Tuesday, April 27, 2010

To listen...

Just a quick note to mention that my poem "To Listen By Singing" is now up over at shaking like a mountain. If you like it - or, for that matter, if you don't! - you're welcome to leave a comment at the site. :)

The poem was inspired by a Bobby McFerrin concert a few years back. He led the audience in some choral singing, as he often does, and the reciprocity of singing & listening struck me in a way that it never really had before.

On another note - frost advisory! It's not that late for us, really - our average last frost is somewhere around the 20th of April, I think, and our record latest frost is in late May - but it's still a little startling to have frost after all the flowering trees have burst into bloom. But then, I live in the midwest; we specialize in startling weather.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Covering the bases

It's been an eventful week, though nothing especially poetry-related. Monday night I heard Martin Sheen speak on campus - if you ever get a chance to hear him, seriously do whatever you can to get there; he's one of the best speakers I've ever heard. Funny, thoughtful, loquacious, generous with his time. I don't necessarily agree with every one of his views, but I have a tremendous degree of respect for the way in which he approaches both his art and his activism. Plus, he opened by reading a poem by Rabindranath Tagore - I don't know the name of the poem, but for you West Wing fans, it sounded so much like something President Bartlet would have chosen. And he read it beautifully, of course.

Afterwards, as he was preparing to leave the stage, a couple of people ran up to the stage wanting autographs. He started signing autographs and chatting with people, and the mob at the edge of the stage got fairly large; Sheen settled in and looked like he had every intention of signing an autograph for every single person there who wanted one (and I'd say there were probably 150-200 people hanging out looking hopeful). After speaking for a good 90 minutes, he was clearly in no hurry to leave; between that and the fact that his entire speaking fee was donated to a non-profit organization he works with - I can't recall the name offhand, but it serves as a sort of mini-Peace Corps and helps bring doctors and other folks to so-called Third World countries - the overall impression I was left with was one of generosity. He was generous with his time, and with his words (and boy, does he have a lot of words - you could probably ask him whether the sky is blue and he'd have thirty minutes of storytelling to do).

Fast-forward to Saturday night; I got to see the Indigo Girls for about the eleventeenth time (I've lost count). Girlyman opened, and they were terrific - check out this great article about them on Slate, in which they talk about "the pursuit of creative risk"; they're interesting people making gorgeous music, and it had been too long since I'd seen them in concert. (Several years!)

Musical highlights of the Indigo Girls' set for me were a particularly gorgeous rendition of "Ghost" (Emily Saliers' voice just gets better as the years go on); a great "Romeo & Juliet" by Amy Ray (I thought, at one point, that I was kind of over that song - and never liked how audiences turned it into a singalong - but this time around it was heartfelt without being over-the-top angsty, and just sounded really good to me); a great lively "Ozilline" with all the members of Girlyman joining in; and to close the show, a gorgeous, a cappella, five-part-harmony version of "Finlandia" with Amy & Emily along with Doris, Ty, and Nate from Girlyman - five singers who all have a beautiful sense of harmony.

Afterwards I decided to be one of the couple dozen fans hanging around by the tour bus. I'd kind of expected it to be pouring down rain after the show, and I've gotten autographs from them & chatted with them before so don't always feel a need to do the wait-by-the-bus thing, so I hadn't brought anything to sign - but the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre had put together lovely programs for the show, so I had that. I didn't pester them for photos, though both Amy & Emily were very graciously posing for photos with the fans who asked. They always seem like such sweethearts. Though I have to wonder if they ever get on the tour bus and trade stories about the crazy or stupid things some of us fans say to them. :) I'm sure they've heard some wacky things and just smiled patiently & moved on down the line to the next, hopefully less nutso, fan.

So the theme of the week? I guess it's the blend of art & activism, as that's a big theme for both Martin Sheen and the Indigo Girls. And generosity, both with your art and with your time.

I'll leave you with this video of "Sugar Tongue," which is on the Indigo Girls' most recent album, Poseidon and the Bitter Bug. The sound quality isn't great, but my camera wasn't made for recording music. (I nabbed videos of the first two songs, shot a few still photos during the third song; the theater manager had requested no photos after the third song, and I was just as glad to put the camera away and be fully present for the rest of the show instead of fiddling with technology.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Good Poetry Day

Quick notes on a warm spring evening.

Went to Seamus Heaney's reading on campus this afternoon (it was at 5:30, in a building very close to the library where I work - super convenient!). I dawdled outside taking a few bad cellphone pictures of flowering trees, because it was just too nice outside and poetry readings are hardly ever crowded, so there's no hurry, right?

Wrong! When I got into the lecture hall (maybe ten minutes before the reading was scheduled to start), the room was packed and people were standing in the aisles & at the back of the room. Amazing! I was able to find a seat in the very back row, but people were continuing to come in; it was definitely a standing-room-only situation. Nice!

Like other readings in this series, this one began with a short Q&A by a faculty member; Heaney was charming and funny. Both men were sitting in chairs center stage for that. When Heaney took the podium for his reading, there were all kinds of technical issues with the microphone. It wasn't on, then it was causing all kinds of horrid feedback. It was eventually squared away, and Heaney handled it gracefully, but it always annoys me when there are technical issues at a reading that could probably have been avoided by doing a proper soundcheck. Oh well. Anyway, it was a very good reading; he read old poems and newer work, and gave just the right amount of background on each poem (at least for me). Standing ovation at the end, very nice. The room was hot and I was fading quickly, so I (along with quite a few others) ducked out before what was apparently going to be a bit of an audience Q&A.

