Monday, May 17, 2010

Home Stretch

I shouldn't be doing this. Pronouns can be tricky, so let me clarify: this could stand for any number of things here. I shouldn't be writing this blog-post; instead, I should be grading exams (grades due Friday, with our graduation Saturday), inventorying books, I should be calling utility companies to arrange for disconnection, packing poetry collections in boxes, posting want ads to get rid of all this furniture, writing comments on student poems, preparing an actual resume (on which, publications and awards disappear and I become just another guy who has delivered pizzas and worked at Best Buy). Okayalright.

Or, if you prefer, this could enlarge itself, could swell up like a dollar-store dinosaur to encompass my impending move: I shouldn't be leaving health insurance, housing, meals, and a salary for the ether of Seattle. I shouldn't be giving up a livelihood and a roof to head West to write poems, something I could theoretically do anywhere.

But it's on that last point that I catch a snag. I deeply miss writing poems, something I haven't done since November (!). Sure, I've tinkered with old work, spit-shined the manuscript to send out, shipped poems over the interwebs to august literary institutions; but none of that pays with the same spark as the brand new poem: that stirring in the gut when you sense you've jumped off the poem's high-board and are hurtling toward the deep-end (or, in some cases, an empty pool). Much as I enjoying teaching high-schoolers (which comes with its own brand of existential pay-off), I don't want to get stuck anywhere, I don't want to allow my craft to slip, I don't want to be one of those writers who has stopped writing...

We're two weeks away, kids. There's much to be done (including the aforementioned "should be doing" lists), but also an impromptu east-coast farewell tour with stops in Ithaca, The Jerz, DC, and Elon, culminating in The Farm Party, a grassroots music festival hosted by my friend Harold on a 150-acre farm in Rockingham County, NC. Seems appropriate to start with my childhood home before heading to my new home. Let's make some memories, people.


In Ithaca, the place I spent the first 17 years of my life and still my favorite place to be during the Summer, some great old friends are letting me crash their book-club. Rather than read a book as is their routine, everyone is just bringing in their favorite poems to talk about (a way of letting me participate, as I said, awesome folks). I can't help but feel a bit of pressure, after all, none of them (at least to my knowledge) are big readers or writers of poetry, so the honus is on me to deliver the goods. A few came to mind fairly quickly (The God Who Loves You, The Haunting), but I immediately second-guessed. Great poems, for me, but what about for the rest of the group? Anyway--I'll keep poking around the shelves--there will surely be some James Galvin, Robert Hayden, Ellen Bryant Voigt, some Heaney, and likely Cavafy (come on! I'm going to Ithaca!). But now, I'm probably already over the polite number of poems to bring...

What would be your cameo-book-club-appearance poems?


Killer first line of the moment:

"Dear Mattie, Did you have the garden turned?"

from Ellen Bryant Voigt's book-length sonnet sequence "Kyrie"
(Kyrie, W.W. Norton, 1995)


This song makes me want to drive somewhere with the sun shining and the windows down...

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