Friday, September 30, 2011

Health, Wealth, and Happiness

That sounds like a good title for a blog post, doesn't it? Health, wealth, and happiness.

Life is full of good stuff and bad. I've had my share of it this week. Here are some examples.

Yesterday I had a low blood sugar attack, late in the afternoon. Since I haven't bought glucose pills yet (will rectify that this weekend) all I could do was hit the vending machines. I had $1.00 so bought some chips for 80 cents. That didn't do the trick. So I borrowed 40 cents and bought a regular, sugared Coke and consumed it. I had to just sit back in my chair for more than half an hour till it all took effect. By then it was time to drive home. The worst part of it was it sapped my energy. After we tried out the new Mexican restaurant near us, I had no energy to write last night, one of my normal writing nights.

My knees feel better. I have good days and bad days, with the bad days getting progressively worse and the norm rather than the exception. One thing I'm doing, however, is paying more attention to how I put my legs when sitting. I find that I have a bad habit of twisting my legs in odd positions. An hour later when I stand up, I can barely move. So I've been trying to recognize when I'm doing that and keep my legs nicely bent, but relaxed. I learned that years ago with my shoulder and with my right leg. Is it helping? I don't know, but today my knees are significantly better. Is it greater awareness about small things such as just mentioned, or is it...

...better eating and slight reduction in weight? I've noticed this through the years: When I'm losing weight I feel better. When I'm gaining weight I feel worse. The exception to this seems to be when weight loss is fairly rapid I don't feel my best. I suspect that might be due to release of toxins stored in fat being broken down, but I haven't found reliable references for that. This week I've lost a couple of pounds. I've eaten well, in that I've cut back on portions for most meals and eaten better stuff. Maybe this is having an impact. Or maybe it's just the cooler, dryer weather.

My novel is only 5000-6000 words away from being finished! If I could have written last night, I'd have different numbers to report. But that is a very good position to be in. I haven't thought too much about the last two chapters—except for the last scene at the hospital (oops!), so I don't know how quickly the writing will go. Plus at this stage of the novel I have the point of view of six or so characters to juggle. But it's a good feeling. And that leads to...

...ideas for articles have been popping into my head. After the novel is finished, I'll take a week or two to write a few non-fiction articles about engineering and literature. I haven't written for Suite101 since February, and a couple of editors are looking for articles in their section. Plus the owner of Decoded Science has asked me to write for them, on a revenue share basis. In those two weeks I hope to get six articles written.

Among the bad things, unless something different happens today, I will have gone the entire month of September without a single e-book sale. I didn't promote much, since I'm sort of waiting on being able to finish the print version of Documenting America. While I see myself as a writer of books, writing articles also had a certain appeal. I'd like to keep both types of writing in my portfolio.

And, a good thing, I'm reading for pleasure again. For whatever reason I did very little reading from May through mid-September. About all I did was reading for my Wesley studies books, which are now on hold, and reading the many periodicals we get at home. But last year I began reading the book Mr. Baruch, about the life of Bernard M. Baruch, Wall St. speculator, advisor to presidents, statesman of another era. It's a scholarly book with many end notes, but an easy read. I've been reading 5 to 10 pages a night, more on the weekends. I still have a couple of hundred pages to go, so at this rate I won't likely finish till late October. But that's okay. I'm enjoying that part of the journey.

Time to post and go exercise my knees a little. I walked 14 minutes at noon, with little pain. As I've gone thither and yon in our office, I find I'm moving faster and with less pain, more like a 59 year old rather than an 80 year old (as I've been of late. It's a good feeling.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Still Trying to Get Healthy

Darn tick!

I don't know when it bit me. Or if more than one bit me. A couple of years ago I had the symptoms of tick disease, but didn't go to the doc and apparently my body fought it off, for all of the symptoms disappeared. Then around Independence Day this year they came back. By the third week of July I was a physical basket case. I went to the doc, got the normal anti-biotic treatment, and slowly got better. That is, the pains in my rib cage went away, my neck loosened up (though still not to pre-tick condition), and the drab feeling went away. The tests showed that I'd had the disease for more than six weeks. So how come it suddenly hit me again?

