Since Randy and I don't "do" christmas, my online absence has little to do with the "holidays" (except that they translate into time off, which I relish). I've been lazing. Lazing and grazing. Today is the first day in two weeks that I haven't eaten a slice of pie. Apples are refreshingly yummy again.
Speaking of apples, Randy picked up a bag of "Arkansas Blacks" at the Farmer's Market on Wednesday: what a beautiful apple! Dark mahogany burnish, small size--they looked so beautiful in a bowl that I wanted to (and plan to) photograph them. The vendor told R that this is an old, heirloom variety with a rather tart flavor. R sliced one today and the flavor was good, though the texture was a bit of a letdown: I like an extra-crisp apple (all-time fave is Honey Crisp). But I'm thinking of baking them into something (yeah, still craving pie).
Randy worked on a photo I took last week with the digital cam. My old Canon (an awesome camera) started having trouble again this summer (the shutter sticks)--I'd had it cleaned and repaired about 2 years ago over in Bloomsburg, at this old-timey shop, the kind you can't believe exist any more. Lately--for the past year or more--I've had no time for the campus darkroom (I used to go as part of the photo club). Anyway, I've gotten more comfortable with borrowing the digital cam, even though R knows a lot more than I do about how to use it.
So last week I took a series of photos, and a couple of days ago Randy came downstairs with an 8x10: he'd fiddled with the contrast (and opacity) and made what I think is a super photo. Let me know what you think. (And thanks again, hon.)
Since I've heard naught from the Island this afternoon, I took some time to catch up with Earl Pickens and his blog. You've got to read it; Earl's a hoot. Moreover, he's a real nice guy, a talented musician, and a super dad. Oh, yeah: he's our next-door neighbor.
I'm hitching my blog-star to Earl's coattails. Just for today. Yeehaw.
In Fresh Men, a queer fiction anthology selected by Edmund White, here's a great line from the opening story, Vestal McIntyre's "ONJ.com":
"The line between his ironic and real personae must have been worn away years ago from frequent crossings."
I love that. I read the story on my lunch break, then looked up to see that our wintry mix had arrived. Most of the writing center staff have fled--one reported back that the roads are treacherous--but I was planning to walk home this afternoon anyway. Typing now on a borrowed computer, which won't allow me access to e-mails and files I really need, which sucks because I am *supposed* to be grading short stories right now. Grrrr.
About the computer: this semester I worked on a "loaner" laptop. Loaner equipment has to be turned in by Monday--in the middle of grading week--so, with Randy's approval, I ordered a new laptop. Took them both over to the tech desk today for a data transfusion, or whatever they call it on the Island. (The problem with ISR is what I call the Island/Mainland paradigm: everyone there speaks the same language, but when one of us tech-deficient-but-earnestly-trying dummies paddles over, there's no translator available.) So I'm waiting. And it's snowing hard. And though they said they'd try to have it ready by five, and though I tried to underscore my urgent need for computer access to my students' final portfolios (I have them turn in all their work online), it's really, really snowing hard. Final exams are over and students are leaving for winter break. Is there anyone left at ISR to even look at my laptop? Should I phone? Will that annoy them? Will they purposefully "lose" some of my data out of spite because I've annoyed them? Are they snickering even now, because they know I'm too deficient to even notice its loss for weeks or even months?
On the mainland, we worry that the islanders don't take us seriously. We know it. We feel absurd, like overcautious hand-wringing ministers trying to advocate celibacy to owl-eyed gang members, young men who nod, yeah yeah, speed-typing codes and whisking our precious laptops into the tech labyrinth where Things Get Done. I stand at the counter as the computer technician affixes a case number label to my brand-new Dell. I haven't even had the chance to play with it yet. I feel like a Muggle who's stumbled onto Hogwarts. I have to trust that everything will work out, and on time.
