Thursday, October 30, 2008

Good stuff

Poet (and novelist, and memoirist, and anything-else-she-wants-to-write writer) Carol Guess has a brand-new book of prosepoems out! You can read an excerpt from Tinderbox Lawn, and order your own copy (as I did), at the Rose Metal Press website. And if you haven't read Carol's earlier book of poetry, Femme's Dictionary, I highly recommend that as well.

Locally, we get a pretty cool reading on the day after Election Day -- Billy Collins and Kay Ryan. If you're within driving distance of Bloomington (and remember, that's the one in Indiana), the reading will be at 5:30 pm on Nov. 5 in Rawles Hall 100 on campus.

Don't forget to turn your clocks back on Saturday night/Sunday morning! I am sure looking forward to actually seeing the sun rise before going in to work -- it's been coming up after 8 am for a while now, and it's pretty darn dark in the mornings. What will you do with your extra hour?

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Edited to add one more good stuff! Bruce Springsteen has posted a free mp3 download on his official website as a Halloween treat. "A Night with the Jersey Devil" is a kick-ass ghost story blues thang. And the video that goes with it might be the coolest video Bruce has ever done. It's all intense and backwoods-creepy and stuff, and then these little stickman devils with guitars pop in now and then and just make me giggle. He must have had a blast making this thing. Do check it out if you think it sounds intriguing. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

This broken, beautiful world

Today was one of those days that just breaks your heart with beauty. Blue sky, a distinct chill in the air, brilliant sun punctuated with interesting clouds, and the trees in their full autumnal glory.

This morning I met with poets (and friends) Dory Lynch and Shana Ritter to plan our reading, which takes place two weeks from tonight. (7:00 pm on November 8 at Rachael's Cafe in Bloomington, for anyone close enough to make the trip!) This will be the official release party for Breach, as well as for Dory's chapbook Praising Invisible Birds (out any day now from Finishing Line Press). We are also celebrating Shana's recently-awarded grant from the Indiana Arts Commission. Dory and Shana are both terrific poets and good people, and I am looking forward to what should be a very enjoyable reading.

After our meeting I went over to the Bakehouse, where I chatted with a couple of librarian friends for a little while, then settled in with a breakfast burrito and a cup of coffee (and another cup of coffee, and another...) and some poetry. I ended up drafting two new poems for my "rockstar" series, one of which has our fearless protagonist getting together with a groupie in a hotel room after the show. Yikes! I didn't know I was going to go there. Had to happen, though. *grin*

And after that, I went and voted. Early voting is still relatively new in Indiana, but it's been a very popular option this year. Lucky for me, when I arrived there was absolutely no line, and I was in & out in about fifteen minutes total -- though when I left there was a pretty good line beginning to develop. As I drove home I found myself remembering an evening a little over four years ago, when I made a point of watching the Democratic convention because I'd heard there was some young Senator from Illinois whose keynote speech was expected to be brilliant. It was, of course, and I was tremendously moved by it, and found myself wishing I could vote for him for something someday. And today, I did.

Now, I live in a very blue town nestled in a fairly red state. When I drive to work in the mornings I could almost imagine I've been plunked down in the middle of an Obama yard-sign factory outlet. Most years, Bloomington is very different from the rest of Indiana. But this year, Indiana's acting suspiciously like a swing state. At one point I saw a poll that showed Obama up by ten points here. TEN points! This is a state that normally gets called for the Republicans about five minutes after the polls close. I can't help feeling that if Indiana is even close, Obama has a very good chance of actually winning. I don't want to go farther than that for fear of jinxing it... but I will admit that today I kissed his name on my ballot, for good luck. (Stop laughing. It can't hurt!)

Barack Obama is not perfect. He can't single-handedly save the world. Nobody can. But I think he's the best chance we've had in a long time to elect somebody who will make our country and our world a better place to live. I think he knows how to get ordinary people involved in helping to make things better. I think he is intelligent, articulate, thoughtful, and compassionate. He has a kick-ass wife, a million-watt smile, and terrific taste in music.

If he wins he'll also be the first President to be younger than me. That's a little scary, huh? I can learn to live with it though. You betcha.

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Small bit of good poetry news: my humorous poem "Relax with Song of the Whales" has been accepted by the very cool online journal Sea Stories. Don't know when it will be up, but I'll let y'all know.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

shamelessly self-promotional

The podcast of my "appearance" (does one actually appear on the radio, I wonder?) on "The Poets Weave" is now up. Download it on the Poets Weave podcast page. It's a five-minute show, and includes 3 poems: two from Breach and one newer poem -- "First Earthquake," my elegy for E Street Band organist/accordionist Danny Federici, who died this past April.

