Friday, June 30, 2006
Doesn't hurt when the weather's perfect, either.
When I come home from a great week like the one I had last week, it's easy to get cranky, to feel sorry for myself because I'll never be able to afford to live in Provincetown, never (short of winning the lottery) be able to just write full-time for more than a short time every year. But you know what, I have a good life. I have a job I like most of the time, doing work that on some level really does matter. I live in a town filled with grass and trees and bunnies and birds, with lots of music and lots & lots of good people. I have good friends. I don't make much money, but I make enough to get away for a workshop now and then and to buy a few books here and there. I live in a little house with the two cutest cats in the world (ok, I'm biased), who are both healthy and who both seem to adore me. My writing isn't where I want it to be, but I am motivated to work hard at it, and the hard work is what matters.
And on top of it all, I didn't see one single mosquito this evening. (I think they all migrated to Provincetown.)
It's not a glamorous, exciting, or well-to-do life. Sometimes it's just barely comfortable. But it's a good life. It is. And nights like tonight, I find myself just breathing deep, breathing it all in, filling my whole body with gratitude.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
To that end, my goal is to memorize one poem a month for the next year. I'll write them down in a notebook at the beginning of the month, carry them around with me all month, and hopefully have them by heart before month's end. I know a month is a long time, and maybe this doesn't sound all that ambitious, but it feels like a challenge to me -- I've never been good at memorization (which is the only reason I'm not a world-famous actress, right?).
First up (for July, since June is almost gone) will be Plath's "Ariel" because I already have bits of it and because I just love how her language feels in my mouth. "Stasis in darkness. / Then the substanceless blue / Pour of tor and distances..."
If any of y'all have suggestions for others I should consider memorizing, I'm all ears!
Monday, June 26, 2006
I miss good seafood everywhere, the sound of the foghorn, the way the air smells, the new & not-so-new friends I spent time with, the near-perfect balance between solitary writing time and socializing, waking early & happy and making coffee and sitting down at my little desk beneath the window overlooking the green courtyard and writing, rainbow flags all over the place, conversations that veer from poetry to silly shit and back again within moments, the making and remaking of connections.
I will not miss the giant-ass mosquitoes. Also, it's nice to be with my cats again. (The moment I stepped in the door, Lotus started up with the Super Extra Mega Noisy Purr. A couple minutes later, he got one of his toy mousies and ran to me with it & dropped it at my feet. Awwwwww! Bear was glad to see me too -- he is smiling & smiling.)
* * * * *
I think I put my finger on why I've been feeling more dissatisfied with my work this week than I did after a similar week last year. Last year, I ended the week feeling all kinds of good things about my work, feeling like I'd made good strong progress. This year, I kind of feel like it's all crap. But you know what, I looked at some notes to myself I jotted on one of my exercise poems from the week, and I think I'm a lot better now at seeing what needs to be done -- at stepping back from my own poems & seeing where they fail, where they need to be pushed. So I'm kind of focused on the failure part, but in a way that should ultimately be productive. I am frustrated with my work mainly because my standards got higher. I don't think I did make quite the breakthroughs I made last year, but it probably isn't quite all crap, either.
I have a lot of work to do. And, you know, that's an okay place to be right now.
* * * * *
"Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday, far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." --Rilke
* * * * *
In the National Shitorgetoffthepo(e)t Derby, "put up" defeats "shut up" by a nose.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Saturday, June 24, 2006
(If any of you guys googled me and found this -- hi! welcome! leave a comment or drop me an email ... I miss ya already!)
It is funny how my relationship with Provincetown has changed now that I'm coming here for workshops and not just as a tourist. I feel like I have a community here. All week I saw people I knew, everywhere. I felt like a part of something. Now that I've moved over to a B&B for my last two nights and most of last week's workshoppers have gone home, it feels like a different town, and I don't like it as much.
The good news is that I spoke with both Dorothy (education coordinator and one of the nicest people on the planet) and Hunter (director of the Fine Arts Work Center) and they are definitely working on getting a low-residency MFA writing program off the ground. They will be partnering with another institution, as they have for their visual arts MFA -- most likely either Bennington or Sarah Lawrence. And it should get going within the next two years.
