Friday, December 31, 2004

NMP/DIAGRAM - Chapbook Contest

So I'm at my office on New Year's Eve, no big deal, it's always been a sort of non-holiday for me, and to take a break from sorting and filing students' papers I wanted to plug Ander Monson's faaaabulous e-journal, DIAGRAM. The new issue (4.6) is just up.

I taught Michael Sowder's A Calendar of Crows in my intro cw course this fall (instead of using an anthology for the poetry unit, this time I taught six chapbooks--much fun!); this chap won the first NMP/DIAGRAM open competition and I liked it so much I entered the following year (and won) (ahem). So please do spread the word about the chapbook contest: the deadline's April 15th, and the prize this year is a whopping $1000. Click
here for guidelines.

Okay, back to finishing up the work they paid me to do . . .


Half-smiling at Hairy John State Park, fall 2004.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Surprise Invitation

So I'm checking my webmail this morning and there's an invitation from Ellen Lewis to be interviewed for the next issue of her literary magazine, Sunspinner. Ellen had been given a copy of my chapbook, The David Museum, last year, and she had some very nice things to say about it, even quoting back a couple of lines that "resonated." I was--I am--truly moved that the poems reached beyond the (imaginary) queer circle I (imagine to) (sometimes) write in (from). Of course I will say yes to the interview: number one, I'm a Leo, and though I halfheartedly shush my own delight at being praised, the truth is that duh, I'm a Leo; number two, I'm genuinely delighted that someone out there found the poems and connected with them.

But I'm also thinking about (imaginary) boundaries, and how I call myself a queer writer: no new ideas here, nothing about identity that hasn't been (re)hashed by more articulate minds than my own, except that it seems appropriate to ponder why I choose this label. Two thoughts for now:

1) It saves time. If you're reading one of my poems for the first time, and it's about tree frogs or freeway spinouts or stealing daylily seeds from my neighbor's garden, it's important to me that you know that my "queer sensibility" shaped that vision just as much, though possibly less emphatically, as it shaped my poem about eating grapes out of someone's tushy on the kitchen table.

2) It's a matter of, well, community. I believe that if we recognize and commit to one another, everyone wins. I'm acutely aware of my identity and position in terms of privilege (educated white male, working at a swanky private college, decently published so far) as well as challenge (gay in a predominantly straight setting, advancement limitations at this institution, literal fear of how I'll pay the rent). So I like to look around, keep my nose in, so to speak, and check out other poets, especially newer, "younger" writers (whatever that means, since I'm by no means "established"), and specifically (since I don't have funds to launch the new lit journal or the new poetry series or the three or four anthologies that are backing up my Dream List, I'd better narrow the scope of where my energy's gonna be focused) queer writers. More on this later (i.e., what, specifically, can one underpaid adjunct do to promote & assist other writers) (and why you should care) because it's after nine and this old dog needs to walk home and spend time with the Husbear.

Supple Amounts

So I was teaching a couple sections of composition at a nearby campus this fall--it was my first semester there and I was feeling a little apprehensive, in that "Johnny, take the keys. . . hey, you can drive, can't you Johnny?" kind of way, especially after finally talking with another adjunct who crowed that he had boiled his essay grading time down to eight minutes, whereas I was still taking twenty--and next morning, rushing myself through the zillionth informative essay, I ran across this sentence: "So it's important to drink water in supple amounts."

Well yeah, I laughed, then circled the word with a question mark beside it, and moved on lickety-split, but days passed and those dumb words kept coming back to me, and every time I said them they just got yummier on my tongue, mmm, supple amounts. Maybe she didn't mean ample. Maybe she was onto something deeper and more subtle . . . Naaaaah. But like a bystander at a car wreck who slips a popped-off hubcap into his knapsack, I swiped her phrase. And bumped her grade by half a letter.