I thought I’d be carefree…

After the poetry marathon, after writing one poem a day during the month of July, I thought I’d feel a sudden sort of relief. From the constant preoccupation to produce, from guiltily stealing time away from my family to indulge myself, from evenings spent annoyed with myself and utter lack of craft that my poems weren’t poeming – eyes blurred with dull fatigue of full days at work, from the nagging insistence of finding wireless service while on the road, always knowing there was ONE thing that needed doing…

I thought I’d be carefree. Dressed in white all sun splashed at a white-sand beach with quiet laughter and softened photo retouching. But, as it turns out, my life in August has not been a feminine hygiene commercial. I have spent much of the last three days wandering around after work looking for something to do, anything to get absorbed in. I read the new 30/30 poems up at Tupelo Press . A little obsessively.  I’ve read every posting on Facebook enough to finally get disenchanted by it. I try watching TV to get distracted. Nothing helps.

I think that this suffering is the universe is telling me to hold mySELF accountable for my own daily writing practice. It used to be, I’d wait for a good four hour chunk of time all to myself to binge write or search for likely places to send my work. It felt like I was doing it all wrong….but I think I could do a little each day under less than ideal conditions. And if I’m not going to write, I can be revising, or submitting.

I tell my clients to break things down if the end goal seems too overwhelming or paralyzing. To set aside the big picture and the “should do’s” and to nibble away at some of the “could do’s”, to set a time limit if that’s easier to manage than expecting yourself to complete one task at a time. It’s how I got through my dissertation…I’d do the item on my list that made me least want to vomit, and the next one, and the next one for as long as it took for my daughter to watch two movies every Saturday afternoon until it was done.

The big difference here, between my dissertation, the poetry marathon, or even last year’s haiku a day commitment, is that no one is counting on me to keep up on my daily writing practice. There’s no accountability other than my own intentions. I think this may be my biggest challenge yet.

What sorts of internal commitments have you made and kept? What helped YOU keep on keeping on?

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25/30!!!! I can see the finish line and I’m crying…

Yesterday, I asked my 21 year old daughter to come up with 10 words for me to use for a poem. While she packed her bags to come back home from spending two months in California, she texted me these beautiful things:

fierce/fragile/fish food//


Almost a poem themselves, I was stunned. I started writing a poem about her  using those words in the order she sent them just to see what happened. Here’s what I got:

fierce this one this baby tiger princess this dirt grime under chubby chins
on oh so fragile a neck stubby fingers pouring out mountains of fish food
pleased with herself never mind the scramble for spoons to scoop to skim
the murky green water grassy handsful littering the glassy sides how this
bandit could squeal with delight a squeak toy a living a breathing growing
beneath the chairs beneath the tables beneath the sink beneath the stairs
the little girl with a little curl mixed betwixt the one shoe on one shoe off
lifetimes lived between hurt and heard

I love it…but it absolutely refused to include the rest of my prompt words. Okay, sure, there were more than 10…but she’s an overachiever and I am a sucker for a word game. So, I kept at it and came up with the poem that you can find at  Tupelo Press’ 30/30 project just scroll down to the 24th to find mine. While you’re there, check out the other amazing things people are writing…

Good luck to you and your writing habits!

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This is my first half marathon!!! Poetry marathon, that is…

HALFWAY! I’ve been posting on my Facebook page everyday letting friends and family know what I’ve been up to with my poetry. I’ve been pretending that I’m totally fine with self-promotion and they’re pretending that they’re too nice to tell me they’re tired of hearing about it. See how everything works out in the end?

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed pushing myself to write every day. Usually. Some days I would growl at my computer because what was coming out would feel forced or trite or too abstract. I’ve accepted that probably just means that I need to spend more time on it. If I just sit my butt at the computer long enough, the words eventually tell me what they want to say. I suppose I’ve also been working at pretending that I have patience.

AND it’s so sad that I have to work full time because there is SO MUCH good poetry happening at the 30/30 project and I want to be able to give it the time it deserves and savor it all, slurping at the spoon. But usually, I’m spending my free time writing and/or the aformentioned growling.

Or exercising. Who would have thought that getting serious about my writing would also coincide with becoming more committed to increasing my physically activity? I’ve been trying to hit three yoga classes and two spin classes a week. I’m so terribly out of shape that it sounds much more athletic than I am actually capable of, but it’s a starting point and it’s so empowering to feel stretched out and strong(er) again.

If you haven’t checked out the Tupelo Press 30-30 Project website you really need to. There ares some AMAZING poets writing a poem a day for 30 days to help support the nonprofit press. My offer still stands, donate what you can or subscribe to a year of Tupelo Press’ publications, and click my name, Carrie Nassif, on online form’s “Honor” button and I’ll write a poem with up to 10 words of your choice. So far, I think my best poems are the ones others have helped me write this way. Want to challenge me to some super hard GRE words? I double dog dare you!!!

