Sunday, March 29, 2009

Snow in springtime

Updated my blog template (the things we do when we're procrastinating on other things *cough* taxes *cough*), though I didn't make any really drastic changes -- but I did finally move over to Blogger's widget system. I added a few things over in the right-hand sidebar. I may have accidentally dropped a few blog links when I did it, as I kept getting distracted by various things (email, cats, snow... yes, snow) so if your blog isn't over there and it should be, please do let me know!

I have two poems in the new issue of fiore, which is available around & about Bloomington. If you're not in the vicinity and you want a copy, you can contact the editors; or, if you prefer, drop me a note (ahaines at gmail dot com) and as long as my supply holds out I'd be happy to drop one in the mail for the cost of postage and a big envelope. Couple bucks, maybe.

Here's one of my two:

My Clothes

Some days I can’t even wear my clothes
without getting them muddy, or bloody,
or losing my jewelry,
or tripping over my own shoes like a fool.

Days like that, I wish I could
be unclothed without being naked,
sleek as a minke whale, protected
as a swift fish.

I would fly from morning into night
and introduce myself to angels,
relying on their forbearance
and the skeleton key of my own name.

Then I notice the stain
on my collar, ink on my sleeve,
the undarned sock where my toe pokes out
and I stumble back to earth

where every rise
and set, each transit of the stars,
hurtles past outside the confines
of my stunningly limited grace.

--Anne Haines
first published in fiore, issue 2, March/April 2009

* * * * *

The other night, shortly before midnight, I heard a great horned owl outside my window -- so close and so loud that I heard it even with the TV on and all the windows closed. So clear that the younger cat perked up his ears and made his eyes all big and sat reeeeeeeeal still for a minute. It hoo-huh hoo-hoooooo'd about every thirty seconds for close to half an hour before a noisy car went by and either scared it away or made it decide to hush up. I'm right smack in town, half a block from a fairly busy four-lane road; it's not unheard-of for me to hear owls around here, but this was by far the closest and the loudest. I went out into the back yard and though I didn't manage to see it, I did pin down the exact tree it was sitting in.

If I notice any missing bunnies, now I know who took 'em.

It was quite remarkable, though. I don't know what it was going on about, but it was calling very persistently for a while. Pretty cool.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rita Dove and other stuff

Rita Dove's reading tonight was very good. She read from her forthcoming book, Sonata Mulattica, which I am now seriously looking forward to -- it's good stuff, yes, but also it is sort of a biography-in-verse about this mixed-race violinist, George Bridgetower, who hung out with (Rebecca Loudon take note) Beethoven, until they had a falling-out and Beethoven took the sonata he'd written for Bridgetower and renamed it after someone else.

Narrative/lyric hybrid: check! Biographical story: check! Musicians having stupid interpersonal drama: check! I think I may learn a few things about how to deal with my own current project from this book.

While her actual reading was very good, I was beyond annoyed with the undergrads sitting around playing on their cellphones (very annoying with those brightly-lit screens, especially the big touch-screen ones) and drinking frappuccinos and whispering and, swear to god, napping. I would rather read for an audience of ten people who are actually paying attention than for an auditorium in which half the people are not listening to a word I say. Grrrrr.

Also, when you spend fifteen minutes introducing the person who is going to introduce the poet, you might be venturing into overkill zone. Just sayin'.

[Added: Here's a recap of her reading from the student newspaper.]

* * * * *

So, the E Street Nation is all abuzz with the news that, when drummer Max Weinberg has to leave the tour for a while in the late spring to fulfill his bandleader duties on the Conan O'Brien show, Max's son Jay will be sitting in. My first reaction to this news was "what?! Has Bruce Springsteen completely lost his mind?!" Jay Weinberg is 19 years old and plays in a metal band. No way in hell, I thought, that a 19 year old metalhead -- no matter who his daddy is -- should have the very heartbeat of the E Street Band in his 19 year old hands.

