February 28, 2008

The Scrambler

From Jeremy Spencer

A few days early, but the March Issue 16 of THE SCRAMBLER is online featuring poetry, audio and an interview with Sandra Beasley, art and an interview with Patricia Deese, a poem by Aaron Dailey, art by Valado Mori and our monthly Playlist.

...Jeremy asked some great questions, so this was a fun interview to do. Please support the magazine and have a look!

February 27, 2008

Writers Read

Marshal Zeringue asks what I'm reading...

...in not-quite-related news, Matthew Thorburn will be reading in DC on Thursday, March 6 (at 6:45 PM in the Library of Congress's Madison Building, Montpelier Room). This is in celebration of the recent announcement that Matthew has won a Witter Bynner fellowship. Congrats, Matthew!

February 26, 2008

Hunger Pangs

"She eats like a bird," an old boyfriend used to joke. "A huge, voracious, bird."

I have a lot of reading and writing to be doing these days (is EVERYTHING due March 1?). Yet all I can think about it...soup. Specifically, butternut squash soup--though Chinese Noodle soup from Teaism would also be acceptable.

Perhaps it's the grey weather in DC, or the many variations of stress, but I'm starving. And certain foods feel more "bookish" than others, pairing naturally with the turning of pages. Some favorites:

-Steel-cut oatmeal with almonds
-Hunan dumplings over a bed of arugula
-Butterhead lettuce, loosely chopped and drizzled in olive oil
-Chilled sweet potatoes in sesame-miso sauce (also from Teaism)
-Kale with stewed tomatoes and chickpeas
-Pork chili with red beans

What are your rainy-day-writing foods?

February 23, 2008

Verse Daily

Well, howdy.

[[now with an updated, archival link]]

February 20, 2008

The World Keeps Turning, says Tom Waits

I am in the midst of moving. Usually, a move inspires a major clutter-purge, but I did one of those six months ago; all that remains, conceivably, is to trim down my book collection. The odds of that? Slim. Once something is signed to me, I can't bear to get rid of it. Perhaps I can rationalize that I need those books as raw material for when I sort my shelves according to spine color...

There Is Nothing Wrong in This Whole Wide World
(Installation by Chris Cobb, Adobe Books)

In my new place I've got a platform, maybe 10 x 10 feet, that I'll be able to set up as a writing area--complete with a hodgepodge of shelves (I'm hoping to vary color and height, but keep them all wood). All I will need, in the middle of it all, is the comfiest possible chair in which to sit and read. And possibly this monotype, by Dorothy Anderson Grow:

I'm a fan of her work--I already own one piece. This one makes me think of the patch of gin bottles in the woods behind Edna St. Vincent Millay's house. If you're in the DC area, the Washington Printmaker's Gallery is holding a reception for Grow (with a 3 PM gallery talk) on Sunday, March 2, from 2 to 5 PM. I'll be busy moving that day--but because my new apartment is just down the street, I hope to pop in for a bit. Location, location, location.

February 14, 2008

Rocking the Boat

The 2007/8 edition of DRUNKEN BOAT just went live and damn, am I excited to be a part of it. Any time a poet gets a chance to showcase three poems, it is an honor.

But in addition, the editors have created a very intriguing "Poetics" folio. As explained here, they chose dozen poems from the issue--including my poem "Orchis"--and asked experts of various other fields (architecture, fiction, lit crit) to respond to the poems of their choice, the overall portfolio, and/or the state of contemporary poetry.

First off, what amazing company: Nathaniel Tarn, D. Nurkse, Ron Padgett, Lisa Spaar, Jeffrey Skinner, Camille Dungy...holy hell. I feel like the knock-kneed little sister, tapping on the clubhouse window! Second, this is just a nifty idea, the kind of cross-genre thinking that gives Drunken Boat its charm.

The person who goes most in depth into examining my poem is...Stephen Burt. He of the mysterious and thrilling Harriet references. Seriously, I've never met this guy, but now I'm dying to. Thanks also to Rand Cooper, Chiori Miyagawa, and Okey Ndibe, for their senstive responses to the poem.

For those curious, the reason I called it "Orchis" (rather than the more direct "Orchid") was that I had come across the Greek myth of Orchis (son of a satyr and a nymph), who--after attempting to rape a priestess during one of Bacchus's festivals--was torn limb from limb by vengeful beasts. From his remains sprang the flower, the orchid. That's the myth that drives the ending narrative of the poem.

