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winter moon

I am looking forward to the winter studio, to the promise of new cycles of ideas and to revisiting old ones.

Morning Bell

The eye opens like a curtain rising
In the dark, feet search for something real
Consciousness hasn’t happened yet
And the floorboards are skin temperature
A fresh repetition, today will be one more or one less
An impromptu concert strikes up in the kitchen
Maybe this black coffee is the morning bell-
the prize you win for returning safe from sleep

–Iman Mersal

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#21 decembrance

There were 9 hours and 15 minutes of daylight today. Many of those hours were spent wandering the streets of Brooklyn with our family full of laughs, snacks, scootering and more. When at last we turned towards home it felt as if the streets, the earth, and our bodies shivered. We have passed the shortest day of the year and can now turn towards the light.


The white dove of winter
sheds its first
fine feathers;
they melt

as they touch
the warm ground
like notes
of a once familiar

music; the earth
shivers and
turns towards
the solstice.

–Linda Pastan, excerpt from The Months

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#20 decembrance

It was a long city day full of moments of lights and memories of exhaustion. I am always surprised how the surface of a sidewalk can bring back a time and place. On our subway ride home after seeing multiple nighttime light displays in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens a fragment of a poem on the subway created a song in my imagination.


As you fly swiftly underground
with a song in your ears
or lost in the maze of a book,

remember the ones who descended here
into the mire of bedrock
to bore a hole through this granite,

to clear a passage for you
where there was only darkness and stone.
Remember as you come up into the light.

–Billy Collins

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#19 decembrance

I had my traveling hat on today. I saw the sunrise on my driveway with our dog. After delivering pots in SoHo I saw the sunset from the Manhattan Bridge on our way to Brooklyn. Luckily the rains are behind us.

The words he wrote on the rim of his homemade traveling hat can be translated, loosely, as these:

Under this world’s long rains, 
here passes 
poetry’s makeshift shelter.

yo ni furu mo sarani sõgi no yadori k

–Basho, translated by Jane Hirshfield and Mariko Aratani

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#18 decembrance

There was an engaging article in The Washington Post about W. S. Merwin and his Hawaiian property. He bought barren land in the 70s and planted palm trees and other natives to restore the local habitat. Our land here in Virginia has similarly been transformed. Once a treeless pasture it is now a sheltering wooded hillside. Yesterday, between intermittent rain squalls we stepped through the leaves with our Japanese visitors pointing out trees, fruits, and feathers. Today, wishing I had an indexing system, I sifted through objects and notes about specific pots from the 90s to summarize the outlines of new, future projects. It was a bit like looking at past footprints for future inspiration. Much of the touch is stored in my mind and the notes serve as clues to bring it all back.

As if I had a system
I shuffle among the lies
Turning them over, if only
I could be sure what I’d lost.
I uncover my footprints, I
Poke them till the eyes open.
They don’t recall what it looked like.
When was I using it last?
Was it like a ring or a light
Or the autumn pond
Which chokes and glitters but
Grows colder?
It could be all in the mind.  Anyway
Nothing seems to bring it back to me.

–W. S. Merwin, excerpt from The Nails, © 1993 by W.S. Merwin

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#17 decembrance

Two Japanese friends from the restaurant Omen-Azen visited today. Their outing to look at pots and see our home/studio opened an ocean of memories. It’s as if each series of pots I have made for Omen-Azen over the last 40 years might be a different beach on the ocean of our friendship. Some adventures with Mikio were like jumping off a cliff. We may not have known why we were going, but if he was going so were we. Our travels together to look at art, food, pots, and culture included Maryland, Japan, Washington DC, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, and Maine. Today, with our visitors we walked in wet leaves and ate potato leek soup with the last of the dill from my garden. In the studio we pulled out old and new bowls and imagined future seasonal restaurant menus.

For me, poetry is like the Atlantic Ocean. There are many beaches and strands and cliffs, all looking over the vastness of that salty water mass. You can love the Atlantic Ocean simply by having one favourite beach. You can visit many beaches. You can ignore the beach and watch it from a cliff. You can look at it from Ghana, Trinidad, or Ireland. Iceland? Yes. Cabo Verde? Yes, too.

— Pádraig Ó Tuama, A Conversation “Ahead of the New Season of Poetry Unbound

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#16 decembrance

In a conversation with a friend today we touched on the subject of another friend getting hearing aids. We also talked of gardens and our parents. My memory went to my Dad who was deaf as a door nail without his hearing aids. One day right after my mother died I went to talk to him. I was very upset and we sat on the porch of the Maine house. At first my lip began to quiver, then I cried and ranted and felt as if I was drowning, gasping to expel the fluids in my lungs. When I got to a stopping point and caught my breath I floated for a moment in silence in the sun as my dad held my hand. Finally, he said to me, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I feel for you, and I am completely in your corner.” The bad news is that I don’t have my hearing aids in and I didn’t hear a word you said. It was amazing his sitting and not hearing, with his hand on my hand, conveyed complete understanding, a heartfelt raft of support. It helped me navigate the waters which lay in front of me.

We straighten when his lip begins to quiver.

It’s not my place to tell you what he shared that day.

