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.


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....