Tuesday, February 27, 2007
My grandparents and one of my best friend lives in Atlanta, and since this fits into my professional career goals, my attendance here is a win-win on so many levels. Also, I will be traveling with the fair and always pleasant Ella Rose, my 18-month old daughter.
(Keep your fingers crossed that I will not be that woman with the baby on the plane. You know what I’m talking about—that woman with the inconsolable child annoying all the passengers. I don’t think it will happen. Ella is well behaved and I always, unfortunately, underestimate my kids. Still, say a little prayer for us.)
Anyway, I will be schmoozing by day and blogging at night, probably not replying as much as I’d like, however.
Will post a new Poetry Thursday poem on Wednesday.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Best Actor: Forest Whitaker
Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy
Best Actress: Helen Mirren
Best Supporting Actor: Jennifer Hudson
Best Director: Martin Scorsese
Best Picture: The Departed
Puzzled? Visit Sunday Scribblings and put in your two cents!
Friday, February 23, 2007
Tim released it about a mile away from the house. No one (human or rodent) was hurt in today's incident. Now just the bigger question remains: how did a squirrel get into the house in the first place?
Thanks for your squirrel stories and offers to let me borrow your dogs!
Is poetry on YouTube a good thing?
On the one hand, this animated short is very stylized and well done--there are at least six animated Billy Collins poems posted by the same user on YouTube. And anything medium that makes poetry more accessible to the masses is a good thing. But is poetry meant to be animated? Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I like being in a room somewhere letting the words and images float to me, not having a third-party interpretation explaining the poem to me. .
I'm sure the answer lies somewhere in the middle. So what do you think about animated poetry?
Thursday, February 22, 2007
I am F-R-E-A-K-I-N-G OUT! Somehow this little vermin has made it into the basement.
I decided to combine this week’s prompt (“the body knows…”) with last week’s prose poem assignment.
For the record, I love prose poems. Long ago, I studied with Galway Kinnell, Sharon Olds, and Phil Levine—masters of the form. So I wrote a lot of prose poems early in my writing career. I enjoy writing narratives using all of the tools poetry has to offer. But lately I’ve been drawn to a less linear, quirky narrative form; three writers who do it so well are Stephen Dobyns, Bob Hicok, and Charles Simic.
So onto this week’s poem. Still very new and written very quickly, but it could be the start of something.
What the Body Knows
The body knows it is part of a whole, its parts believed to be in good working order. It knows how it gets old, years ticking off like pages on a desk calendar, your doctor’s appointment circled ink red. Try not to picture the body sitting alone in the waiting room. The body creaks up and down like a hardwood floor, you tell your doctor this; he says your breast is a snow globe. Inside there’s a snowstorm—my job is to decipher a bear from a moose. He flattens the breast with a low radiation sandwich press. The body wonders if its parts will turn into Brie cheese, if its fingers will fuse and become asparagus stalks. He says it’s possible, but don’t give it a second thought. He says insulate your body with seaweed. He says true understanding of the body will enable it to live long and live well. But the body knows when its leg is being pulled. The body is a container of incidental materials. If it listens carefully, it can hear its own voice making the wrong sound.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Monday, February 19, 2007
The military needed cheap labor
to move office furniture
into the newly remodeled Pentagon,
so they had the grunts do the work.
My father made the 300-mile round-trip
for five weeks to get the job done.
Sometimes he gave rides to other enlisteds,
and charged a small fee to those
who needed a lift.
My father, who in 1969
would have done anything
for his wife and newborn daughter,
put desks together for generals and elite brass
in the oppressive summer heat, the Summer of Love,
wiping his sweaty face in the mirror
of a bathroom marked “colored only”
in segregated Virginia.
One day, he said,
the higher-ups will realize
the world is put together by men like me.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
The crushes I had when I was a teenager are now laughable, from Duran Duran to the Fresh Prince (a.k.a. Will Smith—remember the song “Parents Just Don’t Understand”?). And in thinking about all of those unrequited loves and missed opportunities I’ve had in my life, I guess I wouldn’t be the person I am today without those experiences.
My longest and most enduring crush has been Sting. I’ve seen him perform five times, and hope to see him again when he performs at Fenway Park this summer. He’s just a specimen of a man, and the whole tantric sex thing is so intriguing it just adds to the allure.
My husband and I have this unspoken agreement that if the people in our fantasies asked for one night of pleasure, we each have the go-ahead to follow it through. Of course it wouldn’t happen, but if Halle Berry came a knockin’, he’s got a green light from me. However, if she’s looking for me, I’ve available.
Can’t explain my “luv thang” for Justin Timberlake. Physically, he’s not my type—scrawny, too thin, and a little geeky when you look at him long enough. But when I play his songs on my iPod, that’s it for me. Also, he’s a terrific dancer, and I’m a sucker for a man with moves.
