Monday, December 18, 2006

Interlude 2: A Note For Christmas

While I'm determined to select an anthology for Book 5, I also know there's no way I'll get to that and do it justice this week. Therefore, we take another interlude in which I offer you my annual Christmas poem. Past years' installments ("The Donkey Tells the Story", and "Prayer Before Starting to Assemble the Rugged Tykes(tm) Free-Standing Play Kitchen With RealGlow(tm) Microwave Action", for example) are available for the price of one holiday greeting.

{Sorry - this poem has been removed. Please email me if you're interested in seeing it}

The best to you and your families, oh my 6 loyal readers, at this very special time of year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Week Two, Book Five - Later

Two weeks between posts? Ugh. So many good excuses that I will not bore you with.

Fifth entry is coming, Meanwhile, entertain yourselves with this surprisingly good anthology of Winter Poems compiled by Bob and Margery at About.com.

Your patience is appreciated.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Five Books, The Fourth

I have a multilayered ulterior motive in recommending Coleman BarksClub – Granddaughter Poems. This work, inspired directly by the author's interactions with his granddaughter Briny has some fine moments, such as the book’s opening, No Finale, which starts

If I were dying, or if I were convinced
I were dying soon, say within a year, if
I were told so by doctors, I would write
a bunch of poems out of my nervousness
and my love for being here.


The line breaks that make this opening all about the narrator (note the prominence of the “I” in the first three lines - this is clearly conscious, as there is no "I" in Coleman Barks) contrast immediately with the observations and direct quotes of the young granddaughter, as in “In Opening Game Day Traffic”, where Briny explains football (spacing of the first line is off):

...You
pass the ball between your legs, you
go hurt somebody, then you start over.

I hate to sell it short with descriptions like “charming”, because there is craft here (especially in Briny’s drawings of imaginary composite animals), but “charming” is often what gets the casual reader across the threshold into a poem. And here is my mild deception: Once the casual reader is familiar with this small volume, she or he may spy the name Coleman Barks and find themselves purchasing Gourd Seed, or borrowing The Essential Rumi from the library. Then they’ll have, without noticing, slipped and fallen headlong into a world of poetry they’d have walked by without seeing not so long before.

Next up: Book Five and the Honorable Mentions. Which is not a bad name for a rock band. One composed of librarians and county fair judges, of course, but no one rocks like a librarian.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Interlude

I'm so full of my stuffing I can't bear the thought of turning my brain on, but just in case you overate less than I and are looking for a little something, here are two links that showed up in my email recently and which are work a look:

Josh Wallaert at the University of Minnesota has a new blog in which he posts entries from the first edition of Webster's American Dictionary (1828). I was skeptical of his claim to their being "found poems" until I read the entry for "badger":

Badger, n.

A quadruped of the genus Ursus, of a clumsy make, with short, thick legs, and long claws on the fore feet. It inhabits the north of Europe and Asia, burrows, is indolent and sleepy, feeds by night on vegetables, and is very fat.

Its skin is used for pistol furniture; its flesh makes good bacon, and its hair is used for brushes to soften the shades in painting. The American badger is called the ground hog, and is sometimes white.

Fun stuff. If you're interested at all in the evolution of language (and if you're a regular here, my guess is that you are), check out Webster's Daily.

Also. Martha Brockenbrough has a new column on playing with kids over at Cranium.com: "In The Name of Fun". First of all, everything Cranium does is bound to be cool, but Martha's spins are always entertaining and she's got a gift for capturing the parental epiphany.

From the first entry:

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you have kids. That means you could be doing dishes right now. You could be picking up dirty socks, or maybe signing permission slips, driving to soccer practice, or encouraging someone — anyone? Please? — to practice good oral hygiene.

Honestly though, I hope you’re taking this moment for yourself, because that’s what I’m doing.

Bound to become part of my weekly checklist.

That's it. I can't think anymore. I wonder if there's any more apple-cranberry jam....

Monday, November 20, 2006

Five Books, Part III

Tina Kelley’s poems consistently contain two of the qualities that are essential to successful, memorable poetry: they apply language in a precise manner, conscious of both sound and definition, and they make extraordinary observations in unexpected places. Further, she is playful in both situation and voice, which showcases those essential qualities in novel, often fascinating ways. In The Gospel of Galore, her first book, she imagines a letter from God to humanity, considers labrador retrievers as both Gods and a school teacher, and projects herself as the blood in her lover’s veins and as a kite. Kelley’s passion for precision is incredible, and her deeply developed sense of wonder are simply unmatched; this uncommon combination makes her an essential read for people who are exploring poetry’s capabilities.

In “The Word Kite”, Kelley uses names from other languages to capture the way we sometimes describe things that are difficult to describe:

In Italian, it’s cervo volente, flying red deer. In French, flying stag.
In Germany, it’s the same word as dragon. In Japan, octopus.
The Spanish cometa suggests the stars, and fengzheng, in China,
is the wind’s stringed instrument. Kite for us is predatory bird,

from the Old English cyta, for which “no related word appears
in the cognate languages,” though we know now that kites
were once used by virgins, midwives and surviving twin sisters
to hang their laundry up to dry.

She routinely asks questions that are anything but routine, as in “I Love A Man Who Gave Blood Thirty Times”:

And everywhere I go, I think Do you have a pint of him, honey?
Does the sweet health and consideration running through him
run through you, too?


The Gospel of Galore contains also a number of poems based on bird names, birdsong, and almost-found poems from old Audobon guides, and makes magnificent connections, such as “Other Names”:

Remind me of the Scrabble words when I have too few vowels:
the strany, the tysty, wagell and wamp. Particularly the quandy,
the marrock willock scuttock, kelinky,
murre and gwilym, kiddaw and skiddaw.


Tina Kelley crafts poems to hang in the corners of rooms that most people would walk through without stopping, poems that create moments that become irreplaceable, once you become aware of them. Word on the street is that she has another book ready for a smart publisher to snap up. I'll be first in line with my preorder.

Next up: Something from outside New Jersey.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Five Books of Poetry Everyone Should Read, Part Two

Bill Watterson once remarked (through his alter-ego Calvin) that “People who are nostalgic for childhood were obviously never children". Catherine Doty’s book Momentum proves that statement wrong. In her poems, Doty deals turns the fear and anxiety of childhood into funny and powerful moments without resorting to imposing her the filter and judgment of adult voice on her former self.

In “For May is the Month of Our Mother”, she recalls what she learned from breaking a statue of Mary:

… I learned then to use something right
or leave it alone. No, I didn’t. I learned twelve-inch Virgin,
polystyrene, luminous ivory, black beads in screw-off bottom
ran $4.95, or twenty weeks of allowance.


