Sunday, January 24, 2010


I went to Evil Megachain Coffee Place today, poked at Twitter on my cellphone for a while, then scribbled. Drafted something that feels kinda like song lyrics: it's rhymey and not subtle or complex enough to be a poem, with a song-ish structure. I used to do that all the time, but not so much lately. It's fun.

(Sorry about the evil megachain coffee. It's close to home, usually has a free spot by the windows, and plays decent music. I can usually write there, and that's what counts.)

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Apparently there were some football games today. I think I live in the one part of the country that won't generally be cheering for New Orleans. Good thing I don't care enough to take sides.

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Ahsahta Press is taking its back catalog digital, via the Boise State University Library's institutional repository, ScholarWorks (the same name IU uses for ours). I suppose there is bound to be a certain amount of controversy over this, but I think it's pretty cool. It's not like they are giving up on print, they're just using the repository to keep books available that otherwise you'd have to order via interlibrary loan, and I like that they've got the library involved - to me that suggests it will be done right. I still love print, carry a book with me at all times despite the fact that any unexpected dull moments can just as easily be filled by poking at Twitter or Facebook or various random websites on my cellphone (and if I'm standing in line at the post office, I'll be honest, it's easier to pull out the phone and hold it in a free hand rather than trying to juggle turning pages in a book while standing there) - but I love the idea of small-press poetry being available in virtual perpetuity. What do y'all think?

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The "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon Friday night was very nicely done, with several musicians I'm not usually that crazy about turning in heartfelt performances that won me over. (Justin Timberlake and Mary J. Blige, I'm talkin' to you.) Of course I loved Bruce Springsteen's delicate rendition of "We Shall Overcome," assisted by Seeger Sessions band members Charlie Giordano on accordion, Curt Ramm on trumpet, and Patti Scialfa, Soozie Tyrell, Cindy Mizelle, and Curtis King on vocals. And the new song written especially for the occasion and performed by Jay-Z, Rihanna, Bono, and the Edge - "Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)" - is actually a pretty good song, unlike a lot of other well-intentioned charity singles ("We Are The World," I'm talkin' to you).

Keep on giving to Haiti if you can. You can donate directly, or you can purchase the audio and/or video of the telethon, or just grab individual songs for a buck apiece, if you're so inclined (link goes to a page that leads to your choice of iTunes or amazon). Here's Bruce to inspire you:

Sunday, January 17, 2010


A few news tidbits from the literary-journal front:
  • diode, one of my favorite online journals, has a new issue up. Check out v3n2 here. I've only barely dipped into it so far, but looks like some good stuff!

  • Bloom, which fell off the face of the earth for about three years, is (knock on wood!) being revived. Look for a new issue at the AWP conference in Denver this April. My prosepoem (yes, prosepoem -- something I hardly ever write!) "Flyover Country" will be in it. I'd about given up, to be honest. But I'm glad things are looking hopeful once again; this was one of my favorite journals until it disappeared.

  • Last but not least, today I got the speediest acceptance I've ever gotten -- a few minutes short of three hours from the time I hit "send" to the time the acceptance letter showed up in my inbox! I'll have two poems in upcoming issues of the Tipton Poetry Journal: one in the winter 2010 issue this month, and one in the summer issue this coming July. Not only did the acceptance arrive in my inbox that fast, but there were even proofs attached! Sometimes, technology really does make our lives a little easier.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti: Ways to Help

The images from Haiti are almost impossible to comprehend. So many of the people there had almost nothing to begin with; how on earth can they get through this? I can't imagine what those people are going through right now. Horrible. I don't have words.

A few helpful links, in case you have not yet identified ways you can help:

How to Use Tech to Make a Speedy Donation
. Helpful tips from PCWorld.

Charity Navigator offers some suggestions for how to make sure your donations go where you intend them to, and how to select the most effective places to donate.

