Monday, April 27, 2009

Spring fever

First off, run over and congratulate Diane K. Martin, who has some terrific and long-awaited great news!

I've been busy, and not blogging. Poetry stuff, music stuff, wishing there were more hours in every day stuff.

Got a grant application submitted which, if I get it, will send me to AWP next year. Fingers crossed. And if nothing else, putting the application together was a worthwhile experience -- a chance to step back and look at the trajectory of my work and what I've been doing with it. I hadn't updated my artistic resume in a while and it was nice to realize that I really did have some things to add to it. Speaking of which, I promised my manuscript I would send it out to two more places (maybe three) this month and then if it doesn't get picked as at least a finalist, we're talking major revision. Er, "this month" means I don't have a lot of time left, doesn't it? Guess I know what I'm doing tomorrow evening.

Getting so much happiness & energy from music lately. I've decided that in addition to the Bruce Springsteen show in Chicago next month, I'm also going to see him in St. Paul the night before. I will be in St. Paul for less than 24 hours, which seems a little crazy, but I felt my face bust into a giant grin when I got my ticket in today's mail, when I opened up the envelope and carefully extracted that precious little piece of paper. And that told me I made the right choice when I decided to go. If I could be even half as present with my work as Springsteen is with his, half as committed, I'd get a whole lot more work done. I almost think of him as one of my writing teachers. Weird, huh?

This past Friday night I went to Indianapolis to see some of my other musical heroes, the Indigo Girls. I hadn't seen them in a few years, and that's a few years too long. It was a general-admission, standing-room show in a room the size of a large high school gym, and I was incredibly fortunate & ended up standing front and center. I mean, I was so close that I was even able to get some (semi-surreptitious) halfway decent pictures with my cruddy little no-megapixel cellphone camera. I went by myself, but unexpectedly met up with someone I knew a bit from online, and had a great time hanging with her and the friends she'd come with. And, you know, I really need to remember how much music feeds my spirit. Especially when I go to a show where I'm standing, putting my arms in the air, singing along -- not hunched over in a seat protecting my heart. There's a communal experience that happens at some shows -- Springsteen, Indigos -- almost a tribal thing. There's nothing else like it, and it feeds me deeply.

Finally, I squoze out two lines of a villanelle the other day. If I actually finish it and make a proper villanelle, you can be assured that hell has frozen over, which probably means all the swine flu viruses will be frozen to death. In which case I had better get cracking.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Small pond

This week two different people, neither of whom I knew, recognized me because of poetry stuff. One had seen me at the annual Five Women Poets readings (she knows someone else in the group and comes to our readings often). The other was a cashier in a shop who took my debit card, recognized my name, and remembered hearing me on the radio.

Does that ever stop feeling weird?

In other news, it's full-on spring and everything is busting into blossom. I love this time of year. Bloomington has a ridiculous number of flowering trees and we're just at that stage where the earliest ones are starting to lose their bloom, petals drifting through the air like clouds of snow. The redbuds are intense in their pink/magenta/fuchsia/undefinable color, bright as a neon sign. DC may have its cherry trees but we have our Bradford pears, flowering plums, redbuds, dogwoods, magnolias, tulip trees, forsythia, and a bunch of other stuff I don't know the names of. It's really fairly spectacular.

A few days ago (actually, on the plane back from Denver, right after we skidded down onto the Indianapolis tarmac) I finished reading Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. It got a lot of hype when it came out a few years ago, and I resisted reading it for that reason, but people, the hype is justified. This is one of those books that fucks you up while you're reading it (and that's a good thing). It pulls you into a world and a language that makes your heart hurt but that you never want to leave. I'd give a lot to be able to write like that.

Finally, sending out good thoughts to the terrific poet, blogger, and all-around good guy Brent Goodman. In case you hadn't heard, he had a heart attack a few days ago and is hanging out in the cardiac ward for a little while. And what's really amazing is he's still writing and posting a poem every day. Now that's heart.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Scott Russell Sanders chat

A quick note: Our local newspaper is doing an online chat with the wonderful writer Scott Russell Sanders tomorrow, April 15, at 11:00 am Eastern time. You will be able to access it without a subscription, and you can submit questions in advance if you want. Go here for the scoop:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Chasing angels in Colorado

Back from a quick trip out west. I hope to blog more about the Springsteen show later; as his shows often do, this one not only rocked my face off but also brought me to new understandings about a few things. I take away equal parts exhilaration and thoughtfulness from his shows. It's pretty amazing. Anyway, we didn't get a great spot on the floor, so I was on my tiptoes craning my neck most of the night and still couldn't see all of the stage (and depending on which way the guys in front of me happened to shift, sometimes I couldn't see any of the stage; I'm 5 foot 1, for the record, so it doesn't take much of a tall person to block my view) -- and even so, I preferred it to sitting in seats; the sound was better, and the crowd around me was way more excited and energetic. There was a young woman behind me who, by the encores, was so radiantly happy that the smile on her face could have powered a small city. The difference between standing on the floor in general admission versus being in seats is the difference between watching the musicians perform versus participating in the performance. Being in GA, you really do feel like you're more a part of things, more connected with the performers and the music. It's a great thing.

It was a high-energy show, with a fantastic crowd; people were on their feet cheering, fist-pumping, arm-waving, singing along from the floor all the way up to the rafters (and there were plenty of folks up in the rafters; it was a sold-out show and even the nosebleed seats in Denver's Pepsi Center were full). It amazes me, every time I see him, how Bruce puts everything he's got into every show; even after thirty-five years, he still sings "Born to Run" like he means every word with all his heart.

