The Whether Here



Introducing Sheila Squillante!

I didn’t know Sheila Squillante when she contacted me less than a month ago, “out of the Facebook abyss”, as she remarked, to pick my brain about possibilities for a virtual release party for her chapbook, A Woman Traces the Shoreline. It is a prose poem sequence, I learned, soon to be released by Dancing Girl Press, the same press that published my chapbook of ekphrastic poems on Modigliani, (al)most delicious.

Turns out DGP editor Kristy Bowen suggested she get in touch with me. So, strangers? Yes. Not even Facebook friends, not yet. But... just the tone of her note to me was exceedingly warm and friendly -- but not saccharine, not overly familiar. We had exchanged a few messages, so I sent a friend request. Then, another message popped up in my inbox, addressed to multiple poets & editors, with one simple request: “Might I write something on your blog? Answer the burning questions you didn't even know you had about my poetry? Appear in person to read poems for you? Would you like to review [my chapbook]? Do you know anyone who would? Can I cook you a meal to say thanks? I would be happy to, you know.”

Wow. Cook me a meal? My immediate response was to want to help this woman, but I didn’t respond right away. My schedule has been pretty full lately, especially the last few weeks, working on compiling and doing the layout for the 2011 Writing From Inlandia anthology, managing some of the blah administrative tasks for the journals I edit, prepping for the workshop I’m teaching, and, most recently, minding sick children this week. But even amidst all of this, my thoughts kept swinging back to her, and so I sent her another note, asking her to tell me a little about herself, and to send me some of her work.

It was nothing short of mind-blowing. In the excerpt that she sent, Squillante packs in themes ranging from the complexity of women’s roles and bodies, literary theory including Bahktin, who I became familiar with while studying the various movements feeding into the Gurlesque, the body as L’objet, the body as a site of horror as well as well revelation, without ever sacrificing the interiority and domesticity of the speaker’s narrative.

When Squillante described her work to me as being “...filled with ambivalence and terror and grapples with the way the female body (particularly the pregnant female body) gets commodified. It has to do with boundaries and ownership, I guess.” , she didn’t know that these themes -- of motherhood, of women’s bodies, of the body as an object, the complexity of women’s roles, of domesticity, are all at the heart of my own writing, my heart of hearts.

Sometimes the universe, or a clever editor, or luck, or whatever, connects the dots.

Going back through my notes, the first one she sent just happened to be on my oldest son, Jacob’s, birthday. Squillante’s chapbook, A Woman Traces the Shoreline, was written while she was very pregnant with her first child, also a son. So, from one mother to another, one poet to another, I enthusiastically await the release of her chapbook, and hope that -- after this sampling -- you will, too.



I stare at my belly and he reads Bahktin. I read about amniotomies and they become potatoes thrown by aliens in my dreams. I’m gonna get you! I dream of old loves, of bears, of circumcision. I dream of women, of my own taut skin. I read around in books. I coexist. I am becoming, they tell me, “wholer.”


Half terrified, I trace the edges of a heat rash like a shoreline from shoulder to fingertips. I only want to read poems by women, I say. This one has me thinking about the notion of hero. Where is my quest narrative? someone asked.


I want to include too much—all the women who write poems, for instance, and birds, les globes terrestive on the shelf with the travel books—un outil de reference pour tout la famille


A woman with a stepstool steps in, repositions items on a rack, moves off. A woman in her comfy clothes off until Friday from her job in the shoe department. The coffee shop. The retail bind. A woman covered in cookie crumbs—belly and breasts. A woman billowing, blue rayon and flowers. A woman in the parking lot by the dumpster, her arms airplaning. Open wide! A woman with her small red boy, back to you, a “travel pictorial.” A woman checking her messages, suggesting seaside villas, good places to see. A woman terrifying herself with the notion of inclusion. She waits, tracing the shoreline of her body, a heat rash of expectation.


Shirt pulled taut. Skirt pushed softly outward. L’objet. Stranger hands query and quest. Touchez le surface. When. When. When.

Space Available in My Upcoming Workshop

Hey there,

If anyone has been a.) looking for a creative writing workshop to attend in the I.E., b.) knows someone who is or might be interested, or C.) has been wanting to work with me personally, please keep reading.

Beginning exactly one week from tomorrow (Wednesday September 28, 2011, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm) I will be leading a brand-new FREE Inlandia Creative Writers Workshop at the Ovitt Family Community Library in Ontario, California.

