Thursday, March 29, 2007

Glück, and a draft

The Louise Glück reading yesterday was quite good, and well-attended. I haven't read Averno yet, but after hearing her read from it I've decided I definitely need to pick it up soon. She read only from Averno, about 40 minutes I guess, then took questions for a little while. Someone asked her what she'd learned from being Poet Laureate, and I guess it wasn't exactly a good experience for her. Heh. Someone else asked her about her work on the Yale Series, and she was much less cranky about that; it sounds like that is work she genuinely enjoys.

Just hearing the work aloud, not having read it yet, was interesting -- I think I hear poems differently when I have not previously encountered them on the page vs. when I have. Something about the poems she read made me think of Carl Phillips' work -- that there was a similar sort of intelligence and thought-to-language process at work. The classical influence, partly, but something more than that. I'll file that in the back of my brain for potential critical-paper-fodder should I ever manage to get myself into an MFA program.

(Edited to add: I almost forgot to mention that she said when she started writing one of the poems in Averno -- I think it was "Landscape" -- it was the first poem she'd written in two years. For some reason I found it comforting to think that she has long dry spells just like the rest of us.)

This draft actually came, in part, from random notes I jotted down during the reading. I think it needs a different title, and I think the language itself needs to be doing more work -- the words here feel too ordinary to me and I want to find words that are more energetic and unusual. The language itself needs to be part of the risk the poem takes. (This is something I need to work on in general.) So this is kind of an outline or a sketch, in a way, as much as a draft. But there's something about it I like enough to keep working on it. To that end, the draft will disappear from this blog in a day or so.

*poof!* draft is gone. thanks to those who commented. :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Valparaiso Poetry Review and Dangerous Astronomy

Some good stuff in the new issue of Valparaiso Poetry Review -- haven't read through it carefully yet, but on first browse, Martha Silano's poem "No Refunds, No Exchanges" really grabbed me, as did featured poet Diane Lockward's "How Is a Shell Like Regret?". There's one of mine in here too: a slightly older poem, kind of a weird one, but one I always thought would eventually find a home somewhere. (And yes, I really did see the picture of the alligator who'd swallowed a man; it was creepy!)

In today's mail: "Dangerous Astronomy," a limited-edition letterpress chapbook by Sherman Alexie, published by Limberlost Press. It's lovely, with a nice typeface and pretty endpapers and heavy, luxurious paper throughout. Its dimensions are somewhat larger than your average chapbook too, so it is really a nice showcase for the poems. I may take this with me to Alexie's reading next month in hopes of getting it signed (my mom's hip surgery has been postponed a couple weeks, so I don't have to miss the reading, yay).

What's new with you?

Monday, March 26, 2007


The 2007 Publishing Triangle Award Finalists include these in poetry:

The Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry
Robin Becker, The Domain of Perfect Affection (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Kate Lynn Hibbard, Sleeping Upside Down (Silverfish Review Press)
Jennifer Rose, Hometown for an Hour (Ohio University Press)

The Thom Gunn Award for Gay Male Poetry
Justin Chin, Gutted (Manic D Press)
Jim Elledge, A History of My Tattoo (Stonewall)
Greg Hewett, The Eros Conspiracy (Coffee House Press)

This bit of amusement from Overheard in the Office:

Homeless guy #1: Damn! I just got kicked out of the library! Damn!
Homeless guy #2: What did you do, man?
Homeless guy #1: I don't know. I don't know.
Homeless guy #2: Aren't you drunk?
Homeless guy #1: Well, yeah. Also, I might have been looking at dirty pictures on the computer.
Homeless guy #2: Aw, that's not so bad.
Homeless guy #1: And they said that I was being disrespectful to the librarians.
Homeless guy #2, freaking out: No way, man! You can never, never disrespect the librarians! Always respect librarians! What were you thinking? Are you an idiot?

Outside Boulder Public Library
Boulder, Colorado

Overheard by: Librarian on break

And this for all ye former Englyshe majors, reprinted here by permission of the poet, because it's that time of year:

Spring Break Special
Breast Augmentation, $3,950.00

Spring Break is icumen in
Lhunde sing swimsu
Sliceth knife and passeth coin
And Springeth the breaste nu

--Antonia Matthew
published in Celebrating Seventy, ed. by Jenny Kander (Lexington, KY: Wind, 2003)

Special Bonus Amusement
for anyone within driving distance of Bloomington:

Louise Glück will be reading on Wednesday at 5 pm in the Frangipani Room of the Indiana Memorial Union.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

NaPoWriMo, ho ho ho

April's coming! I did the NaPo WriMo thing last year, and although at least 2/3 of what I wrote was pure crap, I wrote at least a couple of poems I doubt I would have written without the discipline of making myself write every day. I don't think I'd want to try to write a poem a day forever, but a month of it is good. See baby-eating monster for details!

