Monday, January 30, 2017


"Vase with Flowers" by Troy's Work Table. Chalk painting for Monday 30 January 2017.

Sidewalk chalk wash, sidewalk chalk, chalk pastels, and charcoal pencil on concrete board.

After Odilon Redon.

Saturday, January 28, 2017


The Wife and I didn't exchange Christmas gifts this year. Instead we supported local writers by attending a fundraising dinner for Creative Colloquy. The spectacular six-course dinner was hosted by The Secret Sauce Society, prepared by Chef Hudson Slater, and paired with mixed drinks concocted by Creative Colloquy founder Jackie Casella.


I suppose that like Fight Club, the first rule of the Secret Sauce Society is that you do not talk about Secret Sauce Society. But the meal was so good that I have to share the experience.


Before dinner started, we were each handed a glass of Wycliff champagne, a menu, and an envelope with Creative Colloquy items and poetry and prose from Creative Colloquy alumni. There were also bags of roasted seeds, "Caesar salad" seasoned popcorn, and bourbon soaked and sugared blackberries (for the champagne, although they were also great on their own).


The first course was Celery Root Agnoloti with pickled cranberry, rye crumbs, and chévre. This was The Wife's favorite course of the evening. It was excellent pasta.

The first two courses were paired with a Whiskey Marmalade—Heritage Distilling Company Elk Rider Bourbon, orange juice, cinnamon simple, and sparkling wine. The cinnamon at the forefront of the flavors played well with both the pasta and the soup that followed.


The second course was Roasted Carrot Bisque with celery pesto and an onion biscuit. This soup was divine. The Wife doesn't usually like carrots, but she loved the bisque, as did I. The biscuit paired well with the bisque. The addition of the flavors from the whiskey marmalade took the whole to another level of enjoyment.


Onion biscuit, roasted carrot bisque with celery pesto, and whiskey marmalade.


The third course was a Grapefruit Kale Salad with honey mint dressing, walnut, and feta. This salad was refreshing. I thought of it as a palate cleanser. It was interesting to have the salad served in the middle of the meal and helped to better define the first two dishes that preceded it as well as the meat courses that followed it.


The fourth course was Seared Duck Breast with parsnip, pomegranate, and candied yam vinaigrette. This was my favorite course of the evening. The duck was perfectly prepared and root vegetables (both in pureed and chip forms) were a great complement. I could have easily just eaten this plate all night for each course. It was heavenly.

The third and fourth courses were paired with The Sugar Plum Fairy—Heritage Distilling Company Elk Rider Vodka, orange, spiced plum syrup, allspice dram, and sparkling wine. The Sugar Plum Fairy echoed a few of the flavors in the Whiskey Marmalade, but was a bit sweeter. This was The Wife's favorite drink of the three cocktails. As with the prior drink and its courses, The Sugar Plum Fairy accentuated the flavors of the salad, the duck, and the root vegetables.


The fifth and sixth courses were paired with a Harvest Old Fashioned—Heritage Distilling Company Elk Rider Rye, chamomile brown sugar, cardamom bitters, and orange. This was my favorite drink of the evening. The rye whiskey, brown sugar, and orange blended well, and the cardamom was just right. For me, it was the best pairing of food and drink, which is saying something, because all of the food and drink worked well together.


The fifth course was Pork Belly and Scallop with Chinese five spice and kimchi. While I could appreciate the scallop, I'm not fond of most seafood, especially shellfish, so I took an obligatory bite and let The Wife have the rest of it. The pork belly was scrumptious, with a crust of cooked Chinese five spice. Pairing it with the heat of the kimchi brought out the best flavors of both the cabbage and the meat. It was a really great dish.


The sixth and final course of the evening was a Chocolate Custard with a ginger cream, berries, and nuts. It was a nice and simple dessert to end a spectacular meal that will not soon be forgotten.


Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and nuts adorn the cream and chocolate custard.


At the end of the meal, chef Hudson Slater came out to thank us for coming to the dinner. He also answered a few questions from the diners.


In addition to a wonderful meal and drinks, our table of six was engaged in lively conversation throughout the evening. We spoke about art and life, family and literature, trips and joys.


As the evening drew to a close, The Wife and I were able to talk with the chef for a few minutes. He was charming and humble and obviously very passionate about food and cooking and bringing pleasure to others through his gifts in the kitchen.


The course after dinner ended was the reading course in the comfort of home. But that is another post for another time.

Friday, January 27, 2017


Razzle Berry IPA, an American IPA by the Powerhouse Brewery.

On tap, served in Powerhouse pint glass.

6.1% abv.


The pour is an appealing hazy orange with a thin skin of brilliant white head.

The nose is berries, orange, hay, leaves, and the air after the rain cleanses it.

The taste waffles between raspberries and bitterness, both citrus and resin. There is a smokiness that may actually be the raspberries and bitterness clashing with one another. Ultimately, this is a hybrid beer that doesn't really work. It tries to move through the realms of both fruit beer and IPA and ends up being neither.

