Saturday, November 26, 2011

Give Thanks for Mercury Retrograde

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.. For the first time in many years, I spent the day with friends and my own family, but no-one from my family of origin.  One result:  I ended up appreciating how precious my family of origin is to me!

For several years now I've actually been enjoying Mercury Retrograde.  The transit seemed to become less stressful after I turned a corner in the healing process, so that at last there was less I needed to clear up from the past than I wanted to experience in the present.  Here's one of the more useful posts i've seen on the positive aspects of Mercury retrograde.  Enjoy, and, as my dad used to say, "happy days!"

Friday, October 28, 2011

Getting Ready for Samhain

I'm very excited about Samhain this year.  On Halloween, I'm going to celebrate my 55th birthday with a special gathering of a few witchy friends—and at the same time, celebrate and inaugurate the beginning of the writing of my memoir American Witch—the story of the long strange trip that brought me to be here, on this blog, writing to you all about the beauty and power I find on this magick path and in this sacred world.  If you enjoy this blog, please send a thought my way on Sunday night as I officially start out on this project.  After 40 years of focusing entirely on poetry, it's scary and electrifyingly intense to be embarking on a big nonfiction book project—but I feel lots of support and love and encouragement from many quarters.  So I say, "Bring it on!"

And then last night, I performed my poem "Samhain," from Eve, as part of the Halloween show at Poets Theater of Maine. The promotions described it as a "ritual poem," and it felt that way, perhaps more than any time I've read it in the past.   Was it the costume—black cloak, white dress, amber beads?  Was it the fact that for the first time for any poetry performance, I worked with a director, Assunta Kent, to prepare?  Was it simply (and not simply—very importantly!) that I was truly "off book" and able to channel the words to the audience without the interference of the page?  Was it that my daughter was part of the performance, acting the part of my "young mind" in Kent's staging?  Whatever the reason, it was a special way to usher in the season of this profound New Year in the pagan calendar when the veil between living and dead feels so thin, because it brought me close to my beloved Grandy, described in the poem (you can see a photo of Grandy and me in an earlier post here).  May you all find beautiful ways to bring meaning to the season by connecting with those you love, living and gone.  Here's the poem.  Blessed be, and Happy Samhain!


In the season leaves should love,
since it gives them leave to move
through the wind, towards the ground
they were watching while they hung,
legend says there is a seam
stitching darkness like a name.

Now when dying grasses veil
earth from the sky in one last pale
wave, as autumn dies to bring
winter back, and then the spring,
we who die ourselves can peel
back another kind of veil

that hangs among us like thick smoke.
Tonight at last I feel it shake.
I feel the nights stretching away
thousands long behind the days
till they reach the darkness where
all of me is ancestor.

I move my hand and feel a touch
move with me, and when I brush
my young mind across another,
I am with my mother's mother.
Sure as footsteps in my waiting
self, I find her, and she brings

arms that have answers for me,
intimate, waiting, bounty.
"Carry me." She leaves this trail
through a shudder of the veil,
and leaves, like amber where she stays,
a gift for her perpetual gaze.

from Eve

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

On Yoga, Sprawl, and the Black Earth Institute

I'm getting ready to head out to the annual retreat of the Black Earth Institute, where I have the honor of being a Senior Fellow this year.  It's always an extraordinarily inspiring weekend, with powerful presentations by Fellows on their work in progress, hard-hitting and urgent conversations, and, not least, memorable wine from BEI founder Patricia Monaghan's homegrown organic grapes.  How fitting a way to acknowledge this time of rich, succulent early-October ripeness.

It was at BEI that I met Cristina Eisenberg, which that ultimately to my writing the play "Wolf Song."  The theme of our readings for this year's discussions is "Hope and Renewal"; who knows where this year's conversations may lead?

This year, one thing I plan to talk about is my passionate belief in the ideas expressed in this talk by James Howard Kunstler.  Kunstler's book THE GEOGRAPHY OF NOWHERE was what I was reading when I gave birth to my daughter.  That book seemed to point the way to a more inhabitable world. 

It's easy to live in the head and forget the importance of the physical.  Poetry, particularly the rhythms of of formal poetry, reminds me constantly that the physical IS the spiritual--and in the last few months, as I've been getting back into doing yoga after a long hiatus, I've been reminded that this is true in every sphere, not just that of poetry.  And it seems to be, in turn, the gist of Kunstler's urgent message for the architecture of our public realm.

