Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Back home again in Indiana...

The trip to Santa Fe was short and relatively packed, what with events related to the family wedding I was there to attend, and trying to spend time with family members, some of whom I don't see very often. I didn't get much sightseeing in (but thanks to those of you who passed along recommendations, which I'm saving for next time) -- I did see enough to know I'd like to go back someday! It's a fascinating little town, not like anywhere else I've ever been; it's been a long time since I found myself in a landscape so completely new to me -- unexpected light, unfamiliar smells -- juniper, sage, salsa. The dry desert air sucked the moisture right out of me. Next time I'm taking chapstick.

The whole time I was there I had this nagging feeling that a poem was almost in me, like a sneeze that won't quite happen. There was one morning when I spent an hour or so sitting at a table in the sun in the courtyard of the hotel, scribbling nothing in my journal and reading some poems, and I almost caught the poem then, I think. But not quite. Sometimes I just need to hold really still for several hours, glancing now and then out of the corner of my eye to see any suspicious movement, before the poem shows itself.

Next time I go to Santa Fe, I'm hunting poems. I like to travel looking for poems the way some people travel looking for the perfect souvenir. I know there are poems in Santa Fe, in that brilliant desert light, in the wings of the humongous crows soaring everywhere (we have crows in Indiana too, but I swear the New Mexico ones are bigger). There's a vocabulary there which I didn't have the time, this trip, to figure out. But I'll be back.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Santa Fe

So I am in Santa Fe right now. This is the first time I've been to the Southwest at all! So everything is very new to me -- the land, the light, the smells. I'm here for a family wedding, and between the wedding-related events & the difficulty of getting my little group of family members all moving in the same direction at the same time, there's not a huge ton of time for sightseeing. But I've been able to spend several hours downtown (in the general vicinity of the Plaza), and I have to say, this seems like a really neat town. Also, everybody here dresses much better than people in Indiana do. Also, looking around all the little shops makes me wish I had a LOT more money than I do. :)

I went into a nice little bookstore called Collected Works; when I'm in a new town, one of my favorite things to do is to go into a local bookstore and try to buy a couple of books by local poets. Collected Works had a pretty decent poetry section which included quite a few local and local-ish poets, and I found three that appealed to me after dipping into them just a bit, so that was a big bookstore success (one book each by Pat Mora, Valerie Martinez, and Carol Moldaw). Also popped into a couple of galleries and several other little shops. It is definitely the sort of "interesting shops and galleries" town I love spending time in, and I think I will try to come back sometime when I can be more leisurely about things. I'll keep an eye out for particularly good poetry readings out here, and maybe try to time a visit so that I can hear somebody fabulous.

Speaking of which, I had hoped to make it to a reading by Sheryl Luna and a couple other poets at the Institute of American Indian Arts this afternoon, but the stars just weren't aligned quite right, or whatever. (Plus I was slightly mistaken about where the reading was, and made it to the IAIA museum about one minute before the reading was scheduled to start, but the reading was about 20 miles away at the IAIA school. Oops. I wouldn't have been able to make it out there anyway, unfortunately.) Sorry, Sheryl -- next time!

I do want to come back to Santa Fe; it doesn't strike me as someplace I am drawn to in an "I really want to live here when I win the lottery" kind of way (which is how I feel about Provincetown), but it's certainly a place where I'd like to spend a little time. I'd also like to get out of town and investigate the landscape a bit, do a little light hiking, that kind of thing. I have to say that after a dreary, rainy, chilly few days in Bloomington, the brilliant sunshine here is most welcome indeed. I'd like to go hunting for poems here, which would probably mean traveling alone (something I enjoy anyway). October seems like a particularly good time to be here, so maybe next year. Anybody know what the queer community is like here? I haven't been able to get a sense of that yet.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Upcoming Indianapolis events

For anyone who may be within driving distance of Indianapolis: On Thursday, November 15, Mark Doty will be reading at the University of Indianapolis. And earlier that day he will be leading a creative writing class there, which has a few open spaces for community members. At least -- there were still openings as of this morning, when I reserved my spot! It doesn't sound like it is a workshop where he will be looking at our own work; the faculty member who's coordinating it said she would be sending out a pdf of the reading we are supposed to have done before the class. Cool -- homework! Here's all the info on the reading and the class (and also here).

Then the next day (Friday, 11/16) Doty will be giving a talk at the Indianapolis Art Museum, "meditating on selected objects from the collection." Like Thursday's class, the talk requires registration in advance. I will probably have to miss this, since that would mean taking a second day (or at least most of the day) off work. But I am totally going to the class and the reading.