I'll stick a link over in the right-hand side of my blog pretty soon, too.

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Speaking of Breach, poet Collin Kelley said some darn nice things about it over on his blog! Seriously, I got all blush-y when I read it, and I wasn't even having a hot flash. :) Also, I totally want to steal his phrase "harbingers and incidents."

I was sort of getting used to the fact that a few people had actually bought my chapbook, but for some reason it still surprises me just a little bit (in a good way!) when I find out somebody actually read the thing, much less that they actually liked it. Hee!

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Looking over the AWP schedule... plenty of good stuff, but for the most part it looks like I won't be too overwhelmed in each time slot by fifteen different things I am just dying to attend. I probably overlooked a few, though. I will be there for sure, barring anything unforeseen like ice storms or plague of locusts.

I'm sort of wondering whether any other poet-bloggers want to throw together an informal late-night guerrilla reading? Poet-bloggers and friends? Round-robin format, so if there are a bunch of us you might only get to read a couple of poems but at least everyone will get to read something? Heck, if only a few folks are interested, I'll even host it in my room at the Hilton -- I probably wouldn't feel the need to boot y'all out until 2 a.m. or so. Bring a bottle of wine! :) I'm sure there will be larger and better spaces we could commandeer, as well. I'm sure I will say this again as we get closer to February, but if anyone does want to get together for a guerrilla reading -- or for a cup of coffee or a beer, or what-have-you -- drop me an email and we'll figure out how to coordinate things.

Yes, I am totally paranoid about AWP; I've never been before, and I have this fear that if I don't plan some stuff out ahead of time, I will end up drifting around the place aimlessly and never meeting anybody. Never mind that it's a conference full of poets and so there's no way in heck I will be the only shy, socially-backwards person there! *grin*

Looks like I will be attending the ALA conference for the first time next year as well (that's the American Library Association), which is also in Chicago. 2009: The Year Of Conferences. Hoo boy.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

ooh, shiny

The Five Women Poets reading last night went nicely, I think. The place was crowded and everybody seemed to be paying close attention. You can't ask for a whole lot more than that.

Today I found out the best way of curing post-performance letdown: drink a whole lot of coffee and write some new poems. This series I'm working on now really has my attention, though I've realized I need to learn more about sustaining a narrative, as it's starting to feel like a larger project than I'd originally anticipated. Yikes!

I'm going to post one of the new drafts from today, though this one may actually stay up for less than 24 hours. A little background: the main character (the lead singer) and the guitarist (who you've met already, if you've caught the last couple of drafts I've posted) have had a complicated, uneasy, but emotionally intimate relationship for years. The guitarist finally quits the band, which leads to all kinds of hard feelings on both sides and they mostly lose touch with one another. Eventually, the lead singer finds out that the guitarist is terminally ill, but doesn't get in touch or visit until it's almost too late -- which is where we come in. Also: the title refers to the curfew often imposed by a venue, specifying that the band has to finish by a certain time to avoid sending the union guys (stagehands and what-not) into overtime.


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Looks like pretty much everybody else in the world was one too, but I'm still pleased to note that my manuscript was a semi-finalist in one of the contests I sent it out to. Yeah, there were about a billion semi-finalists in this one, but at least that means it didn't get laughed out of the room, which is always nice.

bonus draft

Here's one of the poems I read at Rachael's Cafe last night. This is from my "rockstar" series; the two characters here are the same as the ones in the draft I posted a few days ago -- the speaker is the rockstar/main character, and the other person is the guitarist. The two of them have this ridiculously hot chemistry onstage but in their offstage life they don't talk about it. This poem finds them in the van, on the road from one gig to the next...

I'll take the draft down in a day or so, as usual.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Weekend snippets

Good news on the work front: the radical revision of my job description came through the reclassification process with a higher level. This means that as of 11/1 I get a shiny new title (Libraries Web Site Editor), a professional staff classification rather than support staff, and a small raise. I am lucky to have a job that I mostly like, working with people I like (many of whom I would enjoy spending time with even if I weren't being paid to do so -- don't laugh, it's nothing to take for granted), and also lucky to be able to go home at the end of the day and leave my job behind in order to work on creative pursuits (lately, about equal parts writing-related and music-related).

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Still have not figured out what I'm going to read at the Five Women Poets reading tomorrow night -- er, it's after midnight now, so I guess I should say "tonight." A couple of poems from Breach, for sure, but which ones? I'm more interested right now in my new series of poems (one of which was posted here for about a day earlier this week) -- heck, I drafted another one of the things today. I guess that's the problem with publishing chapbooks and books: by the time the thing comes out, your work has moved on, but people want you to read from the "new" collection. Well, I'll read a couple of the new poems anyway, if only to test out how they sound in a room with people listening.

