Friday, December 29, 2006

Countdown to the new

A hearty welcome to not-exactly-new blogger Timothy Green, who is a fine poet & editor. Stop by his place and say hi!

* * * * *

Hard to remember, in this unseasonably warm weather, that the end of the year is practically upon us. Resolutions, anyone?

I have several goals for the new year, which are for the most part not so much quantifiable achievements as changes in the way I look at things. We'll see how that works out. For one thing, I want to pay attention to what's truly important and remember to make space for it.

I think the cats have resolved to take more naps. That's actually kind of a great resolution, when you think about it. (Bear is fulfilling said resolution even as we speak, sacked-out on his back next to me here on the couch. What a life.)

* * * * *

Today I went to the Starbucks down the road from me to splurge on a white chocolate mocha and read Charlie's chapbook. (I'd read many of the poems before, but reading them in the context of the whole collection definitely adds something. Good stuff.) I was wearing a t-shirt from the Pacific Whale Foundation on Maui, and the cashier guy commented on it, said he'd seen dolphins once but had never seen a whale in the wild and really wanted to. That started me thinking about how lucky I am, in my life. I may drive a 15-year-old rusty car and live in a little bitty falling-apart house, but I have seen whales in the wild, have looked around to find myself surrounded by them, can summon up the sound of humpbacks breathing in my memory. In a lot of ways I guess I don't have much, but what I've got is good. It's a good life. I feel lucky to be able to say that.

Luck to all y'all in the new year!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry and bright

This year, for some reason, I am feeling particularly grateful for this odd little virtual community here. I've never met most of you who read and comment on this blog (and whose blogs I read and comment on), and probably will never meet many of you. But a bunch of you have come to feel like a real presence in my life, voices I look forward to hearing from every so often. I've been introduced to some damn good poets and poems, and some of you make me laugh a heck of a lot.
Many thanks, friends. And whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I hope this winter day finds you in a warm, comfortable, well-fed place, with people you care about.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A very merry


Santa Bear
Originally uploaded by land mammal.
Ho ho ho! Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, you gotta love a jolly Santa Cat. Unless, of course, you are a mouse.

(And no, this isn't photoshopped or anything -- Bear was happy to pose with a little hat perched on top of his head. He's, uh, not a particularly tense sort of guy.)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Because it's there

Most climbers who are killed on Mt. Everest die on the way down from the summit.

Which just goes to show you something about focusing on accomplishment rather than paying attention to the entirety of the process.

Of course this post is about poetry. Aren't they all?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Two weeks left...

...in the year. Two weeks. It's hard to fathom.

I've racked up more acceptances/publications this year than in any year past, which is nice. I had more writing breakthroughs last year, though, and the writing feels far more important than the publishing -- so my sense of accomplishment isn't quite as strong as it was this time last year. (Though I do suspect it's no coincidence to have writing breakthroughs one year and publication the next!) I hope that 2007 will be another strong writing year, whatever happens -- or doesn't -- with publication.

I've got some plans for next year -- some thoughts on how I can work to push my writing to the next level, push to a larger place. I want to think about my body of work, about what I might be doing (or trying to do -- or might start trying to do) that is larger than any individual poem.

Man, that sounds pretentious, huh? It makes more sense inside my head. Trust me on that.

And you -- what plans do you have for the next year? How will you push on to the next level? What can you do that you haven't done before? How will you continue to challenge yourself and your art?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Such a deal...

Prairie Schooner is giving away a free book with each subscription (new or renewal) while supplies last, your choice of Famous by Kathleen Flenniken or Nocturnal America by John Keeble. Since I'd already had Famous on my wishlist and had been thinking about subscribing to Prairie Schooner (it's one of the journals I subscribe to off and on), I figured it was a sign that I needed to buy myself a present.

I must think I have been a very good girl this year, considering how many presents I've bought myself lately. Poetry books, mostly. Hey, someone has to keep people like Rebecca and Ivy and Suzanne in business!

Anyway, here's the link, in case you've been a good girl/boy/other and deserve some presents too (and happen to like this kind of stuff).

Now I need to print out the packet o'poems I've been putting together & get it ready to mail out tomorrow. I'm trying to get a few packets shipped out before the holidays, just to have them out there. Mainly I just don't want to get out of the habit -- when sending stuff out starts to feel like a big deal one way or the other, and not something as routine as paying bills, that's when I put it off and don't get around to doing it.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Triple Breach

I am watching a documentary about humpback whales, which I taped several weeks ago from the Science Channel. Susan Sarandon narrates it, which makes it maybe ten times better than a normal whale show. There is a moment where three whales breach at once, leaping out of the Alaskan water, one of them flying up so high even the tips of its tail flukes clear the surface. I just now watched that bit six times, hitting the back button and watching them leap backwards and submerge, the back and forth arc, stitching the sea with the great curve of the breach.

Did you know a whale's heart beats only five or six times a minute? And it is the size of a Volkswagen, that great slow heart. A small child could easily crawl through its aorta.

Today I was supposed to run errands. I stopped at CVS and bought some things, but then I was hungry so I went to the Village Deli for a Paxton's Patty Melt (a grilled chicken breast with delicious grilled onions, lots of melty Swiss cheese, bacon, and some kind of orangey Thousand Island-ish sauce, all between slices of perfectly-toasted rye bread) and some of their wonderful fresh hot potato chips. I started reading Radish King and before I knew it I had my journal out on the table and I was writing a poem, the first one I've written in almost a month. Rebecca's poetry is more contagious than the plague. (And, while I've never had the plague so I don't know for sure, I suspect the poetry is a lot more fun.)

It was starting to get a little dark by then, and I wanted something hot to drink, so I walked over to Soma but they were closed so the staff could have a bowling party. So I went over to Starbucks where I had a white chocolate mocha, finished my poem (well... finished the first draft anyhow), finished reading Radish King, then watched a little boy pick up a snow globe while his parents paid for their coffee, then wrote another poem, this one about a broken snow globe.

And then it was dark and cold and it was Sunday night, which means laundry, so I came home.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Have you seen this?

Just the fact that this book exists makes me giggle with delight: The Rap Canterbury Tales.

I haven't read it -- our library has it, but it's apparently checked out at the moment -- but since, like all good English majors, I was forced to read the original Canterbury Tales until I wished the English language had never been invented, I think I am going to have to get my hands on it at some point. Hee! Have any of you seen it? Is it as amusing as it should be?

Also, Lee Chapman (the composer who set my little poem "Door" to music last year) has written a sorta-kinda Christmas song called "Don't Tell Mom," which you can hear on his Myspace. (It should start playing automagically; if, like me, you have a slow-ass dialup connection that does not play nicely with streaming audio, you can hit the "Download" link and it will eventually make its way to your computer where you can listen to it using your audio player of choice.) It starts out funny, but in the end it doesn't go in the direction I thought it was going to go.... Worth a listen, anyhow.

(And you can see his picture here too! Sorry boys, he's taken. ;)

I suppose I should join Myspace at some point, but I'm avoiding it.

Work is nuts, and my to-do list is out of control in my unpaid life as well. I miss writing. After Christmas I will have a few days free, and I am planning a veritable orgy of reading and writing, and napping in the sun with a cat or two sprawled out on top of me. I'm really very much in denial about how close to Christmas it is already. This is the last week of classes at the university here (next week is finals week); today when I came in to work I heard some poor student in the middle of the library proclaiming, "I haven't been outside in 23 hours!" Perhaps it really wasn't any favor to the students to make the library be open 24/7. They've gotta go outside SOMEtime, right? Heh.

Friday, December 01, 2006

December 1: World AIDS Day

Support World AIDS Day

In memory, in solidarity, and with hope.


red ribbon

UNAIDS | AVERT | The Quilt | WHO | GMHC | WAC | ACT UP

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wuv, Twoo Wuv...


Lovey cats
Originally uploaded by land mammal.
It's been a while since I posted a shot of my two boys. Cute, huh? Of course, thirty seconds later they turned into Sumo Kitties.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

You think it's funny, but it's snot

Recovering, finally, from a yucky cold. It is mind-boggling how much mucus one human body can produce. And that's all I'll say about that.

* * * * *

This is good.

* * * * *

Need a cat? I stumbled across this gorgeous boy who is currently at Rescue Farm in south-central Indiana. He looks almost EXACTLY like my Honey Bear. I've seen cats who looked kinda like Bear before, but this guy could be his twin. He's a bit smaller, but then he's only 8 months old and probably has some growing to do. (He's already a big boy though -- look at the size of those paws!) If his personality is as much like Bear's as his appearance is, he is perfect. Sure hope he finds a really good home.

Why I look at shelter websites when I am not looking for a cat, I don't know. I like to torment myself, I guess.

