Letter from Uncle Dean

Over the past 16 years, I’ve carried on a letter exchange with my uncle Dean. In these letters, Dean introduced me to the life of a poet–to the challenges, and surprises, and victories of the writing life. I still read some of the early letters Dean wrote, back when I was just beginning to write, … Read more

Seth’s Yogurt Mask

Regular readers might remember my post: What This Hideous Rash on my Face Taught Me. I talked about a rash–what I had thought was seborrheic dermatitis. Taking steroids to treat that rash, I inadvertently created another problem: perioral dermatitis–an angry, hard-to-treat red rash seething around my nose and mouth. It lasted three months, and it … Read more

Tu Fu’s “By the Winding River”

This is from Kenneth Rexroth’s wonderful book of translations, One Hundred Poems From the Chinese. I keep the book around like a talisman, and take it out when I feel lonesome. Something about Tu Fu, the way he celebrates sadness–something about his joyful melancholy speaks to me, especially now, as I struggle to maintain my … Read more


I’ve been thinking about death lately–not thinking, but feeling death, deeply at times, in my heart and gut. For the last six weeks, I’ve battled an ulcerative colitis flare. The symptoms are scary; naturally, they often inspire dark feelings. In the past, whenever my illness has flared, I’ve battled, angrily, against what I perceived to be life’s cruel … Read more

Be Still, My Shark-Filled Heart

Heading out of the beach town, Stone Harbor, the Stone Harbor Boulevard cuts a thin strip of road through a salt marsh. It’s a beautiful, mystical strip, dotted with marinas, crab shacks, farmer’s stalls, and stilted houses with docks jutting out into the high cordgrass. Bull sharks have been known to swim here and the … Read more

Sweat, Muscles, and Starbucks: My Local YMCA

About two years ago, a tall, serious-looking Asian man walked into the gym at my local YMCA. He was wearing a full-length red sweatsuit and drinking a Starbucks coffee. He lingered for five minutes, staring at the people on the treadmills. I happened to be one of those people, so I stared back. Then, with … Read more

Great Writing Speaks from the Heart

Last January, after I came home from winter residency at my MFA program, I fell ill with bronchitis. My doctor prescribed antibiotics. I suffered a gripping moral dilemma. I called my doctor. “Antibiotics are harmful,” I said. “I’m not taking antibiotics.” “Okay,” she said. “But you risk death.” I took the antibiotics. I flopped on … Read more

In Defense of Self-Portraits

“Having never met you before but already hating your guts. It must be your picture.” ~A recent anonymous blog comment on this blog. I’ve been taking self-portraits for a few years now. I’m addicted to my own face. I love taking pictures of my self and posting the pictures on social networking sites. To me, … Read more