Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Where I'm Calling From

99 deg ~ come on, just one more little degree and we get trip-digits, full sun, of course

My title is a bit misleading today, as it should be in the past tense and the negative: Where I wasn't calling from, but I love the Carver allusion. I've been busy with family and friends, and I'll give you two photo hints as to the where.

Yep, you guessed it: Iowa and Illinois. My man and I had a great time seeing friends (hey, Sean-Kirsten-Harper!) and family (hey, Longhorn family!).

Poetry has gone by the wayside a bit, first due to health issues and then traveling. Posts may be sparse here until the first week of August as I try to finish up July with friends and an attempt to recover my health to 100%. Never-fear, Dear Faithful Readers, the Kangaroo will rise again next month.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

And the Winner Is...

77 deg ~ rain storm cooled, cloudy skies, heat rising through the end of the week

And the winner of J. Michael Martinez' Heredities is... (imagine your own drumroll)... Sherry O'Keefe, the one who was new to the comment field and felt least likely to win.  That makes me happy.  I also love the name of Sherry's blog: Too Much August, Not Enough Snow.  (I think I'd flip that around, though.)  Sherry, I'll be sending an email your way to get your details.  Congrats. 

Here's a screen shot of the Random Number Generator to keep everything honest.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saturday, Again

81 deg ~ heavy humidity and gray skies

Today has been a repeat of last Saturday.  I've been to the River Market for the Little Rock Farmers Market and taken some photos to share with y'all.  As soon as this is posted, I'm starting on REVISION.  However, today, I'm revising the book: In a World Made of Such Weather as This.  For a month or so, I've been mulling over what the weaknesses of the book might be.  It was a finalist several times this year and a semi-finalist as well.  That's encouraging, of course, but also tells me that some changes still might be necessary.  Wish me luck.

the Arkansas River hazy/gray morning
USS Razorback
a piece of the "little rock"

Miss Becky, my peach connection (Crowley's Ridge, AR)


early arrival means a lighter crowd, 20 more minutes and the aisles are packed

Something for the vegivores

Friday, July 9, 2010

Quick! FREE Poetry! 5 Days to Enter

83  deg ~ big rain this morning, now gray and breezy with lots of lovely humidity

As a member of the Academy of American Poets, I just received my copy of the 2009 Whitman winner, Heredities by J. Michael Martinez.  I was lucky enough to meet the poet and get a signed copy of this book in Denver at AWP. Now, the book is nearing the top of my to-read pile, YAY!

Good News, Dear Readers!  I'm giving away the copy that just landed on my doorstep.  Please leave a comment below if you are interested.  On Tuesday, July 13, I'll use the random number generator to pick a winner.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What I'm Reading: The Alchemist's Kitchen

83 deg ~ hazy cloud layers keeping the temps down a bit, but with the humidity rising, the mugginess means being outside is not comforting for long ~ last night dramatic black storm clouds & several downpours, but no sustained rain

Today, I've finished re-reading Susan's newest book, The Alchemist's Kitchen, and I'm muddling through how to best describe this wonderfully dense and diverse book. 

First, a little backstory:  I fell in love with Susan Rich's poetry when reading her first book, The Cartographer's Tongue (White Pine Press, 2000).  In particular, the poem "The Mapparium" entranced me.  Susan has lived a traveler's life, working for the Peace Corps and other human rights organizations.  Her poetry blends her love of the foreign with an ability to write of our humanness with empathy.  I highly recommend y'all check it out. 

Then, to my great joy, Susan began a blog last year in anticipation of the publication of the book, and then I was lucky enough to meet her in person at AWP.  In fact, on the day she had her signing, I actually sat down next to her at a panel and met her there first.  Serendipity like that makes AWP the wonder that it is.

Now, to the book, since I feel that Susan is a friend, I'll use her first name, as it seems awkward to stick with the academic standard after I've gotten to know someone. 

While there isn't a narrative arc to the book, there is a clear sense that these exact poems belong together in this exact order.  This ability to weave conversations between individual poems is something I admire and envy.  These poems do consider the international, as Susan's past books have done, but there are also poems that seem more explorations of the poet's current place as a woman in mid-life, poems that question the aging process, especially as a woman unattached.  Like January Gill O'Neil's Underlife that I wrote about the other day, I'm in awe of Susan's ability to open herself, her life view in these poems, and expose what may seem vulnerable to the reader.

To start, here's a bit of a poem that touches on the political, but also shows off Susan's wonderful ability with sound and with details.  It's also a study in concision.  She says so much with so few words.  Listen to the beginning of "Day of the Global Heart":

The way of the heart
is that it shifts --

speaks in lace,
in blood red phrases:

holocausts, amphetamines,
Arctic glaciers.

Wow, just let those lines roll around on your tongue for a while and you should see why I enjoy Susan's work.

