Sunday, December 10, 2017


The operative word for me over these past few weeks is “tiresome.” Lately, I’m finding everything tiresome: the dreary cold, the impending holidays with their attendant mandate that we all “have fun,” trying to figure out for once and for all what to do with my blasted novel, that stupid, not-working-out idea I had to write sonnets, my drab wardrobe, incessant media-driven victimhood narratives, and the drudgery of routine that comprises adult life. I’m also tired of eggs. I eat an egg every day for breakfast, and I’m fed up with them. I want better breakfast, but none of the 85,000 restaurants in my neighborhood are breakfast places. Breakfast diners seem to have fallen out of favor, lost to our national obsession with kale, jicama and those purple potatoes you see everywhere now. I suppose I could just make my own damn breakfast, but I would find that tiresome, too.

The Celtic Women’s Dublin concert was on TV a few days ago as part of a public access fundraiser, and I felt myself tearing up with unreasonable nostalgia for Ireland. My solution was to immediately go and snap up tickets to their Paramount show that’s coming next summer. So I have that to look forward to. But right now, I’m just drumming my fingers and gazing into the space-time continuum, wondering if life is always going to feel this banal and wearisome.

In light of that, and the fact that I spent most of the day re-writing the opening pages of my novel, possibly to no avail, this will be a short post this week. Enjoy this beautiful clip of The Celtic Women performing “Danny Boy.”

--Kristen McHenry


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Science Solves Poetry, ADD Adjacent, Cold Feet Phobia

As I was struggling with my latest sonnet, imagine my relief when I came across this article from the UK Daily Mail. It's finally happened--science solved poetry! According to a recent study, people like poems that evoke “positive feelings” and have “vivid imagery”, and dislike poems that are boring or negative. I cannot believe that the UK Daily Mail just sat on this research while I’ve been beating my head against the wall all of these years trying to figure out how to make it big in the poetry racket. If only I had known that “people enjoy feeling happy”, I could have been downright famous by now. I feel utterly foolish for wasting my time and my reader’s time by writing poems about middle-aged angst, the state of work in America, being childless, escaped snakes, and the homeless in Las Vegas. My entire body of work flies in the face of the researcher’s advice to avoid negative topics and “low valence subjects” such as sadness and disappointment. I am such an idiot. Now, in all fairness, the article does conclude that "readers did not at all agree on what poems they found appealing, an outcome that supports the notion that [brace yourself for a shock] people have different tastes." So maybe there’s a small chance that somewhere out there is a reader who will appreciate my low-valence poetry, but nonetheless, I’ve got some serious time to make up for.

In the spirit of positive feelings and vivid imagery, below is a scientifically formulated haiku I worked up while plotting my meteoric rise to the top of the poetry world. I made sure to include “blossoms”, “tree” and a reference to blazing fire as suggested by the researchers:


The ruby bird hides
In the vermilion blossoms
Spring’s conflagrant tree

You may mail my Pulitzer to my home address.

This weekend as I’ve been working on various and sundry things involving sonnets and self-publishing research, I’ve been taking short mental breaks to monitor an idler that I recently downloaded from Steam. For those who may be unfamiliar with the parlance, an idler is a game that runs independently on your computer. You can just leave it going and your little toons will progress through the game on their own, but you can also pop in at will to make adjustments, collect your gold, and level the characters up. Rather than being distracting, I actually find that toggling back and forth is helping my concentration a great deal. I think that ADHD and ADD are woefully over-diagnosed (please don’t e-mail me), but I took a quiz online a while back to see if I had ADD, and well, let’s just say I don’t not have it. My score wasn’t off the charts, but I am ADD-adjacent. I think having several things to jump back and forth between keeps my mind from wandering and keeps boredom at bay.

I have been thinking again about completing my Advanced Medical Directive, but I’ve come up against complexities that my brain can’t seem to process, and all I can think about is making sure that if end up in some state wherein I can’t communicate, that my feet aren’t cold. My hands and feet get really cold, and I hate air-conditioning, and those hospitals just blow freezing cold air on patients day in and day out. I know that if don’t say something, they are going to leave me there, sockless, with my feet painfully icy. I do not want painfully icy feet! What I should do is carry a pair of thick socks around with me at all times, and a lanyard with a card that reads, “In case of unconsciousness, please cover feet”. You heard it here, folks. If, God forbid, you ever have to come and see me in the hospital, bring socks!

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sonnets for Everyone, Historical Ignorance, Shut-In Rehearsal

I’ve needed some motivation for a while to pick up the pen and get back to some good old-fashioned formal poem-writin’, and I finally got a kick in the pants to do so. As a result, I started playing around with sonnets. It’s not a form I felt particularly drawn to in the past, but they’re relatively simple and brief, good for a gentle transition back into formal verse. As I was poking around on the internet looking for sonnet examples, I came across the best thing I have ever seen in my entire life: Pop Sonnets, a Tumbr site of sonnets based on pop songs. I have no words. Just read it. Also, if you want a more intellectual deep dive into the sonnet form, enjoy this piece by Annie Finch. It’s an excellent introduction to sonnets and a good analysis of the form. It hasn’t helped me finish the last two lines of my dead mouse sonnet, though. I keep thinking that if leave the poem alone and come back to it few hours later, the lines will have magically written themselves. That’s not happening, either. It seems that I’m going to have put actual effort and thought into it. Bleh.