The best things about this beer are its solid mouthfeel and its appearance. Otherwise, this is one I cannot recommend. It is simply a confused and confusing beer.

The mouthfeel is


The art I make with kids brings me the greatest joy!

Today, I had the pleasure and privilege of working with a class of fifth and sixth graders. I guided them through sketching their own faces as rough-draft self portraits in pencil.

Then we "transferred" our faces from two dimensions to three dimensions onto plastic eggs and paper tubes. These are their self-portrait busts.

What a blast! I think I have a lot more fun than the kids during these art projects.


Sharpie marker and masking tape on plastic eggs and paper tubes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


"Fungal Forest" by Troy's Work Table.Chalk painting for Wednesday 25 January 2017.

Sidewalk chalk wash, sidewalk chalk, chalk pastels, charcoal on concrete board.


I've been working on a new technique. It is more chalk painting than chalk drawing.


Lines of color were drawn on the concrete board in chalk and then wet down and "painted" with a small scrub brush. More lines of color, followed by more painting. A few images were drawn on the board. More color and more painting. Chalk pastels outlines of trunks. More painting. Then final lines of chalk pastel.


I'm really enjoying experimenting with this style of chalk painting and figuring out what type of effects I can create.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


The monthly Creative Colloquy reading and open mic in Tacoma. Photo by TWT.


Sometimes I find it hard to be a poet. Other times it is rather easy. Most of the time it is enjoyable, even though it is always work. The part that is most difficult, however, is taking myself seriously—actually owning the title, wearing it proudly, and making the effort to connect my work to an audience.

I know what I, myself, like in my writing, so it is always gratifying to re-discover that there are others who also like my writing for what it is.


This past weekend I made the effort.

I knew that there were two regular open mics in Tacoma at which I would be able to attend, listen, and read, so I got busy doing the work to be present at both.


On Friday (1/13), I headed out to the Puget Sound Poetry Connection's second Friday Distinguished Writer Series at King's Books. I was primarily there to hear Washington State Poet Laureate Tod Marshall read, and read he did.

He started by reading poems of others—poets from whom he draws inspiration and poems that seemed to speak to our own time. For me, the most powerful "other" poems he read were "For a Lady I Know" by Countee Cullen, "A Poison Tree" by William Blake, and "Shine, Perishing Republic" by Robinson Jeffers. (In fact, once I arrived back home, I pulled my copy of Rock and Hawk off the shelf so I could read the Jeffers poem a few more times.)

Mr. Marshall then proceeded to read his own poems. He read one poem ("Describe Turner to MLK") from his second poetry collection Tangled Line and one poem from his first poetry collection Dare Say, but otherwise mostly new and or unpublished work. My favorite poem of the evening was his dark "Scars," which picked open a few of his own in addition to those of others, delivered in a confessional manner, which felt a mixture of memory, catharsis, and healing.

There were plenty of readers for the open mic, so each person was limited to one poem. I had brought a poem-in-progress with me, as well as my Black Psalms chapbook. I decided the new poem was too new, being a really rough first draft, mostly written earlier in the day and a bit crude and crass, so I opted to read "Black Psalm XI (First Person)" instead. That felt like the right decision and "First Person" fit the tone of the evening, as established by Mr. Marshall and some of the other poets.


In order to take myself seriously, I need not only to write, and not only to listen, but also to read. I spent the weekend reading poems of protest by Daniel Berrigan and Old Testament prophet Hosea. I also spent the weekend reading poems by Derek Walcott—reading (and re-reading) "The Sea Is History" and other poems from his Selected Poems (2007).


On Monday (1/16), I headed out to the Creative Colloquy's third Monday reading and open mic at Tacoma's B Sharp Coffee House. I spent a good part of the day revising and reworking four newer poems, hoping to read a couple of them later in the evening.

This was my first time participating in a regular Creative Colloquy event, although I took part in their 2016 Lit Crawl. I wish I had gone to this monthly reading event sooner. The coffee house in which the reading takes place is suitably funky, has plenty of seating, and serves drinks (coffee, tea, wine, and beer). The house was filled with an eager and engaging audience and plenty of local writers and poets.

The evening was a mix of people reading creative non-fiction, short stories, excerpts of novels, and poems, reminding me of my time as part of Seattle writing collective Les Sardines. Four featured readers started the evening, followed by a ten-minute intermission and the open mic.

I got to wrap things up as the final reader of the evening. I had a generous limit of five minutes and/or two poems, so I picked what I felt were the two strongest poems of the four I had with me. I led with "Now You're Talking Bananas," which was inspired by the concept of plants communicating with one another. I finished with a new octopus poem, "Athene," wherein I compare a giant Pacific octopus (and avatar of the Cosmic Octopus) to the Greek goddess.


The weekend of reading, writing, and performing poetry was good for my soul. And it reminded me once again to take my vocation, my calling, as poet seriously.

