Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year 2006

Happy New Year, all! I seem to have picked up some kind of Martian Death Flu on my holiday travels (okay, it's just a yucky cold, but Martian Death Flu sounds more glamorous) so my first resolution for 2006 is to rest and drink orange juice and get myself healthy again. Whatever you are doing tonight, I hope you are warm and safe and happy. I wish you all a peaceful, creative, and successful (that word -- whatever it means to you!) year in 2006.

Friday, December 30, 2005

From flyover country

The new Indianapolis Airport, now under construction, is apparently going to be chock-full of art. What a cool thing. Even better, they are looking for poems by Indiana poets, as one of the proposed works of art is going to feature poetry on it.

If they pick one of mine, y'all have to start planning your travel so as to connect via Indianapolis, just so you can go "ooh! I know that poet!" :)

And in honor of the new year (and for me personally, a return to sending stuff out after a brief hiatus), this bit o'sanity from

Rejection Blues?

A cockroach will live nine days without its head, before it starves to death. A publisher won't.

If you yelled "I've been rejected!" for 8 years, 7 months and 6 days, you would have produced enough sound energy to heat one cup of coffee.

Banging your head against a wall uses 150 calories an hour and hurts. Posting another submission takes seconds and doesn't.

Remember, when someone annoys you, it takes 42 muscles in your face to frown. But, it only takes 4 muscles to extend your arm and smack the w****r in the head. Or post a submission to another publisher.

If you fart consistently for 6 years and 9 months, enough gas is produced to create the energy of an atomic bomb. If you wrote a short story every day for the same period, you'd have about 2469 stories to submit and your home would be a much nicer place to visit.

The male praying mantis cannot copulate while its head is attached to its body. The female initiates sex by ripping the male's head off. Unless the publisher that rejected you happens to be a male praying mantis, telling him to f*** off will not have the same effect.

A pig's orgasm lasts for 30 minutes. The publisher that rejected you is certainly not a pig...

An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain. (We know some people like that, don't we?)

Starfish don't have brains. (We know some people like that, too)

Some lions mate over 50 times a day. Publishers would need to be lions if rejected writers could only get mental telepathy to work.

If publishers really knew the secret of what makes a good book "good", they'd be writers.

The following have had books published: Jeffrey Archer, Joan Collins, Jackie Collins, Roy Hattersley, Salman Rushdie.

Are you really thinking of giving up now?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Home again, home again...

Back home after a relatively quick trip for a family Christmas (and my little sister's 42nd birthday) in Atlanta. It was a lovely visit, good to spend time with family. The presents I gave seemed to be well-received, which makes me happy. And we ate very, very well -- always important! :)

The day after Christmas we went to the Georgia Aquarium, which was absolutely mobbed -- an aquarium staffer told me they'd sold 17,000 advance tickets for that day, plus walk-ins! -- but was very enjoyable nonetheless. They have two whale sharks (named Ralph and Norton), which are enormous enough to be impressive but at 16-17 feet are only about half the size they will be at maturity. The tank that houses them along with a few hundred other fish holds 6 million gallons of water, and has lots of viewing windows, including one the size of a big movie screen. Had it not been so very crowded, I would have loved to just sit there for a couple of hours with my notebook, watching fish and writing. They also have five beluga whales, one of whom has invented the game of blowing bubble rings: he surfaces, takes a mouthful of air, then dives and blows a ring-shaped bubble, which he then plays with. Sometimes he makes a bubble ring big enough to put his face through. It's hysterical to watch, and apparently two of the other whales have learned this behavior from him. They also have a giant Pacific octopus, which I was able to see briefly, but there was a really bad crowd at that spot because it was a popular exhibit with a very small viewing window. And otters! And piranhas! And a coral reef, and lots of other really cool stuff.

