Friday, April 30, 2010

Woo Hoo! News

71 deg ~ gusting winds, clouds gathering, storms predicted at 70% likely

It seems fitting that the forecast calls for storms and rain over the next five days, fitting because yesterday was the last day of instruction at PTC and I've collected all my papers and portfolios, and now the grading is set to begin. 

So, I came home from school yesterday and began to clean up all the loose ends before tackling the big papers.  I had the Cubs game on.  We were getting slaughtered by the D-backs (final score 13 - 5), and after the 3rd inning, I'd started to feel a bit blue (Cubbie blue blues!).  I happened to check my email in between recording a few last minute journal grades and swearing at the TV.  Lo and behold, there was a Woo Hoo! news email sitting there staring me in the face.

Matthew Olzmann, Poetry Editor for The Collagist, had emailed to tell me that they had accepted "Body Sewn Together with Twine and a Dull Needle."  Woo Hoo!  I've blogged before about The Collagist, and I'm thrilled to have placed a poem at such a great online journal.  Like several other online journals, I'll have the opportunity to submit a recording of the poem, and the editors will conduct an interview with me as well. 

Given that I knew going into this week that I wouldn't be drafting a poem today, I thought I'd tell you a little bit about the drafting process of "Body Sewn Together with Twine and a Dull Needle."  I knew the poem had begun almost a year ago, but to be sure, I went back and flipped through my file.  Each poem gets its own manila folder once it's graduated from the "In Progress" folder.  I keep each significantly new draft in the poem's folder with a date on each draft (I'm a bit OCD that way).  Sure enough, the opening of the poem had been drafted June 3rd of 2009.

Without tantalizing too much, the poem is a bit spooky and dreamlike at the beginning, and I just couldn't for the life of me remember if the actual image I began with came from a dream/nightmare or not.  I don't usually write directly from my dreams/nightmares, but I had a niggling suspicion that this was an exception.  I went to my journals and looked back over the one from that time period.  Sure enough, there's the beginning of the poem, but no notes on what sparked the image.  I can tell you that I was reading Ada Limon (accent absent due to Blogger formatting troubles) and Lisa Russ Spaar.

In any case, the poem began in my journal, and then I went to the computer and printed out about six lines.  Apparently, nothing was really going on at the time and those lines sat around in my "In Progress" folder for quite a bit.  Later, in November 2009, I combined those lines with a set of lines also drafted in June, but which I hadn't seen fit to join at the time.  Thus, the poem I have now grew into its body with many additions, deletions, and general revisions along the way.  The format of the poem changed from a somewhat staid left-aligned, bulky, single stanza to several stanzas with various indention and line break experiments along the way.  There's more white space now because the subject matter called for it.  I'll let you know when the poem is available online and you can judge, Dear Reader, whether I made the right call on the formal elements.

I began submitting the poem in January to meet with several quick rejections.  I worked with it a bit more and sent it out again, now in its current form, in mid-March.  A six week turn-around on the acceptance is awesome! 

For now, I'll be keeping a weather eye on the horizon and a teaching eye on the papers before me.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hurry! Just Two Days Left

53º ~ seriously? Spring has been in some kind of regression the past three days ~ forecast calls for warming to normal temps by this afternoon

Some days I approach this blog and know exactly what I want to say, and the writing then is an attempt to say it well. On other days like today, I desire to reach out to you all, Dear Readers, but I have no particular subject at hand. The writing then becomes an act of faith, a slightly scary step into the abyss.

The first thing on my mind is that there are two days left to the official National Poetry Writing Month Giveaway, so amazingly conceived of and supported by Kelli Russell Agodon. Click here for a list of all 55 participating bloggers. Click here to leave a comment for my own giveaway of Mistaken for Song by Tara Bray and Blood Almanac by yours truly. I'll use a random number generator to pick the winners and announce them Saturday morning. 64 comments so far (excluding two of my own), so your odds of winning a book are much better than your odds of winning the Powerball lottery!

Another wafting thought that I've been meaning to set in time is this: My hat is off to all the poets who endeavored to tackle the 30/30 of National Poetry Writing Month. I've been watching your progress on your blogs, and I'm in awe. Even if you fell behind, I'm in awe and slightly jealous of all the new material you've been generating.

As a rule, I'm a compartmentalizer. I like routine. I like schedules that run on time because this is the only way I've been successful as a teacher and a writer. I have carved out this time and labeled it "writing time," and this allows me to push aside the knowledge of the emails from students that are waiting and the papers that need grading and the administrative tasks that need completing. In order to attempt the 30/30, a new compartment would be required, and when any new compartment is added to the routine, something has to give. Perhaps next year I'll figure out what feels flexible enough to remove for the month.

Big congrats to Susan Rich on the successful launch of her third book, The Alchemist's Kitchen. For details about the reading and pictures, click here and here. Also, Susan is the featured poet for this week's installment at Linebreak. Yay, Susan!

Finally, I miss my companion these last three weeks, the red-bellied woodpecker who was, on Monday morning, usurped by a squawky starling. As my friend, Anne, says, "Meh!"

