Monthly Archives: September 2014

Video Poem: “Arrhythmia”

I’m happy to present “Arrhythmia,” a video poem created by Marc Neys (aka Swoon) from a poem I wrote. Michael Dickes, editor of Awkword Paper Cut, recorded the poem, and I shot the video. Here are some process notes about this project:

The poem started with a note I wrote in my journal on May 21 of this year: “My Son’s Heart.” On July 1, I added these lines:


speaks its own language

code rolling out of machines

has frightened some, intrigued others

is slightly larger than normal

a heart ahead of its time

refusal to beat like other hearts


From these lines the poem wrote itself, basically. I finished it on July 2. A couple of weeks later in New York City, I met up with Michael Dickes (editor of Awkword Paper Cut) and asked if he would record the poem. He made a wonderful recording, exactly what I wanted: a dramatic reading totally lacking in the “poetry voice.” Marc and I began to discuss making the video into a poem. After a few emails back and forth, we came up with an approach.

The poem is about my son, Max Peters, whose heart has concerned more than one doctor. I wanted Max in the video, but not in an obvious way, and nothing about hearts or doctors or EKG machines. I wanted to show Max doing what he loves, which is making art. I shot about thirty minutes of footage using my Sony camcorder of him creating a painting, from pencil drawing to paint. Marc advised shooting from different angles, so I did some scenes with a tripod and some without. I sent him the whole file and, as usual when I work with Marc, I waited to be amazed.

Amazement came a week later when Marc sent me a draft of the video. I love how Marc remixed the video I sent him, showing the painting in various stages of development. He cut and matched the different angles, changed color to black and white, and arranged the video so it appears in a central location and then concurrent corners. The only reference to hearts is in the soundtrack, where a slightly echoing heartbeat taps away in the background. It’s a moving piece of work, and all the more effective for its restraint. Inventive and playful, the video is also dark and serious: the perfect blend.

It’s always a joy and a privilege to work with Marc Neys. My gratitude also to Michael Dickes, whose recording underpins the visuals. And finally, thanks to Max, who very patiently allowed me to film him one warm summer day.

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Sticks and Stones: memoirs about the writing life


Here’s the second of my three pieces about writing, originally published at Awkword Paper Cut:

Be Here Now: Poetry of Place

By Erica Goss

I’ve never had a bad day in San Francisco.


Ok, that’s not entirely true, but the happy memories far outnumber the unhappy ones. And maybe I don’t want to acknowledge the bad memories because I love San Francisco that much. It’s easy to forget the time I searched for my father, senile and lost somewhere in the international terminal at San Francisco Airport, or the time I saw a famous jazz musician slap his wife after a concert in North Beach. I don’t want to associate anything negative with the dream that I nourish.

That dream got started in 1966 when I was six years old. A friend of my father’s invited my family to visit for a few days in San Francisco. We had just spent the summer in Fresno, house-sitting for a professor who was on sabbatical.

Fresno in summer is one of the hottest places in California. San Francisco is one of the coolest. A soul-crushing three-hour drive in our radio-free, non-air conditioned car brought us to a city that was so aggressively beautiful, so excessively scenic that my six-year-old brain could hardly take it in. Fresno was hot and flat, but here was a place where the streets marched up and down steep hills, where backyards were cool oases of moss and ferns, and where just about anywhere you stood, you saw a giant bridge or a sparkling body of water, or Victorian houses painted in colors I had in my crayon box.

We took a boat around the bay, and I got my first view of The City from the water. While my poor mother descended below deck, seasick, I asked my father, “Is this what the Emerald City of Oz looks like?” He responded, yes, but he thought it was probably greener in Oz.

Place is important in poetry. A poem that captures the essence of a place opens up a piece of new ground for us. It allows us to travel from the page to somewhere beyond ourselves – we are in place, but also displaced by the poem. Therefore, we occupy two places at once, a paradox that allows the reader to get lost and stay at home at the same time.

In my book Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets, Joie Cook’s poem “There are Nights in San Francisco” illustrates this aesthetic in poetry:


There Are Nights In San Francisco


There are nights in San Francisco

When even the bedbugs come out to pray

Amongst the forest that is life here


And streets I believe I’ve been on before

Become hallucinations,

Every steep hill climbed,

An applause for gravity…


But I’ve taken it for granted

For over 30 years

The seven hills, the cable cars,

The view from Twin Peaks

On a crisp, November night…


I fall in love with cities

The way most people fall in love,

Shamelessly hopeful in the beginning,

Careless, naïve and blind…


And there are nights in San Francisco

I would wish to forget

Like a waning romance,

Waiting to crash,

Never looking back

At the wreckage behind.


Perhaps if I had been brought to Paris, or Khartoum, or New York City at that young age I would have a strong connection to one of those places instead of San Francisco. I don’t know. At age six, I had an experience like no other in my short life.




