Note: As I got into writing this piece, it did occur to me that, while crappy hotel rooms have been the exception rather than the rule of my own experience, I really could write this essay’s opposite, given, if not the PERCENTAGE of hotel rooms that have been crappy, the often bizarre and memorable WAYS in which their crappiness has manifested itself. Maybe I will still write that essay. Or maybe you will.
The pleasures of the hotel room are many. The pleasures of the hotel room are simple. It isn’t luxury, exactly—not the hotels where I stay, anyhow—but pleasure, simply. The hotel room is cool, or warm, as needed. The hotel room is not on the first floor. The hotel room has more pillows than you would ever allow yourself at home—why wouldn’t you allow yourself these extra pillows? They aren’t expensive, and they swaddle you perfectly. And there’s the bolster—the decorative pillow—which I so enjoy, but which I also don’t require at home. The bolster would actually annoy me at home, its purely decorative cylinder. But here—the bolster is part of the pleasure.
Since we’re apparently already in bed, let’s talk about those cool sheets, infused with something magical—likely a chemical from the hotel laundry—that must be like tryptophan—it draws me into sleep. The sheets, the covers, the comforters—the bed is a big, poofy nest.
Next to the bed is a chair, which is mostly for show, unless there’s a table. Many times there is not a table. There is the desk, though—the chair and desk and the complimentary internet service and the place to plug in all your stuff. The telephone is on the desk, offering its multitude of single-button wishes—hotel info, reservations, front desk, hotel operator, housekeeping, maintenance, messages—and most nights I don’t even pick up the receiver!
The hotel room is sometimes home to a microwave and/or mini-fridge. Sometimes there are treats in the fridge, for sale, but usually I am not staying in that fancy of a hotel. There is also sometimes a safe, which you think would only appear in a fancy hotel, but sometimes the place you need the safe the most is not the most fancy hotel. Food for thought. I have used a safe before. Which reminds me of the locks on the door—especially that metal bar thingie that I always forget I’ve engaged so when I try to leave in the morning, I startle myself briefly, trapped.
The hotel room is home to the gigantic television set, which is actually hooked up to cable, unlike the not-so-gigantic television at home, which is only for playing Wii and watching DVDs. The hotel room television is the home of HBO and Showtime. My particular weaknesses, however, are competitive cooking shows and home or bathroom or garden renovation shows. They never fail to puff me up with “I should try that” ridiculousness.
The hotel room has a thick, plush, vinyl binder full of laminated pages—menus, services, phone numbers, taxis. The hotel room has a breakfast room service menu cleverly fashioned to hang on your door. I never use it, though—as much praise as I have for the hotel room, its pancakes are simply too expensive. Not worth it. The hotel room has free coffee—usually pretty shitty, but still—complimentary! The hotel room coffee makers, located most often in the hotel room bathrooms, are getting smaller and smaller—this one makes just one cup at a time, in a very clever way. Hotel rooms can be pretty clever. Sure, they could give me a little more sugar and creamer in my complimentary individually wrapped coffee accessory packet. The packet includes one napkin—why a napkin, when there’s all this complimentary toilet paper and kleenix and towels? One red plastic coffee stirrer, two small sugar packets, one small creamer packet, and one pink packet of sugar substitute. Pink! Who, besides my mother, even uses that anymore? I need more regular sugar, or at least, a yellow packet of sugar substitute. These are trifles, of course, and don’t fundamentally alter the fact that I am drinking a complimentary cup of shitty hotel coffee as the sun hoists its fat ass over the building across the parking lot.
As long as we are in the bathroom (making our coffee), let us consider the bathroom. A shower with more than adequate pressure—sometimes with an adjustable head. Paper-wrapped soap for the body, paper-wrapped soap for the face, AND even liquid body wash if neither of these soaps will suffice. And a small bottle of moisturizer, a small bottle of mouthwash, a small bottle of shampoo, a small bottle of conditioner. Sometimes a small bottle of shampoo and conditioner in ONE, which I prefer, as I prefer the yellow carcinogenic sugar substitute to the pink. Small things. And the towels. In my good hotel room, a bounty of towels. And, sometimes, really soft ones. Always white. Rolled up and stowed in cubbies—sometimes one is folded into a clever shape—hospitality origami—and left propped on the toilet tank or next to the sink. Speaking of the sink—often there is an ice bucket there, with at least a couple of plastic cups wrapped in more plastic.
