Athena Kildegaard

Poet & Teacher

Matisse & Shears

That’s a crazy combo, I realize, but maybe I make something of it here, at the

Lake Region Writer’s Network blog. I wrote this some time ago, and now the

Matisse exhibit is long gone, I’m sorry to say.



Tinderbox Poetry Journal

Go here now!

I’m so happy to welcome a new poetry journal — and not just because it features three of my poems. One of the editors says, ” I wanted to start Tinderbox because I felt something kind of greedy in me–is that OK to admit?–I wanted to be host to some of those gorgeous poems.” Tinderbox satisfies that greed in me — what poetry riches here!

An Introduction

May I introduce you to a remarkable poet you’ve maybe never heard of? Ruth Stone is a poet beloved by many poets, which could mean her poetry is difficult, allusive, fussy, but it doesn’t mean that at all. Ruth Stone Ruth Stonewrites with great humor, an irony that looks up rather than down, and with an eye for the ripe image. I just read some of her poems to a UU group and they laughed and cried right along with Stone.

And please take awhile to enjoy Bloom — lots of beauties there!

Blog Tour

Welcome on board the Blog Tour. Thanks to Zara Raab, a new friend and wonderful poet from Berkeley, California, for inviting me to participate! Zara’s blog is here. You can work your way from Zara’s blog backwards to the tour segments of other writers. Or hang on for where the tour goes next . . .

And that is to the blogs of Iris Jamahl Dunkle and Molly Sutton Kiefer.  Iris, too, is a Californian. And Molly lives in southeast Minnesota. You can read more about them below.

All writers on the Blog Tour answer four questions. Here’s my go at them:

What am I working on?

I’m working on admiring snirt – for those of you below the Mason-Dixon line, that means snow + dirt. It appears this time of year when the snow begins melting and leaves behind a veil of dirt on the surface. Some of this dirt, at least around here, is topsoil. So I’m really working on coming to terms with the fact that, where I live, what used to be prairie  is now monoculture (beans this year corn next).

I want to love where I am, in short, but I have to work at it. So, I’m working on balancing rage that can find expression through political language with faith in beauty.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I don’t know. What is my work? What is its genre? Easier to say what it isn’t – it isn’t formal or lyric or pomo-collage-irony. It could be translated. What I can say for certain is that what I’m working on now—a series of poems about imaginary saints—is trying its damnedest not to be like what I wrote before. And that’s scary and exciting.

Why do I write what I do?

I bought a beautiful blue notebook with pale green lined pages. I paid $8.25 for it, not including tax. I know this because a sticker on the back says it. The pages are numbered and I’m on page 63. When I reach the last page I won’t write “The End.” I’ll put this notebook up on the shelf next to the others. The only time I’ve never written “The End” was on a play I wrote in fourth grade with my friend Mark, called Skunk Cabbage Romance.

I write because it’s an obsession. I want to be like the great haiku masters and write a last poem on my death bed. Here’s the one Issa wrote (translated by Robert Hass)

A bath when you’re born,
a bath when you die,
how stupid.

How does your writing process work?

I open the beautiful blue notebook with pale green lined pages and, with the maroon Mont Blanc pen my husband gave me years ago, the one I dropped from the top landing of the porch on the back of our walk-up on Broadway Avenue in New Orleans right onto pavement so it cracked, I write “I open” and that’s all there is to it. With a few words I’m off. That’s page 63. Tomorrow, wherever I left off I’ll write something else, something like “in barrels” or “the oracle left in a huff.”

Next on the tour:

Iris Jamahl Dunkle‘s debut poetry collection, Gold Passage, won the Trio Award and was published by Trio House Press in 2013. her chapbooks Inheritance and The Flying Trolley were published by Finishing Line Press. Her poetry, essayIris Jamahl Dunkles and creative non-fiction have been published widely. Dunkle teaches writing and literature at Napa Valley College. She received her B.A. from the George Washington University, her M.F.A. in Poetry from New York University, and her Ph.D. in American Literature from Case Western Reserve University. She is on the staff of the Napa Valley Writers conference and is the managing editor for Volt.

