Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Away for a bit

A sad farewell to Molly Ivins. Damn. I liked her a lot.

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I'll be offline from late Thursday night or early Friday morning until sometime Sunday -- going to my great-aunt's memorial service in a very small middle-of-nowhere town in Kansas.

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Go Colts!

Monday, January 29, 2007


"I must here imagine myself an English department chairman, who has to deal with these troublesome creatures, and say that a poet is hubris through and through in the same manner that an unruly pig is solid pork." --Jim Harrison, in the New York Times

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I said I'd do it, and I did. Two big "get this out before the deadline" pushes went into the mail today. I deserve chocolate.

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Summer planning season is upon us, at least for us workshop-aholics (ahem, no comment intended on my own social proclivities when in my favorite queer resort town)! The Fine Arts Work Center in lovely Provincetown has posted their schedule of summer workshops, and of course there are at least six I would love to take. Oh winning lottery ticket, wherefore art thou? Seriously, if you're looking for a glorious summer workshop, this is the best program I have found. Not cheap. Definitely not cheap. But if you can swing it, it's pretty splendid.

The Indiana University Writers' Conference here in Bloomington posted their 2007 information today as well. This summer's faculty: Heather McHugh, Khaled Mattawa, Lee Martin, Matthew Klam, Adam Langer, Nicholas Dawidoff, Catherine Bowman, and Crystal Wilkinson. I'll try to make at least some of the evening readings, though I won't be "conferencing" here this time around.

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In today's mail: Collin Kelley's chapbook, Slow To Burn. I gave it a quick read over dinner at Qdoba, before going back to work for my 6-9 pm shift on the reference desk. It made me think about how, in a way, each of our lives is made up of all the people we've known over the years. If each person who has mattered to us is a speck on the map, connecting those dots gives you a self-portrait of sorts. I'll go back and give these poems a more careful read later. It's a beautifully printed little chapbook, too.

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Sad news today about Barbaro. For a while there, I really thought he'd make it. Farewell, brave beautiful animal.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Apropos of nothing

Quote of the Day
Tennis hottie Rafael Nadal: "I have pain here, in my famous ass."

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Scientists can't get sloth to move. (Sounds like the Onion, but it's for real!)

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I have way too many books in this house, and way too little money in my bank account. Does anyone here have experience, good or bad, with selling books online? Care to share? I know people who've sold books via amazon,, etc. with mixed experiences. I'll probably try selling some of them locally first, just on principle.

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I feel much more like the immovable sloth than like Rafa Nadal, that's for sure.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

ALA Notable Books

The American Library Association has released its annual list of 25 "Notable Books for Adults." Named in poetry were:
Flenniken, Kathleen, Famous, Univ of Nebraska Pr, $17.95.
Satterlee, Thom, Burning Wyclif, Texas Tech Univ Pr.
Slavitt, David R., William Henry Harrison and Other Poems. LSU Pr, $16.95.

Alison Bechdel's amazing "graphic memoir," Fun Home, was included in the nonfiction list, as well as being given the Stonewall Award from ALA's GLBT Round Table. Go Alison!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Starry starry blog

For some reason I've gotten just a whole ton of blog visitors coming in directly to the post previous to this one, though Sitemeter isn't showing me any search terms for these visits -- like the post has been making the rounds of email or something. It's not exactly the most interesting post I have ever made or anything. It is a puzzlement.

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The Poetry Foundation is looking for an Associate Editor.

And Three Candles Press is looking for book-length manuscripts by women.

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I finally moved to the new version of Blogger. Like anybody cares.

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The new issue of Pleiades arrived today and it looks to be just chock-full of good stuff.

What's a "chock" anyway?

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In the past ten days I've actually done far more revising than first-drafting. This is new for me, and incredibly welcome (and incredibly needed). I only wish I were better with titles.

Sometimes when I'm stuck on a poem I'll go to Wikipedia and look up something related to the general topic or major image/metaphor in the poem, whether that is radio astronomy, transgender issues, navigation at sea, or the visible spectrum. Or I'll go to the Encyclopedia Britannica online, or just to Google (either Google Scholar or plain vanilla Google). I'm not necessarily looking for information per se; what I usually want to do is to steal some language (and to learn enough about the specialized vocabulary to be sure I'm not using that language incorrectly). It's fun and often helpful. It can also chew up a whole lot of time and turn into the most amazing procrastination device.