However, my rheumatoid arthritis has coincidentally flared up to the worst it has ever been, and has been getting worse by the week. I'm now being treated for it, which I never had to be before—except for occasional over the counter pain pills on the minor flare-ups and four steroid shots over two decades. This current treatment takes a month or so to bring relief, and I'm only about two weeks in, with no relief so far.

To contrast my current status, when we went to Chicago June 4-14 for Charles' graduation and hooding, I was feeling the best I'd felt in years. I hadn't had any RA symptoms for five or six years (except for the ring finger in my right hand, which flared up in Dec 2009 and has never subsided), and my weight was the lowest it had been since 2001, and still dropping. I was getting great exercise walking and working in my wood lot. My blood pressure was so low I had to cut my pills in half, then quit taking them all together.

Now, my fingers, wrists, elbows, rt shoulder, and both knees are extremely painful. The knees are the worst. My walking is greatly curtailed, even though we are having great walking weather. I've had to mostly give up my wood lot work. Sleeping has become a cycle of waking and turning to find a non-painful position. OTC painkillers don't seem to work, though I suppose it might be even worse without them. And my weight is back up almost fifteen pounds in three months. My blood pressure is still pretty good, however.

All because of a stinking little tick. At least, that's what I attribute this to. I suspect that sometime between June 15 and July 4 I had another tick bite, getting a fresh dose of ehrlichiosis chaffeensis, with my autoimmune system over-compensating and causing all the joint pain. I'm sure the weight gain is a combination of fluid on my joints and failure to cut back eating to match activity levels.

Today is a beautiful day. I'm going to walk twelve minutes no matter how much it hurts. I'm going to cut my normal lunch portion in half and just be hungry for the afternoon. I'm going to drink my water like a good boy, in the process cutting back a little on the coffee. By Wednesday of next week I hope to report a 2-3 pound weight loss, a little easing of joint pain, an increase in physical activity, and completion of my novel.

Wait, how did that slip in?

Friday, September 23, 2011

All Consuming

[typed this once and lost it all; I'll try to recreate]
Yesterday, at the close of a busy day, I made out a to-do list for when I got home. Nothing fancy, just a list of six items I wanted to accomplish that evening, such as "go through mail" and "return EMB taxes to file". One item was "write at least 500 words on In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People". One, "prep book for mailing", I decided to leave till at work. I also had a few unwritten items on the list.

When I got home, after heating up leftovers for us, I did a few chores that had been accumulating that I wanted to get done before I would allow myself to tackle the to-do list. That took till almost 8:00 PM, at which time I went into The Dungeon. I did just a couple of things on e-mail and Facebook (part of the unwritten list), then went straight to writing.

First I re-read what I wrote the previous night, and made a few edits to it. Then I began new stuff. The characters are beginning to converge on New York City for baseball reasons. By 10:00 PM I had 1,408 words added, a complete chapter, and had finally filled in the gap between a scene I wrote a year ago and all that comes before it. That was a good feeling. I did a little more editing, and headed upstairs around 10:30 PM to relax before going to bed. I read for almost an hour, a most enjoyable time. Then I went to give myself my Lantus shot, and there, next to my kit on the kitchen table, was the to-do list. I had forgotten about it. All I could cross off wast the writing portion. For everything else, 11:30 PM was too late to be doing it.

All my time to work my list had been consumed with writing. Why does it consume me so? Why did I, when my butt occupied my writing chair, forget all I intended to do and focus so exclusively on writing that my plans were not just laid aside, they were forgotten?

Of course, I was writing important stuff. Most of it was scenes that had been playing out in my mind for months, but which I didn't want to write ahead of other text. Other stuff was new, such as how I decided to have the protagonist's parents miss the most important game of his career through an airport going through a security breach. Important scenes should take concentration to write. But, all scenes in a novel are supposed to be important.

There I go again, letting my characters and story overwhelm even this post. Somehow I have to find a better balance, to be able to write yet carve out some time for other needed things, those things that must be done for me to be a good Christian, husband, father, grandfather, employee, churchman, and homeowner. Maybe by the time I start the next novel I'll find that balance. With only ten to fifteen thousand words to go on this one, I don't think I'm going to care much if I find the balance before I write, "The End."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Early Fall Prediction

Lunch: small in volume, calories, and carbs
Temperature: 74 F
Wind: NW between 5 and 10 mph
Sky: not a cloud to be seen
Knees: painful
Blood sugar: feeling normal
Woolly worms: out in force
Characters: in my head

Thus was my noon hour walk, just concluded. It was very pleasant. Even though my knees were aching, they've been worse recently, and the knowledge that the walk was good for them made me mostly forget about the pain. I did only one lap up and down the street of the commercial subdivision. Before the RA pain in my knees I did a lap in about 9.5 minutes. I'm considerably slower now. Although I didn't time it I'd say I walked between 10.5 and 11.5 minutes.