* * * * *
I have the biggest stack of books in my to-read pile now. It's not even funny. There are so many of them, and so many that I am extra excited about reading, that I don't even know where to start. People. Stop publishing books for a while, will ya? I need to catch up!

(It's becoming more and more clear to me that while it's important to become disciplined about writing, what I really need to do right now is to get more disciplined about reading. I need to set aside an hour every evening for disappearing into my study with a book. When I'm reading well, writing almost inevitably follows. Maybe I need to have myself a NaPoReadMo! Because I sure do need to read mo'.)

* * * * *
Welcome Carol Guess to the blogosphere! I just stumbled across her blog, Syntax Is A Second Skin, today. I got to know Carol a bit when she was here in Bloomington, studying at IU. Her novels and her "hybrid memoir" are terrific, but I love her poetry the best; Femme's Dictionary, her first collection, is beautiful and dangerous.

* * * * *

I'll be one of the featured readers at the Runcible Spoon's monthly reading tomorrow evening. Last night I rummaged through the past year's output (or so) and came up with what I think is a nice little fifteen-minute set. (I was told "15 to 20" so in the interest of not being one of Those Readers, I'm making it 15.) Tonight I need to practice reading through them a few times, because it feels like I haven't read in a long time. I think I'm going to read something very new and kind of scary-feeling, something that's still very much in process, just to see how it feels coming out of my mouth with people listening. I think that will help me revise the thing. Anyway, I'm looking forward to it. Terry Wisniewski is one of the other readers, and she is one of my favorite local poets, so hearing her will be something to look forward to as well.

* * * * *

Found out this week that my mom is having hip replacement surgery next month, so I will most likely be headed up north to help her out for a week or so. Sadly, this means I'll be missing Sherman Alexie's reading here. But with a little luck I'll at least be able to use some of the time productively, and get a bunch of reading done. We've been through this before, or something like it; she had a knee replaced in 2004, and I spent some time doing the caretaker thang then.

In other family news, happy Second Arbitrarily-Assigned Birthday to my orange-and-white cat, Lotus. He was found as a stray (taken to a shelter, then to Rescue Farm, and eventually home with me) so who knows what his real birthday is, but he was about 6 months old when I got him at the end of September, and March 22nd was my dad's birthday and also the birthday of my previous orange-and-white cat Yoda (1986-2004), so it seemed like a felicitous Arbitrary Birthday to select. That's him in my little profile picture up there. He doesn't look a day over Arbitrary Kittenhood.

P.S. Today someone found my blog by googling the phrase "procrastination device." Muahahahahaha. My evil plan is working!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Why they call it CrackThing

Egads, LibraryThing is addictive. I've entered a few hundred books so far -- much of the poetry and writing-related stuff, most of the travel stuff, most of the whale/cetacean/ocean stuff, and now I'm starting in on my general collection (fiction and nonfiction all mashed together, alpha by author) -- in which I am part way through Atwood.

LibraryThing has a lot of nifty little features. One of the cool toys is an "author gallery" -- they don't have pictures of all authors, of course, but you can bring up a little gallery of authors in your collection for whom they have pictures. Here's mine -- see how many you can identify! No cheating; when you hover your mouse over the picture the identification will pop up.

It has nothing to do with poetry or Great Literature, but I'm currently reading a book which is funny as hell and which some of you bloggers out there might enjoy -- Exile in Guyville: How a Punk Rock Redneck Faggot Texan Moved to West Hollywood and Refused to be Shiny and Happy, by Dave White. (That link goes to his website. He's got a blog linked on there, too. Who doesn't have a blog anymore, that's what I want to know.) I guess the book's subtitle pretty much sums it up, doesn't it? Seriously, funny as hell.

