Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sightings in the wild

I've been getting reports from around the country of people receiving their copies of Breach. Woo hoo! You know what that means ... if people are receiving it, people actually ordered it -- most of whom are not my mother. Wacky! Getting little "hey, my copy arrived" notes from people feels kind of like getting letters home from the kid you sent off to school.

Because a couple of people have asked: if you ordered a copy and would like to have it signed, drop me a note and I'll give you my address -- send it to me and I'll sign it and send it right back. Or meet me at AWP in February. :)

Bear gives Breach a cat scan:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Notes from home

Back from a quick week in Provincetown with my family (celebrating a significant birthday for my mom and her twin sister). A little odd being there with family and not spending much time writing, but good to be there and to be able to introduce my family to my favorite little place on the planet. We rented a four-bedroom house just a couple of blocks from the Fine Arts Work Center -- and if anyone reading this is ever looking for a Provincetown rental in a quiet residential neighborhood for a group of 4-8, drop me a note and I'll give you the contact info, because this place was great: spacious, quiet, but just a short walk to Commercial Street. My favorite part was the rooftop deck, which offered a lovely view of the Pilgrim Monument and on which I sat under the full moon and wrote a bit. (Note: just because it's written by the light of a fat full Provincetown moon doesn't mean it's any good. But it was nice to scribble a little all the same.)

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Chapbook note: there's been a bit of a further delay, for which I apologize (my fault). It should ship at the end of this week.

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I'm not a baseball fan particularly, but tonight for the sake of history I am watching the last game in Yankee Stadium. Guitarist/songwriter Nils Lofgren and his wife Amy have written a song in honor of the stadium's demise, which you can download on Nils' website, along with his rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. Grab it here -- Nils has some other stuff available for download that's worth the effort, too. The guy is a killer guitarist and I've heard he is a sweetheart as well (I always like knowing that about the musicians I enjoy, when it's true).

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While I was gone, the remnants of Hurricane Ike blasted through, and the power at my house was out from Sunday afternoon through sometime Wednesday afternoon. I have a few limbs down in my yard, and lost a bunch of food from the refrigerator, but all things considered the damage was minimal -- especially compared to what folks in Texas had to deal with. Still, I am the only person I know who actually avoided hurricane-related unpleasantness by leaving the Midwest and going to the coast. Go figure, huh?

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Of course, the other unpleasantness that blew through while I was gone was the economy going to hell in a handbasket (not that it wasn't headed there already). I'm pretty stupid about economics, but even I can see that things are one enormous mess. Here's hoping that when Obama gets elected, he'll be able to straighten things out, though I'm afraid the first year of the new administration is going to be rocky no matter what. Yes, I said "when" he gets elected, not "if" -- I'm a hopeless optimist, and also, I saw a poll that showed him leading in Indiana of all places. If we can go blue this year, anyone can. I hope.

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While in Provincetown, I did a couple of the touristy things I'd always wanted to do but had never gotten around to: climbing the Pilgrim Monument (116 steps and 60 ramps to the top for a fantastic view), and going for a ride with Art's Dune Tours. We were going to do the sunset tour and clambake, but they cancelled the clambake part because it was too cold and windy and apparently normal people object to sitting on the beach to eat dinner with their hands turning blue and sand blowing into their melted butter. Who knew? It actually worked out great because we ended up at Napi's for dinner that night, where I had the most incredible duck with wild beach plum sauce.

On the dune tour, we got a peek at several of the dune shacks up there. I've been fascinated with these ever since I found out about them. There are a couple of them where you can actually get a short residency. Not sure I could handle it for more than a week (no internet! eek!), but I may start scheming about trying to manage a week up there in the next couple of years. I love that landscape, and the light, and the clear salty air, and the sound of the surf... it would be pretty amazing to spend some time there enjoying the solitude and doing some writing.