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I like asterisks.

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Note to self: the week one has to finalize a grant application is not the best time to have a crisis of confidence in one's work. Just sayin'.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

NBCC nominations and a good day

Hot off the press, thanks to the wom-po list, here are this year's National Book Critics Circle Award nominations in poetry:

Eighty-one year-old W.D. Snodgrass, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and numerous other awards, was a poetry finalist for Not for Specialists. Fellow nominees included Daisy Fried's My Brother is Getting Arrested Again, Frederick Seidel's Ooga-Booga, the late Miltos Sachtouris' Poems 1945-1971 and Troy Jollimore's Tom Thomson in Purgatory.

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A good day today: brunch at the Runcible Spoon (including their famous pancake the size of Julie Dill's head) with a friend, and poetry talk; lots of sunshine before tomorrow's predicted heavy (for these parts) snow; time spent in a comfy chair beside a window in the public library; puttering about with a chapbook manuscript, tweaking poems and writing a new one specifically for this sequence; getting ready to work on some submissions; snoring cats and good books all around me. There is much, always, to look forward to.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Weather, under the

New to the blogosphere: Edward Byrne, editor of the Valparaiso Poetry Review, has a new blog focusing on book reviews. Check out One Poet's Notes.

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Got the new issue of Prairie Schooner today. Nice to see three poems by Kelli Russell Agodon there! I hope to dig into the rest of this issue soon. It's frightening how fast the journals and books pile up -- and I keep bringing home stuff from the library (someone really needs to take away the interlibrary loan crack pipe ... being able to get my hands on practically any book that exists, for free, delivered to my place of work, is just too damned addictive; nevermind that the huge library where I work already owns practically any book I can think of). I'll never catch up, will I? No, I never will.

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"Under the weather" is a funny idiom, isn't it? A little googling suggests that it comes from the notion that bad weather can make one ill, and/or from the nautical phrase under the weather bow, i.e. on the side of the ship that gets the worst of a rough sea, thus suggesting seasickness. In any event, I'm not seasick here in landlocked Indiana, but I've been just a tad bit under the weather for a couple days. Back soon full strength, though, I'm sure.

Monday, January 15, 2007


Fresh: WOMB, Boxcar Poetry Review.

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Today: tennis, rain, more tennis, more rain, going in to work for three hours (it's a holiday, but we were still providing reference services and I was scheduled on the desk), snow, more tennis.

Also caffeine, and good progress on a grant application.

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Ran across a note I'd written about a then-new poem, back in October 2004:
Scribbled out a poem at lunch today. In a few minutes I'll type it up and see if it's any good. Might not be, but you never know. I've been reading the Warren Wilson craft anthology, Poets Teaching Poets: Self and the World, and oddly enough reading this kind of critical essay sometimes gets me writing. (Which is yet another thing that makes me think I should run off and get an MFA, but whatever.) Anyway I was reading an essay by Marianne Boruch about bee imagery in Plath's poems, and the title "Opening the Hive" struck me for a poem about open-heart surgery. The poem may have gone downhill from there, though. Heh. Anyway, that's three poems in five days -- one Saturday, one Sunday, and one today -- and that makes me happy, even if they're not great.
Which makes me think a couple of things. One, I sure as heck don't always know whether a poem's any good or not until it's had a while to age; this poem ended up in a nice place, so apparently someone thought it was decent (after some revision, of course). Two, I find it interesting to go back and remember where poems came from; perhaps I'll make more of an effort to document this as I go along.

In fact, I think it would be kind of fun to make a practice of keeping "notes on inspiration" in my poetry notebook along with the rough drafts. Or perhaps even make it a separate notebook or journal. Hmmm. Revisiting the original impulse could be helpful (or not...) in revision; also, I think it's good to know what kind of things tend to spark you into writing, so you can make an effort to do those things when you need to get yourself going. I absolutely don't believe in sitting around waiting for inspiration. If caffeine and craft essays trick your particular Muse into dancing, or if it requires putting on the lucky socks, then make time for those things.

