How to Write a Ghazal

I feel like I’ve finally had a breakthrough with the ghazal. Now, I won’t claim to be an expert—it will take writing many ghazals before I would begin to think I was even approaching that level—but I do believe I have the beginnings of a ghazal and a strategy for tackling the form. Ghazal’s don’t seem hard, though that might be deceptive. The form is easy enough to describe, and rather than repeat it here, I’ll point you to two of my favorite descriptions by Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Foundation. The advantage to these is that they both provide good examples. It’s a form that seems easy to understand, yet challenging to wrap your mind around.

One of the facets of the ghazal that intrigues me is that each couplet is a distinct semantic, thematic, even emotional unit. That is to say, unlike most of the poems I tend to write, each couplet stands alone, yet they are linked together primarily by the repetition of a rhyme, followed by a refrain, a word or phrase that is repeated throughout the poem.

What has been the biggest stumbling block has been landing on a word or phrase I might want to repeat at the end of each couplet. It seemed necessary to decide on this, and then to choose a rhyme to preceed it, almost reverse engineering the poem from the outset. What helped me to decide that I had a good refrain was thinking about the rules for the initial couplet.

Once I came upon a phrase I thought I could dwell on for the length of a poem, I knew it could actually be the the beginnings of a ghazal once I could get the first couplet to work. Each line of the first couplet ends with the rhyme and the refrain, and yet I wanted that couplet also to be one complete sentence. That rule of mine isn’t a hard and fast rule for the ghazal, but it didn’t feel right to form the first couplet out of two one-sentence lines. I wanted the initial couplet to feel like one unit, not two separate lines, if that makes sense.

Once I had an idea of how I could write this initial sentence that included two instances of a refrain preceeded by a rhyme, then I had a good sense that I could write several more couplets, since the form relaxes and I just had to end with the rhyme and refrain each time. This allowed me to come up with pairings of rhyme and refrain, which I could then write toward. For this initial draft, I came up with six more pairs and began to look for ways to write towards them in their couplets.

Because each couplet is a distinct semantic and thematic unit, I can rearrange them later. I can discard any rhyme/refrain pairs that don’t work, and I can search for more rhymes that might be interesting with the refrain. I can keep tinkering with this ghazal, revising individual couplete, searching for more possibilities, expanding the thematic reach of the poem by exploring new ideas. I can include some off-rhyme or find ways to reimagine the syntax of the refrain to keep things lively. At some point, I will feel I ought to be done, and one way to know I’ve reached that point will be when I find a way to incorporate my name in a concluding couplet. Of course, I might find that final couplet long before I’ve exhausted my search for other ones to add in the middle of the poem. I might still rearrange and find interesting combinations of theme and of rhyme. It is a poem and a form that I can keep coming back to until I’m ready to move on.

This is one quality that has drawn me to the ghazal. It is not a poem that makes a single statement; it is a poem that ruminates on subjects linked by sound and repetition. By juxtaposing couplets that are distinct units, connections can be found between ideas that are made by association, not logic, so language gets pushed to discover new meaning. This and its formal complexity means the ghazal runs counter to my poetic instincts, making it a challenge that is well worth exploring.

Book Review: Steve Yarbrough’s Stay Gone Days

Stay Gone Days by Steve Yarbrough

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Yarbrough’s novel Stay Gone Days tells us a story that spans four decades in the lives of two sisters from the fictional Delta town of Loring, Mississippi. Their stories begin with their adventures in the town’s private high school in the 1970s. Though they go their separate ways, both characters’ lives take numerous twists and turns, often arriving where they might think is the end of the road but becomes a new jumping-off place. Yarbrough is an exquisite observer of character and place. His vivid portrayal of the social strata Loring and of iconic Mississippi locales like the Sun-n-Sand in Jackson transport the reader back to that era, though not exactly with nostalgia. There are traumatic events, crimes, betrayals, narrow escapes, triumphs, and attempts at reconciliation that drive his characters along their own winding paths, leading them to landscapes of Central California, Boston, and Poland, familiar to readers of Yarbrough’s fiction.

The novel is, as the reviewer for Rain Taxi called it, “Wise, tender, and honest,” as it “forces readers to confront the inevitability of aging and the choices we make to maintain or sever family ties.” Along the way, Yarbrough, through his characters, provides sage advice on writing, relationships, and life, along with the occasional cultural reference that grounds us in a common time and place, and even a few cameos by writers and musicians. Though both sisters experience their traumas and triumphs, it is in the masterful telling of their stories that they become unforgettable.




