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...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Walking Silly and Other Haberdashery

Big day for rejection, received 'no thanks' correspondence from: Bakeless Prize, Wisconsin Creative Writing Fellowships, Provincetown Fellowships, and a plain ol' poetry submission at DIAGRAM. No huge surprises here, though I was a bit disappointed that I just got the form letter from P-town. Last year they let me know I made it to final consideration, so it feels a bit like I'm regressing. Regardless, all venues/institutions I have great respect for and will likely try again...

Congrats to the winners! (Bakeless, Wisconsin)


2 weeks left of school. Roughly a month until I leave the East Coast for Seattle. Recently I've been processing all of the things I'll miss about this part of the country. Aside from friends and family, the most costly losses: barbeque (Hursey's is my go-to), the Blue Ridge Mountains and all the glorious aspects of Appalachia (bluegrass, rocking chairs, hound-dogs, porch-sitting, remarking about how hot it is, biscuits, iced tea, waving at strangers, etc.), ACC Basketball (I don't think I can take Pac-10 basketball seriously, I mean, I'll try...), and long road-runs past cow pastures down to the river, where it's shallow enough to walk but deep enough to swim.

Though, I was born in Ithaca, New York, I'll always claim North Carolina and Virginia as home. Is that weird? (I still love Ithaca--it just feels very distant in miles and memory...)


Killer first line of the moment:

"We have lost even this twilight."

from Pablo Neruda's "We Have Lost Even"
translated by W.S. Merwin


via Slate


Well I missed the memo on it being International Monty Python Status Update Day, so as penance, here's a clip. I had dinner with John Cleese once when I was 14. He was one of the visiting ministers my father brought onto campus while he was at Cornell (along with Harold Bloom, William Buckley, Arianna Huffington, and Peter Gomes). I remember being surprised he didn't do the silly walk the whole evening, not even once.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Archival Awesome

Had a great weekend at Merlefest in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Almost as good as all the great music (Highlights: Scythian, Kruger Brothers, Elvis Costello and the Sugarcanes, Bearfoot, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Doc Watson) was the drive down NC Route 16 over the Eastern Continental Divide. Reminded me how much I love this place, these mountains. I should have taken pictures...but didn't.

Best musical moment: Elvis Costello playing "New Amsterdam" into a cover of The Beatles' "Hide Your Love Away"


Yet another reason I love Beloit Poetry Journal: they post all their archived issues online. So my poem from last year's summer issue (and better yet, the whole Summer 2009 issue) is now available online, as is the great Albert Goldbarth dramatic monologue he read at AWP, from the newest issue...

Addendum: This poem Karl Elder read at AWP is amazing. I need to find more of his work.

They take online submissions now, too. It makes me want to submit something to them again. Darn tootin'.


Sometimes I can’t tell why I’m exhausted. Is it from the 100-plus miles per week I run to prepare my body for the grueling demands of a 26.2 mile race? Or is it from the insomnia that pulls me out of bed at 3 a.m. to pound out a 20 miler on the treadmill at a 24-hour fitness club before most people have eaten breakfast? It’s hard to say.

via NYT

There was an article about this (running and insomnia) in Runner's World awhile back. Interesting to see it here...


Killer first line of the moment:

"The sky's light behind the mountain"

from Louise Gluck's "Threshing"
(A Village Life, FSG, 2009)


via John Gallaher

"An alien trinket of unimaginable cultural significance..."