Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow day!

Monday night I worked the late shift on the reference desk; when I left at 9 pm it was snowing and apparently my town had misplaced all its salt trucks, so the drive home was slow and uneasy. Tuesday we'd had about four inches of snow, and when I left work at 6 pm the freezing rain had begun, so it was another uncomfortable drive home. The freezing rain continued until after I'd gone to bed last night. When I woke, we had a good 9 inches of snow on the ground; I lay there in bed listening to the school closings and dreading how difficult it was going to be to get to work.

Then the miracle happened -- my university was declared CLOSED until at least noon! Understand, it's a residential campus and they very, very, very rarely shut down -- maybe twice in the last 15 years or so. By 10:30 in the morning it had stopped snowing (leaving a little more than a foot of the stuff on the ground -- according to the evening news, this is our biggest snowstorm since 1996) and they'd updated the closing to an all-day thing. Whoooo!

I finally gritted my teeth and put on my boots and headed out to shovel the driveway in the early afternoon. The sun had come out, and although the temperature was only in the mid-twenties it was actually kind of pleasant out. And I wasn't out there five minutes before a neighbor I'd never met materialized in my driveway with a shovel in her hand and a smile on her face, asking if she could help. Considering that yesterday morning a good friend of mine showed up to dig me out after that first wave of snow, I think I've had some ridiculous shoveling-assistance luck this week.

After shoveling I came in and had a lovely, lazy afternoon of listening to music, watching a bit of tennis on TV, and listening to my cats purr in the sunshine. You really can't ask for a nicer snow day.

* * * * *

The reason humans make music is that we are in love with time.

* * * * *

Yes, it's true that my favorite rockstar is the halftime entertainment at this year's Super Bowl. He's also going out on tour in a couple of months. Tickets for the US dates go on sale Monday. I'm planning on chasing him to Denver and Chicago; unfortunately, there are no other dates within anything like plausible driving distance for me, and I can't really swing more than one fly-in show this tour. But at least I get to see the E Street Band at least a couple more times in my life, which I wasn't sure would happen after the last tour. My little three-city road trip (aka the "summer vacation in the E Street Nation") this past August was so energizing and inspiring; I'm tremendously glad to be looking forward to a couple more evenings spent in the company of the greatest rock & roll band ever.

* * * * *

So I have all these poems in this series, and some of them really need the context of the series in order to work, I think -- or at least they need to be read alongside a couple of the other poems. Can anybody think of journals that especially like to get clumps of related poems, and might like to publish at least a couple or three of them? I don't think I want to try to pull together a chapbook -- the poems are coming along quickly enough that there will be a full-length ms. ready to send out within a year or so, I think -- but I'd love to get a few of them out there. Recommendations, anyone?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dancing into history

Like pretty much everyone else, I watched the Inauguration on Tuesday and was tremendously moved by the power of the occasion. (I credit Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma for reducing me to a blubbering mess, though I wasn't far from there to start with.)

Later in the evening, I did something I have never done before on an Inauguration Day: I watched a couple hours of the coverage of the inaugural balls. The Obamas looked, dare I say it, completely adorable as they danced together. Like many people in this country right now, I'm a little bit in love with them, with the whole family (Sasha and Malia are just so completely beautiful!). And I recognize that part of what I'm in love with is the illusion of them, not the reality of the fallible, imperfect human beings who will inevitably screw up at some point (being President, and even being First Lady, is like being a parent; it's just such a huge job that it's not possible to do it without screwing up somewhere along the way). But I think I, and maybe we, need that illusion right now, the illusion of the shiny happy perfect family and the visionary leader who will haul us up from the crappy place we've fallen into. It's been so long since I felt any kind of real affection for the occupants of the White House, and I need to feel this for a little while, just as an antidote to these last few poisoned years.

I never really understood how people just a couple of decades older than me felt about the Kennedys, back in the "Camelot" days -- until now. I think how I feel about the Obama family is probably a lot like what folks my parents' age (I was born in 1961, same as President Obama) felt about the Kennedy family. Except, of course, that when JFK took office, you couldn't sit there and watch the inaugural balls live on your TV until the wee hours. (And everyone criticizing Michelle's dress can just hush. She would look graceful and elegant in a paper bag, and she looked absolutely fine in that dress.)

Later on, I watched an online video of the Obamas dancing at one of the balls -- not the ballroom dancing with each other, but cutting loose a bit and dancing with the crowd. And there was Barack, big as life, DOING THE BUMP. If ever there was a moment that really drove home for me the fact that he and I are exactly the same age, it was that. Barack, Barack, Barack. You and I both know that we danced that way in the Seventies, and I love you to death, Mr. President, but could we possibly just consider LEAVING that stuff back in the Seventies?


