Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Promotion, shameless self- and otherwise

It's not even NatPoMo yet, and already the calendar is filling up! A few noteworthy items:

I'll be one of the featured readers at the Runcible Spoon reading series this coming Friday, March 28, 7:00 pm at the Runcible Spoon Restaurant here in Bloomington. Denise Breeden-Ost will be reading as well, and there will be a tribute to the poetry of the late Joyce B. Adams.

Then on Sunday, March 30, you can hear me on the radio on The Poets Weave, from 11:46-11:51 am Eastern Daylight Time. If you're in Indiana (Kokomo and points south, I believe), you can tune it in on WFIU. If you're elsewhere, you can listen live online. If you're busy or like to sleep till noon on Sundays, it will show up in the archive a few days later, or you can subscribe to the podcast.

I'll be reading three poems: "What This Poem Will Do" (which is one of my few humorous poems ... great, I say that, and now nobody's going to think it's funny!), "Swallowed" (from Valparaiso Poetry Review and Best of the Net 2007), and "Hold" (which is one of my own favorites; I wrote it on a very rainy summer day in Provincetown).

Tune in, turn on, drop out ... oh, wait, wrong slogan. Just tune in.

* * * * *

Other upcoming readings I'm looking forward to:
  • The intriguingly-titled "Variations on Funk," featuring the fab foursome of Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Aracelis Girmay, Patrick Rosal, and Tyehimba Jess. April 2, 7 pm, at the John Waldron Arts Center. Be there or be less cool than the cool kids. (Huh?)

  • Robert Hass, reading in the Solarium at the Indiana Memorial Union on April 7 at 5 pm.

  • Karen Kovacik, reading at the Writers' Center in Indianapolis, Sunday, April 13 at 7 pm.
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And I'll be on WFIU again on May 11th. Don't worry, I'll remind you. :)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Can't start a fire without a spark

In kind of a funny place just at the moment, which is probably why I haven't felt moved to blog much. This too shall pass. Not to worry.

* * * * *

The Bruce Springsteen concert Thursday night was PHENOMENAL. A very good setlist (see also here) which included several old and infrequently-played songs, and most importantly, Danny Federici -- the E Street Band organist who's been sidelined since mid-November while undergoing treatment for melanoma -- made his first return appearance. I'd heard that he was doing pretty well & hoped to show up for the occasional show at some point during this leg of the tour, but hadn't dared hope to see him in Indianapolis. It was abundantly clear how happy everyone in the band was to have him back, even if only for part of the show, and Bruce was grinning ear to ear. "Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" with Danny on accordion gave me serious goosebumps, and "Spirit in the Night" (which featured Danny prominently on organ) was hellaciously fun. Other personal highlights for me included "Because the Night" and "Backstreets" -- also "Badlands" (which I knew was going to be played, so it didn't have the surprise factor of some other songs, but I really really love that song). The encore included a ridiculously loose and playful "Kitty's Back" with jaw-dropping musicianship from the whole band; and, of course, "Born to Run" -- that song played live in an arena, when the house lights come up and everybody's pumping their fists in the air and singing along, is just one of those absolutely classic, essential rock & roll moments.

It's hard to believe I saw Bruce & the E Street Band for the first time almost thirty (!!) years ago. Hard to believe some of those songs are 35+ years old. Bruce still gives it everything he's got on stage; I don't know how he comes up with that much energy & joy night after night. Goodness knows he doesn't need the money, so you have to believe that at this point he only does it because he loves to do it. There were moments he was like a little kid up there, dancing and grinning and playing and swinging on the mic stand -- he's just so cute sometimes! No other performer puts it all out there the way he does or connects with the audience the way he does.

I have to say this was definitely in my all-time top ten concerts ... probably top five ... maybe even top three. For two and a half hours, all was right with the world.

For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside
That it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive...

* * * * *

A very happy Easter to all those who celebrate.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I owe email to a bunch of people. If you're one of them ... I have every intention of catching up in the next few days. Yikes.

* * * * *

We've had over two and a half inches of rain in the last 23 hours, and it's not supposed to stop for another 24 hours or so. Blub, blub, blub. Somebody build me an ark?

* * * * *

Sorry I've been a lousy blogger lately. Work has been crazy -- we're interviewing for a new Associate Dean who will serve as head of my department, and I'm on the Search & Screen committee for it, which is fun and a good learning experience but has me very much on my toes. (Hello, 8 a.m. meetings! I am so not a morning person.) So I've been a tired puppy by the time I get home.

Thursday night I get to see Bruce Springsteen in Indianapolis, though. That will give me an energy boost, for sure. I love me some Bruce. I first saw him on the Darkness on the Edge of Town tour, back in 1978 I think. I was in high school at the time, and that show still stands as one of the best concerts I've ever seen -- and I've seen a lot of concerts in my time.

For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside
That it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive---

* * * * *

I'll atone for my bad-blogger-ness by posting a draft. Since it was pouring down rain all day, I didn't get outside for my usual lunchtime walk; instead, I stayed at my desk and spent my lunch break reading poems and then scribbling out a draft of my own. This won't stay up more than a day or so.