Monday, April 26, 2010

"though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster"

60º ~ the smart phone says clouds, the sky says sun

Ah, Dear Reader, a disastrous start to the day. (As many of you will know, the title for today's post comes from Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art.") For the past month or so, I've been keeping tabs on the red-bellied woodpecker in the tree outside my window. The male (his red cap extends from beak to shoulders - female, no red from beak to top of head) made a fabulous nesting hole and kept me company each day with his chucks and churrings. This comforted me. I learned the call of this bird intimately.

This morning, all I heard was squawking and I feared the worst. The worst was true; some damned starling had taken over the nest. For anyone unfamiliar with starlings, this is their m.o. They let the other tree-clingers do the work and then they attack and take over the space. A few years ago, I watched a starling throwing out all the nest lining that a pair of flickers had worked so hard to instill in their nest. UGH. If I had a time machine, I would go back to 1890 and have a serious talk with Eugene Schieffelin.

I've had a hard time shaking my anger, frustration, and sadness. This must seem a small thing to many of you, but I know why I get so worked up about it. The starling is an affront to fair play. It represents all those people who happily take credit for work that isn't theirs and apparently have no qualms about doing so. You understand, I'm not assigning morality or the lack thereof to the starlings in question. However, they seem a good metaphor for those people in this world who seem to lack a moral compass, a sense of right and wrong. They are the "big guy" stomping on the "little guy," and I'm a sucker for the under dog. How's that for mixing metaphors!

Well, I didn't intend for this post to be consumed with bird drama. So, onward to the poetry world. The final days of the semester are upon us and in two hours, I'll begin my grading marathon. This morning, I spent cleaning up all the odds and ends on my desk, making note of journals I've learned about in the past week, recording rejections, and filing receipts. Then, I turned to my "in progress" folder, which right now holds three muscular drafts of nearly-there poems. I tinkered a bit here and there, read them all aloud a time or two, tinkered some more, and put them up to age another week.

This may be as much as you'll get from me this week, Dear Reader. Trust that I am here and doing well...just focused on student papers instead of my own poetry. I'll be back with you on Saturday for sure to announce the winner of the National Poetry Writing Month Giveaway! If you haven't entered, you've got five days to do so. The cutoff is midnight Friday (4/30/10).

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Marie Howe's Words of Wisdom

78º ~ all storms have moved eastward and taken the heat/humidity with them, aside from the wind gusts, a perfect afternoon

Once the sun returned, I headed out to the deck to catch up on some reading. What Marie Howe says in her interview with Christian Teresi in the current issue of The Writer's Chronicle struck a resonant chord with me.

Early in the interview, Teresi asks about the pressure to publish and notes that Howe's three books have ten-year gaps between each publication. Here is Howe's response:
"In all those years that I was writing poetry by myself at home, what mattered to me was not a book but a poem. Each poem. One poem. It was a world. You know what happens when you read a true poem. It sees you, you see it. There's a profound sense of mutual recognition in that moment, and it cures, for a moment, the profound loneliness we feel on this earth. We feel kindred to someone... ."

I love how Howe uses the word "kindred" here. This is exactly how I feel about the poetry I return to over and over again to read and the poetry I hope to write.

Later, she adds this, "This new notion about book projects is really beyond me. I don't understand it at all. I like a lot of books that are written that way. I don't feel in any way critical of them, don't misunderstand me, but I don't understand it. What I understand is one poem. To write one poem seems to me worth living for. So that you have 'To Autumn,' or you have 'After great pain a formal feeling comes,' or you have 'Whose woods these are I think I know, / His house is in the village though." You have something sturdy, and you can clamour all over it and climb inside and rattle it and shake it and howl and it stands there, this human voice, this human-made thing. And you can inhabit it."

Here, I love the idea of the poem as a body or a building.

Howe goes on to state that she believes the process of writing and publishing is different for all poets. I wish there were more of this kind of recognition and less worrying about schools and cliques.

That's just a bit about the opening of a quite in-depth interview, but it's the bit that stuck. What's funny is that later in the issue, there is an interview of H.L. Hix conducted by John Poch. The very first question echoes what I found so right on in Howe's interview. However, Hix has the exact opposite answer. He states: "For me the book is a more fundamental unit than the individual poem" and goes on to talk about how his first exposure to contemporary poetry was not by reading journals or anthologies, rather it was through reading individual collections.

I'm still with Howe on this one, but I'm glad the Hix interview was there to provide another voice in the conversation.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Drafting: Lost the Battle

69 deg ~ stormy clouds, a slight breeze strengthening, moderate chance of severe weather

Confession: I slept late today, Dear Reader.  One consequence of my teaching schedule, blending on-campus classes with online classes, is that on Friday's I am not obligated to be on campus unless called to a meeting.  I worried a bit about this last fall, when I was able to create this schedule, wondering if I could stick to a writing and teaching schedule on Fridays while at home and prey to the easy distraction of cats and chores and TV/movies/music.  I have to say that I am proud of my semester, in that I set my early alarm for Fridays habitually and was at the desk writing until eleven or twelve and then turned my eyes to grading/prep work.  I have drafted more new poems this academic year than ever before.  Yay!

Today, however, I woke up knowing that drafting would be a battle.  I woke more blurry eyed than usual and my brain felt stuffed with straw.  I wavered as I went through my routine.  Yes, I'll be ready to write.  No, all is hopeless.  And back and forth.  I made my coffee.  After the first few slurpy sips made their way down the gullet, I felt my spine straightening, the straw-laced stuffiness clearing.  I had hope.  And then...nothing doing.

I pressed on for about an hour, painfully.  Finally, I was able to remind myself that I am not a robot, programmed to draft poems on Fridays.  The end of the spring semester is always the hardest to bear, and I inevitably forget the exact nature of the fatigue that creeps into me, muscle and mind.  Brainwork, creative and academic, is hard on the body.  I am stunned by this.  Many of my family members are blue-collar workers, who actually use their bodies to labor day in and day out.  I see the fatigue in them year round. They share bad knees, bruised knuckles, rotator cuff surgeries, stitches, and scars. And, yes, there is a physical nature to teaching, unless one sits through the class period, which I've never been able to do, but it is not the same.  Still, by this point in the teaching year, it all builds up to an exhaustion of the brain cells and the body cells.

One last thing: I know I'm blessed to have this schedule.  Many thanks to my husband, my family & friends, and to the folks at PTC who all make it possible.  I promise I do not take it for granted.

So, I'll tackle the mindless busy work on my desk, pay some bills and whatnot and see you all on the flipside of the weekend.  May yours be hailstorm-free.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Big Thanks & Book Giveaway Ending Soon!

78 deg ~ mostly sunny and breezy

Just a moment of saying BIG THANKS to everyone who has commented on the NaPoWriMo giveaway post below. I appreciate all of the enthusiasm and all of the new visitors to the Kangaroo blog! If you haven't submitted a comment yet and you are interested in winning a free book of poetry, please enter before April 30th. The winners will be notified on May 1.

Remember, I'll ship anywhere in the world for free, and if you don't have a Blogger account, you can use the anonymous comment function, just be sure to include your email. Click here to see the post and leave a comment.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mushy Brained

57º ~ more sun than clouds, a storm system building in the West, two days out

It's the middle of week 15 of a 16-week semester (not counting finals), and I'm feeling about as wrung out as I've ever felt. AWP happening so late in the spring sort of pushed me over the edge. I slept 10 hours last night...a good soaking sleep, aside from a dream about being chased through the woods and eventually through a cabin by a killer bobcat which paused to kill a goat and a wild turkey during the chase...and still feel like I could sleep all day today. Alas, teacher duties call to me.

For today, some good news:
Stacey Lynn Brown and Oliver de la Paz chose one of my poems for inclusion in their persona poem anthology: A Face to Meet the Faces. It turns out that my poem will rest alongside poems by many friends, both old and new. Yay! My hat is off to both Stacey and Oliver for undertaking such a project; I have all the faith in the world in these two editors.

Also, if you haven't already, please drop by Linebreak and read/listen to Joshua Robbins' amazing poem "Heaven as Nothing but Distance" which I had the great honor to record.

Many thanks to Kelli for posting this on her blog first. Out of Print Clothing sells t-shirts imprinted with the covers of old book covers. To make the deal even sweeter, OofPC says, "For each shirt we sell, one book is donated to a community in need through our partner Books For Africa." As soon as I've paid off my credit card for AWP, I'll be buying several of these t-shirts!

You all know how I feel about advocating for literacy. Here's just a reminder that if you haven't already switched, you should be buying your online books from Better World Books. Not only do they support literacy programs in America and abroad, but also they have a carbon offset shipping option that is eco-friendly! Oh, and they buy used college textbooks, too. Seriously, why aren't you shopping there?

Finally, I'm a little late to the game with this one so you probably saw it yesterday. Terrance Hayes' poem "The Golden Shovel" was on Poetry Daily yesterday. You must read it. Now!

Monday, April 19, 2010

What I'm Reading: the brother swimming beneath me

55º ~ the clouds have returned after days and days of sun, I long for rain but am not hopeful

It seems that a weekend spent grading and clearing the decks of schoolwork has afforded me a chance to do a mini-review today. Yay!

I know that during my AWP posts I mentioned several books that I "couldn't wait to read on the plane home." It turns out, I was more tired that I could have imagined and I only managed to read one book on the plane, Brent Goodman's the brother swimming beneath me. It is a testament to the strength of the individual poems and to the book as a whole that I was able to read and engage with this book through my fog of exhaustion and a very loud passenger one row back and two seats over who was a nervous flier and kept talking about plane crashes and how God didn't mean for people to go "flitting about" in the sky.

Goodman's book coalesces around the death of the speaker's brother from leukemia; however, one of the reasons I love this book is that it does not focus solely on this death. The book broadens into a larger dialogue between being alive in this world in all our diverse natures and accepting our mortality and the mortality of our loved ones. It has a three-part structure: the first, those larger dialogue poems; the second, the brother-focused poems; and the third, a series of prose poems that blend the two.

