Thursday, February 25, 2010


So I watched a stand-up special of Aziz Anasari's today. You know, that guy from Funny People and Parks and Recreation. And it was funny. Like, really funny. A big part of his bit dealt with attending an R. Kelly concert, and for some reason, after the show, I started downloading R. Kelly songs, remembering a roadtrip myself and 3 friends took spring break of our senior year of high school (2003).

We drove from Ithaca to Myrtle Beach. Once there, we drove up and down Broadway every night blasting, straight blasting "Ignition" out the factory speakers of my '96 Honda Civic. To this day, I can't hear that song without thinking of that trip. And I have no larger commentary here, just that I can't, even if I wanted to, extricate trip from song. And most times the last thing in the world I'd ever want to do would be return to being 17, acne-covered, and awkward (as opposed to 24, bearded, and awkward) rolling down the street with my buddies car-dancing our asses off to R.Kelley; but tonight, with snow covering the ground and more coming down, with three straight 6-day teaching weeks behind me and one ahead, with a stack of tax bills on the property my brother and I inherited from our mother, with a defunct engagement nearly a year behind me, I'm really happy to have this song take me back. Then, to look back at all the aforementioned minor-to-major stressors and say, "hey, maybe this life ain't so bad."

Self-indulgence time over. All this only to quote something I once heard on the radio: "When life comes crashing down on you, it's nice to have beautiful memories." Not that life is currently crashing down, I just seem to be feeling the slow crush right now...fortunately a 2-week spring break is just a week away...

Other strange song/memory combinations out there?


Killer first line of the moment:

"Our light is never spent."

from Rae Armantrout's "Eyes"
(Poetry, June 2009)


Many thanks to Matthew Nienow, another young poet I recently connected with via the blogosphere, for inviting me to join Ink Node, an online publishing experiment. Basically, each invited poet has the chance to create their own little publishing bubble, and in doing so, connect to other bubbles. So you can reprint poems that have been published elsewhere, post new work, invite a limited number of other poets to join (who, in turn, can also invite), and everyone can rate (not so hot on this part of it) and comment (very much enjoy this part, the opportunity for conversation on a piece) on a poem. It's a really great idea and I'm hoping it takes off, but for now I'm simply happy to be included. I posted the first poem I ever published in print, entitled "Charged" from the Spring 2008 issue of the Roanoke Review. Also, check out Matt's great poem on Ink Node, "Lupa," originally published in The Journal.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Things That I Think Are Good

Found out this afternoon that my manuscript, After the Ark, was selected as a semi-finalist for the Walt Whitman Award over at the Academy of American poets and has been sent to Marvin Bell for final judging. The email said they received over 1,000 entries and have sent 34 on. They expect to announce the results in May. Until then, I'll sweat, certainly, but I'll have no expectations. This is an amazing honor and confidence booster for the manuscript, but I imagine those other 33 manuscripts must be freaking sterling. But man, LSU f-ing Press...


First thing I did: called my dad. He's done so much, I often feel as nothing I do could compare to what he's done, but he's the most supportive and enthusiastic Dad I could ask for. And he's certainly got an eclectic, talented bunch of kids, I often look around at my 3 brothers and wonder how I fit in. My brother Paul is a doctor doing AIDS research at Harvard, my brother Chris is an amazing musician living in St. Louis, and my brother Dave is incredibly bright, still finding his way in Ithaca. But all this merely to say, I'm not sure I'll ever grow out of wanting to make my father and family proud of me, and I'm not sure that's a good thing or a bad thing, but it's for sure a thing.


I thought this post was beautiful. If you've never wandered over, this is a blog by my former professor Drew Perry. Can't wait to read his first novel (dig the great cover) coming out with Viking Penguin in April. I've pre-ordered, you should too.


Um. Skittles vodka?


Killer first line of the moment:

"We need some pines to assuage the darkness"

from Marvin Bell's "Around Us"
(Rampant, Copper Canyon, 2004)

(how's that for continuity?)


I've been digging this song as of late.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On Jealousy, Official Egg-Peelers, Femi Kuti, and the Oldest Mountains in the World

Sent the manuscript off today to two contests: National Poetry Series and the Kathryn A. Morton Prize at Sarabande Books. Both contests that are more-or-less a pipe dream to win, especially considering all the talented folks I know who also sent their mss. to the same places. It always makes me a little nervous sending out poems (whether to a journal or a book contest) knowing that some of my greatest friends are sending their work to the same places. I've got a mean competitive streak. There's little in this world that I dislike more than losing, or even appearing to have lost. It's something I struggle with, simply because it's not something I can turn off when appropriate (example: I once lost a game of Taboo to my girlfriend at the time. I refused to talk to her for around an hour. Seriously, it's messed up). If you make 10 jumpers in a row, I'm going to make 11. If you get a big obnoxious tattoo of song lyrics on your bicep, I'm going to put the Lord's Prayer on my face. You eat 10 hard-boiled eggs, I'll have to get all Cool Hand Luke on your ass.

That said, when a friend wins a contest or fellowship that I also applied for, the initial reaction is an overwhelming happiness. They jumped through the same hoops, faced down just as many flawed line-breaks, just as many rejections, and finally received the recognition and accolade so rarely given to poets, all of it deserved and hard-earned. It's an occasion for celebration, for if you can't be happy to see your friends succeed (even if it means your own failure), should you really be calling these people your friends? But somewhere, back in the part of your brain usually reserved for unspoken comments about co-workers and the disdain for people who dress their animals in Snuggies, there's that kernel of rejection: they won and you didn't. Perhaps I'm outing myself as a horrible person by admitting this, but I consider jealousy to be a large component of my ambition. But really, the jealousy is unfounded, because it's Art that's winning, not you or me.

When another collection of good poems by another good person (this is working under the assumption that your friends are good people) finds its way into the world, it's an affirmation of my pursuit, just as much as theirs. It shows that despite all the doomsaying--we still live in a world where some chunk of the population values poetry, and some of them even read it. All of this only to say: the more the merrier. It's easy to delight in the much-deserved joys of friends and strangers if it means there's more poetry in the world, more great people getting their just desserts, a group of unkempt looking folks at the local bar toasting and cheering a coup for one of their own, for Art.

Just as long as I get to win eventually. Winky-smiley-face?


This. Video. Rules. Make sure you hang in there until a little after a minute...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

LEGOS as Cultural Icon

One of the nice things about PoBiz: it keeps you humble. Following up the Nimrod acceptance were three magazine rejections (from Poetry, crazyhorse, and Memorious, all awesome magazines, all places I'll keep trying) and one book contest rejection (APR/Honickman: Congrats to Rough Honey and Melissa Stein!). The APR notice said they received over 1,000 manuscripts. Good God, talk about humbling. Suddenly that 7-years to first book prognostication doesn't seem so far-fetched...

Sidenote: I looked on UrbanDictionary for a definition of 'PoBiz' and was shocked to see there wasn't one (yet). What's your definition of PoBiz?


Something tells me this hit the web awhile ago, but I just discovered it. Classic photographs re-staged with LEGOS. Interesting to see both the originials and their endlessly smiling counterparts...


Last week, Israel’s oldest newspaper, Haaretz, took a one-off chance, temporarily replacing its workaday reporters with 31 of the country’s leading poets and authors. The writers, as writers do, ran amok.

-swiped from Mike Croley


Killer first line of the moment:

"The Dachshund leads a quiet life"

from William Jay Smith's "Dachshunds"
(Words By the Water, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008)


Carolina-Dook game tonight. What a torturous season it's been so far. But, maybe, just maybe, it can be salvaged with a win over the Dookies...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Neo Transcends the Poetic Line

Getting ready to push the revamped version of After the Ark onto some more unsuspecting book contests. My list for February/March deadlines (feel free to guffaw at my prospects): National Poetry Series, Morton Prize at Sarabande, Four Way Books Intro Prize, Agnes Prize at University of Pitt., and the AWP Donald Hall thinger-ma-bobber.

I looked at my MFA thesis the other day, from which this manuscript has evolved, and cringed mightily. It's a much better collection now, I think, which scares me. But what if a year from now I cringe at the February 2010 version? What if a year from then I think back on my year of dramatic monologue prose poems inspired by the Matrix trilogy and realize I might have waited too long and turned the collection into complete crap? I guess all I can be sure of is I'm proud of the manuscript as it stands right now--there's no way to know whether or not I'll still like it tomorrow. If I don't, I guess I'll just have to keep writing poems.


Had two poems accepted by Nimrod today. Yet another place where it's taken me a few tries to crack, yet another place where I'm grateful to have my work appear...


Killer first line of the moment:

"Rain is holding its breath--water-damaging"

from Alex Lemon's "Look Close"
(Satellite Convulsions: Poems from Tin House, Tin House Books, 2008)


[*Something about how much it snowed*]


How come Skillz doesn't get more love? Love that Million Dollar Backpack album...been listening to him since From Where??

Anyway, late pass: