October 26, 2006

Down the Rabbit Hole

I won't even pretend that I have time to be posting, but a few things...

For people in the DC area--

Sunday, October 29 at 2 p.m. The Writer's Center is pleased to host a celebration of the Washington area's thriving small press community. Editors of several literary journals and book publishers will share anecdotes. The program will include writers and editors from Bogg, Dryad, Gargoyle, Gival Press, Minimus, Passager, Potomac Review, Pretend Genius, The Word Works, Washington Writers' Publishing House, and WordWrights! At the Writer's Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD 20815. Free admission and light refreshments. For more information on this and other programs, please visit our web site, www.writer.org, or call 301-654-8664.

...Tragically I suspect "light refreshments" refers to lemonade and cookies, versus the scotch and mixed nuts that are the birthright of editors everywhere. But hey, if we were dealing with poetic justice this whole event would take place in a smoky bar.

Last night's reading at Kensington Row was astonishingly satisfying, in part due to the obscene amount of garlic-sauced eggplant I had at the Chinese restaurant beforehand (MSG makes the heart grow fonder)...my fellow reader Nicholas Johnson has a knack for dramatic monologues and villanelles, and at times he had the audience laughing out loud. Really a delight to meet him and hear his work. Smallish crowd but very attentive, and all the new work from Millay (which had been untested until now) seemed to go over well. Thanks to everyone who came and our host, Judy McCombs.

I stumbled across the above image today, which was used to publicize the New York run of a play called Rabbit Hole, starring Cynthia Nixon; I know it as the cover art from an issue of Rosebud published a few years ago. It was my first big, national publication and I showed it to all my (non-poet) friends, who were duly impressed by the glossy feel and the fact that Stephen King was in the same issue. I later learned the main topic of discussion among the high school crew, when I wasn't around, was "What's up with the bunny nipple?"

October 19, 2006

Little Things

Postcard from the Poetry Bus--definitely my favorite one so far. I once had a bad ostrich run-in myself, after taking my sister to a petting zoo. I was wearing a shirt that had a glittered design across the chest, and guess what? Ostriches peck at anything shiny. Anything. Didn't even buy me dinner first.

I was complaining to a fellow writer today about how casual we are in being perpetually exhausted and stressed--too comfortable, as if we either lack the discipline or desire to make things change. Then I ran across this guest entry on The Happy Booker, "Work More, Sleep Less (And Take Good Care of Yourself)," which at least assures me it is not a DC-centric phenomenon.

For a variety of reasons I have been reading multiple poetry manuscripts recently, and I find myself internalizing a few questions that come up again and again--things to check for myself in future drafts, little ways I interrogate the strength of the manuscript. They include:

-If your last line is distinctly longer or shorter than the median length of those previous, is this an intentional move, or a sign the poem hasn't "settled" into its optimal lineation?

-Is the use of the confessional second person a shortcut of drawing the reader into the poem, or does it genuinely communicate information that would not be available in the first or third person?

-Is the "you" a displaced "I"? If this is being done over and over in a manuscript, why?

-Do the poems derive dramatic thrust using both rhetorical gestures (hyperbole, negation) and figurative gestures (metaphor, simile)? Are grammatical marks (ellipses, exclamation marks) being used to compensate for an emotive lack?

-Do you find yourself using the same rhythms and syntactical patterns, over and over, to create a sense of closure in each poem? Is this a conscious, formal choice? What are the consequences?

-What would you describe as the most unusual coherent aspect--the hook--of this MS?

...just a few ideas, from one editor. I'd be intrigued to hear from others.

October 10, 2006

The Wheels on the Bus

Is it my imagination, or are the litbloggers in a slump? Other than tilting at the windmills of Best American Poetry, we seem to be in a quiet period.

Coming back to the real world of two jobs is never easy, and I was happy to take refuge in the basement bar of the Big Hunt for the Washington D.C. stop of the Poetry Bus Tour last week. The reading was loosely divided into a first half of traveling poets, then a second set of D.C. locals. Joshua Beckman and Matthew Zapruder, the fearless leaders of the tour, were also the strongest poets of the first half. I particularly loved Matthew's Canada poem and Josh's poems from the second section of his new book, Shake.

The hometown team's half was good, not great; highlights included Rod Smith, who read a gloriously inscrutable poem called "Identity is the Cause of Warts," and Kyle Dargan, who captured a hallmark of local poetry by integrating social and political issues into his work. I think the diversity (read: fragmentation) of D.C.'s poetry scene works against us here...what should feel like an all-star lineup instead felt a bit like pinch-hitting. It's a damn shame that Maureen Thorson of Big Game Books (and a recent PSA Chapbook award) was in the audience, versus up on stage. Still, a fun evening, and thanks to all who organized it.

Two shameless self promotions: A 7 PM reading at Kensington Row Bookshop on October 25, with NYC poet Nick Johnson. Come on out--there's a reception and an open mic to follow. This will be the debut of my new September poems, so wish me luck.

Any day now, issue 6 of melancholia's tremulous dreadlocks will go live, featuring three poems also written at Millay. The layout is nice and clean and the lineup of poets is stellar, but what a funny title for a journal...I can honestly confess that I never expected to see the phrase "melancholia's tremulous dreadlocks" in a book manuscript of mine, but onto the acknowledgements page it goes.

October 01, 2006


Home again, home again. Left Millay by way of Somerville (outside Boston), where in a truly strange and wonderful coincidence I ran into the Wave Books Poetry Bus Tour and Major Jackson...on WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 4 the Bus heads to DC, where Barrelhouse will host it at The Big Hunt downtown. My friend Kyle (of UVA and recently, AU) will be temporarily hopping on board to read. Be there, or be square.

Sadly the ten-hour drive left me too exhausted to make the Baltimore Book Festival, which I hear was splendid. Give me a day or two to breathe and then, I swear, I'll be back in full form.

New manuscript title: "Theories of Falling"...