Grown-up crushes are complicated and sticky; resisting the temptation is part of the fun. I love it when risqué thoughts pop into my head while grocery shopping or while in a meeting and no one knows what I’m thinking. The idea of the wrong man getting together with the wrong woman is thrilling—all the best stories have a bit of sexual tension. It’s the possibility of the “what if,” even though it will never be acted upon. For a poet, there’s no better way to release the tension than putting it down on paper.
by Jane Kenyon
The shirt touches his neck
and smooths over his back.
It slides down his sides.
It even goes down below his belt—
down into his pants.
For more crushes, visit Sunday Scribblings.
Friday, February 16, 2007
We're troublemakers. We eat words. We hatch plots. We scheme schemes. We right wrongs. We question authority. We take it on the chin. We lean into the fray. We mash it up. We chew words and then spit them out. We know the writing's on the wall. We let it all hang out. We take leaps. We know no bounds. We write like there's no tomorrow.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
After a 2.5-hour commute (yik) to work, I was happy to arrive on campus this morning to attend a reading and conversation with poet Glyn Maxwell.
I haven’t read much of his poetry, but I’m always looking for new and interesting writers to read. From the poets.org Web site:
Most recently, he is the author of The Sugar Mile (Houghton Mifflin, 2005), an ambitious narrative collection that dramatizes several stories at once. According to the publisher, "The Sugar Mile juxtaposes two cities on the brink of irrevocable change. It begins when the poet steps into an uptown Manhattan bar a few days before September 11, 2001. He is confronted by
Joseph Stone, a barstool regular and fellow expatriate." Stone reminisces about September 7, 1940, "Black Saturday" in London, resulting in a humorous, suspenseful, and historical account as the brief intersection of characters' lives is acted out.
Other recent collections include The Nerve (2002), which won the 2004 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize; Time's Fool (2000), and The Boys at Twilight: Poems 1990-1995 (2000)—each of which was selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
A few thoughts on the reading:
- Glyn studied with Derek Walcott about 20 years ago. His work was influenced also by Robert Frost, W.H. Auden, and many U.S. playwrights.
- He spoke of the differences between U.S. and British creative writing students. Specifically, British students tend to be more reserved while American students talk back. (That got a laugh from the undergrads in the audience.)
- Glyn is drawn to “formal, lyrical, grateful poetry about things going on now.” When he started his career, he felt he was writing in a style no one else was writing in, so he was afraid he’d never get published. He says, “You can be lyrical and memorable without being nostalgic.” This is where the Auden influence kicks in.
- Known as a playwright as well as a poet, Glyn writes plays in verse (but I don’t think he meant verse plays). He hears dialogue in pentameter, and his lines are written in verse.
- On revision and longevity, he says, “it’s hard to disturb a good poem. I think I've written two or three of those that will last beyond my years.” And isn’t that what we all want—to write a poem that lives beyond us? Think about Frost or Dickinson and how many lines of poetry that come to mind.
- Poetry audiences are fickle. When no one claps or responds with an affirmative groan, it’s hard to tell if the words are washing over them or if they’re asleep. It may have been a bit of both with our undergraduate students. But they did ask thoughtful questions during the discussion period.
- Personally, I love discussions after readings because you can find out so much from talking to the author directly. And I think most of them really enjoy talking about their work.
- In general, it bothers me when people don’t walk up to thank the reader for coming. I mean, the poet is sharing a bit of his (or her) soul with you. The least you can do is say, “Thank you for coming. I enjoyed your work.”
- Poetry is such a solitary art that it’s nice to connect with others face to face. And it's nice to be able to relay this experience with the Poetry Thursday crowd!
- Lastly, a poem he read today.
The Weather Guy
Hurricane This is scaring us,
Hurricane That’s not far behind,
And we’re not turning our backs one second.
We look at the screen all day. We find
Hurricane This still flapping away
At the shirt of Tom the Weather Guy.
Canada throws an arm around him.
Hurricane That just bats an eye.
Hurricane This is whipping off
The Carolinas’ tablecloth:
Hurricane That, amused by this,
Is beating ocean into froth.
Hurricane This is playing wolf
To New York City’s clever pig;
Noah’s nailing down his roof
So when it comes it’s nothing big.
Hurricane This is burning out
Off Massachusetts: Hurricane That
Is disappointing Tom, who’d dreamt
Of half Virginia pounded flat.
And Hurricane This was called Renee.
And Hurricane That was Stan.
And Canada pats Tom’s shoulder now
As he hands us back to Bobbie-Anne,
Who asks about his weekend plans
Which are much the same as ours.
Maybe we’ll see him nosing out
Of a local brawl of cars,
And maybe he’ll give us the wave he gets
When the heat kicks in and how,
And it hits the heights he said it would
This far upstate by now.
