Monday, May 6, 2013

Poet's Double Life

If you're interested in reading more from Pamela R.A.W., please visit my blog, A Poet's Double Life, on Wordpress.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

In Case of Emergency

As she slipped on the capri jeans, Pam felt an unexpected bulge in her front left pocket. "Wow--money!" she exclaimed to the empty room. With any luck it would be a $20, but she'd take a $5 or even two crumpled ones. It was always exciting to find money she had forgotten she had. But when she dug into the pocket, the money didn't feel like money. It had something that felt like pseudo-paper around it, and whatever was inside kept squirming from side to side. "What the heck is this?" she asked the clock radio. Was it a candy wrapper gone bad? An old receipt with a wad of abandoned gum? When she pulled out the gold foil Magnum condom, the dresser mirror reflected Pam's relief, then remembrance, and then disappointment. Pam had found her emergency condom on the floor of her car while cleaning it out before taking her mom to Target. She stuffed it in her pocket because she didn't want her mom to spot the shiny wrapper while they were sitting in traffic on Peninsula Boulevard and then get interrogated about what really happens at those writing conferences in Vermont. Pam didn't know why she brought the condom in the first place. It wasn't like there were any strapping young men at these writer retreats--at least not men who were straight, unattached, had real jobs and all of their teeth. It was her damn friend, Cliff, who had wished for her to find someone, and who told her to keep her eyes, mind, and heart open because his good friend found his wife at one of these things. And if Pam were going to entertain the possibility she might find love in Vermont, then she might as well bring along some protection just in case. She sighed as she held up the crumpled condom. Her "just-in-case" moment hadn't happened in the eight days she had been in Vermont, and she doubted it would happen in the two days she had left. But according to the expiration date on the wrapper, she had until November 2015.

Tangible Prompt: Condom

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Now that the critical thesis is behind me (working on that hour of revisions this weekend) I find I have lots of time and space. This past week I have been transitioning back to life B.C.T (before critical thesis) and the process is much different than I thought it would be. Yes, I have the luxury of focusing solely on creative work but the urge to write isn’t there like it was in the rainforest of that “would be fifty-first state.” My work and career have emerged in a big way and are demanding my attention. I don’t know why this focus on work and career is a surprise to me; the thesis topic was the poetics of working so I have been thinking about these issues since the idea popped into my head back in October.

Anyway, y’all need some context before I can move on. My 9-to-5 is completely different than the lovely words, images, sounds, and feelings I put on the page. I work for the NC state legislature as the statistician for an organization that evaluates the effectiveness and efficiency of state-funded programs. We have been called a “watchdog” by our local newspaper and at least one Associated Press writer. The last election brought a change in leadership in both houses--Republican for the first time in over 100 years. The new leadership likes what we do and wants us to do more. Problem is: there’s only 10 of us, including the Director and his assistant, both of whom do not work on projects. We’re “lean and mean”, sometimes with too much emphasis on the “mean”. Our dysfunctional work family avoids challenging conversations and doesn’t like to hold each other accountable, which is ironic since accountability and laying out the facts is what we DO! On top of that, add the fact that this is state government--so backwards, slow to change, resistant to ideas that make sense but would upset the way things have been done for years even though the situation on which those decisions were based have completely changed (NC and the rest of the country is no longer driven by manufacturing, people!!!)

I have started actively looking for new job--updated the resume and cover letter, identified recruiters, reworked my profile on and LinkedIn--but am trying to figure out what that will be. I know I am a poet and I know poetry will not support me financially. I’d have to get the MacArthur Genius grant to get paid as much as I do now--and I know that’s not going to happen. So I am looking for a career to do while I am doing poetry: one that engages me as much as poetry, can feed my poetics, and can be nurtured by it.

Last semester I read Late for Work by David Tucker (won the Breadloaf prize in 2006). His poems focus on the newsroom--he’s a managing editor of the Newark Star Ledger--and still is. I wrote to him during my thesis and asked whether he had considered a literary career. He responded, “I have never seriously considered doing anything else, until recently, though I'm probably enjoying being a poet-journalist now more than ever [...]. Poetry is also the perfect opposite to my workday life- no deadlines and the search for a different kind of news. Poetry also helps me in the way I edit stories, more and more over the years I have grown to edit by cadence and beat. If a story does not make the right music there is usually something fundamentally wrong with it. The truth makes a sound, clear and compelling.”

That’s what got me on this search for “poet–???”. It’s not as simple as my job is “left brain” and my poetry is “right brain." I like using this grey matter between my ears, pushing it to learn and do more than even I thought capable. I want to earn money from something that uses all of my strengths and talents and makes me dig deep to develop areas where I am not as strong. My current job doesn’t do that; my role is behind the scenes working on all projects. I’m a good project manager who doesn’t lead projects. I’m a good communicator who doesn’t make presentations. I’m a good people manager and mentor who doesn’t supervise anyone. I believe if I am able to fully express myself at the office during the day, it will be much easier for me to fully express myself on the page at night.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I am aardvark!

Not platypus or porcupine
or that mammal that lays eggs.

I am aardvark,
first in line on Noah's Ark
if we lined up alphabetically–
which we never do.

That's why I have to remind you of my name:

Now don't you forget it!


I'm that thought you're not supposed to think.
I go against the grain and your mama's
better judgment. There's a reason
they keep me underground, hidden,
locked away from polite society.

And you know why–
even if you don't dare admit it!

~written at the Poetry-On-Demand booth on 9/17/2010


I don't need a four-leaf clover
or carry a rabbit's foot in my pocket.
Double rainbows and face-up
copper pennies never turn my head.
All I have to do is look in the mirror,
say my name, and know–
I am Lucky!

~written at the Poetry-on-Demand booth on 9/17/10 for a woman whose name means lucky

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Education and Edification


I remember one splendid morning,

all blue and silver.
We two were sitting together
on the wintry Campagna grass–
unvexed and unencumbered
with paper patterns,
the ceiling and walls of a simple house
visited by shadows.

Thank heaven!

Let us talk about – well, anything you will.
Goldfish, for example. Among the sadder
and smaller pleasures of this world,
I count this pleasure.

Things are depressing enough.


It is a piece of chalk

under the rolling cloud bales
and the song of invisible larks
of the Campagna. But now
it is the flight of the very earth
that carriers her clasped shadow
from the sun.

The night is full of stars,
the landscape glistens with a late frost–
which is all I want to say about goldfish.

At any moment: without remorse, without anxiety
without dishonor, you are free
to do this dignified and final thing…
make my life work running that car
with the magic mirror.

~taken from the first and last lines (or two) from "Essays on Education and Edification"