Sunday, October 21, 2012

Weekly Updates: A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World, Submissions, and a Dry Spell

77ยบ ~ rising humidity, thin cloud cover, little to no wind, yellow leaves drifting groundward


A week without poetry events and no papers to grade meant a lot of rest here at the Kangaroo.  I've changed around my routine a bit to focus on poetry in the mornings.  How many times must I learn this lesson?  The focus and brainpower required for poetry is different than that for teaching and going about my daily responsibilities.  It must be seen to first, as my few weekday posts prove.

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I spent the first part of the week sending out the weather/myth/fairy tale manuscript and being more thankful than ever for electronic submissions.  It simply saves so much time and paper.  I do know that those on the receiving end may print out submissions so I'm not really saving trees, but I'm hopeful that as we go along and people read more and more on the screen that they will be comfortable doing first reads electronically, at least.  (When I read the first few packets for Heron Tree, I printed out each poem; however, I quickly realized that I didn't need the paper version.  Instead, I read them on my iPad with an annotation program...PDFpen...for taking notes.  Long live the Ents and their trees!)

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I'm starting to feel the effects of my dry spell, in terms of drafting new poems.  For the moment, I am a poet without a subject.  The sickly speaker manuscript feels sealed off and done; however, I'm in a bind.  I really think that the weather book needs to come out first because the sickly speaker is such a different beast, and the weather book is really an extension of the motifs in Blood Almanac.  I suppose I do not have the luxury of thinking along these lines and I should be sending both books out at once.  Dilemmas!

Still, I feel adrift and have begun to notice my absence from the journal.  If history is any indication, I'll soon find myself with lines (bad ones) bubbling up and wanting to be written down.  For the first time, I'm trying to be patient through the silent times and let the poems return of their own free will.

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This week, along with Terry Wright's chapbooks, I've been digesting Adam Clay's A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World (Milkweed Editions, 2012).  A few weeks back, you might recall, I drove up to Fayetteville to see/hear Adam read.  He and I were at Fayetteville together in the MFA Program, and he's someone whose work I've always admired.  His first book, The Wash, is another one of my favorites.

In Hotel Lobby, Adam weaves a song of longing and uncertainty, but not about love or relationships; instead, these poems are about the ineffable nature of time, language, and memory.  These are ethereal poems weighed down by the objects of the world.

Here are a few titles:

Fragment for an Avoided Disaster
On the Momentum of Memory
For Your Eyelash Anchored to the Sky
As Complete as a Thought Can Be
Thought for a Stalled World
A Memory, Forgotten at the End of a Season
Myth Left in Memory
Reaching for a Lexicon, an Apple No Longer Shining

As I read this book, I couldn't help but think of my tiny, immature grasp on language theory, on signifier and signified.  I don't really think I know enough to use these terms correctly, but it seems to me these poems cover the same ground, questioning the act and power of naming both the concrete world around us and the abstract thoughts in our heads.  There are trains and bricks and rivers and wind, storms, and weather and none of these "reveal / that you are filled with the need / to document something" ("A Memory, Forgotten at the End of a Season").  In "Maybe Motion Will Save Us All," the speaker opens the newspaper "to see how the symbols add up / and where they lead" only to "find nothing."

There is a battle going on within the speaker of these poems, one that feels familiar to me, the battle of the life of the mind versus the life of the body.  The speaker struggles to capture in language the true nature of the world.  In section 14 of "As Complete as a Thought Can Be," he states, "I am beginning / to think a fragment / is as complete as a thought can be."

However, lest you think there are no things in these poems, I'll leave you with my favorite lines from "For the Driftwood I Once Loved."

.......When I think of voice, it is the South
I think of again and again, how the South shed

its rustic laugh for a noble one, how it shed its laugh for streetcar
.......sounds and Memphis weeds in an Arkansas field.

..............Downward sloaping sidewalk.  Hesitation wounds
in the sky.  A crabapple for each one.  A cherry blossom

.......in her teeth.  I am listening to my throat click.  I am hearing
..............a ghost long gone.

11 comments:

Kathleen said...

You are not alone in your dry--I've read this in a lot of blogs and have been in revision instead of composition mode myself! Also I connect to that body/mind conflict.

Thanks for all this, and you know Rattle has a call out for poems from Southern writers...?! You might want to spread the word!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Kathleen. I'll spread the word about Rattle!

drew said...

Two manuscripts? Okay, Sandy, I think that's what they call 'an embarrassment of riches.' : )

Tawnysha Greene said...

I'm hoping to read that book soon! Looking forward to it :)

Sandy Longhorn said...

I know, Drew, I know. (She hangs her head.) :)

Tawnysha, let me know what you think of it.

mariegauthier said...

What Drew said! ;o) And thanks for the excerpts from Hotel Lobby -- looks like just the thing for me! Could be a while before I get to it, but definitely on the list.

Good luck with the MSs -- get 'em both out there. Who knows, maybe they'll get picked up by two different presses and end up coming out on the heels of each other!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Marie!

John Vanderslice said...

We fellow Arkansan writers need you to keep composing, Sandy. Good luck. Yes, you have two books in line already, but it never hurts to have a third cooking.

Thanks, by the way for your kind remarks in a recent post about the new MFA students at UCA. They are truly a fine gang. (I had a devil of a time the last time I tried to comment. Let's hope it works this go round!)

Sandy Longhorn said...

John,
Thanks for the encouragement!

Molly said...

Ooh, I'm going to go check out PDFpen right after I write this comment. I join you in your lull -- temporarily unsure of a subject -- wondering what creative spurt will come next. I'm there, too. Tired of writing about illness, but not sure what I'll move toward next. Thanks as always for sharing your journey here.

Sandy Longhorn said...

You're welcome, Molly, and right back at you. So happy to have so many great poet friends out there in the blog-o-sphere!