More likely he’ll just speed away.
And I’d be shy of the love
Of those who have to live by what
I have to warn them of.
Copyright Glyn Maxwell
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Decided to post this picture of me because it was taken in the summer--quite the contrast from the wintry mix in the metro Boston area today.
For the last few months I've been going to the gym around 5:30 a.m., 5 days a week. When I arrived today the attendant swiped my membership card, and the first few notes of "Happy Birthday" played on her computer (a very cheery, techno version). Then I went to the second floor and hopped on one of the elliptical machines. Had to put in my age and weight to receive the appropriate workout for me, but today was the first day I put in 38 in my digital profile. Small reminders that I'm closer to the grave than the cradle.
I don't feel 38--I don't fear it, either. I feel more focused than ever. And I look as good as I ever have, if I do say so myself. My family has been a great source of support and inspiration, encouraging me to do whatever it is that makes me happy. In turn, I hope my happiness comes back to them in actions. Tough call when the two words I seem to use most around them are "no" and "stop." But I see more good things in my future, much of which is do to this little blog o' mine.
Today I have the day off from work and kids. The plan is to finish up the last few edits to the manuscript, and to write a prose for Poetry Thursday (yippee!). And I'll post pictures from the day later tonight.
However you celebrate (or not celebrate) Valentine's Day, here's wishing you a little poetry today.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
2. Do not give me any of those horrible, chalk-like Necco valentine hearts that say "be mine" and "4-ever." What am I, 6 years old? Yik! If you're deciding between the candy (and I use that tern loosely) hearts and a piece of chalk, go for the chalk--it taste better.
3. Do not buy roses. Florists charge three times as much for roses this week. It may be a romantic gesture, but save your money and buy flowers on Mother's Day. Now that's a day I like receiving flowers.
4. Do not fall into the trap that Valentine's day is a Hallmark holiday. That's just a cop out to avoid buying a card. Who doesn't appreciate the opportunity to show your love, and if the rest of the world is celebrating the same thing, all the better.
5. Do, at least, buy a card. It's two dollars--you can afford it.
It's been more than 150 years since Elizabeth Barrett Browning penned "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." Love poetry has changed a lot since then. For one thing, poets don't use the words "I love thee" anymore. Or even "I love you." Sean Cole, a poet himself, set out to answer this question: "Wherefore art thou, love poetry?"
Monday, February 12, 2007
A project like this take up a lot of free time, so I hope to get back to visiting blogs and writing poems later this week. My husband and friends have been really supportive through my wining, and so have those who read and comment through my anxiety. THANKS!
In the meantime, here's my to-do list.
- tidy up manuscript
- send manuscript to four publishers
- write two poems
- celebrate a damn good week
- write a poem
- write two articles for an upcoming project (more on that later)
- do research for a class Boston Erin and I may teach in the summer
- submit individual poems to a journal for publication*
The Week After Next
- write a poem
- submit individual poems to a journal for publication*
- attend the AWP Conference in Atlanta
*I have a confession to make. Every time I make one of these lists I add a goal of sending out poems for publication, but I haven't send anything out since December. Once I got into the revision process, I felt a bit insecure about my poems. I started to second guess myself on all of the tiny decisions one makes when writing a poem--and rightfully so. Which pronoun works best here? Why are so many pieces written in first person? Some of these poems I have lived with for years.
But now that they have been give a once-over, these poems are ready to see the light of day again. And so am I.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
- I found a little "wrapture" in my Saturday.
- I’m a little stressed about working on my manuscript. Part of me knows my anxiety is irrational, while the other part of me is FREAKING O-U-T! All of my insecurities are coming to ahead. Am I a good writer? If I am, is my work good enough to get published? Am I deluding myself? Why can’t I just settle for posting on my blog? (Not looking for complements, just stating a fact.)
- In an effort to de-stress, I decided to take myself to see the movie Babel. Wrong! Great movie, certainly Oscar worthy. But the whole experience left me pretty tense, especially in my neck and shoulders. Glad I have my manuscript to take my mind off my the movie.
- After the movie, I was grateful to be back home with my husband and kids.
- Earlier today, in the midst of all my angst, I had a delightful e-mail exchange with JillyPoet about writing and stuff.
- Here’s where I am with the m’script: I have 55 poems that I am in the process of revising and reordering based on feedback from writer friends and non-writer friends. (Sending my gratitude to those suffering with me.)
- My deadline to have everything ready to mail is February 14. I'm sending out to two publishers with open submission periods. Additionally, I’m looking for publishers who may be friendly to my style and subject matter. Suggestions are welcome.
- In a few weeks, I'm off to the AWP Conference in Atlanta. My grandparents and best friend lives there, so I'm really looking forward to mixing business with pleasure. And I'll take pictures to show you what it's like to attend one of these conventions.