The next day we wandered around and shopped in Little Five Points, which has a lot of neat shops although I started feeling extremely middle-aged and uncool there. The best was Charis Books, a feminist bookstore with a pretty good poetry section. I love feminist bookstores (used to volunteer at the one here in Bloomington before it closed down shortly after Borders and Barnes & Noble came to town, go figure) and this was a nice one. My mom had given me one of those Visa gift cards for Christmas and Charis got a pretty good chunk of it. :)

We ate at a couple of good restaurants, both highly recommended if you're ever in Atlanta. After the aquarium we went to Six Feet Under, so named because a) it's a seafood place and b) it's across the street from a humongous cemetery. I had the blackened shrimp tacos, which were wonderful. The place looks like a dive from the outside, but the service was fabulous and the food was very Southern and very very good. For my sister's birthday dinner, we went to Watershed, a casual-but-nice place in Decatur which is co-owned by Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls. Since it was Tuesday, it was fried chicken night -- a very big deal at Watershed; they often sell out of the fried chicken early in the evening, so we went early, 5:30. Their fried chicken is pretty famous, and takes 48 hours to prepare (soaked in brine & buttermilk, among other exacting preparations) and fully lives up to its billing. You get a heaping plate of it (I think there were 4 pieces), along with a big glob of very good mashed potatoes, two excellent flakey biscuits, and these wonderful garlic green beans. So, so good.

I don't have to go back to work until the 3rd (taking a little vacation time). I hope to use some of this much-awaited downtime for some reading and writing. I want to revise "Breach" (my chapbook ms.) and start sending it out again, revise some poems, and maybe even start writing some new ones. Also, get my grant application started.

I am still catching up on blog-reading and email -- I'll catch up eventually! I hope everyone's holidays have been peaceful. And onward we roll into 2006. Wow, that's a big number. Yikes...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Solstice Blessings

On this longest, darkest night of the year, may each of you find -- not just light -- but peace with both the darkness and the light.

Just Delicate Needles

It's so delicate, the light.
And there's so little of it. The dark
is huge.
Just delicate needles, the light,
in an endless night.
And it has such a long way to go
through such desolate space.
So let's be gentle with it.
Cherish it.
So it will come again in the morning.
We hope.

by Rolf Jacobsen
translated by Robert Hedin

A blessed Solstice to those who celebrate it.

And for those who celebrate Christmas, here's a little greeting for you, a few days early:

Monday, December 19, 2005


When I get a rejection slip with "Thanks. Good luck w/these--" & the editor's initials scribbled on the bottom, I can never help but read it as if it's sarcastic in tone: "Yeah, good luck getting that stuff published." This is why I've declared a brief submissions moratorium for myself -- this is not a healthy way to look at a perfectly innocent rejection slip, especially one from a particularly good journal.

I think after the holidays I'll have a better attitude and I can get back to it. I think I will end my submissions moratorium when I feel that I've regained a healthy equilibrium of time spent reading & writing. Because that's what matters, the reading & writing, not so much the submitting.


I don't have a kitten anymore -- I hve an orange streak that flashes around the house every so often. I guess he did hold still for a little while last night, but about all I've seen since I got home this evening has been an orangey-white blur that apparently has a kitten inside it somewhere. He's taken to jumping onto the top of the coat-tree in the living room and looking down on everything like a little bitty mountain lion.


The official announcement went out today -- the branch library that I coordinate/manage is being transformed into an "information commons" type dealie; our books, journals, and reserve operations will be moved to the main library, probably over the summer. Which means my job will be phased out. I have been assured that there will still be a place for me within the library system, and have had preliminary discussions with the Associate Dean regarding what that might look like; it could be interesting, but uncertainty & change can be hard, and right now I have no idea what my job title will be, where I'll sit every day, or who I'll report to six months or so from now. So part of today, after the announcement went out, was spent responding to questions from colleagues & faculty. A bit awkward explaining a decision I didn't make, but whatever.

At least I have Provincetown to look forward to this summer -- most likely -- even though paying for it means putting off some dental work and some car repairs. Eh, who needs teeth when you have poetry. :)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Decision, decided. (I think.)