Photos don't do the landscape anything near justice, but here are some quick shots from the dune tour -- one of the dune shacks, and a couple of sunset at Race Point Beach. More on my Facebook.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I got this guitar, and I learned how to make it talk

Yeah... I have been a bit of an absentee lately, here and elsewhere. There's been a lot going on, including the fact that I am super busy at work (beginning of the semester, new web site design, new head of our department, etc.); at home, I'm preparing for a short vacation/family reunion (my mom is celebrating a Significant Birthday and, coincidentally, so is her twin sister -- so a little gang of us is zipping out east and renting a house in Provincetown for a few days). And in all honesty, all I want to do is play my guitar all day and all night. It's like being seventeen again! I know that when you're seventeen there are other things you're not supposed to be able to keep your hands off of... but for me it was always my guitar.

Playing music again (as the musicians among you will understand) is incredibly good for my mental health. I can actually feel the difference in my body, that my bones and muscles are happier with music in them. And there's nothing like playing music to give you the experience of being completely in the moment, completely present, which is something that's too easy to forget (at least for someone who spends a lot of time living in her head).

And some of the technique is coming back a lot faster than I expected it would after so many years of neglect. Muscle memory, I guess! I'm still not any good, but for once in my life that is OK with me. I am doing this purely for my own enjoyment, not with any thoughts of taking it public or professionalizing it or even performing in coffeehouses now and then. I'm not a particularly ambitious person, but when it comes to creative work, it's hard for me to let myself just bash away at something for fun -- and yet that's the healthiest thing in the world for me, helps me remember how to demolish some of the internal censors and editors that sometimes keep me from doing my best work in other creative areas. Like, you know, that poetry stuff I'm supposed to be all about. (Ahem.)

And, of course, I'm still on a huge Bruce Springsteen kick. After the amazing shows I saw in August, I may be on that kick for quite a while. I'm still trying to put a finger on just what it is about his music (and performances) I love so much. Part of it is the complete lack of irony, the unashamed embrace of primal emotions -- joy, grief, love, rage -- someone I know went to his show in Indianapolis last spring and commented that so many bands and audiences these days, especially younger ones, are all about being cool and detached, and it was fun to see people actually jumping around pumping their fists in the air like fools and not caring. So there's that. I'm not very good at being ironic and detached, myself -- I think I actually flunked out of PoMo 101 -- and it's reassuring to me to witness art that successfully (in my opinion anyway) navigates the big emotions, the big ideas, the sweep and uproar and glorious bombast of it all.

Yes, I just called rock & roll "art." Shut up. :)

So I feel like all of this is still settling in. I went away from poetry for a few years back there, and when it came back it was better than ever; I've been away from playing music for much longer than I was away from poetry, so we'll see what happens with that. I would like it if the music served to inform the poetry, and I think that will happen to some extent. I would also like it if the days suddenly stretched out to 48 hours apiece, because there's just too much music and poetry and reading and listening and playing and writing and ... yeah. I'll just be over here getting too far behind on everything, if anybody needs me. Rock on.

Monday, September 01, 2008

My new girl

I know, I haven't been around here much. I have an excuse. Her name is Sophie, and I'm head over heels in love. I can't keep my hands off her.

She's a 2002 Fender Stratocaster. Basically, this is the guitar I daydreamed about near-constantly when I was 17 years old.

If this is a manifestation of my midlife crisis ... at least it's cheaper than a sports car. *grin*

Playing guitar is something that was absolutely central to my identity in my teens and early twenties, and off & on through my early thirties. I really haven't touched it in 10-15 years or so, though. But after the great, great Springsteen concerts I witnessed last week, I found myself absolutely inspired. I put new strings on my old Ovation acoustic and it felt really good to play, and then I decided to go shopping ... and Sophie's the result.

I had an electric guitar in high school, a little Gibson Melody Maker. I sold it when I was getting ready to go to college and needed money in a bad way; that's been one of my few real regrets in life. Now, almost 30 years later, I own an electric guitar again. Full circle.

Truth is, the years when I played guitar all the time were also a time when I wrote and wrote and wrote. So I'm hoping this will help me break through some creative roadblocks in my writing life, or give me some new ideas at least, as well as giving me another creative outlet to enjoy. I have no illusions of ever getting good enough to play for other people -- unlike the writing, the music is something I'm doing purely for myself at this point.

And it feels good. It feels soooooooooooooo good.