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Updating My Poems Page

On the occasion of publishing a poem this month in the fabulous River Mouth Review, I realized I needed to update my Poems page with a number of online publications. It is now up to date with links from the past year or so. Reading the other writers in these magazines is always an amazing reminder of why we do what we do. There are so many amazing voices out there, writing vital words, fighting to be heard amidst all the noise. Hasn’t it always been that way? Yet the current firehose of (mis)information can make it seem all the more overwhelming.

Find yourself a good book or a good literary magazine and take a break from all the hubub. It’s not escapism; you will return with renewed energy and insight.

Of Lines and Sentences in Poems

This week, one of my favorite magazines, Birmingham Poetry Review, accepted two of my poems. They’re not that easy to get into, so I’m very pleased to have two poems selected for their Spring 2024 issue. In proofreading the poems before sending them back, I was reminded that they both have many more lines than they have sentences, which has me thinking about the way lines and sentences interactin in a poem.

In one poem, there are two only sentences and twenty-one lines. The first sentence sets up the poem in the first two lines, and the second sentence continues for nineteen lines. For me, these are relatively short lines — probably four beats per line, maybe five, and lately I’ve been writing longer lines with at least six beats, though I don’t always count. Still, that second sentence is a pretty long one with many dependent clauses, lists, and even a coordinating conjunction or two. I like the feeling of tumult that it causes as the sentence keeps going over line breaks. Since there are quite a few commas in a periodic sentence like this, there are opportunities for enjambment, end-stoppped lines, and ceasurae within the lines. The overlaop of syntax rhythms and the rhythms of the beats within the line can create a polyrhythmic feel.

In a similar way, the second poem has three sentences stretched out over nineteen lines. These lines are a little longer with at least six beats per line, though again, I don’t really count beats or scan for meter. What’s interesting in this poem in contrast to the first is that the initial sentence stretches for nine lines, then the second sentence is only one line, actually a little less. The first word of the third sentence is the last word on that tenth line, and that final sentence stretches for nine more lines, until the end. Instead of a stanza break, the short sentence at the midpoint of the poem is like putting your foot on the brakes, a short stop before the momentum of the poem picks up again.

I don’t always write in long sentences, and I probably need to remind myself not to overdo it (though these poems got accepted at a great magazine, so maybe it’s not a terrible idea). What they remind me of, which is one thing I love about poetry, is to pay attention to the ways that a sentence and the lines of a poem interact. I like layerying the flow of the sentence over the rhythms of the lines. I like finding variety in sentence length, and finding ways to end the sentence within the line at different points. There is no one right way to do it, of course, but there are many options that affect the mood and the pacing of the poem. In these poems, I wanted the sense of momentum that a long sentence can bring, especially as one phrase builds on the previous ones and the sounds and images accumulate without the break that the end of a sentence can give. Other poems call for shorter sentences or more variety in the kinds of sentences. In any case, the ways that the line and the sentence interact continues to grab my attention.

Ranking MFA Programs in Creative Writing

It’s that time of the year again — the time when writers everywhere get serious about looking for an MFA program. It only makes sense, with many application deadlines coming due in December or January, if you want to be in an MFA program a year from now, you’ll want to get serious about looking by now, or at least very soon. There are a lot of programs out there, and finding the right one for you, can be a challenge.

Our program has already received its first application for Spring (our December 1 deadline is for Spring 2023; our priority deadline for Summer or Fall is March 1), and we’ve had other inquiries, some of whom will probably send in their applications in September or October, which we recommend. But our main application period will begin in earnest in December or January when the Fall applications start to roll in.

As you are looking at programs, you might be tempted to look at the rankings. And if you do, you may find that there both are quite a few places online that rank graduate programs, and none or just a few that are very authorative. I tend not to take much stock in those website rankings, even though we’ve been grateful that we’ve ranked fairly highly among low-residency programs, and that has probably steered some good students our way. I’ve also seen how they do their rankings (or tried to figure that out), so I have my doubts.

