One year in Melissa Studdard’s life
10 May 2017
Last night I caught my 22 lb cat Henry sitting on top of these still umbloomed plants. This morning, GLORY! I always knew Henry was magical, but I had no idea he could hatch a giant, perfect hibiscus flower and a bunch of impatiens.
02 May 2017
Me grading the first paper in a batch of 50: I feel weak. I need sustenance. I need oranges. Yes, only oranges will do. I’ll have to go to the store. This is the right thing to do for my students and myself because I need to be nourished and clear-minded while grading. But how silly to have to interrupt my work to go to the store for oranges. What I need is an orange tree. In my back yard. So this never happens again. I need a tree, mulch, soil, fertilizer, stakes, rope, a bigger shovel. I’m going to need to go to the nursery. And the grocery store–the tree I buy might not have fruit yet. Yes, that’s what I’ll do–I’ll make a quick run to the nursery and the store and then plant a tree so that I can do a proper job of grading these papers. I am so so so glad I figured this out before I got too far into the first paper and lost my place.
16 April 2017
I’m thrilled to announce that I’m a Kathak Literary Award winner for 2018 for the Dhaka International Poets Summit. Bangladesh, here I come!
16 April 2017
Last night I dreamed that a friend invited me to an Easter service at her church, and I was so excited to be there that I hung upside down with my legs over the backrest of the center front pew the way I used to hang from tree branches and jungle gyms when I was a kid. Rather than being annoyed, the priest was delighted and kept winking at me and making wild, ecstatic gestures with his arms. He later told everyone else they should try to get varying perspectives on religion too. I pretended like that was my lofty reason for hanging upside down, but really I just did it because I thought it would be fun and I was excited. Now I get to be a grown up and make the Easter meal, but in my head all day I’ll be hanging upside down from a pew.
10 April 2017
Oh my God, y’all. Today’s Poem-a-Day is incredible.
08 April 2017
I’m turning my little yard into a garden paradise. I have knock out roses, hibiscus, crepe myrtles, golden lantana, begonias, cherry tomatoes, basil, mint, strawberries, rosemary, aloe vera, bougainvillea, begonias, petunias, and tabasco peppers, and I am going to plant a lot more. I really wish you could sit back here with me and listen to the birdsong. I wish I could invite all the world into my backyard to drink tea with fresh mint leaves.
06 April 2017
I’ll be here this evening! Looking forward to talking about children’s lit, timeless themes and archetypal traits.
05 April 2017
I’m so happy to have written a leg of Rengas for Obama in Harvard Review. Working on it with amazing Kelli Russell Agodon was the best! Many thanks to Major Jackson for this great project.
26 March 2017
Did you know that if you are kind of depressed, and you eat cotton candy flavored frozen yogurt with fruity pebbles sprinkled over the top it can make you feel better for a little while?
22 March 2017
I think cats have gotten a bad rap as being aloof. I just sneezed several times in a row, and both of my cats came running in frantically from the other room to check on me. Now one of them has flopped his big body across my lap and is licking my arm to keep me alive. Maybe it is just so I can feed him, but I appreciate it whatever the reason.
17 March 2017
Last night on the plane home, the cabin pressure made my hand lotion explode onto the very nice slacks of this young man sleeping next to me. It was a HUGE glob. The flight attendant said we should drop a cocktail napkin like a tent on his leg, and then as he was waking, he would brush it off, knocking the glob of lotion off with it.
Several passengers tried to help, and finally I ended up folding the napkins until they were so stiff I could scrape the lotion off his leg. Still, there was a sheen as if a kid had wiped a snotty hand across his pants. The flight attendant said he probably wouldn’t notice, so I decided not to tell him.
Then I began to imagine that the guy was flying into town for a date with someone he was in love with but who was not yet quite in love with him and that when the person saw his pants they would decide he was gross and never go out with him again and then he would have his heart broken and the last of his money would have been wasted on a plane ticket for someone who could never love him because of his gross pants. Then I imagined all the children they were supposed to have who would never come into the world because of my hand lotion. I figured this would pretty much ruin his self esteem and prevent him from advancing in his career, as well.