Yes, I'm applying. How can I not?
(I will apply to other places too, of course. One should never put all one's eggs in one basket, even if it's a very nice basket. Which reminds me, I want to go to Cafe Heaven in the morning for an omelet...)
The other good news is that I was offered a letter of recommendation which should carry a fair amount of weight. That makes me happy.
So sometime in the next few days I'll blog about the workshop itself and share the exercises that we were given. They were good ones. I don't always do well with exercises. Although I'm not crazy about everything I came up with for these, I think they were all productive and useful for me, and I will probably try several of them again.
* * * * *
Today was my all day whale watch. Other than the fact that the weather sucked about as much as it could suck without actually having the trip cancelled (rain, fog, rain, cold, and rain), it was fun. We traveled up north to Jeffreys Ledge, off the coast of Maine, and got some good close looks at a number of whales -- humpbacks, finbacks, and minke whales.
And now I'm tired and increasingly non-verbal, so I think I will just fart around online for a while (I am behind on EVERYthing) and fall asleep early.
Friday, June 23, 2006
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
One thing that's happened this year that didn't happen last year is that I've been socializing not only with people from Powell's workshop but with a number of Carl Phillips' students as well, which has been lovely. This has come about largely, I think, because I already knew two folks in Phillips' class (who were in Powell's class with me last summer) and so by way of "hey, this is so-and-so from my class, we're going out, wanna join us?" the two classes have been intermingling a bit. Several of us are planning to do our best to get the majority of both classes (and both teachers, we hope!) to go out together after the student reading tomorrow night.
I have been enjoying the social aspects of it all this week, getting to know some really neat new people and getting to know better some of the people I met last summer. I've been to other summer workshops/conferences, and have returned to a couple of them more than once, but I've never felt as welcomed as I have felt here. It's nice.
That said, I wrote a poem for today's assignment that made me feel very uncomfortable, that dealt with material that was unaccountably difficult for me. It's good for me to be pushed outside my comfort zone, but I've had a bit of a lingering sense of unease ever since a) writing the damn thing this morning and b) reading it out loud in class. I do believe that most of the time if you write a poem & it makes you feel like throwing up, you're probably tackling something that you need to tackle. And so I'm glad that I wrote this piece (I'm not actually sure it is a poem yet, maybe more like notes for a poem) but it has left me feeling odd all day.
So I'll write a bit tonight, and sleep relatively early, and get up in the lovely morning and write some more. And tomorrow night is the student reading, which was such a fabulous experience for me last year -- so that's something to look forward to & then some.
Seriously, people -- if you've ever even remotely considered taking a summer workshop out here (or teaching one, for those of you with books and teaching experience and what-not!) -- it is just a wonderful, wonderful place, staffed and visited by wonderful people. If I don't end up in an MFA program by next year, I will find a way to come back here ... somehow. It would make me very happy to spend a week here every single summer for quite a long time. (Or more than a week, but let'$ be reali$tic.)
Monday night: in my room drinking with poets
Tuesday night: out drinking with poets
Do you sense a trend here? (I may give myself this evening off from that. Or not.)
D.A. Powell gave his reading last night -- all new work, written in the past six months or so. It quite knocked my socks off, or would have had I been wearing socks. Also: titles! Look out for some of them in a couple upcoming issues of Poetry. I am biased (as we are almost always biased for -- or against, sometimes -- our teachers) but it is just terrific stuff.
I've written three poems so far this week: two for class assignments and one for the hell of it. Quite happy with both my assignment poems -- not that they don't need lots of work, but they are workable drafts, I think. The one for the hell of it is about a squirrel I spotted and I wrote it just because I wanted to put the phrase "gnawed nuts" in a poem.