* * * * *

Working up a proposal for an Individual Artist Grant through the Indiana Arts Commission. I don't want to jinx it by describing what I have in mind, and it's terribly competitive (more so this year than ever before as they're giving larger, but fewer, grants). Suffice it to say that should they decide to award me a grant, I'm going to be one very busy -- but very happy -- poet between July 2007 and June 2008.

* * * * *
I think I'm going to try to go back out to Provincetown for another summer workshop next year. Anyone want to join me? I'll let y'all know when I know who's teaching what, but it's a safe bet that there will be at least five workshops I would love to do....

* * * * *

You know what I love? I love when y'all blog about what you do on retreats and at colonies and suchlike. Also I like reading about the putting together of manuscripts. I am fascinated by how writers go about approaching projects, I guess. I am fascinated by the writing process in general. Sometimes I like thinking about the process more than I like actually engaging in it. That's not so good, huh?

* * * * *

Word that's making me giggle for no reason lately: iterative.

* * * * *

Odd Things Recently Seen, Automotive Dept:
  • A Prius with Republican bumper stickers
  • A big old SUV with an environmental license plate
  • A burned-out Hummer by the side of the road. It looked like an engine fire or something; we saw the fire trucks and the tow truck and waited in traffic until we were able to pass, and we never saw any ambulance, so one assumes nobody was injured. The whole engine compartment was burned up and the front seats were pretty thoroughly torched -- very impressive!
* * * * *

Quote o'the day:

"My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything. The perfect day: riding a bike to the library."
--Peter Golkin

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Gobble!

A very happy Thanksgiving to one and all. Whatever it is that counts as "a feast" for you, edible or otherwise, may you have it in abundance!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Achoo!

1. A particularly good mail day today. Evidence as follows:
a) Radish King by Rebecca Loudon
b) Love Poem to Androgyny by Stacey Waite
Both arrived snuggled up in little manila-colored envelopes and are waiting to be read. (I keep dipping into Radish King for a line or a stanza or a page. Tantalizing!)

2. Home today with a bad cold that greeted me upon awakening Saturday morning. Not quite of Martian Death Flu proportions, just a cold, but yuck. Normally I'd be on the reference desk working the late shift this evening, which I enjoy, so I am bummed to be home. Worried now about how to get everything done that needs to get done before leaving town for Thanksgiving. Oh well.

3. Odwalla "Citrus C Monster" fruit-juice smoothies have 2000% of the minimum RDA of vitamin C in one 15.2 ounce bottle. Expensive, but yum.

And now it is time to nap again.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The days are just packed

It's been an eventful week in the Land o'Anne.

Last night my poetry group met -- well, the three of us who were able to make it, anyhow. We chatted and ate for a while, then critiqued some poems. While talking about mine, Tonia and Deborah got into this big discussion about whether it is necessary to actively, purposefully engage with the world in order to be bound to it, or whether just being alive and breathing is enough. Isn't that one of the big things theologists argue about -- whether you have to earn grace or redemption or whatever, or whether you just get it thanks to being human? Anyway, I was musing about this sort of thing myself not so long ago, about whether one has to accomplish something lasting in order for one's life to really matter, so I was kind of tickled that my poem took them in that direction.

(On the preview for tonight's late news, they just said the words "flurries" and "tonight" in the same sentence. Excuse me while I cringe a bit.)

Today I left work a little early and went to the arts center downtown for a workshop about applying for Individual Artist Grants from the Indiana Arts Commission. I went to this workshop last year, but never got the application in because the due date was Feb. 1 and I had the Martian Death Flu most of January, and had absolutely no energy after working all day and stuff. They've changed the program this year: instead of giving out about 80 $1000 grants, they will be giving out about 40 $2000 grants. (Unless they can weasel some additional funding out of the state legislature, which would thrill me, but I'm not holding my breath.) I am determined to get an application in this year. I have some ideas for a project. (And a shout out to Lee, who was also there, and who I know is reading this!)

A bit later in the evening I found myself back at the arts center again for a reading by Major Jackson. The room was full of MFA students and similar sorts, and absolutely nobody I knew. For a number of years I felt really intimidated by that kind of atmosphere, like I wasn't legitimate somehow, wasn't supposed to be there. I missed a lot of good readings because I just didn't want to deal with it. It's partly because I'm older and surer of myself, and partly because I'm writing more and better now than I was then, that I don't feel that way anymore. I figure I am at least as committed to poetry as anyone else in the room, which gives me a right to be there. Or something like that anyway.

Anyway, Jackson's reading was good. He talks a lot between poems, which I enjoy when the person is engaging and funny, as he is. I wasn't terribly familiar with his work, but I liked a lot of what I heard and I'll probably get his books out of the library. I'd thought about hanging around afterwards and maybe asking him a few questions about Bennington, since he teaches there, but he was being swarmed by bright-eyed MFA students and I decided to leave. Good reading, though. I'm glad I went.

(He mentioned Cave Canem's 10th anniversary. The more I find out about that organization, the cooler I think it is -- and it has supported & encouraged a number of poets I'm very glad to have had the opportunity to read. Even though I'm obviously never going to benefit directly from it, I'm awfully grateful for the work these folks do & the community they've created. I wonder what we queer poets can learn from them about community-building?)

Tomorrow I'm going to an all-day conference thingie in Columbus, Indiana for work -- about an hour away. It should be pretty interesting, and it will be nice to be out of the library for a day.

Then Saturday I'm going to a birthday party for a friend's two-year-old twins (the next time you think you're losing your mind, contemplate that concept for a moment -- two-year-old twins -- and maybe you'll feel saner by comparison!), then meeting up with a poet friend to give her some quotes for an article she's writing about the Bloomington poetry scene.

Yep, it's a busy week around here. And now if you'll excuse me, I have a rather large cat explaining that his tummy needs to be rubbed RIGHT NOW.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Again, no cigar

"Although we have decided against using this manuscript, we were interested in it and would be glad to see more of your work."

This from a journal that's probably in the top five journals I would love to get an acceptance from. Y'all, how long should I wait before I send to them again? I'm thinking maybe as soon as the first of the year; does that sound reasonable? (Yes, that falls within their stated reading period. I could also wait longer and still be okay, reading-period-wise.)

Indiana Daily Student article on Merwin reading


The Indiana Daily Student (the student newspaper) put the Merwin reading on the front page of Tuesday's paper! Check out the article. They quoted some shady character towards the end, too.

I'm having some Blogger issues. I'm able to get to my blog via links to individual posts, or using the URL http://landmammal.blogspot.com/index.html. But if I try to go to the usual URL (http://landmammal.blogspot.com/) I get an error message. I don't know if anyone else is having trouble; I seem to be able to see everyone else's blog just fine, so maybe I broke something. Maybe nobody will ever see this post. Sigh.

[Edited later to add: Blogger issues seem to be resolved. Not sure what was up, or down as the case may be, but you know how Blogger is.]

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

From last night

I'll leave this up until about midnight tonight. It's very much a rough draft.


...and, it's gone. Poof!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Merwin

W.S. Merwin read -- well, spoke and read -- on campus today. I think it was one of the best readings I've ever been to. There was a short interview-type chat with the faculty member who introduced him -- I say "short" but I think it was actually about 40 minutes -- with questions that were open-ended enough to let him go on in whatever direction he wanted. He talked about his anti-war politics, mortality, solitude, poetry, the environment -- you know, little superficial issues. *grin* Then he read for about another 40-45 minutes or so (I think; I was not moved at any point to look at my watch). He read poems in chronological order, from some pretty early stuff up through the body of work covered in Migration, then a good handful of new poems, including a couple of elegies that just took my breath away.

I hadn't heard him read before, and he is a fine reader; he doesn't get in the way of the poems at all, doesn't get all over-dramatic about it, but his reading definitely adds something that the poems don't have on the page. And he reads at just the right speed and tone to allow the words to sink in. I could have listened to him for hours, except it would have filled my brain up way too much, and my heart, and I would have had to implode or something.

Some of what he said before the reading part -- this is going to sound weird and maybe pretentious or something -- but, completely unexpectedly, it set my brain off spinning around with ideas about my book. You know, the one I've been claiming to be working on for the last, oh, five years or so? I suddenly understood a little bit more about my own project, and where I want to go with it (or where it was already going, just tugging at the leash and waiting for me to hurry up and come along), and a glimmer of what might be an entire new section that I'm going to have to write.

And his poems ... you know, I've always been aware of Merwin, obviously, and have read him in bits and pieces, but I've never really immersed myself in his work. I think you come to poets when you're ready for them, and I have a strong, strong feeling that it's time for me to come to Merwin. I think I have a lot to learn from him.

And this is incredibly superficial, but the man does NOT look his age, no how, no way. He was born in 1927 and I would have pegged him as mid-sixties, at most. I'm bad at guessing ages, but really, the man is positively radiant or something. I guess that's what living in Hawaii will do for you, huh?