- No one talks about poetry as a business, but it is, and my next step is to figure out how to market myself. Marketing plan to come.
- I really need a to-do list because I have not been sending out my work. Once I started to read some of the manuscript comments, my insecutites stared to flair up again. See #2 for more details. But the to-do list helps me focus. It allows me to feel like I'm moving forward. Nothing feels better than crossing an item off my list.
- Hope to write two poems this week.
- February 14 is my birthday. Happy Birthday to me!
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
If it wasn't for Galway's kindness and patience during my formative poetry years in college, I would have given it up altogether.
From Weekend America:
This past Thursday was a special day for American poet Galway Kinnell. He turned 80. Although Kinnell is a Vermont resident, many poetry lovers associate him with his epic about Lower East Side life, called "The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World." Independent producer Pamela Renner took a walk in the neighborhood with Galway Kinnell on the afternoon before his big birthday.
Happy Birthday Galway!
Monday, February 05, 2007
Short Stories—My Life in Heavy Metal, Steve Almond.
Great read if you're looking for something edgy. I'll probably read all of his books this year. Steve is a Boston-area writer with whom I had the good fortune of having dinner with before this book was published. (Of course, he probably wouldn't remember—it was that long ago.)
Autobiography—A Personal History, Katherine Graham
Memoir—One Art: Letters by Elizabeth Bishop
Memoir—Broken Music, Sting
International Fiction—Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
History—Against All Enemies, Richard A. Clarke
Field of Interest—The Norton Anthology of African American Literature
Author I’ve never read—Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Peter Hoeg
Classic—Grapes of Wrath—John Steinbeck
Classic—East of Eden—John Steinbeck
Classic—I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
Nonfiction—Liar's Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street, Michael Lewis
Re-read—Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
Suggested by Twitches—Life of Pi, Yann Martel
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Saturday, February 03, 2007
You’d think that posting individual poems online would be more terrifying, but only a few people in my immediate circle of friends know that I blog. Like most poems, they’re deeply personal, so the thought of neighbors, coworkers, and family members reading my work makes me anxious just typing the words.
I’ve had people come up to me and ask questions about things I’ve said on the blog—“so tell me, how did you feel when you wrote that poem about blacking out in a bar?” Yikes! Can’t imagine someone I see every day asking me about this stuff, holding a copy of the book in their hands like evidence from a crime scene. "Hey Jan, read your book. How did you feel about blacking out in a bar?" If I don’t put those thoughts out of my mind I’ll never get the collection finished.
Thumbing through the pages, I also realized that some of these pieces are more than 10 years old, while have been around less than three months. Patterns are revealing themselves, creating theme and giving me the tools to shape an arc in my work. The flip side of patterns is that I’m relying on the same phrases and themes, which makes me feel somewhat unoriginal. So it just feels like it’s time to let go of the whole thing and move forward.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to end this post, but I just saw a commercial in the background that sums up how I feel. It was a Cadillac ad with Andy Garcia driving a big, ol’ SUV down a beautiful stretch of highway, and in voiceover he said something to the effect of: “It’s okay to take a fall; you just want to make sure you fall forward." And that’s how I feel about this manuscript. I’m putting it out there with all of my anxieties in hopes I get more than I give.
Visit Sunday Scribblings for more goodbyes and fond farewells.
Friday, February 02, 2007
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Couldn't do the prompt--don't like math (read: that's why I'm an English major). So I'm posting a poem I've worked on for some years. Still not there yet, but everything I do is a work in progress.
Lately I've had conversations about poetry as a medium for preserving memories, and this poem is about capturing one moment as a snapshot. I guess it's coincidental that there is a photo in he poem.
Looking forward to seeing your poems this week, too!
Rosemary, circa 1958
She sits on a dorm room bed
wearing a nightie, almost translucent,
holding court with her girlfriends from nursing school;
cigarette in one hand, beer can in the other.
Atlanta, 1958, and a break from mid-term studies
turns into a late-night sleepover.
She is young, thin,
full of delight in her 18 years.
Her thick black hair is bundled
in big spongy rollers with a scarf
loosely tied around her head.
The photo, very black and very white,
refuses to fade with age, and in it,
my mother is all wilderness,
forgetting there are places in time
she would have it no other way.
Later, she will flunk her last year
and scrape together her education somewhere in North Carolina
She will meet my father at a party
and marry him five months later.
She will give up a nursing job in
New York City to start a family,
and soon I will push through her body
to join her in this world. I’m sure
she cannot picture nights alone
waiting for him to return from
a night of boozing,
taking long, incremental sips of
his favorite drink—loser on the rocks—
watching him drown on dry land.
No, my mother has no idea of what is to come.