Tuesday, February 28, 2006

NOLA book donations sought

Passing this along, and sending what I can:

Seeking Book Donations: The New Orleans Public Library is asking for any and all hardcover and paperback books for people of all ages in an effort to restock the shelves after Katrina. The staff will assess which titles will be designated for its collections. The rest will be distributed to destitute families or sold for library fundraising. Please send your books to:

Rica A. Trigs, Public Relations
New Orleans Public Library
219 Loyola Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70112

If you tell the post office that they are for the library in New Orleans, they will give you the library rate which is slightly less than the book rate.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Stuff (and nonsense)

How my mind goes: after spending the bulk of two or three days in bed with back pain--and this is the last I'll speak of it--how peculiar (and annoying) it was to discover that I'd somehow fried the pin number to my cell phone completely out of my memory. There were messages on my phone, but I couldn't remember the pin number to retrieve them.

The annoying part was that I was *sure* I knew what the number *ought* to be: a short version of a specific date, an important date, a date I know (and consistently remember) quite well. Tried it. Nope. "Sorry," says the robotic female voice, "please enter your pin number." Okay, let's change one digit. "Sorry." Hmm, one more? After three tries, the voice says "I'm sorry you're having trouble--Goodbye," and hangs up.

I want that voice. I want it imbedded in a lapel button that I can simply push before I walk away from--ohh, I can think of dozens of scenarios. Can't you?

* * * * *

We sold a small quilt! (The one I showed Randy working on a few weeks ago.) I took my share of the money and stashed it in my project fund. I'm not ready to announce my project yet. . . still trying to think it through and determine whether it can be done.

Randy is downstairs starting a new quilt, a mini nine patch top (nice antique fabrics) that Mom asked us to do (he'll quilt it, I'll bind it). Also on the table, waiting to be basted, is a 24 x 24 four-patch: I bought the top online and I think it's big enough to quilt in our frame.

Fun times in small-town Pennsylvania.

* * * * *

We celebrated our 11th anniversary this week by trying out a new restaurant across the river. The place used to be (for years) Italian, and pretty good, but they sustained heavy flood damage last year and had to close & remodel. We ordered our steaks and looked around--new lighting, new flooring, and a big unfinished salad bar--when someone yelled hello from the kitchen. I had to turn to look, and I can't really see that well through the corner of my glasses (I'm very nearsighted), but Randy's face fell immediately. It was A__, the creepy guy who lived for a few months next door.

A__ had moved in temporarily with our next-door neighbor and proceeded to shamelessly sponge off him, bringing women home for midday trysts while our neighbor was at work, tossing his trash in our (and our other neighbors') yards, stealing our laundry detergent (we have a shared laundry room). He was just bad news. Always, always falling down drunk when we'd see him, and always, always blurting out his fake "hey how ya doing?" I've known a few sociopaths in my life, and I knew in my gut that this guy was a bullshitting loser the first time he spoke to me. He once bragged about stealing his roommate's car *and cell phone* so that the guy couldn't call the cops on him. (He finally wrecked the car; we saw A__ sitting in the driveway one afternoon, his feet braced against the front tire which was bent at a severe angle, actually *yanking* at the thing as if he could bend it back by brute force.)

There's more, but you get the idea. A__ finally got kicked out of the apartment and fired from his job. We had hoped that he'd left town. No such luck.

Our salads arrived. R. kept apologizing. Let it go, let it go, I was saying, but I'm sure we were both wondering: will he spit in our food? Walk out to our table and try to make conversation? Both were unthinkable.

Monday, February 20, 2006


I am. I've been here all this time, but it was out. My back. Getting better now, thanks.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The train doesn't stop here anymore

Randy and I headed out yesterday morning to a public auction on River Road in Dewart, about 15 miles north-ish of here. (I'm bad with directions but good at navigating with a map--go figure). Big mildewed tent (think very sad circus) staked up in the side yard, deep muddy ruts in the driveway, old plain two-story farmhouse (also for sale, and though I was curious I couldn't bring myself to walk through the house) on three acres. Auctioneer's Heeeeey, whaddyathinkwegothere, who'll gimme fifty to start, fiftyfiftytwentyten, tenten five who'll give a dollar and let's go. Cold morning, people milling about the furniture stacked in the yard, crowded along the sides and back of the tent (the whole middle area taken up by those who'd brought their own lawn chairs). There were several old people--really, really old people--and I found myself scoping out the crowd, trying to figure out who was the family whose house and belongings were on the block.