So I've been reading Andrew Holleran's The Beauty of Men, episodically, twenty or thirty pages at a time, mainly late at night before I fall asleep, with continued admiration for his prose style but a rising gorge against his protagonist: I simply loathe the portrayal of contemporary gay men as long-suffering, doomed queens. Am I the only queer who wants to run a few of these characters through a slapping booth? Do we need to perpetuate the message that gay men are virtually invisible after forty, that they have no possible chance at love? I haven't read (nor do I want to read) any reviews or criticism of the novel, and I'm probably too late to join that discussion--which I'm sure is out there--but mainly I'm just, well, appalled. Forty pages from the end of this novel, I'm losing hope of a redeeming moment for this self-loathing whiner.
January 3 is the postmark deadline for applications to this year's Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets (the "June Seminar"). Fellows live on campus from June 1-22, and are provided free meals and housing. This is such a great opportunity for young poets to spend some focused time with talented peers and accomplished mentors. Past June Fellows include Kevin Young, Mark Wunderlich, Ilya Kaminsky, Ruth Ellen Kocher, Deirdre O'Connor, Stacey Waite, and Mary Szybist. I taught for four years in the program (and was a June Fellow myself years ago) and can't speak highly enough about it. Visiting faculty this year: Terrance Hayes and Michael Waters. Please urge your most promising students & friends to apply!
So on Tuesday my dad got implanted with his new device: a combo pacemaker/defibrillator unit with two lead wires threaded directly into his heart. A new machine to keep the old machine chugging along. A necessary accessory. A purchase (more time).
Mom, meanwhile, has fractured her foot (in three places) (with no idea how). Well, the general cause is osteoporosis--which sucks--but she doesn't recall jouncing around on a pogo stick or kicking the wall or dropping a casserole on the foot; it just broke. Scary.
Last week, in my sister's e-mail describing Dad's upcoming procedure, she explained that the unit is designed to detect and regulate a "rhythm disturbance." I'm rankled at how medical (and other) terminologies (d)evolve into bland niceties that distance us from our experiences (you're having an "event," they say to the person experiencing a stroke). Still I couldn't help relishing the term: rhythm disturbance. Such associations. I offer it to you, dear reader. Write me a poem. Send something back.
Poet Mary Szybist will be on campus for a couple of days this week: we had scheduled a visit to my intro creative writing class, but because my class meets at noon, we were able to book a larger space for a Writers at Work talk up at the Writing Center (my class will attend but there will be room for others, too). Mary is also giving a public reading on Tuesday night at Bucknell Hall.
I've been re-reading Mary's book, Granted, and I'm struck again by her poems' inventive engagement with their subjects, and with their structural suspension (I don't know what else to call it): she uses the colon and dash to create connections and extend possibilities. I'm not sure I even have the capacity any more to write critically about so much of the poetry I genuinely like (I'm not sure it's wise to make this confession, but really, my brain feels tired lately), but reading this book makes me want to go back to my desk and try writing something new.
Randy, who faithfully reads my blog (dear man), has pointed out that I haven't been posting lately. Things are busy-busy around here, and the November Madness of--well, everything, it seems--takes its toll. I thought it couldn't hurt to ask for a little help with one of my projects:
I'm helping to organize a reading on December 1 to commemorate World AIDS Day. Two years ago, we did this during the noon hour in conjunction with a display of panels from the NAMES Project, and it went really well: lots of folks came through the campus gallery on their lunch breaks to look at the quilt panels, and stayed for the reading. Next year, we're bringing the quilt panels back. But this year, we are trying to present a reading that showcases a multiplicity of voices: some of the multicultural student groups have volunteered to read poems or prose excerpts, and we're doing our best to find material that represents a range of voices.
Here's where I need some help: does anyone out there have any recommendations of where to find some decent-quality writing that presents a multicultural perspective on AIDS and HIV? I thought I was pretty familiar with the literature (duh) and I've been writing about the subject myself for a good long time, but finding poems that voice, for example, the HIV experience of women is proving difficult: what I continue to find are poems by women about gay (white) men. Any help is appreciated; I will track down any leads that you can suggest.
is such a treat that I have to hold myself back or there'll be nothing left on my plate. (Fortunately, Edith's stories only get better with re-reading.) Savoring now: How to Fall, her newest collection, which Sarabande released this spring. Included is "Trifle," a story we ran in West Branch a couple of years ago. Please check out this marvelous fiction writer: she's at the top of her gift, and she totally deserves the prizes that are coming her way.
At one this morning, we were jarred awake by a resounding shatter from downstairs. I was out of bed before Randy (for once) (he'd been sleeping with his headphones on). Even as we stumbled down to the kitchen, I groggily noted that he'd had time to pull some pants on (I was wearing only my glasses), and that he was urging me to "wait upstairs." [In situations of perceived danger, R's bear emerges protectively.]
Flipped on the blinding lights to see that it wasn't a window, but a teapot in smithereens, literally all over the kitchen floor. It had rested on top of the cupboards. I had moved it a wee bit closer to the edge the other night, to make more room for Allie (cat), who has gotten into the habit of leaping from floor to counter to fridge and then into a smallish empty spot at the end of the cupboards, where she perches like a ginger gargoyle to supervise our cooking and dishwashing.
So: top of cabinet + impact at counter = stupendous spray of fine white bone china shards. I found Allie hiding in the living room and made sure she was unharmed. Randy sent me back up to bed (I have an early start this morning and won't be home from Penn State until pretty late tonight).
It's not like the teapot was functional. It had a hairline crack, which I noticed one day in Houston when it started to leak delicately on the countertop. I had visions of it exploding all over me (or worse, over me and the dog or cat) immediately after being filled with boiling water. I set it in the back of the cupboard, packed it up with our other must-haves when we left Houston, and have carted it from apartment to apartment since. I even considered sticking a plant in it, but the image of a fern growing out of a fancy Wedgwood teapot seemed way too fey, as if it might open a door to the influx of tatted doilies and fuzzy toilet seat covers.
But I couldn't throw it away. I'm not even sure what it's come to represent (though after ten years you'd think I'd have a keener perspective). This was David's china, an elegant pattern--"Medici"--with a small blue and gold shell design around the rim. He picked the pattern, though we bought it together, and in fact we even registered at a big department store in downtown Houston (this was the mid-eighties and the clerk was flummoxed at the suggestion; I think my name was entered in the "bride's" column). But the truth is that I'm just not a Wedgwood sort of fag, and I never will be. After David died, and once I was able to realize that hoarding a Wedgwood setting for eight* was ridiculous, I sold it all on eBay.
I'll be bopping over to Penn State for another reading by Common Wealth poets: this one's set for Saturday, November 19, 2:00 pm at the Barnes & Noble in State College. Will post an update if I get more information.
(The reading was initially scheduled for October 22 but has been rescheduled.)
Okay, we're in a pretty small town in rural PA, so it's not unusual to see (or smell) a skunk scurrying along the street. Nice, eh? Often in the evenings, a malodorous local critter wafts its lovely essence through the open windows: it's noticeably strong, enough to make us glad that Sadie has never encountered a skunk on her evening walks. (We actually did get about ten feet from one last summer; Sadie was on her best behavior.)
So tonight, when a sudden overwhelming ODORcompletely permeated the living room within seconds, we suddenly realized how much worse a skunk encounter could be. O. My. God. I just about gagged. My eyes and throat started burning. Randy ran for the Lysol--it doesn't help--and slammed the windows shut. Too late.
I'm typing this through streaming tears and a wheezing, sneezing allergy attack. I think my throat is actually swelling. I cannot fucking believe this smell.
Spent a big chunk of my weekend proofreading the new West Branch (#57, our fall/winter issue): it's nice to come in during the last stage of this process, when literally months have passed since the work was accepted, and most everything feels fresh and not-too-familiar. I found only about a dozen errors, roughly one in every ten pages, and though I know there's probably something that we've all overlooked, I'm proud at how clean this issue looks. We've also redesigned the cover and interior, and the cover art by Ken Beck looks awesome.
Not to miss: super fiction by Joseph Bathanti and Edith Pearlman, poems by Mike Dockins, Charles Jensen, Matt Ladd & Shane Seely, and a lecture/essay on sentimentality by the incandescent Mary Ruefle.
We're reading now for issue #58, so send your fiction (to email@example.com) and your bestest poems (by snailmail to West Branch, Bucknell Hall, Bucknell University, Lewisburg PA 17837). (If you want me to look at poems, say so in your cover letter & mark your envelope "solicited.")