Thanks to everyone who gave me their thoughts on my workshop choices. It was hard to go with my gut instinct because my gut instinct tells me there are at least six workshops next summer that I would get a whole heck of a lot out of! I decided to narrow it down to Carl Phillips vs. D.A. Powell (though as I noted before there are a bunch of very promising-sounding options). I phoned FAWC this morning and Dorothy, the summer program administrator, read me the complete workshop descriptions -- and in the end that's what decided me. Phillips' description sounds very similar to what Powell did last year: revision, and using the revision process to generate new material as well. Which is good stuff, and Dorothy said students always rave about Phillips, so it could be a very, very good workshop. But Powell's workshop on "Writing the Body" feels a bit risky to me, feels like it might make me write some things I'm afraid to write, feels just a bit scary. So that's the one I signed up for. I will need to let go of my expectations, because I will not have the same experience I had last summer. But I know I will be challenged, I will spend a week fully alive with the smell of the ocean filling my lungs, I will learn a hell of a lot.

I may blog later about why a workshop on "Writing the Body" feels risky and scary to me. It's a risk I need to take, because I have a tendency to live inside my head a lot and consequently to write very "think-y" poems. Provincetown, where I am so aware of the salt smell and the way the fog feels against my skin and the sounds of the harbor and the scratch of sand inside my shoes, where the light falls in a way it falls nowhere else, is the perfect place for me to work on this.

I could tell I made the right decision because as soon as I told Dorothy to sign me up for Powell's workshop I felt like bouncing in my chair a little bit. It was nice to chat with her for a minute, too -- she remembered me, and told me again how much she liked the poem I read last summer at the student reading (yes, they do know how to butter up the paying customers *grin*) and she told me to look for my picture in the printed catalog I'll be receiving soon. (Meep!) --And thanks to Carol for pointing out that my picture is on page 14 of the "FAWC News 2006" newsletter! I was sitting in that lovely Adirondack chair in the FAWC courtyard on Friday morning, writing in my journal, wearing a Hawaiian shirt I got in Kihei, Maui and someone stood on the balcony outside the classroom my workshop met in and snapped an aerial view. "Still Life with Poetry Nerd in Courtyard." (Carol, check out page 7, too -- the cookout picture -- did you spot Michael? Sonia Sanchez is there too, and I keep squinting to see if I can make out anyone else...)

I can't possibly afford this. It's foolish for me to be doing this. Stuff like this is why I have no retirement savings and am going to have to seriously consider stepping in front of a Mack truck when I hit seventy or so. But ... it feels absolutely, completely right to be planning this return trip. It's a palpable, physical pull.

Meet me there.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Decisions, decisions.

Well, hell.

Today I got my early-registration information from FAWC for their summer workshops. (Yeah!!) (They always send out bare-bones info to people on their mailing list before they put the schedule & registration up on their website, so we get first dibs.) I'd been more or less thinking I would apply for the Indiana Arts Commission grant to cover the costs of attending a workshop. But ... of COURSE ... the two I'm most interested in doing are in June, and the grant period begins July 1, so I can't apply for the grant for those workshops.

I could do a workshop later in the summer (although I'd still have to register, reserve housing, probably even buy a plane ticket, all before I knew for sure whether I'd gotten the grant or not). But ... I stopped for a minute and really listened to what I've been saying for the past couple of days, which is, "I'll just put the workshop stuff on my credit card and if I don't get the grant, well, I'll figure out some way to pay it off."

So, duh. I should just do that ANYway, if I want the workshop badly enough to do that, and apply for the grant for something ELSE that will work out better. Probably an online mentorship thingie. Which would probably fit the grant specs better anyway, because in the workshop I attended the other day they really emphasized that they want the grant to take you a step farther along in your career, not just keep doing what you're already doing. And I've done workshops already, but I've never done a mentorship thingie. And a mentorship thingie would be a very natural way to work towards a (ssshhhhh, don't tell, you'll jinx it!) book manuscript.

So, even though I can't possibly afford it, I think I'm going to call FAWC tomorrow and make reservations for a workshop. And housing, because staying at FAWC is cheaper than most of the B&B's in town, and their housing books up super super fast so if I don't nab it now I'm probably out of luck. And honestly, I'll have several months before it's too late to cancel and get my deposit back, so even if I change my mind, I'm still better off putting down a deposit now.