The myth is relatively obscure, though, and looking at the response essays--particularly that of Chiori Miyagawa--I can see that it is a source of frustration to the readers. There's no broad-base cultural awareness of the myth in the way that "Leda and the Swan" can take advantage of the Zeus myth. And I hate it when poets demand that their audience seek out background info in order to "get" a poem. So should I have embedded a more explicit connection?

I'd love to know how people feel on this issue, as both readers and poets. And I'm very, very grateful to Ravi Shankar and the other DB editors for creating the space for this kind of dialogue.

February 12, 2008


"So," my friend wrote. "How WAS your panel?"

My panel (on the poetry of wartime), was by and large a success--though it would have felt even better in a smaller room. I'd say we had the same size crowd as Carly's panel on the rape & sexual assault anthology, but in a partial ballroom it felt much more sparse. I was thinking of Carly's panel already because I thought, oddly enough, there are a lot of resonant issues between "sexual assualt" poetry and "battlefield" poetry:

-The ethics of having--or giving yourself--"permission" to describe second-hand stories or to assume a first-person perpective;

-The need to articulate/define an "enemy" or aggressor, and whether there is then a place for empathy toward that enemy/aggressor;

-The potential politicization of direct experience (the difference between "war" poetry and "anti-war" poetry);

-The ghettoization of writers in terms of a "cause" or core source of material for a first book (if your first book is about rape--or soldiering--you might always be labeled in terms of that experience);

-The difficulties (as teachers or writers) of addressing these poems in workshop (particularly a younger workshop) in a sensitive, responsible manner.

These were the kind of meta-issues that convinced me to propose a panel in the first place.

My favorite presentations came from Susan Tichy and Brian Turner. Susan had scared me by showing up with a dozen typed pages in hand--this is usually the sign of someone who will use more than their fair share of time. But she presented an elegant set of comments that really got into craft issues: how one can use collage and fragmentation to place both first-hand and second-hand voices on the same "level," neutralizing the issue of permission. Her husband, a Delta Force veteran who died few years ago, was the one who first told her she needed to tell his stories as well as her own.

Brian Turner was his ever-frank, disarming self. He talked about struggling to write about battlefield experience in a way that punctuates the relative stability of American (border-bound) culture--the simple fact that we don't "feel" the presence of war here in a daily way, and how to overcome that desensitization. He read a really interesting poem set in Home Depot(!), that used surreal intrusions of military motifs (the whirling of a ceiling fan = helicopter blades) to drive the point home. He confessed that the periodic interrupting patter of applause from the panel next door reminded him of the small bursts of automatic fire one might hear on the field.

Thanks to friends who came--Carly, Bernie, Steve, Brian and Kiley--and to my wonderful panelists. I doubt I'll hop back into proposing anything for next year; I'm happy to focus on supporting the book at the New Issues table. But if you've said to yourself "gosh, when is there going to be a decent panel on ___" ...well,sometimes, you just have to make it happen yourself. I'm glad I did.

February 07, 2008


Peekaboo, Delaware Poetry Review. Thanks to Richard Peabody for taking my work--then making sure it looked good.

While at AWP I picked up contributor copies of Barn Owl Review, Passages North, Barrow Street...now I'm having fun getting to know my page-neighbors.

We're in closing on the Spring issue of the Scholar, so it will be quiet here for a day or two; but I'll try to log in a few more thoughts on AWP over the weekend.

February 04, 2008

Post-AWP Pop Quiz

Which of the following things happened at this year's AWP conference?

1) I petted a cheetah.

2) I went through a bottle of Cragganmore single malt scotch.

3) A prizewinning poet said "There's a bathtub here--any of you girls feeling dirty?"

4) I drew a flower on Ali Stine.

5) I helped fire a cannon.

6) Martin Amis apologized for scandalizing me.

7) I cheered as seven poets competed for a tiara. The winner had drawn a goatee and moustache on her face.

8) Shafer Hall got me a "Double O."

9) A poet spontaneously composed a limerick for me rhyming "Beasley," "teasingly," and "measly."

10) All of the above, my friends. All of the above.

I love AWP.

P.S. - And yes, the panel went well.