The pleasure of the hotel rooms is bittersweet. I arrive exhausted, usually from a day’s driving, and am comforted by all I mention above. But too soon I am asleep, lullabyed down by a gutsy bathroom renovation, and in the morning, there is rarely time to really appreciate all those comforts because I am usually back on the road, or off to the conference sessions, or to the airport for the early nonstop. Someday I’ll treat myself to two nights for no reason—arrive right at check-in time and stay in, order in, use all the towels, watch all the channels, use the telephone and all the toiletries and multiple buckets of ice from the machine down the hall. I think I know the pleasure of the hotel room now—but just wait. I have no idea.
Greetings blog-o-verse! I write to you from the Playa Artist Residency program in Summer Lake, Oregon, where I’m on the downslope of a four-week stay. I plan to post a piece about my experiences here, but that one will take some time to get written, I think. While here, I’ve been drafting many new poems, poking at some older ones, and catching up on some reading. I wanted to take some time here to call out stuff I’ve read that I’ve particularly enjoyed, especially (but not entirely) by writers I haven’t encountered before. My primary interest here is to share my enthusiasm for works I’ve encountered, to maybe give a tiny signal boost to work I really enjoyed. There are so many writers out there diligently composing and revising—mostly alone—and it just occurs to me that boosting such work is something I want to do more of. This is nothing new, of course—several writers I admire have been doing this for years—championing work they admire not because they are obligated as teachers or friends, but because they are enthusiastic readers and lovers of the word. So, in that spirit—my recent readerly enthusiasms from a few literary journals.
One of the journals on my pile was Ploughshares (Winter 2013-2014), for me an always-reliable source of good stuff to read. I remain haunted by Randi Beck’s story, “By Morning, New Mercies,” and its troubled (to put it lightly) narrator, Ellis Howard. The darkness of this story drew me in laid me flat. Marie Potoczny’s sad and fantastical “Fat” asked for multiple reads as its first-person narrator had it out with her body in bizarre, resonant ways. What an ending. I’ve long been a fan of Kevin Young’s poems, and “Pity” from this issue of Ploughshares is now among my favorites. Its handful of physical details—the “dozen turkey decoys deflating, / bright empty shells” and the pool “now drained, flooding the street // in mock calamity” were well-chosen. Finally, this issue also featured two poems by Josephine Yu, winner of the Ploughshares “Emerging Writer’s Contest” winner in poetry. I loved her rich excess of senses, and the speculating, roving voice and eye. I look forward to reading more from her.
Even though I think I’ve already gushed about them somewhere else (Facebook?), I want to again call attention to April Bernard’s poems, “Bloody Mary” and “Anger,” from the June 2014 issue of Poetry. They are sublime. I keep reading them aloud (unasked, unbidden) to whoever will stand still enough when I’ve got the issue at hand. Bernard will be reading at Plymouth State University on September 18 at 7PM—I wish I could be there to hear her read.
Not on my original pile, but culled from the “finished with” pile of a fellow writer on retreat, The Missouri Review “Ghosts” issue (36.2, 2013) was a lot of fun. Nathan Oates’ ghost story “Mile Point Road” was terrific and actually very scary. Pamela Painter’s dark and hilarious “The Brochures” made me laugh out loud in several parts. “Last Flight” by Peter Levine was another favorite—I love the deftly managed twist in the story, the tension between what both characters reveal and conceal. And Aaron Baker’s collection of poems about the death of his father were really moving, very fine, especially “Rural Especial Scene,” which, apologies to the next reader (I’ll leave the journals I’m reading on the shelf of my cabin at Playa for the next resident)—I had to cut out and scotch-tape into my writing notebook.
I think I might have tweeted this general sentiment before, but I’ll get slightly more specific here: River Styx’s 39th Anniversary issue (91/92) is spectacular. I’m keeping the issue—I can’t bear to part with it. Now, I’ve always relied on River Styx to deliver good stuff, but they’ve really outdone themselves this time. In particular, I’ve dog-eared and re-read and fawned over:
Ellen Bass’ “Chalcid Wasps Emerging,” shines with its perfect language of description and its delicious sounds and rhythms.
