Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dodge Download, Day 3

In order of attendance...
  • Early morning Rumi with Coleman Barks and friends was its usual self, replete with Sufi mysticism, home and ancient wisdom, and Nazradeen (or Bubba?) jokes. Video doesn't really do this event justice. "Putting Rumi to Bach. It's almost enough."
  • Morning panel on Poetry and Invention. Brenda Hillman stated that even her experiments are informed by her experience as a woman. Forrest Gander quoted D. H. Lawrence and Richard Feynman. Coral Bracho noted that two people looking at the same photo see different things when looking through their own filters. C. D. Wright reminded that discomfort and literary invention go hand in hand. They like literary invention, but aren't crazy about infusing literary works with other forms of invention. Forrest Gander:" When people are discomfited, they grab onto the familiar, which is rarely transfiguring."
  • Susan Jackson: "What a savage thing this writing down is. How it makes us believe this world will last." BJ Ward (an long-time favorite, after someone called out "Beautiful!" in response to his poem: "(Since) The poem exists between us, if you're seeing beauty there, there must be beauty in you." Luke Warm Water (likening his career to Rolling Stones lyrics: "This may be my last reading ... I'll walk away before they make me run."
  • More stories with Dovie Thomason. The infusion of modern stories really deepens the experience of listening to her. From a discussion with a counterpart at NASA: "Why do you call it Mars? We're not in Rome. We don't need a war god in the sky. Maybe it's red like love, not red like blood. How do you know it's a guy?
  • Quick quote from Steve Sanfield I forgot to include yesterday: "How many of you consider yourselves storytellers? What are the rest of you, fools?"
  • Coral Bracho with Forrest Gardner: Bracho's poem "Water" was presented several times in parts before reaching the main stage today in its entirety. In the original Spanish, it's an amazing aural experience. Gander's translation is entertaining and accomplished, but it sounds like a completely different poem. Gander on the creating of poems: "There may be a narrative, but there are all these clues that suggest a deeper meaning"
  • Like Forrest Gander, Peter Cole is both a poet and a translator, and he says that "may explain the extra bed in my hotel room". His work is heavily influenced by biblical and Jewish history. "Better a little suffering than too much cure."
  • Chris Abani suggested people not clap but "just sit there with the poems. It's sort of more fun for (you) that way." He read much of what he'd presented in smaller readings. Jim Haba commented about Abani after his reading that he "likes writing poems, and in his novels he gets to write a lot of poems."
  • Afternoon session on Poetry and Healing. Linda Pastan believes that "if death is everywhere, we might as well make marry it to beauty." Ed Hirsch sees applications for poetry in individual and collective healing. Mark Doty sees the healing poem a visible repair to a valued thing. Said Doty: "For most of us, poetry starts in struggle. You start writing and invariably come to a phrase that makes you stop and think 'I can do this better' and suddenly you have a little distance - sometimes the only distance you are able to get at that moment."

I wrapped up the day listening to Dovie Thompson. I departed with a few minutes left to her story, so I could take a little longing with me, to help me look forward to next time.

Favorite moments: The rooster joke, learning why NASA needs storytellers, new poems from BJ Ward, sitting next to someone grading math papers while listening to poems, meeting my family for dinner at the end of the day.

My brain is full.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Dodge Download, Day 2

In order of attendance...
  • More stories in the morning with Dovie Thomason, who argued storytelling is not the sister art to poetry (as the festival literature claims), but rather the grandmother, predating even the cave wall paintings on the festival program cover. She related a Rabbit story to the elections. She made more cogent points than either candidate in the debate (at least the disrespectful bits I caught). "All traditions (in any culture) share the the thought of doing something for future generations."
  • Chris Abani (a late addition to my plans - he blew me away yesterday) covered writing exercise and thinking exercise, Shakespeare and reggae, Britney Spears and Jabberwocky, and the parts of this thesis that referred to Batman. Absolutely the most contentful event thus far for me. "Treat the poem like a pop song. Don't be afraid to throw the poem open and play with the language."
  • Joy Harjo has a million projects going. She shared poems, songs, parts of her play, canoeing stories and the meaning of her name ("So brave you're crazy"). She spoke of tribal and poetry ancestors, joined poetry with other arts, told of learning from the ocean ("don't fight it"). "Do you know who you are? Can you sing it?"
  • The poetry sampler was good, though by this point I'd already heard many of the poems presented.
  • Afternoon panel on Going Public with Private Feelings - featuring Mark Doty, Lucille Clifton, Sharon Olds and Linda Pastan. That's pretty much the "A"-team. Very good dialog on shame, privacy, fear, and other good reasons not to take poems public - but consistently insisting on writing those poems and holding them until they are ripe and you are ready. I have 8 pages of notes from this one. Lucille Clifton: "If we can talk about the awfulness that has happened, we can talk about its complexity."
  • Steve Canfield was engaging and likable, though I'd have stayed away from the Native stories with Dovie already having read at the festival.
  • Evening poets (up to when left) were Brenda Hillman, Franz Wright and Naomi Shihab Nye. Good stuff; my hand was cramped up by then....

Favorite moments: Learning Dodge has launched a You Tube Channel (name: grdodge), finding hot cider at one of the concession stands, having Dovie Thomason sit next to me at an event, lean over and say "You're a good listener. I've seen you.", noticing the fist-sized spider on my notebook before it started up my shirt.

I was already looking forward to tomorrow before deciding I needed some beauty to get the Mets and the debate out of my head. As long as the parking grass and walkways are not hopelessly sloggified after today, it should be great.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dodge Download, Day 1

In order of attendance....
  • Dovie Thomason is back from a head injury which caused her to lose all (600+!) of her stories. And she's added some personal modern stories. "When you're young, you're a treasuure. When yhou're old, you're a treasure. In between, take care of your treasures."
  • Evie Shockley read poems, her own and others, influenced by music, folklore, and the sheer application of language. "There are some poems every poet must write, like every women poet must have a poem about her mother."
  • Charles Simic spoke eloquently of the need to find something new to write about, lest your poems be (intentionally or ignorantly) derivative. His life experience set influence his consideration of even the most mundane objects. Of his poem "Serving Time", he said "I just took the phrase literally and started wrigin. I had no idea where it was going."
  • Sharon Olds, having more fun than one might have thought possible, discovered her poems really do contain ideas, and misheard her way into a great new phrase: "Event sugar". She claimed influence from the "great poetry of the psalms, the bad poetry of the hymns."
  • Beth Ann Fennelly advised us to "take red taxi", which is to follow the less predictable path between points. "Being a poet is training yourself to look."
  • Naomi Shihab Nye actually relinquished her microphone to a student whose question during Q&A was "Will you read my poem?" She loves airplanes: "When else can I just sit and read for 3 hours?"
  • Chris Abani, Coral Bracho, Forrest Gander, Edward Hirsch, and Patricia Smith had a great discussion about the relative and complementary values of reading and of listening as ways to acquire poems. Forrest Gander makes a great hillbilly. Ed Hirsch doesn't rap. Coral Bracho's poems are beautiful to listen to, even if mi vocabulario es muy pequeno. Patricia Smith can write a sonnet. Chris Abani summed it all up: "A good poem aims to be misunderstood."

Favorite moments so far: Dovie Thomason gently but firmly tearing down the stage and lighting at the first event of the festival to make it "suitable for a storyteller, rather than a poet". Poets adjusting their presentations and selections based on real-time feedback, thanking the audience for "playing along", digging out seldom-read poems because they fit with a theme the crowd had wandered in with our questions. Discovering cranberry-pistachio biscotti. Finding friends' books on sale in the Borders tent; catching up with those friends before and after the readings.

I ran out of energy shortly into the evening readings. More download (and maybe some links above) to come tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In which the author admits he has let the excuse of being busy mask the brutal truth that he is a collosal grump

So, yes, I've been busy. Busier than usual, yes, but not in a terribly bad way. Things that I've been wanting to do coming to be simultaneously with the start of the school year and a rather nontrivial bolus of work from the primary occupation.


Let the record acknowledge my admission that I've been actively refusing the muse (to infuse CDY's line with some assonance). Partially, this has been gradual acceptance of the state of my manuscripts (excellent feedback on the "complete" one making me realize my original vision was a bit too personal, acknowledgement that I'm not - yet - enough of a subject matter expert to properly complete the other). Also, I've been spending my free reading time in speculative
fiction and humor; not wasted time, but not the non-fiction and poetry that have always been essential to my productivity. The threat of Mets 2007 Redux hasn't helped much, either; I freely admit to a half-dozen fanboy mood swings this month.


Last night I took my kids to meet the authors of the Spiderwick Chronicles, a series that recently settled into our house and acquired at least one immediate avid fan. Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black gave talk, took questions, gave away original illustrations drawn while the kids watched, then sat down and signed books for over an hour. We were well to the back of the line, yet when we got to the table, Tony and Holly were as engaging with us as they'd been all evening (2 hours old at this point). When my oldest asked a question that implied an interest in become an author, they reached down and found another gear, conveying more advice and encouragement than I could have hoped for.

I've been forgetting the fun of creating. Forgetting the joy of actually hearing an echo in the canyon.

Now, I don't know that I'd have been able to find suitable time to do much creating over the past month, but I'm suddenly looking forward to the Dodge in a way I didn't anticipate. I feel like I'm accelerating toward renewing my productivity. It's like things that I've been needing, essentials for getting refocused on my writing, are all coming to be simultaneously with some long-planned and necessary downtime from the primary occupation.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

So, anyway....

I've been waiting for the Dodge Festival program to come out so I could begin to lay out my days and begin my accumulation of books for signatures, etc. The schedule has to be complete - it would have to be in the printing process by now, and some of the participating writers have posted their appearance schedules on their personal websites. Alas, the mainstage evening schedule is still the only thing online

Really, I'm mostly interested in a couple of things: selecting my conversations on craft and seeing how the poets are grouped for the panel discussions. I'm also very keen to know who the storyteller(s) is/are, but those sessions are generally at off-times (early morning, lunch), so I probably won't have to give an activity up to attend any of them.

But hey, before we get to Dodge, there are a few other events in NJ that are worth your time and attention. Among these are:

Speaking of NJ, if you don't already have it bookmarked, take note of Anthony Buccino's NJ Poets and Poetry, which is rapidly becoming an invaluable resource for Garden Staters.

Back now to waiting for the Dodge program....

(updated - one event was postponed...)