I also admire Susan's work with ekphrastic poems.  The second section (of three) is composed of poems inspired by the photographs and life of Myra Albert Wiggins, a woman of the Northwest (as is Susan), whose life spanned the end of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries.  I hadn't known of her work, but now, having read the poems, I plan to check her out.  A testament to Susan's ekphrastic poems is that they work beautifully as poems without any knowledge of the art itself on my part.

Finally, there are poems in the third section of the book that feature a speaker heading toward 50 and working through her relationships with men and romance/love, among other topics.  These poems are frank, avoiding the overly sentimental with the gift of grace and wonderful details.  I have to admire one poem in particular because of the underlying humor that Susan brings to the page.  Here is the poem in full.

You Might Consider . . . 

how my long life of losing men
could create a new international sport.

Men lost in the desert, men missing
in action from doorways and all night diners;

men making the most of fire
escapes, service stairs, the emergency aisle

of airplanes like United.  Men
para-sailing from spaceship encounters.
I am accomplished in the world
of the see-you-later wave

as his pick-up truck disappears
traveling on to the next espresso stand.

Something in the curve of my collar,
the cut of my blouse sets them running.

They know they are in the hands of a master.
But when the coffee's on, the pumpernickel

toasted just right, I have to let them know;
I'm actually ready to let them go.

If you're interested in exploring this book more, you're in luck.  Diane Lockward is hosting a poetry salon about The Alchemist's Kitchen on her blog, Blogalicious, right now.  Feel free to head over there and grab a glass of wine and some cheese, day or night.  Check out the interview with Susan and the comments, where Susan is answering questions from the guests.   (By the way, Diane has a new book out as well.  Temptation by Water is on my to buy list, as we speak.)

Support a Poet/Poetry
Buy or Borrow a Copy of This Book Today
The Alchemist's Kitchen
Susan Rich
White Pine Press, 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What I'm Reading: Underlife

87 deg ~ hazy sky with periodic bursts of sun through clouds, threat of thunderstorms all week

I am embarrassed to admit how long I've had January Gill O'Neil's book Underlife.  I was lucky enough to win a free copy from January during a promotion on her blog, Poet Mom, when the book first came out.  Sadly, the spring semester got crazy, then my summer went into the health dump, so the book remained unread until now.  However, one great thing about expiration date!

Underlife is a wonderful first book.  The three notes I made in the back of the book were:  plain language, feminine, and unshirking.  All of these are compliments, not detractions. 

First, plain language: O'Neil uses spare, straight-forward language, the language of the everyday, and this fits because these poems are a testament to the everday life of a woman, a wife, and a mother.  The speaker, who holds constant throughout the book, tells it like it is.  There is no pretentiousness here, no trying to impress with elevated and academic language.  In fact, the first poem sets this up for the rest of the book.  I love it so much, I'll include the full text here.

Nothing Fancy

I am from hush puppies & barbecue
from chitlins & fatbacks
hog maws & hog jaws & grits & scrapple.
Outside stands a dogwood tree we have let
overgrow from laziness
& a driveway cracked
with blades of grass.
I am from Rosemary & Stanley,
the last model in the series.
Around our house honeysuckle blesses the air,
seasons the heat of summer into a main dish.
I am a plum black garnish to the day.
Wafts of smoke from pots on the stove
steam the kitchen.
Salt & Pepper stand at attention
next to the potholders on the counter.
Dinner is ready--no time for parsley.

Second, feminine: O'Neil celebrates here all that factors into being a daughter, then a wife, and finally a mother.  While these are poems of domesticity, they are not overly sentimental, and they always pack a punch.  There is wisdom here and a sense that the speaker has earned that wisdom through a life well-lived. 

Third, unshirking: O'Neil doesn't turn away from the beautiful or the less than beautiful parts of being alive in this world of ours.  She broaches subjects I myself have shied away from, afraid perhaps of revealing too much.  Another favorite of mine, one that shows this brave approach, is "What Mommy Wants," which has an epigraph "after Kim Addonizio."  It's a bit longer, so I'll just give you the opening.

I want a pair of Candie's.
Make them cheap and tacky.
High-heeled wooden stilettos
(stiletto, from the Italian word for "dagger"),
white leather upper with silver studs along the sides.
Open-toed pumps, with just enough wiggle room
for my toes painted No, I'm Not a Waitress red.

It's a little odd, how this blogging and Facebook world has brought me more closely into the private lives of many poets.  From January's blog, I know that her children are older now than they are in the poems that are clearly written about them.  I also know that the marriage that is often mentioned in the book has now ended.  I was able to separate the biographical from the poems, of course, but it also makes me wonder what the next book might hold.  I know that I'll be watching to see what this set of keen eyes and brave mind might bring us next.

(Aside, check out this poem-video of "How to Make a Crab Cake," another favorite of mine from this book.)

Support a Poet/Poetry
Buy or Borrow a Copy of this Book Today
January Gill O'Neil
CavanKerry Press, 2009

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Four for the Fourth

84 deg ~ some sun, some hazy clouds, the whole world gone lazy with Sunday and a national holiday

I really meant to take today off from blogging, but then I came across three things that I felt I had to share.