SO, what are you waiting for? This poetry marathon party is halfway over and it’s time for you to come and hang out with the cool kids. Or the dark, literary ones with the snarky comments whispered under our breath. Same difference, right? We’re recruiting. And we’re coming for you!

Thanks again, all you readers, and feel free to comment with your reactions to the poems and/or your efforts to establish a regular writing practice and/or to keep connected with other writers. I’d love to hear from you!

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poetry marathon update: 6 for 6!!!

I’ve made it almost a week so far, and still have a bit of a buzz that the quality of my daily poems has been pretty constant despite being on the road (a mere 11 hour drive one way) for the holiday weekend and a family reunion. I sometimes wish I could do just one thing, write OR travel OR work full time…though I think I’d need some better habits to get there. I hope that this month is a way of throwing my energy into the universe to see what comes back.

Check out today’s marathon progress so far at the Tupelo Press 30/30 project and, if you haven’t already done so, DONATE to a good cause and DARE ME to use the words you include in the comments or in a private message to me (up to 10).

I’ve really enjoyed using other peoples’ words as a prompt and thought I’d tell you the way today’s poem got started. We were driving home and playing that game where everyone alternates naming all the animals they can think of beginning with A and then with B and so on…we ended up with a LOT of leftover non-animal words and I can’t abide by anything going to waste. I used a handful of them in today’s poem.

Those of you who are acquainted with my wife and I know that our son had broken his leg pretty severely this spring. Just in case you don’t know, or are concerned after reading my poem, he is JUST fine, it wasn’t as bad as we’d originally feared, and he has been up and walking (though not running, jumping or climbing) for over a month now. I think we are all getting stronger, his leg AND my poetry…

Have any of you out there ever tried to do something like this? What rituals and/or mental tricks help YOU to maintain your daily writing practice?

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My “run” in this Poetry Marathon is off to a good start!

My first poem for the Tupelo Press 30/30 project is up!
That’s right, I’m writing a poem a day for the month of July and asking people to sponsor me in order to help support a nonprofit literary press.
I’m actually looking forward to having an excuse to carve out the time to write every day, on purpose, with intention. I already work full time as a therapist, so I’ve been getting up early and making time to edit, too, so it’s not just an afterthought that, frankly, my haiku practice last year sometimes ended up being. It’s fun to see what happens when I expect to write a full length poem everyday.
BUT I want your help.
If you donate (any amount at all) in my name, I’ll write a poem using (up to 10) words that YOU give me to use. Feel free to challenge me, I’m willing to sweat a little for a month!
If you want to see what that would look like, my second poem is also on the 30/30 poem project pageYou’ll have to blame Alicia Elkort for this one…she donated and dictated four words for today’s poem and holey moley; were they ever tough! She and I met at a weekend workshop last November put on by Tupelo Press at Truchas, New Mexico. It was an amazing time with group leaders Jeffrey Levine (the driving force between much of what is Tupelo Press), Veronica Golos (who has since been to visit me in Kansas while promoting her new book, Rootwork: The Lost Writings of John Brown and Mary Day Brown) and the ever gracious and kind poet, Mark Doty. Another alum of that workshop, C.E. Emerson is also marathoning in July – he kind of talked me into it. Peer pressure, but in a good way!
Come take a look. What’s the dandelion image about? you’ll have to take a gander at my poem, tatterdemalion, to see the connection and while you’re there, read through the works of my fellow poets in crime! click here to read the marathon and scroll down the page till you see me!
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How in the heck did we get halfway through the year already?

I shouldn’t be so surprised, each year this happens and you’d think I’d get used to it. Up until April, I can’t remember what year it is. Then I blink, and we’ve had a week in the hundreds. There’s all kinds of science to explain how time passes more quickly as you get older, but I am certain it’s got to be some type of  primal magic.

My last post was a bit cryptic, so I suppose I should explain what was going on and why I haven’t posted here in while by way of list:

