Friday, November 30, 2012

The Next Big Thing (Behind the Scenes at The Storialist)

Writer friend Luisa Igloria (she’s wonderful--read her work here) kindly invited me to take part in this self-interview called The Next Big Thing (not referring to my opinion of myself, thank goodness--referring to what I’m working on now). So, step into my studio/office/laptop/brain, and I’ll share a bit more about The Storialist, and how I use it in my writing practice.

Where did the idea come from for the blog?

I started The Storialist in 2008, when I was living in Vancouver, BC. I was between jobs, and unsure of where to direct my energies. I had been missing writing, and had been reading lots of blogs. One of my favorite blogs was (and still is) Scott Schuman’s The Sartorialist. I so admired how he made his art a part of his daily life. I was originally writing poems about his images (I’d look at the image he posted everyday, and write a corresponding poem). It forced me to write each day, and provided me with a sort of prompt.

The blog has definitely evolved since then. I now respond to many different types of art in my poems. And the connection between my poems and the art is more and more tenuous. I used to worry that the reader wouldn’t see the connection between the image and the words. In the past couple of years, I’ve completed abandoned this worry. I’ve realized it’s not my job to decide how readers interpret my work. It is extremely freeing. More and more, I am giving myself permission to explore whatever I want to in my writing and on this site (hence Fridays, which I see as fun days, where I can post whatever I feel like sharing/working on).

I see The Storialist as my workspace. When I write poems I feel less proud of (which happens all the time), I’m ok with sharing them because it’s all a part of what I’m working on right now. It’s my studio and my sketchbook.

What genre does your work fall under?
This is a daily poetry blog, but I also post thoughts on art, artists, and creativity.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition of your poems?

One time, I was fantasizing about hiring actors to stage and perform my poems. That idea had no legs, but it was fun to think about.

I know I’d like Woody Allen, Tim Burton, and Wes Anderson to collaborate on directing a movie version of my poems (too much quirk?). Let’s make it an animated film...maybe something like Coraline? Bjork might have to make a cameo.

What is the one sentence synopsis of the blog?
Poems inspired by images, updated every weekday (this may change eventually).

Who or what inspired you to create this blog?
I’ve already mentioned Scott Schuman, The Sartorialist.

My husband, Marcus, has always been a huge supporter, inspiration, and source of knowledge about the internet/blogging/Twitter...he has highly influenced my love of social media.

Of course, art is a huge inspiration. Visiting artists’ sites and thumbing through their work gets my gears turning.

Other creative heroes of mine: Lynda Barry, Tim Gunn, Jan Zwicky, Jim Henson.

What else about your blog might pique the reader’s interest?
I used to write my poems and post them on the same day--but now I write them the day before, and pre-post them. It allows me to write under less pressure (one day I will write a book called Procrastinating Effectively!)

I crave my writing time. When I sit down to write something for this site, I begin by pushing all other concerns from my mind (the millions of papers I have to grade, the event I need to finish organizing, the emails I need to respond to, the dinner I should start). Another thing I’ve realized is I have to trust that I will write something. I may not love it, but I can write something, if you give me an hour or hour and a half, a computer, some music, and an image I’m interested in. My writing practice teaches me: there will always be new ideas and words.

Ok....your turn! If you’d like to take part in The Next Big Thing, just answer these questions on your site (about a book you’ve written, or about your blog), and include a link in the comments section here. Then, pass it along, and invite other writer friends to play.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Astronaut Interviews

The Astronaut Interviews

Which is more important: the longing
to run, or the longing to return. How
would you feel about being the only
human on a planet, and walking on it.
On a scale of one to ten, how dependent
are you on gravity, emotionally. Talk
to me about your previous experiences
with discomfort. With the dark. With
loneliness. If you think you see a creature
scurrying off into the darkness, would you
chase it. Are you prepared for what you
will be bringing home with you. What
do you imagine it will feel like to sit
on your steps in the early evening,
flannel blanket around your shoulders,
seeing the places you used to work.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Back in the Body

Back in the Body

Body, why will you not house me.
I lean away from you, my leash.

When I jump, there is no certainty,
no tall-building-leapingness,

no superpower. If I cloak myself
in sweat, will I be sealed in,

Saran-wrapped. Can’t my bones
be closer to the surface so I can

burrow beneath them, speech bubble
sucked back in, anchor crawling

back to the boat, hoisting itself back
over the edge, panting, dripping.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How to Come Home

How to Come Home

Ow, but why. Is it pain,
or the memory of pain,

lava or cooling lava or
a lava dream. The lava

will turn into land, look,
a new mountain, even.

Now you are the guest.
Mt. Welcome Home

invites you in. Soon you
see past the strangeness

of all the new rock, the
land that now blocks

a portion of the sky over
your town. One morning,

you will start the coffee,
stand before the window,

and the sky in your head
will match the sky you

stare at. Sleeping town,
sleeping volcano, cool

streets, steady, steady,
sleep ready for you again.