If you've never been to a country auction, it's an experience. A woman to my right kept winking and smiling at Randy--all of which I missed; he told me about it later in the truck. The auctioneer paused for a train that barreled through on the tracks just across the narrow road. Cars and trucks were parked on both sides of the road for a good half-mile; we arrived an hour after the auction was scheduled to start and managed to grab a spot where someone had just pulled out. After three hours of waiting, the lot I had my eye on came up: a box of feed sack fabrics, along with two other boxes of linens. I had told Randy how high he could go for the feedsacks but I had not dug through the box to make sure what was in there. The bidding was giddily fast between R and someone else I couldn't see, hey five yessir five gimme ten, ten fifteen and fifteen twenty, twenty now twenty-five twenty-five, Randy nodding at the auctioneer, the price going up to $37.50 within--it seemed--mere seconds, and the other bidder dropped out and just like that, we won.

I lugged two of the boxes out to the truck as R waited for our ticket to come round to the pay table. There's an old, falling-down building just across the raised railroad tracks, amid a thicket of maples and raspberry briars. I took the digital cam from the truck and headed back. R was just carrying our third box from the tent, so I asked him to take a couple photos of this old building (and of the rusted-out ancient truck slumping in front of it) while I stowed the third box.

Climbed up the muddy hill and walked back to meet Randy, who was being talked at by a strange-looking fellow, just a local guy who was telling all about how this had been a train depot and wasn't it a shame how they'd let it go, if someone got in there and got hurt there'd be hell to pay. The large sharp gravel around the tracks might have been marble chips?--light gray, and it clinked with an almost glasslike sound as I caught up with R, took the camera, and worked my way through the briars to get a couple of photos.

A boy playing in the yard of a nearby house started yelling Hey, there's someone over there! and I heard a man, presumably his father, complain That's why I hate living next to that place. I took two photos of the broken windows and headed back to the train tracks, where this other guy was still talking to Randy. He continued talking as we made our way back to the truck, then--Hey this isn't your vehicle is it? You voted for Kerry? You don't like Bush? and Who do you think's gonna win for governor? Those colored people, we used to own them, and now they're taking over--

And Randy was in and shut his door, and we were off.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Tea and hostages

Quick walk home with my friend Katie--with one detour to look at the snowdrops poking from beneath a hedge near the poetry center--and then tea and an hour to read each other's poem drafts (I call it "exchanging hostages"). She's working on a great poem, "I Made My Soul a Hat." I showed her the draft of my gazebo poem (which Deirdre calls my angel poem, and which I realize I've been resisting: it's really about the angel-shaped weathervane that's perched on top of the gazebo) and K had some great suggestions.

This poem feels so central to my manuscript. This is something I hadn't acknowledged to myself, partly because the poem is new, and I thought I was simply feeling something attendant to that just-cranked-this-out-and-it's-the-best-thing-I've-ever-written euphoria. But that feeling usually dissipates after, say, 24 hours. And then K asked something about the poem's centrality to the book, and I realized that, yes, it is. I think it is. I hope this doesn't mean that the rest of the manuscript is crap and that I'm only just now getting to the heart of what I need to be writing.

Breathe, breathe.

I wish we could do this every week. But then I would need to write more. And faster.

Thanks, Katie.

American Brilliant

I went through some odd pieces of glassware a while ago, and have lately gotten around to listing some of it on eBay: this is stuff I don't need and never really use, mostly art glass and crystal odds and ends that David & I bought together in the 80s, or pieces he already had (and that I ended up with). Anyway, I asked Randy to try to get some good photos of this tumbler (glass is hard to photograph) and I think this photo in particular turned out beautifully.

Thanks, hon.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Smith Library

A couple weeks ago, I heard that the English Dept had arranged for their library liaison to sort through the big-ass stacks of old, old books bending the shelves of their wee "library" space. This is a smallish conference/ office/ study area, with a central room and teensy office compartments, where lots of antiquated volumes (in various languages) gather dust on the shelves. Anyway, the deal was: check the book carts and if there's anything you want to be re-shelved (kept), put a color-coded slip inside the book. And if there's anything you want to *have*, place a different color-coded slip inside the book.

Well I resisted the urge to claim anything, but I did take the camera over on Jan. 11th to get a few "mood shots" before the space gets its (much-needed) overhaul. I love old books and wish I had room to adopt a box or two. . .

Monday, February 06, 2006

Carol Frost reads tomorrow night

Carol Frost is Bucknell's Poet-in-Residence this spring; she's reading tomorrow night at 7 PM in Bucknell Hall (pictured at right before they cut our beautiful oaks down).

I very much enjoyed reading Carol's book, Pure, a couple of years back. Awesome poems.

Here's the title poem from her most recent book, I Will Say Beauty (TriQuarterly, 2003):

The Part of the Bee's Body Embedded in the Flesh
The bee-boy, merops apiaster, on sultery thundery days
filled his bosom between his coarse shirt and his skin
with bees--his every meal wild honey.
He had no apprehension of their stings and didn't mind
and gave himself--his palate, the soft tissues of his throat--
what Rubens gave to the sun's illumination
stealing like fingers across a woman's thigh
and van Gogh's brushwork heightened.
Whatever it means, why not say it hurts--
the mind's raw, gold coiling whirled again
stair currents, want, and beauty? I will say beauty.

New York State Summer Writers Institute

Passing along this e-mail from Robert Boyers at Skidmore College; please forward this opportunity to your writing students/ friends who are writing students:

To Teachers of Creative Writing:

A renewed endowment gift to The New York State Summer Writers Institute allows us to offer, for the second time, several FULL tuition scholarships to deserving undergraduate and graduate students. The scholarships will cover up to $1000 for students applying for two-week workshops in Poetry, Fiction, or Creative Non-Fiction, and up to $2000 for four-week applicants.

It is our hope that faculty members will recommend--in a simple, one-step procedure briefly described below-- particular students who are likely to be interested in one of the following:

--Mimi Bresler Smith and Patricia Robertson Amusa-Shonubi Minority Scholarships in Creative Writing (up to 10 available)

--Borders Scholarships (up to 5 available)

To recommend students, you need only send me an email mailto:writerscholarship@skidmore.edu indicating the names and email addresses of those you have selected. I can take it from there. Please indicate which of the scholarships you are recommending for each of those named.

PLEASE NOTE THAT in 2005, under these same auspices, we gave a total of FIFTEEN FULL TUITION SCHOLARSHIPS to students from Temple University, Brown University, Stanford University, Cleveland State University, Connecticut College, University of Rochester, and other schools.

The institute this year extends from July 3 to July 28, 2006. As always, the program is held on the campus of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, and offers two- and four-week workshops taught by the following people:

--FICTION: Marilynne Robinson, Mary Gordon, Rick Moody, Lee Abbott, Gish Jen, Amy Hempel, Howard Norman, Darryl Pinckney, Elizabeth Benedict, Kathryn Harrison

--POETRY: Frank Bidart, Carolyn Forche, Henri Cole

--CREATIVE NON-FICTION: Phillip Lopate, James Miller

--Visiting Writers: Joyce Carol Oates, Charles Simic, Russell Banks, Caryl Phillips, Jamaica Kincaid, Ann Beattie, Richard Howard, Katha Pollitt, Francine Prose, Robert Stone, Michael Ondaatje, Louise Gluck, Michael Cunningham

If you would like to visit our web site, or to send students to the site, you (and they) can go directly to the site at: New York State Summer Writers Institute

I look forward to hearing from you with your recommendations--again, ONLY THE NAMES OF RECOMMENDED STUDENTS AND THEIR EMAIL ADDRESSES ARE REQUIRED. And please: All recommendations must be received BY MARCH 3rd. Thanks, best wishes,

Robert Boyers, Director, New York State Summer Writers Institute
Tisch Professor of Arts & Letters, Skidmore College

PS Please feel free to print out and post our flier announcing these scholarships. To view the flyer go to the PDF file at the following link: http://pull.xmr3.com/p/4059-FF20/71847810/announcement_flyer_pdf.html

Skidmore College
815 North Broadway
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Call this number


It's the cafeteria at Allegheny General Hospital.

Just do it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Paper or plastic?

Friday's my last day here in the sanctuary of the Writing Center . . . I'm delighted that Steve's well enough to come back to work, and I've enjoyed holding down the fort. So it's back to finding a Real Job. Just shoot me now.
Got a forwarded e-mail today about a local exhibit of David Bottini's paintings: the sender (Karla Kelsey, the new poet at Susquehanna University) has her students write poems in response to David's paintings; the students will read their poems this Friday night at the exhibit, which is in a coffeehouse near the campus. Great idea for an assignment. I think I'll go.
Started a new poem yesterday. It began with Yeats' line because a fire was in my head, and riffed from there, in unrepentant iambics, into an exploration of arrogance and shame. It's not done yet. I'm afraid to look back at what I wrote last night. I think it probably sucks. When I'm writing stuff that's not quite found its footing, I often resort to meter. A way of staying on the ledge?
Thank you, C, for ordering my chapbook! I mailed it from the office this morning.
I meant to clean off my desk by now. The desk I had last semester, in a cubicle upstairs. They've let me keep my piles of papers & library books, but yeah, it's time to deal with all those loose ends.

Maybe this weekend.