That's not enough walking to make a major dent in any health issue I have, but every little bit is good. If the weather stays like this, and my knees show just a little more improvement, I hope to be up to two laps by the end of the week. Then maybe I can drop a little weight, and get back to where I was in early June, before the combination of ehrlichiosis and 110 F temperatures sidelined me.

And yes, the woolly worms were crossing the sidewalks in front of me. I didn't count them, but surely I saw between 10 and 20. I resisted the urge to squish some of them. In fact, I'm not sure exactly what woolly worms are. Are they a beneficial species, or a bad one? Are these the early form of the beautiful moth, but which destroys decorative plants during their growth? People say you can predict how bad the coming winter is going to be by observing the woolly worms. I haven't read that book yet, so I'll make no prediction. Maybe I'll make an post on Facebook, and see what responses I get.

And Ronny Thompson, Tony Mancini, Colt Washburn, John Lind, and Sarah Jane Riley, and a host of their acquaintences, friends, foes, and three dead people were all in my head, kind of swirllng around. Each of these has another 15,000 to 20,000 words to make their big splash in the world. Mancini still has to say the words from which the book title comes: "I'm going to kill him in front of fifty thousand screaming people." Washburn still has to...have something happen to him, or do something stupid to someone, so that he pays the penalty as the bad guy he is.

Sarah Jane has already figured out her life is a mess, and that she can straighten it out, but has yet to take that step. John Lind has been silent for a few chapters. What will he do after it was his investigative reporting that threatened to bring ruin to the Cubs quest for their first World Series victory in more than a century? Can he make it up to Cubs' Nation?

And how will Ronny Thompson be reconciled to his parents and his girlfriend? Will he be? In the last thousand words he discovered his girlfriend has been lying to him, and he's cut off all communication with his parents. Yet tomorrow he has to pitch the biggest game of his life, and then a bigger one right after that. How will he handle it?

Last night I wrote the scene that is the "second plot point". This is the moment in the protagonist's life where something happens to him, perhaps in part his own doing, where he makes the decision to carry the quest to completion. This scene, on the Brooklyn Bridge, has been consuming some of my gray cells for over a year, but I refused to write it ahead of time. I finally got to that point last night. It came out pretty good, I think, almost exactly as I envisioned it.

I don't know what the woolly worms are predicting as far as winter is concerned, or if they really have any true prophetic value. But I make these predictions: These incessent characters will continue to haunt me until they have had their denoument. I will continue to be obsessed about finishing the book. And In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People will be finished in three weeks, give or take a couple of days. Then let the editing begin!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Silence of Friday

I came to the office at the usual time today. I found someone else already here and the coffee made. So I was at my desk, lunch in the fridge and coffee in my mug, at 06:50. I read the Bible and prayed, started my computer then pulled up the three Word files I work with in my pre-work hours, and continued my routine. I printed my daily log to the printer not too far outside my office, and nothing happened. The icon said it went to the printer, but nothing came out. The printer was turned on, but nothing came out. Figuring it was the network printer server that was down, I ignored it.

As other people began to arrive for their work day, I couldn't help but notice how quiet it was outside the office door. Normally I would hear pages being emitted from that printer/copier. Normally I would hear the plotters just a little farther down the hall whirring and drawing. Normally I heard conversations begin. But today, nothing. I checked my desk clock and computer clock and cell phone clock to make sure I wasn't an hour early, but no, it was just a very quiet morning. The department head who occupies the office right next to mine was gone, so the conversations he usually has, which I can't help but overhear, were also contributing to the silence.

A few minutes ago I found out the printer server isn't down, only that one printer, lacking a part that won't arrive until Tuesday. Since we have flex time, and some people work four 10-hour days, we have a few less people here on a Friday. Why no one is using the plotters I don't know, but presumably those will begin their whirring before the day is out.