Well, the band played a couple of "rehearsal shows" in Asbury Park this week, and Jay sat in for a few songs. And while I obviously wasn't there to witness this for myself, and haven't had a chance to download & listen to the bootlegs yet, credible sources report that the kid was more than up to the task. Apparently he's an amazing drummer, and absolutely thrilled to be there keeping the beat for a bunch of 60 year old guys -- go figure. And it is just possible that his presence and passion and enthusiasm can give the "old-timers" in the band an extra little kick in the pants -- not that they really need it as a rule, I've never seen musicians as totally into it and joyously passionate about performing as they were when I saw them in August, but how cool to have someone along for part of the ride whose attitude is still "oh my god I can't believe I get to do this!"

So now I find myself hoping that, when the real tour begins next week, they have Jay sitting in for a few songs at every show before he takes over from his dad, which will happen when they get over to Europe. Because I really wanna see this crazy kid for myself.

I mean, it's just cool to have someone in the band who's NOT yet eligible to join the Hair Club for Men. :) :)

* * * * *

Sent a whole sheaf of "Chasing Angels" poems off to a journal that asks for whole sheaves of poems. Whether or not they take them, it was really interesting to go through them picking out a handful that could carry enough of the story to stand by themselves, and to see how the arc of the narrative is developing. Whatever happens with this project, I am learning a lot from it. So that's good.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Crisis of craft

For those within driving distance of Bloomington, Rita Dove will be reading here on Wednesday. I plan to be there.

Feeling transitional. Maybe it's just the change of seasons... spring is coming on full tilt.

Speaking of changes, I'm on Twitter now. If you're there too, feel free to follow me! I don't know how much use I'll actually make of it; if I had a phone (and a plan) that allowed for texting and/or web access, I'd probably find it much more useful. As it stands, I'm not sure where Twitter will fit into the blog/Facebook/whatever matrix, but I figured I'd give it a try.

Here's the transcript of an interesting talk by Steve Van Zandt at SXSW. He talks about the "crisis of craft" in rock&roll -- how musicians aren't spending time developing their craft anymore, playing cover songs, playing in bars, "learn[ing] greatness from greatness." It's an interesting perspective, and rings at least somewhat true from my perspective. I think anyone who's ever taught beginning poets will find some of what he says pretty familiar: the impatience to express oneself, the temptation to put one's voice out there before one has developed strong enough craft to support any kind of artistic vision. Food for thought, anyway, and Steve certainly has the experience to support his perspective, after forty-some years in the music business working as a band member, band leader, producer, label owner, deejay, and goodness knows what else.

And yes, I'm still working on that series of poems about the fictional rockstar. It's sort of annoying at the moment, really, because every time I sit down to read poems I start itching to write, and I can't get through so much as twenty pages of poetry without getting interrupted by the Muse. I almost wish I'd get a little bit blocked, so that in addition to getting a decent amount of reading done, I could spend time revising (goodness knows these new poems need it) -- not to mention the big revision that needs to be done on my first book manuscript. I know, I know, be careful what you wish for....

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Short attention sp

Yeah, I haven't been blogging much lately. Haven't even been reading blogs on a daily basis as I normally do, either. I haven't abandoned poetry, though -- I've been submitting like a madwoman! Well, that is, if your definition of "madwoman" includes sending out a packet every day or two for a few days. Okay, so it's not all that much, but I'm getting stuff out there on a more regular basis for once, including sending work to a couple of journals I've been meaning to send to for a while.

Oddly enough, when you send more stuff out, you are more likely to get stuff accepted. (Who knew? Hey, I'm a poet, not a statistician!) The kind folks over at Coal Hill Review are taking a poem for their fall issue, which makes me happy.

In somewhat more personal news, my sister became a grandmother late last night, which makes me a (gasp) great-aunt. That's just weird. But also a happy thing. Welcome to the world, baby Apollo!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Anne likes this

Facebook is starting to infect me, I think. I want to click a 'Like' button on everything that strikes me in a good way. Someone says something smart at work and I want to tag it with "Anne likes this!" I see crocuses poking up out of the ground and I want to bang on something with my thumb to say: "Anne likes this!"

And you wonder how people get lazy about self-expression. Phbt.