How did we go from #1 to #9 in the span of a year in one ranking? I can’t tell. Did I believe we were the best program in the country? Sure, but not really that we deserved that ranking more than some other really good programs. Do I think we deserve to be #9? Maybe, though I’m not sure why. I do suspect that a big weight in a lot of those rankings is placed on the cost of the program, which helps us because our tuition is low. That’s good information to have, but isn’t the only consideration a prospective MFA student should consider. I don’t think those websites are really qualified to rank MFA programs, especially when I see they often put MFA and MA programs on the same list with no distinction between the two. A 48 hour MFA is hardly equivalent to a 36 hour MA, after all, yet in a couple of rankings some MA programs are ranked higher than ours, probably because our extra hours cost more in tuition. Yet the difference in the credential between an MA and an MFA is worth the added cost, especially if the MFA is your goal. (Nothing against MA programs, either; they just aren’t the same thing.)

So as glad as I am when our program ranks highly (yet I wonder why), and as often as I let our PR department put out a press release touting these rankings, I’m equally aware that the only MFA ranking that really matters is yours. If you value what our program has to offer, then we’ll make it onto your list. If not, then maybe I’m glad we don’t. If the online rankings get us on your radar so you consider us, then I’m happy, but I don’t put much more stock in them than that.

So how should you rank MFA programs? That’s probably what made you read this blog post, and maybe why you’ve kept reading. The answer really is that only you can know. It all depends on your goals and the kind of program you’re looking for. But that’s not terribly helpful. so here are some of the things I think you probably want to consider.

Reputation. Yes, I realize this is going to factor highly on many of your lists. It’s not a bad criterion to have, though it’s not the only one. Consider how long a program has been around, who is on the faculty and where have they published. Also consider what their graduates have gone on to do (though this can be a little harder to suss out). And consider what their current students are doing right now, which is what their future reputation will build on.

Our program is only 7 years young at this point, so we probably won’t score quite as high on this one, but we do think we’re on the way to developing a stellar reputation as a scrappy little program at a state university. What kind of reputation do you want in your program? There are a lot of ways you can look at reputation. Longevity is not the only one. For a program that has a long-standing reputation, ask whether they are still living up to it, or are they just resting on their laurels?

Community. This is also a tough one to judge unless you get a chance to visit a school, attend virtual readings, stalk them online (it’s alright, we don’t mind if you watch our social media to see who we are — that’s what it’s for after all!), or reach out to current students and alums. Again, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. Do you thrive on competition? There will be plenty of programs for you. Do you want a supportive, collaborative environment that will foster you as a writer? Those programs exist, too. We like to believe we are the latter. Do you look for something in between? I bet you can find several.

Genre. Who are the writers, both faculty and students, in the program and what do they write? Are you tracked into one main genre or are you allowed, encouraged, or even required to step outside your comfort zone and explore other genres? Besides the main genres of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and drama, where does the program come down on sub-genres? Are young adult or fantasy or Afrofuturism or traditional verse forms or lyric essay allowed or encouraged? Or treated as pariahs? Look at what the writers in the program produce. Look at the courses the program offers. Talk to people in the program to see how they respond to the kind(s) of writing you want to do.

Cost. Yes, this is a big one. I could put it number one, but I’d like to think it’s not the only factor. I do realize that it is a big one. Do the programs on your list offer full funding? If so, what does that cover and what other costs might be incurred if you attend that program? If the program is fully funded, is it enough to live on? What income might you have to give up from your day job to enter the program (if it’s a traditional resident program, as most fully funded programs are)? If it’s not fully funded, how easy will it be for you to fund yourself, either through loans or by holding down a job or both? What are the true costs of the program, in other words?

An MFA is worth an investment, and if you’re funded, you will be investing time and energy (often by teaching), so what kind of investment is right for you? In considering costs, also consider the emotional costs that entering a program might entail. Will you have to move? How will your relationships be affected by this choice? It’s never simply about the dollar amount, though finances are important, as they should be. You should have a financial plan.

Location. If you’re looking at traditional resident MFA programs, then the location is especially important. Can you live there? How easy or hard would it be to move? What is the cost of living? Will it be a familiar place or a grand adventure? And if you’re looking at low-residency programs, the location can still be important. What will your travel costs be? How often will you need to be on campus? For either kind of program, and even for those fully online programs, how does location affect the culture of the program or the kind of writing they may be looking for? Where do the students and faculty come from? I won’t say that location fully defines either, but it might have an influence and is worth considering. What kind of location do you thrive in? What locations might challenge you in important ways?