The quietness, though, is unnerving. How can I get any work done in such total silence? Even the downspout that's on the exterior of the building, just four feet from where my ears are, which was conveying some water as I arrived at work, has gone silent. I've got to edit and add to an important floodplain report that has to go out next week. Where is the background noise that fills in the gaps when my eyes reach the end of a line and my brain must tell my head to shift, my eyes to move, and begin reading the next line? I have a radio I could turn on, but the reception is lousy with this receiver in this building.

It's strange how much we don't notice ambient noise. I suppose that's true everywhere we go, not just at the office. It's probably true with all our senses, not just hearing. There's background seeing, smelling, tasting, and feeling. Take away that background, and how noticeable is the missing!

I'm trying to think up a clever analogy-ish closing for this, but one escapes me for now. I've typed over an hour, with numerous breaks in between. The ambient noise has crept up a little. I hear footsteps behind me in an amongst the cubicles. There's someones computer beeping, a voice being cleared, a door being closed. All very faint, but still audible, still welcome.

I suppose I could train myself to work without the background stimuli, but suspect it would be a difficult retraining.

So, I have made a useless blog post on a difficult Friday, when I should be working but can't due to the extreme quietness. Let the retraining begin.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Letters from Saudi Arabia

Regular readers of this blog, not so much recently but over the years, will know that I love letters as literature. I keep hunting books of letters, over the Internet, in used book stores, wherever I can find them. Today on my afternoon break, after I taught a brown bag class, I opened a PDF file I downloaded some time ago of Martin Luther's letters. I only read about 1/3 of the introduction and the first letter in the book, but I enjoyed it.

Every morning at work, in my before-starting time, I spend a little time formatting the letters of John Wesley. I downloaded these as MS Word files from the website files The Wesley Center website, year by year, volume by volume. I'm currently formatting volume 6 for better printing, putting footnotes where they should be, italicizing references, watching for those odd optical scanning things that the webmaster never corrected. I figure I'll be at that another year or so, then I'll have all eight volumes.

About six or eight years ago, maybe even longer, various relatives began returning to us the letters we had written to them from our years in Saudi Arabia (1981-83). We got them from my mother-in-law, her sister, my dad's house, which included those to my grandmother, Lynda's dad's house, and from her grandmother's estate. I quickly saw the value in these and typed them into MS Word files and saved them. Alas, that was at least two computers ago, and we haven't had that computer on for several years.

I thought those were all the letters we had sent that we were ever going to get back, but a couple of weeks ago Lynda was wanting to find a particular childhood picture that her brother had a question about. In looking for that, we searched through a box we took from Lynda's mom when she moved into her retirement apartment. In it were letters and from various people over a forty year span. I looked through them, and to my surprise found a bunch of letters of ours from Saudi Arabia.

One of those I immediately recognized, the first one Lynda wrote from there. I knew I had typed that, so I thought these must have been duplicates. Then I looked at the salutation on the letter: "Dear Mother, Dad, Norman, Grandma, & Grime,". What I looking at was the original. Had I typed from one of these duplicates? A couple of nights ago I found the originals that I had originally typed from copies. We now have the original of that letter plus two of the copies we mailed. Three out of five aren't bad.

As I began going through these newly discovered ones, I found it as fascinating as reading letters of Wesley from the 1700s, maybe more so, as the Wesley letters give me information, but these give me memories. Here's an excerpt from a letter Lynda wrote to her mom.
June 23, 1982 Wed
Dear Mother,
...The sewer backed up again last night. I got to spend some of the AM cleaning the bathrooms. Hope it doesn't happen while we're gone. The dryers are still only working half the time in the laundry room. I still have a load in drying and it's almost 5 PM after washing this AM. We are now told BVA doesn't have the money for washers & dryers & we've heard nothing more of phones.

Next day: Well, Dave got home early from work yesterday, the kids got up from their naps & we went o laundry room to get the last load of towels. Later we went to Hardee's for dinner with the Jacksons. We hadn't been out for about a month & so it was good. Karen is flying with her kids to the states tonight....

We are excited about flying out the 30th. Charles is sure anxious "to go see Grandma."....
I'd almost forgotten about that sewer backing up so often. What memories that brings up. Or, from the older batch, here's one I wrote. The location isn't given, but it would have been either my office in Al Khobar or our apartment at Palm Meadows Village just outside of Khobar.
16 October 1981

Dear Dad,
Just have time to write a quick note. I'm leaving for Riyahd in the morning to spend 2 or 3 days. I was supposed to go Sun-Monday, but just got a message today that I am to be there tomorrow.