Yes, it's blowing my mind a little bit that the President is exactly my age -- about two months younger, to be precise. He and I have had very very different lives, of course, but just by virtue of sharing some of the same cultural milestones -- the assassinations of MLK and JFK are some of my earlier vivid memories, for example, and my childhood was punctuated by Walter Cronkite on the evening news announcing how many American casualties there'd been that day in Vietnam; I vividly remember the day I learned what the word "casualty" meant -- it makes him seem more human to me than previous Presidents somehow. The night before the inauguration, I had a little trouble falling asleep (experiencing a bit of that "Christmas eve too excited to sleep" sensation) and it occurred to me that he was probably lying in bed wide awake, wide-eyed in the dark, silently imagining what the next day -- and the next four or hopefully eight years -- might be like. I've never really thought about a President in those little moments of humanity, before.

Nah, from what I've seen of him, he's the epitome of calmness and control. He was probably sleeping like a baby. :)

Anyway. This isn't a blog about politics, or rockstar celebrity Presidents. It's supposed to be a blog about poetry, and writing. So to that end, I will say that the other evening I finally got some poems sent out to a couple of places, for the first time in quite a few months. (I've been sending out the book manuscript, but not individual poems lately.) It felt pretty good. And I'm mulling over a possible grant application, as well -- which will have to be done this weekend if I'm going to do it (eek). Maybe I'm just a little bit inspired, seeing what somebody my age can achieve with a lot of really hard work (okay, in his case it's also involved just a wee bit of brilliance, talent, timing, and luck). Maybe I'm feeling like it's a little bit okay to believe right now.

And so it is.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Come on up for the rising

The "We Are One" concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, televised on HBO this afternoon (on an open signal so that even we non-subscribers could view it), was just remarkable. Bruce Springsteen! Queen Latifah! U2! Pete Seeger! My neighbor (okay, he lives a few miles away) John Mellencamp! So many nice moments, and watching the Obama family dancing happily to Stevie Wonder made me absurdly happy. I think it's going to take a long time for Springsteen and Seeger to stop grinning. Who would have ever thought I'd see those two performing for the President-elect with Lincoln's visage looming in the background. Very, very, very cool.

* * * * *

Speaking of rising, the temperature finally rose above freezing for a few hours yesterday. It sank down again today, but stayed in the twenties, which is still considerably warmer than it was late last week. And I'm trying to break out of my own frozen stasis & get my act together about sending out some poems. That's tomorrow's task. Although I may work on a grant application instead. In any case, the plan is to work on getting stuff out there. Because it's not like anybody's going to do it for me.

* * * * *

Here's a brand-new draft, which I'll leave up for a day or so.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I wanna be where the bands are

The nice man on TV just informed me that tomorrow morning will be the coldest morning in five years. Should be around twelve below. I know that's nothing to you folks in Minnesnowta and so forth, but around here, we think this is pretty freaking cold. Especially those of us with drafty old houses. I have a new favorite thing: a bright red, super soft, fleecy hat that is soft and cozy enough to wear to bed.

At least it isn't icy, or even snowy. That helps.

* * * * *

Along with the depressing news about the Dodge Festival, I've also learned that the Writers' Center of Indiana has laid off its staff, given up its rented space, and cancelled its spring classes due to lack of funding. And there will be more such news to come, I'm sure. Sigh.

* * * * *

On a happier note, check out -- and submit to! -- the Found Poetry Project. Be sure to read the "about" section, which explains what sort of found poetry they're looking for.

Other things that are pleasant to contemplate (especially when it's this cold out): the Fine Arts Work Center has published its schedule of summer workshops, and the Indiana University Writers' Conference has announced its 2009 faculty. These are both very good programs, though very different from one another. If I had the money, I'd go to FAWC again this summer. But at least I can look forward to attending the IUWC readings in June, which are free whether you're attending the conference itself or not.

* * * * *

Also looking forward to Sunday's celebratory inaugural kickoff, featuring Bruce Springsteen (who'll be singing "This Land Is Your Land") and a ton of other fabulous performers. HBO will be televising a couple hours of it later in the evening, and will be opening up their signal so that anyone with satellite or cable can tune in, even if (like me) they don't get HBO. Very cool.

And despite the Rick Warren thing (I'm still peeved about that), I am looking forward to the Inauguration itself on Tuesday. I plan to take a couple hours off work midday so I can go watch the festivities.

* * * * *

I'm making an iTunes playlist of songs that seem to go along with my current writing project. I'm really starting to think about the whole of it more than about the individual poems, which is something I've never done before. The playlist has lots of Springsteen and Indigo Girls (pretty predictable if you know me), as well as some Joni Mitchell, Nils Lofgren, Ani DiFranco, Catie Curtis, and some other folks. Like the poetry project, it's a work in progress. It's mostly songs about what it's like to be a musician, be on the road, etc. and a few songs about being a music fan: "Where the Bands Are," "Language or the Kiss," "Keith Don't Go," "Refuge of the Roads," and so on. Fun stuff.