First is a poem by Luke Johnson who blogs at Proof of Blog.  Luke's poem "The Heart, Like a Bocce Ball" is available on Rattle's blog today with audio.  Do yourself a favor and listen to this gorgeous reading.


Second, thanks to January O'Neil for posting this Czeslaw Milosz poem "Gift" on her blog Poet Mom.  I wasn't familiar with this poem, but it sums up EXACTLY how I feel on this 4th of July.


A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

~Czeslaw Milosz


Third, if I haven't mention Matt Kish's blog, One Drawing for Every Page of Moby Dick, then I've been remiss.  Today's drawing for page 297, pictured here, is my absolute favorite so far.  Recently Kish found out that Tin House is going to publish the complete project.  I have tried to read Moby Dick three times in my life and have failed each time.  (My junior English teacher in high school told us she hated the book and wouldn't put us through the torture of reading it.  Beware teachers, the power your words might hold over a captive audience.) However, I plan to buy Kish's book as soon as it hits the stands.  If you just want to look at the drawings and not read the blog, go to Kish's website: Spudd64


Fourth, a confession, I am jealous of those who can sketch, draw, and paint.  I follow a blog called Urban Sketchers, and I think how wonderful it must be to be able to carry home a piece of art of your own making any time you venture out into the world.   Perhaps in the next lifetime, I'll have more talent there.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Summer Harvests

80 deg ~ cloudy, a closed in feeling to the sky

This morning, I'm offering poetry for the eye.  Enjoy the pics of my trip to the River Market Farmer's Market in Little Rock.  I've got revisions on the mind now that the kitchen is stocked with my summer favorites: peaches, watermelon, and sweet corn, all grown here in Arkansas (I'm picky that way!)

Perhaps this last one deserves a bit of explanation.  The River Market is full of great sculptures, and this is the one I passed on the way back to the car.  May I present, Dear Readers, Count Casimir Pulaski, for whom our county is named.  Apparently, Count Pulaski is known as the "father of the American cavalry" and saved George Washington's life during the Revolutionary War.  I just like the details on the sculpture and his dramatic hair.  (From a distance, I thought the bust might be of Elvis...hee hee).

Friday, July 2, 2010

Rambling, Rambling...Revision

82 blissful, sunny breezy deg ~ near perfect summer conditions

First, before we get to REVISION, the results of my internet rambling this morning: a few links for you.


I'm curiously drawn in by this visual description of Chopin's Nocture, Opus 27 #2.  I'm not skilled in music, but I did take several music classes in college, studied piano and flute as a girl, so I get the idea of intervals that this project uses.  I wonder if there is some way to diagram a poem this way?


This one has been around the blogs lately, but if you haven't checked it out, it's worth it for a laugh.  SlushPile Hell is a blog where a "grumpy agent" posts an excerpt from a query letter that failed and then his lovely, sarcastic remark.


I've been reading Jim Brock's blog, God's & Money, for a few months now.  Today's post concerns applying for a Florida Arts fellowship and also contains some musings on the NEA fellowships.  It's a great straight-forward post, but it's the ending that got me laughing in agreement.  Brock writes, "And what of the usual of not getting the money?  I always eagerly read the list of fellowship grantees, and yes, I am most often Miss Congeniality, really happy for these poets because we so seldom get this kind of recognition, and sometimes I am Susan Lucci, wanting to kick the winner in the groin all the while I smile bravely."  Hee Hee.  I'm usually Susan Lucci, especially in the book contests, and I totally agree with this statement.


Oh, I don't have the link or remember which blog it was on, but yesterday I read a post in which the author complained a bit about the use of "Dear Reader" in blog posts, after having watched Julie and Julia and noticing its use there. It niggled at me a bit, since I do often use this construction.  However, I stand by my use because when I do include that direct address, it happens naturally and is heartfelt.  A bit too sentimental, Dear Gentle Readers?  So be it. 


And now to the meatier bit here, my revision process has begun.  A bit delayed by health issues, but begun nevertheless.  As many of you know, I spent two weeks in June doing a draft-a-day.  I ended up with 12 successful and complete drafts.  A great result...much self-congratulation ensued.  Now, the work of revision begins.  I read over all of the drafts yesterday and found some of them weaker with more soft spots than I remembered during the rush of creation.  When I began the project I hadn't really thought about what would happen after.  It's a bit more daunting to have a dozen drafts needing attention, rather than my normal two or three that might be waiting for help.  I did a quick shuffle and piled them from "best" to "worst" based on yesterday's read.  However, nothing jumped right out in terms of revision.  I think I'll have to simply select one poem and cull it from the herd.

I must admit that I was not feeling in the revision mood this morning.  However, two bloggers have come to my rescue.  Fiction writer, Danielle Newton has a post up about working on revising her novel.  Just reading about her process provided some much needed motivation.  Also,  Joanie Strangeland has a new post that complements an earlier one with some notes for revisions.  If nothing else, this is a tangible place to start.  Many thanks to both Danielle and Joanie for taking the time to blog and share their experiences!