BUT ... there are two workshops that appeal to me right off the bat (okay, there are probably half a dozen that interest me, but these two particularly). They're both the same week (the week of June 18th). One is "Revision: Art and Strategy" with Carl Phillips. The other is "Writing the Body" with D.A. Powell. Now, D.A. Powell's workshop last summer was (as anyone who was reading this blog back then knows) a tremendous experience for me; I'd go so far as to say it was one of the best weeks of my life, and that Powell was the best teacher I have ever had. So do I sign up for another week with him? If the week is less than mind-blowing for whatever reason, what a letdown. And last summer was just a perfect confluence of me being in the right space, the right people in the class, the right poems showing up to be written, the right weather, the right teacher -- chances are, nothing's going to live up to that standard. But, he's a damned good teacher and I'm sure it would be a good workshop no matter what. On the other hand, working with somebody new would be good (maybe I've already learned what I have to learn from Powell?), revision would be a very worthwhile thing for me to work on, and I have a gut instinct that Phillips might be a really good teacher for me. And I'd still get to hear Powell read, and hopefully get a chance to hang with him a bit and catch up.

Ugh, decisions, decisions. I could also go later in the summer and do a revision workshop with Martha Rhodes, who I met at IUWC last summer and liked quite a bit. Or I could apply to get into Marie Howe's advanced poetry workshop (and if I didn't get in, Cleopatra Mathis is doing a revision workshop that week, and Mark Wunderlich is teaching that week too, so I could just take one of those instead and not have to change housing/air reservations). Major Jackson is doing a workshop called "Doorways: A Poetry Workshop" which sounds intriguing though I might ask the FAWC folks to read me the full description before I would sign up for it. Marie Ponsot is teaching at the end of August, but that's a bad time to take off work so it's probably out of the question. Oh, and Thomas Sayers Ellis has one called "A Risk in Every Room" and since I am fascinated with the idea of risk in poetry and what it can mean or not mean, that intrigues me.

But I am fond of June in P-town, and I'm inclined right now to go with either Phillips or Powell.

Any thoughts, input, ouija board suggestions would be MOST welcome. (Carol! I'd especially love to hear from you on this.) I think I'm gonna call them tomorrow and make the reservations, but switching from one to the other in the same week is not a problem if the other one isn't full yet, so even if you're late to the party, I'd be glad to hear your opinion. Yes, you.

The fact that I can't possibly afford this, that it is completely irresponsible of me to even think about it, makes it a little more exciting. :P


My poetry group had our holiday meeting tonight. We usually bring more food than for a regular meeting (and more festive food), and we usually exchange small gifts although this year we each made a donation to charity in the name of the group instead, and we usually bring poems by others to share instead of critiquing our own. I read "Octopus in the Freezer" by our own Artichoke Heart. They loved it, although Anya said "boy, that's a mind I wouldn't want to be inside for more than a few minutes." (She meant it in a good way, though!)


The next person to ask me whether I've got my Christmas shopping finished yet gets decked. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Come out and play

I love all the houses on Po-Blog Avenue. If you haven't added one yet -- you are welcome in this neighborhood! It really isn't about creating something beautiful or being the best artist... and I think it is so good, especially for those of us who work hard to be "good" at some art or other, to just go play and not care about being any good. It is hard (at least for some of us) (ok, at least for me) to let go of wanting to do it well, and just play -- that's why I hardly ever pick up my guitar anymore, don't draw or paint (things I did all the time in high school or so, and which I really miss sometimes) -- what is really hard is to take that playful sense back to poetry and just screw around with words, to let go of the reins and stop worrying about whether what I'm writing is any good or not. And of course, when I let myself play, that's when I come up with something unexpected -- that's when I am ambushed by language and manage to write something nobody else would have thought to write.

So if you don't draw a house, take some time in the near future to just go play with art or creativity of some sort. Get a jar of Play-Doh and make a dog sculpture. Build a snow fort. Finger paint. Play Christmas carols on the kazoo. Get out that old guitar and bash away at it like some rock star and open up your mouth and sing, even if you're not Bono. Or even if you are.