Our entangled drowsing was pierced this a.m. by a familiar panicked shriiiieeeeeeeek! that demonstrated once more why Randy would be an excellent fireman but I (all fantasies aside) would not. He sprang up and was downstairs--following the sound--before I had even found my glasses (which had fallen under the bed). I stumbled toward the hall and gravity had its way with my bladder--no avoiding a stop at the bathroom--so I was mid-stream when R hollered up for some clothes.
It's hard to stop some things once the've started. I figured as long as he wasn't yelling for bandages, he had things under control. I hurried up and went back to grab last night's shorts and t-shirt from the floor.
He was at the foot of the stairs, holding a freaked-out chipmunk wrapped in something--a kitchen towel?--and he comically stepped into the shorts and then declared them too baggy (who you calling fat?) so I undid the drawstring and yanked it tighter. Little Chippy's beady eyes--you can't really see the "whites" of their eyes, I thought, so what makes them look so panicked, the glinting light?--took in nothing, I guess, except two GIGANTIC predators, as its one free forearm scratched feebly against Randy's grasp.
Allie was, of course, beside herself, ashiver with the constant trilling meow that looks like some kind of seizure. I picked her up and R took the chipmunk out the back door, through the laundry room, to release it. "One of your people bit me once," I heard him say quietly. Then it was over.
I'll be heading over to Penn State on Wednesday, October 5 for the launch party of Common Wealth, the new Pennsylvania poets anthology edited by Marjorie Maddox and Jerry Wemple. There'll be a reading, reception and book signing at the Pattee Library (Mann Assembly Room and Foster Room); it all starts at 7:30 pm. Come to the reading! Say hello!
I'm passing along this e-mail from the Fine Arts Work Center; please share this opportunity:
The Center for Book Arts invites applications for our Letterpress Printing & Fine Press Publishing Seminar For Emerging Writers. The next section of this seminar is scheduled for Fall 2005. The seminar is tuition free for participants. Participants will hear lectures from various professionals in the field - printers, fine press publishers, book artists, and dealers, to get a practical overview of letterpress printing and fine press publishing. They will learn the basics of letterpress printing, both traditional typesetting and options with new technology, by collaboratively printing a small edition of chapbooks or other projects.
Each seminar will be offered to a maximum of eight students. Writers from culturally diverse backgrounds are especially encouraged to apply. Finalists may be interviewed or asked to provide supplemental information to their applications.
Applications will not be accepted from students enrolled in undergraduate or graduate degree programs during the program year (September 2005 - May2006).Application postmark has been extended to October 1, 2005.Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, or download the guidelines at http://www.centerforbookarts.org/newsite/opportunities/.
Sarah Nicholls, Program Manager; Center for Book Arts; 28 W. 27th Street; NY, NY 10001; 212-481-0295; FAX 212-481-9853
Gilligan (Bob Denver) has died. He was seventy years old. How can this be? Gilligan was older than my parents? Someone should write a poem about Gilligan. Or, better, about Bob Denver and how he never escaped that island, never achieved enough velocity in his career to escape that program. I remember seeing him once on "Love Boat"--good grief, did I ever watch "Love Boat"? Or maybe it was "Fantasy Island"--"de plane, de plane!"
The late poet Walter Pavlich wrote a whole series of poems about Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Michael Heffernan has an early book of poems titled The Cry of Oliver Hardy, and now I want to find that book and see what it's about. Amanda Blake (Miss Kitty on "Gunsmoke") died several years ago of AIDS. Fess Parker (played Daniel Boone in the TV series) was, many years ago, a car salesman; I don't know what happened to him after that. When I was a boy I wanted a coonskin cap, just like Daniel Boone on TV. (I know now that I probably just wanted Fess Parker to come take me away.)
Poor Gilligan. Poor castaway. Was there life after the island?
I very much enjoyed reading Eduardo Corral's The Border Triptych this weekend. Really fine poems! As much as I enjoy the convenience of reading online--and I do--this is one collection that I would love to hold in my hands as well.
Also reading Stacey Waite's new chapbook, Choke, which won this year's Frank O'Hara Award. I'm really hoping that Stacey and I can do a couple of readings together. I've never been to Pittsburgh. It could happen.