So I decided I had to tell him, and when he woke up, I just braced myself and said straight up, “Dude, I have to tell you something. When you were asleep the cabin pressure made my hand lotion explode all over your pants leg, and me and the crew and the other passengers cleaned it off the best we could, but there’s still a snotty looking sheen, and I don’t want you to miss out on love and having children and being successful in your career because your pants are nasty.”
And then he started laughing and told me that this was the funniest thing that had ever happened to him and everything was okay and he didn’t think his life would be ruined because of the lotion.
I think this is what happens to a writer’s mind when we go too many days in a row without writing. I think the imagination needs to be put on the page regularly, or it will leak all over the people and things around us. This is a public service message for anyone procrastinating on their writing today.
Help is a four-letter-word like Love
08 March 2017
One really cool thing you can do today (and any day) is help a woman get or keep a business going. You don’t know about Kiva yet? It’s wonderful. You loan just $25, and when you’re paid back you can re-loan it over and over – the same $25. It’s one of the best things I have ever seen happen with my money.
08 March 2017
Me: (Hauling a large bag of mulch across the yard)
Dude: (Pulls up in sports car) Don’t you have a guy to haul all that heavy mulch around for you?
Dude: That’s sad.
Me: Not really. I like yard work.
Dude: Maybe you can come to my house and do my yard work.
Me: Not really.
Dude: Well, just so you know, the offer stands. (Winks like he is the most charming person in the world and drives off, still never having offered to help).
Happy Woman’s Day to all the women out there hauling your own mulch. And gratitude, of course, to the men who actually do offer to help —
05 March 2017
When I was a small child, a bus that looked like this used to come around my neighborhood and pick up the kids and take us to a really weird church. Needless to say, I am now writing a poem about the Jesus bus.
03 March 2017
I keep having this dream that there is a garden growing inside my chest, under the bones. Whenever I interact with someone, I give them something from the garden. It can be a flower, a blade of grass, some delicious tomatoes, or even a ladybug or a frog to hold for a minute. In the dream I’m hyperaware that I have to cultivate and plant beautiful, healthy things in the garden so that I will have beautiful, healthy things to give to others. Also (and this is the hard part), my dream tells me that I have to protect my garden from toxicity and damage. I’m so grateful to my dreamer self, my subconscious mind, for showing me that I can take care of others by taking care of myself–that I owe it to others to take care of myself. And I want you all to know that I am planting a beautiful garden for you.
27 February 2017
At my favorite booth with two of my favorite people!
Thanks for the photo, Doug!
Should poetry ignore politics?
21 February 2017
He asked if I would describe myself as a political poet, and I said, “…It’s hard to look at anything the same way anymore when every day feels like a new political emergency. So, all of this is a long way of saying “yes.” I would describe myself as a political poet, and more and more so all the time. Yet I would not categorize myself as a political poet…”
Thanks to Jonathan Taylor for his excellent questions at Everybody’s Reviewing. I love talking to good people about artsy things.
17 February 2017
My very talented friend, Carlie Ramphastidae Powell, painted this! Thank you, Carlie. I love the sideways signature!
13 February 2017
Me with poetry angels in the after-panel glow. We talked interviewing and poetry, and they made an hour and fifteen minutes feel like ten minutes.
10 February 2017
Ada Limón, Alicia Ostriker, & Joan Naviyuk Kane were brilliant at the VIDA Voices & Views AWP Exclusive Interview yesterday! (Many thanks Sheila McMullin)
07 February 2017
Hooray! Here’s Gregory Pardlo’s VIDA Voices & Views Interview. Much brilliance and dazzlement within.
“When the Pulitzer came along, I thought, well this is a clear mandate if ever there was one—this is a call to open doors for women and people of color and to campaign for a broader sense of aesthetics.”
Many Thanks to Lauren Berman, Samuel Caterisano, and Eamon Stewart for their work on this!
06 February 2017
A lot of people seem to be feeling insecure about AWP. It’s been a hard year since the last one. Beloved people in the writing community have died, lots of people have suffered in their health or finances or relationships, and the political upheaval has been exhausting and depressing. Needless to say, some of us have dark circles under our eyes, or we have gained or lost weight, or we are not feeling as charismatic or energetic as we normally do, or we’ve been too busy working or protesting to keep up our hair or spit shine ourselves in the other regular ways. So I just want to tell anyone who’s feeling worried (including myself) that first of all, if you’re my friend here, I think you’re lovely; and second, I think you’re lovely; and third, for my part I am going to this conference to celebrate literature and your amazing words, to support you and your efforts, and to share my own work and ideas. I can’t wait to see you all there!