P.S. The "shit or get off the po(e)t" odds are currently running approximately 80-20 in favor of the poet. And against said poet's bank account. Just sayin'.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Carl Phillips read last night and he was great. I bought his newest book and had him sign it -- he seems like a sweet guy. My friends who are taking his workshop seem to be having a good time. Though I have to say I don't regret for a moment deciding to take D.A. Powell's workshop myself, even though I studied with him last year. He is an amazing teacher. (I would love to just crawl around inside his brain for like ten minutes someday.) His reading is tonight and he has promised to read a lot of new stuff -- something to look forward to with great eagerness, for sure.
I've written two poems so far this week -- both of them by 9 a.m. This is NOT NORMAL. But I'll take it.
There are mosquitoes here as big as my head. Everywhere you go, you see their slapped, squashed bodies.
Monday, June 19, 2006
2. Oh, and guess which well-known poet I ran into on the ferry over here from Boston.
3. I was unable to get a wireless signal in my lovely room last night, so y'all should count your blessings that you were spared a considerably inebriated version of the "I love this place" post. Heh heh.
4. Uh, I think that's it for now. I'm happy. And if I'm saying that without reservation or qualification at 7:10 AM on a Monday morning, well, that's something.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
I may or may not blog very much while I'm there. Last summer I posted something almost every day, and that felt like the right thing to do at the time. This year, we'll see how it goes. If you don't hear from me, assume I am writing my butt off and drinking beer (or whatever) with poets. Not necessarily in that order. *grin*
I'm writing a poem about this horrible story that's been on the local news for the past couple weeks. There was a traffic accident in which several people were killed; due to an identity mixup, one young blonde woman was mistaken for another young blonde woman in the same vehicle, and one set of parents buried what they thought was their daughter's body while another set of parents kept vigil over a comatose girl -- until she woke up and they figured out what had happened. For some reason the story really got to me when I first heard about it. The poem is from the point of view of the young woman who survived. I feel kind of weird about appropriating someone else's story, when they are real people with real names (which I do not use in the poem) and everyone involved would probably have a very different take on things than what I write in the poem. But, art is art, I guess. What do you think?
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
--Mark Wunderlich, between poems, bottle of water in hand.
Other readers tonight: Jon Tribble and Dana Johnson (whose book of short stories, Break Any Woman Down, is pretty terrific). All three readers were quite good.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
**My local NPR radio station, WFIU, is now offering some of its locally-produced programs via podcast -- including "The Poets Weave," a weekly five-minute poetry show. The host, Jenny Kander, sometimes features local poets reading their own work (I've been on a couple of times), and sometimes she reads (in her cool-sounding South African accent) published poems by a particular poet or on a particular theme -- food poems, winter poems, etc. You can listen to or download any of the shows from 2006 so far by visiting this link, or you can subscribe via iTunes (from the podcast section just search for WFIU and you'll find it).
**The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown has announced their plans for a Stanley Kunitz memorial this summer, to coincide with what would have been his 101st birthday. It sounds like it's going to be quite the event:
The Memorial Service will begin at 11:00am in the Stanley Kunitz Common Room at the Fine Arts Work Center, 24 Pearl Street, Provincetown, MA, on Saturday, July 29, 2006. Speaking at the service will be the poets John Skoyles and Cleopatra Mathis, who knew Stanley and his work for many years. In addition, one member of the Kunitz family is expected to speak.
Immediately following, every poem in Kunitz's The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz (W.W. Norton, 2000) will be read aloud by anyone in attendance at the service who wishes to read. The reading will begin with the first poem in the book and will continue until the entire book is read aloud. It is estimated that the reading will take more than 10 hours, giving approximately 200 people the opportunity to read one of Kunitz's poems.