Spotted my first actual blooming crocuses yesterday (or maybe it was the day before). Which means it will probably snow at least one more time, but spring is officially on the way. Finally.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


  • Flipping back and forth between tennis (Roddick vs. Ljubicic) and basketball (IU vs. Gonzaga)
  • Listening to the cat snore
  • Reading blogs and other things online
  • Tinkering with a new poem, just a bit (the poem is scaring me, just a bit -- which is a good thing)
  • Contemplating a late night snack
  • Breathing slowly and calmly
  • Hoping, always, for the best
  • Making lunch plans with friends for tomorrow (the China Star in Ellettsville is calling my name... mmm!)
  • Typing out this silly blog post
  • Wiggling my toes
  • Listening to the song that's stuck inside my head
  • Trying to remember to count my blessings
  • Nothin' but net, baby. Nothin' but net.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Drafty in here

This is rough, and it won't stay up long.

[And, gone. If you missed it and want to see it, email me...]

Sunday, March 11, 2007

LibraryThing top twenty

On LibraryThing, users can choose to tag their books -- by subject, theme, genre, format, location, or whatever -- or not. Of those users who chose to tag books as "poetry," these are the top twenty books (sitewide) tagged as poetry (or variants thereof, like "poems" or "poesia"), and the number of users who tagged them as such:
  1. Leaves of grass (725)
  2. The Odyssey (663)
  3. The inferno (627)
  4. Beowulf : a new verse translation (612)
  5. The Iliad (586)
  6. The divine comedy (529)
  7. Where the sidewalk ends : the poems & drawings of Shel Silve… (455)
  8. The Canterbury tales (453)
  9. The complete works by William Shakespeare (446)
  10. The waste land and other poems (429)
  11. Old Possum's book of practical cats (395)
  12. The poetry of Robert Frost (394)
  13. Ariel (393)
  14. The sonnets by William Shakespeare (377)
  15. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (377)
  16. A light in the attic (363)
  17. The Aeneid (358)
  18. Paradise lost : an authoritative text, backgrounds and sourc… (343)
  19. Howl, and other poems (323)
  20. The complete poems of Emily Dickinson (300)
Note that LibraryThing combines multiple editions of a book under one title, so -- for example -- the numbers for Ariel include both the original and the new "revised" edition, and there are probably a ton of different editions of the Shakespeare sonnets. Still, it's kind of interesting, huh?

Also interesting: the top 10,000 works tagged as poetry in LibraryThing. (The list may take a few seconds to load.)

And of the books I've added to my LibraryThing library so far, here are the top ten most popular (by number of appearances in other LT users' libraries) -- note this does not depend on tags, just titles, so the numbers are considerably larger than those in the poetry-tagged list:
  1. The complete works of Shakespeare (3719)
  2. Ariel by Sylvia Plath (926)
  3. Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg (883)
  4. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot (836)
  5. The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath (685)
  6. 100 Selected Poems by E.E. Cummings (446)
  7. The Selected Poems of William Carlos Williams (336)
  8. A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (330)
  9. The Colossus and Other Poems by Sylvia Plath (193)
  10. The Fact of a Doorframe: Poems Selected and New, 1950-1984 by Adrienne Rich (152)

As for my own library, I've got the bulk of my already-read poetry entered -- single authors only, not anthologies -- 268 books. Haven't touched anything but poetry yet. It's been fun to go through the shelves and actually lay hands on each book, thinking about when and where I acquired it. There are a few items I'd forgotten that I owned, like a tiny little locally-published limited-edition chapbook by Yusef Komunyakaa called February in Sydney. And I took a moment or two with each of the signed books, especially those that were signed for me by teachers (mostly in summer workshops), thinking about those interactions & what they meant to me.

I'm looking forward to entering the rest of my books, although it will probably take me ... years.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ain't no thang

So, I finally got sucked into the world of LibraryThing. For the uninitiated, this is an incredibly cool site where you can catalog your own books -- you can put in the title, author, ISBN, or whatever and it will search Amazon and the Library of Congress catalog & retrieve the full bibliographic data. Or, if you have a fairly obscure item, you can enter everything manually. Then the fun begins. You can tag your books, so that you can retrieve all the ones tagged "autographed" or "stolen from my ex" or "translations" or "Yale younger poet winners" or whatever floats your boat. You can see how many other LibraryThingers own the same titles. You can get recommendations based on what other people who own a particular title also own. You can post reviews, join groups to discuss various bookish topics, and on and on and on. Oh yes, you can also access the site on a mobile browser, so if you're in the bookstore and you can't remember whether you already own something or not, you can look it up. How cool is that?