Dick Davis’ translations of “Ten Epigrams by Medieval Persian Women Poets” (poems from Az Rabe’eh ta Parvin, ed. Parvin Shakiba)—what a collection! Sharp humor, sweet romance, sadness.
Stephen Dunn’s poem, “Bad Taste” about a writing class gone very wrong and “Masculine,” a great vignette about “being a man.” The darkness in both of these sort of creeps up on me.
Albert Goldbarth’s “Impossible Flying,” not a particularly long poem for him, still reminds me of what a master he is at the grand, expansive, sometimes operatic long poem. Andrea Marcusa’s “Map of Djerba” is a lovely short story about a young boy navigating loss and a huge change in his life. It doesn’t hurt that Star Wars features somewhat prominently in the story as well. Kevin Mims’ “First Frost” is a funny and (not too) clever grudging homage to The Man Himself.
Alison Pelegrin’s “The Comet Thief,” which explores how hard it can be to “undo ennui,” even if one no longer wants to be “corrupter of amazement.” A bittersweet poem that leaves me thinking about what I pay attention to and why.
When I write poems in meter and rhyme, I aspire for them to have the affect of A.E. Stallings “Epiphany,” which is just gorgeous in its evocation of place and time and a mystical moment. Kind of a high bar, yeah.
I am a sucker for poems like “The Ocularist Talks About His Craft,” by Jeanne Wagner—a persona poem buoyed by rich details of the artificial eye-maker’s craft.
I am also a great fan of poems like Robert Wrigley’s “Zippo,” which enter and explore and riff on the lives and histories of apparently simple, everyday objects.
I have been reading a few novels, and of course individual poetry collections. Maybe I’ll blog about those soon. I hope you’ll check out at least one of these writers further—buy a book for yourself, or for someone you think would appreciate it—or subscribe to a literary journal. At the very least, I encourage you to try to do what I’m trying to do—reach out to authors themselves via social media or email with a brief note letting them know they’ve got a fan. I’ve gotten just a couple of those notes over years of publishing—and they are powerful medicine for the lonely writing hours. Happy reading!
Away for writing retreat at Seal Rock, Oregon, I’m working to catch up on a stack of literary journals that I subscribe to. Reading new work puts me in the writing place, for sure. Today I dug into Crab Orchard Review’s Winter/Spring 2013 (Vol. 18, No. 1 — which I don’t understand how I missed, since I already read/enjoyed Vol. 18, No. 2, but, whatever).
COR is one of my favorite journals because of the variety of work and the fact that I always find stuff I like by writers I haven’t heard of before. In this issue, as always, there was much to enjoy, but I’d like to call out a few SUPER SPECIAL favorites. Kelly Cressio-Moeller’s “Lovers in the Age of Airmail,” which I thought made really smart use of couplets and concluded with a bang-on image — “rivulets of water gliding / off the blades of a swimmer’s shoulders / when he steps from the sea.” Al Maginnes’ “Elegy for a Name” was a gorgeous and fitting tribute to the late poet Jake Adam York and his important work about the history and memory of the U.S. Civil Rights movement. Ashley Anna McHugh’s facility with the sonnet — especially with full and slant end rhymes — had me rereading “Memento” and “Omen” several times. Aisha Sharif’s writing about the hijab in “The Fitting Room” and “To the White Boy Who Pulled Off My Hijab in 7th Grade Gym” was so memorable — both her poems begin in anecdote but end in a more expansive place, definitely in conversation with the world as well as with the self. Finally, Ocean Vuong’s “Daily Bread,” which interrogated itself and its reader and was well-fueled by sound & senses.
Of the writers above, Vuong and Maginnes were the only ones whose work I had read previously. I am so happy to have some new writers to read and I look forward to reading more from them. Thanks, Allison Joseph and Jon Tribble, and all the folks at Crab Orchard Review, for delivering me regular doses of great reading. If you’d like to check out any of the work I mention above, the issue is available online HERE. If you like what you see, consider a subscription!