While the long poem "Maier" grounds the book and contains many fine lines, such as "They drew the seeds of your new blood / by hammering hollow nails through skin / to reach the dark marrow inside my bones," it is not the poem that made me write "WOW" in the margin. The poem that took the top of my head off is a political poem, something I've never been able to tackle in my own work. Goodman's "'Armless Iraqi Boy Bears No Grudges for U.S. Bombing'" nearly undid me on that plane ride home from AWP. Here is the opening:

We know it is difficult to look at
when parts of him are still missing.
It will take some time for his charred skin
to completely slough off. It will take longer
for his arm stumps to forget how to carry
and for the two ragged holes to close.
His condition is improving. We have replaced
his eyes with rubble, he ears with crosshairs,
his mouth a khaki radio. We know
it is difficult to look at. ...

Another poem that wows me every time is "Evaporation," which I first read on Linebreak. It sent chills down my spine that first time I read it, and it continues to do so on re-reading. The link here will take you to the poem, and it's a little long to reprint here.

One of the things I admire most about Goodman's book is the range he displays in form and content, yet the entire thing holds together so well. Let me leave you, Dear Reader, with the last poem in the book, one of the prose poems. Please image a margin that is both left and right justified.

"[past lives]"

Redhead suicide, scarlet fever, holocaust, third rail, stillborn.
Best not to blame past lives for migraines, luck, regret, or
deja vu. Haifa. Sapporo. Luxembourg. Eden. Each life learns
to outlive the last. Eat rich meals, fuck, haunt museums,
Eurorail every hostel from Amsterdam to Zabreb. Chalk a
line around your silhouette near the fountain. Pray your
children may survive you. Dear mystery: are you the outline,
shadow, earth or sun?

I was lucky enough to bump into Brent Goodman at the book fair at AWP and to swap books with him. I know I'll be waiting, eager for his new poems and next book.

rt a Poet/Poetry: Buy or Borrow this Book Today!
the brother swimming beneath me
Brent Goodman
Black Lawrence Press, 2009

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Free Books for NaPoWriMo

Conditions the same.

Here's the final list from Kelli. Be sure to visit all the blogs and sign up for a chance to win free poetry books for National Poetry Writing Month!
Also, here's a link to my post where you can leave a comment to win a book.

Writ on Water

64º ~ sun for now, forecast calls for clouds gathering later in the day

A brief but heartfelt thank you to Natalie over at Writ on Water for featuring my poem "On the Fabric of the Human Body" on her blog. Included with the poem is an insightful close reading, which warms my lonely poet's heart. This is living proof that there are folks out there who might not write poetry but still enjoy reading it. Yay!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wistful Wisteria (Drafting Post-AWP)

67 deg ~ clear skies and great sun, but still shadows here due to all the neighborhood trees in full leaf

Drafting Friday report:  Woo Hoo, Dear Reader, I managed to draft a poem today amid all of the chaos of post-AWP grading and end-of-the-semester fever.  My desk is a mess of papers, books, and AWP ephemera, but I pushed and piled it to the side.  I had a clean space, good light, good coffee, Yo-Yo Ma, and room to breathe.  All necessary for my process.

I started the day by reading Joseph P. Wood's wonderful poem "Urgency."  This poem appears as a Boundless Book from Cannibal Books, a small press run by fellow Arkansas pals Matt and Katy Henriksen.  Matt and Katy are a fierce poetry duo and create beautiful books.  Be sure to click on the link to Wood's poem to see what a boundless book is.  Awesome production.  "Urgency" is a long poem of amazing phrases stitched together with repeated elements.  The whole thing feels like it should be read in one breath or out of breath.  All during AWP I'd been thinking about how all of my lyrics are short and compact and how I want to write a long poem.  Wood reminded me of that, and as some phrases of my own began to appear, I just tried to let go and not control anything, just let the words accrue on the page.  They did, but alas, Dear Reader, so far, they have not coalesced into anything formative.

After playing around with lines for a bit, I switched to my "In Progress" folder and went back to five lines I'd drafted back in March during one of my non-productive weeks.  It turned out that those lines sparked a whole new direction for me today.  The draft is titled "Bloodlines" and my favorite section right now is:  "Wild and singing the dangerous syntax / of bee-stung tongues, we hunt / the wisteria vine that climbs the dead / branches of a withering tree."  I'm sure to hate these lines tomorrow, so I wanted to praise them today.  I'm including this photo of my friend Anne's wisteria b/c she was on top of things and I was not.  I failed to take pics of our wisteria in its glory.  Now it is sending pale purple petals down to scatter our back lawn.  Beautiful decay.

On a Blogger note, I'm using some beta version of the composing posts function, and for some reason, I can no longer use my shortcut keys to produce the degree sign I need for my opening temperature record.  I tried copying and pasting from Word and that threw the whole thing off.  Does anyone know what's up with this?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

News & Updates: The Birds Dismissed

 55 deg ~ April sun rises over my left shoulder, some leaves lit fresh green, others still in dawn's shadow

While I was recovering from AWP on Monday, I received an email from Roger Humes, editor of The Other Voices International Project, an online anthology of poetry from all over the world, letting me know that the poems he had accepted last month were now published.  I hadn't known about this wonderful anthology until Roger contacted me through Facebook, so the online world helped me connect and expand my poetry world once again.  Roger titled my selection "The Bones Dismissed" and added this beautiful image as the cover.  Both the title and the image are perfect.  Please check out this site and read the Mission Statement if you get the chance.  Many, many thanks to Roger for seeking me out and then supporting my work.