In “Curriculim Vitae”. she inverts the normal model for this summary of a life by listing all its mistakes, instead of its successes:

… All the attempts,
like the fish tanks of your childhood,
begun in eager greed and soon to fail,
twenty-five gallons of well-lit bouillabaisse.


This book is filled with characters she feared and loved, imitated and avoided, and they will be familiar to you whether or not you have in your past a neighbor who recorded her son’s BMs on a calendar in the kitchen. You’ll have to get the book for that one.

But for me, the real magic of this book is that it creates metaphorical moments without betraying its sentiment, applies skillful use of language without contriving the behavior or speech of the remembered characters it presents to us.

Momentum is a book I insist people read before they tell me they “don’t like poetry”. It has changed minds, believe me. Don’t make me come over there and read it to you.

Next in our series: Tina Kelley and The Gospel of Galore.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A List that Reaches Out, Not In

I was checking out Wil Wheaton’s “Five Books Every Geek Should Read"* when something struck me: It’s been a theme among the bloggers I follow recently to talk about what’s important about “us” to “us”. Like geek books for geeks, poetry books for poets, modern philosophy books for modern philosophers, etc.

Maybe I’m unique, but rather than publishing possible credentials for membership in a club I’m already in, I’m more interested in being an ambassador of sorts for people outside the club. I find myself in this position naturally a lot anyway: I’m more deeply involved in the arts than many of my business and technical colleagues, but more aware of issues in business and technology than my artist friends; my personal politics are way to the left of most of my family, and way to the right of most of the people I encounter in the pursuit of poetry; I’m by profession and nature a developer of new products and new ideas, but I’m by hobby (inherited from my father) a student of the past and an occasionally voracious reader of history, etc., etc., etc.

All of which is a long way of saying: Hey, Wil Wheaton, as respected and linguistically gifted ubergeek, how about a list of 5 Books People Who Want to Know More About Geeks Should Read, That They’ll Find Enough Interesting Content in to Want to Finish, but Which Are Representative Enough of Geekdom to Reach Them and Hopefully Change Them a Little?

Granted, that’s a crappy title for a blog entry, but you know what I mean.

Let me put my money where my mouth is and give you “Five Books of Poetry Everyone Should Read”, with the idea that it will be a bibliography of reasonable length which I suggest you read before you attempt to credibly tell me that you “don’t like poetry”.

I want to roll this out one book at a time with enough exposition to be meaningful, and this entry is already 3 scroll-clicks too long, so the first selection is short with more to come later:

First up, the shortest collection in the bunch and therefore the least intimidating place to start, is
BJ Ward’s 17 Love Poems with No Despair. The title is an obvious nod to Neruda, but the collection is a Whitman’s Sampler of love poems that have something for everyone. My favorite opening lines, from “Coffee”:

Honey, I hate mornings
like a dead leg hates a polka

Within the covers of 17 Love Poems..., you'll find both classic themes and references to members of the Justice League of America. If you love now or have loved once, have read Neruda or have never read Neruda, know who Zan and Jana are or didn't watch ABC on Saturday mornings in the seventies, you will find something to impress you in this slender volume. More on this book in the wrap up entry at the end of the list, which I promise to you, my six devoted readers, will be less than eight weeks from now (which my geek friends have already projected base on the average post density over the past few months, making certain allowances for impending holidays but my artist friends think is ridiculous because of the obvious passion contained in this entry....).

Next entry, with a more meaningful treatment: Cat Doty’s
Momentum.

* A quick note: You can get to Wil Wheaton’s column from the WWdN link at right, but be aware that his column is hosted by a website that contains some content your business, family, and maternal filters will find questionable, so I’ll leave it to you to go read the original list if you like

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Dark Unmarked Waters

Just read on Josh's blog that Deborah Tall has died. The journal she led, Seneca Review, was the first publication I remember reading and thinking: "Wow. I wish I wrote like that." Of course, this was before I'd learned to experiment with my own style but still, fifteen years later, I've never produced anything I thought fit or merited inclusion in that journal. It's a home for the lyric essay, which is a fascinating form for me, having been trained repeatedly in the classical and technical essay. This post takes its title from one of Deborah's poems.

Had another of those moments recently where I mined an unpleasant memory for a poem idea. I'm actually pleased with the final product, but my internal editor is all over me to burn the thing before [subject person who would not appreciate the publicity] finds out what I've written. As is usual, the "real" portion of the memory is the rough diamond at the center of a highly fictionalized setting, but I don't think [subject person] would consider that appropriate mitigation. It's the old question: how to reach the larger audience and not chase away the local one. Or is this a question that only I ask?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Food For Thought

Just got word that Diane Lockward's second full-length book is out. You may have heard her read at this year's Dodge Festival. She's quite a generous spirit, good for poetry on a number of levels, and an old friend of the Spoken Word Series. And I'm not just saying that in case I run into her at our local Shop-Rite...

Visit Diane's website or the Wind Publications site for more about What Feeds Us. Here's a sample, but you'll have to visit the book's page for more...

An Average Day for an Average Liar
The average person tells thirteen lies each day.
—Dr. Georgia Witkin

One, on a day much like any other, I awake with alarm
clock blaring, turn to you, and say, "Your face
is no longer imprinted on my heart."

Two, I aim a dart to the groin, say I’ve taken a paramour.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Why?

A poet and blogger I respect a great deal has joined the blogosphere in a completely anonymous way and requested that the new blog reference in a recent email not be linked to the poet's name. The email included references to why the blog is important to have, and not important to link to a specific name. Interesting stuff. Can't share it with you, though.

But it makes me think out what this little space is for. Here are some reasons I keep Cosmic Liverwurst alive:
  • It forces me to consider my own writing from time to time, as I strive for weekly update at minimum.
  • It provides an artistic reference to the artists I recruit to read in the Spoken Word Series in Hoboken - gives them a chance to know my aesthetics as another input into their decision to participate or not. This is the primary reason I'm not anonymous here.
  • Since I carry the title of Artist in Residence at The Center for the Performing Arts at DeBaun Auditorium, I feel it appropriate to have a live, albeit slow-moving, contribution to the art I practice.
  • My mom likes it.

This blog also allows me (in my own mind, anyway) to participate at some level in a world of artists far superior to myself, from whom I learn every time I log into Blogger. You'll find those artists listed to your right. They generally have actual writing projects and service to advertise, but they're on my list because they're insightful and interesting, and their writings contain qualities I aspire to have in my own.

If you're here to learn my personal politics, you'll be disappointed - they don't inform my writing much. Since my kids, my theater and music background, my technical education, and my 35-year roller-coaster relationship with Los Mets actually influence my writing a great deal, those will show up from time to time.

So that's why I'm here. In case you were wondering.