What is it that feels so good about having written a poem? How to describe that satisfaction, even when the poem itself is just a draft, still needs some obvious work? I brainstorm metaphors to try to pin it down — scratching an itch, eating a good meal, getting a good night’s sleep. It’s like scratching an itch because, after having written, I’ve attended to something that was nagging at me, something that wanted my attention. I have soothed and quieted the nagging thing. It’s like eating a good meal because there was something empty that got filled, but not just with junk. With something delicious. It’s like getting a good night’s sleep because there’s a clarity at the end of it, a sense of being ready for the (rest of the) day, a pair of clear eyes. A vigor. I’ll bet I could come up with another three metaphors, and another, and another. I’ll bet if I really kept track of it, I’d find that the nature of the satisfaction of completing a poem varied from poem to poem, or maybe across the “lifespan” of my poet-life. The “goodness” of poem-writing is dazzling in its variety. Writing a poem is like pruning the lilac. Like taking out all the trash, every scrap of it, even from the basement. Like making love. Like getting drunk. Like getting sober. Writing a poem feels so good.
In today’s Christian Science Monitor, a headline asks, “Where were you when the Challenger exploded? Why your memory might be wrong.” The story that follows pairs pretty nicely with a poem I wrote, gosh, at least ten years ago. I’m no cognitive neuroscientist, but I, too, wondered about the link between emotion/stress and memory. Scientists, do the research; poets, write the poems. Everybody’s got their angle.
The first bit is an epigraph from Eduardo Galeano.
And here’s a PDF of the poem, because I can’t figure out how to paste it into a blog post without it looking all wack.
The first writers’ conference I ever attended was in Seattle, in March, 1979. I was almost ten years old. It was the Seattle Pacific University Young Author’s Conference. A highlight of the event (okay, the only thing I actually remember about the event) was the fact that copies of our works, which had earned us a place at this prestigious gathering of our elementary school peers, would be held in the University Library so that future readers could benefit from our genius and artistry.
Flash forward, thirty-five years. I will be attending another writers’ conference in Seattle. Seattle Pacific University’s MFA program in writing is a “Major Sponsor” of this conference, which is a bit bigger than the now-defunct Young Author’s Conference. I did not have to submit work in order to attend, but I will be on a panel about chapbooks with other writers from Slapering Hol press, who published my first chapbook.
I speak, of course, of the 2014 Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference, which is nearly upon us. From February 26 to March 2, upwards of ten thousand writers will descend upon Seattle. I am one such writer, and I’ve been attending this conference since 1993 as a graduate student. I’m excited to see the conference travel to Seattle — my family lives in the area, my brother in Seattle and my folks out on the Hood Canal.
As it has been in recent years, the schedule is packed to the rafters with not only the traditional conference fare of panels and readings and book signings and caucuses, but also with, oh, I don’t know, a jillion and a half “off-site events” (mostly readings) in Seattle bars, restaurants, and bookstores. For three full (9AM until bedtime) days, the Washington State Convention Center and Sheraton and, well a great chunk of the city, will be teeming with the AWPers (rhymes with soulful barbaric YAWPers?).
And let me not forget (how could I??) the book fair — tables and booths occupied by literary journals, zines, small presses, gigantic presses, in-between presses, literary centers, etc. On Saturday, the book fair is free and open to the public, and I recommend checking it out. Many publishers offer great discounts on Saturday because they don’t want to have to ship all their wares home. Even when the book fair was shoehorned into unsuitably small or weirdly-arranged spaces, I have always found much to love in all those pages and all those page-passionate folks at those tables. Each year I subscribe to a different and/or new-to-me literary journal. I figure, I can’t subscribe to them ALL, but I can support the cause by treating myself each year in this way. For me the book fair is the consistently best part of the conference — well, okay, second-best, after the fact that so many writer-friends I love and admire attend and it’s the one yearly chance I get to see most of them.
Even with all the action and activity of the conference itself, many attendees want to get out, get away, see the city — some are foodies looking to experience the local cuisine; others want to check out the museums, or just find a good bar that’s not crammed full of (shudder) other poets. In this spirit then, I offer a few personal recommendations of things to taste or see or do while in the Emerald City. Seattle is rich with great food and drink and culture and sights, so I did NOT even try to make this list comprehensive or exhaustive. This is just my personal, VERY pared down “must-hit” list. If you’re Yelping, I’ve got a few reviews up of other Seattle places.
THE PHO – Green Leaf
Seattle is home to the International District (“The I.D.”), which is almost the only place I ever eat when visiting. There are great eats of all stripes all over town, but maybe because I live in rural northern New England, all I want to do when I’m in Seattle is chow down on cuisines from Thailand, the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, China, Korea, Japan, etc. If you only have the time or inclination to sample one bowl of Pho while visiting, I must, with religious zeal, recommend Green Leaf (either location — the newer one is more convenient to the conference location, but not in the I.D.!). Rare beef and brisket pho. Their fresh rolls are also pretty spectacular, but the broth in that pho is revelatory. Like I said, religious zeal.