Our program’s home is in small-town Mississippi, which may not be many people’s first idea of where to get their MFA, yet one of our alums, Kyla Hanington, recently published a piece in Bitter Southerner about her own journey to falling for our state after traveling here for our program. I mention her essay because it’s instructive about how any location can affect the writer in surprising ways.

Community. Finally, I think community should be on your list. Yes, I’ve already mentioned the culture of the program, but by community, I am thinking beyond your years in the program. An MFA should last a lifetime. What is the program’s relationship with its alumni? Are alums involved with current students or invited back for workshops or events? How do alums of the program interact with one another? It’s a good sign when there’s a strong connection among alums, especially alums from different years. It’s something I’m sure most MFA programs try to foster; how well we do at that is indicative of how well we do overall. Maybe you want a program that you can leave as soon as you graduate, never looking back. Maybe you want one that will continue to support you and that is invested in your success, as a writer, as a scholar, and as a person.

These are the main criteria that I would use if I were ranking programs. I’m sure there are many others. I’ve certainly written about some of them. But if I’m thinking about what any prospective MFA student ought to consder as they compile their list and begin their own ranking, these would be the main ones. From there, dig down into the specifics that affect your search and your choice. Find the best program for you and your situation. There is no program that should be ranked #1 for everyone.

Consider the communications you get from the program, the information they make available on their website, the way they promote their students and alumni. Attend public (or virtual) readings or other events. Go with your gut, and also consider the costs of a program and what you will be able to do with it once you graduate. There is a great ranking — it’s the one you come up with as you research the programs that may be in your future! Best of luck to everyone. May you find your MFA home! (I assume if you’ve read this far, that’s your goal.)

Cavalier Pancakes

This summer, I told our son, who is moving into his first apartment as he goes to grad school, to check my blog for recipes of our old standbys. This morning, making pancakes, I realized that one recipe I’ve never written down is my pancake recipe.

Disclaimer: tread carefully. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty cavalier with my pancakes. Some of the best advice I’ve ever ignored has been to make things up when you’re cooking on the stove top (stir-fry, pasta sauce, etc. are pretty forgiving) but to follow a recipe carefully when baking. That is good advice, especially when learning to bake, so this recipe is certainly not for the faint of heart.

My pancake recipe started with a recipe in a cookbook that was geared towards cooking for one or two people. I followed it for years, but eventually had it memorized and got myself into situations where I didnt have the recipe or had to make adjustments for different numbers of people. I even made it for friends in Europe, where I didn’t have my usual measuring cups and spoons, so I had to make it up as I went along. Gradually, it became so rote, that now I hardly measure at all, though I do use a measuring cup for the flour and buttermilk: everything else is estimated by hand or sight.

For 2 people: I start with a slightly heaping 1/3 cup each of white and whole wheat flour in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Then I add about 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt — I suppose. This will make approximately 10 pancakes, depending on what you put in for fruit or nuts. Adust the flour and buttermilk (added later) depending on your appetite and the amount of fruit or nuts. If using a whole banana, I would probably use level 1/3 cups, for instance. If I had no fruit to add, I might add a little more flour.

These measurements are done in my hand, so they may not be terribly accurate anymore, and they are actually fairly forgiving. Too little baking soda and the pancakes won’t rise very well; too much, and you will taste the soda. Salt and sugar are necessary, but the amounts can be pretty flexible as long as you don’t add too much salt. Leave out the salt entirely, and your pancakes will be bland.

For 3 people: I start with a heaping 1/2 cup each of wheat and whole wheat flour. I’m a bit more generous with the baking soda, sugar, and salt. Adjust the amounts according to the number of people you need to serve. For 1 person: I would probably start with a shy 1/4 cup of each flour and adjust as needed. For 4 people: I would use 2/3 cup of each kind of flour, maybe using heaping cups, depending on people’s appetites. When it’s three of us and a grandmother, I don’t use heaping 2/3 cups unless I’m trying to have a few leftovers.

Once you’ve mixed your dry ingredients well with a wire wisk or fork, then it’s time to add some oil. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in about 1 tablespoon of oil for every 2 people. I never measure this anymore, and the amount of oil is pretty forgiving. Use more for 3-4 people than for 1-2, obviously. I use canola oil, though olive oil will do in a pinch (though it may add a bit more olive flavor).

