Went to a great reading by Gerald Stern this evening on the IU campus. The room was pretty full, which is a lovely thing - poetry doesn't always get a good audience here, and I'm not sure that readings get promoted adequately beyond the walls of the university, but there were lots of people there, as there should have been. Ross Gay introduced him which once again made me think that Ross Gay is about the best introducer of poets I can think of. Seriously, we've all heard those intros that drone on like a paragraph (or five) out of a dusty anthology, listing award after award and book title after book title, but not giving the audience any sense of what the poet is like. Ross Gay always conveys something about the poet as a person, and always comes across as being really excited about the fact that he's about to hear this reading, and his enthusiasm is always lively & contagious.
Anyway, Stern opened with a brief tribute to Lucille Clifton, of whom he spoke with great admiration (he called her a "national treasure" which sounds about right) and read a short poem of hers before getting out his own work. He read some poems, then some prose, then some more poems, and at times you couldn't really tell (unless you were familiar with the work) where his storytelling stopped and the poem started. Engaging, warm, and with both humor and depth. I was glad to be able to be there.
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For a semester that started out with a pretty blank calendar, the upcoming events have been coming up thick and fast - announcements, ticket on-sales. I now have on my calendar:
Gerald Stern - which was tonight
Carrie Newcomer - this weekend
Haiti benefit poetry reading featuring a whole bunch of IU faculty, next week
Yo-Yo Ma, later this month
Martin Sheen lecture, in April
Indigo Girls, also in April
Jeff Beck, in June (super excited about this, as I've recently gotten into him much more than I ever had before, and I've never seen him before)
I'm sure there will be more.
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This is what I bought with the money Field sent me for a poem:
The journal was handmade by someone named Janette Maher, bound in painted artist's canvas, lovely blank pages. (Etsy is so dangerous!) I liked what Leslie said in a comment on an earlier post, about "tithing to the church of poetry" and using poetry money for something that will feed the poetry. I also decided that I liked the idea of using money that came to me for doing something I love in order to pay someone else for doing something that they love.
The colors remind me of ocean sunsets. Always a pleasant thought.
And I'm slowly edging my way back into poetry after a slight absence. I thought that when poetry came back it would come all in a rush, but it's sort of seeping back slowly. I finally drafted a poem that kinda scares me, which is a good sign. It's always good when your early drafts make you a little bit queasy and uncomfortable. Poetry morning sickness, maybe.
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Love, love, love that the sun is already up when I go to work in the morning. Ten days from now when we go back on Daylight Stupid Time it will be dark in the mornings again, but for now, I'm really loving the light. Spring is just around the corner. I can smell it.