May I direct your attention over here?

In the last deep blue February day, I followed my heart’s compass to the true north of another backyard.

true north

Today I spent my creative time on dirtcakes, the literary magazine I founded to “offer space for international writers and artists to illuminate a shared global humanity.”

There’s dirt under my fingernails.  Like any backyard task, it was difficult but satisfying work. What was it? Here’s a hint: I invented a new form of literature!

Maybe you remember “Five Lines to Challenge Chaos” when I dared myself to try each poetic form, “so that by spring, I’ll have a larder of poems that adhere to formal patterns found in nature, the sunflower, for example, or the whorl of a seashell, the number of legs on a spider for instance, or the swoop of an orb found glistening in early morning.”

I failed at that, but succeeded in invention.

The Contributor Voices Chorus is  based on a very old form of poetry – the cento. The cento is a collage, or mashup of lines from other writers, arranged in a fresh way, sort of like taking one flower from every blooming bush in your garden and creating a bouquet that looks nothing like your backyard.

For one sample of a cento, you can read “Wolf Cento” by Simone Muench.

You’ll have to wander over to dirtcakes to see my invention, the all new Contributor Voices Chorus.

It’s also time to give props. One of our readers took the poetic form challenge. In honor of The Simple Life of the Country Man’s Wife’s diligence, I’m linking to her cinquain here. I wonder how her spring larder of poems is looking? How about yours?

Adieu January, when we focused.
Goodbye February, when we explored leading lines.
See you in March when, in honor of the month’s disparate weather days, we play with contrast.

~Catherine

Never enough time to say no

Are you used to the idea by now that your days aren’t long enough?

My father once asked me this during a week when I’d just moved and was still unpacking boxes.  I was also in the middle of putting out an issue of dirtcakes the literary journal I edit, finishing a poetry manuscript, writing an essay collection, and baking cookies to take for an overnight visit to that same man who’d just asked me if I was ready yet to bow to the superior strength of time’s speed pitted against my endless to-do list that stretched like one of Jack Kerouac’s legendary giant paper roll manuscripts.

From the back cover of On the Road: The Original Scroll

I almost said no, my days are never long enough.  And then I paused.

Every single day there’s time for meditation and prayer, for long dinners with my husband, conversation with our parents and children, my sisters and neighbors, friends and strangers.  I have all the time I need to hike with my dog at least for a bit and toast small discoveries like the way the afternoon sun slants golden in the living room window of the new house.

Every day is exactly as long as it needs to be when I take time to write and teach and breathe a prayer of gratitude for living with the kind of mind that dreams up all the things that fill my days.   That to-do list only feels like it stretches to eternity, but in fact it’s filled with tasks that will hardly outlive my body the way love will link my life to others in ways that will continue to give long after I’m gone.  There’s never enough time to say no to what matters.

So, yes, I said, rather surprised at myself.  Every day is exactly long enough, I told my father.  Yes, this day is the perfect length, as will be the one tomorrow when I come visit.

What, what did you do today?  My monkey mind can’t help but ask this persistently during the daily hour when I finally concede surrender to the uncrossed off items still standing under the to-do heading.  My answer today?  I wrote you and I feel great.  And now it’s time to go get busy in the kitchen.


With all the time in the world,
~ Catherine

p.s.  If reading lists brings you pleasure, one of my all time favorite books is Journeys of Simplicity: Traveling Light edited by Philip Harnden.  It’s a compilation of lists from writers, poets, even an arctic tern.

An excerpt:

RAYMOND CARVER’S ERRAND LIST:

Eggs
peanut butter
hot choc

Australia?

Antarctica??

What will you pack into your day? What are you willing to let go?
~C