Poetry, yoga, the built environment: sphere inside sphere, all working towards greater balance and harmony.  It's a challenging time right now for all of us on the planet--but what beautiful, and increasingly sustained, glimpses we keep getting into more hopeful and renewing ways of living.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Merry Mabon: Equinox Invocations and Andy Goldsworthy at the Beach

Mabon was glorious this year.  For the first time, I cast a circle by using the invocations to the directions I wrote to structure my new book of poems.  It has taken me two years to get up the courage to use these invocations, maybe because I was so afraid they would sound forced instead of magickal.  

But they did sound magickal; they worked!  

Compared to a normal circle, where we just improvise our invocations according to the spirit of the moment, this time I felt a significant difference: the circle was much more tangible. What a special feeling to create a magic space out of words you have crafted; it reminds me of how I felt after writing the Rune poem in the ancient Celtic form of Rionnard tri-nard.

Later, Glen and I went to the beach, where I thought about Andy Goldsworthy, one of my favorite artists, as I found myself crafting spirals and tunnels. Then we walked along the beach and found that other humans had left very similar traces--more sacred circles, silently invoking their own sets of four directions.  

We humans are amazing creatures!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Chant for Lammas--and my Garden

photo by Georgia Etheridge

Happy Lammas, All!  Here is the lammas chant from Calendars.  Though it says two voices, we performed it the other day in four groups of voices, just moving through the poem three times, and it worked out great.  If I can get the technology down, I'll also add the audio version from the Calendars CD

                                                LAMMAS CHANT

                                                   (August 1)
                                                      (two voices,  alternating)

Fill the earth's belly full.

Fill the earth's belly full.
Bring the food, bring the grain.
There are cold months ahead
Give them peace in the ground.

Bring the food, bring the grain.

Fill the earth's belly full.
bring the food, bring the grain.
There are cold months ahead.
Give them peace in the ground.

There are cold months ahead.
Give them peace in the ground.

Fill the earth's belly full;
bring the food, bring the grain.
There are cold months ahead.
Give them peace in the ground.

From Calendars (Tupelo Press, 2003)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Among the Goddesses review

Yay! Here's a nice little review of Among the Goddesses!

And if you like the book, here's the page where you can like it on Facebook--it has some fun information too!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

forward, forward

I picked up a copy of an odd book at a library sale over the holiday weekend: Ethel Morton at Chautauqua, by Mabell S.C. Smith, published just about a century ago, in 1915.

It's an eye-opener to see what things were considered wild and modern at that time:  not only airplanes and electric lights, but also learning to swim, kids earning money (considered "commercialism" and cause for concern among parents), and girls wanting to be considered "individuals" :

Monday, June 13, 2011

Yeats Springs Eternal: Happy Birthday WBY!

Happy Birthday to you, William Butler Yeats!   I am inspired by a myriad of poets, but perhaps you inspire me most of all;

Monday, June 6, 2011

Five Commandments

Do you notice something odd about this Biblical quote?

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. — Romans 13:9-11 (AV)

I just came across it on John Edminster's website. It's from St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans—the most important theological statement by the person who defined Christian theology.

I see only five commandments here!  And they're the good ones. . .

So why aren't the "christians" who want commandments posted in public buildings pushing for 5 instead of 10?!  It would certainly be more theologically accurate!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Wolf Song: In Drama Begins Responsibility

I write this from the sidelines of one of the final rehearsals of my play Wolf Song.   Its very first performances  are next week.  The deer chorus is singing, "deep inside the belly of the wolf/where the dark growls begin. . ."   I'm

Monday, May 23, 2011

Poison Ivy Season...

Does or did anyone else out there get poison ivy? Last year, using Louise Hay's affirmation for poison ivy/poison oak, I avoided it for the first time since suddenly becoming vulnerable to it 25 years ago.  Here's another post on the same topic.  This is the kind of wisdom I want to make more widely available; I know it would have saved me decades of trouble.  What are your experiences?

Shamanista Dawn

I am in NYC just back from a phenomenal weekend of shamanic work with Shamanista Healing Circle.  It confirmed my knowledge that Witchcraft and Shamanism are the same thing.  The movement of energy, the spirituality of the earth and everything in/on it, the importance of intention, the centrality of freedom, integrity, and respect--it's all there--or can be.

I know I'll be writing much more about all this in future.  For now, I'll just say that after doing a soul retrieval journey for someone this weekend, I felt the need to channel a small healing poem for him--a kind of a charm, talisman, that he could use to embody his healing, carry with him, and re-cast the spell whenever he needed it.

