoyed my poems so much why didn't they publish them and, why would I continue to send my poems to editors who clearly don't care for my work? I wish editors of small presses, journals, and magazines would come up with a synonym for "submission" as "submission guidelines," "submit here," and "thank for your submission," invoke a cartoon image of a timid wolf lying down and offering his throat to be bitten by the victorious meanie wolf. I am, after all, a poet not a canine. A software used by publishers to manage works under consideration is called "Submittable." Is submittable even a word? If it is, it shouldn't be.

"Congratulations" is how acceptance letters begin and I always read them, usually several times. Congratulations is a delighttable word and I cherish it on those occasions it is addressed to me. The congratulatory letter goes on to praise my poems and indicate when they will be published. My husband and my approximately three close friends (one can never be certain of relationships) often praise my poetry but compliments mean a tad more when they come from strangers, especially editors.

I like the idea of rejecting rejection letters. It eases their sting.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Poems and Sandwiches

Like the bus passengers described in "The Moose," I feel a sense of awe when I read this poem. I worked in the tax management department of a publishing house in Washington, DC. The work was extremely tedious. My cubicle happened to be near a large conference room and whenever it was empty I’d take a shortcut through it on the way to the xerox machine or the library. Each time I walked through the conference room I’d think this would be perfect for a poetry reading. I started a poetry group that met during lunch hour. The large number of people who turned up for the first meeting surprised me. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who needed a break from tax legislation. I distributed copies of “The Moose” at this meeting. The poem’s exquisite craftsmanship and mystery still thrill me but I can’t think of it without remembering that huge conference table surrounded with kindred spirits, poems and sandwiches.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Getting Poetry

Yesterday, I was delighted to learn from the Academy of American Poets that they now have an embed feature on their website This means a poem that appears on their site may be shared on other websites. Thank you to those at the Academy responsible for this courtesy. Below is another excerpt from my personal anthology.

“What He Thought”
Heather McHugh

This poem begins with assumptions – “Of all he was the most politic--/and least poetic-- /so it seemed…” – and changes to enlightenment crystallized in its last two lines. McHugh uses enjambments to keep the poem moving forward and line breaks and parenthetical asides to cause pauses and emphasis. For example: “(we’d all put down our forks by now, to listen to/the man in gray; he went on softly)-- poetry” and the very last line of the poem is a one line stanza.

Except for fellow poets and several friends, people regard my writing poetry as some sort of hobby, like gardening or decoupage. In a culture as embroiled in consumerism and celebrity mania as America is, poetry is greatly undervalued. It is often thought of as something English majors and academics are fond of. It’s disheartening when I hear someone say “Poetry isn’t for me,” “I just don’t get poetry,” or “Are you still writing poetry?” But the next time someone looks askance when I say poetry matters, I’ll suggest they read Heather McHugh’s stunning poem.