Doctors Without Borders is where I'm sending the donation that I wish could be so much larger. They do good work, hard work, and as far as I can tell they manage their funds reasonably well. Also I believe they already have a presence in Haiti, which helps.

Oxfam America is another good place to donate.

I will admit that I haven't researched YĆ©le Haiti as thoroughly as I'd like. It's a smaller organization, and less well-known. But it has been in Haiti for a while, it seems to be reputable, and they make it very easy to give a $5 donation via cellphone simply by texting YELE to 501501. $5 isn't much, but a bunch of tiny donations can add up.

You can also donate $10 to the Red Cross by texting HAITI to 90999. The Red Cross has been criticized for spending too much of its money on administrative costs, and I still hold a bit of a grudge against them for their homophobic policies regarding blood donation. But they know what they're doing when it comes to mobilizing emergency assistance, good people work for them, and they are on the scene.

Someone I know recommends Partners in Health, another grassroots organization that has been in Haiti for a while and has built up relationships there.

And clicking on the logo below will take you to some information provided by the White House.
Help for Haiti: Learn What You Can Do

If you are in a position to help, please do.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Draft dodging

The temperature hit 32 degrees here after 11 days, I think, of never inching above freezing.

And Monday afternoon (while I was on my dinner break from work before heading back for the evening shift), another dam may have broken. I drafted two poems, or poemish things anyway. I hadn't drafted anything that held my interest since, oh, about September... so it felt like a pretty big relief to come up with something that felt like I might actually want to look at it again at some point.

I'll post it here, but it will disappear in 24 hours or less. (Things blow away when it gets drafty, you know.)

Edit: *poof*
Test post via SMS.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


It's been quite a while since I took a stab at writing a book review. I love talking about books, but for some reason find reviews difficult. In this case, I was writing the review with a very specific audience in mind -- obsessive Springsteen fans -- and that made it easier. So you can go over to Blogness to read my review of Nick Hornby's fun new novel, Juliet, Naked.

And over here, where my audience (inasmuch as I have one...) tends towards the literary sort, I want to post an excerpt from Hornby's book, because he manages to describe a particular frame of mind -- call it long-term writer's block, or something like that, though I don't actually believe in "writer's block" myself -- so vividly. I think some of y'all might recognize it... I know I do. Hopefully, if you do, it's because you used to feel this way and you don't anymore. The protagonist here is Tucker Crowe, a rock singer/songwriter who hasn't written or played any new music in years.
It wasn't as if he was a happy slacker, either. He'd never been able to shrug away the loss of his talent, for want of a better word to describe whatever the hell it was he once had. Sure, he'd got used to the idea that there wouldn't be a new album, or even a new song, anytime soon, but he'd never learned to look on his inability to write as anything other than a temporary state, which meant that he was permanently unsettled, as if he were in an airport lounge waiting for a plane. In the old days, when he flew a lot, he'd never been able to get absorbed in a book until the plane had taken off, so he'd spent the pre-boarding time flicking through magazines and browsing in gift shops, and that's what the last couple of decades had felt like: one long flick through a magazine. If he'd known how long he was going to spend in the airport lounge of his own life, he'd have made different travel arrangements, but instead he'd sat there, sighing and fidgeting and, more often than was ever really acceptable, snapping at his traveling companions.
(from Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby, pg. 159)

Sunday, January 03, 2010


S-s-s-so cold this week. It was 1 degree outside when I woke up this morning. One.

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Thanks to Leann's post over at Blogness, I just frittered away at least an hour working out my personal Springsteen setlist statistics. I attended 9.4% of the shows on the "Working on a Dream" tour, and I was curious to see which songs I got that were statistically more or less improbable to have gotten. I didn't get the sole performance of anything, but I did get one of two performances for a few, and ... so on. Also, I got 25% of the Girls In Their Summer Clothes this year.

Anne. Put down the spreadsheet and back slooooooowly away.