Me, Joey Cole, Robert Bruno,  Suzi Garcia, John Willis, Antoinette Brim, and Ralph Burns
Last night, I felt like I was back in Denver at AWP.  I attended a joint poetry reading presented by Pulaski Tech (my school) and the University of Arkansas Little Rock.  Former PTC students, now current UALR students, Suzi Garcia and Robert Bruno read from their work and were joined by current PTC student John Willis.  They were all awesome!  The only thing missing was the nametag-gazing.  Faculty memebers, Joey Cole, Antoinette brim, Ralph Burns, and myself were the proud mamas and papas.  Sadly, our second reader from PTC was unable to attend due to a family tragedy.  Sending healing thoughts JW's way this morning.

Without having time to link to each title, here's a list of books I brought back from AWP (in no particular order).

They Speak of Fruit     Gary L. McDowell
the brother swimming beneath me    Brent Goodman
The Wondefull Yeare    Nate Pritts
sum of every lost ship   Allison Titus
Self-Portrait with Crayon    Allison Benis White
At Once   Jenny Browne
The Second Reason    Jenny Browne
lug your carelss body out of the careful dusk    joshua marie wilkinson
History of Hurricanes    Teresa Cader
Ink for an Odd Cartography    Michele Battiste
Orange Crush     Simone Muench
The Alchemist's Kitchen     Susan Rich
Blue Collar Fathers    Jason Lee Brown
girl on a bridge       Suzanne Frischkorn
From the Fishouse    Ed. Camille T. Dungy, Matt O'Donnell, and Jeffrey Thomson
on the cusp of a dangerous year     Lee Ann Roripaugh
Biogeography   Sandra Meek
Tongue   Rachel Contreni Flynn
Requiem for the Orchard    Oliver de la Paz
0 deg, 0 deg    Amit Majmudar   (with apologies...Blogger won't let me use the degree sign properly these days)

Whew!  Hurry up summer so I can read, read, read!  Watch for my "What I'm Reading" posts to return sometime in May.

I'm still trying to process the AWP experience and have pages of notes to go through.  Yesterday at about 4:30 p.m., I hit the wall and collapsed, but rallied in time for the reading.  Much sleep is in the forecast for the weekend...sleep and grading.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Now, Where Was I?

58º ~ a beautiful southern sun at rise through the trees all green with new leaves

Right, day four of AWP: Saturday, April 10th. First thing, I attended the best panel of the entire conference: Hot/Not: A Panel on Sentiment: Joy Katz, Sally Ball, Mark Bibbins, Jenny Browne, and Sarah Vap. Typically I prefer to attend readings over panels, as I find more instruction and inspiration from listening to poetry read aloud than being discussed; however, this panel and these panelists rocked the subject of sentimentality in today's poetry. The discussion was complex and while the panelists had differing opinions on sentiment they were entirely respectful of each other. I asked several panelists if I could email them and request the text of their talks so I could absorb and think more about the subject. Watch for future post on this.

Bill Notter

Post panel, it was off to the book fair where I ran into lots of old friends and made some new ones. First, I stopped by the Southern Illinois University Press table where Bill Notter (fellow Arkansas grad and good friend) was signing copies of Holding Everything Down, his new book. Yay Bill!

Adam Prince
Josh Robbins
I also, finally, got to meet Josh Robbins in person and snapped a picture of Adam Prince at the Grist table at the same time. One AWP disappointment: no picture of the beautiful Charlotte Pence for this blog. Sigh.

Brent G & me
Gary McDowell
Stopped by the Cooper Dillon table for Gary McDowell's signing of They Speak of Fruit and bumped into Brent Goodman as well...fellow blogger and new friend. Thanks to Adam Deutsch of Cooper Dillon for snapping this shot of me and Brent giving Cooper D the thumbs up.

Copper Nickel in action!
More book fair goodness. The folks at Copper Nickel deserve a huge shout out for their tireless support of this year's fabulous conference. Yay CN! Also, I was so happy to see a copy of Mara Faulkner's Going Blind at the SUNY Press table. Mara was my first writing instructor and has supported me without fail for 20 years. You need to read this memoir!

Rick Campbell, Anhinga!
Josh Poteat

Then, there was Rick Campbell, my intrepid publisher and leader of the Anhinga flock. In this photo, Rick is doing the trademark Anhinga pose. I can't say enough about the folks who make this fabulous press work. Was lucky to run into fellow Anhingan Josh Poteat as he was leaving the fair and the conference.

George David Clark need of refueling, I had lunch with George David Clark, whom I met when he was the poetry editor for Meridian. We connected at AWP Chicago and it was a joy to spend some time with him again this year. We share a Little Rock connection, so it eased my homesickness a bit.