I've also been listening quite a bit to the new Springsteen album (yes, I know it doesn't come out for another couple of weeks... sshhhhh... don't ask so many questions). I'm really loving it, though in some ways it's different from any of his previous work. It's very textural, and very ... mature, I guess you'd say. He's working with themes of mortality, and of appreciating what you've got while you can because life is short. It's an album he couldn't have made thirty years ago, or even five years ago, I suspect. I look forward to buying it on January 27 when it officially drops & will probably stop on my way home from work to pick it up rather than trusting an online pre-order to get it to me on time. Yes, I am such a fangirl.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

terminal time-deficit disorder

Many, many thanks to everyone who posted recommendations on my previous post! It also occurs to me that Charlie Jensen's chapbook The Strange Case of Maribel Dixon is another great example of the kind of thing I'm thinking of -- also Carol Guess' Tinderbox Lawn, which I mentioned a while back. Poem-beads that string together to make a story, though you have to guess at much of the narrative. Maybe I should go to some fiction panels at AWP.... Anyway, I'm keeping track of the recommendations, so keep 'em coming!

* * * * *

Speaking of AWP, it's coming up in a month! If anyone wants to make a point of getting together, drop me an email and I can give you my cell phone number. I'll also be shelling out the extra $ for wi-fi in my room at the Hilton (you know, one of those amenities you get for free at every cheap Best Western in the world, that the fancy-schmancy Hilton charges extra for...) so I'll be checking email every so often while I'm there, as well. I'll be there by Wednesday evening, and company for dinner might be welcome! I'm not averse to just putting on my bunny slippers (er, metaphorically speaking, that is... I don't own any actual bunny slippers) and chilling out in my room with a good book that night, either. So, no pressure.

* * * * *

Thanks to the Arts Council of Indianapolis for this tidbit, which some of you may want to pass along to your students:

Employment Opportunity: Putney School in southeast Vermont seeks writers, visual & performing artists for Summer Programs positions.
The Putney School Summer in southeast Vermont is seeking to hire college students, recent college grads, and young art professionals as apprentice teachers/dormheads with experience in the following areas:
visual arts: drawing, painting, filmmaking, photography, sculpture, ceramics
performing arts: theater, modern dance
creative writing: fiction, poetry, playwriting, multi-genre

Apprentice teachers/dormheads are paid $2,000 plus room and board for 7 weeks in the summer. Duties include supporting the residential life of the high school students – living in the dorms, supervising recreational activities and field trips, serving as assistant teachers in one arts workshop (morning or afternoon) and also designing and leading an evening arts workshop. Candidates must be at least 21 years old.

More Details:

* * * * *

And thanks to Esquire Magazine, of all places, for this bit of amusement: Steven Van Zandt: What I've Learned. Little morsels of wit and wisdom (more or less) from Little Steven (Underground Garage, E Street Band, Silvio Dante). The guy is funny as hell. If he ever gets tired of trying to save rock&roll from its untimely demise, he could go be a comic or something. "We are all suffering from a terminal time-deficit disorder. What'd you do today? I don't know, but I had no time for it."

Yeah. Me too, Steve... me too. ;)

* * * * *

Addendum: Condolences to poet laureate Kay Ryan, whose life partner, Carol Adair, recently passed away (here's her obituary). Thanks to Choriamb for this news.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


... to find that I have over forty poems written towards the new series or project or whatever it is that I'm working on. Some will end up getting junked, many will end up getting revised -- of course. But I didn't realize how much work I'd done already. Wow.

Along those lines, I'm looking for recommendations. I'm interested in books of "poetry as biography" (whether of historical or fictional personages, I don't care which). I recently finished leadbelly by Tyehimba Jess, which is a good example of the kind of thing I'm looking for -- and is a phenomenal, powerful collection to boot. I'm currently reading Your Own, Sylvia by Stephanie Hemphill, which is another one; I'm not blown away by the individual poems, but I like the concept, the way the poet writes from a bunch of different points of view & includes footnotes to explain some of the biographical details. And while I was in Colorado for Christmas, I spent a few hours at the Tattered Cover Bookstore (aka "heaven") in Denver & picked up It's Hard Being Queen: The Dusty Springfield Poems by Jeanette Lynes. Haven't read that one yet, but it looks most intriguing.

Are there others I should know about? I'm interested in how others have worked with similar material -- chronology, plot, structure. I'm toying with the idea of interspersing bits of ephemera among the poems -- snippets from interviews and articles, that kind of thing -- and am currently debating about how much of the plot (you know, the "facts") I need to lay out & how much I want the reader to have to trust the gaps.

Books that aren't necessarily biographical per se, but which use individual poems to tell a larger story, would be of interest as well. I'm less interested in the "verse novel" sort of thing than in books of individual poems that fall together to tell someone's story. What I'm envisioning has more in common with a series of linked short stories than with a novel, if that makes sense.

I'm also interested in poems that use the imagery of rock & roll. Those are a little easier to find, I think, but I bet there's some I don't know about.

Any & all recommendations are most welcome!

Also: Happy New Year one and all! May 2009 bring us all prosperity, happiness, and the right words at the right time.