Biphasic Sleeping

One of the disorienting things about being up at midnight (to write before the second sleep) is the way these 90 minutes are seemingly untethered from normal time.

14139337_337903373213924_369997056_oWhen I sit down, pen in hand, and begin to write the date in the upper left corner of a new sheet of paper, I am not sure what to write. Technically, it is tomorrow already. The events of yesterday, are – well – yesterday. But I will sleep again soon, and rise at 5 to run and “start the day”.

This is the 5th night of biphasic sleeping. The first of falling asleep easily. Maybe a sign that my body is learning what to expect in this new (or very old) pattern. But the weekend is coming, and with it the obvious anti-social aspect of this whole concept: to go out for a glass of wine after work will be like trying to shoehorn an elephant into a toolbox.

Who crawls into bed at 8 p.m. besides toddlers and hermits?

Will a month of routine reprogram the norm, so that a night without a first sleep won’t send my body reeling?


On School Terms

The summer is over. As are the frazzled first weeks of a new school year, the pleasant stresses of having guests in the house, and the cozy/grumpy ambivalence of the old lady interrupting my afternoon reading.

The Old Lady

I find myself craving a schedule, and some aspects of predictability.

I sometimes wonder if I will ever stop measuring my life in school terms rather than calendar years. But I do like the extra, nearly obligatory, reevaluation that a new term brings.  It’s a natural time to begin new projects, set new goals.

This is day 1 of a month long experiment with biphasic sleeping.

It is day 1 of 8 weeks of prep for the upcoming 16 weeks of marathon training.

The gorgeous winter break run in Northumberland is the a carrot in front of me on the morning intervals.

And with the final edits of my next poetry book having been sent off to the publisher last week, there is another new beginning.


This Choice: Jo Hemmant

This Choice is Who You Are has been my mantra these past years: a mantra for becoming the person I want to be. I believe that choosing to live with the attention that poetry demands is a good start.

In the Podcasts, I look to other artists to learn from their experiences.

I ask poets how their work with poetry influences the ch
oices they make in their daily lives, and how these, in turn, affect their sense of self and their relationships.

How are they using the experience of art to shape The Good Life for themselves?

Jo Hemmgardenphotosized-2ant is a poet, meditation teacher and erstwhile publisher of Pindrop Press. Her first collection, The Light Knows Tricks, was published by Doire Press in 2013. She lives in the Kent countryside with her husband and sons.

Its tightly-crafted and teasing spell leaves a longing for change in its wake. The tone crackles and the language catches alight in this unafraid and startling debut.

— Cherry Symth



Poems read or referred to in the podcast:

“Interview with a Chilean Miner” from The Light Knows Tricks. Doire Press, 2013.
“Not Two” – an (as yet) unpublished work by the Jo Hemmant.
The Horses” by Ted Hughes.

*Note: Check out the   This Choice Podcast Extra: a guided meditation by Jo Hemmant, with music by Alex Duncan. (also available on iTunes)

 Original music and artwork by Karl R. Powell.

Please subscribe through Soundcloud,  iTunes or your podcast app. Consider liking the Facebook page, to help spread the word. And, lastly, if you want to suggest a writer I should interview, please Get In Touch.

Meditation Notes: 1

imageI’ve always struggled with my own heaviness during seated meditation. I relax quickly – disconnecting from the body is easy – but I sink, untethered in this way. It’s like being dropped in dark water, and feeling icy, unpredictable currents flowing around my thighs, over the sensitive skin of my upper, inner arms. I can abandon my body, but not the metaphors of pain.

Not having much affinity for Freudian therapy, I don’t believe understanding where it comes from will ever help the feeling go away.

Running is different. I can focus on my breath, and on my body as the point of entry with this world and the source of all my experience. I disconnect by observing connection. Circles of awareness that must include the root-tangled earth, and often include birdsong.

After watching the film To Spring from the Hand, a documentary about the former dancer and potter Paulus Berensohn, I decided to try seated meditation while working with clay.

Pay attention to the breath, he says.

And I do. The breath, and the slowness that comes. The balance of wills: my will and that of the clay. Give and take. Inhale and exhale. My mind through my body, connected to the earth.