Monday, November 26, 2012



Don’t you know what absence
makes. Weren’t you ever

taught. The heart will grow
and stretch, reaching for

what is farthest, though
it is not far, it is not there.

Absence makes the heart grow
hungrier, dragging back

bluestone, sarsen. Get used
to the taste of igneous rock.

Get used to the taste of fire.
Don’t you know what absence

tastes like yet. You do or you will,
pass us that feldspar, would you.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Answer Is...

It's true--the answer IS trees. I see this little brick circle on my way to class, and I keep imagining what I'd paint inside. Why not this?

I hope your weekend is full of things to be grateful for (and gratitude, of course)! Thank you for reading this week.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Animals Assume

Animals Assume

Hunger means
seek food with your nose
and eat what you find.
Follow warmth
and light.
Tuck your legs
beneath your own
warmth, bring your face
to the floor. Let your body
do the body’s work,
if there is pain,
bring it to your tongue.
All of this happens
in one long day,
today you sleep,
today you wake
and urinate and eat,
today you see a spider
and smack it with your paw,
today you watch snowflakes
from the window,
today you hide
from strange sounds,
you get more and more
of today and your hunger
returns to tell you
you should eat.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Living Daylights

Living Daylights

To find that part of me
still flickering,

to chew and exhale flames,
a dragon with a mouth
crammed with Bazooka Joe,

to use my heart
as a flashlight,

to meet my ghost
as a dance partner,
spinning away from me,
and back toward me,

to sift out the glowing shards
with unshaking hands
and swallow them back down,

to greet my fiery shadow,
saying, here is our bed,
our mirror, we can learn
one another again.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Do You Read Me

Do You Read Me

Today, whatever I notice
I dedicate to you. Observing
is an act of devotion,
transmission. Other brain,
how’s it coming in,
first the honeyed, searing
scent, then the beep
of the self-checkout machine
at the grocery store,
then the white petals jutting
out from a stand of
floral arrangements, lilies
placed just at nose-
level, so that every time I
reach for another item
from my basket (lilies, bread,
lilies, toothpaste, lilies,
coffee) I get a face full of
flowers, here, these
are for you.

Monday, November 19, 2012



Treefuls and gutterlengths.
The dark or light hem creeping

out beneath a door. The strength
of matter is constantly tested, heaping

helping after helping of gravity,
or rain, or illness onto the land,

our heads. The body as nasal cavity,
time as neti pot, water, the hand

that pours. The human condition
is permeability, Play-Doh trying,

beneath its lid, for lotus position
even as it’s squished up and drying.

Friday, November 16, 2012

This Week, Feeling Inspired by...

The Matt & Kim concert in Columbus (on Wednesday night). Their energy and joyfulness is incredible and completely contagious. In the best way possible, there was a distinctly Sesame Street/singalong feel to their performance (see my blurry photo at the right--yup, those are balloons that they passed out to the audience!). I was reminded of singing songs in kindergarten, when my teacher would point at the students, encouraging us to sing along with her even more loudly, whether or not it sounded good. They also worked bits of hip hop songs into their show, dancing wildly. It amazed me how they managed to be both performers and fans onstage--maybe that’s why the audience responds so exuberantly to Matt and Kim. They honor the power and fun of being a devoted fan by blurring the line between performer and audience. (How would this work at a poetry reading? Could it? Not with the same volume, but somehow....)

This bumper sticker, spotted while driving to work one morning: “Trees are the answer.”  Sound familiar?

This article, “Diamonds Unearthed,” from

This video by Paul Octavious (I love his photography, too). I’ve been thinking lately that one of the most essential qualities that artists can have is attentiveness. This video is a beautiful example of how being present can lead to inspiration.

Ghana In Fog from Paul Octavious on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Answer Is Trees

The Answer Is Trees

What can hold the heart
you carve with your
wood-handled knife.

If the birds haven’t
left, but aren’t
in the sky, where
do you know to
look next. Today,

my car is sticky,
gummy windows.
Why. Who did this.

How come you chose that
house, on this street.
Why do you look
up while you walk.

Who cannot run from
bugs or fire.
Who cannot run
but can outlive
the whole village.

What will your daughter
remember from
the Atlantic
Ocean. What will

make her long to pet
the land, her soft,
fluffy creature.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

As Far As We Know

As Far As We Know

The Earth is a swimming pool,
but solid. The Grand Canyon
wouldn’t be the shallow end,
or even the baby pool. To get
to where the diamonds are born,
we’d have to dive down through
a hundred Grand Canyons, stacked.
We can’t go there. Space, sure,
a matter of distance, travel time.
But how to explore the unbudging
depths of our home turf, that place
which is too hard for us to chew
through. Every so often, the planet
spits out glittering bits of wisdom
for us to gather up. We play on
the surface, children on the beach,
squealing when the sea foam
skims our toes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Steam Clock

Steam Clock

Not a postcard with a steam clock on it,
not a Hudson’s Bay blanket, white wool
with stripes of green, red, yellow, indigo.