It will take place every other Wednesday through the middle of November (5 sessions). The venue is a really beautiful, newly-renovated library with a cafe on the first floor and lots of parking. Registration is required because space is limited, but there is no charge for the workshop. Just bring something to write on and write with and an open mind. All genres & all experience levels welcome. My main goal is to get us writing, and writing well.

Because this is the first in what I hope will be a long-running series of workshops (the one in Riverside has been going for years) and because there are typically three sessions per year (Fall, Winter and Spring) I am starting with some basics and hoping to build a strong core group of participants who will generate some new work, pick up some strategies for revision and getting around writer's block, and then return for Winter and Spring and beyond to develop those works into something they'd be proud of publishing.

This Inlandia Creative Writing Workshops culminate in the production of an anthology and a public reading. This year's reading & anthology launch will be held on November 13th at Back to the Grind in Riverside at 2 pm. Participants from all three established workshops (Riverside, Palm Springs and Idyllwild; Ontario will be included next year) will be reading their finished works and copies of the anthology will be available.

If you're interested in joining my workshop please send an email to

with the following information:

Full name
Full street address
Telephone numbers
email address

If you have any questions, just ask!


P.S. Please forward to anyone who might interested!

Inlandia: A Literary Journey launch reading & reception

... was a HUGE success. Thanks to everyone who came out, and especially to our readers -- Gayle Brandeis, Mike Cluff, Sheela Free, Hillary Gravendyk (pictured above, though you can barely see the top of her head above the crowd -- she is seated beside the podium), Myra Dutton, Stephanie Barbe Hammer, Liz Gonzalez, E.J. Jones, Rachelle Cruz, Kate Anger, Jean Waggoner, Maureen Foley, Lucia Galloway, Karen Greenbaum-Maya, Ruth Nolan, & Cindy Rinne -- and Inlandia staff Pamela Atkinson, Jeff Kraus, and Mike Sleboda. Couldn't have done it without you! (More photos to come -- will post when the gallery is up.)

Who am I and what I am doing here?

Yes, this is my birthday cake.

I did not want a store-bought cake this year. I wanted to bake it myself. I used the stand mixer from the forties that I inherited from my grandmother last summer to bake her chocolate cake in her cake pans, using her measuring spoons and measuring cups and in that way foil any possibility of my screwing it up. And you know what? I still screwed it up, couldn't get the damned thing out of the pan. So I plopped it all on a plate, poured the frosting over it, and stuck the candles in.

And guess what?

It was the best damned delicious cake I have ever eaten.

NaPoMo Recap & Big Poetry Book Giveaway Winners!

Congratulations! We all survived National Poetry Month 2011, one way or another. I know I only made it halfway through NaPoWriMo, but that's 15 more poems than I wrote last month, and a couple of them I actually like.

April was chock-full of poetry events.  I helped judge the Corona Public Library's Teen Poetry Slam again, as I seem to always do in April and October; we had 38 kids this time, a truly big turnout for this event. Also, yesterday I launched the second issue of Inlandia: A Literary Journey. I have also been helping to facilitate and judge another poetry contest for teens that is a joint project of both the Inlandia Institute and the Rotary International; we have just finished the first round of judging and will move on to the oral presentation portion in the next couple of weeks. The great thing is that these kids will earn some scholarship money by writing poems. I introduced in Claremont one week then hosted the next two back-to-back readings by poetry pal Judy Kronenfeld, then also went to listen to another of poetry pal, Maureen Alsop, also in Claremont. So many things going on in April that I didn't get to make it to everything I would have liked, but that's how it goes.

But the REALLY good news is that now that April is over I get to pick winners for the Great Big Poetry Book Giveaway!

So, using the random number generator, here are the winners:

Of one of my books (choice of either Seven Floors Up or (al)most delicious):

  • Comment number 3, Jo T.!

Of Matthea Harvey's Sad Little Breathing Machine:

  • Comment number 16, Carol Berg!

Jo T. and Carol -- if you see this before I have chance to send you an email, feel free to drop me a note with your snail mail addy so I can get those books to you asap!

And a HUGE thanks to everyone who commented and threw their hat into the ring. I am looking forward to taking a breather this week after a very hectic but productive April. Who knows, maybe I'll even set aside a little time to revise some of those NaPoWriMo poems.

My poetry group meets tonight, something I always look forward to. Wine & poetry! Hurray!