The connection between poetry and healing is ancient.  And one thing I learned this weekend is that the ancient things are not far away, just because they are ancient.  In fact, they may be the closest to us of all, because they are the things that arise naturally out of being human.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Old Screensaver and My New Screensaver

I've had this screensaver for months now:

 It's a painting by John Singer Sargent that used to hang here in the Portland Museum of Art.  The brilliant curator had hung it at the end of a long, quiet corridor so you got to approach it slowly

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Scottish Beat Burning Man Wolf Song

Thanks to Wendy Babiak for telling me about this link to Scottish drummers and pipers at the Edinburgh Festival.  The more I learn about the world, the clearer it seems that we are all so closely linked physiologically, artistically, psychologically.  Meanwhile, I've been thinking about the connections between meter, rhythm, wicca, and shamanism while developing ideas for a workshop on Spell Rhythm for the upcoming Burning Man Festival.  And listening to the incredible music for the Wolf Song play, the rhythms of the instruments, singers' voices, and dancers' feet bringing my words to life as if had always been meant to be heard that way...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Answers for Kailee

Kailee is a high school student who wrote me a note one day.  Here's our correspondence:

Hello Annie,

My name is Kailee Hocker. I live in Hiawatha, KS and I'm a junior in High School. Our english teacher wanted us to do research on a famous poet that we like; as well as contact them in any way and ask questions. I looked at a lot of poets and I thought your poems were very pretty. I would really like to get to know more about you. So, please e-mail me back ASAP :) I have some questions I would like to ask you regarding your poetry!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Anapestic Ribaldry

I read at the University of Vermont a week or two ago, and Glen and I had the pleasure of meeting the very charming Irish-born poet Angela Patten.  Yesterday arrived in the mail a remarkable gift from Angela: a copy of Ciaran Carson's translation of the 1780 Irish comic narrative poem,  The Midnight Court (Wake Forest U Press, 2006).  Wow. Thanks Angela!  I plan to read it on the plane to LA today,  for the story—apparently it's about a Faerie court of women trying a man for his (non)use of his sexuality, rather a pagan theme—but meanwhile, what a treat to see a recently-written poem that uses meter--let alone a noniambic meter!— with such skill and wit!  It's a rare recent poem—or translation— that reminds you why poetry is considered an art for the ear.  I think this one is a must for Poetry in Rhythm, working title for an anthology of metrically diverse poems I am coediting with Canadian poet and Stonecoast MFA student Alexandra Oliver.  Check out this excerpt:

Not long was my slumber when nearby, thought I,
the land rocked and rolled and a turbulent sky
Brought a storm from the north, an incredible gale
That lit up the harbor as fire fell like hail.
In the blink of an eyelid--a thing I still see—
A female approached from the side of the quay,
Broad-arsed and big-bellied, built like a tank,
And angry as thunder from shoulder to shank.
Of her stature I made an intelligent guess
Of some twenty-one feet, while the hem of her dress
Trailed for five yards behind, through the mire and the muck,
And her mantle was slobbered with horrible guck. . .

I could imagine settling in to hear a full reading of this poem, just as I described doing at Michael Maglaras' reading of Hiawatha, which recently kept a sizable audience (and not an audience of poets, either!) happily listening for over five hours. . .

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cousin Chas on Graffiti

One of my favorite of Chas's art posts on the topic of a graffiti exhibit which i hope to see when I'm in LA next week to read from Among the Goddesses @ the LA Festival of Books.  Every time I see great graffiti, I feel like I'm in the presence of a powerful wild animal, one that looks me in the eyes and knows far more than i do--like Aldo Leopold's moment of encounter with the Wolf:  "We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes—something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters' paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view."  Thank goodness, we have learned a bit from the mistakes of that generation and now we can look out the train window and appreciate the wolf's eyes, maybe even bring them into the museum, maybe even begin to build a true ecosystem, like this collaboration between Yo Yo Ma and Lil' Buck.  You  tell em, Chas!

Ostara Vibrations--


This is my favorite Ostara altar ever, thanks to daughter Althea.

love to all for spring!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Choice Among the Goddesses, or How I Finally Wrote About My Abortion

Here is a guest post I wrote for Ruth Ellen Kocher's very fine blog Aboutaword, which I wanted to share also with you, dear loyal readers of American Witch. . .
My book  Among the Goddesses: An Epic Libretto in Seven Dreams came out recently and now I am doing readings and a blog-tour about the book--(there's even a Facebook group started by the press where you can share experiences and get updates on readings and performances of ATG).  The book has a unique structure; it intertwines an epic poem and a poetic opera libretto that tell the same story in narrative and dramatic form, spiraling around each other if you read the book straight through.  You can also read one side of the page only as an epic poem, the other only as a poetic libretto.
I am having an unusual time publicizing this book for several reasons. I’m still figuring out how much to sing and how much to speak when I perform, with or without musicians.   Also, the tangled history of writing the book, described briefly below, sometimes makes it feel like I’m living in two or three decades at once.  The main reason, however, is the abortion.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Recipes at Thea's Kitchen