As I type this I'm listening to an audience recording of the very first Springsteen show I attended (9/9/1978, Notre Dame, Indiana) and while the energy was very different then in ways I'd like to spend some time putting words to, the shows he does now are every bit as joyous and every bit as enjoyable. I remember that '78 show as well as I remember anything from that far back. I was seventeen: what did I know? Well... I knew more when I left that show than I did when I walked into the arena, that much is for sure.

While I was out there I also had the chance to meet the newest member of my extended family -- my sister's stepson's son, who is three weeks old and as my sister says, he is stinkin' cute.

Tomorrow: back to regular old reality again. I hope to get back on track with writing and stuff by next weekend.

Thanks to all who sent nice comments on my recent Field acceptance, by the way -- or thought nice things and didn't get around to posting them. I first submitted to them in 1989, so it certainly feels like one of those "persistence pays" situations. The contract showed up in my mail while I was gone, so I can now tell you that "The Fuel" will be in the Fall 2009 issue.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the amazonfail fiasco currently playing itself out. Others have summarized it much better than I'd be able to, so read these two posts and follow the links therein if you want to know more:
Emily Lloyd (Poesy Galore)
Timothy Green
Both of these bloggers give some good information, but come at it from somewhat different angles and give different examples. There is tons more out there about it -- in blogs, on Facebook, on Twitter. I'll leave you with a link to a petition which I have signed and certainly endorse; I don't know if online petitions are ever taken all that seriously, but it's a quick way to do something.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

No sleep till Denver, baby

Things that are fun:

It's always fun to get a poem accepted (even more fun when they take several poems - thanks, diode!) but there's nothing quite like the feeling of finally getting an email that starts out "We'd like to take..." from a journal you've been submitting to for almost twenty years. I say this not because I'm bragging about publication (in the grand scheme of things, getting a poem into a journal is just not that huge a deal) but because many of y'all will understand, I think. Persistence really does pay off sometimes; also, it really is true that you get more poems accepted when you actually make the effort of sending poems out. So yeah, Field is taking a poem, and I'm ever so slightly over the moon about it.

To make it even more fun, David Young was here in Bloomington for a reading today, so I had the pleasure of introducing myself and thanking him in person. And his reading was good, too. He read a few poems from his recent book of translations, and then a bunch of poems from Black Lab, which I just read a few days ago and quite enjoyed.

Then I dashed home, fed the cats, put on my boots, and dashed back out to Rachael's Cafe where I was one of two openers for the Reservoir Dogwoods. I didn't know many people in the audience, and it's always fun to read for new people. And I enjoyed the Dogwoods; they are all four very good readers/performers (in the "spoken word artist" tradition) so they were fun to watch. They also did several ensemble pieces that actually worked quite nicely. That kind of thing can be tough to pull off, but the four poets had voices and stage presences that worked well together, and it made me think it'd be fun to try and do something similar with some of my poet friends sometime. Maybe.

Things that are not so much fun: In about six hours I have to get in the car and head for the airport, and my house is a disaster. And why no, I haven't packed yet. So it's time for me to put down the Internet and back slooooowly away.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


For anyone in or near Bloomington IN, I'll be opening for (doesn't that make me sound like an up and coming rockstar?) the Reservoir Dogwoods this coming Wednesday, 7 pm at Rachael's Cafe. The Reservoir Dogwoods are a little band of Hoosier poets currently touring Indiana: Jason Ammerman, Matthew Jackson, Joseph Kerschbaum, and Tony Brewer. While these guys tend more towards the "spoken word artist" side of things and I'm definitely a poet who stands there and reads, it should still be a lot of fun.

I'm probably crazy for doing it since I have to leave town at butt o'clock in the morning on Thursday to catch my flight to Denver, and will be in full-on "OMG I have so much to get done" mode, but far be it for me to turn down a reading invitation!

In the considerably-less-amusing department: torrential rain, leaky roof, snow in the forecast tomorrow. Ah, springtime.

Because the Night

Not the best video or audio quality in the known universe, but here's a song I have loved for over thirty years, and it is still SCORCHING... check out this video of Springsteen & the E Street Band ripping into "Because the Night" in Glendale, AZ last night. Beautiful.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Weekly, weakly

Just don't seem to have as much to say here lately. Which of course leaves wide open the question of whether I actually had that much to say here in the first place... hmm.

Couple of good things to read:

1. Review of Rita Dove's new book, from which she read when I heard her recently. I am very much looking forward to this one. Heck, any book of poems that has Beethoven as a character has got to be interesting, right?

2. This interview with Bruce Springsteen gives some great insight into his creative process: both his songwriting, and the construction & development of his concerts. He puts together his setlists very deliberately and thoughtfully, and it shows. (And I'll be seeing him in Denver on Friday night! Yessssss....) They've got a Springsteen exhibit up now in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and it includes a whole bunch of his songwriting notebooks - just regular old spiral notebooks filled with scribbled words. I have to go see this sometime; a road trip to Cleveland is definitely in the works sometime in the next six months or so. I'm much more interested in these notebooks than in probably anything else they have there - though I'm sure I will swoon over the guitars - but I am so curious about his writing process. If I ever had the chance to sit down and talk with him, that's what I'd want to talk about more than anything.

Although my end of the conversation would probably consist of "ba-duh ba-duh ba-duh." I don't usually get that starstruck, but somehow I suspect that for Springsteen I would make an exception. Sigh.

* * * * *

I'm not doing NaPoWriMo, because I just feel like I have too much on my plate this month, and because I'm already churning out more drafts than I can find time to properly revise lately. (Not that I'm complaining, mind!) But in the spirit of posting drafts in a ridiculously early stage, here's a little amuse-bouche I've been cobbling together over the last day or so. Note that if you're not familiar with Facebook and Twitter, this will probably sound like so much gibberish to you. Heck, it may sound like gibberish anyway, but that's okay. I'll take this down, as per usual, in a day or so.