Off to teach in a few. We're gearing up toward writing our short-short stories. I have no idea where mine's going, but I have another week to pull it into shape. (Doing the assignments alongside my students is SO fun.)
On another note, my dad went home from the hospital this weekend. Thanks for the kind words, all.
We stayed up late, toggling between CNN and the Weather Channel (which I could watch every day just to see Carl Parker, how yummy he was back in Houston and how much yummier now) (but I digress), feeling increasingly, sinkingly awful about Katrina and her bead on New Orleans. . . I think Randy got up during the night to check the news. I slept poorly: dreamed of embarrasing classroom scenarios (you know the sort, kind of like forgetting-your-high-school-locker-combination dreams, only these are teaching dreams, in which a 19-year-old student asks a question about Ezra Pound and you suddenly can't recall a single effing thing that Pound wrote, or you're talking about a short story they've all been assigned to read and suddenly you realize that was your 1:00 class not your 3:00, or, or. . .) and the weather, none of which I clearly remember, my god what an endless sentence I've painted myself into, let's kill it HERE.
Woke with anxiety, which never really abated, even though it looked as if K was going to scrape N.O. instead of a full-on blast, but then there's the flooding to worry about, and Randy has family just north of Lake Ponchartrain (which I'm sure I've misspelled) and still (this evening) no one has gotten through to them.
But classes went well, spent today in the library for Blackboard orientation so they can turn in all their work online (I'm the worst paper-hoarder), and in my 3:00 I had time to do some other stuff afterward and to read a poem (today I chose Chris Forhan's "Bits & Pieces," from Forgive Us Our Happiness).
Caught up a bit at the end of the day with my friend Deirdre, who is back from Vermont (where I would love to go once more) with a fistful of new poems, hooray, and we're going to try to schedule an hour somewhere to trade poems and give time to our writing. (Back in Houston, the fortune cookie paper I saved, the scary one, said: Work expands to fill the time available.)
Phone call from my sis this evening, just after I walked home from campus: my dad's in the hospital. To be honest, I'm afraid to say anything about anything, lest the fates be tempted to respond with an "oh, yeah? Watch THIS." Just a gut-punch of a day. It took a couple of hours for the fear to catch up to me; my first response in situations like this is to turn cold and objective, a what-needs-to-be-done-next mode which is really pointless when you're 500 miles away.
I generally have no problem with being (somehow) 45, but I can't fucking believe how my parents are aging.
I need to get to bed . . . have to be up early to meet my Foundlings (students enrolled in my foundation seminar). There are still a few days before classes begin (W) and I haven't completely nailed down my syllabi (still waffling over the final project to assign my intro class), though both are pretty close.
When Jeff Hardin visited campus last fall, I was inspired by several of our conversations about teaching. One idea I resolved to "steal": he reads a poem at the beginning of every class. How great is that?! For weeks I've been sticking post-its in my books, marking poems I want to read to my students. No discussion, no analysis, just give me two minutes of your attention. Just listen to this.
Sent my blurb off to Amanda Auchter today (for her forthcoming chapbook, Light Under Skin) (buy it!). This is only the third time I've been asked to blurb a collection; the first time I was sooo busy and (bad Ron) didn't get back to the guy (sorry). I haven't seen the ms. for #2 yet. Amanda's poems are good. I'm glad she asked me.
Also mailed my signed contract today to Phil Memmer at Two Rivers Review.My chap is going to be published in one volume with two other manuscripts, by Michael McPhee and Lynne Knight. This is a great idea. More on that soon.
Last note before signing out: yesterday I ran across an announcement for Juliet Patterson's first book, The Truant Lover. This is such a good manuscript, and I'm thrilled to hear that it's going to be published. Check it out at Nightboat Books. And congrats, Juliet--you deserve it.
Went out to the back yard (we have no front yard, so why do I call it the back yard?) with Randy to watch for meteors at two-ish this morning. Saw one. He'd seen four or five earlier, all at once. My eyes are tired this late, and the new bifocals limit my distance vision. Enjoyed the chirring of so many crickets, though, and the cool breeze. Two weeks till classes begin, and I want to melt in the hammock and watch clouds float by.