I don't listen to poetry well. Oftentimes at readings my mind wanders, and I catch a turn of phrase or a tone that I enjoy, and that's good enough. I shouldn't admit this, but it's true. So it's really quite rare for me to find myself riveted to a reading like I was tonight, swimming in the words, literally almost forgetting to breathe now and then, on the verge of tears a couple of times not because the poems were sad so much as that I was just ... moved.

And I'm not really sure just what it was about Merwin, or about his poems, that had this effect on me. All I know is, I'm awfully glad I left work a half-hour early and walked across campus to be there. Because tonight, I remember what poetry can do. And I'm feeling deeply grateful for that.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Thomas Merton Foundation 2007 contest

The Thomas Merton Foundation has announced the judge and complete guidelines for their 2007 "Poetry of the Sacred" contest. Coleman Barks is this year's judge, and you can get the guidelines here (pdf document). Deadline is Dec. 31, top prize is $500, and there is NO ENTRY FEE.

I will say that I am not altogether unbiased about this contest, as my poem "O" got one of the three honorable mention awards in the 2006 contest. It's a really good contest, though; they came through with the results right on schedule, called me on the phone to give me the news, posted the winner & honorable mentions on their website right away, sent my check very quickly, and sent me 4 contributor's copies of the print publication when it was available. It's a very professionally-run contest. And their definition of "poetry of the sacred" is very broad -- definitely not just poems about religion or God or anything like that. (I mean, my poem was about "ooh, lookit the whale, how cool!") You can read all the past winners and honorable mentions on their website. There's some excellent stuff there.

So send them a poem if you've got something that seems to fit! Good luck to one and all. :)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Two weeks to turkey

W.S. Merwin is reading here on campus Monday. Note to self: arrange to take off work early so I can get across campus by 5:00 for the reading. I'm not as familiar with his work as I should be, but I definitely want to go hear him.

Last night I went to a small concert in the local lefty-indie bookstore (the one where my poetry group read a couple months ago), by the singer-songwriter Pamela Means. Saturday night I'll be going to a concert by the singer-songwriter Ferron. I think we have a trend here.

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic about this week's election results, although it concerns me that so many of the Democrats who won are actually quite conservative, especially on social issues. And of course it bothers me that so many anti-gay-marriage amendments passed. Not that I'm likely to get married anytime soon (or ever), and not that the institution of government-sanctioned marriage isn't problematic to begin with, but it still really rankles. But still ... I'm not gonna miss Donald Rumsfeld one little bit, and "Madame Speaker" has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

The student newspaper on campus ran a nice article today on the "new" Plath poem. Too bad they didn't actually provide a link to Blackbird or anything, you know, helpful like that.

Word today that Hunter O'Hanian, executive director of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, is leaving to take a position with an arts center near Aspen, Colorado. I don't know enough to know whether this is a disaster or no big deal or what, but I do hope they are still on track to get their low-res MFA writing program underway. I'm getting itchy to start sending out applications. (Edited to add a link to the story on FAWC's website.)

Several airlines have some particularly excellent fare sales to Hawaii right now. I've been to Maui twice (2002 and 2004) and I sure hope I get to go again someday, either back to Maui or to one of the other islands. I spotted a fare as low as $406 from Indianapolis to Honolulu on Delta. Sigh! Too bad I don't have $406 to spare.

Two weeks from today is Thanksgiving, already. Can you believe it? Yeah, me neither. Eek! Anyone out there have any exciting plans for the holiday?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Linky bits

Nice article on Marge Piercy (who has just put out a new book of poetry) in this week's Provincetown Banner. I've felt that her last few volumes would have benefited from a heavier editing hand, but Piercy was a huge influence on me once upon a time so I continue to watch what she does with interest. Plus, she's a cat person.

* * * * * * * * * *

Sounds like William Styron lived much as I think I would like to, if I didn't have to have a job and stuff. From the New York Times' lengthy obituary:
... it was an unconventional routine he stuck to: sleep until noon; read and think in bed for another hour or so; lunch with Rose around 1:30; run errands, deal with the mail, listen to music, daydream and generally ease into work until 4. Then up to the workroom to write for four hours, perfecting each paragraph until 200 or 300 words are completed; have cocktails and dinner with the family and friends at 8 or 9; and stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning, drinking and reading and smoking and listening to music.
Honestly? That sounds perfect to me. Except for the smoking part. Doesn't mesh so well with the part where I have to work from 8 to 5 most days, but even if you're never going to get to live that way, I think it's always a good exercise to imagine your ideal life. I can imagine a lot of ideal lives, actually -- none of them perfect. But they all have writing at their center. And none of them involve being a morning person. Funny, that.

* * * * * * * * * *

Boutiques and other non-book retailers are now displaying and selling books as lifestyle accessories. I find this about equally funny, frightening, and oddly appealing.

Hell, if putting a margarita-and-sangria-colored cover on my book (er, if I had a book, that is) would get it into the hands of a few people who might not otherwise buy it, and if some of those people would actually read the thing -- I'm all in favor. Perhaps poetry publishers need to get on this trend, hm?

When I started a writing group many years ago, I put up flyers in bookstores, in the library, in laundromats. Which flyer brought me the most calls? Yep, the one from the laundromat. And the people who called me turned out to be good writers, too. Because even good writers do laundry sometimes. And even good readers go shopping in places other than bookstores, so why not sneak in a few books?

What do y'all think? Ignoring for the moment the fact that these venues would be more likely to stock "lowest common denominator" titles (kind of like what Starbucks has started selling, I guess) --if someone bought your book in a gas station or a trendy clothing store, would you feel weird about it?

* * * * * * * * * *

I put a worldcat.org search box over on the right-hand side of this here bloggity blog. You can use it to look up books and see if they're available at a library near you. Of course, you can also use it to plug in an author or a title and get bibliographic details: publisher, ISBN, sometimes the table of contents. I don't know how useful it will be for anyone, but what the heck -- I'm a library geek so I oughta act like one.

* * * * * * * * * *

Still toying with the idea of going to AWP. If I do, who's gonna buy me a drink? *grin*

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Me and Sylvia Plath

I know I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but: One week from today is Election Day. Please, please vote! And if you can, try to learn something about your smaller local races, too -- City Council, County Commissioners, School Board, whatever you've got where you are. It's important to vote for your Senators and Congresscritters, but the local issues are awfully important, too. I especially try to find out something about my local School Board races, because what's going to change the world more than making sure the kids in your town are getting a good education?

* * * * * * *

A quick Google News search on "Sylvia Plath" tells me that a lot of newspapers & other sources are picking up the story about the newly-discovered Sylvia Plath poem which is set to appear in Blackbird tomorrow. I am so tickled that my poem "Opening the Hive" will appear in the same issue. Not just because Plath was a big influence on me when I first got serious about poetry (though she was), and not just in the selfish hope that the Plath publicity will draw a few more readers for my poem (who knows if that will happen) -- but also because Plath's poem was discovered in the manuscript collections of the Lilly Library, the rare-books library here at Indiana University, where I work -- yep! -- in the library system. In fact, I worked in the Lilly one summer while I was an undergrad, as a page/shelver. I remember coming across some of the books from Plath's library there, and touching them almost reverently. We also have, in addition to a lot of manuscript materials, a set of paper dolls she made when she was young -- and even a lock of her hair, which is a little creepy but whatever.

And not only THAT, but I wrote "Opening the Hive" after reading Marianne Boruch's essay, "Plath's Bees," which I found in Poets Teaching Poets: Self and the World. I wouldn't go so far as to say my poem responds, exactly, to Plath or to Boruch; it was more a case of "ooh! bees! a beehive is a cool image to use in a poem!" -- but the connection is there, nonetheless.

Too cool.

Edited 11-01-06 to add:
Here's a link to Sylvia Plath.
And here's a link to me.

* * * * * * *

Also cool: an email today accepting two of my poems -- both fairly new ones -- for the Fall/Winter 06 issue of Pebble Lake Review. Thanks to Amanda!

* * * * * * *

Happy Halloween to all. If the veil between this world and the next is truly thin tonight -- may that be a source of understanding and inspiration, not fear.

And failing that, at least a good hard sugar coma.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Mary Oliver

Went to the Mary Oliver reading in Indianapolis tonight. On the one hand, how great to see such a huge crowd for a poetry reading -- there were hundreds of people there (I am terrible at estimating crowd size, but Clowes Hall seemed about half full, and I think it has a capacity of 3000). And it looked like a lot of them were buying books. On the other hand, how many of those people will attend even one other poetry reading this year, or buy a book of poetry by somebody else?