THE BEER – Sound Brewery
I didn’t understand beer until Sound Brewery. Made in the little town of Poulsbo, right near where my parents live, these beers are just brilliant. The Monk’s Indiscretion and the Dubbel Entendre, both Belgians, are a couple of my faves. On their list of Seattle establishments that (sometimes – call ahead if you care) carry their brews, I’d recommend Brouwer’s, which is kind of out of the way, but you’ll never want to leave, or the Pine Box, just up in Capitol Hill, which used to be a funeral home. Brouwer’s, though, definitely has something for every drinker. So I guess this will be as close as I get to a bar recommendation as well. There are just too dang many.
THE BREAKFAST – Skillet Diner
Like me, I imagine you aren’t inclined to expect that Seattle is going to offer something awesome in the area of biscuits and gravy. Seafood, sure! Real deal Vietnamese in the I.D.? Check. Coffee, coffee, coffee? Check check check. While the biscuits and gravy at Skillet weren’t exactly the type you’d get in, say, central Virginia, they were SPECTACULAR. The sage sausage gravy was a holy thing. The “big boy” biscuit was immense & delicious, but not too too heavy. Next time I’m there, I want to try one of the daily “scrambles.” Or the cornmeal & pork belly (!) waffles (!!).
THE PAPER NERD MECCA – Paper Hammer
I am sooooo gay for paper. Letterpress-anything, screened posters, handmade papers, embossing, stationery, calling cards, etc. So the first time I entered Paper Hammer, I had seizures of joy. It’s dangerously close to the Sheraton & Convention Center as well.
THE BOOKSTORE(S) – Open Books and Left Bank Books
Really? Bookfair not enough? Here I have to break my “one recommendation per category ONLY” rule. You understand. There are two things I cannot visit Seattle without doing. One is slurping up a bowl of Green Leaf Pho. The other is making a visit to Open Books, a beautiful, friendly, luscious poetry-only bookstore. The challenge for conference-goers is that it’s about 5 miles from the Convention Center, but to make it worth your while, Open Books will be offering a 15% discount on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the conference to anybody with an AWP Conference badge. They will also have slightly longer hours those days – 11:00 to 7:00 – and will be open that Sunday as well, as it’s the first Sunday of the month, from 12:00-4:00 if you’re still around. They also offer FREE USPS Media Mail shipping for purchases of $25 and up.
Closer to the conference, I also absolutely adore Left Bank Books. They “specialize in anti-authoritarian, anarchist, independent, radical and small-press titles.” I can easily lose two hours just browsing there, and I always find treasures. I love their selection of ‘zines and pamphlets, as well as the postcards, stickers, and buttons. This place is one of a kind, and right up at the entrance to Pike Place Market. Thursday, March 27th, fellow NH poet Jennifer Militello will be giving a reading with Carrie Etter, Elena Karina Byrne, and Allison Benis White at Left Bank starting at 7:00. Several other off-site events will also be happening at Left Bank Books – you can see the calendar HERE.
THE CAR – Aces for Hire Town Car Service
This recommendation comes from my brother, who has HAD it with the taxi service in Seattle. He recommends that, rather than chancing it with Seattle’s touch-and-go cab situation, you call Aces Town Car, which (according to my brother) charges about a buck more per mile than taxis, but which also has a consistent record of, like, showing up and taking you where you want in a reasonable time. They are gushed about on Yelp and lauded by locals and visitors alike.
THE CLEAR-YOUR-HEAD WALK – Olympic Sculpture Park
Well, we will be visiting during the late-ish winter, so chances are that this won’t be the best walking weather. Or it could be gorgeous. If you need to get out and away and about, I’d suggest heading down to the Seattle Art Museum’s sculpture park. It’s pretty big, at a great location, with big-ass art (the Serra is my favorite) and great views (on a nice day) of the water and, across the Sound, the Olympic Peninsula — serious mountains.