Mary Ann Samyn
Michael Martone
Back at the book fair, I stopped by the New Issues table for Mary Ann Samyn's signing of Beauty Breaks In. Mary Ann graciously blurbed Blood Almanac, and this was the first time I had the chance to meet her in person. She is a delight. Sadly, the best photo, the one of the two of us, malfunctioned and did not save to my disk. Bad technology! Also a highlight was running into Michael Martone and having the guts to give him a copy of Blood Almanac. Martone's writings on the Midwest are an inspiration. He suggested he hold the book in the photo, not me. Blush.

And, finally, here's a shot of the giant blue bear who holds up the convention center. The long line of people in the other picture were not waiting to get into the book fair. They were there for the public day of the auto show. I had a brief fantasy about diverting the line through the book fair just for kicks!

Goodbye, Denver! I'll miss you!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Good Night, Denver

56 º ~ night falling over Denver

Day Three at AWP, more, more, more.

Here's a photo of my loot from Day Two: several button from various journals, a little blue plastic policeman that I won from the Barrelhouse table, and one of the Easter eggs the folks at Redivider hid around the conference. A week or so ago, the editors of Redivider sent out a call for poets to submit a line of one of their poems for this project. The editors printed out the individual lines and put them in the eggs with other fun stuff. I sent them a line, and then, while at the Sarabande table, picked up an egg and opened it. I picked up my own line. No lie. What are the odds?

Stacey Lynn Brown
Suzanne Frischkorn

First stop today was the bookfair. On the way over, I ran into Stacey Lynn Brown, and once in the fair, we stumbled on Suzanne Frischkorn and Susan Rich.
Since I didn't get pictures of Stacey or Suzanne yesterday, I snapped them up while they signed copies of their books for each other. Even with 8,000+ writers swirling all around, these chance meetings happen over and over all day long. Lovely.

Oliver de la Paz
My original reason for stopping at the bookfair was to buy a copy of Requiem for an Orchard during Oliver de la Paz' signing. He was gracious enough to let me take a photo as well, although he'd only met me the night before.

Chelsea Rathburn
Another lucky bookfair moment: running into Chelsea Rathburn, great poet and fellow University of Arkansas grad. I have really grown to enjoy the bookfair, not something I would have said the last few years. I didn't have time to take pictures of all the wonderful journal editors I chatted with the past two days, but they were numerous and to a fault kind and generous, even when I fumbled.

Sherman Alexie
Next stop was the Beloit Poetry Journal reading, featuring: Karl Elder (new to me and a delight), Albert Goldbarth, Janet Holmes, Susan Tichy, and one of my writing heroes, Sherman Alexie. All of the readings were wonderful and the house was packed. I only wish the time had been longer so we could have heard more.

Then, I stopped in at the AWP Award Series reading and heard Beth Bachmann read from Temper, which I've already written about here. Sadly, no photo op presented itself.

Jason Lee Brown
Back at the bookfair, I just had time to catch Jason Lee Brown and get him to sign my copy of his new chapbook, Blue Collar Fathers. I was honored that Jason asked me to blurb his chapbook.

Adrian Matejka

Onward to the From the Fishouse reading, which was a real highlight to a day when everything was amazing. Here's the lineup: Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Oliver de la Paz, Major Jackson, Adrian Matejka (pictured here), Erika Meitner, and Jeffrey Thomson. Given the mission of From the Fishouse and its focus on the sound of poetry, it's no surprise that each reading was electric. The poets each read two of their poems featured in the From the Fishouse Anthology and two poems by other folks in the book. A very cool way to multiply the event.

Finally, I was going to join some of my new writer friends for an off-site reading, but my brain was full and my body was all done in. I crashed and slept for two hours. I know some will find it lame that I'm in my hotel room blogging while more readings are going on all around me, but this is who I am. I need some space and time alone each day. So far, I have no regrets about the trip save one...I left my Birks at home because I thought it'd be too cold for sandals, and now I wish I had them. :)

Now, more sleep before Day Four.

Good Morning, Denver

44 deg ~ mountain sun and blue sky, 17% less oxygen in the air here than at sea level according to one online source

I'm starting Day Three at AWP with a little me time in the hotel room, enjoying the view of the mountains and the quietude.

Day Two (yesterday) at AWP was awesome.  I made it to about 2/3 of the events I wanted to make.  Every year I say that I'm going to be more realistic about what I can do, and every year, I overplan.   I started out the day by attending a panel on grant writing and got some good advice.  After that it was off to the book fair.

Rachel Contreni Flynn
 I finally got to meet wonderful poet Rachel Contreni Flynn and she signed a coy of her new book, Tongue, for me!
There's an auto show sharing the convention center with us, the smell of oil and tires mingling with ink and paper. Gearheads and writers mingling at will.
Suzi Garcia and Robert Bruno
 After a quick lunch with traveling buddy Antoinette Brim, I went to my next panel ~ Poetry & Memorability ~ and ran into former PTC students Suzi Garcia and Robert Bruno.  I'm so excited that they are here representing the University of Arkansas Little Rock. Rock on Rob and Suzi!

Mary Biddinger & Me
  Back to the book fair and a quick stop at the Barn Owl Review table to enjoy a little time with Mary Biddinger and buy a copy of the new issue.  You should buy one too!