Crack 1 egg into the oil for every 2 people served. Usually I will use 1 egg for 3 people and it’s fine, though sometimes, esp. with smaller eggs, I’ll use 2 eggs for 3 people. For 4 people, I usually use 2 eggs, though I’ve gotten away with using 1 egg for that many pancakes if necessary. For 1 person, you will have to use 1 egg. The pancakes may be a little eggy, but they’ll be fine.

Add 3-4 measures of buttermilk to the well with the egg and oil. If I’ve used heaping 1/3 cups for flour, then I pour 3 or 4 1/3 cup measurements into the well; if I’ve used 1/2 cup for flour, then I pour 3 or 4 of those in. To be on the safe side, start with 3 measures. You can always add more buttermilk later. If you don’t have enough (or any) buttermilk, then regular milk can be substituted, though you won’t need as much. Start with 3 measures and see. You can also substitute a mixture of milk and plain yoghurt for buttermilk.

Add a 1/4 teaspoon or so of vanilla if you have it. (I’ve sometimes used port wine as a flavoring; it tends to make the pancakes rise well, too. Pure vanilla has the best flavor, though.)

Mix everything together with your whisk or fork. This is where you have to judge the consistency of the batter. Don’t beat it too much or too much gluten will form. For light pancakes, the batter should be just mixed up. Many recipes even say you should leave a few lumps. When mixing by hand, I don’t worry about that too much since it would be hard to over mix with a whisk or fork.

Mix in fruit (blueberries, banana, peach, fresh figs, are some of our favorites) and then check the consistency. Nuts like pecans or walnuts are great to add at this point. For decadent pancakes, add (mini) chocolate chips.

If your batter is too runny at this point, then add a little flour. (Sometimes juice from the fruit can cause it to get too runny.) If it’s too thick, then add buttermilk. You want a thick enough batter that will still pour off the spoon onto your griddle. It shouldn’t doughy and shouldn’t be too liquid. I like it if the batter is thick enough that it will be about 1/4 inch thick (or a little less maybe) when it first pours out and before it begins to rise.

Your griddle should be hot and lightly oiled. We use a Miro oil sprayer, but Pam or another commercial oil spray will work fine. Let the pancakes cook until they bubble up in the middle and the outsides begin to get firm. When they’re ready, the bubbles will also stay open because the batter has firmed up. Flip the pancakes to cook the other side. Both sides should be golden brown but not too dark, and the pancake should be cooked through (no runny batter on the inside). Adjust the heat of the griddle to avoid too much smoking (of the hot oil) yet to cook relatively quickly.

Serve hot off the griddle (or keep warm in a warmer or 170-degree oven) with pure maple syrup or your favorite commercial syrup or molasses. We have sometimes made a fruit syrup if we were out of maple, but we try not to be out of maple syrup. Extra fruit on top can also be great. Enjoy!

Notice for SubTracker Users

LibreOffice Base now prompts me to install Java JDK (developer’s kit) instead of Java RTE (run-time engine) that most users have. They seem to have an issue with locating RTE on Macs, though this issue just developed. On the error message you receive, there is a link to a page at LibreOffice that explains (a little) and has a link to Oracle, where you can download Java JDK. This only became an issue for me in the last day or so, though the bug seems to have been around a bit. Maybe an update caused my system to report the error. If you use my SubTracker database and run into the same error, get JDK and it will all work again.

Returning to Pinterest Anyone?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about which social media is best to be on. With Elon Musk buying Twitter (or trying to) and with Facebook and Instagram plagued by misinformation and ads while turning into Meta whatever that will mean, there are days when I’m disgusted with all the old social media platforms, but I’m also not ready for TikTok, nor do I know if I will ever be.

Looking for an alternative, I turned my attention back to Pinterest. It’s a platform I had tried to get into for awhile, but then didn’t find a great way to participate. Pinning things on boards didn’t necessarily resonnate with me, especially since I use social media primarily to promote our MFA program, our undergraduate writing and literature department (plus languages; philosophy; women’s, gender, and sexuality studies; etc.—what can I say, we’re eclectic), and the Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium. I’m looking for a place or places to have a presence in case the big three, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, become unbearable.