Monday, June 12, 2006
There's a funny story about this one, which I almost hesitate to tell here for fear it will make a fine journal look less than "on top of things." But it's so amusing, really. I'd originally submitted this poem (and a few others) to Blackbird way back in November 2004. After a slightly-more-than-reasonable time (okay, almost a year) had elapsed with no word, I dropped them an inquiry; they looked for my poems but had to conclude they'd fallen into a black hole, and invited me to resubmit. A few months later I did just that, though I didn't send the same poems over again, I sent new ones. They rejected that batch, and I'd sort of written them off when out of the blue I got today's email. Meanwhile, of course, the poems from the original batch -- including "Opening the Hive" -- got sent out elsewhere. Fortunately for me, the "elsewhere" in this case is a journal which explicitly welcomes simultaneous submissions, so a quick note in their direction withdrawing the poem should take care of things without any awkwardness.
In Blackbird's defense I will say that the editor with whom I've corresponded has been nothing but courteous, helpful, and apologetic about the black hole thing, and responded immediately when I inquired; and I really like the journal, so this is a happy ending.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
I will probably bring really new work. April and newer. Although I'll also print out a bunch of other poems too, just in case I get ideas about what to do with them.
* * * * *
Bad Poet No Donut: I think I'm skipping the first night of IU Writers' Conference readings. One of my cat sitters is stopping by tomorrow evening so I can show her the routine & where everything is, and I need to clean house enough that she can find the cats at least; I desperately need to do some laundry; I need to do bills; and if I'm going to send the chapbook ms. out to one more contest before I leave (& since it's a June 30 deadline and I don't get back until the evening of the 26th, it's before I leave or never) I really need to dink around with that tonight too. Tonight's reading is Susan Gubar & Scott Sanders, both writers I admire greatly, but I just have so much to do.
Plus I don't really feel like putting pants on and leaving the house.
* * * * *
Rain: The green here is so green this year. I've been told it is a good year for fruit, as we've had lots of rain and missed our usual late freeze. I was at a friend's house Friday evening and picked several cherries from her cherry tree. I never had cherries straight off the tree before. They were sour and delicious, like the taste of a broken heart that's so healed-over it's almost fun to poke at it now and then.
* * * * *
Reminder to self: shit or get off the po(e)t.
* * * * *
Choices, Choices, Choices Part 2: Also need to pick out books to take along. Books to read on the plane and in the airport and on the ferry, two or three books of poetry to dig into throughout the week in case I need some inspiration, and maybe something light to wind down with before I fall asleep at night. Reminder to self: you always end up buying books there because you're a sucker for sweet little independent bookstores, so don't take as many as you think you need.
Also putting some new music on my ipod and planning a Provincetown playlist. When I first vacationed there in 2001, I woke up the first morning to brilliant sun and that clear, intense Cape light; turned on the clock radio and Shawn Colvin's song "Whole New You" filled the room. That's been my Provincetown song ever since.
You have the right to get down on your knees* * * * *
you have the right to make yourself believe
you don't know my name
but I don't care
you can do it
cuz you have the right
To shake the loneliness and shine the light
take all your tears save 'em for a rainy night
go and wish on every star that's fallen
shake your head and wonder when it's all too good to be true
like a whole new you
One week! One week.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Even the National Weather Service pays tribute to this famous tornado. And this year the PBS station of Washburn University, whose campus was almost completely destroyed that evening, put together a TV special with an informative companion website.
It hit my house -- didn't flatten it, but caused considerable damage. I was five. This is why I'm not crazy about stormy weather even now.
Rough draft, very rough, which won't stay here for long:
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
2: new poems I drafted a couple of evenings ago after not having written anything for about a month (Also, this filled up the composition book I started using on the first day of my workshop last summer in Provincetown, so I get to start a brand-new poetry notebook just two weeks before this summer's workshop, which just feels like some kind of providence.)
1: rejection slip in today's mail (oh well.)
Found this here and loved it:
Explaining Relativity to the Cat
Imagine, if you will, three mice.
Contrary to what you have heard,
they are not blind
but are in a spaceship
traveling near the speed of light.
This makes them unavailable
for your supper, yes.
So these mice, traveling near
the speed of light, appear
quite fat, though there is
no cheese aboard. This is
simply a distortion of mass,
because the mass of a mouse
is nothing more than a bundle
of light, and vice versa. I see
how this might imply mice
are in the light fixtures,
undoubtedly a problem, so
let me try again.
If two people attempted
to feed you simultaneously,
no doubt a good situation,
but you were on a train
traveling near the speed
of light, the food would
appear unappetizing, falling
to the plate in slow motion,
an extended glob of protein
that never smelled good,
if you ask me, train or no.
The affinity of the food
for the plate, what we call
gravity, is really just
a stretch in the fabric
of a space-time continuum,
what happens when you
have sat in a seat too long,
perhaps on this very train.
Oh kitty, I know how you hate
to travel and the journey must
have made you tired. Come now,
lick your coat one more time
and let us make haste
from this strange city
of light and fantastic dream.
---Jennifer Gresham, from Diary of a Cell
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
And the Fine Arts Work Center has finally posted at least some of their summer readings/events: http://www.fawc.org/events/index.shtm
If you're within driving/ferry distance of Provincetown, check this schedule -- there's a lot of good stuff! And yes, of course I will sign up for the student reading on the 22nd. Me? Pass up a chance to get up in front of people and force them to listen to me for a minute or two? Hell no. *grin*
The Stanley Kunitz memorial will be on July 29 (a Saturday) at 11 am, with a broadsides exhibition & reading the following evening. I bet that will be a Big Event. If I win the lottery between now & then, I'm buying a plane ticket...
Saturday, June 03, 2006
I have not even touched my paper journal since closing down "my" branch library, having a birthday, spending the long weekend at my mom's, and starting my new job. Sometimes when I haven't written about stuff, I don't quite know how I feel about it. Now that I seem to be finished napping, I think writing is next on my agenda. Once I've written a bit I think I will feel less scattershot. Sure hope so anyway.
Provincetown plans are coming together. I had a brief panic when I found that most of the B&B's there are requiring a three-night minimum stay on June weekends these days, and I'd planned to stay at FAWC through Friday night, then move to a B&B Saturday and Sunday after my workshop ends -- I'm going on an all day whale watch that Saturday, which should be great fun. As it turns out, someone I've known online for a number of years (and her husband) will be driving from Boston to Provincetown to join me on the whale watch, so we've jointly reserved a room -- they'll take Friday night, then I can drop my bags there Saturday morning before the whale watch and I'll take the room Saturday and Sunday nights. It should work out beautifully, and I'm also pretty excited to meet this person in "real life" for the first time. Plus, after a week of eating/breathing/sleeping poetry, it will be good to spend a day out on the ocean doing something entirely non-literary. And then the next day, Sunday, I plan on going to the beach and just being a lazy bum all day.
All I have to do now is reserve my spot on the Boston-to-Provincetown ferry, and my spot in the airport parking lot. Two weeks from tomorrow I will drive my car to the airport, take the shuttle bus from the parking lot to the airport proper, fly to one city, change planes and fly to another city, take the bus to the water transportation, take the water taxi to the ferry dock, take the ferry across the bay, and then most likely (since I will have an unreasonable number of bags, what with my laptop and the fact that I have to bring my own sheets and towels) take a taxi to the Fine Arts Work Center. That's a lot of transportation. And I look forward to being transported.
I can't wait to feel the ocean breathing in my ear.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
And exhausting. Every night this week I've crashed out on the couch for a lengthy evening nap. I haven't written a poem in at least three weeks now. Which is bad timing, as it will be best for me to go to Provincetown (just over two weeks away!) with fresh writing in hand and in an energetic writing mode. I am hoping to recuperate this weekend, do some reading which will hopefully spark a new draft or two. If all else fails, I do have a pile of poems from April that still need work -- and I may well take one or two of those along (we're supposed to bring 3 poems to workshop with enough copies for everyone), but I also want to be in the midst of productivity when I arrive, because then I will be ready to start working hard the moment I get there instead of taking a day or two to get into the swing of it.
So this weekend's agenda is a reunion with the Muse. Anyone who's ever been in a long-distance relationship knows how lovely reunion sex can be; hopefully reunion poetry will be as good. :)
We shall see.
Meanwhile, it's raining.