Pack Life by Diana Khoi Nguyen

It would be insulting to anyone paying attention for me to apologize for lack of posts/updates--since it's highly likely that I'll keep maintaining long intervals between posts!

Life! So busy! I lazy!

Major news: now have puppy in our tribe, and thus: pack life. Am light years happier, and a lot more tired. But fulfilling in a way I couldn't have imagined. So grateful to have little Beckett in our life. Will miss him immensely when I am away in Iceland.

I promise to document my travels in Iceland. Will temporarily rename blog: A Wild Sheep Chase, out of love for Murakami (obvs.)

For now, am trying to redeem self after pushing back start date of self-inflicted 30/30 from June 1 to June 15. Have been furiously trying to read/write notes of all books read since I moved into the Poets Cottage. Tiring work, but really inspiring material! I am thinking about possibly doing 15/15 then 15/15 in July. We'll see. I'll be doing it (separately, but simul) with dear friends Miriam Bird Greenberg and E.C. Belli (or Martin, depending).

And somehow will manage to be pup guardian/caretaker, freelance writing person, part-time jobber (Slifer House Museum archives, summer camp art teacher, occasional pharmacy worker).

Can't wait until Iceland. But I worry I'll be lonely and that perhaps it won't live up to my expectations. Sheep expectations.

Day 26/30: Chillin' like it's already the end (but secretly working really hard) by Diana Khoi Nguyen

I forgot to announce that as of yesterday, I've exceeded my Tupelo 30/30 goal to raise $600--because it has been reported that I've raised $1,112.37!!! I am humbled, floored, and honored to have such strong support and love from those around me (both near and far). I couldn't have done this month without you (and yes, there's still a few more days to go).



  • - Listened to this TAL episode on the train to work (had to take the train since I was sick this week--too ill for cycling). Couldn't stop thinking about the coincidence of these two doctors--and the various tragedies: murder, illness, despair.
  • - Sat with a lot of Jane Mead--from The Useable Field. What a killer book.


  • - Funny enough, JB just semi-scolded me after it posted this morning--he said, "You wrote two poems!" then: "What the hell!"--which is basically similar to my coworker's reaction the evening before, when I was struggling with the draft. I didn't want cheat at all in this challenge--and to be fair, the poem is more in two parts than it is two poems, but it is also kind of also just two poems. So I guess I did a 31/30. Or 30.5/30. I'd rather be overachieving than under.
  • - The actual myth alluded to in the poem is the one of Diana and Actaeon. Yes, a god with my name (as I am a mortal with a god's name). I was really fascinated (read: obsessed) with the idea of the wandering hounds--lost after having hunted/killed their master, Actaeon, not knowing he had been turned into a deer. Poor pups!
  • - Modeled the first stanza after this week's New Yorker poem from Anne Carson. she is incredible.

  • - The "masterless hounds" section of the poem stemmed from some menial work: I copied down all the last sentences of EACH chapter from Anna Karenina (there are a lot of chapters), then stripped only a few and restrung them into hound-think. I was feeling particularly uninspired before writing this poem, so I needed a language-task to spur me.

And I might as well talk about the poem I just drafted for today.

"Tippi of Africa"

  • - Was browsing pictures on my Tumblr and the from the one of a young Melanie Griffith sleeping with a large lion--I stumbled upon Tippi (born 1990) who was named after Tippi, Griffith's mother! The young Tippi grew up wild in Namidia, and I got really exciting looking at all these pictures and reading about her, which you can do here.

  • - The scaffold for this poem is from Sandra Lim's "Amor Fati." I just discovered this amazing poet today and have ordered her book.

And now I'll leave you with Tippi and fog.


Day 20/30: Remarkable, as if it were not the work of my hands by Diana Khoi Nguyen

How could it be? Yes, total disbelief that I've written all these poems so far. Twenty! That's more than a carton of eggs. Which means . . .


As JB would say, "Calm yourself."

The sun broke through today and I'm feeling more lively than I have all week. Though it is sincerely possible that I might be coming down with a cold--JB was ill last night and still he turned in his poem. 10 more days. 10.

This time last week I had $0.00 Tupelo donations for this 30/30 endeavor, but part of that was because I wanted to wait until I had at least a week's worth of poems before reaching out. Then came 7 poems and no time to reach out--or my balky perceived lack of time. I just learned the word balky and already I'm using it incorrectly.