Yes, I'm narcissistically fascinated with my own creative process, and we all know what that's called. But I'm fascinated with yours, too. How can you trick your particular Muse? What do you do when you want to put yourself in that writing frame of mind? Do you pour yourself a glass of wine? Burn that "Inspiration" scented aromatherapy candle you found on clearance at Target? Put on some music? Go for a walk? Hire a hundred monkeys and sit them down at a hundred typewriters and hope like hell for Shakespeare? Tell me.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

rainy night house

Welcome another terrific (yes I know that word is overused, shut up) poet to the blogosphere: Megan O'Reilly. Hi, Megan!

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Tennis season is back -- the Australian Open began this evening. Yay! I love watching tennis, and it's also nice that if a match isn't especially compelling, the repetitive sound of it fades easily into the background, so I can get some reading or writing or editing or mindless net-surfing accomplished. I'm pulling for James Blake on the men's side; I really think this will be his year to land a Grand Slam trophy. On the women's side, I'd love to see Martina Hingis do well, though I doubt she has a shot at the title -- but you never know.

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Caffeine is my friend. Today I proved, once again, that if I just hit the right caffeination level, I will be productive almost despite myself. I've got a slightly-revised chapbook manuscript ready to go out to one contest, and a brand-new (well, newly-cobbled-together) chapbook manuscript almost ready to go out to another contest. The new one has two or three poems in common with the old one, but no more than that, and feels very different to me. It needs a title, though. I also made minor, but in some cases important, revisions to a nice stack of poems.

I don't think I particularly believe in the Muse, but coffee is definitely the Nectar of the Muse, for me.

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I've been reading Christopher Moore's Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, which is just hysterically funny. If you're looking for a book that will make you gigglesnort in a most unladylike fashion in public places, and you're not easily offended by extreme irreverence (though without any disrespect) towards people and events from the Bible, I highly recommend this one.

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Rain here. Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain. But at least it isn't ice. Those of you in Missouri, Illinois, etc. -- I hope you are doing OK. Stay safe!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

My glamorous job*

The trouble with working in a humongous library is that when you finish your lunch, and you still have time left on your lunch hour, you go up to the stacks (the 10th floor, where they hide the PR and PS call numbers) and by the time you get back in the elevator ten minutes later you have this ginormous stack of books you're never going to be able to finish in the 4 months before they're due. (Mainly because of the three other ginormous stacks of books you already checked out and brought home before.)

Me? Addicted to books? No, I could quit anytime I wanted to. Really. I swear on a ginormous stack of books.
*title of post shamelessly ganked from the fabulous Radish King

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Transitions; or, why I've been in a rut maybe?

This is the thought that's currently both exciting and terrifying me:
The work you've been doing for the past few years is done. It's time to move on to something new. Wrap up the old work, tie its shoelaces, pat it on the head and send it off to go wherever it goes. You have to clear the decks before anything new has room to land.

The terrifying part, of course, being -- having faith that there will be "anything new." Not to mention, faith that the old work won't get flattened by a runaway school bus the minute it turns the corner and I can't keep an eye on it anymore.

Sometimes it's easier to start things than to finish them, eh?

The Muse (if she exists) whispers seductively. She taps her foot impatiently. She shakes her shaggy head and says, Look, if I've told you once I've told you a hundred times. She turns her back but when she doesn't know you're looking you see her cast a furtive eye over her shoulder to make sure you are still following. She is bread crumbs in the forest, the fairy tale that takes a wrong turn. She is blue, she is that minor key, she is laughing at you. Amphibious, she tries to lead you into water, launching herself toward the blurred horizon. Land mammal that you are, you wade in chest deep, stand stock still, feet mired in the muck of the bottom. Your thick brown fur is soaked and briny. There's a great wave coming. Learn to swim. Learn to swim. Learn to swim.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Pebble Lake Review; deadlines

My poems "After the Crash" and "The Last Storm" are in the new issue of Pebble Lake Review -- and also up on their website, complete with audio (click on the little megaphone icons). Yes, I have that flat Midwestern accent. (I was also at the tail end of a nasty cold; not sure if you can tell that from my voice or not.)

There are a ton of other terrific poets in this issue as well, including Shanna Compton, Suzanne Frischkorn, Jeannine Hall Gailey, Christine Hamm, Ron Mohring, Steve Schroeder, and others. I am tickled to see my poems hanging out with the cool kids! :) Keep that New Year's resolution about supporting poetry, and buy yourself a copy (or subscribe)...

