Monday, February 28, 2005

Ten poems

David Koehn over at The Great American Pinup made an interesting post a few days ago (followed by a follow-up post) about coming up with a mini-anthology of ten poems that somehow (and here I'm putting my own spin on it, I'm sure) represents you, and the sort of poetry you want to write, and your own aesthetics. Not necessarily your all-time favorite poems, or the ones you think are the all-time greatest poems, but just ten poems for who and where you are right now.

I thought it would be hard to do, but once I started thinking about it, my list of ten came fairly easily, and it's kind of interesting to step back and look at what I selected. Here they are, in no particular order:

Sylvia Plath, "Ariel"
Gerard Manley Hopkins, "God's Grandeur"
Adrienne Rich, "Twenty-One Love Poems" (which is probably cheating, but)
Adrienne Rich, "Dreamwood"
Mary Oliver, "Wild Geese"
Ellen Bass, "3 A.M. Feeding"
Joy Harjo, "Eagle Poem"
Li-Young Lee, "From Blossoms"
Mark Doty, "Lost in the Stars"
Olga Broumas, "Artemis"

Stanley Kunitz's "The Layers" was on the list until I recounted and realized it was eleven, even with cheating and counting Rich's "Twenty-One" as one. And if I don't hurry up and post this entry immediately, I'm going to start thinking of others and then I shall have to gnash my teeth and moan and wail.

What would your list of ten poems look like?

Sunday, February 27, 2005


I believe in karma. I've always felt strongly that if I want to get my work published and get people to read it, I've gotta get out there and buy books and journals and support the poets who are putting their work out there.

So I think I'm making a rather belated New Year's resolution, which is to do something concrete in support of poetry at least once every two weeks -- buy a book, subscribe to a journal, go to a reading. I thought about making it "every week" instead, but I have so many damn books in this house already, I don't need to be giving myself excuses to buy more. :) But every two weeks -- well, that won't be hard, but making it a commitment in so many words feels like a good thing to do.

I made up for lost time tonight -- between online purchases and envelopes filled with checks ready to be mailed out tomorrow, I've purchased one book, subscribed to two journals, and taken out a membership at the Writers' Center of Indiana . That last one may not do me a whole lot of good, as the vast majority of their activity takes place in Indianapolis and it's not usually possible for me to get up there except on weekends, but at least I'll get their newsletter. And a couple of weeks ago I did go to the Yusef Komunyakaa/Susie Ibarra performance, which was just phenomenal. Oh! And earlier this month I helped organize a local reading to benefit tsunami survivors, and I bought two of the books that had been donated by poets (the ones I bought were by Kyle Dargan and Joseph Kerschbaum). So, uh, I guess I didn't so much need to worry about making up for lost time. And "every two weeks" is really not going to require changing my behavior much at all. But ... making the commitment does feel good. Now let's hope some karma comes back in my direction, hm?

In other news, the Oscars just finished. I watched, even though I've only seen one of the movies that was nominated for anything. Why was Sean Penn wearing roadkill on his head?

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Location, Location, Location

I spent a very pleasant couple of hours today in my study, reading and writing. The study is barely usable in the winter, as it's hardly insulated at all and has windows along two walls (high windows, wider than they are tall) -- so excavating the desk and starting to work in there again makes it feel like spring, even though it's incredibly cluttered in there. (Also a bit stinky, as there is a corner of carpet that various cats have decided to pee on over the years. Sigh.)

When I read at my desk in my study, I feel like I'm able to give the book a quality of attention that's difficult to find if I'm sitting in the living room, or at Panera or the Runcible Spoon or in the food court at work or any of the other places I often read. I think it's because the TV and the laptop -- my chief sources of distraction -- are far enough away to be a little bit "out of sight, out of mind." I don't think I necessarily write differently in my study than anywhere else, but giving someone else's poems my full attention almost always leads to writing, so I'm usually able to be fairly productive when I'm in that room.

When I took Cathy Bowman's class, I went to Panera at least once a week -- usually on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon -- and spent time reading and writing there. I still go there occasionally, every 2-3 weeks or so. I almost always sit in one of the tables right by the window, where I can look out at the sky and the parking lot. I watch the clouds, and the birds, and the people going in and out of Panera and Noodle Town next door. Another place I like to go for sitting & reading & writing is the Monroe County Public Library; when I go there, I almost always sit in the comfortable chairs in the corner of the building where the big windows are, overlooking the corner of Kirkwood and Grant. My study has windows too, as I've mentioned, and whenever I'm in there I find myself gazing out them a lot. It occurs to me that all of my favorite writing places have windows, and that looking out the window feels important to me in connection with writing -- being able to shift my focus, physically, from the nearness of the page to a more distant gaze.

Last time I was in Provincetown, I found myself drawn to a certain porch-type spot overlooking the town beach & the harbor; I'd sit there at a picnic table and write for a while most days. Although I was outside, I looked up from the page often and gazed out over the water at the harbor and the wharf. The shift in focus, again.

Where do you most like to write?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Vacation plans and getaways

So I've scheduled two vacation days during the week of Spring Break -- the Monday and Tuesday of that week. I have all kinds of good intentions about taking one day to do some major housecleaning, taking an afternoon to do my taxes, and spending the rest of the time reading & writing like crazy. In reality, I'll probably spend half of it parked in front of the TV feeling burned-out and exhausted. But at least I have good intentions.

