April 30, 2008

April 25, 2008

The First Sunny Friday

Things are quiet in the blog world today. I suspect the culprit--at least in my part of the country--is the first genuinely warm and sunny Friday of Spring. I'm as guilty as anyone else of a bit of slackerdom. Given that my lunch included a trout salad with fennel, olives, and tomatoes, a side of duck-fat-fried potatoes, a glass of fume blanc, finishing with tangerine and pomegranate sorbet...a nap is sounding pretty good right now. (Blue Duck Tavern, if you're wondering.)

Last night I went to the Library of Congress to hear Charles Wright and Mark Strand read. Having known Charles since UVA days, his poetry was a known quantity. I have to say, though--his readings are more enjoyable than they were in 2000. Maybe my ear has matured. But I also think I was exposed to his work when it was at its most abstract and philosophical (the prime syllabics of Black Zodiac). Nature is good but perfect nature, uninterrupted nature, can be curiously airless. Nowadays he's letting flawed humanity back into the work, and that is reflected in the patter he uses to introduce poems (memories of a young exploit in Italy; a dedication to a brother-in-law who struggled with drug addiction). The pose is the same (one foot hooked behind the other), the voice is the same (Southern and slightly breathy, but pushing through and sustaining some VERY long lines), the silver belt buckle and leather boots are the same. But the reading...different. Better.

My other recent reading was the i.e. series in Baltimore last Saturday, where I had the pleasure of reading with Les Wade and Kristi Maxwell. As I've said before, the i.e. space is incredible--a garage turned acoustic studio, with a finished stage in honeyed wood tones that shine under the sodium arc lights. One wall hosts a narrow balcony and stacks of old schoolhouse chairs; one wall hosts a corn-fueled stove that heats the whole house; one wall hosts gleaming, murderously-sharp farm implements with brightly-colored handles.

Michael Ball, the modest and welcoming host, always keeps the show running smoothly. Kristi's book, Realm Sixty-Four, is just out from Ahsahta. My favorite poems drew upon the historical relic of the (phony) chess-playing automaton known as "The Turk." The syntactical fragmentation made it challenging to take the poems in aurally (I confess, I'd have loved to have the page in front of me). But Kristi's fluid language, and the historic/narrative backdrop, gave the listener enough to hold onto. Here we are afterwards:

(Me on the left, Les in the middle, and Kristi)

I really enjoyed the whole evening. If you're within driving radius of Charm City, check out the May 17 reading with Morgan Lucas Schuldt and Jessica Smith.

April 22, 2008

The Reason We're Here

It's always good to find a beautiful poem by someone new to your eye:

"[The line between heaven and earth]" by Michael McGriff

Mr. McGriff's first book, Dismantling the Hills, won the 2007 Agnes Starrett Lynch Prize and will be published this year by the University of Pittsburgh.

April 21, 2008


I hadn't realized that three poems had gone up at the newly- and beautifully-redesigned AGNI website. Hooray! Check it out here.

April 15, 2008

And now I can tell you...

...I won the 2008 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award from Poets & Writers magazine! The official announcement is here. This is an annual contest (since 1984) that chooses one poet and one fiction writer from each "state"--or in this year's case, the District of Columbia. Previous winners include Doug Anderson, Chana Bloch, Denise Duhamel, Sascha Feinstein, Laura Kasischke, Sue Monk Kidd, Aleda Shirley, and Rebecca Seiferle.

The prize? An all-expenses paid trip to New York this October for a reading and--this is amazing--a week's worth of meetings arranged by P&W with editors, publishers, and New York poets. $500 honorarium, and an invitation to spend a month at the Jentel Arts colony in the mountains of Wyoming.

The call came on the tail end of the exhausting five hour drive home from Long Island University. Bonnie Marcus asked "so, you only have one book, right?" Coming off paying for my own hotel room, $40 of tolls, $60 of gas, and giving a reading empty-handed of copies, my response was "I barely have one book."

I offer gratitude to the judge, Frank X. Walker, and everyone at Poets & Writers. And thanks to my fellow DC poets--I hope I can do you all justice representing our city. I like to think that the "exchange" part of the award goes both ways...it's not enough to get my foot in the door at a press or two; my mission, as I see it, is to get the thriving energy of the DC poetry scene onto the NYC radar.

These are exciting days.

April 08, 2008

We Pause From Our Regularly Scheduled Poeming

...the horror of taxes (Schedule C!) has temporarily derailed my drafting. But while today's poem germinates, a couple of things:

This Sunday, at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD, I'll be reading poetry with Kyle Dargan. The reading starts at 2 PM, with a reception to follow; the Center (4508 Walsh Street) is accessible from the Bethesda metro, but also has a parking lot right outside.

This is going to be really fun. Kyle is an old friend from UVA days and a great poet (his second book, Bouquet of Hungers, was just published by University of Georgia). This will probably be my first time holding Theories of Falling in my hot little hands. Yes, finally...I'm told somewhere, out there, bound copies exist! So if you're in the DC area, please come out. There is much to celebrate.

Speaking of celebrations, I had a wonderful time meeting and reading with Meghan O'Rourke at the Long Island University Poetry Center last week. The drive was long (10 hours, round trip, including a haul up the New Jersey Turnpike) and no one likes to start their "book tour" sans book. But Isaac Cates was a charming host who took us out to a Thai dinner beforehand (diver scallops in red curry, mmmmm), and the students--mostly undergrads--were engaged even at this late date in the semester. I was particularly thrilled to finally meet Dan.

And on the way home, a phone call with good news that I can't tell you...just yet.

Oh, and: I'm really enjoying this new magazine, FOU. Gorgeous.

April 02, 2008

Did You Think I'd Forgotten?

...Nah, just a little frantic getting reading for my reading at the Long Island University Poetry Center.

Happy April, everyone! If you're thinking of picking up a few new books to inspire you this month, Ron Slate has put together a nice little smorgasbord of poetry picks here.

On to the daily poem-ing. This will evaporate within 24 hours, to be replaced by a new draft. I'll periodically post a list of titles, as a running tally.