Interview with Dale Favier

Sometimes I make an exception… not a podcast:


Dale Favier has taught poetry, chopped vegetables, and written software for a living. Currently he works part-time as a massage therapist. He is a Buddhist, in the Tibetan tradition. 

Favier has an M.Phil. in English Literature from Yale, but he never wrote much poetry until he began blogging. His poems have appeared in Qarrtsiluni and The Ouroborus Review. His first book, Opening the World is available through Pindrop Press.

When and why did you start writing poetry?

I wrote a few poems when I was young, I’m sure, but it didn’t become a serious way of expressing myself until I was in my forties. I had read an enormous amount of poetry by that time, but I didn’t really think of poetry as something that modern people could do. I had a degree in medieval English literature, so I knew all the oldest poetry from Beowulf on — I loved the Romantics and liked the Victorians — but then my interest petered out. I actually learned to appreciate modern poetry by writing it. That happened by accident: I started blogging in 2003, and some of the bloggers I knew — Dave Bonta especially — had the startling habit of writing verse from time to time, as if it was a perfectly normal thing to do. So I just started playing with it from time to time, and it grew on me. And now that I have a sense of the modern community of poetry, I can read it with some understanding.

There is the great myth of the tortured artist. How do you deal with the “romance” our culture has with the poet-in-pain, in terms of your identity as a poet and as a mother, father, partner, friend, role-model?

I don’t identify as a poet, really, so all that stuff just goes on by. I’ve never wanted to make my living at it, and I have no ambition to make a reputation or gain immortality. I just like to read and write poems. For me it’s correspondence: love-letters, mostly. I don’t need more than a few readers. I don’t think of myself as being a special person, or wanting special recognition from the world, because I write poems. And contrawise, I don’t expect to suffer more than anyone else. We all suffer plenty.

Are you consciously trying to shape the story of your life?

No. My life is not a story. It’s just a life.

As poets we are continually exploring our sensual experience of the world. How does your relationship with your body, with your body in the world (interacting socially, with nature, through pain/change) affect your writing.

And vice versa?: In other words, does the practice of your writing, your poet’s attention to the word, affect how you physically feel, and interact with other people, with nature, through pain/changes in your body?

I’m a massage therapist by trade, so my hands are on bodies a lot: so I have a very embodied imagination. The facts of breathing and heartbeat make it into a lot of my poems; the sensations of the skin; facts of anatomy. A lot of my poetry is making verbal what my hands register when they’re touching someone — the moments when discomfort and tension resolve, and move into something else, the half-illusion of perfect sympathy, the outpourings of tenderness. I have a deep love of human bodies, all of them, including the ones that are breaking down and dying. So when I write I tend to write about bodies and touch, I think.

What is a favorite poem?  

Yeats’ “Wild Swans at Coole” is a poem I’ve loved all my life.

How has it (the poem, not the poet) influenced your writing, and your life in general?

Golly, I don’t know. But I guess it’s the prototype of a poem, to me. A moment of excruciating unexpected beauty that has echoes of delight and loss and wonderment.

What poem of your own would you hope might influence someone else? Can you read it for me?

I think this is my favorite that I’ve written this year. It’s about the moth that we mostly know as the engine of the Mexican Jumping Bean:

Her First Dread, The Sun

Consider cydia deshaisiana,

how her first task, on birth, is to gnaw her way

into a womb. The womb closes:

the cool darkness is grateful.

There she begins to weave,

using hooks on her anal

and four hind abdominal prolegs,

binding herself within.

Only a sudden warmth

will make her spasm, blindly,

seeking a change, a coolness,

a shadow she can only imagine as the inverse

of her first dread, the sun. And

with luck, say, her shudders, kicking at the walls

at whatever cost, may roll her

to a damp and cool place.

What makes her begin to wonder,

to dream about the outside? What

revolution, what reversal of polarity,

takes possession of her mind?

Carefully, she chews a hole

plugging it at once with silk.

She is not ready to leave, but

she knows that when grown to a moth

she will have no jaws.

The day comes

when she craves the light

and she pushes through the silken door.

She will live only a few days, outside:

silver gray, pattern-winged,

fragile and confused.

She has just one more yearning:

to find a place like home,

to pump her swollen belly free,

and to lay her wondering, jawless chin

on a sweetly-scented rind.

Listen to Dave Favier read his poem “Her First Dread, The Sun”: