Saturday, May 28, 2011

Miscellany

82º ~ a smothering air returns for the unofficial start of summer, highs will reach the low to mid nineties all week, clear skies, and just a touch of breeze to tempt us all

Only a brief note today.

First, here's a link to another great Roxane Gay post about the male-centric world of publishing:  The Well Read Man.  I can't believe we have to keep having this conversation, but we do.  Gay makes some great points.

Second, I've been remiss about announcing acceptances here lately, so here's a bit of joy-joy to share.  In the last month, I've had poems accepted by diode, South Dakota Review, and Cincinnati Review

To share a bit for beginning writers, diode is the odd duck in the mix in that I've had poems accepted there three times, which is every time I've submitted.  Something about my work really clicks with the editors, which is awesome, although I don't submit too often so as to not wear out my welcome.  Both Cincinnati and South Dakota are more true to form.  I first published poems with them in 2005 and 2004, respectively.  In the intervening years, I've been rejected four and two times, respectively.  This is much more the norm.  Some of my work clicks some of the time. 

Regardless, I give all praise and thanks to the first-readers and editors of all three publications. 

Finally, here's a photo of the robin's nest outside my writing window.  Should see baby birds in about 10 - 14 days.  Ooooooooh, the anticipation.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What I'm Reading: Sharks in the Rivers

64º ~ weak sun but no wind today, one more cool day before a bit of heat sets in, the robin is on the nest more regularly now (at the beginning of the week, there was still some nest building going on), so I suspect there are eggs in there doing their egg-thing


I confess, Dear Reader, I have a bit of a poet-crush on Ada Limón.  I saw her read poems from Sharks in the River at AWP Chicago, when was that 2008? 2009?  And I've been looking forward to reading the whole book ever since.  It's a shame on me that it took me so long to buy and read the book, which came out in 2010, a testament to a busy life and just how many new books of poetry come out each year.  (One of my summer resolutions is to seriously thin-down my to-read shelf!) 

Sharks in the River does not disappoint.  First, it is a beautifully made book.  Milkweed Editions has long been a favorite of mine, ever since my undergrad days in central Minnesota (they are based in Minneapolis).  Limón's book has just the right heft that says it was made with care.  The cover is a glossy blue, fish-cover, and the weight of the cover stock, and the pages themselves, is luxurious.  It's a paperback with both the front and the back cover containing folded over bits.  I know there is a term for this, something French maybe, but it escapes me at the moment.  Finally, at the finish of the book, I found a statement about the environmental benefits of printing the book on 100% post-consumer waste paper.  (Yes, I read every page!)  Four fully grown trees were spared, not to mention the savings of water, solid waste, and greenhouse gasses.  Amazing!

I know, I know, the quality of the poems is what really matters, but I must praise this book as object as well.

Now, to the poems, these are my back page notes:
a lament to the world
stones & rivers & rain & birds
elegy, loss, melancholy
nostalgia for the natural world
attempt to capture fleeting happiness
confronting what we fear
what is love?
how do we love?
always trying to strip down to the naked truth

The speaker of these poems moves between worlds both urban and natural, but seems most closely connected with that natural world as she attempts to make sense of the fragile human life.  The poems exude a sense of spirituality but not religion, per se.  The speaker struggles with faith in a more abstract way than by naming any formal religion.  Here is a 21st century existentialism mixed with a bit of transcendentalism. 

As one example, here is the ending of one of the first poems, "Flood Coming," which strikes home more forcefully given the ravaging floods that recently invaded Arkansas.

What's left of the woods is closing in.
Don't run.  Open your mouth big
to the rising and hope to your god
your good heart knows how to swim.

While most of the book is made up of one- to two-page lyric poems, the third section (of four) is a stunning long poem, "Fifteen Balls of Feathers," that weaves in various central American myths about hummingbirds. In the sections of this poem, the speaker deals with the coming death of someone close to her.

In section 1, we get the following:

I wanted to be a hummingbird.
.........It made sense to long for rapid wings and the ability to hover always--

....

Sometimes though, the thought exhausts me and
...................I want to be a slow horse, a tennis shoe.



In section 14, this:

This is not a unique story--
..........what we have in our hands is an unsolvable thing.

It's the passage that perplexes us,
....................this full weight that must take us down.

Throughout the book, the speaker seeks to balance joy and grief, a sense of longing and a sense of contentment.  She is a seeking voice, an unsettled thing that both desires and fears becoming settled. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm struggling to order my own book of lyric poems, and I think Sharks in the Rivers will be a great model to come back to in order to study the placement of the poems.  Today, however, I fell too deeply in love with the book to study it.

I'll leave you with the ending of the penultimate poem, "World Versus Girl."

Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow,
but this stubborn monster-girl, gone all wrong
........with the river's sledge, is not
........giving in to your one-way-ness.

World, turn all you want to,
........faster even.  I've come to like the way the breeze feels
........as it rips me limb from limb.

Support a Poet / Poetry
Buy or Borrow a Copy of This Book Today
Sharks in the Rivers
Ada Limón
Milkweed Editions, 2010

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Draft Notes: Two Haibuns for Aimee Nezhukumatathil

77º ~ a humid wind is whipping smartly through the trees, the robin sits on the nest directly outside my window and turns its head when the branch shifts more than seems comfortable, I hope bird, eggs, and nest stay safe, one more round of severe weather threat this afternoon and then smooth sailing (if hot & muggy) for a bit

Glory be to the drafting gods & goddesses, their saints & their minions! 

While I hadn't *planned* today as a drafting day, I felt the return of the urge to get pen on paper as I began the morning.  I started with reading Joy Katz' lovely chapbook The Garden Room, which won the Snowbound Series Chapbook Award from Tupelo Press and appeared in 2006.  The poems are densely packed, short lyrics, paying an homage to Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons, although more direct than Stein's.  Katz' poems have such precise and beautiful language that when I finished the book and noticed I felt the need to draft, I decided to start with a word bank and the random number generator to make new word pairs. 

Alas, while I fell in love with many of my word pairs and even drafted six lines, that draft died on the page.  I did type it up and print it out, but I did not save it.  Maybe something will come of the lines, maybe not.

Then, I flipped back a page to the notes I took Monday when I read Aimee Nezhukumatathil's article in American Poet about the haibun form.  (No link to the article available yet, but the journal comes from The Academy of American Poets.)  Both Aimee Nez. and Jeannine Hall Gailey have written about the form before and I've tried my hand at it one other time (see this draft note).  The current article elaborates on the nuances and subtleties of the form, and on Monday as I read it, I was already thinking of a return.

Typically, the haibun (a Japanese form) centers around landscape and is formed by a prose poem followed by a haiku.  The elaboration in the article taught me that the form also focuses on aware (ah-WAR-ay), a sense of longing or sympathy important in haiku.  The haibun allows the writer to explore those feelings in a more sustained way, while still keeping the haiku at the end.  This was a revelation to me, and on Monday, I went back to my first attempt and tinkered a bit to fine-tune that sense of longing.  Then, I read this section of the article again.

"This form lends itself beautifully and elegantly to those (like me) who move frequently across the country and even the globe.  But for those who haven't or don't, this form is also perfect for re-imagining landscapes seen every day or thought of as ho-hum (strip-malls! suburbs! Cornfield, USA!) into something with a little bit of an edge, perhaps with a darker and more somber, even a more magical, twist."

Well, without even knowing it, Aimee Nez. had thrown down a gauntlet to me.  On Monday, I wrote in my journal "Do haibun for recent trip?" (meaning my recent trip to Iowa/Illinois, the landscape of my obsession)  Today, after the failed word bank draft, I saw that note and the notes I'd taken on the form and I started off on a haibun titled "Cornfield, USA."  I drafted one and then worried that it was too obvious, so I went back and drafted "Cornfield, USA II."  Oh my, I sniff a new obsession (ahem, series) in the works. 

The corn was just beginning on my trip, so here's a barn instead.

Granted, both poems only take up half a page each, but I'm still thrilled to get the words moving across the page again and feeling that sense of discovery and delight as I see where the poem wants to go.

Woo Hoo!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

BIC

74º ~ it's a soggy one out there friends and fans of the Kangaroo, severe thunderstorms all morning, now clouds and humidity like a lung-cloak, Little Rock's new motto: The Sauna City

Rowers on the Mississippi in the Quad Cities, IL/IA
Today's work at the desk has been all about the BIC principle.  That's Butt In Chair for those not in the know, one of my guiding rules of writing, and the rowers pictured above demonstrate the rule so well.  I've been dilly-dallying a bit over the past few days and giving in to the inertia of couch-lounging.  This always leads to bouts of guilt, guilt, guilt about not getting good poetry work done while I have the time.  After all, during the school year, I cram the poetry in wherever I can and promise myself that I'll "write all summer."  To fail to use a free day for poetry must be sin, right? 

Yesterday, I made a poetry to-do list to try and contain the guilt.  This morning, after my usual Sunday jaunt to the grocery store, I took a deep breath and put my butt in the chair.  First on my list, a big one:  Submit Poems.  Just two words, a straight forward mission, easy-peasy, right?

Not so much. 

First, I opened my Excel spreadsheet of journals and highlighted all the ones that seemed to have current reading periods.  (More on that "seemed to" in a bit.)  Then, it dawned on me that I needed to know what poems I had available to go out in order to make some decisions about journals.

So, I grabbed the stack of folders that had been building up in a pile on my desk after recording rejections and began my review.  I went through a dozen poems and most of them needed minor tweaking of word choice here or linebreak there.  One poem, one that I've loved a lot since the end of last summer but hasn't gone anywhere, suddenly rearranged itself on the page and I saw the solution.  What had been three solid and longish stanzas is now broken up on the page and indented here and there.  The subject is one of heaviness and a bit of magic and the dense stanzas were making the whole thing too heavy to sustain.  Another poem saw some deep cuts and then a decision to put it on the DL (disabled list for those non-baseball fans out there) for a bit and come back to it later and see if its healed up some.  And, yes, one poem made it from the minor leagues to the majors (moving from the in-progress folder to a folder of its own).

The revision process consumed three hours; however, I was so engrossed that I didn't even feel the time pass.  Heavenly!

Finally, I went back to my list of journals and started investigating those that I'd highlighted.  Guess what?  At least three major journals that used to read year round now have reading periods from Sept - April.  Several others now have "submissions closed" signs up due to backlogs.  No matter how much I tend to my spreadsheets, I have to spend quite a bit of time updating this information whenever I sit down to submit poems.  On the other hand, I also discovered quite a few journals that used to be steadfast postal-submissions-only folks that now use online submission managers.  Woo Hoo.  To recap:  reading periods shortening; online sub systems gaining strength.

Where things stand now:  3 X 3 X 3.  I have three stacks of three poems each matched up with 3 journals for each stack.  Tomorrow, I will do the sending out, as my BIC rule has resulted in certain muscles beginning to ache.  Still, the BIC produces amazing results, so I'm not complaining (too loudly).

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Return to Optimism

80º ~ the air thickening, unsettled weather predicted through the weekend, sky darkening quickly after sun earlier

Hennepin Canal Lock 24, Geneseo, IL
Just a quick progress report from this morning's time at the desk.  While I haven't gotten back to drafting poems, I feel the process gathering strength as surely as I feel the wind becoming heavy with the oncoming rain.

This morning, I returned to optimism and submitted the book to three contests with due dates in June.  I know that yesterday's post showed some doubts; however, those were global doubts that I'm not going to solve in a few weeks.  I figured I might as well roll the dice while I'm mulling things over.  After all, I'm not displeased by the book, just uncertain.

The task of submitting the manuscript might seem quick and easy, given that I've gone over it so many times; however, there is still the time of research and adjusting to new guidelines.  Yes, I'm one of those people who read all the guidelines, including the fine print.  Having taught for over ten years, I know the frustration of receiving material when it is clear that the submitter has not bothered with the guidelines.  To the editors and readers of contest manuscripts out there, I say:  Respect, mon!

Blissfully, two of the three presses now accept online submissions, so once I sorted through all the dos and don'ts I was rocking along there.  The other submission is stuffed and sealed and ready for my next task, a trip to the post office. 

In the morning's work, I also took care of several items on the business side of publishing individual poems.  A journal sent me proofs last night for two poems set to appear in a summer issue.  I love having the chance to check out proofs and give a hat-tip to those journals that offer them.  Also, I have a poem appearing in an upcoming anthology, so I had to fill out a contract, which involved going back through records and checking for permissions and generally getting several ducks in a row.

The point of this post is mostly for those beginning writers out there.  There's just no getting around the fact that to be a publishing writer, one also has to deal with what might seem pesky and time-consuming busywork.  However, I do believe that by following directions and meeting deadlines, I'm generating goodwill with all of my editors out there.  Sure, I'm not getting rich with these publications, but most of these editors aren't driving fancy sports cars and taking around-the-world vacations either.  We do it "for the love of the game."  If you don't love it, don't play.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Forest: Trees

71º ~ bright sun shining down through fully leafed trees, a nice breeze stirring

I am returned from my trip up home and am ready to dive back into poetry.  Today's the day, woo hoo!

As most of you know, I've been working on and sending out my second book, In a World Made of Such Weather as This, for several years now.  It has landed in the semi-finalist and finalist pile several times, but so far, no joy.  Last fall, it went through a major reno (as they say in the housing business), which I detailed here.  All through the spring semester, I've wanted to go back to the book and see if the new order still worked for me.  Alas, this takes a very quiet mind and the semester got away from me. 

This morning, I sat down with the book and read it cover to cover, quietly, calmly, slowly, making notes and observations along the way.  My conclusion:

Wild Cat Den State Park, near Buffalo, IA
I am someone who cannot see the forest for the trees.  I love each and every poem in my book and I've tinkered and tinkered with them to get them to grow as tall and strong as these trees in Wild Cat Den State Park (with thanks to Sean & Kirsten for taking me there on my recent trip).  However, I have the most difficult time seeing the whole of the book. 

Yes, I can answer why each poem is where it is, and I know what links them one by one, but I have a hard time figuring out if this is the "right" order.  I liked my original order just fine, although it was very literal and stiff.  Once this was pointed out to me by good friend & poet, Stephanie Kartalopoulos, it was obvious, but I never would have seen it without her.  Now, I really like the new version, but I'm nervous that there's something else I'm missing, even though I've had several other readers check it over.

Some of this confusion results from the fact that I've just exchanged manuscripts with another good poetry friend, and I'm trying to read his book the way Steph read mine, with the strength of the whole taking more importance than the strength of each poem.  I love the fact that I have such great poetry friends who are willing to exchange poems and manuscripts, since looking at and critiquing their work makes me learn how to critique my own.  This is a lesson I'm always trying to teach in creative writing classes, the value of the workshop, and it's great to be reminded that it really does work outside the classroom.

This is also a lesson on perseverance.  So, this "looking at the whole" thing is not my strong suit, well then, I just need to practice.

I've commented before about my tendency to write poems that land closer to the lyric end of the lyric-narrative spectrum, and I think this adds to the issue.  The speaker of these poems does journey through an emotional 'arc' if we must call it that, but there is no clear timeline and no clear conflict and resolution as there are in many books based more on the narrative side of the spectrum. 

At least this gives me one place to begin my practice.  I need to look at books of mostly lyric poems and check out how they are ordered.  Maybe that will help.  Maybe I'll just see more trees, but the walk will be beautiful, no matter.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

$84

conditions the same

I'm proud to announce that I'm sending a check for $84.00 to the American Red Cross for disaster relief in the wake of tornadoes and flooding in the south.  Many thanks to Ash, Katie, and Karen for purchasing Blood Almanac during this fundraiser.

What I'm Reading: On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year

68º ~ storms are creeping up on us today, just as the floodwaters start to recede, no major accumulations expected at least, all green things are thriving where not drowned out

It's a slow re-entry to poetry, my friends.  As most of you know, teaching can sometimes consume one's life, and when the semester ends there is a long list of tasks that have been put off.  I've been inching my way through the task list and getting my head cleared for a summer of poetry.  Tonight is graduation and tomorrow I'm off for a bit of a family trip.  (Sadly, C. will remain at home since he's still got a month of school to go.)  When I return next week, I plan to start a draft-a-day challenge.  I think, 10 days this time around.  We'll see.

For now, I must report on the latest book I've been reading:  Lee Ann Roripaugh's On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year, which is simply a delight.  This is another stunning volume put out by Southern Illinois University Press, and, according to her bio at the University of South Dakota, this is Roripaugh's third collection of poems. 

Normally, I'm ambivalent about epigraphs; however, in the case of On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year, the epigraphs work perfectly.  The first is from the opening of Sei Shonagon's The Pillow Book, which explains how Shonagon came to record a journal of her personal observations of "odd facts, stories from the past, and all sorts of other things, often including the most trivial material."  The second is from Murasaki Shikibu's The Diary of Lady Murasaki, in which the narrator observes a winter scene and then muses on the changing seasons and wonders how her life will turn out.  For those unaware, both of these books are from Japan from the 10th/11th centuries.  The epigraphs set us up for a book of close observation of the natural world along with a speaker unsure of the future. 

Like Sei Shonagon in The Pillow Book, Roripaugh writes list poems such as "Sqalid Things," "Luscious Things," "Salty Things," and "Things that Cause a Feeling of Chagrin."  These are my favorite poems in the book, although Roripaugh does intersperse them with other more narrative work to break up the pace of the book.  The resulting work is an exploration of themes of love, longing, desire, and a speaker on the cusp of something turning, something changing, as the title of the book states.  In the poem "Notes on the Cusp of a Dangerous Year," we discover "Thirty-seven, the year Lady Murasaki called / the dangerous year, approaching . . . ."  And so, we have the sense of the speaker aging without having settled into a steady life.  In fact, one of the last poems in the book "Chambered Nautilus" explores the speaker's need to change apartments every few years in an attempt to start over, to begin fresh, to make sense of the past.  She states:

[T]he new apartment is a puzzle
I reassemble--from old scrap parts,
the accumulated detritus

from all my past selves--into somthing
that's new and hopeful, that denies defects,
or at least disguises them as being
something else...

This is one of the rare poems that focuses on the speaker's indoor life.  Most of the poems are set outside, if not in a rural environment.  Throughout the book there are exquisite descriptions of insects that are used as extended metaphors for the speaker's own desire.  She sees in the insect world, an abundance of species willing to hurl themselves towards death in the name of desire, and she doesn't shy from using lush adjectives and intense sound play in her descriptions (oh, poet after my own heart).

For example, here's the opening of "Disconsolate Things."

The dull dusted thud of powdery moths,
somewhat like the weight 

of a fat summer raindrop, striking their
plump, furred bodies up

against a lit windowpane--the muffled
sound, a strangled

rupture, like hot bright kernels of popcorn,
incandescent,

blooming into stark white clouds.

Everywhere in the book, Roripaugh celebrates insect life.  There is the celebration of sex in pollination that echoes the speaker's own desire, and for most of the book that desire remains unfulfilled so there is a heightened sense of longing and need.  In "Marvelous Things" we get "The scree of insect song scrimshawed into // the night's horizon."  Uhm...wow!  Then, in "Cecropia" (the silkworm moth), we get this:

To even try to describe the terrible voltage of
those pheromones--emitted in pulses
plagiarizing the human heartbeat's blank iambic

a few hours before dawn--would be to fully understand
raw need, desire's soft dank underbelly.

And later in the poem:

His antennae hear the scent like drumbeats,
like the hot siren glitz of electricity sizzling

the nervous system awake until the body is transformed
into an incandescent singing hum
that flies alight, weightless without the burden of too much

thinking. 

This, I think, is the heart of the book, the speaker's desire to shed all the thinking about relationships and just sink into the pleasure of sex.  This is complicated by the fact that the speaker's lover is absent, and one gets the feeling that there has been a breakup, although that is never spelled out in the book. 

Lest you think the book is entirely of the natural world, I should mention that one of the things I admire most about the work is that Roripaugh acknowledges and marries the urban world with the natural world.  While I haven't quoted any of these lines, there are moments when Hy-Vee and I-80 intercede on the plants, insects, and birds, when the speaker is shopping for groceries or in the car and yet she always returns to the natural world to record her sense of wanting and waiting for whatever is coming next.

I'll leave you with the end of the last poem, "Things that are Filled with Grace."  The poem ends with a question and, perhaps, a more hopeful glimpse of the future.

How do bees
know which egg to select for their new queen,

nurse bees ladling
royal jelly over the larva once
she hatches, sealing

shut the royal chamber with wafers spun 
from wax and silk?  They

let her slumber for seven days before

she's reawakened:
a lambent, ambered incandescent bride
and queen, obsessed by

a hard-wired and fearless desire to throw
herself at the sun--
fierce and elusive in her skyward flight.

Support a Poet / Poetry
Buy or Borrow a Copy of This Book Today
On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year
Lee Ann Roripaugh
Southern Illinois University Press, 2009

Monday, May 9, 2011

What I'm Reading: Town for the Trees

70º ~ highs topping out near 90º today through Wednesday, cloud-cover today but no news of impending rain, floodwaters still rising, I-40 still closed between here and Memphis, disaster of epic proportions for the eastern half of the state but with less drama than the tornado outbreaks, still many have lost all


Many thanks to those who stopped by to comment after Friday's post.  I spent much of the weekend in recovery mode and am feeling refreshed and energized today.  Now begins the long haul of seeing C. through the end of his semester, as he has the more grueling schedule of a high school teacher. 

And there is my segue to today's book: Justin Evans' new collection Town for the Trees.  Like C., Justin toils for little reward or recognition as a high school instructor.  While I admire the work and dedication of all my poetry friends, those who teach at the K-12 level get a bit extra from me. 

By way of disclosure, I first "met" Justin when he accepted one of my poems for Hobble Creek Review, his online journal that publishes poetry with a sense of place.  If you aren't reading this journal regularly, you should be!

I know this is a long intro to my actual response to the book (my father-in-law calls it 'going round by Laura's house'), but I hope you'll indulge me a moment longer.  I was fortunate enough to read the manuscript for this book a year or two ago, and I must say, I'm thrilled for Justin that the manuscript has become a book, and a beautiful book at that.  If being a husband, father, teacher, editor, and poet weren't enough, Justin also takes amazing photographs.  Foothills Publishing put together a gorgeous production, including one of Justin's photos on the cover, that exemplifies all the best qualities of the printed book: heavy stock cover, pages with a heft that will bear up over time, and a font that is readable without being distracting.  Yum.

And double yum to the poems inside.  Given that Justin is a poet of place, it's probably no surprise that I connect with his work, although his place is quite distant from mine.  Justin writes of the west, of Utah and Nevada to be precise, but he also writes from a rural landscape whose people I certainly know.  The poems in this collection exemplify the best in landscape poetry, a close connection to the land that goes beyond mere description and widens into meditations that teach us all about what it means to be alive in this one particular way on this one particular piece of land.  Given that the poems here coalesce around the city of Springhill, Utah, where Justin was raised but no longer lives, there is a heavy thread of memory, family, and distance woven throughout the book.  The speaker of the poems attempts to measure out his life and make sense of his heritage. 

Many of the poems take place at the beginning of the day or its close, times when the mind wanders and dreams.  Here is a sample of titles that show this:
In Twilight
Dawn Psalm, Salt Flats
When It's Dark
Poem for West Mountain on the First Warm Evening of the Year
Pre-Dawn: Three Sisters
Aubade

And here's the beginning of the poem "Nevada Wildlife."

Driving south in the pre-dawn Nevada desert
on a two lane road, I measure the distance between
my car and oncoming headlights in heartbeats.

The poem closes like this.

A patchwork of crows scatters in the early morning sky
like a shotgum blast.  Trapped on the road I can only
look at them one way:

The past is a thief
escaping on the wings of blackbirds.

The opening of this poem exemplifies the speaker throughout the book, a man consumed by the distance between places in the west, those wide-open spaces, but also the distance between people and memory.  There is that age old theme of time sliding out from beneath us and our attempts to record and remember.  The ending of the poem elevates it from just another driving poem to something more.  There is the threat of the shotgun (which shows up in more than one poem) and the sense of the speaker's entrapment in his own life.  This melancholy haunts the book from beginning to end.

As Justin knows, my favorite poem in the book is "Hunting Chinese Pheasants," a sequence poem with a dedication to Hyrum Lester Evans and Wayne Harrington Evans.  It begins with a startling two-line section that I'll leave for you to discover on your own because it's so good I don't want to spoil the discovery for you, dear reader.  Section two begins, "The narrative of my grandfather's shotgun / hides within the upstairs bedroom closet" and we are off on something that is only loosely a narrative.  There are stories of family members lost to suicide by gun or gun accidents and a section of make & model of guns, including serial numbers and gauges and wood stock.  The sixth and final section begins with this breathtaking moment:  "Somewhere between youth and the world outside / I lost the rush of birds in flight."  Wow.

I'll leave you with the opening of another favorite of mine, "Advice for Your Last Night on the River."

Sleep.  Drift where the river takes you
never opening your eyes until you are sure
night has passed into morning.  Leave your
left hand in to pull rudder duty, slicing
into the cool black water a furrow where fish
will approach, looking to feed on May flies
instead finding your fingers.


Support a Poet / Poetry
Buy or Borrow a Copy of This Book Today
Town for the Trees
Justin Evans
Foothills Publishing, 2011

Friday, May 6, 2011

Ooooof!

57º ~ bright sun, the slightest of breezes, one more very pleasant day

Dear Readers, I come to you today completely exhausted mentally and physically.  The mental exhaustion may be obvious to those of you who know I've been grading and grading and grading lately.  Oh Happy Day, all of my grades are turned in and official!  Woo Hoo!

The physical exhaustion is a result of my first major foray into attempting some yard work on my own.  Over the course of three days and used as physical breaks from the grading grind, I raked out our large front bed and pulled weed after weed after weed.  Then, I laid down a ton of new mulch and planted five new plants.  They are hard to see in the picture as they are small yet, but they should fill out the front middle section. 


Both getting my grades turned in and getting this area of the yard in shape come with a great sense of accomplishment, along with some scrapes and bruises and sore muscles.  So, I am content.

I did come to the desk this morning hoping I'd be able to draft something new, and I did get nearly a full page of lines, but I felt like I was pulling every word out of the hard, hard ground, and I'm not happy enough with the result to call it a draft.  After wrestling with it for a half hour or so, I realized that I'm just worn out and need to acknowledge and respect that. 

I'm going to go wild and take today off.  I may sit on the couch and eat bon-bons all day.  I may imitate the cats and take a good, long nap.  Tomorrow, I will read and read and read the mound of poetry waiting for me.  And in this way, I think I'll be recharged and ready to hit the blank page again.

I definitely need to read through the old manuscript again and see what needs tweaking.  It's been a finalist and a semi-finalist this year, but so far no joy. 

Oh, and one last major thanks to the poetry universe.  Last year during the Big Poetry Giveaway in April, I was lucky enough to win one or two books.  This year, I hit the MEGA JACKPOT!  I've lost track, but I think I won five of the drawings.  Thank you, UNIVERSE!  And thank you to the poets who played along, making my luck possible! 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Buy a Book, Help Those in Need

47º~ clear skies, very little wind to speak of, a drying out time

Just a reminder to everyone that while I'm away grading and tying up the ends of the semester, I'm also holding a special promotion.  Buy a copy of Blood Almanac from me directly ($14, email me for mailing address:  sandy dot 40 dot longhorn AT gmail dot com) and I'll not only donate the entire amount to the American Red Cross, but also, I'll donate a matching amount of my own money.  It's a win-win!!!


So far I have two sales, so the counter is up to $56 if I'm doing the math correctly.

Please consider making a purchase to help the victims of our recent storms here in the south or the flooding in other parts of the country.  If you already own a copy (thank you!), consider buying a copy for a friend.

The promotion runs through the end of the day on Saturday, May 7th.

Thinking of everyone trying to recover and piece things back together as the days return to sunshine.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Winners!

63deg ~ seriously gloomy skies, all dark outside at nearly noon, on and off rain through Tuesday a.m., flash flood warnings abound

Just a quick post amid the rain and the grading to announce the winners for my part of the Big Poetry Giveaway 2011.

Using a random number generator, the follow names came up:

Stephen S. Mills wins a copy of Blood Almanac.
Colleen O'Neill Conlan wins a copy of Cinema Muto.

Congrats to Stephen and Colleen!  I've emailed y'all to ask for your mailing addresses.

If you didn't win and would still like a copy of Blood Almanac, I hope you'll consider buying a copy directly from me between now and May the 7th.  As I posted last week, I'm donating 100% of all purchases (plus a matching amount from me) to the Red Cross for tornado and storm relief.  See this post for details.

Stay safe, friends and fans of the Kangaroo.