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After missing one too many submission deadlines, I've started keeping a spreadsheet of projects and deadlines (as well as projects without deadlines, like poems or manuscripts I really want to revise in the near future). I hope it helps. I've also thought about using the Google Calendar, but I haven't really dinked around with that yet, and a spreadsheet was the quick & dirty way of getting something started. Those of you who send stuff out a lot, do you have any method of tracking upcoming deadlines? Does it help?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Miscellaneous and sundry

Sad to hear that Tillie Olsen has died at the highly respectable age of 94. Tell Me a Riddle, her first book, came out the year I was born. She was an important writer for me in my undergrad years, particularly as I began to understand how (for me) feminism influenced and informed the writing and reading of literature.

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I'm not a football fan, but I have to say the last quarter of the Fiesta Bowl the other night was some pretty exciting stuff. I mean, I don't understand the rules of the game and half the time I can't even figure out who's got the ball, and there were a couple of plays that had even me yelling "that was amazing!" Go, Boise State!

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Brent Goodman asks a good question about line breaks over on his blog. I'm afraid I kind of rambled on a bit, but this is something I've been thinking about over the past year or two; I think my lines (and the breaks thereof) have changed somewhat over time, as my thinking about them has changed. I used to focus on the last word of a line and try to figure out if that was a good word to break on; now I tend to look at the line as an organic whole, rather than focusing on the break. But it's still something I wrestle with. I think the question of what makes a line a line (and why do you break it where you do) is integral to understanding what makes poetry different from prose, so it's an important thing to think about.

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Today I received early-registration info for summer workshops at the Fine Arts Work Center. As usual, my first reaction is holy crap, there are a lot of amazing teachers I'd love to work with. (Maxine Kumin, for one!) The prices have gone up since last year, which I guess shouldn't be surprising but given my dinky-ass budget is unfortunate. They've restructured things a bit, too: there are now 15-hour (3 hours a day) and 20-hour (4 hours a day) workshops, with the 20-hour ones costing a bit more; and you don't get a 15-minute individual meeting with your instructor anymore, but you can elect to pay an extra $150 for a half-hour manuscript consultation (which does mean you can get feedback on more poems than you'd be able to bring in to class during the week -- and, it would be possible to get that consultation with someone else who's teaching that week depending on demand, so if you're interested in two instructors teaching the same week, that could be kinda cool).

Given the expense, I kind of doubt that I'll be able to make it this year unless I can manage to land a grant. The particular grant I have my eyes on funds for a July 1 '07-June 30 '08 cycle, so if I register for something at FAWC it will be something in July or August, I think. Which narrows down my choices a bit but still leaves me with a lot of enticing possibilities. (I do hope someone I know signs up for D.A. Powell's advanced poetry workshop, so I can hear about it! If you are looking for a workshop in June, you could do a whole lot worse than his -- he is a really terrific teacher.)

Despite the fact that it's expensive, I do think this is one of the best summer programs around for writers who want to get a lot of writing done rather than spending time with lectures or panels or networking, and who want to be a part of a thriving community of writers for a short while. I've been to several other summer conference/workshops, and while I have enjoyed all of them, Provincetown has definitely been my favorite. I've gone there for the past two summers and it's definitely changed me, changed how I approach my writing. Plus, you can go whale watching there. :) And I love Provincetown anyway, for all its faults -- I love the rainbow flags everywhere, the sense of community, the way the fog smells of harbor and the breeze tastes of salt.

If things go the way I hope they will, this would be my last summer workshop before diving into a low-residency MFA program. (Did I just say that out loud??) If it turns out I can't swing Provincetown this year, I may just do a workshop at the IU Writers' Conference -- cheaper, of course, because I don't have to travel or pay for lodging. Don't know yet if they are bringing anyone I'm interested in working with, though.

Tim asked about poetry dreams today. I've only dreamed about readings a couple of times, and don't find myself writing in my dreams too much, but I very often dream my way into the opening day of a summer workshop -- arriving, moving into a room (usually a dorm room in my dream), beginning to gather. Sometimes in these dreams I've forgotten my manuscript, or I show up in my pajamas, or the teacher takes an immediate dislike to me. No matter. I love the intensity, the concentrated energy of these short workshops (one reason I think a low-res MFA program would be great for me; the residencies sound like a blast). I love the fascinating people you can meet, and the way you just have to dive right in without holding back because there just isn't time to slowly get your feet wet. I love talking and thinking about poetry practically all the time for a few days. I know ... I'm weird. But I like it that way.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Ring In the New

Happy New Year, all! Wishing peace, happiness, and prosperity to you.