I love my new office, it's so quiet, and have resisted filling it with books (since I'm only there for a semester). Something large flew past the window the other evening (just past six, I was packing up to walk home) and though I didn't get a good look at it, I am hoping it was an owl. The window (second floor) looks out into huge old oaks with dark hollows in their limb scars. After four years with basement offices, it's like writing in the trees.
Went well, very low key, what a contrast to the Leo Party we used to throw for ourselves back in Houston, which now I can't imagine managing at all. Randy took me out to eat and to buy some new "school clothes," and he's right, my khakis are getting threadbare.
Surprise card from Kayteau--thanks, girl!--which makes me realize we never made it back down to DC for a visit. Fall is stacking up to be pretty busy; I'm still adding content to my courses and deciding which stories to teach. Not much scheduled yet for spring, though I remain optimistic that something will work out this time around. Of course I want to go to AWP in spring, because it's in Austin, and we haven't been back to Texas since we moved what, five years ago? (Not that we miss Texas, Texas is too messed up to really love, though parts leave one nostalgic, particularly Austin.)
Making my now-that-my-life is-statistically-half-over-what-do-I-want-from-the-rest-of-it? list. Okay, haven't put anything on the list yet; just the heading was enough to ponder for a while. (In the middle of my life, I find myself lost in a dark mood.)
My pal Deirdre is in Vermont for the month, which is great, and I hope she's writing lots of new poems. I was inspired by Jeff Hardin to think about reading a poem at the beginning of every class meeting, and in the course of rounding up some poems (on the chance that my students will want to read some of them) I've been sending a "daily poem" to Deirdre.
Heads up to Stacey Waite, wherever you are: we need to talk, hon. Please e-mail me.
Nels: I am thinking about the nebulous proposal I made. This would be so much better if we were talking about it over coffee. But I'll get back to you this week.
I believe I've meandered enough from my subject line for today.
Tried to order my friend Jeff Hardin's chapbook, Deep in the Shallows, to teach in my intro CW course this fall. They're sold out. I'm glad I have a copy, and that we got one for the Stadler Center's library. GreenTower Press did a fine job on this book (it's even hand-sewn) and I wish they could find the moolah to run a second printing.
Ended up ordering Jeff's second chap, The Slow Hill Out, though Pudding Press (which cranks out a helluva lot of chapbooks--too many, IMHO) says it will take "several weeks" to get them.
And another chap, Sophie Wadsworth's Letters from Siberia, is proving difficult to order in quantity (I only need fifteen copies): Comstock Review Press offers limited payment options, so I don't know yet if I'm gonna get this one.
Other presses make ordering a breeze: Kent State even provides me with desk copies when I ask for them. But really small presses, too, seem to manage their book orders well: Ander Monson's New Michigan Press (I'm teaching Michael Sowder's A Calendar of Crows again; it's a great "starter book" for my intro class), for example. And last year I ordered Betsy Sholl's wonderful Coastal Bop from Oyster River Press and had no problems; I'm using it again this year.
Hey, folks: take a good look at how the other guys are doing this. Poets want our books to sell with as little hassle as possible.
I was whining last night that everyone, everywhere, is prolly already on page 500 of the new Harry Potter book. Randy sighed, opened a cupboard and handed me mine--two weeks early, happy birthday, you nitwit.
Got to page 105 before falling asleep. Don't tell me!
My friend Deirdre congratulated me the other day on my chapbook news. I was puzzled: hadn't really told but two or three folks. "I read it on your blog, dear." Oh: cool beans! People read this thing!
Which leads me to the topic of ego-surfing: I hardly do it. I hardly have to, b/c Randy is usually way ahead of me: "Hey, do you know so-and-so? She did a review of your book." "Hey, did you know Scott Hightower has you on his recommended list on Amazon?"
Finished a quilt last weekend--very satisfying--and went directly from that one to the four-patch I pieced this past winter. I had stopped quilting on the four-patch around March to start the new quilt (it's a gift). Good to get back to it. I'm further along than I remembered. Rain expected every day this week (it's raining now); good to stay in and quilt and watch baseball on TV (go Red Sox!); I'm not getting much reading done at this point except for class preps, but will make an exception of course for the new Harry Potter book (all I really want for my birthday).