On my way back to the car I got out my phone (I am so loving my smartphone, even if it doesn't take very good pictures of poetry readings - ahem) for a quick email check. Lo and behold - an acceptance note from New Madrid for a poem from the fictional-rockstar manuscript I'm working on. Yay! It'll be out this summer.

And this isn't poetry-related, but I am very pleased with the news (just breaking in the past hour) that President Obama has ordered hospitals which receive federal funding not to deny visitation rights for the same-sex partners of patients. It's a stupid world in which something like that requires a presidential order, but since it was necessary, I'm glad he did it. (Still mad at you about the offshore drilling thing, though, Mr. President. That was not cool.)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Denverish (not)

It's funny watching the twitterstream for #awp10. One evening there was a cute little blip for about 45 minutes where almost everyone who tweeted from AWP mentioned that they'd just taken a nap, were about to take a nap, or really needed a nap. This morning, the predominant theme was the hangover. Ah, AWP. Despite all the craziness, overstimulation, cranky academics, po-biz po-biz po-biz, I had a great time last year and hope I can manage it next year.

Thanks to all who've posted pictures, blog posts, tweets, whatever. If I can't be there, it's fun hearing about it!

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My poem "So What" (based on the Miles Davis classic) is up over at shaking like a mountain (an online journal of literature about music). If you read and like it, I'd love it if you left a comment there!

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Butler University in Indianapolis - yes, the same Butler whose basketball team came within about two inches of taking the NCAA championship from Duke a few days ago - has announced the 2010-11 lineup for its Visiting Writers series. No specific dates listed as of yet, but holy moly, Margaret Atwood! And several other poets/writers who I think will be well worth the two-hour drive for me. (They're way on the north side of Indy.)

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Spring is absolutely glorious here. It's almost excessive, the green and the blooming and the flowering trees busting out like crazy. Is there any color more amazing than the purple/fuchsia of redbuds, especially against the brilliant green of new leaves and the heartbreaking blue of sky? This week I've been walking around with my mouth hanging open half the time. Magnolia! Forsythia! Tulip! Bradford pear! I keep thinking I need to take a few hours and run around town with my camera, but honestly, pictures will never do it justice. Here's a lovely bit of injustice in the form of a mediocre cellphone shot - daffodils in front of one of the parking garages on campus:

Sunday, April 04, 2010


So what is all this about a National Poetry Moth? They think poetry is like an insect or something? And why a moth? Why can't it be a pretty butterfly, huh? Or a unicorn! National Poetry Moth indeed. I ain't flying into no stupid flame, that's for sure.

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oh Zombie Jesus we love you get up

Thursday, April 01, 2010


I'm behind on everything, again. But I do seem, after a fairly long fallow period, to be easing back into poetry. I thought it would come rushing back when it came back, but it's been more of a trickle. Still, I'm reading poems again - that's probably the most important part - and I'm writing a bit, and I'm sending stuff out again (nothing accepted yet on this go-round, but I did get a nice note with one rejection). Even got the first manuscript (not the rockstar one, which isn't speaking to me right now, but the one that's already racked up thirty rejection notes) out to a contest. And in the process I tinkered with it just a bit, mostly pulled out a few poems, and it feels tighter now. Still want to pull it all apart and do a big revision, but that takes time and breathing room. And I also need to get my taxes done... ahem.

Wishing, wishing, wishing that I could go to AWP. I had a lot of fun last year. Ah well.

Not doing NaNoPoPoNoMo this year, either - maybe I'm lazy, or maybe I just know better than to embark on something I know good and well I'm not up to completing. Maybe next year. Or maybe in October. October sounds nice. (Happy Poetry Month, though!)

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Very cool that Butler is in the Final Four! For those who don't know, Butler is a teeny little university on the north side of Indianapolis - I go to concerts and poetry readings there with some regularity; they have a very nice visiting writers series - and the Final Four is in Indianapolis this year, so they get to play at home. Definitely the Cinderella story of this year's tournament.

I turn into a mild basketball fan every couple years or so, just during tournament season. This way they don't kick me out of Indiana.

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Speaking of Indiana, the Indiana University Writers' Conference (June 6-11) is taking applications. This year's poetry workshops are led by Eileen Myles and Ed Pavlic. I'm not doing the conference this year, but I plan to attend at least some of the evening readings (Eileen Myles' for sure); if you're thinking of attending and have any questions about the conference or about Bloomington, feel free to drop me a note. Bloomington's really a lovely place to spend a week - lots of fantastic restaurants, lots of trees and green space, and the locals are relatively friendly. ;)

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81 degrees this afternoon, and lots of brilliant sunshine; forsythia and daffodils are in full bloom, & the flowering trees are starting to leap into life. I love this time of year in this town (though 81 degrees is a bit warmer than ideal). I love my job, but working in a beige-colored, windowless cubicle farm has its drawbacks when the outside world is as lovely as this.

Happy Easter, to those who celebrate! And a somewhat late Happy Passover to those who celebrate that. Spring, new life, resurrection, all that good stuff. Not to mention marshmallow peeps - and this year I found dark chocolate Cadbury mini eggs. Yum!

That right there is cause for celebration. :)