Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Down to the thin end of the year

My holiday travels began in terrifying fashion: as I was driving to Indianapolis, the drizzle began to freeze and within five minutes the roads went from wet to sheer ice. Cars were going every which way; I passed one really bad accident, a few fender-benders (one of which I saw happen), and a bunch of slide-offs. There was quite a bit of traffic on the highway, and for about ten miles -- maybe more -- we were all driving about 5 mph at most, easing over towards the left shoulder where we could get at least a little bit of traction. I was on a stretch of road with a drop-off on either side. It was the most frightened I have ever been in a car. I was this close to just yanking on the wheel (actually it would have taken the merest tap) and sending myself into the guardrail just to get it over with, since crashing seemed inevitable. I made it through without incident, somehow; it took me 2.5 hours to get from the north side of Bloomington to the south side of Martinsville (about 20 miles), and the 50-mile drive to the airport took me four hours.

Fortunately, I'd decided to book a "park'n'fly" deal at the airport Radisson, since I had a 7 am flight & had thought it would be nice to have a relaxing evening in a hotel room rather than leaving my house at butt o'clock in the morning. So at least the ice didn't make me miss my flight.

Family Christmas in Colorado was laid-back; we'd decided to exchange only stocking stuffers & did charitable donations in one another's names instead of presents. My sister & I spent several hours in the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver, which was wonderful as always -- what a great bookstore! I restrained myself and only bought 3 or 4 books and 1 literary journal, but if I'd had unlimited funds (and luggage space) I could easily have left with a lot more than that. You'd think somebody who works in one of the best academic libraries in the country, & thus has super-convenient access to nearly any book in the world, wouldn't want to buy books all the time... but you'd be very, very wrong. It's an addiction, I'm telling you.

So it's been an interesting year. My first chapbook was published; I put together my first book-length ms. (finishing the first version of it on my first writing retreat) and started sending it around; I wasn't very good at all about sending poems out to journals; I wrote a lot of poems & started on a series altogether unlike anything I'd ever written or attempted before. A job promotion. My first earthquake. I also rediscovered music as a primary source of inspiration & creativity, going to a lot of good concerts including four Bruce Springsteen shows (one of which was pretty much the best concert I have ever seen by anyone ever) and coming back to playing guitar myself a bit, and bought my sweet little blue Stratocaster, becoming an electric guitar owner for the first time since 1979 when I sold my old single-pickup Gibson Melody Maker because I needed the money for college. (Sigh.)

And I continued to overuse parentheticals throughout the year (as you may have noticed already).

What's coming up in 2009? A new President, a new Springsteen album (and presumably a tour; I'm going to do my damnedest to make it to at least 2 or 3 shows), several new books I'm excited about, poems to read, poems to write. My first AWP to attend. Hard work to be done, all around. I hope to challenge myself creatively and push myself beyond my comfort zone, though just how that will happen remains to be seen. I want to waste less of my time; I'll be turning 48 and every year I feel more aware that time just isn't an unlimited thing. Resolutions? I don't know... maybe.

What about you? Are you making resolutions? What does 2009 hold in store for you?

I wish each of you the happiest of New Years. I'm grateful for everyone who humors me by reading this blog, and I look forward to meeting some of you at AWP!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Freeze and stasis

Solstice Blessings to all who celebrate that particular, oldest of holidays.

In my neck of the woods, it is currently 3 degrees, with winds gusting up to 25-30mph creating wind chills well below zero. I am bundled up in my drafty house, wearing a hat, lots of socks, a blanket, the new blue scarf a friend made for me, and all kinds of other interesting items of clothing. I need to get up and clean house in preparation for holiday travels, but it's so much warmer to stay bundled up underneath this blanket on the couch, listening to Little Steven's Underground Garage on the radio (it's the Christmas A-Go-Go edition, and you just gotta love an album with tracks like "Come All Ye Faithful Surfer Girls" and "Back Door Santa"). I'm just glad that I had the foresight to run all the errands I could think of yesterday, plus put gas in the car before it got this cold; the little door over the gas tank is most probably frozen shut now anyway.

But there are blessings to count. It's not as cold here as it is in Minnesnowta, for one thing. And we have only the slightest dusting of snow. And the ice that we had a few nights ago melted before it got cold again, and the bruises that I got from falling on aforementioned ice are beginning to fade. (They were pretty impressive, though. Oof.) My house is drafty but I have power, and running water, and soft fluffy blankets, and cats taking turns on the heated kitty-bed. Things could be a whole lot worse.