THE BOAT – The Bainbridge Island Ferry
So, I’m really only recommending this if you’ve got a chunk of time on a clear/decent day. If it’s crappy, it’s not really worth it unless you just really REALLY love big ferry boats. The ferries are a key component in the Seattle-area transit system. Lots of people ride them every day, like taking the bus or the subway. I’m suggesting that you take a trip on the ferry just to catch the views and get out on the water. Pay to get on, ride it over and just enjoy the mountains, the cityscape, the salt air. The ride each way is approximately 35 minutes. You can get right back on (passenger fare isn’t charged coming back to Seattle), or stroll into Winslow where there are a few cute shops and things. But to me, this recommendation is mostly about the journey, not the destination. $7.85 fare for adults; $3.90 for seniors and youth.
THE SOURCE – The Stranger
For much, MUCH more information about eats, drinks, events, arts and culture in Seattle, check out The Stranger.
Even though it won’t be possible for you to admire my literary juvenilia in person at the Seattle Pacific University library archives, I hope these few recommendations are of use if you find yourself stymied by the overabundance of things you could do while visiting the Emerald City. Besides attend the AWP Conference, I mean.
Hi all! I’m pleased to share this link to the latest issue of Blast Furnace, where I’ve got two poems this month.
I had a moving and humbling experience this afternoon. I was visiting poet William Matchett, who is a friend of my parents. Like them, he lives on the Hood Canal, in Kitsap County Washington. (He and my father would both want you to know that the Hood Canal is actually a fjord. Consider yourselves edified.) Bill turned ninety this year, and his fourth book, Airplants: Selected Poems, is due out shortly from Antrim House Books. He wrote me a couple of very thoughtful notes (like, actual typed-on-a-typewriter letters-in-the-mail) after reading Luck and A Thirst That’s Partly Mine, and I brought him a copy of Talking About The Weather. Hoping for another letter!
During our visit, Bill brought out a beautiful old leather-bound book, which his mother had given him when he was a student. She had proposed that he fill the blank pages (such luxe paper!) with his own poems. Instead, Bill has, across the span of seventy years or so, invited other poets to hand-write one of their own poems in the book. What a nice idea! And Bill was inviting me to copy one of my poems into the book. I even had my favorite fountain pen (with the brown ink) with me. (“Peepers,” from A Thirst That’s Partly Mine, was the one he requested, and of course I obliged.)
Before he set me copying down my poem at the dining table, Bill opened the book to show me some of what had been written there before. Some names I didn’t recognize. Others…
Robert Frost’s “Never Again Would Birds’ Song Be The Same,” in the author’s own hand. Howard Nemerov. Carolyn Kizer. Jack Gilbert. Heather McHugh. W.S. Merwin, William Stafford.
Gwendolyn Brooks’ “looking” from “Gay Chaps at the Bar.” GWENDOLYN BROOKS, people. The first poetry reading I ever went to (I was 12 or 13 years old) was Gwendolyn Brooks and she blew my universe. She is in my holy canon to this day.
Bill Matchett was on the faculty at the University of Washington for about fifty years. He helped coordinate the annual “Roethke Readings,” which brought well-known poets to campus, which accounted for some, but not all of these poems. Some of the poets had done their copy-work while visiting Bill and his wife Judy at this very house, perched above the fjord, a house named Nellita for the town that used to be here long ago. Others wrote out their poems in Seattle, a few elsewhere. I used my brown fountain-pen ink and my tidy penmanship and copied down my poem. It felt strange and wonderful for my penmanship to be inside a book with the penmanship of all of these poets. It will feel strange and wonderful for a very long time, I think. And I’m just so touched at Bill’s invitation, just a thing he does when a poet visits him, I guess, but with such resonance for me. I felt warmth and connection and, sure, a little fan-girl giddy. I felt like a part of poetry in a very physical, leather-bound way.
John Crowe Ransom. Adrienne Rich! James Wright. Seamus Heaney’s perfect “Mother of the Groom.” Roethke’s “The Waking” taking up a whole page. Richard Wilbur. Galway Kinnell. Stanley Kunitz. A poem from each. Some of the pages had sketches, watercolors, illustrations. One of the illustrations, early on in the book, Bill pointed out, was by a young “Ted” Gorey. Yeah, him. (They met at Harvard where Gorey was roommates with Frank O’Hara!)
Elizabeth Bishop. She wrote out part of “Sandpiper.” I stared at her handwriting for a long time. I tried to imagine her hand, her pen moving.