{cricket!}

{cricket!}

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Getting Dodge-y

Yes, they eventually posted the Dodge schedule. Yes, I did get there. No, I haven't anywhere near enough time to properly do it justice. That will come in pieces as I find time to rediscover my notes.

  • Anne Waldman: "Larger than Life" is an understatement. Truly thoughtful of questions during her "On Poetry" talk. Seemed genuinely pleased to hear that poetry continues at Stevens, where she once taught.
  • Sekou Sundiata: This man has some pipes. Specifically and emphatically said: I'm not a spoken word artist, I'm a poet." and made clear the difference. Didn't get to hear him with his band, which is a great loss for me. The CD is terrific, though.
  • Andrew Motion: Exudes humility like perspiration. Amplified by his London countryside accent, reads his formal verse in a way that creates the structure in your ear - a little stilted at the line breaks, but not enough to distract you from listening. If he wasn't genuinely grateful that I knew a little about his internet project before his reading, I'm the worst judge of people ever. Almost popped with excitement when talking about Bob Dylan.
  • Coleman Barks: You can tell the grandfather poems from the Rumi, but you cannot distinguish the levels of joy in his presentation. Just when you think The Paul Winter Consort has become a little predictable, Barks turns to them and says "How about a little circus music?"
  • Linda Pastan: Kept saying she'd "rather read poems than talk about making them", but spoke eloquently about the details of their construction. Two very interesting exercises: one she read a poem in third person, then in first person, and led a 6 minute discussion about which was better - the other, she read a Justice poem with a small stanza at the start, in the middle, and at the end to see where "it wanted to be". Great stuff.
  • Jorie Graham: I could not physically write fast enough to keep up with everything she was saying that was noteworthy. Talked for a long time (it was a panel discussion), but not much of it was wasted.

Other notes:

  • Too many terrific poets scheduled opposite each other at the ONE festival poets slot. I have generally loved the way the last several schedules have been laid out, but this didn't work for me. Mr. Haba, if you happen to be reading this, give us more opportunity to hear these "other" poets - some of them are more interesting than your features.
  • It was brutally cold in the morning inside the big top and uncomfortably warm in the afternoon (in spots in the path of the stage lights aimed at the audience). This may be why no one enforced the "no coffee in the tent" rule in the mornings.
  • Return to Waterloo Village seemed appreciated by most, and I have to say I did think things were laid out pretty well this year.
  • You could get a near-raw hamburger and a vegan chili at the same stand. Three cheers for that!
  • I took an hour off during the Saturday afternoon features. As much as I enjoy Lucille Clifton, I may have gotten more from that walk along the canal. You have to leave time for the words sink in, too.

It'll take me a month to sort through everything I want to process from my notebook. As the flotsam strikes me, so shall it appear here.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Stuff and Fluff

Just got back from a whirlwind trip to Ireland and Scotland. I was chagrined to find myself on a completely different hotel floor from the rest of my party until I got off the elevator (Sorry - the LIFT)and was greeted by a bust of Yeats. Purpose for everything and all that. Turns out there was a najor figure from Irish history on ever floor - who better to greet an aspiring writer?

Missed a great week here, though - Two things I'd like to have been more on top of:

Less great was receiving the formal written let-down from Steel Toe's open reading period (though the news of the winners was long since out). Not that I was expecting it, but a thin SASE in your mailbox is always a little dispriting, no?

Dodge Festival schedule STILL isn't up, and I've heard that at least one of the featured readers doesn't know what day she's reding on yet. But I've also heard that The Poets of NJ will be reading on Saturday evening - Plan to be there if you haven't caught any of this group's road show yet.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Another Curmudgeon

My alumni magazine directed me to a recent entry to the online community. John Hargen is posting as The Scientific Curmudgeon on the Stevens website. A small but interesting body of work so far.

It's part of an encouraging effort called The Center for Science Writings. From the site: "The Center has two major missions: improving the communication skills of Stevens students and examining how books, essays, articles, and other forms of expression shape public perceptions of science. The Center is particularly interested in writings that explore the limits of science; the social implications of science; the relationship of science to the humanities, arts and religion; and the role of creativity and innovation in scientific progress."

The Scientific Curmudgeon is now on the list to your right. Check it out.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Waiting and Contemplating

The schedule for this year's Dodge festival is still not posted. Not that I should need more than 28 days to figure out how to spend 48 hours of my life, but the list of poets - especially the PFKAPAA (Poets Formerly Known as Poets Among Us) is just tremendous this year, and I know I need to run a nice optimization algorithm to get the right mix of fine poets whose work I know and fine poets whose work I've yet to meet.

Lord, I'm really geeky this week.

I'm actually looking forward to Dodge more than usual this year because I've written almost nothing since April, and I could use the time, inspiration, and bad cel phone reception to squeeze out some words.

Maybe even save a few to start repopulating this litte desert corner of the internet, too....

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Miscellany for a Wednesday

It's Charles Bukowski's birthday. Maybe we should all do today's writing drunk, naked and sweaty in commemoration. I've been meandering my way through Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way: New Poems for months and to be honest, I find parts of it brutal - where the subject overwhelms what craft there is to the point where I have to put it down. It's like spotting micrograms of diamond in a pail of rotting meat.

***

On the other end of the spectrum, I've been spending lots of time with my contributor's copy of Silk Road. I'm just thrilled at being included in this inaugural volume alongside some of the writers whose works I've been studying and learning from. Among the poets you'll find there are Deborah Ager, Kelli Agodon, Steve Schroeder and Suzanne Frischkorn. From the Editors' note:

A series of collected writings on place is like a string of caravansaries along the ancient Silk Road. Each one offers a similar refuge from the immediacy of a dusty, perilous highway, yet no two are the same because of the mix of travelers who gather there.

What a great way to approach creating a magazine.

***

The 06-07 season of the Spoken Word Series has been posted at DeBaun.org. If artistic diversity is my primary objective in scheduling artists, I may have hit my peak in this, our 5th full year. And we're not done - I'm finalizing plans for a day of workshops in May and stewing up some longer term plans. I hope you NJ locals will keep an eye out. Or better, get on our mailing list.

***

The list of poets presenting at this year's Dodge Festival has been posted. It takes artistic diversity to a whole other level (and look for some lesser known but terrific talents in the bottom section of that list). It's interesting to think of this list and my own much smaller effort in the context of Deborah's recent comments on "KINDS" of poets, and to imagine the conscious and unconscious checklists in my head (and the heads of other event planners). "Diversity" requires criteria against which to check off "differences". Have to think about that some more.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Here, gone, here

From the comings and goings files...
  • Lost and Found Investigations has posted new comics this week, bringing its Gamefly-imposed hiatus to an apparent end. (Yay!)
  • Kelli Agodon's blog has been subtracted the universe. A comment over at Jeannine's place leads me to think this was purposeful. Too bad - Kelli's was one of the truer-to-format "writer's blogs", with (I thought) the right mix of personal, projects, and poetry/prose.
  • I just noticed that Kim Addonizio is blogging again, however.
  • The Yankees did me the substantial favor of aquiring the two Phillies on my fantasy baseball team. Thanks, Brian Cashman! The Mets reacquired Roberto Hernandez, because Julio Franco wasn't doing enough to increase the average age of the team.