I finally took precious time on Tuesday to write personal letters to close friends/mentors. And I was so deeply moved by the response that came back. As of yesterday, I'm at $415! My goal is $600, but I think I can get there--the support and generosity of those in my life somehow surprised me--and certainly, it stirred so many feelings and poem feelings--and yet I was so tired in this second leg of the marathon.

But not today! It's a sunny day before my weekend (which are Sundays/Mondays), and I wrote another buzkashi poem. It could be crap, but I feel great.

And the notes . . .

"There are No Stables in the Jungle"

  • - It's true, it's too dense for stables. I mean, for them to occur naturally.

  • - This title is actually something I said randomly to my co-worker Alex a couple of weeks ago. Or was it days? I think it was because I was burnt out after writing "Buzkashi ii" and didn't feel I had anything left to say about horses. Or that my horses didn't have anything left to say.

  • - This is my Mowgli poem.

  • - Also appearing in this poem is JB's explanation of why Radiohead is awesome.

  • - Sat with LBB, Mark Levine, and you know, the law of the jungle.


"The Mailman"

  • - It seriously feels like I wrote this yesterday, instead of a couple of days ago. I have no concept of time anymore.

  • - I asked JB for an assignment and he told me to read Mark Strand's poem, "The Mailman" then write a poem from the POV of the mailman.

  • - JB's been helping me with paring down my drafts. Of course he's the keenest editor I know, but it also means I'm getting floppy.

"Self-Portrait as Justin Boening"

  • - I couldn't resist. No idea what came over me during this poem, but I believe in it.

  • - Borrowed LBB's form from her poem "Self-Portrait as Kaspar Hauser"--and also, Joanna Klink, Ben Lerner . . .
  • Sat with Plath's Ariel and Timothy Donnelly's recent essay on Harriet titled, "Quasi-unintelligibilty (Part 3)"--he writes quite possibly my favorite prose about poetry. And thinking. And being human.

Day 6/30: The Smallest Woman in the World by Diana Khoi Nguyen

Was troubled by my own anxieties/self-doubt yesterday. I know to write 30 excellent poems in 30 days is a nearly impossible goal, but I have set my aim that high--which means failure is inevitable. At the same time, I feel more comfortable to take risks/be ambitious in my composition--things I'm usually too timid/hesitant/unable to do previously. It's almost as if my body has half given-up on this 30/30 thing and the other half is working furiously to write the best poem I've ever written, every day. I think this is a good combination (for diversity of poems--and interesting body of work produced in this month alone), but a bad combination for my feelings. And my eyeballs.

Notes on yesterday's poem (which I did finish before the PSA Awards Ceremony, yess!):

  • - Right margin inspired by African myths + my brain

Not sure if it's a poem that should be allowed to exist, but I wrote it, I drank champagne, and now I have to write another poem. There's no weekend and there's no rearview mirror.

Day 5/30: How is it not my Friday yet? by Diana Khoi Nguyen

To say I am exhausted would be just that: I'm exhausted. It's not the worst thing in the world, but it's pretty darn uncomfortable! No giggling happens, and people ask me if I'm feeling okay. Those who are informed instead say, "It's a marathon!" I think the advice, "Stay hydrated" always applies, especially this morning.

Was quiet ecstatic yesterday to finish a poem early--before leaving work to go for Turkish meze with JB and his grandfather. I've never finished a poem before 12:00am! And somehow, I also accidentally drafted notes/skeleton for today's poem--as in: I started to write one poem, then stopped and wrote the poem that ended up being yesterday's poem. So today I get to finish what I started.

Tonight is PSA's 103rd annual award ceremony with a likely awesome lecture from Robert Bly! I wish I could come dressed as a dragon, or just a cloud of smoke. Because I was a finalist for the Medwick award this year, I get to attend the champagne reception and JB is my +1! And he'll be wearing new clothes (sportsjacket, shirt, lovely pants, socks, tie). I hope I can be presentable beside him!

Notes for yesterday's poem:

  • - Inspired by a story/line from a story: "The Smallest Woman in the World" by Clarice Lispector (translated by Elizabeth Bishop).

  • - Realized I didn't know what orphanages really looked like, so I did some Googling. Resulted in my discovery of Janusz Korczak.

  • - Sat with: Donald Revell's A Thief of Strings again--somehow found a poem in it that oddly resembled more LBB than Revell.

