Anne Bean

I make delicious words. // I make words delicious.

Tag: class

And now, aging.

I’ve just turned 26. This is remarkably less romantic than turning 25, because 25 is such a nice round number (well…square number, I suppose. A nicely shaped number), while 26 is kind of awkward and divisible by 13 and whatnot.

And so my 26th birthday was fraught with both ridiculous bad luck and awesomeness.

Bad luck: While driving to my workplace to retrieve my wallet and cell phone (a sad story in and of itself), I sprung a flat in the middle of the 520 bridge. In a moment of amazing luck, I was not assisted by the cops (who undoubtedly would have wanted to know where my driver’s license was), but by two minivans containing the Northwestern University Track and Field team. Huzzah! The day was slowly saved, I got some new tires, had a birthday party in the evening, and there were cupcakes and happiness for all. Having my tire changed by lots of nice young people in matching track suits on the 520 bridge was a surreal moment, that’s for sure.

In my writing life, I begin my second class at Richard Hugo House this week; it’s a fiction critique class with Nancy Kress. I will bring in an 8,000 word chunk of November Girls. It will be epic. Or something.I continue to write poems for the class with David Wagoner. Poetry continues to be hard, even at age 26. Some things don’t change overnight. The number attached to my age seems to be one of the few things that does.

An exquisite tidbit.

This came out of a blind pass-the-paper exercise I did back in my class with David Wagoner. It’s an exercise a lot like exquisite corpse, except more aimed at prose than poetry.

The structure is to write a male character (pass), a female character (pass), a location (pass), an activity (pass), what he says (pass), what she says (pass), what society says (pass), and the moral of the story.

This was my favorite of the bunch:

Robert Pattinson and Sylvia Plath are at a beachfront resort in Hawaii, holding each other, weeping.
“You’re cheating,” he says.
“That’s right. I’m working on my standup routine.”
We all know this is a foolish idea.
Moral: It’s a huge world.

The Lady Gaga/Captain Hook one was pretty good, too, but instead of posting it I’ll leave it up to your imaginations what those two would do together. Post your ideas. I’m morbidly curious.


March the only month that is also a verb, and frankly that’s what the month is feeling like, a march through the weeks, doing my best to just get through time. At the beginning of my work day, I am marching through to the end, waiting to go home so I can wait to feel better. Normally my early, cold spring doesn’t have this level of ennui; mine is definitely tempered by an obnoxious cough that won’t go away and the end of my writing class with David Wagoner. It leads me to think a lot about where I want to go with my writing career, which is inexorably tied to my life path.

In pondering my writing, I’ve realized two things: one, my prose really is good enough to polish up and submit to some places. I once did an experiment of submitting one piece a month, and I had a poem published four months in. Pretty good, I’d say. It’s time to do that again, and I think I found an anthology to submit to for this month. Two, I totally lust after grad school and exclusive, expensive writers’ retreats. Time to get a portfolio together!

There’s something about March. It’s far enough into the year that you need to start meaning what you say. It’s a month where you shit or get off the pot. I’ve noticed this trend in my friends: several of my artist buddies are spending their Marches buckling down and getting serious. Well, me too. My hope for the rest of the month is that my body heals enough to march along with my mind.

Another piece for class

So, in lieu of me writing something new and provocative for my blog, I’m reposting stuff I’m working on for class. Hah! This is a piece in a very different vein than my last; I had a go at personal essay/memoir writing. I got both the letter and this piece workshopped last Tuesday, and I am pumped to revise. The letter needs to be shorter; it’s really a cover letter, and I’ll repost an updated version. This one, they said, needed to be longer…and possibly a suite of poems. Here it is for now!


Twelve Years of Saying Goodbye

Twelve: We’re in Alaska, and share a hotel room. I see the backs of my grandmother’s calves for the first time. They are veiny and look like they’ve been through several wars. “When you’re my age, your feet are blocks of wood,” she tells me.

Thirteen: I am in her living room that smells of camellia blossoms. She pulls her thick wool cardigan aside to show her pacemaker to me. It’s a round alien box, visible under her papery skin.

Fourteen: She is sitting on the grassy hillside on the Marin coast, gazing at cormorants and grebes through her spotting scope. The wind tousles her thick gray hair. “I want you to remember her like this,” my dad tells me. And I do.

Fifteen: She stops driving the year I start. She puts her foot on the gas, not the brake, and rams through her garden fence. She’s done after that.

Sixteen: She likes to go birding still, down by the marsh near her house. She’s starting to forget the names of the birds, though.

Seventeen: It’s the last of the yearly visits to her house. She gives me a hat she’s been knitting, wool, her last knitting project. It’s a little too advanced for me—cable knit. I take it anyway. Even if I never finish it, I figure, it’ll be something we both touched.

Eighteen: My father and brother move her out of her house, the house my father grew up in. I’m secretly glad to be busy with college, unable to help. We visit her in the home and she’s a scaled-down version of herself. Our conversations loop on each other.

Nineteen: I think about sending her some calming poetry on tape. Mary Oliver. I think about sending Dylan Thomas’ Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, but I don’t want to break her heart. Or mine. I send nothing. I’m afraid of calling her on the phone.

Twenty: We call her on Christmas. She has no idea it’s Christmas. She has good days and bad days, at this point. Christmas is a bad day.

Twenty-one: My mom calls her on her 91st birthday. “Is it my birthday?” she gasps, excited. “I must be one hundred years old today!”

Twenty-two: I think about sending her poetry again, but she can’t use the tape player any more. And she wouldn’t remember it. So I don’t.

Twenty-three: I realize that I haven’t seen her in years, and had better hurry up. My brother and I visit her. She’s moved from the apartment room to a glorified hospital bed. She is so frail; I do not recognize her at first. We talk. It’s a five-minute conversation but she’s lucid enough. “Don’t wait too long to come again,” she says, earnestly, as we’re leaving. Of course, I do.

Twenty-four:  My dad calls to tell me the story: It’s an early morning. She wakes, goes into cardiac arrest, and realizes that she is dying. She welcomes death. I think to myself, it was a blessing that she woke up in order to die. I wished then that I knew how to grieve now that she was actually dead.

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