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.


Erin B. said...

I like you that way, too, Anne.

Anonymous said...

Anne, thanks for the link to the Tillie Olsen obituary. I also saw news about it in another blog yesterday. I've read her work from time to time over the years and have always found it worthwhile. (Some of her earlier published work, from the 1930's, was under her name Tillie Lerner.)

Also the link to Brent Goodman's post about line breaks -- I went there and responded in his comment box.

I've only rarely had dreams about poetry or poetry readings as such, and can barely remember anything of them. Maybe three or four times I've had dreams in which I've been writing a poem, and in the dream it always seems like a really great poem, but when I wake up I can never remember more than a word or two. Sigh...

I have, however, dreamed about poets quite a bit (not really that surprising, since like most poets I know quite a few other poets). I've also dreamed about going to writers' conferences a number of times -- usually the conference locations in the dream have some kind of resemblance to Port Townsend, Washington (on the Puget Sound) where I went to the Writers' Conference there a couple of times years ago.

One time many years ago, shortly after I'd finished reading Sam Hamill's book "Basho's Ghost" (about his experiences living and traveling for a year in Japan, encounters with Japanese poets and poetry, etc.), I had a long elaborate dream about going to an island somewhere, green and full of trees. At some point I was riding in a horse-drawn wagon, and then the wagon stopped and Sam Hamill was standing there. I told him (in the dream) "I really liked Basho's Ghost." Then I woke up.

Sometime during the next week I wrote to Hamill (whom I'd never met), by paper mail, and told him some things I liked about "Basho's Ghost," and I also briefly mentioned the dream. A little while after that I got a brief friendly reply from him.

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