21 year old cat is diagnosed with diabetes.
it’s not manageable with food.
it’s not manageable with shots.
imagine messy litter boxes.
imagine messy everything around litter boxes.
imagine so much cat piss you actually want it to end.
he starts to show suffering so you help.
it’s sad.
your dad’s sick.
yeah, the one you don’t really talk to.
whose been diabetic and in renal failure for the past 5+ years.
your “uncle” calls your brother saying dad’s in a coma
it’s really that he’s been found nonresponsive.
several times.
then he’s in the hospital.
several times.
you talk your brothers through it.
you talk about it with your sister.
it starts to sink in he may die.
you think about how sad it is he’s never really X Y or Z.
your 21 year old daughter’s 2 year old cat is sick.
you talk her through it.
he’s better.
he’s sick again and it’s thousands to fix it.
you talk her through it.
he’s suffering and she has to put him down.
you cry with her on the phone.
you take an online poetry class.
you write and obsess.
you obsess and write.
you examine your own issues.
poetry makes your life harder.
then you get a call from your wife that the school called.
that your stepson is in the ER.
he has a broken leg.
it’s his femur.
there was a tumor.
that shit escalated quickly.
your wife is riding in the ambulance in the middle of the night to the hospital 5 hours away.
you drive down the next day after taking the dog to the kennel and stay five days.
at the hospital.
with the ex and his family.
it all works out.
he’s so doped up after surgery his eyes roll back in his head as he talks.
he can’t pee.
oh, the irony.
he’s home.
he’s using a wheelchair.
a walker.
he can pee, but it takes both of us to help him.
he’s scared.
you talk him through it.
you develop a cough.
your voice is going.
you talk for a living.
you are short of breath.
you have pneumonia.
your dad’s in the hospital again.
you and your siblings start a group text for updates.
he’s not doing well.
he wants to die.
you fly out to see him.
with pneumonia.
your brothers drive out to see him.
you get him to sign medical power of attorney.
you make him eat a burger.
you talk your brothers through it.
you talk you “uncle” through it.
you go home.
you get better.
he get’s better.
he’s home.
he’s angry.
he wants to die again.
you talk him through it.
you have taken so much time off work.
you feel guilty.
for being sick.
for being mortal.
for having feelings about people.
you work more.
you still can’t pay your stinking taxes.
you use your personal credit card.
the one you’ve been trying to pay off forever.
screw it, you’ll never catch up.
you talk yourself through it.
you examine your own issues.
you are still breathless.
you get tested for allergies.
you are allergic to cats and grass.
you have two cats left.
you live in the Plains.
you take allergy shots.
sooooooooo itchy.
you take an online poetry challenge.
you get lost in experimental form.
you don’t get enough feedback from other people.
you keep doing it anyway.
you obsess and write.
you write and obsess.
you examine your own issues.
you work less.
poetry saves your life.
you go to the pulmonologist.
you get bloodwork done.
it’s your thyroid.
it’s GERD.
try taking less X try taking more Y avoid Z.
always avoid Z.
it works out okay.
you start doing yoga again.
you travel for fun.
remember how travel used to be for fun?
you miss the plane home.
you rent a car and stay a night and make it out the next day.
you work some more.
you take another online challenge.
a different one.
this time, you’ll post it all online.
this time, you’ll raise money for an independent press.
this time.
it won’t matter what they say.

I hope you can’t relate to much of this…we live such frenetic lives. It just doesn’t seem right, somehow. In any case, I AM going to be writing a poem a day again, a MARATHON of poetry, in support of Tupelo Press which is just an amazing group of people I first met last November in one of my new favorite places, Truchas, New Mexico.

PLEASE consider following my poetry all through the month of July at their 30/30 project site and, if you’re in a generous mood, consider donating OR subscribing to their series under my name (Carrie Nassif)

I know I’ve not been writing on here much, but knowing you are out there helps.
Thanks for everything!

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Happy National Poetry Month!

Finally, an excuse to extricate myself from the frenetic energy that life has been so far this year. I am SORRY it’s been so long. I’d thought that the momentum of writing a poem a day would carry me through but the makers have determined that I can, apparently, handle a LOT more life than I thought I could. LOTS. But that will have to be a topic for another day.

Today, I’m wanting to invite you to see what’s up on a site made to celebrate National Poetry Month. I’m a Poetry Month Scout trying my hand at daily prompts for experimental poetry. Check out my first poem on the PoMoSco page, http://www.pomosco.com/remixing/pick-and-mix/in-the-middle/

Check out the site and consider writing your own very fabulous poems using the prompts for each badge!

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Happy New Year 2015

Happy new year!! We’re having a Men In Black movie marathon at my house in attempt to stay up late enough to ring it in…we’ll see how it goes. Hope your year’s been a good balance of sweet and sour with a couple of misspelled fortunes/koans…as a matter of fact, I hope the same for next year, too!

I have some fun news – here’s a review in the California Journal of Woman Writers of an amazing anthology that I was honored to provide a poem and some photography for, “Cry of the Nightbird: Writers Against Domestic Violence”


Love to you all!!!