The next thing to go needs to be the HEAT!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

James Weil (1929 – 2006)

By various electronic means, Ed Foster and Ron Sillman both bring us news today of the death of James Weil. For me to provide links here would imply a false familiarity with his work, but you can do a Google search on him and find a large number of references.

Among the accomplishments Ed included in his email obituary for Mr. Weil were these lines from "A Coney Island Life", which is on the Academy of American Poets' list of Great Poems to Teach:

Having lived a Coney Island life
on roller coaster ups and downs
and seen my helium hopes
break skyward without me,
now arms filled with dolls
I threw so much for
I take perhaps my last ride
on this planet-carousel
and ask
how many more times round
I have
to catch that brass-ring-sun
before the game is up.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Feeding the Geek

Taking a small break from versification this week, and have been completely absorbed by The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios. It's a physics text of sorts, in that the science is solid and thoroughly explained, but it's also documentation of a love affair with comics. It asks and answers the question "Could this happen?" about many comics from the Golden and Silver eras, with examples of plausible and, well, miraculous physical happenings depicted in those glorious 4-color pages.

I'm not a huge comics fan (though I do enjoy a good Iron Man from time to time), but the enthusiasm Professor Kakalios shows for both his heroes and his equations is enough to carry me - and you - through his 400 pages quickly. He's an eloquent and talented writer.

And yes, I am a geek.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Reading and Sleeping

Has much been going on in the past month? Life continues to interfere with more regular posting; if you're looking for more regular (and more literarily astute) posting, check out the Frequented Blogs list. Here are a few miscellany from this corner of the world:
  • Criticize his anthologies if you like, but Garrison Keillor continues to show good taste in selecting poems for The Writer's Almanac, this time rediscovering a gem from Meg Kearney's first book, An Unkindness of Ravens: "Creed".
  • That, of course, follows the selection over the past month of two from Jeannine Gailey's Becoming the Villainess (click her blog below for details and current news).
  • The DeBaun Series is coming together for next year, including what is shaping up to be a dynamite writing workshop day in May. Hope to be announcing detials by end-August.
  • I did it again. I got some emergency expert guidance (and will be back to you for more, oh benevolent coach!) and submitted "To The Ones Who Must Be Loved" in an open reading period.
  • What I'm reading currently: Only Here, Joe Salerno; Diary of a Cell, Jennifer Gresham; Never Before - Poems about first experience, edited by Laure-Anne Bosselaar. And all the writing mags - which I get more and more convinced just have nothing to say anymore.
  • I did not make it into the New Jersey Writers Project, but am revamping my grammar school class concepts anyway - just in case any of you English teachers friends are checking in....

OK. That's all I'm awake enough to tell you about. I'm hoping for more awake time (for me and my dialup connection) soon!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Contrary to Popular Opinion...

...I have not, in fact, fallen from the face of the earth. However, I have had precious little time to focus on producing any new creative writings, and I'm just to darned private to tell you why. So speculate away; you get three guesses and the first two don't count.

But I have had some time to do some reading and listening. What reading I've been able to do has focused on a few places:
  • What Will Suffice, has a bunch of interesting commentaries by poets whose "ars poetica" poems were selected for inclusion in this pretty good anthology. Some of it loses me - I think the tendency to inflate good poems to find universality is a bit unchecked in this book, but it still is a nice collection.
  • The latest 32 Poems is quite a strong issue. I've read it three times cover to cover and still find myself discovering things in it. Sandra Beasley's work is up at the website now - work a look and certainly enough for me to renew my subscription.
  • I've rediscovered Discover. It's been a usual practice to grab a copy whenever I have time in an airport, but now, as a subsriber, I'm reinfusing myself with the sense of wonder this magazine has about just about everything. Even if you're not a science geek, you can benefit from at wonder, I promise.

As for listening, my ears have been focused mostly on the soundtrack from Barnum because my kids have fallen in love with the show. It's reminded me of all those great parts I had on my list of "Roles I'd Love to Play" back when I trod the boards frequently: John Adams in 1776, PT Barnum in Barnum, and other assorted blowhards.

Ah, for time for it all....

Friday, May 26, 2006

How Far I've Come, I Think

The Celebration of NJ Literary Journals was a great event. I've not been to any of the major literary conferences, so my only comparisons are the Dodge, the Warren County Poetry Festival, and local reading series. But how much fun is it to be in a room where the audience varies between 20 and 50 for three hours, as opposed to between -1 (one person, there just to rest their feet, not listening) and 5 for 40 minutes - an even better, where the readers go straight from the podium to their cars. Ugh.

Anyway, it was terrific. And I had one of those moments where you suddenly feel like you're accomplishing something. A poet whose work I've followed and who has known me at least casually for ten years stopped me after my little 4 minute bit to say "Hey, it's terrific to hear how far you've come since I first heard your work." That's the kind of comment that is more meaningful than a casual "Loved your stuff" from someone exiting the men's room. It shows awareness of change in my work and the presence of something different, some growth and accomplishment. Even if he didn't mean it, but I'm pretty sure that he did.

So I went and looked over my stuff from 1996 and earlier to see what's different. At the risk of oversimplifying, there are two biggies:
  • The "Murphy Rules" (though I know he wouldn't call them that) - Peter Murphy uses a set of questions to judge your level of accomplishment as a poet, to help decide between basic and advanced classes in his writing seminars. In a nutshell, they boil down to concreteness (the ratio of abstract words to concrete ones) and the absence of clich├ęs. I don't know when it happened, but I can see in the more recent work how I do more showing, use more scenes and examples, and most importantly, am more specific in my descriptions, making my mood-setting more effective.
  • The "Two Lines Too Many" rules. Harder to simplify, this is the tendency to let the poem end when it wants to, rather than force it into a neat package, or worse, to clarify what it "means" with a wrap-up clause. I'm enormously guilty of this in my earlier writings, and on more than one occasion, editors have accepted my work after suggesting (and me accepting) taking 1-2 lines off the end, and leaving the rest as it is.
In noticing these differences, I realize that I've changed my audience expectations a little. But interestingly, I think it's the audience of myself - my own expectations for my poems have changed. I attribute this to tons of reading, as well as learning to teach a little poetry myself. Both have exposed me to wide attitudes about poetry, and both have forced me to consciously decide what I like about a poem, what I find the essence of that poem to be.

Navel-gazing? Maybe. But fascinating to me nonetheless.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Shorts

  • Got word this week my poem "You Are Here" was accepted for the inaugural Silk Road. Thanks to Jeannine for spreading the invitation to submit.
  • I've been so out of touch, I didn't hear about Stanley Kunitz until Tuesday, when this quote from him was coincidentally on the Poetry Speaks Page-a-Day: "Every new poem is like finding a new bride. Words are so erotic, they never tire of their coupling"
  • I'm one of 5,567 readers (OK, just 26) this Sunday in West Caldwell. You should come.
  • I'm reading Caroll Spinney's autobiography and the Bosselaar-edited anthology "Never Before, Poems About First Experiences". The whiplash is worth it. The anthology contains a terribly funny poem from Meg Kearney that she read at the Dodge in 2004, whose title I can't bring myself to provide here, lest my mother stop by.
  • One quick word for everyone taking this weekend's movies much too seriously: FICTION.
  • The Mets beat the Yankees tonight. Not that these things matter in May, but WOO HOO!

Looking forward to more insightful posting again soon. Hope you are, too.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Celebrating NJ Journals

"And while West Caldwell may not be quite as hip as Hoboken or Montclair, it's mayor, Joseph Tempesta, said visitors shouldn't be surprised that the township would host such a cultural event. "We always try to offer a variety of programs that appeal to a lot of age groups," he said. "We are thriving in the arts, and in the performing arts." from "W. Caldwell brings out the poet in everyone" by Star-Ledger staffer Elizabeth Moore.

This Sunday is Mother's Day. I am not promoting myself on that day.

However, the following Sunday is the (now) annual Celebration of NJ Literary Journals, organized by the estimable Diane Lockward, and I'll have a couple small pieces in that event, taking photographs for the artists' future use (and hopefully a few placements in the hometown paper), and representing Edison Literary Review as a reader late in the afternoon.

If you are local to north Jersey, I expect to see you there. I'll be the guy in the back with the camera in my hand, hopefully not wearing the same green shirt I wore the last two years.

I've promised myself I will read the newest, rawest poem I have that day. It will be an audience of 75% accomplished poets and 25% highly well-read (well-listened?) poetry fans. Feedback from that room is worth its weight in baseball cards.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Visible Word II

The Center for the Performing Arts at DeBaun Auditorium is pleased to present its 2nd Annual

VISIBLE WORD
ekphrastic art for the senses Exhibit

Saturday, May 6, 2006
Exhibit from 5-9pm with Reading and Artists' Talk at 7pm
FREE TO ALL! Refreshments will be served.

Exhibit Location & Directions: DeBaun Auditorium, Edwin A. Stevens Hall 5th & Hudson Sts., Hoboken, NJ For directions: http://www.debaun.org/cgi-bin/directions3.php Easily accessible by PATH, LightRail, NJ Transit & NY Waterways

Visual & Written Word Artists Featured:

Jennifer Benn & Lise Bargardo
Michael Filan & John J. Trause
Nancy Tobin & Jerome Rothenberg

For artist biographies and more information, please visit http://www.debaun.org/cgi-bin/onstage/visibleword.php

http://www.debaun.org

Thursday, April 27, 2006

From Today's Poetry Speaks Calendar

A poem is a way of meaning more than one thing at a time - John Ciardi

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Draft: Gypsy Moths

{sorry, this poem has been deleted}

Friday, April 07, 2006

Reading Format Question

Planning for another year of The Spoken Word Series, and I'm contemplating format changes. We have what I consider the "typical" format: a feature of 30-40 minutes, a short break, an open mic.

I'm starting to see more open mic of fixed duration opening followed by the feature followed by more open if there are enough signups. Alternatively, open til complete followed by feature.

The argument for open mic first usually goes: this way people aren't ruffling through their own poems, they're concentrating on the feature. I don't necessarily buy this, but I'm open to new arguments.

Which do you prefer? Why?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Returning a Draft

I poked at drafts from Steve and Jeannine this week. Only seemed fair to offer them a shot at a brandy new one of my own.

{Sorry, this poem has been deleted}

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Jetsam

Haven't had much time for this little space recently - and still don't - but here are some thoughts for very late on a weeknight, removed from my brain that I might make room for sleep.

(1) Very interesting looking event this Sunday in Cranford, NJ: Deborah LaVeglia, Joe Weil, John McDermott & the CHS Madrigal Singers from 1-4 PM at the Cranford Public Library. This is the kind of ambitious event I aspire to design for my own poetry series. Excellent poets, music. This event also includes visual art - we've linked to the visual arts (and will again on May 6), but the verbal presentation of poetry really does best, I think, when another aural medium complements it. Things to think about for future seasons.

(2)
Jilly linkes to an article on the latest posthumous Bukowski that contains the following thought:

He knew that life was in the doing, not the laurels, which he said he didn’t care about. Good thing, because he wasn’t going to get any from the American literary elite who also have no use for e.e. cummings, Edward Arlington Robinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay and several other poets who are an ongoing source of inspiration for those of us who do not look to the critics for permission to be moved.

OK, not in it for the attaboys. That's great. But am I the only person who detects a great deal more poetic effort (craft, word choice, form or conscious anarchy, etc.) in those other poets than in Bukowski? I think Bukowski is a much better and more enjoyable read than cummings, but I think cummings took more care in the selection and placement of words on the page. That article then goes on:

The list of poets I recommend to aspirants starts with William Carlos Williams. Then come the other untouchables. But Bukowski is not far down on the list. I can think of no writer a young poet should more often read to see writing as risk, as consent to following one’s leadings regardless of caliber.

Oh, no. That doesn't really suggest write what you feel no matter how good it is, does it? Please, PLEASE someone correct what simply MUST be a misinterpretation on my part. I also hate the word "untouchables" to discuss great poets, but that's picky, and for another time.

(3) Maureen has posted a review of Debra Galant's book Rattled. Ms. Galant is a bit famous in the crowded suburban stripe that stretches west from Newark, NJ for the local news and commentary site The Barista of Bloomfield Avenue. The Newark mayoral race promises to be quite entertaining this year; if you're interested in the local politics version of Jon Stewart, go bookmark the Barista.

(4) And finally,
Writer's Digest had an article on ordering a poetry manuscript this month that contains quotes from many excellent poets (I was pleasantly surprised to see one of the great ladies of NJ poetry therein: Maria Mazziotti Gillan), yet still managed to be completely without a non-obvious suggestion. I'm beginning to think compiling a book is like hitting a baseball - either you can or you can't. And coaches can only help those who have proven they can.

My big dilemma now is deciding whether I'm a can or a can't.

Ahh, nothing like a good spleen venting. (That's right, this was nothing like a good spleen venting). But now to sleep....

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Believe...

I believe that no one is spared
the darkness,
and no one gets all of it.

from "What I Believe" by Michael Blumenthal
in Poems to Live By In Uncertain Times, edited by Joan Murray.

You could hypnotize yourself with this stanza, no?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Upcoming Readings

If you're in the northeast US, please take note of three places I'll be visible in the next few months:

Tomorrow night, I'll be at Saint Catherine's in Ringwood, NJ. I was one of the judges of their annual poetry contest, and will be participating in the poetry reading to celebrate that contest. It's part of a large community arts festival; well worth stopping by.

Later this month (March 22 to be precise) I'll be reading in the Wednesday Night Poetry Series in Bethel, CT.

And in May, I'll be representing the Edison Literary Review at the annual Celebration of New Jersey Literary Journals in West Caldwell on May 21 (details forthcoming).

For reminders of these and other NJ and DV events, sign up for my emailing list.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Aphorisms for Caregivers

Somewhat at random:
  • The patient who has lost all language still speaks her own pain fluently.
  • In the doorway to the hospital, you are just the second domino.
  • Confidence is trust in things promised. It is not the absence of questions.

Be back soon.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Reduction to Practice

Well, my application is in for the New Jersey Writer's Project. My thanks to those who let me use their names as reference, and to anyone who wants to direct a little mojo my way (hint, hint).

Coincidentally, the latest Teaching Artist Journal arrived last week. I haven't completed it yet - always takes me a few weeks to nibble and digest, nibble and digest. This issue seems to have play and the application of play as its theme. A good subject, as TAs need to use fun as a motivator, at least at start. In "In Search of Serious Play", David Wallace makes the point that the rules of play have to be firm and clear yet enticing. Its a good article, but it trips over one of my peeves in the following excerpt:

"Virtually every form of play has rules of some sort - consider how many rules there are in baseball, chess, and other favorite pasttimes, In our lessons, two or three simple rules can provide structure for creative exploration."

I know what he's saying (and the rest of the article says it well), but the use of these examples seems to me to be missing the point a little. Sure these are complicated games, but they can be simplified in practice to be much less intimidating. It's not so much the rules of chess, for example, but the execution of its strategy that is daunting. Yet chess strategy 101 can be boiled down to three rules: 1. Take the center. 2. Make his king move. 3. Follow his king. Why can't we reduce our teaching of writing that way?

At the last Warren County Poetry Festival, Peter gave a great exercise, which (If I may simplify) was to answer three seemingly unrelated questions and put those answers into a poem. The reason it worked was because it provided specific, short, actionable steps. It turned "Write a poem" (cue scary music) into "Fill in the blank".

The article does go on to talk about ways to playfully but seriously engage students as a TA. But I fear that examples like this do an inustice to the things the engage in comparison. Baseball need not be more complicated than running, readiness, and the happiness of getting a hit. Chess, like creative writing, can be allowed to feel intimidating, or it can be presented in a way that makes it inviting, attaches to it some manageable goals, and welcomes play.

{Sorry, connection problems, links to come later}

Friday, February 17, 2006

Confidential to Woodhaven

My Goddaughter became a teenager this month and, as is typical for me, I completely failed to set aside the time to recognize her. 'Course, from her perspective, I'm just a scary loud guy she sees on holidays sometimes, so I'm sure that's not a big deal to her.

Anyway, the idea that she was acually becoming a young woman struck me hard last year. Here's what that blow drove out of me.

{sorry, this poem has been deleted}

Happy (Belated) Birthday, E.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Teachers and Teaching

I attended a terrific workshop for the New Jersey Artists-In-Education Program. Heard a little about what some local schools would like to do with their artists and got a great tour of the application from the woman who coordinates the artist end. The more I learn, the more I like; it's a wonderful way to ingrain the arts in education.

That insinutation of the arts is clearly called out in the application which, in addition to requiring applying artists to demonstrate they can create a cohesive crescendo of an arts experience, asks us to define what the "lasting impact" of our residencies with the kids we will teach. An excellent idea - it's one thing to immerse students in art, it's quite another to do it with a purpose and a plan.

Another thing our applications get graded on is the quality of the experience we design for the teachers of the students we propose to teach. This is both for their professional development and to make deeper and more permanent the connection with the curriculum. Remind teachers of how the arts can reach them. What they're capable of - the arts as well as the teachers.

This application process has made me take a serious look at what I consider unique about my artistry, what I consoder worth passing on. I'm quite hopeful I can become part of the program and make it work with the other obligations in my life, but even if that doesn't work out, I've learned an awful lot about myself, and about a small group of people who use a little bit of state money in an absolutely amazing way. I'll gladly settle for that.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Be Someone's Valentine

Well, it's that time of year. Ted Kooser is recommending poems that compare romance with rocks. Kay Jewelers is once again stating for the record that love begins at 1.25 carats ("like" starts at 0.75; less than that is schoolyard flirtation). Love is in the air. (Note: The link isn't to the Staten Island Club's performance of that song. Sorry.)

The particulars of Valentine's Day in my house are, quite romantic -- in that "It's OK, I'll get milk on my way home" sort of way (
Writer's Blog archives, February 2004) -- but there's no need to rehash all that here.

But It's nearly impossible to find, let alone to write a decent love poem anymore. It's all glurge and dirge - sickly sweet and slow and almost always with word "above" at the end of the penultimate line. Slate's annual effort is not quite in that mold, however, and Kelli includes today a David Lehman effort that includes baseball references, which makes me think of Mike Fleming's "Rookie":

I was good -- damn good. I could bat for power
and for average, my arm was strong and true,
my glove as quick as a bullfrog's tongue. Hours
in the cage, days on the grass -- oh, I knew
I was good, all right.


It's a love poem. Really. I'm pretty sure, anyway. Go read it and find out for yourself. And as a quick aside, Mike's wife Meg Kearney, who directs the Solstice Creative Writing Programs at Pine Manor College, has updated her appearances list and will be making the rounds quite widely in the coming months. Oh, you lucky New Englanders.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Snowy Bits and Frozen Pieces

If you're reading this from somewhere on the east coast of the US, you're probably doing so to avoid dragging yourself into the driveway to start the chore of digging and salting your way to the street. So in the spirit of friendship, I offer the following useful distractions to proliferate your procrastinative efforts:

Jody Porter dropped me a note last week about Zafusy, an experimental poetry zine with links to blogs and and journals friendly to that poetic persuasion and not all well-known. I found it very different from my usual suspects, and anyplace you can find a poem inspired by a quark is OK with me. I recommend a visit.

Practicing a rather different poetics is Lily Literary Review, a newish zine more frequently published but in the same vein as Branches, with visual and literary artwork selected to be in each other's presence on the (web) page.

Are you watching the Olympics? The winter games holds less of interest to me than the summer games; I think Olympic track and field and gymnastics present the best individual sports efforts that don't involve steroids or a players' union. But there are still sports worth watching - luge and downhill skiing for fans of speed, figure skating for fans of grace, and more. Give NBC's coverage a chance.

And I wanted to close tonight with something snowy. Frost seemed too obvious; this does too, frankly, so I'm off now to find a suitably underpublicized poem with snow as its central image to post tomorrow. Any suggestions?

from Snow Day by Billy Collins

In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Upping the Beat

This weekend, I got an anonymous email (or rather, an anonymous comment on a post deep in the archive) profanely and morosely accusing this little space of being dark and depressing. So I'm going to forgo my usual Monday morning dissertation on the decay of earth's orbit and our eventual immolation in the unforgiving sun in an effort to be a little more upbeat.

The search for tools to supplement my poetry workshop design led me to some pretty neat books this weekend. I'd never seen The Daily Spark series - 180 exercies (one per school day) on subjects ranging from SAT prep to poetry. The poetry one is actually quite varied, using excerpts from O'Hara, Creeley, Wordsworth, Auden, and many others. The company has many other teaching aids, including an SAT vocabulary novel series. Sounded pretty dry until I saw first title was "Vampire Dreams".

I feel bad that Seattle didn't acquit themselves well yesterday, but I was glad to see The Bus rumble down the field for a few series. I hope he sticks to his retirement plan. He's one of the good guys in sports.

Fascinating gentleman stopped by my series yesterday to tell stories from his upcoming memoir on life in the army in the 1950s in the Germanies. Had some great tales.

Senryu For My Mother
the doctor replied:
true, but your swelled heart holds room
for this device, too.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Quoting Everybody

Working on my application, which requires the creation of a cohesive 4-day creative writing curriculum, in my case, for 4th-6th graders, since I've selected them as my target audience. But what should the point of the lesson be? I'm looking back over the respondents to Here Comes Everybody's question 7: "How would you explain what poem is to my 7-year-old?". That audience is a little young, but many of the answers are insightful and applicable to my quest: Some of the answers (excerpted):

Ed Foster: "When my son was that age or slightly older I had him write poems. I suppose that writing them is the best way for a child to understand what they are."

Josh Corey: "It’s like that game where you repeat a word until it makes no sense. Do that with four or five words in a row. Now make a sentence out of them. Repeat until it’s a poem. "

Christine Hume: I’d read your seven year old some poetry and let the child explain what it is to me."

Connie Deanovich: "I would say words have secrets and special powers. I would smile and wait for the child to smile back or to smirk. Then I’d say it is a poet’s job to discover these secrets and powers. I’d say a poet is like a honeybee except instead of going from flower to flower the poet goes from word to word to get what she needs. The bee makes honey and the poet makes poems."

And finally,

Donald Revell: "A poem is something made of words that you enjoy."

If I can get that one across, maybe they won't hate the things when they get to high school.

As an aside, I think many poets' answers to this question are needlessly complicated. While I don't believe in dumbing things down for children, I think it's necessary to put explanations in the context of an experience set they can understand and are willing to take in. I don't think everyone understands that.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Back in the Swing of Things

Yes, yes, I know. Lots of excuses, many of them real, and some of them good. But in the interest of space, I'll just pretend you already know them. K? Moving on...

Giving Life to Words was, if I do say so myself, a huge success. We were fortunate to land three outstanding instructors, and the friends of the Spoken Word Series came through with referrals. We had 16 people attend, all told. I haven't surveyed them for specific feedback yet, but I'm quite confident we have a solid foundation to build on. Thanks again to Ed Romond, Faith Vicinanza and George Witte, upon whose craft was built a terrific afternoon.

Been writing more than usual lately, aided by a pretty aggressive travel schedule (lots of time on the train and at the airport). I've slipped back into inspiration-mode, where I wait for a good idea instead of writing myself into a good idea. But since I've stuck to my
reading resolutions, I've found inspiration often enough. Don't ask about the other resolutions, by the way.

The local
WB affiliate ran the first television ad for my Mets last night. For crying out loud, it's January. I'm just not ready for the boys yet, no matter how excited I am about our prospects. Which I am.

Speaking of TV, we still don't watch a lot, but we've got some new favorites. You can keep your Survivor: Minneapolis, and American Simon-Worshipping Masochists, but we're absolutely stuck on
Dancing with the Stars and Skating with Celebrities. So call me shallow. It's OK. I know it.

And finally, I'm going to make
the deadline this year, I swear (at myself, that is. For motivation). Wish me luck if you believe in such things, and feel free to offer to proofread my application. Fortune does favor the well-prepared after all.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Another Review Review

The local paper ran a series of short reviews on Sunday, one of which happened to be for Come On In, a posthumous collection assembled from Charles Bukowski's archives. I'm not a Bukowski scholar, but I am a bit sensitive to falsely (or underinformed) positive reviews, and I fear this column-third from the Sunday Star-Ledger may just meet the requirements.

Two comments in particular make me question not the reviewer's affection for Bukowski's poems, but his ability to place them in a context that lends credibility to those comments. First: "In a world of fakes and frauds, he was the voice you could trust -- a Howard Stern of poetry." I don't get this. I'm not a Stern fan, but I understand that Stern's self-proclaimed purpose is the pushing of boundaries, the introduction of subjects that force people to think about things they'd not otherwise think about. Is that really Bukowski's raison d'etre? Honesty, clarity, these I get. But I don't understand how the deliberately contrived (though honest within the contrivance) Stern is a useful comparison for Bukowski's work.

Which raises the issue of the other comment I have trouble with: "In today's environment of willful poetic obscurity and theoretical nonsense, this is refreshing and charming." This contradicts the Stern parallel for me, since "refreshing and charming" runs counter to what I understand Stern to be all about. I see the utility of the parallel from the reviewer's perspective -- "poetic obscurity" practiced by "fakes and frauds", but this statement lives in ignorance of "today's environment" of poetry, especially egregious with Billy Collins on the best seller list and especially egregious in a Dodge Festival year. This statement signals to me that this is a reviewer not in touch enough with the subject about which he writes to have anything useful to say on the subject. At least to me.

This is not to say my paper ran a poor review (if I can find it online, I'll update with a link). It's well-written, excerpts the book reasonably, and uses references that will clearly help most readers decide if they'd like to read the latest Bukowski collection. It also strikes me, however, as the impression of someone with a bias against and no real interest in poetry, someone for whom "simplicity" is both expected and considered the ultimate act of rebellion. But I suppose that is the audience of a newspaper, after all.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Come One! Come Some!

NJ Area only need complete this post: I'm very happy to say we only have a few spots left in the first possibly-annual-if-interest-stays-this-high Workshop Day at The Center for the Performing Arts at DeBaun Auditorium. Giving Life to Words comprises three separate sessions on Penning, Performing, and Publishing your writing. You can find more information on the teachers, as well on upcoming events in the Spoken Word and other performing arts at DeBaun.org, or you can contact yours truly with questions.

I sincerely hope to see you there. And you can count hearing how the day went right here.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Pieces and Bits, January Style

Penned a first draft yesterday that I'm really excited about. Which means it's probably total salmon, so I offer you the following fragments instead.

  • Maureen is back from the New Year's break and asks what's so special about the rain in your town.
  • Wiley assesses the public interest in writers.
  • If you saw this week's According to Jim, you've seen a small piece of my future. Aside from the bit part in the film and the grown-up but still-groovy Greg Brady, of course. Wait, maybe "bit part" isn't the best way to put that....
  • I'm just scratching the surface of the whole James Frey thing, but I have to say up front that I don't regard "emotional truth" as having higher rank than "police records" in a work of non-fiction. While I am sympathetic to the opinion that anything stated from recollection has some fiction in it by definition (as stated in this interview), some things are not subject to fictionalization. Even if that is a word.
  • Everyone in my house is filling in boxes. I guess we resisted the craze as long as we could. We've done about 100 of them, leaving 6,670,903,752,021,072,936,860 to go. But that doesn't account for symmetries, so it's not as bad as it looks.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Time: Is It On Our Side?

Josh Corey articulates something today that helps me understand better the tend toward complexity that he and others prefer. He says: "I've sometimes made a fetish out of difficulty, but difficulty is not the point: the point is that the poem has something in or about it that makes me experience the time of reading more vividly." His point is that good prose makes you lose yourself, often for hours at a time, giving yourself over completely to the story. A good poem, in this comparison, would make you more keenly aware of every second, calling you back completely to the moment of the poem, or the phrase, or the word.

Ron Silliman has said that he finds it difficult to get all the way through a book of poems, especially if they are compelling. Without meaning to compare myself to either Ron or Josh, I've experienced the same thing -- good poetry doesn't become the vortex that good prose is. As an example: Against recommendations, I started Disclosure after dinner one Sunday and put it down when I finished it, having not gotten out of my chair at all for several hours. I recently read Meg Kearney's The Secret of Me, a novel in verse (much shorter than the Crichton book, to be sure), and it took me a week; I kept stopping and rereading - going over poems and paying attention to different things, one time the story, one time the form, one time the word selection, and so on.

Josh adds: "Image-production is the poetic mode most readily assimilated by narration/timeless reading; that's why I've gone over the course of my short career from being highly enamored with images and imagisms toward a more suspicious stance." If I understand this correctly, he's saying image-rich poetry is toward that time-capturing prosey mode. Poem sparse in images and deep in language, reference, difficulty(?!), etc., keeps you in that reading moment.

Hmm. Have to process this a little more, but I feel a seedling of understanding inside me. Of course, that could be the orange pit just swallowed, too. More to come, by the way, on Meg's terrific book. Hopefully soon.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Hearing from No One

(Image borrowed from Lost and Found).

"Publishing... is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo."*

Don Marquis was talking about a book of poems. Matt Milligan is talking about webcomics. Either might as well be talking about a blog - this one or any.

Periodically, debate kicks up about why we blog and why we write poems. Is it for an audience, is it for ourselves, is it for posterity, etc. I have always been skeptical of people who say they do not write "for other people"; though most writers (myself included) will downplay the need for feedback, the truth is that readers are part of the future we envision for our writings. With that in mind, this has been a very good week here at The Wurst.

In addition to the acceptance I talked about yesterday (always a happy event), I received several casual comments from people that indicated they'd been recently been by. They should know who they are, and may recognize themselves in this paragraph. Though none dropped any Blogger aliases in the comment field, it was clear from the specificity of their references that they'd read a recent post, and that some piece of that post had stayed with them.

I will not speak for those poets (and bloggers) who claim they populate these screens from purely intrinsic motivation. If you believe that about yourselves, great. Let me admit here to my own shallowness, then. It is my firm and ardent hope that some of the words that flow from my six-finger typing find their way to people and make them laugh. Or think. Or remember something that makes them happy. And hearing from three such people in one day is better than
hitting a number. That bit of nourishment will last me for months.

*corrected

Confidential to Yonkers: Get well, soon, buddy. I need you here to put me back in my place after all this positive feedback.

Friday, January 06, 2006

"Love" Into Lips!

Criminy*, I just live for chances to write a title line like that.

Anyway, I just got heard from editor and poet Laura Boss that my poem "Another Love Poem I Can Never Show My Wife" will be in the next issue of Lips Poetry Magazine. Laura is one of the most affable and involved people I've met since trotting into the writing community, and as such she has seen and heard the work of some 7,357,201 poets (give or take). Having her decide to include one of my efforts is really gratifying.

Thanks, Laura!

The Official Repository of Obsolete Interjections informs me that my usual spelling of "crimony" is incorrect. I'm grateful for the correction.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Key Year-to-Date Accomplishment

It's never too early to celebrate success. So far this year, I have committed the day's date to paper 6 times without once writing "2005".

I did, however, write "1995" once...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Santa! Bring me a Workshop!

Martha Brockenbrough talks about the miracle of children sleeping on Christmas Eve in the latest Mommy Chronicle. If you'd like to retain your holiday spirit for another day or two, you should pop over right away.

When you're done there, and while you're still positive about the year's potential, make plans to invest in yourself and your writing. Here are three excellent opportunities for said investment:

The thirteenth annual Winter Poetry and Prose Getaway is coming up in just a couple weeks. As usual, Peter Murphy has assembled an amazing cast of instructors, including Renee Ashley, Kurt Brown, Cat Doty, James Richardson, Doug Goetsch, Lois Harrod, Madeline Tiger, and many others I'm doing a disservice by not listing here. If you have four days to devote to your writing, you should spend it here.

While that's going on, I'll be back at The Center, getting ready for our first-ever day of workshops - Giving Life to Words: Penning, Performing, and Publishing your Creative Writing. Smaller than the Getaway, but packed full of pen-energizing goodness, our event features workshops with Edwin Romond, Faith Vicinanza, and George Witte. Spend one Sunday afternoon in Hoboken (1/22, to be precise), and get ready to manage your momentum when it's over.

Looking ahead, and for the more ambitious, planning is complete for the Solstice Summer Writer's Conference at Pine Manor College. The ever-enterprising Meg Kearney (whose excellent new book The Secret of Me will get proper attention from me soon) has put together a terrific week, with the promise that there will never be more than 12 students in any workshop.

If only there were time enough for all....