Susan Rich & Dennis Maloney
Susan Rich was signing copies of her new book, The Alchemist's Kitchen at the White Pine Press table.  I'd held off on buying the book a few months ago b/c I wanted to meet Susan, fellow blogger, and get a signed copy here.  As a bonus, I also met Dennis Maloney, editor and publisher at White Pine.

Jon Tribble & Allison Joseph
Finally, a stop at the SIU Press and Crab Orchard Review table to see the incomparable Jon Tribble and Allison Joseph, some of my most favorite poetry people in the world.

Suzi G., Robert B., & David Jauss
Walking outside, I ran into Rob and Suzi again, this time with UALR prof, David Jauss, writer of both prose and poetry.  I'd been wanting to meet him ever since I'd moved to Little Rock, and in true, AWP fashion, I met him hundreds of miles from home.

I grabbed a bite and sat in on the first two readers of the Poetry Society of America's 100th Anniversary reading.  I had time to hear Cyrus Cassells and B.H. Fairchild.  Both read super poems, but the comment that stands out to me came from Fairchild.  He talked about being thankful for Alice James Books, who published The Art of the Lathe.  Fairchild had been submitting the manuscript for quite awhile without success and, in fact, was ready to give up poetry all together.  The submission to Alice James was his last and had they not published the book, he would not have written again.  Wow.

 Here is Ron, the Pedi-cab cyclist who transported me to Copper Nickel's off-site 8 Debut Poets reading.  I am now a huge fan of Pedi-cabs and plan to travel this way as often as possible.  A great way to zip through the streets and enjoy the views.

The ceiling of the reading venue
 Just for kicks I took a shot of the ceiling at the reading venue at the Tivoli, an old brewery that is now the student center at the UC Denver Auraria campus.

Those reading at this particular CN event:  Dan Albergotti, Jericho Brown, Stacey Lynn Brown, Michael Dumanis, Farrah Field, J. Michael Martinez, and Allison Benis White.  I was bummed that Alison Stine had to cancel as Ohio Violence is on my to-buy list.

J. Michael Martinez
Here's J. Michael Martinez signing my copy of his brand-new book (as in 5 days old), heredities, winner of the Walt Whitman Award, published by LSU Press.

Matthew Guennette
At the reception I ran into Matthew Guennette and re-met we discovered we'd met at AWP in Austin and share a mutual friendship with the great Sean Chapman.  I'm looking forward to swapping books with Matthew today. 

Allison Benis White

Another book signed.  This time Allison Benis White signing my copy of Self-Portrait with Crayon, another book I'd waited to buy until now, hoping to meet the author.  The best thing about AWP!

Allison Benis White & Mary Biddinger
Last, but not least, a shot of Allison and Mary at the reception after the reading.  I just realized I have no pictures of amazing poet and new in-person friend Stacey Lynn Brown, but she Allison and I shared a Pedi-cab for the last six blocks of our walk home.  Stacey has pictures of that adventure.  Can't wait to see them.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sleepless in Denver

32º ~ city lights stretching to the base of the mountains and then a void of night sky~those gods and goddesses in charge of sleep, they do forsake me

I bought a new camera in honor of AWP, a pocket camera that seemed less conspicuous than my hefty one that I never take out of my bag, so I'm trying to take a few snapshots along the way to share.

Day One of AWP was amazing and the expected whirlwind. It happens that my flight arrangements coincided with colleague and friend, Antoinette (I'm using first names only, not to be coy, but b/c I didn't ask permission to use full names and I'm feeling like I should have), and we had a great talk during our layover in St. Louis. That's her in the airport photo. She also took this great new profile pic of mine, so many, many thanks, Antoinette! I love Southwest Airlines and their line up by numbers system as we all got to talking to one another, plus the attendants from Little Rock to St. Louis just cracked me up!

On the plane ride from St. L. to Denver, who did I happen to meet, finally, in person, but Stacey and her family. That's her doing what teaching writers do on the plane to AWP...schoolwork. I admired her dedication as I read some of the back issues of journals that had been burning a hole in my bookshelf at home for months.

Once at the hotel, I managed to check off all of the listings for today on my geeky Excel spreadsheet calendar. I am now more aware than ever that I won't be saying that for days 2, 3, and 4.

First, there were drinks with Charlotte and Adam~I completely forgot to take their picture, perhaps the peach martini could be to blame? C & A introduced me to some other nice folks, and I look forward to seeing them all soon.

After a brief respite in the quiet of my room, I went out to dinner with Suzanne, as lively and beautiful in person as I've known her to be online. Suzanne was a sport about my fumbling the new camera, but I never really got a photo to do her justice. Instead, here's a scene from our walk back to the hotel after attending the off-site diode/makeout creek reading. While the whole afternoon/evening was wonderful, the great Thai food Suzanne and I had for dinner was divine. Also, of equal divine-ness...I now have a copy of Suzanne's new book girl on a bridge. Can't wait to read it on the plane home! The diode/makeout creek reading was a blitz attack of poetry. Fourteen readers, many of whom I was in awe of for their deft use of humor in their work. I do wish I could do that!