Got a call yesterday from our Associate Dean, offering me an extra fall course. I said yes, automatically, immediately, because this was not the time nor place to negotiate or even discuss how this puts me up to full-time in terms of my work and time commitment, and how little I'll be paid. Not to mention my zero benefits.
I just heard about a full-time job in the social services sector, something I could easily imagine doing. Something I think I could be good at. But it's not teaching. And I love teaching, especially here at BU.
I'm not the only one, and I know it. I heard today that the department scrambled to grab four adjuncts. It used to happen in the Spanish dept every semester in Houston; I worked in the office there and made some of those "would you like to teach this section starting on Monday?" calls, and truly didn't get the level of frustration our adjuncts felt. I get it now. I get it. All I want to know is: how can we somehow move from exploitation to equity?
Just off the phone tonight with Phil Memmer, who let me know that my manuscript "Touch Me Not" has won the Two Rivers ReviewPoetry Chapbook Prize. I'm very happy: these are some of the poems that will (eventually) comprise my next (hopefully) full-length book ("The Boy Who Reads in the Trees"). And I'm delighted to follow on the heels of last year's winning chap, written by my friend Scott Withiam. (Yo, Scott! We're on the same page!)
The new Indiana Review is here: the collaboration/collage issue. Some of the usual suspects, a few whom I adore. Some nice surprises, too. And a little poem that I co-wrote with Katie Hays, a former student and dear friend and collaborator, who claims not to be a poet (she's an awesome fiction writer), though I know better.
It's an odd bounce, to see a poem finally in print, even though one knows it's coming out, expects it (or sometimes forgets all about it): the poem on the page always lags behind, somewhere in the vee-wake of our moving forward, writing (or fretting about writing) the next thing. Maybe we're facing that wake and see its little face bobbing in the water. Maybe we're too busy facing forward and don't pay enough attention. I'm building this lameass metaphor but it feels appropriate nonetheless. It is a little bounce. It doesn't last. We always want the next thing.
Tonight, anyway, I'm happy that our poem's in IR. And I'm delighted to still be collaborating with Katie (umm, that sonnet we're doing? It's your turn).
Bleh. How much e-mail collects on my office computer! I've been setting up mail filters to auto-dump stuff I don't need to see. But still, it's daunting. All this because I'll be changing offices soon. Let's not even talk about the boxes of paper, which I swear I am not carting home until everything can fit into one box: one single box and no more. The attic is not an option.
The home computer crashed. Sent a couple of odd error messages the day before, which I now recognize as its bleeping attempt to warn us of the impending flatline. I said to Randy, rather idly, "We should back up our files" (all the while wondering if I even knew how to move stuff to a CD or DVD) . . . The campus tech desk took the tower and said they'd try to retrieve our data & reinstall our OS. Will see. I've never even used "OS" so casually in a sentence before. And I still don't know how to back up my data onto a CD.
The June Seminar is in full swing, and I'm happy to be working with another batch of talented young poets. It's pure delight to spend time with Mary Ruefle, our visiting poet: I haven't seen her since grad school. Her work still stuns me...
Well, it was great to drive to New York and attend the Publishing Triangle Awards. My book was a finalist in the gay men's poetry category (the award has just been named for Thom Gunn, which is sweet), right beside books by D.A. Powell and Carl Phillips (who won, of course). Sweet, too, to see Maureen Seaton win for Venus Examines Her Breast. And I fell out of my chair when Edward Field started his speech as Eve Harrington (from "All About Eve"--if you had to ask, go rent the movie right now).
Wish I could have stayed for days. I heart New York.
Where I'm delighted to be reading tomorrow night with Lynn Emanuel, Judith Vollmer, and Jeanne Murray Walker at the fourth annual Public Poetry Project Reading. Posters/broadsides for everyone. PSU is only an hour away, and I've never been to the campus, though we did drive over for excellent sushi last year (in central PA, one drives for good food . . .)
As it turned out, we drove home through the worst conditions I'd ever been out in. Windshield freezing over, terrible visibility, a downright damn-frightening trek back to Lewisburg. Martin confessed the next day that he had been "a little" rattled during the drive.