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Here's a little video that I took at the Atlanta Zoo when I was there. The keeper was feeding the meerkats some live crickets, one by one. Apparently this is a great meerkat delicacy.

Saturday, January 02, 2010


As I wrap myself in layer upon layer of fleece (it's 9 degrees outside, and my house is drafty) I catch myself doing what everyone seems to do in the last days of one year and the first days of the next. Lots of internal summation, lots of listy thinking. I'll spare y'all. And no, I'm not making resolutions, though I do have goals and hopes for the next few hundred days.

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In my last post I mentioned the murder of fiction writer & IU professor Don Belton. It appears that his killer has been caught; the young man's story is that Belton had sexually assaulted him a few days prior, and the alleged killer had gone over to Belton's house to discuss the situation. (Here is the ABC News version.)

Now, I didn't know Don Belton, and I don't know the alleged killer, and so anything I say must be conjecture. I do know what friends of Belton have been saying, and they all say that he is not the sort of person who would have assaulted anyone, and they sound pretty credible to me. And while I believe that self-defense against sexual assault is absolutely justifiable, I don't think that showing up at someone's house several days after they allegedly assaulted you, with a large knife in your belt and a willingness to use it, is really what I have in mind when I think of "self-defense."

I also know that homophobia and racism stink pretty loudly, and there's been a bad aroma around this story for a while. As the "Justice for Don Belton" website points out, "there is a long, established history of suspects invoking a claim of sexual assault and/or a “gay panic” defense to get charges reduced or to win over a jury when the victim was a gay person."

The whole thing makes me fairly queasy, to be honest. As I said I didn't know Don Belton at all, but it sure sounds like the world has lost a talented and much-loved man. And it won't surprise me if homophobia turns out to play a very large role in what happened. It's all very, very sad.

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Also sad, the recent suicide of poet Rachel Wetzsteon (who I also did not know). Along with the Christmas-week suicide of Vic Chesnutt, this news spotlights the fact that this time of year can be so very hard for people. If you know someone who's sad or lonely, do the world a favor and reach out to them this month, will you? Sometimes even love doesn't help someone pull through crippling depression -- sometimes there's just too much fear, pain, damage -- but sometimes it's good to try.

This poem of Rachel Wetzsteon's, reprinted in the New York Times, struck me hard:

Sakura Park

The park admits the wind,
the petals lift and scatter
like versions of myself I was on the verge
of becoming; and ten years on
and ten blocks down I still can’t tell
whether this dispersal resembles
a fist unclenching or waving goodbye.
But the petals scatter faster,
seeking the rose, the cigarette vendor,
and at least I’ve got by pumping heart
some rules of conduct: refuse to choose
between turning pages and turning heads
though the stubborn dine alone. Get over
“getting over”: dark clouds don’t fade
but drift with ever deeper colors.
Give up on rooted happiness
(the stolid trees on fire!) and sweet reprieve
(a poor park but my own) will follow.
There is still a chance the empty gazebo
will draw crowds from the greater world.
And meanwhile, meanwhile’s far from nothing:
the humming moment, the rustle of cherry trees.

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I continue to contribute to Blogness on the Edge of Town; the last few days have celebrated the "Decade of Bruce" with several of us talking about our favorite album, song, tour, and show of the past ten years (as well as our least favorite song - that one was kind of hard). Other than that, I haven't been writing much lately. Maybe it's just too damn cold. Maybe the days are just too damn short. Or maybe I've just been too damn lazy.

I hope all y'all had a good holiday, whatever "a good holiday" means for you. Mine included a short trip to Atlanta, where I got to see actual giant pandas for the first time in my life. Here's the youngest, Xi Lan:

And some meerkats (they remind me of people I know, though I can't put my finger on who):

And finally this dignified gentleman orangutan. My sister said he looks like Buddha. So he's the Orangubuddhatan:

(More zoo pictures on my Facebook, for those of you who are there.)