We are all pretty well. Sara had an eye infection that has cleared up after we began medication. Chas. has had a cough, but does not appear ill except for that. My cold has been lingering for three weeks now – persistent cough & congestion. So far I have not missed any work.

The weather is cooler—below 100 deg F & not as humid. We have been swimming twice at the pool and once in the gulf. today we left the children with a sitter after church & at[e] at chinese [sic] food —it was excellent.

Enclosed are two checks to cover expenses. Say hi to all.
Dave & Lynda, Charles, & Sara
It was mailed at Rochester NY on 21 Oct 1981, and Dad endorsed the envelope "Received Oct 24, 1981 Saturday answered Oct 29, 1981. Nothing earth shattering but good to read, and to remember that anything below 100 degrees seemed cool to us back then.

So, I have lots of pleasant reading ahead of me. Maybe it's good that we didn't have a phone. We had to write all these letters, and so the memories live through them.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

More on Time Management

This last week I wrote over 9,000 words on In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. I'd say that was effective time management. In a comment to my last post, a good friend, Gary, asked if documenting my time management was a good use of time. I replied that for my engineering work it was close to a necessity.

Since I came to Arkansas, I've been involved in nine (give or take 1) lawsuits. Sometimes it's us being sued by a client or a third party. Sometimes it's our client being sued by a contractor or a third party. I've also been involved in three mediations, generally between a client and a contractor, with us supporting our client. The last six or seven of these have happened after I began doing a fairly good job of tracking my activities. How good was it in court to be able to say, "I first met Mr. Finch on November 1, 2006, and his wife on March 12, 2007." Those people had both said they had never met me, but in my diaries, contemporaneously recorded, was a record on those days of meeting them. One point scored for the good guys.

Writing doesn't involve lawsuits, of course, though I suppose questions of copyrights could possibly arise. Professional writers say always data your drafts, either in manuscript or on the computer, and save everything. They say keep a diary of progress on a book. I don't exactly do that, though I might jot down on paper what my word count is at the end of each day that I work on it.

So what's the purpose of talking about managing time? Of documenting time spent? For the first question, I suppose it's my way of giving myself an incentive to get off my lazy butt and do something—of sit on my butt in front of the computer and write. If I talk about doing it, I'm more likely to do it than if I don't talk about doing it. As far as documenting the time I spend on writing, part of that is to show the IRS, should I ever be audited, that I'm serious about this second career, despite the relative lack of earnings. I suppose I also have a dream that someday, perhaps a century from now, a researcher will research my writing life for a thesis or dissertation, and will be interested in the day-to-day attempts to carve out time and write.

Dreams are good, so long as they don't immobilize you from pursuing them.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Time Management Problem

The older I get, especially now that I'm certainly closer to death than I am to birth, I have come to realize that time is our most important asset, and our most nonrenewable resource.

At work I'm currently trying to close or offload all my study, design, and construction projects so that I can be a full time trainer. We've grown to the size where I should be spending almost all of my time on training. Yet, I have these nagging projects that just won't go away or won't resist coming to closure. Today I'll be dealing with four projects that fall in that category.

In addition, I'm planning a new training course that I’ll teach at brown bag sessions stretched out over three or four months, between 5 and 8 sessions. Plus I'm working on two of the three papers I'll present at a conference in February (the third is done). Plus I have to make presentations to two different engineering groups on Sept 26 and Sept 27. Plus I'm trying to write some standard specs and change some standard details. It's a lot of small balls I'm trying to keep in the air, every now and then catching one and tossing it in a nearby basket. Except if I miss the basket the ball comes back for more juggling.

So what I'm finding is I don’t do multiple task management as well as I used to. Twenty years ago I would have been bored if I didn’t have fifteen tasks to juggle each day. Now four or five prevents me from adequately focusing on any of them. So I spend a little time on one, see that I can’t really finish it, or even take it to the next level closer to completion, so I shift to another one with the same result, then to another one, etc. By the end of the day I’ve worked on ten tasks, got a few things done, but feel incredibly unsatisfied with my performance. Some days are better, but still nothing is getting closed.