Molly Sutton KieMolly Sutton Kieferfer is the author of the hybrid essay Nestuary (Richocet Editions. 2014) and the poetry chapbooks The Recent History of Middle Sand Lake (Astounding Beauty Ruffian Press, 2010) and City of Bears (dancing girl press, 2013). Her work has appeared in The Collagist, Harpur Palate, Women’s Studies Quarterly, WomenArts Quarterly, Berkeley Poetry Review, you are here, Gulf Stream, Cold Mountain Review, Southampton Review, and Permafrost, among others. She is a member of the Caldera Poetry Collective, is a founding editor of Tinderbox Poetry Journal, serves as poetry editor to Midway Journal, and runs Balancing the Tide: Motherhood and the Arts / An Interview Project.

On Plunging

I had a lot of fun writing this blog post for the Lake Region Writers Network. I hope you’ll have fun reading it!

New blog at Lake Region Writers Network

Here‘s a little essay about the opening sentence of a story. The Lake Region Writers Network is a non-profit volunteer group committed to the writing life in western Minnesota. Check it out!

Listen to this . . .

Thanks to Elizabeth Langosy for bringing this essay out at Talking Writing, an elegant and inspired on-line journal.

How lucky . . .

to have received this gorgeous and thoughtful review by James Naiden. And thanks to Rain Taxi for sharing the news!

The Writer as Escape Artist

Tie me up, I’m going to write! Thoughts on the writing life . . . my current post at Lake Region Writers Network.

Worshipping False Idols

I had coffee with Lila the other day. I stopped by to see if she needed help with snow management, but as it turned out her neighbor had cleared her driveway and sidewalks, so she was sitting pretty. Her son had given her a smart phone for Christmas and Lila held it out to me as if it were the shriveled corpse of a mouse she’d swept out from under the couch.

“I don’t know about this technology business,” she said. “I miss the old days of hand-written letters and party lines. And now here’s the post office about to end Saturday delivery. Now, it’s true, a lot of what fills my mailbox on a Saturday is junk, and sometimes, I hate to admit it, that includes the local paper. But from time to time there’s a letter from a grandbaby or an old friend and that just makes my weekend.

“What’s happening, I guess, is that people don’t write letters any more. They’re using things like this,” she said, waving the smart phone at me, “to stay in touch. Ha! Let me just say this. Technology is not all it was cut out to be. I hold this to my ear, but the sound is not as good as my old Ma Bell phone, and then the connection gets dropped because whoever is calling me is driving to hell and gone, and half the time I push a button I don’t mean to and the next thing I know this thing is making a movie of my ear. My ear is not all that interesting. So what’s so great about this thing? What’s so smart about it? The only reason they call it a smart phone is because if they’d called it a dumb phone it wouldn’t sell. But the truth is, this phone is like those Dummies books – this phone is for dummies.

“Speaking of dummies, listen to this: the Pentagon is now giving special medals to drone pilots. Don’t that beat all?”

I admitted that it did.

“So you spend your childhood playing video games, killing perfect strangers, and then you join the military so you can sit in a comfy chair in an air-conditioned room and kill perfect strangers.”

She paused for effect, took a drink of her coffee, blew her nose.

“I don’t see what’s so valiant about that. Perfect strangers who are flesh and blood, who have families and hobbies and favorite birthday meals. Some of them completely innocent. But you, the drone pilot, don’t know innocent from guilty, not in your comfy air-conditioned room somewhere thousands of miles away from those people, strangers yes, but people, you are killing. This is worthy of a medal?

“Now if you look up the word drone you’ll find words associated with it like monotonous, boring, indolent. That last word, indolent, that means “lazy.” If you ask me, a lazy pilot does not deserve a special medal.

“Where have we gone wrong? Could a mother truly be proud of her son or daughter for receiving this Distinguished Warfare Medal? I should say not. All this is is technology worship. A false idol if ever there were one.

“Well, that’s my rant for today. Can you show me how to make the ring tone on this thing louder?”