Welcome from Amy D. Unsworth

Language, Literature, Learning & Life.

Katlyn “Katie” Collman

There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.

Amber Alert

Amber Alert Issued By Police For Katlyn Collman

Americas Amber Alert News Center (Crothersville Indiana USA NA) TAA -- The Crothersville Police Department is investigating an abducted child from the corner of Preston and Oak, in Crotersville, IN. 15 miles southeast of Seymour, IN. Kaylyn Collman date of birth August 13, 1994, a white female, 10 years old, 4'6" tall and 120 lbs. She has brown eyes and brown hair. Katlyn Collman was last seen at 4:20 pm on January 25th at Crothersville Community School, Crotersville, IN. and is believed to be in extreme danger. Katlyn was wearing a red short sleeve shirt, black stretch pants with white stripes and a medium light blue winter jacket. Crothersville Police Department says Katlyn Collman was likely abducted by an unknown suspect, description is a tall white male, 5'8" tall - 6'0", very skinny, 18 to 20 years old, short dark hair, fair complexion. Suspect vehicle is a white Ford F-150 pickup truck, truck year late 80's or early 90's which was last seen in the Crothersville area. If you have any information on Kaylyn Collman please contact Crothersville Police Department at 1-888-58AMBER. ALERT STATUS: AlertDATE OF ALERT: 1/27/05TIME OF ALERT: 1:15pm

This was my hometown when I was a child. I walked home from school everyday. Please take a moment to look at Katlyn's picture. There's no telling where she may be.

Monday January Seventh: Headline

Monday January Seventh: Headline

The first fire that made the paper
consumed Old Man Shively’s
decrepit doublewide.

The town council sighed in relief
and passed new zoning laws
prohibiting such trash inside the limits.

Dressed in overalls and slippers
Shively sat in a folding lawn chair
where his living room had been and stared
towards a sky he’d ignored for years.

He was already drunk. No one thought
to ask who had left a case of Pabst
under the charred sweet gum
or thought to wipe the one empty can,
tucked in the crook, for prints.

The newspaperman wrote:
Electrical Fire stuns Resident
and ran the picture, a toothless widower
with arms as thin as tinder.


It's been said that I'm "non-traditional" poet, but I'm not certain I know what would make me "non-traditional." I'm probably very traditional, as in I read the canon, and want to know about craft, and think John Donne was a damn fine poet. After I graduated from college, I didn't go to a writing program, perhaps that's what the tradition is. Nor did I get to go tour Europe or even Canada for a year. Ah well. I'm certainly a "non-traditional" student, as I've returned after ten years of traditional wife & mother roles. But, ten years out of academic work doesn't mean I haven't been reading, or writing, or thinking about poetry. It took several years away from the university before I realized that I wouldn't be happy without having literature and poetry as part of my intellectual life. I spent several years doing 1950's style volunteering, being in the kids' schools, cutting shapes out of colored paper for teachers and the like. It was good; I felt like I was making a difference in my children's lives. But when poetry began to call again, I realized this, This!! was what I'd been missing. I wrote a poem about still being able to smell the peanut butter when I'd kissed my son goodnight. It was a terrible poem; but suddenly I was writing again. Which launched me into more reading, contemporary work, as well as my old Norton's from school. I always knew I was going back to study literature one day; but the poetry, which had always just been something I did along the way, suddenly reared up and demanded my full attention. I'm indebted to many of you in blog & board land. You helped me gain the confidence I needed to be able to return to school. Thank you; I'm grateful to know you and to travel alongside you.

On Heritage

I'm reading two WWI books with historical detail, the British poets of the Great War, and I've recently read some of the American literature of the time. The books talk a lot about the different cultures, about the troops, and the nationalistic pride of all involved. Which makes me think about my ancestors and how very little I know of them. I'm of mostly German and a little English descent originally, they say. Someone came across to America and the successive generations forgot most everything about having a heritage that might indicate this. My mother says that her mother baked springerlees, and that her grandmother still had some touch of an accent. But, I don't know that there is a single tradition that I continue that is German in origin. Unless potato salad counts. Perhaps this is in part because of the Great War, and the one that followed. Hearing that "Deutsch Kultur" was painted on "the ruins of one of the crematoria at Auschwitz"* and at other sites of devastation and destruction across the continent, might make one eager to no longer been seen as German. Should it matter to me, where they came from? I have never been able to puzzle it out. Perhaps I think about it more because we move more often than a lot of people and do not have as much of a sense of "home" as in "the place where you grew up and all your family lived nearby. " Maybe no one in America does anymore. Maybe this is our common heritage: moving boxes.