If I were a god …
06 February 2017
If I were a god, people like Tom Lux would not be allowed to die.
Ode to the Unbroken World, Which Is Coming
It must be coming, mustn’t it? Churches
and saloons are filled with decent humans.
A mother wants to feed her daughter,
fathers to buy their children things that break.
People laugh, all over the world, people laugh.
We were born to laugh, and we know how to be sad;
we dislike injustice and cancer,
and are not unaware of our terrible errors.
A man wants to love his wife.
His wife wants him to carry something.
We’re capable of empathy, and intense moments of joy.
Sure, some of us are venal, but not most.
There’s always a punchbowl, somewhere,
in which floats a…
Life’s a bullet, that fast, and the sweeter for it.
It’s the same everywhere: Slovenia, India,
Pakistan, Suriname—people like to pray,
or they don’t,
or they like to fill a blue plastic pool
in the back yard with a hose
and watch their children splash.
Or sit in cafes, or at table with family.
And if a long train of cattle cars passes
along West Ridge
it’s only the cattle from East Ridge going to the abattoir.
The unbroken world is coming,
(it must be coming!), I heard a choir,
there were clouds, there was dust,
I heard it in the streets, I heard it
announced by loudhailers
mounted on trucks.
20 January 2017
Here is one of three poems just up at Cultural Weekly. Many thanks to the immensely talented Alexis Rhone Fancher for asking for these. “The Sudden Violence of Light” is about a lot of things, but especially my powerful grandmothers, who somehow got fused into one person here, as sometimes happens in poems.
19 January 2017
12 January 2017
I’ll be a part of this reading at the Houston Holocaust Museum this Sunday (1/15). Hope to see some of you there!
11 January 2017
09 January 2017
Yay! Patricia Smith’s VIDA Voices & Views interview is finally here! She’s such an incredible inspiration.
“If you learn how to look at the world the way a poet looks at the world, you will lose your mind—because inspiration smacks you in the face wherever you are.”
Many Thanks to Lauren Berman, Samuel Caterisano, and Eamon Stewart for their work on this!
03 January 2017
I don’t understand every word of this, but I understand enough to know that it’s a brilliant critical engagement with my poem “Respect” and that it provides insights I had not yet stumbled upon myself. I am forever grateful to poet/scholar/doctor Vivek Tailor for all the ways he uses his great mind to help others.
01 January 2017
My resolution for 2017 is to grow my heart into a big big squishy jumpy house that is roomy enough for everyone to soar high, fall down, laugh at themselves and each other, and know they are safe. In other words, I will be practicing patience and deep listening. Love to you all!
Happy New Year & cheers to breaking bread together! I’m so grateful to Gabrielle Calvocoressi & all the contributors for this amazing cookbook. This book is Gabby’s baby, so I share and echo her beautiful words: “I wish you a year of nourishment and revolution. You always have a place at my table.”
Here’s some info about the book: The New Economy Chapbook Cookbook is Free Downloadable Cookbook featuring recipes from writers, activists, & artists, including Kaveh Akbar’s amazing looking Vegan Fesenjan, Justin “Papa” Bigos’ Pasta E Ceci, Laura Smith’s Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Stew, and so so much more — “109 pages of recipes, illustrations, and reflections on tight times and how we fed ourselves. This is an offering. This is yours for free. Give a look on Issu in Full Screen and then download as an eBook and/or print! Works great on iPad, phone, computer, paper, all of it! Share widely! This is yours to download, to pass along, to print and bind and drop off at pantries/kitchens/pals houses/places of worship. This is yours to bind and ‘sell’ for receipts for donations to organizations that fight food insecurity.” All Gabrielle asks is that you don’t sell this for money.
31 December 2016
Looking forward to reading with these great writers for a great cause. Save the date if you can.
