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Introduction to Icelandic

It started with a series of presents a wooden carving of an Icelandic horse, a fleece-lined sleeping bag, and a plain cloth book.  I used the pony to model for an updated photograph of myself as a ballet dancer waiting for the annual recital to begin.  I tested the sleeping bag in my car, in 16oF weather, in a strange rest stop.  But the book was a problem.  What to do with a book I can’t read?  After accepting the help of Google Translate, I found out the title, Ritsafn, and author, Olof Sigurdardottir, of my book.  I looked for a translation, none exists; there isn’t a lot of Icelandic literature translated into English, I learned.  Her book, it looks is out of print in Icelandic alas.  Interestingly, my book is a collection of poetry and fairy tales, the third and final published work of a woman farmer writer.  That her husband was a carpenter formed the basis for my poem comparing the author to myself.  My carpenter (the presenter) seemed satisfied.  I was still curious.  This is the story of how I decided to start a series of homophonic translations of my book.

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Nordic Branch (X series)

Your souvenirs:

Icelandic horse carving, fleece sleeping bag, hardback


Which left me longing for a translation that doesn’t exist;

What to do with a text I can’t read?


Old book Ritsafn, old tee-shirt soft,

The paper shines; signed by Fra Sigurdardottir a Hlodum.


She was a writer of fairy tales and poems married to a carpenter,

Ever after farmers.


We are the writer and the carpenter;

My caretaker, I shall translate into the genitive case romantic.


Book and word are English cognates of the Icelandic language,

Word list and word lust.


I learned enough Icelandic;

Now let us make like old people and read in bed!

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Bumpy Pavement Series

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Friend (X series)

Tender Fiddling

Will confuse the fireplace still

Some fires deserve death

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Thinking about Critiquing

At one time or another, every writer turns into a teenager.  They fold their arms across their chest and lean back against their chair silent.  They are sullen.  Finally, the frustrated writer exclaims, “you don’t understand me at all!” 

What is a writing teacher to do with a teenager?  This is what I would call a teachable moment.  It is the place where the writer’s technique has failed.  Their craft is insufficient to convey their intentions.  Every student writer needs to learn how to realize their intentions in their writing.  This is true from anthropology papers to poems. 

I would like to make a place for student intent within the teaching of writing. The student writer must to be able to talk about their intent and figure out what technique they should use to realize it.  Sometimes talking about intent in another form is freeing for the writer.  Changes in form and genre can be freeing.   It is essential for the teacher to experience the gap between the student’s intentions and their work.  The teacher should try to help the student bridge the gap by means of better technique.  The potential for revision is what makes teacher’s critiques different from those of literary scholars. 

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Thinking about Teaching Writing

Or Graduate School Application Responses...

The good writing teacher helps students express ideas clearly and concisely through writing in the form appropriate to their discipline.  The great writing teacher helps students develop the relationship between their thinking and their writing.  The purpose of student writing assignments is not a regurgitation of the material the teacher feed to the class.  It is to continue a conversation started in class and reading assignments.  While the teacher may initiate the conversation, it is the students’ responsibility to extend the classroom discussion with their own insights.  Students are supposed to learn about the relationship of words to ideas. 

Even in the work of the best writers, words fail a little.  Words always incompletely capture the world.  Acknowledging the limitations of language is essential to the practice of writing and interpreting.  However, the gap between intention and interpretation is where real learning occurs, for the writer and the teacher too.  As the technique of the writer improves, the gap decreases.  It is the work of the student and the teacher together to bridge that gap.  The teacher should deploy a variety of strategies to help the student realize their ideas in their writing.  Repeated revisions, experimentation with form, and face-to-face conversations are some good methods.  This story about teaching writing holds true across all disciplines. 

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Home and Garden

Home and Garden


Island life is hard on a house                                     sitting beside a shed named Mouse House.

How like a horse is a house,     

                                     tender I                 wonder.  

                                                                  Where is the boundary between wild and wonderful?

Swelling plants

                      will swallow the water hose whole.

Dwelling place

                      cobwebs are the burglar alarm for daddy long legs. 

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Hurricane Plus Nor'Easter Equals?

Nantucket Island never lost electricity,

Though winds swept sand into my eyes and the sea spewed.

It wasn’t the perfect storm, Hurricane Sandy.


Murray’s Liquor was last Main Street store to close surely; 

The pharmacy counter got tipped twenty for food. 

Nantucket Island never lost electricity


Sand bagging the strip was proven unnecessary;

Below the sidewalks well-behaved floodwaters brewed.

It wasn’t the perfect storm, Hurricane Sandy.


Brussels sprout stalk in the fireplace were pretty smelly,

But my best friend insisted firewood should be valued!

Nantucket Island never lost electricity!


A cottage in Madaket was swept into the sea;

Residents weren’t surprised, the owners subdued.

It wasn’t the perfect storm, Hurricane Sandy.


Posting flood photographs on Facebook makes New Jersey

Friends worry about me, while waiting to be rescued.

Nantucket Island never lost electricity;

It wasn’t the perfect storm, Hurricane Sandy.

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Lunch Invitation (Post Script Series)



Bay scallop leaves

Harbor for boiling water, bay leaves

White wine, yellow onions, potatoes, corn, butter,

Cream, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, and

More thyme.


The not last taste

Overlays scallops and corn

Of Zea mays var. saccharata out

Of season, there is no sexy way to say I miss you

Words discarded with shells at Jetties parking lot


The shellfish

Is always selfish in chowder. 

Still, try to see the blue bowls garnished with parsley,

And pats of butter on beautiful cold days. 

Recipe for a specific experience. 


Oh Iowa sweet!

Become my yellow-white bouquet summer man.

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Plotting (Post Script Series) (X series)

I am the three-dimensional problem represented by the two-dimensional graph. The derivative tells the story of how a function changes as its input changes. The function is why is the narrator. The first derivative of gives velocity, the second acceleration, the third jerk, the fourth jounce.

The derivative of the function at a particular point is equal to the slope of the tangent line. You only need two points to plot a straight line. Now, how to determine the equation of the line? (y = mx + b) B is the y-intercept; the point where the line crosses vertical axis. M is the slope, rise over run. Slippery slope? Slippery brain? Slippery brains fall easily in love. B told me I had a sexy brain. That is the best compliment to a neurobiologist.

Begin with B robing me in terrycloth and brewing fresh coffee. We sat in his air-conditioned garage while he smoked an American Spirit. Inside, B simply handed me a toothbrush. It was shiny and new and he gave me a travel case too. I keep it on my bookshelf.

X gave me a toothbrush last night. He instructed me to leave it on the nightstand on my side of the bed. The plastic and cardboard packaging was misshapen. I teased X about who used the toothbrush. The bristles felt too soft. His brussels sprouts are perfectly soft. X’s been rehearsing this for days, I know. I was sad.

What lies between B and X?

This is only one tangent; there are infinitely many more…

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