Thursday, July 30, 2009

Poems By Heart

This one is a quickie. But a way to shout-out new Sewanee friend and amazing poet Frank Giampietro's brand-spanking-new website: Poems By Heart ( It's really a great idea (I think) and I'm thrilled to be a part of the first wave of poem memorizers, among such august company as Claudia Emerson and Alan Shapiro. It made me want to memorize more poems, and no, not just so I can reappear on Frank's kick-ass website (though that certainly factors in), but I do think it changes the way I think about a poem, how I try to understand its inner-workings. For this first round, I recite Fred Chappell's "A Prayer for Slowness," a poem I love, but still manage to botch just a bit. Check out the site! I promise it'll be worth your while...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Home, Of Sorts

So I'm back from Sewanee, physically at least. I imagine my mind is still gallivanting about with my liver in those Tennessee hills. It was an amazing 12 days. Totally surpassed any expectations I may have had. I had the chance to sit down and talk about my manuscript with Dave Smith, David Roderick, and Claudia Emerson. Still chewing on a lot of the things we discussed. But ultimately, I'm excited to sit down and write some new poems, as well as to revise/send out some of the older ones.


Check the new blogs on the blogroll. Met lots of amazing people at Sewanee, including poet bloggers Lisa Fay Coutley and Anna Evans. Kick-ass writers, yes, but also great people who may or may not have defeated me at late-night/early-morning ping-pong. Any other Sewanee bloggers lurking out there?


A very early draft of a poem, to disappear shortly:



Bought lots of books: Deborah Ager's "Midnight Voices", James Allen Hall's "Now You're the Enemy", David Roderick's "Blue Colonial", Jill McCorkle's "July 7th", Skip Horack's "The Southern Cross", Frank Giampietro's "Begin Anywhere", " Charles Sweetman's "Enterprise, Inc.", and Alan Shapiro's "Tantalus in Love". All cases in which I loved the words, but the fact they're all incredible people certainly didn't hurt...


Killer opening line of the moment:

"The city is closing for the night."

from Deborah Ager's "Santa Fe in Winter"
(Midnight Voices, Cherry Grove Collections, 2009)


Slept 13 hours last night. Still tired. Lots of people I need to email. Hoping to be somewhere near full functionality by the end of the week...

Friday, July 17, 2009

New Mountains

Here we are at Sewanee. Before I came, I had hopes of blogging on a near-daily basis. Now, I realize that there's no way that's going to happen. So this will be quick and disconnected as I'm a mere 20 minutes away from my 1-on-1 conference with Dave Smith. Fragments follow.


Wildlife abounds. In late-night gallivants across the campus, I've seen herds (packs? flocks? tribes?) of deer, a family of racoons crawling into a sewage drain, and rabbits big and small, among other things.


Richard Wilbur read the other night. It was, needless to say, amazing. He read one my favorites. I bumped his chair at the French house last night. He smiled in my vicinity.

Other striking readings, to name a few of all the great ones we've had so far: David Roderick, Wyatt Pruny, and Claudia Emerson (complete with a murder ballad sing-a-long at the end).


My liver will have a hard time forgiving me for these two weeks.


I'm overwhelmed by the number of talented people around me.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Stuck working in the office on the 4th of July. But that's the nature of the beast as far as working in the vacation industry. It's not all bad, last night I experienced my first West Virginia Independence Day celebration. It was everything I dreamed it would be: firefighters in sumo suits, young children riding around on novelty over-sized tricycles, funnel cake. I sat in a truck-bed and watched explosions in the sky (no, not them). There were cans of beer, roman candles, and national anthems (oh yes, we sang both the star spangled banner and America, The Beautiful). It was, indeed, anthemic.


Never got a chance to comment on my reading at Joaquin Miller Cabin in DC. It was certainly a night to be remembered. My host for the weekend and I started things off by getting stuck in traffic on Connecticut St., then getting lost in Rock Creek Park trying to find the reading site. I ended up arriving about 15 minutes after the reading was supposed to start, feeling very frazzled and embarassed (I hate being late, I hate, hate, hate it). The first reader, Melanie Henderson, really blew me away with the tautness of her poems. It was great to read alongside her as it seems as though we're both doing very different things with our work, but that's one of the things I love most about poetry readings/get-togethers/conferences: how aesthetic takes a backseat to passion for craft. It's really heartening to see a group of people, any group of people, come together and talk about poetry, or listen to poetry, or even acknowledge poetry's existence (something I'm more aware of living in a tent in the West Virginia woods). So then I read. About 4 poems in, I heard the branches above us start to rustle. It sounded like someone was tearing apart reams of paper one sheet at a time. We had about 3 seconds of recognition before the rain came down. Typhoon rain. Monsoon rain. Big, big rain. At that point, we ran for it. I grabbed the podium (A poor umbrella, a great lightning rod, as Deborah Ager pointed out) and made a bee-line for a nearby pavilion. Long story short: we finished up the reading at the reception site, all of us more or less drenched. Certainly the most exciting reading I've ever been a part of; many thanks to Kathi, Deborah, Rosemary, and Karren for organizing such a great series. And thanks, too, to everyone who came out.


Killer opening line of the now:

"The room is dark and is all your body."

from "The Dream of Food" by Reynolds Price
(Vital Provisions, Atheneum, 1982)


They've released the list of scholars and fellows for Sewanee. I'm starting to get excited/nervous for the Conference as it's only a little over a week away and I'm not completely sure what I'm getting myself into, but I was happy to meet Deborah Ager at the DC reading as it means there will be at least one familiar face in the crowd. Still haven't found out what workshop I'm in, who else is in it, etc., but I'm looking forward to meeting/reading some new folks. There are a lot of names there I've heard in the wind, so it will be nice to attach actual people to those names.


I met a firefighter yesterday. He told me that ever since he's buzzed his hair short, sweat beads on the top of his head. He said that when he's in a fire the boiling sweat feels like a swarm of bees stinging him. This is compelling, I think.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Throw Down Your Heart

Have you heard about Bela Fleck's new cd? The above video offers explanation, but barely touches the surface of the music itself. I can't listen to this stuff without grinning. Seriously uplifting tunes, should you be in need of some lifting up. Makes me want to get sick nasty at the banjo.


Had a poem accepted yesterday to appear in the upcoming Sonnet issue of RATTLE. I'm thrilled as it's one of the magazines I've been sending to since I first started submitting. More details to come once I have them...


Brown chicken brown cow.