Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Kelli tagged the blogosphere on this one:

"A few questions to share my Thanksgiving day with you..."

1. Which do you like better: hosting Thanksgiving at your home, or going elsewhere?
Someday, we'll host. Until then, I'll bring the turnips. And sometimes Brussels sprouts.

2. Do you buy a fresh or frozen turkey? Organic? Free-range? Tofurkey?
In college, my friend Nick used Tofurkey as an escalated swear word (Tofu --> Tofutti--> Tofurkey). I agree.

3. Do you make stuffing or dressing? What kind?
My MIL makes the sausage stuffing, one wet one dry. I eat it. Good deal for me.

4. Sweet potato pie or Pumpkin pie?
Can't get sweet potato often enough to prefer it, but it's good when I get it.

5. Are leftovers a blessing or a curse?
This isn't even a real question. They're a delight of the first order.

6. What side dishes are a must-have in your family?
Mashed turnip, stuffed mushrooms, 3+ others. I make the turnip for me. That my wife eats some is the truest evidence of her love for me.

7. What do you wish you had that might make Thanksgiving easier?
A La-Z-Boy to facilitate footballnapping.

8. If/when you go to someone else’s house for the holiday, do you usually bring a dish? If so, what is it?
The above-mentioned turnip. If it's really only for me, I should prepare it, no?

9. What is your favorite after-Thanksgiving activity?
Board games until at least one of us erodes into irrepressible giggling. Doesn't usually take long.

10. Share one Thanksgiving tradition.
My daughter preparing a blessing.

11. Share one Thanksgiving memory.
During after-dinner gaming one year, playing Uno Attack ("Uno Spitto" to her friends), my Mother managed to cause a playing card to helicopter the length of the table and land in her coffee. Nothing but net. Took ten minutes and 14 tissues for us to recover from that gigglefit.

12. Name five things you’re thankful for.

1. My delightful loving supportive family -- every circle of it, every day.
2. A job that lets me have a small hand in improving people's lives.
3. The geographic accident that placed me in the NJ Poetry Community; living at a time when my poetry community includes friends in 10 states, some of whom I've only "met" through the window of this little spot on the WWWeb.
4. Good health in those nearest me who have it, good care for those nearest me that need it.
5. Having great people in my life - at work, at home, in art, and at the bowling alley - who have the skill to teach me, the will to teach me, and the time to teach me.

Learn something every day: That's the way I practice my gratitude.

Thanks for the impetus, Kelli, and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Where the month has gone (a play in 3 excuses)

Wow. You blink and it's two weeks later. How does THAT happen? Anyway, here's what's been going on.

Well, work's been busy, but I know that none of you, my six loyal readers, are here to read about that.

* * *

Last week I presented a lunchtime poetry seminar to the Seniors group at my church. I had read about LifeVerse and proposed a talk to the group a few months ago, but right up to the night before, I wasn't entirely sure I was going to do. I learned that the idea of a writing workshop wasn't going to be appealing the group, so I set out to assemble a short program on the theme of "What Poetry Can Deliver": an assortment of unusual metaphors, a love poem someone who doesn't live with poetry might be surprised to by, and since it was a church group, at least one prayer poem. Aside from a few of my own poems, here's what I wound up presenting:

"November", Billy Collins (timely)
"Not Rose Petals", BJ Ward (a love poem with an unusual metaphor)
"Nonsense Song", W.H. Auden (a little fun in the form of a love poem)
"Fork", Charles Simic (poems can be about anything)
"Prayer", Joe Weil (prayer poem)
"Joy is the Grace we Say to God", Ray Bradbury (prayer poem)

I did go in expecting that there wouldn't be many poetry fans in the audience, and I debated presenting more classic work, but opted in the end to present work I loved and trust that my enthusiasm and the quality of the work would carry the day. Turned out to be a good call.

Should I have been surprised at the reaction? At one lady approaching me at the end for a copy of Joe Weil's poem? Or someone asking for copies of my own work? Or someone asking where she could find more of BJ Ward's work? I suppose not. And yet I was.

* * *

This week, despite a case of pink eye that's been wandering my house trying to catch me, I was able to slip out to attend a professional society meeting (always refreshing) and to sit in on a great reading by John Trause, part of a new series hosted by Rick Mullin at Tasty Coco in Caldwell. John is equal parts poet, entertainer, and historian (or is that redundant?), and you can get a good feel for the event over at Rick's place.

Would have been enough just to hear John, but it was also a terrific open, my own effort a kindergarten contribution to a grad school seminar. Great stuff.

* * *

So that's the last couple. Next up is finding a new recipe for Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving and getting ready to mash the annual turnip.

And other things, maybe.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Debrief on de Koninck

We had a nice crowd at Sunday's Spoken Word Series event - 15 people counting the late arrivals and early departures, about half invited directly by featured reader Jessica de Koninck. Jessica read mostly new poems, commenting early on that many people find her work unhappy; that's certainly true of her firs book Repairs, which is advertised as a meditation on loss (I find it more a coupling of the ordinary details of keeping on with the extraordinary feelings of absence and familiarity that accompany the passing (or leaving) of someone close.

The poems that Jessica read - about her children, about cooking her Grandmother's traditional dishes - were exactly what I find most compelling in the poems I like: The discovery of something extraordinary in an otherwise ordinary observation. Jessica's are poems written from a grounding tradition without being "traditional" poems - they don't celebrate tradition explicitly so much as they find the pointer in the tradition that directs us back to ourselves.

Jessica does less embellishing between poems than many readers, but still was comfortable when one of our regular called out for an encore (fairly common in our events...). All in all, whether the poems had a bit of darkness in them or not, it was an entertaining afternoon. Jessica's been busy with appearances around NJ lately; catch her when she visits your area!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Jack Wiler 1951-2009

Looking for God in Downtown Jersey City

The soul tonight is a shopping bag
Floating lightly above a rusted gate.
I found it on my kitchen counter weighted down with
mustard and toilet paper.
I emptied out the garbage and when my back was turned
the soul fled
lifted up on the wind and out over fourth street
through the streets of Jersey City
people look up cross themselves
their eyes bright for an instant
The soul reflecting back pure white.
Dogs and children see it and laugh for a moment
we are all of us full and clean and
pure in the reflected glory of the plastic soul
we have glimpsed for just a moment.
Then it's gone.
A child steps back for a chance at a second look
At something else
white and plastic and high above us
that we can admire as not of our bodies.
(from I Have No Clue, Long Shot Productions, 1996)

Got the news today of Jack Wiler's passing last month. Jack read for us in Hoboken in 2004. Jessica de Koninck, our featured reader today, paid tribute to Jack by reading his excellent "Belief Systems" at Symposia bookstore, in the same room he'd presented it five years ago. It's a poem that has inspired with grateful attribution several other poems -- at least one of which has also been heard in Hoboken.

I didn't know Jack all that well, other than through his work and the praise that it and he received whenever his name came up among NJ poets.

Jack's book Fun Being Me ends with these words:

But it's God's world and it's His noise and it never stops.
It would be sweet if all of God's names were names we know.
It would be sweet.