I'm already starting to look past the holidays at the year to come. I feel like I need to clear some space, though I'm not yet sure what that is going to entail. But there are things that have been getting crowded out of my life, especially the past couple of months. I've been atrociously atrocious at keeping up with email, and that's got to change. I've been even worse at getting poems sent out there, and if I make one New Year's resolution, getting poems sent out there is going to be it. And I need to be more proactive about promoting the chapbook, trying to get some readings here and there, et cetera. I have at least managed to get the book manuscript out to a bunch of places, and I need to keep that up. I need to spend more time reading, for sure. And working on poems for the new manuscript, though that's probably the one writing-related thing that hasn't been given short shrift lately. (Could stand to put some effort into revising the darn things, though.) And finally it's been a few weeks since I've picked up a guitar, and that has GOT to change: life is so much happier with more music in it.

So, yeah, I've got to clear some space, both physically and mentally. I promise I won't drop off the face of the Internet, but I may need to try to spend less time here. We'll see.

Anyway, in case I don't manage to blog again before my holiday travels, I hope you all have wonderful holidays -- that you are warm, and safe, and loved. And most importantly, I hope you only get caught under the mistletoe by someone you want to get mistletoeded by. :)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

'Tis the season

Dear friends,

Ho ho ho! I'm Santa Bear, and I'm today's guest blogger here at Land Mammal HQ. Yes, I am every bit as fluffy and jolly and all-powerful as I appear to be. So tell me what you want for Christmas. Go on, tell me! Even if you don't celebrate the holiday... that doesn't mean I might not be able to work a little seasonal miracle for you.

Disclaimer: I have absolutely no sway over editors and publishers, and no, I can't get everybody's book published in 2009. And if I could, my own human would have dibs on that particular gift. But I might be able to come up with something else you'd like.

I won't ask you to sit on my knees... but tell me what you want and I'll see what I can do.

Ho ho ho!


Santa Bear

Sunday, December 07, 2008

panning for gold

Today's Poetry Daily poem, like much of Goldbarth's work, strikes me as being just a bit overly verbose -- but I'm glad I read it for this one image: "the volts that bump in the heart / like small trapped minnows of longing" -- an image that's saved from being just a bit too much by its placement directly after the utterly mundane "groceries leaking / out of the paper bag."

I'm a sucker for bits of science and medicine in poems, like volts in the heart; that's something Goldbarth seems to like as well. I know I said he's often overly verbose, but I'm often willing to sift through his poems because I find these little gems that thrill me.

Drafty on an icy day

When I got up this morning it was six degrees outside. Six! At least it was above zero. I had to go next door to feed the neighbor's parakeet, and when I stepped outside for just a moment the just-risen sun was brilliant on snowy lawns, rabbit tracks laced the driveway like some kind of manic notation, and starlings were proclaiming whatever it is they proclaim in their arpeggiated chatter. For just a moment the sky opened up to blue, blue, blue. For just a moment I understood how winter can be beautiful. Then I came to my senses and hustled my frozen fingers and toes indoors.

It's up to 22 degrees now. Heat wave!

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Finished reading the new book of prose poems by Carol Guess, Tinderbox Lawn. Great, great stuff. So many lines I'd love to quote at all y'all. What I really love about it right now, though, is what she does with narrative. The book definitely has a narrative (I don't want to use that overused word arc), but it's fractured and laced with gaps -- it's like a cracked window, only all we can see is the actual cracks and from that we're left to understand the shape and heft of the window itself. The courage it takes to tell a story but leave so much for the reader to gather -- that's inspiring me to leave a lot more gaps in my own current project, to tell a little less of the story, let it be a little more lyric & a little less narrative. Which is good, I think.

Anyway, it is a terrific book, sexy and wise and unexpected. Highly recommended.

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A quick little draft, which will disappear about when the half-inch of snow remaining on my lawn disappears (that would be tomorrow sometime):


Thursday, December 04, 2008

How is it December already?

Sorry for the blog-absence. No, I didn't fall and break my neck trying to walk in my new boots. ;)

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I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving! I celebrated by packing the cats into the car and taking them up to Grandma's... er, my mom's. They were Decidedly Displeased about the 200-mile car ride, but they enjoyed the visit and got along very nicely with Mom's cats. Which is good to know, because the only way I'll ever be able to take on more than about a ten-day retreat or residency would be to "board" them at Mom's, I think... though I'm not sure such a thing is in the cards anytime soon.

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Speaking of cards, big congratulations to this year's crop of NEA Fellows in Poetry -- especially fellow bloggers C. Dale and Corn Shake! Three cheers!

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I really, really need to get back in the proverbial saddle with the sending-out of poems. It's a funny thing, but if you don't send stuff out, you don't get stuff published... go figure. I've got the book ms. out to a bunch of publishers & contests (and just got a rejection letter today with a very nice note scribbled on it -- just a few words like "sorry, it's a very strong ms." can really make a poet's day, especially in these early stages of sending the thing out!) but I haven't been at all productive about sending out individual poems this year. If I make any New Year's resolutions (oh dear, is it really almost time to think about that?!), that should be number one, I think.

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Wishing you all warmth & light in this cold dark month (at least 'round these parts it is cold & dark). And good health. And houses that somehow miraculously clean themselves. Hey, as long as I'm wishing, right?