The Blue Pitcher

that which may be filled and emptied

What Sent me Back to Poems

I have been thinking lately about the decade of my adult life when I did not write A SINGLE POEM. Well, I wrote one, but it was terrible, and I didn’t write any others. It feels so strange to me now. Poems are such a deep presence in my daily life. I am almost always working on something. If I go more than three days without at least gesturing towards a poem, I start to feel anxious, unfocused, like my life has little meaning. I also lose sense of time. When writing, I know exactly how I felt on a given day, what I was preoccupied with, what I saw staring out the window, but when not writing, it all feels indistinct and murky, passing without being noted.

The years I did not write poems were 2002-2012, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why I didn’t write poems. I had quit smoking: I blame that often. Also, September 11th happened. Also, I was new to love, and happiness has never been the best fodder for poems. I wrote other things. I got an MFA in Fiction. I wrote essays and taught them, but for the life of me I could not write a poem. I didn’t know how they began, or what happened in the middle, or how they ended; I didn’t even know where they came from.

And then, in 2012, after the birth of my second daughter, Ella, I could suddenly write poems again; lines would come to me, often; I’d roll a word or an image in my head until I could get to the page; and, god, it felt so good, and it does still. Every morning, I wake not having any idea how to approach the page; every morning, I approach it anyway; and nearly every morning, I come away with something.

Anyway, not sure why I have chosen this extraordinarily busy day to write a blog post on a blog I’ve only written on a handful of times in the last few years, but here it is. A promise, maybe, to keep approaching the page; a shout-out of gratitude to Ella for sending me back to this place that offers clarity and grace; or just a hello to you, mom, because you alone occasionally ask about this blog. Hi, mom. I love you.


Well, it seems I went and wrote a novella. Actually, three summers ago several of my colleagues and I decided to have a friendly novel writing challenge. We cranked out pages day after day and met up on Thursdays in a dark little bar on Smith Street to share what we had done. It had been years since I had written much fiction, but I loved it. The pacing, the dialogue, getting to dream up a bunch of imaginary interactions among a whole slew of characters.

The next summer, summer of 2017, I received an NYU Faculty-in-Residence position in Prague. There for ten days, I ate a lot of meat, walked to Kafka’s grave, and finished the last fifteen or so pages of the book. Everything raveling and unraveling.

This past December, while I was in Abu Dhabi celebrating the release of Translucence, I received the dreamy news that Mason Jar Press  would publish The Couples alongside novellas from Jaime Fountaine and Tomas Moniz. Since then, I’ve gone through so many edits. I had the sudden realization that I had abruptly switched to present tense around page twenty-five. I also had to come to terms with my overuse of exclamation marks (Imagine!!!) and my tendency to look “up” at the sky. The editing process has been intense and rewarding. I rewrote the penultimate paragraph about forty times and would probably have kept rewriting it if the editors hadn’t put the kibosh on it!

Anyway, I’m really proud of this thing I made; it feels good. I hope you will buy it; I also hope you might be able to make one of the many events for launching it.  Here’s an excerpt. And I promise the whole thing isn’t written in second person (that would probably be painful!), but it gives a little taste for the feel of the book.

Tuesday, July 16
“The Couples” Book Tour
w/ Jaime Fountaine & Tomas Moniz
Tattooed Mom
Philadelphia, PA; 7 pm

Wednesday, July 17
“The Couples” Book Tour
w/ Jaime Fountaine & Tomas Moniz
Center for Fiction
Brooklyn, New York; 7 pm

Thursday, July 18
“The Couples” Book party!!!
w/ Jaime Fountaine & Tomas Moniz
KGB Red Room
New York, NY; 6-8 pm

Friday, July 19
“The Couples” Book Tour
w/ Jaime Fountaine & Tomas Moniz
RJ Julia Bookstore
Middletown, CT; 7 pm

Saturday, July 20
“The Couples” Book Tour
w/ Jaime Fountaine & Tomas Moniz
Solid State Books
Washington, D.C.; 4 pm

Sunday, July 21
“The Couples” Book Tour
w/ Jaime Fountaine & Tomas Moniz
Bird in Hand
Baltimore, MD; 6 pm

Where did I go?

Hmm…where did I go? Not sure. But today, I’m here. (Hi.)

So, my goal for 2018 was to get 100 rejections. It wasn’t my only goal, of course, but it was a BIG goal, and well, I did it. I actually got 108. 108 people read my work and found that it wasn’t a fit for whatever they were fitting. Also: there are nine days left in the year, so I’ll probably reach 110.

BUT: with rejection comes acceptance. So, I’m not here to moon about my rejections, but to say: I have a NOVELLA that will be published next year (!!!), and I also have been accepted by so many dreamy places: Tin House, Copper Nickel, Sugar House, The Academy of American Poets. AND, I read in Miami, AND I read in Abu Dhabi, AND AND AND. So, life is good.

I’m also (always) making new things. Zoe Ryder White, my dear friend, who I collaborated with for “A Study in Spring” just finished our new book-length collaboration called “Elsewhere.” Also, I think I’m going to write a play in January. Maybe, too, I’ll come back to this old blog and tell some stories.

So, here’s to 2018 flashing in the rear view mirror, and to 2019 glowing on the horizon. Happy almost new year. And hi, mom. I think you’re my only reader, but you’ve always been my best.

Four True Stories w/ Birds

I have four new poems up at Entropy.

Read them here.


Poets Reading the News

So much laundry; so much terrible news.

Here’s a poem I wrote about these things.

Aging, the Movie

To celebrate my new chapbook, I asked forty girls and women to read from it, and I made a movie. The creative process was amazing. I loved the reminder that although poems often begin as small, quiet things, they grow. I call this meditation-turned-celebration. I hope you like it.

Aging from Nicole Hefner Callihan on Vimeo.

A Drink with Estha

In Turtle Bay, we share dark beer
in slender glasses and toast the dead—

a fedora on a stool, spiked tickets,
a menu with yesterday’s specials.

Bodies and the ghosts of bodies shake
their umbrellas dry in the entryway,

and though the bartender yells,
the door never closes. Anyone

is bound to walk in. A bell rings.
Your face fades, blurs, as if in a photo.

Even as we raise our glasses,
I am already remembering you.


Ecology of Grief

On watching the dismantling of Spencer Finch’s “Lost Man Creek”


[insert sad poem about art here]


A love poem now up at Academy of American Poets:

read it here.

The Women Compensate for Movements in Man

The subject’s body rotates
around a particular axis.