Here is where I whine that I can't believe it's only day 5--and I have 25 more poems/days to go. How do people do this! I am glad to be doing this. I'm exhausted and my Friday isn't until Saturday. But there is no Friday in the 30/30 game.

Day 4/30: Get ahead, or at least, get not behind by Diana Khoi Nguyen

Was telling JB that even though we start and finish a new poem on the day it's to be posted, I can't help but feel behind--because the non-JB/D marathoners seem to have poems roaring and ready to go bright and early in the morning of day! Which leads me to suspect that these poets are writing the poem the night before--which leads to my feeling like I'm behind! But I'm not behind. I'm only behind when I submit my poem at 12:14am or like last night: 1:34am which has been every night since April 1.

But! I've been able to still enjoy a semblance of a life: napped yesterday (instead of furrowing brows over poem/poem notes/book(s) of poetry). Then I biked to the pool and swam! It's renewing to do these little things--and I have to remember to make the time for them and hold myself accountable.

But I've had to write an email to the roommates/instant message "buddies" that I'll be pretty much incapable of human interaction/conversation/hanging-out for the rest of this month. Working a full-time job plus taking care of my various needs (food! swim! bike! sleep! bath!) proves challenging for the poem-a-day goal. And I can't flake! Is this what residency doctors feel like when they do like 36 hour rotations? I am not a doctor, so I don't know if I just made up that number of hours--and doctors are doing more direct BUENO for the society than my poems ever will so please forgive my attempt to analogize. Basically I feel like a zombie but with a really functional brain and yearning heart.

Oh! Notes for the 3/30 poem:

  • - Still not 100% sure if field notes is one word or two--sadly, I consult the internet, which means I am not the brightest.
  • - Books I carried all day: Mark Levine's Debt and Enola Gay--I also just picked up The Wilds from the NYPL and started reading that--and love it. But didn't get far enough in it (and didn't take notes) for it to influence this poem.

  • - con út means "youngest child" in Vietnamese. It was what my brother Oliver was affectionally called in household speak. And since we didn't really leave the house much, it would be correct for me to say it was bunker-speak.

  • - I'm officially on watch: CORD, GOD

  • - This poem feels a much flimsier than the last one, but it was a challenge to speak about family--especially my brother. JB wrote an autobiographical family poem as well, and we did this non-communicado sitting across from one another. I think our water's spiked.

The support I've been seeing on Facebook has really been encouraging--and I don't know why this surprises me. Get a grip! Onto the next poem! Ah!

Day 3/30: Fieldnotes by Diana Khoi Nguyen

I am only starting to make notes for today's poem and already I feel the richness of last month's reading brim beneath my eyelids. I feel like I've flexed a lot of muscles already and I've only written two poems. I can't even begin to imagine what I'll feel like come day 22, or gosh--day 31, which is not a day in the month of April.

JB had a great thought last night as we sat across from one another after Indian takeout--furiously "in the zone" working on our poems--we self-imposed a midnight deadline, which seems fair to us--but it looks like the other 30/30 marathoners are submitting that day's poems much earlier in the day. So in my brain and my legs, I feel like I'm behind, but I am really not--we're just at the cusp.

Oh! JB's idea was to document each day's poem's notes via blog. A marvelous idea that I'll start here, today.

For 2/30 poem, here's what I've got:

  • - The lore loosely taken from an African myth called: "WHY ONE NEVER TELLS A WOMAN THE TRUTH" (I'm not even joking). In it, a hunter spies an antelope taking off its skin and transforming into a girl who sells gumbo at the market. Before she heads to the market, she hides her hide in the dirt and the hunter takes it, waiting until night for her to return. At which time he demands a reward in exchange for (1) his keeping her secret and (2) his returning her skin. It's lame--she promises to be his wife (he already has another wife), and he takes her home. The two wives quarrel (rather, the first wife is mean to the shapeshifter wife, and boring domestic things ensue and eventually the story earns its inappropriate title.

  • - We all know (or now you do) about my obsession with selkies.

  • - Books I sat with on this one: all Revell, all the time: The Bitter Withy, A Thief of Strings, and Tantivity.

  • - I don't feel that the poem's current title, "You Must Not Quarrel with an Animal" is the right one, nor do I feel the ending is right--but I did complete a draft, and I don't have time to fret over this poem because I'm deep into today's day 3 poem already! Alas!