*The First World War : A Complete History. Martin Gilbert (note page 101)

What moves you?

Today I have been thinking about poems that stay with me after several readings.

Questions that I've asked:

  • Do they move me in some way emotionally? I Love You Sweatheart. Yes, certainly.
  • Do they engage me with their content or story? The Delicate Plummeting Bodies Yes.
  • Do they mean or be? Mean. Even the excerpt from Stien from Tender Buttons "means" something to me, perhaps because we've adopted into our family's cache of language. But I like a story, a little excerpt even, which helps illuminate some aspect of life.

Other thoughts:

  • I need more than surface gloss. I need content and surface, such as sound that is in accord with the meaning. Yes, I know I've talked about this one before, but Owen's poem seems to do this exceptionally well:

    What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? -
    Only the monstruous anger of the guns.
    Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
    Can patter out their hasty orisons.

  • I need poems whose words fit perfectly and perhaps manage to slip in an extra sense which adds another layer to the poem.


'Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;

I feel as if I'm a demanding reader. I hope that I can remember to demand these things from my own poems.



I discovered this as I was looking to refresh some linguistic skills. The page is supposed to be read in pdf. but I though it was rather fascinating this way as well. I've never been much of a concrete poet (well, except for those two chicken poems) but this caught my eye. I especially liked how this stood out over on the left margin.:


Primacy of the Word

Reading Scoplaw's poem tonight after having a conversation today on etymology, I'm reminded again how much for me the words themselves can be the inspiration for my writing. Yet, like the Scop says, these aren't my words. Which is perhaps one of the positives of being a writer versus a painter or sculpter or creator of crop-circles: the words are free. We can borrow them and combine them, chop them into pieces, squash them together in odd, beautiful, crazy, and fascinating ways.

I'm intrigued by the routes words take to appear in the language. Are there words that are more or less "authentic" for me as a writer to be using? When I increase my knowledge of another language will it be inappropriate for me to consider including words like el césped or una gansa? Was Pound right? All day I've been thinking about el césped, and the Sandburg poem.

I am the grass.
Let me work.

Soy el césped.
Déjame trabajar.

I wonder about translating too. Is it a practical tool for practice? If I'm going to spend time attempting to translate, do I translate into my mothertongue or into a target language. I like the way that trying to translate forces choices much like the choices I make in writing my own poems in English. Do I want "estoy" or "soy"? I choose the permanant "to be/ I am". Do I want "permitame" which is I believe is "allow me (to enter/leave?)" or déjame" which seems to mean "abandon me" or "let me be". And is that the command form of the verb? I don't know enough to say. There may be other better choices; my knowledge of Spanish is old and rusty.
But for now I like the sibilance of the first line and the harsher sounding plosives of the "d" and "t". There is always a give and take when ideas move across the language borders. Something is always lost, perhaps occasionally something sound-wise may be gained.

The linguistics folks say that the States will be officially bilingual sometime around 2020. Me too, I hope, at the very least bilingual. I want to collect words for my pockets, to spill over and out into the streets, the classrooms, and out into the woods and shorelines, and everywhere under my sky.

Mail Call Again!

The Boat of Quiet Hours, The Singing, The Last Uncle.

After the first day of classes, I came home to more books. I could get used to this!
I'm teaching two sections this semester and each of them is smaller than my section last semester, plus the room I'm teaching in is bigger with more chalkboard space. It's the little things really, that make life worth living: a few books, laughing in the office with friends who'd been away over the holiday, not falling in the icy driveway, coming home to the sound of my boys laughing, fighting, and laughing again. The start of the new semester is always filled with promise for me. Maybe it's the new pencils, or the change of scenery; most likely it's the books. Yes, I'm giddy again.


The new books are arriving. The first package arrived today with Repair and Breath. Is it possible to read without being influenced? Will I find that I'm cranking out Detroit poems by the end of the semester?

I've lived near Detroit actually. And have interesting memories of going to the Majestic theatre, I believe that was the name; it was a dark, smoky, ratty old theatre. The crowd wore black and leather with studs and everyone smoked clove cigarettes. And driving in Detroit we were always terrified of taking the wrong exit as people were always getting carjacked. Looking back I think: Who would have wanted my old Mercury?