And I'm totally getting my copy of Dog Years signed. :)

There is a Q&A after the reading. If anyone has any really good questions they'd like me to try and ask him, let me know!

* * * * *

Best spam subject line of the month: Change your baby banana to a large banana. I think that one even beats the Big Dick Fairy ones I keep getting. Bwahahahahaha!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Copper Canyon on tonight's PBS NewsHour

I never get these things until the very last minute. If you want to get alerts whenever they're going to run a poetry story, instructions can be found at the bottom of the email I've copied here....


* An E-mail Service of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
* and the Online NewsHour


October 22, 2007

Despite the challenges of making a profit in the poetry publishing business, there is still a lot of poetry being produced in the United States. As part of our ongoing NewsHour Poetry Series, tonight we take a look at the ups and downs of Copper Canyon Press and other local Seattle poetry publishers.

Copper Canyon Press has been putting out books for 35 years. With a million dollar budget and a staff of eight, Copper Canyon relies on foundation and government grants, and private donors to publish about 20 poetry books a year. In the poetry publishing business, 5,000 sales is a bestseller, but every so often, there's a blockbuster that brings in real money. One such bestseller is the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Delights & Shadows by Ted Kooser, which has close to 100,000 copies in print.

For online coverage of the Poetry Series, go to the Online NewsHour at

EDITOR'S NOTE: Segments highlighted on NewsHour Poetry Series Alert are scheduled to air but subject to change.

NewsHour Poetry Series Alert subscribers receive an e-mail notice every time a
poetry piece is scheduled to appear on the NewsHour.

The NewsHour Poetry Series is funded by The Poetry Foundation.

To subscribe to NewsHour Poetry Series Alert, please send an e-mail to from the e-mail address you want to subscribe, with the following in the message body: subscribe newshour-poetry-l

Landscapes and perspective

Blogging 'round these parts may be light to nonexistent for a few days while I get ready for a quick trip to the Southwest, where I've never been before. Hello, totally new landscape. Hello, red and green chilies. (Drool...)

* * * * *

I'll probably jinx it by mentioning it here, but I sent out a short story a few days ago, for the first time in several years. I've had one short story published, way back in 1992, but I just don't write fiction very often. I wish I did. I spent several hours tweaking the story I sent out last week and found it pretty enjoyable; writing fiction feels like work in a way that writing poetry doesn't always, and I like how it feels. How you dive into the flow of the words and stay there, maybe for hours. Writing a poem, or revising one, tends (for me) to involve a lot of staring into space; a lot of writing a few words or a line then scratching half of it out; a lot of feeling my way through narrow corridors with all the lights out, not quite knowing where I'm headed, following my senses as best I can. Writing fiction feels like running, picking a direction and heading for it, working up a bit of a sweat.

I was never very good at running, either. *grin*

I sent out a few poems, too. 'Bout time I got back in the saddle.

* * * * *

I have a publication date for my chapbook now. Pre-orders will begin in June (if you asked for a postcard or an email, you will get it then) and the chapbook will be published in late August of next year. So you might not hear much about it until summertime -- but believe me, I will keep you posted. If you don't promote yourself, who will, et cetera.

* * * * *

Thinking, the past few days, about the nature of distance, the nature of memory, the nature of what's past. I don't miss the person I was, back then. Funny to come to that conclusion. Funny how two separate, entirely parallel lines never actually touch, but appear to converge as they recede towards the horizon.

* * * * *

My decrepit old iPod hates me.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Not much poetry

Microsoft wants to read your mind. Cue the evil dancing paperclip....

* * * * *

Factoid: It's very difficult to blog when one has a very large, very fluffy cat flopping himself lengthwise across the laptop and presenting his belly for rubbing.

* * * * *

Very pleased today to get the word that a poem-ish thing* of mine will be appearing in the not-awfully-distant future in Bloom (the queer one this time, not the Bloomington lifestyle mag I was in before).

*I think it's a prosepoem of sorts, actually, but it might be a highly-compressed little essay thing, or a micro-fictiony-thing without much in the way of plot. I'll call it a prosepoem, since I don't really know any better.

* * * * *
Glamorous Job (© Rebecca Loudon) department:

If you are interested in volunteering as a Floor Warden to aid in clearing the Wells Library during an evacuation, please contact me.

I thought they only had wardens in prisons & asylums. Hmmm....