* * * * *

Yesterday I got out the big-ass stack o'poems that I've drafted so far towards my new project. I've been putting them more or less in some kind of order as I go along and carrying them around with me in a red folder. I read through the most recent half-dozen or so, made a few tiny little changes here and there, and stuck them into the big-ass stack in places that seemed right. Then I read through the whole thing -- not carefully or in depth, but skimming over all the poems, reading through for flow & continuity. And go figure: as I read through it, it started to feel more like (gasp) a manuscript, not just a big-ass stack o'poems.


This has been an entirely different experience from my first full-length manuscript (which is floating around in various editorial offices even as we speak). That one was more the classic "first book" experience, where you have a big-ass stack o'poems that you've drafted over a few years and you sort through them trying to figure out what they have to do with one another and how they relate. Putting that manuscript together, while I was on retreat at Clifty Falls last June, was a really cool experience because I was pleasantly surprised to find out how much the poems did relate to one another, and kind of talked to one another once I put them in the same rooms together. Turns out my work has had some overarching themes all along, and I found some ways of juxtaposing poems that (in my considerably less than objective opinion) illuminated and clarified those themes.

(Given that the manuscript has been rejected a bunch of times now, although it has garnered some nice notes and so on, I think I'm about to revisit it. A little distance is good for the soul, or at least for the manuscript. But I digress.)

Anyway, this new project -- new manuscript, I should say! -- has been more deliberate from the get-go. I'd drafted maybe half a dozen poems before I realized I was working on a larger project. I thought it might be a chapbook at first, but for the past six months or so I have suspected that it wants to be a book. For quite a while I just let the voices speak to me; I'd find myself writing about something -- a tree, a highway, a certain slant of light -- and realize that I was writing from the perspective of one of my characters. At this point, I'm trying to think more strategically about the thing as a whole: filling in gaps, brightening or darkening the tone as needed.

So reading through it yesterday and feeling like it is starting to hang together -- that was enormous for me.

I'm a little in love with this project, much as it pains me to admit. Hell, I bought a black leather motorcycle jacket because of this project. (On ebay, for $10.50. I may be crazy, but I'm cheap.)

I just hope somebody hurries up and takes manuscript #1 before this one is ready to go out (which will probably be another year or so; I have at least ten or twelve more poems to write, and a LOT of revision to do). Otherwise, it will feel like one of those fairy tales where the younger daughter gets married before the elder daughter, and somebody ends up dying because of it. Or at least cursed.

* * * * *

I mention this because three people have now sent me the information and it's only a matter of time before the rest of you do, too. ;) Yes, I do know about the Bruce Springsteen anthology that Pudding House is working on! And yes, I've already sent them some work; and yes, they've taken a poem of mine. I am highly amused by the whole thing, actually. They say they are going to do their best to get some copies of it into the actual hands of the actual Bruce Springsteen, which I'm not holding my breath on (he's pretty hard to get to), but it's fun to think about. My poem is one in which I imagine a fourteen-year-old Bruce, sitting in his room playing his guitar and dreaming of getting out of there. Like pretty much anyone who's been fourteen, I know how that feels.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Time and weather

So, the whole Daylight Saving Time thing. Bleah. Tomorrow evening I have the 6-9 pm shift on the reference desk, and there will still be some light in the sky when I go home. On the other hand, for the next couple-three weeks, on the days that I work a normal 8-5 schedule the sun won't have risen yet when I go in to work. I am on the wrong damn side of the time zone for this crap, is what it is.

We're still fairly new to this springingforwardfallingback thing here in Indiana, and many of us are still cranky about it.

I mean really. I almost forgot to listen to Little Steven's Underground Garage on the radio tonight, because it comes on at 7 pm and it was still bright and sunny then and didn't seem possible that it was already time for evening things to start.

* * * * *

Today was sunny, then cloudy, then the wind kicked up and then they issued a tornado watch and then it got dark and there was a gust so hard I grabbed on to my head inside my house just to make sure it didn't blow away, and then it rained like crazy, then the clouds raced away and it was brilliant blue springtime and a yard full of robins.