It also reminded me that I need to get out and be around other writers, even though I would prefer to play the role of hermit and stay at home. Or, as the Creative Colloquy "About Us" page states: "These gatherings aim to lure writers out from the solitary activity of writing itself to connect with like minds and fuel inspiration and love of their craft." It is a good goal to carry around for the next year. Hopefully, with a bit of practice, it becomes a discipline.

Troy's Work Table reads new poems at the Creative Colloquy open mic. Photo by Jackie Casella.

Sunday, January 15, 2017


My local library has been culling its collection. They are removing titles that are rarely checked out and then the Friends of the Library are selling said titles through their store for a couple of dollars per book. I recently acquired two hardbound books of poetry that have been handled by few hands and have given me the gifts of poems I cannot imagine having waited so late in my life to have the pleasure of reading.


"...the moon and moon, / The yellow moon of words about the nightingale / In measureless measures, not a bird for me / But the name of a bird and the name of a nameless air / I have never—shall never hear."

When I first encountered American Sonnets, an anthology edited by David Bromwich, on the shelf, I opened the book to a random page. Page 89 contained "Autumn Refrain" by Wallace Stevens. I read the poem about three or four times right there, trying to figure out what Stevens was doing. A bit stunned, I immediately opened the book back to page 89 and read "Autumn Refrain" another five or six times. Over the next few days, I would read the poem many times.

I love the repetition of words and phrases throughout the poem—"moon," "skreak," "skritter," "gone," "stillness." I love the lilting, lumbering, stumbling rhythm of the lines. (And yes, there is both the lightness of lilt and weight of lumber in this poem, simultaneously and paradoxically.) I love the sound and stillness that is established. I love the darkness of the scene. I can hear the bird calls, even as I cannot.

I may never know what a "measureless measure" is, but perhaps if I read this poem a few more hundred times, all will be revealed.


"First, there was the heaving oil / heavy as chaos; / then, like a light at the end of a tunnel, // the lantern of a caravel, and that was Genesis."

"Bone soldered by coral to bone, / mosaics / mantled by the benediction of the shark's shadow, // that was the Ark of the Covenant."

"and these groined caves with barnacles / pitted by stone / are our cathedrals, // and the furnace before the hurricanes: / Gomorrah. Bones ground by windmills / into marl and cornmeal,"

When I first picked up Selected Poems by Derek Walcott, edited by Edward Baugh, I was once again struck by the first poem I read. In this case, it was the second poem in the book—"As John to Patmos" from In a Green Night: Poems 1948-1960 (1962). Walcott's comparison of the religious exile John to his "prison island" of Patmos as (I am assuming) with the inhabitants of Walcott's home island of St. Lucia was both confounding and beautiful to me.

However, I bounced around in the book and came upon "The Sea Is History" from The Star-Apple Kingdom (1979). Once again, I was stunned by a poem I was reading and have been reading it over and over since.

In "The Sea Is History," Walcott marries biblical history, salvation history, to History with a capital "H" and to the history of the slave trade and the people that were abducted from West Africa and ended up in the Caribbean (literally and literally). His hand appears to be so light and deft, even as I can imagine him wrestling with the text to find the perfect word, to break the lines just right, to make the rhythm and meter work.


I am grateful for finally discovering each of these poems, whose words will now live on in me for quite some time.

Can I hear a bird's song the same again?

Can I read the Bible the same again?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


So much depends upon a red hen...


"Red Hen Sun" by Troy's Work Table. Indoor chalk art for Tuesday 10 January 2017.

Sidewalk chalk wash, sidewalk chalk, chalk pastels, and charcoal pencil on 12" x 12" concrete board.

Monday, January 09, 2017


"Undergrowth" by Troy's Work Table. Indoor chalk art for Monday 09 January 2017.

Sidewalk chalk wash, sidewalk chalk, chalk pastels, and charcoal pencil on 12" x 12" concrete board.

Trying out some new techniques.

Saturday, January 07, 2017


"Magi(c)" by Troy's Work Table. Indoor chalking for Saturday 07 January 2017.

Sidewalk chalk, chalk pastels, charcoal, and charcoal pencils on concrete board.


I didn't intend on chalking. I was cleaning a former piece of chalk art off of a board and liked the grayish blue background that developed. Throw in a little bit of the Magi from yesterday (Day of Epiphany) and some of the nineteenth-century reading I am currently pursuing (primarily Melville and Hawthorne) and "Magi(c)" came to life.

Friday, January 06, 2017


The temperature was still below freezing in the early afternoon, but The Dog and TWT needed to get out of the house. So they went walking around frozen Bradley Lake and tried not to slip and slide on the snow and ice that was still around on the trail's shaded patches.


Even though most people were done with Christmas before it really began, the season of Christmas just ended yesterday (after a period of twelve days). Today is the Day of Epiphany. This ornament is on our tree, which is still standing.

Sunday, January 01, 2017


Columns of cottonwood—
bark hardened into armor
by frost and arctic wind.


Copyright © 2017 by Troy's Work Table.