Also, speaking of listening: just a reminder that I'll be on the radio Sunday at 11:46 am Eastern time! I'll put a link to the podcast in the sidebar of my blog when it's available, so don't break your neck getting up early to hear me. *grin*

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Well, this certainly has been a "me me me" post, hasn't it? Ugh, sorry.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

National Book Awards finalists

The NBA finalists were named today. In poetry:

Frank Bidart, Watching the Spring Festival (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Mark Doty, Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems (HarperCollins)
Reginald Gibbons, Creatures of a Day (Louisiana State University Press)
Richard Howard, Without Saying (Turtle Point Press)
Patricia Smith, Blood Dazzler (Coffee House Press)

Complete list of finalists can be found on the National Book Foundation website.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Drafty in here.

I haven't posted a draft in a while. I wrote this during my dinner break yesterday (prior to working the late shift on the reference desk). It's part of the series I'm working on -- poems about a fictional rock musician. Some are in first person, some in third person, some in second person. I've got about 15 of them so far, taking the protagonist from about age 14 (playing guitar and having rockstar daydreams) to middle age (dealing with a long career in the music world, coping with the inevitable losses one faces in middle age, etc). It's different from anything I've worked on before, and I'm having fun with it.

Anyway, I'll take this down in a day or so. And I miiiiight read it, or a revision of it, at the Five Women Poets reading Saturday night. Or I might not. So.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Local notes

A couple items of interest primarily to Bloomingtonians (that's the real Bloomington, here in beautiful south-central Indiana, not those impostors in Minnesota and Illinois):

*** Copies of Breach are now available at Howard's Bookstore (on the downtown courthouse square) and Boxcar Books (in its new location next door to the Runcible Spoon). I dropped them off today on consignment and both shops seemed quite pleased to have them. Howard's was going to put one in their local authors section in the front window, and Boxcar put one on a little stand facing out. Nice. Support independent bookstores, because they support us! :)

*** The annual Five Women Poets reading is coming up a week from tonight! Saturday, October 18, 7:30 pm, at Rachael's Cafe on Third Street. Free admission, but do try to get a cup of coffee or a sandwich or a cup of soup or something to support the place. I'll have chapbooks available for sale. Readers will be: Antonia Matthew, Deborah Hutchison, Anya Peterson Royce, Leah Helen May, Patricia C. Coleman, and yours truly. (Yes, there are six members of Five Women Poets. We're poets, not mathematicians.)

*** Finally, I'll be on WFIU's weekly poetry show, The Poets Weave, twice in upcoming weeks: Sunday, October 19 and Sunday, November 9 (11:46 am Eastern Time). It's a five-minute show, and if you aren't local you can listen live online or you can download the podcast later. I am mostly reading from Breach, but the October 19 show also includes my elegy for Danny Federici, E Street Band keyboardist/accordionist, who died this past April. I hope some of y'all will listen in.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


I made a word cloud out of Breach over at How cool is this? Note to self: cut way the heck back on similes next time around... good grief. Also, I am such a NON-morning person (seriously, you don't want to be around me until I've had some coffee) that I'm very surprised "morning" came out so much bigger than "night." :)

How it works is that the words that appear more frequently are bigger. If you go over to the Wordle site you can upload your own text -- and yes, it'll take an entire manuscript in there -- and create your own word cloud. You can change the fonts, colors, etc. and then do a screen capture to save it. Or if you have Windows Vista, there's a built-in "snipping tool" that works pretty well for stuff like this.

[Edited to add: Wordle also has a gallery of clouds people have created and chosen to save publicly. This one for Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run album is pretty cool!]

(Click on it to see it larger.)

quick quick

In today's mail:

1. A free sample Kashi cookie, with the return address "Cookie Fulfillment Center." Dude. I want to work at the Cookie Fulfillment Center. In fact, I want to LIVE in the Cookie Fulfillment Center.

2. Rebecca Loudon's shiny new book, Cadaver Dogs. Even better than a free cookie.

Also today, my poem is featured over on Rattle's website. (Thanks for the heads-up, Karen! I saw it this morning, but didn't have a chance to blog till now.)