I just spoke to a friend from Michigan last night whose husband works in one of the "state of the art" new Ford plants. It has a "living roof" which helps cut down on pollution, and saves energy. Things are always changing.

Perhaps I will write about Detroit, or Michigan again. It's the time of the year that reminds me of how cold I always was there. Ah! Nostalgia!

What You May or May Not Know

  • I prefer silver to gold.
  • I prefer coffee to tea, except for in the coldest parts of winter and then I drink tea with evaporated milk.
  • I am supposed to like purple, and have been fussed at while walking to my car past the athletic department for not wearing it on a certain Friday before the game. But they won anyway, even if I was wearing black.
  • I once was a Huron, and then an Eagle all without changing schools. I did change my major from Theatre to Literature when I realized that I'd taken so many electives in poetry and drama that it made more sense that way.
  • I had a two and a half year old and a 9 month baby when I graduated with my B.A., but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else. My third son came along later and thinks he is a cowboy, since he was born in Texas.
  • I have lived in seven states so far. Each of them has something to recommend it.
  • I really haven't met that many famous people, but I did serve soup to Yo Yo Ma once.
  • I think to write poetry one must read, and read , and read, and did I mention read?
  • I teach poetry to sixth graders and they're a lot quicker to pick up on concepts than I thought they'd be.
  • I teach Expository Writing and I like it. This means that there is something practical on my vita, and I should be able to get a job one day while I'm (im)patiently waiting to get a job teaching literature or poetry. I also like getting to know my students and am grateful for the fairly small class size (about 20 students in each section). When I'm not grading papers, I'm studying for my MA in literature. And I love it.
  • Ph. D.? M.F.A? Literature? Poetry? All of the Above? I can only wait and see.

The Semester Dawns & Aesthetics

Linda Pastan

I'm getting excited! The new semester officially begins on Wednesday. I'm especially happy about my independent study in poetry. I'm reading Linda Pastan's work for the first time, excluding an anthology poem here and there. Plus Philip Levine, C. K. Williams, Ted Kooser, Stephen Dunn, and Jane Kenyon. Last semester, I only had three 20th century poets whose work I studied with any type of depth: Sylvia Plath, Seamus Heaney, and Philip Larkin.

A word about aesthetics: I'm grateful that everyone has different tastes in poetry. I always think about it in terms of home decoration. If everyone did their house in Victorian Finery or Mountain Cabin, how boring would that be? (Oh gee, I love your lace doily, I have one just like that on the top of my coffee table.) So keep writing & reading whatever it is that you like. It's great to know that there is such a variety of vibrant writing out there just waiting to be discovered.

"An Invitation to Poetry"

Courtesy of my local public library, I picked Pinsky & Dietz's anthology to read over the winter holidays and this book helps remind me why I write. If you've not seen "Invitation" it has a nice selection of poems introduced by readers who tell why the particular poem is important to them. These are "real world" readers, not only college professors or aspiring poets. The list includes students, clinical psychologists, and photographers just to name a few. I read the comments and hope that someday my poems will make connections like these with those who are generous enough to read them.

I read this poem when I found it in a bookstore on Commonwealth Avenue. I was trying to find a life for myself and trying to find love. The poem moved me because it was bleak. It acknowledged that there will be bitter winter burning. It still moves me.
--Joanna Wos, about Louise Bogan's The Crows

It as in the suburbs before the Women's Movement so I was often crazy alone. And then I read The Woman at the Washington Zoo. She knew!
--Myra Shapiro, about Randall Jarrell's The Woman at the Washington Zoo

The poem is better than a jury verdict, more ruthless than an execution, yet is compassionate to its core.
--Peggy Little, about Czelaw Milosz's You Who Wronged

I read it and feel like I have been passed a slip of paper with a beautiful secret written on it, and I have been part of the world that the poet shares--and this is good, because often I feel isolation in it. And the music of his words: somehow he manages to struggle, and to be stark or imaginative, and still sound like the kind of soft music we play as medicine for people who are hurting.
--Nicole Long on David Ferry's Seen through a Window