I don't like it when I start to feel resentful. In my defense, I already hadn't been feeling well, which I'm sure contributed to my little bout of crankiness. A few years ago, I went to a show by the singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick, in a local bar; there were maybe 50 people there, not a horrible turnout, but not a packed house either. Two nights later Ani DiFranco gave a concert on campus, and Melissa had enough of a gap in her schedule that she was able to stick around, so she got tickets and went to the concert. (I actually ran into her there, and she remembered me from having chatted with me at her own show, and gave me a big grin and a hug -- which made my night.) I kept stealing glances over in Melissa's direction during Ani's show, and she looked sort of down and cranky, and she left early, and I didn't really understand why. Tonight, I think I understood the little "where were all these people two nights ago?" voice that must have been muttering inside her head as she sat in that packed and cheering auditorium watching somebody else get to be the rockstar.

The reading was ... well, I hadn't heard her read before, but I didn't feel particularly surprised by what she read or how she read it. I was a bit surprised by a couple of genuinely funny poems, both from her new book -- she has some poems about her little dog Percy that are just priceless. One of them involves Donald Rumsfeld. Oh, go to the library and look it up for yourself. :) The other thing that surprised me was that the instant she stepped behind the podium, she nearly disappeared. Apparently, um, she's not particularly tall. Whenever she was looking down at her paper, we could pretty much just see her from the nose up. When she looked up, we could see her whole face. It was like watching a poetry reading by Kilroy Was Here. I spent a lot of time listening with my eyes closed, because it was actually kind of distracting!

I asked the friends I'd driven up with whether they wanted to go get in line for autographs, and none of them did. I hadn't been able to decide if I wanted to buy a book and get it signed or not -- I kind of did and kind of didn't -- so when my friends weren't interested, I decided to bag the autograph line and just head home. Then I saw the line. Holy cow, I bet it was going to take her at least 90 minutes to get through that whole thing.

It's funny -- the reading, and the entire atmosphere surrounding it, made me think of so much I love about the poetry world and so much I can't stand about it, all at once. So many people there were loving the reading, were so happy to be there; it was a really nice atmosphere. And while Oliver's never been a lesbian activist or anything, she's never been closeted either (that I'm aware of) -- most or all of her books have been dedicated to her partner, who died last year -- and frankly it gives me a little bit of a warm fuzzy anytime I see someone who's not straight getting that much adoration. (Call it the Martina Navratilova Effect.) And, yes, I do like much of her work. I won't deny that her work is generally more comforting and reaffirming than challenging, and if that means her work fails by a certain set of definitions, well all right then; working from another set of expectations, her work is a rousing success. But the whole poetry-superstar thing makes me so uncomfortable, and I don't think it is good for poetry.

Anyway, my thoughts are muddled, and I am tired. It's raining outside, and Joni Mitchell is singing "My Old Man" on my tv (I love VH-1 Classic). I spent over two hours in a small car with four other people, with at least two different conversations going on at any given moment, and I spent another hour in a very crowded room listening to poetry and being distracted by my own self-indulgent internal mutterings. It's time for me to be quiet for a little while, and then it's time for me to sleep.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Thanks, y'all.

The Indigo Girls concert Monday night was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. I was front row, a little to the left (Amy's side of the stage); sometimes the sound is kind of crappy from the very front, but the sound was pretty good this time. There were so many nice moments. The opening band, Three5Human -- which takes its name from the historical fact that not so very long ago, here in the U.S., Black human beings were officially counted as 3/5 of a human being -- was AMAZING. The lead singer, Trina Meade, has the perfect rock'n'roll voice, huge and full of heart (think Janis Joplin meets Tina Turner); the guitarist, Tomi Martin, plays these awesome rip-your-face-off licks and makes it look effortless. Trina joined Amy & Emily onstage for their old old song "Kid Fears" and I got more goosebumps than I've gotten from music in a long time, and during the encore Trina & Tomi joined them for "Tether" -- all I can say is, if you think Indigo Girls are nice little acoustic folkies, you should have been there with those three electric guitars wailing to the heavens.

It made me think that everyone should have work to do that makes them feel that alive.

Afterwards, a small group of us waited around outside to say hello to Amy & Emily and get quick autographs. They are very very good to their fans and nearly always take the time to greet the hard-core hanger-outers at least briefly, even when (like they were this time) they're tired and it's cold. While we were waiting, Carol Isaacs (their keyboard player) came around and offered us all chocolates, really good ones too. (I love her!) The Indigo Girls appreciate their fans, and make a point of saying so, more than any other musicians I can think of at their level of well-knownitude. Every time I see them it's like they are actually surprised, and very pleased, that we all know the words to many of their songs and that we stand and dance along or sit and listen intently. "Wow. Thanks, y'all!" It's so endearing.

It makes me think that none of us do our creative work in a vacuum; that we are all in conversation with whatever audience we imagine, and with our peers and our influences; that being listened to (or read) is an amazing gift; that on a good day it is a very, very lucky thing just to be alive.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Blustery bits

It's cold and blustery outside, wind blowing bright yellow leaves across the still-green lawns. (Well, I assume about the yellow and the green -- the colors were there a couple of hours ago, but now it's dark out.) I have finally given in and turned on the heat. Sigh.

Busy week upcoming -- Indigo Girls concert tomorrow night, Mary Oliver reading Thursday night -- both in the same venue, Clowes Hall on the Butler University campus in Indianapolis, just under two hours from where I live. I haven't seen the Indigo Girls for two years (though I caught Amy Ray's solo show last year) so it will be very good to see them again. Besides the fact that I love their music and admire their political activism, Amy & Emily are two of the nicest human beings you could ever hope to meet -- which makes it all the more fun to support them. The other night in Toronto, they had to leave the stage mid-encore because the venue had a very strict curfew with a huge fine they'd have to pay for breaking it. So what did they do? Why, they got their guitars and they went outside and they played their usual last song, "Galileo," in the street for those fans who had stuck around. Someone even put a video of it up on Google Video (I think that link should work). It's kind of dark, and mostly what you hear is the crowd cheering and singing along, but still, how cool!

I am looking forward to Mary Oliver's reading, too. I know a lot of poets nowadays don't care for her, but I like her well enough, and I've never heard her read before. I glanced through her new book in one of our mega-chain bookstores last week, and there's a lot of God stuff in it, which makes me uneasy; she's always written about religious-ish stuff, of course, but she hasn't in the past said "God" quite so directly quite so often. Oh well. She just lost her partner of many many years not that long ago, and I guess if anything will send a person to religion, that sort of thing probably will.

Eduardo notes that Blackbird will be including a previously-unpublished Sylvia Plath poem in their November issue. The last I'd heard was that they were still negotiating the specifics of the rights, so I'm pleased to know that it's really going to happen. All the more so because my own poem "Opening the Hive" will be in the same issue. (And yes, I think it's extra amusing that my poem uses bee-related imagery, given that Plath wrote a bunch of bee poems herself!)

That's it from here, I guess. Back to the laundry.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Voracity, Veracity

Did you spend hours as a child reading the encyclopedia or the dictionary? Do you love watching documentaries on TV, nature or science or history? Do you get a little thrill from guidebooks and almanacs and all manner of reference materials?

Yeah, I thought so. Me too.

At my poetry group's reading last month, I read a new poem called "Sleeping in Space." It's about an astronaut trying to sleep on the space shuttle as it orbits the planet, and in it I use terms like "orbital sunrise" and "apogee" and "capcom." I've been fascinated by the space program for many years, I admit, going back to the Apollo moon-landing days; but this particular poem came about after having watched about fifteen or twenty hours of NASA TV over the course of several days. A couple of the members of my poetry group expressed some kind of surprise that I knew all these facts about what astronauts do, and asked where I'd learned this stuff. But how, I wonder, can you not? If you're a poet (or, probably, any other kind of writer), I think you owe it to yourself and to your art to be fascinated by the things of this world, to read and watch and listen voraciously, to learn and learn and learn.

They used to say, "write what you know." But I think what's important is to know what you write: to immerse yourself in a world and its language, then write from that place. When I put a po'ouli in my poem "A Field Guide, A Map," I probably spent an hour looking up stuff about that particular species of bird, what it looks like, how it's studied, where it lives (or lived; the poor thing may be extinct by now). Is all that in the poem? No, I really just mention the bird's name. But by learning more about the bird, that name seems now to belong to a real thing, something that I can feel certain belongs in the poem . There's a reason it isn't a dodo or a hummingbird. It has to be a po'ouli.

Some people call this immersion obsession, and say that you have to write about what you are obsessed with. Fair enough. I can be obsessed with something for an hour, write one poem about it, and leave it behind. Or I can learn its language for weeks, months, years. This kind of obsession, or learning, or research (yes, I'm gonna sneak librarians in here in a minute!) is what gives poems a language and a context. A linguistic texture. It's one thing to write about a whale, but quite another to make it a minke whale, to see its baleen and the gleaming white bands around its pectoral fins, to know that the exhalation of a minke whale -- its blow -- is, unlike that of the humpback or the blue whale, practically invisible. Now isn't that way more interesting and resonant than just to say "hey, a whale"?