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I'll be missing the debate tonight as I will be getting all mavericky at a poetry-group meeting. Someone be sure & tell me if they say anything important, ok? [Edit: Doh!! I wrote down the wrong date on my calendar and poetry group isn't until next week. Now I need to find a new excuse to skip the debate, right? Oh, I'll probably watch... sigh... ]

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Rambling, Reviews, Radio

I know, I know. I've been a bit under the weather, and a bit busy, and a bit distracted. Sometimes I think I'm trying to live about three different lives all at once. I am a Gemini, so you'd think I'd be used to that... *grin*

Insert standard "hey, I'm behind on email again" disclaimer here... I need to just take the laptop to the library or a coffeehouse or something and catch up without all the distractions that surround me at home! (you know -- cats, guitars, falling asleep on the couch...)

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Breach continues to make its way out into the world. FYI, copies are still available from Finishing Line Press. I'm holding on to most of my author copies so I'll have something to sell at a couple of upcoming readings, but I'd be willing to sell or barter a few of those as well, if you'd rather get one from me than order from the press.

My mom forwarded me an email from a friend of hers to whom she sent a copy, saying she really enjoyed Beaches. I was amused. :)

A couple of reviews (reviewlets?) from bloggers with somewhat different takes on it:
I read Anne Haines' Breach. I enjoyed a number of the poems, including "Let X Equal..." and "Arrival". I very much appreciated the number of nonce forms that Haines used; the unexpected repetition (read: music) was wonderful.

I'm not sure what to make of the fact that I felt it was too easy to see her real life in many of the poems. I know that's a detractor, for me, that I feel I can't inhabit in the poem, that there's no wiggle room for understanding. I wish I knew what to do with that. I wonder how I would have responded, had I not read her blog. (Had I not read her blog, I would not have read her book, so...)

Also, I was a little confused about the theme of the book. There was plenty of ocean imagery and many "breach" references and that tied a lot together but there were a number of poems with other topics that I couldn't fit in.

(from Mary Alexandra Agner)

A fair critique; a lot of my poems are "that kind of poetry" -- you know, the ones that look autobiographical even if they aren't so much (and I will say that some of the poems in the chapbook are more fictional than others). I recognize that that isn't everybody's cup of tea, for sure. As I've said before, I think I flunked irony and postmodernism. ;) And while I can point to a couple of recurring themes and the ways in which I think pretty much all the poems tie together, it's certainly not what you'd call a tightly-themed chapbook. (I'm working on one of those now, actually, and am enjoying a very different experience of the writing/composing process.) Thanks, Mary, for a thoughtful reading!
There's so much poetry out there that attempts the lyrical contemplation-of-life verse. And yes, while life does deserve contemplation, most of this type of poetry is not very good. (I'm also thinking of times when my students attempt lyrical verse -- they, too, stumble). So, it's more than just a relief when one finds a poet who is successful with lyrical poetry -- it's a great cause of celebration.

Yes, I am speaking directly of Anne Haines', fellow blogging comrade, and poet, new chapbook, Breach (recently published by Finishing Line Press). Anne tackles all the big "matters" of life without being condescending. Whether she pictures a narrator looking for whales the day before September 11, 2001, or she writes about love stories in foggy Provincetown, Anne succeeds to capture the mystery of life, without melodrama, without sentiment. My favorite poem is the honest, "Dx," a work that explores the world of a medical diagnosis: "You say that you live as if/you're dying, just in case/No, you die/as if you're living."

(from Karen J. Weyant)
Karen is the second person who's pointed to "Dx" as a favorite, which surprises me; it's a poem that didn't really stand out for me personally, but felt like it fit into the "dancing with boundaries" theme I was generally aiming for, so I included it. I think the thing I like about publication is the opportunity to step outside of your own feelings about your poems and try to look at them from other points of view, like a singer listening to her own recorded voice. Even if you don't get feedback or reviews, just looking at your own poems in a journal or a chapbook can make them feel like someone else's, in a weird way, and it's easier to be objective about them. Or a little bit objective anyway. Anyway -- thanks, Karen!

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And thank you, Tina Fey. You've single-handedly made this election season bearable.

The debate sketch on tonight's SNL was absolutely dead-on. Brilliant. Besides of course Tina Fey's killer impersonation of Palin, they managed to portray Biden's response to the "same-sex benefits" question in such a way that, while, quoting his actual response almost verbatim, exposed the hypocrisy in the whole "we believe in equality but we don't support gay marriage nonono" position very nicely. You betcha!

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“…to understand what happens at the edges – the most important thing there is in drawing – is everything. … When space is divided, the action is at the edge.” – artist Michael Mazur (interviewed in Provincetown Arts, 2008)

I think if I'd had that quote a year ago, it might have become the epigraph for Breach.

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On Monday I'll be recording a few poems for the radio. I'll let y'all know what the airdates will be once I find out for sure.