Speaking of anthropomorphizing, last night I did something completely out of character for me and watched “Sing” in its entirety. I am neither a fan of pop music or nor a fan of cutesy animated films, but I needed some serious brain bleach, because, also out of character for me, I’ve been brushing up on history and recently started reading the “The Gulag Archipelago” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It’s beyond disturbing, and I wasn’t going to sleep well with that content being the last thing on my mind before I nodded off. I can’t put my finger on exactly what led to this new-found interest in history, except that I know that I’m ignorant of it, and I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable with that. My teachers in high school and junior high could not have made the subject less interesting. I couldn’t for the life of me muster up excitement about who conquered who in some obscure battle in ancient Persia. While I do blame the utterly dismal early “education” I received in history for my life-long distaste of it, I’m a grown adult now and perfectly capable of availing myself of the endless resources one can get totally for free online. I feel the increasing need to be armed with historical knowledge, and there’s plenty of it out there.  

I have pretty much holed up in the apartment over the long holiday weekend. I haven’t gone to the gym or out walking or even to the corner store for chips. It’s utter garbage outside and I think it’s probably dangerous to go out there. It’s actually dark, and there’s a freezing cold rain, and a heavy wind is blowing the last of the fall leaves all over the place and it’s probably best to just stay inside, where it’s warm and things can’t at get me. Besides, I have to practice up for when I inevitably become a full-fledged shut-in. I guess it’s back to puzzling through my dead mouse sonnet. Stay safe out there, folks. 

--Kristen McHenry

Saturday, November 18, 2017

My Entire Life is on Backorder

(Warning: Major Spoiler Alert towards the end re: Dan Brown’s “Origin”)

Lately, I feel like I am being driven slowly insane by a continuous game of Consumer Roulette—not in my personal life for once, where I expect chaos, but in the orderly, well-oiled machine of my job, which I have worked very hard to forge into said orderly, well-oiled machine. Although I work in a very large organization, I run a one-woman shop within it, and I like things ship-shape: My deadlines met, my e-mails returned, and my promises delivered on. But my credo of “Deliver the Goods” has been challenged lately due to what appears to be a complete breakdown of the office supply store social contract. You see, I recently took on something of an extra-curricular project that requires a large number of photo frames. My strategy was to order a few frames in different styles and finishes, and decide which one would work best before placing the large order. Upon unpacking the first delivery from Anonymous Gargantuan Office Supply Store, I was puzzled to find a solid block of wood accompanied by a flimsy sheet of laminate and some dodgy-looking “wood tacks.” Upon inspecting it further, it turned out to be what I can only define as a mounting block—a far cry from the picture frame that I was certain I ordered. I placed a second order for what I also thought was a picture frame, and received yet another mounting block, although this time they did honor my request for mahogany wood.

Upon the third order, it was clear they weren’t even trying anymore—they sent me a glass display box with a white painted frame, which was decidedly not the walnut wood picture frame that I had actually placed the order for. I finally hopped on with Customer Support live chat, and found myself desperately trying to explain to the poor person on the other end that I needed a picture frame, for an 8x10 photo, one where you slide the little velvet-covered back off and put the picture in it and put the velvet thing back on--you know, like what you would put your kid’s pictures in? That was maddeningly unproductive. I politely disconnected and slumped at my desk, head in hands. Words used to have meaning. I don’t know what is going on with AGOSS, but I suspect it probably got too hard to locate the actual products I was ordering, so they just starting throwing similar-ish things into boxes, figuring they were “close enough.” They’re not close enough, AGOSS. They’re not. I am now waiting on yet another frame, which is, you guessed it, on backorder.

The other thing I am having trouble with is paper. I run an event for work every year, which is the functional equivalent of putting on a wedding, and I have to start the planning a minimum of eight months out. Everyone thinks I’m crazy, but here’s just one example of why I need eight months lead time: For next year’s event, I need a certain grade and shade of fancy paper for the program inserts. I am a bit of a paper snob, and I don’t want to use cheap colored copy paper. Details are important to me, and I take pride in having beautiful programs. After an extensive and disappointing search across not one, but two AGOSS’s, several art stores, as well as a general internet search, I finally found a product that met my criteria. When I went to place the order, I was crestfallen to find that it had been discontinued. After going back to the drawing board for yet another maddening round of Find the Paper, I came across something not as good, but workable. And of course, it’s backordered. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s going to be straight-up discontinued, though. I’ve started to feel like Patty Simcox in “Grease” when she screams “I don’t know what’s happening!” Meanwhile, the non-event planners in my life just shrug and say “What are you so worried about? It’s, like, four months away,” while I am struck with event-planner panic at the thought that it’s four months away--and I still don't have program insert paper!

My office products aren’t the only thing on backorder—so is my sense of personal ambition. With darkness falling at 4:15 in the afternoon these days, getting dressed on the weekends seems like a foolish waste of energy, and spending four hours in the evenings curled up on the couch reading a middling novel feels like a perfectly legitimate use of time. In case you’re wondering what the middling novel I refer to is, it’s “Origin” by Dan Brown. MAJOR SPOILER ALERT:
The Artificial Intelligence did it. All of it. The assassination, the framing, the murders, the set-ups, the lies. And he didn’t feel the least bad about it, either. AI wasn’t one of those things I had the emotional bandwidth to worry much about before I read this novel, but now I am legit terrified of it. Thanks, Dan Brown!

I don’t know about you, but I could use a good old fashioned dance party about now:

--Kristen McHenry