Well, gentle Reader, I doubt I'll post quite so much in the next few days, but I found myself awake in the wee hours after a seriously sound sleep of four hours. I hope to now be able to sleep once more and be fit & trim for Day Two. If you're at AWP and see me nodding off, please steer me towards the hotel and beg me to sleep.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Poem Up on RATTLE Blog

65 deg. ~ the air filled with yellow ~ pine pollen falling like snow

Just a short note today to let you all know that my poem "Self-Portrait: November" is up on the RATTLE blog, featuring an audio file of me reading the poem. The poem originally appeared in RATTLE 19, Summer 2003. Many thanks to Tim Green for featuring poems from past issues on the blog and giving me the opportunity to submit an audio file as well.


Monday, April 5, 2010

AWP Prep Work

70 ~ gray and humid, the red-bellied woodpecker has spent the last 3 days creating a nest in the tree outside my window

I seem to have fallen away from being able to read much poetry these last few weeks.  For those of you who might be missing my Monday "What I'm Reading" posts, rest assured that they shall return in May.  May...the month when recovery from April may be possible.

I've spent the weekend and the morning trying to take care of as much prep work as possible with AWP festivities on the horizon.  Saturday and Sunday were devoted to school work: grading, quiz creation, and commenting on student poems/stories.  This morning, though, that's another story.  I have spent 2 and a half hours going over the AWP conference schedule and off-site events list.  I now have 3 and a half days worth of panels and readings and signings carefully plotted out on my embarrassingly geeky Excel calendar.

Here are some things I know:
1.  I both love AWP and experience great anxiety about it.  What is it, like 8,000 writers all crammed into one place?  That's a lot of ego and who's who?, especially when the elevators get piled full during the break between panels.  Lots of nametag gazing going on there.  

2.  When I feel anxious about an upcoming event, organizing soothes me. 

3.  While I've painstakingly ranked panels and events, I do realize that I will probably change my mind a dozen times between now and then. 

4.  Every year the AWP planners seem to double and triple book me, scheduling panels with writers I want to see at the same time.  Then, there's always one day when I have a gaping hole in the middle of my calendar where nothing seems to fit.  Feast or Famine, AWP style.

5.  I am vowed to be more brave this year by introducing myself to people I've only worked with or met online.  If you notice me fumbling and socially awkward, please be kind.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Adrafting We Will Go

62º ~ the whole sky a thick gray cotton mat of cloud cover

Friday, glorious Friday, the day when I push all other thoughts aside and set pen to paper. Not that there is anything dreamy about it (as the previous sentence may have suggested). As I said last week, I've been a bit rusty due to two weeks of not writing in the middle of March. This week again, it was a bit of a struggle.

I've been thinking about two diverging ways of writing. It seems from interviews I've read, that some writers write with an idea about the content of their work already formed. In other words, they spend a lot of "head time" ruminating about possible subjects and lines and/or characters/plots if fiction-driven. Then, when they sit down to write, they've already formed the core of the idea of the work and craft the words around it. I tend to follow the other path, along with many others. My "head time" is spent just trying to be a sponge and absorb words and images as I go about my life. Then, when I have my writing time, I go to that "compost heap" as one writer calls it (Natalie Goldberg, I think) for interesting sounds or images. The lines I dream up as I sit before the page actually determine the idea/central core of the work, and I am often surprised by what springs forth. I do not think either way is "right" or that one is better than the other. I'm just fascinated by those folks who can set out to write a poem about a certain subject and be successful...when I try to begin this way, mine are usually horrible.

But back to today's work. As usual, I read and read (Sarah Vap's American Spikenard today) and thought about two phrases Vap happens to use (once each): bien fait and elimination dance. The first the French for "well done," the second a type of square dance where the caller "eliminates" dancers by calling out who has to leave the dance floor, for example "Men wearing white shoes with black laces." FYI: Michael Ondaatje has a great poem titled "Elimination Dance" in The Cinnamon Peeler's. I tell you all of this to tell you that nothing came of those thoughts.

Do you think me a tease, Dear Reader? Please forgive.

Then, I rose from my desk to trade my empty coffee cup for my water bottle, and as I walked in the quiet house, a line fluttered around me: "I was nothingstruck." Yes, I saw the word "nothingstruck" as one word, a corruption of moonstruck. Much scribbling and then much typing and deleting later, the sparking line no longer in the first person and no longer the first line of the poem, I had a draft of sorts. It's titled "In a Horseless Country." I really like the form it took: couplet, tercet, single line, repeat three times, and I do believe this form fits the mood and content of the piece. I have high hopes it will survive the re-visioning to come.

Word on the street is that people like images with their words, so I grabbed this pic of a statue of a Morgan horse. When I was a kid, the book Justin Morgan Had a Horse, by Marguerite Henry, was one of my favorites, and the movie was okay too. The poem has nothing to do with Morgan horses, FYI.

Update on last week's draft: "What Devours Us is Worth Devouring." Lots of broiling energy surrounded the drafting of the poem. I believed in the draft last Friday. On Saturday, I hated it and was sure it was trash worthy. Today, I read it again and believe in it again. This is why I let things sit a bit. If I didn't, I'd kill the newly drafted before they had a chance to really get their wobbly limbs under control.