So if I ever teach a poetry class, here is what I'm going to make them do. I'm going to send them to the reference department of a library, and I'm going to ask them to research some body of knowledge that they aren't already terribly familiar with. I don't care if it's oncology, cloud formations, the history of Barbie dolls, Greek mythology, or auto repair. I'm going to ask them to find twenty vocabulary words that are unique and/or specific to that field, and turn in the list of those words complete with definitions. Not just brief dictionary definitions, but a bit about what the terms mean and a bit about their context within the field of study. They can start with Wikipedia or something, but I want them to find at least an introductory text or guidebook and spend some time with it. They don't have to come away feeling like an expert in the field, but they need to immerse themselves, at least a bit. Then (you see this coming, right?) they're going to write a poem using that vocabulary -- and, of course, mining it for emotional resonance, not just writing a poem about "how to repair a car" or whatever.

This is what poets and librarians have in common. We love facts, names, specificity. We know all kinds of weird, unexpected stuff. Or we should, anyway. My friends who write SF/F and historical fiction don't have a monopoly on doing research! And that's the way I like it. (Of course, I freely admit to being a big old nerd.)

* * * * * * * * * *

On a completely unrelated note, This Is Broken had me laughing at my desk today till tears ran down my cheeks. "Please notify the United States Postal Service to notify the United States Postal Service that the recipient has a new address." Hee hoo ha!

Ex-Laureates

Just found out that Robert Pinsky is visiting my campus -- on the same day that Mary Oliver is reading up in Indianapolis. Good grief. His reading is at 4:30 and hers is at 7:30, so if I were driving alone, I might be able to make both -- but because I'm carpooling to Indy with a group of people who like to arrive early, I won't be able to. (It's about an hour and 40 minutes from Bloomington to the Butler campus, where Oliver is reading; we're leaving around 5:00. I think I'm gonna take a book, because I think we're gonna be sitting in the car for half an hour waiting for the doors to open...)

I know for a lot of people the choice between Pinsky versus Oliver is like the choice between having one's fingernails pulled out with a pliers versus, I dunno, something else bad. To which I say, phhbbttt.

The College Arts and Humanities Institute and the Institute for Advanced Study are actually bringing several poets to campus, along with writer Temple Grandin, to speak/read on the topic of "Solitude" -- something rather near and dear to my heart, and probably to the hearts of most poets, I'd wager. W.S. Merwin is reading at 5 pm on November 13, and Louise Gl├╝ck is reading in March. Here's all the info, in case anyone's interested...

Blood Orange Review

The new issue of Blood Orange Review is now available online, including my poems "A Field Guide, A Map" and "Snow at Midnight" as well as other good stuff. (Or, if you don't like my poems, amend that to "as well as some actual good stuff." *grin*)

It's a nice little journal and they're in the market for new work, hint hint....

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Saturday jollies

I've never posted about football on this blog before and I probably never will again, but Indiana beat Iowa 31-28 today, which is the first time they have beaten a team in the top 15 since October of 1987 when they beat Ohio State on the road. (I remember that one well because I was in DC for the big March on Washington for GLBT Rights, and the news spread through the Indiana contingent pretty quickly.) This one was a home game, so it was pretty crazy.

When I heard the final score on the radio, while driving out to Bloomington Hardware, I decided I was afraid to go anywhere near campus for a while. :)

In other happy news, the Valparaiso Poetry Review is taking my poem "Swallowed" for their Spring/Summer 2007 issue. This is a weird and kind of creepy poem that for some reason I have kept submitting despite a bunch of rejections -- I don't know why, but I always thought it would eventually find a home.

I know, it's probably considered tacky to blog about every acceptance I get (at least I keep my mouth shut about the rejections, which of course there are more of). But I wouldn't go to the trouble of sending stuff out if I didn't enjoy it when something gets accepted, and the cats don't give a shit, so y'all get to hear about it. I like reading about other people's acceptances, too. Even if I don't post a congratulatory comment, rest assured I always smile and think, "go you!" I like to be reminded that most of the time, persistence eventually pays.

If anyone is reading this from the general vicinity of Bloomington/Indianapolis, by the way, I have in my possession a couple of extra Mary Oliver tickets (the reading is on the 26th and it's free, but you have to have a ticket) -- our little group accidentally ended up with more than we needed. If anyone wants them, let me know and I can save you the bother of getting your own from Clowes Hall.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A good mail day

In today's mail:

Navigate, Amelia Earhart's Letters Home by Rebecca Loudon. The cover art is even more gorgeous than it looked online! Plus, lulu.com sent it from an address on Aviation Parkway in Morrisville, NC. AVIATION PARKWAY. How totally freaking cool is that?

The Transparent Dinner by Christine Hamm. Here's what I said about the book: "There is both stench and beauty here, both grim reportage and fractured fairy tale. The strength of this book is in its relentless refusal to distinguish between the two, exposing the place where horror and magic commingle to create something deeper than a simple truth. These poems tell secrets -- dirty ones, delicious ones, ones you know you could be punished for hearing. Hamm is a thief and a trespasser, and her readers are the richer for it."

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause. Hey, a girl can't read poetry ALL the time!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Poetry 1, Technology 0

My poem "Eight-Bar Solo" is up over at Poetry Southeast. Lots of good stuff there, including poems by Kelli Russell Agodon, Dorianne Laux, Hilda Raz, and plenty more! Check it out, if you're so inclined.

Got to work this morning only to find that the hard drive on my workstation was in the process of completely crapping itself. Fortunately almost everything I have there is saved to the network drive. Still, darned inconvenient (and a handy reminder to all to back up everything you care about!). I'm home on my dinner break now, before heading back for my 6 to 10 pm shift on the reference desk. The evening shifts are generally pretty lively. Since the Information Commons is open 24/7, there are lots of students just getting there by the time I leave at 10. (We have grad students, librarians-in-training, to staff the desk till midnight.)

There is a cloud outside my window that looks just like a giant flying mouse (not the Disney variety). Cool.

P.S. I don't really care for cigars anyway. Shut up, Dr. Freud.

Friday, October 06, 2006

...but no cigar

"...the winner of the 2006 Anabiosis Press Chapbook Contest is Bestiary Charming by Jackie White. The runner-up is Breach by Anne Haines, and Northport by Thomas Allan Johnston receives an honorable mention."

And a hand-written note that says "Very close!!"

In other news, I think I'll stay home tonight because I'm absurdly tired, but tomorrow I'll be whooping it up at the Lotus Festival. Where else can you enjoy Tibetan sand paintings, Hindustani slide guitar, funky Brazilian samba-tronica (I'm not kidding, that's what it says!), stilt walking and mask dancing from Cote d'Ivoire, Klezmer punk-rock, Tuvan throat-singing, and the Balkan Beat Box all in the middle of Midwestern flyover country?

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Po(e)tp(o)urri

I've been particularly enjoying working on the reference desk lately. The desk I've been working on since June is much, much busier than the one in the little branch library where I used to work, so although I'm only on the desk about 8 hours a week, I'm getting a whole heck of a lot more experience.

* * * * * * *

This week's installment of Dykes To Watch Out For made me cry, dammit. Mo's had those cats forever, and I knew they were getting really old, but... wah.

If that made you sad, go get some baby panda therapy. Is there anything cuter than a baby panda? I can't think of anything.

* * * * * * *

Like several other bloggers, I recently received copies of the textbook I'm now in (thanks to Emily). I am highly amused. Except if I had to answer the study questions, I suspect I'd flunk the class on my own poem.

It's fun being in a book full of mostly dead people though. That's a first for me. It's odd company to be keeping, for sure. Me and Emily Dickinson, we're like this.

* * * * * * *

I am probably going to be submitting some of my published pomes to IUScholarWorks, a new digital "institutional repository." This is something a lot of universities are starting to do, generally coordinated by the libraries. It's one way of preserving scholarly & creative works digitally, giving them a permanent "address," and gathering together a bunch of the scholarly & creative output of a university in one easy-to-google location. We don't have a lot of content in ours yet, but if you look at the ones at Kansas and California, you can get a better idea of how this sort of thing works.

There is a "community" here for librarians & library staff, and we're starting out by just including works that have already been published. I double triple checked, and it really is ok with them if I stick a bunch of poems in, as long as they've been published and as long as the rights reverted to me upon publication. Cool. I want to convert them to pdf format first, so I'll get around to doing that shortly. I'll give y'all a link when they're in there.

Not that I have to worry about this anytime soon, if ever, but does anyone know whether book publishers would (hypothetically) have an issue with (hypothetically) publishing a manuscript that included poems already housed in an institutional repository? I'm thinking it wouldn't be a problem, since books always include poems that have been published in journals and anthologies. But if anyone suspects differently, let me know.

(Adding my documents to the repository doesn't involve relinquishing any of my rights -- I made sure of that.)

