Monday, July 5, 2010


It is so disappointing to have gone through double mastectomy, chemotherapy, and reconstruction only to have the tumor reappear in my non-existent left breast almost exactly three years later.  Two years of treatment and pain for one year of recovery along with almost financial ruin, and then cancer again.  Yet health care, or the lack of it, is a crisis for millions of people--no health care, no health insurance and no anything else for so many.  So now having had the new tumor "excised" and with an oncology appointment next week to figure out where we go from here, I am thinking of recurrence, what it means, what is is, and that I hope health and happiness recur and that I will be cancer free again.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Driving Lucille Clifton

2000 Dodge Poetry Festival (Carter Douglass, Ernie Wormwood, Kathy Glaser, Lucille Clifton, Lara Payne, Jeanne Vote)

Lucille receiving the National Book Award 2000

My friend Lucille Clifton died on February 13, 2010. I met her at a Literary Festival at St. Mary's College fifteen years ago. Lucille did not drive. I asked her about it once and she just said she couldn't drive.

In 1999 I started driving her here and there, often to Columbia from St. Mary's, or to the airport, or picking her up from the airport. I also drove to and from Squaw Valley, California with her several times, as she was a mainstay of the poetry conference there and I went as a a participant three times. We also took the train to New York and flew to gigs she had. Whether in the car, on the train, or plane, or sipping coffee in the morning after something, we were easy friends who laughed much. We talked like girls about all the stuff girls talk about. Lucille was a child in her sense of wonder and awe, but she was a giant on stage. Often at the Dodge Poetry Festival in Waterloo (she was there for all but one--I started going in 1998), I would stand outside the big tent and listen to her voice being broadcast outdoors and say to passersby, "Isn't this like hearing the voice of God?."

She had about everything you could have happen to you happen in her life. She endured and went on until February 13, 2010. When I learned she had died, I took out all her books, all the mementos, all the journals I had written in about our adventures and the poem below came to help me endure.

I read this poem and said some of these things at the Memorial for her on April 10, 2010 at St. Mary's College.


How you held me up like a bridge
through the deaths of father and brother
How we talked of thinking
about sex all the time, no hips, no lips
ever said more
How we mourned Roland, Stanley, Sekou
and wondered at missing someone differently
when he goes somewhere else

Sex, death, poetry.

You said your mother kept death away.
Light, how will you fill the canyon you
have darkened?

To bring you, I read the inscriptions in
your books, Dear Ernie, Dear Ernie,
Dear Ernie, the handwritten Lucilles
and then the clippings, notes, photos
and the date your mother left the hole in you,
February 13, 1959 and then

comes the light of Lucille Clifton
called by her mother February 13, 2010
at the right time
at the good time.

© 2010 Ernie Wormwood

Monday, April 5, 2010

It's Poetry Month

I thought I'd write a little poem about Nigel, my new friend and English Bull Dog.


I love snoring now
that you have
come into my life,
underbite and all.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Eastern Standard Time for Poetry

The November Oranges and Sardines, spearheaded into life by the astonishing Didi Menendez is out and has a poem I wrote for Allen Ginsberg, along with a photo of me and an essay I wrote about how the poem came to me. You can order from Amazon or see online at

In the last two Skoog workshop nights, we've been made aware of the process of changing something in a line to its opposite (Plath, Happy Birthday, Sylvia! did this). Also that the 1936 edition of Dickinson's poems is a corrected version (all poems corrected and made to rhyme by another). The l956 edition is the real work. And to think of turning off the switches in the poem (as in its little rooms). Our amiable workshop leader says his poems got better when he started turning off all the switches.

The writing goes well in the workshop. Alas, I feel a bit stuck, or should I say "wanton." (see Plath exercise above).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Workshop 4

We spent lots of time visiting Elizabeth Bishop's Santarem (accent on the e), which ES (Ed Skoog our leader) termed a "masterpiece." It appeared in The New Yorker on February 20, 1978 with its opening
"Of course I may be remembering it all wrong
after, after--how many years?"

Skoogisms: Fragments are more tolerated in the present tense. The past is inherently sad. Sing a little Kung Fu Fighting ("Everybody was..."

The workshop and its participants as well as the hour long Metro ride on the Green and Orange or Blue lines is rebuilding the post-chemo poet in me, the post-chemo Ernie Wormwood.

We are on hiatus this week, what will transpire in the two weeks off?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ed Skoog Community Poetry Workshop At GWU

This was our third meeting and our first where we read our poems which are supposed to be newly written work. For me the poems written in the workshop are lenses into the poets' views of the world and its inhabitants. It's thrilling to hear the poems of new poets you have only known a couple of weeks. I haven't done this in a while, so I (Miss Chemo Fog Brain in Recovery)
am having fun.

Skoogisms: Frost: "A poem is a momentary stay against confusion." Auden: "All bad poems are sincere." Keith Waldrop: "So are the good poems." Hugo: "Poetry must risk sentimentality." Skoog: "No cliche, ever."

I have to turn in a new poem next Tuesday. "Oh Muse, time for a visit."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Oranges And Sardines

Be sure to look for this on the web and for the print version at Amazon. I have the privilege of having a poem in the autobiographical issue just out and in the forthcoming issue. I put a link to my blogspot so I wanted to mention it here.

My other interesting news is that I am in the Jenny McKean Moore Community Workshop with poet Ed Skoog at GWU this fall. Kathi Wolfe is also in it so this makes it even more fun. I should be receiving Ed's first book "Mister Skylight" in the mail soon. This past Tuesday the class performed architectural maneuvers on a sonnet we'd written and were exposed to the concepts of chiasmus (a kind of doubling) and sidereal (the movement of the stars). I attended this workshop when it focused on fiction with Vikram Chandra in 1995. Next week: Still Life With Skull.