One thing I noticed about Pinterest that caught my eye is that it is still privately owned. Meta hasn’t gobbled them up. Neither has Google or YouTube. Though they now have some business features that I need to explore, it still operates about the same as it always did: you need an image from a site (or your own), and then you can pin it to a board. This will actually work fairly well for collecting links to the many magazines our MFA students and faculty publish work in. I don’t get to write a post about them, but I also only have to use the Pin It bookmark to create one, so that’s fairly easy. I can have another board with pins for MFA program news, and another one for writing advice, etc. It will take a little rethinking, but it could become a decent place to collect information and links that will be of interest to people who have left Facebook or flown away from Twitter. It probably won’t be enough all on its own, but could certainly be the escape pod I’ve been looking for.

Ages ago, we also started a presence on Tumblr. Who knows, maybe soon I’ll need to explore going back there as well. Or maybe I’ll have to make the leap to TikTok after all or find another social media platform to meet our needs. Yes, we do have something of a presence on LinkedIn, though we’re not terribly active there either. Where do you plan to go if there’s a mass exodus from Facebook and Twitter?

Oleada Follow-Up

Last month, I sent a submission to Oyez Review on a new submission platform, Oleada. Today, I’m following up on that submission, since I was just informed that one of my poems has been accepted for their next issue. That’s great news, and always something to celebrate, though I’m also writing this to follow up on the submission process with Oleada.

As you might expect, the notification came in the form of an email from noreply@oleada.io with the subject “Oleada | Oyez Review sent you a messsage regarding [your submission].” The actual subject listed the title I had given my submission, and the email had specifics abou the accepted poem, the issue it would be in and when/how it will be released, etc. All from the editors at Oyez Review.

Because I was curious how things would look, I went back to Oleada to view my submission there. It did take me a minute to get there. When I first logged in, I could see My Account / Profile and Settings on the left and Publications on the right-hand side. The Publications column is blank, which was a little confusing. I’ll be curious to see what happens there.

Clicking on the My Account menu in the upper right (not the My Account heading over Profile and Settings), let me select My Submissions. That’s where I could see the submission to Oyez Review marked Accepted, and the text of the email with all the specifics about the accepted poem was there when I clicked on the submission in the Messages column.

Everything works as expected and is nicely laid out on the site. It will take a little getting used to where to go to find certain information, but that is true on any site. I will definitely keep coming back to see what calls for submission are open on Oleada.

Solidarity for Ukraine

I do not pretend to have answers about the senseless and unnecessary war that Putin has instigated in Ukraine, but my heart goes out to its people. Once, for many years actually, a good colleague, George Pinchuk did his best to educate us all on the political situation and the culture of Ukraine. He was an unending advocate of his native country, and thanks to him, I have a much better appreciation for it than I would have. Unfortunately, he succumbed to health issues a few years ago. If he were alive, I know he would be heartbroken today, even more than we all are.

It is impossible to watch news coverage of the fighting, to see casualties and destruction in the cities, or to hear the stories of those who for now are surviving, and not feel for their plight. It is impossible to think of the the many refugees who have fled the country or those who are staying behind to fight in a resistance without images of World War II flashing through your head. Does it make a difference that this war is in Europe? Definitely. Especially since the danger exists that Europe and the U.S. could be drawn in. Yet it also makes a difference that this war was begun without any provocation. It shows the fragile nature of the world peace we have all come to rely on, which has brought the world such prosperity and security. Ukrainians have long lived under the threat of Russian domination and are better prepared to react to it than those of us in the U.S. Their resistance is fierce.

Here in the U.S., public opinion seems to be mostly with Ukraine. Those few polititians who vocally support Vladimir Putin’s ugly war ought to become pariahs. Anyone who would support the naked aggression of a dictator who invades a sovereign nation on a whim is clearly unfit for public office in a democracy. I can’t imagine what self-interest or insanity would cause someone to call Putin a genius for invading Ukraine, but I hope we can agree that it is clearly beyond the pale.

As I said at the start of this post, I do not have answers. I support the sanctions that have been placed on Russia, I stand in awe of Ukraine and its people, and I grieve for the loss of life and the damage being done every hour. I know the sanctions will cause some minor hardships in the countries that impose them, yet those inconveniences must always be weighed against the true tragedy of what is going on in Ukraine.