* * * * * * *

Hanne Blank manages to put into words some of the things that have been bugging me about the Mark Foley story. The whole thing is such a nasty little brew of inappropriate behavior, downright sleaziness, homophobia, and political power games. Lately I've felt like I should wash my eyes out with soap every time I read the news.

* * * * * * *

How in the hell is it October already? I had all these plans. I was going to get all this stuff done. Hmph.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Today's crackpot theory

The success of a reading depends entirely upon managing to wear the right pair of shoes.

Tonight's went pretty well. It would have been nice if there hadn't been a really loud punk band playing in the park across the street for the first half of our reading. But other than that I think it went pretty well.

I like doing readings. Maybe I like it a little too much, considering I don't get to do it very often.

Maybe if I bought new shoes I'd get asked to do more readings. *grin*

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The holy silence

Saw an obituary today for a fellow in his seventies named Lucky H. Christmas. He was from Quality, Kentucky.

* * * * * * * * * *

Record Store Cats.

* * * * * * * * * *

What I like best at the reference desk is when somebody asks me a question about something I know absolutely nothing about, and I'm able to lead them to good information. Sorry to burst anyone's bubble, but it's not true that librarians know everything. We can, however, darn sure figure out where to look it up.

* * * * * * * * * *

I'm enjoying the new Indigo Girls album. And as it turns out, if it's true that they are using the orchestra pit as part of the stage instead of selling the three rows of seats they can stick in it, I apparently have a front row seat for their concert in Indianapolis next month. I have it on fairly good authority that they are not selling the pit, so I am quite pleased. Front row, bay-bee!

* * * * * * * * * *

Thanks to those who have weighed in on my reading questions. Never fear, I have already practiced my poems and plan to continue doing so throughout the week. (I practice them standing up. It makes a difference.) I don't ever memorize my poems to the point of going completely "off the page" with them, but I am generally looking at the audience instead of down at my paper at least 50% of the time. Unless I'm reading something brand brand new (which I very seldom do, though I do it at the student readings in Provincetown because it's just more fun to read the stuff I'm working on that week) or unless I suddenly get uncomfortable with what I'm reading for whatever reason. (That has happened to me. Midway through I realize: "Oh shit, I said THIS in this poem? Why didn't anybody TELL me? Gah..." and all I can do is just finish reading.)

David Vincenti's comment was a good one. He said:
If I know my audience will be mostly amateurs or non-poets (like when I trot myself out as "the engineer who writes poems"), I do usually introduce myself/my work and script a few transitions.

If I know my audience is likely to contain a non-trivial fraction of deep readers and/or experienced writers - especially, perish the though, people whose work I love - I spend more time inside the works and less between them.
And you know what, I think that's what I do too. I think sometimes inexperienced (for lack of a better word) audiences need a little more hand-holding, which is not necessarily a bad thing. With a more experienced audience, I have more of a sense that I trust them to "get" the poems on their own a little more, that they have certain expectations of a poem and that they know to pay a certain kind of attention to a poem, that they have a context for it. The audience at a Five Women Poets reading tends towards the "friends and relatives" sort of audience. I often like to subvert their expectations of poetry by actually (gasp) being funny and engaging (at least that's what I aim for...), where with a more experienced audience, I don't feel the same kind of compulsion to persuade them to like me; I let myself trust that they are there primarily because they like poetry, for whatever warped and twisted reason, and that changes how I present my work. With an inexperienced audience, I feel like if I can win them over and get them to like me, then I don't have to worry so much about the poems necessarily being entertaining or engaging; if I pull them in with a few words of introductory patter, they're more willing to follow me into a poem that is maybe more "difficult" (ugh, that word) than they'd normally stick with.

If that makes sense at all. And I hope it doesn't come across as being condescending to my "less experienced" audience, because holy moly, does it feel good when someone comes up to you afterwards and says "you know, I never really cared for poetry before, but..."

Also, in all honesty, the first ten or so words that I say after landing at the podium are generally pretty much a lost cause -- I have a breathy moment, I'm not quite there yet. Better that should be introductory bla-bla, instead of losing the first line or two of my first poem. (Especially if there's a microphone. Nothing like launching right into your poem and halfway through it you realize the damn thing's not on.)


Lyle mentioned applause in his comment. Since we have seven readers, what generally happens (and sometimes we actually mention this in our overall intro to the reading -- "hi, thanks for coming, we'll have a ten minute intermission halfway through, you can purchase our CD, bla bla bla") is that people applaud after each reader finishes. That works pretty well. I don't think we've ever had people try to applaud after every poem. That makes my hands hurt just thinking about it.

He also mentioned silence -- and yeah, there is that moment sometimes mid-poem, sometimes right after the last line, when you can hear the audience listening and you know they're right there with you. That is the BEST FEELING IN THE WORLD. An actress friend of mine refers to that as "the holy silence."

And those moments, those silent moments, make all the rest of it worthwhile.

* * * * * * * * * *

Word of the day: anadromous

One entry found for anadromous.

Main Entry: anad·ro·mous
Pronunciation: &-'na-dr&-m&s
Function: adjective
Etymology: Greek anadromos running upward, from anadramein to run upward, from ana- + dramein to run -- more at DROMEDARY
: ascending rivers from the sea for breeding [shad are anadromous] -- compare CATADROMOUS

(thanks to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary)

* * * * * * * * * *

I watched some tennis on TV the other day. As they hit the ball back and forth across the net, back and forth, back and forth, it went: BAP, BAP, BAP.

BAP BAP BAP BAP BAP.

Thud.

And that's all I have to say about that.

* * * * * * * * * *

Favorite headline of the week, from the NOAA Fisheries Service announcements:

Invasive Sea Squirts Persist on Georges Bank

(I do hope that's not what killed Lucky Christmas.)


Sunday, September 24, 2006

More reading (over)planning

The set for my 8 minutes' worth of the upcoming Five Women Poets reading has come together almost by accident. The poems I've selected aren't necessarily the best poems I have written in the past year, but as I went through poems (stopwatch at the ready for timing them), these seemed to want to hang together. Hm.
  1. [poem by someone else, not completely decided yet]
  2. The Total Loss Department (1:07)
  3. The Aging Sailor Remembers (1:13)
  4. Sleeping in Space (2:17)
  5. Arrival (1:48)
#3 and #4 are likely to confuse and consternate anyone who believes poems are always autobiographical, since I'm neither a retired ship's captain nor a space shuttle astronaut. Hee.

I wish I had more opportunities to read -- I really enjoy it, though putting together my set always gives me fits a little bit. I suppose I need to plan out my introductory remarks more carefully, so that I don't find myself babbling. But there's a fine line between "avoidance of babbling" and "too stiffly scripted." I always find myself a little put-off when a poet reads their intros word-for-word from the page, as I think the intros are a good opportunity to connect with the audience a little bit, be a little bit human. While there is something to be said for not talking between poems at all, letting the poems speak for themselves, I generally enjoy hearing what the poet has to say, and find that I feel more included somehow when they chat a little bit.

What about you guys? Do you script your introductory remarks? Make notes about what you want to say but ad-lib based on the notes? Ad-lib entirely? Eschew introductory remarks altogether? Do you do anything differently for a "hometown crowd" where you know many of the people in the audience, as opposed to an audience of strangers?

If you do readings, what do you like -- or dislike -- about doing them? Besides, of course, the rockstar treatment, the limo ride to & from the venue, the bottles of champagne delivered to you backstage, the groupies hanging around the stage door after ... What, does that stuff only happen to me??

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

All the news that (gives me) fits

Ended up not getting to the Gerald Stern reading tonight. I've been feeling a little blah, like I'm coming down with something, and driving over three hours (about an hour and 40 minutes each way) for a 30-40 minute reading just didn't feel like the way I wanted to spend my evening. Instead I sat home and watched a Jean-Michel Cousteau special on PBS about the National Marine Sanctuaries (some gorgeous underwater photography, including coral spawning and humpback whales) and NASA TV. I am such a nerd.

Word from the Indiana Arts Commission that beginning with the 2007-08 grant cycle (for which applications will be due in February), their Individual Artist Grants are being increased from $1000 to $2000. Good news, right? Except that unless they come up with some additional funding (shyeah right), only 40 artists will get grants instead of 80-some (in FY2005 they funded 86 artists out of 199 applications). For myself, I'd rather have a better chance at a $1000 grant -- enough to cover a one-week summer workshop -- than a less-than-stellar shot at more money. Plus, you don't get your funds until something like September, which means that for a summer workshop I'd have to put it on my credit card & pay it off later when I got the grant money; I could have managed to do that with $1000, but more than that will be a stretch, and maybe not do-able. Hello, friendly credit union, can I have a loan?