Today I attended a Verious Serious Meeting of Very Serious Artists -- I guess that's why the rant above. Someone from the Indiana Arts Commission came to our arts center downtown to talk to interested artists about the IAC's Individual Artist Grant program. As it turns out, the fiscal-year timing may make it logistically difficult for me to try to get money for a writing workshop, since grant awards are announced in mid- to late June and most of the workshops I want to attend are in, say, July. I'd have to go ahead and sign up for the workshop and pay for it on my credit card and hope like heck I get the grant (and funds aren't disbursed until fall or so anyway) and then if I didn't, either cancel the workshop (tricky if I've had to buy plane tickets or make reservations at a B&B with a stinky cancellation policy) or just go and, I don't know, pay off the credit card eventually. Another possibility might be to ask for funding for a more private writing retreat, a cabin in the woods somewhere, time and space I would use to finally put my alleged book manuscript together. I can think of a few other possibilities, too. Or maybe I could just move into one of y'all's houses on Po-Blog Avenue. :)

And I am probably jinxing it anyway by talking about applying, just like the job I told a bunch of people I was applying for and then didn't even get an interview. (And rightly so, I might add; the two people who did get interviews were way more qualified than I was.)

So I have a lot to think about with this grant thing, but I'm glad they did this workshop, as I have a much more solid sense of how to frame a project so that it will be more "grantable." And I think I'm going to be able to come up with a project that will work with the parameters of this thing. My Tax Dollars At Work.

(In fairness, I do know a couple of people who've had real problems with these grants. I am hoping that my many years of working in one of the bigger administrative offices on campus have taught me enough about navigating bureaucracy to help me wade through this process or at least be patient with the muck and mire. We shall see. It is, after all, the State of Indiana, which means everything's bound to be a bit more convoluted than necessary.)

I swear I had something else I wanted to write about, but maybe not.

It's cold outside.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Welcome to the neighborhood...

So here's the game.

Go to this link right here. Draw a house. When you finish, you can take a silly little personality quiz. And then you can see your house, along with other bloggers' houses, by visiting Po-Blog Avenue.

(You have to use the first link to draw your house, and not the second one, otherwise your house won't be on Po-Blog Avenue with the rest of us, and we'll accuse you of being an isolationist.)

Get as creative as I know y'all can be. ;) (We did this today in an online community where I spend too much time. A lot of the buildings kind of refer to various community in-jokes, but you can see our little street over at Eschwa Street. Just to give you an example of how silly you can get with this.)

Build your house, move in, kick your feet up ... yes, that's a cat in my front window, purring happily away! And no, I can't draw worth crap, especially using the touchpad on my laptop. Obviously, artistic skill is not required here. *grin*

Friday, December 09, 2005

Grant writing, or, Your tax dollars at work

Next week I'm going to go to a workshop offered at our local arts center, aimed at helping people get Individual Artist Grants from the Indiana Arts Commission. There isn't a whole heck of a lot of money given out to artists in this state, but this is a nice little program that provides up to a thousand dollars for people to pursue specific projects -- including things like traveling to workshops. If I can get one of these, I can go to a workshop in Provincetown again next summer, something I don't think I'm going to be able to afford otherwise. ($1000 won't cover all of the expenses -- travel, workshop tuition, lodging, meals, cat sitter, airport parking -- but it would cover tuition and lodging, and maybe travel, so it would make it possible where it wouldn't be possible without the grant.) A friend of mine got one of these grants last year, so I know that writing workshops are something they are known to fund, and I think I've been published more than she has so hopefully the fact that she got one means I can get one too. Although she's got a lot more grant writing experience than I do, and that matters.

I'm happy that the Waldron is providing an informational workshop to help guide me through this process, and I'm glad that I'm able to take a couple hours off work to go attend it, but I think I need all the help I can get, so I'll gratefully accept any advice about writing grants for this kind of thing, if any of you have experience with it!