* * * * *

FINALLY got my copy of the new Bruce Springsteen CD today. I made the dire mistake of pre-ordering it directly from the label (Sony), because they were offering a special free lyric booklet along with the purchase. I've been really excited about this CD -- I love me some E Street Band -- and when release day came and went with no package in my mailbox, I started to worry. ("Is there anybody alive out there?") Finally, eight days after release day, I had an email from Sony letting me know that they'd had "a problem at our distribution partner" and shipment had been delayed. They did take off the shipping charges and gave me a couple bucks off the CD, but I still could have gotten it cheaper at Best Buy -- and most importantly, faster. The lyric booklet is kind of neat, but not worth a two week delay. Grrr.

But I have it now. What time is it? It's Boss Time!

* * * * *

Sunday, several members of my old writers' group got together for a little reunion of sorts. We met once a week, every week, from 1985 until sometime in the mid-nineties ('96 or '97 maybe?), and met sporadically for a couple years after that. Many of us have continued to stay in touch, even if loosely, but this was the first time in quite a few years that most of us had been together as a group. It felt like we'd never been apart, except that our usual routine of going around the table and "checking in" about what was up with us that week became a check-in about what had been up with us for the past ten years. That group was always much more than just a writers' group, which I attribute in part to the strong commitment to feminist principles that underpinned everything about our process, in part to the fact that we all worked hard to communicate clearly and really listen to one another, and in part to pure damn luck in gathering together a group of truly remarkable women.

Not all of us have continued to write seriously (or at all). But to my great astonishment, four of us are now talking about getting together more or less monthly to share and critique poems, along with another woman who used to come to our readings all the time and has been known to mention us as an influence on her own work. I would not have predicted this as an outcome to our little reunion, not in a million years. But I am absolutely thrilled that it's happening.

All the way home from S.'s house out in the country, which is where we met yesterday, I had a line from Paul Simon in my head: "After changes upon changes, we are more or less the same." Yep. That we are.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Quiet night

Last night's reading went well, I think. We had a very full house (it's a small room, so it doesn't take much); I'm bad at audience-counting, but I guess we had about 40 people and it felt packed.

* * * * *

Quiet day today; quiet night tonight. I spent a while in my tiny little study at the back of the house, reading and writing a bit and listening to the next door neighbors who were apparently having a small social gathering on their back deck.

Got out Adrienne Rich's Dream of a Common Language and read her "Twenty-One Love Poems" for about the billionth time. How is it that poems I've read so many times, over the course of twenty-plus years, still have the power to move me so deeply?

* * * * *

What kind of beast would turn its life into words?
What atonement is this all about?
--and yet, writing words like these, I'm also living.

[Rich, Twenty-One Love Poems, VII]

* * * * *

As often, I'm thinking about the choices I've made that have led me here, where I am: this small house, this night, this quiet.

* * * * *

I choose to walk here. And to draw this circle.

[Rich, XXI]

* * * * *

It's the choices I don't remember making that circle back on me, nights like this. Even so, I chose this life and I'd probably choose it again.


Thursday, October 11, 2007


So very pleased to wake up to the news this morning that Doris Lessing had been awarded the Nobel. I haven't honestly read that many of her books (and she has a ton of 'em), but I did read The Grass Is Singing and The Golden Notebook and some of her short stories as an undergrad, and I remember being especially moved and inspired by The Golden Notebook. (It's been on my "really should reread this now that I'm older and maybe know a little more" list for a while now.) I think I've read a couple others of hers as well, but can't recall titles off the top of my head. Anyway, happy news.

* * * * *

My poetry group's annual reading is tomorrow evening. I like it much better when we have a Saturday night reading; I'm always so low-energy on Friday evenings after a long work week. I'm going to take a niblet of vacation time tomorrow and leave work an hour or two early, which should help; at least it will give me time to come home, change clothes, have a bite to eat, feed the cats. Note to self: print out poems before going to bed tonight!

We are reading at Boxcar Books, which is a nice little indie bookstore specializing in lefty political stuff. They do have a smallish but generally well-chosen poetry section. They are kind enough to let us use their back room for free -- it's nothing fancy, but it's a nice little space with room for 20-30 people to sit and listen. The bookstore is run by a cooperative of young folks (mostly in their twenties, I think); I always feel a little bit old when I go in there, but they do good work, and have a number of community projects they're affiliated with, including a very active Pages to Prisoners program. Nice little place, and it's fun to read there.