Oh well. I meant to apply for this fiscal year, but was felled by the Martian Death Flu in January and didn't get the application done. I'll probably try next year anyway. $2000 might let me take two workshops in Provincetown, which would be almost unbearably cool. You know, I don't think I have ever been away from home for two whole weeks in my adult life....

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Upcoming (or incoming, as the case may be)

I'm planning to drive up to Indianapolis for several readings in Butler University's Visiting Writers Series:
  • Wednesday, Sept. 20: Gerald Stern
  • Wednesday, Oct. 18: Gregory Orr
  • Thursday, Oct. 26: Mary Oliver
I'll be on the Butler campus three times in eight days, as the Indigo Girls concert at Clowes Hall is on Monday, Oct. 23, right in between the Orr & Oliver readings. (Although if I start feeling a little overbooked, I may end up skipping Orr; it's over an hour and a half drive in each direction, and so far I don't have anyone interested in going with me.) I've snagged a pretty good seat for the Indigo Girls show, 4th row, and their new album comes out this Tuesday so I'll be hearing lots of songs I haven't yet heard in concert, which makes me a happy happy fangirl.

IU's MFA program will be bringing in some readings this year, I'm sure, but they haven't yet updated their calendar to reflect this academic year. They're not exactly spectacular about making sure their readings get publicized outside of the English department, which is a drag sometimes.

And of course, the Five Women Poets reading at Boxcar Books on Saturday the 30th of this month. Can't forget that one. :) (If it weren't for this reading, I might have considered driving down to St. Louis that night, as cartoonist Alison Bechdel of "Dykes To Watch Out For" and Fun Home fame is reading/speaking, and I adore her. She'll be at Left Bank Books, for you St. Louisians.)

(Still contemplating opening my eight-minute segment with a poem by someone else -- thanks to those of you who chimed in on that topic! 8 minutes is such a short set, but I think it might be fun. And our audiences usually have a large percentage of "I never read poetry but I thought I'd come and hear my friends" people, so almost anything I read will serve to introduce people to someone new to them. Which is nice.)

* * * * * * * * * *

Wrote some poems this weekend after not writing a damn thing for about a month. Thank goodness. I have complete first drafts of poems called "Dx" (an abbreviation you medical-types will recognize) and "Waiting to Meet the Rock Star," and have started scratching out notes on one called "Sleeping in Space" (I've been watching a bunch of NASA TV this weekend).

There's never enough time in the weekend, is there?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Reading plans

So I am starting to think about what to read for my poetry group's annual reading, which falls on September 30 this year. Two things I am considering:

1. At our meeting the other night we chose the order in which we would read. We decided that we wanted to end on an "up" note, and someone asked "okay, who's got an uplifting poem that they can end on, and they can go last?" Lots of silence. Several of the members didn't feel like they had anything non-depressing to read. Eek! So I volunteered to go last. Now I have to be sure I end on something relatively uplifting -- oh, the pressure. I've actually never been the last reader in this group, as far as I can recall. Hopefully it won't be one of those readings where we lose half our audience at the intermission.

2. I'm considering doing a cover -- that is, reading a poem by someone else. I haven't chosen a specific one, but I'm toying with the idea in general. Partly, I'm not real crazy about my own work right now. Partly, I want to take the opportunity to promote work I love by someone else, and maybe inspire someone in the audience to go read more by whoever I end up reading, and discover some poetry they will love. I haven't decided for sure yet, though. What do you all think about people reading poems by others instead of only original work? Does it work best to open with the cover (and since of course you're selecting something really good, do you feel like the original work sometimes pales by comparison? because that seems a little risky) -- or do you think it's best to slip the cover in the middle of your set? I only have about 8 minutes to fill, so if I do a cover, it will be only one, for sure.

I have to decide what to wear, too. That's probably more traumatic than deciding what to read. *grin*

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

This one's for Corn Shake


Corn
Originally uploaded by Macky's hat.
It's a leetle doggie with a corn hat!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

One of my heroes













Tonight, in the last match of her professional career, Martina Navratilova (along with Bob Bryan) won the mixed doubles championship at the U.S. Open, demolishing a couple of Czechs in straight sets.

The woman turns fifty years old next month. She's won more championships than I've probably even watched on TV. She is thirty years older than Maria Sharapova, who won the women's singles title tonight. She's a politically outspoken lesbian activist with a smile that lights up the world when things are going well for her. I was fortunate enough to see her play a couple of times in exhibition matches during her brief semi-retirement, and to witness that kind of power and grace from close up is nothing short of spectacular. Her presence just fills the whole stadium.

And here she is, still kicking ass and taking names and bringing home one more big old trophy -- and purely for love of the game. If she can find it in herself to work that hard, surely I can manage to sit down at my desk every day and write. Right?

Go Martina! May you have a long and blissful retirement. And thanks for the inspiration.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Good news is always nice.

Got word last night that Blood Orange Review is taking two of my poems, "A Field Guide, A Map" and "Snow at Midnight." (And thanks to Charlie for his post a while back that tipped me off to this nice little online journal!)

If I'm not mistaken, I now have more poems in the "forthcoming" file than I ever have. That feels good. Publication isn't everything, and it's not the reason I write. But I will admit, uncool as it may be, that I do enjoy it. It is heartening to know that not only did someone like my work, they liked it enough that they want to get other people to read it. To me, that's a heck of a compliment.


A heartfelt "well done" also to fellow blogger Diane K. Martin, whose manuscript made the runner-up cut in the Tupelo Press first-book contest -- frustrating, I know, to feel so close and yet so far, but at least you know you're playing on the right ballfield! And congrats as well to Theresa Sotto, a fantastic poet I met this past summer in Provincetown, whose manuscript made the finalist roster in the same contest.

May we all find the best of readers for the best of our words.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Animalia

Two non-poetry-related notes tonight, both courtesy of the Atlanta Zoo.
  • Atlanta has a brand-new baby panda! Their female panda Lun Lun gave birth to a little butterstick-sized critterbaby just before 5 pm today. My aunt, who is a zoo member, got an emailed announcement from them about two hours later and forwarded it to me straightaway. My psychic powers tell me that I will be spending an inordinate amount of time peeking at their Panda-cam over the next several months, if the baby survives and does OK. There's not much of anything cuter than a baby panda! I may also have to make a trip to the ATL to see the little guy in person (in panda?) when they put it on display. Hmmm, it may very well be old enough by the time AWP rolls around. Even more incentive to figure out a way to get there! If I manage to go, I think I will try to plan an extra day to visit the aquarium and the zoo.
  • Recycle your old cellphone and help with gorilla conservation. They'll take any old cellphone, whether it works or not. Definitely a good cause. If you don't want to take or mail your old cellphone to Atlanta, there are a bunch of other drop-off locations throughout the USA, Canada, and Australia. This is a great idea because (besides the fact that they can use the proceeds from selling usable phones) apparently there is a substance called coltan which is used in the manufacturing of cellphones, the mining of which directly screws up the gorillas' natural habitat. You can read more about it here.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

to play with venomous beasts

Watching Rock Star: Supernova on TV and reflecting on why I, your basic frumpy middle-aged librarian type, love loud rock & roll so much. I love that intensity, the sense of skating on the edge. Maybe because I've fairly effectively banished that kind of hair-pulling, fist-clenching angst from my own life. And thank goodness for that.

I like that "live or die right here in this moment" intensity in some sports, too. Tennis. I love how psychologically intense a hotly contested tennis match can be. Win or lose, live or die by the half-inch that fuzzy ball falls inside or outside of the painted line. Watching Richard Gasquet late last night, cramping terribly, using everything in his body and his will to somehow rocket the impossible passing shot, saving match point against Lleyton Hewitt (who ended up winning anyway, but nevermind that). Watching Andre Agassi say goodbye, at once completely spent and completely full.

I don't really understand the need to put oneself in physical danger, to play with venomous beasts, et cetera. But I guess sometimes writing poems can put the poet in emotional danger that is just as dire in its own way. I've written poems that have left me feeling wrecked for days. I've written poems that have pissed other people off. I'm sure I'll do both of those again.

Ideally: a balanced, comfortable, sane life, with the need for "live or die in this moment" intensity channeled into poetry. I have no patience with romantic angst or manufactured crisis mode. There's time enough for crisis when it happens despite our best effort. People leave us, people die -- isn't that crisis enough?

What I do like: working at the reference desk. I've always been someone who likes having answers, being a know-it-all. It's actually kind of dangerous to reward someone like me for being a know-it-all. *grin* I love it when I help someone find the information they are looking for, or when I help them understand how something works, or when I help them feel okay about the process of discovery they need to go through to get from here to there. When the interaction ends with them saying "you've been REALLY helpful!" with a note of surprise in their voice, like they're not used to anyone being quite that helpful, like they'd almost forgotten what "good customer service" was like. I love surprising them like that. They get a little bit confused by it sometimes, like there must be a catch to it. I love that.

It doesn't always go that well, of course. It's not like that even once a day. But when it is, it makes it all worthwhile.

I still intend to make that fresh start, spending 90 minutes a day at my desk reading and writing (and maybe I'll count submitting as a part of that -- I haven't decided yet -- what do you guys think? does the submitting process count as part of writing, or is it a separate thing?) but I've decided that, as wiped-out as I've been from work, it's okay if I wait to start until next week. After the US Open is over and there's no more tennis to veg out in front of. I don't have to keep the same semester schedule as the university just because I work there. After all, I'm not going to stop writing for three weeks over Christmas, either. This new job takes more out of me than I'm used to, and it's OK that I need some time to acclimate.

I need to start thinking about (and seriously getting publicity out for) the Five Women Poets reading at the end of the month. I've got a couple of poems I'd like to read then but which need revising first.

* * * * * * * * * *

Steve Irwin to a charging elephant seal: "You're a naughty boy! You can't catch me, I'm a land mammal!"

(I'm not kidding. That was on an episode I'd recorded and just watched tonight, about Antarctica.)

On that note, adieu for now.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Phew...

With the beginning of the fall semester, my job is taking just about all the energy I've got. I'm working on the reference desk almost every day, plus leading some tours and orientation sessions for new students, plus several other major projects. I'm not working any more hours than usual, but I'm working more intensely, putting more of myself into my job than usual right now. I'm loving my job, but I'm not really writing right now, which is frustrating. I'm trying to trust that this is temporary.

Lucky for me the US Open is going on, and I love watching tennis, so at least I have something relatively mindless to rest my brain with in the evenings. (And DirecTV is dishing up five extra channels of US Open programming, which is awesomely cool.) Tonight Martina Navratilova and Nadia Petrova won their first-round doubles match in extremely convincing style, 6-1 6-1. Navratilova will have her fiftieth birthday in October. Right now I am watching Andre Agassi, a mere slip of a child at thirty-six, against the usually-quite-entertaining Marcos Baghdatis. It is Agassi's last tournament before retirement, so it goes without saying that pretty much everyone is cheering for him...

I get to take Labor Day off for the first time in several years. Hopefully at least a little poetry will happen over the long weekend. I'll be wandering through the Fourth Street Festival and maybe some of the art will inspire me. Man, let's hope so. I miss poetry.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Craft and cats

Gina Franco shares some intriguing notes from a craft class with Thomas Sayers Ellis: "A Risk in Every Room."

My list of teachers I think I'd like to work with just gets longer and longer.

On a totally non-poetry-related note, my little bitty kitten Lotus had his annual vet appointment yesterday. He weighs eleven pounds, four ounces now! I guess he's not so little bitty anymore. :) (Which makes sense, since he is a year and a half old now after all.) My vet adored him and threatened to steal him away, but I didn't let her.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Welcome back

It is the week of ubiquitous arrival. The dorms officially open tomorrow, but a lot of students have already arrived early -- for official reasons, like the international students and the football team and the marching band and the Resident Assistants in the dorms, or just because they wanted to pay the early move-in fee and get here already -- and of course the off-campus students have been filtering in all week. All over town there are upperclassmen having reunions with one another, parents looking tired and sad and proud but mostly tired and cranky, townies looking resigned, students looking excited and happy or maybe kind of scared (and some of them also tired and cranky).

I am forty-five. I moved here when I was eighteen, a wide-eyed freshman.

The ones I love are the ones who come here open and fall in love with this place, which means that they let this place change them.

I remember my first semester so vividly. I met new friends almost immediately, which for someone who was always shy and found it difficult to meet people was nothing short of miraculous. But we were all new, all strangers, which made it easier. Plus I lived in the hippie dorm. *grin* I remember an autumn night when some friends and I wandered downtown to a street dance featuring local bands. I was wearing a long skirt and sandals, and the harvest moon was fat and orange and weightless in the trees. I remember finding people who actually liked to talk about poetry. I remember reading Sylvia Plath and Adrienne Rich and knowing that my life would never be the same.

Nowadays, a lot of the undergrads live in luxury apartments, with giant plasma TVs and expensive cars and the stink of privilege. It's true that I resent them, their unquestioned assumption that they deserve all that, that life should be no other way, how they take material ease and comfort for granted. Not many of them end up being librarians, I suspect. Maybe some of them end up being poets. I kind of doubt it, but who knows.

My undergrad experience -- both in and out of classes -- was all about questioning everything. Who I was, what I wanted from life, what the point of all of it was. It was hard and I cried a lot, but it was the right way to do it, for me. I can't imagine what it's like not to question, just to assume, to demand, to take for granted. I can't imagine believing you have always been right about everything.

This is probably why I don't run the world.

I love being a part of this academic community, though. I love the vibrant energy, the sense of people all around me trying new things, the certainty that -- even if not everyone is here to be a scholar and not everyone wants to question their own beliefs -- a large part of the community around me is devoted to learning, teaching, understanding. Being in the library and knowing that somewhere in that building, now and then, someone pulls a book from a shelf and opens it and knows her life will never be the same. I love being, in some small way, a part of that.

Welcome back, students and learners and dancers and dreamers and yes, even the plasma-TV owners. Welcome back.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Enough is enough

I am tired of the fact that I waste so much of my non-work time. There is no reason on earth why I shouldn't be reading a book of poetry a week, drafting at least one new poem a week, and revising & submitting like crazy. I spend too much time watching TV, screwing around online, and accidentally napping on the couch.

Well, enough is enough. The fall semester starts on Monday around here, and in the name of getting a fresh start myself, I am going to try to be a little bit more disciplined. I've set up a schedule for myself that has me spending less time online, rationing my TV time, and spending 90 minutes every evening at my desk being productive. (I've even outlined what counts as "productive" although it is pretty broad.) This will be in effect every other Monday, as well as Wednesdays and Thursdays; on the other Mondays I work till 10 pm so I have to have a different schedule for that day, and on Tuesdays I work until 6 (instead of 5) so I have to tinker with that schedule a bit too. Fridays I will have an evening off, and for now I'm not going to draw up a weekend schedule.

If that feels okay after a while, I will rearrange things so that I am spending two hours at my desk being productive. By the time I'm applying to MFA programs, I want to feel confident that the 25 hrs/wk they expect you to put in (between residencies) won't be an impossible stretch. When I'm in an MFA program, I figure I will probably spend 3 hours a night Monday through Thursday, plus big chunks of time on Saturday and Sunday, with Friday evenings off -- that should come out to about 25 a week.

Assuming, of course, I get in somewhere. And can come up with the funding to go there if I do. Eep!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Disconnected ramblings

"The sex is better at Yaddo but the work is better at MacDowell." Well then. Guess which one I want to go to! (Thanks to Jilly for the link.)

* * * * *
I got satellite TV yesterday, with a DVR, and have been amusing myself by hitting the "rewind" button while watching something live. Now if I blink and miss something, I won't miss anything. I want that button for my life.

* * * * *
I'm sitting on the couch (sitting the long way with my feet up and my back against the arm) and there's a kitten on his back against my leg, all stretched out as long as he can possibly stretch with his two front feet stretched out over his head towards my feet, and his two back feet nestled by my butt. He is as long as my leg when he stretches out like this. I guess I can't really call him a tiny baby kitten anymore. When I skritch his tummy he stretches out even longer. He's like a slinky. An orange and white slinky that purrs and sheds.

* * * * *
I had thought about trying to take Maurice Manning's W513 class at IU this fall semester (that's the only graduate-level poetry writing class here that's ever open to non-MFA students). But the course description I found online makes it clear that this time around, it's really intended only for the MFA fiction students and is going to focus primarily on "how poetic craft differs from the craft of fiction." When I took the same class with Cathy Bowman a few years ago most of my classmates were MFA fiction students, but it wasn't exclusively for that population. Oh well. It's just as well -- if I can discipline myself sufficiently, I can get a lot of work done in the next few months without having to be in a class.

You'll note that big old if in there. I really gotta work at that one.

* * * * *
I was talking with one of the graduate assistants in the library where I work, and the topic of poetry and MFA programs came up. She mentioned that one of her friends had recently finished her MFA at Vermont College and had just won some contest or other for her first book. The name sounded vaguely familiar to me, like I'd read a press release about the contest, but I couldn't place it, so I asked the GA to send me the details in email. Turns out the friend was the winner of the Sawtooth Prize, which was judged by D.A. Powell. Sometimes the world is very, very small. I actually kind of like it that way. And now I have two reasons to be curious about this book & to buy it when it comes out.

* * * * *
I need to start sending out publicity for the Five Women Poets reading at the end of September. We are in a new venue after having used the same location for quite a few years, so it will be interesting to see whether we draw a slightly different audience at Boxcar Books -- which is a nice little lefty-punkish-indie bookstore with a small but surprisingly good poetry section. Always nice to read in a bookstore, surrounded by words & all their echoes.