I'm starting to feel like DC is my adopted home--three readings last year and another one coming up this weekend, at the Lavender Languages Conference at American University. I'll be reading on Saturday with Jeff Mann and Robert Giron, so please say howdy if you're there.
Weeks pass and suddenly I realize how long it's been since I sat down to write. Tinkering today with a poem draft that's going nowhere, though it started with two promising lines. I'll get there, but probably not today.
Not as much snow as predicted, but enough to delight Sadie and confuse the cat, who now refuses to step out the back door. Brilliant sun right now, snowmelt dribbling from the eaves, wind whisking ice crystals in a constant flux. I feel like I'm inside one of those tacky snow globes, except it's all so beautiful and sparkly: the air is like champagne.
Still job hunting. No adjectives available.
Reading old correspondence, missing old friends: Nels Highberg. Brent Goodman. Roger Ceragioli. I lost touch with each of you, and wish I hadn't.
Run, don't walk, to your local bookstore to order Jason Schneiderman's debut collection, Sublimation Point. I read the manuscript last year, but it's so much better to now hold this fine book in my hands. I keep coming back to the poem "Now," in particular: quietly conversational yet relentless in its pursuit of laying bare the speaker, the subject, the moment: this is good stuff. Congratulations, Jason!
Here's the poem:
We leave the subway together, it's night, and I wish we'd gone to my place. I say, it's happening, now: People are coming out of the darkness, the same darkness we walk through, with knives and guns and disease.
We turn the corner and you say Say men, you mean men are pushing men up against the trees and down against beds and sideways into tiled walls. Say men, you say, you mean men.
We are coming to your building, and I say, Men, yes, I mean men. Men are forcing their way into each other, following each other into bathroom stalls and bedrooms, hiding in parks, forgetting to be scared, infecting and infecting and infecting.
We are in the elevator and you say Say me, you mean me. Say he pushed me against the bed or the tree or the wall and infected me. Say I am infected, you mean me.
We are here. I am undressing. I say, You, you are infected and he is always fucking you. He is with us in the parks and the clubs and this bed. I mean you. I mean him. I mean now.
I'm cleaning out my office this week--blehhh--and ran across a copy of a story that was submitted last fall to West Branch. We didn't take the story, but once in a while a terrific writer rises from the slush pile to grab me by the ears and make me wish I could do more than send a nice "sorry" note. Chris Torockio is one of those writers. I just love his work, and I hope that we'll get the chance to publish one of his stories while I'm fiction editor. He truly deserves to be better known.
For the past few years, I've worked--in various capacities--at the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell. I first came here in '94, as a "June Poet" (a Fellow in the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets)--a great program that I've since had the joy of teaching in. Anyway, the Stadler Center has its own poetry library, a small eclectic collection of mainly contemporary poetry. It had some gaps back then (there are still some gaps now, but the new director, Shara McCallum, is working on filling those out). As an obsessive book buyer, I had a few extra copies and started donating them back in '94 after the June Seminar ended and I went back home to Houston.
When we moved to Lewisburg a few years ago, I brought along roughly sixty boxes of books, and half of those had to stay in storage. There's only so much space for bookcases in our apartment, and though I had six bookcases full of poetry in my office last year, next year I'll be in a much smaller space. So even though I've been donating books pretty regularly since '94, this past year I did some major thinning--and lugged in donations every week.
I like to think that there are plenty of other book lovers who keep a running database of their collection. (If not, I've just confessed a bit too much, but oh well.) So it only took a few minutes to scroll through my "books" spreadsheet the other day and tally up my donations to the library: over 800 books to date.
This is not about me. This is about building a decent collection of contemporary American poetry that will benefit students for the forseeable future. I encourage my students to use this space, to hang out and read in the poetry center. And during the June Seminar, our little library is pretty much ransacked, with piles on the desk and floor to be reshelved. It's great to see the collection filling out, and to know that it's being used. We even have a grad assistant who logs each new book into a (yes!) database. So if you ever find yourself with an extra clean copy of a poetry book, let me know: we'd probably love to add it to our library.