Hi friends! I wrote three little memoirs on writing, originally published as “Sticks and Stones” at Awkword Paper Cut. Sadly, APC is no more, but I enjoyed writing those pieces so much that I’m going to keep them going here on my blog. I’ll share the first three and then keep writing them, hopefully once per month. Here’s the first one.


Lost and Found

By Erica Goss


When I was thirteen, I kept my poems hidden in a felt-covered manila folder, titled “Homework.” One day my folder was missing; in a panic, I searched my room. No one was allowed to see those poems. I’d written about the pain of the last few years, my parents’ separation and our chaotic, financially unstable life, the strange places we’d lived, the countless trips towing a U-Haul trailer up and down I-5, and the ambivalence I felt at the physical changes of adolescence. I’d written about my parents and about boys who’d broken my heart. I’d written with the confidence that no one but me would ever see my poems.


Finally, I asked my father if he’d seen the folder. “Oh, yes, I took it,” he said. My stomach plummeted and I broke out in a sweat. “I typed up all of your poems and sent them to Carol.” “Carol” was Carol Tinker, fourth wife and future widow of Kenneth Rexroth. Carol and my father were good friends who talked on the phone late at night, mostly about Rexroth, the 1960s, and my father’s difficulties finding a job.


My father reached under his typewriter and handed me my folder. “Here you go,” he said. I never opened that folder again. Within minutes of retrieving it from my father, I dumped the whole thing into the trash.


Some time later, Carol wrote to my father: “All I have to say about Erica’s poems is, tell her to keep writing. Some of them were pretty good.” That was all – after I’d destroyed my archive in a fit of teen angst.


In 2010, while packing up my now-elderly father’s apartment, I came across a sealed box. I opened it, and on top I found a stack of neatly typed pages, held together with a binder clip. My poems.


The same emotions that had washed over me at age thirteen – surprise, embarrassment, and shame – now rolled over me in reverse: shame that I’d thrown away my poems, embarrassment at my rash act, and surprise that I’d found my poems after almost thirty-five years. In addition, I felt an enormous sense of relief, and gratitude towards my father for having saved this treasure. I wish I could have thanked him, but he was already gone, on a trip to his final home in Washington State.


A few months before he died in 2011, I visited my father in Washington. I told him I’d found the poems. He looked at me blankly. “The poems, my poems from 1974. Remember, you sent them to Carol?” He couldn’t remember. “Who’s Carol?” he asked.


Carol Tinker died in 2012, a year after my father. I never thought to ask her what she did with the poems he’d sent her. Had she sent them back? Were those the poems I’d found in the box? Or had my father made copies before he sent the poems to her?


I’ll never know.



Morning Poem

written at age 13


I’m afraid to say

the word “mountain”

for fear one might come

crashing down on my head


I’m afraid to move

for fear the air around me might break

and delicate eggshell birds

will come flying down on me.





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What on earth am I doing in Kuala Lumpur?

Enjoy this travel journal from Danny Gregory.

Danny Gregory

I am nearing the end of my week working with students at the International School of Kuala Lumpur. It’s been a great experience and I think I’ve probably learned more than the kids.  Here are a few photos and drawings from the week so you can see what I’ve been up to.

Click on any picture to open the gallery..

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The Virtual Blog Tour Arrives!

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I’ve been tagged for the Virtual Blog Tour by the wonderful poet Luisa Igloria, whose poem-a-day writing practice has inspired me, not only to write more but to create a class. My students wrote twenty poems in thirty days (I gave them weekends off!) and impressed me with their ability to write good poems in a short timeframe.

So what is a Blog Tour? Someone tags you, you answer the four questions below, and then you tag some other people. If this goes on long enough, you might get re-tagged, which is what happened to Alina Sayre. I tagged her, only to find that someone else had tagged her previously. She generously allowed me to share her answers.


Here are my answers to the four questions, all writing-related:


  1. What are you currently working on?


I have a manuscript of poems, my first full-length collection, which I’ve been sending around titled The Museum of Moving Parts. I’m working on a series of poems loosely based on family life, a kind of domestic interior theme. I write a monthly column for Connotation Press called The Third Form about video poems, and this requires me to comb the internet and watch hours of videos, looking for those stand-out, very special ones. I’m also working on some short prose memoirs about writing, life, family, and nature. I write a poem every few days, with something finished, or close to finished, each week. I write a haiku every day; I’m a fan of the short poem, and I love haiku for its ability to compress entire landscapes into a few short lines.


  1. How does your work differ from others of its genre?


My poems vary quite a bit. I’m not sure if I have a recognizable style. Most of my poems are lyrical, and I tend to write in the moment, using the present tense. Lately I have been writing more narrative poems, but they still explore small moments in time. I think that’s what poetry does that other forms of writing don’t do, at least not as well: preserve a moment for the reader. I’m not afraid to delve into difficult emotional territory; I don’t try to hide myself behind personas. Life is full of material and I’m happy to mine it for my work.