27 December 2016
Talk about crazymaking. My address says LANE on the deed, with the US post office, and with UPS, but it says DRIVE with FED EX, Google Navigation, and on the actual sign at the end of the street. I cannot even convey the commotion this has caused, and I have no idea how to fix it. I am not even 100% certain I exist when I’m on this particular patch of earth. Or maybe I exist in multiple dimensions. There is Melissa of the Lane and Melissa of the Drive. I think I’ll choose the dimension that receives all the gifts and packages and delete the dimension that receives bills and bad news. And by the way, if you are annoyed with me about anything, it was the other Melissa who did it.
24 December 2016
I love Christmas Eve Day and finally getting to put an end to the month-long cycle of buying replacement candy for what I ate from the stockings.
Love from us to you.
18 December 2017
This magical being can fit his big body into the tiniest of spaces. And it’s good to have some magic around the house! LOVE – Henry – LOVE
10 December 2016
Dear friends = heart balm. Thank you, Lois P. Jones, from Roz and me, for bringing color back. And thank you to everyone who has taken time to share love, pet stories, and condolences.
09 December 2016
Odette Studdard, Unknown – December 8, 2016
This girl was the smartest cat I’ve ever known and my bosom buddy. When I slept, she slept on my head. When I ate, she ate beside me. When I went to the restroom, she went with me like girlfriends at a nightclub. She could work out multi-step problems and had figured out how to open the sliding glass door by going to the opposite side and pulling on the rubber when it wasn’t open enough for her to slide her paw in the crack and push. In her day, she could catch bats by leaping off the fence and snatching them midair. For over fifteen years she’s been the owner of some of the most lush and fertile regions of my heart, and though she may be gone, they’ll always be hers.
28 November 2016
Apparently I jinxed myself by saying I was on the mend. Now I’m in the hospital for a day or two to treat the infections intravenously. The good news is I’m starting to feel considerably better. Thanks to all of you for the care and concern — I’m blessed with so many good people in my life.
26 November 2016
Some of you know that earlier in the week I was attacked by a nasty cat that belongs to one of my neighbors and keeps trying to fight with my cats. I’m happy to report that the infection is finally responding to a second round of antibiotics, and my cat and I are both fine. Whew!
25 November 2016
21 November 2016
The story with a happy ending: This guy (Eliot) I found in the park and posted about a few weeks ago now has a new home with amazing forever mom Krysia Jopek. I met Krysia and her very cool boyfriend and very cool cousins in Nashville this weekend so Krysia could take him back to Connecticut. I’m behind on everything–email, solicitations, grading, interviews, etc–so I’m grateful for everyone’s patience as I get caught up this week. Look at that face, though. Isn’t he worth it?
15 October 2016
You know what I love? I love when you give your kid good advice, and not only does she heed that advice, but she actually gives it back to you years later when you need to hear it yourself.
05 October 2016
Very excited to see my interview for Bettering American Poetry posted today at the VIDA website! This is going to be such a great anthology.
03 October 2016
Oh my gosh I love this W.H. Auden quote: “‘We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know.”
01 October 2016
So happy this morning to discover that Everybody’s Reviewing has run Jonathan Taylor’s beautiful review of ‘I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast.’ Such a fine synthesis of multiple aspects of contextualization — and lovely writing — Thank you, Jonathan!
22 September 2016
Hooray!! Hooray! Congratulations to my daughter, Rosalind Williamson, for being elected VP of LSC-Tomball’s creative writing club!
20 September 2016
I once let my car registration go out of date for six months. In my car, I felt constantly afraid, worrying that a cop would notice, worrying that I would get pulled over, mentally kicking myself for not taking care of it & promising myself week after week that this was the week I would fix it.
I remember what it felt like every time I saw a cop–that horrible stomach drop, the sweaty palms, the fear that I would get in trouble for something that I had absolutely done wrong. Then one day, just like that, I fixed it. I went and updated my registration. It was a hassle, but not too bad of a hassle. I had to stand in line. I had to get the car inspected. I had to pay and fill out documents.
I still remember what it felt like the first time I passed a cop with the updated registration. It felt like freedom. I could drive anywhere without being afraid. I could drive right past a cop. I could wave at a cop and smile, and the cop would wave back. I could speed or even roll through a stop sign and be ignored or get a wrist slap.
Because I am white. I have the freedom of driving without fear because I am white. And the truth is I was never afraid of anything serious anyway–just getting a ticket or paying a fine. I was never afraid of losing my life or being shot in front of my child or having my head slammed into the pavement. I have never been afraid of these things, and I CANNOT IMAGINE what it feels like to be afraid of these things every time you are in public, driving or walking.