If you bought a magnet with the ocean,
mountains, silvery buildings and a bridge,
then what, you would have another magnet.

Memory loosens, stretched out like an
old sweater that anticipates how the body
will fill it. What was the name of that bar,

no one remembers, no one will ever tell
you, and your life goes on unengulfed
by fire and dozens of sinkholes.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Single Servings of Comfort, Compassion, and Reverie

People need poems sometimes. This thought reassures me.

When we fall in love, marry each other or watch our friends marry each other. When someone we love leaves. When someone we love is sick or in pain. When we are in pain. When a new human enters the world. When the world changes, and we are overwhelmed.

Even when nothing can be done to fix a situation, poems provide single servings of comfort, compassion, and reverie. Tell me what to make of this, we ask the poems we look to for comfort. Tell me what house to build around this experience.

I wanted to share a few of the poems I look for in times of weakness and pain. And I would love to hear your recommendations, too.

“blessing the boats,” by Lucille Clifton
“Recovery,” by Jan Zwicky
“Directive,” by Robert Frost
“Five Odes on Absence” or “Never-ending Birds” by David Baker
The Crying Hill” by Yusef Komunyakaa
“Tree,” by Jane Hirshfield
“Under One Small Star,” Wislawa Szymborska

Thursday, November 8, 2012



Fifty birds converge over a tree,
in the tree, seem to become
the dark branches.

For a minute, no shadows but
the tree’s shadow. Once all
the birds land

where the leaves should be,
it’s easy to see them as
leaves, easy not

to see them there. The tree,
teeming with birds, holds
still. One minute

more, and the tree exhales,
the bark loosens, shatters,
lifts, and scatters.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

It’s Ok, You Couldn’t Have Known

It’s Ok, You Couldn’t Have Known

First the baby T. Rex, little guy,
raising his head to look around
Dinosaur Hall, and then at you.
He’s only two. Can’t know where
he is, who he could have been.
The teenager and the momma
Tyrannosaurus rouse next,
shake their heads like wet dogs.
Steel poles bend and snap,
and the bones move, bodies
again. Here comes Stegosaurus,
cantering along the tiled floor,
creaking when he stops (out
of habit) for a breather. Quilts
of prehistoric dust unfold
above you. Nothing is on fire.
Dino Hall is quiet, save for
bone on bone, bone on tile,
bone clattering against the
walls. No alarms. Allosaurus
skidding by, eying Spike.
No, you aren’t safe. But where
are you going to go, when
the dinosaurs wake up. Poor
things don’t know they aren’t
dinosaurs anymore, that
they’re full of holes, that outside
these walls they will not know
where the land they once slept on
went, where the world has gone.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012



What kind of being
does our longing

create, cedar-cloaked
ghost clutching

at our knees, riding
shotgun, showing

us how the farthest-
away hills earn

the translucence
we keep draping them

with, even when
it keeps sliding off.

Monday, November 5, 2012

We Call It Sky

We Call It Sky

Not the lid viewed
from inside the aquarium,
but the surface of the water
viewed from beneath
that we mistake for a lid.

Are there any aquariums
out there,
maybe overturned
or green with the weird life
that thrives within the abandoned.

Is there anything but loneliness
for them out there.
We think we hear them trying to speak
to us, glug glug glug
coming down from the sky,
or maybe it’s our own questions
echoed back, gurgling.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bookmarks List/Bedside Table

Currently reading and enjoying...

Issues 4 and 5 of Barn Owl Review, especially the poems from Nin Andrews (“Sisters,” and “Why God Is a Woman” in Issue 4).

This interview with Kristina Marie Darling from the Barn Owl Review blog. I love what she says about using historical sources and research as inspiration:

The best advice I can give is this: don't be afraid to edit, rewrite, and fictionalize these sources.  Many contemporary poets find inspiration in historical subject matter, but they're hesitant to change the materials they find for their own purposes.  They feel like they won't do justice to their chosen subject by rewriting history.  I've definitely been guilty of these things myself.  But this kind of mindset makes it extremely difficult for the writer to showcase their own voice, style, and vision in a research-based project.   

“At the Mall,” by John R. Campbell in Terrain (Fall 2012).

“My Multiday Massage-a-Thon,” by John Jeremiah Sullivan in the NY Times.

Thursday, November 1, 2012



If sleep is a city you can’t find
again, float toward it by picturing
the streets you used to walk along.
Fill in the holes, the pink azaleas
here, the post office here. The house
with the orange door here and
here, the house with dozens of
miniature ships in its window,
red and white. The scummy rocks
marked where the water once rested,
and the ducks, and the dogs,
and the air. Tell the world where
it belongs, in pieces.
The Storialist. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.