Monday, December 05, 2005


I am watching a documentary on our local PBS station, in which the Beaux Arts Trio is playing Beethoven (the documentary is in honor of the 50th anniversary of the trio). In addition to making me wish I had set the VCR for this one (confidential to Miz Loudon: WTIU is going to be releasing this documentary to other PBS stations in March; call yours up and see if they're getting it, 'cause you would love it), it is making me think about the concept of virtuosity. A friend of mine (and fellow poet) has written a book about virtuosity in the performing arts; I haven't read it, but I wonder what (if anything) constitutes virtuosity in poetry? Or does the concept of virtuosity apply only to performance (and if so, can performance poetry have virtuosity)?


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Nice news and a question

Cortland Review sent an acceptance for my poem "One Goose" tonight. Yay! Don't know yet when it will appear.

Does anyone know what's up with Rock Salt Plum Review? I sent them some poems back in May, and now their website just says "sorry, the site you requested has been disabled."

Freezing rain outside -- I am very glad I don't have to go anywhere in the morning. Apparently a whole section of I-70 in Indianapolis has been shut down because it's just too slick to drive. Yep, it's winter.

Here's your daily dose of cuteness: my two boys playing Rassle-Mania on the couch. I should take wagers and sell tickets.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Crazy Quilt a success

Tonight was the Crazy Quilt of Bloomington Songs performance, and as far as I'm concerned it was a big success. It was fun to see people outside the usual "poetry crowd" showing up for a poetry-related event, and the singers & pianist were spot-on with their performances. The poems were divided into groups of three or occasionally just two; all the poets in that small grouping would go up "onstage" together, and each stood at the podium to read while the others sat in chairs, then the musicians performed those pieces while the poets stayed up front. After the three (or two) pieces were performed the musicians & poets all took a bow, and the poets returned to the audience while the next group of poets came onstage. It sounds complicated but it worked really well. My poem was paired with one by Roger Pfingston, who's been a fixture on the Bloomington poetry scene as long as I can remember, and I think the two poems worked really well together.

The poets were given corsages (a single rose, with white ribbon for the ladies) at the door, which was a sweet touch. And at the end there were fabulous brownies and cookies, and no end of congratulations all 'round. I think this was one of the most fun poetry experiences I've ever had, for a number of reasons -- the collaborative aspect, the opportunity to hear some nifty new music, the "outreach" to people who might not normally attend a poetry reading (or, similarly, people who might not normally attend a performance of 21st-century "serious music"), and don't forget those fabulous brownies. *grin* Hey, I'll trade a poem for a rose, a brownie, and an evening's entertainment anytime -- that's more than one usually gets for poems!

The performance was videotaped by our local cable-access channel, so hopefully I'll be able to record it when it airs. And Lee Chapman (the composer) is talking about recording this work to CD, which I hope does happen, as I'd love to hear the pieces again. He did a good job, I think, of not overpowering the words with the music; the words didn't seem secondary to the music, nor vice-versa, which in my experience is not always the case with poetry/music collaborations. Another thing I particularly enjoyed about the evening was that the contributing poets spanned a wide range of experience -- some were fairly new poets who hadn't read in public much; some were about like me, published here & there but not well-known or anything; a few better-known poets were included, like Catherine Bowman and A Loudermilk (whose poem, "Kicked Dog," was one of my favorites). All in all, I'm tickled that my "little poem that could" was a part of this thing.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Dress rehearsal

Tonight was the dress rehearsal for the Crazy Quilt of Bloomington Songs performance. Some of the poets weren't there, but those of us who were read our poems, and the musicians performed all of them. There are three musicians performing: a pianist, a soprano, and a baritone. Most of the poems are sung by only one of the singers, although both of them perform the last one on the program. My poem ("Door") is sung by the soprano, Virginia LeBlanc, whose voice is just gorgeous; I chatted with her briefly after the rehearsal and found out that she is in the final year of her doctorate at the IU School of Music (generally considered to be one of the best music schools in the country), and the morning after the performance she's headed for an audition in NYC. So, yeah, she's a wee bit talented. :) It is something else, hearing my words coming out of the mouth of such a talented singer. Some of the pieces worked better than others, of course, but none of them seemed to me to be clunkers, and some of the settings brought out entirely new layers of meaning in the poems. It was neat to hear. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's performance.