The release of tension I felt was immense. Only after I released myself from the tension I had been carrying did I realize just how intense it had been to always feel it while I was in the car.
What would it be like to feel that tension a thousandfold, a millionfold, every time I drove? To actually fear losing my life? To not be able to fix it by inconveniencing myself for a day to update my registration. To not be able to fix it at all. I cannot imagine. I truly cannot even fathom it.
What I want to say is it’s not freedom. It is absolutely not freedom to live in fear of having your life taken from you whenever you leave your home. It is not freedom to have to fear driving or walking or standing too long in the wrong place. It is not freedom.
And I will never feel comfortable in my own skin until my black brothers and sisters have the same freedom I have to walk down the street or drive a car. None of us should feel comfortable in our skin. None of us. And it is on all of us to fix it.
17 September 2016
I just found a scrap of paper that says, “Get picture of supernatural flag.” I wrote it–who knows when. Now I have no idea what it means, and I love that. I love the strangeness of being a writer and finding wild thoughts on scraps of paper all over the house.
13 September 2016
I’m in class talking to my students (they’re writing now) about characterization and complexity of motives and personality and desires, and I’m struck by the irony that the people and characters we know and love the most are the ones for whom we see not only the good but also the flaws and weaknesses, yet we so often try to hide our own flaws and weaknesses from each other. We often obscure in our own lives exactly that which makes us the most interesting and lovable. It’s a good lesson in loving your weird self —
07 September 2016
Selfie with custie
29 August 2016
Going to hang out with the frogs in my backyard. Craving less time with the manmade world and more time with the godmade world…
23 August 2016
Happy happy to hear that Tinderbox Poetry Journal has nominated my poem “To Be With Trees” for the Orison Anthology 2017. Huge thanks to Jenn Givhan, Molly Sutton Kiefer, and the other amazing editors. And best of luck to all the nominees! I LOVE POETRY!
30 July 2016
Alice and Melissa’s Excellent Adventures — with Alice Anderson at The Groove.
24 July 2016
My friends–Sorry I’ve been largely absent from here as I’ve been painting, working on floors, & getting my new house ready for move in. I miss seeing your posts and knowing more about what’s going on in your lives, and I look forward to catching up soon! In the meantime, here are the cereal bowls I bought to replace the ones that were broken in storage. LOVE the fishies!
18 July 2016
When I was at the store a little while ago, I saw a woman stop this rough, tired, dirty man and give him a salt scrub demo on his wrist. He looked like he’d never been pampered a day in his life, and the expression on his face as she did the demo was so beautiful–I can’t get it out of my mind. I wish I could have taken a picture of it for you. I know I am idealizing this, and I know she had something to sell, but I can’t help but wish that this is what we humans could be to each other–what she was to him in the moment I witnessed–relief, comfort, caring, respite. I am not going to start carrying salt scrub in my purse, but I am going to start trying to give someone else a moment like this each day–even if it’s just by listening.
26 June 2016
Attack of the sexy, killer scrap metal — Amy King and Melissa Studdard at Fabulous Furniture.
25 June 2016
Many thanks to Jenn Givhan for including my poems “To Be With Trees” and “Life is the Saddest Thing That Ever Happened to Me” in the fabulous new issue of Tinderbox Poetry Journal. I’m delighted to be in such great company.
16 June 2016
I bought a house!
13 June 2016
We are not here to judge each other; we are here to love each other, and to support each other in our most unique expressions of self. Also, to hell with guns.
11 June 2016
Melissa Studdard was feeling grateful: It would take about 5,000 lifetimes to adequately thank my parents for their love and support.
Thanks to Rosalind Williamson, I finally have a shot of my favorite Houston train bridge.
26 May 2016 in Bushnellsville Creek
Wish you were here with us. Breathing this air is like breathing health itself.
18 May 2016
I’m happy to have several of the self-written epigraphs and a short poem from ‘I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast’ in the current issue of ‘First Literary Review East.’ Many, many thanks to Cindy Sostchen-Hochman and Karen Neuberg for their great editing, and many thanks to the other poets for their fine work!
08 May 2016
The mom who made me a kid with the kid who made me a mom. Love them both like crazy!