Snow still on the ground here after a white April Fools Day surprise, but thank the goddess I just came across these heartening and very witchy early spring recipes at Thea's Kitchen.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

On Hokusai, Wind Farms, Pound, and My Old Friend Michi

So my cousin the art critic writes a review of an uncanny and moving art show at the Japan Society in New York, which strangely prefigured the tsunami in the work of a group of brilliant young artists.  And my husband the environmentalist forwards a pointed article in Grist called "Japan's wind farms save its ass while nuclear plants flounder,"  showing windmills standing heroic and simple above the waves.   And Yoko Ono tweets how to donate. And I can't stop thinking about 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Happy Ninth Wave!

So this is it, the first day of the ninth and last wave of the Mayan Calendar, known as the time of universal consciousness, the beginning of the age of love and the end of separation.  Brooke Medicine Eagle has good insights about these times in her series of videos.

Till 6 pm today, EST, there is a "synchronized global breathing event" in the Universal Breathing Room where you can breathe with others to usher in the ninth wave with others around the globe, in oneness through the wonders of the web.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

On Meter Rhythm, and Birds

I've long promised to post here some of the original posts from the predecessor blog to American Witch.  Today's archival post is inspired by a marvelous news item about a newly-discovered genetic connection between human music and birdsong, which I posted on Facebook this morning, and by the link Sue Zemka sent in response, to an equally amazing story about birdsong-chants passed down over the millenia in India.  

On Meter, Rhythm and Birds
I’m convinced that humans learned poetic refrain from birds. . . In dry southern California this morning, between readings in San Diego and LA, I wake in my sister’s riding trailer, used to follow horses on

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Strange Handful of Valentines

Last year, it was the Valentine Ball.  This year, we had too much else going on--travelling, Glen's job interviews, and what not--to throw a party.  We decided to stay home (and the world threw us a valentine party, the demonstrations for freedom in Egypt rocking my heart; check out this video~!)

Usually I write a valentine for Glen every year.   This year, so far I've been more than preoccupied with a poem for the Phi Beta Kappa dinner at Yale I've agreed to write.  I am still hoping to get to the annual romantic penning--but in the meantime, I have had a trilogy of somewhat unusual Valentine experiences: I'm participating in a wonderful art event called The Jar Project, where I decided to fill a jar with anniversary rosepetals, romantic mementoes, and lines from my poem "Paravaledellentine"; I was interviewed for a newspaper article about how to write valentines; and then a TV show interviewed me on the same topic.   Now I just have to take my own Valentine advice!  And look back with joy on last year's Valentine Ball.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Housekeeping and Snow: Happy Imbolc!

Some good Imbolc thoughts from Jane Galer, forwarded by my very first publisher, Robert McDowell: 

"Imbolc (pronounced Im-olc) is the ancient Celtic day that marks the halfway point between the solstice and the equinox. This is a cross-quarter day then, a reminder that time is moving and we have obligations. In ancient times, perhaps we simply cleaned out our fireplace, set aside a burning taper, cleaned out the ashes, and then kindled the warming fires of winter again. This was a safety issue, a housekeeping issue, and yet it has deeper implications. This is a night time moment, a time to clear out the “ashes” of our lives, kindle a stronger fire, a stronger sense of purpose for ourselves. This is a time to notice whether we have done the work of winter. Have we told the stories we need to tell? Have we rested, feasted, and shared our hearth with our larger community?"

Some of my most memorable Imbolcs have been spent making candles for the following year and burying them in the snow to harden, or fashioning Brigid's crosses to hang on the door.  But this year, it is a matter of snow endlessly falling, a fire inside, being delayed from heading to the AWP conference in DC, and doing all sorts of literary housekeeping, much involving poems I have committed to write.  It's a time of tending.  Let's put our own houses in order.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Wrought Words: On Writing the First Rionnard Tri-Nard (With a Nod to Lewis Turco)

Late last spring, the outlier veteran formalist poet Lewis Turco dropped me an email out of the blue, asking if I'd be interested in writing a poem in an ancient Celtic form called a "Rionnard Tri-Nard."  Generally, an email like this is about the most fun thing I can imagine receiving, so I was prone to say yes, even before I absorbed the form's daunting requirements: