Monday, June 29, 2009


There are two things my father, former chaplain at Cornell, describes as "sheer living hell." These two things are: driving through Pennsylvania during the summer, and, moving. Fortunately, I need only do one of those things this year. But man, is it lame.

Too many books.

I call this Wardrobe Mtn.

On a sunnier note, I'll be reading tomorrow (06/30) in Washington DC as part of the Joaquin Miller Cabin Poetry Series. The reading is at 7:30 PM, Rock Creek Park, Picnic Area #6. Not quite sure what I'll be reading yet, that's one of the last items of business before I disconnect the computer...speaking of which...back to business.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer, Full On

More later. But I'm currently in the process of moving out of my apartment and was packing my books away and stumbled across Michael Parker's If You Want Me To Stay (excerpt, scroll down a bit). For me, it's a Summer book with the syntax of a soul song along with gorgeous glimpses of place, all from the perspective of a 12 year old. Also, it's got me listening to soul music while I move...

"I heard it in their very voices as they spilled out of our boxy console stereo, drifted from the busted and staticky speakers of the pickup. Heartache, shame, regret, devil telling you turn this way, whiskey, everybody's woman but your own, poverty, betrayal, belt-wielding, scripture-quoting daddys, people telling you over and over how you're nothing but sorry, or maybe even worse, telling you you're the greatest thing who ever walked, I heard all that and I knew where it would take you. I knew that their pain was somehow setting me free. I knew their hard lives were allowing me to live with my daddy and not blame my run-off mama and even better than just living with them it was letting me love them in all their sorriness, waste, and neglect."

"Some would maybe say he'd ruined us or at least me by depriving us of television and video games and all the latest high-tech toys and instead spinning records that were a good, some of them, thirty or forty years old if they were a day, black-washing us into believing that white boys from England might could master a twelve-bar blues (though mostly they just turned their amplifiers up real loud) but the true sound track of our lives rose out of the very land we tread upon, the fields we passed on our way to school each day, swarming now with kindly Mexicans but once tended entirely by the forebears of the singers we treasured, and the churches, half-finished or unadorned, heated with nothing but sheet-metal trash burners, you'd see back in the pine groves, and of course the county jail and the low-ceilinged, no-windowed cinder-block jukes that fed that jailhouse, sprinkled throughout the county and down the side streets of town, two to three for every church."

-from If You Want Me to Stay by Michael Parker
(Algonquin Books, 2005)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chest Thumping

Have a new poem showing up at 42opus today. A very cool e-zine I'd been knocking on the door of for a few years, nice to finally make it in the house.


For more self-promotion, I'll be reading in Washington DC at Rock Creek Park on June 30th at 7:30. It's part of the Joaquin Miller Cabin Poetry Series and presents an amazing opportunity to read outside. I'm super-stoked. If you're in the area, come on out!


I've been reading James Galvin's The Meadow in my tent at night. It's gorgeous. There's so much weather. It makes me more aware of the rain, how it sounds on the tarp, like lips puckering. The more I think about it, the more the poems I'm currently writing seem like they belong in the manuscript. This means I'm going to have to let go of the current framework I have in place and find places for them. I imagine this will not be the first time this happens. Nevertheless, I'll post some of my favorite Galvin excerpts sometime soon when I have the book in hand.


Killer first line of the moment:

"Deer, lightning, bluebird, toad--"

from R.T. Smith's "Beneath the Mound"
(Southern Appalachian Poetry: An Anthology, McFarland & Co., Inc., 2008)


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Motoring On

In Roanoke, I'm deep in the thick of moving out of my apartment of the past two years. Needless to say, it's a pain. I've been doing my best to purge the things I'll no longer need as well as the things I'd rather not have around as reminders. It brings me back to the Tom Beller quote I put up here the other day ("Again and again as he prowled around the house now, he was struck by the evidence of lives lived. It lay on the shelves, along the walls, stacked in piles on the floor."from A Different Kind of Imperfection). So much paper.


Another new long-hand poem, disappearing shortly. As you can see if you've been reading these, I'm stuck on a theme:



Killer first line of the moment:

"It's true. Mountain acres are bigger."

from John Casteen's "Cold on the Shoulder"
(Free Union, University of Georgia Press, 2009)


Back to West Virginia, the tent, tonight. Though I love it out there, it's definitely been nice to sleep in a bed the past two nights.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


The new issue of Brooklyn Review, featuring one of my poems as well as two by former classmate and bad-ass poet Sarah Cox, has just been released. If you're in the NYC area, check out the release party complete with live music and readings by some of the contributors. For the complete details, check the link.


Today, I formally accepted a teaching position at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth-of-Wilson, Virginia. I'll be teaching Creative Writing, a community college English course, and a few sections of 10th grade English, as well as running the school literary magazine and perhaps starting a cross country team. All of this is very new, very exciting. My shoulders feel much lighter. I'll be able to get a puppy, to stay in the mountains, to stay near the New River.


A new-ish poem. To disappear shortly.


Saturday, June 6, 2009


Today was the day I was planning on getting married, not but 3 months ago. It's strange how quickly things can change. I went from being all set to head to Cleveland, start a househould, and adjunct at an area CC to spending the summer living in a tent in West Virginia, single, and getting ready to start a new job at a Boarding School in Southwest Virginia (yes, they offered me the job; yes, I'm 99% sure I'm going to accept it on Monday). Very exciting, very intimidating. It will definitely be a change for me, a challenge, but I think it will be good. Details to come. I'll get to teach CW, run the school literary mag, and perhaps coach XC.


No first line today, but as promised, a poem that feels very close right now, living in these mountains.

A Prayer for Slowness

Let the deep valley take me over
with its sundown shadow a little at a time,
by little and little, as if the hourglass
lay on its side and the grains leaked through
one by one into the cloud of infinite seperate
moments. I shall enter that cloud

when once I am become as slow as the brindle
cow who walks the molded path along the hill
to shadow of the barn darker than hill shadow,
not lifting her broad head to watch the climb of
spade-edge shadow on the other mountain, but
steadily imprinting the dust with her divided name,

going into the barn where her rich welcome
is taken from her, to lie down grateful and eased.

--Fred Chappell
from Southern Appalachian Poetry: An Anthology of Works by 37 Poets
(Edited by Marita Garin, McFarland & Co., Inc., 2008)--(a great anthology)


Wrote two new poems longhand in the tent last night. Maybe I'll post them up here in the next few days after some word processor line-tinkering. New things: writing by hand, not having a workshop in the immediate future to share with. I like writing by hand, the way it allows the line to move a bit more organically, how it slows me down and asks a bit more from each bit of language. I've decided I could benefit from moving a bit slower, maybe we all could.