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Didn't parades used to consist of bands and floats and horses and stuff actually moving down the street? What is this crap where they set up in one spot and do a little show for the cameras? That's not a parade, that's a variety show.

That said, HGTV is showing the Rose Parade with no commercials and far less annoying announcers than the major networks. Which is a very good thing, especially if you have a DVR and can rewind to catch what you miss when you go to the kitchen to get another cup of coffee. Muahahahaha.

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I rang in the New Year last night very quietly, in my house with my books and my cats (Lotus wishes to inform you that he Does Not Approve of firecrackers outside). I didn't get any significant writing done -- I always intend to, every New Year's Eve, and I never do -- but I did spend some time scribbling in my journal and some time reading poetry.

One of the best things about blogging, these past couple years or so, has been reading books by fellow bloggers. I know the Internet is full of lousy poets and bad-to-mediocre poetry, and when I first started blogging, I fully expected to find a lot of that. And I know that just because poetry gets published is no guarantee it's going to be any good -- I've been disappointed by many books published by perfectly reputable presses.

(Ooh! There's a herd of llamas in the Rose Parade! Llamas are so cute.)

Anyway, I've read a bunch of books and chapbooks by bloggers in the past couple of years, and I am happy to say that I've been pretty impressed, overall, by the quality. Maybe it's because the bloggers I read are mostly pretty serious about poetry, which is one of the reasons I enjoy reading what they have to say. (What you have to say. Oh bother. Who am I talking to here, anyway?) In the past several weeks I have read three in particular that, just in case you don't read all the same blogs I do and are thus well aware of these publications, I want to bring to your attention:
  • Radish King by Rebecca Loudon. In some ways this is an odd little book, wider than it is tall to accommodate the postcard-proportioned cover image; the funky size does more than just serve the cover art, though, as it lets you know before you even open the book that this is not going to be your standard "pretty much like any other collection" poetry book. More than once I found my expectations about voice, language, and content subverted, in a good way. Books that do this usually make me pick up a pen and start writing, and this one was no exception -- in fact, I suspect this will be one of those books that I'll turn to when I feel stuck, so it can shake the words loose for me.
  • Living Things by Charles Jensen. A slim little chapbook. I started out wanting to describe these poems as elegiac, but I think of elegies as being in some way about the person being mourned, and in this chapbook, the deceased beloved is present only as body -- we don't get a strong sense of what he was like in life. Instead, the experience of mourning itself takes center stage and serves almost as a character, a personage. There is the necessity of dealing with the body of the deceased, the necessity of funeral and ritual, the necessity of coping with the day-to-day post-funeral mundanities (e.g. bills that continue to arrive), and there is the way mourning rings out into the world and, for a time, changes everything the mourner sees. These poems aren't about the dead, or even really about the memory of the dead: they're about the living. I'd read many of these poems before, and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to read them in the context of this small collection.
  • Mortal by Ivy Alvarez. I spent part of my New Year's Eve with this collection, and I'm glad I did. These poems intertwine the matrilineal experience of breast cancer (which does often run in families) with the Demeter/Persephone story, here reconfigured as "Dee" and "Seph." To me, the book ends up not being "about" breast cancer so much as it is an exploration of the mother/daughter bond and what is passed from one generation to the next, which is sometimes dark and bloody and painful. Going through chemo must be kind of like going down to the underworld and hoping that eventually you'll be permitted to emerge again. Despite the simplicity of the language and structure of these poems, it's a complex book, and one I will probably return to.
On deck for today is Suzanne Frischkorn's Red Paper Flower. I know this will be a worthwhile read; her Spring Tide was, I think, the last poetry I read in 2005, and it was good stuff. I'd be willing to bet money that I'll be reading a full-length collection from her soon.

And if you're a poet reading this blog, I hope I'll be reading your poems soon, as well. Cheers and Happy New Year -- may 2007 bring lots of wonderful new poetry!