Some months ago, I had the idea that I would take a long weekend in the spring sometime and rent a cabin in the woods -- maybe The Book Log Cabin in Brown County -- and show up with a pile of books and a pile of paper, and do nothing but write, and maybe finally get my book manuscript together (you know, the one my bio notes have claimed I'm working on for the past two years or so). But if I'm going to Provincetown to do D.A. Powell's revision workshop in June, I probably can't afford to rent a cabin for two or three nights on top of that. Especially since the Fine Arts Work Center housing is extra-tight this year (they're renovating the facility), so I'm waitlisted for their housing with no real hope of getting in, and will have to spring for a B&B for that week. Not cheap. (Note to self: better get on the stick about making reservations somewhere, too -- and soon.)

The long weekend of writing in the woods still sounds delicious, though. Maybe next year.

Monday, February 21, 2005

NEA Fellowships in Poetry

I don't know any of this year's NEA Poetry Fellows well, but have met a couple of them -- I had a weekend workshop with Kathleen Peirce at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival a few years back (okay, maybe more than a few -- it was about 1991 or 1992, I guess), and Kevin Young is on faculty here at IU & was a guest one day in the class I took with Cathy Bowman a couple years ago. Here's the list, from

Adams, Mary
Cullowhee, NC

Baker, David A.
Granville, OH

Blumenthal, Michael
Clarksville, TN

Braden, Allen
Tacoma, WA

Cassells, Cyrus
Austin, TX

Cording, Robert K.
Woodstock, CT

Daniels, James R.
Pittsburgh, PA

Davis, Jon E.
Santa Fe, NM

Dawidoff, Sally
New York, NY

Dharmaraj, Ramola
Arlington, VA

Donovan, Matt
Hudson, OH

Fairchild, B.H.
Claremont, CA

Fick, Marlon Lee
Overland Park, KS

Flenniken, Kathleen
Seattle, WA

Fraser, Gregory
Carrollton, GA

Fulton, Alice
Ithaca, NY

Glazner, Gregory A.
Santa Fe, NM

Harms, James K.
Morgantown, WV

Hayes, Terrance A.
Pittsburgh, PA

Held, Grey
Newtonville, MA

Hirshfield, Jane
Mill Valley, CA

Hong, Cathy
Brooklyn, NY

Isles, John A.
Alameda, CA

Jess, Tyehimba
Brooklyn, NY

Johnson, Kimberly
Salt Lake City, UT

Kasischke, Laura K.
Chelsea, MI

Kennedy, Sarah J.
Fairfield, VA

Kimbrell, James
Tallahassee, FL

Lee, Karen An-hwei
Santa Ana, CA

Lemon, Alex
St. Paul, MN

Long, Robert Hill
Eugene, OR

Mathys, Ted
New York, NY

McDonough, Jill
Jamaica Plain, MA

Pankey, Eric
Fairfax, VA

Peirce, Kathleen
Wimberley, TX

Randall, Belle
Seattle, WA

Reece, Mark Spencer
Lantana, FL

Siken, Richard
Tucson, AZ

Singer, Sean
New York, NY

Smith, Young
Richmond, KY

Smith-Soto, Mark
Greensboro, NC

Teig, Michael
Northampton, MA

Thomson, Jeffrey James
Pittsburgh, PA

Wunderlich, Mark C.
Provincetown, MA

Young, Kevin L.
Bloomington, IN

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Awwww damn.

The local news (WTHR in Indianapolis) reported this a few minutes ago, and it's just starting to show up online -- Hunter S. Thompson shot himself to death tonight.

I wasn't a huge fan of his or anything, but ... shit.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Working the split shift

I'm thinking of moving some of my blogging activity over here, while still maintaining my livejournal account. Not so much to create a separation between my writing life and my "personal" life, because I think such separations are usually fallacious, but more to reinforce in my own mind the possibilities of this medium for actual, dare I say it, intellectual work. I'm not sure, though.

(I will keep the posting of unpublished, in-process poems over at livejournal and they will still be posted as friends-only posts. Anyone reading this is more than welcome to create a livejournal account, then comment on one of my posts over there and I will add you to my friends list so that you can read those. Not that they are deathlessly brilliant, but, you know. )

Have pretty much decided that I am going to go ahead and do D.A. Powell's workshop on "Vision and Revision" at the Fine Arts Work Center in June, rather than wait around to see whether I get accepted into Marie Howe's advanced workshop the following week. Mainly, I wouldn't find out until mid-May whether I got into Howe's workshop, and I need more lead time than that to make housing and travel plans. (There isn't really another workshop I'm interested in the same week as Howe's, unfortunately; also, that's 4th of July week, which -- while it would be fun to be in Provincetown that week, for sure! -- would complicate travel and housing.)

I do know that revision has been much on my mind lately. I feel like I don't understand the process well at all. I can tinker with poems, I can futz around with line breaks and change words here and there and try to take out tired language, but there's a revision process that goes much deeper than that -- re-visioning, re-seeing the poem -- and I don't quite understand how to get there. So Powell's workshop would probably be very good for me.

I've had quite a string of rejections lately without any acceptances, so although I still have a lot of poems out there to various journals, I'm teetering dangerously on the edge of a nasty bout of "who am I kidding, I'm not that good, why am I bothering with this." I can't force the acceptances to come (other than continuing to get stuff out there, and to write as well as I can & send out good poems) so I need to find some other way to counteract this little patch of self-doubt. Ideas?