I need to start thinking about the reading I'll be doing in the spring in connection with my grant; it's none too early to start finding a space and choosing a date. I hope that when my chapbook comes out I'll be able to do a few more readings. In a smallish town like Bloomington I don't get to read that often -- there just aren't that many venues -- but I do enjoy reading, when I get to do it. Didn't used to. I used to have stage fright something awful. I'm not quite sure what I did to get over it, but now I'll get up in front of pretty much anyone and read poems. (Extemporaneous speaking is another matter entirely. *shudder*)

Some of my favorite readings ever have been the student readings at the Fine Arts Work Center summer program. You're limited to reading one page, which is not much, but it turns out to be about right for the number of people there. Every year so far there have been at least a couple of students who've astonished me with amazing work -- they attract such a high quality of students there. And although the workshop faculty aren't required to attend, in my experience they always have, and it's pretty sweet to look out into the audience and see people like D.A. Powell, Carl Phillips, Robin Becker, Sonia Sanchez, et al. (Sonia Sanchez was especially cool, going around afterwards to everyone who'd read and thanking them for reading and giving them a hug. She's great.) At those readings, students very often read something they've just written or revised that week, which lends a certain air of risk and excitement to the whole thing.

One of the poems I'm reading tomorrow night is pretty new (I've been working on it since the beginning of August) and probably not quite entirely finished. That's enough risk for a home-court reading, methinks.

* * * * *

Summer has finally snapped like the last string bean, and instead of highs in the low 90s (which we had as recently as Monday) we're topping out around 60. It's a bit of a shock, but at least it's seasonal. I love October, usually. Love it best when the trees are orange and the sky is brilliant blue. There's a certain shade of blue that only happens in autumn. I could live inside that blue, could love it forever. Every year I try to write about that particular sky and every year I fail miserably. Figures.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Found poetry

This list is excerpted from a list of related keywords found in a recycle basket at the library where I work. I don't know what the person's original search was, but it couldn't have been as interesting as the list they tossed. I've left out a bunch from the list, but these are all in the order in which they appeared on the original pages.

(A found poem)

Animals on television
Arabs on television
Arthurian romances on television
Asian Americans on television
Blacks on television
Body, Human, on television
Businessmen on television
Closed-circuit television
Color television
Crime on television
Detective teams on television
Digital television
Grazing (Television)
Heroes on television
Home video systems
Homosexuality on television
Internet television
Justice, Administration of, on television
Lawyers on television
Libraries and television
Man-woman relationships on television
Medicine on television
Melodrama on television
Military television
Nihilism (Philosophy) on television
Nuclear energy on television
Nuclear warfare on television
Nurses on television
Older people on television
People with disabilities on television
Physicians on television
Racism on television
Realism on television
Sensationalism on television
Sex on television
Slow-scan television
Terrorism on television
Underwater television
Video art
Video dial tone
Video telephone
Violence on television
Women heroes on television
Working class on television
Youth on television
Zapping (Television)
Aggressiveness on television
Archetype (Psychology) on television
Astronautics--Optical communication systems
Bisexuality on television
Clergy on television
Death on television
Family on television
Gay men on television
Identity (Psychology) on television
Indians on television
Interviewing on television
Myth on television
National socialism on television
Occultism on television
Pioneers on television
Prehistoric peoples on television
Religion on television
Saints on television
Suffering on television
Tattooing on television
Teenage boys on television
Vampires on television
Whites on television
Women employees on television
More information: Here are entered general works on television
and general technical works on equipment.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Interesting tea

I always think that, being professionally bookish as well as being a spinster poet and what-not, I should be the kind of person who drinks interesting tea. So I go to the natural foods co-op and I buy all kinds of tea -- yoga-doing, karma-enhancing, aromatic tea. I make tea one evening, drink half a cup, and months later can't remember why I bought all those boxes of weird-ass tea in my cupboard and in the snackie drawer of my desk at work, and wonder how on earth it is that I've run out of diet Coke again.

My poems, however, drink interesting tea. They take long walks at all hours of the night. They probably do yoga and have dreams worth recounting. They live in rooms with delightful fragrances wafting through the air, and spend their evenings reading. They might be vegetarians. They certainly know more about wine than I do.

I'm not entirely sure I trust the things.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Atchison, Topeka and...

So, looks like I'm going to be spending a couple days in Santa Fe later on this month for a relative's wedding. I've been to Colorado (only east of the Rockies though) and California, but the Southwest will be completely new ground for me. I'll be flying into Albuquerquererqerquqeruque* and either taking a shuttle or renting a car to get to Santa Fe, so I may conceivably be able to spend a few hours in ABQ on the way in.

Anyone have great suggestions for stuff I should see or do, given that my free time will be pretty limited? I'd especially love to find an interesting bookstore, of course. (It's not a BOOKSTORE ADDICTION. It's PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. Dammit.)

Looking forward to some delicious Mexican food, for sure... yum!

*Yes, I can spell Albuquerque. I just like putting on a few extra querques.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Quick note

Poet Troy Jollimore, author of Tom Thomson in Purgatory, is this week's guest blogger over at the Powell's Bookstore blog.

Here's an excerpt from his first post, which compares being a poet with being a philosopher (which he also is):

Typically, answering the question "What do you do?" with either "I'm a philosopher" or "I'm a poet" will get you a pretty similar look. A look which, if it could be rendered in English, would go something like this: "How peculiar — I mean interesting — I just remembered something quite important I have to do somewhere rather far away from here — please don't ask me who my favorite philosopher/poet is or anything like that — nice meeting you, I'm going to back away slowly now, smiling awkwardly the whole time."

Should be worth keeping an eye on this week to see what else he's got to say.

Frequently Asked Question

One of the most common searches that leads people to my blog is "artistic resumes" (and various variations, like "how to write an artistic resume"). Unfortunately this doesn't lead them much of anywhere -- just to a post I made a year and a half ago, in which I was looking for information on how to write an artistic resume!

And by "artistic resume" (for all you Googlers out there), I don't mean "how to format a regular resume so that it looks all pretty and artistic" -- I mean a resume listing one's artistic accomplishments.

Anyway, I got some good advice in the comments on the original post, and the artistic resume I created at the time seems to have worked (I was runner-up that year for the scholarship I was applying for, and this year I actually won the thing), so I think I probably did OK with the resume. Because this is such a freakin' popular search (and because there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of information out there), I am going to write up a post compiling all of the advice along with my experience, and I'll post that in the next few days. Meanwhile, if anyone has any advice they'd like to add, comment here and I'll include it. Thanky!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Poem of the week, & thoughts on critique

Went out to an old friend's house yesterday evening to talk poetry and have some dinner. She lives on a hill out in the country, and as evening fell, a group of deer wandered down towards the pond. The dogs kept a close eye on them so we didn't have to worry about being attacked by marauding deer, though. Good dogs.

Anyway, we talked about workshopping/critique -- when it helps, when it doesn't. In my old writers' group, which this friend was a part of, we talked about "heart" and "craft" critique -- sometimes you just need to hear whether the piece rings true and can then feel empowered to go back and work on it, while hearing about line breaks or commas or whatever would be overkill and can sometimes paralyze you from wanting to work on the poem further; sometimes you need to hear about what's working or not with the craft, the mechanics of the poem. I no longer think it's quite that easy to separate out these two facets of how a poem functions, but for a long time it was a helpful way of talking about critique, and especially a helpful way of bringing beginners into a workshop setting.

What occurred to me last night was yet another way of categorizing critique: that which urges the poet to clarify, and that which urges the poet to complicate. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive, of course, just as clarity and complexity are not mutually exclusive in a poem. But I've realized that when I feel frustrated and unsatisfied with critique, often it's because the people responding to the poem are thinking primarily in terms of clarity. I can push myself in that direction pretty satisfactorily; what I like to get from a workshop or critique group (I almost typed "critique grope" but that would be something else entirely) is a recognition of what is complex and mysterious in the poem, an exploration of where that complexity arises and where it leads the poem, and suggestions about how to nudge the poem further in the direction of its own mystery.

In both of the workshops I've had with D.A. Powell, he has quoted Rachel Zucker: "Revise towards strangeness." I think that is, in general, excellent advice.

* * * * *

I don't remember for sure which blogger recommended Nancy Pagh's book, No Sweeter Fat. Peter, was it you? Anyway, I'm quite grateful. I actually ordered it some months ago, but my book backlog is just crazy right now, and I've only just gotten around to reading it. There's some terrific stuff in here! This one is a little different from some of the other poems in the book, but I thought y'all might particularly appreciate it:

Among the Vegetarians
(apologies to WW)

Sometimes I would like to turn and live
among the vegetarians --
they are so placid, and so self contained.

They understand the eggplant's secret
firmness, the tabula rasa the bean curd is.

I contemplate them long and long.
Death does not linger on their breath.
The darker crevices
of their cutting boards are safe.

They exist without asking another
animal to kneel and spill itself.

The gentle eyes of the vegetarian
flash liquid revelations
to me and I accept them.

Theirs is an appetite to know and be filled
with the scallop the coho the razor
clam's dignity apart.

My hunger takes
the cream-white flesh of the halibut
the migrating eye of the halibut
the scythe-mouthed strike of the halibut
the graveled bed of the halibut
the cold gray sea of the halibut
in every bite.

It is incised, protean, unassuaged
by toast.

My hunger wants more than the halibut
and finds it in the halibut.

Believe me sometimes
I think if you were as much of this world
as the halibut
I would have to eat you too.

--Nancy Pagh
from No Sweeter Fat (Pittsburgh, PA: Autumn House Press, 2007)