[gone! if you missed it & want to see it, email me.]

Friday, March 14, 2008

Lambda Finalists

I swear I'm behind on everything and will respond to comments & emails & make a proper post soon, soon, soon.

Meanwhile, the Lambda Literary Award finalists were announced today. Here are the finalists in poetry:
  • Blackbird and Wolf, Henri Cole (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • A Gathering of Matter/A Matter of Gathering, Dawn Lundy Martin (University of Georgia Press)
  • Otherwise Obedient, Carol Potter (Red Hen Press)
  • Fata Morgana, Reginald Shepherd (University of Pittsburgh)
  • The Second Person, C. Dale Young (Four Way Books)
  • Human Resources, Rachel Zolf (Coach House Books)
Also of interest to poets, Mark Doty's Dog Years (which I really loved) is a finalist in the "Men's Memoir/Biography" category, as are The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory by poet Kenny Fries and What Becomes You by Aaron Raz Link and poet Hilda Raz (which I also read and thought was quite good).
As an addendum to my last post, here is Joyce Adams' obituary from the local paper.

Joyce B. Adams, 68

May 13, 1939 — March 10, 2008

Joyce Adams died peacefully Monday night at Bell Trace Assisted Living Center.

Poet, teacher, translator and librarian, she was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and grew up in Arlington, Virginia. She lived in many other regions of the United States as well as eastern and western Europe. After graduating from Oberlin College in Ohio, she spent three years studying in Heidelberg, Germany, where she gained certification as a translator. On her return to the U.S. she received a Ph.D. in German from the University of Chicago, her specialty being Medieval Literature. She subsequently taught German at St. Xavier College, Chicago. From 1966 until 1974, she and her husband lived in New Haven, Connecticut, where she earned an M.S. in teaching English as a second language. He was a Professor of Russian History, and in 1968 they spent an academic year in Moscow, where she became fluent in Russian. She revisited Russia in 1973, spending six months there with her husband and son. The family lived for several years in Davis, California. She subsequently spent a year in Bulgaria on a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship.

Joyce moved to Bloomington and subsequently pursued a degree in Library Science. Beginning in 1997, she served as head librarian at South Arkansas Community College in El Dorado. Upon her retirement, she returned to Bloomington, a place that she was very fond of. Here, she did some part-time work teaching writing at Ivy Tech Community College. She was drawn back to Bloomington as a place where she had many beloved friends, especially at Bloomington Friends Meeting and in literary circles.

Joyce became a member of Bloomington’s Five Women Poets, published two poetry chapbooks and enriched our lives with readings from her poetry that reflected her spirituality, her enjoyment of nature, and her belief in peace and reconciliation.

A committed and active Quaker, she gave wonderful service to the local meeting especially as the archivist and head of the library committee. Her courageous struggle with her debilitating illness, her faithfulness, and her ongoing search for spiritual pathways enriched the lives of the many who visited her. She is survived by her son, Daniel Crummey of Fairfield, CA, and a wide family of friends. She will be greatly missed.

Memorial gifts can be donated to the charity or cause of choice. Arrangements for a memorial meeting at Bloomington Friends Meeting are pending. The date and time will be announced when they are known.

Nathan Butler Funeral Home entrusted with arrangements. Online condolences to the bereaved family at

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Poem(s) of the week and a farewell

Poet Joyce B. Adams, a member of Five Women Poets here in Bloomington, Indiana (a group to which I also belong), died late last night after being in hospice care for several months. She was the author of two chapbooks, both from Finishing Line Press: Secret Swing and What Is Brought to Light, published just last year. Joyce was a Quaker, and there will be a memorial service in that tradition at some point. She'll be missed in the Bloomington poetry community and in the larger world.

In her honor, here are two poems from her second chapbook. You can hear others in RealAudio format by going to; there will be some from this past week (March 9 episode) posted shortly, and you can scroll down to 6-17-2007 for more.

* * * * *
Fred, Dying

Each hour this man
in patient's gown with
its pattern of crosses grows
lighter by a few gray hairs
or flakes of skin. Again

his eyes move
from the geranium
to the rain-streaked window
to his knitting daughter
back to the rain.

This, then, is the drift
of life: we stir
soup back and forth,
back and forth, same soup,
same pot, until the broth
evaporates. Fred looks no happier

or unhappier than before,
only puzzled how his full-grown
hands no longer grip the world.

* * * * *

A Bird, Its Own Song

"Haste to the Wedding," "Ida Red,"
or "Temperance Reel": the fiddler
can name them all. A farm wife
who starts the year's kitchen garden
gives every plant a name
the plant does not know, but can grow to.

You and I set out bread,
drink milk or wine. We work and love,
each to a tune we couldn't sing
out loud any more than a blowing
cloud could tell you
its own rain time.

