March 28, 2008


Last night, a surprisingly satisfying reading by Rodney Jones and Ellen Bryant Voigt at the Library of Congress. Rodney read some funny poems, and one about the art of criticizing art that really stayed with me. Another one about dumping one's sublime coconut drink into the ocean...then trying to reclaim it.

Though the Virginia Festival of the Book beckons, my father's 60th birthday (!) is a far more important thing, and keeping me here in DC. So I'm taking a break from poet-ing for a few days. Call it a calm before the storm of April. Are you NaPoWriMo-ing?

Instead, this will be a weekend of theater: Kiss of the Spider Woman and a special version of Macbeth, co-directed by Teller. That's Teller of "Penn & Teller," so I look forward to floating daggers and blood spots that magically appear and disappear before our eyes. It's also the height of cherry blossom season here in DC...and the Smithsonian Kite Festival will be taking place down on the Mall, near the Washington Monument. Some days I love this city.

[[Above - "Cherry Blossoms" is a polaroid transfer by local artist Gia Regan.]]

March 25, 2008

If Poetry Journal is Seeking Submissions

If Poetry Journal is seeking poetry for its second issue. If you would like to submit 1-5 poems, please e-mail them to Don Illich at ifpoetryjournaleditor at gmail dot com. No attachments, please put your poems in the body of your e-mail, cover letter preferred. No previously published poems. Each contributor receives one contributor's copy. The deadline for submissions is May 1, 2008.

March 19, 2008

Two Bits

When all else fails, get a haircut.


I can't let another day go by without sharing how much I enjoyed Matthew Thorburn's reading at the Library of Congress.

Matthew is a blog-friend and a fellow New Issues poet, but I confess I hadn't read much of his work. I knew I was in for a good time the moment I heard his poem describe "the loneliness of valence electrons, all those open hands." It's a rare and lovely thing when you go to a reading and feel like you discover a kindred voice--someone whose eye is drawn to the same things yours is, someone who writes in rhythms naturally pleasing to your ear. I felt immediately engaged by the poems on a very deep level.

It was a real treat. And because the Library of Congress likes to throw a bit of a party, there was wine and green veggies and chips and guacamole afterwards. So, thank you, Matthew! Thank you, Charles Simic, for picking Matthew! And thank you, LOC, for a little oasis of comfort amidst the tired and dreary days of moving.

Here's one poem that I loved, and was lucky enough to get a text of afterwards:


a flea that hops from dog to dog. And Wendi
was like, “Cherubic is just a nicer way
to say fat.” And Len was like the drain down which
you pour the tail-ends of old liqueurs. Blue Moon.
Quince schnapps. Then Naoko was like, “Who threw
this party, anyway?” And Suzy was like, “I hate
to say it, but I'm all sushi’d out.” But Fred was like,
“Let’s dance.” But Sylvia was like a typewriter
in a crowd of computers. And Jill was like a man
who asks his wife for a divorce the day after
an earthquake. But Sal was like, “Now is asks
really quite right?” And Bob and Bill were
the red banners strung up and down Mott Street
that say “Happy New Year” again and again.
But Betty was like spaghetti—stuck to the wall.
Then Jill sneezed and sneezed, like a phone
that rings and rings, that rings but doesn’t get
picked up, and she was like, “We all have so much
to let go of.” And Franz chimed in, “We’re lonely,
even though we have cell phones.” But Ty was
like a magnet—made of metal, highly charged.
And Joan was like winter, but with all her leaves
still on. Then Sylvia was like a peck on the cheek
and a peek down the blouse. And Naoko
was like that blouse. And Jane was like the clock
that turns back just once a year. Tick-tock,
tick-tock. “Where’d the time go this time?”
But I can’t forget Lily—Lily like a wisp, like
a whisper. Lily like the fish the fishermen missed,
slippery, silvery, here and not here. Now here.
No, here. I fell for her. And then I was like
the fall. And she was like the “Maple Leaf Rag”
the blind pianist played that made us
stop and close our eyes.

--Matthew Thorburn
(this first appeared in Passages North)

Winning a Witter Bynner award is a big deal even beyond the (10K) financial dimension; it is a good omen. Claudia Emerson won one right before she won a Pulitzer. So we can expect great things from Matthew and his co-winner, Monica Youn in the not-so-distant future. At the very least, someone should take that second book manuscript off Mr. Thorburn's hands ASAP...


Also, I am overdue on this tag from both Bernie and Oliver:

My six-word autobiography:

Arms up on the roller coaster.

I don't like tagging folks, but I did enjoy this exercise. So if you're inspired, please play along--and leave a note in the comments to let me know. I'll link to you from this blog entry.


Finally--if you haven't seen it, there's a pretty feisty review by Dan Chiasson of David Lehman's new anthology of "The Best American Erotic Poems" here. Bill Logan's not the only one out there willing to say--loudly--when he does not like something.


I am ready for April. Even though April involves daily poeming, and that terrifies me. But I am certainly ready to be done with March.

March 18, 2008

Poking my head above ground...

...hoping I don't see my shadow.

First, a little nudge: if you're in the DC area please consider coming out for my POESIS reading tomorrow night, at 7 PM. POESIS is held at the Borders in Arlington, Virginia (1201 Hayes Street, near the Pentagon City metro/Blue line). There's always live music courtesy of Shep Williams (keyboards) and Curly Robinson (percussion), so it's a good time. I'll be reading with Sydney March--a Jamaican poet, essayist, and journalist who teaches at Montgomery College. I have a copy of his “Stealing Mangoes” chapbook (Mica Press, 1997), and I know he's recently put together an anthology of fiction and poetry called “Writers on the Green Line.”

I was hoping this would be my first chance to have the book in hand, but no such luck--there's been a hold up at the printers (problems with a few of the plates and the color balance on the cover). Ooof! Those of you who have asked, don't you worry--when it's out, I'll be sounding a barbaric yawp from the rooftops. You'll know.

Coming soon: a report from the Witter Bynner Prize reading at the Library of Congress...

March 11, 2008

Do they give a badge for this?

The joys of moving:

-New paint job
-Placing the rocking chair just so
-New toaster oven
-New business cards
-Mercilessly editing one's scarf collection
-Arranging art

The perils of moving:

-Boxes of books
-Boxes of books
-Boxes of books
-Cleaning burners crusty from someone else's cooking
-Boxes of books

Speaking of making lemonade from lemons, consider the bad luck of Juliette Gordon Low. Low made it through the Civil War and saddled herself with a alcoholic womanizer (who insisted on moving his mistress into the house). She became deaf at the age of 26 when a grain of rice thrown at her own wedding punctured her eardrum.

What did she go on to do?

She founded the Girl Scouts.

If she can do that, I can at least get these damn books unpacked.

March 03, 2008

Save the Date...

The Sound of Words: A Scheme to Rock the Writers Center
Featuring: The Caribbean (a rock band) and 32 Poems Magazine (a poetry magazine)

DATE: Friday, May 9
LOCATION: The Writer's Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD 20815

32 Poems Magazine, The Caribbean (an indie rock band), and the Writer's Center join together to bring you outstanding poetry from Bernadette Geyer and songs from The Caribbean. I might sneak in a poem or two as well.

It's going to be a really, really good time. I'm filling my flask with rum.