And when I turned the page to the gorgeous scrawl of “Then,” by Muriel Rukeyser, I wasn’t ready for it. I audibly gasped. I got inaudibly teary. I was supposed to finish copying my poem, but I kept going back to read hers. Here it is:
When I am dead, even then,
I will still love you, I will wait in these poems.
When I am dead, even then
I am still listening to you.
I will be still making poems for you
out of silence;
silence will be falling into that silence,
it is building music.
At Bill and Judy’s house in the woods next to the fjord where there used to be a town called Nellita, these words came up at me from that page, from Muriel, right up at me, and all of them were true.
The snow is actually melting, for real, and making some spectacular mud on our road. But if the weather holds, looks like we might be good and pretty dried out by week’s end. We’re ready up here in Northern New England, I can tell you.
I’ll kick off here by sharing that the Issue #6 of Sliver of Stone is up, and I’m honored to have a poem included. They’ve got a great format — very readable — and some tasty work. Pretty sexy poem by Ira Sukrungruang. I’m rubbing shoulders this month with Denise Duhamel and John McNally and Laura Madeline Wiseman and even Kevin McLellan, who I had the pleasure of finally meeting at this year’s AWP Conference in Boston.
I’m looking forward to a couple of readings as well — the Plymouth State University Eagle Pond reading series will be presenting Dick Allen (with an introductory reading by PSU student poet Kim Chandler) this Thursday, April 4, and Jorie Graham (with an introductory reading by PSU student poet Tyler Carignan) on Tuesday, April 30. Both readings are in the Smith Recital Hall at the Silver Center for the Arts at 7:00 P.M., and are FREE and open to the public.
I will also be doing a couple of readings this month — one on April 9 (also at Smith Recital Hall, part of Women of Words’ annual reading) on the theme of the “road trip.” Then, on Monday, April 29, I’m so pleased to be reading with my colleague, fiction writer Njelle Hamilton, at 7:00PM, in Frost Commons, on the Plymouth State campus.
Hi all — I got tagged online recently by the literary self-interview, called “The Next Big Thing.” Poet Jeff Oaks tagged me. The purpose is to prompt writers to generate some interest in their recent or forthcoming work. I will tag other writers, via Facebook, to keep the viral thing going. In the mean time, I hope the following self-interview about my next book amuses you.
What is the working title of the book?
Don’t Ask Her About The Grapefruit
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Years ago, at brunch with Diana and Dodi, I was blinded by a squirt of especially tart grapefruit juice. Diana’s grapefruit. I actually had to go to the doctor, and of course we were on the yacht at the time, and it became this whole big THING. Anyhow, it became our little joke — about the stories that get told and retold — until Diana and Dodi were killed, after which I have neither touched nor eaten nor caused to be touched, served, or eaten, any kind of grapefruit. In spite of that, I have found the grapefruit a bottomless metaphor for my life story, and given that I will be departing shortly for starrier shores, I thought I ought to put it all down to paper. For posterity.
What genre does your book fall under?
Pop-up closet-drama memoir.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Playing me, Bruce Willis. Playing Diana, oh, unthinkable! Ok, ok, how about….. Heather what’s her name from Boogie Nights? And as for Dodi, I’m sure Antonio Banderas could make that happen. I think he’d be good, actually. I think it would also be a kick if Kim Kardashian and the Empress played one another.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Globalista bon vivant chews through trust fund via jetsetting and meets All The People before leaving this shattered plane for another.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Isabella insists that I was writing this book in utero. I don’t remember, but am inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt, since she was right about Facebook, those shovels, and nearly all of 2004. My MFA cohort (the program has disavowed any connection with me, so I will not bother mentioning it by name) saw half a dozen drafts and revisions of chapters over two years. The tenor of their written feedback suggested a certain level of jealousy, but I powered through.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My life, my muse, my impeding departure…What can I say? I guess, after all these years, I am ready to tell you about the grapefruit.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
A final pronouncement regarding Empress Babish’s gender fluidity. All but one of the ingredients you need to make Kim Kardashian’s Fresca Sangria. 100% correct usage of both the apostrophe and the semicolon. Heads of State Gone Wild.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
B’rachel Star is my agent, and she is cooking up a promising looking deal with Ultima Obscura Press. Fingers crossed!