--- Joyce B. Adams ---

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A meme, a review, and a new pair of shoes

First, Lisa Allender tagged me:
I must grab the book nearest me, turn to page 123, and then find the fifth sentence.Then, post it here in my blog. Then post the next three sentences.
Then, I must tag others to do the same.

The closest book is Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause. (And page 123 just has a chapter heading, so I'm going to the next page that has actual text on it, which is 125 -- the first page of the chapter on Body Image.) Squeamish boys, look away for a moment:
We can change the scripts in new and radical ways for ourselves, our daughters, and future generations. We can 'decline to decline' as we grow older and refuse to embrace the culture's rigid definitions of beauty, sexual attractiveness, and importance.

From the time we are little girls, we are judged by our appearance. By adolescence, it becomes clear that our worth as females is often measured by how we look, rather than by our accomplishments."
Once again, anyone who wants to be tagged, you're tagged.

* * * * *

Went to a terrific reading tonight by John Keene and Evie Shockley. I wasn't familiar with John Keene, but I'm curious about his work now, so I'll track it down. (He read very well and was quite engaging.) Evie Shockley's name was a little more familiar to me, though I didn't know her work well. Much of it is "difficult," allusive, fragment-y, which means it can be tough to "get" it just from hearing it read. But I have to say that she read it so well that, even though I feel like I need to sit with some of the poems to really get everything I can out of them, I still got a lot from the poems just on one hearing. (And maybe that's sometimes the best way to "meet" a poem for the first time; if you're puzzling through a poem that seems dense or difficult on the page, or stopping to look up allusions you don't get or want to understand better, it can be easy to overlook the music of it -- at least for me.)

Not all of the poems she read were "difficult" (I hate that word, but I can't think of a better one); some of her 31-word prose poems were pretty straightforward and some of those were very funny. She's working on a whole series of 31-word prose poems; she said she was having a tough time writing after her first book came out, and came across a prompt that involved writing 31 words, and said to herself, "hey, I can write 31 words!" and apparently that really unleashed a torrent of productivity.

Anyway, she also read a new poem about Ella Fitzgerald that just got me thinking about so many things. The poem involved Marilyn Monroe watching Ella perform -- there was a prestigious club where Ella wasn't allowed to perform because of her race, and Marilyn called up the owner of the club and said that if Ella performed for a week then she (Marilyn) would reserve a front-row table and be there every night, and so Ella got to perform and Marilyn , true to her word, was there every night. The image of those two talented, powerful women looking at one another is really sticking with me -- on so many levels. I grew up with Ella's voice; both of my parents adored her music (my dad was a jazz musician) -- so I'm sort of automatically inclined to like a poem about her anyway.

She also read another new poem that included some nursery-rhyme songs, which was just devastatingly powerful. If you get a chance to hear her read, you should definitely do it. And I'll definitely be spending some more time with her work.

* * * * *

I got a new pair of shiny silver and purple running shoes. I haven't gone running in many years, but I've been walking regularly for about a year and sometimes I find my body wanting to go faster, which is kind of nice. So if it EVER stops being snowy and cold and gross outside, maybe I'll start running again. It'll be interesting to see how much these middle-aged knees can handle.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Li-Young Lee on PBS NewsHour tonight

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


March 3, 2008

As part of our ongoing NewsHour Poetry Series, tonight we look at poet Li-Young Lee.

Lee was born in Indonesia to Chinese parents in 1957, and moved to the United Stated in 1964. He is author of the award-winning books of poetry, Book of My Nights, The City in Which I Love You, and Rose. In 2003, he was a recipient of a Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets, and is a winner of a Lannan Literary Award, a Whiting Writer's Award, and the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award. His latest book came out this year, and is called Behind My Eyes.

For online coverage of the Poetry Series, visit the Online NewsHour at

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"Poetry Unit" is part of the CSI franchise, is it not? Hmmmm. ;)

Sunday, March 02, 2008


It was seventy degrees here in lovely south-central Indiana today. SEVENTY. Needless to say, the to-do list got shelved for a while in favor of a nice walk in the park where there were toddlers toddling, kites kiting, bikes biking, and dogs ... er, hanging around. (As a side note, it's almost embarrassing how much of a sucker I am for fluffy puppies.)

Don't fret, though, people of the snowy lands: tomorrow it's supposed to pour down rain all day, and then by Tuesday we're supposed to have snow & sleet & freezing rain & ice again. Oh joy.

* * * * *

Wednesday evening I'll be going to what promises to be a very good reading: poet Evie Shockley, who I've heard is a terrific reader, and fiction writer John Keene, who I'm not familiar with but whose bio sounds pretty interesting.

If you're in the area, you should think about coming. Should be worth it.

* * * * *

Tomorrow, I'm leaving work a little early and bopping across the parking lot to the studios of WFIU to record two episodes of The Poets Weave. I'll post the airdates when I know them -- I will probably find out tomorrow. WFIU streams online and you can also nab a podcast, so if you want to hear my nasally Midwestern voice reading my Midwestern poems, you should be able to do so no matter where you are. Ain't technology grand?

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Have you read a book that's knocked your socks off lately? Tell me about it.