If you didn't think Indiana was very much Midwestern, think again.

There was a fair amount of tornado damage about 50 miles south of me, but we escaped entirely unscathed, this time.

Funny enough, on Friday evening I attended a National Weather Service storm-spotter training session. Just in time, eh? It was pretty interesting, and as a bonus, the language of severe weather is pretty ripe for stealing into poetry. Tornadogenesis, rear-flank downdraft, wall cloud, shelf cloud, squall line, beaver tail.

Yes, beaver tail.

* * * * *

Not going anywhere this month. In April, I'm off to Denver for a few quick days to visit my sister and catch a Springsteen show. Then in May I'll hop up to my mom's for Mother's Day and from there to Chicago for, yes, another Springsteen show. In July I'm back to Chicago for the American Library Association conference.

More hotels this year than usual for me, that's for sure.

I'm also hoping to make a trip to Cleveland sometime this year to see this exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It's, uh, research for some poems. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Where would you travel in the name of researching poems?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight

Yeah, that post title has nothing to do with anything except that the song is stuck in my head a little. (It's from the new U2 album.)

* * * * *

Maya Angelou spoke on campus this evening, to a sold-out (well, tickets were free, but they were all distributed) auditorium. This auditorium seats around 3200 people, and it was a mix of students, faculty, and other folks. Anyway, I know a lot of poets don't think much of Angelou's poetry, and I can understand that; she's not a challenging or technically nuanced poet, certainly. But what she does better than just about anyone is to capture an audience. Talk about stage presence... wow. And to think of her history in the civil rights movement, and her life story -- well, she's a pretty amazing person, really. But what I loved tonight was her passion about poetry, the way she talked about (and sometimes read from) Shakespeare, Poe, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Mari Evans, Countee Cullen, and others -- talking to that packed room about how poetry is important and, I think, persuading people to believe it. You gotta love that. And not only that, but she talked about librarians, and how librarians study as hard as surgeons, and how you should go to the library and ask the librarian to help you finding some information -- "but don't expect an answer right away. It's probably been a while since anyone asked and it might take her a couple of minutes to recover from the shock." (Not an exact quote, but something like that, which just about made me pee my pants laughing.)

Promoting poetry and librarians to an auditorium full of impressionable college students, and getting a roaring standing ovation anyway. Yeah, you gotta love that!

* * * * *

Things aren't looking good in California, apparently. The whole thing makes me feel a little queasy, and I don't even really have a personal horse in this race, being neither the marrying kind nor a California resident. Still, what's fair is fair, and it's just dumb for some relationships to be all official and stuff and others not to be. Just dumb, and mean.

I do believe that the world can change. Just sometimes, I wish it would hurry faster.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Not a luxury

Feeling pretty much human again. Don't get norovirus, people.

* * * * *

Time to get the book manuscript back out and start again from the inside out, I think. I still believe in it, but I'm not sure it is wearing its best suit of clothes just yet.

* * * * *

Read these poems. I'm not kidding, really. Go do it now. I'll be right here waiting.

* * * * *

Good news from the Writers' Center up in Indianapolis -- they have found ways to continue on with some of their programming despite serious budget setbacks. These are tough times for the arts, but I think there are enough of us out here who understand that the arts are essential, and I think we'll get through these next few years. It'll be tough, but if anyone can make something fabulous out of not very much, it's poets. Right?

* * * * *

Speaking of "not very much," I am so sorry that I watched American Idol this week. That's two hours of my life I will never get back. I blame certain of you bloggers for getting me hooked on this atrocity. Ahem.

* * * * *

There are twenty-seven bones in the human hand. It takes every bone and every muscle in the human body, and every ounce of breath, to make a single moment of music, to bend a slender steel string and hold that note.

* * * * *

My poem "Relax with Song of the Whales" is now up at Sea Stories! This is a very, very cool online journal which I always enjoy reading. The editors do a great job of creating something that explores a particular theme while consistently selecting interesting work. I haven't yet had a chance to explore this particular issue, but I'm looking forward to it.