Since Eduardo (Hello Eduardo!) has asked for notebook pages, I thought I'd play along. I typically write down images, and sometimes interesting titles or phrases. I'm terrible about dating my entries, so here is a random page:

the second story deck
the trees dropping branches
drooping coreopsis
flies on fresh dog shit
a rock fallen from the wall
sunlight on hostas
clenched fists on son
one red jelly bean
purple t-shirt
wind-messed hair
branches slapping into faces

trust the kindness of the muse
grocery shopping--fresh greens

prose & cons

graffiti on trains
spring: vultures everywhere
storm tree riders

trussing shuffle
ladders shutters
wet ground drill cord


Another page, dated 8 September 2004, has two drafts of a rough poem: (I won't include the strikethroughs, as I don't know how to format them) But with edits it looks like this:

Passing 1000

Overnight the tally turns over:
an odometer on an old car
on a long road. Briefly
it holds and turns
again. In the rearview:
crosses stand like milemarkers


Mothering & Poetry

I was looking around T.E.Ballard's Blog and found this comment which set me to thinking:

No one ever brings up the correlation that two of the greatest female poets were single mothers when they went off the deep end. Somehow this thought does not make me feel better.

Are there any famous women poets who were also successful mothers?

Emily Dickenson. No.
Elizabeth Bishop Doesn't appear so.
Marianne Moore Again, doesn't look promising.

Sylvia had two, but didn't survive their toddlerhood
and Anne Sexton certainly wouldn't win any parenting awards.

Adrienne Rich said this about mothers:

mothers are divided from each other in homes, tied to their children by compassionate bonds; our wildcat strikes have most often taken the form of physical or mental breakdown.

It seems in general that poetry and motherhood are at odds. I am optimistic about it; I'd rather believe Anne Stevenson in her essay Writing As a Woman* who says :

Surely, in the twentieth century, when society allows so much, it ought to be possible to be a fulfilled woman and an independent writer without guilt--or without creating a bell jar vacumn in which it is impossible to breathe.

but even she isn't completely positive:

It is possible that marriage, children, social obligations have always been ways for me of avoiding the hard work of making poems. But even if this were so, I can't now reverse my decision to have a family. I have to be a writer with a handicap.

My kids take up a lot of time and energy. But they go to bed and I can stay up and write in the quiet of the night. I don't feel handicapped by them, but rather feel at times as if they are my muses. Some of the poems I'm the most satisfied with reflect some moment of my life with them. Yes, of course, they make me wild somedays. Yes, they sometimes interupt my writing. But I am dedicated to my writing too. Can women have it all? I certainly hope so. Time, like always, will tell.

For a quick side trip, if you'd like an account that captures the sense of what it is like to be a mother with small children, I recommend: Helen Simpson's Hey Yeah Right Get a Life.

* from Twentieth-Centry American Poetics: Poets on the Art of Poetry. Ed. by Gioia, Mason, & Schoerke.

Things Taken for Granted

There are a number of things that I tend to take for granted as life gets busy, including a number of the people in my life. Sometimes the lack of one or another gets me thinking. So I'm grateful for the following just in case I hadn't mentioned so lately:

  • My husband who makes fantastic coffee and thinks that morning, before the sun, is the best part of the day. For a million reasons, I'm grateful.
  • For my boys who bicker, scream, laugh, run, break things, and always manage to remember to give me a hug and kiss no matter how grumpy I've been.
  • For my mother who is always there for both me and the boys. For my sister, and all my family in general.
  • For my friends who talk poetry, commiserate about deployments, and in general listen even when I'm complaining. Especially those that challenge me to grow, learn, and be a better person.
  • Libraries. I'd like to own one, but the two in this town keep me in reading material day and night. And books: poetry, literature, history, cookbooks, children's books, art books.
  • The prairie. No matter how rough I think life is becoming, I can walk out onto the prairie and be reminded of the women who tried to make homes out of sod houses, who live miles from their nearest neighbors, who tried to be satisfied with so very little.
  • Back roads, old houses, horses, herds of cattle, geese organizing themselves as they rise from the stubble of cornfields.
  • Candles, electricity, the comforting flicker of the fireplace.
  • The internet, and all those mysterious folks who keep it up and running so that I can study, chat, search, and enjoy.
  • Stained glass at night, the moon, fireworks, fireflies.
  • The list is endless really; I live a blessed life.

Ringing in the New

No ma, if everyone was jumping off a bridge, I wouldn't. But here I am participating in the newest trend in American Poetry: The Blog. Why? I need to get in the habit of writing more often. Since creative non-fiction seems to be the new hot genre, a blog seems a perfect way to practice. But give up the poetry? Never.

Happy New Year to all. Is it really 2005 already?

My motto for the year:

Be Bold. But not too Bold.

Thanks E.S.