  1. Why do you write/create what you do?


I want my poems to change people, to leave them newly vulnerable. I want my poems to open people to the beauty and pain of the world and of being human. Once I wrote a poem on the spot for a man who had been in Iraq. He sat down on the street and wept.

I’ve often read that male poets started writing poetry “to impress the girls in high school.” I think that’s a perfectly fine reason to write poetry – to connect with someone, to attempt to move another person. I write to tell others how I see the world.

I love words, but being a writer is a lonely occupation, and I’m a fairly extroverted person. I love talking to people, performing, reading in public. I get ideas from listening to people talk, from bits of conversation, from traveling to new places, from dreams.

In order to write you must read. I was always a reader, from earliest childhood, and I’ll probably die with a book in my hand. I love books, not just for their content, but because they are physical objects, things in space. I will never have too many books.


  1. How does your writing/creating process work?


I’m at my desk every morning as early as possible. That said, I feel like I’m always “at work,” since I’m constantly on the hunt for ideas with my notebook and pen. I like to stroll through museums and galleries. Street art and graffiti interest me too, as a source of ideas for writing. I recently visited New York City, and I walked through the Bowery, which is home to a lot of street art. I went to the Tenement Museum, in the Lower East Side, and I was fascinated with the tour and the glimpse into the lives of people from two hundred years ago.

I know Emily Dickinson never left her bedroom, but I have to get out, get away from my desk, and take those long walks Virginia Woolf was so fond of. I’ve found things during my walks that have become poems. Once, in San Francisco, I found the word “languish” on the sidewalk. It was from a magnetic poetry kit. I took it home and put it on my refrigerator, and the word became lodged in my brain, where it worked itself into a poem.

Sometimes I start the day with a specific question in mind, for example, I might ask myself to pay attention to the color red. It’s like looking for blue or yellow cars on a long road trip. Whenever I see red that day, I’ll jot down a note about it: where I was, what the red object was, if I saw the word “red,” etc. Quite often, in fact most of the time, I’ll get a poem or the beginning of a poem, from these answers.

The world is such a big, exciting place. That’s why I write, and that’s why I read: to learn more about others, and more about myself.VWfrontcover

My book “Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets” is  about writing and creativity. In the book I discuss many more ideas for generating poems.




Here are the four writers I’ve tagged:


RACHEL DACUS is a poet and writer whose works include the poetry books Earth Lessons and Femme au Chapeau, as well the recent Gods of Water and Air, a collection of poetry, prose, and drama. She has written on a variety of subjects, from travel in Italy to growing up a rocket scientist’s daughter during the race-to-space Cold War era. Her poems, stories, essays, reviews, plays, and interviews have appeared in Atlanta Review, Boulevard, Prairie Schooner, Rattapallax, and many other anthologies and journals. Read more at


TANIA PRYPUTNIEWICZ: Co-founding blogger for Mother, Writer, Mentor, Tania Pryputniewicz teaches Transformative Blogging, Poetry, and Tarot workshops for A Room of Her Own Foundation, Story Circle Network, and MWM. She has blogged since 2007 at Feral Mom, Feral Writer and since 2012 at A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she is the Managing Poetry Editor of The Fertile Source (on hiatus for production of a print anthology of poems paired with interviews by site contributors).

Tania’s poetry recently appeared in Chaparral, NonBinary Review, Poetry Flash, and Soundings East; new work is forthcoming in Snow Jewel. Her poetry collection, November Butterfly, debuts November 1, 2014 (Saddle Road Press); to view photo poem montages for a handful of poems in the collection (Thumbelina, Mordred’s Dream, The Corridor, Amelia, Nefertiti on the Astral, Nefertiti Among Us, and She Dressed in a Hurry for Lady Di), visit her channel on YouTube. She lives on Coronado Island near San Diego, California with her husband, three children, one Siberian Husky and two tubby housecoats.


SALLY ZAKARIYA’S poems have appeared recently in Boston Literary Magazine, Emerge, Third Wednesday, Evening Street Review, and Theodate. Her poetry has won prizes from the Poetry Society of Virginia and the Virginia Writers Club. She volunteers as poetry editor for Richer Resources Publications and has published two chapbooks, Insectomania (2013) and Arithmetic and other verses (2011). 


Alina Sayre

Alina Sayre

ALINA SAYRE cut her teeth chewing on board books and has been in love with words ever since. Her first novel for middle-grades readers, The Illuminator’s Gift, blends her love of a good adventure story with her passion for exploring life, art, and faith.  When she isn’t reading or writing, Alina enjoys hiking, photography, and collecting crazy socks. When she grows up, she would like to live in a castle with a large library.