Sunday, January 23, 2005

Weeks pass

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.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Fine Poet, Fine Book

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.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Quick Word on a Terrific Fiction Writer

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.

Campus in Fog

I took this photo in mid-November: it's the view directly across from my office at the Stadler Poetry Center.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Eight Hundred Books

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.


What I'm reading this week.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

West Branch interns

Tyler Mills and Drew Calvert, who just finished up a great semester interning with West Branch. Thanks, guys!