But I can tell you how M. put his hand on B.’s back

and said, maje, desahógate,

which translates roughly to un-drown yourself,

though no English phrase so willingly accepts

that everyone has drowned, and that we can reverse that gasping,

expel the fluids from our lungs.

I sit quietly as the boys make, with their bodies, the rungs of a ladder,

and B. climbs up from the current, sits in the sun

for a few good minutes before he jumps back in.

The dice finish the round and we are well over time.

I resist the urge to speak about rafts, what it means to float.

Good, I tell them, let’s go back to class.

After handshakes and side hugs, I’m left alone in the small room

with a box of unopened tissues, two starburst wrappers on the ground.

–Benjamin Gucciardi, excerpt from The Rungs in West Portal, University of Utah Press, © 2021 by Benjamin Gucciardi

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#15 decembrance

Sometimes making things and writing these posts comes naturally. I collect seeds in the garden and photograph them in the right pot and the appropriate poem is already in my memory. Other days it’s like having to skewer intentions and slow roast them on the heat from my walks around the pond. I draw on our history of kiln firings which requires not only hard work but the shoveling of laughter and ribbing as well as encouragement from friends and family. When the pots and pages, clay and camera come together at the right angle, I feel like dancing in the privacy of the studio. But in the end standing on the porch watching the last light drain from the sky while noticing the new moon is the reminder to keep going.

Making Things

Suddenly I had to skewer all my prayers
and slow-roast them in
the open-air kitchen of my imagination.
I had to shovel fire into my laughter
and keep my eyes from blinking. I had to fuss
like a cook simmering storms.
I had to move like a ballet dancer but without the vanity
and self-consciousness of tradition.
I had to blur my scars so I could write into time,
and carry the sensation of walking like a morose
and heavy American sporting a yellow ascot
over Pont Saint-Michel. I want to be
all razzle-dazzle before the dark-cloaked one
arrives for a last game of chess.
My font of feelings is a waterfall and I live
as if no toupees exist on earth or masks that silence
the oppressed or anything that does not applaud
the sycamores’ tribute to the red flame like the heat
beneath my grandmother’s heart who never raised a ghost
but a storm. So, look at me standing on the porch laughing
at the creek threatening to become a raging river.

–Major Jackson, in Razzle Dazzle: New and Selected Poems, © 2023 by Major Jackson

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#14 decembrance

When I paint my backdrops, set my pots on them, and perhaps add something in them it’s like creating a room or in poetic terms like writing a stanza. When I combine the image with a poem and a memory it’s as if I can play my whole life like a xylophone. My experiences as the child of artists or as the only girl in a family of boys strengthened my need to find my direction in clay. Sometimes I describe it as the walls in our apartment or later the loft were so filled up by the family’s art I was left to utilize the table. When I fill these pots it a reminder that I really do intend for these objects to be used. My images and the pots themselves create the boundary of function. I like to think of function as a large room with flexible walls that I push and pull to create my pots.

Big Leaf Magnolia Seed Pod

“Poetry allowed Olds to play her whole life like a xylophone: All those stories, sitting there in cold silence, could be struck and made to sing.”

“The word “stanza” means “room.” (Edward Hirsch: “Each stanza in a poem is like a room in a house, a lyric dwelling place.”) This means that every poem, and every book of poems, is a sort of house tour. The poet leads you, room by room, through the various chambers of his or her world. Different poets, of course, are very different hosts. T.S. Eliot cracks the front door solemnly, greets you with a formal nod and recedes into his velvety labyrinth; Wallace Stevens throws confetti in your face while shouting spelling-bee words; Emily Dickinson stares silently down from an upstairs window, blinking in Morse code.”

–Sam Anderson, from Sex, Death, Family: Sharon Olds Is Still Shockingly Intimate, New York Times, October 12, 2022

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#13 decembrance

I have been reading Jamaica Kincaid’s Among Flowers: A Walk in the Himalaya. It describes her trip to Nepal in 2000 to collect seeds. Comprehensively, she describes the heat, the walking, the leaches, and the Maoists. I wonder will the seed collecting be worth it. Would I even recognize these plants in their native habitat with a casual glance. How do you feel if you only see it blooming, no seeds to be found after climbing 6000 feet.

Today, I took the motivating opportunity of 50 degree sunshine to dig up dahlias. I store them on the floor in the cool studio under my pottery ware racks. I found vigorous worms in the tubers and my motivation to be diligent was encouraged. As I bring these plants in I feel a profound responsibility for the flowers. The current thinking is that one should not do too much garden cleanup so the bugs can overwinter, thus ready to do their thing come spring. But some clean up was called for so I made a little pen for my branches and stems. While cutting and digging I collected pods and seeds as if they were new to me, anticipating photographing an intriguing one nestled in a small handmade vessel.

Overgrown Okra in Pod Vase

“And my difficulties were these: I found each plant, each new turn in the road, each new turn in the weather, from cold to hot and then back again, each new set of boulders so absorbing, so new, and the newness so absorbing, and I was so in need of an explanation for each thing, that I was often in tears, troubling myself with questions, such as what am I and what is the thing in front of me.”

–Jamaica Kincaid, from Among Flowers: A Walk in the Himalaya, Picador, p. 135.