It's free to catalog up to 200 books; for unlimited use, you can pay $10/year or $25 for a lifetime membership -- which I will probably end up doing. I've started by just putting in a) poetry books, b) which I own, and c) which I have already read. I do read a lot of library books as well, and maybe once I get my whole library entered I'll start adding those. But I own a crapload of books, so it's going to be quite a while before I get all of my own up there. I may actually get all the poetry done before summer, though. :D

Also, you can make a widget to show random books from your library in the sidebar of your blog. So looky! -- mine's over there --------->.

Recreational cataloging. Who woulda thunk it? (For the record, although I did OK in the cataloging class when I was in library school, I came away from it thinking "I am so not a cataloger." Hah!)

(If you are a fellow LibraryThinger, feel free to drop a comment on my library over there!)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Quincy Troupe & Billy Bang

So tonight I went to hear Quincy Troupe along with jazz violinist Billy Bang. It was AMAZING. Billy Bang is just an incredible musician (he's played with Sun Ra and all kinds of other heavyweights) -- when he started playing tears came to my eyes, and OK that happens a lot when I listen to excellent jazz (partly because my father was a jazz musician so I grew up with the stuff plus it reminds me of him), but I wasn't really expecting to have that sort of reaction tonight. He played stuff that made me giggle, and stuff that made me cry, and stuff that just made my jaw drop with its sheer virtuosity. He made a violin sound swear to god just like Jimi Hendrix on guitar, besides channeling Miles and Duke and his own inimitable self. I think I have blisters on my fingers just from watching him. I bought two of his CDs (and got them signed), and can't wait to give them a listen.

And Quincy Troupe -- well, a lot of you reading this have probably heard him before, so you know he is practically a musician himself with his words, and to see/hear him trading riffs with Billy Bang was just insanely hot. I think the highlight for me was "The Architecture of Language," title poem from his 2006 collection (which I bought and got him to sign), which was just a tour de force of language & music & emotion. Also "Vichyssoise," which was just plain fun, and his poem about Magic Johnson, and a long one set in Spain (which he read solo). You could tell he was loving the music and having a good time, too.

The scary thing? They hadn't really performed together before. But of course that's what jazz musicians do, they sit in, they improvise, they create a conversation that's never happened before and will never happen again. They do apparently have plans to work together more, so watch out for them, because if you get a chance to hear them, YOU MUST GO.

So if anyone sees Cathy Bowman (organizer of this particular poetry series) at AWP, let her know that Quincy and Billy rocked the house.

everything is changing everywhere poetry grows
word by word, sound by sound, form by form, cadence by cadence,
mack by mack, word plays sluicing under the syllables
stitching evolving language into innovative soundtracks,
found in the very air we breathe every day

everywhere, everything is changing

[from "The Architecture of Language"]

Thursday, March 01, 2007

In like a lion, out like a Lammy

I hope everyone who's had to face ferocious weather today is OK. I guess it's officially spring ... I was awakened last night about 3:30 AM by window-rattling, bone-rattling thunder. I was in a tornado (as in, it mashed up the house we lived in) when I was five, in Kansas, so I've always been acutely aware of severe weather whenever it rolls through. Weather also shows up in my poems a lot, and it's usually not a metaphor -- weather is just that important to us tornado-alley residents.

Anyway, I see there is still a tornado watch out for most of Georgia, until 5 am. Stay safe, all you crazy AWP-ers.

* * * * *

Tomorrow night Quincy Troupe is reading here in town, along with jazz violinist Billy Bang. A bit odd that the MFA program is bringing in a major reading during AWP, but no matter -- I'm looking forward to it.

* * * * *

Breaking news! This literally landed in my inbox this very moment as I was typing up this post. Here are this year's Lambda Literary Award finalists in poetry:

Domain of Perfect Affection by Robin Becker (University of Pittsburgh)
Days of Good Looks by Cheryl Clarke (Carroll & Graf)
The Truant Lover by Juliet Patterson (Nightboat Books)
Lemon Hound by Sina Queyras (Coach House Books)
Touch to Affliction by Nathalie Stephens (Coach House Books)

Nominees for GAY POETRY

Gutted by Justin Chin (Manic D Press)
The Album That Changed My Life by Jeffrey Conway (Cold Calm Press)
A History of My Tattoo by Jim Elledge (Stonewall)
Other Fugitives & Other Strangers by Rigoberto Gonzalez (Tupelo Press)
When the Eye Forms by Dwaine Rieves (Tupelo)
Yes, I am overly pleased with myself for the terrible, terrible pun in the title of this blog post. Stop snickering. Honestly, the post was already titled "In like a lion" before the Lammy finalists hit my inbox, so how could I resist??? But I agree, I should be shot for that one.