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Haiku for the month 11/28/14 – 12/24/14

This month’s haiku seem like they’ve come floating in from Noah’s ark or some long lost archaic zoo. Perhaps it’s due to the longer nights…but it’s strange how, as winter burrows in and animals are more scarce all around, they figure more prominently in my head…perhaps it is a superstitious sort of mysticism, I seem to be searching for meaning in our animal neighbors, in our origins, for signals I can understand.

dream twitches, shudders-
how dogs and infants sleep, how
poets find their muse

trees bleed their shadows
over sun spilt hills, branches
sink back into earth

two iced ponds: pale eyes
filmy, sheened by frosted sun
to dull watered gleams

–it happens

I think this crap is
following me around, first
from a carsick dog

smell lingering in
the floor mats, then in his crate
tonight, more poo, more baths

now, diabetic
cat somehow pees under the
box, around the lid,

but not inside it-
his pissy magic for a
shitty evening…

what life lesson am
I not hearing that I keep
getting this lecture?

cat-hair patinas
my couch, the beasts themselves bloom
lichening the floors

after another nonindictment

will we ever stop
re-discovering the times
when we’d mummify

the poor, bury them
as vassals for noble use
in their after-lives

(priests as terrorists)
weren’t those black lives killed worth
any afterthought?

in praise of the sacred, in praise of the scarab

bejeweled beetles
feed on wasted daily bread
breed bucolic births

burrow out disease
mangering saviors reborn
life resurrected

wintry firs are dark
backgammon ranges plying
slushy ski-trailed skies

this persistent dog
leans heavier than you’d think
rests his mulish head

on my tender neck
his primal urge to nuzzle
softens my resolve

in the whale’s belly
we sit amid ribs, scrimming
the oily runway

one twist of flippers
till we glide the inky skies
diving for sea stars

when we were camels,
skinny legs see-sawed the sands
criss-crossed caravans

stiffly hop-skipping
lumpy burdens lumbering
on flat, fleshy palms

gritty wind-whisked dunes
sifting, lifting to starlight
stirring through closed lids,

when morning had eyes
like ripe grapes we would suck dry
squinting past the sun

with those tender lips
strong enough to peel away
love’s thirsty thorns

mossy paused evening
tangy winds’ noisome sawing
cleaves the air in two

before I could speak
I’d trace lines in her pale wrists
breathing in his smoke

before there were words
we’d carved those surging symbols
scratched on sallow walls

flowing beasts rendered
along the veined rock seemed to
breathe in flickered light

distilled histories
filtered in bottled sunlit
refracting futures

cave bear claws stretch scraped
parallel lines, evidence
of his scratching reach


man stands to full height
standing tall on his bare heels
extending ribs, his

scratching reach creates
charcoal-lined ancestral bear
caved walls and minds

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Haiku of the week 11/12/14 – 11/27/14

I have always had a lot of ambivalence about the thanksgiving holiday. I love the food and connection to family…but the wrongheaded myth of its origin has always been troubling to me, and I am astounded that it is perpetuated despite the awareness that most Americans have regarding the horrific treatment of Native Americans in our history as well as in the present day. It continues to be a strange mix of nostalgia and shame…

Nevetheless, it was nearly a year ago, on Thanksgiving, that I began writing these daily haiku…at the urging of a friend and fellow writer, Nicole Galland. That day’s haiku was:

Commitment to write a haiku a day

Count me in
I can start right now;

I am grateful to this suggestion, though I’m often ambivalent about writing them. I know I need to but often find it hard to carve out the time or presence of mind in my day to day busyness. And, yet, it’s been an amazing year – 17 small syllables a day didn’t seem like too much of a commitment to begin a daily writing practice, but upon reflection, it has helped me focus on using more spare, impactful language to make observations or comparisons that wouldn’t have found a home in more unstructured writing.

Some of them can be a little morbid despite my intentions and I think that expressing these aspects of myself have strengthened my other poetry, too. Like these creepy moments:

inky brackish chill
night, a predator pupil
ponderous and still

do you think they knew,
(so inured to suffering)
they lived dark ages?

others are more pleasant…

tumbleweed tribbles
scud across the briney streets
in advance of snow

such a small thing,
your heart, already
housed in mine

welcoming- before the fact

as if we’d always
known this serendipity
it, our connection

one retreat, all these
new souls need woven inward –
to be reabsorbed

but then, I think, I am becoming more at home with the uncomfortable, the darkness within us. Perhaps this is related to the longer nights and shorter days as we cycle nearer to the solstice…

curdled green persists
on these chilled black branches
never riotous

no brisk exhale or
sprinkled coda, clung to
chiming greying skies

his crippled sermons
tilted windmillish toward her
root cellar reserves

oil rigs

top heavy dippers
tend tufted fields, stitching seams-
tailoring sinkholes

sideburn clouds hang low
and long beside bald
dimming tremolo

or perhaps these really are dark ages, not so very different from the massacres marking the founding of this country…

this evening, the sky
was not a riot of pink
at most, it was a

neon carnival –
these clouds have no language for
the carnage power

will make of unarmed
black youth, for damaged silence
which pillages fact,

the assured accused’s
calculating evasion…
or for the fury

untethered in loss,
refusing to be unseen.
the riots are a

sea of righteousness,
of recognition, the riots
are a hurricane

they knew was coming
but never fixed the levees
for and won’t rebuild

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