With writing it seems to be the same as with engineering, except maybe I'm doing a better job at compartmentalizing. On a typical weekday, I spend 15 to 20 minutes working through my Harmony of the Gospels. This might not seem like much, but since this is a non-commercial project, one that is more for my own benefit than for selling, I can't justify a lot of time. And the type of stuff I'm doing on it now is easily done in small junks of time. Then I spend 15 to 20 minutes in the letters of John Wesley. I consider this research/development for future writings. Again, what I’m doing right now—formatting volume 6 of the letters—is easily done in small chunks of time.

Other free time at the office is mainly dedicated to writing research. Sometimes I read agent/editor/writer blogs. Sometime I research books similar to mine, sometime I do hard research into any number of things. Occasionally I'll read something about the art and craft of writing.

At home, dedicated hours for dedicated tasks is harder to set up. This week has been good. I get home about 6:15 PM, finish eating by 7:15 PM, either walk for half an hour or watch TV while multitasking (maybe a crossword). At 8:00 PM I go downstairs to The Dungeon, and am there till close to 11 PM. During that time I write, review what I wrote the day before, work on coordinating plot elements, perhaps do a little research, and take as much of that time as possible to work on my most prominent work-in-progress, currently In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. For the last month and a half this has been working, as the book has gone from 26,500 words on August 2 to 57,600 now. I would say my net actual writing time for the last three days has been about an hour and 15 minutes each day, and my production was 4,400 words. Those aren’t polished words, finished words, but they probably aren't too bad.

But, in all of the above, I have not once mentioned blogging. That has suffered. I went from 3 times per week updates for this blog to about once per week. My other blog, my "official" writing blog, is about the same. I'm going to try to improve on the during the rest of September, but carving out the time to think about a post, draft it, proof it, edit it, and actually publish it has been difficult.

Bare with me, loyal readers. I will return to more frequent posting, once I get my time resources in better working order.

Friday, September 2, 2011

More on Lit Crit

After my previous post on literary criticism, my friend Gary comments, then we exchanged some e-mails about it. Gary is, among other things, a literary critic. Not for a career, but he does this. Where I would critique a poem or book of poetry, he would provide a traditional literary criticisms of it, interpreting the poem or book according to how it spoke to him.

They used to have us do that in school It seems for several years in a row we studied Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening". Each year the teacher would say how this was a suicide longing poem, or a death wish poem. The narrator—whom they always said was Frost speaking autobiographically—wanted to lie down in the woods and die instead of facing his heavy responsibilities. Well, I don't see that in that poem. I see a pretty picture, a farmer, laborer, or businessman in olden days returning home late from some engagement, taking a moment to enjoy a thing of beauty. That was never good enough for those teachers, however. If you didn't see the suicide wish in it, you were stupid. That killed poetry for me for thirty years.

Then there were the questions on the quizzes, or in class. "What was the poet thinking when he wrote this?" Or, "What is the poet's intent with this stanza?" Hey, stupid teacher, the poet's dead. He died before I could talk to him. How the hell do I know what he was thinking or what his intent was? I can't know that. All I can do is say what the poem says to me. I guess that kind of questioning was another thing that helped kill poetry for me for those several decades.

So where does that leave me relative to literary criticism? The teachers wanted me, the whole class, to write our answers with certainty. "This is what the poet was thinking...." "This is the poet's intent...." "The poet added this hidden meaning...." And I think that certainty is what bugs me most. Interpret the poem all you want. Unless you talked with the poet, or unless he left a documented trail of explanations, it's all personal interpretation. It's a guess. You can't state it with certainty. Yet, that's exactly how you are supposed to do it.

Confidence is one thing. How you state that confidence is something else. To say, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is a suicide poem seems to me not confidence but hubris. To say, In "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" I see a man contemplating suicide" is confidence. The critic is confident in what he sees in the poem. To say what the poet mean, in terms of absolute certainty, is wrong—again, except when the poet has left a paper trail saying "this is what I meant in that poem."

I suppose this applies to all lit crit, not just poetry. I've seen interesting things in my own poems. When I post them for critique, not criticism, I often get critiques that are more like criticism. I was especially amused when one critter described one of my poems as referring to death. As the poet, I know what I meant, and it was far, far from being about death.

Have I sufficiently flogged this horse? I hope so. Maybe on to other subjects with my next post.